Brian and Lanny Go to Europe

by Nick Brady

Chapter 14

The day was bright and clear as Brian, Lanny and Roth left for the final day of their hike. It had proven to be more of an adventure than they expected, but Lanny made the best of his situation. After several good meals and a restful night's sleep they were all in good spirits. They passed the time by chatting with each other.

"We are making good time today," Brian said. "You're doing great Lanny."

"Except for an empty pack, I'm traveling very light. You guys are carrying everything."

"You have the coffee and powdered milk," Roth reminded him. "That is very important."

"I suppose. We'll need to stop for lunch somewhere, but we'll be home in time for supper," Brian guessed. "I wonder what Emma will feed us."

"The thought of one of Emma's dinners is enough to keep me going," Lanny said. "You should stay and eat with us, Roth. You know you'll be welcome."

"I may do that. My father is not such a good cook as Emma."

"I would like to meet your father, and your brother too," Brian told him. "We need to thank them for letting you guide us all week."

"It will be my pleasure. I want them to meet my American friends. We will have a good story to tell them."

"It's been a long time since your mother passed. I wonder that your father has not found another wife. Isn't he lonely?" Brian asked.

"I wonder about that also," Roth admitted. "We ask him about that sometimes, but he says he is too busy. Maybe he has a lady to comfort him. I don't know. I do not think he wants another wife. He is a handsome man, I think. He could find many ladies who would like to be with him. You should know that a single man with a good job is very desirable."

"Does he date?" Lanny wondered.

"Not really. He goes to church every Sunday and there are always ladies who like to talk with him, but he does not take them places. Maybe he does some things that he does not talk about with us. It is his business, I think so."

"Certainly it's none of our business either. I didn't mean to be rude."

"No, no. I wonder about it also. Maybe he is waiting for my younger brother to grow up. Maybe when he is alone without us in the house he will take a wife again. I don't know about it."

"He sounds like a nice guy," Brian said.

"Yes. He is a good man." Roth walked a little farther then asked, "I am curious about your family. Is it unusual that two men will marry and adopt children in America?"

"Not really," Brian admitted. "There is another gay couple that goes to our church, but they don't have any kids. I'm sure there are others, but I don't know them. Tulsa is pretty conservative. There is a lesbian couple there who have a little girl."

"Oh. Did they adopt her?" Roth asked.

"No. One of the ladies had her. I'm not sure how that worked out exactly. They found a sperm donor I guess. She is a cute little thing though."

"I think it is probably more common for a pair of lesbians to have kids then for a couple of gay men," Lanny suggested.

"Yes, I think so," Roth agreed. "That is true in Germany. I don't know so many but I know that is true. So they are part of your church? I find that interesting."

"Why so? Are there no same sex couples in your church?" Brian asked.

"No, no. But we are Catholic. It is forbidden in our church. I think you are not Catholic."

"No. I'm an Episcopalian. So is Lanny. I guess we are more liberal."

"Episcopalian? I don't know it."

"It's part of the Anglican Communion," Brian explained. "Like the Church of England, I guess. That's where it comes from."

"I see. I think maybe with Pope Francis maybe that will change for us," Roth guessed. "He is what we call 'progressive'. I hope so. I think if two people love each other they should be able to marry. He would like to change many things, but the church is very conservative. He must proceed very carefully, I think."

"I agree with you, of course," Brian smiled.

"So is this true for all of your churches?"

"No. Some of the Episcopal churches in the States have split off from us because of a lot of things – gay marriage, women priests, even what edition of our prayer we use. I's pretty stupid if you ask me. In Africa, the Anglican churches are very opposed to such things. There's a big split now. Maybe they will kick us out of the Communion. It's sort of a controversy."

"I understand. I am not gay, so maybe it is not a problem for me. I think when I am finished with my university I will find a nice Catholic girl and get married. I would like to have some family. But if I was a gay man, I would have to leave my church."

"You could be an Episcopalian," Lanny told him. "The service is almost the same."

Roth laughed. "I will remember that. Maybe you think I am really gay because we played together when we first met. But that was only for fun, you know?"

"I think you aren't very orthodox," Brian suggested.

"Maybe not. But I think I want a wife. It is better for me," Roth laughed.

"This is an interesting conversation, but I think I would like to stop for a rest," Lanny told them.

"Yes, of course. We are forgetting that you may be tired," Roth said. "Let us stop here for something to eat."

They had been walking through a long meadow and sat down in the shade of some trees. "There is only a little of our food left for us," Roth told them. "We should eat it all. Then we will not have so much to carry."

"What's left?" Lanny asked.

"I think maybe a little jerky and dried apricots," Roth dug in his pack. "Oh. Here is something good. I have some dried banana chips and a little jar of peanut butter. That is nice."

Brian laughed. "I've made peanut butter and banana sandwiches before, but not banana chips. I guess that would taste about the same."

"Here it is. Let's try it." Roth laid out the remainder of their provisions and they finished it off.

"How are you doing, Lanny?" Brian asked with concern. "Is your shoulder bothering you today?"

"Yeah, it's hurting a little."

"Did you take some Ibuprofen this morning?"

"Yes, but I think I might be ready for some more," Lanny admitted.

"Here. Take a couple more. They won't hurt you."

Lanny reached around with his good hand and tried to rub his shoulder. "Let me look at that," Brian said. "Take off your shirt and let me see it."

Lanny removed his shirt and turned so Brian could examine him.

"It's kind of swollen," Brian observed. "Does it hurt if I touch it?"

Lanny sat very still while Brian ran his hands over his friends shoulder and down his left arm. "Don't let me hurt you," he said.

Lanny smiled. "I know. You would never hurt me on purpose. You have told me that before."

Brian lifted Lanny's arm and gently massaged the tender area. "How does that feel?"

"It feels kind of good if you don't press too hard."

"We need to get you to a doctor as soon as we can," Brian told him. "You might even need surgery."

"Thanks for telling me," Lanny groaned. "That's all I need."

"Well, if you need it, you need it. I'm not a doctor. All I can do is try to make it feel a little better until you can see a real doctor."

"I know. Umm. That feels kind of good, actually. Keep rubbing and move it around for me."

Brian traced the muscles over Lanny's shoulder blade while he lifted his arm slightly. "How does that feel?"

"It's kind of tender, but that feels good, really."

Brian laid the palm of his hand over the area and stroked it back and forth very gently while he slowly moved Lanny's arm up and down. "How's that?"

"Yeah. That's helping. Keep doing that. Your hand feels nice and warm."

"Those muscles are really tight. You've been holding your arm against your side and gotten stiff. It might help if we can loosen them up a little."

"Easy! Don't press too hard, but that does feel better."

Brian kept this up for several minutes, until Lanny seemed to relax a little. "There. I don't want to make things worse. If you are feeling better, why don't you lie down and rest a bit. We aren't in that big a hurry."

Lanny sighed and stretched out on the soft ground. "OK. You talked me into it."

"Yes. We have some time," Roth said. "We should come to Passau before evening. There will be time for Fredrick to come for us. It is good to rest now."

When Brian looked back at Lanny, he was already asleep. Brian shook his head and spoke to Roth. "That guy is tough. This kind of thing is new to him and he's kind of a worry wart, but he's a lot stronger than I gave him credit for."

"He does not complain. I think he is quite courageous, your friend. If I was injured like so, I might not be so brave about it."

Brian sat near Lanny and looked on him with great affection. "I love him, Roth. I have never known anybody quite like him. I have to admit I'm worried about him. He's so afraid he will spoil the trip that he doesn't want to take care of himself. I don't care about the trip any more. I just want to be sure he's OK."

Roth put his hand on Brian's shoulder. "Don't worry about him. We will be sure he gets good care. In Germany, we have very good doctors. Maybe even better than Doctor Brian."

After an hour, Lanny woke with a start. "What time is it?"

"We have plenty of time," Brian assured him. "Do you feel like moving on?"

Lanny sat up and looked around. "I feel better," he said, moving his sore arm a little. "What did you do? It really does feel better."

"I think you just needed to rest for a while. If you feel like it we should get started."

They helped Lanny get to his feet and rigged up his pack. Soon they were back on the trail. They walked without much conversation, Roth in the lead, then Lanny, then Brian who kept behind his friend with a watchful eye. They passed through forests and meadows, stopping from time to time to drink water and admire the view.

Roth looked at his map and told them, "We will soon be near Passau. I think it is time to call Fredrick on your cell phone. I hope it is working."

"It should be," Brian said. "I've kept it turned off to save the battery." He switched on his phone and was relieved to see it come to life. "Here. You talk to him. You have a better idea of where we are and when we should arrive."

He handed the phone to Roth who called Fredrick and spoke with him in German. It appeared that he was explaining Lanny's condition. After several minutes he handed the phone back to Brian. "All is well. Fredrick was expecting our call and can be in Passau in only two hours, maybe a little more. I think he may be waiting for us when we arrive."

Lanny smiled and looked relieved. His ordeal was about over. "Hang in there buddy. We're almost there," Brian told him. "Can you make it?"

"Oh yeah. I'm not stopping now. That rubbing thing you did really helped, Brian. You ought to be a doctor."

"I'll send you a bill," Brian smiled and gave Lanny a quick hug.

The trail began to descend as they got closer to their destination. It became hilly and winding, slowing their progress. But in a little over two hours they came over a steep rise and saw a steeple in the distance.

"Look. That is the Cathedral of Passau. We are almost there," Roth exclaimed.

"Yea! I've got it made now," Lanny said cheerfully. "You guys got me here!"

"We didn't carry you," Brian reminded him. "You got here on your own two feet."

"I did, didn't I? How about that!"

When they reached the village square, they spied a big black Mercedes with a familiar figure standing near it. Fredrick waved at them. The journey was at an end.

"How was your walk?" Fredrick asked as he loaded their packs in the trunk of the car. "Did you have a nice time?"

"It was just ducky," Lanny laughed. "Boy, am I glad to see you!"

"I will tell you about it on the way back," Roth said. "Let's get in the car."

Roth took the passenger seat next to Fredrick. Brian helped Lanny into the back seat and sat on his right. As soon as the car started moving, Brian put his arm around Lanny and pulled him close. Lanny put his head on Brian's shoulder and went to sleep almost instantly. "Take it easy, baby. You have it coming," Brian whispered.

While Brian and Lanny slept in the back seat, Roth told Fredrick about Lanny's injury. Fredrick called his home and alerted Emma of their expected time of arrival and that Lanny had been hurt. She was waiting for them when they arrived.

Now that the ordeal was over, Lanny felt very weak. His determination had fueled him while they hiked, but now he gave in to exhaustion. Brian and Roth almost carried Lanny into the house and laid him on the living room sofa.

"We must take him to the hospital, I think," Emma said with concern.

"I think he mostly needs to sleep right now," Brian told her. "It might help if he had something to eat when he wakes up."

"I can make something nice for him," Emma said. "I can do that for sure."

They let Lanny sleep for several hours while the adventure was recited for Emma, Renke, Fredrick and young Deiter. It was the aroma of Emma's cooking that woke Lanny from his slumber.

"What is that smell?" he asked as his eyes opened. "That smells SO good!"

They went into the dining room and sat down to roast chicken, steamed vegetables and homemade noodles. Their glasses were filled with a nice white wine and the hikers wasted no time in expressing their appreciation by devouring everything in sight. Emma looked on with a smile.

"Now that you have rested and eaten, we should take Lanny to the hospital for some care," Emma suggested.

Lanny objected. "I will gladly go there tomorrow. Right now all I want is to get cleaned up and go to bed. I must smell pretty awful. I promise to cooperate tomorrow. Please?"

"Yes, yes. Maybe you are right," Emma relented. "But tomorrow is hospital, yes?"

"I promise," Lanny agreed. "Now, would you help me take a shower?" he asked Brian.

"I can do that," Brian said. "Would you excuse us please?"

Roth helped Brian get Lanny up the stairs, then left them alone. Brian helped Lanny undress, sat him on the shower stool and turned on the hot water. Lanny sighed with contentment. Brian knelt next to the stool and rubbed soap into a wash cloth. He gave Lanny a bath as one might bathe a child. Lanny made no protest. Once Lanny was clean, Brian stripped and stepped into the shower with him, washing himself while Lanny watched with a smile. Brian helped him out of the shower, dried him off with a towel, and then dried himself. He put Lanny into bed in the yellow bedroom and stretched out next to him.

"How are you doing, champ?" Brian asked.

"We don't have any clothes on," Lanny observed with a smile.

"By golly, you're right," Brian replied.

"Would you hold me please?" Lanny asked.

They slept all night in each other's arms.

Lanny woke up the next morning to the smell of bacon cooking. Apparently Brian had already gone downstairs as the bed was empty. Lanny found some clean clothes, dressed and followed the good smells down to the kitchen. Renke had already left for work, but Fredrick, Deiter and Brian were still at the table.

"Hey Lanny. I see you're still alive," Brian greeted him. "How are you feeling this morning?"

"Pretty good. My shoulder is sore, but other than that, I'm OK."

"We must take you to the hospital this morning," Emma insisted. "We must have a doctor look at you."

"Doctor Brian has been looking after me," Lanny replied. "But it might not hurt to get a second opinion."

"You need to get that shoulder x-rayed to see if there is something that can be done for it," Brian told him.

"Can I eat some of Emma's breakfast first?"

"Of course. I will cook some eggs for you," Emma said. "There is sausage and cheese on the table."

"Thanks. I really appreciate your kindness."

"I am sorry for your misfortune," Fredrick said. "Brian has told us that you saved his life."

"I don't know about that," Lanny said modestly. "Maybe I kept him from getting scraped up. Brian is pretty tough. He would have been alright."

"I'm not so sure about that," Brian told him. "It was a long way down from where we were."

"Yes. I think Lanny was very brave. He kept on going even though he was in much pain," Deiter agreed. "I think maybe you are a hero, Lanny."

Lanny shrugged his shoulders and focused on Emma's breakfast.

"If you've had enough to eat, I think we need to get you looked at," Brian insisted.

"OK. I'm ready. If there is something they can do for me, I'm all for it," Lanny admitted. "I really don't think anything is broken though."

"I want to hear a real doctor say that," Brian smiled. "Let's go."

The hospital was only a short drive away. They entered the emergency room and went to the receptionist. Fredrick explained the situation to her and she nodded and handed a clipboard of forms to him for Lanny to fill out.

"This is all in German," Lanny protested. "I can't read it."

Fredrick smiled. "Don't worry. I will translate and fill it out for you. I will tell them that you are part of my family. It will make things more simple."

With Fredrick's help, the forms were completed. The home address was given as Fredrick's. "Isn't that cheating?" Lanny asked.

"Are you not living in my house at this time?" Fredrick asked him?

"Well yes, but only temporarily."

"Trust me. It is better this way," Fredrick assured him.

After a short wait, a nurse stepped into the waiting room and called Lanny's name. "You guys better come with me if that's allowed. I'm going to need a translator," he said.

"Yes, of course," Fredrick said. "We are your family. Is that not true?"

"I guess you are for now," Lanny chuckled.

They were shown to a small examining room where they waited for the doctor. A nurse took his blood pressure and temperature and asked a number of questions to which Fredrick supplied the answers. After a few minutes a youngish looking man in a white lab coat came in to see him.

"Ich bin Doktor Dobschall. Was scheint das Problem zu sein?" he asked.

Fredrick spoke to him briefly before the young doctor replied in English. "I see you are an American. I'm pleased to meet you," and he extended his hand to Lanny. "Your friend tells me that you have injured your shoulder. Is this correct? Please tell me how that happened."

Lanny tried to explain about catching his friend and Brian filled in some of the details, making the incident a testament of Lanny's courage.

"I see that you have had something of an adventure. I hope that this did not prevent you from enjoying the Goldsteig trail. I have hiked many parts of that place. It is very beautiful," Doctor Dobschall told him. "Please remove your shirt and let me look at you."

The doctor lifted Lanny's arm and moved it in a circle while he felt of the area and looked closely at him. When he pulled the arm down and back, Lanny made a face.

"It hurts there? Hmm."

"I think we must have an x-ray of your shoulder. Please wait here for a minute."

The doctor left the room and was replaced by a cute young nurse. "Please follow me," she instructed.

They went down the hall to a room marked 'Radiologie' where Lanny was posed in front of an x-ray machine and made to assume several positions with his arm extended.

There was a clatter of film plates then he was escorted back to the examining room to await the doctor again. In about twenty minutes Doctor Dobschall returned with a folder of black and white film.

"He snapped one of them onto a back-lit panel and pointed at the plate. "Here, you see, there is a small tear in this muscle. There is nothing broken, but I think you have some pain. Is this correct?"

"Yes. It's pretty sore, especially when I move it above my shoulder."

"Yes, of course. I think that really, there is not much I can do for you at this time. It does not require surgery. If you had applied ice to it soon after the incident, that would have helped. But of course you had no ice in that place. I think that now, the best thing for you is to use a sling and perhaps some moderate heat. It can help with the soreness if you apply some gentle massage also. I think we can help you find a massage therapist to do that."

Lanny laughed. "I already have one, thank you. Brian is pretty good with that."

The doctor looked surprised. "Oh. Do you know massage?" he asked Brian.

"A little. I tried to do that when we were on the trail. It did seem to help," Brian admitted.

"Brian is studying to be a doctor," Lanny said proudly.

"Ah. So he is a good person to have with you on your adventure."

Brian shook his head, "I just remember some first aid training from when I was in Scouts."

"I see," The doctor smiled. "What you did was proper. I think you will make a good doctor. I wish you good luck with that."

After another short wait, the nurse brought in a blue canvas contraption with Velcro straps that was used to hold Lanny's arm in a comfortable position. He was advised to take Ibuprofen for pain and sent on his way.

Lanny told Brian as they walked out to Fredrick's car, "I'm glad we got a second opinion. It confirmed your initial diagnosis."

Brian just smiled. "How does that sling feel?" he asked.

"It feels pretty good. It holds my arm in close and takes the weight off of my shoulder. Now all I need is a nice massage. Do you know where I might find a good therapist?"

"I know a guy who doesn't have a lot of experience. But he works cheap."

"What does he charge?" Lanny asked.

"I think he works on the barter system," Brian grinned.

Lanny put his good arm around Brian's waist and gave him a little squeeze. "I bet we could work something out."

When they got to the house, Emma was very sympathetic. "Oh. You poor boy. Can I give you something to eat?"

Lanny could see that this might be a good thing. He tried to look moderately pitiful and agreed that something might be nice. Emma sat him down with a slice of cherry pie and a cup of hot chocolate. "Maybe this will make you feel better."

"I feel better already," Lanny smiled.

Lanny spent the rest of the day sitting in the most comfortable chair in the living room, eating Emma's cookies and sipping cocoa from a china cup. She spent a good bit of her time fluffing up his pillow and fussing over him. He wore his canvas sling like a badge of honor. Brian sat with him for a while then grew bored with the routine.

Roth came by later in the day to check on Lanny, and found that he was in good hands and making the most of his new status as honored invalid. Seeing that Lanny was not only in good hands but being spoiled rotten. Brian and Roth went out.

As they drove away in Roth's car, Brian shook his head. "Lanny is milking this thing for all it's worth."

Roth laughed, "Do you blame him? We should be so lucky. Maybe you can fall and break your leg so you can enjoy such treatment."

"No thanks," Brian chuckled. "I guess he does have some pampering coming. He had a rough time hiking out of the mountains."

"He did, and without complaint. He isn't asking Emma to fuss over him," Roth reminded Brian. "If he objected, she would be offended. Let him enjoy the attention. It will be over soon enough."

"That's true, which makes me think about what we will do next. We can stay with Fredrick for a few more days, but we need to be moving on. I don't feel right about imposing on them any longer then we have to."

"Please don't feel that you must hurry. I think we are all enjoying your visit," Roth said sincerely. "I will be sorry to see you go, although I know you must. What is your plan after leaving Munich?"

"We had said that we wanted to go to Holland – Amsterdam at least."

"Ah yes. Venice of the North. But there are many more interesting things to see here in Germany. And from where we are now, it is not so far to Switzerland, or to Austria. I have some time now. I could show you," Roth suggested.

"But you and Fredrick have already done so much for us. I feel like I am being a burden on you."

Roth looked hurt. "Not a burden. Not at all. Do you not understand me? I feel that we are friends. We have hiked and camped, and survived some hardships together. I feel closer to you than to many people I have known for all of my life. You will be leaving too soon, and maybe I will never see you again. It is I who am being selfish. I want to spend more time with you and Lanny while I can. No. Not a burden at all."

Brian rode in silence for several minutes as he reflected on what Roth had just said. "I feel the same way about you Roth. I'm sorry. I guess it's hard for me to accept kindness. I always feel like I don't deserve to be treated with kindness. It was the same with the people who have taken me to live with them. Marco and Marty were so kind and loving to me, and it made me uncomfortable. I kept looking for the hook."

"What is meant by 'the hook'?" Roth looked confused.

"I'm sorry. That means, the catch. If someone is good to me, it must be because they want something in return. I guess I'm suspicious of kindness."

"So if I want to be your friend, it is because I want something from you?" Roth asked.

Brian shrugged, feeling embarrassed.

"I want only to be your friend. Yes, I hope you will want to be my friend also, but that is all. What do you have that I can want? I do not understand why you cannot see that."

Brian felt a wave of emotion welling up inside of him. "It's hard to explain Roth. When I was a young boy I had a pretty shitty life."

"I can try to understand if you wish to tell me."

Brian let out a long sigh. "When I was very young, my parents both drank. They drank a lot. My father was very abusive and my mother seemed not to care."

"I am so sorry," Roth told him. "Did your father hit you?"

"Yes. Sometimes he whipped me with a belt for little things. I tried to make him proud of me but he told me I was worthless. He did a lot more than that."

Roth did not speak but looked at Brian with great concern. "There is a nice place to stop just ahead. Let us sit together so I can listen to your story."

Roth parked the car on an overlook and turned off the engine. "Now I want to know more of what happened to you. What did your father do?"

Brian looked away and tried to calm himself. The memories of his father filled him with anger. "This is hard to talk about Roth, but maybe it will help you understand why I'm kind of screwed up. When I was maybe nine or ten, my father would get drunk and then come to me in my bed and do things to me. Sexual things that I didn't understand. It frightened me, but at the same time, I wanted my father to love me so bad, that I kind of liked it too." Brian looked over at Roth with tears in his eyes. "It was very confusing."

"Oh mein Gott. Wie schrecklich!" Roth said grimly. "How terrible. How could he do such things to you? Did he hurt you?"

"Of course it hurt. I was just a little boy and he was so big. It hurt a lot!"

"Oh Brian! I am so sorry for that. I do not wonder that you have difficulty with trusting people. Oh! And when you first met me I did a kind of sex play with you and your friend. What must you have thought about me? And now if I want to be your friend, you wonder what I want from you? Oh mein Gott! Now I understand a little."

"I'm sorry Roth. You are such a good person. I don't think that about you. It's just, I guess it's just hard for me to accept kindness. On the logical level I understand that you just want to be friends, but my emotions – I don't know. I get afraid." Brian looked away to hide his tears. "I'm kind of crazy that way. It took me a long time to trust Lanny."

Roth sat quietly, waiting for Brian to compose himself. "It makes me very angry to hear this thing. You have done nothing to deserve such a horror. How could any man do such to his son? Oh! It makes me angry!" Roth looked at Brian. "I am sorry to make you tell me these things. It must be very painful to remember them. I think that you do not tell this story to many people."

Brian took a deep breath, then let it out. "No. Not very many. Marco and Marty know, of course. And Lanny knows. And now you. Not very many people at all."

Roth looked very thoughtful. "I wonder why you tell me about it. You could have brushed me away, as they say. Why do you tell me such a difficult thing?"

Brian choked back a sob. "Because I feel like I can trust you, Roth. There are not many people I think I can trust, but I trust you. You said you wanted me to be your friend. I want you to be mine. But whenever I start to feel close to somebody, I get afraid. I am afraid that if they really know about me, they will push me away. I'm afraid I can't trust them. Does that sound crazy?"

"No, no. Not at all," Roth shook his head. "I have never known such terrible things, but maybe I can understand. You are not crazy. Marta told you I was crazy, but you find that I am not. I wish I could help you with your feelings, but all I have to offer you is my friendship."

Brian forced a smile. "That's a lot, Roth. Thank you for that. If you still want me for a friend, I would like that very much."

Roth suppressed the urge to take Brian in his arms and hold him. He simply held out his hand. "I offer you my friendship, Brian."

Brian took Roth's hand in both of his. "And I offer you mine. I will never forget you."

Now that the moment had passed, the air was clear and they fell quiet. "I think we should return now," Roth said. "Let us go check on our crippled friend."

"If Emma hasn't killed him with kindness," Brian laughed.

Roth started the car and headed for Fredrick's house. "So. Will you think about my suggestion? Maybe you would like to see more of this area. Maybe Switzerland, or maybe we can go to Berlin. There are many things to see and to do before you leave us. Please ask Lanny what he thinks of my idea. I would like it very much."

"I will ask him," Brian promised. "And thank you Roth. Thanks for everything, especially for your friendship."

"It is my great pleasure, I assure you."

When they got back to the house, they found Lanny sleeping in his chair, and the house smelled of good food.

"Here are our wanderers," Emma smiled. "Will you have some dinner with us Roth?"

"Yes, if you insist," Roth replied with a great smile. "How can I refuse you, Emma?"

They sat down as an extended family and looked over the dinner that Emma had made. Before they began to eat, Emma raised her hands. "We do not always remember to give thanks for our meal, but I want to do that tonight. May I please?"

She took the hands of those next to her and all at the table joined hands and bowed their heads.

"Forgive my poor English," Emma began. "Thank you good God, for bringing home our friends, Roth, and Brian, and Lanny. Thank you that Lanny is safe with us, and thank you for this food. It is enough to say, I think. Amen."

And they all said "Amen."

That night after Brian and Lanny were in bed in the yellow room, Lanny had taken off his sling and Brian was rubbing his back and shoulder.

"That feels good," Lanny purred.

"I could rub something else if you like," Brian whispered in his ear.

"That's OK. I don't think I'm up to anything strenuous."

"It was just an offer. I'm glad you're feeling better."

"The doctor said it would help to put some heat on it."

"Hmm. Maybe some body heat?"

"Yeah. That would be nice."

Brian wrapped his arms around Lanny and held him from behind. "How's that?"

Lanny snuggled back against Brian and sighed. "That's just right."

"While you were sleeping this afternoon, Roth and I drove around in his car and had a long talk."

"Yeah? What did you talk about?"

"Oh you know, stuff. He asked me what we were planning to do next, and I told him we didn't have any specific plans. We had talked about going to Holland, I guess."


"Roth said he would hate to see us go. He wondered if maybe we would like for him to take us some places in his car. Like maybe to Switzerland or up to Berlin."

"Really? That was nice of him. Does he really want to do that?"

"I think he does. I told him that we thought we were imposing on him, but he said he was afraid he would never see us again and he'd really like to spend more time with us."

"Did he really say that?"

"He did. He said he felt closer to us than to a lot of his friends here."

"I guess we went through a lot this past week. I've heard that shared adversity is a bonding experience," Lanny yawned.

"We had some of that, for sure."

"Roth's a real friend, isn't he?"

"Yes he is," Brian agreed. "Yes he is."

"Actually, that sounds pretty cool. I wouldn't mind spending more time with Roth. He's a pretty cool guy."

"You know, we've really been lucky on this whole trip. Not that you getting hurt was lucky, but we've met some nice people."

"Yeah. I know what you mean. Fredrick's family has just been fantastic to us. We're perfect strangers, and they've treated us like long lost relatives."

Brian laughed. "Emma has been so sweet. I think she likes to feed people."

"We need to do something to thank them. Like buy them a really nice present or something," Lanny said.

"Like what?"

"Good question. Flowers for Emma and a box of cigars for Renke?"

"That's not enough. We've saved a ton of money staying with them."

"We don't have a ton of money," Lanny reminded him. "If they hadn't taken us in, we'd be close to broke by now."

"Traveling with Roth would be cheaper than using trains to get around. We could pay for his gas and still save money."

"We would still have hotel bills though - and food," Lanny reminded him.

"True. But we'd have to pay that anyway. Besides, it's not just saving money. I'd like to spend more time with Roth. I really like him."

"Yeah. I do too. But if we're with Roth, we can't, you know, screw around as much."

"Remember when he sent us down to check out that little lake while he took a nap?" Brian reminded him. "He knew what we'd end up doing. I don't think he'd cramp our style too much."

"Yeah," Lanny chuckled. "I think you're right."

"Well, anyway. You want to do it? You want to let Roth show us around?"

"Do you have a better plan?"

"Not really."

"Then I guess we should. I mean, if he's really serious about it."

"I imagine we'll see him tomorrow. You can ask him yourself if you want," Brian suggested. "But he sounded serious to me."

"Sure. That sounds great." Lanny yawned again. "I guess that's the plan. Now can I go to sleep?"

"Sorry. I had that on my mind. Good night. I love you."

"Good night. I love you too."

And so it was decided.

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