A Friend of the Devil

by Bensiamin

Chapter 19

The summer just continued to be beautiful. Sunny and warm with occasional hot days. Things were really drying out and the countryside was starting to turn golden brown where it wasn't watered.

Like most mornings I was in the kitchen with the coffee brewed when Jackson rolled up the driveway from his paper route. He came in with his predictable and wonderfully refreshing early morning grin, just radiating the beauty of the morning, and an accompanying joy. "You are a vision to behold in the morning," I said as he came across the kitchen towards me. "If I ever doubt that life's worth living, all I have to do is see you in the morning when you're done with your paper route."

"Well, David, it's just beautiful out there. The temperature is perfect, the sunrise was glorious, I saw some bluebirds this morning. What's not to like?"

"That's my point," I replied, "you experience it and absorb it and then bring it here and radiate it for me to appreciate too!" I thought maybe I sounded a little silly, but he seemed to appreciate it as he leaned in for a kiss.

"Cereal or something else?"

He thought a minute as he poured himself some coffee, then said, "How about a couple of Gas House Specials, you haven't cooked them for a long time."

"Can do. Two Gas House Specials coming up." As I went to work on the stove, he asked what the plan was for the day. I said I hadn't even thought about it. He was surprised this being a Saturday, and I replied that I'd been so focused on church camp that I hadn't even thought about it being Saturday. Then I said, "And tomorrow's Sunday, and then the next day is Monday, and my parents arrive."

He said, "You don't seem happy about that."

"I'm not. We've never been close, but we'll get by because we always do, but it will mean essentially a whole week with no time with you. That hurts already."

"I know, I was thinking this morning how much that'll suck by the end of the week. We'll have to figure out some workaround at some point. But we'll get through it, like you said, because have to."

I served breakfast, and we started eating. Eventually I said, "Thank you for last night. That was so special and so thoughtful. The gifts were wonderful, and I hope I didn't hurt your feelings about the third gift."

"You didn't Rev. If I'd thought about it more myself, I would have known, but I didn't. I was being kind of selfish. So, I'm sorry if I put you on the spot and made you feel bad. Well, feel bad for a few minutes. You seemed to feel pretty good a little while later." He was grinning now, trying to hold the bread and egg in his mouth.

"Oh my God, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Pun intended! No worries about hurting my feeling. I just appreciate that you're working with me on the stuff I've got to get through. But I've got to ask where you got that book? You didn't buy The Joy of Gay Sex here in Newberg, that I know. And I doubt they have a copy at the college library either!"

"No on both counts! I got it at Powells when we were there a week ago. Remember when I showed you the Mary Renault books that clerk told me about? Well they were in the Gay Literature section and so was The Joy of Gay Sex. That was hard though, because I had to buy them all and then show you some and not let you figure out there was another book in the bag. That's why I cut out for the fort as soon as we got back here. Got away with it didn't I?"

"You did. Smart boy. And going back to the fort while my parents are here is a good idea too. I'm not ready to tell them, and I don't need a surprise like them finding it while they're here. And that gives you the opportunity to read it and you can coach me!"

He was giggling now, and we both ended up laughing at the craziness of the situation. I asked what his schedule was today, and he said they'd be done mowing my 2:00 PM. I asked him if he wanted to do something, he nodded, and I suggested we could load up the bikes and go to a state park across the river. "We're unlikely to see anyone from around here if we're over there. You know, not being too visible or familiar."

He nodded agreement and we finished breakfast. I told him I'd clean up the dishes, and to leave his bike here and I'd remove the paper bags and lube the chain before he got back. He gave me a quick kiss and headed for the door and the mowing.

I cleaned up the kitchen and then did the bike work to get it out of the way, then went on the one errand I knew needed to be done this morning. That was the drug store and I needed some aspirin, some bandaids, shampoo and an enema bulb. I learned last night the value of being clean both inside and outside.

I had the bikes loaded in the El Camino when Jackson arrived, so we headed out. I asked if he wanted to drive when we got out of town, and he shook his head. "Come on, you need the practice, don't you?" South of town I pulled over and we switched placed. I figured it would make him feel good, and once he got behind the wheel, he seemed happy. The park I had in mind was only twenty minutes away, and while it was in the valley and didn't have any hills, it ran alongside the Willamette River, so was a really pretty setting. We rode along the river trail and back, an hour's worth of fun and great scenery. When we got back to the parking area I grabbed a couple of sodas out of the El Camino and we walked to a picnic area that was set away from the crowd and settled down in our favorite position, with Jackson sitting between my legs, leaning back on my chest. I stroked his hair. It was so pleasant to just be out and doing things with him.

"Nice ride, Rev. Not a hard work out, but a pretty cool setting."

"Uh huh," I replied, "it also made me think that we haven't yet figured out where to rent a couple of kayaks or canoes so we can actually get on the river."

"You're right. I'll talk to Gary about it tonight. I forgot too."

I changed the subject. "It's only a couple of weeks till Labor Day, then school starts. Have you started thinking about your classes?"

His response was that most of them were required, like English, History, Social Studies and Science. That left him with Phys Ed and an elective for the first term. When I asked him about the elective, he acted hesitant.

"Well, I was kind of going to skate and take something easy, you know, something that didn't require any work. But I've kind of been rethinking that."

"Oh yeah? What does that mean?"

"Well, Susan…I mean Miss Albright was complimentary about my singing, you remember? And she was talking to me this week about it. And Will's been talking to me about getting involved in his band. I don't know if that's just being a gopher and helping haul and set up equipment or something else, but he was one of her students, so he obviously learned something!"

"I think it's a good idea. I saw talent last week when you were leading the camp kids, and Susan thinks so, and that means to me you should work on it. If you don't like it after the first term you can do something else. You know, like auto mechanics or pottery!" I grinned at him. "On the other hand, you may find now that you're older that you're more into it and get more out of it too!"

He nodded. I saw the opportunity, so went on. "So, tell me about you and school."

He looked at me like "What do you mean?"

"I mean, what did you like, what didn't you like, how were your grades overall, all of that?"

"Well, can I be honest?" I smiled and nodded. He went on, "I didn't use to care, but now I do. It's not that I'm embarrassed or something, but I want you to be proud of me. Does that make sense? I mean, I got mainly B's and C's with some A's. I guess I just wasn't into school and studying was always a challenge. I just couldn't get my head around it."

"Jackson," I said softly, "Given the dynamics in your home, I'm not surprised. It's hard to be into school and studying when you're depressed and being abused." I leaned down and kissed the top of his head and gave him a hug.

"But that was then, and this is now. I'm happy you want me to be proud of you. Do you know why?" He was silent.

"Because that also means you want to be proud of yourself. And you can be. You're smart and eloquent when you want to be about things you care about. We just have to broaden that out to all the classes you're taking, and you'll do fine. And be proud of yourself."

"Do you think so?"

"I know so. There's going to be challenges with your Mom's health, but you already know that. The big problem is gone, and that was Bud. You've got a whole new opportunity with school now." He was quiet.

"So, tell me, how serious were you about getting out of here, out of Newberg, when you get out of high school?"

I could feel him tense and sit up straighter. "I was real serious about it. But, but…now I don't know. I love you. How can I leave if you're here? I can't do that. I won't do that."

"I hear you on that. But do you know what the best ticket out of here and on to a better life is?"

He shook his head.

"It's a college degree. Where are you going to go to college? What are you going to study? The only guarantee of a good job paying over basic or minimum wage, unless you go into a trade, is a college degree. And you know what you need to get into college, right?"

I could feel him roll his eyes. "Yeah, I know, good grades."

"Yep, and if you've got a mix of B's and C's with some A's then you probably have a little below a three-point average. If you work hard this year, and say get A's in most classes, I bet you can raise your average GPA to a 3.5. Then you'd be in decent shape to be accepted into a good college.

"But what about us?"

"Look, you've heard me tell you I feel the same about you as you feel about me, right? So, I want to be with you like you want to be with me. But you need an education. You've got a life ahead of you. There's nothing says I have to stay here for years and years while you're off getting an education."

"Well, I'm not going to a Quaker college to stay here. I'd choke there."

"You don't have to worry about those details yet. The thing to worry about first is what classes you're going to be taking and studying hard, so you ace the classes and get good grades. If you do that, you'll be amazed that some of the rest of the stuff starts taking care of itself. You don't have to worry about which college until early next year anyway. But to impact your GPA positively you've got to start in the first term. That's in a couple of weeks."

"You think thats all true?" I kissed his head again. "Yep. But I have another question. If you're going to get serious about school this year, how are you going to do that getting up at 5:30 every morning for a paper route?"

"I hadn't thought about it. I figured I'd just do it."

"Well, I think you need to think about that too. Sleep is important and the paper route is one more stress. All for what? How much do you make a week?"

He was sheepish. "Only $9, I know it's not much, but it's pocket money which matters because Bud never gave me an allowance."

"And I think you told me you first got into it because Bud leaned on you to help out a friend of his who was the distributor, right?" He nodded. "Okay, then it wasn't your choice, it was Bud's and he's gone now. You can choose to do what's best for you. So, think about it, will you?" He nodded again. We talked about the mowing business, when the rains would start and the mowing would end for the year, what a pain delivering papers was in the rain, and his Mom's health. We both knew she wouldn't be getting the rest of her results and treatment plan till next week.

We were back at the parsonage before 5:00 and Jackson headed home to be with Lilly and help with dinner. He was becoming an integral part of the family, and that was a good thing for all of them.

Sunday passed as was becoming the norm. The service went well, thanks to Susan's organization. The reading was again from Luke, this time about entering through The Narrow Gate, and I stressed that once again context was important. Jesus was teaching Jews who thought they were the only ones going to be saved, but His point was that the Gentiles could be saved too, and in continuity with the previous passages, getting though that Narrow Gate had to do with living out the values of the Kingdom, "doing" the right things, whether Jew or Gentile, irrespective of who you are.

Susan and Ellen were positive about the sermon, and Susan was also still very pleased with how the church camp had gone. I told here one big reason was her planning, which was true. Her church program got us off to a positive start each day, the singing was fun, and everyone ended up happy and it was easy to build on that. "Thanks for encouraging Jackson about his singing. We were talking yesterday, and there's a chance you'll see him in choir or music class."

She smiled broadly and said, "That would be wonderful. He does have talent; he just needs some training to develop it." They asked what was ahead now that camp was over, and I told them that my parents were arriving the next day for a week's visit. They were somewhat surprised but saw it as a positive.

"We'll see," I said. "We've never been close, so we'll see how it goes. Still, they're my parents and I'm happy they want to visit and see the church and Oregon too. They want to go up to Seattle for a couple of days while they're here, so that means I'll be out of town the middle of the week. Which means I may not be here when Lilly get all her test results. We'll have to coordinate on that."

They both smiled and wished us well. I wished us well. I was already beginning to dread the lifeless conversations and the time I'd end up just going through the motions of being their son. But, that's how it had been for so many years. The difference was that in the last month I had found a new self, a new life, and moved on to be this new person. A new person that I knew they would not understand in terms of either his outlook on life or his sexual orientation.

The parents arrived late Monday evening, and I got them settled in one of the guest rooms and showed them the house. They were quite impressed with not just its size, but the fact that it was a turn of the century home with all the original trim and fixtures. They commented on how comfortable it appeared and settled I seemed. I'd picked up a few bottles of wine, and we sat and talked, and they caught me up on family and friends in Philadelphia. Two glasses of wine each and the time zone difference started catching up with them and they were ready for bed. We'd agreed to spend Tuesday in and around Newberg, and then drive to Seattle on Wednesday and return Friday morning. It wasn't lost on me that we'd be spending most of the time driving or being somewhere else.

Thinking about that made me remember a painful experience as a child. We'd left Egypt for a month-long vacation in England where my Father had rented a house for the family. We were only there a week when they decided to go to Paris for a week and enrolled Michael and me in a "vacation home, a uniquely British creation, namely a place to park your children so you could go on vacation without them. So, they went to the continent- in other words, they took a vacation from the vacation and left their kids behind in the care of total strangers. I remember feeling destitute as I watched then drive away. It cast a dark shadow on the entire remaining vacation, but in retrospect pretty well summarized the kind of relationship we had.

I had coffee going and breakfast underway for them in the morning, and eventually we got organized and I drove the rental car to show then the north Willamette Valley and the mountains above Newberg. We'd agreed to drive to the coast on Saturday after our return from Seattle. I was happy Jackson and I had done so much together and that we'd had all the destinations in church camp because I came off as an expert of sorts on this part of Oregon! We were back by 4:00 PM, and shortly after we drove into the driveway Jackson came walking over, a broad smile on his face. He made my day!

"Hi Pastor Dave. How was your day? I just came by to collect for the mowing and make sure you're happy with the job we did with the new riding mower." His eyes were twinkling. I introduced him to my parents as the neighbor boy who was a church member and who with his brother had a lawn mowing business and mowed the parsonage lawn. They were very pleasant with their greetings, then opted to go into the house to rest. I told them I was going to inspect the lawn job with Jackson and then pay him, and I'd make sure that if they took a nap they wouldn't oversleep.

We walked the front lawn inspecting the mowing, then down the driveway and around the garage. As soon as we got behind the garage, I turned to hug him. Jackson waved me off and said, "Wait till we get to my fort." We walked down the back lawn, doing more inspecting, then back up the side out of view from the house, and cut through the fence and into the woods behind the houses. Five minutes later we were at his fort. It was, in fact, a small shack constructed of scrap plywood and tar paper from construction projects, but it served its purpose and suddenly seemed like the most attractive abode on the planet. He opened the combination lock, then the door, and we slipped inside and into each other's arms.

There was a rough bed made out of two by fours and plywood with some type of recycled mattress on it, but I didn't care. We were down on the bed passionately kissing each other within a minute. When we finally surfaced, I said, "That was a very creative approach, the mowing inspection!"

He grinned, "I thought so. And don't forget you have to pay me too before I go." We went back to hugging and kissing, knowing we didn't have time for anything more serious. "We'll be gone tomorrow and Thursday, back on Friday," I said. "I'm going to miss you like crazy. I keep telling myself this is a test of my self control, but you can see that as soon as I get with you, I seem to lose it."

He was giggling. "You're supposed to be the adult, aren't you? How come you're losing it and I've got it so together?"

"I know it's all an act. I bet you're jacking off two or three times a day. That's the only way you're keeping it under control, right?"

He grinned at that, dimples flaring, "How'd you know? And you're not?" Taunting me now. I admitted to "no more than I had to."

We hugged and kissed a few minutes more, than both realized we were getting hard and we'd been gone too long and had to head back. Jackson locked up and headed home while I slipped back through the fence and then appeared from behind the garage. That evening my parents took me out to dinner, and we talked about the details of our time in Seattle. I included in my bag the two new books I had promised myself to read.

Dad had reserved rooms in a nice hotel in downtown and the drive only took three and a half hours. We were settled in by mid-afternoon and spent some time walking around to get a sense of the city. We had dinner at a fancy restaurant near the hotel, and the next day we spent the morning at the site of the 1960 World's Fair and toured the Space Needle. That was a real rush. In the afternoon we wandered around stores and shops in the downtown area, and that's where I saw the display of Native American jewelry. My mother was entranced too, and we went in to look at it. By 5:00 we were back at the hotel and getting organized for dinner. I was missing Jackson terribly, and happy to have a single room to fantasize about him while I took care of myself with my hand. What a let down after our last month of real love making.

Thursday Dad had planned to drive the Puget Sound area which was a lot of time in the car, but worth it in terms of seeing the size of the sound, the working docks at Tacoma, beautiful places like Vashon Island and Bainbridge Island, all overlooked by Mt. Rainer sitting snow covered to the southeast of the city. Dinner our last night got a bit tense when Dad started pressing me about my long term plans and how long I was really gong to spend in a small church in a no-name town in Oregon, when he could pull some strings and get me on staff of one of the larger Presbyterian churches in the Philadelphia area. Mom chimed in about the benefits of being back east close to family and friends. Of course, that conversation led to the larger question of when I'd meet and marry the right girl and provide them grandkids like Michael had! They weren't hearing any of my explanations about my motivations or desires, and for about ten seconds at one point I thought about blowing both their minds be telling them none of their ideas would work because I was in love with a boy! But that would out Jackson and blow up our relationship, and I let it go quickly. We settled that, as we always had, by not communicating. We just didn't understand each other's motivations.

As much as I appreciated the opportunity to see the Seattle area, I was glad to be back in Newberg on Friday in the early afternoon. I knew I was desperately in love when I found myself hoping that Jackson would come up with some reason to come by when they were done mowing. As it turned out, he did. Unfortunately, it wasn't with good news. He came by a little after 4:00 and asked if we could talk, that Lilly had gotten all her test results. My parents were upstairs in their room and I took him into the office and closed the door. We hugged and kissed immediately, then I held him by the shoulders and kissed his forehead and said, "Okay, tell me."

The x-rays had shown a mass in Lilly's liver, and the test showed that she had moderately advanced cancer that didn't appear to have spread to her lymph nodes, to have metastasized. She'd been to the regional hospital this morning for the first of a series of chemo and radiation treatments. He looked emotionally spent, and I told him how sorry I was and just held him close. I asked if she'd said anything about the treatment plan or how long it would last, and he shook his head. When I asked if I could come by to see her in the morning, and he told me that would be a good idea. She might tell me things she hadn't been willing to tell him and Gary. We knew we didn't have a lot of time, so we spent the time we had left just holding each other. My heart was breaking for him, knowing that this meant the thing he'd been so frightened about just weeks ago, the death of his mother, was now a likely certainty.

"We've just got to be strong," I whispered to him, "and hope the chemo and radiation work and knock this down. We've all got to be strong for her and be there for each other." He nodded and I could tell he was on the edge of sobbing and struggling to hold it back. After he'd left my mother asked what it was about, and I told her. She remembered something Michael had told her about a church member with liver cancer, and I told her that was Jackson's mother, that they were neighbors who lived just down the street. They wanted to see Mt. Hood on Saturday, and I told them that I had to visit Lilly in the morning before we left.

Lilly didn't look well and appeared tired when I got there in the morning. Jackson had told her that I'd come over to see her. I'd called Susan the evening before, and she planned to visit in the afternoon. We talked about her doctor's visit the treatment plan and I asked her about prognosis. She was candid. "It's about fifty/fifty at this stage that the chemo and radiology will work. If it does and the cancer is stopped from spreading, then maybe a year or two. If not and it spreads, then it could be only three to six months. I haven't told the boys all the details. But I'm going to need help from you and Spencer getting my affairs in order. Will you help me with that? I need you both to make sure the boys are taken care of."

I told her of course we'd help get her affairs organized, but that shouldn't be confused with giving up hope, that she needed to fight as long as she could because the boys needed her. She agreed but said "I just get more and more tired, and I've been told the treatments will make me even more tired, so we'll just have to see." She was really positive about how the boys had started to take an active role in the household, being there to help her with dinner and how it felt like a new family. That, at least, was a consolation. I told her I'd be busy the rest of the day and tomorrow with my parents, but that I'd come by and visit on Monday morning, and would also speak to Spencer and see when he could meet with her. She smiled and I took my leave.

It was quite a long drive to Mt. Hood, but we ended driving up the Columbia River Gorge to Multnomah Falls, then to the Bridge of the Gods at Cascade Locks where we crossed to the Washington side and drove west to Vancouver. There were a couple of scenic lookouts with stupendous views up the Gorge and of Mt. Hood from a distance. We were back at the parsonage in the evening, having stopped at a restaurant for dinner. My parents were not the "cook at home" kind of people. They were used to regularly eating at their club or at restaurants.

Sunday was a study of proud parents sitting in the pew watching their son perform, and then meeting all the effusive congregation members. I felt like I was on display and couldn't wait for it to be over. We had lunch and then I drove them south to show them the capital and the Willamette Valley. They found it all quite attractive, but never were quite sure why someone would want to live here! I was starting to look forward to Monday morning. Fortunately, with the time zone difference they had a flight at mid-morning, and that meant a fairly early departure. We made the requisite goodbyes, how great you made the effort to visit, thanks for organizing the trip to Seattle, etc. and then got hung up on the "when are you coming east to visit us in Philadelphia?" I demurred that I really couldn't until I'd been in the church long enough to earn some vacation time, but I'd let them know. Then they were off.

It's Monday morning and I'm sitting at home watching for David's parents to leave, finally. They've been here for a week, and David didn't look like he was having much fun. Hell, he didn't look like he was having any fun. As soon as they leave, I'm heading over to see him. Since we snuck that hug and cuddle session in my fort after I set up that phony mowing inspection routine, I haven't been able to spend any time with him, and that sucked. They were gone most of the time with David driving them around to see the sights, then up to Seattle for a couple of days, and when they got back, the only time I got was to tell him about Mom's cancer. We've got stuff to make up now!

I guess there was some good parts to his parents being here, after Susan and Ellen scared the living shit out of me when they confronted us at dinner at their place the Friday before church camp. I mean, oh my God, I thought I was going to die till David talked me down. I thought we were totally busted and that meant we'd be outed, and the shit would hit the fan, and I was just getting more and more emotional, till David pulled over on the side of the road and gave me a therapy session. I mean, he literally talked me down, made me see I was overreacting, and that they weren't trying to bust us but help us! Other than David I've never had an adult do something like that for me. Care for me, try to help me like that. And the more I think about it, David was right, it was a very caring thing to do. Scary, but caring. So, they got the shock they were after, as in major pucker factor. And we made sure we weren't appearing close during church camp. I guess that's one of the things that they worried about. But it all worked great, and then when I told Susan about his birthday, she and Ellen got all excited and organized that little party at the church when we got back from the beach on Friday. That was cool. I'm pretty certain Susan and Ellen doing that means what David said was true: they're still our friends and are trying to help us, not bust us.

Anyway, that night when I went to David, I gave him his presents from me, and he really liked them. I didn't know if he'd like the Foreigner album, but he did, at least the song Feels Like The First Time. He got all emotional, which was cool to see. And I worried he'd freak out or just go tilt about The Joy of Gay Sex book, but he didn't! He was happy about it and said he had a lot to learn and it would be good, and we joked about doing labs and experiments together, and stuff. That was funny and way cool. He thumbed through it but gave it to me for safe keeping in my fort while his parents were here. What a mess it would have been if they'd found that!

I think I kind of blew it with my third gift. I did a kind of striptease for him with my white briefs on and told him I was his third present, and he loved it up to then. I could tell because he was smiling intensely, and his eyes were hungry, and he was really hard. But then I went too far and told him I want him to take me, to be inside me, and he choked. Not bad or angry choked, but choked. And I should have known it would happen and I should have known better, but I was thinking about me, not about him. I should have known he wasn't ready. I mean, that's why I bought the damn book, and then I went too far. But the great thing was David. He didn't blame he. He acted like it was his problem that he had a hang up and couldn't go that far, couldn't be in me till my birthday. That saved the day. I really had a moment of panic like he was going to go ballistic and I would have ruined his first birthday that we had together. But no, he's that cool and that loving, that it didn't happen.

And then even though I'd almost blown it, we made love and it was so outrageous and sensuous. I mean after the emotional scare at Susan and Ellen's I guess we needed it, and boy did we ever. When he went down on me, he was rubbing my perineum and actually touched my ass hole and stroked it! That gave me the green light, and when it was my turn I didn't' just rub his ass hole, I put my finger in and massaged his prostate. Boy did that get him off. And it was that great just because I'd read that book and knew what to do. And they talked about using an enema bulb to be clean inside, and David says he's going to do it too. So, that's pretty cool! And then later in the bathroom when we really looked at each other's naked bodies, it was so amazing. No embarrassment, just loving inspection, I guess you'd call it. And for the first time ever I wasn't embarrassed about not being big enough because he'd been telling me I had to start seeing myself through his eyes!

Anyway, back to the book. I had it in my fort so that meant I got to read it all. Wow! What an education. And what's so cool is that it's all normal. I mean not deviant! All of it, blowjobs and rimming (that's a new one) and anal sex (technical term) are all talked about as normal for gay men! And the guy who wrote the book is a Doctor of Psychology so he must know what he's talking about! Anyway, there's a surprise coming that will just be hilarious be watch and be part of.

I'm not being mean, because I love David, but he's pretty proper. You know, not a lot of swearing, and he's called himself a prude a couple of times. Boy is he in for a surprise when he reads the book because he's going to get a whole new vocabulary, like guys fucking guys, and cocks and ass holes and all the rest of it. I've got to be careful, though, so that it's fun and I don't embarrass him. I can't let it get raunchy, just help him understand we can talk about it differently and that's cool too.

The book also helped a lot in my reading of The Last of the Wine, because he makes it clear that homosexuality happened as an alliance between an older man and younger boy in ancient Greece, and that almost always the older man was married, and after the boy was educated by the man, the boy got married too. That's the way it probably ends up for Alexias, who's a teenager, and Lysis, who's in his twenties and a champion wrestler and student of Socrates. It already feels like Lysis will end up married. Then what? Either way, that's not what gay relationships are like today, thank God!

I can't wait to share the quote about the then/now contrast with David, about how then a 35-year old Athenian is in love with a 17-year old ephebe whom he fucks and instructs in geometry and whom he will stop loving when the youth turns 20. But today it's like a doctor and a lawyer can fall in love with each other and take turns fucking each other and share and life forever. Yay!

Oh! I can see the rental car pulling out of the driveway! I'm out of here. Time for some loving!

Monday wasn't a mowing day, and Jackson had been watching, and as soon as the rental car was out of sight, I heard his bike in the gravel driveway, and met him in the living room where we collapsed onto the couch and just held one another for minutes.

After a lot of holding and cuddling, I said, "Okay, we need to compare notes to see if you missed me as much as I did you." I was smiling and he was chuckling at that. "We already know that we both had to jack off a lot, right?"

"Yeah, but I'm being serious here," I said with mock seriousness. "I told you that I'd never felt this way before and that the way I feel about you I've never felt for anyone else. Do you remember?" His head was nodding in my lap, and his eyes were glistening, and he had a wry smile.

"Well, the feelings that made for those comments all came about when we were together a lot, could see each other when we wanted to, had time together to be intimate. Then there was last week when we had none of that. I started out feeling barren. Then it got a little better because you came up with that lawn mowing inspection ploy, and after that I was just feeling like I was grounded, you know where you're told you can't be with someone you wanted to be with. And then we were out of town to make matters worse. How about you."

"Well, I relate to the grounded part, because I got that a lot from Bud, remember? So, I guess I've learned how to deal with the pain. That's what it was too, pain. I just hurt. Kind of a dull pain that replaced the happiness of feeling whole and complete. Now I know where that saying 'absence makes the heart grow fonder' comes from. You know what I missed the most? What Gordon Lightfoot said in that song you played me weeks ago about the first time 'ever I laid with you and felt your heart beat close to mine.' I've felt that, your heart beating close to mine. Just not being able to be together like this was the worst."

"That is a lovely line, isn't it? Do you remember the next couple of verses, how the song ends?" He shook his head.

I thought our joy
Would fill the earth
And last, til the end of time
My Love

He reached up and grabbed my head and pulled my face down for a kiss. "I guess we're starting to sound pretty mushy, aren't we?"

"Well, maybe, but I guess different people have different standards. If this is what mushiness is like, then I like it a lot. I suppose a lot of it is that these are the feelings we missed for most of our lives, so that's why it's so important. Once you get a dose of it you realize what you missed and don't want to miss out anymore."

He beamed his insatiable and sexy smile up at me, and said softly, "I've been reading the book, and Silverstein, the author, talks about stuff like that and how it's normal for gay men now, but wasn't in the past."

"Oh yeah," I said, my eyebrows raised.

"Yeah, now gay men like us can talk about and plan to be together for our whole lives, forever. That wasn't possible before. You'll see when you start reading it. I'm not going to spoil if for you. So how are you feeling about your parent's visit?"

I told him about feeling down and the memories it brought back, like about the time in England with the vacation home where they stored us away while they went to Paris. He winced.

"They actually did that? That's cruel!"

"That's what I thought too. But that was then, and this is now. My parents just don't get it, they're cold and distant. I no more could explain what I'm feeling and how happy I am to them than I could give a lecture on particle physics. They just live in a different place."

"Like Bud!"

"Yep, like Bud. But, fuck that! We've got each other. We don't need any of that." His eyebrows had risen, and his eyes opened wide. I'd never said fuck before.

"Yep, I said fuck because that's how it felt. It was fucked. Emotionally it was that shitty. But that was then, and this is now, and now there's us."

It was reality time, though. I had to clean up, put on my clerical garb and go make a pastoral visit just a few houses down the street.

Lilly already looked more tired and said she felt weak, but radiation therapy does that. We spent some time discussing the treatment, which would be two weeks of thrice weekly radiation followed by four weeks of chemotherapy. It sounded torturous, but she was being quite valiant about it. I told her that I would be back to see her the next afternoon with Spence to start the estate discussion.

When I returned home, I found myself in a funk, precipitated by the week with my parents, and the information from Lilly, but that improved in the afternoon when Jackson came by. We'd decided to go to the BMX track for some fun, and it took us less than ten minutes to have the bikes ready after he rolled up the driveway way. It was just that too, fun. No pressure, not a lot of kids there, and we just rode the track, occasionally competing on the straight pump runs or the jumps, but nothing drastic. A couple of hours on the bikes was good therapy. We said goodbye with grins on our faces, knowing Jackson would be returning later. In the meantime, he headed home to help with dinner.

I woke as he slipped into bed next to me and wrapped himself up in a hug. We both needed it. I whispered, "Are you doing Okay?" He was quiet for a bit, then said, "It's better than it was last week, but Mom is already more tired, and it's going to get worse, isn't it?"

I told her I expected so, but it wasn't like he and Gary had to go through it alone, that we'd be there to help as well. When I asked him how Gary was handling it, he said, "He's gone quiet, like he's withdrawn. I don't know how to get him out." I suggested that they both drop by the house the next day after they were done mowing. He nodded and asked how I was feeling now that my parents had left.

"I feel kind of numb, truth be told. I'd managed to block out a lot of what it was like back then, but the week of having them here kind of reconnected me with the painful feelings that went along with being their son."

He was quiet, then he started kissing and licking my neck, eventually rolling up on my chest and starting to kiss me passionately. His tongue was all over the inside of my mouth, forcing my tongue to respond and get involved. He felt me responding, and pulled back so he could look at me and said, "Still feeling numb?" He was rubbing his hardening cock on mine and smiling devilishly at me. "You shouldn't be feeling numb anymore!"

I grinned back and said, "I'm not the only one who had a bad week. You did too so I hope you're feeling less pain?" He nodded and kissed me again, then slid off my chest to lay against my side and reached down and started feeling my cock. I did the same to him, and we just gently and quietly and sensuously stroked each other. "Is this Okay, David?"

I kissed him again and said, "It's perfect for the occasion. Just laying here with you in my arms and feeling your hands and lips is just what I need." Eventually we both came, cleaned up, and then lay in each other's arms trying to console each other and absorb whatever pain and anguish we could from the other.

I felt a pang of loneliness when he got out of bed at 5:30 but it resolved as he leaned down and kissed me. We both said, "I love you," and that's all that was needed.

I spent the morning in the office, and then a little before 2:00 Spencer pulled his BMW into the driveway and we walked over to Lilly's home. After we'd all said hello and briefly discussed her therapy regimen, Lilly moved the conversation to the subject she wanted covered. "Spencer, as I've told Pastor Dave, I've been told I'm looking at 50/50 odds of living a year or two, and it feels like the reality will be less. So, getting my affairs in order to take care of the boys is my main concern."

Spencer went into professional legal mode, saying he'd spoken to the divorce attorney and since Bud didn't contest the divorce or the proposed settlement, it was likely to be finalized in the next few weeks. That meant the home would transfer into her name and become her asset and then she would also be receiving child support. As soon as the settlement paperwork was finalized, he'd handle the title transfer and then draw up a will for her. His understanding was that she wanted the estate to go to both boys. She nodded agreement. He went on, "the child support will continue until they're both twenty-one, so I'll take care of that as well. She smiled her thanks. Spencer paused as if a little uncomfortable going on.

"He then said, there is another very important element I think you should consider since your focus is estate planning for the benefit of the boys. I have to be candid here and that may be painful. You said the odds were 50/50 on surviving two years. If that should be the case, both boys will still be minors and Bud will still be their legal father and have control over them."

I could see Lilly's brow furrow and her shoulders tighten at that revelation. "What do we do about that? I don't want him to have any control over them after what he did, or to be able to exercise any decision making in their lives. Can we do anything?"

Spencer smiled and said, "Yes, there is an option. It is somewhat uncommon, but it is legal in Oregon, and that would be to create the legal framework so that in anticipation of your death we petition the court for the emancipation of both boys. The argument would be the abuse that resulted in Bud's prison sentence, and the potential threat he would pose if he still had any level of control. Emancipation is a legal mechanism that requires the child who is over 16 petitioning the court to have himself declared an adult for most purposes. If granted, and I am certain it would be granted in this circumstance, then the result would be that both boys would be recognized as adults for the purposes of contracting and conveying, establishing a residence, suing and being sued, and be recognized as an adult for purposes of the criminal laws of this state. In other words, they are treated as "adults" in the eyes of the law for legal purposes like that, but still can't drive or drink until they are of full legal age."

Lilly was smiling. "And that would protect them from Bud?" Spencer nodded, "Yes, after emancipation he would no longer be their legal father because the law terminates the parent and child relationship. Now there's a trade off, in as much as the law also terminates the duty of support on the part of the parent for the child."

"So, upon them surviving you and inheriting the property, they would be legally free and clear of Bud, but he would no longer have to pay child support. However, they would have the estate assets to make them financially secure."

I was trying to do the calculus in my head, and the legal opportunity sounded very good, but the financial trade offs were of concern. No child support meant no monthly income. Spencer had already thought of it. "If you're in agreement with this approach, Lilly, then I'll present it to Bud as a way to remove any long term survivor claims on his estate, as long as he pays to the boys the equivalent of the child support required by the divorce settlement until each reaches age twenty one. That way they would have monthly income, though they would be forfeiting any portion of Bud's estate at the end of his life."

She thought for a minute or two and then nodded. "It gets us what I want. They are free of him and his influence, they have an income and they have the value of the property. That's what I want to do. Is it that simple?"

Spencer said, "Well, there are some other considerations. Both boys after emancipation would be legally the equivalent of adults but would still be minors. I strongly suggest something else, namely putting the assets in a trust that names the boys as beneficiaries until they reach the age of twenty-one. The trust would have trustees, and they manage the trust's assets on behalf of the beneficiaries. And I'm saying trustees because I'm suggesting the trustees be Pastor Dave and Susan Albridge, and Ellen Hayes. I'll be available to provide legal advice if and when required. How does that sound to you?"

She was smiling now. "I like it. The boys are becoming more responsible, but they're still young and learning, and the trustees you're suggesting are the three people they care most about. I think it s a good suggestion. What do you think Pastor Dave?"

I hadn't been expecting the trustee part, and Spencer hadn't mentioned it to me in advance, but I had to admit it made good sense and I told her so. Lilly agreed to have Spencer start the work to organize the trust so the property could move into it when the divorce was finalized and open a bank account for Bud's monthly payments to go into. She was clearly getting tired at this stage and we begged off and said our goodbyes, Spencer telling her he'd probably be back in touch the following week to update her on progress.

As we walked back to his car I said, "You thought this out in some detail, didn't you?" I was smiling. He grinned. "Yes, I did. I like those boys, as you know. They're going through a kind of hell and they'll need help and direction, and who better than us to provide it?"

I just nodded. "There's no arguing with that logic!" I watched Spencer drive down the road and went inside to process what I was now part of. Not just in a relationship with the young man, but a soon-to-be trustee. I wondered what complications would come along with that. I pulled the mail from the mailbox on the way in, and my eye was caught by a postcard from Lewis and Clark College, addressed to Reverend David Ayers. I wondered how I got on their mailing list. When I turned it over, I saw it was an announcement for a lecture by a college professor on Joseph Campbell's mythology as found in George Lucas' new film Star Wars. That got my attention. It was next week in Portland. I found myself excited at the prospect.

Jackson had left The Joy of Gay Sex on my dresser last night. Smart boy, not leaving it in my office! After his comments, I promised myself to start reading it tonight. About 4:00, after the mowing was finished, I saw Jackson and Gary coming down the sidewalk, and met them on the back porch with cans of soda.

We chatted for a while, and they were still stoked about the added speed and efficiency that the riding mower made for them. "We've been able to pick up a couple of new customers because of it," Jackson said. I looked at Gary and he nodded with a smile. "It's a good deal."

"How does it look on the financial side? I mean getting more customers should mean you're in good shape to repay Mr. Sullivan, right?" I wanted to make sure they kept their commitments to the man helping them out."

"Oh yeah," Gary said, "In fact we figure we can make more that the minimum monthly payments and that will put us ahead of schedule when winter gets here, and we can't mow anymore. You know, we got a late start this summer not getting our first customers till mid-July. If we can get most of the winter payments made in advance, then we'll be in great shape next summer."

"Wow! You're starting to sound like serious businessmen," I said. "That's impressive planning."

Gary was starting to sound excited and Jackson was letting him do the talking. "Well, Jackson was a big part of the plan here, but the sooner we can get the riding mower paid off the sooner we can do other stuff. We're living at home, so we don't need a lot of cash. We don't have cars or other things like that that take money. If I can get that mechanic job at the bike shop over the winter, even if it's part time, then we'll have no trouble making all the payments over the winter and be set for next summer."

"That's a great plan, and Mr. Sullivan will be pretty impressed if you pull it off. He likes and respects you boys a lot. He told me that this afternoon."

"You saw him this afternoon," Jackson asked, suddenly sitting up like a dog on point.

"Yes, he and I met with your Mom. We need to talk about some stuff, is that Okay?"

They both nodded. "I don't know how much Lilly has told you both, but you need to know that the best-case prognosis she's been given is a 50/50 chance of surviving two years, and that's with chemo and radiation therapy. She knows that full well, and she's being responsible and not depressed about it, and her biggest concern is for you two. I'm sure she's trying to live on the bright side, and not burden you with the dark details, because that's what parents do. But she's started to do some estate planning with Spencer because the divorce will be settled soon and then the house belongs to her. You don't need to worry about the details, just know she's working hard to make sure you two are in the best possible position if you're left alone."

They were both quiet. "Gary," I said, turning to him, "Jackson and I have been able to talk about this situation and the pain that goes along with it. I'm worried that you don't have anyone to talk to about how you're feeling. You know it's not healthy to keep it all bottled up inside?"

He was quiet and kind of nodded his head. "Look," I went on, "I'm going to be frank because I care about you. When you add this situation with your Mom on top of what happened to you with your father, that's a hell of a load. It's a lot of bad stuff to deal with that came down on both of you. My hunch is that you haven't sorted through the Bud stuff and now you're getting hit with your Mom's cancer diagnosis and the possibility that you might lose her too."

I looked over at Jackson to see how I was doing, and he nodded with a slight smile, as if encouraging me. Gary was quiet, then he looked at me. "You want to know how I feel? It's like I told you about you and Jackson being close friends. I'm jealous. I told you before I don't have hardly any friends and no one to talk to about this stuff. Jackson's lucky. You guys are close friends and so you can talk, and you can help him out."

"Gary," I said, looking at him, "there's nothing says I can't be your friend too. It's not an exclusive deal, you know. You're welcome to come over here any afternoon with Jackson. You're welcome anytime. You don't have to stay home alone. I know you both want to be there in the evening with your Mom, and that's the right thing to do, and she really appreciates it. But you don't have to just be alone when you're not mowing lawns or down at the bike shop. Are you hearing me?"

He was quiet, then he nodded his head. "Do you really mean that? I mean I figured since I bullied Jackson for so long and you guys are close that basically you must hate me."

"What? That's an impossible thought. Look at Jackson. Does he hate you? No. You guys have reconciled and you're brothers again working it out and rebuilding your relationship together. How do I feel about you? I like you. I have a lot of respect for you and what you've gone through. You're a lot tougher than I am, that's for sure."

He was quiet, and then finally looked up at me and said, "Thanks. It's good to hear that."

"Can I say something to you that I hope you don't find offensive?"

He looked a little spooked but nodded his head.

"Okay, look, my read is that Bud is a strong willed person and while he's serving time for what he did to you, he's not the type of person who's ever likely to feel sorry for it or apologize to you for what he did." I paused, and he was kind of nodding his head.

"Gary, I'm not your father, but I'm a man, and I want to apologize for what happened to you. Your father may never apologize to you, but I want you to know some of us are sorry about it and want to help you heal and be whole again. Will you let us help you?"

He was looking down and silent. Finally, he looked up and there were tears in his eyes. "I don't know how to do this. You know guys are supposed to tough it out, and that's all I've known how to do. I'm tired of being lonely and hurting all the time. Do you mean it, you'll be my friend?"

I looked directly at him, trying to share compassion, and said, "I will, and here's what we're going to do to start. Stand up."

He did slowly, and I walked the couple of steps to him, and said, "I'm going to hug you. Okay?"

He nodded, and I put my arms around his shoulders and embraced him. It started out stiff, and then I felt him relax and eventually I felt his arms go around me. "We're here for you, Gary. We're all in this together. We all need each other to make it, Okay?"

I felt him sobbing quietly on my shoulder. I could see Jackson quietly watching, and I waved a hand at him to come over, and he did, and we turned it into a three-way hug. "We're all in this together, and we all need each other, Okay?"

When we finally broke up, we were all pretty emotional, and I said to Gary, "I want you to feel you can come talk to me as a friend about anything, anytime, Okay? If you just need a place to go to, to chill out, like Jackson does sometimes, you can come here." He nodded his head and then we had that awkward minute when no one knows what to say. Finally, I just grinned and said, "And it's Okay to be embarrassed sometimes too. You can do that with friends!"

They both smiled and Gary said they needed to be getting home. Jackson hung behind and winked, saying "I love you. See you tomorrow, Rev."

They both came by after mowing on Thursday and we just hung out and talked about a lot of things. A lot of it was bike related. Gary was hoping to get enough money together to upgrade his BMX bike, and he got an employee discount at the local bike store where he was working part time, but the really good components came out of the Bike Gallery in Portland and were expensive. We talked about road bikes versus BMX bikes and both of us told Jackson he needed to junk that bike with the banana seat and get a real BMX bike. "Yeah, and all it takes is money, and we're trying to pay off a riding mower, remember?" Then he turned to me and said, "I had a thought today, if you're going to restart Youth Fellowship, aren't you going to need some money for stuff?"

I nodded, "A little. What do you have in mind?"

"Well, I was thinking maybe we could organize a fair or something, you know have games or whatever, and a raffle and raise some money."

I told him that sounded like a good idea and that we'd done something like that at my church when I was in high school. "Who's going to organize it? You know it can't be the pastor, don't you? Are you volunteering?"

He was silent, but didn't wince or make a face, and then said, "Somehow I figured this idea would get turned around and end up on me. Gary, will you help me? I think I can get Will and Tom to help too. Maybe we can end the fair with their band playing some music or something! That would be cool."

Gary was reluctantly agreeing, and I was just smiling in support. I decided to play it quietly and see how the plans came together. When they went home Jackson and I smiled wanly at one another. This staying apart stuff wasn't fun, even if it was necessary. But tomorrow was Friday!

Friday morning passed normally. I spent the morning in the office, knowing that Susan was taking Lilly to the hospital, and got a lot of sermon prep done as well as closing in on the end of the list of members to call and introduce myself. I also had to start doing some planning on Sunday School curriculum and a few related things. When done I drove down to the bike shop Gary worked at part time to see if the owner knew where I could rent canoes or kayaks.

He was quite friendly and lamented the fact that neither the city nor county parks departments were serious about paddle craft boating on the Willamette River, but that "as luck would have it" he did have a few kayaks he rented. He cautioned though that even if it was late July and the water level was down there was still quite a bit of current and that unless I had worked out a ride up back to the launch point it would be a very difficult paddle upstream.

I told him that I went to high school in Philadelphia and rowed crew for two years so knew how to row and was quite comfortable rowing on rivers, but he pointed out how easy it is to underestimate the Willamette. "So, I guess you could tell me if I asked what is the biggest water fall by volume in the US?"

I said, "Has to be Niagara Falls, right?" He nodded. "Do you know what the second largest is?

I shrugged. "It's the Willamette twenty miles from here where it goes over Willamette Falls. Second largest falls by volume that's a lot of water, and that means a lot of current."

I agreed and asked him what he suggested we do for the first time on the river. He said that due south of the town of Dundee, and less then ten miles away, was a natural landing that was adjacent to an island, and there was a slough apart from the main channel. "That means very slow water in the slough, and you can paddle upstream, then go with the current downstream to the end of the island and cut back into the slough. The river access is private property, but the landowner tends to turn a blind eye, so I'd start there."

We arranged that I'd pick up the kayaks about 1:00 PM, and I told him that a church member's son had wanted to go kayaking for the longest time, so I was taking him. That's when I introduced myself as the new pastor at Grace Church and told him that Jackson was Gary's younger brother.

"Gary's a good kid, and a good mechanic," he said. I know he wants to work full time, but I don't have the business yet to have two full time mechanics. If we get there, though, I think he'd be a good hire."

I gave Gary as much of a verbal reference as I could without overdoing it, and we agreed that I'd be back after lunch the next day. That would let me rent and load the kayaks, head home and be ready to go when Jackson got back from mowing.

I spent the afternoon reading about gay sex!

I admit to spending some time just looking at the drawings of gay guys in various positions of love making, and at the illustrations from ancient Greece and Japan. But the mindboggling part was reading Charles Silverstein's introduction. It was pretty much monumental to read him say that "modern gay life has no antecedents," and that it was completely erroneous to try and make a direct link from homosexuality in classical Greece to homosexuality today, or especially from Renaissance or 19th century homosexuality to today. I was no classics scholar, but what little I knew, reinforced by recent reading of The Symposium, made me think he was right. His points that the classic Greek model involved an older man and a younger boy (ephebe) for whom the man assumed the responsibility of education, was always in the dominant sexual position, and that that the older man was married and the ephebe would be too eventually undercut any ideal of historic continuity. Homosexuality then? Yes. But nothing like it today. And the same was the case for Renaissance and more recent models.

I was blown away to read his somewhat wry summary. "To simplify the difference, we might picture a 35-year-old Athenian in love with a 17-year-old ephebe whom he fucks and instructs in geometry and whom he will stop loving when the youth turns 20. By contrast, in New York, we might picture a 35-year-old lawyer in love with a 35-year-old doctor; they take turns fucking each other, they share expenses and household duties and they will stay together forever (or so they hope)."

I'd grown up a fairly conservative and compliant kid, certainly had been shaped by society, and deep down felt homosexuality was something not quite normal, though probably not deviant. Reading the introduction, it suddenly hit me, as he argues, that homosexuality is no longer primarily an unusual aristocratic or bohemian phenomenon but was becoming mainstream. Having defied social conventions by becoming gay, "the modern homosexual is free to become the man he wants to be!"

He discussed the possible causes like urbanization and the ability to be more sexually open in big cities versus small rural towns, and the development of a middle class that allows people to search after self-fulfillment, and that in the absence of the responsibility of raising families gay men are free to pursue pleasure rather than submit to duty. And, yes, he made the point that for many, perhaps most, sex exists largely or exclusively within a single relationship when it is joined to trust, intimacy, shared affection and experience. I had to acknowledge to myself that the concepts of the search for self-fulfillment and becoming the man I want to be were becoming pretty important concepts for me.

Notwithstanding the realizations and personal growth, I'd experienced and acknowledged over the past few weeks, the stunner was the statement: "Precisely because modern homosexuality is new, it is riddled with insecurities. Precisely because gays live outside ordinary society, they must deal with feelings of guilt—and with their anger at constant societal disapproval and discrimination… we are also ordinary human beings who have suffered from bigotry, from self-hate and from the anxiety of entering uncharted waters."

Talk about a lot to process! As I'd worked through my own new realities in the past two months, I'd had to start to unpack a lot of my own hang ups and shortcomings. What I was now beginning to realize was that instead of forcing myself to accept myself as some kind of weird or deviant personality type, I was through a quirk of historical timing, able to be part of a new and fresh way of looking at it, and had the opportunity to shed all the inhibiting conventions and become my own person in a way that made me healthy and complete.

Friday afternoon after the mowing, Gary came over alone. He said Jackson stayed home because he'd told him he wanted to talk to me. "Sounds good, Gary. Want a soda and we can go out back?" He nodded, and we headed out the back door to our usual places.

"Okay, what's up? Remember I told you that you can talk to me about anything. All confidential, no judgments. Remember?"

He looked up, hesitated and said, "It's hard."

"Gary, so's life! What's up?"

"I've been having nightmares, not all the time, but sometimes, and they're about Bud whipping me or doing stuff to me. What you said the other day about not holding it in made sense. Could I be having nightmares because of that?"

"Gary, first off, I'm not a therapist, but what you're describing makes sense. If we can't talk about it and get it out in the open and understand it and deal with it, it keeps eating at us. What's the nightmare about, the things Bud did to you?

"Well, yeah. You know, he'd whip me when he thought I needed to be punished, and then there's the sexual stuff too. In the nightmares I'm usually falling down a deep well."

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