Tim's first phone call after he heard from Jim was to Stanley. "Stan, great news. You are going to have four White Elk campers getting medals in this year's Olympics. Jim's heading there too."
Stanley was so excited he could hardly speak. Tim continued, "See you in Mexico City, Stan. Try to relax. Bye."
I need to back up a little and get this narrative back on track, after Andy got so far ahead of himself - and then spoiled my story by telling of Jim's decision to go to the Olympics!
Well, we were in the home stretch. Tim's junior year was ending as was my second year of law school. We both felt pretty confident about qualifying for the Olympics, and were ready for the trials in the summer. Many of the athletes were concerned about the effect of Mexico City's altitude on athletic performance, but it wasn't expected to affect diving, gymnastics, archery, or wrestling. Hal's marathon was another story!
One event is worth mentioning. The Faculty/Staff endowment hit Tim's goal of $25 million, and would now pay both faculty and staff slightly over $1,000 per year. At Tim's insistence, staff was defined as all employees at the University who qualified for benefits: coaches, librarians, janitors, maintenance personnel, secretaries, lab assistants - the works. For those at the low end of the pay scale it was a huge supplement to their salary. At first the Trustees had balked and tried to limit the bonus to 15% of salary. Tim would have none of it - it was a pure justice issue for him. He was ready for a real showdown with the Board when Prexy intervened and convinced the Trustees that this was one issue that they didn't want to tangle with Tim on: he had, in fact, been responsible for raising the money. More to the point, Prexy had reminded them that he'd probably be raising more money in coming years.
The story leaked - not from Tim. We kind of think it was from one of Tim's strong Trustee supporters. So for the last month of the year Tim couldn't walk anywhere on campus without a custodian, secretary, or some other staff member saying "Thank you," or just giving him a thumbs-up. It was a wonderful upper for Tim, much more so than the waves and signals that came as a result of his sports success. It is really nice to be thanked.
I should briefly mention our trip to Las Vegas in May. The UND delegation to the university fundraisers convention consisted of six: Prexy, the Vice-President for Development, Tim, Mary Jane Bullock, Phil Peterson, and myself. We had a ball. Tim's two speeches were very well received. The theme of his keynote speech was simple: You won't get the money if you don't ask for it, and you have to have balls to be willing to ask for it. And, yes, that is exactly the way he said it. The word rattled a few cages, but it got people thinking. His dinner stories centered on his athletic experiences and his time at Camp White Elk. And then he started telling stories about himself and me. He managed not to be raunchy, but embarrassed me anyway. I was seeing a side of Tim that I hadn't seen before - a really polished public speaker. I am quite confident that the standing ovation was for the speech and not for who Tim was. In any event it was quite a three days. Mary Jane, Phil, and I led small group workshops, basically describing the specifics of the student endowment at UND that supported faculty and staff salaries. The idea that it was student staffed, student managed, student controlled, and had been conceived of by a student simply blew their minds. Prexy was constantly fielding questions like, "Is that really true?" and "Weren't you afraid of letting students go like that?" To the latter question Prexy had to admit to considerable fears and that for a while he had held Tim back by insisting on faculty participation. He ended with, "I've learned my lesson."
We were, collectively, $6.75 ahead at the casino (right in the hotel) when we left. That was the greatest success of the trip!
Billy applied for early admission to UND, and (surprise, surprise) he got in. To this day he doesn't have a high school diploma, but he doesn't really care - he has three university degrees. Larry was having, or at least contemplating, multiple wet dreams over the idea of having both Tim and Billy on his team the next year. To his chagrin, however, it didn't get him any extra medals: they refused to dive against each other after the Olympics, trading off on springboard and platform.
Ronnie graduated from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and was getting ready for graduate school at Stanford. He was going there with two other students, all of whom had made somewhat of a name for themselves with some ingenious work on quark theory.
Hal came in second in the Boston Marathon. His parents and Ronnie were his support group; he had insisted that the Gang simply couldn't be taking annual treks to Boston. He had run his own race, coming in 8 seconds behind the winner. We all knew that that meant that Hal could probably have won if he had pushed himself, but he was steadfast in his determination to run his own race. Ronnie said that he didn't even look disappointed with his second. Rather, he noted that he had come in 45 seconds ahead of his pace, and was very pleased with that. If there was a runner that could come in 53 seconds ahead of that pace, he was welcome to the medal. The winner was Kenyan, and Hal guessed that he'd meet him again in the Olympics. As for the trials, he was pretty certain that his making the team wasn't an issue.
Phil and Franklin were down in Kansas, evidently very happy and not leaving very often. Franklin's parents visited frequently, and remained completely delighted with their "married son" and his spouse. Phil rarely saw his own parents, and was simply delighted to be accepted as a son by Franklin's. Phil's younger brother Jerry, now a high school junior, had come up to Manhattan to spend a weekend with Phil.
At about 6' 4" Jerry was a skinny version of Phil. He'd missed Phil, and wanted to visit, but his parents discouraged it. Now he was 16, had used money he'd earned doing summer farm labor for several years to buy a car, and made up his own mind to visit Phil. He'd never met Franklin, and was shocked to find that Phil's "roommate" was as big as his brother. He said to Franklin after their first "Hello," "Wow, it isn't often I have to look up to people,. Where did Phil find you?"
Franklin replied, "A wonderful mutual friend."
Jerry said, "You two aren't really roommates, right? You've got more going than that?"
"Of course," replied Franklin. How could I resist not having more going with a guy as nice and handsome as your brother."
"Mom and Dad won't talk about it."
Phil asked, "Jerry, how long have you known I was gay?"
"Forever. But I have to live with Mom and Dad, so it's completely unspoken. In fact, you are seldom spoken of."
Franklin said, "Why the visit, Jerry?"
"To tell Phil I love him."
Phil hugged Jerry and said, "I never doubted it for a minute, Jer. Thanks for driving up here."
Jerry was full of questions about both of them, especially Franklin. Where did he grow up? What schools? Sports? Interests? College studies? His major? On and on. Then the questions moved toward the relationship between Phil and Franklin. How had they met? How quickly did they fall in love (was that the right word)?
The last two questions involved a lot of background, starting with a college debate partner named Charlie, a Gang from Camp White Elk, and a weekend in Des Moines that was beyond belief. Especially for Jerry.
It took Jerry a while to absorb all of this, but he wasn't offended. Curious was more the word. Finally he couldn't resist the big question: "OK, What do you guys do?"
Franklin looked at Phil as if to say, "He's your brother, you answer him."
Jerry, no clueless little kid, picked up on the hesitation immediately. "That's a tough one, isn't it? Just remember that after living for 16 years with our mom and dad, asking it may have been harder for me than answering it should be for you."
Phil said, "Jer, it isn't that we are embarrassed to answer. In the Gang it's a rule that if you can't talk about it, you shouldn't be doing it. And it's not that you are my little brother, because you are obviously pretty mature. I guess it's Mom and Dad's influence, years after I've been gone from home and thought I'd gotten over the inhibitions I learned as a kid. You deserve better than that. But to start, I need to know just how much you know, or think you know, about gay sex."
"When they are mad at each other enough to swear, boys call each other cocksuckers. I always just thought of it as a bad word, never taking it in a literal sense. But that's wrong, isn't it? Gay men do suck each other's cocks, don't they?"
"Yes, they do. We do."
"What is 69? I see it in grafitti, but I've never had nerve enough to ask my friends what it means."
"I suspect that a lot of your friends are equally puzzled and afraid to ask. 69 is a simple term for two persons having oral sex at the same time. If it's two men, like Franklin and me, it means I suck his dick while he sucks mine. If a girl's involved the other person's - man or woman - tongue goes into the cunt of the girl."
"Wow. Do you guys do that?"
Franklin said, "Yes, we like it. But you can't hug the other person while doing 69, at least not his head and torso which is what you want to hug; so we don't do 69 too often."
"The only thing that I've even thought about doing to a boy was jacking him off."
"We do that, too. It's fun. Have you ever tried it, Jerry?"
"You mean with a boy?"
"Yeah. Or with a girl. Girl's masturbate too, and they can certainly jack a boy off."
"In fifth grade three or four of us used to play with each other's dicks. Once a girl down the block agreed to join us, but when she agreed, we all chickened out. Eventually, Jimmy and I did play with Susie a little and let her play with us. We were too little to come then, however."
"Did you do that a lot?"
"Did you all have your clothes off?"
"No, just our pants pulled down."
Franklin asked, "Was it fun?"
"I'll bet it was. Were you afraid Mom and Dad would find out."
"It that why you didn't do it again?"
"Maybe. I think all three of us thought it was wrong, and having experimented once, we were finished. At least for fifth grade."
"What about you and the three boys?"
"Maybe a dozen times in fifth grade. A couple of times in sixth. We were beginning to grow hair, down there, and things seemed to change. We just stopped. Then one day in tenth grade, the end of last year, Jimmy walked home from school with me. He reminded me of our games in elementary school. He ended up asking, 'Want to try it again? Nobody's home at my house.'
"Phil, I knew you were gay and I really wanted to find out what it was like. I would never have had the nerve to ask a boy, but here was Jimmy offering me a chance. I said, 'OK'. We went to his house and up to his room. He shut the door and then kissed me. That really turned me off. I was only thinking about our dicks. He sensed something was wrong, and backed off. He asked, 'Can I open your belt and pull down your pants? We really can't do anything with pants on.'
"Somewhat reluctantly, I said, 'OK.' Soon my pants were at my ankles and Jimmy was asking if he could pull down my shorts. I asked him to take off his pants first. He did, and took off his shorts as well. In fact, he took off everything. There he was standing in front of me, completely naked, with a rock hard boner.
"'Now can I take down your shorts?"
"'Yes.' He did, very slowly and very gently. I took off my shoes, stepped out of my pants, took off my shirt and socks, and was as naked as Jimmy. 'What now?'
"'Lay on the bed.'"
Jerry had laid on the bed, and soon Jimmy was beside him, gently stroking his penis.
At this point in the story Jerry got a little excited. "All of a sudden I realized that I was going to come all over myself and his hand. That had never happened when we had played before. I started to ask Jimmy if he knew that would happen, when I realized that for sure he knew, and that that was exactly what he intended. After some doubts, I decided to just lay back, enjoy, and let Jimmy go. I wasn't ready for what happened next. I came all over my chest - it even hit my chin. At that point Jimmy's calm broke and he pushed his face into my stomach and rubbed my cum all over his face. I think he wanted to kiss me, but remembered my hesitation before and didn't. All I could say was, 'Wow.'"
Jerry had asked, "Do you want me to jack you off?"
"Would you like to?"
"I think so. Yes."
Jerry had jacked Jimmy off, but had avoided the cum. Jimmy had shocked Jerry by asking him to use his hand to put some of his cum in Jimmy's mouth. Jerry had replied, "I just can't."
"That's OK, said Jimmy," and did it himself.
Then Jimmy had said, "You didn't like that very much, did you?"
"It felt good, but no, not really."
"You won't tell anybody, will you?"
"No, and please don't you tell either."
"Don't worry, I won't. Look, Jerry, I'm homosexual. I guess I kinda hoped that you were, but I don't think so. You should've told me 'No,' from the beginning."
"No, Jimmy, I'm glad I did it. It was fun, but I didn't have as much fun as you did. Maybe sometime I'll want to try it again. If so, I'll let you know."
Jerry added, "I never have."
Franklin said, "That's quite a story. You know a lot more about gay sex than you let on."
"No, that's all I know. That and cocksucker. But Jimmy never tried that on me, and didn't talk about it."
Phil said, "Jimmy sounds like a nice boy. You were lucky. A lot of boys would've pushed you, and might even have hurt you. Jimmy was gentle and kind. If you have never thanked him for being that gentle and kind, you should. It would mean a lot to him, because he's probably worried about who you might tell, and worried about what you think of him."
"Thanks, Phil. I never thought of it that way. OK, so you use your hands. You suck. Anything else?"
"What do you think?"
"If you put your dick in his asshole do you call it fucking?"
"Most people do. Sometimes ass-fucking. Sometimes anal sex."
"Do you do it?"
"Both of you? To each other?"
"God, you guys are really being honest with me."
"Yes, we are, Jerry. We think you are worthy of our trust, and you are mature enough to deal with honest facts."
"Am I gay? I did enjoy the time with Jimmy, sorta."
"No, Jerry, you aren't gay. But our friend Tim, you know the diver, who is one of the gayest boys I know, likes to say that there is a little straight in everyone, and a little gay in everyone. The smart ones don't try to suppress it - they enjoy it. But they still love girls. I think that's good advice, and it fits you to a T."
"Thanks, Phil. Franklin. If I asked one of you to jack me off, or suck me, would you?"
"No, said Phil. You're a minor. You're my brother. In a way you're Franklin's brother-in-law. No sex. Maybe when you are an adult, we'd have to see. I know that Tim and his brother Carl, who's happily married, have sex every once and a while. So I won't say, 'Never,' but not now and no promises."
"I'm going to have to jack off tonight after this talk."
"That's OK. But privately, in your room."
Jerry grew up a lot with that conversation. He did date a few girls, and told us that he'd let his hands do some playing, when they'd let him. He dated Susie, the girl from fifth grade. Interestingly, even though they'd had each other's pants down in fifth grade, and had played with each other, she was now unwilling to do anything! When Jerry reminded her of fifth grade, the relationship abruptly ended. He did write that he and Jimmy had played a few times. He'd asked Jimmy if he'd ever done 69. He hadn't and the two of them tried it. They pulled it off, but decided that it was definitely clumsy, and not for them. The last time he'd talked to Jimmy about "playing" Jimmy had said, "No, I have a boyfriend. I have to be loyal to him." Jerry surprised Jimmy completely by grabbing him, kissing him (the only time since that first unwelcome kiss) and saying, "Oh, God, Jimmy, I'm so happy for you."
Jimmy said, "I'd like to tell you who, but I can't. He's so afraid that his parents will find out, I had to promise I wouldn't tell anyone. But we hope to go to college together."
Moving on to others in the Gang. Tom and Nancy planned a summer wedding. Their reasoning was unusual: "We are going to be in Mexico City for a little over two weeks in October. We think in that atmosphere, with press around, and probably hounding all your friends, Tim, we should be married if we are going to room together. It's time. We'll enjoy one year of being married students at Chicago.
The Detroit wedding brought the whole gang (minus Tina and Merle) together - even Felix. When he heard about the wedding, and the fact that the whole Gang was there, he turned around and mooned us, pointing to a faint permanent marker stain barely showing an "18." We laughed, and agreed that he should come. Nancy wanted a very traditional wedding. I was the Best Man, but none of the rest of Gang was in the wedding party. Tom had said, "It's too hard to choose." All of the Gang, men and women, were ushers - really the only non-traditional part of the wedding was the quantity of the ushers and the fact that four of them were girls.
Often the gathering of the Gang was a time for sex, but not so this time. We all seemed content to stay in our regular pairings - except that Ronnie insisted upon rooming with Felix. I can only speculate about what happened in the room at night, but they both seemed pretty happy each morning.
As Tim and I drifted off to sleep the first night, I asked him, "What do you think it means that we are all sleeping with our partners?"
"We're growing up? Oh, God, Charlie, I hope not. It's too much fun being a little boy. I hate it that I'm no longer a teenager. I want to act like a teenager."
"Tim, you never acted like a teenager. At least not a typical teenager. You want to keep on acting like the 40-year old teenager that you were, and the nearly 50-year old twenty-something that you've become. But you haven't changed."
"So, if we aren't growing up, why aren't Jim, Andy, Kara, and Amy in this room with us? Are they growing up and we aren't?"
"No, silly. It's random. We all just were in love with our partners tonight. That's a good thing. Love me Tim. I love you so much. Love me, suck me, and fuck me."
"Just like that, one, two, three?"
"No, Tim, the love never stops. The sucking ends. The fucking ends. The loving is endless."
He kissed me, worked his way down my body to where he could suck me, but before he finished, he lifted my legs, licked my ass wet, wet his dick by putting it briefly in my mouth, and slipped inside. It was the first time we'd tried it without lube. It was a little rough, but it worked. As he came he brought me, and we soon wiggled into our spoon position and slept like babies.
Swimming and diving Worlds were in Amsterdam this year. With Rome behind them and the Olympics in front of them Tim and Billy found the Worlds to be somewhat of an anti-climax. But, yes, Tim came to Mexico as the defending World Champion in platform and springboard, with Billy number two off the platform and number three off the springboard. Stan wasn't far behind. Billy's and Stan's parents joined them and I went with Tim. But with all the emphasis on Olympic Trials and Mexico we decided that that would be the whole group. We had to hurry back to get ready for Olympic mania.
The first sport - of the five someone in the Gang competed in - to hold its trials, or qualifying meet, was the marathon, part of track and field. The meet was in Boulder, Colorado, for the altitude - Mexico City would be higher! Hal slowed his pace, came in second hardly breathing heavily, and secured his place on the team. Then he headed straight for Mexico City for almost three months of solid practice at the Mexico City altitude. He'd be ready!
Jim and Big Paul had a problem. They expected to face each other in the final round of the tournament, and didn't like the idea of the big match between them coming at the trials instead of in Mexico. They talked of agreeing in advance that Paul should win in the overtime period - the reverse of their last match, which had been in high school. But they decided that really wasn't honest. They would just thrash it out. They did, and Big Paul won by a point. Both admitted that they really hadn't been trying their hardest. The real thing would be in Mexico!
The archery tournament that would select the Olympic team was scheduled for two days right in the middle of the gymnastics trials. Since Tim's eighteenth birthday, these would be the first big competitions for either of us that the other wasn't present. There was no way around it, but it would hurt. Tim and I both had a nagging fear that it might affect our performance, and we talked about that quite often.
I was able to join Tim the first day of the gymnastics meet. He did well, but this was only the first elimination round, and there was no question of his moving forward - though he still took the whole thing very seriously. What he really took seriously, however, was our sex that evening. I've rarely seen him so hot. He was all over me: fingers on my prostate, tongue in my mouth, my dick in his mouth, my balls in his mouth, then 69. I didn't want it to end that way, so I soon pulled his head up to mine and we kissed, long and hard. Then I worked down his body till I had done all of the same things to Tim. Finally he asked, "How do you want this to end?"
"How do you?"
"You decide. Do you want to fuck me?
I said, with a big grin, "No. I'm going to suck you. Right now." And I did. He came quickly, and soon we were sharing his cum. We lay there a long time, and then he slowly worked his way down my body and did the same for me. We slowly fell asleep kissing, instead of being in our usual spoon position. However, sometime in the night we moved to the spoon position, and that's how we awoke.
"Charlie, I'm going to do fine without you this week. You are going to do the same. We showered together, and then it was time for me to be off to the airport for my flight to Minnesota. Tim's dad was going to go with me. He, Hal and his parents, and my mother made up my support group. The rest of the Gang would be with Tim.
We both did well. I was the second place qualifier, and Tim made the team with flying colors. We'd soon be off to the 1968 Olympics together, hand in hand - in Mexico City. Tim flew back to Minneapolis, and we were into each other's arms - and more - instantly. His dream was coming true. I'd never really dared to have the dream, but it was becoming a reality anyway.
Diving was last and the results fairly predictible: Tim would be going to Mexico City. Billy would be going. Stan would be going. Tim was number one off the platform and the springboard. Billy qualified in both: second off the platform and third off the springboard. Stan was third off the platform. The top diver from Indiana was second off the springboard. The United States would be represented by four divers - all from Indiana University or the University of North Dakota. Larry was in shock. Coach Billings was in seventh heaven. Tim looked cool as a cucumber. Billy finally lost his cool, and broke down and cried on Tim's shoulder when he realized he'd double qualified along with Tim. Stan tried his best to be a mature graduate, but was so thrilled at the idea of being an Olympian that he could hardly speak. The young man from Indiana, James - they really called him that - was in the same state as Stan. Nelson Waters, Tim's high school coach who had been invited along with Larry Knudsen to be an assistant diving coach in Mexico City was in a state of euphoria. Nelson hadn't worked with Tim for three years, and was surprised when Ralph Billings had called him up and reminded him that he was to be an assistant coach. His and Larry's first duties were to help out at the trials.
Tim pulled the four Olympic divers together and said, "Just the four of us are going to dinner tonight. We have to get to know each other."
Billy said, "You can't leave Charlie!"
"Yes, I can. He can go with Larry, Nelson, and everybody else. Tonight it's just we four. And we are going to eat very large steaks!"
James was a little uncertain about accepting Tim's invitation. His parents were with him, as well as other friends from Indiana. However, Stan knew James from their time together on the IU team. He whispered in his ear, "James, this is an invitation you don't even consider passing up." James had the good sense to take the hint and joined the other three.
Stan was by this time close friends with Tim and Billy. He'd dived with them for a year, even though as a graduate student he couldn't participate in collegiate meets with them. But he'd decided to take another shot at Nationals, Worlds, and the Olympic trials. Now here he was, headed for Mexico. James, who had just graduated, had dived with Stan at Indiana for three years before Stan graduated. He'd usually been number two to Stan, but sometimes beat him on the springboard. He'd seen Tim at a couple of national meets, and he met Billy once, but they were generally strangers. Stan took care of introductions.
Stan started the conversation at dinner by saying, "James, you probably know Tim's story from the newspapers and sports magazines. But you probably don't know much about Billy. And it's really important that you hear his story. It isn't fair to make Billy talk about himself all evening, and if Tim tells the story he'll downplay his own role. So I guess it's up to me."
After a year Stan knew Billy's story pretty well, and he told it in some detail. He ended with, "OK, Billy's been under Tim's spell for a couple of years. I've been for a year. James, you only get about two months; you have to make the most of them."
"What do you mean, Stan?"
"I mean, hitch your wagon to his star, Follow him around like a puppy dog from now until your first Olympic dive. Milk every bit of advice you can out of him. Watch everything he does and copy it. When he isn't available, do the same to Billy. You've already learned everything from me that you can, but these two are unique. Take advantage."
James was a little flustered, and then replied, "Guys, I'm heading back to Indiana. You guys are heading to North Dakota. I don't expect to see much of you until it gets close to the time for the Olympics."
Stan said, "Now's the time for you to decide whether you want to be an Olympic athlete or an Olympic medal winner. About the best that's available is a bronze medal...."
Billy interrupted saying, "Gold and silver aren't sewn up. Well, gold is, but silver certainly isn't."
Stan hardly paid any attention to Billy, simply dismissing his interruption with, "Bullshit, Billy. Look, James, you have to decide if you want that bronze medal. If you do, you drop everything else in your life and head to Grand Forks, North Dakota, and play puppy dog to these two."
"You're serious, aren't you?" asked James.
Tim said, "Yes, he is. And you're welcome. You can stay either with us, or Stan, or Larry - Coach Knudsen. I'm certain that all of us would welcome you."
Billy said, "I think that Coach Knudsen is hosting Coach Waters, so that fills his guest room. However, I'm quite certain that Fred would welcome him to stay with me. He has lots of room."
Tim said, "Billy, that's the best idea. James, we have a bed for you; all you need is to make a decision. Are you coming to Grand Forks?"
"I guess so. When?"
Tim said, "Wait. 'I guess so,' doesn't cut it. No half-assed decision making in this group."
Billy said, "That's right. And the commitment isn't just to going to Grand Forks, but to working your ass off from now until we head for Mexico."
Tim said, "As for when: immediately. You'll have to go home first, but be in Grand Forks by the day after tomorrow. You've graduated so you don't have any school obligations. I doubt you are planning to do much before the Olympics other than to get ready. Day after tomorrow is good timing."
James said, "I'm overwhelmed. I can't believe the invitation. And I can't believe I'm saying 'Yes,' but I'll say it: 'Yes.'"
Stan said, "Good. I'm sure that Billy's right that Fred will be glad to host you, but if not you can bunk with me."
Billy said, "If you feel overwhelmed now, wait until you have spent a week with Tim. James, you have no idea what you're getting into. Tim and Charlie are the most wonderful pair in the world. You are going to not only work with the three of us divers, but meet a whole, wonderful North Dakota community."
Tim said, "And the Gang."
"The Gang?" asked James.
"More explanations are needed, but I think we might hold them until you get to Grand Forks, but don't worry, it's a good Gang."
James looked pensive, perhaps a little worried. "What's the matter?" asked Tim.
"I'm embarrassed to ask this question, but I can't help asking."
Tim said, "I think I know what's coming. Go ahead and ask, you don't have to be embarrassed."
James still paused and seemed to be gathering his courage. "Look, Tim, I know you are gay; it's been widely published. I don't have a problem with that. But I have to ask: Is there a sexual relationship among the North Dakota divers."
"You want to know if you are getting yourself into something. Right?"
"I guess that's the question."
"The answer is, 'No,' but I think you are entitled to a better answer than that. Yes, I'm gay. Charlie's my partner. I won't kid you; Charlie and I have had sexual relations with other people. But not Billy - he's cute, but he's too young - and that ends the matter as far as we're concerned. Not Stan because the issue has never come up. Stan's never suggested that he might be interested in me sexually; I've never expressed an interest in him. In fact, except for a couple of times when the play got a little raunchy, there have never been any sexual overtones to the diving team. Nothing will happen to involve you unless you initiate it."
"That's a fair answer, and clearly an honest one. Perhaps one day we can talk more, I really have no experience with homosexuality, nor with meeting homosexual persons. I don't even know whether I should be using the word homosexual or gay."
"Either, but most people find they are more comfortable with gay. I'd recommend not using queer, pansy, or homo!"
Billy said, "There are a lot of other words you shouldn't use either, but I think you are smart enough not to need a list. Tim's remarkably open about his sexuality, but completely upright. I've been trying to seduce him for two years now, without success! But I'll be eighteen before too long, and then, 'Look out!'"
Tim grinned and said, "You know, Billy, you have to talk to Charlie first."
"Yeah, and I have to talk to you before I seduce Charlie. Don't worry, I'll follow the rules."
James seemed a little startled, and said, "I think maybe I got more of an answer than I bargained for. But it doesn't sound like I'm going to be in any danger - even if I am over eighteen!"
"Absolutely correct," said Tim, closing the subject.
As the dinner went on, and the steaks were devoured, James slowly found himself part of a very special, close-knit group. God only knows what his parents thought when he got back to the hotel that night and told them he needed to be in Grand Forks in two days. They did check with Coach Billings, who assured them that Tim was both sincere in his invitation, and would be a totally positive influence on James.
Coach Billings invited me, Nelson, Larry, the rest of the Gang and hangers on, and the whole group from Indiana to join him for dinner at a local restaurant. I think that he was a little disappointed that his divers were off on their own, but he was getting used to Tim marching to his own drummer.
The three coaches had a chance to talk at dinner as well. Coach Billings was learning that Tim not only marched to a different drummer, it was a winning one. If Nelson and Larry gave him any important assistance as coaches it was in helping him to learn the key lesson in coaching Tim: "Stay out of his way; do no harm."
Ralph Billings was a quick learner. He'd thought that Tim and Billy were taking a huge risk in choosing the maximum degree of difficulty in their dives. It was quickly clear to him that they were both comfortable with the risk and had made themselves almost invulnerable in their positions as long as they didn't screw up a dive. Winning was totally in their control. Of course, actually being able to consistently perform at an almost perfect level was quite extraordinary, but the coach was quickly learning that both Billy and Tim were able to. Given that level of consistency, medals in Mexico were virtually assured. It was a coach's dream.
Coach Billings had responsibilities in Indiana. Coach Waters had a high school teaching job beginning right after Labor Day, but would head for Grand Forks until then. Billings had said, "Larry, I guess the coaching job is yours for this fall."
"Nonsense," said Larry. "I just have to follow my own advice and keep out of Tim's way; the job will be done for me. I've been doing that for three years now, and it seems to have worked out pretty well."
"Then I'll see you both on the plane to Mexico."
I ate with Tim's parents. Norman was worried that I was too much second fiddle to Tim. "I'm an Olympian too, you know. I'll be fine."
"Charlie, Tim's been tasting that opening ceremony for four years. It'll be the best thing that's happened to him since you came along. I hope you get as much thrill out of it as he does."
Betsy said, "I hope that it isn't a letdown for him."
"I don't think it will be. Certainly it won't be for me!"
"Charlie, are you going to get a medal?"
"I hope so; I guess I think so. If my shooting stays at my present level, it'll be gold or silver. But you never know. Tim would be the first to say that I can't count on it. I'm not."
"How many medals for Tim?" asked his mother, "He won't talk about it with us."
"Nor with me. He could get ten; two in diving and eight in gymnastics, including the team medal and the individual medley. That's unlikely. But I'll bet on seven or eight, at least five gold."
"Pinch me, I have to be dreaming," said Mom.
"Are ten golds possible? It's been mentioned in the newspapers."
"No. I don't think he has a chance at more than four individual golds in gymnastics. Maybe a team gold; that's five. Certainly two in diving, that's seven, and that's max."
"It's mind-boggling. I think back to that summer at Camp While Elk and I simply marvel. As I remember it, you all were a little late. Stanley caught me after lunch coming out of the mess hall, telling me of your arrival. Walking over to the administrative area I found this wonderful family, with two fantastic boys; well at that point I only knew what they looked like, but God they were beautiful. I worried then about how I was going to get through two weeks with Tim and not assault him. I soon learned that the problem would be getting through the two weeks without his successfully seducing me. But we made it."
"We knew Tim was gay, but we never really thought about the dynamics that the camp situation might produce," said Betsy. "An all-boy camp."
"I had been in that environment every summer for years, and it had never been problem. Tim was special. Still is."
"Well, I can't say that I'm unhappy about the way things have turned out. You know, from time to time we couldn't help but wish that Tim had been straight. I know that Tim's thought that from time to time. But not since you came into our lives. I think that God made Tim gay just for you, Charlie, and the other way around. No mother could ever talk about a 'match made in heaven' and be talking about anything more wonderful than you and Tim."
Norman said, "Charlie, you don't have to respond to that. Don't try. Just know that this whole family loves you unconditionally."
"Thank you. Both of you. I love Tim the same way."
"Back to reality," said Norman. "September would seem to be a pretty tough month. I see that most of the college student Olympic athletes are taking a semester off so they can practice in September and be at the Olympics in October.'
"Not Tim. Did you expect otherwise?" I said.
"From Tim? Certainly not. I don't know how he does it, but he'd never let athletics displace academics; he does both. Always has."
Betsy said, "But he's going to be a senior, and you are a third year law student. How's that going to work?"
"We have permission to miss the two weeks for the Olympics. September will just be our normal, completely impossible schedule. I think that the biggest strain will be after the Olympics. The demands on Tim for interviews, television appearances, a visit to the White House, and all that are going to be tremendous - that is, assuming that he does as well as we expect him to. I don't think he has any idea of the pressure that is going to be put on him while he's trying to return to being a student at UND. I think he's just going to have to tell everyone that if they want to talk to him, they come to Grand Forks. Even that won't reduce the pressure much. But the little kid'll handle it, I'm quite confident."
"How about you?"
"I always surprise myself. I still can't get over the dream that since I met Tim I have never gotten a grade less than A. Tim just goes through life as if that was the only grade given. It's been quite a shock for me. And if it's a shock for me, you should've talked to some of my teachers, and my parents, about the time period in which that change occurred! My advisor at Rockford is still shaking his head."
"Most of the divers are heading to Grand Forks, aren't they?" asked Norman.
"Tim, Billy and Stan live there, and I think they may invite James to join them between now at the games."
"What about the gymnasts?"
"They are gathering in Norman, Oklahoma, where Hal would be, if he weren't headed for Mexico to train."
"Isn't Tim expected to be there?"
"Of course. But then, for Tim, you have to make exceptions. He's promised to join them one weekend."
"The word was, four years ago, that if he didn't work closely with a top level coach, he wouldn't make the Olympics."
"People simply haven't given Frank the credit he deserves. Just because he comes from a small club in St. Paul, they underrate him. But his insights put Tim on the map. He's all that Tim'll need between now and Mexico. In a way, he's sort of Tim's secret weapon."
"Frank started that hugging the line business, didn't he?" asked Norman.
"I heard a lot about that at the trials. It varied from, 'Tim's crazy,' to 'I'll bet I can get closer than that kid.'"
"Most of those that tried, missed. Tim doesn't miss. Frank got that insight by watching him dive. He spent hours watching Tim dive. He never commented, never interrupted. Then he took Tim aside and shared his incredible insights. For the floor exercises it was just, 'Hug the lines.' On the rings it was how to change his concentration. Then how to use fear and height to his advantage on the high bar. If he gets any individual golds in Mexico it'll be directly attributable to Frank. If the team gets a gold in Mexico it'll all go back to Frank. He's the unsung hero. You watch, Tim'll start singing his praises as soon as he's wearing gold and has an audience!"
"Is Frank going to be in Mexico?"
"If they want Tim winning gymnastics medals, Frank is going to be there. Yes, Tim's already arranged that," I answered.
"Tim certainly has chutzpah," said Norman.
"Yes, and a lot more. Sometimes he bargains with people; he'll give a little and get a little. Some things are non-negotiable for him. Frank's going to Mexico City as an Assistant Coach was one of those. John, his other coach in Minneapolis will be there too, but Fred's paying his way. That's non-negotiable for Fred, and Tim and the rest of us have given up trying."
Tim decided that James should live with us. He was a gorgeous human specimen as most champion divers are, and I think that both Tim and I would've been delighted to take him to bed. But he was completely straight, with a girlfriend back home in Indiana, and the subject never came up. He was an excellent diver, got along well with Stan, Tim, and Billy, and the four of them were happily convinced that between them they'd capture all six Olympic diving medals. They all conceded the golds to Tim, but there was considerable rivalry amongst them as they considered who might win the silvers. The thought of a 'foreigner' actually getting one of 'their' medals never was really considered. Tim and I warned them about being too cocky, and they understood the caution. And they practiced like mad in Tim's shadow. They may have been pretty sure of themselves, but they understood that medals only come to those who work. Like Tim.
Tim and I both negotiated with our teachers for most of the work in our fall classes to be submitted right after Christmas. We could've gotten Prexy or Dean Fry of the Law School to intercede for us, but it wasn't necessary. All of our teachers were delighted to cooperate. As we were considering the academic complications of summer Olympics in October, I couldn't help but think, "I sure wouldn't want to be the teacher that gave Tim his first B!"
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