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Life on the Farm

by Joe Writer Man

Chapter 26

"All rise."

Mom, Adam and I arose from our seats, stood up and waited for the judge to make his way into the courtroom.

I'd been called to testify in court, under oath, about what had happened on the day of my adoption a few months before today. Tony didn't want me to testify, but I insisted after talking with Mom, Dad, Rocky, Thomas, and to Eric in a lesser extent. Tony was representing himself. He had explained that he had done some criminal trial work, and that he'd be okay without my testimony. Dad testified yesterday. He couldn't be here today, but I knew he was indeed present in my head and heart.

Seth was sitting in the back of the courtroom with Jim, his new boyfriend, at his side. Rocky was unable to make it, preparing for his Dad's trial to come next month.

The judge entered, made his way to the bench, sat down and looked toward the bailiff, a short stocky, ruddy face, scowling type man.

Judge: Please be seated, please call this case.

Bailiff: Your honor, friends of the court, this is case number 13-427, Kansas vs. Anthony Michael Lorenzo. The charges are Aggravated Second Degree Murder and armed criminal action.

Judge: Very well, Mr. Lorenzo, is your first witness here in this courtroom at this time?

Tony: Yes he is, Sir. The defense calls James Edward Richardson to the stand.

Mom patted my back. I got up, walked to the bench, stood in front of the bailiff, listened to the oath and replied, "I do."

Judge: Please be seated. I remind you that you are sworn under oath to be perfectly honest. Though you are a juvenile I can and will hold you in contempt of court for perjury should it be determined that you are lying to this court. Do you understand?

(You fucker, why do you think I'm gonna lie. My friend, my extended family is on trial for something he had no choice about... once again, Tony saved my bacon. I knew it!) Instead, what came out is: "I understand."

Tony: Please let the court records recognize that my witness is assumed dishonest.

The judge looked at Tony like he was a lunatic, like how dare you rebut my instructions to the witness sitting on the stand.

I must add that Tony waived his right to a jury trial. The judge would rule a verdict, and that would be it.

Tony walked over and stood in front of the witness stand, and said, "For the record, please state your name and date of birth."

I did so.

Tony: Would you state to the court why you are here today?

Me: You're my friend, and you are our family attorney.

Prosecutor: Objection...

Judge: Overruled.

Tony nodded, then continued, "Please tell the court what happened on the morning of May 17th.

Me: Okay... I was in court to get adopted. My Mom is setting right over there. (I pointed toward her, smiled, then turned back to Tony). There was a paperwork mistake, so court was recessed for 30 minutes. I needed to use the can, so I left the courtroom, walked to the bathroom... but, then, my, uhm... well... he... my old ex-dad showed up... he picked me up by my hair and the back of my pants... I knew he was going to kill me... it was in his eyes... I have no doubt he would have.

I shivered as my mind went back to that moment when he had picked me up... and...

Tony nodded. I looked to Mom. She gave me a very cautious smile and a very slight nod. I turned to Tony, ready for more questions.

Tony: And then what happened?

I cleared my throat. Continuing, "I know he would have killed me. He'd already tried once before. And... he almost did."

Tony: Your Honor, I submit to the court police reports taken and sworn to, dated June 11th, a year ago, as exhibit A. These documents clearly and convincingly provide evidence of the abuse young James endured, and barely survived.

Judge: I have reviewed them. Continue.

Tony: James, please tell the court exactly what happened from your view.

Prosecutor: Objection, Your Honor. Relevance.

Judge: Overruled. Although I have read the reports, I would like to hear James' testimony. Go ahead, James. <Looking toward the prosecutor>. "This court will not interrupt your testimony. I will not have it. Does everyone in this court room hear me?

Prosecutor: Let the record show the prosecutor objects.

Judge: So noted. But, what, pray tell, are you objecting to? This court is in session to hear the truth, to get to the bottom of this case. The witness has stated that he will tell the truth and nothing but the truth.

For the next two and a half hours, I told the Judge what had happened during the 13 weeks I was tied up, all about the last 'however long it was' when I was kept in the basement. I told the court how Mr. Good got to me, found me, just before I died, the hospital, and then started crying (damn it, I promised myself that I wouldn't cry) when I shared about being given my very first ever birthday party, and how Tony, Seth and the hospital staff made it happen without me knowing about it until it happened. Then I told the court how Tony and Adam found me a family, and what it has been like since I met the people who loved me enough to take me in and make me their son (again I cried).

Tony: Thank you, James. I know this is tough. I have just a few more questions. Now, think very carefully. What happened next, during the recess in court that day when your family was given to you.

Me: Like I said, my old ex-dad was trying to carry me out of the court house... I knew he was going to kill me... like I said... he tried to when he left for... like I said before... he'd left me to... uhm... die. I saw you walk, or actually you ran over to us... ordered him to put me down, and then I saw a knife at his throat... Dad was tearing me out of his arms... and that's when the blood... started spewing out all over the place, all over Dad and me... it was terrible... Tony, you saved my life, I know you did.

Tony: No more questions for the witness. Thank you, James.

Judge: This court is recessed for a one hour lunch period. Then we'll have cross examination.

I was not permitted to talk to Tony during lunch, or at any time while the trial was underway. I so wanted to tell him that he shouldn't be on trial. I wanted to tell him that they should yank dad's body up from the grave and make him stand trial... but I couldn't do it. I wasn't permitted.

Seth and Jim joined Mom and me for lunch. Tony had some other work that had to be done for another hearing he was going to be the attorney for the following week... something about having a short deposition or something... he didn't say for sure.

In the restaurant, I sat in the middle, between Mom and Seth. I tried to engage Seth a couple of times, but Jim, his new boyfriend, wiggled between us and kept us from having any kind of conversation. The more the guy interfered with Seth's life the more I didn't like him. To put it bluntly: he's a fucking asshole... I just couldn't see Seth putting up with that shit... it just didn't seem like him, at all.

Whatever, I decided we were finished, not even being able to be friends. Unknown to me, at least until that very moment, Mom had her arm around my shoulders, resting her hand on my deltoid muscle, kneading it softly.

I finished up the burger. I felt need, told Mom I needed to use the can. She did, too. We got up, made our way to the restrooms. She went into the Ladies room, while I went into the Men's. I walked to a stall, closed the door, dropped my britches, sat down, and got started unloading.

Someone entered the restroom, walked to the only closed stall door, and said, "James, is that you in there?"

"Yeah, it's me. What do you want?" I said dismissively, pushed down, struggled, somewhat, to drop one.

Seth took a deep breath, and said, "Sorry about that out there..."

"Seth, I don't understand you. How the fuck can you put up with his shit?"

Seth, entered the stall next to mine, dropped his pants to the floor, and began taking care his business. He replied, "He's good to me. I..."

"He's leading your around like a puppy dog, Seth. Get real. It's sickening to watch." I said, squeezed the last one out, felt empty, reached for tissue paper, tore off a wad, reached back, when Seth continued, "What you see may not be actually what's happening, James. He treats me good."

I swiped the first time, dropped it in, and continued, "Then, why are you letting him treat you and your friends like that... it doesn't make sense."

I tore off another tissue. Seth replied, "I love him... what else can I say?"

"You loved me, too... or at least I think you did..."

"James, you're jealous."

"Fuck you, Seth. I ain't fucking jealous. Look, you're the first friend I ever had... excuse me for giving a fuck. It's your life... I hope you're happy."

I finished, flushed and left the stall to wash my hands when Jim walked in, looked at me with pure contempt, then went to the pisser and let loose. After drying my hands, I looked back to see Jim's arms down like he was zipping up. I left the restroom without saying another word, thinking that if that's the way he wants it to be, then it's his life. Not that I didn't care, because I did, and do still.

Bailiff: All rise...

Prosecutor, before I was called to the stand: Your Honor. The prosecution rests its case. First-hand witness testimony collaborates all evidence we have in our possession. We also have the medical reports, CPS testimony from that era, and, Sir, we recommend that all charges are dismissed, without prejudice.

Judge: Very well. The court is pleased that you are not taking this case any further... to be perfectly honest... after reviewing all evidence, and hearing your last witness account, I was very close to dismissing this case. <Turning to Tony>. Mr. Lorenzo, it is this courts' opinion that you have gone far beyond the call of duty to protect another human being, a child that has been through so much in his short lifetime. Sadly, I cannot dismiss this case. It has reached trial. However, I have reached a verdict: Not guilty on all charges. Court is dismissed. All parties are excused. Good luck, James.

We caught the bus at the corner where our driveway meets the dirt gravel road. I was kinda sorta looking forward to getting back to school, though I was nervous, too. Nervous because I hadn't been to school in over a year; nervous because of my experiences and revelations during that same time period; nervous for not knowing hardly anybody – except Rocky and Eric. Because of that lost year, I was being held back a grade, the same grade where I'd left off. When Mom enrolled me, she insisted that I get academically tested, telling them that I was no dummy, that she had worked with me on the basics of education, which she had done during the first weeks of my recovery from surgery, when I couldn't do much of anything else. They were amendable to her requests. She provided them with Dr. D.'s orders excusing me from PE due to the operation.

Home room was first hour... the day was shortened for the usual reasons, such as teacher conferences, and the like.

Eric wasn't in my homeroom. We wouldn't see each other until the first class after lunch. He also was in the same lunch period as Rocky, different than mine. They dropped me off at home room... even though the school was small, I still felt lost. Everything was so foreign to me; in a way I didn't feel like I belonged. Most of the students seemed to know one another. They'd briefly look up and away from their conversation, then got back to it. Oh, they were friendly enough. They'd all say 'Hey, whatchername?'

I'd tell them, we'd exchange pleasantries, then go on about our business.

I'm not really sure what I was looking for in them... or what they were seeing in me. Just some old thoughts were swirling about here, there and everywhere... for a little while.

I handed Mrs. Hogan my admittance slip and schedule for her to look over. Her smile was radiant, warm and welcoming. She had no assigned seats and told me to go sit wherever I wanted, that class would soon be getting underway. A couple of minutes later, after looking over my paperwork and making notations in her computer, she walked over and handed back my schedule, then on her way back to her desk, said, "Okay, class, one more minute till the bell rings, get your things together... for those of you who will be staying here next hour we're going to have a fun year in Social Studies."

Everything was going okay; she gave her rah rah speech, getting everybody pumped up (as much as possible, anyway), saying the rules, and even though our school was small and rural, one of the items not open for discussion was the fact that classroom doors were to remain locked all the way during class periods, that students were not to leave the premises without parent or guardian escort, and that even though the school administration had an 'open door' policy, the doors to the offices were to remain open, no matter what was being discussed.

The Big Deal came when she introduced me, saying that I was a new student, fairly new to the community, and to welcome me after I told them a little about why I came to this school. Then all attention was on me.

"I, uhm, moved here from Wichita a few months ago. You may as well know that I'm adopted... that's why I'm here. I guess that's all I got." I said haltingly, then looked to Mrs. Hogan to get me out of that situation, as fast as possible.

Mrs. Hogan said to the class, "James has been adopted by the Richardson's. Be sure to welcome him in... he's probably a bit nervous <I nodded> about being around people he doesn't know, yet. James, we'll take care of the 'not knowing yet' part of the equation... so let's get the last remaining few things talked about..."

And so it was. For the last 10 minutes of the period, she released the class to talk about whatever it was that we wanted to talk about. When it came to my turn, I just said that, yes, I was nervous, and to come back to me another time.

When the bell rang, Mrs. Hogan got my attention. I walked to her as the last students exited. She said, "You aren't the only new student that has ever come here... relax... this is a good place to be. I moved here at the beginning of last year's school term... I like it here, and I hope you will, too. If ever you have questions about what's going on, then just ask me. I'll try to answer anything you ask, or if I don't know the answer then I'll find it, or lead you to the person who does know. Fair enough?"

"Yes, Ma'am. Thanks. Can I go, now?"

"Yes, of course. See you in a couple of hours. Just relax."

Second hour was political science. The teacher's name was Mr. Frain. He seemed like a decent enough guy, articulate, warm, caring, yet firm with the two interruptions two of the students thought would be funny. I liked him. I liked the way he handled the situation, without tearing those students up and spitting them out, as I'd seen done before, more than once, at my old school... myself included... Rightfully so, I will add. Sheesh. Mostly, he lectured about the current administration up in the White House, how things were going to hell in a handbasket, and no, he didn't come right out and bash anyone, rather he just pointed out a few facts, and then let himself off the hook, so to speak, by saying that no matter who was in office they were given a mess to deal with.

Rocky and I had done some research on the net, looking for organizations that would help young people along with their identities, especially when they were a minority in society. About the only thing we found about gay people... 'gay boys' in particular... pretty much all we found were monstrosities of dick sizes, hot and horny dudes wanting to hook up for a fuck session. No thank you.

We did come upon a PFLAG website, however the closest meeting was in Topeka, a town a couple of hours away, by car. And we found a website that hates gay people... so bad, in fact, that they picket and tear grieving families apart when they are hurting the most. I asked Dad about that place. He'd heard of them, but didn't know anything about them... but he or Mom would check it out. Later, Mom and Dad, both sat our family down and told us what they found about those hate mongering fools, that we were to stay away from them and their ilk, and to disregard everything they were preaching. They reminded us that there was a God who loves all people, no matter what their color, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, or whatever. Dad then read some passages from the Bible which drove home their points that we're all like in more ways than they find differences.

Bedtime, on school nights, is early – 8:30. That means 'in bed' with your hand on the light switch ready to turn it off... no excuses, no if's, and's or but's. I was in bed at 8:00pm, exhausted tired from being up since 3:45am, doing both morning and evening chores. I did a quick jack-off, then was asleep, and the alarm was buzzing... seemingly all at once.

Testing was 3 hours per day... in the afternoon, after lunch... so Rocky and I weren't able to enjoy our two classes together... but that would change next week.

As had been custom since we became a couple, either I would stay over at his house on Friday and Saturday nights, or he would stay with me. As it was, it was my turn to stay at his. Our usual routine was to come over and help the other to do evening chores and then spend the rest our time together doing this or that or whatever came to mind.

Since our commitment on the boat, we'd only made love 3 times... you know, full out 'making love'... but we did make love in many other ways.... such as me telling Rocky that I love him, cherish him, miss him when we're not together... and... many times, we'd just be way too tired to exert ourselves... okay... truth here... we weren't 'that' tired, instead, being together, holding ourselves in our arms... oftentimes we'd just fall asleep peaceful and contented, even though the horny factor may be present. This made the times when we did go all out – all that much more special... earth shattering.

I'm writing this now, after having made love with the love of my life, Rocky. I would have to say, so I do say, that tonight was the best night we've had so far. It could be because Kay and Virginia went to Topeka for a major shopping spree and a late night out watching a movie at a theater. Which made us a bit roudy from not having to suppress our 'expressions' of love in a physical way!

They had left at 4:45 in the early evening... by 7:00pm we were fully and completely satiated, in more than one way, in every way. As I write this, Rocky is lying fully naked on his bed, sound asleep... he has this way of taking a power nap that keeps him going like the Energizer Bunny. Tonight was my night to be receiving his nectars. We took turns, or so it seems. I so much liked him with his penis inside of me, but I'm finding that I love giving him what he, too, so much likes... tomorrow would be my turn to giving him his answers to his needs.

Tomorrow afternoon, Adam's bringing his equipment to do a full photo shoot of Rocky and me in our element. He told me that he'd be off in the distance, so that his presence wouldn't be the first thing that we thought of... so the shoot wasn't 'staged' or 'forced'. Rocky's, and, therefore, mine, too, rule was and is that if we were to head down to the creek to cool off, then no cameras were allowed anywhere near us. Adam, of course, had no problem with that. I knew that he wouldn't mind, not in the least.

Oh my... uhmph... gotta go... Rocky just woke up, grabbed the bottle of motion lotion, hooked his thumb deeply within his most private area... grinned.. winked... and with his other hand is beckoning for me to join him... so much for our 'rule'... of taking turns...

After doing our evening chores, and eating a wonderful meatloaf that Virginia had made for us while they were gone, Rocky excused himself to the rest room while I cleaned up our dishes and put things away. I was busy at work when Rocky entered the kitchen, then I felt his arms go around my waist and pull me into his front side. I wasn't really paying attention, till I realized he was wearing no shirt. Curiously, I turned my head and looked down... he was doing something that Rocky never does... he was stark raving naked... so much for the dishes... delayed...

When the sun had been down for a couple of hours, daringly, we walked outside to down by the barn, away from the lights, and looked up high in the sky, hoping to see some meteors shooting from here to there, and from there to here... but there was no such luck... oh yeah... we walked out there as nature dudes, totally naked, wearing only a smile, or a frown when me or him stepped on rock that we couldn't see.

We went inside the barn, up into the loft, enjoyed a smoke, then headed down to go back to the house before his Mom and Aunt arrived home... no sooner had we stepped out, a pair of headlights was seen coming down the lane from the road... oh shit...we're busted... here was Rocky... he didn't even run between his room and the bathroom in anything less than his underwear – ever... and now, there we were, stark raving stripped to the skin, in a 'wanton' sort of way, so he was kinda sorta freaking out... okay, he was freaking out. I pushed him back into the barn, telling him that I'd run up to the house, fetch our clothes and bring them back... until he pointed out that that would be a dead-giveaway... then another thought came to mind... at home we had horse blankets that could be adapted... I looked all around for such an apparel... but found no such thing... but I did find a bunch of gunny sacks... using the sheers to cut out leg openings... yip... that's how we presented ourselves... they, with the small hole patterns in them did not cover much, as we were quick to see on each other as we made our way to his room, where we closed the door... meanwhile, Kay and Virginia were laughing their heads off... I couldn't help but to giggle, too, when Rocky turned on the bright overhead light... his hand had the material bunched up in his fist, holding it close to his tummy... I had to start laughing my fool head off, too... absolutely nothing, not even a little bit was left to the imagination. I turned him around... his butt cheeks are cute as all get out... I laughed so hard that I fell into bed, rolled around trying to regain my composure, no, not really, to no avail.

Rocky winked, stuck his tongue out, then snagged two pair of underwear briefs, opened the door and after checking the coast to make sure it was clear, sprinted across the hall to the bathroom.

Our showers were quick and to the point. Somewhat dressed, wearing only underwear, we foraged out into the living area where Virginia was sitting in a sofa chair, crocheting. Kay was arranging flowers on the coffee table. They both looked up and started cackling, sending Rocky into the kitchen with the back of his neck a brilliant shad of red, which caused the two women to cackle even harder, knowing they'd gotten to their son and nephew, respectively.

Sleep came easily, but I didn't stay asleep for very long. I'd awakened several times feeling a burning type of itching across my entire body. Finally, I could stand it no longer. I got up, put on something to wear, then padded across the hallway into the bathroom, peed, then looked in the full-length mirror hanging on the back of the door... holy... fuck... red dots, big fat red fucking dots were all over from my jawbone down to my feet. I pulled off my underwear... there were dots down south, too... they were every damn where... and, oh my God, they itched. They looked just like those chigger bites I'd gotten sometimes down around my ankles, but nothing like this. I looked all around the bathroom and in the medicine cabinet for some Calamine lotion, but there was none to be found.

Not knowing what else to do, I turned on the shower and got the water to as hot as I could stand it, got in, lathered up really good, hoping that the soap and water would wash away the skin creatures... all it did was to make them itch just that much worse... I rinsed off. I felt like I was going insane. Every little swipe of the towel, for a moment, felt incredibly good, but then would come the burning itch, again, still.

A light knock on the door interrupted a frantic scratch fest. Not knowing who might be at the door, and not caring at that juncture, I opened it. Kay started to say something, but then, stopped... her eyes got big around like saucers, then, calmly, said, "Chiggers. Hundreds of them. Oh poor boy..."

Just then Virginia peeked her head inside the bathroom, looking in to see what was going on at the late night hour. She chuckled briefly... I thought she was giggling because of the kinda-sorta extension of that which designates me male. I started to reach for a towel, however Kay put her hand across my shoulders and led me into her bedroom bathroom. I was going totally insane from the thousands, my choice of word to express quantity, of bug bites, so I didn't even balk when they rubbed some special chigger medicine all over my body, and I mean everywhere... did you know it is possible to have orgasms even when you're not erect enough to have one? Well, it's true. I wasn't even embarrassed... the profuse itching was going away, and that's all that mattered.

Rocky entered just as they were putting the stuff on my ankles and feet. Rocky, wearing only underwear, seeing me standing there totally naked, a bit 'puffed up', smiled, then dropped down those threads separating his skin from the elements. He too had bug bites all around his skin where the leg openings to his shorts, and, like me, had two or three (dozen) on and around his wonderful looking penis and butt cheeks. Just as they had done for me, they covered him with the medicine.

We went back to bed. While the medicine did wonders for the chigger bites, the stuff tastes terrible... if you catch my drift.

Thanksgiving Day was hell on earth cold. We'd gotten about 28 inches of snow overnight. The wind was howling like a hurricane, yet, there was no rest for the weary. Mom gave us two cups of hot chocolate to drink and a bowl of hot oat meal covered with sugar and brown sugar with a tad bit of cinnamon and a glass of milk... to prepare us for the terrible conditions outside.

For winter, they'd bought us guys heavy one piece coveralls that ran from the ankles to high on the neck, then a stocking cap, ear muffs, heavy gloves and thermal socks, and goggles. I thought I was going to explode from the heat emanating from the fireplace, but damn did those heavy clothes feel good after going outside in the still snowing, gale force winds. Chores have to be done. The horses have to be watered. The goats have to be fed and watered, too. The fucking chicken house, smelled like a slaughter house, whatever that smells like... Eric said the chickens have to be kept warm so that they produce and don't freeze to death, because they don't get heavy coats like the other animals do. There was no messing around slinging chicken shit or busting eggs (two or three apiece) over each other. By the time we were done, I was sweating like a roasting pig, but then it froze solid, or so it seemed, as soon as the door to the coop opened and we went outside.

The last thing to do was to go to the barn to toss down a bale of hay so that we could load it up on the wagon for the garden tractor to take into the fields to give the horses something to eat, so that they wouldn't have to dig down under the snow to get to the dormant grass.

Dad was briskly walking down the lane. He held up his hand in such a way that we stopped and turned away from the wind until he got to us. He said, breathlessly, "We're going over to Kay's. We can't get them on the phone. The storm has probably knocked out their phone, but we need to go make sure they're okay. What do you have left to do?"

We tossed off 2 bales. Dad used the big tractor to take us out into the field, and then helped us break them open with the mammoth machine.

When we got finished with that task, Dad said we'd do better taking the tractor to Kay, Virginia and Rocky's rather than driving the car over, for fear that it would get stuck and leave us stranded. He was positive that there would be huge snow drifts, so we took off. Dad cut the fence to get us through, then he headed the tractor up the steep incline... the tractor didn't miss a hitch, taking that hill, even with mounds of snow blowing and drifting, like a champ. We noticed that the outside barn light was off. Our sense of urgency heightened exponentially, as it meant that the power was off as well.

I was off that tractor the second Dad had it shut down, ran to the barn, called Rocky's name, then bounded up the rope ladder to the loft, looked around everywhere, and when he was nowhere to be seen, I bounded down the ladder, dropping to the ground six steps from the bottom, landed flat on my feet, then tore out toward the house, seeing Dad and Eric walking, making their way through the snow drifts.

It was so fucking cold that my tear drops, from fright, were freezing right on my face. I had started the tears when I realized that none of the outdoor chores had been done, and that all the animal water troughs were frozen solid, meaning that the power had been off for some time. Too long.

Both front and back doors to their house had drifts at least 15-20 feet tall. Dad tried to plow his way through to them, but it was impossible because of the concrete steps and sidewalks. Without being asked, Eric and I tore off to their machine shed, fetched up 3 deep shovels, ran back to the house, and then plowed our way just enough so that we could get inside.

It was dark inside. And it was totally quiet, except for the wind blowing, we heard nothing, despite our frantic yells.

We fanned out. My first stop was Rocky's room. His bed hadn't been slept in. The sheets were freezing cold... then I noticed, putting away my fear for a moment, that the top sheet and blankets were gone. I prayed to God that he hadn't gone down to the creek or even over to that abandoned farmhouse, but then Dad started hollering for us to come quick. He'd gone inside Kay's room. He wasted no time for semantics... when he lit a candle to see... there were mounds huddled beneath the heavy down comforter bedspreads. I couldn't tell if they were moving in time with breathing. He reached inside the cocoon. He started calling Kay's name, then Virginia's, then finally Rocky's. Rocky stuck his arm out... I went to him, took his hand in mine – it was frozen cold.

Dad said, "They're alive. You boys strip down and get inside that bed and help warm them up using your body heat... I'm going to go call the Sheriff, then Mom... we're going to take them home with us... go ahead, do as I say... they're cold... they probably don't realize just how cold they are... the mind turns off."

Eric and I looked at each other, but only for a split second, before stripping to our inner underwear, and then hurried and buried ourselves next to our second family. God damned it was cold, even under the blankets. There was but little body heat to share.

Although Rocky didn't say anything, his body responded, appropriately, to my attentions to his ice cold appendage... but there wasn't time to actually make love to him, to get his heart beating faster... almost at the same time, I draped my body across both Rocky and his mother, then went to work on her, rubbing her ice cold skin, hoping to get her circulation going better. Eric was doing the same thing for Virginia and Kay's other side.

Although my teeth were chattering to an extent that I thought they'd surely break, I knew that Rocky, Kay and Virginia were colder, dangerously colder. All three were moaning incoherently by the time emergency help arrived. Rocky was last out. He was somewhat responding to the serious attentions I was giving him, both up above and down below... I knew there was hope when his penis started painlessly stabbing me in my lower regions. Also, his tongue, cold as it was, responded, too. Had we been given enough time, I'm sure that we would have been revived, however, the paramedics, Sandy in particular, pulled off the covers and replaced them with warm blankets...

Thomas manhandled a one fighting Rocky to the waiting ambulance. Sandy told me that emergence from hypothermia can cause great confusion, thus, most likely the reason behind his fighting. She quickly helped Eric and I to get dressed, and then we went to the ambulance to see them off. The road had been plowed, but the driveway hadn't... so the ambulance and the Sheriff's car were waiting there on the road.

They were all three taken to the hospital to begin the slow warming up process. The doctor said that if they were warmed too fast, then there was the danger of heart attack, or even death. The doctor told Dad, Eric and me to strip down to our underwear so that we could get warmed up... all of the thermal wear was good while out in the elements, but once it got cold inside, there would be no warming up for quite some time. Since we were all shivering and chattering, we complied. Soon, we were warmed up sufficiently. They gave us microwaved water to drink, saying the warmth would be good, and the fluids good for the circulatory system. A nurse explained that person can get seriously dehydrated from hypothermia.

The doctor said that Dad had done everything right, then gave the grim news that had we not arrived when we did, then, no doubt they would have been found frozen dead, possibly as early as that afternoon.

We got dressed, though leaving the fronts open to permit air to enter to keep us warm. Dr. Anne Blair entered the exam room area, and said, "James, Rocky's asking for you. Okay, I just wanted to let you know that they are all going to be okay. We're going to keep the women here for 24 hours... they got the coldest. Rocky's core temperature was down to 86 degrees. Virginia's was down to 83 and Kay's was coldest at 82. They are very, very lucky."

As Dr. Blair and I walked down the hallway, she explained that Rocky was wrapped in a special blanket that warm fluid flowed through, that he was going to be okay, but that he'd feel cold for probably 24 to 48 hours, even though he wasn't physically cold.

I'd held in my fear, worry and downright terror until I entered his exam room and saw him wrapped up in that special blanket. I walked to him, hoping to see his eyes one last time before he... he... he... just as I felt myself start to lose all control, he opened his eyes and looked my way. Then he said, whispering, the magic word, "Hey."

Despite not knowing if I was supposed to do it, or not, I reached out and hugged him deeply as my tears freely flowed, as I tried so hard to not croak out, "I love you." I kissed his lips... God, they were warmer, but they were still cold to the touch... which made me want to kiss him all that much harder... to give him heat through osmosis, or something like it.

"I love you, too. Where's Mom and Aunt Virginia? Are they okay?"

"Yes, they're going to be okay. God, we about lost you guys... you came so close..."

"James, don't. I'm okay. I'm just cold... when I realized the power was off, I got Virginia... we all got into bed... I remembered body heat from scouts... but then I got cold and woozy... how did we get here?"

"You rode with the Sheriff. Your Mom and Aunt Virginia rode in the ambulance... shush now. You guys are going to be okay; that's all that matters. Dad, turned off the water to your house and drained the pipes so that they won't burst."

"I was worried about that. Thanks. Uhm, I've gotta pee like a racehorse... help me up."

"Can't get up. They've got you in this spacesuit thing to warm you up... I'll get a nurse... she'll know what to do." Kiss.

I got to hold the plastic bottle and snaked his little guy inside. And, yes, it was little guy. His balls were tightly clenched up high next to his body... of course, a little moist air... let's just say his penis was the warmest part of his body, if only for a little while. And I'm sure his heart rate increased 10 fold, if only for a little while.

He was kept in the ER for a little over 6 hours. Since he was wearing only his underwear, the nurses wrapped him up in 6 blankets, carefully making sure just as little skin was exposed as was possible. Dad picked him up like he was a featherweight and carried him to the Sheriff's car that would take him to our house for the night, longer if they didn't get their power back on. Dad carried him into my bedroom, and laid him on my bed. I took over from there. I got him all wrapped up in the covers, kept his lips warm and moist. He fell off to sleep. He seemed to be resting comfortably, so I left the room, went downstairs where Mom and Dad were talking in the kitchen. Eric, was wrapped up in a blanket in the living room with both Kevin and Luke cuddled in close. I didn't particularly feel cold... I was tired, very sleepy, though. I went out into the kitchen, hugged Dad, kissed Mom's cheek, then went into the living room and laid down on the floor. Luke scooted aside and motioned for me to get sandwiched. As soon as my body hit the floor and Luke cuddled in, I was sound asleep... dead to the world asleep.

I was awakened by the sound of these words being said on the TV: "... and the winds have been clocked at 65 miles per hour. You are warned to not go anywhere unless your power is off. This is a damaging storm. Wichita airport is reporting 27 inches of snow on the ground, and that's not including 15 to 20 foot drifts on east-west roads. Currently, the temperature is 7 below zero. Tonight, all records will be broken. Temperatures are predicted to be 18-24 degrees below zero, and colder in outlying areas. Stay tuned. We'll, of course, break in should the need arise. Remember, being out in this storm is life threatening."

"Dad, is our power going out, too? What would we do?" I asked, shaking sleep from my psyche, brought up and out of a deep sleep coma while listening to the breaking news.

"I don't think so, Son. I put in a new power transmission line from the pole to the power supply here in the house... that doesn't mean it can't go out, because it can. There's always the feeder lines that can be knocked out... we're fortunate to have a fire place. We can bunk out here in the living room, if need be... oh hi Rocky... well... come here, Son..."

Seeing Rocky distraught, with tears running down his face, and wearing only his underwear, shivering, I got up, raced upstairs, got into my closet, pulled out the heavy robe I'd never worn, then ran downstairs... and saw... Rocky... lying in Dad's strong arms... sobbing uncontrollably... Dad reached for the robe, motioned for me to bend over... he whispered in my ear, "He's needed to do this... he needs me right now, Son. Would you mind leaving us alone... I don't want him to stop until he's ready to stop..."

"Thanks, Dad." I whispered. I leaned over and feather kissed the back of Rocky's head, then padded out of the living area into the kitchen where Mom and Thomas were sitting alone talking. Mom stood, walked over, put her arms around me and kissed my cheek, and said, "Honey, Rocky's been holding a lot inside of himself... it's good that he's found release. He'll be okay, he just needs your Dad right now. Sit down with us, I'll make you a cup of hot chocolate... it'll settle the nerves."

We all heard a sobbing wail come from the living area, "Why couldn't he love me... what did I do that was so bad that he hated me so bad... WHY!"

"You didn't do anything bad, Rocky... your dad's just that way. You can't do anything about the way he is. You didn't cause him to hate you." Dad said reassuringly, determinedly, but not harshly.

I looked to Mom, then to Thomas. Without a word said, I went into the living room, sat on the edge of the overstuffed cushion on Dad's chair, then said, "Rocky, you didn't do anything to make your Dad hate you. If you did, then that I would mean that I did something bad to my Dad, erm, I mean my ex-dad, the dead one, sorry... Listen to Dad... he's telling you that what your dad did isn't your fault. I just had to tell you this... because it's true... you're loved... and you deserve being loved... and you deserve to love, too. I feel your love, Rocky. But my love is different than Dad's... he taught me there are different kinds of love... you know it, too. You listen to my Dad, he'll tell you right... believe him."

With that said, I kissed Rocky's nose, got up and walked into the kitchen where not only was my hot chocolate ready, but so were Mom's arms as she whispered that I was dead-on correct, and that I was very much loved, and that I very much loved, too.

Thomas said, "I don't know how or why people treat people bad like they do. It makes no sense to me... life is going to get better for Rocky... I just know it is, right pardner?" He patted my back, then said, "I'm going to go check on livestock."

"I'm going with you." I said resolutely.

Mom opened her mouth to speak, but closed it, patted my arm, then ordered me to dress warm. My snowsuit, draped across the floor close to the fireplace was toasty warm. I got it on and Mom zipped it up to my chin, then put on a stocking cap, then zipped the coat like thing up to just below my eyes, and then she pushed on a pair of goggles, saying that the freezing and blowing wind could freeze the eyeballs. She then did the same for Thomas.

Thomas had to pry the door loose to get out. A huge snow drift had blow up against it. When we got outside, I promptly fell off the porch into a chasm of white puffy stuff, thus breaking the fall. Thomas reached down and yanked me up onto the porch and gave me a severe admonishment for not paying attention to my surroundings. Then he patted my back, guided our way down the steps. As soon as we hit the level ground, the snow was up to my armpits. But it was light and fluffy. The wind was fierce. Blowing snow actually stung what little skin was exposed to the elements, but I was warm inside the cocoon... once we got out of the drift, a gale forced wind knocked me onto my ass. Thomas, too, was having a difficult time standing up to that wind. He pulled me up and out, and then carried me to the steps and urged me to go inside without any argument. I didn't argue, not one word was uttered... I knew the gravity of the situation. Yes, I was worried about him. I love him. He's my brother. Before going inside, I reached down, fumbled around, and found the snow shovel... my God, the depth had to be at least 4 feet... I stood there for a moment watching Thomas make his way out to the barn... he was doing okay... I asked the God I didn't believe in to keep him safe and out of harms' way, then I got busy shoveling the powdery white stuff off the step, then realized it was wasted effort as the wind just carried more snow faster than I could shovel it away.

And, shit, my hip ached. But then again, Dr. D. said it would, especially in really cold weather.

I went inside, shucked off the overalls, hung them up on a hook, took off upstairs, put on some heavy winter sweats, then joined Eric, Kevin and Luke on the floor. They were sound asleep, as was Dad with Rocky snuggled in his strong arms. Rocky, I saw, was sound asleep... I knew the feeling of how safe he felt - Dad's arms are like that.

I didn't go to sleep until I heard Thomas enter the house. He and Mom were talking. Thomas was saying that everything was okay, or as okay as it was going to get, and that they needed to get some shut eye. Mom turned out the lights throughout the house. I felt her kiss my cheek. I heard 3 more kisses, then 2 more, and then she was off upstairs into the night.

As he does some mornings, Kevin had crawled onto my chest, wrapped his arms around my neck, kissed me incessantly until my eyes opened to greet his cherubic little face that was up close and personal. The smile I got was worth a million dollars. Plus he was giggling and rocking. The little shit (said fondly, mind you) had his leg down across that which likes to stand proud and tall early in the morning. Of course, as is usual, that earned him a kiss on the cheek... and a 'reserved' tickle, and then we got up off of the floor and went upstairs to take care of morning rituals, after which he took off on a dead gallop to his room while I went to mine.

Dad was sitting on the edge of the bed talking quietly with Rocky. I turned away, but they both motioned for me to enter. Contrary to Rocky's meltdown last night, he was smiling this morning. I walked to my bed and sat down next to Dad. After I got a 'daddy hug', I gave and received one with the love of my life. Dad turned away when I leaned down and gave Rocky a good morning kiss. We chattered about this and that for a couple of minutes, then Dad said, "Boys, we have 12 to 15 foot drifts in and around the farm. Two things today, well three actually... first, we've got to dig ourselves out. James, Thomas is out getting the plow hooked up to the big tractor. Now, you have consistently shown me that you're responsible in what you do and say..."

"Thanks, Dad."

Continuing, "I need for you, Eric and Rocky to plow so that we can get to the out-buildings, then you will be plowing the drive to the road. That's when I'll take over... right now there is no way in or out of our property. I'll plow the road down to the Granger's and up to the blacktop..."

Just then Eric walked by. Dad called for him. He stuck his head in the door and said that he first needed to use the restroom, and then asked Dad why we'd slept in. Dad chuckled, "Because we needed it. Do your business and come back... we're working out chores before chores. It's going to be a hard day, Boys."

When Eric returned, Dad continued, "Eric, Rocky, James is to do no heavy work. He came in limping last night... probably from the cold; the doctor explained it to us that the hardware gets cold and causes aching. Do you hear me, James? No physical labor."

"Yes, Sir." I replied. Assuredly, both Eric and Rocky nodded their commitment.

Dad then went on to tell us about the dangers involved, to watch for above ground landmarks, to pay attention, and be careful.

By noon the main area in front of the house, the side-yards, the wide expansive area in front of the big barn were cleared. Eric, Rocky and Luke took to hand-shovels so that doors could be opened. Luke worked frantically at clearing the pathway to the goats. Dad had to slow him down, reminding him that the animals had shelter, that we'd just have to get to them, but he was sure they would be okay... and they were okay... cold and hungry, but okay.

The next thing we had to do, and this came after lunch consisting of hot chili, cornbread and apple pie, was to clear paths so that we could get to the horses. Dad figured correctly that they'd be holed up under the trees on the other side of the pasture. At least the wind had died down, the sun had come out shining brightly, but it was colder than hell. Dad had side the thermometer read 19 degrees below zero, and that the temperature was forecast to be around 25 below zero tonight. He said that's too dangerous for the young horses to be out in, so we would be rounding them up and bedding them down in the barns tonight, out of the wind and severe cold.

I still was not permitted up in the loft. Dad threatened me within one inch of my life if he ever caught me up there. There was no doubt that I'd be busted into next week if I even took the first step up, so I stayed down, of course.

With that, Eric tossed off 2 bales into the loader. Dad left and took them to the goat pen so that they would have plenty of shelter and stuff to eat. While Dad was doing that, Luke and Eric loaded up the garden tractor trailer with oats and other good things for the goats to eat. Luke exited. Meanwhile, Eric and Rocky got busy knocking hay bales to the ground so that we could fix up the stalls for the horses to stay in, so that they, too, would have plenty to eat. I was in charge of the pitchfork to strew the hay all around while they did the hard work of lugging the chunks of hay into the stalls. Nobody complained, though. It was what it is and can be no different right now.

The machine shed was a lost cause. All you could see was a mound of snow. If you didn't know it was there, then it just didn't exist.

The cold was starting to get to me, so I didn't go with them when they rounded up the horses to bring in. I stood out by the fence and waited... Coltrane was the first horse to arrive. He neighed and whinnied loudly as he came running up to the fence. Thankfully he didn't slobber me... frozen horse slobber – yuck. I put a bridle on him and was leading him into the inner corral when Dad, Eric and Rocky came driving the tractor up to the barn. Dad jumped down, walked to me and said, "James, when it comes to animals staying in the barn, it is females first, then the young'ins, then any that are injured or sick... I'm afraid Coltrane will have to stay outside tonight. I've cleared him an area and built a wind-block so that the north winds aren't brutal. He'll be okay. He's been out in the cold before, and he won't be alone. The other adult horses will be with him... I'm sure they will cuddle up the best they know how."

I started to say something, but the message in Dad's eyes said to not argue, the decision was made. I walked Coltrane back to the gate and checked him over good to make sure he wasn't injured in any way. Dad watched me go. I said, "I just have to make sure."

Dad nodded then got back on the tractor and drove it into the barn with the horses following him. I wasn't mad at Dad, he was right. I just hated the thought of my horse being out in those subzero temperatures. Coltrane took off for the clearing in the trees that I couldn't see. I hoped he would do alright. By the time I got back to the barn... I'd had enough of the cold. Dad said so, too... I was limping slightly, and my hip was aching. Luke came driving the garden tractor into the barn, Dad told him to take me to the house, and to me he said to take a hot bath and stay off my feet for a couple of hours to rest.

I didn't argue.

Rocky and I did not exchange kisses. Why, you ask? Cuz the snot was running. Dad said something about having a bunch of snot-nosed kids around, but I shot back by indicating his face was no better. That comment earned me a squeeze of the head, Dad's affectionate saying that I'm a wiseacre, or otherwise known as a 'smart ass', just not using the word.

Luke dropped me off at the steps leading up to the house. I looked at them for a moment, contemplating and to gather the will to go up them. The breeze was definitely picking up... which helped to hurry things along.

Mom met me in the ante room. Since I wasn't all that wet, and wasn't at all muddy, she let me go up to my room to change. She too said that I was limping noticeably, and that I was to get into the bathtub pronto. Once again I contemplated the stairway leading upstairs. This time I contemplated them longer than the outside ones... there were 3 times as many steps here than there. Mom walked over, patted my back, then put her arm in mine, then we took the steps slowly but deliberately, stopping to rest only once, two steps from the top.

I stripped down to the skin in my bedroom, grabbed and put on the robe that Rocky had neatly folded and set on the edge of my bed, then went to the restroom, dropped a load while the water was running, then got in, laid down and relaxed. When the water started getting cold, I just ran some more hot water.

Don't know how much later it was, maybe an hour or so, Rocky entered after making sure it was okay if he came in (dumb). He was wearing only his underwear, but within 2 seconds was wearing only a smile as he sat down and took care of reverse engineering duties. Finished and flushed, I made room for him. Sheesh, he was ice cold, so I sat up, drained some of the water out and refilled it with hot so that he would get warmed up. With his legs straddling my lower regions, I had full access to his waving wand, so at the same time I jacked us to successful consummations.

We got out shortly afterward. My hip was fine. Rocky confirmed by mentioning, as we walked to my bedroom, that I was no longer limping. He would know... he was wearing the robe... I was wearing the suit I'd been given at birth.

After dinner, Rocky called his Mom. Due to the continuing storm, she and Virginia were going to stay one more night. She did said that the power company had been out. The main circuit breaker inside the house had tripped causing the power outage. After Dad had cleared the road, Thomas had gone to their house to get the furnace running and to get the water running again once the air temperature warmed sufficiently. He also made sure the heaters were going for the troughs so that their livestock would have fresh warm water to drink.

Since we'd worked so late into the day, Dad said that we didn't have to do evening chores, that he'd go out and take care of whatever needed to be done. He thanked us for all pulling together to take care of business.

Bedtime was early. Eric went to his room right after 7pm. Luke followed at about 7:30. Rocky and I made it to 8:30, the same time Mom put Kevin down... even Kevin was out like a light. Mom told us good night and closed the door. We got settled in, comfortable, and then Rocky said, softly, "Your Dad's cool... he talked to me way into the night, telling me everything was going to work out, that he doesn't understand why my Dad's an asshole. He just said it was important for me to realize that all men are not assholes. Uhm, he also told me that he'd always been here for me."

"Kewl. That's my Dad for ya. Yeah, I love him... he's good to us. I'm at home. Wanna play?"

"Testicles or tiddlywinks?"

Turning over onto my tummy, splaying out between his legs, sucking in one of his orbs, and inserting my index finger deeply into one deep strategic place, I offered, "Testicles and winks."

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