Episode 208 - TV
Chet here again. When Charlie invited me to tell Jimmy's and my story, I don't think that he realized how wordy I can be, and that it would take me three episodes to tell it. It really isn't Jimmy's and my story, it's Jimmy's story: He is definitely the hero. And it was wonderful to have the story told on national television, so everyone could know just what a hero he was.
But when Jimmy had said, "I'd love to," I don't think he had any idea of what he was getting himself into. As both Jimmy and I would learn, Tim does not go lightly into the realm of public relations, publicity, or television. The minute Jimmy had agreed, this became a Tim "production."
The conversation at which Jimmy had agreed to the television exhibition had taken place at our regular morning practice, when Tim had stopped by to see how he was doing on his triples. At the end of practice, Charlie got me aside and asked, "Where do you guys go from here? To class?"
I answered, "No, we'll go for coffee for about a half hour, and then we both have to head to class. Mine is at Red River High School."
Charlie looked pleased and said, "I'll buy the coffee this morning; we need to have a little chat. I'm going to invite Larry to join us if that's OK."
After we'd changed, the four of us walked over to the campus coffee shop. Charlie started the conversation by saying, "I'm not here to try to talk you out of performing next January, but I need to warn you that Tim is sure to make a big deal of this, and you're right in the middle of his big deal. Don't expect to have much of a life from now until them."
Jimmy said, "Wow. Honestly, it sounds exciting."
Charlie laughed and said, "Now you sound just like Tim. It's a good thing you two found each other, you're birds of a feather. Well, Jimmy, have a good time with Tim. And Chet, just hang on tight. That's what I've been doing since I met Tim many years ago."
I asked, "How did you meet Tim?"
"I was his camp counselor at Camp White Elk in Michigan."
"Camp White Elk?"
"Yes, have you heard of it?"
"Both my brother and I went there as little kids. As we got older we had to choose between summer diving practice and camp. If you want to be a real competitive diver you can't skip summer practice."
"Tim squeezed in two weeks at camp most summers, but he had the same conflict that you did. When were you at Camp White Elk? Was Stanley still running the place or had Jeff taken over?"
"Stanley was there Chuck's first year. He was at the memorial campfire the next summer. But he remembers Jeff more than Stanley. I only knew Jeff. He was great."
"You'll be seeing him again, here in Grand Forks before too long. He and Dick, his partner, are very good friends of Tim and me, and many others in Grand Forks. They visit often. Now that I know your connection, I'll make sure you know when he comes."
"I don't believe how people are so connected. Who would ever have expected a Camp While Elk connection in North Dakota?"
Larry said, "Jimmy, I want you to take a day off of diving tomorrow. It's going to get very intense very quickly; take a little break. Two days if you feel like it."
"I guess I'd like a day. Chet, let's sleep in tomorrow morning. We'll be back the next day, Friday."
I could hardly believe it when Charlie said, "Sleep in, nuts. I'm sure that you'll be in bed, but hardly asleep." Both Jimmy and I had red faces, and Larry and Charlie just laughed.
Larry said, "You certainly have them pegged, Charlie."
Tim joined us on Friday morning, and Charlie was right. He'd put together the Jimmy show in his mind, and it would be a real Tim production. As President of the University he'd narrate the show, but he'd introduce Al and Alex and let one of them explain the effort to make the diving facilities accessible to Jimmy. Jimmy would be introduced and some of the issues with his diving would be discussed–mainly the fact that he couldn't safely enter the water feet first. He'd take his first dive from the side of the pool and swim across the diving pool and come up the ladder without help. Then Alex would explain that under normal conditions he refused help getting out of the pool, but would make an exception today to keep the meet on schedule.
His dives would continue on the low board, the high board, and the five-meter platform. Tim assured us that he had experience in the circus and would act like a typical circus ringmaster and build up the hype and excitement as Jimmy dove from higher perches doing more difficult dives. He talked about getting Toppy to put together a little band, with drums of course, to provide background music and drum rolls for the event. It would, of course, end on the ten-meter platform with Jimmy doing four dives from that height. Tim hadn't decided on the first dive–it would be some super difficult front dive. Then the two handstand dives. But the show would close with Tim and Jimmy doing a tandem dive, as yet to be selected, in which Tim and Jimmy would do their damnest to do exactly the same thing. Jimmy responded, "Than means you have to act disabled like me, because my leg simply won't let me be perfect like you."
Tim said, "In tandem diving, you're perfect if you match your partner. We'll make that happen."
Tim could take your breath away. If Jimmy really could pull all that off it would be spectacular. Tim's personality was so forceful, and his confidence in both Jimmy and himself so total, that he had us all believing from the very beginning.
But, as Jimmy would learn, and the rest of us knew, believing isn't what's important. It's doing, and practicing, practicing, practicing and then coming back and practicing, practicing, practicing again and again.
Tim watched Jimmy do all kinds of dives, over and over again. Finally, one day in early December he said to Jimmy, "When you do a twist you pretty much lose control of your left leg. But that means that it swings around pretty much as the gravitational and centrifugal forces dictate. And that means that while it doesn't necessarily do what a diver would like it to do, it does what it does quite consistently. And that means that the tandem dive that we do needs to involve a twist, probably a double twist. I think we should do a forward triple with a double twist in the pike position."
The idea of doing that dive should've knocked Jimmy right on his ass. Instead he simply replied, "Why a pike, not a tuck? I have a lot better chance of controlling my leg and arm in a tuck."
Tim replied, "Precisely. But you don't know when you start whether you'll be able to control the tuck or not. With the pike you pretty much can be assured your leg will do what it, or gravity, or centrifugal force decides it'll do. And if we can be pretty sure what it'll do, then I can make sure that my leg does the same thing. And that's the key to tandem diving. Mind you, the dive I've just suggested isn't an officially recognized dive. Twisting dives enter the water feet first, and this will be head first. But that's who you are, and we can make our own rules."
Jimmy was amazing. And so was Tim. Tim helped Jimmy do the crazy triple with a double twist, and before long Jimmy could do it. Remember, Jimmy never made his body match the wonderful diagrams that defined competitive dives. He had "done" the triple with a double twist, when he'd managed a dive with three somersaults and two twists, with his hands and head leading his body into the water. Real competitive divers would give their eye teeth to have to meet only those requirements for a dive. But they wouldn't trade their legs and arms that worked as their brains dictated for the left arm and leg that Jimmy had to work with.
Once Jimmy had the dive down, Tim watched him do it again and again. He taped the dives and played them on a computer screen where he could see nine images at once. Finally he said, "Jimmy, you're developing considerable consistency with this dive. Your left leg swings away from where it should be as you get about halfway through the first twist. It follows behind from then on, and sort of flops in place as you enter the water. Actually it's kind of graceful to watch. Now I need to see if I can match it."
Nobody doubted Tim's diving ability, but this was a pretty tall order. He started doing front dives with a double twist letting his left leg hang limp. He would touch it with his left hand, but not hold it. Very soon it was swinging around like Jimmy's. Then Tim jumped straight to the triple, and you almost thought you were looking at Jimmy. They'd decided that Jimmy would hold his left hand tight to his body rather than out in front with the right hand. It almost always ended up slightly askew, and amazingly Tim's did the same. I think I'm a pretty good diver. I have Olympic ambitions. I could no more accomplish what Tim had accomplished than the man in the moon! There's no doubt in my mind that Tim could've qualified for the London Olympics and I can't imagine what diver could've denied him the platform gold.
I'm not sure how Tim found the time to spend so many hours in the pool with Jimmy. Charlie told us that if Tim thought something was important, he found the time. I learned that he'd found the time by unloading the duties of the President of the University onto the Chancellor, Charlie, and the Vice-President for Development, Liddy Lidholtz, both of whom he trusted implicitly, and neither of whom hesitated to make decisions without having to involve Tim.
All this time other things were going on as well.
The spring of 2006 had been a time of considerable sexual experimentation for Jimmy and me. We had both been tested and found to be HIV negative–neither a surprise nor a relief for either of us, as we were pretty sure that we'd never engaged in any kind of risky behavior. Still, the knowledge opened some mental doors. We realized that there was a three to six month window during which a person infected with HIV could still test negative, but we were absolutely certain that we'd engaged in no risky behavior in the past six months, except perhaps with each other–and even then, no fucking. But we both felt that it was time to experiment with fucking each other. We had no idea whether we'd like that better than the oral and manual sex that we'd been having, but we both wanted to try.
That led to an interesting question: Who would fuck whom first? Neither one of us had any idea of whether we preferred to be top or bottom, and neither one of us had strong feelings as to which role we wanted to take first. In spite of that, we felt that we needed some method, other than random selection with dice or cards or something else, to decide. We thought of various ways to pick a winner between us–a circle jerk being an obvious method–and then let that winner choose, but neither was comfortable with that. We wanted some kind of way not to pick a winner, but to pick a fucker and fuckee.
I know that all of this sounds silly in the telling, but it was serious stuff for us, and we were determined not to fuck each other until we'd found a solution to our problem.
It was Jimmy who resolved the impasse. One evening as we were both doing homework in my room at Auggie and Lynn's, he asked, "Have you ever dreamed of having sex with Auggie?"
"Have you?" That is certainly a common way of ducking answering a question, isn't it?
"Honestly, yes. It make a great sexual fantasy when you're masturbating, or even being jacked off or blown by a partner."
"I'll admit that my mind's wandered in that direction from time to time. Are you thinking you'd like to turn that into reality? Do you think Auggie would be willing?"
"No, that isn't where this is going. Here's my suggestion. We need to decide who'd like to be a top or a bottom first. OK, when we go to bed tonight–I assume I'm going to spend the night–we jack off together on the bed. We both dream of sex with Auggie, both dreaming of fucking him. About halfway there we stop and consciously change our dream to his fucking us. We set a timer so that we don't get carried away and forget to stop halfway. The second time, with the Auggie image reversed, we go on to climax. Then we honestly compare notes. Did we find the first scenario more exciting, or the second. If we both reach the same conclusion, we haven't gotten anywhere. But if we find that one was more aroused by being fucked and the other more aroused by fucking, then we have our answer as to who fucks whom first."
"I like the idea. There's no time like the present." I began taking off my clothes and Jimmy followed. We lay side by side on the queen-size bed that Auggie had furnished the room with–it had originally been a guest room and can you imagine Auggie with guests that wouldn't appreciate a queen bed? "OK, we start by dreaming of Auggie fucking us. I'm pretty hot, I think we should set the timer for just three minutes."
I don't know about Jimmy's Auggie, but mine was about to finish when he was interrupted by the timer. It took a minute to readjust my mind, but I mentally climbed on top of Auggie and started in. I'm being honest when I say that the idea of Auggie fucking me was much more arousing that the idea of my fucking Auggie. That didn't stop me from very quickly exploding cum all over my stomach, just ahead of Jimmy accomplishing the same thing. I asked, "OK, which do you think you preferred, being the fucker or the fucked."
Jimmy said, "I feel guilty saying this, because for most people being on top is the preferred position, and it's very clear that that's who I am. But that puts you in a tough position."
"No, it doesn't. It would only put me in a tough position if you'd been unwilling to claim your honest preference. I can say, in complete honesty, that it's clear to me that I'd prefer having your dick up my ass to putting my dick up your ass, though it certainly wouldn't bother me to do it from time to time. I'm spent now, but by the time we finish the homework that we were doing, I'll be ready to let your dick have a shot at my ass. Think you'll be ready?"
"You can bet your sweet ass I'll be."
He was, and did we have a good time that night? He was very kind and gentle, beginning by rimming me, then lubing me, then one and two fingers, and finally very gently working his dick in, and out, and in, and out. You get the picture. I was on my back with my legs held by his shoulders. When he came, he arched his back so tightly I was afraid he might hurt himself. Then he relaxed and dove for my dick to give me a blow job. That didn't take long, and we rolled into each other's arms, fully spent, and fully in love.
We had, of course, learned a lot about ourselves. I had little interest in fucking him, or playing in his asshole in any way. I tried rimming him once, and never did it again. And he didn't seem to want me to–though that may be just his way of loving me. On the other hand, he loved playing with my ass, rimming it, trying to shove his tongue in, sticking a finger or fingers in. And, of course, fucking it, nearly always followed by giving me a blow job. I'll have to admit, even after quite a few years, I don't know whether Jimmy really likes giving me a blow job, or that he simply knows that's what I like. He insists that after he fucks me nothing pleases him more than blowing me. Well, nothing pleases me more than the one-two combination of fuck-blow. We do other things, and often just use our hands on each other. But the fuck-blow (we call it that) is our stock-in-trade!
By this time Jimmy was spending most nights with me, and his roommate, not being a simpleton, quickly figured out what was going on. About a month before the school year ended he said to Jimmy, "I know you spend most nights with Chet at wherever Chet lives. And I know you usually let me know when you won't be here. But it'd be nice if you were consistently gone. Then my girl could spend the night on a fairly regular basis."
Jimmy thought about that a little and replied, "I didn't realize you and your girl were that serious. I'm going to be moving in with Chet at the end of the school year, why don't I just move out now? And, I didn't realize that you didn't know where Chet lived. He came here last year, while he was still a high school student, and was invited to live with Auggie and Lynn Madison. Auggie's a professional photographer and Lynn's a painter. They've been wonderful hosts for Chet, and now me."
"They're comfortable with a gay couple living with them?"
"It doesn't faze them. They've encouraged our romance. You know, Eddie, I don't even know your girl's name; I've been so wrapped up in my own love affair, I know almost nothing about yours."
"Julie and I haven't gotten as far along as you and Chet. But I'm pretty sure that she's the one. Things have moved pretty fast this past month. I think we're both committed to each other, but we haven't put it into words yet."
"If having this room available helps, you're welcome to it."
"I don't want you to think that I'm fucking the bejesus out of her. In fact, we haven't gotten that far yet. But you need a private space to do anything more than kiss. We've slept together in my bed here a few times when I knew you wouldn't be coming in."
"I understand why you'd like to be certain of an empty room. That's easy to arrange."
"I'll help you move."
"I think you'll be amazed at the move, but your help will be appreciated."
"I'll be amazed?"
"I'll tell the Circle and the Keepers that I'm moving and when and where. Those that can will show up to help. We'll clean my stuff out of this room in about twenty minutes. If you and Julie help I'm sure that you'll get a lunch invitation, and it's one that you don't want to turn down."
"The Circle and the Keepers?"
"It's a long story. We'll tell it on moving day."
Moving day was Saturday, three days hence. Most of the Circle and the Keepers were free and they showed up at 9:00 a.m. at Jimmy and Eddie's room, where Eddie and Julie had just spent the night. They were up and ready to greet us.
As soon as Jimmy had told the Circle about the move, Murray took over. He said, "That's my department. With the manpower we have available, it'll be a piece of cake. You just be ready to show us what's yours so that we don't grab your roommate's stuff, and then stay out of the way."
Saturday morning was a trip. There were fifteen movers, counting me, Eddie and Julie. Each came with a box and Jimmy showed us what was his. We filled the box and got out of the way, putting the box in a car. Then each of us came back for the bigger stuff that didn't need to be boxed, including all of Jimmy's clothes hanging in the closet. Literally, in less than a half hour the room was empty of Jimmy's stuff, and we were in a ten-car caravan to Auggie's house.
Jimmy and I had told Auggie and Lynn of the plan immediately after Jimmy's conversation with Eddie. Since Auggie was already expecting us for the summer, he was delighted to welcome Jimmy a month early. Jimmy was in and settled by eleven, and we were all invited to hang around for an early lunch. In about a half-hour Lynn served a wonderful lunch of spaghetti and a big green salad. As we waited around for lunch Toppy gave Eddie and Julie some background on the Circle, and Shel (who else?) told about The Lighthouse and the Lighthouse Keepers. Well, they didn't tell all!
Not long after Jimmy had completely moved in, Lynn and Auggie hit us with another surprise. Lynn told us one night at dinner, "Well, Auggie and I'll be heading to Madison about the first of June. We'll be back in early September. You boys'll have the house to yourselves. Behave."
I said, "To Madison. Why Madison?"
Auggie said, "That's where we live in the summer. Lynn's from there, and that's where we met. But we go to Madison because that's where the boats and water are."
Lynn said, "Auggie's the best sailor in Wisconsin, and his home base is Madison and the Mendota Sailing Club. He sails A-boats."
I asked, "Are A-boats related to E-boats. They had an E-boat at Camp White Elk. I rode in it a couple of times."
"An A-boat is an oversized E. I learned to sail the E at White Elk, and the A in Madison."
Lynn said, "Don't you believe that. He never learned to sail an A-boat. He simply got aboard one and sailed away. In fact, the first time he stepped aboard an A-boat he was being examined for a sailing membership in the Mendota Sailing Club. He sailed like a master–the first time he was aboard an A-boat."
I asked, "Auggie, is that true?"
Auggie hesitated, and Lynn said, "Don't put him on the spot. He knows it's true, but is reluctant to say so."
Auggie said, "To get back to the subject. I sail A-boats in all the Sunday races in Madison. Sometimes we go over to Geneva to sail. And I usually head to the finger lakes in New York for a week or so to sail there. But the main reason I go to Madison, Geneva, and New York is that I'm a professional photographer, and my speciality is boats. If you want to be paid to photograph boats, you need to go where the boats are. They are in Madison, Geneva, and New York."
Lynn said, "And other places, too. But people that own boats in those other places have to find Auggie, he doesn't seek them out."
I said, "But when they find him, he goes to them, right?"
"It's not like his father's clients. The can go to Sid. But Auggie has to go to where his clients' boats are."
"And that explains the trip to Australia last year."
"Wait a minute. Am I missing something? What about last summer? Why weren't you in Madison last summer?"
"We were; when you headed to Hinsdale, we headed for Madison."
"That really screwed up your summer."
"Not really. For once we enjoyed the more leisurely pace of Grand Forks during the summer."
"Don't try to kid me. You completely reorganized your summer on my account. Thank you, but you shouldn't have done that. I could've just gone back to Hinsdale for the summer."
"And not kept up your diving. Don't sell yourself short, Chet; you're going to be a great diver, and everyone around you is willing to help."
Lynn asked, "Let's get back to the coming summer. I'm quite certain that we can trust you with the house, but are the two of you going to be comfortable with that responsibility?"
I looked at Jimmy, and he was grinning. I said, "Yes, and I promise we can be trusted, even if Jimmy's standing there grinning like a Cheshire cat."
Auggie said, "That's exactly what I would've looked like if, as a teenager, I'd been offered a whole house to live in for the summer. And I could've been trusted with it, and I'm sure you two can be. But, please understand, we don't mean that you can't use the house, invite friends, and enjoy it. Sleep in our king-size bed if you like. Just keep everything and everyone under control. I'm sure you can."
That night as we lay in bed I asked Jimmy, "Do you believe that they reorganized their whole summer so that I could dive here in Grand Forks?"
"It's called love and support. It seems to be the stock-in-trade of Tim and everybody around him."
"It takes getting used to."
"And we have to remember, it's two-way. If we would like to get closer to this group, we have to be ready to give the same love and support that we're getting."
"I know. And with these folks, I don't think it'll be difficult.
It was, of course, the summer of the handstand. We, especially Jimmy, were much too busy with handstands and diving to get in trouble in the house. But we did have the Keepers for dinner and then the Circle–we didn't feel up to having both at once. They suggested that we should get to know all of the COGs, which we were told were really no longer COGs, but still thought of themselves that way.
Shel said, "I'm going to organize a dinner for a bunch of COGs and you two. Especially the younger COGS. Milt is the youngest; he was born in '84. When were you guys born?"
Jimmy answered, "1986, and Chet is a year younger. We're both going to be sophomores, because he combined being a high school senior with being a college freshman."
Shel continued, "Among the COGs, the next up the line are Max and me, born in '82. Auggie, Jennie, and Perry were born in 81, and it goes on from there. We'll make sure all of the youngest ones are at dinner, and as many others as can make it. I think we'll do it at The Hideout and get it catered."
I asked, "Shel, you don't do anything halfway, do you?"
"Certainly not. Halfway is no way to run a railroad, or anything else."
"Well, I've learned that the Gang doesn't like their invitations questioned; that they wouldn't be issued unless truly meant. So, speaking for both Jimmy and me, thank you very much, we'll be delighted to come and get to know the COGs."
"My God, it takes most people at least a half a dozen invitations before they learn to say, 'Yes, thanks,' instead of, 'Oh, that would be too much trouble,' or 'You don't have to do that.' You're a quick learner. I love it."
"I think to that I'll just say, 'Thank you'."
"Good. I'll try to set this up as soon as possible. I think a week night will be best, because people tend to have weekend calendars filled."
"That would suit us. If Tim is any model, we fade out later than him."
"On that Tim isn't a model. Most of the COGs are up later than Tim, but we won't be late after this dinner."
The dinner was a week later at The Hideout. Seventeen of twenty-one COGs were present, and six of their spouses. Actually, all of the COGs had spouses, but there were six two-COG couples, leaving eight spouses who weren't COGs in their own right. Six of them had made it. In addition, Hardie had been invited along with Connie. That was a total of twenty-seven, counting Jimmy and me.
Before the party, Jimmy and I discussed the COGs and the implications of their invitation. I told Jimmy, "It's my sense that the COGs have more than just a close relationship; I think there's a sexual element to it."
"What makes you think so?"
"Various comments they've made from time to time; their very open acceptance of you and me. In particular, hints that we might enjoy girls as well as boys. For them to be thinking along those lines, they'd have to be involved in more than just sex with their spouses."
"That's consistent with a lot we know about them, and their obviously very liberal attitude toward sex and sexual mores."
"What does that imply for our invitation for tomorrow night?"
Jimmy answered, "I think it implies that we ought to think about how we might respond to some kind of invitation. Also, we ought to wear clean underwear."
"It's really a pretty heavy question, isn't it? It gets to the guts of our commitment to each other."
"Yes, but it doesn't mean that any given answer is a violation of that commitment. It means that we need to talk about just what we think we've committed to."
"Well, Jimmy, you know I've had sex with some other boys. But I haven't since I met you. Neither have I had the opportunity. I'm not embarrassed when I tell you about my previous sex. I know you haven't had any, but if you had it wouldn't bother me at all."
Jimmy said, "Let me try to get at the heart of this. We both talked about trying to decide if we were gay. While we're both happy in our gay relationship, I can see a time when our uncertainty might raise its head again. If it did, and I asked you if it'd be all right for me to experiment with a girl, what would you say?"
"I'd say, 'Go for it. I'm sure that you'll confirm that you're gay.'"
"What if, after I'd tried sex with a girl (I haven't the slightest idea who), I said, 'Chet, that was fun. You're more fun, and I love you very much, but I think I'd like to fuck a girl again. I'll bet you would, too.'"
"I'd say it was OK, and I might take your advice, if I could find a girl."
"We've just answered our question about the COGs. It's OK, as long as we both know about it, and as long as it doesn't undermine our love for each other, and I'm sure it wouldn't."
"You think it's just that simple?"
"And I think the COGs think it's just that simple. Remember, they all grew up together. A number of them married or partnered with other COGs. I'll bet they were all sexually active as they grew up, and I'll bet they still are. The question is, do they roam outside of the group of COGs and how far? And are we going to get some sort of invitation tomorrow night?"
"Well, we won't know the answer till tomorrow night. But the next question, for us both to answer honestly, is whether we're hoping that we get some sort of an invitation tomorrow night."
"That's what I'm hoping."
Jimmy and I had seen The Hideout from the outside when we visited The Roundhouse and The Lighthouse, but had never been inside. We were invited in, and as its history and function were described to us, all I could think was, "My God, this is one Hell of a playhouse for a bunch of kids."
We were introduced to those of the group that didn't know us, and we then had a chance to get to know twenty-five absolutely delightful people, and as time would go by, we'd learn again and again just how wonderful they all were.
The dinner was good, but not special–roast chicken, and unlike many catered dinners, the quantities weren't excessive; there was one chicken for each three people, with potatoes and vegetables. Shel looked at the food and said, "Sometimes we have a big feast–usually featuring steaks or rack of lamb–but many of us are, or were, athletes, and we realize that eating to excess one day simply means having to watch your eating the next few days. We know you're both serious divers, and overfeeding you wouldn't be a favor. That's why there isn't enough on the table for us all to overeat."
Jimmy said, "You think you have a weight problem. With my limited activity level, I really have to watch what I eat. I can't thank you enough for being conscious of that."
Conversation at dinner was light and comfortable. We learned something about most of the COGs present, but there wasn't time for detailed stories. We were asked about our diving, and the group was comfortable asking Jimmy about his experiences as a disabled boy, student, and diver. Most people are very embarrassed to talk to a disabled person about his disability, and Jimmy found it refreshing to encounter a group that was interested as well as respectful. Bob asked, "Do you like the word disabled or handicapped? I've always used the word handicapped; I remember all those ads encouraging people to 'Hire the handicapped.' But the other day I was criticized for using that word and was told to use disabled."
Jimmy answered, "I'll bet the critic wasn't a handicapped person, was he or she?"
"No. How did you know?"
"It's more of an issue for those who support the handicapped than the handicapped themselves. Somebody decided that a disability is a physical or mental problem that affects someone. A handicap is the problems society creates for the person with the disability. So I'm disabled. If the school doesn't have an elevator where I need it, that's a handicap."
"Since you've been referring to yourself as handicapped, I assume that you don't make much of all that."
"I certainly don't. As far as I'm concerned the words disabled and handicapped are synonyms. Use whichever one you like. Neither bothers me. Of course, the handicap, or disability, whichever you call it, bothers me; it's a pain in the ass. But you learn to live with it. You don't really have a choice, so why cry over it? And what difference does it make what people call it?"
I said, "Now you know why I like this man so much. He's a joy to be with, and the disability doesn't get in the way."
Jimmy said, "OK, you've talked about my life. Let me ask about yours. Chet and I have a sense that one of the things that defines the COGs relationship to each other is your sexuality. Are we right?"
Max laughed and said, "These guys have a keen sense of...something."
Hardie said, "You've hit the nail on the head."
I asked, "Is that part of the reason for tonight's invitation?"
Auggie said, "Only if you'd like it to be."
Jimmy said, "We'd like it to be."
Nettie said, "Well, that got it out in open rather quickly. I think these guys set a new record in that regard."
Max said, "Well, I wonder what other kinds of records they'd like to set tonight?"
Auggie said, "Ask them."
Willie said, "That isn't fair. They'd really have no idea how to answer that question."
Max said, "OK, let me propose two options and let them choose. I'm talking about general ideas, not specifics at this point."
Jimmy said, "That sound like a great idea."
Max continued, "Ok, we can have a real group romp–there are twenty-seven of us here. It could be a blast. Or, we can pair you up with a small group–two or three–and let you spend the evening, or night, in a smaller more intimate setting. In either case, you would never be pushed beyond whatever you were comfortable doing. So, big group or small group?"
Jimmy looked at me, as if I were ready to answer that. It was so far beyond our thoughts of how the evening would turn out that I really didn't know what to say. I pointed at him, with the clear meaning of, "You decide."
I wasn't ready for what came out of his mouth: "Both."
I don't think Max was ready for that either. But before Max had a chance to say anything, Jimmy went on. "We met you all as a group. None of you seemed distressed by Max's suggestion of group sex involving all of us. At some level that intrigues me, and I'm sure Chet as well. I think it might be fun if Max led us in a little playful romp together. But I'd rather the night was spent in the more intimate small group that Max is suggesting."
Hardie hopped up and said, "Screw Max, and I may before the evening's over. I'll lead your playful romp. Everyone get naked. Last one naked–everything off and on the floor–is IT." With that he started stripping off his shoes, socks, shirt, pants, underwear, and finally his wristwatch.
Jimmy and I looked around: clothes were flying everywhere and more and more skin was showing. We didn't have time to think, we just joined the race. We'd have lost, except that female clothing is harder to remove than male clothing, and that made up for our slow start. Jude was the loser and was IT. I sort of assumed that everyone knew what IT meant, but evidently not. Jude looked at Hardie and said, "OK, I'm IT. So what?"
As Jimmy and I looked back on the evening, we found that reaction the most startling. This large group all joined in Hardie's game without even knowing what the game was. Their trust level was so high that they were willing to participate without knowing the rules. They simply knew that Hardie wouldn't lead them to inappropriate places: for them or for the two of us.
Hardie said, "We'll finish eating and have dessert. Then we'll clear the table and IT can get up on it. We'll discuss the next step when the time comes. Now, let's finish eating. No clothes anyone, in case you were getting ideas."
Nettie said, "I'm cold."
Hardie said, "Bullshit, you're from the UP, they don't get cold up there. But even if you are, tough. No clothes."
Dinner was soon over, dessert was chocolate cake, passed and eaten off our dinner plates. I wondered what the catering staff thought of all this, but the couple that was serving us didn't flinch when they brought in the cake. Before they could leave Hardie introduced his Mom and Dad who were our servers. They'd also been the cooks in the afternoon. Nobody seemed to think it in the least inappropriate for Hardie's parents to witness the nude scene in front of them. Nothing was said other than, "Hi, everybody."
Months later when Jimmy and I had an opportunity to talk with Hardie's parents, June and Harry, I simply had to ask what they thought of their naked son and all his friends at the dinner table. Harry replied, and I learned later from Hardie that he'd had a much more difficult time accepting Hardie's being gay than June had, and presumably the sexual activity of the COGs as well. However, his reply to my question was, "Well, I'm not real sure how June and I would've felt in that crowd. We didn't grow up as COGs. However, we've learned to be very accepting of our son and his friends."
June added, "And we never want to be in the position that Hardie is afraid or unwilling to tell us what he and his friends are doing. That night we weren't being told, we were seeing, but it's the same thing."
I asked, "Was Hardie testing you when he invited you to cater the dinner?"
"Oh, heavens no. He's long since gotten over any fear of telling us about his activities. No, we were asked because he figured that we were good iron country cooks, and they wanted a good iron country meal–down to earth cooking; none of this gourmet stuff. I hope you liked the chicken."
I assured her that we did.
Back at The Hideout the table was cleared–we all helped, taking our own dishes to the kitchen. Then Hardie patted the table and said, "IT."
IT, June, climbed up on the table and lay down in a roughly spread-eagle position. Hardie said, "She's all yours. Touch, tickle, kiss, but keep it playful. And everybody should touch, tickle, and kiss at least once." Hardie let that go on for a while. When Jimmy and I were limiting ourselves to legs and arms, he whispered in both of our ears, "You need to play with some parts that neither of you have, and I don't mean tits."
We got the hint and played a little with Jude's pubes and some of the apparatus underneath, but we were a little inexperienced and a little shy, and Hardie didn't push further. Then he said, "OK, that's enough. IT is now going to work around the room and kiss all of the girls' tits and the boys' balls."
I'd say that Jude was a good sport, but I think the term Eager Beaver fits best.
Max announced that was the end of the group sex and we should all get dressed. When we were dressed he said, "OK, here's the deal. I could ask a lot of questions, seek volunteers, ask the boys to choose, but they have no idea who to choose. So, Nettie, Hardie, and Milt and going to spend the night with Jimmy and Chet, in the master bedroom upstairs. If you want my advice, you start in the shower."
At first we didn't understand the implication of the shower, and certainly didn't anticipate that all five of us could fit in the shower at once, and with room to spare! Nettie quickly took charge saying, "The shower is fun, but it's easy to let yourself go in here, and then you won't have much fun in the bed, and it's a great bed. So everybody wash everybody, play a little, but not too much."
We all washed everybody, and Nettie said, "OK, rinse and out." We followed her advice.
We were all in the bedroom, clean, naked (as soon as we'd all dropped our towels), and aroused. Nettie stayed in charge. "OK, Chet and Jimmy, the truth and nothing but the truth, is this your first adventure with a naked girl?"
We both had to admit that it was.
"OK, I'm going to get up on the bed, and you guys are going to explore my body, from top to bottom. Inside and out. Hardie and Milt are going to be your guides. Then they're going to get you both fully aroused and you can take turns fucking me. Then the three of us are going to give Hardie and Milt whatever kind of service they want, and they can be very creative. Are you both up to that?"
With some level of uncertainty, we both said that we were.
It was quite an exploration. Then Hardie proved to me, and Milt to Jimmy, that he certainly knew how to get a gay man aroused. Then I had the first hetero fuck of my life! Jimmy followed right after me. Then, thank goodness that Jimmy and I had been pretty adventuresome in our sex, because Hardie wanted Jimmy to massage his prostate while he sucked his dick. Milt just wanted to be fucked. Both got their wish, and it hadn't been new territory for us. Having Nettie watch, not only watch but encourage, was new territory for us.
Well, I don't think it was new territory for Charlie's readers! So I'll just say that this was the beginning of a long-term relationship, not only with Nettie, Milt, and Hardie, but with all of the COGs and eventually all of the Gang.
We also had our day jobs: school and diving. Christmas vacation was coming, and after that there'd be just two weeks until the diving meet and Jimmy's show. Billy was putting some pressure on me as well, telling me that if I was going to make it to the Olympics I needed to start winning Northern Tier meets, consistently. Then I'd move to national meets. I wasn't sure I was ready for that, but clearly Billy thought I was, or should be.
Early in December Tim announced, "Neither of you are going to be able to have much of a Christmas holiday, since you're going to be involved in intensive practice. I know you'll want to take a day off on Christmas, so Charlie and I thought we'd invite you for Christmas dinner; we usually have a group of friends in. If your parents are in town, they're welcome as well."
Clearly this was Tim's very nice way of telling us that going home for the Christmas vacation was simply not going to happen. We'd suspected that and had warned our parents. Jimmy's parents were in Fargo, and we could easily have gone there for Christmas dinner, but after talking to them, they encouraged us to go to Tim and Charlie's. We told them they could come as well, pointing out that Tim insisted that he never issued an invitation that he didn't mean. My folks were disappointed that I wouldn't be home for Christmas, and when my brother, Chuck, told them that he couldn't make it home either, they decided to come up to Grand Forks for Christmas. Christmas morning, at about eleven o'clock the six of us made our way to Dakota House, not having any idea what to expect. There were lots of cars and much activity. Inside there was hot apple cider, cold eggnog, and every other kind of soft drink you can imagine. Tim and Charlie were both drinking Coke; what else? The table in the massive dining room was set for twenty. In the living room a second table was set for twenty-two. Forty-two was what Tim called "a group of friends"!
There were COGs, other Gang members, two other students that I didn't know, several faculty members and the six of us. Evidently Tim and Charlie invited everyone they knew who didn't have their own family Christmas dinner to go to. The two students were a lesbian couple from western North Dakota. They'd recently come out, and both sets of parents had refused to invite the new partner for Christmas. How Tim was aware of this, I don't know. But you can believe that as soon as he was they got their Christmas dinner invitations. To our surprise, Jeff and Dick were there, and I had a wonderful time talking to Jeff about Camp White Elk. During that time Dick and Jimmy got to know each other.
Just at noon we were all invited to take seats at the tables. Charlie was at the head of one table and Beverly at the foot. Tim was at the head of the other table and Bernie was at the foot. The meal was catered by the uni-versity food service, using students that weren't heading home for the holidays (mostly foreign students). They carried in four huge turkeys which were placed at both ends of the tables. Potatoes, vegetables, breads, cranberry, the works, were served in dishes on the table. Tim, Charlie, Beverly, and Bernie carved the turkeys, and the rest of the meal was served family style. Charlie assured us that in the den there was another turkey, and all the rest, which the caterers would be eating. So we were on our own if we needed anything during the meal.
After dinner we broke down the table in the living room and we all crowded in around the Christmas tree. There was a present for each of us under the tree, and we took turns opening them. Jimmy and I each got sets of top of the line ear plugs to use while diving. That may not sound like much, until you price top quality ones. They were a wonderful improvement over the ones we had both been using. The two female students each received winter jackets with the UND logo on them. Tim and Charlie must have spent hours selecting and buying the well-chosen gifts that they had for everybody.
The gifts, and friendly conversation, took all of the afternoon. Leftovers and hot split pea soup were put on the dining room table for any who were hungry. By about seven the party was breaking up. Jimmy's folks were heading back to Fargo, and mine were going with them as they were flying out the next day to Chicago. The one-day vacation was over. Or so I thought.
As we said goodbye to our parents and saw them head off toward the Interstate, Jimmy said, "We have an invitation for the evening, and I'm pretty sure for the night as well."
"An invitation, from whom?"
"Dick. He and Jeff are staying at The Hideout and insist that they'll be lonely if we don't join them."
"You're kidding me."
"Nope. There they are in the doorway, ready to go. They walked over so they're going to be riding in our car."
We got to The Hideout and we all sat in the living room, had apple cider to drink, and talked about our lives. Dick was particularly eager to tell how he'd become involved with the Gang, and he didn't shy away from telling about his sexual steps, and missteps, with Tim and Charlie, as well as Jeff. Jimmy and I had less sexual stuff to share, but they were fascinated to learn about how Jimmy had overcome his disability to become a diver. However, the sexual stuff wasn't ignored, and Dick in particular was eager to hear details. Since he'd been so forthcoming with us, we felt comfortable telling our story.
The evening ended with Dick saying, "I'm sure you'll be spending the night here. There's a guest room upstairs, but Jeff and I would be delighted to share the wonderful king-sized bed and platoon-size shower with you." We accepted their offer and we all headed upstairs. As we already knew, evenings in the master bedroom of The Hideout usually began in the shower, and this evening was no exception. Jimmy and I were uncertain what would happen in bed afterwards, and Jimmy sensed my reluctance to get too involved with my former camp director. So we deliberately let ourselves get carried away in the shower, and before we were completely rinsed, all four of us had had an orgasm. The sleep that followed was comfortable, sensual, but quiet. We enjoyed the night.
The next morning we had to duck out for early morning diving, Tim having made it clear that a one day vacation was enough.
Jimmy's diving was becoming more consistent. There were pieces of the form of each of his dives that his body was simply unable to accomplish. Nobody pushed him to try to do what his body could not. The key, especially in his tandem dive with Tim, was consistency, and that was improving on a daily basis. His dive list contained no dives in which he couldn't accomplish the critical essentials of the dive, and he was totally consistent on that.
The difficulty of the dives he accomplished took your breath away. And the amazing thing was how little additional effort on Jimmy's part was required to do a very difficult dive as opposed to a relatively easy one. And the form issues that would cost him points in a regular competition were about the same regardless of the difficulty of the dive–his left hand, arm, foot, and leg simply wouldn't go where they were supposed to, or if they did, they wouldn't stay there. It was just a fact of Jimmy's life.
Tim milked the coming show–to be during a specially created intermission in the diving meet with the Coyotes of the University of South Dakota–for all it was worth. He got various organizations involved with support for the disabled, as well as sports for the disabled into the act. They were pleased to piggyback on Tim's well planned show and participate in the advance publicity. He convinced CBS' Sixty Minutes to do a segment on Jimmy, featuring his performance at the show. I'll have to admit they hoked it up quite a bit, making it seem that his getting everything right for the performance was somewhat in doubt. Well, it may have been for CBS, but it wasn't for Tim, Jimmy, Larry or me.
The Coyotes came to town early enough to join us for a wonderful banquet before the evening meet. I say wonderful with some hesitation. The fellowship and comradery were wonderful, but the food was designed for swimmers who were about to participate in serious races. It was planned by a coach and sports dietician, not a chef and gourmet, but we all enjoyed it.
The USD Director of Athletics was along with the team, because of all of the advanced publicity. He told Willie and Tim, "You know, the last time I was here was when we ended your football streak. I couldn't believe how graciously we were treated. And now you're making this huge fuss over a disabled diver who isn't even able to compete on your team. I'll have to admit, you guys have a really special athletic program."
Tim replied, "He won't admit it, but I'm sure that Jumper engineered the streak to end at home and against the opponents he most respected. Everybody wondered why he called that last timeout. They assume that it was to tell the team how to pull a spectacular win out of a doomed situation. Actually what he told the team was exactly what he'd told them at half-time: 'When the game's over nobody leaves the field until they've hugged a Coyote.' Jumper is quite a guy. And, by the way, so is Jimmy Lawson. Wait until you see him dive."
The meet was fairly close leading up to the planned intermission. As the first half of the meet continued, the natatorium gradually filled, until by intermission it was standing room only. Again, the fire marshal would've prohibited that, but he wasn't there. Tim came out accompanied by a drum roll and appropriate music from Toppy and his group of musicians, gave his introduction, and let Jimmy dive from the side of the pool and go through his usual struggle up the ladder to get out without help. Tim explained that and said that for the rest of the show he'd get help at the ladder–two students were standing by. Al and Alex were introduced, and Alex talked of the commitment of the university to accessibility, giving a number of examples–including the new learning laboratory for dyslexic students. Then Al explained the problems of accessibility to the various diving heights, and invited everyone to admire the new sculptured platform with its circular stairs and one-person elevator.
Jimmy started on the low diving board, doing some fairly simple dives. Tim explained that he was starting at this level so that everyone could see the challenges that he faced every time he dove. He also explained why Jimmy never entered the water feet first. Then Jimmy rode the elevator to the high board, and did two dives of increasing difficulty which Tim, with appropriate music from Toppy and company, made sound virtually impossible. Tim's announcing was fantastic: he was the circus ringmaster that he'd promised to be, giving the appropriate build-up to the greatest show on earth. Next Jimmy rode up to the low platform and did three dives at virtually maximum difficulty. Much of the audience were fairly unfamiliar with diving, so they didn't really understand the difficulty of the dives they were seeing. But the CBS commentators did, and the competitive divers did. And for those in the audience that didn't, they did after Tim had explained it to them. Everyone was flabbergasted at the performance. The UND divers had seen Jimmy some in practice, so they knew somewhat what was coming. On the other hand, the Coyotes had never seen Jimmy dive before, and they simply couldn't believe what they were seeing.
Jimmy took two very difficult dives from ten meters, one front and one back. The he rode up the elevator, walked to the edge of the platform, spread his legs, bent over, put his right hand on the platform right next to the edge, and slowly shifted his weight to his hand until he was in a perfect one-handed handstand. Remember, he was coached by a former circus performer. He didn't just smoothly move into his handstand; rather, he had a couple of hesitations and perhaps slips on his way up. That brought gasps and heightened the tension! Pure Tim, and as we would learn, pure Jimmy as well. He held his handstand for a long time, with his left arm and leg wiggling just enough so that you knew he couldn't really control them. Then he was off, three and a half somersaults with two full twists. It's not a standard dive. Tim says its more difficult than any standard dive from a handstand. It doesn't matter. This absolutely blew everyone's mind.
Then a screen came down at the opposite end of the natatorium, and an instant reply of the dive, first at regular speed, and then in slow motion, was projected. Courtesy of CBS.
Then up the ladder again. Out to the edge. Turn around and face away from the edge. Do the same handstand, this time backwards. Then the same dive from the reversed position. Another instant replay.
Then Larry came to the microphone and said, "You will note that President Tim has disappeared. He'll be back in just a moment in his Speedo. He and Jimmy are going to do forward triples with a double twist in the pike position. Jimmy's problem is to do the dive as correctly as possible. Tim's problem isn't to do a perfect dive, but to do exactly what Jimmy is going to do–to the extent that Jimmy can even control what he's going to do."
Tim came out and climbed the stairs as fast as the elevator took Jimmy to the top. Tim hugged Jimmy, and then gestured for him to go to the edge of the platform; Tim followed. Just as Tim dove with Billy and Willie, you couldn't tell who signaled to whom or when. They just both started moving at the same time. A human body, with a little jump to start, will hit the water in about one and three-quarter seconds. In that time Tim and Jimmy did triple somersaults and double twists, after starting in a pike position. How Tim mimicked Jimmy's uncontrolled left leg still has people scratching their heads. The slow motion instant replay was sensational. It showed that when Jimmy went into the pike position, his left knee bent a little and his leg swung out. So did Tim's. When asked, Tim simply pointed out that Jimmy's leg always worked that way, so it wasn't difficult to copy. He pointed to several jerks that he hadn't been able to anticipate. It was a performance to remember.
The Coyote coach was quick to thank Tim and others for scheduling synchronized diving in the first half of the meet! Nobody would want to follow that performance.
I'd say that the rest of the meet was an anticlimax, but it wasn't for me. I captured first place on both the three-meter springboard and the ten-meter platform. That performance earned praise from Jimmy, and more importantly the insistence of Billy that it was time for me to begin entering national competition. As he said, "It's the road to the Olympics."
Jimmy and I watched the Sixty Minutes segment at home, with Auggie, Lynn, Sid, Cathy, Tim, Charlie, Larry, and Karen, Larry's wife, when it aired a week or so later. Tim was beside himself with the publicity for the university and the doors that it would open for Jimmy. Jimmy seemed to take it in stride.
That night in bed he said, "Chet, it really isn't the big deal that everyone's made of it. But I'm certainly not going to run away from everyone's big deal."
His big deal that night was giving me a big fuck!
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]