Finding Tim

A Fourth Alternate Reality

by Charlie
With editorial assistance from Dix and John

Demotion

Toppy here. No, I'm not going to tell you the name on my birth certificate. My gripes with my parents about their reactions when they found out I was gay are minor compared to my gripes about the words on my birth certificate. Somehow I've managed to keep them secret, and I'm certainly not going to spill the beans in Charlie's public forum here.

I've been drafted to write about a number of things that happened following our return from the Seoul Olympics in October, 1988. Obviously, the most important story revolves around the "demotion" of the episode title. But that's not the starting point, so you'll have to wait a while before you find out who got demoted, and why.

When I agreed to write this, I knew Charlie wanted autobiographical stuff in the story, especially regarding teenage sex. I'll have to admit that as I have read the story I have found that reading about the experiences of other kids has been interesting-and fun. I've always wondered why we find that sort of thing so difficult to talk about. Well, when I started thinking back, and then actually writing it down, knowing that a lot of my friends would read it, I realized why talking about sex is so tough

Paul wrote about the bullying that went on in grade school over in Hurley. Of course, I came through the schools about a dozen years after him, so to compare the Hurley schools of his era with the Ironwood schools of mine isn't really fair. But I wasn't aware of much bullying, certainly not sexual bullying. But, my God, sex games were rampant among the boys. I think strip poker started by the third grade. We didn't have any problem finding a place-there were woods, abandoned buildings and houses, as well as our own empty homes-empty because of both parents working. At first, losing at strip poker meant you had to stay naked while we played other games. Sometimes we made the loser put on a strip tease show. Sometimes we handled his genitals pretty roughly. I remember once in seventh grade, when we were beginning to get pubic hair, we got really brave. The first guy naked was going to have his pubic hair shaved. Trouble was, the kid who lost had so little pubic hair that it didn't really make any difference.

Middle school meant showering together after gym, and that got us into "drop the soap" and goosing each other. Quick grabs of the genitalia as we walked past kids' lockers were also common. As far as I can remember it was all friendly, and nobody seemed to be "the goat." I'll have to admit that a couple of boys that were reluctant to play got pushed pretty hard until they figured out that the way to avoid problems was to participate in the games. I was first exposed to masturbation in this atmosphere. In seventh grade one of the more mature boys bragged that he could jack off, and he proceeded to prove it-right there in the shower. Somebody got the idea that as each of us were able to jack off we should prove it in the shower after gym. Whenever a new kid successfully jacked off, all the other boys who hadn't yet succeeded had to give him a dollar. We started by each of us giving the first boy a dollar. Obviously it was financially rewarding to be more mature, but we didn't think in those terms: we just thought of it as gambling-another activity that the boys enjoyed. I came in about the middle of the pack.

With the coming of puberty the games decreased and the talk of girls increased. Soon it wasn't talk, it was dating, and as Paul and Amanda have both said, the dating culture in Ironwood was heavily sexual and for most of the boys the only sex they were interested in was fucking.

It was as this transition-from sex games with boys to sex with girls-took place that I began to realize I was different. I missed the games and didn't have much interest in girls. I don't remember exactly how, but I came to realize that one of my friends was experiencing similar issues. Murray and I had known each other since kindergarten, but hadn't been real close. However, as the talk turned more and more to girls we found ourselves enjoying each other more, and enjoying conversations that didn't involve talking about girls.

One day as we were walking home after school, I think it was in ninth grade, I asked Murray, "Have you been on a date with a girl yet?"

"No."

"Do you want to?"

"Not really. What about you?"

"The same."

Murray asked me, "How long has it been since any of the kids in school played strip poker?"

"Fred and Gauz were talking yesterday about playing strip poker with some of the girls last Friday night."

"Who won?"

"Fred lost all his clothes, and the girls wouldn't give them back until he'd let them all squeeze his dick."

"I was really thinking back to when a bunch of us boys played," said Murray.

"God, that hasn't happened for years."

"I know."

"We used to be a pretty randy bunch."

"Would you like to play when we get home?"

"Yeah, I think I would. Would you?"

"I'll have to be honest. This is where I've been pushing the conversation. Yes, I'd like to play strip poker. With you."

About then we reached my house and went in. No one was home because both Mom and Dad were working and would be until dinner time. All I had to do before they got home was wash the dishes from breakfast and set the dinner table. Mom would do the rest. Murray helped me with those chores and we headed to my room. I said, "OK, Murray, this seems to have been your idea from the beginning. What are the rules?"

"We lay out poker hands. On your first loss you take off everything but your pants and underpants. Next loss your pants. Next loss your underpants. Next loss you lose the game. The other gets to do anything he wants with you for the rest of the afternoon."

"Whoa. That's not the way we played in sixth grade."

"This isn't sixth grade. Do you want to play?"

I had to think about that a little. Clearly Murray was prepared to push this pretty far. Did I want to? Hell, yes, I did. "Yes, I'll play."

Murray won the first hand, and most of my clothes ended up in a corner. After the next hand my pants joined them. Murray kidded me about my "tent." I reached over and felt him, and he was just as hard, but his jeans contained it.

Murray lost a hand and so did I. I was naked and he was in his jeans. He was certainly enjoying my situation. I sort of hid my dick with my hand, and he said, "No fair hiding it." I pulled my hand away and let him stare.

But I hadn't lost, and Murray lost the next hand-there went the jeans. Then we were both naked. Last hand. We both knew it, but we weren't sure what would be coming next. No, I don't think that's true. Murray knew what would come next if he won, because he'd been thinking about it. I hadn't. But I won. Now I had to decide where this was going. We were both naked, sitting on the floor of my bedroom, and I pretty much had carte blanche to do with him as I liked. But what would I like?

I think Murray understood my predicament, but didn't offer any suggestions.

I said, "Kiss my dick." He did. "Now my balls." He did. "Now my ass." I lifted my legs up high and he did. "Now stick your head in and kiss my asshole." He did. I was pretty sure that he liked all of that; at least he seemed to.

I told Murray to lay on the bed and I examined him carefully. His dick was only slightly darker than the pale skin of his abdomen. His pubic hair medium brown. His dick was just short of six inches, hard (I measured). It stood proudly above a very smooth, tight ball sac which surrounded pretty hefty balls. I rubbed, tickled, pushed and shoved. Other than quick grabs at kids when we were littler, this was the first dick I'd ever handled. I began to stroke his dick with one hand and tickle his balls with the other. It took about five minutes, but he soon shot a healthy load of jizz. (Hey, that's what we called it in Ironwood) I took my hand and rubbed it all over his chest, and then up over his face. I said, "Open your mouth." He was reluctant. I said, "Your rules. I get to do anything I want for the rest of the afternoon. I want to put some of your jizz in your mouth and watch you eat it."

"Toppy"

"Your rules. Are you reneging? Chicken?''

"No."

"Open wide." He did, and I put my wet finger in and said, "Suck it clean and eat." He did. It didn't seem to bother him as much as I expected. I think he liked it, but it was, for sure, a new experience.

He said, "Now what?"

"You do me."

"OK. Let me get cleaned up."

"Oh, no. Stay just like that. Do me." I let him off the bed and got on, on my back. He knelt between my legs and started to jack me off. After a while I said, "Use your mouth."

"What?"

"You heard me. Suck me."

Again, reluctantly, he did. I came in his mouth and I made him swallow it. Then I said, "Kiss me." He started to lean over to kiss my dick, but I said, "Not my dick. My mouth. Kiss me."

We fell into an embrace, Murray on top. It wasn't long before tongues got involved. I could taste my jizz. Murray's jizz was sticky between us. After a while we separated and just lay on the bed, me on my back, Murray on his side next to me. His hand gently played with my nipples-a part of the body that had previously been totally ignored. After a while I said, "I think we need showers, and if we're going to be done before my Mom gets home, we'd better go now. In the shower we washed each other, then dried each other. I said, "This is still my game. Don't put on your underwear when you get dressed. Put it in your book bag to take home."

"Why?"

"It's sexy. I'll enjoy thinking about the fact that you haven't got anything on under your jeans. Let's see if Mom will let you stay for dinner. I'm sure she will; call your Mom and ask."

He did stay for dinner, and we studied together for a while after dinner. As we were working on math Murray said, "The rules said, 'For the afternoon'; it's over. I could put my underwear back on."

"Don't."

"Why not?"

"It's sexy thinking of you without it."

"Then you take yours off, too."

I did, and threw them in the laundry hamper. I put my jeans back on, and it certainly did heighten the sexuality of the evening. Just before it was time for Murray to head home he asked, "Well, there are three possibilities. First, we can forget any of this happened. Second, we can play again some afternoon. Third, we can change the game."

I said, "Same game, your house, tomorrow, right after school. I'll give you a chance to get even."

Murray said, "That's great. But I don't think of myself as a loser."

"Tomorrow." And I kissed him.

The game went on almost every day for most of a month. I think we both stayed awake at night dreaming of new and different things that a winner could demand of a loser. Probabilities being what they are, we ended up about even with wins and losses, but the first three wins were mine. Before we played the second day Murray added one thing to the rules: Regardless of who won or lost, both parties had to have an orgasm-there would be no leaving somebody in heat

I don't really remember what all I did to Murray, or made him do for me, those next two days. The fourth game Murray won. He was clearly ready for me. He put me on my back on the bed and took a rope out of his book bag. He tied one end to my right ankle, passed it around the headboard and slipped the other end around my left ankle, pulling my legs up over my head and exposing my ass. He got out a tube of KY and lubed my ass and his fingers. He was gentle, but insistent with his fingers. I'd never had any kind of experience like that. He found my prostate-which I couldn't name, but he could, and did. What a feeling that was Then he got out a candle, one that had a little ribbing at the bottom to make it stand in a candle holder. He said, it's a very cheap dildo.

"What's a dildo?" I asked. It was a new term to me.

"A fake dick. Girls use them. So do boys. A candle works, and it isn't incriminating if your mother finds it in your room. It won't hurt like a wooden stick might. If it breaks, the wick can be used to pull it out."

"How did you learn all that?"

"A magazine I bought in a store in Duluth when the wrestling team was there."

"Did the coach know where you went?"

"He better not have. But we had an hour of free time in downtown Duluth."

"What're you going to do with the candle?"

"Fuck you with it."

He was gentle and it felt good. As he did it he reached around with his hand and fondled my dick and balls. Needless to say, it didn't take long. Then he untied me and made me suck him. Well, I'd done it to him, so I knew it was coming. It was my first experience. He paid me back. He shoved all of his length in, and made me swallow everything. When I was finished I fell on him and kissed him. As I lay there kissing Murray, I thought about what had just transpired-in my ass and in my mouth. I had liked both. At that moment any doubt about my being gay vanished.

Our strip poker games went on for a while. They gave us a chance to explore every aspect of gay sexuality. The next game I won, but the following day Murray won again. He lubed my ass and used his fingers, but followed with his dick. Not longer after, I returned the favor. I don't think that either one of us thought that was any big deal.

Walking home from school after almost a month of this Murray said, "I think it's time to stop making sex a competition. Hell, Toppy, I love you. I just want to have sex with you as a lover, not a poker player."

I answered, "I'm ready. You know, Murray, that's the first time you've said you love me. I love you, too."

Our love deepened for three years. There were no sexual boundaries for us; we did everything we could think of, including going back to strip poker from time to time. We did tie each other up; we both got a kick out of that from time to time. But we weren't sadistic. No hurting, no spanking; certainly no whips or chains. I remember one time when Murray tied my hands so that they could just barely touch my dick, but couldn't do anything with it. Then he brought me almost to an orgasm and stopped. I'd try to finish but couldn't. Then he'd tease my dick a little more. He kept me that way about an hour, before his tongue finished the job. Exquisite torture I was never that good at it.

You know the next part of the story. Coming out was a disaster. Then we got involved with Big Paul, Tim, Charlie, the Circle, the Gang. What a life it's been In a way, I guess Murray and I have our parents to thank; if we hadn't been tossed out on the street, straight into the arms of Big Paul and the Gang, who knows where we would've ended up. I know one thing, though. Murray and I would've ended up together

Charlie and Murray both swear that I'm as randy now as when they first met me. Gee, I hope so.

Things were settling out in the Circle in a number of ways, in particular with regard to careers. Almost immediately upon his return from Seoul Murray told the rest of the Circle that it was time for him to look for a job and start bringing in income after four years as a non-earning wrestler. Alex had said, "I know a good job that's open."

"What's that?" asked Murray.

"There's a bunch of guys living in a big old house in Grand Forks that aren't keeping up with the maintenance, not even the cleaning. They need a full-time house manager and maintenance superintendent. Would you be interested in that?"

"Alex, we all contribute to the running of the house. It can't get me off the hook for having a real job and contributing financially."

"It is a real job. We may think we're keeping this place up, but we aren't. It's not dirty, but it isn't as clean as it ought to be. The landscaping is deteriorating. Most of what we all contribute is mowing the lawn, and that isn't enough. For one of us to make that his full-time job makes sense. We'd need to pay you a good salary-you'll earn it."

Fyn said, "We don't pay him a big salary. That would just be taking our after tax dollars and handing him a salary to be taxed again. We can figure out how to move the money around so that he gets a salary which will put him in the Social Security System-but his main pay will be what he doesn't put into the kitty each month."

Murray asked, "Are you guys serious?"

Fyn said, "We are. But could you be fulfilled doing that? It isn't exactly what you went to college for."

"I think I could. I'd take pride in the house and in doing for you guys. If it doesn't work out, I can get a different job and we can hire out the caretaking."

"Then it's a done deal," said Alex, who clearly had been behind the proposal.

Soon after, Charlie had approached Fyn and Arnie, who'd been working at the university pool and for Marty, with a similar proposition regarding The Hideout, if either one was interested. They both realized that neither the athletic department, nor Marty, could continue to employ them both at the rate they were currently employed. Having one quit and become caretaker of The Hideout was a good idea. Fyn was eager, and took the job. One of the first things that Fyn and Murray had decided to do was to remove the driveway from The Hideout and widen the driveway of The Roundhouse, which came between the two houses, and would now serve both houses, allowing them to share a joint parking area behind. It reduced the amount of parking area needed and cut by a third the driveway maintenance required, including plowing.

Major improvements in landscaping had come in the spring, and the two houses were beginning to look like show houses, especially on the outside. Both Fyn and Murray were thinking hard about interior improvements. Stay tuned.

On a new subject, I'm not sure that I really understand how Willie made the successful transition back from Olympic hero to just plain Willie, the Wycon diver. He did though. I know that June, Hardie, and his coach were very important, but I really think that Willie's inner strength carried the day, and he owes that to his mom and dad, and his Uncles Tim and Charlie. Tim made that transition several times a day. He'd get up in the morning and go over to the pool and just be one of the boys. Then he'd go to his office and be the President of a major university. In the afternoon he'd be one of the boys at the pool or gym. Evenings and nights he was a member of the Gang, and Charlie's lover. He seemed to fit in wherever he was.

At the pool he worked harder than the student divers did, a quarter of a century removed from his college diving days. Only Billy and Willie kept up with him The morning after the big campus welcome home Tim, Billy, and Willie were all at the pool diving by 6:00 a.m. I knew that he'd either be at the pool or the gym; he uses his morning diving or gymnastics as a way to return to normalcy. Furthermore, I knew it'd be the pool because Billy was in town. Whenever they're in town together, Billy and Tim dive together. I was pretty sure that Willie would join them. Murray and I went over to watch. Just a couple of divers from the team were there. The others missed something.

They started with something that you might call, "Can you top this?" The problem was, there isn't a dive that any of them can't do, virtually perfectly. They soon began doing stuff that isn't in the book: Quads, triple twists; at least I think that's what they were. That at least caused them to do some pretty messy dives-a rare sight for any of those three. Then they took a break and invited the two student divers to show them their best stuff.

The two boys were pretty good, and they got nothing but compliments from the three champs-plus suggestions for slight improvements. That was always Tim's coaching technique, and Billy and Willie fell right in. If Tim would suggest pulling out of the twist a little sooner, Willie would get up on the platform and show them what Tim meant, and how it affected a dive. This went on a little while, but then the boys insisted that they really wanted to see the trio go on diving. Billy and Tim did some tandem diving, and then each did a pair of dives with Willie. Then all three squeezed onto the platform and did triple tandems. They couldn't do mirror image tandems-there wasn't enough room. They all twisted in the same direction, like the gears of a well oiled machine. I really couldn't believe what I was seeing. The three functioned like they were being controlled by one brain. And, remember, these three didn't dive together very often: Tim lived in North Dakota, Billy in Indiana, and Willie in Michigan. But here they were, diving as if they practiced together every single day

I knew Mike Reasal was still in town, and I guessed that he might be staying at Dakota House. I called over there and Charlie answered. I said, "Charlie, it's Toppy."

"It's also 7:22 in the morning; Tim isn't here; and that means I'm gratefully sleeping. Are you sure it's important enough to be calling now?"

"Yeah, Charlie. I'm sure."

"OK, give."

"Is Mike there? I mean, is he staying with you guys?"

"Yeah. And he's sleeping too."

"Wake him up; tell him to move his ass very fast and get over to the pool. And he shouldn't forget his camera. This photo op isn't going to last too long."

Mike was walking into the pool exactly seven minutes later. He took one look at the three champs on the platform, got out his camera, and started taking photos. He was finishing a roll of film and putting another in every minute or so. I've never seen a photographer move so fast. Tim saw Mike, but didn't say anything. However, I think he extended the tandem diving a little longer than he might have; and they repeated their best dive or two more often that usual.

When they finished Tim came over to Mike and asked, "What brings you here so early in the morning?'

"An emergency call from Toppy. Charlie figured that if Toppy was willing to withstand the wrath of an awakened Charlie, it must be important. He pulled up his pants legs and said, "I didn't even waste time putting on socks. I flew over here. And I'm pretty sure that I got some really great shots."

I said to Mike, "You were shooting so fast. I thought the idea was to take your time and get the perfect shot."

"Art photographers can do that. Sports photographers can't. Things move too fast. You have to make good guesses about when the perfect image will go by and hope you click the shutter at the right instant. But you don't know, so you keep shooting. And shooting. I took about 150 shots this morning. If I get two or three good ones, and one great one, I'll be happy. And if I do, and nobody runs a three minute mile this week, it'll be on the cover of the mag next week. I think that'll make thirteen for you, Tim."

"Do you keep count?"

Mike said, "Yes, and so do you. I've seen those covers lined up on your dining room wall. Don't tell me you don't know how many there are, and that you wouldn't love to have to move all the hanging brackets to center a row of thirteen instead of twelve."

Billy and Willie together said, "Gotcha."

A week later cover number thirteen was hung with some ceremony.

One windy Saturday morning in November as Murray and I were lying in bed trying to decide whether we had to get up, Murray said, "Toppy, I'd like to get away from the group for a little while so you and I can talk."

"Sounds serious. Am I in trouble?"

"Of course not. Everything's fine. But I think we need to think a little about the future, and to do so I think we need to get away from the Circle, the Gang, and The Roundhouse. Those three things color our thinking."

"They color it in Technicolor as far as I'm concerned."

"I agree. But humor me."

"I'll be glad to . We don't have anything important planned for today. What did you have in mind?'

"Let's go somewhere and spend the night in a hotel or motel. That way we can talk without interruption or distraction."

"OK. And if we're going to do that, I have just the place."

"Where?"

"I don't know."

"Huh?"

"Tim and Charlie set off for a weekend like that a while ago. They had a great time, in a great place. All we have to do is ask them where."

I made a quick call to Dakota House and got Charlie. It was hard to call early enough to get Tim. Charlie was able to give us the details very easily. So, by quarter of ten Murray and I were headed toward Crystal House in Crystal City, Manitoba.

Not long before noon we approached Langdon, North Dakota. I was driving and Murray was reading the map. He said, "Langdon may be the last place to get a decent meal before we get to Crystal City."

I replied, "When I talked to Charlie he wasn't too sure how well we'd do for lunch in Crystal City. We can eat breakfast at the Crystal House, and dinner at the Crystal City Supper Club. Lunch is an unknown. If we see some place in Langdon, let's stop."

The stop was at a place called the Country Inn. It was a small, family owned and operated restaurant, right on the main street. In this part of North Dakota the highway always runs right down the main street, so we easily spotted the Country Inn. Inside we found Formica tables, comfy chairs, a juke box turned not too loud, and a friendly middle-aged waitress ready with a menu. A handwritten card on the front said that the special of the day was a hot roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy. Choice of peas or beets. The only thing unexpected about that was the beets, so we both chose the special with the beets. The waitress assured us that the best thing about the meal would be the gravy.

Since this was the special, it arrived at the table in about three minutes-the only delay being to toast the bread. What a meal Big slabs of pot roast between two slices of toasted bread that had to have been homemade. On top of that was a big scoop of mashed potatoes that had never seen a box. The waitress was right, the gravy topping it all never saw a bottle. It'd been made that morning from the pan drippings of the pot roast. Oh, it was wonderful. The beets in a side dish were hot and sweet. Just as wonderful. It has to have been the best lunch I ever ate. At only two hours out of Grand Forks, it was worth the trip just for the lunch. We raved to the waitress, and to the hostess as she took our money. They were delighted, of course, especially when we assured them we'd make it our business to come all the way back from Grand Forks

In another hour and a half we had cleared the Canadian border, a process that hardly involved stopping the car, and reached Crystal City. We easily found the Crystal House and rang the bell. "Do you have a room for the night?"

"At this time of year that's really a silly question," was the reply.

"We'd like your best room. Our friends Tim and Charlie recommended your hospitality, and I think we'd like the room they had, if you remember."

"Tim and Charlie? From the university in Grand Forks?"

"That's them."

"They were two of the nicest gentlemen. Are you friends of theirs?"

"Very much so," I replied. "I talked to Charlie this morning to ask for a suggestion of where to spend the night. He recommended you, and told me to say a fond, 'Hello'."

"Where are you headed?"

"To Crystal City. To enjoy the hospitality of the Crystal House and the Crystal City Supper Club, enjoy the night, and head back to Grand Forks in the morning."

"That's just what Tim and Charlie were doing. We're delighted to be your refuge from busy lives."

"We hope to have a chance to do a lot of thinking about our future. Unlike Tim and Charlie, I think we'll spend most of our time in the room."

"Welcome."

The room was delightful. We looked at the love seat that looked out the window west over the plains and both of us thought: that's the place for me. We stripped off our clothes and sat in the love seat with a quilt from the bed over us. We hugged, tickled each other a little, and kissed. But before it went further Murray said, "Let's talk. Sex tonight after dinner."

"You have something on your mind. Out with it."

"OK. I think I can put it very simply. Life in Grand Forks is wonderful. The Circle is wonderful. The Gang is downright unbelievable it's such a joy. The Roundhouse is a great place to live."

"Well, that shouldn't make planning a future very difficult. It's all laid out before us."

"I know. But is it just the path of least resistance? Are things so great that we're settling into a pattern that we'll regret when we look back on it from our retirement? Life is wonderful, but should we be doing bigger and greater things than just enjoying ourselves in Grand Forks?"

I said, "Let me guess a little. You and Fyn are spending your lives taking care of two houses. It's not that challenging. You can do a super job of it with your eyes closed. Weren't you destined for bigger things? Am I about right?"

"I wouldn't have put it in exactly those words, but I think you have it about right."

"I have no idea where I'm headed with my career either. I'm getting a Ph.D. in music education. That's hardly going to lead to anything more important than being manager of The Roundhouse."

"Don't put yourself down."

"Don't put yourself down. You know, you're the one with the Olympic medal in a display box on the wall."

"I can't rest on that laurel all my life."

"Do you have some career ambition that's driving you?"

"No. Growing up in Ironwood we didn't really have big ambitions. Not many kids got to college, or at least not beyond an A.A. degree. Without you, and Big Paul, and Tim and Charlie, and lots of others, I'd have ended up working in the local hardware store or for the highway department."

"But now that you're exposed to the larger world, you want more?"

"I'm not sure I want more. God, Toppy, I'm happy as a lark. Life is wonderful. But is the world passing me by?"

"I don't know, Murray. I don't know where I'm going to end up. No, no, I know where I'm going to end up: Grand Forks. I just don't know what I'm going to be doing there. I doubt it's going to shake up the world too much. What I really have is a one-ninth share in a group called the Circle. It's a wonderful group. I love them all, especially you."

"And I realize that what I do makes the Circle roll smoothly."

I told him, "We could hire out taking care of The Roundhouse, but it wouldn't be the same. We'd never find anyone with the pride in the job that you have; never find anyone as creative as you-just look at the driveways and the new landscaping. We all know more is coming. The Roundhouse is going to be the showplace of Grand Forks. The Hideout too. Fyn brings as much to the job as you do."

"Thanks. I guess the real question is: Is a life in the Circle sufficient unto itself?"

"I think that's it. How do you answer that?"

"I need your help. That's why we're here."

"Well, we've framed the question. That's half the battle. Time for dinner. Let's get dressed and get directions, and then we'll let the wind blow us over to the Crystal Supper Club."

It turned out that we had to walk into the wind to get there, but it would blow us home. The Crystal Supper Club was as nice as Charlie had assured us it would be. There were only three tables in use, and we were able to get a nice table by the window. There was only one waiter, but he easily took care of his four tables-five by the time dinner had ended. We lingered over coffee, and joked that we were sure that Tim and Charlie would've lingered over Cokes. We didn't deal with our big question: each of us knew that we needed to think a little and get away from that subject for a while. Dinner was a good break.

The wind coming off the plains pushed us home at three times the pace we'd maintained walking into it. When we got back, our host and hostess, the Fallworths, offered us a nightcap, and we decided that would be nice. They invited us into their private quarters where they had a fire going in the fireplace. They had a very complete selection of liqueurs in their pantry and we were invited in to choose. I chose Kahlúa and Murray B&B. I'm not sure he even knew what B&B was when he ordered it, but he said it tasted delicious and insisted I try it. It was a little too strong for me, and I stuck with my Kahlúa. We sat for about a half hour, enjoying the fire, but not saying very much. By 8:30 we were heading up to bed.

We stripped naked and sat in the love seat, imagining that Tim and Charlie would've done exactly the same thing, in the same place, when they spent the night there. I said to Murray, "You know, Charlie was on the fast track for success as a lawyer in Washington, but he chose Grand Forks. He'd be at least an appeals court judge by now. Billy's moving to Grand Forks, giving up the chance to coach one of the top teams in the world."

"I know. I guess I'm being silly."

"No, Murray, not silly. If this's been bothering you, then it's really important that we talk about it. If you aren't going to be comfortable in Grand Forks, neither am I."

"The question was, 'Is a life in the Circle sufficient unto itself?'"

"That was it. I think I can honestly say that for me it is."

"Are you sorry that you aren't going to be a father?"

"Which left field did that come from?"

"Toppy, a lot of people are fulfilled through their children. That isn't going to work for us."

"We're going to affect the lives of many children: of the Gang, of Fyn, Arnie, and Margie, of kids in Grand Forks, of UND students."

"You're right."

"But you're still uncertain, aren't you?"

"You know, I think that it's that I can't really appreciate how unbelievably lucky I've been. Even that business with our parents worked out for the best. That's how we found the Gang. I guess I'm feeling guilty for being so lucky."

I told Murray, "Maybe we shouldn't think of the Circle as a long term commitment. We aren't going to leave until we have something to leave for. Maybe we should understand that the door's open if the right opportunity knocks."

"I can deal with the idea that nothing is permanent, and if something knocks on the door we have to be open to change. But saying that we're only going to stay with the Circle till something better comes along simply won't cut it. That isn't commitment."

"Sounds to me like you're backing yourself into a logical corner."

"I don't want to stick with the Circle because of a logical corner."

"Let's say that you were solicited, for some reason, to be a candidate for Mayor of Minneapolis. Would you be interested? That's certainly a way that you could make a name for yourself and make an impact on the community. Or maybe Senator from North Dakota. Would you be interested?"

"I know that I'd rather stay here with the Gang and the Circle-even though I know you'd come with me to Minneapolis or Washington. But would I be right to make that choice?"

"What price happiness? What other goals should we have in life?"

"I don't know. I know I wouldn't give you up for anything."

"But you might give up the Circle?"

"We're back to the big question."

"Think about it. I know you love me, but you also love Al and Alex, Nate and Pat, Fyn, Arnie and Margie. Would you really give them up?"

"No."

"How about Tim, Charlie, Sid, Beverly, Fred, Jody, Franklin; it's a long list."

"No."

"You've answered your question."

He broke into tears. "I have, haven't I. The Circle and the Gang, and you, are sufficient in themselves. Why are we here? The whole thing was stupid."

"Not in the least. We were both forced to face some serious questions. I think I answered them more easily than you, but I hadn't faced up to them. Now I have. So have you. Doubts should be behind us."

"They are."

We sat in silence for a while. "Fuck me," Murray said. I did, and he fucked me. And we slept like babies. Actually, babies don't sleep all that well. We didn't get anybody up that night

Breakfast was delightful. While we were eating Murray surprised me with an interesting fact and an unequivocal opinion about the trip home. "Toppy, did you know that North Dakota was the first state to complete all of its planned miles of the Interstate Highway System? The last segment was the stretch of I-28 from Drayton to Pembina on the Canadian border; it was completed in 1977. Let's head through Canada, cross at Pembina, and drive that section of I-29.

That's what we did. If you've seen one section of interstate, you've seen them all, or at least most. This section, featuring no major bridges and hardly a curve or hill was totally uninteresting. But Murray was fascinated by its interesting past and enjoyed driving that way, even though it was about a half hour out of our way. I had Murray take the wheel as we came through U.S. Customs so that he'd be driving the stretch he was interested in. It never ceases to amaze me what interests other people. I kept from being bored by imagining Murray running down the median, stark naked

We easily got home in time for dinner with the Circle. They were eager to hear about our trip and our conversations and, even more, were delighted to hear of the conclusions we'd reached. Everyone there agreed that as far as we could see, we were all in it together for the long haul.

Alex said, "But that brings up a serious question."

Fyn asked, "What's that?"

"At the present time sex with Tim and Charlie is off limits for the Circle. They want to, well they need to, avoid any kind of conflicts of interest, and I report directly to Chancellor Charlie as his Special Advisor on Access."

"What about Al?"

"As the Director of the Office on Access he reports to the Vice-President for Facilities, who reports to Tim's Senior Vice-President for Administration. There are two layers between Al and Tim, and Charlie isn't in the loop."

Alex went on, "I think I should resign as the Chancellor's Special Advisor and take a position either in the Office on Access, or as an Advisor to the Vice-President for Facilities."

"Is this going to change things between the Circle and Tim and Charlie?"

"I think they might be as interested in us as we are in them. And, yes, I think it'll change things."

Al and Alex were in Charlie's office in the law school the next morning, and as soon as Charlie heard the subject, he suggested that they all meet for lunch at the Faculty Club. At lunch Alex laid out his idea. Tim responded with, "You're horny little bastards, aren't you?"

"You're not?" ask Al.

"Of course I am," said Tim.

"You'd better believe it," put in Charlie. He continued, "This'd be a demotion. Since we have formal pay scales here, it would mean a cut in pay for Alex. Right now he's paid at the vice-president level."

"Charlie, you must know that we aren't concerned about pay. The Circle has more money than it needs. We're all very content."

Tim said, "I don't think this will have to go to the Trustees. It's an administrative change within the authority of the Vice-President for Facilities. He'll be pleased with the change, and, in fact, you'll continue doing what you have always been doing, Alex. But I'm afraid your office is going to have to move out of Twamly Hall. We're going to need that office for something else soon anyway-it works out well."

A week later the administrative announcement was made, and a story appeared about it in the Dakota Student. It created a little bit of a fuss. A couple of letters appeared in the Student Letters to the Editor column, expressing concern that the university was downplaying its commitment to accessibility. A group of dyslexic students that received coaching help in the Learning Laboratory that Al had created visited Charlie and asked about the change, "Is this going to lead to less emphasis on accessibility?"

Well, Charlie could hardly be expected to give the real reasons behind the change. "No change in emphasis on accessibility, just on sex," he should've responded. Instead he told the students that the change came at the request of Al and Alex, who felt they could work better, and be more effective, working out of the same department. The special position of Advisor to the Chancellor was no longer needed because the university had clearly established accessibility as an important goal. The students were assured that there'd be no lessening of the emphasis on that goal, and were invited to come back and talk to Charlie if they ever felt a lessening of that emphasis. A story of that interview with Charlie was written up in the Dakota Student, and it appeared that the change would go forward with no problem.

Alex called Charlie up a few days after the change was complete and all of the controversy seemed to be over. He asked Charlie, "OK, hon, Dakota House or The Roundhouse?"

Charlie caught on instantly and said, "For a variety of reasons, I think The Roundhouse would be better."

"Good, 6:30 sharp, tomorrow night, dinner. Breakfast to follow at 5:30 the next morning, in time for Tim to get to the pool on time. We won't promise how much sleep he'll get, or anybody else for that matter."

Since there was only one female in the whole crowd, we thought that a little balance would be in order. Beverly was invited to join us, making an even dozen, and adding another generation as well as a second female. She proved to be a key player in the events of the evening.

Pat cooked the dinner for us. He had a seven rib roast of beef. He'd had the butcher cut the bones at 3½ inches, making a total of 14 bones. Each plate served got a huge slab of beef and one of the bones. Mashed potatoes, gravy, and asparagus completed the meal. Everyone was told to use their fingers on the bones asparagus and really enjoy themselves. Pat said, "The mess with the bones isn't half the mess I expect to make before this night's over." There was no doubt where we were heading for dessert.

In fact, dessert was ice cream with fresh strawberries, and we got through it without interruption. But as soon as most of us were finished Beverly stood and called for attention. "OK, boys. I'm old enough to be Tim and Charlie's mother, and grandmother to the rest of you. I'm also wise enough to know that you all have a little bit of a problem tonight. There are nine of you that want to have a sexual experience with the other two. That could easily wear Tim and Charlie out, except that I can tell you from personal experience that they're a tough pair to wear out. There are also two girls here, and I use that term deliberately, that don't want to be left out. So the evening is going to end up with Charlie and Tim fucking Margie and me. Before that, Margie and I are going to get each of you ready, in turn, and pass you on to Tim and Charlie who'll give you the times of your lives. Since they don't fuck boys, you'll have to be content with hands and mouths, but I can tell you from personal experience that they're incredibly good with both of those. Now, Nate, my fine handsome quarterback, you're first. Al, also a handsome quarterback, you're next."

Beverly and Margie took Nate and Al by the hand and led them up to the trio's bedroom, where there was a California King bed. Everyone followed and gathered around the bed. We pushed Nate and Al to the side temporarily and got Tim and Charlie on the bed. Beverly stripped Charlie, and Margie stripped Tim. They got them well aroused, well kissed, and ready to go. Then they took Nate onto the bed and stripped him, kissed him all over, pushed his feet up in the air and played with his ass, tickled his balls, measured his hard penis-announcing only that it was "long enough"-and left him on the bed for Charlie and Tim to play with. It didn't take long before Nate shot into Charlie's mouth, and the three of them had a kissing fest.

Meanwhile Beverly and Margie, naked themselves at this point, did the same thing for Al on the floor at the foot of the bed. When Nate was done, Al followed. The two girls went through the boys in a random order, Fyn, Toppy, Pat, Alex, Arnie, and Murray. Then Tim and Charlie brought the two girls onto the bed. Charlie fucked Beverly missionary style, and Tim fucked Margie cowgirl style. The boys were so hot, however, that they came before the girls were even close. Beverly assured everyone that that was expected, and the two girls finished doing 69.

Wow, what an evening. The twelve of us paired up, no partners allowed, and each pair found a bed. The last couple, Beverly and Pat, ended up on the single bed that was, theoretically at least, Arnie's bed. They assured us the next morning that they'd been quite comfortable. Al had breakfast duty, and he was ready to feed the group waffles at 5:30 a.m.-right on schedule.

It was an amazing night. Tim and Charlie both insisted that it was one of the best nights of their lives. It certainly was for the rest of us. I really don't think that Tim and Charlie were just being good sports. To them sex was a normal part of life, to be enjoyed to the fullest. Just because their norms were a little different didn't matter to them at all. Within the Gang they were comfortable, and they let themselves go. What the world didn't know wouldn't hurt it.

The Gang, however, might just be standing in line

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