Finding Tim

by Charlie

Episode 175 - Junior

I graduated from Arizona State University in May of 1998. In the middle of my senior year I (Junior Bruder, in case you didn't make the connection) was recruited by the St. Louis Cardinals organization as a pitcher. I thought long and hard about the offer, discussed it with Mom and Dad, Tim, and a few others. I'd been a successful pitcher for the Sun Devils and had finished my four years with a very respectable ERA. The Sun Devils had winning seasons all four of my years, and I'd made important contributions to their record. But it was clear to me that I was never going to be good enough to make it into the starting rotation of the St. Louis Cardinals. I would start in the minor leagues and would work my way up to AAA baseball. I'd probably get a call-up to the Cardinals as a reliever. I just didn't see myself making it into the rotation. And the more I thought about it, if that wasn't where I was going to end up, I didn't think I really wanted to play major league baseball.

Dad had asked, "Why can't you make it into the rotation? Why isn't that a realistic goal?"

I'd thought about that a while. Well, to be honest I'd thought about that a lot before I'd even talked to my dad. When I hesitated in responding to his question it wasn't really that I didn't know the answer; it was that I wasn't sure I wanted to share it with him. But I knew the family and Gang tradition, and I owned up to my feelings. "Dad, I might have the raw talent to make it, but I can't be sure. What I don't have is the commitment to baseball that you have to running. I have three choices: Say yes to the Cardinals and work my ass off trying to make it to the top. Say yes to the Cardinals and do a good, workmanlike job for them, but keep my ass where it is. Or, I can say no."

Dad said, "Number two is beneath you, and I think you realize it. So the question is whether you want to tackle the first. Junior, you have to be your own man in answering that question. Your mother and I, and the entire Gang, will respect your position. If you want support for saying, 'No,' talk to Uncle Jim. On the other hand, if you want support in working your ass off, talk to Uncle Tim."

"You won't be disappointed?"

"Disappointed? In you? You've been the most wonderful son I could possibly have imagined. You don't have to be a pathological athlete like Tim, and I guess me, to be an outstanding son. You just have to be you. I love you unconditionally, and I always will. So will Uncle Tim. So will all of the Gang. And there won't be even a tinge of disappointment. Sure it'd be fun to say, 'My son's a starting pitcher for the Cardinals.' It'd be just as much fun to say, 'My son's the best father you can imagine, and he loves his wife and family more that you can imagine.'"

"You really mean that, don't you, Dad?"

"Junior, in the Gang that's not an acceptable question. We always mean what we say. But in this case, I'll take that as a very affirming question. And, yes, I do. Without hesitation."

"I'm going to turn down the Cardinals."

"You decided that a long time ago, didn't you?"

"Yes. I guess I was really asking permission."

"You didn't need to ask, but I thank you for making me that important in your life."

"You are, Dad. You are."

"And so are you and Bud in mine. Take care Junior."

I turned the Cardinals down without an ounce of hesitation. They didn't understand, and I don't think I could've made them understand. Very few professional athletes in America brought to their sports the drive and intensity that Tim, Hal, Jody and others brought to their sports. The Cardinals would've taken me on far lesser terms. But I wouldn't have been able to hold up my head around the Gang, my family, or myself. I never regretted my decision.

But that left me with the question of what I was going to be doing after I graduated. Big question.

But I'm going to back up. It was my experiences growing up a COG that had shaped me, and led me to the decision that I made regarding the Cardinals. How do I get to the essence of growing up a COG?

First of all, every boy (well, girls as well) wants to be part of a group–a group in which he (or she) is unconditionally accepted. After reading this far I don't need to tell you that the COGs fit that definition to a tee. It's comfortable; you never have to be lonely; you never lack for something to do. I think that the fact that the group contained both girls and boys was important. Boy-girl relations can be very complicated for a teenager. The typical kid passes from "yukky" to "sexy" far too quickly. There isn't time to develop normal relationships between boys and girls. I think that for most kids, it's college before girls and boys can become simply friends. Not so with the COGs. We were close friends with the opposite sex right from the beginning.

But, as I'm sure you know by now, there's a lot more to being a COG than that. And, yes, sex was a big part of it. And our experience of sex was very different from other kids. First, it started much younger. From our earliest years there was no attempt to prevent boys and girls from being naked together, touching each other, playing with each other, enjoying sexual games–like strip poker. I think for most boys growing up (I can't speak for girls in this case) that kind of behavior was very typical–but only in all-boy situations. For the COGs it was normal in coed situations. It meant that by the time puberty hit and we were ready for serious sexual relationships, we were comfortable with our bodies and girls' bodies; we had comfortable relationships with girls. We could easily accept Tim's dictum to "Talk first."

Those are the superficial things, though quite important. Of much greater importance were love and support. And to those two I will add honesty. We knew we were loved by our parents, the Gang, and the COGs. We knew, without question or hesitation, that we'd be supported by those people. And we knew we could trust them. We could share deep, dark secrets–except that there seldom were dark secrets.

We were all high achievers. Bob Carson told his Aunt Jenny, "Carsons just get A's." Well, that was true for the Carsons, and for some of the others among the COGs. But we weren't all in that class. I'll admit to a reasonable number of B's. Even a C. Once. And the world didn't cave in.

I remember taking home that report card in eleventh grade. I had a C in history. I hated the teacher, and doing well simply wasn't in the cards. I didn't know what to expect, but I think I expected what Bob had told Aunt Jenny would happen if he brought home a B. Nothing. And that's exactly what happened. I showed the report card to Dad and he said, "Thanks for sharing."

Mom's response was, "You never liked your history teacher, did you?"

"No. He's boring, and all we ever do is memorize things."

"I think I might've gotten a C from him as well." The grade was never mentioned again. Nobody made me feel bad. I don't think I felt bad. But I knew that I could do better, and I always did, except in that one class. All of the GOGs worked to a different level, but all were high achievers in the general scheme of things. It did make for a fairly homogenous group. I'm not sure that that's the best thing in life, but it certainly made for a great childhood.

Finally, there was an intensity to the group that I have a difficulty describing. We weren't all Tims or Hals or Billys. Willie was. Augie and Shel were. Others were. Those of us that weren't had made a conscious choice. We were talking about it once and Auggie phrased it this way, "You guys are just as dedicated as any of us, you're just dedicated to not being dedicated." Do you understand that?

Bob did, immediately, and he responded to Auggie with, "Auggie, that's it exactly. And thank you for putting it that way. I hadn't thought of it in those terms, but you're right." God bless Auggie for that thought.

I've asked a few of the other COGs to look over these paragraphs. I've gotten general agreement that I've expressed the essence of, as we call it, "Growing up COG." The world should envy us.

So, there I was, a college graduate, not worth much except as a baseball player, and I'd decided that I didn't want to be a professional baseball player. A good number of the Gang and most of the COGs had come to my graduation. Several of the COGs had driven out to Arizona in IT, with Louise, the oldest of the group riding in IT, driving. She'd graduated just a few days before me from the University of North Dakota. It'd been her idea to bring IT to Arizona, and she had something very specific in mind. She and I were going to take a repeat "tour of the West" together in IT.

Did she have romantic intentions? She says not, and in the Gang we accept that as the truth. She told me, "Look, Junior, both of us are graduating with no plans, no career path, no obligations. You're just over your decision not to play pro ball. I'm a biology major, emphasis in botany, with no plans for grad school–at least at this time. We both need time to think, get our acts together, and I think doing it together would be fun, and maybe even productive. IT will be a great home for the summer. It'll go anywhere we want it to."

When she put it that way, on the telephone about a month before graduation, it sounded great. And it would at least get us away from the inevitable, if well-meaning, questions that we were going to face about, "What are you going to do in the fall?"

Tim and Charlie were delighted to make IT available. Our parents were enthusiastic–I believe that it was honest enthusiasm, but in a situation like that a little "white lie" enthusiasm would've been excused. Fred asked, "How are you fixed for cash?"

We responded, "We're fine, Uncle Fred. But we know where Western Union is if we need help."

He looked a little startled and asked, "You do, both of you, have credit cards, right?"

"Of course, Uncle Fred."

The morning after the graduation we loaded everybody into IT, cheating on the seating rules, and took them to the airport. We waved goodbye at the security gate, watched their plane to Denver take off, looked at each other, and Louise said, "Well, do you think we can stand each other all alone for the next three months?"

"We'll see." We headed back to campus, moved my stuff out of the dorm and loaded it into IT–some where I could use it over the summer, and the rest boxed and in the storage underneath. By five o'clock I'd said goodbye to all of my friends who hadn't already left, and we were on the road.

We'd had no time to plan the trip together, and neither of us had wanted to do a lot of planning without the other. So we'd loaded IT, made ready to leave, and gone up to the upper deck and gotten out a map to decide which way we were heading. Tempe is to the east of Phoenix, and we didn't want to start by driving through a big city, so we headed northeast to Tonto National Forest. In an hour's driving we were well inside the forest and looking for a place to camp for the night. Camping rules were much looser then than now, and we found a lovely overlook where we could park IT. We fixed sandwiches and iced tea, put two chairs beside IT, and enjoyed a light supper watching the sun set over distant mountains.

Soon after sunset it darkened and we took our chairs and went inside. Louise had stocked IT with a full map-set of the West, and we looked them over a little. But we decided that we really didn't care where we went. Each morning we'd simply make up our minds about where we were going next. As the days went on, we decided we liked that pattern. After all, we'd had the grand tour of the West with Tim and Charlie. We felt like we'd seen it all. Now we were looking for a chance to think.

Eleven COGs had ridden from Grand Forks, eleven being the safe load limit for IT passengers on the road. It'd taken four days and three nights, and then they'd had three more nights parked near Tempe. Nights had been a little raunchy, as nights with the COGs tended to be. Louise had given me a general idea of the events of the trip, and I hadn't needed any explanation of the nights. Now the question was, what were our nights going to be like? There wasn't any question that we were going to share the double bed in the rear bedroom. And there wasn't any question that there'd be a sexual relationship; that wouldn't be new to us. But just what was that relationship going to be? Neither of us knew that first night as we set aside the maps and agreed to head for bed.

Talk is easy for COGs, and we didn't need to leave that as an unspoken question. Louise told me, "OK, Junior, it's possible that we decide at some point on this trip that things are getting serious between us. Maybe, maybe not. That wasn't my goal when I dreamed up this trip. But we're two unattached COGs and you never know. Until then, the no fucking rule applies, right?"

"Right."

"Junior, are you a virgin?"

"You mean in the technical sense?"

"Yes. Has your dick exploded inside a vagina?"

"No."

"Has it been inside a vagina?"

"No."

"Well, no dick has been inside of my vagina, so we seem to be even."

"One thing seems sure; we'll still be even at the end of this trip."

We chuckled a little over that, and I started taking off my clothes. She did as well, and soon we were in bed together, exploring each other–not for the first time–with our hands and tongues. Before we drifted off the sleep Louise told me, "Just so you know, I have been on the pill for almost a year. I didn't, and don't, have a specific plans for losing my virginity, but I decided that as I entered my senior year that could happen, and I didn't, and don't, want it accompanied by a pregnancy."

"Is this a hint?"

"No, and I know you well enough to know you won't take it as one if I tell you it isn't. It is a fact that you need to be aware of. Who knows where things are going to go this summer? I don't; you don't; and, as the Boy Scouts say, Be Prepared."

We inched our way north toward Four Corners, and then into Colorado. We particularly enjoyed Mesa Verde and exploring the evidence of an incredible ancient Indian culture. I think it was during our three day stay at Meda Verde that I began to realize that I really didn't want our time together to end.

A few days later we were walking across the bridge at the Royal Gorge when Louise very calmly said, "I think I've fallen in love with you."

"I know that I've fallen in love with you."

"Where's this leading?"

"Somehow I don't think that walking across this bridge, as lovely as the view is, is the place to continue this discussion. But where is the right place, and the right time?"

She answered me, "The right time is tonight at dinner, and the right place is a first class, romantic restaurant."

"At the Royal Gorge?"

"No, silly. And not in Colorado Springs; that place is the home of a bunch of very conservative nut cases, and I'm not going to successfully get romantic there. It's under three hours to Denver; I'm sure we can find the perfect restaurant in Denver, and we have plenty of time to drive there."

We walked back to the shoping area at the Cañon City end of the bridge and Louise bought a city guide for Denver. We headed to the parking lot, boarded IT, and headed for Denver, hardly slowing down for Colorado Springs. While I drove Louise took out the new guide book and started reading aloud about restaurants. I suggested that she just read to herself and share her conclusions, and this was followed by a period of silence.

All of a sudden she said, "OK, it's settled. You didn't want to hear me read, so now you're stuck with what I've picked. And it's going to cost you a fortune."

"I'm listening."

"We're going to spend the next two nights in the Brown Palace Hotel, host to presidents, royalty, and all kinds of socialites and criminals. Tonight we're going to have prime rib in the Ship Tavern, one of the two dinner restaurants in the hotel. Tomorrow you and I are going shopping for a ring. We're going to eat dinner tomorrow night in the Palace Arms restaurant, and you're going to propose to me and give me the ring. Then tomorrow night, in the luxury of one of their nicest rooms you're going to fuck the living dickens out of me, and I'm going to love every minute of it."

"If you say so."

"I do say so. Oh, Junior, can you live with such an assertive partner?"

"You can take it as an affirmative answer to that if I actually buy you a ring tomorrow. We'll see. What kind of sex do I get tonight?"

"None. We want to maximize our libidos for tomorrow night."

"I don't need more than 24 hours to recharge. If you think you're going to get through tonight in that luxurious room without an orgasm, then you're one silly little girl."

"I am not a silly little girl."

"Perhaps. I'll let you prove that tonight."

We stopped and called the hotel, got reservations for a lovely room on the 6th floor, and dinner reservations for both nights. We asked about parking IT and they told us to drive to the hotel on Tremont Street and the concierge would have a driver who would see to its parking in a downtown warehouse. I just hoped that the credit limit on my credit card was high enough to cover all this.

The Brown Palace dates from the nineteenth century and is the second oldest hotel in Denver. It is the epitome of luxury. Our room seemed to be right out of a Victorian mansion, and would certainly be conducive to the purposes to which Louise and I intended to put it. The prime rib, a specialty of the Ship Tavern, was unbelievable. We headed from there to a short walk around downtown Denver and then to bed.

We knew that our first fuck was scheduled for the next night, and that left me a little undecided about the activity for the first night–but not Louise. When we got into the room she came over to me and quietly undressed me and then encouraged me to do the same for her. Then she lay down on the bed, spread her arms and legs, and said, "Use your fingers. Slowly, carefully, and sensuously. Don't stop till I've come at least twice, even if I beg for mercy. You have all the time in the world, and then I'll take all of the time in the world for you. I followed her instructions, and soon she was humping and writhing around the bed, but when I stopped for just a second she said, "Keep it up." I did, for quite a while, until she finally fell back onto the bed, completely limp. "Kiss me." I did, but she said, "Not on my lips, silly, on my cunt." I did, and she wiggled some more, but clearly she was spent. I lay down beside her and we hugged. She asked, "Did you have as much fun doing that as I hope you did?"

"It was exciting, and I'm almost afraid of what you have in store for me."

"You'll see, but just hug me for a little while."

I was afraid she might go to sleep on me, but she assured me that that was a man's stunt; she was wide awake. She got up and moved me into a spread-eagle position, telling me to hold on to the headboard of the bed and not let go for any reason. She started tickling my ribs, and my reflexes immediately made my right arm come down to protect my ribs. She said, "You can't even keep your arms in place for a little tickling, what're you going to do when I start on your balls? Now put your hand back on the headboard and keep it there. Let's see what kind of self-control you have."

It was a challenge and I determined to meet it. Louise was really good. She moved from my rib cage to the bottoms of my feet, and from there up the insides of my legs. My God, it was all I could do to hold on to the bed, She moved back to the rib cage and then slowly up onto my chest and started manipulating my nipples. I almost lost it–both my hold on the headboard and control of my dick. Then she was playing in my hair–on my head, my armpits, my pubic hair, then lower to my balls. I almost exploded, but not quite. She manipulated my balls for a while and then moved to my dick. Now her approach was no longer gradual, but intense, and very quickly I had a huge organism, spewing cum all over my chest. She kept rubbing my dick with one hand and rubbing the cum on my chest with the other. Then she was rubbing cum all over my face, still pumping my dick. I was writhing in intense sensation–it's hard to say whether it was pleasure or pain, but it sure as Hell was intense. As I slowly relaxed her hand moved from my dick to my balls, which she tickled ever so delicately. Then she was alternately sucking my nipples and licking the cum from my chest and face. Then she was back pumping my dick again. It took a while, but I had a second orgasm before she quit–and she only quit after I'd been through another round of intense pain/pleasure after I'd come the second time. I couldn't take that very often, but I'll have to admit that I'd never had an experience that came close to that. I wondered how the next night would compare.

We headed to a jewelry store the next day, and I wondered how it would turn out. I wasn't in a position to buy an expensive ring, but I didn't want to disappoint Louise. I was surprised when Louise led me to a store in the mall called Imposters. Their exclusive line of jewelry consisted of synthetic stones in very nice mountings. Louise had been to another store in the chain before and knew all about their line of merchandise. She told me to listen carefully as the saleslady gave her spiel. The gist of it was that an untrained eye couldn't tell the synthetics from the real thing, and there was likely to be a difference in cost of between one and two thousand dollars for the knowledge that a expert could tell you were wearing the real thing. Unless you told them, your friends and family would never know. She pointed out that their settings were high quality gold or platinum, exactly the same as were sold by big name jewelers for real stones.

You didn't have to convince me, and it was Louise that had brought me here. She told me, "Junior, there's no way I could let you spend several thousand dollars for a ring, when we need our money for much more important things. I'll be very happy with an Imposter stone. And I don't intend to tell anybody what it is, unless they ask. And these stones are so good that nobody's going to think of asking."

The saleslady was very nice and quite helpful. She said, "The biggest problem with the stones is that they're so inexpensive that people buy too big a stone. I've sold, with regret and against my advice, three carat Imposter diamonds to kids that couldn't possibly afford a three-quarter carat diamond. Everybody's going to know she has a fake stone. Now, if you were going to be spending money on a real diamond, how much money could you afford? Push yourself a little."

"I guess I could afford to put maybe $1,500 to $2,000 into a ring. I'd have to use my credit card, and it would be a tight squeeze."

"OK, that would buy you about a one carat ring of good quality, a smaller stone of top quality, and a little bigger stone of average quality. Imposter stones are perfect, but they have slightly less refraction than diamonds, and they can be scratched, but only with great difficulty. If you rub them over glass they'll scratch the glass, but hard stones will scratch them. I recommend that you look at a stone in the one carat range. It'll cost about a hundred dollars. Do you want a gold or platinum setting?"

Louise said, "I prefer a silver color, but isn't platinum more expensive than gold? How about sterling silver?"

"You'd never put a good diamond in silver. If you want silver color go with platinum. Remember, you want this to be an inexpensive fake diamond ring, but you don't want it to look like an inexpensive fake diamond ring."

We looked at platinum settings and found a lovely one that Louise really liked at $295. Add the stone and we spend $395. We could've had a two carat stone in the same ring for $495, which I could easily have afforded. But the lady was right, in diamond it would've been way beyond our means, and that would've been like a flashing neon sign, "Fake, fake, fake." I bought the one carat Imposter ring, put it in my pocket, and thanked God that I'd picked just the right girl. In my opinion, at least, she had her values straight.

We had tea in the Brown Palace Hotel Atrium that afternoon. It's one of the featured traditions of the hotel, and while I'm neither a devotee of tea, nor the scones which famously go with it, it was an interesting experience–once. We headed up to our room and we both realized that we really didn't have clothes appropriate for the evening. So we headed to a department store where I bought a nice sports jacket and tie, and Louise bought a very pretty dress. Both the jacket and the dress were on sale. The tie was not. I was going to look for a less expensive one, but Louise found one she really loved and I bought it. The tie was the most expensive of the three items. It was really silly to buy a $35 tie, but some things you splurge on.

We went back to the room and dressed. Mind you, our being naked in front of each other was old hat. Watching each other get dressed was old hat. But there was something very sexual about watching Louise put on her underwear and the dress. She didn't have a slip because she hadn't brought dresses on the trip. She refused to waste money on a slip she didn't need, and had chosen a dark enough dress so that the slip wouldn't be missed.

It was also very sexual to have Louise watch me dry off after the shower, pull on my underwear, put on my shirt and pants, tuck it all in, and then tie the tie. She helped me with my new jacket, and we headed down to the Palace Arms. It was a lovely restaurant, music in the background, waiters in Tuxedos, service plates and white napkins on the white tablecloths. As requested we had a table by the window.

We debated what to drink. We didn't want alcohol. Both of us drank a little, but not often, and we didn't want it to interfere with the evening. We wondered if Cokes would be a little juvenile or informal. We elected Seven-Up, which wasn't so obviously a soft drink. Were we being silly? We talked about it, and decided that we hadn't made the decision because of what other people thought, including the waiter, but because we felt better ourselves without the dark cola in a glass on the table. The waiter understood, and refilled the glass from a pitcher, never bringing a bottle to the table.

The menu was a little disappointing. Both Louise and I are pretty plain eaters–right off the Midwestern plains. The sauces, unusual vegetables, and highly and/or oddly seasoned meats were not our favorites. The waiter sensed our hesitation and suggested, "Folks, our chefs can produce anything you like. Don't worry about the menu. What would you like to eat this evening?"

Louise said, "A rainbow trout. Grilled, with no butter. Just lemon."

"We don't have a rainbow trout this evening, but we do have a brook trout. We'll fix it just as you like it."

"Oh, that would be wonderful."

"And you, sir?"

"Lamb chops. Grilled. Plain, with mint jelly on the side."

"May I suggest a little mixed grill? Three nice chops, bacon and a nice slice of grilled calves liver."

"Sounds wonderful."

'With your meal may I suggest either a crab or shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad–a house specialty, Yukon potatoes, and creamed peas?"

Louise smiled and said, "Sounds wonderful. I'll have the crab with a very mild cocktail sauce."

I said, "And I'll have the shrimp with a very hot cocktail sauce."

"That's easily arranged."

The meal was as good as it sounded. Following the seafood, the waiter came by the table and offered another house specialty, steak tartare, prepared right at the table. I'd had it a couple of times before; Louise had no idea what it was, but agreed to try it. On our trip west she'd been a very picky eater, clearly she'd grown up.

A cart was wheeled up to the table with a little beef filet on it, along with a number of condiments. The steak was cut up very fine by a chef that wielded a knife like a buzz saw. Then horseradish, onion, some green leaves, and other things were chopped in. It was served on little round crackers, and was wonderful. Louise said, "I don't think I've ever eaten raw meat before."

I said, "Oh, I sneak raw hamburger all the time when Dad's grilling. It's good, but this is really great. Besides, if that filet was grilled as a steak, for me at least, it would still be pretty raw in the center when I ate it."

"Junior, don't push me too far in the food department. But this meal is wonderful."

Indeed it was, though I think it was a little hard for Louise to watch me eat the calves liver. But it's one of my favorites and I enjoyed it immensely.

After the main course the waiter came by and told us, "There's only one dessert worth mentioning at the Palace Arms. Bananas Foster. May I bring yours?"

We were stuffed, but the idea of turning down this waiter was simply beyond us. Louise smiled and said, "I have no idea where we'll put it, but bring it on."

The waiter wheeled up another cart with a hot sauce in a pan over a fire. He added bananas to the sauce, mashed and stirred. This was cooked a short while, and then dark rum and banana liqueur were poured into the sauce from bottles on the cart. Another waiter appeared with two dishes of vanilla ice cream, the banana sauce was poured over the ice cream, and the sauce lit on fire. The burning dishes of ice cream were set before the two of us. The waiter easily read the uncertainty on our faces and said, "Let the fire burn out and enjoy!" We certainly did. I'm not sure that it was the best tasting dessert I've ever had–think Death by Chocolate–but it was easily the most spectacular.

I seized the moment while the fires burned themselves out to reach over, take Louise's hand, and slip on the ring. "Will you marry me?"

"Not until this fire burns out and I eat this dessert. But then I will."

We laughed and ate.

The dinner, and generous tip to a very deserving waiter, didn't cost me as much as I'd saved by not buying a diamond ring, but it took a chuck of the savings. It was worth every penny!

The dinner had taken two hours, and we were both ready for what was to come. We rode the elevator up to the top floor–the seventh–and looked out the windows. It was too dark to see the mountains in the distance, but we could enjoy the lights of the city. However, we were both anxious for what was to follow; we walked down one flight of stairs to our floor, walked to the room, unlocked the door and entered, and stood looking at each other.

Louise said, "I've dreamed of this moment, but I'm not really sure of just how I want it to happen. What about you, Junior?"

"If we turn out the lights we can open the curtains and nobody can see us. But we'll see the city as we undress. Then how about a shower together. There's room in the shower for the two of us."

We undressed and went into the bathroom and on into the shower. It wasn't new for us, but we both understood that this was special. We washed each other, got out, turned out the bathroom light, and came into the room to dry each other. We stood and hugged and kissed, and then dropped onto the huge bed and continued hugging and kissing. Louise said, "I think we need to answer two questions."

"And those are?"

"What position? And, do we want wild and woolly or soft and gentle?"

I said, "There's also the question of control. Regardless of the position, someone is likely to be on top and in control. That person sets the tone for wild and woolly or soft and gentle."

"Would you like to be on top and in control?"

"Not necessarily. I think I'm going to enjoy this regardless. What would you like? But I will say this. We don't want to talk this to death. I'm ready to fuck you. Now how do you want it?"

"You on top. In control. Wild and woolly. And I want to hug you tight. That means we're going to be missionaries. Take me now, Junior."

She grabbed my dick and squeezed hard. "Now, Junior, now. Take command."

I grabbed the covers on the bed and pulled them off exposing the sheet. I pushed her onto the bed, pushed her legs apart, and jammed my tongue into her vagina as far as I could get it. I used my finger on her clitoris to increase her arousal. She was quickly bouncing on the bed with aroused excitement. With that I kissed her and jammed my penis at her vagina. Of course, I missed, forcing me to back off, lift myself up on my knees, and aim more carefully. She took her hand and guided my penis in, and then I fell forward onto her and we hugged tight. I bounced up and down, and she kept saying, "Harder, deeper, push." I did all of the above. She heaved her hips up as my weight came down. Her hands grabbed my butt cheeks and pulled me down. Her legs wrapped around mine, so that when I lifted up, she came with me. My dick moved in and out, but I managed to keep it from slipping out.

Then, with a great heave I came down on her and ejaculated into her with all my might. We stopped and squeezed each other tight. She said, "Stay inside me as long as you can."

That turned out to be about five or so minutes till I was finally so soft that it simply slipped out. She pushed me over and took my penis in her mouth and sucked it. Finally she was spent, and she got on top of me and kissed me, her tongue forcing itself into the farthest corners of my mouth. We finally lay back and relaxed. She said, "That was wonderful, Junior. I never dreamed it would be that good. I wonder if it'll still be that good on our tenth anniversary."

"It may never be that good again, Louise. But that fuck was worth waiting for. Thank you."

"Thank you, Junior. I love you."

"I love you just as much."

We lay there a while, pulled up the covers, and went to sleep.

The next morning we went back to our travels in IT, enjoying each other and the opportunity to relax and see a little of the world. But we felt an urge to get back to Grand Forks and think about getting married–the nitty gritty details, not the grand question of should we or shouldn't we. We were quite settled on that account.

Late August saw us back in Grand Forks. We'd kept our engagement to ourselves, and now it was time to tell our families. Louise, with four parents–Jim, Kara, Andy and Amy–and three siblings–Gary, Cam and Shel–had the larger family, by far. My parents–Hal and Sue–and my brother, Bud, were a much smaller group. We invited them all to a dinner that Louise and I prepared at The Hideout. We worked all day getting everything just perfect. We got a full seven-rib roast of beef, which we roasted in rock salt–a method that I'd heard about but never tasted. It was delicious, but probably not any better than standard oven roasting. The rest of the meal was very nice, featuring things we loved, and it ended with our attempt at Bananas Foster–which we decided was as good as we'd had in Denver!

While the Bananas Foster fires were burning down I took Louise' hand and slipped the ring on it once again–she'd taken it off just before we got back to Grand Forks, waiting for this moment to show it off. Shel noticed it first and gave out a whoop, "Hey, my big sister's gone and gotten herself engaged. And to a baseball player no less. Hey, sis. I could've found you an ice skater if you'd asked."

"Shut up, Shel, and come and give a welcome kiss to your future brother-in-law."

Shel was on me in a flash, his tongue driving between my teeth. He pulled his head back and said, "I'll teach you to ice skate–that won't be a problem."

The rest of the group was more restrained, but equally welcoming. Everyone oohed and aahed over Louise' ring and not one person asked if it was a real stone, nor (as far as I know) did they ever suspect it was an Imposter stone until I revealed the fact in this episode–with Louise' permission–and several chuckles.

Hal, Jim and Andy were soon together engaged in an enthusiastic conversation. They got on the telephone and called the rest of the original eight boys, and all of them were at The Hideout in very short order. We hadn't been aware that Tim and Charlie's sailing schedule kept them out of town so much of the time. However, we'd been lucky and arrived in Grand Forks just about the same time that Tim and Charlie arrived back from Ottawa and before they headed off to Sonora. In any case, they were at home, and joined Ronnie, Tom, and Franklin in heading to The Hideout. Each new arrival enthusiastically congratulated Louise and me, and soon the eight of them were in a huddle together. Evidently Charlie was elected spokesperson, and they all followed him over to where Louise and I were sitting. Charlie told us, "You aren't the first–that was Kevin and Noreen–but we're utterly delighted that two of the next generation of the original Gang–the eight of us–are getting married. You're going to be planning your futures, making decisions, perhaps continuing school. Until all that's settled you're going to need a place to live. Please consider using The Hideout for as long as you need it. We'd love to have it used by such a wonderful couple."

What a wondeful gift! I looked at Louise, and she nodded her head. I looked at my dad and uncles and simply said, "Thank you, that's wonderful."

We planned a wedding for a date in the fall when Tim and Charlie would be available. That wasn't easy considering the sailing schedule that Auggie had for them, but the date of Saturday, November 21, 1998, was set for the wedding. None of the Gang had yet found a church that made them feel welcome, but I don't think they'd tried very hard. Too many of them had had difficult experiences with churches, and the controversies about the ordination of gay persons that raged in the mainline churches certainly didn't inspire any of the Gang to want to join. Louise had graduated from UND, but I'd never been part of the university community, and the idea of a campus wedding didn't appeal very much to me, and Louise made it clear that it wouldn't mean much to her either. So where to be married? The Hideout, of course. And, as Louise pointed out, the honeymoon would simply involved climbing a flight of stairs!

The question of who would marry us turned out to be fairly simple. It was Charlie's suggestion. After they came back from Sonora at the end of September, he and Tim had us for dinner at Dakota House. We talked about all kinds of things, including our plans for the future. Both Tim and Charlie were adamant that we shouldn't try to solve that mystery too quickly. "Take your time," said Tim. "You've been apart at different schools for four years. You need to grow into each other. The question of a career will settle itself in good time."

Sometime during the evening Charlie asked, "Who's going to marry the two of you?"

"We aren't certain. Do you have a suggestion?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. That's what prompted me to ask the question. The commitment service that Tim and I had was led by a Rev. Millister. We've kept in touch from time to time, and he retired this past June. I'm sure that he'd love an invitation to come to Grand Forks and marry you two. And you'll reallly like him."

Both Louise and I liked the idea. We called him the next day, told him who we were, and invited him to come ot Grand Forks to marry us. He well remembered Tim and Charlie and our parents as well. (For public consumption Louise only had one father, Jim.) All was arranged.

All was in place. The whole Gang were present, as were all of the COGs. Most of Tim and Charlie's sailing team had to head to their next venue, Los Angeles, but the two COGs, Auggie and Perry, came and they brought Lynn and Norman. I was meeting Norman for the first time, and I was delighted to get to know him. Louise invited a number of her close school friends and I invited three of my very close baseball buddies. We could've housed them at The Hideout, but we really didn't want them around on our honeymoon night. So they stayed with my folks, and, believe me, they were thrilled to be able to head back home and say that their host had been the great marathoner, Hal Bruder. It can be sobering to a good college athlete–as I was, or had been, I had to get used to the tense–to realize that his father was much better known, and that he'd accomplished much more as an athlete than the college student had. That was certainly Hal.

The wedding came off without a hitch. I had a collective "best man" in that my dad and seven uncles stood up with me. Standing with Louise was her mom and all of the other spouses of our uncles. That put Phil with all of the women, and I think he loved it. With his height, he really stood out.

OK, now I have to answer the inevitable question about the honeymoon night. "Am I sorry that I didn't wait to fuck Louise? What made the wedding night special after that grand fuck in Denver?"

The first of those questions is easy to answer: No, neither Louise nor I are sorry that we had that grand fuck in Denver. We wouldn't trade those two days for anything. As for the second question, what made the wedding night special. Nothing, physically. But being married is special, and we'd lived in one of the smaller bedrooms in The Hideout until our wedding night. Then we moved into the master bedroom–that was deliberately done to make the night special. But, ultimately, what was special was that I could call Louise my wife and she could call me her husband. It felt good, and right. And the fuck was almost as good as the one in Denver–but first times are hard to top!

I'd love to tell you that the next thing that happened to me was all my own doing, but I know it wasn't. Tim had whispered the right thing in the ear of the right persons. But I got a call from the USOC, the United States Olympic Committee. They'd had a resignation, and needed someone, on very short notice, to be their liaison with the United States affiliates of the international sports federations that are responsible for the individual sports competitions that make up the Olympics. They wanted a commitment that would extend through the Sydney games, and they wanted to interview me the next day in Colorado Springs, and if all went well, they'd like me to walk out of the interview and go to work.

I didn't like the idea of living or working in Colorado Springs, but I decided to interview in spite of that. Louise thought it was a great opportunity, and was quite willing to move to Colorado Springs for a couple of years–until we moved on after the Sydney Games. It turned out that the job involved a tremendous amount of travel, and that I could base myself in Grand Forks almost as easily as Colorado, as long as I was willing to put up with the less user-friendly flight connections of either Grand Forks or Fargo as opposed to Denver. The USOC was delighted to add to its staff a solid athlete, with great connections to a long list of Olympic medalists, especially including Tim, Charlie and my father. I was offered the job and accepted immediately. They had me stay in Colorado Springs for a week of orientation, meeting their staff and learning what my job would entail. Then it was back to Grand Forks to get ready for a trip to visit the main office of each of the US affiliates of the Olympic international sports federations. The offices were spread all over the country, and it would take me more than two months to visit them all and have enough time at each to get to know the people that I'd be working with and discuss specific issues relating to the forthcoming Olympics. It would be at our expense, but Louise would travel with me, and it would make a spectacular honeymoon trip in addition to a business trip.

When Fred heard about my new job, and the planned trip, he immediately offered Louise a job as the Fred's Sports liaison to the same United States sports federations. As Fred's Sport become a bigger and bigger force in sports equipment, he recognized the need to maintain contact with the big sports federations. This was a match made in heaven for both Fred and Louise. I contacted the USOC to make sure that they didn't see any conflict of interest in Louise taking that job, and they were quite understanding. They had no objection and saw no conflict of interest.

Our first visit was with USA Canoe/Kayak in Charlotte, North Carolina. We spent three days there, most of the time with Louise meeting with one group of USA Canoe/Kayak staffers and me meeting with another. But there was some overlap, and we found that it was helpful for the entire group to assemble, often over lunch.

The one similarity of our tasks is that we both had a certain amount of money to dole out. Louise had the authority to recommend the distribution of the Fred's Sports Olympic sponsorship money. Part of my job was to authorize and transmit money from the USOC to sponsor various Olympic training programs. In my case, I was simply putting a final approval on previously authorized distributions. Louise was charged with looking for needs and seeing how Fred's Sports could wisely distribute sponsorship money. It had the effect that we were both very welcome guests.

Our time from then until the Olympics convinced us that we'd like to remain employed somewhere in the athletic world, but at that stage we had no idea where. We hoped that something might turn up before the Olympics ended in Sydney.

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