The next day, Dani and Kevin went skiing again, then returned to Uncle Keith's estate to pack up and head home. Once they were ready, Kevin began carrying down the first load of suitcases while Danny – dressed for comfort in boy-clothes this time – went off to find Uncle Keith and thank him for his hospitality. In a house the size of Uncle Keith's, that was no small feat. The servants he ran into pointed him in the right direction, and Danny found him in one of the green-houses, snipping at roses.
"Uncle Keith? Kevin and I are leaving now – I just wanted to thank you for-"
"Where is my nephew now?" Uncle Keith interrupted.
"Oh – he's getting the car packed. This place is huge, I'd have never found you if some of your staff hadn't showed me where to go."
"Yes, the servants like you. Even Mr. Pitt – the butler – likes you, and that is very rare."
"He does? Ya sure can't tell... Does he know, uh, well, that I'm, uh-"
"Servants know all, Danny. There are no secrets from the staff. Not about anything that happens in the house, anyway. They know. Are you surprised he'd like you, knowing as he does?"
"Oh. Well... I don't... I never really thought about it, I guess..."
Uncle Keith put down his pruning shears and took off his gloves, "Danny – let's sit for awhile. Apparently I'm to have the opportunity to talk to you alone, after all – although, after last night, I wasn't sure I'd even need to anymore. But I think I should. This way." He led them to a wrought-iron table and four chairs nestled amongst the roses. He poured them both glasses of iced tea.
Danny was understandably nervous – and it showed. His hands were shaking as he took a gulp of tea. "W-what's this all about..."
"I frighten you, don't I, Danny... I apologize for that. I may have been too brusque – I have a lot on my mind, these days. The things I'm going to say to you are not secret – or rather, not any more secret than you want them to be. I'll leave that up to you. You may tell my nephew anything you care to. I want to tell you my plans. I think you should know. And... I do not believe he is quite... mature... enough to hear for himself - but as I said; you may tell him what you wish."
Danny breathed again. This wasn't going to be about him then. Thank god. "Okay, I think I understand. And yeah – he gets scared whenever he thinks you have 'plans' for him. So... what plans?"
The older man smiled, "You must promise not to laugh, first."
"Laugh? Uh... okay – I promise not to laugh."
"We shall see. Politics."
"Politics?" The thought echoed in Danny's head: politics?
"Oh. Well, that's-" Danny began, a little relieved.
"Governor of New Hampshire," Uncle Keith said – his face dead serious.
"Governor... of..." Was he kidding? He had to be kidding...
"Pr-PRESident?" Danny shouted in disbelief. Kevin? President? And again - Kevin? President? The images that ran through Danny's mind forced him to laugh, his promise not to was forgotten in the face of such absurdity. The old man was definitely kidding him. "Oh, yeah, of course," he snorted, "Kevin, President of the U.S.A. Yeah. I'll buy that! Where do I go to vote!?"
"You promised you wouldn't laugh, Daniel..."
Danny continued laughing, but began looking into Uncle Keith's eyes, waiting for the smile lines to appear. They didn't. "Oh my g- you're serious. You're fuckin' – sorry, uh... You're fuckin' serious? KEVIN?"
"He has an air of honesty about him – does he not? You're inclined to trust what he says – provided he takes the time to think before he opens his mouth... Don't you agree?"
"Well... yeah, I guess, but-"
"But - he's not very smart."
"Yeah! I mean – no. I mean... He can be smart – sometimes... but, I... I mean... Kevin?"
"He is not in fact very smart, Danny – but he's smart enough. You told me once that he was very good at 'reading people'. What did you mean by that?"
"Well... uh... he seems to know how to handle people, is all. Like – he can just talk to someone for a minute, and know whether the person is genuine, or phony, or hiding something. But-"
"Let me put it to you this way: he may not be very smart – but he's able to discern those who are smart. And genuine. And not hiding anything. He attached himself to you, for instance."
"I see where you're going, Uncle Keith, but-"
"It may not go as far as 'President', Danny – I'm well aware of that. There is no way one can begin to guess what might happen over the span of – say, the next quarter-century. But I intend to find out, even though I probably won't be here to see it. I need to start laying the ground-work now, Daniel. I know you don't understand that – twenty-five years is an unimaginable length of time to you. It is not to me. In fact – I need to hurry."
"Wait... just wait..." Danny said, trying to actually wrap his mind around all this, "Okay – he does have this sincere thing going on – I noticed that right off, now that I think about it. When we first met. And yes, he would surround himself with good people, too. But... would people vote for him? I mean – let's forget 'President' for awhile – would people vote a gay man in for Governor?"
Uncle Keith didn't say anything – he just stared at Danny as if expecting him to continue talking. So Danny did.
"I mean, even in twenty-five years, it... I mean - we're still different, y'know. Most people aren't gay. Most people never will be. It may be more acceptable – at least some places – in that amount of time, but... but... If I'm still with him-"
"Let us hope. You are a key part of it all, Daniel. I don't think he would ever be elected, without you. I wouldn't even be considering this, if it weren't for you."
"You... you wouldn't?"
"Everyone likes you, Daniel. I liked you right away. Mr. Pitt liked you right away – and I can't tell you how odd that is. Even Robert – Kevin's father – likes you. He's told me so. Right away. The simple fact is, Daniel – people like you; before, during, and after finding out that you're gay. And then they don't care. You see how it works? THEN they don't care! Even if they know ahead of time that you're 'a man who sleeps with other men' - as Robert did, for instance - they STILL can't help but be impressed by you. They STILL like you! The combination of Kevin and you... It could happen, Daniel. You two could pull it off. And I happen to think that would be a good thing. A very good thing..."
Danny took a deep breath, and several gulps of tea. Politics? Governor? President? Them – a gay couple? And – not just gay, either... what about-
"Uhm... Before you 'start laying groundwork', Uncle Keith – there's something you... might want to know about me. Uh," he took another drink of tea, "well, you already know that I... uh... cross-dress..."
Uncle Keith nodded.
"Well... the fact is... I mean, there's a good chance, uh, that I'm... transgendered."
"I don't know what that means," Uncle Keith said, nonplussed.
"Well... it means..." Danny stammered – what the hell did it mean? He'd read all sorts of technical definitions, essays, arguments – but really, what did it mean? "...it means... that, uh, I have... tendencies... that usually don't show up in males."
"That could apply to all gay men, Daniel – males don't tend to be attracted to other men. So how are you different from 'gay'?"
"Well... You know... Yeah. You do know, don't you, Uncle Keith. You know perfectly well how I'm different."
"Yes, I do. I wanted to see if you could explain it. You strike me as a woman, yet you are a man."
"Exactly. That's what everyone says. Except they add 'usually'. See, the thing is – I don't know what the hell I am! And... running for any kind of office... I dunno..." Danny said, becoming a little frightened at the prospect.
"There will be questions asked..." Uncle Keith prodded him.
"They will expect answers."
"You don't know what you will say..."
"I see. Well – you have years yet to come up with something. But let me tell you this: if whatever you tell them makes people think – I call that a good answer. And I'll tell you something else – everyone questions 'what they are', Daniel. Perhaps not their sexuality, as you do – it's usually more along the lines of 'am I a good person' or 'have I done the right thing'. People like me spend a lot of time wondering 'what have I done to deserve all that I have'. You might remember that as you formulate your answer. But as well - some things are no one's business, Daniel. You don't have to answer every question put to you. Not everyone will accept you – get used to it... if you aren't already. I'm betting that enough will to get the job done."
Danny thought for a long time about the things the man had said. Uncle Keith was going to try to get a gay couple into office. All right – so maybe they were suited for it, in some ways, even if they were a gay man and a... whatever Danny was. There was bound to be controversy. A male First Lady? And what about other countries, meeting their presidents and Prime Ministers and such... Wasn't this more trouble than it was worth?
Finally, Danny asked, "Uncle Keith? Why Kevin, or... why Kevin and me, then... You must know a lot of other people who would stand a better chance... Why us?"
The king-maker slowly fished a cigar-case out of his pocket. He took out a cigar, cut the end off, and lit it – the whole process took almost three minutes – in silence.
"At the reception after the funeral, Daniel... Did you meet Mary Lowen?"
"The woman who gave the eulogy? Yeah, I did. She was your sister's... uh..."
"Wife, yes. Did she tell you how long they'd been together?"
"Forty years. I remember that. I was amazed."
"Quite. Over forty years in hiding, Daniel. The both of them. They locked themselves away from the prying eyes of the world so that they could be together in peace. For forty god-damned years..." Uncle Keith had a far-away look on his face as he puffed smoke into the air.
"Uh... so what's that got to do with-"
"I owe my sister, Daniel... I owe her."
"See Kev? I told ya it wouldn't be that bad. You should have more faith in your Uncle Keith – he's a good guy," Danny said as they pulled out onto the half-mile long driveway.
"Uh-huh... Yeah – he didn't need to make any plans for me. Turns out you beat him to it." Kevin sounded a little pissed.
"Oh, c'mon. I've been wanting to bring it up for awhile now, and we'd have talked about it... maybe fought about it, but eventually you'd just end up doing exactly what I said. You know it's true."
"I don't like being given ultimatums, Danny. Even by you."
"Kevin... I'm sorry it sounded like that. It was just that... well, that's how it came out..."
"I'm wondering how often it's going to 'come out' that way in the future, is all. About other things. Are you going to say 'my way or the highway' about everything?"
"I'm sorry Kev! Jesus – okay, look. Forget about what we just told Uncle Keith. Let's talk about it now. Kevin? What are you going to do after graduation?"
"Whatever I want."
"Okay, well, I have another year to go. And then, when I graduate, I want to go... to whatever school I want to go to. A good one. Maybe out of state. I want you to come with me. You don't care where you go... do you?"
"... Not really..."
"Right. So you'll come with me?"
"Well... yeah. Sure I'll come with you. But – maybe I just won't go to college at all..."
Danny stayed silent in order to give Kevin a chance to think about what he was saying. It took almost ten minutes before Kevin realized that he couldn't just "hang out" while Danny went to school... for who knew how long. Didn't it take six years to be a doctor?
"Okay, fine. I'll go to college with you. I have no idea what I'd major in... it'd hafta be something you could help me with, I guess...'
"Oh, it does not. Kevin – you don't need me to tutor you. You only did for the graduation tests because you were so far behind, all you really need is someone to show you how to study! Kev... you're not dumb. I don't care what your father said. I know it – it's time you knew it."
Kevin glanced over at him as he drove, and sensing the movement, Danny looked right back.
"Seriously?" Kevin asked.
"Seriously," Danny replied.
Kevin turned back to the road and thought a while longer. Eventually, he gave a deep sigh and said, "So I guess I need some good grades and references in order to get accepted – although I've heard that money is enough, most places. But yeah – I still need to catch up some... so..."
Danny reached over and took Kevin's hand, holding it on the center console.
"So," Kevin continued, "I should probably go to the Community college while you're in your senior year. And I should try to get A's."
Danny squeezed his hand.
"Oh – fuck you," Kevin said, smiling and smirking at the same time.
Now there was an idea - "Uhm... doggy-style?" Danny asked. They'd been too tense to have sex at Uncle Keith's house – the damn servants were everywhere! Kevin glanced at Danny again, but the other boy just kept staring down the road. 'Doggy-style' was the preferred position for both of them – but they hadn't done it that way since Kevin had hurt him. Was this Danny's way of saying it was okay again?
Yeah. It must be.
"If it's okay with you, babe..."
Mr. Rundgrin – the Geography teacher – was having a hard time figuring out what was going on when he saw his favorite student, Todd Spelzer, pecking Joseph Weir on the lips. They'd done it right out in the open too, and while they must have known he'd be looking. Todd wasn't gay... Mr. Rundgrin knew Todd well – he'd been through not one, but three inter-school Geography Bees with the boy! The teacher didn't have anything against homosexuals... but, Todd? It just wasn't possible!
And now, to top it off, here they were leaving class at the end of the period, last in the line, and holding hands! Was he supposed to put his star pupil on the damn list? So far, he hadn't put anyone on the list. The list was... idiotic. The whole damned idea was idiotic! Be that as it may, he was seeing an awful lot of gay PDA – Public Displays of Affection – going on this last couple of weeks. But maybe that was only because he'd been told to watch out for it. It was a little hard to believe that there were that many gay boys and girls in the school. And now Todd Spelzer?
"Todd? May I have a word with you for a second, please?" he said to the pair before they were out the door. The two boys dropped each other's hands, and Joseph went on his way as Todd turned around.
"What's up, Mr. Rundgrin?"
"Todd... I know that you know that I saw how you were behaving with Mr. Weir... And... I just... I find it hard to believe that you could be gay, Todd. I hope that's not offensive, in case I'm wrong, but... just what's going on here? Why would you pretend? And for my benefit, at that?!"
"Oh, crap. Was it that obvious? I guess we were a little too out there, huh?" Todd felt bad for two reasons: one - he'd been caught, his act seen for the act it was, and two – he liked Mr. Rundgrin and felt a little bad about trying to play a trick on him.
"Somewhat, Todd. Now confess. Why?"
"We're trying to get on The List, Mr. Rundgrin. Everybody is. It's a whole 'thing' now," the boy said, abashed. By telling a teacher about the joke, he'd ruined it for everyone.
"You... you know about the list? Everyone is trying to get put on it?"
"Yeah! Because, I mean, it's so stupid, isn't it? And... I dunno... wrong, too. Making lists. Everyone says it's like the Nazis did."
"Yes..." the teacher agreed, rubbing his chin, "Or perhaps McCarthy. Actually, it's exactly like almost any corrupt regime... Uh, don't tell anyone I said that. So – everyone wants on the list, you say. I suppose the rationale is that they can't expel everybody, is that it?"
"Yeah. Exactly. Uhm... you think they'd expel people?"
"Oh, I doubt it. They might try – but most of you kids at St. Augustine's have family lawyers on retainer. They wouldn't get far. Uhm... tell you what Todd... I'll keep your secret if you won't tell any of the other kids that I know, okay? There are teachers who think the list is a good idea – the bastards. I'll spread it around the staff – those that can be trusted. I suppose all the students know about it already..."
"Oh yeah – everyone knows."
"Okay then. Look, Todd – I don't know what good it'll do, but you're right about one thing – whatever they plan to do, they can't do it to everybody. All right, thank you. You may go."
"So... are we on the list?"
"As you wish. So you needn't kiss Mr. Weir anymore."
"That's okay, Mr. Rundgrin – it actually wasn't that bad!"
Next week -
"JOSEPH WEIR! You get yourself in here right now young man!"
"Geez!" the boy said, coming through the kitchen door to face his father and mother. The father's expression was incredulous, the mother's was one of worry - as usual. "What?"
"Firstly – I wish you'd stop saying 'geez'. It's merely a contraction of 'Jesus', and hardly appropriate for a Jew."
"Oh. Uh, I meant, 'Oi vey! What?'"
"'What?' he asks. 'What?' Joseph... I don't quite know how to put this... It's just that we'd have never believed..."
"I knew something was wrong with him when he didn't like that Braumenfelgar girl..." the mother interrupted, wringing her hands as if her son had contracted an untreatable disease.
Joseph – although he was still wondering what the hell was up – said, "She was a skank, Ma..."
"Joseph!" his mother exclaimed, "That's no way to talk! What does 'skank' mean, anyway?"
"Never mind that, Mother," the father continued, "Now Joseph – the thing is... Well, we've just had a call from the Headmaster at your school. He seems to think... claims to have proof... that... well..."
"That I'm gay?"
"We prefer the word 'homosexual' – but yes. You - you know about this?"
"I made the list!" Joseph said excitedly, "Yeah, Dad – everyone knows about it. They want to find out who all the gays are at school – and me an' everyone's trying to get on the list. We think it's stupid."
"So... so it's true, then..." Joseph's father said dejectedly.
"What? No! Dad... gee- I mean, oi vey! I'm not gay! I just want to be on the list to fu- I mean scre- I mean... uh... MESS with 'em!"
"It's not true?"
"Da-ad! Fer Chri... ying out loud!"
"Lists?" the mother interjected, still wringing her hands in worry. "I don't like the sound of that. Lists..."
"Neither do I, Mother... I don't like the sound of it at all... Joseph, suppose you tell me about this 'list'... Mother? Do we have the school's student directory around somewhere?"
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