"Behold a pale horse; and his name that sat on him was Death….."
(Revelation of Saint John the Divine 6:8)
"I don't want to say goodbye
Let the stars shine through.
I don't want to say goodbye
All I want to do is live with you."
(words and music by Teddy Thompson)
Holding Jamie tight to my chest, feeling his heart beat, savoring, with each breath I took, the delicate fragrances of his cologne, a faint touch of aftershave (he only shaved about every two weeks or so), and his own, recognizable, familiar scent, as we moved our bodies with the music, feeling the emotions of the evening at our Junior-Senior Prom. His hardness pressing through his suit pants, sliding up and down my own stiffness, giving every indication of what he might rather do than dance. He'd have to wait, however since our school has an after the dance, all night party, and breakfast at sunrise event; all in the hopes of keeping tired revelers off of the highway. Granted there were some who chose not to attend, but have their own parties, and invariably some of those would also be ticketed for AWOI, but that was not for us. No, we preferred the sober presence of each other rather than the noisy intrusion of a booking room and lockup for the night, or at least until someone could come to bail you out and drive you home!
The evening was wonderful, the weather perfect- not too warm, not too cool, and decorated with the bright glow of a lover's moon rising majestically around nine thirty, casting a soft white light through the windows, doors, and on the parking lot outside.
I'd picked up Jamie at six for dinner downtown at a supper club whose owner catered to high school students on Prom Night. This meant no booze and the menu priced reasonably and entrées selected which would appeal to young people and appropriate for the evening. Both high schools students patronized the business Prom Night, but the weekends for Prom were different for Hamilton High and Jefferson High to keep conflicts to a minimum.
Both of us wore new suits, purchased boutonnieres for the other to wear, pinned it on each other, and sealed it with a kiss at the house when I picked him up. I thought I was in the presence of a handsome young man, my prince, the one I'd spend the rest of my life with. Pictures, first at his house, then at mine and we were off to dinner and a Cinderella evening!
The dinner was not only delicious, but intimate and romantic with white table cloth, lighted candles, and soft music. Jamie seemed so radiant, bubbling with excitement, his smile bedazzling, eyes twinkling, and soft, encouraging voice expressing his feelings for me and the wonderful time he was having! My eyes misted over as I looked across the small table at him, realizing my life would never be complete without him and nor his without me. Jamie noticed my look, winked at me, reached for my hand, and said softly, "I love you too!"
I drove us to the dinner and to the dance, not in some fancy limousine or my dad's car, although he offered, but in my used pickup truck. Not very elegant I know, but it was the same carriage that carried us to work, to ball games, movies, concerts, and anything we thought we'd like to do together - it was a chariot of magnificent design, in our eyes, for two young men in love!
The movie, at a local theater, was so-so; Jamie dozed and slept off and on, as did I, snuggled up to him, one arm around his shoulder, sharing warmth and securing us together. Breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs, toast, fruit, an assortment of meat, juices, and sweet rolls and donuts, served at the American Legion, was pretty good, and we were hungry! From there, we went home. Reluctant to part, we did so because we were both plain worn out, after dropping him off at his house, I drove home, checked in with Mom and Dad, and slept the day away!
It was a fun night, a good way to cap off an almost perfect year. The only real down part was not winning the State Team Cross Country championship! We came in second, just a few points shy of first place. Jamie was individual State Champion again, but he was more saddened the team didn't come in first place. His generous giving side, and off-times innocence, always seemed to place others first, while most of us and the younger athletes were just thrilled to run with him!
Evidently, others didn't feel the same way! The Horsemen placed well, as did some of our teammates, especially those who'd been coached and mentored by Chief Kraft and our law enforcement coaches. However, the more experienced seniors and some of the other juniors just didn't! They seemed to lag, almost as if they were tired, ill, or really just didn't give a shit!
Rumor had it, after some one or two months passed, there'd been a big party the night before the State Cross Country Meet and late hours along with plenty of booze took its toll! Chris, confiding in me, also heard the seniors decided they weren't about to let some "smart-ass" underclassmen claim the glory and hence decided to "dog it" during the race!
I was angry and so were the others and vowed to correct the situation another year! Jamie overheard his dad and Coach Schroeder talking about it, and according to Jamie, "Coach is as pissed as a young skunk trying to put out a fire in the barn!"
At Christmas, Scotty and his dad went to South Carolina for a few days. Zach was just about lost without Scotty around. Jamie and I giggled over what type of reunion would be had when Scotty got home!
"I'll bet he'll be about to shoot a cannon ball out of his ass," Jamie joked.
I thought, "He should talk; it's not as if Jamie wields a popgun himself."
Jamie was doing well in school, in fact better than his mom first anticipated! I think she was fearful he wouldn't adapt well because of his special needs in reading and mathematics. It also led her to believe he'd never graduate from high school, deluded by his teachers in his other school into that belief. He'd pretty much been branded as a "retarded" child by them and I think they anticipated him being sheltered in some home after high school. They sure as hell were wrong! With his cousin Zach living with them, his "new" brothers Jacob and Jeffery, in addition to me, he had all kinds of additional help. I remained his first and foremost tutor, however, and I was determined to do my damnedest to make certain he graduated from high school the same time I did. As far as math was concerned, Jamie would never be a mathematician but his skills were acceptable.
I loved to hear him play and sing, but he loved to have me read to him. Many times, when we finished our homework or after we'd been somewhere or together at his house, he'd come to me with a book and ask me to read. Cuddled up next to me, sitting so he could look at the pages as I read, Jamie would almost purr with contentment! He especially enjoyed the "Hardy Boys" series! We read a number of the books, page by page, chapter by chapter, and Jamie would follow along, as best he could, as I read. I found reading his assignments to him also helped him with his school work.
I asked Dad and Mom about this and they both agreed research showed children who were read to tend to do better in school and become better readers as well. It suited me just fine and Jamie loved it!
He had so many other gifts; not only could he play and sing, but he was also becoming quite the artist with the help and encouragement of his high school art instructor, Dr. Fischer, and the University Art Department. His Christmas cards and Greeting card sales were successful and, with encouragement from University Press, now had several signed, numbered limited edition prints for sale through the University Press and a couple of art stores and dealers Dr. Fischer was familiar with.
The day after school was out for the summer, Scotty called a meeting, at his house after supper, of those of us left from the original freshman cross country team. There were only ten of us now, the others finding other interests, moved, or just plain dropped out, especially after last year's debacle at the state meet. Yes, Stan Wenzel and Bobby Petrosky (remember the two boys Jamie and I discovered fucking in the shower after practice?) were still part of the team; enjoying the team's company when they weren't running, snogging, flogging each other to a raw nub, playing friendly little games such as "hide the sausage," "lick the lollipop," or "ride a cockhorse." They didn't hesitate to mount and ride in the showers after practice if it were only Jamie, Scotty, or me present, but were pretty careful not to pop a woody when there were others present! Scotty once suggested a game of "fire in the hole" (good old-fashioned rimming, tongue deep, twisting and slurping to a point of blinding orgasm), but when he suggested a game of "double up" they really became interested; until he described how it was played.
"One of you lays down, stiff cock all slicked up, and the other straddles him face to face, lowers himself until the cock is well and truly seated deep. Someone else, such as Jamie, Whit, or me, mounts the one with a cock up his ass, slips ours in on top until he's buried balls deep as well and begins to fuck. Once the fucking gets going good, the last guy in does all of thrusting, he slides back and forth over the one in deep, and his action causes his cock to rub the other fellows love button until all three of you cum. You can't quit until all three fire their loads. Sometimes it takes quite a while."
Stan and Bobby looked at Jamie's stiff, long, thick cock, then Scotty's stiffy, and then mine before looking back at Jamie's throbber. Shaking their heads simultaneously, decided it was not a game they really wanted to play!
Jamie leaned over to me, while wrapping his hand around my hard spike, and said, after taking a deep breath, authoritatively, "Don't ever play that game with Zach and Ed Earl!"
"'Cause after it's over, every time the guy that gets stuffed, coughs or sneezes for a couple of days, he poops too!" he exclaimed, eyes big as cow pies, nodding his head slowly, warning me never to play that game; at least with Zach and Ed Earl. I didn't ask how he knew, but I was certain it was from close observation of activities of some of his other cousins who participated in the little game.
Gathered in the McFadden family room, we helped ourselves to sodas and the snacks Scotty laid out for us, waiting for him to get to the heart of our meeting. Scotty was the leader of the Horsemen and of our group of runners; we knew, he knew, and others knew it as well. Things hadn't changed since our run through campus in fifth grade.
"Last year," he began, "we got fucked over by a bunch of upper classmen who decided, for whatever reason, we," pointing to himself and the rest of us, "were just a bunch of smart-ass little balls of shit to be pushed out of the way! Evidently, they felt we were stealing their rightful place on the cross-country team and decided they'd show us by tossing the state meet. Instead of doing what we should've done and did in the past, for whatever reason, we allowed them to lead and as a result, they blocked our progress to the front of the pack. We didn't follow Jamie and we should have!"
He paused, looked at Jamie and continued, "This year, we follow him and his lead; what he does, we do! We all know how well he can read a runner or gauge the course; let him get us to the front of the pack and then hold it, agreed?"
We all nodded, knowing full well Scotty was right. Although Jamie came in first, the rest of us didn't do as well as we should have. Oh, we tried, but we let the "big boys" muscle us and afterwards were shamed by their doing so!
"But that's not enough!" Scotty declared.
I couldn't' think what else we could do, but he quickly explained.
"I know we all have summer jobs and other things to do, but we need to run four to five days a week all summer long. We coordinate our work schedules and schedule our runs accordingly, making certain all of us or at least most of us, can run on those days and those times; it keeps us together as a team! So, get me your work schedules, vacation dates, or whatever and I'll put together our schedule, beginning next week."
It made sense to me, but what he wanted us to do next made even more sense, especially when he pointed out why. Scotty suggested we sort out ten or twelve boys from the freshman class who ran the past year or any others we might think might have the potential to be good runners and invite them to run with us. It'd be a good opportunity for us to help them learn to run just like Chief Kraft and our law enforcements mentors helped us.
"If Ham Hocks High is going to continue to have a good cross-country team, now and in the future, we have to help make it happen! Find'em, invite'em, and run with them," he concluded. "Give me their names after you've contacted them and we'll run with them next week."
Scotty finished and Jamie leaned over to me, blew some air in my ear for the hell of it, and said, "Donny Erickson!"
"Donnie Erickson; he's new, moved here right after Thanksgiving!"
Jamie just shrugged his lack of knowledge!
I had to think a minute who any new kids were; the one I pictured in my mind I'd seen in the cafeteria during lunch; wasn't very sociable, always had his head in a book, usually sat alone (hell, always sat alone), and always averted his eyes if I looked in his direction. Once in a while, when Jamie and I went swimming at open swim on Sunday afternoons, he was usually there; generally with two younger boys, brothers I assumed. Clad in a pair of baggy boxer swim trunks, he was skinny, very little fat, if any, on his bones, no hips to speak of which made me wonder why those big trunks didn't slip off; brown hair and brown eyes; eyes that seemed to see everything but were sad at the same time. In the locker room, if we were there, he always turned his back when changing into street clothes, making certain his little brothers were dried, dressed, and combed their hair. All three of them were dressed in well-used clothing, hand-me-downs I thought, but they were mended and clean. My impression was they didn't have much money and made due with what they had. It probably explained why they were swimming at the school pool; admittance was by student ID and no fees charged to those enrolled at Hamilton.
"What's his dad do?" I asked curiously.
Again, Jamie shrugged; "I don't think he's got one."
"How do you know he can run?"
"A little bit after he moved, he ran by our house being chased by a couple of bigger boys and they weren't even close. Daddy and I saw it and he shouted at the two boys. Once they saw it was my daddy, they swapped asses and took off in the opposite direction!"
"He's got two younger brothers, an older sister who'll be a junior next year," Jamie continued, "and another sister who graduated this year. They both work at Petes's Pizza in 'Dog Town.' His momma works for University Food Service and sometimes she helps in our cafeteria."
Puzzled, hearing Jamie give this litany on the Erickson Family when he didn't know where they moved from or if there was a Mr. Erickson in the house, with some reluctance but great curiosity, thinking he might have garnered the information from his dad, I asked, "And where, Lover, did you come up with all of this knowledge?"
Jamie shrugged his shoulders; "Chris!"
"I take it," I pressed, "Chris likes pizza?"
"I think he likes the pizza maker a lot better," grinned Jamie.
Jamie paused, thinking, before saying, "I think Donny's lonely and like us!"
"Now, Jamie, you don't know that for certain," I jibed!
"Maybe not, but when we swim, I watch him watch us like you used to watch boys when I watched you."
Again, he paused; "I don't think he lives far from me, but I'll ask daddy; he knows where everybody lives!"
The next day found us driving to Donny Erickson's house. It was only eight blocks from Jamie's but he wanted to ride in the truck and hopefully, on the way back home, I'd let him drive (I did). I parked in the drive of an older two story home, well maintained, but still older, we walked up the short sidewalk to the front door, I rang the doorbell, and it's chime was answered by a young boy, maybe eight or nine years old, clad in a pair of over-sized faded blue shorts and a worn tee-shirt.
"Is Donny Erickson home?" I asked.
He shouted over his shoulder, not letting us in mind you, "Ma; there's two guys here to see Donny!"
Mrs. Erickson came to the door and I recognized her from the High School cafeteria. She'd worked there even when we came into Middle School (shared cafeteria with the high school, only different lunch times), not every day, but a couple of days per week. I figured she worked either central kitchen or the Union the other days.
Her smile was pleasant, warm as she greeted us, as she would do in the cafeteria, saying, "Donny's helping his younger brother Robby with his homework. Raymond, go get Donny and tell him he has company."
Raymond scooted up the stairs while she continued to visit. "Donny's awfully good at math, his favorite subject, and Robby does need some help sometimes."
She looked us over, smiled again, saying, "I think I know who you are, but you boys grow up so fast, so please refresh my memory, if you don't mind."
"Yes mam," Jamie responded politely, "James Arthur Long, but everyone calls me Jamie."
"Carlton Whitfield, Mrs. Erickson, but everyone calls me Whit."
"Are you Art Kraft's son?" she inquired of Jamie.
Jamie nodded his head replying, "Yes, mam."
"And you," dipping her head in my direction, "must be Dr. Whitfield's youngest."
Donny clambered noisily down the stairs and came to almost a screeching halt when he saw us standing talking to his mother. His face reddened slightly, he took a deep breath, and said shyly, "Hi!"
"Now don't be shy, Donny," his mother advised, "why don't you take Jamie and Whit to the living room and visit; and you," pointing finger at Raymond, standing behind his brother, "scoot back upstairs and pester your brother so these three can have some privacy."
"Aw Ma," he growled, but did as he was told.
Donny led the way to the living room, indicated a couch for us to sit on, while he seated himself on a chair, sort of facing us. He was so quiet, so shy, reminding me of Jamie a few years before, but not quite filled with the innocence he was.
Just as I was about to break the silence, Donny coughed nervously, saying hesitantly, with some embarrassment yet full of admiration, "I heard you play and sing; you're really good!"
Jamie's eyes brightened, flickered with his joyful nature, pleased to hear someone thought our group sounded good!
"Where?" he asked curiously.
"Up at the University a couple of years ago. My grandpa took me before he died. He really liked that kind of music and now, so do I."
Donny's face saddened, recalling his grandfather and the good time they evidently had at the folk fest. His voice cracked slightly as he continued softly, "This used to be his house. We moved here afterwards; it made us closer to Momma's work."
Changing the subject, yet not quite, Donny smiled quickly, "I got the CD of 'Missionary Ridge Live' at the Folk Festival for Christmas."
The University taped and recorded the folk festivals, burned CD's of the performances by groups, and sold them. Each performing group received royalties from the sale of the CD's and DVD's. Whatever we received went directly into our savings account. I didn't really keep track of it, but each year since I started working and filing income tax, Dad had an accountant do it for me, since, as he put it, "With your outside income you need someone with some expertise to do it." I know I had to pay extra each year, but so did Jamie. We just figured it was the right thing to do; if we earned it, we paid!
Donny grew quiet again, his eyes darted from Jamie to me, back to Jamie, and each time he switched, his gaze would linger just a moment longer on our crotches. I thought I'd better make some formal introductions.
"Donny," I began, "I'm Whit and …."
"I know," Donny said quickly, "and he's Jamie!"
"We're here to ask if you'd be interested in joining our track team!"
"You mean run with Pegasus and the Four Horsemen?" he asked, eyes big, voice excited at the prospect!
"Well, yes," I continued, "along with a select group of us, plus the new ones we invite, who run all summer. Jamie and I think you'd make a fine runner and help us on the team!"
"But, I can't run like you guys do!"
"Oh yes you can!" Jamie interrupted emphatically. "I saw you run by my house one day with two big kids on your tail and they weren't even coming close!"
"Yeah, but they stopped when someone shouted at them!" Donny sighed with relief.
"It was my Daddy," giggled Jamie.
"I don't have any track clothes or shoes," lamented Donny.
"I think between Jamie and me, we can get you outfitted. You're about the same size as we were a couple of years ago. Coach Schroeder always has extra shoes donated for use for cross country runners."
Jamie nodded, adding, "I've got a couple of pair of nylon running shorts that'd fit. Don't have an extra jock strap though."
"You never wear one when we run anyway!" I snorted in correction.
Donny's eyebrows went up in surprise! "You don't?"
"What do you do with your, you know …..?"
"Just let it flop and wobble around," Jamie answered with a shrug, winking at me, added, "Besides, Whit likes it that way!"
"Jamie!" I scolded softly, looking around fearful Donny's mother may have overheard the conversation.
"Well, you do!" giggled Jamie in response.
Donny's face reddened, pursed his lips in thought, took a deep breath (for courage I think) and asked hesitantly, "Are you two guys, uh, you know?
"Yeah," I answered catching the drift of his inquiry, "we're boyfriends and have been since our freshman year in high school.
"How cool!" sighed Donny.
Taking a chance, I asked, "You're not out yet are you?"
Donny's face blanched, he looked around, fearful, suddenly almost reduced to tears, as he carefully shook his head "no!"
"Don't worry, your secret is safe with us. One of our runners was in the closet for years and none of us knew; once we did, we could've cared less! Okay?"
He nodded his head, some of the fear seeming to slip from it, trusting us, knowing we would hold what we knew tight to our chests.
"Well, what do you think? Want to join us?" I pressed.
"I sure want to, but I'll have to ask my mother first," he answered, stood and left for the kitchen.
"He's cute," said Jamie softly to me as Donny left the room. "He's got a nice butt, too!"
I just shook my head! Jamie definitely could spot a nice ass and Donny Erickson seemed to have one. He returned with his mom, followed by Raymond and Robby.
Donny nodded in their direction; "My brother, Robby, age twelve, and Raymond, who you met I think, age nine!"
"Now," Mrs. Erickson inquired, "what about this running stuff that's got my Donny in such an excited state?"
I did my best in trying to explain to Mrs. Erickson what happened at State Cross Country last fall (without using the same colorful language Scotty used), how disappointed we were, but determined to right a wrong by building a strong team for this fall and in the future for our school. I don't think she was convinced she should let Donny participate until she hear me speak of the adults, specifically the law enforcement runners who helped coach us and ran with us. Her mood seemed to lighten up after that and I was hoping she's say yes.
"When do you practice and where?"
I pointed out most of us worked summer jobs so, by coordinating our work schedules, we'd find four or five days each week we could run, if we had our coaches or a coach available, and we usually started around five in the morning.
"In the morning?" squeaked Robby.
"Yep," affirmed Jamie, silent this whole time. "Start with the sunrise! Only problem is on cloudy days Scotty has to call a farmer outside of town to wake the rooster to make him crow so the rest of the team knows when to get up!"
"Really?" an amazed Raymond blurted out!
"No, you silly goose," Jamie joked with a grin and a wink.
"Well," Mrs. Erickson said thoughtfully, "there are those mornings when I have to work and Donny has to be home with his brothers, but if you're home by six thirty, it'd be okay. Would you be done by then?"
I assured her we would be; Jamie and I'd make it a point to get him home on time. She was hesitant to bring up what was a pressing question but finely asked, "Does this cost a lot of money for equipment or fees? We really don't have much extra sometimes."
"Nope; we've already sorted out the shoes and running shorts and decided between Jamie, me, and Coach Schroeder, Donny will be well equipped. The school pays all of the entry fees for meets and supplies meals and transportation."
"Donny," she asked, "do you want to do this?"
"Yeah, Mom, more than anything; I really do! Running with the Four Horsemen and Pegasus would be great!"
"Who are they?" she asked with a puzzled look on her face, suddenly doubting her decision.
Jamie beamed; "Scotty McFadden, Derrick Gray, Chris Fischer, and Whit. Me- I'm Pegasus!"
"Wait a minute," Mrs. Erickson said holding up her hand, and looking at me. "Are those the four boys who ran through the dormitories one late night, clad only in their underwear, maybe six or seven years ago?"
I nodded sheepishly.
"How funny!" she laughed. "It was the talk of everyone in food service for days."
Shaking a finger at Donny, she added, "You, young man, better not let me catch you running around campus in your underwear!"
"Probably be naked instead," muttered Raymond.
Before we left, we made arrangements for Donny to come over to Jamie's on Thursday so we could sort out clothes and shoes for him. I asked him to bring a schedule when he could run with him so I could give it to Scotty.
As we went out the door, Donny clasped my hand, saying, "Thanks for inviting me guys, I'll try my best!"
We knew he would!
Donnie came over to Jamie's after supper on Thursday and we had him try on several pairs of nylon running shorts before Jamie declared Donnie was in possession of two pair fitting him just fine (after having to cup Donnie's crotch a couple of times bringing forth a nervous giggle from Donnie as well as an instant, respectable five inch or so erection tenting the front of his briefs). Coach Schroeder sent a pair of running shoes Donnie's size (they fit fine) and he was ready to go!
Monday, at our first early morning practice, I half expected there'd be only a couple of our volunteer coaches present; at least that's what I told Donnie after Jamie and I jogged over to his place to get him. It sort of surprised him when we ran down to get him rather than drive my truck, but I informed him it was "running, not riding" and every little bit we could get in would help us in the long run!
Scotty made certain Coach Schroeder received copies of our running schedule and the names of the freshmen we'd invited to run with us. He, in turn, sent copies to Chief Kraft. As a result, Chief Kraft and about a half dozen law enforcement officers were there bright and early! It's a good thing since, including Donnie, there were eleven other freshmen joining us. Of the dozen only two hadn't participated in track before; Donnie and David Holst.
David's mom was a professor (piano composition and performance) in the Music Department and his dad a professor of Mathematics. I'd seen David around school and occasionally when I went up to the University for lessons, but never thought he'd be interested in running. I looked him over, standing next to Donnie, both almost skinny, both about the same height, weight, and physical stature; both looked like distance runners, neither very tall but with that look, you know, the look distance runners have! The only real differences between them was David's mother was Asian and he was light golden compared to Donnie's white coloration.
I noticed Jamie was looking the new boys over, fixed on Donnie and especially David. He wasn't checking out their packages, but giving them close scrutiny, trying to decide if they were runners and how good! He said nothing to me nor did his face reveal anything either; he'd watch them and decide, make no doubt about it!
Chief Kraft explained the training rules, handed out copies of the practice schedules, and introduced the law enforcement officers who'd be running with us that day, adding there'd be others throughout the summer depending on work schedules. He emphasized they were all interested in helping the runners be the best they could be and, if we worked really hard, carry on the tradition we're building as a champion cross country school. People were certainly proud of us and I could see the determination in the other guy's faces to try their damnedest to win!
The coaches, except for Chief Kraft who ran with us, ran with the new members. About ten minutes into our run (leisurely since this was our first real day), I looked back and saw Jim Prescott, Campus Security Officer, and Alan Fuller, County Deputy Sheriff, running next to David and Donnie, making suggestions, laughing, encouraging them, and generally helping them along. After twenty minutes or so, the four of them stopped, along with the rest of the freshman, and took a break, while the coaches discussed their progress and what changes could be made in their running.
This group finished well behind the rest of us, but they were pretty well hyped up and eager to continue. Jamie and I watched David and Donnie run in; they were fairly well matched and as Jamie said softly to no one in particular, "Those two can run!"
And so it went all summer; four mornings a week outside when weather permitted or inside in the field house when it rained. On the third week of practice, Donnie insisted we run by David's house to pick him up for practice. It wasn't out of the way, only about four blocks from campus and, after he joined us, the way they chattered to each other they were fast becoming best of friends!
The freshmen continued to run as a group; the coaches wanted to build a certain camaraderie among them the same as we had built up over the years. They were becoming accustomed to each other's style, pace, and endurance. Running with the rest of the team would come about when regular practice started under Coach Schroeder. The first time he saw them run toward the end of the summer, he said it looked like the "Charge of the Light Brigade" as they came across the finish line, being led by Donnie and David (later called them "Dasher and Dancer" because they "flew like Santa's Reindeer.") Officers Prescott and Fuller preferred to call the group, "The Dandy Dozen." They saw future champions among them and as a team!
The summer was fantastic! Our market sales were super; Jamie's playing and singing continued to boost our sales by drawing people to our booth, driving up our overall earnings! We thought about asking if we could sell CD's and Jamie's prints as well, but Chief Kraft and my dad thought it'd be unfair to the owners of the garden center. They were right of course! However, Dad did set up a web-site for "Missionary Ridge" and one for "J. Long - Prints and Original Art" with a Pay Pal® account for sales. According to him, it was doing "moderately well." I knew once we were out of school, we'd have to have to take charge of some of these business ventures or at least have someone help us with them.
John Kraft, Jamie's half-brother, and his wife Beth presented the family with a healthy baby boy. They named him James Arthur Kraft, II. He's adorable, a blend of two peoples' ethnic heritage and genes, although he favored his mother in color. Jamie thought he was the most precious thing ever put on this earth, next to me! Whenever they visited or we drove across town to see them, he'd take every opportunity to hold and cuddle that sweet bundle of joy. I watched Jamie and thought, maybe someday, we could adopt. However, when I saw Jamie's Mom hold the baby, although she tried not to show it, there was a sadness, I thought, knowing she would never have any grandchildren from her gay son!
I made up my mind we'd begin salting money away right after college and, with the medical advances and technology breakthroughs , there was no reason why a surrogate mother, impregnated with sperm donated by Jamie, couldn't carry "our" baby.
Summer ended, track practice formally started and the fall Folk Festival was held again shortly after the start of the fall term at the University. It was our senior year of high school and I was excited, thinking about Jamie and me being seniors and graduating in the spring! We made plans for me to attend CSU the next fall and he'd be attending also on a special student basis, enrolling only in certain Art classes. He was offered an opportunity to enroll in some music classes as well, but after visiting with his folks decided not to, instead concentrating on his art since it'd be his main source of revenue and livelihood, hopefully, in the future.
I saw no reason why it wouldn't be as talented as he is! His brother John, an accountant, volunteered to assist him with his business accounting and he had Chief Kraft and me to work with him as well. University Press continued to print his works and, in conjunction with them, several art shops and dealers also carried his prints and original pieces.
Our plans were to marry the next fall after we both turned eighteen. Our parents wanted us to wait until I finished college, but no way! Scotty and Zach already had plans to marry in June after Scotty graduated from high school.
I was looking forward to our senior year, anticipating a happy, fun-filled year, culminated by our graduation, and our wedding the next fall. Even with those joyful thoughts, I still had bouts of nostalgia, realizing this'd be our last fall the original "Missionary Ridge" band might be playing together. Zach, Scotty, Jamie, and I definitely would be staying in the area. Whether Chris, now steady with Adele Erickson, would stick around (I thought so since Adele was a junior now) or Derrick, who was thinking of attending Southeast State University at Monroe would be here in the fall was uncertain. Even if one left, the group would need to adapt, add a new member, or dissolve!
There was one thing I was absolutely certain of this school year, our final year of high school; after this year, Pegasus and the Four Horsemen of Ham Hocks High would never again run as a team in the State Cross Country meet, if we qualified, and we were going to do our very best to do just that! Our coaches pushed us and we pushed ourselves, as well as the rest of the team. If we failed, then we didn't want them to; someone had to bring home the championship.
The fall festival again featured returnees, Grandpa Long and Grandpa Long and family, "Missionary Ridge," and "Sugar Creek Revival." "Captured Jack" disbanded because two of the officers took different law enforcement positions in other areas of the state. It left Dr. McFadden without a group to play with, disappointing him I'm certain, but he was occupied with the festival and our bookings for the rest of the school year and into next summer. I think he might have been secretly relieved!
Jamie remembered how much Donny enjoyed our music, so we arranged passes for him and David, since where you now saw one, you saw the other! Chris procured a pass for Adele as well. Mrs. Erickson was all in a tizzy when she found out because she had to work as well; there'd be no one to stay with Robbie and Raymond! As she put it, "The extra money comes in handy, especially with Christmas and winter coming."
Mom stepped in and solved the problem by volunteering to take the boys with them to the programs and if one or the other got tired, either she or Dad would take him to our house. The boys would spend the weekend there. They were tickled pink to be able to go and then spend the weekend at our house.
Grandpa and Grandpa Long, along with Uncle Buddie and Aunt Hat, and Ed Earl were staying at Kraft's again (Jamie would stay with me at my house), and Ed Earl's steady, Sarah. They were going to be married next summer. She had a great voice and could play guitar very, very well!
The festival was fun, as always! Jamie and I had a great time, playing and singing and enjoying listening to the other groups. Donny and David enjoyed themselves as well! I glanced up several times during our performance and spotted them dancing together in the side isles along with other spectators. I guess they figured they'd be lost in the crowd and no one would notice two more dancers. I did and so did Jamie; we were happy for both of them!
Sunday night, once the last note was sounded, the equipment removed, placed in Zach's truck and trailer for unloading on Monday, and we were tucked in bed at my house some four hours or so before dawn, Jamie just had to finish the evening with a song or two of his own, using an instrument I was more than familiar with and welcomed, each arpeggio up and down my inner love nut bringing a whimper of joy from me! No one, I'm certain could love me the way Jamie did and I had no desire to find out!
Hamilton High's Cross Country team qualified for state and we were sent off with a rousing pep assembly the day before. Our lockers were decorated with notes of "Good Luck" wishes, balloons in our school colors, posters, and banners in the halls. Man, we were psyched up for the meet!
Morning, the day of the meet, dawned grey, cold, and wet; a fine, cold mist drizzling down at the start of the race and, according to the weather people, would continue most of the day. This may've dampened other teams enthusiasm and energy, but before we started to take our places, Scotty said simply, "No different than a horse race on a wet track; we're led by a 'mudder' who does well in the rain or the sun- follow Pegasus, let him lead, and let's kick ass!"
The rain soaked our shirts, our nylon running shorts, plastering them to our bodies as we ran. Jamie didn't wear a jock, as usual, his manhood clearly outlined under the wet shorts, wobbling and bouncing as he ran! I noticed David and Donny were also without jocks, their smaller cocks just as visible but not as prominent! Whenever Jamie would pull alongside a runner from another school, one out of four would invariably look down, spot the bouncing bratwurst, and lose a stride or two, giving one of us the opportunity to edge him out (not fair I suppose, but what the hell!). They didn't have to look, ogle my boyfriend, and be distracted. Evidently their coaches didn't emphasize what Coach Schroeder reminded us to do so many times; "Concentrate on the race!"
Jamie started this race as he did all others; observing, pacing, moving us slowly ahead. As I thought back on it, he was running this race in a similar manner to the time when Chief Kraft and the law enforcement officers ran with us, blocking our progress to the front. It didn't take long for the other three Horsemen and our compatriots who were with us that day to recognize this also. A good distance into the race, Pegasus ran up to and alongside the leader, the Horsemen slipped in between runners just behind him, separating them from each other, just like we did when we were freshmen, with six of our fellow track mates behind us, running a blocking action!
Jamie started to talk to the other runner next to him; "You ran last year!"
"Yep!" (Not very talkative, I thought, listening from just behind him.)
"You run pretty fast!"
I wondered, at this point, when the other runner, a senior from the southwest part of the state, would get disgusted with Jamie and try to pull ahead.
"Sure is wet today, right?"
No answer this time; "He's getting close," I thought.
"Cold too," Jamie allowed. "Sort of slows you down, doesn't it?"
That did it, the other runner pushed hard, trying to get ahead of Jamie. Not to worry; Jamie was ready and so were we! He didn't make it; instead, Jamie just ran along beside him. This was going to get interesting pretty fast! We were coming up on five hundred meters from the finish and if Jamie was going to make a major move, it'd be soon! I could hear the crowd beginning to shout encouragement; Chief Kraft and our coaches from the law enforcement community the loudest, although we did have a large contingent of students and parents in attendance.
"You got a girl friend?" Jamie asked.
"Yep!" the other fellow wheezed, clearly putting everything into his race.
Scotty gave us a nod; get ready!
"I got a boyfriend," Jamie said proudly, "we're going to get married! He's got a big cock and he's right behind you!"
The poor guy just couldn't resist a quick glance over his shoulder to see who or what Jamie was referring to, missed a step or two and Jamie said, "Bye!" and took off like a striped-assed ape!
"Bye!" announced Scotty, passing as well, followed by me, Derrick, and Chris all giving our farewell, leaving our fellow teammates in an excellent position to score points while holding off the rest of the pack! "Damn good strategy," Chief Kraft later praised!
The celebration at home started with a ride on fire trucks through campus; State Individual Champion Jamie Long standing on the hose bed, along with the rest of the team, waving at the crowds of high school students and university students along the streets. The parade ended at Hamilton High for a big welcome home rally. Jamie proudly presented the trophy to Coach Schroeder and the Hamilton High Principal. The President of the University was there to congratulate us, noting it was the first time the campus lab school ever brought home a cross country trophy and how proud she was!
To some, the rest of the year may have appeared to be anticlimactic, but to Jamie and me, not so! We really enjoyed our last year of high school; attending not only high school musicals, plays, athletic events, and dances but university activities as well. After the high school Christmas concert, Jamie and I went out to dinner and we exchanged "friendship" rings. They really were sort of engagement rings. We planned our wedding for the next fall, just before Thanksgiving after we both were eighteen.
The day after Christmas, I called Jamie to come over; the folks were gone and I had a special present for him. He bounded up to my room and when he opened the door, found me laying naked, face down with a big, red, ribbon bow stuck to the upper part of my ass crack with a note reading "Merry Christmas!" He darn near ruptured himself getting out of his clothes, mounting me, and playing his version of "Jingle Balls!"
At Easter, he showed up at our door dressed in a bunny suit, floppy ears and all, with a big shit-eating grin on his face. He held an Easter Basket in his hand with a note in it. Curious, I read the note, crooked a finger at him, and motioned for him to follow me to my bedroom. Locking the door, I stripped and waited for Jamie to shed himself of the bunny suit (it took a minute because the "bunny" had a hard-on that would have put the Redwood Forest to shame). The card, illustrated by Jamie," showed two bunnies, one hunched over the back of the other, its lower quarter shoved forward into the rear of the other, with a caption, "Let's do what bunnies do!"
The Four Horsemen and Pegasus decided, after talking it over with our parents, to have our graduation parties jointly up at the University Union. We'd run together, played together, made music together, suffered good times and bad together, so why not celebrate our graduation together? Our parents agreed and the second weekend after graduation, we gathered with friends, relatives, classmates, track mates, coaches, teachers, and others who were invited, on the veranda (patio) outside the Union where Grandpa Long held their first impromptu concert after the Folk Festival several years before. We'd reserved one of the large banquet rooms just in case of inclement weather, but the weather was fantastic so it was outside!
Food Service catered our refreshments, cake, ice cream, and beverage (no booze) and set the tables up under pop-ups along the sides of the patio. There were signs posted around the perimeter announcing it was a private party, as well as a rope line. Balloons in school colors filled with helium were anchored to the rope line and to the round patio tables where our guests would be seated. We weren't bothered by others during the first part of the party. The five of us stood near where the entrance to the patio designated by an opening in the rope line and greeted our guests, welcoming them, accepting their gift cards, and depositing them in the box with our name on it.
The last hour of our party, we planned on "Missionary Ridge" playing to entertain our guests. We knew the music would probably draw University students as well, but we really didn't care! It didn't take us long to set up the equipment, tune the instruments and begin! We played what we wanted, what we thought would entertain and show our appreciation for all the things our parents and others did for us over the years. We finished with Jamie on the banjo, playing and singing "Ol Rattler." I think it reminded him of "Red," the coonhound on Grandpa Long's farm.
The last note echoed off into the distance, we set aside our instruments, and stepped forward to the microphone to thank everyone for attending. I was first, took the microphone, and was about to begin, when I heard someone shout,
"You dirty fucking faggots; you ruined my life!"
Someone else shouted (I later learned it was Zach), "GUN!"
Looking toward the crowd I saw Delaney, the student teacher who started the fight with his derogatory comments in our freshman year, running at us, pointing a handgun at Jamie and me. I dropped the mike, turned, grabbed Jamie, screaming, "Jamie; he's got a gun!" and pulled him tight up against me, leaving my back towards Delaney, determined to shield Jamie from harm with my life, and heard,
POP! POP! POP!
People were screaming and I suddenly hurt in various places and started to fall, pulling Jamie with me, holding him in an embrace, trying to keep myself between him and Delaney!
POP! POP! And Jamie rolled over on top of me.
I heard several more gun shots and the last words I heard Jamie say was, "I love you, Whit!" and he went limp, still, not moving!
I tried to scream, "NO; NO, NOT JAMIE," but no words came out; I tried saying, "Jamie, I love you, don't die!" but for some reason, my mind became muddled and everything faded to darkness!
Somewhere in my murkiness, I heard sirens, the sound of my brother, Jeff, shouting orders to people unseen by me, talking to me, trying to reassure me! I remember crying for Jamie, wanting him, knowing, although unable to accept it, he'd died in my arms! I cried, I sobbed, I shouted his name, begged him to come back to me, pleaded with him not to leave me alone, feeling the futility of my cries, until Jeff said, "Whit, you're going to sleep now!" and I did, suddenly!
Time, if there is such a dimension while you're not conscious to the world outside your mind, seems to move rapidly, then slowly, and finally crawl until there is no distinction, just a floating, indescribable, ethereal nothingness! I dreamed of Jamie, of hearing his voice speaking to me telling me how much he loved me; feeling his lips on my face, my forehead, my lips, my hands, as he pleaded with me not to leave! I dreamed of all the good times we had together as he told them to me from afar!
I looked over at Jamie, laying peacefully, his hands folded on his midsection, dressed in his best suit, the place on his head where the bullet struck him barely visible, concealed by his hair. We lost a police officer that day we'd set aside for celebration and one of our school mates: several other of our guests were wounded in the shooting melee. Chief Kraft and the officers were quick, but not quick enough to prevent the tragedy. Delaney didn't live through the barrage of bullets fired at him by Chief Kraft and the others as he tried to reload his weapon!
Reaching forward, I touched Jamie, leaned over him, kissed his lips, and said, "Hey, sleepyhead, wake up, everyone's waiting for us!"
He opened his eyes, kissed me back, his bubbly, bright, overwhelming smile, proclaiming to me and to the world how happy he was!
So was I, the bullet hitting Jamie, just grazed his skull, but had enough shocking power to render him unconscious! It was his real voice, his real lips, his singing, not dreams, I heard in the hospital! When I finally regained consciousness several days later, I looked around, trying to see where the guitar music was coming from, and there was Jamie, a shit-eating grin on his face, tears streaming down his cheeks, bringing tears to my eyes too! Recovery for me took most of the summer, but with his help, never leaving my side hardly, I made it. The bullets meant for Jamie ended up in me, except for the one to his head!
When Chief Kraft and Ellen visited with me, I said to him, "I promised you I'd protect him with everything in me!"
He leaned over, kissed me on the forehead, crying softly, "So you did, Whit; your love gave Jamie the gift of life!"
I thought at the time, and still do, it wasn't me giving the gift of life, it was Jamie's gift to me, bringing me back from the precipice of death, with his song, his touch, his loving words of encouragement, giving me hope, strength, being the love of my life!
It was a long drive to Caudry, Missouri where we were spending our honeymoon, staying at Grandpa and Grandma Long's house, in Jamie's old room. They were having a wedding reception for us at the American Legion Hall and Jamie decided to take a nap before we left for it. Our wedding was supposed to be a simple affair in Jefferson, but many of our friends showed up and we celebrated; as a result of arriving late last evening, Jamie was one tired puppy (of course, consummating the marriage several times during the night didn't help - sleep, that is)!
Jamie was happy, so everyone was happy- especially me!
The Literary works of Nicholas Hall are protected by the copyright laws of the United States of America and are the property of the author.
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