The boys thought it was nearly comical the limo was driving along the dirt service road. The large seats which faced each other had been covered with thick blankets. Towels were stacked here and there. They entered the clearing near the river. The intercom came on with the driver's voice.
"Here you are boys......I hope you don't mind if I just sit here and enjoy the air conditioning..."
Matt was beside Chris and held his arm. They made their way out toward the whirlpool.
"Just don't step on any rocks. They're kinda slick. The whirlpool there will have a nice area to sit down in."
"Oh, this is truly warm....Indeed! I thought it would be rather chilly due to its movement. Yes indeed, I do detect a clear scent of iron. I believe we all need this....Sort of a mineral springs type of rejuvenation."
Toby and Scooter walked along beside them. Toby pretended to wave the pine scented atmosphere toward his face.
"Ahhhhh! Yes!....A break from those sickening sweet flowers. Oh! Smell that fresh water!....Fresh air!....Listen to that water thunder over the dam! No creepy organ music out here. Just the sounds of nature!"
They all formed into a circle within the whirlpool and sat. Chris sunk to his chin, a splash of water entering his mouth. He quickly spit it out.
"Oh (cough). I believe it's a bit deep for me."
"Come here and sit in my lap," Joe put in.
As Chris sat, Joe's loving attention was seen again. Chris sat with his back to him. He drew his arms around Chris and kissed his shoulder.
"I like this, Chris......Now I have an excuse to hold you."
Tim looked at Chris. His attention was drawn toward the spillway, then to seagulls overhead, then to the foamy water rushing by. He gazed at the surface of the water. His hands came up and he picked up weeds, leaves, seaweed and pieces of bark. He carefully examined each before tossing it aside. Chris always seemed to have an intense perception about him. To Tim, it appeared his entire body was somehow absorbing knowledge.
"Chris," Tim began with a chuckle, "Sometimes I'd really like to know what's going on in your head. And when I think that....I'm sure I still wouldn't understand it anyhow."
"Oh....Since our camping trip I've grown a bit more curious over simple plant life.... mosses and lichens and such. I've found quite a few I never knew were indigenous to this area."
They all remained silent for a moment. They waved their arms and arched their backs against the action of the water around them. Chris inhaled deeply.
"...Yes Toby, I believe this is so much better than that stifling atmosphere of the funeral home...
"...Poor Adam......I never knew him......I don't think lots of people in there knew him. But this sort of thing sure has an effect on people......It's so unfortunate everyone came together after the fact."
"Well, umm," Matt began, "He'd never be allowed into the GSA. I'm sure others knew about his problems. I think it was because he was gay and his whole family was so down on it. I'm sure more would have helped but....with his family being so down on it....everyone sort of backed away from it all. I don't think lots of them even knew how bad things were for him. It wasn't just the bullying......In fact, I think he could have handled that. It....it was that camp!
"...Our school is really gay friendly......It's these younger kids coming in from grammar school. They're still bullying the little kids that came along with them. It might take us awhile but we usually have them come around. It's all those years of hearing stuff from their families that we've got to get around. We show them how we can all get along together. They start seeing that what they're doing just isn't cool. They realize that if they're going to bully, they're going to be in a minority. That gets them thinking. It's the parents now. There isn't much we can do about that."
Later that evening they all tumbled from the limo into the Gavin's backyard. Chris' mother went up to him with a smile. She wore casual shorts and a light top.
"...So?....Did you have fun out at the river?"
"...Well, umm....yes....but it would have been a bit better if it hadn't been for Adam. That's all we could seem to talk about."
She stepped up to him and ran her fingers through his wet hair. She suddenly stepped back.
"Oh my!....You....you smell of well water and....rotten seaweed!"
She placed her fingertips on his shoulders and steered him toward the pool house. It was obvious she didn't want to grasp his shoulders too tightly.
"...Oh my!......Get into that shower and use lots of soap! I can just imagine the....the germs you're carrying about!"
"...Caroline!....Leave the boy alone!"
Mr. Gavin stepped from the house. His gate seemed lively. His expression was one of joy. He smiled broadly.
"I keep telling you......Those are healthy germs!......Look at that boy! A bit of a tan there. Not that pasty white he always seemed to have. And I think he's firming up there too. Fresh air!....Swimming!....Boating!....Sunshine! And even a few scrapes 'n cuts here and there! So much better than sitting before that computer keyboard!"
The boys noticed the picnic tables under a large gazebo had a paper runner over them. Already items were set out. A large rectangular brick grill was smoking with pieces of chicken.
"...Okay boys. Everything is almost ready here. Scrub off all the....rotten seaweed and get out here to chow-down!"
Minutes later the boys had showered and changed into their clean clothes. Chris' mother held his shoulders from behind and put her nose to his damp hair.
"Oh! Yes!....Much better! I can just imagine all the dead fish and....animal carcases which could be floating about in that smelly river!"
"Caroline....Leave the boy alone."
The boys grabbed plates and began to line up beside the grill. Mr. Gavin held a long handled spatula in one hand and a pair of tongs in the other. Mrs. Gavin had brought out salads and side dishes of foods.
"Okay boys," she began, "We've given the cooks the weekend off. These salads and such are from the refrigerator. I was never one to cook, and I'm sure Chris has already informed you of it. These salads aren't exactly kitchen fresh but they're still cold and crispy."
After the boys left the grill, they all began to gather under the large gazebo. Mr. Gavin and his wife seated themselves a distance away at a patio table. He watched the boys eat and talk among themselves. He noticed they didn't seem excessively morose. He noticed Joe still fussing over Chris. Chris had opened a soda and sprayed himself in the face. Joe cleaned his glasses and replaced them.
"Oh!" Mr. Gavin spoke out, "Watch the sodas! They were just delivered and still a bit shook up from the truck."
Just as he was talking, Scooter opened his soda, spraying Toby beside him.
"Ohhhh!....Scoot! Didn't you just hear Mr. Gavin about the soda?......Oh you're such a retard!"
He suddenly gasped and covered his mouth with his hand.
"...Oh....I'm sorry. I wasn't going to say that anymore."
Scooter smiled as he wiped Toby's face with a paper napkin.
"Tob....Don't ever stop saying that to me."
Toby, feeling self-conscious, took the napkin from Scooter and wiped his own face. Scooter looked at him with an understanding expression.
"...Remember our first day in kindergarten?......Oh, we were both so scared and shy. At snack time we had cookies and juice......And I knocked your juice over....And you called me a retard. Remember how we laughed over that?..."
Scooter reached out and held the back of Toby's hand.
"Oh, Tob....that just felt so good to me. I never really had a friend. It just felt soooo good to laugh!....And to have someone right there to share it with me...
"...We....umm....didn't know anything at the time about being gay or that. It was just.... well somehow I knew a friend would come along for me. And you were there at that very moment....just like you were waiting for precisely that time. I knew! I just knew that you were that person."
"Awh gee," Toby gasped, wiping a tear from his eye.
"I'm quite serious about that. Just keep being yourself."
Mr. Gavin continued to watch them. Their voices were subdued. He watched Joe assisting Chris with condiments on his burger. Matt would simply place his hand on the back of Tim's and give him a smile. Ethan reached out and ran his fingers over Ryan's hair along his cheek. Scooter rubbed Toby's back as he smiled at him.
Mr. Gavin turned to his wife.
"...Great bunch of kids, huh?" he said softly, "They sure aren't any problem....and just soooo mature for their age."
Caroline smiled and nodded.
"...I believe they all had to grow up rather fast...
"Oh! I was just so frightened and worried over that camping trip. Yes. I do shelter Chris way too much. Oh, he was just so excited over it all. And it's so wonderful they all accepted him......And I don't mean just the gay part...
"I think a mother knows......It goes way back. I can't think of anything specific. I just sort of knew all along. As I say, he never wanted to play with dolls or want a pink bedroom. It was just something there. And we've helped him out so much scholastically..."
"I'm afraid I did that," Mr. Gavin put in quickly, "Way too much pushing. As I say, I was turning into my own father. I could never do anything right, and I could never do it fast enough. No matter what I showed him my capacities were, it was a far cry from his absolute perfection! I had way too much of a regimented life. I wanted a miniature adult, just as my father did. None of that anymore. He has to be allowed to be a little boy for awhile."
He tilted his head as he gazed at Chris.
"Yup!....How I was becoming a....a clone of my father! I'm surprised I haven't had a stroke before now. Trying to please that cantankerous ole perfectionist was impossible! I think it all came to a head when I showed him the new company plane. He just couldn't find a single positive thing to say about it......Pick, pick, pick! Always pointing out the errors, the imperfections...
"Yup......Story of our lives......I busted my ass at everything I did. I put a hundred and one percent into it. I'd be so proud of my accomplishments and he'd come through and just rip it to pieces! I felt just so....so empty! And I was doing the same things with Chris. I'll never be able to makeup for all those lost years, but things are going to change..."
He paused here as he glanced over the boys again. He gave a tiny smile.
"...I think I'm a fairly good judge of character. I trusted Chris out on that camping trip. I trusted the others he was out there with......I think what I worried about was some accident, some emergency. I believe Tim put my mind to rest over that. I mean having a mother as a doctor..."
He gave a pleasant grin.
"...Yes. When we went out there to....to resupply them. I saw little Chris all bandaged up. Oh my God! I nearly ran over to him! Something inside told me not to do that. I thought those cuts 'n bruises are so superficial compared to what he'll have to deal with later. Oh! That bandaged forehead....the scrapes down his cheek....his arms....And yet....Yet....I've never seen him with such an....original smile as I did that day! I mean really genuine! It wasn't forced. And I knew exactly what he was thinking. They were the same thoughts I still have today. How I wished I could have grown up....normal! I never once got to be silly! I mean just be a little boy and have some fun in life.
"No Caroline......I've done a one-eighty! A complete turnaround. Look at him! He has friends to do things with. Boy things! And he needed this fresh air and sunshine....exercise! Have you noticed he hasn't sneezed or had any trouble with his eyes?"
"Oh yes. He must be taking his allergy meds rather steady. I always had to remind him."
"No he hasn't!"
She looked at him surprised.
"I forgot to take his meds out there to him. He only had a week's supply. Well, I made a separate trip out there. I was certain he'd run out and was trying to do without them. I figured he was going to put up a tough front for the other boys..."
He smiled here as he reflected over the moment.
"He told me he quit them just to see how he'd react. Caroline! He didn't taper off. He just quit them! And he found he had no problem. He was building up a....a resistance to all that. A natural resistance!...
"And all those scrapes 'n tumbles. Hee, hee....I think he's going through what Ayumi calls the change! It's not only the physical....it's the psychological as well. He needs all this. Kenny even told me he was awful worried over Tim's shyness. Well, I wouldn't call Chris exactly shy....He just didn't have any friends to be with. He's a bit advanced over those of his age....yet he never actually fit in with those older students. They didn't want him around.
"All those boys there are a couple years ahead of him, but....well, I think they understand Chris. They probably think of things that happened in their own lives. Two or three years isn't all that much if they were in their twenties....but right now....it's quite an age gap."
Caroline forked salad into her mouth. She chewed thoughtfully as her eyes were distant in thought.
"...Oh yes....I'm sure I'm the one he's inherited all those awful allergies from. Oh my, I was such a sickly little girl in my day. My parents weren't too....well, coddling of me over it. The doctor said some children just don't have the natural defenses against lots of those things. I believe I just sort of outgrew lots of it."
Jacob glanced over at her.
"Well, I still worry at times......Your bee allergy?!"
"Oh Hon......Bees won't bother you if you leave them alone. And my allergy isn't what some people have to endure. Some people could go into shock with one single sting. I believe it would take several stings for me. I keep my syringe in the first aid kit right there at the back door...
"Oh dear....I shouldn't even mention this and get you worrying. I got stung last year. I gave myself a shot right away. I never felt the slightest reaction either way."
They returned their attention to the boys as their table grew quiet. They were obviously more interested in eating at this point. Hands would reach out for salads, condiments and side dishes.
"Oh dear," Caroline put in, "I just felt so poorly over the boys at that wake today. The way I understand it, the boys didn't actually know Adam all that well. I mean outside of them seeing him around the school. It's an awful thing losing a classmate.
"A girl died in a traffic accident when I was in school. Ohhhh my! She was one of those simply perfect girls! Honor role, clubs, art....cheer-leading! Oh! She had it all! I didn't actually know her myself but it was such a shock to all of us. I can just imagine what those poor boys are thinking....It wasn't an....an accident! Oh dear. You never heard of suicide when I was a little girl......Well, perhaps some adult who happened to make it into the news, but they were cities....states away! It was nothing this close to home. And that poor little guy's home-life! That sort of thing only happened in the big cities......The drunk fathers beating on the wife and kids. Yet....somehow they all survived......Oh, many of them made the wrong decisions and slowly went down the wrong path, but....Oh, you just didn't heard anything about children's suicides..."
She nibbled thoughtfully at her salad.
"...And....and all this business of sexual abuse!......I keep wondering about that....Is it that we're just hearing more about it? Did that sort of thing go on back then and was just kept hushed up?....or is it getting worse?"
Jacob reached out and held her wrist tenderly.
"...I think it's a little of both. Ohhhh, I so despise hearing of those things...
"...And I'm just so happy you adjusted to....to Chris!"
"Oh Hon....I truly had no problem over that. It just concerns me. I worry about him at school.......And yes it is a private school that won't tolerate any bullying or violence. It's just he's such a tiny little guy......What happens later in life when he's out there in the real world?!"
Jacob nodded his head with his jaw set grimly.
"Yup......In my day....well you heard about it......It just wasn't discussed at all. Oh gee, we never had anything remotely associated to sex education. Well, I guess that the closest thing you came to in that area was biology! And even then it wasn't discussed in any great detail...
"I keep thinking about some of these countries where sex education in schools is just.... well, a way of life! It's just so common to see that sort of thing. And the VD's and unwanted pregnancies are wayyyy lower in those countries. I think the US is just a bit too prudish over that sort of thing. The only thing most parents want, is teaching abstinence! Sure! That's going to really help the kids, right?......Don't do that!......It's been proven over and over, that sort of education just isn't working!..."
He smiled in reflection for a moment.
"...I was never one of those boys who was just possessed with hormones and sex talk. Yup, even in a private school, I don't think things were that much different. Well, again....It was the era! I think these sort of things are much more out in the open now. I mean look at what's happened in just the last generation!...
"Yup, being gay was just swept under the carpet back then. Today you hear about all these same sex couples going to proms and wanting to be right out there with everything. Oh gee, some schools have actually canceled their proms because of it. I read where one school wouldn't allow a GSA to organize. Do you know how they accomplished that? They put an end to all clubs in the school! We have to think about the children! It could cause violence around the school! And the students who were organizing the GSA became the scapegoat for it all! There was more violence! All these students wanted was a place where they could all go and not be discriminated against. A place where they could educate each other. Few students ever listen to their adult counterparts! If they could just be taught tolerance from another student. If they could understand what it's all about."
"Speaking of schools," Caroline added with a glance toward the boys.
Jacob got to his feet nodding, a slight smile on his face.
"You're right!......It's time!"
He drew up to the boys. His expression was one of mild seriousness, yet his smile seemed to temper it.
"Well boys......I have an announcement to make...
"When you get older, you'll understand all about the business world. Security isn't just for the military. Sometime you just have to be quiet about any plans you have. You have to make sure someone doesn't get the jump on you!"
He paused here, pushing his fingers into his pockets.
"Now we all know about your friend Adam..."
He gasped here.
"Oh gee....It was all over the office at the firm......All over the hospital...
"Boys......We all want to do something about this. Well, that's not exactly correct either.... Some of us want to do something about this. All these suicides. And even in this little town, we've had two of them...
"I bought the park from the town. It just couldn't be maintained anymore. I suppose we all could have contributed to its repair, but the town just can't afford the maintenance. Well, not without raising taxes again and that would be a poor decision to make. Too many people would have to leave the area.
"People somehow thought I was going to turn it into an office complex or industrial park. Well, I let them go on believing it."
He made his way to the edge of the table and rested his hands on it. He smiled.
"I'm turning it into a SCHOOL!"
He paused here, looking at the expressions of the boys.
"...Well, it's going to be just a school for now! Eventually it will be a boarding school! And it's going to be open for gay students....and the handicapped....and anyone else who may need it."
It was here all the boys gasped and drew large smiles.
"Now we've still got lots to iron out here. We can't accept state or federal help....We do that and we've got a whole different rulebook to follow......It's going to be a private school!
"I've got lots of my friends and associates who are willing to donate large sums for the project. Oh gee, the interest alone will support the school....maintain it. Now you'll notice that I didn't say build it!"
He toyed with a large plastic salad bowl before him.
"This place....just the school alone will cost millions of dollars. That's going to take time! We can't just wave a magic wand and have everything appear.
"Now I've given up on the idea of construction companies putting in bids for the job. I've seen too much shoddy workmanship on those kinds of projects...
"I've seen schools and shopping centers built that way and....Well, within a couple years, doors are falling off their hinges! Lockers fall apart and the combination locks don't work. I've seen shopping centers literally sink into mud with the floors and walls cracking. None of that here! This is going to be done right! I'm not cutting any corners. This project is not going to the lowest bidder!
"I've worked things out with the town that we'll be using local labor wherever possible. And we'll be buying local building materials as well. It'll help the economy here.
"I'm going to foot this entire project myself. I've just got to be careful..."
He paused here again, slipping his hands into his pockets.
"I'm sure you kids have heard the saying....'Don't put all you eggs in one basket.' If that basket were to fall....There goes everything!..
"I'm no engineer! I have no idea what it takes as far as concrete blocks, steel I-beams, welding, plumbing, electrical and all the rest that goes along with it. We'll do this bit by bit...
"Now after the school is built....we'll see how things go....We'll have to build dormitories. A cafeteria! We'll have to feed these students. We'll need a laundry! We'll need a huge modern kitchen with coolers and walk-in freezers! And....hire cooks and maintenance people."
He gazed over the boys as a smile grew.
"...AND..." he nearly shouted, making his way before Matt and Tim.
He raised his hand and sharply pointed toward them.
"We'll need TEACHERS!"
They both nearly jumped on the bench seat and looked at each other.
He pointed sharply at Tim.
"These students will need MATH!"
He pointed sharply at Matt.
Both Matt and Tim seemed a bit in shock.
The other boys glanced at them, smiles growing.
Mr. Gavin straightened up with a proud smile.
"That's right!......And I'll only be hiring the BEST teachers! If you two do well in college, I'll hire you on the spot!"
Matt ran his hands over the paper runner on the table. His smile began to grow.
Tim seemed to blanch for several seconds of thought. Soon his color returned, along with a smile.
"That's right, boys!...
"Tim......your parents told me about your shyness....your near phobia of meeting people. It goes away....trust me. I know what I'm talking about. You'll be good at it. I've talked to the students you've tutored....their parents as well. I hear nothing but good reports...
"...And Matt....I know of your interest in science...
"I....umm....go to your science fairs. I've done so for quite a few years now. And I might add, I've hired seven of the students that designed projects in there...
"Now I'm not saying you're going to be designing the next deep-space probe. What I'm saying is you have the same ability as Tim here with....well....getting ideas across to other people. And Matt, that project you submitted on those thermoelectric heating and cooling devices! MY! I was very impressed! Just reading those poster boards you had there, explained something very complex into layman's terms. That's what a teacher is! A person who can teach!"
Tim glanced at Matt.
"...SEE?!....Simple and interesting!"
Matt gave a nod and shy smile.
"Well, I get carried away at times. I have to give credit to Tim on that. I always seem to get too complicated at things. He always keeps telling me....simple and interesting!"
"Well, now....I'm being very serious about all this. As Tim's father keeps saying.... technology! We need teachers who can teach technology! That used to be reserved for college. Not anymore! We've got to get that sort of thing into high schools now. Hell! Even grammar schools are teaching some sort of rudimentary science.
"Look at the simple telegraph. Simple?......Well, not in it's day. It was electric pulses which traveled through wires and operated a sounder, hundreds of miles away. It was absolutely revolutionary!
"Look at the steam locomotive. The men who operated these things were scientists in their day! The steam driven electric generator! Electric lights! Motors which ran machines. The labor-saving devices it all brought about.
"Oh, boys......We need more of this in our schools. And I'll say it again......I'll hire you as teachers in a second. What do you say?"
"Well," Matt put in shyly, "That's still quite a ways off for us."
He gazed at Tim's face.
"...But I'm sure we'll think about it."
"Now I understand your....loss here. I'd just like to remind you when we have a set-back such as this. Try to think positive! Try to think of things which will prevent these things from happening in the future."
"...Well, umm," Matt began halting, "It really wasn't bullying that Adam found difficult. I'm sure he'd have made it through it all......It was that....that camp his mother wanted to send him too! How do you deal with that?!"
Mr. Gavin rubbed his chin in deep thought.
"...Strange you should bring that up...
"...I was planning for this school to not only educate the students......but their parents as well. I was thinking if we could have a get-together about once a month. Entire families being together. And....yes, I'm including the haters here too! They're the ones we've got to reach."
He paused for a moment here as he looked over them all.
"...Well, again, this will all take time. Just hang in there and we'll all hope for the best."
He returned to the patio table with his wife. She gave him a pleased smile.
The boys ate in silence for several minutes. It was clear they were all absorbed in their own thoughts.
Matt finished with his piece of chicken and pushed the plate of bones away. He wiped his fingers and mouth with a paper napkin.
"...Umm....I was just thinking here...
"Why don't we get the GSA together and have a sort of....candlelight vigil for Adam. Well, not just for him, but all the kids that were in his situation. And like Mr. Gavin says.... Let's make it into something positive! Let's not have it all sad. Let's turn it into something positive!......Kind of a celebration of life! I think Adam would like something like that!"
They all nodded their heads with smiles. They drew close together and began to talk in subdued voices.
It was late that night as Matt and Tim sat at their respective computers. Papers were strewn over the desk and along the floor. They'd occasionally reach for a slice of cheese or pepperoni on a paper plate nearby.
"Ohhhh Matty....Maybe we should have made this vigil for next Friday night or something. I think Monday night is too soon."
"No it isn't!....The more time passes, the more Adam will just be a memory. I want to do this now while it's all fresh in people's minds...
"Besides, it's only the school and the GSA. I want this to go down in people's memory. I want them to remember this for the rest of their lives! This all fits into our outreach program! We have to come together in times like this. I want people to post this to their social sites. I want the whole school involved......Well, as much as possible. And like Mr. Gavin says, we need to take times like this and turn it into something positive!...
"Oh gee, look at how many people showed up at the funeral home! I was never expecting that. They said that the director had to keep the place open 'til after midnight! He had to go get three more guest registers! I'm sure we'll get quite a turnout. Okay, not half the town, but at least the school. And....and if there are other gay kids there....umm....the ones who haven't come out yet....Maybe they'll feel a bit better about themselves. I mean even if they're scared to come out, at least they'll know there are people out there that are on their side. Some of these kids may not come out until way after college! They have to keep quiet about it around their families. And I still say this isn't too sudden......I don't want them to have the whole week to decide that a movie or some video game with their friends is more important. A Monday night! What's going on, on a Monday night?!....Nothing! Even during summer vacation Monday nights are boring! I think the kids will want to come out there and just show a little solidarity.
"...And I'm going to e-mail Jerry. He's home from college right now and I'll bet he's made lots of friends up there. He could invite lots of them over. It's not that long of a drive. Oh gee, he's into PFLAG and everything."
"Oh wow! It would be great to have whole families come out there. Maybe they'd even start talking with others. There's no telling what could happen!"
"Well, yeah, but Monday night? I still say that's too quick for people to make plans."
"...Well, I kinda don't want people to have too much time to think about it. Like I say....Monday nights are boring!"
It was late Monday afternoon as Matt and Tim arrived at the park on their bikes. Near the entrance was a metal stage already set up. Joe and Chris were assisting with equipment being removed from a pickup truck. They had to take several glances before they recognized Mr. Gavin. It had been the first they'd seen him in faded jeans, a polo shirt and sneakers. He was walking around, directing workers.
"...Now I'd like that generator set back there beyond those bushes. I realize it's not all that noisy, but I'd like to keep as much of the noise away from the stage area here."
They saw tall, rectangular, metal enclosed speakers. There was a microphone set up on the center of the stage. There were also tall metal tripods with floodlights at the top, although they weren't on yet. Mr. Gavin noticed them and simply smiled.
Matt held his arms out, palms up.
"Wow! Mr. Gavin, I don't think we'll really be needing all this! This is just for the school and the GSA."
"Don't be so sure of it boys. I've checked up on all this. Your Website has been linked from lots of those social sites. And I don't mean just you young people. I think this is going to be lots bigger than you anticipated......Lots bigger than any of us thought. I've even got employees here willing to direct traffic if necessary."
He pointed off toward a grassy area near the entrance.
"Vendors will be setting up here. I think they know they'll be able to make money tonight. There will be sodas, burgers and ice cream. And I'm sure t-shirts!....And those tiny rainbow flags and bracelets. Oh....and umm....candles! Lot 'n lots of candles!"
He pointed in the opposite direction.
"...And we've already got chemical toilets set up over there!"
Matt drew his hands to his mouth.
"Ohhhh, noooo! This really isn't necessary! Oh gee....We'll have maybe seventy five or a hundred kids here from the school. This....this is to much!"
Mr. Gavin squatted down near the edge of he stage. He held his hands to the deck and slid his legs over the edge. He sat in thought for several seconds. They still found it difficult seeing him without a business suit.
"...Boys......it won't surprise me if a thousand people show up tonight...
"A young boy committed suicide in this little town. It hits people! It hits people right where they live. And....and frankly, I don't think this place likes to be put on the World Wide Web for something such as this. They don't like the....well, negative publicity it generates...
"I even contacted a few of the city counsel members....the mayor! They didn't exactly say so, but I believe they just aren't all that....gay friendly. Yet....well....they admit something has to be done. I think they're going to make a big thing over this vigil. They've got to turn this into something positive. The population around here is already on the decline. They're trying to attract people into this town....Not push them out! I think they're going to use this to their advantage. I have no idea how....but they'll manage something...
"And umm....technically we'd have needed a permit for all this. The mayor sort of hinted at that. Well, it's not city property anymore. It's private property! Ever since I bought it!"
Matt hesitated for a moment.
"Well....umm....Is there anything we can do to help out around here?"
"Oh I think everything's about taken care of. As far as the vendors, well, they'll be setting up their own businesses."
Minutes later Matt and Tim walked around. They noticed Ethan and Ryan placing out the last of the traffic cones from a construction truck. They were obviously marking the way toward the gravel parking lot.
"Holy shit, Matty!....What did we do?!......I thought this was just going to be a little get together for the school! I never dreamed it would end up like this."
"Oh gee, neither did I!..."
Both suddenly had their attention drawn to the temporary bridge over the stream. They looked at each other with smiles. Tim put his arm around Matt and tugged at him.
"...Come on....Let's go visit our....umm, pavilion."
They held to each other in silence as they strolled along the trail in the wooded section. Once out near the pond, they gazed over it. The pump had long been shut down. There was a layer of green scum over the surface of the water. They could actually smell the stagnant water as they gazed at what used to be the waterfalls they had all worked so diligently on. Tim looked down along the edge of the pond. The white plastic piping was still visible under the water.
"Oh shit, Matty!......We busted our asses digging this trench all the way up here. Look at this place!"
They wandered over to where the pavilion once stood. There was a sickening odor of damp ash in the air.
"...Maybe we shouldn't have come up here."
"No Timmy!....I wanted to see this place for one last time."
Matt wandered around. He kicked at charred timbers and pieces of metal hardware. There were burned and curled pieces of asphalt roofing among the ash. Matt suddenly turned to Tim and placed his arms around his neck.
"I still remember that wonderful kiss out here the day we came out to each other. Oh! Timmy! I didn't want it to end! I couldn't believe it was real!"
He glanced around again.
"I came out here rather often. I'd sit around and think about stuff. I'd write stuff. And I'd wonder how it would feel to have a boyfriend out here with me....just enjoying it all with me."
"Matty!....You're gonna start crying again!....I can see it! Don't think of bad stuff, huh?"
Matt faced him seriously. Indeed he already had tears on his cheeks.
"It's not bad stuff! Oh Timmy....I'd rather have you and no pavilion than a pavilion and no you!......I....umm....didn't feel lonely. I was used to being alone. I actually enjoyed being alone....but....well, now?......Oh it would really be lonely!"
He dropped his head to Tim's shoulder.
"Yeah, I'd sit out here and think of having a boyfriend....and kissing him. And....and that one day it all came true!......A real dream come true.
"I just love you so much it hurts! That's the only way I can explain it. I keep saying love shouldn't hurt!"
Tim held him tightly, trying to force a smile.
"Yeah....I know....but I feel it too. It's....it's kind of a nice hurt, huh?"
He drew up Matt's face with his fingers on his chin. He pressed his mouth to Matt's. Both felt tears on their cheeks. They held each other tightly. Even though the late hour's breeze was was warm, they both felt a slight chill.
They broke their kiss yet remained in a tight embrace with their chins over each others shoulders. They both sighed.
"Ohhhh Matty....This is so wonderful. And I'm thinking of Scooter and Toby again. We've got each other. We don't need anything else. We've got it sooooo good! We don't have to hide in a closet. We're out to our families. We're out around school...
"Umm....Well it's not so much the students we have a problem with. There are lots of parents who are kinda down on us...
"I was thinking the other day about Benny and how he had to cancel his tutoring with us. Well, gee....There have been about five or six of them that had to cancel! I mean after their parents found out about us. As if we're going to influence them in some way..."
Matt felt Tim's head shake side to side.
"Oh yeah! One of the mothers even said she didn't want her boy experimenting! She didn't want him thinking it's the latest fad and that it was the thing to do. Where do people come up with this crap?!"
Matt continued to hold him tight as he nodded his head.
"Oh yeah....Now I see on the Net where all these anti-gay groups are saying that equal marriage will cause more straight divorces! Cheeezzze! WHERE do they come up with that shit?!"
Tim pressed his palms to Matt's back and stroked them up and down.
"Oh yeah!....They're failing Matty. They're failing and they just don't want to admit it. The ship is sinking and lots of people are jumping out. They're just trying anything now! Oh! People are going to want to marry building and animals and they're going to want plural marriage back in! They're just grasping at anything they can find. Lots of these people have got very rich with all the hate. Oh, some of them are making hundreds of thousands of dollars with all the hate. And I think they see the cash cow starting to dry up! They aren't getting the donations they were in the past. Lots of people are seeing this for what it really is...
"And look at all those gay-to-straight places going under! And I mean the big ones here! Lots of the leaders are coming out. They're admitting they never were ex-gay! They just liked the attention....the praise....the money! I guess it's catching up with them now...
"Oh gee, even lots of these big tel-evangelists are getting caught with gay lovers....and drugs! Lots of them are getting exposed for what they really are."
They broke their hug and gripped onto each other with their inner arms. They walked back down to the pond where the logs were still embedded into the soil. They sat there, gazing at the lowering sun. The sky was growing red and shadows growing longer. A crescent moon was already out.
Both boys looked at each other. Matt reached for Tim's hand and interlaced his fingers.
"I still remember the day I reached for your hand out here. Oh gee! I wanted to do that in the worst way! I just dreamed of doing that for the longest time. And I was just so shy and self-conscious about it. But it felt great!"
Tim nodded with a smile.
"...Yeah I remember that. And I felt kinda bad about dropping you all those....signals and not really following through with it. I had to finally tell you I'd never do that again."
"Yup!....And then you kissed me!......Oh Timmy! That was just so wonderful!"
Tim nodded with a shy smile.
"...Well, we were....out to each other that morning. And I remember that big flash of lightning overhead. It was like we instantly heard the thunder. And we ran for our bikes."
He gazed at Matt's face.
"I'm still wondering why we did that. It's like I said the last time we were out here.....If I had that to do over again, I think I'd have just stayed here!"
"Well, we were under a roof but remember how that wind came up? Oh gee, it was blowing the rain sideways! I think we'd have really gotten wet and cold......I wouldn't have minded it if it were just one of those gentle rains. Well, even if it wasn't so gentle. As long as the wind wasn't blowing like that."
Tim reached out with his other hand and gripped Matt's between both of his.
"I remember the next time we came out here. There were kind of a lot of people out here that next time. You came down here and wanted to kiss me again. Ohhhh Matty! I really wanted to, but I was afraid someone would see us."
Matt drew his hand from Tim's and threw his arms around his neck. He looked closely at his face.
"Well, nobody's around now..."
Tim leaned in and held Matt's chest in both hands as he kissed him deeply. After several seconds he drew back, looking seriously at his face.
"...Yup, I feel it too Matty......That kind of little ache that just goes right down into my heart...
"Oh gee, I'm trying so hard not to start crying..."
"YOU ARE SUCH A RETARD!" they heard Toby's voice.
Matt and Tim pulled back from each other with a laugh.
"I really needed that," Tim whispered seriously.
"Oh gee!" Scooter put in, as his eyes fell to them, "We didn't know anyone was out here!"
"That's okay," Tim put in as he glanced over Matt's face.
"We just came up here to look around. We didn't know you were here."
"Awh, don't worry about it. We were just reminiscing a bit. This place just reminds us of when we first came out to each other."
"Aw gee! Toby yelled, "We didn't mean to interrupt anything."
"You aren't interrupting anything."
Scooter glanced around at the ruins.
"...Umm....Toby and I never came out here very often......We spent most of our time at the dam. I mean, not always in the water. We just liked to sit there and watch the water spill over and listen to the roar."
He drew Toby close with one arm and gave him a smile.
"That was just our place, huh Tob?"
They both glanced around again. Their eyes fell to the broken waterfalls. They scanned over the stagnant pond, then to the ash and timbers of the pavilion.
"Ohhhh!" Scooter sounded out with a note of frustration, "Who could do something like this?....Who would want to?"
Matt gazed around.
"....Power tripping!....Hate!....'When the power of love, overcomes the love of power, the world will be a better place.' I keep thinking about that line......Hopefully Mr. Gavin can take this place and really turn it around. Won't it be nice to see same-sex couples walking around out here?....Going to school together. Not having to worry about bullies or being tossed out into the streets."
They all glanced around one more time before they began to meander slowly back down the trail.
Scooter held to Toby with his right arm. Matt and Tim were to their left. Scooter turned to them.
"...Well, umm....What are you thinking about Mr. Gavin's offer?......Being teachers?!"
Matt shook his head slowly.
"Oh gee....That's all we've been thinking about!..."
He turned to Scooter and Toby.
"Umm....Timmy kinda liked the idea of being a teacher....yet, umm....You know the problems involved with all that. He definitely wanted to find a school where he could be like out with everyone. He really likes the tutoring. It's just....gee!....We're running into trouble with just the few kids around here!......Well, I mean their parents! As soon as they find out their dear little angels are being tutored by a couple gay boys, they really put the kibosh on it every time! I guess they think we're going to recruit them into our gay lifestyle."
They wandered along for several more seconds before Matt continued.
"...Yup....We're both thinking really seriously about that...
"I'm thinking of being a science teacher. You know how I love science....yet....Oh the MATH I'll have to study! It's scary! It really scares me."
Tim smiled as he reached out and brushed the hair from Matt's eyes.
"You'll be good at it....And you'll be good at building projects....Projects that will explain scientific principles to students...
"I think we're both kinda interested in science. Yet....I think my interest is more in the theoretical area. You have a more....well, hands on interest...
"...And....well, we'll both be teaching in a more gay friendly atmosphere. In fact, I think it'll be so common, it won't even be an issue!...
"Well, I'm sure there will be some kids in there who will be right off the streets! Or at least from homes that aren't very understanding. We could have some classes to help them to, well, sort of adjust to their orientation. They have to learn they're not broken or....or sick! They have to learn it's just biology! Once they can accept themselves, they can put more thought and energy into learning!"
Scooter nodded his head.
"I was thinking something along counseling, for myself. Oh, gee....Mr. Gavin kinda took me aside there at that little picnic we had there. I guess he didn't want to make a big thing over it....umm....You know, about my dad and how he broke up me 'n Toby. Oh shit! I still shiver at all the things I felt over that. I mean....I knew I was gay....That wasn't the thing. It was being kept from Toby. It wasn't just my dad......It's all those people out there that think it's a stage or a phase we go through and that we can change!
"I doubt I'd become a full-fledged psychologist, but I think I could help some of those kids adjust...
"...And, oh shit!....Maybe we could even get a PFLAG in there! Or umm, something like it. You know, where parents and families could come in and we'd get better understanding."
Tim grinned as he looked at Scooter.
"We aren't even out of high school and we're talking about being teachers and counselors!"
"...Well, umm....Mr. Gavin sorta said the same thing. He said we're young and need to think about lots of things. He said he didn't want to pressure us into anything. He just said to sort of think about it. I think it would be kinda nice to help out other gay kids."
"...Well, let me tell you Scoot......Your dad sure made a quick turnaround there. Me 'n Matt thought for sure he was just saying that stuff so you'd get better in the hospital. We really thought he was going to go back to being rotten again."
"...Well, umm....I kinda thought that too. I mean when I was still in the hospital. In fact, even after I got back home!......It was almost spooky how quickly he changed...
"He's kinda tried to....well....talk to me about it, but I think it's hard for him. He admitted it was really a shock to him and he really got angry over it. I guess he did lots of thinkin' while I was in there. He's not a real religious person. I mean he's no Atheist or that, but something happened to him while I was in the hospital....I'm sure he talked to someone."
Tim nodded his head.
"...Well, I think my mom started all that. Well, she didn't have lots of time to spend with him, but I'm sure she got others to talk to him. Lots of priests 'n ministers 'n rabbis come to the hospital everyday!......They kind of visit the sick people and give 'em hope and sort of cheer them up some. I'm sure some of them must have talked to him as well."
Tim threw his arm over Scooter's shoulders and drew him close.
"We got kinda close out there at the river. I mean not real, real close, but we sorta became friends, huh?"
"That's for sure. Me 'n Toby felt kinda bad about that at first. We really thought you were bullies or something....or you were going to say something about us. We really didn't trust you at first."
Tim pulled him close and kissed his cheek.
"Well, I'm glad it all turned out okay."
"Hey!" Toby put in quickly, "No kissin' my boyfriend!"
Tim grinned as he dropped his arm from around Scooter. He quickly stepped up to Toby and held his head, kissing his cheek.
"...Muah!....There. Now you don't have to feel jealous."
Toby rubbed his cheek as though wiping the kiss off.
"Aaawwwhhh! Shit! Lets not start gettin' all....all mushy!"
"Hee, hee," Scooter chuckled, "Toby's changed quite a bit. He acts silly a lot but I think that's so he doesn't start crying. He's got kinda emotional since I was in the hospital."
"...And quit sayin'....in the hospital! Shit, Scoot! You almost died there! Oh gee, I don't know what I'd have done!"
"Okay, okay," Tim put in, "Let's stop talking about bad stuff....You're together now. So let's see you two give each other a big kiss."
"Oh Timmy! Don't be SUCH A FUCKIN' RETARD!"
Toby suddenly gasped and covered his mouth.
"Oh shit!....Now I'm calling Timmy a retard!......I'm-so-sorry....I'm-so-sorry! Really!"
"Hee, hee....Scooter's right. I think we all kinda hear a friendly concern there when you say that...
"Now give each other a little kiss!"
They all stopped walking as Scooter held Toby's head and kissed him for several seconds. Toby gazed up at him with a sigh.
"Oh shit, Scoot....that....that wasn't hot....That was sweet!"
He pressed his face into Scooter's shoulder as he reached up his shirt to rub his chest. He backed away quickly and wiped his eyes.
"Oh gee!....Now look what you did!....I'm cryin' again!....YOU ARE SUCH A RE......Oh SHIT! I almost said it AGAIN!"
They all laughed as they continued back down along the trail.
As they reached the gate of the park, they noticed several vans and panel trucks had already set up. Their sides had been opened to display tiny rainbow flags, bracelets and jewelry. There were clearly several t-shirts displayed. They were black with white lettering and white with black lettering. 'STR8 but NOH8.' 'I have the best (brother/sister/son/daughter) and he/she's gay!' 'GAY is OKAY!' 'HATE is a choice!' 'LOVE is a FAMILY VALUE....HATE isn't!'
The boys noticed stacks of transfers which could be immediately ironed on and personalized in any way. Many had silly captions and cartoons. There was he aroma of fresh popcorn in the air, mixed with the scents of coffee, donuts and even cotton candy.
Other vendors placed out small tables to display their wares. Some strung up lights and colorful banners. Some young people already walked around with glowing light sticks around their necks. Girls and boys made no secret of being same-sex paired. They held hands, hugged and laughed together. Many met friends and hugged each other with squeals of delight.
Matt turned to Tim with his jaw hanging.
"Oh wow, Timmy!....We haven't even started yet and look how many people are here! I never thought this was going to be very big."
They began to wander toward the back of the park. This was the area where they had tobogganed the previous winter. Both Scooter and Toby looked at what used to be one of the swing sets. The area was still sandy and lacking any grass. Again, they stared at the pipes jutting up from the ground where they had been cut off with a torch. The ends were still blackened.
"Awwwwhh," Toby put in, "It would have been one thing to wreck the waterfalls, but did they have to ruin the park for the little kids?...
"Look, even the monkey bars are all cut down....And the merry-go-round!"
They heard squeals and laughter coming from the grassy hill and walked over toward it.
The vendors had obviously emptied cardboard boxes and set them aside. The younger children had found them and tore them into sheets. They slid down the hill in the failing daylight.
"Oh gee," they heard Chris' voice, "How well I remember this place."
The others turned to look at him and Joe drawing up.
Chris gave a slight blush.
"...Yup," he began, looking at Joe, "This is where we went down on that toboggan. Oh shit! Was I was so frightened!....Truly!....And you just held on to me so....so sweetly."
This time it was Joe who blushed.
"...Well, I thought it would be a good excuse to hug you. Gee Chris....You just looked so sweet in that insulated suit. I'm so happy you decided to go through with that."
"...Well, it's as I've told you....I had little choice in the matter. It was the first time I recall Father actually forcing me out to do something. I believe that was about the time he'd had a bit of a falling-out with Grandfather. He wanted me to get out and....well, be a kid for awhile."
He turned toward Joe and threw his arms over his shoulders. He gazed sweetly at his face.
"Ohhhh....Joe....I was never one for umm....emos....but you were just so cute looking! And I loved that black stripe you had died into your hair. It was umm a bit, well, radical for me, but it looked great..."
He continued to gaze at Joe's face for several more seconds. It was obvious he was recalling the moment.
"...And we went over to Tim's place to play video games! Oh! That....that was truly a literal circus for me! I really started feeling a bit better about then. You all had accepted me. None of you called me names. I started to think there really must be nice people in the world.
"...And....Umm....Oh gee....We started watching movies and kinda had that little make-out session. Awh, geeeee! Tim's mom called us all upstairs for a snack......I believed we all appeared a bit disheveled. I was truly a bit embarrassed having so little time to umm....collect myself."
"Hee, hee," Tim put in quickly, "Awh! You didn't have to worry about us. We all thought you were a cute little guy. And we felt really bad for Joe. That was umm....a really bad stretch for Joe there."
Joe nodded as he looked at Chris.
"...Oh yeah!......I told Chris all about that. I think we were both looking for something there. I keep tellin' you Chris....You're a dream come true."
He drew Chris close and kissed his forehead for several seconds.
"Awh gee!" Toby put in quickly, "We're getting all mushy again! Lets do something silly! Let's slide down the hill here!"
They all grabbed for several sheets of cardboard scattered about. They slid down the grassy hill, each on their own small sheet. They reenacted several of their toboggan races. They continued to laugh and be silly. Soon they all began to glance around.
"Awh gee," Toby put in, "I never realized it was getting so dark. Maybe we should get up there and see what's going on."
As they climbed the hill once again, they noticed the electric lights had been turned on. There were silhouettes of people moving about against the bright background. The local radio station had their van set up and popular music came from speakers mounted to the roof. Several of Mr. Gavin's employees were directing traffic into the parking lot. They wore fluorescent orange vests and carried flashlights with red lenses extending from them. The gravel area was already full of vehicles and were being directed to a grassy adjoining area.
Several people were already standing in line near the chemical toilets. A dim electric light had been placed on a tripod here. Two young, shirtless boys ran past with green glowing plastic necklaces and bracelets. They were followed by several others in cut-offs. They were laughing and joking with each other.
"Awh gee! Matty!" Tim put in, "Smell that cotton candy!....Oh gee, I feel like I'm five years old again when I smell cotton candy!"
"Yeah!....Let's go get some....And some popcorn too!"
As they all made their way to a concession stand they noticed another tiny booth set up. Two young girls were doing face painting here. A shirtless boy sat on a stool. It was clear the 'NO H8' in black paint on his cheek was still wet. It reflected the lights from overhead.
In another direction two adults stood with a young boy between them. He was obviously too young to understand what was going on around him. He held a tiny rainbow flag. All the boys thought the same, "He may not understand all this, but at least he won't grow up to be a bigot!"
The couple both held to the little child as they looked forward. It was very obvious they were watching their older child throwing darts at a wall of balloons. They didn't hide the pride they had in their expressions. He stood there, shirtless in jeans beside another young boy. Both wore rainbow bracelets on their left wrists. He tossed a dart. There was a loud pop. A paper fluttered down from the burst balloon.
"...And the young man wins an animal!......Any one on the second shelf there! Take your pick!"
He looked at his partner with a smile.
"What do you want?"
He pointed vigorously at the end of the shelf.
"The unicorn!....The unicorn!....The blue one! With the silver glitter on it!"
The large, burly man handed him the stuffed animal. He seemed to look out of place here, yet his smile was one of love and understanding.
The boy held it to his bare chest with his left arm. With his right hand gripping the other boy's shoulder, he leaned in and gave him a kiss on his lips.
"Oh, wow!....You're the best boyfriend ever!......This is going right on my dresser tonight!"
The adult couple smiled as they watched the boys walk off in a different direction.
Matt and Tim stood in line at the concession stand. Their heads turned from one direction to the other, taking in the crowd.
"Wow!....Matty!....This....this is a gay boy's candy store!"
"Oh shame on you, Timmy!"
They turned to see Ayumi standing behind them.
"MOM!....What are you doing here?!"
"I brought your camera," she said, holding it out, "I couldn't find yours, Matt."
"Oh Mom! I really didn't wanna bring it. I'm afraid it'll get broke."
"Take it!" she said, holding it out with a smile, "I don't think you're going to see too many more of these rallies. Well I certainly hope not! At least not a....a vigil! We've come a long ways boys."
It was here a couple drew up into the line. They noticed it was Tom and Jenny. Tom wore a 'STR8....NOH8' t-shirt. Jenny wore a shirt with the head of a unicorn on it. It's horn consisted of gold glitter and the mane was a velveteen thread which hung down.
"Hey! Tom 'n Jenny!....Hey Mom....This is Tom 'n Jenny from school."
"Oh, I've heard so much about you two. I think it's lovely how you're all working together on all this."
Tom gave a shy smile.
"Oh, hello Mrs. Webster....umm....Yeah! I was just telling Jenny how nice it'll be to not have many more of these types of things...
"I think it's good they're trying to make this into something positive. It's just too bad little Adam had to die to get people together. I wish we could do this sort of thing to prevent another suicide."
"I'm sure you'll be doing just that..."
She hesitated here for a moment.
"I believe Adam's mother will be here tonight. I think she has something to say. Oh that poor woman. She umm....just didn't understand lots of this. And her husband! Oh! What a hateful monster he is. I believe this has finally reached a head for her. I seriously think a divorce in is the planning. Poor little Adam..."
"...Well....umm....yeah. Lots of kids get bullied around school. Adam had to put up with it at home."
"...That was waaayyy beyond bullying! He's just a very unhappy, angry man. I'm sure if it hadn't been this....it would have been something else."
She turned to Matt and Tim again.
"Oh, boys!......Please be careful out here tonight."
"Mom! We aren't going to be all over each other. We understand."
"Well, I've seen quite a few couples out here that aren't exactly all over each other, but they're getting the message across...
"Now this is your first time doing something like this and I worry...
"Oh dear, there are a few churches that got together yesterday and they plan to be here tonight. I'm sure they're going to have signs and they'll be passing out tracts and all about how....How evil all this is..."
"Evil?!....Mom! This is a vigil for someone who died! And yeah, we want to make it a bit more positive but this isn't exactly a gay rights rally!"
"Well, you may have a difficult time convincing others of that...
"Just be extra careful tonight...
"Oh gee that cotton candy smells sooooo good. I think I'll wait in line here for some."
Tom drew up to her in a confidential manner.
"...Umm....My parents were saying the same thing......Jenny's too! But I'll bet there's more straight people here tonight than gay! In fact, I'm almost shocked at how many adults are here. We'll just let the bigots spout-off with their hatred. We'll ignore them. They just thrive on getting attention."
He shook his head as he pinched his nose.
"Ohhhh, I'll never understand how such a message of love can get so flipped over on its axis! I saw that video on the Net....That local preacher?....He was just getting all red in the face and clawing at the air and going on about the gay lifestyle! Like it's a choice or something. I don't think it has anything to do about love."
Ayumi nodded her head.
"...Well, I agree with the boys here....People love to hate and hate to love. They're losing the fight and I think they know that. And I also agree with the fact it has lots to do about money!"
"I wish they'd just go to some parole board meeting and try to keep these child molesters off the streets....And murders!....And rapists! No!....Pick on the gay community! If it's such a sin why aren't they picketing the courthouses handing out divorces?!
"And they think it's perfectly okay to fire people from their jobs. And deny them medical care and marriage benefits. They want to lock up gay people and torture them. And throw kids out of school because they're gay or their two mothers or two fathers are! And call 'em pedophiles and....and abominations! And have their kids bully others into suicide! Oh gee, Mrs. Webster....When I think about all this stuff really seriously....I cry! I cry real tears! And it's all about the fact they don't like the way some people are born!"
Ayumi could only nod her head.
"...Well, just be careful out here....All of you. And be passive! I think that sets the best example."
It was here that several workers walked past, pushing hand trucks. They were loaded with brown cardboard cartons. The black print on them was upside down, yet could be clearly read. "Devotional Candles."
After they each bought their snacks, they stepped out of the line beside the concession stand. Ayumi immediately opened her plastic bag of cotton candy.
"I know this is nothing but a teaspoon of spun sugar, but I've always had a weakness for it."
They all glanced around. Although the gathering was intended to be a vigil, there was indeed a slight festive mood. Several people walked across the stage, they adjusted a large rainbow flag which served as a backdrop. They unfurled a large rolled-up poster. They all gasped as they saw a large poster of Adam's face. It had been taken a year earlier. Adam still had his shoulder-length brown hair. He seemed to have a slightly crooked, shy smile.
"Oh my God!" Ayumi gasped, "...How could anyone be so cruel with such a sweet little angel?..."
Workers adjusted the positions of the floodlights along the floor to direct them over the poster and flag. Mr. Gavin looked toward the gate. A large truck had stopped across the road leading in. It was deliberately blocking the gate. It was pulling a flatbed trailer, no doubt for equipment which had already been unloaded. The burly driver stepped down from the cab.
"Hey Jake!" he yelled to Mr. Gavin, "I think we've got some....some agitators trying to get in here!"
Mr. Gavin ran down the steps of the stage and past the long trailer. He drew up to a van stopped on the other side. He talked with the driver in a subdued voice, yet they could catch portions of the conversation.
"...This is NOT a city park!....This is private property!..........Then I guess I'll just have to have you arrested for trespassing!..........Fine!........You can set up there on the other side of the street. From the street, through that gate....and to the service road behind, is all private property!"
The van's driver's window went up and there was the slight screech of tires as it backed up with a lurch. It turned parallel with the adjoining street and made a turn to the other side. Under the streetlights they saw the van had a church name stenciled along the side. Within the windows could be seen young people. They began stepping out with signs already mounted to sticks. They took up a position on the sidewalk.
Ayumi's shoulders dropped with nearly an air of disgust.
"Oh my!......They've got children in that van!"
It was here, Joe's father stepped up with Joe and Chris beside him. They had got into the line for the concession stand. He had casually glanced their way.
"Oh! Doctor Webster!..."
"Ohhhhh Frank!....Paaahhhleezz! It's Ayumi! We aren't hardly on duty at the hospital."
He gave a large grin.
"...Well, umm....I've put in my two week notice. I umm....won't be working there anymore."
"Oh! Did you get that offer?"
"Sure did," he replied, glancing down at Chris, "Mr. Gavin wants me right here working on this school project. I had no idea he'd be starting it so soon."
"Oh! How wonderful!"
"It sure is....I really don't mind maintenance....repairing things....but....Well, this is more my kind of thing. Working on buildings! Operating a backhoe!....A bulldozer! Welding! Running piping....Oh! I'm happy with a....a jackhammer in my hands!....And umm....It'll really help out with the bills."
Ayumi nodded her head with a knowing smile.
"Oh, I wish you all the best!...
"Umm....Will you be here with the boys tonight?"
"Oh yeah! I'm not going to miss this!...
"And....well, frankly....I'd worry about Joe a bit....being out here with all this."
Ayumi nodded her head.
"...The same here. Well, Ken's still stuck out at the firm on some project and I have to head back to the hospital. Well, I don't mind making rounds....It's those boring meetings I have to attend. And they usually last 'til past midnight.
"Can I ask you a very big favor?"
She drew Matt and Tim up to herself.
"Keep an eye on these two....I'm a bit apprehensive."
"Oh Mom!....I don't think we're going to have to worry about a lynch mob!"
"Boys!....I worry. I've got to get back to the hospital now."
"...Well, that's why I'm here with Joe and Chris," Mr. West said, "I mean, I know Jacob is here, but he's rather busy with other things."
Ayumi pinched her temples.
"Oh!....We're already getting the ER setup for tonight. And I see there's already an ambulance out here from the fire company. I'm sooooo nervous over this."
"Mom!....Mr. Gavin is paying them to just sort of standby. He's more worried about accidents, or someone getting sick or having an allergic reaction to something. I seriously don't think they'll be treating bullet wounds!"
"Timmy! I'm nervous enough over this...Don't add to it!"
"Mom....We'll be fine! A guess a few people are going to speak tonight. Then we're going to light candles and just remember all the kids who were killed or committed suicide. It's going to be kinda like that Day of Silence they have, only this will be a few months later."
"Well, please be careful...
"Now I've really got to get back to work. I'll be in that meeting 'til perhaps midnight, so text Dad at the firm when you leave here and again when you get home! If you take too long we'll....we'll put out an APB for you or whatever!"
Minutes later, Matt and Tim passed a novelty display. Their eyes scanned over the table of trinkets and baubles. Tim reached for two rainbow colored bracelets. They consisted of beads threaded onto an elastic.
"I feel a bit under-dressed tonight," Tim said, "I think we both need a bracelet..."
He hesitated for a moment.
"...Awh gee....I really didn't want to buy any....any souvenirs of tonight. I really don't want to remember Adam like that."
"I don't either," Matt put in with a forced grin, "...but we just can't forget Adam! And all the others! We've actually got to keep these things in the spotlight! We have to remember them all."
Tim nodded as he paid the woman for the bracelets. They drew them on. Their expressions were one of solemnity rather than joy. Matt tenderly stroked it as he looked closely at the individual beading.
It was here they heard Tory's voice.
"...Come on Paulie!....We just have to get one of those glowing necklaces! And....and a bracelet too!....And....and a little rainbow flag! I wanna attach it to my wheelchair here!"
She was maneuvering her chair over the uneven ground with great strength and determination.
Paul came up on his aluminum crutches. It had been the first time anyone had seen him in shorts. His metal braces shined in the lights of the stand. He'd become less self-conscious of them.
"Tory!....Paul!" Tim shouted out.
"Ohhhh!" Tory gasped, "Timmy!....Matty! Come here! I need a hug!"
They both hugged her deeply and turned to Paul to hug him as well. They understood he couldn't return it, due to his crutches.
"Hey," Matt began, "is it true you two are kinda like an item now?"
Tory blushed as she nodded her head. She reached out and grasped the back of Paul's hand, still gripping his crutch.
"...I really don't know how it all happened......It was very slow, you know?....Very subtle. I think it was working at the park here where we started umm.....noticing each other a bit more! Remember?....We were painting the benches."
Her eyes dropped for a moment.
"Oh poor little Paulie. He....he was having a bit of a time with getting down onto the ground and then getting up again. He felt so self-conscious over his braces. He was doing fine though."
She pointed at the leg braces.
"...I told him those were his armor....and that he looked like a knight! Yup! My knight in shining armor!"
"Ohhhhh, how sweet," Tim put in.
"Awh! Tory!....Let's just get our stuff here."
"Oh don't be so shy over it!...
"Oh!....Oh!....I smell cotton candy! We've got to get a cotton candy!"
"So how did you two get out here tonight?" Tim asked, "Your parents here?..."
"...Well, umm....Yeah, they're here but they kinda let Tom and Jenny take us out here. They wanted us to spend time with our friends without being too....too overprotective! They said it'll be good for us. My mom just worries about me at certain times....Like having to get on the toilet! Jenny said she'd help me. Ohhhh! Tom and Jenny are great, huh?"
"They sure are. We saw them earlier tonight..."
He gazed toward the stage area.
"...My mom brought my camera out here for me......I'm just kinda waiting for the stage to clear a bit. I really wanna get a shot of that. I mean just the flag and Adam's poster there. Right now everyone's walking around adjusting the lights and getting the PA system set up."
Tory looked down in her lap. She squeezed the fingers of her left hand.
"Ohhh poor little Adam......I didn't really know him. The bullies....They weren't from the high school....I think they were from his grade school. They just followed him around and made fun of him......Calling him girly and little fag and a few other things I won't mention. He took it well, I think. He tried to not let it bother him. And he was always ready to help someone else. He always had nice things to say to people. Even when he was down, he still tried to cheer up others..."
She gazed off into the darkness toward the back of the grounds. She was looking at nothing in particular. Her expression was one of deep reflection.
"...Oh!....One day I was really having a time of things. I got off the bus in the winter. Well, you know....the handicapped van. Mrs. Dee wasn't assisting that day. They had some substitute assistant. She asked me if I needed help getting up to the school. I told her no, because Alex 'n Bob were always right there to help me...
"Well, I found out Alex had sprained his ankle and Bob was out with a real nasty cold. I had to get up that icy hill. Oh! I kept slipping. I had my gloves on, but my fingers were just ice! And when I finally got to my locker....Oh! I kept dropping things 'n all. It was just well....one of those days, you know? I was just so frustrated over everything, I just started crying. Little Adam came over to help me. And those awful bullies were right there taunting him. He ignored them and just smiled at me. He picked up my books 'n tablets and handed them to me. And he asked if I needed any help to get to my first class. He was just so sweet 'n shy about it all. I told him I could manage..."
She let out a deep sigh.
"Then he sorta walked off....and those awful bullies just kept following him and calling him fag and queer 'n all sorts of nasty things. Oh shit!"
She gasped and wiped her eyes.
"That's really the only time I had anything to do with him. And....and it's such a sad memory. I wish there was something happier I could remember him by."
Within minutes they had bought their items. Tory held to a tiny rainbow flag, glancing around. It was obvious to them she was looking for a place to attach it to her chair.
"...Umm....could one of you go into that first aid kit in behind here. There's some adhesive tape in there. I wanna mount this right on the front of the arm of the chair here."
Minutes later Tim had Paul stand beside her. She reached out and held him around his hips. He took a photo of them.
"...Ummmm....That wasn't much of a flash there. I turned it down quite a bit. I didn't want it overpowering your necklaces."
He showed them the shot on the camera's display.
"Oh! Timmy! I want that! You gotta send me that photo!"
"I'll e-mail it to you first thing in the morning!....And one for you too Paul."
Matt and Tim wandered around the grounds. Tim took shots of the concession stands, the lights strung up and couples which were total strangers to him. Everyone was smiling. There was indeed a warm, positive atmosphere to the night. Strangers drew up together and simply began talking. Introductions were short and informal. Many scribbled e-mail addresses to scraps of paper.
"Oh!....Oh!" Tim put in suddenly, "The stage is clear. I wanna get a real nice shot of that."
He began taking shots at several settings. He'd frequently check the display with a slight frown. After several shots, he smiled at the display.
Others had taken notice as well and began drawing out cameras and cell phones.
They were surprised to see a local TV van parked near the stage. A cameraman walked around with a large, professional camcorder on his shoulder.
"Holy shit, Matty! Even the TV station is here! I wonder if they're going to have this shown as the positive thing we'd like it to be. I'll bet they turn it into something nasty!"
Mr. Gavin assisted another man with sliding a wooden podium to the front of the stage. Another drew the microphone up to it. Two large candles in cylindrical glass containers were placed on the podium. Mr. Gavin lit them with long wooden matchsticks. Several others drew out metal folding chairs and set them up toward the rear of the stage, before the backdrop.
They recognized Reverend Winters stepping up the metal stairway. He assisted a tiny, thin woman beside himself. Her hair was cut short. She wore a trim fitting suit. She grasped his arm with one hand, in her other she held a fistful of tissues. Although an attractive woman, her troubled expression seemed to add years to her life. She appeared fatigued, confused, nearly disoriented. The reverend assisted her into a chair as he took one beside her. He grasped her arm in support as he gazed at her empty expression.
Several men walked back and fourth across the stage, whispering to each other. It was obvious the program was about to get underway. The local radio station van turned off its music. Many people in the crowd began to draw quiet as they neared the stage. Mr. Gavin stepped up to the microphone.
"...I was about to address you as 'Ladies and Gentlemen,' but from what I see here, that would seem to exclude a vast number of people......Young people! The very one's who've made tonight possible..."
He paused here as the crowd became silent, making their way even closer to the stage.
"...I'm more than....astonished at the number of people gathered here tonight...
"The very first thing I wish to say tonight is......This is NOT some sort of....radical gathering! This is a gathering of people who....for whatever reason, can feel the pain this community has felt over the loss of one of its young people. A terrible loss!..."
He gazed out over the crowd as he adjusted the microphone before him.
"...Tonight....I....umm....well, I went for a little jaunt through the crowd here. I talked to parents and teens alike. And I'm quite surprised that little Adam was known by so few people. Yet, those who knew him....really knew him....I could see the loss in their eyes....their facial expressions. Of those who knew him, they had nothing but positive comments....His shy smile, his soft voice....his....his love for everyone! He was that little lamb, literally in a lion's den! He was hurt physically and psychologically, yet he never wished any ill on his aggressors. He was a very passive, loving little boy..."
He hunched forward over the microphone.
"...And THIS is why we're all here tonight!....Yes, we mourn his passing, yet we want to celebrate his love! His unconditional love for everyone! From what I've heard of him, I have to agree with the others......He wouldn't want this to be a mournful gathering. I know that now. He'd want to see everyone giving out hugs, seeing their smiles and hearing their laughter...
"I truly believe he's here with us tonight in spirit. And I also believe he'd be very unhappy to see tears on his friends faces. He was that kind of person."
He looked over his shoulder and nodded toward the reverend. He in turn got to his feet, assisting the thin woman beside him to her feet as well.
"...Adam's mother is here with us tonight. We've asked her to give us a few words...
"...Mrs. Tanner?" he said, stepping back from the microphone.
The reverend assisted her to the podium. She grasped it tightly in her hands, as though in fear of falling. The reverend whispered to her. She simply nodded her head. He released her arm and quickly adjusted the microphone to a lower setting. She gazed out at the crowd. She wiped her eyes with the tissues in her hand and blotted her lips.
"...Oh dear," she began, "I had no idea of the number of people who'd be here tonight for my little Adam."
She paused and looked over the crowd again.
"I'm afraid I'm a bit uncomfortable up here. I've never talked to so many people all at once."
She wiped her mouth with the tissues again.
"I'd certainly like to thank all you young people out there tonight. I know you tried your best. I know few of you knew my little Adam. He was shy, quiet....had lots of difficulty being outgoing and making lots of friends. Yet I knew he loved as well...
"I loved my little Adam, but I believe I've made lots of mistakes along the way. I've had many people talking to me....consoling me. And if there's one thing I learned in life is.... you are what you are! Or as you young people say today....Born This Way!..."
Again she paused, blotting her lips.
"...I thought I had a love for my Adam like no other mother could have. And I thought it was unconditional!......It wasn't!...
"Oh dear. Since I was a little girl, I've heard nothing but negative aspects of the gay lifestyle as it's called. I truly thought it was a choice. I kept telling Adam he could change! I wanted a better life for him here and now....as well as Hereafter! I was so concerned over his soul as well. I heard nothing but hate and negative talk about the gay community. Oh! I grew up with it! It was so....so programmed into my mind, I thought for sure I was doing the right thing...
"I wanted him to go to a....a reparative therapy group......Yes!......Kind of like he was....broken and needed....repairing! I've come to understand that's just not so! I've come to understand it way too late.
"I'd like to address any parents out there tonight....to understand your child's position. I don't believe any hateful parents would join a vigil as we have tonight, but I'd ask you to talk with others. Ask yourself....Is this really unconditional love?...
"I thought it was......but I was soooo wrong. I wanted him the way I wanted him. It was a very conditional love......What I was actually telling him is, 'I'll love you if you're straight!' Now I didn't actually use those words....but I'm sure he heard them. And yet I kept fooling myself! I truly thought a loving mother would want her children straight. I fooled myself into believing it was love, and that I was doing this for his own good...
"...Not to excuse my own actions....but I wanted his father to be proud of him as well. Ohhh! He'd get so angry over little Adam. He'd beat on him something awful. I wanted it to stop. And I thought if I could just get him to become straight, it would all end.
"Ohhh, how he begged me not to send him back to that organization. I didn't listen to him. I thought it was because he wanted to choose a lifestyle that I thought was so damaging to him......Yes, people....I actually called it love.
"...I....I allowed him to sleep that one day. I thought it was simply exhaustion. He never was a very physically strong boy. And his injuries were bad. I thought the best thing for him was just sleep. It would give him time to heal. And he wouldn't be conscious of his pain."
She drew the tissues to her mouth again.
"...He just kept sleeping and sleeping......I got concerned and went in to check on him."
She faltered here, her legs weakening. She grasped for the podium. Mr. Gavin and the reverend both rushed forward to offer her support.
"....Oh dear!......That face!......All cut up and bruised and that awful deep blue!"
She blotted her lips again with the tissues.
"...I instantly saw the bottle of pills on his nightstand......The empty bottle. The glass with only a bit of water left in it. I knew!....I just knew he was dead!....Yet I didn't want to believe it! I called for an ambulance and kept begging them to revive him......They tried their best, but it was too late...
"Oh my! I wouldn't wish such a thing on any child or parent! I truly thought for a moment there I was going to lose my mind. I truly thought I was about to go insane! I so wanted to believe this was all a terrible nightmare and I was going to wake up...
"After a day or so, the investigators came in. They found no notes or anything. I was so hoping they would! I wanted to know his thoughts just before he did such a thing! They took his computer. I've been told they found some deleted files. I'm not one much for computers, but I understand they can sometimes recover deleted files. I so want to find if he put down any of his thoughts. I'm sooooo hoping he didn't go out thinking I hated him! I loved him. I thought I was doing right. I so hope he doesn't hate me for wanting him back into that organization to....to repair him!"
She slipped again on her feet. The reverend whispered something to her. She nodded, yet drew up to the microphone once again.
"...And I believe that's about all I have to say tonight..."
Mr. Gavin assisted her toward the stairs. She seemed to be shielding her eyes from the large poster which hung from the backdrop. The crowd remained silent.
The reverend stepped up to the podium. He wore a simple sport shirt and slacks. He adjusted the wire-frame glasses on his nose.
"...Ladies and gentlemen....students..."
He hesitated as he drew his fingers through his gray hair for a moment, collecting his thoughts. He readjusted the microphone.
"...I'm so pleased at the large crowd here tonight. Oh my! I did the same as Mr. Gavin has done here tonight. I went out there and talked to people. I understand many of you have traveled great distances just to be here tonight. And I too was surprised at how few of you knew little Adam. We didn't know him in life, but we've all come together in his death.
"...I'll be the first to say....it's not one's sexuality that caused this to happen....It's bigotry! Not that little Adam's mother was a bigot toward him....It's the....the mindset today. She has made that very clear to me...
"I believe Christians today should understand that God has created us all. He created us all in His image. Some of us may not be as scholastically capable as others. Some of us are naturally short....some naturally tall. We all have different color hair....different color eyes. Some of us may be naturally thin....Some of us, including myself, a bit....umm large!"
There was a slight chuckle through the group at this.
"...Yes indeed. My doctor is getting a bit impatient with me. Yet he understands some of us just don't have the same type of metabolism as others. The older I get, the more difficult it is at losing weight. Some people can do so very easy. For others it seems to take forever to lose a single pound. It's the way we are! We aren't all exactly the same!....Oh dear, what a boring life if we were, huh?...
"...Yes! I've heard the phrase myself....'Born This Way!' And I believe it's true......I believe we've all got to reconsider our theology on many things. The Bible was written many, many years ago. Few people could read or write back then. In fact, it was mostly the rich, well-to-do people who could afford the time and expense of a most rudimentary form of education. We knew so little of chemistry, physics....the solar system. There was literally no science or medical knowledge such as we have today. We need a scholastically sound interpretation if the Bible today. Especially in light of today's great technology.
"Do I believe the Bible is the Word of God? I don't believe I should have entered the ministry if I didn't!......We have to remember the Bible was written for its day. We have to understand it was written for people who didn't understand science, physics, chemistry or even the most rudimentary laws which govern our daily lives...
"Oh my......Last week I was out to visit a somewhat sickly young lady in our congregation. Oh, nothing life threatening or the like. She simply has many allergies. She was Born This Way! She doesn't have the natural immunities most of us have. A simple high pollen count will have her bedridden for days! She has to visit her doctor frequently. Every week she needs special injections to boost her immune system. Yet she's a most pleasant, loving person. She has simply accepted herself as she is! The way God created her! And I'm pleased to see that others have accepted her.... as she is!
"She lives with her parents, out a distance in the more rural area of the town. And as I was driving out there, I noticed a lineman working high up on a utility pole. Oh! I had such a shudder pass through me. Believe me, I've such a fear of heights. And I thought of him falling. Could we ask God to protect this man way up there? Well, sure! Yet, what if he were to slip? What if his safety belt were to rend or malfunction?....Would God literally shut off gravity for him? Of course not! God created planets with gravity! It's forever! Anything which has mass will have a gravity in proportion to it! It's there! It's forever! It's the way God made it!
"I mentioned to Mrs. Tanner that very same thing. Adam was made that way! And he didn't want to lie about it. He wanted to be honest....with himself and others. I believe she did a fine job of raising him to be so honest! He didn't want to pretend he was something he wasn't. I believe its something great to have such an honest child that he'd risk total rejection from his own family. He didn't want that burden on his shoulders of living a lie!
"I believe some parents may have a fear that they have done something wrong along the line. Never!......Science is learning that those who identify as gay, will tell you that very early in life, they felt....well, different! We haven't exactly pinpointed it yet, but I believe genetics has much to do with it......'Born This Way.' It's forever! The way God intended to to be!
"Study after study has proven it's nature ....not nurture. Oh yes! There are still a few psychologists out there who'll disagree. I believe they simply have a hidden agenda. It's usually a religious or homophobic attitude. Objective science has done away with the idea that parenting styles have anything to do with one's sexual orientation."
He hung his head for a moment and paused.
"Oh I've read....I've witness such awful things going on out there."
He looked up again, adjusting his glasses.
"There are some such horrible practices out there. These scams! Or as many people call them....snake-oil salesmen!...
"I've recently heard of several of these places literally shutting down! Some after many years. The leaders have simply come to the point where they understand there's no changing the way a person was born. They've offered up a few apologies for their actions....yet....Oh such damage has already been done...
"I believe they've come to finally realize there is no cure! It's simply immersing oneself into a deep denial. Nothing has truly changed.
"I believe Mrs. Tanner understands that now. It's difficult for many people to understand. They truly believe the things they are told without challenge. And I believe this is what frightened little Adam so much. He knew....he understood there's no changing creation. Anymore than we can believe the sun orbits the earth. We can try to convince ourselves it does so....yet it changes nothing!
"Yes, I understand little Adam was bullied by his classmates, but I believe he also understood the sheer futility of changing his orientation. Who would know better than someone who had been through such an ordeal? And I truly don't believe he hates anyone. I believe he understands...
"While our Savior was nailed to that cross, the Bible makes it clear how he was taunted! He was bullied by Roman soldiers and citizens. They slammed a crown of thorns on his head and mocked him....pretending to bow down to a king! They beat Him, laughed at Him. I can just imagine what went on out there at the cross....The soldiers poking at Him with their swords, taunting Him. 'Come on Jesus! You're the son of God! Use your magic and get yourself down from there!' Oh my! What a temptation that must have been for Him!"
He gazed out over the crowd.
"...Yet......what did He do? He looked up to the heavens and said, 'Father, forgive them.... They know not what they do!' He hung there in agony! Being insulted and humiliated! Yet He asked forgiveness to the very people who were slowly killing Him!...
"THIS is what I wish to keep reminding people. Jesus died for our sins....These young people out there today are dying because of our sins! It just seems so clear to me. I find it so difficult that others can't understand such a message of LOVE! The entire life of Jesus is about love and forgiveness. And that's the reason we're all here tonight...
"It's unfortunate a death has brought us together tonight....Yet I'm sure there is a great reason for it. I believe none of these young people have died in vain. And as all of you have said, we must make this a cause....a solemn cause for celebration as well. And I believe every one of you....that Adam would truly have wanted it that way..."
He slowly stepped back from the microphone, holding his arm out toward Mr. Gavin.
Mr. Gavin stepped up to the microphone. He hesitated for a moment. He noticed Tory in her wheelchair, wiping her eyes. Paul stood behind her, leaning on one crutch, wiping his eyes as well. Jenny was squatted down beside Tory, holding her hand. Tom stood behind her, rubbing her shoulders.
"...Thank you very much for those words, Reverend...
"...A couple students at the local public school here suggested this evening to me. I thought it may be a good idea. I encouraged them to contact their friends on the Net....I believe I was expecting to see more people here tonight than they believed possible."
He paused as he gazed out over the crowd of people.
"...Wow!....I was never expecting this!...
"I sort of saw this coming when this hit our local Net. I don't believe it's actually gone viral worldwide....but it has certainly reached lots of local people..."
He removed the microphone from its stand and sidestepped from behind the podium.
"...I believe tonight should be a night for you young people...
"My boy has made friends with many of the students in the public school, yet he's from a private school. He didn't know Adam as many of you others have. I thought of having him as part of this vigil tonight....yet....I don't believe that would be right....This should be for those of you who knew him....His closest friends...
"...Umm....Is there an Ethan and Ryan out there tonight?"
Ryan's eyes shot open as he grasped Ethan's arm.
"Oh shit! Oh shit!" he forcefully whispered to Ethan, "I sure hope we don't have to get up there and talk!"
They timidly stepped out before the stage. Mr. Gavin handed them each a long, unlit taper candle.
"...Now if you boys would just hold these candles for a moment..."
He stepped back to the podium and reached for one of the candles burning there. He held it before himself, gazing it the flame fluttering in the breeze.
"...I've been told that each color of the rainbow flag you see behind me here, represents something. The only color I recall is the yellow......representing sunlight. And I've been standing here looking from these candles to the flag and back at the candles again. Yellow! Sunlight! Not darkness, people!....Light! This is what we need in this town....this state....the WORLD!......We want to do away with darkness and bring light into the world! I want this light to symbolize not just light....but love as well. Let's think of this flame as a loving light! A light we need to spread all over the world. Love not hate, people...
"Now as I light these boy's candles, I want them to go about the crowd out there and light other candles. And as your candle is lit....pass the flame to those next to you. And lets think of this light as a very precious love and understanding that we're passing from one person to the next. I want to see this single flame become multiplied. Symbolic of a loving message which is spreading out for everyone to receive....and pass on to others..."
It was here the concession stands and vendors booths switched off their lights. The lights of the stage were switched off. Mr. Gavin squatted down and touched his candle to Ethan's and Ryan's. They turned with sober expressions and stepped toward the crowd. Ethan held out his candle to Tory, lighting her candle. Ryan touched his candle to Paul's. Tory let out a sob as she touched her candle to Jenny's. Jenny in turn lit Tom's.
Mr. Gavin stood up again and went for the podium. He lifted a sheet of paper. The candles in the glass cylinders flickered over his face.
"...While the candles are being lit, I'd like to read a few names off this list here. Young people's names.......People who were so tortured....so abused.... they took their own lives....And indeed, several are some who have been literally murdered....because of the way they were created! I could never list them all. They'd probably run into the thousands. These names I'm sure we're all familiar with. Well, those of us in the US......Yet, let's not forget the unnamed! Let's not forget those in other countries who are being arrested, jailed, tortured, murdered....All because of who they wish to love..."
He gazed down at the paper between the flickering candles.
"...Jacob Rogers......Carlos Vigil......Jack Reese......Tyler Clementi..."
The students in the crowd eagerly waited for their own candles to be lit. The flames spread along the front rows of the crowd, gradually gaining more depth. People whispered to each other. Many drew out handkerchiefs and tissues.
"...Phillip Parker......Jamey Rodemeyer......Josh Pacheco......Kenith Weishuhn..."
Matt and Tim stood beside each other. Matt began wiping his eyes.
"...Oh shit!" he whispered, "I think I'm gonna really lose it tonight. I'm gonna make a total ass of myself!"
Tim turned to him with tears on his cheeks.
"...Well, you won't be the only one..."
Tim tried to sober himself.
"My camera," he thought, "I've got to get this on my camera! No flash! Low light setting!....I've got to keep my mind off this..."
"...Seth Walsh......Raymond Chase......Jamey Hubley......Tiffani Maxwell..."
Jenny suddenly lurched forward and dropped her head in Tory's lap, with a sob. Tory drew her candle to a safe distance and ran her fingers through Jenny's hair. Tom got to his knees beside Jenny. Paul made his way to the side of the wheelchair and leaned on one crutch. He placed his arm over Tory's shoulders.
"...Matthew Shepard......Carl Hoover......Rafael Morelos......Asher Brown..."
Tim noticed the huge crowd behind him. It was tightly packed. People were only making way for Ethan and Ryan as they walked about. He held his camera high, blindly snapping at the shutter. He felt a nudge at his shoulder. Mina held out her candle. He touched his candle to her's and in turn touched his candle to Matt's. Matt's face was literally twisted in determination to hold back tears. They each reached for the others hand and interlaced their fingers in a tight grasp.
Mr. Gavin looked up. The candle flames were still spreading out through the crowd.
"...Billy Lucas......Justin Aaberg......Ryan Halligan......Carl Walker..."
Matt glanced at Tim, tears streaming down his cheeks.
"Oh Timmy," he gasped in a low voice, "I love you so much....I don't ever want to lose you!"
They grabbed for each other in a clumsy, one arm hug. They tried to be conscious of the candle flames, holding them out at a distance. Both pressed their eyes into each others shoulders.
"...Angie Zapata......Eric Mohat......Cody Barker......Amanda Todd..."
Mr. Gavin found the sheet before him was growing blurry. He felt his own tears. He simply dropped the sheet and looked out over the crowd. He nearly gasped as he saw the candle flames still growing outward. People whispered to each other. Sobs could be heard.
"...Ohhhh! I see that loving light is still spreading out! That message....going from one person to the next. What a beautiful sight! I'll remember this for the rest of my life!"
Toby looked toward Scooter. Scooter was gazing at the flame of his candle. He turned to look at Toby, tears on his cheeks.
"...Scoot!" Toby said in a forced whisper, "Stop that!....You're going to get me going!"
"...Oh Tob!" Scooter gasped, "When is all the hate going to stop?"
Toby began to cry.
"...I don't think it ever will go away completely....But we don't have to hate!"
They each threw an arm around each other, rubbing each others backs.
"Ohhhh Scoot!....Will you stop that?!....Quit bein' such a ret....Oh shit. I almost said it again!"
"Go ahead. Call me anything you want....but just don't ever leave me..."
Toby managed a slight smile.
"...I'd never do that......'Cause that would make me a retard!....And you are the retard!"
They hugged each other with one arm as they kissed deeply.
Soon the entire area was bathed in a subdued yellow light from literally a thousand candles.
Ethan and Ryan could no longer find any more candles to light. They stood looking at each other with shy smiles. Ethan reached out and squeezed Ryan's shoulder.
"Oh Dew!" he nearly gushed, "I just love you so much! And we've got to keep the loving light being passed from one to the other....forever!"
Ryan smiled, yet a tiny tear ran down each of his cheeks. Ethan held him in one arm.
"Oh!....My little Dewdrop!" he gasped.
A single floodlight came back on, on the stage. It lit the poster of Adam with his shy, crooked smile.
"...Okay people......I have an announcement to make...
"We're here in what used to be the city park. You young people literally repaired it. You took care of the grounds....painted the bridges and pavilions and benches. You cleaned up its waterways. You installed a beautiful waterfalls!.......Then......some nasty people came through and destroyed it!....Yes! Hate destroyed it....but love is going to rebuild it!...
"Ladies....gentlemen....students......I've bought this park. And we're all going to rebuild it! I'm erecting a school on this very spot!......A very special school. Where very special young people can go for a relatively good education. It won't be a college....but it will be a stepping stone to one. And they'll be here without fear! Just as this light spread out tonight, one to the other, this school will spread out a message of love. It will be a place of education! A place of light! A place of love and acceptance. No more darkness! There will be no hate on this very spot on which you're standing."
He turned to gaze at the poster.
"Adam would want it that way. He's touched many people who've never even met him....never knew him."
He turned back to the crowd.
"I want you people to carefully walk about here tonight. I want you to literally feel the darkness! I want you to look at the destroyed recreational area. Take your candles along the nature trails up to the pond. I want you to look at that burned bridge. I want you to look at the burned pavilion. I want you to SMELL the charred odor of wood and ash in the air. And I want you to know there will be an entire boarding school rising up around here....Yes! Just like the mythological Phoenix rising up from ashes....I want you to know this school will rise up as well. It will be a better place. Better than it ever was before. Again a place of love....of light! Now lets all try to be happy over this!"
He turned to face the poster again.
"I'm sure Adam would like us all to be happy and loving to each other. I'm sure he wants to hear laughter now....see smiles!....Because he......he was Born That Way too!"
He quickly left the stage, wiping his own eyes.
The group across the street could faintly be heard.
"...Sinners!....Fags!....Degenerates!....Burn in Hell!....Enablers! You too will burn!"
The reverend looked up at the dark, clear sky.
"Oh dear God....What has happened?....What has happened to Your precious message?"
The concession stands lit up once again. The vendors turned their lights on. The local radio station van began playing popular music through its PA system. Those across the street were drowned out.
Mr. Gavin walked up to the reverend, still wiping his eyes with a handkerchief.
"We'll leave them alone," he said, "They're helping our cause, not harming it!"
"Oh you are such a RETARD!" Toby's voice sounded out.
Matt and Tim turned his way. They had already bought cotton candy. Toby was pulling it from his hair in the humid night.
"I was going to put it in you mouth! Why did you turn away?!" Scooter put in.
"Awh geeeee!....I'm gonna be all sticky now!"
Matty!....Timmy!" a voice called out.
They turned to see Rachel walking their way.
"Hey Rach!" Matt said, pointing up to her hair, "I almost didn't recognize you without your black stripe through your hair......And you cut it shorter! Awwwhhh!"
"Oh it was just getting to be too much of a hassle. As it was growing out, I tried to touch up that stripe and it just kept getting more crooked. It looked awful!"
"So....umm," Tim hesitated, "How are things going?"
"My parents were about to go over to my aunt's place and ask me to come back home. Hee, hee......My aunt told them I was going to be here tonight. She told me all about it on my cell, just before the candlelight thingy started...
"Hee, hee......I believe Mom shit a brick....an' I think Dad's head exploded! Oh, they're right back to hating again..."
"Umm....Sorry to hear that."
"Awh, don't worry about it. I've got a couple more years here and I'll be shipping off to the Navy! I'm going to try to get aircraft carrier duty! But even if I don't....It'll give me time to think about things. Maybe even save up a little money. I have no idea which direction I'm going when I get out of school. I'm kinda thinking of it as sorta putting my future on hiatus until I find out what I want to do with my life..."
"Well, we sure wish you the best."
Rachel reached up and pinched the wick of her candle, extinguishing the flame.
"So umm....Is everyone here tonight?"
"The clan? Oh yeah, we're all here. It's just that this big crowd has swallowed us all up. I'm sure we'll run into each other sooner or later. Umm none of us are exactly basketball team members. We don't exactly stick out, you know?"
"Rachel!" Joe called out.
She turned to see Joe and Chris walking their way. They both wore glowing necklaces and bracelets. They both had NO H8 painted on their cheeks in yellow paint with a green glitter mixed into it.
"Oh Ray!....This is Chris I was telling you about. And Chris?....This is Rachel from my school. She's great!....She's umm....on our side."
Rachel squatted down a bit and reached out to brush Chris' hair from his glasses.
"Ohhhhh myyyy God!....Oh! You're simply a little doll!"
Chris shyly bowed his head.
"...And shy too, right?"
Joe blushed a bit here.
"Umm....Yeah, we both are," Joe put in, "...Even a bit with each other still."
"Oh! You two make such a sweet couple!"
She put her arm over Joe's shoulders and shook him.
"Oh Chris! You've got to take real good care of Joe here. Oh! He's been through the grind! I mean....relationship-wise! We all felt so poorly over him. He deserves much better."
Chris reached for Joe's hand.
"Well, I certainly hope to try my best."
Rachel quickly opened a purse over her shoulder and dropped her candle inside. She drew out her cell and stepped back a short distance.
"Okay now. I want a shot of you two kissing."
"Awh!....We hold hands and the sort but we don't kiss and put on a scene!" Chris said.
"Come on Joe....Just a little kiss on the cheek."
Joe kissed Chris as Rachel took the shot.
"Ohhhh! Really boys....That was so sweet...
"Yes!....Love!....Light! I can just feel it all around us!" she nearly gushed, "Oh I simply love these rallies!....Well, this is the first vigil I've ever been to. Oh, it's just so sad someone has to die to draw us all together like this. But everyone's right. We've got to turn this into something more positive! We've got to do everything we can to keep something like this from ever happening again."
Scooter and Toby walked up to them. Toby was wiping the side of his head with a paper napkin.
"Ohhhh! I'm all sticky from Scoot's cotton candy!"
"Tob! I was going to put it in your mouth! I thought it was going to be a nice gesture. You're the one who turned your head!"
"Ohhhh!....I couldn't help it! I heard those assholes across the street there."
"Tob!" Scooter put in, "Don't pay any attention to them. They just love attention! Let's just be here with our friends. Let's think of positive things."
"Well, I'm thinking you're positively a retard!"
"Oh boys! Please?" Rachel nearly begged, "Let's not be calling each other names."
She reached into her purse and drew out a tiny foil pouch.
"Come here. I brought along a bunch of these moist towelettes. Oh, I'm such a klutz at times when I'm eating."
She wiped at Toby's head.
"It was just a tiny spot. Well....I have to agree with you. Ugh! Sticky hair!"
Ethan and Ryan walked up with their inner arms around each other. They had put their candles out and they were sticking from their shirt pockets. Both were still wiping their eyes with tissues. Rachel smiled and snapped her phone toward them.
"Awh! Ray!....Can't you wait until we're a bit more....presentable?!"
"Never!....You have nothing to feel bad about. There's nothing with a bit of a teary face. I think it's just so nice to see people care! What a wonderful evening this has become. Oh wow! Total strangers being brought together for a common cause....A good cause!"
She gazed across the short distance toward the stage. The single floodlight still shined over Adam's poster.
"...I never even met Adam....I never knew who he was. Ohhhh, look at that sweet smile. Ohhhh, how can anyone be mean to someone like that? How can people hate like that?...
"Oh! I swear, I think I'd have to belong to some....some Satanic cult to have the capacity to hate so much!....So easy..."
They stood at the area they were at as they looked around. Many of the young people were same-sex couples. They noticed a literal column of people, holding candles, walking up the trail toward the pond. Another column was already walking back down. Candles still dotted the night and lit tear stained faces. People were greeting each other with hugs and tears.
"Wow!" Tim put in, "I don't know any of these people! Do you Matty?"
"Nah!......I think they're from quite a ways out. These sure aren't from the school."
Angel and Michelle walked up to them. They still held their candles reverently before themselves with both hands.
"Ang!....Mitchy!" Rachel called out.
Upon noticing her, they both stepped up to her and gave her a one-armed hug.
"Ohhhh," Angel sighed, tears on her face, "I'm trying to be happy here tonight, but I just can't seem to get into it!"
Michelle nodded her head with a solemn expression. She reached out and drew Angel closer with one arm.
"...Yeah....Umm....I think tonight has really drawn us lots closer together."
She rubbed Angel's back and looked at her seriously.
"...We're......Well, we're really feeling it tonight. Oh! I love tonight! I love all the....the wonderful people here! Oh, gee! People we've never even met before are coming up to us and talking and hugging us. There's such a love....a tolerance in the air! It's so exciting!..."
It was here there was a sudden white flash overhead. They had all first thought it had been lightning. A resounding boom sounded out. Many people jumped in fright. Others looked up as well. There were several more whooshing, hissing sounds. The sky above burst into orange flames which in turn spread out. The orange color changed into white, red and green. It was soon clear, they were skyrockets. More burst out!
"Eeeeekkk!" Rachel shouted, closing her eyes and covering her ears.
The others continued to gaze up. One after another, there were pops, booms and crackling explosions. Another white flash was seen as it spread out into an orange daisy design. The tips flickered with more tiny flashes of light and crackling pops.
They were all surprised as Matt began to laugh. He bent over, slapping his thigh.
"Oh shit!....That has GOT to be Zack 'n Josh! Oh! HEE, HEE, HEE! I know it is! We were all expecting them to do something at graduation this year. And so did the the whole school board! They were really keeping an eye on them. Nothing came off. I'll bet this was part of what they had planned and didn't get to do it!"
More explosions went off. The colors were brilliant as they spread out and slowly died away to orange sparks as they fell to the ground. Several more burst into what appeared to be silver fountains, zipping across the dark sky.
Matt began to literally stagger around, laughing.
"Oh shit! I KNOW it's them! This would have been great at graduation! It was held out on the stadium! Oh SHIT! I wish they could have pulled this off! Hee, hee, hee!"
They noticed there were several police officers already making their way into the wooded area with their bright flashlights on. The procession of candle lights along the trail had stopped in both directions. It was obvious they were all looking up through the trees.
"Oh WOW!" Matt continued, wiping at tears on his face, "Those two are going to get themselves arrested before they find decent jobs!"
More whooshes were heard as orange trails passed through the sky, bursting into colorful floral designs. After several more loud explosions, all became quiet. Matt still continued to stagger around, laughing.
"Oh SHIT!....Those two are NUTS! ......They're CRAZY! HEE, HEE!"
It was here they saw Zack and Josh making their way from a concession stand, sharing a bag of popcorn between them. Neither seemed to have the expression of surprise on their faces as did all the others.
Josh pushed a large handful of popcorn into his mouth.
"Humm....This stuff is kinda good, know it?"
"Yup....Nice 'n light....Not too greasy!"
Their casual, innocent expressions were often seen by Matt who was still chuckling.
The two stopped beside the group, still munching at the popcorn.
Matt continued to chuckle as he wiped his eyes with the sleeves of his shirt.
"Oh shit, guys!......That....that was FANTASTIC!" he said, slapping his knees.
They both gave puzzled expressions, as though they didn't understand Matt. They continued to munch popcorn. Suddenly Josh stumbled forward and burst out laughing.
"Oh shit!....I can't do it Zack!......I can't keep a straight face!"
Rachel looked at them with her hands on her hips.
"So that WAS you two!"
They both staggered around laughing, slapping each others backs.
"Ohhhh geeeee!....That didn't come down like we planned it to," Zack gasped, "That was supposed to happen about halfway through the candlelight vigil."
Josh slapped his hand to his chest as he choked for a moment.
"Oh, we didn't want it to be umm....disrespectful or anything like that...
"...Umm....We knew people were going to be a bit....umm.... sober during that vigil. But it's like all those websites were saying....We've got to make this into a celebration! A happy time!"
He glanced to the side, toward the stage. His eyes fell to the poster.
"Look at that little shit......We didn't know him, but look at that crooked little smile of his. Oh gee! I'll bet we could have showed him a few things! Hee, hee....Oh gee, he looks so....so innocent! He would have made a great straight man for us....No pun intended..."
Zack nodded his head.
"Awh, if we'd only have known. We could have cheered him up some."
Tim shook his arms before himself.
"How did you guys DO THAT?!"
"Awh....We had that set up early this morning. We didn't want anyone to see us roaming around out here at dark the night before. We umm....lit a delay fuse just before the vigil."
He quickly looked at Josh.
"...I told you that was too long of a fuse!"
"Well, I wanted to be sure we had time enough to get back here for our....umm alibi. "
Michelle began to smile. She looked toward the stage and gazed at Adam's poster and back to Zack and Josh. She reached out to give them each a quick hug.
"Oh you boys!......That was a sweet gesture. I'm sure you got a laugh out of Adam as well. And everyone's right!......We've got to think of this as something positive! "
They stood in place for a moment. Each looked around. They were surprised at the number of adults who seemed to subtly be, if not supportive, at least accepting. A young woman pushed a stroller with twins within. Each child held a tiny rainbow flag. In another direction a middle-aged couple smiled at two shirtless boys running from one concession stand to the next. They wore glowing plastic necklaces as they munched at popcorn and other snacks. Another woman was down on one knee, wiping the face of a young boy before her.
"I'm telling you....You never eat food....You wear it!"
Rachel glanced at Josh's shirt. Pinned to the pocket was a large button. It consisted of the word 'HATE' which was contained in a red circle with a diagonal line running through it. She ran her finger over the glossy surface.
"Ohhhh....You guys are the greatest!....'No hate.' I'm so happy you aren't in one of those groups with all the homophobia. You're both so sweet! Your girlfriends have a couple of the best guys in school!
"...Umm....speaking of which....Where are your girlfriends?"
Zack gave a slightly embarrassed grin.
"Oh....they're pissed at us right now."
He glanced at Josh, giving his shoulder a push.
"...Umm....There's no work around here. We umm....we must have put in fifty job applications around here. When we walk out....I'll bet they get thrown into the trash...
"We're looking for auto mechanics jobs. You know us and our cars!......It's always the same thing....'How much experience have you got?' Well, years of it! Just not doing it as an occupation! We've both been pulling cars apart and putting them back together since like.... forever! I think they want some employer they can contact..."
He gazed down for a moment.
"We're umm....going to join the Army. We've already talked with the recruiter downtown. Well, he admits he can't guarantee anything, but we're hoping to get into the motor pool. Our girlfriends aren't for it at all! They don't like the idea of seeing us only thirty days out of the year!"
He held his arms out in a skeptical gesture, shaking his hands.
"...What are we supposed to do?!......There just isn't any work around here!
"We umm, get along with our families quite well but...
"Oh gee! Neither one of us want to live with Mommy 'n Daddy any longer than necessary. Owh!....I've got an uncle....Dad's brother....He's still living with his mother! Come on! Forty seven years old and still living with your Mommy?! We want to be a bit more independent than that...
"We were thinking if we could get a mechanics job in the service, it might look a bit more impressive on a job application."
He slipped his hands into his pockets with a solemn expression.
"...I mean....think about it!......You sure aren't gonna starve to death in the service. You don't have to worry about rent....heat 'n lights. You get great medical and dental benefits! And you get great training!...
"Oh wow!....Did you know today's tanks are powered by jet engines?!"
Rachel waved her hands before herself, literally in Zack's face.
"Oh gee! Don't start on all that! I don't want to sound sexist, but most of us girls just aren't interested in that sort of thing."
She suddenly sobered her expression.
"Oh gee....Yup! I'm seriously thinking of the Navy for myself."
Both Zack and Josh nodded.
"...We thought of that ourselves," Zack put in, "...It's just umm....It's like six months between seeing land. I mean today's ships are huge! But I think after a couple of months of that....we'd both feel a bit umm....claustrophobic."
Josh shifted from one foot to the other, hesitating.
"So are you getting along with your parents better these days?"
"Nope!......In fact I'm still living with my aunt...
"I guess they were going to ask me to come back....'til my aunt told them I was coming out here tonight."
She hung her arms, gripping her cell in both hands.
"...It's strange really......We get along about absolutely nearly everything....Except THIS!
"Oh, I just don't understand all their hate! Look at little Adam's picture there! Soooo sweet 'n shy! HOW can people be mean to someone like that? What did he ever DO to anyone?! I mean even if you think it's wrong, just leave people alone!"
She gazed back toward the stage with a doleful expression.
"...I think the reverend put it spot-on tonight! He said it's not sexuality that's the problem, it's the bigotry! Oh, I just can't sit around and think about it too deeply. I get myself all agitated!"
Zack smiled toward her.
"...So umm....any boyfriend yet?"
Rachel hung her shoulders.
"Well, it's not....that!......It's that I just don't want to....to get involved with anyone right now. I'm leaving here and I just don't want it to complicate things."
She glanced around.
"...Oh, I just can't wait to get out of this....this village! This hell-hole!...
"Everyone's worried about the economy around here. Well, what about acceptance as well?! If you're going to have such a....a backwoods mentality over things, you sure aren't going to draw many skilled people to a place like this."
Zack nodded as he threw his arms over Josh's shoulders, shaking him.
"...Yup!......That's the same thing we were thinking about...
"In fact, we were even thinking about California......Yet, we both agreed we'd miss the seasons. Awh, I guess we all bitch about the winter, but I'd sure miss it! Really! We had something like New York in mind, or even Chicago! I think in the more populated areas there's more diversity!"
He turned to Josh and grasped both his shoulders, shaking him. He let out a laugh.
"...Actually I think that's why we've been such....clowns....Such pranksters! Oh, if we didn't get to act silly a bit, I think we'd both be in a mental hospital now!..."
He turned back to the group, hooking his thumbs into his belt.
"...As I say, we get along with our families and all, but...
"Oh shit!....I don't think I could stay sane around here! Things are just so....so routine! One day is the same as all the rest. The people around here....well they're just existing! I wouldn't even say they're making a living. I don't think half of them are alive! Look at people around here!......They look like a bunch of....of mindless zombies! Oh, they say they're happy! Yeah! Sure! Everyday it's just the same routine! There's no....no stimulation around here."
He looked at Josh seriously.
"Oh, I'm not saying that life is going to be a series of pranks and fun......There will be sad times....challenges....lots of work!......Yet, why be so sober all the time? Life is what you make it! And Josh 'n I really don't want that. We need a bit more stimulation in life. We want a happier lifestyle. We're so tired of the routine around here. Nothing new happens! Nothing exciting! We want some of that in our lives......Surprises! If you'd call it that."
It was here they noticed the reverend and Mr. Gavin walking past, side by side. Their gait was rapid, expressions serious.
"...At least let me go along with you," Mr. Gavin said, "I've already called the police."
After they had passed, they all continued to look in their direction.
Tim wiped his mouth with a nervous action.
"Oh shit, I sure hope those idiots out there didn't start something!"
They drew out into the roadway and gazed out the gate. The group across the street was gone as well as the church van.
"I wonder what that was all about," Matt put in, "I wonder if they got arrested."
They soberly stepped back to the lawn where they had gathered.
"Oh gee," Rachel put in, looking at Zack and Josh, "The only thing I'm going to miss is you two! And you're right! Life is what you make it. I think we're all looking for something better. Oh....I'm not chasing rainbows. I'm not expecting any of that....castles in the sky stuff! It's the boring routine around here. I want to get out there with happy people....well-adjusted people. The people around here are such grinches!"
It was here a young, shirtless boy ran into Zack, nearly knocking him over.
"Billy! Watch where you're going!" a man called out.
"Oh, that's quite all right," Zack said, waving it off casually, "Boys will be boys! Take it from me....I know!"
The man drew closer, squinting his eyes in the darkness.
"...Zachary?" he questioned, seriously.
Zack leaned forward, himself squinting in the dark.
"Hey Zack!....It's been years!"
The man ran up to him, hugged him, pinning his arms to his sides. He lifted him up and spin him around.
"Oh gee, Zack!....It's been what?....Ten or twelve years now?"
"All of that!" he replied, looking down at the young boy.
"...Is that really you, Bill?!"
The boy stepped back and looked up at him, questioning.
"...Billy......I'm your cousin Zack....And this is my friend Josh! You must have heard of us."
"...Oh gee! You're the two who were always in trouble at school!"
"Hee, hee....Well, nothing really serious. We....umm....we like to prank!"
He gazed at the boy.
"Oh wow!....I can't believe it's been so long! The last time I saw you, you were just a toddler....With your diapers around your knees!"
"Oh gee!" he gasped, covering his face.
There were quick introductions as Zack walked around, hugging each one there.
"...Sooo....Uncle! How are things way up there in Chicago? And what brings you way down here?"
"Well, we're on sort of a mini-vacation right now. Just doing a little sightseeing. I've already called your folks. They're planning on vacation sometime in July. Your dad's on the phone trying to get as many of us together as he can..."
He stepped back with a silly expression and a smile.
Zack nodded his head with a grin.
"...I've gotta do something. There's just no work around here. And I think it'll be quite an experience."
"Well, you'd better shape up! I don't wanna hear of you in the brig."
"We'll keep it down...
"I was just telling the others here that we do these silly kind of things to just try and keep out of a padded cell!...
"So what in the world brings you out....here?! I mean the umm....vigil?"
His uncle nodded his head. He was a large burly man. He gave a defeated expression.
"Umm....I was always the....the black sheep of the family. Really macho! Or should I say a real city-slickin' redneck!..."
He paused in thought for a moment. He pulled the boys before himself by their shoulders.
"...Umm....I guess I always had an idea of Billy here. Oh! It was rough on me, Zack. I've....well, I'm forty-five now and I think in the past couple years....well, I've done lots of....of growing up! One thing I've found out....You're never too old to learn!"
He looked down at the boys before him.
"...This little guy here is Jimmy......Billy's friend....boyfriend! They heard about this little get-together out here and said they wanted to come out here."
He reached up and smoothed his black hair back with both hands.
"I'll umm....tell you all about it when we've got more time."
He gazed down at Billy and rubbed his head.
"Yup!....I've done lots of growing up......I was awful nasty with little Billy here, but I'm trying my best to make up for it. I understand things lots better now."
His voice trailed off to nearly a whisper.
"Yup!" he suddenly put in with a louder voice, "We even insisted little Jimmy come along with us. I've been a little rough on him too! Hopefully that's all in the past now."
He glanced up at Zach with a shy smile.
"I'll be honest....I've kinda had my....thoughts over you too!"
Zack nodded his head with a smile. He reached out and grabbed Josh over his shoulders.
"...Uncle....For awhile there, I think the whole school was....thinking about us. Oh gee, me 'n Josh?....We've been like brothers with each other since....since....forever!"
His uncle nodded.
"...I've heard you both have girlfriends now?....And where are the little ladies?"
"Awh!....They're a little mad at us right now. We told 'em about the....Army thing! It's almost like we don't have any choice in the matter! Where are we going to find jobs? People out there with PhD's are having a hard time of it. And umm....I really don't think we'll be coming back here! What's here for us? We've got no jobs. We don't own a home. We both have beat-up old cars. There's just nothing to hold us here. There's a big world out there and.... Well, I'll admit it....It's a bit scary but we're just going to jump in feet first and get it over with! We'll adjust. We'll learn."
His uncle gazed at them for a moment, a smile forming.
"You'll make it!....Both of you! I have no doubt in my mind."
"Well, maybe you'd better tell Dad that! He's not really for it!"
Billy twisted around.
"Dad! We want a couple of those caramel apples over there."
He drew out his wallet and handed them both money.
"Go for it!....And the both of you are going to sleep on the floor of that camper! On a plastic shower curtain! I don't want you barfin' all over those sleeping bags! Oh gee! You two are going to be so sick tonight!"
Both boys ran off toward the concession stands. They stood in line, their arms around each other. Zack turned back to his uncle.
"...Umm....I'm really glad you're understanding about this. Me 'n Josh have always supported the gay community. There's just too much hate out there today."
His uncle gazed off toward the poster on the stage. It was still lit by the single floodlight.
"There certainly is," he said with a knowledgeable expression.
Minutes later Zack's uncle had left. He was allowing the boys some distance, yet he kept an eye on them.
They continued to talk for several more minutes before Zack and Josh left.
Tom gazed at several picnic tables which had been drawn up to the concession stands. He held his hands out toward them.
"Well, burgers for everyone....My treat!"
"Oh no! Oh no!" Tim put in quickly, "Me 'n Matty are taking care of this! We still owe you for those treats at Harvy's! Sit down and reserve this table for us."
They both ran up in line.
"Oh Scooter!" Toby's voice sounded out again, "You are such a NUMBNUTS!"
"Ohhhh, Toby! Don't be nasty with Scoot," Jenny put in as she sat.
Toby set a bag of popcorn on it's side. Soda was running out of it. He shook his hands, soda drops were flying from his fingers.
"Oh Scoot! Dump your soda in the popcorn! You are such a RETARD!"
"My foot caught on the seat here! I....I kinda....splashed!"
Rachel sat as she drew more moist towelettes from her purse. She tossed the foil pouches before Toby.
"Ohhh, Tob, don't be mean with Scooter. He's a little angel! You both are! You've both been through so much. You make such a sweet couple. I really don't think Adam would like to see this."
Scooter smiled as he tore open a pouch. He wiped his hand.
"Awh!....That's just Toby......He's been doing that to me since we were in kindergarten! Whenever he does that....I still hear a little I love you in it."
"Awhhh, how sweet," Rachel sighed.
She drew out her phone again.
"Okay, now sit real close to each other and let's see a little kiss."
"Awh! That's embarrassing!" Toby shot out.
Scooter gripped his head as he kissed his cheek.
"Awh geeee! Let's not get all mushy now, huh?"
Toby continued to wipe his hands as he gazed at Scooter.
"Umm....I think Scoot understands. Oh shit!......I was just so scared there for a bit. Oh! That's the first time I ever even thought of being without Scoot! I....I wouldn't make it. This could very easily have been a vigil for me!"
"Ohhh, Toby!....Come on now! Let's....let's be upbeat tonight! Let's not think of sad things. Let's....let's think of that new school being built here. Won't that be nice?!"
Scooter tossed his towelette into a trash barrel at the end of the table.
"Umm....Me 'n Toby were thinking about being counselors or something like that. We umm....can forget about college! Our families just can't afford something like that. And loans? Ohhhh! We'd be years paying all that off. We couldn't ever be psychologists but we could counsel some of the kids. You know....The kids that were kicked out of their homes, bullied all their lives. We could tell 'em about our experiences. You know, kinda cheer 'em up a bit."
"Ohhhh, I still say you two are just so sweet together...
"Now come on! I want a shot of you two kissing!"
Both boys looked around quickly, noticing nobody looking their way. They moved in for a kiss. Rachel snapped their photo.
"Ohhh! Eeeeee! I just love to see that! I'm not joking here!"
Tory drew her chair up to an end of the table. Paul sat on the very edge of the bench seat.
"No more sodas for me tonight," she put in, "I just came back from the....the bathrooms!"
She pointed off in their direction.
"How I hate those....those chemical toilets!"
"Tory!" Rachel put in, "They've got larger, handicapped ones."
"I was using one! With my chair in there, I hardly had room to change my mind!....And it's so dark in there. I was sorta feeling around just to find the tissue roll!"
"Why didn't you say something?! One of us girls could have helped you out."
Tory glanced at Paul.
"Umm....Paul caught a friend of mine coming down from the trail. She came in with her candle! I'm quite capable of doing for myself, but I like to be able to see what I'm doing!"
Matt and Tim came from the concession stand. They had to make several trips to set out burgers, sodas, chips and popcorn. They all ate in silence for a moment. They glanced around at the crowd. People continued to greet each other. They heard snippets of conversations. "Oh Susie!....I just love that t-shirt!" "Gary!....What are you doing out here?!" "Ohhhh, I've got to get more popcorn!" "Hey! We need necklaces!" "Oh that coffee smells awesome!"
Two young girls walked past the table. Nobody recognized them. They still held their extinguished candles in their hands. They held their inner arms around each other. They leaned in toward each other and rubbed their noses together with a giggle.
Behind them came two boys with a girl between them. She kept pulling them closer into herself.
"Oh you two are just so cute together!"
"Misty," one boy replied, "...You're turning into a fag hag!"
Behind them came a woman pushing a stroller. A toddler was asleep in it. Two boys rushed past her.
"Mom! Can we get a burger?!"
"Will you two slow down some?! You're going to get hurt! And watch where you're going!"
"...But we're hungry!"
"Oh hee, hee......You two haven't stopped eating since we got here!"
Chris came up to the table, walking with a limp.
"Oh shit, Chris," Joe put in, "What happened to you?"
"Awh! I banged my knee on the....the outhouse door!"
Rachel giggled at this.
Chris looked at her.
"...Well, I'm certainly not going to refer to it as a....toilet!"
He waved his hand before his face.
"...Ohhh, talk about a pungent aroma in there! I thought those chemicals were to keep the smell down in there! I believe several skunks have made use of the facility!"
Rachel continued to giggle.
Tim gazed at Chris' knee.
"Chris!......That's bleedin' right through your jeans! You cut yourself!"
"Oh, I checked it out by the t-shirt concession stand. It's only a little cut. It's the only place over there where there's enough light! I truly hope my aim was accurate in there! I wouldn't wish for someone to sit down on a wet seat!"
It was here Jenny and Tory began to giggle.
Tim got to his feet.
"Roll up the leg of your jeans there. I wanna see that."
"It's just a little cut!"
"Little cut?....Chris you banged that on the toilet door! Do you have any idea how many germs are on that thing?!....Let's go over to the ambulance for a bit."
"The AMBULANCE?! For a cut on my knee?! Those medics will be laughing their asses off!"
The girls continued to giggle and snicker.
"No they won't! They'll understand! I'll bet they've already done enough of that tonight."
"Tim!....Tim!" Tory put in, jerking her thumb over the back of her chair, "My first aid kit?"
Chris dropped to the seat of the table.
"Oh, I think I should be carrying a backpack full of medical supplies!"
Tim placed the kit on the table and searched through it. He drew up the leg of Chris' jeans.
"Little cut?!....I don't think you'll need stitches but this is way more than a little cut!"
"...And don't be putting any alcohol on it!"
Tim ripped at a foil pouch.
"All Tory has in here is antibiotic ointment."
He wiped a swab over the cut as Chris gripped at his thigh.
"BAAAAHHHH! That's ALCOHOL! Oh SHIT!....Timmy, you are such a RETARD!"
He suddenly covered his mouth with his hands.
"Oh shit!....That was all Toby's fault! I'm sorry."
Everyone laughed. Tim held the empty pouch up over his shoulder so the lights of the concession stands fell on it.
"Humm....Alcohol Swab....Isopropyl Alcohol....Seventy percent....Oop's! I grabbed the wrong one!"
Chris grabbed his thigh again.
"Ohhhhh shit!....You have no idea how much that burns!"
"Chris....Germs?......Oh gee, I wouldn't doubt somebody peed on that door tonight!"
"Oh Timmy!" Rachel shot out, "Please?....We're eating here!"
For several minutes they continued to eat and talk. They began to notice the crowd thinning out. Near a distant tree, a boy held his palms to the trunk. A girl was between his arms. They talked in whispers between kisses. At another tree adjacent to them, two shirtless boys sat on the ground. One had his back to the tree. The other sat with his back to his chest. The one in back seemed to be whispering to the boy in front of him. Occasionally he kissed his cheek. Tim let out a sigh.
"Oh gee....I wish we could do more of this around here. I mean....more positive! Just kinda get together and prevent stuff like this happening. We could get together and call it Adam's Day or something like that. And make it real happy!"
Rachel reached across the table for Tim's hand.
"...We'd all love that......It's just we've gotta be realistic!"
She glanced around.
"...We'll probably end up with equal marriage in every state! All those hate groups will have gone their way. We'll hopefully end up with lots of gay friendly churches. Same sex couples will get benefits from their employers. There won't be any discrimination in housing, resorts and services......Yet....Oh gee, there'll always be the haters! We'll just have to face up to it. There's sooooo much hate. I think people actually enjoy it! Really! I think some people actually enjoy to hate! They just get some kind of sick thrill over it. Oh gee..."
Within a matter of several minutes, they saw the stage being dismantled. Sections simply disconnected and were slid onto the flat-bed truck. The parking lot nearly emptied and traffic cones were again put onto a construction truck. An announcement was made the lighting would soon be turned off. The radio station van closed up its windows and soon drove away.
They all sat at the table. A warm, humid breeze continued to blow past them. Behind them, the concession stands began closing up. Each were shutting off their own lighting. The night began to grow dark around them.
Toby reached out and grasped Scooter's hand as he glanced around.
"Oh gee......This place is sure winding down fast. It keeps getting darker 'n darker."
Scooter nodded as he looked around.
"...Well....at least it happened! I sure hope people remember this night."
He glanced over the others sitting there.
"...Oh gee, the last I remember of Adam was at the state park. We were out on the beach, catching some sun. He came out there and told us he couldn't be seen with us. He really felt bad over that. He walked away crying..."
He drew Toby's hand up to his mouth and kissed his fingers.
"...Oh gee....I wish that could have been a happier memory. Whenever I think of Adam, I'm going to remember that time on the beach."
Rachel opened her phone and looked at the display.
"Oh gee....I think I'll get going."
Tim nodded drawing his phone out.
"Yeah....I've got to text my dad before we leave. Mom's worried about us...
"Awh, I think tonight came-off kinda nice, huh?......There wasn't any trouble. And everyone was just so nice with each other. Wow! I've never seen so many umm....allies around in one place. I sure hope you're right, Rach. Things are really changing....And, yeah, we'll always have the haters....but if it wasn't the gay community....it would just be something else."
They began to clear the table. Chris looked up.
"Well, I guess I could call the limo driver...
"Hey, who needs a ride tonight?"
Matt looked toward him.
"Well, me 'n Tim brought our bikes. It's not that far for us."
"Well, umm," Rachel began, "I guess I could use a ride. I won't have to call my aunt to pick me up."
"Fine!" Chris replied, drawing his cell up to his ear.
Minutes later the crowd began making their way to the gate. They all heard a muffled shout.
"Hey!....Help me here!"
They turned back to see legs kicking from within the trash barrel.
"Hey!....I need some help!"
Matt and Tim made their way back, giggling.
"...Chris!....How did you manage this?!"
"Oh!....I was tossing away my burger wrapper....I kinda tossed my cell too! When I reached in for it....I sort of....slipped!"
"Hee, hee, hee....Hold on Chris. Me 'n Matty will put this barrel down on its side."
They lowered it to the ground as Chris backed out. Papers and plastic cups were drawn out along with him. His round glasses were spotted with coffee and soda drops. His cheek sported a long smear of ketchup. He sat on the grass, slipping his cell into his shirt pocket.
"Oh!....I believe it's another trip into the pool-house! Mother shall have cardiac arrest if I'm to walk through the house in this condition!"
"Hee, hee......Don't worry about it Chris. Me 'n Matty went through all this. My mom calls it the graceful years!"
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