Finding Tim

A Fourth Alternate Reality

by Charlie
With editorial assistance from Dix and John

Cruise

This story must be told from several points of view, because we all saw it a little differently.

The Beginning by Tim

One evening in mid-March of 1989 Charlie came home and found me in the kitchen, just beginning to think about what we might have for dinner. Neither of us'd had the good sense to thaw something out and the refrigerator was pretty bare. I was reluctantly reviewing the cans when Charlie came up behind me, grabbed me around the waist, hugged me, and said, "God, I'm horny."

Charlie gets in moods like that from time to time, and believe me, I like to take advantage of them. To be honest, both of us are pretty horny most of the time, but some days are better than others. This looked like it might be a promising evening. "Do you have something in mind?"

He looked me over, along with the cans I was reviewing, and said, "Well, dinner out of a can is not my idea of a first course."

"What is?"

"You." With that I was plucked up and carried upstairs. He tossed me on the bed-it's kind of fun to be the size of a middle schooler and be tossed around by your lover-and said, "I think I'd like to start in that wonderful shower in there."

He almost beat me in losing his clothes, but not quite. But he was closer to the bathroom when we started, so he beat me getting in there. I went into the shower stall and found him holding one of the flexible spray heads in each hand. I was hit with the two sprays of water-both pretty cold. By the time I got one of the wall heads flowing and aimed at him, the water was warm. Charlie calmly turned on all of the heads and aimed them at the center of the stall. With water spraying from three directions, and two other sprays moving around the stall, we were enveloped in water. I knew Charlie loved this, and I got down on my knees and started sucking him while I tickled his balls. The two hand sprays immediately were aimed at the penis-lips contact point. Charlie just stood there and went, "Aaaahhhh." But before I could finish the job he stopped me, turned off the water, pulled us tight together, and wrapped us in two gigantic towels-one around our shoulders and the other around our waists. We just managed to walk like that to the bed, and we fell on it.

Charlie wiggled the towels loose enough so that we could turn and hug, face to face. He squeezed me very tight and said, "I love you, Tim. If I'm horny it means I'm horny for you. Kiss me."

I did, saying, "I love you, too, Charlie. A lot. A whole lot. And it's going to go on and on forever. But...."

"But, what?"

"But when you come in and say you're horny, you often have something wiggling around in the back of your mind."

"You're always wiggling around in the back of my mind."

"I know. But let me make a few suggestions."

"Go ahead."

"Horny for a soft woman?"

"Maybe."

"Horny for a young man?"

"Maybe."

"Horny for an old flame?"

"Maybe."

"Horny for me?'

"Definitely."

"Of the other three, which would you choose?"

"For tonight?"

"Yeah. What's your mood?"

"I'd like any or all."

"Let's go for young men, OK?"

"Sure. Do you have someone in mind?"

"Men only, or maybe a woman?"

"Men only, I think."

"Let's call The Roundhouse and see who's doing what. We'll abort a canned dinner by offering whoever is interested food for sex."

"Think they'll buy into that?"

"I would. I wouldn't even need the food."

Nate and Pat were definitely interested. We told them to meet us at Gangland in a hour. We dressed, ordered Chinese take-out (a really good meal), and headed out the door to get the food and beat Nate and Pat to Gangland. At Gangland we all got naked and sat around one of the coffee tables eating egg roll and fried wonton appetizers with sweet and sour sauce. Nate said, "I can think of a more interesting sauce for this stuff."

Pat giggled and said, "Nate, you have a dirty mind."

"I do, don't I? I'll flip you for who gets to make the sauce."

"Does the winner get to make the sauce or watch?" I asked.

Pat said, "The winner watches; he gets his chance later."

"For the main course?" Charlie asked.

"Dessert," said Nate.

Pat lost the flip, hopped up on the bed and started to jack off. Nate said, "Let's help him, it'll go quicker."

We all helped and it wasn't long before Pat was spurting onto his chest. Nate said, "Stay right there." He picked up a wonton, dipped it into some sweet and sour sauce on one side and into Pat's cum on the other and munched away. Charlie and I followed suit. Then Nate fixed another and fed Pat. There was enough "sauce" for each of us to have a wonton and most of an egg roll each. Pat giggled through the whole thing, ending up a complete mess. Nate suggested we finish the appetizers and shower before the main dish. That suggestion was gratefully received by Pat, and all of us.

The boys beat us into the shower, and as Charlie and I were following them I turned to him, kissed him, and said, "Oh, to be young again. These kids are fun. They turn me on."

"Me too. It's what we were hoping would happen. I'm not sure I want to be young again; playing at it like this may beat the real thing."

Nate called from the shower, "Come on guys. We don't want to shower alone."

The main course was more relaxed, but not dessert. Charlie and I had picked up some chocolate ice cream on the way to Gangland, and it led to more horseplay. It all started with a pun about putting nuts on top of the ice cream. That was tried and it was all downhill to the shower from there. We did manage to eat a little of the ice cream, but not much. In the shower I told Nate and Pat that we'd invited them to help out with satiating Charlie's horniness. They were delighted with the challenge. With Nate and Pat in the lead, the three of us gave Charlie every form of pleasure that we could think of, including my fucking him a while. But it ended with Pat's tongue licking the underside of his dick, making him squirt so hard he hit his nose.

The third shower of the evening preceded our heading to bed and sleeping cuddled together as a foursome. We took them to the new I-Hop for breakfast where we told them about our conversation of the previous evening. Both agreed that they would be delighted to help relieve horniness for either of us at any time in the future. They did say that we might want to consider a woman or an old flame the next time. Assuring us that the meals weren't required, but appreciated, they said their thanks and farewells, and we reciprocated.

The Germ of an Idea by Franklin

One day I stopped by the Fred's Sports store on the edge of town and was pleasantly surprised to find Nate there, managing the store. I knew he was one of Fred's store managers, but I didn't know it was at this store, because I usually shop at the store downtown-that's where Fred keeps the magic list of who gets free sporting goods. I'd decided that I ought to pay once in a while and thought that I would pick up the baseball that I needed for Democracy House at the suburban store. Nate handed me the ball I needed, refused to even talk about my paying for it, and said, "Pat and I had quite a night with Tim and Charlie about a week ago."

He told me the whole story, and it was quite a story. I picked up on one thing, especially. "You say they talked about being horny for "an old flame? They really said that?"

"Exactly that. I have no idea who they have in mind."

"I do. I'm beginning to get an idea. You'll help me, won't you?"

"I'd do anything for Tim or Charlie. Absolutely anything."

I picked up on that comment, and it worried me a little. I asked, "Nate, did you have your sexual adventure with Tim and Charlie out of a sense of obligation, or your own enthusiasm?"

"Oh, Franklin, we had a wonderful time, and we knew we would going in. We loved it and would do it again in a minute. But I'll be honest. If Tim and Charlie had hinted, and it was the last thing on earth Pat and I wanted to do, we'd have done it. We owe our lives to Tim and Charlie. So does everyone at The Roundhouse. We all feel that way."

"I don't suppose that it'll do any good, but I have to try to dissuade you from that way of thinking. It would seriously distress Tim and Charlie. They don't want you feeling obligated to them."

"Well, it hasn't affected our behavior thus far, but I don't think you're going to dissuade anybody in the Circle to change their attitude toward Tim and Charlie."

"Well, I said my piece. I'll get back to you about what we might do for Tim and Charlie."

Well, guess what? Charlie's old flame was my partner, Phil. I could, and would, part with him for a week or so. Tim's old flame was Tina, how could I persuade Merle to give her up for a week or so? Well, I knew that Merle would if I asked; he felt the same about Tim and Charlie as Nate had just expressed. But I didn't want Tina on those terms. I talked to Sid, and Sid asked, "You want me to entertain Merle for a couple of weeks while you borrow Tina, is that it in a nutshell?"

"Exactly."

"Piece of cake. We'll take a three city museum tour. I'll be his tour guide in Washington, he can guide me in Paris, and we'll guide each other at the places we know best in New York. We'll have a ball."

"What about Cathy?"

"You're going to be home alone. You move in with her and help her take care of the kids. She'd love to have you to herself for a few nights. You'll have a ball."

"You won't mind?"

"Franklin, this's the Gang. I'm a full member. Have been for a while now. So is Cathy. Don't think of us any differently than you would Jim or Ronnie. Please."

"Sorry, Sid. Please don't take my question as suggesting you're less than a full Gang member. But sex isn't an obligation of the Gang, and you don't have any obligation."

"That's understood. But truthtelling is an obligation, and I wouldn't have made the suggestion I did if I wasn't completely enthusiastic about it."

"You're right. I apologize."

"Accepted. Not an issue. Now what're you going to do with Phil and Tina to make Tim and Charlie deliriously happy?"

"I'll have to think on it. I'll keep you posted."

Well, folks, I told you all that so you'd know the background for what happed to Tim and Charlie in early April, 1989. As you'll probably be able to figure out for yourselves, Fred was instrumental in making some of this happen.

Plane Ride by Charlie

I arrived at my office in the Law School on a Wednesday morning in April. It's the time of year when you wish you lived in a more southern clime. It was cold, windy, not a green shoot anywhere, much less a flower. The rest of the world was ready for Easter with flowers all over the place. North Dakota wasn't. I worked at my desk about an hour when Cathy and Sid walked in. Sid said, "OK, Charlie, you're going to have to trust us on this. Start by checking with your secretary, to make sure you have your calendar clear for the rest of this week and next."

I knew I didn't. I had several meetings, at least one of which was pretty important, I thought. But I buzzed Becky and asked if my calendar was clear-that was, after all, exactly what Sid had told me to do.

"Completely clear," came the answer.

"What about my meeting with Professor Dunlap?"

"He got called out of town; it's put off a week."

"What about the Internship Committee? We have an important meeting scheduled."

"Next month."

"How did that happen?'

"I don't know; it just happened."

"I give up."

"Good idea."

I knew that I'd been had, but I had no idea what it was all about. Sid and Cathy simply smiled when I asked questions. I was told to pack up a little work from the office and some reading, perhaps both light and heavy reading would be a good idea. Then we walked to Dakota House. Tim was nowhere in sight. Toppy was there and he handed me a little package which he said was an overnight bag. I was to put it into my briefcase and we would be off.

"Where?"

"Just follow." It's in times like these that you wonder just how much trust you're going to put in a Gang member. Thus far Tim and I had put total trust in them, and we hadn't been disappointed. But I was being taken somewhere, and I had no idea where. Obviously my secretary was in on at least part of the secret.

Oh, well. I decided to just follow orders. I'd end up doing so in the end anyway. Any kind of argument would've ended up with Toppy, or Sid, or Cathy, or somebody, saying "Don't you trust us?" I thought it was important to show that trust before I was asked.

They drove me to the Grand Forks airport, handed me a plane ticket for Washington, D.C. with a change of planes in Minneapolis. They left me at the security gate, assuring me that all would be well and that I'd have no trouble figuring out what was next when I got to Washington. Not real helpful. I boarded the plane, found out the first class ticket they'd given me didn't make any difference in the little commuter plane I would be in to Minneapolis, and settled in for what proved to be a bumpy flight.

On arrival in Minneapolis I found that I had a fairly close connection and I hightailed it to the next gate, glad that I only had a little brief case to worry about. Then I realized that I didn't even have a coat-I'd been ushered into the Grand Forks airport so quickly by Toppy, Cathy and Sid that the coat had been left in Toppy's car. I was pretty sure that that had happened by design and not by accident. I was beginning to think that not much was going to happen by accident on this trip.

How wrong one can be! I arrived at the gate and handed the gate attendant my ticket. She looked at my ticket and then at me. She looked very puzzled. She asked to see my I.D. I showed her my drivers license. She half said, half asked, "This doesn't show your last name. It only has Charlie."

"That's my name. My only name. You can call me Charlie, like it's a first name, or Mr. Charlie like it's a last name. On you can just say, 'Hey, you,' I don't mind."

She looked bewildered. Then she said, "I'm terribly sorry. I don't know what to do or say. We were overbooked by a seat or two and had to review the passenger list. We found this name, Charlie, and figured it had to be a mistake. The computer couldn't give us a last name, and that's required for a reservation, so we deleted your reservation. The plane's full; we simply don't have a seat for you."

"I have to be on that plane. I'm expected in Washington."

"We'll get you on an alternate flight. You can use our telephone to call the party meeting you and explain the delay. I'll give you the phone as soon as we make alternate reservations."

"You don't understand. I don't know who's meeting me. This trip has been arranged by a third party. I can't call anyone in Washington."

"Mr. Charlie, Charlie, or Hey, you. I'm sorry, but you can't get on the plane. There isn't room. Besides, they just shut the door; I couldn't get you on now even if there was a seat and you had a clear reservation."

I looked out the window and saw that the airway was being pulled back from the plane. Someone with a lot more authority than me was going to be needed to stop the plane's departure. Fred, where are you when we need you? I turned to the passenger agent again and asked, "OK, how quick can you get me to Washington?"

"It's going to be about noon tomorrow. There are no open connections today. The only flights available are overbooked, and there's virtually no chance of your getting aboard." She clicked the keys of her computer for an annoyingly long time and then said, "I can put you on a flight to Cincinnati at 6:42 p.m. You'll get to Cincinnati about 9:00 p.m. We'll put you in a hotel overnight-at our expense...."

"Of course at your expense," I added.

"And you can board a direct flight to Washington, Dulles, at 8:30 tomorrow morning. You'll get to Washington at 11:15 in the morning. I'm afraid that it's the best we can do."

"I want to scream, demand to talk to your manager, threaten to wring somebody's neck, or at least never fly this airline again, but none of that would do me any good. Just give me a meal voucher big enough to buy me a really big, juicy steak, even at inflated airport prices."

"Thank you for being so understanding. I'll give you a double meal voucher."

"I'm not being understanding, please understand that. Pragmatic might be a better word."

"Regardless, thank you. Here's your new ticket, your boarding pass, your meal voucher, and your hotel voucher in Cincinnati. The hotel is right in the airport."

I did have a good steak, at an outrageous price, but the double voucher did cover it. When I'd ordered it, the waiter had informed me that the voucher I had on the table wouldn't cover the steak.

I said, "This one will, look at it."

He did and said, "Where did you get this? They don't give out vouchers this big."

"From the airline. Call them if you need to. Bring the steak; I have a plane to catch."

I'd tried to call Sid and Cathy, then Toppy, then Tim. Nobody home. Nobody at The Roundhouse knew where Toppy and Murray were, and they didn't know anything about my trip. I seriously doubted that, but there was no way I was going to get any information out of them. I did leave a message for Toppy telling what flight I'd arrive on in Washington on. There was nothing more I could do.

I'd considered simply heading back to Grand Forks, but I knew that something was planned. I was pretty sure that it was a gift to me, and perhaps-not perhaps, most likely-to Tim and me. It had been screwed up by a stupid airline, but it was more likely to be rescued by my keeping going to Washington than by my returning to Grand Forks. I'm glad to report that the flight to Cincinnati and the overnight stay in the hotel there were uneventful. The next morning I ate breakfast in the hotel coffee shop and headed to my gate. The plane came in from St. Louis and would soon be leaving for Washington, non-stop. It was on time. Before long we were boarding....

Another Plane Ride by Tim

It started as an ordinary Wednesday. I got up without disturbing Charlie, had my usual breakfast on the run, and headed to the pool. Billy was there ahead of me, calmly doing dives that most divers, even Olympic divers, only dream about. As I looked at him I was sure that in head to head competition he would beat me. I reflected that that had been true for decades. Now it was his turn to pass the mantle of 'best in the world' to his son. I had a feeling that Willie might already be there.

I was surprised to see Fyn and Arnie arrive shortly after I did. They weren't usually morning divers, though I was glad to see that they did make some attempt to keep up their diving skills. I watched them dive for a while, and then the four of us simply took turns. At quarter to eight Fyn came over and said, "I guess it's time to shower."

I said, "I'm going to dive a little longer. I don't have to be at my office until nine."

Arnie joined us and said, "Not this morning. I have orders from the Gang to get you to the showers no later than 7:50 and have you dressed and ready to go by 8:15."

"Ready to go where?"

"I have no idea."

"I'll bet you do."

"Don't go there."

I knew if I did it wouldn't do me any good. Billy said, "Trust the Gang."

"Do I have a choice?"

"No."

"OK. Are you coming to shower with me?"

"Sure. And guess what, we'll be alone down there, and these kids from the Circle are no longer off limits."

"There are time limits as well."

By then we were in the locker room and Fyn came up behind me and pulled down my suit. Arnie quickly kissed my dick. Billy said, "That much they can do without screwing up your timetable."

"I don't have a timetable. It appears that you three do, however."

Billy grabbed my balls and said, "Come on to the shower."

I went, at exactly his pace.

Soon I was showered, dressed, and standing outside the natatorium. Just as we came out the door a limo pulled up and a chauffeur got out and opened the door for me. Fyn helped me in and said, "This is where we leave you. Have a good trip." The door closed before I could ask any questions. Murray was sitting in the limo waiting for me. "Hi. Did you have a good swim?"

"What's going on?"

"We're on the way to Fargo. By the way, here's your briefcase. It has the overnight things you're going to need, as well as books and papers your secretary thought you might want. You won't need anything else."

"Need anything else for what?"

"The next week or so."

"What?"

He simply ignored me. We sat in silence for a while, and then we started talked about plans that he and Fyn had for landscaping improvements at The Hideout and The Roundhouse. "We envision a showplace garden, with more bushes and shrubs than low plants. In the back these will surround two open spaces, one behind The Hideout for the kids to play in, and one behind The Roundhouse for the bigger kids-barbeque, games and such. I don't think that there's enough room for a tennis court, but we're exploring that."

It sounded wonderful, and certainly affirmed the decision of The Circle, and of Charlie and me, to employ Fyn and Murray full-time to take care of the two houses. We arrived at the Fargo airport and Murray handed me my ticket for a direct flight to Washington and he and the limo departed. Briefcase in hand I headed into the terminal and checked the departure board. There was my flight, set to go in about an hour, and in the comments line was the word "Cancelled." I immediately went back outside to see if I could catch the limo, but there was no chance; it was long gone. I went back into the airport and up to the ticket counter. "I have a ticket on your cancelled flight to Washington. I assume that you can book alternate arrangements and get me there fairly soon."

The agent apologized for the inconvenience of the cancelled flight, which he attributed to an equipment malfunction. The plane's communication system had signaled an alert light when the pilot did the post flight check after the plane had arrived about an hour before. "It can't fly until the maintenance crew can recertify the communications systems. That'll be tomorrow." He poked around at his computer for what seemed like ages and said, "The best I can do is send you to St. Louis tonight and on to Washington first thing in the morning."

I took it. What choice did I have? The flight to St. Louis left in about an hour and a half, and I got into St. Louis uneventfully at about 5:00 p.m. I had a night to kill and decided that I shouldn't waste it. I knew that the former Cardinal, Stan Musial, owned a restaurant in St. Louis and I decided to check it out. I had no idea where it was, but I got into a cab and asked to be taken to Stan Musial's restaurant. The cabbie responded, "Buddy, I'd love to take you there, it would be a dream come true. But it closed about three years ago. It moved out here to the airport in the Hilton, but that was never the right place for it. It's gone; it's history. If you want the best restaurant in town, I'll take you to Tony's at Gaslight Square. It pricey, but people say it's the best."

As I was trying to figure out what to do, the cabbie looked at me, stared really. Wait a minute! I know you. You're the diver. And gymnast. Olympics. God, just one name. That's it. You're Tim. Just Tim. Welcome to St. Louis. How long are you going to be in town?"

Honk! Honk! The cabbie realized that he was blocking the cab behind him. "OK, OK, I'm movin'." He pulled ahead where he could stop a little while without blocking people. He beeped his horn and the taxi supervisor came over. "Arnie, I got a famous passenger. It's Tim, the Olympic hero. He's looking for dinner. Wanted to go to Stan Musial and Biggie's. Where should I take him?"

"Take him down to the Park Plaza. Ask him if I can call the television guys. They'd love to interview him."

The cabbie turned to me and asked, "Sound OK to you. The Park Plaza is one of our top hotels-old line. Nice dining room. TV guys do interviews from there all the time."

I sighed. This wasn't what I'd expected, but what the Hell? I certainly had nothing to do that night. Why not?

I answered, "OK. Let's go to the Park Plaza. On one condition: you'll be my guest for dinner. I don't want to eat alone. And you're going to keep the meter running until you get me back to the airport. I'm booked into the Hilton for the night. I head to Washington in the morning."

"Hey, I'm not dressed for the Park Plaza dining room."

"Then head home and change."

"You gotta be kidding."

"Not in the least. Where's home?"

"University City. It wouldn't be too far out of the way. My kids'd love to meet you."

"Let's go. And tell Arnie he can call the TV guys if he wants. It's OK by me."

On the way to his home, a small, but very pleasant apartment in the old part of University City-not far from Washington University-I asked him about his family. He'd lost his wife to cancer about three years before. He lived with his two boys, ages 14 and 16. I asked him about his working hours and he said that he could make so much more money working evenings that he had to do it. The boys were able to take care of themselves. He took Sunday and Monday off and spent as much time with them as he could.

I said, "Well, let's have them join us for dinner. Would they like that?"

"You can't be serious, Mr. Tim."

"I'm just Tim, and I'm completely serious."

They did join us and proved to be very pleasant dinner companions. They were Jim and Bob Arneson, and their father was Erik Arneson. The boys went to University City High School, one of the better suburban schools in St. Louis County. I learned that the City of St. Louis isn't in St. Louis County, but is a governmental unit all to itself. The county, which wraps around the city on the south, west and north, contains a huge number of small municipalities, of which University City has the largest population. School districts are independent governmental units and don't correspond to municipal borders. Jim explained that, because of its size, University City municipality and school district had almost the same borders, but the school district was a little larger. Other school districts included a number of municipalities as well as unincorporated areas. There was also an independent sewer district that covered city and county, a junior college district, and a cultural district. It sounded like chaos to me, and Jim assured me that it was.

Erik interrupted then and said that Jim was studying government in school and was writing a term paper on the municipal government in the area. I said, "No wonder you seem to know so much about it."

Jim smiled and said, "The Cultural District is the most interesting thing. The St. Louis Zoo was always considered to be one of the best in the country, and never charged admission. It was featured on Marlin Perkins' Zoo Parade, before he moved to the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. But the city is shrinking badly, along with its tax base. In one of their financial crises, of which there have been many, they imposed an admission fee on the zoo. Everyone was outraged, but the city simply said they were broke. It was an admission fee or close the zoo. In particular, it was pointed out that the entire region enjoyed the zoo, but expected city taxes to pay for it. Out of the hue and cry arose the idea of a Metropolitan Zoo District that would run the zoo. It would include the city and county, and have the authority to levy a property tax to support the zoo. It worked so well that the St. Louis Art Museum was added, and later the planetarium and Missouri Botanical Gardens. Just last year they added the Missouri Historical Museum. It keeps the funding for these institutions regional, and independent of calls for more money for schools, police, fire departments, streets, and the like."

About this time a young man approached the table and introduced himself. He was Fred Ziller from KSD-TV, the NBC affiliate in St. Louis. Could they do a brief interview that would air on the 11:00 news and sportscast? I replied, "Sure, as long as you'll let me introduce my guests, Erik, Jim, and Bob Arneson."

We asked Fred to join us at the table, and we talked about the interview. I warned him that he might not want to ask the question of why I was in St. Louis, as the answer was a little weird. When Fred heard the story, however, he said, "I can't think of a more interesting interview. We usually ask people such interesting questions as, "Did you enjoy watching all the Olympic events in Seoul?" and "How do you compare Billy, Willie, and Greg Louganis to each other and to you?" I think people would be fascinated to know you're heading across the country at the behest of good friends, knowing not where you're going, who you'll be with, or what you'll be doing. But you have enough faith and trust in your friends to go anyway."

I said, "Well, that's all true."

I'll have to admit it made a great interview. And we didn't just introduce Erik and his sons, but talked about meeting Erik in his taxi and inviting him and his family to dinner. And right in the interview, I invited Jim and Bob to think about coming to the University of North Dakota for college. The PR people back at UND couldn't have written a better piece!

Erik and his boys got me back to the Hilton in time for the evening news. I asked them if they'd be able to get home in time to see it, and they didn't think so. So they came into the hotel with me and we watched at a set in the lobby. Usually interviews like that are cut down so much that they become meaningless, but they ran this one almost uncut. We all looked and sounded good, and the story of my heading across the country on a moment's notice from friends came across well. The interview ended with a request from Fred for permission to call me up and find out about the conclusion of the adventure. I agreed, and the interview ended with Fred telling his audience to, "Stay tuned."

Before we had left the Park Plaza I asked for three menus and signed each of them for the three Arnesons. I also got some post cards in the lobby and signed them as well. We stamped them and mailed them, so that they'd have a dated souvenir. As I left them in the Hilton I gave each boy two of my business cards, one with a "TTT" written on the back. I told them that if they ever considered UND, they should attach the card with the "TTT" to their first written correspondence or application. I told them that "TTT" meant "Talk to Tim" and that it would insure that they got VIP treatment from the admissions office. The boys both were very appreciative of everything, and their father almost fell all over himself thanking me. And I did insist on paying the taxi fare, which by this time was pretty big, but I knew that Erik couldn't afford a night without income, even for a meal at the Park Plaza.

The next morning I got up and took the shuttle car from the Hilton to the airport. I boarded the plane uneventfully, and settled into my first class seat, 4D. We had one stop in Cincinnati and then I'd get to Dulles and maybe find out what this was all about. The stop in Cincinnati was routine. We were told that there wasn't enough time for through passengers to deplane, so I sat in my seat reading the St. Louis newspaper. Soon passengers were boarding and I heard a voice say to the stewardess, "I think that gentleman is in my seat."

I looked up from my paper, and for Christ's sake there was Charlie, holding a ticket to seat 4D. I recognized Charlie before he recognized me and I just started laughing. When Charlie recognized me, he fell into the seat next to mine, 4C, and joined me in laughing. The stewardess was obviously relieved that she didn't have to deal with two unpleasant fellows arguing over who got the window seat to which they both had a ticket.

When we finally stopped laughing, we started comparing notes on our adventures to this point. Both of us had just assumed that the changes in planes to which we'd been subjected were the normal vicissitudes of air travel. But no set of coincidences could account for our both being on this plane, assigned to the same seat. We immediately saw Fred's hand in all of it, but still weren't sure how he'd pulled it off.

My Hand by Fred

It was a piece of cake. When Franklin called me with the general outline of his plan, we sat down and started working on the details. Franklin wanted to get the boys (they'll always be boys to me) to Dulles Airport, where he would arrange onward transportation. What kind of fun could we have getting them to Dulles, preferably separately? Well, you've heard their stories, I won't repeat them. They were fun, weren't they?

How did we pull it off? Pretty simple. I called my contact at Northwest and he put me in touch with the two key people I needed: the station chiefs at Northwest in Minneapolis, and Ozark in Fargo. I flew down to Minneapolis and talked to the station chief and he called in one of his senior gate agents. I told her that I didn't care how she did it, but that Charlie was not to board the plane for Washington, and was to be given the alternate routing through Cincinnati. Once he missed the plane to Washington, the rest was routine-except giving him the double meal voucher; that was an extra touch from the agent. She dreamed up the business about the computer not accepting his name-I loved it. She didn't have to hold him very long, because he had a short connection and the door closed pretty quickly. Had the plane been delayed it would've been more difficult, but I was assured that they had a backup plan. The station agent was prepared to intervene and get him off the plane if it came to that, but it didn't.

For Tim it was even easier. He was booked on a flight that didn't exist. Fifteen minutes before he got to the Fargo Airport his non-existent flight was put into the departure queue, already marked cancelled. There were only two desk agents on duty, and both had been alerted not to be surprised when Tim arrived booked on the non-existent flight. Just reticket him according to the instructions in the computer. The computer system was easy to override so that it would issue two tickets to seat 4D and none to 4C. The airlines didn't even charge me extra for all of this, but the station agents and desk agents that helped all got very nice Fred's Sports gift certificates!

As I've been quoted as saying, "Piece of cake. It's only a problem when money can't fix it. This wasn't a problem."

From Plane to Bus to Ship by Charlie

"Finding Tim" on the plane in Cincinnati was beyond belief. When we finally settled into our seats we began comparing notes on how we'd gotten there. We rejected the coincidence explanation immediately, decided that it was definitely Fred's handiwork, and started speculating on what was next. Well, as they say, we couldn't have dreamed it up in our wildest dreams.

The trip to Washington was uneventful. It wasn't a meal flight-Tim had had breakfast between St. Louis and Cincinnati-but the snacks were very nice and plentiful, as was the Coke. When we were about to land at Dulles the stewardess came by our seat and said, "I have a message from the gate agent in Dulles. He's asking that you not take the moving lounge to the terminal; the airline is making special arrangements for you."

Tim asked, "What on earth is this all about?"

The stewardess replied, "I have absolutely no idea. I've never had a request like this, but it came through standard airline channels, it isn't a hoax. Please remain on board till the lounges leave, and we'll all find out what this is about."

We agreed. Furthermore, we knew that somebody, almost certainly Fred, had something in mind, and it would be our lot to just wait and find out. We remained in our seats while they loaded two of the huge moving lounges that take passengers at Dulles from planes to the terminal. When the second lounge had pulled away a set of the old fashioned stairs pulled up to the plane. Evidently that isn't unusual at Dulles; it allows access to the plane when the lounge isn't there. We went down the stairs at the invitation of a ground agent who came up and asked for us. As we came down the stairs a huge bus, a Scenicruiser of course, drove up. It was green with white lettering that had been slightly changed to read, "Tim and Charlie's Grand Escape." IT was still painted on the back. A uniformed attendant got out and invited us aboard.

The attendant said, "Welcome aboard. We understand that you're familiar with IT. Two rules have changed since your last trip. You have two professional drivers aboard, John here who'll be your first driver, and me, Fritz; I replace him in four hours. Secondly, we're very experienced drivers, well-rested, and accident free for our lifetimes. You can ride comfortably without seatbelts. In particular, that means you're welcome to enjoy the upstairs comforts while we roll. We do ask that you not try to use the stove while we're moving. It you want to cook something-the fridge and pantry have been stocked a little-let us know and we'll stop for a while."

We looked around. The seats behind the driver had been removed and replaced with a full-size twin bed, with curtains around it. Clearly, one driver could sleep while the other drove.

"Where are we going?" Tim asked.

"I'm sorry. We've been told to extend you every courtesy and service, but we're forbidden to say anything about our destination. We'll stop to sleep tonight, and we have time to make about four hours of other stops, for meals or whatever you like. It's about noon now, and we need to arrive at our destination about noon tomorrow. Shall we roll?"

I said, "Let's roll." Did I have a choice?

As we headed upstairs in IT, Fritz handed me an envelope. "Please open it upstairs."

Tim and I headed upstairs and sat down in a couple of the comfortable chairs. IT hadn't been configured to sit upstairs as it rolled down the highway, but things had been moved a little so that there were two comfortable high seats facing forward at the front, second tier windows. We watched IT roll out of the airport and head toward Washington on the Dulles Expressway. Unless we were heading back to the Midwest, just about anyplace we might be heading would involved using the Dulles Expressway, so we had no clue about out destination. I took the envelope and ripped it open and there was a short note inside. "First, John and Fritz won't disturb you upstairs, but you're welcome to join them downstairs if you'd like to chat. Second, no cumming on the bus. We're serious."

I read it, laughed, and handed it to Tim.

Tim had the same reaction. He said, "Whoever wrote this needs a lesson in spelling."

"You mean they can't spell the verb come?"

"Exactly. Come, to ejaculate, is spelled c-o-m-e. Cum, the noun, the stuff the appears when you ejaculate is spelled c-u-m. They are pronounced the same."

"That's the way I've always used it. But a little dictionary research tells me that both spellings are used for both. And virtually every dictionary puts some kind of a tag on both words when used in a sexual sense, like 'vulgar' or 'slang' or 'informal'."

"I still say c-u-m is a noun and c-o-m-e is a verb."

"And very clearly we're expected to abstain while aboard IT."

"Abstain from orgasms, but not from sex. Clearly that is what they're implying when that assure us that John and Fritz won't invade our upstairs space."

"So get your clothes off."

"Wait, I want to see where we're heading."

From the Dulles Expressway we swung onto the outer loop of the Washington Beltway and from there to I-95 South. This was the main artery down the east coast all the way to Florida. I asked Tim, "How far down the coast can we get in 24 hours?"

"They said we would stop to sleep and could stop for up to four hours, so we must need between 12 and 15 driving hours depending on how long they stop to sleep. That means Florida, but not as far as Miami, and certainly not Key West."

"Well, I guess somewhere in Florida is where we're going. Now let's get our clothes off."

We did, and headed back to the bedroom in the rear. We cuddled, played, and slept a little. About 5:30 we got up, showered, got dressed, and headed down to the front of the bus. "Let's find a nice restaurant somewhere and go in and have a good dinner."

John, who was no longer driving, said, "We're near Fayetteville, North Carolina. There should be a good place to eat there."

Fritz, now driving, asked, "Do you want to head into town and look for a local restaurant, or would you like to look for what's good out near the interstate?"

I said, "I don't see any reason to drive this big bus downtown. There's probably something good near the interstate."

There was-a nice steak house, where we got four juicy porterhouse steaks, salad and baked potatoes. Fritz and John at first declined to eat with us, but agreed when we pushed them. We don't like the separation of people on the basis of their rank, employment, or money. People are people, and we enjoy conversations and shared meals with most of them.

Back to IT, and we went upstairs to sleep. We slept well on the bed in the back bedroom, being careful to obey "rule 2". The next morning we checked out the refrigerator and found the makings of a good breakfast. There were also some small steaks that may have been intended for lunch or dinner, but we used them for four steak and egg breakfasts. We called to John, who was now driving, "Pull this thing into a rest area and we'll fix breakfast. We know you two have been told to stay off the upper level, but you're expected for breakfast thirty minutes after you stop. No arguing."

At breakfast we learned the John and Fritz were senior drivers for a top limousine service in Washington. They'd been sent to Grand Forks about a two weeks ago to pick up IT and had driven it back to Washington. There it had been completely serviced and stocked up. Tim innocently asked, "What'll you do with it when we get to Florida?"

John was quick, "Who said anything about Florida? And we expect to get our instructions after we get to wherever we're going."

I chuckled. "Nice try, kid."

About an hour later we rolled across the Georgia-Florida line. Tim went up to the front of the bus and said, "It seems we're in Florida."

"Yeah," said John, "It's a shortcut to the Yucatan Peninsula."

Tim laughed and came back up to the upper level. Around noon Fritz called up, "We need to have lunch. What's your pleasure? A restaurant. On board? Fast food? Your choice."

I said, "Find a good restaurant."

We ate lunch in the dining room of a Holiday Inn-a pretty good meal choice for the time-just ahead of all of the national chains of "family restaurants" spread out all over the nation's highways and byways. At lunch our drivers thanked us for our courtesies to them and told us that they'd be leaving us fairly soon. We were told that the briefcases we'd brought from Grand Forks were all we'd need for the next stage of the trip. We thanked John and Fritz for their good driving and good company at meals. Then it was back on board IT.

We headed for Port Canaveral where, it turned out, the SS Norway was in port. The SS Norway, formerly the SS France, was the premier ship of Norwegian Cruise Lines. The longest passenger ship ever built to that date, it was only exceeded in size by the largest aircraft carriers. This wasn't the Norway's usual port of call; it usually sailed out of either Miami or Fort Lauderdale to various ports in the Carribean. However, this winter it had circumnavigated South America and was now heading for the Mediterranean. We were taken to the Cruise Terminal on board IT, which created somewhat of a stir, and from there we headed on board the ship. We were told by the agent at check-in that we had adjoining cabin suites on the top deck, with balconies, excellent view, etc. They were reputed to be the nicest cabins on the ship. We wondered why we had two cabins, but we'd learned that asking questions was of absolutely no use on "Tim and Charlie's Grand Escape."

A steward took us from the gangway to our cabin. We were shown the first cabin. It was beautiful: large, nicely furnished, well-appointed bath, separate sleeping room, etc. The steward tried the connecting door to the next cabin. It was one of those double door combinations, and only the inner door would open. He asked us to wait where we were and he would walk around and open the door from the other side. Almost as soon as he was out the door and into the corridor the connecting door opened.

Museums by Merle

One day Sid approached me and said, "Merle, I have a two part proposition for you."

"What's on your mind?"

"A bunch of us are putting together a travel gift for Charlie and Tim. They've done so much for all of us that we decided to try to repay them. You're the key to the whole thing."

"Me? Why me? And if I am the key, I'm delighted. I'd love to do something for Charlie and Tim."

"Don't offer before you know what it is."

"You're going to tell me, I'm sure."

"Charlie and Tim got to talking the other night and they mentioned the idea of having sex with their old flames. It was sort of a joke, and no names were mentioned. But we decided that there was probably some truth to it. Well, Charlie's old flame was Phil. Franklin was the guy that got this whole idea and he's willing to part with Phil for a couple of weeks...."

"And Tim's old flame is Tina, and you've been given the assignment of asking me if I'd be willing to give up Tina for a couple of weeks."

"Oh, it's a little more than that. My job is to get you completely out of the way by taking you to Washington and showing you the museums there; then to Paris, where you're going to show me around; then to New York where we're going to show each other around. Sound like fun?"

"Of course, but is it really necessary to get me out of the way?"

"No, it's not. We'll tell you everything we have in mind, and it will involve Tina traveling with Tim, Charlie and Phil. But we didn't want to leave you home alone, so we dreamed up the museum tour. Come on, you'll love it."

"I'm not happy with this."

"We were a little afraid of that. We know that you and Tina got involved with the Gang only lately, and perhaps reluctantly."

"So you figured that you had to do something for old Merle while Tina was away with Tim? You aren't doing anything like that for Franklin, are you?"

"Franklin is going to volunteer to babysit for your boys, Max and Milt. He figured he might take them over to my house and let them play with Auggie."

"And Franklin just might play with Cathy."

"Of course."

"My God, you do have this worked out in detail. But I'm still a little upset. I don't like the reputation of being a reluctant member of the Gang. It simply isn't true. I would've been just as happy to facilitate Tina joining Tim as Franklin was to make it possible for Phil to join Charlie. I don't need a trip to France."

I told Merle, "I was given the job of getting you on board for this caper. I didn't want you to say OK out of some loyalty to Tim and Charlie. I wanted to offer you something really great. Tina's going to have a really great trip, and a good time with Tim-and Charlie, I'm sure. We're going to have our own good time."

"Just promise me one thing. Don't ever, ever think of me as a reluctant Gang member, OK?"

"Yes, that's OK. And I'll pass the word around to the others. My guess is that you may find some people beating a path to your door to try you out."

"Great, I'm ready. So is Tina."

Merle and I did have a wonderful time in Washington, Paris and New York. We even did a few things other than visit museums. He told me, "Sid you have a reputation of going to a big city and never getting outside the walls of a museum. We're going to do that in all three cities."

"As long as we also get to the museums. You know, my love of art began in the Freer Galery in Washington. I want to share that with you."

"I'm ready."

As we headed to Washington on the same day that Charlie and Tim were sent on their way-our flight went without a hitch-I wondered how open Merle was going to be to sexual adventure. Both of us had come into the Gang as straights, and had learned to enjoy our gay sides. But just how would this work out on this trip?

I needn't have worried. The first night, staying at the newly reopened Willard Hotel in Washington, Merle asked, "Sid, do you know the stories of my sons?"

"Yes, Merle, I do. It's private, but it's part of the wonderful folklore of the Gang. I think it makes you special."

"Well, the original plan was for Tim to just have sex with Tina. But he insisted that a child should be conceived in the midst of great joy. He brought me along, and I experienced my own gayness for the first time. I'm really looking forward to tonight and to this trip. This will be the first extended gay relationship I've ever had. I hope you're as enthusiastic as I am."

"Believe me, Merle, I am. And unlike Tim and Charlie, I don't have any artificial limits on what we can do."

"Neither do I."

We didn't have any limits. By the time we got to New York we were ready to try a little S&M, and we tried spanking. I had no idea what could be accomplished with a ping pong paddle, nor how arousing that kind of pain can be. We didn't progress to whips, but we did visit a couple of pretty kinky stores in New York and bought some Velcro arm and leg restraints. They work a lot better than rope-quicker and they don't burn. I think that we're the only members of the Gang that have experimented at all in that area. Since we got home Tina and Cathy have been willing to watch us from time to time, but they won't participate. Period.

Ah well. I've told my story. While we were on our art tour we had to imagine what was happening on Tim and Charlie's old flame tour.

Old Flames by Tina

Franklin and Fred put together quite a trip for all of us. The two of them, along with Phil, picked me up about Thursday noon, with a report of the progress, well the lack of progress, of Tim and Charlie toward Port Canaveral. When they picked us up, Tim and Charlie were just about to board IT. We were taken to the airport and boarded a plane for Minneapolis, where we changed for a direct flight to Jacksonville. From there we took a late evening commuter to Cape Canaveral and stayed the night in a Holiday Inn near the airport.

That night Phil said, "Well, Tina, we've been told we aren't to have an orgasm tonight-that's saved for tomorrow with Tim and Charlie. But I hope we're going to sleep together and get to know each other better."

"Is that know in the Biblical sense?"

"You bet."

"You know, we've had sex before. I can remember a night in Gangland, a New Year's Eve at the Hideout, maybe a couple of other times."

"Tonight is going to be special."

It was. I felt sorry for Phil when he withdrew short of an orgasm, but he assured me that he was fine. "I'll be that much hotter for Charlie tomorrow," he said.

The next morning we took a taxi to the port, checked into the ship and were permitted to board early. (Fred working in the background.) We met with the steward for our cabins and worked out our plans for welcoming Tim and Charlie. We got a warning call in our cabin when the steward started bringing them from the gangway. Before long we heard them in the adjoining room. The connecting door was tried. We gave the steward time to get out of the room and I opened the door and walked in, Phil right behind me.

You could've knocked over either Charlie or Tim with a feather. I walked straight to Tim and wrapped my arms around him. Phil did the same with Charlie. We held each other and kissed for the longest time. Finally Phil broke free from Charlie and said, "Welcome to Tim and Charlie's Grand Escape, also known as old flame week."

Tim and I broke apart and went and hugged Phil and Charlie. Tim said, "I don't believe the planning that went into all of this. Are we at the end? I assume that we're actually going to sail on the SS Norway at least as far as Nassau, which I understand is its next port of call."

"No more secrets," said Phil. "The ship goes from here to Nassau, Bermuda, the Azores, Madeira, Gibralter, Barcelona, Marseille, and points east. Some passengers will stay aboard to the very end, Singapore. Then it heads to Norway for some refitting, and back into Carribean cruise service. We leave it in Marseille, take an express train to Paris and head home on Concorde. It'll take us to Dulles, and the four of us will be met by IT. From there we head to Grand Forks by Scenicruiser."

"I hope we have the same drivers. They were great."

"I think we will. Fred arranged it all, as I'm sure you can guess."

"Whose idea was this?"

"Franklin's."

"How did you guys start thinking about old flames?"

"You started that. You mentioned it to Nate and Pat the night Charlie was so horny. Nate mentioned it to Franklin when Franklin stopped into Fred's Sports. One thing led to another."

"So how many nights are we aboard this ship?"

"We're in a different port of call each day, and will have one day at sea between Bermuda and the Azores. Nine days and eight nights. Two nights in Paris, and home we go."

"That's going to make a total of about two weeks. What a trip!"

It really was. The ship was wonderful, the ports of call interesting, the company delightful, and the sex amazing. Though not the entertainment factory that modern cruise ships have become, the SS Norway was one of the top of the line cruise ships of the era. There was plenty to do, and plenty of places to completely relax. They even had a high springboard at the pool which allowed Tim to show off.

We were seated at the Captain's Table for dinner, and were the featured celebrities of the trip. Fred had even gotten into our house and removed two Olympic gold medals and sent them with Phil. We were made to wear them at the Captain's Table the first night. We were introduced to most of the first class passengers that evening. Tim was embarrassed as was Charlie. I was thrilled to watch the two of them be celebrated.

We did decide that we should pair up, in public, with Tim and Charlie as a pair, and Phil and me. The whole world knew that Tim was gay and that Charlie was his partner. We didn't need a lot of rumors about Tim and Tina getting into the tabloids. Nobody was interested in Phil and me as a pair.

Except for one night when I slept with Charlie and Tim slept with Phil, we always slept with our old flames. So I had ten days with Tim; ten wonderful days like we hadn't had together since high school. Sometimes the sex was private, sometimes we had an audience. Sometimes it was a free for all. But by the time we slept, except for the one night, I was in Tim's arms.

Was it nostalgic? Of course. Did I still love him? Of course. Were we still hot for each other? You bet. Did we have regrets? No. We talked about it, and we both agreed that our lives with Charlie and Merle were wonderful. We wouldn't trade for what might have been. And we both had known, as we went into the relationship back in high school, that we weren't in a permanent relationship. This week wasn't permanent either. It was fun, exciting, romantic, sexy, and downright raunchy. And we knew that we could do it again with our partners' blessings and/or participation. So, while it was all of the things said above, it was not illicit. And that made it, oh, so wonderful.

One day the four of us were eating lunch on one of our balconies. Our steward would serve meals there anytime we asked. Tim said to Charlie and Phil, "You know, Charlie and I have a rule that we only fuck each other. I think this trip would be a good time for an exception. Why don't you two explore fucking each other tonight?"

Charlie had responded, "Do you really mean that, Tim? I'm not sure that I want to change that rule."

"I'm giving permission, Charlie. I want you and Phil to love each other fully. If fucking Phil, or having him fuck you helps that along, I want it to happen."

Phil interrupted the conversation with, "It's not going to happen. I wouldn't cross that line with either of you, even if you both begged me. You've held that line for-how many years has it been, twenty-seven?-twenty-seven years. No way are you going to cross it with me. I love you both too much for that."

Phil was good to his word. Sometimes Phil got pretty rough with Charlie. I worried a little, but Tim assured me that Charlie liked it, and would have no hesitation asking Phil to back off. Phil used to get Charlie in a 69 position, with Phil on top, putting most of his weight on Charlie and driving that huge cock of his down Charlie's throat. I'm surprised the bed stood it. Or Charlie, for that matter. Charlie would squeeze Phil's balls when he wanted him off, and that made Phil move pretty fast.

Well, that's not my thing, and Tim knew it. Kind, gentle and loving is my style and Tim was all of that. I'd had my tubes tied after having Milt, even though there was no chance of having a child by Merle. But we'd talked, and we realized that we were a part of the Gang, and that was going to mean sex. I didn't want any issues or problems. It was very easy to have the doctor take care of the matter. That meant that Tim and I could do as we pleased, and fucking me was what he pleased most nights. Tim definitely had a straight side, but I'd known that since high school. Watching him with Phil a few times proved he had a pretty enthusiastic gay side as well.

All good things must come to an end, and Marseille arrived in its scheduled eight days. Fred's influence didn't extend this far, and we moved with the rest of the passengers down the gangway, through customs and immigration, into the taxi queue, to the railroad station and onto an express train to Paris. We even had luggage to deal with-Fred had arranged to get into Dakota House and pack up what we'd need for the trip and send it ahead to Port Canaveral, but we were going to have to get it home. The trip from Marseille to Paris took about four hours and we were there in time for dinner. We headed for our hotel to get ready for dinner. We were booked into a very nice double room with two king size beds. We were a little surprised, since we'd had two cabins (with a total of four rooms) on board the ship. When we got to the room there was a huge bouquet of roses in the room with a note. "We trust you had a grand time with your old flames on the SS Norway. Now it's time for some togetherness. Enjoy. The Gang." There were no individual names. Tim and Charlie understood. While various people had accomplished various things in making all of this happen, it was a gift to Tim and Charlie from all of us. While Phil and I were certainly the beneficiaries of the trip, we shared in the communal gift to two boys-they would always be boys to the Gang-who'd devoted their lives to each other and to all of us.

Tim said, "Tina, you know Paris. Take us somewhere nice to eat."

I did know a great café over on the left bank, and that's where we headed. At dinner Phil asked, "How shall we spend our one day in Paris?"

Tim suggested, "In bed?"

I said, "No. I think we should be typical tourists and see the sights of this grand city. I'm sure that the hotel can arrange for a good tour guide, and we'll let him lead." I was right; the hotel did secure us a great guide, who arranged for a little bus that would seat the four of us, the guide, and the driver. We went everywhere, did everything, ate wonderful meals, sampled about three very interesting night clubs, the last of which had just about the dirtiest dancing that I've encountered-but Phil had asked for it!

Back in our room at the hotel Phil said, "Well, I certainly enjoyed watching the dancing at the last club. It's put me in the mood for...something."

Charlie said, "Tina, I hope, because Tim and I are taken for the evening."

It was the first night since the Holiday Inn in Florida that Phil and I had slept together. It's wonderful that such a giant of a man can be as gentle as he is. He has the biggest penis I've ever seen, and it felt so good inside me, and this time he was able to finish what he started. It was a lovely night.

The next day we headed back to the US, flying on Concorde. (I was gently corrected by a gate agent when I said, "the Concorde." One does not use the article with Concorde.) What a mixed up day. We left Paris in the afternoon and arrived in Washington at about the same time. IT couldn't come onto the tarmac near Concorde, so we cleared the gate in the usual way, passed through customs and immigration, and headed to the bus area pushing our suitcases on a big cart. There was IT, waiting for us, with Fritz and John aboard. We got aboard, and we were off.

As soon as we were rolling John asked if he could come upstairs in the bus with us to talk about routes. He told us the fastest route was straight out the turnpikes through Chicago, Madison, Minneapolis and on to Grand Forks. That would take about 23 hours of driving. He and Fritz were rested and would drive it straight through, sleeping in four hour shifts. Tim and Charlie both told him that they were experienced driving IT and could spell them if needed. They were not to drive fatigued.

John agreed, but raised the question of routes. We looked into going through Canada-Toronto, and maybe even north of Lake Huron, returning to the US at the Sault. That would add about seven hours of driving. Another alternative was go cross the Mackinac Bridge, which would add about two hours.

Tim said, "Let's cross the big bridge. The drive across the UP is much more interesting than the Chicago to Minneapolis route. It wouldn't be far out of the way to visit Willie in Iron River and Paul and his family in Ironwood. It was now Monday afternoon; we expected to reach Iron River about ten on Tuesday morning. We stopped and made a phone call to June and asked about making a brief stop.

"Just come by the high school, we'll be looking for you. So will everybody. If you're going to be later than eleven, please telephone the school office."

We didn't need to. Our drivers were very efficient. The refrigerator on board was stocked with a lot of sandwich food that didn't need heating, and we ate as we rolled. We were sexed out, so we saw no need to keep Felix and John down on the lower level. The one off duty slept in the big bed in the bedroom. When it was night the four of us got out the pads that we'd used for the kids and spread them on the floor. We all slept in a heap. We don't know what John and Felix thought as they passed through to the bedroom. They had the good manners not to say anything at all.

At almost exactly ten IT drove up in front of the West Iron County High School. As soon as we pulled up June, Harry, Hardie and Willie came out and greeted us, coming inside IT. June said, "We wanted to have a private greeting. When the bus pulled up they rang the bell for everyone to go to the gym, and it was our signal to come out here to greet you. You're expected at the gym pretty quick. Gee, guys, it's great to see you."

Tim and Charlie walked into the gym amid shouts and cheers. I remember well how Tim handled situations like this back when he was in high school. I was often on his arm. Today it was Charlie with him. Did that hurt a little? I guess. But Tim was Charlie's and that would never change, and I didn't want it to. He and Charlie moved through the crowd, shaking hands, patting boys and girls on their shoulders, stopping to talk to a few individuals. They signed a few autographs, but luckily not many kids were ready with paper and pen. One girl got "Tim" scribbled on the back of her hand. (Good luck, Mom, getting that hand washed soon.)

They got to the middle of the gym and called for quiet. Tim spoke, "Gee it great to meet the Wycons. I always wondered what a Wycon looked like, and I was pretty sure that Willie wasn't typical. He's not, you guys are much better looking. Come up here, Willie." Willie came up with Tim in the middle of the gym. Tim looked Willie over and said, "Clearly this is an imported model." Then he looked over the crowd and said, "You all look like the real thing. But Willie tells me that he's really been made to feel welcome here, and for that Willie, Charlie, and I thank you. I wish you all could've been in Korea to watch Willie dive in person. You know, I consider myself to be somewhat of a Yooper. I went to camp not far from here at Camp White Elk. That's where I met Charlie. It was really great to see a Yooper claiming all that gold in Seoul."

Then he invited Harry to join him. "You all know Harry. The best coach of anything in the UP. And a lot of people in Seoul watched Willie and learned that Harry was a great coach. You all need to keep him, he's a great guy."

Then Charlie spoke. "You know, I've always wondered about the term Yooper. Do Yoopers like being called Yoopers? Well do you?"

In the shouts the "Yes" noise was clearly louder than the "No" noise. He continued, "Sounds like you do. Everybody that likes to be called a Yooper stand up and shout, 'I'm a Yooper'."

Almost the entire gym stood up. Tim led the shout, "I'm a Yooper."

Tim: "Louder."

Crowd: "I'm a Yooper."

Charlie: "Louder."

Crowd: "I'm a Yooper."

Then Willie shouted: "I'm a Wycon and a Yooper."

The roof of the gym lifted a little with the response to that.

Tim said, "OK, gang. It's been great getting a glimpse of the Wycons. But Charlie and I are due back in Grand Forks tonight. And don't forget, especially you juniors and seniors, the University of North Dakota is a great place to go to college. If you apply, put, 'I'm a Wycon-TTT' at the top of your application blank. It'll get you VIP treatment. You guidance counselors remember that, all Wycons should put 'I'm a Wycon-TTT' at the top of their application. TTT means Talk to Tim, and they will."

Phil and I just stood at the door to the gym through all of this. We were spectators. But what fun to watch the two of them work the crowd. Then they were waving, saying goodbye and heading our way. We headed out to IT, saying farewell to June, Harry, Hardie, and Willie as we passed them, boarded the bus and were gone.

Not long after noon we were in Ironwood. It was lunch time for Paul and Amanda, and we picked them up in IT. Then we drove the few blocks to the elementary school and Amanda went in and picked up Nettie and Perry. We drove to a diner up on route 2 and let Fritz and John out to eat lunch. Then we drove to a park and the eight of us had lunch in IT. Nettie was ten and Perry had just turned eight. They fit right into the mold of Gang children, mature and intelligent. I'm convinced that it's more than luck: all of the children of the Gang were dearly loved and never treated as babies. They grew up with parents that loved each other, and in a group that loved and supported each other. Nettie and Perry were more removed from the group, but were included whenever possible-like now. We knew Paul and Amanda were torn between a sense of mission as teachers in the UP and a sense of longing for the Gang. We were glad that Willie was nearby-it was a point of contact.

We returned Paul and his family to their schools, picked up John and Fritz, and we were off on the last leg of our incredible journey. About ten in the evening we pulled into Grand Forks. John drove us straight to The Carl. John told us that he had full instructions about where to park the bus overnight, and where to leave it in the morning at the airport, when they flew out for Washington. We invited them to stay at Dakota House, but they refused. "You have a big welcome home party. We'll be fine in the bus. It's been a great four weeks for us. It sure has beaten the usual driving in Washington. Come back anytime."

We thanked them and watched them drive away in IT. Then we turned to the elevator and headed up to the fourth floor. We punched the code at Gangland, waited the thirty seconds needed when the light was on, and went inside. The welcome was deafening.

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: 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, etc). Each browser is subtly different or we'd give fuller instructions here. If it pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]