The Gulf Between Us
by Rick Beck
I was the first one back on the Vilnius Two and I wasted no time heading straight for Ivan, hugging him tightly, letting my cheek linger on his to feel the love pass between us. Whenever I touched Ivan, the love was all around me.
"I love you," I said in his ear.
Whatever the rest of them saw, no one paid much attention to us. I sat very close to Ivan as the Vilnius Two sailed back to the cove.
There was no one to notice where we'd been or where we were coming from. The holds were suitably full for three days of fishing.
If someone nosed around about how the fishing went this week, Mr. Aleksa came back with twelve more dollars than last Sunday. I don't know if arrangements were made to get that outcome.
I was keenly aware of what we'd done and that there would be people offended by our actions. In that case I wanted to know if we were being watched. If anyone was watching they weren't around when we eased back into our slip at the marina. As tuned into our surroundings as I was, there was nothing to see.
Pop sat as the lonely vehicle in the marina parking lot. He stood beside his truck looking north up the highway, once he got out. The message was clear. He'd been followed. After the signal was sent. He was soon walking out on the dock to greet us.
"Any trouble?" Pop asked, as he extended a hand for John-Henry to come off the boat. "You didn't get seasick?"
"No, sir. Smooth as silk," John-Henry said.
"The FBI is back. They followed me from the house. I'll take you and Brian back with me. Clay, stick with your regular routine."
"Yes, sir," I said, staying alert.
"Mama's got dinner on. When you boys get to the house, come on down. Nick, you come too. Plenty of food for working men. Bring Kenny. Mama would love to put some meat on his bones."
"I appreciate it, John. I've got some business to do, but thanks for the offer. Thank the Mrs," Mr. Aleksa said. "Can hardly get Kenny away from the boat."
"Thanks, Mr. Olson. I'm fine," Kenny said.
"Run into any trouble, Nick?" Pop asked casually.
"Not a hitch. Right on the money. I could have sailed right into the cove on those numbers. Whoever took the reading should consider map making."
"Glad to hear it. Thanks, Nick. I owe you one," Pop said.
"You've already paid in full. Clay's worth his weight in gold to me. Never knew a man to take to the sea like he did who wasn't from a seafaring family to begin with. His sons will all be sailors, John."
"A fine profession for these parts," Pop said.
Sticking to our Sunday routine, we were at the house before four. Mr. Aleksa dropped us off so we could clean up and go to dinner. He left to take Kenny to get smokes and things he'd need for the next week.
As quick as Ivan's father closed the door, I threw a lip lock on Ivan. Once more I grabbed hold and didn't want to let go. I was never more glad to see him.
"You okay?" he asked, kissing my neck as we stayed glued together.
"Teddy's got a long road ahead of him. It upset me when we had to say goodbye. I don't know if I'll ever see him again."
"You will. You worry about everything. You don't think this war will last forever do you?"
"The FBI is after him, Ivan. They aren't nice people and they don't give up easy."
"That's what they want you to think. They're just people who think they ought to hound us into acting the way they say."
"Us?" I asked.
Ivan was halfway out of his clothes as I admired the shape he was in.
"Come on, worrywart. Let's go for a swim and then we can get ready to go eat. I'm starved."
"You'll be more starved if we go swimming," I said.
"Yeah!" he said with a smile.
"Come on. I'll race you to the gulf."
Since he was naked and I was fully clothed, I took my time. I knew we'd end up on the logs. We didn't need to be at my house until seven. That gave us plenty of time. I needed some time with him. I felt like we'd been apart forever and I wanted to make up for lost time.
"How'd it go?" Ivan asked, as he caught his breathe.
"You tell me. I did all the work. You just laid there and let me," I said with a smirk as I leaned on my elbow and looked at him. "When I've been away from you since Friday, and we get back together, when I ask you, 'How'd it go.' I don't mean with me. Unlike you, I'm not always thinking about sex."
"I'll remind you of that the next time you wake me up in the middle of the night and say, 'I'm horny. I can't sleep.'"
"I never said I didn't think about it," he said smiling. "I do have you sleeping next to me. So you bear much of the responsibility for my condition in the middle of the night. After I wake you up, I can hardly keep up with you."
"Especially once you start kissing on me. You do act helpless."
"OK, so I love you. I can't help it. If you weren't so sexy, we'd get more sleep."
"I get plenty of sleep," I said.
"There you go again. I told you," he said. "So, How did it go?"
"Didn't want to ask you before we got comfortable and had time to talk. Don't mind telling you, I'm curious about what Teddy's up to."
"Surprisingly, he's with some good people. They are well prepared. His hair is down to his shoulders now. It's turning red," I said still amazed.
"Lucy isn't the only redhead in the family after all," Ivan said. "Yours gets more blond when it grows out."
"It's sun bleached. Mama had red hair until she was in her twenties. Teddy's hair was blond. It was always short before."
"He OK?" Ivan asked. "He's living pretty far out on the edge."
"Better than OK. He knows what he's doing. The people he's with know what they're doing. He's in charge of the gardens."
"They all draft resisters?"
"No, not even. Two guys have been there. One was a lieutenant who deserted once he was back in the States. Said he wouldn't do anything to support the war."
"Speaking of on the edge. He's looking at some serious time."
"He's smart too. I guess there are people who have principles they can't violate. Once he saw what was going on, he was against it."
"That was Taylor. He spent some time with John-Henry. He's why Teddy wanted John-Henry to come to their camp. He didn't expect the rest of us though. He was happy to see us."
"I didn't think Teddy had that much to do with you," Ivan said.
"Didn't. You never know about someone. He was always the most independent kid, but he came home every night until now. He was emotional when he saw us. He was even more emotional when we left."
"Did you learn anything?" Ivan asked, moving so our bodies touched again. "You are fine, aren't you?"
"Yes, and I'll remember in a minute. I can't think with you sitting so close to me. Actually, I can think but not about what went on while I was with Teddy."
"I could go to Tampa," he said without convincing me.
I leaned until our lips met, and the kiss heated things up considerably. I kissed him again, or he kissed me.
"No, I can't," he said. "This is way better than Tampa. Tell me what you learned and I'll let you kiss me some more, Clayton. I'll even put my arm around you to keep you from falling off the log."
"We've been having sex on this log fairly often and I have never once fallen off," I reminded him.
"We'll keep trying," he said. "You saying I'm not keeping you from falling off this log by putting my arm around you? That's why you've never fallen off."
"It's better if I don't roll off," I said. "I tend to lose my place when I do that."
"Yeah, but I need some grub before we hit the sheets. Then you can show me what you've learned," he said, brushing his lips against mine, tightening his arm around my waist as he studied my face. "I sure do love you, cutie pie."
"I can't remember what I was saying?" I said. "I had rabbit stew. Did I mention that."
"I'll keep it in mind," Ivan said. "Rabbit stew? We have rabbits around here."
"Around the Glades too," I said.
"Oh, yeah, we had rabbit stew," I said.
He kissed me.
"I heard that somewhere...."
His kisses became a kiss.
He leaned me back as our bodies pressed together in a most exciting way. I dreamed about him at night while we were separated. I dreamed about him when we weren't separated.
Being with him was a better deal.
"We need to get ready to go to dinner. It's after six," Ivan said, sounding certain.
"Already? We just got here," I complained, holding his head so I could get some more of those kisses off him.
"Two hours ago," he said after another five minutes. "I want to know what you learned."
"It's surprisingly difficult to think when you're kissing me, Ivan. To talk too. That's not to say I want you to stop."
"I'll remind you to tell me after we come back from dinner. I'll restrain myself from kissing you until you tell me what you know. We've got three days to make up for. We need to start on that tonight now that we've done our warm up."
"You think so?" I asked, kissing him, or he kissed me. "Did I mention I had rabbit stew?"
"Yeah, but what about this march on Washington? I want to hear about that. Sounds serious. Could be worth looking into."
"Later this year is what Teddy said," I said.
"Later when this year?"
"Didn't say," I said. "Later."
"Can your father get a message to Teddy?" he asked between kisses.
"Yes," I said. "Later, when they might know more."
"We need to keep an eye on that," Ivan said.
"We do?" I asked, wrapping myself around him.
"The march? It's only June. Can we finish here first?"
"If we're going. I'm going," I need to know more is all I'm saying," he said.
"You want to go?" I asked, not having given it any thought.
"I can't wait. I intend to put my feet where my mouth is. If Teddy can get us a ride with him, we're in like Flynn. I'll write a note to him if your father will see he gets it."
"Sure. Be better if I write it," I said. "Pop won't think twice."
"Cool," Ivan said. "You going with me?"
"Let's see what Teddy says first. That way we know the facts so we don't get too far out in front of ourselves," I said.
"That's my loveable revolutionary. Play it safe. Believe me when I say, it's as easy as rolling off a log."
"I want to be sure of what I'm doing before I end up like Teddy. I can't say that's for me. You don't sound too sure about being sure." "I want to march before they send my ass over there. I want to let them know where I stand on their war."
"Over there?" I said, getting a sudden chill. "You'd go?"
"My love, I don't know what I'll do."
"Would you kill someone, Ivan?"
"If it was my duty according to the masters of war? Not on your life. Could be a reason to be there. I can't think of one off hand."
"One of us needs to consider the consequences of our actions."
"Yes, one of us do. Maybe the one of us that worries a lot. I'm hungry. Difficult to be cautious when it's time to eat at your house," he said, moving his arm before he stood to dive into the gulf.
Just seeing him move turned me on. I loved his body. I loved the ease with which he swam. I loved everything about him. Being away from him made me realize how much love I had for him.
Ivan reached the kitchen before I came out of the water. By the time I caught up with him he was getting into the shower.
"Just right," I said. "Thanks for getting my shower ready."
"Nothing I won't do for the man I love," he said, and we got busy soaping each other up so we could pass muster at my house.
After three days in the Glades, a shower was a nice idea.
With John-Henry at the table, the details of our weekend in the Everglades was his department. I was sure he didn't miss anything and he'd decide what he wanted Mama and Pop to know. He began telling about his conversations with Teddy and he mentioned how much more mature Teddy seemed than before.
John-Henry expressed his admiration for Taylor without talking about the war. Mostly he wanted Mama and Pop to feel like Teddy was safe and with good people. He talked about the soldiers who had served over there and they made sure he had the information they thought would be important to him.
Mama and Pop didn't ask any questions. He was pleased by this. I could tell by the way he told it, he was trying to keep it simple.
Although John-Henry read the history of Vietnam Taylor wrote, he didn't mention it.
"I'll fill you in later," I whispered to Ivan.
"By Teddy's description of Taylor, I didn't think I'd care for him, but he was an OK guy. He believed in his point of view but he made no attempt to convert me to his way of thinking."
John-Henry mentioned the war-protest march on Washington. He had no details on that either but Pop would know what I was talking about when I gave him the note for Teddy.
"What do you think about Teddy marching against the war while you're in it?" Ivan asked.
"I think Teddy needs to do what he feels is right for him. I wouldn't want him going against his beliefs for me. He obviously has strong feelings about it. I believe from the conversations I had, they intend to stop the war," John-Henry said.
"Stop the war?" Mama said. "How do you stop a war?"
"Raise a big enough fuss that more and more people refuse to go. If they can accomplish that, the war can't continue," John-Henry said. "That's how they feel about it."
"Last protest I heard about was maybe a few hundred people," Pop said. "A thousand at most."
"That was before our troops went from thousands to hundreds of thousands. There are more lives in the balance. More families like ours have sons over there."
"Putting an end to war? That could catch on," Ivan said. "I hope it happens in time to get you and Boris back home safely."
"Thank you, Ivan. When is Boris going?" John-Henry asked.
"He'll leave for boot camp in July. He's saying goodbye to his girlfriends this month," Ivan said. "They'll allow him an additional month if he requests it."
"Sounds like a big job," John-Henry laughed.
"I'm sure there are a couple of girls in Tampa he doesn't know. Got to figure they've been away," Ivan said thoughtfully.
Brian broke out laughing as Mama dished out more beans as if she hadn't heard anything untoward.
"When will you ship out to Vietnam, John-Henry?" Ivan asked.
"I return from leave the middle of July. We have a few weeks of preparations and we should hit Vietnam in September."
John-Henry sat in on the card game after dinner. Mama served us rice pudding with raisins as we played rummy. I kept yawning and Mama came in with two bags of food for Ivan and me to take with us, indicating she thought it was time for us to go home. We usually didn't stay as long on Sunday evenings.
We ate what was still warm once we walked home and we restocked the fridge with what was left, heading upstairs with enough soda and ice to last the evening.
We sat on the deck. It was a beautiful evening.
"John-Henry didn't sound worried by Teddy's opposition to the war," Ivan said. "He didn't get into much detail at the table. You sounded like you learned a lot from your visit. I get John-Henry doesn't want to upset your parents."
"The movement is growing. There are veterans against the war now. There was talk about that," I said. "John-Henry is careful about what he says."
"I didn't know it had reached the size of a movement," Ivan said.
"It's how they referred to it in front of me. They have big ideas about stopping the war," I said.
"Did John-Henry take offense at that?" Ivan asked.
"John-Henry talked to both soldiers who'd been in Vietnam. The camp is there for people against the war. There are two draft resisters plus Teddy. There are the two veterans of Vietnam. There are five women. Teddy seems to like a girl named Star. She seemed nice."
"They sleeping together?" Ivan asked.
"I think so. I didn't watch. The shelters are made of huge palm leaves. Everyone has his own little spot. Teddy and Star were together a lot and their shelters are next to each other."
"They're sleeping together," Ivan said.
"They have gardens. They fish and have quite a stock of food in a storage tent. I saw a place with bows, arrows, spears."
"Heavily armed and dangerous to rabbits. They better hope the FBI doesn't find them. Bows and arrows against the fervor of patriots didn't go well for the Indians."
"Not likely. It would take work to get to where they are and they move around. They have military guys and keep a watch."
"John-Henry learn anything more than he mentioned?"
"John-Henry spent most of his time with Taylor. He deserted after coming back from Vietnam. He knew a lot about it. He wrote a history of Vietnam war that came from knowing Vietnamese families. It was fifty pages long. He let John-Henry read it."
"And you, my love? Did you happen to read it?"
"I did. Vietnam was a French colony and the Viet Minh was created to throw the French out of Vietnam. The French lost the battle of Dien Bien Phu and surrendered after the Viet Minh overran their main base of operations. You won't believe how they beat the French. These are some determined dudes."
"Educate me. How do you rid a country of the French?"
"Cut off their wine?" I asked.
"You're cute even when you aren't funny," Ivan said.
"I made a point of remembering this stuff because of how the Vietnamese beat the French. The French stronghold has a river in front of it. It would be suicide to try to attach them by crossing the river. Behind the French are some serious mountains. Anyone trying to attack by way of the mountains would have a very difficult time getting to them. It was a well protected spot."
"Sounds to me like they're stuck with the French," Ivan said.
"Sounds that way. The Viet Minh happen to be very resourceful. It is their country after all. They waited until the rainy season. We're talking torrential downpours lasting weeks on end."
"Good time to catch up on your showering," Ivan said.
"Good time to drag your artillery to the top of the mountains overlooking the French position."
"That's sneaky," Ivan said. "I don't know if that's fair."
"All's fair in love and war. One at a time, using block and tackle, pulleys, and plain old fashioned manpower, the Vietnamese position their heavy duty artillery, compliments of the Soviets, to fire down on the French."
"During the rainy season?" Ivan said."
"Pours day and night. The French never look up. They don't hear anything but the rain. One day the Vietnamese open up with a nonstop barrage of cannon fire."
"Oops. Never saw that coming. The Vietnamese had the high ground," Ivan observed.
"Very high. By the time the fighting ended, they were going at it hand to hand inside the French base. The Vietnamese overran the French and they surrendered. And that's how you throw the French out of your country," I said.
"Persistent folks. Cannon on top of mountains. Pretty clever for dumb peasants."
"That was the key to victory," I said.
"We haven't learned anything from the experience?" Ivan asked.
"We, the people invading Vietnam. Did the Vietnamese decide they don't mind Americans doing what they didn't like the French doing?"
"Since it's called the Vietnam war, they might mind. When the French surrendered, there was a catch. French are persistent too."
"They fake surrendered?" Ivan asked.
"They left their man in charge in the South. The North promised they'd be good if the French got the hell out of their country."
"They were fake promising, I bet," Ivan calculated.
"It's their country. Why would they agree to leave it split in half? They threw out the French. Ho didn't recognize the French having authority in Vietnam. He played along to get rid of them."
"Sounds like these folks are good. We are there why?" he asked.
"As near as I can figure, we're there because the French aren't," I said. "There were elections scheduled to reunite the country. We made sure that didn't happen."
"We, as in Ike? He seemed like such a nice guy," Ivan said.
"Nice to us. Not so nice if you're Vietnamese," I said. "Then the U. S. sent advisers to help the South stay free with the French's man in charge."
"The French occupy Vietnam. When they leave the country the Viet Minh is fighting to reunite, we stop them from reuniting it?"
"Sounds like what we did all right," I said. "Kennedy sent more advisers once he was president."
"Kennedy got snookered by the CIA at the Bay of Pigs. What they told him about it had little to do with the truth. Makes one wonder what advice he was getting from the Joint-Chiefs on Vietnam. He was a Northeastern Liberal. I don't think Kennedy would have bought the argument that we needed to replace the French. "He sucked on foreign policy until he stopped the Ruskies in Cuba. We may be here because he was president. The military advised him to invade Cuba. Kennedy wasn't buying it. He may well have saved the world."
"No good deed should go unpunished," I said. "Kennedy beefed up our advisers in Vietnam his first year in office. My knowledge stops there. Ike stopped the reunification because Ho was going to win the election."
"Who is Ho?" Ivan asked.
"He's the guy who was going to win the election."
"Ho who?" Ivan asked.
"I only remembered Ho by thinking of Santa Claus," I said. "He has more names but I don't remember those."
"Yeah, ho, ho, ho!"
"I bet you'd be good at the Rorschach test."
"I'll take your word for it," I said. "He was in Paris when Wilson signed the treaty of Versailles to end some war or other way back."
"I just wanted to hear you say Ho again. What did Ho want with Wilson?" Ivan asked. "We seem to have a lot of wars we can learn from."
"Ho admired George Washington. He wanted Wilson to help him establish a western style democracy in Vietnam," I said. "I remind you, this is according to Taylor's history. I never knew Ho myself."
"What did Wilson say to Ho?" Ivan asked.
"Nothing. The guys guarding Wilson ran Ho off. He went to Moscow to see how the Russian Revolution was going."
"That's curious. He's asking us for help and we send him to the Russians? One would think we didn't see Vietnam in our future."
"Ho wrote Truman after World War II and asked him if he'd help him establish a western style democracy in Vietnam."
"Ho is Persistent," Ivan said. "He wanted to be the George Washington of his country. I kind of like that."
"Makes me think about those cannon," I said. "He wrote Eisenhower to ask his help in establishing democracy in Vietnam."
"He missed Kennedy? How did Ho miss Kennedy? What did Harry and Ike tell him?"
"Truman ignored him. Considered him a crank. Ike sent him word that we were allied with the French and couldn't help him. I guess once we invaded his country to keep the French's man in power, Ho gave up on us. What would George Washington say."
"Nothing like opportunity lost," Ivan said. "Ho Chi Minh. There's a road named after him. Ho Chi Minh something or other. Trail I think. I read about it in Time ."
"Those guys fighting the French were the Viet Minh. Ho Chi Minh's men I imagine. I do remember now. That was his full name. Sounds like we didn't need to have this war if someone in charge paid attention to the poor guy. He was dead serious."
"That's the CIA's job. Tell the pres what's going down in the world. You don't think they'd misinform Ike?"
"Did a fine job with the Bay of Pigs," I said. "Why are these people in charge? They're obviously unqualified."
"I'd bet the masters of war are in the middle of this," Ivan said.
"They are the primary suspects in my book," I said.
"There's one question that comes to mind," Ivan said. "Why would we go to war with a country of peasants who want our help to become like us?"
"You know all I know now. I'm no good with speculation," I said. "This is Taylor's version of events. I don't know his sources. He talked to the Vietnamese he knew."
"I'd bet he didn't get it out of our history books at school. He's obviously a traitor. Talking to Vietnamese to find out about Vietnam. What a dumb idea. Thank you, Clay. I didn't know any of that. I'm glad you listened."
"And we are back to the North and South deal. Who thought that would work? We do have experience with that sort of thing," I said.
"When do we learn to remember history?" Ivan asked.
"If we know their history, we're pretending we don't," I said. "We as in us, the U.S."
"It's possible we went into this because the Soviets helped Ho."
"What are we after that's worth one American kid's life?" I asked.
"You think that's the first consideration. How many soldiers are going to die occupying a country half way around the world?"
"We, as in you and I, know the basic history of Vietnam. Our leaders might not think they need to know anything about a bunch of peasants," I said.
"Worse yet, what if they know but don't care?" Ivan speculated. "What if the lives of American kids mean nothing to ambitious men? We, as in you and I, are expendable to them, the masters of war."
"That's not a nice thought," I said. "We come back to the masters of war and the people wielding the power."
"My theory is, anyone seeking power shouldn't be allowed anywhere near power," he said. "Ambitious men are dangerous men."
"That's one way of putting it," I said.
"Which brings us back to rabbit stew. Do I have to catch a rabbit and make stew to get you to sleep with me again? I can't remember the last time we slept together. You sound impressed by rabbit stew."
"If someone gets a rabbit and fixes stew, I'll eat some. I don't want anyone killing a rabbit to make me stew. We slept together Thursday night. I was away for two nights. It's Sunday. We had sex on the log this afternoon. Pretty nice too, I don't mind telling you."
"A mere snack, my lovely. I'm ready for the real deal," Ivan said.
"I can only give you what I have, handsome. It'll have to do."
"Best offer I've had since Thursday," he said.
"And way better than rabbit stew," I said.
"Yeah, and if I got a rabbit we'd have to name it. No telling where that would end up, and I have no idea how to make stew. Thursday? Are you sure? It seems way longer to me," Ivan said.
"Well, lets go to bed so we have no doubt when our last time was," I said. "More than one way to skin a rabbit."
He leaned over to kiss me and I wrapped my arms around him. I was sure it was time for bed but not in the middle of our kiss.
I loved him so much.
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