In contrast to the night before, Tim and I headed for bed at a reasonable hour on Friday night. Saturday would be a day for the Gang. Last night had been Tim's time to try to say, "Thank you," to me sexually, and he had succeeded. Tonight we lay in bed, on our backs, Tim's right hand in my left. This was usually the way we lay when it was time for pillow talk. Since Tim had moved to that position first, I knew he would open the conversation. I lay quietly and waited for him.
"Yeah, what's on your mind?"
"I am serious."
"OK, Charlie what?"
I decided that waiting was the order of the day.
"I love you."
"I love you, too, Tim."
"It's been a wonderful two days."
"Try to tell me something I don't know."
"I worry that it was too much about me."
"These two days were. That was the point."
"Nobody made a big fuss over you when you became Dean."
"And you wouldn't have allowed them to make the big fuss over you, except that you felt it was good for the university."
"Yes, that's true. But, God, it was fun. I have to admit, I loved it."
"Of course, and I would call you a liar if you tried to deny it. But that isn't the point. I know, for a fact, that you allowed it only because you thought it was in the best interests of the university. It was never for self-aggrandizement."
"Isn't that a cop out?"
"No, Tim, it isn't. If you're going to be the best at everything you do, from diving, to gymnastics, to running universities, then you have to accept the honors that go with being the best. And you certainly don't want to be feeling guilty about it. It's like feeling guilty over eating good steak. That guilt doesn't help the cow, nor the hungry people in China or Africa. Running a good university that encourages its graduates to be concerned about their world might actually help people in China and Africa."
"Tim, you're the most wonderful person on earth. I love you unconditionally. So does the entire Gang. So does this entire university. Accept it, don't feel guilty about it, and return the love in the best way you can, by running the best damn university you can."
"With your help, Charlie. We're a team. I want you to have the office right next door to mine."
"That's had Prexy's personal secretary and her assistant, hasn't it? Where are you going to put them?"
"I haven't the slightest idea. We're going to have to do some remodeling. But I want you, not the secretary, close at hand."
"You know, I have an office in the Law School, and heavy responsibilities there."
"I know. You won't be in the office next door to mine all that often, but it's important that you be in that office for two reasons ."
"And those two reasons would be?"
"First, symbolism. I want everybody to know we're a team. We're gong to have to think up a title for you. It could be vice-president, deputy president, or something like that, but I don't think so. It should be something that's ambiguously equal to president. Maybe chancellor."
"Doesn't a chancellor outrank a president?"
"Not at the University of North Dakota, and don't you forget it."
"So we aren't equal partners?"
"I guess we'll have to work that out."
"I love you, Tim."
"Tonight, let your hand prove it."
I could be pretty sure that conversations like this would evolve into physicality, but I could never predict in what form. I leaned on my side and slid my hand under the sheet, across my hip, and onto Tim's groin. He hadn't hardened as yet, and I massaged his soft member and felt it get stiff and hard in my hand.
"Tickle my balls."
I pulled my hand away and let just the tips of my fingers touch his balls. He shuddered with delight. I kept that up a little while until he said, "Do it."
I slid the sheet back , moved my hand up on his dick, wrapped my fingers around it, and started gentle pumping. "Faster." I pumped faster, and at the same time leaned over and sucked his right nipple. "Just your hand." I backed away with my mouth, and kept my hand going. It didn't take long, and then he was shooting ropes of cum up onto his chest. Then he leaned slightly toward me, grabbed me, and pulled me on him, so that the cum was spread around both of our chests and stomachs.
We lay there a long while, just holding each other. Tim finally said, "Thanks, Charlie. I love you. What can I do for you tonight?"
"Anything you'd like, but something pretty soon. I'm pretty hot."
He pushed me off him, and wiggled around so that he was sitting on me, just about at my hips; my very hard dick rubbing up his back. He reached down on my chest and wet his hand with his cum and used it to lube his hole. Then he rose up and dropped himself down on my dick, forcing it up into him as he came down. A little bouncing and I had come inside of him. He just sat there while I softened, and then he slid down and we were hugging and kissing again.
"Shower?" I said.
"Yeah, I think we need it."
We certainly did, and we walked to the shower holding hands. It was a wonderful shower, and we stood a long time in the hot water, just drinking in each other's bodies with our eyes. Tim said, "Charlie, you're as beautiful as the first day I saw you at Camp White Elk. When you greeted me and my family I mentally undressed you, and I knew you'd be magnificent. Then when we got ready for swimming and I saw you naked, I knew you were magnificent. You're still magnificent. I'll bet you haven't gained a pound since then."
"I haven't, Tim, thanks to you. Because of you I pursued my archery, and that meant exercise and weight training. And because of you, I've kept those up ever since. I'd be carrying a spare tire around if it weren't for your influence."
"I don't believe that, but if it's true, I'm glad that I have that kind of influence on you. I'd love you with a spare tire, but you wouldn't love yourself as much, and that's important.
"We won't even talk about you. Of course, you don't look like the 14-year old you were when we met, but you look exactly like the 18-year old whose birthday party I attended. And you dive better now than you did at 18."
We dried each other off. It was a ritual that we always followed after we showered together. It was very sexual, deliberately so, but it did get us dry, and often hard, but that rarely lasted long while we got dressed. This evening, we headed back to bed, naked as usual, and we remained hard. Instead of holding hands, our hands rested quietly on each other's groins, and the conversation continued.
Tim said, "Dinner is with the Gang is at Jerry's restaurant beginning at 2:00 p.m. with drinks and appetizers. I have no idea what Jerry has on the menu; he told me to let him take care of everything."
"I suppose Fred's picking up the bill."
"I guess so, but Jerry won't say, just, 'Let me take care of everything'. If I've learned anything about this Gang, and especially Fred, it's don't argue when they're doing something for you. The only response is, 'Thank you,' and try to do something nice in return."
"Fred is happy if you pay him back by doing nice things for other people."
"I know. Fred's a dear. I really lucked out when I first approached him when I was raising money for the, then only envisioned, Gymnastics Club."
"You know, Tim, the entire Gang's in town. Everybody simply had to see your inauguration."
"48 people, up from 8. It's hard to believe. Can we even keep track of them all without notes."
"I'm sure we can."
"It's kind of like naming the 48 contiguous states, along with their capitals. Name the 48 people and where and what they're doing."
"We start with Tim and Charlie, President and Dean, respectively, of the University of North Dakota."
Tim continued, "It's always tempting to just start with the eight and go from there, but it really makes more sense to think of people along with their partners. So next up we have Hal and Sue. Junior isn't a Gang member, though maybe we should consider him one. That's something we're going to have to think about as a group. Hal is on the Phys Ed faculty at UND and cross country coach at Red River High. Sue is being a stay at home mom during Junior's early years. I'll bet she's soon pregnant again."
I said, "OK, that's 4. Jim, Andy, Kara, and Amy make eight. They all live together in a double bungalow. Jim finished his teaching degree and is teaching phys ed at Central High School, where he also coaches the wrestling and soccer teams. Andy is virtually running Fred's Sports. Amy and Kara have both become stay at home moms, taking care of Gary and Louise."
Tim said, "I guess this's a game, to see who gets stuck first."
"Nobody's going to get stuck, we know all of the Gang members."
Tim continued, "Forty-eight is a big number, we'll see. I guess it's my turn next. Nine and ten are Franklin and Phil, living here together. Franklin's running his Democracy House, and is working on getting a second house open across the river. Phil's still teaching English in East Grand Forks. I think he's decided he likes it there, and is no longer looking for a college level position over here."
"OK. The next three are Ron, Sharon and Kyle, making 13. They're all on the faculty of the Institute for Theoretical Physics. Ron was the penultimate one of the original eight to move to Grand Forks."
"Will you stop trying to show off your vocabulary?"
"You don't know what penultimate means?"
"Of course I do, it means next to last. It's pure Latin. But using it is so pedantic."
"Now who's showing off his vocabulary!"
"Now who's showing off his lack of vocabulary?"
"Excrement. OK, after all that I guess it's my turn. Tom and Nancy are next. He was the last of the original eight to make it to Grand Forks. Tom's working for Fred's Sports, but I don't think he's going to stay there. He'll soon be job hunting. He knows that it'd be awkward for Fred and Andy to have him there, since Fred has made such a commitment to Andy taking over the business; and especially since Andy's doing such a good job. Nancy is, of course, taking care of Noreen. She's doing well but requires a lot of extra care, and will for most of her childhood."
I continued, "Where do we go from here? We could go through the Gang in various different orders."
"Start with relatives of the original eight."
"If I begin with our generation that would be your brother Carl and Carol. He's becoming the leading architect in the state and Carol's at home taking care of little Nels."
"I'm going to go with Phil's brother, Jerry, and Judy next. Technically Jerry is a relative of a partner of the original eight, but that's close enough. Dr. Jerry is a psychologist in private practice here and is staff psychologist for Democracy House. Judy takes care of Jude and helps Beth coach diving for the UND girls aquatics team. She still wants to be a research chemist, and I think we can look for her to enter graduate school in chemistry as soon as being a mother takes a little less of her time."
"OK, Tim, your parents, Norman and Betsy, are next. They're still living in Minneapolis where he works for 3-M and she takes care of the home. Now that you and Carl are out of the house, has she considered looking for a job?"
"Nope. She's very busy, volunteering in a lot of places, and, in her words, 'Catching up on my reading.' How many is that?"
I counted, "The original eight and partners is 15. Two brothers and partners is 19. Your parents make 21."
"And Hal's parents make 23. They're still in Minneapolis. John's a salesman, I think of educational materials. He's on the road a lot around southern Minnesota, but he makes it home almost every night. Hazel helps him with the paperwork for his sales."
"OK, while we're outside of Grand Forks, I'll list Tom's folks, Sam and Beverly. You know, I'm not sure what Sam does; he talks about going to the office, but I'm not sure what office. Beverly doesn't work, and I'm sure that in the Detroit suburb of Harper Woods that's the norm for wives. That's 25."
Tim said, "The rest of the parents are all here in Grand Forks. I'll start with Franklin's. Peter runs Truss Designs, Inc. with his office in The Carl. Norma helps him out at the office a couple of days a week."
I added Ron's parents. "Frank's retired, and he and Adele are enjoying their retirement. They're avoiding commitments that would keep them from doing quite a bit of traveling, dragging their Airstream Trailer down the American road."
Tim said, "The parents of the foursome finish off the parents with a grand total of 33. Jim's father, Walter, and Andy's father, Curtis, are partners in their new business Paper Management, Inc. Trudi and Melanie don't have jobs, but I think they're helping out at Paper Management. Now where?"
I said, "I'll go with our generation. First up is Tina and Merle. They're in New York now, Merle fancies himself an artist and Tina a novelist. I think they're making good on those efforts."
"Tina's about to have her second novel published. The first one did pretty well, but it wasn't a New York Times bestseller."
"Billy and Sara are next. Billy is now head diving coach at Indiana University since Ralph Billings became Director of Athletics. Sara's fully loaded taking care of Willie and Bob."
"Big Paul and Amanda in Ironwood are next. He teaches phys ed and coaches the wrestling team. She coordinates environmental programs at the county level for all the schools in Gogebic County."
"OK," I said, "I'm going to cross generational lines now. We have Dick up at Camp White Elk in the summer and in Detroit in the winter. His partner, Jeff, is about halfway between our generation and our parents generation. He's completely taken over the operation of Camp White Elk from Stanley, but Stanley's around in the summer and is still a substantial owner."
"We have another cross-generational family, Fred and Marty. Fred still owns Fred's Sports, but he's letting Andy run it. Fred's spending more and more time at the university in his role as a trustee. Marty's running Marty's Gym with its hugely successful gymnastics program. What's the count now?"
"43. Next are Billy's parents, Bill and Martha. He's an attorney, with his office here, but he works out of the main office in Fargo several days a month. Martha's a happy homemaker here, but enjoys going back to Fargo with Bill to see friends there. They maintain an apartment in Fargo, and a house here."
"Then there's Coach Herb Johnson, Hal's high school track coach, and his wife Phyllis. Herb's still coaching, and Phyllis teaches, but I'm not sure what subject. They're still living in St. Paul."
"It's interesting that Herb's the only one of our coaches to become one of the Gang."
"It was those very interesting trips to Boston, I think. OK, that's 47, who's number 48?"
"Who have we missed? I think we're being a little stupid here."
"Us, stupid? Speak for yourself."
"OK, who is number 48?"
"Oh, God, how could we forget Sid?"
"You mean, 'How could you forget Sid?' don't you."
"You weren't too swift at remembering either. Sid's living at home, and pursuing an art major at the university, while selling paintings at prices the faculty can only dream of. I'm really proud of him and his decision to continue in school even though he pretty well has it made as an artist."
"Sid's a good boy."
"Your inviting him home for breakfast that morning on the mall certainly changed his life. Did you get lucky, or do you have a sixth sense for recognizing exceptional people?"
"He handled himself exceptionally well that morning. Smart, inventive, and polite. But his love of the Smithsonian only showed up later. That's what really opened doors for him."
"Hell, Tim. You opened the doors for him. Give yourself some credit."
"I do, Charlie. But I didn't make Sid an artist. I did get him the interview with Dillon Ripley, but he had to make something out of it."
"Well, that's 48. It's quite an exceptional group."
We drifted off to sleep, and Tim was up the next morning in time to make it to the gym at 6:00 a.m. to practice his gymnastics. However, word had gotten around that the President would be showing off in the gym at 6:00 a.m. and there was actually somewhat of a crowd of spectators. Tim did show off, doing seven complete routines, the six men's competition routines and then his spectacular show on the balance beam. Tim never stood out in the world of gymnastics like he had in the world of diving, even though he competed in gymnastics in three Olympics. But, as in diving, he had retained his skill for years after retirement. The show the audience got that morning was every bit as good as the audiences in Mexico City, Munich, and Montreal had gotten. The applause and standing ovation indicated that they knew it.
Lunch at Jerry's was for the whole Gang. We debated whether to limit it to the Gang or invite other close friends. We elected for inviting others, and the group grew to over a hundred. Murray and Toppy were there, and they were already talking about transferring to UND next year. Murray had said, "When you accept an athletic scholarship, you've sold your soul to the university. It almost took an act of God to be allowed to room with Toppy, because he wasn't eligible to be in the athletic dorm - and he didn't want to be. I had a Hell of a time getting permission to not room in the athletic dorm. It's one damn thing after another, including pressure to take easy courses so that you don't get too distracted from wrestling practice, and so that team travel doesn't interrupt your academic schedule too much. Band wasn't as bad for Toppy, but the same pressure is there."
Tim had replied, "Think about UND at the semester. The band's big season is over with the end of football season, and unless you make it into the Division II championships, you'll be done with wrestling by the end of the semester. You could transfer without reneging on your commitments to Mankato State. We can find you non-athletic scholarships here." Tim would go into the fund that Fred had established and which Tim and I could determine the use of.
"That's a wonderful offer, Tim. We'll have think seriously about it."
Lunch was a time of memories, conversation, greeting old friends, and enjoying a wonderful meal. Fred knew well of Tim's and my love for lamb, and there were ten legs roasting in Jerry's ovens when we arrived. Along with it we had soy beans (a table variety grown locally by some small farmers), mashed potatoes with gravy made from pan drippings, and a huge toss salad. The salad was on a buffet table as we arrived and we all helped ourselves. As we finished we went to the main buffet. With this two stage serving procedure, Jerry completely eliminated a long line.
Stanley had come for the inauguration, coming over with Dick and Jeff. He was looking old, but seemed very much his old self. He said to Tim, "I have never been prouder of a camp alum than I was this weekend. And you know what I'm proudest of?"
"What?" dutifully supplied Tim.
"The fact that you and Charlie are honest about who you are. An awful lot of gay boys are going to have an easier time in life because of you two. You've been very brave. I love you for it."
"We love you, too, Stanley. If Charlie and I learned anything at Camp White Elk it was to be honest with ourselves and with the world. And, Stanley, thank you for coming this weekend. Prexy should've had you on the platform speaking about me."
"I didn't need to speak, Tim. I just enjoyed watching. It was wonderful."
Tim called Carol over and asked her to bring little Nels. He introduced Nels to Stanley and said, "Stanley, this is the next generation. He'll be at camp in about five years."
"I'm looking forward to a whole generation of Gang children. They'll all be welcome."
Sunday was a day of shuttling people to airports, saying goodbyes, and winding down. Sunday evening the only out-of-town Gang members left were Sam and Beverly. We had them for dinner, along with Tom and Nancy. During the course of the evening Sam and Tom told us of their plans for starting a small business in Grand Forks. They had an interesting idea: Many small businesses had just one or two employees, maybe as many as six to ten. Yet they had to run a payroll operation that was almost as complicated as if they had fifty employees. Not only that, they couldn't get good group health insurance for their employees because their group was too small. Sam and Tom proposed to start a business that they would call Labor Services, Inc. Labor Services would be the legal employer of the small number of employees of their client businesses. Labor Services would run a single payroll, purchase a single group health policy, develop a single retirement plan. Their client small businesses would pay Labor Services a contract price for their employees, which would often include the owner of the business so that he or she could be included in the insurance and retirement. It was an intriguing business plan, and it seemed like it might work for them. It would mean that Sam and Beverly would be moving to Grand Forks, and that Tom would be leaving Fred's Sports, which was his plan all along. We certainly wished them well in their endeavor, and wished that we were in a position to support them by using their services.
Tom said, "You may be. A lot of people have maids, nannies, cooks, gardeners and other employees. They simply pay them cash and forget that they're legally obligated to pay Social Security on them and withhold the employee share from their wages. I read in the paper not too long ago about a cook that got mad at her employer. She quit and then went to the IRS, which collects Social Security taxes, and reported her employer for not paying her Social Security taxes. Many employees in that situation can't go to the IRS because they haven't been paying taxes themselves, but this woman had. IRS audited the employer, who now owed both the employer and employee share of the Social Security taxes, as well as a huge penalty and interest. We'll be offering our services to household employers as well. It'll also enable them to provide health insurance and retirement for their domestic employees. If a maid works for five families and they all sign up, then they can share the cost of the insurance, retirement or other benefits they want to provide."
I said to Tim, "You know, we may have to hire someone to take care of this house when we move over to Dakota House. We can do it through Tom."
"Good idea," said both Tim and Tom.
We said, "Good night." We were glad that Tom would get his parents to the airport Monday morning. We'd be free.
Well, sort of. Tim suggested that we get into our offices early; he was willing to skip morning diving practice. He was hoping that we could finish whatever we had to accomplish in our office before noon and that we might take the rest of the day off.
"Do you have something in mind?"
"Yes, I do."
"And are you going to tell me without my having to ask?"
"No, and I won't tell you if you ask. We're going to take a trip. You'll like it. We'll be gone one night. Don't ask any more questions."
I knew that it wouldn't do me any good if I did ask questions, so I didn't bother. Monday morning we walked to campus together about 6:30 - late for Tim; early for me, but both of us got to our offices earlier that usual. We agreed to meet by 10:45 and walk back home together. We'd packed the little that we needed to pack the night before, so we hoped to be on the road by eleven or only just a little after.
In the event we were on the road at 11:05, heading west on Route 2, the major highway across the northern tier of the United States. The first town of any importance was Devil's Lake, and Tim announced that that was our destination for lunch. We found a nice restaurant at Devil's Lake, not crowded on this first day of October. After we were seated Tim said, "Charlie, I tried to put together a little outing that you would like. It's designed to be a leisurely auto trip to nowhere in particular. From here we're heading north to Canada - Crystal City, Manitoba, to be exact. I had been told that there were two things there worth visiting: First, the Crystal City Supper Club, which is supposed to be quite exceptional. Second, there's a printing museum there, housed in the old newspaper office in town. The paper stopped publication in the early fifties and is now a museum displaying working printing presses. There's a very nice bed and breakfast there, again so I'm told, and we have a reservation for the night. Tomorrow we make our way back to Grand Forks by whatever route we like, but not the way we came."
"Tim, it sounds delightful. We don't spend enough time together just enjoying each other. I love it. And I love you for thinking of it, and planning it."
"I hope it isn't a bust, we won't know till we get there."
Well, the trip started well, with a very nice lunch, and a easy drive up to the Canadian border. October is a drab time of year in North Dakota, but Tim and I didn't care. We were interested in seeing a part of the state we hadn't seen, and we really didn't care what season it was. It was time together that was important to us.
We didn't really discuss anything important or profound on the trip. We just chatted about a variety of things. We finally moved on to our dreams for the future. We found that we both thought along the same lines. We hoped for the best for the university and we both expected to work hard to make that come true. For ourselves, we hoped for our lives to go on pretty much as they had, with the Gang remaining the central focus. We were very happy, and weren't looking for change. There was enough challenge in our jobs that we didn't need challenges in our personal lives. We realized that life wouldn't go on with so few bumps forever, but we were glad to try.
We also knew how extraordinarily lucky we were in our lives: our jobs, our friends, our health, our talents, our families, you name it. What could we say? "Tim, we'll just have to take life as it comes and be thankful when it comes as pleasantly as it has so far."
"Thanking God, or our lucky stars, or whatever. I just can't believe that my life is so perfect, Charlie."
"Neither can I, Tim. But do remember, we've worked hard to make it happen. We got through that infamous 40 months with our love in tact. We've worked hard to keep that love alive, always respecting each other. We've given of ourselves to the Gang. I can't believe what you've done for Billy, Sid, Judy, and a legion of others. Murray and Toppy were flabbergasted this summer we treated them so well, even buying a Jeep for them to use. When you work hard on loving other people, you certainly increase your chances of getting loved back. There are no guarantees, but we've done our share. It isn't all luck."
"No, Charlie, it isn't. And you've done just as much as me. Now, let's change the subject and think about going to Canada."
Crossing the border was simple, and we soon found ourselves in Crystal City. We found the bed and breakfast, known as Crystal House. Our host and hostess, Liz and Gordon Fallworth, were charming. They had a lovely house, built in the 1920's for the publisher of the local newspaper. The Fallworths lived downstairs in a suite carved out of the old "back parlor" and library. The "front parlor" and dining room served the bed and breakfast guests. Upstairs there were four rooms, two with private baths and two that shared a bath. We had the nicest room, on the back of the house with a king size bed and private bath. The view out the window was of open plain that seemed to stretch west forever, or at least to the Rocky Mountains which we couldn't see but knew were there about a thousand miles away. There was a love seat positioned so you could sit and look out the window. I knew that we'd be cuddled there in the evening.
We headed out to the museum. Well, what can you say about a bunch of printing presses? They were interesting, huge, greasy, noisy when run for a demonstration, and there isn't much more to say about them. We walked around the town in about ten minutes, ending at the Crystal City Supper Club. There we were seated at a cozy table with soft comfortable chairs. We looked out over the same plain as our bedroom had. They had rack of lamb on the menu, and we couldn't resist. We had no room for dessert, but our waiter insisted that we try the blackberry torte, made from fresh Manitoba blackberries. We did, and we didn't regret it; it was wonderful. We sat over Cokes for at least an hour, and nobody seemed to mind in the least that we were occupying their table so long. (This wasn't exactly the busy season, after all.) We tipped our excellent waiter well, and headed back to Crystal House.
The Fallworths heard us use our key in the front door and they came into the hall to greet us, inviting us to chat for a while in the living room. We were offered a nightcap from an extensive selection of liqueurs. We declined, simply saying that we'd lingered at the supper club over our drinks.
Liz told us a little of the history of the town. It was founded by Thomas Greenway in the late 19th century. He had visions that it would grow rapidly, and used the word city in the name with that in mind. It moved once to be near the railroad, but that didn't make it a city. Now the railroad was gone, and its claim to fame was the printing museum and an excellent supper club with a reputation that extended north to Winnipeg and south into North Dakota.
Tim interjected that several people had told him about it as he traveled around North Dakota, and that is what had inspired our visit. I said that we believed that the supper club lived up to its reputation, adding, "We're sure that breakfast will as well."
Gordon told us that they had only been open two years. They'd owned the house for years, moving to Crystal City from Winnipeg when Gordon had decided to try his luck as a free-lance commercial artist, having worked at an ad agency for about five years. Two years ago Gordon had decided to reduce his workload; sort of semi-retire. That was when they opened Crystal House as a bed and breakfast. "We're fairly full in the summer; at least most weekends we have all four rooms full. There isn't much traffic in the winter, but we don't mind. We're glad to have the few people that do stop. Besides, if we're going to live here we have to keep the house heated regardless."
Tim said, "I'm glad you do. I'm looking forward to sleeping in that lovely room upstairs."
I said, "So am I. Let's go up now, I want to sit in the love seat and watch the last light fade out in the west."
Liz said, "You'd better hurry. It's almost completely dark out now."
We headed up, got our clothes off quickly (we were pretty experienced at that), sat down on the love seat and pulled a cover over us. Tim said, "There's just a faint light in the west. I like to imagine that it's the last bit of light peeking over the Rockies."
"You have an interesting imagination."
We sat quietly, letting our hands roam a little, each thinking his own thoughts. Eventually Tim said, "Let's go to bed, Charlie."
We did, and I spooned behind him, giving him a little tickle and getting a comforting wiggle in response. We slept soundly.
Breakfast the next morning was very nice. We had our choice of how we wanted our eggs cooked, but the rest of the meal was set: fresh orange juice, hot oatmeal, eggs and bacon, and toast homemade from an interesting multigrain bread. Liz apologized that she couldn't offer us more of a choice, but the traffic in the fall wasn't heavy enough to allow her to stock up on choices. "In the summer I pride myself on offering a whole array of homemade breads."
As I ate a third piece of toast I assured her that what she did offer was sufficient and delicious. Soon we were finished, packed, saying goodbye and on our way. We were heading due east, and planned to head south along the Red River. There isn't a river road next to the river, but there are five bridges over the Red River between the Canadian border and Grand Forks, not counting the bridges at Grand Forks. We decided that we'd cross all five bridges, zigzagging back and forth between Minnesota and North Dakota. It was the slow way to get home, but we enjoyed the trip, stopping for lunch in Hallock, Minnesota. The Minnesota lunch didn't compare with the meals we'd had in North Dakota and Manitoba! By three we were back in our home. I decided to go over to my office and see what, if anything, had gone on in my absence. Tim headed for the pool.
The diving team was in the pool, using the boards and platforms. Tim took his turn with all of the divers, offering comments on their dives when appropriate. After a while he walked over and talked to Larry who was sitting on the sideline and watching, but letting Tim to what coaching seemed appropriate.
Larry said to Tim, "Watch this kid. He name is Arnie Springer. He's good."
Tim watched Arnie attempt a very difficult dive and execute it fairly well. He said to Larry, "I think an Olympic judge would give him an 8 or a little more on that. It's a tough dive and he's pretty good."
"He's good, but he doesn't have the dedication and determination of the last Olympic divers that I coached."
"Who would they be?" Tim asked innocently.
"Judy, Stan, a kid named Billy and a Pied Piper named Tim. Think you could work some of your magic on Arnie?"
"Dunno. In all of the cases you mentioned, the relationship had to be established before they acquired the level of dedication you're seeking. Billy was in love with me from afar, and he engineered our crossing paths. Stan and I competed quite a bit before he came under my spell - and that was with the encouragement of his IU coach. Judy sought me out after I talked to Michigan athletes about the Olympics. In no case did I go up to them and say, "Listen, kid, you've got to be more dedicated if you want to get to the Olympics. Hell, Larry, has Arnie even thought about the Olympics?"
"I've mentioned it to him. I don't think he thinks it's a realistic goal."
"Do you think it is?"
"You just said his dive was worth an eight. He hasn't been doing that dive long; it'll get better. If he weren't in the U.S. making the Olympics would be simple for him. The competition here is a lot tougher; neither he, nor anyone else, is going to make it without a lot of sweat."
"You should talk to Jim."
"Wrestler; you've met him. He never practiced for the Olympics; he just decided to go, tried out, and got a Silver medal. But he's definitely the exception; I shouldn't have mentioned him."
"I'd like to hear more of that story sometime, but what about Arnie?"
"You know, Arnie and I have been diving at the same time, off and on, for a year. I've given him pointers from time to time, encouraged him; you know the routine. He's followed my suggestions as far as I can tell, but he's never approached me about anything. Is he shy, afraid, or simply doesn't want to make the effort that he knows he'll have to make to benefit from any help I might give him?"
Larry said, "I think Arnie and I should have a chat. No, not a chat, a real heart-to-heart. I'll see what I can find out. If he seeks you out, then you know some kind of change is in the wind."
Tim went back to diving, concentrating on some fairly easy dives. These were dives he seldom made, and he didn't want to get too rusty on them.
About a week later Arnie came by Tim's office. Tim's receptionist greeted him and let Tim know he was there. Tim came out to the outer office and invited Arnie in. That was Tim's routine with most visitors and always with students and faculty. He had an open door policy; anybody could get in to see him, and he felt that coming out to greet people was more hospitable. I think that most of his visitors appreciated it.
Arnie started right in, "Coach tells me you think I have talent."
"Coach thinks you have talent. I haven't seen you dive enough. I did tell him that the dive I saw you do the other day was of Olympic difficulty and that I thought your dive was worth an 8 or a little more. That's pretty good for a dive you haven't worked on very long."
"Do you think I could make it to the Olympics?"
"That's a tough question. Most people would say that it takes two things to make it to the Olympics: basic talent and hard, hard work. I usually add a third: love and support."
"What does that mean?"
"It means that you have a community behind you, a community that loves you unconditionally and supports you in every way you need, without reservation. For most people it starts with their parents, their coaches, their fellow athletes, their boyfriends and girlfriends, lots of people."
"Everybody has some kind of a group like that."
"Yes, most people have the group. The unconditional love and unreserved support are more rare. You get such love and support when you give it, and only then."
"This isn't exactly the conversation that I thought I was going to have when I came in here."
"What did you expect?"
"A pep talk. Work hard and long, fingers to the bone, the proverbial grindstone."
"Would anything I might've said along those lines have been new for you?"
"Then what would've been the point?"
"Love and support. Is there sex implied there?"
"Sometimes, but not necessarily. Virgins can win Olympic medals."
"But sometimes, right?"
"Yes. I've seen sexual relationships make the underlying love more tangible, and thus lead to athletic success. But sex just for the sake of sex is more likely to lead to athletic failure."
"I'll have to admit that going to next year's Olympics in Moscow is intriguing."
"You have less than a year. Most divers hoping to go to Moscow have already been working for a year and likely more."
"You're telling me it's too late to think about the Moscow Olympics."
"Los Angeles might be a more realistic goal."
"That's five years away."
"I started thinking seriously about the Olympics in ninth grade. I went to the Mexico Olympics during my senior year of college."
"I've been diving that long, just not thinking about the Olympics."
"Let's talk about love and support."
"That's your theme song, isn't it?"
"I guess so."
"Well, when you started listing the supporters that most people can count on you started with parents. Mine are divorced, and were they glad when I headed off to college and no longer was under the feet of either of them. Now they just write checks. Forget love and support there."
"I'm sorry. But let's go at it a different way. Who do you love and support? Who could call you in the middle of the night and say, "Arnie, I'm in trouble. Can you come right now to Chicago and help me out? Who would you say, 'Yes,' to if you got that call?"
"I don't think anyone."
"I feel sorry for you."
"I don't know who'd say, 'Yes,' if I made that call."
"I'll bet Larry would."
"Yeah, he probably would."
"How would you respond to him?"
"I just can't imagine the situation coming up."
"My particular example isn't likely. But I can easily imagine Larry needing to call on one of his divers in all kinds of difficult situations. How would you respond?"
"I guess it'd depend on exactly what he was asking me to do."
"That's honest, Arnie. But it isn't unconditional support."
"No, it isn't. I'll admit that."
"Arnie, this is difficult for most young people, for most older people for that matter. And many of them have at least the unconditional love of their parents as an example. You don't have that; I'm sorry."
"I've made my peace with my parents."
"That's not the point, though making that peace is very important for your mental health."
"I get the point. But I'm not sure how it connects with athletic success."
"Who's the best diver at UND right now?"
"I guess I am. Fyn's very good; some days he can beat me."
"How well do you know Fyn?"
"When was the last time you two ate together, went drinking together, took a trip together, anything like that?"
"Whose fault is that? Have you never suggested it? Has he never suggested it? Has the suggestion been made but turned down?"
"Fyn's in love. He spends all of his free time with his girl."
"So the answer to my question is that neither of you has suggested getting together socially?"
"Today, during practice, suggest it. Invite the two of them to dinner. Do you know Jerry's restaurant in town?"
"I think I know where it is. I've never eaten there."
"It's probably the best place to eat in town. Invite Fyn and his girl there for dinner."
"I can't afford to take two people to a restaurant for dinner."
"Dinner's on me. Ask for Jerry. Tell him who you are. He'll take care of you."
"I can't accept that."
"It isn't right. It's accepting charity."
"Oh, no. It's part of being loved and supported."
"What if they won't come? They like being alone together."
"You know that? You think they'll turn down a free meal? Hey, get real; they're college students."
"You're serious, aren't you?"
"What happens at dinner?"
"You get to know them. Ask about them. Be a good listener. Ask if Fyn's ever thought of diving in the Olympics. Let the conversation go, but listen more than you talk. If the conversation flows in the right way, suggest going over to the pool and diving a little. I'll bet Fyn would like to show off for his girl."
"Is the pool open evenings for that?"
"Of course. It has been ever since I was a freshman. Long pool hours were a condition of my coming to UND."
"You were so good that you could make conditions like that?"
"Yes, I was. A number of swimmers use it in the evening. I don't think any divers do this year. I dive in the early morning or late afternoon. I'm rarely there in the evening. But Larry keeps me posted on pool usage."
"This conversation hasn't gone the way I expected."
"You said that before. Remember one thing. The Olympics are coming soon. If you're going to make your move, it has to be soon. Invite Fyn today. Go tonight. Talk to Larry tomorrow and talk about this conversation. Nothing here was confidential. Come back and see me in a few days."
"OK, Dr. Tim."
"Just Tim. I like that."
"It doesn't seem right for the president of the university."
"Maybe not; but it's right for me. Please call me Tim."
"OK, Tim. I'll be back in a few days. If I'm not, you'll know that I'm taking a pass on the Olympics."
"Fair enough, Arnie. Good luck."
Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]
* Some browsers may require a right click instead