We walked downstairs and out into the yard. Rennie was in a lawn chair talking with Jimbo. They both looked up as we approached them in our bathing suits and sneakers. Tim had his hand on my shoulder. His father smiled, first to Tim, then to me. "Jim was just telling me about the quarry. It must be quite a thrill jumping from that high up. You boys be careful, now."
Tim dropped his hand to his side. I looked at him and there was a light sweat on his forehead even though it was a cool day. "Dad ... I, ah ... there's something you need to know before you go getting too happy. I don't have any idea what you're gonna think, so please let me finish before you say anything, okay?"
Jimbo seemed uncomfortable. "Do you want me to leave? Is this what I think it is?"
I grabbed a chair and pushed it up to Tim. He sat down, then I got one for myself. "I don't know what you think it is, Jim. You can stay. It's not a problem."
Tim's father looked concerned. "What is it, Tim? Are you alright? You're not sick or anything are you?"
"I'm not sick, I'm just scared of what you're gonna think. I love you, Dad. I really do, and everything I said before is true. I want you back in my life for good. It's my life, though, and I gotta live it the way I want. Um, do you know anybody that's ... I mean, do you have any friends that're gay?"
His father's eyebrows shot up. "Gay? I don't get it. Why would I have gay friends?"
Tim wet his lips. "I don't mean you should or shouldn't. I just thought you might."
Rennie's stare intensified. Suddenly Tim grabbed my hand. "Dad ... I love Dave and he loves me. We love each other. We're in love, Dad."
His father just stared. His face was devoid of any expression, though his lips were moving just a little.
"Dad? No response? Did you hear what I just said?"
Rennie leaned forward a little, but just continued to stare at Tim's face. He turned his gaze to me for a few seconds, then looked back at Tim. It looked like he was getting tears in his eyes, but he hadn't even blinked in a long time, so it might have been that. His silence continued as he stared at Tim, then a tear started down his face.
Finally, "Oh my God! Is this what I've done? It's my fault, isn't it? I was never there when you needed me and now you ... you're ... what? Oh, Timmy, I'm so sorry." He buried his face in his hands and started sobbing. "Oh, God. I wanted you back so bad, and now look what I've done. I'm sorry, Tim. I should just get the hell out of your life once and for all."
Timmy got agitated, "Dad? Dad! What the hell are you talking about? You didn't do anything! I just wanted you to know the truth and not hate me for it. It has nothing to do with you!"
Tim dropped my hand, then got up and went behind his father. He had tears in his eyes now, but he wrapped his arms around his father and put his chin on his head. "Don't go, Dad. I love you. I want you here. I need you with me. Just please don't blame yourself, and please don't hate me."
I just stared at the both of them. I'm pretty sure my mouth was open, but I didn't say anything.
His father's voice was small and quivering. "Hate you? Hate you? Who could ever hate you? I thought you were gone forever and now you're back. I really don't get this, and you're going to have to help me understand it, but I can only love you. Oh God, Timmy. How can I not blame myself? If I was there for you ..."
"I'd still love Davy, Dad. He's my other half. When you left I was worthless until I met Dave, then things were good. I was always in love with Dave, but I never told him and it was like I was lying to him every time we were together. I don't want to do that to you, so I'm telling you the truth right now. Dave went away for a long time, and I just fell apart again. I didn't have you or him and I was totally useless. When I saw Dave again, I finally told him the truth. It took us a long time, but we have everything pretty much worked out now."
"Son, I ..."
"Dad, this house is our safe place. Lots of people come around here and they all know about us, and they're okay with it. They encourage us, even. Davy's mother found out that we're in love last night. You're really about the last person to know. If you're here, you're gonna see us holding on to each other a lot. You might even see us kiss. This is the only place we can be ourselves, and I won't lose it. I love you Dad, and I want you. You just gotta understand that you're my father and Dave's my best friend. I love you both, but in different ways. It's not your fault, though. The only thing that's your fault is that I'm tall and smart and good lookin'."
That last line got a snorting little laugh out of Jimbo. "Sorry. You call that a fault?"
Rennie leaned his head way back until he was looking up at Tim. Tim looked down at him, then moved back to his chair with a questioning look on his face. He took my hand again, and we just swung them lazily between the chairs. "Are you gonna say something?" Tim asked his father.
"Are you gonna let me?" He smiled. "Tim, I don't pretend to understand this, and I need to learn a lot more than I know. Look, you're a smart kid, and I know this wasn't easy for you. It's not easy to hear, either, but if you give me some time I'll get used to it. All I know is that if you told me you were the Loch Ness Monster it wouldn't diminish my love for you, especially right now. You've made me so happy today that nothing else matters. Just knowing that you still care for me as your father is all the news I need."
"Really, Dad? This place is really quiet right now. It gets real crowded here sometimes, and you're gonna meet a lot of people. Every last one of them is worth knowing and I know you're gonna love 'em. They might seem crazy at first, but there isn't one of them that won't do the right thing for you. It's always fun, and from now on you and me can have fun with the rest of them, okay?"
"Together? Dammit, Tim, I can't think of the last time I thought anything was fun." He looked at me and smiled, then looked back at Tim. "What about Davy? Is he just shy?" He looked back at me. "Don't you like to have fun, Dave? You seem so quiet."
We all held back as long as we could, then just exploded in laughter. Tim was laughing so hard that tears were pouring from his eyes and snot was coming out of his nose. Rennie looked bewildered. "Did I say something funny?"
When Tim calmed down enough to speak he said, "No, Dad. It's just that we always tease Dave about being so bashful. What's funny is that you caught on so quick."
We all started laughing again. Tim's Dad still didn't get it. "Don't worry David. A lot of people are shy when they're kids. You'll grow out of it."
This got us howling again.
"Dad," Tim said, "there's been single hours when Dave's said more words than I've said in my whole life. That's why we're laughing. Believe me, he ain't usually like this. And don't stand too close, either. He even makes hand gestures when he's on the phone. You gotta watch out for those flying arms."
Jimbo was grinning. "Yeah, Dave's about as bashful as a loaded machine gun. Enjoy this while you can. When he decides you need to know something, well ... you're gonna know it down to the last dotted i and crossed t. How d'ya like us so far?"
Rennie laughed, "I do like you. I can be wrong about everything and everybody thinks it's fun. I like that. I get to live in a real home and have a chance for a real job again. My son wants me back in his life and wants me to know everything about him. I'd say I'm dreaming, but I haven't had a dream this good in a long, long time. David, I'm not sure what the truth about you is right now, but I can't wait to find out. Maybe I will go jump in the pond with you guys. I've been sitting on my butt feeling sorry for myself for way too long."
Tim was absolutely beaming. "I have another bathing suit in the car. Let's go!" They trotted off towards the car.
I got up out of my chair and turned, finding myself looking at Ken. "How long were you standin' there? Is this funny or what? Did you hear the stuff about bashful Dave?"
Ken grinned, "I heard it. Rennie's right. You should stop holdin' back all the time, Dave. Just say what's on your mind once in a while. If we don't wanna hear it we'll just shove a sock in your mouth. What's with Tim today? Did you give him one of your yak pills this morning?"
"Oh, man. Is he excited or what? I've never seen him like this. I'm supposed to help you move Tim's father tomorrow."
"He's gonna take the room you're in. You just stay here and pack up your own stuff and I'll go get his. It'll work out perfect. He comes and you go."
"You want me to go, don't you?"
Ken gave me a soft smile. "You're goin' home, Dave. That's what I wanna see. You belong with your family ... for a few more years, anyhow. You're growin' up, kid, and you need to finish that in your own house."
"You gave me a lot, Ken. You're a different kind of person, you know that? Are you gonna do the same stuff for Tim's Dad?"
"Don't you worry about Rennie, Dave. He knows what he wants. He'll be just fine. You just try to remember some of the things you've learned and try not to screw up too much. You'll be fine, too. I gotta call the brickyard - they're supposed to be here."
Ken walked away and I sat down and looked at Jimbo. "So, whattya think, Jim? Is life fun or what?"
"Oh, it's fun alright. You know better than to worry about Tim and his father, don't you?"
"Worry about them? I don't get what you mean."
"I mean, you shouldn't worry that them gettin' together is gonna hurt anything you have with Tim. I just don't want to see any jealousy startin' here."
"Why would that bother me? I kinda had somethin' to do with it. I got pissed at Tim when he told me his father said he loved him and Tim didn't care. Don't you think it's great that they're gonna try to be father and son again? I think it's fantastic! If you think I'd be jealous because I can't do the same thing, well ... I'm not jealous. I wish I could see my father again, but I'm not jealous. If you think it's because of the time Timmy'll spend with him instead of me, I won't be jealous of that either. I love to see Tim happy. It makes me happy. When we're both happy you just better watch out. If Timmy wants to spend every minute of every day with his Dad and it makes him happy, then I'll be happy for him. I'll miss him, but I'll be glad for him. It's my job to make Tim happy."
Tim's voice startled me, "I told ya, Dad."
I jumped and turned around. Tim and his father were standing there grinning at me. I made a mental note to always put my chair against the wall in the future, so I'd know who was around. Ken came out of the house and hollered for us to get in the truck. Tim's father looked at me.
"Is this a place we can walk to, Dave?"
"Yeah, sure. You can walk if you want."
"Why don't you and I walk, then. I seem to have missed something, and I want to talk to you. Is it okay with you?"
"Sure. We'll see you guys on the cliff!"
Rennie made an 'after you' gesture to me, and we started walking across the yard towards the path. We hadn't gone ten feet when he took my hand. His hand felt a lot like Tim's, only rougher. I wondered what he wanted, but he didn't say anything until we were almost halfway to the cliff.
"Dave ... what should I call you, anyhow? Dave? David? Davy?"
"They all work. I'll know who you mean."
"I like Davy. I heard what you said about Tim ... about making him happy. Davy, I don't know anything about men loving men, but hearing that made me realize how much you really do love Tim. He said you loved each other, but those were just words. Listening to you, though, I think I'm starting to understand how you feel. I haven't felt any love directed towards me in such a long time I think I've forgotten what the word means. Until I heard you talking to Jimbo, anyhow."
We had to work our way around a log that had fallen on the trail, then he went on, "The things you said were so unselfish that I got tears in my eyes. It sounds like you'd give anything, even give up anything, just to see Tim happy."
"I would. Tim would, too. That's what we try to do ... make each other happy. I was gettin' pretty good at it until today, but now Tim's tryin' to outclass me. I know you're glad he came to get you, but he really did it for himself. I'm glad he did, too. I've never seen him so wired up. We're usually kinda the opposite of what you saw today. Tim only talks if he has something important or useful to say. I just talk. We're both trying to learn how to make ourselves happy. I guess we've both lost our fathers in different ways, and that sucks. You wanna sit down for a few minutes? There's some stuff you should know about me."
He gave me a puzzled look, then we sat on another fallen log.
I said, "You and me have two things in common. We both love Timmy and we're both drug addicts. I wasn't strung out as long as you, but I was just as bad. Tomorrow will be my first day back home in almost a year. I just disappeared last year. I guess I found what you found, and I liked it. I got hooked really fast and just dumped everything else. It's all I did for six solid months."
"I would never have guessed, Davy. You seem like a nice, clean cut kid."
I said, "Yeah, well you seem like a nice, clean cut guy. What I want to say is that I hurt Timmy real bad when I took off. I just disappeared without saying goodby, and he spent all that time thinking it was something he did. I tried to kill myself one night ... right here in the quarry. Timmy saw me jump and he followed me right in and saved my life. That was in April. I didn't see him for a long time after that, but the other guys here were helpin' me try to deal with myself. I was seein' a shrink and everything. Tim started comin' to visit me and we got to be friends again, but my head was still a mess inside."
"I know the kind of mess you mean. Let me guess. You pretty much hated yourself, especially when you compared yourself to other people. Nothing made much sense. You couldn't even understand your own feelings. Your confidence level was stuck at zero. You felt that everything you did was being controlled from somewhere else. Am I hitting home here?"
I was quiet for a moment. He was exactly right.
"You're hitting home. Anyhow, I spent right up until last week trying to figure things out, especially how I felt about Tim. He waited all that time and I still couldn't give him a straight answer. I couldn't give myself one for that matter. Then last weekend the whole crowd came to where I was in Vermont. They had a lot of information that scared me, but it made me remember some things too. I started to see past the things that were messing me up.
"Then, when everybody left except me and Tim, it was like a revelation - like all the bad things that I never saw before were right there in front of me. It's not like they went away, just that I knew what they were and could fight them. The other thing is that I knew ... really knew ... that I loved Timmy. I love him more than anything. The feeling is so strong I know it'll never go away. I guess feeling is the wrong word ... it's a fact. We're part of each other, and we really have been for a long time. Neither one of us is worth two shits without the other. I was just too blind to see it. I hope you understand, but that's not even what I want to talk to you about."
"Well, keep going then."
"I know you hit it off with Ken, and that's good. The thing is, you're a lot closer to his age than I am, so it might be harder for you than me. But you should watch that man, see how he deals with life and other people. You gotta listen to him, too. There's other guys that come here, too. Jimbo's one, and there's Barry and Don. They all can help you stay straight and do the right thing. Tim's right, they're a little nuts, but they're all happy and they can teach you how to be happy. It's your job to make yourself happy. Just do what it takes every day to make yourself feel good."
"That's what you're doing?"
"Me, Tim ... everybody here. I just wanted you to know the truth about me, and I want you to know that if you're trying to get a new hold on life you're in exactly the right place."
Tim's Dad looked at me, then smiled. He put his arm across my shoulder and said, "Thanks, Davy. I sensed that there was something special about this place, and I promise to heed your advice. I guess we're kindred spirits, you and me. We should watch out for each other."
"Are you a good swimmer?"
"Pretty good. Why?"
"I'm not. You can start watchin' out for me right now. I suck."
We stood up and started walking towards the cliffs, more quickly now. "You know, Mr. Atkins, you're really a lot like Tim."
"What? Tall, good lookin' and smart?"
I chuckled. "Well, yeah. I just get the feelin' that there's more than that, that you could explain things you know so anybody'll get it. That's the way Timmy is. He's real interesting. If he likes something, he learns everything about it, and he can tell it in a way you understand. I always hafta get him to talk, but it's always worth it." I had turned around and was walking backwards. "People say I talk a lot, and I do. The difference is, when Tim talks it's important stuff. Is Rennie a real name?"
He was grinning at me. "It's just short for my real name."
"Really? What's that?"
"Do I really have to say it? It's the dumbest name on the planet."
"Come on! I won't tell anybody."
"Okay. It's Renfred."
"Renfred? Where the hell'd ya get that one?"
He smirked, "My parents."
"Oh, yeah. I should'a known that, huh? Rennie sounds pretty cool."
"I like Rennie okay. Why don't you call me that? You don't have to call me Mr. Atkins. I think it'll be a while before I deserve mister again."
"Tim doesn't call my mother by her first name. She'd probably smack him if he did. Did he tell ya she made him part of our family last night?"
"No, he didn't. In that case, how'd you like to be a member of our family, too? I can't even pretend that I could replace your own father, but I'd be honored and humbled to substitute when you need somebody."
I stopped in my tracks so suddenly that Tim's father walked right into me. I wrapped my arms around him and pressed the side of my face into his shoulder. He felt just like Tim, only hairier. He started to fold his arms around me. It was tentative at first, but then he just pulled me tight to him. I started to weep.
In the back of my mind I was trying to remember a hug from my own father. It had probably happened, but I couldn't think of when. His shows of affection were, at best, a kiss on the hair. Next best was a fake punch to the jaw and a 'that's my boy' type comment.
In the front of my mind, here I was - with Timmy's own father giving me a hug that belonged to Tim, but felt great to me. I wasn't thinking clearly, but remember idly wondering if we couldn't have two mothers and just share a father. I enjoyed the moment for as long as I could, but my mind was telling me it could never be. I finally broke the embrace and backed up a bit, looking at Rennie's face. His eyes looked pretty watery, too.
"Thanks, Mr. Atkins."
He smiled. "Thank you, Davy. I guess we both needed that, huh?"
"I sure did. We should hurry up a little. They'll be gone before we get there."
We finally made it to the cliff. The truck was still there but nobody was in sight. I figured they were all either in the water or on their way back up. Tim's father looked over the edge. "Whoa! That's a long way down! I'm not so sure about this."
"If I can do it anybody can. I'm not much of a swimmer, but you don't end up very far from shore. I just wanna wait for Tim so he can watch me. The only real bad part is climbin' back up here."
I heard a noise and saw Jim's head appear near the edge. He climbed over followed by Tim and Ken. Tim looked at me and his father. "I thought you weren't coming. That was gonna be our last jump, but I'll go one more time. Go ahead, Dave. This I gotta see."
I didn't say a word, just kicked off my sneaks, backed up, and ran off the edge. The fear was mostly gone, replaced by the thrill of the rapid plunge. By the time I reached the rocks on shore, Tim's father had caught up with me. We pulled ourselves out of the water and started laughing. Tim appeared in a minute, and his look said a lot. He could see that his father and I had both enjoyed our jumps and that we were having fun together. His smile was one of pure happiness.
He climbed up on the rock and sat down against his father, then pulled me to him. It was a nice comfortable moment for all of us. I looked at them and asked, "Going again?" Tim's Dad said yes, but Tim was beat. He'd wait for us, then make the climb out. By the time Rennie and I got to the top he was totally winded. He decided that he wasn't in good enough shape to make the climb again, so he sat with Ken and Jim while I jumped in again.
I swam over to Tim and he helped me up onto the rocks.
"Where's my father?"
"Catching his breath. I think he's gonna stay up top."
"Cool. You know what that means, don't you?"
"I get to do this!" He pulled me to him and began kissing me all over my face, finally settling on my lips. "God, I love you, Dave. What'd you talk about with Dad?"
"I told him I was a drug user too, and that I've been gone a long time. He knows how much we care about each other. I don't think it's gonna be a problem. He said I was a member of your family too."
Tim was beaming. "Really? Does that mean he likes you?"
"He seems to. I like him, anyhow. He's a lot like you."
"You mean I'm a lot like him, don't you? Why wouldn't I be? He's my father and I always tried to be like him, at least until he got into trouble. Man, this is gonna be so great! Wanna spend the afternoon out here?"
"What about the other guys? What about your father? They're up there waitin' for us."
"They'll get bored and go. Don't worry, it won't be the first time they left me out here."
"Whattya wanna do?"
Tim gave me his best dopey grin. "What do you wanna do?"
"I asked first."
"You don't hafta ask twice. I wanna swim naked, then love you until you can't take it any more."
"Because that day'll never come."
Tim gave me a 'don't be too sure' look. "Let's climb up and tell them we're stayin' here."
I whined, "Can't we send them a smoke signal or somethin'? I don't wanna climb up again."
"You got matches?"
"No, but didn't you ever hear about rubbin' two sticks together?"
Tim's jaw dropped, then he burst into one of his best laughs. It was echoing around the cliffs and we could soon hear laughter from up top. When he quieted down Tim looked at me. "I'll rub your stick if you'll rub mine." He started giggling.
"When do we start?"
"As soon as I'm finished doin' THIS!" He dug his fingers into my ribs and started tickling me until I screamed. I squirmed and squirmed, but I couldn't get away from him, and we ended up both falling into the pond. When I came up for air, Tim was about five feet from me. He was twirling his bathing suit on his finger and had that damn dopey grin on his face again. I lunged towards him, but he went under water. The next thing I knew my own trunks were being pulled down. I wasn't a good enough swimmer to resist and stay afloat at the same time, and the next thing I knew two bathing suits flew through the air and landed on the rocks with matching splats.
Tim popped up right in front of me and pulled me into a kiss. It made us both slip underwater, so we couldn't hold it very long. I reached out and grabbed a rock so I wouldn't go under again, then Tim kissed me again. This time it was long and hard. We eventually pulled ourselves back up on the rock. It didn't take long for us to decide that a rock was no place for what we had in mind, so we reluctantly pulled our trunks on, climbed up the cliff, and found our sneakers. Then we headed over to the fort, hoping it was unoccupied.
It wasn't. Rafe and Brian were there. Tim and I had been talking and laughing all the way, so I don't think we surprised them. We made a little small talk, and I could see that Rafe sensed our disappointment at finding them there. After a few minutes they said they were going for a swim and left us alone, but not before making tentative plans to go out for a pizza together later.
It was a standout afternoon. Tim and I loved each other in every way we could think of, but we had fun along with our passion. We laughed and kidded each other, and spent a lot of time just kissing. No matter what else we did, it always came back to the kissing. I swear, if we had no other body parts we'd be happy just to find a kind soul who'd pick up our heads and stick our mouths together. Sex was great, no ... it was fantastic. But it was love that bound us. Love and friendship.
Nothing ... not another thing we could do ... expressed our love for each other more meaningfully than a long, sloppy, happy kiss on the lips.
... to be continued
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