So Cal Summer 69

by Flip McHooter

Chapter 20

My dad put his shake down on the tray sticking out the Camaro's window, then turned sideways in his seat so that he could look at both of us at the same time. He took a deep breath and looked from me to Jake and then back to me again. I was really starting to worry now because he seemed to be so nervous, which wasn't like him at all. I sure hope that this wasn't going to be some sort of bad news for Jake and me.

"Okay, here goes," Dad said, taking a deep breath. "Let me start off with a story first, because that will make what I have to say to you guys a little bit easier for me. I'm sure Jake doesn't know this but Ryan, you know that when I was a boy, Grandpa had a big ranch outside of Flagstaff that bordered the Navajo Reservation. I've told you and Jordan lots of stories about growing up there and how much fun it was, riding horses and camping out. But one story I never told you had to do with a good friend of mine who was just a couple of years older than me. His name was Red Crow. I was maybe twelve when I first met him, and I guess he was fourteen or fifteen." My dad stopped to have another sip of his shake.

"Red Crow was a tall, strapping kid and had beautiful long, shiny black hair. His hair went all the way down his back. I'm pretty sure he never cut it. He would sometimes wear feathers in his hair and wore lots of silver and turquoise jewelry. He was quite smart and very mature for his age, but he didn't like to talk very much. He was popular with all of the people in his, well, not tribe, but more like all of his elders and the people who lived around us. He was unique in a different kind of way, but I was young and didn't know, or couldn't tell you, exactly why. All I know is that he was just comfortable to be around even if he didn't talk a lot. When he did talk, he had this deep penetrating voice that commanded respect and attention, which was rare for a teenager back then. He was like a big brother to me, and he taught me many, many good things that I still remember even to this day.

"Red Crow had to go to school on the Rez, as they called it, and I went to public school in town. Back then, there was quite a bit of prejudice against Native Americans, well, actually there still is today. Most white people didn't usually mix with them and vice-versa. But your grandma and grandpa were different, and we had Navajo friends over all the time. Grandpa would hire them on the ranch as much as he could when he had the need. Sometimes, Red Crow and I would meet after school and on weekends when there wasn't any work for us to do. Sometimes, he'd take me camping, but mostly on our free days we'd be out riding the horses on the canyon trails. He taught me lots of great and different things, and I always had fun when I was with him.

"Sometimes, we would be out all day and hardly talk to each other, but I liked being with him anyway, and it didn't bother me with him being so quiet. When he did speak, and when he was in a happy mood, occasionally he would 'talk-story' with me, and that would be extraordinary and fascinating, and I loved it. He knew so many things about nature and animals and native traditions. He would point out things to me as we rode by, or he would just stop and listen to the sky, but only he could hear what it was saying.

"Every now and then, he would stop suddenly and quickly dismount his horse, walk over to the edge of the canyon and start dancing and chanting. Sometimes, he would be really happy, and other times he would get real emotional during these chants. I was mesmerized by him, but I didn't know why. He wasn't like anybody else that I had ever met, and I knew I was lucky to have a friend like him. I would ask Red Crow how he knew so many things, but he would just smile at me or give me a wink, and never tell me. Occasionally, when I would ask him a stupid question, he would laugh at me, and that would make me mad. But I couldn't stay mad at him for very long because of his sincerity. That was just the way he was, and after a while, I got comfortable with it, and it didn't bother me so much. He was unlike anybody else I knew, although sometimes, I didn't understand him. But like I said, I knew he was special. So finally, one day, I had to ask grandpa what he thought of Red Crow."

"What did he say?" Jake asked my dad, bug-eyed and captivated by the story.

"The thing is, I didn't understand it at first, and maybe even today I still don't. You see, in Navajo culture, everything is either male or female. The animals, plants, earth, water. All of it is either male or female. But grandpa told me that Red Crow was considered extra special because he had both male and female spirits inside him. They called that 'nadleehi'. People that were nadleehi were very much respected and honored because the Navajo thought they were blessed with twice as many spiritual gifts, being both male and female. When Red Crow grew up, he would have special powers and would be able to perform special sacred ceremonies and rituals that other Navajo people couldn't. Some say that the nadleehi could see into the future and tell you what was going to happen. I just know that Red Crow was in tune with nature and the spirit world and that I liked being around him, plain and simple. To this day, I'm not sure I can explain why. Anyway, I was a very lucky boy to have him as a friend. I guess you could call him a wise man, or maybe an old soul if you believe in reincarnation.

"Anyhow, one day in early summer, when I was a young teenager, Red Crow and I packed our horses with some food grandma made us, along with our bedrolls, and we went camping way up in the high country for a few days, just by ourselves. One night, we camped by a beautiful mountain lake. Before we cooked our dinner and while it was still hot outside, we decided to go for a quick swim to cool off. Back then, nobody wore bathing suits, and it didn't really matter because no one was around to see us anyway. That day was no different.

"We stripped off our clothes and were about to dive in the fresh, clear water when Red Crow stopped suddenly, held out his arm and looked me up and down. The only thing that was different was that I had grown some and had hair on my body now. It was the first time that Red Crow had seen me as a man and not as a little boy, and he was excited for me. He grabbed my hand and pulled me to the sandy lip of the small lake and made me stand in a wide clearing. He made a deep circle in the sand about six feet around me, then got some mud from the edge of the clear blue water and began to paint designs all over my body. Red Crow had me paint designs on his naked body, too. He showed me how to do it because they had to be very specific. Some designs were of animals, but others were stripes and zigzags in very complicated rows. Whatever they meant, I had no idea. When we were done, he started singing and dancing and stomping all around me."

"Why was he doing that?" I asked my dad.

"He told me later that he was saying goodbye to the little boy and welcoming the young man into the world. He was asking the spirits above to honor me with both their wisdom and understanding and to protect me from harm and evil."

"Wow, Wiley! That's amazing," Jake said. "He sounds like a groovy guy."

"But Dad, if he was such a good friend, how come you never told us about him before? I'd like to meet him."

Before he could answer, the car hop girl came up and asked us if we wanted anything else. Dad said he wanted a cold Coke with lots of ice, so Jake and I both ordered chocolate milkshakes with extra whipped cream. I figured we'd burn off all of that sugar in the pool later on anyhow. Once she left, my dad continued on with his story. I was starting to wonder where this story was headed, and I was a little nervous about what he was going to say next.

"So where was I? Oh yeah. I never told anyone about him because of something horrible that happened later on. Even your mother doesn't know this story, and actually, I don't think she would quite understand it. I've kind of locked him away in my mind until today, keeping him to myself, and I feel sorry about that.

"After Red Crow had done that special dance for me, we jumped into the lake and swam for a while. The water was chilly, and we got cold pretty fast, so we got out to warm up, and we laid on some big boulders that were still warm from the afternoon sun. We were lying next to each other enjoying the last rays of the sun when I caught Red Crow looking at my body and smiling at me. The next thing I knew, he had started rubbing my stomach, and then he moved lower and started playing with my willy. That made me jump because nobody had ever touched me there, especially another guy. He told me that since I was a man now, it was time for me to learn all about sex and how to do it right. He said that since he was nadleehi, he was the right person to teach me.

"I was baffled because I knew how sex worked, or so I thought, because we had seen the horses mount each other out in the corral, and as kids, we talked about it on the long walk home. All of us boys were intrigued by the girls because they had different bodies than we did. But he was a young man and so was I, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out how sex between two men would work. I'm not going to go into any graphic detail other than to tell you that he said he was going to be the woman and I would be the man and that he was going to teach me all of the ways to make a partner really enjoy making love. Basically, I was going to put my willy up his bum."

"Umm, Dad, geez," I said, looking around to see if anyone was listening.

"Sorry, but that's what happened. You'll understand why I'm telling you guys this in a second. Well, we did do that, and a whole lot more over that summer and Red Crow taught me a lot of things, really, really good things. He taught me how to be a great lover."

"So why is that such a bad thing?" I asked. "And if you're going to talk about what you and mom do I don't want to hear it. You can just let us out here, and we'll walk home."

"Hold on. And don't worry. That stuff is none of your business. I haven't told you the bad part yet, so let me finish. I wasn't embarrassed by what we were doing, and he seemed to enjoy it a lot, too. He was really in tune with himself and tried to share that wisdom with me. I guess in the Navajo community sex isn't such a big deal, and they aren't all uptight about it like some people are today, and I suppose some of that rubbed off on me. Anyhow, as I got older, I started to have girlfriends, and Red Crow and I didn't see each other as often as we used to. We were still friends, but I was busy, and he was busy, and we drifted apart. When I turned eighteen, I joined the Army so I could get off of the ranch and see the world. Actually, I lied about my age and I was barely seventeen when I enlisted. That was a couple of years after World War Two had ended and the Army was starting to do experiments out in the desert of New Mexico. I became an MP on a secret base and was privy to a lot of things that were happening then. It was scary and exciting all at the same time, but that's a story for another time. The sad part is that I never did get to see the world and worse, I never saw Red Crow alive again."

He stopped for a minute while the car-hop girl delivered his drink and our shakes, and then took his time starting the story back up. He seemed to be misty-eyed, but I really couldn't tell from here in the backseat. Then, after taking a deep sigh, he took up the story again.

"While I was in New Mexico, I found out that something terrible had happened to Red Crow. Truly bad. It seems that one night he went to town for a beer or two. Red Crow got friendly with some white guy that was visiting our small town, looking for some ranch work. They had plenty to drink, and then when the bar closed, they went to the white guy's motel room to drink some more. The story goes that Red Crow came on to the guy sexually and the guy panicked and beat him to death with a large wrench from his toolbox. I was really sad when I heard the news, and I couldn't believe he was gone. But I was completely surprised when the chief summoned me early the next morning to be one of the four special people that were allowed to bury Red Crow the following day. My C.O. was a good guy, and he let me take some emergency leave to fly home quickly and participate in his funeral.

"You see, in Navajo culture, after someone dies, only four specially elected people were allowed to bury Red Crow. I was to be one of them. I was surprised and felt very honored to be included since I was white. Before starting the funeral process, the four of us smeared ashes all over our bodies, so we were covered all in gray. Even our hair. We were naked, save for our moccasins, and they painted some tribal markings on our faces and arms and torsos. The three other guys wore feathers and a little bit of jewelry, but I didn't because I wasn't Navajo. They sang and danced and I tried to participate, but I'm sure that I looked pretty foolish."

"Why did they do all of that?" Jake asked.

"It's thought by the Navajo that all of that ash would protect them from evil spirits. It's believed that if the burial was not handled in the proper fashion, the person's spirit would return to his former home, kind of like getting stuck on this plane and never go on to the great sky. The Chief and another man were assigned with arranging the body and getting it ready for burial. Another Navajo guy and I had to dig the grave while Red Crow's body was being prepared. When we were done digging the grave, we went back to the house, and Red Crow's few belongings were loaded onto the strongest and biggest horse and brought to the grave site, led by the Navajo Chief. The two other guys carried Red Crow's body on their shoulders to the grave. I was in front of everybody and charged with warning those who we met on the trail that they should stay away from us and to turn around and not to look back at us, otherwise evil would come to them."

"How did you talk with them if you weren't Navajo?" Jake asked. "Do you know the language?"

"Actually, I had learned quite a few words and phrases growing up playing with the kids and then that day, the Chief gave me a specific phrase or two to say. Don't ask me what it was because I don't remember. It's a difficult language to speak.

"Once we were at the gravesite and his body was buried, we took great care to make sure that no footprints were left behind. The tools that we used to dig the grave were burned in a campfire later on. Afterward, we got cleaned up and dressed and then met up at grandpa's ranch to eat and remember him and sing songs and talk-story. So many people were there, both from the Navajo and from the white communities. It was nice because everyone got along since we all loved Red Crow so much.

"After the funeral was over and most of the guests had left, I took out one of grandpa's horses and was riding around, not really paying attention to where I was going. I guess I was thinking about Red Crow and my mind somehow wandered. Because I wasn't paying attention, the horse had gone off the trail and all of a sudden we were in the brush. Next thing I knew, I heard a rattlesnake, and before I could do anything about it, the horse reared up and knocked me off the saddle, flat on my ass. The horse went running off, barely missing me and headed back to the ranch. I guess I must have hit my head because when I got up, I was dizzy. When I found the trail, and started walking back home, there was Red Crow standing in front of me, hunched over and laughing his ass off at me. I had never, ever, seen him laugh that much because he was always so serious. He would stop laughing for just a second and then point at me, laughing all over again. He thought what had just happened to me was truly hilarious.

"After a while, he finally stopped laughing for good and was quiet for a bit, and while he never said anything out loud to me, I could feel his love pour out and envelope me. He was thanking me for our friendship and helping him move on to the spirit world. It was comforting, and somehow I knew that he was in a better place. I guess as a spirit, he could do more to help his people that he loved and who loved him. I realized that I was crying, but they weren't tears of sadness, they were more like tears of happiness for him. I could just feel that he was where he should be, surrounded by warmth and unconditional love. Once I realized that, he started to do a little dance, chanting and spinning around, like he used to do. Then the wind kicked up real fast, and he just floated away and disappeared into thin air. But I know that he is always with me, deep inside, looking down and protecting me like a shield."

My dad had to turn away from us and wipe a few tears from the corner of his eyes with a napkin from the tray. Jake and I just sat there digesting the story, not being able to say much of anything, both of us being pretty emotional, too. I had never heard my dad talk like this before and I was shocked. I couldn't ever remember him crying like this. Pretty soon my dad got it together and turned back around to face us.

"I guess you're wondering why I told you that story," he said, clearing his throat. "I suppose I'm fortunate to have met Red Crow and have all of those great experiences with him over those few short years. I think, because of that experience, I have a better understanding about life and love than many other fathers may have. That's the real reason I wanted to talk with both of you today. It's pretty obvious to me that the two of you have a very special friendship going on. I've watched how the two of you are when you're together. You boys seem to share some sort of cosmic connection, to use one of Lulu's funky terms. I guess if I were a hippie, I'd say you have a special vibration going on. I think it's great that you two have bonded so fast and become so close. I'm very happy for you. So, with that being said, as a father, I worry that in your haste to be with each other you might do something that would disclose the closeness of your friendship or relationship to other people who may not be as open or as understanding and supportive as I am. I worry that you may get hurt, physically or verbally. People can be cruel, and some are downright hateful. We don't live in a perfect world, and some people will frown on your relationship. I just want you to understand that and know that I am always here for you boys. Good or bad, okay?"

"You know Dad, you're the best! I was so scared of what you'd do if you found out about Jake and me. I wanted to tell you about it so badly, but honestly, I didn't know how to say it or what you'd think. I guess it really helped that you had such a good friend as Red Crow. I love you, dad! Thanks," I said, leaning up and giving him a hug as best I could in the cramped car.

"Don't worry son, I love you no matter what. You should know that already. And never be scared to talk to me about something. Either of you boys." Then, turning to Jake, he asked, "Are you okay, Jake?"

"Yeah, I guess so. I'm kind of surprised and sorta speechless. You're sure that you're not mad at us?" he asked quietly, looking down at the floorboard.

"No, son, I'm not. Why should I be? You're a great kid, and you make my son very happy. That's the most important thing there is for a father. And besides, both you and Lisa seem like my own, and I love you guys, too. Man, listen to me. Now I sound like a hippie. I guess Red Crow taught me more than I thought."

"Wow! Wiley, I wish you were my real dad. You're so cool." Jake leaned over and gave my dad a big hug, too.

"Hey, Dad? Does Mom or Lulu know about Jake and me?"

"Your mother has figured it out, and I have to say she's not a hundred percent excited about it, but give her some time, and she'll get over it. She told me one of her brothers got into a scene with another guy, and her family gave him a hard time about it, so that's probably the only thing she has to go on. But I wouldn't worry about it. She just has to think it through a little bit and then she'll figure out that it's not such a big deal. Like Billy Preston says, you gotta love the one you're with.

"And as for Lulu, if she knows she hasn't said anything to us, but she's not going to care one way or the other. She loves Jake's Uncle Gus and his boyfriend whatshisname."

"Boone," Jake interrupted.

"Right. She's always talking about them. I actually can't wait to meet them. Ryan, after next weekend, I don't think your mom's going to be a problem at all. She'll see how happy they are as a couple and she'll want that same happiness for you boys. Just don't go around kissing and holding hands in front of her, okay?"

"Dad! C'mon! We wouldn't do that. Geez."

"I'm just messing with you," he said, laughing. "What do you say we get out of here?" He turned on the car lights so the girl could see that we wanted service. She hopped over, and Dad paid the bill giving her a good size tip, probably because we were here so long, but more likely because she was cute.

Once we got home, the rest of the day was spent swimming, doing sexy stuff, eating, doing more sexy stuff, and fooling around with Jordy and Lisa. Then at night, we'd do some more of that sexy stuff that we liked so much. Actually, to be honest, we did more swimming than the sexy stuff so we could work off all of that rich food that we'd been eating all week. I was beginning to think that we were going to have trouble sticking to any sort of diet that Coach Brian was going to put us on. Oh, well. We didn't have to worry about that until Monday.

We did have a weird thing happen to us late Saturday afternoon, though, after we got back home. Jake and I had just finished swimming our laps and were putting on some clothes after a short shower when Jordy came running into the pool house to tell us to come quickly.

"There's something on Lisa and Jake's front porch that you have to see. C'mon!" he shouted.

We followed Jordy out of the pool house and ran out in front, crossing both of our wide front lawns and then up to the steps. We couldn't see what it was at first because our parents and Lisa were blocking the way.

"What's going on?" Jake and I said at practically the same time.

The Lulu's finally parted to let us see the lifeless body of a long, fat rattlesnake stretched out on the top step of their front porch, right in front of the door. It was probably one of the biggest rattlers that I'd ever seen around here. But it was kinda weird because it was missing its head, sorta like someone had ripped it off and ate it or something.

"What's that snake doing on our front porch?" Jake asked.

"I don't know, sweetie. LuAnn, Lisa and I just came back from shopping downtown. We walked up the steps, and I was just about to open the front door, and this dead snake was lying there. At first, it scared the poop out of me until I realized that it wasn't moving. Anybody have an idea of how it got there?"

"Maybe some dog or coyote caught it and dropped it there," Jake said.

"Maybe it's a present from one of the neighbors," Lisa joked.

"That's not funny, Lisa," Lulu said. Turning to my mom and dad, she asked "What do you guys think? You've lived here a long time. Has this ever happened to you?"

"We've had our run-ins with snakes from time to time. Usually out in the woodpile or hiding in a dark corner of the garage. Never seen a headless one before, though," my mom said, "or one that big and plump."

"Maybe it's a flying snake, and it crashed on your door," Jordy said. I couldn't tell if he was serious or not.

"What do you think, Wiley?" Lulu asked.

Everybody turned to look at my dad, who up until now hadn't said anything. When I looked over at him, he was white as a ghost.

"What did you just say, Jordy?" he asked, in a halting voice.

"I said, maybe it was a flying snake. Why, Daddy?"

"This is so damn weird. Give me a minute." Dad walked away from us and over to the middle of the lawn. He seemed to be kind of spaced out, and then after a second, he started looking up into the sky as he slowly turned around. When he finally stopped, he was looking up to the east. I looked over at my mom who was standing there looking at him with her mouth hanging wide open. Birds or a small helicopter could fly in there, and she wouldn't even notice. Actually, everybody was looking at Dad and wondering what the heck was going on. Then, as suddenly as he walked away, he busted out laughing. Now everybody was worried, wondering if he had gone nuts or something.

"Come over here people! We have something that we all have to do together," Dad yelled at us.

Everybody kind of looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. We were trying to figure out what the hell was going on as we slowly walked over towards him in the middle of the big, green, grassy lawn. By far, this was the weirdest I'd ever seen my dad.

"You're going to think I'm crazy as a loon, but we have to form a circle, hold our hands out and then when we're evenly spaced out, we need to sit down Indian style. I have a great story to share with you."

"Oh, boy!" said Jordy. "This sounds like fun, Daddy."

"Wiley, have you gone mad? What will the neighbors think?" my mom asked him, clearly annoyed. "Remember our reputation."

"I don't give a rat's ass about the neighbors or what they might think. Come over here and grab our hands."

"But Wiley…"

"Never mind, honey. If anyone is looking, they'll just think we're playing a game. I've never been more serious than I am about this. Please, just sit."

We made a big circle, just like he asked us to do, holding out our arms as we spaced ourselves out accordingly. Then we sat down with our legs crossed like we were going to play a game of duck- duck- goose.

"Are we going to meditate, Wiley? Do you want me to run inside and get some incense and my finger cymbals? I think I have enough grass mats for everybody. I can bring out a portable record player so we can listen to some chant music if you want," Lulu said. She was really getting into this now.

"No, Lulu, that won't be necessary. We're going to listen to the quiet. Is everybody comfortable?"

Everybody said they were, except for my mom, who didn't say anything and instead gave him the evil eye. She always scared me when she started to do that because you never knew what was going to come next. Not wanting to get into a heavy scene out here, my dad purposely ignored her.

"Okay everyone, bear with me a little bit. It's been a long, long time since I've done anything like this. Probably twenty years or more. Earlier today I was telling Ryan and Jake a story about a friend of mine who I knew very well when I was growing up on grandpa's ranch in Arizona. He died a long, long time ago, and apparently, when I spoke out his name today he decided to come and give us a visit."

"Wiley, what in the Sam Hill are you talking about? This is silly, utterly silly. Is this really the time and place for this? How can that possibly happen if he's dead?" my mom asked, totally exasperated now.

"Yes, it is, dear. Please shut the hell up so I can tell our new friends my story," he said, trying to remain calm but not doing a very good job of it. "I was telling the boy's earlier about my friend Red Crow, who was a very special Native Navajo. Today he would be referred to as a shaman. I guess when I said his name, he was happy that I remembered him, and he came back to us now in spirit form to bless us and show his love for us. He was the one that played a joke on us by putting the snake on the doorstep, I'm sure of it. Spirits come in many forms, and they can play tricks on you, at least that's what he used to tell me. My guess is that, well not a guess exactly, but more of a strong feeling or intuition, is that Red Crow has come to welcome our new neighbors and to circle us with his love and protection. That's what he did best."

Dad went on to give everybody an abbreviated version of his and Red Crow's friendship, but he made a point of not telling everybody that he was nadleehi and that he had experimented with guy sex. My mom finally settled down and forgot all about the neighbors while everybody else listened in rapt attention.

"So, since we were talking about him earlier, he had to find a way to show us that he was happy we were thinking of him and talking about him. You probably don't know that snakes play a significant role in Navajo and Hopi culture, and to them, the snake is a symbol of the lightning people. They supposedly bring rain to the dry, arid land. I guess since I hadn't thought of him for many years, I would be considered 'dry' and his spirit would be considered 'lightning' because he was pulled back to this plane by me when I was talking about him to Ryan and Jake earlier. Snakes are seen in Navajo sand paintings and other artworks all over the area, and especially in the caves and on the cliffs where I grew up. Every time we would see a snake, Red Crow would make us stop whatever we were doing and then he'd tell me another story about them."

"But why did he throw a headless snake on their front door, Daddy?" Jordy asked, clearly fascinated with the story.

"Because it's his way of saying 'People, here I am, and I love you. I am looking out for you, and I want you to share this blessing with each other and other people that you meet'. When he was in a silly mood, he would joke around and once he told me a story about seeing a Tt'iish Naat'a'i. In the Navajo tradition that's the name for what they call 'snake-that-flies'. Not very many people have seen a Tt'iish Naat'a'i, and when they do it's considered a very, very, big blessing. And I guess throwing it on Lulu, Lisa and Jake's doorstep is his funny way of saying welcome.

"Unfortunately, I can't remember any of his songs or Native chants right now, so let's just sit here quietly for a second and hold hands. Lulu, if we're not doing this right let me know. Everybody, close your eyes and try to clear your mind of all your thoughts. You can think good thoughts or just pay special attention to the things that come into your mind. Try to push away the normal 'chatter' that runs through you head. Jordy, try and picture in your mind what a flying snake would look like. The rest of you, if you want, try to imagine what you think Red Crow might look like and thank him for coming today and blessing us with his love and protection. Send him your love back in return. That would make him very, very happy."

We sat there for a while, digesting what my old man had just said, not saying anything. I was amazed at how relaxed and happy I was. Call it energy or chi or whatever you want, but I could feel something flowing through Jake's hand to the right of me and Lisa's hand to the left. My hands got very hot, and theirs did too! I tried to picture how Red Crow looked and surprisingly, an image popped straight into my head. I don't know if it was right or not, but I could tell he was a handsome guy, with really long, shiny black hair and a headband tied around his forehead. He was wearing a bright, long-sleeved red shirt with a dark leather vest. He had on fifteen or twenty strings of colorful beads of different lengths wrapped around his neck. He indeed felt special, and he radiated love and peace to all of us.

I guess we sat there on the front lawn for about fifteen minutes, until I could sense that some folks were starting to get restless. Jake's mom Lulu certainly was, because when I opened my eyes, I caught her staring at Jake and me and giving the two of us a great big smile, her eyes radiating love and support for us.

Turning to my dad, she said, "Thank you, Wiley. I understand it all now."

I sat there in total shock for a second. Did Red Crow really just tell her about Jake and me? Holy shit on a stick. Maybe he told my mom to mellow out, too. At least I hoped so.

Everybody stretched and slowly stood up. "What should we do with the snake?" Lisa asked.

My dad looked around at everybody for a minute, and, catching us off guard once again said, "Red Crow told me that Ryan and Jake are to bury it underneath their treehouse by the old deer trail."

Everybody started talking excitedly now, sharing their own experiences with Red Crow. I won't bother spelling it all out, but everybody had gained something positive from it, including my mom. In fact, she went over to my dad and gave him a big hug and kissed him hard on the cheek. The folks and Jordy and Lisa slowly wandered into our house to start making dinner while Jake and I went into his house to find a shoebox to put the snake in. When we got up to his room, I was surprised at how energized I was.

"That was really something, wasn't it?" I asked Jake.

"Fuckin' A it was. Man, your dad really tripped me out. And then when my mom said that she understood, well, that was even more trippy. Help me find a shoebox and then let's go downstairs in my mom's room to find a scarf or something to wrap the snake in. We might as well give that snake a proper burial since Red Crow went to all of this trouble," he said.

"Hey, did you picture Red Crow when we were meditating?"

"Yeah. He was a tall, sharp dude with really long, straight black hair that made him look really sexy. His hair went all the way down to his butt and was really shiny. He had all kinds of beads on, too, like a hippie, and a thing tied around his forehead," Jake said.

"Shit. Me too. What color shirt did he have on?" I asked.

"It might have been red, but I think it was that color because of his name."

"Did he have black pants on?" I asked. "And a vest?"

"Fuck! Yeah, he did. It looked like leather. How did you know that?"

"I don't know. I just did. Do you really think Red Crow came to your house?" I asked.

"Hell yeah, I do now. And I think maybe he had something to do with us meeting each other, too." Jake said.

"Really? How do you figure? How would he even know us?"

"Well, just think it through. Out of all the places that we could have moved, we moved here, next door to you and your family. Even you said that Mr. Baily knew that we would be fast friends. How did he know that? It just seems to me to be, shit, what's that thing that my mom says? Oh yeah, Karman Ghia."

"You chowder head. It's karma!"

"Oh yeah," he giggled. "C'mon, let's go find one of my mom's scarves."

We bounded down the stairs making lots of noise and went into Lulu's room. Jake started nosing around in her bureau for something trippy and psychedelic looking to wrap the snake in. I waited close to the door while Jake dug around in the deep drawers because I didn't feel real comfortable snooping around in there. Her room was hot, and it smelled musky like patchouli oil. While I was waiting, I noticed some legal forms that were lying on top of Lulu's leather guitar case. Being just a tiny bit nosy, I picked up the packet and flipped through the papers to see if there was anything that was interesting. And shit was it ever interesting! And really scary, too. Unfortunately, I couldn't tell anyone about it because it would really hurt Jake and Lisa if they found out. From what I could tell, Jake's dad, Ace, was suing Lulu for sole custody of Jake. I didn't see any papers with Lisa's name on them, and I thought that was kinda weird. Why did he want Jake and not Lisa? Oh, man, Ace wanted to take Jake away from me. Shit! Fuck! Damn!

We headed out underneath the treehouse, the dead snake wrapped up and secured in an old Kenny's shoe box. I was kinda spaced out, and Jake picked up on it right away.

"Hey man, what's wrong with you all of a sudden?" he asked me.

"Oh, um…I really don't like funerals very much," I said, trying to throw him off the track and hoping to forget what Ace was going to do to him.

"Well, this isn't really a funeral. It's more of a thank you to Red Crow for watching out for us. I think it's kinda boss."

Keeping my mind off what Ace was up to, I asked Jake if he thought we should get naked and smear ash all over us.

"No, because I don't think we'd do it right. What would happen if we fucked it up and the snake people came and started to haunt us?"

"Yeah, you're right. That could get freaky," I said.

When we got to the treehouse, Jake dug a hole off to the side far enough from the trunk and away from the big roots so it wouldn't harm the old oak tree. He made quick time of it, digging down about two or three feet or so. Jake lined the bottom of the hole with some small rocks, twigs, some acorns and leaves to keep any water off the box in case any dribbled down that deep. Where did he learn to dig a grave like that, I wondered? I took the honors and covered snakey up with dirt and then tamped it down real good. I put the shovel down across from the freshly covered earth. I guess we'd have to burn the shovel later on.

"Do you want to say something, or do you want me to do it," Jake asked me.

"You go ahead. You seem like a pro at this stuff. If you miss anything, I'll say something."

"Okay. Here goes. Friends, we're gathered here today to… No wait, that's a freakin' wedding! What do you say at a funeral?" Jake asked.

"How about he was a good fat snake and will be sorely missed by all his other snake friends?"

"Not to mention all of the mice and other little critters that he tried to scarf down but got away."

"Do you think snakey will go to heaven? Like to a special snake heaven?" I asked.

"I don't know. Maybe there's a separate section in heaven just for snakes, kinda like where your favorite pets go when they die. At least that's the story my mom told me when my pet turtle Skidmark died. Maybe all the snake ghosts hang out and slither and crawl around together."

"I guess that makes sense. Well, let's just thank Red Crow then," I said, grabbing Jake's hand in mine, twining our fingers together and holding them it tight. "Red Crow, thank you for coming today and for helping out our family. I think you were, and are, a terrific guy and I wish we could have met you when you were here. I think you would have liked swimming with us and listening to our rock and roll music and smoking our kind of peace pipe. I bet you'd like hiking up our secret trails, too. Please watch over my dad and mom, Lulu, Lisa and Jordy, Sloan too, and especially Jake, who you know is my best bud. Thanks. Oh yeah, one more thing. If you ever want to play a trick on someone, I don't think Jake or Lisa would be too mad if you played a good one on Ace."

"Good idea. Maybe he can make my dad be nicer to us, but I think that's a lost cause by now," Jake said dejectedly. "If anyone can do it, Red Crow can."

"Right on! That would be cool. I think you're right. Maybe Red Crow can do it. You think that we're done? I'm getting hungry for some tasty vittles," I said.

"I think so. Goodbye, snakey. Thanks again, Red Crow. Okay, let's go to the potluck."


"Yeah. When someone dies, after the funeral everybody goes to the dead man's house and brings food. At least that's what they did in San Pedro."

"Really? I thought it was like smoking some weird pot and then you just take your chances or something."

"Ry, that's so stupid. Remember when Wiley said they did that after Red Crow's funeral back at your grandpa's ranch? Who the hell's being the chowder head now?" Jake laughed and pinched my butt as we ran down to the house.

Everybody had been in a super happy mood at dinner, and later we played a couple of board games before splitting up and heading for bed. Mom seemed to be in an unusually good mood since Lisa and Lulu made most of the dinner and Dad had bar-b-que'd the spicy shish-k-bobs out on the grill. Yum. Those were so delicious that I must have had three or four all by myself and I think Jake packed away that many or more.

After dinner, Jake and I headed out to the pool house to take our showers. Somehow I was able to spirit away a bag that Lisa got from the pharmacy and had handed it over to me earlier in the day without the folks or Jordy seeing it. I was pretty sure that it had all of the necessary goodies that two boys would need for some serious buttfucking action. "God love Lisa," I thought to myself.

We closed the drapes and locked the door to the pool house so we could take a hot shower and get cleaned up. It was late for a Saturday night, but we didn't have anything to do until we started our first practice down at the high school pool around one on Monday afternoon. We could sleep late tomorrow morning if we wanted to.

"Hey, Ryan. What's in that bag that you've been carrying around all afternoon and trying to hide, and I might add, not very well?" Jake asked me.

"It's your enema and a vibrator for you to practice on so I can screw you up your tight ass," I said, trying to be serious and not crack up. "And I think Lisa got us some rolling papers, too."

"Nu-uh. It's my turn to pork you, buddy, in case you've forgotten."

"Oh yeah, that's right," I said, opening up the bag and looking over all of the weird supplies inside. There was a long skinny silver vibrator with small ridges and a pointy end, something called KY jelly that said it was surgical grade, and a little blue plastic bulb with a long tip that I figured was to clean your guts out. Somehow this last thing just didn't make having sex seem all that sexy to me. I pulled it all out and placed it on the counter for Jake to check out.

"That stuff looks like a doctor's office. Are we going to play doctor? If we are, I get to be the doctor, and you're the patient," he said, feverishly rubbing his paws.

"I don't know. I guess if you want. If you're gonna screw me, then I've gotta clean out my ass, according to Lisa. You be the nurse and stick that enema up my butt."

"Well, um, yeah, about that. I'm not really into that shit, so to speak. How about you take care of the business end of things after we take a shower?"

"That sounds like a good plan. I really don't like all of these preparations either, but I really want to feel your long dick up my ass, and I don't want you to meet up with any surprises if you know what I mean. But getting screwed by you seems so fucking bitchin. I can't wait."

"No shit. Oh, I mean no kidding," Jake giggled. "I shouldn't be making all of these shit jokes. It really was boss when your fat foreskinny dick was up my asshole. I really enjoyed that."

"Man, so did I."

We took off our clothes and jumped into the shower. Since it was my turn to get 'porked' as Jake so lovingly called it, he spent a lot of time cleaning me up and washing my nether regions. After we had taken care of all the preliminaries, he started to work on my butt and asshole. He was really thorough, getting down on his knees and rubbing all around my ass opening and scrubbing it up real good. That felt so freakin' good that I almost blew my load all over the shower. It also helped that in addition to his tongue, he used a couple of fingers to get me in the mood. I was so horny that he could have fucked me right there in the shower stall.

"C'mon, let's go. The water's getting cold. I'm all bonered up, and it wants to meet your asshole!"

"All right," I said. "The rolling papers should be next to that bag. Why don't you get them and go on up to the treehouse and try to roll us a joint while I take care of business down here? I'll be up in a minute or two."

"All right. Have fun!"

"I'm sure I will. See you in a few."

Jake left Sloan and me alone in the pool house. It was painfully quiet, and I missed him the second he was gone. It had been a really long time since I had an enema, but I hadn't forgotten how awkward and uncomfortable they were. I think I must have been five or six the last time my mom had to give one to me. That was so freakin' embarrassing! But this time it wasn't so bad because it was for a good purpose and I was all cleaned out in a flash, save for a righteous fart that almost broke the sound barrier.

I shut the pool house doors, and after Sloan had taken care of her business, we headed up to the treehouse. I guess Jake must have a romantic side to him that I hadn't seen before. Or maybe because he had talked to Lisa. But whatever it was, he had six or eight different colored candles lit and placed all around the treehouse, some incense smoking and some nice, mellow music playing low on my transistor radio.

"C'mere you. This is really nice. What got into you?" I asked as we wrapped our arms around each other. Sloan plopped down in her corner, and after licking her twat started drifting off to puppy land. I guess she found our lovemaking boring.

"Lisa said that since she thought I was going to pop your cherry tonight that it should be nice and romantic and to make it special. I would have gotten you some candy and flowers, but that's just too damn girly."

"Yeah, that would have been a little much. But thanks for the thought," I said, as I pulled him into a deep kiss. Both our wieners, half hard already, plumped up to full size in record time. I couldn't wait to feel his throbbing member deep inside of me. I was a little scared that it might hurt, but the anticipation of finally doing it like the guys in the red pickup had done was even more exciting. But for right now, it couldn't get any better than this: slow dancing in the warm breeze, buck naked with Jake up in the treehouse and listening to that great Turtles song, You Showed Me.

We slow danced a little bit, crotches grinding together and arms wrapped around each other's backs, just listening and swaying to the song. I think I had heard this tune before, but couldn't remember where I was or when, but now that I understood the lyrics, it made so much sense for this special evening that I started to sing:

"Taught it to me too

Exactly what you do

And now you love me too

Now you love me too

And now you love me too."

"You know," said Jake, his voice just above a whisper, "You really showed me, dude."

"Jake," I said into his ear, my nipples getting hard and the hairs on my arms standing up, "I love you. Please make love to me."

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