by David Lee

Chapter 1

© 2019 David Lee, All rights reserved

Jackson Conover wasn't sure where he was or how many hours he's been walking. All he knew was that he couldn't go much farther. He'd become completely lost in the blizzard. With the frigid December air wearing him down, he was rapidly losing the will to survive. The winter wind howled as heavy snow swirled around him. When he tripped and fell, he gave up and lay there waiting to drift away into sleep, possibly oblivion.

Jordan Jacobson lay in his comfortable bed, but sleep eluded him. He didn't normally suffer from insomnia, but he was restless, lonely. He longed for companionship, for love. Here he was, a senior in high school and he wasn't close to anyone his age. Some of his classmates had girlfriends that they bragged about getting it on with. He didn't have any desire to get into a girl's pants, but he DID want someone to care for.

Other peers had close buddies whom, he suspected, had explored sex together. The idea intrigued him, but he'd never had the nerve to attempt to hook up with another guy. Living in a small community was like living in a fishbowl. A guy suspected of being different could end up in a world of hurt, emotionally if not physically. People who touted rural living as idyllic and charming didn't know what it was like from the inside.

It wasn't that his family made him feel unwanted; they loved him unconditionally. He knew kids who were neglected and abused. Nothing like that applied to him. Still, he felt empty.

His one faithful boyhood companion had left him last year. Maybe he was destined to be alone forever.

He sent up a silent prayer asking for things to change, before falling into a fitful sleep.

Out in the snowdrift, Jackson felt something warm and wet on his face. When he brushed the flakes from his eyelids and forced them open, he found himself looking into the face of the biggest dog he'd ever seen. The St. Bernard looked almost like a lion, and it was licking him.

Had he not been half frozen, he might have jumped up in fright and run as fast as possible. However, his fear of the animal subsided as it nudged him playfully.

"What do you want, boy? Can't you see I'm a goner? Let me die in peace."

The dog gave a low growl. Not being familiar with dog-speak, Jackson didn't understand, but he figured out what the animal wanted when it took hold his coat and pulled, as if trying to drag him off.

"Okay, okay, I'll go with you," Jackson agreed. "I hope you're not leading me into something bad. I'm not sure anything could be worse."

The teenager plodded along with his canine companion as best he could. He figured the dog must live somewhere nearby. Perhaps there would be food and shelter there. With renewed hope, he began to believe he might survive the night.

About a mile or so later, Jackson tripped over a branch hidden by the snow. He was exhausted and ready to give up again, and he might have, had not the dog tugged at his coat once more.

A few yards ahead, Jackson saw the outline of a large building. With a burst of energy, he forced himself toward it. There was a door secured by a sturdy-looking padlock. All of a sudden, the dog seemed to vanish in a drift. Jackson stood in a stupor wondering what had become of it. A few seconds later, the animal reappeared.

Crouching down, Jackson could make out a hinged flap. It was evidently a pet door large enough to accommodate the St. Bernard. He crawled through the opening, nudged by the dog.

Once they were both inside, he brushed away some snow and pushed the door back to keep the wind at bay.

The temperature of the stable wasn't anywhere near normal room temperature, but it felt quite pleasant in contrast to the outside. Jackson felt a sense of relief wash over his tired body.

It was difficult to see much of anything and his cell phone had no charge left to use as a light, so he had to rely on his other senses. He smelled hay and heard noises that he knew came from horses. Feeling his way around cautiously, he came upon bales of hay and a heavy old blanket. That was enough to satisfy him for the time being. He lay down, pulling the blanket over him and fell fast asleep with the dog snuggled beside him.

Jackson awoke in the gray light of dawn, wondering for a moment where he was. He was trying to figure out where he could relieve his bladder when the area was lit up by a fluorescent fixture high above his head.

"Hello, what do we have here?" a guy about his own age asked. "Are you the new hand Mom hired to help with the horses? If so, why didn't you come to the house instead of sleeping here? We don't make our workers live in the stable."

"Um, sorry."

"Don't worry about it. From the way you're squirming, I'll bet you need to piss. There's a makeshift toilet in there," he pointed toward a doorway about 10 feet away. "We'd better hurry up because Mom's making breakfast. Soon as you're done, you can help me feed the horses."

Jackson took care of his needs and washed his hands in the cold water from the tap. After drying them on an old towel, he followed the other boy and listened carefully to the instructions about how much feed to put in the troughs.

Sooner or later, he'd have to admit that there was a mix-up in identity. His conscience bothered him about waiting but his stomach overruled it.

"Mom, this is the new guy, um, I forgot to ask his name."

"I'm Jackson Conover."

"That's interesting. Did Tim send you in his place? He called last night after Jordan was in bed to say that he'd decided to take the job at his uncle's garage instead. He said he was sorry to bail on us and he'd do his best to find a replacement."

"Um, not exactly, but I'd be happy to have the job if you want me."

"Well, we'll sort it all out later. You boys go wash up and I'll start the eggs. The sausage and pancakes are in the oven keeping warm."

Jackson looked at the array of food on the table and nearly cried. For the first time in his life, he felt like he should thank God for his daily bread.

His ravenous appetite made him want to wolf down his meal, but he ate slowly, using his best manners. He hoped to impress Jordan's mother.

Laura Jacobson sensed that her unexpected guest probably needed all the calories he could consume, so she offered to mix up another batch of pancakes.

With the eggs and sausages that accompanied the pancakes, Jackson was beginning to fill up without needing more.

"Okay Jackson. If you're in need of a job and I'm in need of help, I think we can come to some kind of agreement. I'll need to know something about you, you understand. Do you have a social security number and are you over 16?"

"Yes, Ma'am. I'll be 18 come summer and I've memorized my number."

"May I ask about your circumstances? Have you run away from home?"

"No, Ma'am. I didn't leave voluntarily. My father's new girlfriend didn't want me around. She lied to him and said I came on to her, you know, like I tried to, um, have sex with her. But I've never done that with anyone! He was out of it - drunk or something, and I couldn't make him listen."

"If you're not of age, he can't just throw you out!"

"He did, and he said he'd press charges against me if I tried to come back," Jackson sobbed.

He had kept it all bottled up until the moment this kind lady showed empathy. He hated looking like a wuss in front of another boy his own age, but he couldn't help it.

Jackson needn't have been worried because Jordan's reaction was to get up from his chair and stand behind him, massaging his shoulders. The gentle touch produced an even greater flow of tears.

After Jackson got his emotions under control, his host continued her questions.

"So, where are you from?"

"Crofton. I'm a senior at Crofton High, or I was until now."

"Oh, now I know where I saw you," Jordan exclaimed. "You're a wrestler."


"I was at the last match here at my school. You pinned Bobby Thompson in a flash. He thought he was God and all until he met up with you. I kinda enjoyed seeing him go down, but I didn't dare admit it."

"Hmm… That puts things in a different light," Laura said. "We'll have to get you enrolled in school here. You won't have a future without at least a high school diploma. Since school's out for break until the 2nd, I can't get in touch with anyone at the office, but we need to do that as quickly as possible. I might be able to call Norma at home to alert her. She's Jordan's counselor.

"I'm going to make some other calls too. Please give me the name of your wrestling coach. He'll probably give you a good recommendation."

"While Mom's doing that, come with me and I'll show you the shower and find you some clothes to wear. We're about the same size."

Jackson couldn't believe his good fortune. Jordan's mother seemed like she was ready to adopt him, and Jordan was treating him like a long-lost brother. Maybe he had something more than a bleak future after all.

The clothes his new friend offered him weren't castoffs. They looked practically brand new. And, he was soon going to be squeaky clean. He hadn't had a shower since the morning before he was thrown out, and he probably smelled funky. Things WERE looking up.

On top of everything else, Jordan brought him a new toothbrush, deodorant, a BIC razor, and shaving cream. He didn't have a lot of facial hair, but he would be glad to shave the prickly stubble from his armpits. He'd kept them shaved since an opponent tried to break his hold in a match by pulling on those hairs.

Jordan would've loved staying in the bathroom while his new acquaintance was undressing, but that wouldn't be cool. He had been impressed with Jackson's body when he'd gone to see the match in November. His interest in wrestling lay more in ogling the boys in singlets than in the sport itself. As he recalled, Jackson had an awesome bulge as he stood with the ref holding his arm in the air as the victor.

In order to take his mind off Jackson's bod, Jordan went to the kitchen to overhear his mother's phone calls.

She had just finished talking to Jackson's coach when he came into the room.

"Coach Carlson confirmed what we suspected. Our new hired hand is a top athlete and a good scholar. He also said Jackson's father is a "damned jerk," to use his words. He thinks the dad and girlfriend are doing meth.

"The coach would take the boy in a minute if he had more room in his house. He's considering moving his sons into the same bedroom with bunk-beds so he can do it. He doesn't want to see Jackson lose his credits and his scholarship to Iowa State. I guess the boy is a keeper."

"Is there any way WE could keep him?"

"As far as finances go, it wouldn't be a problem, but how would he get to his school since he doesn't have a car."

"He and I could get up early enough to do the chores and I could take him. You know our schools are only three miles apart. We'd all be part of the same system if we didn't have that old graduate who funds our school with his lottery winnings."

"I suppose he could live in the trailer."

"He could share my room."

"And your bed? What if he's not like you."

"I have a strong feeling that he is like me, but I wouldn't pressure him," Jordan blushed. "I really like him."

"You could get your heart broken."

"Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all," Jordan quoted, blushing.

"Where did that come from?"

"Tennyson. We read some of his poems in lit this year."

Hearing the shower stop, Jordan thought he could use an excuse to go into the bathroom unannounced; that is, if Jackson hadn't locked the door. He turned the knob and entered in time to see Jackson toweling dry in all his glory.

"I've got some news! Oops, sorry, I'll leave."

"You don't have to. I don't have a modest bone in my body," Jackson quipped.

Jordan thought the word "bone" was appropriate for what he did have.

"Um, you've got a great body."

"You're fit yourself. You're a swimmer, aren't you?"

"Yeah, how did you know?"

"I've seen your picture in the Gazette's sports section. You look impressive in a Speedo."

During their short conversation, Jackson didn't make any move to get dressed and Jordan couldn't pretend that he wasn't checking him out. The attention caused Jackson's dick to firm up a bit, but he didn't get completely erect. His years of wrestling had helped him control his natural responses.

"So, what's the news?" Jackson asked as he pulled on the boxer-brief Jordan had loaned him, adjusting his boys in the pouch.

"Your coach is willing to give you a home for the rest of the school year, so you don't mess up your education.

"I asked Mom if you could live with us, so you have two options. I'd share my room."

"Wow! Last night I thought I was going to die homeless and now I have choices of where I can live. Coach has several kids and a small house. I'd love to stay with you, but transportation would be a problem."

"I have a Jeep that will plow through about anything the winter throws at us and I could drive you if we did our chores early enough."

"That would be great. I do need the job to earn my keep. I'd buy gas for your Jeep too."

"You wouldn't have to."

"Thanks! But I need to make my own way," Jackson insisted as he hugged Jordan.

They remained locked in a warm embrace for several seconds. Neither wanted it to end. Finally, Jordan backed off, blushing.


"There's nothing to be sorry about. I'm the one who hugged you. I love knowing someone cares about me."

"What if I'm getting a thrill from it?"

"So much the better, if it's great for both of us."

"I'd better show you my room, so you can see if you'd rather be there or by yourself in the trailer my dad bought for hired hands to live in. It's pretty nice. Tim was going to live there with his wife when they got married, but I guess his uncle has an apartment for them over his shop."

Jackson was surprised, but not unhappy, to see that the room was furnished with one bed, a queen-sized.

"Um, I have a big body pillow we can put between us, so we don't accidentally snuggle in the night."

"That wouldn't be bad either. It would be like cuddling up with your big St. Bernard."

"What do you know about Rollo?"

"He is your dog, isn't he?"

"We grew up together. He and I were pups at the same time. He was my best friend."


"Yeah, he died a year ago yesterday."

"Oh my God!"


"He saved my life. He found me in the snow when I was going to sleep for the last time. He led me to the stable and prodded me until we got there and in through the pet door."

"Wow! He always looked out for me. I guess he's still doing that. I wonder what it's all about!"

It was New Years Eve, but the boys didn't stay up to see the calendar change. In the soft light of the lamp on the bedside table, they lay side by side looking into each other's eyes. They shared their deepest secrets, bonding in the process.

They also discussed future plans - like what they hoped to major in and the possibility of rooming together in college since they'd both been accepted to Iowa State.

Jordan learned the details of how Jackson had ended up at their place, so far from home. He'd hiked out to an acreage where he thought a friend would let him couch-surf. His phone was already down, so he didn't have any way of knowing his friend and family were gone.

Finding no refuge there, he headed toward a farm where another friend lived. The storm had moved in suddenly and he'd become disoriented, walking many miles without knowing where he was going. That's when he'd given up and lain in the snow until Rollo had found him.

"I still don't understand it. I felt his warm wet tongue and he nudged me along. Ghosts can't do that, can they?"

"I'm not certain of anything at this point," Jordan shook his head. "Maybe it was an angel in the form of Rollo. It seems like a miracle."

"By the way, how did you come to call him 'Rollo?' It sounds like a chocolate-covered caramel."

"Mom said it was because he was so brown when he was little. Dad told me it's because his puppy poop looked like little bits of chocolate candy," Jordan giggled.

"So, I haven't met your dad, is he away?"

"He's stationed in Syria. I hope he's one of the troops they plan to bring home. We get along okay financially without him here, but not so well emotionally, if you know what I mean."

"I wish my dad were like that, Jackson sighed. "Does he know you like boys?"

"Yup. It was a little hard for him at first, but he came around fairly quickly. He said he loves me no matter who I love."

"Maybe if I'd have admitted my orientation to my dad, his bitch wouldn't have been able to convince him that I wanted to have sex with her."

"He might have outed you at school and messed up your wrestling career. Besides, perhaps it's all for the best that you're gonna live with me instead."

"That's for sure! Would it be okay if I snuggle up to you like I did to Rollo last night?"

"You bet!"

Jordan fell asleep contentedly in the arms of his new friend, feeling loved. Tennyson had it right. No matter how this might end, it was better to have loved.

Jackson drifted off soon after, assured that the new year would be better than any past ones he'd known.

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