Brian and Lanny Go to Europe
by Nick Brady
Brian and Lanny were up at seven, packed some sandwiches, grabbed some breakfast in the hostel and caught the eight o'clock train for Bayeux. There were two seats on each side of the long railroad car. Brian and Lanny sat in two of them and looked out the window.
"I have never ridden on a passenger train before. Have you?" Lanny asked.
"No. Except for Amtrak, we don't hardly have any at home. This is kind of cool."
"Did you ever see that old movie, 'The Orient Express'?"
"Oh, I just wondered. It was a mystery that took place on this old train. It had a series of compartments with doors that made them private, and a long aisle down one side. It was really cool. I don't know if there are any trains like that anymore," Lanny recalled.
They looked out the window at the passing French countryside.
"This is mostly farmland. Look at all the fields. They run a long way," Brian noticed.
"They do. These are big farms. Can you tell what they are growing?" Lanny asked.
"I'm not sure. Around Tulsa mostly they grow wheat, soybeans and corn. These might be wheat fields."
"There aren't many towns here and the only buildings I see are farm houses and out buildings. I guess this is mostly farmland. It's flat too. This might be like Oklahoma."
"Look. There is a windmill with big red blades. I thought they only had those in Holland," Brian said.
"I guess they are in France too. It looks old though."
"I think we are coming into Le Havre. That's a big port city isn't it?" Brian asked.
"I think so. I can see a lot of big oil storage tanks," Lanny pointed to a big tank farm.
"We have plenty of those in Tulsa."
"If you look down the river as we cross it, you can see some big ships laying off the port."
"What river is this?"
"It's the Seine," Lanny told him. "It's the same river that runs through Paris. Here is where it comes out to sea."
"Cool. So we could get on a boat here and go all the way to Paris?"
"I guess so. I bet they have cruises."
As they rode west of Le Havre, the landscape changed.
"The crops are different over here, and they are more broken up. Not like the big fields we saw before," Brian said.
"I think some of them might be vineyards. France produces a lot of wine."
"France is famous for its wine. Too bad we don't drink. We might be missing out on something."
"Yeah. I'm not much for drinking but we might have to try some before we leave," Lanny suggested.
"We are coming into a pretty big town," Brian noticed. Where is this?"
"I think this is Caen. If so, we are not far from Bayeux."
Sure enough, they soon arrived in Bayeux, where their train ride was over.
They arrived in Bayeux just in time to catch bus 70 for Colleville-sur-Mer and the American Cemetery just after noon. As they were getting off the bus, the driver asked if there were any on board who were visiting for the first time. Several others besides Brian and Lanny raised their hands.
"If so, I might suggest that you begin your visit down on the beach rather than at the cemetery. I can take you there," the driver suggested.
They sat back down while the bus took a detour to the beachhead below the cemetery.
"This is Omaha Beach where the Americans landed," the driver told them. "I can give you some brochures. This will tell you about what happened on this beach. It is rather a holy place for some of us who live here."
Brian and Lanny took a brochure from the driver and joined a dozen others to walk out onto the long shallow stretch of sand. It ran for miles and sloped very gradually out to where waves were rolling in. Lanny read aloud to Brian from the brochure:
"The Western Allies of World War II launched the largest amphibious invasion in history when they assaulted Normandy on 6 June 1944. The invaders were able to establish a beachhead after a successful 'D-Day', the first day of the invasion.
Allied land forces came from Canada, Britain, the United States and Free French forces. The Normandy invasion began with overnight parachute and glider landings, massive air attacks and naval bombardments. In the early morning, amphibious landings on five beaches code named Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah began and during the evening the remaining elements of the parachute divisions landed."
Lanny told Brian, "The American forces landed on Omaha and Utah beaches. This is Omaha beach."
Lanny read some more from the brochures:
"Once the beachhead was established, two artificial harbors were towed across the English Channel in segments and made operational by 9 June. One was constructed at Arromanches by British forces, the other at Omaha Beach by American forces. By 19 June, when severe storms interrupted the landing of supplies for several days and destroyed the Omaha harbor, the British had landed 314,547 men, 54,000 vehicles, and 102,000 tons of supplies, while the Americans put ashore 314,504 men, 41,000 vehicles, and 116,000 tons of supplies."
They walked along the long beach. "This is where the American forces came ashore." Lanny said as they walked along the sand, "In only 10 days the Allies landed about 670,000 troops along this coast. That's amazing."
They looked up from the beach to the long rise where German soldiers with machine guns and artillery pieces fired down on the invading Americans, littering the beach with their bodies. Many were killed before they could leave the landing crafts that had brought them across from England.
"My God," Brian muttered, "it must have been hellish."
At one point they could see the remains of the artificial harbors which had been used during the invasion. The understanding of the scale of the horror that had occurred in this place filled them with a sense of melancholy as they walked along.
After considering what had happened on the long beach, they came to a walkway which led them up the hill to the cemetery. They could see the remains of German bunkers as they made their way uphill.
They emerged at the American cemetery with its immaculate gardens and precisely aligned white grave markers. When they looked out at the sea of graves they were both moved to tears.
"The driver was right," Brian whispered. "This is a holy place. I wonder how many are buried here."
Lanny read more from the brochure:
"In the cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer, 9,387 white marble gravestones are perfectly lined up on the field that overlooks Omaha beach. This 70-hectare site was granted forever by France to the United States. It shelters the bodies of the American soldiers who died during the D-Day Landings and the Battle of Normandy."
"So there were over 9,000 Americans killed here?" Brian wondered.
"No, a lot more than that. It says that there were over 29,000 killed here during the invasion. The families were given the choice of leaving their boys to be buried here or having them sent home to be buried in the States. I guess only about one-third chose to leave them here."
"So did they find them all?" Brian asked.
"Not all of them were found. It says that 1557 who came ashore were never found. Blasted to bits, I suppose. There is a memorial to them called the Garden of the Missing."
"So many people died in this place, and I guess not just Americans."
Lanny looked again at the information he had at hand. "Commonwealth burials are in several places in France. The Bayeux War Cemetery, with 4,648 burials, is the largest British cemetery of the war. The largest cemetery in Normandy is the La Cambe German war cemetery with 21,222 graves. There is also a Polish cemetery."
"So there were almost 40,000 people killed in the invasion?" Brian suggested.
Lanny corrected him, "But those are just the ones who are buried here. It says here that the total casualties for the Normandy invasion are 29,000 Americans killed and 106,000 wounded or missing. The British had 11,000 killed and 54,000 missing or wounded, Canada lost 5,000 with 13,000 wounded or missing. France suffered 12,200 civilians killed or missing. But the largest casualties were for the Germans. They had 30,000 soldiers killed and 290,000 wounded or missing. That is almost 90,000 people killed in the invasion and half a million wounded or missing just in that one battle. What a horrible waste of life."
Brian frowned and shook his head. "It's terrible for sure, but I wouldn't want to say that the guys who are buried here wasted their lives. I don't know how to understand something like this."
They walked to a garden at the east end of the complex where a statue rose from the center in the Garden of the Missing. On the wall was engraved:
"They endured everything and gave their all so that justice among nations might prevail and that mankind might enjoy freedom and inherit peace".
Brian and Lanny stood looking back at the graves. They joined hands and let the tears fall from their eyes without shame.
Lanny choked back a sob and told Brian, "I think mif y grandfather is buried here somewhere, but I wouldn't know how to find him."
"The brochure said that the French deeded this land to the United States when the cemetery was created," Brian reminded him. "So your grandfather is here, he's buried on American soil. There is an army unit assigned to maintain this place and serve as caretakers for it. I see some guys in uniforms over there. I bet they can help you find your grandfather."
They approached an American soldier and asked him for help. "Excuse me, but I believe my grandfather is buried here," Lanny told him. "Can you help me find his grave?"
"Indeed I can. My name is Master Sargent Thompson and I can help you if you will come with me for a moment," he replied.
He led them to a small office where records were kept. "Your grandfather's name?" he asked.
"His name was Lawrence Walker. I was named after him," Lanny replied and glanced solemnly at Brian.
"Just a moment sir," The Sargent replied and entered the information on a computer. "I have him here. I can take you there if you would care to follow me please."
Brian and Lanny followed Sargent Thompson for a long walk down the rows of crosses. Somehow he knew where to look, and turned to follow one row, paused to look from grave to grave, then stopped at a white cross which bore the inscription, "Corporal Lawrence Walker, 101st Airborne Division, June 6, 1944, Oklahoma." The Sargent pointed to the grave then stepped back and saluted smartly, leaving them alone.
Lanny looked down at the white cross, then knelt and ran his fingers over the inscribed letters. "Hello, Grandpa. I'm glad we finally got to meet," he whispered softly.
Brian sat down beside him and took him in his arms. They sat there for a long time as Lanny was lost in his thoughts.
"You were a hero, Grandpa. We are all proud of you," he said in a choked voice. "This is my friend Brian. You would have liked him Grandpa. I just know you would."
Brian took several photographs of Lanny sitting next to the cross, than another of the cross close up. "We can send these to your father tonight," he told Lanny.
Lanny only nodded. Now that he had found his grandfather's grave, there were some tears, a feeling of deep pride and a sense of closure.
After a few more minutes, Lanny stood and told Brian, "I'm ready to go. Thanks for coming all this way with me."
They walked back to the gate holding hands.
They waited for the bus that would take them back to Bayeux. Once there, they checked into the Aux George II for the night. It was a decent room, private with a double bed.
They washed up, then went out for a walk. There was a French military cemetery there but they had seen enough graves for one day. They walked by the Bayeux Cathedral but it was too late to consider going inside. Rather, they just walked, holding hands and not caring who noticed. Lanny was quiet and Brian did not intrude on his silence. They were content just to be together. It had been an emotional day for both of them, especially for Lanny.
They found a little market and stocked up on bread, cheese and some peaches. When they got back into their room they sat on the edge of the bed and made a supper of their simple fare.
"You didn't tell me your grandfather was killed in the invasion," Brian said.
"I guess I wasn't really sure. That's what my dad said, but none of us have ever been over here."
"Well, didn't the army say where he was?"
"I think so, but my grandmother died when my dad was pretty young and maybe he didn't know what she was told. They never talked about it around me."
"Is that why you wanted to come here?"
"Partly. Maybe I wanted to know for sure if he was here or not. The beach and the cemetery is an important thing to see anyway, but maybe.... Yeah, I think I was looking for my grandpa," Lanny admitted.
"I'm glad we found him," Brian smiled.
"Me too, and I'm glad you were with me."
"Even if we hadn't located your grandfather, that was pretty awesome. I have heard the phrase, 'the price of freedom' before, but I think it means a lot more to me now."
"Yeah, me too," Lanny nodded. "The bus driver was right. That is kind of a holy place. I'm glad we went there."
Brian sighed. "I'm really tired. What do you say we go to bed early tonight?"
"Me too. First I want to send my dad an email and those photos you took. Can I use your phone so I can send them to him?"
"Sure. Is that too personal to copy my folks too? I think they would like to know about the cemetery and everything."
"I can do that. It was an experience that we both shared. I can share the email too."
Brian smiled. "We have shared a lot this past week."
Lanny sat down with the cell phone, described their day on the beach and at the cemetery. He attached two of the photos and sent it off. Then he composed a simpler version and sent it to Louisa and Melissa.
While he was doing that, Brian went across to the bathroom to shower and get ready for bed. When he finished the emails, Lanny did the same and came back tostretch out beside his friend Brian.
Lanny turned to Brian, "I think I would appreciate it if you'd hold me close tonight. But if you don't mind, that's really all I'm in the mood for. I guess today left me feeling sort of solemn."
Brian took Lanny in his arms and held him. "I understand. I feel the same way. Wanting to hold you close if enough. I'm glad we shared today with each other. I love you Lanny."
Lanny snuggled close. "Thanks. I think you are the best friend I ever had. I love you too. Goodnight."
They were up early the next morning to breakfast on bread, cheese and the rest of their peaches from the market. They went back out for a walk and found themselves at the great Gothic cathedral of Bayeux. Two enormous spires rose on each side of a facade covered with sculptures, row upon row of historic figures.
"It isn't expensive. Do you want to go in?" Lanny asked.
"Sure. It is so beautiful on the outside that I want to see the interior. It kind of looks like the pictures I have seen of Notre Dame in Paris."
Inside tall columns rose to great heights to support the ceiling far above them, with a wide aisle on each side. A series of arched transepts were filled with more sculpted figures.
Lanny read the brochure that was provided. "It says that the origins of the church go back to the year 627 but I guess that it has been built and reconstructed over the centuries. They had a series of fires that forced them to rebuild several times."
"I can imagine being a medieval peasant and being overwhelmed by the glory of this place," Brian said.
"I think part of the reason for all this sculpture was to be used to teach the Gospels and history of the place to people. Not many peasants could read or write back then," Lanny suggested.
They spent some time walking through the place and reflecting on the meaning of the sculptures, then sat quietly and whispered to each other.
"This was here during the Normandy invasion," Brian surmised.
"Oh yes. It was here long before then. I can't imagine all the history this place has seen. I wish my mom and dad could see it," Lanny replied.
"Let's take some photos to send them. That way they can share in the experience," Brian suggested.
"I keep forgetting to take pictures," Lanny admitted. "Your phone has a better camera in it anyway."
"I've been taking a lot of pictures since we first got over here. Maybe we can get our families together when we get home and make a kind of presentation of our travels. The Adventures of Brian and Lanny," he grinned.
They decided that they needed a break from bread and cheese and stopped to split a pizza on the way back to their hotel, picked up their backpacks and headed for the station to take the train to Paris. It was time to move on from Normandy.
The train sped east to Paris. They arrived just before five o'clock and checked into the Hotel du Globe where Lanny had made reservations. He had booked them into another single room with a double bed.
The location was superb. They were in central Paris and within walking distance to everything they wanted to see. They lugged their packs up to the second floor to check out their room.
"This is pretty nice," Lanny exclaimed.
"You say that like you're surprised. What did you expect?" Brian laughed.
"Well, look at it. I's bigger than the other rooms we've stayed in, and there is a window that looks out on the street. The curtains match the bedspread and it has a little table and two chairs. I like this place."
"It is kind of nice. How long are we going to be here?"
"At least two nights, I think. Paris is supposed to be expensive. We might not be able to afford to stay here for more than a couple of days."
"You're the tour guide. What's the plan?"
Lanny sat down at one of the chairs and looked out the window. "There is a lot of stuff around here; shops and cafes and stuff. I think it would be worth our while to walk around and just see what's around the hotel this evening. What do you think?"
"Sounds good to me. What do you want to do tomorrow?" Brian asked.
Lanny looked back at his smartphone. "I've done a lot of thinking about this. Some things are pretty expensive, but not everything. Now this is just a suggestion, but I think that tomorrow I would like to go for a long walk. We can hike over to the Place de la Concorde and walk down the Champs Elysee to the Arc de Triomphe. It's a pretty good hike, but it's so famous I think we have to do that. That will take us a good part of the morning then we can find someplace for lunch. In the afternoon we can do a boat tour on the Seine. That's actually not that expensive unless you eat on the boat. You can see a lot of stuff from the river. The tour starts and stops near the Eiffel Tower. By then it will be late afternoon and we will have to make a long walk back to the hotel. That might be a full day."
"Brian smiled, "That sounds fine with me. You have given this some thought, haven't you?"
"I have. This is something that I have always wanted to do. Tomorrow I want to go the Louvre. That's a fantastic museum with the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and all kinds of amazing stuff. It not that bad, only 15 Euros apiece. We can spend all day there and not see everything. And there is a vespers service at the Cathedral of Notre Dame at five which won't cost us anything. That should be awesome too."
"Your plans for tomorrow mostly involve wearing out some shoe leather. That won't be an expensive day. I'm a museum and cathedral freak as much as you are. I don't have any problems with that. Yesterday at the cemetery wasn't expensive, except for the transportation. Besides, this is what we came to do, isn't it?"
Lanny grinned, "That's what I came for."
"Let's eat the rest of our sandwich stuff and go for a walk around the hotel. This is a neat area."
They finished off their groceries then went out into the evening to explore. They found a bakery that looked interesting and went in to look at the things on display. There was a variety of bread of course, but also a lot of beautifully decorated pastry.
"Look at all this stuff. It's almost too pretty to eat," Brian suggested.
Lanny smiled, "Maybe not too pretty, but maybe too expensive. I think I would like a loaf of this multi-grain bread though. It looks delicious."
Just down the street was a small delicatessen. It's cases were filled with a variety of cheeses and sausages. There were jars of pickles and all sorts of things, some they did not recognize. They bought some cheese and dried sausage, daring to try some things that were new to them.
"Oh look. They have peanut butter - Skippy, imported from America. This is probably a strange delicacy here. Do they have any bananas?" Brian asked.
"I see some bananas and a lot of fruit. Why?"
"Didn't you ever eat a banana with peanut butter on it? It's great, and that adds a lot of protein. We need to get some while we can."
Lanny laughed and added them to their little basket. "I'll try anything once." He added a 2-liter bottle of orange drink, they paid and continued down the street.
They passed a shop selling artist's supplies. They had a great variety of oil paints and water colors, stretched canvasses and pads of fine watercolor paper.
"Marco would love this place," Brian said. "I wish I could afford to buy him a souvenir of some kind."
"Why don't you just get him a nice paint brush? They have some store brands with the name of the shop on them. It even says that it's made in France on it," Lanny suggested.
"That's a great idea. Let me see what they have. Here is a little set of sable watercolor brushes in different sizes that's not expensive. They look like some of the brushes I have seen him use." Brian had them wrapped up in paper with the store's name on it. The transaction was conducted mostly in pantomime, but it was successful.
There were other shops with nice clothing and cosmetics, but nothing cheap and nothing that looked like it was good to eat. They turned the corner and walked some more.
"Look, here is a video shop," Brian pointed to a small storefront. "It costs two Euros just to get in there."
Lanny laughed, "It's a porn shop."
"Really? That might be educational. What do you think?"
"I don't know about that. I guess they have adult book stores in Tulsa but I've never been in one."
"I think you have to be twenty-one, don't you? Or is it Eighteen?"
"It's twenty-one, but I don't think I really want to anyway. It seems kind of gross."
"Aren't you curious about stuff like that?" Brian asked.
Lanny shrugged. "A little I guess, but I don't know. I guess maybe I'm kind of a prude or something."
"Oh come on now. You have a computer at home. You mean to tell me that you have never checked out any porn sites?"
Lanny glanced away and shrugged shyly. "Well, maybe once or twice."
"So didn't it turn you on? I mean did you like it or what?"
Lanny shrugged again.
"Tell me the truth. Did you jerk off to porn or not? Come on now. Be honest."
Lanny grinned. "Well, maybe."
"You're old enough to visit a porn shop in France. I checked on it just in case we ran onto one."
"So this is premeditated?"
"Not really, but I'm a scout, remember? We are always prepared for stuff," Brian laughed. "Come on. What can it hurt? Let's go in and just look around a little."
"Do you really want to?"
"Let's just say I'm curious, OK?" Brian grinned.
Lanny sighed. "Honestly Brian. I think you could talk me into anything."
"Have I really talked you into doing anything you didn't want to do?" Brian asked seriously.
"No. I guess not," Lanny admitted.
"I think it would be a hoot to go in and see what it's like. But if you really would rather not, then let's go on," Brian told him. "It's up to you."
Lanny looked thoughtful. "I guess maybe I'm kind of afraid that somebody will attack me or something."
"I don't think so. I will be with you. To be honest, I'm not sure I would want to go into one of these places by myself, but we'll be together."
"I guess it couldn't hurt as long as we're together. But I don't think I'll want to include this in our little documentary."
Brian laughed loudly. "It can be our little secret."
"OK, OK. I admit I'm curious. This falls under educational, right?"
Lanny grinned. "OK then. Let's do it."
They stepped inside, paid their two Euros and looked around.
Inside were racks of magazines and DVDs. They showed men with women, women with women, and men with men. There were couples of all colors and sizes. There were groups of people doing all kinds of things with and to each other. One wall was covered with an assortment of sex toys; dildos, leather harnesses, and strange articles of clothing. Several men were looking through the displays and generally loitering around.
In the back was a separate area with little booths where you could drop in coins and watch videos on a small screen. On the door of each booth was a photo to show what video was to be seen inside. There was something for everyone.
"Most of these are straight, but there are some gay videos. That might be kind of fun," Brian suggested.
They hesitated for a moment and picked one. The interior was dark and had a funky smell to it. They dropped in a coin and the screen lit up to show two slender young men on a sofa kissing and removing each other's clothes. After a few minutes they were naked and began to suck each other's dicks.
As Brian and Lanny leaned together to look at the little screen, they found themselves touching and felt their cocks start to rise.
"Damn. That doesn't leave much to the imagination," Brian said.
"Not really," Lanny agreed.
"This is giving me a boner," Brian admitted and ran his hand over the growing bulge in his jeans.
"It does seem to have that effect," Lanny agreed.
The older of the two in the video turned the younger over on his stomach and began to run his tongue up his crack and lick at his asshole. The younger appeared to be enjoying this very much.
"Oh shit, that's so nasty," Lanny whispered as he rubbed his hand across his erection.
Brian stepped behind Lanny and wrapped his arms around his waist, pushing his erection against his friend's ass and feeling his hard cock while kissing the back of his neck. The effect on Lanny was to make him shiver. Brian slid his hands down the front of Lanny's jeans and fondled him. Lanny reached behind his hips and felt the crotch of Brian's jeans. They were interrupted at regular intervals by the need to add more coins to the slot.
"Hey, we need to stop this. Somebody is going to catch us," Lanny whispered nervously.
"This is really turning me on," Brian confessed.
The older of the two in the video stopped tonguing his partner, peeled back his foreskin and started to insert himself into the younger man's ass. There was some wiggling and the hard cock slid into position. The camera angle was close and very graphic.
"Oh God, look at that. He is in there all the way," Brian gasped, pulled his cock out of his pants and began to stroke himself with one hand while rubbing Lanny's cock with the other.
Lanny took Brian's cock in his hand and began to stroke it for him.
"No shit. That has to hurt," Lanny winced.
"They look like they're enjoying it."
"Really? It looks like it would hurt."
"Maybe it feels good," Brian suggested.
At that point their exchange was interrupted by a shortage of coins and the screen went dark.
"Have you seen enough?" Lanny asked.
Brian exhaled sharply. "Yeah, I think we better go before we make a mess in here. I am as horny as a two peckered goat."
They straightened their clothes and walked out on the street carrying their packages from earlier in the evening.
"I have to admit watching those guys fuck was a real turn on," Lanny said, "but I don't think I would ever want to do that. It looks painful."
Brian laughed, "Don't knock it if you haven't tried it."
"Have you? I mean, have you really done that?"
"Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies," Brian chuckled. "Come on. We need to get back to the hotel. It's getting late."
Lanny walked along in silence and thought about all the new experiences over the past several weeks. The travel had been new and interesting of course, but it was the relationship with Brian that was the most exciting. It was not that Brian had pressed him into something he was not ready for. It was that Brian was the first person he had been able to trust enough to allow himself to be honest about who he really was. There was no feeling of guilt or shame about what they had done. Rather there was a sense of relief that he had been set free to be honest about himself - a sense of gratitude that Brian had been the one to set him free.
"Right. Let's get back to the hotel," Lanny said as he took Brian's hand. "I'm ready to take a shower and get to bed. It's been an interesting day."
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]