Finding Tim

by Charlie

Episode 220 - Retirement

Author's note: It has been about a year since Episode 219 was posted. During that time I have moved, remodeled and downsized–all appropriate for the retirement years. Those things have had to take precedence over writing "Tim," but he has never been far from my mind. There are plenty more adventures for Tim, Charlie and the Gang planned for their next decade. I am glad you found your way back to the renewed story. I am striving to put up a new episode about every ten days. Thanks for your patience! –Charlie

This is Tim. This episode marks a major milestone in the lives of Charlie and me, and I'm delighted that Charlie has asked me to tell it. The story really begins about a decade prior to this chronological narrative, as Charlie and I began to contemplate the ends of our tenure at the University of North Dakota.

Charlie had become Dean of Law in 1977 at age thirty-six (well, almost thirty-seven) I'd become President two years later in 1979 at age thirty-two. Charlie would be sixty in 2000, sixty-five in 2005. I would be sixty in 2007, sixty-five in 2012. Clearly retirement from our administrative offices, President and Dean of Law, needed to come in the first decade of the twenty-first century, or very soon in the second. It didn't seem to matter too much exactly when in those decades we'd retire; the trustees had, informally, made it clear to both of us, that it would be our decision.

In my mind, there were two critical decisions relating to our retirement: Should we retire together, or separately, and if separately, who first? We also had to deal with the question of our successors. Would we be involved in selecting them? Conventional wisdom suggested that we should stay aloof from that process. Of course, Prexy and Dean Fry had been intimately involved in selecting their successors, so there was clear precedent for that. Also, if Charlie retired before me, I'd be responsible for appointing his successor, but there could still be a selection process that I wouldn't control.

And who might our successors be? In Charlie's case I didn't have a clue, but I'd been urging Charlie to be looking around the law school to see if there was an obvious successor. Thus far he hadn't found one. On the other hand, my right hand person, excluding Charlie in his role as Chancellor, was Liddy Lidholtz. She'd proved to be an excellent fundraiser, and had filled my shoes on the several occasions that I was on leave–the longest of which was when Charlie and I were off sailing all over the world. I was sorry that she was only eleven years younger than me, and thus wouldn't, if selected as President, have the long tenure that both Prexy and I had had.

All these thoughts had been going through my head, and Charlie's as well. We'd talked a lot about the issue and felt that it was time to begin to take some form of action. Where to start? Fred, of course.

Fred's first response when Charlie and I raised the question of retirement, and associated issues, was, "I'm too old to be involved in that."

"Fred, we don't want you involved; we want your sage advice."

"Men my age don't give sage advice; they're more likely to give silly advice."

"You have never given silly advice in your life, and you aren't going to start now."

Fred said, "OK. Both of you. Lay out all of your thinking on the subject and I'll pontificate a little. I doubt I'll have much to add to your thinking. Besides, I don't want to live to see this university without you two at the helm; you've done such a fantastic job."

"It can't go on forever."

"Neither can I, and I think I'd prefer to go first."

"Fred, I think you're going to live forever."

"Not likely."

"How old are you now, Fred?"

"I'm ninety-one. And, as you know, Andy and Marty do all of my thinking for me."

"Not your thinking, just your acting. We want to tap into your thinking."

"OK. Here's what I think. It's probably time to move on. Retain your teaching positions, but give up your administrative positions. Go together; don't make the university go through a grand retirement binge twice, and you know they'll make a big deal of it. A really big deal. Stand aside and let them. As to replacements: Why the Hell not get Liddy? She's smart, knows the university, will do a bang up job, and who knows, maybe in eleven years we'll be glad she's about to go. Or, she could, like you, stick around another decade. After only eleven years, that might not be a bad idea. But I won't be around to see it. You will though. Like Prexy, you're going to watch your successor prove that you made a good choice."

"So, how do I engineer Liddy as my successor?"

"You're the campus politician; you figure it out. Prexy didn't have any problem."

"What about the Law School?"

"If you haven't got the right person aboard now, have a national search. And if you had the right person aboard now, Charlie would know it. Prexy knew his successor within a few months of the kid arriving on campus as a freshman. Within a couple of years the entire campus had figured it out. And you and Charlie had figured it out on your first campus visit."

"Fred...."

"Don't Fred me. And don't try to deny anything I just said. Now, I don't have anymore sage advice to give out. My silly advice for the day is to suggest that you two might like to go to lunch with me. And I do have one more bit of sage advice: good fundraisers never turn down the invitations of their largest donor."

"Fred, you've never pulled that before, in all the years we've known you."

"Age and money have their prerogatives. Better watch out, after lunch I may ask for sex. Marty has a hard time keeping up with the old man, he might like a day off."

"Fred!..."

"As I said, 'Don't Fred me.' Age and money do have their advantages."

Fred called Marty at his Center and invited him to join us for lunch at the new steakhouse that had recently opened out near the interstate interchange. He then told us that we were driving and off we went to meet Marty for lunch.

The lunch centered around three topics: Our retirements, our successors and how to choose them, and Fred and Marty's sex. The conversations around the first two topics didn't add much to what had been said before. Marty did add an enthusiastic endorsement of Liddy as the next president. In Marty's words, "She's earned it. Just putting up with you all these years would've been enough, but look at her record. And she's done an excellent job as acting president when called upon."

I said, "That worries me a little. One of the things that I most appreciated was her willingness to differentiate between those decisions that were appropriate for an acting president and those that should be left for the president. But that means that she didn't make really key decisions."

Charlie said, "Yes, but then she participated with you in making the decisions, and seldom did you disagree. And that wasn't because she was being a yes-man, well, yes-woman; you know she was always willing to speak her mind."

Fred said, "Look, nobody here thinks there's another person around who could do the job as well as Liddy, so what all this yammering? Besides, after nine male presidents in a row, it's about time for a female, and in case you didn't notice, Liddy's very much a female. And a very attractive one, at that. Take it from me, I know. I'm the only straight person here–even though I'm currently married to a man–and I can assure you she is one very attractive lady."

"You sound as if you have more of a basis for that statement that just looking."

"Nope; looking is sufficient."

"Is that what got her your endorsement?"

"Certainly not. It takes brains to run a university. But just as being handsome male specimens has certainly been a help in your university roles, you can bet that Liddy will enjoy similar advantages. Besides, she can sing–better than you guys. And it's a talent that she's kept up just like you've kept up your diving and gymnastics, Tim."

Charlie interjected, "I notice that you didn't include me as part of your example."

Fred replied, "I know exactly where that bow of yours is, Charlie: right on the wall where it belongs. Tim has you beat in the 'keeping up with your sport' department."

"Don't I know it. But what do you know about Liddy's singing?"

"You must not get around very much. She sings at a variety of events. She wowed the crowd with 'The Star Spangled Banner' at the Fighting Sioux baseball game last week, and then sang 'God Bless America' at the seventh inning stretch, and she put Kate Smith to shame."

I commented, "You know, Prexy had an advantage over me in this situation. He knew, for sure, that I wanted the job of being president without having to ask. This has never been discussed with Liddy; I don't know that she'd want the job, but I'm pretty certain she would. I guess I'd better ask her before I start cranking the political wheels at this university."

Fred said, "Well, this sort of thing is usually done at lunch. Take her to lunch."

Charlie said, "Sorry, that won't work. The venue for talks of this sort was always the Bar and Grill, which regrettably has been washed away. I suggest an invitation for dinner at Dakota House A.S.A.P."

I said, "I'll take care of that this afternoon. Let's hope she can come tomorrow night. Charlie, will you be chef? Leg of lamb would be great; that's what she served us when we first visited her in Minot."

"Leg of lamb it is, and I'll take care of all the rest. Call her right after lunch so I'll know what day to expect her for dinner."

It turned out to the two days hence; she had a dinner scheduled with several important potential donors, and she didn't want to change it. I didn't push her to, and dinner the following night was scheduled. On the night Charlie had hors d'oeuvres (including rumaki, one of our favorites) in the living room, with Cokes and other soft drinks available. Liddy joined us in drinking Coke, and we weren't sure whether that was her preference or a planned political move, of which she was quite capable.

As she munched on an artichoke heart–prepared in some exotic way by Charlie–she looked at me and asked, "OK, you don't invite someone to a dinner like this for purely social reasons. What's up?"

I said, "Enjoy the hors d'oeuvres, we'll talk at dinner."

"That's all I'm going to get out of you before the main course?"

"That's it."

"Well, hand me that plate of rumaki, and I'll finish it off. Then maybe we can get on with the main course." And she did finish it off. Charlie got her hint and invited us to the dinner table very quickly. The lamb was on the table waiting to be carved, which Charlie did with a flair.

As I passed Liddy her plate I said, "Before too long this university is going to be looking for a new president. Would you be interested in being considered?"

"In my wildest dreams I didn't think that was going to be the subject of tonight's dinner. Not that I haven't thought about being president some day. It's kind of inevitable that one would think about that after serving as acting president on more than one occasion. I am startled by the subject because your imminent retirement never occurred to me."

I said, "Charlie's seventy; I'll be sixty-five in two years. We've more or less decided that we should go at the same time. We're thinking that next June might be a good time."

"And here you are, asking me if I'd like to be considered as the next president."

"That's the question."

"Before I answer that, let me probe a little. Have you had, or are you planning to have, other dinners like this with other people?"

"No."

"So I'm on the short list?"

"Yes."

"And the short list consists of one name?"

"Yes."

"As I heard the story, the university didn't conduct a ordinary search when it hired either of you. Is that right?"

"Yes."

Charlie piped up with, "I think she's way ahead of you, Tim."

"She sure is."

Liddy said, "So, you're looking at one person, and you're thinking that you probably don't need a national search for a replacement. In other words, if I say, 'Yes,' tonight, and survive whatever conversation follows on that response this evening, you're going to set in motion whatever process you intend to make my presidency happen. In short, by the end of the evening, if I can stand the heat in the kitchen–or rather the dining room–you're going to offer me the tenth presidency of the University of North Dakota."

I turned to Charlie and said, "One has a hard time being subtle with this lady."

He responded, "Prexy was even less subtle with you."

I turned to Liddy, "You've had stupendous success as a fundraiser; you've worked well with the entire staff; AAA says you're wonderful to work with; your record as acting president has been great. We think you're just what this university needs for the next dozen years or so. I'm sorry that I've had such a long tenure that you won't be able to have the tenure that either Prexy or I had, but that's life. I'm quite certain that you'll do a good job, and will build on, rather than undermine, the successes that I've had. Furthermore, everyone tells me that you're a better singer than I am, and that should improve a lot of the celebrations around her."

"Tim, I would love the opportunity to follow in your footsteps."

"I'm simply going to tell the Trustees that, and I'll bet they'll buy it. I'll get some pressure to stay longer, but it's time."

Without being pressured, Liddy spent the rest of the dinner and evening talking about new directions the university should be investigating. Charlie says it reminded him of me, decade ago. It made me realize that it really was time for fresh blood.

I told Liddy to say nothing, and I'd put the process in motion. We'd talk about the details later. She did ask about Charlie's successor, and was surprised that we were planning a national search. Charlie said, "I've hired some excellent professors, but there isn't an outstanding administrator among them. We're going to have to go looking."

The evening ended with both Charlie and me getting a very delightful kiss from Liddy.

Not long after that, and before I could put anything in motion regarding either Charlie's or my retirement, I got a telephone call from Paul–Big Paul, the wrestler, and now wrestling coach, from Ironwood, Michigan. When we'd gotten through the greetings and salutations, he said, "Well, it's time."

"Time for what?"

"Time for Amanda and me to join the Gang in North Dakota. I understand that it's colder there than here–that's hard to believe–but we've decided that we can brave the cold and the wind, in order to be near our dearest friends."

"Paul, that's wonderful news. I assume that that means you're retiring. When, next June?"

"Nope, I'm not going to wait that long. I've held on two years longer than I should have because the current batch of senior wrestlers are really great wrestlers, and great people as well, and I didn't want to leave them in the lurch. It'll take quite a while for the district to get a good new wrestling coach."

"Paul, they'll never get one as good, or as dedicated, as you are. And your staying on because of a good group of boys is proof of that. But what about the younger kids coming on."

"They're nice kids, but not special like a couple of my seniors are. In any case, wrestling will wind up by the middle of March. Amanda and I have the age and time required to retire. There's no requirement that it be at the end of he school year. We're going out on March 16, and we expect to move to North Dakota before the end of March."

"So, what's the reason for the call now?"

"We're inviting ourselves to be your guests next week (we have enough personal days to take off for the week) while we go house hunting."

"Of course. You're always welcome. Our ace house person is Shel. Call him up, talk to him about what you're looking for, and he'll be ready for you when you come. He'll probably have the house picked out and gotten an option on it before you get here. He moves very fast and has made everybody that he's helped very happy. Trust him."

"Oh, I heard all about Shel. He's going to be my next call."

About forty-five minutes later I got a call from Shel. He didn't waste any time on greetings and salutations, but started right in. "Paul and Amanda want a house, but not as big as yours. They don't have any specific demands about type of house, but would like to be near as much of the Gang as possible. I warned them that the Gang was pretty spread out, but that there was a collection of us near the campus. They liked that idea. Listen, Tim, the houses on the street behind you are smaller than yours. I wonder if the owner of one of the houses that backs into The Hideout, the Roundhouse or the Lighthouse might be persuaded to sell? Would you like Paul and Amanda that close?"

"Don't you already own one of those houses? You use its back yard for parking?"

"Yeah, but it's rented to a very nice couple on a long term lease. We could offer to buy them out, but they're happy there, and I'd hate to push them out. Besides, it would be nice to expand our holdings, and the other three houses behind us will be nicer houses when they're restored."

"Well, Shel, as to your question, we'd love to have Paul and Amanda as neighbors. And I know you knew the answer before you asked, but thank you for asking."

"I think my old real estate agent, Mrs. Caruthers, is still active. I think I'd better get in touch with her."

Mrs. Caruthers had, in fact, retired. However, when Shel heard that, he called her at home and said, "Hi there, Mrs. Caruthers, the best real estate agent in North Dakota. This is your old nemesis, Shel, and I have good friends that want to buy a house. We have it narrowed down to three, but the three owners don't know they want to sell. I need an ace Realtor to persuade them. You will come out of retirement and help, won't you. Please."

At this point poor Caruthers hadn't gotten a word in edgewise. She thought, "Do I really want to do one more real estate transaction? Certainly not. But Shel is such a damn intriguing guy–it's fun to watch him work. And for the deals I've had with him in the past he did most of the work, and brought the whole thing to an amazingly quick close." What she said was, "What the Hell, Shel, I'm game. What do you have in mind?"

"My friends want to live next to me, behind our big parking lot. There are three houses back there. They're all rented to students. Contact the owners and convince one of them that they want to sell their house. Don't offer more than you have to, but get one of the houses."

"You've got to give me more of a price guideline, Shel."

"No, I don't. You're good; you know what I'm going to have to pay. And what I'm going to have to add to a fair price to persuade somebody to let go of their rentals. Landlords are very dollar driven; they'll bite when the price offered is worth more than the rental income. And if they know you're talking to all three of them, they'll be under pressure to be the first to bite."

"Why don't you just talk to them yourself?"

"You can do it anonymously. I'm known, and my connection to Fred isn't hard to figure out. If they see big bucks, they'll want a lot more money."

"OK, Shel. I'll take your job. Give me the addresses of the three houses."

It took her almost a week before she was able to report back to Shel on the results of her efforts. That frustrated Shell because he figured that a simple job like that ought to take just a day or two. He complained to Brian who simply said, "Shel, give her the time she needs. Negotiation isn't always a quick process."

Her report to Shel opened the way for some new thinking about The Hideout, The Roundhouse, and The Lighthouse. Mrs. Caruthers reported that for a reasonable price all three of the houses could be purchased. She added that it would have to be an "as is" deal, as they were cut up for rentals and it would be the buyer's responsibility to return them to single family dwellings if that was what he wanted.

Paul, Amanda, and Brian were in the room when that report was received in the living room of The Lighthouse. Shel turned to Paul and said, "Well, I guess you and Amanda will have your choice."

Paul asked, "Mrs. Caruthers, when could we see them to actually make a choice."

Shel cut in, "You can do that later after you've had a chance to talk to Carl about how to remodel whatever house you choose. In the meantime, Mrs. Caruthers, prepare appropriate offers to purchase for all three houses. It's time to expand this compound."

Brian said, "Shel, how are we going to pay for three houses?"

"We aren't. And for once we don't have to ask Fred, or Marty, for help. The combined resources of the Circle and The Lighthouse Keepers, plus what Paul and Amanda are prepared to bring as a down payment on a house will cover the down payment on all three houses. The groups and persons involved can easily make the mortgage payments. At this point I think Marty will suggest that the Bank of Fred might want to hold the mortgages. We'll have to think through who or what group will actually own the houses. We also have to decide what to do with the two that Paul and Amanda don't choose. If we have no immediate use for them, we can continue to rent one or both of them and easily cover the mortgages. But I think they'll get used."

Paul said, "You know, Amanda and I haven't been a part of the discussions that led up to this compound. This sounds very ambitious, but Shel's reputation suggests that we should expect such from him."

Brian said, "Shel, in whose name is Mrs. Caruthers to make the offer to purchase?"

Shel responded, "She'll use my name. She knows I can assure her of being able to complete the purchase. Andy and Marty will back me, even if the Circle and Keepers don't, but they will. And I want to move on this before we lose one of the houses."

Mrs. Caruthers said, "Shel, I'll be glad to submit the offers, and I'll vouch for your ability to follow through. But the owners or their agents are going to do a credit check on you, and may not be willing to accept an offer just in your name."

"By then Marty will be willing to cosign in Fred's name. I think Fred'll pass a credit check."

Brian asked, "Shel, are you sure you know what you're doing? What a minute. I withdraw that. I'm quite aware you know what you're doing, and as I reflect on it, it's a pretty good idea. Who might want one of the two houses?"

"We'll think on that, but right now we need to let Mrs. Caruthers go earn her THREE commissions."

"Shel, I've always liked working with you."

"After you got over the hurdle of the first deal."

"OK, Shel. You win on that one. I'll get moving."

As you can guess, it all went forward just exactly as Shel had assumed. Marty (and Fred) thought it was a wonderful idea, as did the Circle and the Keepers. A day later the Marauders heard what was afoot and immediately approached Shel. Speaking for all of them, JoJo told Shel, "Look, we want to be a part of this, and we'll tell you why. We have a use for one of the houses. You know, Tim is soon going to be retiring, and he and Charlie are going to want their house back. Well, there's a new generation, some of which are our kids, that will want The Hideout to continue. Well, in one of those three houses it can and will continue, same name, new address. And the house needs complete remodeling, and Carl can do it as The Hideout rather than as a home."

Shel immediately added, "There are two rooms in The Hideout that we want him to retain, virtually unchanged."

Someone asked, "Which two?"

"The shower, obviously. And the laundry/mud room. And if you don't understand that, I have a couple of stories that I'll tell you on some cold winter evening!"

Brian said, "OK, we're buying three houses. Paul and Amanda want one; one will be The (new) Hideout; what about the other one?"

Shel said, "For that we need to talk to Charlie and Tim. They know their way around the Gang better than anyone, and I think they may have an idea. If not, we can either keep renting to carefully selected students, or we can return it to being a single family dwelling and rent it."

They were in my office the next day; "they" being Paul and Amanda, all of the Keepers and all of the Circle. Marty had been keeping Charlie and me posted on what was going on, so we were ready for them.

We let them explain the purchase of three houses, the plans for two of them, and their thinking about the third. I started the reply with a huge thanks for the idea of replacing The Hideout. I told them, "Honestly, we were torn between our desire to have the house back and the need for a new generation to have The Hideout. We think that's been a most important part of the COG experience, and it should be for the GrandCOGs as well. I have an idea for the third house. Chet and Jimmy are still living with Auggie and Lynn, and now Auggie's invited Chuck to move in there as well. It's a little too much for Auggie and Lynn, and it's time for Chet and Jimmy to arrange more permanent housing. They can have the third house. At first, they can just live in it, but if and when they're ready to join the Gang and be permanent Grand Forkers, we'll arrange for them to buy the house with a Bank of Fred mortgage."

Chet and Jimmy were delighted with that offer, and insisted that Chuck move in with them. His future, following the next Olympics was completely up in the air, and until it was more settled he'd just be part of the household. Chet and Chuck found that they had one huge thing in common with both Perry and Norman and also Greg and Josh. Each pair were seeking paired medals in the next Olympics and were practicing on the same timeline. Of course, the sailors weren't practicing in North Dakota, but they were in and out fairly often and the six (actually seven since Jimmy always joined them) always got together for dinner to update each other on their Olympic progress.

And were they making progress! At their last get together as a group, in September of 2010, Perry had reported that the two Fred's Sports boats, had been entered into almost all of the world class regattas held in Europe in the past summer. One or the other of the boats had come in in the top three in almost every race series, and often both were in the top three. Further, Greg and Josh were ahead of Perry and Norman about a third of the time. What's more, no other American boat seemed to be a serious competitor for the Fred's Sports boats.

Chuck was no fool and immediately realized that this situation was fraught with potential conflict. Only one American boat would compete in the Olympics. One of these two pairs was going to be left out and couldn't help but be seriously disappointed. Chuck didn't say anything to the group, but he privately raised the issue with Perry and Norman. Perry's response was unexpected. "Chuck, I'm very uncomfortable with the answer I'm going to give you, but it seems to be the way it's going to work out. Greg and Josh simply won't have it that they take Norman's and my place in the Olympics. They're both very aware of Norman's and my history supporting Tim and Charlie and then Auggie and Freddie and they both say that it's now our turn. We've tried to tell them that the turn goes to the fastest sailors, that we don't have any claim to the spot. Greg answered that by saying, 'You two have real lives you have to get back to. You, Norman have a co-op to run. And whatever you, Perry, are going to do with your life, you'd better be getting on with it. On the other had, Josh and I think we'd enjoy another four years of sailing, and I'm hopeful that Fred's Sports will support us in that.'"

Perry continued, "I could only reply that given what they'd just said about not competing for the American slot this year, I was one hundred percent certain that Fred's Sports would support them another four years. They simply plan to sit out a couple of the key races; they won't have any part of entering a race and not doing their best, but if they sit out a couple of races they'll be out of the running. As I say, I'm not real happy about that, but neither Greg nor Josh is willing to discuss it."

Chuck thought about what he'd been told, and he, Chet, and Jimmy talked about it at length. Jimmy suggested that they talk about it with me, whom they seemed to think was the person who most personified the Olympic ideal at it was envisioned in North Dakota.

Their visit to my office didn't go at all as they expected. I'd listened to their story, and their concern that the best sailors should go to the Olympics representing America, and the fact that Perry and Norman seemed to be uncomfortable with the decision that Josh and Greg had made. I sat quietly for a few minutes–letting them think–and then said, "You know, Greg and Josh were in my office about six months ago. They told me that they thought that Perry and Norman would probably win the American 49er space, but that they'd beaten them often enough that it was possible that they might beat out Perry and Norman. I asked them, 'You wouldn't be comfortable with that, would you?' Well, no, they wouldn't. I said, 'Well, then don't let it happen.' I understand that they'll sit out enough races to insure that it won't happen."

Chuck asked, "Are you comfortable with that?"

"Sure. I stopped diving after the Mexico Olympics because it was then Billy's turn. When I got back in, diving with Billy, people said that I could've also won individual medals; Billy could as well. But we didn't compete, it was the turn of a new generation. Perry and Norman have worked their butts off in their support roles. If they'd spent that time sailing, there wouldn't be any question of Greg and Josh beating them. When Greg and Josh came in here and asked for help thinking through the situation they found themselves in, I almost cried, it was so wonderful to hear them talk. They are true Olympians, and they'll get their turn. And I'm so delighted to have them here in North Dakota, which is clearly where they belong."

Chuck asked, "Greg and Josh came and asked you about this?"

"They sure did. And I thanked them for coming in, and for the thoughts that had led them to come in. They're great kids."

Jimmy closed the conversation with, "Thank you, Tim. This has been really helpful for us."

Tim said, "And I'm equally glad to have you three here in North Dakota. Chet, I know you and Jimmy have decided to make Grand Forks your home. What about you, Chuck?"

"I think I just made up my mind."

I told Charlie the story that evening, and we agreed that it was time that Chuck, Chet, Jimmy, Greg, and Josh be invited to join the Gang. Charlie then asked, "What're Lew and Janey going to do now that the Olympics are over? Is it time for them to join the Gang?"

"I think so. They got married, but they're going to follow Shel's lead and head for Vancouver. You know, if they join the Gang they're going to be like Tina and Merle were at the beginning; they'll be monogamous."

"Paul and Amanda started that way as well, if you remember. Both those couples changed, but I don't think Lew and Janey will. It isn't a case of morality; they aren't going to condemn the rest of us. They just think a certain lifestyle is right for them. Of course, they've only talked to us about not having premarital sex, but I'll bet they'll avoid extramarital sex as well, because it's just not who they are."

Charlie replied, "OK, but it raises two questions. How are they going to react to Gangland, and how do we handle the joining ceremony?"

"We invite them to dinner and we ask them." And that's what we did.

Before we raised the question of new Gang members with the rest of the Gang, we invited Lew and Janey Prosser to dinner. We didn't want the formality of the dining room, so we sat at a little table in the den. We asked about their skating, how married life was going, and future plans after skating. They both gave enthusiastic replies, and Janey sort of ended it with, "Dr. Tim...."

"Tim."

"Tim, we simply can't imagine living anywhere but right here. We find ourselves in the midst of the most wonderful group of people you can imagine. We don't want to leave. For now, we're skating, and continuing as students. As Milson scholars we don't have any financial problems, but we'll graduate before we end our skating and we aren't sure how we're going to support ourselves."

Lew continued, "When we mention that to Shel he simply says, 'Don't worry about it. You're Grand Forks Olympians, money will never be an issue. Seriously, don't worry about it. Everything will work out. Trust me'."

Janey continued, "Well, we've learned that Shel can be trusted, and we've decided to trust him. We've simply not worried about money or what we do after skating."

Charlie said, "Very wise. You can trust Shel. He knows his way around, and he has the ear of people that can see to it that his promises are kept. And that would include Tim and me. But we asked you tonight to talk about a very specific issue."

"What's that?"

"Have you heard people talk about the Gang?"

"Yes, Shel's given us some background and told us that if we continue in Grand Forks we'll probably be invited to join. Is that what this is about?"

I said, "Sort of. We want to talk about sex. Both of you seemed quite at ease talking about sex when we first interviewed you. You told us that you were going to have no sexual relationship before marriage. I assume that's how things worked out."

Lew said, "That's right. We had a most delightful wedding night. And our sex life gets better all the time; we have absolutely no regrets."

Charlie said, "Good for you."

I said, "OK, you know from your living with the Marauders, who are members of the Gang, that your rules are not their rules. I also assume that you've figured out that the rest of the Gang probably follows their rules more than your rules. Right?"

"Most definitely."

"OK, we have a couple of questions. First, the obvious one. Does that bother you?"

"You know the answer to that. It's no, or we wouldn't have lived with the Marauders. Essentially that question was asked before we were invited to be houseguests of the Marauders."

"We certainly expected that answer. But we need to go a little further. If you join the Gang Sid Madison is going to paint your portraits to hang where all Gang portraits hang."

"Where is that?"

"That's only known to members of the Gang."

"I see," said Lew. "I get the impression that these portraits aren't ones that Sid exhibits in Chicago or New York galleries. San Francisco, perhaps."

"Not anywhere."

"Got it. So, are we going to be comfortable having such a portrait painted of us? Is that the question?"

"Sid would expect you two to be nude, and he would be nude as well; he's always nude when working with nude models. However, previous couples that've limited their sexual activities have had more modest portraits painted–but the modesty (or coverup) was added after the fact, not in the modeling."

Janey said, "Let me see if I can summarize the question you're getting to. Since Lew and I never even saw each other naked before we were married, would we be uncomfortable, or unwilling, to be naked with Sid while he paints our picture?"

'

"Yes."

Lew said, "I think it'd be fun. You're making some assumptions that you shouldn't. Janey and I held sex for marriage. We just decided that that it was what we wanted to do. We liked dreaming of a wonderful wedding night. We talked about it. We planned it. Of course, we had no experience, so things didn't go exactly according to plan, but fairly close. But we are sexual animals. We've been working through the positions in the Kama Sutra, and good grief has it been fun!"

I asked, "So, now that you've been naked in front of each other, it wouldn't bother you to be naked in front of Sid, and perhaps others?"

Janey answered with, "Not at all. Sexy. Fun."

"How about sex with some of those people?"

That was my question, but Charlie added, "Or all of them?"

Lew said, and Janey concurred by nodding her head, "We aren't there yet. We may never be. But it's not a decision that can't be revisited, like our decision about sex before marriage. That was not revisited."

I said, "Well, the Gang has some rules, and a big one is that we never push people beyond their comfort zone. Most of us have pretty big comfort zones, but we all have limits. If you let us know what your limits are, we'll respect them. But we have one other rule: it's OK to ask, and it's OK to say no. And one is not to be offended by either the asking or the answering."

Lew said, "Seems fair to me. But why are these questions coming now? We sort of assumed that an invitation to join the Gang would come at the end of our skating careers."

"No, no. It comes when you decide that you fit and are willing to make a commitment of love and support of every member of the Gang, all of whom are committed to love and support you. And we think you're ready. But the Gang has to decide. We're going to be talking among ourselves about several potential new members of the Gang. You're on the list."

So were Sean and Marco. Following the Olympics they'd made a very quick trip to Des Moines and gotten married–just the two of them. When asked why they hadn't let others know, them simply said that they wanted it to be private and full of love for each other. Apparently their wedding night really lived up to that ideal. They enrolled in UND for the spring semester, and planned to finish their degrees as quickly as possible, getting as many credits as possible each summer. They continued to rent a room in The Hideout.

The list of new Gang members would include Janey, Lew, Chet, Chuck, Jimmy, Greg, Josh, Sean, and Marco. We weren't doing a very good job of keeping Gang growth in check, were we?

I'll take just a paragraph to fill you in on Randy and Sissy. They were local kids, and while they'd gotten along very well with the other skaters and with various other members of the Gang, their social life had centered more on the friends they'd made in high school. Retiring from competitive racing, their lives flowed naturally back to that old social setting. Andy had spoken to both of them and offered them jobs at Fred's Sports–either as a career or short term. Randy had accepted, as they needed an income quickly, but two years later his career plans moved in another direction. We saw less and less of them, and eventually they moved to the Twin Cities where Sissy's work, and a promotion had taken her. Again, Randy worked for Fred's Sports for a while, but again he soon moved in other directions. They would've fit into the Gang, but it wasn't just right for them, and we were glad that they recognized that and moved in a different direction. We had mutual love and support while they were with us.

Over the next few days we gathered groups of the Gang together and talked about the proposed expansion. There was general agreement that the Gang was getting "pretty large" but that these nine simply couldn't be denied. Phone calls to the out-of-towners confirmed their agreement. We told the nine and planned a welcoming ceremony.

Sid decided that he'd paint the pictures by couple, with Chuck included with Jimmy and Chet. He also decided that this was an opportunity to stretch the comfort zone of Lew and Janey, but not beyond the limits that they'd spelled out in their conversation with us–which we'd shared with Sid. So all nine were invited to dinner at the Madisons. As soon as all had arrived and they were gathered in the living room around a table of snacks, soft drinks having been served, Sid said, "OK, I think all of you are aware that the purpose of tonight's gathering is to paint portraits of you all, and that the portraits are to be nude and likely pornographic. So, to get everybody in the right mood, I'm going to suggest that we all strip now and get used to each other." With that both he and Lynn undressed and waited for the others. Jimmy loved the idea and he was the next one naked, followed by Chet. Sean and Marco, having been well indoctrinated into the ways of the Gang, glanced at each other, smiled and quickly were as naked as the others. Chuck's only homosexual experience at all was the night he and Chet had spent in The Roundhouse, and his hetero experiences had always been two by two. However, he'd been warned by Chet about what was likely coming, and he'd thought he was ready. However, naked hors d'oeuvres were certainly more than he'd bargained for. But he decided that this was a critical point in his becoming a part of this group–the Gang–the group that he'd realized from the very beginning was truly exceptional. He was hard as a rock, and the others weren't (dammit), but he steeled himself, turned red in both the face and the prick, and took off his clothes. Nobody kidded about its being hard; it hadn't even been mentioned.

Lew and Janey quickly, and separately, recognized that this was "put up or shut up" time. They'd said that nudity didn't offend them; well then it was time. They were the last, but they made it. And Chuck was very glad to no longer possess the only hard-on.

Lynn waited for everybody to get naked and then said, "That wasn't that hard, was it?"

Chuck couldn't resist replying, "It was and is exactly that hard." That seemed to relieve a little of the obvious tension in the room, and the two hard-ons gradually began to disappear, to be replaced by Jimmy's, as Jimmy was obviously getting aroused by the scene in front of him.

Conversation was a little awkward for a while, but soon people got used to the situation they were in. Conversation centered around a lot of questions for Sid and Lynn about the Gang, the portraits he would paint, and the welcoming ceremony scheduled for Saturday a week. Soon Auggie came out of the kitchen, dressed as everyone else, and informed them that he was the chief cook and bottle-washer for the evening so that both Sid and Lynn could be part of the party. They were invited into the dining room for dinner. Sitting at the table made things a lot more comfortable, especially for the boys. When there was a pause in the conversation, Sid spoke up: "You know that I'm going to paint portraits this evening. I'm going to do sketches in two different ways. First, when we finish our main course, we're all going into the living room. I want you to remain standing, but to interact normally–no posing; simply try to ignore me as I sketch. Then I'd like you to come up to my studio by couples–Chuck would you please come with Chet and Jimmy? In the studio setting I'll ask for some poses. I'll head to the living room now and get my sketch pad. Come in when you're finished eating. We'll have dessert later."

They all finished at about the same time and moved into the living room. Sid was, as usual, sketching madly using both pencil and charcoal. They couldn't tell what he was sketching, but in fact he was concentrating on faces, breasts (boys and girls), and genitalia.

After about half an hour he invited Sean and Marco up to the studio. Up there he asked them, "What's your favorite way to have sex?"

"Are you going to paint us having sex?"

"Would you like that? Only the Gang will ever see the picture."

Sean said, "It might be fun. What do you think, Marco?"

"I say we simply trust Sid to do what works for the Gang."

Sid said, "I'll have to admit that the pictures have gradually moved from erotic to pornographic. Nobody has objected. So, what's your favorite way to have sex?"

"We take turns sucking each other."

"That's not a very exciting picture. Do you fuck each other?"

"Of course."

"Is one of you a top and the other a bottom?"

"We both like both."

"Show me."

After appropriate preliminaries–Sid sketching madly–Marco moved on top of Sean, shoved inside, and they kissed as Marco pumped. It didn't take him long to come, and he attributed that to the presence of a spectator.

Sid smiled and said, "Just keep going."

Sean took charge and got Marco settled on his back with his dick sticking straight up. Sean sat on Marco's thighs and then wiggled up so he was sitting straight up over Marco's dick. He came down slowly, and Marco directed it into his ass. He sat and smiled for a while and then started lifting up and down. He'd stop and start, and it seemed to be driving Marco mad,, but eventually he came. Sid wondered if Marco appreciated the stopping and starting. Marco sensed Sid's concern and said, "He does that to me all the time. It's fantastic. I love it. Though at the time it can be frustrating. When he just pumps I come quicker, but it's a lot less fun."

Sid thanked them and asked them to send Janey and Lew up next. Sid told me later that he wondered if he was going to get through four pictures without having an orgasm himself. He also decided that a favorite position was likely to be one that didn't show well in a picture, so he'd move in a different direction.

Lew and Janey came in, having been warned by Marco and Sean to expect to put on a sexy show. Sid asked them, "Have you two ever done 69?"

Janey replied, "I think I know what you're talking about. It's where he sucks me while I suck him, right?"

"Right, have you done that?"

"No."

"Would you be willing to try it tonight?"

Lew said, "What the Hell, why not? Tonight is already so far beyond our previous experience, why not push further? Are you OK with that, Janey?"

Janey thought for a minute and replied, "I think so. No, I know so. We knew we were going to be pushed tonight, let's go with the flow."

Sid said, "OK, you know what 69 is. I am not going to make any suggestions about how to do it. Just work it out. I assume you've sucked each other one at a time."

Lew said, "Bad assumption. We've done hand jobs and moved to fucking. We've been working through the positions of the Kama Sutra. It gets to oral sex, but we aren't there yet. This is going to be interesting."

Sid said, "It probably isn't fair to ask for 69 before you tried one-on-one oral sex."

Janey said, "No, it's OK. As Lew said, 'This is going to be interesting'."

Indeed it was. They sucked each other a little separately, but soon wiggled so they were on their sides with both of their tongues working. Fairly soon Janey stopped them and said, "Let's talk."

"OK."

"Do you want me to lick your penis, or really suck it?"

"Both. Now, do you want me to be licking your clitoris or trying to shove my tongue in your vagina?"

"Both. OK, we both have our marching orders. Let's go."

Go they did. Sid couldn't believe the enthusiasm they had for oral sex on their first try. Then, clearly, Lew had come and Janey had a pile of semen in her mouth that she didn't know what to do with. Right about then Lew shoved his tongue into her as hard and deep as he could and she came. As she came, the semen spurted out of her mouth all over Lew's thighs. They both were spent, and fell on their backs, content. Very soon, Janey crawled around and lay next to Lew and they kissed, very deeply. It was clear that there was still semen in her mouth and it was being shared. Sid gave them time to relax and then said, "That was a wonderful show. It's hard to believe that was your first time with oral sex. It'll make a great picture."

Next up were Greg and Josh. Sid chatted with them a little and then said, "There is something I've always wanted to try. I don't know whether it's possible, but you guys are strong enough to pull it off if anybody can."

"What's that?"

"A standing up 69. Whichever of you is the bigger, lifts the other, upside down, feet sticking up, both of you mouth to dick."

Greg said, "I think I can do that, but I'm not sure I could ever come in that position."

Sid said, "You don't need to. A picture is an instant snapshot. People may choose to believe that you held the pictured position until you both came. Others will think you couldn't possibly hold out that long. The artist isn't going to give them a clue. And once I get you sketched I'll tell you, and you can either keep going or get down. I'll never tell. You can have bragging rights even if you don't earn them. I'll never tell."

They agreed to try, and after a little trouble they succeeded–if success is measured by actually getting in the position. After Sid told them he'd finished his sketching–which, since it was Sid, didn't take very long–they managed to hold the position about one minute more. After they were down they admitted that it wasn't sexy at all, especially for Josh who was upside down. Neither would ever have come. Greg said, "However, it was fun trying it–once."

Josh commented, "Easy for you to say, you weren't upside down."

Greg added, "I'm eager to see the painting."

The last group up was the threesome, Jimmy, Chet, and Chuck. Sid was aware of the relationships in the group, and he had a very simple suggestion: "Look, Jimmy and Chet, you two get up on the bed and do whatever comes naturally. Chuck, you simply sit in that chair and watch."

Chuck said, "I was a little worried that you'd want me involved with Chet, and that's really beyond our comfort zone."

"I knew that, and that's why I didn't suggest it. But I didn't think that watching would be out of bounds. I doubt it's the first time."

Chet said, "Well, actually it is, but I think we'll all be glad to have gotten past that. But I don't think we're going to get beyond watching. Chuck's about as straight as you can get."

Chuck said, "I'm afraid that I may be a little out of place in the Gang."

Sid said, "Not at all. Tim needs to be confronted by a real live exception to his rule that there's a least a little gay and a little straight in everyone. It'll do him good."

"Once I tried it, but I'm not really tempted to repeat."

Jimmy said, "And neither I nor Chet will ever push him, Gang rule or not."

Chet said, "Sid, do you have any preference on how we do it tonight?"

"Honestly, I'd like to paint you giving Jimmy a hand job. That exposes the penis and everything the most, and will make a good painting. Chuck, you put your head close to watch. I'll make sure to show you're nude, but I don't expect to expose your genitalia."

"You can if you want; I'm past any inhibitions in that regard."

"Everybody knows you have a dick; I don't need to prove it. Sometimes almost exposed is sexier that fully exposed. Just ask any burlesque queen."

Jimmy came pretty quickly, but not before Sid had all the sketches he needed. Then he said, "Well, we have two young men here that're probably pretty horny and haven't had a chance to ejaculate. Would either of you like me to help you out?"

Chet said, "I'm pretty sure Chuck isn't interested. He's going to have to go home and take care of his own needs. But Sid, are you really offering to have sex with me?"

"It's not usually part of the painting scene, but you're very much of age, you're horny, and so am I?"

"What about Lynn?"

"I'm sure she's horny. Maybe we should invite her up here to help Chuck while I take care of you–both of you if Jimmy's up for a second round."

Chet simply said, "My God."

Sid looked at Chuck with an inquiring look, and Chuck seemed undecided.

Chet said,, "Chuck, I know your dick's had nothing but your hand for a long time, you'd better accept the offer."

Chuck just smiled.

Sid said, "I think I'll take that as a, 'Yes'." He picked up the telephone and used the intercom to call Lynn. "Your wildest dreams are about to come true."

Chet asked, "You and Lynn talked about this before we came?"

"Of course. We knew Chuck was probably long removed from non-masturbatory sex."

Jimmy said, "Non-masturbatory sex. That's quite a mouth full. It took me a minute to figure out what you meant."

Chet said, "But you figured it out, didn't you?"

Sid said, "I'm sure that Chuck is only interested in Lynn. But you two guys might like to have the two of us work you over. We can be very entertaining!"

Jimmy said, "This gets wilder by the minute."

With that Lynn came in and headed straight for Chuck. She said, "Looking at you at dinner was a delight. Now I want you to know that there is absolutely no chance of your making a baby tonight, my ob-gyn took care of that years ago. So if I get up on the bed here, you can fuck me to your heart's content."

He did.

Then Sid and Lynn used hands, lips, tongues, and from time to time Sid's dick, to give first Chet and then Jimmy a bonzo lesson in how to make a male orgasm exciting.

They all went downstairs and joined the other six. Lynn had made an Angel pie for dessert, actually for this crowd she'd made two so there was plenty, and as they all dug in Auggie came over to Chet and said, "I missed the party upstairs. Help me out." With that he took Chet's plate and used his dick to pick up some of the lemon and whipped cream. Then he pushed it toward Chet's mouth. Chet got the idea and sucked his dick clean. Two or three others in the group offered their plates and before he was done he had, in this unique way, served several of the boys and gotten the service he wanted for himself. It was good for great laughs all around.

The joining ceremony was almost an anticlimax. Nothing could've topped the evening at Sid's. The ceremony was held in The Hideout. They all lined up in numerical order on the staircase and Franklin planted numbers on their bare asses: Chuck 133, Chet 134, Jimmy 135, Josh 136, Greg 137, Marco 138, Sean 139, Janey 140, and Lew 141. Somebody asked why Chuck had gotten the first number. Tim replied, "Well, Chuck and Chet walked into my office together on their first visit to campus. I wasn't going to try to remember who walked in first. Rather, Chuck is first because we were both divers together on the United States Swimming and Diving Team in Sydney." Most of the Gang was unaware of that connection, and it was a subject of some conversation during the traditional Coke toast following the ceremony.

About half the group followed Sid and the new members from The Hideout to Gangland for the great unveiling. The rest would find their way over in the next few days; they were pretty sure that it would be unavailable that evening as at least some of Sid's subjects would decide to spend the night near their images. Sid's artistry did not disappoint.

The pictures weren't the straightforward sex pictures that you (and the portrait subjects) might've expected–though those of us who knew Sid weren't surprised to see variations. Chuck was shown using Sid's penile system for serving Angel Pie to Jimmy while Chet slurped on the pie that he had obviously just been served. Both Jimmy and Chet were naked and enjoying the dessert. Sid was worried that Chuck might be offended by the scene, but the raucous laughter that came from both Chuck and Chet made it clear that Sid had scored a hit. Chuck pointed out that Sid had picked a point in the scene where nothing was going on between him and Chet, even though it was clearly suggested. Our conclusion? It would take more than a suggestion to upset these guys.

The picture of Lew and Janey wasn't of their 69, but of their action immediately following it. They had turned and kissed each other, sharing and spilling Lew's semen. The semen running down Janey's cheek may be the most pornographic image of the lot!

For Sean and Marco Sid chose the moment when Sean took charge and got Marco settled on his back with his dick sticking straight up. It was clear in the picture what was coming next, but it hadn't yet come. Marco's dick was clearly ready for the soon to start adventure, and was straining to be as hard as it could be. Most people looking at the picture would have a hard time not trying to imagine what that would feel like inside them!

For Greg and Josh Sid really couldn't present any image other than the one the boys had posed. There was Greg holding the upside down Josh as each sucked the other's dick. They were clearly straining, and it didn't look exactly romantic. Sid commented, "I debated how I should depict the sex. I could've made it look like they were enjoying it and were just about to climax. But that would've been a lie–not just artistic license, but a lie. This shows the true facts of that position, and they aren't such that you want to try it–except maybe to prove that you could do it, which is really what Greg and Josh are doing. But the picture is fun, and we can assume that there are better ways to have sex, and that Greg and Josh are fully aware of them."

A hundred and forty-one numbers had been issued, a hundred and forty-two if you counted Felix. We had had only ten deaths–four of those you'll learn about in the next episode. The Gang now numbered one hundred and thirty-two.

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