Brian Goes To College
by Nick Brady
Copyright © 2015-2016 by Nick Brady, all rights reserved.
Noah was not in a good mood. He had enrolled in Tulsa Community College and tried to clean up his little garage apartment in hopes that Brian would look at him with more interest but it wasn't working out. He alternated between being angry, thinking that Brian was being stuck up, and feeling like he was just a loser. Actually the idea of being a loser was easier to accept. Noah figured he had been a loser for a long time. When his parents split up he was only 15 and had a notion that he might have been the cause of it. It was pretty stupid to bring over the boy he had a big crush on and try to make out with him in his bedroom. He had badly misinterpreted his friend Gary's interest in such things and the boy had left suddenly and loudly, saying things that made Noah's interest all too clear to his parents.
The result was a raucous family quarrel that ended up with both parents blaming the other for Noah's obvious perversion. While Noah knew for sure that he had felt his attraction towards boys for a long time there was little to say that could improve on the situation. When his father moved out a few months later after a nonstop period of yelling and screaming, Noah figured it was all his fault. That his mother seemed to blame him as well, served to confirm it. What was less clear to him was the fact that his parents had been on the verge of a breakup for a long time and if anything his incident was perhaps the catalyst that provided an excuse to do what they had threatened to do many times.
Noah was not a bad kid at all. He had been a decent student by virtue of being fairly bright although he was not that keen on school. He was not good with sports, music, art, or any other things that distinguished some of his classmates. The only thing he had any great enthusiasm for was riding his bicycle and that was largely a solitary activity. He was rather shy by nature and did not make friends easily. Perhaps this was one of the reasons he misinterpreted his new friends interest in him. It may have been largely wishful thinking on Noah's part.
But for Noah, the whole thing filled him with anger – anger at his mom and dad for abandoning him, anger at the friend for rejecting him, and anger at himself for probably causing the whole thing. Of course Gary spread the word that Noah was gay and what few friends he had at school were not cool towards him. It was not a good time for Noah. He hung around until school was out and he turned sixteen and was able to talk his way into a job with Wayne at the City Cycle shop as a fledgling bicycle mechanic. He saved up his earnings and spent as little time at home as he could. His father did not return, either to speak to his wife or to his son. Apparently he had moved in with the girlfriend with whom he had been cheating on his wife and had other things in mind. The only thing he shared with his mother was a deep anger. She seemed to be more angry with Noah than with his father, perhaps because Noah was at hand.
Part of his current problem was that he was too isolated to have the opportunity to make friends. He had dropped out of school so had few encounters with kids his age. Plus his former friend Gary lost no time in informing everyone he knew that Noah was a fag. If he had friends who would accept him in spite of the rumors he was too embarrassed to talk with them.
It was not a big problem for his mother. Once his dad had moved out she lost no time finding a new man to fill her life. A parade of them actually. Noah didn't like what he was seeing but in his heart he couldn't blame her that much. His dad had fought with her and treated her badly for a long time and it was not hard to understand that she was lonely and in need of attention. So was Noah for that matter.
By the end of July he had enough money saved up to pay the rent on a beat up garage apartment in a rundown part of town. When he located the garage apartment he packed up all his meager possessions and moved in. When his mother asked him where he was taking those things he shrugged and told her he was moving out. She didn't know whether he was serious or not but really didn't care. She figured he would come back but if he didn't that was alright with her.
The old man who owned the place and lived in the little two bedroom house in front was willing to rent it to him cheap and practiced a kind of benign neglect towards the boy and the apartment. He kept the water and lights on but otherwise ignored his young renter.
It was tough for Noah at first. His survival skills were limited and his money even more so, but he got by. The apartment was furnished only with a beat up and filthy old sofa, a small table with one wooden chair, and an ancient electric refrigerator. He scrounged a microwave and electric hotplate from the Goodwill store and made do with that. He figured if he had something to keep his soda cold and heat up his soup he could get by. His limited wardrobe came from the same thrift store. He decided that since the grunge look was in style it really didn't matter. To tell the truth, not much mattered to Noah at that point. He was satisfied to just get by on a day to day existence and try to save up a little of his bike shop earnings.
If Brian had some basic living skills from his previous experiences, Noah had almost none. He initially lived on Raman noodle soup and canned goods until he figured out how to fry hamburger meat and add hamburger helper. That and what he found on the dollar menu at the fast food places along the route between the apartment and the bike shop was what he lived on.
Wayne was a good fellow and when he figured out that Noah was not going back to school in the fall he called him over and tried to talk with him. He got a very abbreviated version of the story from Noah and figured out the rest. It wasn't Wayne's nature to get in the middle of family quarrels but he tried to help his young mechanic as best he could. And it turned out that Noah learned quickly. When the old guy that had worked for Wayne for a long time decided to quit, he gave Noah additional responsibility and a raise in pay. It was perhaps the most success the boy had ever experienced and he tried to make the best of it.
He found a small electric space heater at his favorite Goodwill store and struggled though a cold winter, sleeping in sweats under a sleeping bag on the old sofa. In the spring he had saved up what seemed like a small fortune to him and decided to improve on his situation. By now he was seventeen and old enough for a driver's license. He considered buying a decent bed but chose instead to buy a used car, an aging Monte Carlo that looked pretty good in spite of eating gas like there was no tomorrow.
With wheels he started to feel better about himself and cruised around some after work and actually made a few friends. Unfortunately these friends had a fondness for beer and marijuana that Noah soon shared. He decided that if a little was good, a lot was even better and soon was spending a good portion of his limited income on recreational substances. He got a DUI, and tried to cool it. He got another and with no one to speak for him lost his license as a result.
Looking back he admitted to himself that the DUI school and attendant UA testing was probably a good thing. He got off the alcohol and was very discreet with the pot. After he managed the expense of the DUI school he began to save up a better portion of his earnings and bought himself a high end road bike with his employee discount.
His focus on his job improved and Wayne let him wait on customers when he was caught up in the shop, and paid him a commission on what he sold. Noah began to think that the job at City Cycle might actually be a long term thing and he applied himself to it. The fact that he was now five years older might have helped as well. He had grown to be tall and thin largely due to a lot of bicycle riding and a limited diet. He still kept to himself and a few aborted attempts at socializing convinced him that he was better off being a loner. Being a loner didn't mean he was not lonely. He found a working laptop at the Goodwill and used it to substitute for friends and sexual companions, spending his free time watching porn and chatting on gay web sites. He had rather low expectations, and figured it was a life of sorts. And then Brian happened.
During the five years he had worked for Wayne there had been several young guys who hired on to help in the shop but they looked at Noah as an awkward loser and had little interest in striking up a friendship with him. But then came good natured Brian who tried to make a friend out of everyone he met. He responded to Noah's reticence with cheerfulness and did more than his share of the work. Noah found himself attracted to the blond haired teen and began to have some feelings for him in spite of himself.
One weekend he hesitantly asked Brian if he would like to ride their bikes up to Chandler Park one Saturday after work and to his surprise Brian accepted enthusiastically and they had a nice day of it. Several more bike rides followed, and then an overnight camping trip to Lake Keystone which provided him with his perhaps first ever experience with someone who returned his clumsy advances with a favorable outcome. Noah felt hope that his life was improving but tried to be very careful not to show it.
But as he tried to ease into some sort of a relationship with Brian it became apparent that they had little in common. His attempt to invite Brian over to his apartment for some possible intimacy had not turn out well. His shabby and untidy lifestyle had rather obviously been a turnoff for his upright friend, and while Brian was cordial and polite he was clearly not interested in whatever Noah had to offer. Brian's response was to offer well-intentioned advice on how Noah might improve his situation, which served mainly to remind Noah of his inferiority. He even tried to impress Brian by actually enrolling in a business class at TCC and made an attempt to clean up his apartment but the return visit never materialized.
None of this was lost on Brian. He saw Noah for what he was and while he wanted to help his friend, this was not something he wanted to buy into. It was becoming clear to them both that other than work and the occasional bicycle outing this wasn't going anywhere. Their visions of their respective futures were not convergent. Brian's main concern was to try to give a positive spin to the situation and avoid hurting a guy who he liked but was not going to fall in love with. That he would be leaving the shop when college started would surely bring the limited relationship to a close. But he wanted to break things off in a gentle way as was his nature.
Brian looked up from the dérailleur he was installing, "Hey Noah, how about a burger after work?"
Noah looked over and nodded, "OK, sounds good to me."
After another twenty minutes they wrapped things up and got ready to leave the shop. "Where to?" Noah asked.
"How about the Whataburger? They make pretty good hamburgers and I'm starved. I could go for a double," Brian replied. "I would even treat."
"Works for me."
"Let's take my car and just drive through."
Noah nodded again and they washed up and headed for the parking lot. A few minutes later they were sitting in the drive through line looking at the menu board.
"A double cheese burger and onion rings with a large Coke Zero," Brian announced to the voice on the speaker. "What about you?" he asked Noah.
"The same will work for me, no onions though, give me fries."
"Did you get that?" Brian asked the disembodied voice.
"Two double cheeseburgers, one with onion rings, one with fries and two large Coke Zeros, is that right?"
"That will work."
They pulled up and waited for their order without conversation. When they bags were handed through the window, Brian paid and sat the bags on the center console. "Want to drive over to the river to eat?"
Noah nodded again and Brian drove down to 41st and Riverside to the small rest stop and playground, parking so as to look at the river floating by. He distributed their supper and they began to unwrap the burgers and eat.
After several minutes of silence Noah asked, "So how is school. You're graduating in a few months, right?"
"Yeah, I'm not worried about my classes really. I'm doing fine and I have enough to graduate already so I guess I will have a high school diploma pretty soon."
"And then OU Tulsa right? Are you going to take the summer off or will you start right up?"
Brian took a long pull from his soda and shrugged, "I guess I'm kind of anxious to get started. I plan to take nine hours this summer and knock a couple of things out of the way. I have to do freshman orientation and I think I will do an English class and start on biology."
"Man, you are a glutton for punishment. I would be laying out and partying if it was me. Don't you get tired of classes?"
Brian looked thoughtful, "Not really. I like school, I always have. I like the routine and the feeling that I'm accomplishing something I guess. You didn't like school?"
"I did OK, but it got sort of bad at the end," Noah frowned.
"How's that? I mean, what happened? You have never really talked about what happened when you left home."
Noah shrugged, "It doesn't matter. Everybody has a story I guess."
"Sure, we all have stories but I've never heard yours. You want to tell me your story? What happened with your family and with school?" Brian wadded up his empty wrapping paper and looked over expectantly.
Noah looked out at the river and at the little kids playing on the slides and things on the playground. Brian almost reached up to start the car and drive away when Noah began to speak.
"I don't know Brian. As long as I can remember my parents fought. They both drank a lot of beer. They say you can't get really drunk on 3.2 beer but that's bullshit. We never really did much as a family. They had some friends but all they ever did was sit in the back yard and drink. Sometimes we would go out to the lake with some of them but all that meant was a different place to sit and drink. They both worked and I guess when they got home they figured they deserved to have their beer and sit back. From the time I was eight or nine I was supposed to walk home from school and stay in the house to wait for one of them to come home – usually mom, dad would not get in until later. I think he would go have some beers with some of the guys he worked with."
"Did you have friends?"
Noah shook his head, "Not many. I never did anything, like play baseball or soccer. We sure as hell never went to church or anything like that. I knew some kids from school but I couldn't have anybody over if I was by myself, and I couldn't leave the house until one of my folks got home and by then it was too late to do anything. I hung out with a few neighborhood boys on the weekend but since I sucked at sports, they weren't crazy about my hanging around. I guess I've always been kind of a loner. I mostly just watched TV."
"Didn't that change when you got a little older?"
"Yeah, some. When I was maybe 13 or so they let me go out after school if I would stay right around the house. If I wasn't there when one of them got home I got my ass busted. I don't know why they wanted me to stay so close, we never did anything."
"What about holidays, did you have some family around for the holidays?"
Noah snorted. "Yeah, holidays were something else. The only thing we ever did was stick up a cheap plastic tree at Christmas and maybe one of the grandmothers would come over. There were five of them."
"You had five grandmothers?"
"Yeah, both mom and dad's parents had split and they would show up with a different boyfriend or girlfriend every time they showed up. I remember five of them who claimed to be my grandmother at one time or another. I guess the boyfriends were grandfathers. It wasn't really that big a deal, they didn't come around very often."
"Did you have presents and a nice dinner? Anything like that?"
"Maybe a couple of times. Usually they brought in fried chicken from the Colonel or something like that. They all drank too much to get serious about anything. Booze was the family hobby."
Brian shook his head. "Sounds pretty crappy. Did you get, well, did anybody hit you or like, mess with you when you were a kid?"
"Not really. Mom yelled a lot and dad would slap me around when he was drunk or pissed, which was kind of the same thing with him." Noah hesitated, "What do you mean, messed with me?"
Now Brian glanced away for a moment. "I guess I mean did you get molested?"
"No, nothing like that. Well, one of the boyfriend grandfathers liked to feel of my ass, but nothing really happened. He was only there one time anyway. The cast of characters changed pretty often."
"OK, I get the picture. Not exactly the ideal family. But what brought it to a head? Why did you leave all of a sudden?"
Noah's face flashed with anger. "Because I fucked up, that's why. I did it to myself."
Brian sensed that this was not easy for Noah to talk about. "So what happened? Not that it's any of my business of course."
Noah was quiet for a minute like he was trying to decide what he wanted to say. "I don't care if you know. What happened was that I asked this guy Gary over when I was like fifteen. I really liked him. He was hot, you know? I thought he liked me too and when we were in my bedroom I did something really, really stupid. I sort of came on to him and it pissed him off. I guess I had him all wrong. He jumped up and called me a fag and stomped off. Mom and dad heard him and the shit hit the fan. They were both about half drunk as usual, and they came down on me like a ton of bricks. It wasn't pretty. I was scared half to death and couldn't think of anything to say. That was when it really got bad."
"What happened then?"
"They called me a lot of names, told me that I was a disgrace to the family – as if the family honor was worth a shit. Then they started accusing each other for making me queer, it was his fault, it was her fault. I don't know, it just gave them something else to fight about. I felt like a frog in a blender. They went out of their way to treat me like trash and the drinking got worse along with the fighting. I tried to lay low but it got bad Brian, it really got bad. Gary told everybody at school that I was a fag and then I started catching shit from the guys at school. I didn't know what to do."
Brian looked compassionately at his friend and nodded his head. "Go on."
Noah looked on the verge of tears and looked out the car window. "School was almost out for the summer so I just kind of rode it out. I turned sixteen and got a job working for Wayne at the bicycle shop fixing bikes. I was gone most of the time. They didn't care where I was by then. I saved up a little money and towards the end of the summer I found my little rat hole and moved out. By then, my dad had moved out too. I kind of felt bad about leaving my mom alone but she made it clear that she wouldn't miss me, so...."
Noah took a deep breath and shivered. "I've never told anybody about this before. I don't know why I told you. It's not easy to talk about."
Noah's voice trailed off and he continued to stare out the window. Brian felt heartsick for his friend but didn't quite know what to say, so he said simply, "I'm sorry Noah. I'm really sorry. That must have been hard."
Noah shrugged. "Well don't be sorry, it wasn't your fault."
"No, but I can relate man."
Noah scoffed, "What do you mean? You have this nice family and everything is going great for you."
Brian shook his head. "I've been really lucky, but it hasn't always been like that."
Noah looked back at Brian as if he expected to hear more. "So what's your story, Superman?"
Brian took a deep breath. "Actually, my story is not really all that different from yours. Maybe in some ways, but alike enough for me to understand what you went through. My parents fought like cats and dogs all the time. Mom wasn't bad but my father had no use for me at all. I didn't think he cared about me. Then when I was about nine or ten he started to..., he started to come and get in bed with me at night when he'd been drinking. He would rub me and touch me where he shouldn't, then he started to do things to me."
"Oh shit," Noah paled.
"I'll make this quick. He pulled off my PJs and sucked me and made me suck him. Before long he started …, he fucked me in the ass, Noah. And held me and kissed me and told me he loved me. Then when he got off he would just leave and the next day he would treat me like crap again. This went on until I was about twelve. It scared the shit out of me but the thing was that in a way I kind of liked it. I mean, it was the only time he was really nice to me. Maybe if I had been a little sharper I would have figured out I was gay but I didn't understand that, I just knew I liked it. Then one night I guess he was making too much noise and my mother came in and caught him while he was..., he was on top of me, and she had a fit. They had a terrible fight and the next day he left and I never saw him again. After that Mom was really angry with me, like maybe it was my fault, I don't know. Anyway after that I went to live with my grandmother until I met Marco and Marty."
"How did you meet them?"
"I was in scouts. That was the only thing that kept me from being crazy. When I was in school or at scouts I was safe. I was the Den Chief for the Cub Scout den that Sam and Ben were in, you know, the twins. And when they went into Webelos, Marco was their Den Leader and I helped him with it. We met at their house and I got to know them. They were so kind to me Noah. I had never felt that way before. I just wanted to be with them all the time."
Noah looked concerned, "Did they do stuff with you?"
"Oh no, never. I knew that Marco and Marty were a gay couple and by then I had figured out that I was probably gay too, but I never did anything with them or with the boys either. It just wasn't going to happen. But I was so torn up inside. I had to tell somebody what happened, talk to somebody. And so I told Marco what had happened with my father. Marco is such a great person. You can tell him everything and he understands. I think he had some problems when he was a kid too. I guess like we all do if we're gay. It's hard, Noah. I understand that for sure."
"But how did you come to live with them? I thought maybe you were adopted like the twins."
Brian sighed. "I got to really trust Marco. Marty is a great guy too, but it's so easy to talk to Marco. He just understands and always tries to help in some way – and he is really smart. He always seems to know just what to say to make you feel better about yourself. Anyway, I really like Sam and Ben, they are great kids. I was helping them with their scout stuff and was there all the time. I stayed over a couple of times and just ended up moving in. My grandmother didn't really want me either. She and my mother both kind of wrote me off as a fag. It was pretty grim. I don't know, it just worked out."
"Did they adopt you or what?"
"Not formally, but I feel like I am adopted. Sam and Ben are my brothers and it's like I have two dads. They treat me like I was their own kid. All they have ever done is try to help me and encourage me to do as much as I can for myself. They even got me started going to church with them and I never expected to like that, but now it means a lot to me. And I would do anything for them. I love them so much, all of them, even those crazy twins. I'm very lucky Noah. I don't know what I ever did to deserve such luck but I'm so grateful for it."
Noah nodded his head with a surprised look on his face. "I never would have guessed that you had gone through all that. I think maybe you had it worse than me."
Brian tried to smile. "It's not like we're keeping score. It's just not fair that I was so lucky and you have had to be on your own."
"You said that all they have ever done is try to help you and encourage you."
Brian nodded, "That's right."
"Like you've tried to do for me?"
"I guess," Brian shrugged. "I think that's what we're supposed to do."
Noah looked away and when he turned back his eyes were wet. "That's where we're different Brian. You think about other people and try to help them where you can. I just think about myself and how bad I have it, but I don't really try to change things for the better. I just sort of wallow I guess."
"I don't know, maybe there's some truth to that. But I know that you can change if you really want to. You can get back in school and sort of open up to people. We can't be too afraid of getting hurt or we just kind of sit in our hidey-hole and stew. You're a smart guy Noah, you can be anything you want to be. I want to be a doctor. What do you want to be?"
"That's the problem I guess. I really don't know what I want to be when I grow up. But you have, like a vision and a dream. I just don't have that."
"Maybe not, but you haven't had people who love you propping you up, encouraging you and easing you forward. Look Noah, I don't think we're going to fall in love and live happily ever after, but I am your friend and I do care about you."
Noah looked very serious. "I never met anybody like you Brian. You are the first person to make me feel good about myself in a long, long time. What should I do? Please, tell me what to do."
Brian saw that at least for the moment, Noah was open to him. "I think you should go to the guidance counselor at TCC and ask to take a set of aptitude tests. They will tell you what sorts of things fit your interests and abilities and give you some options. Then you should make some choices and start trying to change some things. You can be whatever you want to be Noah. You can do it."
Noah looked at Brain, opened his mouth then closed it again. Without another word he turned and embraced his young friend and got his shirt quite wet. "Thank you," he whispered. "You're the best friend I ever had."
Back at the house, Ben asked Marco, "Where is Brian, Daddy? He didn't come home for supper."
"He called me a little while ago and said he was going to grab a hamburger with his friend Noah. You know Noah don't you?"
"He is the guy Brian works with at the bike shop, right?" Sam asked.
"Right, and they are friends too. They went to get something to eat after work."
Ben smiled, "If Brian is his friend then Noah is lucky. Brian is cool."
"Yeah, that makes Noah a lucky guy," Sam agreed and helped himself to another slice of the pie that sat on the kitchen table.
Marty looked over from the kitchen sink. "We're all lucky in this house. Now what homework do you guys have to do before school tomorrow?"
A pair of groans rose from the table as Sam and Ben got up and made a dramatic exit up the stairs to their bedroom where they dutifully opened their knapsacks, flopped down on Ben's bed and took out their books to look at the evening's assignments.
"I wish Brian was here to help us with our homework," Ben complained. "It's always easier when he's here to help us."
"Well, it's not like we can't do it without him," Sam reminded him, "It's just more fun when Brian is here."
"Everything is more fun with Brian. He's going to graduate from high school in a month or two."
"Yeah, I know. He'll still live here, but when he starts college he will be really busy. Maybe we won't see him so much."
"I'll miss him," Ben admitted.
"Well he's not gone yet. If he goes to school here until he finishes his pre-med we will be out of high school by then."
"Maybe we can go to college where he goes. You think?"
"I can't think that far ahead. I don't know. Besides, maybe he'll be tired of us by then."
"You think? I bet he won't."
"By then we should be Eagle Scouts too," Sam reflected. "That will be neat."
"Yeah it will be. I think we can do it."
"I will for sure."
"I will too. We do everything together, remember?" Ben giggled.
Sam smiled, "We sure do."
They were interrupted by a rap on the door, "You guys doing your homework?" Brian called through the door.
"Yes but you need to help us," Ben called back, "Come in."
The door swung open and Brian walked in and sat down next to the desk. "What are you guys doing stretched out on the bed? I thought you were doing homework."
"We were just getting ready to. We were kind of talking first," Sam explained.
"What were you talking about?"
"Well, you actually. We were talking about when you go off to college and wondering where you will go."
"I'm going to stay right here. You guys know that."
"No, we mean when you finish your pre-med. Where will you go then?" Ben wondered.
Brian shrugged. "I don't know. That's a long way off. I have to get through here first. Maybe I won't make it."
"You'll make it. We just wondered where you will go next."
"Ben was wondering if we could go to the same place so we could see you all the time."
"Don't you want to stay here so you can live with your Daddy and Papa?"
"Maybe. I wish you would stay here too. I like us all being together," Ben said.
Brian shrugged, "I like it too, but that's a long way off."
"Where did you and Noah go for supper?" Sam asked.
"We went to the Whataburger for cheeseburgers and fries, nothing special. Why?"
"Is Noah your boyfriend?" Ben asked abruptly.
"No, we work together and he is my friend, that's all. I don't have a boyfriend."
"I'm not ready for that sort of thing. What makes you ask that?"
Ben grinned. "I just wondered is all."
"Maybe I'll have a girlfriend. You ever think about that?"
Ben looked thoughtful, "Maybe. I guess we don't know, do we."
"Nope. Now how are you doing with that homework?"
Sam poked Ben in the side. "Come on. We have been putting this off for too long. Daddy will get onto us. Let's start on the math first."
Ben looked at Brian, "You want to help us?"
"Do you really need my help?'
"Well no, not really, but it's more fun if you do."
Brian looked at the twin boys and felt great affection for them. "Do you guys ever stop to realize how lucky you are?"
"Lucky?" Sam wasn't sure what he was talking about.
"Yes, lucky to have your Daddy and Papa, and this nice house, and each other."
"And me. There are a lot of people who love you."
Ben leaned into his brother a little, "I guess maybe we are kind of lucky. I never think about that."
"Don't ever take what you have for granted guys. A lot of people are not that lucky."
Sam paused, "I guess that's right. We might have ended up in an orphanage or something like that, or living in a dump. We know we're adopted."
"Why are you asking us about that? Did we do something wrong?" Ben asked.
"No, not at all," Brian assured him. "I don't know, I just was thinking is all. You guys are cool" He stood up and stretched. "I'm kind of tired, OK? I think I'm ready to shower and hit the sack. Goodnight guys." He stopped at the door and looked back at Sam and Ben. "I love you guys," he said, then he closed the door.
Brian undressed for the shower. As he stood under the warm water he said to himself, "Lucky. Everybody in the whole house is lucky. I wonder how to figure that. Maybe we are blessed somehow." It occurred to him that if he was better at it, he would try to pray for Noah. Noah could stand a little good luck.
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