Brian Goes To College

by Nick Brady

Chapter 18

Copyright © 2015-2016 by Nick Brady, all rights reserved.

At breakfast in the morning, Marty told Brian that he and Marco had discussed his plans for the gap semester and had agreed that it would be a great experience for him but they wanted to see some sort of a plan to include more details about lodging, meals and transportation for the trip, with some estimates of expenses. They were willing to support this venture but wanted some assurance that it was well thought out. They also expressed a desire to meet his traveling companion. Brian willingly agreed to all the conditions.

Brian was so excited by the prospect of joining Lanny on the great adventure that it was difficult to concentrate on his classes the next day. He gave Gunder a ride to class but scarcely paid attention to his sour disposition. Apparently all was not well with the tall Dane, but that was his problem and none of Brian's. They were assigned a formal research paper. The research was minimal but the style was the thing.

Dr. Brown reminded them, "The presence of the internet should make the background work on this very simple. What I want to see is the clarity with which you present your facts and ideas. There should be a conclusion at the end and also an executive summary which presents the thesis and conclusion in a concise way. There are several examples in your text book and numerous others online."

They were also forewarned that they were to bring a small blue exam booklet on Thursday in which they would write an original essay in class to be turned in at the end of the period. Gunder did not look happy.

The Biology lab that week would be used for a similar exam covering the basic elements of the course. Things were winding down.

After the afternoon class Brian saw Gunder with his new friend. He was a pretty young man, dressed in tight jeans and T-shirt - a fellow more to Gunder's liking than Brian had been. To each his own.

Brian rushed over to the park to meet Lanny and waited impatiently for him to arrive. He had good news.

"Hey Lanny, I talked to my folks about your trip and they thought it would be a great idea if I joined you. They said it would be a fine part of my education, especially since I am doing the Classics program."

"Cool! So does that mean you are coming with me?" Lanny brightened up.

"I think so. They want me to put together a plan, and they would like to meet you. I guess they are being a little cautious."

"They are being good parents," Lanny smiled. "That's cool. I would like to meet your family."

"Right, and I would like to meet yours. How should we do this?"

Lanny thought for a moment, "My family isn't much for entertaining. Maybe we could have a picnic or something."

Sure, that would be simple and nobody has to fix a big meal. There are five in my family and three in yours, unless your sister wants to come."

"I don't know, she might. I think she will be home for the summer. Let's make this work."

"OK then, I'll try to put together a plan, or have you already done that?" Brian asked.

"I have. Would you like to see it? That might satisfy your parents. Oh, I hope this works out. It would be really neat if you could come with me."

"Sure. Let me see what you've put together. It might be all I need."

"I have it all on my computer. I'll put it on a thumb drive and give it to you tomorrow," Lanny said, "that is, if you want to meet tomorrow for a walk."

"Of course. I'm enjoying this. You're pretty good company."

"OK then - that's a plan. Want to walk some more? Let's go north today."

They started off on another long walk, with Lanny chattering about all the things he hoped to do and see while on the trip. This was a much more animated person than Brian saw when they first met. His initial reserve had been set aside as he relaxed and began to feel comfortable around Brian. It seemed that they were very compatible. Brian mostly asked questions and Lanny obviously had done a lot of planning. This was going to work out.

The next day Lanny gave Brian a thumb drive with his planning information on it and Brian promptly went home and looked it over. He added a few things and printed it out for Marco and Marty to review. They were impressed.

"This looks very complete," Marty said. "I think we would like to meet your friend."

"He suggested a picnic so we could meet his family and they could meet us," Brian told them. "I think the idea is to bring enough for ourselves and maybe share some things."

"That's a great idea," Marco replied. "Let's do that as soon as possible."

The next week was the last of the summer session. On Thursday, Dr. Brown advised them that were to write an original paper on the subject of what most troubled them. It needed to be honest but need not contain any personal revelation. The assignment resulted in an expression of distress from several members of the class, not least of which was Gunder, who grumbled under his breath.

Brian sat and thought for several minutes, searching for an idea, then he began to write. Although he scratched through some false starts and poor word choices, He finished it soon enough to be able to recopy it into a more readable version, which followed the original draft. He filled up several pages of his small blue essay book, and turned it in before he left the class.

The Biology test was not a problem. It was simply a recitation of some of the main principles covered in the class, and Brian completed it quickly. This had not been bad at all. He walked out to his car with a feeling of confidence.

He found Lanny waiting for him at the park.

"You're early today," he said with surprise.

"I got off a little early and came right over," Lanny told him. "I guess I wanted to see you. How did your tests go?"

"They weren't bad at all. I think I did OK. We should know tomorrow on the last day of classes."

"Did you say you were to write something in class for English?"

"Yes. It was kind of an odd topic. We were to write about the thing that distresses us the most, without it getting too personal."

Lanny chuckled, "That's pretty open-ended. What did you come up with?"

"Well, I had to think about that for a few minutes. Maybe the real answer is my confusion over my sexuality, but I didn't want to write about that. So I sort of generalized the idea and wrote about not ever feeling like I belonged somewhere. When I was with my birth parents, I always felt like I was in the wrong place. I never felt accepted and it really bugged me. But when I came to live where I am now, everything fell together and I feel like I belong there."

Lanny raised his eyebrows, "That could get pretty personal."

"It could, but I tried to keep it general and talked more about the feelings than the details. It came pretty naturally, but it might not work for Dr. Brown. I should find out tomorrow."

"If it was honest, I'll bet it will be OK," Lanny assured him. "How about your Biology class?"

Brian shrugged, "It was kind of pud. I took good notes and read all the assignments. I think I did fine on that."

"Good," Lanny smiled. "So now you are through for the summer?"

"I am. I talked to Wayne at the bike shop and he said he was short-handed. I can work there for the rest of the summer, right up until we leave on the great adventure. That will let me save up some more cash."

"So are you really going to be able to come with me?"

"I wrote up the notes you gave me and added a few things. I gave it to the parents this morning at breakfast. I think they will give me a yes or no pretty soon. They think the picnic would be a good idea. Did you talk to your folks about that?"

"Yes, and they are fine with the picnic," Lanny told him. 'They were a little concerned about my going by myself and liked the idea of a traveling companion and would like to meet you. Would this weekend be too soon? Like Saturday afternoon?"

"I'll have to ask, but I think that will be fine. Will your sister be there?"

"Yes, the whole family. How about your brothers?"

"Oh, if there's food, they'll be there. They're kind of fun. I think you'll like them."

Lanny looked over at Brian as they walked along the trail. "This seems to be working out. Maybe it is supposed to happen."

"It is," Brian agreed. "A few weeks ago we hardly knew each other. Now it looks like we're going to Europe together. That's pretty quick."

"Well, we met at school last year, and sat together at the prom."

"That's true, but I wasn't sure you would even remember me."

"Oh yes," Lanny smiled, "I remembered you. We talked a little. I asked you if you and Louisa were dating, remember?"

"Right, I do now," Brian recalled, "Was that more than just a casual question?"

"Maybe," Lanny smiled. "I thought you were pretty cool, if you want to know."

"Really? I didn't think about that. I thought you and Melissa were an item."

"Nope, just friends. I guess like you and Louisa."

Brian didn't make comment, but smiled broadly.

Saturday came and Marco fried up a big plate of chicken and made some potato salad and a big blackberry cobbler. Sam and Ben were full of questions as they drove to Woodward Park for the picnic.

"You will have to ask Lanny about all that," Brian told them. "He's the one who has this all planned out."

"What's he like?" Ben wondered.

"He's a really nice guy. I think you'll all like him. I haven't met his family, but I bet they're OK."

"They are probably curious about us too," Marco said. "Did you explain that we are not the usual family?"

"I told him everything, and he was very cool about it. I think they will be just fine with you guys. At least I hope so."

"We'll find out soon enough," Marty said. "Here we are."

They pulled into the parking lot and saw Lanny waving at them from a picnic table.

"That's Lanny," Brian told them, "and that must be his family."

They carried their food over and introduced themselves. They were Frank and Nancy Walker, and the daughter was Cindy. Nancy was a pretty lady, a little plump with a calm manner about her. Cindy was a younger, slimmer version of her mother. Frank was tall and lanky, with a short beard and close cropped gray hair. It went well.

They laid out the food and laughed when they saw that the Walker's had brought a plate of fried chicken and a pot of baked beans.

"I guess great minds think alike," Frank chuckled. "At least we'll have plenty of chicken."

They sat around the table and tried to get acquainted. Sam and Ben devoted themselves to the food and listened to the conversation. They liked Lanny immediately. The Walkers were taken with the identical Indian boys and wanted to know about the powwows. That was always a good ice-breaker. They were soon at ease with each other.

"Tell us about your trip?" Ben asked Lanny. "Where are you going to go?"

Lanny began to describe his plans and there were a lot of questions. It sounded well thought out and Marco and Marty were reassured. The food disappeared then the cobbler was appreciated.

The conversation turned to the necessary preparations. Lanny had that well in mind. Brian would need some special sleep-sheets for the hostels, basically two single sheets sewn together to form a sack, and a backpack to carry all his gear. It might be good to have a lightweight tent but Lanny said his was too heavy. Brian had a very lightweight nylon backpacking tent and they agreed that camping might save them some money. Most of what they needed they would already have, but they might need some extras. Marco and Marty listened with interest.

As the conversation continued, Brian was watching closely to see if he could guess what his parents' decision would be. They had questions and Lanny seemed to have all the right answers. He had done his homework well. Finally Marco and Marty looked at each other and nodded.

"I guess the first thing we need to do is get you a passport and an ETSA document," Marty said. "That can take a few weeks, and then I guess we should start helping you get things put together."

Lanny and Brian broke out in smiles. "So I can go?" Brian asked.

"I think you guys will be fine," Marco said. "You will have to look after each other."

"Yes, that's the advantage of having a travel partner," Lanny said. "I'm really glad Brian will be going with me."

"So are we," Nancy told them. "Lanny hasn't done that much camping and hiking."

She turned to Brian. "What about you? Do you have any experience?"

"Yes Ma'am. I'm an Eagle Scout. We did a lot of that in scouts."

"Oh, wonderful. You didn't tell us that, Lanny. That makes me feel better about this."

"Well, I think they will be fine," Marty said. "Both these boys have good sense and that's probably as important as anything."

"Well then, it's agreed," Frank smiled. "You boys will need to get yourselves organized."

"This is great," Lanny said. "If we are going together, then we can split up some things to save weight. Both of us won't need to have duplicates of the things we can share. I think this is going to be just fine."

"Me too," Brian smiled. "I'm ready to go."

They chatted a little longer then parted as friends.

As they drove home. Marty asked Brian, "You should look at what you need for this trip. If you can use what you already have then that's great, but if not, we need to get you some things. I want you to have what you need."

"I think my backpacking tent is worth carrying. Only one of us needs to take a tent. If we do camp, it might be good to have a lightweight sleeping bag. I can't use it in the hostel, but we can camp with it. My backpack has an external frame and is kind of heavy. They make a different kind that is recommended for hosteling. It has an internal frame and is lighter. I've been reading up on this stuff."

Marco laughed, "I can tell. You haven't talked about those things before. Did you not want to get your hopes up?"

"I was afraid if I started hitting you up for new equipment I might scare you off," Brian admitted. "I just can't believe I'm going to get to do this. Wow, this will be so cool!"

Ben grumbled, "I just hope our time is coming like you said."

"Yeah, I wish we could do something like this," Sam added.

"How about Philmont later in the summer?" Marco suggested. "How would that be?"

That would be just fine as far as Sam and Ben were concerned, and the topic of conversation shifted to the Philmont scout camp.

On the Friday after their final exams, Brian and Gunder were together for one last time in English Composition class. Brian's essay came back with a good grade. Gunder was asked to stay after class. Brian lingered for a moment before leaving.

"I must say," Dr. Brown told Gunder, "your essay was something of a disappointment. In addition, I spent some time last night on Google looking for key phrases from your previous papers and I'm afraid I found them attributed to other authors. I don't believe what you handed in was original."

Gunder turned pale, "I don't know what you mean."

"I think you do, young man. You have turned in slightly edited versions of another person's work. I think we need to talk."

At that point Brian slipped out of the classroom. He was glad not to be in Gunder's shoes. He ended up with an A in both classes and went off to report the good news to his friend Lanny.

"Too bad about Gunder," Lanny said.

"He should have known better," Brian shrugged. "I guess he thought Professor Brown was too stupid to catch him."

"That may be the end of his college here. I wonder what will happen to him."

"I hate to think. I don't imagine he will be back at OU Tulsa."

"Cheater's never win," Lanny smiled.

"I guess not. I feel bad for him though. Gunder isn't a bad guy really," Brian observed. "I think maybe he's just kind of cocky."

"I guess. We all have to play by the rules. He should have known better."

"Well, goodbye Gunder. It's been nice to know you," Brian chuckled.

"I suppose. It's not your problem Brian. You tried to help him and he took advantage of you, and tried to take advantage of the school." Lanny said. "I can't feel too sorry for him."

"I don't know. He is pretty resourceful."

"But isn't he on a student visa? What will happen to that if he gets tossed out?"

"I didn't think about that," Brian frowned. "He may be in deep doodoo."

The weeks ahead were filled with planning and more planning as the dream became a reality. Brian was convinced that he was the luckiest person in the world. He went through the list of things he would need to take and compared it to what he already had. The major thing was a lightweight sleeping bag and a travel backpack. The sleep-sheet was easy enough to construct and he had a small rucksack to keep his personal items separate. It really wasn't that much. He spent time with Lanny deciding what he would need to have and what might be shared. It began to come together.

"How do we carry money?" Brian wondered, "and what happens if one of us gets sick or injured? Do we know what to do?"

"I'm not really sure, to tell the truth," Lanny admitted.

"Let's ask Marty. He knows about stuff like that.'

Marty agreed to sit down with them and tried to give them some good advice.

"I haven't done that much traveling, but I have had to advise employees who were traveling and talked with them when they returned. Here is what I know. I suggest you try and take some notes.

Be very careful with your passports. Under the best of circumstances, replacing a lost passport is a disaster. You both need to get a travel belt to keep your important things under your shirt. You'll need a Visa Gold card to get cash from ATMs, or make an emergency purchase. That and your passport you should protect with your life. Get some cash in the local currency as soon as you arrive in a country. Your card won't be accepted everywhere.

You can do email from anywhere in the world, so be sure to let us know where you are and how long you plan to be there. We can be your backup if you get in a jam. Your smartphones will serve as a computer, and will do for a camera too. No need to carry around extra equipment.

Your best bet is to travel by train or bus. Don't use a taxi unless you have to. They can be very expensive. If you aren't in a big hurry and the distance is not great, hiking is the cheapest way to travel. Besides, you can see a lot on foot.

Your meals will be a major expense, even more so than your lodging. Buy food at a grocery store and fix your own meals. If you get tired of sandwiches, try and find a good lunch. Noon meals are generally less expensive than at night.

There are some great things to see in Europe, but many of them charge a stiff fee. Not that they aren't worth the cost of admission, but they can get expensive, so pick and choose.

Be on the alert and don't let yourself be hustled. 'No' is an acceptable answer in almost all situations. A firm and determined response will let you avoid most sticky situations. Besides, there are two of you, and neither of you are wimps."

Marty took a deep breath. "What have I forgotten? Nothing important I hope. Common sense and a firm grip on your valuables will be your best defense against serious problems. Expect to get lost. Pick up a phrase book wherever you are and spend a little time looking at it before you set out. At least know how to say hello, goodbye, please, thank you and excuse me. Your attempt to speak in the local language will earn you some good will."

Marty shrugged, "That's all I can think of. I hope that helps."

Lanny and Brian had been scribbling furiously and looked up with glazed eyes. "I thought you have never done much traveling," Brian said.

"That doesn't mean I don't know anything," Marty grinned.

"Thanks. Thanks a lot. I didn't find all that information online," Lanny admitted. "That's a big help."

"I hope so. I want you guys to have a good time and stay out of trouble," Marty told them with a smile.

They had a lot to think about. This would not be quite as simple as they thought. 'Be prepared' was the scout motto. Lanny worked and tried to complete his restoration of his VW Bus, Brian worked at the bike shop and shared his plans with Noah. After work their time was spent in long walks and huddled conversations. They tried to leave as little to chance as possible. As a result of this time spent in planning, Lanny and Brian began to feel like they knew each other better, and developed some mutual trust. The friendship was getting closer.

They got together with their group of friends and discussed their plans.

"Oh my God, that sounds so exciting!" Louisa exclaimed. "Please email us and send photos from wherever you are."

"Wow, I'm jealous," Keith told them. "I bet you guys are going to have a fantastic time over there."

Melissa smiled, "I'm so proud of both of you. I would be chicken to do something like this."

"I think we'll be OK," Brian told her. "We plan to come back alive."

"We wish you both good luck," Francine told them.

"Prayers might be helpful too," Lanny laughed.

"Don't worry. We will send those too," Louisa smiled. "So where are you going? What's the plan?"

Lanny smiled and outlined their very flexible itinerary, "Well, we will fly in to Edinburgh Scotland and crash for a night, then we'll really begin. I thought we would make our way down through Scotland and England for a week or so and then take the ferry to France. I want to see Paris for sure, then to Germany and up into Holland. I guess we'll just travel until our money runs out."

"Wow, what an adventure," Keith shook his head.

At the end of the summer Lanny announced that he had sold the Bus for a nice profit and hoped he had enough money for the trip. Brian had saved almost every penny from his work at Wayne's, and it looked like they were ready.

When the big day arrived, they were as prepared as they knew how to be. Everything was stuffed into their travel packs. Some cash in Pounds and Euros, debit cards and passports were secured in travel belts under their clothes, and they dressed in layers of light clothing with sturdy hiking boots on their feet. Clean underwear and sneakers were in their packs. They were ready for this. They had tickets for economy air travel through Chicago to Edinburgh with open return for the trip back. Both families convened at the Tulsa airport at three in the afternoon to check them in for the four o'clock flight see them off. Nancy cried a little, Frank, Marty and Marco pounded them on the back, and Sam and Ben jumped up and down with excitement.

"Bring us some souvenirs," Ben instructed.

"I want a real soccer ball," Sam requested.

"I want you back in one piece," Marco smiled. "Have a good time and be careful." Hugs were exchanged all around.

They boarded the plane, fastened their seat belts and were off, giggling like little kids.

"The only time I have ever flown before was when I went down to Austin for my grandmother's funeral," Brian admitted.

"We flew out to Denver for my mom's high school reunion one time. That's as far away as I've ever been from home," Lanny shared.

Brian smiled at him. "This is going to be the adventure of a lifetime. I'm so glad we are doing this together."

"Me too," Lanny agreed. "We are going to come back from this either the best of friends, or mortal enemies. If we don't know each other now, we will when this is over."

"You're right," Brian smiled and took Lanny's hand. "I think we will come back friends."

Lanny squeezed his hand, "I think we'll be friends. I have a good feeling about this."

They looked out the window as the plane rose above the clouds. It was a beautiful afternoon in early September and the game was afoot.

The flight to Chicago only took an hour and a half. They were offered a soft drink and a bag of pretzels but nothing else back in the cheap seats.

They scrambled off the flight with their small rucksacks containing what few valuables they possessed along with their priceless travel documents and went to look for their travel packs at baggage claim, rechecked them for Edinburgh and proceeded to the gate for their connecting flight to Scotland.

Prior to boarding the international flight they had to go through security again and provide their passports, ETSA documents and proof of required vaccinations. Everything was in order. They sat in the boarding lounge and waited to be boarded, their excitement growing by the minute.

When their names were called they got in line to climb aboard the wide body aircraft and found their seats well back in the coach section. The plane looked enormous with a wide row of seats down the center and smaller pairs of seats down each side. They were pleased to find that they were assigned to seats on the side which provided them with access to a window.

"This thing is huge!" Brian told Lanny. "How can something this big get off the ground?"

"Well it flew here. I guess it can fly to Scotland," Lanny grinned.

As it grew near the departure time, the big airplane began to fill with passengers. They were a diverse mix of people of all ages and nationalities. They could hear chatter in a variety of accents and languages. It was very exciting for these two boys from Tulsa. The doors closed, the flight attendants demonstrated the seat belts and oxygen masks and wished them a pleasant flight as the aircraft began to move into position for takeoff.

Finally the big engines began to whine and they started moving forward, gaining tremendous speed by the moment, and shoving them back in their seats. The front of the aircraft lifted up and the ground dropped away. They were off.

They banked to the east and headed for Edinburgh. It would be a long flight across half the United States and the Atlantic Ocean. With a six hour time change it would be morning when they arrived. They found their hands clasped as they strained to look out the little window. The lights of cities and towns appeared through breaks in the clouds. When they reached their cruising altitude the ground below was obscured by cloud cover and they sat back to look around the plane and chatter to each other.

They watched as a cart made its way slowly back to them. They were handed a tray with what look much like a TV dinner. Certainly not the parade of fine cuisine being served to the passengers up front, but it was food and they were hungry. When the trays were cleared, a movie started and they watched it until they began to fall asleep, lulled by the drone of the great engines. The flight attendant gave them a blanket which they spread across themselves, still clutching hands as they slept.

When they awoke, the gray light of dawn appeared out of their window. They roused themselves to the sensation of bursting bladders.

"I have to go pee," Brian confided to his friend.

"Me too. You go first and I'll watch our packs," Lanny told him.

They took turns queuing up to visit the tiny toilets and rejoined feeling much relieved.

"I wonder where we are?" Brian asked as the looked out at the landscape of clouds.

"I don't know, but I think we're getting close to somewhere," Lanny replied.

They were served a light breakfast of bagels and coffee then were ready to land. Before long they felt the big aircraft start to descend through the clouds and into dense fog. Lights dimly appeared and the plane swung around for the landing.

"I hope the pilot knows what he's doing," Brian fretted.

"I imagine he's done this before," Lanny assured him.

They were instructed to return their seats to the upright position and fasten their seat belts. Rows of bright lights appeared and they felt the wheels of the plane touch the runway – a gentle bounce and a rush of noise from the engines as they decelerated rapidly.

"We're here," Brian exclaimed. "We're in Scotland!"

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