Jack in the Box

Chapter 23

Davy Loomis - Visitor : August, 2000

I had mixed feelings about leaving Morton... very mixed. I was anxious to get back home, back to my own comfort zone with my parents and friends. At the same time I had found this little town to be a comfort zone in its own right, and I didn't want to leave my new friends.

It wasn't up to me anyhow. My folks had let me stay longer after Clay's accident, but school was starting the next week, and when I did get home in a few days all I'd have would be the Labor Day weekend to get ready for it. I really did miss my parents. I was seventeen and ready for my senior year of high school, but they were still my security in a lot of ways. Everything I had, everything I was, came from them.

Hearth and home was their thing, and it wasn't a bad thing to grow up with. They did a good job with me and Timmy, and I knew it. I heard it all the time. My parents both had difficult childhoods in different ways. My Dad had been abandoned when he was ten and Mom was the child of parents who were there but neglectful. The story was that Mom and Dad were each other's first date, and it was the proverbial love at first sight. I don't know about that, but they were determined to be real parents to us. They taught Timmy and me that life should be fun, no matter what tried to get in the way of it. To my mind, they had succeeded as parents in every way that meant anything.

I loved them and they loved me, and I loved my brother. Timmy and I were five years apart in age and very different in our likes. We liked each other, though, probably sharing more than most brothers do. Don't get me wrong, we knew each other's hot buttons and when to press them, but it was always for a laugh. We knew what good fun was, and we never missed an opportunity to experience it, to turn things into our own fun.

It was my next to last night in Morton, the last one where I could stay up and do anything. Timmy and I had an early flight on Friday and we'd have to get up before the roosters to get to the airport.

I'd had a fun day, first with my uncle Tim and my brother, then at the picnic with half the town. Scott Johnson and Nick Cassarino had given me a phenomenal gift and posed for pictures with me so my friends wouldn't think I'd taken up lying when I got home. The next gift I got, if you can call it that, was seeing Mike and Annie totally relaxed with each other.

I had liked Mike from the start, and he told me he was gay then, right up front. Annie came into the picture and I could see his confusion about liking her, his indecision, his awkwardness. Now they seemed to be together, go together, fit together, both of them happy about it. Nothing seemed stilted anymore, and I could tell that they cared for each other and were amused by each other. Mike was finding comfort with Annie, and it was obviously mutual. Annie was a pretty girl, and you'd think I might get jealous, but I had come to care for Mike in a way that was new to me, so all I felt was joy for his happiness.

The third gift I got that day, the best one, was from Mike himself. He told me he loved me, and I told him I felt the same way about him. Aside from family members, those words had never escaped my mouth. Well, once they almost did, but it was after the fact when I was going to four funerals in two days. Four friends, lost all at once, and not one of them had ever heard those words from me. I had other friends, and I was now determined that if it was true, if they meant that much to me, they'd hear it. It wasn't hard to say, just three little words. It made me smile to think how easy it was to let people know what you really felt about them.

Mike and I hugged for a long time that night, cementing the connection that had developed between us in the last week. We just stood there on the deck in the steamy heat and hugged, almost like we were trying to make ourselves part of each other. It was something I didn't want to end, but Mike eventually said he had to go. We walked away holding hands, something I hadn't done with another boy since I was little and Timmy held mine all the time.

I went to Mike's house, probably for the last time. There was a note taped to his door from his father saying he was going fishing in the morning. If Mike wanted to go he was supposed to leave the note, if not take it down. Mike looked the question at me, I considered it and smiled my consent, and we left the note. I wanted to go fishing again, wanted to get to know Mike's dad better, wanted to spend more time with Mike.

We went into the room and started to get ready for bed. Mike kissed his picture of Jack, and asked in a little voice, "Wanna sleep over here?" indicating his bed. I raised my eyebrows and he said, "Don't be a wise ass. I just want you close."

I looked at his expectant face and smiled. I wanted to be close too, and I waited until he got in and followed him. He was on his side facing away from me, so I curled up to his back and draped my arm over him. I'd gotten a boner earlier when we hugged and I got another one. When it stretched my underwear enough to touch Mike's ass he giggled. "You too?" then he pushed back into me and whispered, "You feel nice, Davy." He wiggled his butt a little until my dick settled along his crack, then he whispered, "G'night, Davy."

I thought that I should be feeling embarrassment, but I wasn't at all. My dick was aroused all by itself. There were no sexual thoughts in my head, just a feeling of comfort. I whispered good night, then promptly fell asleep, feeling as comfortable as I ever had. I slept the sleep of the blessed; dark, dreamless and rejuvenating.

We both awoke to a sharp rap on the door, followed by the overhead light. "C'mon Mike... oh, ah... well, um, get ready! It's time to go. Those fish don't have alarm clocks you know; we gotta wake 'em up!"

Mike stirred and my brain clicked in, wondering why his father had suddenly sounded so hesitant. The light made it take several tries before I could actually open my eyes and keep them open, but when I did I could tell that Mike and I were in roughly the same position we'd gone to sleep in, save for some minor thrashing during the night.

It suddenly occurred to me what Mike's dad had seen, what he must have thought. I sat up, and when Mike noticed he did too. "What's wrong, Davy?"

"Um, aaahh... I think your father thinks something."


"Mike, your Dad saw us."

He rubbed his eyes, "So?"

"Mike, I think he thinks we did something."

Mike seemed to be a slow thinker in the morning. He rubbed his eyes, stretched his arms and legs, and mumbled, "Huh?"

"Mike, your Dad saw us like this! What's he gonna think?"


I shoved him hard, "Come on, Mike. He saw us! He's gonna think we did something!"

Mike yawned, "He's used to it. He knows I'm gay."

I jumped out of bed and stared. "What?" I stood there trembling, "Wake up, Mike! Get your ass out of bed!"

"Alright, already. What's the big..." Mike's eyes went wide all of a sudden, then they clouded over and his head seemed to droop as he climbed out of bed. "Oh, man. Dammit!" He looked at me and his troubled face took on a smile. "Don't look so worried, Davy. We know the truth. He'll believe us."

"Yeah, sure he will! He's only gonna know what he saw!"

Mike yawned and smiled again, "You're right, but he didn't see anything. Just get dressed, you'll see."

"What, no shower?"

"After. Let's go catch a fish; we can get cleaned up later."

Mike was working his arms like he was lifting weights, trying to get circulation going. I pulled on my shorts and shirt, then went to the bathroom. When I got out I could hear Mike and his father in the kitchen. I put on my sneakers and headed that way.

Mike left for the bathroom as soon as I entered the room. His father pointed out a pile of toast and said, "Mike said you were worried, so don't be. I know you were just sleeping."

There was a glass of orange juice sitting next to an empty plate. I sat there and took a sip, looking at Mike's father. "I'm glad you believe him, because that's all we did."

He smiled, "That's what Mike said. Why wouldn't I believe him?"

He was exactly right, of course. I'd only known Mike for a week and I knew he had problems, but lying wasn't one of them. He didn't even exaggerate things. His own father would know that about him. I relaxed and put butter and jam on some toast, then poured a cup of coffee. While I was eating I noticed the blue numbers on the microwave and almost choked. "Is it really quarter of four?"

Mike had joined us by then and they both laughed. Mike said, "Hey, fishing's a man's sport. If ya wanna sleep all day, take up basket weavin' or something. We'll be back before anybody else gets up."

I said, "Oh, I get it. If I only sleep half the night, then I go out and kill some innocent creatures... that'll make me a man?"

Mike and his father nodded solemnly at me. Morton seemed to lose a little of it's gloss, but I was game.

We finished up in the kitchen and loaded the trunk with fishing gear, then headed out. We drove toward town and pulled up in front of a house that had a refrigerator illuminated by an overhead bulb on the front porch. I got out of the car with Mike. He opened the refrigerator and took out what looked like two boxes of Chinese takeout food, then he opened a cigar box on a little table, put in a five dollar bill and took out a single.

I had the boxes in my hands and asked, "What's this all about? What'd we just do?"

Mike grinned, "We just bought bait, two dozen nightcrawlers."

We climbed back into the car and I asked, "What about the money? They just leave it in a box?"

Mike's father said, "That's an honor box, Davy. You see a lot of them out here at roadside stands and things. People can't do the work and sell things at the same time, so they have to trust that you'll pay for what you take."

"Nobody takes things and doesn't pay?"

"Not to the point that it's a problem. It's just a matter of trust."

"Nobody steals the money from the box?"

Mike's father said, "Davy, you need to understand that the only people who even know about these things are from right here. Morton's not exactly a tourist destination, so it's just friends and neighbors. Somebody might leave you a sack of corn for a dozen eggs, but they won't take your money. It's in too short of a supply around here. We need each other too much to start stealing."

He was turning onto a dirt road as he said that, and his last sentence caused me to think. That's what was different here, different from where I lived anyhow. This town was too small, too lacking in people to allow for things like lying and thievery. There wasn't another store down the street that sold the same things, no choice of restaurants, no options. These folks had to trust each other to do the right thing. It would all fall apart if they didn't, and I started smiling at how they worked to keep it all going. Their friendliness wasn't forced, but it was necessary. The endless 'picnic' helped keep it together, and I suspected they had found lots of other things that worked. I'd seen it working, and I'd been charmed by it all.

As the car crunched to a stop on some gravel I had to smile inwardly. I had always wondered about my uncle Dave's choice of social studies as a subject to teach. I'd never been in one of his classes, and the ones I did have were interminably boring. Mike's dad had just given me a lesson in a few sentences that made me realize that I'd looked at it with blinders on all along, that social interactions were what the world was all about.

Doors opened, and I lost my train of thought. I got out of the car. It was still pitch black out. Mike handed me a flashlight and a fishing pole and said, "It's not far."

We gathered our things and started walking down a trail.

Mike's father led, shining his light on the trail. I was in the middle shining mine on his back, and Mike was behind me with his also on the trail. We walked for about five minutes, then came up to a grassy area next to what seemed to be a lake. There was light from the moon and the stars, but I couldn't see the other side. We settled in and Mike and his father started getting their equipment ready, something I hadn't done before. I just watched until Mike noticed me. He handed me the pole he'd just set up and baited and said, "Here."

I walked to the water's edge and asked, "Is it okay to cast out?"

I heard Mike giggle and his father said, "Help yourself; you got first dibs!"

I tried to remember what Clay had shown me and cast the line out, hearing a distant plop in the water. Success! I sat down and waited. In a few moments, Mike and his dad were on either side of me, their hooks cast out there somewhere near mine.

We were quiet for awhile, then Mike's Dad said, "Got a nibble... hold on," then he yanked his pole like Clay had shown me. "Got him!" He started reeling in.

Mike asked excitedly, "What is it?"


I looked at Mike, "You can tell what you have on the line?"

He was watching his father and feeling around for his net. "You can sometimes. Bass head for the bottom. Trout fight at the surface, even jump out of the water. Here, hold my pole." He handed me his and hurried around behind me with the net. His father reeled the fish to shore and Mike waded in a few steps to net it. "Nice one, Dad! It's a good sixteen inches!"

His father got up to look, a big grin on his face. I stood up, holding two poles and looked into the net. It did look like a big fish. Mike's father pulled it from the net and unhooked it. Mike reached in his pocket and came out with a little tape measure and pulled it next to the fish. "Fifteen and a half! Look Davy, that's a fish!"

I looked and was duly impressed, then Mike's father tossed it back in the water. I was surprised, "Why'd you throw it back?"

They both looked at me and said almost in unison, "It was a bass!"

I guessed that a bass was a bad thing and I didn't question any further. The sky was turning a dull red at the far end of the pond, and I started seeing other people fishing around us. There weren't a lot of people really, just more than I expected. They weren't all men and boys either. There were women and girls as well. There were some canoes and rowboats out in the water, and one guy appeared to be standing out there on the surface until it brightened enough for me to see that he was actually in a tiny little boat.

Mr. Water's fish seemed to be all we were going to get. Mike got up to change spots, but I wanted to see the sun come up. He left with some bait, and after a bit his father did too, wondering why I didn't want to give up a 'dead' spot. The reason was right in front of me. There were some horizontal wisps of clouds in the sky, and they were being lit ever brighter from below, from the other side of the horizon. I'd had brief looks at winter sunrises before, mostly from school buses. This was my first chance ever to watch a summer one unfold, and I didn't want to miss it.

I was caught up in it enough that I reeled my line in and set the fishing pole down beside me. The colors were becoming ferociously bright. Dark blue and red in the lower sky, brilliant red, orange and yellow showing in the clouds. The sky above slowly turned purple, then blue, then it was daylight blue and everything else faded out. I was still looking at the sky and starting to feel hungry when Mike walked up, appearing to be somewhat upset.

"Where's my father? I wanna get outta here."

I pointed in the direction his Dad had headed and said, "Somewhere over there. Why? What's wrong, Mike?"

"Nuthin, let's just go, okay?"

I stared at Mike. He was fidgeting and looking warily toward where he had come from.

Something had upset him. "C'mon Mike, something happened. Tell me, man!"

He looked disgusted and pointed his fist in the general direction of where he'd headed off to fish. "There's a couple of baboons over there callin' me a fag. It's not what I need, Davy. Not now... not ever again." He looked a plea at me, "I... the fuckin' assholes!" He dropped to his haunches and covered his ears with his palms like he was trying to block what he'd already heard."

I knelt beside him, "Who is it Mike? Anybody I know?"

He shook his head, "No, it's guys from Arlington. I just knew it... I... I... damn!" He dropped his head, "I thought it was over, hoped it was over. I can see it comin'... this year's gonna be just like last."

I thought about it for a moment. Mike had told me in some detail about the abuse he and Jack had suffered during the last school year. I hadn't been a witness to Mike's situation, but plenty of teasing and harassment went on in my school and I never got involved. I knew I had to now, so I put my hand on Mike's shoulder. "Let's take care of it, Mike. Let's you and me go talk to those guys."

Mike looked up, "What, and get my ass kicked? I can't fight those guys."

I stood and held my hand out, "Who said anything about fighting?" I smiled, "We're just gonna convince 'em that they have you figured all wrong."

Mike let me pull him up, but he looked very doubtful. "How you gonna convince 'em? With a shotgun?"

I could feel the adrenaline building in me quickly. I wanted to calm Mike, even if I was getting excited myself. "We're just gonna use a little clinical psychology. Either they listen and learn or they end up in the clinic."

Mike pulled back a little, "I don't know how to fight!"

I urged him forward, "You're about to learn, Mike. You're about to learn."

I glanced at Mike, who still looked hesitant. I grabbed his hand, "Just show me where they are and hang back. Give me a quick lesson here. What's this in my hand?"

Mike looked at me like I was crazy, "It's a fishing pole."

"I know that. Is that what you call all this stuff?"

"Well, all of it's called tackle. Is that what you mean?

I said, "Exactly. I wanna talk to these guys and I don't wanna sound like a real yoyo."

"You really think you can talk to them?"

"I can try. Just show me where they are and hang back, okay?"

Mike grabbed my elbow to stop me. When I looked at him he was still worried. "Don't start anything, okay Davy? I hafta live here."

I said, "Don't get nervous. We can take care of this right now."

I could hear the nervousness in Mike's voice. "What should I do?"

"Nothing. Just show me the guys, then stay close where you can hear. I'll handle the rest."

"These are big dumb guys, Davy. They don't care about who they hurt."

I grinned, "Good! Then I won't either. I hope it doesn't come to that."

Mike stopped and pointed at a little clearing by the water. "That's them."

I was looking at the backs of two guys sitting on milk crates.

From behind, one seemed pretty bulky, the other taller and thinner, but still fairly muscular looking. I told Mike, "Wait here," then walked to the left so I could go behind them as if I was just walking along the shore.

When I got close enough, I announced my presence by saying, "Hey guys, any luck?"

They both looked up. The heavyset guy said, "No keepers. They're bitin' though. You?"

"Just one bass. Tossed it back, then nothing. You guys from around here?"

The taller guy gave me a friendly enough smile. "Yeah, Arlington. You're not from around here, are you?"

I said, "No, I just got to Morton last week."

They both snickered. The tall guy said, "Morton? Man, that town's nothing but hicks and spics. You'll see, you're gonna end up wantin' to just smack your Daddy for bringin' you there!"

I smiled and said, "He's still bigger than me. I like the people I met so far." I held out my hand to shake, "I'm Davy, Davy Loomis."

They both stood up and offered their hands. The tall one said, "Hi, Neil Simmons. This is Clem Simmons, no relation."

I shook with both of them, "Mind if I try here? I'll stay out of your way."

"No problem. You fish back where you come from?"

I grinned as I cast out, the worm still on my hook from before, "Just for women."

Clem laughed, "Good fuckin' luck in Morton! There's maybe three decent chicks in the whole town."

I moved so I was next to him. "I haven't met many yet, just Annie, Paulina and a few others."

Neil looked over and said, "At least the man has taste. Annie and Paulina are the hottest babes around here. You have any luck?"

I tried to look dejected, "No, they're both taken already."

Both boys jerked their heads to me. Clem asked, "They're goin' with somebody? Who's that lucky?"

I edged closer to him. "Paulina's goin' with this kid Anton."

I had to choke back my laugh back at their expressions. Neil stuttered out, "A-Anton Wolfe?"

I smiled, "Yeah, that's him. Little guy, right?"

They both nodded and I continued, thinking I might have them, "Annie's all hung up on Mickey... no, Mike. Mike Waters!"

They both sputtered and Clem said, "That little faggot? Forget it Davy, If Annie's goin' with him she must be a lesbo!"

I looked at Neil and he seemed to be in agreement. I said, "Gay guys don't go with lesbians, I don't think. Besides, I met Mike and he's hardly little. He looks like he could give you guys a go."

I was inches away from Clem's head when he sneered, "That little homo ain't gonna hurt anybody. Shit, we just chased him outta here."

I had maneuvered myself between the two, and knocked Clem out with a hard elbow to the temple while I was looking at Neil. I used my ass to keep Clem from falling over. I stared at Neil, who hadn't seen a thing. "You guys don't think Mike's queer do you? You're just jealous, right? Just say it, man."

Neil glared at me. "Bullshit! I could tell you stories about how queer he is! That fuckin' faggot sucked off the whole freshman class last year."

I was in the middle of asking, "Really?" when my other elbow caught Neil. He was out cold just when Clem was beginning to stir. I jumped up, causing Clem to fall to the ground, and danced a little in celebration, waving to Mike to come over. I put him exactly where I was standing and whispered, "You did this, Mike. They ain't gonna remember a thing. Let me get outta here. If they say another fuckin' thing, break their noses."

Mike gave me a stunned smile, "Well, you're in a real mood, ain't ya?"

I put my fist to the bottom of Mike's nose, showing him how to break one the easy way, "Like this, Mike. It don't take much. You're the boss now. No more trouble, at least from these guys." I noticed Clem coming to his senses and whispered, "I'm outta here."

Mike looked to be in a panic, so I whispered, "Make some friends, man. I'll be right here."

I left Mike mouthing words and got down on my stomach in the woods to see what would happen. Clem got himself up a little, like he was in the middle of a pushup. He saw Mike there and asked bewilderedly, "What happened to the other guy... Davy?"

Mike did a good job, looking around in earnest before he responded, "Other guy? It's just you and me, Clem. Neil's still out. What was that word you were calling me?"

Clem was clearly bewildered, looking over to Neil's prone form, then up at Mike, then grasping at straws and looking everywhere. His face finally found Mike's again. He asked weakly, "What happened here?"

Mike was perfect. He nudged Clem onto his back with his foot, then put it gently on Clem's chest to prevent movement. He crossed his arms and said, "You guys called me some names I didn't like. Why is that, Clem? Do I bother you somehow?"

I think Mike increased his foot's pressure on Clem's chest, at least it seemed that Clem was having a little trouble breathing when he gasped out, "No, no... you don't bother me! What'd I say anyhow?"

Mike knelt down with his knee right in Clem's gut and stared him in the eye. "You called me a fag, Clem, a queer, a cocksucker." Mike took a quick glance at Neil, who was just trying to find his knees. "Clem, if I ever did anything to you, I'm sorry. I don't think I did, and I think you know that. You just pissed me off with your words, and I guess I kinda flipped out." Mike smiled so sweetly that I almost threw up. "We're square now, right? You didn't mean that crap, did you?"

Clem's eyes were wide, and I was hoping that Mike noticed Neil getting to his feet. Clem couldn't really breathe well, but he managed, "Yeh, we're square. I'm sorry man, it was just yak, just teasing."

Clem redirected his gaze to Neil, who was rising behind Mike, a hateful look on his face. Mike noticed the change in Clem's expression and turned around just in time to get clobbered on the side of his face by Neil. He took a good hit, and I knew it hurt, maybe even loosened teeth. Mike started to stand, then sat right down on Clem's stomach and glared at Neil, drawing his eye by waggling his right fist threateningly, then when Neil paid attention to the right Mike leapt up and got him in the nose with a quick left.

Neil fell back on the ground, both hands on his face and blood spurting from his nostrils. He pulled his hands away and saw all the blood and cried, "You broke my node. You fuckin' broke my node."

Mike had a stunned smile. He looked at his hands, then toward the woods for me. I signaled for him to stay there and hoped he'd do good with his chance.

He did. He got off Clem and knelt by Neil. "Oh man, I'm sorry! Is it really broken?" Mike pulled off his t-shirt and used it to absorb the flow of blood from Neil's nose. He bent down and looked Neil right in the eye. "You started it, man. Watch what you call people, okay? I get a little nuts about that stuff."

With that Mike got up and started walking to where I was hiding, the grin of the proverbial pig in shit on his face. He suddenly turned around and went back to pick up the fishing equipment I had left there, then checked out how Clem was ministering to Neil. When he was well past me I hurried to catch up.

I put my arm around Mike's shoulder and pulled him tight to me. I was smiling, "You're a fast learner; that was great!"

He leaned into me a little, "You're a fast teacher. I didn't know you could kick ass."

I grinned, "I can't. That's why I cheat."

Mike put his own arm around my shoulder and said, "That was cheating? You heard what they said."

I held my grin, "Yeah, I heard it. I just didn't say I was gonna stick my elbows in their ears for it. They never saw it coming. How's your jaw, anyhow?"

Mike smiled happily, "It hurts like hell. Man, I stepped right into it."

I giggled, "You should ask my uncle Dave for some lessons. He'll show you how to handle yourself."

Mike just looked at me and grinned. "That's where you learned?"

I nodded, then noticed Mike's father. He appeared to be looking for us, so I waved until he saw me. When we met up he asked, "You boys had enough humiliation for one day? Did you get anything?" He seemed perplexed by our grins. "What? Where's your shirt, Mike?"

Mike said, "Some kid needed it more than me. I got a sweatshirt in the trunk."

His father noticed something and looked closer at Mike. "What happened to your face? It's all swollen up!"

Mike put his hand very gingerly against his cheek and breathed, "Wow! That was some sting!"

His father looked closer. "You got stung? Jeez, it looks like you got hit by a fastball!"

Mike muttered, "It's okay. We goin' home or gettin' something to eat?"

His father said, "Let's eat. I'm starved."

We got the equipment back into the car and headed to the center of Morton. Mike reluctantly put on a sweatshirt, complaining that he was going to melt. We entered the little restaurant and got a table near the window. A waitress was there in a few seconds with a pot of coffee and menus. She greeted us cheerfully and poured Mike's father a cup, then I decided I'd have one. Mike declined and ordered an orange juice, the swelling in his face giving him a little difficulty talking.

His father looked at him, "You sure you're okay? That doesn't look too good."

Mike slurred, "I'm fine."

The waitress was back with her pad and we all ordered. When the food came it looked and smelled good, except there was a huge mound of white glop on my plate. I stared at it for a second then pointed at it while saying, "I didn't order this."

Mike's father saw what I was talking about and said, "Grits come with it."

I said, "Really? This is grits? I heard about them, I always thought it was a joke or something."

Mike and his father both looked hurt. Mr. Waters said, "Grits aren't a joke, and these are some of the best you'll get." He smiled, "If you don't like 'em I'm sure Mike can help you out."

I watched Mike put a huge glob of butter on his grits and follow it with syrup. I tried a bite first, and they already tasted buttery, otherwise kind of bland. I tried a little syrup and it tasted good that way. Mike's father just put salt and pepper on his, so I tried that too and liked it best. I liked them and ate everything on my plate. I hadn't spent much of the money my father had given me since I got to Morton, so I picked up the tab over Mr. Waters' protests. I'd slept at their house every night since I got there, so it didn't seem like much to do in return.

When we got back to the house it wasn't even eight o'clock yet. Mike went to his house and I went into my uncle's place to clean up. I thanked Mike's father for everything and said goodbye, thinking I probably wouldn't see him again before I left.

Anton Wolfe was in the kitchen having an animated discussion with my uncle Tim. They seemed equally excited, so I just said hi and went to clean up. When I was ready I went back out, but the only one there was my brother. He was nursing a cup of coffee and managed a sleepy smile. "Hey, Davy."

I asked, "You just gettin' up?"

"Yeah, I figured I won't get much sleep tonight. Did you just get up too?"

I wanted to save the details for the plane trip, so I said, "Nah, I've been up for awhile, just late gettin' cleaned up. Where's uncle Tim?"

"They went out to the barn." He looked up at me, "Glad to be goin' home?"

"I guess. I hate leavin' here at the same time. You?"

"I like it here. I guess I've been away from home long enough that it doesn't bother me anymore. You must really miss Mom and Dad. You've never been away this long before."

It made me feel funny to respond. I shouldn't be missing my parents so much at my age, but I was and I'm sure my face gave that fact away to Timmy. "I'll be home tomorrow, I'm okay till then."

Mike tapped at the door and walked in before I could turn around. He was grinning from one side of his face, the other was still swollen. "Ready for a ride? Hi, Timmy!"

Tim looked up, "Hi Mike, goin' out in the buggy?"

Mike nodded. Tim said, "Stop back for me, I haven't been in that thing yet."

We both grinned and headed out the door. I told Mike that Tony was there, so we stopped in the barn to say hi and ask if he wanted to go with us. He was hunched over a computer with my uncle Tim. They didn't see us come in, so Mike snuck up behind Tony and dug his fingers into both sides of his waist, causing Tony to shriek and jump a foot off the floor. Tony's yell made my uncle jump too, and Mike and I stood there laughing. Tony turned around to say something, then he saw Mike's face and looked more closely at it.

"What happened to your face? It's all swole up!"

Tim looked too, and Mike said he got stung, then asked what was going on. Tony grinned and said, "Got somethin' for ya," then he looked at me, "You too!"

He dug into an envelope and pulled out some papers, looked at them, then handed two to me and one to Mike. They were pictures, the first of just Mike coming straight at me on his bike, his hair still long and wild, a grin of joy and freedom on his face. It was so real that my first impression was to jump out of the way of the bike. I just stared at it, then at Tony's expectant face, then my smiling uncle. I looked at Tony and asked, "This is for me to keep?"

He smiled shyly, "If ya want it. There's one more."

Yes there was. The next was Tony sitting between me and Mike on a rock. Tony was leaning into Mike a little, a plastic bag full of cherries on his lap, my hand reaching for one. I looked at it and tears came to my eyes. Our faces spelled out pure contentment, just three kids enjoying each other's company and our surroundings in that moment in time.

I was reading a lot into the picture, which we all seemed to do with Tony's art. To me, that one was all about possibilities, about friendship, about camaraderie. We'd been spitting cherry pits, but Tony had captured a moment when there was no competition to see who could get one the farthest. We were contemplating it maybe, but enjoying each other much more than that.

I just stared at Tony. He was a small kid, but he suddenly seemed very large. I'd seen other pictures that he'd drawn, but not many of people I knew. Now I was in one, looking better than I could have envisioned myself ever looking. I knew Tony was right though, I had been happy at that moment, thinking I'd found something that I never thought to look for before.

That something was that people are just people, I'm just me. Put me in a happy situation and I'll be happy, put me in a nervous one and I'll be nervous, put me in a sad one and I'll be sad. That's what I liked so much about the people in Morton. You could share those kinds of feelings without embarrassment, without worrying that someone would think you're weak because you have feelings.

My thought train was interrupted by the sound of helpless laughter emanating from Mike behind me. He was in tears in a chair, trying to say something but obviously unable to. There was a paper on the floor next to him and I picked it up. As soon as I saw the picture I burst out laughing too, as did Tony and my uncle, who had obviously seen it.

The picture showed me, Tony and Mike on the porch the night Clay drowned, and it was perfect in most details. What was precious is that Tony had drawn Annie perched atop a six foot high bulge in Mike's pants and hanging on for dear life with me and Tony looking like we were fearing for her life. It was too funny and I had to sit down to laugh it out. I was still laughing when I heard Mike cussing out Tony for drawing it, and I laughed harder when Tony started laughing too hard to respond.

When we finally settled down, Tony grabbed that picture from me and crumpled it up. He went back to his envelope and gave Mike another picture, this one of Mike and me both stretched out in lawn chairs on Mike's porch, looking for all the world like the two most satisfied people on the planet. I didn't comment, just looked at it and decided that it was the best one of them all. It didn't try to say anything at all, just that two boys could be content with nothing more than a quiet moment. Mike still looked a little intense in the picture, but that was Mike. I was the picture of bliss, calm and happy to be in Morton, my worries somewhere else.

Tim looked at Mike, "Dave and I have something for you too." He beckoned and Mike followed him to a PC at the other end of the bench. "I talked to your Dad and it's okay. Dave set this up for you so you can stay in touch with Davy and your other friends. I got you an e-mail account. I'm paying for five anyhow, and we only use two. Let me show you."

Tony and I watched Mike's fascination as my uncle showed him how to use e-mail. We looked at each other, then smiled and nodded and headed outside to the dune buggy. Tony hopped into the driver's seat wearing a big grin. We strapped ourselves in and headed out, slowly at first, then he showed me what he could do after we got across the bridge.

Tony was having fun, and I think he was trying to scare me. That wasn't possible, but it was fun. Then it was my turn, and I remembered Timmy and went back to the house to get him. I took my turn driving, then Timmy wanted to try it. My brother's usually kind of reserved, but once he got the feel of the car he gave us a few thrills. He decided that he wanted to take Buster for a ride, so he left Tony and me by the pond while he went to get him.

We wandered down the trail into the shade for awhile, then sat on the bank and looked at the water. I said, "This is a nice spot, huh?"

Tony leaned back and sighed. "Yeah, it's nice. You glad you're goin' home? I'm gonna miss ya."

I leaned back too. "Yeah, I guess I'm glad. I'll miss you guys too. I miss my folks, I really do. That's about it though. I think I made better friends in a week here than I did in my whole life at home."

Tony reclined fully, his hands under his head. He stared at the sky and said, "It's nice havin' friends. I never had none before, and I like it."

I thought about that and found it hard to believe. "Come on, Tony. You must'a had some friends. I think you're a neat guy."

He looked at me with a little smile. "Really? You do? Thanks, Davy." He leaned back again and looked at the sky, "You heard what Paulina said, I was... I was overlooked. Now everybody's lookin' and I don't know if it's me or my pictures."

I thought about that and figured that both possibilities were probably true.

"Tony, some people look at you for what you have, for what you can do. I love your artwork. The pictures and that carving you gave me are the best things I own, but I'd give 'em back in a second if that's what it took to keep you as a friend." I looked over at him and he had his eyes closed, as if he was processing what I'd just said. I continued, "Some people might just like your art, and that's okay. I like you because you're who you are, and I know Mike does too." I grinned, "I know Paulina likes you."

Tony continued laying there with his eyes closed, but the smile that crossed his face was wide enough to reflect the bright sun back up into the sky from his teeth. He sighed happily, "Yeah, that's the big surprise." He leaned on his side and looked at me earnestly, "You like her?"

I grinned, "Yeah, Paulina's a class act. You're a lucky guy."

Tony smiled a smile that I hadn't seen from him before, absolutely radiant with happiness. He sighed, "Yeah, my luck rose some with her, huh? I can't believe she likes me."

I smiled, "I think she more than likes you Tony. Paulina's nuts about you."

Tony's smile changed, the look of happiness on his face replaced by one of rapture. He sighed, "That's the thing I can't believe. My life changed so much lately. I even feel different, like it ain't so hard to talk to people anymore."

I grinned, "Ah, by any chance did this all start to happen around when my uncles moved to town?"

Tony thought for a second, then looked at me in surprise. "That's exactly when it started. Dave made me and Mike talk, then Joe bought me clothes. Everybody started liking my art and talkin' to me. Tim says I can make some money with it, then they gave Daddy a job. He says he's gettin' paid more'n he ever did and he don't even hafta work hard. They did change things around here, least for me."

Timmy interrupted us by honking the horn, so we hurried down the trail and hopped in with him. I asked, "What happened to Buster?"

Timmy laughed, "He saw the brook and decided on a swim instead. I don't think he knew it was there, I can't get him out. We gotta go back and get ready anyhow."

"Ready for what?"

"We're all goin' to that swim club in Arlington. Nick invited us last night."

I said, "Oh, cool. I like that place." When we got onto the bridge Tim stopped so we could look at Buster sitting in the brook and grinning at us. It was funny, but Buster couldn't be coaxed into the car so we left him there.

When we got back to the barn we found Mike still on the computer and, from the sound of it, in several instant message sessions at once. He glanced at us when we came in, then got back to it saying, "I gotta see if I can switch to keyboarding class. This is fun but I can't type. I got Clay and James and Aaron on here. Oops, now they're all leavin' to come here." He looked up and grinned, "I'm gonna like this!"

I looked at Tony and commented, "He's hooked. You might as well say goodbye now."

Tony smiled, "Nope. Tim's lettin' me take one of these home 'til I get my own. He says Daddy can afford one now."

I had to smile. My uncles had been doing things for people all their lives, and they had a real good feel for what it took to make things right. It was with money often enough, but they both gave a lot of time too. My uncle Dave literally willed his students to do well, gave them all the help he could. I'd grown up across town from them and never got in his class, but friends of mine had him as a teacher and they all loved him, saying that social studies was their best course. Dave knew how to touch people, how to get through to them, how to make them feel good about themselves.

My uncle Tim had once told me that Dave was always like that, even as a kid. He had his own problems then, but always had the knack to say the right thing to make someone else feel better.

Tim was like Dave in that way to an extent, but if he met someone with a real problem, the kind that touches your soul, he'd let Dave handle it. Tim was more of an enabler and a keeper. He always provided the follow up, making sure things stayed cool.

That's why he was spending so much time doing things for Tony. We talked about it on the riverboat the day before. He liked Tony to begin with, and thought his talent was amazing. Dave had nudged Tony off center, made him take a look at the world, now Tim was trying to make sure that Tony really explored both his talent and his options. He was certain that there was some way Tony could make some money right away and he wanted to pursue that, at the same time realizing that Tony was still a little awkward, a little fragile. He wanted him to move forward and at the same time not risk losing what made Tony special in the first place.

I knew they weren't really my uncles, not in any legal sense anyhow, but my father considered them his brothers and that was more than good enough. My mother had a brother and sister and they didn't feel anywhere near as much like family as Tim, Dave and Jerry did. Jerry was the fourth brother that made up my father's adopted family. They say blood is thicker than water, but in the case of my family it just wasn't so. I had grown up as a loved child, and all of my uncles were part of that love. Tim and Dave were gay and in love. Their love was no less real than my parents' love for each other, no less real than Jerry's love for his wife and kids. In some ways I think it was more real. They never got so lost in the everyday noise that they didn't think to do something special, something loving, for each other every single day or their lives.

It was their ritual, funny at times, serious at other times. No matter what was going on, they never forgot to give each other what they called a 'happy' every day. I had been enthralled by that idea since I was little, and found myself wishing that I had somebody to practice it with now.

Tim came in while I was daydreaming. "Okay guys! Anton, you wait for Paulina; she's picking you up. Mike, you're going with Clay and Annie. Davy's going with me and Timmy, and we have to leave pretty soon. We're picking up Pat Anderson."

Mike looked up in surprise. "Patty can come?" He smiled happily, "That's all he wanted was to go swimmin'."

Tim looked at Mike, then at me and Tony. "His parents are letting him go. They're counting on you guys to keep him out of trouble. He can go in the water, but no diving." He smiled, "Just don't let him hurt his head, okay? Keep an eye on him."

We agreed to look after Pat, then split up to get ready. Tony went to Mike's house and the rest of us went inside my uncle's place. I took a quick shower and changed, then went with Tim and Timmy to pick up Pat.

He sat in the back seat with me, and was literally bubbling over about the chance to go swimming. I really liked Pat. With all that had happened to him, all that was still going on, he had spirit and a real zest for life. He was also very bright and easy to talk to.

When we got to the club, Nick was sitting in the lobby signing people in as they arrived. He had his son Jose and daughter Nydia with him, also all of Joe Goldman's kids. They were all fidgety and Nick asked us to take them inside and have some fun.

My uncle Tim and brother Timmy stayed to talk with Nick and we went to get changed. I found a lady who agreed to help the girls, and we went into the locker room, got into our trunks, and picked up towels. I warned Scott and Jose to take it easy around Pat and they promised they would. I looked at Pat and asked, "Feel like some laps?"

He said, "No, but if that's all I can do I will." He seemed disappointed.

"What then? Just a swim? I'll go with ya, just remember not to hit your head."

Pat spun around and gave me an angry glare. "It ain't your place, Davy! I'll worry about my own head! Right now I'd rather die havin' fun than live without any. You ..." He pointed around, "You can all just leave me alone!"

I was stunned. Jose and Scott ran over and Scott pointed his finger at Pat's nose, yelling, "You better apologize, Pat Anderson! We're all s'posed to watch out for your head!" His voice took on a pleading tone, "Nobody wants you to die too!" He put his hands on Pat's shoulders and Jose walked behind Pat and put his hands on top of Scott's. They all seemed to be getting tears in their eyes.

Jose leaned in close to Pat and said gently, "Come on, Pat. We came here to have fun. We can swim and eat and lay out in the sun. We ain't tryin' to prove anythin'. We'll just all stay away from the diving boards. Come on, man. We're friends."

Pat sagged a little and leaned back against Jose, who wrapped his arms around his abdomen. Scott moved closer and stretched his arms around both of them, forming what looked like a Pat Anderson sandwich, white on rye, with pumpernickel. I watched for a moment and decided Pat was in good hands and didn't need me, so I headed out to the pool area.

I was surprised to see how many people had been invited. Scott Johnson was laying in a lounge chair out on the deck and it seemed like half the kids from Morton were in the different pools, maybe all of them. James Green was just pulling himself out of the big pool, so I went over and said hi.

James grinned, "This place is something, huh? I hear this is your last day."

He sat on the edge of the pool with his feet in the water, his hands playing squeegee on his face. I sat beside him. "Yeah, I'm goin' home in the morning. I'm glad in a way, but I really hate to leave."

James lazily draped his arm across my shoulder, "Yeah, but you know where home is. Um, a little birdie told me you busted a few heads this morning."


"My Dad works at the clinic. Neil Simmons showed up there with a seriously broken nose, talkin' about some ghost kid from Morton." He patted my shoulder with his fingers and grinned. "You're the only ghost we got. If it ain't true just keep your mouth shut, 'cause I like the story just the way I heard it."

I giggled, "You heard it right, it was Mike who punched him out though."

James smiled almost mysteriously. "Hmm. My oh my. Where would a nature boy like Mike Waters learn to deliver a knockout punch like that?"

I grinned and shrugged, "Beats me!"

James smiled and pulled me in tighter. "You're alright for a yankee boy, you know that?"

I smiled myself, thinking I'd earned James' seal of approval. That's all a Morton boy of a certain age would want, and it pleased me than I could earn it as an outsider.

I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see a huge eye looking at me. Pat sat down ane muttered, "Sorry. It ain't you, Davy, it really ain't. I just hate feelin' like a damn egg all the time."

I was looking at Pat, but heard James say cheerily, "Hey, it's Humpty Dumpty come to join us!" James reached around me and gave Pat a reassuring squeeze on his shoulder. "Don't worry Patty, you already had your great fall. We don't have any king's horses or men, but we'll get you together again. Just don't get stupid on us."

Pat leaned forward and looked around me at James. "It's not funny, James. I used to be able to do things. Now all I can do is sit! I should'a died, not Kevin. He could deal with this!"

James gave me a shove, pushing me into the pool. It was only about four feet deep there. When I stood he was sitting with his arm around Pat saying, "Pat, don't ever compare yourself to anybody! I can only imagine how much it hurts you that Kevin's gone, but he is gone and you're here." His voice softened, "Come on, Patty. You're gonna make it just fine and you know that. Don't keep flashin' back, man. Flash forward. You can't and don't have to live Kevin's life for him, he already did and it's over. It's just you now, Patty, and I know you're gonna make your parents proud. You just hafta take care of yourself, give up things for a little while. It'll all end someday. For now, you gotta do what the docs say," he looked at Pat expectantly, "Okay?"

Pat smiled at James, "Okay. I won't fuck around."

James gasped in horror. "How old are you, Pat?"


James grinned, "Okay, I guess you can say fuck if you want, but I don't want to hear it a lot 'less you're actually getting laid."

Pat giggled, "Did you ever get laid yet?"

James let go of Pat and stood up abruptly, "Let's go for a swim! You need to work on that tan, man!"

Pat finally smiled, then saw me there and smiled again, then back to James. He grinned, "Man, I'm never gonna catch up with your tan!"

James smiled. He held his hand out and helped Pat to his feet and grinned, "Yeah, I was born with it!"

I pushed away from the side and floated on my back as James and Pat headed outside. I was just beginning to wonder what was keeping Mike when Clay and Jens walked in. Mike and Annie were about five steps behind them. I was wondering if Clay's near drowning would cause him any problems with water, but he dropped his towel on a chair and dove right in. Jens went in right after him and the two of them started horsing around.

I waved to Mike and Annie and hauled myself up on the side of the pool. "Hey, you made it! Where's Tony and Paulina?"

Mike said, "They'll be here. Paulina took the pictures to get developed."

We decided to go over to the indoor-outdoor pool where there was a game of Marco Polo in progress. I was happy to see that Pat was in the water and James was running around making sure he didn't get hurt lunging after somebody.

We had a great time again, followed by a special barbecue lunch just for our group, then more swimming. Paulina left at one point to get the pictures, and when she came back a group of us sat down to look at them. She'd ordered four of each and was mildly irate that they weren't in separate sets, rather all four of each shot were together. One set was for her, and one was for me. The others were for whoever was in each one.

I was delighted to have them, most of them anyhow. It's amazing how so many kids seem to think that flipping the bird or crossing their eyes just before the shutter clicks somehow enhances the photographic experience. It didn't matter, not really. They had come out pretty good and I'd have them to remember my trip with, proof that it had all been real.

My uncle Dave showed up around three o'clock, just when various mothers and fathers began to appear to collect their kids. I got handshakes from some kids who were leaving, and hugs from others. James Green's father gave me a hug and a wink and called me a 'good ghost'. He talked to Nick for awhile, and then left without James.

I started to suspect that something was up when Joe and Marty Goldman showed up and went swimming, then later Mr. and Mrs. Nettleton came in. I joined Tony and Paulina in a hot tub for awhile, then Clay came looking for us and announced that it was time to go. We separated to get changed, then climbed into our respective vehicles. I thought we were headed home, but Tim pulled into a little strip mall and said we were stopping for dinner at a restaurant there.

The place was called Frank's and it didn't look like much from the outside. It didn't look like much from the inside either, but everyone who had stayed at the swim club started to pile in and I realized it was a farewell dinner for me and Tim. We congregated in the lounge. Joe ordered pitchers of beer and soda and some bottles of wine. The volume in that room was high. Everyone was in a good mood and talking happily with each other.

More people came. Tony's parents showed up, looking somewhat uncomfortable. Mike's mother came in, looking like she'd come straight from work. His sisters were already there. A very distinguished looking guy came into the room and Joe huddled with him for awhile. It turned out that he was Frank, the owner of the place. Joe had just told him to lay on the appetizers, and in a few minutes waitresses began bringing in trays of everything you could think of. Shrimp, clams casino, mozzarella sticks, jalapeno poppers, scallops wrapped in bacon. It was a feast all by itself.

Another family came in to wait for a table. It was a husband and wife and two boys who looked to be between my age and Timmy's, maybe about eighteen and nineteen. They were told that it would be about a two hour wait for a table and seemed dejected. Joe went over to them and said that if they didn't mind joining our party they wouldn't have to wait that long. They jumped at the chance, explaining that they were passing through on the interstate and the place had been recommended to them. Joe invited them to dig into the appetizers and drinks.

I struck up a conversation with the boys and it turned out that they were headed to Louisiana for college. They were Rick and Gene, brothers from Ohio. They were going to the same school, Gene starting his second year and Rick going for the first time. They were friendly and easy to talk to until Nick came over and put his hand on my shoulder.

"The dining room's ready for us. Who're your friends?"

Rick and Gene went white, astonishment all over their faces. I couldn't figure out what was wrong at first, then remembered who's hand was on my shoulder. I was embarrassed to think I'd been just as stunned to actually meet Nick and Scott just a week ago. Now they just seemed like my friends, regular guys trying to raise their kids right.

I smiled, "Nick, this is Rick and Gene."

Nick gave them a classic smile and held his hand out. "Hi guys. Everything okay? You look kinda pale." He turned to me and winked, "Probably just hungry." He looked back at them and grinned, "Let's go eat. That'll make you feel better." Gene and Rick were still gaping. Nick continued, "Tell you what, you guys sit with Scott and me. We're not that scary. Move it now, I'm hungry even if you're not."

Gene stammered out, "S-Scott Johnson's here too? Oh God. Ohmigod! I can't believe this. I can't freakin' believe it."

Nick took him firmly by the shoulder and steered him into the dining room. I had to give Rick a little shove to get him to follow. Nick made sure they had seats opposite him and Scott. I found a seat next to Tony's father and across from Clay and Jens. Mike and Annie were on one side of Clay and Tony and Paulina were next to Jens. Everybody seemed happy, and I could hear Scott talking to Gene and Rick. He had them laughing already.

Mr. Wolfe put his hand on my arm. "I bet you're glad to be goin' home, Davy. I know Anton's sad to see you go." He looked at Tony with Paulina and turned back to me with a huge grin, "Well, I guess he'll live. He said you been a good friend, and I appreciate that."

I looked at him and smiled. "Thanks. Tony is a good friend. He's one of the neatest kids I ever met."

He turned his attention away when Joe yelled out, "Hey Wolfie!" from the other end of the table, causing the three of them to look his way.

I looked over at Clay, who was teasing Jens about something and had him giggling. The waitress handed out menus as I asked, "Not afraid of the water, Clay?"

He looked up and grinned. "Hey, no I wasn't. I was worried before I got there, but it's just water. I don't know what happened Sunday, but I still love swimmin'. How 'bout you? You glad to be headin' out?"

I'd heard that question a lot and had a pretty stock answer by then, which I gave. We all got lost in the huge menu and, after discussions with the locals about what was good, ordered our meals.

The conversations going on were animated and amusing, then I heard a loud voice behind me and turned to see James standing there. "Hey folks! Quiet down for just a second, there's something I want to say!" He held up his hands as if he was trying to stop traffic until he had everyone's attention. Then he gestured to me and Mike and said, "C'mon over here Mike... Dave." He saw our hesitance and added, "I ain't gonna bite."

I got up and waited for Mike to find his way to me through the maze of tables, then we walked over to join James. He got between us and draped his arms around our shoulders. "You people all know what happened the other night. I just want to thank these guys for being there, for doing what they did." His voice softened a little, "They gave me back my friend."

Mr. Nettleton stood up and said, "These boys gave me back my son." He looked at his wife and placed a hand on her shoulder, tears in his eyes.

Annie stood and said, "My brother. They saved my brother." She was grinning with tears in her eyes.

One by one almost everybody took a turn saying something similar. I was watching Clay, watching him learn what he meant to people. He had a look of wonder on his face, like he just learned for the first time that he was a loved person.

When it looked like everybody who was going to say something had, James said, "Pat and Clay, you guys come here now." Louder, "Mike, I know you hate medals and everything, but things are due where things are due. Pat and Clay have some gifts for you guys." He grinned at me, "Parting gifts for our runner up!"

Everybody laughed. Clay stood in front of us, a great smile on his face. He whispered, "Thanks guys," then said loud enough for everyone to hear, "You're my heroes, so Pat has some Morton medals for you. Pat?" He glanced behind Mike and Pat came around with two frying pans. They were painted white and had leather thongs looped through the little hanging loops. Pat handed one to Clay and draped the other around Mike's neck while Clay did the same to me.

Mike and I were standing there with frying pans dangling against our chests while everybody whooped and clapped. I whispered to Mike, "I feel like an idiot. Next time take the medal."

Mike started to giggle and managed to wheeze out, "I think I will."

I started to laugh too. We took the pans off and carried them back to the table to a bunch of happy cheering. When I sat back down and Mike was across from me again, I bopped him lightly on the head with my pan. He grinned and did the same thing to me. Suddenly everybody wanted to see the frying pans, and they started passing them along the table.

I forgot all about them when the food came. We had a great meal, everybody tasting what the others around them within fork distance had on their plate. I was paying attention to the food more than anything, and when the waitress cleared my dishes away the space was suddenly taken up by my frying pan. It seemed that everyone there had signed it with a magic marker. When I got it pointed the right way with the handle straight away from me it said, "David Kenneth Loomis - Hero to," and it was signed by all the people there. I suddenly had tears in my eyes, and I looked at Mike to see that he did too. I picked up my pan and tapped his head again, smiling through my tears. Mike did the same thing back, then dessert was in front of us.

We finished our meal amid general conversation. Things had become much quieter, though no less happy. People were just full and tired. When it was time to go there was a little argument between Nick, Scott and Joe as to who would pick up the tab. I wasn't interested in it and spent the next several minutes saying good bye to my new friends. I got hugs from adults and kids alike, kisses from Annie and Paulina. Tony gave me a surprisingly strong hug given his size, and worried aloud if I'd keep in touch with him.

When it was all over I was standing there with my uncles, my brother, and Mike. Mike and I rode home with Dave, quiet in the back seat. When we pulled into the driveway we stayed there after Dave left, still strapped into our seatbelts. I moved my hand a little and found Mike's.

I had no idea what to say, I just didn't want things to end. We sat there for a long time. I'd squeeze his hand a little, then he'd squeeze mine back. Mike suddenly smiled, "Ya wanna sleep at my house? There's an extra bed!" Those were the exact words he'd said on my first night there.

I grinned at first, then thought about when I had to get up. "I better not, we hafta hit the road by six."

Mike squeezed my hand harder, "I have an alarm clock. I'll make sure you catch your plane."

I wanted to and Mike wanted me to. There was no problem. We unhitched ourselves and got out opposite doors, then met at the back of the truck and walked to his house hand in hand.

We got ready for bed, me first this time. When Mike was ready he got in behind me and I could feel his hardon right away. He cuddled up behind me, his hardness pressed right up to my butt. I was hard too, as hard as I had ever been. He draped an arm around me. I could feel his breath in my hair, almost whistling up some movement in it.

His hand touched me, touched me where I'd never been touched before.

He whispered "Please, Davy?" He started stroking me, ever so gently, from beneath my balls to the tip of my dick. My brain was screaming ' STOP" but the words never made it to my lips. Mike was humping me, sliding his own dick up and down my ass, barely moving. He was doing it though.

It didn't take long. I came and he came, I could feel him pulsing behind me.

My mind was in turmoil for a solid minute. I thought that things like this didn't happen to straight boys, that only gays could actually get each other off like that. Then I thought about who was behind me. My friend... my brother ...

Mike forced his lower hand beneath me and pulled me to him in a hug. He finally whispered, "I'm sorry."

I could still feel his breath in my hair, his heart beating.

I whispered back, "Don't be."


© Copyright, 2018-2019, the author. All rights reserved.