A Friend of the Devil

by Bensiamin

Chapter 6

I'd watched Mary McGinnis walk down my front walk and get in her car and drive away. Good grief. I'd been an ordained minister less than a month, I'd had this pastor job less than a week, I'd been in this town less than a week, I'd conducted one worship service as pastor of Grace Presbyterian, and now I was in the middle of a family crisis and had an informal oversight responsibility for two teenagers……and on top of everything else I was in love with one of them. To say I was feeling overwhelmed would be to understate the case!

Besides the emotional roller coaster, I suddenly realized I was getting lightheaded and that it was now pushing 1:00 PM and had been a long time since I ate anything. I had a quick sandwich and then decided a nap was in order. Maybe I'd wake up refreshed and more at peace with the new situation.

I flopped on my bed, opened my collar and lay there spread eagle. Usually I can just go to sleep. But this time I lay there staring at the ceiling with all the new information whirling through my head. Finally, I started to doze, and then in the half light of falling asleep, or perhaps it was in dreamland I found the peace I'd hoped for. I don't know if the background was woods or green pastures, but I was aware of a bright light and when I looked, out of the light a figure was walking, and it was Jackson, and he was smiling brightly and extending both arms. I wasn't sure if the arm extension was just in greeting, or if it represented something more substantive, but when I went to move towards him, I found I couldn't move. I was stuck in one place. It was like I had gone to this spot, I had made my decision, I had moved toward Jackson, and now Jackson had to do his part and move toward me. And he did. He walked toward me and into my arms and we held each other in a hug of compassion and joy and love.

When I woke up ten minutes later, I didn't remember anything else about the dream, but I knew all was well. Not that it was going to be easy or that there wouldn't be complications or challenges, but that I had made the right decision and I was sure Jackson would too.

I wandered into the bathroom and looked in the mirror at a somewhat strained expression on the face of the guy I recognized as David. Probably under the circumstance I shouldn't have been surprised. After splashing some water on that face, I headed back down to the office. The idea of making parishioner calls now seemed silly. I had other momentous things on my mind, and I certainly wouldn't be able to focus on meeting new people or carrying on small talk about their lives.

It did suddenly dawn on me what I did need. I needed to talk to Steve. Or, more specifically, The Rev. Stephen Wallace, my closest friend from Seminary. He had also been recently ordained and accepted a position as Assistant Priest at an Episcopalian parish in Minnesota. We'd agreed to call regularly to stay in touch and support each other as we went through the first experiences of ministry, but the last few days had been so consuming I'd simply not given it a thought.

After a few minutes of fumbling around to find my phone directory, I located the church number in Saint Paul and called. It was still not 5:00 in the Midwest, and I was lucky that he was in his office and the receptionist put me through.

"Hello, this is Fr. Stephen" was the voice on the line.

"Hello Fr. Stephen, this is Rev. David. How are you?"

There was a moment of silence followed by a chuckle and, "David, how are you. Great to hear from you. I was beginning to wonder how you were doing."

"Well," I began, "it has been a whirlwind. I don't get it, get a church in a small rural town and it's been a whirlwind since I arrived. What's life in the big city like, brother?"

His dry reply was typical Steve. "Well, it's not that much different from seminary in many ways. It's a large parish with a big staff, so there's a lot of institutional stuff, you know, and the challenge is how to fit into the hierarchy, how to have any impact, how to have a meaningful ministry. All that kind of stuff. I'm kind of amazed it's been so crazy for you, and in a small town of all places."

"Well," I said, "whether you watched it of not, you must remember Peyton Place took place in a small town?"

"Yeah," he said, "I remember my mother watching it and I find it interesting that you chose that as an example given the central story line about the women's identity and sexuality. Are you telling me you got dropped into the middle of that kind of cauldron?"

"Boy, you seem to know the story pretty well. Did you watch the film or read the book, or both?"

He laughed this time, "I didn't need to do either. I got the story second hand from my mother and sisters. It was a hot story for its time. So seriously, tell me what's going on. My first few weeks on the job here have been pretty mundane and it sounds like the opposite of your experience."

So, I gave him an overview, describing being involved almost immediately in a major family crisis with physical abuse, maybe sexual abuse, and in a family that lived a few doors from the parsonage. He was surprised, but very supportive.

"I guess this will test the counseling experience we had, right? You'll have to keep me updated on that because I don't know how I'd handle what you're describing. It sounds pretty intense. I guess the consolation is that Child Protective Services is handling the intervention and you don't have to be the lead on that effort, right? On a more ministerial note, how did your first sermon go? I am part of the worship team but haven't been asked to preach and probably won't till the senior pastor goes on vacation."

I started telling him about the initial challenge I was feeling about theology versus reality, about doctrine versus feeling, and realized as I did that, I'd opened a door I may not want to go through. Just like Steve, perceptive as he was, he asked "Were you able to resolve the tension and how did you do it? All the decent preachers who taught preaching classes made a big deal about out tendency to talk about Bible passage and theology and making it relevant wasn't easy. What happened?"

I found myself answering without thinking about where it was going. This was my friend Steve after all. "Well, I met and got close to a young parishioner on my first day here. His mother is on the Parsonage Committee and he was assigned to help me move and unpack and get oriented, and he's a good kid and very talkative. We talked a lot about a lot of things, and by the second day he was challenging me about not really being in touch with my feelings and tending to be dry and theological when he asked serious questions, and that got my attention."

"I would think so," Steve observed. Then he went on, "But it sounds like it got pretty real or pretty existential pretty quickly. That sounds unusual. David, you're smart and knowledgeable and well read, so I'm surprised you'd let yourself get cornered by a kid like that."

"Well, he's a pretty sharp kid and we hit it off. It was good for me to hear it. I realized for the first time in my life that I am out of touch with a lot of my feeling. He was right, and the challenge was an important thing for me to come to grips with. Anyhow, it led to a pretty successful first sermon because the family crisis was his family, and I felt like I really had to try and reach out and do something of value and try to break through somehow."

"And how did you do that," Steve asked, sounding like now like another student in preaching class asking about methodology in figuring out how to make a sermon work.

"To tell you the truth," I replied," I was stumped for a couple of days. It started when he was helping me unpack and played "I Am A Rock" by Simon and Garfunkel on the stereo and asked me if I realized the lyrics were pretty much about me?"

"What?" I could hear Steve cough. "I know those lyrics. 'I am a rock, I am a fortress, or whatever, and a rock feels no pain.' You mean those, right?"

I just said, "Yes, those are the ones."

"What a cheeky young man, I must say, to lay that on you on the first outing. Did you let him get away with it," Steve asked?

"Well, I didn't have much choice, did I? It's true. But back to your question about the sermon, it all came together after the family crisis when I heard, and I have to say really heard for the first time, the lyrics from 'The Sounds of Silence' and then I remembered Art Garfunkel's explanation of the song being about people's inability to communicate and to love, and I used that to illustrate the core message of The Good Samaritan parable."

"Wow, that's a much better presentation of the Good Samaritan passage than we got here last Sunday," Steve retorted. "Did it make an impression; did it have any impact on the family?"

"Well," I said, "it blew the young man away that a subject he brought up, even if it was the lyrics to a popular song, would be used in a sermon. But, yes, I think it helped. The family is a bit of a mess, two sons that are physically abused, he's struggling with his sexuality, the mother is an alcoholic. At least I hope it had a positive impact. CPS is involved now; the father was arrested and we're trying to get the family back on track for the benefit of the two boys.

Steve paused, then said "Tell me about the two boys. Are they different ages?"

I described the older as being out of high school, sullen and withdrawn and tending to be a bully. Then I described Jackson as about to be a senior, attractive, witty and bright, but struggling to get beyond the burdens laid on him. I ended by saying "The younger boy is a great kid and we really hit it off as we got to know each other. He's been bullied and pretty much had no friends. But here's something you'll love to hear: remember my messy record collection? Well, he got it all organized and filed in order and you can find what you want now."

Steve interrupted me, "David, I have to ask if you say he's struggling with he's sexuality. Is he gay?"

It suddenly dawned on me that maybe I'd said too much, that the door I'd worried I had opened was now wide open indeed. "That's what he says, Steve. You know how it is though when you're that age. You're just starting to come to grips with it."

"I guess so," he replied, "at least that's what we were taught, right? Again, as a friend, I have to ask because I can hear an excitement in your voice when you talk about him. Is he a friend now? Are you attracted to him? If so, you've got to be very careful, David."

I was stumped now. I'd created this situation by calling Steve and being quite candid with him even if I hadn't told him the explicit details. He knew me well, just like I knew him. He's read me, I realized, and I couldn't deny it.

"God, I don't know Steve. That a lot of why I called you. I'm kind of mixed up right now and all of a sudden there's a ton of responsibility coming my way and for the first time in my life I'm dealing with feelings I never even knew I had."

"David, you're a really good friend and I want the best for you. I also don't want anything to go wrong in your life, right? The last thing I'm going to do be judgmental or give you a lecture about sexuality. There's enough judgment and lecturing going on with the debates on the ordination of women and homosexuals without me adding to it. But the reality is that neither your church nor mine are there yet on either of those subjects. They've both prohibited ordination of women and gays, and homosexuality is considered a sin, plain and simple—just like premarital sex. And in case you need me to tell you, a seventeen-year-old boy has to be younger than the age of consent. You've got to be careful."

Good old analytical Steve. I didn't like it, but his objective analysis was just what I needed to hear. "You're right. I am and I do, and I have to be. But I'm also in the middle of this and also want to do everything I can to help the young man and his whole family. It's pretty complicated."

"That's the understatement of the day," Steve snorted. "You know what I would do if I were you? I'd call Paul Gallagher and have a heart to heart with him. He was a year ahead of us in seminary, but besides a Psych degree, he's gay and he's in a denomination that accepts gays and he was always great at counseling and working with people. I'm guessing he'd be a lot of practical help. Do you have his phone number?"

I told him I didn't, and he dug it out and gave it to me. "Thanks for that," I told him. "I appreciate it a lot, and I'm not offended by your counsel either. I've always appreciated our friendship and your candid counsel is very valuable."

"My pleasure. I'll probably need help from you before long, so no sweat there. Keep in touch, Okay, and let me know what's going on. I'm happy to be a listening post for you if you need to talk. I've got to run now for an appointment, but I'm really pleased you called, and we could talk. Be careful, brother. The Lord be with you. Bye."

After I hung up the phone I sat in the office for a few minutes, noticing how quiet it was. There was no traffic on the street, no lawn mowers buzzing off in the distance. Just quiet. Me and my thoughts. I found myself wondering why I had been a little coy with Steve about how I felt. I hadn't denied I was attracted to Jackson, but I hadn't been anywhere near completely honest. I sure hadn't told him that I'd told Jackson I loved him, far less that he'd held my cock through my shorts and that I'd fondled his! That was a still a few steps too far. But why? Setting aside the age difference and Jackson's minor status, it boiled down to am I gay and if so, why am I still in the closet?

On one level those were easy questions to answer. Homosexuality was still considered a sin by the Presbyterian Church and there was no ordination of homosexuals, so to admit I was gay would be the end of my ministry if it got out. Beyond that, though, and a much bigger burden was the societal one. Gays weren't accepted, were still thought of as deviant and were demeaned and ostracized or worse in much of American society. Jeez, I had a ton of stuff to sort out!

I didn't want to get into my personal stuff but decided that if I was going to talk to Paul Gallagher then now was the time to try and reach him, while the subject was open and fresh on my mind. Again, I was lucky, and when I called, Paul actually answered the phone. It took a couple of minutes to remind him who I was, that Steve Wallace had suggested I call him for some advice on a sticky pastoral situation.

He said, "David, I do remember you, and I'm happy to help an alumnus. I have to assume this somehow involves homosexuality, am I right?"

"Yes, you are right on. I'm dealing with a family crisis that involves two brothers. Both are being physically abused by their parents, mainly the father. It appears the older brother has been sexually abused by the father too. And the younger brother has been dealing with his sexuality and says he's gay. It's pretty complicated."

Paul sighed and said, "Sounds like you're getting a doozy for your first case, David. What has happened, where are we now?"

I described the events over the past few days, up to and including the intervention of CPS, the arrest of the father, and the pending plan to leave the boys in the house but require the mother to get family therapy and join and alcoholics group.

His response was, "That sounds like all the right things in terms of the family dynamics and the individuals in the family. Success will all depend on how seriously the mother takes this and how she engages in therapy and AA. If the younger son isn't really the father's son, then with the father out or in jail, it may provide the opening for the mother to get in touch with herself and the children. She's been living a lie for fifteen years, you know. If she does engage then it may be salvageable. You know the family continuity hinges on the mother, don't you?"

"I sure do," I said, "but that's not the only problem. There's trying to get the older brother level set and out of the sullen and withdrawn behavior he's in. Fortunately, Jackson, that's the younger brother, is bright and stronger willed and has fought this and hasn't caved in. I mean he thinks his parents will kill him when he comes out, but now its all kind of up in the air with the father arrested and likely going to jail and who knows how the mother is going to behave. That said, we've established a relationship and can communicate. I told Steve earlier that he got assigned to help me unpack and move it and show me around town, so we got to spend quite a bit of time together. He's a sweet kid and fun to be around, and very conversational and quite mature in many ways. So, what do I do, encourage him to continue his self-discovery of his sexual orientation, or suggest this isn't the time to do it, you know, to come out and add another dimension to the problem?"

He paused, then said, "That's a tough one. The family problems are complicated enough already. The problem you have to come to grips with is that a person only goes through puberty once, and that's where this Jackson is, and coincident with that he's sorting out his sexual identity. You have to try to do nothing to dampen that. The best thing that can happen is for a person to be in a supporting family and community dynamic when it happens; conversely the worse thing is for it to be a dynamic of judgment and denial or hate which rejects the person. My guess is that kind of support won't come from the family, so it'll probably have to come from you. Confirm my recollection, you're Presbyterian, right?"

I did. He continued, "Well no help there. The Presbys still treat it as a depraved sin so it'll be very difficult to get any church or community support. At least the United Church of Christ is ahead of the rest of Protestantism on that one. That means the family's out, and the church community is out. How're we doing? Not well. What's left? Are there any other family or close friends?"

"No other family according to CPS but as it turns out the church organist is the school music teacher and she's known both boys all their life. She and another lady who's a Registered Nurse share a home and they're both concerned and involved. We all like and care about Jackson a lot, so at least there's that kind of small community. It's pretty sad that in situations like this the church community, the Body of Christ, can't and/or won't be in a position of assistance, isn't it?"

"Yeah, it's pretty pathetic. But that's what we've got to deal with. Speaking of dealing with, David, can I ask you a personal question?"


"How are you dealing with all of this? I mean on two levels. First the minister level: this is a lot to get dumped on you the first week on the job. But more importantly, on the personal level. How is David Ayers dealing with the emotion of all this?"

I paused, could feel myself biting my lower lip, and he said "David, are you still there? You can tell me. This is heavy stuff. We're both ordained minister and brothers. We're here to help each other out. With me, nothing you can say is embarrassing and its all private, Okay?"

"Thanks, Paul, I really needed to hear that. On the minister level, as you put it, I think it'll be fine. Complicated yes, but I've got support there in Susan, the church organist who is also a schoolteacher, and Ellen, the Registered Nurse who also heads the local ER. They're both caring and competent and will probably get me though the parts I'd blow by myself. At the personal level I'm struggling. I don't know how to help a gay kid sort himself out. It's very emotional for him, and for me too. I didn't expect I'd be so emotional, back in seminary I thought it would just be one more problem to address. Now I'm finding out the theory doesn't hold up very well in the face of reality."

"I can help you with the things to do and not do, to say and not to say when it comes to Jackson and his sexuality. I have to say though, as I sit here observing this conversation, you've done a couple of interesting things. First, you referred to all the other people involved as the mother, the brother, the father, etc., but you refer to the younger boy as Jackson. You're using his name. Second, you're sharing your own emotional involvement which is presumably precipitated by assisting him sort through his own sexuality. You realize that you are an unmarried twenty-five-year-old man, don't you? On the one hand you have to worry about propriety and appearances, and on the other I can't remember seeing you on many dates with girls. Where are you on this, David? Have you sorted out your own sexuality? Are you attracted to him?"

The proverbial ton of bricks had just dropped on the top of my head. I started out stammering and kind of heading in the direction of denial or at least avoidance. Then I just stopped and remembered the questions I'd asked myself after talking to Steve. I had to be honest with Paul and myself.

"I've been in denial a long time and out of touch with my own emotions since probably forever. Jackson has helped me connect in a way I never thought possible. He's a bright and affable and fun and challenging young man and being with him has made me comes to grips with the fact that I'm probably gay. At least I think I am. And yes, I am attracted to him. He's wonderful and I've never felt like this about anyone else in my life ever. He's flat out told me the same thing, that he loves me, and I've never had anyone tell me that before. And I think I love him too."

"Thank you for your candor and honesty. I want you to know that you just took the biggest and hardest first step. You told someone else you're gay. You acknowledged it. It may not be public, and that's Okay—it doesn't' have to be. Most of the people I know and work with don't know I'm gay. Many do, a lot don't. But like the saying goes about the longest journey begins with the first step, you just took it. That means you're being honest with yourself, and that also means you can be honest with Jackson and far more help to him that if you were trying to deny your own sexuality. Are you following me?"

"Yes, it's not crystal clear, but I am," I almost whispered.

"You can't help people if you're living a lie about the very thing they need help with. That's true whether it's their sexuality, their addiction, or whatever. So, you're in a positive place to help because you're being honest and transparent. I don't know the specific details of what he's told you, or of where he is in his journey, and I don't need to. You do, he's told you, and you're there, and you relate, and you won't judge him. You'll help him and help yourself while you're at it. The worst thing that can happen to a kid in this position is to be judged and rejected and humiliated. You know what's right and wrong, you understand ethics and morality, you've gone to seminary, and you're a good and caring person—that's why you wanted to minister to people in the first place. So, you're in a good place to help."

We paused for ten or fifteen seconds. I felt like I was on the verge of tears. Then Paul said, "Can I ask you something else personal?"

Again, I said "Yes."

"Is this attraction you two feel for each other already sexual in any way? Don't be embarrassed, David, it's a natural outcome of having these feelings for each other."

"Yes, it is, although so far in the most minimal way. It's essentially been a lot of hugging and cuddling and a little bit of petting. That's all."

"Okay," Dave replied. "That's all I need to know, and I won't ask anything else because this is your business. If you want to talk more and share more, you know how to reach me. What I will say is this, you are walking a very thin line and you need to be very careful, and you need to instill in Jackson that he also needs to be very careful. If you are careful and if your feelings for each other are as you say, then this could work out and be a blessing for you both. But if you don't then regardless of your feelings, of how good and positive they are, this cold blow up and seriously damage both of you. And that is apart from the legal question. Do you understand me, David?"

Again, I paused, "Yes, I do. And I thank you for those wise words."

His response was telling. "We won't get into a theological discussion about the details or history of homosexuality, or the propriety of the age difference between you two, or the current situation in our society or our churches, they are secondary to the key issue. You two either have valid feeling for each other or you don't. You need to confirm that. And if you do, then you need to work out a way to live that is good and healthy for both of you. If you don't you risk having it blow up. Once you've established the truth and validity of your feelings for each other, you need to define your relationship—the public side and the private side. You need to live your public life like you're carrying a vial of nitroglycerin—at least until Jackson reaches the age of consent. What is that in Oregon?"

"Eighteen," I said, "and his eighteenth birthday is in a couple of months."

"Okay, brother, then if your mutual feelings for each other are validated you need to work out a way of life for the next few months and then the following year or so. That's on top of everything else going on and the other responsibilities you have. I'm sorry if it feels like I'm dumping on you, but that's the reality."

"Paul, you're not dumping on me. I know it's all true, and I have to take responsibility for it. And I will. What just popped into my head is that un-Biblical saying 'charity begins at home' by which I mean you haven't said it, but I have to absolutely and firmly come to grips with the question of if I'm gay, because that re-frames everything else."

"You're right there. Keep in mind the Eastern Christian mystical teaching 'become who you are.' It's not that different in intent than the saying from the Ancient Greek Delphic oracle: 'Know Thyself', or 'to thine own self be true.' The point is it begins with honestly knowing yourself, and then being true to that reality. The hard part is honestly getting in touch with yourself, especially if, like so many people you've been in denial about it. Okay, brother, I think that's enough for now. You have plenty to think about. Know that I'm always just a phone call away."

Again, I almost whispered "thank you, Paul."

His final comment was, "David, cheer up. Remember what St. Paul said: 'all things work together for the good!" With that he was gone, and I was left once more in the office of a very quiet house pondering the immensity of what we'd just discussed.

I heard a lawn mower fire up in the distance and glanced at the clock. It was going on 5:00 pm, the afternoon was gone. Now what? Well, in a normal pastoral schedule this is the evening I'd pull out the lexicon and read the Scripture passages for the coming Sunday and start making some notes for the sermon.

I hoped I'd be able to do that tonight. I needed to re-establish something approaching a normal schedule. Right now, though, I needed some exercise. So, I headed upstairs and changed into shorts and a T-shirt and decided to take a long walk. I crossed Main Street and headed south toward the river where I figured there'd be a park.

I didn't know where I was going, and it didn't matter. I saw plenty of people and they all were friendly. Some recognized me as the new pastor and many waved, said "Hi pastor, good to see you out and about," or similar comments. I waved or replied briefly and walked on. I wasn't in the mood for a chat, but I did end up seeing a good bit of town, how the streets were laid out and such before I got back. Including learning that the Willamette River was a long walk from downtown! This was an older pioneer farm town with older homes dating back to the early 1900's in the center, newer turn of the 20th century homes out from there and very few new homes, and that was all part of what gave the town its character. Most of the new homes were outside of the main town on larger tracts of land. The town itself, I could tell, would be beautiful in the fall when the leaves changed color, and at Christmas when it was decked out in lights and decorations.

It was a little over an hour when I got back and decided the perfect next step would be a beer on the back porch. The front porch wouldn't do. The new minister sipping a beer in public on the front steps in shorts! So, I did just that, then fixed supper and finally repaired to the office to start on my sermon preparation. I glanced up the street a couple of times, in the direction of the Harris home, but no activity. I resigned myself to most certainly having to wait until tomorrow before anything significant changed. Maybe I'd be lucky and see Jackson then. It had now been four days since we'd spent free time together, and it was starting to hurt. I admitted to myself that I missed him. His smile and his energy and those sparkling hazel eyes with their hint of excitement.

When I found I was thinking of Jackson instead of thinking of the sermon material, I decided it was time to stop. I had four more days till Sunday and my mind wasn't on it. So, I headed into the living room, pulled out a couple of folk albums, one by Glenn Yarborough and the other by Gordon Lightfoot and put them on the stereo. They'd both been popular performers in college, and I'd seen them both perform while at Yale. One thing about Yale, there was a large music offering, and good quality auditoriums, so it was a treat. I'd relaxed enough I settled down and read the paper. After catching up on the town council, a new sidewalk project, and the ads for the Food Town I found my mind wandering off again and wondering what Jackson was doing. Was he missing me as much as I missed him? Was he as miserable as he'd been when I'd seen him in the house on Monday morning? God, I just wanted to be with him. It felt empty and alone.

So that's how I felt when I went upstairs to go do bed. I knew what I wanted when I got to the bedroom, so before heading into the bathroom I tossed the pillowcase I used as a cum rag onto the bed, took a pee and brushed my teeth and came back in pajamas.

Once the lights were out it didn't take but a few seconds to recall the sensations from Thursday when we'd driven to town and Jackson had been holding and stroking my cock! The last couple of days had been a whirlwind and emotionally consuming as well. Talking to Steve and then Paul had gotten me out of that rut and reconnected me to my feelings, and specifically my feelings about Jackson, and the feeling coming from my cock as I found myself stroking it. I was hard fast, and it didn't take too many strokes to feel some precum, and to my surprise I shot like a rocket less than a minute or so later. It wasn't a romantic jack off, but it was a relief, and it was centered on Jackson, the boy I loved. His image was in my mind as I came, and I was wishing it was his hand around my cock….and that mine was around his.

Wednesday started off overcast with the threat of rain. I was hoping it wasn't an omen. I was up and about by 7:00 AM and sure enough there was the paper. I guess I could have gotten up around 5:30 and tried to catch Jackson delivering my paper, but that didn't seem right or fair. He was obviously trying to stay within the bounds of some program the family (meaning mainly Bud but now Lily) had worked out, and until that program was changed, it wouldn't be right to throw him off. He had apologized for his behavior on Friday night and was clearly tying to keep his end of the deal, so more power to him.

I had some breakfast, slowly enjoyed the coffee, and this morning was able to read the paper with a level of focus that had been missing the past few days. Maybe it was due to the pressure relief jack off session last night. It certainly had been intense, and certainly contributed to a good night's sleep.

It must have been about 8:30 AM and I'd only just cleaned up the breakfast dishes and headed into the office when the phone rang. "Grace Church Parsonage," I answered. I realized this was the likely standard way to answer the phone now! "Hello, Pastor. It's Susan. How are you this morning?"

"Susan, how great to hear your voice. I'm so glad you called. If my guess is right, we've got things to discuss today."

She just said, "How true, how true. Where shall we start?"

"Well," I replied, "When Mary McGinnis from CPS left here yesterday, she was going to try and meet with you and Ellen. What she discussed with me was a plan to try and keep Jackson and Gary in the home with Lilly if she could be gotten into counseling and AA. Is that the way you understand it?"

"Well, Yes. That's the approach. But you know the old saying that there are many slips twixt cup and lip. It won't be easy or straight forward. This family has been down the counseling pathway before."

"I know, Susan. I spoke at length yesterday with a couple of good seminary friends who have now been ordained. One is a year older and also a counselor, and his observation was that the pivotal change in the dynamic could well be the new information that Jackson is not Bud's son and that Lilly had an affair which resulted in her second child. What he was getting at was that she's been under Bud's thumb and shamed and berated and controlled over it, no doubt, for seventeen years, and with Bud now out of the home there is a possibility of her getting out from under that shadow. Does that make sense to you?"

"I don't know yet about it making any sense. First, it confirms my suspicion which I shared with you a couple of day ago that I didn't think Jackson looked or acted like the rest of the family, you know, brown hair, light complexion, slighter build, all of that. And a different personality. Beyond that, seventeen years is a long time to be in bondage, and that's what we've got to deal with—breaking Lilly out of that bondage if this is going to work. And then there's also getting Gary out of his bondage. I hope that Jackson hasn't been too badly damaged at this point."

I paused and wondered how much I could say, then realized I was being silly. Likely Mary had told Susan and Ellen everything she told me, and we'd all have to have all the info at hand if this plan was to work. "I'm pretty sure that Susan told you about the sexual abuse Gary has experienced and that he was also protecting Jackson?"

She said, "Yes, she did, and that gives me a lot of hope for Gary. I don't know how we break through to him, but that's a great start. Even in he was being a bully, he was probably acting out and didn't even know it, but ultimately he was trying to do good."

"Well, as you know, I know very little about adolescent psychology, but I've always thought bullies are that way because they're insecure and frightened at heart, and this makes sense because if he's suffering the assault to protect Jackson it would have provoked some level of resentment. So, then it's not surprising he ended up bullying Jackson—even if he didn't know he was doing it or why. Or maybe it was a tough guy front he was putting on for his father. Either way, I don't have a clue about how to get through to Gary."

"Nor I," Pastor David, she continued. "My assessment, and Ellen agrees, is that it will start and end with Lilly. Unless the family dynamic changes significantly, there's not much hope and this will end up with foster care or worse. So, our job is to try and prevent that from happening. We agree on this end and will do all we can. I just want to hear you say you feel the same way so I'm not relying on Mary's words."

"Smart thinking. That's called confirmation and yes, that's my position too. I know this is the approach Mary wants and hopes will work, and I think her heart is in the right place, but she wasn't putting words in my mouth. I will tell you, she had to kind of give me shock therapy to get it out of me — you know, I'm pretty new at this and it's a lot of responsibility. But in my view, it's what we have to do. I can't have preached that sermon about the Good Samaritan and be doing anything else, could I?"

At that Susan laughed. "You're certainly right there, Pastor! I suppose that means we've got agreement on giving this a try and the next step is Mary's. She is the CPS authority in this intervention, so I think we have to wait now for her to get whatever approvals she needs to put this program into action. Hopefully that will be sooner than later. Ellen has today off, but is back on day shift starting tomorrow, so I've got my fingers crossed that it happens this afternoon. With all that said, have you started working on Sunday's service? I know many members who are still talking about your first sermon. That's going to be a hard one to follow, you know."

"You are so right. I may never live that one down. I mean, the breakthrough I needed to put it together came from facing this family crisis plus the goading you and Jackson gave me. Don't get me wrong…. I mean goading here in the best possible sense. Without the challenges you both put in front of me about being real, I don't think it would have happened."

"Well, thank you Pastor. I appreciate the fact that I could have contributed even if it caused some discomfort, and it sounds like it did. I'm pleased that Jackson was part of the formula because I've always thought he was bright and insightful and just never got a chance to shine. Turns out I was right, and his first big shine was with the new pastor! How's that for a story?"

"Let's keep most of that story, as you call it, amongst ourselves, Susan. I have a reputation to consider, and if it gets around that my only good sermons happen as a result of the church organist and a member of the church youth challenging me, I'll have people wondering why I was even hired."

"Not to worry. We're all humans in need here. We help each other out. Isn't that what community and family is all about? So, that's what we'll be doing with Lilly and Gary and Jackson. Now all we need is to hear from Mary and we'll get going. I haven't asked, but how did your proposal to the Session go about the summer church camp?"

"Well, Susan, once again it was successful because of you. I put together a project proposal with a budget, as you suggested. They liked the idea, but they thought my budget was low, so they increased it by fifty percent. The only argument was about using personal vehicles for transport to the various destinations. They though we should rent a bus for safety and so all the kids and counselors traveled together."

Susan was upbeat. "That's good to hear, Pastor, because it means they understand the youth program needs to be jump started and that its important. I assume you plan on asking Jackson to be one of your counselors. I think that's important to help him get going and develop."

"You're reading my mind, Susan. I'm going to rely on you and Jackson to suggest the other two. Jackson's already making jokes about "getting religion!" And I'm hopeful we can get Gary involved. I'm surprised he doesn't' have a summer job, but maybe just having some fun outside of the realm of his father will help him."

"That sounds like a good approach to me," she said. "Right now, I've got to get going and get onto some other things on today's list. I'm hoping we hear from Mary before lunch time. If so, I'm sure we'll be talking later today. Thanks, it's wonderful having you here and serving as our pastor!"

"Thanks for the kind words, Susan. Hopefully we do talk again this afternoon. Bye for now."

Susan hung up and I sat and pondered where we were for a few minutes, and then recalled the hard and factual counsel that Paul had given me yesterday afternoon. If we launched a "new program" for the Harris family this afternoon, then there also had to be a corresponding program for David and Jackson. How were we going to work that out? Boy, this was uncharted territory. For me—a guy that had never even had a long-term romantic relationship of any sort!

I spent some time in the office working up a list of members to visit and trying to map it out against their addresses and locations to try and be efficient. I also decided it was time to call my parents and update them on the move and life in this new town in Oregon. It was kind of a superficial call, as most with them were, but they did provide the money for the El Camino that move me here, so I owed them that much. I turned back to the members list and didn't get very far before the phone rang and it was Mary McGinnis calling to set up a meeting in the early afternoon with Ellen and Susan. I offered the office here in the parsonage and told her Susan had already told me that she and Ellen were expecting a call, and both were available. We agreed on 2:00 PM.

Susan and Ellen arrived first, and I knew of the arrival when I heard the crunch of tires on gravel in the driveway. I expected Susan to use the kitchen door, as usual and she did. I watched their approach from the inside the kitchen and saw she and Ellen round the back of the house holding hands before they parted as they started up the porch steps. Susan knocked and followed it quickly with her standard "Hello in the house!"

I promptly shouted back, "Come on in. The door is open as you know!" She and Ellen came on through and we all hugged. "Welcome, and thanks for coming," I said. "Mary isn't here yet. Do either of you want something to drink? Shall I make tea? I discovered a tea set in the dining room cabinet."

"That sounds like a wonderful idea," said Ellen. "I'll bet it hasn't been used for a while, and needs washing, so I'll take care of that while we wait for Mary." She disappeared into the dining room and reappeared in a minute with the tea pot and saucers, then shot back for four cups, and in no time was washing them in the sink.

"You better put the kettle on, Pastor David. You know you can't make tea without boiling water, don't you?" She made the last comment with a big smile on her face and turned to Susan and said "You'd better find the tea leaves or tea bags. I'm betting David doesn't know where they are."

I nodded sadly. "You're right. I found some Constant Comment, but only recently saw the tea set, but hadn't moved on to the next step of making tea. I'm betting it'll be in that cabinet to the left of the stove, with the condiments."

Susan pulled open the door and dug around and promptly announced we had English Breakfast tea at hand. I put on the kettle, Ellen was already drying the washed tea set, and things were coming together. At that point I heard a knock on the front door. Susan said, "That will be Mary. David, go let her in and we'll make the tea and bring it into the living room."

Three minutes later we were all seated in the living room with steam slowly rising from the tea pot. "I hope you like tea, Mary, as that what we collectively decided to have for this meeting."

She smiled and said, "I usually have it at breakfast, but it will be just fine for this meeting. What a nice tea set."

Susan started pouring and commented, "It comes with the parsonage. Sugar, cream, Mary?"

When everyone had their tea as preferred, I turned to Mary. "All right, where do you want to start?"

She was right to the point. "Well, in principle we all agreed yesterday that the goal is a family intervention that protects the children and means the state doesn't have to take custody, right?"

We all nodded. Susan immediately commented, "And we all know that is not a given in as much as there's been a previous counseling undertaking with this family."

"True, Susan," Mary replied, "but at least one thing is different now and that is that Bud is out of the picture. He hasn't made bond yet, but I assume he will. I'm now pretty certain he'll get a jail sentence for the repeat physical abuse offense compounded with medical neglect. So, he'll be out of the picture. David, it would be good if you can talk to the attorney in the church about trying to help stabilize Bud's business so there is no significant income loss. One negative about trying to solve this at the family level without taking custody is that there is no state financial support to offset loss of income. So, we have to hope most of the business income remains stable."

I nodded and said I'd call Spencer Sullivan to take care of that. Susan went on, "I think the approach has to be simple. It begins with making clear to Lilly that she has only one option and that is doing what the state requires to keep her children. Specifically, it is to start counseling and to enroll in an alcoholic program and to be consistent in attending. Further, the state and all of us fully expect an immediate change in the family dynamic, that all the physical and verbal abuse ends, that both boys have to be accepted as equals in the family, that in contrast to domination and control we expect to see toleration and openness."

She looked at all of us. "Thoughts?"

We all nodded. Ellen leaned in and said, "In my experience the challenge will be getting her started. It all sounds good, even to her I'm sure it will sound positive and attractive. She's so used to the old dynamic that she has a lot of re-learning to do. I'm guessing that Susan and I will have to plan on quite a bit on hands on work with her to get that started."

Mary looked at all of us and said, "I'm hopeful we can get some resources here, namely a therapist to do in-home family crisis intervention. That means Lilly wouldn't have to deal with two off-site programs, therapy and AA. It also means it's an in-the-home environment and would naturally involve both boys.

I nodded in agreement. She looked at me, "David, your thoughts? Do you agree about getting started?"

"I do," I replied, "but it seems to me that the thing that has to happen to get the whole process going is Lilly starting to make changes. I had an in depth conversation yesterday with a friend I was in seminary with who's also a counselor, and his observation was that a big change that could well work in our favor is Bud's removal from the family coupled with the knowledge we now have that he is not Jackson's father. He can no longer hold that over her and shame and control her with it, and that might be the thing that let's her see a way forward. Does that make sense to you, Mary?"

She thought a minute and said, "Yes, it does. It could be the break we need, in fact. I think we all agree this depends pretty much on Lilly making the change and getting engaged. We can talk about what we should do with the children, but it's all pretty much theoretical if we can't get the mother to change her behavior. So, to that end I suggest I call her right now and ask her to come over here and join us. Any objections?"

We all nodded our approval, and Mary went to the phone. "She's surprised, but says she'll be over in fifteen minutes." That gave us time to clean up the tea dishes and be ready when she arrived. It was pretty straight forward. Mary made clear that the court had the option at this time to place both boys into custody and start the process of removing them to foster care or guardianship. Lilly was noticeably shaken. Mary went on to make very clear that Bud was in jail, and though he could get out on bond, he is legally barred from seeing his children, so he wouldn't be coming home, and would very likely be serving a jail sentence. Lilly seemed to know that was the outcome, and asked "What happens to me and the boys, then?"

Mary then explained that the court was being compassionate and that's why Susan and Ellen and I were there. That in place of taking custody of the children, because the father was now removed, the court was willing to require Lilly to attend therapeutic counseling and an alcoholic addiction program in the hope that it would improve the family dynamic and keep the boys together with her. You could see the relief in the tears that formed in her eyes. She'd clearly been terrified the boys would be taken. She said nothing, just nodded.

Mary then got very specific." Lilly, our view, and by our, I mean all of us here, is that at heart you are a good person and want to do the right thing, but you're married to a strong willed and domineering husband. He's now out of the home. You are being given the tools to change, but you have to be willing to go to family therapy and to change. If you do and a healthy family dynamic can be developed here, this family with you and the boys stays together. If it doesn't happen, then the option will be to put the boys into custody and start the foster care process. Do you understand that?"

Lilly simply nodded. "The state can't dictate how parents raise their children, but we can tell you what is wrong and illegal and what can't be done. Corporal punishment is not tolerated. Physical abuse is not tolerated. Verbal abuse is not tolerated. Detention isn't tolerated. Treating children like they are slaves or property, or animals is not tolerated. I know those are hard things to hear, but do you understand what I'm saying? A healthy family dynamic is characterized by openness and trust and compassion and caring…….and yes love. What has happened in this family over the last few years has pretty much destroyed all of those characteristics. Do you want to try and build them back? Do you care enough for your boys to try and make that happen?"

Lilly nodded again. Mary looked at her and said, "Lilly, I need to hear you say yes, and so do Pastor David and Susan and Ellen. We're all in this together and they have agreed to work with you to make this a success. Do you understand what that means? These people care enough for you and for your boys to make an investment of their time and energy to help you make a success here. You also need to fully understand that if this approach doesn't work, the court reserves the right to remove your boys into custody and pursue foster care or guardianship. That means they will be legally removed."

Lilly said, "Yes, I do want to try. I don't want to lose my boys. I don't know how we got to this place, but I know it's not a good place. I've had a few days to think about it all, and I realize how bad it's gotten and how severe the consequences could be. I'll try. I'll do what I can. I'm thankful that you're willing to help. I know the boys will be too."

Mary said, "Lilly, thank you for sharing that. It's a good start. It takes a willingness to engage if anything positive is going to happen. Okay, here's what we're going to do. You know Susan and Ellen, and they are going to be your support team. You three are going to stay here for a while and talk about what happens next. Meanwhile, Pastor David and I are going to go to your house and have a talk with Gary and Jackson and inform then on how we're going to proceed. Do you agree?"

She nodded. Mary continued on, "but the immediate understanding is that all the control and domination and humiliation and abuse ends, agreed. I've been hearing about a certain sermon that was given last Sunday about the Good Samaritan, and I suggest that's a model we all keep in mind. It's about healing. It's about showing compassion and love. Are we agreed?"

Lilly nodded and smiled. Mary looked at me and said, "Come on Pastor David, we've got a meeting to go to. Ladies we'll be back before long."

Mary and I walked to the Harris home and she just walked right in and called out for Jackson and Gary. In a few seconds, Jackson's head peered over the banister at the top of the stairs. Mary said, "Jackson, Hi. It's Mary McGinnis with Child Protective Services and I'm here with Pastor David to meet with you and Gary. Will you please get your brother and come down and meet us in the living room?"

Jackson looked kind of stunned, then smiled at me and said, "Sure. Gary's in his room. We'll be right down." Two minutes later they were there, both looking a little rumpled, like they'd been laying around on the bed in their rooms.

When they came in the room, Jackson smiled and looked hopeful. Gary looked suspicious and very cautious. Mary had met with both of them one-on-one previously, so I let her conduct the meeting. She sat them both downside by side on the couch. It was pretty much the children's version of what she'd told Lilly—that their father was going to jail for physical and sexual abuse, that instead of taking the boys into custody and foster care, the court was willing to work with their mother through counseling and an alcoholics program to keep the family together, and that Lilly had agreed that the family dynamic their father required was now a thing of the past. The more she talked the more Jackson smiled, and the more incredulous Gary appeared.

Mary looked them both in the eye and said, "This isn't happening in isolation. Pastor David and Susan Albridge and Ellen Hayes have all agreed to be part of the support group to try and make this happen. They will be the CPS representatives here in your family. Their job is to work with you and try to make a success of this. It won't be easy. Susan and Ellen are meeting with your mother right now, and Pastor David is here meeting with you. Do you have any questions?"

Jackson popped right up, "Yes, what happens next?"

Mary replied right back, "Well it starts when your mother comes home in the next little while. Detention is over, she has agreed that the dominant and controlling style your father believed in is over. But and this is important, you all have to work together to make this successful. Do you want that?"

Jackson didn't hesitate, "Yes, the problem has always been my father. He's a control freak and he's cruel. What he did to me was bad, but what he did to Gary was cruel and horrible. If he's gone than there's real hope."

Mary looked at Gary who was looking down at the floor and asked, "Gary, is that what you think?"

Gary just nodded and said, "Yeah, I guess."

Mary looked over to me and asked, "Pastor David, do you want to add anything?"

"I do, and I want to speak to both Gary and Jackson. We know much of what happened, but probably not all, but I think we know the worst of it. We all need to be open and honest about what happened so we're all starting from the same place and there's no misunderstanding. First, we know that your father physically abused you both. That's not just improper, it's illegal and he will pay the penalty for that. Gary we also know that he sexually abused you, and I don't need to know the details, but that is also improper and illegal, and he's accountable for that too. Now, importantly there are not only consequences for the person who does it, but also for the victims. You both are scarred because of what happened to you—Gary more than Jackson. A big part of our role is to help heal the scars. Do either of you remember the Gospel lesson last Sunday about the Good Samaritan and the man beaten on the highway? Do you remember what the Good Samaritan did? He dressed the man's wounds with oil to help them heal, then he took the beaten man to an inn and secured care for him. That's what I'm talking about, think of us, this small community of friends, of the church as a hospital, in the sense that we're here to help you heal. Can you do that?"

Jackson was clearly following what I was saying and thinking about it, you could see it in his eyes. Garry was still staring at the floor. I said, "Jackson, can you do that?" He smiled and nodded.

I turned to Gary and said, "Gary, can you do that? Can you let us help you heal?" It was quiet for a minute. I then said, "Gary, can you start by looking up at me?" He slowly raised his head and looked at me. "Gary, we're here for you to help you heal. We're here for you however you need us. Are you hearing me? Will you work with us?"

I didn't know if he was going to answer, he was quiet for so long. Then Jackson moved over next to Gary and put his arm around his brother's big shoulders. "Come on, bro. The worst is over. It'll get better now. They all just want to help us. Is that Okay with you?"

Gary was quiet for a few seconds, then he started sobbing. "Yeah, I'm just glad it's over. It can't be any worse than it was, and yeah, I want it better and I don't want to get sent to foster care. But why would you want to help us? You don't even know us?" Then he looked at Jackson, "and why are you being all nice to me? I've treated you like shit for years."

"Gary," I said, "I've only known you for less than a week, but guess what? I'm your pastor, and that's what pastors do. Besides that, I'm also a human being, and its what human beings do—help each other when needed. Jackson's also a human being and your brother. It's that simple. Okay?"

He finally smiled a little and the sobbing ceased. "Now," I continued, "I want to say one more thing in the spirit of healing, and this gets into privacy matters that came out when you had individual interviews with Mary yesterday, but you both need to hear it because its about each other and I want to be clear that both of you understand what happened and what it means to your relationship." I looked at Mary and she didn't wave me off, so I went on. "Jackson, you told me that Gary bullied you. Did you know your father was sexually abusing him?"

Jackson had gone quiet, but looked at me and said, "I didn't know for sure, but I thought it was happening."

He was still sitting next to Gary but had dropped his arm from around Gary's shoulder. "Jackson, what you need to know is that while it was happening to him, he made a bargain that it couldn't happen to you. He protected you while it was happening to him. Did you have any idea about that"?

Jackson sat there silent, looking like he was in shock and just shook his head.

"Gary, can you confirm for Jackson that happened, not the details, just that it happened?"

Gary was sobbing again, and I urged him, "No details, Gary, just let Jackson know you did it for him." Gary looked up and said, "Yes, I figured I could take it cause I'm older and bigger, but Jackson is smaller and younger, and he didn't deserve it, no way."

"Okay, you guys, that's as much as we're going to say about it. It's now private between you both and if you want to talk about it further it's up to you. Here's the point though, your relationship got warped by what was going on. It's likely Gary was bullying you Jackson, without even realizing he was doing it because of what was happening to him. And the result was you both grew apart and started resenting each other. Can you see that? Can you agree that it wasn't your fault, and that what you can do now is forgive each other and let go of the resentment and start to heal your relationship?"

Jackson leaned over and put his arm around Gary's shoulder again and hugged him, starting to sob himself, and saying, "Gary, I'm sorry, I didn't know, bro. I would have tried to stop it if I'd really known, and instead of getting pissed because you were bullying me I shouldn't have been so focused on me and worried a little more about what was going on with you, because it didn't use to be this way. We used to get along fine and do stuff together, and then it ended. Gary, I'm sorry."

Gary was sobbing again now, but he turned to Jackson and embraced him and hugged him hard and said, "Me too, I'm sorry I was such a shit. I didn't realize I was dumping on you for what I was getting. I didn't want you to get hurt too, but I didn't know that at the same time I was resenting you cause you weren't getting it too. I know that sounds crazy, but this whole thing I crazy. I was trying to protect you cause you're my little brother, and that's the main thing."

I let them sit quietly for a bit, then said, "There's one more thing we've got to cover, and this will come as a shock too," I said, getting their attention once again. "Something that came out in the interviews is that while you two are brothers, Bud is not your father Jackson. Apparently, your mother had an affair and she'll have to explain the details to you, but it explains some of the distance between you and Bud."

Jackson and Gary sat in stunned silence. Then Jackson looked up at me and said, "That answers a lot of the questions I've had all along. Maybe that's why he always treated me the way he did, I was an embarrassment or something?"

"That could be, Jackson," I said. "You'll have to work it out with your Mother when the time is right. It's part of the truth that needs to be accepted and it doesn't change the fact that you two are brothers and the closest relative each of you have.

We sat in silence for a bit, then Mary jumped in. "Okay, we've got a good start here. You two boys are in touch with the truth of what happened and are communicating again. You seem to accept that it starts with healing and that's what you're doing with each other. That healing has to expand to include your mother, and she has to extend it to you. We're all in agreement about what's going to happen, how it's going to happen and what we want to try and accomplish. You both may want and need counseling too, and that's as it should be, but I see that as a little down the road. Right now, we've got to focus on the family. Now we're all going to walk back to the parsonage and join your mother and Susan and Ellen and initiate a good start. Come on, let's go."

We all marched out of the house and down the street to the parsonage, went in the front door and joined the women in the living room.

Mary looked at Lilly and said, "I hope your talk with Susan and Ellen was as productive as ours. We're here because your boys want to stay in a family setting with you their mother, they agree they want to do the work with you to try and get the family back on track. They both know what Bud did to Gary, and they both now know that Bud is not Jackson's father. They've accepted those facts and started the healing process between them by being honest and forgiving. That's the approach we've all agreed to, right? To treat each other with dignity and compassion and work together. Agreed?"

Lilly clearly had been crying too, her eyes were still red even though the tears were now dried. "Yes, it is, and I'm going to try my best. Susan and Ellen have been brutally honest with me and I guess I didn't realize how out of touch I've gotten over the years and that I basically turned into someone I don't like. They're both friends and I know they're doing this to help because they care about me and the boys. I guess I'm still struggling to believe how that could be—why anyone would care enough about us to help like this. But I'm accepting it because I don't have any choice and because it's incredibly gracious."

"Thank you, Lilly, for being so honest. Can you say anything to your boys about where you want this to go?"

Lilly turned to Gary and Jackson who were standing next to me while she and Mary had been focused on each other, and trying hard to choke back the sobs said, "Boys, I'm sorry. You're the most important thing in my life and I'm sorry if I lost it. I know I've been drinking too much and that's no excuse. I know I took a lot of my pain out on you both, and that was terrible to have done. I know I should have been defending you and instead I let what happened happen to you, and I'll never live that down. But I want to try and fix it. Jackson, I'm sorry I was never honest with you about your father and I hope I can help you understand why. Susan talked about healing the way the Good Samaritan did in the parable, and now I've got a lot of healing to do and I'll do the work. I know I need to help you boys heal too, and I want to apologize for whatever I did that hurt you."

We were all silent as Lilly's words sunk in, and then Susan suggested, "It seems to me that you've got the chance for a new beginning here, so I suggest you all hug each other, you know, show a little affection to demonstrate you mean it and you want to stay together and work on creating a new family. Can you do that?"

There was a little hesitancy, and then they did. They all stepped toward each other and embraced. It wasn't a long or overly emotional hug, but it was a start, and given the circumstances, but it was a good start.

Mary then said, "Okay, we've got a new beginning. Now I suggest that Lilly and Gary and Jackson go back to their home and get started. There will be dinner to prepare before long, and some reestablishing relationships and determining new family guidelines. So, you all go now and get started. Susan and Ellen and Pastor David will check in with your regularly, and I will at least once a week as the CPS representative. Lilly, I'll be in touch with you tomorrow about counseling and about an alcohol program, all right?"

Lilly nodded and then Mary started shooing them out of the living room and toward the front door. Jackson looked at me in a pleading way, and I smiled and winked. He got my message, because he smiled and his eyes brightened, and I knew we were on our way.

Mary stood at the front door and watched them walk part way back to their home, then she came back into the living room. "Well, that went far better than I expected, and has the promise for a favorable resolution like I haven't seen in many cases. David, what you said to the boys was absolutely tremendous. It put the focus where it should be, on healing, and level set their relationship by talking about the sexual abuse and Gary protecting Jackson in a way that could make for an entirely different relationship between them."

She turned to Susan and Ellen, saying "I don't know what you said to Lilly, but it seems to have had the same effect."

Ellen answered first, "Well, she got a double dose: I talked to her candidly like I would a patient with a substance abuse problem at the hospital, and Susan did the way she talks to parents who aren't supporting students in their studies. The good news is that she didn't deny or resist. We think your no nonsense and straight forward approach in your interviews yesterday cleared away all the misconceptions and defense mechanisms." She smiled, "and then Susan really got into it about becoming once again the fun and open woman she used to be and how she reminded her about the sermon on Sunday and how she needed to be open to healing like the beaten man was in the Good Samaritan parable. It seems she heard the message in your sermon, David, because she didn't resist and agreed a lot of healing was necessary."

Mary looked from one to the other of us and then, with a wry smile on her face, said "That must have been some powerful sermon David. It sounds like everyone got the message. Sounds like I'm the only one who really missed out. What was your main point?"

I was a little embarrassed now, after all it was just a sermon! "Well, all I did was try and make the parable from two thousand years ago relevant to us today and did it with lyrics from a couple of Simon and Garfunkel songs. The main one was 'The Sound of Silence,' and the key part is how Art Garfunkel described it as about people being unable to communicate with each other and unable to love each other. It's pretty basic, and I think people just needed to hear it in a different way."

I smiled at them, and Susan quipped "It was the best message we've had in years!" Mary replied that "if it turns out to be the catalyst for putting this family relationship back together than I'll second that motion. In the meantime, let's not get ahead of ourselves. There's lots of work to be done. I'll follow up with Lilly tomorrow about the required counseling, and about local options for AA or alcohol substance abuse programs. Maybe we'll get lucky and hear we have the in-home therapy resources. The first hard step will be assuring she stops drinking because my sense is, we see a very different personality when she's drinking. Then we need to keep them on track. I think we're done for today. I have to get back to my office and finish up the paperwork. Thank you all for your time and effort. We're off to a good start here."

With that she shook hands with each of us, accompanied by a warm smile and headed for the front door. Susan and Ellen both said they had to be going too, and shortly followed Mary out the front door with the comment "You've got our phone number, so no excuse that we don't keep in touch and keep one and other updated."

I nodded, thanked them for their time and caring, and closed the door behind them. Then I dropped onto the couch, closed my eyes and exhaled a huge sigh. Wow! We got through that heavy starting session. Now if we could just keep it on track!

It was now going on 5:00 PM and I realized I'd better call Spencer Sullivan, the attorney, if I had any hope of seeing him tomorrow. His receptionist put me through, I asked him if I could see him the next day about a private family matter and while surprised, he said certainly and that he had an opening at 11:00 AM. I thanked him and told him I looked forward to seeing him in the morning.

I turned the stereo on, lifted up the two records on the changer and headed to the kitchen for a beer. While I prepared dinner, I heard it, and once again I was hearing Gordon Lightfoot sing "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" as if it was the first time. I put down the chef's knife, took my beer with me into the living room and moved the stylus back to the start of the song and turned up the volume. It was only a few seconds before I started to cry, realizing that in these lyrics was captured so much of the emotion of the first week in Newberg and with Jackson. All these things I'd been unable to recognize before, all these feeling I'd been unable to express were laid out right in front of me. I promised myself I'd share them with Jackson soon.

Dinner was a ho hum affair, and after cleaning up I went back to the office to spend a little more time on the Sunday sermon. I discovered I'd gotten inspired when I realized that a good sermon, the right message, can really have an impact on people's lives.

It was a little before 10:00 PM when I realized I was yawning, and it was time to hit the hay. I made a quick circuit of the house, turned out the lights and locked all but the backdoor and headed upstairs. I planned on showering in the morning, so just brushed my teeth, shut off the bathroom lights and headed for bed. I expected to be alone again so just like the last few nights, I left my boxers on the floor and slipped between the sheets and fell asleep almost instantly.

I don't know how much time went by, but suddenly I had a realization like you do when you realize you're starting to dream. It only took a second, though, to realize it wasn't a dream—there was a live voice calling to me, and as I opened my eyes in the dim light of the bedroom, I saw Jackson once again sitting on the side chair.

When he saw my eyes open, he said, "David, I had to come to you. I can't stand not being with you any longer. I'm so lonely. Can I come into bed with you?"

I blathered some quick reply along the lines of "Oh my god, Jackson, it's you. You came. How did you get out? Are you going to be in trouble?" And then I realized it didn't matter in the moment. He was out of his house and he was here, and it couldn't be reversed and what would be would be, and what mattered was our love for each other, not how he got here.

I sat up and extended my arms, saying, "Jackson, my beautiful boy, I've missed you so much too you don't even know. I'm so happy you're here. I love you. Please come to bed with me. I just want to hold you. I don't think I've ever been so lonely as the last few nights."

Jackson rose from the chair and took the few steps to my bed. Seeing my boxers on the floor, he made a decision and quickly whipped off his T-shirt and then dropped them with his boxers next to mine. I didn't say a word, I didn't care!

Jackson slipped in next to me and wrapped his arms around me. I did the same, and his face was in my neck and immediately he started saying, "I've missed you so much. I've hated being alone, but now I'm here with you. We've got a new start thanks to you, and I can be with the person I love most again."

In my mind I was wondering what the implications of those last comments were, but they'd wait until tomorrow. Right now, it was time for emotion, for love, not time for intellectual rationalization. I kissed the top of his head, then his ears and the side of his forehead, and ran my hands up and down his back. He was so warm and soft. We just lay there on our sides embracing. He ran his hands over my back, although it was a longer reach for him and he couldn't cover it all, but it didn't matter, it felt like small electric charges as his finger tips slid up and down my spine, then out to my shoulders and down my sides to my butt.

I pulled apart a little and slid down so I could kiss him. "Jackson, I need to kiss you, I've been dying for it since we kissed a few days ago." He grinned and his eyes sparkled fire and he turned his face up and our lips met. It started out dry but passionate, then our lips parted, and tongues touched and then the passion rose as our tongues met and wrestled and we started exploring each other's mouths. The last vestige of intellectual function in my brain was saying "so this is what French kissing is. It's pretty amazing!" But that thought was gone in a second or two as the passion took over and I felt his cock now fully erect pushing against my stomach, and I could feel my own erection pushing against his thighs.

We kept kissing, and it was wordless, just our mutual passion working itself out between us. Without even realizing it I grasped him by the shoulders, rolled on my back and pulled him on top of me. We kept kissing as I stroked up and down his back, onto his butt and felt his beautiful buttocks and the crack between his them, then rubbed back up his spine, with its perfectly regular bumps where the vertebrae could be felt. Could his body be any more perfect?

His tongue was pushing as deep in my mouth as it would go, I was reciprocating, and we were sucking each other's tongues. I'd never felt something so sensual or sexy. We were beginning to writhe on the bed as the sensations drove our bodies on. I could feel his hard cock pushed flat against my stomach, and mine on his. We started to grind on each other, and I whispered, "Jackson, I love you so, you are so wonderful."

And I heard him whisper back, "I've never loved anything like this. I never dreamed it could feel this good." I knew his cock was getting very stimulated as it rode up and down and rubbed on my stomach. I could feel precum oozing out of mine, and it got slicker and slicker and I got closer and closer. I didn't expect Jackson to be making precum yet, but he provided a drop or two, then he whispered, "David, I'm going to cum. Is that Okay? I love you so much."

I didn't even think about the consequences for the sheets, but just whispered back, "Yes, cum on me. Cum on me now. There's nothing I want more. I'm going to cum too because you're my beautiful boy and I love you more than anything." We ground and writhed for another thirty seconds or so and he cried out "I'm cumming. Ahhhhhh!"

I felt him buck and a couple of shots of cum hit my stomach and we rubbed it between us. That was it for me. Jackson's body was starting to quiet, and I thrust between his thighs till I cried back "so am I, Oh my God. Arghhh! Arghhh!" I pumped five or six times, shooting between his thighs and up onto his ass. I'd never had an orgasm like this. I felt like I was being convulsed with the sensations, I was breathless and then finally satiated and wiped out.

As we both caught our breath, I pulled him tightly to me. "Jackson, you are so wonderful. That was beyond belief. I love you."

He lifted his head up from where it had been tucked next to mine and looked me full in the face. "I love you too David, and that was awesome. That's the best cum I've ever had. I didn't know it could be so good just rubbing on someone like that."

We whispered small love comments to each other as we held one another and slipped into a light sleep. It could have been an hour or longer, and I heard Jackson say, "David, we've got to wake up. I've got to go home. I've got to be there in the morning for my paper route."

I was impressed and replied, "You're not only sexy as hell, and the most sensual thing I've ever seen, but you're sensible and responsible too. Can you come here for breakfast after your paper route in the morning?" He nodded.

"Okay, then," I said, "let's get cleaned up so you can head home. We can talk about the details in the morning." I threw back the sheet and we padded into the bathroom where I turned on the light over the vanity and then ran the hot water and filled the sink. I took a washcloth, moistened it with warm water and got down on my knees, and slowly and carefully started to wipe him down. I started at his nipples and he writhed a little and giggled, then I wiped down his stomach and around his navel. I turned the washcloth over kissed his stomach and looked for the first time at his gorgeous cock. It wasn't fully flaccid, but probably still four inches and surrounded with a light bush of pubes. His pubes matched his hair, light brown, much to my surprise. I don't know why I was surprised; I just didn't know any better and assumed everyone had dark hair for pubes. I wiped his lower abdomen and raised his cock and wiped it down carefully and lowered it back into place. He giggled again as I completed my task, and then finally I kissed the end of his cock. He jerked at that, but then smiled and said, "That was nice!" I rinsed out the washcloth and said "turn around so I can wash your butt and thighs. He did and wiggled as I ran the washcloth over his cheeks, down the backs and then up the inside of his thighs, and then up his crack. "Wow," he said, "that's almost as good as sex. You can clean me up anytime, Rev!"

I tuned him around and kissed him. He smiled and took the washcloth and rinsed it out in the sink then tuned back to me and told me to stand up. I looked at him and said, "You don't need to clean me." He replied, "Are you kidding me. I wouldn't miss this. We do for each other, right? And I'm not going to miss holding your beautiful soft cock after I clean your stomach. And he did, wiping my stomach where his cum had started to dry, then down to my pubes and carefully lifting my soft but still sensitive cock. He acted as if he was handling a delicate piece of china, held it carefully in the palm of his hand, the wiped it off and ending by kissing it right on the glans. It was still sensitive, and I involuntarily shuddered, and he grinned. "See, I know how to get you going." The he instructed me to turn around, wiped down my butt and thighs, and slowly and purposefully came upwards pushing the washcloth into my crack Now I involuntarily shuddered.

"We better stop now," I said, "or we'll both be hard again and you won't be going home." I led him by the hand into the bedroom and handed him his T-shirt and boxers. "Are these all you wore?" "Yep" he said, it's a warm night and I came through the garage from the back so there's no one to see me."

"Are you sure your mother won't catch you coming back in?"

"I'm pretty sure not," he said. "I'm off detention and not grounded anymore, and we've already agreed that when I want to sleep in my fort I can. So, my plan is to sleep out there the rest of the night, then go in the house at 5:30 to get ready for my paper route. I'll see you before 7:00 with your paper and ready for breakfast. Is that the plan, my Sexy Man?"

"Me, Sexy Man?" I sputtered, raising my eyebrows. "Who'd have ever thought that," I said. "Yes, that's the plan and we can talk in the morning. Be careful going out and going home."

He replied, "I will. You stay here and don't turn any other lights on. I know my way and it's best going out of the house with no lights. I'll slip through the garage and out to my fort. I love you, David. Sleep tight."

And he was gone!

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