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Finding Tim

A Fourth Alternate Reality

by Charlie
With editorial assistance from Dix and John


I-this is Hardie-think Charlie is getting hornier and hornier as he gets older. I have some stories to tell you, but nothing essential to moving this story forward. For that matter, do we really want to move this story forward? When we catch up to our lives as we live them, the story will end. I don't want it to end; I'm having too much fun reading Charlie's episodes. Back to my point: I think that Charlie asks new people to write episodes because he likes to read about new sexual adventures. We know that's why he wants each new writer to start with a sexual autobiography. Well, here goes. The problem is, you've already read my story. But I'll see what I can add.

I had no sense of being homosexual as I grew up in Iron River. The whole idea of same-sex sex was foreign to us. Well, I knew some of the boys were into circle jerking, and boys got depantsed from time to time, usually in very embarrassing situations with other boys looking on. But in no way could that kind of stuff be called gay sex. It was boys being boys. As I look back on it, especially in the context of all the stuff about bullying that you read today, our stuff was harmless. I can't think of any particular boy that was the butt of our teasing and pranks. We all came in for our share, and I can remember a time when the football quarterback was depantsed by the whole team because of a missed pass opportunity! We all got it from time to time and certainly we all participated in the giving.

I remember a day in tenth grade. I wasn't having a very good day. I'd forgotten some of my homework and the teacher had laid into me. Then in the cafeteria I spilled a dish of ice cream on the guy sitting next to me-right on his pants leg. He stood up and spoke to the group of boys around, "I need some help here." I was immediately surrounded, and it was very clear that I was going to go with the group, wherever they were taking me. I forgot about the rest of my lunch. We headed outdoors; it was winter and we weren't likely to find anybody behind the school in that weather. I found my pants sliding down my legs; I was lifted up so that they could be pulled off; then I was sat down on my bare ass in the snow. Then the kid whose pants leg was wet from ice cream picked up a handful of snow and rubbed in on my dick and balls. Ohhhh, was that cold. Then almost instantly I was left outside with my pants laying beside me. I brushed myself off, discovered that I had no underpants, and quickly put on my pants. They'd rubbed snow into the crotch, so that it looked like I had wet my pants! Later I found my wet underpants tucked into the handle of my hall locker. I have no idea how long they'd hung there, but I was teased about it all afternoon. By the next day, it was someone else's turn.

I lost my dad to a logging accident in the middle of my seventh grade year. A chain broke on a chain saw being operated near him. It whipped around and caught him in the leg, severing an artery. It was too high up his leg to apply a tourniquet, and he bled to death before an ambulance could get there. I loved my dad and it was a bitter loss. My mom was like a rock through the whole thing, though I knew she was hurting badly. When we were finally ready for bed on the night of the accident she told me to come to bed with her. We lay side by side in their big bed-well, now it was Mom's big bed. She said, "Hardie, we'll get through this. We have each other. We're a family, and that's what counts. Your dad wasn't able to leave us much, but he did leave us this house, which was your grandfather's house. Several times people told him to get a mortgage on it so he'd have money to fix it up, or do something else he wanted. But he wouldn't hear of it. So we own this house free and clear. It will be our retreat, our safe haven. Here we will feel your father's presence and his strength. Now, I know that I'm going to have to get used to sleeping alone, but not tonight. Hug me Hardie. I need you. I need your strength." She was my strength as well. And we made it. It was tough sometimes, but we made it.

Through junior high school I got to watch Tim and Billy when they visited the high school in the summer in order to use the diving boards and platform. Coach Wilson was well aware that he couldn't have a winning swimming and diving team in high school unless the kids started serious practicing in junior high school. So he had a program for junior high kids on Tuesday and Thursday evening and on Saturday. That group got invitations to come to the pool to watch Tim, Billy and Willie (and sometimes Bob) whenever they visited. It was exciting. All of them were wonderful guests, helped us all with our diving as they could, and made us all feel so very important. In the summer before my tenth grade year I got to know Willie a little better, and I had a sense that we were sort of friends. But a few days in the summer does not a make a friendship.

Sometime that winter I got a telephone call from Willie Carson. I'm not sure that I ever really was aware of his last name. It was just Tim and Billy, and the boys Willie and Bob. Mom called me to the telephone and I heard Willie saying, "Hardie, this is Willie, Willie Carson."

"Hello.... Willie."

"The diver, Billy's son."

"Oh, sorry. Hi, Willie. Why're you calling in the middle of winter?"

"I think that I would like to be on Coach Wilson's diving team. That means going to your high school. That means I need a place to live. Do you think that your mother would be willing to rent me a room? And would you like a little kid two years younger than you around the house?"

That was a lot to take in all at once. I said, "Wait a minute, Willie. You live in Indiana, right? What do you mean go to my high school?"

"I mean I like Coach Wilson better than the local coach here. I'm very serious about my diving, and I'm picking my school to get the best coach."

"Coach Wilson is good, but certainly he isn't the best high school coach in the world. Why here?"

"I'm serious. Coach Wilson. And I think I'd like to live with you. How does that sound to you?"

I've read Willie's granddad's description of his telling his parents he wanted to go to school in Iron River. They were pretty shocked. Well, I was in a much more serious state of shock. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I knew that Willie had become one of the top divers in the country. I knew he was a nice kid. I had kind of hoped that he liked me; he'd seemed to the previous summer. Now he was talking about wanting to live with me and go to school with me. I managed to say, "I don't know what to say, Willie. I'd love to have you here, but it doesn't make a lot of sense."

"Let me make sense of it, Hardie. Right now, if you like the idea, put your mom on the line and she can talk to my mom. It's up to them to work it out."

Mom had been listening, and might've gotten a little bit of a clue as to what was up, but she was almost as flustered talking to Willie's mom as I was talking to Willie. It ended up with her agreeing to have Willie and his family visit us in Iron River and see if it could be worked out for Willie to be a Wycon. Eight visitors arrived: Willie, his brother Bob, his parents, his grandparents Bill and Martha, and Tim and Charlie.

Now that we know the Gang well, we'd have no trouble housing all of that group in our big old house in Iron River. But we didn't know them well; in fact we'd never met Willie's mom or grandparents, nor Charlie. So we arranged for them to stay in a motel. There isn't much secret in a small UP town, and we learned shortly after they left that they'd only had two rooms at the motel. We spent some time trying to figure out how that group of eight got into only two rooms. Now I understand.

Well, you know that it all worked out. You know that Willie and I hit it off, diving, pretending to be brothers, and finally becoming lovers. We'd often talk late into the night. Willie knew that I was dating quite a few girls, and he asked a lot of questions. It wasn't long before he was inviting girls on dates as well. He couldn't drive, so he either double dated with me, or he walked. But the distance to the one movie in town was easily walkable, as was the diner on Route 2 which was where almost all teenage dates ended in the evening. Willie knew that I was sexually active with some of the girls, and he got the report when I fucked a couple of them. Without condemning me, he did ask whether I thought fucking girls in high school was a good idea.

I said, "Sure. I think every boy in Iron River fucks somebody before he leaves high school."

"How many girls get pregnant?"

"I've known of a couple."

"That isn't good. Did the boys take responsibility? Marry the girl?"

"One did; one didn't."

"Not good. Would you marry a girl you got pregnant?"

"I hate to even think about that."

"That's why not fucking is a good idea. Then you don't have to think about it."

"We use rubbers."

"I'm reminded of a little ditty:

"My sister sells cheap prophylactics,

She punctures the head with a pin,

Her aunt does back room abortions,

My God how the money rolls in, rolls in,

My God how the money rolls in."

"I get my rubbers in a sealed pack in the gas station men's room."

"Quality assured by the gas company, I presume."

"OK, Willie. You're right, fucking probably isn't that great an idea."

"You said it, not me."

The next thing out of my mouth surprised me more than it did Willie. "If I don't fuck my next date, will you take care of my needs later that night?'

Willie didn't miss a beat, "Sure, I will. You'll like my blow job as well as fucking a girl."

Well, I did. The next Saturday night we double dated two nice girls that we'd both dated before. We went to a movie-a pretty standard date in Iron River. Willie and his girl just watched the movie. Julie and I let our hands wander-enough that I got pretty hard, and she certainly felt it. She whispered to me, "I don't want to go any further tonight."

"Neither do I, but this is fun."

Her answer was to squeeze my very hard dick, and slip her hand under my belt. That put her on top of my underwear but under my jeans. From there she could really play, but nothing happened. She didn't encourage me to go beyond her tits, and I didn't. The movie ended. We walked to the diner-about two blocks, had a burger and ice cream, and then walked home. We took Julie first, then Willie's date, and then we walked home. "No fucking tonight?" asked Willie.

"Not tonight. Julie made it plain that she didn't want to, and neither did I."

"You want to collect on that blow job?"

"Are you serious, Willie?"

"Dead serious."

"Are you homosexual?"

"I just enjoyed a nice date with a girl. It wasn't my first. But I'll enjoy giving you a blow job."

"Then you're going to want me to give you one."

"Not necessarily. That's up to you, tonight, some other time, or never. If you don't give me a blow job tonight, or do something else to me, then I'll jack off. You can watch, or I'll go back to my own room."

"It doesn't bother you to talk about sex like this?"

"No. I grew up with a bunch of people that were involved in quite a bit of sex. They had a rule. If you can't talk about it, you shouldn't be doing it. Talking about sex was always OK. With my parents. With my friends. With my aunts and uncles. It was just natural to talk to you the same way. Does it bother you?"

"Not when you put it that way."

Well, Willie did give me a blow job that night. To me he seemed like a pro, but he insisted that it was the first time he'd ever had sex with anyone. "Hardie, before I came here I was in eighth grade. I'd just started to masturbate the summer before I got here. Who would I have had sex with? Who would I have given a blow job?"

"One of your fellow divers in Bloomington. I know you dove in a club with older boys and girls."

"Well, I never had sex with any of them. It was never discussed. Maybe some of the older kids were into something, but they didn't involve us little kids and they didn't talk about it to us."

I know enough about hormones that I knew that Willie needed to have an orgasm, and I decided that it was up to me. I pulled him to me and rubbed his dick with my hand. He seemed quite content to let me jack him off like that, but I decided that fair is fair. I took him in my mouth, and pumped up and down on him. It didn't take him long to come. He had swallowed my cum, so I did the same for him.

Our sexual relationship continued, but it didn't usually involve blow jobs. I still enjoyed dating girls, and Willie seemed to like to as well. That state of affairs continued for years. You know that we came out to Mom, and Coach, who soon became Dad. God, that was a wonderful thing in my life. I'd really missed my Dad. But my father as a person faded in my memory as time went on. That's sad, but at the same time it is essential for the living to get on with their lives. But I missed having a dad, doing things with him, having a man in the house. A high school boy shouldn't have to BE the man in the house. With Coach moving in, I had a dad again. And I truly loved him. And he accepted Willie and me as gay lovers. That was hard on Coach, but he came through-as Mom, Willie and I knew he would. Charlie's already told you the story of Coach's progression to member of the Gang.

You know, I think the three most outstanding events in my life (well, excluding being born) were standing on the podium with Willie, listening to "The Star Spangled Banner" being played for Willie and me; standing with no clothes on as I joined the Gang; and standing in a white Speedo in the Marty Center when I married Connie. I don't even want to try to put those in some kind of rank order; they were all magic moments.

Well, here begins my story. Connie and I had a life to live and we really didn't have any idea what was in store for us in that life. Unlike most newly married couples, we had a house (thanks to Fred and Shel), even though we weren't as yet certain who was going to be living in it with us. And we had a little nest egg (thanks to some endorsements that I got jointly with Willie as a result of our tandem diving gold).

Connie and I had two things to settle very quickly. We had to get together with the Cavers and talk about the offer of a house. Then I needed to discern the future of my diving career. That couldn't be a one person decision; I was Willie's partner, perhaps his key to a second try at triple gold. Amazingly, Willie and I'd never talked about where, or when, it would all end. Our eyes had been glued on the Atlanta Olympics, which were then only a little over a month behind us.

But the house was first, and Connie and I invited all of the original nine Cavers to the house the day after Shel showed it to us. While we toured the house, I refused to give any hint as to why they were all there. Then we gathered in the kitchen-the only room with chairs-and I explained Fred and Shel's offer. "They aren't giving the Cavers the house, but they will do whatever is needed to make it possible for us to live in it and eventually own it. The question we have to answer is, 'Is that what we want?'"

Seth said, "Janice and I are living with my folks, and we're certainly ready to move out. This is a lovely house. But I think that the real question isn't about the house, but the relationship that the Cavers want to have-perhaps for the rest of our lives."

Austin said, "Lucy and I will soon be getting married. We've talked about where we'd like to live, and we want to stay right here in Grand Forks,

and the main reason for that is to be near the other Cavers. We're in love with the group, and we'd like to stay with the group. We've just sort of assumed that everyone was going to stay in Grand Forks. But we've also talked about building our own little house, somewhere on the edge of town, outside of the flood plain. Living in a communal house hadn't even crossed our minds."

Janice said, "Well, now that it has crossed your mind, is it an appealing idea?"

"I'm not sure."

"That's honest."

Nick and Evan were sitting together, holding hands. Nick said, "I think I can speak for both of us. I love the idea and I'm sure that Evan does as well; I could feel positive vibes as Hardie was talking."

Nels said, "The Circle is the model for this, and I'm sure that it was Shel's observation of the Circle that led him to propose this for us. It sounds wonderful to me. But remember, Shel and I are COGs-I'm the only one here that's had that experience. Believe me, being raised as a COG really is different. Your experiences in the Cave have been similar, but imagine them starting at birth, involving a larger group, and involving your parents. I can completely understand that some of us here wouldn't want the kind of communal living that we see in The Roundhouse. Life in the Cave is not 24/7 communal living-which is what is on the table here."

Lucy said, "I think there's another issue here. The Cavers are a gymnastics group. We add younger gymnasts as they're ready, and it would seem that following the Atlanta Olympics that some, if not most, of us are ready to move on to other things. That's going to make us former Cavers. But the house would freeze a particular group of persons into a long term relationship. It would also freeze others out. Yes, it's true that we would never exclude anyone, but the house can't continue to absorb a bunch of new Cavers. So this group, the first Cavers, become a kind of exclusive group. I think that might harm the future of the Cavers as Marty's top gymnastics group."

Connie said, "There's a lot to that argument. If some or all of us decide to live in this house, it should be a decision by individuals who happen to be Cavers, and not a group decision of the Cave."

Nels said, "I think I hear three of the couples here being very positive about living as a group in this house. Two others seem uncertain, and it may be that they really are certain that they don't like the idea, but haven't been willing to say so at this point in order to let the conversation proceed. Perhaps its time to test that, and ask each couple to share their true feelings."

Mary said, "I think we ought to give each couple a chance to talk alone to each other first. Come on, Nels, let's us go upstairs and chat for a while."

Each of the couples faded away, leaving Connie and me alone in the kitchen. I said, "You were right, Connie. The group didn't all jump on this idea with wild abandon. What about you?"

"Hardie, I love the idea. But even more, I like the way that I think this is going."

"How's that?"

"Shel wants to live in this house. Clearly Nels does. I'll bet Mary and Brian will be brought along by Nels and Shel. Nick and Evan are for it. So are you and I."

I interrupted, "There would be room to invite Willie and whoever his partner turns out to be."

"Ten would be a perfect number for this house-there are five large bedrooms on the second floor It wouldn't be the Cavers house, it would be the house of ten dear friends. I think Seth, Janice, Austin, and Lucy will stay in Grand Forks, but I think they'll want their own houses. It works out perfectly."

And that is eventually what happened. We all gathered back in the kitchen and each couple affirmed the position that they had tentatively put forward earlier. Seth, Janice, Austin, and Lucy expressed their fear that they were disappointing the others by not wanting to join in the communal housing. Connie responded, "I think that the person that was really counting on this was Shel, and he sort of accidently-and I think it really was accidental-let it slip that he wouldn't mind if it didn't work out for the Cavers, because he really had his heart set on living here. The six of us here that have indicated they would like to live here need to talk about inviting Shel, and that would also mean Brian."

"How old is Shel?"

"He's thirteen, fourteen in December," said Nels.

"He's not really old enough to move in here."

I said, "Brian is."

"Would Brian want to live here before Shel could?"

I said, "Well, first of all, Brian is madly in love with Shel, but can't live with him yet. I would think moving in here, with Shel to follow when he's eighteen, would suit Brian fine."

Nels said, "Let's get the elephant in the room out in the open. There's going to be sex in this house, and it isn't going to be limited to our partners. We all know that. I happen to know that Shel and Brian have talked about sex and have discussed the fact that chastity for the next four years is unrealistic for both of them."

"You're suggesting that Brian would be looking for more than housemates if he moved in here?"

"For sure."

Mary exclaimed with glee, "He's one sexy guy; it sounds great to me."

"He's very gay, you know?"

"Only if he can hold out against the wiles of two equally sexy girls."

Nels said, "Hardie, what about Willie?"

"He'll move in in a minute. Before very many more minutes have passed he'll have had sex with all of us. Someday, perhaps, he'll settle down to one person, probably a girl. She'll have to be very special to make it with Willie, but for that special girl a life of wonder and pleasure is awaiting. Believe me, I know. I am who I am solely because of Willie."

Nels said, "OK, there's one more thing we have to talk about."

Evan said, "What's that?"

"I think Hardie knows what I'm thinking of. All of you know what the Gang is. Hardie's the only one here who is actually a member of the Gang. He joined when Willie did. Willie was the first COG, that is Child of the Gang to reach 18 and be invited to join the Gang. A lot of the COGs aren't yet18, but I think we're going to see most of them join. I'm quite sure that the Gang would be ready to extend membership to all of us here."

"What about Shel?"

"Not till he's 18. That's a rule for which there aren't going to be exceptions, no matter how exceptional the young person is."

Nick said, "I don't think that any of us should join the Gang till Shel moves in and can join with us."

Evan said, "He wouldn't be living here."

"No, but Brian would. And I guarantee you that Brian wouldn't join without Shel."

Nel said, "OK, that works for me. But Seth, Janice, Austin, and Lucy aren't going to be living here. They're older. I think I should talk to my Dad about joining."

Janice said, "Oh, no. We'll all go together when we go."

Nels immediately piped up, half singing, "All suffused with an incandescent glow."

Austin asked, "What was that, Nels."

Nels said, "The Tom Lehrer song, 'We Will All Go Together When We Go'."

"Who's Tom Lehrer?"

Nels answered, "A comic singer. Haven't you heard of him?"

The all looked blank. "None of you?"


"You've never heard the song, 'The Old Dope Peddler'?"

More silence.

"You'll have to come over to my house and listen to some of my dad's records from the fifties."

"You listen to records?"

"Mom and Dad have a CD, but I like to listen to Dad's old records. My favorites are some of the old Broadway shows from the fifties. I really like Rodgers and Hammerstein. Their big show was Oklahoma!, but the one you've probably heard of is The Sound of Music."

"You've got to be kidding. Do you really listen to that stuff?"

"A more important question," said Evan, "is, 'Are we all going to have to listen to that stuff if we all move in together?'"

Connie raised her voice and said, "Yes. We're all going to have to get used to what the others like. We'll have separate rooms, but we can't expect people to stay cooped up in them. We're all going to have to get used to each others likes and dislikes. Can we handle that?"

Evan said, "Of course. And I'm already curious about this Tom Lehrer fellow. What's this about an 'incandescent glow'?"

Nels said, "You have to hear it to appreciate it. I'll share some of my music with you after we all get moved in here."

Janice said, "If I may get back to the subject...."

Seth put in, "Which was?"

"Joining the Gang. I think it would be a great honor to be invited by that incredible group to join them, and it would be a great opportunity for all of us. I can't imagine anyone saying, 'No.' But, we're a group, and we go as a group. And the folks living in this house will be a group, and they're going to have to wait for Shel. So we all wait for Shel."

Seth said, "Absolutely."

Austin and Lucy nodded in agreement. Nobody protested, as it was clearly the right thing not to divide the Cavers and have some in the Gang and some not. The fact that Willie and I were already part of the Gang was just accepted as a fact, but it wasn't allowed to affect the Cavers' decision.

So Connie and I had faced the first of our two big decisions-where we'd live. Next up was my future in diving.

Connie told me, "Hardie, you have to have a serious conversation with Willie about the future-your future and his. You really don't know whether he wants to continue as a competitive diver or not. And I'm not sure you've made up your own mind on that subject. Have you?"

"Honestly, Connie, what I want doesn't make a bit of difference. I'm going to do what Willie wants."

"Hardie, you have to think about yourself as well. You can't just follow Willie like a puppy dog."

"That's not it. I am who I am because of Willie. Take Willie out of the picture and I'd still be working in the hardware store in Iron River. I wouldn't have gone to college, dived in the Olympics, met you, come to North Dakota, or become part of the Gang. If Willie wants to dive another four years, and would like me with him, I'll be there."

"Willie wouldn't want you to do that unless you wanted to. He'd be very uncomfortable thinking that you were doing it just for him."

"That's right. And that's why Willie will never find out about this conversation. I'm going to find out what he wants and that's what I want. There's no way I'm going to express my own wishes here, not even to myself."

"Hardie, can you really be that selfless?"

"I don't think of it that way. I hitched my wagon to Willie's star. It's been a wonderful ride. I'm still going to hang on."

"I love you Hardie. I'm going to hang on to you just that way you're hanging on to Willie."

"We'll hang in there together, Connie. I love you, too."

Willie and I had been in the pool very little since the Olympics. Not long after the wedding he called me up and said, "Let's meet at the pool tomorrow morning. Say about nine."

"Sounds good to me."

I wasn't sure whether Willie was simply ready to return to our old routine-which usually involved meeting at the pool about eight-or whether he had something else on his mind. Connie and I thought about it that evening, but we couldn't guess. We would simply have to wait and see what Willie had in mind for the morning.

Willie and I did meet at nine, and he seemed ready for a routine practice. That involved swimming laps, doing all sorts of solo dives, and then working on tandem diving. I loved it. Watching Willie dive was like watching Rembrandt paint: he was perfection in motion. I knew I wasn't as good as he, but I was good, and I enjoyed my own diving. Well, Hell, it's natural for people to like to do what they're good at. The tandem diving was simply icing on the cake. I've seen Charlie say that it seemed like two bodies controlled by one mind. Let me tell you, that mind was Willie's. We'd start with him doing a dive again and again with me watching until I was sure I had him completely pictured in my mind. Then I'd do the dive until Willie was satisfied with what he saw. Then we'd hold hands at the bottom of the ladder till we both seemed ready. One of us would squeeze the other's hand, we'd separate and head up the ladder. It was my job to watch Willie out of the corner of my eye. His job was to completely ignore me and do a perfect dive. My body just seemed to move along with his. It took incredible practice to get them exactly right, but we did. We'd videotape the dives so we could look at the tape and see where we differed. This morning, we simply did dives we knew well, and we didn't get out the camera. Finally, at about 11:30 Willie called it quits. We headed to the showers.

Standing in the shower Willie looked me over and said, "You're beautiful; all of you. I know why Connie fell in love with you."

"You know, Willie, I struggled-we both struggled-with whether we wanted to be partners or to each find a girl to marry. I feel bad that I found the girl and you haven't yet."

"I'll find her, don't you worry."

"I hope so."

"What're you going to do this year? Are you ready to face the world and look for a job?"

"What about you?"

"I asked you first."

"No, Willie, I need to know what you want to do. Are you looking for a trip to Sydney?"

"Honest, Hardie, I don't know. Olympic medals are kind of addictive. I've been to three Olympics, beginning at age 14. I'm just turning 23 and I'll only be 26 for the Games in Sydney. On the other hand, I'd be pretty smart to quit on top. My three golds in diving are unprecedented, and I think it may be a long time before that trick is done again."

I said, "Willie, if we worked at it, you might get four golds in Sydney."

"Or none."

"Wouldn't you like a shot at four?"

"Honestly, Hardie, I'm not sure I want to spend the next four years of my life diving into a pool. We could take a few months break. You could enjoy married life with Connie; I'd find plenty to do. But if we think we're going to collect medals in Sydney, we've got to be back at the grind by late winter. You can't let up, or you're finished. Can you face another four years of constant diving practice?"

"You know, Willie, when you begin asking yourself those questions, just asking them provides the answer. If you're going to go after four golds in Sydney, there can't be any doubt about your goal, and your devotion to it."

"You're right, Hardie, and I do have doubts. So I guess that answers the question. But what about you? If you want to head for Sydney, I'll be right there with you. We make the best damn tandem pair in the world-except, of course, for Tim and my dad. Shit, maybe they're thinking of Sydney. If they are, there goes my chance of four golds. If anybody deserves four golds in Sydney, it's one of them."

I said, "I'd be quite willing to bet that Billy and Tim are completely retired. But they'll go right on diving as if they weren't."

Willie said, "I know. But that isn't for me. I don't want to never dive again, but there's no way I'm going to keep it up they way they do."

"Me neither."

"I want to talk to Tim and my dad. Will you come with me?"

"Of course."

By evening Willie had arranged for both of us to meet with Tim and Billy at Dakota House. Tim and Charlie were just finishing dinner as we arrived. We would all have been very happy to have Charlie join in our conversation, but he simply shooed us into the living room while he cleaned up his and Tim's dinner. A little later we heard him head upstairs.

In the living room the conversation was pretty straightforward. Willie was completely open and frank about his thoughts about the future. He said pretty much the same things that he'd said to me in the afternoon. Amazingly, Tim's response was almost the same as mine. "Willie, if you have sufficient doubt to want to come and talk to me and your dad, then you've answered your own question. But there's a very important issue that has thus far been left unaddressed."

Willie replied, "You mean that I need to be thinking of Hardie as well as me, right?"


Willie continued, "Well, see if you can get Hardie to tell you what he wants, I can't."

Tim seemed to have a sixth or seventh sense about him. Just as he had responded to Willie as I had, he now turned to me and asked, "You aren't going to tell us, are you, Hardie? You're going to follow Willie to the ends of the earth, right?"


Willie said, "That's not fair to Hardie, but I can't budge him."

Tim said, "Willie, I completely understand Hardie. In his eyes he owes you his life. There's no way he's going to deny you your druthers for the next four years. If you want a shot at four golds, he wants you to go for it. I'd be willing to bet that Hardie hasn't really thought through what his preference would be. Have you, Hardie?"

With Tim anything but the truth simply wouldn't fly. "No, I haven't. It doesn't make any difference. You have exactly stated my position. I haven't thought about which alternative I'd like, and thus I can't be disappointed, no matter which course Willie follows. But I told Willie this afternoon almost exactly what you told him this evening. If we're having this conversation, then he really isn't ready for the complete four-year commitment that would be involved in taking a shot at four gold medals in Sydney."

Billy said, "Well, Willie, it's all on the table. I'm reminded of the day that Tim put it to me in exactly the same way. It's all or nothing. I know you're able to, but are you ready and willing?"

Willie looked at me as if he could read an answer on my face. Then he turned to his father and said, "No. I'm ready to move on with my life. But I didn't want to disappoint any of the three people in this room. I love you all; I owe everything to you all; and I love you all the more for supporting me now. And, Hardie, don't you for one minute believe that I owe you less than you owe me. You've been a rock for years, whether we were diving, loving, studying, or just goofing off, you've always been my support. I love you."

"I love you, too, Willie. And I'm not disappointed in the decision that you've made tonight. Connie and I are ready to move forward. And I do thank you for moving forward with this decision and not ignoring it, or vacillating. That could've hurt us both."

Tim asked, "Are you going to continue to dive with the UND team?"

Willie answered, "Sure. They are a good group and fun to dive with. And I think my presence helps them. But I'm pretty sure that you'll find that my practice times diminish as I move on to other things in my life."

Hardie put in, "I think the same will be true for me. I just don't know. But I don't want to quit diving cold turkey; it's become too much a part of my life."

Tim said, "There are a few people that we need here. I'll ask Charlie to call your mom and grandparents, Willie. And, Hardie, call Connie and your parents and ask them to join us."

Within very few minutes we were eleven strong, and Billy told the group that Willie and Hardie had an announcement. Willie turned to me and said, "You tell them, Hardie."

I said, "It's very simple, Willie and I are retiring from competitive diving. Right now. Our last dives in competition were the tandem dives in Atlanta that won us our last Olympic medals."

Willie broke in, "And we want to thank all of you for the wonderful love and support you've given to both of us over the years."

Charlie, bless him, accomplished the Carl thing by breaking out Cokes. He said, "A toast. To Hardie and Willie, the greatest divers since Tim and Billy. We love them dearly, and are privileged to know that they love us just as much."

He couldn't have gotten it more right.

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