Kaiser's Rodeo

by Bensiamin

Chapter 2

Jerrod and Roger hadn't expected the sleeping arrangements to be brought up almost immediately, but as they walked back down to the Cherokee Jerrod grinned wryly and said, "Not a real surprise, right?" Roger grinned back. "It had to come up sometime this evening, so why not now?"

They both looked at Michael and Nate. Michael seemed calm, Nate looked caught off guard and worried. They heard Michael say to him, "Don't worry about it, it'll work out fine. Trust me." Jerrod and Roger had one duffle bag between them, and another small bag with dog food and various dog paraphernalia. Nate had a large duffle and a medium size one, as would be expected since he was staying for a couple of months. When they got back in the house, Michael's mom met them in the front hall and said, "Let's sit down and talk about this, boys."

Roger winked at Jerrod and then at Michael and Nate, and they set the bags down and followed the adults into the living room. Roger picked up Chloe and stroked her head a few times and she settled down curled up in his lap. Kaiser lay down in front of Jerrod, and Michael and Nate sat beside one another on the couch.

"I didn't mean to surprise you, Nate, or catch Jerrod and Roger off guard, but we need to have this talk and it's better sooner than later." She looked at Jerrod and Roger and asked, "Do you remember the twin bed arrangement when you visited in the Spring?"

Both older boys broke into grins, and Jerrod said, "I doubt we'll ever forget it." Roger nodded as well, and they could see both adults smiling. Michael's mom turned to Nate and said, "What we're talking about is that when Jerrod and Roger were here over Spring Break, we suspected they were a couple from what Michael had told us and what David had said, but we chose to pretty much ignore the fact, and then when they got here, I just told them they'd be in the guest room with the twin beds because that was the rules of the house. Meaning no unmarried sex under the roof of our house. It was a pretty inconsiderate thing to say, because it really meant we didn't understand who they were or what they are together. And worse yet, we chose to impose our values on them."

She paused, then went on. "Well, a lot has changed since then. I apologized to them the next day and they told us they're gay. Then while they were here Michael told us he's gay, and then I started having a number of conversations with David, and we began to realize how insular or narrow our view of sexuality was." She looked at Nate. "At Jerrod's urging, I volunteered to be a sponsor of the school's GSA, and then David came up here four weeks in a row to talk to the GSA about personal and sexuality identity and the challenges that LGB young people have to go through, and the last time he did a second talk for parents of the students in the GSA, and that was a real eye-opener, I'll tell you."

She paused to let her comments sink in.

Roger smiled at both of them and then said, "We weren't offended about the twin beds, like Jerrod told you at the time, it's your house so we were good with it. David told us some about the GSA talks, and it all sounded like they went well. So, no worries with us. We know you love us and accept us, so it's all good."

She smiled back and took her husband's hand and then said, "Thank you for that. I won't bore you with all the details, but the important thing for you two and Nate to understand, and we've discussed most of this with Michael, is that even after he told us he was gay and we accepted it and told him we loved him and always would, it wasn't until that parents GSA talk that we both realized that we still had a couple of fundamental problems."

She looked at her husband and he continued. "David spent a lot of time on some basic facts, like human sexuality comes in a variety of forms and it's all natural. The percentage of people who are homosexual, and the fact that there's another group of people who don't label themselves as homosexual, but prefer to have sex with the same gender, and that together that could be as high as twenty percent of people. You can imagine that a lot of the parents found that hard to believe, but after we discussed it all, most of them accepted it. Then David dropped his first bomb. He asked, given those facts, how many of us when we'd had the sex talk with our children, had even mentioned homosexuality as a fact and the possibility that they could grow up to be homosexual? To be attracted to the same sex?"

He stopped and ran his hand through his hair, and then went on, "As you can guess, the answer was zero. Even though some parents said it wasn't a fair question because they hadn't known the facts back then. But the point was made. It's not talked about. Then he asked us to think about and discuss how we'd do it differently now that we know." A grin broke out on his face. "You guys should have been there. You would have been cracking up. Can you imagine these parents talking about that? Most of them conservatives and cowboy types like me, who don't talk much about their feelings anyway."

Nate was still trying to figure out what was going on, so he sat silently with Michael stroking the top of his hand. Jerrod and Roger broke into grins, and Jerrod said, "That had to be pretty funny to listen to, and I bet it was a little uncomfortable. It was a little that way with my dad, you know, the pretty up tight lawyer type."

Michael's dad looked at his wife and said, "We joked later what you two would think or say, or how hard you'd be laughing if you were flies on the wall listening. Because David didn't just stop there, and I mean just having us think about it. He made us all do a short version of what we'd say now that we know the facts. In other words, I'm having to role play talking to my son about being gay with what I know now, except it's in front of all these other adults. It was pretty embarrassing."

Even Nate was smiling now. Michael's dad looked at him and said, "Did you have the sex talk with your dad before he died?"

Nate shook his head and said, "No. It was with my mom, and she tried hard but there wasn't much to it. Mainly it was sex ed at school and then me quizzing my older brother. Until these guys came into my life, and then suddenly I learned a lot more."

He blushed, realizing that he may have given away too much info about his time with Michael at the beach, but felt Michael take his hand and squeeze it and was relieved.

"So, anyway, David's point in making us do all of that was to realize something else. Something really important, whether your kids are gay or not. That is simply that in our society sex isn't talked about, there's a lot of shaming, and most homes are what he called sex-avoidant. Meaning it isn't talked about or modeled in a positive or even open way. So, when it comes to young people who are homosexual, it's even harder for them and the parents because none of them have any experience talking about sex in an open way. So, after that class, we decided we were going to change and be more open and try to learn to talk about it in ways that really helped Michael and didn't embarrass him either."

He paused again and then turned to his son. "Do you want to add anything, Michael?"

The boy smiled wryly and then said, "Just that you blew my mind when you started talking about it with me, and that you've both tried really hard, and it's made me understand so much more and feel so much better about myself. It's really why I haven't been sweating having Nate come and stay, because you're both so together about this now."

His dad smiled and winked at him, and his mom said, "Now that doesn't mean there are no behavioral expectations and anything goes, if you know what I mean. This may be cowboy country, but it's not 'The Wild, Wild West!'" She looked at all the boys smiling widely. "But it does mean we're no longer living with our heads in the sand thinking things are the same as when we were your age. So, as to sleeping arrangements…"

She paused and then looked at Jerrod and Roger and then continued, "You boys are in the guest room with the twin beds. But, you'll find we've moved the beds together, and they're made up with queen sized sheets. So, it'll be the way it is at home for you."

Jerrod and Roger whispered a quiet 'thank you' and smiled at her.

She looked at Nate's hand being held in Michael's and then looked up at Nate. "Michael told us a little bit about your time together at the beach last month. No details, and we didn't quiz him, okay? But we did discuss it together and understand that you two have something very special, a deep affection for each other and it has been physical."

Nate was blushing again. "Nate, there's no need to be embarrassed. People have sex. You know, we know, so we're not going to try and deny it. You know full well that I've spoken with your mom a number of times about you being here this summer, and I know from those conversations that you've told her some things about what you're going through sexually and your weekend at the beach. And, no, she didn't give away anything you said in confidence. We just talked in general terms, okay? At any rate, we expect, and know Michael really wants you to share his room and that means his bed. We're not going to object or try and prevent that. We do, though, expect you both to practice what Roger once so daintily described as proper decorum in our house."

She paused for effect, and when she was confident the words had sunk in, as good teachers tend to do, she continued. "Neither of you are the age of consent, but that standard doesn't apply because you're both under eighteen and what you are doing is being done with your parent's consent. You two boys are going to spend the summer together, and we know full well we can't stop you doing what you want to do out back of the barn or down at the reservoir, or wherever. We expect you to be healthy and be safe, and I know Jerrod and Roger have discussed that with both of you."

She paused again, and it was clear this was a woman used to discussing complicated subjects with teenagers, and she wasn't flustered at all. "Are you boys good with all this? Any questions?"

She looked at Jerrod, who smiled widely at her and then he looked at Nate and Michael. "You both know about David talking to Roger's parents before the first time he slept over with me after we got together, and that they all agreed on pretty much what you guys just heard. There were a few times, though, I have to say, when either David or Jackson had to come tell us to tone it down. Just be cool."

Michael was smiling, and Nate looked at both of the adults and then at Michael and then back to the parents and said, "You've just blown my mind. I didn't know what was going to happen… I mean I really want to spend the summer with Michael... to be with him… but a couple of times I thought about what could happen, you know, the worst… and this is just the best. I don't know what else to say except thank you."

"Then I'll say, you're welcome, Nate. I'll also tell you that David spent some time helping us understand what it means to be bisexual, and the challenges and tensions that come with it. I'm not trying to put you on the spot or imply that we know it all because we don't. I just want you to know that we've got some level of understanding, and David made very clear that there are unique challenges. We just want you to understand where we're coming from, and that what matters most is that two people who care about each other as it's obvious the two of you do, who might even love each other, should be accepted and supported, and beyond that the labels don't matter. Okay, that's enough for now. You boys go get settled, then I expect Michael will want to show you around while I start dinner."

"I've got to go turn the water over to the next alfalfa field," Michael's dad said, "but I'll be back in time for dinner." He looked at his son and said, "Show Nate the place and let Kaiser and Ruby run around some."

After they'd unpacked and fed all the dogs, they headed down to the barn. Michael was holding Nate's hand as they walked. Jerrod put his arm around Michael's shoulder and squeezed.

"Looks like you're a happy cowboy."

"Kind of like living the dream!"

"That was a wild conversation your parents just had with us."

Michael just nodded. "They've gotten so cool I can't even tell you. Do you remember what my dad told us that night I came out, about that quote from Mark Twain that grandpa had told him when he was a teenager?"

"Oh, yeah. I'll never forget that. I told my dad while we were sailing. He didn't know the quote but understood it. You know, he's an east coast lawyer, so no surprise he didn't know it!"

"Well, what Twain was getting at has really happened, and I mean on both sides. They've come a long way and are really trying, and I've grown and learned a lot too… and love them even more. And now…" he turned and pulled Nate to him, "… they've accepted me and Nate being together."

"And sleeping together… "

"Well, yeah. Like mom said, we talked about it, and she's being a realist. Grandpa had a few things to say to them, too. You know, like 'get real,' and 'you won't be able to stop them anyway if they want to,' stuff like that."

"Your grandpa is way cool," Roger added.

"He is, and he's your grandpa, too, remember?"

"Oh yeah, for sure!"

Roger had stepped next to Nate and put his arm around the younger boy's shoulder. "So, are you feeling just a little overwhelmed?"

Nate grinned. "Yeah, just a little. Somehow I didn't expect all of this to happen when we got here." He turned to Michael, "and having your parents be so direct and open was like 'Wow!' but it's also so cool. They're really nice people."

Michael smiled at him, then looked at Jerrod and asked, "Do you remember when you took me to Powell's Books, and I bought The Joy of Gay Sex ?"

"Sure do, why?"

"Well, at one point when my folks and I were talking about all this sexuality stuff, I told them about it and offered to loan them the book, but they said they were pretty sure they weren't quite ready for that!"

"Michael, you are bad!" Roger exclaimed, starting to laugh.

"Well, it seemed like the right thing to do in terms of being open and honest, as well as kind of challenging them to really understand it all."

"Maybe they'll be ready some time," Jerrod said. "In the meantime, are you planning on it being a reading and study assignment for you and Nate this summer?" Jerrod was grinning and wiggling his eyebrows.

"That's part of the plan, for sure! Nate will have to read it and then we'll have a chapter-by-chapter study session like you guys did!"

"When we read it, we didn't just have a study session for each chapter," Roger deftly added, "we also had lab sessions!"

Nate and Michael broke into giggles, eyeing each other. They fell into silence as they walked into the barn. Kaiser and Ruby trotted down the alleyway between the large paddocks and Jerrod put Chloe down to follow them.

"It's empty! Where are all the cattle?" Roger looked confused.

"It's summer, so they're out on pasture. Remember I told you dad and grandpa have a hundred acres or so on the east side of the creek? They're over there for the summer. We grow alfalfa hay on the land that isn't pasture. That's where dad went, to change the irrigation from the ditches onto the next field."

He looked at Nate. "That's one of the jobs you and I are going to have. That plus making sure the cattle have water and other odd jobs."


"Yeah. You're going to have to work for your keep, dad said. This isn't a summer camp!" He laughed and pulled Nate close and kissed him. When he released him, he said, "Finally! I wanted to kiss you on the front lawn when you got here, but I figured that would be pushing it. And I almost called you my boyfriend, but I figured that might be going to far."

He looked intently at Nate, who paused, then smiled wryly and said back softly, "I kind of like the sound of that."

Michael pulled him in for another kiss, noticing that Jerrod and Roger were dutifully taking care of the dogs. This time Nate was in full response mode, and hugged him close as they kissed. When they broke apart, Michael said, "Come on, let's walk down to the reservoir. It was too cold to swim when Jerrod and Roger were here in the spring, but it's great swimming over there now."

They'd joined Jerrod and Roger and the dogs, and Michael continued, "It's only a half a mile, on the other side of the road. We're not going swimming tonight, just showing you guys around. We'll go swimming in the morning. We'll be back in time to clean up for dinner, and you can meet my grandpa.

When they walked into the house, they could see Michael's mom across the family room preparing dinner in the kitchen. An older man sat in one of the easy chairs facing the fireplace. He was alone but there were two beers on the table between the chairs. Michael headed right over to him and slid his hands onto the older man's shoulders from behind and said, "Hi, Grandpa. Where's Dad?"

"There you are. You know you could scare an old man like me to death sneaking up behind 'em that way! Your dad had to go back down to the barn for something he forgot. He won't be long, 'cause he's got a cold beer right here," he pointed at the table between the chairs, "and you know your dad. He's not one for letting his beer get warm. Have you got that crew of city slickers with you?"

By this time Kaiser had walked around the chairs and Michael's grandpa said, "There's one of 'em!" and then proceeded to pet Kaiser's ears. "Where's Ruby?" He saw her following Kaiser to the front of the chairs and continued, "… oh, there she is. You didn't run her into the ground, did you? Where's this puppy I've been hearing about? And that young friend of yours. Oh yeah, and those other two troublemakers Jerrod and Roger! Are they around too? It's starting to feel like I'm surrounded by a gang of outlaws."

Michael had been rubbing his grandpa's shoulders while he talked. He let go and turned to smile at his friends and then grabbed Nate's hand and pulled him around the chairs to face the older man.

"Grandpa, this is Nate, my boy… I mean my friend from Portland who's staying for the summer."

Michael's grandpa raised an eyebrow and then looked Nate over, breaking into a smile as he extended his hand. Then he winked at Nate and turned to look at Michael. "What's the matter, Sport? Are you tongue tied tonight? I think you were trying to say boyfriend, weren't you? As in this is your friend who happens to be a boy, so he's your boyfriend."

"Geez, Grandpa, don't embarrass me right off. Nate just got here, you know, and I'm trying to not be too carried away and stuff. Anyway, he's the sport, not me. Meaning I don't play sports much, but Nate's a Little League baseball star. He's the real sport."

Nate had watched Michael get a little flustered, but then he'd watched the older man and was totally taken by the twinkle in his eye and his sense of humor. He was pretty sharp and witty for an old man. His own grandfathers had died when he was young and had never been part of his life.

Michael's grandpa turned to Nate, his smile widening, and his eyes still twinkling and said, "I'm more than pleased to meet you, even if you are another city slicker! A baseball star, huh? And on top of that you're all my grandson has been talking about since he got back from that beach trip. Can I get a hug from you? These two," and here he nodded in the direction of Jerrod and Roger, "are making sure everyone around here hugs or else." He added quietly, "It's kind of breathing new life into the place, if you know what I mean!"

He stood up and extended his arms halfway, and Nate simply stepped forward and into the old man's embrace. The boy appreciated the warmth he felt, to say nothing of the acceptance. "You feel pretty good, Nate! It's no wonder Michael feels the way he does about you." He paused and gave the boy another hug and then said, "I better be quiet and let you go before Michael gets all embarrassed and stuff."

He released Nate, and then turned to the other boys, his face breaking into a grin.

"Hi, Grandpa," Roger quipped and stepped right up for a hug.

"You remembered?"

"You're damn right! I reminded Jerrod on the drive up. I think you're his grandpa by proxy, too. It's so good to see you again." He pulled the older man tightly to him, his chin resting on his shoulder as he felt his grandpa's arms grip his back.

"Same here, Roger. Same here. Glad you're back. And you brought Jerrod with you, eh? You guys managed to go sailing on the east coast and not get arrested and thrown in jail or what not?"

Jerrod stepped up as Roger disentangled himself, and said, "There were a couple of close calls, Grandpa, but we managed to dodge them. I always asked myself, 'What would grandpa do to stay out of trouble,' and it worked every time!"

"Well, you know, if you boys stuck around for a while you might learn a thing or two. What's this I hear about you heading back to the big city tomorrow?"

"Yeah, that's the case. We're working full time now. Gotta be at work at the hospital Monday morning."

"Well, I can't argue with that. Now, let's see. Where's that puppy I've been hearing about?"

They all looked around only to find that Michael's mom was standing in the doorway to the kitchen holding Chloe, who looked totally at peace.

"She's right here. It's quite apparent that she needs a woman's touch in her life. Look how happy and relaxed she is. Have you boys even thought about what you're inflicting on this poor girl, making her grow up in a house full of males?"

Jerrod was caught off guard and said, "Well, no, actually," as Michael's mom walked into the room and then handed Chloe to her father-in-law.

"That's a good point, though," Roger added. "I guess we need to make sure that Jessica spends some quality time with her a few days each week. That's Matt's brother's girlfriend."

Michael's mom was smiling wryly at him and said, "Make sure you do. The woman's touch, you know." Then she turned to Michael's grandpa, "What do you think, Dad? She's a pretty nice dog, don't you think?"

Grandpa had sat back down and was playing with Chloe in his lap, and the puppy was eating it up… or, licking it up, as it were. "She's a delight, that's for sure. Already well socialized. Not afraid of new people, totally at ease with all this commotion going on. You fed her already?"

"Yes, Grandpa," Michael said. "We fed them all, right before we walked down to the reservoir."

"Well then, I'm betting she'll be ready for a nap on that carpet in front of the fireplace in just a minute or two. Which will let me get back to the important stuff, like finishing my beer!"

Everyone laughed and then they heard Michael's dad say, "What was that about beer? One of you isn't drinking my beer, are you?"

"No, Dad. It's right here waiting for you. Grandpa said you forgot something down at the barn."

"Yeah, my cell phone. I'm still getting used to having one and keep setting it down here and there and then walking off."

He settled in the empty chair as Michael's mom suggested the boys all go get cleaned up for dinner and then come back and join the men in something to drink.

When they got back, they found four glasses of pink lemonade on the island in the kitchen, and each took a glass and headed in to join the older men in the family room.

Grandpa eyed Nate one more time and then said, "So, young man, you ready to spend the summer in cowboy country?"

Nate was still getting used to his style, but was only momentarily flustered, then said, "Yep. Michael told me I've got to earn my keep, that this isn't a summer camp."

"Well good for him… and good for you, too." He turned to Michael's dad and said, "Your son has good taste in friends, don't you think?"

"Yeah, Dad, it sure seems like it." He took a sip of his beer, then looked at Nate and said, "You know you can't take my dad too seriously, don't you?"

"I guess I'm still figuring stuff like that out." He grinned.

"Well, what I want to know," Grandpa asked, "is how you're going to spend a summer on the ranch dressed like that. I mean, cargo shorts and those running shoes might work in the city, but they're not going to work up here. You got any blue jeans? A pair of boots? A hat so you don't get sunburned and end up looking like a dried chili?"

Nate started to get flustered again, but Michael leaned over and said softly, "Relax. He only does this to people he likes. The ones he doesn't like he just tells 'em they can leave now and not to let the door hit 'em in the ass on the way out!" He looked at his grandpa. "Isn't that right, Grandpa? Come on now, you be nice to Nate."

He noticed Jerrod and Roger were stifling back laughter, and even Michael's dad was having to hold back a grin.

Nate smiled back at Michael, then suddenly seemed to understand the whole dynamic, what was going on and how he was being accepted into this family, this larger extended family that Jerrod and Roger were part of… and how he was, too. It was give and take, and he was expected to be part of it. He took a deep breath, squeezed Michael's hand, and then looked at grandpa.

"I've got to ask, is that even a thing? I mean the 'don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out!' part? Is that for real?"

Grandpa grinned at him. "Well, as a matter of fact, it sure enough is. It's also the kind of thing you'd only hear from an old timer like me. You know, from back in the day, when screen doors had those long springs on them, and if you slowed down on the way through the doorway, that spring would pull the screen door closed right quick, and you'd get whapped in the ass. It also means, you can leave now… and don't be slow about it! But I reserve those kinds of comments for certain people. You know, like salesmen that show up on your doorstep uninvited, or general jackasses that I don't want to spend any time with. It's certainly not something I'd apply to you, Nate, or I'm pretty sure I'd lose my grandson permanently!"

Nate grinned and then chuckled. "That's good to know. So, to answer your question, I've got an old pair of Levi's and another pair of sneakers, but I don't have a hat. Does that mean I have to go home with Jerrod and Roger tomorrow?"

Everyone cracked up at his reply, and Michael's dad said, "He got you pretty good there, Dad. Maybe you should lighten up just a tad."

"Well, you might be right, but I don't think so. I just wanted to find out what's what. You know up here in the summer it's hot and dry and you can get burned to a crisp in a hurry. We don't want to have to haul this boy to the ER, do we? With sun stroke or something?"

He looked the boys over with an evil glint in his eye. "What I'm thinking is this. Michael's got a friend from GSA who's dad owns the feed and Western store in town. I'm proposing that we need to get him out of those city-style Levi's and into a pair of real cowboy Wranglers, get him a pair of cowboy boots if he's going to ride a horse this summer, and get him a decent cowboy hat so he doesn't get too sunburned."

He looked the assembled crew over and then his eyes settled on Nate. "What'a ya think?"

"Well, I guess it makes sense, but… I mean I've got some money, but I don't have enough for all of that."

"That's not what I'm saying, Nate. You seem to think it's an okay idea, so what I'm asking is if you'll let this old man pay for that stuff for you, so we don't have to haul you off to the ER later in the summer? Michael's friend, Stewart works in the store, so he'll make sure you get the right stuff, and probably get us an employee discount while he's at it. What'a ya think, Michael?"

"It makes sense to me, and Stew will deliver, I'm sure. Plus, that way Nate gets to meet Stew, so what's not to like?"

"Did I hear you say I'm going to be riding a horse?"

"Well, yeah! You're living on a ranch with cattle, you know," Grandpa said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Cattle and horses pretty much go together, you know. Not right away, 'cause we know you're not done healing from that surgery. But later on, this summer, most certainly we'll have you on a horse. And the important thing is that you need to get a decent pair of boots early and break them in so they soften up and fit well."

"That makes sense," Nate said, slowly accommodating himself to Grandpa's suggestion.

"You know the best way to do that, don't you? Well, maybe you don't, being a city slicker and all. Michael, you tell him the best way." The old man was smiling again, and looked over at this grandson as he took another sip of his beer.

Michael rolled his eyes, and then said, "You get the boots you want, like a good pair of Justin working boots, the kind that are treated to resist urine. Then early in the morning you fill a tub with about eight inches of hot water. Then you put your boots on and stand in the tub of water till you can feel the water coming through the leather. Then you wear them all day and as they dry out, they stretch and shape around your feet. Then when they're completely dry you oil the hell out of them with something like… what's that stuff we use called, Dad?"

"You mean Huberd's Shoe Grease?"

Michael nodded. His dad went on, "You can rub on their Shoe Oil, but the best thing to do is make sure the boots are completely, as in totally, dry. Then you rub on Shoe Grease, which has the consistency of… well, grease! You rub it on with your hands till it liquefies and starts to soak in, then you put on some more, and then…." He got quiet and leaned over towards the boys so he wouldn't be overheard by his wife. "Then the best thing is to have the oven on low and put the greased-up boots in the oven for maybe ten minutes. Then the grease really liquefies and soaks all the way in. Then they're flexible and almost waterproof."

They heard a loud and definite voice from the kitchen. "You boys will not put a pair of greased up boots in my oven. Do you hear me? You can set them out in the sun, but they will not go into my oven. Got it?"

She paused. "Now, where were we? Oh, yes! Dinner is ready… and I see all the dogs are taking naps, so why don't you all head over here and we'll have dinner.

Most of the dinner conversation was about Jerrod and Roger's trip back east and the sailing trip with Jerrod's dad. They answered all the questions and gave out all the details, including the interaction they'd had with the flight attendant on the trip home.

Michael's mom paused, then said, "That was a very nice compliment she paid you both."

"That's true," Jerrod replied, "but the other thing she said about her nephew being gay and his parents being intolerant just goes to show what way too many kids have to go through. I don't think I said anything when you were down in Portland for the beach weekend, but my respect for you went up an awful lot when you got involved in GSA to support Michael."

She was quiet, and then replied, "You and Roger being here was the catalyst, and spending time talking to David was very important. I realized that while we'd worked hard to accept Michael and make sure he felt loved and that he belonged, that it wasn't enough. If he didn't feel that way in his larger community, at school, then he was missing something very important.

Jerrod smiled at her, his eyes bright with appreciation. He looked at Michael's dad who had just been listening. "The same goes for you, by the way," Jerrod said looking at him. "What you told us before about going to the GSA parents' meeting and stuff, that was awesome."

"Thank you, Jerrod. We appreciate you saying those things. Don't get too carried away, though. All we're trying to do is be good parents, and we know we left some things out and that we've got some stuff to make up… so that's what we're doing."

He leaned over and ruffled Michael's hair and added, "It helps to have a son that you love and care about and want to do the best you can by." He paused, then said, "Now, by way of changing the subject, Dad's got a proposition he wants to put on the table for Michael and Nate."

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