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Finding Tim

A Fourth Alternate Reality

by Charlie
With editorial assistance from Dix and John


This is Hal going on with my story.

The invitation to dinner at the Matthews' came about a week after our return from Brookings. It was for a Wednesday evening, two days hence. Would our whole family join them for dinner and storytelling? Anna had talked to Sue beforehand about inviting our boys-worrying that they might be bored with a lot of adult talk, or that the talk might be too mature for them. Sue had assured her that the boys would want to be included and would do fine. Anna had assured us that school clothes for the boys and casual for the adults would also be fine.

Jody greeted us at the door and showed us into the living room. Franz was there, but Anna was working in the kitchen. We introduced Franz to Bud and Junior (both of whom had declined to go with us to Brookings and so hadn't met Franz. Bud didn't want to miss a day of school, and Junior, though willing to miss school, wasn't really interested in seeing a race he wasn't in). Franz then asked about drinks. "This is supposed to be a storytelling evening, do you think alcohol will enhance the stories or get in the way?"

Sue and I do drink a little, but thought that tonight we ought to be on the same level at the boys, especially Jody. She opted for cranberry juice and I accepted water. Our boys accepted Coke, which we normally discouraged by not keeping it in the house, but didn't prohibit. We figured tonight could be a treat for them. I noticed, much to my delight, that neither of them finished

their king size bottle. Jody-I'm sure taking his cue from me-took water. I wondered what he would've had if I hadn't been there. The damn kid read my mind, and said, "I usually have water, but sometimes orange juice."

Anna quickly arrived, greeted us all, and announced that beginning the storytelling while she was in and out of the kitchen was absolutely forbidden. That could wait until dinner or after. Dinner would be ready in about fifteen minutes.

The time went by with small talk. Jody hit if off with Junior by asking about his running, and then he and Bud quickly discovered a common love of computers. I was glad to learn that Jody wasn't limited in his interests to basketball and running. He soon took Bud upstairs to see his Apple. They never came to an agreement as to which was the better computer: Apple or Atari. Junior asked Franz what he taught at the university. There was a little impasse when Franz answered, "German," but Junior, already knowing that, wanted to know which courses. It turned out that Franz was stuck with a section of either first or second year German every semester as was the entire department. Those courses were, after all, the bread and butter of the program. They paid the salaries. But Franz's first love was Max Weber, the political economist and sociologist of the late 19th, early 20th century. He taught a undergraduate introductory course on Weber every other year, and a graduate seminar alternate years. He worked with a number of graduate students on independent studies relating to Weber, and two Ph.D. candidates currently had Weber-related theses in process.

Much to his, and my, surprise Junior responded with, "He wrote, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, didn't he?"

To that Franz managed to reply, "What grade are you in?"


"What else do you know about Max Weber?"

"Wasn't it the Weber Thesis that only the state has the right to use violence?"

"That's right. How on earth do you happen to know that in sixth grade? I'd be glad if my college students could produce that clear a statement of the Weber Thesis."

"I'm not sure. I guess it was reading Durant's, Story of Philosophy. My knowledge of Weber isn't much deeper than that."

I said, "Junior, when did you read Durant's book?"

"In the summer. I got it off the bookshelves upstairs."

Anna arrived and invited us to the dinner table, calling the boys from upstairs. I wondered what other surprises I was going to be in for that evening.

Anna began the meal with a short grace, which was obviously their usual habit. Franz carved a huge pot roast that was covered with dried fruit and accompanied with browned potatoes. A huge bowl of spinach finished the meal. I'm glad to say that our whole family ate enthusiastically of everything. Not all vegetables can pass muster with Bud, but he loved spinach!

Anna began the conversation by saying, "Well, we issued the invitation, perhaps we should tell our story first. I think you may find it interesting."

Indeed we did. I'll retell it here as I remember it. I think I've forgotten very few details. Anna and Franz are gone now, but I asked Jody to look this over. He supplied a few details, made a few minor corrections and assured me that otherwise it was right on the mark.

Franz' father, John Matthews, was born in 1927 and grew up on a northeast Iowa farm during the Depression. His father, Cecil Matthews, was of English origin, with a family history that went back to the Revolutionary War. His mother, Helga, was the daughter of German immigrants who'd settled on a farm in Iowa not too far from Dubuque. Cecil had worked for the railroad in Dubuque, met Helga at a German dance (if you wanted any social life in early 20th century northeast Iowa you joined with the Germans), fell in love, married her, quit the railroad and moved to her farm, and took over from her parents when they died. He learned German, and except for his English name was as German as his neighbors. The anti-German feelings of the World War I era hurt the community, but Cecil had the advantage of speaking fluent English as well as German. John came along in 1927, the Depression in 1929, and Cecil and Helga decided that it would be best to limit their children to one.

Cecil liked farm life, thrived in Iowa, and avoided most of the privations of the 1930s. Cecil and Helga had inherited the farm debt free, and he had been wise enough never to consider a mortgage. Things had been tight during the Depression, but never backbreaking, so John grew up free of the scars that many children received in those years. He was hardly aware of the economic crisis of the decade.

World War II came, and the German community was determined to show their loyalty to Uncle Sam and not the Motherland. Boys enlisted before they were drafted, and John was no exception. He turned 17 in 1943 and immediately enlisted in the Army. He spoke fluent German and English, and in one of its rare moments of common sense, following basic training the Army sent him to Europe as part of a team whose responsibility was to relate to and communicate with the local population. His group followed just behind the lead soldiers of Omar Bradley's Third Army. After VE Day he was stationed at Frankfurt am Main, and served as a translator for high ranking officers, including Bradley and Eisenhower, dealing with the civilian leadership of the area.

We had been warned that it was a good story, so it didn't come as a surprise that John met Antje, a beautiful German girl, who soon became his war bride. John and Antje returned to the United States in 1947, with Antje pregnant, and Franz was born that October. They returned to the family farm in Iowa, and John settled down to the business of farming. Cecil and Helga were delighted with John's return, his German wife, his son Franz (their only grandchild) and his enthusiasm for farming. In 1950 Cecil developed a lung disease (probably emphysema, it was never properly diagnosed) and he and Helga moved to Florida to avoid the Iowa winters. That left John and Antje with the farm, a son, and a German community that was still largely in tact-though now thoroughly English speaking.

Though no one knew it at the time, the most important incident in Franz' life took place on an Iowa country road in the winter of 1955. Christmas was approaching and several neighbor families organized a sleigh ride, to include parents and children. It wasn't really a sleigh but a wagon that'd had its wheels removed and two pairs of runners attached. It was pulled by a team of two horses. On a snowy December day, just two days before Christmas, all three families, but not the Matthews, were on the wagon, which had been loaded with straw for fun, comfort, and warmth. They started at one of the neighbor's houses, headed through their fields, and were crossing the road to get to a wooded area where they planned to take their ride. Since they weren't planning to be on the public roads, except this one crossing, they only lights they had were flashlights. There was enough moonlight for the horses to follow the trail.

As they crossed the road a truck came upon them, running too fast. The wagon/sleigh was equipped with the required big reflectors on the back, but the sides had none. The driver saw the wagon too late and he slammed on his brakes, which may have made it worse. He skidded and actually hit the wagon spinning sideways.

The carnage was awful. One family of four was completely wiped out. Another lost a mother and daughter, leaving a father in the hospital and a five year old son staying with neighbors until the father recovered. The third family was Anna's, and she was the only survivor. She was orphaned, and had no close relatives.

The close-knit community surrounded her with love, and John and Antje took her in. They never formally adopted her, but they became her de facto parents and Franz her older brother. Franz was 8 years old and Anna was 4. They became fast friends and playmates. She thrived in their loving household. The trauma of the accident and the loss of her family slowly faded into the background-except at night. The Matthews' had a guest room that they made Anna's room. It was filled with dolls and toys, books, and other things to delight a little girl. In the daytime these things met her needs, and besides, in the daytime there were other family members around her. But at night it was dark, in spite of the night light, and she was alone. And she cried herself to sleep.

Franz would hear her-his room was closer to hers than his parents' was. Very shortly after she moved in Franz got into the habit of going into Anna's room at night when he heard her crying. He would slip into her bed, get behind her, and wrap his arms around her. And she would sleep. And so did he. At first his parents were a little troubled by this-they weren't sure that it was right for the boy and girl to sleep together. However, when the two were separated, the crying would begin again.

And so the pattern was established. Anna would go to bed at her bedtime, and then when Franz' bedtime came around he'd get into her bed instead of his own. And the pattern never changed.

Being good Germans, John and Antje believed in getting a lot of fresh air, and bedroom windows were always open at night. It gets cold in Iowa, especially northern Iowa, and an open bedroom window meant a very cold room. Franz and Anna had down comforters, however, and always slept warm. But on really cold nights they'd have to crawl into a very cold bed. Anna would want to wait to go to bed till Franz would come so that they could cuddle together for warmth. One bitter cold night Franz somehow realized that two naked people would warm each other faster than two people in pajamas. And so the pattern of Franz and Anna sleeping together naked was started. Warmer weather came, but the pajamas didn't return. It was quite a while before John and Antje became aware of the new arrangement. When they found out they told Franz to wear pajamas.


Well, what reason would you offer? "Little boys and girls don't sleep together naked."

"Why not?"

How do you answer that without giving the little kids new ideas that they clearly don't have? So the pattern continued.

For years. Forever, in fact. So did the open window.

The children grew. They had many friends, but it appeared to John and Antje that they were, in fact, each others' best friend. John and Antje didn't see anything wrong in that; in fact, they were delighted that Anna had fit into the family so well.

The children grew, and for our story nothing changed until Franz was age 13 in eighth grade. As his pubic hair had come in, Anna had noticed and they'd talked about it. But it didn't mean much to them. Anna had innocently asked her mother if she'd get hair "there" sometime, and she'd been told that she would. Not much more was said.

But boys talk a lot at school. And the same thing was happening to all of them. It wasn't long before "jacking off" was also the subject of boy talk at school. Franz and Anna had no secrets from each other, and so the talk of "jacking off" was shared with her as they went to sleep.

Anna asked, "What is this jacking off?" Franz couldn't really answer, but eventually the conversations at school became explicit enough that he got the idea. One night he decided to try to jack off, and he let Anna watch. He was successful, and all of a sudden he and Anna had a mess to clean up, a secret to share, and the urge to try it again. They'd played with each others' genitalia from time to time-well, fairly often as Franz had moved into his teenage years. So it wasn't long before Anna wanted to try to do it for Franz, and that worked as well. Franz liked that better than doing it himself! And so a pattern was established. It became virtually a nightly routine as Franz came to bed.

During his mid teenage years Franz had a couple of girlfriends. He never considered it a conflict that he'd date one girl and then come home and have an orgasm at the hands of Anna. The pattern did save him from the temptation of ever getting sexually involved with another girl at school.

As Franz approached age 16, Anna approached puberty herself. Franz by then had had a sex education course at school; a lousy course, but it had prepared him for the fact that Anna was about to start menstruating. He alerted her to that before Antje did, and she passed through that potentially traumatic period easily. And Franz and Anna easily figured out that Anna was now going to very much like having Franz provide services for her just as she had for Franz.

The two never had any sense of guilt about what they were doing, but they did sense that it probably wouldn't be too good of an idea to tell their parents. They also never moved beyond using their hands. There was no oral sex. Fingers sometimes explored anuses, but that was it. Only fingers were used. That, to Franz and Anna, made it a game and not a sexual relationship. And certainly nothing that smacked of intercourse was even considered. That was for lovers; Franz and Anna were playing games together.

Two years later Franz graduated from high school and went off to the University of Dubuque for college. The separation proved more difficult for both of them than they'd expected. But Dubuque was only a little more than an hour away from their farm, and Franz quickly got in the habit of driving home on Friday after his last class and driving back on Sunday. Soon the pattern changed to driving back early Monday morning before his first class at 9:00 a.m. I don't have to draw a picture of their nights together, do I? The physical arrangements didn't change; it was fingers only.

By this time John and Antje didn't need pictures either. Antje decided that it was time for a family discussion of sleeping habits. So, one Saturday afternoon she asked Franz and Anna to sit a while after lunch and talk with John and her.

Antje asked, "Can we all be very honest with each other here?"

"Sure, Mom," said Franz, and Anna nodded affirmatively.

"Can you tell us what goes on at night in your bed?"

Anna said, "We masturbate each other."

"Just like that, you masturbate each other?"

Franz said, "We use our hands. We always have. It's a game. It's fun. We both enjoy it. We don't think it's wrong."

John said, "You're having sex with your fourteen year old sister and you don't think it's wrong?" He wasn't shouting; he didn't seem upset. He just seemed startled that that would be their conclusion.

Franz said, "We don't think of it as having sex. We don't have intercourse. We play with our hands."

Antje asked, "How long has this been going on?"

Anna said, "As long as I can remember. When John learned to masturbate I watched. Soon I was helping him. A few years later he started helping me. He helped me deal with my period the first time."

John said, "My God, we've been so naive. We never should've allowed you two to sleep together."

Anna said, "Yes, you should have. At first it helped me get over the loss of my family. Since, Franz has been a rock of stability for me. I'm not sure that I could've gotten through my junior high school years without John."

Antje said, "But not sleeping with him."

Anna said, "Why not?"

"It's not right." That was John and Antje together.

Franz thought for a minute and slowly said, "To be wrong, that is, evil or immoral, it has to hurt someone. Who's been hurt? Anna is a normal, healthy girl, gets good grades, seems to be well adjusted, has a boyfriend at school, gets along well with her parents, is polite and well-mannered. Is there something there you'd like to see changed?"

Anna said, "John's the same; he graduated third in his class, got into Dubuque on a scholarship, gets along well at school, had girl friends in high school that he didn't get pregnant (remember, there were two pregnant girls that had to drop out last year). What would you like to change about John?"

"That's not the point."

"That is the point. What we're doing isn't hurting anyone, including the two of us. It's fun, and much more to the point it's given us a relationship that has allowed us to face the world that teenagers face with strength and stability. I would not only argue that it hasn't been wrong for us to have the relationship that we've had, and still have, but it's been good for both of us."

John and Antje hadn't expected a spirited defense of Franz and Anna's relationship, but that's what they'd gotten. They were faced with a dilemma: Demand that it stop, or give tacit approval to what they believed was an immoral, incestuous relationship. The fact that Franz was legally an adult and Anna a child didn't help the situation, though they understood that when it started, at ages 9 and 13, that hadn't really been an issue.

Antje said, "I think I'm sorry that I started this conversation. Ignorance was bliss."

John said, "But not helpful to these kids. I think we need to either agree with them that nobody is being hurt, or we need to state our objection clearly. John's of age and Anna isn't legally our daughter so I guess we have no authority to forbid what they're doing, but we could forbid it in our house."

Franz said, "But you are willing to consider the idea that we might be right; that nothing wrong is going on?"

"When you ask me who is being hurt, I haven't got an answer. I guess that's as far as I can go."

Anna said, "But you're willing that John continue to come home on weekends, and that we continue to sleep together as we always have?"

Antje said, "Yes. I don't know what God would say. I do know what the preacher would say, but I've said, 'Yes.'"

Anna said, "I love you Mother, and you too, Daddy. I can't believe how lucky I was that you two took me in when you did. And don't worry, Franz and I respect each other, wouldn't hurt each other, and won't embarrass you."

"We know that," said her father and the conversation came to an end.

That night, in bed, Franz and Anna talked. "Are we doing something bad, Franz?" asked Anna.

"No, we're not. I know many people would think so, but we got it right this afternoon. We're hurting no one, and certainly neither one of us. Let's not worry about this. The time will come for us to stop, and that will be that. We aren't there yet." With that he threw back the covers, exposing his dick, and Anna took it in her hand and massaged it expertly. Soon he came and she took the underwear that he'd just taken off and cleaned him up. Then she lay over on her back and let his fingers inside her. It felt good, and soon she had an orgasm. They hugged, and were soon contentedly asleep.

Sue and I (Hal, remember?) tried to process all that and reach some kind of conclusion. We agreed with Tim's hard and fast rule about adults and children, but just how did it apply here? It wasn't clear.

The story continued.

Franz' roommate was Sven Carlson, from a little northwestern Iowa town near the Minnesota border. He and Franz'd gotten along well and had become pretty good friends. They enjoyed each other's company and found themselves doing more and more things together. March of their freshman year came around and with it the deadline for selecting roommates for the next year. One night as Sven and Franz were eating dinner Sven got very serious and asked Franz if they could find a private place to talk after dinner. Franz wasn't clear why they didn't just go back to their room, but Sven suggested that they find an empty study carrel in the library where they could close the door and talk.

When the door was shut Franz asked, "What's up?"

"I'd like to be your roommate next year...."

"OK, I'd like to room with you, but...."

"Please listen. I need to tell you something before we talk about being roommates for another year."

"What's that?"

"Franz, if we're going to room together another year, I need to tell you that I'm a homosexual."

"You mean you're gay?"


"And you think that might affect whether I want to be your roommate."


"Well, it doesn't. But I sense that telling me that was a big deal for you."

"You're only the third person on earth I've told."

"My God, how do you live with that?"

"I'm not sure I can. I thought long and hard about telling you. We've become good friends, and I decided that I could trust you."

"Your secret is safe. Who were the other two, your parents?

"No, two boys I knew in high school. They were out with a few of their friends, including me, and one day I got up my courage and told them. The three of us had sex a few times, but they were happy lovers, and I was the third man. They went off to college together, and I've only heard from them a couple of times."

"Why did you feel you needed to tell me this before we decided whether to continue as roommates?"

"Roommates shouldn't have big secrets from each other. Roommates sleep in the same room together, undress together, often go down the hall to the shower together. If I were somehow outed, there might be fallout for you. I thought you needed to know."

"Thank you. And thank you for trusting me. It isn't a big deal. And I do want to be your roommate."

And they roomed together all four years at Dubuque. But the story doesn't end there. Not much more was said about homosexuality that year, but the following fall Franz began to ask questions. Once he'd shared his secret with Franz, Sven was eager to talk. Other than fantasies, usually when he masturbated, and the few times with his high school friends, Sven hadn't been able to express his homosexuality. He'd almost shared with another good friend in high school, but before he could the boy had expressed strong homophobic feelings, and Sven thanked his lucky stars that he'd never said anything. That close call insured that he wouldn't come out to anyone else in high school.

The mention of masturbatory fantasy led the conversation to the subject of masturbation in general. Franz thought that if they could talk about homosexuality they could talk about masturbation. Considering Franz' attitude toward masturbation, and Sven's orientation, it didn't take long before they decided to try masturbating each other.

To make a long story short, the pattern developed that Franz masturbated with Sven usually four days a week and with Anna three. Anna knew all about Sven, but Sven didn't learn about Anna till late in their junior year when Franz finally screwed up enough courage to tell Sven the story.

The physical relationship between Franz and Sven never went any further than hands, just like with Anna. Franz wasn't gay, and Sven respected that. He never pushed for more. Franz worried that Sven was investing so much time in Franz that he didn't have a chance of finding a life partner. To that Sven simply replied that he really didn't expect to find one at Dubuque, and he was very happy with what he did with Franz.

Franz' senior year was also Anna's senior year, but she was in high school. As she began to think about college she realized that she had a problem. Not long after her sixteenth birthday she'd decided to get a driver's license. That meant first getting a learner's permit from the Department of Motor Vehicles-the dreaded DMV. That meant bringing her birth certificate. That was a problem. She had her birth certificate, but it contained her birth name, Anna Helmud. But since she'd come to live with the Matthews' she'd been known as Anna Matthews, and that was the way she was enrolled in school. Schools then didn't require documentation to enroll a student, simply the enrollment form filled out by a parent. So her school records showed her as Anna Matthews and her driver's licence showed her as Anna Helmud-as she'd never been formally adopted or had her name legally changed.

That wasn't a big deal in the little farming community they lived in, but just how was she going to enroll in a college under two names?

At Christmas in their senior year she shared that problem with Franz. Franz was never sure whether that was the catalyst for his next action, but it certainly got him thinking. On New Year's Eve, as a midnight kiss approached he said to Anna, "If you would marry me it would solve your name problem."

"Is that a proposal?"

"Yes, I think it is."

"Do you mean it?"

"Yes. I love you Anna. I have for years, but it took a while to figure it out; our relationship has been so complicated."

"I love you too, Franz. I figured it out a long time ago; I've been waiting for you."

The wedding took place the following June right after both of their graduations. Sven was Franz's best man. Their little farming community thought that it was wonderful that the two were getting married-that they'd been raised as brother and sister didn't bother anybody, because everybody remembered the accident and knew that they weren't blood relatives.

Anna's name problem was solved: she would apply to college as Anna Matthews, and when it came time to actually enroll she would have a new driver's license with the name Anna Matthews! But what college? The prospect of marriage changed a lot of things, but Franz was ready with a solution. "Anna, I want to go to graduate school, so we both simply apply to the same schools. Hopefully, we'll both get in somewhere, and that's where we'll go.

Sven reentered the story as they considered a university to attend. As a gay college student he was aware of stories of gays in the newspapers and magazines. He'd seen Tim's picture on the cover of Sports Illustrated while he'd been a high school senior, and again on Time in his freshman year of college. Once he had come out to Franz, and found that Franz was completely accepting of his orientation, he shared these stories. Both Sven and Franz had admired the University of North Dakota because it had allowed Tim and Charlie to thrive there. So when Franz had been looking for a graduate school in a university with a good undergraduate program for Anna he thought of UND. Two applications later, they were both on their way. Franz would be working on a Ph.D. in German and Anna on a liberal arts degree with no clear major in mind. It would be years later before Tim would learn how he had attracted this family to Grand Forks and UND.

Sven wasn't headed for graduate school. He was eager to move to San Francisco and explore the openly gay community out there. He easily got a job with a freight forwarding company in the Port of San Francisco and a small apartment in the Castro. He was very out, very active, and very lonely. He found all the sex he wanted, but no love. In less than two years he'd had enough and he headed back to Iowa, Des Moines to be specific. He got a job with a freight handler in Des Moines and settled into a quiet life. He was out, but didn't make a big deal of it. He had a few short term partners, but didn't find love. But he had many friends, and found his life to be much more agreeable than life in the Castro. He kept in touch with Franz, but they didn't see each other very often-North Dakota and Iowa aren't that close to each other.

We can assume that, upon marriage, Franz and Anna started using more than their fingers: Anna got pregnant her freshman year and stayed home to be a mother instead of attending her sophomore year. John and Antje were glad to continue the same financial support to the couple that they'd been giving them as students, thus making it possible for Anna to be a full time mother.

Jody was born on October 13, 1969, at Deaconess Hospital in Grand Forks. He was 22 1/8 inches long, a length described by his doctors as "off the charts." Weighing 8 3/4 pounds he was a fairly average weight. His weight and height taken together suggested that he'd be a very tall string bean. Looking at him today suggests that that prediction was correct.

Jody grew up as an only child in a loving household. After he set off for first grade Anna returned to college and completed her degree, but she didn't chose to work outside the home. She found that, despite the feminist manifestos she was subjected to by some of her friends and fellow students, she was fulfilled providing a home for her two men, and guiding Jody through his early years.

Early crying as he went to sleep was cured by bringing him into hers and Franz' bed. Both she and Franz were comfortable with that, having found in their childhoods that they hated to sleep alone. They worried a little as this pattern continued into Jody's teen years, but every time he, or they, decided that it was time to change the pattern Jody would have a hard time sleeping, and this soon made him irritable and disagreeable to be with. A return to the three in a bed sleep pattern would bring sleep to him and peace to the household.

When I heard that, I simply couldn't resist asking the obvious question. "What about sex?" I suppose that that could've been offensive, but this seemed to be a no holds barred conversation.

Franz was quick with an answer, "My schedule is my own, and Anna and I got in the habit of short naps after lunch, preceded or followed by appropriate romps in the hay."

Jody said, "But they weren't totally secretive. I can remember a number of times when their urges got the best of them at night. My sex education wasn't lacking."

"It's been a long time," said Franz.

"Nuts," said Jody. "You fucked Mom two nights ago while you thought I was sleeping."

Anna giggled. "I don't think we've been as careful as we thought we were," she said.

Franz said, "Pretending to sleep. Spying; it seems to me."

"On the contrary," said Jody. "By lying there quietly I let you and Mom enjoy yourselves by doing what comes naturally. If you'd thought I was awake you'd have ended up frustrated."

Sue said, "OK, we've talked about everything here, what about masturbation?"

Franz said, "I think it's the same as our sex. I think he mostly does it in his room after school, but we've watched a time or two in bed at night."

Jody said, "I know. I figured that if you weren't going to bother me, I wouldn't be bothered by the fact that you were awake."

Sue said, "I take it that you have a pretty big bed."

"We have what's called a California King. Jody's feet still hang over."

Anna said, "I guess that's the end of our story. I know it's been unusual, and perhaps shocking to some. But when Sue invited me over to talk about Hal and Jody I sensed that you folks would be open to hearing it."

Junior and Bud had been listening to the entire story, wide-eyed and totally silent. I think that they thought that if they had attracted any attention to themselves they might've been sent home or something. But we'd always let them be involved in adult conversation, and sex wasn't a forbidden subject. What they didn't understand wouldn't hurt them, and what they did understand would just widen their horizons. I did expect, however, to get a few questions on the way home! Now I turned to them and said, "I suppose you two boys understand that this isn't material for show and tell at school?"

Junior said, "Of course not, Dad."

Bud said, "Nobody would understand most of it; I'm not sure I did. Mom, can I sleep with you and Dad tonight?"

Junior said, "Then I have to sleep alone?"

That opened pandora's box, as everyone realized that both families had unusual sleeping arrangements. Sue said, "Your story's taken longer than we expected. I think we need to get these boys home; Junior has homework I'm sure. I know Jody does. Can you come to our house for dinner tomorrow night, and it'll be time for our story?"

That night as we headed to sleep Sue and I talked a while. I asked Sue, "Just how much of the story of the Gang are we going to tell tomorrow night?"

"Well, they didn't seem to hold anything back. Both Franz and Anna seemed to be pretty open with us, and they told us some things that they wouldn't want talked about on campus publically. And they know we're pretty good friends with Tim, so clearly they trust us-either not to share this stuff with Tim or to be completely confident that Tim wouldn't hold anything against them."

"We know that he wouldn't, but I still wouldn't tell any of their story to anyone without their permission."

"I think that we can be equally sure of them."

"So we tell all?"

"Well, I'm not sure what 'all' might be. Certainly they need to hear your story of camp and your successes since. And I don't think you should tell the sanitized version that's been published in the papers; if they're trusting you with their son-sleeping with him no less-they deserve the full story. As far as the Gang is concerned, we have to be a little careful about what we tell about other people. These aren't Gang members, remember. The Gang is entitled to privacy outside the Gang."

"Well, just how do we tell the story without telling about the Gang? You'll have to admit that the Gang is a pretty sexual group, and if that isn't part of the story, how could they possibly understand it?"

"Other than the original eight, I wouldn't go into names-except perhaps for Fred. Also, you don't need to talk about the threesome and foursome in those terms: use their public persona. I think you'll handle it fine. If I think you're telling too much, I'll simply say so. We can be honest in front of the Matthews."

The three Matthews arrived right on time the next evening, eager for dinner, but even more eager for story time. I sensed that Junior and Bud were eager for the story telling as well.

I began, "You know, I have almost no happy memories before the summer of 1961 when my parents sent me to a camp in the UP, Camp White Elk. I didn't really want to go; perhaps that's why they sent me to the last, and shortest, camp session. I'd been an unhappy boy, never really fitting in. I got along with my parents, but looking back on it, they really didn't have a clue about raising a child. So I set off to camp reluctantly, expecting not to fit in, to be teased, left out, chosen last-all the things that happen to a boy who doesn't fit in.

"From the beginning Camp White Elk was different. I was met by my Camp Counselor, Charlie, who welcomed me with a hug as well as a handshake. By noon all but one of the camper's in Charlie's group had arrived, and we began the, to me painful, process of getting to know one another. Tom was super friendly, and seemed determined to include me in the group, even as I tried to withdraw. Tim arrived during lunch and our group was complete. I can't say that I was happy, but nothing happened the first day or two to make me unhappy. Everybody was friendly, and I was included. That was true of a game of Capture the Flag we played one of the first evenings I was there. I was standing in the jail-where else does a loser end up-when Franklin arrives, tells the jailer he's going to borrow me, and picks me up, amazingly gently. Franklin the giant took me over to a little group which included Tom, Tim and Charlie. And that meeting is the beginning of the story of Hal."

I'm not going to retell it here; you know the story. Let's just say that I didn't leave much out, and I didn't edit it for public consumption. You can't really tell the story of the Gang without the sex, and I didn't try. I did focus on my running, my falling in love with Sue, my teaching, and my relationship to key persons: Charlie, Tim, the rest of the original Gang, Fred, Jody, and a few others. Sue interrupted from time to time to add her perspective. Out listeners sat in total silence, hardly moving, soaking up every word.

Junior and Bud were particularly silent; it seemed clear that they were operating on the principle that if they called attention to themselves they might be excluded from the story. In fact, Franz expressed surprise that I was willing for them, Bud especially, to hear the story, when it included some (certainly not all) of Sue's and my sexual adventures with members of the Gang. I said, "I'm sure that Bud learned a lot, but I don't see any reason for keeping secrets from the boys, and now is as good a time as any for both of the boys to learn some of the family story."

Sue said, "Now I have a question for Jody."

"Shoot," he replied.

"Just how did you learn about Charlie making love to legs of steel, and about the Gang's respect for the eighteen year old boundary?"

"I wanted to find out what to expect on our trip to Brookings. I talked to Charlie, and he told me most of it, including the business about legs of steel. I also guessed that Marty might be a good source, since I guessed he was part of the Gang if Fred was. Marty was an Olympic athlete so certainly had to have had some experience with the Gang's form of love and support. I learned a lot, but nothing like what I learned in the last three and a half hours!"

Anna asked, "All the Olympic athletes seem to end up as members of the Gang. Is that Jody's fate?"

I said, "Well, I can't speak for the Gang, but it's a reasonable thought. Not all of the Gang live in Grand Forks, but most do. Those that don't became Gang members before we became so focused on Grand Forks. I don't think that now we're looking for new Gang members that aren't committed to Grand Forks. So that's a bridge we'll have to cross in a while-and absolutely not before he's 18."

Jody said, "In junior high school I dreamed of growing up and moving south where there's less snow and more people. As I've gotten to know the Gang I've gathered more and more reasons to make my life here. Certainly if my running is as successful as I'm hoping it'll be, I'd want to go to college at UND to keep running with Hal."

Franz said, "What about your basketball?"

Jody said, "UND has a basketball team."

I said, "But probably not at your level. And the NBA isn't doing much recruiting in North Dakota."

"The only reason I'd want to play in the NBA is money. Pick up games in the park are more fun. The importance attached to money, the cutthroat competition, the excessive physicality of the game-it all turns me off the NBA. Yeah, it'd be nice to earn the kind of money you can earn in the NBA-if you're one of the stars-but I'm probably not quite tall enough, I'm only six eight and about finished growing. I'd enjoy playing UND basketball and running with you, Hal."

"You're not making any decisions tonight, Jody."

Anna said, "I sensed when this storytelling started that we were going to hear a most special tale from you all. We have. Thank you. And you can be certain that we'll respect your privacy. The story stays in our little threesome."

Sue said, "Thank you, we knew it would. We've both shared our inner secrets, and I know we'll all respect the fact that they're secrets."

That ended the storytelling and the evening. Jody told us the next morning that his parents were almost in a state of shock as the full impact of the story sank in. The love, the fact that people had shaped their whole lives to be part of the Gang, the sexuality, the incredible number of Olympic athletes, Tim and Charlie as a couple, the idea that almost everybody's a little gay and a little straight-the whole thing was overwhelming.

I asked, "Were they shocked or offended, especially by the sex?"

"No. Completely surprised; they certainly weren't ready for it. But they're very liberal, and though you guys are challenging, I think they were up to it." Jody paused for a moment and then went on, "You know, I turn 18 in October."


"The New York Marathon is November first. Shall we run?"

"We've never talked about New York. Boston in the spring; not New York. I've never run in New York."

"There's no time like the present."

"You know it's a huge race; thousands of runners. It might be difficult for us to stay together."

"I'm not worried, and you're making excuses. I realize that New York wasn't part of our deal, but it seems to me...."

"All right, I get the point. You want to run in New York, with me, and you think it'd be a good idea if I provided love and support the night before."


"I agree. But you need to understand that even if you're eighteen, none of the things that you seem to be dreaming of are going to happen on the night before the New York race."

"I'll be eighteen."

"And a high school student."

"But not in the school where you coach. We run together as friends."

"I'll tell you Jody, I'm not at all sure about how far to let our physical relationship go. Definitely not in New York. I'll rethink for Boston or the Olympic Trials, but no promises. You're pushing to cross a pretty important line."

"From the stories I heard the last couple of nights, neither you nor my parents have worried too much about lines."

"On the contrary; I heard a lot of lines detailed in both of our stories: your parents only used hands till they were married; they never crossed the line with other people; Tim and Charlie have a rigid line about fucking, not to mention the adult/child barrier. We, that is the entire Gang, have been very careful about lines. And once we establish them, we don't cross them."

"OK, Hal. Point well taken. Am I always going to be on the other side of your line?"

"No, Jody. You'll soon be eighteen, and we'll both be on the same side of that line. But we have a more complex relationship than just running pals. We both need to think a little about just how far we want to, or should, push a sexual relationship. I think you should talk to your parents a little more. In particular, see if they still believe that their childhood relationship was game playing rather than sexual."

About a week later, while we were cruising to cool down after a fast run, Jody said, "I did talk to my parents about their relationship as children. You're right, they aren't sticking to the idea that it wasn't sexual. But they don't think it was wrong, either. And they were very specific about you and me."

"You asked them about us?"

"Of course. They said that when I was an adult, by law and maturity, then any relationship between us was up to us. They warned me not to be disappointed if you weren't ready for a sexual relationship."

"Sounds like pretty sensible advice."

"Yeah, I thought so too. Especially when Dad ended the conversation with, 'Go for it!'"

"He what?"

"He said, 'Go for it!' But he went on. He told me, 'Jody, from what I can see Hal, Sue, Tim, Charlie and their Gang have their lives put together right. They're happy, moral, and doing a lot of good in the world. If you have a chance to be a part of that group, take it."

"It's not quite that simple, Jody. Being a part of the Gang is a huge commitment. It wasn't so much at the beginning. We all just started calling ourselves the Gang, and it grew from there. But today being a part of the Gang comes with privileges and obligations that aren't lightly undertaken."

"That's true of agreeing to being your running partner heading to the Olympics."

"Jody, you're quite a young man. You'll fit into the Gang. But we all want you to think about it: think about the sexual aspects of it, the commitment to love and support (emphasis on support) fifty other persons-unconditionally. The decision to live in Grand Forks, while not a prerequisite, nor a lifetime promise, is easily seen as the biggest thing about joining the Gang. It's not. It's that commitment to unconditional love and support. One doesn't undertake that lightly.

"Now then, it's going to take 2:22, maybe 2:21, to win in New York. We aren't ready for that. But I think we can hit 2:28. What do you think?"

"My best so far is 2:35 and a half. You think I can shave seven and a half minutes off my time?"

"New York will be a huge adrenalin rush. We may not have sex the night before, but you'll get love and support. So will I."

"Hal, I know that a lot of the Gang, and my parents, might want to come with us to New York to support us. But let's just the two of us go. We'll fly out a few days before, run every day to keep sharp, see the sights of New York, and run the race of our lives on Sunday."

"Just the two of us?"

"Just you and me."

"OK, Jody. Maybe that's a good idea."

"Mind you, I'm not rejecting the love and support of the Gang. I just think that right now a big event for just the two of us would be best for me psychologically. I hope I'm not being selfish in only thinking about what's best for me."

"No, I don't think so. I think a week with just the two of us will be good. I think by the end of the week, with the race behind us, we'll know whether the Olympics are in our future next year, or not. And we have to work like Hell the next couple of months to be ready."

"I love you, Hal."

"I love you, too, Jody. And I'll make this promise to you. When we come back from New York, if the Olympics are still in our future, there will no longer be a line between us."

"You mean that?"

"One thing you have to learn about the Gang, Jody: We always mean what we say, and questions like, 'You mean that?' while well intended, can be offensive. Yes, I mean that."

"Sorry, Hal. But, thanks. That means a lot to me."

"You mean a lot to me, Jody. I wouldn't be headed for my fourth Olympics had it not been for you."

There is more to this story, but Seoul was on the minds of more than Jody and me. Charlie is going to return to the keyboard and widen the story beyond just the marathoners.

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