Discovering Love

Written by Rick Beck

Chapter 22

Van The Man

I couldn't make up my mind what to do and so I just sat there at the picnic table next to the boathouse. The thought of Greg and Augie in the meadows intrigued me. There was Timmy and Ryan visiting the football player's camper. There was Doug back at the river house with his parents, and then there was me. I wanted to be with all of them and I wanted to be with none of them. I didn't belong anywhere.

It was warm but not too warm and there was a slight breeze blowing up the river. Kids screamed bloody murder as they ran around in circles, chasing their tales near the clubhouse while more people splashed and swam on the other side of the boathouse from me. The noises blended together in one huge happy chorus of family life. I'd never been that connected to my family. I didn't have a clue where my own brother was or what he was doing. The rest I didn't care about.

Ryan came past me with his sister at his side as they charged onto the road and up the hill toward the meadows. He turned back and dashed over to me as she went on without him.

"Hey, you better keep an eye on your friend," he said, sounding concerned.

"Timmy, he knows what he's doing."

"He's in the camper with that old guy. I got to go. I don't trust old guys. You better go over there."

"How old is he?" I asked, remembering he hadn't looked very old while he was tossing the football, maybe mid-twenties.

"Maybe twenty-five," he said, seeming alarmed by the number. "Maybe even older. You can't trust the old ones."

"Twenty-five isn't old," I said.

"Yeah, well, Timmy's got ideas and that guys way old for him. I'm just telling you that you better watch out for him so he don't get into trouble."

"Yeah, okay," I said, not thinking anything of Ryan's sudden morality.

I turned my back to the table and watched Ryan run until he caught up with his sister. They climbed the hill and slowly went out of sight. I thought whatever they were up to they were in a lot more danger than Timmy was. I had a pretty good idea where they were headed and why. I was tempted to follow them to see what I could see, but the thought of Greg catching me spying and kicking my ass for it was on my mind. I didn't want any more trouble with him.

I roamed over to the clubhouse and 'd sat on the grass watching a few games of horseshoes. I went in and played video games after two boys a little younger than me quit the machine. I played some really short kid a game of pool. He almost beat me but he sank the eight ball in a bold shot that he must have seen on television.

I came out the back door of the clubhouse and stood looking into the trees when I saw football guy out behind his camper. I didn't see Timmy and he hadn't passed me on his way out. I remembered what Ryan said and I had a sudden need to see that he was okay. I eased myself toward him looking like I was just strolling alone and stumbled onto him. He noticed me coming and stopped what he was doing to make eye contact.

"Where's Timmy?" I asked like he was responsible for him, but once I got there I didn't know what else to say.

"Timmy? Saw some kid he knew and took off with him. I think he's a couple of campsites down. They had ice cream and Timmy wanted to get in on it."

"Oh!" I said like a real dufus.

I had nothing else to say as I watched him sorting through some can goods in a canvas bag he'd dragged out from under the camper.

"You'd be Martin?" he said without looking at me.

"How'd you know that?"

"Tim said he was here with Ryan and Martin. I met Ryan, you must be Martin."

"Yeah. Who are you."

"I'm Van."

"I seen you play football," I said, cocking my head and admiring his big arms and thick chest.

"You play?"

"Too small."

"Nah, size don't matter unless it's the size of your heart. Nope, I seen some awful small dudes tear my butt up."

"You? Right! I guess. I like throwing it around. I like watching on television. I don't want to play."

"That's a good answer. Tim was right," he said, pulling out a big can and seeming to be satisfied with this find.

He tossed the bag back under his vehicle.

"You like Dinty Moore Beef Stew? Put hair on your chest."

"Not if I can have home made. It's okay. I got all the hair I want."

"Well, I promise not to make you eat any then. Come on inside. He'll be back when the ice cream runs out or he wears out his welcome."

"What do you see in him," I said, suspicious of the man but still following him into the small camper.

"Is that the question you really want to ask? Tim says you think about everything. I guess you've thought about a teenage boy being in here with an adult."

His back was to me and he had the can open in a flash and dumped into a saucepan. He turned and leaned his back against the stove, looking hard at me. His head nearly touched the ceiling. He had broad shoulders and real arms. He hadn't shaved for a day or two and his dense blue eyes seemed unnatural with the dark brows shaggy hair that hung on his forehead. There was hair at the top of his T-shirt and thick forests on both of his legs.

"He's pretty young," I said for lack of anything else.

"...And I'm pretty old," he said with no expression.

"You aren't old. Older than him by a ways. Too old for him maybe."

"He sure has you pegged," he said, chuckling as he reached for a spoon to stir the stew. "He talked about you quite a bit."

"Who does what?"

"Tim said you are always two thoughts ahead of yourself. You confuse him because you ask so many questions. He says he's afraid to tell you he likes you because he thinks you might hate him. He says he can't talk to you."

"What? Timmy? I like Timmy fine. He's a little too...."

"Not so he can tell. You see, that "little too" is what he gets from you. People read people when they care about them. He likes you and he sees you holding back. Guys his age equate that as a sign they aren't liked."

"Guys our age," I corrected.

"Yeah, in a way, but guys might be the same age in numbers and far separated by intellect and emotional maturity," he tried to explain to my addled brain.

"I said he's fine," I defended, feeling like I was being scolded.

"You've got to let people know where you stand. They don't know if you don't tell them, and if you don't tell them you might miss out."

"It's just that he's so, so.... I don't know that I want him knowing I like him."

"He's so forward. You think he'll expect something from you."

"Something like that."

"You can tell him that you like him but he shouldn't expect anything from you."

"I guess I could."

"You should. It will make him feel better about himself. He doesn't feel very good about himself. He needs friends like you. He can't have everything he wants but he can have good friends."

"You don't know me," I said. "Why would you say that? Why do you care whether or not Timmy and I understand each other?"

"Because you're honest. You don't always know how to say what's on your mind, but you have a way about you. I will say that for you. He needs honesty from his friends."

"I guess. So what are you doing with him? Is it true what he says...? Never mind. It's none of my business," thinking he might want me to explain what I meant.

"Yeah it is. It's your business if you make it your business because you care about him or you wouldn't ask. I'll answer your question because you'll know I'm telling you the truth. I'm not doing anything with him."

"Right! He said...." I caught myself again.

"You believe everything he says?"

"I don't know," I said thoughtfully.

"Do you know what rejection is?"

"You need to ask. I thought you knew everything."

"I try never to reject guys like Tim. It's my policy to build something and not tear it down if you can at all avoid it. Especially adolescent boys."

"I bet," I said, being more suspicious than ever but still sitting in there with him with the door closed and not feeling like I was in any danger at all.

"Teenage boys, as tough as they are, are probably the most vulnerable species there is. I try not to discourage them."

"So, you're saying it wasn't your idea? Fine, you're off the hook, but you are a little old for him."

"I'm not saying anything. You know Tim. He doesn't waste time with a lot of superfluous chat when he wants something. He's a lonely boy. He needs to connect with people. He thinks the only way he can connect is with his body. He uses it to get attention."

"So it's all his fault that you did things."

"It has nothing to do with fault. He decided what he wanted and I was unwilling to deny it to him. If I had found a way to say no, he'd simply have gone away feeling like someone else had rejected him. What transpired was enjoyable to both of us and while I didn't encourage it, I let it happen. If there is fault in that then I accept it. I was his age once."

"You're a nice guy," I said sarcastically, not knowing why I wouldn't give the guy a break.

"I try to be. You should try it some time. You also might try a little harder to listen to your heart. You know Tim and you know I'm telling you the truth. So, I'm twenty-four going on senility to you. I'm not so far from where Tim is. I know what that's like and I'm not going to hurt him if I can help it."

"Let me guess, you're gay?"

"I don't label what I am. I'm a bit of everything. I've shared a lot of experiences with a lot of people. I can't come up with a nice easy word to describe it. I haven't denied myself my feelings by saying I'm either this or that. I am a student of life, learning, if that helps you."

"So, what's it like?"

"What's what like?" He asked, sliding into the seat across from me after stirring again.

"Being not so far from where Timmy is. How do you get out of teenage-hood alive?""

"It's still scary. Sometimes it's scary as hell. You just do it one step at a time. I don't know any other way."

"Why is it so scary for you?"

"It's scary because you never know if you are doing the right thing for someone else or if you are merely doing it for yourself. People try to make it sound horrible if you are doing things they wouldn't do. You want to be a good person, but what is that? I listen to my heart and pray a lot."

"You sound pretty sure of your facts. How do you know what Timmy feels? If you just want to be a really good guy, why let Timmy.... You know?"

"I had a friend. We'd been friends forever. When we reached fourteen, we became real close. It's not something I figured I'd do with a guy, but we stayed together until he was seventeen. He was the one that wanted this and I was fine once we got started. He met a girl and dropped me like some slimy slick-hot rock. I never forget how that made me feel. What he said to me when I came over expecting everything to be the same and one day it wasn't."

"Bummer," I said, feeling bad I'd made him think about what I could see was painful for him.

"I didn't understand then. We were close and then he avoided any contact with me. It was like I was suddenly diseased and he was just fine."

"Maybe we should talk about something else," I said.

"I got the last laugh. I was King of the senior Prom and took the head cheerleader to the dance. He saw me and for the first time he didn't run. He called me a few days later and apologized for being such an asshole, and then he asked me to go out with him."

"What did you say?"

"Bite me once and shame on you. Bite me twice and shame on me."

"Huh?" I said.

"He broke my heart. He wasn't going to get another shot at it. Besides, I was straight after that. I dated Cybil for two years. We got along well and she never treated me badly. She was a real doll."

"You screw her?" I bluntly blurted out.

"What? You're bold as brass. Tim didn't mention this side. What we did is none of your business. Do I have sexual relations with the opposite sex? Definitely! Do I have sex with dudes? Definitely! Do I have a preference? Definitely! I prefer to be with whom I'm with when I'm with them."

"Isn't that a copout? Don't you have to be one or the other?"

"How so? I take it as it comes. How do you take it?"

"Any way I can and as often as possible," I said.

"Aren't we sage. I'd say you don't get it often enough with whomever it is you have an eye for. What's the problem? You're cute and plenty smart."

"Timmy told you that," I said, angered by his knowledge.

"No, he told me he liked you and the other stuff I told you. The only one he mentioned liking you was him. Who has won Martin's tender young heart?"

"I don't know. I'm fucked up. I don't know anything. Just when I think I'm figuring it out, it all gets all screwed up again. And I'm not smart."

"Join the club," he said. "I'm a charter member of the life's-all-fucked-up club."

"Sage is shit my old man uses in turkey dressing. You calling me a turkey??"

"Far from it. Sage is a seasoning but if you look at what it means to be seasoned, you come up with someone who is wise, philosophic. That's what I was saying about you. You are too wise for your years."

"I don't feel sage," I confessed. "When does it start getting easier?"

"Coke?"

"Root Beer?"

"How about RC?"

"Cool," I said.

He took out some ice and dropped the cubes into a glass. He poured from a two-liter bottle of RC, handing me the glass. He prepared one for himself and stirred the stew before sitting down.

"It doesn't, Martin. You just get used to it."

"Fuck!" I said, lying my head down on his table.

"You look like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders, Martin. Is there something I can help you with? Sometimes an ear is the best part of someone new."

"I guess."

"You'd find it a lot easier to sort through if you talk to someone about it. That's what you learn makes it easier, but never easy. It takes work to be happy with your life."

"Someone like you, I suppose? I don't even know you? Why would you give a fuck?"

"Don't you know me yet? I'm Van. Hi, Martin. I am glad to meet you."

"Very funny. I have a good memory."

"I bet you do," he said, shaking his head in amusement. "Regale me with what you remember about the pain you feel."

"Is that like, talk about it? I don't know if I want to talk about it. It hurts too much. I just want to get past this to something that doesn't hurt so much."

"That's when you need to talk to let out the pain. Speak the words and you release the poison."

"That what you do for Timmy? You his shrink?"

"If that's what you want to call it," he said.

"Is it true what he says about you?"

"Probably, but I wouldn't hang a star on everything Tim says. He's prone to exaggeration and wishful thinking, like most teenagers."

"He says you got a big one," I said, not believing I said it but being excited by my words as I watched his face.

"It's relative, my young friend, and so unimportant."

"Who's relative? If you were going to sit on it, it wouldn't be so unimportant," I said boldly, going where I'd never gone before.

"Size is relative. No matter how big you are, there is someone bigger. No matter how small you are, there's someone smaller. It's not important as long as it works."

"Yeah, you haven't seen the guys I hang around with?" I said. "I feel like the mighty midget some times."

"Greg or Augie?" he said with little hesitation.

"How do you know them?"

"Same way I know you. Tim has a lot of involvements. Those are two and you're the third."

"We aren't involved," I said. "So, how big is it?"

"I'm a big guy and size is relative. In this case I'd say that Tim has his facts correct. I am a large."

"But it's relative and relatively unimportant," I said, watching him spoon out his stew.

"Be careful with him. He's a nice kid but it wouldn't take much to turn him sour."

"Fuck, something else to worry about. I can't help him. I can't even help myself. Don't you understand, I don't understand anything," I protested too loud.

"What's bothering you, Martin? You can't make life into anything but what it is. People are people and you can't expect them to conform to your needs. You've got to go to meet them on the trail and hope they come meet you half way. I have a strange feeling we aren't having same conversation. Why not give it to me straight and quit making it difficult."

He sat and ate his stew one distinct spoonful and mouthful at a time. I watched him chew and saw the way his arm bulged each time he put the spoon to his lips. I wanted to get up and go. I wanted to touch his arm, to feel his muscles. I wanted to see it and I wanted him to show it to me without my asking. I was both hot and scared shitless. My mind was bouncing off the walls as my temperature rose from being so close to someone like Van. He did seem honest.

What's bothering you?" He said it calmly, like we hadn't been talking about it.

"Not much. The guy I'm in love with hates me. I'm also in love with his brother, but he doesn't want to be with a guy at all, except when he wants to be with a guy. We've just met Augie and everyone's in love with him."

"What about Ryan?"

"Him too," I said.

"You're in love with him too? You need to check your hormones at the door."

"No, I don't even know him. He's in love with Augie. He talks like he's fourteen going on forty. He's been around more than me. Not that it would take much."

"This Augie must be a real piece of work. I went through my entire childhood and never loved anyone but Kim Andrews. Listening to you guys, you sound like love incorporated. How did you find all these guys?"

"It's not love. Believe me it's not love. Every time I get near a guys dick, I just... I don't know. I don't have to like them to want... you know."

"You said you were in love with somebody," Van said. "We could start there. Who are you in love with?"

"It doesn't matter. None of them can be bothered with me. I'm the old spare tire they test out when there's no one else. If you don't have someone to try out, call Martin. He's good for a laugh but not very big and not too bright. I'm fifth wheel incorporated. I hate all of them."

"Sounds tough. When did all this start?"

"When I met Greg a few weeks back. My life has been out of control since."

"Sounds like love to me."

"I don't know. I took one look at him and I wanted to have his children."

"Neat trick. Let me get you under a management contract before you conceive. I'll make you a rich man. We'll need to keep your whereabouts secret because most good moral folks are going to want to kill you. Morality really isn't what it used to be. So is Greg willing to make you pregnant?"

"Not in this lifetime. Doug's his brother. He's even better looking. He's so nice. I just don't want to be with anyone else when I'm with him. He's wonderful. Greg's a prick. A good prick in way."

"Doug doesn't want anything to do with you?" Van asked, trying to get the players straight.

"I wish. That I could deal with. He doesn't want anything to do with me except when he wants sex. Then it's constant. I can't say no and I hate myself after I say yes. It's the same with Greg. Did I mention he's a prick. I promise myself I won't do anything he wants me to do. Then I get with him and I'd eat a mile of his shit to see where it comes from. I'm so fucked up," I said, dropping my head back down onto the table.

Van got up and sat beside me, putting his arm around my shoulder. My face ended up on his chest and the tears broke loose as quick as he touched me.

I never really cried any more. I wanted to cry all the time but the tears rarely came. With Van I became the Hoover Dam and the dam just burst. He held me and my body shook and he patted my back and said things in a soothing voice. Finally after I stopped, he just held me for as long as I let him.

"Hey, knew you'd like him. Did you show him your dick or did I interrupt something, I hope?"

Timmy's voice was like fingernails on a blackboard. I sat up trying to get the lingering tears out of my eyes before he saw me crying. I looked out the window so he couldn't see my face as Van moved his arm.

"He wouldn't show you his dick? That's nothing to cry about. I'll show you mine."

"Fuck you," I said, choking off a sob and a laugh at the same time, and then I started to hiccup.

"Now we're talking. I didn't think you cared. You got some lube, Van, while he's in the mood?"

"He came looking for you. I think he was worried I might molest you. He cared enough to do that."

"Him? Get real. It's all I can do to get him to let me blow him. Speaking of which. Michael wasn't interested because he had ice cream to eat. Can I blow you instead? You said I could later."

"No, I have company. I said you could later last summer as I recall."

"Ain't that later?" Timmy inquired with an evil smile on his face.

"Too late for you," Van said. "Martin and I were chatting and that might be a little impolite."

"Don't mind me," I said with a coy little smile. "Wouldn't want to see you reject poor little Timmy."

"You're too much, Martin. I think there's hope for you."

"He'll blow you too," Timmy blurted out.

"I will not," I said indignant. "I'm not like you."

"Yeah, he will. He says he won't but he will. He's just like me only he tries to act like he ain't."

"It's all relative," I said.

"You can say that again," Timmy said.

"I have enough trouble without starting up with someone else," I said.

"What kind of trouble?" Timmy asked not believing me. "You got Doug and Greg and Doug says Kent is hot after your ass. What the fuck do you want?"

"Kent, that's a new one," Van said, shaking his head and smiling real big at me. There was a twinkle in his eyes.

"That's Herbie's brother. Herbie's the place where all sex starts. For most of us anyway. He was Greg's first, Doug's first, my first, everybody's first. Kent is just like him only younger, more handsome, and harder to get," Timmy announced.

"Why do I have a feeling I need a score card. Martin's telling me how difficult it is for him," Van said.

"Greg isn't speaking to me. He hates me. Doug's pissed off. Augie doesn't know I'm alive. Herbie'll go with anyone, and Kent, I've seen him once," I explained. "He is cute. I could like him okay."

"Yeah, well you must have made a hell of an impression. Doug says he doesn't talk about anyone else. When's Martin coming over? When's Martin coming over? You're a dog, you know that?" Timmy blurted.

"I am not," I said as Van stood with his mouth open while Timmy and I fought over the list of players.

"Greg talked about you all night. He keeps asking me about you and Doug."

"What did he say?" I asked.

"At first he wanted to know what you said about him. I can't win. He comes after me to ask about you."

"What did you tell him," I demanded.

"Nothing. I told him you never talk to me. You never mentioned him to me."

"I do too. You know I like him."

"He wanted to know who you were doing it with," Timmy said. "Who you might be seeing."

"What did you tell him?" I demanded again.

"Nothing. I told him you never talked to me, and everyone wants to try it with you but mostly hadn't yet because you're hard to get. Of course he saw you and Doug and wanted to know why you were with him last night."

"You're always too busy to talk to anyway," I shot back. "What did you tell him about Doug and me."

"Martin, it sounds like you have nothing to shed tears over, Van said, "Wake up and smell the coffee, boy. You have something they want. I never had anyone interested in me. It just happened between Kim and me. There wasn't another guy in fifty miles that fooled around with other guys that I knew of."

"It's not like that," I said.

"So if he was so curious about you when he was with Timmy, what happened between then and now. You say he hates you. Why would he be asking questions about you? That just doesn't add up."

"He came down last night. I was with Doug. Greg said he wanted me to be with him," I said. "I told him that wouldn't be fair to Doug. Doug and I had never done anything. We were friends. I thought we were."

"Yeah, well he came down for Martin, and Martin was with Doug in his sleeping bag. That's when he took me instead," Timmy blurted out.

"I was talking," I said.

"Takes you too long to get to the subject. Jesus already! That's when he was asking me about Martin and who he done it with."

"He wanted you to go with him and you turned him down for this Doug kid?" Van reasoned, "What do you expect of him? He sounds like he's interested. He wouldn't be grilling Tim if he wasn't. You need to rethink all this. In my opinion I think this Greg guy has got the hots for you. You turning him down has turned up the heat. This the first time you've been unavailable to him."

"I was with Doug and he's nice," I struggled along. "I didn't want to go with Greg if I could be with Doug. Yeah, it's the first time I said no."

"Oh! That changes everything," Van said. "Then he starts asking questions about you. Still sounds like love to me."

"He doesn't act like he's interested in me. He acts like I piss him off. If he's not mad at me about one thing, it's something else."

"That's love," Van said. "You need to learn how to play the game. Guys want what they can't have. Guys don't want what they can have. When they can't have what they want, it makes them want it all the more. It's all quite scientific," Van said.

"Sounds like Voodoo to me," I said.

"That too," Van said.

"He wanted to know how often you got with Doug," Timmy went on after listening to us carefully. "I told him never, just last night. He didn't believe me. He asked me twenty times. You sure they aren't doing it all the time when you ain't around? Doug tells me everything. I knew they weren't doing it, except last night when he caught them at it."

"He sounds jealous of this Doug kid."

"He's also Greg's brother," Timmy said.

"Oh! That's right. I thought something was missing," Van said. "I'm starting to get the big picture now. You're in love with brothers?"

"That's not quite the entire picture," I confessed. "Doug and I were together one other time."

"I never heard of that one. How come Doug didn't tell me?" Timmy asked.

"It just happened."

"I knew it," Timmy said, smiling from ear to ear. "I knew you loved one of them."

"Greg caught us down by the river this morning," I said meekly.

"Where?" Timmy asked excited.

"On the path that runs south from their property."

"On the path. That's like on the way somewhere?" Van asked.

"More like on the way to no where," I said.

"Caught you?" Van asked. "What was up when he caught you?"

"It's hard to explain. Doug gets these spells. He wanted.... He wanted me to...."

"To blow him," Timmy blurted out. "Doug's like that. He wants it in the dumbest places."

"No, he wanted the other thing," I said.

"He never wants that form me," Timmy said.

"So, Greg caught you fucking his brother," Van said, putting the final pieces into the puzzle.

"Yep," I said. . "And Greg said I should never go around him again."

"He hates you," Van said.

"Thanks a lot," I said. "It really didn't do a bit of good talking about it if he still hates him in the end, you know? I wish it never happened. I wish I never met him."

"That's the kiss of death," Timmy said. "Greg done never change his mine when he goes against someone. He went against Kent. They hate each other now."

"That's not the best thing in the world to get caught doing, Martin. Brothers have a natural competition going on about most things. You've put your stock with the younger brother and to an older brother, that's as bad as it gets," Van said. "If he admits he cares for you, then he admits his brother beat him."

"So you mean my chances with Greg aren't very good?"

"I'd say that was about as accurate a statement as you've made. An Act of God would be your best hope. Pray a lot, kid. I'd give Greg a lot of room if you really like him. Stop seeing his brother and he might relent in time."

"Great, Doug never wants to except when it fucks me up with Greg, and Greg never wants to unless I'm fucking Doug. I can't win. This is so fucked."

"Sorry," Timmy said. "I took up for you. I told him all good stuff. You fucked it up. You got to learn some self-control, Martin."

"Thanks," I said with no sincerity evident. "You're a fine one to talk."

"You need to back off. Take some time to see how you feel. Let him cool out," Van advised.

"I know how I feel," I said. "That's the problem."

"You've got to learn to go with the flow. Don't calculate your happiness by what makes a Greg or a Doug happy. You've got to figure out what makes Martin happy. Until you do that you're just chasing your tail."

"Let me get this straight. You're twenty-four and full of all this wisdom you've accumulated since you were my age and the best you can come up with is, go with the flow?"

"It's the best advice I can give a guy that's determined to love someone," Van said. "Loving is not easy, my friend."

"Go with the flow," I said. "I guess I should avoid living near volcanic eruptions?"

"Okay, so that's a bit vague. I'll give you the most important rule I've learned about life, Martin. Happiness comes from inside you."

"Inside me? I'm in real trouble," I said, wondering how that could be.

"You generate your own happiness or your own misery for that matter. People with absolutely nothing can be happy and people with everything can be in misery. It comes form the inside and flows outward. You can't find happiness in Greg, Doug, or Augie. You've got to find it in Martin."

"How do I do it?" I asked, taking this seriously because he seemed serious about it.

"It's different for all of us. It takes time to find what creates your happiness."

"But you just said it comes from the inside. Being with Greg would make me happy if he wasn't such an asshole," I protested, getting Timmy to spit his mouthful of soda all over me to boot.

"You're going back to him making you happy. Look beyond him. Look inside yourself. No one but you knows what's in there."

"What makes you happy?" I asked.

"Life, the challenges, the newness, exploring what I feel."

"Let's go through the football around," Timmy said.

"Okay," Van said.

Talk about this story on our forum
Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily. Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]