A Friend of the Devil

by Bensiamin

Chapter 16

Thursday was pretty much a catch-up day that allowed me to get caught up on sermon and service preparation, map out member locations so I could finally start calling on them, and wishing Jackson was around the house instead of blocks away mowing lawns for new customers. The reading in Luke was the one considered to be Jesus' teaching on prayer, where we find the Lord's Prayer, but the passage is much larger in scope than just the giving of that prayer to the disciples, and that gave me a different way to approach it for the sermon on Sunday.

In the afternoon Spencer Sullivan called to say that Bud's hearing was at 10:00 am, and he'd pick me up at 9:00. Jackson dropped by the house for a few minutes after mowing, but it was close to the time he needed to be home for dinner, and Lilly was going to AA that evening, so he needed to be timely and home when she came back. We agreed it would be a night apart.

Friday morning dawned bright and clear again, and I showered and dressed for court, then headed downstairs. I had the coffee brewed and the breakfast makings out on the counter with I heard Jackson's bike in the driveway and stood there waiting to watch him walk in the kitchen door. Seeing that radiant smile walk through the door just made my day. He was wearing shorts and a T-shirt that just radiated attractive. "Morning, Rev. Are you as anxious for a hug and a kiss as I am," he breezily said as he walked across the kitchen and into my arms? I didn't say anything, just pulled him into a passionate kiss and then we stood and hugged for a minute. "We're getting quite domestic, don't you think," I whispered in his ear? He giggled.

"Yeah, and someday it won't be just meeting for breakfast, but getting up together to start the day. How great will that be?"

We kissed again and I smiled and said, "Let's have some coffee and breakfast, and you can fill me in on yesterday."

It turned out to have been a pretty straightforward day. The two new mowing customers had big yards, so they were getting a deal for $5, but it was new business, so the boys didn't complain—it just took more time. He said dinner was peaceful, a new dynamic that they were all growing to appreciate. Lilly had told them that AA was going well, and providing good support for her, but more importantly she'd gotten an appointment for a doctor visit and physical early this afternoon. At least that might answer some questions or hopefully put some concerns to rest.

We chatted about our bike ride on Saturday, and I asked about the BMX track that Gary had gone to earlier in the week. Jackson said he'd never ridden it but had heard it was fairly basic but fun. I asked him to talk to Gary about it and see what he could find out. He knew about Bud's hearing this morning and told me he'd be gone when Spencer came by to pick me up—fewer questions that way.

Surprisingly we'd cleaned up the kitchen and Jackson was home before Spencer pulled in the driveway. I walked down to meet him and was impressed that he was driving a BMW 630. I told myself not to be surprised—he was a successful attorney. It was a two-door coupe, and new enough that I could smell the leather seats when I got it. After our initial greetings, I commented on the car, and he grinned kind of sheepishly. "I've been wanting one for years, and finally could afford it, though it probably seems like an over the top extravagance in a town like Newberg."

As we pulled away on the street, I could feel the power and asked what kind of engine it had and he said with a grin, "just a six cylinder." And I said, "but…." And he kept the grin and then said, "It's not a sport car, but was designed as a highway touring car, and has plenty of power, handles like a dream and just sails on the highway." I just nodded. "I guess we won't be racing it against my El Camino," I said and grinned.

We turned to business. "Any news, or are you expecting the same situation you described to be earlier in the week?"

He just nodded and said, "Unless there's a major attitude change and a fair amount of remorse, I think that's how it'll go. Bud's still got a chip on his shoulder, and hasn't been before a judge in court before, so I'm betting he's surprised." And that's how it went. He wasn't arrogant, but he showed no remorse and almost acted like what he was accused of doing was his right, and he got a year for each charge plus the two years for a second offense that Spencer predicted plus a substantial fine. We had no chance to speak to him, he just nodded to Spencer as he was led out. When we got outside on the courthouse steps, Spencer simply said, "It's unfortunate for him, but he could have gotten a lesser sentence if he'd been just a little remorseful. That said, this is good for the rest of the family—they now have a lot of time to restructure their lives without Bud interfering."

Spencer asked me to join him for lunch and we stopped on our way back, which gave me the opportunity to get to know the man a little better. His previous comments on my sermons gave the impression that he was not only smart and well read, but had an open mind and heart, and the conversation proved he did. He really surprised me when he turned the conversation to Jackson and Gary. He started by saying again what a great mowing job they'd done at his place, and how impressed he was that Jackson followed up on all the names he's proved to him and signed most of them up. I made him pause and asked, "And you know that how? I somehow doubt that Jackson dropped by your office to let you know how many signed up."

He smiled wryly and said, "I have my ways! Remember, these are people I know, so I talked to them to see what happened, plus I have my reputation to be concerned about—I can't be referring boys to mow that don't follow through or do a lousy job! Seriously, though, I'm impressed with what they're doing and am equally interested in helping them progress."

I just smiled and said, "I'm with you on that, and appreciate your caring and involvement."

Spencer paused and looked at me directly and then said, "There is one thing I'm concerned about though."

While I heard my mouth emit the words "Oh, what's that?", I felt a red flag waving somewhere in the back of my brain. Why would this attorney be concerned about the boys and their lawn mowing business? Could he know something or have deduced something, or worse yet seen something like Gary did.

He went on, "Well Pastor David, it's like this. If they're doing on average two mowing jobs a day for five days a week, that's $50 per week. Maybe they'll pick up a couple more jobs, and that's $60 per week. If they're going to take any of that money for themselves, and they should, then how much can they save by the time school starts in order to buy themselves their own mower and trimmer. And then they really need a few other things too, like rakes and brooms, and such."

He had caught me completely by surprise, given that I'd started down Paranoid Avenue, rather that giving him the benefit of the doubt about being compassionate and concerned. "Those are real concerns, Spencer. I think it's commendable that you're thinking of them and raising them, and somehow, I'm guessing you've already got a way forward to suggest. Am I right?"

He grinned again. "Yes, I do. Letting them use the parsonage mower to start was a kind and Christian thing to do, but that's a church asset and it shouldn't' be abused or overused. So, I'm thinking you and I should pool the money to buy them a good quality mower and trimmer and the other gear and let them pay us back over time. That gets them on their own and we don't have to worry about church property. What do you think?"

"In theory it sounds good, but what are the details"

"Well, for about a thousand bucks we can get them into a Sears Craftsman 7 HP riding mower with a 26" deck, which is a lot bigger than the mower they're using. The riding mower isn't just going to cut lawns faster, but it will tow a utility cart that they can use to haul the trimmer and other tools. If they try to save up for this, it would take a couple of years. If they save to buy a good quality walk behind mower and the other equipment, they'd still spend $500 for it all, and would have to push it from house to house, and it would be enough smaller to take a lot longer for each job."

"How do you suddenly know so much about lawn mowing equipment," I asked, almost starting to laugh.

"Well, my brother works at the Sears store in south Portland, in guess which department? He knows all this stuff and will pass along his employee pricing, and I asked him what he would have his kids purchase if they were starting a lawn mowing business like Jackson and Gary."

"Wow. I'm impressed. You did your research….as a good attorney should. That's a lot of money, though. You know I'm just a poor minister?"

He grinned. "And you're not driving a new El Camino SS, and I'm not driving a fancy BMW, is that correct?"

"Okay, okay! Enough already. Did you investigate my bank accounts or something? I mean I have a thousand bucks left over from the money my folks gave me for graduation to buy a car. They thought I'd buy a big station wagon, and that costs a bunch more than the El Camino. I can see the value of doing this, but it can't be a gift. How do we make it work?"

"Easy," Spencer said, "We put up the money and buy the equipment for them, then they both sign a note to repay us at a certain amount per month with no interest. That's really our contribution, we put up the up-front cash and don't charge interest. We get our money back, the boys get some great equipment to improve their operation, and they also get a lesson in financial management. The latter will probably be important if they're going to be successful entrepreneurs for the long term."

"Okay, you've convinced me. I'm counting on you to do the paperwork, though, and handle the money, and does your brother deliver the equipment and teach them how to use the new mower?"

"He sure does. He owes me for a few things I've done for him, so he's happy to help."

"Well, besides a pleasant lunch with good food, this adds a positive bonus to the day, which is a big plus after what we saw this morning. But I do have to ask you what the motivation is beyond the efficiency improvements you outlined when you began."

He smiled, "It's quite simple, really. This is the type of thing a good and conscientious father would do for his sons if he observed them in this circumstance working to make something out of this opportunity. The problem is they don't have a good and conscientious father, so you and I are going to step in and be the proxies!"

I smiled back. "I knew you were a good man when I met you! Do we tell the boys now, or wait till we've got the deal worked out?

"I think you should break it to Jackson," Spencer said, "he seems to have the business head, and make sure he agrees. We don't want to be ramming something down their throat. It should be presented as an opportunity that they get to take advantage of. Agreed?"

I nodded. Spencer paid the bill for lunch and we headed back to Newberg. It was going on 2:00 but the time he dropped me off, and I expected Jackson so drop by later in the afternoon, so I decided to call Susan to see if she'd spoken to Lilly to get another read on the counseling and AA meetings. She answered the phone cheerily and basically said that what Lilly told her was much like she'd shared with me, that the counseling was hard but going well, and that the AA meetings were turning out to be good support groups. She said her bigger concern was Lilly's health. She'd discussed with Ellen what Lilly had told her, and the worry was that she'd drunk so much for so long she could have developed cirrhosis of the liver or worse yet liver cancer. She knew about the doctor's appointment and physical this afternoon, so we agreed to hope for the best and just wait for results. There wasn't much else to do.

It was a little after 4:00 when I heard footsteps in the gravel driveway, and a minute later heard Jackson come in the backdoor and said, "Hi David, can I get a soda?" I joined him and grabbed two from the refrigerator, and we went to the shade in the back yard. "You look hot and tired," I said.

"Well, yeah! It turns out that having a mowing business when your two customers are close by on one block is very different than having ten or more customers spread out over parts of town and when you have to push and haul all the equipment there!"

I just grinned, thinking of Spencer's plan, and said in the most sympathetic voice I could muster, "Poor baby. Would you like a hug and a kiss to make you feel better?"

He looked at me with a mix of mock disgust and then smiled. "I'm doing fine, Rev. Just recovering from the hard labor. Speaking of hard labor, let's see how you hold up tomorrow on the BMX track. I talked to Gary about it."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah. It's pretty basic, not a lot of fancy turns and jumps like at big tracks in So Cal or anything, but enough for it to be a workout, and for around here it's pretty good, he says. We'll see. It sounds like a glorified dirt track to me, but it should be fun. Can I come over in the morning and we'll get the bikes ready like last week?"

"That's a plan. That's after you come over tonight, right?"

He wiggled his eyebrows! I went on, "and after you come over for breakfast after your paper route?"

"Maybe I should just stay here all night," he offered.

"I'd love it, but it's a little risky. You'll just have to hoof it back and forth." With that he got up and came over to where I was sitting and rubbed the top of my head. "I can do that if I have to. What I need now is a hug and a kiss. But if we're going to be safe, we need to go in the kitchen. Come on Rev, you've got to get up." He offered me a hand to pull me up, and I followed him to the back porch carrying the empty soda cans.

We were barely in the door when he was on me. We kissed long and hard, and I could taste the salt from his sweat in the heat today. When we broke and hugged, he kissed my neck and I could smell the musky aroma of working boy, and again it was an amazing turn on. We both had our hands under the other's shirt, stroking shoulder blades and down the back and squeezing buttocks and grinning together. It was amazingly erotic. Kissing and hugging someone hot and sweaty wouldn't have been previously a conscious choice, but when I found myself in the middle of it, I was amazed at just how stimulating the smells and tastes were. This was my hard-working boy, and I loved experiencing him this way. I licked up his neck to his ear enjoying the salty taste, nibbled on his ear lobe, and then ran my fingers through his hair so I could hold his head and pull it to me for a deep kiss. He was grinding our crotches together and I could feel both of us getting hard.

We broke apart, as if we both knew we needed to take a few breaths. I grinned at him and said, "I've never kissed a hot and sweaty boy before, and I have to tell you that it is pretty damn erotic. I wouldn't have guessed it was such a turn on, but you smell and taste just, I don't know, just raw and sexy. I hope that was a preamble to tonight. We'll have to remember to start off just where we ended!"

His dimples flared as he grinned, and his hazel eyes sparkled. "I'll be ready to rock and roll when I get here, Rev. You better be ready!"

"No worry there, Lover Boy. I was having a pretty placid afternoon, but now I feel like I'm going down the highway at 80 miles an hour!"

"Well, my Sexy Man, just don't slow down too much between now and then, Okay?" The grin had settled into a lovely smile, sweet but edged with anticipation.

I told him I needed a few minutes to update him on the hearing this morning. I walked him through the appearance before the judge, the not guilty plea (which raised eyebrows and a gasp), the District Attorney's presentation of evidence with the emphasis on it being a second offense, and the weak defense that was presented. "Spencer told me a few days ago that unless Bud mustered some level of remorse before the judge, he's likely to get a year for each of the three charges plus more for the second offense. That's what happened. Bud acted almost like what he did was his right, and he got five years and a big fine."

Jackson was quiet for a minute, processing it all. "On one hand not a surprise, like you said, and Mr. Sullivan predicted. On the other it's pretty hard. I hate him but still, five years in jail is a lot of time. But, like they say, he got what's coming to him, it was all his choice. Now we've got five Bud-free years to get our life together as a family, and you and me don't have to worry about Bud being in the picture for our relationship." He didn't sound cold hearted, but it was clear to me that he was processing it as one who'd been on the receiving end for a lot of years and was seeing the end result pretty objectively.

"Do you want me to tell Mom?"

"I'm not sure that it matters, Jackson. The sentence is the sentence. It would be best if she finds out from one of us soon, rather than finding out from the court next week. Are you up for telling her this evening?"

He nodded. "Yeah, I'll do it at dinner. That will give us something real to talk about. I don't want to sound like a cold-hearted bastard, but I'm not sorry at all. I think he's getting what he deserves. Is that bad for me to feel?"

I hugged him close to my chest. "No, I don't think it is. Feeling that he's getting his due is different than vengeance. You're just observing what happened and making a judgment, one I happen to agree with. If it gets difficult talking to your Mom about it, give me a call and I can come over this evening or in the morning, Okay. Just so you know you don't have to do this alone.""

He smiled, and I kissed the lips making the smile, and he said, "I think we can manage." Then a little quieter he said," We have to manage, don't we? I mean it's a whole new situation now."

"It is, but you're not alone! And on a positive note, and to make the point about not being alone, I have a business proposition to put before you."

He looked up, with an expression that was a mix of surprise and disbelief. "Specifically, it's a business proposition put together by Spencer Sullivan, concerning the mowing business you and Gary have."

Now he was curious, and I went on to tell him what Spencer had proposed, up to and including delivery and instruction on how to use the new mower. His expression went from disbelief to surprise to humility over the course of that description. "Why would he want to do that for us? I mean, I hardly know him, I think he hardly knows my parents, our family is a mess, we're just a couple of kids in the church, Bud is in jail and now going to do time. Why would Mr. Sullivan want to do anything for Gary and me, especially something as amazing as this."

"I kind of asked him that, Jackson, and his answer was pretty simple. He said this is the kind of thing that a caring and conscientious father would do to help his sons take advantage of a business opportunity. And he's willing to be the person to step into that void in your lives. He's got two kids of his own, both younger. Pretty amazing, no?"

"It's between amazing and unbelievable. I'll talk to Gary about it tonight. I guess we'll have two big topics to discuss at dinner. I've got to go home and clean up. I'll also find out how Mom's doctor's appointment went and let you know. Thanks for being here for me."

He cocked his head sideways the way he does when he's thinking or trying to figure something out and said, "I love you, and somehow I think you're involved in this deal too, but I haven't figured out how yet. I'll see you later tonight."

We kissed and I whispered I loved him, and he headed home. The net effect of the day's developments made for a rather subdued evening, but I did manage to go back through and finalize my sermon notes for Sunday. It was hard not to think about the conversation going on a few doors down the street.

I went to bed at the usual time, but it seemed that though I awoke to Jackson's presence in the room with the same flood of joy as usual, it seemed earlier than usual. As he slid under the sheets and hugged himself up next to me, I whispered, "How's my Lover Boy tonight? All cleaned up I see. You smell fresh and wonderful."

He acknowledged he'd taken a shower. It would have been too much to help with dinner and sit at the table like he was after a hot afternoon of mowing, as much as he'd have liked to bring that sweaty and musty smell with him now! He giggled at that and I asked him if he was early or if I was imagining things. He said he was early, that it was only a little after 11:00. Telling Lilly about the sentence hadn't been easy, but she accepted it for what it was. She cried a lot, but that was more emotion than pain, and while Gary had been saying it was more than great and he got what he deserved and all that, by the end they'd all agreed that they now had the time to really work on restructuring their lives. They'd both been blown away by Mr. Spencer's mowing offer, and it while it seemed to good to believe. Lilly had started with opposition to it, as if it was charity. Jackson explained to her it was a legit loan with a purchase agreement, and it also seemed too amazing to turn down. She finally consented and went along with the idea. It had been quite an emotional evening, and everyone went to bed early.

He rolled up on top of me and ran his fingertips through the hair behind my ears, so he had control of my head, and squeezed and pulled me forward towards his and whispered, "Now, enough of that. A lot of this happened because of you, but I'm here to be with you, to finish what we started this afternoon, my Sexy Man." He'd started grinding his pelvis on mine, and I felt us both getting hard, and he slid down a little so his cock was next to mine and changed his grinding into a circular motion that made both of our cocks rub together and slide along each other. It was wild, and I felt a change when I seeped some precum and the lubrication came into play and we slid on each other more and more readily. I decided to let him be in control, he seemed to need it, and while his face was below mine and we couldn't kiss and grind the way he wanted at the same time, his back was arched and his head high so he could watch me, staring straight at me.

There had been a time not too long ago when a direct stare like this, to say nothing of the sex going on would have embarrassed me and made me look away. No longer. His eyes sparked and seemed to shine in the little light we had, but he was intense. And the feelings were intense. He ground and pushed and rotated and I didn't think I'd ever felt anything quite like it. He was watching intently and saw me getting close, and whispered, "I want you to cum hard, like you've never cum before. I want you to blow your load on me. You're my Sexy Man and you make me whole and happy." He didn't need to push harder, the verbal encouragement coupled with his intensity were enough. In only a minute or two I moaned, "Jackson, I'm going to cum." He smiled and said, "I'm waiting for you. We're going to cum together. I love you."

I came, voicing the feelings and bucking under him, and I could feel the additional force set him off and his hands tightened on either side of my head and he pushed down against me and whispered, "I'm coming too, we're coming together. Like we should because we're lovers." And he let out a high-pitched groan. He continued a softer grind for half a minute, as we both enjoyed the sensations made possible by the additional lubrication of the cum drenching our abdomens. He was still intensely looking into my eyes, and finally it was too much, too sensitive, and we had to stop.

We lay motionless, Jackson atop me, both panting, and him continuing to look me straight in the eyes with those beautiful hazel eyes of his, whose color I could just make out. "You're my Sexy Man! You're the best. I've never felt anything like this, like what I feel when I'm with you!"

I reached around his back and hugged him close and tight to me. "You just took the words out of mouth, Lover Boy. I could never have imagined this, and it keeps getting better and better. You are a masterful lover, in case no one ever told you before."

He grinned at that and dropped his head, so his face was against my neck and kissed and licked and nibbled as we settled into the after-climax bliss. I'm sure we both nodded off for a few minutes, then I started when he said, "Come on David, get up with me so we can clean up."

He pulled me from the bed, and we walked into the bathroom hand in hand. He ran the warm water and used a washcloth to clean my belly, and then carefully wipe down my cock, and then equally carefully dried it all with a hand towel. He rinsed out the cloth and handed it to me, and I did the same for him. It was sensuous, yes, but more importantly it was simply an expression of love and caring.

The light was on in the bathroom, and I looked him square in the eyes and said, "Can I just look at you? You're so beautiful, and I've barely seen you naked when we've been together." He smiled and nodded, not embarrassed at all. I kissed him lightly, then put both hands on his shoulders and left my fingertips slide down over his pectoral muscles, feeling the structure, and down over his ribs, then around his waist to rest on his hips "You're nothing but beautiful," I whispered in his ear. He shuddered.

I slipped my hands around to his back and held his buttocks, each firm and filling my hands. I brought my hands around to his front, and let my fingertips dance on his belly, and slowly slide down to slip into his pubes. He shuddered again, and then I dropped to my knees and didn't do what I knew he thought I was going to. Instead I ran my hands back to his bum and down over his buttocks and down the backs of his legs, tracing the muscle outlines down to his knees, and then down his lower legs to his ankles and back up the front of his legs. When my hands reached his waist, he was hardening again. A few thoughts raced through my mind, but I stopped there, giving the top of the shaft of his cock a kiss, and then standing up to hold him by the shoulders, look into his eyes and simply say, "I want you to know that you're the most beautiful thing I've ever seen! I wish you could see yourself through my eyes, because then you'd stop worrying if you're good enough or big enough."

He shuddered again, and for the first time looked just a little embarrassed. It only took a few seconds, though, and he said to me, "You know, I haven't really seen you either. So just stand there. I know you don't think you're handsome or sexy, but you are, and I just want to confirm that to myself." There was just the edge of a smirk on his smile.

He slid his hands up my sides and brought them together in the middle of my chest, toying with my chest hair, then running his fingertips over my nipples and down to my hips. As I'd done, he slipped his hand to my back and held each of my buttocks, softly squeezing them and toying with them using his fingertips. He paused there, looking me directly in the eyes and then ran both hands down the outside of my thighs, then dropped to his knees and continued to run his hands down the backs of my legs to my ankles. I could feel him begin to slide back up the inside of my legs. As he reached the inside of my thighs, I involuntarily shuddered and unconsciously spread by feet apart, giving him more access. He continued upward, bringing his fingertips together behind my balls on my perineum, which he slowly stroked. I felt a flare of worry "he's close to my ass," and then ignored it. This was my lover; I could trust him. He continued his stroking, and my cock jumped as I responded to the completely foreign sensation. He kissed the head of my hardening cock and stood up to kiss me on the mouth, taking my hand and saying, "Come on. We're not done tonight."

He pulled my head forward to kiss me, and I wondered if that was a statement of intent or a threat! Suddenly he was driven like I'd not seen before. I'd learned he could be forward when angry or dealing with something he cared about, but this was different, this was stronger and deeper than assertiveness. It was basal and elementary. I wondered if the knowledge of Bud's sentence meant that while Bud got incarceration, Jackson realized he'd received a declaration of freedom. He was leading me back to the bed, and we both slipped between the sheets, lying with his head on my shoulder. Jackson began tracing his fingertips through my chest hair, lightly stimulating me, and just making loving sounds. "I just want to love you. I've never felt like I wanted something as much as this. Being your lover is the best thing in the world, my Sexy Man."

I stroked his back, running my fingertips up and down his spine, squeezing his buttocks, and I found I could reach all the way to his crack and slid my finger part way down…. then found myself backing off. A reach too far! Jackson slid to the side and was stroking by belly and running his fingertips into my pubes. To my surprise, I was completely hard again. My entire history was 'once and done," though that had been with my hand and a pillowcase. Here I was, within an hour, responding and getting hard again at the hand of my Lover Boy.

In a minute I felt him grasp my cock, and ever so slowly start to stroke it. He'd end each stroke with a turning motion at the top that really stimulated my cock head. After a minute, without letting go of my cock, I felt him raise up on his left elbow and look directly at me. "David, I want to kiss your cock. Please let me. Just lay there and let me give you some of the love feeling you've given me."

I was at a loss for words but wasn't in the mental state to argue. I just smiled and blew him a kiss. He'd been assertive and in charge so far, but what he did next blew my mind. He threw the sheet back, so we were both naked on the bed, then he leaned down and kissed me deeply and passionately tongues dancing together, and when he pulled away, he slid down and ministered to both nipples. He kissed and licked, alternating soft with hard, and I shuddered as I felt swept up in the sensory stimulus. I felt him lick down across my belly and as his tongue reached my pubes, I felt him push up and move his body down the bed to rest between my legs. I was struggling to process what was happening, and just decided that was the problem. Don't process, go with it. This is your Lover Boy, he's proven he loves you and wants to pleasure you, so don't resist, just do. And so, I did.

Jackson was resting between my legs, holding my cock in his right hand, and lightly leaned down and kissed the head of my cock. I shuddered again, struggling to process the new sensations coming so soon after our last love making. Our first had been fast and driven by a mutual passion, a need to reach a climax. Now he was languidly and sensuously attempting to give me something else, something different. And I was responding to it. I felt like something new was happening within me, like I was alive in a whole new way. I was amazed at the sensation, so new, so different, and just went with it because whatever it was, it was happening to me as a result of the gift Jackson was giving me.

He opened his mouth and slowly and carefully slid down over the head of my cock. I knew he had to open wide, but the sensory rush of those lips and the accompanying moistness was so strong I thought I might faint. I was watching, almost not believing what was happening, and he was looking up at me, a smile in his eyes, as he watched me gasp for breath and grip the sheets more and more tightly. He'd told me before he hadn't been with a boy before, so this was new to him too. He clearly had thought about me being larger than him, and he was amazingly careful and effective. He either had a vivid imagination or had been doing research. After a minute or so he slowly lifted his mouth off my cock and really smiled as his eyes bored into mine. He blew me a kiss, and then dropped down and licked up from the bottom of my shaft to the tip. It reminded me of licking an ice cream cone, but there was no time for humor, and when his tongue reached the head I involuntarily shuddered again, and my back arched off the bed. He'd found something that brought an especially strong response and kept licking the glans, moving his head from side to side to cover it all. I was in rapture and almost reached out to grasp his head and still his movement. But I couldn't. This was Jackson loving me, wanting to give his love to me.

He kept at it for a couple of minutes, and I could feel myself starting that final wind up that ends with a climax, and whispered, "Jackson, oh my God, this is incredible. I'm starting to get close." He just smiled, and his eyes sparkled. He kept licking, as if he knew it would drive me to the brink, and when he heard me start to pant, my body buck again and I whispered, "Oh God, Jackson," he leaned down and took the head of my cock in his mouth again. Now I fully understood what he wanted: not only to give me the most intense climax possible, but he actually wanted me to cum in his mouth. I was beyond logical thought, and just gave in to the sensations as I cried out and came for the second time. He took all my semen, a smaller load than before, and he pulled back just a little and I felt his tongue swirling it around in his mouth and over the end of my cock. I thought I'd die, and had to say, "Jackson, please, stop. It's too much. I can't take anymore."

He came off me and slipped back up over my softening cock and settled on my chest, a smile beaming on his face. He purposefully waited to swallow until he was laying on me so I could see it, and the smile became wider and the dimples flared. I was beyond words, and he whispered to me, "Now I haven't just tasted you, but I have you inside me. You're completely mine now. You're part of me, just like I became part of you the other night."

The logic, if there was any, was beyond me, but the love wasn't. I simply hugged him. There was nothing else to do. A fleeting thought went through my mind, wondering if this was akin to the line in Peter Abelard's lament for Jonathan about one soul versus a half a soul. Were we only half souls and this was part of the way we moved to be a completed one? He dropped his head and kissed the base of my neck, and I kissed the top of his head and clasped him as tightly to me as I dared, telling him I loved him.

We rested for a few minutes, and as my breathing returned to normal and I came to my senses, I could feel his hardness on my belly. I rolled him off me and encouraged him to slide up the bed a little to make more room at the foot of the bed and whispered in his ear, "You are an incredible lover. I never knew sex and love could feel like this, that it could join the two of us together like this. Lay there, Jackson, and let me try and be as good."

I mimicked what he'd done to me, kissing and licking his nipples and then licking down this chest and belly to his pubes, kissing them and feeling my nose reach his cock. The smell of boy was intense. I could feel him writhing on the bed beneath my hands, and then I moved down between his thighs. His cock was standing proud, and I as I took it in my hand, I could feel it pulse. Like he had done to me I stroked him gently, kissed the head, and then carefully took it in my mouth. Like before it felt like silk. Round and hot and silken, and I caressed it with my tongue. He was groaning now, and I remembered what he'd done with the licking and tried to duplicate it, recalling how stimulating it had been. I focused my efforts in the triangular area below his head on the underside, and as I flicked my tongue and licked, I could see his eyes were closed and his head was rolling from side to side. He moved his hands from his sides where he'd been pressing on the mattress, and pushed his fingertips into my hair, and pulled my head down onto him. Deep throating was only something I'd heard about in a derogatory way, but I knew what it meant, and as he pulled my head down toward his groin, there was only one thing to do. Here his being a little small, and my being fully grown worked to our advantage, and without even thinking about it I was able to take all of his cock in my mouth. I gagged briefly, pulled up a little, then settled back slowly, twisting my head to have my mouth swirl on his cock.

He was groaning loudly now, writhing and his groin was pushing into my face. "David, oh my god, oh my god, I can't hold it anymore! I'm going to cum," followed a minute later by a prolonged "Argggghhh" sound as he released in my mouth. It was wonderful to feel him receive so much pleasure. I remembered just how sensitive I'd been only minutes before, and pulled off him, gave his cockhead a final kiss, and slid back up so my face was level with him. As I did, I let him watch my face and purposefully swallowed his cum. "We're part of each other again," I whispered, then leaned in for a kiss. I expected a dry kiss after what we'd done, but he grasped my head and pulled me in for a deep and sensuous kiss, tongues dancing, mixing the tastes of each other in our mouths. His eyes glinted, "We belong to each other now, we're mixed together."

I had nothing sensible to say in reply, so I just kissed him again, and then whispered to him, "You make me feel so alive. I almost feel like I'm becoming sexually alive for the first time in my life."

He didn't reply; he didn't need to. He smiled and his eyes sparkled, and he sighed, and then I reached for the sheet and pulled it up over us as we lay together. We hugged and nuzzled each other and finally I said, "Will you be able to wake up in time for your paper route without an alarm clock?"

He nodded, "Yes, David, I've got it down. Tonight is the most beautiful thing that's happened in my life. I just want you to hold me now." With that he rolled over and snuggled his back against my chest and I pulled him tight with my left arm and we fell asleep like that.

I felt him leave in the morning, and though I was barely conscious of it, after he had gotten out of bed and slipped his shorts and T-shirt on, I felt him lean back over the bed and give me a brief kiss before he left. A perfect ending. Or was it a perfect beginning to a new day?

Saturday dawned bright and clear, and I let myself sleep until 7:30, knowing Jackson would be back between 8:15 and 8:30. I completed the morning ritual and headed for the kitchen to start the coffee and organize breakfast. With a bike ride ahead, calories would matter, so I put some bacon on low heat and made the fixings for French Toast.

I'd finished my first cup of coffee and the bacon was done when I heard the bike in the driveway. I expected the sunny smile like most mornings as he entered, but today he was just a little demure. I raised my eyebrows and and said "What? Something's different."

He continued the same smile and just said "In case you haven't been outside, it's a gorgeous day, and I'm the happiest person on the planet this morning because I've got you." I know he wasn't embarrassed, but it was as if there was a new sense of discovery of himself, as if he'd arrived at a new place that didn't require being coy and cute. He could just be his sincere and strong self. It was a pleasure to watch.

"Well, for obvious reasons I'm thrilled you have me and are happy about it, and that its such a great morning, and that you're so happy. But I have to ask, do you have a sore jaw?"

He momentarily acted as if he'd been insulted, but I could see the twinkle in his eyes in the morning light, and knew it was an act. "What a crass thing to ask after discussing so many beautiful things." He paused for a few seconds, then continued, "But since we're being honest with each other, yes, my jaw is a little sore, but it was all for a good cause!" He was grinning as he made the last comment.

"I have to tell you, in the spirit of being completely transparent," I said to him, "that I feel like a different person this morning. I meant what I said last night about feeling like I was now sexually alive. I don't know how else to say it, but you've brought something to life I didn't know was there before, and it's wonderful. It makes me think of the line to the old Doors song, 'come on baby, light my fire,' because you sure lit my fire last night."

He said nothing, just pulled in close for a deep kiss, and that said it all. We turned to the counter and stove and did the work to make breakfast. As we ate, we chatted casually over breakfast, and I purposefully didn't press for details about the discussion over dinner the night before about Bud's prison sentence or even the riding mower. I know he'd bring it up when he was ready. We talked about BMX courses, the kind of techniques required, like keeping the center of gravity low when on the ground in turns and being able to lean the bike hard but standing up for obstacles and jumps. Finally, we'd finished the food, were sipping coffee and the chit chat had run its natural course. He looked at me, then reached over and touched his fingertips to my lips and said, "You know, you're not just my Sexy Man, but after checking you out in the light last night, you're also the most handsome thing ever."

I didn't blush last night, but I did this morning. I smiled and said, "Like you've got a lot to compare me too! I appreciate you saying that, and even though I've never thought of myself that way, but I'll accept it. Though only if like I said last night, you accept what I said about if you could see yourself through my eyes, you'd see how beautiful you are. Is that a deal?"

"Sure is. Now we're both on new ground, higher ground, right? And by the way I do have some comparisons I can make!"

My eyebrows rose! He continued, "Well, you know, there are gay porno mags and I knew a guy in town till he moved away that was kinda kinky, but he got me a couple of them from Portland, and you're way more handsome than anyone that's in them."

I must have looked stunned, and said, "I didn't know they existed."

He grinned. "Sure do, one was Playguy and the other was Blueboy. Lot's of pictures, and some articles about being gay and finding guys, it didn't show too much, but I wanted to see and learn about being gay. I've still got them deeply hidden away out in my fort if you want to see them. Anyway, my Sexy Man, I have to ask about what you did to me last night. I thought you said you hadn't had sex before. Where did you learn about what you did to my cock? I thought the top of my skull was going to blow off when you were using your tongue below the head of my cock."

I was kind of embarrassed now, and probably showed it—talking about it in the daylight was more difficult than doing it in the dark. "Listen Jackson, it's not like I've had experience or done research or anything, but I certainly felt the things you did to me that put me over the top and just wanted you to experience the same pleasure I did. I was watching you for cues, and when you had your eyes closed and were rolling your head around, I knew I was in a good place and doing a good thing for you. But now I want to ask you two things. First, when we were standing in the bathroom, you touched and stroked behind my balls near my ass. That felt amazing and no one's ever touched me there before. How did you know to do that?"

He smiled. "Well, don't you ever rub yourself there or rub your asshole when you jack off or put your finger in your asshole? I do, and I know how sensitive it is, so it had to be for you too, and I wanted you to feel it, to experience something new and nice. We were exploring and admiring each other's bodies, so it seemed the right thing to do. Did I do something wrong?"

"No, no. Nothing wrong, it's just that you always grow up being taught that everything about the anus—that's the technical term—is dirty and unclean, and getting close to someone's ass always seemed dirty and I'd have guessed most people would be hesitant or even repulsed. I don't know, maybe it's me and I'm just being prudish or something."

"Let me ask again," he continued, still smiling, "did it feel good?"

"It felt amazing. It made me shudder."

"Okay then, it makes you feel good and its part of you, so its got to be good, right? I like every part of you. And there doesn't have to be anything dirty about it. I shower every evening to make sure I'm clean for you. Clean inside and out. So that's like washing your hands before you eat, or something like that, right?"

"What do you mean clean inside and out?"

"Well, a shower cleans the outside, that's easy. But it's not hard to clean the inside too, I swiped an enema bulb from my Mom's bathroom a couple of years ago when I started experimenting, and just squirting some warm water in your ass with it makes sure you're clean inside too. Then you sit on the toilet and you're done. It's that easy."

I guess I looked dumbfounded. "God, you have been doing your research. I'm glad you know more than me or we'd be less like capable lovers and more like the blind men and the elephant!

He found that funny. "Look my Sexy Man, regardless of how far we're going, or not going, we're making love, and I want it to be as pleasant and fun for you as it can be. And, clean too!"

There was logic that was hard to argue with. The things they don't teach you in school! "I hear you, and I appreciate your approach, though it's new to me, but it makes perfect sense. Teach me all you know. I'm learning a lot from you already, and not just about myself! Now, you've got to tell me where you got that idea about us belonging to each other because we were mixed together by swallowing our sperm."

Now it was his turn to be just a little embarrassed. "I really don't know, it wasn't in those gay mags, but it just seemed so obvious at the time. Everything we do seems to bring us closer and closer together, and that certainly mixed us together inside, didn't it?" He grinned now and reached across the table and took my hand. "It's about the closeness, the togetherness, I guess. I don't remember the book or the author, but I remember a sci-fi book where the main characters, it was a husband and wife couple, had a kind of communication, a kind of telepathy, where they could share their thoughts and feelings directly when their fingers were touching. That's what I'm feeling and what I dream of, that we're so close, we know each other so deeply that it's almost like we can read each other's thoughts and feelings. Is that kind of weird?"

I paused, wanting to make sure I got this right. "No, it's not weird at all. That kind of closeness, which I've never had with anyone else in my life, is what I'm feeling and hoping for too. When I spoke to Paul Gallagher a few days ago, we were talking about changing views on homosexuality in the first thousand years of western history, and how it swung back and forth over time and then really changed to the negative in the 1200's. But he shared with me part of a poem by a French philosopher and theologian named Peter Abelard. It was about David lamenting the death of Jonathan, which you probably don't know about yet, but it's in the Old Testament and he spoke about how with his lover Jonathan he was 'a whole soul' and with Jonathan dead he was only 'half a soul.' I think it's kind of like that, isn't it?"

He nodded. "Wow, that was in the 1200's? That's pretty radical."

"Radical it is. They don't teach you that stuff in seminary, I can tell you. And if you're interested, there's a hymn of Renaissance polyphony, a lament actually sung to Jonathan. I listened to it after I spoke to Paul, and if you're up for it I'd love to play it for you sometime. Maybe tomorrow afternoon?"

He nodded. "I don't know what polyphony is, but I'm up for it. The music adventure over the last three weeks has been eye opening, and apparently we're not done yet, right?"

"That's for sure! And polyphony just means 'many sounds' or voices, as in a choir of six or twelve people. And that's not all, Paul told me to get a book by Plato called The Symposium where the concept of two souls complimenting or fulfilling each other is more fully developed. I never read it when I was in college, but when we take a trip to Portland, we'll find a bookstore and buy it and read it together."

"That sounds cool." He was smiling and his eyes were sparkling in the morning light that was pouring through the kitchen windows.

"By the way, Lover Boy, you know my day off is Monday, right?" He nodded. "And your weekday for not mowing is Monday too, I think?" He nodded again. "Well, on the subject of a trip to Portland, are you up for a trip to Portland on Monday?"

He was smiling but cautious. "What's the plan, Rev? This didn't just come out of nowhere did it?"

"You're too coy for me. Nope, I've been kind of planning it after reading a review in the entertainment section of the paper you deliver every morning, and an interview in another day's paper. Don't you read the newspaper you deliver? Aren't you interested in staying informed or up on current events?" I was grinning at him now, and he knew I was working him.

"Sorry, Rev. Maybe someday, but for the last little while I've been under what you called a…. what was it, you used it last week, oh yeah…? a miasma! That's pretty much gone now, so maybe I can just lounge on your back porch after breakfast every morning and read the paper, and then catch up with Gary by mid-morning. How does that sound?"

"Okay, okay, point taken. Anyway, the trip to Portland is meant as a surprise for you. Do you want to go?"

"Well, yeah! What's the deal, what's the plan?"

"Well, you've heard, presumably of the new sci-fi movie that opened this summer…...?"

"Wait!" He was standing up now, leaning on on his hands and staring at me. "You're not talking about Star Wars, are you?"

I nodded.

"No way! You can't be serious! I figured it would be next year before it got to Newberg and I'd get to see it then. That is so cool, David. What's the plan?"

"The plan is simple. It's playing at the Westgate Theatre in Beaverton, so we go into town in the morning, have lunch, see the early show in the afternoon, then head to Portland for a bookstore and what ever else and then head home. Are you interested?"

"Are you kidding me? Interested? I'm going to go insane waiting! I don't believe this. You know this is our first 'real' date, don't you? And you're taking me all the way to Portland to see the biggest sci-fi movie release of the year! Wow! It doesn't get much better than that?"

I hadn't thought of it as a fancy date, so I just smiled and wiggled my eyebrows knowingly.

"Why do you suddenly want to do this? Go see this movie?"

I was grinning now. "Well, it's an opportunity to be in a big dark room with you! But seriously, like I told you, I read an interview with George Lucas, the producer and director, and it's more than a sci-fi movie. Besides the science fiction part, Lucas got my attention when he talked about mythology and trying to describe or define mythology in the future. I don't know what that means, but it sounds interesting."

"Okay, Rev. You take the mythology and I'll 'The Force Be With You' part, how's, that?"

I glanced at the clock and said, "We better clean up breakfast so we can set up the bikes and get going if we're going to make it to that BMX course."

He nodded at me, and we both started clearing the table and cleaning up, and in ten minutes we were out in the garage stripping off paper carriers and inflating tires.

"Not too much pressure. We won't be on the pavement, and if they're too hard they lose traction." I nodded and finished inflating the tires and dripped some oil on the chain and gear cluster as Jackson held the read end up and turned the pedals.

We were there by 10:00 and while it was a small and kind of rustic track, it seemed well maintained and there weren't a lot of kids there yet. We found Gary and he greeted us warmly. That was a new one for me, but I welcomed it as a positive change. He told us to get our bikes out of the El Camino and he'd give us a once around the course. Once the crowd arrived, he'd end up spending a lot of time doing bike mechanic work. I asked him if this was part of his plan to get a job as a bike mechanic. He smiled and said, yes – the track was supported by the local bike shop and he was getting to know the owner and the full-time mechanic because he was helping out the BMX customers. This was encouraging. Gary had a plan!

I didn't expect him to be a great BMX rider given his size, whereas Jackson was built right for speed and maneuverability. That said, though, Gary had been riding a lot and knew the course. It was only a few acres that the city let volunteers build a track on. It had originally been built like a small trail riding course with dirt jumps, then as local parents and the local bike shop got involved, it had been improved to be a freestyle course. It was basically an L-shaped pump course with two full 180 degree turns on either end and two 90-degree banked turns in the middle, and a big jump on each side. The pumps, all those smaller jumps set close to each other, or close to the big jumps or banks were what gave it real challenge because they could throw you off balance and make you lose momentum.

I decided early on to ride and have fun, but not get into any racing. I hadn't done it for a while and didn't want any injuries at this stage. Gary led us on a moderate speed ride round the course, and I could see Jackson itching to go. I just held back and watched. When we got over the finish, the two brothers looked at each other and Gary just said, "What?" Jackson smirked and said, "Wanna race?" The reply was "You sure?" Jackson nodded and they were off. Gary had better technique because and he'd been riding the course more so he knew the distances and could anticipate the jumps and speed needed to optimally take the big jumps or the banked curves. Jackson was fast though, and impressively maneuverable and athletic and handled the jumps better. He almost dumped his bike twice from misjudging distance and timing but pulled it back together and quickly got back on pace with Gary. They finished almost even.

I hadn't seen them approach, but a bunch of kids had gathered in the general area that I was standing and watching and as Gary and Jackson came over the line, and they broke into a cheer. Both boys slid their bikes sideways to a stop and grinned at each other. Jackson was conciliatory. "Not bad bro, but you know this is my first time on the course, so having your little brother almost beat you, well, you know…...!"

Gary decided to be a good sport and earned my respect. Instead of getting into a give and take about who really won, he just said, "You know, if you worked on your technique, learned a few moves and had a better bike, you'd be pretty good."

About that time a voice just behind me called out, "Hey Jackson, I didn't know you rode BMX. You looked good, man."

Jackson looked at Gary and said, "Thanks, bro. That was fun. And good advice too!"

He then turned to the voice behind me and said, "Will, I didn't know you rode either. Gary was just showing me the course. You know, I couldn't embarrass him cause he's my older brother."

Gary chortled and said, "Right! I've got to go see who needs a mechanic."

Jackson rolled his bike over to me, and the voice did too, and it was obvious the voice was on a really good BMX bike. Jackson and Will high fived, and Jackson turned to me and said, "Rev, this is…., Oh sorry, Pastor Dave, this is Will Summers. Will, this is Pastor Dave, you know, our new minister that I talked to you about being one of the counselors for summer camp."

Will nodded my way and said "Hi," and then something about not having seen a minister on a BMX bike before. Jackson told him that was one of the things different about me, that I was younger, and I think he said hip. Maybe it was cool, but the message was that I wasn't old and out of touch! Will said he was in a race at 11:00 but he could ride with us till then and it would warm him up. I told them to go knock themselves out together since I probably couldn't keep pace with them and needed to learn the course anyway. They tore off in a trail of dirt and dust.

I spent half an hour relearning leaning into turns and handling the banks, and especially the part about getting up on the pedals for the pump course sections. It was that or get blasted in the groin on every other one. A few times around and I was feeling my legs from all the pedal standing, and past the finish line I headed over to the El Camino for some water. I stowed my bike in the bed and walked back to watch the races when they started. Jackson and Will appeared to have reconnected, and were having a good time riding together, though the impression was that Will was technically more proficient. It turned out 17-18-year olds still raced in an amateur class broken down to Novice, Intermediate and Expert. The next class range was 19-27 with the same ratings.

I watched them finish up their last ride round the course, and Jackson came over to stand by me while Will went off to hook up with his team and coach. I turned to Jackson and said, "Well?"

He grinned. "It was fun. I'd forgotten how much. Last time I was here a few years ago it was pretty new and a pretty basic dirt track, so the course is way bigger and better, even if small by Portland or national standards. But its still fun and a workout. Will's really good. He's an Intermediate in our age class and if he wins another race or two, he could move up to Expert. That would be pretty cool"

"You look to me like you handle a bike pretty well," I said, "you should try and do it more. I'm guessing it wasn't on Bud's list of approved activities, right?"

He nodded. "That's for sure. I used to ride bikes with Will, and we'd do stuff together but that stopped thanks to Bud. Same thing for Gary. Anyway, that's over. Maybe I will be able to ride with Will and get to know him better. He's working this summer at the NAPA auto parts store in town that his Dad owns, so he doesn't have a ton of time to ride either. Plus, he's in that rock band Susan told us about."

We stood around for a few minutes and waited for Will's race. I'd noticed over half the people on the track hadn't been wearing helmets, and he hadn't either when he was cruising around with Jackson. Now he reappeared with the local bike shop jersey and a helmet, and I realized he was riding a Diamond Back bike. So, he was pretty well tricked out. Today they were running races in reverse order, so older in the morning and the younger kids in the afternoon. As they lined up Will looked over at Jackson who gave him a thumbs up, and the starter dropped the flag. There was no Christmas tree light set up on this track. They went hell for leather, and it was hard to sort out who was ahead most of the time, but we had a good view of the finish line, and while it was close and there was give and take in the last straight away, Will managed to win and a big cheer went up from a cadre of kids that turned out to be his team. Jackson was thrilled and ran over to give him a high five.

When he came back, he said that win probably had moved Will up to Expert in his age bracket, and if he kept it up long enough could qualify him for regionals in Portland in the fall. We stayed and watched a few more races, and Will joined us for the last two. Jackson talked to him about the counseling job and asked if he could meet on Tuesday about it. He said it would have to be after work, like about 5:30, and I nodded. He said Tom Wilson was on board too, and he'd talk to him about the time on Tuesday. Jackson couldn't contain himself and told Will we couldn't meet on Monday because he and I were going into Portland to see Star Wars! Will looked impressed, but I found myself wondering what the conversation would be about going to see a movie with the pastor!

Before long Will had to go do some work with the team and begged off and we said goodbye. I asked if I'd see him at church the next day, and he smiled and said maybe! He grinned and I could see a mix of mirth and defiance in his eyes. I looked at him and said, "That's cool. I don't want anyone forced into coming to a worship service. You know, that takes all the fun out of it!" He grinned again and said, "Thanks, Pastor Dave. Sorry, I've gotta go." He waved at Jackson and was off.

Since the next four or five hours was scheduled races for younger kids, we decided to grab some lunch at Super Burger. Over burgers and fries, I asked Jackson if he knew anything about Rogers Landing? He told me he knew where it is but hadn't been there before. I'd read it was just south of town and was a natural landing on the Willamette River with a boat launch. We decided to go check it out after lunch.

Being a Saturday afternoon, the boat landing was busy, and the parking lot was pretty full of pickup trucks with boat trailers, but we found a parking spot and made our way down to the boat ramp. It was pretty basic, but the stretch of river in front of it was wide and smooth and beautiful, with little current for the volume of water going by. It only took a little while to find a section of passable beach at the upriver end, where some other kids were hanging out, and we decided to go get wet. "But Rev, we don't have swim trunks!"

"Yeah," I said. "We don't have to go all the way in, you know. It might be fun just to get our feet wet or wade around. We don't want our shorts wet because wet shorts won't be too good for the leather seats, and we didn't bring towels either. But we can just wade around and have some fun. Come on."

And we did, and it was low key, and it was fun. What was most fun was just being with Jackson in a neutral and pleasant setting, where he could be himself and react to the pieces of nature around him. We'd reached the point where we could just enjoy being together, talking about any number of things, enjoying nature. We saw both Great Blue Herons and Green Herons, other birds I didn't recognize, and he told me that in the spring and later in the fall during the salmon runs we'd be able to see salmon migrating upstream too. That was a mind blower for me. It did dawn on me that while our relationship together was getting ever closer and natural, we still had to maintain a completely different posture for the outside world, That we had to seem to be something other than what we were, that we had to appear to be something than the couple we seemed to be becoming. In other words, we had to act, we had to live a lie.

We were back at the parsonage by 4:30 and unloaded the bikes and got the paper bags back onto Jackson's so he'd be ready for his paper route in the morning. We knew we wouldn't be seeing each other tonight, but I said, "Come inside for a drink before you go home," and he followed me into the kitchen.

I grabbed two sodas from the refrigerator and we each took a sip, eyeing one another. We both set our cans down almost simultaneously, grinned and moved into an embrace. He was so wonderful to hold and seemed to be relaxed in a whole new way today. After we kissed, I looked deeply into his eyes, and he smiled up at me and said, "It was a real fun day. Thanks. We did stuff today Bud would never do with me and that's so cool."

"It was great, Jackson, and I did it with you because it was all fun to do, and it was all fun to do with you. Are you going to try and ride more with Will? I think he'd like you to."

"Well, if I can, between the mowing and his work schedule too. We'll see what we can do. What's cool is that we've reconnected, and I remember why I liked him. We always seemed to have stuff in common and just got along, you know like could spend time together and be happy. I'd forgotten about that."

"That would be a good thing for you to have in your life again."

"But what about us," he said, his voice showing concern.

"Hey, we're not going anywhere. We have a different kind of relationship. That doesn't mean we can't have other friends. What if Spencer asked me to start playing tennis with him once a week or something? Would you be threatened by that? Would you say I shouldn't do it because I wouldn't be playing tennis with you? I don't think so. And you should have friends your age too. It's normal. It's natural. And you've got your senior year to think about and plan for too. Remember, you're no longer the Invisible Kid. You're visible and you're beautiful and you're cool and it turns out you know other people who are your friends and like you. How about that?"

He smiled. "I guess I have to get my head around all this new stuff. You're right. Thanks, David. See, like I've been saying, we're good for each other." With that he gave me another kiss.

"You better get home and see how things are with your Mom. You've been gone all day."

I hugged him and said I'd see him in the morning. "I've got to be at church around 9:00, do you want coffee and some breakfast after your paper route?"

"Well, yeah! It's my new morning routine, finishing off my paper route with this handsome guy I know that I love to drink coffee with. Bye, Rev. See you in the morning." And he was out the door and I heard the bike roll down the gravel driveway.

I'd finished all my preparation for Sunday, so Saturday evening was time for some reading. I wished I owned the Plato book Paul had told me about. However, Zelazny's The Hand Of Oberon had come in the mail, so I decided to crack the cover. It was a quiet night and I was feeling my legs as the evening went on. I decided on the 'early to bed' drill even though I know I'd be sleeping alone.

Sunday morning was another beautiful day, and I was on my second cup of coffee when I heard the bike tires on the driveway followed by Jackson coming through the door. He was smiling as usual and came over for a hug and a kiss. "Aren't you running a little late this morning,' I asked.

"Sure am. The distributor was late, so I'm late. It doesn't happen often, but it's a total pain when it does."

"Well, I don't have to leave for twenty minutes, so pour yourself some coffee and get some cereal and let me watch you eat!" I grinned and he smiled back. He always looked to fresh and vital when he came over in the morning after his paper route. An hour of pumping a bicycle and throwing papers will do that to you — get the blood flowing.

After we sat down at the table, I asked what he now thought about yesterday and the BMX track and meeting Will and all that. He was upbeat. "It was fun all around, and I didn't know Will rode BMX let alone was that good, so that's cool. I guess it will be good to reconnect with him, but I'm nervous. I mean, I was the one who pulled back, who disappeared from the friendship. How weird will that be to explain?"

I paused to reflect for a second, then said, "It shouldn't be hard, and I say that now that I've met him and am not just speculating. He's a nice kid, and he's smart. You didn't withdraw because you didn't like him. You didn't withdraw because it was your idea. You did those things because you were forced to, and the guy that made you do it is now in jail. The fact he's in jail may be embarrassing, but there's no getting around it, and by the end of the week it will be all over town, so you can't be bashful about it. And as you pointed out, he's not your father and that makes being a bastard a good thing! Remember that? You have to be able to say he was physically abusive, and he controlled your life and now that's over. There won't be any avoiding it. But if you do it positively, then you control the narrative. It's not about you, it's about him. You're not the victim anymore."

He'd been listening attentively and finished chewing his cereal before answering. "Yeah, you're right. I've just got to figure out how to say that my way. I'm not the Invisible Kid anymore, so I can do it. I've just got to work it out. And like you say, the truth is that the boogey man in the story is Bud, not me, and I can't fall into the trap of blaming myself. It's always so great to talk this kind of stuff out with you."

"I'm not a genius, you know. Sometimes all you need is an objective outside observer to talk back to you. Not that I'm all that objective anymore when it comes to you! But my advice would be the same whether I loved you or not! Okay, I've got to get going. I'll see you at church, hopefully."

"Yep, I'll be there with Mom. She asked me to go with her. She's not feeling well and won't get any test results till next week. You look pretty sharp in your clergy garb. You dress up pretty well. What a contrast for Will to see you today compared to yesterday in shorts and T-shirt."

He'd joined me at the sink now and we washed the dishes and I grinned at him. "Hopefully he won't be disappointed." With that I leaned over and gave him a hug and said, "See you there."

The service unfolded as usual, and Susan had done a good job with hymn selection and choir practice. It was a big load off my shoulders not to have to worry about that piece of the equation. This Sunday's Gospel reading was the passage from Luke where Christ was asked "to teach us to pray," and gave the Lord's Prayer. It is another classic passage where people have heard it so often, and in this case said the prayer from the passage innumerable times in their lives, such that many wonder what could possible be found new in it. An Elder read the passage, and I began the sermon by asking if anyone heard anything in the Gospel reading that they hadn't heard before, or which was new to them. There were a few people shaking their heads and one or two nods, but generally it was little to no response.

I started by asking who noticed that Luke tells us that Jesus was very specific about who the prayer was to be directed toward, in the use of the phrase "hallowed be Thy name," making clear, that it is the one who should be revered and held in awe because God is holy. I said, "That's not a trick question. It's really about what the term "hallowed" means, and that is something not to trivialize or try to control. I moved on to point out that Jesus builds on that theme with the next phrase "Thy Kingdom come," which pretty clearly makes plain that the main goal is the establishment of the rule of God here on earth. The next phrase "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," extends that point by making clear that what is at play is that we've now added the will of God to the question of the rule of God. "What's that all about?" I pointed out that in contrast to what most people seem to think about their faith or the goal of religion, it's not getting a ticket to heaven. I paused at that point, asking, "How many of us think about our faith as the means to 'get there," rather than what Jesus is saying in this passage about establishing the rule and will of God here on earth?

This should be striking, I pointed out, because here He's presenting "the" prayer to His followers, and He doesn't say a word about what it takes to be saved, but rather is talking about what we should pray comes to pass here — that is where we live, where we are now. And the perfect example of what that rule and will of God on earth might look like is in the Beatitudes where Jesus talks about "blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the peacemakers, etc." The next phrase in the prayer is the familiar "give us this day our daily bread," and it shouldn't be lost on anyone that it comes after the last two, implying that receiving that daily bread is tied to or a consequence of God's kingdom coming here and his will being done here. Then interestingly, comes the phrase about having our sins forgiven, and again, it follows the first phrases about the larger context in which it should happen, and it ties to something else; "as we forgive the sins of those who sinned against us." That is a reciprocal arrangement, one dependent on the other, not an option.

And then finally we come to the last two phrases or petitions, which make the entire prayer even more powerful. The first being "lead us not into temptation," and that the reality is that most temptation occurs when we allow ourselves to be enticed by our own desires, meaning it is not God who leads us into temptation, it is something we do to ourselves. The last and final phrase, "but deliver us from evil," which raises the question 'what is evil?' Some would define evil as a thing, a substance almost like a bad spiritual commodity that could be traded or given or consumed, as if that's how one becomes evil. But that's not evil. Just like dark is the absence of light, and cold is the absence of heat, evil is the absence of good. St Basil the Great, and early Christian theologian described it as a condition of the soul that results from the absence of the good. In other words, we choose to be evil. We make ourselves evil by not doing good.

I closed by saying "Notice I said, 'doing good,' not just 'being good.' Because all the phrases in the Lord's Prayer have to do with us actively doing something here, where we live. Just like the Parable of the Good Samaritan, who actively did something good. And so, my friends, that is the question we have to ask ourselves. Are we good because we seek the good and do good to others? It's not as easy a question to answer as we might think." With that I sat down and Susan motioned the choir to stand and sing the closing hymn.

Greeting members on their way out of the church was interesting not because most of the comments were the same, but because Will came out with Jackson and Lilly, his parents following behind them. Jackson said, "Pastor Dave, we've got to talk some more about some of that." I smiled and said, "Any time that's convenient Jackson," and squeezed his hand. Then I turned to Lilly who didn't look like she was feeling well, but managed a smile and a "Nice sermon, Pastor," comment. Will was the surprise when he looked at me and said, "I enjoyed your sermon. I've read some philosophy and I liked the way you looked at the meanings in different ways and worked to make it relevant. That's cool"

Whoa! How do you respond to that when it comes from a soon-to-be high school senior? "Thanks, Will. Would you be offended if I said, 'Out of the mouths of babes!" He grinned and said, "No, I take that as a compliment. Especially from a guy who can handle a BMX bike!" At that point his father pushed him forward so he and his wife could say hello.

An hour later coffee hour was over, and Susan and I were left in the church hall. She smiled deeply again, and said, "I really appreciated your sermon again. Your focus on the here and now and making life better for other people is what we need to hear."

"Well, you know," I replied, "the risk is that I'll end up labeled as a revolutionary. So, we'll have to see how this all goes, won't we."

Ellen had come over to join us, and Susan shushed me with "Not a chance on that. The truth is the truth. Ellen, dear, don't you think most people find Pastor David's sermons relevant and meaningful?

She nodded thoughtfully, not one to make a quick comment, and then went on, "Yes, but for many of them it won't be what they're used to and won't make them comfortable. However, those are the ones that haven't ever read the Gospels and don't understand that they're not supposed to be comfortable!"

I smiled broadly, and we went our ways shortly after that. I'd seen Jackson and Will head off together and expected he'd come by the parsonage later in the afternoon. I headed home for some lunch and a nap. It was about 4:00 when I heard Jackson come in the back door. I was in the living room reading, and he wandered in and sat down next to me somehow managing to lower himself into the couch and kiss me at the same time. "Hi Rev. I've missed you."

I pulled him in for a hug and said, "Me too. Good afternoon?"

"Yeah, I went home with Will and we grabbed some lunch and then messed around for a while. He asked me what was going on and stuff, and we had a talk like you suggested. He was right there. He said he could see Bud was an asshole, and so could his parents. I guess they were more surprised that he got his way and managed to control Gary and me like he did. Of course, they didn't know about the abuse. So, he understands and is cool with it. Anyway, his parents are happy we're friends again and asked me for dinner tonight. I couldn't very well say no, so do you mind?"

"What," I said to him sounding astounded, "why would I mind. Resurrecting an old friendship is a valuable thing, and you should do it. Who knows it might even be fun?"

"Well, if I do that then I'll need to be home with Mom afterwards. I'm worried. She doesn't look well, she doesn't feel well, she's doesn't have a lot of energy. I don't know what's going on. So, is it Okay if I stay at home tonight?"

"Hey, Lover Boy, that sounds like the responsible thing to do. Seriously, first things first. And anyway, we're going to be gone during the day tomorrow. Did you clear that with your Mom?"

He nodded. "Oh, and I've been meaning to ask if you ever remembered to ask her if you could drive the El Camino?"

He looked at me with a little astonishment and said, "I can't believe I completely spaced it. There's been so much going on. But I'll cover that tonight, for sure. What's the book, what are you reading?"

I told him I'd gotten the new Zelazny novel and started it last night. "You'll have to give me a report," was his response, "and I've started the Mary Renault book, though it's a little slow getting started."

"Why's that? Because there's no rocket ships and it's set over two thousand years ago and you have to figure out a different culture and stuff?" I grinned and poked him in the ribs as I said it.

"Well, yeah! I didn't say I didn't like it. It's just kind of slow getting started and figuring out what's going on and understanding the characters. It's about this lost dude who's wandering through the country and somehow gets involved with a palace. I don't get it but give me a couple more days and we can discuss it."

"Okay, and for the record, it's not pronounced 'ren-alt,' she always insisted it was properly pronounced 'ren-oh.' And I'm guessing you'll get your required dose of rocket ships and sci-fi stuff tomorrow at the movie!"

He grinned, and the dimples flared, "I can't wait. It will be such a cool day. What time are we leaving?" He'd swung around now and was laying on the couch with his head in my lap.

"Well, the movie starts at 1:00 so we better be out of here no later than 11:00 if we're going to get some lunch before. Then afterwards we have to find a bookstore." We chatted and goofed around for a few more minutes, then Jackson headed home to spend some time with his Mom before he headed over to Will's house. Those were good signs of growing responsibility, and Renaissance polyphony was delayed for a few days.

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