Matt and Tim II

by Small Town Guy

Chapter 3

It was late that evening. Both Matt and Tim had showered. They walked around in the family room shirtless, wearing the bottoms of their sweats. Matt was lowering the temperature of the thermostat. Tim was on his knees, fluffing up the sleeping bag.

"Oh shit, Timmy!......Your mom gets called out at eleven at night?!"

"Oh yeah!....Anytime really. Well, not so much here as it was in San Diego. She's kind of a general practitioner....slash....surgeon. She doesn't have a real specialist category. She does some OB, peeds, geriatrics, G-Y-N, a little of everything."

Matt turned down the track lighting again. He quickly stepped along the cold carpeting and crawled into the sleeping bag. Tim joined him. They drew each other close.

"Ohhhh another night of holding my sweet little Angel again. OH! YES! I smell strawberry shampoo again!"

"Oh gee!....I got Mom's shampoo by mistake again! Why don't I smell that while I'm in there?!"

"Oh don't be like that....I like smelling your....strawberrys! Ah ha, ha!"

"Real funny Matt."

"Oh shit!....Will you keep those....icicles off my legs!"

"...Cold feet, warm heart, Matty! Besides I thought you liked cute little boy feet!"

"...In the summer....When they're warm!"

"Matty, even out in California I was only warm eight months out of the year. Well, for me anyhow! I'm still wishing I could find a hole to hibernate in for three more months!"

"Well you must have some circulation problem or something!"

"I'm skinny! Well we both kinda are. It's just you're used to it! You grew up with this kind of weather......Well, I gotta admit, I have gained ten pounds since I got here."

"Well shit, Tim! You were kinda scared coming out here. You were shy. You were in a new school without any friends. Your braces bothered you. You were gay and didn't want anyone finding out about it. You're a real survivor! You had lots on your mind."

"Oh gee....That's for sure."

"Umm....Timmy, when you first got here......The first time you saw me......Did I....umm, look gay to you?"

Tim wrapped his arms around him in a deep hug. He smiled as he gazed up at the floor joists above.

"Not at all, Matty!" he seemed to sigh, "Well, I didn't really have my gaydar yet. Well, it's still not one hundred percent. I think since we came out to each other it's improving a bit......Then again, I don't know. It could just be that now that we're out.... It's like everyone knows it now. Lots of the boys might not be hiding it quite so much."

"...Yeah, I never thought about that. You might have something there."

"Well, I still say there aren't all that many out there who, look the part. Okay, maybe a couple boys who look girly and a couple girls who look boyish. But you can't go by that! There are lots of them who look it, but they're all straight!"

They they remained silent for several minutes. Tim ran his palms in circles over Matt's back.

"...Umm....Matty....Do you umm....feel like a quicky tonight?"

Matt raised his head and looked at him with a silly smile.

"...Timmy....With me....they're all quickies! Hee, hee."

Tim hugged him deeply again.

"No Matty......We're both getting better. We're taking longer. Really! It's like you say, it's not such a....a surprise now!"

"...Well, I don't think you'll have much of a time waking Junior up!"

Ethan lay naked on his bed. His stomach glistened with several drops of semen. His arms were out at his sides.

"Holy SHIT!....Was that a big one!....I've umm....thought about Ryan before. And it was great....but not like tonight! Oh gee! I don't think I've ever had one that big!...

"Gee, I wonder if it's because we kissed tonight. Oh did he look hot tonight! And that kiss! Oh! He kinda knocked me right onto my back! And I hugged him. Oh wow. I've never hugged a boy before. Well, not like that ! Oh it felt....sooooo good! I could just feel our chests pressing together. That warm little body in my arms. Those soft lips! They were kinda like cool at first. Then they seemed to get hotter 'n hotter. I could feel like kinda electric shocks goin' through my whole body !......And that sweet cinnamon-apple on his breath! I could kinda like taste that apple juice on his lips! And the cinnamon 'n brown sugar. Oh I was goin' crazy there!......Oh gee, from now on, whenever I smell apples....I just know I'm gonna be fighting a woody! That's going to remind me of Ryan for the rest of my life!

"Oh gee, I'm gay!....I'm gay!....Am I gay?"

He began to scratch at his bare thigh.

"Oh wow! Ryan just looked like such a doll tonight! It's that scarf that did it. I don't know why. Lots of us wear scarves! It's to kinda keep the wind from blowing down the necks of our coats. Ryan....well, with Ryan it didn't look like some necessity ! It looked like more of an accessory on him. Yeah! That's the word I'm looking for. Oh he just looked so cute 'n sweet 'n...HOT! Just the way he had it wrapped around that cute little neck. It was kinda bunched up. Not real tight. And the ends were kinda hanging.

"Gee....When did this all kinda start happening?......Back in grade school I could kinda look at boys and think they're cute....but not like that ! Well, the girls too. I mean I wasn't thinking about kissing anyone at the time...

"Oh gee, it was around the time me 'n Ryan started working together in the library. Well, not exactly that either. I think it was just a few weeks before that. When Ryan started kinda hangin' with me....I think that's the first time I really looked at him....really saw him! Oh yeah! I still think of him on that computer. I could kinda see the colors reflecting off his face. And his eyes ! Oh gee! I wonder how many boys have green eyes. I've never noticed before....I've never looked !

"...And when he gave me that sweet little kiss on the cheek. Oh, it wasn't hot or like that. It was like he was kinda telling me something. Oh, that was nice. Really!

"Oh gee....I'm still like kinda throbbing down there! Oh! I gotta go get my box of tissues....'n get my jammies on!"

Matt tossed a half used roll of paper towels onto the coffee table. He turned and wrapped his arms around Tim's neck.

"Oh wow, Timmy!"

Tim squeezed his chest with a smile.

"Oh yeah! I told you we were getting better! We took awhile, huh?"

"Oh yeah!....That was good! I keep tellin' you, I just hate it when it comes on so fast, it's like a surprise! I....I wanna have a bit more control over it!"

"Hee, hee, oh you're just so sweet Matty!"

"Oh gee....I feel like I'm gonna cry again..."

"Noooooo!....That gets me going too! I hate that! I keep tellin' you that's embarrassing."

"Oh, I just keep thinking about that clingy thingy."

"Ha, ha, ha!....CLINGY THINGY?!"

"You know what I mean...

"We go around together out there. I mean it's not like we're all over each other! We don't even hug or hold hands and that. We're together but not like real close. And when we're alone like this......Oh gee! I just enjoy this so!"

"You kissed me at Harvey's. Hee, hee."

"Oh shit! I don't believe I did that!"

"...Well that was okay......Just don't plan on any of that stuff like Zack and Josh were doing! Oh gee!......Those pictures are gonna be all over the Net before we get back to school!"

"Oh yeah!"

"We gotta be careful Matt......If Mom or Dad found stuff like that on the Net about us....I think they'd really go crazy."

"Oh yeah! But they keep telling us it's that safety thing! I can understand that.

"You gotta understand Zack and Josh. They....well, they're way out there! It's....I don't know....It's just them! They do all kinds of crazy stuff. One time they had a bunch of kids bring alarm clocks into school. They put 'em in their lockers and set 'em to go off at all kinds of times! They roller bladed down the halls!....Skateboarded across the gym during a basketball game!....Hung a bunch of bras 'n panties from the flag pole! They filled Principal Emerson's office full of balloons! Hee, hee....They still won't tell anyone how they did that! They took that little bed apart in the nurse's office and put it back together on the football field!....Fifty yard line! And they had that first aid mannequin from health class in the bed!....They....they put bicycle locks on Tori's wheelchair in study hall!"

"Oh shit! That's mean!"

"No! No!....She loved it, Timmy! Really! It made her feel like everyone else! She didn't feel so....different! They prank lots of the handicapped kids! Well, not in a mean way or something dangerous. They love it!...

"And umm....hee, hee....They got into the maintenance room somehow and set the sprinklers to go off during a football game! And....and they hooked-up a coil in science class to that metal trim along the workbenches! Everyone got zapped! They....they hooked up a smoke bomb to the heat lamps in the boy's showers. When someone switched 'em on, they went off! Oh shit! The fire department showed up for that one!"

"And they haven't been expelled yet?!"

"Ohhhh! It's like I say....They don't do anything real dangerous or destructive. And they're great students! I don't think they've got an enemy in the school. Oh gee! I wonder if they have anything planned for graduation this year. If they do, it'll be great!"

They remained silent for several minutes, simply holding each other.

Ethan lie in his bed, holding his pillow against his side with his head on it. The only light which came into his room was from a distant streetlight.

"I just keep tossing around here. I can't sleep! I keep thinking about Ryan! That mouth....Those eyes!...

"Oh (sigh)....I'm gay!....I'm gay!....Am I gay?...

"I never even thought about this until a couple months ago. I never....felt gay. Wasn't I supposed to know about this? Wasn't I supposed to feel something? It's not that I didn't feel anything....It's not like I did!...

"Oh gee, maybe I should just go to a GSA meeting. Maybe they can help me figure out what's going on. I just don't understand any of this!"

"Timmy....We're falling asleep again."

"I know....I don't care..."

"I don't wanna....Let's keep awake for just a few more minutes."

Matt opened the zipper of the bag on his side. He began to wave the top wildly, drawing in cold air.

"Oh shit! Oh shit!....Stop that!....That kills!"

"Hee, hee....Wake up sunshine!"

"Please Matty!....I'm dyin' here! That's just soooooo cold!"

Matt drew up the zipper on the bag, yet shook Tim's shoulders.

"Okay!....I closed up the bag. Wake up now!"

"Ohhhh, no. Just let me hold you. Let's just lay here and enjoy this."

"...Yeah!....And we'll be asleep in three minutes!"

"That's what I plan to do....hee, hee."

Matt put his head down on Tim's shoulder.

"No!....Now I was just thinking about something tonight."

"Matty! Stop with your thinking!....Please?"

"Umm....Remember about your mom mentioning setting up that boarding school?"

"...Matty, we'll be out of college before we see that and you know it! Even if it happens! I'm sure lots of people will fight that!"

"Well, yeah, but I was thinking about how bad the town has it. I was wondering if we couldn't get the GSA....Well, not just the GSA! I was thinking about getting clubs in school to kinda volunteer time to do lots of those things. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to paint fire hydrants! And we could help with the park! Mowing, painting benches, general cleaning up, stuff like that...

"I know we spend lots of our time out at the river, but I sure wouldn't want to lose the park! Remember our first walk in the park?"

Although Matt didn't look at his face, he could nearly see him smiling as he wrapped his arms tighter around him.

"...Ohhhh shit, I'll never forget that...

"Umm....I'll admit it......I was like really embarrassed for a bit there. I mean we'd just come out to each other that morning. I think I was trying to get you to blush 'cause I was so self-conscious myself that morning. And....and I was trying to talk....Trying to say something to you....Tell you something......I still don't remember what it was. If I could have thought about it a bit more, I'm sure I'd have got it out. It might have sounded a bit clumsy or stupid, but I'd have got it out. And I wanted to kiss you soooo bad! We, umm....really got into it after a bit. But then that thunderstorm came in. Whoa! We just made it back before all hell broke loose, huh?"

"Oh yeah," Matt nearly sighed, "It was kinda hot 'n sweet at the same time. I stood up there. You couldn't kiss me very well while I was sitting down. OH! GEE! Wow, Timmy!.......I thought for sure my LEGS were just going to collapse!"


"Oh yeah!....That was just soooo sweet! I was afraid to kiss you that hard before. I thought I'd push your lips into your braces and hurt you. I was just hanging onto your shoulders! Timmy....if you had let go of me....I'd have dropped!"


"Oh yeah!

Ethan quietly walked for the door of his room. He silently opened it, leaving it slightly ajar.

"If someone gets up, I should see the hall light come on."

He made his way to the desk in the corner of his room.

"Shit. It's Christmas vacation for cryin' out loud! What's the big deal about bedtime? So what if I'm on the computer all night and sleep all day?"

He switched it on and waited.

"I don't think I'm cut out for being a day person......Well, I'd be bad at that midnight shift, but afternoons would be fine......Yeah....About half days and half nights."

He clicked onto his home page.

"Oh gee, oh gee......I'm gay....I'm gay....Am I really gay?...

"I gotta check this out. Where do I go?....Gay rights?....Nah! That's not it. Where do I even start looking? Maybe GSA's?....Well, I think that would be more under tolerance or something like that. Where do I even start looking? This is all so new to me! Shouldn't I have known all along? I hear lots about that....You always knew!

"Maybe I'm just a late bloomer......Hee, hee, I'm not so sure about that either. I think I'm kinda on schedule or whatever you'd call it. It's just that I never really focused on boys or girls. Shit! I never even thought about it really! What do I search for?......Sexual identity?....Well, something like that. I'm sure I'll find links.

"Oh, I'll go check mail first...

"Larry? I'll open that later. He'll just whine about homework. Jim? He'll be whining about science......Jeanette?....Awh, I just know she'll be whining about her boyfriend!....There sure are lots of whine-asses out there!...

"Holy shit!....Ryan? Oh gee, oh gee. Should I even open that? Well why not? Oh! I'm so scared......Well, here goes..."


Hey, had a great time at Tim's. How about u? I think we need more practice with that sub game. We'll get it.

Nice of Timmy to have us come over, huh? I told him to keep the game 'til I get my new controllers. He said we can come over anytime! And I was thinking about that. I don't think we should do that too much. Wear our our welcome or whatever. :-(

So I was thinking tonight that my uncle has an ice shack out on the lake for fishing. Maybe we could go out there tomorrow and check it out. It's really neet! Gas heater n everything! Even 12 volt lights! We could kind know, hangout! :-) Call me in the AM!


Ethan continued staring at the message for a moment. He suddenly operated his mouse and deleted it.

"Oh!....What am I gonna do? Should I call him tomorrow? Oh gee, I can hear the....the implication there very well. Ohhhhh, I'm gonna be so shy and embarrassed.

"Over at Tim's......that was kinda one of those spur-of-the-moment things. It's not we had it planned or anything, It just kinda happened! Oh he was a little doll last night!......In fact....every time I see him he looks hotter!

"Yeah, that first day in the library I didn't even really think about him. Well, not like that! It seems like every time I look at him, I find something else that's hot or cute.

"Oh gee! Going out on the ICE?!......That would make me soooo nervous. I never walk out on the lake! Well, a few feet from the shore, yeah. But going way out where it could be thirty or fifty feet deep?! Lots of kids skate and sled out there. Hell! Some even run their snowmobiles across! No way! I'd be too nervous! I'd be so scared of falling through, that I wouldn't be able to think of anything else. I wouldn't be able to have fun. I'd be too scared to enjoy doing anything out there. I'd be a nervous wreck!

"Oh gee, I wish we had a mall here. Even a little one. With a little food court in the center. Someplace to go when the weather is like this. How I hate winter! There's nothing to do!

"A couple years ago they built that Teen Center! Oh yeah, a nice place for kids to go!....It'll reduce crime and vandalism. Kids will be able to socialize and play video games. Fir shur! All the toughs come in and take the place over. The bullies! The ones who are doing all that stuff in the fist place. Teen Center! Yeah, it's a clubhouse for the bullies now!

"...Oh, I wonder what Ryan has planned......Oh shit! I'm going to be all shy and embarrassed and....and nervous about bein' out on the ice!...

"Humm....Maybe I could use that for an excuse. If I get feeling all shy 'n that, I'll tell him I don't really like bein' out on the ice. I'll use that for an excuse. Oh gee, I don't wanna hurt his feelings. Oh gee, even if I find out I'm not gay....I'd still like to be friends with him.

"I wonder if he has any kissing planned....Oh gee!....I just know I'll be all shy over that....but I think I could do that. Oh wow! Yeah!....And I think I'd like that.

"Oh gee....In Tim's basement there......He was kinda breathing on my lips. Oh! I could smell that apple on his breath. Wow! That was HOT!

"Oh shit! I'm gay....I'm gay....Am I really gay?

"Oh, I think I'm finally getting a bit tired here. I'll look this stuff up some other time. Hey, maybe I could get Scooter and Toby aside some time. Well, we've only got lunch together....and they usually sit with Matt and Tim. Oh....I'll figure something out. I wanna ask them about stuff. Like how do you know and that...."


Tim jumped and held his hand to his chest.

"Oh gee! Don't do that!....My heart's just pounding! You trying to give me a heart attack?!"

"Hee, hee! Just a few more minutes Timmy. This is our only private time alone with each other. I just wanna enjoy it for a bit longer!"

"Well I do too! I love this tired, sleepy feeling. It's just I'm so tired it hurts! It really hurts, Matty!..."

"Come on Tim!......Just fifteen more minutes! I promise that's it! Let's just keep awake for fifteen more minutes and then we'll go to sleep. Kay?"

"Okay......but if you shake me or yell again....I'm gonna....gonna get some rope! And I'll hog-tie you! And gag you! And I won't let you loose until morning!"

"Oh! Sounds kinky!......You can tie me up and have your way with me! Yeah! Just talk dirty to me when you do it!"


"Hee, hee, hee......Oh that sounds HOT!"

"...Matty!....You know I don't like that whips 'n chains crap! That's sick!"

"You know I'm joking with you!......Except for keeping awake. Let's just do another fifteen minutes."

Matt ran his lips lightly over Tim's. It hadn't even been a kiss. He continued talking.

"...Mmmm, I just love this. I love being all up close to you like this. Feeling your arms around me. Feeling you breathing on my face. Squeezing these skinny little ribs! I love having my head on your chest. Oh!....I can hear your heartbeat, feel you breathing. Oh! A real, live, HOT boy laying next to me! I keep thinking I must be dreaming! Oh!....This is so wonderful."

Matt felt Tim place his hand behind his head. He pulled his lips closer, tighter to his own.

"Mmmm....mmmm....Oh you're right Matty. This is great. I love this too. It's just when we're together like this....It's just so contenting! I sleep like a rock! I really do!...

"Yeah, I'd like to keep awake longer too....It's just....Oh gee! I feel like I'm drugged!"

"Hee, hee....I feel like that in the morning when I'm trying to wake up!"

Tim continued to rub his back.

"Oh yeah, I love this. We're all scrunched up next to each other, bare-assed!"

Matt suddenly got to his knees. The cover of the bag slid down his back.

"Oh Matty! Don't DO that! You're letting all the heat out!"

"Oh shit!....We are bare-assed! I forgot all about that!"

It was obvious to Tim that Matt was searching through the bag for his sweats.

"Matty! Lay down and bring that cover back up! It's freezing in here!"

"Okay, real cute Timmy....What did you do with our sweats?"

"I HID 'em!"

"Come on now! You know how self-conscious I get about this!"

"No! I'm not telling you where they are!"

"Timmy! Please?!"


Tim pulled him down onto his back and quickly straddled him.

"You don't need 'em!"

"Oh gee! This is embarrassing!"

"Matty!......You didn't even remember you were bare-assed until I reminded you!"

"Well, I wasn't even thinking about it!"

"Good! Stop thinking about it again!....In fact....Stop thinking!"

"Oh gee, I know I shouldn't be like this. I can't help it."

After breakfast the next morning, the boys were on their computers. Matt had become excited over his idea of the school clubs volunteering time to help with minor improvements in the town. He contacted all the school's clubs by e-mail.

"You're sure getting excited about this Matty."

"Well, umm....I'm kinda thinking this might be good for all of us. I mean us kids! What do you hear all the time?....Dumb kids! We're called 'know-it-alls'! Asshole teenagers! I mean, everything is always our fault! We get blamed for everything!

"I'm kinda thinking....If we get the school clubs together....and do good stuff.... Well, maybe people will notice that! Especially the GSA! Umm....I'm kinda thinking about it as good PR! Lots of parents in town are still down on the GSA. We're.... 'Promoting the homosexual AGENDA!'......We're 'Encouraging deviant behavior!' If we got out there and did stuff to help, people might notice that. It might put us in a more positive light!

"Shit Timmy! How many gays are in the GSA? Really! I think over half of 'em are allies or....or handicapped kids! We gotta keep showing people we're for tolerance! We gotta get rid of that negative view people have of us. They gotta see we can make a difference around here! We want people to get along! We want to include people."

An hour later the boys sat at the breakfast nook again. They sipped hot chocolate. Clara placed out a plate of assorted cookies.

Tim began to shake his fists in the air.


"Hee, hee, hee! Oh my stars! Hee, hee, hee!"

She made her way to the island and sat on a stool. She continued to giggle.

"Ohhhh Timmy!....That was priceless!" she gasped, holding her hand to her chest.

"Gram!....Me 'n Matty came out here to have a quick snack. We know how to push a button on the microwave! And we can walk all the way over to the cupboard and get cookies out!"

"Oh! Hoo, hoo, hoo! My stars! Oh! How I just love this!...

"Oh yes!......I keep saying you boys will understand this in years to come...

"Oh dear, I felt such a burden around here."

She waved her curved finger in the air.

"I'm telling you boys I feel ten years younger than I did just last year! I finally had a reason to get out of that damn rocking chair!"

She set her mug aside on the island. She placed her hands in her lap.

"Timmy....I'm not going to push myself into a heart attack by waiting on you boys a bit. I'm not scrubbing oil stains off the cement floor in the garage. Your father does that......I'm not out shoveling snow or mowing the lawn. I'm not down on my knees scrubbing the floors......I'm not steam cleaning the carpets! I'm on my feet a bit more! I'm walking about the house. I'm doing a bit of cooking again. I can wash dishes. OH! This just feels so grand! And I'm perfectly capable of running a few loads of laundry.

"Oh dear....I think I was just sitting in that rocker letting my whole body atrophy!"

She waved her curved finger in the air again.

"Ohhhh I've never felt this grand in years!..."

She lifted her mug of hot chocolate.

"...Yes, I was thinking of coming out here myself for a quick snack."

They heard the electric motor in the garage whir as the door raised. A car entered.

"...Sounds like Mom's car." Tim put in.

Ayumi entered the kitchen through the utility room. She wore a slack suit and carried a large purse over her shoulder. It was obvious she'd showered at the hospital, yet her tired face seem to hang.

"Oh! What a night!" she gasped, making her way to the island. She managed a smile.

"...Well, I'm happy to say....the town has just increased its population by eight!"

"Oh wow!" both Matt and Tim replied.

"Yes it has!......And I might add that two of them entered the world....backward!"

Tim covered his eyes, blushing.

"Oh Mom! You don't have to get specific about it!"

"...Well, I might add they're all healthy and doing fine!"

She seemed to gaze at them in t-shirts and sweats.

"...And for the rest of vacation....I want you two outside for at least two hours a day! Especially you Timmy. You've got to acclimate yourself to this weather. Yes, I'm a doctor and I understand cold doesn't make you sick. It's germs! But when your body gets rundown like that, you're more susceptible to bacteria!...

"It's a beautiful day today!....Okay, it's well below freezing, but there isn't the slightest breeze! The sky's a beautiful bright blue!....Go sliding in that vacant lot. Go out into the backyard and wrestle in the snow!....or just walk to your favorite burger shop!"

"Umm," Matt began, "Wanna go to Harvey's and hang a bit?"

Tim smiled.

"...Well, believe it or not....I'd kinda like to go out to the lake."

"Timmy!....That's like almost five miles from here!"

"Well, umm....I've never been on a frozen lake! I was kinda thinking about that. Standing out in the middle of a frozen lake!....Is it scary?"

"Well, I'll admit it....kinda. I get a bit nervous at first. After a bit, you kinda forget about it! It's no different than walking around on land!"

"Well, boys," Ayumi put in, "the radio says it's quite safe for the ice fishermen. Go for it! Have a ball!....Just bring your cells along. If you get really, really cold, just call!"

"Well now," Clara put in, "You boys be back by six o'clock sharp! We're having beef stew tonight!"

"Gram!....It'll be dark by then!"

She looked toward Ayumi.

"Yes I'm making beef stew!"

"Okay Mom....I'm too tired to argue about it."

She spread her arms as though "presenting" the kitchen to her.

"...As I told the boys....Go for it!"

"Oh my stars! HOW I'm going to enjoy this!"

"Well, people....I'm going to bed!"

The boys went for the sink to wash their mugs. Clara pulled up Matt's t-shirt.

"Well I guess your spine is getting better. I used to be able to count your vertebra!"

She lifted Tim's shirt.

"...And I believe your ribs are filling in a bit."

She started for the nook.

"Oh!....You boys had me so frightened over that....that Anna-wrecksa whatever!"

"Gram!....When you have anorexia, you starve yourself! You sit here while we eat! Are Matty and I starving ourselves?!"

"Well, I believe you two eat way too fast!....That food is passing through you so fast it doesn't have time to turn into fat!"

"Come on Matty....I'd really like to go out there. I'm sure we'll find some shops to stop at along the way for something warm to eat or drink."

"There's nothing between here and there! When we get there, fine! There's a little shop there, almost at the shoreline. It's kind of a filling station....bate 'n tackle 'n coffee shop."

"Well let's just try it huh? I really want to walk on a frozen lake just once! If we get too cold we'll turn around and come back. And I'm taking my digital cam along too!"

Ethan and Ryan walked out near the lake. They wore hooded sweatshirts under their heavy winter coats. They both lived nearby. It was only a ten minute walk for them, yet it seemed an eternity for both. They frequently gave each other shy glances.

"Oh gee, Rye's so cute in that little hoody......Oh! He'd be cute in anything. Oh no! We're getting to the edge of the lake here. I'm kinda nervous."

Along the shoreline were several large chunks of ice which wind and pressure had forced up. A bit farther out, was a more level surface. Ethan took several cautious steps.

"Come on, don't be scared."

"Gee, Rye!....I've never went out here more than a few feet from the shore. I don't wanna sound like a wuss, but I'm really kinda scared."

"Hey....See that black tar-paper ice shanty right there?"


"Well that's my uncle's!......His neighbor's shack is right there. See the one with the pickup truck parked next to it?...

"Shit, Ethan!....I really think that truck weighs just a tad more than we do! If it hasn't sunk, I don't think we will!"

They made their way along. Ryan could see the apprehension on Ethan's face. He'd frequently look back over his shoulder, gauging their distance from the shore.

A distance away, along the shore was a gently sloping ramp. Tim studied it.

"In the summer," Matt was saying, "this is used for one of the boat ramps."

Tim noticed the tracks of dozens of tires. They passed down the ramp and onto the lake. He gazed out at the many cars, pickups and snowmobiles there.

"People drive their CARS out here?!"

Matt pointed to a distant end of the lake.

"Look over there!"

Tim noticed huge city dump trucks a distance from the shore. Their bright yellow paint was a high contrast to the gray forest behind. Amber lights flashed. They backed to a large area of snow piles. He faintly heard their engines roar as hydraulic cylinders tilted the backs up, dumping snow.

"When we get lots of snow, the town dumps it out here. Big deal! In the spring it'll just melt! It's easier on the storm drains. And we don't have all that slush to mess with...

"They dump it way over there so it doesn't interfere with the fishermen. Hey, the fishermen come in here from all around!.......And spend money!...

"They were thinking about having a kinda ice festival out here. Snowmobile races, old fashioned sleds 'n horse-drawn sleighs! Ice skating, ice sculptures and giant snowmen contests! Wow! It sure sounded great. It's just that nothing ever became of it! I think it would be great, the way the economy is right now. When it comes to having fun....I think people will dig down a bit deeper and grab those few extra dollars."

Tim continued to gaze over the lake. His expression was one of amazement.

"Holy shit!......Big trucks out on the ice!"

He dug within his heavy parka and drew out his camera. Matt had told him to keep it sheltered a bit from the cold to protect the batteries.

Matt could see he began taking a series of shots to form a panorama of the lake.

"Wow! I've never seen anything like this! I guess I'm not quite so nervous about walking out there now."

They made their way out onto the ice. Tim gazed at the surface. There were patches of clear ice along with tiny drifts of snow. They approached a slight ridge in the ice.

"Watch your step, Tim. You've gotta kind of watch for these along the shore. When the lake freezes, the ice expands and kinda pushes out. It's got nowhere to go so it kinda pops up like this into these pressure ridges. There should be about three or four of 'em. Then the ice will be kinda smooth..."

Tim continued to draw his camera out and put it to his eye.

"Timmy!......What are you taking pictures of?! It's like all the same thing wherever you look!"

"Oh gee Matty! This is great!....I'm standing out in the middle of the lake! I've just got the chills running through me!......Oh! Not cold or anything! It's just the excitement of it! Wow!......I'm standing on water! Right out in the middle of the lake! This is just awesome!"

He continued another series of shots along the shoreline. The roar of a snowmobile could be heard behind them. Tom and Jennifer sat on it. He killed the engine and slid up to them a short distance away.

"Hey guys!....Jenny said that was you! I don't recognize anybody out here, the way everyone's bundled up!"

Both raised the tinted goggles from their eyes. Jenny jumped off and removed her helmet.

"...I came out here to practice ice skating a bit. You boys go be silly on the snowmobile! Have a ball!"

Tom indicated a yellow nylon rope trailing behind.

"Grab into that line!....I'll take you for a slide!"

"Tommy!" Jenny shook her finger, "Be careful!"

Matt and Tim grinned at each other. Tim drew the camera strap from over his neck. He placed the leather case into one of Jenny's boots which she'd set aside, while putting on her skates.

"Keep an eye on this, huh?"

"Well, just a minute. I'll need some help getting up. Once I'm standing, I'll be okay."

Soon Matt and Tim were being towed behind the snowmobile. Being too difficult to stand, they slid on their stomachs. Tom put the machine into a tight left turn.

"CRACK THE WHIP!" he yelled over the noise of the engine.

"Whooaah!" Tim yelled as they reached the slack end of the turn. The sudden force of the turn caused them to lose their grip on the rope. They slid for a shallow drift. Snow flew up into the air as they slowed to a stop.

Again Tom had killed the engine.

"Hee, hee, hee!"

Jenny quickly skated toward Matt and Tim.

"Tommy!....That was MEAN! That's not funny!"

Matt and Tim got to their feet laughing. Matt waved his arms before himself.

"No Jen!....Hee, hee, hee!....Oh wow! That was FUN! Hee, hee!"

Ethan and Ryan neared the black tar-papered shed. Ryan looked down at the gas fitting outside.

"Shit!....My uncle took the propane tank with him!......And the battery too! Oh! I thought we'd have it nice 'n warm in here!....With a light and everything!"

They entered the dark interior.

"Watch for the hole in the floor!"

He closed the crude door. Enough light shown in through the opening.

There was the circular hole cut into the floor. Below that was the ice hole, slightly covered with another layer of ice. There were three crude bench seats around the hole.

Ryan dropped to one of the seats.

"Shit!......I thought we'd be all nice 'n warm in here with a heater and a light! I didn't know they took the LP tank and battery back with them!"

Ethan sat shyly beside him.

"...Did you umm....have something planned for us out here?"

Ryan grinned shyly, afraid to look up at him. He nodded slightly.

"...Yeah....umm....Ever since that kiss at Tim's....Oh! I was just thinking of someplace we could go where it would be warm!"

He stomped his feet on the floor shaking snow from his boots. He gazed up.

"Oh shit!....Ethan!....I'm GAY! I gotta accept it! I've been fighting this for a year now! I can't do it any longer! I can't keep lying to myself!...

"And....and I want you to be honest with me. If you don't want to hang around me anymore, I'll understand. People are gonna talk! I don't want you getting shit-on because of me!"

Ethan reached out and held his arm. His expression was serious, questioning.

"...No!....Even if I'm not gay! I can't do that!..."

He gazed down into the dark hole before them.

"....I....I don't know if I'm gay, Rye!....I really don't know! It's umm....I've been going through things that the....well average gay boy doesn't go through! They say it's a thing that you....well, you always knew about! I didn't! In fact, it's just been the past few months that I've even been thinking about it! I didn't have think about this last summer. I never thought about girls, or boys, or dating or all that stuff. I was more excited about the next zombie movie coming out....or the next hottest video game! This shit was the farthest thing from my mind!......It's like it's all been kinda dumped on me in the past couple months."

They remained silent for a few more minutes. They twisted on the seat. They both sighed. Both knew the other was in thought.

Ethan suddenly threw his arm over Ryan's shoulders. He drew him close.

"Rye!....I'm not gonna lie to you! That kiss at Tim's....That last one. Oh wow! Rye! That was HOT!......I'm not lying!....I....I really liked that! I was a hundred times better than any of Heidi's kisses!....Well, not that we kissed all that much...

"And I can look at her today. I can see she's a cute girl! If I was gay, could I do that?"

"...Well, I know I'm gay and I can see lots of cute girls!......I just don't feel like.... doin' anything with them!"

Ryan drew out a bag of candy from his large coat pocket.

"...What's that?"

"Awh!....Gummy candy! Spearmint leaves......I brought this along in case we needed a sugar boost if we got cold."

He opened the bag.

"Here. We might as well eat 'em!..."

They munched on the candy as they looked around. Their eyes were adjusting to the darker interior. Ethan could see solid construction inside, yet the door seemed flimsy, ill-fitting and out of place.

"Oh gee! I don't know what to say here......I'm gay....I'm gay....I really wish I'd know if I was gay!"

He began scratching at his right thigh again.

"...Umm....Rye....I....I think I wanna kiss you again..."


"...Umm....Wait a minute here...

"Oh shit, I don't know how to word this...

"I'm really being truthful here......That kiss at Tim's....Wow! That was hot!...

"I...umm....Oh gee, I really hate to use this word...

"I kinda really want to kiss you....but....What if I find out I'm not gay? Oh! I wouldn't wanna drop you, you know?...

"Umm....If this doesn't work out....I don't want you thinking I've been leading you on or anything. And I sure wouldn't want you to think I was like dumping you...

"The word I really don't wanna use is......experimenting."


"Well shit, Rye....I make it sound like you're some kind of....of laboratory rat or something! It's just I'm not all that sure of myself."

"Well I sure don't feel like some experiment!....If you find out you're straight, it's not your fault!......Hell! If you're GAY, that's not your FAULT either!"

"Yeah! Yeah! I know about all that. It's just that I don't know one way or the other!...

"I'm umm....just wondering if it might be exciting because it's so....exciting!"

"Hee, hee....What?"

"OH!....I don't know how to explain it! I....I think I just need some more experience at this. I mean in order to know which way I'm going!"

He suddenly stopped talking and looked seriously into Ryan's eyes.

"Oh shit!....Is he a little DOLL!"

"...Rye....When I look at you lately......I almost WANT to be gay!"

He threw his arm around Ryan's neck and pulled him close. He kissed him deeply.

Tom was still towing Matt and Tim around on the snowmobile. He pulled sharp turns and cast them off into the shallow snowdrifts nearby. Jenny skated up to them. She switched the engine off on the machine.

"Tommy, that's enough!....Now I know you aren't being mean, but this could get dangerous. That's enough."

It was here a loud engine noise could be heard in the distance. An old primer-coated car was making its way toward them. Blue smoke came out from under it, curling up behind. Tom studied the car.

"Oh gee! I don't think Josh even has an exhaust system on that tank!"

As it neared, the engine shut off. It made a sharp left turn as the tires locked-up. It spun in three complete circles, stopping only a short distance away. Josh and Zack jumped out.

"So where are the girls?" Jenny asked.

"HA!" Josh yelled out.

"Oh, don't tell me they're still scared of falling through the ice!"

"Nah!....It's my driving that makes 'em nervous."

He held out his arms and turned in a circle.

"Like what's to crash into out here!...

"Hey, you know me....I don't race around on the streets....Hot rod!

"I came out here the first winter I got my license. I wanted to kinda practice driving on ice 'n snow. You know....kinda get used to steering 'n braking."

He shrugged with a smile.

"...Well, I found out it could be FUN!...

"Well, the girls are at the coffee shop. They said they're going to wait until we kill ourselves and then they'll walk home! Hee, hee."

Tom sat back on the snowmobile and indicated the rope.

"Hang onto that....And I'll take YOU for a ride!"

Jenny slapped her arms to her sides.

"Oh you guys are such....such idiots! It won't be funny when someone gets hurt!"

"Jen! I'm only doing like five miles an hour here....not ninety!"

For the next hour they took turns being towed. They continued to laugh and be silly. Tim stood up after another launch into a drift. He tried to dust himself off as he laughed. Matt walked up to him and pointed down.

"...You already forgot you're out on the lake, didn't you?!"

Tim suddenly stopped laughing and looked down at the ice.

"Shit!....I DID! I really forgot about that!"

Matt pointed a finger at him.

"Told you!"

"Oh gee, Matty....Is it me, or is it getting darker out?"

"Oh shit, yeah!....It is! What time is it?"

Tim opened his phone.

"Well, we won't be late, but we'd better start hikin' back."

"You don't have to hike back," Josh put in, "Hop in! We'll give you a ride..."

He walked around to the driver's door and looked at them over the top.

"It won't exactly be warm in here....heater's broke!"

He turned to Zack.

"Call the girls! Tell 'em we'll pick 'em up in fifteen minutes....after we drop Matt 'n Tim off."

Ryan was literally lying back in Ethan's arms. Both were panting.

"Oh shit, RYE!....We gotta stop!"

He placed his head back against the wall of the shelter.

"Oh! I'm so dizzy right now, I don't think I could stand up!"

"Hee, hee....Same here. Oh! This was great!"

"Oh RYE!....That was one hell-of-a make-out session!......I never did this before!

"I really liked it! Oh wow!....Yeah!....This was great!"

"Awh....I was hoping this would be a bit more comfortable for us. I was hoping that gas heater would be working out here!"

Ethan rocked his head back and forth against the wall.

"Rye!....The LAST thing we need in here is a heater!"

"Hee, hee..."

Ethan slowly leaned forward. Ryan anticipated another kiss, but it didn't happen. He felt Ethan draw his head to his shoulder, cradling it. His cheek pressed to his.

"Shit, Rye....This was umm....really hot, but........I....I almost feel something else there......I don't know what it is."

"Oh gee! I felt it too! I didn't wanna say anything....I thought it was just me..."

Ayumi heard the boys enter the utility room from the garage. She quickly got to her feet and started for the door.

"I want those boys getting out of their wet clothes out there!"

She opened the inside door and stared at them. Snow and ice covered the front of their parkas and jeans. The legs of their jeans appeared stiff, the dark areas indeed frozen. The chest areas of their parkas held a frost from their breathing. They stomped their feet and breathed on their fingers.

"You two look FROZEN! You're clothes are frozen!.......Timmy!....your....your HAIR has....has icicles hanging from it!"

"Mom!....Our toes 'n fingers are a bit numb, but we're not freezing!"

"Oh dear!....Both of you get out of those wet clothes right now....And I mean down to your underwear! I'll get you both a bathrobe."

They entered the kitchen minutes later.

"Timmy! MY STARS!....Water ran down your hair and froze on!"

He ran his fingers down his hair and indeed felt the ice. Ayumi placed a towel over his damp shoulders. She reached for their wrists and looked at their fingers.

"Mom!....We aren't dying here!....We had fun!"

They made their way to the nook and sat. Clara slid mugs of hot chocolate before them. They grabbed the mugs in both hands, warming their fingers.

"Timmy! When I said you had to acclimate yourself to this weather, this isn't exactly what I had in mind."

"We had fun!....We're chilly, but we're not freezing!"

Within the next hour, the boys had showered and wore sweats. They sat at the nook eating the stew which was now ready. Clara placed small bowls beside their main dishes.

"This is the end of that chilli we had. You eat this up!"

"Gram!....We're okay!"

He looked at Matt.

"...Tired...but okay."

Matt nodded weakly.

"Oh yeah. I'm feeling it already after that hot shower!"

Ethan and Ryan had begun their walk back home. They spoke little to each other. They gave each other glances, but they were no longer light and frivolous. Ryan could see Ethan glance down along the walk. His expression was one of serious thought. He appeared distant and detached. Ryan reached out and touched his back.

"...Umm....That was all my idea. The ice shanty? Don't feel bad, huh? I won't do something like that again..."

"No Rye!......That's not it!"

He reached out for Ryan's wrist.

"If I could be sure nobody was looking right now, I'd grab you and kiss you right here in the open!"

He glanced down again. Ryan understood he was thinking.

" can I be enjoying all this and still have such doubts? It's not something I always knew! It was kind of sudden. I never THOUGHT about any of this before!"

"...Think you're bi?..."

"No! That's not it either! I thought about that too."

They walked another short distance before Ethan continued.

"Umm....It's getting kinda late, but would you mind stopping over at my house for a bit?"

Ryan held his arms out.

"Well, it's not like I've got to get right home. Dad's out of town on business. Mom is looking after Gram at her place...

"Oh shit!......I feel so bad for Gram. I don't think she has much longer to go. She's not like in pain or suffering or anything like that....She's just so confused all the time. I don't even like visiting her anymore....She doesn't even know who I am!"

"Oh gee, Alzheimer's?..."

"...Well, I guess it isn't quite that bad, but she's really getting confused lately."

"My parents won't be home 'til late. They're working long hours but they don't complain. They say they're just happy to have jobs...

"I was thinking if you could get on the Net with me......Help me figure all this out. I was kinda thinking about the GSA at school, but I'm kinda scared 'n shy about going in there."

Ryan thought about this for a moment.

"...Well, I don't know if they can really help. It's more for umm, the school and community. It has more to do with tolerance than just being gay....or wondering if you are."


Tim jumped at the nook.

"Oh, Matty! Let's not have this again!"

"Hee, hee, hee....Nah! I'm kinda fighting it too! Wow, that was some day, huh?...

"I told you, you'd forget about even being out there. After awhile, you don't even realize you're out on ice."

"Well, did you get any pictures out there?" Ayumi asked Tim.

"Oh yeah!....Oh yeah!" he said, becoming excited.

He went for the utility room and returned with the camera.

"I'd have got lots more but the cold got to it. I kept getting a low battery signal."

Ayumi stepped through the previews on the tiny screen.

"You two are being dragged by a snowmobile?!"

"Jenny took those. And we aren't being....dragged!.........We're....we're being launched!"

"Oh! This could be soooo dangerous!"

"MOM!....Tobogganing is more dangerous! There aren't any trees to crash into out there. There's nothing to crash into! It's all smooth 'n flat. Tom was kinda snapping us off into the drifts. It was fun! And he wasn't going very fast either."

She suddenly grinned.

"I want to send some of these back to California."

Ethan and Ryan sat before the computer in Ethan's room. Ethan studied his face.

"Oh gee, Ryan's so sweet. Oh! Those green eyes! It's just if this is some kind of....of experiment, I could end up hurting him! Oh gee!....Even if I found out I was straight, that would hurt me too!"

He hadn't noticed he was rubbing Ryan's back. Ryan turned to him.

"Cut it out!"

Ethan drew his hand back.

"No!....I didn't mean touching me......It's your....your cow eyes! I hate seeing you like that. You look too serious....too sad."

"Well shit, Rye!......What if I find out I'm straight? Where does that leave you? I don't wanna hurt you....I don't wanna hurt anybody!"

He dropped his head onto the desk.

"Oh gee!....I'm just so confused lately."

Ryan rapidly clicked over the screen.

"I'm taking you to a site here......It's not exactly about bein' gay. What I think it is, you might be bi."

Ethan raised his head.

"Well, wouldn't I know that?! Wouldn't I kinda like be able to tell?...

"When you asked me for that kiss....over at Tim's. Remember I told you I didn't want you telling anyone....or that it didn't mean I was gay?......Umm....I think I was saying that more to myself rather than you. I don't know. I'm scared okay?"

"Oh! Do you think you'd get kicked out 'er somethin'?"

"No!....Never! Umm....I don't exactly think my parents would like it....but I don't think they'd go nutso! I've heard 'em talking about gay marriage 'n stuff. They say it's just hate politics! People out there are getting rich from hate! I don't think even they long as the donations keep rolling in. And lots of 'em are like churches or some kind of religious organizations. They get around paying taxes!"

Ethan took Ryan's hand into his. His serious expression caused Ryan chills. He interlocked fingers with him.

"Oh shit, Rye!....I don't ever....ever wanna hurt you!"

He drew their hands up to his mouth and kissed Ryan's fingers.

"Yup!" Ayumi was saying, "...we were thinking about a boarding school ourselves. I really didn't want to say anything to you boys....get your hopes up. Oh! It's just so frustrating at times!...

"We checked out near the river where you swim."

"Oh gee," Matt put in, "I heard that was an insane asylum at one time!"

Ayumi gave him a dead-pan expression.

"It WAS!"

She reflected for a moment.

"Oh....It just needs too much work...

"Then we checked the old firehouse. It's still in fairly good shape, but way too small! There's only room enough for about twenty or twenty-five students.

"We even checked into some religious retreat way out. Oh dear! The roofs have caved in on nearly every building. The only good part would be the land. We'd have to demolish all the buildings."

The phone rang and Ayumi went for it.

"Hello?......Oh dear!....I'm on my way!"

She passed into the dining room and went for her coat. Passing back through the kitchen, she went for the garage.

"...There's been a bus accident....roll-over! Don't wait up for me!"

She quickly passed out into the garage.

"Well, now you boys go get some sleep now," Clara put in.

"I can see the both of you nodding off here......My stars! You must have had quite a day! I've never seen either of you falling asleep while you're eating! Yet I'm so pleased you're getting out, Timmy. And it seems like every time you come back, you've got more friends to talk about."

"Well, they aren't actually friends Gram. We just kinda know them from around school. They're cool.......Umm....They know about us, Gram."

"...Ohhhh that pleases me so. Yes, I believe your generation is going to be much more tolerant with all this."

Tim and Matt rose and began gathering things from the table.

"Now you boys get!....I'll take care of all this!"

"Gram! Me 'n Matty aren't going to leave you up here with this disaster area!"

"Oh Timmy! It's the remains of supper! It's not a disaster area! I can run these things to the ice box and wash a few plates and glasses!"

"NO!....We're going to help! Just let us put this stuff up and get things to the sink. You can take over from there!"

Ethan and Ryan had made their way to the floor. They rested their backs against the bed.

"...Rye......I still say I'd know if I'm gay or bi...

"Well, I didn't exactly know myself! I don't think I was like lots of the others. You know....the ones who say they always knew. I think this just kinda, well, kicked in about a year ago."

Ethan rested his head on Ryan's shoulder. Ryan tilted his head toward it.

Matt was organizing the game controllers and remotes on the old coffee table in the family room. Tim came down the stairs with his large sleeping bag in his arms.

"Well, it's not exactly warm, but it's fresh from the dryer! And I tossed in one of your favorite fabric softener sheets!"

Matt settled back on the couch with a reflecting expression.

"I'll never forget the first time I smelled that. Mr. Emerson was talking to us. At first I didn't even know where it was coming from!......All I could think of was that you even smelled cute!"

Tim blushed slightly as he rolled out the bag on the floor. He dropped into it.

"Oh gee! It's only eight and I'm beat. We had quite a day today."

He thought for a moment.

"Yeah, you're right. I was kinda nervous about walking out there. But it's like you say......After awhile you kind of forget you're even on ice."

Matt crawled beside him.

"Okay now......We gotta keep awake for just fifteen minutes."

They crawled into the bag.

"Oh Matty....I don't think I'm gonna last five minutes!"

Ethan stretched out in his bed. It was nine o'clock. His digital clock cast a weak blue-green light through the room.

"Yeah!....Nine o'clock! Nine o'clock and I'm in bed already! Oh yeah, shurrr I'm gonna go to sleep now...

"Oh I'm just soooo confused. I'm gay....I'm gay....Am I gay? I was kissin' Ryan today! And it was like a hundred times! And I liked it!....Oh gee, was that HOT!...... Well, umm....until the end there. We kinda started umm, calming down a bit. I had this sorta feeling still! It wasn' anymore. I just felt this sorta....close feeling. I just wanted to hold him so close to me. Oh shit! We had those bulky jackets on. I wish we could find a nice warm place to go in the winter.

"This summer......What could we do this summer? There will be all kinds of places we could go. The park! Oh gee, there's all kinds of people out there. Maybe we could sorta find a nice little place hidden away. We could go swimmin'! But not the pool....Maybe the lake or river. Yeah! We could find some kind of private place out there somewhere.

"Oh gee......I'm wondering if I'm gay and I lay here thinking of finding places where me 'n Rye can go hide 'n kiss some more! Why did this sorta just hit me all at once? I....I never even thought about any of this before!"

Matt held to Tim's chest. Tim had drawn his arms around his neck and had fallen asleep in nearly a single minute.

"Gee....I think Gram's right. Timmy doesn't feel quite so....thin anymore. I remember it wasn't that long ago I could kinda fit my fingers right between his ribs. He doesn't have those little....dents that my fingers fit into. And he feels a bit....wider! Hee, hee....That makes it sound like I'm sayin' he's fat."

He ran his hands down over his waist and hips.

"Yeah....He's definitely filling out. His hips aren't quite so....bony anymore...

"Oh gee....I just keep fighting with keeping awake here. Oh I hate falling asleep so quick. Oh!......I'm just going to give up! I can't do it any longer. We sure got lots of fresh air and exercise today."

Ethan heard the light switch in the hall. He noticed light come through the opening beneath the door.


"I'm in bed Mom!"

The door opened as his mother walked in. She switched on the lamp on his nightstand. She was a younger woman with shoulder length auburn hair. She still wore her light green sales-jacket from the local drugstore.

"Are you feeling okay, hon?" she asked, touching his forehead with the back of her fingers.

"...Well, umm....I'm not sick Mom....I'm....I'm just thinking about a lot of things."

She sat on the edge of his bed.

"...Well, you're growing up Ethan....I think we all reach a certain age and we think about things more. We find that life is a bit more....well, complicated than we used to think. You're at that age where you're going through lots of changes."

Ethan gazed at the ceiling.

"...Mom....what would you think if I......Would you be mad if I thought I!"

"Oh Honey, never!......It's just I don't think you should worry yourself about that right now."

She looked down at the floor as she placed her palms between her knees.

"...When I was your age....Well, even a year younger. There was this girl in school. We went to the same school as you, right here. I was thirteen. This other girl was seventeen......Oh dear I thought that was so mature. My! She was this willowy blonde. Tall!....Not skinny....Not fat....Very well proportioned. I was just all loopy for her......Yes I mean girlfriend here! Oh! She didn't know I was alive. And I was just too shy and scared to say anything to her. I wanted to be just like her. I wanted to go out with her......Yes Ethan......Just like a date! I thought for sure I was in love! I....I was just obsessed with her...

"Well summer vacation came around and a bunch of us girls went out to the pool. And over the next month......I discovered BOYS! And from that point on, I was boy crazy!...

"You're getting older Ethan. Your....your glands are just pumping all kinds of hormones 'n chemicals into you right now. It'll take a year or so before everything kinda settles down and you reach a kind of equilibrium. I wouldn't worry about any of these feeling you might have right now. It happens to lots of boys your age....well, girls too."

She turned and drew the covers to his shoulders.

"And don't worry yourself about possibly being gay. We'll love you every bit as much. You're young. Your changing. You're becoming a bit more serious about life. We all went though this. Enjoy just being a little boy for a few more years. Everything will work out."

It was two weeks later as Matt and Tim entered the kitchen with Ayumi and Ken. They had just left the airport to see Matt's parents off. Matt sat at the nook. Ayumi studied him for a moment.

"...Feeling poorly, Matt."

"...Mmm....well, kinda....yeah...

"Well, not really umm....sad....I just feel bad for Dad kinda. He feels so bad that I'm gonna be sucha burden on you! He makes it sound like I'm gonna be costing you like, a hundred thousand dollars!"

Ken sat across from him.

"...Well, we've put his mind to rest on that. We told him if it's really that important to him......he can pay us in....installments......We'll put it aside for your college."

He quickly pointed a finger at him.

"...And don't you say a thing to him about that!"

He reflected for a moment.

"...Matty, I keep telling you....Ayumi and I are doing quite well. We could do lots more. We just aren't into that showy stuff! We had it rough through college. We know all about money....because we didn't have any. We sobered-up real quick. We had to mature. We had to take responsibility in life! Oh yeah!......We learned just as much outside of college."

He slouched back on the bench seat.

"When I was a little boy, I read where, when a mother bear knew her....well, kids were old enough to take care of themselves....She'd chase 'em up a tree and....and walk off. Those little things up there were so scared. Some would stay up there for days waiting for Mom to give them the okay signal. Oh gee! I....I thought that was just so mean! It isn't boys.

"Hee, hee....Well we'd never chase Tim up a tree and walk off! But we've made it very clear to him....It's sink or swim! We'll bail him out if he really needs it....but only ONCE! If he doesn't learn after that....hopefully he will sometime. It's rough out there boys, and we aren't going to be around here forever. Timmy knows we aren't being mean. You've got to be able to make it on your own out there. You little guys are just so mature for your age! We know you're both gonna make it!"

Tim slowly sat beside Matt. He threw his arm over his shoulders and drew him close.

"I know, Dad......Me 'n Matty talked about this lots! We don't need lots of stuff. We don't need a car. We don't really GO anywhere! Well, not far enough for a car anyhow...

"...We....we got each other! We don't need anything else!"

Ken reached up for Ayumi's hand.

"...Tim....That's just what your mother and I always said to each other....'We may not have a lot....but we've got each other.' We made it! And you will too! Gee! You and Matty are way ahead of others your age. You're way ahead of us when we were your age. You guys are gonna make it out there! I just know it! You're so mature. And I love to hear about you....talking....umm....discussing things. And you both read a lot. You don't sit and watch all those junk music shows on TV....You watch documentaries! Crime shows....Science shows! You say they're more interesting for you. I think even that is going to help you later in life. You two are just so curious about life. You question lots of things....and that's good!"

He seemed to sober a bit here in reflection.

"I had it rough boys. My ole man was mean! Oh! He had such an anger management problem. I....I really don't like to even talk about it! I....well, I wasn't all that mature at the time, but I had lots of motivation to get out! I got out and I learned. Bit by bit....I learned things. And I matured. I had to!"

He reached out and drew Ayumi close by her waist.

"I joke with your mom here, Timmy. I keep telling her it was her beauty that had me so enchanted. Well, that certainly was a big part of it. But it goes so much deeper than that. We could really identify with each other. And, believe it or not, boys....I can see lots of that with you two as well."

The boys glanced down and blushed slightly.

Ayumi slapped her palms to the table.

"Okay, Matt! There was a reason we left a bit early for the airport. Well, we did want a small lunch there and sort of see your parents off...

"A couple of your father's friends came by while we were gone. Gram let them in. Now it's off to the family room!"

They gathered in the center of the room. In the corner, near the small furnace room were two dressers, a small desk and Matt's bed set up.

"Wow! Neat!"

Ayumi sat on the edge of the bed and looked around.

"Oh MATT!....I feel soooo bad about not having an extra room for you upstairs. I feel like we're....we're locking you up a damp, dark dungeon!"

Matt walked around. He began glancing over the room as though it were the first time he'd seen it. He held his thumb and finger to his chin.

"...Mmm....Plasma screen TV....Cable....Video games....Hundreds of movies! Oh! I don't know how I'll survive down here! I'm already goin' stir crazy!"

They all laughed.

Matt held his arms out.

"Do you have any idea how many kids at school would cut off an arm to have a room like this?! Wow!....This is great!"

Ayumi rubbed her thighs in a moment of thought.

"Oh Matt....Tim....We ahhh....don't mind you two being....together. It's just you're still in school. As we say, we won't mind Friday and Saturday nights, but whenever there's school the next day......You'll be in your own beds! You're both great students, but we don't want you rushing through your homework just so you can....get together..."

"We understand that, Mom," Tim put in seriously.

"...And....Oh!" Ayumi said, standing up.

She made her way to the opposite wall. She plugged in a cord which seemed to come from a plastic picture frame on the wall. It lit up with large, fluorescent-blue digits.

"A CLOCK!......You always say you need to know what time it is when you wake up during the night. Well, don't feel bad, I'm the same way......And I can't explain it either!"

"Wow!....This is going to be just great!"

Later that afternoon, the boys had decided to go out to the river again. They decided not to take their usual summer path as there was deep snow. Matt had led the way along the highway until they encountered the service road. Here too they became mired to their waists.

"Oh Matty!....We'll never make it out there this way either. We'll need snow shoes!"

"You're right. Oh well, we tried."

They started back to the highway. Across the highway was an old abandoned filling station. Even the pumps had been removed. Beyond this was a large park area, surrounded by a heavy iron fence. It was tall. Tim thought the individual iron rods appeared as tough they were long spears with broad tips.

"What's that back there?....A park?....cemetery?"

"That's the hospital your mother was looking at."

Just as Matt had spoken, Tim had noticed the large building in the background. It was an imposing, frightening appearing structure.

"Oh gee, it looks like one of those old spooky mansions from some murder mystery."

They made their way across the highway and looked through the rods of the fence.

"As scared as I'd be," Tim put in, "I'd almost like to go in there and look around."

"Well, I don't think we're supposed to be in there. The front drive is awful long too. I know a way around to the back. There's just a chain-link fence back there. Maybe we could climb it."

They followed what Tim understood to be a plowed, dirt forestry road. They reached the fence quickly. The building was only a short distance from there. A small back door was ajar. A drift had formed within.

Both boys climbed the chain-link fence with ease and dropped to the deep snow. They made their way inside.

The room appeared to have been a kitchen. Capped pipes protruded from the walls where no doubt gas ranges or ovens had been. A large metal hood hung over the empty spaces. It was obvious their fans had long since been removed. Heavy wooden islands were still bolted to the floors. Along the walls cabinets had doors hanging from them, some missing.

Their feet echoed as they made their way into what had been a dining area. Here, large stainless steel tables were still bolted to the floor, along with benches and stools.

"Oh shit! It looks like a prison!" Tim said, glancing around.

"Well, way back then, I think these places were worse than prisons. Patients didn't really have any rights! I think lots of 'em were treated really nasty."

They made their way down a long corridor. The windows here consisted of thick glass blocks with a rippled texture cast into them. They allowed only a defused light to enter. The green tiled floor had a checkerboard pattern to it. Along one wall a broken wheelchair lay on its side. It consisted mostly of wood, rather than metal tubing.

A bit farther along was an old metal medical stand. Only one of its casters remained. The surface was porcelain with many chipped areas. Wooden crutches and canes were scattered about, nearly decomposed.

"Oh shit! Oh shit!....This place gives me the creeps, Matty!"

They turned into what had once been a bathroom. The communal sink was a long metal trough which seemed more suited for watering farm animals. The porcelain fixtures were all missing, only drain holes were seen in the floor.

They proceeded down the corridor further and noticed a set of double doors at the end. They cautiously pushed against them. It was most obvious to them this had been an operating room. Decades old light fixtures hung from the ceiling here. A narrow metal operating table was tilted on a central pedestal. The paint was peeling from the walls. Chunks of plaster from the ceiling littered the floor.

"Oh shit, Matty! I wonder what they needed this for!"

Matt looked at Tim. He gave him an evil grin as he raised his shoulders into a mock hunchback. He rubbed his hands in a sinister manner as he attempted a German accent.

"Ahh!....Diss iss vare vee take dah patients for dare lobotomies! Mua,ha,ha,ha!"

"Oh shit Matty! Cut that out!......This place really gives me the heebie-jeebies!"

"Hee, hee, hee."

Tim turned out into the corridor again.

"Not funny, Matty! They really did that shit back then! They'd take different parts of people's brains out to control their behavior! They'd drill holes in your skull, or go through your eye socket! Oh gee! Talk about concentration camp surgery!"

Matt playfully clawed at Tim's head.

"Ahh!....Brains!....I must feed on brains!"

"Cut that shit out, huh?!"

Tim gazed down the debris strewn corridor. Graffiti had been spray painted on the walls. There seemed to be a stench of decay in the air. He held his arms out.

"Oh GEE!....They wanted to turn this into a....a boarding school?! The kids would have nightmares in here!"

They walked along slowly. Their feet occasionally crunched on a piece of glass or plaster. They looked into another narrow room. Here were black marble-top tables. They were still covered with flasks and test tubes in decaying wood racks. Notebooks lay open, their yellowed pages dry and cracked.

"Oh shit!....Don't even touch anything in here Matty! There's no tellin' what's in these things!"

Matt pretended to adjust an imaginary microscope on a table.

"Oh jah!....Diss tissue sample iss PAR-fect! I vill remove dah brain from Timmy unt poot it in dah monster!"

"Oh shit!....That DID IT!....I'm OUTTA HERE!"

Tim began a fast pace down the corridor. Matt caught up with him.

"Hee, hee, hee....You're really scared, aren't you."

"I really wanted to come in here and look around. I was curious. But right now all I wanna do is GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE!"

Matt looked over his shoulder. He suddenly grabbed Tim's arm.

"Timmy! ZOMBIES!....There's hundreds of 'em!"

"Oh shit!....Oh shit!"

Tim broke into a run for the kitchen and out the door.

A week later Matt sat on a table in the lunch room. They had completed their GSA meeting. Mr. Heath, his English teacher, who was their sponsor, was in the front of the room, casually discussing his suggestion of the organization donating time to the community.

"I'm proud to say're idea has picked up some ears!...

"As you all know....this winter's blizzards have been the worst in some hundred years! The city has kept up with the snow quite well....but....Have you people noticed our fire hydrants?......Probably not!......They're buried! Some are under six feet of snow! From the plows! They need someone to dig them out...

"We've got quite a group here and other school clubs want in on it too. The drama club has suggested we all meet at city hall this Saturday. I'm sure you all have access to a shovel!......I'm not talking snow shovels here. We need regular shovels to dig with. This snow is from the plows! It's heavy and it's hard packed..."

He continued on explaining how each individual group would be assigned a section in the town. They'd be given a wooden gauge to be sure each hydrant would have the correct distance from the snow for proper attachment of hoses.

"Let's sure hope we don't even need these this winter! It's just this is becoming quite a fire hazard if they were ever required in a hurry. The fire department just doesn't have the manpower for something like this."

They all agreed to the gathering and admitted it may even be fun for them all.

After everything was settled, they went for a table along the kitchen window. Mr. Heath spread out his hands over the table.

"I picked these up this Monday....Very cheap!......Watch your teeth! These are Christmas cookies. I'd suggest you dunk 'em in your hot chocolate!"

Students gathered in small groups and talked as they munched the cookies. Matt was gazing at a small metal bowl which had contained Christmas candies someone had donated. Already it was empty. He decided to become silly and placed the bowl on Tim's head. He took up his shoulders again in his "hunchback" position. He rubbed his hands together.

"Oh!....Jah!....Now it iss time for der electro-zhiock therapy! Vee apply der voltage to der brain!"

"MATTY! Will you knock it off?!......You've been acting really weird ever since we got outta that NUT HOUSE!"

They suddenly noticed every head in the room turn their way. Tim slapped his hands over his face.

"Oh shit!....I don't believe I JUST SAID THAT!"

Matt held his finger up.

"...Umm....hee, hee....I can explain this Mr. Heath."

Matt gave a quick humorous account of their visit to the abandoned mental hospital. They all laughed at his story and returned to what they had been doing. Mr. Heath sat before two seemingly shy, frightened boys at a distant table. It was growing dark and only a single row of lights were on in the lunch room. Matt squinted his eyes.

"Hey, is that Ethan 'n Ryan?"

Tim glanced into the dark corner.

"Yeah! I think it is!......I never even saw them come in! I would have at least greeted 'em and made 'em feel a little more relaxed."

"I never saw 'em either! But shit! Look at this place! There must be fifty kids in here! It was sure good of Principal Emerson to open the lunch room. Where would we put all these kids?!"

Although Mr. Heath was talking with the boys, he glanced about the room from time to time. He had a pleased smile.

Little Tory ran her wheelchair around with a tray of cookies and drinks, stopping at each group. They helped themselves, yet none forgot to give her a small hug and talk to her a moment.

Paul made his way around on his crutches. He grabbed up used paper napkins and ran a cloth over the tables catching crumbs in a paper plate.

Minutes later Mr. Heath approached Matt and Tim.

"...I'm not supposed to open the kitchen here but we'll need a trash can......And if you'd just kind of rinse off these few plates and serving trays?"

"Sure thing!"

Matt rinsed the last tray in the large stainless steel sink. Tim eyed a single cookie on a paper plate.

"Hey Matty, want this last cookie before I throw this out?"

"Nah, you can have it," he replied, drying his hands on a towel.

Tossing the towel aside he drew up behind him and began clawing at his head.

"...Don't want cookie," he growled, "Want brains!....Want to feast on delicious brains!"

They noticed Mr. Heath standing in the doorway.

"Oh gee!" Matt nearly yelled, covering his face with his hands.

Mr. Heath slid the plastic trash container into its place. He shook his finger at Matt.

"I don't think it's Tim that's in need of electroshock therapy!"

They all laughed as they made their way out.

It was mid-morning as Matt and Tim worked steady at their third fire hydrant. The day had been cold but they were pleased there had been no wind. They found the exercise was sufficient to keep warm.

Matt and Tim worked from the sidewalk. On the other side of them were Ethan and Ryan. Neither pair could see the other for the huge snowbank.

"Hey you guys," Tim shouted out, "You put out that traffic cone, didn't you?"

"Oh yeah. Cars are going way around us," Ryan put in, "...And we're wearing our orange vests."

"Good. Just be careful stepping back onto the street. I don't think anyone can see us in here!"

They shoveled along in silence for awhile.

"," Matt began, "As we were saying......We saw you at the meeting. We were going to greet you, but we noticed Mr. Heath talking with you. We didn't wanna....umm....interrupt anything going on."

"Oh, that was nothing," Ethan put in quickly, "I realize that the GSA is more for tolerance than anything else. We just had to go in there......Well I did anyhow...

"...I....umm kinda told my mom about all these....feelings I've been having."

"Oh shit!" Tim replied. It had been a shout and a gasp combined.

"...Well, she didn't really say a lot about it......I think she thinks it's a stage or some kind of a phase I'm going through......And....well, I couldn't really say anything about it. I don't really understand it myself! Everyone I talk to....well the gay boys.... They all kinda say the same thing......They somehow always knew!

"...I can't say that about myself!......I never even thought about it!"

Tim stood up and paused for a moment with a smile.


"Well, umm....that's what my counselor said too. Mr. Heath brought me in there yesterday. Well....umm....even she said there isn't much she can do about it. She's there more for guidance than anything else......You know....Kinda make suggestions about what classes I need every year and stuff like that. She said she's no psychologist! Well, I can kinda understand that. So now she wants me to see the psychologist. I'll have to wait on that. I guess she's only there one day out of the month! And I think the school has trouble paying for that!"

"Scared?" Matt asked.

"...Well, no!....Not really. I think my parents will be okay about that. I mean I've never really heard 'em talking about gay rights as such......But they sure are against all these people fighting against gay marriage! Well, they aren't exactly out there fighting for anything. They think it should be legal. They say it sure isn't going to affect the sanctity of their marriage!"

Tim thoughtfully dug into the hard packed, frozen snow and tossed several more shovels of snow aside.

"...I was scared!" he put in rather loudly, "My parents have always been for gay rights......Well, they didn't exactly talk to me about it. They talked to each other....Even if I was right there in the room with them!......But I was still scared."

He paused for a moment, his foot on the edge of the shovel.

"...I think that had lots to do about myself too. I really didn't wanna be gay! I really didn't!......Matty knows all about this. We talked about it. I had kinda admitted it to myself....yet I didn't wanna think about it really deep!....Know?..."

"Oh yeah!....Same here," Ryan sounded out.

Matt suddenly dropped his shovel. He hugged Tim's neck.

"Ohhhhh....that first time I saw you walking down the hall in school. Oh wow! I was hoping! Wow! Was I hoping!"

"Matty! We're right out on the sidewalk here!"

Matt returned to his shovel, yet kept giving Tim glances. He looked in the direction of Ethan and Ryan, even thought he couldn't see them.

"Oh!" he shouted, "I couldn't stop lookin' at your CUTE LITTLE ROUND BUTT!"

"Matty! Will you keep it down?!"

Ethan and Ryan giggled. A shovel broke through, revealing Ryan's brilliant green eyes over the bank.

"Oh gee," he gasped, "I think it's cute too!"

Tim covered his face with his hands.

"Oh will you knock it off?!"

Matt suddenly caught a case of giggles.

"Oh!....Hee, hee, hee! Oh gee!....Oh gee!....I gotta PEE!...

"...Timmy, block my view! I gotta pee, really!"

Ethan and Ryan giggled as they heard Tim.

"Oh gee! He's meltin' a hole right into the side of the snowbank here!......It's steamin!"

Seconds later, although all they could see was Matt's head, they knew he'd returned to shoveling. He quickly tossed a shovelful of snow in their direction.

"Watch out for....YELLOW SNOW!"

"Oh geeeeee!....Matt!....You HOG!"

It was here they saw a large van draw up beside them. A bright yellow revolving light was on top. The side window slid open. Paul leaned on his crutches inside.

"You look like you could use a hot chocolate!" he yelled out.

It was here they noticed the van was a small concession stand. Tori wheeled her chair beside the window with a bright grin.

"Hey guys!....This is my uncle's van! He goes out to all the little fairs around here!....Antique car shows too! What do you need?! Everything's free for you diggers!"

As Paul handed out plastic foam cups of chocolate, Tori ran on excitedly.

"Oh wow, guys!....The local TV was downtown! They had their van 'n cameras 'n everything!......Wow! They were interviewing Mr. Heath!"

It was six o'clock that evening as Matt, Tim, Ayumi, Ken and Clara gathered in the living room before the TV. Within minutes they began to show a clip of the students digging out the city's hydrants. No mention was made of any of the clubs, nor was there any interview with Mr. Heath. The clip ended quickly and the subject went to other local news.

"Awh!....Bummer!" Tim shouted out, "...We get like a forty second clip!"

Minutes later they all sat at the kitchen table. Ayumi tried to be upbeat.

"Well!....This certainly is nice! We're all together for a change!"

Each began passing serving dishes and platters. They began eating, yet each noticed Matt looking down into his lap.

"What's up, Matty?" Ken asked.

Matt had a crestfallen expression as he drew up a section of the local paper.

"...There's an article here in the local paper about the school clubs diggin' out the fire hydrants!..."

"Well that's certainly nice."

"...Sure is....Let's see here....Drama club....Photography club....Archery club.... even Foreign Languages club! They could have at least listed the GSA!..."

He tossed the paper aside. He began eating, yet the others could see his depressed expression.

Ayumi decided to change the subject.

"...So Matt are you hearing from your parents much?"

"Oh yeah. Dad e-mails me at least once a week. He has a four-day weekend coming up in school. I guess him and Mom are going to do some sightseeing...

"Hee, hee I told him he can't go anywhere until his homework is done!"

They all laughed.

"...And I told him he has to scan his report card and send it to me!"

He grinned as he rubbed his hands together.

"...Ahhh yes! REVENGE!....Best served up COLD!"

Everyone laughed, yet Ayumi seemed to sober quickly.

"...Oh Matt......I sure hope you understand what we're doing here. We aren't trying to keep the two of you apart."

"Oh yeah, I understand all that. I know."

Matt woke early Sunday morning. He carefully slid from the sleeping bag on the floor of the family room. Although Ayumi had mentioned they shouldn't "sleep on that cold, damp floor," they felt more comfortable over it than one of their beds.

Tim had stirred a bit but hadn't seemed to wake.

Matt made his way upstairs. The sun was just rising, casting a brilliant pink over the heavy snowdrifts. He made his way into Tim's room and started up his computer.

An hour later Tim stirred and reached out for Matt.

"Awh!....Where is he?....He's....he's thinking again! I could tell last night. I....I can just sorta feel it when he's thinking about something...

"Oh! I gotta get up to the bathroom."

Matt's attention was drawn from his monitor as he heard the toilet flush. Tim entered the room.

"Matty!" he whispered forcefully, "What's goin' on in here?"

"Well, last night I was thinkin'..."

Tim dropped into his chair beside Matt. He dropped his fist onto the desk.

"...I knew it!....I knew it!"

"Just wait a minute here, will you?...

"I've been e-mailing everyone in the GSA. Umm....Sherry was the only one to answer me so far. I think she's the only one up yet!...

"I really feel bad we never got any credit for all that shoveling yesterday."

"...Yeah....I know, Matty....And I feel bad about it too....And that was really your idea to begin with."

"Well, I don't care about that! I just wanted to see the GSA get some credit!"

"Matty!....The GSA isn't a real school club."

"I know that! Is that any reason not to get some credit for doing something nice?! Shit!....On that six o'clock news nobody was really mentioned...

"...Umm....that article I was reading in the paper last night. They had another one right beside it. Well all this snow we got?......The town had to borrow money just for plowing this year! They're thinking about closing the park this summer! They say how many thousands of dollars the town could save...

"Okay....Yeah!....It's gotta be an expense. Just maintaining the playground has got to be expensive. And that's not mentioning all the lawn to mow! Well, it's not like there's really a big expense to the trails or that. That's untended area. It's supposed to look like that!...

"Umm....The little charcoal grills that are set up on posts in the picnic area? I think half of 'em are all rusted and burned out! The pond there has all sorts of soda cans and trash in it. Even the little stream there. That little footbridge that goes out to the trails....Well, it's not exactly rotting out, but it sure needs paint!..."

"What are you getting at Matty?"

"Well, I'm going to try to get the GSA together and see if they'll agree to help maintain and repair the park! But I wanna keep it quiet! I don't want someone else jumping in and taking any credit for it! This is going to be GSA all the way!"

The following week Matt and Tim entered the GSA meeting early. The lunch room was already full of students. Many were regulars at the meetings. Others attended only when their schedules allowed. Still others were new faces.

"Holy shit!" Matt whispered, "I was never expecting a crowd like this."

They joined Ethan and Ryan at a distant table.

"So guys," Tim began, "How's it going?"

They smiled and nodded shyly.

Tim was about to continue with small talk when he noticed Jim step up to the front of the room.

"...Umm....Can I have your attention here!"

The room quieted. Those standing quickly found seats.

"I realize our meetings don't start until five, but it sure looks like everyone's here already. In fact....I see quite a few new faces out there!"

He paced in both directions for a moment in thought.

"I guess you all heard of our meeting tonight. Well, this one's going to be a bit different than our routine meetings.

"...I think I'm starting to feel a bit like John did last year at this time...

"We sit around and discuss parents. We talk about the community..."

He resettled his glasses on his nose as he stepped up to the podium which had been placed there.

"We've really got a great school here. I mean the students! The GSA was brought in here for teaching tolerance to everyone. Well, the school here has made some fantastic strides in this. When is the last time any of you have heard of bullying? I think Jason's awful suicide kinda woke us up from all that."

He bowed his head, his hands gripping the podium.

"Oh gee!....A suicide right here in our little town....Well, they reported it as a traffic accident! I don't think they wanted anything negative associated with it."

He looked up again.

"When's the last time you heard Queer or Fag yelled out in the halls? When did you last hear, 'Oh! That's so gay!?'"

He paused, adjusting his sweater.

"Okay, maybe we're getting a bit too PC here....but the problem isn't HERE!"

He pointed toward the windows behind him.

"The problem is OUT THERE!......I don't know what it is. Maybe we're just getting a larger group here. We're becoming more visible! People are noticing us more."

He paced in thought again.

"I never thought I'd be saying this....but I'm dropping out of the church!"

He began to pace between the tables.

"Oh yeah! This past Sunday morning....when my family and I got home from church....Wow!....World War Three, people!"

He rushed back to the podium and held up what was obviously a church program.

"I'm sure you've all seen one of these!....You go into church and the usher hands you one of these."

He opened it up.

"There's a listing here....Prelude....Opening Prayer....And there's the hymns listed....the Bible readings....The sermon..."

He indicated a listing with his finger.

"Sermon...THE SANCTITY OF MARRIAGE! Did you hear that in capitals just as you can see it here? Oh yeah. Oh yeah!...

I....I really wish I had my battery recorder with me this last Sunday. A video would have been better but I'd settle for an audio recording of it...

"It had NOTHING TO DO with the sanctity of marriage! It was nothing but a....a malicious rant against homosexuality! And....and I could see our preacher sort of giving me these....these evil glances!"

He paced back and forth across the front of the room.

"Oh yeah!....He YELLED!....His face got red!....I was waiting for the horns to start growing out of his head! Oh!....What malicious HATRED came spewing out of that mouth of his!

"He knows I'm president of the GSA here! I admitted it many times. Flat out! And I'm sure not embarrassed about it."

He stood in place for a moment, lowering his hands into his pockets.

"Our preacher is on his THIRD MARRIAGE! Oh yeah! Oh yeah. And his first two wives didn't die....He got divorced.......twice!

"The sanctity of marriage! Fir shur!..."

He stood before the podium, nearly gripping at it. He looked up.

"Most all you people know me......You know I'm not one to argue with people. It just doesn't solve anything......Yet....I'm getting awful angry. How do you have a civilized, intelligent discussion with a bunch of Neanderthals?! It can't be done."

He leaned out over the podium, his face sad as he looked up.

"As you all know, I....I'm not even supposed to be here tonight. My parents want me out of the organization. I have no idea what's going to happen."

He held his hand out to the group.

"I don't think half of us in here are gay. We just simply want tolerance. Nobody says anything about the students here in wheelchairs or on crutches. They don't see the acceptance we want for everyone! All they see is we're 'Promoting the Gay Agenda,' or we're recruiting or teaching their sweet little angels into....into a 'decadent lifestyle'!"

He dropped his head for a moment in thought and straightened up.

"Above our church doorway is a simple gray granite stone arch. It doesn't have an outline of the tablets with the Commandments on it. There's no Christian Fish symbol....There isn't even a cross on it! It has brass letters embedded into it. It reads, "Welcome One and All." That's all it says!...

"Well, we were filing out of church this past Sunday.....You know, talking with each other....shaking the reverend's hand...

"He held out his hand to me....and I put my hands in my pockets. And I didn't do it casually....I did that body language thing! I made it very obvious I didn't want to shake hands with him!......And I told him I had a suggestion to make concerning that message above the door. I told him it should be lengthened a bit more....I made the suggestion it read, 'Welcome Thieves, Robbers, Prostitutes, Heathens, Pagans, Witches, Sorcerers, Child Molesters, Rapists and Sex Offenders....except Homosexuals!"

He seemed to have a slightly pleased smile here.

"...I....I just walked past him here and out the door!...

"I could just hear my mother....gasping there. I seriously think she was about to have a heart attack!"

He straightened up and paced a bit again.

"Umm....people....I have no idea what's going to happen when I get home tonight, but I'm quite sure they will do everything possible to make sure I'm not here next Thursday! There's nothing I can do about it!......Until I turn eighteen and become totally independent, I'm under their tyranny. As some of you kids say, power tripping! Oh they love it! I actually think my parents get high over all that Overlord crap! I think they really get some sick thrill over it."

He looked out over the group.

"You people will make it! You'll find a new leader for the group here. I hear Matt's been doing a rather good job. Keep spreading our message of love and acceptance. Things are going awful slow for us, but we're making progress bit by tiny bit. People are coming around. People are seeing this hate for what it really is...

"Well, enough bitchin' about my personal life...

"We've got things to discuss here tonight that will hopefully get us better PR....If not....hopefully it will get others more negative PR!...

He pointed to Matt.

"I'm sure you all read the 'e' that Matt sent out...

"Oh yeah! This little town is hurting! Things are really bad. They want to totally shut down the city park! They've already cut back on the library hours. Okay, I'm sure the Internet has affected that quite a bit too. Not as many people are going to the library as they used to...

"Down at the shopping center....TWO bookstores have gone out! Our local news paper is just holding on...

"The little kids petting zoo was in danger of going out. Okay, it's small animals.... sheep, goats, pigs, rabbits and the like. We don't have any elephants, hippos or lions to feed....yet even these little animals are quite an expense. Fortunately, several farms and agricultural groups said they'll take care of that..."

He paused and pointed to a tall blond girl. Her hair was down to her shoulders. She wore stylish clothing, yet a bit more conservative than the other female students.

"...Sherry here is going to major in psychology, but I'm sure you've all seen her artwork. I've asked her to contact the art department...

"I'm not very good at art. I don't understand aesthetics, landscaping, grounds-keeping, gardening and the like...

"Sherry here has gone to the art students to do some brainstorming over the park. We're willing to help maintain the park!....Oh we've already got all kinds of excuses! You kids need supervision! You can't run the power mowers! We have to consider liability! Our insurance may not cover you!...

"Oh, I can see some of it....but I believe lots of it is just flimsy excuses. We can use push mowers! We can use hand trimmers! The pavilions out there need paint or sealer or whatever they use. We can clean up the little stream and pond out there. Well, this is where Sherry comes in. Her and the art department have come up with lots of ideas. We've got to get out there and be even more visible! We need to show the community we're capable of positive input. We aren't deviants! We're just as capable as the rest at doing positive things for our community. We aren't out there seducing young people into that decedent homosexual lifestyle! We aren't promoting any AGENDA!...

"...So....Sherry?....Wanna show us what you've come up with?"

She took up a position in the front of the group. She mentioned the cleaning of the park, installing some flagstone walks in muddy areas and improving parking areas. She pointed out many other inexpensive improvements such as maintaining the tables and benches.

"...Okay, I'm sure you've all been out there at one time or another and saw the pond....You've seen the little artificial island out there with the fountain on top. It's nice. Yet we'd like to make it better!"

She returned to her seat as she continued talking.

"The art department came up with a beautiful idea. They were thinking of a bit more than a simple fountain."

She reached for a large scroll on the table and returned to the front. Unrolling the paper revealed a beautiful three-tier water fall. Everyone gasped.

"This is going to be made with natural rock. Rocks won't cost us anything. The only real expense we'll have is a bit of concrete, epoxy and sealer. And it's going to be very rough looking....very irregular! We want it to look natural not like it was built. We've got permission from Principal Emerson to build this in the school's garage! Hey, if we built this in the classroom, we'd never get it out the door!"

One boy near the front of the room spoke.

"Nice!....The garage!....And when we're done, we'll all carry it out to the park and set it in place......All THREE HUNDRED POUNDS of it!"

Sherry smiled at him.

"...All FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY pounds of it!" she corrected him.

There was a collective moan from everyone.

"Not to worry!" Sherry put in, "That's all been taken care of!...

"Umm....I'm going to be on the more artistic end of this. Tommy's going to explain the more mechanical parts next."

The room broke into cheers and light-hearted jeers as Tom made his way to the front of the room grasping a clipboard. There was a calculator in his shirt pocket, one attached to the clipboard and a long scientific calculator in a leather pouch from his belt.

"Tommy!....What's that brown thing on your hip?....Some kind of strange growth?"

He was used to the joking from the students. He was already studying college level circuit logic and mathematics. All the students admitted they envied him.

"Okay, okay!...

"I....umm....did some figuring on this....this waterfall!

"I'm sure you've all seen the fountain out there on the pond. Well it just won't do for a waterfall! There just isn't the volume necessary for a waterfall..."

He paused and glanced at Matt.

"Oh gee, Matty....I don't think you understand what kind of action your e-mail caused when you sent those out Sunday......Getting the GSA positive exposure!

"Well, without getting into all that......Sherry's ideas to the art students really took off. Lots of kids started looking around for stuff. Piping! An electric pump! We considered the electric supply.......routing the pipe...

"We need the pump next to the electric supply. This means about fifty feet of piping leading to the pond......And it has to be buried! Okay, not all that deep. It'll be empty in the winter so we don't have to worry about any freezing...

"Now one of my uncles is a plumbing contractor. He has all kinds of that plastic PVC piping laying around. Most of it is just scrap! He's willing to give it to us! The only thing is, there's no way of getting a backhoe into there! The trees are just too dense and the trails aren't nearly wide enough. The pipe trench will have to be dug by hand!...

"I was thinking we could all get out there sometime this summer....Early summer. Just after vacation starts. We could kinda make a little party out of it. We can grill burgers and that. Turn it into a little picnic. Lots of the girls are willing to do painting. We can clear all the trash up. We can wade into the stream and pull out all those soda cans and junk. We'd really like to put on a big production! Let people SEE us!

"Most of us here, have at least relatively accepting parents. In fact lots of them want to help! They want to help us be more visible to the community. They want to show the people in this town that....GAY KIDS aren't necessarily BAD! That they're capable of accomplishing good things in their community. They want us to have more exposure around here...

"Back when we were up there on second that little room....nobody said a whole lot. We were a small, quiet group. But we started this outreach program....And we're more into the public eye now. And I'll tell you, lots of people out there don't like it one bit!......Case in point.... Jimmy's preacher!......Oh yeah! We're going out to scour the town for RECRUITS!......We're going to pull them into our decadent lifestyle! We're going to teach them all kinds of nasty things! We've got to get out there and get rid of all these archaic ideas!..."

He slowly set his clipboard on the podium and paused in thought.

"...Umm......This is going to be a bit off topic here, but I just want to mention this."

He glanced around the room for several seconds.

"All you people here are great! There's no arguing the point...

"It's....just....Let's put forth an extra effort for more positive exposure here in town. Let's keep away from the drugs 'n alcohol. Let's not hot-rod our cars up 'n down the streets. I'm not saying to be serious about life that we can't have fun! We can have fun! Let's just stop and think before we do anything. Let's not do something that will reflect poorly on the GSA. People out there are just looking for excuses!

"All this volunteer work we want to do, is for a more positive view of our organization! Let's not give the town the tiniest excuse for thinking poorly of us. They're watching us!......And they can't find anything negative about us. So now they're going to make up stuff! You watch and see if I'm not right on calling this one."

He paused for a moment and picked up his clipboard again.

"...Okay, back to the subject at hand here......THE WATER PUMP!"

He held his clipboard over his head.

"I've got all the figures down on here. I could go over to the chalkboard there and write down all this stuff......Pipe length, pipe diameter, distance to be pumped, gallons per minute and coefficient of drag! I just know what's going to happen!"

He placed his hands on his hips, striking a somewhat feminine pose.

"...You're gonna BREAK MY BALLS!"

The room broke into laughter. Many noticed Mr. Heath had to hide his smile behind his hand.

"...I can't help it!....I'm a geek!....I....I was born this way!"

Again the room roared with laughter.

As things calmed down, Tom became more sober.

"...Seriously here, people....The water pump!....I calculate we'll need at least one and a half horsepower! That's not going to supply a city, but it's rather large and it'll be expensive. I'd just like all of you to kinda keep that in mind. We all can sort of scavenge around in our daily routine. If you notice something, kinda file it away in your memory. A well pump!....An old swimming pool pump. Don't forget, we've got the machine shop here, metal shop, welding, even the auto hobby shop! Even if it needs some repair, we may be able to get it running."

After their meeting, they gathered in groups of their own interest. Plans were made for contacting the proper authorities. One group considered simply painting, another discussed mowing and cleanup, another would be assisting the art department, yet another considered digging the trench needed for the waterfalls piping. Everyone became excited.

It was the following Monday after school. Jim stood in his counselor's office with Principal Emerson and several other students.

Principal Emerson's expression was glum. He paced several feet in all directions. He seemed in deep thought. He turned to Jim.

"...Jim......I've considered everything here. Our hands are tied. If your parents don't want you in the GSA, there's really nothing we can do about it."

Jim leaned up against the counselor's desk, holding his hand out.

"...I....I don't know what happened to my parents! I really don't! They didn't have any problem with it at first......In fact, they even encouraged me to help out!"

He stopped and thought deeply for a moment.

"...I still say it was that preacher that got 'em thinking. Oh gee! They....they are such....such CONFORMISTS! I don't think either one of them is capable of an independent thought! Go along with the crowd! Don't make waves! Do as you're told!"

Mr. Emerson sat on the edge of the desk and gazed at the counselor.

"So Frank, what have you come up with?....Any ideas?"

He shook his head.

"How I'd like to come up with something to help you out, Jim. But it's like Principal Emerson says....Our hands are tied. Your parents could cause lots of trouble over this. As much as I'd like to help....we can't take sides on this issue! The GSA really has nothing to do with the school. Now I'm talking in the legal context here. Personally I think it's done a great job with tolerance around here. And you people are really all inclusive! Lots of those students in there are doing so much better today. Their attendance is better. Their grades have improved. They don't feel so left out! They have friends now! I think it's just wonderful what you people are doing. It's just that we can't get involved in something like this."

Jim paced several steps back and forth, his fingers to his chin.

"...I was thinking......What if I could turn this into some kind of faux psychological problem?....Like a severe depression or something. I could start failing in classes. I could drop out of everything! I'm sure you'd be able to do something about that!"

The counselor settled back in his chair, his hands behind his head.

"Jim....You're a great student. Excellent!......And I'm sure with your knowledge, you'd be able to pull-off quite a convincing act. But I don't think that's a good idea."

He leaned forward and pushed a coffee mug out of his way. He reached for a ballpoint pen and began toying with it.

"...Jim......I'll use that old phrase we hear so much....'Don't cut off your nose to spite your face.' You don't want to endanger your own future. With your grades and performance here, you'll be a good candidate for nearly any college. Don't put your future in danger for something such as this...

"We can't over-ride your parent's wishes. Now on one hand, what the GSA is doing here is fine. We've noticed lots less bullying, less intolerance. We've even seen a good ninety percent drop in vandalism around here. I really think your message is getting out there...

"...Now on the other hand......You don't want you to destroy your future over something....Oh! I don't even like to say this....Something so trivial! Yet it is! You can really go places in the future. You've got a wonderful mind! Don't throw all that out just because your parents want you out of the GSA. I'm sure the students will survive. Oh yeah! You've been a great leader for them....A great example....Yet don't stir-up a hornet's nest over it. It's just not worth it!"

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