Finding Tim

by Charlie

Episode 240 - Hank

This is Hank, Shel and Brian's son, but it was no secret that Nettie was my mother, and I related to her as easily as I did to my dads, with whom I lived. [Charlie, did I get the who/whom business right there? If not, please edit–good kid, he got it right.] I'm the first, and I think the only, pre-teen to get to write one of Charlie's episodes. How did I get to write an episode so young? Well, first most of it is about me. But get serious; if Shel could read adult novels–risque adult novels no less–at age six, what's the big deal about me writing a story at age twelve? Of course, I was age ten when all of this began, but it was a couple of years later, in 2021, that I was asked to write the story.

You met me earlier as I was playing Clue with Bobbie and May as Liam introduced Woody to the aerie. Then again that evening I was the little twerp that told Woody to get up on the table and strip. He was a good sport and did that, and it really endeared him to the kids in the aerie–especially me.

Woody and Liam were wonderful participants in the joys of the aerie. The joys weren't all sexual, but why would I deny that sex was a mighty theme in our playing around? But more than anything we talked. We heard about Liam and Woody's Olympic dreams and urged them on. It was probably a little hard on May and Ginnie to be two girls in a bunch of boys, but they didn't complain. It was good for us boys, because we got the girl's point of view on a lot on things. They were both strong advocates for women's rights, and if we uttered a word that sounded like male chauvinism we got an immediate tongue lashing. That was really good for us, as we carried what we learned out into the whole wide world.

Pete and I were the youngest in the aerie, both of us children of Shel and Brian. You can't imagine what it was like to be Shel and Brian's son. As soon as Pete and I were old enough to understand, we were told of the wonderful gift our mother, Nettie, had given to them. As gay men they never expected to have children, and now they had two wonderful boys. Pete and I talked about this and decided that if we were a gift to Brian and Shel we ought to live up to it. We've tried very hard.

Shel and Brian had us on ice skates almost before we could walk. By three we could toe loops and little spins. At the same time both of our dads went out of the way to assure us that we didn't have to follow in their footsteps as skaters. There were other things in life.

Pete was really enthusiastic about skating, and it was clear that if either of us was going to be an Olympic skater it would be him, not me. [I had a silly English teacher that insisted that that should have read "would be he, not I." Really? What do you think, Mr. Editor Charlie?–I didn't change it.] As I thought about it, it seemed almost impossible for either of us to try to follow in Shel's footsteps: A quint! No one else had ever done it in competition, and seldom anywhere. I couldn't imagine ever being that good. Pete's dreams were different, and he was eager to follow his dads.

That didn't mean that I didn't have Olympic fever. You could hardly grow up up in the Gang and not dream of the Olympics. And then there were Liam and Woody living right with us! So I thought long and hard about Olympic sports. None of the Gang had been much into team sports. There were a couple of exceptions: Bob in baseball and Jody in basketball. But Jody made it to the Olympics as a marathoner, not a basketball player. As I looked around, swimming and diving really appealed. But I quickly set aside diving in my mind, because it would mean following Tim, Billy, Willie, Hardie, Liam and Woody, not to mention Chet and Chuck. I couldn't see myself following that bunch any more that I could see myself following my dads in skating.

So I decided I'd be a swimmer. I even picked my speciality: breast stroke. How did I pick that? Well, there seemed to be excellent swimmers around the UND pool in every stroke but breaststroke: I decided to be a breaststroker. Not to be outdone by Liam, I made that decision at age five. And I told my dads and Tim, just to put it on the record. All three were pleased and fully supportive. Of a five-year-old? Hey, it's the Gang.

What about sex? Liam was thirteen when he started to jack off; he was the first of us in the aerie to do it. But Anton and Bobby followed in less than a year. Like most horny teenagers, they got the urge daily or more often. For most boys that meant jacking off privately in their beds. But we all shared one big bed in the aerie, and jacking off wasn't private. As soon as one of the boys would start to jack off, someone would come and help him. We quickly learned that they enjoyed being sucked more than having us use our hands. Into this atmosphere came Woody. His first night in the aerie he had stood on the table and jacked off. I think he had decided that he really wanted to be accepted by the group, and I had made it clear that jacking off was part of our game.

Liam warned a couple of us not to go too fast with Woody. They didn't have sex with each other in the aerie, but I was pretty sure that they were doing whatever they were doing in The Hideout. After about a week, I said to Liam, "If you keep Woody to yourself in The Hideout, we're going to come over there and join you some evening."

As I had hoped, Woody heard me say that. He said to Liam, "Would it bother you to have the little kids watch us? It might add to the excitement."

Liam wasn't so sure, but he agreed that that night they would, "Do our thing," in the aerie. Their thing that night was for Liam to slide up next to Woody and use his hand to jack him off.

Bobby came over and said, "There's a better way." With that he pushed Liam's hand aside and took Woody in his mouth. At about that time Anton came up and took Liam in his mouth. Very soon both boys were shaking and bouncing until tongues brought relief. Bobby then said, "OK, we want you two to pleasure all of us. Begin with Ginnie and May; they'll show you what they like. Then take turns sucking Sonnie. Then pleasure Pete and Hank; they won't come, but they'll have a good time. Then come back and take care of Anton and me. Then, Woody, you'll really be part of the aerie."

I don't think Liam was really very happy. He thought Bobby was pushing pretty hard. But Woody got off the bed and walked over to May, clearly inviting her to climb on the bed with him. Woody was naked, but May still had her clothes on. He quickly helped her out of her clothes and onto the bed. "Show me what you would like."

May kissed him and then pushed his hand down to her vagina. Woody's finger did a very good job. Meanwhile, Ginnie had shed her clothes and walked over to Liam. "You heard what Bobby said. And I want your tongue not your fingers." Liam didn't have much choice, and after he got started it didn't look like he wanted much choice.

Then Sonnie, already naked, said, "I'm next and I get the two of you. What fun. And I assure you I want a blow job." They took turns and he got his blow job. I should point out that Sonie was twelve and had just discovered that he could produce cum.

Pete and I were next. I was six and Pete was eight, though only about a year and a half older than me. But I had always been the less shy of the two of us. I told Woody and Liam, "We've played with Liam; Woody, we want you to play with both of us. Start by tickling and end up sucking us. We won't come, but we'll have a ball." Woody did as he was asked, and we did have a ball.

They Bobby said, "And now the finale, Anton and I each want to be sucked, we want the life sucked out of us; do your best." Woody grabbed Bobby, pushed him down on the bed, took his dick and balls into his mouth and really gave it to him. To get him to climax, he had to spit out the balls and pump up and down on his dick, and he came very quickly. Liam was a little more hesitant with Anton, but Anton grabbed the back of Liam's head and pulled him down hard on his dick. Liam got the message, and all turned out well.

Anton thanked Liam and said, "That was great, but next time I get Woody."

I ended the whole thing by saying, "Nothing is off limits up here but fucking. But we do do other things, like homework. Right now, I think sleeping is in order."

Pete and I were shown Charlie's story on the web when I was eight years old and he was nine. We both were reading far beyond our grade level, and there wasn't any sex in the story that was surprising to us. But we, like most of the COGs and GrandCOGs before us, learned a lot of the lore of the Gang from reading Charlie's story. One thing that appears often in Charlie's story is a disclaimer that the story suggested that sex was more a part of their lives than it really was. Well, I'm here to tell you that in the aerie sex was very much a part of our lives. The older kids were horny teenagers, and us younger kids thought it was fun and exciting, even if we weren't horny in the same way the older kids were. But, except for a bicycle trip now and then (which you've already read about) and other exceptions, sex was limited to the aerie. And when we were in the aerie studying came first. The beds were all lined up on one side of the long room and study desks–one for each of us–were lined up along the other. All of us were quite responsible about doing homework, and there was general agreement that "play" didn't start until homework was done. As the older kids got into high school and had a lot more work, they found places to study outside of the aerie, so that they didn't block the play of the younger aerie residents.

But between homework and bedtime, look out! I got particularly fond of Woody–he was such a sexy guy, and so nice to me. I think from time to time Liam was almost jealous, but he knew that Woody was faithful to him, even when he was sucking me. And did I love to have him suck me!

Even more important than sex was my swimming. I swam at the Y and the UND pool. My butterfly was terrible–my shoulder simply didn't allow me to get my arms clear of the water. On my back I worried about keeping track of the length of the pool so that I wouldn't hit my head. I never could get the hang of good timing. My freestyle was pretty good, but it was clear that I wasn't going to win any medals. My breaststroke was fabulous! I could beat all comers. By age seven nobody could beat me but a teenager, generally some big kid about age sixteen, who was embarrassed by only beating the little seven year old by a foot or so.

At eight I was entering junior meets in Fargo and doing quite well. Since junior extended up to age seventeen, I wasn't able to win finals races, but I often qualified to get in them. At age nine I was winning junior meets in Fargo, Bismarck and Sioux Falls in South Dakota. I was ready for regional meets, first in the Twin Cities and then in Chicago.

My coaches were Coach Watson at the Y and Coach Cross and Coach Smithson at the University Pool. Mabel Cross was the Director of Aquatics as well as a swimming coach; that's what she had been full time before she was appointed director to succeed Billy. She had added Coach John Smithson not long after her promotion. Neither had any obligation to coach me, as I wasn't a student. Pete and I swam at the pool on a guest pass issued through our dads, Brian and Shel, both of whom were very good friends of the former Director of Aquatics, Willie Carson. Of course the college coaches had no obligation to coach me–I was just a visitor. But both of the college coaches were eager to be my coach, for two reasons. The first is simply that I was damn good, and considering the Olympic success of my family and friends, very likely to be an Olympian. The second is that everyone knew that Tim, Charlie, Billy, Willie and others were very important at the university and everyone wanted to be on their good side. Nothing was ever said or suggested that helping little Hank would further a career, nor that not helping him would sidetrack a career. But get serious, if you were in the position of Coach Cross and Coach Smithson, what would you have done? Charlie's told a number of his writers that they shouldn't be excessively modest about their successes, in fact, he's insisted that some sections be rewritten to more accurate reflect reality. So I'll just add here that little Hank was cute, polite, listened to coaches, thanked them for their help, and by the time he was eight years old was giving the college breaststrokers a run for their money. [Charlie here. I didn't have to ask Hank the rewrite anthing here, and I'll vouch for the accuracy of all of it. He became sort of a mascot for the college swimmers, who loved having him around, and simply treated him as if he were part of the team.]

My dads took me to the junior meets in Fargo and other nearby cities. Shel had talked to me and then to Perry about when the Gang should be invited to be part of my support group. I was quite content to have just my dads and maybe one or two others from The Lighthouse. But Shel and Perry decided that when I was off to Minneapolis for a regional meet (it was spring of 2019 and I was ten years old) it was time to involve more of the Gang. Two bus loads of the Gang–more than half of the Gang–came with me to Minneapolis, adding substantially to the number of spectators. Tim was along, as the meet was one of the meets that he had conquered as a diver.

We left right after everyone's work or school on Friday and were in Minneapolis by 10:00 p.m. We went straight to a motel and we all settled in. In my dreams I would've spent the night with Woody, but he was now age twenty and off limits to a ten year old. Pete and I spent the night together in a queen-size bed in the room where our dads occupied the other bed. Nothing was said; nothing needed to be said. The lights were out, but it was obvious they were having sex in their bed, and we were playing with each other in our bed. I hope they had as much fun as we did.

The next morning we were off to the biggest swim meet I had ever been part of. I got myself registered and learned that my first race would be 100 meters at 9:30. My second race would be 200 meters at 11:00. If I was in the top four in either race, I'd be in the semifinals in the afternoon. If I was in the top four of either semifinal, I'd race Sunday in the breaststroke finals. The 100 meter final would be in the morning and the 200 meter final would be on late Sunday afternoon. As soon as I didn't qualify for the next race, we could all go home! I wasn't eager for an early departure, but it was clear that the folks in Minneapolis didn't think this ten-year-old kid was going to win any races! I was determined to fool them.

The pattern of the races was to advance half of each heat to the next level. That means there are eight swimmers in the finals, sixteen in two semifinals, and up to thirty-two in the preliminaries.

At 9:15 I was in the warmup pool, along with several others that would be racing with me. They were all at least three years older; it was clear that I was the baby at this meet. But I was ready; at least I thought I was. My dads and my coaches thought I was as well. Of course, I didn't have an official coach. I did my serious practice at the UND pool, but the coaching there was completely informal. So Billy agreed to be my coach of record for this meet.

I need to take a minute to talk about the breastsroke. I began swimming it competitively at age five. Three years later, at Camp White Elk, they were teaching the breaststroke. You would've thought they were talking about a different stroke. At camp the breaststroke, along with the side stroke and the elementary back stroke, were resting strokes. They were designed so that you put very little effort into the stroke and cruised along slowly. The perfect stroke if you fell out of a canoe in the middle of a lake, or wanted to gently cruise to an island or far shore. You glided forward with a kick and gently pulled your arms to the side and back, getting ready for the next kick. Well, that sort of described the breaststroke I raced with, but there's no relaxing glide. You must keep your hands and arms in the water, unlike all the other racing strokes that allow you to move your hands forward through the air. As a result, the breaststroke is the slowest of the racing strokes. The frog kick isn't easy to learn, but it does propel you throught he water. The dolphin kick is a stronger kick, but it's prohibited by FINA rules. You can take one dolphin kick in the underwater phase at the beginning of each lap.

To everyone's surprise, I won my first race, the 100 meter. I was third in the 200 meter. I would be in both semifinals in the afternoon. After my second race Dad (Shel) came up to me and told me that I would be eating lunch with Tim, Billy, and Wille. I knew immediately that this was an important lunch. It wasn't casually arranged, and the participants weren't selected at random. My next race would be at two, so we had almost two hours for lunch. I wondered just what words of wisdom these three would bring. I really had no idea. I knew all three well, but this was a special event.

It turned out to be a most unusual lunch. Their message was really very simple: we love you, and we'll love you if you come in last. The second part came with a footnote: if you do your best. Tim pointed out that if somebody else's best is better than yours, they deserve to win. But lunch was mostly quiet small talk. They all came back to the we love you theme from time to time. It was clear than they meant it. Clearly Tim, and Billy and Willie, believed that love was more valuable than "Win one for the Gipper" or some such. It was the kind of half-time speech that I thought might've come from Jumper.

It worked. I came in second in the 100 meter and third in the 200 meter. Against everyone's expections (except mine) I would be in both finals. Only one other swimmer had qualified in both, and I hadn't met him in either semifinal. I was happy as a lark; all the Gang surrounded me as soon as I got outside the area of the natatorium restricted to swimmers and expressed congratulations. Dinner at a big restaurant was wonderful, as were all of my exceptional friends.

Pop (Brian) came up to me at dinner as asked, "OK, kid, who would you like to spend the night with tonight?"

"Woody, but he's off limits."

"I've talked with Liam and Woody. Woody would love to spend the night in our room tonight. Hugging and cuddling is fine, sex if off limits. Can you deal with that; Woody says he can?"

"In the room with you and Dad? That would be fantastic."

And that's how I ended up in Woody's arms, his naked body wrapped around me like Charlie liked to wrap around Tim. I'd wiggle around and face him and we'd kiss. They I'd turn and he'd wrap around me from the rear. He played with my belly button, but never went lower. I didn't need that. I needed his warmth and love. People that don't listen to Tim talking about love and support are missing the boat. I sure didn't miss the boat that Saturday night. I ate breakfast with Woody and Liam, thanking them both for the wonderful night; it had been a gift from Liam as much as from Woody.

I was ready! My first race was at 10:30. We got to the pool at 9:30; I changed into my suit and walked over to the warmup pool. My reception was a little different than the day before. Yesterday nobody expected me to do anything. Now here I was in both butterfly finals. I was a curiosity; they wanted to know all about me. Where did I practice? Who was my coach? How does a ten-year-old explain that he practices in a university pool? Or that Billy Carson, a diving legend, is his coach of record for this meet? Luckily it was time for the race before I could be further grilled on those subjects.

We went to the starting platforms to get ready. I was up against six high schoolers and one college freshman. All were in the neighborhood of six feet tall, and I was just over five–tall for my age. Height is a sleight advange in a swimming race: it provides extra reach to hit the boards. Ready, set, the starting gun. I was off. There isn't much to think about in a race except getting your stroke right, keeping your timing, getting your head out of the water to breathe without bobbing up and down and slowing your forward motion. This was the 100 meter, down and back, only one turn. I was good on the turns, so I had a sleight advange in the 200 meter, with three turns. I sensed that I was ahead of the boy in the lane next to me on the left. I seemed to be way ahead of the guy on the right. No time to think about that, here was the turn. God, I got it perfect. I stayed underwater as long as the rules allowed, getting in one powerful dolphin kick. I broke the surface, grabbed a breath and headed for the finish board. I heard the buzzer just before I touched. I wasn't first and there was no quick way to tell how far back I was. I caught my breath and looked at the scoreboard. I was second! I was happy just to get into the final. I would've been unbelievable happy to be in the top half. Second! I couldn't believe it! But there it was on the scoreboard. I looked to the spectators. The Gang were all on their feet cheering! What a day! What a weekend! What a life! There was Billy–my coach–grabbing me and lifting me up. He was in tears; not really able to speak. We kissed, and he set me down and we walked over to where the Gang was. The first to me, even ahead of my dads, was Woody. I hugged him and simply said, "Thank you."

The next hour was a whirl. We learned that I was the youngest junior to ever place that high. That the award ceremony would be at four o'clock in the afternoon, following the 200 meter breaststroke at 2;15. The Gang went every different direction for lunch. I ate with Dad, Pop, Liam, and Woody. We talked about just about everything we could think of but swimming and racing. It ended with four "I love yous" and four kisses.

In the afternoon in the warmup pool I was getting even more questions. How long had I been swimming? Since age two or three. When did I start competitive swimming? Age five. How much did I practice? Four or five hours a day, six or seven days a week. How long had I been following that schedule? Since age five. There were a lot of unbelievers. But my performance in the morning should've suggested otherwise.

How would I do in the afternoon at 200 meters? Well, I had two advantages over the morning. I've already mentioned three turns instead of one. Also, my endurance was superb. The long hours practicing–every morning and after school–made 200 meters a breeze. But not necessarily a faster breeze that the other kids I was racing against.

Onto the platform, the starting gun, into the water, first turn, second turn, final turn, into the last lap. As I popped out of the water to breathe I looked around. I didn't see anyone ahead of me, but vision is pretty limited and the view is very quick and you can't turn your head to get a better look–that costs time. Time is everything. I poured on every ounce of strength and power that I had. I knew that the older boys next to me had more strength and power, but not necessarily the ability to channel it into forward motion in the water. There was the board. My strokes were timed perfectly and I hit the board before I heard a buzzer. My God, it wasn't possible; but it was. I had won! I didn't know what to say then and I still don't. How about this?

! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

If in the morning they were saying that I was the youngest to ever come in second, think about what they were saying in the afternoon. The medal ceremony was an anticlimax; nothing could compare to how I felt treading water in the pool at the end of the race and having it slowly dawn on me that I had won!

What a trip back to Grand Forks. What a reception in Grand Forks. When I walked into the university natatorium on Monday after school, a cheer went up. I was grabbed, carried up on the low diving board and tossed into the pool–about the highest complement the team could've bestowed. Coach Cross gave me a big sloppy kiss. Coach Smithson a huge hug. I think every member of the girls team kissed me, and the boys all hugged or shook hands. Two kissed me, but not on the lips; this wasn't the Gang.

There's nothing like a trip like that to keep Olympic dreams alive! I had qualified at both distrances for the FINA nationals in the summer. Who knew how I would do?

I was ten years old, in fifth grade, and scheduled to got to middle school the next year. I was reading at a level that the charts said was grade thirteen, in other words college level. My vocabulary was tested at an even higher level. My math scores were off the charts, because the charts for elementary school kids didn't include high school subjects like algebra and geometry. But I was clearly ready for those courses. Just what was I going to learn in middle school? Was I socially ready to skip middle school and go to high school? Well, I swam with a college swimming team, lived in a group setting which included kids almost twice my age, had best friends (Liam and Woody) who were about twenty, why would I have trouble relating to high school students?

I talked to my dads. Dad (Shel) said that he was about as far ahead of his contemporaries in school as I was. Actually, according to Tim, he was further ahead than I was, but he didn't push it. He had stayed with his grade, and spent most of his time coaching other students. He wasn't sorry he hadn't skipped ahead. Pop (Brian) said that he was lucky to keep up with his grade, much less skip ahead.

I said, "Dad, you and your parents evidently made the right decision for you. It isn't necessarily the right decision for me."

Dad said, "I know, I just wanted to get the other option on the table. Why do you think it's the right decision for you?"

"First of all is my swimming. You were up against an age limit that really limited you."

Pop put in, "And allowed me to get a second gold medal. I'd never have beaten him in Nagano if he had been old enough to compete."

Dad said, "I'm not going there. Tell us about swimming."

"There's no minimum age, I swim with the university team now. If I go to high school next year, I'll get to college three years sooner. As far as high school is concerned, I'm very confident that I can hold my own."

"What's it going to take to accomplish this?"

"A forward thinking, not hide-bound, high school principal."

"I thnk you'll find Dr. Nanders at Central is as forward thinking as you'll ever find."

"So you're saying I can?"

"Hank, you've been around the Gang long enough to know that your parents aren't going to stand in your way on something like this. If you think you can handle high school, go and find out. But I'm going to put the same condition on this that Billy put on Willie when he headed off to the UP. If it turns out to be a mistake, admit it. Tell us, and we'll figure out how to fix it. If you'll promise that, we'll see about getting you into Central, just a mere three years early."

I told Mom and Dad that I would make that promise.

The meeting with Dr. Nanders was interesting. Shel and Brian went with me. I brought along a pile of paperwork, including elementary school report cards (all A's), test scores (all off the charts), and a writing sample (which my parents would swear was all my own work). I explained that I wanted to enter high school in the fall for two reasons: First, I was academically prepared, in fact could expect to be ahead of most of the other ninth graders, and my tests scores supported that. Second, it fit my athletic plans in that it would get me to college three years early and onto the college swimming team. In the meantime, I'd be part of the high school team, and would be the top high school breaststroker in the area.

Dr. Nanders thought for a minute and said, "You have a lot of self-confidence, Hank. Do you really think that you can go from fifth grade to being near the top of ninth grade?"

"Yes, sir. I live with several high school students, and I work with them on their homework assignments. Most ninth graders will be taking algebra. I'd like to test out of that and take geometry-trigonometry; I'm ready for that."

"You want to go from fifth grade arithmetic to tenth grade math classes?"

"Yes, sir. I've been studying algebra on my own."

"You'd be with kids at least three years older than you all the time. Do you think you could hold your own in that crowd?"

"Yes, sir. I live in a house with a half a dozen other kids. I'm the youngest by far. I get along."

Dr. Nanders turned to my dads and said, "I'm trying to understand his living arrangement. I take it that you two are married, but that you live with some other parents as well."

Shel answered, "We share a house with four other couples. There are a total of eight children, of which Hank and his brother Pete are the youngest. They all get along quite well together."

"The older ones would be high school age. Are they Central students?"

"Liam Carson is one; you were involved in the transfer of his diving partner from Ames, Iowa, to here so that they could practice together."

"I certainly remember those two, outstanding students and outstanding young men. Pretty good divers, too, I understand." That was said with a wink. "Hank lives with them?"

"He did; they're in college now."

"OK, I want our guidance counselor to interview Hank. I need that evaluation in his permanent record. Having had this conversation with him I can't believe that's going to be a problem. Hank, I understand you want to test out of algebra I. I'll have to make an appointment for you with our algebra teacher to find out about that. The eighth graders pre-registered in May in their middle schools. When you're done with the guidance counselor and math department, we'll have you come in and pre-register. Good luck in September; come visit me if you have any problems. You'll be the youngest student I've ever had in high school. I wish you good luck. However, it doesn't look to me like you're going to need a lot of luck."

I stood up and walked over to Dr. Nanders desk, "Dr. Nanders, thank you for your faith in me. My dads put one condition on my going to high school, that is if I could persuade you to let me in. That condition is, if I find that it was a mistake, I'll tell them and we'll fix the mistake. I promised them I'd promise to admit it if was a mistake, and I'll make the same promise to you. I'm really looking forward to being a Central student."

Dr. Nanders answered, "I'll be looking forward to your being a student here at Central."

On the way home from Central Pop told me that he and Dad had talked to Pete about my going straight to high school. Pete will be in eighth grade next year, a year behind you instead of two years ahead. Would this bother Pete. "Hell, no." Would Pete like to skip ahead, too? "Hell, no." Why not? "Dad, Pop, I'm very happy in school. I like my classmates. I'll be happy to go to high school with them. You know, Hank's doing it right. He isn't skipping a grade, he's skipping a whole school. Kinda neat. But it's not for me."

Two years before this there had been a dramatic change in the aerie. In 2017 Liam (and Woody) turned eighteen. A year later Anton, Bobby, and Ginnie turned eighteen. That presented a serious issue for our parents. There would be older kids that were legally adults living with younger kids, some a lot younger, who were legally children. It was a mix of boys and girls. It was an atmosphere where sex was quite acceptable, and not a legal problem until we introduced eighteen-year-olds.

Nels brought the subject up at dinner one evening, and we decided to have a big family meeting about it in about a week. In the meantime we were to think about the problem and talk it over as much as we liked.

Us aerie dwellers did understand the problem; we had been well acquainted with the rule that there would be no adult-child sex. But thinking of Liam, Woody, Anton, Bobby, and Ginnie as adults was a little difficult. Well, could we just avoid adult-child sex? Sure we could. But what about watching across the age line? What did the law say about that? We didn't know. Could we avoid sex in the aerie? Hell, no. Besides, we all slept in one big bed. Divide the bed: the over-eighteen side and the under-eighteen side. Seemed silly. We didn't have the answer. Maybe our parents did.

At the big meeting a lot of ideas were discussed. We talked about dividing the aerie into a senior and a junior side, but nobody liked that idea much. We talked about abstinence, but liked that idea even less. Well, not really abstinence, since The Hideout was right at hand. That was a maybe. Then Dad said, "OK, I've listened to a lot of this. The whole business is silly; in a decent world they'd just go on doing their thing and enjoying. But as I had to admit in my days drooling over Brian, the law is the law, it's not that nonsensical, and violating it and getting caught would ruin lives. So the answer is that the aerie has to be for kids under eighteen, and at birthday time they move out. Right now we're talking about Liam and Woody, but others will be turning eighteen very soon. I think we need to buy another house. There are four possibilities: the house beside The Lighthouse, the house beside the Roundhouse, or either of the houses at the ends of the row of four houses we own behind us."

Hardie said, "And the eighteen year olds live in the new house until they get married or whatever, and move on to new housing. Eventually we'll have an empty house."

Connie said, "Don't worry, the Gang's demand for houses seems always to exceed the supply."

Shel added, "If it turns out that we can get more than one of the four houses, I think we should. Ms. Caruthers is no longer available, but I'll get a real estate agent to find out if we might be able to buy one or more of the four houses. In the meantime, Liam and Woody, get ready to make a move."

Shel went to work the next day hunting a real estate agent. He talked to Ms.. Caruthers and got a recommendation of someone in her office, a Hamilton Bascom. She told Shel, "Let me talk to Ham before you do. Then he'll give you a call."

The next day Shel got a call from Mr. Bascom, who insisted on being called either Ham or Hambone. "Caruthers has warned me about you Shel. She says to do what you tell me and keep out of the way. She was a very successful agent; I'm going to take her advice. What do you want me to do?"

Shel laid out his wishes, and Ham said, "Well, let me call the four owners; I think they're all rentals. I'll get back to you."

The report back took three days (Ms. Caruthers had taken a week). Three of the properties were rentals, and could be purchased as long as the price offered slightly exceeded their rental income potential. The last, the house next to The Hideout, was owned by a retired couple that had no interest in moving. With this information in hand Shel headed for Perry's office. He explained the situation to Perry, explaining the need for one house now and the opportunity to acquire three houses for future use. He explained that the folks in The Lighthouse could handle the purchase of one house, but that the Gang would collectively need to buy the other three.

Perry replied, "OK, Shel. But you're talking to the wrong person. Fred's Sports has been key in his sort of thing in the past, but the trust that holds the endowment for the Gang is controlled by Tim and Charlie, and they won't act without talking to Marty. So gather those three together, and I'll sit in–an extra kick from Fred's Sports might be needed. Wow. Four houses!"

It didn't take long for Shel to gather the four in The Madhouse (Tim and Charlie's). He laid out the problem in the aerie that led to the need for another house, and suggested that the opportunity to acquire fours houses would provide for the future: new generations are coming on.

Tim asked, "What kind of money are you talking about?"

Shel answered, "If we put up down payments, we have to borrow the rest. In the past that has meant drawing on the resources of the endowment or Fred's Sports. So it's really the total amount that we're talking about. These houses aren't in the best condition, having been rentals for years. They're probably worth about $150,000 each, but we'll have to offer about $165,000 to get the current owners to sell. The fourth, owned by a retired couple, is worth a little more. I think we can get it for future use by offering a life tenancy to the couple. They could take about $170,000 out of the house and live in it rent free for the rest of their lives. Then we'd own it and could use it as we wished. We'd need to remodel one house now. The other two could continue as rentals until we needed them. But we'd have to figure $100,000 to remodel the first house. We'd have to spend a little improving the rentals, and I know that Fyn and Murray would want to do some major landscaping to incorporate all the houses–now a total of eleven. Bottom line would be just under $900,000."

Charlie said, "You don't think small, do you, Shel?"

"Never. What's the point? If you guys want to knock this back, that's OK. We really only need one house right now, and we could make do without it. But, come on. The Gang's growing. We need to think about the future. This is a wonderful opportunity."

Tim looked at Marty and raised an eyebrow.

Marty said, "Fred would've loved it. Go for it."

Tim said, "The endowment for the Gang has been growing, and we never spend what it produces. Right now we have about $700,000. We could borrow against the stock we hold for the rest."

Perry said, "Fred's Sports wouldn't want its stock used as collateral. Go get a bank loan for the balance and Marty and I will cosign for the loan. We'll divert three-fourths of the Gang endowment's future dividends to pay off the loan. It won't take long, Fred's Sports is going gangbusters."

Shel had his marching orders and someone to sign the checks. Within a week we owned four houses–held in the name of the Gang's trust. Of course, there was a big fly in the ointment. The three houses had rental contracts for the coming year. Shel's first move was to talk to Liam and Woody. It was an interesting conversation. He told them that they would be occupying the house and soon Anton, Bobby, Ginny, May, and maybe even Sonnie would be moving in. He went on, "However, I think that in the long run this house can be your permanent home. The others will make their own homes and one of these houses can be yours. So, with that in mind, which house would you like to live in?"

They quickly agreed on the one next to The Roundhouse. They liked the house and they liked the idea that the Circle would be their next door neighbors. Shel immediately contacted the eight renters (two to each apartment) scheduled for the coming year. He explained that the house was needed for other things and offered them two choices: A cash buy-out of their leases or they could find alternate housing, at a higher rental if necessary, and we would cover the difference in rental. Two pairs took the cash buyout and two found other housing in the area at higher rents and were delighted to have the higher rent covered. Everybody was happy.

Then Carl was brought in to talk about remodeling. He looked the place over and told Shel, Liam, and Woody: "A complete remodeling wouldn't be ready for school in the fall which is when I expect you want to move in. Furthermore, you have two different uses in mind for this house: you want to house a bunch of eighteen-year-olds, basically while they're high school seniors and in college (if they go to UND). Then you want a single family home. There are two apartments on the second floor; lets paint them and use them. Liam and Woody can move in very quickly. Then we'll completely restore the first floor. We'll adjust the second floor as we have more people, and there's an unused attic we can also use. When everybody's out but Liam and Woody, they can camp out in the dining room and we'll completely redo the upper floors. Sound good?"

It was Carl's usual out of the box thinking; it made sense; Woody and Liam were all for it. Three weeks after UND spring term ended, the painting and fixing up were complete and Liam and Woody moved in. That was in the summer of 2017, and Liam would turn eighteen in October, and Woody just a short time later. The next summer Anton, Bobby, and Ginny moved in and May followed the next summer. There was a lot of speculation about whether any combination of the residents would become a permanent pair, but none has so far–except, of course, for Liam and Woody who are as committed to each other as possible.

Murray and Fyn had important roles to play in this expansion of the Gang's housing stock. When the four houses to the rear had been added, only one really impacted Murray and Fyn's maintenance duties: The (new) Hideout. But that was offset by the fact the Tim and Charlie moved back into the old hideout, now called The Madhouse. Nothing much was done to the landscaping, as the houses fronted onto a different street. Grass mowing and leaf raking were organized by Fyn and Murray but executed by all of the residents. Now four houses were being added, and two were adjacent to the houses on the front street. Fyn and Murray, working with Carl's team, wasted no time in developing a completely new landscape plan. In addition, they would be the rental managers for the two rentals and would have some responsibility for The Outhouse–which is what the residents of the aerie decided to name their new house. Two things were decided: first, that a third person had to be named to the maintenance team, Second, with three managers the residents of all these houses needed to rethink maintenance funding.

Murray and Fyn were tasked with working out the details of both of those tasks. The first thing was to think who would make a good person for the maintenance team. They talked to several members of the Gang and thought a lot about it. They decided that they would invite Jimmy to be the third manager. They invited him for dinner and made the proposal. Jimmy said, "Me? That's a pretty physical job; I'm not the most physical person, you know."

Fyn answered, "No, but you're the most determined person I know. Sure, we know they're some things you can't do, but we can. There's plenty in the job description that won't challenge you at all; we'll make sure those duties fall to you."

Jimmy asked, "Are you guys making me this offer because you feel sorry for me? You think I won't be able to get a regular job?"

Murray responded to that: "Jimmy, we'll have to admit that's part of it. But look at it this way; the Gang takes care of its own. Fred's Sports has given any number of Gang members, or soon to be Gang members, jobs. The Gang takes care of its own. But there's more. We like you, and we think we'd like working with you. You live in one of the houses in this compound, and that's important–it means that you're available on-site, just like we are. And, yes, we think you may have a difficult time getting a job that you'll enjoy and take pride in out in the world beyond the Gang. Of course, Fred's Sports would be glad to offer you a job, but you'd have the same feelings about a job with Fred's Sports as with us."

"My God, it's refreshing to have you guys be so honest. Without that honesty about offering me the job, I simply couldn't take it. It would've put a distance between us that would've been hard to bridge. But getting your thoughts out in the open like that, well, it's wonderful."

Fyn said, "We've always liked the way you were able to talk about your disability, like it was simply a part of your life that you had to deal with. Well, if you join our team it will become part of our lives. When we divvy up jobs we'll take it into consideration. It won't be your disability, it will be our disability and well deal with it as a team. Will you join the team?"

"I sure as Hell will."

"You know, we get paid pretty decent salaries, and you'll get paid just what we get paid."

Fyn added, "When it was just Murray, they struggled to come up with a fair salary arrangement. When I cam aboard they worked out a specific deal. Arnie and I both worked for UND at the natatorium and at the Marty Center. Neither was able to offer full-time employment. So I went to work for Tim and Charlie taking care of their former house, now The Hideout. Arnie worked for UND and the Marty Center and was able to make that a full-time arrangement, but it wasn't a long-term arrangement. NTAC needed a manager of the velodrome and its associated facilities for archery and fencing. I was offered the job and have been doing it ever since. NTAC, under Fred's influence was an excellent employer, paying a decent salary with excellent benefits. It was agreed that Fyn and Murray would be paid exactly the same as I was, and that's continued over the years. Jimmy, you'll get a good salary and good benefits. Welcome aboard."

Where was the money going to come from? It was agreed that the three managers would take care of all landscaping, as well as the exteriors of all eleven houses. I should note that the couple living next to The Hideout quickly agreed that their yard could be incorporated into the overall landscape plan, and they were delighted that the exterior would be taken care of, Murray also assured them that one of maintenance crew would be glad to help with any problems around their house. Each house decided what they wanted the crew to do on the interior. Fyn then worked out a percentage that each house needed to pay into the pot that paid the crew. They'd have a monthly amount taken from their bank account and paid to Labor Services to cover salary and benefits. Costs like paint, grass seed, landscape materials, etc. would be billed as appropriate. It was the Gang, everybody was happy with the very communal arrangement and it continues today.

Another arrangement that continues today began in my ninth grade geometry-trigonometry (called geo-trig by all) class. There was a very lovely girl sitting very near me. Not only was she near me in geo-trig, she was on the swim team, and a very good backstroker. Her name was Faye Logan, and we soon began sitting together on the bus that took us to Red River High School where the combined team of Central and Red River High Schools practiced in the Red River pool. Well, as I guess you've figured out by now, I was a pretty aggressive little kid and wasn't fazed by a three-year age difference. On about the third trip I suggested that she come to dinner at The Lighthouse the next evening. Of course, that led to a discussion of just what The Lighthouse was, who lived there, and on and on. It was exactly the discussion I wanted to have, and Faye agreed to ask her parents if she could eat with us at dinner the next day. She could.

What a meal. Faye couldn't believe the assemblage of Olympians that lived in the house. We had a delightful meal–Sally had cooked a special pot roast in Faye's honor, and Faye and I sat in the living room afterwards and talked–mostly about swimming. We both had ambitious goals, but she wasn't thinking as far ahead as the Paris Olympics. She was impressed that I was.

OK, one thing led to another. I met her parents when she invited me to dinner not too long after her meal at The Lighthouse. All they really knew about me was that I was a ninth grader like Faye, pretty smart or I wouldn't have been in the geo-trig class, lived in a very strange house occupied by a bunch of former Olympians, and had two dads. The fact that that didn't seem to bother either Faye or her parents was certainly a good sign.

They didn't expect me to be three inches shorter than their daughter. In fact, Faye and I had never discussed my age; she'd just assumed that I'd come from the other middle schooll that fed Red River High. Her parents weren't so naive. One of their first questions, after introductions and a little small talk, was, "Hank, how old are you? You don't look like a ninth grader."

"I'm eleven. Last year I was in Flynn Elementary School. I skipped middle school."

Faye looked at me and said, "I never would've guessed. And you're in the advanced classes in ninth grade. You went from fifth grade to geo-trig? It's amazing."

Her parents seemed perplexed. They were open to the idea that their little girl, now a big high schooler, might be dating a nice boy from her class. But an eleven-year-old? What her father said was, "That's amazing."

We had a very nice dinner, and my age wasn't spoken of again. They did ask about my swimming and were as amazed by my ambition to go to the Paris Olympics as by my age. In the conversation I did manage to point out the age difference between my dads, but that didn't seem to impress them. They weren't put off by the idea of two dads, but it was far enough out of their experience, that the age difference was irrelevant. They lived within walking distance of The Lighthouse (a fairly long walk, but I usually ran) and shortly after dinner I headed for home.

The next day on the bus to swimming practice Faye asked, "You really skipped all of middle school? You're eleven years old?"

"That's me. You're dating a pre-adolescent, I haven't hit puberty yet. But I'm smart as a whip, swim with and beat guys much older than me, and seem to be holding my own in high school. Can I hold my own with you? And how about your parents?"

"After you left last night my parents and I talked. They were surprised that I didn't know your age. I told them that I knew you were little, but that you swam like a fish, functioned like a high school student, and it never occurred to me that you weren't a regular ninth grader. They asked if, now that I knew, it make any difference."

I said, "I'm eager to hear the answer to that question."

She said, "I honestly don't know. Knowing your age hasn't changed you a bit. It certainly makes you a much more extraordinary kid than if you were fourteen. Give me a day or two to get used to the idea that I'm dating a eleven-year-old."

I said, "You consider us to be dating?"

"Don't you?"

"I do, but I wasn't sure you did. If we're dating, can I take you to the movies Friday night. We'll start with dinner at Jerry's."


"A great local restaurant. We can walk, bicycle, take a cab, or have one of my dads drive us. And at dinner you can tell me what you think of dating an eleven-year-old."

Dinner was great. In fact Sally drove us to Jerry's; Nels picked us up and drove us to the movie; Shel picked us up from the movie, told us that the Red River was beautiful in moonlight, and drove us for a long drive along the river, never saying a word and never looking in the rear view mirror. It was in the back seat of the biggest sedan in the community fleet–a Buick–that Faye told me, "Age doesn't count."

We had a great ninth grade year until COVID-19 hit. Schools didn't close, but they tested as much as they could and did contact tracing. Many students had to be out due to quarantine rules. Faye and I managed to avoid COVID and quarantine. But we never went to a movie or any group event; restaurants were out. We did eat at each other's houses. The swim team practiced, but meets were delayed, cancelled or had no spectators. Life was pretty restricted, but it gave Faye and me a chance to really get to know each other–and like each other. In my case the word "love" bounced around in my head, but I didn't share that with Faye.

I need to remind you of what was going on in the aerie. Sonnie, the youngest except for Pete and me turned eighteen in January of 2020. He moved to The Outhouse at Christmas. That left Pete and me alone in the aerie. Things were going smoothly with Faye and me and I decided that it was time to show her the aerie. Pete and I cleaned it up–the biggest job was making the bed look nice. The others had taken their desks with them to The Outhouse, so just Pete and I had desks on the opposite wall. We'd added some easy chairs and a chair and table set as the desks disappeared. Faye came up, looked around, and said, "Wow, that's quite a bed."

With some trepidation, since we'd never really discussed either sex or the sleeping arrangements in The Lighthouse, I told her that the bed once held all The Lighthouse kids, but that as they became eighteen they'd moved to the house behind. "You all slept together in that big bed?"

"Yes." I decided that the one-word answer was best.

"That's neat." I let out my breath that I'd been holding.

"Now it's just Pete and me."

It was about two weeks later as we were sitting alone in the living room of her house–her parents were watching TV in another room. She said, "I've been thinking about the room you call the aerie. Just how much sex was going on up there when all eight of you were living there?"

"Just how much detail do you want in the answer to that?"

"Let's start with broad strokes."

"A lot."

"With everybody in one bed that seems obvious. Perhaps a few more details."

"OK, here's the bottom line. Every pair in the group did something at one time or another. The one absolute rule was that there was never any intercourse."

"So you had gay and straight pairs?"


"And little Hank was involved with the much older kids?"


"And Pete, too?"


"So you and May...."


"And you and Liam...."


"I'm jealous. I've sort of had a crush on Liam since the first time I saw him in the pool. Then you invited me for dinner here and there he was, eating dinner with us."

Well, that was unexpected. "You've had a crush on Liam?"

"He's really cute. And my goodness what a diver! But that's all dreaming. Don't get jealous, Hank. You're real, right here, and lots of fun. And cute, too."

"Saturday might we explore the possibilities of the aerie?"

"Are you suggesting what I think you're suggesting?"

"The rule in the aerie is you have to talk first. Saturday we'll talk. Maybe do more than talk."

"I can deal with talking."

Saturday was exciting; anticipating it was exciting. She came for lunch and after lunch we walked up to the aerie. My dads, and others, saw us go up the stairs and I think they knew what was coming.

We got up there and sat in two easy chairs. I said, "There's been a lot of sex in this aerie. It's completely up to you if you want to go down that path. I'm eleven and you're fourteen. When it comes to sex that can make quite a difference."

"Would it bother you?"

"No. How about you?"

"I can't believe this discussion."

"If you want to walk down the path, the first step is to get your clothes off. Would you be more comfortable if I took mine off first?"

"Just like that?"

"Well, we could climb on the bed and play around. I could rub your tits through your sweater; you could unzip my fly and put your hand in. It's all rather childish. People that have good sex don't have clothes on."

"You're eleven years old and talking about it being childish."

"By now you know I don't act like I'm eleven years old."

"OK, take your clothes off."

I did, in as sexy a way as I knew how. I said, "OK, you can come over here and play with me as you like, or I could move to the bed and let you play, or you could take your clothes off."

"Your dads won't be coming up?"

"Never. Pete might come up. Would that bother you?"

"I'm not sure. And I'm not sure where I'm going from here."

"I'll wait while you make up your mind."

She sat for a while, and then slowly started taking her clothes off. Soon we were both naked, laying on the bed, kissing.

Faye said, "I guess you'd like to do more than kiss."

"Wouldn't you?"


"Then do more. Or would you like me to start?"

She reached over and played with my dick and balls, and I reached over and played with her clit. She clearly liked that, and lay over on her back and said, "Do that some more." One thing led to another and we got about as far as you could with hands that afternoon. We established that she could have an orgasm and that I could, but that it would be a dry orgasm–that required a little sex education from the eleven-year-old!

By the end of the year there wasn't much we hadn't done or explored, and my orgasms were no longer dry.

As the spring turned to summer we pretty much agreed that her house and her family were part of the COVID-bubble that included all of The Lighthouse and much of the Gang. We had a good summer.

I need to fill you in on one aspect of sex in the aeire: Pete. Pete didn't come up that first afternoon–I'd asked him to stay away. But, by design, he was there the next time we climbed the stairs to the aerie. I said to Faye, "Pete doesn't have a girlfriend. He used to play around with all the older kids in the aerie, but as you know when they turned eighteen we little kids became off-limits and they moved out. So Pete was left with me. I can't desert Pete just because I'm having a wonderful time with you. And I didn't think that I should have some kind of sex with you, take you home, and then have sex with Pete behind your back."

She answered, "So here is Pete, and the sex won't be behind my back. Is that the deal? Or are we going to have a three-way?"

"Not quite. I told Pete that I'd see if you'd let him watch us do whatever it is we're going to do."

"And if I say no?"

"I'm hoping you won't say no."

"And if I say yes?"

"We'll get our cloths off, just like the last time, get on the bed, and pleasure each other."

"While Pete watches. Cheers us on, maybe?"

Pete said, "I'll can be very quiet."

Faye started to take off her clothes, clearly indicating a yes answer. She said, "OK, Pete. But nobody watches me take my clothes off unless they take their clothes off, too. OK?"

Pete was naked before either one of us, but not by much. Faye and I were still limited to hands, but we had a good time and put on a decent show for Pete. When we were done Pete said, "My turn."

Pete and I'd planned that in advance. I turned to Faye and said, "We can watch him masturbate, or we can do it for him."

She said, "I take it that Pete's likely to be around fairly often. Today, let him masturbate, it'll be fun to watch. We can explore other options another day. There will be another day, right?"

"Right." Pete lay back on the bed and jacked off without any embarrassment. He'd been aroused by our activity and came pretty quickly.

Faye picked up the towel that Pete clearly intended to use to clean himself up, and she wiped him clean–with emphasis on seeing that his dick was thoroughly clean. Clearly Faye had few inhibitions. As time went on, sometimes Pete watched, and sometimes Pete participated. And sometimes he wasn't around–he knew we needed some private times.

Shortly after that first time with Pete I decided that I needed to take one further step in my relationship with Faye. As we were walking somewhere I said, "At some point we need to let your folks know how far our relationship has progressed."

"You mean, we need to tell them we're having sex?"

"Yes. That can be difficult."

"Not really, they already know. We hadn't been dating long before they asked if we were having sex. I told them we were. My father said, 'That could be odd with an eleven year old.' I asked, 'Do you want details?' He answered, 'Not really.' End of conversation."

I said, "Just that simple?"

"Not quite. The next day my mother asked for details. I think the detail she really wanted to hear was your absolute rule against intercourse. But she was also intrigued with the idea that you'd have dry organisms. She said, 'I've never heard of that.' I told her, 'You never dated an eleven year old.' She said, 'Don't rub it in. I'm not sure what I missed'."

I said, "It's neat to be in love with a girl with parents like that."

Faye giggled and said, "Don't be too sure; she may want to watch and see what she missed."

She never did.

Life in the aerie was always exciting.

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