Nick's Story

by Nick Brady

Chapter 16

Downstairs the casserole filled the kitchen with good smells. There was a fresh loaf of nice crusty french bread with real butter on the counter and a bowl of salad and dressing in the refrigerator. I sat down expectantly while Joseph pulled the dish out of the oven and laid everything out on the table. He set out dishes, glasses, silver and napkins very quickly as if he felt at home with such things. When he finished he sat down, placed his napkin in his lap and looked at me as if to say that we were ready. I needed no further encouragement.

"This is good," I said after the first bite.

"Alice is a wonderful cook," Joseph nodded. "She does everything."

We tucked into the food without a lot of conversation. After a long bike ride we were both very hungry. Several helpings later we stopped for breath.

"Hey, great. Thanks," I put my dishes in the sink. "What do I do with these?"

"Oh, that's fine. Alice will take care of them later."

"Wow, you're lucky."

"How is that?" Joseph asked.

"Well, to have a housekeeper who does all this stuff for you, and to have such a nice house and everything," I followed him into the piano room. "I was kind of embarrassed for you to see my place this afternoon. Our whole apartment would fit in your living room."

"Oh no," Joseph turned to look at me. "This is nothing. I mean it's a nice house and all that, but it's nothing like what you have."

"What are you talking about? I live in a dinky little two bedroom apartment. My brother and I share a room no bigger than your bathroom. We don't have anything compared to you."

Joseph sat down on the long couch and I sat across from him in a chair next to the piano. "But you have everything," he said very earnestly. "You have a real family. You share a room with your brother Kevin. You share your life with your brother Kevin. Do you know what I would give to have a brother like that? He adores you Nick, and he is a really nice person. You have a mother and a father who love you and are very involved with your life, yours and Kevin's. I don't know what they have in the way of material possessions, but I would guess that what they treasure most in the world is you and your brother."

I thought back to my conversation with Kevin the evening before. "Well, I see what you mean. But your mom and dad love you too. They're nice people."

"Yes, yes of course they are," Joseph said, shaking his head as if I had missed the point. "And my sisters are lovely people and everything is very nice and everything I need is provided for. But – how can I explain it to you?"

I leaned back in the chair and thought for a minute. "In a way," I wondered if I should say this, "In a way, your mother hired Alice to be your Mom so she wouldn't have to be bothered. Is that what you're saying?"

"Oh Nick," Joseph turned away and closed his eyes.

"I'm sorry Joseph," I said leaning forward. "That was a shitty thing to say. I didn't mean it that way."

Joseph looked back with a sad smile. "You didn't mean to be unkind, but what you say is true. I didn't realize quite how true before I had the opportunity to see inside your family," Joseph took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I suppose I have everything that money can buy. But what you have is priceless Nicky. Don't fail to see how lucky you are."

I leaned back in the chair. "Wow. Maybe you're right. I never thought about it. Maybe I kind of take my family for granted."

Joseph waved his hands and looked around in a gesture of resignation. We both sat quietly for a couple of minutes, then Joseph spoke. "I had such a wonderful time today."

I said, "Yeah, so did I."

Joseph continued, "I shared part of your world today Nick. I got to feel free for a little while. Free to ride hard and fast. Free to zip in and out without making plans and asking permission. Seeing Jack like that, all covered with paint," he laughed, "Getting sweaty and drinking frosted root beer. Those are all firsts for me."

I didn't know quite what to say, so I just nodded and listened.

Joseph leaned back a little and seemed to relax. "Don't misunderstand me Nick, I'm not complaining. I have a good life and I like who I am. I do love my music, and I want more than anything to be able to have a life centered on that. My parents have the means and the inclination to support me in that goal and I am very appreciative. In a way Nick, you make it perfect, because you fill in the parts I don't have, or at least let me see what they look like," Now he smiled in a relaxed way. "You see, you really are a good influence on me."

I had to laugh but I didn't quite know what to say. I looked over at the long black grand piano. "So now it's your turn. Show me your world Joseph."

Joseph rose from the couch and walked over to the piano. He opened the long curved lid and propped it up with a pole then sat down on the stool. There were a pair of nice upholstered chairs next to the piano with a lamp table between them. I was sitting in the one closest to the piano and leaned back to listen. Joseph picked up a stack of music and began to look through it.

"I'm not sure what you might like."

"Neither am I," I replied. "Play what you like. I liked that jazzy thing you played one time before."

"Oh, that would be Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue'. That would be a good thing to warm up with, and I know it by memory so let's start with that."

Joseph rubbed his hands and adjusted the position of the padded stool several times until he was satisfied with it. He paused, then began to play with great energy. Although he moved his body a lot and attacked it in a very physical way, he appeared to be very calm and relaxed while he played. Not that he made it seem easy, but it did not appear to be all that difficult for Joseph. When he finished I clapped vigorously.

Joseph turned towards me, giving me a little bow. "Ah, a small but appreciative audience," he laughed.

"Wow, that was cool."

"Thank you. It's fun to play. I need to play more jazz. I am working on a couple of other things. I may get brave and try one of them out on you."

He sorted through some music then pulled out a manuscript and set it in front of him on the piano. "Here is something I am working on for Blair. Did I mention him? Blair Fischer is my piano teacher. He is really wonderful. He wants me to memorize this but I will have to use music right now. It's one of Chopin's Etudes, the third in E major. See what you think."

He started to play and the sound came boiling out of the piano. In parts of it his hands moved so fast I really couldn't see them. It sounded fantastic but it wasn't like anything I had ever heard before. I really liked it though. I was amazed that he could find all those notes so precisely as his hands flew over the keys.

When he finished he tried to explain how this kind of music worked. "It is so hard to get this under my hands," When I gave him a blank look he said, "it takes a lot of work, but by repetition your hands physically memorize all the complex movements that allow your fingers to strike the right keys at the right time. When it is right the music seems to flow out from under your hands. It is what is called muscle memory. You do the same thing when you catch or hit a baseball; you don't think about the details, you just do it."

"Chopin is often very difficult. Franz Liszt wrote a lot of very difficult pieces as well, but they are easier to get under your hands for some reason. Like this Hungarian Rhapsody," he began to play another very complicated piece, this time from memory. By the time he finished the Liszt he was perspiring a little and I applauded again.

He laughed, "Oh thank you Nicky. I was afraid you would be bored by this sort of music. It's not exactly Rock and Roll."

"I really don't understand it, but it sounds great, fast and wild and very beautiful. I like it a lot and if I listen to more of it I'll probably like it even more."

"I am so pleased that you are enjoying it," he smiled broadly. "Here is one last thing that you might like. It's kind of jazzy. It is Piazzolla's 'Le Grand Tango' that I am working on as part of a trio. Piazzolla is from Argentina and this has wonderful Latin rhythms."

This one I really liked. It was so full of energy and made me think of ladies in full skirts and men in tight black pants dancing close and sexy. He cut it short saying that he couldn't really do it justice without the other instruments.

Again I clapped loudly, not just to please him but because I wanted to do something – join in in some way. "Man I wish I could do that."

Joseph looked thoughtful for a moment then said, "Well I think I know something you might like to try. Come sit next to me."

I wasn't sure what Joseph was going to do, but he scooted over to the left and I sat next to him on the piano bench.

"Here, try to make up a little tune on just the black keys," and he demonstrated by playing a catchy kind of sing-song tune with only the short black keys. I tried to do the same and although mine was not as clever as his it sounded pretty good.

"All right now, just keep that up in a nice steady beat," and Joseph began to play chords using both black and white chords. I found a little melody and began to repeat it over and over while Joseph made a set of chords to go with it. "Yes, that's good, keep doing that nice and strong," he said, and it began to sound really good. We did this for several minutes then Joseph sort of wrapped it up with some chords that said 'the end'.

"Wow, that was cool," I said with a laugh. "How does that work?

"The black keys are all a full step apart so you can't really make a mistake," he said. The chords are simple too but you are right, it sounds quite pleasant. You did fine. See, now you are a composer as well."

"That was fun. I didn't know I could do that," I said. "It feels good to make music come out instead of noise. I can kind of understand why you enjoy it so much."

"I think it is rather like the way you feel when you play baseball well. Everything comes together and sort of flows," he smiled, "Don't you think so?"

"Yeah," I said, "I guess it is the same sort of thing. That's cool"

"Like this afternoon, flying down Denver and catching the green light," he said, "That feeling of movement and excitement."

It made me think about things in a different way. "It is the same kind of feeling isn't it? That sensation of flying – when we rode our bikes, when I am playing baseball, when you are playing the piano – its like flying."

"Yes, I think so," Joseph said. "Although it is not all flying. There is a lot of hard work that goes into being able to fly. Lots of practice – at the piano, on the ball field."

"But you stay with it because you know the flying part is gonna feel so good," I finished.

Joseph laughed, "Yes, yes that's it Nicky. We are talking about the same thing, aren't we?"

"Yes, I think so," I said. "Maybe we are not so different after all."

"Maybe we are not," he said, taking my hand as I sat next to him on the little bench.

I tipped my head to one side a little and we kissed. I don't remember who moved first, we just kissed. One hand was at my side, the other held Joseph's. It was a gentle kiss like a sigh, and it was unhurried.

Joseph pulled back and took a deep breath. "Oh it feels so wicked to be kissing you here at the piano. It feels so dangerous."

I giggled. "Like holding hands in church?"

"I suppose," Joseph said. "I've never done that."

I looked at Joseph sitting so close to me. He smelled like shampoo and cheese from the casserole. "I'm tired," I said.

Joseph looked back at me and smiled ever so slightly. "Yes, I am too. I think it's time for bed."

I followed Joseph into the kitchen where he slipped the casserole dish and the salad back into the refrigerator and turned out the light. I followed him up the long stairs and down the hall to his big bedroom.

Joseph closed the door behind us and walked into the bathroom to take a leak. I kicked off my shoes and sat down on his couch to pull off my socks. When he came out of the bathroom he walked out to the balcony and looked over the patio and out to the lawn. He stood there for a minute so I got up and walked out to stand with him.

"Hey," I said quietly.

"This is where we first touched," he said softly.

'Yeah," I said. "That seems like a long time ago now."

Joseph leaned over to rest his elbows on the balcony railing. "I can't seem to remember before I knew you."

I put one hand on the rail and gently laid the other on his shoulder, and leaned against him just a little. After a moment he raised up and turned to face me, putting his hands around my waist.

"Gee, you seem so tall," I said.

Joseph laughed. "You took your shoes off, silly."

"Is that it?" I laid my head against his chest. "It's kind of nice actually."

Joseph kissed me on top of my head then led me back inside. He closed the glass door to the balcony and drew the curtain across it. Then he sat down on the edge of the bed and started to undress, first unbuttoning his shirt and taking it off, then slipping his undershirt over his head revealing his long spare frame. He kicked off his shoes, pulled his socks off and tossed them on the growing pile. He unbuckled his belt and unzipped his slacks, rising up just a little to slide them off over his bare feet. I stood and watched as he dropped them with the rest of his clothes and sat there in a pair of white boxers and looked at me with just a trace of a smile.

He pulled back the covers, stretched out on the bed and leaned back against the headboard. "Now you," he said.

I realized that I had frozen in one position while I watched him intently. I relaxed a little and unbuttoned the neck of my knit shirt and pulled it over my head. I wore nothing underneath so was now bare chested. I unbuttoned my jeans and slid them down my legs balancing on first one leg and then the other to pull them over my bare feet. Underneath I wore white briefs. I raised my hands in a gesture which asked what to do next. Joseph looked at me for a moment then spread his hand out on the bed and beckoned to me with his eyes. I climbed up and stretched out next to him.

"You are so beautiful," he said.

"So are you," I replied.

Joseph gave a little laugh. "Not really. I am scrawny next to you."

I frowned a little. "I think you're beautiful. You want a second opinion?"

Joseph tossed his head back and laughed out loud. "No. No, I will take your word for it."

Joseph reached down and pulled the covers over us up to our chests. I rolled over to him and he raised his arm so I could lay my head on his chest. I laid my arm around his waist and he wrapped his around my shoulders. I loved being cuddled up so close to him like this

Joseph let out a long sigh. "My life is so different with you in it."

"How is that?"

"Yesterday you rescued me from a bully. Today you took me on a bicycle ride and showed me new and wonderful things right in my own neighborhood. You appreciate my music, you tell me you love me. You make me feel so fortunate."

"You make me feel lucky too," I rubbed Joseph's chest with my hand. "Here I am curled up with the neatest guy I know."

"No, it's not the same. You have demonstrated your affection for me in some very tangible ways, courageous ways. I have not done the same for you. I want to give you something."

"What? I don't need anything from you. You gave me a cool 10-speed bicycle."

"Oh Nicky, maybe this sounds crazy, but I want to give myself to you."

I hesitated, "I don't understand."

He sighed. "I have known I was gay for a long time. I never had any ttraction for girls, all my fantasies were for boys, although I never acted on those desires. Before you I had never even masturbated with another boy."

Joseph spoke as if he was determined to express something difficult. "When Jack introduced us at my recital I thought you were the most attractive interesting boy I had ever seen, and you said you found my music exciting. I was just blown away. I dared to think that we could be friends, and was thrilled that you invited me to your baseball game. I still can't believe I invited you to come over for the night after your game. I just knew you would say no."

"Wait!" I interrupted. "Where is this going? You know, I thought you were the coolest guy I had ever seen. Tall, looking like a million bucks in that tux, played the piano like nothing I had ever heard. I was afraid you wouldn't even want to talk to me. I knew you were too good for me."

We sat and looked at each other for a minute, then started to laugh.

"I guess we both had that wrong," I said. "But why did you bring this up?"

Joseph hesitated, "What I am struggling to say is that what for a long time I have done in fantasy, I have finally done in reality, with you. I have tried to say before how amazing it seems to me that this has happened with someone as kind and wonderful as you. I would have to say that you are an answer to my prayers."

"I feel very lucky to have you too."

"There is more," Joseph spoke very softly. "We have enjoyed each other in many ways, ways I have long dreamed of, all but one," Then he said something so softly that I couldn't catch what he said.

"I'm sorry, what did you say?"

Joseph looked at me as I lay on his shoulder. "I said I want you to fuck me," Then he looked away as if ashamed.

I thought carefully how to reply. "You say that like it's something terrible. I don't want to fuck you, I want to make love to you."

"Oh Nicky, do you?"

"Yes. Ever since that first time when we realized we are both gay. Then I wondered if we might end up making love to each other," Now it was my turn to hesitate. "I have done some things, maybe things that you don't want to know about, but I have never really made love to anyone. I decided that if I ever did, I hoped it would be you."

Joseph sighed and we kissed and rolled together to hold each other tight. Our dicks pressed together and swelled in unison. We pulled off our undershorts to free them up so we could feel ourselves together. For perhaps the first time we felt no constraints to our passion.

Joseph rolled over on his back and pulled me on top of him. We moved against each other and kissed until we were breathless.

Joseph gasped, "I don't know how to do this. I hope to hell you do."

"Do you have any lube?" I asked.

"I have some Vaseline in the nightstand here," and he handed it to me.

"Pull up your knees," I instructed, and stuck my index finger in the little jar of jelly.

Joseph raised his knees and spread his feet apart. I began to massage his anus with the Vaseline while I blew warm breath over the hair on his scrotum and over his cock. Licking the underside of his cock until I reached the tip, I put my mouth over the head of his dick and slid down until my nose was in his pubic hair while at the same time I inserted my slippery finger all the way into his rectum. Then I pulled the finger out as I pulled my mouth off his cock, reversing directions and falling into a steady rhythm of in and out, in and out.

Joseph matched the rhythm of my strokes with his breathing, gasping in and out, in and out. With my other hand I reached up and began lightly pinching his nipples, first one then the other. As I worked on him he raised his hips up and down and brought his knees in and out. So that his whole body was part of the movement. I wanted him to be close to orgasm, but not quite. If this was his first time I wanted it to be a good one.

After several minutes of this oral stimulation I could tell that Joseph was reaching the end of his endurance. I took one of the bed pillows and folded it in half.

"Raise up so I can put this under your hips," I instructed.

I took a scoop of the jelly and lubed up my cock which was very hard, put my hands behind his knees and pushed them up to his chest.

I scooted in close so my cock was against his hole then told him to relax. By this time he was shivering with desire. I rubbed the end of my dick into position against his hole and began to push slowly. I could feel it slipping inside.

"Are you OK? Am I hurting you?" I asked.

"No, it feels wonderful!" Joseph exclaimed.

As I pushed I could feel my foreskin slip down until my dick head popped in.

"Oh my God!" Joseph shouted.

I froze, "Am I hurting you?"

"No, go on, go on!" Joseph gasped.

As he requested, I buried myself in his ass, feeling the hot wet pressure of his rectum squeezing me tight. It felt fantastic but my main concern was that Joseph was pleasured. I began to withdraw and penetrate in a steady rhythm while licking and sucking his nipples.

He responded by bucking his hips up and down and side to side and making gasping whimpering sounds such as I had never heard him make before. I was feeling great pleasure but was determined that he would climax first.

After several more minutes his gasping became more guttural and he threw his arms around my neck and began to kiss me passionately until he could last no more and cried out, and I felt his cum splash over my chest. At that point I exploded inside him with wave after wave of gut wrenching orgasm.

I let go of his knees and his legs flopped down beside me. I collapsed on his chest glued there by his semen. We were both breathless and puffed like race horses.

My face was next to his ear. "I love you Joseph," I panted. "Are you OK?"

Joseph was out of breath. "Oh my God, that was so incredible. I never dreamed it could be so wonderful. Oh Nicky, I love you so much. Thank you, thank you."

We lay together for some time. I shrank and fell out of him. His breathing returned to normal and at some point I rolled off onto my side and we fell asleep in each others arms.

As if at a great distance I heard someone calling my name. After a few times the voice became Joseph's and I opened my eyes. His alarm clock said 8:00 but he wasn't in bed. I turned over to see him standing in the doorway of the bathroom buttoning his shirt. He was wearing trousers and his hair was combed.

"Good morning," I croaked.

"Good morning to you Master Nicky. We need to be up and about if we are going to church" he smiled knowingly, "You might want to shower."

"Why so early? Last time we didn't go so early."

"No but last time I played hooky from choir because I was sitting with you. Since we went to practice Thursday I should sing this morning, and that means going earlier to go over the music."

It took a minute for my foggy brain to process his logic then mumbled, "I'm up, I'm up." then swung my feet to the floor. Mom had packed some church clothes in my bag so after a pee and quick shower I was dressed and almost ready.

"It's about my hair," I grumbled.

"What about your hair? I happen to like your orange hair."

"But I can't comb it. It goes everywhere."

"When you dried it with your towel you got it all frizzed up," he suggested.

"Maybe, but no matter how I comb it or brush it, it coils up in a mess. I used to get it buzzed every year at the start of summer but that is more for little kids. It frustrates me."

"We have a little time before church, may I try to do something with it?"

"You can try but it's stubborn."

Joseph took me into the bathroom where he leaned me over the sink and wet my hair again with warm water. Taking a towel he pressed most of the water out of it but did not fluff it up like I usually did. Then using his fingers he lifted my hair up pulling it straight out all over. It looked kind of weird at this point.

"Now shake it. Shake it like a dog does when it gets wet."

Shrugging my shoulders I braced my hands on each side of the sink and shook my head as fast as I could. I looked in the mirror. "Geez, its all little ringlets. I look like Shirley Temple!"

Joseph laughed out loud. "It looks very nice actually. Its not all frizzy and matted now, and you have to admit it was easy. Let it dry like that and see if you don't like it."

"Man? I don't know about this."

Joseph laughed, "Consider that it's just another way to not comb it."

I sighed, "OK, just until after church. We'll see what Jack says about it. He's supposed to pick us up for church."

"We should go then," Joseph said. "We can have some pastries at the church. I guess you can leave the 10 speed here."

"Remember we are going for birthday pizza after church. Mom said she and Dad would meet us at the Hideaway."

"Oh, that's right. I will call Alice and tell her that I will be away for lunch so she doesn't fix something."

"I thought she was off on the weekends."

Joseph smiled, "Alice always seems to be here for me even when she doesn't need to be."

Joseph trotted down stairs as I was putting on my shoes. We sat by the driveway waiting for Jack. When he pulled up we jumped in the cab of his old blue Ford pickup truck with me wedged in the middle between my two favorite people. Jack griped a little at having to go early but admitted it wouldn't kill him to go to Sunday School. He dropped us off at the rear entrance and I walked in to the choir rehearsal room with Joseph.

Joseph told me, "We will go over a few things quickly then go into the sanctuary to try the anthem with the organist. He is really amazing. You can sit in but you might not be quite ready to join us."

I just laughed and shook my head. I sat and listened as they quickly reviewed the hymns for the day and ran through the part of the anthem that Mrs. Tailor felt needed attention. Then they put on blue choir robes and filed out into the sanctuary to the choir stalls next to the organ.

I sat in the front pew as an older gentleman came in, sat at the organ and nodded his head. Mrs. Tailor raised her hands, the organ played a little introduction and the choir began to sing. It sounded great. The big pipe organ made all the difference. I figured that I would be ready to sing with them about the same time that hell froze over.

Just before time for the service to begin Jack came in and we moved to where he usually sat. The service was nice, the music fine, and the preacher had some funny stories to tell. He said some other things but that's what I remember.

After the service we had a little glass of juice and a doughnut and Joseph introduced me to James and Susan who were the other teenagers in the choir. They were both high school seniors but were nice enough to say they were glad to meet me. Any friend of Joseph I guess.

I kept waiting for Jack to say something about my hair but he seemed not to notice. Finally I asked him, "What do you think about my hair?"

Jack looked at me thoughtfully. "It's still orange."

I grumbled under my breath as Joseph chuckled.

We piled back in Jack's truck and drove over to 15th Street to the Hideaway Pizza. We could smell the pizza cooking from the parking lot. Mom, Dad, and Kevin were already there sipping on soft drinks when we walked in. They waved us over to a table set for 6 and we joined them.

"How was church?" Mom asked.

"Good," I replied. "Joseph sang with the choir and I sat with Jack."

Kevin asked Joseph, "Did you play your piano?"

"No, I just sing with the choir. We have a wonderful organist who accompanies us," he answered.

"I just wondered," Kevin said. "Nick talks all the time about how you play the piano but I have never heard you."

Oh, later in the year there will be another recital of the string quartet I play with and I will be sure you have the date," Looking around the table he said, "I hope you can all come."

To my surprise Dad spoke up. "We would enjoy that. Nick tells us that you are amazing."

Joseph glanced at me and blushed slightly. "Oh you are very kind. I would love to see you all there."

Just then the a nice looking young Hispanic guy wearing a white apron came up with an order pad. "Are you ready to order?"

Jack spoke up, "This is one of my favorite places, maybe I can help. I suggest 3 medium pizzas, one pepperoni, one Italian sausage, and one chicken and artichoke hearts, medium crust. How does that sound?"

"Chicken with artichoke hearts? Medium instead of large?" I questioned.

"It just depends on how much you want to take home. That's half a medium pizza for each of us and they put a lot of toppings and cheese on their pizzas. They are very filling. And don't knock chicken pizza until you have tried it."

"Sounds good to me," Dad said, and that settled it. "And these boys just got here and will need something to drink."

"Very good sir," the waiter said. He took our drink orders, scribbled something on the order pad and hustled away.

We made small talk while we waited for our order. I was so hungry I was drooling. It really smelled good in there. Dad was unusually chatty. He asked Jack about his classes at TU, and Joseph about his plans for a music career. Mom wanted to know if I had been a pest, to which Joseph staunchly defended me as a great help to him with his bicycle riding, etc. I joined Kevin in mostly listening, We seemed to be a very congenial bunch.

Before long the pizza arrived, each with a small lit birthday candle in the center. It turned out that Jack had clued the waiter into making them 'birthday pizzas'. The waiter was a nice guy and joined us in singing 'Happy Birthday to You' to ourselves. The three pizzas were more than enough and the chicken with artichoke hearts was fantastic. When we got down to one slice of pepperoni left we all eyeballed it until Jack finally ate it and leaned back and rubbed his full stomach.

When we were finished Joseph leaned over and whispered something in my ear. I asked, "Jack will take us back to Joseph's house so I can ride my bike home. Would it be OK if we went on a bicycle ride first. I need to get my old BMX bike back. Maybe Kevin would like to come with us and ride it home for me. Joseph has a helmet he can borrow."

Mom and Dad looked at each other, nodded, and Dad said, "I don't see why not. Please be careful." Smiles all around, especially from Kevin.

Jack drove us back to Joseph's house with Joseph and me in the front seat and Kevin wedged in on Joseph's lap. It wasn't very comfortable but it was only about 5 minutes away so was not a problem. Kevin had the worst of it but seemed to be very pleased to be included.

When we arrived at the house Jack let us out and excused himself to go back to his studies. Joseph opened the garage and pulled an old white Bell bike helmet from somewhere and I adjusted the straps so it fit Kevin.

"Is that OK?" I asked Kevin.

"Sure this will work. I have my own at home but I didn't know to bring it."

"I know. This is kind of spur of the moment. I could have tossed the bike in the back of Jack's truck but I thought you might want to ride with us."

"I do, Thanks for asking. This is cool," Kevin grinned.

"Well now that you are 12 and all grown up you know." Kevin grinned some more.

Joseph and I put on helmets and rolled our bikes out of his garage. "Are we ready?" Joseph asked, and off we went.

We took 31st street over to Riverside and onto the bike trail along the Arkansas River, then south all the way to 71st. It was a bright warm September day and there were lots of other bikers, joggers and skaters using the trail. We had to go rather slow to avoid bumping into someone which suited Joseph and Kevin on my old single speed BMX bike.

We took a side trip to a Quik-Trip just a few blocks over on 71st Street and got fountain soft drinks that we drank sitting side by side leaned up against the side of the building. We chatted about nothing. Kevin was obviously delighted about being included, although typical of him, he said little. Joseph said his parents would be back from his father's golf tournament about dinner time. Alice had told him that when Joseph called to tell her we were going riding. Always responsible. Cooled off and refreshed we started back. We stopped at the restrooms at 41st to surrender the sodas. Kevin modestly used a stall while Joseph and I used a pair of urinals and made a silly game of eyeballing each other.

At 31st Joseph peeled off to his house and said goodbye with little ceremony, then Kevin and I rode to our apartment, just the two of us. I set a slow pace and Kevin gamely stayed right with me. I was aware of two things, that it had been a long time since we rode bikes together, and that he was good company.

Back at the apartment we stuck the bikes in our shed and locked the door. "Hey, that was fun," I said.

"Yeah, it was. Thanks for asking. I'm glad you didn't just throw your old bike in the back of Jack's truck."

"It was fun having you along," I smiled.

Kevin just grinned, and we walked into the apartment.

"Well here are the birthday boys," Mom called to us.

"That was great, birthday candles and everything," I said. Thanks for the party," Kevin grinned in agreement.

"That was excellent pizza. I have never been to that place," Dad observed. "Who picked the Hideaway?"

"Jack likes it, that was his suggestion. Did you have a good time?"

"Yes I did," Dad said and Mom nodded in agreement. "Jack and Joseph are very nice young men. I must say you pick good friends."

I thought to myself that we had things in common, but kept my mouth shut other than to say. "Thank you."

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