Book 3: The Centre

by Rick Beck

Chapter 29

Alabama Bound

We drove out Route 80 and went over Donner Pass. There was still snow on the ground. We stopped for gas and something to eat in Truckee, halfway down the other side of the mountains. I told Carl I wanted him to hold me before we went any further, and we ended up in the back of the van.

We undressed and Carl held me.

"I love you so much," I said, being certain this was the one constant in my life and probably what had kept me alive.

"Billie Joe, I don't want you leaving me again. I want to be there to protect you. You don't know how painful it was not being there to protect you."

"You were there," I said, tapping on the center of his chest where I felt his heart. "I'm in there. Even when we're a part, we're together."

He held me tight. I knew he understood.

We made out for the first time, since I woke up with him beside my hospital bed. He was gentle and passionate. Just the way I liked him.

I fell asleep with my face against his chest and his heart beating in my ear.

We stayed put for the night. I'd been waiting for this for a long time. I was with my love for good. There were no missions left and nothing to separate us.

We drove down through Nevada and out into Utah, passing through Salt Lake City and heading for our prehistoric canyon. We parked next to the huge boulder and Carl carried me into the water with him. It was cold. He was warm. It was the first time I was able to make love with him.

As I stood behind the van, he dried me off. We laid in the afternoon sun. It was a beautiful day. The best part of the trip was when we climbed the Rockies. Carl cooked behind the van after we parked with a view of the mountain tops covered in snow as far as I could see. We sat eating juicy burgers and enjoying our perch. It was the way I remembered it. I'd thought about it lying in the hospital bed, thinking I might never get to see it again.

Making love there on a full stomach made it even more spectacular.

Once we left the Rockies there were the foothills before we reached the plains. The driving was easy; the van purred a fine-tuned synchronism that I could hear. Being alive never felt so good. Being with Carl was the best thing.

As we neared Alabama, Spring was apparent everywhere; the trees were filled with new brilliantly green leaves. The azaleas were in bloom and flowers covered hillsides.

We drove into Carl's driveway in the late afternoon. His mom was in the kitchen getting dinner ready, his father was at work, and two little girls were playing near a swing under the big oak tree across from the house.

Carl's collie was the first to greet us, his mother came out in her apron with a spatula in her hand.

We were home.

The following day was Sunday and everyone was home. Carl and I mostly rested from the trip, but the kitchen was always full of Carl's brothers and their daughters, who needed gram's attention.

Carl's brothers no longer belonged there. They'd moved to the city and brought their kids to be tended to while they played golf or did whatever chores they were responsible for. They were all there at dinner but left with their daughters before the dishes were cleared. It left us with Gram and Pop, which is how it was most often.

Gram started in on me Monday morning. There was herbal tea and a smelly mud plaster; the heat that came from it was almost more than I could take. Her technique for massage could best be described as lady wrestler meets the crippled guy. I was like a pork loin being tenderized and seasoned.

I used the walker to get back and forth from the trailer and Carl went back to base to get the hardship discharge his Captain told him he was preparing. It required him to take a physical; altogether he spent two days separating from the Army and one night away from me.

He came home a free man, just like me, on Wednesday. He was glad to see me in the walker but could hardly walk as slowly as I walked with that thing. My legs were moving again, though, and like my arms, they slowly did what I wanted.

With Carl there to motivate me it became easier. The best part of my rehabilitation was Gram's cooking. She aimed to fatten me up and no matter how much I protested, I couldn't resist the good old-fashioned southern home cooking. It was different from anything I'd eaten before. The food was filled with simplicity and love; the table was a happy place, where Carl and his father talked shop, and we planned for the arrival of my boys.

Of course the boys weren't mine. They were Gram's from day one. It took a bit of time for them to feel comfortable in the new place, but by the end of the week they were playing, yelling, and having a good old time. They wrestled and rolled on the grass and played with Major, Carl's collie. They went to the river at the corner of the property and swam, fished, and explored as only little boys could explore.

It was easy to see they'd never been in the country before. When Pop came walking down the driveway from the garage one afternoon, he was leading three horses. Donnie and Denny were immediately horse lovers and couldn't wait to ride. Danny was reluctant to get too close and wasn't willing to take a ride with his brothers.

He got the last pick, because both Donnie and Denny knew which horse they wanted right off. At first content with having Pop walk the horses with them riding, it wasn't long before they were old hands, riding for hours every day. Danny stayed under the oak tree, swinging at these times. He did not intend to ride.

I heard Pop stand talking to him a couple of days after he first brought the horses.

"Trooper needs to be brushed, even if you don't want to ride him. I'll bring you the brushes and you can take care of it for me. He's gentle and he doesn't like fast movements. He was abused as a colt and doesn't trust that many folks. I'll tie him up outside the barn so you can brush him out of the stall. He likes being brushed so he won't give you any trouble, but if you move him be sure to tie him tight. He's a slippery one.

A few minutes later Pop came back with two new brushes and he showed Danny how they fit on each hand. Danny looked at them for a long time sitting at the table. I watched him building up his courage before he picked them up and disappeared.

I'd watched Pop draw Donnie into talking cars and I wondered if this would work for a boy who was afraid of horses. I didn't go to check on Danny or make sure he was okay. I left it up to him to deal with his fear.

By the end of the week the three boys were riding together. Denny spent a lot of time with Gram, helping in the kitchen. Donnie walked down to the shop each day and often came back greased up to his elbows with his clothes looking like they'd been dragged through the grease pit. Gram always kept a can of hand cleaner next to the faucet outside and that's where the men cleaned up and took off clothes that weren't fit to go into her house. None of the mechanical men complained.

I was home. By June I was walking from the house to the trailer. It wasn't easy and I often had to stop to correct a problem with my balance, but each day it was better and there was no hospital or rehab, which suited me fine. One day I didn't lose my balance or need to make any corrections and each day thereafter I got stronger, until I forgot I once couldn't walk.

Carl came home with two more horses, once I told him I was ready to ride. Each evening after dinner we rode the horses down to the river and listened to the frogs and the crickets tuning up for their nightly symphony while lightning bugs furnished the light show. It was wonderful being there.

Donnie and Danny always raced each other back to the house, which announced our return, and by the time we finished our ride, there was desert on the table waiting for us.

I looked forward to every minute of each day.

Life was never better for me. Love was grand. I was glad I had taken care of business first before getting on with the rest of my life. My happily-ever-after was Carl's happily ever-after as well.

It was easy living indeed. The years treated us well.

Epilogue

I took classes in accounting and philosophy at the local community college and I keep the books for the garage. Carl's presence allowed Pop to expand the garage. After the expansion, Pop was supervising five mechanics from his upstairs office that was mostly windows.

Donnie finished school and came to stay. He went to college to learn computers from the ground up and to keep all of Pop's state of the art. In his spare time he raced a Funny car sponsored by the garage.

Danny surprised everyone when he went to divinity school. He became Father Daniel and was the only priest who could impersonate both Bogart and Edward G. Robinson with the proper authority, which delights the kids if not his Bishop. When he must scold one of his boys for misbehaving, using the impersonations takes any sting out of it. The boy understands Father Daniel approves of him if not his actions.

Denny became a chef. He went to school near San Francisco before attending classes in Paris and Florence at Argyll's suggestion. On holidays he comes home and cooks his latest creations for Gram and Pop and Carl and me. On the holidays he isn't with us in Alabama, he can be found at home in San Francisco, cooking for Argyll and Adam. The most recent talk is of him opening a restaurant near The City. The last time I talked to Argyll, he was looking for investment possibilities close to home. Denny approves.

Adam and Argyll are still together and visit once a year. No one asks when I'm going to visit them. I haven't returned to San Francisco, although my feelings for The City are like that of an old friend I no longer see.

If I died in that alley it wouldn't have been so bad. While I hadn't quite reached nineteen, I'd lived life on my terms. I left home to search for my community, and while it took some time, I found it. I'd loved Carl completely and I'd been loved completely in return. I would have left a mark on the world in which I lived. I was loved by people who knew me and I had three beautiful boys.

I remember the last idea I had before meeting my Waterloo; 'I wanted to be a writer.' I'd only written in my journals until then. Don't get me wrong, I'm perfectly happy I lived. Living with my love is a lovely life, and all those other things are still true. I am blessed as well as happy.

I'm not certain there is a life after this one, but I am sure we need to give this life all we have to give. If you don't, what is it you leave behind that makes you proud? What will people remember?

I can't imagine what my life would have been like had I not runaway from home and ended up where I did. What I accomplished there often makes me smile.

I am taking some creative writing classes and I've recovered almost all of my journals from around the country. I'm thinking of writing the story those journals tell. I may call it, My Journey.

There are still some numbers I remember:

Tonight there are 1.3 million homeless children on America's streets.

Forty percent are under 15.

Twenty to Forty percent are LGBT children. It's difficult to say how many because we live in a society that will make their lives even more miserable should they confess to being LGBT.

Tomorrow thirteen of those children will be dead, and the day after that, and the day after that, etc., etc., etc.

The unpleasant statistics

These statistics come from Standup for Kids, a non-profit organization furnishing housing for homeless children.

Get involved or donate through their website or through The LGBT Center nearest you, and tell them, Billie Joe sent you.

Writer's Comment:

Billie Joe has done everything he knows how to do. What are you going to do?

Love & Peace,

Rick Beck


Talk to your friends. Spread the word. Let people who haven't read The Center know they can add purpose to their lives by getting involved.

Notes of Interest about Billie Joe's Journey:

What and who are we fighting for? Join the struggle to stop the hatred in Bill's memory. He was not a fictional character.

http://www.youth-guard.org/gabi/Bills_Story.html

We can't afford to remain silent. The next generation of LGBT kids must know you care. Their lives sometimes depend on it.

Bill refused to live in a world that hated him. Thoughts of him were often on my mind during Billie Joe's Journey, and my own. His death allowed me to create Billie Joe's motivation for going in search of the 'gay' community.

Ralphie's suicide and the note he left was inspired by Bill's Story. This storyline didn't exist at the time the trilogy began. Remember: it started as a short love story that readers wanted me to continue. The rest is now history.

Getting Started:

I've done some of the work for you. The Center may have many meanings, but for me it's where my heart is. Get involved in your local

Center for LGBT action.

While I didn't know there was a Center in San Francisco, my search revealed they are indeed there. My bad. Visit them with Billie Joe's apology for any misrepresentation. It was unintentional.

http://www.sfcenter.org/

Local San Diego realtors donate to their Center to house homeless gay children in San Diego. Call and join their effort.

http://www.thecentersd.org/

I've heard that there is a program in Los Angeles working to house homeless gay children. Tell me if you find something on this program.

…Eastern LGBTQ Centers.

Google for The LGBTQ Center nearest you. If you are in the UK, Europe, Africa, Asia, or South America, there should be help lines provided to help someone in trouble. Only where it's safe should you try to make contact with LGBTQ services in your country.

If you are in trouble in the USA and need someone to listen, call the Trevor Project. Someone will answer and they'll listen and make suggestions.

Trained counselors are here to support you 24/7. If you are a young person in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, call the Trevor Lifeline now at 866-488-7386.

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