Scooter and Malachi

by Nicholas Hall

Chapter 16

"Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it; if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would be utterly contemned."

(Song of Solomon)

The bad, the good, our love as we move on

Malachi and I still stood, rather dumbfounded, flabbergasted, if truth be known, by Grandmother Chen's remarks, made without any indication or concern to whom it was made when she spoke, treating us as adults rather than teens or adolescents, who might enjoy her "tongue-in-cheek" approach to expressing her concerns over the scantiness of her grandson and his girlfriend's bathing attire without really being critical of it. If she were, she'd have mentioned it, in an off-hand manner, directly to Seth, confidentially of course. Her remarks caused us to realize we were different now, not physically (although part of me was well stretched), but emotionally; we were a married couple, young, but still a married couple now joining the other married couples in our family. No longer one of the carefree teens or pre-adolescents in the family in attendance, we were "established" as Malachi and Scooter Duranleau-Parker for all the world to see. There was little doubt in my mind Seth and Alicia would be joining our august group shortly after graduation from high school this coming school year.

I shook my head, smiling to myself, wondering how fortunate I was to have Grandmother Chen and now grandmother to both of us. Malachi and I were privileged to be honored by her presence and love. My thoughts concerning our changed status was even more confirmed when I checked the work schedule posting, Malachi and I weren't on it!

"I wonder why?" I pondered aloud.

Malachi pursed his lips. "You know something I'd not noticed before?"

"You've got a really big cock and I have a small butt?" I giggled.

"No, you dufus," he responded kissing me, "that's not it."

"Maybe I love you so much nothing else matters?"

My response brought another kiss, a deep, tongue tasting, cock-hardening, kiss!

Releasing me, he sighed, "God, I do love you so, Scooter."

"I know; what have you noticed?"

"None of the adults or married couples have their names on the 'to do' list."

We were both curious, so we ventured into the house to ask Mom and Dad. Mom was visiting somewhere outside and Dad was just finishing a cup of coffee (he never was much for tea). Dad was helpful, but more guiding us than anything.

"First of all, this week," he answered, "especially, the reception on the Fourth is all about you and so it'll be during the Parker Reunion. Scooter, you are my first born and I wish to honor you and my new son-in-law. You know now much I love you. You're so much like Dad," he mentioned, reminiscing and missing with fondness, Grandpa Parker.

His loving remarks moved me to tears. I always knew Dad loved me as he did all of his boys, but hearing him say it, now I'm older, had a very special and moving meaning for me. To know he loved Malachi, wanting to honor him as he did his own son, was especially gratifying and special. My Dad may've been abandoned by his birth mother as a small child and raised by his grandmother, abandoned again by the same woman who birthed him and abandoned him the second time when his grandmother died, was carried through life, until he met a father he'd never known, by his grandmother's love. He experienced an intense love for him by Grandpa Parker when he lived here on Crystal Lake and was raising us in the same manner of love. Dad was a pretty special person and we should be so lucky.

Although only Sunday and the Fourth was on Thursday, Dad expected more campers to arrive the next day, Monday. I noticed the extra electric lines, water lines, and shower tents were not yet installed or erected. The septic company delivered the portable potties on Friday. I volunteered Malachi and me to get busy on the water and electric lines.

"I'll get some help for you," Dad responded. "You guys get the ATV out and load up the trailer with the water lines and lay them. Do that before you lay the electric lines and receptacles. I'll mark some extra campsites. I'm going to crowd them a little so I can get four more in, just in case."

The work seemed to go rather quickly although it did take several hours with the help of a half-dozen cousins Dad recruited. The day was warm and we worked up quite a sweat and appetite. Mom invited Malachi and me to stay for dinner, which I knew she would, and after clean up, Malachi and I changed into our swim suits for an evening swim. Swimming, after hours, was allowed for adults or children with adult supervision since there were no life guards on duty.

The only ones in the water were Malachi and me. We didn't stay in long, long enough to cool off and sit on the dock to dry before the mosquitoes started to pester. The swim was refreshing, relaxing, and intimate in our closeness. Climbing out, sitting on the dock, I settled myself between Malachi's legs, my back up against his stomach, my head resting on his chest, his chin resting on my head, his arms around me, I was at peace with myself and with the world. I was where I wanted to be, in my husband's embrace, looking out over the lake and hillside I hoped we could forever call home. Here, looking across the lake toward Cayden's Cottages and to the right, the cemetery where Grandpa and Uncle Grant lay bound together for eternity, I knew how Grandpa felt when he was with Uncle Grant- as if nothing else in the world really mattered.

I felt Malachi sigh.

"Happy, Scooter?"

I turned my head, trying to see his face.

"Yeah, really, really happy! You?"

"Me too."

I shifted my weight somewhat since something large, long, and stiff was poking me in the back. "Did Uncle Dave Taylor ever find out who it was that sent him the text message concerning the 'extra guests' on the Fourth?"

"Nah, but I think he has a pretty good idea; he's just not saying."

"Do you think they'll try to crash our party?

"I doubt it; there's more of us than them and besides the Chen's and the Parker's are all fighters. If what I hear around camp is true, your brothers and cousins have some sort of demonstration planned of their own."

"Know what it is?"

"Nope, but you can bet the signs about bears and the rotten fish guts have something to do with it."

I was fairly certain as well. I could only hope no one gets hurt. Bears are a dangerous animal when provoked, feeding, or separated from their young, although in most cases they avoid or run from humans. We hadn't seen any around since the week of fishing opener when the dumpsters at the boat landing were overflowing. I worried the scent of roasting hog on Wednesday night and the fish guts along the road just might bring them back. I was counting on all of the noise around camp to keep them away; perhaps not at night though since they do tend to be more nocturnal than one would think.

The big tent arrived early Monday morning and the rental company got busy erecting it so by noon it was up, the dance floor down, and Malachi and I were busy helping set up tables and chairs. Rain was forecast later on toward evening or overnight, so we were pushing hard to get everything under cover of the tent. My truck plus a couple of others hastened the pick-up of tables and chairs Dad rented. Dad and Uncle Louie were busy putting up an electric fence around the BBQ pit and shelter.

"Just in case any bears who've been attracted by the rotten fish decide to supplement their snacks with a meal of roasted hog," Dad explained.

Frankly, I doubted it'd be a problem, but you never know.

It was clouding up in the early evening after dinner. Malachi and I decided to take a quick swim before leaving for the resort. Mom and Dad decided to join us. Malachi had yet to see Dad without his prostheses and was surprised when he saw Dad hustling down to the dock on his crutches, with Mom by his side. He made no comment until Dad jumped in the water and began swimming around, laughing, interacting with Mom.

Dad responded to Malachi's curiosity. "Swimming is something I can do with a leg and a half. I'm not a great runner, built like a brick shithouse, or shot with a basketball, so track is out, along with football, or basketball leaving swimming for me. Up here, the physical education teachers knew, since we didn't have an indoor pool at the time, sports was difficult, but also knew I'd try my damnedest so I generally got a "C" and that suited me."

We swam, visited, and enjoyed each other's company. It seemed somewhat different; with Mom and Dad and me realizing I wasn't the boy-child they raised, but the man-child they knew and loved. I just happened to mention I'd not seen James or his friend Scotty around. I spotted James swimming earlier on Sunday, but not Scotty. James appeared to be lost, although he was doing some interaction with some of our other cousins.

Mom looked at me rather sadly. "James is experiencing a very unhappy time. His friend is with his family this week, visiting a classmate of his mother's somewhere in Minnesota, Litchfield, I think he mentioned. Apparently, the classmate is a widower with children about Scott's age and of his siblings. The man and Scott's mother were quite close in high school and for whatever reasons, drifted apart. I believe James said they intend to marry before school starts in the fall and Scott will move to Minnesota. James is quite sad and is having a difficult time accepting Scott leaving. It's hard on young love, especially as young as James, to cope with understanding the whys' and how it could mean a complete separation eventually."

Malachi and I listened carefully, both of us understanding how James, a gay boy, could feel. Although I'd not had a boyfriend, now husband, prior to Malachi and neither had he, it didn't stop us from understanding and sympathizing with him. Many times finding birds of a feather, so to speak, in small communities is more than just difficult for gays. Coming out, making an advance on another boy, can be dangerous and more than just a little disheartening. I was about to ask what we could do, when Dad spoke up.

"I really think, Scooter, James needs you for a while. He's always been the closest to you; someone he could trust, protect him, and, most importantly, understand him. He really needs not only our support, your Mother and mine, but yours and Malachi's. You're a young, intelligent, well-adjusted gay married couple and James needs that example right now. James knows how much we love him but it's not the same as his big brother taking him in his arms and letting him know all will be well."

Dad was right! James always close to me; the one when storms crackled across the night sky, thunder roared it's fury, wind whipped it's wickedness through the trees, things unidentified going bump in the night, when he received all "A's" on his report card, or when he spotted a particularly beautiful flower, or a frog jumping across the yard, he scampered to tell me or crawl into my arms for comfort and protection. James needed me when I was home and he needed me and my husband now.

Mom and Dad left to head to the house and Malachi and I decided to stay and enjoy the water just a little longer. Actually, Malachi had his hand down the back of my suit and I had my hand stuffed in the front of his slipping the foreskin of his cock up and down over the head. We were interrupted in what we intended to do next.

"Scooter?"

We both turned toward the dock. James stood there, hands at his side, and in the faint light of the quickening night, a forlorn look on his face.

Malachi and I quickly climbed out of the lake and onto the dock. I held out my arms and James melted into them, burying his head into my chest, the top of his head brushing my chin. He was growing! Soft, deep, agonizing sobs of disappointment, hurt, and betrayal of his personal young loss, rolled from him, rumbling onto my chest and penetrating my very being. The thought there'd be no other boy for him, once Scott left, was foremost in his mind and heart I realized.

"He's moving, Scooter," James hiccoughed trying to control his crying. "I'll never see him again."

"Yes, he is and I won't lie to you; you may never see him again, but it doesn't mean you can't remember the good times you had together, does it?"

"But, he'll probably find someone else!"

"That could be true as well, James, but it doesn't mean you won't find someone yourself."

"How; out here in the bumble-fuck Wisconsin north woods?"

Okay, this was going to take some time and the mosquitoes were starting to bang away at my ass and back. They didn't comfort me as much as Malachi banging away in the same general neighborhood.

"James, I think the mosquitoes nailed my ass more times than I care to count. Let's go to the house so Malachi and I can change into our street clothes and you can ask Mom and Dad if you can spend the night with us."

"Really?"

"Really."

James was waiting patiently, plastic grocery bag with his clean clothes for the morning, by the door when Malachi and I emerged from the bathroom with our clothes changed. James was excited about spending some time with us, even though he appeared, from his demeanor, just the opposite. I knew him well enough to know better; his eyes sparkling, darting from me to Malachi and back to me again told an entirely different story.

"I think, Love," Malachi said tenderly, "my brother-in-law has much to talk about and many questions to ask."

James didn't say much, settled between Malachi and me on the front seat of the truck, sort of resting his head on Malachi's shoulder as I drove. It wasn't unusual for James to be quiet anyway; he is the least talkative of my brothers- the most is Terrance.

Percy's cage wasn't covered when we walked in the door at house, so James just had to say "hi" to the perverted bird. Percy responded squawking, "Hi yah, handsome," followed by "nice cock."

James just giggled, "You been peeking, Percy."

"Fuck me big guy," Percy whistled and screeched.

Uncle Dave, entering the room, warned him to hush.

"Asshole," muttered Percy.

Uncle Dave was pleased to see James with us and grinned when James announced, "I get to spend the night with Scooter and Malachi."

On the way up the stairs, I was prepared to put James in one of the spare bedrooms, but Malachi announced, "James, why don't you plan on spending the night with us in our bed. It'll give us a chance to talk. How about it?"

My god, it was as if James died and went to heaven. The offer was beyond his wildest dreams, I think.

Malachi and stripped to our boxer briefs, instead of our bare asses as we usually did for bed. I heard James mutter something as he looked in his plastic bag.

"What's up, James?"

"I forgot my pajamas!"

"You won't need them; sleep in your underwear. Malachi and I sleep in ours."

Well, that's not exactly true, usually Malachi falls asleep in me.

Smiling his shy, captivating smile, eyes cast down in apparent embarrassment, yet pleased for being treated as an equal, James stripped to his underwear, not boxers or boxer briefs or tighty-whiteis, but string bikinis, light blue accentuating his light copper complexion, snugging his package up nicely, and held up by extremely slim hips and flat stomach. James was growing better looking every day. He crawled into bed, snuggled down comfortably between Malachi and me, and rested his head on my chest.

Malachi opened our discussion, the one he promised James we'd have. "I know you're going to miss Scotty once he moves so, I'd like to know what you'll miss about him."

Hell of a way to open a conversation, especially one that really started amidst tears on the dock. I could feel James' tears slowly drip onto my chest as, with his back to Malachi, he began listing all those things he could think of; Scotty was smart, loved to fish, laughed a lot, rode ATV's, enjoyed swimming, music, the outdoors, riding bicycles, and all other things boys enjoy doing together, including some forms of sex. James was hesitant in saying it, but finally admitted he and Scotty had engaged in mutual masturbation and also cock-sucking (which James thought better than just pulling on a dick, but absent it, pulling on his dick would suffice).

Malachi and I said nothing as James spoke, waiting until he decided it was time to stop.

"One thing you didn't mention, James," Malachi concluded, "although the sex sounds great, you didn't say you could live without him."

James lifted his head from my chest, rolled over on his side facing Malachi. "What?"

"James, do you think life would never be the same without him and wonder how you could ever ease the ache in your heart?"

The dim light in the bedroom barely allowed me to see the frown, the puzzled look on James' face as he pondered Malachi's question before rolling back to face me.

"What he's asking, James," I explained, "do you love Scotty so much the first face you want to see in the morning and the last you wish to see at night before you sleep is his? The one you search for in a crowd, share all your joys, sorrows, or most intimate secrets with; the person who makes your heart leap, your breath to quicken, your eyes sparkle at the sight of him, or your own joy reflected in the smile on his face? Most of all, and most important, the person you'd sacrifice everything for?"

"Like you love Malachi; how one person loves another so much it almost hurts to be away from them?"

I nodded, acknowledging his understanding. "James, any love, gay, straight, bisexual, lesbian, transgender, queer, between persons of racial differences, religious differences, or society/cultural differences in our large community of humans, transcends all else."

"Will I ever find someone to love, really love like you guys love each other, or Grandpa Parker and Uncle Grant, or Mom and Dad?"

"Grandpa Parker and Dad told me I would," I replied. "I did and I think you will too. Don't give your heart too freely to those who are interested in you for the superficial, but only to the one who loves you, no matter what you are, who you are, or what color you are; understand?"

James whispered he wouldn't, knowing now what he and Scotty felt was young infatuation or young lust, but there was more to life and a relationship than that.

I waited for him to say more, but his only response was a soft snoring sound.

The education of James Ambrose Dickenson Parker, gay male, begins in serious, most serious earnest. We needed to introduce him to those things which will keep him safe living in a world not quite so forgiving and accepting of a person's homosexual orientation. James is more fortunate than many others in his position; James has a loving family, immediate and extended, who understands, supports, protects, and loves him.

During the night, James began mumbling in his sleep. His conversation with who knows who about who knows what, woke Malachi before me. Malachi reached across James and gave me a poke (with his finger).

"What's the problem?" I responded.

"James!"

"What about James?"

"He's talking in his sleep; sounds like Chinese."

"He probably has to take a leak. I'll take him." Speaking in Chinese to James, I told him to get out of bed, take my hand, and I led him to the bathroom.

Our mission completed, I settled James down between us again, he cuddled up to me, and was sound asleep.

Malachi wanted to know why James was mumbling in Chinese. I explained when James gets really tired, stressed out over some problem he's trying to solve or some situation he's encountered, frightened by a storm or something, rarely having to take a piss, however, James talks in his sleep. Most often it's in English, many times Chinese, sometimes Spanish, and rarely French, although sometimes he just mixes them all up if his mind struggles for a word. It takes some concentration trying to work out a reply to him and if I can't, I just ask him to speak English and he does. Even awake, James slips from one language to the other with ease, depending on who he is visiting with. When Grandmother and Grandfather Chen are visiting with him, it's many times in Chinese. Sometimes Mom or her siblings will speak to him in Chinese. Some of our cousins speak a rather passable Spanish, and he has no problem with the language.

Malachi's response was, "No shit!"

His remark was quickly followed by, "He's so fucking smart; we have to make sure he doesn't waste it."

James wouldn't if Mom and Dad and now Malachi and I have anything to do with it. He's too conscientious in his studies; his desire to learn and the acquisition of knowledge was almost insatiable.

James seemed quite comfortable chatting with us the next morning on the way to Mom and Dad's. He as curious about our cousins Edward Chen and his husband Adam who'd be staying in the other bedroom beginning tonight. Giggling he asked, "I don't really think you two want me sleeping between you every night?"

"Not really," I answered back. "We love you very much but……..," and stopped, causing him to laugh out loud.

He hooked up with Edward and Adam when they arrived, at least long enough to introduce or re-introduce himself to them before heading off to cavort with his younger cousins. James was an entirely different boy than he was the day before.

The rest of our day was busy, not with helping with reunion preparations or any chores, but visiting, thanking all the arriving relatives for their kind, happy, and encouraging words on our marriage. So many desired a dance with both me and Malachi, male and female, although I must admit the females' requests outnumbered males by a considerable margin.

Samuel, Aaron, Seth, and Johnny (plus Megan and Alicia) were busy at the swimming beach. There seemed to be more youngsters swimming than in previous years. James and Terrance seemed to have "found" each other again and were enjoying themselves along with a plethora of cousins.

"Looks like more this year than last," observed Malachi.

I couldn't help but agree with him. After the rain shower during the night, even though the forecast was for great weather all of the rest of the week. It was late when we returned to the resort. James slept in the other spare bedroom.

Wednesday was a long day for Dad and my uncles making the final preparation for the whole hog roast. It involved driving to town to get the hog from the market, seasoning it, skewering it on the rotary spit, positioning it over the hot coals in the BBQ pit, making certain the electric fence would work if they needed it, checking to see if the bear spray was handy, and finally, the most important they thought, ensuring the ice chests had plenty of ice, beer, wine, soda, accompanied by an adequate Brandy supply.

"Never know," Uncle Carl chided, "we may need the brandy to thwart off the effects of snake bite."

"There's no poisonous snakes up here," I reminded him.

"Better be safe than sorry," Uncle William added solemnly.

"I suppose the wine is for communion," Malachi added jokingly.

"Hell, no!" Uncle Bruce snorted. "It's good for the blood- tends to fortify it."

First liar doesn't stand a chance!

Mom, my aunts, and anyone who could be pressed into service were busy preparing all of the sides to go with the roast pork. Anything left over from the noon feast (there was always plenty), would be put out at the dance on Thursday evening. It was a busy time but a happy time. The Chen Family really enjoyed being together. The beach opened after lunch and, since the day was quite warm, the water and beach area was packed.

The hog was spitted and roasting shortly after dinner time that evening. It'd slow roast all night until mid-morning, tended by a rotating shift of Chen men and women. The men generally thought this "roasting" was their total responsibility, but there were no objections when wives and others joined them. In fact, they looked forward to it. It'd be a night of conversation, laughing, joking, and enjoying each other's company. Malachi and I joined them, staying late into the night. James elected to ride back to the resort with Edward and Adam. Terrance decided he'd share a bed with James that night so rode along as well.

Malachi and I sat and listened to the others visit. Watching them, my parents and aunts and uncles in particular, I saw a different side of my family. There were nine children, seven boys and two girls. The brothers spoiled their sisters and the sisters let them. By the same token the sisters fussed over their brothers, returning the affection. They were more than siblings, they were best friends; friends who missed each other's company when they were apart and overjoyed to be in the presence of each other when they were together. I hoped my brothers and I would mature the in the same manner. It was more than just roasting a pig, it was a time away from others, just them alone with each other, a familial time.

James and Terrance were awake early, darting into our room, climbing on the bed, urging us to get up and drive over to Mom and Dad's.

"We can wait," Terrance conceded with an impish grin, "if you haven't finished what newlyweds usually do," causing James' face to redden and bring forth a groan of embarrassment as well.

"No problem," grinned Malachi. "We finished about ten minutes ago, just catching our breath," bringing a blush to my face and James to roll his eyes and groan again.

James and Terrance peered anxiously ahead as we neared the lane to Mom and Dad's. There were no other vehicles, or bears as I think they hoped, on the road. Whatever it was they and my brothers planned hadn't began yet. Quickly greeting Mom and Dad and our grandparents once we arrived at the house, they were joined by Aaron and Samuel. Gobbling down some breakfast, wiping their mouths and excusing themselves, they were off to find Seth and Johnny "and the girls" Terrance seemed to bemoan, rolling his eyes. I was fairly certain his attitude would change in several years.

Some of our relatives left, around nine in the morning, for the parade in town. Maybe ten minutes after the last of them left, Malachi and I were walking toward the BBQ pit to check on the hog when we heard, coming from the direction of the county road, sounds of people singing, accompanied by a bass drum sounding the rhythm, and various instruments, probably at least a trombone, perhaps a trumpet, saxophone, and maybe a clarinet. Oddly, something sounded like an accordion as well. The music, in its entirety, wasn't played very well.

My attention was drawn from the music by a whoop and laughter and the roar of an ATV as Samuel and Aaron tore down the lane. Samuel was holding on tight behind Aaron as they headed in the direction of the music. I didn't think this was beginning to bode well. They were back in about fifteen minutes, dismounted, and were immediately in conference with Seth and Johnny. Malachi and I watch as Seth nodded his head, pulled out his cellphone, and made a call.

I flicked my head in the general direction of the party tent and we walked over, grabbed a couple of chairs, set them up where we could watch the lane, and waited. Aaron and Samuel left again on the ATV, headed toward the county road. Another ten minutes or so sneaked by and we watched Johnny and Seth walk to the house and return with Grandmother Chen between them, holding one of their arms. Alicia and Megan joined them, walking behind the three as they sort of sauntered down the lane. Behind them, followed James and Terrance, both with their cellphones out.

Mom, Dad, Grandfather Chen, and my aunts and uncles all got chairs and joined us.

Nearing ten o'clock, the music suddenly stopped, screams, shouts, howls of fear, car doors slamming, tires squealing, gravel rattling against metal, horns honking; a regular cacophony of noise erupted from the road, causing me to begin to raise from my chair.

Dad reached over and gently pushed me back to my chair.

"But Grandmother Chen…..," I protested.

"She's just fine," Dad assured me.

Just as certain as God made little green apples, Seth, Johnny, Grandmother Chen, Alicia, and Megan walked back up the lane and headed toward the party tent where many of us were gathered. Behind them, on the ATV, putt-putted Aaron and Samuel, and behind them several pickup trucks and passenger cars. In the last pickup truck, standing in the back in the bed, were Terrance and James accompanied by the damned biggest black dog I'd ever seen. Tail wagging, tongue lolling out, loving all of the attention Terrance was giving it, the dog appeared to be about the size of a small Shetland pony.

"I hope you don't mind," Dad said, speaking somewhat apologetically as we watched the small parade come to a stop in front of the house. "I invited all of them to spend the day, have lunch, go swimming, and come to the reception and dance tonight."

"Who?" I asked and quickly grinned as I watched the occupants of the various vehicles begin unloading and walking toward the ten. There was a good dozen and a half of our classmates and some of Seth's heading toward us. They were a mixture of male and female and all laughing, joking, in a very celebratory way.

"What happened?"

Grandmother Chen was the first to react to my question.

"Why, I'm really not certain. We went out to see who was causing the music. Johnny, Seth, their girlfriends, and I were standing in front of the group who was holding signs, singing, accompanied by various instruments, including a bass drum and accordion, when some old lady, seeing something off in the distance down the road, screamed something like 'BEAR!" and everything suddenly became chaotic. She almost collapsed from shock and fright."

She could tell a story better than her children, I thought.

"You mean from laughter, not from shock or fright," mused Seth.

By now the entire group of participants or should I say, conspirators, gathered in the tent, laughing, trying to tell their side of the story of what happened on the roadway. Malachi and I, along with the others, finally, after viewing the videos and pictures taken with cell phones, and piecing together the various impressions the others told, were able to put together a pretty good understanding what Seth and my brothers planned and executed.

Samuel and Aaron, on the ATV, traveled up and down the county road taking pictures of the demonstrators, individual pictures if possible, and recorded license numbers on the vehicles. Once their chore was completed, they came back to the house, reported to Seth, roared back down the lane, and headed down the county road where the vehicles of our classmates were parked. When all was in readiness, they gave Seth a call, now out in front of the demonstrators with Grandmother Chen smiling, waving at the demonstrators as if she really loved what she was seeing and hearing. James and Terrance were in place in the woods near the lane entrance, recording everything on their cells.

Grandmother Chen stepped forward, stood, with Seth on one side of her and Johnny on the other, in front of the warbling, tooting, thumping group of missionary miscreants, suddenly threw her arms in the air, screamed "BEAR" and pointed down the road. Down the road, heading toward the demonstrators, Samuel and Aaron on the ATV, were screaming 'BEAR' RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!' at the top of their lungs and following was our classmates, running as if their very lives depended on it and screaming the very same warning. Just behind the screaming, seemingly desperate dashing mob of frightened young people was big black something, certainly a bear, if that's what you were convinced you'd see!

The students, in their haste to escape being a meal for the large creature, collided with the demonstrators, spilling them over, causing them to stumble. One young man, who shall remain nameless at this point although we all knew very well who he was, ran up to Mrs. Taylor (yep, the old bat came down from the belfry to flap her way north again) holding a sign announcing "Conversion Therapy Saves Souls" pushed her sign aside and screamed in her face, "Oh, my God, lady. It's a fucking big, hungry bear, get your ass in gear and run."

I know he was just trying to be helpful when he gave her a "gentle" push trying to save her, but she lost her balance, fell ass-end over apple-cart, and was seen scrambling, on her hands and knees, toward a vehicle.

Another young man, who also will remain nameless, "accidently" stuck his fist through the big bass drum, causing the drummer to drop it, stepping on his own drum mashing it all to hell in his effort to escape what a young lady, heard screaming from off camera, "Run, everybody before the beast turns us into bear shit!" Instruments were dropped, stomped on by counter demonstrators and demonstrators alike. Most of the instruments were quite ruined I'd say. The accordion, keys scattered and bellows not intact, suffered dramatic damage as well.

Galloping into camera view behind the clamoring hoard, raced a big, black creature, red tongue lolling from its mouth. I'm certain, to most city folk whose mind was now tainted with seeing what was not really present, most thought was a most fearsome sight, especially in the midst of panic. The power of suggestion is most impressive.

Vehicle doors slammed, signs and damaged instruments abandoned on the roadway, and a chaotic exodus of vehicles containing very frightened Christians no doubt fearing a return to the days of Rome and the Coliseum containing prides of hungry lions (in this case bears), raced away, leaving behind a group of laughing high schoolers and one happy Newfoundland dog, chomping on doggy treats.

I overheard Terrance ask James as the story was winding down, "Do you suppose any of them shit their pants?"

I didn't hear the answers since Terrance was shushed by Mom and Dad at once, warning, "Terrance!"

Those who went into town to the parade missed the first presentation, but the story was retold countless times throughout the noon meal and during the afternoon. Toby, the Newfoundland dog, was taken home by his owner shortly after lunch and missed the rest of the day's activities.

Seth confessed, if no real bears showed up, he had to have a back-up plan. One of his classmates suggested using Toby since he was big, black, fearful looking, but extremely friendly. It worked better than real bears.

The reception wasn't intended to be anything elaborate. Malachi and I desired it to be as our wedding was, simple, complete with family, and now, friends. Hence, having the "banquet" the left-overs from lunch with the exception of cake and ice cream. Mom, Dad, Uncles Dave and Cayden wanted some other exceptions which posed no problem for us and were much appreciated.

There was a head table with places for Malachi, me, and my brothers plus Alicia, who'd be sitting by Seth. The sheet cake and ice cream (in paper dixy cups kept frozen in an insulated container with dry ice) was at the end of the buffet line. A free bar, with a bucket for tips with proceeds going to the newlyweds, served beer (keg), wine (box), soda (fountain), and water, all courtesy of my uncles and aunts, was staffed by a couple of my older cousins and supervised by Uncle Bruce. The wedding dance music was provided by the same cousin who provided it every year for reunion. There was a reserved table near the head table for Mom, Dad, my grandparents, and Uncles Dave and Cayden.

After everyone was gathered in the party tent, my cousin, the disc jockey, announced the entrance of the of the newlyweds and Malachi and I, arm in arm, entered the tent and walked toward the head table, to the strains of Joshua Bell and "O Mio Babbino Caro." Everyone applauded and we were so honored.

The head table was draped in white and Alicia and my brothers stood waiting to welcome us. Tripods with pictures attached were near the head table, after the buffet line and dessert. This was a surprise for us and we intended, once we had the chance, to take a look at them. I happened to glance at our high school friends, all at three tables and wondered what they thought of such a gathering by a family who kept their private lives private. This was the first time any "outsiders" other than really close friends had been invited. The group was sort of like three white islands in the midst of brown, black, olive, bronze, and a scattering of white folks. It just had to cause them to wonder what kind of family we had and curious concerning what would come next.

Malachi and stood behind the head table at the places marked for us. I held up my hand and when the group quieted, I welcomed everyone expressing our gratitude and how honored and humbled we were by their presence. I then turned, clasped my hands together, as did Malachi, we made a small bow tipping our heads, and I said in Chinese to my grandparents "Your most unworthy grandson and his husband welcome you. You honor and humble us by your presence and ask your blessing on our union and the gathering here tonight."

I repeated it in English for those who didn't speak Chinese and for the benefit of our other guests. I'm certain if they weren't agog at what was happening, especially those from our school, they were at least fascinated by the use of the language. The Chen Family, stood en masse, also bowed slightly to my grandparents.

Two young lads, perhaps seven or eight years of age, stood in front of the head table and bowed, after Malachi and I sat down.

"Would you honor us, please, by allowing us to assist you with your meal?" One of the lads asked, in very practiced Chinese.

I was beginning to think Grandmother Chen had a great deal to do with this reception. The two boys were grandchildren of Uncle William and Uncle Carl, I thought.

Malachi and I accepted their request and followed them to the buffet table. The rest of the head table, Mom, Dad, Grandmother and Grandfather Chen, and Uncle Cayden and Uncle Dave, joined us. The young men held our plates as we filled them, carried the plates back to our places, and returned for our drinks. I thanked them and Malachi and I took a few moments to look over the tripods with the pictures on them.

The first tripod held a collection of photos of us, pre-wedding, our wedding day, and the dinner we all celebrated after the wedding. Our official wedding photo was centered with others surrounding it. There were candid pictures of Malachi and me at the resort, swimming, sitting at a campfire, in school, on the dock the day of our wedding, and assorted candid photos of us on our wedding day.

The second tripod was a collection of photos of me; growing up, holding Seth on my lap, cuddling James, fishing with Grandpa Parker and riding with him in his truck, Mom holding me with Dad beaming on when they brought me home from the hospital, candid photos of me in grade school, high school, and my high school graduation picture in the center of all of them.

The third photo collection was of Malachi. The center photo was his high school graduation picture and surrounding it were photos of him at the resort, with Uncle Dave and Uncle Cayden, and most remarkable, photos of him when he was young, dressed in his dance costumes, posed with his father while in the summer dance troupes. He was such a beautiful boy, smiling, happy. One photo in particular was very moving; it was one of Malachi and his dad, both posing with right feet extended out, right arm extended parallel to it, left arm back, in a typical ballet pose. However, Malachi was looking up at his dad, face glowing with happiness and love as his dad returned the warmth and love gazing down at his beloved son.

Malachi swallowed hard, his emotions difficult to obtain, as was mine.

"Excuse me," he choked, walked over to the table where Grandmother Chen was seated, gently assisted her to her feet, and hugged her tight to his chest, tears of joy and thankfulness sliding slowly down his face.

Grandmother Chen scoured the archives of the dance studios where Malachi had his lessons and his dad taught and the summer dance company seeking pictures of Malachi and those of his father so Malachi would have a recorded, pictorial memory of his father and the good times they had together to share with those gathered for his wedding reception. While he held her thanking her, she told him she put together an entire scrapbook of pictures and programs from his days with his father. It was a wedding gift which couldn't be equaled as far as we were concerned. There was no way she would allow him not to have a picture board at our reception just because his mother was an asshole.

Our wedding reception dinner was all we ever wanted and expected. Toasts were made to us by Dad, Uncle Cayden, and Uncle Dave, and Seth, who said simply "To my best friend and his husband; may all of us, the Brothers Parker, live, love, and enjoy with each other, all life has to give."

The dance began with Malachi and me leading off in a nice waltz. Dancing with Malachi is akin to gliding on a cloud, light, elegant, and in close harmony with the music and each other. I danced next with Mom while Malachi danced with Grandmother Chen. We switched the next dance so both would have a full number with each of us. Next was Uncle Cayden and Uncle Dave, switching half way through the number so they could dance with each of us.

My cousin announced all could join in the next number and "feel free to ask the newlyweds to dance." Seth and Alicia stepped forward, Alicia asked Malachi to dance and Seth strode confidently toward me, a broad smile on his face. His eyes, however, sent me a different message. The music began, Seth took me in his arms and we began to dance. Half way through the song, I felt Seth suddenly grab me tightly and slump up against me, his head on my shoulder, hanging onto me as if he'd let go, he'd fall to the floor. At first I thought him ill or ready to pass out, so looked quickly for a chair or place I could sit him down, but I felt his shoulders shake and strong sobs groaned from his mouth, muffled by his closeness to my chest. I could feel him shiver and tremble, effused with some great sadness.

"Whoa," I murmured softly, not wanting to draw a great deal of attention to us, bringing our dance to a halt. "What brings this on, brother?"

I was temporarily knocked for six, stunned, taken aback, by his outpouring of his very soul. This was Seth, our warrior, our staunch defender of the Brothers Parker, ready to do battle, at any costs, with those denizens who sought to do us or those we love harm, holding on to me; morose and depressed as if a loved one were to be committed to the grave and eternity. This could not be!

"Scooter," he sobbed quietly, "I'm going to miss you so much; you're my best friend and I don't want to lose you. You're married and will be gone in the fall, living another life."

I recovered my senses, realizing the wedding, the conflicts with those unforgiving, intolerant persons in Malachi's family, and my leaving for the University in the fall, all hit Seth at once! My heart went out to him.

I looked up and, even though many couples were still dancing, not noticing the bit of drama going on in one section of the dance floor, my brothers had taken notice. My four younger brothers were suddenly around us, facing outwards, their backs to us, ready to do what they must to whatever threat they thought Seth and I perceived. Looking back, some may think it was amusing; I thought it only demonstrated their love.

Malachi and Alicia, accompanied by Dad, quietly stepped through our guardian gate. Dad gently eased Seth from my embrace, took his second son into his own strong, loving arms.

"Kind of hits you all at once, doesn't it Seth?"

Seth nodded.

"Did me too," Dad explained softly. "Last night after I went to bed, I felt much like you do now, but with Mom's help I came to realize it had to be because they love each other so much. Why don't Alicia and you join me outside so we can have a little talk and let the others enjoy the dance?"

Dad waved us aside, indicating we should continue the party, and Mom and he'd take some time with Seth and Alicia.

Malachi and I stepped out on the floor to dance. Glancing over his shoulder I could see Dad, an arm around Seth, Seth's head resting against Dad, and his other arm around Alicia, pulling her close to him for additional comfort and support.

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