A Summer Story (of Recycled Trash)

Five. (Ron speaks up)

Dennis Baxter.

D-E-N-N-I-S   B-A-X-T-E-R.


Bax + Ron.

Ron + Bax.

Ronnie + Bax.

Baxie + Ron.

I scribbled over the last one, thinking it sounded mutant. I lifted my gaze to take one final look around the back yard. In minutes we'd get in the car and leave this place forever. My friends had all stopped over to say goodbye, so it was just Dickie and me waiting for my mother to get back from a final errand. The house was empty, the contents in a moving van on the way to our new home.

Another job. Another house. Another school. Meet the people, try to find some friend material. This was the fourth time for us, and I was just fifteen years old. Well, practically sixteen. I was hoping that there'd be a bright side, like the new job would pay enough that I could have my own car when I got my license.

There already was a bright side; a dazzlingly bright one for me. I'd be living minutes away from Bax instead of over an hour. We might not get to see each other every day, but anything had to be better than the zero times we'd seen each other in the three weeks since vacation had ended. Since that magical time at the beach it had been just letters and phone calls. Now it was going to be real again, and I was excited and scared at the same time.

Excited because Bax told me that he loved me, and I told him that I loved him too. I did, but I was scared wondering if he really did, and if he really did, if he still did. I know that I sure did, and my withdrawal symptoms had gotten worse by the day since we returned from vacation.

Oh, that vacation! I met Bax ... I should probably say he met me ... when I got caught scoping out his friend Ralph, who was showing everything he had with the swimsuit he wore.

Well, I thought I was in trouble at first, but it turned out to be the happiest trouble I ever got myself into. Bax scared the daylights out of me when he suggested that I might be gay. Hell, I am gay, but nobody knew for sure about that except me. I'm not the world's most masculine specimen, but if anyone else suspected me of being anything except a bit girlish they kept it to themselves.

In keeping with my nature, I ran away at first. Then I realized that Bax had said he was gay. That put the skids on my retreat. I sat alone for awhile thinking about it, about what it said about Dennis. Courageous was the word that came to mind. He'd told me something that kids just didn't go around saying, and I thought it took tremendous courage to do something like that.

I ended up going back to their spot on the beach to try again. Ralph was alone when I got there, and he put my mind at ease about Bax. We had a nice talk, and what finally got me to approach Bax again was Ralph's own comfort with having a friend he knew was gay. I had never thought that could be possible; only that gay kids got ostracized at best. I didn't really have any reason to say anything about myself to anyone before that. If there were any other gay guys living in my realm, they were good about hiding it. I was afraid of someone hearing my private thoughts, and there was no way I was going to voice them.

That was before I met Ralph. He was a genuinely nice guy, and he gave me the courage to go and talk to Bax.

I did, and we had a few rocky days. Nothing bad happened, it was just the uneasiness that came from knowing we were both gay, and plain not knowing what to do with that knowledge. That finally resolved itself with a kiss, a kiss that will stand for all time as the most memorable event in my life to that date. That kiss led to a whole bunch more kisses, even to some hand jobs. Okay, lots of hand jobs, but neither of us was ready to go any farther than a little wanky panky.

What we did do was decide that it was love that was developing between us. At first I thought we were too different to really get along. Bax was all athletic and strong and coordinated, while I was just about the opposite. I was down on myself about the girlie thing, and he was always calling himself a moron. We got on each other's cases for knocking ourselves for what the other found appealing. I liked his brashness, and he claimed to like what he called my sensitivity.

It was odd to find someone who liked me for what I liked least about myself, but it started to work.

I really appreciated that he liked me just the way I was and didn't want me to change. Lord knows I'd tried, and I couldn't anyhow. So I stunk at sports; it didn't mean much in the scheme of things. I did okay at making and keeping friends, until we moved anyhow. I don't think anybody really gave a damn if I could throw a football or not, but it took Bax to make me realize that.

I think I helped him, too. Instead of beating his own head when the wrong words came out, he started making a joke about it by saying, "What I really meant to say ..." We heard that a lot from him, but at least he was seeing the humor that the rest of us saw when his mouth mangled his thoughts.

Bax gave me the courage to talk to my mother, too. His parents had kind of softened her up before we talked, but she took the idea of having a gay son pretty well. I can't imagine that she likes it very much, but she likes me, so it's okay.

She took the initiative to tell my father about me, and when he'd picked us up the previous weekend I was really nervous. He seemed pretty cautious around me for the first several hours, then started to loosen up to his regular self. He never said a word about me being gay. I don't know if he just didn't want to confront it as a problem, or if it wasn't a problem. By the end of the day he was kidding around, mussing my hair just like always. I got the same hug before going to bed, the same kiss on the forehead when he came in to say goodnight.

It wasn't a subject that I really wanted to discuss anyhow, especially not with my father. His behavior told me that I was still loved, and to me that's all that mattered.

Nobody had told Dickie anything to start with, but he was no dummy and figured it out all on his own. That's being generous on my part. Bax and I had a lot of Ralph-given freedom during our first week at the beach because Dick stuck to him like glue. Then Ralph met a girl he liked, and had way less time for the rest of us, which meant we got more time with Dick. One day we left him occupied with some other kids on the beach and went to our tent for some kissing.

When Dickie stuck his head in looking for us, well ... he found us. He found us with our tongues in each other's mouths and our hands in each other's bathing suits.

I hate that my brother's asthmatic, but that day it served us well. He couldn't very well run away, so Bax and I each grabbed an arm and dragged him into the tent.

What he'd seen scared him, mostly. He was eleven and had heard the words used to describe homosexuals, but he didn't really have any concept of what it meant.

I actually think he learned a lot that day, most of it being about what happened to little boys who didn't know how to keep their mouths shut. We did explain our feelings for each other, and he didn't seemed bothered at all by that. He'd already noticed.

Bax had become sort of a surrogate Ralph anyhow, and he and Dickie had formed a bond of their own. It took some bribery, and when we wanted to get away alone, Bax would give Dick some money to treat his beach pals to ice cream or whatever, along with specific instructions on how long it should take to enjoy said ice cream.

Dick was a good kid. He let us disappear and never came looking for us, and he became happily (and expensively) popular on the beach.

Anyhow, I had the perfect new way to make myself smile. All I had to do was think about any part of that vacation, any part at all, and a feeling of warmth would spread through me.

Camping at the beach, especially for a full two weeks, provided the perfect atmosphere for falling in love. Everything seemed to take on a special aura there. The languid days relaxing on the sand and in the sea, the pick up basketball and volley ball games, the socializing on the boardwalk, the campfires at night. It was a world of its own, a world where food tasted better and people behaved better: a world without worry for a kid of fifteen.

Even the weather had been perfect, save for one night when a sudden rain had scattered everyone from the boardwalk and made campfires impossible. Even that night turned out nice. I spent it in the tent with my mother and Dick, snacking on cheese and crackers by flashlight and talking about our upcoming move, and how things were going to be better where we were headed. One thing Mom was good about was generating excitement. We were moving from one small town to another, but this was a bigger small town and was in the hills. Oh, what fun we'd have with all the trails, the lakes and ponds, the streams, the better schools, the more money.

My mother ... the eternal optimist. I guess I had to catch it somewhere. Anyhow, by the end of that vacation I had it bad for Bax, and he said the feeling was mutual. My mother said the time apart would be good for us, and would let us reflect on our feelings before we acted rashly.

Three weeks was a long time, though. Nobody had brought a camera on the trip, so we had to exchange pictures by mail. My mother took a new Polaroid of me, but the one Bax sent was a year old. It was still him, and it was neat seeing what he used to look like, but he'd grown a lot since it was taken, and he looked like a little kid in it.

It didn't matter anymore. I'd see him for real in an hour or so.

I looked at Dickie, who was sitting against a tree and pulling up tufts of grass. I wadded up the paper I'd been doodling on and tossed it at him, surprising myself by landing it on his lap. He looked up annoyed, then smiled shyly and tossed it back in my direction.

I said, "Any minute now, Dick. You ready for this?"

"I guess," he said somewhat glumly, looking around. "I kinda like this place."

I went over and sat beside him, putting my arm across his shoulder. "Me too, but Mom's gettin' ahead. No complainin', okay? You heard what she said; this is the last time 'til we're out of high school."

He looked wistfully around. "Yeah, I guess it'll be better, but it's so far from Daddy!"

I chuckled, "Don't worry, he likes to drive. He's gonna be there today to help us move in."

I squeezed his shoulder, "You'll get to see Ralph and Bax a lot."

He giggled, "You mean you will."

"Well, if I do then you will. They're your friends, too."

He paused, then smiled, "Yeah, huh?"

I laughed at the expression. It was one that Ralph used all the time, "Oh yeah, huh?" and I had no idea where it came from, but I suddenly knew what it meant. The "Oh yeah," meant "I get it," the "huh?" meant "Do you?"

Our mother pulled into the driveway and beeped the horn. We got clumsily to our feet and ran to the car. We had to squeeze into the front seat because the back one was crammed full of things that my mother didn't want the movers to handle. In a moment we were on the road, our old lives behind us, our new ones awaiting.

There was no big highway connecting the place we were leaving with the one we were headed to, just secondary roads that went through a lot of other towns in between. After we'd driven for about a half hour, my mother said, "Look boys! That's your father behind us."

I tried to look, but the back window was pretty well blocked by things. I rolled down my window and waved wildly out it, and my Dad beeped his horn when he noticed. Mom pulled over and we let Dick out to ride with my father.

He really was coming to help! We were halfway there and anticipation was all I felt. Not all. It was anticipation and excitement. Dennis had promised to be there to help us get settled, and with friends if they'd come.

Then we were in our new town, driving past the town hall, the library, then on to more of a country road. One more turn, then there it was. There's no missing a moving van, and there was no missing Dennis Baxter. He was jumping up and down in the middle of the road, alternately hugging himself, waving excitedly, and pointing to our new driveway.

There was a small crowd of teenagers there on the lawn, and it included a smiling Ralph. I'm sure Dick was excited to see Ralph there, but nobody was more excited than me. Bax was there! Just like he said he'd be, and he said he'd bring friends, and there they were!

I had to pee.

My mother had barely applied the brakes before I was out the door, greeted by my Dennis. My grin hurt my face, and we hugged so hard that the rest of me hurt, but it was a good hurt, a perfect hurt. If he didn't love me as much as I loved him he wouldn't be that excited, but my feet kept leaving the ground, so I knew it was real.

I cried, out, "I gotta pee!" and that made him let me go for a second, then he hugged me again.

"Oh, man, I can't believe it. You're finally here!"

I laid my head on his shoulder for a second, then pulled back and said, "Find me a bathroom. Now!"

He grinned that grin, then grabbed my arm and led me around the back of the house. Mom did well, very well. I looked around to see if there were any neighbors, then as I peed I got a good look at our new view. The back yard was level for about thirty feet, then it sloped down sharply for about two hundred more. There was a line of trees at the bottom, but across them I could see water, either a big pond or a small lake, I didn't know how to tell the difference, but it was right there!

I finished pissing and realized that Dennis was right there, too, and I turned around and fell into a hug with him. He felt good, all warm and solid We ended up kissing before we realized where we were, which was all exposed, then we pulled apart.

It didn't matter. We moved closer to the house, then kissed again. We finally broke it off, both giggling, then went around front. There was quite a crowd there. My mother and brother, my father, Bax's friends, the moving guys, and some other people who I supposed were neighbors.

Bax introduced me to his friends. Besides Ralph, there was Pete, Tyrone and Rich. I thought it was going to be cool knowing Tyrone because I never had a black kid as a friend before, not even as a classmate. I introduced them all to my father, explaining that they came to help us move in, then I repeated it with my mother, and got introduced to the older couple who lived next door and had come out to get acquainted.

We had to wait awhile until the movers were finished with the big stuff, so we went into the house and tried to stay out of their way while we scoped the place out. It was a regular ranch with the living room, dining room, and kitchen at one end, then a hall that led to the other rooms. At the far end was a big bedroom, so the two smaller ones had to be for me and Dick. They were identical, so I labeled the one closest to the kitchen as mine, and walked in to see what it was like. Pretty nice, actually, except for the chartreuse walls. It had hardwood floors, a fair sized closet and a pair of windows that had a nice view across the back yard and down to the water..

We went into the basement and found that it was partially finished off, with paneled walls and linoleum tile on the floor. It was a bit battered, but we'd never had a big space like that before. I could do something with it, and it would give Dick and me a place to go where we wouldn't mess up Mom's neat living room.

There was also a sectioned off area that contained the furnace and hot water heater. When we all started back up the stairs, I thought about that little room and asked Bax if he knew anything about furnaces. He stopped to look at me as the other guys continued up the stairs, and I anxiously waved him back to me.

Bax says he's dumb, but he figured out what I had in mind in no time at all. He grinned and took the three steps down in one giant leap. We went into the furnace room and kicked the door closed behind us.

"I missed you, Bax."

He beamed, "You? I been a nervous wreck wonderin' if you still cared." He reached out and pulled me close, "I'm so glad you're here."

I wrapped my arms around him, and it felt really comforting right then.

This was a sea change for me. I had lusted after guys less good looking than Bax, lusted in silence. Now we were holding each other, and it felt so right to me. I leaned in and we kissed. Bax dropped his hand onto my butt and started stroking it with his fingers. Now that felt right, but it also woke me up.

I pulled back and grinned, "Later, man. We gotta get moved in first."

He gave me a pained look, then sighed and said, "I know," then he grinned, "At least there'll be a later."

We kissed again, then left to do some work.

It went pretty quickly with all the extra hands. We'd kept up a constant babble while we worked, and by the time we were done I didn't feel so much like the new kid.. Bax's friends were all nice guys, and they made me feel like I fit right in. We didn't get to the point where pictures were hung on the walls, but the furniture and lamps were in place, clothes were put away, the food was in the cabinets, and the place looked pretty good.

Even the beds were made and ready for sleeping.

When we finally stopped, there were tired people draped everywhere. My father handed out cold sodas to whoever wanted them from a cooler he brought. Mom made up a plate of cheese and crackers that disappeared before she turned her back, so she got the block of cheese and the box of crackers and left them on the table.

The place felt like home already. The last time we moved it had been weeks before I made friends enough with anyone to invite them over, now I had built-in ones. Dick had a friend too, from the looks of it, a chubby kid named Sal from down the street, who was his age. Dick got Sal to come over by telling him about Ralph, and Ralph seemed to enjoy having two little brothers.

We were all surprised when Mr. Baxter showed up and invited the bunch of us to their house for a cookout. When my mother protested he just shushed her, then went and made friends with my father in about two minutes. He was definitely an in-charge type of guy, but so good at it and so friendly about it that you felt he deserved to have his way.

My mother was satisfied with the amount of work that had been accomplished, and set us all free so she could do her own decorating thing. I talked the other guys into exploring the water we could see from the back. Talking them into it required me to say, "There's a pond or something out back," then we were all headed that way, struggling to be first out the door.

When we got to the bottom of the hill it was another struggle to get through the woods to the water. The underbrush was dense and full of prickers. Thankfully it wasn't far, only fifty feet or so, then there was a narrow clearing right at the water's edge. We stood there and looked at water choked with lily pads, but it was only like that for about fifty feet, then it was clear. The land curved around to the left to a pine grove that looked easy to get through, so we headed that way. It turned onto a narrow, rocky spit of land, and that went past the weeds to where we were looking across crystal-clear water.

On the far side, the landscape was much like it was on our side. A narrow and irregular shoreline backed by hills, on which sat more houses. From where we were, we couldn't see anything constructed on the waterfront.

Pete kicked a sandal off and tested the water with his foot. He looked at the rest of us with a grin, saying, "Perfect." Then he proceeded to shed his other sandal and his shirt. He emptied the contents of his pockets out onto the shirt, then waded out, descending rapidly. When he was in over his knees, he dove forward and swam away, then dove underwater. When he came up it was with a look of pure glee on his face. "C'mon, guys, get wet!  The water's great!"

He wasn't kidding. In seconds the rest of us had joined him. The water at the surface was toasty warm, but it cooled rapidly as you descended. Descend I did. We did ... Bax and me. We'd developed something like gills during two weeks at the beach. Underwater kisses were something we'd learned how to put together early on. It turned out to be both harder and easier in a lake. Easier because the water lacked the weight of saltwater that pushed you upwards far too rapidly. Harder because the water in the lake was much clearer than seawater. Others could see what you were up to even underwater.

We had to go under where the reflections were the brightest on the surface to find privacy. I didn't even know if we required privacy.

They must have known about me and Bax, those other guys. Ralph did for sure, though we'd been pretty discreet even around him. They knew that Dennis was gay, so if they came to help me move in on his request, they probably at least inferred something about me just from that, and meeting me would have confirmed their thoughts. Hell, Maybe Bax outright told them. We'd never talked about it.

Sometimes things that might matter later don't at the moment, and that was one of those times.

Bax was as I remembered him: friendly, playful and loving, and we were having a ball practicing kissing without breathing, a skill that I suspected might have some airborne advantages as our passions deepened. We'd already gotten to the point where breathing was difficult sometimes. Bax called it being 'hot', and I guess we both were hot and breathless, so our practice in the pond seemed to take on a point beyond fun.

Oh yeah, kissing was fun, and we were both getting good at it. For all his athleticism, Bax was pretty gentle, and it was him who chided me for playing too rough. Right then, we could only kiss for fun anyhow, because getting worked up seemed both pointless and dangerous. You couldn't really do anything there, but kissing seemed safe enough after we got the hang of it.

I think that most of us stayed in the water for nearly an hour. Tyrone was out first, and as the rest of us noticed him sunning on a rock we started to leave the water to dry off. As Bax and I came out, Pete grinned at us. "Jeez, were you guys makin' out down there or what?" which caused me to blush furiously.

Bax just grinned, "Gettin' more than you, Petey boy."

Rich piped up, "Leave them alone, guys." He smiled at me, "You don't have to drown yourself, Ron. We've seen it all before." Then he blushed, "Not all ... you know what I mean!"

I looked at Bax, who just smiled helplessly.

Rich continued, "Listen, I don't know why I was chosen for this, but it seems to be my fate to have an awful lot of queer friends. As long as you guys keep your pants on, you can do what you want around me." He glanced at Pete and Tyrone, who were now both lying on the same rock. "I only speak for myself, but I don't think you'll ever get any grief from these guys either."

Pete lifted his hand languidly, still staring at the sky. "Whatever it takes to get Baxter's eyes off my ass, I'm all for it." He smiled at the heavens, "You're cool, Ron. I can tell."

I smiled in embarrassed surprise as Tyrone said, "Yeah, you're cool." He looked around at Dennis, "Just be careful if you ever let Adam get his eyes on Ron. You'll be in big trouble."

I looked at Bax questioningly, and he mumbled, "Eddie's boyfriend." He shrugged, "Wait'll you see, then you'll know. Adam's the best looking guy on the planet."

I chose that moment to wet my lips with my tongue, and Bax's eyebrows shot up to his hairline. "I mean he's the best lookin' ugly kid on the planet! Oh man, his mother has to pull a sheet over his head so sleep can sneak up on him. I'm talkin' ugly! Zits like you wouldn't believe, crooked teeth, what he has left anyhow." He looked at the other guys, "What'd you call those ears? Martian or somethin'?" He put a hand on my shoulder, "I'm only doin' it to protect you, Ronnie, but I pray you never hafta lay them eyes on Adam."

The other guys were laughing, so I leaned against Bax and asked, "Pretty cute, huh?"

He sighed, "You'll see soon enough." He asked Richie, "What time's your mother coming?"

Rich picked his watch up off his shirt and looked at it lazily, apparently upside down because he had to twist it, then he put it back down. "Five o'clock. She should be here now."

There was a relaxed silence for a minute, then Richie jumped up. "Jesus! It's almost half-past!"

I stood there as three guys scurried to get back into their clothes, then said a hurried goodbye as they ran off. That left me standing there with Dennis, who hadn't made a move to go with them. They didn't seem to expect him to either.

I felt his arm drape across my shoulder and turned to face him, asking, "You did this?"

He looked at me dreamily, then jerked, "Huh?"

"You planned this?"

He looked around at the water and smiled, "No ... not this. I didn't even know it was here."

He looked at me and a light went on, "Oh! Heh, no way. I just stayed to show you where my house was. You'd never find it the first time." He looked around, then gave me a sly smile. "Turned out pretty good though, huh?"

I leaned into Bax and wrapped my arms around him. "Oh, Dennis. This is the best day of my life." I put my cheek against his, not wanting to mention my worry about whether he really cared. We were in a beautiful and secluded place, and in my mind it was already 'our spot'. We could swim in the summer, camp out, maybe skate in the winter. For sure, if it snowed we had a great sledding hill.

Best of all, we could be alone together right out in the open. At least I hoped we could. I took a cautious look around to see if we were really as privately surrounded as it seemed. We could see houses, but they were far away across the water, and the ones on our side were well hidden by the line of woods.

I felt comfortable enough to give Bax a big fat kiss on the lips. He pulled back and grinned, asking, "What was that for?"

I smiled, "You. It was for you, Bax, because I love you."

He stared at me for a second, then it looked like a second sun came out when he smiled.

He squeezed me to him and choked out, "You really do, don't you? Man, I've been so afraid since the beach. I was hopin', man, praying that you'd hang on like I did." He pulled back and looked into my eyes, his own being things of beauty right then, letting me in the rest of the way. We leaned into a kiss, gentle at first, then more and more passionate.

That kiss was everything to me, sapping the strength it took to keep me on my feet. Bax, too.

We'd been laying on a bed of pine needles in a tangle of passion for I don't know how long, when we heard, "I'm telling!"

Bax and I both jerked around to see a grinning Dickie. He snickered, "I won't tell," then he looked upward. "Jeez, who would I tell? It's time to go, Ron."

Let me tell you, that was not good timing, and as Bax and I struggled to get our pants zipped back up, I knew they'd have to come back down real soon. I'd been on the edge of an internal explosion when Dick showed up, too close for it not to happen in the most immediate future.

'Blue balls' had been the reason my Dad gave me for divorcing Mom. Mom had said that she still loved my Dad, just not in 'that way' anymore, and I was suddenly seeing my father's side. It hurt to get that close and not finish and, without inspecting my own balls visually, instinct told me they were very blue indeed.

Bax had to be as uncomfortable as me as we followed Dick up what suddenly seemed like a big, long hill. My underpants were full of pine needles that tickled and chafed alternately. There was no promise of impending relief, as both my mother and father were standing at the top of the hill, impatiently observing our upward progress.

Bax huffed, "Cool. Your parents still get along?"

"Yeah, in their own way, I guess. I think the only thing they agree on is how to raise kids. I know I get the same line from both ends."

Dennis nudged me, "They both know, don't they?"

"Yup. I'm not sure they admit it, but they know. Mom talks, but my father hasn't said a word; not for or against."

Bax bopped my shoulder, "At least he didn't cut your heart out."

I laughed, "Yeah, silence is golden, huh?"

I don't know if our frustration showed through it, but Bax and I were pretty cheerful when we reached my parents. My Dad chose to stay dumb. He smiled and pointed down the hill toward the water, "It looks nice down there, what's it like?"

I smiled back and said, "It's real nice, Dad. It's perfect."

Dennis and I took turns in the bathroom, presumably to pee and wash up, but if he did what I did, it was to shake our underpants out into the toilet and flush the offending pine needles away. When we got back outside we shared a special little smile, a secret smile, then he rode with my father while my mother followed, and I reminded her to remember the way.

When we got there, I was blown away. So were my mother and Dick. I knew Dennis had some money, I just didn't know how much. His family lived in what looked like a stone mansion. I'm sure the feelings of inadequacy that I felt were shared by my whole family at first. Then Mr. Baxter came out from behind the house wearing an apron and smiling as brightly as if Jackie Onassis had just shown up. He ran up to the car and said, "Just leave it here. C'mon, meet your neighbors."

That's when I met Eddie. And Adam.

Give Bax tons of points for taste. Eddie was good looking in an athletic, red-headed and freckled kind of way. He had a great smile and a hearty handshake for me. After we shook, he pulled me close and whispered, "You take care of my boy. Bax needs you, and I know he loves you."

I looked at Eddie all startled, then Adam appeared behind him.

I knew it was him because it had to be, and all the adjectives I'd heard didn't do justice to what he looked like in person. Adam was perfection in the male form, even if he seemed a bit shy at first. He was also more like me in his movements, kind of delicate where Eddie was very masculine.

They both apologized for not being there to help with the move, but Eddie had spent the first part of the week with Adam, who lived in another town, now Adam was here with Eddie for the rest of the week.

They were easy guys to like. All of Bax's friends were. Bax had told me about how shaky the ground used to get when he was together with Adam, but I could see that they'd come to terms. They got along together easily, if not particularly closely.

My family was being introduced around by Bax's folks, and they made it fun to meet people. They were so easy going, and they seemed so positive that everyone would like one another, that it was almost a foregone conclusion that we would. It was like meeting Bax's extended family. Most of the adults there were the parents of his friends. Eddie's folks, Adam's folks, Richie's family ... there were more.

I think the only one not having a great time was my father, and if I knew him he was comparing himself to Mr. Baxter. That would never be fair, because Bax's dad was one of those rare individuals who seemed to have it all. My father was a great guy, too, and I hated to see him looking uncomfortable.

I walked over, "Hi, Dad."

He smiled in response.

I had a plate of things to nibble on and held it out. When he shook his head, I handed him a piece of carrot with cheese dip on it. "It's good."

He took it and popped it in his mouth, then crunched away, still looking around at the place and the other people. I said, "Some place, huh?"

He nodded, "It sure is."

"I like our place better. You saw that view out back?"

He smiled and put his arm around my shoulder. "I sure did." He looked at my face, "Your mother's doing really well. I'm proud of her, and I hope you guys appreciate how hard she's working for you."

I smiled back, "Yeah, she's doin' good." I felt the usual heartache and tried not to show it. I knew my parents had problems being married, but they never brought them to Dick or me. Whatever had really gone on that separated them, they'd remained good friends. Even during the divorce, there hadn't been any acrimony on either side, and as broken up as I was that Dad was moving out, they were both as good as they could be about it. I hated that Dad was going away, but they never gave Dick or me any reason to think it was because of us. We got talked to endlessly by both of them, together and separately. The marriage wasn't working, but they both loved us, and they did what they could to make certain we believed that.

It had worked out pretty well. When my father picked us up he always got invited in for a meal, and it was like old times. They were so friendly to each other that I had to wonder if there really was a problem. There was, obviously, but there had never been a display of anger or acrimony in front of me or Dick.

The detail I was concerned about at the moment was my father. People were having fun, and he wasn't, which was out of character. He was either major league jealous of the Baxters or uncomfortable with my queerness. Maybe both, but I wanted to know.


He squeezed my shoulder a little tighter. "Yes?"

"Um ... howcum you're not partyin'? You a little jealous or somethin'?"

I felt him stiffen, then he relaxed a little and chuckled, "Who wouldn't be? I mean look at this place."

I edged closer than I already was, putting my arm around his back. I mumbled, "Yeah, it's really nice," then I tightened my grip on his back. "It's just a place, Dad. They're not snobs, you can see that." I worked my way in front of my father and gave him a proper hug. "Dennis gets love, Dad, and so do I. I don't need a rock house to know that."

My Dad's a tall guy and, though I was growing fast, he still had me by a head. I felt him tremble, then the next thing I knew he bent down to eye level. He stared into my eyes for a second, then said, "Damn!" He pulled me back to him, "You're right, kid. How'd you get so smart? Don't answer," he chuckled, "I know it comes from your mother."

He squeezed me harder, "You and Richard are all that matter to me now. I do what I do, and it'll never make me rich, but I sure have fun doin' it." He let me go, still keeping a hand on my shoulder. "Let's join this party!"

I held him back, and when he turned I said, "Dad, Bax is special to me."

His eyebrows went up, "Special?"

I mumbled, "Yeah, like ... you know."

He plopped back down into his chair, pulling me onto his lap. I probably hadn't been there since I was ten. He wrapped both arms around me, "No, I don't know, Ronnie." I could feel his evening whiskers against my smooth cheek, "Why don't you tell me? Your mother gave me the basics, I just don't get it. Did I do something wrong here?"

I looked around and nobody was looking at us, which relieved me. I felt really good in my Dad's lap, but if anybody saw me there I would have died from embarrassment. Satisfied that I wasn't under scrutiny, I said, "Daddy ... it's not you or Mom, it's just nature taking a different course with me. I can't help it, it's the way I am."

His whiskers scratched my face while he made the chewing motion that he always did when he was thinking. He sniffed, "My baby's growing up, almost a man now." That was followed by the longest pause in human history. With all the people there having a good time, the only sound I could hear was Dad's breathing. He finally said, "I love you, Ronnie, you know that. I won't pretend to understand, but I can't not love you. You're my son, my firstborn." He hugged me a little tighter, scratched my cheek a little more with his own. He whispered, "I love you, son ... whatever. You know you hafta be careful; maybe take a karate class or somethin'."

I giggled, "Me?" I started laughing, "What? I'm supposed to go in front of a crowd and smash boards with my bare hands? I don't think so, Dad!"

My father chortled, then moved a hand up to my shoulder. "You just do the best you can. I'll be proud if I see that. You're a good boy; you always have been. You'll be a fine man."

I settled back against him, and I would have been content to spend the night, the rest of my life there. My father got his hands dirty at work, played softball on his bar's team, fished and hunted whenever he could, but he'd never forced me to do any of that to make me a 'man'. When I wanted figure skates instead of hockey skates, I got them, and he taught me how to skate anyhow. At first he didn't know what the little teeth on the blades were for, but we learned together.

I loved my father; I always did. He was the kind of guy who explained things rather than getting angry when Dick or I screwed up, the kind of guy who thought kissing his sons in public was perfectly normal. He was an orthodox male in most ways, firm in his belief that football, baseball, beer, and hockey were the important things in life, except in his case his sons came first. He could walk away from a game on TV if either one of us needed attention, and that was the usual case when we stayed with him.

I loved my father, but I wanted to join my friends. I wiggled loose from his arms, "C'mon, Dad. You gotta meet Bax!"

As I stood, he smiled wanly, "I already did."

I was excited, and tried to drag him out of his seat. "No no, you shook hands, that's not meetin'." I tugged, "You gotta meet him!"

He grinned and started to get up. I could see the doubt behind the smile. His son was getting off with another guy, and who wouldn't that bother? He wouldn't talk about it, and I knew he never would, but he was still my father and I was still his son. That's what mattered. He got to his feet and we went looking for Bax, but Dad got hung up talking to Tyrone's father, who owned a gas station.

I was a little bit surprised at how easily Dad fell into it with a black man, but that's what he did. I guess their businesses were kindred. You can't crack up a car if it doesn't have gas in it. Close enough. I left them to tell their stories while I searched for Bax.

I found him carrying a huge salad bowl out from the house. I went to help him, but he groaned, "I got it. Go in the kitchen; there's more."

I went in, and there was more, lots more. There were maybe thirty people out there, and food for fifty ready to be carried out. I let Mrs. Baxter load up my arms, then Richie was right behind me, followed by Pete and Tyrone. I smiled, thinking they knew the drill and I didn't.

I headed out toward the patio laden with food, and Ralph was there to help me put it down where it belonged. He smiled, and that's when I realized that this was all for me! The whole Baxter affair was on my account.

I smiled to myself, certain that I was right. It was Bax welcoming me to his little corner of the universe. His parents were certainly willing, and his friends were too, but I was suddenly the center of attention, surrounded by kids my age, and what a friendly bunch it was.

I got kisses on the cheek from Joanie, who was Richie's girlfriend, then from Darlene, Ralph's girl. Bax left me with them while he ran around asking everyone if they wanted steak or fish, or both.

I noticed that Eddie and Adam were holding hands right in front of everyone, no differently than Rich and Joanie or Ralph and Darlene. I never knew another gay boy besides Dennis, now I was looking at two more, and they were doing in public what I barely dared to do in private with Bax.

I was seriously trying not to be jealous of Eddie for having Adam, who was every schoolboy's dream. I smiled when I remembered Bax trying to describe him at the beach. He said Adam attracted girls, boys, men, women, dogs, cats, even dead people. I giggled at the memory, but I could sure see it. Adam had his mother's features and coloring, and his father's build, also this open and happy look about him. He was holding hands with Ed, obviously enamored, but I still felt a strong urge to at least hug him, or better yet, spend a year or so kissing underwater.

I watched Bax running around taking orders and forgot about Adam. I couldn't get the smile off my face watching him eagerly asking people what they wanted. Dennis Baxter was my guy, my first love. He wasn't as pretty as Adam, but he was mine if I didn't screw it up, and I sure wasn't willing to risk that for anybody else.

When he'd delivered his list to his father, he came back over to where I was. I looked at Eddie and Adam one more time, then defiantly took Bax's hand in mine. He jerked his away in surprise at first, then he grabbed mine again. Bax did the thing he'd started at the beach, lacing his fingers through mine. God, he always said I had the good hands, but when he did that it was so erotic.

If it's weird to like fingers, then it is, but Bax and I loved each other's. We both thought the other's hands were sexy in their own way. With our fingers intertwined like that I felt more connected to Dennis than would seem humanly possible.

When it dawned on me that we were holding hands in front of everybody I felt a moment of panic, then when I looked around nobody except my father and mother seemed to notice. My mother smiled hesitantly. My Dad looked back and forth between me and Bax, then nodded a little. I locked eyes with Dad, then his little nod turned into a sunbeam of a smile.

God, I loved that man. That one smile told me everything I needed to know. My Dad was okay with me, with the way I was. I squeezed Bax's hand even harder while I grinned back at my father. Then I shared my grin with Bax. I knew he wanted to kiss me, I could see it in his eyes, but neither of us was ready to try that in public. We just held on, secure at last in the knowledge that our developing love was okay with the people who mattered the most to us; our parents.

I had new friends, I could feel it. Dennis hung with good people, and I liked them all.

I guess I was kind of the missing link for him. Maybe it was just being in his home environment, but he was more relaxed than I'd ever seen him. I hoped that I had something to do with it, but that night I could see a lot of his father in him. He was the host to the younger crowd, and he was a good one.

When the food was ready, we pulled a couple of round tables together the best we could and sat apart from the adults. The food was outstanding, and there were mountains of it. I'm not a real big eater myself, but my salmon was melt-in-the-mouth delicious, as were all the things that went with it. Ralph was the guy with a humongous appetite. He had a steak and a piece of fish, and filled his plate with enough other food to feed a family. He ate it all, too, along with four big glasses of milk, then he was first in line when dessert was ready.

My father stayed through dessert and coffee, then left for the drive home. Dick, Bax and I walked out to his car with him. Dick and I got hugs and kisses, then when he went to shake hands with Bax he ended up giving him a big hug too. That was my final assurance from Dad: the first time he'd ever hugged one of my friends.

We waited until he drove off, then Dick ran back around the house for more dessert. This left Bax and me alone in the driveway. We faced each other and held both hands, then leaned in for a very sweet little kiss.

When we broke apart, both smiling, Bax looked around. He let go of one hand and tugged on the other. "C'mon, you haven't seen the house yet."

We went in through the front door, and my brief tour of the downstairs gave me a glimpse of a big and beautiful living room off to the right. Bax was headed for a curved staircase and we ran up it to a hallway that was at least eight feet wide, big enough that they had some tables against the wall with vases and framed pictures on them.

He opened a door, and I was in his bedroom. It was bigger than mine, but given the size of the house it wasn't really massive. It was really nice, though, with expensive looking furniture and a thick beige carpet that begged bare-footedness.

Dennis had a central decorative theme, and it was me! The little Polaroid picture I'd sent him had been blown up into four poster-sized prints, one for each wall, and they'd each been framed. I was stunned, then Bax came up behind me and wrapped his arms around me and kissed my ear. He whispered, "Told ya I was hooked."

I turned around to face his gentle smile, smiling myself. I was so happy that I could have screamed my delight. Instead I looked into Bax's eyes and leaned forward until our lips met. This was the real thing, and to think we'd both worried about the other. I should have been ashamed of myself for doubting him, but somehow the sensitivity of our kiss seemed to shut down the worrying part of my brain and turn on the blissful part.

We fell onto the bed kissing and groping each other, and somehow we became naked. My last clear thought was to ask, "Is the door locked?"

Bax kissed my forehead, "Is the Pope Catholic? Don't worry, nobody's gonna bother us here."

We made out for a long time, getting totally worked up. Then Bax whispered, "I have somethin' for you."


He smiled nervously, "Ever have a blow job?"

Oh, God! He was going to do it? I was already trembling with passion, now I thought I'd have a heart attack for sure. I squeaked out, "Not that I can recall."

Bax giggled at my choice of words, then said, "Let me know if you remember this tomorrow, then."

With that he was on me, delivering sensations that I would have never believed possible. I was a quivering mass of helplessness, lost in a space that I didn't know existed. I noticed my balled up fists pounding on the comforter, but I was in no position to stop them. I was bouncing all over the place, partly because of my hands, partly because the muscles in my butt kept contracting of their own volition.

When I realized I was going to blow I tried to warn Bax. "C ... c ...c" It was too late, and I let loose right into his mouth.

He stayed right on me, and I think I fainted. There was lost time for some reason, anyhow. The next thing I knew I was being cuddled and having my cheek kissed by Bax, and had a closer to normal heartbeat. I breathed out, "Wow! I thought you said that was gross!"

He giggled, "Was it?"

I laughed a little, "Not from my end. I came in your mouth, though."

Bax kissed my cheek again, "I'll say you did. When exactly's the last time you came, anyhow?"

I giggled, "About two minutes ago. You forget already?"

He chuckled merrily, and I asked, "Where'd you learn that, anyhow?"

Bax mumbled, "Eddie."


"Eddie. He told me, numb nuts. What was it like?"

I said, "In-fucking-credible! Um, what'd it taste like?"

Bax sighed, "Like you, Ronnie; just like you, just perfect. I love you, you know."

I rolled onto my side so I could kiss him, taking his dick in my hand. I said, "I could tell," before starting a long and passionate kiss. I wanted to do what he had done, but I had a lot of trepidation about doing it. I didn't know how, but if I could give him a tenth of the pleasure I'd just experienced I'd be happy. I said, "Your turn," and slid down into position.

I really didn't know what I was doing, and I made Bax yelp a few times. When I decided I'd need lots of practice to get it right, I giggled at the thought and that set Bax off.

I don't know, I really thought it was going to be gross, and it wasn't at all. Bax was right. All I could taste was him, and everything about him pleased me.

I snuggled back up to him after a minute, loving him more than I had before. His happiness gave him a nice rosy glow.

We hugged for awhile, then I asked in a whisper, "Well?"

He grinned hard enough to crack his skin. "Awesome! Totally, mind-blowingly, awesome!" His look turned to one of concern. "You okay?"

I smiled inside, "I think so. Can I get pregnant like that?"

That took a second to sink in, then we both cracked up. We kissed some more, then eventually got dressed to rejoin the picnic outside. When we decided we looked normal enough, we laced hands and walked down the stairs, exited through the front door and walked around back. Most of the people were still there.

Tyrone, Pete, Eddie and Adam were playing an exuberant game of Monopoly, being kibitzed by Dickie. They looked up and acknowledged our approach, then went back to their game. Eddie looked back up in a double-take at Bax, and suddenly smilied, lifting his thumb up discreetly.

I thought it was funny, not to mention very cool, that those two were so connected again: that Eddie could figure Bax out just by his expression or his body language.

Ralph and Darlene were sitting on a wall with Rich and Joanie, sneaking as many kisses as they could with their parents present. The adults were in a large group yakking away like they'd known each other all their lives.

Bax had my hand in his, our fingers laced together.

He looked at me and smiled. It could have been the perfect end to a perfect day.

We slipped away and went back upstairs anyhow.

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