The Application

by Ivor Slipper

Author's Note:

I read, and greatly enjoyed, Henke Sjorgen's recent story 'An Admission of Guilt'. When I'd done so though I wanted to know more about Congressman Dinwiddie's son, Jackson, who was the subject of his plea to the College's Admissions Director. I contacted Henke asking if he was intending to write a story to fill that gap. He said he didn't intend to, but very generously said that he would allow me to do so. This is the result.

Jackson Devereaux was nervous, very nervous. He'd been like that for some days now. Waiting didn't often do that to him, but on this occasion it had. Deep down he knew it was stupid to be like this, but somehow he felt his whole future, his whole life perhaps, depended on it. He told himself over and over that wasn't the case, but he'd not yet succeeded in convincing himself of the fact.

Many, many times he'd said to himself that it made no sense to hang so much on one application. There were other universities and colleges, and yet, this was the one he so very deeply wanted to attend. There were many others similar in ethos and outlook, but this was somehow 'the one'. It had just the right courses for his abilities and it would get him away from here - far away from here.

He decided he couldn't wait any longer, so he left the house and walked down the drive to the mailbox. It was the same walk as he'd taken every day for the last couple of weeks, sometimes more than once a day as there was no certainty as to the time at which the mail would arrive. Most times he'd opened it there had been something inside, but not so far the letter he was waiting for. Surely it must be there today he said to himself as he opened the box.

And there it was, in amongst a few other envelopes. But it was unmistakable – a white envelope addressed to him and with the name and logo of the university in the top left hand corner. His hand shook as he extracted it from the pile and then placed it on top of the other mail before walking back to the house.

Now he had a decision to make. Should he open it in front of his mother, the mother he dearly loved and who's name he had taken only a few moths ago when he turned eighteen? Or should he open it in private? He knew he'd be emotional when he read what the letter said. The lines from the Kipling poem 'If' sprang into his mine - If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same. He allowed himself a small inner grin at the thought because he was sure reading a letter wasn't what Kipling had had in mind when he wrote that poem.

Yet to him it virtually amounted to that. It was the chance to get away from this redneck southern state and all it represented. He'd already got rid of his father's name. No longer was he Jackson Dinwiddie, the son of a congressman who so loudly expressed the views of the considerable majority his constituents. Something he could so easily do, because when he did, he was also expressing his own views and opinions.

Decision made he walked through the house and out onto the patio where he knew he would find his mother. She was sitting in a comfortable chair by one of the tables under a sunshade, positioned close to the pool. Although it was hot it was still morning, so the heat had not become as unbearable as it would later in the day, when being indoors with the air conditioning working at full blast was the only sensible place to be.

She was reading a book, but looked up as she heard the sound of his bare feet on the tiles as he approached. She smiled at him – one of those smiles that said more to him than words. It conveyed both her love and her happiness to see him, especially when she spotted what he was carrying.

"I assume what you have been waiting for has arrived?" she said, eyeing the white envelope in his right hand.

"Yes, and now for the moment of truth."

He sat down in the chair opposite her and placed the rest of the mail in front of where she sat.

"Are you going to open it, or just admire it?" she asked with a little laugh.

He was worried it would be a rejection of his application. He knew his grades had slipped from their previous extremely high level during his final year at school. He also knew what had caused that. Once had had changed his name from Dinwiddie to Devereaux the protection that came automatically with bearing the Congressman's name, had gone. After that the name by which he was almost always called by his fellow students at school was pronounced much more clearly. Now it was unmistakably 'Dim' rather than something that could perhaps be heard as 'Din'. He had retained his place on the school swimming team simply because he was so good that the team had no chance without him. However, he'd been forced to change well apart from the other members and had lost count of the number of times his bare ass had been swiped with a wet towel. He was though proud that he'd continued to use the showers and always chuckled inwardly when he did at the speed with which the others left on his arrival.

From the photos he'd seen he knew he'd been what could only be classed as an attractive baby. Fair hair with little curls, blue eyes and a smiling happy face. He still had the same hair and eyes, but the smiling happy face wasn't always visible now. He'd come to realise when he was about ten or eleven that he was different to other boys. Not just because of his name and his appearance, but because of how he felt and acted. It took a couple of years before he realized the difference was in the way he stood and walked, the way he spoke, the way he moved his hands. That realization only came after seeing characters on television and finding they were considered effeminate. He'd had to look that word up in the dictionary to ascertain its meaning, before going online to find out what it really meant.

Yes, he was gay and obviously, but in a place where to be gay was something those who were did their utmost to hide. With him though it was so obvious it couldn't be hidden. Once he'd found out what he was it explained a lot about his father's attitude towards him. The last thing the Congressman had wanted was a gay son. He'd wanted one who would end up being the star quarterback for the school football team, not one who was only good at swimming. A boy who would grow up to be swooned over by the daughters of the suitable local gentlefolk. Who would marry and give him at least one grandson to carry on the family name. A son who might even succeed him in Congress. Well, none of that was going to happen.

Because of where he lived, and to an extent, who he was, he knew he had no chance of developing a relationship with anyone. If there had been any gays in his school, which logic said there had to be, they had succeeded in making themselves invisible. That was one of the reasons he wanted to get away, to go to a college in the more liberal part of the country. There he hoped to be able to find someone with whom he might be able to develop a relationship. He was fed up with the solo exercises that accompanied his journey around various Internet sites. At least his ability to speak three languages fluently came in very useful on some of those! Here those counted for little as did his interests and abilities in art and music. Those might impress his mother's small circle of friends, but had no effect on the vast majority of the local population.

He had sometimes wondered if his father truly believed all the things he said and causes he supported. Had he adopted those in order to rise in the political world or were they his own beliefs? At times when he was a few years younger he'd find it hard to reconcile the father he knew at home with the one he'd see and hear speaking in public. Of late though he'd come to think that the public Dinwiddie had been the real one all along and that he was in fact a chameleon who could don a different persona when at home. His father's latest cause - vocal support for the bill to prohibit the use of a transgender student's preferred pronouns by school faculty members – was surely proof of that.

The time had come. He ran his fingers under the seal of the envelope and took out the single sheet of paper it contained. The wording was simple and polite. As he'd almost expected he had not been accepted. He felt crushed as he read those words. He sensed tears start to form in his eyes, but he was determined not to let them fall. He looked up from the table and across at his mother. She gave him that smile again.

"Not what you were hoping to read, Jackson?"

He shook his head, not trusting himself to speak.

"Jackson, this wasn't the only possibility. I know it was the one you'd set your heart on attending, but there are others. You need to send off some more applications. I'm sure you'll have little trouble in getting accepted somewhere almost equally suitable."

He looked at her and forced a smile, "One door closes and another opens, eh mom?"

"Yes, dear. Just make sure the one that's closing doesn't hit your ass on the way out!"

He couldn't help but burst out laughing. His mom using the word 'ass' was so totally unexpected.

"Thanks for those words of wisdom, mom. I think I'm going to get changed and go for a swim."

A couple of weeks later he was sat by the pool having spent a good half hour swimming laps. He'd sent off several applications to other colleges and was waiting for replies. Now though he wasn't bothering to rush to check the mailbox for them.

He heard his mother walk across the patio towards where he was sitting.

"A couple of letters for you today, Jackson," she said as she dropped them into his lap.

He looked at them with no great interest, until he recognised the name and logo in the top left had corner of one. Why would they be writing to him again he wondered? Had he been supposed to respond to their earlier letter? He ripped the envelope open and took out the single sheet of paper it contained. He read it with a mixture of disbelief, joy and excitement. It stated that there had been a mix up in their records. In fact his grades were sufficiently good and confirming he had been accepted for the fall term.

This time when he'd finished reading he was unable to stop the tears falling down his cheeks, until a thought entered his mind. The tears stopped and were replaced by a smile. If only he could see the reaction on his father's face when he found out he had gained admission to this college. Of all those he might be able to attend, he knew this one would rank highest on his father's list of unacceptable education establishments.

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