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Matt and Tim II

by Small Town Guy

Chapter 12

The following morning, Tim stood at the kitchen range. He lifted a mesh screen from a pan of bacon frying to stir it with a fork. On another element, he was frying eggs. Matt entered gazing at the display of his cell.

"Oh shit, Timmy," he gasped, "I got a text from Miranda!"

"Our GSA secretary?"

Matt closed up his phone as he soberly sat at the nook. He looked up at Tim.

"Umm....the reverend that spoke at the vigil last night?....Umm....well, while he was gone......someone vandalized his church."

"No!" Tim gasped.

"Oh yeah! They spray-painted all sorts of nasty stuff on it. And they tore down the rainbow flag an' set fire to it! All kinds of shit about enablers and how they're Satanic and all sorts of nasty stuff."

"Awh gee!"


"....Umm....Mira said shes asking the GSA members to go down there at nine o'clock this morning and help out cleaning up. She said wear old clothes and bring anything along that we think we can use....turpentine, paint stripper, putty knives 'n scrapers 'n lots of old rags 'n stuff."

"Oh shit! Who'd do something like that?"

"Haters, Timmy....Real nasty HATERS!"

"Boys?!....Is that you?"

"Yeah Gram!....We're in the kitchen! I was just about to call you!"

Tim looked at Matt and put his finger to his lips.

"Oh my stars!......What in the world are you doing there?!"

"...Making us breakfast, Gram."

"Why you little shit!....Get over to that table and sit! This is my job!"

"Gram!....You've been cooking breakfast for us for months! Sit down. Everything's finished!"

She slid onto a bench seat of the nook.

"...I should never have taught you two how to cook! How I enjoy fussing over my boys!"

"Gram....your Saturday morning cooking and baking lessons are fun!"

She gave him a huge grin.

"Oh yes! Hee, hee....Oh you boys were so lost in a kitchen. Oh it was so comical watching you two learn to cook. Oh, you boys could hardly crack an egg without making a mess. And that's not to mention you two with a bag of flour between the both of you! Oh hee, hee!

"Oh....It's not so funny now. But years from now, you'll laugh at this! You're both learning quite fast. Perhaps I should have waited another year before I started in with teaching you."

"Well, a year ago it was almost routine to see you cooking. We never even thought about it. Oh gee, Gram. We really feel bad about that now. And besides, we really need to learn to cook. We've got to start being more independent."

"Ohhh yes," she sighed, "And you're learning so quickly...

"Oh Timmy!......I certainly hope you don't hold it against your father for not....doing more! It's like he says, you have to learn these things as you go along. If he did everything for you, you'd never learn any independence."

Tim went for the nook with the frying pan in his hand. He slid eggs out onto their plates.

"...Yeah, Gram. Dad brought that up a few times. I think he's a bit worried I'm going to be pissed because I don't have a new car to drive to school. Or that I don't have that quad to hot-rod through the woods. Oh gee, Gram! Matty 'n I just don't need that stuff!

"Scooter 'n Toby?......Well, they aren't from very well-to-do families. But they always told us they didn't care about any of that stuff. They always said they had each other and didn't need anything else."

"That's right Gram," Matt added, "We get a decent allowance for clothes and a few other things to get us through the month. I mean what do we do? Last night was the first time we even bought burgers in a long time. In fact, I'd say the only things we really didn't need were those bracelets we bought. Yet, well, years down the road from now, we'll still have them to remember Adam."

Tim returned to the table beside Matt. He placed his hand over Matt's on the table and kissed his cheek.

"Oh Timmy!"

"Oh Matthew, don't make such a big thing over it."

"Gee, Gram, even if Timmy was a girl I really wouldn't like that. front of people. We're very careful over that stuff when we're....out there!"

"Well, I can understand being....discrete, but not so much in your kitchen!"

"Oh Gram," Tim continued, "we're going over to see Zack 'n Josh for a bit today. We told them we'd help 'em with some painting."

An hour later Matt and Tim pedaled their bikes toward the church. They wore old clothes and both had their backpacks filled with cleaning supplies and rags. They had drawn up to the church from behind, through the parking lot. They noticed many cars and pickup trucks parked there. Most everyone was out toward the front. The reverend was talking with a uniformed officer. The officer placed an aluminum clipboard under his arm and nodded as he went for his patrol car.

The boys parked their bikes in a rack there. As they turned, both let out a loud gasp!

They noticed the concrete steps were literally dripping with thick pools of partly dried white paint. The doors had been sprayed. "Fags!" "Queers!" "Enablers!" "Die!" "Burn in Hell!" On the front lawn was the church's sign with its glass door. "666" had been sprayed across it, the red paint dripping down. Although a more modern building than many other churches in town, there were two narrow stained glass windows flanking the doors. These had been blackened with a thick substance. Both Matt and Tim could smell the strong odor of an asphalt tar.

They glanced around as they slowly removed their packs.

"Awwww! Who could do something like this?" Matt gasped, still gazing around.

The reverend approached them with a smile. He reached out and squeezed their shoulders as he gently shook them.

"Oh!....All you young people today. I hear so many people complaining of you. My, my, I'm certainly not concerned of the future. It's in very good hands..."

Zack and Josh approached with plastic buckets containing pellets of a clay absorbent.

"Umm, Rev?....We'll dump these on the stairs and get up as much of that paint as we can. I'm sure that porous concrete will have absorbed lots of it. We've got a sand blaster in the pickup over there. We use that on our cars. It's not exactly a commercial unit but it'll get the job done."

"Oh you young people are just fantastic. I was so worried over all this. Oh my! A professional cleaning service would have been out of the question."

The city's handicapped van drew up for the parking lot, yet stopped on the walkway. The young female operator stepped out with a large smile and opened the side door. A ramp lowered with Tory sitting on her wheelchair. Paul exited from the opposite side.

On Tory's lap was a cardboard carton. Within could be seen rolls of paper towels, paint brushes, scrapers and assorted cleaners. Her brilliant smile was lost as she gazed at the building.

"...Awwhhh....Reverend Winters....That......that just makes me sick!"

"Well, my dear....this is precisely why we need the church today."

After the ramp was stowed and the door closed, Tory held out several bills to the woman.

She reached out and literally curled Tory's fingers closed.

"No charge for today!....Owf! That was hardly five miles round trip."

She looked around at all the young people with a brilliant grin.

"...And you people help keep the three vans in perfect running condition with that auto shop at the school."

She gazed at Zack and Josh with a grin.

"I should have known you two were going to be here today."

She turned toward the reverend.

"...Umm....Those two are a bit crazy, but they mean well. They really know their stuff! A couple months ago they found a deteriorated hydraulic hose on one of the lifts. Oh my! That could have caused a nasty accident."

The reverend gazed at Zack and Josh with a wry smile.

"Zack and Josh and their families are members of the congregation here....Well, sort of...

"We don't see much of them at services, but let me tell you....whenever there's maintenance or mowing or snow removal....You'll see them here! And yes, they keep the equipment around here in top running shape as well."

He turned to the boys.

"All I ask of you two is to keep out of any sort of....mischief. It's all quite harmless, but this is a rather conservative town......You wouldn't want any nasty reports following you into the army now, would you?"

"Awh gee!....Does the whole town know about those skyrockets already?!"

Minutes later, everyone was using scrapers, thinners, wire brushes and detergent soaked rags. Nobody had been assigned any particular duty, yet they all fell into a cohesive team. Tory had drawn up to a concrete area just below the siding. She ran a wire brush over the paint there which spelled out "QUEER," in crude block letters. The reverend squatted down beside her with a pleasant smile.

"Oh my dear....Perhaps we could find something a bit more easy for you?"

"Oh, I'm not overtaxing myself here. If I can reach it from my chair....I won't have any problem."

She glanced down along the way. Two boys were working at a basement window. They held scrapers in which razor blades were inserted.

"Umm....I know those boys from school. I think they're Jewish!"

The reverend nodded with a smile. He drew up a large plastic pail and inverted it, sitting down on it. He gazed at nothing in particular as he took thought.

"...They were here rather early today. Yes, indeed....And they had a check from their Rabbi to assist in purchasing cleaning supplies..."

He readjusted himself on the makeshift stool.

"The boys told me that some time ago....before I arrived here....Their Synagogue had been vandalized. Oh, I believe it was some awful anti-Semitic sort of thing....Oh! Swastikas and all that Nazi sort of thing...

"Well, all the churches in the area donated time and money to help them clean that up..."

He paused here and thought again.

"Then, there was another time....Oh! Now this wasn't here. It was out of state. There was lots of vandalism against private property....Jewish homes and businesses. It was during their celebration of Chanukah. Many homes displayed the Menorah. They had one in their window or even simply a photo or drawing of one on their windows. Their homes were targets. I believe it got quite a bit out of hand...

"...Well, other denominations got together and began printing up more drawings of the Menorah. And each church passed them out after services. They asked everyone to display them in their windows. Oh my! I believe nearly the entire town had them displayed! At least the vandalism stopped. I believe that was such a wonderful thing for an entire town to do."

Tory wiped at her eyes with a section of paper towel.

"...Oh gee....I don't understand why people can't just get along like that, every day of their lives. There's just so much hate out there!"

"...Yes indeed......Now I'm not one of those Doomsday preachers. Indeed, even Christ admitted to others even He didn't know the exact time. Yet....I believe it isn't much farther off."

He reached out and grasped the arm of her chair and shook it.

"Oh...Missy! I don't believe I've ever seen you without a smile. It does my heart good. You don't sit about all depressed. You're such a positive thinker! And I have no doubt in my mind that Jesus has already reserved a very special place in heaven for you! OH! All of you young people! It's such....such a breath of fresh air to see you all so loving and accepting."

Matt and Tim worked both sides of the sign on the front lawn. They scraped at the red paint on the glass. Attached was simply a dowel jutting out at an angle. It was charred, with the melted remains of a nylon rainbow flag. Tim pulled it from its holder and tossed it a distance away.

"Oh Matty! I just can't take the smell of that any longer. Oh how can anyone do something like this?!...

"Our families aren't Atheists and we aren't exactly religious fanatics but....but....Oh Gee, Matty!....I could never do something like this! I'd seriously expect God to strike me dead!"

Josh was kneeling before a gas engine mower beside them.

"I was just thinking the same thing," he mumbled, fiddling with the carburetor, "You know what I think?......I think we're all going to be given lots of latitude in life. Then we're going to answer for everything in the end. I sure don't wanna have to explain why I'm not hating for God!"

"Oh gee, Scooter!....You are such a RETARD!......You're gonna burn the whole church down!"

Matt and Tim both rolled their eyes as the leaned up against the sign.

"Okay Tob....What's Scooter doin' now?..."

"My dear! What is it boys?" the reverend asked, coming around from the side.

Toby pointed to a propane torch sticking from Scooter's pack. They still straddled their bikes.

"Scooter says heating the paint will make it easier to scrape off. I still say he's gonna start a fire!"

"Well now," the reverend began, reaching for it from his pack, "I've done so myself. You do need to take care not to get things too hot...

"Umm....Why don't you experiment there on the concrete walk for a bit first?"

After several hours of persevering work, the cleanup was finished. It hadn't been very physical, yet they all began to feel the early afternoon heat. The reverend placed his cell into a pouch on the belt of his jeans.

"Umm, people?....That was Mr. Gavin. He said for all of you to go home and get your swim suits and a change of clothes. Everyone's to report to his backyard for a pool party!"

"Wow! That sounds great!" Scooter shouted.

Tom looked toward Jenny.

"How about it, Jen?....Feel like a pool party?"

"Sounds great!....Hee, hee....And you won't have to worry about swimming in fish pee!"

She suddenly gasped and drew her hands to her mouth as she looked toward the reverend.

"Oh!....I'm so sorry!"

"Hee, hee....Not to worry, my dear. My wife and daughter don't care for swimming in fish pee either! And they'll certainly tell you so!"

He noticed Paul and Tory give questioning glances toward the ground.

"...And that includes you too, Paul 'n Tory! You'll find you won't have any trouble. They say the bathrooms, showers and changing areas will be just to your liking."

He hadn't used the term handicapped, but his message came across. Both looked up and smiled at each other.

"Now his driver isn't all that familiar with where all you live. He just said to work things out between yourselves getting there! After the party, you'll all have a ride to your door by limo!"

It was an hour later Mr. Gavin drove into the parking lot in a pickup. He stepped out, jaw hanging.

"Those kids got everything done already?!"

"Oh my, yes sir! There were quite a few of them I might say."

Mr. Gavin glanced around at the church, the steps and walkway.

"Well, I've got a cherry picker on the way over," he said, reaching into the cab.

He drew out a large nylon rainbow flag. It was still folded in his hands.

"We'll be mounting a pole up there next to that little belfry to attach the flag to."

He seemed to hesitate for a moment in thought. He reached out and squeezed the reverend's shoulder. His expression was serious.

"I....I just want to thank you for being so understanding over all this."

He drew his arm back as he shook out the flag, still in thought.

"...I....I wasn't so sure of Chris at first. Oh Caroline I think knew it before Chris did!"

He hesitated for a moment again.

"...I can honestly say none of this has ever bothered me. I've never had any....problem with any of this. And I'm not just talking about my boy here..."

He gazed toward the utility truck which had slowed and was turning into the parking lot.

"...No, Reverend Winters......I don't actually even think about any of this. Well, to my knowledge, I have five gay employees just in the firm around here. They were honest about it. They told me flat out! I told them it means nothing. I told them advancement in my company depends solely on job performance...

"Yes......What is it that the kids say today? Love is love?....Love knows no gender? I'm quite serious here, reverend......I never took any thought of it until....Chris.

"Oh my, I believe us....more liberal thinkers are all concerned over the same thing. The violence out there."

The reverend nodded his head.

"...Indeed......Several years ago I read a book by some psychologist. He pointed out what he called opposites! If people see up then they also have to understand down! Then there's left and and cold....good and evil...

"He pointed out how if we love something, many people need to hate its opposite. I saw lots of parallels there. Oh my, yes....indeed."

The truck had backed up to the tiny bell tower and an employee climbed into the basket. Mr. Gavin handed him the flag.

"Oh dear, I don't believe this is all that necessary."

"We want to help!" he replied, drawing a small cardboard carton from his pickup. He opened it to show him what he knew were tiny cameras. They appeared to be tiny cigarette cases, with a glass lens on one edge.

"We aren't actually putting up that flag alone. That's a front! We'll actually be installing these cameras."

He reached for a larger carton and opened it as well. It contained a large camera with lens.

"These will be installed as well....They're not even cameras! They're actually decoys. We hope to get whoever is responsible for this to shy away from them. In reality, they'll be turning toward the real cameras."

He set his jaw with a slightly depressed expression.

"...Something tells me this is just going to happen again....and again....and again. We've got to find out who is responsible."

He handed the equipment to the man in the basket, who in turn began to raise it up.

The reverend and Mr. Gavin watched him place the basket against the tiny spire. It was a simulated bell tower with electronic chimes installed. He began work.

"Yes that the U.S. Supreme Court has deemed The Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional....I think you're going to see lots more of this..."

He gazed down, shaking his head.

"...I don't even want to say this....but....I'm sure it's going to get lots worse before it gets better."

He continued shaking his head as he looked up.

"...DEFENSE of marriage act! ludicrous! It wasn't defending marriage! It was preventing it!....And just to certain people!"

He suddenly smiled.

"My brother-in-law is living in New York. They passed equal marriage there now. Hee, hee. My brother-in-law is....well, the black sheep of his family! Exactly the opposite of my wife! And I've never seen two opposites get along so well.

"He's a long-haul truck driver! Big!....Tough looking! You'd never guess he was umm.... gay friendly! He was never into his father's lifestyle. He wasn't actually excluded from the family....He just sort of....left! And from what I gather, Caroline is the only one who's had any contact with him. She keeps telling me, she's not going to volunteer any information about him to the rest of the family until they ask!......Well, its been twenty years since they last saw him."

He smiled here at what was obviously a recollection.

"He called Caroline last month. I asked to talk with him...Hee, hee."

He shook his head while pinching his temples.

"Oh my God, Reverend!......He's....he's tough and raw! Oh my! Every other word is a four-letter word! If you catch my drift there. And he hangs out at those redneck bars! He says he enjoys all those......Well, let's call them country girls."

He continued to nod.

"Yup....and I don't recall exactly what shifted the subject to equal marriage but he says a couple neighbor guys across the street from him finally tied the knot. A young couple. And he was happy for them. Seriously!......I mean you could hear it in his tone of voice. And he said nobody in the neighborhood has divorced and married some same sex partner. He said nobody wants to marry their dog or their house! They aren't molesting young boys and turning them gay. And there hasn't been any floods or earthquakes or firebrands coming down from the sky."

He continued nodding his head with a smile.

"Yup......He's tough and raw! But he has a heart of gold! You can see it!"

An hour later, Matt and Tim made their way into the pool. Chris and Joe followed them. Zack and Josh acted silly at the diving board. Tom dove in from the side and grabbed at Jenny.

"Eeeekkk!....Oh you scared me!"

He held her and glanced around quickly. He kissed her and smiled. Mrs. Gavin had gone into the house for a moment.

"Well," she began, "you got your wish, huh?....No fish pee!......Just clear, clean, filtered, chlorinated water."

"Jenny!....I joke! I really joke about that."

Matt and Tim went for the shallow end of the pool and felt for the water inlet with their feet. They both sat.

"Oh, it's nice 'n warm," Matt put in, looking at Tim.

Tim leaned forward and pretended to sniff the surface of the water.

"...It's really nice of Mr. Gavin to do this for us....but....Oh gee! I miss our whirlpool! I miss the iron smell of the water....that peaty smell along the shoreline. I miss hearing the seagulls overhead. I miss that soft, silty bottom we sit in....The rumble of the dam."

Matt smiled and nodded his head with a knowing expression.

Mr. Gavin pushed Tory's wheelchair beside a seat mounted to the shallow end of the pool. It was attached to two rails which ran into the water. He already wore baggy trunks.

"I just had this set up this morning. Let's see how well it works."

He lifted her from the chair and set her on the seat.

"Now grab onto that bar before you and hang on!"

Mrs. Gavin was just walking out with bowls of chips and popcorn. She wore a light blouse and shorts.

"...Oh! My God!....Jake!....Will you be careful there?!"

"...Tubes one 'n two loaded an' ready to fire, captain!....Launching torpedo number one!"

He pushed the seat. It glided down the rails rather slowly, some mechanism obviously braking it. Tory squealed with delight. The chair stopped with a splash, the water to her shoulders.

"Oh my!....Jake!....Be careful with that little girl!"

Tory continued to laugh as she looked toward Mrs. Gavin.

"Oh!....That's quite all right! Hee, hee!....I just love it when people do stuff like that to me! makes me feel....normal!"

Mrs. Gavin gave an understanding smile.

Mr. Gavin jumped into the pool just before her in a cannonball. The column of water rose up, splashing her and the concrete deck beside the pool.

"Jake!....Please!....Oh I don't know what's got into you lately!"

For several minutes he continued to be silly with the others. He instructed Tory how to operate the seat.

"Just pull this handle back and forth for a bit. It'll back you up. Then push forward on it. It'll launch you right into the water again."

Mr. Gavin did a backstroke toward the diving board with a silly smile. Mrs. Gavin had her back to the pool as she began to unfold a pool chair. He grabbed for her ankle and put her off balance. She screamed as she fell into the pool. She rose up, shaking her wet hair.

"...JAKE!....Please!....Oh your getting absolutely....childish!"

"Awh! Come on, Hon! We're out here today to have fun! Now go get your suit on!"

"...Well, perhaps a bit later..."

He led her from the pool up the concrete stairs. They both reached for large towels which were piled on a tiny wrought iron table. Both sat. Caroline tried to remain sober yet broke into a laugh.

"Oh Jake! I have no idea what in the world has got into you!"

"...Life, Hon!......I'm finally getting full of life!......Feel that warm sun!....Listen to those kids laughing out in the pool!....No more listening to my father bitchin' about how wrong I'm doing things! No more....negative reinforcement! He can stick it right in his ass!"

"Oh Jake!"

"I'm serious, Hon! We're going to do more of this! And I've already called the others parents. They'll be over as soon as they're out of work. I told 'em this is going to be very informal! And I told them they all better pack their swimsuits!"

He suddenly glanced around.

"...Umm....I think Paul is missing. I wonder if he's having any trouble."

He was about to go for the pool house when he saw Paul come out with his crutches. He was wearing a long pair of shorts with strange, plastic braces on his legs.

"Paulie! I was just about to check in there for you. Just say something. We can give you a hand."

"Oh no, Mr. Gavin! Me 'n Tory have both got a rather stubborn streak in us when we do things. Both our doctors have told our parents they're doing too much for us. We want to be a bit more independent at these things..."

He reached the stairs in a corner of the shallow end of the pool. He hesitated for a moment.

Mr. Gavin rushed up beside him.

"Let me give you a hand there."

"Oh no!....That won't be necessary. I've done this hundreds of times!....In hydrotherapy! My umm....legs......They get signals from my brain, but the muscles are awful weak. They've really atrophied over the years. Our medical insurance only covered so much of my rehab. I had to quit after it ran out."

Both Mr. and Mrs. Gavin felt a tug at their stomachs.

"...These braces," Paul continued, "are a fiberglass sort of. They're much lighter than my metal ones. I'll do just fine....You'll see."

Joe was instantly at the stairs, already reaching up for Paul.

"Joe!....I'm okay here! I can do this!"

Mr. Gavin sat at the table with his wife again. He shook his head.

"...Oh that Joe!......I'll keep admitting it....I thought he was one strange kid! Hee, hee. I just couldn't understand what Chris saw in him. Oh gee. He's a little saint! It seems everyday I find something else about him that's just so positive! Yup! I think Chris saw all that way before I did."

He sighed as he gazed out over the pool.

"Owf! What am I saying here? They're all great! I'm so glad little Zack called us up for that tobogganing they went out on. Yes, I was a bit apprehensive....yet....I wanted Chris to at least try it! I think we were getting a bit too overprotective as well..."

It was here there was a loud splash.

"Oh Scooter!....You are such a RETARD!"

"Oh!....Sorry, Tob. I was backing up with this pool chair and didn't see you there! I didn't mean to knock you in!"

Mr. Gavin and his wife cautiously watched Paul step down the stairs. He drew close to the side and placed his crutches on the concrete deck. The apprehension was seen on his face for a moment. With the buoyancy of the water assisting him, he took two careful steps.

"Let me help you," Joe said, holding his arm.

"I don't need help!....Let go of me! I'm fine."

He waded toward Tory, his hands into the water. He pushed himself along. As he reached Tory, he settled down into the water.

"Oh gee," Tim put in quickly, "That was great!"

Paul nodded with a weak smile.

"My doctor told my parents that my leg muscles have atrophied quite a bit. It just killed me using those elastic bands to exercise with. In the water here, it's not so bad. I really think if I tried to exercise a bit more, it would help. It''s just that the pain gets so bad, I kinda give up. I'll ease into it and try walking around in here a bit more."

Mr. Gavin walked toward Paul in the pool. He was still a bit apprehensive. He tried to be casual over it. He looked out over to Zack and Josh.

"...Sooooo....When are your girlfriends coming over. I thought I made it quite clear you all can invite your friends along."

"Oh gee," Zack put in, "We're kinda in the doghouse with them right now...

"Umm....We plan on joining the army. There's just no work around here. The girls....well they kinda had a conniption over it."

"Well won't be for several years yet, but I'll need maintenance people at the school. And I'm not just talking lawn mowers here. I'm talking rather large tractors, trucks and who knows what all...

"You're both known all over town for your mechanical abilities. Well, years ago it was called being a grease monkey! Oh dear. I never cared for the term. I'm rather envious of people who are good at such a thing. And today? Oh my! Everything....and I mean everything is at least computer assisted. You contact me when you get out. Oh, I've seen some of those manuals! Yes, indeed! A couple of my employees are National Guard you know. Very sophisticated equipment today....And you'll not only learn mechanics....You'll learn team work, discipline, maturity. Yes indeed! They're excellent employees!"

He eyed Paul once again. He felt assured he was quite comfortable in the water. He made his way toward the table.

"Oh!....We have chips and sodas here! Just don't overdo it, huh? We'll be eating rather late tonight. Umm....for those who can't get here too early. And I want to see big appetites at the tables! Chicken! Roast beef!....Ham! And lots 'n lots of salads! Don't fill up on too much junk!"

Several hours later everyone was still active in the pool. The underwater lights had been turned on. Along the patio and gazebos, plastic lanterns glowed with lights. Many of the adults began coming in. Most didn't wish to use the pool. They talked with each other. Several played croquette on a nearby lawn. There was the steady drone of voices, punctuated with laughter and splashes.

Mr. Gavin was no longer uneasy over Paul. He'd stand in the shallow end of the pool and make several passes back and forth. He'd then rest, sitting beside Tory again. A few minutes later, he again waded back and forth. He could see a slight expression of pain on his face, but a determination as well.

Matt and Tim drew up to the side of the pool near the diving board. Both gripped at a rectangular skimmer mounted there. Their wet hair was matted to their faces. Matt drew Tim closer by pulling his shoulder. He kissed him.

"Matty!" Tim forcefully whispered, "There's lots of people around here."

"Awh! Our heads are under the edge of the pool. Nobody can see us."

"Well, I just feel a bit uncomfortable over it, okay?"

"No it's not okay....I need another....battery recharge!"

He kissed him several more times.

Ken and Ayumi came from the pool house. He wore baggy trunks and she wore a new, white, one-piece suit. Her hair was tied back.

"..Oh gee," Ayumi whispered, "Oh my....I just feel soooo self-conscious right now. This is the first I've been swimming in years!"

"Well, let's just get out there and jump in!"

"Jump in?!....I'll go into shock when I hit that cold water."

"It's heated!"

"...Well to me it's not heated unless I see steam coming off it!"

Ken ran up to the edge of the pool and dove in. Ayumi slowly walked down the stairs in one corner of the shallow end.

"Well," she thought, "It's not icy cold....but I wouldn't exactly call it warm either."

Zack and Josh continued to be silly at the diving board. They simply ran off the edge of the board. Their feet continued a running motion even though they were clear. Others had noticed and chuckled. Some even drew out cell phones for photos. They both drew up to the metal ladder and hung from it. Zack glanced over his shoulder.

"Hey!....Who's the babe in the white one-piece?....Over there by the stairs!"

Josh squinted in the failing daylight.

"That's doctor Webster!"

"...Tim's mom?!....Holy shit! Am I glad you told me that! Oh gee! I could just see myself hittin' on her!"

Josh looked over the pool area with a smile.

"...Oh gee......Lots of these older women look kinda hot, huh?"

"I'll say!"

It was here Caroline came from the house in a conservative two piece suit. Over it she wore a white terrycloth beach robe, open along the front. She removed it and draped it over a chair. She smiled at Ayumi.

"Do as I do," she said, approaching the edge of the pool, "Just jump in!"

Holding her arms at her sides, she stepped off into the water with a splash.

"Oh! Caroline!....How can you do that?!"

She treaded water with a smile.

"It's only chilly for a few seconds."

Matt drew away from Tim.

"Oh shit," he whispered, "Your mom's out here. We gotta start....behaving!"

They made their way back to the water inlet at the shallow end and sat.

"You're right, Tim....We've gotta spend more time out in our whirlpool...

"Humph!....Our whirlpool......That used to be a nice place to just sit and think. Gee, I think everyone knows about that place by now. We'll go out there more often this summer."

Paul walked past them with caution. Although everyone was splashing water, they could clearly see the beads of perspiration on his face.

"Shit, Paulie!....Take it easy," Tim put in, "I can see that's rough on you."

"Oh yeah! Oh yeah!....My thighs are just killin'! My knees! But I've gotta keep it up. I could never do this out of the water. I....I really think this is working! The water is supporting most of my weight."

Tom dove from the board and made his way toward the shallow end of the pool underwater. He saw Jenny's legs before him. He'd often grab them and lift her up to playfully scare her.

Ayumi suddenly lifted from the water.


Tom surfaced before her, his face already pink.

"Oh gee! I'm so sorry Mrs. Webster! I thought you were Jenny!....Really! Awhhhh! This is so embarrassing!"

He covered his face with his hands.

"...Well, now don't be like that. It frightened me, not offended me."

"Ohhhh, this is so embarrassing for me!"

"Now don't be that way."

Tom quickly sobered himself as he glanced toward Zack and Josh. He drew a matter-of-fact expression.

"Ohhhh....Zack and Josh are right......It's getting hard to tell the difference between the teen girls and their mothers!"

"Oh that's so sweet of you."

"...Yes, it is!" Ken's voice sounded out from behind him.

"Oh GEEEE! Mr. Webster! Oh I think I'm gonna die here!"

He pretended to hear Jenny call.

"...Ummm....Okay Jenny! I'll be right there!"

He submerged himself and swam underwater toward the diving board again.

Ken smiled at Ayumi.

"I told you the young boys would think you're hot!"

"Oh Ken! It is a bit flattering, but I still feel soooo self-conscious out here."

Scooter drew up to Toby, reaching out to hold his shoulders.

"Tob....I know you're just joking about the retard stuff!....Smile, huh?!"

"Oh, it ain't that," he replied, gazing around with a serious expression, "...I just keep thinkin' about little Adam....Remember?....When he told us he couldn't hangout with us anymore. Oh shit!......He just walked away crying. I still feel bad over that. I sure hope he knew we understood? I hate to think he died believing we hated him for it."

Scooter hugged him, kissing his shoulder.

"Hated him?! I'm absolutely sure he understood!"

He backed away slightly. His eyes seemed to have a distant gaze.

"...You probably won't believe this but....Jason?....Yeah!....I know! He was always pushing us around!...

"It's strange really....Sometimes I just hated him....Then other times....I don't know....I kinda, well, felt bad for him...

"Oh gee! An alcoholic father!....Ditsy mother!....A druggy older brother! A slut of an older sister..."

His eyes flickered over the pool and gazebos. They flicked over the lanterns.

"I don't think he ever knew a minute of love....understanding.

"Oh shit, Tob!....That day he sat with us in the cafeteria. Remember he admitted he was gay? And that he wanted to change?! He never really said it, but I doubt he mentioned it to his family. Oh. Tob!....As nutso as that family was?!....They'd have probably killed him!...

"Yeah, he was a bully! A bad one!......But I think it was because he was so scared. It was a front, Tob! I had it bad enough with my dad there for awhile. But it's like Mrs. Webster said....There's a reason for everything that happens. I think with me almost dying, kinda got my dad thinking about things. And your dad too. They take us out more. It's gotta be boring for adults to sit around in some burger shop or pizza place...

"Yeah, Tob....I was really hoping we could all be friends. We could have taken him into the GSA meetings with us. We could have showed him there's nothing wrong with him. Oh! I was even thinking we maybe could have set him up with someone! I mean even if he didn't say anything to his family about it. If we just could have helped him a bit.

"Nah! I think Adam knew we understood him. Well, maybe not if we were straight. He might think we were just saying those things just to make him feel better. But he knew we were gay. I'm so sure he really did believe us. It....It was that camp that scared him so much. And from what his mother said at the vigil, I think she understands now too. Well, a bit too late, but I'm sure she understands now. She had that mean husband of hers. She was trying, Tob. I really think she thought she was doing the best."

"Scooter!....Toby!" Mr. Gavin called out. He motioned for them.

They made their way toward the edge of the pool where he sat, his legs in the water. He had a towel over his shoulders and wiped his face.

"...Umm are your parents coming out here tonight? I had my secretary invite your entire families!"

Scooter shyly gripped at the edge of the pool.

"...Well, umm....My dad's kinda shy and embarrassed about that I think. I mean he never said anything about it exactly but...

"Well, he says he's just a mill worker. I get the idea he feels bad about not having fancy clothes and all. I think he really feels uncomfortable at....pool parties!"

"Nonsense!" Mr. Gavin replied, reaching for his cell, "Now what's your number?"

He called their parents, as well as Ethan and Ryan's.

After several minutes everyone caught snippets of his conversations.

"...Nonsense!....Oh we're very informal around here! Now I don't want to hear any more excuses. Pull on a pair of jeans! Or better yet, your swimsuit! Awhhh! Nonsense! Now get your butts over here!......Come on. You've gotta be with your kid!......It's no trouble at all. We've got a caterer coming in any moment now!....Chicken, ham, roast beef! And salads! Lots 'n lots of salads!"

It was a half hour later as many of the parents were seating themselves in a gazebo a distance from where the young people were being set up. It too was rectangular shaped but larger. Scooter's father, Jerry came in rather timidly.

"Jerry!" Mr. Gavin put in quickly and friendly, "Right over here!"

He shyly took a seat at the table with his wife.

Soon everyone was called from the pool. The young people gathered at their tables. They were talking and laughing among themselves. The adults gathered at the other tables. There was a distant rumble heard.

"Awh no!" Toby put in, "Was that thunder I just heard?"

"Sounded more like a truck or something going by," Scooter put in.

Scooter's father sat at the table with his wife, joined by Toby's parents Dominick and Linda. Mr. Gavin sat beside him. He still wore his damp suit with the towel around his neck.

"Oh Jerry! Scooter tells me you feel a bit uncomfortable at....pool parties!"

He shyly gazed at his plate of chicken.

"Well, to be frank with you. I've never been invited to anything more formal than a bowling banquet! "

"Well, don't worry about it! This is going to be lots more informal than a bowling banquet!"

Mr. Gavin hesitated at his own plate.

"...I'm....ahhh going to be lots less formal about many things in my life."

He gazed at Chris. Joe was talking to him with a smile while rubbing his back.

"I was heading in the wrong direction all my life. If you want to call it a life! I wasn't living for me .......I was living for my father! That's all over with now. Yup....lot's less formal."

"Oh Scoot!....You NUMBNUTS!....You are such a RETARD! " Toby's voice sounded out.

People turned to see Toby stand and shake his arms. He still wore his swimsuit. He'd obviously been sprayed by a soda.

Mrs. Ace quickly stood.

"Oh my God, Zack!....Watch your manners!"

Everyone roared with laughter.

"That's quite all right, Mrs. Ace," Mr. Gavin put in, "Boys will be boys."

"Oh my!....I'm soooo sorry about that."

"Awh! Let them be. Let them be boys......I umm, never got to be one..."

After the dinner, the adults slowly made their way into the house. Some had used the pool house to shower and change. They gathered in the sitting room. Mr. Shelby hesitated before an elaborate couch. He looked up at Mr. Gavin.

"I'm wearing clean clothes, yet I feel as though I'll dirty your couch."

"Owf!....Sit down!....Relax!....And I'll say it again....Informal!...

"Help yourself here, everyone," he said, gesturing to a small bar, "I've got some excellent bourbon here. And wines! Grab a glass and....and pour it like you don't own it!"

Matt looked over his shoulder. He noticed all the adults had left their tables. He turned to Tim.

"Okay!....Now we've got to get back into that pool and get down to some serious kissing!"

"Matty!" Tim said in a forced whisper, "We gotta be careful here!....Oh shit!....I wanna go back out to our....whirlpool!"

"Well, I guess we'll just have to kiss underwater! "

"Oh yes!" Jenny squealed, looking at the both of them.

It was here Matt opened a can of soda. It sprayed foam over Tim.

"Oh Matty!....You NUMBNUTS!....You are such a RETARD! "

Everyone laughed. Toby looked up.

"COLD, huh?!" he put in quickly, with a smile.

They all made their way back into the pool. Tom teased Jenny. Ethan and Ryan made their way to the ladder beside the diving board. They drew together for a kiss.

Matt and Tim put Tory back into the sliding chair of the pool.

"Are you sure you wanna do this?" Matt asked.

"Oh YES!....This is so much fun!"

Paul made his way toward the steps. It was clear he was using his crutches a bit more for balance than support. He eased into the water and set his crutches on the concrete walkway. His expression was one of determination.

"Easy Paulie!" Tim put in.

"Oh I'm not going to baby myself any longer! I gotta do this."

Tim sat with his back against the warm water inlet at the shallow end of the pool. Matt sat across his lap. Tim hugged him deeply.

"Oh Matty!....I think I'M starting to feel one of those clingy thingies now!"

Matt threw his arm over his neck with a smile.

"Oh!....Go ahead!....Cling!....Suffocate me!"

There was another distant rumble in the air.

"Well now that didn't sound like any truck this time!" Scooter put in, "That sounded like thunder!"

Tom glanced around.

"Well, I haven't seen any lightning..."

"Lightning?!" Toby yelled out, "I'm sure gettin' out of here if it is!"

In the house, the parents talked among one another. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the evening. Mr. Gavin suddenly sobered.

"...Umm....I actually asked you people to come out here tonight to just simply relax and enjoy yourselves."

He paused before the fireplace with a drink in his hand.

"...I think this would be a great time to fill you people in on a few things...

"The first thing I'd wish to say is...

"I'm just so pleased you've all accepted your children..."

He paused, pinching his temples.

"Oh my....I have no idea if any of you heard Mrs. Tanner's little speech she gave at Adam's vigil. It was rather sad....I call it twenty-twenty hindsight...

"It got me thinking about all the unaccepting parents out there. I got on the Net. Oh my! Such sad stories. She isn't alone......There are so many people out there now who wish they had done things differently......My little Chris....My little man. Yes! Man! I was doing the same with him as my father did with me. I didn't want a boy....I wanted a miniature adult! And all I did was travel the world. He was practically raised by his nanny! Not anymore!...

"I had a falling-out with my father. And I think it's the best thing that ever happened to me. Seriously! I finally got to stop and think about my life..."

He shook his head as if clearing it.

"Some people may envy me with all the traveling I do. That was so wrong of me! I've been to the Eiffel Tower so many times I can't keep count. The Parthenon! Greek museums! I've spoken before some of the world's best dignitaries. I've wheeled and dealed all my life. And I kept thinking that my father would be proud of me for it."

He hung his head and nodded it slowly.

"Oh! All my life I've tried to get just one positive word from him. It didn't do any good. No matter what I accomplished....he always had a way of tearing it all down. Fault-finding!

"...Well, that's all over now. I've found something so much better."

He glanced toward the door, listening to the laughter coming from the pool.

"I never had any problem with Chris'......orientation! I've always understood it''s simple biology!"

He paced back and forth several times.

"I've found I've got a son! A boy! Not a miniature adult. And I always thought I was doing the right thing for him. Ohhh, I was so wrong!"

He looked up with a sudden smile.

"Have any of you ever played a video game with your child? Wow! Now that is fun!"

Several people chuckled here.

"Yes!....Being a little silly in life......And that's just the word I mean to use. SILLY! Simply having some fun! And I keep thinking of that phrase....boys will be boys. And that's just what I'm going to do with Chris......Let him be a boy for a few years. I....I never got to be one....a little boy."

He sobered here as he rested his arm on the mantel.

"...I....I listen to some of my employees talking about their youth. The pranks. The beach! Camping! Parties! The toys on Christmas morning. HA! Toys! I got Chris computer programs! Oh not the games and silly things. It had to be educational! And I'm just so happy I....I woke up and saw all this!

"I was very....well, worried over allowing Chris out on that camping trip. Oh yeah. I was one who was actually pushing for it. I knew he had to have friends to do things with. Be silly. Get out there and do for himself a bit. And during that storm we had....I nearly got into my car to go out there and bring him back."

He smiled at his wife.

"Believe it or was Caroline who talked me out of it. And I couldn't argue with her. She was right. And when we went out there to resupply them. I saw just how excited he was! Oh my! All those bandages on him! And he just kept tripping and falling because he was talking so much, he wasn't paying attention to much else. But just to see the GRIN on his face. Oh! I haven't felt that happy over a multimillion dollar deal going through."

He glanced down at his glass, swirling the ice cubes in it.

"...And I'm quite serious over that camping we planned for July. All of us! We'll have a great time!"

Matt and Tim rose up in the center of the pool. They were still kissing each other.

"Oh gee!" Jenny shouted, "Rachel will sure hate to hear about this! She's missing boys kissing!"

"Well you don't have to tell her that!"

Toby looked up at the dark sky.

"Oh shit!....I think I just heard another rumble. That sure sounds like thunder!"

Tory quickly operated the bar on her chair.

"...That was definitely thunder!....I'm getting out of here!"

It was here they all noticed a slight flash of lightning in the west.

"Well, that does it for the pool!" Jenny replied, pulling herself up the ladder.

She drew up to Tory.

"Come on guys....Help me get Tory into her chair. I'll help you out in the pool house."

They entered the pool house. It was large with several showers in the back. There were plastic couches about the room. In one corner was a small kitchenette, complete with a tiny stainless steel sink and small gas range. The showers were divided into male and female.

"Wow!" Tim shouted, "Look at this place! Oh shit, Matty! Can you imagine something like this just off a college campus?! Whoa! Would this be nice!"

Matt grinned at him.

"Well, I'm sorta expecting a brown brick building with three-room apartments....And a bathroom at the end of the hall for all of us to share! Hee, hee!"

"Awh! Shit too! We might not have a place like this but I'm sure not going to share a bathroom!"

Soon they were all out into the living area proper. They sat on couches to put on socks and shoes. There was suddenly a bright flash of lightning, followed by a clap of thunder. Tom gazed out the windows which ran from floor to ceiling.

"Yup! I think we timed that just right! It's not raining yet, but I think all hell is gonna break loose!"

It was here the lights flashed out. In a corner of the room, a battery operated light came on.

"Oh cool!" Toby put in.

In the house, the sitting room was lit by emergency lights.

"...Umm," Mr. Gavin began, "Just give it thirty seconds..."

The lights flashed back on again.

"Oh! A generator!" Mr. Webster said.

"Yup!....All automatic....natural gas. Umm....I'd find it awful embarrassing if I were to be entertaining some clients and the electric went out..."

Caroline entered the room.

"It's okay....I was just about to hustle the kids out of the pool. I believe they're already in the pool house."

Ayumi's phone beeped. She drew it out and examined the display.

"Oh! I'm so sorry! I've got to leave!....Oh my, there's a tree already down on a car. The fire company is extricating them now. I've got to get to the ER."

"Oh Ayumi," Caroline gasped, "We certainly understand!"

Ayumi turned to Ken.

"We'd better get those boys into the car. They're NOT going to ride their bikes in this!"

"Ohhhh, not necessary! I've got my driver at the gatehouse. They'll all get a lift home. They can give him directions. It'll be necessary he knows where each of them lives. We're going to be doing more of this!...

"Now we'll just let the young people enjoy their company for a bit longer..."

Tory wheeled her chair out into the quarters. Jennifer followed with a hot comb.

"Tory! We've got to dry your hair!"

"Shit too!....Not in this! You keep away from me with anything electrical!"

Jennifer looked around with her hands on her hips.

"Where's Paul? Didn't you boys give him a hand?"

"We tried," Tim said softly.

Matt nodded his head.

"He says he can take care of himself. GEEEE he got a....a little hostile with us in there!"

"Well maybe he just feels bad over it. Oh gee, he could slip 'n fall in there. Go check on him."

"He was already out of the showers! He's sitting down! He's putting on his braces."

Paul came from the door of the showers.

"Jenny! I for myself! Gee!"

It was here that the intercom came on.

"...Ladies and gentlemen. This is your captain speaking," Mr. Gavin's voice sounded, "We'll be arriving at our destination in two hours. We'll be encountering a bit of turbulence over the next couple hours. Please note the seat belt sign is lit. You'll each be given proper transportation to your homes. And thank you for flying Snarky Airlines..."

Chris leaned forward and covered his face with his hands.

"Oh gee, Dad is getting really....strange lately."

He held his arms out.

"...I don't know exactly what happened between him and Grandfather....but it's great!

"...Umm....I actually wasn't worried about Joe and I....I knew they'd understand."

He pointed toward the intercom on the wall.

"...That was just so unlike him. A year ago he'd have had the chauffeur come in here and deliver that message."

"Well, gee, it's okay, right?" Tim put in, "He really seems cool."

Chris shook his head with a deadpan expression.

"...Well to be sure!....It's just I simply can't seem to....adjust to it!"

He turned his head about on his tiny neck. He blinked with a vacant stare.

"I believe it all started last Christmas. I simply couldn't believe he bought me a....a video game console! And....and he....he sat on the floor with me! He wanted to play too!"

"Well, what's so strange about that?"

Chris continued to gaze at Tim with blank eyes. His round lens glasses actually enhanced the stare. They reflected the fluorescent lights above, again giving them the appearance of white disks.

"...My father......Sitting on the floor?! Oh to be shuurr! I believe he thought such to be nearly....Bohemian!"

The others laughed.

"...And....and being.... gay. I mean....I don't ever recall him mentioning it at all. I know he has gay employees. I've never heard him talk poorly over such......Yet....he never actually said anything positive over it either. He....well, he was rather neutral on the subject.

"...And I....well, never actually came out to my parents......It was just never mentioned. I truly believe they knew somehow. Especially my mother."

Matt nodded his head with an understanding smile.

"Chris," he began, "I believe it means so little to them, they're probably not giving it any thought one way or the other. I'm sure people like that are few and far between. You've really got it great, Chris."

"That's truly correct! "

"Oh yeah!....You've got a limo to take you places. A....a palace of a home! A big, heated pool out there. This wonderful pool house! And you can get to travel anywhere you want."

"...Well, I wasn't thinking of such..." he nearly whispered.

He gazed at Joe beside him and put his arm over his shoulder.

"...I've got Joe," he nearly sighed, "...and that's all I need."

"Awhh, how sweet," Jenny put in.

There was a bright flash of lightning through the tall windows. As the thunder crashed, they all noticed the glass bow inward due to the reflections on it.

"Oh shit!" Chris yelled, "Now that scared me!"

Tory looked around a bit apprehensively.

"...Yes. That scared me as well."

She hesitated for a moment in thought.

"It's strange actually. I am scared of thunderstorms....yet....I'm so much more scared of the lights going out. Really! Most people complain about what an inconvenience it is. I have no idea why, but I'm so scared when the lights go out."

They all gradually made their way to the counter which had separated the kitchenette from the rest of the room. There were several salads leftover as well as several snacks which had been set out. It was here a torrent of rain came down. There was a hissing sound against the large glass windows. They all looked out. The pool and yard were nothing but a hazy blur through the rain slick panes of glass. The plastic lanterns were still lit as they bounced and swayed on their lines.

Tim glanced at Matt.

"...Well, it'll help the river some, huh?"

Matt nodded with a smile. He held a plate in one hand. He placed his other hand on Tim's shoulder. He leaned in closer to whisper.

"...Yeah......Tomorrow we'll....go soak in our whirlpool. Shhhh! I want to be alone with you!"

Matt began to glance over the plastic bowls of salads. Tim shook his finger at him.

"...Matty....If you scoop up some of that six bean salad....You go eat it on the other side of the room here!"

"Nah!....This garden salad looks good."

Everyone found a place to sit. There were chairs, couches and high-backed stools. There was the continuous drone of voices as several conversations were going on at once.

Matt and Tim sat on a couch together. Tim reached out with a shy smile to hold Matt's hand.

"...Umm....Tim....I'm holding my plate with one hand....I need the other one to eat with!"

Tim slowly drew his hand back. He speared a cucumber slice in his salad. He gazed at it on the end of the fork, slowly shifting his gaze back toward Matt.

"Matty," he whispered, "...when we get home tonight....I'm gonna kiss you unconscious!"

Matt instantly flashed a large smile as he drew closer to him.

"...Wow," he mumbled, " always say you like it when I that....Well, I like it when you that too!"

"Oh shit, Matty!" Tim continued in a forceful whisper, "I've got all I can do to just keep from grabbing you right now...

"You're right....This clingy thingy really does hurt!"

Matt placed his fork onto his plate. He rubbed Tim's thigh with a sly smile.

"...Suffer!" he said in another forceful whisper.

Tim looked at him with a surprised expression.

Matt drew close to his face.

"...When we get home....I'll make it alllll better."

"Oh shit!....Oh shit!....Matty don't do that here!....I'll spring a stiffy for sure..."

Matt gazed down at his plate with a blush.

"...Hee, hee....Why do you think I put my plate on my lap?"

It was here Toby drew up a stool next to Scooter. Scooter held a bag of snacks in his lap.

"Oh!....Cheese twists!....Can I have a cheese twist?!"

"...Sure....Help yourself!"

He reached into the bag, digging deeply. He looked at Scooter's face.

"Is that a cheese twist?"

Scooter grabbed for the seat of his stool as his eyes enlarged.

"...NO!" he shouted.

Everyone broke out laughing. Jenny dropped her face into her hands.

"Oh gee, Rachel is gonna be soooo pissed she missed tonight!"

Toby slid from the stool and tossed his arms out.

"...That was a JOKE!....We joke around like that!"

Jenny held a paper napkin to her mouth.

"Oh shit! Toby!....You used to be so shy 'n quiet! I love the, you!"

Tim looked up.

"Yeah....and....ahh....He nicknamed Scooter, Sweet Dick!"

"Awwwhhh!" Scooter yelled, dropping his face into his hands.

"Oh! HEE, HEE, HEE!" Jenny roared.

"...Yup......and Ryan over there is Dewdrop! And next to me is....Cupcake."

Matt leaned forward and pointed toward Tim.

"...And that's Honey Buns!"

"Hee, hee....Ohhhh, you guys are soooo sweet," Jenny said, glancing at Tom.

Tom continued to eat with his head down, yet a silly smile appeared on his mouth. She slapped at his shoulder.

"See?!....Even the boys have sweet pet names for each other."

He tried to hold back a laugh, yet it came out as a snort.

Jenny set her plate on the counter as she stood beside Tom on his stool.

She placed one arm over his shoulders and spread her other arm out to the others.

"I would like you to meet....Needle Dick and Canyon Cunt!"

The room roared with laughter. Chris slid from his stool, choking.

"Oh shit!....I just had soda come out my nose! Oh! Does that burn!"

Tim leaned forward on the couch. One arm was around his stomach, his other hand balanced the plate on his knee. He gasped for breath.

"Oh Jenny! I never heard you talk like that!"

Tom suddenly sat upright on his stool, pointing at Jenny.

"She started it!"

"Oh gee, Tommy! I was bein' silly!"

"Well you call me....little....I call you....big!"

Jenny gave a shy smile as she drew her arms around him from behind. She rested her chin on his shoulder.

"...Tommy....You're perfect! There's nothing wrong with you."

She gazed across the counter at Toby. Her smile grew.

"...Sweet Dick?!....Ha, ha, ha!"

"Awh!" Scooter shouted.

As he went to cover his face with his hands. As he placed his elbows on the counter he knocked his soda over. It ran across the counter and dripped onto Toby's thighs.

Awh gee!....Scoot!....YOU ARE SUCH A..."

He hesitated, looking at Jenny.


Jenny grinned as she reached for a roll of paper towels.

"Now that's so much better......I know you boys are joking with each other, but you've all got it so good! I'm just so happy for you all."

She began to wipe up the spill as she glanced from one to the next.

"...Really, boys. You all make such sweet couples."

Her eyes fell to Joe and Chris.

"...I just can't understand you two....I mean, you both look so sweet together but....Oh Joe! I just never thought I'd ever see you with a boyfriend from a private school!"

Joe was helping Chris from his choke. He gently helped wipe his face.

"Oh....Chris is great! He's a little sweetie....Well, I gotta admit....he can be kinda.... preppy at times."

Jenny continued to wipe the spill, a distant look in her eyes.

"Ohhhh....I'm just sooooo happy for all of you."

Tim had returned to his plate, yet looked up.

"...Jenny......We could do with a couple million more of you."

The following afternoon, Matt and Tim sat in the whirlpool of the river again. The day had begun with a heavy overcast but had now cleared. The cloudless sky was bright blue with an intense sunlight. Tim glanced down at the water level on his chest.

"...Are we sinking into the mud here, or is this water getting higher?"

"...The water is getting higher," Matt put in, "A couple miles up from here is another dam with gates on it. We had quite a downpour last night. They have to let more water spill over or all kinds of farms up there will be flooded."

"...Umm," Tim hesitated, "...It was kinda nice of Mr. Gavin to invite us all over for that pool party....Yet....Awh! I like our little whirlpool here."

Matt nodded with a slight grin.

"Yeah, I kinda felt bad over not mentioning it to the others."

He reached out and rubbed Tim's back.

"...I just wanted us to have a little alone time."

Tim hesitated for a moment.

"...Have you umm....ever came out here at night?"

"...Well not pitch black!....I've been out here in the evening though. It's just, when the air cools down, you have to put up with lots of mosquitoes. Oh gee, there's just swarms of 'em out here. You'll get eaten alive!"

Matt noticed his sly grin.

"Ohhhh....Were you having something romantic in mind?"

Tim nodded with a shy grin.

"...Yeah. I was just thinking what it would be like to be out here in the dark. We wouldn't have to worry about anyone seeing us out here."

Matt moved his face closer to him.

"...Well, there's nobody here now."

They kissed and hugged for several minutes.

"Ohhhh, Matty! I don't know about these....these clingy thingys! Sometimes I like the feeling......Then there are times I....well kind of hate it!"

"...Well, the only thing I hate about it is....well, when they come on outside! You know.... when we gotta....umm....behave ourselves, hee, hee."

Tim slowly sat on Matt's lap, straddling his hips. He gave a shy smile.

"Ohhhh Matty....On the way over here today, I was kinda thinking of that first day I met you in school. Oh gee, I think about that a lot...

"Yeah......I had finally admitted I was gay. Oh gee, that sure complicated things. Oh Matty, I don't think I was ever soooo close to just coming out with everything! I just hated carrying this all around with me. I mean with being so shy on top of it all. I just had so much going on in my mind at the time. I was really depressed. Oh! I don't mean real bad where I considered suicide or anything...

"...It was a strange feeling......I just wanted to curl up in bed and just stay there! I didn't want to deal with it!..."

He looked at Matt with a sudden new expression.

"...And when you went for your haircut this morning, you didn't have to get it cut quite so short!"

"It's not short! Oh gee, Timmy! It was lookin' a mop! Even your mom kinda admitted to that. It just hung there!...

"And besides, you always said I should get it cut shorter in the front so you can see my eyes!"

"Well, umm....yeah....but now I'm having second thoughts about that."

Tim smiled as he drew his fingertips over Matt's forehead.

"...I think I was kinda getting used to brushing your hair from your eyes. Oh shit, Matty! That was almost routine with me. I had to look at your eyes before I leaned in for a kiss. It.... well, it was kinda an excuse to sorta reach out and touch you."

"Well, you don't need a reason to do that now."

Tim adjusted the hair before each of Matt's ears.

"...Yeah....I keep thinkin' if I should have just came out to you at the very start! Yeah, I was awful shy....but I was scared too. And I thought if we could just hangout a bit, it would get my mom off my back for a bit!......Oh gee, I didn't wanna see a psychologist. I figured they'd find out about me."

Matt leaned forward and drew his arms around Tim, pulling him close. He hooked his chin over his shoulder.

"...Oh yeah....I remember that first day too. And I think a lot about it too. Oh, how I just wanted to grab you and kiss you! Right there in the hall! I wonder if we both had that gaydar but didn't really know quite how it worked yet."

He felt Tim's head nod.

"Well, I think I've got it....It just isn't one hundred percent reliable yet. Oh gee, that could be very embarrassing, you know?"

"Hee, hee....Well, we sure don't need it for each other, huh?"

It was here they noticed a slight movement toward the service road leading in. It was a shiny chrome bicycle. They saw the sun glinting from it as it passed under the trees.

"Awh gee, it looks like we have company."

The bike stopped a distance from the shoreline.

"Oh gee," Matt put in, "That has got to be Benny!"

"Oh yeah!" Tim put in with a large smile, "That red hair could stop a train!"

"Awh, don't tease him."

"Awh, never! In fact, I think he's kinda cute. I don't know why lots of kids have to tease him. You'd think he'd have girls just hanging from him."

He was shirtless in cut-off jeans with dirty sneakers.

The figure stood near the shore, hesitant to enter the water. He held his hands to his mouth in a 'megaphone' manner. They understood he was calling out to them but couldn't hear him for the water thundering over the dam. Tim raised his arm over his head, motioning him to come in. Again he seemed to hesitate. He returned to his bike and toed off his shoes. He began to make his way out toward him.

They noticed the sun reflect from his brilliant red hair. It was long in the back and short on the sides, a slight curl before each ear. As he got closer, they noticed his freckles. They literally spilled down his neck and over his shoulders.

"Oh gee, guys!....I must have put fifteen miles on my bike looking for you...

"Oh gee....umm....I feel like I might be interrupting something here."

Tim stood from Matt's lap and sat beside him.

"Awh, never! We figured we'd just come out here today and soak! Oh gee, it's kinda too hot to do anything today! Just the ride out here killed us!"

Oh yeah! Oh yeah! When it gets this hot, I think peddling a bike is twice as hard!"

He glanced back at the bicycle parked under the shade of the trees.

"Ain't it great!....My birthday present!....Oh gee, I'm just so happy over it!...

"It umm....only had chrome fenders. I told Dad I wanted an entirely chrome bike! Hee, hee. He brought it into one of those automotive chrome shops. They took it all apart and chromed everything! Isn't it the greatest thing you've ever seen?!"

"Oh gee, Benny....We saw you coming up way back in the woods. The sun just reflects off every part of it!"

He grinned.

"Oh yeah!....I'm kinda umm....riding around today and showing it off."

He drew up to the whirlpool. He hesitated a moment and drew in a deep breath. He quickly sat, facing them. He exhaled deeply.

"Oh gee, I was kinda expecting a sorta cold shock! This water is really warm!"

He hesitated again, looking around.

"...Umm....My mom can't know about me being out here at the dam. She forbids me to swim here. She's so worried about the current draggin' me under."

"Well," Tim put in, pointing over his shoulder, "On the high side, you really do have to watch it. It's nasty up there."

"Oh yeah," Matt added, "And I think the number two dam is open today, after all that nasty rain last night."

"Oh gee! Wasn't that just awesome?! My party broke-up a bit early. Everyone wanted to get their kids home before that broke loose! Oh wow! We're still without electric!...

"Our whole refrigerator 'n freezer are melting! There was some chocolate ice cream in there, left over from my party. Oh shit!....This morning it was just liquid soup! I went all the way across town to one of those convenience stores. Oh shit! They had a closed sign on it! They don't have electric either! And I was just cravin' chocolate ice cream so bad!..."

"Well, we never lost electric last night."

"Oh gee, it's out almost all over town! Even the traffic signals aren't working!"

He hesitated here once again. He looked down at the water before him and looked up again. He held a doleful expression, combined with a slight hint of embarrassment.

"...I umm......I'm really sorry about mom sent you."

"Hey!" Tim put in quickly, "We understand, okay?"

"Awh gee!....You guys still sent me that super nice scientific calculator!"

"Umm....Benny......We didn't send that to you. That was my MOM who got you that. We could never afford something that nice for you. I umm....told my mom we had been tutoring you....and how your mom found out about that. She was wondering what you'd like for your birthday. We umm....kinda told her you were doing poorly in math. We both thought that was the best thing you could use. We never told her it had to be a scientific calculator! Just one to kinda help you out a bit."

"Oh gee, guys......I don't wanna make you feel poorly over it....but I've really gotta give it back. That's just waaaay too expensive!"

"We understand if your mom doesn't want you to keep it."

"No!....It's not her idea....It's mine! I can't keep that...

"I was opening gifts in my living room. She was setting them on the coffee table. I figured as soon as everyone left, she'd have something to say about it. She just brought everything into my room. She didn't want you there!....But it was fine to keep the calculator, right? Oh, she's really a nice's just thing! Oh! Dad isn't like that!....Well, he may not exactly be waving a rainbow flag around, but I think he's more understanding."

"Nah! You keep that. You can really use it. Really, Benny....You keep that calculator and program all your formulas into it. Just remember....parenthesis first and exponents next. That's the place where you had the most trouble."

"Well I sure could use it."

"It's fine with us. Just remember that you aren't the only one who had to quit our tutoring. Lots of parents think you're going to catch something from us....or....or we're going to recruit you. Okay, it's kinda old fashioned ideas but me 'n Matty understand. These ideas will slowly fade out."

Matt looked at him seriously.

"Awh gee....little Adam....He had to tell us he couldn't hangout with us anymore. The other boys told us about that. He was just crying. That was the last time they saw him. We keep hoping he didn't feel bad about that. It was really sad. We sure hope he understood..."

Benny gave a smile here as he took thought.

"...You know something?....Well, I'm not gay....but if I was....I think I'd have hit on him!"

They all chuckled.

"...No! Really!....I mean I don't have to be gay to know if a boy is cute, right?..."

He gazed around in thought for a moment.

"...Yeah....He was soooo nice to everyone. Well, a bit quiet 'n shy but....Oh gee, he always seemed to be smiling. Even when the bullies got on him! And, hee, hee, he always had that kinda cute, crooked smile. You know....real big on one side of his mouth...

"Yeah he was so nice. I remember one time Paulie forgot to put his history textbook in his pack. I was walking by his room and his teacher asked if I'd run it down to him. Oh! He was in the GSA meeting room. We'll right after it was changed to the cafeteria. And it wasn't really a meeting! It was just one of those nights after school where they invited in everyone to just all hangout, know?...

"Oh wow! I don't think people in there knew I was just dropping off Paul's book. They thought I came in to with everyone. Oh wow! Everyone just crowded around me and asked how things were going. Nobody called me Gingerbread Boy! Everyone was so nice to me. I umm, had to tell them I was just there to give Paul his history book. And...umm...well I was honest about my mother not wanting me in there...

"Oh!....I told her it wasn't just for the gay kids....It was for everyone! Oh shit! I still think she believes I'm gonna somehow turn gay if I hangout there."

Matt looked at him with an understanding smile.

"...LOTS of parents think that, Benny. Don't let it bother you. We're....we're moving on a little bit each day. It's going to take time. We just have to keep reminding ourselves of that!"

"Oh!....And, hee, hee....I forgot to tell you about my cousin! You know, the one who was always talking about that metal detector he wanted for his birthday. Awwwwhhhh geeeee! Him and his friend were using it out in his backyard. They found this real strong signal and started digging. Hee, hee....right into the lawn! And the deeper they got, the stronger the signal was. Then they got deeper and the signal started going weak again! They couldn't figure it out. Hee, hee! After a bit they found they were digging right through the center of a barrel hoop! Ha, ha, ha! Oh gee! They had the whole backyard dug up! Oh was his dad pissed! I think it's going to cost thousands just to have the yard all landscaped again! Hee, hee! Oh shit, I think he's going to be grounded until he graduates!"

Benny slapped his palms to the surface of the water, causing a splash.

"Oh GEE! Would I have liked to have been there when his dad came home! Oh! I'll bet he shit his pants! He got to use his metal detector for a whole afternoon. Oh! His dad smashed it to pieces with a sledgehammer! You'd think he'd have returned it!....I mean, even if he didn't get full price! Oh wow. He was really pissed!...

"Oh!....At my party, I had invited Brittney and her friend over......Well I really don't know her friend all that well....It's just there weren't all that many girls there. I kinda told her I really wanted Brit there, and that she didn't really have to get me anything. Well, gee, it was actually her idea in the first place."

"Soooo," Tim teased, "...Did you get anywhere with her?"

Benny shaded his eyes to prevent his blush from being seen.

"...Well, But we kinda have a....walking date planned for this evening. Her family is having relatives over today for a visit. I guess they live quite a ways out. They said that tonight would be better. They wanted Brittney around for just the day. I mean, all their kids are grown up now. She wouldn't have any cousins or that to hangout with. They're all going out to supper tonight....well, the adults."

"A walking date huh?"

"Yeah. No real destination in mind. We'll just walk around and stop to get ice cream or that. Awh gee!....I'm getting a little nervous over it already......And I sure hope I can find a store around with electric!"

"Well, try that little filling station and market in my neighborhood."

"Well, umm....I'm going to get along here...

"I just wanted to show off my new bike and....and kinda wanted to apologize for my MOM!......Uninviting you! And I really wanted to give that calculator back to you."

"Nah!" Tim put in quickly, "You keep that....and keep going to that site I suggested. It really helped Matty."

They watched him make his way back to the shore. He mounted his bike and started down the dirt service road. Two other bicycles met him. They stopped behind some foliage and talked for a minute.

"Awh!" Matt shot out, "Now who's that?!"

He put his arm around Tim and drew him close.

"I wanted you all for myself today!"

Tim only grinned.

"I think we should have kept this place a secret."

Shortly, Ethan and Ryan drew up to the shoreline. They already wore swimsuits with towels wrapped around the handlebars of their bikes. They both gave overhead waves as they started out. They seemed in a rush. The hadn't eased into the water but splashed their way out with long strides.

"Oh gee!....Oh gee!" Ryan put in excitedly, "Reverend Winters had his church vandalized again last night!....And guess what?!....They got it on video!"


"Oh yeah! Oh yeah!....That McCluskey who did all that damage out at the park?....Well, they found out it was people from that nasty church that helped him! You know....the one where someone got that video of the preacher on the Net?"


"Oh yeah!....I guess five or six people were questioned today. Some of them got really scared. I guess they worked out a deal with them if they testify in court! Ain't it great?!"

Tim bowed his head slightly, a serious expression on his face.

"...Well, yeah......But I don't think it's going to help things around here much. They'll get three or four people to pay fines. They'll go right back to their hating again! I really don't think it's going to solve the problem! "

Ethan and Ryan joined hands as they sat facing Matt and Tim.

"...Well, umm....No! That's not going change things overnight. In fact I don't think it's going to stop people from hating!....But it's a step in the right direction, huh? Gee! The Supreme Court ruled against that Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional."

"Defense of Marriage Act!" Tim spat, "Even Mr. Gavin has a laugh at that! Defense of marriage?!....Yeah!....Sure! It didn't defend marriage....It made it illegal for a minority!.... And....and shortly after that, some guy in New York City gets shot! Some guy just walked up to him and shot him in the face! Point blank! And....trans people are getting murdered. And more gays are being beat up!......Oh shit! Matty and I call it the Religious Reich! How can people call that loving your neighbor? Now the religions are really starting to grasp at straws! Oh gee! We're going to become pedophiles! And we're going to infect everyone with AIDS!...... Everyone's marriage is in trouble! What's going to happen? Everyone is going to have to get a divorce and marry some same sex person?! And we're going to recruit more young people into our....our gay lifestyle?! "

Ethan nodded with a sober expression as he held Ryan's hand in both of his.

"...Well, umm....We're just trying to look at it with a more positive type of view...

"I mean....Look at all these major gay-to-straight organizations falling apart! And lots of people aren't donating money to these places anymore. I think people are seeing them for what they really are. Come on! They don't have a leg to stand on! They're just starting all this crap about marrying buildings and animals! It's to keep people from focusing on the real issue! It's just simple equal rights! "

"...Rights!" Tim said, "Yeah!....Rights! Does anyone know what a right is? It's a given! I don't see how peoples rights have to voted on! There should be no question about it!

"'Well now,'" he continued in a mocking voice, "should we allow everyone to get married?....Should we protect them from job discrimination?....Should we allow restaurants and bakeries and florist shops to refuse certain people? I mean, we've got to think about the children! And all that.... sexy same sex advertising! Oh gee! Our children are going to see two men or women kissing on a poster and they're going to go out and do the same thing! We certainly can't have any of that gay propaganda being spread around!"

Ryan chuckled at this.

"I'm sorry, Timmy....And you're right. It is very silly. I don't think it'll be too long before everyone sees that...

"Okay, maybe not everyone, but I think it's only a matter of time before they find themselves in the minority. I think they already know that's the direction things are going. They're getting scared. Like they say....the cash cow is drying up."

It was here a car drove into the service road. Tom and Jenny stepped out. Both wore their swimsuits.

"Ohhh geee," Matt whispered to Tim, "Maybe we should have just put an invite on the GSA Website!"

They drew near the others. Jenny had a huge smile as she held to Tom's arm.

"...We went to the pool....Ha, ha! Oh gee, the place is packed! And without electric, the filters quit! Oh gee, there's like a crud floating on the surface! And the water is just gray! Tom is just going to have to be content soaking in fish pee! "

"Awh Jenny! You know I joke about that. Oh that pool! I wouldn't doubt there's people pee in it!..."

They sat with the others.

"...Oh!" Jenny nearly shouted, "Is it hot today! Both our places are still without electric! You never realize how much you use air conditioning until you have to go without it!"

Tom nodded his head.

"The air conditioning isn't working in the car either. I think the refrigerant is leaking."

"Tommy, there isn't anything on your car that isn't leaking!"

"Well, hey! It gets us around, right?"

Jenny waved her arms under the water with a pleasant smile.

"Oh! What a relief!....There's just nowhere to go today or nothing to do! You can't even go out for a cold soda or an ice cream! Everything's closed! Oh wow! This feels so good!"

Tom glanced at each of the boys. He had a somewhat shy smile.

"...Oh, I can't stop thinking about that vigil. I was a little scared to go......Well, not scared, but I thought it was going to be a bit....sad. It wasn't really too bad."

He gazed off into the distance in thought.

"Yeah, I'll never forget that. The candles! You lit others candles and I kinda watched the flames spreading out. Mr. Gavin called it the loving light. It was very symbolic of a message being spread out. A message of love....not hate."

He hesitated for a moment, glancing over the others. He managed a smile.

"I don't think I say it enough, but I'm happy for you boys. Really!"

Jenny reached out and rubbed his shoulder.

"Oh Tommy!....I love to hear you talk like that. It's sweet! Really!"

"I'm serious. It's gotta be rough. I'm just so happy your families have adjusted to this. I think that's half the battle right there."

"Yeah," Ethan put in, " I had quite a time of it. I don't think my parents had too much of a time with it......Well, I think they're kind of hesitant to talk about it too much. I think they feel a bit uncomfortable about it, but they understand. In fact, my mom thought it was me who was worried. I wasn't worried! I....I don't know what it was. I always heard that everyone knows what.... direction they are. I didn't! I....I wasn't sure of myself. Maybe I was just too scared to admit anything to myself."

"Awh!" Tom put in, "You just had to probably take a bit more time to get those glands aligned."

Ethan gave a rather sad expression toward Tom.

"...Yeah but....even before that! Didn't you always know you were straight?"

Tom gave a slight blush.

"...Umm....I already told Jenny about all this...

"Some years ago us boys would go out camping. Oh yeah! We did the nude streakin' around the campfire. Oh! This wasn't at any state park. It was a little lake north of here. We'd go skinny dippin' an all....Yeah even the.... handjobs! ....It....well it was sexy! It wasn't love or anything like that. We all knew we were straight."

He reached out and put his arm around Ethan's shoulders.

"What you boys have here is so much more than that! It's not the....well sex that makes you gay....It's the love. Really! You love each other. It's a romantic love. That's what it's all about. I really don't have any problem with that. In fact....I'm happy for you all."

He drew Ethan close and kissed his cheek.

"Oh shit, Tommy!" Jenny squealed, "That was about the SWEETEST THING I ever saw from you!"

Tom blushed, yet gripped Ethan's shoulder from behind. He drew him close, yet shook him roughly.

"Really, you guys! I'm very happy for all of you. I can see it! You're made for each other. You all make great couples..."

He gazed off in thought for a moment more.

"...Yeah....I don't recall what it was I even started looking up on the Net a couple weeks ago. Anyhow I got on some site about love. Awh! It was all sonnets and sticky poetry and pictures of cute puppies. Then I checked out something about sex. Oh gee! That was a BIG mistake! Nothin' but porn!......I don't consider myself a....a prude. I mean I've downloaded lots of pictures. Yeah....some of 'em are nude girls, but umm....nothing's showing! If you know what I'm saying. I think it's in good taste. It's nothing.... raw or that."

He paused and took thought for a moment again.

"Oh gee....There's such a....a gap between sex and love today! You never see the two together! It's like there's this big chasm between the two. It's almost like you can have one or the other....but not both together!"

Jenny gave a silly grin as she reached out to rub Tom's back.

"...Yeah....I always knew there was something different about you Tommy. There just isn't a sweeter or more warm-toned boy in the whole school! Oh gee!"

She looked at the others.

"...I might as well tell you boys....A couple weeks ago Tom and I finally admitted our love for each other. I have no idea if it'll last. Oh gee!....We're still in high school! But right now, I don't think I've ever been closer to anyone in my life. I mean in just every way!...

"Okay, Tommy gets silly every now and then....but that's all part of him! He isn't one of those macho types who always has to be proving something!"

She drew him close with a warm smile and kissed his shoulder.

"I just can't believe I've got the hottest ....most affectionate boy in the whole school!"

Tom covered his eyes with his hand.

"Oh gee, Jenny! Will you quit with that?!"

"See?!....See what I'm saying?! You're just everything all wrapped up in one complete package!"

"...What's my.... package have to do with this?"

They all broke out in giggles.

"...I'm not talking about that package!......Besides, you know I'm a.... tushy girl! "

"Oh yeah," Tim began in a silly manner, "Me 'n Matty agree that's a good, solid EIGHT!"

Tom gave an exaggerated expression of surprise.

"...EIGHT?!....An EIGHT?!"

He quickly stood up and turned, pointing at his bottom.

"...Jenny, you tell them that's a TEN!....An eight? Shit too!"

Jenny giggled as she reached up and squeezed him.

"Oh gee! Tommy! Sit back down!....I don't have my high blood pressure pills with me!"

She pretended to wipe her nose.

"Oh gee!....I'm going to end up with a nosebleed any second now!"

They all laughed as Tom sat again.

"Oh!" Tom began, "We went past the park today......Well what used to be the park. We thought we'd just drive past and see what's going on. Mr. Gavin has heavy equipment in there already! Oh wow! Bulldozers 'n cranes 'n backhoes! They even had a surveying crew in there. I never thought he was going to start on things this quick."

Matt nodded his head.

"...I'm uhhh....well kinda considering becoming a teacher. I think I'd like that. Timmy too! Oh gee, wouldn't it be nice to teach at an all inclusive school? The kids would be more relaxed, where they could concentrate on their studies more. Timmy would be good at math. I'd like to teach science! I love it!"

Tom looked at them seriously.

"You'll both make damn good teachers!...

"Oh! Tim! I've heard the students talking about your tutoring sessions. And Matt! You've sure had some great science projects. You could build more of them and use them as teaching aids! I'm sure you'll both be great."

"Hee, hee. Tim says the same thing."


Tim gazed toward the shore.

"Well you can sure hear that over the rumble of water."

Scooter and Toby made their way out with smiles.

"Okay," Matt began, "What's Scoot doin' now."

Toby chuckled.

"Nothing!....I just saw Jenny out here and thought I'd do that."

"Oh Tob!....You two make such a sweet couple. I just don't like it when you call him a retard! That's not nice. You almost lost him! Just be happy you're together now."

They sat beside Tom and Jenny, completing the circle they had made in the whirlpool. Scooter reached out and drew Toby close, kissing his cheek.

"Awh Jenny! I know Toby's just being silly. He's called me a retard ever since the day we met. It just wouldn't be Tob if he didn't do that."

"Well you sure came out of your shell in the past year. Well, I never really knew you two that well, but everyone says it!"

They all glanced at each other in silence for a moment.

"Well," Scooter began, "we were going to go out to the lake today and sorta soak. It's just too far away! Well, in this heat! That just too far to peddle a bike! It's just so muggy today. And both our electric is out!"

"Yeah," Toby put in, "we set up plastic chairs at my place. I mean out on the lawn. We were going to just sit there and have the sprinkler spray over us...

"Oh shit!....That was cold! Oh gee! My Willy just shrunk up!"

He suddenly gasped and drew his hands to his mouth.

"Oh shit! I'm so sorry, Jenny!"

"Hee, hee....Ohhhh, don't be like that, Tob....You boys are just so sweet. I don't mind if you joke around a bit, just don't call Scoot a retard. I mean, it's okay to joke around but I don't like that. Call him something else."

Scooter smiled as he drew Toby close. He kissed his temple as he rubbed the other side of his head.

"...Jenny....that's just Toby! Really!....I've already told you about that. Whenever he says that to me, I still hear a I love you in there somewhere. Oh gee, we....well, we try to keep it down a bit outside. We call each other lots of things. Well, things that other people would think were nasty. We just aren't all that serious about it...

"Yeah, I almost died there....but we're together again. We....we want to be silly! We want to laugh and have fun."

He gazed at Toby and drew him close again, quickly kissing his cheek.

"...Just don't call me Sweet Dick!"

They all laughed.

Jenny gazed at Tom with a shy smile.

"Okay, as long as it's in fun......Right Needle Dick?"

"You got that right....Canyon Cunt!"

Everyone laughed again.

"Awh gee!" Scooter yelled, "I think that's lots worse than retard!"

Tom and Jenny joined hands as they gazed at each other with a smile.

"Oh, Jenny's pretty great too....Let's face it....boys are pigs! Girls are sweet and modest and lots more conservative. Jenny gets just raw enough to make me feel comfortable."

They drew together for a quick kiss.

There was a sudden lull in the conversation as everyone simply enjoyed the action of the whirlpool. They glanced around at the foamy water coming from the spillway. A crow could actually be heard loudly cawing over the thunder of the water. A seagull dove for the surface of the water and dipped its head under. It rose up again, with something obviously in its beak. The sky was cloudless. The sun continued to beam down with a relentless heat. More twigs, leaves and pine cones began to get captured by the whirlpool. They each picked at the debris, tossing them downriver.

Jenny watched Ethan reach out and adjust the slight forward curl of hair on Ryan's cheek. She saw the tenderness there.

"Oh Rye!" she put in, "You're just so sweet looking with that hairstyle. I can't get my hair to do anything!"

Matt chuckled here.

"...Umm....I don't think boys are all that....competitive with each other in the style department. Well, not like the girls are."

He gazed at Ryan with a serious expression.

"...It's just......I think we're all a bit jealous of Rye's hair! He can get it soaking a brush through it....and it just does whatever he wants! And....and it just stays that way!"

Jenny gazed over each of them.

"Owf!....None of you boys have any reason to be jealous of each other. You each have your own sweet little personalities. And....Wow! Every time I look at you....well, it's like your all just paired perfectly! I'm really happy for you all......And the way your families have accepted you....I think that's the best part of it right there."

Ethan reached out for Ryan's hand underwater.

"Yeah....well, I had quite a time of it. I just wasn't quite sure. In mom thought it was me who was worried about it. It's hard to explain. I wasn't worried about it. I just don't know what it was."

Jenny saw a distant look in Ethan's eyes. He drew up Ryan's hand from the water and kissed his fingers.

"...I....I was actually hoping I was gay," he said to Jenny, yet looking seriously into Ryan's eyes, "...I didn't want to umm....lead Rye on and then find out I was straight. Oh shit! I could never hurt him like that!"

Jenny let out a squeal.

"...See?!....See what I'm saying?...

"OH! You boys are just sweet! None of you have to be hanging all over each other to be able to see that."

"Well, umm," Tim began a bit shyly, "We kinda promised our parents when we were umm, outside....we'd umm....behave ourselves."

Jenny smiled and gave a pleasant yet serious smile.

She reached out and rubbed Ethan's shoulder.

"You've all got something wonderful here....Don't blow it!"

At that, Ryan covered his mouth with his hand and let out a silly snort.

"Oh shit!" Jenny gasped, "I don't believe I said that!....Oh BAD CHOICE OF WORDS!"

Although Ethan laughed, he turned to her in a rather serious manner.

"...We know what you're saying here..."

He turned back to Ryan and gazed at him.

"...I just don't know what it's called, Jen......Questioning? I just didn't know what....what direction was was going in!"

Still holding his hand, he rubbed Ryan's fingers over his cheek.

"All I knew was Ryan was just the cutest boy in the whole school," he nearly sighed.

"See?!....See?!....There you go being all sweet again!...

"I think you just probably had to take a bit more time to sort of get those glands into proper alignment! You just needed a little tuneup. A fuel injector adjustment. A battery boost charge!......Oh shit! Listen to me!....I'm starting to sound just like Tommy!"

They all laughed.

It was here Matt and Tim noticed more movement at the shore.

"Who the heck is that?" Matt asked.

Everyone turned to look. Two boys parked what were obviously new bicycles near Tom's car. They were much smaller than the others, yet even at this distance one could see the complex handbrakes and shifters on the handlebars.

As they started out toward the others, everyone recognized Joe and Chris. They both sat in the whirlpool beside Tom and Jenny as they made room for them. Joe looked over his shoulder with a smile.

"So what do you guys think?!" he put in with a large smile, quickly turning to the others.

"Chris' dad got us both new bikes!"

Chris gave a slight blush as he adjusted his position.

"...Yeah....umm....That pool party yesterday?....Well, umm, my dad truly put that on for everyone who helped out cleaning up the church, but......Well, it was also a birthday party for Joe and I."

Joe nodded his head with a large grin.

"We have our birthday's on the same day! I'm exactly a year and twelve hours older than him."

Jenny shook her hands before herself.

"Birthdays?!....Why didn't you say something about that?!"

"Awh, Jenny!" Chris shot out, "I've got anything a kid could possibly want! It was my idea! I told Father to keep it quiet. I didn't want any of you bringing me gifts! Oh shit! It was nice just to have you all there! Really and truly! It was a great little party. We've got to do more of that over the summer. We'd have done that more last month if it hadn't been for that algae problem. Awh! That pool water was just green! I don't know if you noticed that sort of glass cover over the pool. Well it is glass, but it filters out ninety percent of the ultraviolet light. The pool company said it was just getting too much sunlight. I guess the chemicals just couldn't keep up with it."

"Well, you still could have told us it was a birthday party," Jenny put in, "I mean, even if we just brought you cards or something!"

"Yes, but you wouldn't have done that! I didn't want you there to bring gifts. I just wanted us to all sort of get together..."

Joe glanced back at the bikes for a moment.

"Mr. Gavin got us both new bikes! Oh wow!"

Chris reached out and rubbed his shoulder.

"Umm....I believe father understood quite well you were happy over it. You truly didn't have to carry on so."

"Oh Chris!....I couldn't help it! Carry on?! Oh gee! I've never got something so nice in my life!"

He turned to the others.

"They're mountain bikes! Fifteen speed!....Well, they aren't made for speed. They're made for hills! They're all graphite and carbon composition! Light as a feather! And they're so easy to pedal up the steepest hills!"

He bowed his head here and wiped at his eyes.

"...Oh shit! I just broke down cryin'!"

Chris reached out and put his arm over his shoulders. He looked toward Scooter and Toby.

"...Umm....We both told my father we actually didn't need something that great. We told him it was just nice we had each other. You two always said that. Oh that's....that's truly philosophical!"

He paused here as he looked toward Joe, rubbing his back.

"...Yes. Joe said it was just simply so nice that Father was so understanding And I believe he truly is! He said we don't need....things! We're just happy to be together.

"...Oh my....I believe Father was tearing-up a bit himself. He said he wanted to go into the house for a coffee! I believe he still has a bit of Grandfather in him. He used to be very conservative over things. Perhaps it's actually beneficial he had that falling-out with him. I truly believe he's trying to change a bit."

Joe rubbed Chris' back as he took thought.

"...Yeah....It was about a week ago I talked to your dad. I told him just being with you is fine. That's all I need. I didn't want him thinking I was just using you get stuff."

"Oh I don't believe he ever thought that. He knows you care....All you boys. You've all accepted me. And....and well, I've been getting out a bit more. Awh, shit! All my allergy meds? I don't think I've taken any since that camping trip. I don't need them any longer. I feel quite well. I believe Father wants me to get out a bit more. He's seeing what it has done for me. I truly believe that camping trip has sort of....well, toughened me up a bit....If you wish to call it that....All that fresh air and sunshine! And well, hee, hee....I guess taking those few tumbles actually helped a bit too."

He quickly turned to Tim.

"Except for those ALCOHOL PADS!"

Everyone laughed. Jenny turned to him.

"Chris....I don't exactly like them either, but I always use one whenever I get cut."

"...Yes....Well, I truly feel so much better now that I've been doing things! I believe Father sees that himself. I didn't mind sitting in our library reading classics. I didn't mind the....sterile treated air I was breathing....The air conditioning! It's....well it's sure no match to being outdoors. Ahhh, yes! Truly! I can still smell the lake....The pine scented air. That peaty smell along the marshy areas. That....well, sort of sweet scent of decaying vegetation. Oh, yes indeed!....The smell of a wood fire. The scent of Tim's beef stew, bubbling away."

"Hee, hee....Well, I'm glad you enjoyed it."

"Oh yes indeed!....Being out camping as such must stimulate one's appetite."

"I agree with you." Tim said, "Food out camping does seem to taste better. I mean things you'd never eat at home...

"...And we were all happy for you. Wow! Look at all the things you learned. In just two weeks you were doing lots of the cooking!"

Chris shyly nodded his head.

"Oh, I was truly frightened over that trip. I'd never slept in the out-of-doors before. And....and those frightful thunderstorms! Oh that first night was truly awful for me. I do believe my imagination was running a bit wild that night. I heard all sorts of things."

Jenny nodded her head with a smile.

"I don't mind camping in a trailer, but I draw the line at TENTS! Never will I sleep in a tent!"

"Hee, hee," Tim put in, "My dad says it's not camping unless you're in a tent."

"Oh gee!....Bugs 'n spiders!"

Chris nodded his head rapidly.

"Yes indeed. I believed I was the only one with arachnophobia. Toby seems to have it even a bit worse than I!"

"Well, I don't know what that means, but I'm sure scared of fuckin' SPIDERS!"

Toby suddenly covered his mouth with his hands.

"Oh shit!....I'm so sorry Jenny!"

"Hee, hee....Quite all right Tob....For me it's ALL bugs!"

Chris looked at her.

"I believe you thinking of the term entomophobia."

Jenny gave him a sweet smile.

"Oh gee, Chris....You are just so wise for your years. So sophisticated. I keep thinking that years down the road you'll be lecturing in a big hall before a group of important scientists!"

"Well, I don't believe that should ever happen."

He took thought for several seconds.

"My interests are in mathematics. And not actually the practical portion. I'm more interested in the theoretical aspects of it. I enjoy doing these....well, thought experiments in my mind. I like to play those.... what if games in my head."

"Well, whatever it is....I'm sure I wouldn't understand it."

She drew her hand from the water and looked at it.

"Oh gee, I'm shriveling up already."

She looked at Tom as she rubbed is shoulder.

"Oh, it's such a beautiful day today and I'm soooo bored! There's just nothing to do!...

"The pool is packed! All the stores are closed....All the burger joints are closed. No electric! No air conditioning. I think I'm ready for another camping trip at the state park. At least the store there will have electric. We could at least get an ice cream or soda."

Minutes later, they all damp dried themselves on the shore. Jenny placed her towel over the seat in Tom's car.

"Tommy! Is that your phone or mine beeping?"

"Gotta be yours. Mine's still on my dresser at home. Nobody ever calls me."

"Thanks a lot, Tommy......I'm nobody?"

"Well you're about the only one who calls me. It's not too likely you're going to call me while we're together, okay?"

"...It's a text from Landon....He said we all should check the GSA's website as soon as we can."

"Landon?....I wonder what that's all about."

Jenny shrugged and looked toward Matt.

"...Any idea....Mr. President?..."

"...Nope!......I seldom go on the site in the summer unless it's to post something. Everybody is out doing things!"

An hour later, Tim came from his shower. Matt was gazing at his computer monitor. The screen saver was active with bursts of fireworks against a black background.

"...So, Matty....did you check the GSA's site?"

"Oh yeah....Oh yeah..."

He operated his trackball for a second. The screen saver switched off to reveal a photo of a young boy in a hospital bed.

"Awh shit!....Matty! That little guy is nothing but skin 'n bone!"

Matt wiped at a tear from his eye.

"...He's dead, Timmy!"

"What's that all about?"

"...He's from a nearby town," Matt put in quietly, "That vid we got from that awful preacher? You know....shoutin' 'n screamin' over us abominations? Well, I guess he has something to do with it."

"Awh gee, Matty. What happened to him? He looks awful!"

"Well, I guess it's another one of those....camps."

"Another....conversion therapy place?"

"...I'm sure of it....They just don't call it that! It's supposed to be one of those tough love places as they call 'em."

Matt continued to gaze at the monitor.

"...Oh gee......That little guy must have been starved for months!...And he had whip marks on him and....and cigarette burns!"

Tim dropped into his chair with a sigh.

Matt continued to gaze at the emaciated boy.

"...I don't know the whole story behind it. I don't even know how they found him!....He only lived for two weeks....on machines! It was already too late...

"The way I understand it, he wasn't even gay! Oh! He was just one of those boys who wasn't interested in sports and....and boy stuff! I guess they thought he was going to turn gay or whatever...

"Well, the parents are thinking differently now. I guess they wanna press charges for murder. Two of the guys from that place are already under arrest."

Tim dropped his head on the desk before the keyboard of his computer. He held his hand out toward the monitor.

"Shit! Matty!....Even if he was umm....a bit of a trouble maker....Who would do something like that?!......They need guidance...not torture!"

Matt nodded his head with a solemn expression.

"...Hate, Timmy! It's all about hate!......We'll always have haters. Lots of these groups are drying up lately, but....There'll always be those who hate to love 'n love to hate!"

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