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Finding Tim

A Fourth Alternate Reality

by Charlie
With editorial assistance from Dix and John


The gathering of the original Gang for Tim and Billy's big exhibition gave us a chance to catch up on everyone's comings and goings. That year was a time for great change for Tim and me, as it was for most of the rest of the gang as well. Except for Franklin who was a year older, Ronnie who skipped into college a year early, and me, the Gang all had graduated from college the previous June and were setting off in new directions. All, it turned out, had their sights on ultimately reaching Grand Forks for what we came to call "the Grand Uniting."

Ronnie, Sharon, and Kyle were still at Stanford, enjoying California weather, the University's intellectual challenge, and each other. The high cost of transcontinental air travel kept Sharon and Kyle at home, but they had insisted that Ronnie had to come to see Tim and Billy's exhibition. Tim and I were glad that he came; it was good to see him and get caught up on things out west. Not much had changed in his life since the threesome had admitted to themselves and to some of the rest of the world that they were indeed a threesome. He assured me that I was missing a lot by being tied to just a man. Having a man and a woman was much, much better. I asked if Sharon missed having a girl in the mix. Ronnie said that she insisted that she had no interest in other girls, and was delightfully happy with two boys.

Jim and Andy had brought Kara and Amy along. They were living in Grand Forks now - the first of the Gang to follow Tim and me there. They, along with Felix, were also the only members of the Gang in Grand Forks this year, but that would change before long. Both Jim and Andy had found work fairly easily with their business degrees. Andy was working for Fred, and had become an assistant store manager fairly quickly. Jim was working for the business office at the University. Kara and Amy had decided to wait a while before they went job hunting. They were finding that four could live much cheaper as a group of four than as two couples, and a third and fourth income wasn't necessary in the household. The girls were enjoying each other's company, and they were getting to know each other - catching up with the fact that the boys had known each other for years. They both hoped to teach next year.

The foursome had had a little difficulty over finances. I guess that newly married couples can run into the same sort of thing, but the two breadwinners tended to think of the money they earned as "their" money. Then also, despite the fact that they were absolutely committed to being a foursome, the fact still remained that they were, legally, two married couples. They would've had a hard time opening a four-way bank account. Even if it weren't a legal problem, it would've led to questions and speculation that they wanted to avoid. After a couple of minor arguments over who was spending whose money - not very different from the problems twosomes have - Amy took the lead and said to them one night at dinner, "OK. We can't let money do this thing in. We've got to have some understanding. First and foremost we're one family and we have one pot of money. Period. It doesn't matter who earns it, whose bank account it's in, or who spends it, everything belongs to everybody. Anything else and the whole thing unravels. Am I right?"

They all agreed.

"Then we have to act like it. And we need to have a banker, whose job it is to manage the money, pay the bills, balance the checkbooks, etc. Any volunteers?"

There weren't any. But everyone realized that Amy was really volunteering to do the job, and the others were willing to let her. She was unanimously elected banker. "OK, now we need some rules on spending. First, just because you earn a dollar doesn't give you any extra voice in the decisions relating to spending that dollar. However, we all need to make our own decisions about personal spending. If things seem to be getting out of balance, the banker will raise the issue at a family meeting, or talk to the big spender privately. Household decisions, big expenses, etc. will all be group decisions."

They'd all agreed, and it seemed to be working. And they found that they were saving a little money, even with only the two incomes. Both girls - women (we were at the stage when we really were men and women but still used the language we'd become accustomed to as students) - were planning to go job hunting in the fall.

Sex was an ever-changing kaleidoscope of times, partners, activities, and places. They'd bought a two-storey duplex on the edge of Grand Forks, cut a door between the two upstairs master bedrooms, put a California king on one side and a queen on the other, and there was absolutely no way of predicting who might be sleeping where or doing what. In a way all of the rest of us were jealous! The tensions that they'd experienced, and overcome, regarding money never arose regarding sex. In that respect they'd learned well from the Gang.

Phil and Franklin had one more year of graduate school in Kansas. Phil would complete a Ph.D. in English at the end of this year, and Franklin would complete a degree in social work at the same time. His studies had started as a one-year program, but he and his advisor developed a project for him to work on that extended the program an extra year. Phil was happy with that arrangement as it let him complete his dissertation while still in residence at the University instead of having to complete it while he was working somewhere. This had required some financial help from Franklin's parents, and they were more than delighted to provide it. They insisted that they were so happy to have an extra son that it never occurred to them not to treat him exactly as they did their own; they paid tuition for both.

Franklin's special project for his degree involved an experimental drug abuse treatment program which centered around a half-way house that was run by the residents rather than by an operating agency. The idea was radical, and it took quite a while to get the permission of the University for the project and then of the city which had to approve the siting of the group home. Because of the lack of professional supervision in the house on a 24 hour a day basis, clients could not be referred to the program by the courts. But individuals not in trouble with the law could check in. The house was run completely democratically, and it was interesting during the year to see the client mix change the vote on rules. Some of the time drugs were completely banned, and at other times small amounts were tolerated, usually just marijuana. The same was true of alcohol. Most of the residents found that gradual withdrawal was more likely to succeed than going cold turkey. Although that violated the conventional wisdom, they would eventually develop an 84% success rate, with being clean for two years after departure from the program being defined as success. Franklin had only been scheduled to work directly in the program for its first year, and then he and Phil would graduate. But he found the program so exciting that he decided to stay on in Kansas to continue working in the program. It was only part-time work, but he easily found a job in retail sales to provide additional income. Phil was able to get a two-year faculty appointment, based on the outstanding dissertation that he had presented for his Ph.D. They decided that hurrying to Grand Forks wasn't important until more of the Gang got there.

Even after he left Kansas Franklin stayed on the advisory board of his drug program for a number of years and watched the success statistics mount up. He was intensely proud of his involvement in the establishment of "Democracy House."

That spring Phil and Franklin got the inevitable visit that they'd known was coming. Since his original visit Phil's brother Jerry had visited two or three times a year. They'd had a few conversations about sex, but in general after the detailed conversation of the first visit, they found other things to occupy their time and conversation. When Jerry called in April and asked if they had time for him on one of the next two weekends, they knew what was coming. Jerry arrived as planned, on a Friday night, late. He came in, put down his suitcase, sat down in one of their easy chairs and just grinned. Franklin knew precisely why he was grinning, but played dumb. "OK, Jerry, what's up? You clearly have something on your mind."

"Franklin, Phil, I want to thank you for my birthday present a couple of months back."

"You wrote and thanked us for the books we sent right after you got them. Remember?"

"It was nice of you to remember my birthday."

Phil said, "Jerry, I've been sending you a book or two every birthday and Christmas since I left for college. What's the big deal?"

"It was nice of you to remember my birthday."

"You said that."


"What about it?"

"I'm eighteen."

"And two years ago you were sixteen. So?" We were determined to play completely dumb till the last minute.

"I'm eighteen."

"You said that."

"An adult."

"So now you aren't my kid brother, you're just my brother. So?"

"Fuck me!"

"Oh? Is that what you're getting at?"

"Yes. And you two damn well know it."

"As I remember our conversation of two years ago, we said, 'No promises'."

"I don't want promises, I want action."

"Are you sure, Jerry? You've told us that you have had some girlfriends that you've had some level of sex with. I don't know whether you've had intercourse with any of them. You've told us you don't think you're gay. Do you really want to have sex with your brother and his partner? Is it the right thing for you to do? How much have you thought about it?" That was Franklin, and although he asked the questions, he was pretty sure he knew what the answers would be.

"Have I thought about it? Almost constantly for two years. I've thought about what you two do, and put myself in the mental picture so many nights when I jacked myself to sleep."

Phil said, "Let's go into the bedroom. Then take your clothes off, Jerry. Let us take a look at you in a new light."

Jerry stripped, very matter-of-factly. He didn't try to be sensual; it wasn't a strip tease. He just took his clothes off without embarrassment, and stood facing us. However, he quickly became very hard; clearly aroused. And very handsome. His dick was thin, to match his body. But while his body was almost as long as Phil and Franklin's, his dick was proportionately much shorter. His balls hung low, and he had luxuriant blond public hair. The hair on the rest of his body was thin and blond, so he looked almost bare chested, and his legs and arms looked equally bare.

Phil found that while Jerry's body was very sexy and very handsome, he couldn't really get turned on looking at his brother. Franklin, on the other hand, was completely aroused. Franklin immediately read the situation correctly. He said, "Phil, why don't you sit this one out. I'm getting completely turned on by this piece of male ass in front of me, and I'd like to do something about it."

"Go ahead," said Phil.

"Yes, for God's sake, come ahead," said Jerry.

Franklin took off his clothes in the same matter of fact way that Jerry had. He walked over to Jerry, wrapped his huge body around Jerry, hugging him. Jerry was tall, but Franklin had almost two inches on him, and probably 40 to 50 pounds. Jerry felt like he was being sucked into a cocoon. Franklin whispered in his ear, "Jerry, as I remember your story, you weren't too sure about kissing. A kiss would be be welcome now, but not unless you're comfortable with it."

Jerry backed away a little so that he could look Franklin in the face. Without a word their heads drew together and then locked in a long, deep kiss. Franklin hadn't pushed with his tongue, but had opened his mouth enough so that it was an invitation. An invitation that Jerry accepted, hesitantly at first, and then with mighty vigor. Franklin's hands moved down Jerry's back until each was cupping one of his buns and pressing their genitals together - hard. Franklin wiggled a little from side to side, giving stimulation - very pleasant stimulation - to both of their dicks. Franklin whispered in Jerry's ear, "What would you like?"

"I already told you. Fuck me. Fuck me, please."

Phil and Franklin didn't have the hang ups about fucking that Tim and I did. Their sex life was pretty exclusively with each other except when they were with the Gang. But they'd never thought of any particular thing as limited to each other. So Franklin was quite willing to fuck Jerry, but was a little hesitant because of his size. Franklin was biiiiiiig! Round, firm, and long. He warned Jerry.

Jerry said, "I know you'll be gentle. Fuck me, please."

Franklin signaled to Phil and the two of them lifted Jerry onto their huge bed. They put him on his back and lifted his legs. Phil got a tube of KY and brought it to Franklin. Franklin lubed the anus that was spread in front of him and then his finger. He worked it in, and Jerry moaned - it wasn't clear whether it was pain, pleasure or both. Franklin paused, and Jerry said, "Don't stop. Please don't stop."

A second finger worked it's way inside. The moaning continued, and it appeared to be pleasure and not much pain. Franklin slipped a third finger in, but just through the sphincter. Then he backed out and left one finger to probe for the prostate. That was a new experience for Jerry, and his body shuddered in reaction. Franklin asked, "Think you're ready?"

"Yes. Oh, God, yes. Do it. Please."

Franklin knelt up on the bed and rolled forward so that his dick pressed against Jerry's sphincter. He used his hands to pull Jerry's cheeks wider apart and popped in. Jerry winced with some pain, but said, "Do it. Please."

Franklin did. He pressed deep inside, while wrapping his hands around Jerry and kissing him deeply. Then he backed off and began an in and out motion, never popping out entirely. In. Out. In. Out. Franklin had to decide whether to bring Jerry to an orgasm as he came himself, or leave him excited so his evening could continue. Franklin opted for simultaneity. As he felt his own ejaculation coming he grabbed the little dick in front of him and squeezed a couple of times, and rubbed. They came together, and then fell into an enormous, mutual bear hug.

Phil, who by this time had his own clothes off, joined them on the bed and they slept.

The next morning Jerry said to Phil, "I know you're a little uncomfortable with the idea, but please, Phil, I want to pleasure you. I'll use my hand, or my mouth, or you can fuck me. Please let me give you pleasure this morning."

Phil couldn't say "No." He pulled Jerry's head to his groin and said, "OK, Jerry. Suck me. Suck me hard. Do the whole job. If that's what you want, I can't deny you. Go for it."

Jerry did. He was inexperienced and he couldn't get very much of Phil into his mouth. Billy was the unexcelled master at getting huge dicks down his throat, not Jerry. But Jerry's tongue was very active, and proved to be quite talented. Phil came quickly, and Jerry had a new experience on his hands. Franklin had remained in the big bed, where they'd all spent the night, while this was going on. Now he said softly to Jerry, "OK, Jerry. You want the full experience, swallow it. Leave just a little in your mouth and kiss Phil, sharing the last bit with him. You don't have to, but that's the game - at least for Phil and me."

Jerry did. He kissed Phil, hugged him tight, and said, "Thank you, brother. You have no idea how much that meant to me."

Then he turned to Franklin and said, "Can I fuck you?"

"Of course, Jerry." Phil handed him the KY, while Franklin rolled on his back, and put his legs in the air, spreading them.

Jerry followed the same routine that Franklin had used on him the night before. He played with his fingers, and felt a prostate for the first time in his life. He enjoyed that play, but eventually moved on and fucked Franklin. Phil watched, but still found it a little difficult to watch his brother and his partner having sex. He told us later, "I truly believe that there was nothing wrong with it, I'd expressed no objection, they were doing nothing behind my back. Still it bothered me a little. But I couldn't deny Jerry; he's just too nice a kid and he really wanted it. Besides, he'd been so accepting of Franklin and me, I couldn't have said no."

Franklin added, "That was it. That night he asked if he could sleep in the big bed with us, but there was no sex. Sunday morning we had a late breakfast before he left for home. Jerry told us that he really was straight and didn't need or want a continuing gay relationship. But the time with us had been important for him, and he thanked us profusely. He told us, 'Now I'm sure who I am.'"

I asked Phil and Franklin why they thought it was so important for Jerry. Phil answered with, "Charlie, I think there were two things motivating him - though I don't think he could articulate them. First, I think he really wanted to experience fucking and sucking. But more importantly, I think he needed to be accepted. He's rejected the world of his parents in which the rules for sex are simple, and there's no room for homosexuality. Having rejected that, he needed to be accepted somewhere. We accepted him unconditionally, even though there were some strange aspects to the sex. I don't think he was testing us, not even subconsciously. But he really needed full acceptance. He got it. Now I think he's ready to move on. I think the next visit he's likely to have a girlfriend, and not be interested in gay sex. Of course, he'd better not let the girl get a look at that huge dick of Franklin's or he may lose out!"

Tom and Nancy had graduated from the University of Chicago with flying colors. After three years of being engaged but single, they'd decided to spend the last year as a married student couple. They had a small apartment near campus, in a pretty lousy neighborhood, which is about all there is around the University of Chicago. But love conquers all, and they had a wonderful final year. They'd found that their friends changed as they got married and moved out of the dorms. But the married students were more mature, and suited Tom and Nancy better. They'd enjoyed dorm life, but both agreed that the change was good. They had no regrets on the timing of their marriage.

Tom had studied literature, and his senior project had focused on European literature, mainly France. Nancy had studied art, working extensively in chalks and charcoals, and some with oils. Her senior project had been an extensive series of drawings of male nudes. Of course she started with Tom and some of their friends who were willing to pose. She also used art department models and a few fellow students. That was always arranged on the barter system - the male artists had a need for female models as well. The point of her project was to develop a series of drawings that featured male nudes ranging from scenes in which the sexual aspects were either non-existent or secondary to frankly erotic drawings, a few of which scandalized some of the visitors to the art department gallery because they included erect penises. Tom thought the whole thing was a hoot, and insisted that his erect penis be one of the ones displayed! The homoerotic picture that featured two erect penises was both of their favorites. The controversy helped her senior art show break all records for attendance! Nancy said she was eager to test the censorial waters of North Dakota! Tim was a little intrigued by that idea as well.

They'd decided that some time in Paris would suit both of them, and had studied French their last two years. They actually learned some, which is not necessarily the norm for American students studying foreign languages - often only because it's a graduation requirement. By taking intensive courses they had guaranteed that their classmates all were interested in actually learning the language, and the class had been exciting. After graduation they'd hoped to set off to Paris for at least a year, and they hoped it would be more.

The reality of the draft set in as they approached graduation, when Tom's student deferment would expire. It became clear by May that his lottery number would be called. He either had to accept some form of military service or seek some way out - probably by heading to Canada as so many other young men of Tim and Tom's generation had. Tom's attitude toward the war in Vietnam was similar to that of the rest of us, he simply couldn't imagine himself in Vietnam. But the Canadian escape route didn't appeal to him either. He ended up trusting the advice of an Air Force Recruiter - a risky choice - but after weighing his options, he chose the Air Force. He was legally guaranteed enrollment in Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas, beginning in late June. It would last three months. The recruiter had predicted, but was careful not to guarantee, that he would be accepted into one of the various administrative specialities, be specialty trained, and probably used stateside, though an overseas tour, including the possibility of Vietnam, was not excluded. His commitment would be three years following his commissioning as a Second Lieutenant. So shortly after graduation he was off to Texas, while Nancy headed back to Detroit to look for a short-term job until she could join Tom following OCS.

Hal and Sue were at Duke. Hal still retained some guilty feelings for preferring Oklahoma to Duke for their undergraduate studies, and he insisted on their doing their graduate work there - Hal in Phys Ed and Sue in Social Work. They were both in two-year programs that they had decided to stretch out to three years so that Hal would have plenty of time for running and preparing for the next Olympics. They were already planning their move to Grand Forks when they got their degrees. Their lives were totally absorbed in each other, their studies, and running. Hal had first met Sue running, and they continued to enjoy running together. However, nobody was really in Hal's league when it came to distance running. Sue liked to join him for the last third or so of his practice runs, regardless of the length. That seemed to work for both of them, except when Hal was getting ready for a competitive marathon - which he was now running about once every three or four weeks. With Olympic gold in his resume, he wasn't very often challenged. He continued his pattern of holding enough in reserve to cross finish lines standing up and relaxed. It became his trademark. It annoyed some of his competitors, who didn't like the idea that they had been beaten by someone who hadn't really run his fastest possible race. For most, however, it simply added to the mystique of this single-minded runner from St. Paul. Hal ran some with the Duke track team, but he was no longer eligible to compete in collegiate sports. They liked the idea of having an Olympic gold medalist among them, but they never really developed a close relationship. The same was true for the University of Maryland teams that practiced with Tim.

Carl and Carol were doing well in Bismarck. The design group that he was part of had recognized his flair for design, and were using him creatively. That isn't the norm - most graduates spend their first few years doing mostly mechanical work, preparing final drawings that reflect the designs of others. Carl had moved beyond that in just a few months. The firm had had a contract for an apartment development in South Dakota, and the first two designs the firm submitted were rejected. Carl had read the Request for Proposal and had sketched out several possible designs, all pretty radical - perhaps avant guarde. He'd been staying late doing the sketches, wondering whether he should show them to the senior partners - fearing that it would be a little brash. One night one of the senior partners was working late and walked up to Carl's table and asked what he was working on. Carl realized that it was now or never, and showed him his collection of designs.

I'm not sure that Carl was ready for the reaction that he got: "Carl, tomorrow you and I are going to fly out to Sioux Falls and you are personally going to present these to our client."

As they say, the rest is history. The only problem the client had was picking among the alternatives. Carl's problem was convincing the client that the designs were distinct and couldn't really be combined. He had to choose. He did: He picked two and announced that the first would be built in Sioux Falls and the other would be the next complex they built. Carl was the hero of the day, and was moved to doing design work exclusively. It would be nice to be able to report that he'd moved from success to success, and was now a partner. However, it'd taken quite a while before he had another success like that, but it had come - with a design for the state government. The question of his becoming a partner never arose, because he'd made it clear from the beginning that he wanted to establish his own shop in Grand Forks. The firm he was with wasn't interested in expanding to that area, so neither pressured the other inappropriately.

The initial plan to stay only a year in Bismarck had been shelved as soon as Carl had begun serious discussions with three different design shops in Bismarck. All three had said they expected him to give them at least four or five years, and told him that he wouldn't be ready to be on his own until he had that much time under his belt. Since we weren't going to be in Grand Forks during those years, that suited Carl and Carol well.

Carol had easily gotten a job teaching social studies in a local junior high school and, aside from the frustrations of trying to teach eighth graders, was doing well. They'd been thinking about children, but decided to wait at least until they were settled in Grand Forks.

Tina and Merle were seemingly lost to the Gang. We heard from Tina regularly, and clearly she missed the Midwest and the Gang. But Merle was doing well in New York, and clearly that was the place that he needed to be at this stage of his career. Since he sold the charcoals of Jim's wrestling he had had several shows, and was doing well. He hadn't yet matched the financial success of the charcoals, but he was earning a living.

Tina was a little frustrated. She'd finished Teachers' College, but hadn't gone job hunting. Teaching in the New York City Schools didn't appeal to her right then. So she was supporting Merle every way that she could, but she wasn't an artist and could only share so much of his professional life and success. She spent some time getting his works into various galleries, kept the house, modeled for Merle from time to time, and was bored. Tim and I were a little worried about her, and how it might affect her marriage. We did encourage her to teach, perhaps in one of the many private schools in New York, but we weren't sure how that advice would be taken. We'd have to wait and see.

Felix is the last of the Gang to talk about. He missed us, but was finding Billy and Sara to be a lot of fun. Of much more importance, he had a friend! His name was Samuel, but Felix always pronounced it Sam'l. I'm not sure that we would've learned about Sam'l as soon as we did except for Billy, who tattled right away. We called Felix immediately, and assured him that we thought his finding Sam'l was wonderful. We told him that if he wanted to have Sam'l move into the house with him, it was fine with us. Felix admitted that Sam'l already had!

They'd met in a Senior Center in the downtown area. Felix had gotten into the habit of wandering to the Center several mornings a week, and going out to lunch with anyone who was willing. One day it happed to be Sam'l, and they had gone for hamburgers. They liked each other and Felix had invited Sam'l over to the house. He'd met Sara on the first visit - Billy was at diving practice. Sara made him feel welcome, and they'd gone up to Felix' apartment and talked. I think it was during the third visit that one of them admitted that he was gay. I'm not sure which one had spoken first, but once it was out in the open the dam broke and their stories rolled out.

Sam'l had yearned for boys in his high school and college years, but that simply wasn't acceptable then. Toward the end of college he'd thought he'd fallen in love with a girl. They were married, had children and grandchildren, and been happy together - at least Sam'l characterized it that way. Now he was a widower, and wasn't so sure about the life he'd led. His thoughts had returned to men and boys. He admitted to himself that he never really enjoyed fucking his wife, and wondered whether she'd felt that through the years. He'd never know. His days now were more filled with regrets than happy memories - though he did have many good memories dating back to his time with his wife and family.

His children and grandchildren had invited him to live with them - they had all moved south as adults. But he liked his independence, and didn't think he was ready to be a burden on his grandchildren - which he knew he'd be even though they insisted otherwise.

His discovery of Felix - or Felix' discovery of Sam'l - was pure serendipity. He moved in (from a small efficiency apartment that he had no love for) and came to life. Felix' nighttime visits to the master bedroom ceased. But Felix, Sam'l, Billy and Sara often had dinner together. They were all four good cooks and they took turns cooking when they were together. Felix was happier than he had ever been in his life!

April is cherry blossom time in Washington. It seemed like a good time to invite our parents to visit. Norman and Betsy had been in town for Tim and Billy's big exhibition, but we hadn't had the chance to really entertain them, show them around Washington, and introduce them to some of the exciting people we knew. My mother hadn't been in Washington since I was a high schooler when she'd brought me for a trip on spring vacation. We hadn't known a soul in the city and had simply been wide-eyed tourists. We could do better this time. Fred was invited as well, and, of course, he came with Mom. We decided it would be nice to include our brothers and their wives. Carl and Carol and Wayne and Irma came. As expected, Gill and Anita "had another engagement."

Planning the week involved a lot of considerations. Tim opened the discussion with, "Just how much do we want to show off for our families?"

"Well, it would seem to be unfair to treat them any less nicely than we did Prexy, and we showed off shamelessly for him. I think we should go whole hog."

"Do you think Alice and Lady Bird Johnson would cooperate?"

"Well, our parents are invited to the Pedernales, so we probably don't have to try to include the Johnsons here in Washington. I think Alice would love to cooperate."

Indeed, Alice thought it was a jolly idea. "A good excuse for another party. Perhaps more intimate. A dinner, but with dancing afterwards. I'll make sure the band can play twist music. But most of the ladies will want to dance other things with you, generally waltzes and fox trots."

"Just how many people do you have in mind?"

"Well, let's see. You two young men - wait you like to be boys, don't you?"

"We're probably outgrowing that, but we like it. Tim likes to be 'Kid'."

"We need two women to balance. I'm one, and I'll invite Senator Smith as the other. Then four parents, two brothers and their wives. That's twelve and we haven't started on the guest list. Sherm and Thelma, the Clarks, the Winters. Would you like to invite a few of the other clerks? It'd impress them."

I said, "Yes, I think I would."

"That puts it up to about two dozen. Generally I like to think of a three to one ratio of plain old guests and the special list. That means a total of about 100. Is that too big for you?"

We'd long ago been warned by Warren that this was the scale of Alice's party-giving, but we still weren't prepared for that number. Nor for the matter-of-fact way in which she'd arrived at it. I said, "Alice it's your party. We will just be guests. But, how do you pick the extra 75 people?"

"I have a list. I'll just go down it and pick the ones that I think you'd like to meet, or that it might do you some good to meet, or that I think would like to meet you. The problem will be keeping the list to 75. But that's my problem. How about faculty and students from school, Tim?"

"Yes, there are a few. Especially Ricky Steele."

"Of course, and his parents, too. "

Tim said, "Oh, Alice, they'd love to come, I know. We had dinner with them last month, and they're charming people."

"I'm embarrassed; I was going to have them to dinner, and I haven't. Well, this will have to do for now. But I'd still like to arrange just a small party for you two, Ricky, and his parents. Remind me, please."

She continued, "Listen, you two. Go home and put together a list of the people you'd like to invite. Don't worry about how long it is, I know you won't overdo it. Call Warren when it's ready, and he'll pick it up. It'll give him a chance to visit Winston House."

We did just that, and the next day invited Warren to come by, pick up the list, and eat dinner with us. We assured him that our cooking didn't compete with what he got at Mrs. Longworth's, but it would be good. We weren't sure whether we were crossing some kind of social barrier, but we really liked Warren, and he had been so very helpful to us. He did come, and we had a good time over dinner. He told some good stories of Longworth parties: the turkey picked up off the floor, patched up and served; the wine that hadn't been cooled; plates too hot to handle; drunk guests; politicians ready for fisticuffs. He'd seen it all, and had seen Alice Longworth sail right through difficult situations as if they hadn't happened. He concluded, "The wonderful thing is that Mrs. Longworth knows that sort of thing happens and she never gets upset or angry. It's why none of her staff would consider leaving - they've all worked elsewhere and been shouted at, hassled, or fired for honest mistakes and often for things that were unavoidable or someone else's fault."

"You obviously like your job."

"Best job in Washington. You know, I started here as a Senate staffer. That lasted just as long as the Senator's incumbancy, that is, two and a half years. I had happened to meet Mrs. Longworth, and when she realized my job had come to an end, she called me up. 'Mr. Cramer, you're out of a job. I need a butler, manager, major-domo, chief of staff, you name it. I'll pay you exactly what you get now working for the Senator.' I made a couple of inquiries and decided to take the job. I've never regretted it."

"A remarkable story," said Tim. "But doesn't it bother you that so many people just think you're the butler?"

"It did at first. But Mrs. Longworth never treats me that way. I get good respect, good pay, lots of authority, a quite varied job, and I get to meet lots of people, including a couple of quite interesting Olympic medalists. But I have to go; many thanks for the dinner."

He took the list and was quickly gone. We were left to plan the rest of a week's visit. Obviously it needed to include a generous amount of sightseeing, including a chance to walk among the cherry trees. Since we both had other obligations, we decided that we would take turns playing host during the day, while the other tended to business. Dinner and evenings would be times for the whole group. Well, I'll let the story unfold.

We greeted them all at National airport on Saturday afternoon. Had they been our generation we would all have bunked in at Winston House. But it had been agreed in advance that Mom, Fred, Wayne and Irma would stay at a hotel. Mom had gotten pretty open about her relationship with Fred, but we noted that they'd booked separate rooms, but with a connecting door. I don't think they thought they were fooling anybody, nor were they trying to. It was just the way their generation behaved. Norman, Betsy, Carl and Carol were staying at Winston House. We'd have given up our big bed - and the private bathroom - except for two things: Tim's family wouldn't hear of it, and we had to have a place for Felix who arrived on Tuesday and bunked in with Tim and me. More of that story in a few minutes.

For the rest of Saturday and all of Sunday we became typical tourists. The weather was grand; the cherry blossoms peaked just for us; Winston House was in perfect order; the limo we hired to transport the ten of us was comfortable and driven by a perfectly charming driver from Hungary; Mom and Fred were quite obviously in love and not trying to hide it; Carl and Carol were happy as larks; and Wayne and Irma - who had always considered me the kid brother - finally realized that I really had grown up! Monday the touring continued with me the guide and Tim heading off to school. The day ended with dinner at Halvershams.

Mom had always admired her Senator from Indiana, Birch Bayh. Tim and I had met him frequently - often at Halvershams - and I'd often pointed out my Indiana origins. I'd called him up and asked if he would join us for dinner with an admiring constituent, my mother. He was delighted to accept, and Mom was absolutely flabbergasted to be dining at the obviously exclusive Halversham's with her favorite Senator. Senator Bayh was a delighful conversationalist, and thoroughly enjoyed talking about himself, Washington, the government, and the world as he understood it, with a group of fascinated listeners, three of which were constituents. He didn't mind being seen at Halversham's with Tim, either. (In the scheme of things in Washington, I didn't count for much. Neither would Tim without the Olympic gold. Whatever you say, "Gold Glitters.")

Dinners end promptly at Halversham's and we headed back to Winston House. Mom simply couldn't get over the evening. But she was mistaken with one comment: "You boys made a mistake making the high point of the week on Monday." Tim and I just smiled and kept our thoughts to ourselves: This was definitely not the high point of the week.

The Chancellor of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution is, by law, the Chief Justice of the United States. I'd screwed up my courage while I was inviting the Chief Justice and Mrs. Clark to dinner on Wednesday, to ask if he could arrange a VIP visit to the Smithsonian Institution for the family. He assured me that he could, and none other than S. Dillon Ripley himself greeted us at the entrance to the Castle early Tuesday morning. We spent about ten minutes with him in his very impressive office, and then were handed off to a young curator who gave us a guided tour of the museums for the rest of the day. About half the time we were touring the highlights of the public exhibits and the other half going behind the scenes, meeting curators, and seeing pieces of the collection not on public view. We ate in the dining room in the Castle where the Woodrow Wilson scholars eat, and were introduced to many of them. Tim and I had gotten used to VIP treatment in Washington, but this was overwhelming. As we said goodbye to our very gracious guide we weren't sure whether we were utterly exhausted or floating on cloud nine. Both, we guessed. I think our family got a taste of our life in Washington when, at the end of this day in which we'd thought we were having the time of our lives being treated as tourists, our guide picked up a museum brochure and insisted that we all sign it. "My son's going to be green with envy that I got to spend the day with Tim and Charlie - and their families." Tim, of course, responded with an invitation for him and his son to visit gymnastics practice the next week. I'm ahead a little, but they showed up and had a ball watching Tim show off. He loved a new audience.

Felix, who wasn't a fan of airplanes, arrived by train about 7:30 and we met him at Union Station. We'd invited Felix to come and manage dinner for us on Thursday night when we would be giving a dinner party for our families. We'd invited Sam'l, whom we hadn't met, but Sam'l decided to stay home in Grand Forks while Felix traveled. We took him to a buffet - his favorite meal out - and then home, dropping my family off at their hotel on the way.

When we got home Betsy, rather bravely I thought, asked where Felix was going to sleep; weren't we out of beds? Tim assured her that there was plenty of extra room in our bed. Carl said, "Remember, don't ask questions you don't want to hear the answers to." With that reminder of high school days in Minneapolis, we all headed to our beds.

As we undressed in our bedroom Felix said, "Boys, I'm going to love sleeping with you this week. It'll remind me of really good times in Grand Forks. But we'll just have sex in our minds; I wouldn't do anything behind Sam'l's back."

We were a little surprised, but completely supportive. Tim responded by saying, "That's great; but Charlie and I aren't going to be celibate the whole time you're here."

Felix responded, "I don't think you could if you tried."

Oh, God. We were had. No sex for a week. Well, that was almost it, but then Tim remembered that he had designs on Carl and Carol, and told Felix so. But we'll abstain in this bed when we're with you just to prove we can. That'll be hard enough."

Wednesday I went to work, and Tim was the guide. Senator Bayh arranged for a VIP tour of the Capitol, and Tim took them to Halversham's for lunch - it was a must for Felix. Norman and Betsy were seriously impressed by the number of important people that Tim knew and that knew him. They really had no idea that their son moved in the circles that he did.

Felix fixed us dinner that evening - sort of a trial run of the kitchen facilities for him. After dinner the older generation insisted on helping Felix clean up. Carl, Carol, Wayne, Irma, Tim and I sat in the living room and talked. Carl said, "My kid brother. Hobnobbing with Senators, a VIP all over Washington, yet you don't seem to have changed. I would've thought your head would've swollen up like a watermelon by now."

I said, "We're sort of in a state of disbelief. We got used to being celebrities in Grand Forks, but this is a different league. We're adjusting. We're trying to keep it from going to our heads."

Tim continued, "But we are showing off for our parents. We thought they'd like to go back to Indianapolis and Minneapolis and be able to drop some names of people that their sons had entertained and introduced them to."

Irma said, "So where do we go from here?"

Felix is going to present us with an interesting dinner party tomorrow. Only four in addition to the ten of us.

Warren came to help Felix on Thursday, and by 6:30 we were ready to greet our guests. First to arrive were Sherm and Thelma, followed shortly thereafter by Hiram and Sally Clark. Fred was the one who was almost speechless this time, as he was introduced to the Chief Justice of the United States and his wife, dinner guests of his two student proteges, Tim and Charlie.

The dinner went well, and the judges put people at ease very quickly by simply being the very pleasant human beings that the were. The coup of the evening, however, went to Chief Justice Clark. As soon as the main course was served, he picked up his wine glass and spoke, "I'm delighted to propose this toast to Tim, who's going to add to his most remarkable collection of gold at the Olympics in Munich, and to Charlie, who, I trust, will serve with diligence, integrity, intelligence, and imagination as the next chief clerk for the Chief Justice of the United States."

I was stunned. Sherm and I had had brief conversations about next year, and he assured me that he'd put in a good word in the right place at the right time. Now I was being offered the job of my dreams, with no warning whatsoever. At least, that was evidently what was happening. It was so unexpected, I didn't know how to react.

Tim did. We were seated at opposite ends of the table. As soon as the toast was completed he rose out of his seat and ran around the table, grabbed me around the neck and pulled me to him. He kissed me quickly, and almost shouted, "Oh, Charlie, how wonderful." Then he was off to Hiram Clark, hugging him gently, and saying, "Charlie will have his wits about him soon. In the meantime, that is the most wonderful news. Thank you."

I did get my wits about me, and managed to say, "If that is a job offer, I accept. I can't think of anything I'd rather do or be than your clerk next year."

Justice Clark waited until everybody had figured out what had happened, come and hugged me, and settled back down to their meal. Then he said, "You know, Charlie, all of judicial Washington has been watching you this year. You could clerk for any one of the justices on my court. The DC Circuit Judges would all grab you in a minute. Chief Judge Sanders is so impressed with your work that he called me up and told me that if I didn't move fast he was going to sign you up as his clerk. I decided I had better move fast."

I said, "But you don't even have an application from me."

"Sherm loaned me the portfolio you put together when you went after your present job. Charlie, that's impressive by itself. And damn if you didn't live up to every part of it."

"I'll try to continue, sir."

"I'm looking forward to it."

There was nowhere else for the dinner to go. It was delicious and perfectly served by Warren. When we got up from the table to go back down to the living room, I insisted that Felix and Warren join us - leave the damn dishes - that's an order. They came down with us and were introduced. Warren knew the Chief Justice from his senate staff days, and had seen him from time to time at Mrs. Longworth's. This was their first chance to really talk in years.

Sally Clark, Thelma, and the four women in our families got along famously. They were planning a ladies' luncheon at some restaurant or other for Friday. A tour of the Supreme Court was quickly scheduled for Friday afternoon and a tour of Sherm's and my Courts Building for Friday morning.

Saturday evening was Alice's dinner. One hundred and eight guests. Our mothers were the guests of honor. The two of them were seated next to Senator Margaret Chase Smith, the first woman Senator elected in her own right - even if it did disrupt Alice's careful, man, woman, man, seating arrangements. Alice always got her priorities straight!

The evening's a blur. Betsy described it in breathless phrases, "Tim dancing like a ballroom champion, Charlie doing the twist, Mamie and Fred dancing, the socialites of Washington lining up to be seen with Tim and Charlie, Charlie dancing with Alice Longworth, senators and all kinds of VIPs asking Mamie and me to dance, Norman dancing the twist, Fred dancing with Senator Smith, Felix steadfastly refusing to dance, Alice reigning over the whole thing with a smile and an occasional wink to Charlie or Tim, and finally the irrepressible Tim giving a glorious goodnight kiss to Alice."

Mom summed her evening with, "I feel like Eliza. 'I Could Have Danced All Night'." We almost did.

As the honored guests we were the last to leave, and we'd spent about fifteen minutes alone with just our party, Alice and Warren. At the door I said to Alice, "You couldn't have given us a more wonderful gift. Tim and I and our families will never forget this night."

"Neither will I. Just ask Warren, he watches me. He knows that I've grown ten years younger just knowing you two. When Thelma introduced us to each other she didn't know she was doing us both a great favor. And she created the grand Washington Alliance. You know, women my age in Washington don't usually get the kind of kiss that I got tonight from Tim, and certainly not from someone young enough, as Sally Clark pointed out, to be my great-grandson. It was wonderful. I feel young again. Just the two of you, come for dinner next week."

And with that Cinderella and party got into their pumpkin limo and drove back to reality.

Sunday morning everyone had breakfast at Winston House. Felix insisted upon cooking, even though Tim and I wanted to. But an insisting Felix is not to be argued with. Fred, Mom, Wayne and Irma arrived by taxi, and we all talked in the living room while we waited for breakfast. Mom was beside herself. "I can't believe this week. I wish your father could've been here. My son. No, my sons, have conquered the city. And Washington is unconquerable. I'm taking home so many memories, I'll forget half. And the half that I do remember won't be believed. Can you imagine Mabel Tucker and the bridge group when I say that I've been to a little private party with the Chief Justice and his wife. And then I could drop that my son had hosted the party. They'll think that I was ready for the loony bin."

Tim said, "Well, we can help a little with that. Alice's party, as usual, made the newspaper. Articles in both the Post and Star. And the Star mentions the dinner with the Chief Justice. And the Post, Charlie, has a story about your clerkship. How did they get that?"

"Beats me. I guess it was the office of the Chief Justice."

Norman and Betsy were equally excited. Wayne and Irma talked out loud about their planned conversations with Gill and Anita. "They're going to be soooo left out," said Irma. "I can drop a new name every time I see them for the next year. And it's going to be such fun."

Carl and Carol seemed to take it all in stride. Carl's comment was, "I didn't expect anything else from Tim and Charlie. They've always been spectacular. In school my greatest accomplishment was being older than Tim so I didn't have to always be compared to him!"

Breakfast with Felix was wonderful. But all good things must come to an end, and airline schedules forced an ending to our week. There were hugs and kisses all around - even Fred was learning. Tim went out of his way to do a tongue job on him, and even got a response. As Mom kissed me goodbye she whispered in my ear, "I think it's time to marry Fred." I hugged her real tight and said, "Past time."

The week was over.

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