Finding Tim

by Charlie

Episode 191

Bert and I (Peg, Tom and Nancy's younger daughter) graduated from Beloit College in May of 2001. We'd spent four very enjoyable years acquiring a liberal arts education, and now needed to find out how useful such an education would be for getting us jobs. My English lit major and Bert's poly sci major were certainly not designed for the job market, but we had faith that a broad-based college education would land us interesting jobs doing something.

A greater problem was the fairly easy decision that we'd made that we wanted to be an active part of the Gang and therefore wanted to live in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Of course, we had to admit to one significant advantage that we had over the average liberal arts graduate: we were part of the Gang. We knew that, if needed, job offers would materialize, a place to live would be provided, and our parents would be 100% supportive. While it was nice to know that, we were both eager and determined to make our way in the world–well, make our way in Grand Forks–without depending on those outside resources.

That lasted all of one day. We realized that we had to sleep somewhere, and that meant either living with one of our sets of parents or finding a place to rent. Without jobs we weren't in a position to rent anything but a fleabag, so we tapped into the "Who do you know?" circuit and asked Charlie if we could live in The Hideout until we got our own place. You know the answer, and we were moved in immediately, along with all the stuff from our student apartment in Beloit. When we were moved in–with the help of other COGs–we looked around our room in The Hideout and laughed. Bert said, "Who were we kidding when we talked about making our way in the world without the help of the Gang?"

I replied, "Only ourselves. Do you think we can find jobs without depending on the Gang?"

"Let's try."

That didn't last long either. During our four years in college we'd stayed aloof from the trials and tribulations of the real world. We hadn't seriously thought about careers or jobs, neither long-term nor short-term. As our senior year rolled by and our classmates had all undertaken their great job searches, we'd concentrated on graduating and anticipating the joy of moving back to Grand Forks to be with the other COGs and the entire Gang. Having gotten back to Grand Forks, the reality of dealing with careers and jobs hit hard.

We quickly decided that it was foolish not to avail ourselves of the resources at hand, and we decided that Tim and Charlie were probably the greatest of those resources. We decided that Bert should call his Uncle Tim and ask if we could come and visit with him and Charlie. Of course, Tim said, "Yes," but he also asked what it was all about. Bert told him we were looking for career advice, and Tim responded with, "Then we ought to meet in my office and keep this on sort of a professional level. Tomorrow at two. I'm sure that Charlie will be able to join us."

So at two o'clock the four of us assembled in Tim's office. Honestly, Bert and I expected to be at least criticized for getting out of college without having dealt with this issue long before. Tim took just the opposite tack.

"Look, you two. You did college exactly right. You worried about college and let the future take care of itself. Now, with all that wisdom and maturity that Beloit tried to cram into your heads for four years, you can deal with the very important issue of what to do with the rest of your lives.

"The first thing to remember is that you can change your minds at any time. You aren't locking yourself into anything. Yeah, I know that Charlie will tell you that I imagined being a university president while I was still in high school, but that kind of determination isn't for everyone. In fact, it's probably only for the mentally ill. The same is true of Olympic medals.

"So, let's bat around for a while what your dreams are. Peg, you studied English literature. Do you want to teach, write, or what?"

"I guess I've dreamed of being a writer. My teachers certainly urged me in that direction. I had a few things published in college publications, and a couple in small review magazines. I even got paid for one, but not much."

Charlie said, "It's a start. The question is, is that where you'd like to go? If the answer is, 'Yes,' then we have to think of the path to get you there."

Tim said, "OK, Bert. What about you? Did you choose political science because you wanted to be a politician? An administrator? What?"

"I'm not sure. But I guess in my dreams I thought of politics."

Charlie said, "Politics, if successfully pursued, will lead you to Bismarck and Washington, not Grand Forks."

"I guess we would have to cross that bridge if and when we got to it. But neither Peg nor I is going to be enthusiastic about leaving Grand Forks on a permanent basis."

"Serving in the state legislature is a part-time obligation. They only meet for four months or so every other year. All of them are either retired or hold another job. But we're way ahead of ourselves here. Bert, do you think you might be interested in elective office?"

"I think I might, but one doesn't just run for office. I'd have to have an occupation, from which I could pursue elective office."

Tim said, "Well, I can think of two reasonable possibilities. You could be a real estate agent. It's a job that lets you meet a lot of people, and you set your own hours. A successful real estate career could easily move you into a political career."

Charlie said, "The same is true for law. A lot of politicians begin as lawyers."

Bert said, "That means three years of law school, and at least as much time to get established in law as in real estate. Uncle Tim, you said you had two possibilities in mind. What's the other?"

"Friends of the University of North Dakota is the private foundation that lobbies for the university in the legislature. It functions as a general liaison between the university and all levels of government. That accomplishes a lot for us. And their lobbyist in Bismarck is leaving at the end of the current legislative session. She needs to be replaced. Why don't you apply for that job?"

"Who does one apply to?"

"The Board of Directors are all students. The officers must be undergraduates, but the rest of the board is an interesting mix. I think they have even allowed a couple of law students on the board." He winked at Charlie, who didn't take the bait.

"A completely student led organization?"

Charlie said, "Yes, that's the way Tim set it up when he was an undergraduate and began the lobbying effort in Bismarck. It's thrived ever since. Both Tim and Fred keep their eye on it, but it's truly a student effort."

"It sounds interesting. Could I be based here in Grand Forks, except when the legislature is in session?"

"I would think so. But there are all kinds of meetings during the interim between the biennial sessions, so there'd be a lot of back and forth between here and Bismarck."

I said, "Bert, it's easy. If you get the job, take flying lessons. We buy a little plane and you can commute by plane."

"Little planes aren't exactly cheap. I'm not sure how safe they are, either."

"If you're careful they're safe, and in the Gang you aren't supposed to let the lack of money deter you from a good idea."

Charlie said, "She's right Bert. I'll get you the name of the president of the Friends and you can talk to him."

Tim said, "I have a job for an English lit major."

I said, "A job, what kind of job? Oh, Bert, and we were going to do this all on our own, without having to fall back on the Gang."

Tim said, "You aren't falling back on the Gang, you're using your God-given contacts. The Gang can lead you to the door, but you have to open it, go in, and prove yourself. That's where the real advantage of having grown up as part of the Gang comes into play. It isn't who you know, but what you've learned as a member of the Gang, the maturity you've acquired, the experiences you've gone through, the friends you've talked endlessly with. That's the true advantage of the Gang. It's too bad that the entire world can't grow up as a COG, but it simply isn't possible. Thank your lucky stars, and your parents, every night when you go to bed."

Charlie asked, "OK, Tim. Just what do you have in mind for Peg?"

"Arlo and Arlene, the first two A's of AAA [it's pronounced 'Triple A', remember?], are now in their sixties. They're going to be retiring soon. It's time to bring a possible replacement on board. I'd like to arrange for a smooth transition."

I'll have to admit that I interrupted Tim with my question, "Who or what is AAA, and what do they write?"

"AAA is Arlo, Arlene, and Alan. They're employed by Development Consulting, which is really just a front for Fred Milson, who is really just a front for the President of the University of North Dakota. They are my speechwriters, and they're the writing portion of a team of five that creates all of my speeches, and a lot of what gets published over my name. Peg, I think you'd find them a delight to work with, and the job to be an interesting challenge. And it would be a good jumping off place if you wanted to try your hand at freelance creative writing. And the best part is that when the legislature is in session it makes perfect sense for one or more of the team to be located in Bismarck. Since none of the others particularly like that move, they'd be tickled pink for you to go to Bismarck with Bert every other year."

"I need more details, Uncle Tim, but it sounds like a fantastic opportunity."

"And, since the employer is Development Consulting, none of the university hiring rules apply. Fred can hire you tomorrow. Understand, he can fire you just as easily. This is strictly a probationary assignment. If you do well, you can have the job as long as you like. If you don't fit, either the job or the existing team, we'll very gently move you on to something else."

"Of course, Uncle Tim. I wouldn't want special treatment. Well, that's silly, I am getting special treatment, but if it doesn't work out, no more special treatment."

"It's probably just as well that you don't call me 'Uncle Tim' around the university."

"OK, Tim. Where is this Development Consulting?"

"In the Alumni Building. You'll just find names on the building directory, Development Consulting isn't listed."

Bert said, "That's one of Dad's buildings."

Tim said, "Yeah, and it's great. But the writer's suite was made for three. They're going to have to figure out how to squeeze you in."

Bert said, "She's a great squeeze."

"Bert!"

"We're among friends. And it's true."

The next day Tim took Peg to meet the AAA writer's group (Arlo and Arlene Hunter and Alan Cohen) as well as April Madison, Sid's mother, whose job was to survey state newspapers and manage their files. Arlo and Arlene greeted Peg with great enthusiasm. Arlene said, "We've been telling Tim that we aren't going to write or live forever, and he needed to be thinking about a replacement."

Peg said, "I've been listening to Tim's speeches for years. The idea of actually writing one is daunting."

"Oh, Tim's easy to write for. He brings good ideas to the table, helps with the writing when we draw a blank, and–most importantly–actually says what's written in the script."

Alan added, "Most of the time."

Tim said, "I have always declared my independence."

"We know. Sometimes you even improve on the script."

"And I'm well aware that at times you think my ad libbing screws it up. Remember, I'm the speaker and you're the writers. By the time it gets to the speaker's podium, I can say what I damn well please."

Arlene turned to Peg and asked, "Are you sure you want to work with this clown?"

"Honestly, I'm honored that he thought I was good enough to be considered for the job." She turned to April. "Gee, it's good to see you, Mrs. Madison. I see a lot of Sid, but I don't see you and the girls all that often."

April responded, "What's this Mrs. Madison business? We're all first names here, regardless of ages. Mrs. Madison? I declare!"

"April, your grandson, Auggie, is my contemporary. You could be my grandmother."

"I ain't your grandmother, but I'd love to be. I'm just so delighted that Auggie had a chance to grow up with a bunch of kids like you. Sid didn't have that chance, until he was almost grown and met Tim. That changed all of our lives–and to think it was all because he used to cut school."

Arlo spoke up. "There are some stories here that I don't think we've heard. I think we're going to have a lot of interesting conversations with you two together here."

April said, "Well, I've found this to be a great place to work. Great people, and almost nobody knows we're here. We're rarely disturbed except by Tim or Charlie. There's a fifth member of the group, Lenny, but he only gets into the office about once a month. He lives in Bismarck and travels all over the state for us."

"I've met Lenny and his partner Sal a couple of times. They're fun. Oh, I'm so going to like working here."

Carl should've been there to end the conversation, but even without him the sentiment soon ended, and we got down to the business of talking about how we would work together. Arlene suggested that the space problem could easily be solved by she and I sharing an office. "That'll work fine, and sharing with me will help her learn the ropes."

Arlo said, "Great. And, Peg, we aren't talking simply about procedures. We're talking about writing style, learning to crawl inside of Tim's head and know what he's thinking even before he does, melding the local color that April and Lenny generate into a speech so it sounds like Tim's really familiar with their locality...."

I interrupted with, "I've heard Tim's speeches. You guys have made speech writing an art form. I can only hope to do almost as well as you do."

Tim said, "If you do that, you're doing great. And, I'm sure you will."

Bert's interviews, first with the President of the Board of Friends of the University of North Dakota, and then with the entire board went very well. Bert had called the President and asked about the job, submitted a letter of application, and got an interview, which led to the second. During the second interview, somebody asked the right question: "The position hasn't been advertised, how did you even know about it? We've only known for a month that Susan's leaving."

Bert knew that the answer to that question was a two-edged sword. He could answered truthfully, but incompletely, revealing as little as possible about his relationship to Tim–thinking that the closeness to Tim might put some of the board off. However, with the experience of the Gang behind him, he decided to be completely open with the board. "Tim and Charlie suggested that I apply for this position. They know my political science background and my interest in politics and suggested that this was a good fit. You need to know that Tim's my uncle; he's my father's brother. He's known me all my life, and been an inspiration to me."

That created a little stir around the table, and it soon became clear that the stir was positive. Someone said, "Well, if we were part of the university, then someone might raise the question of nepotism. But we aren't, and Tim has only a very informal relationship to this board. There's no conflict of interest in hiring you."

Someone else said, "There's also the question of filling the position without advertising it."

A third person commented, "We aren't bound by university or state hiring policy. If we believe we have the right man, we have the authority to hire him. And who's going to challenge us? We aren't a membership organization and we aren't tax exempt, because we're political. Our only constituency is our donors, and I know that the major ones would be very happy with Bert, and the minor ones, mostly students and faculty, either could care less or would also be happy with Bert. That said, the board has to think about this."

The board president spoke up, "Let me suggest that we tentatively act right now. I sense that everybody here is at least favorably inclined to hire Bert. Well, the legislature has exactly eight days left this year, and then it won't convene for almost two years. Let's hire Bert, right now, and send him to Bismarck tomorrow morning to follow Susan around for the last eight days of the session. Those eight days'll be invaluable. It'll be clearly understood that the appointment is probationary, and will be made permanent within ninety days or it'll end in ninety days. Bert, we'll pay you at Susan's current level, and negotiate salary and all other terms of employment in the next ninety days."

Somebody said, "So moved."

"Second."

The President turned to Bert and asked, "If I call for a vote, and they vote affirmatively, are you ready to go to work tomorrow morning, under those conditions?"

"I certainly am."

"Any discussion?"

Silence.

"All in favor say, 'Aye.'

"The ayes have it. Bert, you're now a lobbyist for the Friends of the University of North Dakota. I'll drive to Bismarck with you tomorrow and introduce you to Susan."

It happened that quickly. The next eight days were a whirlwind. Susan knew everybody and tried to introduce Bert to everybody she knew. Tim called Lenny and told him to join them at the Capitol and participate in the introductions. The only business remaining in this legislative season that affected the university was the final approval of the budget. The university was getting everything it asked for, and the legislature had added a provision for a Prairie Research Area to be administered by the university. Susan, along with Bert, had little to do to insure passage of these two important pieces of legislation, because the battles had been fought and won, and a couple lost, earlier in the session. Rather, they had to be on hand to answer any questions and try to douse any effort to trim that part of the budget.

Susan explained to Bert, "It used to be the tradition that the university presented a budget–all budgets are two-year budgets–that would allow the legislature room to cut about 10%. The student lobbyists, beginning with the group Tim first assembled seventeen sessions and thirty-four years ago, have completely changed that dynamic. Fairly early on they developed an understanding between the budget committee and the university that the university would present a true budget and the legislature would cut only for serious reasons, not just cutting for cutting's sake. It took several sessions before both sides really trusted each other, but now they do. The budget is seldom cut, but it was one year when a loss in revenue required some serious trimming of the entire budget. And a couple of times the budget's been increased, specifically to avoid a tuition increase that the university had included in its budget projections.

"Tim comes down during the sessions and glad-hands everyone. He testifies before the budget committee and always puts on an impressive performance. He knows the budget inside and out and can defend every line in it. For any cut that's suggested he can point out the specific losses that would occur. This year he was asked why the university needed color copiers. He could tell them that the additional capital costs for color copiers was small, and the per copy cost was 1/8 of the cost of using outside copy sources for color. Thus for a $4,000 capital cost, the university had saved about $6,000 a year over the last two years, and expected to continue that savings, but only if the $4,000 capital costs for color were continued in the budget. The senator that asked that question was really startled that Tim could be so specific, but the question of color copies had been raised on campus, and he'd become very familiar with the issue in order to settle the matter on campus. He was ready for that question. There were lots of other questions that he could've been asked, and which he would've answered to the best of his ability, but Tim's luck held, and he got one that he was overly prepared for."

Bert impressed Susan and Lenny, and both gave a glowing report back to the Friends Board of Directors. Bert's position was confirmed, and he and I were both happily and gainfully employed.

The next day was a Saturday, and we got up late and wondered what we'd do for the rest of the day. As we sat over a leisurely breakfast we were interrupted by Shel who barged into The Hideout kitchen quite noisily, and obviously deliberately so, and said, "Get dressed. We have places to go, things to do, decisions to make. You can't just sit here on your fat asses and eat all day." With that he got a fork out of a drawer and started to eat the food off of our plates. It was clear that if we wanted any more of our breakfast, we had better eat it fast, and we did. When our plates were cleaned, Shel continued, "Upstairs, get dressed. I'll clean up the kitchen."

One didn't easily argue with Shel, and we didn't try. We headed upstairs, with Shel in the background saying, "Look decent, about like I do."

He was dressed in cleaned and pressed khakis, very nice polo shirt, and casual leather shoes. We followed his lead and dressed nicely, but casually. We came downstairs and were greeted with, "You look great. Let's go. We have an appointment with Ms. Caruthers in about fifteen minutes."

"And just who is Ms. Caruthers?"

"My favorite real estate agent, and she'll be yours before the end of the day."

"Shel, what on earth would we do with a real estate agent?"

"Buy a house, of course."

"Shel, we don't have the money to buy a house. You have to be out of your mind."

"You don't, but the Bank of Fred does."

"We can't ask Fred to finance a house for us."

"Of course not. I'm sure you would consider it quite rude and inappropriate to ask that of Fred, though he'd be disappointed that you thought that way. But you didn't ask. He offered. No, he didn't offer; he instructed. I got a call from Fred yesterday, just after the board confirmed Bert's position (yours was sewn up a week ago, Peg). He said, 'Those kids need a house, and you're the housing expert. Fix 'em up. Whenever you need my signature, come and get it. And don't even consider letting them refuse. That's an order.' I said, 'Yessir,' and here I am, following orders."

I said, "Shel that's sweet of Fred, and you, but we...."

He cut me off like he was swatting a fly. "Look, let me explain something. Fred's an extraordinarily rich man. He spends little if any money on himself. He lives in the same modest house he bought his first bride. But he is, or was, the sole owner of Fred's Sports, Inc., one of the largest privately held corporations in the world. He's put the stock in trusts and endowments that support the University of North Dakota and the Gang. Since Andy's running the company, he has a nice interest that pays him well. But the damn corporation just keeps piling up money in the trust for the Gang–much faster than the Gang spends it. Legally, the spending on behalf of the Gang is controlled by Tim and Charlie, but in reality Fred's still running he show. And he's never yet turned down a request. That's how many of us live in the houses we do; that's how Tim and Charlie had the support they needed for their sailing quest; I could go on and on. You are members of the Gang. Children of the Gang. You can't possibly expect that your needs wouldn't be met. Not out of Fred's charity, but out of your participation in the affairs of the Gang.

"Now, Ms. Caruthers has a few houses picked out to show you. I've driven by them all (I told her to forget one, it was too shabby). I have a reputation with Ms. Caruthers. We don't waste time. You pick out a house today or you're in deep shit with me. Now move."

We moved. We went to the real estate office and Ms. Caruthers was waiting in front. She got in the car, and Shel introduced her. She apologized for not driving but told us that Shel insisted on driving. She said, "It keeps him in control, and believe me Shel always wants to be in control."

Shel said, "She knows me and can be quite honest. She'll also give you the straight poop on the houses we're about to look at. Now, which is the best house? We should start there and maybe we won't have to look further."

Ms. Caruthers said, "No, Shel. I have appointments with the agents for five of these houses and the sixth is my listing and the homeowners have been asked to be away this afternoon. If I don't bring clients to look at all of the houses it would be rude and unprofessional. You don't have to spend much time, and you don't have to buy, but you have to look and be serious about it."

"I'll accept that. Then let's save the best for last, so if it is, in fact, the best, we can get on with the purchase."

Bert and I would've been delighted with all six. I understood why Ms. Caruthers had picked the one she did as the best, but Bert and I fell in love with the fourth house we visited. It was smaller, but a delightful little cottage with a master bedroom on the first floor and three bedrooms upstairs. It had an unfinished basement, and Bert and I could envision all sorts of ideas for how to finish it just the way we'd like it. The kitchen was completely out of date, but when Shel walked into it he said, "The only thing that matters in this kitchen is the size. It must be totally remodeled, and it's big enough to remake it any way you want it." By this time we knew better than to raise any question about the cost of remodeling.

We looked at the last two houses, but we'd left our hearts at the little cottage we'd just left. Shel said, "OK, the rest is my job, along with Ms. Caruthers. You can watch, but don't get in the way."

Bert started to protest that we were buying the house, but Shel would have none of it. He said, "Look, you could've spent the day looking at grungy apartments instead of finding the house of your dreams. Now don't screw around and mess up the deal."

Ms. Caruthers added, "Believe me, the first time I dealt with Shel I felt just like you two do. But I've learned. You get out of his way, and things work out fine. They always have. So, Shel, where are we with this house?"

"The asking price is reasonable, but they want three months notice. We want the house in three weeks. We'll offer the asking price, with the three week proviso, and we sweeten the deal with a $10,000 allowance for their cost of moving, storage of items, interim living arrangements, and so forth. Frankly, I don't care how they spend the money, as long it relates in some way to their moving out. But if they're a day late getting out they lose the $10,000 and we retain the right to cancel the deal."

"I'm not sure they're going to be willing to move that soon."

"OK, raise the ante to $15,000. Tell 'em that they don't have to clean anything; they can leave behind anything they don't want and we'll get rid of it. But make sure the contract makes it clear that Bert and Peg get ownership of anything left behind; we don't want any disputes as we move the stuff out.

"Oh, yes, tell them not to bother with a counter offer. As I'm sure you're aware, it's take it or leave it."

"You know that I'm legally obligated to bring you any counter offer made."

"But we aren't legally obligated to even read it. Please assure them that counters are a complete waste of time."

It took the sellers, a pleasant but somewhat stodgy late middle-aged couple who were looking to move to a smaller house now that their kids were grown, all of an hour to: really understand that with these buyers you simply didn't negotiate; figure out that the inconvenience of moving quickly, which would mean a double move, would be easily compensated for by $15,000; and realize that after being on the market for six months a full asking price offer was a Godsend.

Shel had put no conditions in the offer. The house was obviously well-maintained and in good condition. It was connected to city water and sewer so there wasn't a well or septic field to worry about. A contractor would come in and completely remove the kitchen; what were they going to learn from a building inspection? So once the offer had been accepted, which occurred at 7:30 p.m. that Saturday evening (Shel had agreed to have the three weeks begin on Monday, giving the couple an extra day), the deal was closed. It would be a cash transaction, and Fred would negotiate a separate mortgage with Bert and me later. (There never was a mortgage! The money came as a gift from the Gang trust that Fred had set up, legally authorized by Tim and Charlie. We agreed, informally, to make regular gifts to the endowment fund of the University of North Dakota for a period of at least twenty years.)

When Ms. Caruthers brought the signed contract to us that evening, Shel said, "Will you please extend our thanks to the sellers for their being willing to move so quickly? And will you extend to them an offer that I would be willing to be of assistance to them in making an easy move?"

Ms. Caruthers met the couple on Sunday and extended Shel's offer. She also told them that Shel was a most extraordinary person, and that if they accepted his offer, they'd find the move quite easy. Their response was, "Oh, my God. We couldn't turn down the offer, but we really don't know how we're going to make the deadline. Please tell Mr. Oldfield that we'll gratefully accept his offer of help."

"I need to warn you. Mr. Oldfield–everybody calls him Shel–does not suffer fools. He'll be forceful and direct, but fair and respectful of your concerns. He takes getting used to, but I think you'll like him."

Well, Shel came by that afternoon. His plan was quite simple. He told them that first they should plan to move into furnished housing while they looked for a new house. Ms. Caruthers could take care of that. The cost would come out of the $15,000. Next they should move, and get out of the house the clothes, papers, and other things they'd need in the next month or so in furnished housing. Then they should get movers in and have them pack up everything in the house they'd want in a new house. If in doubt, have it packed. As soon as everything was packed, the movers would get it and put it in storage. They were planning to move to a smaller house, and had twenty-five years of accumulation; there'd be a lot left over. Then they should have their children come through and take what they wanted. Then Shel would arrange for an antique dealer and a used furniture dealer to come through and make offers on everything that was salable. The offers would be fair, because Shel wouldn't let anyone who was not willing to make a fair offer into the house. The offers should be accepted, and dealers told to get the stuff out the next day. Then a junk dealer would be called to give them an offer for everything else. On Ms. Caruthers advice they agreed to Shel's proposal. Ms. Caruthers had them in a double suite in an extended stay hotel in two days. The movers were done packing in three and they moved on the fourth. The children got two days. The antique and furniture dealers got two days. The junk dealer got two. They were out in just under two weeks, and had only spent about $9,000 of the $15,000. Shel agreed to pay them a rent of $6,000 for the eight days they were out of the house before the required closing date! Everybody was happy!

During those two weeks Shel made us sit down with a contractor and plan a new kitchen, plan a basement design, and pick colors, rugs, curtains, and everything for the entire house. Kitchen counters, the biggest potential delay were ordered after a week. Everything else was picked after ten days. The contractor entered the house the day after it was cleared by the junk dealer, who was allowed to leave behind anything he didn't want–that went out with the old kitchen! Long story short, seven weeks and two days later–a Monday–Bert and I took possession of the most wonderful new home you can imagine. We had no furniture, just our stuff from college. Shel had insisted that we pick out a king-size bed, a kitchen table and chairs, two easy chairs for the living room, and two dressers for the bedroom. That was delivered on Monday. The rest would be up to us, and we could take our time.

Shel and Brian invited us out to dinner that Monday night and then drove us to our new home. They came in with us, and Shel announced, "OK, you two owe me a big one."

"We sure do," I answered.

"Here's the deal. We're going to watch your first fuck in your new bed in your new home. And then we're each going to fuck one of you. We haven't decided who wants which, but we'll have that settled when the time comes."

Brian looked a little green at the ears. He'd forgotten that Shel, Bert, and I grew up as COGs together, and Shel wasn't really pushing our limits. I went to Shel and said, "You get to fuck me, buddy boy. You don't want to push dear gay Brian out of his comfort zone. He can have Bert. But we'll start by letting you undress Bert." I went over to Brian and rubbed his groin a little and said, "And Brian can undress me."

Do I need to draw you pictures of the rest of the night? OK, I really don't, but you'd like to read the details anyway, right?

Here goes.

Brian was a little squeamish about watching Bert and me have a first fuck in our new home (none of us had yet found anything that Shel was squeamish about), but he wasn't shy about undressing me. And thoroughly exploring me in the process. He certainly got me quite ready for Bert's ministrations. Shel and Bert were certainly not new to each other; they were just under three years apart and had been exploring each other for years. As a result, Bert wasn't as "ready" as I was as we came together on the bed. My tongue took care of that rather quickly.

Then I turned to Shel and said, "OK, buddy, this was your idea. Bert's ready to fuck me; you tell him how you want to see it done."

Shel didn't miss a beat, "Doggie style."

I'll admit that was going to be a new one for me, and I think maybe for Bert as well. But I got on my hands and knees on the bed and Bert came up behind me. He told Shel, "OK, smart ass, get your hand in there and make sure my aim is true."

Shel didn't hesitate. He reached under the two of us, grabbed Bert's dick and used his thumb to find my hole so he could guide the dick in. Success on the first try!

I said, "OK, Shel, Bert needs a little help here. Goose him good."

Shel did, and Bert instantly plowed into me. I said, "Again," and Shel repeated the process.

At first Brian seemed a little shocked at the performance, but he got over that and started laughing. Bert said, "If you keep laughing like that, I'm never going to come."

I said, "Shel." Goose. Bang. Laugh.

It took about ten minutes and Bert exploded into me. I assured him that I'd reached my climax a minute to two before, and we both fell down on the bed. I grabbed Shel and Bert motioned for Brian to join him.

Shel said, "I hope there's plenty of KY, because there are two asses here that're going to get fucked. Follow me, Brian."

Bert and I were pushed on our backs with our feet up over our heads. Our asses were greased, and Shel aimed and pushed into my asshole amazingly gently. Brian did the same to Bert. They slowly and methodically pumped up and down until they both spilled their seed inside us. Bert wasn't ready for a second orgasm, but I was, and Shel did the job with an incredibly talented tongue. I had to wonder how a gay boy was so damn good at arousing a girl with a tongue to the vagina and clitoris. But he was!

That was quite a night, and the next night as we drifted off to sleep we talked about it. I asked Bert, "Was Shel pushing too far last night?"

"Did you think he was? If you'd even hinted at that he would've stopped, and if he hadn't Brian would've made him. But Shel wouldn't need that from Brian, he's very sensitive to other people–even if he does seem brash and bold, which he certainly is. I didn't sense last night that you were being pushed too far. Did both Shel and I miss something?"

"No. It was fun. I'm not the least bit sorry. But what are our limits? How far do we want these things to go?"

"The Gang would answer that you need to find your comfort zone and stay inside it, and inside the comfort zone of your partners. We're all adults, we never do anything behind our partner's back. I don't think there need to be other limits."

"You know that most of the world would disagree with you."

"Of course. At least they talk that way. There's a Hell of a lot of fornicating going on that's outside of the limits that most people talk about. We may be extraordinarily liberal sexually, but we aren't hypocrites."

"You were completely comfortable last night?"

"Completely."

"You didn't feel Shel was intruding on your first time in your new home?"

"I thought it made it exciting. I get the feeling that you had a little different reaction."

"It was exciting. I can't really explain it. I was comfortable last night. I'm not the least bit sorry. I guess I just need an affirmation from you, that you weren't out of your comfort zone."

"Not in the least."

"Then let's not worry about last night at all. I'm sorry I brought it up."

"I'm glad you did. This kind of thing is much better when talked about."

"You're right. OK, let me bring up another subject."

"And that is?"

"Sex with other members of the Gang."

"Anyone in particular?"

"Yes."

"Who?"

"All of them. Except our parents, of course."

"Wow, that's a big particular."

"Where do we start?"

"That's easy. With Max."

"Why Max?"

"He's single; so he's easily available, and eager. He's also had a lot of experience with all generations in the Gang. I think he'd be a fount of information. And good fun as well. I've chatted with him. He's been screwing his way through the Gang with great success and delight."

I told Bert, "I've talked with Trudi. She says that Max is a wonderful date, both before going to bed and after."

"They're dating rather regularly right now, aren't they? At least that's what Milt tells me."

"Yeah. Trudi's having a ball, but tells me that it has to end before too long. Neither one thinks it's really a love affair."

We invited Max and Trudi for dinner a few nights hence. They were delighted to come. It was Trudi, rather than Max, that started the conversation about sex. "We understand that you want to pick our brains about sex in the Gang, and how you get involved. We hope you also are interested is actually having sex tonight. We'd both be disappointed if you weren't."

Bert said, "We weren't sure how you two would feel about it, but we certainly are interested. But I do think dinner should be first."

Max said, "Depends on what's on the menu."

I said, "Max, be serious."

"I am serious! A good steak trumps a good fuck any day. But any old fuck trumps beef stew. So which is it?"

"Lamb chops."

"That's easy, chop then fuck. Right, Trudi?"

"Right on, kid. There may have been a time in my life when the order would've been reversed, but that was long ago."

Max said, "I guess I'm more of an old man than I thought."

"Not you Max," said Trudi, and we all agreed.

The dinner was delicious, Max and Trudi were great company and thoroughly entertaining, and the sex afterwards was interesting to say the least. Both Bert and I had to get over our emotional bias about sex with a septuagenarian. Max quickly set us straight. "It's not the age, it's the mindset, and Trudi has a mindset that's at least a few years younger than any of us. She's a blast. I suggest that we let Peg and Trudi play a little while we watch, Bert. Then I know that Trudi wants to be fucked, and you are up. Then I'll take care of Peg's needs any way she'd like."

It went just that way, and I ended up getting royally fucked by Max. Wow, he is some fuck. I hope that Bert wasn't jealous. Bert's reaction was to say, "I think I need to take some lessons from Max."

Trudi put in, "Everyone needs lessons from Max."

The two of them gave us some suggestions on where we should go next. The place was Gangland. If we wanted the older generation, we should be there early to mid-afternoon. For the middle generation, i.e. about the current age of the original Gang, suppertime or early evening. The younger set was more likely to be there late evening, or even late at night.

We decided to venture to Gangland one afternoon, not really having any idea what, or whom, to expect. When we entered the combination we got the occupied, 30-second delay signal. We waited, wondering who might be within. To out great surprise it was Coach Herb and Norman Crosse, Perry's partner! They were sitting on the couch in their Jockey shorts, with their arms draped over each other. Herb said, "Well, look what the cat dragged in. Certainly not whom we would've expected. And, I'll bet we aren't whom you expected. This could lead to great sex. That is why you're here, isn't it?"

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