Finding Tim

by Charlie

Episode 181 - Milt

Hi. My name's Milt, and I'm writing this episode in December, 2012, as I sit at my desk at Grand Dakota Autographs, Inc. in Grand Forks. I'm happily married, the father of twin girls, and successful in my business. You last heard about me from Charlie in the last episode. He told you that I was dating a few girls, but nothing serious. I was in high school (eleventh grade), age 16, had my driver's license, was blessed with a powerful libido which Max and other COGs help keep under control, and was partners with Max in The Business, Grand Dakota Autographs, Inc. The task Charlie has set before me is to tell the story of my life between the ages of sixteen and twenty-seven, my age right now.

In tenth grade I dated a number of girls, usually taking them to a movie, or one of our school dances. They were pretty mundane dates, and that reflected both my then interest in dating and my opinion of most of the girls I dated. Don't get me wrong, they were all nice girls, and I liked them; but really exciting they were not. Well, maybe Vivian Fowler was an exception. I must've thought so, because after taking Viv to a movie one Friday evening, I invited her to go to the Spring Fling about a month later. The Spring Fling was the all-school dance held each spring, it was second only to the Senior Prom, to which us lowly tenth graders were not invited. I remember that she danced well, and carried on a fairly stimulating conversation when we went for pizza after the dance–going for pizza was the standard way almost every high school date ended–at Red River High School at least. I think I asked her out again before the end of the year, but her calendar never matched mine, and that seemed to end it.

Max and I spent most of our summers working on The Business. Our biggest problem in the autograph business was getting stock. Before Max was able to drive, that meant getting one of our parents, or a friendly COG, to drive us to sales, auctions, and paper dealers. We could also buy on-line, but that meant paying the price (usually with a dealer discount) for a catalogued autograph, rather than buying boxes and piles in bulk and sorting them. However, in our early years we made most of our money by fulfilling specific requests from collectors by combing catalogues and on-line sales for particular requested items.

Once Max turned sixteen and could drive, we roamed much of eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota–even roaming into Canada, checking out auctions, sales, and the like. We bought piles of paper, rooted out autographs (think checks, letters, bills of sale, certificates, diplomas, as well as all of the assorted things that people thrust in front of celebrities to sign), and often could pay for the whole purchase by sorting out the collectible paper that did not contain autographs and selling it to other paper dealers. We slowly amassed a huge inventory of autograhs which we carefully catalogued in our computer. These efforts took most of our time during the summer. The rest of the year our time with The Business was mostly spent in the selling aspect of the job.

Besides, Viv spent most of the summer with her grandparents in western North Dakota and wouldn't have been available for a date had I wanted to ask her.

Fall of my junior year came around, and the other kids were dating, as was Max who was now a freshman at UND, but living at home. I guess I should back up and explain that Max and I had talked quite a bit about college, deciding that we wanted to go to UND, if only so that we could keep The Business going. But we liked being near the other COGs, most of whom had gone or were going to UND. However, we both decided that we preferred to live at home. Well, it would've been hard to run The Business from a dorm room, but we also found our three room suite at home, furnished just the way we liked it, was much more comfortable than sharing a dorm room–even with each other which we could've done for two of our four years. Besides, we had a very comfortable relationship with our parents, Merle and Tina, and did not feel the desire expressed by many of our contemporaries to get "out of the house"–usually said with an expletive that would have to be deleted around their parents.

Once Max learned to drive we had double dated some, but that fell off once I got my license. (The Business had enabled both of us to buy decent used cars once we got our licenses.) But early in my Junior year, September 2001 to be specific, Max asked me if there was a girl I'd like to take to the big pep rally scheduled for the Friday evening before the first UND home football game. It seems that the first two games of the year were away, and Jumper's team had won them both. After the second win a reporter for the Dakota Student had asked Jumper if he thought this might be the beginning of another winning streak. The previous year had ended with three wins in a row (however, it'd been an 8 and 2 season without post-season play), and the two wins this year would make five in a row. Jumper had replied, rather pensively, "Another streak? That would be fun. Jackson is one of the best quarterbacks I've had for some time. Yeah, let's win 'em all this year." That got around campus before it even got into print in the Student. By the end of the week there were plans for a huge bonfire and pep rally on Friday night before the game on Saturday. Max, who was not particularly a football fan was going with Sandy, a girl he'd dated only once before, and he invited me to come with them with a date of my own. I immediately thought of Viv; she said, "Yes;" and it was settled.

The rally was set for 7:30, so I picked Viv up at 5:30 in time to meet Max and Sandy at Jerry's for dinner. Viv had never been to Jerry's, and her first comment was, "Well, this is certainly a step up from pizza. It's wonderful." Sandy seemed equally impressed, and the four of us had a good meal, a good time, and got to know each other pretty well.

The pep rally was a hoot. The number 16 was plastered everywhere; most importantly on a little patch on the sleeve of every player's jersey. A little math (three games last year, ten regular season games this year, three post-season games) and it was clear that Jumper was setting his sights on another Division II national championship–a title UND had not held since the days of the original streaks. From the noise and excitement, it wasn't clear whether the crowd was wishing the team success in the next day's game, or celebrating the championship in advance. Nobody dared think that Jumper and his team weren't going to accomplish his goal. (The local newspapers, the Grand Forks Herald and the Dakota Student, agreed, but the Fargo Forum thought the boast was absurd, and the Bismarck Tribune suggested that Jumper's ego was jumping a little too much.) The Student quoted President Tim as saying at the pep rally, "Those who don't take Jumper and his team seriously, do so at their own peril. If Jumper predicts 16, then we can expect a pretty big celebration on this campus just before Christmas vacation. We'd better get ready." Pep rallies don't last forever: the cheerleaders cheered; the band played; a few of the football players spoke (and were clearly quite startled by Jumper's prediction); Tim bounced and spoke; and Jumper quite calmly said, "Best team we've had in years. And they act like a team. They love and support each other, which you all know is Tim's formula for success. It's mine, too. Tomorrow we face the Grizzlies of the University of Montana. Sorry, Grizzlies, it's all over but the shouting."

That was pretty much true of the pep rally as well. Max turned to the group as we got ready to leave and said, "Shall we head over to The Hideout and see who's there? I'll bet somebody is."

I said, "Sure," and Viv asked, "What's The Hideout?"

Max answered, "A fun place. We'll try to explain in the car. We'll walk over to my car and head to The Hideout. Milt, we'll take you two back to your car later."

As we walked and drove Max explained to both Viv and Sandy, "You know that Milt and I grew up with a very close bunch of friends. Well, all of our parents are close friends as well, and their group includes Tim and Charlie. Since Tim and Charlie live in Dakota House, they made their own home available to their friends and their children. So Milt and I've been playing in The Hideout for years. Now it's more just sitting around and visiting than playing. Who knows who's there tonight or what they'll be doing."

The Hideout was dark; nobody was there. I let myself and the two girls in the back door at The Hideout, while Max went next door to The Roundhouse to see who might join us at The Hideout. Toppy and Murray as well as Margie, Arnie, and Fyn, along with their two daughters, Natalie and Jocey (ages 11 and 10) all decided that there wasn't much going on at The Roundhouse, they'd come over to the The Hideout. I couldn't help but wonder about Viv and Sandy's reaction to the Circle. Except for the three-way, they were all gay, and the three-way was an even stranger relationship. I knew also that Margie, Arnie, and Fyn were no longer keeping their relationship a secret; they'd decided to let it all hang out and not worry about what people thought.

The girls and I turned on the downstairs lights at The Hideout while I showed them around. We ended up in the huge kitchen, and I checked the refrigerator for something to drink. I knew there'd be no alcohol, and didn't want any. I expected, and found, Cokes and other soft drinks. There was tea, coffee, cocoa, and lemonade powder in the cupboards. The girls asked for Diet Cokes and I took a Coke. About then Max and the group from The Roundhouse arrived with a gallon of cider, and most of them, including little Jocey and Natalie, had cider.

The little girls headed to the basement where they knew there were interesting toys. The rest of us headed for the living room where we sat and talked, first about the pep rally and the football team, then about college, and then a whole variety of topics. We were soon joined by Nate and Pat who'd been at the pep rally and had stayed and spent some time talking with Jumper. Nate said, "Jumper says that Jackson Henning, his quarterback, is as good as any he's ever had, maybe better."

Toppy said, "You're the best he's ever had; does he think that Jackson is better than the great Nate?"

Nate said, "I'm not going there, but I've been invited to join them at lunch one day this week. I'm glad to hear that the lunch tradition continues."

Pat said, "Jumper's the same old guy. And the team seems to be as much in love with him as we were. I asked one of the players if he still leads them running around the track, and the kid told me that none of them can keep up with him."

At this point Viv, who was sitting next to me on the couch, turned to Nate and asked, "Are you the famous quarterback, Nate Hallan, that led the Sioux to all those victories?"

"Found out! Well, I have to admit I'm the guy."

"My mother will be so jealous. She and my dad moved here in 1981, and they watched all of your home games for three years. She had the biggest long-distance crush on you. She's told me about that undefeated football team many times."

Nate answered, "Oh man, another adoring female who'd be so crushed to know I'm gay."

"Oh, my mom wouldn't. She knows you're gay, but she says that since her crush on you is one-sided she's entitled to ignore your being gay."

"What did your father think of that?"

"Oh, he still thinks it's very funny. My parents aren't perfect, but they have a solid marriage.

Max said, "You have most interesting parents. It wouldn't bother them that most of the people here are gay? Actually I think all of us are bi-."

I wasn't sure that I really wanted that much on the table so quickly, but Max had a way to letting it all hang out.

Viv said, "I learn more and more about you Milt, and you become all the more intriguing."

I looked over at Sandy, and it was quite clear that her reaction was just the opposite, but she didn't say anything.

Nate looked at his watch and said, "Wow, it's almost eleven. Let me make a suggestion. Milt, why don't you and I both take Viv home tonight? Viv, will your folks be up? If so, you can show off your double date with your mother's old flame."

Viv lit up like a Christmas tree. "Would you do that? Mom and Dad would both love to meet you. My mom will be flustered, and Dad will get a real kick out of watching."

Max drove us to my car, and Nate, Pat, and I all drove Viv home. We took her up to the door, and she opened it and called out, "Mom, Dad, I'm home. And I have someone here that you'd like to meet."

Her parents came out from the rear of the house, and her mother said, "Are you going to introduce us to Milt? We'd love to meet him." Then she noticed that there were three men standing in her living room. She looked a little confused, and then she recognized Nate. "You're Nate...Hallam...the quarterback. What on earth are you doing in my living room. Viv, who, what...?"

Nate stepped up and said, "We dropped by the party where Milt and Viv were this evening. We all got to talking and she said that she thought you'd like to meet me. You know, twenty years after I last scored a touchdown, it's kind of nice to know that somebody actually remembers me. So I asked Milt if Pat and I could help him bring Viv home this evening."

Viv's dad, Arthur, invited us all to sit down. He was clearly amused by his flustered wife, and did his best to get everyone to relax. Viv's mother, Helen, sat down in the chair next to Nate, got herself under control, and finally said, "You have no idea how much I admired you back when you were in college here. Arthur and I had just moved from Illinois, and decided to go to football games for weekend entertainment. After the first game, I just couldn't keep away."

"Viv told us. I love to meet fans. That's why I asked if I could come this evening." It was said as if it was his privilege to meet Helen, not the other way around. I remember thinking, "Tim isn't the only member of the Gang who knows how to say exactly the right thing at the right time."

Arthur quietly got up, headed to the kitchen, and soon returned with a big pitcher of lemonade and enough glasses for everyone. We all sat around and talked, mostly about football and what UND was like twenty years before, till it was time to go. Helen and Arthur said goodnight and headed for the kitchen. Nate and Pat headed out the front door, leaving Viv and me alone in the living room. They'd all known that we'd like a few minutes alone. She kissed me on the cheek quite eagerly, and said, "Milt, this's been the most fabulous evening of my life. You're the most exciting boy I've ever met."

"Viv, it's been a wonderful evening. Let's have a lot more." Then I kissed her for the first time–on the lips, of course. I headed out the door and met Pat and Nate on the front stoop. Pat said, "Well, guy, you've got quite a girl there. And Nate hasn't had that kind of an ego trip in years. What a night!"

I took Nate and Pat home and then drove to my house. Max was there ahead of me, waiting in our playroom. The room had changed its function over the years, but we still called it the playroom. He said, "Wow, did those two girls ever have different reactions to my saying we were all bi–."

"I wasn't sure that was the wisest thing to say in a group like that."

"Oh, I think it was. You found out that Viv is really a nice girl, and quite open-minded–the only kind of girl you'd want. I found out that Sandy is a nice girl, but quite closed-minded. Just the kind of girl I need to drop. And she was equally eager to drop me. With one comment I avoided a month of beating around the bush while we tried to figure each other out."

"It could've backfired."

"How? The girls were either going to be shocked or be cool about it. One was shocked, and one was cool. You got lucky. Yeah, sure, one or both of them could've put on a scene, but the Circle could've handled that."

"OK, Max, maybe it was a good idea. But maybe you'll give me a clue in advance."

"I would have, brother, but I didn't see it coming. The time just seemed right."

"Watching Sandy's reaction was kind of funny. What's she going to tell her friends?"

"I doubt much of anything. You can just hear her telling her roommate that she dropped her date because he was bi-, and the roommate saying, 'You mean you dropped him because you couldn't compete with some hunk of a football player!' I don't think so."

The next morning I called Tim and asked if it was possible to get good seats for the football game. He responded, "You called just the right person, as you knew you had. After last night, Charlie and I'll be down on the sidelines, right behind Jumper. Want to join us?"

"You're kidding, right? You can't have a crowd down there."

"You're right that I can't have a crowd, but wrong that I'm kidding. Four isn't a crowd. There are about eight chairs there. One is reserved for a conference official, although it's seldom occupied. One is for the supervisor of referees, but he's seldom in it; he spends his time up in the booth. Charlie and I take up two chairs, you and Viv can have two. I'm not singling you out; nobody else has asked."

I called Viv and invited her to the football game, not telling here where we were going to sit. We parked at The Hideout, walked to the stadium, and–following Tim's instructions–showed our "field passes" (we didn't have tickets as such) at the gate. We went to the front row and again showed our passes at the little gate that led down onto the side of the field. There were Tim and Charlie in seats behind the players' bench. We joined them to watch a football game from an entirely new perspective. After the pep rally the night before, and Jumper's calm assurance that he had a national champion team, the team played up to expectations. It wasn't a rout, but 31 to 17 is a pretty solid win. Every touchdown, every great play, Jumper leaped up and earned his nickname again.

Jumper and the entire team left immediately at half-time, and the game was ready to start when they came back. But at the end of the game there was no hurrying off. Instead Jumper began by walking over and talking to the opposing coach, talking to some of their players before they left the field. Then Jumper came back to our side of the field, spoke to a number of his players, and then he and Jackson came over to talk to Tim and Charlie. Tim introduced Viv and me to Jumper and Jackson, but quickly congratulated them and sent them back to the rest of the team which was now moving toward the locker room. Viv turned to me and said, "Milt, how on earth did you ever arrange this, it's been fabulous." Hey, isn't that exactly what any guy wants to hear after a date with a wonderful girl. And I was beginning to figure out that Viv really was a wonderful girl!

I asked Viv if she'd like to go eat somewhere, and she replied, "Can we go get pizza? I want to meet some of the school gang and get asked what I did this afternoon! Oh, Milt, I'm just walking on air."

At the pizza parlor we sat waiting for our order and a few of our classmates walked in. Someone spotted Viv and came over, asking, "Viv, I saw you down on the team bench. How on earth did you get there?"

She said, "Well, we weren't on the team bench, just behind it. We were guests of President Tim."

"Do you know Tim?"

"I didn't; I just met him today. But Milt knows him. He got us the invitation."

You can probably fill in most of the teen chatter that followed that comment. Let's just say that Viv and I were the center of attention for much of that late afternoon. All good things come to an end, and it was soon time to drive Viv home. On the way she asked, "Is life with you always this exciting?"

"Sure." I had my nerve, but I was beginning to realize that the life I led inside the Gang, especially when you factored in "The Business," was dramatically more exciting than the life of most teenagers. Heck, skipping school and going to the Olympics with the Gang every two years was pretty exciting all by itself–though I didn't know how that could translate to excitement on a date.

Our next date, a double date with Bud and Jennie, was no exception. Aside from Max, Jennie was the only COG currently a student at UND. Perry was supposed to be, but he was so involved in Norman's new business venture with Fred's Sports that he'd put off going to college. Bud had graduated but still lived at home with his parents, Hal and Sue, and Jennie was living in a dorm at the university. On top of this they were slowly developing their computer service and web design business. For the business they had a little office in an office park at the edge of town. Jennie was a junior and would join Bud in the business full time as soon as she graduated.

Viv, a high school junior, was a little surprised to be double dating with a college graduate and college junior. Bud, sensing her surprise, told her, "Viv, you have to understand Milt. He grew up with a bunch of us, all children of a very close group of friends, that did an awful lot of things together. Milt was the youngest, so he was playing with, and getting along with, much older kids all his life. He could hold his own with teenagers when he was seven or eight. Going on a date with us now is completely normal to him. I'll bet it never even occurred to him that you might think going on a double date with us was strange."

I had to admit, "I didn't even think about it."

Viv responded, "Hey, I'm just along for the ride, and it looks like it might be a kind of fun ride. Milt said, 'Dinner and a movie.' So where are we eating dinner?"

I asked, "Is there some place you'd like to go?"

"I'm just along for the ride, remember. Where are we eating?"

Bud said, "Steaks at the Dakota Steak House. We got paid for a big job today and I'm feeling extravagant; dinner's on Jennie and me."

We headed there, started our meal with shrimp cocktail (at Bud's insistence), followed that with excellent steaks, and lingered over dessert and iced tea. We easily missed the movie start, and all agreed that sitting and talking was better than a movie. However, we couldn't hold the table forever, and I suggested that we all go back to my house and continue the conversation. Frankly, that was a very calculated invitation. I was hesitant to invite Viv back alone, because the only rooms of interest for her in the house were the playroom and Max's and my bedrooms. Well, I was uncomfortable inviting her to my bedroom. But, with Bud and Jennie along, I figured that all would work out.

Max was home and greeted us at the door of the playroom. Viv was utterly fascinated by our three-room suite. Certainly the thing in the playroom that fascinated Viv the most was our accumulation of Lego blocks. We'd collected a huge pile of Lego blocks, buying them at stores, but more often at flea markets and yard sales as we visited them for The Business. We grew frustrated over the years by the fact that Lego had moved away from being a building block toy with mainly standard blocks, to being a purveyor of kits with a lot of specialized blocks that could only be used to build one thing. For several years we'd rarely bought new Lego pieces, preferring to collect the older standard pieces that could be used to build huge models. At the time that Viv visited we had a reproduction of the Empire State Building standing in the corner of the room, reaching almost to the ceiling. We'd had to admit that it'd been built at least two years before; as we'd gotten older we played less and less with Lego blocks, though we still considered ourselves Lego enthusiasts.

Viv fooled me completely. "Oh, that's the most spectacular set of Lego I've ever seen. The Empire State Building is wonderful. I'd love to have a chance to build something with that set of blocks."

Max said, "Well, not tonight, but come over with Milt anytime. We can take down the old Empire State–it's been around long enough. We have plenty of photographs of it.

I said, "I think we even have a painting that Dad painted of the two of us standing beside it."

Viv said, "I'd love to see that."

I said, "Well, it has to be up in Dad's studio, I'm sure he'd be glad to show it to you."

In fact, Dad was delighted to show off not only that painting, but his studio and several other of his paintings, including a couple in progress. Then he shooed us out and returned to his work, while we returned to the playroom and the tour of our suite.

Max showed off his room first, with the pictures of Bill Haley and Janis Joplin exposed, and the bookcase closed and locked.

Viv couldn't resist the big gong in the corner of my bedroom. She walked over, picked up the mallet, asked, "May I?" and hardly waiting for the, "Yes," answer she was sure would come, struck the gong a mightly blow. It made a mighty noise, and all of us burst out laughing. That, evoked a second strike with the mallet which induced more laughter, more gongs.... Well, you get the picture. Eventually Viv was laughing as much as the rest of us, and stopped hitting the damn gong.

I couldn't help but think to myself, "I like this girl, and is she ever going to fit into the Gang."

We ended up in Max's room, playing four-handed Hex. A Hex board is a parallelogram made up of little hexagons. The playing tokens are little hexagons in each of two colors that fit onto the hexagons on the playing board. Two players play alternately, anywhere on the board. The first one to build a continuous trail from one side of the board to the opposite side is the winner. Four handed is played in teams of two, and play moves around the table. It's not permitted for the two players on a team to discuss strategy–all must try to figure out what their partners are planning as well as what their opponents are independently planning. It's a good game, easy to teach and learn, and we enjoyed playing for about an hour. That pretty much killed the evening, and it was time to drive Viv and the others home.

One the way home Viv asked Bud, "Bud, did I hear your last name was Bruder? Are you related to Hal Bruder, the runner?"

"He's my dad."

"Oh, my God. Milt, how many famous people do you know?"

"Lots and lots. Enough to spring a new one on you for a lot of dates."

Bud said, "I'd invite you in to meet Dad, but he's almost certainly gone to bed. He gets up and runs early every morning. But next time we'll invite Dad and Mom to come along with us for the evening. Or, they'd be willing to take you running some afternoon. Mom runs as well as Dad."

"I'd love to meet your parents, but I know I'd never keep up with their running. It's not my sport."

Bud asked, "What is your sport?"

Viv responded, "Fencing. I take fencing with Master Marc at NTAC."

Bud burst our laughing. Viv asked, "What's so funny?"

"It's such a closed circle. Nels and Mary who run NTAC are part of our tight little group. Milt, have you explained the word COG to Viv?"

"Not yet, but it's clear that I'm going to have to while I take her home tonight." I had to drive pretty slowly to cover all the territory I had to cover in that conversation.

Knowing from our dancing at the Spring Fling the previous year that Viv was a very good dancer, I invited her to go to the Starblazer Ballroom in Fargo one Saturday evening. I didn't tell her in advance, but I also invited Charlie and Melanie to join us–another double date. By now Viv was getting used to me and the Gang, and while she was really excited to be going off with Charlie, she wasn't as surprised as she'd been on previous dates.

She did ask where Tim was, and was told that he wasn't that interested in dancing, that Charlie and Melanie were the super dancers, and that Tim and Curtis would have a pleasant evening together. We didn't tell her that Tim and Curtis'd invited Toppy and Murray to join them at Dakota House for the evening, and that their agenda for the evening certainly wasn't printable in the newspaper.

Our agenda was dance, dance, dance. We had the kind of evening that Charlie and Melanie had envisioned when they first went to the Starblazer–very casual dancing to all kinds of music: from the waltz to the tango, to the twist. Viv and I were pretty good dancers, but we knew nothing of the tango. It was more fun to watch Charlie and Melanie tango that it ever would've been to try to learn it. They were really good, and before long the MC of the evening came over and asked if they'd give a solo performance. Just then he recognized them from their photograph on the ballroom foyer wall as the spectacular pair from almost twenty years before who'd dazzled everyone in Vienna and put the Starblazer on the international map. They were invited to both tango and waltz, and though they protested that they weren't in practice, they managed to once again dazzle an audience dancing to The Blue Danube. Viv was completely impressed, squeezing me again and again as we watched them dance. I danced with Melanie and Viv danced with Charlie, and I know that that, not dancing with little old Milt, was the highlight of her evening. I bathed in reflected glory, and also enjoyed whirling around the floor with Melanie. As we danced a slow dance together she pressed her body very tight against mine, wiggled a little to arouse me, and whispered in my ear, "Are you and Viv at that stage yet. She really is a nice girl."

My answer was, "I think pretty soon."

It came sooner that I expected. Viv was joining me after school as we worked on building a model of Red River High School out of Lego blocks. It'd started with a photo expedition around the school to capture a good record of the school to make the model. It took a couple of false starts to get the scale right, but eventually the model began to take shape. One afternoon, after adding a couple of blocks, Viv sat down in a chair and motioned for me to do the same. She said, "Let's talk a little, OK?"

"Sure, what's on your mind?"

"I'm not sure where to start, but let me ask you a question. Is there a reason that you haven't made any physical moves on me? You haven't tried to feel me up, rub my breasts, or do anything except kiss me. You are, by the way, a most spectacular kisser. But I get the impression that the Gang and the COGs are a sexier bunch than you have so far proven to be. And certainly all the other boys at school would, by this time, have at least tried to get into my pants."

"It's not that I haven't dreamed about it, or thought seriously about it. But I respect you, and didn't want to push you where you didn't want to be pushed. We're in high school, in many people's minds that too soon for sex."

"Is that what you think, that we're too young for sex?"

"No, but I don't know what you, or your parents, would think, and I didn't want to push."

"Oh, Milt, maybe it's time to push a little."

"We have a rule in the Gang. Well, as you know, I'm not formally a member of the Gang yet, I'm just a COG. But the rule applies."

"What rule?"

"Talk first. As it's been put to me, 'If you can't talk about it, you shouldn't be doing it. If you can't deal with words like fuck, cunt, dick, and clit, you shouldn't be doing or touching them.' That's putting it rather crudely, but if we're going to talk, we need to be comfortable with both those words and those thoughts."

"Are you comfortable using those words with a girl? I'm sure you use them with other boys."

"I guess it's time for true confessions."

"What am I getting myself into? What on earth are we talking about confessing?"

"You need to know a little about my sexual history. I'm not a clean slate. We've talked about the COGs. Well, where there are COGs, there's sex, and usually quite a bit of it. For me it started on a trip the younger COGs took when I was eight years old. Tim and Charlie had taken the older COGs on a grand tour of the west, and somewhat later they took the younger COGs on the same trip. All of us kids played strip poker every night, and that led to various sex games. Max and I had played some before the trip, but that trip was really the beginning. I've been involved in some way with most of the younger COGs ever since, the boys and the girls."

"And with Max?"

"Definitely with Max."

"Max wasn't being funny on that first double date when he talked about you all being bi-, was he?"

"Not in the least."

"So are you telling me that you have other sexual outlets, and that may be why you weren't so eager to get into my pants?"

"I don't think I'd put it quite that way. Any boy can take care of his own needs by masturbating. If he pushes a girl it's because he wants sex, not because he needs it. If he pushes hard, then he's putting himself ahead of the girl. It's supposed to work the other way around."

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

"Of course. Let me be clear, here. My needs are much more likely to be met in bed with Max than masturbating by myself. Max and I sleep together many nights, perhaps most nights."

"How do I fit in here?"

"That's up to you. You and I have never made any kind of commitment to each other. We've enjoyed dating. It looks like it may be that we enjoy some level of sexual relationship. As we move toward some level of commitment, we need to discuss the implications of that. Does it mean that I never have sex with anybody else? I don't know. We need to explore that. Remember the rule, talk first."

"OK, let's talk. It's clear that you've frequently seen girls naked. I've never seen a naked boy. I've seen pictures of penises, but never actually seen one."

"Not your father's?"

"Never. And I don't think he's seen me since I was a very little girl. Something tells me that isn't the case in your family."

"You're certainly right about that. OK, let me get this started. Am I to conclude that you'd like to see me naked?"

"Oh, God, yes, Milt. But that really isn't fair to ask that of you."

I stood up, started unbuttoning my shirt, and replied, "Why not? It's no big deal."

"It's a big deal for me."

By this time I was down to my Jockeys, and I said to Viv, "Are you ready for this?"

"I think so. Yeah, sure. Go ahead. Please."

I stripped off my underwear and stood before her, completely naked, but still flaccid. I told her, "Penises get erect when aroused. If you want to arouse that thing, you need to handle it, rub it, tickle it, or all three."

She was very hesitant, but touched me gently, and then wrapped her hand around me and squeezed. I quickly got hard, and that seemed to put her off, as she let go. I said, "You won't hurt it; it feels good; go ahead."

She squeezed a little more, but was clearly reluctant to do more. She let go, backed away a little and said, "I guess I should take off my clothes so you can see me."

"Not unless you want to, and it doesn't look to me like you do. Remember, I've seen a naked girl."

"You're aroused, all hard. Won't it bother you not to have a–what, orgasm, climax?"

"There are lots of words. Max and I usually talk about shooting, but I don't think that's part of the dictionary definition of the word. Orgasm is a good word. And if I don't have an orgasm with you now, I will tonight, either by myself or with Max. Can I ask you something?"

"After all you have shared with me, a question seems fair."

"Do you masturbate?"

"Yes."

"How often?"

"Not every day, but several times a week."

"In bed, at night?"

"I usually do it in the shower."

"Can I get real personal?"

"What do you call the conversation we just had? But go ahead, get real personal?"

"When you masturbate, do you rub your clitoris or put your finger into your vagina?"

"When you gave your rule about being willing to talk you were really serious, weren't you?"

"I warned you it was very personal. You don't have to answer. I pushed a little too hard. I'm sorry."

"No, no. You aren't pushing. And you warned me. But I've never talked about masturbating with anybody, not girls, not my parents, not anybody. And the answer to your question is I do both, but I have an orgasm when I rub my clitoris."

"If you've never talked about masturbation, how did you learn how to do it, and what to call it?"

"Books. There are some pretty good ones in the library. My parents encouraged me to read books. I think it saved them having to have a very embarrassing conversation. By the way, aren't you afraid that your parents'll come into your room and find you naked with a girl?"

"No. They're comfortable with the idea that I'm going to be sexually active. They trust me not to get anyone pregnant, and not to push beyond anyone's comfort zone–that's our rule. They've also mentioned the talk first rule. They know Max and I play around, and they know that Max's had girls in here and had sex with them. We don't have secrets."

"You're really special, Milt. Your whole family is. I'm not sure I fit in."

"Why on earth not?"

"I'm not sure I can keep up with you."

"If you want to keep up, want to try, then you fit in. You know, Viv, I think I'm falling in love with you."

"It's too soon to talk like that."

"Yeah, you're right. But be warned; I'm beginning to think like that."

"I think you should get dressed."

I did, and I drove her home in time for her dinner. We agreed to meet again the next day after school–to work on the Lego model. We both knew better.

When we got in the playroom the next afternoon Max was there. I was pretty sure that I knew what Viv hoped might happen, and I didn't think she wanted Max as a witness. So I suggested that we go into my room–I had something to show her. I was glad that Max refrained from asking, "What? Your dick?"

I shut the door and Viv sat down on the edge of my bed. She said, "I thought a lot last night. Thank you for letting me look at you yesterday. I'm still surprised that you were willing to strip without asking me to. Some of my girlfriends have described times with their boyfriends, and it was always, 'I'll do such and such if you will.' You weren't like that at all."

"What do you want to happen today? I'll be glad to strip again, or do anything with you that you'd like. You're in charge."

"I'm embarrassed to ask this. You talked yesterday about masturbating. Could I watch you?"

"Sure. You can help if you want."

"I think I'd just like to watch."

I stripped off my clothes, lay down on the bed, and began to jack myself off. Viv was sitting on the side of the bed just about at my hips. She watched intently. I was getting pretty aroused and not far from a climax, when she said, "You'd really like me to help you with that, wouldn't you?"

"Not if you aren't comfortable doing it."

"I'm ready." She sort of pushed my hand aside and starting pumping her hand up and down on my dick. It felt wonderful. I realized right then–for the first time–that sex that's part of real romance is a lot better than sex for sex sake. And that's what I'd had up to this point. I came pretty quickly, and to say the least Viv wasn't ready for that–even though she certainly knew, intellectually, how it was going to end. She jerked her hand away from my dick, but then felt bad and apologized, tentatively putting her hand back and getting cum on it. I just lay back and let her make the next move. There was cum all over my stomach and up to my chest. She slowly moved her hand up my body, rubbing it in my cum. Then she really surprised my by taking her finger, putting it in her mouth, and tasting the cum. She licked a little more off of her finger, but then stopped. She asked, "How do you clean up?"

I use my underwear pants, and then put on a clean pair. She picked up my pants from the floor, very carefully wiped the cum off my dick and the rest of my body and asked, "Where do I put these?"

"In the laundry hamper."

"Where are your clean pants?"

"In that drawer." She went over, took out a pair, rubbed them on her check, and then tossed them to me. "Here you go."

As I put on the clean Jockeys, she asked, "Are you going to let me get away with doing that, and not taking my own clothes off?'

"That's up to you. I'm not going to push."

With that she pulled off her top and unhooked her bra, which fell to the floor. Her breasts were beautiful. Round, full, but not overly big. I couldn't resist cupping them in my hands. She didn't resist; rather, she put her hands on mine and drew them tighter to her. Soon we were lying on the bed, hugging and kissing–me in only my Jockey shorts and she naked above the waist. I asked, "Is this enough for one day? Do you want to push further?"

She was quiet and then said, "Both. I'd like to push further, but I think this is enough for one day. I need to think a little, at home, tonight, alone. Would that be OK with you?"

"You know it would."

"Tomorrow's Friday, and I'm expected at home right after school to go to dinner at my aunt's. Can we get together on Saturday? Could you pick me up around eleven–to work on our Lego model."

"Saturday at eleven. For Lego. And lunch. And...."

I was there promptly at eleven. Her father met me at the door and invited me in. I'd first met him the night we brought Nate over to meet her mother. That'd been a most agreeable meeting, and I was warmly greeted by both her mother and father. Soon Viv appeared and we were ready to go. Her father spoke up before we could leave. He told us, "This must be quite a Lego model you two are building. It's sort of an unusual thing for teenagers to be doing."

"Daddy, some people make their living making Lego models."

"But most don't. Let me finish. I suspect that some other things go on over at Milton's house in the afternoon. You know, almost all parents were teenagers at one time or another; very few spring into adulthood directly from age twelve, even though their children seem to think they do. I'll admit that I was born yesterday, but neither your mother nor I are completely naive."

"Daddy!"

"Let me finish. I don't want to say that I don't care what you are doing, Vivian and Milton. I do care. But I also know that I can't control it. So let me make myself completely clear. There ... will ... be ... no ... pregnancies. Do I make myself clear?"

It was all I could do to keep myself from laughing. We were so far away from getting Viv pregnant, and I knew that would continue, I wasn't worried. But I realized seriousness was called for, and I replied, "Sir, I can assure you that we aren't doing anything that could make Viv pregnant, and we won't. You have my word."

"Daddy, don't you trust us?"

I decided that I needed to field the answer to that one. "Viv, you've got it wrong. He is saying that he trusts us. Otherwise he wouldn't let us walk out of here together. But he's saying we are at a potentially dangerous point in our lives, and there are very serious consequences of mistakes. He's trusting us not to make them."

Arthur looked positively relieved by that comment. He said, "Exactly."

I said, "Mr. Fowler, most parents are unwilling to have this conversation with their children, and especially with their children's boyfriends or girlfriends. Believe me, I've had it with my parents, and you can be assured that I will not get your daughter pregnant."

Helen had been listening to all of this and had been very uncomfortable at the beginning of the conversation. Now she said, "Thank goodness that went well. Arthur and I both thought we needed to say something. Arthur, I think this young man handled the whole thing better than either of us." She turned to me, "I don't know how you handled that with the calm and maturity that you did, Milt."

Viv, who was totally shocked by the entire conversation, finally came around and said, "See, Mom, I told you that I was dating a most extraordinary boy."

"Yes, you did. And it seems you are."

Viv took a slight pause in the conversation as the opportunity to leave. She grabbed me by the hand and pulled me toward the door. Her mother asked, "When'll you be back?"

I said, "I was hoping we could have both lunch and dinner together. We'll do something this evening, maybe a movie if Viv would like."

Her father said, "Curfew is midnight."

"Bye, Mom. Bye Dad."

She was silent in the car for a while and then said, "I can't believe that conversation. I was so embarrassed. Do you believe Daddy said that?"

"Sure. If more parents could have conversations like that, there would be many fewer pregnancies and abortions. Of course, he should've been having conversations like that with you for the last ten years. But better late than never."

"But to start with you present?"

"Hey, if you are going to get pregnant, there has to be a boy involved. So you need to talk to the boy as well as the girl."

"Well, just how close to getting me pregnant are you hoping to get today?"

"That's entirely up to you."

"OK. Here's the deal. I thought a lot last night, and I don't want to talk about it anymore. I know you like to talk first, but that's a pain. When we get to your room I want you to take your clothes off, then take mine off, and then do whatever you like with me. Don't talk. Don't ask. I'm giving you permission right now. I know you won't hurt me, and I know you won't get me pregnant. So you can do whatever you want to. But don't talk about it. Just do it."

"OK, I get the message. Where do you want to each lunch?"

"Mickey D's; I'm in a hurry, and I think you know why."

"You are a cheap date."

"I'll make up for it at dinner."

Dear patient reader: When Charlie asked me to write this we both concluded that it would make one nice episode for his story. We discussed the rough size of an episode, and if you've been paying attention you've noticed that I've already exceeded it. So, with Charlie's permission, my tale will extend through a second episode.

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