Plan B: A Degree of Difference

by Driver

Chapter 6

I woke up right on the alarm. I had to pee anyhow, so I turned the bedside lamp on and figured out the clock radio, wondering crankily why they couldn't standardize on something so basic. They weren't hard to figure out, but you had to figure them out at a time of day when you weren't especially disposed to figuring things out.

If all the makers put things in the same place, then the turning off of alarm clocks would soon work its way into the genetic fabric of people, and we'd all wake up just a little less grumpy.

As much as I loved the bed I was in, and as easily as I could have spent another few hours in it, I wanted to get up, too. I didn't want to spend another day alone, I wanted to go to work, to see people and socialize.

I made myself get out of bed, then hurried through the bathroom, not because I was in a rush, but because hurrying made me think, and thinking made me wake up faster.

I got dressed, and was the first one downstairs. They had a coffee maker with a timer, and the coffee was almost ready, making that steamy, spitting sound, and it was done by the time I got a cup out.

I poured a glass of juice, too, then started looking through the cabinets until the idea of an egg sandwich occurred to me. Yes! Easy, filling, and tasty. I put some bread in the toaster, but didn't start it yet, then I got a pan hot with some butter in it while I scrambled up some eggs. My specialty, usually, but I wasn't that used to a stove that used gas, so the eggs got a little well-done while the toast browned, but it came out good. I put a slice of cheese on, and sat down to breakfast just when Edie came in.

"Smells good," she said. "What'd you make?"

"Egg and cheese sandwich, want one?"

She nodded, "I believe I will."

I said, "Take mine, I can make another," but she poo-pooed that idea, so I sat down to eat, and was just finishing it when Harlan came in.

He went for the coffee first, and had already had a sip before he noticed me there. He smiled, "You're up early! Got plans?"

I smiled and nodded, "I'm going in with you." Harlan stared at me, and I backed off, "If ... if it's okay with you. I ... I"

Harlan smiled, then he chuckled, "Let me think about this." He sipped his coffee with a blank expression, then looked back at me frowning, "I don't think it's a good idea, Evan. We've been to some trouble to keep you out of sight, and I ... I don't know why, or even if, we should change that." He looked at me, "Why would you want to change things? It's for your protection."

I had to think, and I couldn't come up with a good answer. This all was to protect me, that's the only reason I was there in Harlan's house. I slumped, time to sulk. I was being rash, being selfish, being really stupid. The things you don't want to consider are exactly the things you should consider. Where else should I go to look for big, strong guys? Did one of the guys I worked with all summer get the drift that I was gay from one of the guys I lived with all summer? Did one of those guys, whose sister had my family's twenty-five grand, mention anything to her, and she had a boyfriend?

I raised my hands in acquiescence, and nodded my head. "God, you're right, Harlan." I lifted my eyes to his, "Sorry."

Harlan smiled sadly and shook his head, "Don't be sorry, Evan. I ... I mean you ... I mean ... none of us are used to anything like this." He smiled, "I'm like you, I want to think things will be normal and this will go away, but ..." he looked up and lost the smile, "it's still nothing to play with."

My hopes for the day sank, but he was right. I looked up tentatively and said, "Better bored than dead?"

Harlan gave me the oddest look I'd ever seen on his face, then he looked around the room quickly, and turned back to me, his eyebrows high in surprise, "You're bored here?"

My jaw dropped. Harlan leaned toward me an inch and said, "I have every toy known to man in this house, and you're bored?"

I suddenly felt bad, like I'd insulted his hospitality, and I stuttered, "It ... it's not ... it's not that! I'm just not good by myself. I mean, I'll be okay now, because I found where you keep your books."

Edie was giving Harlan a stern look, and when he didn't take his eyes off my face, she turned to me and smiled. "Don't let Harlan scare you, Evan, because he's just like you. We have all these toys because when he has to spend two minutes or more alone, he takes off for town to pick up a supply of what's been invented since the last time he was there."

I looked at Edie, at Harlan, then we all started giggling and snickering at the same time. I looked at Harlan again, and we both just lost it. I laughed out loud, and it wasn't anything particularly funny. Harlan was laughing, too, as was Edie, so it was the connection that was funny.

Edie was right, though, I'd have more fun in a Radio Shack than a house, and just from asking questions to see what the clerks knew. Pity the people in Circuit City, where I'd say I had cash but no I.D. That would get a laugh, and sometimes a discount if I was actually buying something, but I couldn't play Harlan's games, not yet. I could picture them, though, and it was funny in advance to think about buying whatever struck my fancy, and just because somebody thought of making it.

I looked at my hands and said, "Sorry." I looked up, "I really do love it here, I'm ..."

Harlan grinned and said gently, "Not good by yourself." He took a sip of coffee, studying me, "How about this?" He snickered, "The barn could use a coat of paint, and ..."

"Stop it!" Edie said, slapping his hand, which made Harlan snicker.

He looked back at me, making a kind of helpless gesture.

I knew that they, and everybody else, were all trying to do right by me, and it wasn't my place to refute any of it. I said, "It's okay, I found a good book." I looked up and smiled, "I'm just not a real good loner."

Harlan lifted an eyebrow, "You could have slept later."

I smiled, "I still can," then I grinned, "see you later."

I got up and went back upstairs, figuring that time passed quickly when I was sleeping. I took my book and put it down beside the bed, then got undressed and climbed back under the covers. Even after a good night's sleep, I dozed off easily, and when I woke up again it was after ten. I turned on the television and found a movie that looked interesting, but it wasn't after awhile.

I wiggled around to get more comfortable, and picked up the book that I'd started the day before. I was soon lost in it again, wondering about the hardships of life just seventy years before, alternately laughing and on the verge of tears, and occasionally excited. When I got hungry, I carried the book to the kitchen, and kept reading while I ate my sandwich, then I decided on a soak in the hot tub. That's where I finished the book.

It ended well, and I decided that it was a book I'd read again. I felt like I'd raced through it, even though I tried not to. That's the problem with a good story, it engrosses you, and you read for the conclusion, aware that you're busy missing all the nuances of a good story teller. I feel that it's kind of an obligation; to read the good stuff a second time, and pick up on the writing as well as the good story. Once you know where the story goes, it's easier to slow down and pay attention to the details, and that's where a lot of the interesting parts can be found. It's like good writers put two or more stories in the confines of what they're writing.

By that time, I felt like a waterlogged prune, but a very relaxed prune. I dried off, then got dressed in my room, and after another whole day, I noticed the cell phone, which I'd promised myself I wouldn't forget a second time. It was time for Aaron to show up already, and I'd managed to blithely forget about the phone completely until I actually saw it sitting there. Thinking that there must be some acclimation period required before I'd remember to carry the phone around, I picked it up and checked my messages.

I smiled, because all four of them were from Aaron, who sounded disappointed on the first one, then increasingly taunting because I wasn't responding.

He was annoyed because he spent all his quarters on the pay phone and never got to talk to me. He wasn't angry, though, and he sang a little in his last message to say goodbye. The music was unexpected, and it made me laugh, and it made me love Aaron all the more. Only him!

Dry and dressed properly, I went downstairs to wait for him. I turned on the television, then poked around in the kitchen for a decent snack. I cut up some carrots, celery and peppers, because we both liked things like that, then found some ready-made dip in the refrigerator, and some cheese. I chose crackers to go with the cheese, plopped it all on a tray, and brought it into the other room.

I had time, so I got some firewood and lit the fireplace, and I was suddenly anxious for Aaron to show up. My day of leisure had me relaxed in one sense, but also seriously anxious for some company, and I had specific company in mind. I smiled, thinking of why I loved Aaron, and the newest reason was the best. Nobody ever sang to me on the phone before, and I knew nobody else ever would.

I sat, poking the fire until it was going for real, and I waited, and I jumped in the air when the doorbell rang.


I ran, yanked the door open, and there he was, somewhat startled by my abruptness, but looking fantastic in a navy blue woolen coat and a dark red scarf. Behind him were Billy and Huck. Billy had cheapo red earmuffs on, and they made him look cute. Huck, on the other hand, looked very striking in an expensive looking parka.

The cold air struck me, and for the first time I realized I hadn't even stuck my head outside all day. I backed into the hall, grinning, and they came in. Huck pushed the door shut behind him and they hung their coats, everyone talking at once.

Aaron scrunched up next to me, so I was looking at Billy and Huck, who were both grinning. "Hi, Guys," I said quietly.

Huck stepped toward me, "Hey, Evan." His face was concerned, "Are you okay?"

I nodded, "Yeah, for now." I smiled, "I get to stay in this great house, and my best friends come to see me. Come on in, I just lit the fireplace."

I led them into the other room, showed them the food, then asked what they wanted to drink, which I went to get.

When I came back, the way they were sitting on the sofa, I sat between Huck and Billy, because Aaron was there on the end beside Bill. I knew he didn't care, and I put a hand on each of their shoulders. I was feeling better, but not good enough to stretch and put my arms around their shoulders, which would have been my preference.

We munched and talked for a while, and I kept getting up to poke at the fire. I was really taking looks at Aaron. Sometimes he just got the clothes right, and this was one of those days. The summer tan was history by then, and his skin was naturally fairly pale. He was wearing charcoal colored cargos and a light gray flannel shirt over a turtleneck that matched the color of his pants. With his thick, black hair he was just striking, and the flickering of the fire only enhanced the effect.

I finally just stood by the fire where I could look at him full time. I'm sure my smile turned into a leer, but nobody seemed to notice. By then I loved just about everything about Aaron, anyhow, but sometimes he looked downright edible, certainly a feast for the eyes. He caught me looking and smiled coyly at me, giving me a pretty good once over at the same time. Billy and Huck were there, so we had to be polite, and Harlan and Edie could come in at any time. Still, I would have given anything right then to be alone with Aaron in front of that fire.

It was a thought that I had to shrug off, but someday we'd find ourselves alone in a romantic setting like that.

Still hoping, I asked, "So, do you guys have a lot of homework?"

Huck and Billy shook their heads, and Aaron said, "I didn't get any at all."

I wondered how far I was getting behind, but figured it probably wasn't much because of the upcoming holiday, the excitement about the Turkey Day game. I thought morosely that I'd most likely miss the game, and it had been big fun going the year before.

I couldn't even ask someone to get my homework, because nobody was saying anything about me - nothing at all, especially at school. Chris and my other friends were listening to hear if someone showed any real interest in my absence, but they weren't supposed to bring it up. I wondered how that was going, too, and decided I should check in with Sgt. Donovan later on.

Billy was telling us about going to visit his mother's family for the holiday, their first Thanksgiving without her, and he was looking forward to the visit, if not to facing the holiday without his mother.

Huck's family were having local relatives over for dinner. He was going to the game with some friends first, then his father was going to deep-fry a turkey. That got all of us talking about deep-fried turkey, because we'd all had it on occasion, and agreed that it was absolutely delicious. We were impressed that Huck's father had his own backyard fryer.

Aaron and his family were going to his Aunt Lilac's house, and Aaron wasn't looking forward to it. "She'll probably feed me uncooked spaghetti to try and straighten me out," he said, sounding serious. We laughed anyhow, and he'd only be gone for the day, so there would still be three days that we could get together, hopefully alone.

I was used to being away from Aaron, and it wasn't that bad. We knew when the next time we'd see each other would be, and we worked around it. We got together during the week at least once, and most weekends we spent at least one night visiting one house or the other. It worked out pretty well. There was school to begin with, and I was a conscientious student to the max. Aaron was serious about his studies, too, so if we had a lot more time together we'd probably both start to slide.

Except for not sharing classes or eating lunch together, we probably saw each other on personnel time just as much as we would have if we lived in the same town and went to the same school. We talked on the phone every day, so we never felt that we weren't close, just not always close enough.

With Billy and Huck there, it was like an exquisite torture. Aaron was looking especially fine, but there wasn't much we could do. Huck would get uncomfortable if we started anything with each other, and that wasn't our style anyhow. There had been a quick kiss at the door, and there would be another when they left, but in the meantime it was platonic in action.

Then Billy picked up the remote and changed to ESP. Curling was on, and he left it there, both he and Huck suddenly interested. My jaw dropped, and I exclaimed "You watch curling? That's the boringness sport I ever saw!"

Billy was leaning toward the television, and he said, "She! I can't hear."

Huck said, "Oh, man! Did you see that?" pointing at the set.

I saw it, alright. I saw some guy with a ridiculous looking broom running ahead of a teapot on steroids, sweeping the ice in front of it. I rolled my eyes, and there was suddenly a hand tugging gently at mine.

Wait! I knew that hand! I looked at Aaron's eager smile, and he nodded hopefully. I looked at Billy and Huck, and they were lost in the curling match, so I said quietly, "We'll be ... in the kitchen ... or somewhere."

Huck and Billy both gave us dismissive, backhanded waves. That might have seemed offensive under some circumstances, but with Aaron's hand firmly in mine they'd have to say something seriously rude about my mother before I got offended.

I smiled at Aaron, shrugged, and we hurried out of there.

I couldn't wait. As soon as we were out of sight, at the landing to the stairs, I stopped and turned to Aaron, at once smiling and pulling him into an embrace. I whispered, "Clothes make the man, sometimes, you know that?" Then we kissed, and all the sweetness of our love was there to make us love each other more than just a moment before.

Sometimes we felt an urgency to get physical, but not all the time, and this was one of the not times. I just wanted to be with Aaron, to hold him and look at him, to kiss his wonderful face at will. We sat on the bottom step and talked and made out, and it was beautiful.

We even talked about curling, and Aaron thought for sure that Billy had pulled that so we could be alone, but I went and peeked into the other room, and they were still watching them curl, if that's how you put it. I told Aaron, who was certain they'd be watching cartoons by then, and he went and took a look himself.

When he came back he said, "Maybe now they like curling, but I bet they never, ever watched it before. Billy would watch trampoline or pogo stick if it was on, and Huck's just like him."

I smiled, "Don't knock it, Aar. Trampoline and pogo stick are real sports."

He looked at me, "Curling's not real?"

I said, "Let's change the subject," then added, "No, it's not real! Well, it's real, I guess, there's just no point! I mean, there are lots of stupid games, but at least in bowling and bocce you try to hit something. This is like shuffleboard, except there's not even numbers to land on."

Aaron said merrily, "I bet I could beat you at badminton."

I gave him a dark look, "You probably could. Every time we tried to play where we live, these bats would chase the birdie, and ... well, and!"

Aaron turned his dark eyes to me, and they were full of humor, "You don't like bats?"

I shook my head, "Nobody likes bats, Aaron. Nobody."

We shut up and started kissing, making little satisfied sounds, and not really talking for a long time. When we came up for air, Aaron muttered, "I like bats. I think they're neat."

I nuzzled his cheek, "You would. Nice cuddly little bats, waiting there to suck the blood right out of you."

Aaron nudged me, snickering, "Yeah, right. I think you've watched too many Dracula movies, Evan. There are such things as vampire bats, but they bite cows, not people."

I could have argued, but the time with Aaron was too special. I smiled, "You're right, now I remember," then I kissed him again. "If you like bats, then I like bats. The non-vampire ones have bug breath, right?"

Aaron muttered, "Hopeless!" and we went back to kissing until the doorbell rang.

It was Justin, of course, there to bring the guys home. He was all pink-cheeked and looking great himself. He stayed a few minutes, and I got a decent goodbye kiss from Aaron, but I sorely wished that he could stay. Then I wondered why not. "Aaron," I asked nervously, "Can't you skip school tomorrow? What is it, half a day and a pep rally?"

He nodded, "I think so, what are you getting at?"

I smiled weakly, not a lot of hope that his parents would agree, but nothing ventured ... "You could stay here tonight, we could be together."

Aaron looked at me, then he put on a hopeful smile, "Maybe." His fingers got going like they did when he was excited, almost like he was playing an invisible vertical piano. He looked around, and I produced the cell phone from my pocket.

I watched as he dialed, then turned away while he talked. I always did that, and for no real reason. I was very interested in the outcome of the call, but I looked away and tried not to listen.

I did hear, of course, and Aaron could whine with the best of them when he had to, and when he said an excited, "Thanks, Mom!" I whirled around to see him smiling and shaking his head yes.

My eyes opened wide, and I could have screamed out my joy! We hugged, and Aaron said to Justin, "I'm staying, Justin." He grinned at Huck and Billy, "See you guys. Have a great holiday."

Our goodbyes were cheerful, and then it was just Aaron and me. I wondered where Harlan and Edie were, but figured they were just still at work. They often stayed there later, and it was just six.

I led Aaron back into the room and tossed some wood on the fire, thinking it was like fantasy time. The flames leapt up while we sat down on the carpet. It was perfect.

Almost perfect. I excused myself and hurried toward the kitchen. I'd taken about two steps when the cell phone in my pocket both rang and vibrated, and I answered to hear Edie's voice.

"Hi, Evan, is everything alright?"

"Oh, hi! Yeah, things are fine. Aaron's here, and I hope it's okay if he stays the night."

"Oh, good," she said. "We're just leaving the shop, and we thought we'd stop in town for some shopping. I was calling to see if you wanted to come with us."

I smiled, "Um, that's okay. We're fine here."

"Well then, you enjoy yourselves. Will you cook up something, or do you want to wait for us?"

I said, "Oh, we'll find something, don't worry." I grinned, "You have fun shopping."

We made a little small talk, then hung up. I forgot momentarily why I'd been on my way to the kitchen, but the answer soon popped into my head, and when I came back I had a bottle of red wine, a corkscrew, and two heavy crystal glasses. Aaron liked bad boys, and I was in exactly the mood to be bad.

He looked up when I came in, and he managed an evil little smile of his own when he saw what I was up to. I set the things down on a coffee table, then wiggled my eyebrows before confronting the wine bottle. Now, I'd seen wine uncorked many times, by my father, in restaurants, lots of places. I'd just never done it myself. There was a wrapper of some sort that you had to contend with before you got to the cork, and I was unsure of what to do with it. It didn't just peel off when I tried it with my thumbnail, so I looked again, to see what I was up against.

Aaron saw my confusion, and he was beside me in a flash. He stood touching shoulders with me, and reached for the bottle, saying, "Allow me."

I eyed him, but let him take the bottle. My next step would have been to figure out the opener, and Aaron must have had the same one, because that cork was out in no time flat, and he'd pulled it out right through the wrapper.

I was impressed, really, but more by the notion that I now knew how to do it, than to compliment Aaron on his skill. I even let him pour, because how much was something else I wasn't sure about. He filled a glass just over halfway and handed it to me, then filled his own to the same level.

I'd been watching him, and he was the model of concentration, so it was after he set the bottle down that we actually looked at each other. We couldn't have been much closer, and I held my glass out of the way and kissed him quickly. He smiled, I smiled, and we sat back down by the fire, a little farther back than we'd been.

I sipped the wine, and it didn't taste as good as when we had it with food the other night. Aaron was nursing his like I was, and the one effect it did have on me was to push my appetite to the forefront.

I hadn't been eating a lot, but I hadn't been doing anything either. A little boredom, too little Aaron, a lot of reading, a lot of goofing off, that had conspired to kill my appetite. Now Aaron was there with me, and we had a night and a day facing us, and I got hungry. When I mentioned that, Aaron said he was hungry, too, so we picked up all the wine paraphernalia and headed to the kitchen.

I had my head in the freezer, and I was moving things around, calling out, "Steaks, pork chops, salmon I think, lamb chops. There's some roast things, but I think they'll take too long."

Aaron was making a salad, and he asked, "No chicken?"

I shook my head, then Aaron asked, "Do you like lamb? That's something we hardly ever have."

I looked back in the freezer, and there were loads of lamb chops, so I said, "I like lamb. That's it?"

Well, given the kitchen equipment that Harlan had, we were eating within the half hour. Lamb chops off the indoor gas grill, baked potatoes from the combination microwave and convection oven, and oniony salad by Aaron's own hand. When we sat down, Aaron asked me to move my head for a second, and he pointed a remote at the wall behind me, and the 'wood' stove burst into flame.

I was moderately amazed, but only a little, because it was Harlan's house. Our long-forgotten wine tasted just fine with the food, too, and it helped our dinner conversation to range wide.

We finished, and our hosts were still out, so we did a basic cleanup and left the rest for the next day.

I had a wine buzz going, and Aaron was all giggly and sweet, so we headed upstairs.

I had in my mind to call home, to call the police to see what was going on, but Aaron distracted me. We weren't drunk but we were full of food, and the wine had us relaxed beyond normal relaxation, and we got ready for bed, then fell asleep almost immediately.

Fortunately, I only dozed off and didn't sleep very long. It wasn't nine yet, and I sat up. Aaron was snoring softly beside me, almost a purr. I was a little groggy, but awake enough.

I got up and went to the bathroom, where I splashed some water on my face, then I went back for the cell phone and I called home while sitting on the closed toilet.

Bruce picked up the phone, and after we addressed his concerns about me, he said, "Dad wants to talk to you, let me get him."

In a minute I heard my father's voice. "Hi, Evan, how are you feeling?"

"I'm good," I said.

"Are you healing well?"

I sighed, "I think so. I didn't even take a pain pill today. It's more like I'm just aware of it now, than it's really bothering me."

"That's good, just take care to keep everything clean." He paused, "Um, about Thanksgiving ..."

"What about it?"

"Well, we were really looking forward to being together, but I don't see how ..."

I sighed again, "I know. I'm sorry, Dad."

His voice quieted, "It's not your fault, Evan, and I know you know it isn't. It's still a sad situation, and I hope you'll find a way to celebrate."

Nobody had mentioned the holiday, so I didn't know what to say. "I'm sure I'll be fine, Dad. You haven't heard anything from the police?"

"Nothing," he said. "The school called your mother at work to note your absence, but it wasn't a real person so she didn't have to say anything."

I felt bad, suddenly. "Is Mom there? Can I talk to her?"

Dad's voice caught, "Of course you can, she's right here. Be good, son. I love you."

Those were words my father seldom said, and I got all choked up hearing them, so I pretty much cried through my brief conversation with my mother. She patched over her words of the other night that had left me upset, and I apologized for being bothered by it. It was a difficult talk, so we didn't drag it out.

When I rang off, I washed my face again. I wondered why contact with my own family, the people I knew best on the whole planet, could leave me feeling so drained and fragile sometimes. That hadn't been a long call, but it seemed to have taken a lot out of me just the same. I wondered about even bothering to call Munro or Donovan, but I'd promised, so I called and left messages for both of them, figuring that was enough.

Then I went back to bed, and I'd barely crawled in under the covers when there was a tap at the door. "Evan?" Harlan called softly.

I got up and opened the door a little, and put my face in the opening. I smiled, "Hi, Harlan."

He said, "Just checking. Everything's okay?"

I nodded, and he smiled again, "That's good. G'night, then."

"Night, Harlan," I whispered, and when he turned I closed the door.

I turned back to the bed, and could barely make out Aaron sitting up and rubbing his eyes. I smiled and almost floated back to bed. I leaned in and kissed him, then climbed in beside him, but he climbed right out and strode to the bathroom.

Only when he came back did things improve, and then improved more on top of the first improvement, until being gay and fifteen, and having a boyfriend like Aaron, and a bed to share with him was once again an occupation that I'd highly recommend.

* * * * * * * *

"Donovan," the voice said, sounding like he was chewing on something.

I grinned. "Smiley," I said cheekily.

He chuckled, "Evan, how are you, boy?"

"Hmm, almost man, I'd say!"

His chuckle took on some real merriment, "Okay. You sound like an almost-man who almost got lucky last night."

"Almost? That's like horse shoes, right, like 'close only counts in'?"

"Okay, score one for Evan. To answer your question, no. Now, leave an old man to enjoy his apple-cinnamon in peace."

I laughed, "You're really eating a doughnut?"

"Evan, I'm a police officer. If I didn't eat doughnuts, then crimes would go unsolved, people would get hurt, dangerous felons would roam free. If I had to sit with a knife in one hand, a fork in the other, then I'd be far too busy to handle all that other nonsense at the same time."

I laughed, "I get it. One-handed food let's you keep up your energy and shoot your gun at the same time."

His chuckle was fun to listen to. "You're a clever boy, Evan. You figure these things out like bing, bing, bing. I've told you there's nothing new, and I can add that we're working on it. Anything else?"

I got a little more serious, "You'll call, right?"

His voice softened, "I'll call, Evan. That you can count on."

"Thanks," I said softly, and hung up. Then I turned to Aaron, "Nothing."

He shrugged his shoulders and handed me a glass of juice. The English muffins popped up right then, and in a minute we were enjoying a light breakfast. We'd slept until after eight, and hadn't even washed up yet. Harlan and Edie were gone and we had the place to ourselves again. We were aware of all the possibilities, but woke up feeling easy, so we were taking it easy.

There was sun outside, and that was promising. We had our muffins with butter and jam, juice and coffee, and that was it. I liked all that, but I was craving a poppy-seed bagel, and was unable to conjure one up.

Soon, was all I could think when we took turns in the shower, then dressed to take a walk outside. Aaron borrowed underwear and socks from me, then put on the clothes he'd come in the day before, which were just as attractive to me a second time. He was overdressed for a walk in the yard, maybe, but that combination was so right for him that he could wear it from church straight to an orgy and never look out of place.

It was sunny out, but the air was quite cold, and the ground didn't know whether to be frozen or muddy, so it was slippery going. We just took it easy, and our odd missteps didn't cause any falls. We ended in a different patch of woods than we'd walked too before. The generous layers of leaves weren't slippery, but they concealed uneven ground, and we still meandered slowly, eventually following a sound we heard in the distance.

It got louder and louder, and the route we took led us to a stream, and as the noise got louder I suddenly smiled at Aaron, "A waterfall! That's what we're hearing, a waterfall."

Aaron said, "Oh, I bet I know where we are. Yeah, let's go! This is a big falls!"

As the stream beside us alternatively widened and narrowed, the path we were on only widened, then there was a grassy area off to our right with picnic tables, and after one more turn we saw the falls. Powerful falls! The roar drowned out everything but yells. This wasn't Niagara. The cascade was probably forty or fifty feet, but there was a loud torrent of water, and it sure impressed me. There were some makeshift stairs and a wooden railing to the top, so we walked up there, and it impressed in a different way.

Again, the water was black, and the leaves around still had some color, and the sudden rush toward the precipice of what looked like a gentle stream hinted at the power of nature, and of a certain mystery. The stream there came from the left, and we'd have to go somewhere else to follow it, but there was a road right there, more properly a street, I guess, because there were stores and things right on the other side.

I stepped forward for a better look, but Aaron held me back. I turned to him, and he seemed nervous. He said, "Don't, Evan. This is Benham Falls. It's a state park." He indicated across the street where things were, "That's Benham Falls Village. You never heard of it?"

I had heard of it, and it only took Aaron to remind me. Benham Falls Park was the site of the meanest, nastiest murder in recent state history. It wasn't ancient lore, either, it happened in my lifetime, only three or four years earlier.

Four boys had snuck into the park for an unauthorized overnight camping trip. Overnights weren't allowed in the park, and their parents all thought they were at one house or another. A hiker found three bodies the next day; shot and knifed to death, and one boy was missing completely.

It was a horrendous crime that drew national attention, and after some months a person in Ohio called her local police to report 'that boy they're looking for' looked just like the boy who'd moved into the trailer park where she lived. He was with a guy who had never mentioned a son before.

It turned out that she had good eyes, and the case was solved. The boy was returned to his parents, and the perpetrator was extradited to stand trial. Only the trial never happened. That boy's father was at the airport when the kidnaper arrived, and even with his heavy protection, the guy shot and killed the man who had harmed his son. The shooting was caught on camera by the local news, and it was broadcast nationally.

The father didn't get much for the crime, because it was called 'justifiable homicide', and probably because it saved the state a lot of money. The man he killed did murder all those boys, and the one he took with him he'd raped every day that he had him, usually several times.

I could see why the place gave Aaron the creeps, and I felt them too. It seemed suddenly darker and chillier, even though it was still bright sunshine. Had we walked right where the murder occurred? Did we have to go there again to get back?

I looked at Aaron just as he looked at me, and we both gulped. We looked at the stairs down, and took off toward Harlan's.

God, it was creepy being where somebody had been killed, and when we got there we knew. Well, maybe not, but any self-respecting kid would have camped at that bend in the river. There was a big, flat area, and it backed up to a gentle hill, and the river right there was its prettiest. Wide and calm, and with a stony beach.

It was chilling to think about. Kids who had done nothing worse than sneak out, and they died for it, and one had a different outcome. He came back alive, but I couldn't decide the better fate, and I didn't want to contemplate it. I said to Aaron, "Come on, let's get out of here."

Aaron gave a shiver, and we walked away in silence, and we were back in the yard before I said, "That was creepy."

"I agree," Aaron said, "but no creepier than you."

I turned, "Me?"

Aaron snickered, "I said that wrong, I didn't mean you're creepy, I meant what's happening to you is creepy."

We were back in a safe zone, so I allowed myself the laugh that exchange deserved. "Sorry, Aar, I lost you there. There's no creeps here, but," I put my hands on his shoulders and smiled, "there is a hot tub, and I know for a fact that it's empty right now."

Aaron grinned, "Such a waste! I think we should fill it up."

"Good thinking, Aaron." I took his hand and we headed upstairs.

I hadn't noticed before, but where my shoulders were cut up, the scabs were itching a little, and the hot, bubbly water felt extra good on them. Aaron stroked them gently after awhile, and he said that little bits of scab were coming off. He also said the discoloration was getting less, and I was glad of that, too.

I was very relaxed, and also curious about the murder that happened so close to where I was staying. I asked, and Aaron never knew anyone involved, nor did he know anything about the kid who survived. He thought his father would know more, because his insurance company had something to do with it. Neither of us thought it was a good idea to call him with questions about something so morbid, so we just relaxed righteously.

We got out of the tub before we were too waterlogged, and Aaron took a moment to take a closer look at my shoulders, which he thought were healing properly from the looks of things. We dried off, and I shaved at Aaron's urging. At fifteen, I was a daily shaver. Aaron only got fuzz, so it was an occasional chore for him.

The shave gave us both time to dry off thoroughly, so we trotted back to the bedroom and considered what to do next. Well, what wasn't the real question, it was where. We had the most comfy bed in the state right there, but there was also that fireplace downstairs. I smiled a question at Aaron, and he shrugged me his response, which I correctly understood to mean 'both', so we plopped down on the comfy bed.

Even after a cheerful and sloppy half hour, it was only one o'clock. We went downstairs, and I started a fire while Aaron made us a salad for lunch, and it was a pretty wild salad, loaded with onion, and it had slices of garlic as big as my thumbnail. It was outrageously delicious, and I was becoming firmly subscribed to Aaron's belief that it didn't matter what we ate as long as we both had the same thing.

Collectively, we were probably fire-breathing dragons when we finished, but my mouth was a happy one after surviving that little challenge. I felt like I'd had enough garlic to sustain both Greece and Italy for a week, but, Oh God, it was good!

I grinned at Aaron, "Come on, guys, come get me now! I'll huff and I'll puff, and I'll blow your fucking face off!"

Aaron looked at me, then he burst out laughing, and he laughed and laughed. He got me going, and I tried a few practice puffs, but the furniture didn't catch fire, so I figured it was safe to kiss, and finally ..

I loved Harlan's house. I loved the kitchen a lot, it was so homey feeling there, and it always smelled good, and it was a fun place to eat. I loved the room we were in more, though. If I was going to design the perfect space, that would be it. It was part of the original house, so it had a low ceiling where the hand-hewn, heavy rafters were exposed. There was that big, stone-faced fireplace throwing out all that warmth, and the shiny plank flooring, with throw-rugs like the one we were on scattered here and there. The wall facing the patio, though, it had been replaced, but still seemed authentic. It was like a million panes of glass, all six-inch wide by eight-inch high, and with stained wood separating the panes.

The furniture was comfortable and good looking, there were beautiful pictures on the walls, to-die-for things all around. I could see Aaron looking around, and it was like he was sharing my dream. This was Harlan's house, but we could work hard and maybe do as well, and that thought suddenly settled in my mind.


I smiled. Aaron wasn't separate from me, not in my mind. Aaron and Evan made up 'we', and it felt natural enough to me. "Aaron?" I started.


"I ... um, I love this room we're in. I was just thinking that we could have something like it someday, then I .. I realized, I mean I thought ... I was thinking of we, like us together." He was staring at me, and I smiled and asked, "Do you think like that? I mean, am I projecting?"

Aaron's eyes lit up like he'd just felt a jolt, "Really, Evan? You mean that? Ask me again!"

I smiled and chuckled, because Aaron always wanted to hear things he liked a second time. I was used to that. I squared my gaze on his and asked seriously, "Do you think of us as together? I mean, for the long term?"

He looked at me, just a gaze, then he breathed out, "Yeaaaaah, that's how I see us." He blinked, "You, too?"

I smiled, "Me, too." I kissed him, then pulled back, "I love you, Aaron. I'm here as long as you want me to be."

Aaron's eyes got shiny, and he leaned in for a better kiss, and we couldn't have been in a more perfect place than we were.

Lucky, that's what we were. Middle class kids, and we weren't wanting for much materially. How many gay boys find each other at our age anyhow? And our circumstances couldn't be much better. It would be nicer if somebody wasn't trying to kill me, but it wasn't the time to think about that. I just smiled my 'I want a kiss' smile, and it worked.

Aaron leaned into me and planted a great kiss on me, then the totality of our surroundings, the romance of it all, caught up with the both of us, and we got ... well, romantic.

After we played, we laid there on our tummies looking at the fire, our chins propped up on throw pillows from the sofa. The fingers on my left hand were fiddling with the fingers of Aaron's right one, but that was the limit of our activity. It was still light outside, but not for much longer. I kind of expected Harlan and Edie to come home early, so we were all proper.

A lot had happened in a week, and I was still fairly sore from some of it. That morning we'd inadvertently come across the scene of a horrible murder, and it was made worse for us because it happened not that long ago, and it involved kids who were basically our age at the time. The one survivor had been kidnaped and raped by a pedophile, so there was a homosexual aspect to it, too. It was all just too spooky, and it was horrible at the same time.

I wondered how someone became so cruel as to kill young boys, and apparently without remorse. Those kids had snuck into the park to sleep out and have some semi-illicit fun. Chris and I had slept out countless times, and not always where we were supposed to, or even where we said we'd be. What kind of savage did it take to wreck all those lives, just so he could kidnap one boy for a sex toy?

And what was that boy like now? They were ten and eleven at the time, and he saw his friends being killed. How much horror can one person live with? The murders of his friends were only the beginning of his ordeal, too. He was taken to some house where he was kept, and the murderer raped him repeatedly, day after day, until months later the kid escaped.

Just when he thought he was safe, his father shot and killed the perpetrator, so the father had to be taken away to jail.

I couldn't stand it, but the images my mind evoked wouldn't go away. I would absolutely freak out if I saw somebody die. Especially if I couldn't stop it from happening. If I saw somebody murdered, I don't know. I think I'd shut down and just not want to live anymore.

I'd watched Dean O'Shea trying to work out his involvement in the deaths of his mother and of his best friend. His mom had died from disease, and there was no stopping it. Her cancer got out of hand, and it killed her.

His friend, Devon, though ... Dean had taken full responsibility for that, and it took him three years to realize that Devon was just as responsible as he was. I could see how that would be harder for Dean to face than just claiming full culpability, but the truth was that Devon came up with the liquor they drank, and he was the one who wanted to go for a ride.

That either of them might die from the ride was never thought of. An accident was never thought of. Nothing was thought out, nothing planned, it was just two kids who wanted a little bit of wild, and they both ended up paying dearly for it. The night it happened, things could have played out a million ways, but the worst was what happened.

Their story is a common one, and not even that bad as those stories go. It was two boys, and one died. If they'd had the car packed with friends, it could have been way worse, and any high school kid in the country could give you an account of a worse accident.

The problem was that Devon had been a real person, and a talented person. He didn't have to die, shouldn't have died, but still he did. As awful as that was, it was still an accident when you got to the end of it. Devon didn't die because some other person didn't want him to be alive. He died because he and his best friend did something reckless, and it happens somewhere every single day.

Those boys at the falls, though, I didn't know the details. Maybe they'd been killed in their sleep and hadn't faced fear, but I didn't believe that. The first to be attacked, maybe, but there would surely have been noise to wake the others. Then what? There's some man there with a gun and a knife, and you're wrapped up in your sleeping bag, and he just comes at you? Then, how accurate was he? I was the victim of a rage already, and I knew how much it hurt afterwards, how weird it felt happening.

Did this guy ... I had to stop thinking about it before I made myself crazy.

I looked at Aaron, and he was just about out, and he fell asleep as I watched. I so loved that face, that body. If anyone ever tried to hurt him ...

Then I thought, what? Like what the hell could I do to stop it? If someone walked in right that second, determined that one of us would be his sex slave and the other was just disposable, what would happen then? If I was asleep and I got shot through the brain, I'd just be dead, and Aaron wouldn't put up a lot of defense, at least not physically.

If the tables were turned and Aaron was dead, then I'd give up the fight to be with him, and I'd fight to annoy so they'd kill me, too.

I hated when I got morbid like that, but it happened sometimes, and usually when I was hearing or reading or thinking about murders. In a way, it was simple for me, because I just couldn't imagine the act of killing another person. It wouldn't happen by my hand, not even to an animal.

I'd seen it in movies many times, but to see, in real life, another healthy person go from alive to dead was just something I knew I could never face. I couldn't watch it as an accident, and I especially couldn't watch it if one person killed another. The thought of it brought every swear word I knew to mind, and even combined, they didn't bring credence to the idea. I think the thing that got me was that you could never undo it. You could kill someone in lots of ways, but it was so freaking final! That life, whatever it had meant, would be over, and you could never undo the taking of it.

I was freaking myself out, and I tried to stop it, but I couldn't. My own situation, with somebody after me with the intent to kill, coupled to my proximity to that awful crime from years back, just had my head spinning. I'd been stabbed eleven times, eleven, and never even realized what was happening to me. I don't remember even making any noise, and in fact the whole assault had been pretty quiet. There were grunts and a few hateful words from the guy who was on me, and that's all I remember.

That suddenly made me wonder. The attack didn't succeed in killing me, but it had been quiet. For me to even think about doing something like that, I'd have to run in screaming, I'd have to be in a wild rage. Silence wouldn't be a part of it, and I wondered if this guy was used to it.

That made sense, to me anyhow, and it made me think it wasn't this guy's first time. He'd done it before, or he'd thought about it for a long time, and my own thoughts seemed important enough to have me dialing Munro's number as I sat up.

I got voice mail and left a message for him to call. Then I called Donovan and got someone else.

I was edgy, and my voice sounded high even to me. "Is Sergeant Donovan there?"

"No," came the gruff reply, "Is it an emergency?"

I said, "I don't know. This is Evan Smiley, and I just thought of something."

The voice warmed up, "I can get a message to him, Evan. Shoot."

"Just ask him to call me, okay?"

"Okay, I will. Are you alright?"

"I'm fine," I said, "Just a little freaked out. Tell him to call my cell phone."

I slumped a little after I hung up. My mind had been full of bloody messes for an hour, and I was conjuring them up all by myself. I walked to the kitchen for something to drink, and ended up with a glass of cold milk. I drank it down standing there, and I did feel calmer, and then the phone rang.

It was Donovan. "Evan, we have some movement, but you have news?"

Movement? I breathed, "Not news, but a thought. What kind of movement?"

"There was a phone call, a possible witness. Tell me your thought."

I did. I told him about the silence of the assault on me, and he told me I was pretty astute to think of that, and that it might indeed be important. He didn't let me carry on about my reasoning, though. "I know what you mean, Evan. You don't have to explain it. I have to go anyhow. I'll call you if this turns into anything. Otherwise, you have a nice Thanksgiving, okay?"

I said, "Okay," and hung up, thinking I got the short end, and I stared at the phone, muttering, "Yeah, you have a nice fucking Thanksgiving, too."

I was on the verge, of what I don't really know. I wanted to be a pitcher, to throw that phone right over the plate to a fastball hitter, and I wanted him to knock it right over the fence, where it would come down as a rain of phone dust. I felt let down, but it was my own doing. Still, I was squeezing the phone almost hard enough to break the thing, and I had no direction for my anger. I was mad at a situation, and I really did want to throw something, but I didn't want to break up Harlan's house over my frustration.

I didn't have any direction for my anger, and it soon dissipated, or more likely hid somewhere in my mind. Aaron was there, so I gave up and went back to be with him.

I walked back toward the other room, and I suddenly chuckled. I could be angry tomorrow, maybe the day after. Somebody or something real would get in my way, and then I'd have a direction for it all. Anger really requires a target. When it's non-specific, there's no useful purpose for it, and it boils up into frustration. That's not where I wanted to be.

Aaron was still snoozing when I got back, so I woke him up. He smiled just before he came to, then looked at me, "What?"

"I'm horny," I lied.

Aaron smiled in astonishment, "Again?"

"No," I sighed. "I wish I was, but I'm just done in."

I tossed a log on the fire, then sat with Aaron, calm by then, but my thoughts were still too fast for my liking. We leaned into each other, and I asked, "When do you have to go?"

He said quietly, "I said I'd call. I can probably stay 'til nine or so." He looked at me and stroked the back of my hand, "You're all tense. What's the matter?"

I muttered, "Lots of things, Aar, things I can't do much about. I was thinking about that murder in the park we were at, about what happened to me ... I don't know, I got kind of freaked out. Then I had an idea about my attack, and I called Sergeant Donovan, and he said they might have a witness."

"Really?" Aaron perked up. "That's good news, isn't it?"

I shrugged, "I don't know. I hope so, but all he said is that they got a call."

Aaron kissed my cheek and started stroking my arm, and I leaned even tighter up against him because it felt so good. "Poor Evan," he whispered. "Don't worry, things'll work out, you'll see."

I smiled at the fire, comfortable once again. There was something soothing about a fire. If I just watched the flames dance for awhile, focused on the little sparks that came off the top, I could get lost in it and clear my head. It was twice as nice with Aaron beside me, and we didn't say another word until Harlan came in about a half hour later.

"Hey guys," he said. "How was your day?"

By then, I had to force some words, because I'd been trancing along with the fire. I said, "Strange day, but not bad. How about yours?"

Harlan had been hanging up his coat, then he sat on the sofa and said, "Pretty good, Evan. We'll be pretty dormant now, at least until it snows. The construction crews have a few more weeks, but maintenance is minimal now."

I looked at him, "That means everyone's laid off?"

His smile flattened, and he nodded. "They know the game, Evan. They can collect unemployment, but a lot of them head south and find some winter work. I try to make the season last as long as I can, but once the leaves are down there's just not much to do."

"Oh, I understand," I said, hoping I hadn't seemed offended. "I was just asking."

Harlan smiled, "I gave out the bonus checks today, and that softens the blow a little."

I nodded, then asked, "Where's Edie?"

"Oh, she went to pick up the bird at the turkey farm. She'll just be a minute." He looked at me, "I take it you're eating here tomorrow?"

He asked that nicely enough, but I was really starting to feel like a freeloader, so I just shrugged, "I guess so. The cops might have a witness, but they didn't say much."

Harlan stood and stretched, and said, "I need a drink." He smiled, "Say something, Aaron, but wait 'til I get back." He winked and walked out.

Aaron giggled, "Should I say I think he has a nice ass?"

I snickered, "Only if it's true, Aaron."

He started giggling, and was still giggling when Harlan came back with a glass of beer in his hand. I said, quietly but emphatically, "Tell him, Aaron, which caused Aaron to turn the color of a strawberry in season. He made a throaty sound, somewhere between a cough and a gargle, and said nothing.

Harlan asked, "Tell me what, Aaron?"

Aaron looked up, still all red, and managed to say, "I gotta pee!" and he got up and ran off.

I looked at Harlan, and we both shrugged. I knew why Aaron was embarrassed like that, and he deserved it. There were lots of butts that I admired, and not a one of them was attached to anyone over eighteen. It wasn't that you couldn't have a decent one after that, I just tried to keep things in the realm of possibility. Aaron, however, had no such qualms, but if he was going to admire Harlan, he should have the nerve to tell him so.

Edie came in just then, and Harlan and I both stood to greet her. She looked tired but happy, and said the groceries were still in her car. Harlan and I went out in our shirt sleeves, and it was quite cold outside, but we weren't out in it long enough to be anything but refreshed. When we were done, we went back in the other room, and Aaron was back, sitting on a sofa.

Before we could even sit down, he said, "Harlan, I really love this house! Especially your kitchen."

Harlan smiled proudly, "Thank you, Aaron." He glanced around, "Yeah, we really like it here, too." His smile brightened up, "We haven't told anyone, but we'll be filling those empty rooms pretty soon."

I looked, not sure of what I'd heard, then it came to me. "You mean?"

Harlan nodded eagerly, "We just found out for sure." His smile suddenly lit the room, "This is exciting!'

It was to me, and Aaron asked excitedly, "When?"

"June," came Edie's voice from the doorway. Our heads all turned, and she was standing there looking radiant in her happiness. We all stood, and Aaron and I congratulated the both of them. Moments like this weren't in our future, but that didn't do anything to mute Harlan's and Edie's joy. We could share in it, though, and any children born to them were already privileged, and not just by wealth.

Harlan and Edie were the people who proved the so-called 'American Dream'. They were honest, hard-working, enterprising, and more than a little bit smart. There's always luck involved, but Harlan hedged his bets pretty well, diversifying just enough that a slowdown in one area wouldn't kill him.

They were civic-minded and generous, and they looked at people as individuals of merit. He employed a lot of people, and in his mind they were really people, not just employees. He knew their names, the names of wives, and the names of children. He wasn't phony, but as real a man as I'd ever met. I never once encountered any kind of disrespect or scorn directed at them, only respect and high regards.

They had gotten together on a sofa, so I tossed another log on the fire and offered, "How about me and Aaron make dinner?"

That brought smiles from both of them, so I asked, "What sounds good?"

"Something light," Edie said. "How about ... how about ravioli and a salad? Come on, I'll show you where things are!"

She hopped up, and Aaron and I followed her to the kitchen, and I noticed Harlan relaxing back into the sofa on my way out.

Edie led us to a regular freezer and handed us some frozen ravioli and a Tupperware box of sauce, saying that her mother had made both from scratch, then she took a bottle of wine and went to join Harlan.

Aaron and I were once again the chefs in that amazing kitchen, but working this time with pots on the stove, kind of the old way. It was a good enough trick getting the sauce free from the plastic box it was in, and it was going to take some time for it to thaw and cook. Figuring fuck it, we opened our own bottle of wine, and sipped while Aaron made the salad. Then we waited and sipped some more while the sauce tried to become liquid.

When it was finally time to boil the water for the pasta, we'd already cracked a second bottle, and we were both in very good moods. The sauce smelled wonderful, and even the pasta gave off a pleasant scent as it boiled. I told Harlan and Edie that things were almost ready, and we were poised to eat just when everything came off the burner.

Edie's mother made a fantastic sauce and wonderful ravioli, and Aaron did his usual terrific salad, so the meal was a delicious success. The bunch of us were a little giddy from the wine, so the conversation ran toward funny stories and lots of loud laughter.

I'd never had that much to drink in my life, and it was clear that Aaron hadn't, either. We weren't exactly falling down, but we sure weren't standing up very well, either. Harlan decided that he didn't want Aaron's folks seeing him like that, so he took it on himself to call Aaron's house and tell his mother that we were running late, and asking if Aaron could just stay the night, then he'd bring him home in the morning.

I admired Harlan a lot, but right then I saw one reason why we got along so well. He hadn't lied, not even a little, but he'd also managed to omit the truth that their younger son was barely able to sit in a chair without giggling himself off it. Those not-lies were something I'd mastered in a hurry when I left home, and actually accounted for the reason I knew Harlan Blaine to begin with.

Edie, who had only had a few sips of wine, made coffee and dished up some ice cream. The brew and the sweetness brought us down pretty quickly, so we were merely silly when we left for bed.

We were very silly though, giggling about nothing, and kissing sloppily, which was hilarious fun. We undressed each other, which was more fun, and when we finally pulled the covers up we fell asleep as fast as if we'd both been struck with big hammers, like just being horizontal struck us down.

If either of us moved a muscle all night, I wasn't aware of it, and when the alarm went off we were where we started. I had to pee, but there was something else, and it didn't really manifest until I was back in bed and Aaron came back from his own pee. "I'm horny," I announced, "really fucking horny!"

Aaron said lazily, "Me, too," and there was no further discussion required. Well, I suppose we could have talked, but there was no point, and holy shit!

I think I had a hangover, too, my first one. I tried to remember how much wine I drank the night before, but I couldn't. I remembered opening more than one bottle myself, and Aaron and Harlan had opened bottles, too, so the three of us had drunk three or four bottles, save for the few sips Edie took.

I didn't have any particular symptoms, I just had this lazy feeling. My head didn't hurt, but it wasn't working right either. Thoughts came slowly, and the ones that didn't center on sex felt pretty heavy, so I tried not to think them.

I kissed instead, and that felt good. When I write my book about growing up, I'll recommend kissing as a way to work off the very first hangover. It does good because it frees your mind from any requirements for thought, it feels good, and no number of repetitions would ever make it boring.

Nothing lasts forever, though, and Aaron eventually said, "I have to go, Evan. We're supposed to be at Lilac's for noon, and I have to get ready when I get home."

I smiled, "It's okay, I'm glad you got to stay as long as you did."

Aaron's timing was spot-on, because just as we were getting dressed Harlan tapped on the door and told us to get a move on. It was almost ten, the time when my school's football game started, so they were probably starting all over the state. I regretted not being there with my friends, but I didn't feel that bad. I had a good chunk of time with Aaron, and we'd get together again the next day. I had a turkey dinner and televised football to look forward to, and Harlan had that big screen. I couldn't think of a lot to complain about.

Continued ...

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