This is Natalie Tavert. I'm twenty-four years old, happily married, and live in Grand Forks, North Dakota. I'm the daughter of Margie Tavert, and God knows which man, but the odds are pretty good, so I'm told, that my father is either Fyn Tavert or Arnie Springer. However, my birth certificate doesn't equivocate, it says my father is Fyn Tavert. My mother says that the odds favor its being correct, but it could by lying. If you've read this story up to now, all that will make sense to you. Since I grew up in the rather strange environment of The Roundhouse, smothered in the love of the Circle, the facts of my birth, or rather the lack of facts of my birth, are quite reasonable to me. Oh, yes, I did say smothered, but it was definitely not used in a negative sense. Love is something you want to be smothered in, believe me. And I was.
Uncle Charlie has asked me to write my story. It's quite a story, if I do say so myself. But that's more because of the people I've been associated with than anything that I've accomplished on my own. I'll let you judge. I can't tell you more about my present circumstances than I have, because it would let the cat out of the bag about the plot of this episode, such as it is. I don't think that Charlie and his stable of authors are much for plot. Life in the Gang simply works out too perfectly to make much of a plot. So what are we going to do, make things up? Life has simply been too good for all of us. But, as you are well aware, it didn't just happen. Tim, Charlie, Hal, and a host of others worked their asses off to make good things happen. They deserve the success they've achieved.
I was born on December 1, 1989. I don't remember a thing about it, but checking back in old newspapers, I've found that it snowed that day, and never got above freezing. What do you expect from North Dakota in December? A little over two years later, on January 12, 1992, my sister Jocey was born. Mom says that the facts of her paternity are exactly the same as mine. Personally, even though I was there, I can't testify to a thing.
It was fun growing up with one sibling and nine parents. It really didn't matter what we wanted to do, Jocey and I could always find a parent willing to at least say, "Yes," and usually willing to aid and abet. We did all kinds of exciting things, went all kinds of adventurous places, ate exotic foods, and met really interesting, and often famous, people. In one very important respect our life was very different from the COGs, whom we knew well, but they were too old to be companions. The COGs were a group of young people that were quite self-sufficient. We were part of an adult group, and didn't spend nearly as much time with our age cohorts. Though it's hard to think of anyone growing up faster than Shel, Auggie, and Milt, we did grow up very fast because of the huge amount of time we spent with adults.
OK, lets get some of the routine stuff out of the way. My dad, Fyn, was a straight A student in high school and college. My dad, Arnie was a good student, but nowhere near a straight A. My mom was close, but not a perfect straight A. No one ever pressured me, nor Jocey, about grades. But we got excellent grades. However, we'll both have to admit to a B now and then. It wasn't a big deal, and, thank goodness, none of our dads, nor Mom, made a big deal out of it.
We were aware from a very early age that the men in the house were gay. At a slightly older age we became aware that the sleeping arrangements varied from time to time, and that those variances sometimes included Margie, Fyn, and Arnie. We learned that, other than Arnie and Fyn, Pat was the straightest one of the crowd, and that he liked to sleep with Mom from time to time. All this was completely natural in the world we grew up in. We also learned about STS, Show and Tell Syndrome, though we wouldn't be able to give it the name STS for several years. We understood very clearly that some things could only be talked about, or done, within the Circle. I don't think we ever goofed in that regard.
Our dads were used to being naked around the house from time to time and that never stopped. We were quite used to nudity from our earliest memories, including ourselves and our mom, as well as our dads. And, yes, we didn't think much about touching ourselves or each other in places that most children are taught are "private" or "off limits" or some such silliness. Besides, we learned pretty early that it was fun, especially being tickled on our clitoridis. And, no, I couldn't spell it then, and I doubt if I could pronounce it either, but it's the plural of clitoris. I don't think my biology teacher in high school could either. I've forgotten where that particular bit of trivia came from: after all, since a girl only has one, she doesn't really need the plural, does she?
I need to move on now to dancing lessons. You'll see how it all fits together in a little while. It was Jocey that got us started as dancers. Her kindergarten class was taken to see The Nutcracker ballet at Christmastime. It was performed by a traveling group which was really quite good. They used children from the local ballet school, supplemented their small orchestra with local talent (in this case from the university), and put on a very professional show. Jocey was enthralled! She came home determined to be the prima ballerina of.... Well, she didn't know that word and she didn't have a clue what ballet troupe she wanted to be the top of, but she knew she wanted to be there. That kind of determination was new to me at the time; after all, I was just a second grader. But our parents, all nine of them, thought it was quite reasonable. Clearly, they'd spent too much time under the influence of Tim, Hal, and a few others I could name.
Lessons were quickly arranged–at the school that had provided the children for The Nutcracker. I was invited to join in the lessons and, silly me, I said, "OK." A more fateful, "OK," was never uttered.
It turned out that we both were good dancers, and we took to ballet like our dads had taken to diving, football, wrestling, tuba–you get the idea. Our lives quickly centered around dancing. From once a week, it moved to twice a week and then to three times a week. At that point we'd maxed out the capability of the local ballet school. Mom explored other options, beginning with UND. The university had two classes in ballet, Ballet I and Ballet II, but they were for beginners. Generally they were attended by modern and jazz dance students to broaden their experience and technique, but not to become accomplished ballerinas or danseurs.
I need to take a brief time out to talk about the word danseur. It's from the French for a male ballet dancer. Though the Merriam-Webster treats it as an English word of the same meaning, it's rarely used. Ballerina is Italian, not French, and the words ballerina and danseur don't really pair well. However, the Italian word, ballerino isn't considered an English word and is virtually never used. Well, why not just use "male ballet dancer"? I would, except for two quite exceptional young men that you will soon meet. They were marvelous ballet dancers, and insisted that if girls could be ballerinas then there had to be a word for the boys. They studied their dictionaries and decided that they were danseurs. We all learned the word, and we all used it! By now I'm used to it. I think you will be soon.
It turned out that there was a good dance school in the Fargo area, in Morehead, Minnesota, specifically. They had after school classes for schoolchildren, but their facilities were open on weekends for advanced classes and individual instruction. Mom told us what was available, explained the time commitment that we would have to make, and asked us if we wanted to dance in Morehead on the weekends. Is the pope Catholic? Of course we did. We were both, in fact, wildly enthusiastic, because we had both become completely addicted to dancing, and to ballet in particular. Unlike some families, the travel arrangements weren't particularly hard on our parents, because there were nine adults in the Circle, and they were all eager to take turns driving us to Morehead.
At about this same time, when Jocey and I were in first and third grade, we began to make friends with a number of the other students in the school including two boys, twins, Gerry and Terry Osborne. Parents of kids at the school were eager for their kids to have a social life with their contemporaries. So while our dancing was Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, most Tuesdays and Thursdays one or more of our friends, almost always kids from our school that were also involved in dancing lessons, would come to our house. We usually played in the basement of The Hideout, next door, where there was a huge stock of toys that had been accumulated by the COGs. Two of our favorite playmates were Gerry and Terry.
Gerry and Terry were really serious about their dancing. Both studied ballet once a week, but Gerry studied tap twice a week, and Terry studied Irish clogging twice a week. Their parents had a problem: they both worked and getting Gerry and Terry to dancing lessons was complicated. It was a problem that the Circle could easily solve, and they were quite willing to. Since Jocey and I had nine parents, all willing to drive us to and from dancing lessons, it was no problem at all to load Gerry and Terry in the car with us. We soon became an inseparable foursome, and the twins decided that they'd like to join us in Morehead on Saturdays, since we could solve the transportation problem for them. We became an even more inseparable foursome: dancing together, playing together, doing homework together, and often eating together.
Early in our friendship with the twins, Mom and Dad (probably both of our dads) decided that the twins' parents needed to meet the Circle. So Abigail and Clinton Osborne, along with their twin sons, were invited for a Friday night dinner at The Roundhouse, with all of the Circle including Jocey and me. A more successful dinner we couldn't have imagined in our wildest dreams. Abigail, called Abs by her husband and by us at her insistence, and Clinton, similarly called Clint, were introduced in turn to each of the couples around the table. Margie started with Fyn, introduced as her husband, and Arnie, introduced as an old family friend. Clint burst out with, "You two guys are the Olympic divers. I had no idea the girls had such an illustrious father."
Margie started to introduce Toppy and Murray but before she could Abs said, "I know Mr. Coleman; I used to take tuba lessons from him."
Toppy said, "Here, I'm Toppy, and I remember you, Mrs. Osborne, Abs. Do you still play the tuba?"
"Indeed I do. I play in a little brass quartet."
Toppy said, "I'd like you to meet my partner, Murray Saragon."
We'd decided in advance that the gay relationships should be right out in the open. If the Osbornes couldn't deal with it, we needed to know. Murray spoke up and said, "Call me Murray. I'm pleased to meet you."
Clint shook his hand and said, "Another Olympian. My God, what a household these girls have grown up in."
Before Margie could continue the introductions, Abs said, "I know Al and Alex. I work for the school district and they have both met with us on accessibility issues in the Grand Forks schools." She looked around and asked, "Do you all live here in this big old house, or is this just a big dinner party."
Alex said, "We all live here, and we eat together almost every night. Let me introduce the last couple, Nate and Pat."
Abs said, "I know my husband knows who you two are, but believe me I know much more. Nate, I'm sure you don't remember me, but we were classmates at UND, when you were leading the football team to victory after victory. Believe me, I was just one of many, many girls that were absolutely crushed when we figured out that you were gay and had a partner. All of our romantic dreams went up in smoke. Pat, you're the luckiest guy alive."
Clint said, "She hadn't met me yet, that was the year after you all graduated."
As we went to bed that night, Mom told us, "Abs and Clint fit into our group like they belonged here. I'm sure that the twins will be wonderful friends for the two of you."
Could sex be far behind? Well, just where did you think this story was heading? But it was a few years off as we were now ages seven and nine, with the twins in the middle at age eight. We were a little young. But the one inevitable thing about nine-year-olds is that they soon become ten, eleven and twelve.
Jocey and I shared a room, and often chatted a while as we drifted off to sleep. In February of 2001 I'd just turned twelve and was in the sixth grade. Jocey had just turned ten and was in fourth grade. One cold evening she crawled into bed with me–a not uncommon occurrence with little or no sexual implications for us–and cuddled up to get us warm. She said, "It'd be fun to cuddle up to a boy."
"Do you have a particular boy in mind?"
"Of course. Gerry."
"It's a good thing you like Gerry, because I like Terry."
"Tell me something I didn't know."
I replied, "OK. I think I know a story that you don't know. And I think it might be of interest, considering our interest in Gerry and Terry, and possibly cuddling up in bed with them."
"Tell me the story."
"This is Junior's story, of how he was out riding his bicycle with another boy and they both got soaked in a storm." OK, readers, you may remember the story, but if you don't Kay told it in Episode 142-COGs. It's a good story, go read it.
Jocey listened to the story and asked, "Who told you that?"
"Shel told it to me last fall. I think he was trying to give me, or us, ideas."
"He succeeded. Do you think something like that would enable us to get the twins naked in the shower with us over at The Hideout?"
"Jocey, I'd never want to do that if Mom and Dad didn't know about it."
"Well, they seem to want us to tell them everything. This could be a test."
"We don't need to test them."
Jocey said, "Look, they talk a good line, but you know most parents would be very upset at the idea of their fourth and sixth graders talking about getting fifth grade boys naked."
Actually, Jocey and I had often talked about sex and just how much our parents, or the entire Circle, could accept from their little girls. We both knew we were pushing into new territory. We decided to push; that night; at dinner.
As we were going down to dinner I said to Jocey, "OK, girl, getting sexy with those two boys is your idea. You lead the conversation tonight."
"My big sixth grade sister wants her fourth grade sister to do the talking about sex. What would my fourth grade teacher say?"
"I think, from Mom and Dad's point of view, that your fourth grade teacher better not be saying anything about this, or hearing anything about it either."
"Right. OK, I'll lead. Chicken."
As I already knew, and would learn again and again throughout our lives, Jocey was fearless. The food was hardly on the table when she said, "Listen up, people. Natalie and I have something to ask you all. We have two handsome, sexy boys visiting us almost every day. We play at The Hideout Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. I know many people would say we're a little young, but we think it's time for us to see if Gerry and Terry are willing to explore their sexuality with us."
Toppy said, "Wow, if I'd said that to my parents when I was in elementary school I would've been slapped across the room by my father."
Murray said, "That's the guy who later tossed you out of the house because you were getting sexy with me. Somehow I don't think your father is the model of how we ought to respond to these kids."
Toppy said, "Neither do I. I'm so proud to be part of a group that's willing to have a rationale conversation with these two girls about sex. It appears that's what we're in for."
Mom, Margie, said, "Is that what you're looking for, Jocey?"
I spoke up. "Jocey and I have heard the story of Junior and Aaron in the shower at The Hideout. We're thinking how we might adapt that story to Gerry, Terry, and the two of us."
Nate said, "In fourth grade? As I think about it, Junior must've been about twelve or thirteen when that story took place. He would've been in seventh grade. The twins're in fifth. Aren't you a little ahead of yourselves?"
Alex put in, "I don't think I know the Junior story you all are talking about."
Murray said, "Let's get Natalie to tell it."
I thought that was a great idea. Getting that story told would focus the conversation just where Jocey and I wanted it: "Just what could we four kids do in The Hideout?" I told the story in as much detail as I knew, based on what Shel had told me.
Murray added to my story by noting that no long term romance bloomed between Junior and Aaron, but that they'd remained friends.
Dad, Fyn, said, "So you kids are hoping to get Gerry and Terry into the shower with you, presumably with no clothes on, and you hope that that leads to some kind of sexy playing around. Have I got that about right?"
Dad, Arnie, said, "Well, folks, that puts it right on the line. Do we answer, 'Yes,' or, 'No,' and if we say, 'Yes,' what advice, instructions, or limitations do we give? If we say, 'No,' what reason do we give?"
Mom said, "Knowing the behavior of this crowd, as kids and as adults, I can't image what reason we would give for saying, 'No.' As for what we add to a, 'Yes,' answer, that's simple. The rules of the Gang have always been: talk first, no pushing outside of somebody's comfort zone, and at your age, no fucking. And I'll add one more: We have a very good relationship with Clint and Abs. If things get started with the four of you, we can't long keep it a secret from Clint and Abs. Agreed?"
Jocey said, "My God, Natalie, I think there was a, 'Yes,' answer in there somewhere." She looked at Mom and said, "Agreed."
Pat said, "I can't wait to hear the story of how you get those boys into the shower."
We plotted about that, and on a day in mid-March we put our plan into action. It was a Thursday, so we didn't have a dancing class. We were having a slightly warmer that usual spring (well, in North Dakota, March is the end of winter not the beginning of spring) and the temperature had been up into the high thirties during the day. Now with the late afternoon sun on the snow, things were pretty wet. Jocey ran ahead of the rest of us a little, gathered up a bunch of snow, and threw a snowball at Gerry. I was ready and quickly threw one at Terry. All at once the great snowball fight was on. As we threw we gradually moved toward The Hideout, and as we did we got snowier and snowier, and therefore, wetter and wetter. Then Jocey grabbed a handful of snow in one hand and the back of Gerry's pants with the other, and dropped the snow into his pants. I did the same to Terry, except that I put it down his front. Now things really got wild with snow being pushed and shoved everywhere: down necks, up pantslegs, into hair, onto faces. We eventually got to The Hideout. I called out, "OK, we're home. Let's call it quits."
Jocey said, "I'm really wet and cold."
Gerry said, "You started this, you deserve to be wet and cold."
Terry said, "That's right. And it's going to be hard to study, or even go indoors, when we're this wet."
I said, "Just inside the back door is the laundry room. We go in, strip off our clothes and put them in the dryer to dry. Then we go up and take showers to warm up and then dry off."
Jocey was already headed in the door and turned to the laundry. Gerry followed her and said, "I suppose we're all just going to take our clothes off right here, and put them in that dryer."
Jocey said, "That's right. Are you chicken?"
There was that word chicken again. Introduced into kids arguments, it was a sure catalyst for getting kids to do things they might otherwise not even consider doing!
Gerry said, "I'm not chicken. I'll take my clothes off if you will."
By this time Jocey was almost naked and she said, "Well, I'm started, are you going to start?" She looked at Terry and me, who had now made it into the laundry, "Are you two going to get dried off, or just stand their watching?"
In very short order, and with almost nothing else being said, there were two very naked little boys and two equally naked little girls, all staring at each other. Jocey started the dryer, and led the way up the stairs to the master bedroom. Gerry asked, "Who's going to shower first?"
I said, "No one. We'll all shower together. It's a great shower. Come and look." I led the way into the bathroom and shower, turning on all four of the wall-mounted shower heads. Jocey took up the rear and sort of pushed the boys into the shower with me, following us in. We each stood under a stream of warm water, and stared at each other. It was at this point that the boys realized that there was a big disadvantage to being a boy: their dicks may have been the little things of fifth graders, but they were quite capable of getting hard, and hard they were. And there were two very embarrassed boys, both of whom quickly turned and faced the wall of the shower.
I was the big sixth grader, so I said, "Look boys, we know you have boners, and we know what boners are. They're normal. Don't be ashamed of them. Turn around, and let us see your dicks."
They slowly turned around, but by then Jocey and I each had hold of one of the hand-held shower heads, and we were immediately on the attack. We started at their faces, which made them close their eyes, then we hit their balls and dicks full force. When they turned back toward the wall, their asses got hit. Gerry moved quickly, and soon grabbed the shower head from Jocey, but immediately aimed for my face. Terry was ready and grabbed the other shower head from my hands. The twins seems to have some sort of extra-sensory communication that allowed them to function as a single unit.
Our faces, boobs (such as they were, only little nipples), and private parts were immediate targets. Since we didn't have shower heads, the only way we could retaliate was to grab at the boys dicks and balls, which we quickly did. That made them drop the shower heads to protect themselves, and the water fight quickly turned into a grab fight. This was, of course, exactly what we'd hoped would happen. It soon ended amidst considerable laughter. I said, "Let's wash up, get out and dry off, and talk a little."
That's when Terry fooled me. He said, "I think we've been set up. I think you had this all planned when Jocey threw the first snowball. Fess up, am I right?"
We had to admit that he was.
"OK, then. You were obviously eager to see our dicks, and to touch them. We kind of like that idea. So, Natalie, I'll wash you, and you can wash me. Jocey and Gerry can wash each other." Having said that, Terry got behind me with a bar of soap and started rubbing my back. Soon he was down at my ass, and then moved around front starting with my non-boobs and working down to my vulva. He handed the bar to me and said, "Wash your own face, and then wash me." I did, and when I got to his dick and balls he said, "That feels good, wash them very thoroughly." I did. I saw that Jocey and Gerry were copying us almost exactly. We finally were done and we turned off the water and got out.
I got towels for each of us, and we dried off. I said, "I doubt our clothes are dry yet, let's sit and talk." There were two chairs in the room which Jocey and I took, and the boys sat on the bed.
Gerry asked, "What's going on?"
I said, "Whatever it was, you seemed to enjoy it."
Terry said, "I sure did."
Gerry said, "So did I. But it sure wasn't expected. Terry and I tried to play doctor once with a couple of third grade girls when we were in second grade. They said we were dirty little boys and should be ashamed of ourselves."
Jocey, "Were you ashamed?"
Terry said, "No, but we never tried again."
I asked, "Do you ever play with each other at night?"
Gerry said, "Sure. It feels good."
Jocey asked, "Well, did this feel good today?"
Gerry said, "Sure it did. But we could get in trouble."
"We are all sitting here naked. Out clothes are downstairs in the dryer. Someone might come in and find us."
I said, "Anyone who has the code to come into The Hideout wouldn't be upset to find us like this."
"What about your parents?"
"They knew we were going to do something like this."
"Not in the least."
"Your parents knew this was going to happen? They're cool with you being naked with us two boys?"
"Yes. We're expected to use reasonable judgement and common sense. There are some rules."
"Talk first, no pushing people where they don't want to go, no fucking."
"Terry and I are eleven years old. Who's talking about fucking?"
"Nobody. But the rule is very simple. You have a penis. It can get hard. A hard penis can be shoved into a girl's vagina. That's a no-no."
"You didn't talk much before you threw those snowballs."
"We didn't force you to take off your wet clothes. We're talking now. Maybe we stretched the rule a little. It was fun, wasn't it?"
"So where do we go from here?"
"We'll talk about that next Tuesday."
We did talk the next Tuesday. But unlike her usual talkative ways, Jocey said nothing whatsoever to me in advance of Tuesday. We got to The Hideout, went to the kitchen for some apple juice, and as we sat and talked Jocey said, "Let's play spa."
"Yeah, we'll go upstairs and give these boys a rubdown. Then, if they like it, they can give use rubdowns. You want to come, boys?"
Gerry and Terry were red-blooded American boys and were discovering that they had a healthy sexual appetite, even if they were only eleven years old. And to think that the whole thing seemed to be driven by a ten-year-old.
We got up to the master bedroom and Jocey said, "Take off your shoes, socks, and shirts and lay down on the bed, on your stomachs." The boys complied. Jocey stripped down to her panties and I simply followed the leader. She got baby oil from the bathroom and poured some on Gerry's back. She handed the bottle to me and proceeded to rub the oil into Gerry's back, shoulders, ribs, and upper arms. I followed suit with Terry. The boys were clearly enjoying it–they were almost purring. Then she had them roll over on their backs. We added more baby oil and rubbed their chests, paying particular attention to their nipples and belly buttons.
Then Jocey took hold of Gerry's belt buckle and said, "I'm following the talk first rule. May I?"
Gerry said, "Yes," and very quickly his belt was open, his top button opened and his fly unzipped.
I looked at Terry and he said, "Yes," and I did the same to his pants. We could now get lower on their torsos and we rubbed the oil lower.
Then Jocey told the boys to roll back over on their stomachs. I followed Jocey's lead and we pulled off their pants. More oil on their legs and the rubdown continued down to their ankles. They were rolled over and the rubdown continued up toward their waists. When their underwear got in the way, Jocey asked, "May we?" as she tugged on the Jockeys.
Two muttered responses of, "Yes," and the underwear was whisked away. The boys were turned on their stomachs again and their buns got very careful massages. One more turn and the stage was set. Jocey's hands moved closer and closer to Gerry's balls, and you could almost feel his eager anticipation. He wasn't disappointed, and neither was Terry. We massaged their balls and very hard dicks for quite a while until Terry shook all over with what was obviously a dry orgasm. It didn't take Gerry long to follow. Their dicks went limp and Gerry said, "I think it's our turn to do you."
It'd taken about three-quarters of an hour to complete the boy massages. They worked a little more hurriedly, and before long got to our private areas. This was a lot more of a puzzle for the boys than it'd been for us. I'm not sure why or how Jocey was so far ahead of me in all of this, but she clearly was. She was ready for Gerry's hesitation, and said, "Look, Gerry, don't be shy. I'll guide you. Spread the skin folds of the vulva."
"The vulva, the outer lips. Spread them and you'll see where the vagina is, and above it is the clitoris. Rub the clitoris and then slip your finger into the vagina and feel around." Gerry followed instructions, and Terry did as well. Jocey went on, "If you were going to fuck us, have intercourse with us, you would put your hard penises where you guys now have your fingers. In ten years or so that will be appropriate. Not now. But keep on playing down there, it feels good." I don't think that either Jocey or I had an orgasm that day, but it sure felt good. It all ended in the shower as we washed each other, dried, and got dressed. Then we headed to the kitchen where we all did homework on the big kitchen table.
At our invitation the boys called home and asked if they could stay for dinner. We didn't have to ask our parents, because there was always enough food for an extra or two. When the boys got the OK, we went over to The Roundhouse and told Pat, the cook for the day, that there would be two extra. He told us to set the two extra places at the table and be ready to eat in about 45 minutes.
As we sat around The Roundhouse living room, I took advantage of a moment when Jocey had to go to the bathroom. I told Gerry and Terry that I thought it very likely that Jocey would embarrass them at the table by telling the story of the snowball fight and subsequent activities.
Terry looked panic-stricken. "She'd tell that story tonight? At dinner? She wouldn't."
"Oh, yes, she would. By now you know she's fearless. And I know she wants it all out in the open. I'm sure that inviting your parents will be the next step; our parents are likely to suggest that."
"My God, I'm not sure I'm ready for this."
"You have been warned!"
When Jocey came back Gerry asked her, "You're not going to tell about our afternoon activities at dinner tonight, are you? Natalie thinks you might."
"Natalie's right. Don't worry, our parents are cool."
They were. The funny thing was, Jocey isn't the one who started the story. It began with Toppy asking the twins, "OK, tell us, Gerry and Terry, how did the girls get you all wet?"
"What do you mean?"
"They had to get you wet to get you into the shower. How did they do it?"
Terry said, "I knew we were set up, but were you all in on it?"
"Sort of. So how did they get you all wet?"
Gerry said, "With a snowball fight with wet snow. It was all downhill from there."
Nate said, "Beware of conniving women. It's one of life's important lessons. Of course, if you're gay like most of us around this table, then you don't have to be quite so worried about conniving women."
Jocey said, "Oh, they aren't gay. I'm quite sure of that."
After most of the details of the story had come out, to raucous laughter at times, Margie asked, "OK, Gerry and Terry, do you think your parents are ready for this conversation?"
Gerry said, "Oh, God, no, Mrs. Tavert. Please keep them out of it."
Alex said, "I know your mom, Gerry. I think she can handle it. They were certainly very open to new ideas when they ate dinner with us. I think you ought to give them a chance."
Terry said, "And if it's a disaster?"
"It won't be. I'm sure," said Alex.
A week later Abs and Clint, along with the twins, joined all of us for dinner. The presentation to the Osbornes was virtually scripted. Margie began by saying that Abs and Clint had been invited to dinner for a very specific purpose. We were going to begin by having Jocey tell a story about their snowball fight on the way home from school a couple of weeks before.
I'm sure that Abs and Clint thought that they were going to hear of some kind of trouble we kids had gotten into fighting after school–either with each other or with other kids. Jocey told the story in exquisite detail, in a fairly flat voice, displaying little excitement, and no fear or hesitation. For a third grader it was a magnificent performance. It would've been a magnificent performance for a college student in front of her boyfriend's parents. It quickly became clear to the Osbornes that the snowball fight wasn't the point of the story, it was merely the lead-in. Jocey continued through the activities of Thursday, and the tell-all dinner. She ended her story with the decision by the group that it all should be shared with the twins' parents, and the twins' fears of the consequences of that.
Jocey ended and silence reigned. I think the twins wanted to crawl under the table, but they sat up straight and looked straight at one parent and then the other. Finally Clint spoke, "It seems that everyone is waiting for either me or Abs to speak. That may kill this dinner, because I'm completely speechless." He was silent for a while, but no one broke the silence. Finally he continued, "A father has a difficult time realizing that he should've had the birds-and-the-bees talk with his sons before they were eleven years old. I always thought that it should take place about age twelve. Not that we haven't been open in our talk about sex and the human body with the boys. But we certainly didn't prepare them for Jocey and Natalie. But they seem to have survived. No, it appears that they have more than survived, they have matured."
Abs continued, "After the last dinner with you all, Clint and I had a long talk. We knew this household had three gay pairs, but we couldn't really figure out the relationship between Margie, Arnie, and Fyn. The boys told us that your girls seem to think of both of you as dads, and, in fact, they told us that they seem to treat all of you as dads. So we said to each other, 'OK, we know that group is a little off-the-wall. Is it going to bother us if our kids get involved with their kids, who are certain to be as off the wall as their parents?' Our answer to each other was, 'No it isn't going to bother us. They are an unusual, but quite spectacular, group. Our kids will benefit from that environment."
Clint broke in, "We'll be honest. The story tonight was outside of our wildest speculations about where life would go with the twins and the girls, but it probably shouldn't have been. OK, I know our boys are waiting for the bottom line. Here it is. We're glad to know that you all did give the kids a couple of very sensible rules: talk first and respect each other. I liked that 'no fucking' business as well. Stick to that. I guess that what I'm saying is that we're OK with the house rules here."
Abs added, "I want to add two things. First, thank all of you for being honest with us. Gerald and Terrence, there's a lesson there. I hope you've learned it. And I hope you've learned that you can be honest with us. And, second, we need to make it clear that the house rules here apply to our house as well. In what you can do, and in what you tell us. OK?"
Terry ran to his father while Gerry ran to his mother. They hugged and both boys very emphatically said, "OK."
Everything was OK.
When he heard the story, Tim loved it. But even more, he loved where it led. If you think about it, there wasn't much more for us kids to accomplish sexually until we had all reached a level of sexual maturity that was about two years off–though I'd had my first period. Jocey had hers about a year later, and the boys actually produced semen with their orgasms about eighteen months after the famous snowball fight. It should go without saying that since they were twins it happened at almost exactly the same moment, and in the hands of Jocey and me. The really funny thing, however, was the fact that every so often we traded off and I played with Gerry while Jocey played with Terry, and it was on one of those occasions that they first produced semen, Gerry at my hands, and Terry at Jocey's. Such are life's ironies.
But when I wrote about where all this led, I was referring to our dancing. Tim always said that love and support were keys to athletic success, and the same is true of dancing, which in many respects is athletics. It was right about this time that all four of us began to really step out head and shoulders above our contemporaries. At age thirteen I'd become, in fact, if not in name, the prima ballerina of the school in Grand Forks, and was one of a small group of top ballerinas in the much larger program in Morehead.
The boys found themselves in a very different situation. There were very few boys in the dance programs of Grand Forks and Morehead, a situation duplicated everywhere in the country. For most boys in America, dancing–especially ballet–was considered sissy. Even though it was as physically demanding as basketball and football, and more so than baseball, it was still considered sissy. The small number of boys in the program had, by the junior high school level, shrunken to near zero. In Grand Forks, when the twins entered junior high school in seventh grade they were the oldest danseurs. There was only one other boy their age or older, a high school junior, in the Morehead program. So it was meaningless to say that the twins were the best danseurs in their schools. They could've been very poor and still been the best.
But they weren't poor, they were phenomenally good. But that caused problems for them as well. Gerry was an accomplished tap dancer and Terry a really super clogger. But they were desperately needed as ballet partners for girls in the ballet program. They were good sports and agreed to stay in the two ballet programs to support the girls, but their hearts and serious efforts went into their tap dancing and clogging.
They also struck another deal. They agreed to continue in the ballet programs, but only if all of their fees were waived in the dance programs. The schools were quite willing to agree to those terms.
The routine that they became famous for began in seventh grade, in the big end-of-the-school-year recital that the Morehead school put on. With the shortage of boys that the school had, Gerry or Terry, and often both, were in a huge percentage of the numbers. If a girl needed to be lifted by a male partner, Gerry or Terry did the lifting. If a ballet had a male role, Gerry or Terry got it. The girls in the tap program didn't need boys for much of their program, but Gerry was given a chance to show his exceptional talent. Similarly, Terry performed with the cloggers. But they designed their own program, just for the two of them. They'd gotten their idea from Toppy, who suggested that they could be dueling dancers to the music of "Dueling Banjos." He told them of how the bands of the University of Michigan and the University of North Dakota had used the song for a sort of Dueling Bands number, and he thought it could be used for Dueling Dancers.
Gerry tapped to the banjo part. Terry clogged to the guitar part. As the music went on, they got faster and faster, each in turn doing more complicated and difficult steps. As the guitar and banjo combined in the music, they combined their dancing. Faster and faster till the music reached its crescendo. It brought down the house. An audience of bored parents, siblings, and grandparents of a bunch of student dancers, an audience that had come prepared to be bored to tears, except for the one or two acts that "their kid" was in, that audience found itself watching a truly phenomenal dance performance. One and all agreed that it was better than any professional dancing they'd ever seen!
The audience wouldn't stop clapping, and soon someone was shouting encore. Gerry and Terry came out onto the stage apron and Gerry spoke to the sound engineer in the back of the room. "Cue it up, we'll go again, from the beginning."
Where they ever got the strength and energy to do the routine again I will never know, but they did. There's a significant difference between tap dancing and clogging, though both emphasize the noise made by the dancing shoes. A great tap dancer looks like he's floating along above the floor, just touching down to tap the floor and make a tapping noise that fits the music. The clogger, on the other hand, stomps on the floor. While he has to be as light on his feet as a tap dancer, he isn't supposed to look it. The contrast, and the very different noises that the feet make, set the stage for the "duel."
The story ends six years later, when Gerry and Terry performed "Dueling Dancers" for the tenth and eleventh times in their senior year recitals in both Grand Forks and Morehead. After their stunning success in Morehead in the seventh grade, the Grand Forks school, hearing that they were going to reprise the routine in their Morehead recital, asked if they'd do it in Grand Forks as well. Of course they did, and they did it in both cities every year.
Each year the music stayed the same, but the dancing became more complicated and difficult, until by their senior year their routines had become almost impossibly difficult. In their ninth grade years they made one major change to the routine. In their second year, eighth grade, they had again given an encore performance, and it was clear that this would be expected each time. So in ninth grade, for the first run through they simply repeated their eighth grade program. The new and more spectacular routine was saved for the encore performance. By their senior year, that had become expected, and everyone knew that the really special performance would be the second time through. The boys didn't disappoint.
Jocey and I were doing very well as ballerinas. At our parents suggestion, we waited until we were thirteen to begin dancing en pointe, that is on the points of our toes, using special shoes. While pointe dancing is considered the apex of ballet dancing, it can be extremely hard on the feet. Children are advised to not begin it until somewhere between ages ten and twelve, so waiting until we were thirteen was quite conservative. But our parents believed, and we agreed, that protecting our feet was very, very important. But once we were up on our toes, there was no stopping us. Like a number of writers before in this saga, I am required to tell of my own successes. I performed at the regular recitals of our dance schools. In my junior year of high school Terry and I performed, in both Morehead and Grand Forks, the final duet from Giselle, in which Giselle and Albrecht dance until they break the spell of the wilis, and Giselle is allowed to rest in peace in her grave and Albrecht lives and is able to mourn her at her grave. Traditionally performed in all white costumes, it is exquisitely beautiful and extremely difficult dancing, for both the ballerina and the danseur. It closed the first act of the recital in both cities, leaving "Dueling Dancers" to close the second act. Also in the second act was Jocey doing The Dying Swan, to Saint-Saens' music. Because of the four of us, and in particular the twins and their "Dueling Dancers," the recitals were no longer events to be endured by suffering families, but were sought after tickets in Grand Forks, Morehead, and Fargo as well. Everybody agreed that the increased publicity and higher levels of achievement, brought improvement at all levels of the program.
We had such huge success with the scene from Giselle that Toppy suggested that we perform the entire ballet. That suggestion was made at dinner in The Roundhouse, the night after our Morehead recital. Toppy had arranged to have a celebratory dinner, knowing that our performances in our recitals would be well received. After a Coke toast–the Circle, in fact all of the Gang, refused to get into the business of serving any alcohol to underage children–Toppy said, "Next year I'm looking forward to toasting the success of the full production of Giselle, performed right here in Grand Forks, with principal ballerinas Natalie and Jocelyn Tavert, and principal danseurs, Gerald and Terrence Osborne. He spent much of the rest of the evening explaining why the obvious hindrances to such an event were really opportunities, and that we all needed to get on the bandwagon. If Tim could sell sand to Arabs, Toppy could sell refrigerators to Eskimos, and he soon had us all believing that a production of Giselle with high school students as principals was not only possible, but the obvious thing to do. With dubious parents, and four enthusiastic high school students (who by this time were madly in love with each other, but not fucking), he proceeded to lay out his plans.
With Charlie's help, he got the Red Cross to agree to sponsor the event as a fundraiser for the Grand Forks chapter which Charlie had founded. As a Red Cross fund raiser we were able to contract for the main stage at the Burtness Theatre at the University of North Dakota. Burtness had a 365 seat proscenium theatre with an orchestra pit, which was perfect for a ballet. Toppy assured us that he could put together an orchestra, since they'd be playing to support the Red Cross, and, he noted, would be playing for one of the most talked about performances in Grand Forks in years. He assured us that would be true.
We would need dancers for the troupe. First chance would go to students in the two dance programs that we were in, then to students taking ballet at the university. He was sure that we could find additional dancers in Fargo as we needed them. For Giselle every dancer would need two costumes, one in colors for the first act, and another in white for the second act, also known as the white act. What we couldn't sew, we could rent.
As for our principal dancers, I would dance Giselle, a part once danced by Pavlova and Margot Fonteyn among others. Terry would dance opposite me in the role of Albrecht her lover, once danced by Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov, among others. Jocey would dance Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis, and Gerry would dance Hilarion, the gamekeeper, also in love with Giselle.
As word of our plans spread, everybody thought the idea of high school students performing Giselle, was preposterous, except of course the fifteen persons around the table that evening, and the entire Gang, all of whom thought that children of the Gang could do anything they put their minds to.
We had to book the theatre for mid-May, 2008, after the university had closed, because academic use of the theatre blocked our use. So we were booked for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, May 16-18, 2008. We had over a thousand seats to sell, and prices ranging from $10 to $25, with the average ticket price being $17. We hoped to sell a thousand tickets, netting $17,000 dollars, and keep our costs to $7,000, netting $10,000 for the Red Cross, and a spectacular coup for our four high school dancers.
We wanted to have our dance troupe chosen by Thanksgiving, so that they'd have time to learn the part and practice it sufficiently to be ready to start serious rehearsals in late March. Toppy had no trouble recruiting his musicians, mainly on the strength of his own reputation on campus and the spectacular success of "Dueling Dancers," both of which were leads in Giselle. Once we had our dancers, we found women all over Grand Forks, Morehead, and Fargo, who were good seamstresses and wanted to sew a costume for the show. It started to take on a life of its own, and one evening Tim asked if he could take Jocey, the twins, and me out to dinner. He took us to Jerry's and we had a delightful meal, in which we talked about the show, our lives, our plans, and loves, and many other things, none of which seemed to be the reason for the dinner. As we were finishing dessert, Tim said, "OK, I invited you here for one reason. I have to ask one question, and I need a completely honest answer. Giselle has become the big thing this year. Since it's being staged at the university, with a faculty member the main producer and the conductor of the orchestra, and with me personally connected to Toppy and to you all, its success if important. The conventional wisdom is that high schools students aren't up to dancing Giselle. I've never believed in conventional wisdom. And I know that the two of you did very creditable jobs in dancing the duet from Giselle at last year's dance recitals. But I have to ask you this question, and I need an honest answer. The question I should ask is, 'Are the four of you up to this?' The question I'm going to ask is, 'Are the four of you going to raise the roof on the Burtness Theatre? Do I need to get a structural engineer in there to make sure that the stomping and shouting when this is all over isn't going to bring down the ceiling?"
We laughed, but quickly realized that Tim was quite serious. He wasn't asking us if we could do the job. He was asking us if we could do the job in as spectacular a way as he and Charlie had tackled sailing in the Olympics, or Hal had run marathons. We looked at each other, and we all smiled. We accepted his challenge and we all said, "Yes," together.
Tim smiled and said, "You'll have my full support. I haven't the slightest doubt of the success of this crazy venture."
Four challenges faced us: We had to learn our roles and learn to dance them to perfection. We had to bring the rest of the troupe up to an acceptable standard to support us, and these were all amateurs dancing a ballet usually performed only by top professional companies. We had to integrate the music and the dancers in just over a month of rehearsal time. And we had to sell 1,000 damn tickets.
It turned out the selling the tickets was the easiest. The house seated 365, so we had 1095 tickets to sell. We put them on sale April second–we decided to avoid April Fools' Day–and we were sold out by the tenth. We had a quick conference and decided on a fourth performance on Sunday evening, when we'd originally planned on just a matinee. A quick survey of all the performers made it clear that the extra performance was both possible and was a popular idea in the company.
Rehearsals went well, our amateur company was performing well over its head, the musicians were fantastic, and the four of us were working our asses off. I realized that Giselle was a difficult role to dance, and my parents sprung for a trip to New York for the four of us to work for a few days with the dance master of the New York City Ballet. Tim had help arrange that, and after we returned he got a call from Master Pascal. He told Tim, "I told all four of them that they could dance with the New York City Ballet any time they wished. They are as good as any of my dancers. I thought you were joking with me when you asked me to coach high school students for Giselle, but those children are remarkable. How did they ever get that good in North Dakota?"
Tim had simply chuckled and said, "Love and support."
We didn't get into the theatre until May third, the weekend before final exams started at the university. We had kept the sets quite simple, as we wanted to feature the dancing, so they were able to be set up very quickly by Murray, who had taken on that job, helped by Nate and Pat. Full rehearsals started on the 6th, and by Thursday, May 15th, we were ready for our dress rehearsal. For the audience at dress rehearsal we invited everyone that had helped with the production, seamstresses, set builders, ticket sellers, ushers (who would have no seats to sit in to watch the regular performances, since they were sold out), and parents and family of all the dancers and musicians. We also invited reviewers from the newspapers and TV, and several dance professionals that had asked for tickets–including Master Pascal, who flew out from New York. It was another full house. It was also a biased full house, but their standing ovation boded well for the next three days.
What can I say? In Tim's words, we raised the roof on the Burtness Theatre. I lost count of the number of curtain calls the four of us had to take the first night. I really mean, "Had to," because the audience simply wouldn't stop clapping. We brought the whole company back on stage three times. Finally, Gerry said to Terry and me, "You two go out there and take your own bows. You're the stars of this show." He and Jocey actually pushed us out for a final curtain call with just the two of us.
Finally the clapping slowed and we signaled for silence. We brought the whole company on stage again, asked the musicians to stand, and I said, "We want to thank all of you for your support. And now I want Toppy Coleman to come on stage. This whole thing was Toppy's idea. He's been our producer, stage manager, and the Rock of Gibraltar for all of his. His faith never wavered, even when ours did. Thank you Toppy, and thanks to all of you. Good night." We closed the curtain for the last time that night.
The whole maudlin scene was repeated each night and a matinee! After the matinee on Sunday, Terry took me to dinner at a little café he knew about twenty minutes away in the tiny little town of Fisher, Minnesota. He said, "Today is the day. I have two gifts for you." He handed me a little box that simply had to hold a ring, and a lumpy envelope. I was told to open the box first. It contained a very simple ring with a lovely emerald stone. I took it out of the box, and he slipped it onto my finger. It was gorgeous. Then I opened the envelope. It contained a package of Trojans. He said, "I think the first gift changes the rules. As of tonight. We have a reservation for the master bedroom at The Hideout. We will not be disturbed, and we will not be missed at home."
We had to get back for the final performance, but my heart fluttered all the way there. Tim and Charlie had been in the projection/sound booth for all four of our performances–"Perks of our positions," he explained–and after the final curtain he came up to Terry and me and said, "I know about your little supper conversation. The quality of your performances jumped up a huge notch this evening. I put it all down to love and support. Have a good night." And he winked.
I looked at Terry and asked, "How did he know?"
Terry looked at me and said, "They say there are no secrets in the Gang. It guess it's true."
We had a wonderful night.
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