Finding Tim

by Charlie

Episode 184

Max

This is Max's story, and my first idea was to let Max write it. He was enthusiastic about the idea, and told me a lot of the things he wanted to put in the story. But the more he thought about it, the harder it was for him to say some of the things he thought should be said. It needed the perspective of other people, and he felt that a third party could portray that better. I agreed, so I'm writing the story.

You will see that a lot of the episode is just conversations that I had with Max. I chatted with him in my office, in his office, at his home, and over a couple of restaurant meals. In this retelling of those conversations I won't be specific about the locale, and they will get shoved together as if they were a single conversation.

"Max, tell me about your relationship to Milt. It seems quite unusual."

"Milt's an incredible guy. I'll give you one funny example. He can decide when he wants to be ticklish. I'm serious. You watched us on the trip west, and you told the story. I waited most of the trip to get a chance to pay him back for his teasing me. He just lay on the floor and couldn't be tickled. Nobody could get a rise out of him. But I knew, from our fooling around at home that he's the most ticklish of kids. He can turn it on or off; I have no idea how.

"My relationship to Milt is shaped by two things. First, I didn't really consider him to be a brother. Rather he was a cousin, the child of one of my many uncles. Before the older cousins invented the term COG, we referred to them all as cousins. I thought of Milt as just one of the cousins/COGs. That helped to avoid a lot of the possible tension between brothers. But I think the main reason that we get along so well is that I listened to some advice that Dad gave me about the time I got to kindergarten or first grade. He asked me how I got along with my cousins. I told him fine. He asked, 'You're younger than most of them, right?' Well, that was obvious. He asked, 'Do they treat you like a little squirt?' That got me thinking. They really didn't. I was treated like one of the gang. Dad asked, 'Didn't being treated like that make you feel and act older?' Well, of course it did. Then his punch line, 'Well, think about that when you relate to Milt.'

"Charlie, I did think about it. And from then on I treated Milt as a friend, fully equal to me. We've been best pals, sex mates, successful business partners–though now it's his business, and now we all are housemates in our big house on the edge of town."

I said, "Obviously, I want to hear the story of how that all came to be. I understand that you were the driving force behind it. But, first, can we explore your sexuality a little. You said Milt was your sex mate."

"He sure as Hell was. Still is. Merle built the original house when Milt was very young, and we lived in that three room suite right from the beginning. I was never real happy with the idea that Milt slept in one room and I slept in the other, so I got Mom to move his crib into my room. When he grew out of the crib, his bed was in his own room, but I often just went to bed in his bed with him. If I didn't then he would likely crawl in with me. We roughhoused quite a bit, and our genitals were never off limits. It wasn't long before we figured out that playing with each other's dick and balls was really a lot of fun. We were regularly involved sexually long before puberty.

"At the same time we understood the idea that boys related to girls sexually and that is how you made babies. We never felt that the things we did together were in place of sex with girls. You know, the COGs sort of divide into two age groups with the gap between Noreen and Nettie. That was the dividing line for the two Grand Adventures, and it has more or less defined our grouping here in Grand Forks. So Milt and I are part of the younger group, which consists of Nettie, Cam, Bud, Kay, Bert, Peg, Perry, Jennie, Auggie, Shel, and, of course, Milt and me. Of course, Nettie and Perry lived in Michigan, so they weren't part of our regular group–though we always included them when they visited Grand Forks–and we included them in everything, if you know what I mean. The rest of us were spread over only five years. One year, all of us were in elementary school–Milt in Kindergarten and Cam in fifth grade, with the rest of us in between. But we were spread between two schools–Kelly and Flynn. After that we were spread out, entering middle school, high school, and college on our own schedules. Age never seemed to make much difference to any of us.

"Being the three youngest, Milt, Shel, and I, experienced sex with the other COGs slightly differently from our older cousins. The older ones had to figure out how to initiate sex with their contemporaries. Granted, the COGs had it a lot easier than their peers in school, especially their gay peers who often had to take a pretty big risk when suggesting sex to a friend. But the COGs still had to go through some kind of song and dance to initiate a sexual relationship. The two western Grand Adventures had eased this in many ways for many of the COGs. But for the three of us youngest, it was no issue at all. We knew what was going on with our elders, experimented among ourselves, and easily asked the older COGs for help and advice. Since the three of us were boys, that was where we started. But it wasn't long before we had Nettie, Kay, Peg, and Jennie involved. Except for my playing around with Milt, most of the sex involved more than two of us. Group play, was, in fact the norm. The older kids made it clear that they weren't interested in intercourse. As we grew older we realized that virtually all of the COGs believed that intercourse should be a post-high school undertaking–except for those pairs that were sure of a long term commitment before they finished high school."

I (Charlie) asked, "Max, why do you use the word intercourse instead of fucking? Surely you don't think I'd be offended by the f-word?"

"Not at all. But fucking is ambiguous. Boys can fuck boys, and they can fuck a girl in the ass. Neither of those is outside of our boundaries. Intercourse, at least to me, means fucking a girl in her vagina. That we didn't do in high school. Not much else was out of bounds."

"Were you all into S&M?"

"I don't know how to answer that. We'd tie each other up from time to time. Spanking was certainly not off limits. I can remember guys, and sometimes the girls, getting frustrated because they couldn't tickle Milt unless he decided he would be ticklish. That got his ass turned really red a few times. He didn't seem to mind that much more than being tickled. We were never in to whips or things. So I don't think that guys that are really into S&M would say that we were. But we were pretty tough kids, and could give and take a lot."

"Was this mostly at The Hideout?"

"Oh, no. Mostly at our houses. Our parents either knew, or had a pretty good idea of what was going on. But we used The Hideout as well."

"I may be venturing into never-never land here, but were any older kids or adults ever involved?"

"Only Brian. You know that he and Shel pushed the envelope quite a ways. For a while Brian would play strip Monopoly with us. If one of us would lose, he'd just watch us. If he lost, he would have to jack off, but he never let any of us touch him. One day Shel was the winner and Brian the loser and Shel made Brian jack off and eat his cum. Brian was a good sport, but that ended the strip Monopoly; through Shel, he told us that he thought things were going too far for him to be involved. Brian's an OK guy, you know."

"Yeah, I know. We all like Brian, especially Shel."

"Shel worships him."

"As I hear it, you really expanded your horizons when you turned eighteen."

"You heard right. Starting with the older set of COGs. There was a five year difference between me and Noreen, the youngest of the older COGs. That was really too much to claim that a sexual relationship was between two kids, even before she was eighteen. So as soon as I turned eighteen, when she was twenty-three, I set my sights on her. She and Kevin were in the Boston area while he was at MIT, but they were home for Christmas. I wrote to them and invited them to a night in Gangland during the forthcoming Christmas vacation. They accepted, and we had a ball that night."

"The three of you?"

"You bet. Kevin may be a stodgy old scientist, but I can assure you that he's a lot of fun in a bed. There wasn't much that he and Noreen didn't want to try."

"You make it sound like you expanded their horizons a little."

"You bet I did. Neither one of them had been fucked in the ass, but they found out that they liked it–especially Noreen. I showed Kevin how he could shove his index finger up her ass and slip his thumb in her vagina and then sort of rub them together through the thin walls of the uterine and intestinal canals. Kevin got a kick out of that, and it seemed to send Noreen through the roof. She found his prostate for the first time, as well."

"Weren't you still in high school?"

"Yeah, Viv and I were both seniors. I talked with Shel and Auggie, and we decided that within the COGs things could start while we were still in high school. For the rest of the Gang we decided that we ought to wait till after graduation."

Charlie intruding here. I'm going to put this conversation aside to report on other conversations with a number of the older women in the Gang. I started with Beverly, who was eighty as Max turned eighteen. It turned out that Max's first liaison after graduation was with Bernie and Beverly. He had called their house, and Bernie answered the phone. Max invited himself to dinner, reminding him of his recent graduation and previous birthday. Bernie's response had been enthusiastic, and dinner for the following evening was settled. Bernie had met Max at the door and invited him in. Beverly came out from the kitchen and came over to Max and hugged him, kissed him, and rubbed his groin a little. She said, "I'm really looking forward to this evening."

Bernie said, "Beverly fed me a while ago–by the way, you're going to have a wonderful dinner–and I'm headed over to spend the night with Noreen. Kevin's away at some scientific meeting this week."

Max said, "Wait a minute. I'm not here to break up a pair. Please don't leave, Bernie."

Beverly said, "Noreen would be terribly disappointed, and so would Bernie and I. Bernie's a willing gay partner, but he much prefers women. I prefer men, and I am so looking forward to getting to know you–if you get my meaning. You aren't breaking anything up, you are enabling our sexual fantasies. It's well known that I like younger men!"

They all laughed at that, and Bernie slipped out before anything else was said. By the time Max was aware of Bernie's departure, Beverly had said, "Well, get your clothes off. I want to get a really good look at you. The brief look I got when you joined the Gang was simply a temptation. Now I want the real thing."

Max had complied, and, once naked, had replied, "I was a little worried that I might be pushing it to invite myself for dinner. I wasn't expecting this enthusiasm."

"Look, Max. I'm eighty. Who know's when I'll die or be too decrepit for sex. Postponing pleasure doesn't make sense. The night you all joined the Gang I said to Bernie, 'I saw a lot of dick tonight that I'd like to have fuck me. Would that bother you?' His answer was, 'Would it bother you if I fucked a lot of the cunts that I saw tonight?' I told him, 'I think we're going to have a lot of fun in the next year or so. But save some libido for me.' His response was, 'As you know, I've got plenty of libido. And I'm well aware that you do as well.'"

The dinner, evening, and night went very well. Max insisted that Beverly dine nude as well. At Max's suggestion they put on their clothes to do the dishes together, and then he pulled Beverly into the living room and suggested that they play strip poker. It sounded very high schoolish to Beverly, and that made it quite enticing. Max's rules were that the winner of each hand got to remove a piece of clothing from the other, the piece to be specified by the one who would lose it. As Max very sensuously took off Beverly's blouse he said, "The final rule is that the first person naked is the loser and is the sex slave of the other till morning."

"Wonderful. I hope I lose." She didn't. Beverly won and very slowly pulled down Max's briefs, exposing him for the second time. She told him, "OK, slave, stand up and show off your body. Turn around slowly and let me see all of you." She ogled him for at least a half hour, tickling his balls from time to time to keep him hard. Then she had him remove the rest of her clothes. She led him upstairs and told him to explore her whole body first with his hands, then his mouth, then his dick. When all that was completed he was to ram his dick into her and fuck the living daylights out of her until she cried for help. She never did, she cried for more until he simply couldn't provide any more–he was completely, hopelessly, limp. And deliriously happy.

He told her, "That's the best sex I've ever experienced."

She said, "Don't you ever tell Bernie, but you're the most handsome guy I've ever seen, and the sex was out of this world. But, don't worry. Bernie and I have a completely open, loving, and wonderful relationship. I'll tell him exactly what I just told you, and he'll tell me all about fucking Noreen. And tomorrow night he'll fuck me, and we'll both have the best fuck of our lives. If they only knew, every couple in the Gang would envy us, and to think that they feel sorry for us for our age difference."

Max said, "Obviously, age is utterly irrelevant."

"Thank you for saying that. Believe me, those are golden words to an octogenarian."

I talked to most of the mothers of the original Gang. Max had visited them all–except Betsy his biological grandmother. They all reported wonderful sex, and great respect for them and their husbands, who generally had been part of the scene. How did they describe Max? Well, the most common word was Casanova. He was viewed as a lover extraordinaire. In addition, women considered him to be beautiful. Yes, he had a cute face, handsome if you like, but it was his body they raved about. As a gay man I was well aware of his physicality–strong, slender, no fat, well proportioned. But the women added that there was not a blemish on his skin; he was soft and smooth, while still being strong. He had little hair, and what he had was light colored and soft. Hazel spoke of him as magical. Trudi used the word mystical. But their descriptions also diverged. Some used words like kind, soft, and gentle. Others spoke of powerful, dramatic, and even brutal. He seemed to sense what a woman wanted, or listened carefully to what she said she wanted, and gave it to her. For Beverly he was brutal–her word–and she loved it. For Hazel he was gentle and she loved it.

The women of Tim's and my generation were enthusiastic about Max as well, but it was the older women who raved and raved. I asked Max about this and his answer was simply, "I guess I like older women. To be honest, Charlie, I like older women and younger men. I don't know why. I'm a little jealous of the older COGs because they have young male COGs to play with. The only COGs that're younger than me are Shel and Milt. They've been great fun over the years, but I miss having other, younger partners. Oh, well, you take what life gives you. And it's given me great pleasure with the older women in the Gang."

"Well, I can tell you that you've given them great pleasure as well."

"What about their husbands? Am I offending them, making them feel inadequate or jealous? What do you think? I have asked, but I never know whether they answer with the truth or are being polite. But they've all said they're happy for their wives and have enjoyed the sex with me."

"I'll tell you, Max. I've talked with them, and they aren't just being polite. You have to understand, age affects everyone's libido. We all slow down. Even you will. Tim and I certainly have. But we still enjoy sex to the fullest. But men, unlike women, also fall prey to a physical problem. Modern medicine calls it erectile dysfunction. We've talked about it in the Gang, and most of us agree that's a misnomer. It isn't dysfunction; it's normal. We're all at an age when reproduction is no longer needed for the species, the libido slows and the dick simply doesn't get hard like it used to. For some, that means fucking is impossible without drugs. I think a couple of the guys in the Gang are using Viagra, but most aren't. As you know, none of us have been in a sexual rut. We're into anal, oral, manual sex; all kinds. The inability to get a strong hard-on doesn't have to be limiting. Oral and manual sex still work, and fingers up the butt massaging the prostate are fantastic. Nevertheless, older men can still feel guilty that they can't get it up and fuck their partners. And then along comes this wonderful young stud, handsome as shit, and seemingly utterly desirous of older women. He's willing to fuck them to their heart's content, and it makes them very, very happy. In so doing it makes the men very, very happy, and the next sex they have with their wives is more fun than ever. Mind you, it takes the open mindedness that the Gang has instilled over the years to make this work. But, in the Gang, it works. You, Max, are a hero."

"And you can tell them all that I love it. I'm being completely selfish, but I'm delighted if that makes everyone happy. But what about Bernie, he's not that old."

"Bernie thinks you're wonderful. He's glad to have another young stud that likes older women. He's messed around with all the same women you have. He can't do that and then resent your fucking his wife. He's cool with you."

I asked Max when he lost his virginity.

"As a college freshman. There were a couple of girls that it would've been fun to fuck in high school, but I agreed with the other COGs that that was better left for after high school. One girl dropped me like a hot potato when I wouldn't fuck her. She found hand sex boring, and thought oral was disgusting, and I wouldn't fuck her. The others seemed very glad not to have to fend off a boy that only wanted to get into their pants. I think for every girl I went with in high school, my giving them oral sex was a new experience, and they seemed to love it. I did, too. But in my first year of college I started dating a girl I thought I might fall in love with. She thought The Hideout was really neat, and loved the shower. I lost my virginity on the hard shower floor, with hot water running over us from two shower heads. It was fun. I don't regret it in the least. But my next fuck was with Viv's mother Helen, with Arthur looking on. How's that for a twist?"

"I don't believe you, Max. Well, I believe you–you know what I mean."

"Does it bother you?"

"Did you really need to ask that question?"

"No, not really. The Gang has always pushed the envelope. You're cool with that, aren't you?"

"Yes, Max, I am. I've watched your generation grow, and Tim and I have even gotten vicarious thrills dreaming about what we know you're doing. When we talk about it, it can lead to our having sex–sometimes trying something new. But we've also watched you COGs adopt our rules as your rules. And, you know, the business about not fucking in high school didn't come from us, it came from the COGs. Tim didn't leave high school a virgin, nor did Tom. I'm not sure about Hal, he may have been fucking Sue while they were still in high school. No, the idea of no fucking in high school came from the COGs. It's served them well, though I think some life partnerships were sealed with a fuck before graduation!"

"Charlie, does it bother you that I seem to be happy as a single man, but still want to play the field sexually with the Gang? Sometimes it makes me feel guilty."

"You have to listen to yourself when you feel guilty. If you truly should feel guilty, then you should change your behavior. But, if after careful thought you think it's needless guilt, then you need to try to get over it. Certainly nobody in the Gang thinks you're doing anything to feel guilty about. They all seem to love having sex with you, and like the fact that you're available. I think some feel sorry for you that you haven't found a partner. Maybe it's time to be forthright about your singleness."

For my next story about Max I have to catch you up on the Gang: Viv is about a month older than Milt, so the two of them had joined the Gang together as part of Milt's eighteenth birthday in November, 2002, while they were high school seniors–they were numbers 117 and 118. As the plans for the expansion of Milt and Max's house were going forward, Max asked the Gang if he could invite Arthur and Helen to join. Merle asked him why the invitation would go through him instead of Milt or Viv, or both of them.

Max had replied, "Milt and Viv don't know all of the background, though it isn't really a secret. Believe me, Dad, I'm the authority on whether Arthur and Helen belong in the Gang, and they certainly do."

"Do Viv and Milt know about this?"

"Sure, nobody has secrets; that's the quickest way to poison any relationship. Viv had a hard time believing my story, but since I was sitting in Helen and Arthur's living room, stark naked, with the two of them present, she had to believe what she was hearing. I think she'd agree that the Gang invitation ought to come from me."

She did, and it did. Helen and Arthur felt honored, even though with the planned change in their housing situation it was pretty much assumed that they would join the Gang. We changed the venue for joining the Gang for Helen and Arthur. We waited until their house–and the offices behind–were finished, decorated, and move-in was complete. Then Max arranged a grand housewarming to which the entire Gang was invited; all showed except Frank who was cruising somewhere in the Pacific, and Jim's father, Walter. Trudi, his wife had come very briefly and reported that Walter had a splitting headache and simply couldn't get out of the recliner he had spent the night in. That worried us a little, but we didn't let it put a damper on the celebration of the day. It was a grand house and a grand party. There were no surprises about the house, because Carl had gotten the plans right the first time and it was built exactly as specified. On time and under budget, of course. But not much under budget, and just barely on time. Carl wasn't perturbed, simply noting that he never spoke about how close he might come, just that he'd hit the mark.

Sid was the MC for the joining ceremony. We hadn't been certain how comfortable Arthur and Helen would be in stripping naked, but that had become the order of the day. Max assured us that it wouldn't be a problem, and when Sid told them to take off their clothes they were ready to comply. I think Viv was more uncomfortable than they were! Sid stripped with them and got out his sketch page, furiously sketching their images. I think they were a little startled when he moved in very close to sketch their genitals, but they were good sports. He kept right on sketching as Viv put the number 119 on Helen's buns and Milt put 120 on Arthur's. Then it was Cokes all around, and the party slowly ended. Afterward, Viv asked her parents how they had been so comfortable stripping naked in front of that crowd. Arthur replied, "Max warned us, and gave us a couple of trial runs. He brought Auggie, Nettie and Shel to be an audience. We were ready. I think we may even be ready to get to know others in the Gang better."

Viv's response was, "My parents! I don't believe it."

Helen said, "Why should we leave all the fun to your generation?"

Milt said, "You shouldn't, but most people your age do."

"It's sad, isn't it?"

After the party Tim and I headed to Walter and Trudi's house and found them ready to leave for the emergency room at United Hospital. I drove their car for Trudi, and Tim followed in ours. The ER immediately sent Walter off for a cat scan. After that he was admitted and put to bed in a private room. Trudi, Tim, and I were there when the doctor came by to report that Walter had a fairly serious brain tumor. He would be consulting with other doctors, but it appeared at this stage that any kind of surgery would be very risky. They would give Walter morphine to ease his pain, and would do more tests in the morning. By then Jim had arrived, but we'd suggested that the rest of the family stay home that evening, as Walter was now sleeping and the doctor advised against disturbing him.

The next morning the entire family gathered: Trudi; Jim; Andy; Amy; Kara; Gary; Louise, Junior, and Jay, age 8; Cam and Kay; and Shel and Brian. Somehow we all crowded into Walter's room–over the protests of the doctor and a bevy of nurses, all of which were simply ignored. If you've tried ignoring nurses and doctors in a hospital, you know how difficult that can be. But Tim is a commanding presence, and the rest of the Gang can be as intimidating as any nurse. The doctor shared with Walter what he'd shared with us a few moments before. The tumor was almost certainly malignant and would be fatal unless surgically removed. The operation was extremely high risk, but the alternative was a high regimen of drugs to easy the pain, and a slow, inevitable downhill slide.

I was amazed to see Walter take command of the situation. His first question was, "How soon do you want to operate?"

"The sooner the better."

"I asked the question wrong. Can I hold off a week? How much does that increase the risk?"

"A little. But a week isn't going to make a huge difference."

"Good, I want the week. Now, this head hurts like Hell, but it isn't going to get any better. Give me the best pain killers you have, I'm going home. I'll see you in a week."

"You should stay in the hospital where we can keep watch on you."

"What part of, 'I'm going home,' didn't you understand? I don't remember phrasing it as a question. Schedule that surgery. I'll see you in a week."

The doctor backed off and said, "You need to check in the morning before your surgery. We'll need an updated cat scan, lots of tests, and we need to monitor you carefully before the surgery."

"Fair enough. I'll see you in six days. About ten in the morning, right?"

"Eight o'clock sharp."

"You drive a hard bargain. I'll see you at eight." He rose out of his bed, seemed to stagger a little with head pain, but ignored offers to help and moved to the bathroom. He came out dressed, if sloppily, and said, "We're going home. He looked at little Jay and said, "Here, Jay, give me your hand." I guarantee you there wasn't a dry eye in the room.

Tim read over this much of the episode and reminded me that my readers hadn't met Jay. Jay was the first of the grandCOGs, arriving on June 10, 1999. He was officially Harold Porter Bruder III. His grandfather was Hal; his father was Junior; he would be Jay. He was always content with that nickname, just as Junior had been with his. His mother was Louise, daughter of Jim, and granddaughter of Walter. That made Jay Walter's great-grandson.

But we must return to Walter. It was very clear that he was in terrible pain the entire week. He popped pain pills at twice the rate the doctor advised, and he had to talk the doctor out of a second prescription. He was a man on a mission–really three missions. First, he was determined to get his affairs in order. Second, he wanted to say goodbye to his family, because he was convinced he wasn't going to survive the surgery. Finally, he wanted to get to know his great-grandson more, and for his great-grandson to know him before he died. He was absolutely fearless about talking about his impending death, and woe be to anyone that used some kind of euphemism for the words die or death. Where he got his strength we never knew. Somehow he took long walks with Jay, took him to McDonald's to eat, took him to watch his grandfather Hal run early in the morning (he refused to let the activities of the world stop on his account), had a private meal at a restaurant of their choice with each member of the family–fifteen strong with Hal and Sue added to make seventeen.

The day before he went into the hospital should've killed him. He started with a McDonald's breakfast with Jay, and then lunch at Jerry's with Tim and me. He brought three bottles of Coke and we drank a toast to the Gang. That night he went to the Dakota Steak House with Trudi. He could hardly walk, but he made it. She reported that he managed to eat most of his steak, but not much else. He said, "Screw the doctors, we're going to enjoy a bottle of wine," and they did. He kissed her, and somehow managed to have very gentle sex with her that night. The next morning at six a.m. the entire Grand Forks contingent of the Gang gathered at The Hideout for breakfast which had been carried in from McDonald's at his insistence. He managed to eat half an Egg McMuffin and drink a little Coke. He hugged and kissed each of us, thanking us for our friendship. He whispered in Max's ear, "You take care of Trudi. Fuck the Hell out of her. She claims you're the best sex she's ever had." It was his last meal.

At the hospital he told the doctors that he expected them to do their best, but to take whatever risks were needed. He either wanted to be rid of the damn headaches or die. The tumor was worse than they expected, but they did their best to remove it. After about two hours on the table his heart beat its last.

Trudi was absolutely amazing. She told us, "If Walter could carry on this past week they way he did, then I can carry on this week." Jim and his family, as well as the whole Gang, were there for support. Jim's sister, Phyllis, had died suddenly a few years before–unmarried, so Jim and his family were Trudi's only family. She was a real trooper, and after the funeral and burial, the inevitable visit to Gangland with Sid–accompanied only by Jim, Louise, Andy, and Amy–she told Jim, "That was tough. But it was the end–the last hurdle. Thank God Walter and I had a happy life. I have nothing but pleasant memories. Jim, Walter and I talked a lot in this last week. He had three messages for me, which he repeated over and over. The first was that he loved me. The second was a thank you for my love of him which he never doubted. The last was very simply that I must now get on with my life. He told me–no tears in his eyes but plenty in mine: 'My life is over; yours isn't. If you love me, you'll accept that. I doubt that I'm going to be able to look down from heaven and watch you–I don't believe in that–but you must know that if I were looking down from heaven it would hurt me terribly to see you pining away for something that's gone. Please, please, get on with your life. Promise me that you will.' I did promise him, Jim. And I'm ready to keep that promise."

Jim asked, "What do you have in mind?"

"Not, 'What?' but 'Who?'"

"Shouldn't it be 'Whom?' Whom do you have in mind?"

"Max."

"Are you hoping to pull off a Bernie and Beverly?"

"I could be persuaded, but I assure you that Max isn't that stupid. No, but he seems to like older women; he isn't married or attached; and he's absolutely gorgeous and wonderful in bed."

"Wow, Max certainly has been getting around."

"Will you suggest that it's not too soon for him to call?"

"Why don't you call him yourself?"

"It'd put him on the spot. If he isn't so inclined, he can simply ignore your suggestion. If I call, it could be difficult."

Jim dropped by the office of Bruder Web Designs the next day. He chatted with Max a while, and finally Max asked, "Jim, why are you here? There has to be something on your mind."

"There is, and I'm finding it a little awkward."

"Jim, this is the Gang. Never hesitate to speak your mind."

"Says one of the youngest and newest to one of the originals. Well, I needed the reminder. My mom would enjoy your company, but she didn't want to put you on the spot by calling you herself. She seemed to imply that you and she have spent some time together."

"If by, 'Spent some time together,' you mean we've had some grand fucks, then you have correctly interpreted her implications. We can skip the euphemisms, however."

"You learned the ways of the Gang very well, Max. But it's still hard to be that blunt about my mother."

"She's quite a gal. Yes, I've spent several nights with Trudi, most of the time Walter was there as well, but at least once he disappeared. I'm not sure whom he was with, but I think some male member of the Gang. I never asked, or I'm sure he or Trudi would've told me. To put it bluntly, Trudi is a good fuck and a lot of fun. You should also know that Walter's last words to me were to fuck the Hell out of Trudi. I'm looking forward to it."

"Walter actually said that to you?"

"In exactly those words. Walter's biggest worry his last week was that Trudi would try to remain faithful to a dead man and not get on with the business of living. It worried him a lot. Obviously Trudi got the message or she wouldn't have sent you on her mission. And you needn't worry. I'm going to fuck the Hell out of Trudi and have a grand and glorious time doing it. Neither you nor she need to worry that I'm doing it out of sympathy for her. I would do that, you know. But that simply isn't the case here. We're going to have a grand time together."

Jim had hardly gotten out the door when Max picked up the telephone, called Trudi, and said, "Darlin', let's you and me have a steak at Jerry's, head down to a club in Fargo where a great little jazz band is playing, and then spend the night at the Holiday Inn in Morehead. I've always wanted to take a girl across a state line for illicit purposes."

Their romance lasted about six weeks. People were beginning to speculate about what we all called a, 'Bernie and Beverly'. One night as they were eating at Trudi's house. She asked, "Do you think this has just about run its course?"

"Yeah, I guess it has. God, Trudi, this has been fun. You're great in bed, and have been a great companion these few weeks. But we agreed going it that it wasn't going to last forever. We both want to play the field. Just be sure to keep me as part of the field you play."

"The same to you, sexy. God, Max, this has been wonderful. I can hardly believe it. I thank Walter in my prayers every night that he insisted that my life not end when his did. Did he really tell you to fuck the Hell out of me?"

"In exactly those words, and I promised him that I would."

"Well, that's exactly what you're going to do tonight. I certainly hope it won't be our last fuck, but I guess it should be for a while."

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