Finding Tim

by Charlie

Episode 225 - Weymouth

It's still me, Charlie. I know that most of the Olympics took place in London, but that episode title has been used. Sailing was in Weymouth, and will be important in this story, so it gets the title.

The Olympics were on for seventeen days, including the days of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. With our archer involved on the day of the Opening Ceremony, at least one of the North Dakotans was doing something everyday except August 9 and 12, the 12th being the day of the Closing Ceremony. Saturday, the day following the Opening Ceremony, archery continued and gymnastics and swimming (officially it's Aquatics which consists of swimming, diving, synchronized swimming and water polo; for convenience I'll consider swimming and diving as separate sports) began. We had competitors in all three.

How to tell this story. I could march us through day by day, or sport by sport, but it would be boring. I'm just going to tell you some of the really exciting highlights, and then sum up with a summary of the medals. The ten Olympians got enough medals that we needed to make a list!

I guess I should start with rooming arrangements and all that entails. Perry and Norman were in Weymouth, so they didn't figure into the issue in London. We had five men and three women–so much for easy roommate selection. Paul Kline, the archer, and John Mason, the fencer, knew each other pretty well from NTAC. They wanted to room together, and everybody thought that was a good idea. It would've been reasonable to put Chet and Chuck Thompson together, but that would've left Dag with a stranger. Chet talked to Tim and suggested that Chuck and Dag room together. He noted to Tim, "It's probably better that the straight brother, not the gay one, room with the sixteen-year-old. I'd be sorely tempted even if he is married to Darlene."

Tim replied, "I know you wouldn't have let temptation lead you astray, but I think that's a good idea. Billy will talk to the IU coach–he knows him–and see if their diver would like to room with you. I'll bet he would."

And, indeed, Tim was right. Mike Hallam, a senior at IU, was delighted to room with Chet, even though Chet had beaten him out for a synchronized diving berth. They got along well. Mike was definitely straight, and no sex was ever contemplated.

Mary E. Hardy and Judy Adamski were both swimmers in Billy's program at UND, and were eager to room together. They both had boyfriends, whom Andy had insisted join the group in London, and as far as I know they never had any inclination to be involved with each other. The four of them hung out together most of their free time in London. Marybeth Kranston, the fencer, had gotten to know one of the other fencers as they moved around the tournament circuit, and they decided that they'd like to room together. In this case I know for a fact that they found their way to love and support without being prodded by Tim, Max, or anyone else.

Dag was quite fantastic on the pommel horse, but in the other events he wasn't at the level of other Olympians. So he didn't compete on the U.S. Team and not in the individual medley. On Saturday he qualified on the pommel horse and would be in the finals for that event eight days later. Marty gathered his coach from the Center, Graham Winters, Darlene, and Tim together the night after he qualified. He told them, "Look, Dag qualified for the final, that's wonderful. I don't think he expected to qualify, but he managed to be in seventh position, with eight qualified. But we all know that his level of performance isn't going to get him a medal."

Graham added, "I've taught him all I can. Now it's practice, practice, practice. He's been at it a long time, and he's been very good for a long time, but he's kind of at a plateau."

Tim asked, "OK, you saw him in the qualifying round. Was that his best, or is he sometimes better than that?"

"He's had some exceptional days. They give me great hope, but then he slips back. He doesn't perform consistently better than he did this afternoon."

Marty said, "I gathered you all here to ask if there's anything any of us can do to help him do better in the finals? Thoughts?"

Tim said, "More practice isn't going to cut it. He needs to keep loose and run his routine a few times, but we're going to have to look elsewhere for improvement."

Darlene asked, "Could his routine be improved?"

Graham said, "It's already a very tough routine. Adding anything to the difficulty would probably cost him."

Tim said, "I agree. We need to look elsewhere. OK, look, I've always said that there are three elements to success in athletics: innate talent, serious dedication and practice, and love and support. He has the talent, dedication, and practice. At this point in time we're going to have to look at love and support if we're going to make last minute improvements. Clearly such improvements are going to come through his mind not his body at this stage."

Marty said, "I know that he gets tremendous love and support from Darlene and all the Cavers. I don't see that as needing improvement."

Tim asked, "Where are the other Cavers? How many are here?"

Marty said, "They're all here. We always bring the whole Cave."

Tim continued, "So where are they? How much are they interacting with Dag?"

"Not much here in London. And not at all since he moved into the Village."

Tim asked, "How many of your Cavers are under eighteen?"

Marty asked, "Are you thinking what I think you're thinking?"

"Just answer the question."

"Only four. We'll be bringing another younger group on board in the fall."

"Darlene's a Caver, right?"

Darlene answered, "Technically, yes. But I haven't been very active since it was clear four years ago that I was never going to be an Olympian."

"I want to be specific. Have you been showering, tweaking, kissing, squeezing around the current Cavers?"

"Showering and kissing, yes. But those of us over eighteen stay clear of sexual stuff with the little kids."

"But all these kids have showered with you and are comfortable around you, right."

"Sure."

"What your current rooming arrangement?"

"Till he moved to the Village, Dag and I had a hotel room. But when he went to the Village I moved in with my parents. By the way, Marty, it was really sweet of you and Fred to invite my parents."

"Sweet! I love it," smiled Marty.

Tim asked, "Mary, can she get her room back? Better yet, can you get her a room with two queen or king size beds?"

"Will you and Charlie give up yours and take Darlene's old room with one queen bed?"

"Sure, I never understood why we had two beds anyway."

"Have you kept them full?"

"Most nights."

"That's why."

"OK, I got it. So, get Darlene moved into our room this evening. Get those four under-eighteens together with Darlene, Charlie and me in that room about nine o'clock tonight. We'll see if love and support can work some kind of magic charm."

That evening the four young Cavers, two boys and two girls, joined Darlene, Charlie, and Tim in what was now Darlene's room. Tim led the conversation. He gave his routine spiel about love and support, which they'd heard many times from Marty and also from Tim when he visited the Cave. But then he focused on Dag. "I think that with Dag's involvement with Darlene, and then his marriage to her, the rest of the Cave just assumed that he was getting plenty of love and support from his wife, and that the rest of the Cave wasn't needed. That simply isn't so. So I'm proposing that for the next seven days the five of you really give Dag all the love and support you possibly can. Be honest with him. Tell him about this meeting, and how I was right that you'd assumed that Darlene was now the love and support person. Now, you're going to show him that your love and support never stopped, but wasn't adequately expressed. Meet him in the morning, do things in London together, or watch other events together. Go with him to the practice gym and watch him practice. But don't let him get carried away with practice. He needs love and support more than practice. Take him to dinner–Andy'll give you a credit card so you aren't limited to this hotel–and then bring him back here. Darlene will give him full permission to accept your love, but she is going to leave. It would get very awkward for her to be present as a bunch of teens get very sexual together, even if she were only a spectator. She'll sleep with him about half the nights, and one, two, or all of you sleep with him the other nights. Saturday night before the pommel horse final, you all get lost, and Darlene will spend the evening with him, and he'll go to the Village to sleep."

"Shouldn't he be sleeping in the Village every night? What about his roommate?" asked one of the boys.

"He's rooming with Chet, our diver. Without responsibility to support Dag he'll probably desert the Village and sleep with his partner, Jimmy."

They followed Tim's directions exactly. In the Cave they hadn't done a whole lot more with Dag that the playing around of the first year. However, the game of holding him down and tickling him had progressed, from time to time, to holding him down and tickling his dick and balls until he came. As the week progressed, they got a lot bolder than that. They stuck to the Cave rule against fucking, but not much else was off the table, since the four Cavers had already explored their sexuality pretty far, just not in the Cave, and not with Dag because he was a "married man."

Darlene reported that Dag was a changed boy.

Marty and Graham reported, excitedly, that his practice routines were consistently better.

Darlene reported that on the evening before the final he fucked her so hard she had three orgasms.

Chet reported that he seemed to be on cloud nine when he got back to the room and they slept in the same room for the first time in a week.

He got a bronze medal. Nobody could believe it. Except, of course, Tim, Charlie, Andy, and Marty. Dag's parents were almost blown away. Britt, his mother, took Tim aside and asked, "Just what did you do to my son? I know that you were involved, because Darlene told me."

"Did she tell you about the last week?"

"Not a lot. It seems a bunch of the Cavers spent a lot of time with him."

"Giving him love and support."

"Can you share details?"

"No, because I don't know them. But I put it in motion, and I suggested to the other young Cavers that he needed love, and in that bunch they knew I was talking about sexual love. If you want more details, you'll have to talk to Dag, because I don't know them."

Britt and Erik did talk to Dag, who was willing to share the entire story. He told the story and then asked, "Am I in trouble? The sex was wonderful, but was it wrong?"

Erik replied, "Son, your bronze medal is physical proof of everything Tim and Marty have ever said about love and support. No, it wasn't and isn't wrong; it's wonderful. And you owe a tremendous debt to the four Cavers who spent a week in London with you. Remember that this coming year as they need the support you needed."

He kissed his dad and then his mom, and passed–for a time–into Olympic and Gang history.

Marybeth Kranston, our fencer with the sabre, wasn't figured to do all that well. She'd qualified by being the twelfth ranked internationally–the top twelve automatically qualify, but her hold on that position was tenuous. In addition the top performers on each continent and zonal champions also qualified. No one expected Marybeth to be close to a medal.

Her roommate in the Village would be Wilma Madison whose speciality was the épée. Over the previous two years they'd become pretty good friends, and had roomed together at a couple of tournaments, but Marybeth usually roomed with another fencer from NTAC. With Andy's permission, Marybeth asked Wilma to room with her in the Gang's hotel in the days leading up to the move into the Village. Wilma was glad to for several reasons: Fred's Sports provided great food through their traditional twenty-four hour buffet; the hotel was much nicer than the "digs" provided to the US Fencing Team; and she was eager to share with Marybeth.

Neither Marybeth, nor anyone else, guessed just how eager to share Wilma was, but their first night together told the story. When they got into the room and settled down after their trans-Atlantic crossing–which meant an early morning arrival and a day of making arrangements, getting room assignments, finding Marybeth and heading to the hotel–they both flopped onto their beds and relaxed. But soon Wilma spoke up, "Marybeth, I'm really looking forward to rooming with you in London. But I have to be honest. I'm falling in love with you. First I just watched your movements with the sabre, and then we started getting to know each other. I'm pretty sure it was love at first sight on my part. I have no idea whether it can be reciprocated, but I can't room with you for almost a month and not tell you how I feel."

Marybeth let this sink in, and then replied, "Are you telling me that you're a lesbian?"

"Yes."

"Well, I'm not sure I know how to respond. I know that I respond to boys, but beautiful girls and women can excite me too. I'll have to admit to lesbian fantasies when I masturbate, but also to straight fantasies as well. I've wondered whether I was gay, straight, or bi. So my first reply to what you've just told me is that I'm OK with it. I know coming out to someone can be traumatic, but I'm OK with it. You have nothing to fear from me."

"That's reassuring, but I'm out to some of my friends, and I really didn't have any reason for fear. But hearing that you're OK with my being lesbian is good to hear."

"There's more to say. I'm hugely complimented that you're attracted to me. I feel a lot of the same towards you. That's why I was glad to room with you, and decided to ask you to join me here in this room. Am I in love with you? Not yet. Where do we go from here?"

"God, that's music to my ears. Where do we go from here? I think there are two possible directions. We can just get to know each other better, learn more about each other, and see what develops. Now that you know I'm romantically interested in you, you can think of me in a different light. Or, and I hesitate to say this, but I think it really should be said otherwise it becomes the elephant in the room, we could begin to explore each other physically. I'm certainly not going to push you into that."

"OK, there's something you don't know about my background. My home club is NTAC...."

"I know NTAC by name and some of its fencers, but I don't know what NTAC stands for, nor much about it."

"The Northern Tier Athletic Club. It's in Grand Forks, North Dakota, where I live. It's run by a couple, Nels and Mary, who are very good friends with all of the current and former Olympic athletes that have come out of the university and various programs there. Tim and Charlie are sort of the patriarchs of the whole group. Tim preaches that love and support are essential for athletic success. It's love and support that inspires Fred's Sports to bring this hotel full of people to support ten North Dakota athletes."

"There's more, isn't there."

"I think so. Nels and Mary have never mentioned it. But there are whispers around NTAC that the love in love and support is often sexual. I'm told that Tim has almost said as much, though I haven't heard him. But the point is that I grew in my sport in a very loving atmosphere, and one in which sex was not frowned upon. However, just to set the record straight, I'm a virgin, in every sense of the word. I'm totally without experience of any kind."

"Wow."

"And there's one other thing to mention. Tim and Charlie are openly gay, as are any number of other North Dakota athletes. So homosexual relationships are considered normal in my experience."

"Wow, again. So, is this by way of saying you'd like to experiment a little, or not."

"I think I would. You'll have to lead, and you'll have to go slow."

"You've reached the wrong conclusion. I'm as inexperienced as you. Just because I've concluded that I'm lesbian, doesn't mean that I've done anything about it–just dreamed. And fantasized as I masturbated. By the way, what do you call masturbating?"

"Masturbating. It's never been a subject of conversation for me. I suppose all the other girls do it, but we've never talked about it."

"How did you learn to masturbate?"

"Just playing around. But then I read some books and realized that the wonderful feeling that I sometimes got was an orgasm, and the books put the name masturbation to what I'd been doing. You said that you masturbate; how did you learn?"

"Girls locker room talk. All the girls I know call it jacking off, the same as what the boys call it. A couple of girls tried to call it jilling off, but they were laughed out of that term."

"You know, we've been up all day. We're going to fall asleep very soon whether we want to or not. Let's go to bed, and talk more in the morning, and talk about what we might actually do."

"OK. I'm going to sleep naked, and dream of you."

"I'll do the same."

The next morning Wilma was lying awake waiting for Marybeth to wake up. When she did, Wilma came over to her bed and kissed her very gently on the lips. Marybeth returned the kiss, and then said. "I've been thinking about last night. You know what I'd like to do this morning?"

"I'll never guess. What?"

"Lie here on the bed with me and let's both masturbate–well, jack off–together."

They did. And then Marybeth rolled on her side and used her hand to massage Wilma's clitoris. Wilma encouraged her, and she pushed into her vagina. That went on a while, and then Wilma rolled on her side and repeated the process. They showered together, and went down for a Fred's Sports buffet breakfast.

For the next week nothing much was said between them about sex, love, or their relationship. But it grew physically without either one saying much of anything but, "Roll over," "Do that again," and similar instructions. Then they moved into the Village and got single beds instead of the queen beds that they'd been sharing.

Marybeth looked at the little bed and said, "Good, that bed is going to force us to really get together. It's time we decided if that's really what we want."

Wilma responded, "I know what you mean, but if we're going to be together after these Olympics, I want a queen or king bed."

"Me too. But tonight is going to be fun."

It was. They both decided that they wanted their relationship to be permanent. They'd wait until after the Olympics to make any kind of announcement, since Wilma's parents were not in London. (Marybeth's were, courtesy of Fred's Sports.)

I'd love to be able to report that Marybeth took home a medal, but she had to be satisfied with a Victory Diploma. But forget that, she blew them away with her little sabre. There were thirty-two competitors. Marybeth was seeded eleven in her group of sixteen, which meant that her overall seed was either twenty-one or twenty-two out of the total of thirty-two. In other words, she was expected to be beaten in the first round and out of the tournament. But she won the first round and then the second round in which she was against the third ranked seed in her half. Now she was in the quarterfinals, where neither she, nor anyone else expected her to be. The lone exception might've been Wilma.

At this point the Fred's Sports contingent had a virtual crisis. Women's sabre and men's synchronized springboard diving were both on Wednesday, August 1. Since the expectation had been that Marybeth would be eliminated in the morning and that Chet and Chuck would still be in the running later in the day, most of the North Dakota contingent had gone to see the fencing in the morning, planning to spend the afternoon and evening at the diving pool. Then Marybeth won and kept on winning. Tim and I'd been in Weymouth with the sailors, but came up to London that morning to see Chet and Chuck. At noon we joined the Fred's Sports group which had realized that they all wanted to be two places at the same time that afternoon, and if everyone kept on winning, God only knew where we'd want to be in the evening.

I should note that getting from Weymouth and back was easy. There were about sixty trains each day and the trip took just over three hours. We couldn't be in two places at once, but the easy communication made it possible for us to see key events at both places.

Tim and I decided to split up. He had to watch Chet and Chuck dive, regardless of Marybeth's success. I decided that I'd sort of represent us both at the fencing. Well, you guessed it; Marybeth won her quarterfinal match and would be in the semifinals. Win or lose in the semifinal, she'd have another duel, either in the finals, or in the playoff for the bronze medal.

At dinner Marybeth realized the dilemma that her winning had caused for her fellow North Dakotans. She talked with Chet and Chuck, and the three of them decided to talk to all of the rest of the North Dakotans. We were told that nobody should be upset about missing one of the finals. Everyone understood. Go see the more interesting event for you. And Marybeth added, "Look, I'm going to be fencing all of about six minutes, Chet and Chuck are going to do about a dozen dives. You know that's more interesting. Besides, their swimming suits are a lot sexier than the fencing costume that I'm going to be wearing. Go watch the boys."

I'll have to confess that I, and most of us, did. That was partly because Chet and Chuck were better known, partly because diving is more interesting, and certainly partly because Marybeth was right, the boys' swimming suits were sexier; and one always wishes to be around when a suit comes off as the diver hits the water, but they never do.

Marybeth lost her semi-final duel to the ultimate winner. In the playoff round she was up against Mariel Zagunis, an American who'd won the gold in 2004 and 2008. Mariel got the bronze, and Marybeth had to be satisfied that she was the highest seed to make it into the semifinals as far back as anyone could remember. She was happy, got a very public kiss from Wilma, and could enjoy the rest of the Olympics with the pressure off.

Author's note: Mariel Zagunis was the gold medalist in 2004 and 2008, but she did not medal in 2012.

The real excitement was in Weymouth.

The pressure was on Perry and Norman. As a long time COG he felt it more than Norman, but Norman sensed how Perry felt, and understood that he had to perform to his very best to support his love. For him, personally, just being an Olympian was extraordinary, getting a medal was fantastic, and he'd have no trouble accepting Tim's maxim that color didn't matter.

But, Tim be damned, color meant a lot to Perry. As he pointed out to Norman many more times that necessary or appropriate, no Fred's Sports sailing team had ever been beaten in the Olympics except by another Fred's Sports sailing team. Since they were the only Fred's Sports boat, to continue that tradition meant winning the gold. Auggie tried to ease the pressure; so did Tim; so did almost everyone. Talking about it seemed to make it worse, so they all finally shut up. But Norman will tell you that Perry was suffering as the Weymouth racing approached. And, even though he'd beaten all of the other boats in some races, he remembered the last qualifying race when he was the first American boat but finished fourth behind three other boats now in contention.

Norman constantly reminded him that Auggie was supremely confident he'd be a winner if they would just Push it, Push it, Push it. And, according to Norman, they Pushed it, they Pushed it, they Pushed it. Perry reported, "I got so sick of capsizing when he pushed it, I almost gave up. But Auggie was right, and when we got to Weymouth, we were ready. When we got to the last practice race in Weymouth, we capsized one last time. Norman said, 'That's the last time we tip this boat in England'."

Auggie, David, Perry, and Norman headed to Weymouth as soon as information on sailing courses and other details were available. His report to the whole group was very negative. "OK, here's the deal. First of all, they've decided to place all of the sailing courses in the Weymouth-Portland harbour, instead of out in the open sea where the good sailing is. That will mean some shelter from the wind, but much more it'll mean substantial shelter from waves. The weather here is fairly consistent this time of year, so I don't expect many calm days or very light winds. Neither do I expect very challenging winds. It's as if they'd deliberately decided that they don't want any exciting races. I guess they're scared of a repeat of the last race in China. Well, since I won that race, and I think Perry and Norman would win its rerun, I'd like to see it repeated. God, that was sailing at its best.

"But you aren't going to have that here. It's going to be very straightforward sailing, in a fairly confined course. So, who are going to be the winners? The winners will succeed because of skill in two areas: first, close in maneuvering among tightly clustered boats. That all falls on the helm, Norman; I wish you luck. That can't be practiced except in races with a lot of other boats, and you've had your share. But, remember, the limits on that kind of practice apply to every boat here. I think you can hold your own. The second thing that'll produce winners is flawless execution of the routine tasks of sailing. Your jibes and coming about need to be perfectly coordinated every single time. You don't lose a second getting the spinnaker up and down. Starts are important, but not as important as raising the spinnaker, because you only start once, but you set the spinnaker several times. God, your coming about must be flawless–every time. That's what's going to make a winner. But here's the good news: you've drilled and drilled on this, and you're ready for flawless racing. Gold is in your future.

"OK, everybody, the flawless performance has to extend to the support folks as well. I know it will.

"Get ready for some boring racing."

Auggie was absolutely correct on all counts. There was a consistent, stiff breeze (Auggie insisted that it never rose above being a breeze) throughout, with minimal waves. Very little capsizing–Norman's comment that their last practice would be the last time they got wet was completely true. It was up to Josh and Greg to report on the other teams, since they weren't racing, but also not part of the support routine–they helped out where they could, but generally were told they could help most by staying out of the way. There was plenty of room for them to ride in the support launch with Auggie who was also told to help by keeping out of the way. As they observed the other sailors, they were amazed at how many times they made little mistakes and slips: a delayed spinnaker here, extra steps moving under the sail when coming about, a jib luffing without being corrected immediately. They rarely observed that with Norman and Perry. And Norman piloted the boat virtually perfectly amongst the field of twenty boats.

There were fifteen races and a medal race that counted double. The worst score in the first fifteen was discarded. As usual, you got one point for first, two for second, and so on. The lowest score won. The lowest possible score would be sixteen.

In the first fifteen races Perry and Norman had five first place finishes, more than anybody else. They had three seconds, two thirds, two fourths, two sixths, a seventh, and a fourteenth (discarded) for a total of thirty-eight points, and a solid lead for first place going into the medal race. Their nearest competitors were the Australians with forty-four points. Because of the doubling of points in the medal race, in order to win the Australians would have to be four places (worth eight points) ahead of Perry and Norman. It was certainly possible, but it did seem that the Americans had a virtual lock on gold.

But anything can happen in any race. Our boys got off to a slow start, but otherwise sailed a flawless race. So did most of the others. Perry and Norman had to be satisfied with a fourth place finish, but that assured them gold, no matter where the Australians finished. The Australians finished second, behind the English, and added four points for a final score of forty-eight. Norman and Perry had a final score of forty-six, and the gold medal.

Author's note: In the real world Australia won the gold with fifty-six points and the silver medalists got eighty points. Auggie's comments on weather, waves, and courses were pretty close to the mark.

Tim and I, and lots of others, were delirious. Tim even had to admit to sharing Perry's feelings about the need for gold. An hour after the race–to allow for protests, there were none–the medal ceremony began as a high for everyone, and we all stood with our hands over our hearts listening to the national anthem. Then, suddenly, just before the anthem ended there was a noise, and Fred collapsed on the ground. Marty, well trained in CPR was on him immediately, but it was soon clear that we'd lost him. His heart had simply stopped beating. Since he wasn't under direct medical care of a physician in England, the law required an autopsy. But none of us were particularly interested in the medical terminology for an old man's heart stopping.

At first we were all devastated, especially Marty, Andy, and Tim, the three that had been closest to Fred. There hadn't been any other events involving the North Dakotans, so virtually all of the group had been in Weymouth for the medal race. So all very quickly knew that Fred had died, most in fact had been eyewitnesses. The medical team had quickly removed Fred to a medical station nearby. I headed there, thinking that perhaps I should take the lead in dealing with the authorities. Andy, bless him, beat me to the punch. Heartbroken as he was, he continued to be "solid old Andy" and took charge immediately. Dealing with the authorities on the scene was easy–the body had to go to a nearby hospital for autopsy, and could be claimed by next of kin as soon as the autopsy was complete. There was nothing more to do at the scene. Dealing with the Gang was another matter. Andy had, on Fred's instruction, arranged a huge banquet for all comers to celebrate what he considered to be his team's inevitable victory. All this planned several weeks in advance. Andy and Marty consulted and very quickly decided that Fred would be outraged if his party was cancelled.

Andy passed the word that the banquet was on and insisted that it be a celebration and not a wake, because that was what we all knew Fred would want. It was difficult to get in the right spirit, but we all tried. I felt so sorry for Perry and Norman that their wonderful triumph was marred by this tragedy. Perry simply said, "Uncle Tim, it's sad but not a tragedy. Not in the Greek sense, and not in any sense. Fred lived for ninety-two, almost ninety-three years. He had three happy marriages, wonderful success in business, the recognition of the entire community, and (more important to Fred) the love of a Gang of folks that he treasured and got the greatest joy in his life doing things for. And how did he die? Listening to 'The Star-Spangled Banner' being played for the fifth medal, and third gold medal, earned by the sailing team that he'd created and sponsored, and which had had such improbable success that people could hardly believe it. And he was surrounded by the group of people he loved best and who loved him unconditionally. Frankly, he couldn't have planned it better, and it wouldn't surprise me to learn that he had planned it."

"You're right, Perry. Andy's right, this is supposed to be a celebration of your victory, not Fred's wake. Congratulations!"

But we all know that it was inevitable that Fred's death would take the joy and fun out of the evening. Tim and I had to hope that it wouldn't take some of the shine off of the boys' gold medals down through the years. We thought not, our memories of Fred were all positive, and even his dying could be taken in a positive light. But right then it was hard to think of it in those terms.

Perry decided that the best way to save what was left of the joyous party that Fred had planned was to focus on the next Olympiad. Auggie had told the team when they were gathered at the Claridge, but now Perry announced to the world that the Fred's Sports Sailing Team would continue for another four years. By this time David, Millie, Curtis, Gene, Flint, and Pam had had time to sign on for Rio, and Josh and Greg were ready, willing, and able. Perry noted that the team had always had a second team sailing the second 49er and wondered aloud who might fill that role in the coming four years.

Everyone present was excited that Greg and Josh would be the next crew and helm for a Fred's Sports' 49er, and the two boys were well toasted. Andy, in the name of Fred (he'd have to get used to doing things either in his own name or the name of Fred's Sports) had invited John and Bette Markham, Greg's parents, to join them in London and Weymouth, and had told John that he was to consider it paid time on the job. They had, of course, been following their son's escapades all over the globe, but certainly weren't as familiar with their activities as Flint and Pam, Josh's parents, were. That this gig might go on for another four years stunned them, and that their son might be competing in the Rio Olympics in four years was even more startling. John did ask Greg whether he still had plans for college.

Greg's response was simple, "If I go to college it'll certainly be at the University of North Dakota; Josh feels the same way. Whether we go really depends on what Andy tells us. We've been assured a job with Fred's Sports when this is all over. Well, we're on the Fred's Sports payroll now, and I guess that will just continue. If they want us to go to college, we'll be glad to go. If they want to put us to work, we'll go for that. You know Fred's Sports is a good employer, so we'll stick with them. And we've definitely decided that we like this bunch of people and plan to live in Grand Forks."

"I think that Flint and Pam are planning on returning to Topeka, and I'm sure that Bette and I are planning to retire there. But we can certainly understand your wanting to be in Grand Forks. You know, Greg, when this job was first offered you understood that it was a wonderful opportunity that nobody should turn down. Well, you were certainly right."

"Thanks, Dad. But much more important is to thank you and Mom for so lovingly inviting Josh to be a part of our family. We've met so many gays that haven't been accepted by their families; it's terrible. Both Josh and I have been so lucky."

"Thank you, son. And be sure to say that directly to your mother. She insisted from the beginning, when we were beginning to suspect you were gay and might be in love with Josh, that we'd wait and let you find your own way, and then love and support you in whatever decisions you made. We think that's the role of parents. We try to guide when needed, but in determining your sexuality, we could provide no guidance, just no threats."

John continued, "Four more years? Are you and Josh getting tired of moving from paradise to paradise, playing in sailboats, on nude beaches, and in bed?"

"What do you know about nude beaches?"

"That you two seem to enjoy them as much as David and Millie and a lot more than Flint and Pam."

"They have been talking out of school."

"Oh, no. We know very well that in your group there are no secrets. Flint explained that to me on one of his first trips home to Topeka. Pam and I were assured that sex was frequent, wild, and quite responsible. And on a later trip we hear about Lady Bay Beach and the trading off that that visit started. It's a wonder you ever learned how to sail."

"Wow. But you know, Dad, we really are good sailors. We were beating Perry and Norman about a quarter of the time; that's when we decided we needed to step out of the competition for the American Olympic slot."

It was a long conversation, and I've simply tried to capture the flavor of it, and report those things that seem to be part of this story. It was the conversation of a father and son that truly loved and respected each other. Not atypical of those around Tim and me, but not the normal in American life.

Josh and Greg approached Perry and asked if he was serious about looking for a team to sail the second 49er. "Absolutely," was the reply. "Do you have any ideas?'

"Just what kind of folks are you looking for?"

"You can answer that as well as I can; they're going to be with you day and night for four years: sailing, eating, traveling, and who knows what else. They better be a pair you can get along with. And I think there's something else. I don't think Fred's Sports wants a pair of American men, or boys. It would be fine for them to be Olympic contenders, but not contenders for the American slot that we plan for you to occupy. I think that in four years it'll definitely be time for the support team to move on to different things, and we don't want to have two Americans standing around waiting their turn."

"You mean like us right now?"

"You were part of the team before you became sailors. You earned your chance at a medal, and then insured it by backing out of competition with Norman and me. That was, by the way, a very gracious and much appreciated gesture. Unnecessary, of course, but very gracious. Tim's talked to us about it and assured us that we were not to feel guilty, and we don't. But at the same time, we want to avoid that dynamic four years from now."

Greg said, "Josh and I have two guys in mind. Their Aussies. We met them in Sydney several times, and once in Wellington. They don't have money behind them to either sail all the time, nor to travel to a lot of the international races. But they race regularly in Sydney. They aren't from Sydney–I think one is from Melbourne–but they met at the University of Sydney, eventually shared an apartment, explored their joint love of sailing, got the money together to buy a used 49er, and have been sailing together ever since. I think, in fact, that the 49er they're sailing was the one the French team beat up in the Olympic race against Tim and Charlie in Sydney. The French didn't take it home; it was sold a few times, got more beat up, and then Dan and Hunter bought it and fixed it up. It's in lovely shape now.

"You can bet that they'd jump at the chance to be adopted by Fred's Sports, and I think that it would be mutually beneficial. I'm quite certain that they'd fit in with the existing sailing team."

Perry asked, "So where are they right now?"

"I would think they were in Sydney; they aren't here with the Australians."

"Let's talk to Andy; I'm sure that he'll support extending an invitation to them."

Andy thought it was a great idea, but thought that the whole team should be consulted. A couple of the support group had met Dan and Hunter and affirmed what Greg and Josh had said. There was general enthusiasm for having them join the team. Flint did ask, "Are they gay?"

Josh answered, "Dad, does it make any difference?"

"No, but it'd be nice if they were. If not, we'd have two unattached males without partners."

"Well, I think they are, but I haven't discussed it with them, and I don't think that should be a consideration in deciding to have them join the team."

"I thought that had already been decided. You're talking about asking them. I certainly never intended for their sexuality to be a litmus test."

Andy said, "Look you two [Josh and Greg], you've got to head back to the U.S. for a lot of celebration and congratulations. I assume that there'll be a White House invitation, and all of that. Enjoy it while you can. Then you'll be heading to Grand Forks and we'll sit down and talk about an invitation for the two Aussies. Then you two need to get on a plane to Sydney and issue the invitation in person. What're their names?"

"Dan and Hunter. I haven't the slightest idea of their last names, I'm not sure I ever heard them."

"Lots of luck finding those two."

"I could talk to anybody in the sailing area there and find out their names."

"No, they'd just know them as Dan and Hunter, I'll bet."

"I could at least make sure that they were currently sailing in Sydney."

"I'm going to leave that completely up to you," concluded Andy.

They all headed back to Grand Forks, for the usual welcome, talk shows, White House visit, Gang celebration, and a little relaxation. Flint, Pam, Josh, and Greg headed to Topeka as soon as possible for a celebration there, hosted by Fred's Sports, and managed by Flint's old boss (and Greg's father) John Markham and made sure news of their adventures was featured in the store. Flint and Pam were eager to settle down and be Topekans until the next spring when they knew the sailing team would reassemble. Flint couldn't believe his good fortune with Fred's Sports: he remained on full salary the entire winter and his instructions were to "be ready to sail in the spring." He did go by the store and help John out from time to time. Flint and Pam were definitely planning to return to Topeka when all the sailing ended, and wanted to keep in touch with their friends there.

On the other hand, Josh and Greg wanted to become Grand Forkians, and would return there to spend the winter. Before they left they called Andy and asked, "Shall we come back to Grand Forks, or head straight out to Sydney?"

"Head to Sydney. Find 'em, hire 'em, and you can offer to pay them whatever we're paying you."

"Are we going to stay on the payroll now that we're lead sailors. I didn't think that was a paid position."

"Depends on who's sailing. You and Greg are employees; that status isn't going to change. Same deal for Dan and Hunter if you can find them."

"We're on our way, and we'll find them."

Two days later (well, three days as their clocks said, but they crossed the International Date Line) they were walking the quay in Sydney, asking about Dan and Hunter. The second sailor they asked told them that the boys were out sailing, probably had lunches with them, and would be back around sunset. There was no telling where they might be sailing, since it was a great weather day for sailing.

Greg and Josh spent a relaxing day wandering the harbour, greeting old friends, enjoying a nice lunch, ending up at the pier where Dan and Hunter always docked. Sure enough, at quarter to five their 49er came into sight, and they pulled up to the dock. Josh and Greg were unexpected and the first thing out of Dan's mouth was, "What're you guys doing here? The Olympics are past. And we were sorry to hear that your boat beat our Australian boat."

"We're here to see you. Secure the boat, and we'll take you out to dinner."

"We always accept a free meal as you know, but what gives?"

"At dinner."

They took Dan and Hunter to a nice restaurant–an unusual event for the two Aussies, but one that happened often enough when the Fred's Sports team was in town. Hunter said, "OK, now what gives?"

Josh smiled and said, "We're authorized by Fred's Sports to make you two an offer."

"An offer?"

"Fred's Sports would like to hire you to sail it's second boat leading up to the Rio Olympics. The pay is good, the work is demanding, the travel is exciting, and the company is great–including Greg and me."

"Fred's Sports is going to pay us to sail?"

"You got it."

Hunter looked at Dan and said, "Look out, Dan, the sky is falling."

Dan said, "You can't be serious. Is this some kind of joke?"

Josh replied, "No joke. Greg and I are the main sailors for the team this Olympiad. I think this is the last go around for the team, at least for the present members. But the team always has at least two 49ers and crews, so that they can work together. They specifically didn't want Americans, so that the two crews won't be competing against each other for the one American slot. We thought of you immediately–thinking that you were good sailors, weren't tied down to good jobs, would love a chance to tour the world, and deserved a better shot at sailing races than you've gotten so far. We're authorized to offer you the job, guaranteed for three years, four if either one of us qualifies for the Rio Olympics. If you do well, a permanent job with Fred's Sports is almost assured but it isn't guaranteed and isn't part of the offer. However, every person who's ever been on the team, sailor or support, either now works for Fred's Sports or was offered the opportunity."

Hunter asked, "If we say yes, what next?"

"Fred's Sports gets you a visa for the U.S. and you fly to Grand Forks, North Dakota, the headquarters for Fred's Sports, and the center of their Olympic activity. The team will assemble there and work out plans for the next four years. You'll go on payroll at that time at the same pay as Greg and me. By then it'll be November; we probably won't start sailing until early February, so you'll have little or no responsibility for about three months."

"But we get paid those three months?"

"Sure. You'll be on the team. The team gets paid."

Dan said, "The sky is falling, and we didn't get out of the way in time."

Hunter said, "I think these guys are looking for an answer from us. Do we need to think about this?"

"Hell, no. If we think too long the offer might go away Yes. Yes. Oh, my God, yes."

Hunter added, "Damn right, yes."

Before they started heading around the world they wanted to visit all their parents; Hunter's were in Melbourne and Dan's were in Cooper Pedy a very small town north of Adelaide on the Stuart Highway which headed up to Alice Springs. They were embarrassed to say to Josh and Greg, "We don't go home very often, but when we do we usually hitchhike. Once Dan gets to Adelaide he has to locate someone going up the Stuart Highway, because actually thumbing a ride alongside the road can leave you stranded; you need to arrange a through ride in advance. But enough people in Adelaide head up toward Alice Springs that finding a ride is usually pretty easy. The obvious way to go is to fly, but that's beyond our budgets."

"It isn't any more. Fred's Sports will arrange for your tickets home and then on to the United States. How long will it take you to close down here? How much stuff needs to be packed up?"

"You tell us. We have clothes, a few personal things, and truly junk furniture. Our rent is month to month since we're past the first year, so we can just leave. If it's clean we get a deposit back. Honestly, it might be easiest to get the clothes and stuff we want out, lock the door, and give the key to the rental agency. For the rental deposit they can clear it out. It happens all the time, and they don't seem upset. We're on good terms with the rental agent, I'll talk to her. Our clothes will fit in a suitcase or two."

Hunter said, "I agree. I have a bunch of CD's that I'll leave with my folks. They aren't going to believe all of this."

Dan said, "They will when we arrive at the airport instead of getting dropped off somewhere in town."

Hunter asked, "I guess the big question is what about our 49er?"

Josh said, "Greg and I will see to having it crated up and shipped to Portsmouth, that's where our 49ers are. Part of the team planning will be how to utilize the available boats, and I'm not sure just what boats are going to be available. In any case, we'll have yours completely checked out and put it top condition. I've seen it, though, and you guys have already put it in very good condition."

"That's why we don't have the money to fly home. Any extra money goes to the boat or to travel to the races we can afford."

Greg said, "You're going to have a lot to get used to on the Fred's Sports team. The sailors are pampered to death, but we're expected to sail our asses off in exchange."

The next day at lunch they had a rather unusual conversation. Josh opened the conversation with, "We have a sort of personal question for you guys."

Hunter responded, "We have one for you, too. Who goes first?"

Greg said, "Might as well be us, or me. Are you guys gay? Are you partners in some sense?" They both started laughing. Greg continued, "That kind of question isn't usually a cause for raucous laughter."

Hunter said, "We were going to ask you the very same question, and had talked a lot last night about whether it would be appropriate. We knew that Tim and Charlie were gay, and thought some of the others in your gang were gay, but we didn't have a clue about you two. But we decided last night we had to clear the air. Yes, we're gay. And, yes, we're partners. We'd get married if it were legal in Australia, but it isn't yet. We are a registered couple."

"Well, we're both gay and we were married in Holland eight years ago soon after we joined the team. Most of the gay couples on the team were married at the same time. The only gay couple left, except for Greg and me, are Gene and Curtis on the support team. So I guess the next question is whether you're an exclusive pair, or are open to some alternate arrangements."

"We're open, but what does Fred's Sports think of all this?"

"You'll get used to this team in due time. Let's just say that a group activity when we were pretty new to the team was an afternoon at Lady Bay Beach."

"You've found Lady Jane Beach?"

"Lady Jane?"

"That's what it's usually called. On maps and guide books it's Lady Bay. Only people that first read about it called in Lady Bay Beach."

"We'll we've found it by whatever name you call it. David and Millie collect nude beaches like some people collect countries or states in the United States. But just so you get the full flavor of this team, Josh's parents are two of the members of the support team, and they were with us when we visited Lady Bay Beach."

Hunter said, "Our parents are OK with our relationship, but they certainly aren't ready for that. That's quite extraordinary, you know."

"Oh, we know. As you'll find out, you're joining a most extraordinary group. And just to close the conversation, Greg and I'd be very interested in some bedtime frolicking, but we'll wait until things settle out in North Dakota."

Visas for athletic teams aren't difficult, and as soon as Dan and Hunter presented appropriate paperwork and medical examinations to the American Consulate in Sydney they were off to visit their parents, first in Melbourne and then on to Cooper Pedy, which could only be reached by one flight a day on Rex Airlines flying out of Adelaide. As soon as visas were issued they were off to Grand Forks–their first trip ever outside of the Australia-New Zealand area.

The Olympics were over for another two or four years, depending on your perspective, the sailing team was complete and ready for another shot at Olympic metal, and Fred's Sports, the Gang, Tim, I, and especially Andy and Marty were learning to live without Fred Milson, who'd been royally honored at a Toppy/Tim/Andy production which will be long remembered at the University of North Dakota.

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