Our dissertations were complete. Our teaching assignments were finished. All of Tim's athletic commitments were done. It was time to move. Over the years we had gathered quite a few things; well, I guess the bulk was books. In any case, it appeared to be more than we could fit into a U-Haul trailer. So we decided to rent a truck. We could either tow our can behind or have one of us drive the truck and the other the car. We opted for towing, so that we could ride together. We really valued time together, and didn't see any reason to make this trip in separate vehicles. We estimated that our costs would be slightly lower towing, but that didn't govern our choice.
We packed up everything, rented the truck, loaded it, and were ready to go. We'd said goodbyes to a whole bunch of people; there were only two left. We had a four p.m. appointment with President Rogers, and were going to have dinner with Judy. I think we were both counting on spending the night with Judy as well!
Our meeting with President Rogers was pleasant. We thanked him for inviting us to Michigan and for all the support we'd gotten over the three years. He thanked us for our contributions to the university. I think he was sincere when he said that we'd had a significant impact on endowments, athletics, and the law school. Whether that was true or not, I'm not sure. It was nice to be told it, however. We said goodbye, and President Rogers replied that he expected to be seeing us in the future. "It's no secret that I'm speaking to the next President of the University of North Dakota, and probably their next Dean of Law. Prexy's had his eye on you two for years. He's certainly glad you're heading back home."
Tim said, "We like to think of it as home. But Ann Arbor's been a nice home for three years. I'm glad you chose us, and I'm glad we came. It's been a good three years." We shook hands, and our connection to the University of Michigan came to an end.
We took Judy to dinner at Win Scheuler's. We splurged on rack of lamb for two and shrimp for one, both of which we shared three ways. Wonderful. Judy asked about our house, "Is there a bed to sleep in at the house, now that you have everything packed into that truck?"
"Yes, there was basic furniture in the house, so there are two double beds left."
"One is all we'll need tonight, right?"
"I guess that's right."
"Can I ride to Kalamazoo with your tomorrow? I'd like a few days at home before I start serious practice for the summer. I have to take one course over the summer to keep campus privileges - including access to the pool. But I'm going to take an intensive course in the middle of the summer."
"Where are you living for the summer?"
"I'll stay in the dorm. It's the easiest."
"Of course you can ride with us tomorrow."
"Why don't you spend the night in Kalamazoo? I know that isn't very far down the pike for you, but it's a free stop."
"We were planning to head all the way to Madison tomorrow and stay with Ronnie's parents. I could call and see if they'd mind if the date slipped a day."
I made the call and all was set. We spent that night in Ann Arbor, the next in Kalamozoo, the next in Madison, and got to Minneapolis the third day. Both of our host couples along the way were incredibly horny, and we were almost worn out by the time we got to Minneapolis. I think we were glad for the prohibitions against incest. We didn't want to spend a lot of time in Minneapolis, so we asked Mom and Dad not to tell anyone else we were in town. We spent two nights with Mom and Dad and headed for Grand Forks.
We weren't far out of the Twin Cities when Tim said, "Charlie, I'd like to take a different route to Grand Forks."
"Lay it out. Why?"
"Let's go up by Leech Lake and then take Route 2 over to East Grand Forks."
"It's a little longer and the roads aren't as good."
"I know. It's funny. I think I'd like to enter North Dakota at Grand Forks instead of going up through Fargo. I don't know why, it's just a feeling."
"It's fine with me. It's a new route; should be more interesting for us. Let's spend the night somewhere in Minnesota so we can get to Grand Forks in the morning."
"Sounds good to me. Where?"
"Thief River Falls," I suggested.
"I've heard of it, but that's all. Is it on our route?"
"A little north of Route 2, but not far. And then it's just about sixty miles on to Grand Forks the next day."
"Sounds like a plan. Why Thief River Falls?"
"I don't know. I've heard it talked about; I thought it might be fun to see it."
"How far is it to Thief River Falls."
"The map says it's 300 miles from Minneapolis, and we've gone about fifty. We should be there between two and three in the afternoon. Time to look around a little."
"Good. No sex tonight. I want to be good and horny for our first night back in Grand Forks."
"I can be good and horny both nights."
"You know you'll get sex if you really want it. But let's skip tonight."
"Sounds like a plan. Maybe a dumb plan, but a plan."
As I'm sure you could guess, there wasn't much to see in Thief River Falls. Like most northern Minnesota towns, it catered to tourists and fishermen. Snowmobiles in the winter. Arctic Cat snowmobiles were manufactured there. The Thief River was lovely, and you could walk along it. There were several wildlife refuges in the area, and we visited one, hoping to see a moose - we didn't.
We took a long walk around town as the sun set, stopping at a café for dinner. We continued our walk until about ten p.m., when we got back to the motel. We crawled into bed, spooned, and started to drift off to sleep. Tim said, "Charlie, it begins tomorrow. We've been aiming for this since that summer at camp, thirteen years ago."
"Are you sure it's what you want?"
"I'm sure. But are you sure? Or are you just following me?"
"Both, Tim. That summer in Michigan, I didn't have any goals in life. I was going to college, doing OK, with nothing in particular in mind after college. I might've ended up with the Red Cross. Who knows? I think some charity or non-profit. Maybe I'd have ended up in law school. That's certainly where I belonged. I have no idea. You've given me a goal and direction. Sure, I choose it because of the path you were following. But I think it's right for me, and for sure it's right for you and me to be heading down the same path. Don't feel guilty for my following you."
"I do, sometimes."
"I know, Charlie. I tell myself that. I usually believe it. Thanks, Charlie, for loving me, and for coming with me on this trip through life."
"It's been a good thirteen years. We have even more good years in front of us."
"It was a lousy three and a half years, followed by a wonderful nine and a half years."
"You won't let me forget those forty months, will you?"
"Will you admit I was right?"
"I guess that's as good as I'm going to get."
"That's more than you deserve. Kiss me."
I did. He kissed back, and we slept.
Six in the morning, without an alarm. "Charlie, wake up. It's late. We have to get going."
"Have to? Why have to?"
"We have lots to do, places to go, people to see. Groceries to buy. We have to move Marty upstairs. Gotta see Fred. Gotta see Prexy. Gotta see Hamilton."
"I'm going to have to get used to calling him Hamilton. I wonder if you're going to continue to call Prexy, Prexy."
"I don't plan to change."
"Unless he asks you to."
"I think he likes Prexy."
"I think so, too. You'll just have to wait and see."
He grabbed my dick and pulled me out of bed and into the shower. It was a tub shower, so there was room for two. We washed each other, rinsed, dried each other, got dressed, and headed back to the same café for breakfast. We were on the road by 7:30. At 8:45 we were parked in East Grand Forks looking over the Red River at Grand Forks. Tim gave me a hug and kiss, put the truck in gear, and we headed across the bridge.
North Dakota. It was like we were arriving for the first time. God, we were excited. Vice-President of the University of North Dakota. Assistant Dean of Law. My parents would've been so proud they might've burst. Thank goodness they'd lived long enough to meet Tim, get to know and love him, and see both of us start down the road to success. How I wished they could've been in Grand Forks with us today, to share in the joy of this day.
Tim's parents were going to drive up tomorrow and visit, see the house again, and join what they knew would be a little celebration of our return. They'd decided that they'd let us be alone the first night.
We drove to our house, where Marty was waiting for us. We didn't have to move him. He'd moved himself upstairs and put our master bedroom in perfect order. We wouldn't have to go shopping, he'd fully stocked the kitchen, saying that was his rent payment for the summer, and it was cheap rent at that. We hadn't been home for a half hour before Fred arrived. Jim, Andy, Kara and Amy followed shortly. Fred said, "I'm playing Felix today. I'm going to cook lunch. Everybody else stay out of the kitchen."
It was a grand lunch: hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, fresh asparagus. Ice cream for dessert. It wasn't the food that made it grand, though it was good. It was the people. And to think that this wasn't a visit, we were going to be living in the same town with these people, probably for the rest of our lives. Bliss.
As soon as we called Prexy he told us to get over to his office, on the double. By the time we got there Hamilton was there as well. Nothing was said about our jobs or duties, just a huge welcome and question after question about what we'd been doing with ourselves for the past five years. We couldn't possibly have been made more welcome. We spent about an hour with them promising we'd be back on Monday morning (this was Friday) to begin to talk shop. Prexy said, "You aren't on the payroll until September first, so take your time."
Tim said, "I'm ready to go. I couldn't care less about the payroll."
I said, "I'll second that."
Prexy said, "I don't know what the university labor lawyer would say about that."
Hamilton said, "That's simple. Don't ask."
We said goodbye. Tim headed for the gym to meet coaches and others in the athletic departments. I took a walk around campus, eventually heading home.
The house was empty. Marty left a note saying that he was spending the night with Fred, and that no one would disturb us till tomorrow morning. Then "Look out."
Tim came home before too long. He'd agreed that he wouldn't start diving and exercising until the next day. We walked through the house, room by room, remembering good times, furniture we'd bought, art we'd carefully hung on the walls. There in the living room was the framed SI cover signed by Mick and the editors. There was the Time cover. Tim said, "Is it showing off too much to have those two covers in the living room."
"Yes. And let's go right on doing it. I love those covers, and I wouldn't want them anyplace else."
"Where shall we hang our diplomas for our doctorates?"
"Diplomas from Michigan are so small, they won't be seen no matter where we put them."
"I think they go in our offices. I intend to put all three diplomas on my office wall, and the UND undergraduate one is going to get top billing. I want people to know that I started out here."
"Good for you. I guess I'll do the same, and give my UND law degree top billing."
"Right. Well, Charlie, are you happy?"
"Me too. What's for dinner?"
"Left over hot dogs and mac and cheese."
"You'd better do better than that."
"Almost everything else is frozen. We didn't think to thaw out anything."
"OK, hot dogs and mac and cheese. I don't want to go out."
It was a good dinner. Eaten naked, of course. We left the dishes on the table and headed for our bed. Wonderful bed. Huge bed. Soft bed. Clean sheets. Lots of pillows. Soft lover. Hard dicks. Wet dicks. Sleep.
"Charlie, it's time to get up. Will you come to the pool with me this morning?"
"What time is it?"
"It's not time to get up."
"Oh, yes it is. Come with me, will you please? Today?"
A fast shower, orange juice and toast for breakfast, and we were running to the natatorium. Tim went into the locker room, found his old locker which he'd simply left locked five years ago, opened the combination - I wouldn't have remembered mine, took out his suit, hung up his clothes, headed for the shower, slipped on his suit, and headed to the high platform. It was as if the five years hadn't gone by. I don't think his diving had slipped a bit. Of course, he'd kept up his practice, missing very few days in the last five years. He thought of himself as the second best in the world, after Billy. Watching him that morning, I wasn't sure but what he was better than Billy. In my eyes, at least, he was number one in the world.
I jumped in the lap pool which was near the diving pool. I lay over on my back and did slow laps, watching Tim dive as I lazily stroked back and forth. Tim kept at it for two and a half hours. I gave out after an hour, and I snoozed beside the pool. At nine thirty Tim pushed me into the pool, jumped in after me, and we roughhoused for a while. Then we took a long shower - lots of looking but no touching - dressed, and headed home. When we got home we found a note from Andy, inviting us to lunch with the foursome. We were delighted.
At lunch Andy didn't talk much about himself, so Jim did it for him. According to Jim he was essentially running Fred's sporting goods business, expanding, and making money hand over fist. Andy assured us that was seriously exaggerated, but he did admit that things were going well. "You know, guys, Fred's setting it up so that the business will support the whole gang, not just me and my family."
"We know. He told us all the details. He's a wonderful guy. You keep going the way you've been going, and we'll all be rich."
Kara said, "Very rich. I can't believe how well we're doing."
Jim said, "We're enough money ahead that I'm going to quit my job at the university and enroll as a graduate student. I want to get a teaching certificate and an M.A. in P.E. for coaching. Then I'd like to coach wrestling at a high school here."
Tim and I both told him we thought that was great. We were pleased to see him with a direction, instead of just filling a job as he had been in the business office the past four years. Kara and Amy were both teaching, but both were talking about having babies, and staying at home to be mothers. We wished them good luck in that endeavor. Tim couldn't resist asking, "OK, I'll admit to being curious. Who's fucking whom to get these babies?"
Andy deadpanned, "Well, it doesn't work too well for me to fuck Jim, so I fuck Kara and Amy, so does Jim. Only God knows who's going to father a child. Of course, I'm legally married to Amy, so if she gets pregnant, I'm the legal father. We aren't going to worry about who's the biological father."
"What if the little tiger happens to look a lot like Jim?"
"Let the gossips have at it. They'll never guess the truth."
"I think you're right about that."
Jim said, "You know Hal's due in town in about a month?"
I said, "No, we've kind of been out of touch. I know he switched from a master's program to a doctorate. My God, we have been out of touch. He finished this May or June, didn't he? Then he's coming here?"
"Assistant Professor of Physical Education."
"Great. Why didn't somebody tell us?"
"Hal's been keeping it a surprise. I guess we spoiled it for him," said Andy.
"I was the one that opened my big mouth," said Jim.
"I'm expecting Franklin and Phil to get here some time this summer, is that right?" asked Tim.
Andy replied, "Yeah. Franklin and Fred have been having a big go around about starting a drug rehab program here."
"What's the issue?" I asked.
"Whether Franklin is going to take Fred's money. Fred's willing to finance the start up, but Franklin thinks he should spend the first year trying to raise funds."
"Oh, God. We're all going to have to get used to Fred. Franklin will really hurt Fred if he doesn't let him help, and Franklin will be able to provide needed services sooner, and to more people, if he lets Fred help."
"Talk to him, Charlie," said Tim.
"I will," I told him.
Tim said, "Tom should be about ready to finish with the Air Force."
"He's extended about six months. They don't usually allow that - it's re-up for a full term or get out. But they're in the middle of the budget cycle and his boss can't afford to lose him. He'll get a promotion for the last six months and stay on at Edwards. He likes his boss and thinks the offer's reasonable and he doesn't want to say, 'No,' to his boss. He'll be out early next year, and I expect him and Nancy to settle here immediately." That report came from Jim.
Tim said, "Whom haven't we discussed?"
"Tim, you're so pedantic. Whom haven't we discussed?"
"What would you say?"
"Who haven't we discussed, like almost every other English speaking person in the world."
Tim said, "I don't even think about it. Let's see. Yeah, whom is objective in that sentence, the object of the verb discuss. It shouldn't be who."
"Who gives a damn?" asked Andy.
"You seem to," said Tim, "you're making a big fuss over it."
Jim said, "Gotcha, Andy."
Andy said, "OK, I give up."
Jim said, "OK, WHOM haven't we discussed?"
"My brother, Carl," said Tim.
Andy said, "He's getting ready to open his own shop here in Grand Forks, but he doesn't have a timetable. He's doing well in Bismarck, and they'd like to keep him. I think the rest of the Gang moving to Grand Forks will get him moving. I know that he's talked to Fred about a loan to get him started."
I said, "You seem to know all of the inside stuff about Fred."
"He doesn't keep any secrets. Well, not any financial secrets. I think he has one big personal secret."
"I think Fred's in love."
"You've got to be kidding."
"I'm not kidding, but I'm not sure. I know he and Marty spend the night together not infrequently. Of course, the Gang sort of encourages that. But I think there's more to it. We'll see."
Tim said, "This is the guy who could hardly conceive of kissing me. Now he's fucking Marty."
"I have no idea what he's doing. But I think it's serious," concluded Andy. "And, he very rarely spends the night here, and at one time he came by fairly often."
"Moving on to the last of the Gang. What about Ronnie and his trio?"
"They're settled in California. They'd like to move here, but there isn't much work for theoretical physicists in North Dakota. Certainly not three of them."
I said, "Tim, one of your first jobs is to fix that."
"I know," said Tim. I think that's another project that's going to need Fred's special brand of help."
Andy said, "You know, he's divided the money he plays with into university money and Gang money. I think you're going to want to work through the university to create theoretical physics jobs. Fred'll help."
Tim said, "You know, Fred says that my walking into his life was a life-changing event. Well, it certainly has been a two-way street."
"You're not kidding. But people shouldn't feel guilty letting Fred play Santa Claus. He considers it his mission in life to support the Gang. In his mind, it's a tiny and inadequate repayment for everything he's gotten from the Gang."
"That's bullshit?" Do I have to tell you who said that?
"Not to Fred."
"So how are you four?"
"Happier than pigs in shit."
"Well, I guess that that, and the fact that you're looking for babies, just about sums it up. It could be a little wild if both of you became pregnant at the same time."
"Anything is possible. I think we're ready."
A note about our moving around Grand Forks. In general, one didn't need to drive in Grand Forks unless your destination was on the outskirts of the town. Two miles was a long distance in that town. I tended to walk places. Tim usually ran. When we were together we usually ran. Both Tim and I agreed with Hal that jogging was a bad idea; it's very hard on the knees. So Tim and I found ourselves running home after our lunch with the foursome. Tim said, "Marty's likely to be home when we get there. I suggest that we not quiz either him or Fred about their relationship. Let's let them tell us when they're ready."
"Although I am quite curious, I think you're right." We fell into silence - which tends to be what you do when you're running - until we got back to our house. When we got in I called upstairs for Marty and he came running down.
"Hi, guys. Gee, it's nice to have you in the house. This is a big house to live in by yourself."
"You've had to move into somewhat smaller quarters."
"The little apartment upstairs is all I need. But I feel like I'm intruding on someone. Fred's told me about Felix. I guess the furniture and stuff is just the way he left it."
"I'm sure it is. Felix was a nice guy, and he'd be delighted to have someone like you using his stuff. He really liked boys."
"So I understand."
"Not just sexually. This was his house, and he rented it to students. He had a good relationship with all of them, but never a sexual one. As far as we've been able to learn, they all thought very highly of him, trusted him, treated him as a confidant."
"I'd like to have known him."
I said, "Let's call Fred and we'll let him take us out to dinner this evening."
Tim said, "Remember, my parents are coming up for dinner and will be spending the night."
"I'm sure that Fred would be delighted to take them as well."
"Aren't you being a little presumptuous about who's going to take whom?"
"I don't think so."
Marty said, "I know he isn't. I tried to take Fred to dinner one evening and I almost lost my hand when I started to reach for the check. I've learned that Fred's joy in life is using his money to make other people happy. He says that if you deny him that, then the only reason for his being in business is greed. He doesn't need the money for himself."
A little later we got a telepone call from Norman. They needed to put off their visit for a few days. A co-worker of Norman's had a disaster on a project he was working on. Norman and two others were asked to try to fix the mess. It would involve a lot of work over the weekend.
So just the four of us ate at Jerry's, Fred's favorite little diner. It would be easy to conclude that Fred was watching his money, and thus picked the cheapest place in town to eat. But Fred had known Jerry since they'd both started in business at about the same time after the war. Jerry served good food in very modest surroundings. Fred loved the place, liked to chew the fat with Jerry, and liked patronizing a local businessman instead of one of the chains that were beginning to loom large on the American restaurant scene.
When we came in we were greeted by Jerry, and Fred asked for a table in the corner where we could talk in private. We never ordered, Fred never did at Jerry's. Jerry knew to bring us Cokes, and had obviously learned what to bring Marty, as he got iced tea without asking. Fred received a small bottle of white wine which he always drank out of an old-fashioned glass. The soup of the day materialized - a hearty cream of potato - and we were all asked if we'd like a salad; we all said, "Yes."
Fred started in on catching us up to date on everything he could think of that'd happened in Grand Forks in the last five years. Prexy was doing well, as was the university. The faculty endowment that Tim had started was in good shape, and was allowing the university to compete for better quality faculty, despite the climate. Fred said, "You know, Prexy is 62; I think he's about ready to retire. You'll find that even before he retires you're going to have a lot to do with running this place. He's sure that he's going to like what he sees, but the job of President is yours to lose in the next few years."
I said, "I don't think Tim plans to lose it."
Fred said, "I don't either. Neither does Prexy. But a lot of trustee eyes are going to be on you. About half of the present board were here when you made your presentation about the faculty endowment. They're still talking about that. You really impressed people that day."
"You're a trustee now, aren't you Fred?"
"Yes. Prexy suggested my name shortly after you guys were off to Washington. A lot of people assume that I got to the board because of my money. I'll have to admit that's the reason that about half the people are on the board. It certainly didn't hurt my chances of selection. But I like to think that I'm in the half that are selected for the contribution we can make to actually running the school. Prexy assures me that's why I was chosen. Who knows? They're stuck with me. I've been very careful to stay out of all personnel matters. When they're searching for a new president and new dean of law I can't be involved; it would be a conflict of interest that might bar you guys from proper consideration. Everybody knows we're closely connected."
"They know you're a member of the Gang?" I asked.
"No. They wouldn't know what the Gang was. But they know we're close friends and they suspect that I have supported you financially. They probably assume that I've supported you much more than I have, because it's been quite minimal. But they know I've supported Tim's sports and other endeavors. It is important that I not be involved in personnel matters."
"You're a savvy guy, Fred," said Tim. "I'll put you on the Personnel Committee early in my presidential tenure."
"You're pretty confident you're going to get the job."
I said, "He has to live with that kind of confidence. Without it, no Olympic medals, no faculty endowment, no fairy tale life. It's been fun to be dragged along by his self-confidence."
"I've been warned that someday I'm going to be in for a big disappointment. Could be. But I'm not going through life waiting for it. If it comes, I'll deal. I'll have to."
Fred said, "Well, Marty and I have a little announcement."
"We wondered if some kind of an announcement might come tonight. We've been hearing rumors."
"Really? I guess the foursome have been speculating. And, of course, they would share their speculations with you two."
"Of course. So give."
"Marty and I are still trying to work out the implications of this, but we're in love."
Marty said, "We've been resisting this for some time. But in the last couple of weeks we've had to admit to ourselves that the only thing that describes our feelings is that we're madly in love with each other."
Tim said, "And Charlie and I thought we had a problem with a difference in ages. Then we worried about how much older Mamie was than Fred. Wow!"
I said, "Screw the age difference. That's a problem for other people. I say, 'Here's to love wherever you find it'." I raised my Coke glass and the others joined me in clinking our glasses and taking sips. I went on, "So what do you mean you're 'working out the implications'?"
"We spend the night together three or four times a week, either at my house or at Marty's house. Well, I guess that's really your house. We spend most weekends together. But we haven't been public at all, and we're not sure what the implications of that will be."
Tim said, "Fred, you're the guy that was hesitant to kiss me. You've come a long way."
"Thanks to the Gang. You guys were willing to accept me the way I was, but you opened my eyes to horizons I hadn't even dreamed of. I don't know whether I've always been gay and suppressed it; whether I'm bi- and another side of me is coming out; or whether I've simply changed as new opportunities have presented themselves. It really doesn't matter. I think I'm capable of loving anyone, male or female. Right now, and for as long as he'll have me, Marty is it. He's the third love of my life, and I'm simply not going to get into the business of comparing them. Each was the right person for me at the time."
Marty said, "It started with Fred being nice to the new kid, living alone in the big house, lonely at night, needing a father figure after having lost my own father in coming out. Then all of the stuff going around the Gang about intergenerational sex led to our exploring each other. Fred moved from father figure to companion, to sex partner, to lover, to true love. I can't explain it. I love the line in "Some Enchanted Evening" from South Pacific: 'Who can explain it? Who can tell you why? Fools give you reasons; wise men never try.'"
Tim said, "OK, but I'll try. I know both of you guys, and you're both wonderful people: kind and loving. And smart enough not to let conventional wisdom spoil a good thing. I think it's wonderful."
"I'll second that," I said.
Fred said, "You know, your support means a lot to us. Charlie you could really resent the idea that someone was taking your mother's place in my life."
"Yeah, and I could've resented your taking the place of my dad. But the fact is, you were the best thing that could've happened to Mom. Now, we have to hope for the same success for you - that Marty's the best thing that could happen to you."
Fred said, "Still, I worry about Marty hitching himself to a man 24 years his senior."
"Mamie was 19 years your senior. She worried about it. You didn't. Give Marty the same credit."
"I try to. But I worry. If I die at age 74, he'll be 50. Where's he going to find a partner? Is he going to be alone for 24 years?"
"He'll probably find a 25 year old kid, and worry himself about being too old for him. Fred, give love a break."
"I've come to terms with it. Marty won't even admit that there's an issue to come to terms with. I'm worried that people are going to think he's some kind of boy-toy. Paid for sex. He won't even discuss that. He says, It's not true; in fact, it's poppycock, so why dignify it by worrying about it?' I'm not sure he's living in the real world."
I said, "You indicated that you were figuring out the implications of your romance. Certainly the question of how public you're going to be is part of what you have to figure out. At that point, what people think is relevant. Certainly Marty understands that. Right, Marty?"
"Reluctantly. I'd just like to be able to say to the world, 'I love Fred. Deal with it'."
"And I'd like to say, 'I love Marty. So there.' But I fear we'll need to modify that stance a little."
"You know the entire Gang will support you."
"Of course. We'll see how it plays out. For now we'd like to keep it with just you two and the foursome - who seem to have figured it out and need to hear in from us. Let us do that before you talk to them about this conversation. We do have a plan for the summer. We're going to spend a month or two at the cabin. We'll see how we like living together, and we'll have time to think about the fall. You'll get a full report in late August, or if you come by the cabin yourselves this summer."
"We hope to be there for a week or so, but probably not much more. We're both eager to get started in Grand Forks. I can't believe we've been away for five years. It seems like last week. God, it's good to be home."
Tim said, "So, does all this mean your bodies are off limits to the Gang?"
Marty said, "Leave it to Tim to ask that."
Fred said, "That's up to Marty. We haven't talked about it."
Marty said, "That's up to Fred."
I said, "It appears that you two need to have a little conversation."
"We do and we will. We'll give you an answer when you come by the cabin."
During all of this Jerry's special of the day, stuffed pork chops, had arrived, been consumed, and the table cleared. Dessert was blueberry pie, again delivered without order. Fred asked for ice cream, and a bowl with eight big scoops materialized on the table. Both Tim and I were going to have to exercise tomorrow if we were going to recover from this meal.
The next day brought a session for Tim with Prexy and for me with Dean Hamilton Fry. Tim had been right, the first thing out of Dean Fry's mouth was, "Call me Hamilton. That's an order."
"I don't take well to, 'Sir,' either, except when used by a respectful student - which you used to be, but are no longer."
"OK, Hamilton. But forgive a few slip ups in the first month or so."
"You have either two weeks or four slip ups, whichever comes first."
"You're going to count?"
"Don't test me."
"I'm not going there, Hamilton."
"What're you doing here in June? Sucking up to the boss? You don't start work until September."
"Where Tim goes, I go. Here I am. He's with Prexy now."
"Oh, to be young and eager again. Well, let's get you settled in. Your office is the old conference room just down the hall. I want you near me. We created a new conference room out of a classroom at the other end of the hall. Get settled in. Your secretary is gone for the summer, and will be back September first, your first day of work. In the meantime, my secretary, Sarah Holmes, will support you as needed, but I hope you don't need much over the summer, partly to protect Sarah, but also because I don't want you working hard when we aren't paying you. And Prexy's made it clear that funds to pay you for the summer are not in the budget."
Sarah walked me to my new office. It was a huge room for an office, with an old fireplace that I was assured hadn't been used in decades, but that really did work - they thought. If I wanted a fire I would have to bring in my own wood, and I'd have to have B&G - which I quickly learned stood for Buildings and Grounds, and was the one department on campus you simply had to stay on the good side of - check it out first. The room was empty, and I was told to talk to the supply manager at B&G and be shown where to pick out the furniture I wanted from college stores.
Hamilton took me to lunch, but insisted that we wouldn't talk shop for at least a week, while I settled in. He wanted to hear everything I knew about the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. He'd tried to clerk for either the First Circuit or the Supreme Court, but hadn't been able to break the barrier of prestige law schools. He'd clerked for a judge of the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati. He'd had enough trouble getting the North Dakota Law School recognized in Ohio, much less Washington. "Charlie, I'm still amazed that you were able to get as far as you did in Washington. They really can be stuffed shirts out there."
Lyndon Johnson is both not a stuffed shirt and retains an enormous amount of power behind the scenes. His name unlocked doors. I still had to be able to strut my stuff, but without his unlocking the doors, I wouldn't have even gotten an audience. Sherm as much as admitted that without the call from Johnson they wouldn't have gotten beyond 'University of North Dakota' when they looked as my resume."
"Sad, but true."
"For the next couple of years a resume with UND on it might get you an interview, because I really did have a good reputation. But that won't last, and it won't rub off onto other schools out here. University of Oklahoma law grads need not apply."
"What about Michigan, where you just spent three years?"
"It's not Harvard, Princeton, or Yale. Nor one of the few others that count. But they'd likely at least read the resume to the end before tossing it. It'd better have a picture of you either walking on water or walking on the moon."
"What a silly world we live in."
"You and I don't know the half of it."
That evening Tim and I compared notes. His office would be in the President's suite, opening onto the President's Conference Room. It was smaller than mine, but at least had a desk. The desk had a history behind it, and Prexy hinted strongly that he should live with the desk, even if he didn't like it. He was given the same instructions about furnishing the rest of it.
Tim told me, "Charlie, the desk comes from the nineteenth century and was made by a former president of the university. Prexy said that he'd be stuck with it, except that some major donor just before the war gave a new desk for the president. The one I have was moved to my office, which used to be for the Dean of Arts and Sciences. However, as the school grew, the Dean got his own suite of offices. Various administrators have had the office, but the desk has stayed. It's not a bad desk, somewhat ornate, and pretty big. It wouldn't be my first choice."
"I'm sure you'll live with it."
"Of course. In this world you choose your battles, and I'm not going to battle anybody, Prexy or anybody else, over a desk. I could use orange crates."
"Too many splinters."
"So how's Hamilton? I assume that's what you're going to be calling him."
"Right you are, as usual. He's fine. We had a nice lunch, didn't talk shop. That's next week."
"I think he and Prexy must've compared notes. It sounds like we had about the same conversation."
"So what's for dinner?"
"Huge steaks on the grill. I picked them up on the way home. Just the two of us - and about half a cow."
"Sounds wonderful. It's a nice warm evening. Let's eat outside after we grill the steaks."
"Damn, you have to wear clothes outside."
"We'll be coming inside after dinner. Then I'll help you lose your clothes."
"The rule for the evening is that if you want to take my clothes off, you have to take your own off first. Either all at once, or piece by piece."
The steaks were wonderful.
The burlesque was delightful.
Both paled in the face of what followed.
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