My name used to be Ralph Peter Ringgold, but I'm now Dink Ralph Ringgold. You've heard the story of my becoming Dink. I've learned, over the years, to embrace the new name and not try to hide its origin. There's an old phrase, "You can't fight city hall." Well, you can't fight teenage humor either. And secrets quickly lead to embarassment. Having made the decision to be Dink, my first challenge was to convince my parents. They had, after all, named me Ralph, and had a legitimate reason for me to retain the name. But, quite honestly, I'd rather quickly decided that l liked Dink, and certainly didn't want to fight about it for the rest of my school career. I convinced my parents; they began to call me Dink–though it took most of a year to get Ralph out of their minds.
School was a different matter. Teachers work from printed roll sheets that come out of some damn computer somewhere far beyond the local school. All attempts to change the computer failed. Some teachers would accept my request to be called Dink, and others wouldn't. Some would agree to call me Dink, but insisted that I use Ralph on all paperwork. It was a bureaucracy that wouldn't budge. I went to the central office and asked someone in the IT department what it would take to get my name changed in the official records. Well, what did my birth certificate say? Ralph. Any kind of legal document that says Dink. No. Sorry.
One of my parents' good friends was a lawyer, and one evening when he and his wife were with us for dinner I shared my problem with him. He told me that if I was sure that I wanted to be Dink for the rest of my life I could go to court and get my name legally changed.
"How difficult would that be?"
"If you were eighteen it'd be very simple. File a petition with the court; be prepared to convince a judge that you weren't making the change to avoid debt or commit fraud, and it would be granted. But you aren't eighteen. So your parents have to submit the petition. And you have to agree to it. To insure that you aren't being pressured into something that you don't really want, you'll need to have your own lawyer, separate from your parents. Technically you don't need a lawyer, but courts frown on people that try to be their own lawyers, and it could lead a judge to decide that the whole thing was frivolous and toss it out."
My father was listening and said, "Dink, you're really serious about this whole thing, aren't you?"
"Yes. I like being Dink. I like Ralph too, but it's clear that Dink is going to prevail with my friends, and I'm getting used to it. What I don't like is trying to be both Dink and Ralph."
To make a long story short, my father asked his lawyer friend to represent me, and he got another attorney to represent Mom and him. We all went to court one morning and expected the whole thing to take a matter of minutes, but we were wrong. I was asked why I liked Dink, and I told the judge that my friends had given me the name, and I'd decided that I liked it. Then the judge asked where the name Dink had come from.
It was the one question that we really didn't want to deal with. I wasn't embarrassed that the name came from the size of my penis, but we all thought that wasn't something that we wanted on record in the local courthouse. So at the request of my lawyer the question was answered in the judge's chambers. I answered the question with, "Your honor, I have a very small penis, and I could easily be teased about it. It started with calling me Dink. My embracing the name took all of the fun out of teasing me. Since then I've decided that I sort of like the name, and trying to avoid it is the surest way I can think of to call attention to the fact that the size of my penis is at the extreme end of the normal bell curve."
The judge asked, "Are those your words, or did your lawyer write them out for you?"
"They are my words. I think my lawyer would be embarrassed to talk about penis size in a judge's chambers."
The judge looked at my parents and said, "You've raised quite a boy here. Let's go back to court."
In court there were just two words: "Petition granted."
I took a copy of the court order to school and now I'm legally Dink Ralph Ringgold, and whenever I encounter an old paper with Ralph on it, I insist that it be reprinted with the correct name.
Gee, all of that and I haven't even started my story. I was surprised, and honored, when Charlie asked me to write this. As the story begins I'm not even a member of the Gang, but that changes fairly quickly. So let's begin the story.
I'm barely conscious. I'm not sure whether I'm still in bed waiting for an alarm to get me up for the marathon which is supposed to start at 7:00 a.m. (I know they're worried about the heat, but that's a really awful hour to start a race!); or whether I've slept through the alarm and missed the race; or whether I'm in a hospital after passing out running the race; or whether I'm just lying on the ground, not yet recovered from the race. I become aware that a doctor is checking me out, and that doesn't seem to lead to any emergency measures. Slowly I realize that I'm lying on the ground about fifteen feet from the marathon finish line. There are a bunch of officials around, and as I come back to the real world they start paying attention to me. But they are all speaking Japanese, and on the best of days I only know about four words of Japanese, and right now this isn't the best of days–though it soon would be. I slowly got up and walked over to the officials' table. Other runners were crossing the finish line, so I was pretty sure that I hadn't been out too long.
At the table I looked at my name and saw a big three and the time 2:10:00. That had to be a mistake; my best time up until then was 2:14:07. By this time the U.S. coach was congratulating me and assuring me that the 2:10:00 time was accurate. I was quickly surrounded by almost all of the Americans present, patting me on the back, congratulating me, and literally jumping for joy. It turns out that I've scored a tremendous upset, and that the United States getting a medal in the marathon was simply not in the cards for these Olympics. I'd fooled them all.
Despite all of the poeple around me, I felt lonely. The two people that I wanted to hug and be hugged by were Hal and Jody, and they were thousands of miles away across the Pacific. As soon as I could break free I called Hal on my internet telephone. He and Jody were together on campus, having just watched the finish of the race; they were hoping I'd call, but decided not to call me, as they didn't know just what was going on in Japan.
As soon as I got through on the line all I could do was blubber. Tears just rolled down my face. I finally got control, but all I could really say was, "Thank you," and "I really don't believe it. I just can't run that fast."
Hal said, "But you did. And you won another medal. By the time you get home, it will all seem real. Now enjoy the closing ceremony and come home and tell us all about it. Congratulations, Dink, we love you."
The Closing Ceremony was both an upper and a downer. It was an upper because the winners of the men's and women's marathons received their medals during the ceremony! It was a downer because so many of the ahtletes were absent: COVID-19 rules dictated that athletes had to leave Japan within forty-eight hours of their last competition; thus many of the athletes had to return home and miss the Closing Ceremony. A great deal of the ceremony was presented on videotape rather than live, so it wasn't the great ceremony of prior years.
Hey, for a lot of people this was a most disappointing Olympics. For Dink Ringgold, winner of the bronze medal in the marathon, it was the time of my life. OK, Rio was a more normal Olympics, and I could enjoy the other athletes, and the city of Rio, in ways that I couldn't in Tokyo. But in Tokyo I got a most unexpected medal, after shaving four minutes off my personal best. NOTHING can compare with that!
So, I headed for home. Andy and Perry had arranged a two-step homeward journery for the North Dakotans. As I noted, some had to leave before the Closing Ceremony because their event took place early. But we all headed to Honolulu where we were all eventually reunited. Liam and Woody finished late and were with me at the Closing Ceremony; we flew to Honolulu together, along with Willie and Marty who were finished with their coaching. Who was waiting as we cleared security? Greeting Liam and Woody were their parents, Liam's grandparents, and Tim and Charlie. Greeting me were my parents and Jody and Hal. Jody and Hal got to me first (I think that'd been agreed in advance with my parents) and we all just fell into a huge hug. We were blocking traffic, but we didn't care. The entire rush of feelings that I'd experienced earlier–and thought I'd gotten over–came back. I'd run the race of a lifetime, and here were Jody and Hal celebrating with me! Hal gently pulled the three of us to the side where my parents were waiting. The hugs and crying continued.
Andy and Perry were on hand in Honolulu, though they'd skipped the airport greeting, leaving that to those closest to the athletes. Now they greeted us at the hotel on Waikiki Beach. It was one of the older hotels, and we learned that that's exactly why Perry had chosen it; he wanted to avoid the extravagant resort hotels that'd taken over the beach, and enjoy a hotel that simply housed you and gave you access to the beach. We were told that we could stay in Honolulu as long as we liked, and then head for home.
My father did have a job, and he and Mom needed to get back fairly soon. They couldn't believe that Perry'd arranged for them to go to Hawaii just to greet me a few days early. Soon I was left with Jody and Hal, with Liam and Woody in the room across the hall from us. It was a wonderful way to wind down after the pressure of Tokyo. In Tokyo the pressure hadn't just been on my running, but of the constant threat of COVID-19. We all knew that a confirmed positive test meant the end of Olympic dreams. It was all that most of us could take, and a few athletes couldn't take it and headed home–though they were certainly the exception.
Jody and Hal were wonderful. We quickly decided that we'd do our running in the wet sand at the ocean edge on Waikiki. A few people tried to run with us, but no one could keep up the pace that Hal set–even in the wet sand. Wonderful meals, great stories of this and previous Olympics, time to relax and adjust to the real world. Liam and Woody virtually disappeared, enjoying a time together that they had only dreamed of to this point.
And then Jody, Hal, and I headed home, leaving Liam and Woody enjoying the most secluded areas of Hawaii. My parents met me; Sue met Hal; and Gayle met Jody. Hal's parting words were, "No running tomorrow morning. See you Wednesday morning. Six A.M." As you can guess, tomorrow was Tuesday.
On the way home from the airport my mother said, "I can't believe the gift that those two men gave you. Not just the gift of running, but the gift of life. You are a different person than you were when you started running with Hal and Jody. You are a most exceptional man. We couldn't be more proud to have you as a son."
Although both Hal and Jody seem to have made running their life's work, I wasn't sure just where my life was headed. I decided that I needed to talk to Hal, and I invited myself to dinner at Hal's house in order to talk. (An aside from Charlie: Some folks would consider it rude for Dink to have invited himself to dinner–not in the Gang. Dink lived with his parents and couldn't have had a private conversation at home–though what he wanted to talk to Hal about wouldn't be a secret from them. Relationships in the Gang being what they are, and especially the relationships between Hal and his runners, the self invitation was well received.) Hal's response had been, "Do you want to invite Jody?"
I thought about that for a minute and said that I'd like it to be just Hal–and Sue, of course. The appointed evening came in about a week and after dinner–a pork roast--was served Hal asked, "OK, Dink. What's on your mind?"
Sue said, "I assume that means that you've completed your Olympic quest for medals, having captured two, and are thinking, 'Where does an Olympian go from here?'"
"About right. Jody's talked to me about running in marathons with prize money to keep the bank account current, but that's not a career."
Hal said, "The standard answer to your question would be, 'Talk to Perry.' Fred's Sports employs huge numbers of people, and Perry could always find you a job, and he wouldn't be bothered if you quit and moved on after a while. Fred's Sports has been giving transitional employment to athletes for years. And they've found and kept some of their best managers that way–Andy being the classic example."
"Jody's already told me that. I just can't see myself in retail over the long term."
Sue interrupted that line of discussion with a question. "Dink, when you came here to talk about your future, nothing was said about where that future would take place. Marathons, Fred's Sports, and other jobs could land you anywhere. Are you talking about living anywhere?"
"No, I should've started the conversation with my decision that I wanted to continue to live in Grand Forks, now and I guess forever. Running with Hal, Jody, and the others has been fabulous–I missed it in Chicago. I've fallen in love with a whole bunch of people here in Grand Forks, and they've all been so supportive of me. I just can't see leaving that milieu."
Sue said, "I feel exactly the same way, and so does Hal."
Hal said, "As I recall, you have an undergraduate degree in political science. What was your master's in?"
"You know, there've been a lot of people leaving jobs, losing jobs, and so forth since COVID. It may be that some government jobs you are suited for are open or are opening."
"I've started tracking that. Hal, I've known you since high school. I love you and respect your opinions; there was no way I wanted to undertake a job search without talking to you. And I wanted you to know that we'll continue running together each morning and afternoon, until some damn job forces me to miss the running."
"You don't sound real enthusiastic about a standard nine-to-five job."
"I'm not, but I'm realistic enough to know that's a possibility."
Sue said, "One of the advantages of retail is that you can carve out unusual hours."
I replied, "I know. I've thought about that."
Hal said, "OK, Dink, here's the bottom line. You need to talk to two people: Perry and President Liddy at the university."
"I certainly didn't expect either of those names. I'd already indicated that I wasn't interested in retail, and Liddy? Why Liddy?"
"Perry's at the top of the largest privately held corporation in America. Liddy's at the top of a very fine state university. If you have access, and you do, start at the top."
"I know Perry would be glad to talk to me, and probably offer me a job on the spot. But, Liddy?"
"Liddy has the same open door policy that Tim had. You're an alum. You're an alum that just won his second Olympic medal. Not only is the door open, she'll be eager to greet you."
Hal continued, "I'm glad to hear that you'll be running with me for a while–maybe until I'm too feeble to run. You know I'll be seventy-five next year; I can't go on forever."
"Jody thinks you will. He predicts you'll die on your morning run at age a hundred and three."
"He said that to me once; it's bullshit."
"So you're going to be a Grand Forker? Great. Now, tell me what you know about the Gang."
"Quite a bit. Jody talks about it, as do some of the others. I know the Circle are all members. They've been very kind to me, and we've talked some about the Gang. I know it's a big group of people that love and support each other, with Tim and Charlie leading. I know it grew out of a camp experience at a Michigan summer camp."
"Would you like to be a part of that?"
"In a heartbeat."
"Go see Perry and Liddy. I'll move a few things in the background."
I was pretty sure that I wouldn't need an appointment to see either Liddy or Perry, but thought that it would be courteous to make one. I got in to see Perry first.
"Well, Dink, what can I do for you? Again, congratulations on your medal in Japan. You were way ahead of your personal best when you finished in Sapporo; the Olympics really bring out the best in most athletes."
"Thanks. I was staggered when I saw my official time. I simply can't run that fast."
"But you did. That's a combination of Olympic fever–which is never to be discounted–and the love and support given unconditionally over the years by a whole bunch of people here in Grand Forks. Hal tells me you're ready to sign up."
"You mean join the Gang?"
"Of course. You are the perfect candidate. We all love you; you clearly love us or you wouldn't be job-hunting in Grand Forks. The next step is to invite yourself to dinner at Sid's house. He'll be expecting your call."
"Sid. Don't ask questions. Just call him. Now, as regards a job. I'd love to snatch you. I could offer you a job that fit your running hours; that paid well; that offered a challenge, and so forth. But you told Hal, quite honestly, that retail wasn't your bag. Your academic background isn't aimed at retail. You are going to find fulfillment elsewhere. Talk to Liddy."
"I have an appointment. Why Liddy? Both you and Hal have sent me in that direction–obviously after talking to each other. I'm off to see Liddy, but I don't know why."
"Talk to Liddy."
I did. Liddy came out of her office, Tim's former office, and invited me in, offering me one of her comfortable chairs and sitting opposite in another. She said, "I get to meet the great Dink, two-time Olympic medalist in the marathon. I don't think I could walk a marathon, much less run one."
I'm no fool, and I'd prepared for this interview. "Well, I couldn't make my way through Carmen. I think singing grand opera is more of a challenge than running."
"I can just see it: a diva marathon." We both laughed, and the ice was broken. Liddy continued, "So you're job hunting, am I right?"
"Obviously. I've been sent here, but nobody's really told me why they think I should be job hunting in the office of the president of the university."
"I'll just let that pass. I've looked up your undergraduate record. It's impressive, and you were running every day with Hal, Jody, and that pack of masochists that Hal leads. I just can't imagine getting pleasure out of running like that."
"Hal considers a marathon to be a relaxing time to gather his thoughts and dream pleasant dreams. I'm not quite that close to calling a marathon some form of nirvana."
"That just means you're sane. Tim always said that his drive, especially when he was competing in gymnastics, was really a touch of insanity. And he brought the same drive and intensity to this job. He's a tough act to follow.
"But that's not why you're here. At the University of Illinois, Chicago, you got an M.A. in public administration. You're a sports hero. Your marathon run in Sapporo sets you apart from most others. Think of the old army recruiting poster: 'Uncle Sam wants you.' Well, put a Fighting Sioux athlete into the picture: 'Your alma mater, the University of North Dakota, wants you.'"
"You have to be kidding me. Wants me for what?"
"Director of Athletics/Chair of the Department of Athletics."
"Now I know you have to be kidding. You don't hire someone right out of college to direct the athletic program."
"You're right. But let me tell you why I want you for that position. First you have an academic background in administration. Second, you are a true athletic hero. But the third is the most important. Think about this: Where on a university campus are you most likely to find corruption and scandal? In the athletic program. Under the table payments. Gambling. In recent years sex scandals–though they haven't been limited to athletic departments.
"At North Dakota we've avoided that. In fact, our biggest issue has been over the name, 'Fighting Sioux.' Tim found strong support in the campus Native American community for continuing the name, and he was determined to do so. However, the NCAA is getting into the matter, and we may have to make the change. But no sex scandals. No under the table payments to athletes. No gambling–at least that we know of. One of the major reasons we've been clean is we've had squeakly clean leadership from the top. Prexy hired Dr. Philip Stevens as Director. He was in charge when Tim and Charlie arrived. He was also a total straight arrow. That was why Prexy chose him. I inherted our present director, John Michaels, from Tim. He is as squeaky clear as Phil was.
"Dink, I was told you were coming, and I've checked on you. Hal and Jody swear by you, and their recommendation counts for a heck of a lot. Your academic advisor says the same. Professor Wixsom at Chicago says the same...."
"You talked to Sam Wixsom?"
"You call him Sam?"
"Hey, if I can call the President Emeritus of the University of North Dakota Tim, then I can call a Professor of Public Administration at the University of Illinois, Chicago, Sam. Besides, as we got involved in projects together he insisted that I call him Sam. He sort of balked at calling me Dink–he said it was demeaning–but I assured him that it was the only name I used."
Liddy asked, "Just where did that nickname come from?"
"It goes back to middle school. Nuf said."
"Sam, as you call him, said that you were an above average student. I told him that I could read that from a transcript. I wanted to know about your character. He gave you the same high marks that Hal and Jody did. Perry Weeks backs them up. It appears that you could be the next squeaky clean Director of Athletics at the University of North Dakota."
"I still say I'm a little young."
"Here's the deal. John's three years away from retirement. His assistant, Pete Howland, is about the same age and isn't interested in the job. I want to hire you as Assistant Director of Athletics while promoting Pete to Associate Director. I expect Pete may retire first, so that would enable me to appoint you as Associate Director. Assuming that you are as good as people tell me you are, you'd become the Director upon John's retirement. Now, there's only one fly in the ointment."
"You don't have your doctorate. So you need to get it in the next three years."
"From North Dakota?"
"No. You can't be taking courses and studying with the people you direct. It's a conflict of interest for everybody. The closest schools are Morehead State and NDSU."
Dink said, "NDSU is perceived as our biggest rival; I think going there would be a mistake. That leave Morehead."
"Get yourself signed up and admitted. I realize that running with Hal and Jody, as well as working on a Ph.D. is going to limit your ability to devote full time to your new job. I'll talk to Pete and John; they'll work around that."
"I'm overwhelmed. You had this all figured out before I walked in the door. How could you be so sure?"
"Do you really want to know?"
"I think I do."
"Do you remember on the plane coming back from Japan when Willie Carson asked you about your future plans?"
"You told him that you wanted to stay in Grand Forks and continue to be involved with running with Hal and Jody. You also mentioned 'the Gang' which you've gradually learned about over the years. I'm not a member, but Tim's told me quite a bit about it. I'm more involved with the music community on campus and in town. I know the Gang has Toppy, but that's more um-pah music, I tend toward more serious stuff. Regardless, Willie talked to Shel and Shel moved fast."
"There are three people in this town that you talk to if you want something to happen: Tim, Auggie, and Shel. Willie talked to Shel who talked to Jim Forsythe, who knew I was beginning to look for a new Director of Athletics, and once he knew that, Shel was in my office convincing me that my search was over before it began."
"I don't believe all this. Shel was involved in this?"
"Shel wasn't involved; Shel was both quarterback and receiver. It was his show. Take him out to dinner; buy him a nice steak. He'll deny that he had any important role, but believe me he had a very important role, And I know the Gang rule that one ignores Shel at one's peril. All my checking led me to that conclusion regarding my new Director of Athletics. Welcome aboard. If you're on board, we'll issue a press release tomorrow advising of Pete's promotion and your appointment."
"What can I say? Of course I'm on board. I'd like to say it was a dream come true, but I haven't been dreaming far fetched dreams like this. Please don't pinch me; I'm enjoying the dream."
I'd been living with my parents while I ran, ran, ran under Hal's guidance leading up to the trip to Japan. I got along well with my parents, and they were my closest friends and greatest cheerleaders, with both Hal and Jody in contention for those honors. I left Libby's office and headed home. Home was about three miles off campus, but for a distance runner that was no distance at all; I ran the round trip once or twice every day. I came in the house just bursting with the news, finding both Mom and Dad in the kitchen, just finishing lunch.
"Dink, we didn't expect you for lunch. We thought you'd stay around campus until running time with Hal."
"Mom, Dad, forget lunch. You can't believe what just hit me over the head."
"What's that?" asked my dad.
"I just came from President Lidholtz's office at the University. You'll never guess...."
"She offered me a job on the spot; I'll be the Assistant Director of Athletics at the university, scheduled to become the Director when the current director retires, expected in three years."
"What? You just got out of grad school and have done nothing since then but run, run, run. That hardly qualifies you to be Director of Athletics."
"I kind of agree with you, Mom, but I just got a very firm job offer and I accepted. It's for real. And I have that whole bunch of guys who are close friends with Hal and Jody to thank. Evidently Willie and Shel had a lot to do with this."
"I know Willie. Who's Shel?"
"Shel Oldfield, the great skater; dripping with gold medals. He and his husband, Brian, are around Jody and Hal and their friends a lot."
"I have a hard time with men having husbands."
"I don't have any problem with men partnering with men. I'm very pleased that they can get married. Somehow a man talking about his husband is very strange. I'll get used to it. So how was Shel involved in all of this?"
"I'm not really sure. But if you are around Tim and others very long you start to hear about love and support, and to learn that they aren't just words but a way of life. I think Shel thought he was doing Liddy a favor as much as he was doing me one. I'll be taking him to the Dakota Steak House for dinner before too long; maybe he'll give me some background."
I wasn't able to surprise either Hal or Jody with the news; they knew it before I did. When I talked with Hal, he reminded me that I needed to arrange dinner with Sid.
I called Sid and was immediately invited for dinner the next evening. I was a little taken aback by his suggestion, "You'll probably want to wear clean underwear."
That puzzled me, but I did take his advice. It certainly suggested thatI was going to be losing some or all of my clothing, but I had no idea what was coming. A charming lady that I didn't know met me at the door, introduced herself as Cathy, Sid's wife, and invited me in. Sid, Auggie, and Lynn (whom I did know casually) were in the living room, and all greeted me warmly. Nothing was said about the reason for my visit. Cathy wheeled in a tray of appetizers, and Auggie offered drinks. Lemonade was on Auggie's list and I asked for that. Alcohol wasn't offered, and everyone had some kind of soft drink.
We'd hardly started to eat or drink when Auggie said, "OK, Dink, you have no idea why you're here, but you've indicated that you'd like to be part of the group that calls itself the Gang. The four of us here are part of the group. My father has a special role when new people join the Gang. He paints their portrait for a very special, and private, display space. It's private because all of the portraits are nudes."
Whoa! I, Dink, need to give you some background. I was totally inexperienced sexually. Completely. Totally. I jacked off as I went to bed some nights but that was it. I'd never seen a girl naked. I'd only seen boys naked at gym and sex was studiously avoided. Now, all of a sudden, it was clear that I was going to have a nude portrait painted. I wasn't sure I was going to make it through the evening, but I didn't say anything.
Auggie continued. "You can wait until after dinner to lose your clothes up in Dad's studio, or you can lose them now to sort of get used to the situation."
Sid said, "Auggie, he'll be more embarassed, and therefore more interesting to sketch, if the nudity starts later."
Auggie said, "But Lynn and Cathy are down here."
"They can be invited up to be part of the party."
Auggie said, "I think the party should start down here." With that he stood up and calmly removed all of his clothes. "Don't be shy Dink. Take a good look. Then think about giving us a good look at you."
Despite the back and forth with his father, it was clear that this had all been worked out in advance. I had two choices: take my clothes off right here, or put the matter off until after dinner up in Sid's studio. I was equally sure that they were prepared for either of those responses.
I was aware that I had most unusual genitals, and I was pretty sure that they knew the story behind my name, and therefore knew about the size of my dick. There was no way I was going to make a decision about taking off my clothes without size being a part of it. I decided, "What the Hell. I can trust these people. They want my clothes off, off they come." I started with my shoes and socks, as had Auggie, then my shirt, then my pants. I have an advantage in that with my fairly loose fitting briefs, combined with the size of my dick, my hard-on didn't show through my underwear. And that's where I stood, rather frozen in space.
Auggie came over to me; grabbed my briefs on both sides and said, "Would you like some help?"
I just nodded my head up and down to indicate yes, and, zip, my briefs were down at my ankles and I stepped out of them. Everybody looked; nobody said a thing. Auggie said, "That wasn't that difficult, was it? We'll decide in a few minutes what we'll be wearing to dinner. Now you have a decision to make. Would you like the other folks in the room to strip, or are you happy with things as they are?"
Two things seemed clear: Nobody was concerned about the size of my dick. Everybody seemed quite willing to strip naked if I so indicated. I thought, "I'm not going to push this." I said, "No more nudity, at least not for now." I headed for the cheese and crackers!
Conversation centered on the Olympics, the COVID precautions, my big race, being met in Honolulu, and my plans for the future. I was glad to be able to talk about being the Assistant Director of Athletics at the university. I was amazed at how quickly my state of undress, and Auggie's, became just part of the background. Then Cathy indicated dinner was ready. Auggie said, "We can dress for dinner, or not, as you wish."
I decided it was time to throw it back on him, and I said, "As you wish."
Auggie said, "Naked it is," and headed for the dining room. I noticed that a little towel had been placed over each of the upholstered dining room chairs to protect them from bare asses, so it was clear they were ready for whatever state of dress or undress prevailed when we went to dinner. Dinner was a very nice London broil, carved by Lynn, and served with twice baked potatoes and broccoli. Sid talked about his painting, and Auggie told some wild stories about sailing adventures around the world. I was glad to see that Lynn and Cathy actively participated, and Lynn's stories of Auggie in the Olympics were interesting. She ended with, "If Auggie could just learn to sit still, he'd have a gold medal. Wiggling cost him, and he has silver."
Somehow I thought that it was planned that Lynn would tease Auggie about his silver medal in order to put me more at ease. In any case Auggie smiled and said, "We don't need dessert. Let's all head up to Dad's studio."
As soon as we got to the studio Sid stripped naked, saying, "I always work naked when I'm working with nudes or erotic subjects."
Cathy said, "Lynn and I are going to strip as well; it'll add to the sexual tension." My God, did it. They were both beautiful women and made no attempt to hide it. My experience with naked women extended to my mother and a few pictures in magazines. And my mother was rarely naked in front of me. By this time the hard-on that had somewhat deflated during dinner was raging back. But my hard-ons, even raging ones, didn't amount to much.
At this point Sid said, "OK, Dink. We know the story of your name. Now we've seen the little culprit. Yeah, it's small. That's not a big deal. But it does present issues for the artist. With the rest of the Gang I've photographed and sketched in all sorts of poses. They haven't known what the final product would look like till it was presented to the Gang. I'm not comfortable with that in your case. You have a right to be sensitive to your size, and I have an obligation to honor that. So let's talk a little about your portrait."
Sid was so matter of fact; my size wasn't a matter of embarrassment, but of artistic interest. I simply said, "I'm listening."
Sid said, "First of all, you'll want to get the issue of size behind you with all of the Gang. I can do it with a picture, and–with your permission–I will. But the real thing is important as well. So when you join the Gang, we'll be sure to have you strip and let everyone see little Dink there. That'll be tough, but it'll be behind you."
Nobody had ever really understood me and my genetalia like Sid did. He could really emphasize with my situation. I simply said, "What do you have in mind for the portrait?"
"I was going to introduce this idea slowly, but I think you're ready. I propose two circles in the frame, one to show your head and the other your genitals. I have the head already painted; would you like to see it?"
"Of course." He got out a canvas with the two circles he'd mentioned, one settled into the lower right corner and the other in the upper left. They were both as large as possible in the frame, and overlapped slightly where they touched in the center. My face was sitting proudly in the upper circle.
Sid said, "That face was painted from TV images of you receiving the bronze medal in Tokyo. I propose a larger than life image of the dick and balls in the other circle."
The background on the canvas had been carefully covered so that I couldn't see it. Sid now pulled the covering aside so I could see. The background was a collage of penises! They weren't just lined up, but carefully intertwined to make a sort of geometric image. Yet each could be viewed individually. Sid said, "I've painted every member of the Gang and have kept my sketches. Every male in the Gang is distinctly pictured on that canvas. Most, if they look carefully, will be able to find themselves. Partners will recognize dicks they have played with and sucked. Honestly, people will be more interested in the background than in yours. It'll be a fun diversion from the usual erotic portraits. What do you say? Do you like the idea?"
"I honestly don't know what to say, but I trust your judgement. Let's go for it."
Sid stood me up on a little platform, and Auggie photographed my dick and balls from every angle. Then Sid moved on to sketches. As I started to get soft he called Lynn over and told her to get me aroused again. She tickled my balls and that was all it took! It was clear that the image to be portrayed would be a very hard penis. At this point I just let Sid continue in charge, until finally I heard, "Why don't we all get dressed?" Auggie led me downstairs to where our clothes were, and soon the others were dressed and followed.
Seated in the living room, Auggie started the conversation. "Look, Dink, it's very clear that you are totally inexperienced sexually. We've just put you through a tough evening. You'll have to go home and think about it, and decide if it was good for you or not. However, I have a suspicion that you aren't really that happy with no sexual outlet. If that's true, and you don't have to say anything here, but if that's true I have a suggestion for you. Talk to Max."
"Talk to Max? I met Max maybe two times as I've been with some members of the Gang. Why would I talk to Max about sex?"
"I'm not sure how he got the role, but Max is the Gang's sexologist."
"Sexologist? Is that even a word?"
"It's a word. I think it means one who studies sex. But in our case it means one who helps out with sex. If we were talking about serious problems, we'd send you to a psychologist–we have a good one in the Gang. Max helps the normal people that have normal problems, and I think that describes you. Talk to Max. Do the standard Gang thing–invite yourself to dinner. Dinner will be at The Playhouse; you need to meet The Playhouse and its players!"
I have a good relationship with my parents, but there was no way I was going to tell them the story of my evening. I knew they'd ask, so when I came in I told them I had dinner with Sid and Cathy, as well as Auggie and Lynn, and that Sid had done sketches for a portrait. They weren't, thank goodness, more curious.
Up in my room I stripped down and got ready for bed. After all that, there was no way I wasn't going to jack off. As I did that I thought about the evening, and especially about the suggestion that I see Max. I guessed that Max was about forty years old (a very good guess) and I was twenty-seven. However, the advice to see Perry, Liddy, and even Sid had been good advice. Not following this advice seemed stupid.
So I called Max, and of course he was expecting the call. The Gang obviously leaves nothing to chance. I was invited to dinner the following Friday, and met one of the most completely off the wall groups I've ever met. Milt and Viv were delightful. Art and Helen sort of played the grandparent role and were very quiet, but clearly observing everything. Then there was the next generation including the twins, Marilyn and Carolyn, who'd been in Japan with me. I'd gotten to know them pretty well on our stops in Honolulu both coming and going, but I had no idea that they lived with Max. Finally there was Frank Bruder, Hal's grandson, and his parents, Bud and Jennie Bruder. I'd met the entire Bruder family several times, but I had no idea Frank and his family lived with Max and this entire group. Life with this bunch would really be a trip!
When dinner–a turkey, which I associate with large groups at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, but which made sense for this group when it was all together–was over Marilyn hopped up and said, "Let's all go swimming." There was general agreement, and everyone started moving toward the stairs which I assumed led down to a pool.
I said to Max, "I don't have a swimming suit."
"Neither do the rest of us. It's all skinny dipping here."
Marilyn had led the parade and was first to get poolside, strip off her clothes and dive into the pool. Carolyn was right behind her, but instead of diving into the pool she walked over to me and said, "Don't be shy. Would you like some help getting your clothes off?" With that she started unbuttoning the buttons of my shirt. Viv, now naked, came up and started untying my shoes. Frank came up behind and slipped my now-unbuttoned shirt off, while Carolyn moved right down to my belt, pants button, and fly. That was all Frank needed to slip my pants down, and Marilyn pushed down my briefs right behind my pants. They helped me step out of my shoes, socks, and pants and then pushed me into the pool. You can't believe how happy I was to get myself under the water.
Then Marilyn swam up and whispered in my ear, "May I play with it?"
I certainly knew what "it" was, and I wasn't sure how to answer. Everything was moving at rocket speed and I felt I was losing control. Then I thought, "I think my best move is to just go with the flow. I know Max is behind all this, and I just have to trust him." I looked at Marilyn and said, "Yes."
She quickly started massaging my dick and balls, and Max swam up and started massaging my butt crack. Max said to Marilyn, "Let's not go too far." Then to me he said, "Had enough swimming? Let's get dressed and I'll show you my room. That'll separate you from all these sex-starved women."
We were now dressed and sitting in comfortable chairs in Max's "playroom." He told me, "This is where Milt and I grew up. That was his bedroom and that over there was mine, but we always slept together. Life here was always very sexual. We learned to jack off together. We brought our girls up here and had sex for the first time. Boys were welcome too. Milt and Viv first were naked together here. This room has an interesting history."
I asked, "Would you like to have sex with me? Is that where this is leading?"
"No. I know you're of age, but that'd be taking advantage of you. You came here for help regarding sexual relationships. As I get it, you basically have no relationships with girls. You know the twins from your Olympic experience, but they aren't close friends, and certainly not romantic partners. But I'll bet you know them as well as any other girls, right?"
"Yes, you're right."
"OK, let's talk a little about your sexuality. Both here and at Sid's you were naked with both men and women. Did one turn you on more than the other? Did you like Marilyn playing with your front or me playing with your backside?"
"You're asking whether I'm gay or straight, right?"
"No, I'm asking about very specific reactions in two very specific situations."
"To be honest, seeing the men was as exciting as seeing the women. I responded to both you and Marilyn, but Marilyn was handling the more sensitive spot."
"That's a very honest answer to a tough question. Gay and straight are very limiting terms. I think everybody's a little of both. Now let's talk a little more about your sexual experiences."
"I haven't had any."
"You run with a bunch of men and boys, right?"
"Do any of them arouse you a little?"
"Well, that wasn't a, 'No.' Let's pursue that. Have any of them appeared in your fantasies when you jack off?"
I was silent.
"Your silence suggests that maybe one was. Right?"
"OK, now we're getting somewhere. In our society, if it was a girl that you were having fantasies about, you'd ask her for a date, and see where it went. This is the twenty-first century, treat the boy the same way. How old is he?"
"He's a high school senior. We congratulated him on turning eighteen after one of our runs last fall."
"A little young for a twenty-seven year old, but quite legal. After your next run, invite him to dinner. Don't just say, 'Let's go to dinner.' That's sounds like a couple of guys getting together. Say, 'I'd like to take you to dinner at Jerry's. Could you come tonight?' You'll get immediate feedback from that question; if he says, 'Yes.' you'll know there's interest."
"What makes you think there might be interest?"
"You. My guess is that you've been getting some hidden signals from this young man. He's been looking at you, checking you out. Your eyes have caught each other's from time to time. Nothing obvious. But without them I don't think you'd be fantasizing about him as you jack off."
"Now that I think about it, you may be right."
"Now you just have to screw up the courage to ask the young man a very simply question. For some people that is almost impossible. If you got through our nude swim this evening, I think you'll survive you're next run and dinner."
Max was right. I asked Byron the next day as we started to run. I got a big smile back and a, "Sure." We went to Jerry's and talked and talked and talked. He wanted to know all about the Olympics, about where I grew up, where I went to school, did I like Chicago, why did I come back to Grand Forks after life in the big city, and on and on. I asked him a lot of the same kind of questions, but he was only in high school and didn't have the same number of stories to tell.
Then he looked me straight in the eye, held my gaze, and said, "Let's cut to the chase. Are you gay, and is this a date?"
I gave him the most honest answer I could, "I don't know whether or not I'm gay, but this is definitely a date."
His answer floored me, "You know, I've been oogling you since you came back from Chicago and started to run with Hal, Jody, and the rest of us. Your body is amazing; you've always been kind to me; you never had that superior attitude that often goes with athletic success; you seem to be a really nice guy. Then this really nice guy asks me if I'd like to go to dinner. Fuck, yes, I'd like to go to dinner. And it's been as wonderful a dinner as I could imagine. Now the question becomes, 'Your house, or mine?'"
Wham! Things were really moving fast. Did I want them to? It certainly wasn't going to be at my house, but he seemed to be suggesting that his house might be available. Then there was yhe matter of my size. Did I warn him; say nothing and hope for the best; or say nothing and have him be completely put off by my size? I dearly wanted to say yes. I could hear Max whispering, "Yes," in my ear. I had trusted Hal, Perry, Liddy, Sid, Auggie, Max, so far. I said, "My house is out. How about your house?"
"Wait till you see my pad! It's great."
We took a cab to his house, where he introduced me to his parents. We all had ginger ale and cookies together. We had a pleasant conversation about nothing much–my Olympic trip did get included. They seemed like very nice people, and seemed very glad to welcome me. After about a half hour Byron said, "Let me show you my room."
He mother said, "Byron's very proud of his room. That was just a bare attic with rafters and ceiling joists when he started. He put in the walls, floors, sheet rock, everything. He even installed the bathroom. He'll show you."
It was quite an attic. He'd made two rooms and a bathroom. One room was a small study, with a computer, lots of books, and room for not much else. The other room was larger, with a double bed, a sofa, two "comfy chairs" (his words), and a stereo set with fairly large speakers–it was playing softly–classical music. He sat on the sofa and I sat beside him. I asked, "Are your parents comfortable with you bringing me up here?"
"My parents know I'm gay, and they're cool with that. They know that I've had no luck finding partners. I've come out to a couple of boys at school and been completely rebuffed. Two others came up here with me, but it didn't work. They were interested in me for sex only."
"Were these high school kids, or old guys like me?"
"My classmates. One only wanted to fuck my ass, period. The other made it very clear that he only wanted sex. He had two or three other partners that he got sex from, and wanted to keep it that way–no commitments. We did play around a little,, but I never invited him back."
"Your parents are comfortable with you having partners up here?"
"They want me to be be happy. They realize that I'm not happy as a gay boy with no partner of any kind. They want me to be happy, and realize that that'll probably involve sex, and they'd rather it was up here than someplace else. So the answer is, 'They're comfortable'."
I asked, "So where's this going this evening?"
"That's up to you. You invited me for the dinner date."
I thought about my dick and wondered where this would go. I decided that I had to find out on this date, not a subsequent one. So I said, "Let's loose our clothes and see were it goes from there."
Byron said, "May I undress you. I've dreamed about doing that for a long time."
I said, "Sure." He started with my shoes and socks. This was followed by very slowly unbuttoning my shirt and removing it. I hadn't worn a tee shirt, so I was now bare to the waist. Instead of starting on my pants, he played with my nipples, eventually sucking at them. I decided to just sit back and let him lead. He told me to stand up and when I did he undid my belt, pants, and fly and pushed them down. Then he massaged my genitals through my briefs, finally pushing the briefs down. He took my dick in his hand and massaged it, while tickling my balls with the other hand. Just as I was feeling relief that he hadn't said anything about size, he said, "It's cute. I love it. Can I suck it?"
You can imagine how I reacted to that! I said, "Oh, God, yes." And he did. It was total euphoria. My semen exploded into his mouth with the most fantastic orgasm I'd ever had, or ever hope to have again! And he sucked and he sucked. Then he had my balls in his mouth along with my dick, and he kept on sucking, I could hardly stand up, but he put both hands on my buttocks and pulled my body toward his face. His tongue played with my dick and my balls till I simply couldn't stand it.
He sensed that I was at my limit and backed off. He said, "My God, that was wonderful. More than wonderful. Take me any way you want. Now. I'm about to explode." With that he took his clothes off, walked over to the bed and lay on his back, arms and legs outstretched. His dick was average sized, hard as a rock, and pulsing. He said, "Please, now."
I'd never been in this position before. I didn't really know what to do, but my body did. I crawled on top of him, took his dick in my mouth, and sucked. He came before I knew what was happening, and just as fast our two mouths came together and we were kissing, deep and long, with his semen filling both our mouths. After a while we broke up and he said, "That was wonderful. Just lay here and hug me. If feels so good to have your body next to mine." He rolled and was on top of me, and it felt simply wonderful to have his weight pushing our bodies together. I spent the night. I spent many nights. Byron's parents fell in love with me. It took my parents a little longer to adjust to my having a boyfriend, but they did. Hal and Jody were delighted. Max takes credit for the whole thing.
I held off joining the Gang until Byron was ready as well. The session with Sid was fun. I'd warned Byron what was coming, and we all had a nude dinner together and then a nude modeling session in Sid's studio. Sid insisted that I pose Byron's dick and balls in odd positions as Auggie took photos almost nonstop. Unlike in my case, we didn't know what the final portrait would look like.
The joining ceremony was in The Hideout, Gangland being too small to get everybody in, and EVERYBODY was present. I'd been warned in advance that I'd be naked for everybody to see, and I warned Byron that the same would probably apply to him. We were ready: clean underwear.
We gathered in the front hall of The Hideout, with people on the stairs, in the living room and the dining room. Max, still claiming credit as Cupid, was in charge. Max said, "You all know Dink and Byron. They are a pair, and a wonderful pair. And they are runners. I don't really understand their fascination with running–I rarely run anywhere–but Hal, Jody and others here do, and they vouch for these two as both wonderful runners and wonderful people. Byron and Dink, welcome to the Gang. At this point the standard procedure is to have you moon us and get numbers on your butts. But I'm told that this time it'll be a little different. The two of you: Strip."
Max continued. "As of right now there are 137 living Gang members; they all now live in Grand Forks, and they are all now present. Byron and Dink, your job is to get all 137 of them to squeeze one or the other of your dicks. Dink you need to get 69 squeezes and Byron you need to get 68. Listen, everybody, you only get to squeeze one dick, one time, or things will get screwed up. OK, Dink and Byron, work your way through the crowd and get and count those squeezes."
It sounds crude and raunchy. But it got me past 137 hurdles that could've bothered me for a long time. Those that didn't get a squeeze got a good look, and my size no longer was an issue. I got my 69 squeezes and Byron got his 68. We worked our way up to the front and Max called Franklin, Phil, and Brian to come up with us, and they were told to lose their clothes on the way. The five of us stood up front. I don't know whether the others knew what was coming, but I sure didn't. Max continued, "Dink is known to have solid ground at one end of the penis size bell curve. These three are here to represent the other end of the curve. Franklin and Phil have the largest dicks in the Gang, and it's reputed that Brian has the longest–at least that's Shel's opinion. Look at what's before you and see if your agree." There was raucous cheering. He then handed each of the three huge, permanent magic markers. We were told to moon the crowd. Brian of the long dick put a one on each of us. Franklin of the huge dick put a five on each of us. Phil of the other huge dick put a four on me for a 154 and a five on Byron for a 155. We were members of a very exclusive club! Charlie told us there were Cokes in the kitchen for a Coke toast before we moved on to the next venue. He did suggest that we five should get our clothes back on before we moved.
The Coke toast in the kitchen was brief. Then we all headed out to three huge motor coaches and were driven across the bridge to East Grand Forks and the Community Church of East Grand Forks. We all tumbled out of the busses; greeted Byron's and my parents, a group of Byron's high school friends, and a few of my college friends; and headed into the sanctuary. Rev. Saxon finally got everybody quiet and proceded with a most non-traditional marriage service. We shouted our "I dos" and Rev. Saxon pronounced us husband and husband. We kissed our husbands long and hard. This was followed by a huge dinner put on by the ladies of the church (sexism survives everywhere!). A good time was had by all, and the busses, whose drivers had joined the party, got us back home to Grand Forks before Cinderella's midnight. The next day was New Year's Eve and Byron and I invited a bunch of his high school friends for a party at The Hideout. The Hideout was pronounced "gucci", and he was kidded a lot about being married before he graduated. He responded, "Hey, I caught Dink. I wasn't going to let him go."
New Year's Day a smaller group, led by Sid and Carl, met in the lobby of his building. Carl led the way up to the fourth floor and its utility closet. We were given the combination and told to go in. Carl lit the lights and Byron and I saw the collection of erotic portraits. We could hardly believe what we were seeing. Then Sid called us over to where a sheet covered what appeared to be a new portrait. I was told to remove the sheet: the canvas before me wasn't what I was expecting. Instead of two standard size portraits, I was looking at a larger one with three circles, not two. Centered at the top was a wonderful closeup of Byron and me kissing. We'd never posed for that but Sid had created it from our faces using other models. In the lower left was the enlarged portrait of my genitalia. In the lower right was a picture of me squeezing Byrons penis with one hand and tickling his balls with the other. It was just about as pornographic as you can get. In the background around the circles was the penis collage–completely redrawn from the original to fit the new frame. Sid had really put a lot of effort into it. Then Sid got out another frame, this time filled with sketch paper. It matched the canvas, but the circles were empty. The penises around the circles were all there, but in outline form. In the top circle was the instruction, "When you find yourself, write your name on this sheet." Sid's penis was in the upper right, and he'd written his name in. Auggie said, "Dad, show us that you really match the picture." Heck, the canvas was in color, and it wasn't exactly difficult to find Sid's penis. On the other hand, it was interesting to see the original and the picture side-by-side. The image was almost exactly correct–almost photographic. Color was a good guide for Auggie as well, and he wrote his name on the sketch paper. Sid told the others to find themselves later. It was quite a show, and led to a lot of good times later as people argued over whose penis was whose, and demanded up close and personal looks to check results!
Then Sid handed both Byron and me small packages and told us to open them later. In mine was the original portrait of my head which Sid had painted and then not used when Byron became part of the package. Byron got a similar portrait of himself. They both hang on our living room wall today.
To wrap up a few loose ends. I'm now juggling not only running, Ph.D. studies in Morehead, trying to be a good Assistant Director of Athletics, but also being a good husband. Our parents are a little startled at how fast this all moved, but have been wonderful supporters. My job at the University allowed me to buy a house. Fred Sports guaranteed the loan allowing Byron and me to buy a little nicer house, closer to the university–where he's now a first year student. Hal's talking about Byron running in the marathon at the Paris Olympics. I think that's more startling to Byron than the fact that he's now a married man. And last but not least I'll let Max weigh in on the ten year age difference:
Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]
* Some browsers may require a right click instead