Todd was five years older and had always felt responsibility for his younger sibling. From the moment his parents had known there would be an addition to the family, they had made Todd feel that he was a part of everything. When the new baby arrived, he had helped with care and feeding. At 16, he drove Bryan to piano lessons and to the Y without complaining. It was just part of what needed to be done. He had even let Bryan check out his pubic hair when Bryan was old enough to be curious.
Todd still felt protective. He wondered about the import of what he had just witnessed. In his adolescent psychology class, he was learning that most, if not all, boys went through a stage of experimenting with each other sexually. It had been a revelation that put his own experiences with Dave into perspective. They had both dated girls in their junior and senior years in high school, but he'd have to admit that a blow job from another male felt awesome.
He knew that Bryan and Zeke were really close. They wrestled together. Maybe what he had witnessed had been a moment of jock affection with no other implications. That was possible; wasn't it? While that line of reasoning didn't make the image of the two naked embracing boys go away, it did put it on the back burner. Todd would keep his eyes and ears open for other signs. He would test Bryan's reactions to the subject of sex. If Bryan were indeed interested in guys, Todd would do his best to support him and keep him from getting hurt.
Zeke was uncharacteristically quiet on the ride home from Bryan's and Gran wondered what could be wrong.
"Did you and Bryan have fun?"
"Did you have a fight?"
"You're awfully quiet. Did you guys stay up late?" she asked hopefully.
"Well, since school's out, I guess you can sleep in tomorrow and get caught up. But don't forget that I want the deck scrubbed down so I can reseal it.
"I won't forget."
"And remember that Grandma wants you to clean out the shed sometime this week. It needs to be done before trash-amnesty day."
Gran hoped that Zeke's demeanor was the result of fatigue and not to the onset of teenage mood swings. She had witnessed that in his mother some 16 years ago. Had it been that long? She remembered like yesterday the fights that Faith had had with their mother. Mother had not handled the situation well at all. She had been stricter than a drill sergeant and that was part of what caused Faith to run away. What would Faith's life have been like if their mother hadn't tried to micromanage it? Grace wasn't going to make that mistake. That is part of the reason she had let Zeke go to church with Bryan's family despite knowing she would get a call from one of the elders if word got back to her pastor. Zeke needed to see the bigger world. He couldn't be sheltered forever.
Through the years, Grace had become increasingly torn between her loyalty to the church of her childhood and the realities of life around her. People like the Stillwell family were honest, decent, caring people. That art teacher, Don, from the high school was a saint to take in Tom Katz. Yet, people said Don was gay and bound for Hell. Gran was beginning to have some questions about that.
On Good Morning America, she had seen Charley Gibson touting a book by Dr. Timothy Johnson. It was called: "Finding God in the Questions." She might put her name on the list at the library in hopes of getting to read it someday. She certainly couldn't afford to buy it.
Grace was questioning a lot of things lately. She could remember a time when she was young and was part of a normal family. Why had it fallen apart? Was it because her mother had become totally immersed in their church after her father started drinking or was it her mother's holier-than-thou attitude that had driven her father to drink?
Alcohol had taken its toll. He had become slovenly and forgetful before he died. There were stashes of money and booze hidden all over her mother's house. Even last year, they had found an envelope stuffed with several twenty dollar bills. Her mother had considered it a miracle because it was the amount needed by the church to pay for a new video screen. Gran saw it as one more reminder of a poor, miserable wreck of a man.
Zeke's question jolted Gran out of her musing.
"What was my mother like?"
This question had come up from time to time. Gran always answered as truthfully as she could without giving much information. Someday Zeke would have to know everything, but not today. He was too young and she was too tired.
"Oh, she was almost as blond as you. She had the same eyes you have. She was small and cute. You remind me of her in a number of ways."
"No, I mean what was she like as a person? Nobody ever says much. What was my dad like?"
"I never met your dad, Zeke. He died before you were born. I'm sure he was a nice person if he loved your mother. Now, how 'bout we splurge and pick up some pizza on the way home?"
Zeke knew she was trying to distract him, but he let it go. Pizza from Sam's was rare treat and he didn't want to mess up the opportunity to have it.
Bryan bounded out of bed naked on Monday morning and ran across the hall to empty his bladder; his morning wood proudly leading the way. He was surprised to find Todd shaving at the sink, but was not embarrassed.
"Hey, Sport, you're carrying a pretty big piece there," was Todd's greeting.
"You been having any great dreams lately?"
"Any cute girls in them?"
Bryan just shrugged. He knew that Zeke was at the center of most of his wet dreams. Other faceless guys sometimes entered the scenes, but never girls. While Bryan was usually very open with Todd about sexual matters, he didn't think he wanted to share that bit of information.
Todd didn't say anything, but he sensed the reluctance and made a mental note of it.
Zeke awoke on Monday feeling groggy. He had slept later than usual, but had not slept well. He had tossed and turned for hours before finally falling asleep. When he did, his dreams were filled with visions of an angry God who had a face like the Reverend Parker. Zeke couldn't remember all of the details, but it wasn't pleasant.
He trudged to the bathroom for his morning ablutions and then to the kitchen for a bowl of Cheerios before tackling the scrubbing of the deck.
The deck was old and really needed to have some boards replaced, but he and Gran would hold it together for another year until the money was better. It was always like that. They held a lot of things together for one more year, hoping that their lot would improve, but it never seemed to. The weight of that fact was as heavy today as the oppressive atmosphere of that hot, late spring day in Iowa.
The small one and a half story house was adequate for the two of them and it was all Gran could pay for on her salary; sometimes more than she could truly afford. It consisted of a living room, a large eat-in kitchen, bath, and two bedrooms. There was a single stall attached garage. A narrow stairway led to the unfinished half story. It had the potential of being a grand master bedroom with its own bath, but that would have to be done by someone who could afford to do it.
The basement was a walk-out which also had potential. But like the upper floor, it remained unfinished. At least there was a toilet stool and sink near the washer. It wasn't private, but had been a convenience for Zeke on rainy days when he played down there.
That Gran could own this place at all was nothing short of a small miracle. An elderly great-aunt who thought Grace was doing a wonderful thing in taking on the raising of Zeke had remembered her in a will. It was not a fortune, but had provided a sizeable down payment. Since interest rates had gone down, she had renegotiated the loan to make the monthly payments lower. She was trying to put some money aside for Zeke's education. He was bright and should go to college if at all possible. A second mortgage could be used to help when that time came. This little house on its spacious lot was their greatest asset and their security. It had to be maintained as well as possible.
It was nearly noon before Zeke was satisfied that he'd done the best he could with the deck. He made himself a bologna and cheese sandwich and gulped down a big glass of milk. Then he changed into some nylon soccer shorts and a thin tank top and climbed on his old bike. His destination was the woods near Bryan. He always felt better there.
When he arrived at the edge of the woods, he chained his bike to a small tree and walked through the underbrush toward the creek. There was Bryan in a pair of old cutoff jeans sitting on a rock, his bare feet in the water.
"Hey." Bryan spoke first.
"You feeling okay today?"
"You wanna camp out tonight? We don't have to work until Friday."
"Okay, I'll ask Gran."
"We can even cook our supper out here if you want."
After making some tentative plans, the boys went back to Bryan's house to call Gran, and to get supplies. Grace willingly let Zeke stay over. She needed to do some housework; and if he were gone she wouldn't have to make a real meal. She might even have time to do some reading for her class without feeling like she was neglecting him.
The boys packed up the tent, sleeping bags, camp stove, lantern, and food. They made it to their spot in one trip. It wasn't very far from the house, so making a second trip wouldn't have been arduous, but they'd learned through scouting to pack light and efficiently. Sometimes, they had thought maybe they were getting too old to do this sort of thing, but then they had overheard a couple of male teachers at school planning to camp and canoe together that summer. Maybe you didn't grow out of it; maybe it was a guy thing.
When their supper was over and dishes washed, they sat by their little campfire and toasted marshmallows. Dusk was beginning to fall when they entered the tent. Since Zeke hadn't brought his own sleeping bag, Bryan had borrowed Todd's for him to use. They were identical and zipped together perfectly. As always, the boys stripped to their briefs and climbed it. Neither was sleepy yet.
Bryan, still feeling joy over yesterday's experience in the shower, wanted to see if anything more would happen. He had an inspiration. He jumped on his buddy's body and yelled: "pin."
Zeke laughed, and in a flash, had reversed their positions. When he did, Bryan didn't resist. Instead, he put his arms around Zeke's back and held him close. They remained that way for several minutes. Time was suspended. Neither knew if he should go further; neither wanted to stop.
Bryan felt Zeke's salty tears splash against his skin. He held his bud even closer. For a long time neither spoke. Zeke broke the silence.
"Do you think we're gay?"
"I don't know. All I know is that you're my best friend and I don't ever want to lose you."
Defying the scowling image of Pastor Parker that was appearing in his head, Zeke responded:
"Don't worry; you won't lose me no matter what!"
Eventually, the two young friends fell asleep. Zeke lay on his right side and Bryan spooned behind him with his arm over his buddy's chest. Though they changed positions several time during the night, they were always snuggled together. In the morning, they would wake rested.
Gran did not sleep that well. Frank Reynolds, the head elder had called to ask where she and Zeke were on Sunday. She had found herself being evasive. She didn't want to defy church authority, but she was beginning to feel oppressed by it. In her mind, she wondered what it was that made Frank any closer to God than she was. Was she wrong?
Todd slept great for several reasons. He had managed to do all his homework despite the time he spent coaching youth soccer for the recreation department. It wasn't a high paying job, but it would help when he applied for a coaching endorsement. His mother had warned him that he needed an edge if he expected to get a teaching job at the end of his college career. Todd was pleased with how he was budgeting his time.
Another reason Todd slept so well was his satisfying orgasm. He had not touched his piece for a couple of days in order to let the desire build up. Monday night, he put on a domino mask and did a slow strip in front of his full-length bedroom mirror. It was like watching someone else. He had been wearing a thong under his baggy shorts all day. He smiled with delight as the familiar seven-inch tool finally emerged from its fabric confinement. Slowly, in rhythm to the music on his CD player, he began to pet and caress the throbbing flesh. His foreskin and copious pre-cum made any extra lubrication unnecessary. When he was very near to cumming, Todd stopped completely and watched his cock twitch in a kind of dry orgasm. He waited for it to go nearly soft and then started the ritual all over.
When the urge became too great, Todd's hand sped up and he headed to his bed. Toward the end, he lay down on his back and put his legs over his head. At the last minute, he let go of his cock and put his hands on the back of his legs pulling his shaft toward his face. Seconds later, he was swallowing his own hot load. With a smile on his sticky face, he drifted into a peaceful sleep.
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