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Finding Tim

A Fourth Alternate Reality

by Charlie
With editorial assistance from Dix and John


The time had come for our trip to Texas. The whole Gang, plus Tim's and my parents, were invited. The whole Gang, plus our parents went. Even Tina and Merle made it; they seemed to be trying to move back into the Gang even while they continued to live in New York. They were certainly welcome, and I think Tim was secretly delighted to see more of Tina. I never felt in the least jealous, and he didn't give me reason to be. But I saw a lot more of Phil than he did of Tina, and I think he was glad to see a little balance restored. Of course, he never said a thing. But we were so close that I could feel it, and I am sure I was right.

On a Friday we flew to Austin where we had chartered a bus to take the entire Gang on to Johnson City and the ranch. Yes, we asked: the town was named for James Polk Johnson, the nephew of Lyndon's grandfather. It was built on James' land.

By the time we got the entire gang to Austin, it was five in the evening. We stopped for dinner and got to the ranch about seven, just as planned and expected. As we arrived at the gate to the ranch we were stopped by the Secret Service, and we were all asked to show our ID's. We'd been warned that we needed a photo ID, and at that time not all states had photo's on their driver's licenses. However, we all had passports after the trips to Rome and Mexico, so we had brought them. We were all cleared, and the bus rolled on, with a Secret Service agent riding with us. Of course, that meant that at the house they were ready for us, and as we drove up LBJ stepped out onto his porch and waved. Then he came down and greeted everyone of us as we got off the bus. Tim and I were the first off, and we introduced everyone to "Mr. President" as they got off. LBJ's greetings were warm and effusive.

Lady Bird stayed up on the porch, and we all walked up there where Tim and I repeated the introductions. She had made it a point to learn something about everyone, and responded to each introduction with a remark like, "Oh, you're the artist," or "I know you're married to the famous runner, but you're a runner yourself, if I recall correctly?" (She always did.) She knew exactly what to say to Carl: "Thank God you aren't the younger brother, right?"

Carl responded, "I would've killed him long ago."

Lady Bird extended special greetings to Fred and our parents, saying, "I have you four staying here in the ranch house, the young'uns will all be in the bunk house. Tim told me that Felix would like to be considered a young'us this weekend." The bunkhouse was the handsomest bunkhouse in Texas, with space equivalent to the average motel of the era. Each couple had a private room, and there was a huge central lounge with television, pool table, sofas, a bookshelf of books, game table, and bar.

We were invited to settle in and come up to the ranch house about eight. Conversation was very pleasant and general for an hour or so, and then Lady Bird signaled bedtime and we all headed back to the bunkhouse. We learned the next day that the conversation in the main house with our parents, Fred, and the Johnsons, had continued till past midnight. My mother, a life-long Republican, was utterly charmed by LBJ. They got along famously. As they headed to the bedrooms in the back of the house, LBJ mused, "I wish I'd known you folks a couple of years ago, I would've loved to entertain you in the White House."

My mother responded, "My sons were able to join you in the Oval Office; that's enough."

LBJ responded, "Your sons? Oh, yes, I understand. Do you really consider Tim your son?"

"I certainly do."

Lady Bird said, "I think that's wonderful. Those two boys are so lucky to have two sets of such wonderful, accepting parents. I hope that Lyndon and I would've been that accepting."

Back in the bunkhouse, Tim was laying down the ground rules. "OK, Gang. This is a very public place, the Secret Service is around, employees and aides are all around. This isn't the time for room exchanges. That needs to wait for more private situations."

Everyone agreed, with some considerable reluctance. However, we all understood that you could push the envelope only so far, and the two gay pairs among us were the limit. Regretably that left Kyle and Felix out in the cold in single rooms, and Jim, Kara, Andy, and Amy were stuck two by two. They all agreed that the fun of the Johnson ranch was worth two nights of deprivation.

The next morning we were herded into Jeeps and given the grand tour. Tim, Felix, and I rode with LBJ, and Lady Bird rode with the parents in an oversize Land Rover. The others rode in a varied collection of Jeep-like vehicles, and off we went. Tim and I felt guilty getting to monopolize LBJ for the morning, but everybody reported with enthusiasm on the fun that they had with their driver guides.

Lunch was ready when we got back to the ranch. It was sandwiches, potato salad, and lots of snacks, all served on picnic tables set up near the ranch house. There was iced tea and lemonade by the gallon, in honor of the Texas heat–Johnson had been right: we did want to miss the stinking heat of June, July, and August.

In the afternoon we headed out on horseback, with two of the ranch hands leading the party. None of us laid claim to being experienced riders, so we moved pretty slowly through the country side for a little over an hour. Tina came abreast of Tim for a while on the ride. She told him that she was truly sorry that she and Merle hadn't been able to be a real part of the Gang. "Tim, he's doing real well with his art, and being in New York has been an important part of it. You know, we're going to be in France next year. Merle's put enough money ahead from selling his paintings that we can spend a year in Paris. If his success continues, and he makes enough money, we'll stay a second year. Then who knows? Maybe New York. Maybe the Midwest. We both are Midwesterners at heart, even if we love New York. We'll get back someday."

Tim responded with, "We miss you, Tina. I miss you. But the Gang never intended to put pressure on anyone to live anywhere or do anything. You belong with Merle. Love him and support him. But what about you? What're you doing for Tina?"

"That's the best part, Tim. I'm writing. I haven't sold anything yet, but Merle is supportive, likes my stories, and he says they're getting better. I've had a couple of stories and a poem published in no-fee literary magazines. But now I want to be paid. Merle says, 'It'll come.' I hope he's right."

"I'm sure he is, Tina. And I'm glad for you. Paris should be a good place to get the creative juices flowing."

"I hope so, Tim. Say, can Merle and I visit you two in Washington once before we head off to Europe."

"Any time, Tina. You know that. We didn't have much time to talk either the time of the big exhibition or this weekend. Both Charlie and I would love to have a chance to catch up on old times."

"I'll be in touch," said Tina.

After the ride we were on our own until the big barbeque at 5:30. It was hot; the bunkhouse was air conditioned, and most of the Gang stayed in the very lovely lounge. Hal ran twelve miles, and thought he was in heaven with the freedom to roam the Pedernales country. The rest of us thought of it more like Hell. Ronnie had missed his mile run in the morning, and he went with Hal for the first about 3/4 of a mile and then headed back with almost a mile and a half under his belt.

Tim found a wooden deck where he could mark off the limits of a standard balance beam. He did beam routines for about 45 minutes, and then was discovered by LBJ, who became an enthusiastic audience for another twenty minutes. Tim was, of course, spectacular. I'd been watching from a window, and went out and joined LBJ to make an audience of two.

The heat drove us back inside. However, I soon received an invitation from Phil, "Let's take a walk; it isn't that hot."


And we were off. It was hot, but we walked slowly. Clearly talking, not walking, was on Phil's mind. "I miss you, Charlie."

I was a little worried about where this might be going, but I decided to play it straight. "I miss you, too, Phil. We don't see you as much as I'd like."

"That'll change in a few years. We'll all be in Grand Forks, together. But that isn't what I meant. I miss loving you, Charlie."

"Whoa, slow down, Phil."

"Don't worry, that isn't what I mean. I love Franklin and that's not going to change. But I still miss you, Charlie. We had something special. We both knew it wasn't going to last; it was never permanent. But it was special. I miss it."

"I think I know what you mean. You know, Phil, all the time we were together I had Tim to look forward to."

"That's right, and I didn't even know Franklin existed. I wouldn't have missed that month for anything, but it was hard ending it."

"I know it was. It was for me, and I had Tim. I wouldn't trade the month, though. Would you?"

"Never. And I don't even think about trying to recreate it. Though Franklin would let me if he thought it was important."

"Franklin is the most selfless person I know."

"Yes, he is. I have to always be careful not to take advantage of him. I don't want to recreate what we had, but I need to reminisce about it. It's–I'm not sure of the word: meaningful, fulfilling, exhilarating, something like that."

"I think I know what you mean. It just gives you warm fuzzies."

"You know, we've had sex since then–the whole Gang has. But that isn't it. I just like remembering that I was in love with you, that I still am, and that it's good, not bad."

"Nothing we had was, or could be, bad, Phil."

"I really don't have anything more to say. I just wanted to share my feelings with you. Learning that you feel much the same means a lot to me. Oh, yes. There's one thing more. It's a good thing that you and I never fucked each other in that month. Franklin would love to fuck you–I think he dreams about it–and if he thought that I had and he couldn't.... Well, I'm glad we never did and that I can honestly say that to Franklin."

"Franklin dreams of fucking me?"

"He isn't the only one."


"Me, and all the other guests here at the ranch. Well, probably not Norman or Fred. But we all respect the decision you and Tim have made. We get our kicks from other things, and our dreams. There's no law against dreaming and lusting, it's only acting on the lust that gets you in trouble!"

"Phil, you're wicked. You're making me feel guilty."

"Good. But don't change, Charlie. We all respect you too much for that."

"Tim and I are going to have an interesting bedtime conversation tonight."

"No fair fucking him tonight. Abstinence would be appropriate!"

"Phil, I love you, but...."

The barbeque that evening was spectacular. Wood fires; wonderful steaks, baked potatoes under the ashes, fresh asparagus, and a wonderful salad served in a tremendous salad bowl. Eating, story telling (LBJ was a whiz), singing, and then it grew dark and the bugs drove us inside. We all sat around in the ranch house and the conversation went on until almost midnight. Johnson summed up the evening by saying, "You guys make me want to be young again!"

Sunday we had a late breakfast, loaded ourselves and our stuff into the bus, and we were off to the airport, an amazing weekend behind us. We might've worried about whether our friends back home would even believe us when we told them where we'd been, but that was easily resolved. There had been a group photo taken, and then each couple had their picture taken with Lyndon and Lady Bird. When Tim and I, and later Phil and Franklin, were photographed Lyndon winked and said, "We can do this now; no more elections." Without giving any explanation, Jim, Kara, Andy and Amy asked if they could have their picture taken as a group. This was soon followed by Ronnie, Kyle and Sharon, who did provide an explanation: So much of their work had been jointly published, they liked to be thought of, professionally, as a trio. Lyndon Johnson isn't stupid, and I suspect that he had a good idea of what was going on, but as he said, "No more elections."

We each got the appropriate pair of photos, along with a stock photo of the ranch house, as a farewell present from the Johnsons. In true Washington form, I hung my photo of Tim and me with the Johnsons on the wall in my office at the court. Sherm assured me that it was the right move in the Washington game. It looked particularly nice next to the picture of Alice and me and of me with the Chief Justice and his wife. Sherm assured me that the pictures that included Lady Bird and Sally made a fantastic "statement," as they implied a personal or social relationship rather than a professional one. Sherm pointed out that it wasn't lost on people that the picture of the Johnsons was taken at their Texas ranch.

Sherm had an equally impressive set of photos and memorabilia on his office wall; he was particularly proud of a picture of him walking with Harry Truman. He liked to walk into my little office, look at the pictures and simply say, "In one year. It took me a lifetime." Then he'd pat me on the shoulder and walk back out. One day he suggested that I add the Goldwaters to the gallery, and pointed out that a picture of Tim and me at Halbersham's, with Mr. Halbersham looking over us would be a very nice touch. The additions were ready when I moved into my Supreme Court office, and Sherm was right–they were noticed.

It had been more than a month since the Chief Justice had proposed his toast in which he offered me the job as his chief clerk. Nothing more had been said. I'd expressed some concern to Sherm, who assured me that at the appropriate time the chief would be in touch. The call came in early June, when Chief Justice Clark's secretary called and set up an appointment for the following Tuesday morning, with lunch to follow.

Clark began the meeting by apologizing both for the way he'd told me of the appointment and for not being in touch since. "It's been a busy month, Charlie, and I knew that Sherm had assured you that the job was a done deal. I'm looking forward to working with you next year."

"You did catch me by surprise with your toast. You never gave me a chance to update my resume, write a letter of application, or anything."

"It wasn't needed. I mentioned Judge Sanders that night at dinner, but sort of made a joke of it. But it was no joke. He came by shortly after you, he and Sherm worked on his opinion in Velma v. Dodds. He let me read both versions of the opinion; as he called them, 'Before Charlie' and 'After Charlie'. He swore you were the best legal brain he'd ever worked with, and that if I didn't get you next year, he would. And he was dead serious. So I talked to Sherm. Then I talked to Dick Smallwood, my present chief clerk. Your reputation was already growing among the clerks here. Everybody seemed to know you'd be my clerk this year before I'd even started to think about it. And here you are. Welcome."

Dick Smallwood joined us for lunch in the justices' private dining room. Most of the other justices were eating as well, and I was introduced to all of those present I hadn't previously met. Everybody seemed to know who I was and was eager to meet me. I honestly had no idea that I'd acquired any particular reputation at the Supreme Court. When I asked Sherm later, he confirmed that both he and Judge Sanders had been talking about me.

Dick Smallwood was no slouch. He was a Harvard grad, very high in his class, Law Review, the whole thing. Then he had been a Presidential Intern for two years, and went from there straight to his clerkship. He didn't seem to resent my easy ride to the position, though he did manage to get into the conversation the fact that Justice Clark had interviewed seven candidates for the position last year, and he'd had to go through three separate interviews before he was selected. He was the one who had supervised sending back all of this year's applications once I'd told Justice Clark that I would accept. He chuckled, "Several people were really upset that they didn't at least get an interview–banged their egos a little bit. I don't know whether anybody outside the office–except Sanders and Wilcox–has figured out that Clark interviewed nobody this year. By the way, be ready for a really brutal September. For clerks moving in it's kind of like a fraternity initiation. You'll have your full-time job with Wilcox, plus you need to break in his new clerk, plus you have to be over here learning the ropes with me–while I do my full-time job. No entertaining university presidents at Halversham's; there's hardly time to sleep."

Obviously the dinner Tim and I gave at Halversham's had been talked about. I wondered what else had been talked about in these halls. How was a gay clerk going to go down. Well, so far so good.

Tim made me recreate the conversations as close to word for word as I could. "Charlie, that's wonderful! How shall we celebrate?"

I said, "Let's not do fancy. There's a little place up in Bethesda, that I understand serves really great chilli. Very hot and very tasty."

Tim said, "I'm ready. That's a little farther than I want to walk; let's head for the car." As I drove us up, Tim remarked, "You really had an ego expanding experience today. I hope it doesn't go to your head."

"Tim, if nine Olympic medals didn't go to your head, I think I'm safe."

"I guess they did a little. I'll have to admit, Charlie, that life at the top is fun. You know it is. We have to enjoy it while we can. But that doesn't mean we have to rub it in to others. And we don't. I don't, and you don't. I think that's what I meant about ego."

"Thanks, Tim. You're right. I'm going to enjoy my work next year. For a young lawyer, I'll be at the top."

"Charlie, are you going to be willing to give up the Washington law scene at the end of another year?"

"Yes, Tim. For you. But also for me. This year's been fun, and next year will be as well. But I don't think either one of us wants this rat race for the rest of our lives. Grand Forks looks awfully nice. And living near the Gang looks even nicer. But let's enjoy the coming year. We'll probably never repeat it."

We got to the restaurant–Ted's Bistro. The chilli was good; and hot; and tasty. And later that night Tim was good; and hot; and tasty. He said that I was, too!

As good as their word, Tina and Merle visited for a weekend. We had a feeling that Merle wasn't thinking in terms of sex on this visit, so we set them up in the guest room upstairs. Tina looked relieved that that wasn't going to be an issue, and when she had a chance with me alone she thanked me for not making it one. "I know you and Tim would probably enjoy a little sex, and I'll have to admit that I have wonderful memories. I think it's those memories that Merle is most afraid of. In any case, we talked before we came and agreed that there'd be no sex with you guys. I really appreciate that you anticipated and respected that."

"Merle told you about his one adventure with the Gang, a long time ago, didn't he?"

"Yes, right after it happened; like you told him to. A little reluctantly, I think. We've talked about it since. He says it was fun, but he doesn't think that he's really interested in gay sex. And we have limited our sex life to each other. I don't know that we've made any conscious decision in that regard, but neither of us has strayed, nor been tempted."

"You're happy?"

"Yes, Charlie. Life's been good to us."

"When we last talked you said you were trying your hand at writing. Is that going anywhere?"

"No sales yet. For now I'm content. I'm really excited about the idea of living in Paris for a while. I'm hoping that Paris gets the writing juices flowing. Merle's hoping it'll inspire him artistically."

"Merle's a lucky man to be going to Paris with you, Tina."

We were in the living room, and Tim came down the stairs and joined us. I decided to leave the two of them alone, but Tim reported on the conversation that night in bed.

Tina started with, "You know, I could've been yours, Tim."

"If God hadn't made me gay, I wouldn't have passed up the opportunity. But I am gay. We had a great time together, Tina, but it wouldn't have worked."

"I know, Tim. And for me to have tried to catch you would've been terribly unfair. You were honest with me up front; we had a good time together; and now I'm in love with Merle. He's good in bed, you know."

"I'll have to take your word for that, it seems. Tell him that Charlie and I would be glad to try him out anytime he wants."

"I'll tell him. He'll get a laugh out of that. Who knows? He might take you up on it. I doubt it, though." Tim's and my time would come.

"What do you hear from Mike? Do you keep in touch?"

"Oh, yes. He's based in New York with Sports Illustrated. I don't think he wants to make a career out of SI, but he's happy there now. And they're happy with him. He's done several covers, and has pictures of some kind in almost every issue. He travels all over the place, so he doesn't spend a lot of time in New York. But we see him from time to time."

"Partner, girlfriend, significant other?"

"I think it's a girl in every port. But from the talking that we've done I think he's pretty responsible. He isn't leading them on or making promises he can't, or won't, keep. But he's not worrying about anybody's virginity."

"Is he going to be content being a sports photographer as a life career?"

"I don't think so. Quite honestly, he says that if all the athletes were like you and Charlie, Billy, Jim and a few others, he'd be happy being a sports photog forever. But you guys are exceptions. A lot of the jocks want to be paid to pose–neither Mike nor SI will go along with that, but a lot do. They're rude, insensitive, and egotistical. There are nice guys out there, but they aren't the norm. It grates on Mike."

"I'll bet. You know, staying in smaller programs like UND, and not spending a lot of time on the big national and international circuits, has allowed me–and Charlie–to avoid a lot of that. But I know it's there. I've seen it at Nationals and other big meets. Not so much at the Olympics. At the Olympics I think the presence of a lot of amateurs in minor sports keeps the competition more friendly and less cutthroat. Well, say 'Hello' to Mike for us, and tell him to drop in sometime when he's in Washington. Now tell me about the New York art world."

In the course of their three day visit we learned more about New York art and artists than either Tim or I wanted to hear. We were glad to hear of Merle's successes, and glad to see Tina happy.

Merle endeared himself to Tim by speaking to him a few moments when they were alone on Sunday morning. "Tim, I won't be jealous if you kiss Tina goodbye like she was still your girl. She has a soft spot for you, but I believe her when she says I needn't be worried or jealous. But she'd like a chance to remember your time together."

For that Merle got his own kiss from Tim. He'd been around us enough to accept the kiss as simply part of life with Tim.

On Sunday afternoon they were ready to go. We all stood inside the front door and said goodbyes. I kissed Tina briefly, and gave Merle a hug. Tim came up to Tina, made somewhat of a show of putting a dictionary on the floor in front of her and standing on it, and then wrapped his arms around her and kissed her on the lips. Their tongues engaged, their hips wiggled, both of their arms moved down each other's back and they pressed their groins together. And then they just closed their eyes and seemed to melt into each other. Finally Tim backed up and whispered in her ear–loud enough for both Merle and me to hear, "I hope you respond to Merle just like that."

Merle said, "She does. I'm sorry, Tim boy, but you're history. But reliving history is fun from time to time. It made me feel good to see you two together, as long as I'm the one she goes home with tonight."

Tina laughed, and said, "Merle's been in anti-jealousy training for two weeks. He did a good job, didn't he?"

We all chuckled at that; all three of us kissed Merle; and then they were off. First to New York. Then to Paris. Then who knew where?

Things slow down in Washington in the summer. At that time offices were air conditioned, as were most cars. It was becoming increasingly common in houses, and certainly put in all quality new housing. But the patterns of Washington, court dockets, legislative calendars, office routines, military leaves seemed to be left over from days when Washington was unbearably hot during the summer. The pace was slow. For an appeals judge's clerk, that meant a fairly busy routine of reading a lot of petitions for appeals and stays, and contacting vacationing judges when their actions were needed. It was a time when clerks acquired increased authority and responsibility–the decision not to telephone a vacationing judge could kill an appeal. The trust Sherm Wilcox had in me almost gave me more authority that I was comfortable with. Even when I'd call him, he'd say something like, "I trust your judgement, Charlie. If you think I should sign, send it to me; otherwise put it in the pile on my desk.

Whenever I would share my discomfort over this with Tim he would simply say, "Charlie, get used to making decisions and having them stick. That's going to be your life. You aren't going to be a little cog in a machine–you're going to run the machine. Make the best decisions you can, be ready to explain or justify them, and then don't look back." This advice was coming from a kid who was chronologically six years my junior, and mature well over six years beyond his actual age. He seemed to be able to live by his own advice. He didn't stew about decisions once made, and wouldn't let me. I was learning.

How many times, when I thought about Tim, did I have to say, "I was learning"? I did learn from Tim. He insisted that it was a two-way street. In his words, "Charlie, you taught me love and responsibility. Both at one time through a series of forty letters. And those are two of the most important lessons that I learned in life. I'm still learning. You're still teaching. Love me now."

I did, and I got loved back–physically, emotionally, and intellectually. Our love ran deep. Watching Tim kiss Tina simply made it run deeper; it made me realize how lucky I was to have this boy–now a man–love me more than anyone or anything. And I loved him the same.

When Carl reads this he'll think that I should've stopped that stuff about two paragraphs back. So two paragraphs late, I'll move on to other things. Good news/bad news jokes were becoming popular then, and 1970 was the summer of good news and bad news. The bad news came first, with a telephone call from Wayne about my mother. She was in the hospital with a fairly serious, but thus far undiagnosed ailment. She'd awakened in the morning very weak and unable to get out of bed. She found the energy to pick up the bedside telephone and call Wayne, who immediately called an ambulance. He'd gotten to the house at about the same time the ambulance did. He let them in, and Mom was whisked to University Hospital, where tests were begun but thus far no diagnosis had been possible. She didn't have the strength to walk and even talking was a great effort. She didn't seem to be in pain.

Wayne had called Gill and tried to call me as soon as he got to the hospital. He'd called home and reached Tim, who immediately called me at work. After telling me what he knew, he continued with, "I know we're heading to Indianapolis ASAP. You take care of things there and get home as soon as you can. I'll call Fred. I'll check on airline tickets and then call the Gang. If we didn't call them, we'd be hung."

Of course, Sherm was cooperative and told me to head to Indiana, keep in touch, and come back when I could. He had a vacation coming in two weeks, but was willing to postpone it if necessary, if I couldn't be back by then. I never appreciated him more, and in the privacy of his office he got a hug and a kiss. He seemed to appreciate both.

We got an afternoon flight to Indianapolis and arrived by dinner. We headed straight to the hospital and saw Mom. She'd regained a little strength and was able to talk some. No medical explanations were yet forthcoming.

It was too tiring for her to have visitors for long, so Wayne, Gill, and I, and our partners, all went to dinner together at a nearby restaurant. I got a private chuckle as I watched Anita react to the use of partners to describe her, Tim, and Irma. But what other word fits?

When we got back to the hospital Fred was there, sitting in a chair near Mom's bed. They were talking quietly, and Mom seemed quite happy. Anita was incensed that Fred was in Mom's room. "Who let him in?" she asked the nurse almost with a sneer.

"I did," was the nurse's reply, "after your mother was asked, and she told us to let him in immediately."

That seemed to sort of settle things, but Gill and Anita left soon thereafter. I hate to say it, but I think that Mom was relieved to see them go. The rest of us welcomed Fred, realizing that Mom really appreciated his coming. Mom didn't seem to tire of talking to him.

Wayne, Irma, Tim and I left soon after, leaving Fred and Mom alone. Tim and I went back to "my house." I still called it that even though I hadn't lived in it since high school a dozen years before.

Over the next three days Mom made a slow recovery, and the doctors were completely unable to provide any kind of a diagnosis. But her strength returned, and on the fourth day she was allowed to go home. They were going to push her out of the hospital in a wheel chair, but she flatly refused. "If I'm not able to walk out of here, then clearly it's not time for me to leave." With that, she marched out. I wouldn't have wanted to be the nurse or orderly that got in her way!

When she got home she was willing to admit she was tired and needed to go to bed. Her own bed must have agreed with her, because she slept more than fourteen hours, waking at about 6:30 in the morning. Tim was the only one up at that hour, and he fixed her a little breakfast. They sat in the kitchen and talked as they both ate. Mom said to him, "You know, I told Charles when we were in Washington that I thought it was time to marry Fred. Well, it is, but I worry about my health. Fred and I talked a lot in the hospital. I told him that he didn't want to be stuck married to an invalid. He answered that he was going to take care of me regardless, so we might as well be married; it made the whole thing simpler. Tim, he's as single minded and stubborn as you are. I see how you got Charlie, despite your ages. Fred's getting the same thing."

Tim said, "I want to get Charlie. He'll be so delighted to hear this. He'll even be glad I got him out of bed in the early morning to hear it."

I was dragged downstairs, and greeted by Mom who simply said, "Do you hear wedding bells?"

I kissed her immediately and said, "Mom, that's wonderful. In fact, 'It's about time,' would seem to be the correct response."

"You're right it is. And it's going to happen at high noon today. In our living room. By our friendly Presbyterian minister who's been warned that if he hopes that the church is left in my will he had better not find any reason to delay."

I'd like to have heard that conversation. Evidently Mom and Fred decided on this the first evening in the hospital, and Fred had gotten the license, talked to the minister, and arranged everything.

And that is the good news that paired with the bad news of Mom's rush trip to University Hospital. At noon we gathered in the living room: Fred, Mom and the minister, Wayne, Irma, Gill and (reluctantly) Anita, Tim and I, and about a half dozen of Mom's friends from church, one of whom Mom had asked to stand up with her–I guess be her Matron of Honor. At eleven-thirty the doorbell rang and in walked Fred's Best Man: Billy. To get here he had left the day before and spent the night near O'Hare airport in Chicago. That Billy had been the one person in Grand Forks that Fred had wanted at his wedding testifies to the relationship that had grown between them.

At noon Tim put on a recording of "Here Comes the Bride" which he had found in a record store that morning, and by ten after they were married. Irma produced a wedding cake and ice cream, and we ignored the fact that that didn't quite make a balanced meal. By early afternoon Mom was tired and had to take a nap. Fred napped with her, and they didn't reappear until dinner.

The questions started at dinner. First up, "Where are you going to live?" (In both cities.) Then, "How long have you been planning this?" (Three days.) "Why so quickly?" ("We're not getting any younger.") "What do the boys think of all this?" ("They'd better like it or keep their mouths shut."–that came from Fred.) You can imagine the rest. Some questions got a little personal.

Clearly Mom and Fred had things under control. It was time for Tim and me to get back to Washington where we had school and work. Sherm was flabbergasted that I'd acquired a stepfather on such short notice, but soon figured out that I was very happy for them both and joined in my joy.

Tim and I were able to get two weeks of vacation in August. We headed for Pike Lake and the cabin. Fred and Mother were there and the four of us spent most of two weeks together. Tim was forced to slow his pace; Mom was required to let Tim and me handle the kitchen duties; Fred was told not to think about the sporting goods business; and I was forbidden to talk about judges or courts. It was a delightful two weeks.

We spent most of the time doing things as a foursome. That was Fred's idea. He said that we needed to establish a whole new relationship: it would take almost more getting used to to think of Tim and me as sons than it did to think of Mom as his wife. We asked him if he'd like us to call him "Dad," but he declined.

"I'd like to be 'Fred,' if that's OK. We're going to meet publicly in Grand Forks, and I think your calling me 'Dad' would be confusing, and would even put some people off. But I'd like you to think of me in a fatherly role, rather than as an angel. Trouble is, over the years you two have taught me so much more than I've taught you; perhaps a fatherly role is impossible. But let's try.

Fred had always been a favorite. It wasn't difficult to think of him that way, and we could see how much it pleased Mom to have us relate so favorably to Fred. It was impossible to tell, then, just how our relationship might change, but it certainly appeared that if it was going to change it would be for the better.

We did a lot that week as a foursome, but the trip up to see our friend Dick was just for the two of us–we weren't sure that Dick would be comfortable talking in front of two older strangers. We'd called him on the phone the previous summer after getting the message from Mom that he'd stopped by the cabin. He said that he'd come out to a couple of people, including his Mom, and that it'd gone well. He was eager to see us the following summer.

We found him, as expected, at the bakery in the morning. He was glad to see us, and asked if we could wait around until things slowed down about noon. We told him that that was what we had in mind. We bought, well we tried to buy, a couple of donuts and sat at the little table in the sales area, eating the donuts. Before long Dick joined us, bringing three more donuts.

When Dick got his mouth empty from his donut he said, "Mom would like to have you to join us for dinner tonight. I thought we might go swimming at Hidden Lake this afternoon."

Tim said, "We'd love both. But if we're going to have dinner here I'll have to call Mom and Fred and tell them we won't be there for dinner."

The phone call made, a thank you to Dick's mom, Mary Ellen, for the invitation extended, we set off with Dick in his Jeep for lunch at the Amasa Hotel and then Hidden Lake. As soon as we were off he said, "You guys weren't here last summer, I missed you."

"We were in Europe last summer, vacationing, and Tim was in a big gymnastics meet in Munich. I guess the last time we saw you was two Christmases ago at Camp White Elk. The water was a little colder then than I expect it to be this afternoon."

Dick smiled and said, "I'm hoping that there will be some other differences as well. You know, I've had two birthdays since I saw you guys last."

Tim said, "Ah, ha! The magic eighteen. First me, then Billy, then Jerry, now Dick."

"Who's Jerry?"

"The brother of a good friend of ours. We weren't involved in his birthday celebration, but we heard about it."

"Then I'm not going to be disappointed this afternoon?"

"Our rule is to talk first and act second. Let's save that talk for the lake. Now, tell us about your plans for college."

"I'm not going to college. I graduated from high school in June. I'm pretty sure that I've got a job with the county highway department lined up for September."

It took a while for that to sink in, especially for Tim, who didn't have the experience in the Upper Peninsula that I did. College was the exception up here, not the rule. Tim finally said, "Dick, would you be willing to rethink that decision, perhaps a year from now?"

"Sure. But Tim, my life in the UP isn't going to require college. If I were to decide to go to college, I'd really be deciding to leave the UP. And this is my home. I'm not sure I want to leave."

"Dick, they need teachers here. And other professionals. Businesses need running, counties need governing. Lot's of things need college."

"I haven't closed the door. But not this year. And, besides, I haven't the slightest idea how I'd pay for it."

That got us to lunch at the hotel. We talked about trivia at lunch and soon we were heading for Hidden Lake. I opened the conversation by asking, "OK, Dick, you told us last fall on the phone that you came out to your mom. How did that go?

"She'd already guessed, or at least suspected. She's cool. I couldn't believe it. Every now and then she starts thinking about not having grandchildren and she cries a little. But then she hugs me and tells me that I have to be who I am. I think she really means it."

"Who else have you told? You said more than one."

"Are you ready for this? You know him."

"We know him?"

"Yep." He had a funny smile on his face, sort of all-knowing.

"We aren't going to guess." I said.

"Yes, we are, Charlie," said Tim. I know who he's talking about."


"Jeff. Right, Dick?"


"You're kidding," I said.

Tim said, "No, he's not kidding. I've suspected that Jeff was both gay and frustrated. I suspect the same of Stanley. But everybody at camp is off limits. Then here comes Dick."

"They're years apart."

"So are Fred and your mom."

"That's different."

"Why? Hell, Charlie, you and I are six years apart, and it doesn't make any difference. Wait a minute! Dick, did you come out to Jeff as sort of a father figure, or because you hoped to make love to him."

"Maybe a little of both."

"Have you made love to him?"

"We've played a little. We aren't lovers. At least not yet. But it's coming. I'm sure. We've skinny dipped. I've touched him. He's touched me. We've kissed. That's it."

"It's been a year. And that's it?"

"I just turned eighteen. He had your rules. Well, I told him about your rules and he affirmed them."

"You've told him about skinny dipping with us?"

"Yes, he got a good laugh out of it."

"I'll bet he did. One of his former counselors."

"Don't be silly, Charlie. If you can fall in love with Tim, who was your camper, you can skinny dip with me, who never was a camper."

At this point we arrived at Hidden Lake. There was another car there, which seemed to kill any idea of skinny dipping."

Then Jeff got out of the car and waved to us, walking over as Dick stopped the car.

"How did you get here?" Tim asked.

"Dick called me. He said you were visiting and he hoped that his dreamed of encounter with you guys was about to happen. He asked me to join you. He said, 'Jeff, we have to get it all out in the open.'"

I said, "I'm not sure why Tim and I are involved in 'getting it all out in the open'."

Dick said, "Look. We all know each other. I can't have a relationship with Jeff and have you two know it and not have Jeff know you know. I don't want secrets. You guys know each other, you have to know everything."

Tim said, "Jeff, Dick says you and he have never done anything but touch each other. Clearly he'd like to do more than that with us. He'd also like to do more than that with you. But don't you want your first time with Dick to be private? Wait, I'm guessing that whatever you do today with Dick is going to be your first time with anyone. Right?"

Dick said, "Is that right, Jeff?"

"Yes, it is."

"Neat," said Dick.

I said, "I'm not sure how comfortable I am with all of this."

Jeff said, "I think we need to sort a few things out. Tim and Charlie, I think you could help us."

Dick said, "I'm in love with you, Jeff. Does that need sorting out?"

"I love you, too, Dick."

Tim said, "Well, kiss him, dammit."

They did. Deep, long, lovingly.

Tim said, "Well, get your clothes off. Then we'll talk." Tim was, of course the first naked. Dick followed closely, with Jeff and I taking our time.

I said, "I think that the age thing has to be talked about. Jeff, how old are you?"

"Thirty-one. Is that too old, Dick?"

"Jeff, I went the first eighteen years of my life with no one to love. I could decide that you were too old and maybe go the rest of my life with no one to love. How stupid would that be? But, please, don't take that answer to mean that I love you because you're the only choice. I love you because I love you. Thirteen years difference in ages simply doesn't matter. Unless you make it matter. Please don't."

"Dick, you've gone eighteen years with no one to love. I've gone thirty-one! You're the most wonderful thing that has come into my life, with one possible exception: Stanley. He's been like a father to me, and now I have a partner."

Tim asked, "How will Stanley react?"

"The same as he did to you and Charlie."

"That's what I would guess,' said Tim.

While this conversation was going on, Dick got down on his knees in front of Jeff, took his dick in his hand, and put it into his mouth. It was obviously a new experience for Dick, but he carried it off well. Soon he got the load he should've been expecting, but wasn't. He gagged and spit. Tim and I couldn't help laughing. Jeff was hugely embarrassed.

Tim said, "Well, that's one of the more unusual 'first times' I've heard of–or seen. Jeff, I think you owe Dick a suck."

Jeff helped Dick over to the sandy beach of Hidden Lake, laid him down, and knelt over him. He kissed him, then kissed the end of his penis, and then took it in his mouth. Dick came very quickly, but Jeff was ready for him. He swallowed it all.

Tim said, "Let's go swimming." We did. Tim, of course, was the fish among us. It wasn't long before he was nibbling at part of me that he wouldn't dare nibble in public. Before I could react, he was off after Dick, doing the same thing to him. Clearly, something on that order had been Dick's intention from the beginning, and Tim was willing to comply. Jeff and I swam together while Dick and Tim played grab-ass, or grab-something, but we didn't seem inclined to any kind of physical contact. He did ask, "Charlie, are you surprised to learn I'm gay?"

"I guess. But I guess I shouldn't have been. Tim guessed. But you have certainly been in the closet. If you have some kind of a relationship with Dick it isn't likely to remain in the closet. I can believe that the age difference might be seriously misinterpreted, particularly since you're the director of a boys camp. Have you thought through the implications?"

"Not as much as I'm going to need to. And I'm going to have to involve Stanley in the conversation. I really hope that you and Tim can contribute."

Tim and Dick were climbing out on the sandy beach, and soon hugging and rolling in the sand. Sandy bodies don't make for very good sex, but they seemed to be having fun. Jeff and I joined them on the beach. I pointed to Tim's very sandy dick and said, "I wouldn't want to put that in my mouth."

Dick said, "Neither would I."

I said, "I wouldn't want anybody's hand rubbing it, and I wouldn't want it shoved up my ass. Just what're you guys planning?"

Dick said, "Nothing. We played around out in the water, and hugged here on the shore. But I think that's it, at least for now. I really appreciate that Tim seems to be willing to do anything...."

I said, "Not anything. We have limits."

"But now that I have Jeff, I'm not so desperate for Tim or you, Charlie. Maybe, with Jeff, in the future. Who knows? But not today."

Tim said, "Good for you, Dick. Charlie and I like sex, and we'd love to have an adventure with you and Jeff sometime. But you two need to get comfortable with each other first."

Jeff said, "I think we'd like to be alone for dinner tonight."

Dick said, "Gee, I'm sorry, Jeff. But Mom invited Tim and Charlie to dinner. I'm sure it'd be OK for you to join. Mom always makes enough food."

We felt really special being included in the events of that dinner. Dick's Mom, Mary Ellen Sorensen, was glad to have Jeff join us. She knew him well, both as the director of the camp and as a recent friend of Dick's. I don't think she had a clue about what was coming, however. I don't think Jeff did either!

Dinner hadn't progressed very far when Dick said, "Mom, I'm not sure just how to say this, so I guess the best thing to do is just say it. I'm in love with Jeff."

Dick was right! His mom was cool. She simply said, "Well, Jeff, I guess that means I should welcome you to the family."

Jeff looked like he'd just been slugged, not once, but twice. First with Dick's announcement and second with the response. I wasn't sure he was going to be able to speak. He did manage to say, "Dick, you have to warn a guy before you make an announcement like that."

Dick's mom asked him, "Dick, didn't Jeff know you were going to make that announcement?"


"It would've been nice to tell him."

"Yes, it would," said Jeff.

"Oh, heck. If it'd all been planned we would've had to stew about it for days. Mom, if you were cool about my being gay, I was sure you'd be cool about Jeff."

"There's an age issue. Jeff, how old are you?"

"Thirty-one, soon thirty-two."

"Dick's just eighteen. Is that going to be a problem."

"Honestly, it may be at the camp. We have a lot of talking to do."

"Well, you have my support. I have a feeling you may be able to work it out. Honestly, I hope so. Dick's been lonely, and it isn't going to get any better. He needs someone to love and someone to love him. I know you're a pretty responsible guy or Stanley wouldn't have hired you on full time at the camp after college."

I said, "Dick, have you thought about the implications at the camp if Jeff is public about loving a teenager. People could get wrong ideas about what he does with his teenage campers."

Dick said, "Honestly, I haven't had a chance to think about much of this. Jeff and I never really admitted that we loved each other until today, though we've been hinting at it all this spring.

Tim said, "Jeff, what, if anything, do you have in mind for the future?"

"I have a nice summer home at Camp White Elk. I'd like Dick to move in with me. I spend about half the year in Detroit, where I have an apartment. I'd like him with me. But I don't have any idea what Dick has in mind."

Dick said, "I'd love that. But I could hardly work for the highway department and be gone for six months in the winter."

Tim said, "This conversation isn't going anywhere without Stanley. The camp's a major issue here, and the camp belongs to Stanley."

Tim was right, and the conversation moved in other directions as they made plans to talk to Stanley at Camp White Elk the next day. Soon we were saying our goodbyes and congratulations, and returning to Pike Lake. Fred and Mom were fascinated by our story of the day.

In telling the story I had to make an important decision, and Tim and I discussed it on the way back to the cabin. How candid were we going to be with Mom, and now Fred, when we told stories that included events like at Hidden Lake. We'd been pretty open with Mom, as she had indicated over the years that she could accept what she heard. Fred probably suspected a lot of what the Gang, and others did, but had never been specifically included. How would he react?

After some discussion, we decided to spare them nothing. The story of the day got told just about as I told it here. Mom certainly blushed in front of Fred, as Tim talked about sucking. Fred seemed a little uncomfortable as well.

Mom responded first, "Fred, I hope stories like that don't make you uncomfortable. They did me, at first, but then I realized that being able to have honest conversations like this with your sons is a wonderful gift. The mother of one of Charlie's friends in Indianapolis pushed me in that direction. Her son David is gay, and she said she never really understood him until they were able to talk plainly and openly about what he and his lover did. It took real willpower for me to try that with Charlie, and even more with Tim, but we did it. I think that we've gotten past having secrets."

Fred said, "Well, I guess there are two things I should conclude from that speech. One, Tim and Charlie know pretty much what you and I do, and two, my suspicions about what Tim and Charlie do, especially with that Gang of theirs, are mostly–perhaps completely–true."

I said, "Fred, we haven't really talked much with Mom about what you and she do. But with the Gang, it's probably true that if you've thought about it, we've done it."

"What about Billy?"

"Not a thing before he was eighteen. But what an eighteenth birthday Sara threw for him!"

"I've always thought there was a lot more to that birthday than the dinner at my house. I'd like to hear that story."

"Sometime, but not this evening. Of all the stories we could tell, that'll probably stretch your minds the most," Tim said.

It was time for bed, and we did the sucking that we hadn't gotten around to that afternoon with Dick!

I got a telephone call the next day from Stanley. "Charlie, Jeff and Dick told me their good news yesterday. Do you believe that they were worried about what I'd think? I'm just so happy for Jeff that I don't know what to do."

"Stanley, I love you. Those guys are plenty lucky. But what're the implications for Camp White Elk?"

"I say, 'Let the chips fall where they may.' But neither Dick nor Jeff is willing to go there. They may be right that the camp would have a difficult time if this went public. I don't know. In any case, Dick's going to work for the Highway Department this year, and Jeff's going to extend his stay up here as long as he can, and get back out of Detroit next spring as early as he can. They'll see as much of each other as possible. In the meantime, the three of us are going to put our heads together and think about the future. I won't have the camp screwing up two lives, but I agree with them that we need to think it through very carefully. We may call on you and Tim for help."

"You know we'll help any way we can, Stanley."

"I love you, Charlie. Next summer don't just visit Dick and Jeff, you be sure to spend some time with me as well."

"We'd love to, Stanley."

Life in the UP was getting complicated.

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