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Matt and Tim II

by Small Town Guy

Eight Years Later - Epilogue

Tim stood shirtless before the mirror in the bathroom. He puffed out his cheek as he ran an electric shaver over it.

Tim gazed at Matt's reflection in the mirror as he entered with his eyes half closed. His hair literally stood on end.

"Hee, hee....Matty....we're twenty-five years old. And you know something?....You still look cute!"

Matt let out a grunt. He drew his arms around Tim from behind and dropped his chin on his shoulder.

"COFFEE!....I need COFFEE!....I must have COFFEE!"

"Hee, hee....All made in the kitchen!...

"Who's idea was it to watch that documentary last night?"

"Oh gee, Timmy......I don't know what it is about those things......The Andes Survivors.... The Donner Party......cannibalism!......I think I've got an awful morbid interest in the macabre!"

"Well I hope you weren't offended that fell asleep. I'm just not into that stuff. gives me nightmares!..."

Minutes later they sat at a tiny table in the kitchen. Matt held his mug in both hands as he glanced around.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I'd be living in my parents house....with.... with boyfriend!"

"Hee, hee....I think it was that....thing with Gram. That trust fund?......I still say they did that just to help us out. They probably felt bad."

Matt nodded.

"Well, Dad is sure doing great now. And the mill sure picked up. That place was just too labor intensive. They've got all those computer assisted machines now...

"Gee, he's right across the street from the mill now...

"...Well, Mom still has a couple miles to get to her job at the supermarket, but she's just going to finish out the year. It's just her and Dad now. I think she actually enjoyed having a smaller place. I mean, not that this place is a mansion."

Tim nodded his head.

"I still say we could rent out your bedroom. We could make a few extra bucks."

"NO!....This is our house and I'm not sharing it with anyone! It would be different if we had a basement apartment with a bath and all, but not up here! I want our privacy!"

"Well, I'm not talking about strangers! I'm talking about Joe or Tommy or Scooter 'n Toby."

Matt set his mug down with a thump, coffee splashing.

"...SCOOTER 'n TOBY?! Oh shit!"

"Hee, hee....Oh gee, they sure haven't changed much, huh? 'SCOOT! You are such a RETARD!' Hee, hee. I think they're still cute."

Tim gazed at Matt wiping his coffee spill from the table with a paper napkin.

"MATTY!....You're THINKING again! I can tell!"

Matt nodded with a shy smile.

"...Umm....yeah..." he replied, sipping at his mug, "Oh gee, Timmy! All these....clingy thingies I'm feeling again....And....Well, I know I'm not eighty years old but I've been into that....Oh that....nostalgia thingy again too."

Tim nodded with a smile.

"Funny you should mention that...

"I've been doing that quite a bit too. While I was fixing up the coffee maker here, I was thinking of all those times at Harvey's burger shop. Neither one of us was really into coffee at the time. Hee, hee....I think it was all those midnight cram sessions at college!"

"Oh gee! Don't remind me!....Oh! At the end of every semester I think we went through bag after bag of that dark roast espresso! I think we were both on a seven-day caffeine high!"

Matt suddenly took on a more serious expression. He reached out to grasp Tim's fingers.

"...Awh, Timmy....I've gotta keep thanking you for that. Oh gee, I didn't think I was ever going to get through that first year. If it hadn't been for you....I'd have gave up!"

"Well, neither one of us was really a....a party animal! You just needed a good push through all that math 'n algebra!"

Tim poured another mug of coffee as he smiled.

"Hee, hee....I keep thinking about you saying you couldn't wait to get that first year in....You said you were going to go out into the parking lot and set your algebra book on fire....and....hee, hee and dance around it in the nude! Hee, hee!"

"Well, it's like you said....The more practice I got, the easier it would become...

"Oh (sigh) you just can't get away from....from numbers today!"

"Matty....I'm teaching math 'n geometry 'n trig!....You're teaching science! We wouldn't be anywhere today if it wasn't for all those....numbers!"

Matt reflected for a moment.

"Ohhhh, I'm just soooo happy that Mr. Gavin built that school!"

"Built?....Past tense? Shit, Matty, he's still building on! He never thought it would take off like it has..."

Matt nodded with a smile.

"Oh yeah. He just finished that gym, with the indoor pool and everything. Now he's going to work on that outdoor pool!......That's not just a....a school, Timmy. It's a small town! It's open year 'round! Where would all those kids go during the summer?!..."

He paused as he sipped from his mug.

"Remember back at college where a couple of the girls asked us if we were hoping if it would be legal for gay couples to adopt? Well, sure! We both agreed on that. Yet, us having kids around here?......Awh we've got a hundred and fifty kids at the school! We help them out. We give 'em hope 'n love 'n acceptance. We'll see them graduate....And....and then there will be another group to bring through! We'll have kids all our lives! Kids who felt they just weren't wanted! Kids who thought that something was wrong with them. Oh shit! I wish that place was big enough to have five thousand kids!"

Tim nodded thoughtfully.

"...Well, it might not be good for our job security, but I'm hoping we won't schools much longer."

"Timmy....Haters?....We both agreed we'll always have the haters. It may not be as bad or numerous as today, but....they'll always be there!"

Matt looked around.

"Umm....Are we going to have breakfast here....or at the school?"

"Owf! I just don't feel like making anything this morning. Let's eat at school."

"Your car or mine?"

"Matty! I told you yesterday my low fuel light came on!"

"Well, so did mine!"

Matt glanced out the window.

"It's a beautiful June morning! We've got our new ten speeds out there in the garage."

He threw his arms around Tim's neck and kissed him quickly.

"...We always said, we may not have much, but we've got each other."

Tim wrapped his arms around Matt.

"Matty......I love you more with each passing day!"

Matt and Tim approached the school. It had taken them nearly two years to call the place 'The School' rather than 'The Park.' The gates had been replaced with much wider and taller ones, in order to allow for the large trucks and heavy equipment. Over the archway was large, shiny, brass letters. "LOVING LIGHT." The name had been suggested by Ethan and Ryan in remembrance of the candlelight vigil.

Mr. Gavin had put much thought into the placement of buildings. They were located where the park lawns and parking areas had been. Great trouble was taken to preserve the wooded areas and nature trails. Indeed, the wooden covered bridge had been replaced along with two pavilions. He'd gone through many archived photos to be as accurate in their reconstruction as possible.

They parked their bikes near one of the academic buildings and set out on foot for the cafeteria. Along the way, they noticed young, same sex couples walking the grounds, hand in hand. Some pushed younger children on the swings. Young boys and girls rode bicycles or skateboards. Some sat on the lawn with textbooks in their laps.

They passed a dorm where an addition was already being installed. The windows hadn't been installed yet and they could hear hammering and electric saws from within. Between two dorm buildings was the cafeteria. They entered to see Clara's friend Elizabeth at the serving line.

"Oh!....Let's see here....Tim....three scrambled eggs....light brown toast....fried ham, slightly burnt......Matt....three over easy....dark toast....bacon....half crispy."

Tim shook his head.

"I have NO IDEA how you do that! How do you remember all of us?"

"Ohhhh, most everyone has about the same breakfast. It's the dinners that vary quite a bit...

"Oh! Your grandmother is at the snack bar in the academic building. Rose called in today with a bit of a cold. Oh, nothing serious."

She set about cooking as they reached for trays and plates.

"...Oh I still say it's just so nice for Mr. Gavin to help us....ummm, seniors out a bit. I had no idea how much I'd enjoy this. It gets me out of the house and provides me with a bit more money each month. And your Gram enjoys this so much as well."

Tim nodded.

"Oh gee, I think she just about went crazy while we were in college. She was so happy we were returning here. We feel bad when she fusses over us too much. She has to learn to take it a bit more easy."

"More easy?!....Oh, we were both taking things a bit too easy. For a bit there, I thought my derriere was going to take root to that damn rocker! Oh yes, indeed! This is so much better! We're keeping busy but we're hardly exerting ourselves. One has to get up and simply walk about for a bit. We're both feeling so much better than we did years ago! And it's only a half-day, two or three times a week."

Minutes later, they sat at a small table near one of the walls. A young boy ran toward them. He held a thick textbook before himself.

"Oh!....Mr. Meadows!....Can we run the Tesla coil this afternoon?....Please? Please?"

Matt gave a wry smile as he spread butter on his toast.

"...Umm....Tristan....I'm very happy to see you so enthused over the lab but..."

He gazed toward the boy.

"...You know....I want to see you all have fun in the lab! It should be fun! Learning things shouldn't be a job! But as much fun as it have to understand what it is you're doing! You can't go into the lab just to play with the equipment. You have to understand what's going on! Remember that first day of class?....I told you all that it's going to be fun, but you have to understand in your mind, what it is you're doing! Lots of this stuff is all theoretical. That's the part you have to understand."

The boy gazed down at his textbook in his hands.

Matt reached for his briefcase and opened it. He moved several papers around and drew one out. It was a paper with several schematic diagrams on it.

"We don't have class 'til one o'clock. I want you to study these circuits. I want to know the resonant frequency of each of these. If you get them right....we'll fire-up the coil."

"Oh!....Oh gee!....Sure!....I'll umm....try real hard."

He ran off to his tray at another table. Immediately he opened his textbook and drew out his calculator.

Tim looked up at Matt.

"...I really like it when we can get kids excited over learning...

"That's why I started on that physics lab. Ohhhh, it's nothing real fancy. It's just running ball bearings down ramps......Lifting weights with pulley systems. But I think it really helps. The kids can see the practical aspects of what they're learning."

It was here Mr. Gavin approached them.

"Oh!....Tim!....Matt!......I'm so glad I ran into you here..."

He drew up a chair beside their table.

"...Don't let me interrupt your breakfast. Just let me run on a bit here..."

He sat and threw his ankle over his thigh. He adjusted the collar of his shirt.

"...Mmm....Well, this is about those....those psychologists I was telling you about...

"I invited them over for a couple days. They want to see how we're doing things here. As you know, this is....well, sort of an experimental school. Everyone's fascinated by how well the students are doing here. Oh gee!....Failing students who jumped up to near perfect grades."

Matt nodded as he set his fork down, reaching for his coffee mug.

"...I think we all know why the kids here are doing so well...

"...They're all gay Mr. Gavin!......They can study here!....They don't have to worry about getting beat up!....Having their homework tore up! Being taunted every hour of the day. It's a relaxed atmosphere. They can..."

"Yes. Yes. I understand all that....I'm sure the others do as well. They're more interested in your methods of teaching. Oh my God! Some of these kids came in off the streets! Some of them couldn't make change for a dollar! Some could barely read! These people want to sit in a a few classes today. I suggested the both of you right off!......Well, this afternoon. During the morning we'll be sitting in with the more remedial classes. I'm sure they're going to want to talk to you....and the students as well!"

Tim looked up at him and glanced at Matt.

"Fine with us....Matt?"

"Well sure! I don't have any classes this morning. Just a few papers to grade. I mean it's only summer classes right now. We've each got a handful of students that just needed the summer to sort of catch up with their age groups."

"Fine!....Fine....I'll bring the others through. Just try to have seating for them. I'm sure that won't be too much trouble. As you say, the classes are small. There should be about five or six people coming through."

Matt sipped at his coffee and smiled.

"We'll try our best....I hope we can impress them, Mr. Gavin..."

Mr Gavin bowed his head and pinched his temples.

"...Pleeeezzze! I keep telling you, it's Jake!"

Tim set his mug down and playfully pushed his shoulder.

"Hey!....We've been through this before! We just don't feel comfortable with that. You're our employer! We just don't think it's all that....respectable to call you by your first name. You're our boss! Hee, hee."

Mr. Gavin licked his lips and nervously adjusted his position.

"...Well....I may not be for much longer..."

He drew his ankle up onto his thigh again.

"...Umm....We're doing quite well here with the school. I'm trying to get everyone involved. I'm trying to get senior citizens in here. It'll help their income a bit....make them feel useful again. I'm trying to use local labor wherever I can. I want this place to have a positive effect on the town...

"We're doing fine! We're even making a profit!....Well, not much of one, but it's improving! We're headed in the right direction. I'm even helping these kids get some support! We've taken lots of their parents to court! They were thrown out of their homes! It's not right. They're responsible for them until they're eighteen. It helps with their room and board. And the students still have a bit left for clothes, books and a few snacks and extras. It's helping them live within a budget!...

"You all know how I want to add on around here. We're doing fine with what we have, but there are kids out there nearly banging on the door for us to help. It hurts me to turn one of them away...

"Now my wife and I got together last night in the study. We....we have an island we bought quite some years ago. AH! I think we were out there a whole three or four times. It's costing me just to maintain the place. We both agreed to let it go...

"A company that specializes in resorts is interested in it. Oh gee! I'm looking forward to fixing up that outdoor pool. I'd like to get more modern equipment in the labs. I want to add to the garage for maintaining the equipment. Oh gee, have you got any idea what it costs just to maintain mowers and snow throwers and plows?!..."

He licked his lips again and nervously readjusted his position.

"Oh gee, guys......I'm sure you'll really impress anyone who comes through here.

"I'm worried, okay?......Oh, I'm sure there are people out there....schools....who could pay you five....hell, ten times what I could afford. I'm really worried I'm going to lose you as teachers. Lots of you!"

Matt set his mug down and smiled. He reached for Tim's hand on the table.

"Funny you should mention that...

"Just a couple weeks ago me 'n Tim were talking about that..."

He paused as he gazed at Tim's eyes.

"...Mr. Gavin......When we were teens....we were....well, scared! Okay? We thought we'd be split up if my parents found out about us. And we always thought of Scooter 'n Toby. They always said, 'We haven't got much, but we've got each other!' That's profound Mr. Gavin!

"Me 'n Tim?......Well, we're doing fine! Awh! We don't have snowmobiles....jet skis or dirt bikes......We just never wanted those things. The house was my parent's. It's all paid for. We're taking care of the gas and electric....groceries. We've got decent cars."

His expression seemed to go distant for a moment.

"Oh how I hated to hear that alarm go off in the morning! School! And I really couldn't say much about it. My dad always said I'd hear that clock every morning 'til I retired! It....well it just sounded negative! Work!....Bust your ass just to keep alive so you can work more!...

"Dad......Well, he's changed lots since he got that special training. His job is more technical now. More interesting. More of a challenge...

"We love it here, Mr. Gavin! It's a small school and everything operates very simply. Yeah, I still hate to hear that alarm go off. But I get a coffee into me and I'm ready to head out here! This isn't a job Mr. Gavin! This....this is enjoyment! It's fun! It's very rewarding to kind of see that little light come on in some kid's head! It's fun to see these kids all excited over learning. We don't want to be just teachers....We want to be their friends as well. We want them to know they're accepted. To know that there isn't something wrong with them. We just want to see a little less hate in the world. We aren't ever leaving here! This....this isn't a job! It's our family! It's our life!"

Mr. Gavin nodded his head with a slight smile.

"...That makes me feel a bit better...

"...Yup! I fell into that too. My ole man! Shit!......Life was nothing but a big ledger with dollar signs in it! Ohhhh, I was headed in the wrong direction. I'm so glad I....I woke up! I'm glad I didn't go to my grave before I saw all this."

He gazed from Tim to Matt.

"...Just remember....I'm not asking you to....bust your ass! There's really no need for you to be here on Saturdays and Sundays. Oh gee! You're both here on weekends! Always building something or improving the labs or....whatever!

"You guys can take wire and a few electronic components and wheels 'n axles and you can build your own equipment! Learning aids! And you even get the students interested in it."

Matt nodded rapidly with a large smile.

"Yup!....And we love it!...

"Awh, Mr. Gavin....We plan to stay home on a weekend and it just seems like all we do is talk about the school....or that little kid having a problem with his studies. And we talk about the labs!....And we just get soooooo excited over it....We end up back here! This just isn't a job to us....It's not work! It's our life!"

Mr. Gavin bowed his head and pinched his temples.

"Ohhhh....I'm just soooo happy to hear that..."

It was here the boy who'd stopped there earlier came back.

"Oh! Oh!....I think I've got it! Really! Oh! Excuse me Mr. Gavin....Busy?"

"Not at all! What have you got there?"

He shook the paper before Matt's eyes.

"...Mr. Meadows!....I found the frequency formulas!......I did these just as Mr. Webster said to if it's's all his fault!"

They chuckled as Matt glanced over the paper on both sides.

"...Perfect!....You got every one of 'em right!"

"So can we run the Tesla coil this afternoon?"

"We sure will!"

"Oh shit! I gotta tell Jerry! He wants to be there too! Oh wow! Neat!"

He rushed toward his tray on the table and picked it up to take to the kitchen window.

Matt gazed at him then to Mr. Gavin. He pointed toward the boy.

"See what we're saying here?......You just can't put a price tag on something like that!"

Mr. Gavin nodded with a slight smile.

As Matt and Tim made their way toward the academic building, Mr. Gavin joined them. They neared the maintenance garage to the sound of pneumatic tools zipping. The overhead doors were open. Two young men crawled over a small tractor with a mower deck mounted below.

"Hee, hee....I didn't mean to spray you in the face, Josh. I just gave my wrench a squirt of oil."

Josh crawled from under the tractor. He removed his safety goggles and wiped them on his shirt. Both were already smeared with grease and hydraulic oil.

"Whoa!....Mr. Gavin!"

Mr. Gavin shook his head slowly.

"I'll never understand how the both of you made it through a hitch in the army without a court martial or....something!"

"Hee, hee....Well we were on the carpet in the commander's office a couple times....Hee, hee. We ummm told him we were ahhh....keeping morale up a bit."

"I sure hope it wasn't for safety reasons. You know what a stickler I am over safety."

"Oh, never! It's just....well, lots of...hee, hee, strange things happened in the garage....I mean we'd never put shaving cream on someone's sandwich and tell 'em it was mayo!" (Snicker).

Zack snickered as he covered his mouth.

"...And we're still trying to figure out how that big rubber spider ended up in the sarge's tool box!....Tee, hee."

Mr. Gavin continued to nod with a smile.

"...And the hydraulic oil in the tank fuel?"

"Umm....That was an experiment! We tried to produce a smoke screen."

"And the smoke bomb in the commander's staff car?"

"They," (Snicker) "...never proved that was us!"

"And how about the fireworks, wired to the catalytic converter on the captain's private car?"

"We weren't allowed to work on private vehicles! Someone else must have done that!"

"And how about the ammo box of shells that were replaced with....salamis?!"

"Hee, hee....Oh! Umm....that had to be a supply SNAFU. We had nothing to do with ammo!"

Mr. Gavin continued nodding with a grin.

"Hey guys....I don't mind a bit of pranks and silliness....Just keep it safe, huh?"

He walked around the tractor.

"So....will this be ready for maintenance this morning?"

"Oh! It's all set right now! Just need a fuel fill-up."

"Fine!....Just no oil on the seat or grease on the steering wheel please."

Matt and Tim giggled as they made their way toward the academic building. Tim opened the door to the foyer as a skateboard shot past. A voice sounded out.

"Oh my stars!....You boys are going to get hurt!" Clara said from behind the small counter of the snack bar.

"Hey boys," Tim put in quickly, "You know the rules. No skateboards, rollerblading or bikes inside the buildings!"

A boy stood up from the floor.

"Awh Mr. Webster!....I wasn't skateboarding! Jimmy had that beside his chair! I didn't see it! I stepped backward and landed right on it!"

The other boy ran for it and picked it up, examining it closely.

"Jim," Tim continued, "That's why we keep our skateboards upside down....under the tables!"

"Awh gee, I couldn't do that. I just painted a big yellow lightning bolt on it!"

He looked at the other boy.

"Now it's got a smeared footprint on it!"

Matt chuckled.

"Oh, take it over to the garage! I'm sure Zack and Josh will help you out with it...

"But leave it there until the paint dries!"

Clara came from behind the counter.

"Oh my stars! MY BOYS are here! I need a big hug!"

She hugged them both and rubbed their chests.

"Oh you boys are just developing so fine. I was worried about you being so skinny all the time!"

"Gram! We were fifteen! With very high metabolism!"

"Well now you just sit down here and let me get you some cookies 'n milk. Ohhh, I just love to fuss over my boys!"

Matt rolled his eyes comically at Tim as he pulled out a chair.

Tim went for the counter.

"One cookie, Gram....I've got a class in twenty minutes."

"Now you just sit down there with Matty and let me bring this stuff to you."

A minute later she set a brown paper bag before each of them.

"Gram!....These aren't from the cafeteria! You made these, didn't you?"

"Well, I knew I'd be filling-in for Rose today. I figured I'd catch you sooner or later."

"Gram!....Matty 'n I are twenty-five! We don't need you fussing over us all the time!"

She sat on a chair near their table and looked at them seriously.

"Oh boys!....I keep telling you....That rocker was killing me!....Literally!

"Oh Timmy, you were just so quiet 'n shy. Then Matty came into your life. Oh my stars! You....why you just came alive!...

"Yes....I had my....suspicions all along. I wanted to keep you two together. Even your parents say you both were made for each other...

"Ohhh I was just so lost when the both of you left for college. I think Mr. Gavin saw that. I believe that's why he offered me this job here. Oh! How I loved being around the kids here! Well, things weren't as well along as they are today. Yes....that last year you two were in college was the fastest! I was here and I was able to....fuss over the kids. And I was able to think you'd both be coming back here. I was soooo scared the both of you would be off to jobs, hundreds of miles from here! And I'd seldom get to see you. When Mr. Gavin said you accepted teaching jobs here. Oh! I believe that added on another ten years to my life!"

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

"Oh my stars! Toby!....I so wish you wouldn't call Scooter such!"

Scooter and Toby came down one of the hallways. They wore white shirts and sport jackets.

"Gram....I saw you sitting there. That was a joke!"

She turned to them.

"Ohhhh, how is the counseling going with little Mitch? Oh dear, perhaps I shouldn't ask."

"Oh, it's not all that confidential......He's adjusting."

"Oh dear....How can parents just push their own child out the door like that?....With only the clothes he was wearing!"

Toby threw his arm over Scooter's shoulders and drew him close. He smiled at him.

"We thought we had lots of....of experience where we could become counselors. Oh gee, Gram......You wouldn't believe some of the stories we've heard! Just awful! The first thing we had to do with lots of the students was to get them to accept themselves first.

"Oh the....abuse we've heard of."

"Well, now please don't get into all that! I don't want to hear of such things."

"Well, we're going to head over to the cafeteria for breakfast before they close the serving line. We were up rather early this morning."

Clara stood up and walked swiftly to the counter of the snack bar.

"Well I believe I'd better get things in order here. With only summer classes most of the students sleep rather late. In a bit I believe I'll be quite busy."

She looked at Matt as she shook her curved finger in the air.

"...And Matty....I hear from a couple boys you plan to start up that awful machine again today! You be careful around that thing!"

"Gram....It's perfectly safe! I didn't mean to scare you that bad!"

"Oh my stars! All I saw was sparks shooting from that metal rod in your hand! I thought for sure you were getting electrocuted!"

"Sorry Gram....Hee, hee....Mr. Gavin is taking some psychologists around today. I think I'll set them up!"

"Oh now you're getting just like Zack and Josh! It won't be so funny when someone gets hurt!"

"Gram....It's perfectly safe!......I'd never do anything dangerous around the stu....around my boys!"

She looked up, waving her curved finger in the air again.

"These are MY KIDS and I'm not sharing them with anyone!"

Both Matt and Tim laughed as they started down the hall. They heard the foyer doors open and turned to look back. Zack and Josh entered wiping their greasy hands on orange colored shop towels.

"OH MY STARS!....You boys are NOT gonna eat like that!"

They saw Clara reach out and grasp their shoulders with her thumbs and index fingers. It was almost as though she feared using her entire palms.

"Now you get into the boy's room there and scrub those hands clean. MY STARS! You're both gonna get yourselves so sick! It's wonderful how well you're keeping all the equipment up, but you're going to poison yourselves with all that grease 'n oil!"

Tim paused with Matt before his office.

"You know something, Matty....I think Gram's gonna live to be a hundred and ten!"

Matt smiled.

"I sure hope so!"

An hour later, Mr. Gavin led four men and two women into an empty and yet unfinished classroom. There were bare studs in place, still to be covered by sheet rock. The electric outlet boxes along the floor still had cables jutting from them. On the ceiling were functional, yet unfinished light fixtures. They were fixtures for long fluorescent tubes, yet to be covered by plastic defusing panels. There was a pleasant scent of fresh wood and sawdust in the air. They each took a seat at the several desks scattered about. Mr. Gavin stood before them.

"I can't help it, people! I keep saying it....I'm just so happy you're interested in our school....And....yes! Our methods of teaching are a bit....radical, to say the least."

"No! Never!" one of the men put in quickly, "!....My God! That....that Tim Webster. Wow! How he can teach math! I seriously wish I had an instructor as him when I was back in college...

"And all the students seemed so....excited over it!"

Mr. Gavin smiled.

"Yes! Learning should be a reward in itself! It shouldn't be a....a punishment! How many of us were brought up to believe that? Learning should be enjoyable!! Matt and Tim are always saying that...

"Ladies....Gentlemen....This is a high school, not a college. But do you recall high school?......Rote memorization! No! We want kids to think! Think independently!...

A few years ago....when Matt and Tim were still in high school, they'd seen something on the Net. A saying....'Children need to be taught HOW to think....not WHAT to think!' I really like that! I've decided that will be our school's motto..."

He leaned up against a makeshift table on sawhorses. It was cluttered with paint cans, brushes and assorted tools.

"I'm going to be taking you down the hall here to a....a finished classroom. It's our remedial reading class."

He placed his hands into his pockets as he took thought for a moment.

"Oh my....We had such a difficult time with getting students to read. And I'm not talking about the homeless kids we have here...

"There are too many distractions today....Too many diversions! Oh! Lots of teachers today are using too much audio and video in their classrooms...

"People need to read! If you know how to can learn anything!"

He paused here to glance at each of them.

"We can't give these students grammar school primers! They're teenagers! They'd feel silly! We had to find Matthew says, 'Simple and interesting,' for them. Now what could be more interesting to them than stories about people just as them?! Yes!....Gay romance!....That....that teenage sort of thing where they can identify with the characters."

He sat back on the makeshift table and paused again.

"...Now this type of reading is no different than what you'd find in public schools. I'm not talking about trashy novels here....There's only one difference....and that's same sex couples. I mean it would be no different then hetero romance. It's just that the couples here, are gay. They date! They experience that first kiss....That embarrassing trip down the stairs. It's nothing more than we all went through in a....well, straight relationship. It's just that it encourages them to read! Okay, there's nothing ummm....racy in the stories. It's just that everything else is there. The bullying....the name calling....finding that special someone....The breakups....the tears....the new boyfriend....the laughter. The shy, awkward years. These students can identify with that! Oh yes! We've even got students here who are rather great at reading! And they too come to this class. Yet it helps the others to want to read. They sort of push themselves a bit more to learn to read.......They're learning about relationships....Oh, yes! Bad ones as well as good. It shows them they aren't....wrong! They all want about the same things as we would in a straight relationship. These stories are about growing up gay! The kids are learning about being different....not wrong!

"Oh my....This young lady I have in there is a volunteer, and she's doing a great job! After their assignments....they come to class and discuss it. She asks them how they feel about a certain situation in a story. Something they can identify with! There's an exchange there! There's communication! They all open up to each other about their own experiences. They enjoy it! We never saw the....well, the psychological aspects of it. It makes them feel better about themselves."

He smiled as he reflected for a moment.

"...This young lady....Hee, hee....Back in high school she was known for being quite a matchmaker. The high school Cupid. Oh yes! In fact, three couples she got together are already married! Well, umm, straight couples. But she didn't stop there. She was always gay friendly. She sort of helped the very shy ones. She just gave them that little push to sort of get things moving. She's quite adept at finding qualities in couples which would draw them together. And I mean the gay kids too! And I never realized how far this reading class would go. Well, I'm sure you'll all see the psychology of it. It was sort of one of those Eureka moments we hear about. We had no idea how well this reading class would take off...

"Ahh, right now it's summer school. It's for the students who need a bit more help with certain subjects. But during our actual school year, we've had to open up the cafeteria to contain all the students which are interested. And I truly believe it's nearly healing for some of the students. They find they're not alone!...

"Now we'll just pass into there and sort of just sit and observe. I think you'll see what I'm talking about."

Matt gazed at a clipboard in his hands as he came from the snack bar with a mug of coffee. He struck into somebody and quickly tilted his mug to prevent a spill.

"Oh! Jenny!....Sorry....I'm not paying much attention to what I'm doing here. Did I splash coffee on you?"

She looked down at herself.

"No. I'm quite all right."

"Wow, Jenny! What are you all decked out for?"

"Oh....Mr. Gavin is having some observers come into my class this afternoon. I can't hardly be in there in jeans and a tank top! Not in front of all those professionals! Oh gee, I'm kind of nervous."

"Well, you sure look hot today."

"Well that's quite a compliment coming!"

"Hey, even Tom says he doesn't have to be gay to admit knowing a hot guy when he sees one...

"...Umm....speaking of which....I'll assume he's in the auto hobby shop?"

Jenny nodded.

"Oh yeah! Oh yeah!....Where else would that motor head be?!"

"Oh my stars! Jenny!"

"Oh, hi, Gram..."

"I thought I heard you out here. Now come over here. I saved you two chocolate chip cookies and an orange juice."

"Well, catch you later Jenny....I've got a class."

"Sure thing Matty."

A half hour later Matt stepped from the green chalkboard. He looked over the ten students there.

"Okay....being summer, we don't have large classes. This will help out in the lab. Each of you go to a work station and build experiment number twenty six in your workbooks. This is a tuned circuit. Everyone needs to do this in order to understand that big coil. These are radio frequencies people! I keep saying it....Don't go into the lab just to play with the equipment. You need to know what's happening! You know I don't mind a bit of umm....independent experimenting. Just make it constructive!...

"Oh!....And one more thing. If you need that remedial geometry class this afternoon, Mr. Webster's class is literally overflowing! If your student I.D. number is over one hundred, I'll be teaching you in room two-twenty at three-thirty today.

There was a collective moan from the students.

"Ohhh!....Quit yer whining 'n cryin'! We'll have fun! You'll see..."

Minutes later Mr. Gavin glanced about the room.

"Well, now I hope I've answered your questions well enough. This is all new to me. I feel more comfortable at a board meeting..."

He glanced at his watch.

"Okay, let's go down the hall here and see this young lady teaching reading! Oh, how I wish I could hire her on as an instructor! I'd like to hire lots of our volunteers! We're making a profit here at the school....just not much of one. We need more money for expansion and new equipment. More teachers! As you all know, lots of our money comes from donations. The hospital is helping greatly. And some of the students families are paying a sort of....tuition. Well, the more understanding parents. They understand their children are in an inclusive school here and can concentrate on their studies rather than worrying about bullying and name calling. It's just that we have an awful lot of homeless students here as well. It gets rather expensive at times. If it weren't for the volunteers I believe we'd be lost!"

Minutes later, Mr. Gavin and the others entered Jenny's classroom. There were a considerable amount of students present for a simple summer course. They were already discussing the reading assignment from the previous day. They all sat to the back of the room.

"Okay," Jenny was saying, "...Now let's back up a bit here...

"It has been quite a few months since Greg and Andy's breakup, but let's go back to that point for a moment...

"How did you feel about that?"

"Oh gee! Oh gee!"

"...Mick? Do you have anything to say about that?"

"Oh yeah! Oh gee!...

"Ummm it was the part where Greg found out Andy was cheating on him. Oh! Wow! Poor Greg! He just sorta sank to the ground, crying. Awh! I umm....really hurt for him over that. It was so sad....I'll admit it....I cried over that part."

"Nothing wrong with that Mick...

"Okay now....It's been a few months since their breakup......Do any of you think the two boys are well....still feeling something for each other?..."

"Oh yeah! Oh yeah!"

"Gwen....Do you think they still care for each other?"

"Well....umm....I think they're still kinda carrying a torch for each other....Just not a very big one, but....Yeah, I think there's still a little something between them."

"Would any of you like to see them get back together again?"

There was a collective moan through the room.

"Awh never!"

"Jim!....You sound rather emphatic over that. What's your reason?"

"Well, umm....I love stories where a couple sorta patch things up and get back together. But not in this case. They've changed. Both of them. Especially Greg!...

"I really think Andy was least being civilized with him. I think Greg found another boyfriend just out of spite! I don't think either of them really care about each other. Gee, they're always fighting and arguing with each other!"

"So do you think he's doing that just to make Andy jealous?"

"No. Not that either...

"He gives me the idea he's only doing that to umm....stick it back to him. You sort of hurt him back, like he was. I think it's more of a revenge sort of thing."

"Jim, I think that's very observant of you..."

A half hour later, Mr. Gavin and the others gathered within the unfinished room again. Nobody sat. They shook their heads. Some nodded and smiled.

"Oh Mr. Gavin....We're impressed!....We're all very well impressed!"

"...Well now....I forgot to mention this before...

"You may have heard a few cuss words in there. And some deplorable grammar!

"At the school here....Well, we try not to be too negative with students. Oh dear. All most of these students have heard is how dumb they are....or how wrong they are. Way too much negative reinforcement. We try not to correct their grammar. That will come later. Too many of these students are just way too quiet. They got depressed at always being corrected at everything they say or do. We're a bit more tolerant over that sort of thing here. We want them to open up! We want them talking....asking questions. Let's get that communication going first. We'll concentrate on more polite and proper grammar later on. We want them to open up in any way they can. We want them to feel comfortable here..."

He leaned up against a wood stud on what was going to eventually be a wall.

"Oh my!......Some of these students....The hate they've been subjected to. The physical and psychological abuse they've endured! Many of them are simply terrified! They've got to learn we're here for them. We've got to gain their trust. We want them to hear more positive reinforcement..."

He held his hand up, motioning toward the door.

"...These kids here......They're not juvenile delinquents! They not problem students! None of them have a police record. They're....well, they're good kids! Very good kids. It's just that many of them are so confused. They're gay!....And there's nothing they can do about it! That's got to be absolutely terrifying for them.

"When these kids come in here....the first thing the dorm supervisors do is show them the locks on the doors. They point out they're in the inside! They're told this isn't some prison! That they have their freedom! That they can leave any time they wish. It does wonders for them! And day-by-day they learn we can be trusted. We even ask the other students to sort of welcome in the new kids. We point out how they felt their first few days here.

"Yes we try to find things to compliment them on....No matter how small! They need to hear more positive reinforcement. It does wonders for them. And they even try to do better!"

He hung his head and sighed.

"...Ohhh. how I would have enjoyed that myself. My father....Oh! Bitch, chew, whine, cry, scream, grunt! I could never do anything right or fast enough to suit him...

"Life was nothing but a big ledger with dollar signs in it! Oh HOW I almost got caught up in all that 'til the day I died!...

"My boy is gay. Oh, I'm sure his mother saw that at a very early age. I believe she was a bit hesitant to discuss it with me."

He waved his hands before himself.

"This school has nothing to do with that! I've always been inclusive in my hiring practice. It's how well you do your job that interests me. Each little cog in the big clockwork works together for the whole! Everyone does their particular job and the company runs as a big well-oiled machine!"

Matt made his way down the counter top of workstations. He made notes on a clipboard.

"Wow!....Hey kids....I'm impressed! Really! You're all really grasping things here."

"Can we start up the Tesla coil now?!"

"Tristan!......Will you calm down?! You're just like a friend of mine. He'd get so excited and squirmy, he'd wear out his clothes from the inside out!"

They all laughed.

"...Now let's just hold off a bit here..."

He placed his clipboard on the desk and leaned up against it.

"I'm going to say it again...

"Mr. Gavin is bringing those observers through here. They all psychologists! They're into the more educational aspects of it. So far they like our methods. Now I'm not trying to get you all nervous but behave yourselves! Please?....Let's your language. I don't care if you want to get a bit silly when they're here. This should be fun! Learning should be fun. It's just that these people could really help the school here. They control the strings to a very big purse. Let's do everything we can to impress them even more!"

It was here Mr. Gavin stepped inside the door. He stepped to the side as the others entered.

Matt spread out his arms.

"Welcome to the Loving Light science lab!......Just seat yourselves at the back of the room there. We hope to impress you even more!"

Mr. Gavin dropped his face into his palm.

"Oh no!....Not the Mad Scientist Routine, again, huh?"

"Hee, hee....Well not too much!"

Mr. Gavin grasped Matt's shoulder and shook him.

"This is another young man who's methods are a bit....radical if I do say so myself. Just hear him out......And YES! I'm sure you'll be impressed!"

He seated himself with the others.

Matt reached for a traffic cone which had been on the floor near a wall. He drew it up to his mouth as though it were a megaphone.

"...Ladies and gentlemen! Boys 'n girls....I'd like to draw your attention to the center ring!"

He quickly tossed the cone back.

"Oh gee....Maybe I am getting a bit too silly."

He stood before the coil. There was a large, short coil on a wood frame which surrounded a smaller, longer one. The turns of fine wire were wound so closely, it appeared a solid sheet of copper. At the top was a copper sphere.

"I'm sure some of you have heard of Nikola Tesla. He was responsible for the installation of alternating current world-wide. I believe he got a bit of a raw deal over it. He never got the credit for much of his great work..."

After a few minutes of history he threw several switches. A motor started. A disk attached to it began to spin within an arc gap with a crackling sound. Matt reached for a metal rod. He began to use it as a pointer.

"Okay now....You see this sort of violet corona building up along this tall coil here. This is extremely high frequency current. In fact, it'll boost the voltage up to four hundred thousand volts! NOT to worry! It's quite safe...

He drew the rod toward the top of the coil, pointing with it.

"I'd like to draw your attention to that large copper sphere up here. This is where the charge is stored."

A long, blue-white arc shot through the air and to the metal rod, crackling.

"Bahhhhhhh!" Matt yelled as his body shook.

The visitors literally jumped in their chairs with gasps.

Matt quickly withdrew the rod and looked at them

"...Hee, hee....Did I SCARE you?!"

The women let out sighs as they held their hands to their chests.

"Quite safe! I assure you..."

He gazed at the coil again. Tiny blue arcs were jumping from the sphere into the air. He turned to the visitors again. He pointed to one of the women.

"...Umm ma'am....Could you hand me that clear light bulb on the bench just behind you?"

She reached for it and gasped. Within the clear bulb could be seen violet arcs jumping from her fingertips.

"Oh MY!....That's fascinating!"

The woman beside her looked at her face.

"Betty! Doesn't that hurt?!"

"...No!....Not at all!....Oh my! That's truly fascinating!"

Matt took the bulb from her and made his way back to the coil.

"...Umm....This was Tesla's idea of building a coil to transmit electrical energy through the air....without the use of wires! Unfortunately it didn't work. I'd like to explain something else here but I'm not so sure how to go about it."

He gave a comedic expression of surprise. He held the bulb over himself as he scratched his head. It glowed with a violet hue.

"Wait!....I think I have an IDEA!"

With that, students lurched forward in their chairs. Some laughed, others who understood Matt's humor pretended to give nauseous gags. The visitors laughed.

"Okay now," he began, looking at Tristan, "Tristan!....You look a bit rundown! In fact, you look almost dead! I think it's time for you to get a battery recharge!"

He quickly stood up with a large smile. One of the women stood, holding her palm out.

"Oh no!....Oh my God! Please don't!"

"Please don't....what?"

"Oh! Whatever you're going to do there. I don't think I want to see this!"


The woman sat again with her hand over her mouth.

Tristan seemed excited. His face beamed with a large smile. Two other boys drew up a stainless steel table. It appeared more suitable for a biology lab. They stood it on end as Tristan backed against it. They began strapping him to the table with leather straps over his chest.

"Oh my!....Oh my! I really don't think I wish to see this!"

"Perfect safe, ma'am!"

The coil continued to make humming and crackling noises as the two boys placed long fluorescent tubes in Tristan's hands. He closed his eyes and laid his head to the side. The boys began to tilt the table back at an angle. The ends of the tubes came near the copper sphere. Bright blue-white arcs shot toward the ends of the tubes. They actually began to glow in his hands. He made quick twitching motions. He slowly turned his head forward and opened his eyes slightly.

Matt ran for a towel on one of the counter tops. He balled it up and stuffed it down the back of his shirt. He drew up his shoulders with an evil grin, and rubbed his hands together in a sinister manner. He pretended to limp toward the table as though there was a lift on his shoe.

"Oh! OH!....INDEED!....Muawahahah!....It's ah-live! It's AH-LIVE!"

Although a bit apprehensive, the others began to snicker. They gazed at Mr. Gavin. His face was buried into his palms, yet his body shook with laughter.

"Ahh, yes!" Matt continued, rubbing his hands, "Your batt-trees just needed a quick charge! Perhaps NOW you'll be able to keep awake for all those boring lectures of mine!"

Others jumped up and neared them.

"Oh!....My turn!....My turn! Let us all have a battery recharge!"

Minutes later the group gathered out in the hall. Matt allowed the students to experiment with the coil. They drew arcs and held glowing lamps near the coil. They laughed and joked.

Matt's eyes suddenly opened wide. He reached into the back of his shirt and drew out the towel he had stuffed into it.

"Awh gee!......I'm starting to think maybe I shouldn't have done that! I'm feeling a little silly right now."

"Oh! NEVER!" one of the women put in quickly, "I think that was sensational!....I will admit it....Your methods are a've got those students so interested! They're learning! And you've got them to want to learn more!...

"You're right....Learning should be a reward in itself. It should be something enjoyable! Something fun! I see nothing wrong with being a little silly with the students. It's so much better than listening to some long, boring, monotone lecture!"

Jenny's class was dismissed. She looked up from her desk. Two boys remained. She noticed they were deliberately stalling. They slipped notebooks in pens into their packs. They gave each other quick, shy glances. They lasted no more than a fraction of a second, but drew slight blushes from each of them.

"Oh gee!....Those two remind me so much of Ethan and Ryan. Oh! I believe I've nearly called on them as Ethan and Ryan a couple times! They're so sweet 'n shy. Oh! I've got to think of something here."

"Umm....boys....Would you two just sit up here in the front row for a bit?"

Both looked at her and paled for a moment.

"Oh, now don't get all nervous! You aren't in any sort of trouble here..."

They shyly sat at desks in the front row, before her. They carefully allowed for an empty desk between them. Again they gave each other quick, shy glances.

"Okay now......The first thing I'd like to say is your reading is not only improving, but your comprehension as well! You've both made fantastic strides in that area. And I'm truly amazed! It's....well it's your classroom participation! You have no problem talking when I call on you, but I'd feel so much better if you'd both volunteer a bit more."

She settled back in her chair and placed her palms on the desk.

"...Yes....I know you're both awful shy. Believe it or not, so was I! Well, back in junior high...

"Ohhhh how I wanted to just get out there and mix with others! I even bought one of those self-help books to help me through it. It was wonderfully written! The author mentioned how anything new sort of scares us. He compared it to getting into a rather chilly swimming pool......We can walk out from the shallow end....shivering and freezing all the way......OR....We can just jump in from the diving board and get it all over with in one big cold shock!....Your body will acclimate! Yes, it's a bit of a....a shock to your body, but you'll be surprised at how quickly you'll adjust to the water temperature...

"You boys need to just get that cold shock and get it over with! Now I'm not saying I'd expect you to stand at the front of the room and give a book report in front of everyone. You just need to well....sort of open up a bit."

She reached for her purse.

"...Now not a word of this to anyone!..."

She drew out several bills.

"...I understand lots of you kids just don't have much money. I'm going to give you each a couple dollars. Now I want the both of you to go down to the snack bar and get yourselves a treat. AND!..............I want you to discuss chapter ten in our latest story with each other."

They both shyly looked at each other for a moment, blushing.

"I'm quite serious here. You talk to each other....One on one! Why in a bit, you'll be talking to two people....Then three people! Before you know it, all that shyness will be left behind...

"And not a word of this to anyone......It's called favoritism! We aren't supposed to do that around here. We're all equal here at Loving Light! I'm just doing this to give you two a bit of a push, okay?......All I ask is you volunteer just a few lines in class each time we meet. I'm not going to ask you to give a speech! I just want to hear your thoughts on a particular part of a story. There's nothing to be scared of. Why, someone in class could hear your input and it could sort of open an entirely new door for them! It could give someone an entirely new perspective on something! And don't feel poorly if everyone doesn't agree with you. Listen to them as well. This class isn't just about reading....It's about an exchange of ideas."

She pushed the bills toward the front edge of the desk.

Randy was a bit hesitant as he stood.

"Ohhhh! He reminds me so much of Ethan! So tall and thin. Those big, brown, puppy dog eyes!...

"And little Jordan......He's nearly a photocopy of Ryan. Oh! That light blond hair with the little curve before his ears. And those magnetic green eyes! Oh! They're just so cute!"

"...Well, umm I guess we could do that....Huh Jordan?"

Jordan got to his feet. He nodded shyly.

"...Umm yeah!......I....umm....think that would be....umm....nice!"

"Thank you so much, Miss Levine. We'll umm....try lots harder, huh Jordan?"

"Well, now boys....I'm not saying you aren't doing well in your reading. It's your communication! Your interchange with the others. Just talk to each other a bit. As I say, it'll get more easy each time you do that.

"I might even suggest you two get together in the study hall each day before one of our classes. Sort of figure out how you feel about a part in one of the stories. Try to get your feelings into words! I'm sure everyone will be interested in your input. I'm sure I will!"

Randy's eyes grew large.

"Umm....Oh gee! Yeah!....I think that would be kinda neat....Huh, Jordan?"

"...Umm....Oh yeah! I'd really like that! Sounds cool!"

Jenny tried her best to suppress a smile.

"Fine. Now you two get going."

Randy hesitantly drew the bills from the desk and pushed the others toward Jordan. He gazed at the money in his hand.

"Oh gee! Thank you so much, Miss Levine."

Jordan reached for the bills.

"Oh yes. Thank you so much!"

Randy folded the bills and put them in his pocket.

"I'm going to get a fruit punch and....and a couple of those big raisin cookies!"

"Raisin?....No way!....Chocolate chip for sure!......And....and one of those little orange yogurts!"

"Oh! YOGURT?! No way!"

"That's the same thing I thought. It's really good. You should try some."

"Oh yogurt! Ick!"

"No! I'm serious. They're really good!"

They left for the hallway. Tom came through the door, shaking his head.

"I was going to ask you if you needed a ride home. I heard you talking to those boys. I thought I'd better stay out 'til you were done. I didn't know how private it might be."

He slapped his hand to his thigh.

"I had all I could do to keep from giggling! Oh Jen!....Are you ever going to stop playin' matchmaker?!"

"Oh Tommy!....They're just so cute together!"

In the snack bar, both Randy and Jordan glanced around shyly. Jordan set his pack on a tiny round table a distance from the serving area.

"...Umm....Let's sit here! I....umm don't want anyone listening to us discussing that story."

"Awh! It's not like everyone hasn't read those stories. I mean, umm......let's face it, we're all gay around here, huh?"

Jordan bowed his head with a slight blush.

"...Umm....Yeah....Now let's go get something to eat here."

They returned with their snacks and drew their packs to the floor.

Zack and Josh entered to step up to the counter.

"Oh! What can I get for you two today?"

"Umm....Just two coffees to go, Gram."

"Oh my stars!....It's Zack 'n Josh!....Why, I didn't recognize you without those coveralls and all that grease 'n oil!"

"Hee, hee....Well, we left our coveralls in the garage and took showers."

"Oh I have no idea how you boys can spend an entire day in that greasy, dirty garage!"

"Gram!....We keep tellin' you, mechanics are our life! If we couldn't get dirty 'n tinker on engines....we....well, we'd just dig a hole to die in!"

"Oh please don't talk like that...

"Now you just sit at that table there and let me fuss over you a bit."

"No, Gram! Coffees to go! Two cream, two sugar. In cardboard cups with lids!"

"Well now you can SIT for fifteen minutes!"

"Gram!....Don't give us a hard time! We'll set off another smoke bomb behind your microwave back there!"

"OH MY STARS! You BOYS! You're going to give an old lady a heart attack!"

"Hee, hee....Sorry Gram, we didn't mean to scare you that bad! Oh gee, you're going to live to be a hundred!"

"OH DEAR! I was just five seconds from calling the fire department over here!"

She began filling two cardboard cups with coffee.

"You boys and your shenanigans! You're going to get yourselves fired!...

"And I still say you should just sit for a few moments during the day."

"Next time you're on, we will. We umm....We're going to that new place tonight. The Scene! We're going to go on the prowl tonight!"

"Ohhh, I felt so poorly for you two. You were in the service! Doing your part for your country! I think it was totally nasty your girlfriends broke up with you."

"Well, it kinda hurt at the time....It's water under the bridge. We had a great time. Our service time went by like it was a few months! The girls?....Well, they were just sitting around with nothing to do. It was rough on them."

"And I certainly wish you wouldn't go looking for girls bars!"

"Awh, Gram! Yeah, it's called a bar but it alcohol free! They serve these tropical drinks there....Without alcohol! It's not a trouble-spot. Great people in there! Friendly!....And they got this drink there made with spices 'n cinnamon 'n clove. Wow! Delicious!"

"Well now that's something you'd put in an apple pie....Not a drink! I don't believe I'd be able to swallow a sip."

Randy watched Jordan dip his plastic spoon into his yogurt cup. He placed it into his mouth, savoring its creamy texture.

"Oh shit!....Oh shit!....Those cherry red lips are just drawing that yogurt off that spoon! Oh, how can watching a boy eat be erotic!....Oh! I knew it! I'm pullin' a woody! I....I gotta start thinking of something else here."

He twisted around in his chair.

"Oh I hate these little tables. I don't think they're designed for putting your legs under! I think they're more for the wheelchairs and handicapped kids, without....making it too obvious.

"Oh! I gotta pick up my pack and get a notebook out or textbook or something! I gotta hide this woody somehow. I can't even fit my entire thighs under this table."

He leaned forward to draw up his pack. This caused him to lean over the table a bit more and draw closer to Jordan's face.

"Oh shit!....Those green eyes! They....they kinda look like that auto shop paint....With the little flecks of metal in it. They just shine! Oh, this is sooooo hard bending over like this."

He drew up his pack to is knees and reached inside. He took out a thick history book and placed it on his lap. His attention was drawn to Jordan again.

"Oh gee! I wish he'd eat....regular! Regular? And how's that? Well, fast? He just keeps sliding that spoon from his lips so slowly. Then....then he licks that creamy yogurt from his upper lip with his tongue. Oh shit!....I'm so hard, I hurts! Oh, I'd like to lean forward and just kiss those lips. Ummm....well not real long 'n romantic....Just a little peck. Just long enough to get some of that yogurt on my lips....Oh....then lick my own lips! Oh! Creamy yogurt from Jordan's sweet lips!...

"Oh, this book isn't heavy enough. Even pressing down on it with my elbows isn't helping any!....In fact, I think it's just making things worse! Oh, I gotta start thinking of something else."

Jordan placed his plastic spoon into his cup of yogurt. He took a sip from his juice. The straw fell back to the edge of the carton as Jordan released it from his lips. Randy stared at it.

"Oh!....Oh!....I can see a little drop of yogurt on the tip....From Jordan's lips! Oh! How I'd like to put my lips to the tip of that straw right now!"

It was here Jordan reached down into his pack. He drew out a plastic binder. It had been the story they were reading. In fact, it had been written by Matt. The school's officials had suggested it to him. They thought they could have better control of content if he were to write it. They tried to avoid anything too risque. They wanted to have content which emphasized relationships in order to have the students identify with the characters.

He opened it to a position about two thirds of the way through. He rested his left forearm on it in order to hold it open. The index finger of his right hand scanned down the page.

Randy's eyes were still fixed to the tip of the straw.


It was here that Randy realized Jordan had been talking.

"...Umm....umm....Oh! Sorry!....I think I was just daydreaming a bit here."

Jordan pointed down at the binder.

"Miss Levine said we're supposed to be discussing the story here..."

"Oh!....Oh! Yeah! Umm....I seem to be daydreaming here a bit. Hee, hee. I've been doing that quite a bit lately. Umm....Let me get my folder out."

"What in the world are you doing with your history book?"

"History book?....Oh! That!....Umm....This table is kinda low. I umm put a thick textbook on my lap and put the folder on it. It umm....kinda raises it up some. Easier to see."

He drew out his plastic binder and placed it over his textbook. He placed his right ankle over his left thigh and slouched down in his chair.

"Ohhhh! I hope he doesn't see my woody! Oh, how embarrassing."

"Okay....Now....what were you saying?"

"...Well, that new character....Beth? I mean she has a boyfriend but......Do you notice how she's been kinda giving other girls....looks?"

"Oh! Umm....Well, I haven't really noticed."

"How could you miss something like that? It's soooo obvious. I'm wondering if she's realizing she's gay....or bi....or just still a bit confused about it all..."

Matt and Tim entered the snack bar.

"Oh there's my boys!"

"Gram! What are you still doing here? I thought you were just working four hour shifts for three days a week."

"Oh I'm just filling in here for this one day. I've got a stool back there to sit on when things get a bit slow. You know how I enjoy being here with all the kids. Oh my! They're all so sweet 'n polite. I believe some of that....that youth is making its way toward me! Oh my stars! I just feel grand these past few years. I want to keep feeling useful...

"Now I want the both of you over to the house at six o'clock sharp!....Beef stew with biscuits 'n gravy tonight!"

"AWH, GRAM!" they both shouted out.

"Oh now hush up!"

"Graaaam!" Tim nearly moaned, "Me 'n Matty are quite capable of fixing something for supper! If it wasn't for you teaching us how to cook....we'd probably still be eating breakfast cereals and frozen microwave dinners!"

"Well now I certainly didn't strain myself. I put everything in that big slow cooker this morning and set it on low. And your folks are going to be there as well, Matty. I invited them over tonight. Oh! Nothing special. I just think we should all get together from time to time."

"Graaaam!" Matt sighed, "You've gotta start slowing down a bit. We worry about you."

"Slowing down?....Oh my stars! Never! And with the exception of my soap operas, I'm keeping out of that damn rocker! I keep telling you boys, that thing was killing me faster than anything...

"And now the school here. Oh my! All these sweet little angels! Oh, I've heard some awful sad stories. How can people just toss their kids out of the house like a sack of trash?!"

Tim took on a serious expression.

"...Gram....You probably don't know half of it. Yeah, it's sad. But there's hate out there. And I seriously don't think it'll ever all go away. We're all just doing our part to make things better for these kids. And you're right....They are little angels. They just have to learn there's nothing wrong with them. We're trying to lift them up a bit. Some of these kids were on the brink of suicide!"

"Ohhh, but you boys just about live at the school here! Don't go feeling guilty about taking some time off for yourselves! You've got to spend some time with each other."

Tim grinned as he threw his arm over Matt's shoulders and shook him.

"...Gram....We go home at night....have supper....correct papers....And we make sure we have some....alone time!"

"Well, you need to take a few weekends off as well."

"Gram. We have no interests outside if this place. This is our life! We enjoy being here. Working with these kids is a dream come true...

"Me 'n Matty were talking about that when we first met. We didn't know what we wanted out of life. We were young. Oh Gram! Do you have any idea how wonderful it is teaching these kids? We watch them learn and grow. Oh gee! It's almost like an extended family! This....well this isn't work to us Gram. It's so wonderful to see these kids happy and getting some positive reinforcement in life. Okay, they're gay Gram....But other than that....they're no different than anybody else. They're just thriving here! They don't have to worry about bullies. They don't have to worry about name calling. They don't have to worry about their parents finding out about them! They can be themselves."

"Well now, just as all those past years....we're going out to the state park for that little get-together again in July. Oh, well, the second week of July. Over the fourth, it's just simply too crowded. All your friends and all their parents will be there."

She gave them a silly grin...

"...And this year....I'll be there as well!"

"Wow! Gram! Really?....We'd love it!"

"Well now, we won't be doing any of that....tent stuff. Your folks will be renting a motor home."

"Awh! Dad always said that's not camping! He said it's like taking a motel along!"

"Well, now....I believe they've felt poorly over leaving me out. I told them the only way I'd go, is if they have some kind of trailer or such, where I don't have to be in a damp tent with all those bugs 'n spiders......You young people will be using the tents. Oh my stars! I could just see myself in one of those sleeping bags! Some animal would find its way into the tent and I have a fit!"

"Hee, hee....Oh gee...

"Umm....Hey Gram, we'd give you a ride home tonight but we took our bikes in. It was such a nice day today."

"Oh now, you don't worry about that. Why that shuttle-bus drops us older part-timers off right at the front of the house!"

"Quite all right, Gram," Toby's voice sounded out, "Scooter has his car. We can give you a lift."

"Oh my stars no!......It'll be just like the last time......You'll be calling Scooter a retard all the way there!"

"Oh gee, Gram we're just teasing each other. We've been doing that since kindergarten!"

"Well, fine. Just be nice to each other..."

Scooter held a briefcase in one hand and pushed his shoulder into the glass door.

"Oh!....I forgot again! These are the only doors that open inward!"

"Scooter!....You are such a retard!"

Toby suddenly covered his mouth with his hands.

"Oh shit!....I did it again!....Sorry Gram....I can't help it! It's almost like a reflex!"

Oh! You little shits!....Now let's get going here."

She turned to look at Matt and Tim, waving her curved finger in the air.

"Supper!....Six o'clock!....Now you be there!"

"Okay we will..."

Tim looked at Matt with a shy smile.

"Umm....Let's go up to the pond and see how they're doing on the new pavilion."

"Oh!....Oh!....Mr. Meadows!"

Matt turned to see a rather tall brunette walking rapidly toward him. She held the hand of a shorter redhead, nearly stumbling along to keep pace.

"Brittney!....What is it?"

"Oh gee!....I'll admit it! Yesterday I overslept and missed your class. I'm on cold meds and they make me awful sleepy. Would you just give me ten minutes here?"

"Well sure I can!"

Matt and Tim sat at one of the larger tables, joined by Brittney. Her partner sat at another table beside them and turned her chair around.

Brittney set her textbook down and rapidly pulled at assignments which had been placed randomly within the pages.

"Oh gee! This part here on inscribed and circumscribed circles with triangles. Oh! I think I'm going to have a breakdown or something."

Matt reached out and grasped her wrist.

"Brit!....Slow down. I keep telling you, you've got to mellow out a bit. Don't be so hyper over everything. Take your time and....think!"

"Well I can never remember which is which!"

"I've already told you that......A circle inside the triangle is the IN-scribed one!....The other is on the outside."

Randy was still nervous as he fidgeted in his chair.

"Umm....Well now I see what you're talking about! I definitely think Beth is gay. I mean she's like sixteen now! And did you notice in the start of the story how....well conservative her family is?......I mean even her aunts, uncles, cousins....grandparents! I think she's trying to kinda deny who she is."

Jordan suddenly pushed his yogurt cup toward Randy.

"...Hey!....Try some if this, huh? It's really good!"

"Oh shit!....That spoon!....It was....was inside Jordan's mouth! And....and his tongue touched the bottom! Oh no! Woody time again. I've got to learn to control myself!"

"...Well, umm....yeah! I think I'll try some. Hee, hee....I keep tellin' you I'm not really one for yogurt."

"Just try one spoonful. This is some generic brand the school switched over to. Oh gee, it's better than that brand name they used to sell. Really! Try it!"

"Okay....well, umm here goes......If I puke, it's all your fault!"

"Hee, hee....Ain't gonna happen. It's really good."

Randy stirred the cup for a moment.

"Oh! That spoon was inside Jordan's mouth!......His lips ran across it! Oh, I've never thought of yogurt as before! Hee, hee....Oh I'm getting silly here."

He dipped the tip of the spoon into the cup and drew it out. It put it into his mouth.

"Oh gee......This spoon was inside Jordan's mouth! I'm putting....Jordan germs in my mouth!...

"Oh now that's silly!......You're supposed to be tasting his yogurt!....And umm, hey! This is good!....This is really good!"

Jordan put his hand over Randy's on the table.

"So how is it? Hee, hee. You look like some kind of connoisseur!"

"Oh!....Mmm....sorry. Hee, hee....Umm....Yeah! It's really good!"

"Are you sure?....I'm not going to get mad at you if you don't like it!"

"Well, umm....Could I do just one more spoonful?"

"Sure, go ahead!"

"Oh! He's got his hand on top of mine! It's so warm.....and he's kinda squeezing it.

"Oh!....Try another taste! You're supposed to be tasting his yogurt!"

He drew up another half-spoonful, and placed it into his mouth.

"I've gotta turn this spoon upside down....I wanna lick that curved part....Right where Jordan's lip kinda squeegeed it off......Oh shit! Squeegeed? Oh that's dumb. Hee, hee. Oh! He's looking at me. He wants to know if I like it. Say something!"

He placed the spoon back into the cup.

"Oh....yeah! Ahh....It's really good!....It's like real creamy....not that dry, chalky taste."

"Hee, hee....You look like some gourmet er somethin'!....The way you close your eyes and just concentrate on tasting! Hee, hee..."

"Oh gee! I did close my eyes! I won't tell him I was trying to taste....him!"

Matt was drawing with a compass in one of Brittney's notebooks.

"...Now see....Once you figure out the radius and find out the point your compass needle is located at....see how simple it is?"

"Oh yes!....Thank you so much!...

"Now when I'm figuring the circumcised cir..."

She paused here as her partner at the nearby table began to giggle behind her hand. She fell forward with her hands covering her red face.

"OH!....MY....GOD!....I don't believe I just said that!"

"...Umm, Brittney....We're studying geometry here....not biology!"

"Ohmigod! I'm sooooo embarrassed here!......Oh, I just know you're going to tease me for the rest of the year over that!"

Matt grinned.

"...YES!....I am! Hee, hee."

"Awh, Jordan pulled his hand back from mine. Well, I guess he almost had to. He's got to hold that yogurt cup from slidin' across the table."

"...So....umm....Ran!....Miss Levine said to go to the study hall and discuss this story. Umm....We won't have a class again 'til Friday, but I was thinkin' how about tonight?"

"Oh shit! What do I say to that? What do I say? Say yes! Of course."

"...Umm, oh gee! Yeah! We can do that, right? Umm....Right after supper tonight!"

Jordan tilted his yogurt cup, scraping the remainder out. He gave a slight blush.

"...Well, if you don't mind. I was thinking even a bit more early than that. I was thinkin' umm....maybe we could start right in the cafeteria! I'm really getting into this story. Oh gee, some of these parts....I don't know if I should laugh or....or cry!"

"...Oh yeah!....Oh yeah!....Billy 'n Jake......I'm sooooo happy they're back together again. That was nasty of Frank to spread all those nasty rumors about Billy. I think he was just doing that to break them up to begin with!......I think he's got a....a thing for Jake."

"Oh yeah! I noticed that right away."

Jenny and Tom entered. Tom glanced at Matt and Tim.

"Hey! We're headed home, guys....Need a lift?"

"Nah!" Tim put in, "It was such a beautiful day today, we decided to take our bikes in."

"Bikes?!....You mean those ten speeds?!....That you have to pedal?! No gas engines? Not even an electric motor with a battery pack?"

Jenny slapped his shoulder.

"Oh Tommy! head!"

"Hee, hee....Gee, Jenny....You can almost make that sound like a cuss word!"

As Brittney and her friend left, Jenny dropped her voice.

"They say boys only have one thing on their mind. Little did I know that means engines 'n fuel injectors! Can't you be a bit more....romantic?"

"Awh, Jenny....Mr. Gavin wants me to be instructor in the auto hobby shop. He just can't afford to hire me yet. He wanted Zack 'n Josh to give it a try. I mean they really know their shit. It's just....Well, they have a hard time getting things across to the students. They admit it themselves. The told Mr. Gavin they're mechanics, not teachers!"

"Hey! Won't it be nice if those observers that came through today can help out? I've heard they were very impressed with the school."

Jenny grinned.

"Oh yeah. Mr. Gavin said he'd hire me in a second, as soon as the school really gets moving. I'm really starting to hate that job at the coffee shop. Oh gee! Coming in here every day? And reaching out to these students. Ohhhh, a job in heaven!"

It was here that Randy and Jordan made their way to the door.

"...So, I'll see you in the cafeteria in a bit?" Jordan said.

"...Umm....sure thing! I'll take my reading along....Umm....We can about....stuff! And later on we'll go to the study hall and....umm study some more, hee. hee."

"...Ran....Don't be all nervous 'n shy."

"Oh gee! I am! I can't help it."

Jordan opened the door and Randy stepped through. They walked several paces. Jordan spoke, Randy laughed. Jordan nudged into Randy as he reached for his hand. Although the others couldn't see his face, they were sure he was blushing.

Jenny shook her finger into Tom's face.

"Don't say it! Okay?......I think they're cute together."

Minutes later Matt and Tim walked up the trail to the pond. Matt inhaled deeply.

"Ohhhh that fresh pine in the air. It keeps reminding me of all the times I was up here. And I really didn't mind it."

"Yeah, your thinkin' spot!"

Matt reached out for Tim's hand.

"Matty....No PDA's on school grounds for faculty!"

"Nobody can see us up here."

They made their way up to the pond. The stagnant water had long been replaced by a new pump. The tiny island in the center was again spraying a plum of water. They gazed across it.

"Oh!" Matt sighed, "I was just so sick when I heard about this place being vandalized."

"Yup, me too. We busted our asses digging that trench up here."

Tim gazed over the water.

"Yeah. We had that kiss out here in the pavilion. Oh Matty, I was on top of the world!"

"It's too bad things are moving so slow with this."

"Yeah. Well, like Mr. Gavin says....priorities! The classrooms and labs are first.

"I guess they've got volunteers out here too. The students are doing most of the work. And learning things."

"Hee, hee....I think this place has more volunteers than teachers!"

"Well, yeah......I think you're right but...

"Most all the people are coming in from town! I never thought this little town would be friendly."

"Well, I'm hoping things are changing."

They wondered over to what was going to be the new pavilion. There was already a wood deck built. Above them were bare joists. They were yet to be covered with boards, much less roofing material. Tim looked around.

"You know Matty. That first time you took me out here it was sort of threatening rain all along. We had that wonderful kiss out here. Well, until the big crash of thunder. We were in a hurry to get home before the downpour."

He leaned up against the lower wall of logs.

"...You keep saying you wished our first kiss was in a better time and place. You kept saying a damp, cold tent wasn't as good. It was wonderful! And I still couldn't think of a better way it could happen."

He gazed at Matt.

"I keep saying the only regret I have is that we didn't stay out here! So what if it rained?! We had a roof over our heads. Okay, it was awful windy, but we could have sat at the opposite side of the pavilion here. We could have just held each other and talked. I think that would have been so nice. Just being together and listening to the rain falling. Now that would have been romantic!"

Matt nodded his head.

"You're right....but we'd just come out to each other. I think we were both a bit shy and embarrassed. But you're right. That would have been so nice. I guess we're just sort of conditioned to seek shelter when a storm comes up."

Matt held Tim's shoulders and gave him a deep kiss.

"Mmm, mmm....Oh Matty, we're not supposed to be doing this. What if some of the students were to come up here?"

"Oh Timmy......This is going to sound silly, but I think I feel one of those clingy thingys coming on again."

"Hee, hee....That's the first time I heard you say that in months."

"Silly, huh?"

"Not in the least. I love it when you get like this."

Matt pressed his head to his shoulder.

"Ohhhh, I still feel us getting closer. How's that possible?"

Matt and Tim entered the Webster's house through the back door. Again they had taken their bikes which they'd parked out on the patio.

"Oh gee, Gram!....That stew smells fantastic!" Matt yelled out.

He saw his parents already there at the table.

"Oh hi Mom....Dad!"

Matt was pleased his mother not only gave him a hug, but Tim as well.

"Oh, you boys are just growing up so fast!"

Matt's father glanced up.

"I see you took your bikes over."

"Awh Dad....It's like a half mile here. Why even start up a car for that little distance. We use our bikes quite a bit. We even took 'em to school today."

His father gave a slight grin as he sat at the table.

"I really like how you rather!"

Matt and Tim joined the others at the table.

"Dad!....It's not work! In's fun! All those kids are little angels."

His father nodded in agreement. He glanced at Ayumi and Ken.

"...Well, if it hadn't been for Ken and Ayumi here....I'd probably still be calling it work."

Ken looked at him.

"I think you just needed that little extra push. You were just trapped into that little niche we all seem to fall into. Life becomes so routine. We don't want to step out there and try something new."

Richard reached for his fork, yet hesitated to begin eating.

"Yeah're right. I was scared. And I can't stop thanking you enough for that. I needed that push. Things are so much better at work now...

"I'm what's called a working supervisor! That's not a contradiction in terms. I told the boss I really enjoy all this new electronic stuff. I just didn't want to sit in some office all day and....supervise! I wanted to get out there with the others. I....Well, I need that hands on work! I've done it all my life. I just love working with my hands. I mean actually doing things. Well, it's not quite as demanding as it was years ago."

Cynthia spooned gravy over a dish of biscuits.

"...Oh, I couldn't wait to put in my two week notice down at the supermarket. Now?....Oh, I'm not so sure I should have done that. And yes....It's habit. I walk around in that house and there just isn't anything to do! I thought of finding some hobby or that. Nothing interests me!"

"Mom! I keep telling you. Volunteer for down at the school. You'll love it."

"Oh I haven't got any brains for all the things kids have to learn today......And I truly think I'd feel a bit frightened working with those kids."

"MOM! They aren't juvenile delinquents! They aren't problem students! They're very well behaved. They love the place! In fact, I think they're scared they may get kicked out! We keep tellin' them it's not a prison they're in. It's a boarding school!...

"And you wouldn't have to teach if you didn't want to. There are all kinds of areas you could fill in......Working in the cafeteria....or....or in the office! You could help schedule classes. Work on the computers. You don't have to be a computer nerd to enter things into a computer! And I'm sure Mr. Gavin would let you try out a number of different positions to find out what you'd like best. Gee! Even Gram works down there! It doesn't pay much but she gets a little something."

"Oh my stars, yes! Oh Cynthia, it's an absolute pleasure working over there! And Matty's right, those kids are absolute little angels! They aren't toughs off the streets. They just need a place where they can feel

"Oh how I enjoy fussing over those kids! Oh, even the employees are so nice to work with. You'll have a grand time! And you can choose your own schedule.

"Oh my stars!......When Timmy and Matty left for college I was just soooo bored around here. It's just wonderful being with all those young people. I feel younger than I did ten years ago! I'm not lying to you!"

Richard buttered a piece of biscuit as he hesitated for a moment.

"I'll say it again and again, Matt. This took me as quite a shock. Oh, I know it was years ago, but I can remember it very clearly. Mr. Shelby I think has made the biggest turnaround of all of us. Wow! Even he has volunteered at the school. And he giving talks at lots of these meetings. Well, with the parents there."

"....Yeah, Dad....I can understand....Having a woosie for a son."

"...Mathew, that has nothing to do with it. I....I know gay people. And I was never one to stereotype like that. I know mechanics who are gay....welders....electricians....Hell, I even know a couple ranchers who are gay......You'd never know! Even in my own mind, I never thought of that typical....oh!....What-do-you-call-it?....Sissy?....The interior decorator!....The hairdresser!....I never thought of those such things...

"It's just....well....I was brought up all my life thinking that it was....wrong! That's quite a few years of....of conditioning! I'm really okay with all this now. It was a rough road, but I understand now."

He reached out and placed his hand over Tim's.

"...And I'm just so happy you found Timmy here. I'm so happy it wasn't some older person....some druggie or trouble maker...

"Yup....You two are so mature. Well, I think you've always been. You both had lots to think about. It had to be scary, huh?"

"Oh yeah....Oh yeah."

"Oh it hurt me so to hear of Adam. That's why I asked you for Mrs Tanner's e-address. I sent her a rather lengthy message. Well, it wasn't a message....hee, hee....It ended up a manuscript! I told her all about you and Tim. And I started it out just as I felt at the time. And as I went along....I showed her how I learned things, little by little. I sure hope I reached her."

"I think you did more than that!" Ayumi said, "Well, she got a divorce from that....animal she was married to. And she's sort of a....well, I guess you could say a guidance counselor now. Well, over at the school. I mean she does a bit of everything! She fills in for cooks....helps out with cleaning the cafeteria. She does things in between working with the students and their parents.

"I think she's lots happier now too. Well, you can tell she really misses Adam, but I think it's her own form of therapy! She's taking something negative and sort of turning it into a positive.

"Gee, Mom," Matt said, "...I really think you should volunteer at the school. Mr. Gavin would let you try anything! And if you didn't like it....Well, you could try something else. Kind of find your little niche down there. As we say....those kids aren't toughs off the street. Lots of 'em are awful scared. I really think you'd like it!"

Matt paused here and patted the back of Tim's hand with a smile.

"...I didn't think of it all the time.....You know, figuring out what I wanted to do in life. But when I did....Oh, it was kinda scary. Tim felt the same way too."

He glanced at Ken.

"I think you had lots to do with that Mr. Webster. People are out in a big rat race....and the rats are winning! Well, for a little while. Mr. Gavin too! He said people are so involved with earning a living, they aren't actually living! Tim 'n I?....Well, we always said the same as Scooter 'n Toby. We don't have much....but we've got each other. We're just soooo happy now. And the kids at the school. It's our life! It might not be very good job security, but we keep hoping in another twenty years, we won't even need schools like the Loving Light. Well, it will be a....a regular school! Where everyone gets along. Where everyone's included! I'm sure there will always be hate out there. We can bring these kids in and give them a comfortable place to stay. Encourage them. Give them hope...

"Yeah....We've got the house, our cars....Everything's paid for....Well, we have the heat 'n electric....groceries. But we're just soooo pleased with how everything has worked out."

He gazed at his parents.

"Oh gee, if it wasn't for you giving us the house. I don't know what we'd do. Even in this little town, a studio apartment costs a fortune to rent."

"We already told you about that," Mr. Meadows put in quickly, "It's just too much for us to keep up. We like the little place we've got now. And on a nice day....I can walk to work...

"And we wanted to do a little something for the both of you...

"Oh Gram here....She really helped you out with that trust fund. We wanted to do a little something as well......That training I got?....Oh! My income has doubled! And yes, I like it. It's interesting work. Oh, it'll be longer hours for a bit, but I don't mind. They're even sending a couple more guys out for special training...

"Oh gee, robotics! You're right Ken....Where will it all stop?...

"Yup! I've already got quite a little nest egg saved up for retirement."

Tim glanced at Clara.

"Oh....umm....Gram?......Me 'n Matty were wondering if it would be okay to use some of that money to kind of pay for materials for the new pavilion?"

"...Oh my stars! Timmy! I keep telling you, that's your money! You never went crazy, silly with it! You used what you thought you needed. You were very cautious with it. You don't have to check with me every time you draw some out."

"Well, umm....We could use it for classrooms or labs or more equipment, textbooks! Yet....Well, that pavilion is the last thing to be replaced. I mean just as the park was years ago. It's not a high priority. We just need a bit more lumber and roofing. The students are doing most of the work. They're learning things out there and having a little fun at the same time. It just means so much to me 'n Matty!"

He hesitated for a moment as he smiled.

"...Umm....We never told you this before...

"Remember that morning you thought we suffocated in the tent? You wanted us to go out to the park and not play video games all day in the basement. Well, hee, hee....That was the morning we....umm....kinda came out to each other. And we went out to the park and walked the trails. Ohhhh, that was soooo nice! We held hands....and Matty just got all red in the face."

Matt covered his face with his hands.

"Ohhhh I was just so shy 'n embarrassed."

"Yeah, well umm....We sorta had our second kiss out there. Oh gee! It was great!"

Matt sobered quickly and looked at Tim.

"Oh Timmy, I'll never forget that morning out there! Oh gee. I thought for sure I was just gonna drop! My legs were like rubber!"

He poked Tim in his ribs.

"...And I still say I miss your skinny ribs every now and then."

"Oh my stars!....You boys had me so scared over how thin you were! Walking skeletons! I thought for sure the both of you had that Anna-wrecksa!"

"Anorexia, Gram!"

"Oh! Whatever!...

"You both look so much better now. Well, not all bulky! You've both filled out quite well. And the both of you look so professional walking about the school. And the students! Oh! They follow you around and ask questions. And you're never too busy to help them out."

"Gram!....We keep tellin' you....That's not a job!....It's....It's our family! Yeah! We get a little silly at times, but lots of those kids need that. It relaxes them. We want them to be in a relaxed environment. We want to make learning fun for them."

"Oh my stars, yes!"

She looked at Cynthia.

"...And the boys are right! You should go to the school and volunteer for something. It's just grand, being with all those sweet kids. Oh, I walk into that cafeteria and you can nearly feel the love and acceptance there. The students are doing just fine. And the laughter! I still say it's the best thing I've ever done. Lots of the ladies from the senior citizens group are in there now. Well, part-time. I think it makes us all feel a bit more useful. And we knit them scarves and mittens for Christmas. It's just so pleasant working there."



The cafeteria at the school was filled with students, volunteers and parents. The tall windows were dripping with condensation. Outside the air was crisp, without the slightest breeze. The sky was overcast, yet the bright moon lit a patch of clouds.

The tables had been pushed together and covered with a paper runner. The remains of a large supper were scattered everywhere. There were cups of hot chocolate here and there. Plates of cookies were placed around. There was the steady drone of voices. Laughter could be heard. Several students were still opening the last of their gifts. Toward the back of the room an area had been cleared where a large Christmas tree stood. The tree was covered with ornaments and bright, white lights. One boy stood there pointing to a light clipped to the tip of a branch.

"See these, Dad?......These are LED's....Light emitting diodes! We made these in the science lab! They're super energy efficient! Wow! That was fun!"

"Oh MY STARS! THE COOKIES!" Clara could be heard.

She turned to an oven behind the serving line. Smoke poured from it.

She quickly opened the door only to see they weren't fully baked yet. Indeed, she noticed the smoke was coming from under the oven.


They came from around the serving line. Both laughed as they slapped their knees.

"Gotta keep you on your toes, Gram!...

"And why is it whenever something goes wrong it's always, 'ZACK 'n JOSH'?!"

"OH MY STARS! I just know it's the both of you when something like this happens! You two and your SHINANIGANS! You're going to get yourselves fired!

"Now you two sit down and let me bring you some hot chocolate and fresh warm cookies here."

"Awh, gee!....Make us feel bad now."

"Oh I don't mind your pranks. I just worry about you two losing your jobs. Now you let me fuss over you a bit...

"Oh! You've spent the whole day out in that greasy, cold garage today."

"It's not cold in there! We've got a gas furnace. And besides, we had to get that tractor running again. We're supposed to get lots of snow tonight. Maintenance is going to need that in the morning. They have to clear the walks 'n parking lots!"

A distance away, Matt's mother sat at a table and gazed over the students. She came to the school as an Assistant Volunteer. She substituted for others who wanted to schedule vacations or had called in for any number of reasons. It allowed her to try a number if different positions which were available. Although she'd wanted to help in the school, she had been frightened.

"Oh....the boys are right....Clara was right. These aren't tough kids. They're sweet! They're all caring and sharing. And the's wonderful!...

"I feel so great. Oh, when Matt told me his secret....I was devastated! I truly was. I thought it was some....choice. I've come a long ways....Richard too....Well, even more so than me!...

"When I first learned of all this....I wanted to be....tolerant. I've come a long way. I can actually say I've come to acceptance! I've got a much better understanding now...

"I don't believe it was even over Matt......It was myself. I've gotten over all those petty prejudices I had. I think it was those e-mails we sent each other while Richard was getting that training. I was concerned over Matt's shyness. I wondered how he'd cope with being independent. Then he met Tim......Oh! Wow!......He just started....I don't know....growing!

"Oh, all those nights he was so frustrated over his homework. It was difficult for him. Oh! What could I do over science?! I couldn't help him......and now....he's teaching science! When him and Tim come over to visit, they....I don't know....They seem to have constant smiles on their faces. And they both get so excited over talking about their....their kids! They....they almost become teenagers again! Oh, it's so difficult thinking of them as....adults....teachers! Oh, even then they were very mature. They weren't problem kids. It had to be rough on them both."

"Oh my stars! Cynthia! Snap out of it! Cheer up! It's Christmas!"

Clara set a tray down on the table. It held two mugs of coffee and a paper plate of cookies.

"Oh Clara!....Oh no! I wasn't being a Scrooge. Just daydreaming a bit. I'm actually very happy tonight! I think I'll enjoy working here. I've already told you about it...

"I kept thinking this was some kind of school for toughs off the street."

"Oh Cynthia! We all kept telling you. This is a boarding school for sweet young things! Oh, they've done nothing wrong!......It's just that's what they're being told all the time!"

Cynthia nodded with a smile as she reached for a coffee.

"Oh Clara!....I'm just so happy over that night you told me about your brother."

She reached out and squeezed Clara's fingers for a moment.

"He was so lucky to have a sister like you. So....understanding!"

"Well now, I wasn't all that understanding! Well, not at first. You have to remember I was a young girl at the time. I think that's the whole thing right there. I hadn't been influenced in such a negative way yet. Oh, all those parents out there....That's all they heard all their lives. And I don't believe they put any thought into it."

Clara drew up her mug and sipped from it. Her gaze was distant in thought.

"...Yes. Kenny and I would sit in that kitchen by that wood stove and talk for hours! We were up late! Way after our parents went to sleep. We had a wood stove in the parlor as well. In fact it was rather large. It just seemed it never heated the room enough. I recall on some cold, windy nights, the kitchen was the only room that was ever warm. We'd drink tea, hot chocolate and cider, and talk for hours. We grew awful close to each other after that. He explained everything to me perfectly......You just have to recall, back then....this was hardly accepted."

"...Oh yeah. I still see lots of it yet today..."


It was here that everyone looked toward the rear of the cafeteria. A man in a padded Santa suit entered, pulling a large cart behind him. It was obvious many parents and siblings of the students were following. They were dressed in green elf suits. They had plastic, pointed ears. They each drew wheeled carts behind them.

Mr. Gavin sat at the end of one of the row's of tables. The man in the Santa suit passed near him. He pulled down his beard on its elastic cord over his ears. It was Scooter's father.

"You owe me a big bonus in my check this week!" he said seriously.

Mr. Gavin laughed. Jack wasn't on the school's payroll. He wrestled with volunteering at the school since the day he'd passed "the park" and saw a backhoe scooping dirt from what was going to eventually be a basement of a dormitory. He thought he could volunteer, not as a counselor, but as a parent. He knew the difficulty he had in accepting Scooter. He recalled all his vicious anger.

"Oh gee," he'd thought, "For a minute there....I actually wanted to kill him!....My own kid! That wasn't a figure of speech. I actually wanted to kill him!

"I wanted to talk to some of those kids. Help them understand the parent's view of things. Oh gee, those poor little shits! The stories I heard. Parents actually torturing their kids! And I believed them. I could tell they weren't lying. I could see it all over their faces! I just couldn't handle it! That's better left up to professionals.

"I started talking to the parents. I understood them better. I just didn't have that connection with the kids the others had. I knew what the parents were going through. I can take them step-by-step through my own experiences."

His informal talks with parents had dropped from every weekend, to only once a month. He was only required when some new student was brought into the school. Indeed, he was surprised that there were totally accepting parents who simply wanted a safe school for their children to live at. He was also surprised that many of them were local residents. It was a small, conservative town. It simply wasn't discussed openly.

He stood before the Christmas tree and began drawing gifts from a cart, calling out names. They had been donated by parents and many local businesses. The "elves" began passing out gifts from their respective carts.

Scooter and Toby sat at the table across from Mr. Gavin. Scooter covered his eyes with his hands.

"Ohhhh," he whispered, "This is soooo embarrassing."

"Scoot!....Quit bein' such a retard!"

"Ohhhh! You don't know my dad! This is unlike him!"

Toby grasped his hand as he stood.

"Come on, Ebeneezer!......Let's go sit on the floor and just watch them open gifts."

A distance away, Matt and Tim set their empty mugs onto a table.

"Well, Matty....What do you say we head home? It's been a long day. Longer than usual!"

Matt lifted a paper plate of cookie crumbs. He hesitated as he appeared not to know what to do with it.

"Maybe we should, clean up a bit."

"That's part of the student's job......Responsibility? Awh, they'll love it!"

Minutes later Matt stepped from his office in the academic building. He glanced down the hall, knowing Tim was always the one to pass each classroom, checking it out and switching off the lights. He found him in the dark physics lab. He gazed out the window. It had begun to snow. The light, fluffy flakes had clumped together. They angled to the ground with the light breeze.

"Oh, there you are!"

"Come here and look at this," Tim replied, motioning toward the windows.

Matt drew his arms around him from behind and rested his chin on his shoulder.

"Look at that, Matty!.....Oh gee, this view would make a perfect picture postcard!"

"Yeah," Matt sighed, rubbing Tim's chest.

They remained silent for a moment. Tim reached up and held the backs of Matt's hands.

"We were so worried about what we were going to do with our lives," Tim nearly whispered, "This is a dream come true!"

Matt nodded his head, his chin still over his shoulder.

"Oh Timmy!" Matt forcefully sighed, "...I love you!......I don't think I say that enough."

Tim smiled as he turned to face him, holding his shoulders. He kissed his forehead, lingering for just several seconds.

"...Yes you do, Matty...

"Every morning you stumble into the bathroom and put your arms around me and sort of hook your chin over my shoulder and go....'COFFEE!....I NEED COFFEE!' I hear a little 'I love you' in there...

"And when we eat breakfast.....You'll be reading something, or you're just staring out the window and you reach out for my arm or wrist or my fingers and just sort of hold your hand there......I hear another, 'I love you.'...

"Okay, you don't exactly say the words, but I hear them. Hundreds of times a day!"

They both turned toward the windows again. The snow was already falling more densely. The lights of the cafeteria windows were cast out onto the snow covered ground outside. Even at this distance they could faintly hear the roars of laughter.

"Oh shit, Matty!.....I still say it's bad job security, but I can't wait for the day we'll never even need schools like this anymore."

" too....but I'm afraid we'll always need schools like this. Well, maybe with less students, but I'm afraid we'll always need schools like this. There's just so much hate in the world."

They gazed out the windows for a moment longer. Tim looked at Matt for a moment.

"I love you Matty..."

"I love you too, Timmy!"

They drew themselves together in a deep kiss.

THE END..........or possibly, just the beginning?

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