Finding Tim

by Charlie

Episode 210 - Italy

This is still Marty. But I refuse to take the rap for what I'm about to explain–it's completely Charlie. I told him that if he wanted the story of the winter Olympics to deal with both the athletics and the sex, then I would need more than one episode. He said, "Sorry, only one episode. But we'll title it 'Turin, Italy' and number 'Turin,' as 209 and 'Italy' as 210. That's what we did, and note that the comma is officially part of the title to Episode 209–Turin,.

So, where did I leave off? Oh, yeah. I had just told you about the visit of Max and Auggie to the long track skaters, Fredie, Ivan, Nicole and Rydia. Charlie had told me, "Marty, there are two stories here, the skating and the sex. Tell 'em both." OK, folks. You have been warned. If a little raunch, no, quite a bit of raunch, is going to bother you, then stop reading. Wait, Charlie took care of that warning in the first episode, didn't he? You're here FOR the raunch, not in spite of it, right?

Max's final words to the four had involved "talk" in two ways: They were to talk among themselves about what he and Auggie had said, and the first rule of sex was "Talk first." So talk they did. I wasn't there, but it's pretty easy to imagine a lot of the conversation. I was told of the final conversation that moved them to more than talk. The four were sitting around in their living room following dinner about a week after Max and Auggie's visit. Ivan was staring at Rydia and finally blurted out, "Rydia, I've been talking about sex with you and the others for a week. I've been staring at your body while we talked. Under that sweater and those jeans have to be two big, black knockers, and a sweet black ass, just ready to be made love to."

Fredie and Nicole were in shock. First, this was moving a lot faster than anticipated, and the racial reference was crossing a linguistic line in the sand.

Rydia, however, stood up, took off her sweater, exposing her bra, and said, "Get that big white dick of yours over her and have it introduce your pink balls to my black knockers." They were both quickly naked; Ivan was massaging her breasts and Rydia was squeezing his penis. Then his hands moved to her buttocks and hers to his testicles. With his hands off of her tits, they could kiss, and kiss they did. Soon their hands were wrapped around each other, and the kissing was deep and protracted.

Nicole and Fredie sat and watched, until Nicole got up, walked over to Fredie, and asked, "OK, Fredie, does that give you some ideas? If so, get your clothes off."

Fredie replied, "This is a lot quicker than I'd imagined, but it's where I've thought it was going."

"Is it where you want it to go?"

"I think the word is dreamed."

"Get your clothes off."

They both did. Nicole was a lot more forward, and soon she was kissing Fredie and massaging his genitals with her right hand. His hands moved to her breasts, but because of the kissing, his hands couldn't do much. That didn't stop Nicole, whose tongue drove deeper and deeper and her hand kept massaging. There was only one possible ending: Fredie gasped, ejaculated, and said, "Oh, my God."

This got the attention of Rydia and Ivan, who looked at Fredie and Nicole to see what'd happened. Nicole was looking at her hand which was dripping semen and laughing. Fredie was turning red.

Ivan figured out the situation pretty quickly and walked over to Fredie. "Hey, man, that's pretty fast action. You're more of a stud than we figured you for. Congratulations."

It was just the affirmation that Fredie needed, and he quickly got over his embarrassment and laughed with Nicole. Nicole said, "OK, buddy. You owe me one. Are you going to use your finger, your tongue, or your dick? Take your pick."

Ivan said, "That's quite an offer, Fredie. But, Nicole, are you on the pill so that using his dick is a reasonable option?"

"I was at a girls' boarding school in Milwaukee. The dorm matrons thought that because we went to an all girls school that we were safe from boys. Untrue. There was a boys' school about a mile away. We'd have parties together at both schools. Very chaste affairs. However, we got to know the boys, and they'd visit at night. It was easy to sneak them into our building, and then there were no rules. On my first Christmas vacation, in ninth grade, I told my mom that I needed to get on the pill. She was a little startled, but she agreed. At first she wanted to withdraw me from the school, but I convinced her that I could take care of myself, and I really wanted to skate. Besides, it was a good school. It's just that you can't lock up a bunch of teenagers and expect them not to find a way to get together. I lost my cherry in tenth grade, and I wasn't sorry. You know, it's funny. Here at UND in the coed dorms, I've had vastly less sex. Back in high school, once you snuck a boy into your room there wasn't much to do but have sex. There wouldn't have been a very different punishment for sneaking a boy into the room than for having sex with that boy: in either case you'd get expelled. In any case, I'm on the pill. And I'm very faithful and very regular."

Fredie said, "It doesn't matter. I'm as inexperienced as you were in ninth grade. I'm not ready for intercourse. I'm not sure I have the right words, but I guess you just gave me a hand job, and that's what I'd like to do for you."

Rydia said, "Ivan. I assume that you've given a girl a hand job." She sat on the edge of the couch with her legs straight and spread. "Come here and show Fredie how to do it."

Now it was Ivan's turn to be embarrassed. "I'm not a virgin. I fucked several girls in high school. It was always in the back of my dad's station wagon. I'd pull my pants down and her skirt up. I wouldn't have any more clue about a hand job than Fredie does."

Nicole said, "I know Fredie's had an orgasm and none of the rest of us has, but I think we need to slow down. Let's get our clothes back on and talk. I think we need to tell each other our stories. As least our sex stories."

Ivan and Nicole both agreed. Fredie waited until they'd agreed, and then he did also. He said, "OK, perhaps I should go first."

They got dressed, and Fredie suggested that they get some iced tea, their favorite beverage. Back in the living room Fredie began the story telling.

"There's not much to tell. I was pretty much of a goodie-goodie, and at a school pretty much filled with goodie-goodies. During my fifth and sixth grade years there were Secret Service agents around for Chelsea Clinton, who was in high school there. There wasn't a lot of hanky-panky at Sidwell Friends. I'm sure that teenagers were teenagers, and that many of the students found opportunities for sex. I didn't have any sexual experiences in high school. Not here at UND either, until this evening."

Ivan asked, "I assume that you masturbate. How did you learn?"

"Kids at school talked. I tried it in bed at night. It worked. And, yes, I masturbate and enjoy it. So I wasn't completely surprised when I ejaculated earlier this evening. But that's my first with anyone but me involved."

Rydia said, "Well, people have told me that people like you exist, but I think you're the first I've ever met. I don't know whether to feel sorry for you or whether I think you should be proud of yourselves. Perhaps both. I guess it's my turn to tell all.

"Jefferson Davis High School is mostly black, which is true for all the public schools in Montgomery. Robert E. Lee High School is more integrated, but it has its own problems for black kids. There are some magnet schools, but they're very specialized, and I didn't fit. I decided to go to the school nearest home, Jefferson Davis. We had about 1,400 students, and about 60 of those were white. There were a few Hispanics and Asians, but it was mostly black. The white kids fell into two groups: the very poor who couldn't afford private school, and those with very liberal parents who were dedicated to the idea of integrated public education. And those kids fell into two groups: those that believed in the ideals of their parents, and those who didn't. That group was the worst bunch of kids in the school: racist, arrogant, and likely troublemakers. The black kids ran the gamut from very poor to middle class, from smart to dumb, from well-behaved to troublemakers. My parents were good coaches, and they made sure that I understood that my success in life depended on my success in school, and that my success in school depended on who I chose as friends. The group I ran around with would make me or break me. I was smart enough to understand that, and to act upon it.

"My friends were the smart black kids and the liberal white kids. We kind of naturally sought each other out. But an integrated group could easily find itself at odds with some pretty serious, racist troublemakers. We learned two things: how to be as invisible as possible, and how to fight when we couldn't be invisible."

Fredie jumped in, "God, what a terrible life. Always watching your back."

Rydia continued, "And always watching your friends' backs. We became a very close knit group. I tell you all of that, because it's the background for all of my sexual history. That close knit group, black and white, became very active sexually. We were a mixed race group, and race was a very important part of our sexuality, for a number of reasons. First, the white kids, despite good intentions in their relationship to blacks, couldn't avoid feeling that they were slumming. That it was a privilege for us black kids to have sex with them. And, quite honestly, they were being very brave considering the society they lived in. For the black boys, sex with a white girl was risky. The racial ethos of the South is that it's OK, perhaps a lot better than OK, for a white boy to get his jollies with a black girl–usually the n-word is used. But black boys that want to get their jollies with a white girl can get themselves castrated or worse. And the white girl that has a fling with a black boy is socially dead–forever.

"So, our little group was very closed, very private, and very daring even in the closed, private situation we created–with our parents help. I always went in the back doors of my white friends houses, and vice-versa. Black friends came in the front door.

"So, you want to know about sex? We started playing strip poker about half-way through ninth grade. I think it was the third time we played before anybody actually got naked. And that was about as far as we got in ninth grade. But those games established two things: first, the we were going to be sexually involved, and second, that the sex was likely to be a group event.

"In tenth grade somebody introduced the game 'Truth or Dare.' That soon degenerated into just 'Dare.' We quickly had double-dares, and 'double-dares go first.' And the dares escalated fairly rapidly. I remember when Rodney, one of white boys, challenged, 'I dare one of you girls to let me fuck you.' Up to that point there'd been no fucking. No oral sex either (except sucking tits), just playing with the hands. Now Rodney was pushing pretty far. And who accepted the dare? Rydia, of course. I answered, 'If you've got guts enough to take off your pants (his shirt was already off), come over here and take off my clothes, and then shove you rod in my cunt; I'll let you try.'

"He did have guts enough, I did let him try, and he did succeed, though I didn't climax. That pretty much ended the sex for the day, but I'm pretty sure that everyone but Rodney, and maybe Rodney, went home and masturbated that evening. I know I did.

"About a week later, a different boy, one of the black boys, stood up, faced the girls, dropped his pants, and said, 'I dare someone to give me a blow job.' In many ways, that was moving us further than the fucking. To our amazement the response came from a boy–a white kid who hadn't been very active in our sex games until then. He said, 'I've always wanted to suck a black dick.' He did, and clearly was fully aroused by the experience. The talk following led us to understand that two of our number, Jerr Watson and Allyn Rogers, were gay, and were clearly into sex with each other outside of our group. That presented the group with an interesting situation. How were we going to react to two gay boys? Could we accept them, and was this going to introduce gay, and perhaps lesbian, sex into the group? We quickly agreed that, 'Yes,' was the only acceptable answer to the first, and that, 'Wait and see,' was a good answer to the second.

"We didn't' have to wait long. The dares and double-dares kept getting sexier, and they soon involved gay and lesbian relationships. By the time we graduated there wasn't much we hadn't done."

"Did you get into S&M?"

"Only a little. I remember being tied to a bed with eight other kids working me over. I had fingers and dildos in every opening; I was tickled mercilessly; spanked; and finally fucked by four boys as several girls nibbled on my tits. As each boy finished fucking me, he shoved his dick in my mouth and demanded that I suck it clean."

"That sounds disgusting."

"No, I don't think I ever had a better, sexier experience. But it's not for every day."

Fredie said, "Well, we know who our most experienced and least experienced persons are. Nicole, we've heard about your boarding school, is there much else to tell?"

"Not really."

Ivan said, "Well, I guess it's my turn. I grew up near Logan Square, right in the middle of Little Norway. There were other Scandinavians in the area, especially Danes, but in general the Norwegians hung out together. I never dated any girl except a Norwegian. The ethos among the boys, reinforced by their fathers, was that it was manly to fuck a girl, but stick to Norwegians. Mothers acquiesced in this through their silence. I don't know that the girls were particularly enthusiastic about this, but in general they let us have our way. Little Norway didn't provide many, really not any, places for sex, so it was usually in the back seat of a car. I was lucky, my dad had a station wagon. I'd toss a couple of quilts in the back before a date, and I was all set. There's a ring of forest preserves around Chicago, and there isn't any problem finding a quiet, secluded place to park a car. The girls all knew that an invitation like, 'Let's drive around a little,' meant, 'and stop somewhere to do what comes naturally.' What came naturally in that situation was some quick, sometimes passionate, kisses in the front seat, and then a quick move to the back seat, with a brief pause to spread out the quilts. We'd get under one quilt; I'd push up her skirt and pull down her panties; my hand would rub her cunt, but it never occurred to me to stick my finger inside, and I had no idea of what a clitoris was; I'd unbuckle my belt, push my pants down around my knees or ankles, roll on a rubber from the local gas station; then I'd roll between her legs, and fuck her. I had no concept of girls having an orgasm; honestly, today I can't tell you whether any of them did. If a girl wasn't willing to, 'drive around' by the third or fourth date, she got dropped."

"So how many girls did you fuck, and how many did you drop because they wouldn't let you fuck them?"

"I know it's terrible, but I couldn't say. Probably six in both groups. Spread over two high school years."

"How long did you stick with one girl?"

"The longest was about five or six months, the last months of my senior year. We talked about whether it was serious and whether we wanted to get married. Neither of us were ready. She went to Northwestern, and I came to UND because I wanted to pursue my skating. Girls here aren't eager to 'drive around' and besides I don't have a car, let along a station wagon. The only sex I've had in Grand Forks is the little bit with you guys."

Rydia said, "I've got one other question. These fucking Norwegians, and I mean that literally, were tall, blue-eyed blonds, right?"

"Right."

"So where did you get this passion for black knockers and asses?"

"Blond, blue-eyed is boring. Once we started talking about sex, I took one look at you and had this passion for black. It just blurted out. I hope you weren't offended."

"Oh, Hell no. I was complimented. It was obvious that you were intrigued with who I am, what I look like. It wasn't Mr. High and Mighty White Guy going for Miss Black Easy Trick. You were just a white kid with a passion for a girl who was a color he liked. I loved it. And while it's certainly true that I'm brown rather than black, and you're more pink that white, I'm looking forward to having that pick dick rammed up my brown cunt, which, by the way, is pink inside, not brown."

Nicole thought about the whole conversation and asked, "Well, Fredie. Do you want to rethink your invitation for us to live with you? I'm not sure we fit your lifestyle."

"You're forgetting the message of Max and Auggie. They were encouraging us to move in this direction. I'm a little confused about my past, just like Rydia was. I don't know whether to be proud of chaste teenage years, or embarrassed by them. I guess a little of both. But I've already gone further with you guys than with anyone in high school. There's no turning back, and I don't want to."

Nicole said, "Tomorrow evening we begin to explore what this means in practice. I remember Max's rule that we respect each other's comfort zone. Fredie, you're going to get your comfort zone whacked tomorrow night as you explore a new partner. Take your pick, a different race or a different gender."

Fredie replied, "Nicole, you match the partners of most of my dreams; I'll admit that. But I'm going to be comfortable expanding my horizons. I guess we're like Rydia's group–all of a sudden same-sex relationships, and interracial relationships just became the order of the day. Tell you what, you pick your partner for tomorrow evening, and I'll take the other. That means you choose, not me."

Nicole said, "Well, Ivan is a lot like my past experiences. I think I'm ready to expand my horizons with Rydia. Rydia, is that OK with you?"

"Come on, honey. We're going to have a lot of fun tomorrow. Now, we have one more question to answer. Are we going to pair up, head to separate rooms and do our thing in private, or are we going to let it all hang out?"

Ivan said, "I hope I'm not treading on toes, but my vote's to let it all hang out. We'll start in Fredie's bedroom, and Rydia and Nicole can have the bed all to themselves. Fredie and I will be spectators. Then we trade roles. Does that sound like fun?"

"Fun, and daring," said Nicole. "Ivan, for someone who never did anything outside of the back of a station wagon, you're a fast mover."

"Yeah, I don't know whether to be scared of that, or pleased. In any case, goodbye station wagon, hello bed."

The next evening they realized that three out of four of them were totally inexperienced with any same-sex relationship. All were willing to learn. Rydia, who was strong as an ox, lifted Nicole onto Fredie's bed and very cooly stripped her, rubbing and tickling as she went. When she had Nicole naked she paused and removed her own clothes. She lay next to Nicole, kissed her and gradually moved all over her body, kissing, licking, and nibbling. She spent a long time at her nipples, then her belly button, then her genitals. She completed the tour with her tongue on Nicole's clit and her finger in her cunt. The orgasm, when it came, was spectacular.

Ivan said, "I may never have understood a female orgasm in high school, but I've just had a college education."

Rydia said, "Fredie, get up here on this bed. Ivan's going to do for you what I just did for Nicole. Then Nicole will do for me, and you can do for Ivan."

Fredie hopped on the bed, and Ivan undressed him. He started to massage Fredie, beginning with his nipples. Rydia said, "Tongue, not fingers."

Ivan did as he was told, and pretty much mimicked what Rydia'd done to Nicole. He licked his balls and sucked his dick. Rydia said, "See how much of him you can get in your mouth."

Ivan the Norwegian was pretty much bigger than Fredie, and easily got his dick and balls in his mouth. His tongue played with all three. Then Rydia asked, "OK, Fredie, do you want a hand job or a blow job?"

Fredie looked embarrassed. He said, "I've heard the term blow job but I don't really understand it. If Ivan gets my dick in his mouth and blows, I'm not going to get very excited."

Ivan started to laugh, but realized that Fredie was serious, and that not treating him seriously would be a real put down. Ivan answered, "It's a funny term. We all use it without really thinking about what it means. It sounds like you're going to blow air, but I think the idea is that your partner will blow his semen into your mouth as you suck. In any case, it means suck, which is pretty much the opposite of blow. So who says there has to be logic in the English language?"

Fredie said, "That helps. I hope all of you can be patient with me. I have a lot to learn."

"You're doing fine."

"OK, to answer Rydia's question, hand job or blow job, it's up to Ivan. I'll enjoy either."

It looked like Ivan was relieved. This was his first experience with either gay sex or oral sex; a blow job would've been pushing it. If Fredie'd asked for a blow job, Ivan would've given it to him, but he was glad to give him a hand job, also a new experience for both of them.

Nicole took her cue from Rydia, and did unto to her what she'd done unto Nicole. Both were happy.

Fredie fooled them all. He got Ivan on the bed, massaged him all over, and then used his tongue to get him completely aroused. But then he paused and lay down beside Ivan, cuddling up to him. Very softly, he said, "You have the most wonderful body; it's absolutely beautiful. Your muscles turn me on. Your dick tastes delicious." He kissed Ivan full on the lips, driving his tongue inside. "Kissing you is the most erotic thing I've ever done. My God, Ivan, you're the most sexy being I've ever encountered." He kissed him again, and then moved down his body, taking his dick into his mouth. He took his time, and Ivan was slowly aroused to the most spectacular orgasm he'd ever had.

Ivan said, "Fredie, that was wonderful. Are you falling in love with me?"

Fredie thought a minutes and said, "No, I don't think so. At least not a romantic love for a lifetime. But, Ivan, you're a really huge turn on."

Rydia said, "He sure is, but, Fredie, you aren't going to get an exclusive claim to that gorgeous body. Besides, Fredie, tomorrow night you get me, and I get you. I'm looking forward to sucking that pick dick of yours."

The next night completed the round robin of partners. They agreed that it was too soon to talk about long-term pairings. And they agreed on one thing more. Four bedrooms and four single beds simply weren't going to work, even though that was how they'd furnished the house. The next day Fredie headed to the bedding store where he'd bought the four single beds. He knew he couldn't return the beds–they were used and there were health restrictions. But he bought the biggest bed they had, a California King. It was installed in the master bedroom, the largest of the four bedrooms in the house. They discussed how to rearrange the other bedrooms, and settled on one being a dressing room, one a study room, and the last being a guest room, into which they put two twin beds, shoved next to each other. Each person kept the closet in the room they'd started in, but their dressers were all moved into the dressing room, along with a hanging rod along one whole wall. Each had plenty of room to hang most of their clothes, and seldom-used and off-season clothes could hang in their closets. There were two bathrooms, both with showers–one off the hall and one off the master bedroom, which is where they slept. It was first come, first served.

All this time they were going to school and devoting every spare minute that wasn't taken up with eating or sex to ice skating. Round and round the rink they went, developing speed and endurance, and learning the tricks and procedures of long track racing. Fredie was the fastest of the lot, which bothered Ivan a little: How could the big, strong, tall Norwegian be beaten by the little kid from Washington? He wasn't sure, but he was determined to reverse their positions. Nothing could've improved their speeds faster than such good-natured competition. At times, it wasn't clear that Ivan was completely good-natured about it, but he and Fredie remained friends.

The girls were joined by Joan Phipps, who'd won a bronze medal in Salt Lake City and was determined to do that well again, or better. Their practice inducement was their determination to beat the boys. Rydia did beat Ivan from time to time, and she really was proud of the fact that she once beat Fredie. Nicole was close on her heels, but hadn't yet beaten either of the boys. Joan was usually the fastest of the five, but was slowly losing her dominant position as the others improved. Their main coach was Bill Munson, who'd come to the Fred with Jersey Newcomb from Newark, New Jersey, following the Albertville Olympics in 1992. Bill had stayed and guided the very successful speed skating program at the Fred, specializing in long track skating. His report to Ham, the Fred's head coach, and Shel, who officially was just one of the skaters, but unofficially really ran the place, was, "These four kids are really tearing Hell out of that track. They've already qualified for a invitation to the Olympic Trials, and I think they'll all make the team."

Shel said, "I agree."

Ham said, "My roll is simply to stay out of the way. You two guys work miracles without me. Shel, how's your program for Turin? I haven't seen it."

"Nobody has. Actually, I have three programs ready. The real one will be unveiled in Turin. I'll use my program from Salt Lake City for the Trials, unless I decide at the last minute that it won't get me a spot. In that case, I have a third program that is Salt Lake City with the ballet removed and some spectacular moves from my final program inserted. But I don't plan to use that program unless I have to."

"When do you practice this secret program?"

"I don't very often. I practice all the elements and put them together in my mind. However, I get into the rink either very early or very late every now and then to practice the whole thing."

"Has Brian seen it?"

"Brian, especially, has not. This is my gift to him, and it'll be delivered in Turin. Of course, you've seen my short program."

"It's spectacular, Shel, but I'm sure that the long program will make it look elementary."

"Quads are never elementary, but you have the right idea."

"How are Sissy and Randy doing? Spivey speaks very well of them, but he's been watching them for years; I think he may be biased."

Shel said, "They're doing great. They'll be at the trials, and I'll give you odds they make the team. As for a medal, I don't know. They're high schoolers, they may have to stick at it another four years to medal."

Ham said, "Since they're underage, I guess you haven't been pushing their social relationship, right Shel?"

"They have a pretty close relationship to each other, and they seem to be fully supported by their parents. I'm pretty sure they're a romantic team as well as a skating team. They're doing fine."

Ham added, "They're working on triple Axels–both side-by-side and as a throw jump. If they can pull that off, it'll be a first in the Olympics."

Shel said, "It's even money on their being ready for that next year. But they are gutsy kids. They could go for broke if they thought it'd get them a medal they wouldn't otherwise get. You know, I think they're like me. Medals are what it's all about. I'd just as soon be in 40th place as 4th place."

Bill said, "Shel, tell me that when you're walking away from the rink with no medal and 11th place because you screwed up a couple of quads."

Ham came to Shel's rescue. "Shel's telling the truth. As far as he's concerned there are only two finishing positions: On the podium, or watching other people on the podium. And he'll give you the same line that Tim does, the color of the medal doesn't matter. He says that faithfully; so does Tim. I'm not sure I believe them. Of course, they haven't often been tested."

There were three short track speed skaters, Shelly, Sean and Marco. Sean and Marco roomed together at The Hideout and since moving in together their relationship had grown from exploring, to sexually active, to full blown romance. Shel and Shelly were great encouragers, as were Shelly's wife Fran, a solo figure skater in her own right, and Shel's partner, Brian. It started with Shel going home with them at night, and showing them the glories of The Hideout shower, and how three people could use it so effectively. Shelly arrived as well, and soon Brian. Sean and Marco were as wild and fearless in bed as they were at the rink. But they were slowed somewhat the evening that Fran joined them in the shower unannounced. They were in the shower with Shelly and Shel who were wielding the hand-held shower heads. On signal, they both aimed the spray at Sean and Marco's faces, and while they were blinded by the water Fran slipped in behind them. She tapped Marco on the shoulder, and when he turned toward her she kissed him while tickling his balls. He backed up immediately and covered his genitals with his hands. Meanwhile, Fran turned to Sean and did the same thing. He backed off, but didn't think to hide himself.

Shel and Shelly burst out laughing, and soon were joined by all the others. Shel said, "We were really violating our rules by not talking to your first about having Fran join us. But this was just too grand an opportunity. You know, our experience is that there's a little straight in everyone, and we were sure you two weren't exceptions."

Fran said, "I'd love to give both of you a grand tour of the joys of straight sex, but if you'd rather not, I'll go next door and Margie and I'll explore the joys of lesbian sex."

Marco thought a moment and said, "It seems that there's a lot more sex going on around here that we realized. Of course, we see the Tavert sisters and the Osborne twins coming and going a lot. They snack in the kitchen, sometimes play a game or two, but they usually head to the master bedroom pretty quickly. We're pretty sure they shower together, and I'd guess that isn't all they do together. They're very nice kids, and they chat with us from time to time. They tell us about their dancing and ask about our skating. But they've never mentioned sex or what they do in the bedroom together. The twins seem a little shy about going into the bedroom when we're around, but Jocey and Natalie sure aren't. They'll wave to us as they head in."

Sean said, "Every so often an older couple comes by and spends the night in the master bedroom. They're usually very good about telling us that we can use the shower when they aren't there. In fact, we've been told a couple of times that we could just walk through and use the shower any time we wanted. We've never taken advantage of that invitation. After tonight, I'm not sure what it might've led to."

Shel said, "Next time try it and find out. Everybody who might stay here is familiar with the rule about never pushing beyond someone's comfort zone. You'll be safe."

Marco said, "I'm not worried about being safe, and I think I might like to have my comfort zone pushed."

Shel replied, "I'll come push it any time you'd like."

Shelly said, "And, believe me, he knows how to push a comfort zone."

Shel tried to see if he could observe an exceptional improvement to their skating as a result of their expanded sexual horizons. He never could. He had to admit that whatever benefits love and support were giving to Sean and Marco, they were getting them from the relationship that already existed between them. Broadening it was fun, but didn't seem to affect their skating. But who knew?

You've met the team. Shel, Fran, Shelly, Sissy and Randy, Joan, Rydia, Nicole, Ivan, Fredie, Sean, and Marco. I want to take you with them to the Olympics in Turin, but first I have to at least mention that–to Fred's everlasting delight–they all went to the Olympic Trials and qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team that was heading to Turin, Italy, for the 2007 Winter Olympics.

We always felt that pairing the right athletes in rooms in the Olympic Village was extremely important. It wasn't real simple this Olympiad, because we had an odd number of boys and girls. These pairings were simple: Sean with Marco, Fredie with Ivan, and Nicole with Rydia. That left two trios: Shel, Shelly and Randy, and Sissy, Joan and Fran. Ham, Shel, I, and others discussed the problem and decided that it was important for both Randy and Sissy to be with someone from the Fred. Shel asked, "Why don't I skip the village and stay with Brian, and Shelly can room with Randy?"

I said, "Tim would skin you alive. He can't stand the idea that some athletes are too good, or too important, not to live in the Village. You don't even want to think about that idea."

"You're right. I'm still for Shelly rooming with Randy, and I room with whomever."

Ham said, "No, I think you should room with Randy. You're both figure skaters, and can support each other."

"Where does that leave Shelly?"

"He's been around; he'll pair with one of the other short track racers on the team." And that's the way it worked out, and Shelly was pleased with the roommate that he ended up with.

In the case of the girls, they talked with Fran and Joan, who would almost certainly have roomed together in any other situation, explaining the thought that it'd be good if one of them could room with Sissy. Both quickly recognized that they were being asked to provide love and support to a younger athlete, and both were willing. Joan said, "I've kept in touch with some of the skaters I met in Salt Lake City. I'll bet I can arrange to room with one of them."

In fact, she was able to do so; she'd room with Sonja Tallin, a Norwegian skater she'd raced against in Salt Lake City. She and Sonja had kept in touch since the last Olympics and were delighted for a chance to renew their friendship by rooming together.

So all was ready for the grand trip to Italy. I quickly realized that it was not only my task to arrange for the huge number of guests that Fred and Fred's Sports would host, but to invite them as well. For the Gang and experienced athletes that was easy. I'd already extended the invitations to all of the full members of the Fred, but invitations to skaters' parents and siblings would be limited to those who qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team. Most of those parents had been at the trials, and I issued invitations as soon as a skater qualified. Most were surprised, but quickly accepted. In two cases, the consecration was a little different.

The Trials were in Milwaukee, having been in Grand Forks for the Salt Lake City Olympics, and those being the only cities with long distance skating ovals. The Fred had invited the parents of the twelve skaters that they hoped would qualify for the Olympics to be their guests in Milwaukee, and all but two had accepted. Rydia's parents declined, without giving any specific reason, and Fredie's parents simply replied that they already had reservations to and in Milwaukee. It was now my job to invite both sets of parents to be part of the Fred's Sports contingent at Turin.

I called Rydia's home and spoke with her father, Raymond Croft. Coming from the informal culture of Michigan, I would've called him Raymond or Ray, but Shel–it's beyond my comprehension how Shel is as on top of things as he is–warned me that it was a serious put-down of a black man in the South for a white person to use his first name. So I invited Mr. Croft and his wife, Mrs. Croft, to join the group going to Italy.

He was incredulous: "Let me get this straight. The Fred's Sports company is inviting me and my wife to travel to Italy, free, as its guests, as my daughter competes in the Olympics. What's in it for Fred's Sports? Companies don't do that out of the bottom of their heart."

"Mr. Croft, in many ways this is a personal invitation from Fred Milson, the owner of Fred's Sports. He's been a longtime supporter of Olympic athletes from North Dakota, and your Rydia is part of the latest group of North Dakota Olympians. He thinks it's important for the young people to have their families with them at what may be the biggest thrill of their lives."

"How many people are going to be in this group?"

"Just over 400."

"What're you talking about? Nobody's going to take 400 people to Italy as their guest. You're not making sense."

"Mr. Croft, I assure you that I am making sense. I'm going to get in serious trouble with Mr. Milson if I don't get you and your wife on the plane with us to Turin. Do I have to fly down to Montgomery to convince you?"

"I don't understand all this. First, Rydia gets a full scholarship to the university. People here are still scratching their heads about that, but it's for real. Then she gets invited to live in a house with three other skaters–for free. I still don't know what that's about. Sex, I guess. Now this. I guess I'll just have to go along for the ride."

"Let me give you the details...."

The conversation with Harry Covington was a little different. It was clear from the beginning that Fredie was going to qualify for the team. So the first time I ran into Harry Covington in Milwaukee, I said, "Mr. Covington, somehow you didn't get included in the Fred's Sports group here in Milwaukee; I understand that you made your own reservations. I do hope you'll join the Fred's Sports group in Turin."

"My wife and I like to be independent in our traveling. We never go with a group."

"This is a little different. The group is all the North Dakota athletes, friends, families, many others. We'll fly over together, live in the same hotel, which will house our group exclusively, eat most of our meals at a grand buffet in the hotel, and view the various events together in small groups. Once you're settled in the hotel, you'll be completely on your own, joining others in the group only as you wish."

"I really don't think that Rita and I want...."

I interrupted him. "Fredie will be part of the group, until he checks into the Olympic Village. Don't you want to be with him?"

"I would want to pay my fair share."

"Mr. Covington, what would you say to your next house guest that offered to pay his share of your household expenses?"

"OK, you've made your point. It seems that my Fredie's made some very wonderful friends in Grand Forks. I guess this'll give Rita and me a chance to meet some of them."

"All of them. They'll all be in Turin in the Fred's Sports contingent."

These are severely edited versions of my conversations, but you get the idea.

Turin!

First of all, you have to understand that only the Olympic skating events (figure skating, speed skating, hockey) took place in Turin. The rest took place in the mountains over 100 kilometers to the west, except for curling which took place about halfway between Turin and the mountains. Of course, our interest was the skating, but we arranged for a bus to some of the mountain venues, so that we'd have a chance to see some of the skiing and sledding, as well as the skating events.

It would be a busy schedule with figure skating and long track speed skating both beginning on Saturday, February 11, the day after the Opening Ceremony. There'd be at least one North Dakotan competing in something every day of the Olympics except Monday the 20th and Sunday the 26th the day of the Closing Ceremony and little competition. However, that little competition did include the Men's Hockey finals–an all-Nordic affair in which Sweden beat Finland.

If I were to report on the successes, and failures, of the North Dakotans on a race by race or day by day basis, there'd be fourteen days to report on, and too many races to avoid repetition. Let me hit the highlights:

Ivan's 5,000 meter race was the first event that any of the group com-peted in, and if it was going to be representative, things looked good for North Dakota! Ivan came in four seconds behind the leader, another American, and two second behind second, a Netherlander. Our first medal, bronze, and Ivan was beside himself with joy. Based on his time in the trials, he had no reason to expect to win a medal. Fredie was in the stands with a group of us, and his comment as Ivan crossed the finish line was, "That was almost as good a performance as he gave in bed last night." The value of love and support never ceases to amaze me. That evening, Randy and Sissy did their short pairs program and placed themselves within striking distance of a medal.

The next day Joan got a Bronze in her 3,000 meter race, and Marco got a Bronze in the 1,500 meter short track event, coming in first in his first heat but third in the final. The next afternoon Fredie had the first of his four races and got a silver medal in the 500 meter long track race.

It's not fair the to speed skaters, but somehow the long programs of the figure skaters are the big skating events of the Olympics. That evening's pairs event was no exception. Randy and Sissy were the third pair in the last group to skate. As things stood as they started to skate, a medal for them was likely, but gold was pretty unlikely. For them to get a gold would've required the returning Russian gold medal team of Totmianina and Marinin to perform uncharacteristically poorly, and they didn't oblige. Randy and Sissy took a sort of make or break risk in attempting a throw quadruple Salchow jump, never before completed successfully in competition. It was a little shaky, but it was ruled a successfully completed jump, and gave them a chance at silver. However, they had to sit and bite their nails through three other performances before they knew whether they would be silver, bronze, or also-ran. Thanks to their audacity it attempting the jump they skated away with silver, leaving the Chinese with bronze, fourth, and fifth!.

Author's note: In the real Olympics the spectacular jump was attempted by a Chinese pair, and it was not successfully completed.

The next day, Tuesday the 14th, Shel performed his short program. He was the incumbent gold medalist, and was determined to repeat. It'd be easy to describe Shel as a cocky kid, and he did move through the world–the world of skating and the real world–with an air of confidence that could be interpreted as cockiness. But if Shel had acted any other way, he'd have been accused of false modesty. The kid was just that good: whether in skating, real estate negotiation, or just about anything else. Brian insisted that you could add lover to his list of spectacular achievements.

Brian had made it his job at the Olympics to make sure that Shel could emotionally survive a loss, even a silver medal. We all knew Tim's mantra about the color of the medal not making any difference, and we also knew the reality that Shel was not prepared to be satisfied with a silver medal–though we were certain that he'd be able to behave admirably in public; we were worried about the private consequences. Brian's insistence that Shel deal with the possibility of not winning gold met head on with Shel's insistence on positive thinking. Brian assured me that I didn't want to be present for those discussions!

Shel sailed out on the ice for the short program and calmly demonstrated why he was, without a doubt, the best figure skater in the world, if not for all time. His point score was so far ahead of second place that he virtually had a lock on gold. Several commentators pointed out that the only person who could unlock his hold on first place with Shel himself: he could push too far, try figures that had never been done and that even he might not be able to do, and lose critical points in the failures. Since Shel was well known for taking incredible risks as a skater, a number of commentators worried about his missing out on gold.

I don't think that the subject of how far or hard Shel should push would've come up within the Gang, except that the TV commentators kept harping on it for the forty-eight hours between the short and long programs. Shel didn't want to discuss it. He simply said, "If I were to change my program to 'play it safe' I'd never forgive myself, Brian would disown me, Auggie would kill me, and only Tim and Charlie would forgive me. As for forgiving myself, it simply wouldn't be possible." That meant that we were going to see as spectacular a program as had ever been skated at an Olympics, featuring two, three, or more figures that had never been done in the Olympics, and perhaps never in competition.

Dick Spivey was convinced that Shel was going to attempt a quadruple Axel, which he'd attempted often but never accomplished, though he'd come tantalizingly close–a disqualifying touch of the hand to the ice being his best effort. Brian assured Dick that Shel had balls, but wasn't outright stupid. He'd never attempt something that he hadn't accomplished in practice. But he predicted that we would see a quadruple Lutz. Brian's prediction was correct, and Shel's program also included the first ever in competition quad-quad combination, this time with toe loops.

Shel's long program was very different from his program of four years before. While incorporating incredibly difficult figures, tossed off with almost nonchalant ease, the impression his previous program left with the audience was of a graceful performance, an impression greatly enhanced by the incorporation of his ballet. The impression of this long program was of unbelievable difficulty. The execution of his difficult figures wasn't nonchalant but suggested doubt, as if he wasn't sure he was going to make it, but he'd try. This seemed to magnify the difficulty of his figures, even though they were incredibly difficult without additional emphasis. His manner kept you in suspense: will he, or won't he, pull this off without a missed figure or a fall. As the four and a half minute program ended with a spectacular spin right in the center of the ice, Shel bowed and seemed to be saying, "My God, I did it!" We all knew, and I think the entire audience knew, despite the television commentators trying to create suspense, that his success was never in doubt. Nor was his gold medal, for which second place trailed so far behind he could hardly been seen in the distance.

Shel was the conquering hero, not just of the North Dakotans but of the entire American team. While commentators had generally declared his gold the "safest" of predicted American medals, the actuality of his victory, and his tremendous lead over the silver medalist, made him the darling of the press, and they hardly gave him a minute's rest between demanded interviews. Shel, of course, at it up. Somehow, while sitting of top of this mountain, he didn't seem to be bragging or on an ego trip. He was simply America's darling young man. He mentioned Brian in every interview, and brought him along when he could. Brian was, after all, a previous two-time gold medalist in the same event. The two partners had now taken four successive gold medals.

The speed skaters skated their races, but neither the beauty of the event nor the incredible lead over second place could be duplicated by any of them. I won't try to give a race by race report. However, I do need to report on one spectacular event. It took place in Sean's semi-final heat in the 1,000 meter short track race. He was in fifth place in a very tight race. On the second to last lap the second place skater, a Korean, inadvertently (at least there's general agreement that it wasn't deliberate) pushed into the skate of the third place skater, a Netherlander. The Netherlander when down, and his arm hit the second place skater who when down. The fourth place skater crashed into the two of them and he was down. Sean found himself heading right into the pileup. It was inevitable that he'd crash and be down, probably taking sixth place with him. Then it would be up to the judges to determine who did what, and who would go on to the finals. Sean, however, took the most stunning flying leap you've ever seen, somehow clearing the entire pile up and capturing second place, and a trip to the finals. We've watched the race on videotape so many times we know every move of every skate. Sean came close to hitting everyone, but somehow missed them all, lifting his foot at the last second to clear the Korean who was sprawled on the ice. Sean ultimately got the silver medal following a final race in which both he and Shelly competed. Sean got the silver and Shelly the gold. In the end, speed and not spectacular jumping wins speed skating medals, but Sean may have gotten the prize for the event most often shown in instant replay!

I'll run down how our fantastic short track skaters did. Shelly got a bronze in the 500 meter; a gold in the 1,000 meter, and–along with Sean–shared a bronze in the 5,000 meter relay. Sean got the bronze and silver medals already mentioned. Marco got a bronze in the 1,500 meter, his only race.

The long track skaters did just as well, though they had no such spectacular event in their races. Joan got three medals, a gold in the 1,000 meter, a bronze in the 3,000 meter, and a bronze in the team pursuit. Rydia competed in the 500 meter, but came in seventh; she shared in the team pursuit bronze. Nicole got a bronze in the 500 meter, but failed to medal in the 1,000 meter. Ivan got a bronze in the 5,000 meter, failed to medal in the 10,000 meter, and shared, along with Fredie in the silver medal for the team pursuit. Fredie got two silvers, one in the 500 meter and the other in the team pursuit. He was 4th in the 1,000 meter but 17th in the 1,500 meter, where he simply ran out of steam before he ran out of race! He had put out wonderful efforts in the team pursuit on Wednesday and Thursday, the 15th and 16th, and never seemed to regain his strength for his races the following Saturday and Tuesday. He was disappointed, but we all reminded him that taking home two silver medals was a lot more than any of his Harvard Law classmates would be able to boast about. His disappointment was short-lived, and he came home from Italy a proud winner.

That leaves Fran, skating again in women's figure skating, where she'd gotten a bronze in Salt Lake City four years before. We all agreed that her skating had improved over the four years, but so had the general level of women's figure skating. Despite a short program that left her in second place, she wasn't able to hold on to that position after her long program and again she came away with the bronze medal. She had to have been disappointed, but she never showed it to anyone. You would've thought the bronze medal was gold, and she was simply thrilled to have it. As she joined our group after the medal ceremony she just bubbled and gushed saying, "Wow, a medalist in two Olympics! How lucky can you get?"

Someone said, "Hey, give skill some credit."

Fran simply said, "Skill, luck, it doesn't make any difference. I got my second medal and I couldn't be more proud." Tim watched from a distance and glowed with pride himself. She had learned his lesson well.

So how does it all add up? It's hard to add, because from an individual point of view, four racers in a relay get four medals. Both skaters in pairs figure skating get medals. But in the medal count, those are only one medal. I have to start by noting that every single one of our twelve skaters came home with a medal. That in itself is almost unbelievable, except that the group from North Dakota had had so many successes in the past, that twelve out of twelve didn't seem like that big a deal. Those twelve skaters got three golds, six silvers, and ten bronze medals! If you count relays and pairs as a single medal the count is three golds, four silvers, and eight bronze medals, for a total of fifteen medals. In all the United Stated got twenty-eight medals. The North Dakotans were involved in more than half!

Author's note: In Turin the real live Americans got 25 medals, but they had no skaters from North Dakota.

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