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The Redemption
Book 1

by Joe Writer Man

Chapter 11

The next several days quickly passed by.

I really started working with the therapists because I had been scheduled to be discharged in the very near future, possibly as early as 2 weeks.

Some days were better than others in that at times my vision was crystal clear while at other times it seemed to have gone several steps backward as it would be replaced by that gray mist I'd come to know and expect and that which I'd become accustomed to.

Wayne arrived late one Saturday evening. I was even more surprised to see Millie following behind him. I'd not seen either of them since the meeting called to fill in some of the missing pieces.

Saturdays and Sundays were generally dead around the rehab hospital. Only one therapist was on duty those days. They only took care of the comatose patients who could do nothing on their own, when they needed that someone to move their limbs in a purposeful way to keep them from gnarling up into a pretzel. They had performed those exercises on me when I'd not been aware of anything, when I'd been in the coma.

I'd begun to slink into a deep dark depression after the big meeting. I was filled with so much uncertainty about what was going to happen next, my impatience at my relatively slow progress, the muscle spasms in my legs and belly, trying to get a diet arranged so that the diarrhea was under better control because I'd had a number of accidents, especially in physical therapy when the physical and mental stress and tensions were the greatest.

Wayne walked to me. I'd sat in the wheel chair for several hours just to be up and not lying around in that damn hospital bed. As usual, our greeting was warm and friendly though somewhat detached. Despite the somewhat detached 'feeling' we kissed sincerely and even included a 'bit' of tongue wrestling. Those kisses filled me with longing and an ache because I wanted to do oh so much more.

When Wayne and I unglued our lips Millie stepped in and we exchanged a hug sans the kissing ritual I'd always liked to have with Wayne.

She whispered in my ear, "Chile, I been noticin a depression in yous. It bees bad, chile. Well, momma Millie brought you by some good medicine cuz we cain't have no depression."

The last time I'd had any shit was the night before Ma was killed. I'd thought about using often. I'd even hinted to Derrick to bring some stuff in so that we could get fucked up together. He hadn't used since the day his ex-girlfriend went on her rampage. Worse yet – he didn't want to use.

Neither Wayne nor Millie had taken my occasional hints that I wanted 'some' shit seriously. I hadn't really had any problems with not doing it; I'd just wanted to do it. When I'd awoken from the coma I'd asked Millie if she'd bring some stuff but she'd said hell no because I was in the hospital where too many people were around, in and out of my room... and the last reason scared me: my body had gone through severe withdrawals.

I wondered why June hadn't said anything about those early days. I wasn't going to press it.

Millie pulled a flask from her purse. She began unscrewing the cap but stopped when Wayne said, "Momma that stuff smells. Besides that my man here has been depressed. Why don't we do a line or two... it would surely bring Joey up." A smile passed across his face. He reached into Millie's purse, pulled out a baggie with probably an ounce of while crystalline powder. He then reached in and pulled out a separate baggie with a razor, a mirror and straws.

Needless to say I felt much better.

Millie left the room, saying that she had some errands to run.

Wayne helped me into bed, stripped away the hospital gown, and well he rumbled with me under the sheets. I had some sensation down there south of the border facing due west while he faced due east. I didn't particularly enjoy being plowed in that mostly numb state however I decided that I both liked and needed the attention. While I didn't have an accident per se, I definitely needed a shower, and so did Wayne but he simply got out of bed, got dressed and then he took off and didn't return however they left the remnants of their supply. Who was I kidding...? I knew they had more... and I had no doubt about what Wayne had been up to earn 'that' kind of money – it was the only explanation.

As it were, I stashed the stuff way back on the bottom shelf of the bedside table. I'd snort up between the wake-up call and breakfast. To say that I wasn't eager for early morning physical therapy sessions would be a lie. They were impressed and glad that my depression had lifted without medication, prescribed medication that is. Wayne would periodically return to make sure I had plenty of shit, and for a bootie call.

After physical therapy I'd get everything together, towels, underwear (yah! Millie and Wayne had bought me a package of white FTL's), a clean hospital gown, soap, shampoo, and whatnot to get cleaned up. They'd taught me how to transfer from the wheelchair to a specially designed shower seat. Before I went however I removed the catheter so it was changed on a daily basis to prevent urinary tract infections.

On the days when I was still high after the therapy session I'd try to coax my dick into a semi but no matter how hard I tried, no matter how long I tried, I could not get hard enough to go over the edge for the trip to Nirvana. But at least the little guy was responding, if only a little bit. One really good thing I noticed was that when my dick responded sensations would travel up and down my legs, butt and the between areas. No my legs weren't strong, and no there was no motor functions to speak of other than some minor twitching, but I did experience sensations of touch and warmth from the water running over them.

Usually the therapists would remove the catheter so that I could learn some squeezing techniques even though I couldn't really feel what I was doing. One day I experienced a spontaneous erection. Dale the electrophysisist, at my request, took me to the private therapy room. He inserted the tiny hair like electrodes at strategic places. He then tested to make sure the electrodes were in their proper places. He showed me how to use the machine safely and properly.

When I'd been alone for about 5 minutes just to make sure nobody entered, I slowly increased the energy to see at what point I could start to feel 'something'. I don't know the settings but I started to feel my muscles tighten up. I was definitely feeling muscle spasms in my legs, like they were trying to rise up like they always did when I was jerking off in my bed or in someone else's bed. I knew, under normal circumstances that orgasm was imminent when my back tightened and arched up. A few seconds later I felt a rush of adrenalin pass through my body. Then it was over. But I noticed a new sensation at the peak: my dick felt like it was being stung, or something like that.

I pushed a pillow under my head and noticed that my cock was still standing fully at attention. I remembered that I hadn't turned off the stimulator. Duh.

A few days later Dr. Mauer, Doctor June as she liked to be called, made rounds early just before I headed to PT. I was flying high like a rocket blasting its way to Mars.

Although she didn't say anything 'direct" about my condition she did sit down and talk to me in great detail about my withdrawal early on in my hospital stay, about the high blood alcohol content and that I'd tested very, very high positive to cocaine. She asked if I thought that I had a problem with addiction.

I stayed quiet. Her and Dave had always been up front and honest with me so I stayed quiet rather than admitting that I was using, and that I was high right then. In retrospect I know that she saw right through me.

She didn't stay long. She did say for me to continue working hard because my discharge date had been moved up a week earlier than had originally been scheduled, meaning I would likely be out the following week on Monday.

"Joey, Dave, Derrick and I are going to stop by this evening. Although you haven't said anything about discharge planning I can only imagine your concerns with what happens next. I've received some information that might help to allay your fears. Nathan's been feeling them too."

My first thought, disregarding my own insecurities about that very subject, I said to Dr. June, "Is Nathan included because I won't do anything or go anywhere without him?"

"Yes he is. I'm not going to say anything more about it right now. Any further questions will have to wait until this evening."

Wayne arrived as I was eating my evening meal. I'd just finished a hamburger, fries, an apple and a large glass of whole milk when he popped in the door smiling his silly grin. He closed the door until it clicked shut.

In a flash he was naked and standing in front of me waving his wand in my face up front, close and personal like.

I found it odd that when he'd reached his moment he simply walked into the bathroom, closed the door. The shower started – and that was that. I swallowed... it didn't even taste good for some reason.

Done with his shower he strode to my bed. I started telling him of my experience into the carnal world and even showed hm my erection... he could have cared less, got dressed, pecked my lips and then he was gone – just like that.

One thing he forgot was his lighter and cigarettes.

They were mine.

That experience left me melancholic so using the permission I'd been granted access to the grounds areas around the first floor rehab wing of the hospital so I took off after telling the desk clerk that I was leaving and where I could be found. I'd just lit up my second smoke and blew out a plume of smoke when Nathan, June, Dave and Derrick walked up the sidewalk from the parking lot into full view. I was busted but they didn't say anything although Derrick gave me a quick knowing smile, like he'd been there done that - more than once.

I quickly finished the cigarette. We went up the elevator to my room on the second floor that overlooked a lake on the premises. I had many times sat in my wheelchair and looked at the lake hoping that someday I'd make it on my own power down there so I could sit by the water... but going down there would require special permissions.

Once we got settled in Nathan said bluntly, "Joey, you've gotta stop using that shit. We've got to get our heads on straight. You're getting out of here next week. We've gotta decide what we're going to do next. Our apartment has been boarded up. The neighborhood has changed. Nobody's there anymore, nobody that gives a shit anyway."

"I'm not using anything. So get off your high horse." I softened and continued, "Nathan, I don't know what's going to happen next. I don't know if you knew it or not but the state money wasn't enough to pay the bills so I had to work. My eyesight is still pretty screwed up and I'm paralyzed … I don't know how I'm going to support us. I know we aren't going into foster care. We're too old. You saw all the bullshit that Skeeter and Quiet Jim went through… all those foster parents wanted were those checks every month."

"Yeah, I know. We'll find something. I can work too. I'll get used to it. You'll just have to show me the ropes."

"No, Nathan. You will NOT do what I had to do to pick up the slack. That's not even an option so get it out of your mind." I said emphatically. I would not have him out tricking. I knew he would have been used and abused like the other younger kids I'd known who turned to that.

June said seriously, "Joey, I know you've been using. I'm not as dumb and stupid as I may look sometimes. There's help available. You are going to have to stay clean and sober while you're ..."

June backpedaled and deferred Nathan's question to Dave. But her gaze stayed on me intently.

Dave said, "Neither will I. I want you to know that not every foster family is in it for the paycheck. Sure, a number of them are, and it's unfortunate that that's what they're into. Here's the deal: June, Derrick and I have put our heads together. We're all on the same page. We'd like for you Joey and you Nathan to come live with us, at least temporarily until you get on your feet."

Derrick nodded. June said, "We have plenty of room. We hope that you boys will take our offer seriously because we are serious."

Nathan looked at me. He said, "Joey, I can't stay where I'm at." He first looked to Dave then to June then back to me, "I hate it at Millie's. I can't stand it anymore. They are constantly getting fu-- I mean screwed up. Joey, I'll go anywhere you go but I can't stay there. I looked for Skeeter but couldn't find him. Word on the street has it that he's moved somewhere else but nobody knows where he went." To June he continued, "I'm in but only if Joey's in. We're all we have left."

I got to thinking about that day when Derrick had been hurt... Dave had let me talk. During our talk I told him some things that I'd never told anybody. Although I'd not directly told him that I was a street whore there was, at the same time, little doubt as to how I made my money to make ends meet. He didn't shame, ridicule or make fun of me. He didn't go in there and expect me to change. He didn't preach. But he did ask me if I had a problem with drugs and alcohol. I didn't see a problem with it so I said no. He did tell me that education is important, stability was mandatory, and then he said that if I ever got into trouble with something to call him or go to their house to talk about it because sometimes two heads were better than just one to figure things out. I had agreed because I hadn't felt pressured in any way.

I looked to Nathan then to June then to Dave then to Derrick. They were awaiting my decision. Nathan got up from his chair, walked over to me and knelt down and said, "We've got to try it."

I had told Nathan that I wouldn't put him on the streets working. I knew that I'd not be able to do what I had done to make ends meet. Who the fuck would want to trick a kid living and breathing in a wheelchair? How could I get up those fucking steps to brownstones... scoot up on my butt? Would I leave my wheelchair for anybody to take? Then what would happen if they did take it? What would I do then? Scoot to wherever I needed to go? How would I dodge the cops? Most of the tricks wanted to taste and swallow my semen. How would I stop somebody from taking that which was only mine, like those two guys did to me without 'permission'? I saw Buzz and how smitten he was or appeared to be with his girlfriend. Then there was Emanuel – he too was smitten... hell he'd even fucked his chick in my bathroom, or so it had appeared... yeah they had... no doubt.

But then there was Vito. But then another thought came up … he lived up from the street... same problem with getting up there, parking the wheelchair at the bottom... then another thought came to me... what if I could work for a while, maybe out of his house – until I could save up enough money to have one of those chairlifts installed. No, Vito wasn't an option. He was dead. Fuck. What the fuck was I thinking?

Then there was Nathan... I wanted him to have a better life other than worrying about me all the damn time. I knew he'd give up anything to make sure I was okay. I couldn't stand the thought of him working the streets – I wouldn't permit it – no, never, not ever.

"Okay." I replied looking directly into Dave's eyes.

Things changed before I was released from the hospital. There were paperwork glitches. I had to be interviewed by caseworkers for the state of Illinois and Cook County. I had outstanding warrants. The prosecutor wanted to question and interview me about Christopher and Ma's deaths – despite – June's assurances that what I'd done had been justified.

Another issue, a serious one, was that Wayne had stopped coming to visit me. I'd call Millie. She'd just say that Wayne was 'out'. And then even she stopped taking my phone calls... the phone would just ring and ring and ring – unanswered.

With my decision made, I stepped up my efforts for the last few days... without shit to power me along. I missed Wayne. I'd thought that we'd had more than quickies, that we'd had more than just HIS sex. But I realized that the last several times we'd encountered -his- lust was in turn for dope. I was a whore to get my dope.

The day of my discharge arrived. Although I would never admit it, not even to Nathan, I was scared, and I was scared shitless.

Nathan said it was kewl there. He'd moved in after he professed that he couldn't live with Millie and Wayne. I'd been happy for him... but the full ramifications of -me- being there... we'll I'd not even thought much about that until we were in June's Trailblazer headed away from the hospital where I'd called 'home' for almost 4 months.


I was excited at the same time.

I knew that their house was a single level save for the basement and attic but I had no need for those areas of the house. There were no steps that couldn't be easily negotiated. There would be no having to leave my wheelchair parked in vulnerable locations.

June said in the quiet of the parked Trailblazer, "It's a little scary, huh?"

"I'm not scared." I lied.

She didn't buy it.

"Change and new things are scary, Joey." She said then got out of the driver's seat, walked to the back of the vehicle and extracted a small portable wheelchair used for in house purposes.

She fixed lunch for her and me. It was a nice day, in the low 70's; it was an unusually warm day... so we ate out on the patio. Their yard was spacious and well manicured even if it were still late winter though the days sunlight were becoming longer, and the temperatures were moderating to almost pleasant. There were crocus that were ready for budding in the very near future. Tulips were rising to the sky though they didn't have any blooms on the plants yet.

We talked about generic things for about an hour or so while we slowly ate the cold cut sandwiches. She kinda sorta started talking about my use but I told her since I was in a stable place then I was very unlikely to use again. She didn't push the subject... we'd just go onto something else.

Dark clouds began leading the south edge of a cold front. When the first chill hit the air we headed inside. She said that I could be the rolling table that carried dirty dishes inside the house... we plopped the same onto my lap that was sitting in the wheelchair.

She plunked the dirty dishes into the dishwasher then fired it up.

I was concerned about me and Nathan's lack of clothing. Nathan had been wearing ghetto street sale clothing most of the time. A couple of times he visited the hospital all spiffed up. I would later learn that those clothes were saved for the times when the caseworker visited Millie's.

I personally had two pairs of sweats – one bright orange and the other bright pea green. The orange one was okay but the green one was fucking ugly.

The only possession we had was my duffel bag.

But then again once Nathan moved into Dave and June's he was wearing new clothes that actually fit him properly. He looked good. His hair was starting to come alive again. His face went from being chalky and pasty to healthy, meaning that he was eating better. His diarrhea problem was quickly controlled. He'd been pleased to tell me that he wasn't on medicines anymore.

"Penny for your thoughts." June said.

"Oh... I was just thinking about how much better Nathan is since he moved in here... thank you. I was so worried about him." I said seriously.

"We were worried too. That's why we pushed for him to live with us. Joey, I know what was going on in that house. I took it upon myself to go visit them unannounced. I'm afraid I pulled Nathan out of the house when the boys were hurriedly putting away their drug paraphernalia. Nathan said he hadn't used. But I'm afraid I didn't believe him. His eyes weren't right. I'm afraid that I forced him to drop a piss test in the pharmacy bathroom while I was in attendance. He came up clean thank God."

I nodded, shocked that they would be doing the stuff with Nathan in the room. He was so close to going over the edge. I knew that he was looking for something to make the pain go away.

I said, "Thank you. Thank you for saving him."

June looked at me hungrily, like she wanted to say something... but she didn't say anything. I said, "I've not been perfect. But I'm trying."

She nodded then showed me around the house.

My room was at the end of the hallway. It was spacious, warm and inviting, and had lots of light from the large picture window on the south side of the room.

A computer desk was stationed on a wall opposite the door into or out of the room. No computer was on it but June assured me that they would be purchasing a laptop for me in the near future. I didn't tell her that I really had no idea how to actually use them. I just decided that I could learn how in short order. I'd been exposed to them on the rare occasions when I would bless the school with my presence.

A large mahogany dresser was located several feet down the wall on the same side as the computer desk. The room also had a large walk-in closet at the end of the room. I was shocked as shit when I navigated into it: several pair of jeans and shirts of varying types and colors were hanging on the old-type wooden coat rack. Two pairs of tennis shoes and a pair of dress for Sunday shoes were lying neatly on the floor under the coat rack.

June said, "I don't know if those will fit properly... I had to guess. Maybe later on you can try on some of these clothes. I kept the receipts in case we need to return them to the store. I also got you several kinds of underwear and socks in various colors and materials. They're in your dresser drawers. If they don't fit then we'll just get you some that do fit."

I wheeled myself to the computer desk, parked it under the table top, and put my head down on its surface... I felt tears welling up in my eyes... mainly because I'd never ever had anything like I was seeing, even when dad was alive. While we had had what we needed... we just hadn't had so much of it. I said, "This is too much. I mean you shouldn't have. I mean this cost too much."

June pulled up a chair, put her hand on my shoulder that caused me to flinch, and said, "Joey, while we could well afford it... your clothes … we purchased them using the stipends and two months of assistance provided for your care. I somehow knew that you'd want it this way."

I nodded. I wondered why we didn't have... at Ma's...

My thoughts then turned to Nathan... "Where's Nathan?"

"Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you... Dave took him to his appointment with an orthopedic surgeon to check the healing of his arm. He's doing just fine... it's just routine. Do you want to see his room now or do you want to wait until he gets home?"

"Uhm, can I do it both ways... I just want to make sure he's got it better than I do... I mean, well, thank you, but I've got to know that he's set up and stuff. He needs it worse than I do..."

"We can do that." June replied. His room was next door to mine. Although his room was much smaller than the one I'd be using it was done up nicely. His closet, though not a walk-in, was equally filled with jeans, shirts, shoes, and other necessities. Although Nathan had always been clean and tidy his room appeared to be exceptionally so. I saw no dirty clothes lying anywhere... not even socks were scattered about.

I nodded my appreciations that he was being well taken care of. I didn't say anything about money nor did June bring it up.

June said, "Do you want to check out the bathroom? Now, that is something we did on our own. We'd been threatening to do for a while... so we did it, or we had it done. It's wheelchair accessible."

I nodded. I looked at the clock in his room. It was time for me to sit for a while. My bowels had been trained to release at about the same time every day. The therapists had told me that it would be important to keep the routines as tight as possible.

The bathroom was spacious and -nice-. The first thing was that there were two sinks. One of them was lower than the other. June said, "Try it out."

I rolled to the lower sink. My wheelchair went under the surface. I could easily reach across to wash my hands. I looked at her and smiled... I don't know where that smile came from... only that it felt right.

June then opened the glass door to the shower. It was basically a walk in. It had a small alcove just right for a wheelchair to park. Inside the actual shower was a shower seat built into the wall – just like the rehab hospital had had for its patients to use.

Off to the side of the shower was a spacious bathtub. A hot bath sounded exciting. I know that when they'd put me in the whirlpool bath the muscle spasms had almost immediately and completely stopped. As if she were reading my mind she reached into a cabinet and retrieved a whirlpool motor apparatus, sat it on the edge of the tub and then plugged it in. She said, "Would you like to try it out?"

I found myself nodding indicating that I would indeed like to try it out. I said, "It's time for me to, uhm... sit on the toilet. It's my time."

"Sure thing... do you need some help?"

I replied, "No, I can get it but thanks."

With that said she turned on the water to the tub and said, "This tub has sensors so that it'll turn off once the water gets to a certain level. If you need anything just yell. Okay, I'm out of here. Enjoy. Oh... your replacement catheters are in that little cubbyhole next to the toilet. There is lube and wipe towels in there too. The antibiotic cream is on the second shelf."

I worked myself onto the toilet. As if I had a precision clock everything happened according to schedule and soon I was in the bathtub after making sure my bladder was emptied appropriately.

God, the water felt good.

An hour later June knocked on the door. I was just dozing and taking it easy. I felt really, really good. My legs even had feeling in them and I'd coaxed my dick into a respectable erection but it would not go the distance no matter how hard or for how long I tried.

She offered to help me out of the tub. I took her up on it after draping a washcloth across my male gland even though it was again at rest. I needed very little assistance but I was glad she was there because the surfaces were quite slick and I really didn't want to touch the whirlpool motor for fear of being electrocuted. She reassured me that the apparatus was shock proof -and- that it was double grounded for safety purposes.

Once I was dried off I transferred to the wheelchair, tossed a towel over my private areas after inserting a catheter through my penis and up into my bladder... I felt most of it but it didn't hurt or sting as I expected it would.

I went to my bedroom with plans to get dressed however I wanted to first try out the bed, a large one, not queen and not king but nevertheless it was at least twice as big as the one I had slept in at home.

I got in... And within seconds, or so it seemed, I was fast asleep in the very soft, cozy, and warm surrounds.

Don't know how long I was asleep but I was awoken by motions on the bed. I opened my eyes only to meet Nathan climbing in next to me. He was all smiles, and he hugged me deeply, "HI bro. I'm glad you're here. Have a nice nap?"

I whispered, "Oh fuck yeah. I took a bath... I was asleep instantly. What time is it?"

"Uhm, it's 5:15. Anyway, June told me to tell you that dinner will be served at 6pm. I'll help you get dressed."

I replied, "No, I'll get dressed on my own..."

Nathan's face changed dramatically. Gone was the smile. The light in his eyes was going away. I said, "Okay. Do your thing." His smile returned. He got busy picking things out for me to wear. In short order I was wearing a brand new pair of jeans and black BVD's, socks, a plain white t-shirt... he even put on me a pair of those new Reebok tennis shoes.

At the dinner table Dave announced that he was taking a week off to get me settled in, to get me to my appointments, and to just spend some quality one-on-one time. They also announced that I'd be tutored 4 days a week that was to begin the following day.

After dinner he pulled out two boxes. They were laptop computers – one for me and one for Nathan. They were state-of-the-art, the latest and greatest. He said the cable company would be coming out the next day to install a WiFi connection so that everybody could be on the same system.

Derrick spent a fair amount of time getting me up to speed on the computer after making some minor adjustments so that the computer in my room was just as fast and connected properly as it was supposed to be.

That night we slept together. I showed to him my appreciations and gratitude. With his ministrations in a very personal way I felt the stirrings of an imminent orgasm however it lost momentum just before the moment arrived. After assuring him that I was okay... he very gently prepared my bunghole for invasion. I had already had had him inside of me more than once since that one day that Wayne and I had visited. I knew that his entry had hurt then and hoped that I felt that pain once again because it would mean that I was returning.

Yes, I felt his entry. I felt the stretching of those delicate yet strong tissues yet its entry did not cause pain in the conventional sense or definition of the word. Yes, I felt pressure in that area and a strange but not unknown feeling in the pit of my stomach… all put together - everything was almost pleasurable. At the same time he was kneading and lavishing my cock with loving attention. I felt some serious muscle spasms and tenseness as he voiced his arrival, and then relaxation took over my body.

He then surprised me: he said that I had drained my prostate gland and that I should look down. He turned on the light... Indeed my cock and pubes definitely had evidence that showed that I had released stored up spermies. He assured me that sure enough, given time, I would feel orgasms again.

With that we fell off to sleep but I'd forgotten to put in a catheter so we woke up wet and soaked to the bone. He helped me into the shower, and he joined me.

When Dave returned to work I had way too much time on my hands. The tutor would arrive around 9 in the morning and we'd work for about two and a half to three hours per day to get me caught up. I picked up fast.

In the afternoons Emanuel and Buzz stopped two or three times a week in the early days. Sometimes they'd bring shit for us to get fucked up on. They'd roll me out onto the patio and close the doors so the smell of burning doobie wouldn't settle in. Sometimes they'd bring enough cocaine to light up a fucking Christmas tree.

Then there would be evenings when, at bedtime, Derrick would steal into my room for some serious sex. I'd get sooooo close to an orgasm but couldn't go over the edge though I'd leak a full trail of sperm all over myself. Derrick was much more caring and considerate than Wayne had been on those last few occasions where we'd 'hook up'.

When I asked Derrick if he had any or had access to any shit he'd just say that he'd been off of it for a certain length of time, and no he no longer knew anybody, and wouldn't go looking for them or 'it' for me.

I respected his choices.

Then I started receiving letters from a Stephen Richardson. I knew no Stephen Richardson so I tossed them aside into a drawer.

On those nights when I couldn't fall asleep, duh, I'd sit at the computer and read various stories on the Nifty, The Corner Cafe websites, and I really got into Castle Roland's stories... I loved the CSU saga.

The internet also opened up avenues for me to meet other people. Before long I had an established a clientele who I could and did 'service' in return for cash... lots of cash... and lots of dope.

I still had the plan of getting me and Nathan out on our own. We were in foster care after all. Although we were given 'enough' I still had the fear that we'd be moved around and around just like Quiet Jim and Skeeter had experienced in their lives. The System was always the same despite their reassurances of a better life.

Occasionally, Wayne showed up. It was all business though. He'd bring me shit and I'd turn up my ass to him. I needed the dope, and was able to overlook the reasons behind our getting together. Sometimes we'd trick our tricks together. Sometimes he'd fuck the hell out of me. Sometimes we just got fucked up. Toward the end we just got fucked up just as fast and just as hard as we could possibly get – and then he'd fuck me into next week.

On his last visit to the house he gave me the ultimatum: Get well or he was going away.

I don't do well with ultimatums. We had a huge argument. He pulled out a gun from his waistband, cocked it, pointed it to my head and then dared me to come get it because it was mine, and if I didn't then he was going to give it away to the highest bidder on the streets.

I tried to get up but my legs buckled. I fell to the floor and hit my head on the dresser. No damage to my head but our relationship was irretrievably broken.

He laid the gun on the computer table, still cocked and ready then strode out after getting dressed. He said not a word. On his way out he grabbed up the shit before I could get to it.

Two days later everything changed.

A regular customer and I were having wild monkey sex, doing things that I never thought possible. The long and short of it was I was on my stomach and he had his rod deep inside of my anal cavity and was going to it for all he was worth. We were both totally, and I mean totally fucked up out of our gourds on the best cocaine I'd ever had – and I mean forever and a week.

Vaguely I recall hearing doors open and close but I couldn't be sure, because I was largely unaware. I was locked into the moment and – yes – I didn't care. I knew I was out of control – and – I knew that eventually I'd get caught – but I didn't care. I was making money so that Nathan and I could get out of there because of the house rules – and – because of my ideas about the foster care system.

Yet I did care.

June and Dave and Derrick were growing on me – simply because they were being themselves. They weren't trying to be anybody they weren't. Nathan was doing well in school. He seemed happily content. Sometimes, when Derrick and I weren't together, Nathan would sleep with me at night. He always asked permission just like he'd always had back at the apartment, and even before that when our family was intact. He had never gravitated to Christopher or Jerrod... or even Mark... our oldest brother who got the fuck out of Dodge when dad died. Ma had said he had joined up with some church in Montana. Other than Christopher, I believe Mark's disappearance hurt her the most.

I had no clue what was going on other than I was 'into' the sex the trick and I were experiencing... until he jumped off of me... fast... without draining his wick. I said, "What the fuck? What the fuck are you doing?"

He was fumbling at putting on his clothes. I rolled myself over onto my back … and then I saw June and Nathan standing in the doorway. Nathan's eyes were closed however June's were wide open and livid. The trick pushed past them and then he was gone. His tires screeched down the street as he tore out to get away.

The thing about it was he had promised to take me and Nathan to Hawaii where we could live in total bliss. We could go to the beaches, get all fucked up high on not only the shit but also from the sounds of ocean waves coming in and going out. He was a fiction writer... he painted a very beautiful picture of life.

So there I was – totally naked, fucked up at the same time – in the moment.

Too late... but I reached for a blanket on the floor, covered my nakedness and moved to sit on the side of the bed.

I looked down and away from them.

I heard Nathan leave the room and then the door to his bedroom closed.

June said quietly, "We're going to talk Joey. I'm going to call Dave just as soon as I get Nathan into bed. Don't you dare go anywhere."

She closed the door.

I got up and out of bed because my drawer was wide open and visible to anyone who wanted to look. Only I didn't see the dope, the stash. Quickly, I looked to the computer desk... it wasn't there either. Quickly, I looked toward the top of the dresser... it wasn't there either. I looked on the headboard of my bed... it was then and there that I noticed a used syringe and a tourniquet. But there was no stuff.

I was crazed out of my mind, I no longer cared, I wanted to die – but couldn't.

I couldn't find the damn cap to the syringe so I just tossed the syringe into the bottom drawer and closed it. Just then June entered my room, closed the door, and then glared into my eyes.

"What's wrong with Nathan?" I asked while reaching for the covers to cover my nakedness, my erection that I was surprised to see.

"He'll be fine. How long Joseph Lee Mauer? How long?" June answered. Her voice was cold, hard and determined.

"I don't know." I honestly answered. I didn't know how long I'd been at the 'foster home' … mainly because I hadn't cared enough to keep track. My only intent was to get out.

Using the same tone of voice she said, "Dave's on his way home. Things are going to change!" She exited and closed the door before I could formulate any response.

I needed to get myself together... I don't know why I thought that. The high was going down, and it was going down really, really fast. I worked my way into the wheelchair not even caring that I was naked and leaking stuff out, and then went to the bathroom where I exploded the toilet, got into the bathtub, washed up then headed back to my room, worked on a pair of underwear and shorts. I'd just got them snapped when Dave and June entered my room. They closed the door and refused my offer for them to please sit.

I asked, "How's Nathan? What's wrong with him?"

"He's dying a slow death, Joey. No, he doesn't have cancer or any other physical ailment. He's dying because his brother is gone, he no longer knows you, and neither do we." Dave said morbidly.

"I told you I wanted to die. I've found something that I can do though. So I'll be okay."

"Not here. Joseph, as soon as Derrick gets home from school we're going to pack you up and then take you down to the park where your friends are, and we're going to leave you there. You need to find your own way; nobody can do it for you. Maybe you'll find yourself. I really hope you do."

"Fine. Nathan and I'll make it just fine. Vito will take us in, he always has, and he'll do it again, I know he will."

June said, "Oh, but you are sorely mistaken. He'll do no such thing. Word has it he was busted when he dealt to a narcotics officer and then was killed after pulling a gun and pointing it toward a cop."

Through the foggy haze I remembered that Vito, what she said was true. I lowered my head down between my knees. I stared straight ahead... everything was turning fuzzy and misty. I didn't even bother looking up when Dave said, "For a while Nathan had found a place here where he was excelling, fitting in, and was accepting the love being offered from all around him, both here and in a circle of friends he has at school and in the neighborhood. No, you'll be dropped off alone so you can find success in your own way. Do you even realize that your activities in our home are putting us at risk? You don't give a damn about anything or anyone other than yourself so we're going to help you find your way by letting you do whatever it is that you have to do, away from here."

June said, "You have 3 hours to pack up your stuff so you'd better get started now young man. At 3 hours and 1 minute, and not one moment later, you're out of here, do you understand?"

"Nathan goes with me. That's final."

"No, it's not final. He's not going anywhere. You best get busy packing." June said intently, her gaze penetrating my being, her hard icy stare causing me to shudder.

"Nathan goes with me!" I shouted.

Dave glowered, walked over, and put his face in mine, and said angrily, "He is not YOURS. He is a boy who WILL have stability in his life. You may be related to him by blood but that does NOT make you his brother!"

"YOU'LL SEE!" I screamed.

They left my room. Dave glared at me as he closed the door shut tight with a resounding thud.

Raging mad I used my arms to forcefully scoot the wheelchair across the room causing it to crash into the computer desk. I dropped my fat ass to the floor (I'd gained over 40 pounds since going to live with June, Dave, Derrick and Nathan). I reached into the drawer that had the catheters stashed, then hurriedly inserted one, blew up the balloon that kept it in place and then got busy with that which needed to be done.

I saw no color. The gray haze was descending over my world, in more than one way.

Whatever the fuck - I crawled into the closet, found the duffel bag that contained pictures, mementos, birth certificates, death certificates, and all the important papers and things from my childhood that had been extracted from the home Ma, Christopher, Nathan and I had lived in for a few years. Also a fully loaded Reinforcer dropped to the floor. Wayne had given it to me on one of his visits. Quickly I made my way to the desk and sat it down on the shelf.

I then turned the bag upside down, spilling its contents to the floor. The last item that fell to the floor was Ma's scarf. She had always worn it even in the summertime. She had said it was a gift her parents had given to her as a child; that it was something she could not part with because it was the only remaining attachment to her childhood. Carefully, reverently I pulled the scarf into my face and smelled Ma's fragrance. I closed my eyes. I saw her looking at me in that bathtub. There was nothing but worry and concern for my well-being as she tenderly washed my drug infested body just as she had done when I was a toddler. I choked back a constriction in my throat as I folded and neatly stuffed it into the bottom of the bag.

The envelope with the pictures had no flap on it. I picked it up to return it to the bag when several pictures fell out. The top one was of her, dad, me, Christopher, Mark and Nathan when we were babies and little ones. We looked so happy. Dad had me in his arms and I looked none too happy with having my picture taken.

Another picture, a recent one was of me and Wayne in one of those instant picture booths. We were kissing passionately, and then in a fit of raging horny we left presents on the booth chair. That was one of our wild, whacky and 'public' displays of affection. We had largely been discrete about our public displays of affection. We'd been straight that day, enjoying ourselves to the fullest extent possible.

He was the first and only guy I'd given everything to – as lovers. He made a point of making sure our coupling was special in every way. He knew that he wasn't the first dick who'd ever taken me but he was the first lover who had which made it very special.

Another picture showed Christopher and Jerrod together. They were maybe 10 and 14 or 15 years old. They were happily goofing off. It had to have been taken right before Jerrod and Dad was killed. Ma's rosebush was in full bloom. In the background you could see that she was hanging pillows on the clotheslines to air them out - "to get rid of the winter bugs" as she'd said when I'd asked why she was doing that. She'd done that every spring.


I piled the rest of the stuff in haphazardly and closed the bag. I sat it on my bed.

My attentions shifted to my next number one priority – the shit. I pilfered through all the drawers – not there. The second place I'd kept it, maybe I'd forgotten where, was on the computer desk. I scooted to it, lifted myself up in the wheelchair... it wasn't there either. Where the fuck was it? Did the trick steal it? I didn't think so because he had been in one hell of a hurry to leave.

I started shaking and sweating and swearing its absence and my desperate need for the kick start to keep me going. I knew from seeing other people that I was getting drug sick.

A light tapping on my door interrupted the frenzy in my mind... "WHAT?"

The door opened slightly. I saw Nathan's nose stick in. I said, "Come in."

He entered and then closed the door behind him, "Do you need any help getting your shit together?"

"Yeah, where's my shit? Do you see it?"

"Yeah, it's in my room. It's stashed on my dresser under some stuff. Dave came in and saw it. He said that I just might need it. He's right but I don't know how to use it, Joey, you'll have to show me."

My world began spinning out of control. It spun faster and faster and faster until I felt like I would catapult off the edge of the world. Then I was lost.

"No. It's bad for you. Don't get started baby brother. It'll swallow you up. You'll get lost in the traffic. You'll get lost in your own bedroom…"

"You use it. Dad used it. Jerrod used it. Even Christopher got into it, boy he liked it huh?"

"That's right. You aren't old enough yet."

"I'll figure it out then. Don't worry. You figured it out. I will too."

Nathan turned to leave, put his hand on the doorknob then turned back. Our eyes met. He said seriously, "If I can't have my brother back then I'll just join you. We could get fucked up together you know."

He then opened the door. As soon as his first foot crossed the threshold I screamed, "Nathan, stop, don't you dare leave this room. DAVE. JUNE! HELP US – PLEASE!"

I heard a bowl drop to the tile floor in the kitchen. June, Dave and Derrick came running to my room, my ex-room.

Nathan said, "Joey, we're all we have left. I have to go with you. I'll get my shit together. I'll put the stuff in my bag. We'll go together."

He took off but Dave was standing in front of him and wouldn't let him past. I screamed, "STOP HIM. DON'T LET HIM USE THAT CRAP. HE CAN'T START DOING IT BECAUSE HE WON'T BE ABLE TO STOP!!!"

June spoke up, "What crap, Joey?"

I replied pleading, and yes my tears began flowing freely, "The coke, don't let him get started. Please stop him!"

Dave said, "No, we can't do that. It's a choice he'll have to make, just like you did. I think you'll be able to help him through it though. Come on Nathan, Joey needs to be alone so he can pack up his stuff. His time is running out." To me he said, "You have a little less than hour left. Hurry it along."

Nathan said seriously, "I'm going with my brother. I need him."

At that moment, my world came crashing down all around me. All the fear, disappointment, death and destruction descended like a razor sharp tombstone had smashed my head in two, and then the vision of Christopher's shattered head, his slovenly and unkempt appearance, his rage and anger, his hopelessness, his futility, the damage that had been reigned on his body came back in and through my brain and my entire being, engulfing it as if it were a wide expansive ocean – it was. Completely.

I looked up … the picture I saw was in vivid color, in totality; it overtook my whole being and washed over me like a waterfall, not a bad mean waterfall but rather I felt cleansed … I felt clean … a moment of silence … a moment of peace … a moment of tranquility … they all completely washed over me … in a sudden rush, and it continued. I would say it was better than any orgasm I had ever experienced, and I could not imagine that all the orgasms I had ever had over my entire life combined would compare to that slice in time, that moment.

Nathan looked so lost. Dave urged Nathan's shoulder so that he could enter the room. June was immediately behind him. Together they put Nathan between them and wrapped their arms around his shoulders allowing their hands to rest on his chest to hold him steady and cocooned.

Nathan, with tears freely flowing from his eyes, choked, "What am I supposed to do Joey?"

It was then, in that moment that I saw clearly his face: the worry lines were gone from his face; no longer did he have that dark, dusty and pallor appearance to it, instead, despite what was happening right then and there, he looked safe … and loved.

Then his gaze shifted. His gaze turned toward the computer desk. At first I wondered why he did that then came the awful realization...

I turned to the computer desk. On a shelf was my loaded 45.

In that moment, I saw smoke coming from its barrel. I looked down into my hands and saw them black with gunpowder. One part of me saw it for what it really was – an illusion. Yet at the same time I knew it was true.

Nathan broke away from their safe and protective embrace and walked to the desk, looked at the weapon and then looked back to me. His face changed from tears and grief to total and utter shock, then his skin relaxed. All I saw was a very old man-boy.

And that lying on the desk? A weapon of mass destruction. It was the end and end all of my life. Without my brother there was and would be no meaning to life. There would be no purpose.

Derrick, watching the whole scene unfold did not, could not understand the gravity of the moment, although I'm sure he tried to understand.

My gaze shifted back to Nathan. And then I saw it. The world was about to end.

My brother reached for the weapon. Tears had begun to once again flow freely from his eyes.

He put his hand on the weapon.

June and Dave saw it too at the very same time.

Dave moved to walk to Nathan.

As did June.

As did Derrick.

I knew what my brother was about to do.

Without a second thought, without any forethought, I jumped from the wheelchair, hobbled my way to him, removed it from his hand and sat it down on the table. I noticed that it was cocked and without the safety set to safe mode.

Derrick meanwhile walked around me, grabbed the weapon, cleared it and then left the room.

At first Nathan resisted my urgings to come into my arms but then he allowed me to pull him in. I held on tightly, as tightly as I'd ever held on to my brother – ever -.

Something was strange though.

His eyes … his eyes were a head lower than mine... just like previous times when we had hugged.

I looked at Dave.

I looked at June.

I looked back to Nathan.

Then I looked down.

Other than seeing that I was naked... my feet were on the floor... and they were supporting my weight, all of it.

And then it started.












I fell to the floor with Nathan in my arms. He landed on top of me. Quickly I rolled us over so that I was lying on top of him, protecting him from the












Visions... oh my god... the visions... in bright Technicolor... more intense than any computer graphic could ever be seen or known.







I was wrestling with Nathan, I was trying to keep him safe.

More vision – Christopher's head was exploding. Shards of bone, tissue, windpipe, and blood... oh my god the blood... everything was like a mushroom cloud from a nuclear explosion.

And then I began retching and then it happened... my entire digestive system exploded in a fury like it had been dynamited.

"Joey, it's over now. Nathan's just fine. You are too."

And then I was being jostled... I was being moved... it seemed like I was in suspended animation.

The warehouse.

The office.

All I had to do was to walk in.

Daddy would come get me and hold me in his strong arms.

And then my head was being violently shaken back and forth, up and down. I heard a voice, a hard voice, and it said, "Wake up right now Joey! It's all over. Don't go there. It's poison in there. Stay away. Just walk backward. You'll feel arms holding you safely. We're all here."

The voice belonged to Derrick. He was holding me rock solid.

And then I felt everything.

Arms were holding me tightly. They were keeping me from going through that threshold into the warehouse.

And then I saw Ma's face. It was clear as could possibly be. She said, "Don't go there. It's dangerous. Your dad's not in there child. It's all a trick. Be good son. I love you and I always will." And the vision faded into oblivion.

And then everything happened in fast motion. The beginning of the end began when I opened my eyes.

June's face was within inches of mine. The look on her face was pure unadulterated worry and concern. She said, "Joey are you with us?"

I looked around. Derrick was next to his mother. He was rubbing some thick stuff from my eyes. Dave was helping him. Nathan, he had his arms around me and was holding on tight.

Dave, his face came into view, said, "Joey, you're back from hell. Stay here with us now. It's all over son. Derrick would you please go run a bath of water for Joey and Nathan?"

"Sure dad. I'm on it. Joey, don't you go anywhere. I'll be right back... you'll see."

June said, I saw her face vividly, said, "Joey, it's all over now. Honey, you needed to experience all of that to come back. I'm so sorry. Dave and Derrick are going to carry you into the bathroom. I'm going to give you a bath. We're going to get you all cleaned up so that you feel all fresh and clean again."

Dave said, "Joey, you have nothing to worry about or be ashamed of. We're going to be with you every step of the way. I'm going to pick you up after Nathan takes your shorts off and then we're going to carry you into the bathroom. My wife is going to bathe you, child."

I felt the snap of my shorts being undone and then my shorts and underwear were removed.

I didn't care. Those people were safe.

I said, "Okay. I've got to hurry though... I'm running out of time."

June said while running her hands through the top of my head hair, "Honey, I don't think it would be a good idea for your to anywhere right now. Let's talk about it again tomorrow. Time is on our side now."

"Dad, the water's ready. I'm going to take a shower while mom's bathing our brother."

Nathan wiped off my face then leaned in and kissed my lips. He said, "Me too. I'll be right by you in the shower... their bathroom's pretty kewl."

I said, "Yeah, it is. What happened?"

June said, "Joey, you went back to the night when you had to stop your brother Christopher from hurting Nathan and Wayne. You saved their lives you know... you had no choice. You're the strongest 13 year old boy that I know. I'm really sorry you had to do that but it was the only thing you could do. You did the right thing Joey."

Dave picked me up and carried me into the bathroom and then laid me in the bathtub. June knelt down on the floor as Dave, Derrick and Nathan undressed and got into the shower.

Just like Ma did on her last day of life June washed my body from the tip of my head to the end of my toes with care and precision... and with love. I felt her love. Her permeated my entire being.

She continuously and constantly drained the water and replaced the old with new.

She saved my privates for last at which time she soaped up a washcloth and pressed it into my hand. I looked into her eyes, looking for any sign of shame, guilt or reservation, or disgust. Seeing that there was none I handed back to her the washcloth. I nodded and then willed my dick to behave it self and to not repeat what had happened when Ma had washed me there.

I chanced a look down. It was fully erect but it maintained its innocence. She completed the task quickly but thoroughly.

By then Dave, Derrick and Nathan were finished with their showers and drying off. Each was standing at the ready. After rinsing me off they lifted me from the tub and onto the toilet and then with care and precision June dried every nook and cranny and then wrapped the towel around my lower regions. She then removed the catheter and allowed me to naturally drain my bladder.

She said, "Okay, I'm going to leave you to these guys. If they give you any grief then just say so. I can handle any one of them or all of them if need be."

"Thanks. I'm okay now. I'm sorry. I'll try to do better. Can I ask you a question?"

June nodded assuredly.

"Why did you give me a bath... I'm not worth it, am I?"

June closed her eyes for a second then opened them up. She said, "Joey, do you remember me telling you that I saw a tough guy and a little boy inside of you?"

The gravity of the whole situation descended down upon me at that very moment when I realized that I was both a tough kid and a little boy all wrapped up into a single human body that had been on Earth for 13 years. "Okay, yeah. I remember."

"Do I need to say anything more about that subject right now, young man?" June asked smiling.

"No. Can I ask a favor of you, please?" I asked knowing that I had to ask the question because otherwise I'd fight everything and I would try to claw and scratch my way back to the surface of – tough.

"Anytime you have a question... just ask. What's on your mind?" June asked intently while brushing the wet wild flowing hair out of my face.

With grave concern, I went for broke and asked, "Would you please not give up on me? I'm going to try. I'll give it everything."

June's eyes filled with tears. She cupped my cheeks with her strong yet gentle hand. She said, "That's so not a problem."

Dave spoke up, "Joey, I need to ask you for a favor."

"What's that?"

"Don't give up on yourself. We'll not give up but if you give up then there's not much left to work with."

"Okay. Just give me some room. Sometimes I give up. Sometimes I've had to escape because there' too much to deal with. My dad told me that sometimes a man's word is all he's got to give. I think that's where I'm at right now. I'll try."

Nathan and I were moved into Derrick's room for that night so that we could all be together.

Right after dinner, Nathan and I were urged to write a contract that would be signed by us, Derrick, June and Dave, swearing off the drugs, booze, and other destructive behaviors. My gun had been locked up in the safe in June's office. Nobody had a key to it... it was a combination safe. Only June knew the inner locking combination because that is where she kept narcotics for her doctors' bag... and yes, she carried one of those with her.

At bedtime, June and Dave 'literally' tucked us in after we'd stripped to our skins and covered up with a sheet and blanket.

June said, "Joey, you may very well have flashbacks for as long as you live. I'm going to make an appointment for you with one of our world renowned experts in PTSD medicine to help you become aware when an episode is about to happen so that it can be warded off or made less traumatic." She then turned to Nathan, "That goes for you too, young man. You were there which is cause enough for you to periodically check in with a headbanger, as your brother calls excellent psychiatric professionals."

Dave said, "If you boys, either one or both of you, get scared during the night, then come to our room and crawl in bed with us. We'll talk you through it. You don't have to do it alone. Your days of doing everything on your own have stopped."

We gave our assurances that we would do that even though it sounded babyish and elementary. Just the knowledge that we "could" go to them was reassuring in and of itself.

The following morning found me needing to piss like a racehorse. Nathan was lying across my chest with his erection pressing into my side. Derrick had his arm across both our chests; his head above Nathan's resting against mine. I felt safe. I felt protected. I felt loved. I felt warm and cozy. I felt relaxed. But none of that could make my full bladder (I'd put a clamp on the tube rather than wearing the bag) go away.

I moved my legs under the covers. While I didn't really feel the soft texture of the sheets they were experiencing light spasms. I could also move them, raising my knees up enough so that my feet laid flat on the soft bed surface.

Nathan shifted around. He rolled over and faced Derrick which freed me to try and make it to the main bathroom on my own power. If nothing else I could scoot to that destination.

With a clear plan in mind I swung my legs over the side of the bed and sat my feet on the floor. I ran my hands up and down my legs to find out what sensation was there and what was not. My feet felt pretty normal, and yes I jumped when I stuck my fingers down between my toes and tickled, on both legs.

I thought, "Okay, so far so good." I leaned down to pick up my underwear which I worked up my legs. I used the headboard to steady myself... in case I went down I also pointed my head toward the bed itself.

Without too much difficulty I stood on my own two feet. I was shaky as hell but I was up on my own without assistance. Slowly, carefully, like a wooden soldier I turned and faced the door out of Derrick's bedroom. I then gave orders for my legs to move, one at a time, one step at time, slow and easy. With a boost of willpower I took first step with my right leg then followed that up, scooting the toes of my left leg across the soft carpet until it met with the right one.

I was sweating profusely by time I arrived at the doorway. I stopped to rest. My legs were tired, major tired. I didn't think they would make it any further. Slowly, methodically I got about half the distance from Derrick's room to the bathroom when my legs collapsed from underneath me. I fell and not too gracefully at that. I laid on the floor for a minute or two to get my strength back. I then scooted backward into the bathroom and made my way to the toilet. I heaved myself up and onto the throne then worked my underwear down and off. I removed the catheter and breathed out a huge sigh of relief as my stream flew down into the bowl. That was only the second time I peed on my own, without the catheter, in months. While it stung like hell it still felt so damn good to actually do that function naturally.

As I watched the urine exit my body, in a natural way, tears of gratitude filled my eyes and began leaking down my cheeks and onto my thighs. I made it. I wasn't even thinking about how I would get back to bed because I didn't care... not right then. It was my moment.

One other thing and I'll shut it up with the bathroom stuff. I felt fullness in my lower left belly that seemed to grow with the seconds and minutes. It was like I hadn't really felt that feeling in a very long time. Easily I pushed down and felt the normal sensations one experiences with going in the other direction.

Just then movement caught my attention. Dave was standing in the doorway looking at me for a second before he curiously asked, "How did you get in here?"

Tears began freely flowing from my eyes once again as I patted my knees and at the same time dropped another torpedo into the bowl.

"Oh Joey... oh my gosh..."

I put my head down and just let the tears and stuff from my back end flow freely. Dave entered and sat on the edge of the tub, took my hands in his and just stayed quiet while I finished the duties of the day. That movement of my bowels was way off schedule, about 5 hours early in fact.

My tears were still flowing seemingly on their own volition. Dave asked, "Are you okay Joey?"

I nodded vigorously and said, "Oh yeah. I'm good. But can I get some help back to bed. I don't think I can make it on my own."

"Sure thing. Joey, I'm proud of you for your efforts to get here. I'd be proud to be able to assist you with anything you need for me to do." Dave said.

I reached for the bathroom tissue. Dave got up and said, "I'll be right outside the door."

"That's okay... you can stay. I'm not proud."

"No, I'll just step outside. I'm not grossed out or anything... a guy just has to have his privacy at times." Dave said softly then got up and headed out.

I looked down. My penis was at full staff.

He closed the door to give a guy his privacy.

Although I did not experience a full-out orgasm the sensations and muscle spasms were clear indication that one was not that far away.

I decided to go a couple of hours without the catheter so I cleaned up, flushed then used the vanity for support to wash and dry my hands, brush my teeth and to help me to the bathroom door. Dave was walking down the hall toward the bathroom. At my insistence he didn't carry me but gave me support and guidance back to Derrick's room. It was then that I realized my underwear were still in the bathroom but I didn't say anything. Instead, I just got into bed and immediately fell back to sleep with a sigh of contentment.

*-* Two days later *-*

Following lunch, we (yes, "We") decided to go into the hood for a drive through.

I wondered why Dave took us through the center of town, and I wondered even more why he found a parking space next to the canal that was full of water thanks to recent storms in the area.

June reached deep into her purse, pulled out a box and handed it to Dave. He said, "Joey, would you join me for a moment?"

Derrick and Nathan began exiting the vehicle however Dave told them to stay put, that he and I needed to do something.

I had no clue but I got out and joined him. We walked to the bridge overlooking the canal. He opened the box. I peered inside. I was shocked to see my gun inside of the box. He said, "Joey, are you going to need this anymore?"

I looked into his eyes. Tears filled mine as I reached in, pulled it out and then looked at the barrel, looking for smoke. Although that gun was not the one that had taken Christopher down, I nevertheless began trembling slightly.

I knew that there had to have been thousands of guns who'd met similar fates in the same location on that bridge. But the moment was monumental in that it would end my life of guns, drugs, screaming rock and roll, and indiscriminate sexual encounters.

I nodded then with all of my strength, and with Dave's support, I reared back and tossed that piece out as far as I could, even though it wasn't all that far relatively speaking.

"There." I said quietly. I put an era of my life into that canal. It may not seem like much to you but it was enormous for me.

We turned around to face the vehicle. June, Derrick and Nathan were standing still and then June began clapping. Derrick joined his mother, and then Nathan, smiling brightly followed suit. I was sure that if he thought he could, he'd have jumped and pounced into my body but as it were he walked over and took my arm in his and proudly said, "I love you Joey. Thanks for being my brother."

When we got into the vehicle Dave said, "Joey, Nathan, why don't you show us where your neighborhood was, where you spent a part of your life. We think it might be good for you to say goodbye. You don't have to. Nobody's making you do anything."

Nathan looked at me, shrugged his shoulders noncommittally thus leaving the decision to me.

I seriously debated for a couple of minutes. I asked myself if going there would be a good idea or if we should simply leave our old lives behind and focus on the present day situations and circumstances. If the truth was known then it would be clear that I'd wanted to return a number of times but just hadn't. And no I hadn't wanted to go back simply to get fucked up and/or turn tricks and/or make money in other ways.

When I looked back to Nathan he was sitting on the edge of the seat pondering his own decision even though he had left the answer up to me, his big brother. But his decision was just as important as mine because it affected both of us – and Dave, June and Derrick.

Nathan said, after a moment of further deliberation, "Okay."

That was my conclusion also, I said, "Go straight and then turn right at the 3rd light."

Nathan said, "We need to go straight dufus."

"No, we need to start where it all began, you know where we started growing up, when things were okay or mostly okay." I said pondering if that was such a good idea yet I felt compelled to see the place again. Ma had not wanted to return to that neighborhood – for her own reasons. She didn't say that I couldn't go there to visit if that was what I wanted to do – but – she wasn't returning to it.

"Are you sure?" Nathan asked.

"Yes. If we're going to put this behind us then we need to drive by. Maybe we'll even stop and let the memories wash over us. We didn't have a bad life there. We just had a life there. It's where we started out in the world."

Dave took that right hand turn since Nathan didn't actually object.

"Okay, take a left hand turn at the 4th light, and then take another immediate left at the very next stop light. It's kind of confusing. They put in a new intersection so just go slow if you can." I said to Dave.

Going slow was not a problem because traffic was quite heavy. He did have a hard time getting into the left lane but there are still good people in the world because someone let us in.

That was the correct sequence of turns because half a block down that road was the turn to take up our old street. "Okay, slow down; pull over in front of that blue and white house. That's where we lived."

I opened the door once Dave put the vehicle into 'park'. June said, "Is this really a good idea? The house looks lived in."

The house looked the same though it had recently been painted. The color was the same yet everything seemed 'fresher'. And no I'm not saying that mom and dad hadn't kept the place up because they had.

Dave shut the engine off and then walked around the car to where I stood steady holding onto the door. He said to June, "June, I think the boys need to see for their selves. I think it will close some doors so that new ones will open for them. I'll just go up to the door and briefly tell the new owners what we're doing. If they say no then no means no and we'll abide by their decision, okay boys?"

"I don't want to go in. I don't want to invade their space." I said assuredly yet if they would let us inside their home I'd go. I added, "If they'd let us go in then I would... but it's not all that important."

Because the driveway was pretty long and it was mostly up a medium incline I said, "I'd like to use the wheelchair at least until we get to the top... is that okay?"

Derrick got out on his side, went to the back and retrieved the wheelchair, and then we all walked or in my case rode up the driveway and stopped at the side door that we'd used for entering and exiting the house way back when.

A man and a woman were standing in the foyer. When I went to the door to peer in the man came to see what we were all about.

Dave told him what we were wanting to do. The woman walked to be by his side. Her eyes popped wide open as did mine. It was Miss Cermack, my 5th trade teacher. She was one of my favorites of all time.

She opened the door in a heartbeat, exited the house and then grabbed me up in her arms saying all the while, "Joey Lee Walker. Oh my goodness is that really you?"

"It's me alright. When did you move in here? I mean... you lived on the north side didn't you... I mean you used to talk about the wild and wooly drive down here."

"Well if ya can't beat them then ya gotta join 'em right? Oh my goodness. I'm so surprised to see you. How's your momma these days?"

I didn't mean for them to … but my eyes filled with tears. I said, "Ma's dead. She died about 4 months ago."

"Oh child I'm so sorry. Oh my I'm so sorry. Why don't you guys come in and sit for a while... I've got sun tea... I just made it this morning. Please."

Dave introduced June, Derrick and Nathan while I composed myself. I got up and out of the wheelchair and then we went into their house, the house Nathan and I had grown up during our early childhoods.

For the next hour or so we got caught up. She was still a grade school teacher, still had the same classroom, and still taught the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, history and geography. She had familiar textbooks on the kitchen table and two sheafs of papers. One pile had graded homework and the other pile didn't yet have her trademark grades at the top right hand side of the page.

The house smelled the same – old wood freshly oiled with Lemon Pledge. Mostly the interior looked very similar as it was when we left that one cold October day 4 years ago.

"What happened to your legs, Joey? You were always a bit rambunctious. You used to run the playground like it was greased ice..."

"Uhm, well, when my Ma died I got a case of psycho... psycho... June? What's that called? I can't ever say it right."

"Miss Cermack, Joey has what we call psychogenic partial paralysis. It's cause is largely unknown but it's frequently seen in people who have experienced a severe traumatic event in their life that is too much for their psyche to handle. He's getting much better. We have the hopes that he'll make a complete recovery. It's one day at a time though. Some days are better than others, right Joey?"

"Oh yeah, today's a good day. We just wanted to stop by and see the house. It's here where Nathan and I started out." I said.

Miss Cermack said, "Well... do you want to go through the house? ... You sure can if you want to. Our sons Ben and Eric should be home anytime now but go ahead and feel free to explore to your hearts' content."

I looked to June then to Dave then to Nathan and then to Derrick. I was asking for permission, of sorts.

"Okay, thanks. You can come with us, of course." I said to Miss Cermack.

"No honey I think you and Nathan should go by yourselves." To June she said, "Oh I'm sorry... I didn't mean it 'that' way... you can sure accompany them."

June said, "I agree with you. Joey, you and Nathan go ahead. If you need us we'll be right here." She then tenderly patted both me and Nathan's backs.

Nathan put his hand in mine, squeezed firmly and then led us into the bedroom areas of the house after walking through the dining room.

Nathan's melancholy lifted as did mine as we went to each bedroom and peered inside. When we got to the end of the hallway where Christopher's room had been, we, without saying a word, bypassed it and then returned to the kitchen where the adults were sitting sipping their tea.

I felt okay. Nathan had let go of my hand some time before. We were both okay with how they were 'taking care of the house'... I know that sounds silly but I guess we had to get that through our heads and accept things as they were and would be in the future, so that we could move on.

We made our farewells. Miss Cermack put together a large freezer bag full of her cinnamon rolls to take with us.

On the way down to the car I just about fell twice so I accepted the wheelchair and their help. That didn't seem to be quite as hard as it once had been.

Since Vito's house was nearly in a direct line from our old home we went there first. The house was boarded up and a bright orange condemned sign was stuck on the front door. Beside it was a large red white sign that said NO TRESPASSING.

Nobody asked any questions as to what that house represented. Dave and June pretty much knew my history because I'd told them the important highlights. I volunteered, "We partied hard there. Oh June, I was a surgeon there too." I said as I recalled that night that Skeeter had gotten injured, that same night that I'd put in 75 stitches in his leg.

She was shocked to hear that I'd taken care of Skeeter and what the circumstances had been for me to do that. I said, "Yeah, it's incredible what we sometimes have to do for our friends and family."

Next, because we were so close, relatively speaking, we drove to the brownstone where we'd lived with Ma and Christopher. The steps were high and there were just too many memories. June put her foot down and said we were not going up to the apartment.

I was grateful because I didn't want to go up there. Neither did Nathan. Nathan had gotten deathly quiet. I pulled him into my arms and said, "That's something we're still working through little brother. I don't ever want to go back up there ever again."

Nathan replied, "I knew you'd say that. Joey, promise me that you'll never do that shit again... you know - the bad stuff."

"Not a problem, bro. I promise." To Dave I asked, "Can we go to the park? It's pretty close then we can go home." ("Home"? I said "Home?") Immediately I corrected myself by saying, "Well you know... to your place."

Dave put the vehicle in gear then took off and said, "Our home is yours for as long as you need or want it. So is our family. Nathan, Joey, I think we may have passed through that region of no return. I'm serious – you're with us so long as we're with you."

That gave me a lot to think about. I wasn't quite ready. In retrospect I know that I was afraid … I was afraid to get close to anyone – yet I needed and wanted to. It would be a war that I'd battle inside of myself for some time to come. Nathan was younger. He hadn't done or seen the things I'd done and seen in order to survive and provide.

We arrived at the parka few minutes later. I sat in the silence for a few minutes, watching Buzz, Quiet Jim, Emanuel and Reggie shooting hoops. Frequently they looked toward the vehicle knowing it was not a part of the local scene, save for the drug dealers, prostitutes, and people looking for young boys to fancy their pleasures.

I looked around to Nathan, June, Dave and Derrick. Derrick said, "Do you want me to go with you?"

I shook my head no, opened the door, and because I was so exhausted, slowly got out of the vehicle and stood there for a moment to get my bearings. Despite my protests, weak as they were, Dave, Derrick and Nathan exited and then encompassed me on three sides. I nodded, and after feeling an inner strength return, I haltingly took a few steps toward the front of the car and stood looking at and observing the guys, my friends, Nathan and my friends playing on the basketball court. It was etheral in a way because we hadn't played in a long time.

They saw me but stood for a moment... as if they were transfixed in time. Then altogether they tore out and stopped in front of me. We shared high-fives and then Buzz, with tears in his eyes said, "Joey, it's good to see you. We've missed you bud." Then it got quiet, save for the sirens in the background, and the play screams from kids playing in the park, an occasional robin saying what robins say and do, and cars coming into and exiting the park.

Quiet Jim and Reggie remained quiet... not really sure how to handle the people around me, people who'd brought me to the park to see them.

When the silence from our being so quiet became uncomfortable, as if some sort of synergistic power touched me, I looked down the sidewalk about 100 yards or so. There I saw Wayne walking out of step with an older man. The man had his arm around Wayne's shoulders and then he dropped it, patted Wayne's butt, and then dug his fingers into the area where his crack would be, where I'd been so many times. I shuddered for a moment, and then, as if he too was energized by that Force, Wayne looked over and around his shoulder, saw me looking at him, and after a brief moment where we connected, he turned and continued on to wherever it was that they were heading.

Tears began streaming from my eyes, down my cheeks, landing on the ground. I felt a tremendous wave of sadness, loss, shame and guilt nearly overtake me. As if reading my mind, Buzz was sort of like that; he said tenderly, "Joey, you wouldn't be interested in a one-on-one game I don't suppose."

I turned around. Buzz, Quiet Jim, Emanuel were standing there quietly. Buzz had tears running down his face … I'd never seen him that emotional about anything, ever, not even when his brother Mike died. He said, "I'm sorry. That had to have been difficult to watch, anyway, I'm sorry."

"My arms are just fine." I said happily.

With that said Dave, Derrick and Nathan walked with me to the free throw line. I spit in my hands, Buzz tossed the ball to me and then I tossed the ball. It felt just right – swish!

I'd never swished a ball in through a net before. I was elated. Tickles went to and fro through my stomach, my head felt - lighter, my chest felt – less constricted, and my eyesight – full and in color. I stood mesmerized watching the ball bounce and dance to a stop.

"Damn dude. Where'd you learn to do that shit?" Quiet Jim said fondly.

I replied, "Right here."

We exchanged high fives and then I asked, "Where's Skeeter? He always plays. Now that boy is better than all of us combined."

"Uhm, Joey, he's no longer in the neighborhood. He got out. He's playing with dogs and cats and horses and fuckin cows and shit in bumfuck Kansas somewhere. He's living on a farm. I just talked to him a few days ago. He's all good. He's wondering why your not not answering his letters."

"What letters? I haven't received any letters from him."

"He's going by his real name Stephen. I think his last name is Richardson or Richards or something like it."

Reggie said, "There's Wayne... Hey Wayne. What's happening?"

I turned around because that was the direction Reggie was speaking to.

Wayne stood within 3 feet of me. He was out of breath and then started coughing and sputtering. I knew that feeling, and I knew what caused him to be out of breath like that because I'd been there done that. The look in his eyes was expectation. He broke out in a grin a mile wide. Yet at the same time I recognized the smile because I had felt it before myself. It was one of those where it looked good on the outside, yet on the inside you were dying slowly, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.

He reached for my hand. I stayed fast. Words that had been always elusive came to me, "I love you Wayne. I'm sorry I could not say those words to you before. I will always love you in my own way. Anyway, I wanted to say those words to you. They are probably the most honest words I have ever said. I've got to go now but you'll always have a place in my heart, always and forever. Each and every person we, as a person, come in contact with will bring something to our lives, and hopefully we will bring something good to theirs. You were one of my teachers that I hold dear and clear. Some things cannot be undone though. We both know what happened."

"I love you too Joey. I really do. And yeah, I always will. Uhm... Joey, can we, uhm, can I hug you?" He asked solemnly, his smile was gone. He was dead serious though I could easily tell that he was way fucked up.

I looked to Dave then to June then to Derrick and then finally to Nathan. They were waiting for my decision to Wayne's request. None of them had any other expression than concern on their faces.

I took a deep intake of breath and held it inside. For a brief moment old familiar pangs of wanting that which could never be reality washed over and through me … but then a ray of hope overtook my mind, body and spirit.

"I'm sorry." I said softly.

I then turned to Dave standing beside me, supporting my weak and wobbly legs, and for the first time reached out my arms to him. As if he were reading my mind he put his arms around my shoulders and pulled me in.


The Redemption had arrived.

The End – Book 1

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