Boy From the High Country

by Arthur Kent

Chapter 11


The morning sun caught the spray at the base of Yellowstone Falls and shattered into a kaleidoscope of colors, rainbow hues shifting as the clouds of spray changed shape with the changing breeze. I have a second photo of the two of us at Artist Point, this one by a man I at first assumed to be another Japanese tourist. It turned out that he was a middle school teacher from Seattle whose grandparents had been the last in the family to be able to speak Japanese.

Kelly's eyes lit up at the mention of Seattle. Freddie was there. He pumped poor Mr. Hyodo with so many questions about the city that I was really grateful he was accustomed to eighth graders. Finally, though, I had to come to his rescue. "Kelly, I think Mr. Hyodo came to Yellowstone to get away from teaching for a while. Let's give the man a break."

"Okay," he said, but the disappointment was obvious in his eyes. "'Bye, Mr. Hyodo. Thanks for answering my questions. Maybe I'll see you in Seattle someday."

"It was nice to meet you, Kelly. You too, Art." Yes, we had gotten a chance to exchange first names. And we were on our way.

The brief exchange had pushed Kelly's buttons. For the first time since I had met him, he began to annoy me. "Portland isn't very far from Seattle, is it Uncle Art? Do you think we could go up there and visit Freddie? Oh, wait, I don't even know his address. Do you think we could look them up in the phone book?" And so endlessly on and on. After his unbroken line of chatter had dragged on for half an hour -- on sober reflection, it was probably five minutes at most -- it finally began to get on my nerves.

"Kelly, just put a sock in it for a while, will you?" I said with obvious irritation. He drew in a short, sharp breath and his body twitched as it might from a good jolt of static electricity. I knew I had over reacted, but I was plain pissed off and too stubborn to admit that I had done anything wrong. So much for the compassionate and empathetic Mr. Kent. When I was in college and would occasionally get like this, my roommate Steve would warn people by saying, "Look out, Art's got a wild hair up his ass today." It was a long time before I learned that a 'wild hair' was an old expression for an ingrown hair, which usually festered and became painful. Only it was usually me who was the pain in the ass.

I pulled into the parking area for our first major stop, the series of waterfalls known as the Virginia Cascade. I knew I was going to ruin this day for both of us if I didn't stop acting like a middle school student myself. Perhaps I really was getting too old to be a father to Kelly. Or maybe -- no, not maybe. I grinned inwardly with the sudden realization. If I grinned outwardly, Kelly would think I was laughing at him. I knew what was wrong. I spent nine months of every year in the company of teenagers. Summer was the time when I took a break from them. But not this year. Kelly had broken my summer respite. Well, tough, Art. I hear things are tough on the East coast too. Get a grip. Just as in math, you can't solve a problem until you understand it.

Finally I took a deep breath, let it out, and turned to face Kelly. He was huddled against the passenger side door, as if he were afraid of me. God, I can be such an asshole sometimes. But before I could say anything, Kelly spoke up. "I'm sorry, Uncle Art." This from a child who had always had to take the blame for everything. I wanted to cry, but that would only complicate things further.

"You don't have anything to apologize for, Kelly," I said. "Of course you got excited when you thought about your friend Freddie and Seattle. You were just showing how much you care about your friend. I'm the one who messed up. Now I've already broken my promise to you, haven't I?"

"What promise?"

"I promised you that I would never turn you away. But I just did. I mean, I didn't send you away, but I shut you out, and for no good reason." I stopped and took another deep breath. "I am not a perfect person, Kelly. I make mistakes, just like everybody else, sometimes even more. I screwed up bad this time. You deserve better than that. I don't have any excuse. So I can only ask, will you forgive me?"

I thought I had understood how fragile Kelly was when I saw him cowering away from me, but now I saw it even more clearly. My anger did not bring him to tears, but my request for forgiveness did. He threw himself into my arms and hugged me more tightly than he ever had. Tears were coursing down his cheeks, but there were none of the wrenching sobs of yesterday. I realized that these were tears of happiness. I doubted that anyone had ever apologized to him for anything.

I had never met a boy of fourteen for whom tears were so close to the surface. His emotional growth had really been stunted by the abuse heaped on him from the others in his house. He was in many ways still a little boy. No, that was wrong. When it came to handling abuse and pain, Kelly was more of a man that most of us. It was love that still threw him for a loop. But he would learn. I would be damned before I would refuse to help him learn to handle love.

The tears stopped as easily as they had begun. Kelly whispered, "I love you, Uncle Art," and I murmured my love for him, and we set out, again hand in hand, on the short hike to the Virginia Cascade. As we walked, I wondered, not for the first time, what Kelly saw in me. I could not possibly be physically attractive to him, even though I was still in pretty good shape for my age. But then it occurred to me that I was the one placing the emphasis on physical appearance. I didn't have to look great for Kelly to love me. If he were looking for physical attraction, for romance, for pheromone-based arousal, he would look to boys his own age, and perhaps girls too. After all, there was Freddie.

It was at that point that I came to fully appreciate how much I despised the child molesters, who deliberately manipulated the tender feelings of a youngster for their own gratification. Find an emotionally needy boy, and instead of meeting his needs, convince him that he would be really special if he would do special things, secret things. Always link acceptance and affection with sexuality, tease him with touches you knew would be pleasurable without unduly alarming him, maneuver him into asking for more so that he would feel responsible, then get as much sexual pleasure as you could from him before he grew too old or you tired of him and you abandoned him, leaving him with nothing but guilt and shame, and with his need for love still unmet. What could he do when you were through with him? Where could he go? I knew in my heart that I would never touch another boy this way. This was simply one of those singular things that sometimes happen, an unlikely and implausible meeting of two people whose life experiences and a large dose of blind chance had brought together, brought to the point where they made a connection that was beyond reason, beyond explanation.

I pulled Kelly slightly closer to me as we walked. I could not express my feelings at that moment. And I resolved in that same moment that as soon as I was back in Portland, that encrypted file with all those pictures would be consigned to oblivion. To keep them, to look at them again, would be to spoil my memories of Kelly.

The trip smoothed out after that. We talked about everything, and nothing. I told him about Portland, the green trees, the rain, the towering presence of Mount Hood, the park that marked where Lewis and Clark had camped at the end of their westward journey. I told him what I could about Seattle from the few times I had been there. He told me about school and the one or two teachers who had actually bothered to see him as a person rather than as a teenager, and about Freddie, whom it seemed he did truly love.

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, ideas were beginning to shape themselves into a pattern. When I wrote papers in college, I always tried to get all the research done at least a week before the paper was due. Then I would simply ignore the paper for several days and work on other things. When I came back to the topic, I was usually able to write the paper in a single draft. It seemed that my best problem-solving went on when I was not consciously aware of it. So I did not try very hard to get hold of the threads of this elusive thought.

By late morning we were at Mammoth Hot Springs, just in time to watch a herd of elk come wandering right through the center of the village. One cow elk lay with her spindly-legged calf on a small grassy traffic island in the middle of the street, contentedly chewing her cud. Kelly was enthralled with the magnificent beasts. Suddenly he said, "Uncle Art, he's going to get hurt!" He was pointing toward a boy about five years old whose father was urging him to get closer to the elk calf. I was astonished at the level of stupidity exhibited by this man. I thought I should warn him, but before I could move, four park rangers in their dark green uniforms began moving quickly around the edges of the herd, ordering the tourists to keep their distance. The dad frowned and led his son away from a danger he still did not seem to recognize.

One of the rangers, undoubtedly a college student but looking even younger, happened to catch my eye. She read my thoughts on my face. As she passed close to me, she said quietly, "Some people don't have the sense God gave a goose." A farm girl, I presumed. She would not have learned that expression from contemporary culture.

I complimented Kelly on his good judgment. "I was about to tell you to go rescue the kid," I said, and he beamed with pride. I did know a better and safer way to possibly get close to the animals. Kelly and I simply sat down on the grass, cross-legged, quietly talking, but I kept my camera at the ready. The mob of tourists moved on at the urging of the rangers, but the young ranger I had seen earlier simply passed us by. Instead of pursuing the animals, we waited to see if they would accept our presence.

There was no buck nearby, so we did not have to worry about antlers. In less than five minutes, one of the cows was approaching us as she browsed the already close-cropped grass. Kelly's eyes shone with excitement as he watched her come ever closer. Seen from close up, there was something magnificent and thrilling about an untamed animal. There seemed to be an energy in her that was not found in a milk cow. She also seemed much larger than she had from a distance. Soon her head was less than a foot from Kelly's body, and then she did something extraordinary. She raised her head and sniffed at Kelly's arm and shoulder, leaving a small damp spot behind where her wet nose touched the sleeve of his T-shirt. Then she returned her attention to the grass, and within two minutes was grazing slowly away from us along a path known only to her. Soon the whole herd was moving on.

Kelly lay back on the grass and flung out his arms. "Oh, Uncle Art, that was... that was... that was incredible! She was right beside me! She touched my arm with her nose!"

"And you know what else?"

"What else?"

"I got pictures!" I said, waving the camera in front of his eyes. He had been so intent on the elk that he had not noticed me snapping away. In my condominium there still hangs an 8x10 enlargement of a bright-eyed Kelly Grayson being checked out by a wild elk. Kelly had known instinctively that these were not domestic animals, even though they were accustomed to human presence. If that young boy we had seen earlier had gotten too close to that calf he could have been torn apart by the sharp hooves of a mother elk defending her young.

We had salads for lunch, in spite of Kelly's protests about turning into a rabbit. Strips of frozen turkey meat that had thawed overnight in the refrigerator, lots of shredded cheddar, and a good thousand island dressing made the rabbit food acceptable even to Kelly. While we were eating, Kelly broached a question that surely was in the backs of both of our minds.

"What's going to happen to me?" he asked.

"What do you mean, Kelly?"

"I mean, where am I going to go? What I really mean, is..." He looked away, then he actually blushed. Then he looked me squarely in the eyes. "Are you going to be my dad now? Am I going to live with you?"

I had hoped this question would wait a while, but that was wishful thinking. Kelly was still a runaway. Technically, I suppose, I was a kidnapper. Sooner or later, we had to face this. It was going to have to be sooner. Unfortunately, I had no real answer to give him.

"I'm going to give it to you straight, Kelly. I love you so much, and we get along so well, that I think it would be great if you could live with me. But the reality is," and I gave him all the reasons why no social services agency would approve his living with me. "I have no idea what we're going to do. You can stay with me until we figure something out. One thing I know for sure, you're not going back to Cheyenne, and I'm going to try my damndest to keep you out of the foster care system. How I'm going to do that I don't know. For right now, as long as we're together, we're going to make the most of it. I'm going to ask you trust me, even though right now I really don't know what the hell we're going to do."

His eyes said that he still had a hundred questions. But if there was one thing at which Kelly had lots of practice, it was accepting his fate. Speaking of which, at that moment, fate did intervene.

"You wanna play some Frisbee?" came a voice out of nowhere. A boy of about twelve had wandered over from the picnic table next door, where his parents sat enjoying the last of their lunch.

"Can I, Dad?" Kelly asked, once more adjusting the nature of our relationship to the situation that presented itself.

While the boys occupied themselves on the grass, I cleaned up the remnants of our lunch and headed back to the camper to get my cell phone. Amazingly, I actually had service. The first call I made was to the school district offices in Cheyenne, where I introduced myself as Reverend Foster.

Half an hour later we were in the visitor center, where I learned from the displays that I had been wrong on our first day about the rim of the caldera. That ran through Sedge Bay at the east end of Yellowstone Lake, not across Sylvan Pass. Oh, well. Next it was off to the grocery store to stock up on a few items. I asked Kelly what he wanted for dinner.


"We had cheeseburgers last night."

"But I like cheeseburgers." How could I argue with that?

There weren't as many spectacular sights on the northern loop. We did take another ride on rented bicycles, we drove the scenic one-way Blacktail Plateau Drive, admired the huge petrified tree, and stopped a while at Tower Falls. From there, we had to make a direct run back to Canyon Village for dinner. As for the sights we bypassed, there was no reason why we couldn't spend a third day in the park.

"Have you seen the ketchup?" I asked while the burgers were frying.

"The what?"

"The red ketchup dispenser from the refrigerator."

Kelly had an odd look that I couldn't interpret. He just shrugged his shoulders. I didn't worry too much about it because there was a new bottle in the cupboard, and the red squeeze bottle with the white dispenser top shaped like a Monopoly game piece had been nearly empty. Still, it seemed strange.

We were no sooner finished with our burgers than Kelly was off to the bathroom with his backpack. I puttered around, washing the dishes and straightening up the camper. Kelly was gone a long time. I wondered if he was taking a shower, and contemplated for a moment what he might be doing with the soap besides washing himself. Adjustments to a very private part of my anatomy became necessary.

When Kelly returned, his hair was still damp, proving that he had indeed showered. He wasted no time. "Aren't you going to take a shower, Uncle Art?" he asked. "We need to go to bed."

Something was definitely up. In fact, I could see it at the front of the sweats we had bought for him back at Old Faithful. I took him up on his suggestion. I studiously avoided paying much attention to any particular part of my body while I was in the shower, even though I had not had any release since before I met Kelly.

By the time I returned to the camper, Kelly had already climbed into bed. It was not yet dark. When I crawled in beside him, I discovered that he was again quite naked. The touch of his skin against mine produced a tingle all over my body, like a mild electrical current, as every hair follicle on my arms and legs became erect. Farther down, a much more noticeable erection was soon in evidence.

The closest Kelly had come to being sexually aggressive was in the raft out on Yellowstone Lake. But tonight, from the moment I lay down he was almost desperate in the way he clung to me, pressing his lips against mine, and now his tongue was alive, seeking, probing for an opening. This time I responded fully and without reservation, my tongue seeking the inner recesses of his mouth, still sweet with the minty aftertaste of toothpaste. Our tongues entwined, slid over each other, then pulled back again so that our lips could gain maximum contact. Our lips were not passive but were moving, nibbling, pressing, rubbing, then opening again so that our kisses were full, open-mouthed, passionate. The pleasure was so exquisite that we sought even fuller contact. My hands were stroking down his smooth back, cupping the firm roundness of his lower cheeks, then sliding back up his sides where I could feel each rib, then beginning the journey again from the top. His hands slid down my arms to the wrist as I stretched downward, then back up the insides of my forearms, my elbows, my upper arms, up to the pits where he twisted his fingers gently through the hair that grew there. He had squirmed his way up on top of me and we lay chest to chest, his legs circling around my hips. I felt his hard boyhood moving against my abdomen. Then his body began to shift almost imperceptibly downward until suddenly the tip of my raging erection pressed into the juncture of his thighs and my body simply froze.

"No, Kelly, we can't," I gasped.

He raised his head and said, "Yes, we can." He reached one hand above my head, then gave me a wicked grin and showed me his prize. In his hand was a blue-green plastic bottle just about the size and shape of his erection and mine. He pressed on the white cap and began to squeeze the thick liquid Aqua Lube into his other hand.

"Where did you get that?" I asked in amazement.

"I found it in the drawer," he said. "I'll bet I know why you have it here, you horny old man." Good guess, Kel. As he spoke his hands never stopped. He was reaching down, down until I felt his hand slathering the liquid over my penis, and my knees jerked as his touch nearly sent me crashing over the edge into climax. But he moved his hand away from me, drawing it up through crevice at his rear, then bringing it up to receive yet another dollop of the lubricant.

"Kelly, you can't do this," I protested. "This is what Jason used to do to you. I can't make you go through that again."

"Shut up, Uncle Art," he said, not unkindly. "What Jason did was awful because he hated me, and I hated him. I hated myself when I started to like it. I didn't want him in me, but I couldn't stop myself from liking it. I used to go away to that other place then, too, so I wouldn't like it too much. Don't you see? I liked it, but I never wanted it. This is the first time I've ever been able to do this because I wanted to."

"No, please, Kelly, don't..."

"Listen to me," he said, and it was if our roles had been reversed. He was lecturing me, the way an adult might lecture a child, but his hand did not pause in its path between my hardness and his rear opening. "You said yourself you don't know what is going to happen. No matter what happens, I want to know that I had at least one chance to do this for love. I want to know what it's like to want it and love it at the same time. Please, Uncle Art, let me do this."

And then he was pressing down and back again, relentlessly pressing his puckered hole against my unyielding hardness. Then, like a flower opening to the sun, his body began to open up to me and I could feel the warmth of him forcing my foreskin back, and my sensitive glans began to slowly enter him. Then like the shifting of a kaleidoscope, the pattern of my understanding changed. It was if I could see it from his standpoint. Of everything that was happening, nothing was new for him except the love we shared. He had been violated so often that he had become expert at relaxing himself against Jason's assaults in order to minimize the pain, but he had never accepted the pleasure. Now, for the first time, he was allowing himself to experience desire. I stopped resisting. I heard him grunt as the head passed beyond his abused sphincter; then he continued to slide slowly down until he could go no farther. He stopped and gave a great sigh of... what? Contentment? Surely that, and even more.

"Oh, Uncle Art," he said, "I can't tell you how good it feels to have you inside me. I want you there, more than anything."

"Oh God, Kelly, that's the best I've ever felt." I could find nothing to compare this to except perhaps my first wedding night. Every square millimeter of my now-throbbing member was touching the walls of his inner passage. It was warm; no, more than just warm, it was hot, and even without movement I could feel my excitement rising. Slowly, Kelly began to move his body forward, then back again. I took a long, shuddering breath with each forward stroke, then let it out again with a small groan when he pressed back.

Gradually the speed of his strokes began to increase. I began lifting my hips to meet him each time he moved toward me. My hands were frantic now, wanting to touch the whole surface of his skin at one time. Kelly was grunting again on each down stroke. I could feel the muscles of his abdomen clench and release, clench and release as my hips did half the work. The intensity of our feeling for one another was so strong that this was not going to take long for either of us. The warm, burning sensation in my groin began to grow, and suddenly orgasm was upon me. My body went rigid at the top of an up stroke, and I felt the exquisite pleasure begin in my groin and radiate outward to the ends of my limbs with each pulse as I emptied myself into his body. I jammed the back of my hand into my mouth and bit down to keep from crying out and alarming the neighbors.

"Did you just cum?" Kelly asked, pausing for only one stroke while my body continued in the after-tremors of my release.


"Good," he groaned, and he at once began moving again, this time concentrating on the pressure of his penis against my skin, again grunting with each stroke, the sound becoming more rapid and intense, until all at once he raised his upper body, stiff- arming his fists into the mattress. His head was thrown back, and his hips pushed almost savagely against me. At the moment of his climax he cried out, "I love you!" and I felt the warmth of his ejaculation pulsing out between our bodies. His body was rigid, every muscle stretched to its extreme, as he continued to pump out the fluids of his youthful orgasm. Then his elbows gave way and he collapsed onto my chest, his head narrowly missing a collision with my chin. We both were panting, sweating, stroking each other, prolonging the contact and the pleasure. His strokes were firm, as if he understood that my skin was now hypersensitive, and a feathery touch would be too intense.

We began to kiss again, not as hungrily as before, touching and caressing each other in the afterglow of what might well be the most powerful sexual experience of my life. Slowly our strokes and our kisses grew lighter, more tender, as our normal sensibilities began to return. My softening erection pulled out of him, but Kelly was already there with a towel he had stashed somewhere on the bed. He really had thought this through. At last we were still, and now I began to notice the sticky wetness between us. Kelly proceeded to gently wipe away the evidence of our lovemaking. I was surprised to see that there was nothing to wipe away but our milky white semen. I had thought there might be other, messier evidence of what we had done.

We decided to shower again. Neither of us was accustomed to this, and besides, both of us had read stories about people waking up stuck together with dried cum. Whether the stories were true or not, we weren't taking any chances. The showers were quick, quiet and separate, and by ten o'clock we were both back in bed, languidly holding each other skin to skin and communicating with each other with few words and many slow movements and brief kisses.

Just before he drifted off to sleep, Kelly cleared up one small mystery for me, though it took at least a full minute for his meaning to register. "Be careful about the ketchup thingy," he said. "You don't know where it's been."

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