Subject: Finest Arts Gay – Adult Youth Finest Arts �MCVT2017 April 09, 2019 Can the color red change one’s destiny? Do arts alter character? Can a few hand-written words redefine the future? Stodgy beekeeper finds out. You can build a stronger Nifty, make a donation fty/donate.html Adult Content: 100% fiction, Mt, tt, MM, MMM anal, fond, inc, rom, slow. =========================================================================== “Systems Analyst and all-around good guy ISO intelligent man into the symphony, occasional travel and quiet evenings. Must understand rosacea isn’t contagious.” Next to my ad, I posted a picture of my face; dark, wavy hair combed back neatly, wide, brown eyes, straight nose, cleft in my chin. My cheeks and chin covered with bright, red bumps and splotches. Good looking guy but for the bright map across my face. Not many responses to that ad. Met the same avoidance at the bars. Few men comprehend my skin condition. They thought I’d been skiing, got too sunburned until they got closer — then they treated me like a leper – couldn’t get away fast enough. My red blotches started when I was thirty, the spots grew, surprising me, then it began to look like blazing scarlet acne. To keep the flare-ups to a minimum, I had a lengthy list of cleaning products and toiletries to avoid, and a longer list banned activities. Changing seasons were problematic; the diet was bland. My horrid skin condition was manageable — could have been worse, I suppose. The spots were more a social disability and men are visual creatures; I gave up on dating. So, I volunteered for the local disaster relief agency an evening a week, fine-tuning their website and went to the bar late on weekend nights to play shuffleboard or pool after most of the guys had paired and left. … Several years later, my sister moved in with me — she was fresh out of the military and didn’t want any more of it. Great! She just reduced my already low odds of finding a partner to zero, but she was good company and filled the house with music and odd pieces of art from around the world. Bernice began looking for a job. Great sense of humor and outgoing personality. I admired that about her. Bernice went to work part-time as a temp and back to the community college campus, taking courses in the arts and business. She already had a degree in education but didn’t want to work in the schools – she wanted to open a center for the arts. With couple of friends from the service, they met every weekend working on plans to get a small storefront with space above it for a dance studio and the down stairs for a gallery with classes in another small room. They were an ambitious team. Bernice approached me to make an investment in their center. She wanted me to pull out the equity in my house to help her open her studio. I’d be an equal partner with the others in the venture, though a silent one, and manage their website along with helping the group set up their books online. Yeah, I felt like her personal ATM when she asked — furthermore that was a lousy deal. “Silent partner with a bunch of newbies? Which specie of fool do you think I am?” The women shoved a stack of loose-leaf pages at me, proud and smiling. Hand-written notes, scribbles in the margins, sticky notes attached, then they began explaining. After seeing their rudimentary business plan, I made a few suggestions and agreed to partially fund them, but I wanted to see her free-spirited, artsy partners put more skin in this game. They wavered on that demand but came around after several discussions and brought in two more investors because the neighborhood had nothing like their services for miles. They’d pull out some of their savings and called for help from a local program that helped entrepreneurial veterans. That reduced my initial investment and shared the start-up costs equally. “You can be sure I’m not the silent partner.” Before I signed a check or paperwork, I commanded they get out and sell their idea, get some letters of intent and contracts with certified instructors. “Something to show support from the local businesses wouldn’t hurt either.” Their business plan was now neatly organized in a proper format and looked good enough to apply for a loan from the county’ small business program, that would buffer any losses during start-up. That “silent partner” business still chapped me. The storefront they’d chosen was in an area with high foot-traffic, on the edge of a gentrifying neighborhood and I suggested remodeling the front for a small gallery and craft sales space. “Put something colorful in the windows,” then I suggested they hold their art classes in the evenings for people going to and from the metro after work, “Carry all the supplies they need and sell canvasses and paints — whatever you’re using. Don’t diddle, mark `em up high.” Actually, I enjoyed working with the group of women, and it seemed like they had something good going. If all failed, they’d live above the storefront as their “barracks” and sublease the downstairs until they could come out of the hole without losing money while they repaid investors. Looked like their plan was shaping up with contingencies and rational options. … Took over a month for them to get things lined up with letters of intent and a local instructor wanted to teach dance — she had to have a piano and mirrors upstairs. They found a used electronic keyboard and ordered some plastic mirrors. Spent an evening installing them and asked about their advertising. One of the partners was a real whiz, she advertised in the retired military newspapers, on and around base and designed a hot logo. To ensure my investment, I posted flyers and business cards at work, at the local bars and non-profit where I volunteered. For ninety days, the neighborhood was covered with bright ads and all the local rags carried our logo with an announcement about the center’s grand opening. Weekends, I went to the storefront to paint and help ready for the big opening — I was told to wear a turtleneck and a pair of jeans that night — the local newspapers were sending reporters. Bernice had a beret in her hand, offering it to me. “I think a suit is in order.” I tried to avoid wearing anything weird. “Go Bohemian — you know. Look like an artist.” Bernice told me, she was wearing a Pakistani outfit trimmed with glittery ribbons and odd colors. Her shoes had funny up-curved toes. Sheesh! “I’m here to keep everyone’s feet on the ground — make sure I get my money back. I’m no beatnik — I’m an investor.” I wore a gray suit and dazzling charcoal checkered tie accentuating my black-and-white name tag. Before the day of the big opening, we had a private affair in the gallery for media and local professionals, business owners and their ilk. After I finished piping a tray of canapes and neatly covered them, I brought out the wine glasses and helped with arranging tables. With my suit coat on, and my hair neat, I looked around. The gallery was tastefully decorated for our local celebs. Paintings hung neatly and it was a good mix of framed oils, drawings and a few batiks. Bernice and her friends had raided all the thrift stores for bad art and rehabbed it to fill the walls — splashy vases of flowers and dramatic, framed photographs. The dance studio upstairs was open and airy with two large windows standing open on both ends of the room. I put on classical music and greeted people at the door while the gals showed them around “talking it up.” After the first couple of hours, the guests were juiced, and mingling. Not so good at mixing, I stepped out back to the small parking lot to cool off to find several others doing the same. “Looks good, doesn’t it?” I asked one of the men standing nearby. “Yeah, neighborhood needs more of the arts. You’re going to get a booth at the fair?” “I’ll ask.” He gave me his business card, “I need to rent space for a private group.” “That could be arranged,” Couldn’t pronounce the name on the card, “Mister — uh, Avocado?” “Call me Ace — name’s Acevedo, David Acevedo.” Shaking his hand, “Bradley Johansson. I’m a partner in this venture.” We talked for a while and I found out that Ace wanted to rent the dance studio for a group of artists — the mirrors would reflect their lighting, and so forth. At midnight, we shut down and cleaned up. Then we readied for the next day when the studio would be open all day and into the night for the public. Several teachers would be there promoting their classes. One of the radio stations was broadcasting from the gallery for several hours. It was going to be a circus, but it would draw interest. I was put in charge of the balloons and an ice chest full of water and juice boxes. The next day waves of people came through after visiting the nearby shops and cafés. My work was just beginning — I had to post the photos of the events on their website. They tried to get me to wear the beret again. I thought it made me look shifty so I hid it in the supply closet saying someone must have taken it. … Bernice and my partners kept the center open during the week, I took the weekend shifts with one of the partners, sitting in the gallery answering the phone and keeping the videos of the dance classes playing in the window. The place was hopping though not very busy in the evenings, but foot traffic came through as local folks window shopped on their way to the bars. Bernice met with Ace to sign a contract to use the dance studio upstairs for a private art workshop – income streams were expanding. Soon, on a Saturday I was puttering around in the gallery and dusting the shelves of ceramics and crafts, Ace came in with three guys and their equipment at around six. I let them in the dance studio. Several more came in behind him carrying large portfolios for their tablets and easel cases. I heard them upstairs setting up. They shut the door to the studio and turned on some music and I didn’t hear or see them again that night. At a quarter till nine, I went up to tell them it was time to shut down to find them sketching a naked man — one of their group. Quietly walking behind as they worked, I went to Ace, “Almost nine.” “Okay, we’re about done.” He continued sketching, doing a fine job adding some last touches to the background. Wandering behind the other artists, I noted each drawing was different, some sketches were more angular, others more softly rendered; some realistic and others almost indecipherably abstract. This wasn’t a class; this was a group of pros who needed a large space for a model where they could work undisturbed. … I looked forward to sitting in the center on the weekends, that’s when I updated the website. The gals were out in the community leading one-day workshops on dance and art for children and parents. Things were going well — the calendar was full and the county noticed their activity. Bernice negotiated a contract for a summer arts camp at several community centers. The street fair stirred a lot of business and we added more dance classes. Tap dancing and jazz dance were popular and we had a breakdance instructor and his young troupe. Kids and their parents were up and down the stairs all day Saturday and Sunday. The music wasn’t always to my liking, but the classes were only ninety minutes long. A step-dance group came in and started, but they were so large, we blocked the parking lot off and let them practice out back. No one in the area complained. I took videos of some of the performers — we had several very talented students. They were having a great time and the income to the center increased. We hit break-even in the first six months. That business partnership did more for my social life than I expected, and it was Saturday nights I enjoyed. I locked up a few minutes early and went upstairs to sweep the floor while the professional artists critiqued each other’s work and discussed ideas. They were a quiet group, and smelly. Had to air out the space before I shut down. Weed and the smell of a naked, sweaty body usually filled the studio. I found out the models had to hold poses for fifteen to twenty minutes, and some of them began perspiring holding themselves in awkward poses that took a lot of muscle control. Phew! … Ace came in early and pulled me aside one Saturday evening, “We’re bringing in some different models tonight. Don’t call the cops, they’re professionals.” Figuring they’d bring a couple of women, I nodded but was surprised when one of the artists escorted two young men, about six and seven years old, upstairs. Another man brought in several blankets and lawn furniture. They set up quickly, I heard their footsteps arranging things then their music. Sure, I was curious so about thirty minutes later I locked the front door, grabbed an armful of bottles with cold water and went upstairs to offer everyone a drink and open the windows. It was a hot night. Under a couple of high-intensity lights clamped on easels the boys were naked, sitting on the lawn furniture that was covered with the blankets, leaning against each other. When the boys saw me bring water, they both glanced at Ace. “Okay, take a break.” “I’ll bring a fan.” I told one of the artists and aimed the fan at the lawn furniture. Everyone’s faces were shiny with sweat. The boys walked up to me completely unashamed of their naked bodies and I handed them the water and went for some damp towels to wipe their faces. They stretched their muscles and rolled their heads around working the kinks out. I came back get a good whiff of boy sweat which surprised me — brought back memories of gym class. They looked tired as they sipped water standing in front of the fan. Glancing at some of the drawings I noted that the boys had assumed several different poses so far, and each one was charming, natural. Not something I usually do, but I approached one of the artists, “I’d like to buy that sketch.” He looked at me, “What about a trade-off?” “For what?” “An hour of modeling.” He went back to his sketch pad. “Nude?” It was a great sketch, but I wasn’t sure about being naked, then I remembered the red splotches on my face which were in fine bloom on a hot evening. “Yes.” He gave me a look like I was an idiot. “What about my face?” I pointed at my blotches. “We’ll decide what to include.” He turned away. “Okay. When?” The guy checked his watch, “Five minutes.” “How much are these boys getting an hour?” I asked as I pulled my keys out of my pocket. “Hundred and fifty each for the evening.” From that information I calculated I would be compensated with the artwork and figured it was a good price for the sketch. Locking up and turning the lights off downstairs, I came back upstairs and began undressing. Gee, I needed a shower, but I tried to be as casual as the boys and I went to Ace completely naked. He grinned. “Nice bone structure.” He touched his charcoal stick to my clavicle and wiggled his eyebrows then glanced downward. They started with five-minute sketches of the boys and me standing, then one with them sitting next to me. The boys were tired. I was still tense from being naked in front of everyone and modeling is hard. My muscles were starting to tire and cramp. “Last session!” Ace called out, checked his watch. “Twenty minutes for this last pose.” The boys moaned a little but got a sip of water and wiped their faces. They were beautiful boys, clear skin and eyes, dark hair and each had a spray of freckles across their cheeks and the bridge of their nose. The two boys and I stretched our muscles in front of the mirrors and grinned, making our biceps bulge and acting goofy, then the artists called us back to the lawn furniture to place us. I half-reclined on the chaise lounge with my legs were opened, feet placed on the floor on both sides and the youngest boy was seated between my legs, his knees akimbo and his feet alongside my hips — groin completely open like mine and very close. His brother sat on the floor, his head leaning against my knee. The younger kid between my legs smiled at me, then one of the artists placed my hand on the boy’s calf. I was instructed to look over the boy’s shoulder toward the corner of the room. They moved our arms and legs around where they wanted and shifted the lighting. After they moved their easels, they began. The inevitable happened. My rod began filling and I felt the younger boy between my legs stifle a chuckle. I kept my eyes on the distant corner of the room but I finally couldn’t help but glance down to see his eyes watching my erection begin to drip. Being a professional, he didn’t move, but I saw him take a deep breath and from my peripheral vision, I saw his tiny boner twitch. The artists peeked from behind their easels and continued their work, though I heard several comments, like “Excellent,” and “Perfect.” I became curious about what the artists were sketching. Finally, Ace called it quits, “Get dressed, boys. Mom’s coming in a few minutes.” The older boy got up and went to the fan to pull his shorts and shirt on. The younger boy reached over and touched my swaying penis. “You’re horny.” “Hope I didn’t offend you. Men’s — uh, men’s bodies have a weird sense of humor.” He grabbed his small package and gave it a few tugs, then looked up at me and smiled. “Nah.” He got up and so did I, quickly going to the artists to see what our sketches looked like. I grabbed my phone from my pants and took photos of their sketches. Beautiful arrangement and fine renderings. None of them added the red blotches to my face though I was a little embarrassed about my erection which seemed prominent in each drawing. … With the greatest care, I took my sketch home and then realized I might be questioned getting it framed; I’d buy a pre-made. The boys were completely nude, sitting side by side, each holding their short cock. That had to be hung in my bedroom. Through the summer and into the fall, I occasionally modeled on Saturday nights after hours. They paid in cash, though I didn’t need it, I enjoyed their camaraderie. The guys were friendly and often relaxed in the cool of the night after they were finished sketching. I found out most of them had family responsibilities and were professionals during the days and indulged themselves with live models on Saturday nights. Toward the end of the year, they asked if they could rent the gallery for an evening. Bernie handled the contract but they asked specifically for only me to manage the building. This affair would be for a select clientele — private showing and sale. Exclusive group of connoisseurs. The night of their sale, I dressed in a beige turtleneck and brown pants, well-fitted, and showed up early to find the guys waiting in the parking lot. By this time, our gallery had folding room dividers that held extra art. Ace was on the job immediately arranging and hanging their gorgeous, framed pieces. I didn’t recognize all the models, but the two boys appeared in a number of the works. Helping with the wine, then the caterer, I was directed to pull the blinds on the front windows, and put a sign on the door, “Private Event.” Then, I was asked to stay in the back room or upstairs. “Why?” “There’s going to be a lot of sensitive dickering and deal-making.” Ace turned me around to see a three-by-four-foot painting of the young boy sitting between my legs. In the very center of the painting was my erection, with a drop of pre-cum glistening at my slit. Some of the detail around the edges was smudgy, but it was clearly me sans my rosacea. My face had a soft expression, like I was explaining something difficult to the boy between my legs. Soft shades of browns and pinks, a little blue and a doorway had been added to the background — it was beautiful, quiet scene but elicited a spark of subtle excitement. Quickly, I took a photo, I’d never looked better naked. But I knew enough about what Ace said to agree and wait upstairs. From the upstairs window I watched the limos line up and the well-heeled buyers enter. This was a very subdued crowd, but soon the back door was opening and I watched piece after piece being taken to the trunks of the limos and the buyers leave. By eleven, it was quiet downstairs and I ventured into the stairwell. Peeking around the door, I saw the artists counting out large stacks of cash, each one giving Ace part of the costs and bundling the rest. Looking around, the painting of my erection and the boy sitting between my legs was tagged with a card, “Sold.” A uniformed driver came in and took it away quickly through the back door. … January came, and the gallery was busy with several groups using our space on the weekends. Bernice and her crew always held some brief presentation for the groups — a pair of tap dancers, or live music with a pianist on the keyboard upstairs. All her events were family-friendly. Things were going gangbusters at the center, and I started seeing more return on my investment. This weekend gig was fun and I was involved with a number of new people. Quit my volunteering at the disaster-relief place and started reviewing other galleries and their art during the week. Yeah, I went to wine and cheese openings at big-time galleries. Ace called if there was an significant opening or his work being shown. We attended together, nibbling cheese and crackers with god knows who — they looked like the big muckety-mucks from major businesses in the area. I did recognize a few names from the county commissioners, and I believe that was the city auditor and his wife enjoying the impressionistic landscapes. I kept my mouth shut because I didn’t have all the artsy terminology down when a man approached me. He closely inspected me, looking me up and down. “Looking for someone?” What does one say when being closely scanned by a stranger? “Your face is so familiar…” He stepped back and grinned. “Oh, yeah. How ya’ doing big boy?” He glanced at my slacks. “You’re up in the capital, in the governor’s home.” “What?” I was confused, I’d never been to the governor’s house. “The gov’s got nothing but Persian rugs. Took a crew up there to clean them. Saw the painting of you,” He winked at me, “With the boy. Damn hot.” This was the big hot shot from the capital who ran ads in all the slick magazines about Persian rug restoration and cleaning — I recognized his fat face. “You must be mistaking Brad for someone else,” Ace stepped in, “This man is a — ” “Systems Analyst.” I understood he was protecting me, “Never posed for anything in my life.” Ace grabbed my arm and took me to a wall of miniature oil paintings. “Good catch.” He said, “That painting of you is considered blue by some critics.” “How much did it sell for?” “Twenty-five thousand.” He whispered and turned to the side. “I’m surprised the gov hasn’t sold it for twice that. It caused a ruckus among the collectors.” The price floored me but I had the sketch of those two beautiful boys in my bedroom from the same artist. “When are those boys coming back?” “Hoping to get them next week, but only for an hour — photo shoot.” He grinned at me. “Their mom’s coming to make sure there’s nothing funny going on.” “I’ll make sure we’ve got plenty of water.” Then, I felt comfortable enough to ask. “How come those boys are so comfortable without any clothes?” “Mom modeled for years. She’s a painter — they modeled for her. She hit a rough spot — needed a few bucks – been renting them out.” … As I shaved the next Saturday morning, I noticed the blotchy redness was at a new low. My face looked almost normal, maybe I was gaining confidence and enough savvy to handle the stressors of work and the dealing with the public. Whatever, I looked better that day than I had in years. The weather was cool and the sky was overcast – perfect to keep the redness at bay. Bernice started a children’s art group on Saturday mornings. They were out on the parking lot making a mural while I kept the front of the center, selling a few items and posting photos. The street fair was coming up again and I worked on the flyer for the show/sale Bernice had planned for the art programs from last summer. She’d asked kids and their parents to donate some of the projects and was getting them framed. Two of the other partners dropped by to clean. Things were humming along nicely — I even cleaned the front windows and rearranged the displays. Small tides of people came and left through the studio and gallery as the activities happened. Foot traffic slowed at dusk. Ace and another guy showed up early with a van loaded with equipment. They brought their own lights and some fancy cameras. At six I told them I was ordering out and all of us ate on the back steps while we watched for the other guys. Finally, the other artists showed up, joking and laughing. The younger boy came in alone with his mother and I showed them the stairs. After things got started, I closed the downstairs and went upstairs to watch, bringing water for everyone, trying to look helpful. Yeah, I was being nosy. The boy was standing on two milk crates under dramatic lighting while the artists snapped one photo after the next. They stopped for a moment and everyone grabbed a bottle of water. I got the fan out — the lights were heating the space along with the everyone standing close with their cameras. When the young man came for his water, I asked him if he remembered me. With his index finger, he poked the front of my slacks, “You’re the horny man.” His mother was in the corner on her phone. “That guy over there,” I pointed to the man who’d painted the picture of us, “His painting of us is in special place now.” He looked up at me and I explained that the sketch was made into a painting and bought by a famous man for his home. “You’re a star now, but no one knows it but us.” “Cool, I guess.” “Yeah, it’s pretty cool.” I pulled my phone out and showed him the painting. His mother was giving me the eye for talking to the kid so I smiled and wiped the boy’s face and sent his naked body back to work. It was much easier tonight — he didn’t have to hold a pose for longer than a few seconds. Of course, his mother had to check me out. We stood at the back of the room while I told her I’d modeled with her sons one night. I explained that I was a partner in the center and gave her my card. “If your children are interested in dance or the visual arts, let me know, I’ll get you a good rate.” “Thanks, I’ll ask. Tomas is a little moody these days, but Jeff’s usually up for a good time.” So, the little bug’s name was Jeff. He looked like a Jeff; light caramel skin with a spray of freckles and unkempt, wavy hair falling over his forehead and eyebrows and those full dark pink lips that smiled often. … Not by intention, but when I lay on my bed, watching porn, my eyes wandered to the sketch of the two brothers. It hung above the tele. Jeff’s face was still childish with straight, black eyebrows that almost gave him a serious look. I’d always remember the first time I’d met him – few nicks and scrapes, fingernails that needed trimming, and such a tiny package, his little nuts were barely there, and when the water bottle dripped cold liquid down his stomach, his cock almost hid inside his body. Charming. Even his scent, I could remember it well — kind of metallic with a funky, chicken soup undertone. He needed a bath, but I would rather have that potent scent to remember. Those were random imaginings, though. Somewhere in my heart I was still hoping for an adult-sized, intelligent partner with a sharp sense of humor and an understanding nature about all-organic toiletries in relation to skin conditions. The sketch artists were taken and I had no inclination to interfere though two of the six were openly queer. Ace and I started meeting his partner Gabe at a local watering hole late on Saturday nights. My skin was clearer, but I could only drink water or herbal tea after it cooled off. For the first time in years, my skin was smooth, not perfect, but not a glaring, neon-red mess. Worked up some courage and handed a guy my card after several games of pool suggesting dinner. He looked at my card, “Hey, I’ve seen this place.” He called the next week and we went out on Tuesday night. To my wonder and surprise, I didn’t become angry or upset when he drank too much and began acting a fool. Simply dropped him off at his apartment and figured that was a dry run for the big time; a sketch before a painting. Ace and Gabe set me up with a friend of theirs. We went out several times during the week. Even modeled together on several Saturday nights. Yeah, there were a number of raging hard-ons that evening. The poor man kept embarrassing himself, but we had a good laugh and he moved on to someone more interested in him. Just didn’t have much appreciation for older men though he was a devilishly handsome man with gray waves and a chest covered with silver hair. My doctor told me that the skin condition was in remission, but I had to continue what I was doing to manage it. If things got too stressful, it could come roaring back. I stayed on the straight and narrow and watched my diet, the sun and the stress. I took a few good selfies and reposted on the dating site. … At the end two years at the center, working every weekend, we held a partners meeting. Usually, we just emailed. Income was growing steadily, no major issues except space. The center was busting through the seat of its jeans. Classes were tightly scheduled and there were weekends we had kids out our ears and shoppers overflowing the gallery. Bernice had started weekend workshops where parents could drop kids off while they went shopping and pick them up several hours later. What a madhouse on Saturdays, but it brought in a bundle every week. A small, quiet lady joined our partner’s meeting. Arlene, our accountant was not a partner though she was an enthusiastic supporter and had a good head for business. After a few raised voices about moving the center, Arlene spoke up: “Have you thought about buying the house next to the center? It’s the only one left on the block and the residents are an elderly couple. I’d ask them. Sweeten the pot by telling them you’ll name the center for them if they hold out, but I think we can get it for a song. Nice older home where you could take a few walls down and add a big dance studio out back. It’s zoned commercial, so why not ask?” We shuffled numbers late into the night and I was appointed the spokesperson, along with Arlene to approach the owners. It took several trips with home-baked goodies for them to get comfortable with us, but I understood they didn’t want to speak with just anyone who came to the door. The elderly couple told me they’d been watching the children come and go and enjoyed the music and activity — they admitted to looking over the hedges to watch the kids step dance and paint the mural. I fired up my laptop and showed them the programs and classes and invited them to the next showing and sale in the gallery. Took almost three months of friendly visits, but we convinced them to sell their house with stipulations — they wanted the front yard and the front of the house to stay the same to remind people that this was a residential area at one time filled with families and children. The big, old maple had to stay as well. It was a fine-looking older home with a veranda, on the verge of being declared a historic landmark. We agreed to their requests. After Arlene introduced the idea that we would name the center for them; The Allen Center for the Arts they were ready to move to a retirement community. The deal worked out well for everyone, and we were able to swing an expansion loan. The space problem solved, we faced remodeling and moving. Used up all my vacation time with the contractors, but it was worth it. Not easy keeping an eye on everything while several crews worked to clear and construct the new dance studio. All the instructors, their families and retired army friends came to help with the move. Six enlisted men brought their friends from the base so moving only took two days and several cases of beer. The arts need a lot of supplies, it seems, and we were able to sort and clean out in the process of moving. Damn, if that beret didn’t show up again… Only missed a few Saturdays with the sketch artists during that fiasco. Mr. and Mrs. Allen, the former homeowners came back for the grand opening with the reporters and cameras. Good to see them smiling from behind their walkers. Lovely couple, clearly well-educated and delighted as they were interviewed and photographed. Things began moving at light speed. Bernice and her crew were doing well, and now we had loan payments that would require keeping our noses to the grindstone. They added baton classes and writing workshops. I kept my day job — the economy has a big impact on the arts; government leadership was more than capricious. … Hadn’t seen Jeff or his brother since before the move and asked Ace if they would be back any time soon. Ace took me to the side, “The older boy, Tomas. Not doing so good.” He explained that the older boy had to have several surgeries and was on dialysis. The father wasn’t in the picture, so the mom took Jeff with her and they stayed in the hospital with the older boy. “Is he going to be alright?” Ace just shrugged. “Don’t know. She won’t answer any of my calls or emails.” “Give me her email. I’ll see what we can do from the center, maybe we could help – funds or something.” Before he left that night, I had already sent an email asking how we could help. I got a call Sunday morning early. It was Renee, Jeff’s mom. She needed help, could Jeff stay with me for the afternoon at the center? She was going to pick up her mother to help with Jeff during the week. “I’ll come by and pick him up with my sis. Where are you now?” I woke Bernice and told her the situation. We left within twenty minutes to find red-eyed Jeff sitting on the front porch of an older house in a shabby subdivision. I made the introductions and asked Jeff if he wanted pancakes for breakfast. He said he didn’t care. “Take as long as you like, Renee, we’ll be at the center, and take him home with us if you’re not back by nine.” The new center had a porch swing on the veranda and I took Jeff and asked him to come swing with me, and we’d discuss this disruption in his life. Though I’m no good with emotional things, men don’t back down from hard conversations. He was afraid, I could tell. It took a while, a little coaxing and a trip down the street to get an ice cream, but he came around and told me his brother was dying. “How do you know?” “Grandma came when Dad died, she came after Grandpa died. Now she’s back because Tomas is dying. That’s the only time I see her.” “Do you like your Grandma?” “She’s okay, but she argues with Mom all the time.” Pulling him on my lap, “You can tell them to stop if it upsets you. Just tell them that your feelings are already hurt and you don’t want to hear them fussing.” I swung us several times then, in a soft voice, I heard, “Tomas is my best friend. If he dies, I’ll be all alone.” All I could do is hold him against me while he cried. I thought about his situation and devised several plans that might help this little tadpole as he nodded off on the shoulder of my shirt damp with his tears. He was only nine years old and needed a friend for a while, and about his brother, well — I had to ask about that. The rest of the day he played on my computer, staying close; tearful and quiet. … Evening neared, Renee called and said Jeff’s grandmother was at his house to watch him. Since Jeff was engaged in a computer game, I took the phone into the back room and asked the state of his brother’s health. What a tragedy. Renee usually stayed in the hospital with the older brother waiting for a kidney transplant in case there was a donor — she’d have to sign the papers and stay during the surgery. Renee had a decent job and had almost used up her family leave staying in the hospital with her son to struggle with bureaucracy while the boy was on his treatments. “What are his odds of making it through this?” “Good, if he gets a transplant. It’s the timing — and finding the right match for his body.” “Give me the specifics — I’ll put a notice online and see if that helps.” We took Jeff to his home that evening and I gave him my phone number and told the grandmother I’d be starting an online campaign looking for a kidney donor. That took the rest of the evening and most of the next morning, but I’d sent out media releases with a photo of Tomas. The young man had a rare blood type — neither me nor Bernice could donate. I called everyone I knew and emailed everyone on my contact list with the request. Bernice handled the interviews from the local media at the center, she did a great job explaining about kidney donation. We planned a fund-raiser and all the instructors were glad to help. Closing off the entire yard, we had outside entertainment. Needless to say, I was in a funk, but I found out that doing all I could to help Jeff and his mother kept the stress at bay so my face didn’t look like a map of Communist countries. … Every Saturday and Sunday I went by to pick up Jeff and bring him to the center with me, giving his grandmother a break. Though those days, Tomas was not improving, and we were all in a holding pattern awaiting a kidney donation. Kinda morbid, but we were thinking there might be a vehicular accident involving a good donor. Those things come to mind in desperate situations. Jeff stayed on the edge of tears, so I sat down with him and explained everything I knew in simple terms about his brother and why his mother had made the decisions she’d made. Making a point to tell him that he did have family, no matter what, he had a mother and a grandmother and a lot of kids didn’t even have parents. Of course, that didn’t help him feel better, so I tried the friendship angle. “Maybe now is the time to look around you for the people who aren’t family, but people who love you. We all have to go through some hard times in our lives and we do it with the people who love us. Friends don’t abandon you when life gets tough. You can call them and talk – it helps you feel better.” “Is that what you do?” “Yep, and that’s what I’m trying to do for you.” He was thinking, “Don’t you have some friends at school? What about your teacher — maybe your coach?” “I want Tomas.” He was ready to cry again. I was running out of ideas, but I glanced around the gallery at all the artwork, “Make him a card and tell him how much you love him.” After blowing his nose several times, he sat on my lap and I made curly lines around the edge of the paper while he wrote Tomas a love letter. Yeah, he wrote a love letter to his brother. With uneven, but careful lettering, Jeff thanked his brother for sleeping with him when he was scared and walking home with him when they missed the bus — childish things, but important in Jeff’s world. He said he wanted to be just like Tomas because he was the best brother ever. Jeff was two years younger than Tomas. Seems they’d become closer after the loss of their father, then their grandfather. Being raised by a single, working mom wasn’t easy on these boys — Jeff depended on Tomas for a lot of decisions that Tomas probably wasn’t old enough to make. Suddenly I developed a strong respect for the older brother’s smarts or intuition, or both. This boy sitting next to me was about to be an only child and he was frightened and lonely; my eyes burned as I thought of him coming home from school alone every day to an empty house. … I took Jeff to the hospital to give his card to his brother that afternoon. I’d get a few photos of them together. We arrived at the hospital, Jeff leading me to the children’s wing. He had to wait in a small sunroom while I went to the nurse’s station and asked for Renee and Tomas. The nurse only pointed down the hallway where Renee and her mother stood with a priest, speaking softly. An older nurse stepped forward, “Are you family?” “Family friend – I brought the younger brother to visit…” The older nurse took me to Jeff and we sat down. She carefully explained that Tomas was a brave boy, very brave and his body wasn’t as strong as his spirit, “He died a short while ago.” Jeff gave her a funny look, “I wanna see.” “Alright.” She took his hand and led him down the hall. We went in the room full of machines and tubes, hoses and sensors — all turned off. It was very quiet and dim — only one neon strip over the head of the bed was shining. On the bed was a narrow body, dark hair splayed over the pillow, pale lips barely opened. He looked like he was asleep. I got my phone out but missed the moment that Jeff leaned over and kissed his brother’s lips, “I love you, Budgie.” Tears streamed, and Jeff didn’t sob, but rubbed his brother’s face with his dirty fingers, “Thank you for being my brother.” He tucked his card under the sheet at his brother’s chest and stepped back. “Bye.” Then, he turned to me and buried his face in my belly, grabbing me around my waist and began the most pitiful mourning I could imagine coming from a small body. The nurse watched as I held him against me, my throat closing and my cheeks streaming with tears. I was still no good with emotional things, but as a Systems Analyst I knew that a sudden break in the complex network needs to be addressed immediately with the beginnings of a fix. This situation needed some kind of patch: I leaned over and kissed the forehead of the dead child, with Jeff watching, I whispered, “I love you Tomas — you taught Jeff how to be my friend. Please watch over us and help us be as strong as you were. Send us a sign you’re in our hearts.” Standing up, I saw Renee and her mother watching us through tear-filled eyes. I stepped back and took one photo of Tomas, then took Jeff outside with me. We were both quiet, but no longer crying. When Renee came out, I asked if she needed funding for the funeral, I’d open an online donation account. She agreed and asked if Bernice and I could take Jeff for a few days until she had everything addressed. Both her and her mother were shaking and crying, I looked down at Jeff, “Will you stay with Bernice and me a few days?” He only nodded and we left. In the car, I called Bernice, “Jeff’s coming to stay with us several days. Renee’s going to call you…” She went on for a while, saying she’d straighten the guest room, “Yeah, okay. We’re going to stop by and pick up dinner. Be there in about forty-five minutes.” I hung up but didn’t start the car I had to see if my patch was still holding. “Are you okay?” I asked him. “Yeah, I’m looking for a sign from Tomas — so I know he’s in my heart.” His eyes were still filled with tears, I gave him a tissue. “What kind of food did Tomas like? We’ll get some and celebrate him tonight.” “Pizza, eggrolls, noodles, lots of stuff.” “Which was his favorite?” “Eggrolls with red and yellow.” We stopped for Chinese and bought eggrolls, spring rolls and sauces, I don’t remember, I was still trembling inside. At home, Bernice found a number of old camo tee-shirts that were too small for her and laid out new tube socks and things in the guest room for Jeff. We had a good dinner together, Jeff told Bernice that we’d made a card and went to the hospital… He had a very clear memory, “We’re waiting for Tomas to give us a sign that he’s in our hearts.” “Really? Wonder what kind of sign you’ll get.” Bernice was good with children, much better than me. She turned the conversation to the positive and told Jeff how lucky he was to have Tomas, “All I had was Brad, and he’s a stick in the mud.” Then she told him how boring I was as a brother. Simply had to let that slide while I cleaned up the kitchen and left to my bedroom with my laptop to start the donation account and take down the kidney donation requests. I heard Bernice taking Jeff to the bath and helping him find everything he needed, then washing his clothes. Things felt settled enough, but I would have to take time off work the next day, then I thought I’d work half a day, taking Jeff with me. I had accrued several weeks of leave. … Two hours later, I heard soft footsteps in the hallway, and saw Jeff in the doorway in a long tee-shirt and socks. With only the light from my screen lighting the room, “Can’t sleep?” “It’s so quiet here.” He approached me, seeing his brother’s face on the account I was making and posting on the center’s website. Studying it closely, “Is that for the money?” “Yep. The best part is coming — Bernice and your mom will make some kind of party to celebrate Tomas’ life. Probably have music — and food, lots of people. Do you have a suit?” “Do I have to wear a suit?” “We’ll see.” I turned off my computer and turned on a small lamp. “Get on my bed and go to sleep, I have a few more things to do.” He stood beside me, wanting to say something, but couldn’t. I waited. Nothing. “Wanna go to work with me tomorrow morning?” “What do you do at work?” “Read emails, cuss cheap equipment and yell at people.” He didn’t look excited, “We could take you to school if you want. The kids and your teacher may ask questions about Tomas. You’ll have to answer them without crying. Might be a good idea to wait a day or two.” I stood and pulled the covers back, lifting him carefully, I laid him on my bed and sat beside him. “Do you want to watch a movie? I’m going to take a shower.” I handed him the remote. “Do you think Tomas will give me a sign in my dreams?” He asked. “Maybe.” I found my robe and wandered into my bath. As I washed, I heard knocking on the shower door, then a loud, high-pitched voice: “Tomas sent me a sign! He’s here — he’s here! Look!” I almost jumped out of my skin as I slipped my hand out of the shower and grabbed a towel. I heard Bernice’s feet running down the hallway to check out the sudden burst of noise. Wrapping my towel, Jeff grabbed my hand and pulled me to the bedroom where we met Bernice with a concerned look on her face. Jeff stood at the end of my bed pointing upward, “Tomas — he’s still with me.” He was pointing at the charcoal sketch of him and his brother I’d bought off the easel of the artist. Bernice’s face broke out in a smile, “That’s Tomas and you?” “Yeah. He sent me a sign! He’s here.” Tomas’ finger went to his chest. “What a great sign!” Bernice looked around at the opened bed and me in only a towel, but she was an open-minded woman, though careful with anything related to the center. “Brad’s going to take a photo of your faces in that sketch and print it out so you can sleep with it tonight – in the guest room.” “Cool!” Jeff was delighted, I felt a little awkward, but it was a beautiful sketch. In my robe, I followed Bernice’s instructions and met them in the guest room where she was sitting on the bed with Jeff listening to him tell her about the things he and Tomas did. Took a while for him to calm down and as he fell asleep with his photo under his pillow, his face appeared peaceful, almost happy after one of the most awful days of our lives. I went to check my rosacea — it was still at bay. Not sure if all that was stressful, but I never imagined that a simple sketch would give a boy başakşehir escort a moment of joy. … The next morning was busy, getting Jeff fed and dressed. He was in clean jeans and a camo tee shirt — almost got his hair to stay back, but he appeared calm and interested. He had his photo of him and Tomas in his pocket, folded neatly. Both of our eyes were still a little swollen and red-rimmed, but I didn’t care. Surprisingly there was three-hundred dollars in the donation account, and I matched it. I sent an email to Renee asking if Jeff needed a suit, then made appointments to get our hair cut in the afternoon. Jeff wandered through the cubicles that morning charming all the programmers and came back with his pockets loaded with candy and gum. “They want me to come back because you won’t yell at them while I’m here.” He told me as he blew a big bubble with an incredibly large wad of aqua-colored gum. “Yeah?” My crew wasn’t comprised of the most professional types, great computer talent, but poor social skills. “They call you `butt-head’ when you’re not around.” He fiddled with some of the junk on my desk. I composed an email requesting my team visit the donation site. Then, I attached the link and mentioned that the young man visiting with me this morning was the brother of the deceased. I signed it, “Your favorite boss, (Butt-head) Brad.” We had lunch in the building with my supervisors – slightly higher-class folk. My boss showed Jeff pictures of him taking his kids to the water park, then to the zoo. Jeff enjoyed that, asking questions and pointing at different animals. Jeff had his own brand of quiet charisma that day. I checked my emails and we left to get our hair cut. That always made me feel better. We wound up getting new shoes and socks, underwear and I couldn’t help myself, I promised to take him to the water park later but we went to the zoo that afternoon. Got lots of good photos and we great fun; lucky thing I had my cap and sunscreen in the trunk. Unfortunately, I had to drop him off with his mother and grandmother on the way home. I met Bernice at the center organizing the music and catering for Tomas’ memorial service. Had to make sure that Ace and his group got the notification that one of their models had passed and I was surprised that the guys responded with offers to help with the memorial service as well as making donations. … That night, I considered all this chaos in my usually calm life and immediately went to the mirror — so far, so good. Maybe I was past the worst of my skin condition, or maybe I was better handling stress. It was in that moment I decided I was old enough and stable enough to take on more responsibility in my life — this skin condition was limiting my “personal growth and development.” I was more than a red, pimply face, I could do better with my life. In my career, I was able to handle most of the problems that came up, and always used a preventative strategy to keep the systems I managed safe and functional. That avoided a lot of problems, and I was on the path to the department supervisor’s position. Maybe I’d find a partner, though my social life didn’t lean in that direction. Dog breeding had potential, and I’d heard that the mini-horses were a big fad. Honestly, I didn’t want ponies or dogs, I wanted something of a family — a boy and, if I could find one, a partner to make a home. I’d be working an uphill slope to find another gay man who wanted to adopt. As lay on my bed, I looked up to the sketch of Tomas and Jeff. I missed the boy, wondered what he was doing — was he crying again or telling his mother what he’d done? Were his mother and grandmother arguing? Went online immediately and sent photos from the zoo to Jeff and his mom. It took several minutes, but Jeff called me back — he was going back to school the next day and sounded okay. I asked to speak with his mother and offered to take them both to the water park on Saturday. They didn’t want to go, but I could pick up Jeff for the afternoon. I’ll have to tell you that the women related to Jeff were nice-looking gals, very attractive though they wore no makeup or fancy hair styles. They were somewhat distant as well — kept things to themselves. Even Bernice mentioned that she often had to pry information out of them for the memorial service. Maybe this was their way, or there was something else. I don’t know, but who couldn’t enjoy a day at the water park? … It was a hot day and I wore my floppy sun hat, parked across acres of cars and finally we got inside in the shade of awnings. Found an umbrella table and watched Jeff float along the river of chlorine and kiddie pee again and again. I quietly checked out some of the dads and lifeguards behind my mirrored sunglasses and kept my iced drink on my lap to reduce the possibility of an excited response. Sent a few photos of Jeff on the waterslide. No answer. As the sun moved, I moved my chair to stay in the shade but went to check my face several times. No blotches. The memorial service for Tomas would be held within the next two weeks. I enjoyed meeting people and shaking hands without them pulling away from me. A boy has limits — around noon we had hotdogs and sodas, chips and ice cream and Jeff rested for a while, thin body in a curl on the end of the lounger beside me. Rock music blared and children screamed and laughed. We had more ice cream before Jeff climbed and slid down the water slide again and again with two other boys. As the sun went down, we trudged back to the car. In the vanity mirror of the visor I noted it was coming back. My face was bright red. I dropped them at home and reminded the grandmother I’d help with keeping Jeff in school for the next two months. When I dropped him off at home, his grandmother met me, saying she was taking Jeff home with her to Mariposa. My heart dropped, Jeff frowned, “Bernice and I’ll be glad to help till the semester’s out so he won’t miss school.” No answer, and I didn’t feel like I could butt in any further. … At home, I began with the cream and the pills, left a message for my endocrinologist, then my dermatologist. Nothing else I could do in the moment. Shit! It was bright red and spreading. With a strong feeling I’d never see Jeff again, I took plenty of photos at Tomas’ memorial service. He came in his camo shirt and jeans, staying aside his grandmother. It was a fine affair with music and singers, kids reading poems and the artists from Saturday night presenting a painting to Renee. Tomas never looked better than in that portrait. I stayed to the side with my face covered, I mean Russia on my left cheek, and China on my right; Cuba was forming on the side of my nose and something like Laos was appearing on my chin. Dammit! I was a map of communist countries. Through the rest of the year, I sent Jeff and Renee photos of the activities at the center, inviting them to each event and class. Got no answer but continued hoping that I’d get to see Jeff again. That didn’t happen. … The next stretch of my life was the loneliest. Bernice married and moved — started a family immediately. Married a nice guy, ex-military and had a great sense of humor. I didn’t mind when he called me “Red Man.” It was true. My face stayed red and blotchy no matter what I did. I started half-hiding; at home, my office with the door shut and Saturday nights at the center for the sketch artists. I was socially debilitated with the stubborn spots over almost my entire face. Ace noticed my now quiet nature and introduced me to the glory holes at the local adult bookstore outside of town, and a very busy place afterhours. It smelled like pine-oil and cheap lavender air freshener. Couldn’t get into the mood — these guys were as lonely and more desperate than me. Yeah, I stepped close to the hole in the plywood glad the guy couldn’t see my face. It left me feeling hollow. The Saturday artists picked up some strange models for the evening who were often rough-looking and sarcastic. Some of them looked like they used drugs heavily. If they couldn’t find anyone, I stood in and sweated as I held various positions. Didn’t have much interest in art, though they held several more sales and were doing a land office business in their covert way. Tried the dating site again. Searched and sent a few messages — nothing but one-night stands. Didn’t want the ups and downs of that — I wanted a partner and the stability of a home. I checked out adoption or foster parenting. A single, never-married gay man wanting to adopt a boy? Prejudice is wisdom to the ignorant — I moved on and looked into dog breeding again. … Time passed. Jeff would have been around ten or eleven, and I asked if I could send birthday gifts or take him and Renee out for the day. No answer. He was gone, and I was having a hard time accepting that. Had he forgotten me? Maybe he was heavy into sports and had a team around him. Maybe he was into debating or chess or swimming… His life was probably full — mine felt emptier by the moment. I felt like a first-class loser. All my father taught me about leaving an example of an integrous man was for nothing. Integrity — I figured I had some, but it didn’t keep me warm on a cold night or take me out to celebrate the small achievements in life. I kept myself busy at the center on the weekends until Bernice and her partners decided to sell the business. We’d all get our money back and more, but I’d be without any social activity at all. No more Ace and the artists, no more models, no more events. I was crushed. Bernice suggested I take the same hours for the new owner, “They’d appreciate your help.” The new owners closed the center on the weekends. … Ace and the guys needed space, so I told them I’d rent my garage to them on Saturdays, “All day, if you want.” They began coming over every Saturday. We were stymied for a while when they wanted to have another sale, but I arranged to borrow the moveable displays from the old center and we held the sale in the basement of the building where I worked. Since I had the keys, I stayed at the door and let the buyers in and out. Some damn fine work left that night and way, way out of my budget. Backyard beekeeping became a thing and I decided to take classes and buy a hive. The wide-brimmed hat and suit would be perfect when I had to go out in the day to take care of them. After making a stable, level foundation, I installed one hive in the backyard and enjoyed making sure they were watered and healthy. Mostly, they didn’t like me bothering them, but I was becoming an expert on my bees with the help from the county extension agency. Wasn’t too long before I had honey and I sent pictures of the jars of golden sweetness to Jeff and Renee. No answer. … My face calmed down as my life became a steady stream of looking for some kind of diversion — bees only want a little attention from humans. Operas only came so often in our town, and the symphony was alright, would have been better with someone. I’ll admit that on weekends I drove up around Mariposa, or through the run-down subdivision where Jeff and his mother lived hoping for a glimpse of freckled-faced Jeff. Sometimes I was called to babysit for Bernice and her husband. Being a good uncle, I let her young girls climb all over me and they talked incessantly until they fell asleep for their naps. We went to the park and I sat with the nannies and grandparents watching them play. All the while I wondered what Jeff was doing. Maybe he was in the theatre or the band; maybe he was going to become an artist like his mom. I yearned just to hear his voice again, to touch his hair and his skin. I’d be satisfied with a photo if someone would answer my messages. He was growing up, ready to hit puberty soon. I wondered if his mother had remarried. He probably had a father now and maybe another brother or sister. Silence in my home made me feel lonely; I put on a CD of the world-famous tenors while I made dinner and washed the linens. My skin had finally calmed down and I was in a holding pattern of sorts. Not really sure why I cared much about that anymore — I needed to learn to enjoy my own company. Humming through the laundry, I went about the business of life when the doorbell rang. Neighbors complaining about the bees? My drones were on the job during the days, not at night. Through the peep hole, I only saw the top of a head of hair, must be kids selling junk for school… It wasn’t. There stood Jeff. Slightly taller, but he smiled widely when I opened the door and welcomed him in. A million questions came to mind, but “Where’s your mom — is your grandmother with you?” Came out first. He looked to the side, not wanting to answer. “Come in.” I took him to the kitchen as the tenors harmonized. “Hungry?” I noticed he was dirty, sweaty. Over sandwiches, I learned that everything I imagined was wrong. His mother had a serious bout with depression — she’d been in the hospital for several months. Jeff had lived with his grandmother for a while, then back with his mother in a small apartment. He’d taken care of her — they lived on her disability check, and the dole. “Did your mom show you the photos I sent?” “Photos?” “Sure I sent photos even when I didn’t get a response.” I looked in his eyes, “I see the drawing of you and Tomas every night. He’s in my heart, and you are too.” He stood, came to me and put his arms around my neck. “My grandma came again. Mom died — I think she took too many meds.” He whispered. “They wouldn’t tell me anything.” “Are you living with your grandma now?” “She having a hard time after Mom died — put me in a foster home.” “You ran away from foster care?” “No. I just walked out. Lotsa kids there. I don’t think anyone noticed.” “Okay. I’m going to have to notify someone but let me figure this out first.” After a close whiff, “You need a shower.” I found some things for him to wear and got online immediately, then called Ace. “Didn’t you say you knew someone on the PD?” “Yeah, my brother. What’s up? You in trouble?” He chuckled. “Got pinched jay walking?” Quickly I explained about his Jeff’s recent situation, “He says he just walked out of the foster home.” “Look, don’t call my brother — the PD’ll just jerk you and the kid around. Take the kid to Bernice’ house tonight and I’ll call around.” Nope, didn’t take Jeff over to Bernice’s, he stayed with me, falling asleep on the couch and went to work with me the next day. Ace didn’t call back. I took that to mean he couldn’t find anyone to help. Taking a big chance, I contacted the attorney for my company and asked for a lunch-consult. In a corner of the cafeteria, the three of us sat together and I let Jeff explain how he’d come to the foster home and why he left. The attorney looked at me for a moment. “How did you get involved with all this?” Took a while to explain about the art center and all the websites with Tomas’ death, but he nodded. “You don’t need a corporate lawyer – you need my wife.” “For what?” I asked. “She works with parents who have mental health issues, family problems, things like that.” … After I called HR and took leave, we left immediately, calling the lawyer’s office on the way. She was an attorney but had a very difficult job — representing people with mental health problems in court and trying to keep the families together. I found out that Jeff had walked over seven miles to get to my house the day before — that floored me. After completing a number of forms for her, she took them to the fax machine and said she’d call as soon as she got the approvals for Jeff to stay with me. “Are they going to take Jeff back to foster care?” “If we can get approvals from your paperwork and the grandmother, I’m asking the judge for an emergency transfer to keep the boy with you. Foster care is problematic. The home he was in has a reputation.” She looked away a moment, “Well, they all do.” Didn’t ask any further, but I knew there was still a chance he might have to go back or be moved to another home. “If he can’t stay with me, he can stay with my sister.” She nodded, took Bernie’s information and we left. By this time Jeff and I were both tired of all the questions. He began complaining that when he tried to get out of a bad situation, he got himself into a worse one. His frustration was clear. I took him to the car and turned on the air conditioner, “Everyone’s telling you to wait. They’re telling me the same thing, but if we don’t get this right, it’s going to fall apart and you may be in another foster home. Put your seat back and relax for a few minutes. Tomas would want you to give people a chance to help us, I know he would.” His face twisted as tears came. “Men finish what they start. Give them some time to push the paperwork through or you’ll be listed as a runaway and I’ll be harboring one. That’ll make more problems.” Breathing deeply several times to allay the stress, I glanced in the accessory mirror — skin fairly smooth. Looking over at Jeff, I smiled. “It’s going to work out.” … Foster care is overburdened and I was given a sheaf of papers and instructions and a referral to another gal in the lawyer’s office later that afternoon. The second attorney would begin the paperwork for me get temporary guardianship of Jeff — she explained the procedure and all the details. On the way home, I asked him if he wanted me as a guardian, “You know it’ll probably be until you’re eighteen unless your grandmother is able to take care of you again.” He just nodded, all of a sudden quiet. We made dinner and ate, both tired. I went to my bedroom and began looking over the paperwork. Reviewing the medical information, I realized I knew nothing of the boy, really. What did he like? What did he hate? Was he into drugs and alcohol? Did he like school? I called him into my bedroom. He’d been crying. “What happened? Are you alright?” “It’s all happening so fast now. I’m not sure what’s going on.” Turning to him, “I don’t either, but I’m reading about what’s required — all the rules. I’m going step-by-step and make a list so we’ll know exactly what to do and what to expect.” “Who’s going to pay you?” He was worried. “It doesn’t matter. You being safe matters. That’s first, and we have to go to a doctor — are you feeling alright? Does anything hurt?” He came close to my chair, “I’m okay.” “If you’re worried about money, you can work on Saturday; the artists still need a model….” I thumbed through the papers, “Let’s read through all this and see what it says about it who pays for you.” We sat on the bed together, I reviewed the information, sorting it as I went. Seemed like the county would give me a stipend for a while and he was covered by the county medical services. When the official paperwork came through, we’d start on permanent guardianship. I could put him on my insurance plan when I was his permanent guardian. He had access to some charity clothing closets and the rec center, and of course the public schools and an afterschool program. Hmmm. “Says here that everything’s covered, but you’ll have to do things like pick up your clothes and keep yourself healthy — do your studies. Have you been in the afterschool program before?” “What’s it about?” “Not sure, we’ll have to ask.” “Can’t I take the bus to your office?” “That’s an idea.” I reached to touch his hair, “You just want the gum and candy.” I felt him chuckle. He watched soccer for a while. I asked him to tell me if he had any questions. Expecting him to ask me about going back to his old school, he asked me about my erection — years ago when we modeled. “Why did you do that?” “I didn’t want to, but men get erections all the time — it works like a gauge telling you you’re normal. If you never had an erection, that would worse. Why do you ask?” “I’m always springing a boner. It’s embarrassing.” Pulling him against my chest, I inhaled his smell deeply, “Let me check.” I slipped my hand inside the large sleeve of the tee shirt he was wearing and went under his arm to find several hairs. “You’re growing into a man. Erections, hair — you have a moustache yet? We’ll celebrate that. Would you like to go to a bar?” I tickled his ribs. “I can’t go in a bar.” He giggled and snuggled closely. “Bars aren’t so great. How about grilling out instead?” “Hot dogs?” I nodded squeezed him against me and he nuzzled my neck, then straightened his legs and lay alongside me. Must have needed some hugs. I felt it first, then I heard, “Aw, damn.” He short rod was erect. “No need to curse, I’m hard, too. It happens, and if you live here with me, we’ll have to agree to ignore it. Okay?” He nodded and snuggled closely. We were quiet for a long time, enjoying our warmth. I was looking at the sketch of him, thinking of Tomas and all we’d been through around his death. “I missed you. I thought about you a lot.” I whispered. “Mom never told me about the photos you sent. She was really depressed for a long time before she went to the hospital.” “Did you call for help?” “Yeah. The school was on my butt for missing so many days.” He was quiet for a moment, “I think Tomas was telling me to call the EMTs the first time. Mom didn’t want to go, but she was — well, she was so sad. Some days she didn’t even get up. Tomas told me to call nine-eleven when she died.” “The hard parts of your life are over, I hope.” We were quiet in the dim lamp of the room. Mentally, I thanked Tomas for helping his brother, yeah, he was still in our hearts. Trying to be paternal became very difficult as my erect penis poked through the opening in the front of my pajamas. Reaching down to cover myself, he glanced downward and his hand joined mine. He brushed my fingers aside and I simply let him explore, not sure how much of men’s bodies he’d been familiar with. Like a lightning bolt, his next comment hit me, knocking me off-balance mentally. “Mom said you’re as queer as a three-dollar bill. Does that mean you want sex with me?” He flicked my erection. I waited to answer, wanting to be clear and realizing this situation could spiral into something else quickly, “What I want for you is that you get a good education, stay healthy and that you find some happiness. That’s what I want.” I tilted his chin and looked into his dark eyes, “Yes, I’m queer — but I like to say I’m gay. I find men attractive like your father found your mother attractive to him.” “Oh.” He almost sounded disappointed. “Do you know any gay men?” I asked softly. “Tomas said he was gay.” His brother Tomas? “Really?” “Yeah. We had to keep it a secret from Mom.” I nodded and rubbed his head against my chest. “Some kids know early; others find out later.” “Am I gay?” He asked. “Don’t know. Are you attracted to men?” “Sometimes… Tomas and I — well we played around.” “Jeff, don’t worry about it. That’s called sexual exploration, all kids do that. You need to get to sleep — going to work with me again tomorrow. Okay?” We were tired. He fell asleep and I got up, finished the wash and looked inside his jeans to find his size and ordered him a few clothes online; express delivery. Then I began making a list of all the things I’d need to get done to ensure the guardianship paperwork wouldn’t bounce back. All the while, my mind was filled with the thought of Tomas and Jeff exploring their bodies together. A very young gay man teaching and taking care of his brother. That thought warmed my heart. … The next morning, we went into my office. I put Jeff on my laptop playing games while I read through my email. The corporate lawyer told me to ask for family leave, guardianship would be covered as well as adoption and parental leave. What luck! I called human resources and asked for the rest of the week off, and we were off to the clinic, dentist and eye doctor and took the rest of the day off. Spontaneity was in order after getting the news about family leave. We bought burgers and walked around the lake together. Jeff was looking at the paddle boats, so I rented one, and we found another kid to paddle with him. Off they went, laughing and sweating to the distant shore talking about crawdads and snakes. I checked my “to do” list while they cruised the lake. We had to stop by the hardware store on the way home for another fire extinguisher and smoke alarm for the housing requirements. Before we went to the hardware store, I pulled into the middle school parking lot, “Come on, let’s see if the principle is in.” We went in and found a few staff in the office, but I found out they had an after-school program. Before enrollment Jeff would have to take assessment. That meant the morning in the school district offices. The after-school program was casual tutoring with homework, sports and games. We left tired, ready to go home, but stopped and got what we needed for the house. So far, so good. Only a few requirements left. I sent an email requesting an appointment with a therapist. Jeff seemed okay considering all he’d been through, but he had a family history of trauma and mental health problems, so I put on a brave face and told him he’d have to see a shrink. “Okay.” That was all he said. “Have you been to a therapist before?” “With Mom, sometimes.” Well, if he wasn’t upset, I wasn’t going to be. This was paid for by the county — I doubted it would be much more than a cursory exam. The doorbell rang and the delivery man handed Jeff a box. “It’s yours.” I went on to make dinner. As I set two full plates on the counter, I looked up to see the most beautiful kid in the world in a red knit shirt with his dark eyes flashing and a big smile. “Thanks.” He strode into the kitchen in his new jeans — gorgeous. “I feel all new.” “Good. Let’s eat.” … On my bed, I scheduled our next day. “Assessments tomorrow morning, and the shrink tomorrow afternoon.” I told him and sent photos of the extinguisher and alarm to the attorney, letting her know we were ready for an inspection. At around nine thirty I told Jeff to get to bed. He didn’t go. “I got another hair.” He said softly. At my desk, I didn’t look away from the screen. “We’ll go to the store this weekend for deodorant and toiletries.” I said, reviewing my emails thinking he had another hair under his arm. Feeling him standing beside my chair, I turned to see he’d pulled his nightshirt up and pushed his soft penis to the side, “Look. A new hair.” What’s a man to do when a boy is this proud? I grabbed a pen and circled the base of the hair. I didn’t see any more. “Is this the first?” “Third.” He moved his cock around to show me two short, dark sprouts. “Okay.” I numbered them with red ink. “Should we pluck and frame?” He grinned. “No.” He didn’t leave. “Do you want some attention?” He smiled so I got up and went to the bed. “Going to the guest room when we’re done?” He nodded again. “Tell me about your dad.” “I don’t remember much, but I know he loved Tomas a lot.” I leaned over and took him in my arms. “He had to love you, such a perfect boy.” I tickled him and kissed his neck. “Now get to bed, three-hair man.” … Woke up the next morning with him on the other side of the bed but got him up. “Ready to take tests? C’mon.” On the way, “If you are held back, it’s okay. You can go to summer school and catch up. No vacation this year, but we’ll plan something later.” “Vacation?” That excited him and I wondered if he’d ever been on a vacation. The online assessments went quickly, but we didn’t get the results. I got him a phone, and he charged it as we went to the shrink. That appointment took all afternoon. There was a battery of tests for both of us and we were both assessed. I left with a brown envelope of brochures and materials on mental health, signs of drug use, criminal activity — all kinds of things. There were a few on parenting as well. I figured his patterns had been set already, but as we ate a late lunch at the mall, I found out this was a very important time for him. He was getting curious about adult things like money as well as the vices of the world. Maybe he shouldn’t be modeling… We finished the week out and got him enrolled in school, his study area set up, and all his clothes in order and went to the grocer. I found out a lot about him through that week. Jeff, like other kids, was easily bored and wasn’t satisfied until he had a game on his phone blinking and making noise. Secondly, he didn’t care to shop for food — he just wanted to eat it, and the sooner the better. He was on a lunch program at school, and the afterschool program offered snacks, but it didn’t seem to stem his hunger. Seemed like things were in order and I would take full guardianship within ninety days with a nod from the grandmother. So far, the county hadn’t heard from her. … He finished the semester, though Jeff had to catch up during summer vacation. He liked the smaller, shorter summer classes. I looked toward the fall. Bernice and her family were planning a big dinner in November. She was planning to serve about fifty people — I hoped my skin would stay smooth. All the new responsibilities and changed schedules were wearing — I went online and found a small state park on the beach. I needed a break before school and holiday stress. Had to borrow a camping van from a co-worker and took a few days off before school started. Jeff and I took off for the beach. Only four days, but we’d swim, use the public showers and sleep in the small pop-up camper, two propane burners and a small sink. We filled the cooler and bought water on the way. There was a little whining; traffic was horrible and the beach was packed but I found a place near the end of the beach. Worst thing I could have done. It was close to the dunes and Jeff was off in a minute to see what was going on with all the guys standing along a ridge. Sand surfing was going on and poor Jeff gave it a number of valiant attempts after several face plants. I sent him to the waves to rinse off as I started a fire for dinner. Lining two old cast iron skillets with foil I had a first-rate dinner on the coals quickly. Ham steaks, potatoes, green beans and, the disgusting but necessary broccoli. After the sun set, a few kids drove by in their dune buggies and things settled down. Guitar music and people singing wafted through the breezes while we ate with only forks from the skillets. As the embers died, I asked if he was cold, the winds were whipping up. “Go close the windows and pull out the blankets, we’re going to need them tonight.” I handed him a box of baby wipes and grabbed a few for myself. Damn, that sand gets everywhere. The winds became stronger and the camper rocked, it was drafty in bed. Jeff came for his nightly affection with his blanket and didn’t leave. We were tired and fell asleep close to stay warm. Sometime during the night, the wind died down and we woke to a beautiful sunrise with hot cocoa and granola bars, then off to the showers. I walked back to the camper alone, Jeff went back to the dunes, but it looked like mostly families and he knew where I was. Should have warned him about strangers, but I didn’t think I needed to — certainly his mother, grandmother or the school had told him to be wary of overly-friendly people. Instead, I depended on his teen-stomach — he would be hungry again soon. I could almost set my watch by it — every two and a half hours he started foraging. Staying in the shade of the awning, I watched the swimmers and surfers and Jeff with several other kids with a boogie board. Right on time he came back for lunch. Two ham and cheese croissants were heating on the dashboard in foil and he ate and was off again. Sent him to the jetty about a half-mile down the beach to see if they had any fresh fish. He came back with a flounder from one of the other campers who’d been out early in the day. I showed him how to fillet, though he thought it was gross. When the sun was low, I started the fire and went for a quick swim. Jeff came alongside me playing and splashing, then grabbing me around the neck, holding tight while we played around for a while then came back to shore. That night we showered before we went back to camp. For being a spur-of-the moment vacation, this was turning out to be fun. Over dinner that night I explained how he needed to be careful of strangers, but even more careful about the people around him who might want to touch or get him into a situation he couldn’t escape. “Are you talking about sex?” “Could happen.” I looked at him, “Be careful.” That night we cuddled close — the wind rose and the temperatures fell. Had to keep our jeans and shirts and socks on to stay warm. As we tucked the blankets in around us my thoughts returned to all my boy had been through. Signs of depression I’d read about were often similar to characteristics of being a teen, but he had a good sense of humor and usually woke in a good mood. The boys he chose as friends were varied, but they all seemed respectful to me when they came to play ping-pong and raided the kitchen. Wasn’t sure about any kind of PTSD, though he’d had plenty of trauma in his life. Out of the darkness, “Well, what if I want to have sex?” “What?” “What if someone wants sex with me and I want sex too?” “Did someone ask you?” He waited for a while, wiggling a little. “Well, they didn’t ask, but they touched me and did stuff. I liked it.” “You’re probably going to experiment with your body, like you and Tomas did when you were young. I can’t stop that. Be careful and don’t hurt each other. Okay?” I thought for a moment, “If you want sex with an adult, I’d rather you wait. You need to know a lot more about the different kinds of people out there and why they want you. If they offer you any kind of drugs or alcohol, leave. You could be hurt…” Then, just to be sure, “And if you need any money, just ask, we’ll work something out.” “There’s a skateboard I want.” “We’ll go online and look up skateboards when we get home.” This sex conversation wasn’t over, I was curious. “Did an adult ask you for sex?” Wind whistled though the flaps chilling the silence further. I squeezed him gently, “Did someone touch you?” I was thinking about the foster home. “Are you going to get mad and yell at me?” “If you get called in for a DNA test, I’ll be really pissed off.” I needed to talk to him about birth control. Giggling, “No. I don’t hang around girls.” The thought of him with his friends didn’t bother me. “Okay. Who?” “Mom.” That mentally pulled me back to the waiting room of the therapist’s office. “What happened?” “At first, I didn’t like it, but then it got really good. It made her feel better for a while.” Trying to imagine this, he interrupted my thoughts, “I think she wanted to be pregnant again — but I didn’t have sperms.” Never would I have imagined this exchange, but men discuss the hard parts of life without backing down, dammit: “There’s a lot more to sex than feeling good. I’m sure your mom loved you. She was a little confused about things. Does your grandmother touch you?” “No. Grandma said my mother was too permissive with me, that’s what they were always arguing about.” “Oh. I see.” Well, I didn’t see very well. Strange family dynamics, but I had a precious boy next to me and I’d find a way to address this somehow when we got home. “Are you angry with me?” He asked, snuggling against my chest. “No.” I sighed deeply. Never expected all this, but it cut out a lot of the awkwardness of the talk about birds and bees. Now, I had to focus on how to build boundaries and relationships without sounding like a possessive ogre as he moved toward adulthood. That night as we huddled closely and dreamed, a plan came to mind. … After dinner, instead of watching the tele, I interrupted his fun with a brief series of videos made by a lady and posted on a video site. These were about etiquette –simple and easy. They were short, and I told Jeff he was going to be at Bernice’s for her big dinner and later come to my office party with me. “You have to be ready to present yourself.” Actually, I had a second plan going on behind the videos. As we watched and practiced shaking hands, introductions and opening doors for others, he grunted and complained, but I kept him to task. Then, I gave him a problem, “So you reach out to shake someone’s hand, and you’re smiling, introducing yourself. Then, the person tells you to fuck off. What are you going to do?” “Tell `em they’re an asshole?” “Nope. You always have the option to walk away — you don’t have to say anything, just leave them alone. They’re having a bad moment.” Starting with gross exaggerations, I explained how the way people treated him would define their relationship, or lack of further contact. “Your brain is telling you that person is a problem with that insult. Respect them and yourself by walking away.” The next few nights, I gave him a more difficult challenge – someone being really nice to him, then asking to borrow money. “Never tell anyone you have any cash on you. The test is for friendship is this — will they still like you if you’re broke? If they leave, then they were false friends – liars. They only wanted your money.” I touched his heart with my pen, “They’re manipulating your feelings to get to your wallet or something else, like your skateboard.” A few nights later, we talked about erections again. Seemed like the boy was constantly hard and tugging at his jeans. I explained how he’d meet someone he wanted to have sex with sooner than later, and I explained STDs. We watched a video about condoms and birth control. Lotta good stuff online these days. “Before anyone can get to your briefs, they got to be okay with your mind — remember the guy that told you to fuck off when you wanted to shake hands? Do you really want that guy around?” “Nah. He was a jerk.” “Right. Now, you want to go to bed with someone who’s going to use you and borrow all your stuff and lie to you like the person who wanted to borrow -” “My brain has to make sure they’re not a jerk, and my heart has to make sure they’re not playing me, then I can have sex with them, right? “Well, there’s a few more steps, like being around the person and doing things together to make sure they’re honest and respectful,” I had to pause at that point, “Be really careful with the adults — they’ve got bags full of tricks to play on kids, but yeah, you have to be selective — very particular. You will have your heart broken because some people aren’t going to want to be a friend or don’t find you attractive, and you’ll learn and move on. Expect that.” Then, we talked about consent and I dropped the bomb. “At the age of sixteen, if you have sex with a younger person, whether they want it or not, they can report you and you will be in some big trouble — probably find yourself in a mental institution. Other people’s bodies are under their control — even if they’re young, drunk or stoned. Understand?” I showed him the law about young pervs. The next night he was full of “what if” scenarios. We went through the basics again, and I admitted I didn’t have all the answers, especially about sexting and sending nude photos. He said he hadn’t done that or received any and showed me his phone, but I knew he could have deleted or hidden them. I had to trust him on that. Out of the blue, “You meet lots of guys, why don’t you have a boyfriend — uh, a lover? Did someone play a bad trick on you?” He asked. Without any embarrassment, I opened the drawer on my nightstand and showed him my lube, and my adult toys. “I’m pretty discerning about who I let close. Until I find the right one, I’ll just take care of myself.” He looked at the black plastic vibrator. “What’s this for?” He sniffed it and I grinned and explained that inside his rectum was a place that felt really good when it was rubbed. “This part goes around your balls, and this touches your prostate. My favorite toy.” I could hear the gears turning in his head, “This part goes inside your butt?” “Yep.” Taking it out of his hand, “No. You can’t try it.” He grinned. Maybe that was too much information, but can there be too much information? … Through the semester I felt somewhat guilty. I’d only contacted his grandmother twice though she’d not answered my text with photos of the beach and the first day of school. Hadn’t heard from her when I got full guardianship either. Bernice’s dinner was coming, I asked Jeff’s grandmother to attend with us, offering an olive branch. No answer. Bernice assigned us the salad and I bought a variety of vegetables on my way to pick up Jeff in his afterschool program. Jeff had a blast putting the vegetables through the slicing machine changing the blades and the shapes of each vegetable, then he went online and found how to make a vinaigrette dressing. Yes, the lid needs to be on the firmly on blender before you turn it on. I let him measure and mix and found a big bowl then I wiped up the splashes of dressing. He enjoyed making the salad and decided he would make us salads if I bought the vegetables. “Get some of that little yellow squash. Do you know what edamame is?” Did someone steal the real Jeff and replace him when I wasn’t looking? He’d probably cooked before, but now he was some kind of gourmet? The holiday dinner was great, the salad was great and Bernice pulled out the scrapbooks from our childhood. Damn, I was a funny-looking boy. Surprisingly, I had to pull Jeff away from a noisy game with hippos and marbles. Lots of noise, but I was tired and wanted to go to the beach in the cool weather. Giving him a kiss on the neck as he sat on the floor, “C’mon, beach bum.” … When we got home, Jeff was excited and I had to show him the photos I took of the dinner. “Are you interested in cooking — like being a chef or something?” “I’m taking home management in school. We made pasta from flour and…” He listed a number of things he’d done — herbed pasta sounded good. He went on to list a number of different sauces and things I never cooked much less tasted. “It’s easy.” We stopped at a big grocery store on the way to the beach and dropped more than a few bills and never ate better on vacation. We began a long, culinary journey together that November. … During spring break Jeff wanted to go back to the beach and take some of his friends with him. It was still cool. They wanted to sand surf. I was able to rent a small RV with a shower. No way was I going to take a cold shower in the public bath in forty-degree weather. There was a mini-kitchen, bath, shower, kitchenette and plenty of fold-down sleeping areas. On Friday night, three fourteen-year-old boys were in the living room with their bags. They helped with loading and we were off. For three days with four fourteen-year-olds I cleaned scrapes and bandaged fingers and toes and watched the boys beat themselves against the sand but they had a good time walking the pier and jogging along the beach, flying kites and whispering late into the night. Brought home a bucket of sand on us and worth every moment we had together. Jeff stayed with Bernice for the rest of the week while I went back to work. She called at noon on Friday and told me she’d dropped Jeff off at my house while she took her girls for their vaccinations. I’m sure he’d be fine. Leaving an hour early, I was hoping to help him in the kitchen — we’d pulled chicken breasts out of the freezer that morning. Chicken Kiev was on my mind. Guess I should have called out for him when I came in. The house was quiet. Entering my bedroom, I saw him on my bed, naked, legs open trying to get my favorite toy up his small ass. Since he was on his knees, working between his legs with his head on the mattress, he couldn’t see me. I sneaked up behind him and saw he was well-lubed. Very gently, with one finger, I pushed the vibrator inside his ass, then leaned over and kissed his butt cheek. He froze, “Are you angry?” “Not at all. Keep going.” I undressed beside the bed as he felt around for the button to turn the vibrator on. “It’s in the drawer. Remote controlled.” I sat on the bed beside him in my boxers, reached in the drawer and turned the vibrator on to level one and pushed it into his hand. As much as I wanted to stay and watch, I went to shower and rubbed one out thinking about his rounded ass and dark pink cleft with the mechanism vibrating against his young prostate. Would loved to have held him during that. Wonder if it was his first time with that kind of stimulation. Over the sound of running water I heard him moaning. In my robe, I went back into the bedroom which now smelled like boy-spunk. “Was it good?” He looked at me with dreamy eyes, “Incredible.” Hugging him against me, I rocked his limp body. “I made a mess.” “Well, you’ll have to do the laundry tomorrow — change the sheets.” I lay beside him, “I’ll give you some handkerchiefs. Keep one under your pillow.” Couldn’t help but ask, “Are you embarrassed?” “Yeah.” “You weren’t embarrassed with your friends in the RV. You don’t need to be embarrassed now.” “How did you know?” “I was a boy once with my friends. The way you talked, your breathing…” “You didn’t say anything — why not?” “I didn’t want to disturb you. Didn’t seem anyone was being hurt…” “God, I’m so humiliated.” He groaned. “Save the humiliation for something important — like making a B in Algebra.” I felt him kiss my chest and reached down between his legs to gently pull the device out of him. “Soap and warm water, go wash it off.” I got dressed and went outside to check my bees. … That night we were on my bed watching a cooking show when he turned over and asked me what I did with my friends when I was young. I turned the tele off and told him that I was overly shy. Never even touched myself at all until I was around twelve when I had a friend who showed me how good it felt to pull my dick. “Thought I was dying when I had my first orgasm — I was stunned and ran home. It scared me it was so strong. At first, I thought I was going to pee then I thought I was dying. Didn’t stop me from doing it again.” He laughed. “The next year, I could masturbate like a champ, and I had a friend that summer who was visiting with neighbors. First, he showed me how good it felt when another person rubbed your dick. I thought it couldn’t get better than that. He sucked my cock, then I sucked his. We spent a whole month doing that before he had to go back home. I remember him well. He kept saying it wasn’t gay or queer. I was confused because my parents didn’t tell me much and I went to a religious school.” “When I got into high school, I was still a nerd and extremely shy. Couldn’t bring myself to date the girls. If I came in my pants while I held some girl’s hand, that counted as sex and I’d go to hell for sure.” Pulling him against me, “By the time I graduated, my dad had it figured out. He asked if I was homosexual. He wasn’t too upset. Mom didn’t say anything. They loved me, and Dad told me to be careful who I was with and where I went — it was hard for gays and lesbians back then.” He looked at my face for a long time then, “When did you first have sex with another man? I mean real, adult sex.” That’s when I blushed, “I’d seen porn; halkalı escort gay porn… I thought it would happen one way, but it happened very differently.” My mind went back to that studly auburn-haired sophomore who spooned me and entered me slowly from behind. Earthshaking to be held, feeling loved and sent into orgasm next to him, and feel him inside me. Wasn’t sure about describing that, so I took the high road, “We held each other and kissed and did what came naturally.” It was nothing like that, but it was slow and gentle — I was such a frightened, anxious virgin and he was good to me. “Where is he now?” “I don’t know — he transferred to Cornell; I think. He was an English major.” “You could invite him on a date.” “No idea where he is now.” … The artists were only coming once a month now to use the garage, and there were only three of the old gang left, but they were the best. Ace was exceptional — he changed his style – used more bold colors and lines. Everything he painted and sketched was exciting and overtly sensual. No empty walls in my house. Three new paintings hung above my bed and two more in the hallway. All of Jeff or me, though you couldn’t really tell who the model was. Moving upward into management, I became the department supervisor and didn’t have to deal with the day-to-day stressors on the floor, a younger man to filled my position — he had potential and didn’t mind firing the slackers. Hired more women, that seemed to change the social dynamics and increase production. During that time, Jeff started high school, stunning boy holding high grades. Still loved to cook and took chemistry courses as part of his studies. One of his instructors gently, but firmly led him through home economics end of things and toward the health field. We took our vacation in DC his freshman year and toured the National Institute of Health and several other sites. Best part of that whole affair, we found the incredible scholarships available. Jeff decided to go for the gold yet the idea of so much money overwhelmed him at first. We worked it out on a per day basis and compared it to what he would earn. That seemed to get things in order for him, then we spent a lot of time in a medical library on the local college campus. Health care has a million specialties. … Finally, I heard from his grandmother. She came to visit for a weekend looking great and was a different person — thin and haggard. While she visited, Jeff cooked and she helped in the kitchen, they were talking about when she was a girl, “Yeah, I worked my way through college in a veterinarian’s lab. I checked for worms sometimes, but I tested all the blood and urine samples like you get when you go to the doctor.” They talked about different kinds of mammals and their different diseases. Interesting. Over dinner that night she told Jeff how proud she was of him. That warmed my heart, I’d worked hard on parenting him. After we took her to the airport, I had mixed feelings. Jeff became quiet, I knew he was thinking about all the things his grandmother had reminded him of — his free-form life style with his mom and lax rules, sexual incidents then the losses. Compared to our structured lives, I wondered what he thought. More importantly, was he wavering? Seemed he was thriving inside the boundaries we built. He could become rebellious and revert to what he’d been exposed to with his mother. In my mind I asked for help from Tomas, “Keep him strong, keep him with me.” That next week, though, Jeff rebounded and his resilience was amazing. Someone at school told him about the county fair. Jeff decided he wanted to win a ribbon with his cooking — never considered he might lose. We downloaded the categories and rules and schedules. Complicated affair. I decided to enter a jar of honey with part of a comb. Jeff had to review a lot of recipes before making a decision on what to enter. … Feeling like I had my life in order, I began cruising the dating websites again and even sent a few messages. Noticed a name, “Warren.” That was the same name as the studly young man who’d introduced me to full-fledged man-on-man sex. A flood of memories came back as I studied his face. Was that him? His hairline had receded and his face was full. There wasn’t a lot of information on his career, under sports, he’d listed air-hockey; a writer’s sport. I wondered and sent him a note asking if he’d ever attended state university where I’d gone. The first response clearly hedged — he wasn’t sure who I was. After a few more emails, I forwarded a photo of myself from my yearbook, then a photo of me in my early thirties — before the rosacea hit. He forwarded some photos and we checked each other out carefully online. He was living in Phoenix — about two hours away, but we began using the videophone late in the evenings when Jeff was in bed. Life had been bad and good to him. Now he was a divorced father with two daughters about to graduate college and he owned a small publishing company. He was an editing consultant for a text book company. Aside from the hair loss and a slight weight gain, he was still the soft-spoken, slow-moving guy I knew. Our conversation continued, I explained my career, and he asked if I had a family. Not wanting to reveal the details of Jeff’s arrival in my life, I told him I was raising a relative, and still single. Things got interesting in his emails. Had to ask if he was gay. He said he was bisexual with a definite inclination toward the masculine gender. Wasn’t so sure about that… I wanted to meet him in person and wondered if my anticipation would cause a flare-up across my face. The next month I found a computer security convention in Tucson and I told the other supervisors I was going. Told the same story to Jeff and Bernice — Jeff’d stay with them for the week. After I got my tickets, I emailed Warren and told him if he’d like to meet me in Tucson, I’d be there on convention. He agreed. Maybe, just maybe this would work out. … As I packed, I reminded myself that I didn’t have much experience with dating and had to stay calm and cool. Lust could divert my rational thoughts, but a quickie might be just what my ego needed… Still, in the back of my mind, I knew what I wanted; had half of that now and had to guard it carefully. The young man in my house was on a narrow path to his success — I’d put a lot of energy and thought into getting him into a mindset that was very different than the one he’d grown up with and I wasn’t losing that investment. Trudging along the walkway, I exited the plane to see a short, heavy-set bald man holding a sign that read, “Brad the Nerd.” Had to laugh. It was Warren. He remembered what a geeky kid I was on campus. We stopped for dinner at a western-themed restaurant and ate mesquite-grilled steaks and I began sending photos of the salad, steak and twice-baked potato that had been garnished with spikes of green onion sprigs making it look like a cactus. “You’re a foodie?” Warren asked. “My kid likes to cook.” Before we went to the hotel, we stopped at a bar and watched the line dancing. We both tried standing behind the pros trying to copy their footsteps and wound up laughing as we stepped on everyone else’s feet. While we danced, he held my hand — my palm was sweating. Later, I ran to the restrooms — skin still clear. Tucked my erection to be less visible. In my hotel room, I asked him to help himself to the bar, and I alluded to my rosacea, “Have to watch my diet and a few things… Management is the key to keeping the spots away.” “My granddad had that same thing on his face. His was awful, really a problem. Mom put her makeup on him before we went to church.” He grabbed a bottle of water and offered me one. “Don’t drink out of the faucet, it’s salty.” I wondered if the salty water would cause an eruption, but I was finally alone with him and figured I’d turn the lights off. “Dating anyone?” We sat on the patio looking out over the city lit brightly below us. “Was for a while. Surprised when you contacted me, I don’t get a lot of offers at my age, with my weight and all.” “You look good.” I touched his face. “I remember how gentle you were — soft-spoken, very tender that night.” He chuckled, “You know, when I figured out you were a virgin, well, I freaked out. I was so hard and I wanted to fuck your brains out, but I had to slow down — afraid I’d hurt you. Didn’t know if you’d scream and wake the dorm monitor. Had to think about horse training.” “Horse training?” “Yeah, my dad was a horse trainer. Have to go slow, speak softly and earn their trust…” Had to grin, “Well, it worked. Most memorable sex of my life.” By this time there was some handwork going on, “Stay the night?” I whispered. While he went to his car to bring his bag, I checked my face. So far, so good. … Sex in middle-age is different from when I was twenty. Slower, more appreciative, maybe a little more thoughtful, but a deeper, richer experience. Old enough to savor a kiss and young enough to still vibrate with lust when my nipples were sucked. Got to admit he was good at that. That man worked my cock with his tongue until I pushed him away. “Wait.” He chuckled and asked me what I wanted, “Don’t worry, I got the pills.” “No. Like the first time.” Looking into his eyes. He was slow to answer, “Let’s negotiate, um, make it easier on both of us. Get on top.” That made things easier with his belly, and I was able to watch his face. He told me exactly how he wanted me to stroke and push his knees back to lean forward and I think that may have been the moment I fell deeply in lust. More verbal than I expected, but my god, he kept tightening his asshole around my shaft causing me to tremble. He scooted around a little till he had me exactly where he wanted, “Fuck me like a bad boy,” He whispered. Grabbing the headboard, I pistoned my rod into him like a manic machine, closer to release every moment, sweat dripped from my face onto his chest. Looking down, his rod was leaking heavily, “Hurry. Can’t wait.” He closed his eyes and lifted his butt higher and moaned. Watching his spunk jump into the thin hair on his smooth chest, then smelling it while his face turned a bright red with pleasure caused my balls to empty in several hot pulses. Kept on pumping into him till the sound of squishiness and I felt the sticky lube and semen dripping down my balls. Pushed through my own heated juices inside him as I felt my last empty rushes. What a fuck! My head was spinning. Couldn’t help but fall onto him and hold him against me. The feel of his skin and breath were warm and reassuring. Perhaps it was my drought of intimacy — my very soul needed this. “Really need this.” I thought. Strong feelings; had to be careful — this wasn’t a sure bet, still in the one-night-stand arena but I couldn’t wait. I wallowed in the sensuality of the moment. Like a pig rooting for truffles, I licked, kissed and rubbed my face over his body, loving his scent and every liquid that he’d offered. Then he took me to the shower, knelt in front of me and coaxed several more shots from my balls with his fingers in my butt and my dick deep down his throat. “Do you have to leave?” I asked as we got into bed. “Got to get back to Phoenix tomorrow. I’ll be back on Friday. We can go into Nogales — I got friends there. Be ready at eleven-thirty?” … The convention was boring, but I had to show evidence I attended. Visiting all the vendors, I found some good ideas and took photos. Among the tables and glitzy booths was a short man in a light guayabera and slacks. He only had a card table and two chairs and advertised a security system he devised and programmed himself. I spoke with him for an hour and took his information; clever man getting the jump on the potential hackers with his ideas. Warren and I called and exchanged photos the next few days while I attended workshops and tried a few restaurants with other supervisors, carefully taking photos for Jeff. Bernice sent photos of him and her girls. He loved her girls, and they adored their Jeffy. With several workshop certificates in hand, I called Warren and asked if he could come on Thursday night, if not, I’d drive up to his place. He said he was on deadline and couldn’t leave till morning. “Right.” I hung up. Since I’d disrupted his work schedule, I didn’t think any more about it and spent the cool hours in the evening by the pool calling Jeff, but he was at the park with his nieces — skateboard and scooters. Friday came and a tanned, relaxed Warren drove up and I jumped in. “Sorry for the delay — big deal between Houston and Austin — changing the history text books. Heard about all that?” “Yeah. Supposed to be more inclusive, and make the history honest, right?” “What a political mess — delays the publishing when I have to rework everything.” We stopped on the way and bought plenty of water — the air was so dry it sucked the moisture out of us. When we stopped, I showed him some photos of Jeff and Bernice and her family, then my art collection. “Damn! Hot paintings. That’s your boy?” “Yep, when he was a kid.” “Aren’t you the lucky devil?” He gave me a grin. “Nothing like dark-haired boys.” … We spent the afternoon in Nogales shopping and eating then hit the sidewalks to the market area. Found a lot of gifts for Jeff, bowls and platters; gifts for Bernice’ family. Since we were there before the weekend rush, we had a chance to talk to local artisans. I got videos of the street vendors roasting corn, making taquitos, slapping tortillas on their comals. We felt like kids again on spring break. Joking and playing around, Warren was comfortable as well as bilingual. He could negotiate with the vendors getting things at a good price. I noticed that lots of people knew him, shook his hand smiling as we worked our way along the sidewalks. My flight was the next morning so I asked Warren to stay over if he wanted, hoping I could buy dinner and maybe get more comfortable with him again. He was on his phone in Spanish for a while, then we went up to my room. “You have a housekeeper?” “A houseboy.” “Really? How long have you had him?” “They come and go — usually they stay several days, or weeks, not long.” That was all he said. Being close to the border, I figured he found young men on the streets and assisted them. Charitable to help the kids. After a cool shower, we sent downstairs for appetizers; he had several beers. I had the coldest water I could find. The sun dimmed, we watched news, then some porn. I turned it off — “I can get that anytime.” I pulled him toward the bed and let my hands roam under his shirt, then took his pants down. He leaned to kiss me pushing me back on the bed. Side-by-side, he took me in his arms then began kissing my lips, then my neck. Wasn’t long before we were naked and panting. “You want it from behind, don’t you?” I grinned. “Like the first time.” He opened the patio doors, “Can you be as quiet as you were the first time?” Turning all the lights off, he lay behind me then wrapped his arms around me. It wasn’t like the first time, there was thirty extra pounds of Warren between us, but he leaned me over gently wrapping his arms around me. Tweaking my nipples and kissing my back, damn it felt good. His breath on my skin was warm. A hot metal bar of excitement formed inside my chest, originating behind my balls, deep in my groin. Wasn’t sure when this might happen again, so I told my brain to record it all, like a neural film. Maybe it was need, or maybe lust — I imagined that he loved me. Then, that incredible sting followed by the fullness of him inside me, his fingers grasping my hip bones and then, he twined our legs. With only short strokes, his left hand came to my erection to stroke my rod. While I whimpered, he shoved himself deeper. All the while he told me how good I was to him — how much of a man I was, how sexy I was saying there was nothing finer than my sweet, virgin ass. “Damn, you’re tight — your ass is pulling it out of me.” Wasn’t long after that he squeezed my rod. That’s when I felt his hot rushes of cum inside me. So intimate, so rich — but I couldn’t reach my peak. Couldn’t cum, like I was stuck in neutral. Tried some of my mental tricks; my body balked — couldn’t feel the pressure, nothing happening down there. Almost immediately, a funky blue frustration replaced any enjoyment of the situation. He didn’t notice and didn’t ask. Had to wonder why that happened. … Arrived at Bernice’ loaded with gifts to find that everyone got along very well without me. Felt good to take Jeff in our house as he told me he was planning to enter honey cakes in the county fair in August. We had to finish the semester first and I was going to check on summer school to help him avoid the literature and history classes in the larger classes. Warren and I kept in touch, often on video phone. Being a curious imp, Jeff occasionally listened as he sat on my bed on the weekend nights. “Invite him here.” “He’s a busy man.” I looked over at my boy. Jeff gave me half my dream; Warren had potential as the other half. Out of curiosity, I went online and hired a private background company to check on Warren. My home is the only really secured space I had for me and my boy and this is a common practice. Two weeks later, I got an envelope in the mail regarding Warren’s background. It was pretty much as he’d said. His arrest at a protest during college was there — I was arrested too. Protesting fee increases on campus and several other policies… Marriage, divorce, two children… Editing business, a few traffic tickets and an odd code number on the bottom of the list — something like twenty digits with letters interspersed. I called the guy that ran the background check. “I think he’s been under investigation– the number looks like a case code. Couldn’t figure out which agency was investigating. To be honest, I couldn’t find out what that code meant so I think that’s an on-going matter, that’s why I can’t access it. Could be about his taxes, seizure of some property where they found his name — don’t know. Maybe they found his business card in some crook’s wallet. Doesn’t seem like there’s any activity around him now — looks like another working schmuck.” I called Warren and told I really enjoyed meeting up with him and asked him to visit. He sent a box filled with Mexican candies and a card for Jeff tucked inside a tortilla press. Returning the favor, I sent him a large jar of honey and an invitation to visit with his children. After a number of calls, he agreed to visit and had to revamp his schedule. Said his kids were in southern France, he’d be coming alone. … That summer was beautiful and so hot! Jeff had to take care of the bees – didn’t want a break-out with Warren coming. We had a week before Warren visited; Jeff prepped for the county fair. He started baking honey cakes from an old English recipe. He made adjustments to the old English recipe by upping the spices. Honey cakes covered the countertops and table. On Saturday, we scoured the gourmet sections of grocery stores for some special items he “had to have.” Black food coloring and different colored sugar crystals – what the heck was that about? The little bugger had used a special pans to make a small, oval cakes, about as big as my palm. Each had two black eyes and gold with tan sugar-stripes on the body. Every treat resembled a large bee. I liked these better – he’d increased the nutmeg and added mace, I think. Delicious, and he guarded his adapted recipe like it was worth a mint. Maybe it was. … Warren called and cancelled. Something had come up he had to address immediately. “Is your family alright?” “Yeah, they’re fine — just something else…” He wouldn’t say what the emergency was. Completely crestfallen, I looked online — maybe Jeff and I could go to the beach instead; all the campers were rented for months. Maybe the state parks — they were booked. I called Bernice — no ideas there. I went online — our county had an ancient theatre built from stone and set into the side of a hill. Not a very big stage, but they showcased new talent in the summer and always got rave reviews. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was showing. I ordered two tickets and booked a room in a nearby motel with a pool and told Jeff that we were taking a short vacation on the edge of town, “Read the summary on the play. You’ll like it.” He didn’t seem too disappointed when I told him Warren couldn’t visit. Friday afternoon we got our room and went to the pool. I kept moving my chair to stay in the shade while Jeff swam and played in the pool. I had a small cooler of drinks and snacks by me, and he came by often with a new friend to empty it quickly. We swam that evening and the next morning. Since we weren’t entertaining Warren, I let Jeff have what he wanted from an antique shop nearby. He found a funny shaped pan for poaching fish and salt and pepper shakers in the shapes of animals. I simply wandered by the used books, detesting the stinging, musty smell of the place. Saturday night, we enjoyed the play under a canopy of pines. It was delightful and I laughed enjoying myself while Jeff was spellbound with the characters and costumes — very well done with both professional and amateur actors working together. Lighting, costumes; enthralling production. We stopped for dinner that night at a buffet where Jeff photographed the small mountain range of food that ran the length of a long steam table. Back in our hotel room, Jeff asked why I was so quiet, “Are you disappointed because Warren couldn’t visit?” Not saying anything, he came to my bed to snuggle with me while I watched the news. “Do you want a boyfriend?” “Sure. Everyone needs to be loved. Dating doesn’t work out for me.” That stung my heart to admit. “Do you feel loved?” “Everyone loves me cause I’m cute. I know you love me for me.” He kissed my jaw. He stayed nearby until I turned off the news, then he stood, dimmed the light off and took off his briefs and pressed them to his face. “What are you doing?” His chest heaved as he took a deep breath through his nose. My, but that he was sporting a fine, thick bush. “Sniffing myself. I like the way I smell.” He said, then he tossed them on the pillow beside my head. Well, how impudent, but I reached over and gave them a good sniffing myself. He came to my face, “Good, huh?” Didn’t answer that. His lips came to kiss my cheek and the sassy little fuck rubbed his musky briefs on both of our faces, then his lips came to mine and he kissed me; I felt his tongue. “No. Stop that.” “I know how to make you feel better.” He moved his head to my chest and I sighed as his lips went to my nipples, “I said to stop that!” “Shut up!” He whispered, looking up at me. “This isn’t right — ” He carefully picked up his briefs and said, “What — what, what you say?” As soon as I opened my mouth the stuffed his briefs between my lips and onto my tongue. “Shut up.” His tender fingers pinched one nipple while his lips sucked the other. My hands went to his head, wanting to push him away — he swatted my fingers away. “Stop it.” He looked up at me, “If we’re friends, like you said, I’m supposed to help you through tough times.” My mind wandered back to the days at the center when I held him before his brother died. He was looking at me the way I looked at him. Never would I say the boy was pitiful, he was confused, frightened and his small psyche battered, yes, but he’d kept going with me by his side. As I recalled those weepy moments, a love letter and a kiss, I calmed. I also remembered finding the courage for hard conversations and kissing his dead brother, asking him for a sign. We’d both been brave that day, together we’d made it through My muscles relaxed and my hands went to his hair to feel how soft and thick it was, “I love you.” This was his gift to my heart, like the one’s I’d given his heart. Feeling his tender face, I closed my eyes and tried to push all the difficult memories away as his lips kissed and his hand went between my legs. He licked along my shaft, looking up at me. With a mouthful of cotton briefs that held the most intriguing tastes, I smiled and closed my eyes. This was so unfatherly, and my skin needed to feel his warm touch. I was a needy man, though would never have admitted that — need was sneaked over my ultra-fortified boundaries in that moment. His hand came to my shaft while he licked, he seemed hesitant. He’d probably never been with an adult man before. As much as I didn’t like it, I pulled the briefs out of my mouth, “All better now.” He came to my ear and whispered then looked at my face and raised his eyebrows. “Oh, that’s what you want.” My little Puck. “Put your arms around my neck and lay here on your side.” With his rod poking my stomach, I lay on my side facing him and tasted his pre with my finger tip, “Are you sure?” “Are we friends?” He kissed me deeply, with his tongue teasing mine in an incredibly arousing way. “Put your leg over my hip.” He continued kissing and nuzzling my neck while my left hand held his back, keeping him near. My right hand gathered the liquids our rigid cocks were making and reaching between his legs, I carefully moistened his tight, hard sphincter. I rubbed and pressed, slowly pushing my middle finger inside him while his breathing became irregular. “Do you like that?” “Not yet.” His muscles were beginning to relax, and I leaned to kiss him as I searched and stroked my finger in and out several times. Hot, wet and velvety smooth inside, he had a wonderful body. My fingers found the place on the wall of his rectum that covered his glands. “Move your hips, make my fingers rub where it feels best.” He began moving his narrow butt and wiggled around but only fractions of an inch until I heard him sigh, then his motions began repeating. Soft moans, and I watched his temples begin pulsing rapidly. When his hips began moving more quickly, I pressed against the glands, squeezing a groan out of him and pulled him against my torso, our cocks rubbing together in our sticky liquid. A few more groans, a moan and his body tensed and he shivered. His penis kept twitching, continuing to push surges of semen after his initial shot. “Keep going.” My hand nudged his back, then his butt. He kept moving and my balls emptied in five quick, hot blasts. I remember dimly wiping our chests with his briefs and falling asleep with him in my arms and thinking that friends don’t let you go through the tough times alone. Sex with my boy didn’t seem right and it felt unbelievably rich. The sharp disappointment with my life dimmed and disappeared. … Puck-Jeff won several big, shiny ribbons for his honeybee cakes at the county fair. He had little competition in his age category and scooped up the accolades from the grandmotherly types who judged the event. Lots of photos of that. I got a certificate of participation for my honey. Then, he started his sophomore year after several more day trips to the beach to sand surf. He was confident, tanned, lean and ready. His classes were more difficult but he’d chosen his schedule. By November and the big dinner, he was ready for a break. Don’t think I didn’t try to help. We got a tutor from university who talked to Jeff about campus life and maneuvering through enrollment as well as his calculus problems. Warren and I continued calling and sending photos though sporadically. Most of that was at Jeff’s insistence and I invited Warren to come in January. Warren was on the downhill side of a large contract and keeping his business going. We skyped late at night. During those calls I heard Ranchera music in the background at his home, and sometimes I heard his microwave timer go off, or doors close. I figured that was one of his houseboys. In December Warren mentioned that he had run into a little problem and could visit, but for only two days. “Need a few bucks?” I asked, willing to spring for intimacy though I didn’t like the concept. “Not that kind of problem.” That’s all he said and that made me wonder if he was in another relationship but I couldn’t bring myself to ask him. I still held a glimmer of hope. When I hung up that night, I wondered if my need for a partner had weakened my character. “Men don’t back down from difficult conversations…” Probably have to confront that at some point soon. Then, I remembered about that long number that the PI had found. … As Jeff and I worked toward his finals and the holidays, I was excited. Sure, we had a great time at Bernice’s — her family was a riot of fun. Music, games, and a trip to see all the holiday lights. Warren called after I sent some photos and cancelled his visit saying he had contract negotiations. I tried to get him to reschedule — he was doubtful about his calendar. The next day a fruit basket with a brief apology arrived. A fruit basket? Isn’t that what you send an elderly great aunt? Something wasn’t sitting right inside me. The next day at work I cornered the corporate lawyer again and explained I needed some information on a personal matter. “I’m a contract lawyer, I can only give you a referral to another attorney. If it’s about the boy, contact my wife. Wait, didn’t she give you the name of someone in her office?” No help. I thought about calling Ace and talking to his brother the cop. That might cause more problems. I called the PI that did the background check again and asked his rate for digging up more information about that code number, like maybe filing a freedom of information request. As I waited for him to offer a price, I wondered what would happen if this turned out to be criminal activity. I’d been the one driving this the relationship with Warren forward — a difficult conversation would have to happen. … New Year’s Eve I took Jeff out to eat at an upscale restaurant I’d found in the back of a slick magazine simply for the novelty and for the experience of haute cuisine — Jeff’s dinners were simpler and much better. On January second, I received an envelope containing the results of the PI’s investigation of the number he’d found associated with Warren’s name. The envelope was thick with papers — names of agents and others were blacked-out — lots of it was redacted. Reading carefully, I found enough to see that Warren had some vague connection with a vigilante group that patrolled the border. This was not the official border patrol or military but a half-assed group that was taking on the duty of guarding the nation per their interpretation of the constitution. They were armed and camped out in tents and RVs along the stretches of desert near the border waiting for immigrants coming on foot carrying little or nothing. The coyotes had already taken their cash and valuables. I found the militia’s website on the dark net — ultra rightwing and macho; armed to the teeth with heavy-duty firepower. They were making war against people who had almost nothing? That didn’t make much sense. I read on, appalled with this informal troupe. Finally, the lightbulb in my brain switched on. Was this how Warren got his houseboys? Wondered if he paid the militia for young men and boys to resell into slavery. Human trafficking? Had to think this over for a while, but I was sure I didn’t want any connection to Warren now and became suspicious about why he had so abruptly cancelled his plans to visit. Remembering back, he said his children were vacationing in southern France — do editors and lone publishers make that much money? This was feeling darker by the moment. … About sixty percent of my thoughts were conjecture, and I wanted more information. If even part of what I was thinking was true, I was going to be angry. Part of me felt manipulated and used. Part of me wanted to believe that he’d had a few scrapes but they were nothing. “Birds of a feather…” I thought, then I remembered Al Capone. He wasn’t jailed for the violence he’d ordered, but income tax evasion. This wouldn’t work out — if he was trafficking, he couldn’t bank the money — he’d have to hide it somewhere else. I’d lost all trust in Warren, and in the spirit of fairness this fool out worked out a plan to check him out. Jeff came in and went to my bathroom to steal my toothpaste and deodorant and browsed through all my lotions and took my last box of tissues. As he left, he stopped to kiss my cheek, “‘Sup Dad?” When he called me “Dad” that meant his debit card was empty. “Didn’t I just put fifty on your card? It’s supposed to last you two weeks– are you buying everyone lunch or what?” He chuckled and nuzzled my neck. “I like popsicles.” My brain stopped at that comment, “How much are they charging for popsicles these days?” He kissed my neck again; he obviously wanted more money quick. “I got a new friend.” “Who is she, and why isn’t she splitting the costs with you?” He didn’t answer me but grinned, “Please Dad.” “Am I going to get to meet this gal? What’s her name and does she have potential? What’s her GPA?” “Name’s Housan – B average.” “Housan’s a boy’s name…” I didn’t think anything more about that. “Well, invite him for dinner or a snack after school. I’ll reload your card, but watch your money, we may have to go back to the beach for a weekend.” “Can Housan come too?” “Have to talk to his parents first.” As I reloaded his debit card, “What did you think about Warren? Do you like him?” Jeff thought for a minute, “Are you going to ask him to come live here? Are you going to be partners?” “Don’t know. What do you think of him?” “Honestly, I think you can do better. He didn’t say much to me but told me I could come visit him anytime. I got his email in the card he sent with the tortilla press.” Nodding my head, “Do you want to visit him?” “Nah. Too hot in Phoenix.” … I let Warren’s situation stew in the back of my mind and moved forward to meet the popsicle-devouring Housan and his parents. Great grandparents had come during the revolution in Persia, that’s what they called Iran. This family was super-savvy about US culture though the women wore their heads covered. Didn’t bother me, they looked snappy in their jeans and tee-shirts with a bright scarf over their hair. The father and I got along very well, he had his own computer repair and refurbishing business online and had a large client base. Smart guy — he employed a number of people working from their homes. When I introduced myself, they smiled, telling me how proud they were of Jeff! Seems the boys had several of the same classes. All the tutoring had paid off — my boy was at the head of his math classes, though still slow with the literature. Housan seemed to be in a teen-apathy funk, unaided by frozen confections. They agreed to the beach trip and said they would join us. We worked out our plans and had a great time. Very intelligent, sociable people. We played cards with the boys into the night and ate golden, toasted rice — delicious. Without much reticence, I told them I was a gay man and had no problem with the boys being close — actually I’d prefer to know so I could steer them away from problems. Housan’s mother only said that her son was a willful boy. The father smiled, “He’s a good kid. Very smart, he’ll be fine.” They were cooler than I expected and welcomed my assistance keeping the boys safe and focused on their studies. There were a few sentences spoken in Farsi, but no mean looks or smirks so I didn’t ask. Seemed they held no animosity toward homosexuals. All the while, I was honing a plan to see what was going on with Warren. He hadn’t called much. I checked the newspapers and court filings in Phoenix for his name. Nothing. I asked Jeff if I could have the card Warren had given him, “Did you contact him?” “Why would I?” “Probably better if you don’t. As a matter of fact, please don’t ever contact him.” He gave me a puzzled look and went back to eating chips on my bed while he watched his favorite drama. … On a popular search engine, I set up an email account, “Sandsurferboy2017” and used a photo of Jeff at the beach sliding down a tall dune on a bright, plastic board. Added a few photos of him with the bees and I was set. Studying the errors and abbreviations in Jeff’s messages and emails to me, I composed an email for Warren. Started out with friendly notes with photos. As the days passed, my messages from “Jeff” alluded to me limiting his social life and grounding him. Warren always responded with care and attention — lots of sympathy. Each night I recalled Jeff’s complaints and imagined a few from my childhood, leading Warren to think Jeff and I were having problems. A few weeks later, things heated. Warren began interjecting sexual comments and nude photos in the emails. I responded with clumsy sexual responses and a photo of a groin I found online of a slender pelvis with a small package. It took over a week of these exchanges, each one becoming more suggestive, then a link to a bus ticket, one-way to Phoenix. Damn, he hadn’t written me directly in several months. Instead of being upset, I was calm — got what I wanted, my questions answered. If he was willing to do this behind my back, I needed no part of him and didn’t want him around my boy. … After making arrangements with Housan’s parents, I dropped off Jeff at their house for the weekend and took the three-hour bus ride to Phoenix. Sure enough, there was Warren awaiting Jeff. Sauntering up to him, “Looking for someone?” He turned to leave, but I grabbed his shoulder, “Are you a member of the Border Patriots, or are you just their middle man?” He glanced around the station as his face turned scarlet. “You’re the pipeline for the children they pick up crossing the desert, you bastard. You were going to sell my boy, after you used him, weren’t you?” “Just giving you two a break for a while. I was going to call you and send him back.” His voice quivered and his upper lip and forehead broke a sweat. “You sick son of a bitch — you were writing me, not Jeff.” Through gritted teeth. “Be glad I don’t have it in me to shove your capped teeth down your throat till they’re biting your ass.” With my hand on his shoulder, I guided him toward the rows of plastic chairs. The station was almost empty. “You know I’ve got enough on you to bury your sorry ass and if this old man can dig up your dirt, the feds probably have you pegged — it’s only a matter of time now.” Wasn’t sure of that, but it sounded like it would produce some guilt. “I know some of the militia, everyone around here does. You have to keep this quiet — I have a business and a family.” He couldn’t even focus on my face. “I’ve only got Jeff. Should have thought about your family first, but they’re in on this, aren’t they?” “No. No way. They want so much. I had to do it.” “Did you ever stop to think that maybe they’d like a father instead of a rat?” I looked around the waiting area like I was expecting a troupe of agents to come arrest him. He was sweating — his shirt was wet under his arms. “I’ll do anything you want.” He began. The smell of his desperation hit me. “Anything.” “Get out of the biz — you’re buying and selling someone’s children like they’re dogs. You’re using them, then tossing them away for a few bucks. I’m ashamed to even know you. Be glad I’m not a violent man.” I stood and left, got a rental car and didn’t stop till I got home. … Got home to find that Housan and Jeff had a spat and Jeff went to Bernice’s house. Nope, wasn’t going to let that happen — I picked him up and took him to Housan’s house and told him he was going to apologize and straighten it out, “He’s your best friend and a good kid. Men don’t give up easily. Go work it out. Not leaving till you do.” Housan’s mother was perplexed, but the boys went to the backyard and there were a few raised voices but they came back in looking much more relaxed. Back to normal, they wanted to go down to the park with their skateboards. I stayed for dinner with the family and enjoyed myself. I said nothing of what I’d done before I arrived at their home. That would be my secret; valor isn’t always noticed and to be honest there were moments I was frightened when I met Warren — I didn’t know if he was carrying a gun or had his business associates with him. Sunday night came, washing clothes, back in my routine, I felt great — I’d accomplished something good that weekend and found out the truth. Warren was great in bed and had played me along but nothing like he’d played who he thought was Jeff. That was all behind me now. When I went to bed, there was Jeff, sprawled out dozing. I took the remote, turned the tele off and lay beside him. He snuggled up beside me, “Thanks, I love Housan. It was over something stupid.” “Was it hard to apologize?” “Yeah, I couldn’t look at him.” “That took courage. Start with bits of bravery and pretty soon you’ll be able to face the worst without shaking.” I was thinking of Warren when I said that, and it was true. … Our lives moved on through Jeff’s junior year and I held an open house giving Bernie a break that November. Jeff and Housan kept the buffet filled as co-workers, neighbors, Bernice, her family, Housan’s family and their friends came through. It was busy, and at times the house was packed, but everyone was in the spirit and cheerful. Gifts and food, warm friends and a family — life felt good. Life moved smoothly toward Jeff’s graduation, we filed applications for scholarships. He wanted to stay in town and go to the state university. Couldn’t have been happier when he went to DC for six weeks before his junior year in the summer for a short course on the NIH departments. My skin was clear, and my bees were humming along making honey for us. That’s when the hammer fell. Remember the moment well when I got a call from the private investigator I’d used to check Warren’s background: “Just spoke with the feds — expect a call. They came by my office and interviewed me about why I was sniffing around Warren’s background…” They called the next day for an interview at their offices. I thought it over and decided to be honest in case they’d monitored my computers and phones. I hadn’t deceived Warren to blackmail or extort him — I’d only asked him to leave the kids alone. I’d call it `social pressure’ to do the right thing… Well, I went in for the interview with a copy of the emails, even the note Warren had written to Jeff and steeled myself. Didn’t go as bad as I thought, I wasn’t part of Warren’s schemes and hadn’t spoken to him in a while. After my last phone call with Warren, that was time the feds were closing in on him and his cohorts from the militia. When I met Warren at the bus station, it signaled the feds that I was wise to his criminal enterprise, and they weren’t sure exactly what Warren or I would do. When I told Warren that if I could figure what he was doing the feds could too, he decided the ex-pat life was for him. The old suitcase Warren carried was filled with cash behind the linings and the rest of his funds were in an e-money account. Had tickets for Cancun, several other cities then Buenos Aires with two men from the militia. The feds were tailing him, then prepped the border patrol and met the three men at the Nogales crossing saying they had to inspect for contraband — guns and drugs. Warren and friends weren’t so stupid to cross with those yet cash beyond a certain amount is contraband as well. No shootout, no drama for the evening news, there were international traffickers that would be alerted by that. Mexican police moved their car close and the feds performed a thorough field search then took the rats and their funds away. Warren and his business associates were held in the local jail then transferred to an undisclosed location for their safety in a high-security federal prison. Left the interview feeling lighter but had a feeling that wasn’t the end of things. One of the interviewers, Agent Ruiz had given me his card, I called him and asked him for an update — he couldn’t say anything about the case they were building for court but asked if we could meet for lunch at a café near the federal building. Hard to miss the broad-shouldered Latino with a whiskbroom of a moustache and a big smile. He was alone and seemed in a jovial mood as we ordered a late lunch. I could almost feel his plan rolling out, but in which direction I wasn’t quite sure until he asked me why I wanted an update. “Want to know anyone’s looking for me. Will I have to go to court? Am I going to have to move or hide? I have family…” “Make you a deal,” He leaned close, “As soon as I’m allowed, I’ll notify you about the court date, but we’ve kept you to the side as an `unnamed person.’ Warren and his group are being held without bail. The rest have scattered. How about I call you with any new information?” “What do you want from me?” This was getting stranger by the moment. Ruiz glanced around and leaned close: “We’ve been monitoring Warren’s emails, calls, all that. Yours too. Couldn’t help but notice your, well, your inclinations. Thought you’d like to go out sometime with an agent — safest date in town. What say?” He looked directly at me and gave me a sly smile. I leaned back, hiding my surprise. “Isn’t that improper? I was a suspect for a while, right?” “Never suspected you of any criminality. We wondered what you were doing hanging around the guy and figured you were shutting down with him at the bus station. We found out about your boy Jeff, and all you and your sis did. Great thing you stepping into his life like that…” He looked into my eyes. “How about a date? Chopin concert coming up in a month.” “Not sure.” I was holding my cards close to my chest this time. … That night, I got some background equity from Ruiz. He sent me photos of his childhood, time in the military and his work with the feds. I showed Jeff and told him that Ruiz had asked me to a concert. “Do you like him?” Jeff asked, grinning. “Really haven’t had a chance to get to know him. He’s in law enforcement; rather discreet.” “Give it a shot — he could be the one.” Had to chuckle but he was right — I had to step back up to the plate and take a chance. I’ll admit to a physical attraction to him. Emailed Ruiz that night with an invitation for dinner on Saturday night, Housan and Jeff cooking for us. Immediately, he emailed back asking me what he could bring. “Lemon sorbet.” Jeff told me. … Housan and Jeff were in high spirits before dinner — they’d cooked Chicken Marsala; I suspected most of the Marsala wasn’t on the chicken but let them carry on while I went to shower. I heard the doorbell ring and hurried to get my shirt and shoes. Face looked okay — no outbreaks. When I got to the living room, I found Ruiz facing the back of the closed door with a bag of sorbet in one hand and his car keys in the other above his head. He glanced over his shoulder, “They asked me if I was packing heat and they’re frisking me now.” Yep, both boys were giving him a thorough pat down, giggling and playing the toughs. This was going to be a strange evening, but if Ruiz didn’t appreciate teen humor, he’d have to go. He did appreciate teen humor and went şirinevler escort along with a smile. Shaking his hand in welcome, “When was the last time you were around kids this age?” He winked, “Youth is the time for nonsense — they’ll buckle down when they start work.” We followed the boys into the kitchen, Jeff stood at the sink pointing out the window to the hive, he told Ruiz about our bees and getting a ribbon at the county fair. “Show him the pictures, Brad.” That’s when Ruiz made his left hand into a pistol and shoved it in Jeff’s back, “Didn’t check my groin or between my legs, officer. Got a Beretta Pico in my Hanes. I detect some under-age drinking, how old are you? Jeff’s eyes were wide, “Cops get to feel up your package?” “Yep. You just missed a .38 that’s going to remove your liver the hard way.” Ruiz used his police voice. “Wait — I need to frisk you again.” Jeff had just figured out a cheap way to explore men. “Snooze and lose, copper. Shoulda cuffed me before you frisked, but I’ll let you off this time if you cut me a deal.” He whispered something to Jeff and Jeff nodded, smiling. Housan and Jeff served us wine and appetizers with capers. Nice touch, then the dinner was family style with the boys dominating the conversation about school, sand surfing and all their activities. I sat back and watched Ruiz. Perfect manners, as he kept nodding and smiling at the boys. They wanted to bring their phones and show him pictures, “Not while we eat, please.” Housan and I loaded the dishwasher while Jeff showed Ruiz around the house, all the art work and went to the living room. We joined them with lemon sorbet and blueberries, my favorite. Shortly, the boys went in Jeff’s room to watch movies leaving me alone with Ruiz. “That kid can cook. Did you teach him?” Ruiz asked, moving closer to me on the couch. “Started at school, one of his classes. Glad he did — he’s going into the health field on advice from a teacher.” I described Jeff’s trips to the NIH. He nodded, slipping his arm around my shoulder. “Got the tickets to the festival — it’s on the twenty-third. Be ready at six, we’ll have dinner first.” “Do you like classical music?” Cops aren’t known for refined tastes. “My mom was a cellist; Dad was the lead sound technician for the symphony. They were livid when I went into law enforcement.” We talked quietly for a while about music and symphonies. Quite enjoyable evening, though I was suspicious about the teens being so quiet, “What kind of deal did you make with Jeff?” “Told him he’d keep his liver if he gave me some time alone with you.” He winked again and at ten o’clock, he stood to leave. On the way to his car, “What would you do if you came into a lot of money all at once?” “I’d take Jeff on a real vacation, maybe Europe, maybe Australia.” I smiled thinking about traveling with my boy. “Why do you ask?” “Just wondering.” … The next weekend, Housan and Jeff took Ruiz and me on a date. I drove us by the old art center, now a dry cleaner, and the Allen Center was still going — more quietly now. We went to the lake with the paddle boats and rented two, racing back and forth until I was tuckered out. Ruiz wanted to cruise the lake longer, but I begged off — he was in much better shape. Honestly, I was afraid my face would break out. We picnicked on the shore watching the ducks and feeding the fish crumbs from our sandwiches. Housan had made a CD of songs from Jeff’s childhood. Kinda eerie to hear them again as we drove through his old neighborhood and past the hospital. Bit the inside of my cheek when Jeff spoke about his brother — why was that still so hard to remember? When we got home the boys wanted to play cards so we left them on the kitchen table and went to the living room. Ruiz brought it up first, “As adults we’ve both been burned before in relationships, I like to think of it as tempering — made me stronger.” He put his hand on mine, “I’m strong but rusty around the edges. Know what I mean?” I thought about that for a moment, then shucked my shoes and lay my legs over his lap, “My calves are killing me from pedaling.” He smiled and began massaging the kinks out of my muscles. We didn’t say anything more enjoying the silence. At ten o’clock, he excused himself and gave me a pat on the butt as he left. … The night of the Chopin event, Ruiz floored me. Came to pick me up wearing black, collarless shirt and dark slacks, with a dark green sports jacket pushed up at the sleeves. Casual but slick! That’s when I noticed his hazel eyes. The green in the jacket made his eyes sparkle. He looked good and knew it – thick, shining hair and freshly shaven. Quiet and confident… I felt like shabby next to him but had on my best fitting brown outfit with the arms of a beige sweater tied around my neck — Jeff told me everyone was doing it. “Tres chic, Brad.” Housan came over and the boys decided they would have a music festival of their own; “Rocky Horror.” I reminded them to keep the volume down as we piled in the car to drop them at Housan’s house. … Felt like a first date as we parked aside an upscale bar several blocks from the theatre, a ball of excitement was bouncing around inside my chest. The area was packed with festival goers so we went into a smaller café down the street, appetizers and sat in a small booth with a candle and a checkered tablecloth. Leaning over, touching his hand to make sure I had his attention, “Why did you ask me what I’d do if I came into a lot of money? I have a better answer now — I’d say it depends on how much it was, may need a financial planner if it’s over a million.” His face glowed in the candlelight, “Rewards for the arrest and conviction of several of the people involved with the trafficking. When you called your PI back about that case number, then went to meet Warren we figured out you knew what he was up to. He had a tail that day, watching him. Didn’t expect you’d take it so far baiting and accusing him, then walking off. You triggered him to run. By the way, what did you tell him in the bus station?” “Said if I could figure it out, you guys could as well. I was so angry…” “Gutsy move. I’d be angry as well — your Jeff’s a charmer. You’ve done well with him.” “How much is the reward?” “The two militia that were Warren’s contacts have a hundred thou on their heads. So, I guess it would be around two-hundred-k.” He winked, “Any information for the arrest and conviction… Though you didn’t call, your scheme put him at the border for arrest with the cash.” “That would buy two more years at the university for Jeff.” I thought. Those minutes felt good, relaxed and warm. No pressure, but an easy silence as we enjoyed empanadas. A light fog filled the night air outside the window dimming the traffic and activity. Music played softly in the background; this evening was perfect until Ruiz suggested we make a standing date on Saturday nights, “I’d like to know you better.” Fine concert, and my heart was soaring as we left. My boundaries were weakening and I wasn’t going to get burned again. I’d keep Ruiz at arm’s length for a while. You can bet my dick was hard after he left that night, thinking of the warmth of intimacy with him — for some strange reason I wanted to kiss and lick his moustache and perhaps lower. The next year was great, Ruiz and I went out — and our lives fell into a comfortable routine on weekends. Jeff graduated from high school, Ruiz and I were on the verge of making a commitment and I was a satisfied man in almost every way. Almost every way. Ruiz was a few years younger than me, and reaching his most productive years with the feds. He was sharp, and could blend in with a crowd, speaking Spanish and gathering information from all sorts. Kinda made me nervous, but he was confident. Wasn’t longer before he wanted to move up in the agency, not thinking he would relocate, I didn’t press for any formal commitment. He put in for a promotion and got it. I was shattered, but had to concede — he was being relocated to Los Angeles. Took Jeff and attended his farewell party at an upscale bar. Could have gotten a commitment — maybe I’d waited too long. Came home that night and tossed in the towel. Took down my posting on the dating site and looked for a Losers Anonymous meeting. Jeff was abuzz over all the men he’d met at the party as he lay on my bed eating again. Regrets; after all the self-chastising I was giving myself, it overflowed onto him, “You get my bed full of crumbs, like trying to sleep on gravel. Eat in the kitchen.” Didn’t yell, but I was stern. He looked at me, “Your face is getting red again.” He got up and left with his snack mix leaving salt and bits of crackers and pretzels all over half the bed. I went to the bath. It was back, bright as a neon sign announcing my displeasure with the world, my life and myself. Heard Jeff cleaning the bed with the hand-vac. He shut it off and came in the bath. “Come to bed, Dad. We gotta talk.” He took my hand after I rubbed the medication on. He called me “Dad” again, probably going to ask for money. I was sulking, and upset with myself for raising my voice to Jeff and feeling miserable, now I had to have another difficult conversation, dammit. He had to learn to stay on a budget. I laid down on crumb-free sheets, scowling. “Let it go, Dad.” “I’m the leader in my life, and it’s going nowhere.” From a hopeless heart. “I’ll miss Housan, he’s leaving to study in Rochester. Won’t see him again, probably.” “You’re young, you’ll get over it.” “Still hurts.” He turned to me, slipped his briefs off and gave them several deep sniffs. “Do friends still help each other through tough times?” The briefs came to my face and I smiled, sniffing. His musk was stronger now. “This isn’t right.” “I need a friend right now.” “Sex is for communication between partners, not fathers and sons.” Glad that imp ignored me as he pinched a nipple and began sucking the sensitive places on my neck, I closed my eyes and tried, I really tried to summon the words and the will to push my boy away. His hand went to my rod, “I love your cock. When I first came here, I wanted mine to look like yours.” Couldn’t help but run my fingers in his hair, “You were a beautiful boy, your with three hairs made me so proud. You were so healthy, so strong and so — well so strong for surviving so much…” “You gonna let me help you like friends do?” He turned and started digging in the nightstand drawer, and pulled out my vibrator and sat the remote control on my chest. “What are you going to do?” “Get off. You gotta help me.” He mumbled and swung his leg over me, then leaned to kiss me, “Make a lot of juice.” My half-rigid cock was undecided as he lubed the vibrator, parted my legs, and shoved the vibrator in quickly. “Now watch.” After a few quick strokes on my lubed cock, I was hard. “Make juice now.” Did he know I couldn’t control that? How does a man force pre-cum? “Are you watching?” He situated himself over my groin, sitting on his feet, knees bent, holding my glans at his tight hole. You can bet I was watching. “Make more pre, Dad.” “Use the lube.” I was almost breathless at this point. “I want your juice — that means you want me.” He demanded I make seminal fluid again because that meant I wanted him? Wasn’t sure about that logic. Then he grasped my cock tightly and stroked hard. That felt so — so different, and so urgent, my body joined in with his. Foreplay wasn’t this young man’s forte but his direct technique was effective; my skin heated and my testicles readied for action; I began to leak his treasure; my desire. He grunted and strained through my slippery liquid; my heart began racing. His thigh muscles tightened and relaxed and, “Oh. Oh.” He popped the head of my dick inside him, closed his eyes, “I like that part the best.” His dick wasn’t hard, but starting to pudge. Hands pressing down on my chest shoved the air out of me, “Watch.” Between his legs I could see him slowly taking me. He moaned and moved himself further downward, stopping along the way to squeeze me with his anal sphincter and watching my eyes. Short up and down strokes for a few moments, then he leaned forward and kissed me as he grabbed the remote control. Turned it on low, leaned back and smiled. “Are you thinking about Housan?” I asked. “You thinking about Ruiz? I’m on your dick, and you’re gonna cum hard, then you’re gonna suck me. I’m so horny.” Had to wonder if this was how he and Housan had sex. Not the most endearing method, but clear. My boy shoved the remote into my hand, and began with short strokes, moving around a little whispering how good it felt to him. With his hand behind him, he felt for my balls then pressed hard behind them. That jolted me to pick up the remote control and turn it on. Watching his face above me, his pleasure and seeing his lips tremble only excited me more, my hips began bucking when I turned the remote to a higher power. Skin damp with sweat, breathing hard, our bodies began climbing toward release, I began making humming noises with each stroke he gave me. “I love you.” He whispered. Sat the remote down and rubbed my hands along his slender torso; nipples hard, cock rigid and dripping on me, short sac touching me with each down-stoke. Each stroke felt better in his heat. A distant vibration started inside me and began rattling through me. Closed my eyes to focus on the bolts of electricity being sent up my spine; an explosion was coming sooner than I wanted. Suddenly, “Daddy, Daddy!” Several moans and he grabbed his shaft rubbing hard. Watching him, I found the remote and turned it on high and felt his tight hole clench around me while his load was hitting my chest. My body shook as I felt heavy loads rushing up my rod into Jeff’s tight heat and I breathed deeply his sexual anxiety, he kept stroking along my shaft, eyes closed and moaning, “That feels so good.” My seed began seeping out of him. When he fell on my chest, I reached around him to feel my semen running down my balls — he’d taken a big load. With my fingertips I rubbed the fluid around his tight ass while my dick softened Torsos held together with sweat and his cum, I held him against me till our breaths calmed, “When do you want me to suck you?” “In the shower.” He got up and pulled me by the hand to the shower, dripping from his butt. Kinda cute like that. As the warm water hit my head, he leaned over me, and I slipped my finger in his butt and sucked. He didn’t want any playing around; he was hard again. Wanted me to press hard and suck him into my throat and I complied to be rewarded with a taste that couldn’t be matched in the kitchen — he was potent and incredibly masculine. We didn’t dress, he took me back to bed, “We gotta talk — don’t ask me about Housan or talk about Ruiz. No more of them today, we got to make a plan.” “I plan on not having sex with you again, that was wrong. I feel bad, like a perv or something.” “You get two minutes to feel bad then let it go. I got business to discuss.” He found his briefs and held them to his face sniffing. “We gotta talk about college this fall.” “The financial aid office has your scholarships, you registered for your classes, right?” “I have to take a gym class, but I don’t want to run or join any of the contact sports, I signed up for archery.” “Archery?” “Are you going to come in the gym with me? I feel funny walking in there with all the jocks and beefcakes but I got to get my arms and back in shape.” “Sure. I’ll get a pass and get on the cardio while you work out.” That turned out to be the best thing that happened in my life for a long time. I was able to adjust the equipment, and got a decent workout while Jeff worked on the other equipment. His shoulders filled out and his waist tapered — fine specimen of a young man. I was proud of him again as he practiced in the back yard and went to competitions. We borrowed that camper van several times to go on the out of town meets. Got to know the archery team — only eight kids, coach and all the rules. That freshman year, we were enjoying college. Jeff did well in his classes and loved campus life though he lived at home. It was on his birthday he reminded me that when we’d first met, he asked me if I wanted to go to a bar on his birthday, instead we grilled hotdogs outside. Jeff wanted to go to the Double Eagle, an older, established gay bar in a neighborhood by the art center. Not my choice, but he was nineteen. Rather have him with me than without in a bar, so we ate at Bernie’s house with cake and ice cream and left for the bar. Tight jeans, stretch shirt and his hair in soft waves brushed back. I wondered how he would handle all the come-ons. Well, he didn’t get many come-ons. Strangest thing — the older guys there thought he was my twink and the flirting didn’t stop — flirting, no hits. Met one of the artists there and caught up on old times while Jeff danced with every man in the place. Guys in leather, all the different kinds of attire to attract different preferences — I was amazed, but Jeff wasn’t. He’d looked it up online already. Yes, he had alcohol. Drinks lined up on our table from the different patrons. He was in man-heaven and light-headed. I was asked to dinner by several men, not sure if they were trying to get next to my boy or not. Being young and easily excited, Jeff wanted to go back every week, but we had meets, mid-terms, finals and I had monthly and quarterly reports to turn in. We found a way to go once every two weeks, and I learned how to toss darts in the back room with several men. My life was good, my skin was clear and I was happy. It was about that time I realized that when I felt loved; when I had someone to love, my evil condition stayed in the background. … On a college campus, few of the students even know about the archery team — the members weren’t allowed to have any of their equipment with them, so they were a small, scrappy bunch. Had two deaf students on the team who were high-scorers. Since they weren’t funded very well, the kids held bake sales and sold valentines with cupids on them in February… They only earned meager profits from those fund raisers. Bernie’s girls were in junior high and I approached her to ask her about raising funds for Jeff’s archery team since she had time on her hands. Bernie came up with a great idea — a great big one. The coaches and I put up the prize money and the entire city was asked to compete in an art contest — all submissions had to involve archery or anything related to it. She contacted the media and visited the artsy haunts, flyers and media releases with the prize money listed. Contacted Ace and the group of artists that used to meet at the center. People had to send in a photo of their work — in return they’d get a tax deduction for their donation. Judging would be held in a room on campus, decided by the art and design professors, then all the pieces would be auctioned. Bernie loved this kind of event and the night of the judging, people roamed around through the art commenting. All the artists were there as well as a few buyers I’d seen years ago with Ace’ group. The archery team was there helping with the punch and cookies, and I recognized one of the men from the bar wandering through the displays. “Didn’t I see you at the Double Eagle?” I said softly. He turned, smiled, “You don’t have to whisper, I’m the supervisor for the gay frat house on campus. Leo Fiorelli, call me Leo.” That surprised me, “Staying for the auction? My son’s on the archery team — we’ve got to replace those old fiberglass bows before the big meet in the capital.” “The boy who was with you at the bar?” I nodded. We stood together at the back of the room while the winners were announced, then the auction began. Surprisingly, Leo asked me to meet him at the frat house later for a nightcap. “Jeff, too?” “One more won’t make any difference.” A nightcap in a frat house turned out to be hot chocolate. Jeff loved the place and met all the guys, disappeared immediately to check out the house and the guys while Leo and I enjoyed the study. He had quite a collection of CDs — music and foreign films. I invited him over for dinner. “Till the semester’s out, I’m tied to the house. How about dinner here? Most of the guys are out on Saturday and Sunday nights. We can whip up a big salad.” Hesitated. How could I leave Jeff at home? He’d throw a fit if I was on campus at a gay frat house without him. Leo sensed that, “Bring Jeff. We have video games in the basement, or there’s always an activity on campus.” That began a wonderful friendship, and Leo encouraged me to lengthen the leash I held on Jeff, “Let Jeff try out all you taught him and let him learn how to make that wisdom his own. He seems like a good man; he’ll practice on campus before he has to face the world of work.” Hard as that was, I did, though Jeff didn’t want to drive. Also had time with Leo when the archery team was at a meet. I found out he was a retired sociology professor, and renown for several books he’d written on gay culture. Had a blog site too with social commentary. Interesting conversations and I learned how little I knew of being homosexual. That short, heavy-set man with a ponytail opened a whole new world to me. Checked him out — he lived with a professor from the engineering department. Shucks! … Jeff’s junior year brought bad news. His grandmother passed; she was living in her parent’s old homestead outside Mariposa. Jeff inherited the house, land and a small bank account. After several calls to the coroner, I took Jeff up to the house and stop to pick up her ashes. Didn’t know what to do about a memorial service, she’d been more than reclusive her last years, and distant most of her life. She must have left him some kind of letter or something — I had a feeling she wanted to tell him something. The dignified old house hadn’t been kept up, the old garage leaned to the side. Inside — all the downstairs rooms were still furnished with things from, well, looked like a hundred years ago or more. Only a small room behind the kitchen had been used. Upstairs! Every room was filled with art, boxes of sketch pads, two bedrooms full and a room full of books — ancient books and neatly boxed papers. We didn’t know where to start. Sent Jeff to check the garage, look for anything else in the weeds and pines around the large lot. I went to the bed where the grandmother died and slid my hand under the mattress, surprised that it was still there after the EMTs checked for any cash. There was an envelope with Jeff’s name on it. I slipped it into my jacket pocket and went to look for him. An old Studebaker sat in the garage, looking untouched since it’s last trip, tires flat and a dry smell about everything. Jeff asked what we were going to do. “Not sure, I’ll contact the county and see if we owe any taxes or anything else.” Stopped at a buffet and let Jeff fill more than several plates for himself and checked my phone for a hardware store. Came back and secured the house and garage. At home, Jeff and I looked online. The land was worth a good price, the house needed a lot of repair and the lot had overgrown. This house, though was the last tie he had with his family. “While you were out in the garage, I found this.” Handing him the envelope, I hoped it wasn’t any disturbing information. He carefully opened the envelope and pulled out the letter. Several odd bills fell to the floor. Money from the Confederacy. Carefully placed it on my desk as he read silently. He went to the kitchen table, turned the light on and sat. “What does it say?” “Lot of things.” We sat at the kitchen table and reread the letter together. Three pages of family history, admissions of liaisons and indiscretions, some illegal activities through prohibition decades, names, dates… The last page clearly defined her love for her daughter, Tomas and Jeff. She said the money was valuable to collectors, it was meant to give him a start in life. In closing, she apologized for not being strong enough to really help him, and she was grateful that he’d found a father who loved him as much as she and her daughter did. Sad words in wrinkly script. “I’d like to see you keep the old house…” I suggested, “You don’t need to make a decision now. I’d like to have someone assess everything. All that artwork and the books — could be valuable.” He was stunned, thinking quietly, “I came from bad blood.” He said glancing at the letter. “From the looks of the house and the contents your family weren’t bad — looked kinda successful to me. You know, I’m your family now, and all the things my dad taught me — all the hard lessons I learned — I’ve tried to give to you, so you’re part of Bernie and me too. Don’t ask me about my great uncle who shot a man while robbing a bank, or my great grandfather who was running booze along with your kin.” I shook my head, he looked at me. “Every family has `em but don’t talk about them. How about your dad’s family? May have some ministers there.” He gave me a crooked smile. “I want to hold onto the house, see if there’s any more about my family. Let’s check the money she gave me.” The bills were very valuable. Needed to put them in special plastic sleeves, “You know you can get your masters degree… These’ll cover you.” “I’d rather try for the scholarships — no taxes.” He was smarter by the day. … Told my boy not to worry about the house until his semester was finished and all his finals done as I wrote out a check for back taxes and a few utility bills. During that semester, Leo and I put our heads and contacts together. Had to leave Jeff to travel alone with his archery team while we went up to Mariposa to secure the out buildings. Borrowed the pop-up camper again, as rudimentary as it was. The taps in the house didn’t work, so we had to rinse off by the well, pulling one bucket up at a time. “Better check for ticks.” Leo said as he folded his clothes and stacked them by the pump as twilight settled around us. “Ticks? You got bit?” “Better check, start at my ankles.” He handed me a small penlight, “Just pull it off if you find one.” I knelt, searching through skimpy field of leg hair, working my way up, “Do you have to go to the hospital if you get bit?” “Not sure… Get between my legs, I heard they like moist, warm places.” His hand came to my head as he guided me close to his groin. “Think I see one…” I said and took his fat, round cock in my mouth. He had the kind of dick that chubbed into a rounded rod with a beautiful pale foreskin over a shiny red glans. Smelled good and tasted better, I ran the tip of my tongue under that foreskin and probed his slit. Then, I felt ashamed. He was partnered, I was an intruder in their relationship. Backed away and stood up, dropped the bucket down the well and let the rope out. “Why did you stop?” “Don’t want to interfere.” “With what?” “Heard you were living with someone.” “Yeah, my uncle.” He stared at me. “Have since my aunt died.” With this information in hand, “I need a tick check too.” I snorted and pulled up the bucket, rinsed and pulled up several more for Leo. Shivering in the moonlight, we ran for the van after we rinsed. Watching his rounded butt cheeks jiggle as he ran, made me chuckle, and I was hard by the time we jumped in and slid the door shut. He scrounged in the ice chest and brought out a soda, “No wine tonight, but let’s toast.” “To what?” I leaned over to kiss his cheek. “A man with integrity. Been waiting for someone like you all my life.” Yep, I got a thorough tick check — instead of rocking that van off it’s wheels, we talked softly into the night about our lives. Articulate and candid, he told me of his years with drugs, a parade of lovers and then giving it all up — never enough to satisfy him though he’d gained valuable insight into several cultures. Parlayed that knowledge into his books. Told him about my Communist countries, the art center and the heartaches of finding, then losing Jeff to have him find me. Kissed me the next morning complaining about the thin foam mattress, I only winked at him and heated water for coffee. We walked the lot with sticks, poking around in the long grasses and found part of an old tractor, baling machine and a wood shed, now filled with bugs and probably snakes. On his phone, Leo found there were 9.7 acres left of the original farm. “Let me work on this for a week, and I’ll see what we can do to save it. This was a well-build house at one time.” Braver than me, he got down and looked in a basement window, “All kinds of junk in there.” “If you want to talk with Jeff about this, how about dinner tomorrow night?” “Have to supervise, but I need some time to work things up.” … The next Saturday night Jeff outdid himself in the kitchen, excited as he poached salmon, laid the table with his antique salt and pepper shakers and pulled out all stops for Leo. I suspected he wanted to join the fraternity but he hadn’t called me “Dad” recently. Wasn’t sure. Nice Chablis with a wonderful dinner, couldn’t have been better. When we finished, Leo went with Jeff to load the dishwasher and they spoke of the bees, and his ribbons from the county fair. He had some of the honey cakes in the freezer, he’d serve them later. I cleared the table and brought the letter, a pad and pen, Leo said he wanted to explain what he worked up. It was an elaborate plan involving a number of agencies across the state; historical societies, Anthropology and History departments at the school and the local architects’ group. There were other collaborators, each one taking part of the work of examining the old house and its contents and archiving everything for the future. It was a complicated series of groups, each one performing their work with the entire process being videotaped for future students and professionals. More importantly, he’d submitted a request for funding — the house needed someone on site to keep things organized and running smoothly. The project would take at least six months and leave the house exactly as it was sans the contents, if that’s what Jeff wanted. This was a valuable opportunity for students and the professionals to find an untouched house full of history. Several pledges had already been made, contingent on the signing of the contract. Jeff wasn’t sure. He looked over the plan, the diagrams of the different groups that were involved, “Where did you find all these experts so quick?” Leo wiggled his eyebrows, “We’re everywhere.” He wiggled his eyebrows. “I jumped over the locals and went to the state level and the university system. Got their interest and most are on board with the plan.” Jeff got up, thinking, went to the kitchen to heat the honey cakes and make tea, “They’re not going to destroy anything, right?” “The idea is preservation. Let’s see what the architects say about the condition of the house first, okay?” “How long will it take?” He asked again. “All in all, about a year, probably.” Jeff looked at me, “I have to take time off.” “No. You stay in school; we’ll go up when you’re not going to a meet.” He had good momentum going with his classes. … I’d already hinted that I wanted Leo to stay the night, and he picked up his bag and put his papers back in it, “I’ll email all the details, you can think about it.” After honey cakes, Leo and I stood, I kissed his cheek and pointed to the hallway and smiled. The bedroom was lit softly, my favorite CD was ready to play. Mmm, I was looking forward to skin on skin with a gentle man. Jeff watched and went to the kitchen, he seemed worried. I kissed his neck and told him I was going to be with Leo. He only nodded and I left. Leo was in the bath when I came in and turned the music on; I slipped out of my clothes and turned the sheets back. In the doorway, Jeff stood, staring at me, still with a worried expression. “Are you alright?” “I don’t know what’s happening, really. I inherited a house, I could go live there, but all the people and all the stuff… Am I going to be able to keep the things from my mom and grandmother? How is all that going to happen?” Sighed, and patted the bed beside me, seemed like we’d been in this situation before. Leo came out of the bath, “What’s going on? Should I step outside?” “I’m overwhelmed with all this house business.” Jeff said. Leo went to him and put his arm around Jeff’s shoulder, “It is an unusual situation. You should feel overwhelmed — so many decisions sprung on you so quickly.” They sat on the bed and I heard another man dealing with Jeff’s concerns, reassuring him, rubbing his back and he turned to kiss Jeff on his nose. “Now that proposal was worked up in a few days, we can negotiate. Noting carved in stone, we can change things as we go, so let’s put it on the back burner till next Saturday. Can you cook Argentine food? My family’s from Buenos Aires.” . By this time, I was relaxed and lay on the bed watching them. Leo was clear and seemed to be good at the emotional things, Jeff was calm. Jeff turned to me and in a soft voice, “Can I stay?” Before I could answer, Leo took Jeff’s face in his hand, “Don’t put Brad in the position of choosing. Do you know what `kiss and tell’ means?” “Means blabbing to everyone who you’re screwing and what they did wrong.” “If you can keep what we do here to yourself, you can stay. Is that okay, Brad?” Jeff was shucking his jeans, “Wait, we’re asking for consent, Jeff.” Leo stated. I nodded simply to keep the peace since Leo didn’t seem to mind. Didn’t realize it in that moment, but my boundaries had turned to jelly. Sure enough, there was my boy between me and a man I wanted to embrace and I didn’t know how to get around Jeff, so I got up, ordered him to the side of the bed and got between them. “Historically, this was my bed and I still maintain the property rights.” They chuckled. What I wanted to be a hot night with a cool professor turned out differently — my jelly-boundaries let loose another part of me I didn’t know I had: Jeff had all kinds of questions about the papers in the house — he wanted to know if there was any more about his family – said he had to review them first. Leo explained about microfiche, databases and genealogical work, there was a group in the capital looking for the old homesteaders and any information on them. In the basement of the rotunda there was a climate-controlled vault where all the past important documents were kept. Their questions and answers volleyed over my chest and I began to doze, listening to Jeff learning about the world of document preservation and storage, book and art curators, and the secret caches the government had here and there to hold valuables found after deaths or disasters. Yes, everything would be boxed, bagged and inventoried for review. They decided to put that in the contract so Jeff could stay in school and review the documents online. “Will they do my genealogy too?” “Probably…” … Fell asleep and may have started snoring as they discussed Jeff’s major. He’d decided to go into physical therapy — he wanted to work for a rugby or soccer team that traveled. Leo steered him toward physical therapy for children and youth, “correct their problems before they become adults…” Boring, so boring, I was disappointed, but fell asleep sure that Leo would steer Jeff in the right direction. He had more experience than I did about careers. Sleep enveloped me. Got up later to pee, they were still speaking softly and when I came back to bed, there was Jeff — he’d turned himself around to take Leo’s dick in his mouth. A true sixty-nine wasn’t possible with Leo’s tummy and Jeff’s short torso, so Jeff was sucking the rod I wanted and Leo was pulling on Jeff’s rod. Not being upset, maybe a little miffed, I figured a way to join in. I snuggled behind Leo, stroking his side and kissing his neck while he hummed, eyes shut while my boy’s face was nestled in his hairy groin; I could smell saliva and musk, hear soft sucking sounds. Jeff was nuzzling deep. “Got to make lots of man juice — or it means you don’t want him. Kind of a liquid encouragement.” I whispered and bit his earlobe. “Of course…” He gasped; I think Jeff nipped his foreskin. “Have to make sure. Daddy’s going to help you.” With that, I spit on my thumb, shoved my hand between his legs and grabbed his balls away from Jeff’s nose. I heard him take a deep breath. With my thumb on Leo’s asshole, I rubbed. “Oh, yeah, Daddy.” Leo moaned and nudged his hips toward my digit. Jeff swallowed. Got my thumb in his rear and began pressing upward, gently on the inside wall of his rectum, squeezing his balls gently. He trembled and I shoved my thumb back and forth over his prostate. He stayed still as Jeff sucked and I rubbed, only moaning softly. When his hand went to Jeff’s head, “Jeff’s a horny boy, you’re gonna have to suck him.” He nodded slightly, making small mewling sounds with his eyes squinched shut and he gritted his teeth. “Come hard.” I whispered in his hear and pressed small circles into his prostate then I bit his neck. “Give my boy everything you’ve got. I’m gonna check.” Suddenly he started, “Ah — ah — ah…” Hips flinched a few times and he pressed Jeff’s head to his groin shoving his dick into Jeff’s throat, surely. Heard a few breaths, but Jeff kept sucking, and I kept rubbing on Leo’s joy button. His body trembled several times before he shoved Jeff’s head away. “Enough.” “Kiss him and thank him while I check.” I ordered Jeff. Red-faced and breathing hard, Jeff went to Leo’s lips. He gently caressed Leo’s face and kissed him, Leo grabbed the boy against him while I kept my thumb in his butt and pulled his rod several times. “Enough! Stop! I can’t take any more.” I chuckled. “Get in the shower with Jeff and suck him off — he’s been waiting…” To my surprise, they left and I heard the shower, then Jeff’s moans. Yeah, I was surprised to play daddy with them, but kinda felt good to be domineering — not my style at all. There was an incredible reward to that burst of bossiness, they came back to bed and gently embraced and kissed me. We fell asleep together after Jeff rubbed my shaft and Leo sucked me completely empty. … The first year of the grant researching and preserving the documents in the house were incredibly productive. Hired a couple of retired teachers to live in a small trailer on the lot to keep things undisturbed as the pros came to review, classify, preserve and copy all the documents. Had a curator come about the books. The state historical society seemed to be a hotbed of queers; they were great. Never met so many different kinds of people. Took the coins and money, auctioned them online and stashed the money in a e-money account for Jeff and the best part was finding a lesbian woman who worked with genealogy. She sat with Jeff and explained all about his family. Mixed lot, but most were hard-working people, had a great-great uncle who ran for governor and another who joined the circus and left the farm. Jeff’s father’s family were harder to find — recent immigrants with roots in the Middle East, but who’d come here escaping an oppressive regime. We took the money out of the e-bank and made an investment portfolio for Jeff’s future, he wanted to get the tax deductions for the donations he made to the state historical society — all the books and documents would be available to him and the public researching their pasts. The art works were split, some auctioned and some donated to the county museum. Larger items and most of the furniture we kept in the house. Leo wrangled a restoration program from a popular cable channel to come help with the rehabbing and within five years, the old house was shining, painted, trim replaced. I imagined the memories as I toured locals through the house on weekends. Had a book on the dining room table where they could write down what they remembered of the family who’d lived there. Retired early with my sociologist and became “gentleman farmers.” Sat a small prefab on the rise behind the old house facing the south. You may wonder why we didn’t live in the old house — it was certainly comfortable and functional enough for a fine lifestyle. I couldn’t bring myself to live in the old house. While the television crew was examining the old slate roof, they opened the attic to check for leaks. Found a noose on the floor and a rubbed spot on the beam above it. Of course, they were discrete and took a few photos, checked for any roof damage and left. After explaining the mental health problems in Jeff’s life, Leo and I decided to bury the rope, but we left the house as a memorial to those in Jeff’s family who’d suffered there. Being curious, I called the genealogist to ask if there were indications of others who might have committed suicide before his mother. “Brad, you know the coroners had a custom, they didn’t list the suicides as suicides due to the shame and stigma that would be thrust on the family at the time of their loss… When I went through Jeff’s family tree, there were a number of questionable deaths. Didn’t mention it to him, it only increases his odds of that solution to his problems.” She told me. You can be sure I was alarmed, and she continued. “After years in this work, I can tell you it’s more common than most people think and usually hidden or obfuscated by someone or the situation. Where’s Jeff now, what’s he doing?” “Working in the hospital at the capital. Got on in the PT department and decided to get an MBA. Wants to open his own physical therapy clinic, start as a service in nursing homes and rehabs, then open his own clinic.” “Good. He’s got a bright future ahead of him. Send him my regards.” … Leo wrote during the days. I retired, leased my house and took my bees. Bought several more and as had plenty of honey, a garden plot, herb garden. We went to town in the summers to sell bags of our sage and rosemary, and pint jars of pale, golden honey. Met all the locals. Bernie and her family were up often and they stayed in the house, even added a few gifts from their home. Those years were as golden as our honey. My boy came back to Mariposa and set up a small therapy clinic and bought an RV to visit the outlying patients who needed his services. Hired several graduates from his college as the area became more populated, subdivisions sprung up. My professor sold several more books and with my retirement funds we brought in enough for us to make a good life. When we wanted a vacation, we rented the house for parties or reunions, even rented it to a video production company for a historic romance film. Flew to Vancouver, Dallas, and one year to Paris. My boy found a partner and we enjoyed each other after dinners on Sunday night. Jeff’s partner was a young, ambitious man from a deeply religious sect. He’d left the church after he couldn’t comply with their restrictions on his nature. Proud of that man, he’d been strong and stood up for himself. When they decided to adopt and live in the old house, I was delighted they’d be close, but concerned about the secret history from the attic. “Superstitious claptrap! Jeff’s family can’t be effected by what happened years ago by people he never knew.” Leo told me, “Get real, the kids got no mental problems, besides half his genes are from his father and you raised him well — did you ever notice him getting depressed?” Had to think, his overriding drive was hunger, then there were a few moments of disappointments, but nothing that we hadn’t overcome. Maybe my hovering and short-leash parenting had kept him safe, but I knew it was his innate joie de vivre that kept him going. He was assertive and seemed to be able to express himself, ask for information… “I worry.” “Understandable. You think you need some reinforcement before a break in the system?” I’d regaled Leo often with my system fiascos when I was working. We began on a plan, took almost three months and during that time, Jeff and his partner became fathers to three children, two girls and a boy between seven and eleven years old — siblings. They were getting the old house ready to become their new home. Leo and I loved those kids, took them all over the lot, ate from the garden, went with them into town for their counseling appointments and doctor’s visits. They seemed happy, quiet, probably waiting to see what was going to happen. … That summer, the children stayed with us sleeping all over the furniture and running out in the fields and in the woods all day. I’ll have to admit that three was a lot more fun than one, they kept me busy while Leo worked in his study day and night. On weekends, two dads took their three kids off to shop and to a church on Sundays while Leo and I scoured the antique shops for paper goods, books, anything with old paper. Took several months, but I contacted the genealogist with a special request — a sneaky one. I asked her to lie to Jeff saying she’d found parts of an old diary tucked behind some documents. They contained personal information and wouldn’t post them online without his permission. She had to ask if he was interested in reading them, and if so, she’d photograph and send them to him. Jeff was curious about his family. The genealogist agreed to my scheme, tossing all professional ethics aside to ensure health and happiness; had to love that woman. The call came while I was trying to learn how to braid the younger girl’s hair, she was playing on her phone. Jeff was in the front room listening quietly, then. “Sure, I want to see them. Thanks.” He fell for it. He got up and went to the computer while I snapped the barrette on a wiggly-looking braid and started on the other. Leo and the boys were in the kitchen making popcorn the “old fashioned” way. It smelled great. We all went outside except for Jeff who was still at the computer. He stayed there till after dinner. “Problems with the accounts at work?” I asked. “The genealogist found some old diary pages from my family.” He piled a plate with food to heat while he told me about what the diaries said. Of course, I knew what they said, Leo and I had written them with diluted ink, funny script on blank pages we’d pulled from bad novels printed years ago. Using the names of family members from generations past. Leo and I created memories written by Jeff’s great, great grandfather years ago. The diaries talked about how this family was strong and content, sons chopping woods for the bitter winters, losing a crop to floods, mundane things and the memories were of building a family he loved deeply and kept close. He spoke lovingly of his partner, his wife who’d given him his wonderful children. He fretted that his children wouldn’t get enough education or his wife was working too hard, wrote of punishing his children by sending them to bed early and how it hurt him. Wrote of his dreams for his family and his life with gentle words and in caring ways. “Kind of like my great, great grandfather wanted to leave a legacy of love — feels like these were written just for me. Everything I wondered about and wanted to know…” Jeff said after I reread the photos of the pages my lover had carefully crafted with old spellings, mistakes and odd words. With those words on yellowed pages, Jeff found what he needed. “Maybe he did.” I thought and kissed his neck, yet it was Leo’s imagination and my worry that gave him a new part of his past he hadn’t seen clearly before. A new past to keep him strong facing his future. Fin.

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