We Could Be Heroes

by Bensiamin

Chapter 1


This story is Volume 2 of Revelation and Redemption . It does not require reading A Friend of the Devil, Volume 1 , but many story and character details will be much clearer if you do!

This story is dedicated to Mihangel, who provided much needed counsel over the years and always encouraged me to write!

With thanks to Geron Kees for encouragement and suggestions along the way!

This is a gay romantic story and one of the main characters is a minor at the outset. If this offends you or is illegal in your location, please do not read on. This story contains graphic scenes, and also takes on significant religious themes. It may not be for everyone, but there is no avoiding the fact that much, if not most, of the problems that LGBTQ people encounter across their lives, especially in the USA, can be traced directly back to their source in religion.

The City of Portland and the surrounding metropolitan area straddle the Willamette River and for good reason it's referred to as "Bridge City." That's in addition to the more recent moniker of "Rose City" referring to the great climate to grow roses, and the older name of "Stump Town" referring to the landscape after the virgin forest of fir was cleared when the early settlers arrived. The river runs north fourteen miles to its confluence with the Columbia. To the west the city runs up into the West Hills, and to the east the city spreads over a hill-spotted flood plain that runs up to the foothills of the Cascade Mountain range, upon which, like a sharpened sentinel, sits Mount Hood looming in the distance and snow shrouded even in the summer. The snow at the base and up on the shoulders, melts in the summer, but the peak itself always keeps its mantle of snow simply due to its elevation of 11,250 feet. It's hard to have a clear view to the east anywhere in the city on a clear day and not see Mount Hood.

Portland. That's where I was driving today, little knowing that it wouldn't be too long before it would be my home. I was driving to Lewis and Clark College because I'd called Prof. Higgins, who's lecture on Joseph Campbell's mythology in the current Star Wars film, I had recently heard. I was looking for some answers to a challenging subject that I did not completely understand. The subject was personal identity, and what prompted the call was a homework assignment Jackson had brought home--to complete an identity chart. We'd talked about it at the time, I'd expressed my concern about how much of it would be private and personal if it was completed with complete honesty and candor, and our short discussion after that had pretty much exhausted my knowledge. That was about basic identity formation, as well as private and public identities. I was after a fuller understanding of the subject, in as much as Jackson's homework had not just become important to him but had also to me in a deep and personal way.

Prof. Higgins said he remembered me among the clergy that attended the lecture, we chatted for a few minutes and I told him why I was calling. He replied, "I may have the perfect solution for you. I teach Comparative Religion and Mythology classes, and my introductory Comparative Religion course has an early-in-the-term two-hour lecture on personal identity, from a generic and mythological perspective, and I'm giving it next week. Why don't you come to campus again, sit in on the lecture and then join me for lunch? I can't tell you how pleased I am that an ordained minister is interested enough in the subject to not only attend the Star Wars lecture, but also to reach out on this subject." I agreed, and was now not far from campus, planning to sit in on the lecture from 10:00 AM to noon, and then presumably have an interesting discussion over lunch.

I'd not expected to go much further on the subject after Jackson and I had discussed the basics and had agreed that he'd complete the Identity Chart assignment with attention to selective omission, leaving out the private and potentially damaging elements, should they become public knowledge. That included his abusive family experiences, being gay, and in a relationship with the pastor of his church, namely me! During that discussion I'd made the somewhat rhetorical comment that if we were really serious about the identity chart as a tool, and one that could assist us both in our own relationship, we'd each fill one out with complete honesty and candor as of July 3, 1977, the day before we met, and then also fill one out in the present. The before and after contrast would not only be dramatic but illuminating. Frankly, after saying so, I hadn't thought about it, but then on Thursday evening the week after the Harvest Fair, Jackson asked if he could come over to the parsonage for some help with his Psych homework, and what he had with him were his two completed identity charts.

I was in the office as he walked in the back door and through the kitchen. I met him in the living room, and I thrilled to watch his smile and the glint in his eyes as he walked across the room and into my arms. It had been a busy week for him, following an even bigger success for him with the Harvest Fair. We'd seen each other for a short while a couple of afternoons during the week, but between school, homework, his mowing business with this brother and his mother's cancer, he had a lot on his plate, and we hadn't spent any time together since the cookout on Sunday.

"Hello, my Sexy Man!" The eyes were twinkling now, and the dimples flaring, and the smile was luminous. I just pulled him to me without a word, bringing his mouth to mine, our tongues immediately beginning the dance of a deeply passionate kiss. "I've missed you so," I gasped as we came up for air. He wheezed acknowledgement and pulled me back to him for another deep kiss. My hands were under his T-shirt, exploring his low back and shoulder blades, stroking his soft skin. I could feel him respond, and his hands move from embracing me to stroking my sides and sliding around to hold and squeeze my butt. What joy!

Finally, he said, "Tell me again why we have to be cautious? I'm not sure I can stand this much longer?"

I sympathized completely, but still decided to play dumb. "Can't stand what?"

"Not being with you. Holding you. Kissing you. Undressing you. Holding your cock. Having you make love to me. Shall I go on?"

"Only if you want. That was what I wanted to hear, because it is precisely how I feel and exactly what I would have said!"

He wiggled his eyebrows. "And the answer to your question, as we both well know, is that you're not eighteen for three weeks, and that's why we have to be cautious. And even then, it's not like we're home free, we've still got plenty of challenges to deal with, it's just that our being together will be legal then. You know all of that."

"Sure do, and I also know it's not three weeks. It's less than three weeks! I'm counting the days!"

I grinned at him. "And then you'll be the birthday boy! Any plans yet?"

"Nope, it's a school night, so that kind of takes the edge off any big celebrations, Rev."

"We'll work that out, somehow." I kissed him again, a little less passionately, and said, "So what is the homework assignment you needed to work on over here? By the way, how are things at home?"

"Things are Okay. Gary is doing homework, and he's serious about it. I mean, right after dinner he's on it, and he's been enthusiastic about the classes and the instructors. Mom's tired all the time. You know this is her last week of chemo because you took her to the hospital on Monday. Is Miss Albright taking her tomorrow?"

I nodded, and softly said, "She is. Then the real test begins, once the treatments are over, does she start to show noticeable improvement."

He momentarily had a look of hopelessness in his eyes. "Do you think she will?"

I smiled to tried to be encouraging. "We all hope so, but I told you last week that I don't see any change so far, and Ellen told us that it's pretty common to be that way during treatment. So, we hope that next week we start seeing improvement. I'm impressed with what you're telling me about Gary. This is his second week of class, so if he's not getting overloaded yet, that's a good sign. Before we talk about this homework assignment, how are things going with choir?"

"Pretty well, actually." He was smiling. "I missed last year because of Bud thinking it was some fairy elective for weird kids. But I took it in Ninth and Tenth grade, and Miss Albright said I have solid basics and can catch up on the new material from last year. What that means is that a lot of last year was performance stuff, and you build year to year. Will was in choir last year, so he said he'd help me catch up, and Miss Albright will too. So far, it's a lot of review the fundamentals, singing scales, starting to sing harmonies, stuff like that. The harder stuff comes soon, I know that. Then I'll probably be really embarrassed I missed last year."

"Maybe not. Miss Albright said you have a good voice and was thrilled you were back in choir."

"Well, she's a good teacher and conductor, and working closely with Will is great too. He's a real musician. And you know he won his BMX race in Portland for his class, right? He's in the Expert class now. Pretty great stuff!"

"That is great. Good for him. For the record, you have a habit of surprising yourself with things you get serious about too. I've noticed that about you!" I grinned. "Now about that Psych homework?"

He smiled at me, and I could see the glint back in his eyes. "Well, it's kind of an extension of that last Psych assignment about the identity chart."

"Oh, tell me more," I said, giving him a final hug and letting him step back to pick up some papers.

"Well, David," he began. I noticed the switch from "Rev" to "David," which meant what was coming was either affectionate or personal. "Do you remember what you said to me after we agreed how I'd do the assignment for class? You know, doing selective omission of the stuff that's really personal?" I nodded.

"Well, doing that worked for the assignment. But you also said it would be a really good exercise for us to each do a really honest version the way it would have been on July 3, and now, and share them with each other. Do you remember?"

I nodded that I did, and said, "Yeah, I remember, and I think I said they looked like good tools and the contrasts in those two charts would be really helpful to understand each other and how we've changed in the last few months."

We were sitting on the couch now, and he was leaning against me and I had an arm around his shoulders. "So, tell me more."

"Well, I've been thinking about this a lot because you helped me understand not just what the chart was supposed to do, you know help you understand yourself, but especially helped me understand what to keep off it cause it was private. But the more I thought about it, and about how we've talked about helping each other sort out our shit…I mean sort out our stuff…you know, our "psychological issues…" By the way, that's what it's called in psychology, did you know that? It's called psychological issues. Not psychological problems or mental problems, but psychological issues. See, I've been paying attention!"

I hugged him and kissed the top of his head. "I told you already how great it is to have my own personal therapist," I whispered into his hair.

"Well, once I filled out the one that I turned in for the assignment, I got thinking more and more about what's happened since July 4 th when we met, and this all became more important because so much has changed. I mean it's all good, but a ton has changed. So, I decided to do what you suggested because it helped me kind of map it out. Does that make sense?

I nodded and said "It does. I think it's great you took the initiative to do it. Did you do two of them?"

He said, "Hey, slow down cowboy!" He clearly had a plan here, and I had the good sense to do just that and let him lead.

"So, I decided to do both and then share them with you. I thought it would be kind of easy like doing the one for the class assignment. But it wasn't. I mean, I really got stuck on the honesty and transparency things. It was really hard to be that honest and write it down and say it. It's different to just know it and have it in your mind where you can just think about it, but it's a lot harder to say it or write it down. To admit it. I mean it hurt sometimes, because of what I was then. But when I look at it now it seems like it was another person. A really hurt person, but another person. Do you know what I mean?"

"I think so," I said, "but I've never done this before. I do know how hard it can be to be that honest about yourself. Look at me over the last three months. I started out pretty much out of touch with my feelings, right? It took you to rock my boat and get me in touch with them."

He grinned now. "Rock your boat? I didn't rock your boat. You don't own a boat. You own an El Camino, and I grabbed your cock in your El Camino. Get your facts straight, Rev!"

He was right and the humor was pleasant, and probably a precursor of some heavier stuff to come.

"You're right in correcting me. Are you then saying that my illustration should have been "you rocked my cock?"

"Pretty much. It's like Silverstein in The Joy of Gay Sex, about a new vocabulary! Anyway, you know what I mean, so I filled them out for you. Because I want to share them with you. And only with you, you know, because they're so private they're like a look into my heart or into my soul or something."

I paused because now this was serious stuff, and I wanted to make sure my head was in the right place and I said the right things and didn't either over-react or minimize something he was about to share. I started hesitantly. "Jackson," and I held his chin and turned his face, so I was looking in his beautiful hazel eyes, "I love you more than anything, and I think you're so brave to do this. I know it was my idea, but I haven't done anything about it. You have. You've taken the initiative, and your comment about letting me look into your soul is the bravest thing I've ever heard. I don't know how much help I'll be, but I'll try for you, I promise. But know that this is a first for me. I've never looked into someone's soul before. I don't think I've ever even looked into mine!"

We just looked at each other, deeply for seconds that seemed like minutes, and if felt like there was melting going on, like hard and cold ice cubes turning into warmer water. He leaned over and kissed my lips lightly. "It's Okay. I'd never done it before either. So here goes."

He turned from me and leaned over the coffee table and pulled two charts out of a folder and laid one atop another. The first one said "Me, July 3" in the center. He sat quietly as I looked at it, scanning down the boxes. I was struck by the honesty, and recalled the thought I had about what he must have felt like months back, alone in his room listening to Nazareth sing Please Don't Judas Me . That's the emotion I was feeling as I looked over the descriptions in the boxes.

"Will you walk me through these, please?"

He was quiet, then said, "I think that'll be harder than writing them, but I'll try to do it for you. Help me if I get scared or too emotional, will you?" He was holding my hand and squeezing it strongly.

He started at the top. "At first, I was going to start with the physical stuff, you know like you talked about the stuff you have no control over like hair color and body size and stuff. But then I realized I needed to start with what was most important, what mainly made up my identity and shaped my life, making me the me I was then. That's why the top box says, " Abusive Father ," because who he was and what he was doing was shaping my whole life. Does that make sense?"

I nodded and said nothing, just smiled and let him continue at his own pace. "Then on the right is Bully Brother because that was the other really shitty thing. Then below them the physical stuff. I guess they're next because they're easy to do—you know, small for age, hair and eye color, live in a dysfunctional home, and then Like Hard Rock and Read Sci-Fi and have a Paper Route. "

He paused and I commented, "I understand why they'd be easier than the first two. They're either physical or describe your tastes or likes. The first two are really major, and so big in your life they're unavoidable, but they're the kind of thing that's really hard to say publicly, aren't they?"

He nodded. "You were the first person I ever told, and I only told you some of it. If I hadn't gotten caught sneaking out that night and then knocked down the stairs and the parents getting reported to CPS, it still wouldn't be out and public and I probably still couldn't be honest about it, even write it down. It almost made me sick writing those first two down because I had to realize how close it came to them still being the big bad things in my life. If you hadn't moved here, if we hadn't fallen for each other, if I hadn't gotten caught that night, if the parents hadn't been reported, I'd probably still be most of what's on this chart. That's a scary thought."

I rubbed his back between his shoulder blades where he'd started to get a little hunched up and tight. "You have good karma, Lover Boy. Go on when you're ready."

"Oh, I'm ready. The next one is the Invisible Kid , because it goes along with all the other stuff from my family. I know that's a name I gave myself, but it was kind of a…, help me out, not just a label…, what would you call it?"

"Well, it's a descriptor, and in that way it's a label, but it's also more like a title in that it conveys a whole set of meaning about you as a person and your situation and role. Is that what you mean?"

He nodded again. "Then I guess the next bunch are where I was at in terms of what the family stuff did to me. Don't trust adults …till I ran into this really sexy and open and loving one! And I Don't like school and Hate life . I just couldn't see how it could get any better and I couldn't understand why it was happening to me. And, you know because I told you, it got so bad a couple of times that I thought about offing myself. I guess this is the part of the chart you'd say that reflects the Nazareth song." He looked at me.

I slid my hand up his neck and stroked the top of his neck through his hair. "You mean Please Don't Judas Me ?" He nodded again, and then stretched and arched his head and neck backwards to stretch.

"Relax, Lover Boy, I know this is stressful, but the good news is it's behind you now." I'd slid my hand down and was massaging the tight muscles at the top of his neck.

"Then it gets to the other part that hurt. No friends because I wasn't allowed to have any. Presbyterian , with question marks, because I was told to and made to go to church. Yeah, and Male, but that should probably be on the other side with hair color. And because of all of this stuff I was a Mediocre student and didn't care. I guess the Withdrawn one is similar to Invisible Kid. And finally, yes, I was Gay , but I couldn't tell anyone cause my parents would kill me if they found out, and we're in this conservative town and all. And I was a Loner ."

He looked at me then. "Not just a loner. It wasn't until I met you that I realized just how lonely I was. Desperately lonely. So that's it. You know most of it, so you don't need to quiz me. I guess if you were my therapist there'd be a dozen questions about each one, right?"

I smiled. "Probably. And you're right, I know a lot of it already but not all the details. And I'm not going to quiz you for that reason. What do you think now that you look at it and have walked me through it? Is it accurate, would you change anything?"

He thought for a few moments and said, "No. It's pretty much accurate. I don't think I'd change anything. It all adds up to a pretty sick puppy, doesn't it?" He turned and looked at me, a wan smile on his face.

I reached over and clasped his face in my hands so he could feel my warmth while we looked at each other. "You're incredibly brave to do this. I know how deep you had to dig, and how painful some of it is, but none of it is your fault. You didn't choose any of this, did you? You ended up in that place not just through fate or circumstance but because of other people. Fate and circumstance had to do with hair color and late puberty and stuff like that. But almost all the rest of it are direct results of your parents and who they are and what they did to you. That was beyond your control, you did nothing to deserve it, you were just on the receiving end."

I didn't let him say a word, but added, "My heart hurts from reading it and listening to you." Then I pulled his face forward and gave him a long kiss, clasped him to my chest, and we leaned back on the couch. I could feel him sobbing softly in my arms. I stroked his hair and thought to myself, "how can people do things that can cause so much pain and damage to others?" And then I recognized the Jewish accusation after the Nazi holocaust sneaking into my mind. "How can there be a God if he allows things like this to happen to his creation?"

I ignored it and we sat back on the couch, just holding each other, incredibly emotional, but we slowly calmed down. I felt him stir in my arms, and he sat up and smiled. Then he leaned over and kissed me, the sparkle back in his eyes. He was on a mission, and said, "Okay, we've got to do the second one. The today one. This is good news, so let's go!" He pulled up the second chart, and in the center, it said "Me, Oct. 6."

He looked at me with a big smile and was silent. I read all the boxes, then turned to him and softly said, "Yep, big changes, and all good. Will you walk me through this one too?" He nodded his head and I kissed his forehead.

"Well, like the July 3 one, I put the most important thing for my identity and what's shaping my life the most at the top." He still had the smile on his face, and the hesitancy was gone, and his eyes had a smoldering look to them. He put his finger on the box at the top of the page. "In case you're wondering, that's you!"

I smiled, acknowledging the honor. "Tell me what you think that means,"

"What," he asked? He paused a sec, then he went on. "Oh, you don't mean what does "in love" mean, do you? You mean what does it mean that In love with David has replaced Abusive Father , right?"

I nodded and said nothing. "That's easy. The bad or black or negative center of the old Me was Bud, and most everything else came from him and the dysfunctional family, the bullying brother, the shitty attitude. What the change means is that my love for you and the relationship we have has not just made a whole lot of other things possible but has changed my life. There's a more theological term I've heard you use, trans…. something or other. What is it?"

"Do you mean transformed?"

"Yeah, that's it. I'm saying that the center of my identity now is my relationship with you because it has transformed so many of the other things in my life. Is that wrong? Is that too much to say? Is that putting too much on you?"

He was holding my hand tightly again.

"No, Lover Boy, it's not wrong and it's not too much to say. It's heavy. I'll be honest. It's very heavy and a lot of responsibility. But it's not putting too much on me because I feel the same way. So, go on with the rest of it."

"The other two biggies are Bastard and Brother and Son . By bastard I mean that Bud isn't my father and that right now it doesn't matter that I don't know who is. And Brother and Son means Gary has become a real brother and there's no bullying and we're closer, and the son part means Lilly's son, right?"

I nodded.

"Okay, going down the right side, there's the physical stuff like hair color and stuff, but you can see Growing fast is in for Small for Age cause I've grown a bunch this summer. You can see it, right? You've told me, haven't you?" He was smiling up at me.

Now I smiled broadly. "Yeah, I've told you that you've grown taller and wider, and also in other areas, and you've got this nice bush of pubes, remember? And I remember that you don't' fit in those amazing cut-off jeans anymore! It's all part of the physical changes plus what I've told you about seeing yourself through my eyes." He grinned at that.

"Okay, moving on. Kinda Live at home means I spend time here with you and that's where my heart is and where I'd prefer to live, but I'm still a minor and Mom is sick and all that stuff. And you see, Like Rock Music has changed to Like lots of music , meaning all the music you've introduced me too. And like that, Read Widely means more than escapist Sci-Fi, like the Renault novels and the stuff at school."

"What about this one," I asked? I had my finger on the box that said Proud Boyfriend .

He looked straight at me, and what he said was a declaration. "That's what I am. A boyfriend. Your boyfriend. And proud of it. I know we have to keep it quiet for now, but that doesn't change how I feel about it."

We stared at each other, smiles slowly turning into grins. "Me too," I said, and pulled him in for a kiss.

When he turned back to the chart, he pointed at Respect some adults , Enjoy school and Recovered friends and said, "They're all changes because of what's happened in the last three months, and mainly because of our relationship and what you've gotten me to do."

"Well, don't give me all the credit. A lot of it was how you responded to the opportunity that came about after Bud got arrested and your whole family dynamic changed. What does this Atheist one mean?"

"I was worried this one would freak you out. But it was about being honest and this comes from that question I asked you one night after we talked about depravity and depraved sins. Remember?"

I remembered like it was yesterday because it was seared into my consciousness. "Sure do. You asked why we're even Presbyterians or Christians."

"That's right, and I'm not. Because I'm not depraved. I'm in love and have a boyfriend. If the church is going to label me a depraved sinner, then I'm out. And there's also the mythology piece in there, but that starts getting complicated!" He grinned at me.

"For the record, I'm not freaked. I'm struggling with what all this means for me personally and for my faith too. I'm just deeper in it as an ordained minister and have more to sort out. But I'm not freaked and fully understand why you're saying what you're saying. You're being honest."

He paused, then went on. "I'm also being honest about this." His finger was on the box that said Dying mother . "It hurts, but it's the reality sooner or later, and I'm hoping it's later. And then there's the Committed student because I want to have a future and be a good partner for you. And Better socially because I've got some friends back, and the two set up jobs you did on me, the Camp Counselor and the Harvest Fair gigs, made me realize I have some abilities I'd overlooked and I know how to work with people."

"Is that why there's also this one down here that you overlooked?" I had my finger on the box that said Leader .

He blushed slightly as he looked at me. "Geez, how'd I miss that one?"

I smiled widely. "I think there was a guy named Freud who could explain that!"

"Okay, okay, I've also discovered that I have some leadership ability, but it was part of the set up that you and Miss Albright pulled on me. You're still irked because we made you the target of the 'Get even with the Pastor' line on the Dunk Booth at the Harvest Fair, aren't you?"

"No way. I got over that the next day when I was able to embarrass you in front of the Fair Committee and Gary and Ellen. That was enough for me. Seriously, though, I think you've discovered something about yourself that you didn't know about, denied for a while, and are still having a hard time accepting. Anyway, I'm not going to make a big deal out of it, but remember leadership is just being able to motivate people to do things. Leadership isn't reserved for some highly exalted class of people. That's all."

"Okay, Rev, got it! Thanks for the reminder. You're right. I need to quit being in denial about it. And, seriously, if you hadn't set me up, I wouldn't have had to do it and I wouldn't know, so I owe you."

He'd finished, and we were quiet. I was still massaging his neck, and slowly slipped my hand down to rub his shoulders, and then dropped them to rub his shoulder blades, trying to relax him and let him think his thoughts after he'd opened his soul to me in such a transparent way.

"One of the real values that I didn't see when you brought this chart home as a homework assignment, is that if it's filled out honestly and completely, the result is a wholistic view of a person. Usually we just see a slice of a person, what they want us to see. Or if we're lucky, a lot more than a slice, but it could only be the part that they show to the world. So, it illustrates how complex people are, and how challenging it is to really get to know and understand someone. And if you are so fortunate to have someone trust you enough to open their soul and share all of it with you, you not only really know the person, you are among the fortunate few."

He finally leaned back and kissed me, then settled against me with my arm over his shoulder. "I feel a lot better about myself because I did this. I mean it really helped organize all this stuff that I've been feeling and that's been flying around in my head, and like you said, it really solidifies the before and after contrast. I hope it helps you understand your boyfriend the same way it's helped me."

I rubbed the top of his head, mussing his hair while I was at it, and whispered "It was illuminating, very honest and amazingly brave. I hope I can do as well when I do mine for you."

I could see him smile, and he said, "You're smarter than me, so that should be no worry at all."

If only he knew! I was already troubled by the fact that I'd replaced his father!

The next day was a usual one, finalizing the Sunday service and my sermon, which was the passage in Luke 17 about Jesus healing the ten men with leprosy. It was almost 5:00 when Jackson and his brother Gary stopped by the parsonage after they'd completed their afternoon lawn mowing for our ritual chat with sodas in the shade off the back porch. We met two or three times a week, as schedules allowed. It had become not just a point of contact, but a pleasure as Jackson and Gary had gotten closer over the summer. Now in addition to Jackson being in his senior year of high school, Gary was enrolled in a one-year horticulture and landscaping program at nearby Chemeketa Community College.

"Are you guys having trouble getting the mowing jobs done with school and homework these days?"

Gary answered first, "No, because with classes three days a week in the morning I can get started earlier on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so it's pretty manageable. In a typical winter it'll start raining frequently in the next two to three weeks, so that will stretch the jobs out from once a week to longer, and by Thanksgiving they'll all stop till next spring."

"Fridays are a push," Jackson added, "because Gary has class in the morning, then the drive back, and can't really get started till after 1:00 PM, and then I have class till 3:30, so I can really only help with the last job of the day."

Gary grinned. "If it wasn't so late in the season, I'd hire a crew member to replace him since he's so late to get to work. High school! Between class all day every day and homework, it sure interferes with a working man's life!"

We all knew he wasn't serious about that. What he was these days was serious about school.

"How's the class work going?"

He smiled. "It's great. The horticulture class is really good. I'm learning a lot and it's fun. Plant nutrition has been an eye-opener too. And the coolest thing is that Prof. McFall has turned out to be a great person. He's asked me to stop by his office for a talk each Friday after my last class. Just a short talk, but he always asks how I'm doing and how the classes are and if I feel overworked or anything."

"Do you think that's unusual?"

"I don't know, I guess a big part of it is not being used to it. You know, used to adults caring. No teachers did in high school, but I was a bully and a shit, so I probably deserved it then. But Prof. McFall doesn't even know me. So, it's kinda cool we talk about class subjects and he always asks how I'm doing and stuff. It's neat."

"That's a sign of a good teacher. He cares about the wellbeing of his students. Stick close to him, he's a good person. I had a really nice chat with him when I was on campus and was really impressed with him as a scholar and especially as a person—how he takes a personal interest in his students and he's really serious about fulfilling the mission of the community college."

He looked at me quizzically. "You did? I was with you when we went down to look at the campus and met him, and then the next time when I registered. I don't remember you talking to him like that."

I felt like a rabbit in the headlights. Gary was quiet, so was I. Jackson let it go for about seven seconds, then said, "You've got to tell him Rev, about the letters."

Gary looked at him confused. "What letters? What are you guys talking about."

"Tell him, Rev. If you won't, then I will."

"Okay, I will. I went to an Ivy League college where every student had to interview as part of the application process. That's why I drove you down there to see the campus, and we were lucky that we met Prof. McFall and he liked you. When I went to college you also had to submit letters of recommendation, and I thought that would help your chances since your grades weren't great from high school and we were on such a short timeline."

"Yeah, so?"

"So, I wrote a letter of recommendation, and I asked Miss Albright and Miss Hayes to also."

"What? No kidding? You did that for me?"

I nodded. It was silent for a few seconds, then Jackson said, "Rev, you're leaving out the important part."

I looked at him, a touch irritated but knowing I'd created the situation by talking too much about McFall. "Well, it was a tight time line, so on the Monday after we visited the campus I drove down again with the letters of recommendation and that nice lady in administration, who'd taken a liking to you, made me wait a few minutes and called Prof. McFall, and the next thing I knew I was in his office and we're having a conversation and I gave him the letters. That was the conversation where I learned a lot about him."

"Wait a minute! You did the letter of recommendation thing and then you drove down there to deliver them? You personally delivered them? You did that for me? Why did you do that? I mean, I'm glad and happy, but why?"

He was really serious. "Because you've become my friend, and you're Jackson's brother. That's the kind of thing friends and brothers do for each other. It wasn't a big deal. It was the right thing to do, and it helped you, and I met another very interesting person here in Oregon. It was all good!"

"Wow, is all I have to say! Wow."

"You're saying that, because somehow you still think you don't deserve this, it seems to me. That's something you'll get over with time. Like I told you all along, you deserve it. Anyway, I swore Jackson to secrecy because I didn't want to embarrass you or anything, so you can't blame him for not telling you, Okay?"

He nodded and was quiet. Then he said, "You guys. What a pair. You're thick as thieves sometimes, but I can't argue with the results. You got me into community college." He leaned over and grabbed Jackson in a headlock with one arm and started rubbing the top of his head with the knuckles of the other hand. "You fixed this brat so he's no longer such a pain in the ass and is actually fun to have around!"

Jackson was squealing and protesting from within the headlock. Gary let him go and he sprang up, grinning evilly. "I'll get you bro. That was unfair."

"Why, because your hair is messed up? It was all sweaty anyway from mowing. You need a shower, in case you don't know, and you can wash your hair and then get it all combed and brushed and fluff dried and stuff. What do they call that?"

"Coiffed," I offered

"Yeah, that's it coiffed, like in a lady's hair salon!"

"Yeah, right. I get my hair cut by the same barber as you. I just take better care of it than you do. You should ask Lois, she'd probably like it if your hair was a little longer and a little softer and a little more manageable, you know, so she could run her fingers through it and stuff."

He's stepped back two paces so Gary couldn't reach him as he said that.

Gary paused, thinking. "You know, you may be right! And getting connected with Lois was because of you and that Harvest Fair, so I have to give you that! We need to get home and showered and help Mom. Here, help me up." He extended an arm.

I saw it coming. Jackson stepped forward and reached out to take his arm, and as soon as Gary had a grip, he pulled Jackson straight back down and had him in another head lock. "This is what you get for being so trusting!" He was giggling, and so was Jackson. It took them almost a minute to settle down and get it sorted, then they headed home. Jackson winked at me knowingly as they left, and I heard them walk down the gravel driveway and turn up the street to their house.

As was now our norm, I read late, expecting Jackson would wait till the house went to sleep, then slip out the back to his fort in the woods behind our properties, and then come over to the parsonage. I was in my bedroom with just a table lamp and a reading lamp on when I head the kitchen door close and then his steps on the stairs. He slipped into the room and smiled radiantly. It still made my heart skip a beat whether it was at night like this, or on Saturday mornings when he came over for breakfast. I stood to pull him into a tight embrace. "This is the highlight of my day. I've been waiting all day to feel you in my arms."

"Me too. It's getting harder and harder to keep my mind on classes on Friday's since this has turned into about the only night we can regularly get together."

We broke the embrace and I pulled him in for a kiss, one that started just lips on lips, then they parted, and tongues flicked in and out, then the tongues started their sensuous dance as our hands started stroking each other's backs and bums.

When we broke for air, he said, "Do we really need these clothes?" I shook my head and said, "Allow me," and slowly lifted his T-shirt up his torso and automatically his arms rose over his head and I pushed the T-shirt up to his hand and whispered, "Hold that!"

I leaned down and nuzzled his neck, then licked down to his chest, licked and sucked his left nipple then nuzzled his arm pit and gave it a lick, and then his right nipple and armpit. I could feel him shudder, then heard him say, "You make me feel so good, like there's a new kind of energy flowing in me when your tongue touches my body."

I whispered in his ear, as I reached for the snap on his shorts, "You want me to show you tongue?" The snap released, I slipped his zipper and the shorts dropped to the floor, and I followed the downward motion, stopping to lick his innie, then slowly lick down to the top of his boxers which I slowly began pulling down over his hips. My tongue followed the waist on the boxers and was soon nuzzling in his pubes, I pulled his boxers free of his hips and they dropped to the floor. I could smell his delightful musky aroma, emanating from the base of his cock, as it sprang free and stood proud under my chin.

He stepped out of his shorts and spread his legs, dropped the T-shirt and placed his hands on the sides of my head, softly kneading my scalp. Pulling back from his pubes I slowly held and then softly stroked his now very hard cock, and he moaned ever so slightly. He was leaking pre-cum already. He'd really been anticipating this! I didn't want to rush, but I did want him released and fulfilled, so I licked the tip and slowly stroked him while I softly blew on the head of his cock. I knew it would be such a soft sensation it would just add a mild stimulation to what my hand was doing. I felt his fingers clench slightly on my scalp.

After a minute he whispered, "I can't take it, it feels so good." Then I leaned closer and swirled my tongue around the head of his cock. He shuddered again and gasped. I licked again, and then wet my middle finger in my mouth and slid it behind his scrotum, making his perineum slippery. I purposefully didn't take his cock in my mouth, but stroked his perineum, and I felt him spread his legs wider. Wetting the finger again I reached back to his anus, stroked in a circle a couple of time, and then at the same time as I pushed into him ever so gently, I took the head of his cock in my mouth. This time he gasped loudly and squeezed my head. I knew what I was trying to accomplish was working, and I started slowly sucking his cockhead and moving on it as I simultaneously slid my finger in to reach his prostrate and began the strokes that would stimulate it on each in movement.

Tonight I was in synch, and my drawing back on his cockhead was happening as I was pushing in to stimulate his prostrate, and in less than a minute he was panting and groaning, It felt like he was holding onto my head for balance. He was in ecstasy, just where I wanted him to be. He came a half a minute later with a loud "Arrrghhh," shooting three or four large pulses into the back of my mouth, where I joyously received them. His arms dropped to my shoulders for support, and I pulled out of him and released his cock and pulled him close as I stroked his low back and buttocks.

I gave him a minute to recover while I supported him, then slowly stood up, holding his weight and pulled him over to the bed where I laid him down in my arms, pulling him close to me in as loving embrace as I could create. He moaned softly, hugged me tightly and nuzzled his face into my neck. Now I was in bliss.

We lay like that, just pleasantly resting in each other's arms for some time, and I never felt happier or more fulfilled. Especially after what he'd shared with me the night before, the way he had opened his soul in an effort to share everything with me. And now I could repay him in a sensual way for that level of transparency and love. I was in a half sleep, and eventually I felt him stir and lean back and start to unbutton my shirt and then remove it, and then my shorts came off.

I came back to reality with the stimulus, and while he stroked my belly with his fingertips, he whispered in my ear, "Did you notice how easily your finger slipped into my ass?" I nodded. "I've been practicing. You should start using two or three fingers." I had to think a moment, then it dawned on me and I said, "You're getting ready, aren't you Lover Boy?"

He leaned back and grinned evilly, and I could see the glint in his eyes, then he slid down, kissing and licking my belly while his fingers stroked in my pubes, and then slowly began to play with my cock till it became hard. He was slowly and carefully stroking the underside, wanting to stimulate it, but not overdo it.

Eventually, and I became more and more aroused, and was slowly stroking his cock as well, which was also hardening again. He leaned up and looked into my eyes and said, "Turn around across the bed so we can do a sixty-nine, Okay?"

"Your wish is my command," and I did as he asked.

As his mouth slipped over the head of my cock, I did the same to him. I knew I'd come long before him, but he went slowly, trying to draw it out and make it as sensuous as possible for me. We finally came not that far apart, and he immediately moved back into my arms, and we kissed sharing the remains of each other's essence as we did so. It was delicious and loving.

Somehow we got straightened out and under the sheet because we slept and I felt him slip out of bed at 5:30. Even though the paper route was long gone, he was still on that schedule, making sure he would be home in his room before his Mom or Gary woke. I pulled him down for a quick kiss and said, "See you later for breakfast."

I had the coffee brewed by 7:30 AM, when I heard the tires in the gravel of the driveway, and a minute later that radiant smile entered the room, followed by Jackson's good morning greeting. I stepped away from the counter and pulled him to me.

"Good morning, Lover Boy. What a joy to see you again. Especially after last night."

"You're' telling me about last night! I mean the second time was great for both of us…well it was your first time but my second time. But that first time, I think that was some kind of seduction, wasn't it? Isn't that illegal? Especially with minors? My god, I never felt my body the way I did then, what you did with my T-shirt, and kissing and licking me all over. I never knew I had nerves in my armpits. That was amazing. And I'm glad I showered, and they were clean for you. But it was so sexy, almost as much as when you were licking my nipples. And then when you went down on me and was stroking my prostate, oh my god, what a feeling."

"Good, eh?"

"Oh man!" And he paused here and kissed me again. "And the rhythm you had going on my cock and in my ass. It was amazing. And when I came, I felt like something was exploding inside me it was so great. I don't think I've ever come so hard."

"Or so much. I think you're like a fine wine, you improve with age. You're making more precum which make the foreplay better and better, you have more pubes which is really sexy, and you're cumming more and harder too."

He was grinning, his dimples flaring, eyes sparkling as he nodded his head. "See, practice makes perfect. And isn't it great to just be able to talk about it like this instead of avoiding it or acting weird about it?"

"So, you like that rhythm in your ass and on your cock? I'll have to remember that. Now tell me about the two and three finger comment."

"Oh, that's easy. Remember in the book, he talked about being clean but also stretching and getting comfortable so there's no pain? Well, I've been practicing when I jack off, and can get three fingers in my ass, but my fingers are smaller than yours. You need to practice too on yourself and on me. We have to be ready you know!" Now he was grinning wildly, and the dimples were in full flare, and his eyes were sparkling in a lively humor.

He wiggled his eyebrows. "And I'm going to try it on you next time. Maybe I'll come over tonight just for that."

I grinned back at him. "So, what do you want for breakfast? What's on the agenda today?"

He glanced at the counter. "Looks like eggs and bacon which is great by me. I've got to meet Gary by 9:00 for mowing and we should be done by 1:00, no later than 2:00. I've got reading homework this weekend but can probably do it tomorrow afternoon. Do you want to do something?"

"If you can fit it in, yeah. If what Gary said about winter weather setting in soon is right, that'll be the end of comfortable kayaking or riding the BMX track. What's your preference?"

I'd started the bacon as we talked and dropped some bread into the toaster ready to go down when the eggs went into the frying pan.

"Top of mind is the BMX track, but it'll probably be crowded. Kayaking would be so much mellower, and it would just be you and me. Is that Okay?"

"Are you kidding. When have I ever turned down an opportunity for just you and me? I'll call the shop this morning and if they've available get the kayaks later this morning and we'll be ready to go when you get back from mowing. If they're not, we'll ride BMX. How about that?

He nodded and I put the bacon on paper towels and cracked the eggs. "Push down that toaster. We're almost there."

The kayaks were available, and I had them in the bed of the El Camino when Jackson had finished mowing. We went back to the landing south of Dundee because the slough was so quiet and peaceful, and it was so easy to slip in and out of the main channel of the Willamette.

Like before, we carried the kayaks down the bank to the water's edge and I went and parked the El Camino. When I walked back, Jackson motioned me to be quiet and waved me over by his side. "Look, over there," he said, pointing across the slough where the water was deeper. I was amazed at what I saw. The backs of fish with dorsal fins breaking the surface of the water. There were dozens of them.

"What are they," I whispered?

"They have to be fall chinook. They're also called king salmon. I hear the salmon runs are a lot smaller than they used to be, but there's still a lot of fish. Aren't they beautiful?"

They were, and they were the biggest fish I'd ever seen up close and personal. The biggest chinook, I'd come to learn, which could reach fifty-five pounds, were likely returning from five years at sea, and they we're thick and full bodied. What we didn't understand was that they'd made the run from the Pacific at Astoria, up the Columbia River about a hundred miles to the mouth of the Willamette and then another thirty-four miles to Willamette Falls. After leaping over the forty-foot high falls, then had another twenty miles of swimming to get to this slough. No wonder they were resting in the quiet water!

"Where do they go from here?"

"It depends on where they spawned, I guess," Jackson whispered. "Will's dad fishes a lot and he said they return to where they hatched when they're ready to spawn, so it could be any of the rivers that run into the Willamette. That means they've still got a long way to go."

We quietly watched them for a while, then just as quietly slipped into our kayaks and headed upstream staying to the shallow side so as not to disturb them. We didn't see any chinook in the main channel, but they were probably swimming deep as they headed upstream. Like last time, we hooted and hollered as we paddled with the current downstream, and then tucked back into the slough and placidly paddled back around Ash Island to do it again. Being in the kayaks let us get closer to the salmon, and really appreciate their size and beauty.

By the time we'd been around the island twice it was pushing 4:30, and we pulled over and stowed the kayaks for the drive home. I had him home a little after 5:00, and then drove to the bike shop to return them. He'd said, "I'll see you later," when I dropped him off, so that made for an evening of anticipation.

Still, I finished my sermon on Luke 17: 11-19, the passage about the Ten Leper's, and was sitting and reading when I heard him on the stairs. I had just the reading light on, and he slowly walked across the room smiling brightly. His eyes were sparkling, and I knew he had a plan, as he reached for my hands and pulled me up out of the chair. We kissed passionately and I whispered in his ear, "Jackson must be really horny if he comes back tonight too. Aren't you taking a risk?"

"Possibly, but I know Mom is asleep and Gary is out on a date with Lois, so he'll be home late. I have to be back before him, so I can't stay all night. Now, enough with the talking. Tonight, I'm going to apply my love to you like you did to me last night. With that he kissed me again and unbuttoned my shirt and spent time stroking and kissing my chest and nipples. I closed my eyes and reveled in the sensations, and could feel his hands stroking my flanks, gripping and kneading my buttocks, and then undo and slide my shorts and boxers down to the floor, releasing my cock which he didn't touch.

He whispered, "Follow me," and slowly turned and walked me so I was standing before the foot of the bed. "Perfect, just like your cock. Now stand right there." With that he firmly took hold of my cock as he dropped to his knees and started licking the bottom up to the head where he finished each time by swirling his tongue around the head. I shuddered and gasped each time. He didn't take me in his mouth, but continued the stimulation with his tongue, licking up the precum I was starting to leak, which made each of his tongue motions slicker and slicker. I felt him slip two fingers in his mouth and then onto my perineum where he slid back to my anus.

It was so intense I almost jumped. He did it again, and then began circling his finger around my opening as he took my cock in his mouth. I thought I'd faint, but didn't have time as he released me, stood up and placed one hand on my chest and said, "Sit down." I did and then he pushed more on my chest and whispered, "Now lay back and enjoy."

He'd brought some Vaseline with him because I felt him do something, and then his fingers were back on my anus and it felt cooler, and he spread my legs apart and starting circling again, and he took my cock in his mouth. This time he started to alternate licking the head with sucking it and sliding down the shaft, and the second time his finger pushed against my entrance. I shuddered again, relaxed, and felt his finger slip inside me. In a second he was rolling his finger around to open me up, and then began rubbing my prostate as his mouth slid up and down my shaft. Shortly I felt his middle finger join the index, and I felt stretched, but no pain. It was so soft and slick that I just concentrated on relaxing and enjoying the overall feeling. Which intensified seconds later as both of his fingers reached my prostate and started a serious massage as he sucked up and down my cock. I felt my anus relax and his fingers pushed further and further in, at the same time as he took as much of my cock in his mouth as he could.

I'd never felt the physical sensations this intensely before, and cried, "Jackson, my god, I won't last long." He never paused to make a sound, just continued his love making, bringing me shortly to a mind-blowing climax. When I came, I cried out senselessly as his fingers, pressing on my prostate, drove me to a higher and higher intensity, and I felt like I shot forever. He took it all, slowing his strokes and pulling off my cock and out of my anus as I collapsed back on the bed totally spent. I felt him crawl up onto the bed, nuzzling my pubes and belly, and up my chest to my neck, and finally kissing me passionately. I was in a sensory place I'd never been before, and he knew it as he whispered, "that should have been a wild ride, my Sexy Man!"

Was it ever, and I reciprocated as much as I could before we rested. I whispered, "That was totally unbelievable. And the practice is for your birthday, right?"

He nodded, "I want you to do that to me and be able to get three fingers in me. I want to be ready for you!"

"As long as I don't hurt you in the process, it's an exciting plan to me." He kissed me again and said "Me too! I've got to go. I've got to be home before Gary. I love you. I hope you feel it more and more every day!"

I pulled him to me and kissed him and felt him pull away and leave. When I'd recovered and cleaned up, I decided to read a little more, and recalled a passage in Silverstein's book that now took on more importance than before. Jackson had been prompting me to practice so we were ready. I went back to the section on Coming Out, which also addressed early sex experiences and masturbating and overcoming hang ups and self-esteem. He'd been discussing masturbating and fantasizing prior to coming out or having real sexual experiences with others, and pointed out that:

At some point the neophyte gay will have his first homosexual experience in the flesh. All the horniness held in check and vented only during masturbation will be released in a flood of desire. There is something very special about the first few experiences in sex. Admittedly they can be and often are sordid or disappointing, and everywhere you can hear horror stories. But if you wait until your instincts tell you that you have found a partner you can trust, and if you can arrange things so that you have some privacy and some leisure together, your first time can become the prototype of many happy and lusty idylls.

That's why the preparation mattered as much as the setting. He'd read the book too. He not only wanted it, he wanted it to be good. And he wanted it to be good for both of us. So, did I. And, as they say, practice makes perfect!

Saying I slept like a baby was an understatement, and during breakfast Sunday morning my mind kept flitting back to the sensations of the night before. I finally got my head squared away and headed for the church. As usual, Susan's preparation was terrific, and the service moved along effortlessly.

The homily was pretty straight forward, in my mind at least, given the passage in Luke 17: 11-19 about Jesus and the healing of the ten lepers. The circumstance makes a very telling tale because in early times among the most actively marginalized people were those sick with contagious diseases, and the worst was leprosy. I still remembered seeing the movie Ben Hur with Charlton Heston as a kid, and how his family was forcibly evicted and banned from their city and forced to live in caves outside of town to minimize the risk of contagion. The imagery is quite stark. Jesus has no qualms to be with or even touch the lepers to heal them. Talk about accepting the marginalized. What frequently gets lost in the discussion of the passage is that one of them was a Samaritan. Recalling the earlier passage about the Good Samaritan, here we had a doubly marginalized person: leper and Samaritan. And again, it is the Samaritan who is the one who stands out, just as in the earlier parable, being the only one among the ten who turns back to glorify God and thanks Jesus. Again, the message is about the Outsider, in this case not just treating that person well, but that here it is the outsider who is the one appropriately thankful for what he has received. Raising the question, of course, not just "when was the last time we did something this striking for those in need," but also about how much we take for granted in our own lives.

Gary and Jackson both attended with Lilly, and as they left, I confirmed she was agreeable to a pastoral visit in the afternoon. When I got there both boys were doing homework, much to her pleasure. Jackson was well into the school quarter, but this was only the second week of class for Gary. Lilly's chemotherapy ended after this week, and I was taking her tomorrow and Friday since Susan was teaching on Fridays. She looked strained, but resilient.

That evening we started Youth Fellowship, meeting at the parsonage where it would be less formal. Will came along with Jackson, which was terrific because he played the guitar and led the singing like he had done during Summer Church Camp. We didn't know what to expect for the first one, and planned on keeping it kind of informal, with a little bit of Bible Study, but not too much, mainly emphasizing camaraderie and fun. Twelve kids showed up across the junior and high school ages.

Will led the singing and kept it light and easy with Kum Ba Ya and This Little Light of Mine . Both were easy songs that we'd sung in Camp. Then we had refreshments and I felt like it was a decent start. Will and Jackson were the last to leave, and before they left I asked them what they thought. They were positive, that it was a good beginning, after no fellowship for a couple of years. Will's comment was to keep it light.

Most of the kids had to go to church with their parents in the morning, and so something they enjoyed attending, that maybe helped them out somehow along the way, was the way to go. I thought back to my experiences and found Will had summarized exactly how I'd felt at the time.

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