On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States decided the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, and that decision made same-sex marriage legal throughout the United States. There were a few skirmishes with county clerks in Alabama, Texas, and Kentucky (and perhaps elsewhere), but those are virtually all resolved. Same-sex couples can get married anywhere in the United States.
That meant that Tim and I could get married.
Tim and I talked about the case, and were delighted to see the country move in that direction. But our discussions didn't include our personal situation. Tim never once mentioned the idea of our getting married, and neither did I, though I thought about it.
You may wonder why I didn't bring up the subject. I guess I wondered about that as well. The answer touches a much deeper issue in the relationship between Tim and Charlie. It's been mentioned a number of times in this story–most ofter by Tim's parents, Norman and Betsy. On several occasions they asked me how I felt about being number two to Tim's number one. I always insisted, and I still insist, that we're equals. In our personal relationship that's true. You readers of this story of our lives have a very clear picture of the relationship between Tim and me. We treat each other as equals. He doesn't push his will or desires on me, nor me on him. Sure we've had disagreements. Not in the sense of arguments, but in the sense that he'd prefer alternative A, while I'd prefer alternative B. Sometimes we do A, sometimes B, and somethings we forge a compromise.
Of course, if we're talking about decisions regarding the University of North Dakota, he makes the decision–that's what they pay a President to do. In the law school I make the decision. Sometimes that puts Tim in a difficult situation if he thinks that I'm making a mistake about something in the law school. In fact, I know that there've been a couple of times when he might've reversed the decision of another dean, but didn't with me–simply to protect our personal relationship. By the way, on the two occasions that I can think of, I turned out to be right once, and he was right once. We've laughed about that, and he's admitted that he keeps "hands off" the dean of law more than he does any of the other deans.
But in the real world I'm number two to his number one: He's the president; I'm the chancellor or dean. He has twenty-five Olympic medals and I have three. Sixteen of those were gold; two of mine were. In sailing he was the helm; I was the crew–damn good thing too, or we'd never've gotten that medal. He's had spectacular success as a fundraiser; well, so have I, but only in the narrow halls of he school of law–he started as an undergraduate and is still going strong. I could name a lot of other ways in which he's number one to my number two–or higher. I need to note that he's never put me down, never leveraged his greater success in our relationship, never acted superior. But, let's face it, he is superior. I first called him a Nordic God. That was referring to his looks–OK, he's too short to be a Nordic God, but he still looks like one at the age of seventy. But he's god-like in his achievements as well as his looks. I constantly feel exceptionally privileged that he chose to love me. And do remember, he chose me, not the other way around.
So how do I relate to this number two status? It doesn't bother me a bit. Honest to God. I'm the caboose on his train, and so glad to be pulled along that I never resent not being the engine, or even one of the cars. Remember, I was a slightly better than average student at a second tier liberal arts college when we met. I think I might've made my way to law school and had a decent career as a lawyer. Or maybe as a Red Cross executive. Or maybe as a minor author. Olympic athlete? Hell, no. Clerk for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States? You have to be kidding. Dean of Law? Joke. But that's what's happened to me being the caboose on Tim's train. Do I like it back here? I sure as Hell do. (OK, just so you know. I always capitalize the word Hell. Several readers of this story have pointed out that such capitalization isn't standard. I know; I've checked the dictionary. But I learned, sometime in my youth, that Hell and God should be capitalized. So I capitalize them. If you don't like it: go to Hell.)
So Tim never thinks of me as number two, but I do, in fact, think of myself that way. And it does affect our relationship a little, though I don't think Tim's aware of it. And this business of our getting married is an example. I was very content to wait until Tim moved on this issue, as I was sure he would. I very consciously decided not to prompt him. I waited.
It was about a year and a half after the Supreme Court decision that Tim brought up the subject. We were at dinner. He got up, walked around the table to the side of my chair, got down on his knee, and said, "Charlie, will you marry me?"
It took me a minute to absorb the question, and then more than another minute to absorb the circumstances of the question. But once it penetrated by brain, the answer was simple, "Oh, God, yes, Tim."
He responded with a kiss and then handed me a little box. "I got the idea from Viv. Except that I don't think we need engagement rings–we've been engaged for fifty-three years."
I opened the box and inside was a single silver ring. Tim informed me later that it wasn't silver, but platinum–silver tarnishes too quickly. Inside the band were the words, "Tim'n Charlie, 2017." He quickly said, "That's my ring, it fits my small finger. I didn't have any idea of your ring size, so yours won't be made until you go to the jeweler and get your finger sized."
I said, "Tim, it's wonderful. Let's go to the jeweler tomorrow. Now, Tim, tell me, 'Why now?'"
"I've been thinking about it for some time. I thought you might suggest that we get married, but I wasn't really waiting for you. When the court decision came we were about to head into Olympic fever season, and I didn't want a wedding–I guess we're going to have one–getting all bollixed up with the Olympics. And I just had to stew a little. We've been together fifty-three years; that's since you arrived at my door and we committed to each other. It doesn't count the forty months of purgatory. Marriage certainly won't change anything for us. But it's a statement, and one that I think we should make. Will you join me in that?"
"I already said, 'Yes'."
"I know. And I knew you would."
He'd been sitting on my lap since he showed me the box. I said, "Go back to your chair and let's finish dinner. We've got a lot to talk about."
When he was back in his seat and continuing to eat I said, "Just what kind of a wedding ceremony do you have in mind? Don't try to tell me that you haven't thought about it."
"I have, and I've imagined a lot of different possibilities."
"I'll be you have. I suppose they start with something small in the field house and go on up to filling the football stadium."
"We could elope."
"I think we need a few extra people added to this conversation."
"For starters, Franklin and Phil. They've delayed getting married because of us. They have a right to be involved in this."
"Right. Who else?"
"As in Toppy the guy who plans all huge extravaganzas."
"Exactly. And then add Andy, Marty, and Perry."
"Because they're the moneybags."
"That's right. Depending on how this plays out, Fred's money–either through Fred's Sports, controlled by Perry and Andy, or Fred's trust for the Gang, controlled by Marty–is likely to be involved."
"Your parents and our sons, Max and Milt, and Viv along with Milt."
"That's a long list."
"Yep, but you don't want to leave out any of them."
"What about the rest of the Gang, or at least the original eight? Four of the eight are on your list."
"And if the eight, what about spouses?"
"I think the eight should all be included, but the spouses have always been willing to have the eight get together without spouses. I think this should be one of those times."
"OK, we include the eight. That makes a total of seventeen. How about dinner next Friday night, if they all can come?"
"Do we get Jerry's or the University Food Service to cater?"
"The university will send students to serve, that makes it easy on us. What shall we serve?"
"Two pork loins, with different sauces."
"Our two favorites: cherry and apricot, right?"
We moved on to dessert. Email invitations went out that night. Since the invitations included the subject of the discussion, we had a one hundred percent acceptance by noon. And a lot of appended congratulations and best wishes. Carl would've been appalled.
Dinner the next Friday night was quite an affair. Without anybody telling anybody, all of the men arrived in coats and ties, and the women (only two in this group) in nice party dresses. Everybody knew it was an "occasion."
As we gathered in the living room for hors d'oeuvres and soft drinks Toppy sort of took change and became the emcee. He started with a toast–he had the most appropriate soft drink, sparkling grape juice–to the two of us and a wonderful affirmation of our lives and love. It was wonderful in both its sentiment and its brevity. Then he proposed that the subject of discussion be held till dinner when we'd all be around a table and could hear each other. That took us back to small conversation groups, but you can bet that marriage was the subject of most conversations.
In the dining room Toppy started with a simple question: "OK, Franklin and Phil, you've had about nine days to think about this, as if your thinking didn't start years ago. How do you guys fit in?"
"Why start with us? We're here to talk about Tim's wedding, not ours."
I jumped in with, "We know that you've put off getting married because you didn't want to jump ahead of Tim and me. So you're involved, and that's why you're part of this group."
"Are you talking about a double wedding?"
Tim responded, "I really like that idea."
Phil said, "I'm sure that Toppy has a big extravaganza in mind, centering on you, Tim, as well as Charlie."
I said, "For every five people that might come to see me get married there are a hundred that would show up for Tim, if they were invited."
Toppy added, "That's what we're her to talk about. And Franklin and Phil you don't need to worry about your role in a big extravaganza. You'll fit in, and an extra couple won't detract from the Tim and Charlie production."
Franklin said, "Phil, if I'm not speaking for you here, say so. But I think it's time for us to get married and I think a double wedding with Tim and Charlie would be a dream come true."
Phil added, "I agree."
Toppy took the floor again, "Then that's settled. Now we need to talk about what such a wedding would look like. First possibility, you could elope. That probably isn't practical for a double wedding, but in any case, if you eloped the Gang would be ready to murder you when you got back. Second possibility, you could limit it to the Gang, and a small number of others that would need to be included. If you do that, the university community will be ready to murder you when you next ventured on campus. Third possibility, you could limit it to just the Grand Forks and university communities. Then the sports world would be out gunning for you. So, the final possibility is the only one that's practical, open it to the world. Invite everyone."
"Where do you plan to hold this wedding?" asked Tim.
"Well, it depends on how much of the university community you want to attend."
"We can't send individual invitations to students, faculty, and staff, so it would have to be a general announcement of the wedding and a broad invitation to attends. The faculty that know us will come, but not many students."
"Oh, we can bring the students."
"Hire the University Food Service to provide the wedding meal. Stage it all over campus and shut the dining rooms for that meal–just like was done for your inauguration. Since the meal will be timed with the wedding, it'll encourage a lot of the students to come."
"The university community, the total community, is about 13,000 if you include spouses. If just a fourth come you've filled the field house."
Toppy smiled and said, "You're right, Tim, we have to hold the wedding in the football stadium, just like your inauguration. Great idea!"
Tim smiled and said, "It wasn't my idea; it was yours. I've used that technique often enough that you can't fool me."
Toppy simply smiled and said, "We can pretty much count on good weather in May. That gives us about four months to plans this. We need to get Liddy aboard, schedule the stadium, figure out how to invite the world. It won't be that big a deal."
I said, "Well, I know how to invite the world."
Toppy asked, "What do you propose?"
"Tim writes another letter to the editor of Sports Illustrated. They loved printing his letter accepting the grand slam challenge. They'll love to print this. And you can bet that it'll be a story that they'll love to cover."
Toppy said, "I can see it now. We seat the Gang and all previous Olympians down on the field where the ceremony will take place. Everybody else can fill the stands–and they'll be pretty full, but we won't have to resort to standing room. We'll feed the people on the field right there. We'll have food service tables set up in the corridors behind the seating and people can get their meals and bring them back into the stands to eat. Students not attending can eat at stations outside the stadium. If they're going to have to walk to the stadium to eat, they might was well attend the wedding."
Franklin asked, "Music."
"Lots of it, said Toppy. The event of the year. Bands. Chorus. Soloists. Let's add a steel drum band, maybe some bagpipes, dancers, you name it."
Tim said, "Let's not go overboard."
Toppy jumped up from his seat and said, "Overboard! That's exactly where this is going. It'll be a Toppy production. Nothing could inspire an overboard Toppy production than doing it for the weddings of Franklin, Phil, Charlie, and Tim!"
Tim knew when he was beaten. That night as we tried to go to sleep he said to me, "Charlie, I don't think there's anything we can do but step back and let Toppy go. He'd really be hurt if we tried to rein him in."
I tickled his balls a little and said, "Tim, you'd really be disappointed if he were reined in at all. You'll never admit it, but Toppy's giving you exactly what you dreamed of. Don't tell me otherwise. That's why Toppy was invited to the dinner this evening. You knew he'd do something at the scale he's talking about and you dreamed about."
"Charlie, am I that transparent?"
"Only to me, and probably to the rest of the Gang as well. Probably to the whole world. Tim, this is going to be fun."
Please excuse that fact that I'm now going to completely change the subject for a while. This story really fits here, but the connection won't be clear until the end.
There were three women Olympians in the Grand Forks contingent. One was Natalie Richards, the archer. Another was Mabel Crowell, one of two women gymnasts from the Cave. Both Mabel and Natalie had grown up in Grand Forks, attended the same high school, gone on to UND and graduated a year apart, in 2014 (Mabel) and 2015 (Natalie), and knew each other very casually. When the question of Olympic Village roommates came up, Natalie approached Mabel and suggested that they room together, and Mabel accepted. In the course of the trip to Rio, staying in a hotel together before moving to the Village and then rooming together in the Village they'd become pretty good friends. Despite all the talk of love and support, there was never any thought of love, in the physical sense, between them. But they were very good at providing love and support to each other in their athletic endeavors. Natalie got past the first round, but that was it. Mabel managed to capture a bronze, and got all kinds of hugs and kisses from Natalie for that performance. Natalie really seemed to share Mabel's joy of winning a medal.
After returning to Grand Forks the girls continued their friendship and it grew. Both were still living at home with their parents, and in the spring they decided to share a little apartment. After about a month of being roommates they got to talking one evening. Mabel knew that Natalie didn't have a boyfriend at the time, but she asked if she'd ever had one, in either high school or college. The answer was, "I dated a little, but never really got close to a boy."
Mabel pressed, "Any sex?"
"A couple of boys made some moves that suggested they'd like to go further, but I never encouraged them. So, no. No sex. Can I ask you the same questions?"
"You'll get about the same answers, except that in my sophomore year here at UND I lived in a coed dorm and dated one of the boys in the dorm a couple of times. Tom and I were sitting in the downstairs lounge one evening and he invited me up to his room. When I went upstairs with him I was pretty sure that his intentions were sexual, and I wasn't certain how I'd respond. I was totally inexperienced."
"I wouldn't have gone with him if I hadn't thought that he was a decent guy and that I'd be safe with him, and I wasn't disappointed. His bed was set up with pillows to make it sort of a sofa, and we sat down side by side. He told me, 'Look, I'll be perfectly honest with you. I'm horny and would like some kind of sex. Right off I'll tell you that I'm not into fucking, as I have absolutely no interest in being a father at this stage of my life, and no birth control is perfect. Abstinence is. Short of fucking you, I'm open to anything you're open to."
Natalie said, "My God, that was open and honest."
"Yes, it was. Then he took off his shoes and socks and stood up facing me. He slowly unbuttoned his shirt and while he was taking it off he said, 'Stop me if I'm going too far or too fast.' I just sat there, fascinated. His shirt was followed by his undershirt. Then he opened his belt, unzipped his fly, and dropped his pants, stepping out of them. Then he pulled down his undershorts and was standing naked in front of me. I'd seen my father naked, but never any boy my age. I was fascinated. He said, 'You can touch it, play with it, whatever you like.' I slowly touched it and played with it a little. He said, 'You've never handled a penis before, have you?' I admitted that I hadn't. He said, 'I'm not going to push you, but you have three choices at this point. One, you can keep right on playing with my penis, and I'd like it if you also played with my balls. Two, you can think about losing some of your clothes. Three, you can ask me to put my clothes back on'."
Natalie said, "You have me in suspense. How did you answer him?"
"I simply said, 'Two.' He responded, 'OK, this time you have two choices. One, you take your clothes off. Two, you stand up and let me take your clothes off. I'll find either choice exciting.'"
"And you said...?"
"I didn't say anything. I took my shoes off, just stood up in front of him, and he took the hint. I lost my clothes fairly easily, and in taking them off he managed to touch, rub, and tickle all of me that I had, to that moment, considered my private parts. Without saying a word he got me laying down on the bed and he was beside me, massaging my breasts."
Mabel continued, "I can't imagine why I said what I said then, but I asked him, 'Tom, what if your roommate came in now?' I wasn't sure how to take his answer when he said, 'If he does, he'll be as naked as we are in a very short time.' I said, 'Are you serious?' He responded, 'Would that bother you or excite you?'"
Natalie asked, "And how did you respond to that?"
"I can't believe that I said, 'I don't know. Is there a chance that he'll come in?' He answered, 'Not unless I get on my cell and invite him. Shall I?'"
"And you answered...?"
"I said, 'I don't know. Would you like to invite him?' He thought a moment and said, 'Ralph would like it; it wouldn't be the first time we shared a girl in this room. Sure, I'd like it. But do you really what a second boy here when this is obviously your first time doing anything like this?.'"
"My God, wouldn't it be wonderful if all the boys on this campus were that considerate?"
Mabel responded, "Since that night has been my only experience, I'll have to admit that I haven't had to deal with an inconsiderate one."
"So, was Ralph invited?"
"I told Tom, 'I can't believe I'm saying this, but, "In for a penny, in for a pound". Go ahead, call him.' 'You sure? This wasn't what I had in mind when I invited you up here.' I answered, 'Call him only if you'd enjoy having him here. But if it excites you, go ahead and make the call.' He did."
Natalie asked, "Where was Ralph all this time?"
"It turns out he was about three rooms down the hall with a couple of his buddies. He was in the door in about a minute. He started to do a strip tease, but Tom stopped him, saying, 'I think Mabel'd like to do that.' He looked at me and said, 'Right?' I didn't answer; I just got up and continuing unbuttoning his shirt from where he'd started. He didn't have an undershirt on, and I was staring at his naked torso. I'm not sure what inspired me, but I started rubbing and tickling his nipples. He said, 'That feels good, but what's lower down is more exciting.'"
"Natalie I was so over my head I really didn't know what I was doing. I was sort of in a trance. That's not the right word. It was as if I were on some kind of autopilot. I opened his belt, fumbled with the catch at the top of his pants–he helped a little there, unzipped him and pushed his pants down. Then I pushed his underpants down and he was standing in front of me, naked. He said, 'Squeeze it.' I did and it got hard as a rock. As I continued to play with it he said, 'You can suck it if you want.' My autopilot kept me going and before I knew it I was on my knees in front of him, sucking his dick."
"Did he come?"
"Tom got up, came over behind me, and lifted me up to a standing position. He said, 'You're probably going too fast for a first time.' I think he added the business about a first time in order to clue Ralph in on the situation. Ralph was as much of a gentleman as Tom and asked, 'OK, just what do we have in mind for this evening? I'm open to anything.' Tom said, 'This is Mabel's first time, and I think she was as surprised as I was to have told me to call you. We haven't thought at all about what comes next.'"
"And how did Ralph take that?"
"Very well. He sat in a chair and looked at the two of us, standing there naked as jaybirds, and not knowing what to do. He said, 'OK, I think I got the picture. Mabel, can I ask you a fairly blunt question.' I said, 'I don't think it could be more blunt than the present situation.' He asked, 'Do you understand that if you keep playing with our dicks we're going to ejaculate semen?'"
"How did you answer that?"
"I said, 'I think I understand in theory, never in experience.' He asked another question, 'Have you ever had an orgasm. I mean, have you masturbated to the point of having an orgasm?'"
"I answered, 'I think so. I do masturbate and it feels good. I'm not really sure about an orgasm.' Ralph said, 'OK, here's my suggestion for the evening. First, the two of you lie down on the bed, and Mabel you play with Tom's dick until he comes.' I asked, 'What do you mean comes?' He said, 'Come is just boys' slang for ejaculate. Then you lie down on your back and the two of us'll give you a thrill that I guarantee will end in an orgasm. Then you can't leave me out in the cold; one or the other of you, or better both, need to make me come.'"
"Is that what you did?"
"Exactly. I played with Tom's dick until Ralph came over and showed me how to pump up and down on it, and he soon shot semen all over himself and my hand. Ralph tossed me a towel and I cleaned us up. They put me on the bed, and Ralph got between my legs. Tom knelt on the floor so his hand could reach my genitals. Ralph wasn't the least bit shy about where he put his fingers, and explored all over inside me."
"How did you like that?"
"At first it was a little startling, but the saying, 'In for a penny, in for a pound' seemed to apply and I just lay there and enjoyed it. Tom took a hint from Ralph and found my clitoris and the two of them massaged until I almost exploded. I don't know whether I really had an orgasm when I masturbated, but I sure did then–no doubt about it. I lay there a while and then Tom said, 'Ralph's turn.' We rearranged ourselves with Ralph on the bed, Tom between his legs. I was kneeling on the floor where Ralph had been. Ralph took my hand and guided me to his dick, and while I pumped–I'd learned my lesson–Tom tickled Ralph's balls. Ralph exploded semen all over his chest and up to his face. Then Tom really fooled me; he took his finger and played in the semen a little, and then put his finger in Ralph's mouth and Ralph sucked it clean. He repeated that a couple of times, and then asked me to clean them up."
"It sounds like they'd played together before."
"That's what I thought. I said, 'OK, you were very blunt with your questions, let me ask one. It looks like you two have something going more than just being roommates. Am I right?' Tom answered, 'As good a sport as you've been this evening, you deserve an honest answer. Yes, we enjoy sex with each other, and do it often. But we like girls as well. That makes us bisexual. Does that bother you? Are you offended?' I said, 'Considering all that's happened tonight, and neither of you pushed me at all, I'm not offended. But let's just agree that tonight's it. We'll be friends in the dorm, but no more dates, and I'll skip coming to your room.' Tom said, 'That's fine, but if you get hard up for sex, we'll give you just what you want, with no pushing and no hard feelings. And, please, keep this evening, and our relationship private.'"
"I assume that, until now, you have?"
"Right, I told them, 'I won't say a word. And I want to thank you for an education tonight, and for being very kind and gentle with a neophyte.'"
"But you did tell me," said Natalie.
"It looked to me that we were needing to be honest with each other. And I'm sure that I can trust you. AND, they were roommates, but their names were not Tom and Ralph."
Natalie just laughed.
Mabel said, "So how does that leave us?"
Natalie asked, "What do you mean?"
"You don't have boyfriends. I don't have boyfriends. My only sexual experience was with a couple of gay freshmen. Are we ready to think about having sex together?"
"Wow. I don't think I saw that one coming."
"Well, it's come."
"I'd like to think about that a little. I guess you're telling me that you'd like to explore sex with me."
"I don't think I'm ready to go on autopilot like you did. But I guess I'd like it too."
"Let's lock the door and loose our clothes."
They were roommates so it wasn't the first time they'd been naked in front of each other. But circumstances change the impact of nakedness. They both found looking at the other's naked body to be quite stimulating. Natalie asked, "OK, where do we go from here?"
"Lay down on the bed and I'll do to you what those boys did to me."
One thing led to another. Not just that night, but over the next few weeks. It wasn't long before they were sleeping with each other, and a night seldom passed that didn't involve sex and orgasms. Oral sex and 69 followed right along.
What else followed along was that they found that they were really falling in love. What'd started purely as physical sex quickly progressed to a deeper relationship that involved hugging, kissing, and exploring the whole body, not just the genitalia.
Mabel and Natalie'd been part of Fred's Sports big delegation to Rio, but they weren't part of the Gang. However, you couldn't be part of that big group, more than half of which were members of the Gang or GrandCOGs, without being both aware of the idea of the Gang and perhaps a little envious of their relationships. It was clear to Mabel that Marty was a member of the Gang, and in Rio she learned that Nels and Seth were as well. She knew Nels and Seth as former Cavers who hung around the Cave from time to time, helping Marty when they could, but also coaching and supporting the new group of Cavers, including Mabel. Mabel and Natalie talked with each other about the Gang, and Mabel decided to try to find out more.
On returning from Rio Mabel got Nels aside one day in the Cave and asked him, "What's this Gang? Tell me more about it."
Nels was caught a little off guard. Explaining about the Gang to folks who weren't part of the Gang wasn't really a decision he could make on his own. He decided to be very honest with Mabel. "Mabel, that's a tough question; the Gang–and you've correctly named the group–doesn't talk about itself outside of itself. I'd like a chance to think about your question and talk to a couple of other members of the Gang."
Mabel said, "That sound very cloak and dagger, but I guess I understand. I'd really like to know more. You guys seemed to really have something going in Rio."
Nels started with Marty, and then his parents, Carl and Carol. It was clear to all of them that whatever was shared with Mabel was going to be shared with Natalie. The question was, did they really want to bring the two girls into their circle, and perhaps eventually invite them to be members of the Gang? Marty knew Mabel the best, but Nels knew Natalie the best because she was an archer at NTAC. As Marty and Nels talked they decided that the two girls might be a good fit for the Gang. As they expanded their discussion to other members of the Gang, Max got wind of the idea.
Max got Nels and Marty together and said, "Look, guys, I don't know these two girls well, but I'm going to get to know them. The Gang desperately needs a lesbian pair. Unless you guys know something negative about these girls, start the process of introducing them to the Gang. And don't be afraid to hint–well, maybe more than hint–at the sexual implications."
Nels was suspicious and asked, "Max, you clearly have more on your mind than just wanting a pair of lesbians in the Gang. Give."
Max replied, "You're right, but I'm not going to give. It's all on the up and up, but you have to trust me that if my idea goes forward it has to start in another corner of the Gang."
Marty said, "You're not giving us much choice but to trust you, but that's the idea behind the Gang. We'll move on Natalie and Mabel."
Nels and Marty decided that they'd invite the two girls to come by NTAC on a Sunday afternoon when they could easily have a lot of privacy and plenty of time to talk. The two girls just sat spellbound as first Nels and then Marty told about the history of the Gang and talked about how it functioned. Nels ventured to suggest some of the sexual implications of the Gang, but didn't provide details. Explaining the "rules" about adult/child sex and talking about sex and comfort zones wasn't accompanied by a discussion of just what was within the comfort zones of the Gang. And there was no discussion of threeways and fourways. That was still far beyond the expectations of Natalie and Mabel, who were both excited and intrigued by the conversation.
Mabel was no dummy and as the conversation moved toward a conclusion she asked, "Why are you telling us all of this? Wait a minute, are you thinking that we might fit into your Gang?"
Nels had to admit that that was exactly what they were thinking.
Mabel asked, "So what's the next step?"
"You need to get to know more of the Gang. I think it should start with Tim and Charlie and then move to Max," said Nels.
Natalie and Mabel had met Max in Rio, as well as Tim and Charlie. They were eager to proceed. Nels assured them that they'd get some kind of a invitation from Tim or Charlie, and the girls left, headed back to their apartment and a very interesting conversation in bed that evening as they reviewed the afternoon.
Back at NTAC Marty said, "If you're suggesting Max you're expecting things to move pretty quickly."
"Only if we get a green light from Tim and Charlie. They are very shrewd judges of character. They are aware of this evening's conversation, they'll suggest either slowing things down or what the next steps should. But I suggested Max because we know he has something special in mind, we ought to let him move ahead."
They had a most delightful dinner with Tim and Charlie at The Penthouse. They had questions about the early years of the Gang, and especially that first summer at Camp White Elk. Tim and Charlie were quite willing to share, in fact they really enjoyed talking about that summer and the wonderful (as well as frustrating) times they had back then. Their report to Nels and Marty was, "full steam ahead."
Max invited them to The Playhouse for dinner with the entire crowd. This gave them a chance to see a fairly large group of the Gang functioning together. It was a lovely meal, and following it Max took them up to his suite of rooms for a more private conversation. Max got to the point very quickly: "You've heard the rules about sex in the Gang: talk first, and respect everyone's comfort zone. So I'll start by talking first. I'm known in the Gang by two titles: Max the Arranger and Max the Stud. Both of those refer to sex. Tonight I'd like to be Max the Stud. I'll tell you right now that my comfort zone is as wide at the Pacific Ocean. I don't know about yours. So, if talking about your comfort zone is within your comfort zone, just how would you describe it?"
Natalie said, "Mabel, I think you need to tell your Tom and Ralph story. That was in your comfort zone then, is it still?"
Max asked, "Tom and Ralph? Anybody I know?"
Natalie said, "Those are aliases, but the story's great."
Mabel said, "You've got to be kidding."
Max said, "I don't think she is. Are you going to feel comfortable telling the story? If so, tell it."
Mabel said, "OK, here goes. I guess I'm comfortable telling it." And she told the story much as I've told it here.
Max listened absolutely still and totally intrigued. When she finished he asked, "OK, the genders are a little different here, but would you be comfortable with a similar experience with the three of us?"
Mabel said, "I guess so."
Max said, "Guessing doesn't count, but let me turn to Natalie. Would you be comfortable with a similar experience with the three of us?"
Natalie said, "I can't believe I'm say this, but, 'Yes.' The Gang clearly beckons to me, and it seems to me that being part of the Gang requires a very wide comfort zone."
Max said, "Sex is never a requirement to be part of the Gang. But I'll be perfectly honest, the Gang without sex is like dinner without salt and pepper."
Mabel asked, "OK, if we both were to say we'd be comfortable with a similar experience, what would come next.?"
Max easily replied, "I'd simply take my cue from Tom and stand up and take off my clothes and invite you to do anything you wanted from there. I would hope that you'd lose your clothes before doing very much."
Natalie said, "I'm in."
Mabel said, "So am I."
Max was doing a very sexy strip tease withing a few seconds of Mabel's, "So am I." The girls took Max's suggestion to heart and had their clothes off very quickly. Max was thirty-five and the girls were a little more than ten years younger. But Max was in great shape, and a observer would've thought they were contemporaries. The story that Mabel had told opened just about any avenue but fucking, and Max wasn't particularly interested in that. Max realized that he was going to have to take the lead, and he did. Mabel seemed to shift in to her autopilot. Natalie had to think a little as things progressed, but she easily followed Mabel's lead. It was quite an evening,and unlike the experience with Tom and Ralph, it led to all three sleeping together in Max's big bed.
As Natalie woke up the next morning, feeling Max gently rubbing one of her tits, she thought, "That was great last night. I think I know how to send the right message to Max." She said aloud, "Let go round again."
Max was surprised, delighted, and ready to go. Mabel seemed a little hesitant but the first thing from her mouth was, "OK."
They were off.
A month later they (1) had quite a romp with Auggie and Lynn, with Sid sketching madly, (2) joined the Gang more modestly, with mooning to enable the placement of the numbers 151 (Mabel) and 152 (Natalie) on their asses, and (3) were completly embarrassed to see how explicitly Sid had portrayed in Gangland their romp with Auggie and Lynn, whose faces weren't shown but who were easily identified by Sid's accurate rendering of skin color.
A week later they were again invited to The Playhouse for dinner, this time just with Max. He started out, "Tonight I'm Max the Arranger. There's part of the Gang story that you haven't heard, and I'm going to tell it to you. All of the Gang knows this story, but it isn't widely discussed, and never outside of the Gang."
He told the story of his and Milt's parentage, sparing no details. He then went on, "Milt has two kids, the twins. Charlie's grandchildren. I have no kids, which means Tim has no grandchildren. That amazing blood line ends with me. Unless...."
Mabel said, "Unless what? Except that I think I know the answer. I'd be willing to guess that you hurried the process of our joining the Gang because of that answer. Truth, now."
Natalie said, "I'm not following all this."
Mabel said, "That's OK. We'll catch you up." She turned to Max, "Truth."
Max said, "The truth is that I've been thinking for some time that we needed a lesbian family in the Gang, precisely for the reason you're thinking. But the idea that you two might belong in the Gang started with Nels and Marty, who knew you best. But as soon as I heard about it, I facilitated it as much as I possibly could. And our little round robin that night here at the Playhouse was a close as I could come to finding out whether you'd be amenable to my idea."
All of a sudden Natalie said, "Wow. What an idea. We got married just a year ago, just joined the Gang, and you're talking about motherhood, aren't you."
Mabel said, "That's exactly what he's thinking. He wants to father our children so that Tim's seed lives on. Right, Max?"
Max said, "Half right. I'm not going to pull any punches. I'll share my dreams and you can respond. This thing's totally up to you two. Nobody's going to pressure you. In fact, nobody but me has any idea of this, and if you two decide against moving forward, nobody else will ever know."
Natalie asked, "What did you mean, 'Half right',"
"Tim is a virile as I am. My dream is that one of you would bear Tim's child and the other his grandchild."
"Oh, my God!" It could've been either or both of them.
"Does Tim know about this conversation? How do you know he'd go along with it?"
"No, he doesn't know. When I said nobody knew, I meant nobody. But I know Tim. It'll be as startling an idea to him as it is to you. But he'll join in. I know that in his heart of heart he envies Charlie for having grandchildren."
Mabel said, "OK, here's where I am. Natalie and I have talked about having kids. We've always assumed that it would be by artificial insemination with anonymous donors. But if I'm going to have a child, I can't imaging anything better than having Tim's child, or grandchild. Since the Gang has no secrets, I assume that the Gang would know and the rest of the world would not, right?"
"Right. But it'd be completely private until you were pregnant and ready to announce that to the world. But only the Gang would know the details."
Natalie said, "I'm on board."
Mabel said, "Is this done by artifical insemination with semen from you and Tim, or are we going to get fucked?"
"Tim made it clear the last time around that kids're to be conceived in love and joy. Turkey basters, or more sophisticated insemination tools, aren't instruments of joy. Penises are."
"So where do we go from here?"
"You don't; I do. I'll talk to Tim and Charlie and get them on board. Then we'll plan the details. You girls have really come through. I thought I was going to have a much more difficult time getting you on board with this. It must be a really good idea."
Max's conversation with Tim and me was something else. But Max is truly Max the Arranger. He started by apologizing to Tim for never giving him a grandchild and listening to Tim assure him that Tim wouldn't have wanted Max to rearrange his life just to give Tim a grandchild. Max moved on to how sad it was that the spectacular mind and body of the great Tim wouldn't be passed on to future generations. Then he suggested that he had a solution.
That certainly piqued Tim's interest. "A solution? Just what're you talking about Max?"
"I know two girls that would be great mothers to the child and grandchild of Dr. Tim."
"The child and grandchild? What're you talking about?"
"Two girls, two fathers, one child, one grandchild."
"Do you know what you're proposing?"
"Nothing really out of the ordinary. Our two new Gang members don't have husbands. They'd like to be mothers. They need biological fathers. This has become quite accepted and normal today. You could provide sperm. I could provide sperm. Providing it by way of intercourse would be much better than artificial insemination, but the world would assume artifical insemination. The world would also assume anonymous donors. The Gang would know better, and would be utterly delighted to know that your DNA's moving to new generations and not being buried with you."
I knew that there were two possible responses from Tim, either a huge negative or utter silence. While I was sure that Max was quite prepared to wear him down if the negative appeared, his response was silence. Max was shrewd and didn't say a word. Nor did I. Nor did Tim for a long time.
Then he said, "OK, Max, I want the whole story. Who hatched this scheme, when, who's in on it, what do the girls think, what do they want. Give me the whole thing and don't hold anything back."
Again, Max knew his man. Tim got the whole truth. The story of getting the girls into the Gang, sex with them that night (Tim wanted every single detail of that–he got a vicarious thrill that carried over to that night!), the conversation about their having his and Tim's child. Max held nothing back. When he was through Tim got up, walked over to Max, gave him a big hug, and said, "Son, thank you. Now you just have one problem."
` "Who fucks which girl?"
"That's simple: you get the archer. Who better to replace Charlie for a few nights than another archer. I'll take Mabel the gymnast. Unless, of course, the girls decide that they have an opinion and can agree on appropriate partners. If they do, I think we should respect their choices."
Tim said, "I think we should all get together in Gangland. What better spot to be talking about making babies? I'll get Carl to change the lock and make it off limits so we aren't disturbed. Then we'll find out about their biological clocks and set some dates. You know, this make take months. Is that going to be OK with you, Charlie. You're going to be part of this too."
"I am, but my dick and my sperm aren't going to be."
"You have to be there; there's no way this is going down if you aren't there."
"Just remember that the last thing on each night's agenda is making sure that Charlie doesn't go home sexually frustrated. Watching'll be fun, but there has to be more."
Max said, "Oh, man, am I going to have fun. I get to watch Tim, have a good fuck myself, and then suck Charlie–or watch Tim suck Charlie."
Tim said, "We'll take turns."
Tim went on, "I want to be married before all of this. Even if it isn't the best time of the month, I think our first fucks should be on Charlie's and my wedding night. What a honeymoon."
Max said, "Wait a minute. This is a great deal for you and me, but it sort of leaves Charlie out. That doesn't make it much of a honeymoon for him."
I immediately put in, "No, Max, it would be the most wonderful honeymoon for me. To see Tim move to having a child and grandchild–all at once, no less–would be a wonderful blessing, for both of us. We'll honeymoon in Gangland, and keep going till both girls're pregnant. Do they know what they are in for with two kids at once?"
"They'll do fine. But they're going to need financial help. They can't be mothers and workers at the same time."
"Fred didn't have any idea how his money might be spent, but I think he'd be particularly pleased with the idea of supporting that family. As he always said, 'That's what money's for."
The wedding was a blowout. The letter that appeared in a March issue of Sports Illustrated took the sports world by storm. Tim and Charlie were to be married in the University of North Dakota Football Stadium on Sunday, May 14, 2017, at high noon, with lunch and festivities following. The whole world was invited. R.S.V.P. to Toppy at his email address.
The university community got the same invitation, but they were told they needn't R.S.V.P. because their Sunday meal that day would be part of the festivities regardless of whether they attended the wedding.
The Gang got engraved (well, nobody engraves anymore, they were printed to look like engraving) invitations, that entitled them to sit on the field rather than the grandstands. Tim and Charlie produced a long list of other persons that got similar invitations, including many friends they'd made in the sports world. And every single reporter or photographer that had respectfully covered Tim's life–to the extent they were still alive and he could remember them–got such an invitation. To assemble that list he asked Sid's mom, April, to pause from her work clipping local newspapers and head to the library and look up many of the feature stories about Tim that had appeared in newspapers and magazines. It was a huge task and she had to admit she was going to need help. Perry detailed a secretary from the Fred's Sports main office to go and help. She was also helped by a scrapbook that Tim's parents'd kept, but it only scratched the surface of what'd been printed about Tim. April assembled a list of reporters and photographers, with notes of the major things they'd written (or photographed). Tim went down the list, and it was amazing how many of the names he recognized. In one case he muttered, "Not that S.O.B.," but most got favorable nods and the engraved invitations. It was the ultimate you scratched my back; I'll scratch yours.
Franklin and Phil generated similar lists. Franklin in particular wanted to invite the staff and clients–and former clients–from Democracy House, and Phil wanted to invite students and faculty from his East Grand Forks High School, where he continued a very successful and fulfilling career teaching English.
Toppy pulled out all the stops for the music. He told Tim and Charlie, "I put out a call for musicians, instrumental and vocal, to sing at your wedding and the response was phenomenal–it seems everybody wants to sing or play. We'll use them all." And did he!
After all the invitations were out and we started getting R.S.V.P.'s back our decision to use the football stadium was confirmed–the crowd would nver fit in the field house. Toppy had a large round platform erected in the center of the field. From there red carpet paths led to two of the corners 100 yards apart, and two green carpets let to the other two corners. The musicians were located in the two smaller triangles with bases on the end zones. The wedding was scheduled for high noon and the music began at ten with a concert featuring Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and other equally popular pieces that filled an hour. The orchestra filled one of the triangles, and Toppy conducted from the raised platform. When the concert ended Toppy left the field and almost immediately reappeared in his drum major uniform (which still fit!) leading a marching band, with participants from a variety of local bands–they all wore their native band costumes. Some people thought it looked "ragged," other called it "colorful," but the term we liked best was "eclectic" (if you check the dictionary you'll find that the best term for the variety of colors is motley, but only I used it). The music featured Sousa and other band classics. The band filled the back of the triangle opposite the orchestra. Then a huge chorus walked in singing, "They Call the Wind Mariah" accompanied by both the band and the orchestra.
In the larger triangle to the front were seats for those with the special invitations. Everyone else was in the stands. We knew were weren't going to fill the stadium and didn't try. Everyone was seated on the side behind the invited guests. Some of the crowd did flow toward the end zones. At precisely high noon two drummers with timpani boomed out the clear announcement that things were about the start. Along the green carpet on stage left came the Rev. Barbara Saxon who would marry them. From stage right came six persons who'd speak or otherwise participate in the service. They sat in seven chairs in a row, with Barbara in the middle. The drums had faded to a trumpet fanfare which ended as Barbara stood and spoke to the crowd. She invited them to the marriage service of Franklin and Phil and to the marriage service of Charlie and Tim. It'd been agreed from the beginning that no last names would be used. Then from a tall podium that put him behind and above the speakers, Toppy led the combined orchestra and band in the second march of "Pomp and Circumstance"–not the march that's used at every graduation, but it clearly reminds the listener of it. While that was playing Franklin's parents, Phil's brother Jerry and his wife Judy, and Hal and his wife Sue walked up one of the red carpets. At the same time Tim's parents, his brother Carl and his wife Carol, Ronnie's threesome, and Andy, Marty, and Perry walked up the other red carpet. They waited until the music was about to end and then walked up the stairs to the platform standing facing Barbara with a wide space between the two groups. The music ended, and a spotlight lit Toppy, who played, with his trumpet rather than a busine, the "Triumphal March" from Aida. It was a bravura performance, and while Toppy was playing Franklin and Phil walked down one red carpet and Tim and I walked down the other. As was planned, we stayed at ground level, turned and faced the crowd, and at the end of Toppy's solo we led the crowd in applauding. Barbara came forward, introduced Toppy, and suggested that all of the musicians stand, and we gave them a round of applause–I'm glad to say it was deafening. Then Barbara invited us up on the platform.
Barbara was wonderful. She invited everyone to a joyous wedding. She noted that both of the couples had, in every sense that was important, been married for years. Now the law was catching up.
The service went forward with alternate musical productions, all unbelievable as we expected from Toppy, and remarks by the six speakers behind Barbara. Each of us'd selected a speaker and Barbara'd told us that she'd select two. We didn't know who the two would be until they walked into the stadium! Not only did we trust our fellow members of the Gang, we trusted Barbara.
The first speaker was Jon Misher, an alumnus of Democracy House. He was brief, telling about Democracy House, thanking Franklin for his work there, and urging all of us to be involved and keep it going.
Aa the second speaker Tim had chosen Judge Marvin Wilson, the oldest judge on the United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit. He'd been the youngest judge on the court when Charlie was clerking there. He shared reminiscences from Charlie's clerking days, and dreamed where Charlie might've gone if he hadn't wisely followed Tim into the North Dakota wilderness.
The third speaker was a senior at East Grand Forks High School, a student of Phil's. To hear him speak Phil was God's gift to East Grand Forks. He noted that with his Ph.D. Dr. Phil could've moved to the university very soon after he came to East Grand Forks, and the students loved him for being willing to stay with them instead of moving to a more prestigious–and better paying–university position.
Orchestra, Band, and Chorus.
The fourth speaker was a fooler. I had no idea whom Tim was going to invite, and he didn't tell me. But rising to speak was Coach Ralph Billings, retired aquatics coach at Indiana University, and long-time enthusiastic supporter of Tim. His best story was of Tim's first visit to IU (he paused to point out that it was always Indiana University and not the University of Indiana) and his refusal of IU's dream athletic scholarship offer. He talked about their long friendship and the running rivalry between the two universities' divers. He'd admitted defeat when UND scored a Grand Slam for the second time. He insisted that the five divers that'd been involved in those efforts stand. They did, and they got some serious applause. (I know, that's not typical for a wedding, but between Tim, Toppy, and Barbara, there was no "typical" at this event.) Then he got very sentimental and talked about the wonderful relationship he'd had with Tim, most of the time at long distance. And the world learned, for the first time, that it was Ralph Billings who'd given Tim the final push to participate in his Grand Slam. Standing next to Tim, I wasn't sure whether he was going to make it through all that without crying out loud. There were tears in his eyes.
Barbara then announced that she'd invited two members of a generation down from Tim, Charlie, Franklin, and Phil to speak from the point of view of those who'd have to carry on our tradition. The first would be Auggie Madison, the photographer of boats.
Auggie asked just what traditions the four of us were leaving to the next generation. His answer was simple: love and support. Tim had always pushed that as the key to athletic success, but Tim and I had also lived as if love and support were the key to life's success. He took more than two sentences to say all that, but that's what it came down to.
The Chorus, backed up by the Band and Orchestra, sang two numbers. The first was "Secret Love" from Calamity Jane. If you don't know it, Google the lyrics. It's genderless. The second number was our old standby, "We Kiss in a Shadow" from The King and I.
Then it was Shel's turn. He started by saying that he was here to speak for the next generations that grew out of the multiple friendships that Phil, Franklin, Charlie, and Tim had made throughout life and carried to Grand Forks. He then said, "You know who you are. Stand up." All of the COGs and GrandCOGs had been primed, and they all stood. Shel told them to stay standing as he spoke for them. He talked about how love and support were the keys to our lives. Linking back to something that had just been said about the four of us he talked about how he and his peers saw us thrive by giving love and support to everyone who could accept it. And he pledged that this would be carried on by his generation, and the next, and the next, and so forth.
Two male singers, a tenor and a base, stood in the high podium with a spotlight on them. They were accompanied by a tuba and a violin–a combination that only Toppy could've dreamed up, but it was perfect–and they sang "True Love" from High Society. It'd last been sung in this stadium by Tim and then by the two of us at his Grand Inaugural Ball. It was moving to hear it without having to perform. Toppy choose his singers well, they were splendid. So was the violin. And so was the tuba–played by none other than Toppy!
It perfectly set the stage for Barbara to ask Franklin and Phil to take their vows. They used fairly traditional vows that'd been sanitized for gender bias. Then Barbara handed the leather bound book she was reading from to Franklin, and he came over to us and led us in taking our vows. This wasn't as we'd rehearsed, but Barbara'd realized that Franklin would've presided at our wedding if it hadn't been a double wedding including him. Her gesture to Franklin, and to us, was simply wonderful. After the service we fell all over ourselves thanking Barbara. She was right, the one fly in the ointment of a double wedding was making it impossible for Franklin to marry us–but now he had! Barbara capitalized on the fact that all four of us had earned doctorates as she introduced Doctors Phil and Franklin and Doctors Tim and Charlie.
Susan ended with, "Follow the Band to dinner," and Toppy led the Band outside to where the University Food Service was waiting with groaning tables of wonderful food.
The honeymoon started after dinner. Franklin and Phil headed out of town to an unspecified location. Tim and I headed for Gangland. We were joined by Max, Natalie and Mabel. Everything about this strange relationship had already been talked out. Natalie and Tim headed for the shower and were soon settled on one side of the huge bed. Then Mabel and Max came over to me and said, "It's Natalie's time of the month; they could make a baby tonight. Not so for Mabel, her time is about eight days away. So the three of us are together tonight. Can't have you alone on your wedding night." I didn't protest too much.
In about two months both girls were, as the say, "with child." Tim and I were deliriously happy for them.
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