Backwoods Boys

by Backwoods Boy

Real Brothers

This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. A big thank-you to my editor, Michael, who finds the errors I miss, ensures clarity, and keeps me from straying too far from reality. Any remaining errors are my responsibility.

Saturday, October 14, 1961

Benji's favorite season was fall. He loved to watch the leaves change color and drop to the ground in a collage of yellow, red, and brown - with a little green to remind him of the summer fun now past. The leaves turned the gray rocks in the creek into individual works of art that changed from day to day as new leaves fell and others washed away. They turned the big mossy rock into an even softer and more colorful resting place.

And this year, he had a brother to share it with. Peter had shed the city like a snake sheds its old skin. You'd never know he hadn't lived in the country all his life, except for the occasional lapse when he'd complain about not being able to watch Bonanza. Even though the city was only forty miles away, the mountains in between precluded TV reception.

But the forest provided its own amusements, much healthier than television. Swimming had been abandoned with the end of summer, but hiking prevailed into the fall. And since both boys were turning out for cross-country, they frequently ran together for several miles each day on abandoned logging roads and deer trails.

It had been an unusually warm October day. Returning from a five-mile run, Benji and Peter collapsed side by side on top of the big rock, floating on an endorphin high and savoring the fall fragrance of the warm, dry leaves under their bare backs. In the sky overhead, clear except for a few wisps of cirrus clouds, a raven called to its mate, and a V-formation of Canada geese headed south. It was autumn perfection, made even more perfect by someone to share it with. Benji turned his head towards his brother.

"Are you gonna turn out for wrestling too?"

"Yeah, I think so." He laughed. "I think Coach Wilson uses cross country to recruit wrestlers. He says it's a good way to get in shape for other sports."

Benji smiled. "I remember that lecture from last year. And then he'll be pushing track next spring. I never did that though. There's too much to do in the woods in the spring."

"Do you think you'll like wrestling in high school?"

"With a friend like Hunter to give me advice, it's sure to be great. And Coach Barton is gonna be good too. He's the only coach at this school to ever produce a state champion."

"Maybe he'll produce a second one this year."

Benji chuckled. "If you mean me, being a state champion as a freshman doesn't happen. Maybe in a year or two."

They lay in silence for a while. Benji sensed that Peter had something on his mind.

"Something bothering you, bro?"

Peter thought for a few moments.

"Why don't we ever do sex things together?"

Benji tried the light-hearted approach.

"Aren't you getting enough with Darren?"

"Yeah, but it'd be cool to do stuff with you."

Benji paused to gather his thoughts.

"Yeah, it would, but people say that brothers aren't supposed to do it with each other."

"Yeah, but other brothers do. I know that Kofi and Kojo do. And your friends Matt and Ryan do it. Besides, we're not real brothers."

Benji was quiet for a few moments. Then he stood up.

"I'm hungry. Let's go home."

The two boys came in the back door. Peter was chattering happily, as always.

"Hey, Mom. What's for dinner?"

Their mom scowled at him playfully.

"Is that all you think about?"

Peter grinned. "Sometimes I think about how much I love you."

Their mom looked at Benji. Something was wrong. He wasn't usually this quiet. She glanced at their dad, who had something else to talk about. He directed their attention to a letter lying on the kitchen table.

"Margaret delivered this today. Peter, it seems there's a family court time slot available next Friday to finalize your adoption."

For about two seconds, you could have heard a pin drop. Then Peter gave each of his new parents a big hug.

"Thanks for adopting me, Mom and Dad."

Then he turned to Benji with a happy smile. But Benji wasn't there.

In the back of the shallow cave under the big rock, Benji sat with tears running down his cheeks, his arms wrapped around his bare torso. The day may have been warm, but the night would be cold, and Benji still wore nothing but his running shorts and shoes. Peter's words rang in his ears.

"We're not real brothers."

For three long months, they had waited for this day - the day the adoption would be certain. Peter was cheerfully positive it would come; Benji was afraid it wouldn't. Now he wondered if he cared.

"We're not real brothers."

Nothing could have hurt him more. The little brother he adored and looked out for had casually dismissed their relationship with four words.

He wiped the tears from his eyes. He wasn't going home, but he had to go somewhere or hypothermia would set in. How far was it to Eric's place? Four miles. No problem. He was a cross-country runner.

Eric answered the knock on the door.

"Benji, what the hell? It's dark and cold and you haven't even got a shirt."

Benji came inside, and Eric saw the tears.

"What the fuck is up, buddy? What's wrong?"

"Something I gotta talk to you about."

Eric's mom had come up behind them, and she had other concerns.

"Have you had dinner?"


"Can your talk wait that long?"


"Then sit down and eat. We just finished, and the food is still on the table. Eric, get him a shirt. Better yet, a sweatshirt."

Eric brought a hoodie and his mom set Benji a place at the table.

"Now, eat, and then you can talk."

When Benji had eaten, he looked up at Eric's mom.

"Thanks for dinner. I feel a lot better. But what's bothering me is something I gotta talk to Eric about alone."

Eric's mom smiled. "I understand."

Eric closed the door to his bedroom.

"Okay, what's up?"

"Peter says we're not real brothers."

Eric knew how excited Benji was to have a brother, and how devastated he must feel.

"Sit down on the bed, and tell me about it."

Benji sat, and related the conversation about not having sex.

"I was going to explain that I didn't wanna do anything to screw up his adoption. We're being monitored pretty closely, and something like that could screw everything up. But after he said that, all I wanted to do was go home and hide in my room. But Dad had news that the adoption will be final next Friday. I figured the best thing to do was leave and let them talk about that. I wasn't up for it."

"I'm glad you came here. Are you sure he meant what he said?"

"Why else would he say it?"

"So, do you still feel like you're real brothers?"

Benji thought for a while. "Yes, I do."

"Then maybe you should tell him so."

Benji was quiet for a few moments.

"I can't deal with it tonight. Can I stay here?"

"Of course, you can. You can always stay here."

Eric's mom knocked on the door, and Eric opened it for her.

"Benji, do your parents know where you are?"

Benji looked at the floor. "No, and I'm not sure I wanna tell them."

"You need to tell them anyway, and now would be a good time."

Peter and his parents had eaten in silence. It wasn't like Benji to run off without a word of explanation. They all knew something was wrong, but Peter's description of their afternoon run left out one important part - the conversation about sex - and with it the comment that Peter had made. His parents would have known immediately. Peter was clueless.

Peter went to his room. His dad checked the outbuildings and returned, shaking his head.

"Do you have any idea where he could have gone?"

"I called Betty. He's not down there with Darren."

"What about Hunter or Eric?"

"They both live several miles away, so I didn't call yet."

"Let's talk with Peter again first."

Peter went over his story once more, still skipping the critical part, but mentioning this time that Benji had suddenly seemed quiet and wanted to go home. His mom stopped him.

"What did you say to Benji just before that?"

Peter suddenly got it, and hung his head. "That we weren't real brothers."

"Why did you say that?"

Peter paused for a few moments. "I can't tell you."

"Do you understand how that affected him?"

Peter had tears in his eyes. "I do now. I didn't really mean it the way he thought I did."

The silence that followed was broken by his dad.

"Thank you, Peter. Why don't you go back to your room now. We've got some phone calls to make."

As he reached for the phone, it rang.


"Hi, Dad. I'm at Eric's."

"Your mother and I have been very worried. Your brother is too."

"I'm sorry, but I had to leave. I'm gonna stay here tonight."

"I can come get you."

"Please don't."

"Are you sure that's best?"

"Yes, I am."

"Is there anything I should tell Peter?"

There was a long pause.

"This may not make sense to you, but tell him that he may not think we're real brothers, but I do, so he better get over it. Tell him I love him, and that we'll talk about it more tomorrow."

Neither Peter nor Benji had ever been in a courtroom. It was intimidating, but Margaret was waiting for them at the door and guided them into the room. She took a place in the spectator area as the rest waited to be acknowledged.

Seated at a desk rather than a high bench, the family court judge invited the group of four to come forward and be sworn in. Then she smiled at them.

"Occasions like this always give me great pleasure. There are a few formalities to be attended to before I sign the adoption decree, including questions I'm required to ask. Doris and Arthur, is it your wish to adopt Peter into your family?"

They replied in unison. "Yes, your honor."

"And Peter, do you wish to be adopted into this family?"

Peter looked very seriously at the judge. "Yes, your honor."

The judge smiled and reached for the papers, and then paused.

"Margaret advised me of the unusual circumstances that brought Peter into your home. So I have one more question to ask. Benji, is it your wish to have Peter as your brother?"

Tears came to Benji's eyes as he replied softly.

"Yes, your honor. More than anything else in the world."

Smiling, the judge signed the decree, and then addressed the group before her.

"At Margaret's request, we've prepared a special document. Margaret and I signed it earlier so that it could be framed for this event. Benji, would you please step forward? The rest of you may be seated."

Surprised, Benji wiped away his tears and did as requested. The judge stepped from behind her desk and stood next to Benji.

"Benji, it's not many boys who go on a hike and return with a brother." She paused while the others laughed softly. "I have a special certificate for you to commemorate both that event and today's adoption. Congratulations on being a brother, Benji."

As she shook Benji's hand and handed him the framed document, Margaret took a picture for posterity.

The document was titled, Certificate of Fraternity. Outlined in formal language was the part Benji played that eventually led to Peter's adoption, ending with the declaration that they were now officially and permanently real brothers.

That night when Benji and Peter went to bed, they had even more to talk about than usual. Peter was overflowing with excitement about being part of a family that loved and appreciated him. When he finally wound down, he rolled onto his side and ran his fingers lightly over Benji's chest.

"Now that social services isn't watching us, can we mess around a little bit?"

Benji reached over and ruffled his brother's hair.

"We can cuddle and kiss, but I don't think we should have sex together. We've both got boyfriends to have sex with, and that's the way it should be."

Grinning mischievously, Peter rolled on top of his brother and nestled between his legs.

"Is this cuddling?"

Benji's hands slid down Peter's smooth back to his bare bubble butt.

"Where's your Mighty Mouse pajama shorts?"

"I forgot to put them on."

Benji laughed out loud.

"Forgot them, my ass. You're trying to seduce me."

"It worked for Tripod. Maybe it will work for me."

Benji pulled his brother's head down and kissed him.

"Maybe it will, but not tonight. Now go to sleep, it's been a big day for both of us."

Benji went to sleep quickly, but Peter lay for a long time looking at the ceiling. So much had happened in the past three months, he could hardly take it all in.

He smiled to himself. Eventually, he'd have his way with Benji. On some cold, rainy night, they'd snuggle together for warmth, and cuddling and kissing wouldn't be enough for either of them. It was just a matter of time.

Several days later, Margaret stopped by for an official post-adoption visit. She brought with her photographs taken after the ceremony, including a framed enlargement of one she particularly liked.

After the official visit was concluded, Benji led the way to the basement bedroom. With Margaret, his parents, and his brother looking on, he added two items to the wall over the bed he and Peter shared.

Below the router-carved wood sign that expressed his dream of having a brother, he now hung the framed document verifying that his wish had come true, and an identically-framed photograph of two smiling boys, their arms around each other's shoulders, sharing the most important moment of their young lives.

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