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Finding Tim

A Fourth Alternate Reality

by Charlie
With editorial assistance from Dix and John

Episode 11


Priscy kind of dominated my life during February. Mid-month she transferred to the Davenport office, and she and Jane moved into a new apartment. I was recruited to help them move. Priscy had an impossible amount of stuff, and Jane did as well. We rented a U-Haul truck, making two trips from Des Moines, the second picking up stuff in Iowa City, and then another trip from Iowa City.

The following weekend they wanted to come back to Des Moines to close down Priscy's apartment. The apartment had no furniture at all, so they slept Friday and Saturday with me. All the work was done by about 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, and they invited me out for a thank you dinner. I gratefully accepted.

At dinner, Priscy, in her usual direct way, said, "Actually Charlie we have a second agenda on this trip."

"The way you said that, I suspect it involves me. What am I going to be doing now?"

"Enjoying yourself."

"I suspect that there's a lot more to this than has yet been said."

"Not much."

"Fill me in, because Tim's famous word-Bullshit-would seem to fit pretty well right here."

Jane spoke up. "This really concerns me, so I'll try to explain what we're putting on the table. Obviously you know I'm a lesbian. I was startled to learn that Priscy is both lesbian and straight, and has enjoyed sex with both women and men. Including, I understand, you."

"Not a lot of secrets around here, are there?"

"You told Tim," Priscy said.

"And I would expect you to tell Jane. Not a problem."

Jane said, "I'm jealous."

"Meaning?" I said.

"I have never been with a man. I have never seen a man's penis-unless you count changing little babies."

"Your father, brothers?"

"Only sisters, and a completely hung up family. I never saw my father naked."

"Teenage boys? Kiss the bottle? Strip poker? Skinny dipping in the lake?"


"I think I see where this is going, don't I Priscy?"

"You were never stupid, Charlie."

"And you never lacked for balls-figuratively, of course."

"With you around, I never lacked for them physically, did I?"

"No. And it felt good."

"Charlie, Jane's pretty sure that she's totally lesbian. But she needs to experiment. And she's so totally ignorant of everything male! It's horrible. Can we give her a lesson?"

"We? Just what is your role? Remember, you don't have balls."

"I think I know my way around your body. I'd like to be her guide."

This was one of the odder-or is it more odd-propositions I had ever had. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought it might be fun. Maybe Jane would learn something useful. I said, "You know, Priscy, you're taking a risk. Jane may decide she likes men and dump you. Men're more interesting than women, just ask any gay man."

"Shut up, Charlie. Eat your lamb chops, and then lets go home."

I ate. And I thought about what "going home" entailed. I said, "Look Priscy, if we're going to do this there have to be a couple of conditions."

"And those would be?"

"First, I'm in charge. You can't run every show."

"Not a problem. I trust you. So does Jane."

"Second, it's a two way street. I know you're up for that, but Jane has to be too. No deciding in the middle that, 'Hey, I'm a lesbian, this isn't for me.' Decide that now."

Jane was quick to reply, "I understand. I agree that what I start I will finish. If I don't like it, even if it disgusts me, that's part of the lesson I want to learn. No quitting."

"OK, let's go home."

We got back to my apartment, and all of us sort of stood around and stared at each other. We knew that something was coming, but we had no idea exactly what, nor who was going to start it, or when. Or, or, or. I decided that I had insisted that I was in charge, so I should take charge. I took off my shirt and asked Jane to come over to me. I figured for what I had in mind I had to move quickly. I said to Jane, as I dropped my pants, "Take hold of my penis and squeeze it gently." She moved slowly, and I said, "Hurry." She did take hold while I was still mostly limp. Very quickly I was quite hard. I said, "Eventually two lovers can relate to each other naked and the man stay soft, but not the first few times. If you were going to get a chance to see and feel a flaccid penis it had to be right away. And you felt it harden. Now we can back up and sort of start from the beginning."

I bent over and took off my shoes and socks, and removed my pants and shorts which were down around my ankles and knees. I stood there naked, looking at Priscy and Jane. Priscy was calm; Jane was a little agitated. I said, "I think it's time for everyone to lose their clothes. Jane would you like me to help you."

"I guess."

As she pulled off her sweat shirt I removed her bra. After she removed her shoes and socks and then pants, I pulled down her panties. She stood there as naked as me. Priscy was in the same shape. I walked to the bedroom and lay on the bed in a spread eagle position. I said, "OK, Priscy, give her a tour. Jane, use your hands to touch and feel when Priscy shows you. Don't be afraid, you won't hurt."

Priscy started with my nipples, going to my belly button, anus (lifting my legs high in the air), balls, and penis. She showed Jane the little hunk of skin on the underside of the penis that was the most sensitive part. She had Jane rub the head, and then insisted that she kiss it. Then she said, "Take it in your mouth and lick it with your tongue."

I wasn't sure Jane was up to that, but she was, and even seemed to enjoy it. Then Priscy said, "If you were going to have intercourse, he would be ready to shove it in now. But you aren't. You have two choices, you can watch his sperm shoot out when he has an orgasm, or you can suck him and he'll have an orgasm in your mouth. Take your pick."

Jane said, "What do you want Charlie?"

"Either. You decide."

"I think I'd like to see it, so not the mouth."

Priscy showed her what to do with her hand, and soon she was cleaning up a sticky mess from her hand and my stomach. I said, "OK, Jane, now it's time to experience a man messing around with you. I'm not going to fuck you, and couldn't now anyway, but I have a very talented tongue as well as fingers."

Priscy said, "Why don't you let Jane give me some pleasure, before you do her."

One thing led to another and first Priscy and then Jane had pretty wild orgasms. As we all lay back on the bed Jane said, "I think I could easily be a bisexual. Priscy, you've got it right; I have been missing something."

I said, "Priscy, I told you this could be dangerous."

Priscy just said, "There's room in this double bed for all three of us. Keep your clothes off, let's sleep." And we did.

The next morning, as we lay there naked and very much touching each other in all kinds of interesting places, I said to Jane, "It's time to experience what you missed last night. Suck my dick."

She wiggled around to where she could, and did. As she was going to work, Priscy said, "Look, Jane, he doesn't have to come in your mouth, and if he does, you don't have to swallow it, but that is the ultimate experience. Try it, you'll like it." She did, and she did, and I did too. The two girls did 69, which was kind of fascinating for me, and that ended our adventures, except that we all felt good enough with each other to have some pretty wild kissing as we lay there. And, of course, we showered together and washed each other. It had certainly been an unusual night. I guess odd was the right word.

I got a kick out of writing about all of that in my letter to Tim. But I had to wait to finish it and mail it until I got a letter from him-number 30, a real milestone. Tim recognized the same milestone, and waxed eloquent about how great our love for each other had to be to make it through this forced exile. But he managed to say it without seeming to blame me for the separation. Instead, he wrote, "I wonder how different it might have been had our ages corresponded, and I had been another counselor at Camp White Elk. It might have been wonderful, with none of the pain of separation. On the other hand, we might have missed each other like strangers passing in the night. Or we might have found each other, but in the relationship being too easy, might have had casual sex, enjoyed it, and moved on. What a tragedy that would have been. So I am glad with what I have, even though for these thirty months it has been infrequent letters and frequent memories. I go to sleep every night with you wrapped around me, your hand hesitantly and tentatively exploring the region between my belly button and 'other things.' I wonder each night whether your real hand or your imaginary hand will reach its goal first. Yes, Charlie, I respect your rules even in my dreams.

"Love, Tim."

My thirtieth letter back to Tim was entirely too sugary-I am embarrassed to reread it today. I certainly won't quote it. Somewhere in the middle of all of the sugar was the story of Jane and Priscy-I was pretty sure that Tim would find that either funny or interesting or both. I was certain that he wouldn't be upset-though he might be jealous of the opportunity. There wasn't much other news, except that it was lonely in Des Moines without Priscy, and thus far no one to replace her-neither male nor female.

I did give Tim one piece of information. I had been thinking about the 1968 Olympics, and the likelihood of Tim's going, perhaps in two sports, and the fact that he wanted me to go with him. I had dreamed that I might be a competitor too, and archery seemed to be the only possibility. In the early days of the Olympics it had been an Olympic sport, but hadn't been for a while. There was a serious movement to bring it back. That wouldn't happen in 1964, but seemed very likely for 1968. I had thought that perhaps I should join a local archery club and get back my form, and then actually practice hard enough to have a shot at the team. I had checked around and there was a good club. That is where matters stood. I knew that if I included even the slightest hint in a letter to Tim that I would have no chance of backing out. I decided to take the plunge and told Tim what I was thinking. I knew as I wrote it that by the next letter I had better be a member of the club and have a solid practice schedule in hand, with goals worked out for at least the first year-he would have had his four year goals set before he shot his first arrow. I couldn't match that.

And so with a heart pounding, for so many reasons, late one night I walked up to the corner mailbox and dropped a fateful letter in. Number 30, three-fours of the way to forty. Less than a year to go.

A few days later I got a call from Carl. It was totally unexpected, and so was the conversation:


Me:     Hello.


Carl:    Charlie, this is Carl.


Me:     Carl. It's good to hear from you. What can I do for you?


Carl:    First, Tim doesn't know I'm calling, and I don't want him to. You'll understand later.


Me:     OK, but what's all this about?


Carl:    I'd like to come visit you. Just for lunch. I'd like to talk a bit.


Me:     Carl, are there any problems? Something I need to know? Is Tim all right?


Carl:    No problems, Tim's fine. I have some questions I want to ask you.


Me:     About you, me, or Tim?


Carl:    Not about me.


Me:     When do you want to come, Carl?


Carl:    Saturday. Could we meet someplace in the middle, so I don't have to drive so far?


Me:     Sure. Do you have someplace in mind?


Carl:    There's a little town called Northwood, just south of the border. A friend says there's a decent diner there, called the Red Awning. Right downtown, can't miss it. Could we meet there at noon?


Me:     Sure. See you then, Carl. Nice talking to you. Bye.


Carl:    Thanks, Charlie. Bye.

I spent a good deal of time wondering what Carl had on his mind, but couldn't really guess. But Saturday came pretty fast, and we met at noon as planned. The Red Awning really had red awnings out front and was easy to spot. We got a booth in the back, ordered, and I looked at Carl and said, "OK, What's on your mind.?"

"Can I ask some questions? Let me pose the questions and then I'll give you a chance to answer."


"Charlie, don't be upset, but do you really love Tim? Why? How can you be certain when you have known him so little? Second, you made Tim very happy by what you said about living arrangements beginning with his eighteenth birthday. But it's pretty incomplete; I'm not sure it made me happy. Can you give me more? It would be for me, not Tim. Finally, are you for real? Are you going to let Tim down?"

"Carl, you wonderful big brother! I wish that I had had a big brother to look after me like you're looking after Tim. I love you for it."

"Yeah, but don't forget to answer the questions."

"Don't worry, I will. Let me start with the last. Yes, I'm for real, and no way in Hell am I going to let Tim down. I have signed on till the ship sinks."

"Why haven't you told Tim that?"

"It's not fair to him. He has to have every chance to make different decisions until that big birthday. I will do nothing to put him under any obligation to me before that."

"Hell, Charlie, he hasn't wavered for thirty months-yes, he has us all counting."

"But that's his decision. I can't change that. But he has to be free to make a different one. On the big day, he and I will make commitments to each other that I expect us both to keep. I will mean it. So will he. No more freedom to change your mind. But till then the door is unlocked. I won't lock it. If he refuses to open it, that's wonderful for me. But it's totally his decision."

"What're you going to do next January?"

"Either move in with you, or Tim and I'll rent a small apartment. I think in the end that the decision will be your parents'. I think Tim and I would like to live with you for those few months."

"Dad and Mom would love to have you, so that's settled. What about your job, you can't exactly commute to Des Moines?"

"My contract ends on December 31 of this year."

"Does Tim know that?"


"Why not? It would bring him a lot of peace."

"Same reason as above. He has to be free. If he knows that I sought out a job that would end before his eighteenth birthday he would feel an obligation to me. No dice."

"You're terribly consistent."

"I try."

"OK, let's go back to the first questions: Do you love him? Why? How can you be certain?"

"Carl, I wish that I could give you a simple answer. But start by looking at him. God, Carl, he's physical perfection. I even like the fact that he's tiny-it's wonderfully sexy. His body's in perfect shape, his athletic ability's spectacular. What's not to love? Then he's kind, considerate, loving. He smart as a whip, as you well know. Then his dedication, single-mindedness, determination, call it what you like, is positively superhuman. He's a living breathing gay man's wet dream. How can I be sure? That's tougher. All of the above, of course. But most important, I think, is that he's so certain of me. Frankly, I think directing those same questions to Tim about me would be more interesting."

"You're pretty spectacular yourself, you know."

"I don't compare in looks or brains."

Carl interrupted, "Can I be honest?"

"Of course, that's the name of the game in your family, and with me."

"OK, you're right, you're good looking, but he's spectacular. You're smart, but he's exceptional. But, Charlie, you just radiate love and kindness. The kids at camp just drank it in. All seven of that bunch are in love with you, and for good reason. I felt cheated that I wasn't in that group-well not really, because you always included me. Tim recognized it immediately. He swears that he was in love with you before you finished shaking hands the first time. He may be right, I don't know. But I do understand what he sees in you, and how he can be so certain."

"It's his certainty that makes me certain. I'll admit, Carl, that it's absolutely certain that we're going to make it. But please understand, I have to live with both Tim and myself for the rest of our lives. If I come into that relationship in ten months and can't honestly say that I had left the door open for the adolescent Tim to go another path, then I couldn't be comfortable in my relationship with the adult Tim."

"I think I understand. And I think Tim understands. But it hurts."

"I know, but we're going to have a wonderful life together. I get really excited thinking about it. We need to start off right."

"Life with Tim's going to be like riding down the first hill of a roller coaster, and just keeping going. He never slows down to climb up the next hill-he's always in free fall. Think you're ready for that?"

"I look at him and marvel. No, I'll never keep up with him. But I'll support him absolutely-just like you and your parents do-but I'll also have my own life to lead."

"Tell me you're working on your archery just for yourself."

"Not a chance. It's a way that I can share with Tim, and I'm truly enjoying dreaming of walking in the opening ceremony in Mexico City, hand in hand with Tim. We won't take a closet with us. We'll go on our terms or not at all."

"Have you and Tim written about that?"

"No, but I know Tim well enough to be able to speak for him. So do you, aren't I correct?"

"Absolutely, Tim's fed up with the closet. I don't think you'll keep him in long after you arrive."

"I don't want to."

"Good. It may be tough, but you have a family that's 100% behind you, as are his two coaches. I think things'll go well."

"Carl, you were wonderful to drive down here for this. Thank you."

"Thank you, Charlie."

"How are you and Carol doing?"

"How much do you know about Carol and me?"

"Don't you read Tim's letters? I thought everybody did?"

"Tim loves his brother, but shares more with his Mom and Dad than with me."

"I think I know everything about Carol that Tim knows."

"You've heard the fuck, dick and cunt story then?"

"Oh, God, yes. Tim had a lot of fun writing about that."

"He has too big a mouth."

"Oh, Carl, that was a wonderful story, as was Carol's response. You two are both wonderful kids."

"We're trying to talk about marriage after college. We aren't sure we can wait."

"I may be overstepping here, but I note that Tim isn't exactly waiting, even for high school graduation."

"Don't think I haven't thought about that."

"Where're you going to college?"

"We're going together, but we aren't sure where. Maybe the U."

"This is where gay's have an advantage. Colleges routinely put boys together in the same dormitory room, and gay pairs certainly can take advantage of that-I did, at least for a month, at Rockford. Try to get them to room you and Carol together."

"That's one argument for getting married after high school."

"What do your parents think?"

"You know them pretty well, what do you think they think?"

"I would guess, first, that they're keeping pretty mum-that this is to be your decision."

"Right. They have gone over pros and cons with us, but won't come down on one side or the other."

"Second, I would guess that Dad has said something like this: 'Carl, and maybe Carol-he's likely to have talked to you both-money's going to be an issue if you get married. You need to know that the amount of money that's available for your college is there whether you're married or not. And if you go to a less expensive school than we have budgeted for, you can have the rest for rent money.'"

"God, were you in the room?"

"No, I was listening in from Des Moines. Seriously, that would be consistent with some of the things he has said to Tim and me-not about money but about living with you. They simply play fair with their kids. Parents who say, 'Sorry kids, you're married, you're on you own, aren't playing fair. What they're really doing is trying to use money to impose their will on their kids."

"Mom and Dad're going to have one problem if you move in. I'm not sure that they're ready to have a mindreader in the family! Oh, and one other thing, you can't believe how nice it is to hear you call them 'Mom and Dad'."

"I like calling them that. Carl it's been wonderful talking with you...."

The conversation continued another half hour, and I got's lots of news of Tim and the family. Before long, he was heading north and I south. It had been a most interesting few hours. I missed Tim all the more.

It was now well into March and time for my driving trip to visit Hal, Franklin, and Ronnie. Hal had called and suggested that I pick him up on a Friday afternoon and we go together to Chippewa Falls to visit Franklin. He didn't like the idea of my being in the Twin Cities and not seeing Tim, so he thought he should spend the time with me somewhere else, and Chippewa Falls seemed appropriate. Franklin then called and said that Ronnie was going to catch a bus from Madison to Chippewa Falls and we would all be together there. All were planning on missing school on Monday, so we would have three nights and two and a half days together.

Hal's folks were all for the trip, but insisted that they wanted to have me for dinner on Friday night. Neither Hal nor I could object, so I planned my arrival for about 5:00 p.m., and Hazel had an early dinner planned. Actually, Hal's family simply operated early, so I don't think it really was an early dinner for them.

Hal was excited to see me and tell me all about his running. He was running marathons regularly. He had worked out a course around low traffic streets and parks in St. Paul, and ran it three times a week after school-regardless of the weather. Well, he had to admit that he had cancelled twice because of ice-he simply couldn't run without falling. But snow didn't phase him. His mother was sure he was going to die of pneumonia, but he seemed to be in perfect health.

"Just how fast are your times?" I asked.

"I consistently beat three hours, unless the weather slows me down. Now that spring's coming, my times should improve. I'm hoping for two hours and forty-five minutes soon. My best is three minutes off that."

"Hal, that's terrific. Isn't the record just under two and a half hours?"

"Boston's down to about two and a quarter hours I think."

"When's the Boston Marathon? Are you thinking of entering?"

"You have to be eighteen. I'll be eligible to enter next year-the race's in April. In the meantime I have to enter one official marathon and get a qualifying time. That shouldn't be a problem, my times are consistently good enough.

John weighed in, "We have been having a family discussion about whether he should run in the Boston Marathon while he's still in high school."

"Am I getting sucked into this discussion? Am I supposed to say 'Buy the damn shoes'?"

"No, Charlie, you're off the hook. We have told Hal he can run, it's his decision. But we have been discussing it as a family for some time."

"What does his coach think?"

"He's encouraging him. He has been a wonderful coach-Oh, you met Coach Johnson, didn't you? But we're all worried that he may not be ready for that heavy competition. He may not do as well as he does here-there's one hill on the Boston course that's a killer-his course here doesn't have that. Lot's of questions, we're working on answers."

"What do you think, Hal?"

"I worry that I could flub it up. That pushing for Boston while I'm still in high school could backfire. I have built so many successes, I don't want to reach too far."

"So what's the downside?"

"I drop out of the race, get discouraged, and don't continue with marathons."

"Is that likely to happen? Sounds like the old Hal to me."

"It's a tough decision."

"I don't want to take sides in a family discussion, but this sounds to me like a debate between the old Hal and the new Hal. I'll put my money on the new Hal."

Hal got up and hugged me. "I just made up my mind. Mom, Dad, you'll come to Boston with me next year, won't you?"

"Of course. And I think a lot of your friends'll be there as well. Everyone will support you, but the decision had to be yours."

"Oh. no, it was Charlie's."

"Don't blame me. It was the new Hal's. And I think it was the right one. By the way, what'll you do if you win it?"

"Not a chance. I'll be utterly delighted to beat three hours on that course, and not collapse or have a heart attack."

"I can speak for Tim and me-we'll be there to watch and cheer. I'll bet most of the gang will be."

"God, that would be nice."

"How about your cross country running last fall?"

"I was county champion. Second in state. There's a senior up in Duluth who I think trains by having bears chase him. He's really fast, and runs like the people behind him were out to kill him. He sets a killer pace, and there are always a few runners-even very good ones-that kill themselves trying to keep up. He'll be gone next year, thank goodness."

"Did you get to know him at all?"

"We only raced against each other twice-he won both times. He seems like a pretty nice guy when he isn't racing. But I haven't really had a chance to get to know him."

"How about spring track season?"

"I run the mile or two mile-can't go both at a single meet. Coach Johnson has moved me from one to the other. I don't mind, I help the team where I can. But I'm not real good at those short distances. My successes are the long races. I can just run and keep on running. But I really don't start leaving people behind till well past the two mile mark. So I get seconds and thirds in the mile and two mile. I think I may win the St. Paul meet, but I'm not top in the whole Twin Cities."

"Do you have anybody to run marathons with you?"

"Yeah, once or twice a week a guy from the U track teams runs with me. We're about evenly matched, but he really struggles the last five or six miles. I have to slow up for him, so when he's along we just barely beat the three hour mark."

Hazel commented, "Charlie, the new Hal isn't just a good athlete. We are, of course, happy about that-especially John. But he has many good friends, and is a joy to have around. We have almost forgotten the old Hal. You know, we still have the letter you wrote to us, warning us of the new Hal. I went back and reread it this afternoon. Charlie, you were really worried about what we would think of our changed son. Particularly his new haircut!"

"I still have the flattop. I don't ever want it to grow out. But they're going out of style, and I think it's going to have to go."

I asked, "Hal, have you told your folks about the first morning in the woods when they took all your clothes?"

Hazel cut in, "Oh, yes. The whole story. At first we were shocked, but Hal assured us it was innocent. Now we laugh about it. Hal was really shocked, but somewhere he found the strength to stand up to that summer."

"Charlie, you gave me the strength."

"Me? What did I do?"

"You never wavered in your confidence in me. I stood it all for you, I couldn't let you down."

"Tom gets the credit. But I'm so happy that it has worked out for you."

Hal said, "We have to get going. I'm eager to see Franklin and Ronnie."

The drive to Chippewa Falls took a little over two hours-it was just under 100 miles. Our talk rambled to all sorts of subjects. Hal asked how the assassination of Jack Kennedy the previous fall had affected me. I had replied, "Hal, it all seems very remote. I know we watched it all on television, but it seemed to be happening somewhere else. It hasn't impacted my life at all. Tim and I haven't even written about it-of course our letters tell about us-there isn't much point repeating what you read in the newspaper."

Hal replied, "At first it sort of hit me hard. But then it became rather distant. I guess that's the same reaction you had. It hasn't changed my life. What do you think of Johnson?"

The conversation continued, with not a lot of heavy content. We arrived just after Franklin had picked up Ronnie at the bus station. He had left after school but had about twice the distance to travel. We all had a grand reunion, and were delighted to see Franklin's parents, Peter and Norma. They were just as eager to see us. I had been able to have brief conversations with Peter and Norma when they brought Franklin to camp and picked him up. But we were all looking forward to a more relaxed conversation. All three of the boys enjoyed adult company, and related well to Franklin's folks. Thus the six of us were able to talk together at length.

The main topic of conversation was what had happened at Camp White Elk that made this group so exceptional. There was general agreement that there was good leadership: I named Tim and Tom-and Franklin; they pointed to me. Norma pointed out, quite correctly, that leaders can only lead when they have good material to follow. And the other four boys in the group, two of which were here, were excellent followers. Both were, in fact, natural followers when provided with good leaders. Peter picked up on that thought, and decided that-beyond random luck-one of the keys to the gang's success was the presence of kids like Hal and Ronnie, and you could just as well name Jim and Andy, who thrived on following good leaders. Peter went on to make it clear that this was not a put-down of the followers, only a description of their personality type.

Hal jumped right in, "Hey, those kids put me through Hell that summer, and I thrived on it. I have never had a better two weeks. I would certainly affirm being classified as a follower, and I'm happy in the role."

Ronnie said, "You can't imagine me competing with Tom to be a leader of the group, and neither can I. But I'm not sure that I'm a follower as much as I'm independent."

Peter said, "Given the right leadership, I think you make an outstanding follower, from what I have heard about you this evening."

I said, "I think there's something very important here that we need to hang onto. We all, every one, including me, found those to be the best two weeks of our lives. I think we need to hold onto that. While it's true that you can't go back again, we can, and should, think about going forward together in some way. I don't have anything specific in mind, but roll that around in your heads. Oh, yes, here's a tangible idea to think about: Hal's going to enter the Boston Marathon in just over a year. He needs a support group and a cheering section. Tim and I will be there. Why don't we get the whole group there?"

Franklin said, "I'm in. I'll get there somehow."

Norma said, "I think it would be a great trip, Peter, why don't the three of us go? Let's get it on the calendar now."

Ronnie said, "I'll be studying at the University; I'm sure that I can make it." He continued, "Charlie, you've given us a lot to think about as we put our lives together. Planning around the other seven in the group just might enhance our lives in many ways. I think that somebody should put that in writing for the whole group to think about. It shouldn't be you, Charlie. This has to come from the boys. I'm going to talk to Tom, I think he might be able to put it best."

Hal and Franklin both said, "Good idea," at just about the same time.

I made an observation that I think demonstrates the functioning of the group, "Did you all notice that none of you were surprised that this 18 year old kid, who three years ago hadn't run around the block, was going to enter the Boston Marathon-as a high schooler? You all simply function at a level that makes the exceptional normal. I think that's part of your secret."

Hal said, "OK, while we're talking about the secrets of the group, I'm going to cross over into no man's land. I think sex has played a not insignificant role."

I think everyone listening responded with the same surprise, "Sex?"

"Yes, sex. Tim's an incredibly sexual animal, his stripping and teasing set a tone. When we chased him and finally caught him it was a great group builder-and he had a ball. Franklin crossed the line with me that first Wednesday in the woods. And I let him. Jim and Andy were made for each other, and while the physical sex didn't start till after camp, the light was lit. We don't even have to talk about you and Tim, the chemistry was lighting lamps all over camp. Tom's almost in a class like Tim. I'm not sure where Ronnie fits into this, but he wasn't offended by any of it. All of this describes perfectly wholesome and above board relationships, but all highly charged. I think it was a major factor in the group cohesion."

Franklin added, "Look, we had three known very gay guys, Tim, Charlie and me. Hal, Jim and Andy certainly had tendencies to be a little gay. I suspect the same's true for Tom. Ronnie has to speak for himself. But equally important, there was no one in the group who was a prude, unable to accept his own sexuality, or prejudiced against gays. Again, evidence of a remarkable group. I think Hal's onto something when he says sexuality was a part of our success."

Norma said, "Franklin has never been in a more accepting group, but he didn't come out until the second summer."

Ronnie said, "He didn't need to. I think most of us had his number, and simply didn't give a damn."

Franklin said, "Oh, for a whole world of people who simply don't give a damn!"

It was getting late when Franklin said, "Speaking of sex, it's time to go to bed. Who's sleeping where?"

Peter said, "The juxtaposition of those two ideas certainly is interesting."

Ronnie said, "It wasn't an accident."

Franklin said, "I have a room with a queen size bed. Someone has to sleep with me. Lucky guy. Then there's a guest room with twin beds. The other two go there. It would save laundry if only one bed was used."

Norma exclaimed, "Franklin!"

"Sorry mom. No, I'm not sorry. Talk's fun, it's up to the individuals what happens after talk. I don't think this group's norms should exclude talk."

Peter said, "I agree, but I'm afraid some parents would have me horsewhipped for that."

"I would rather see your approach to your son written up in a good magazine article," I said.

Hal said, "We pair up differently every night. I get Franklin first."

That settled it. Franklin walked over and picked up Hal, carried him upstairs and into his room, closed the door, and wasn't heard from till morning-except for a bathroom break.

That left Ronnie and me. Norma said, "Franklin and Hal have sort of left you in an awkward situation. Maybe you don't really want to share a room."

Ronnie replied immediately, "I do. Charlie, are you OK with this?"

"Of course. We slept in the same room at camp."

"With six other boys."

"We can just pretend they're in the room with us."

"You can; I'd rather be alone with you."

Peter said, "I think we'll all head to bed." And we all went upstairs.

After our visit to the bathroom, Ronnie and I undressed. He was clearly watching me, presumably to see what I would wear to bed. Most of the boys had slept nude at camp, and that seemed reasonable for that night. Then Ronnie said, "Can we spare Franklin's mom doing extra laundry?"

I had thought that might be coming, but still hadn't decided how to respond. I said, "Ronnie, what do you have in mind? That's pretty close quarters for two guys and no clothes."

"I know."

"You didn't answer."

"OK, I know you like to draw lines. Whatever line you draw, I won't cross. Promise."

"No hands below the belt."

"Great, since I'm not wearing a belt."

"No hands below where the belt belongs."

"Spoil sport. But I promise."

We slipped into bed and lay side by side on our backs.



"I have never had any kind of sex with anybody."

"That's not unusual for a high school student, though I'll admit a lot of them are into all kinds of sex, including some pretty stupid stuff."

"I'm not happy about it."

"Ronnie, if you want sex, are you thinking of girls or boys?"

"In my dreams, girls. But when I try to deal with reality, all my close friends are boys, except one girl in our science group, and she has a boyfriend. The gang are all boys. Where do I find a girl?"

"Maybe you need to broaden your horizons for friends."

"I guess I do, but I leave high school this year and will be living at home while at the University next year. Doesn't sound particularly promising."

"I know, but your day'll come."



"Franklin's gay. I don't think he has a boyfriend. Do you think he would have sex with me tomorrow night? Would it be OK to ask?"

"That's where you have been going with this from the beginning, isn't it?"


"If you talk to Franklin, don't beat around the bush like this. And treat him like a lover, not a supplicant. Don't say, 'Please, Franklin, would you have sex with me?' Say something like, 'Franklin, you're a really sexy guy, I'd love it if more happened than sleep tonight.' I think Franklin might go for that."

"I don't want to be Franklin's partner or lover; is it fair to talk like that to him?"

"Sure, just don't deceive him. Sex can be loving without meaning that you have a life partner. Sex just shouldn't be treated lightly or casually. But I don't think you would do that."

"Thanks, Charlie." And he hugged me. "Can I kiss you?"

I didn't answer; I just turned toward him and our lips met in a light, but long kiss. We both soon drifted off to sleep.

The next morning at breakfast just the four of us boys were present. Peter and Norma were up and out early. As we ate, we had light conversation, punctuated by the slurping of cereal bowls. I asked Hal, "How's Sue?"

Hal replied, "Great, Charlie. I know high school is a little early, but I really think she's the one."

Franklin choked, spit cereal back in his bowl, and finally was able to almost shout, "Hal!"

We all looked startled, but a light slowly dawned within me. "Franklin, what's the matter?"

"Hal, you have a girl? You're in love with her? What the Hell was going on in my bed last night?"

I was right. Franklin hadn't known about Sue, and they had had sex last night. I wanted to speak, but I decided that Hal had better handle this himself.

Hal didn't seem at all perturbed. "Franklin, we have to start at the beginning so that Ronnie and Charlie know what we're talking about."

Franklin said, "I'm not sure where this is going, but keep talking, before I come over there and pick you up and bounce you on your head."

"Relax, Franklin, and listen." Hal told the story of him and Franklin in the woods the first summer at camp.

Franklin was hugely embarrassed. He turned to me, with a pleading look, and said, "I'm sorry, Charlie. I shouldn't have come on to Hal. I let my dick lead instead of my head."

Hal said, "There's nothing to be sorry for. We were both campers, he came on to me. I agreed. He didn't push or force. And we stopped in the middle. I have felt guilty about stopping ever since."

Franklin said, "We talked about this last night. You have nothing to feel guilty about. I'm the one who should feel guilty."

"That just about covers last night's conversation, said Hal. We both have spent the last three years worrying about the incident, and both of us have felt guilty. I told Franklin last night that he had to let me finish what had been started in the woods. He finally agreed. And then he gave me the most wonderful pleasure. It was a wonderful night."

"But Sue!" Franklin almost shouted, or perhaps wailed.

"Listen, Franklin. Please. Sue's a wonderful girl. We have talked many hours. We talk while we run. She knows all about the old Hal and the new Hal. She knows about the summer. She knows about me losing my clothes, and your holding my balls. She knows about the adventure in the woods. She knows about my feelings of guilt."

"Is there anything you don't tell her?" Franklin asked.

"Not really, and I know as much about her. When she heard that Charlie was going to visit the three of us, it was her idea that I should try to work it out so that we would all be together, and specifically that you and I could be together, Franklin. Sue said that she couldn't have sex with me until I had gotten over my feelings of guilt with you. She told me to 'finish the job,' in her words. She insisted. Last night I did. Franklin, you and I have nothing to feel guilty about. In the woods or last night. It shouldn't have taken three years, but it was wonderful, and now it's complete."

Tears were coming to Franklin's eyes. "Why didn't you tell me this last night?"

"Because it had to be just you and me. I would have told you today, but Charlie's question-and your milky mess-sort of pushed the issue. OK?"

"Yes. It's OK... I'm OK... You're OK... Charlie, help me here."

I said, "I don't think anybody needs help. Franklin, Hal's right. You were both boys, and it's OK for boys to talk about sex, invite sex, have sex, as long as they're careful and respect each other. You showed an extraordinary level of respect when you quit in the middle out there in the woods. No guilt, please, either of you. Now, Hal, tell us more about this obviously very special girl, Sue."

We didn't learn much, except that Sue was the most wonderful girl that had ever walked the streets of St. Paul. And she could run! Not much counted with Hal after that!

Hal stood up and said, "I've got twelve miles to run. I looked at a map and have a four mile course around the city streets. Anybody want to join me for at least four miles."

I said, "You do your eight miles in about 45 minutes, right? We'll join you for the third lap. Bye for now." And he was off. We did meet him, and joined him for the last four miles-and he still had to slow up a lot to let us stay with him.

The day passed easily. Lots of talk, sometimes with Franklin's parents. Good food. A long walk (yes, Hal could walk if forced) around the downtown in the early evening, and off to bed. I told Hal he could sleep with me, because I knew Ronnie wanted to sleep with Franklin.

As with all of the gang, I wasn't sure what intentions Hal had for the night, but it turned out that he was quite forthright. "Charlie, can we share a bed. I want to hug you. I have wanted a chance to really hug you since that first summer."

"Of course, Hal." We both got into the same bed Ronnie and I had been in the night before. Nothing was said about clothing, but Hal left his shorts on without seeming to think about it, and I did the same. He cuddled up to my back, spooning me like I did Tim, but he wasn't quite as big as me, so he couldn't envelope me like Franklin could. It didn't matter to Hal; he wrapped his arm around my chest, hugged tight and drifted toward sleep.

"Charlie, thanks for being you. Good night." Then sleep took him, and me not long after. By morning we were separated, but as soon as Hal was awake enough to be aware of it, he resumed the hugging till it was time to get up; then he released me reluctantly.

I said, "Thank you for a wonderful night Hal. It's great to be hugged by someone who really loves you."

"I do, you know," said Hal. "Of course, Sue's number one."

Breakfast brought a grinning Ronnie and Franklin. We didn't need to ask how they had spent the night. "Sleep much?" asked Hal.

"Not a wink," said Franklin, with obvious meaning. No details were sought nor provided.

Ronnie said, "I have been thinking about what Charlie said about planning our lives. I know that only half the gang's here, but I'd like to talk more about that."

"So talk," said Franklin.

"You know, we could all aim to go to the same college, but I'm not sure that makes sense. The University of Wisconsin is perfect for me, but not necessarily for any of the others. I think a lot of us are headed to grad school, but I can't imagine a one-size-fits-all school for us. I think we need to talk about careers and life-long residences. Would we like to live near each other?"

Hal said, "It could be complicated, and might restrict career choices. But I believe I could really enjoy a life in which our gang was central."

Franklin said, "You know that career isn't the most important thing in my life. I'm damn well certain that I would like to live near the gang."

I said, "I'm going to live with Tim. Period. Convince him to live near the gang and you've got me."

Ronnie said, "I have a feeling that you and Tim are going to be the center of the gang, and that we're going to gravitate toward you two."

"I don't think that's a very fair way to decide," I said.

Ronnie continued, "I don't think fair is an issue. I'll just bet that Tim already knows where he wants to live, what he wants to do there, and how you'll fit in, Charlie. That kid doesn't move randomly through the world, he works by plan and design. He probably already has retirement plans!"

I laughed, but thought that Ronnie might very well be right. I had kept Tim from planning with me beyond age 18, because I didn't want to lock him in. But I doubted that had stopped Tim from planning in his own mind. It made me wonder what life had in store for me. I would have bet that Tim knew. And I knew that I would be happy with whatever he had in mind.

I said, "I know we talked about getting Tom to write to people. But I think that I'd like to hold that up till Tim and I are together. It's less than a year. Otherwise, this conversation's going to be very hard on Tim."

They all agreed. The conversation shifted, and soon Hal was announcing the day's run. We were all going to make twelve miles. His tone of voice sounded like he had been taking lessons from Tim, and I suspected that we were all going to actually run twelve miles. It was slow and painful, and may have been harder on Hal than the rest of us, but we made it-even Ronnie. When we got back, Franklin picked Hal up, carried him upstairs to his big bed, dumped him down, pulled down his pants and spanked him. We all cheered. Hal just laughed.

Norma put on a real feast for us that night. We talked a long while after dinner, and reluctantly went to bed, knowing that the next day would bring separation.

I was paired with Franklin, who informed me, "Naked. I know you have slept that way with others, and you have no choice with me."

"OK, but the rule is no hands below the belt."

"I'm eighteen, you know. Your rule doesn't apply."

"Franklin, I'm sorry, but the first member of the gang that gets to ignore the rule is Tim. No exceptions."

"I understand, and I really didn't have anything in mind. Just a loving night that I have been looking forward to for a long time."

As we crawled into bed I had to steer Franklin away from the very natural spooning position, because I knew it would be a betrayal of Tim. We lay facing each other. I asked Franklin, "Are you still lonely?"

"Incredibly, Charlie. I guess I'll find a love someday, but I'm not even close. Everybody must be in the closet. As far as I know, I'm totally alone in Chippewa Falls."

"Franklin, there's someone I want you to meet."

"Really? Charlie, who?"

"His name's Phil. I may have talked about him."

"Your debate partner."

"Yes, you remember?"

"I remember everything about you. You did talk about Phil at camp."

"Since then we became lovers."

"Really? What about Tim?"

"Tim has Tina; I had Phil. But all good things come to an end; we graduated and separated. He visited once in Des Moines, but we agreed he had to get on with his life and not keep visiting the past-that is, me. But he hasn't found anyone."

"Why didn't you introduce us before?"

"You weren't 18, and I wasn't going to have you and Phil playing the Tim and Charlie game. Would you like to meet him?"

"You have to ask?"

"Can you come to Des Moines?"

"It's not too far to drive. Any weekend."

"I'll set up a date with Phil."

A very contented Franklin soon drifted off into a wonderful dreamland.

Next: Episode 12-Commitment

Author's Note:

I have never been to an Olympic Games, neither as a spectator nor as a competitor. So forgive, in this episode and in ones to come, gross inaccuracies in discussions of the Olympics. It's fiction, right?

In particular, Archery again became an Olympic sport in 1972. That date didn't fit this story, so I cheated a little. Please accept.


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