A Special Place--Part Thirty-three--Michael
Mary Kathryn came to supper with us Saturday night and after supper we sat in the porch swing and talked for ages about a lot of things. I finally told her what I had talked to Matt about and how I had felt pressured to do and be something I was not. "I can't understand why boys--and in my book they're boys--have to brag about having sex. I mean, is it a game like basketball where you keep score?" she asked.
"I guess it's supposed to prove you're a man. Being in love and loving someone physically, I mean having sex, is never a part of the locker room talk. Just fucking."
"Well, I know some girls get pregnant to prove they are a woman and some guy does the job to prove he's a man and there's another child without decent parents. It's not about love. It's about... well, it's just bullshit. So Matt thinks the women can put a stop to some of the locker room talk. Who's the worst?"
"No question about that, it's Ronnie Meyer. According to him, he gets laid at least seven times a week."
"His girlfriend is Melinda Howell, right?" I nodded. "Well, she is a real firecracker and I expect there'll be fireworks when she finds out." We talked a while longer, but not about that. We talked about loving each other and how much we enjoyed kissing and all that, then got in some practice before Margaret came out and announced it was time for me to walk Mary Kathryn home. I knew the walk was going to be more than a little bit painful because I had been hard for ages.
"I planned for her to spend the night here, in my bed," I said.
"Think you better come up with a different plan, young Michael," Margaret said.
"But I want to," Mary Kathryn said in a very pouty voice.
"No doubt," Margaret said, "but it's time to hit the road!" We all laughed and I started walking Mary Kathryn home. The moon was only half-full but the sky was absolutely clear, so the moon looked much brighter than I expected. As we walked, I had to stop from time to time to look at my beauty's face in the moonlight--and to exchange a few kisses. Just past Matt's place there's a huge old oak which arches out over the road. When we reached it, I took Mary Kathryn by the hand and we walked under the tree and I leaned against it and pulled her to me. The moonlight shining through the leaves of the tree make a pattern on the face which I often saw in my dreams. A gentle breeze moved the leaves, changing the pattern on her face, teasing me as her lips, eyes and nose were highlighted and then shadowed. The fantastic beauty before me took my breath away.
While we were on the porch, we did some making out but it was pretty tame compared to what was happening under the oak. The pressure of her body against mine made me even harder although I thought that was impossible. Our lips were locked together and I found myself breathing for the both of us. Well, not actually, but you know what I mean; every breath Mary Kathryn took came from me. When she placed her hand on the front of my pants and started rubbing my cock, I was in heaven! As she continued, I felt myself approaching that point I have loved since I discovered what I could do by rubbing and stroking my cock. Her touch became a bit more intense and that did it. I was blinded by the climax that hit me. I had to take my lips from hers as I was gasping for breath. When I had recovered enough, I pulled her to me and whispered in her ear, "Mary Kathryn Larsen, I love you, I love you!"
Mary Kathryn stuck her tongue in my ear and when she removed it said, "If you ever think I don't love you, Michael, remember... God, I don't know how anyone could love a man more, I don't care how old they are." We stayed under the oak for a while longer, exchanging tender kisses and telling each other of our love. Finally we started back toward her house, our arms around each other, still exchanging kisses. Reluctantly, there had to be a final--long, passionate, but final-- kiss on her porch and I walked back to my place. Had anyone seen, there was plenty of evidence I had had a wild woman in my arms. I went upstairs and got into the shower to clean up and embarrassed myself when I realized I was singing at the top of my lungs. When I started the third or fourth time, "More than the greatest love the world has known," I yelled "YES!!"
Dad came rushing up the stairs to see if something was wrong. When he knocked on the bathroom door and asked, "Are you all right, Son?" I shouted through the door.
"YES!! I'm wonderful. Dad, I'm in love with the most wonderful, the most perfect, the most beautiful, the most loving woman in the whole wide world!"
Dad laughed and said, "I think I would challenge that, Son, but I guess it would get me nowhere with you."
"Margaret's great, Dad, and I love her to death, but she can't compare with my Mary Kathryn."
"Only a fifteen-year-old's opinion, but it would be useless for me to argue," Dad said and laughed again.
I wrapped a towel around me and came out of the bathroom, and Dad was standing in the hall laughing. "Seriously, Dad, have you ever been in love as much as I am?"
"Twice in my life, Michael, and I can tell you it's a wonderful feeling, especially when you are loved in return as I have been by your mom and Margaret."
"And I am by Mary Kathryn."
"And as you are by Mary Kathryn," he agreed. We gave each other a high five and Dad hugged me. "We are two damn lucky men, Michael Andrews."
"Indeed we are! ... I meant to ask earlier, Dad, where's Uncle Michael? I haven't seen him all weekend."
"Well, he just said he had some business to attend to Friday and that he wouldn't be back this weekend. I think maybe he's gone courtin'."
"And I'm not sure, but when he left he seemed almost as happy as his nephew was when he came back from a fifteen-minute walk that took an hour. Good night, Son, and sweet dreams."
"Yea, sweet dreams... you won't have to dream because you have your woman beside you. I don't think that's fair!" I said in as pouty a voice as I could manage.
"A privilege of age, I guess. And since when was life supposed to be fair?" Dad asked. I went to bed and dreamed of my Larsen beauty, but I was also having some disturbing dreams which I didn't understand. I kept dreaming that I was watching myself and couldn't really see me. I saw Mary Kathryn holding a baby--which definitely was mine--but I couldn't see me or who or what I was. It was puzzling.
Matt and Luke had their first AP exam Monday--English--so I was surprised when they showed up for lunch. "How'd you guys do?" Mary Kathryn asked. All the seniors of the Fellowship were in AP English so they immediately started talking about the exam. All thought they had done well.
"I wouldn't have done shit," Luke said, "had Matt not coached me, but I am confident I did well. Certainly not a five, but I'm pretty sure of a four". The others thought they did about the same except Matt who said he had done ok and the exam was what he had expected. He couldn't very well say what we all knew was true; he had probably aced the test.
While we were talking about the exam, Melinda Howell came into the cafeteria--stormed in would be more like it. Mary Kathryn said, "Prepare for fireworks. I told Melinda that her boyfriend Ronnie Meyer had been bragging about having sex with her and she exploded." We all looked up and it was obvious Melinda was steaming. She walked--no, rocketed would be more accurate--to the table where Ronnie was sitting with some of his friends. When she reached it, she planted her feet about two feet apart and practically shouted, "Ronnie, I'm through with you! You've been bragging about having sex with me, you lying bastard! You have been trying for ages and when I finally decided it was ok, you needle dick, you couldn't get it up! That's as close as you ever came to having sex with me and that's as close as you ever WILL get, spaghetti dick!" She then stormed over to a table and sat down.
"Thanks, Matt. I see what you mean about all talk and no action! Man, I bet there's a lot less talk in the locker room from now on!"
A Special Place--Part Thirty-three--Matt
After lunch, Luke and I went to the office and checked out, taking advantage of the afternoon off provision of the AP exam schedule. "Luke, when Michael talked to me about being kidded because he was a virgin and almost sixteen, he had another problem. I think in his nearly-sixteen-year-old mind, they were close in importance."
"Something as important as whether or not to have sex with my baby sister?"
"In case you haven't noticed, lover boy, your baby sister is hardly a baby any more--a babe, yes, a baby, no! But yes, having sex with your sister."
"She loses her virginity before I do and there is going to be big trouble," Luke said in a Jens voice.
"Don't think you have to worry about that and I'm sure the kidding will stop after today," I laughed. "Besides, I told him just to give the locker room guys a wicked Michael grin and say something like, 'Man, if you only had what I have' and let the guys fill in the blanks. Anyway, he's really concerned about a birthday present for Mary Kathryn. Think we might buzz over to Mr. Swartz's place and take a look?"
"Sure. Why not?"
When we got to Mr. Swartz's shop, he was delighted to see us. We told him our problem and he suggested earrings which matched the central symbol on Mary Kathryn's ring. "Do you remember what it is, Luke?" I asked.
"Yea, its the face of the corn maiden."
"Let me see what I have," Mr. Swartz said and went in the back. When he came back, he had two trays, one of earrings and one of bracelets. "Thought you might like to see the bracelets as well," he said as he placed the trays on the counter.
"Look at these," Luke said, holding up a pair of earrings with a roadrunner on them. "Didn't Michael pick a ring with a roadrunner?"
"Sure did. Man, that would be neat--earrings to match his ring for his woman. Luke, my man, you are a genius. Mr. Swartz, would you put those aside until we can talk to Michael? I'm sure he will think they are a good idea and I would hate to have them gone if he wanted them."
"Well, as you know, I have a good collection and sold few until some teenagers with taste took a bunch of my lovely rings. Now they are raiding my earring collection, it seems," he laughed. "Of course I will hold them for Michael. Just have him call or come by."
When we left the shop, I asked Luke if he'd like to hear a surprise I was preparing for Millie and he said he would. We went by St. Mary's and I suggested we call the school and leave a message for Michael that we had a project we needed him to help with, and that I would pick him up. We did, and the secretary said she would give him the message. "Make sure he understands he is to be the only one we will pick up," Luke told her. As we were leaving the office, I said to Gertie, "Gertie, I'm going to play something for Luke I have been working on as a surprise for Millie. Now, for heaven's sake, keep quiet about it because it has to be a surprise."
"You don't think I will hear it here in the office, do you?" she asked, somewhat amused.
"I wouldn't be surprised! Just keep it under your hat!" Luke and I went into the church and I told Luke to sit in Millie's place--everyone knew where that was! "Luke, when I first started taking organ from Millie, she would occasionally open up this Flentrop and blast away with a piece I thought was great. Of course, when this monster is opened up, it should be in a place at least twice the size of St. Mary's, but Mr. Willingham insisted on having it. It has pipes that could have bird's nests they are used so seldom, such as this one." I played a note on a 32-foot pedal stop! In a small parish church, you just don't have a 32-foot stop, but St. Mary's did! "When I first started taking organ from Millie--I was only six ... remember that fuss?--Millie used to kid me saying, 'Matt, you may be good, but don't think you'll ever manage this,' and she would cut loose. Of course, when I started, I couldn't reach the pedal manual. In fact, I couldn't even reach the swell pedal, so it was a pretty safe bet on her part, but I think I can manage it now and I want to surprise my old teacher." When Luke was in Millie's pew, I started and don't think I made a mistake. When I finished, I got up and bowed as Luke stood applauding.
"Damn, Matt, that's something! I bet Millie will wet her pants when she hears that! Babe, how would you like to grab a burger and fries since we will need to pick up Michael, and if we went home we'd almost have to turn around and come back."
We took our time eating and talking and then went to the school where Michael was waiting for us. "Michael, don't expect us to solve ALL your problems, but I think Matt and I have solved the birthday present problem. By the way, your's is tomorrow and you have AP history exam the following day. When's the celebration?"
"Well, Mary Kathryn's birthday is the eighteenth and Margaret asked if we would like to have our celebrations together and we did. But it seemed bad to have it the night before the concert, which it would be if we had it the Saturday after her birthday, so the two of us asked if it could be this Saturday night and that was fine with Margaret. Uncle Michael asked about having it at his new place and we all asked, 'what new place?' and he said he had seen an old house--you know one of those old Victorian houses in Millie's neighborhood--along the river which had been allowed to run down. Millie knew who owned it and told him how to approach the owner--Millie had tried to buy it for years, but he hated Millie and liked the idea that he had a run-down house in Millie's neighborhood. Uncle Michael approached the man and told him he wanted to annoy Millie by moving into her neighborhood and hinted that he was not the kind of people Millie wanted living nearby. He bought the ploy and Uncle Michael bought the house for next to nothing last week. It will have to have a lot of work done to repair it and take care of other improvements he wants to make. He said he'd like to have the celebration there. The house would be cleaned up and the downstairs definitely usable, but not what it would be when he finished. By the way, he told Dad he was doing some business last weekend and had other plans so he wouldn't be home until Sunday night or Monday. When I asked Dad what he was up to, Dad said he though he was 'going courtin' and that was just a guess."
"Wonder who he's courtin'?" Luke asked, then got a surprised look on his face. "You don't think it's Mr. Stephenson do you?"
"I hadn't thought about it, but I wouldn't be surprised," I said.
"I'm not sure. There's several years difference in their ages," Michael said.
"Need I remind you that the same could be said of your dad and Margaret?" Luke asked.
"Hadn't thought about that either. I guess when I think about, say, five years, it seems huge. I mean Mary Kathryn would be a middle school kid if there were five years' difference in our ages. I guess it's a matter of how old you are. Wouldn't that be great, since Uncle Michael has been without a partner for two years..."
"So has Mr. Stephenson," Luke added. "Do you think there's something in the water on the farms? Seems love just kinda busts out if you hang around out there. Well, here we are," Luke said as we pulled up in front of Mr. Swartz's shop. "Matt and I came by today and looked at some earrings I think you and Mary Kathryn would like."
When Mr. Swartz brought out the tray of earrings, Michael started looking at them and picked out a pair with the face of the corn maiden. "These match her ring," he said, but didn't seem too enthusiastic about them.
"Here's the ones your friends thought you might like." Mr. Swartz took a box from under the counter and opened it to show Michael the ones with the roadrunner.
"YES!" Michael exclaimed. "That's it. Her earrings would match my ring. Yes!, but I don't have the money with me," he said as his face fell.
"Matt and I thought of that, so we got money from the ATM which we will loan you."
"Thanks, those are perfect."
"I'll wrap them for you," Mr. Swartz said, and disappeared in the back of the shop.
"Thanks, guys, those are absolutely perfect! What am I going to do next year without you two around?" Michael's question touched a nerve since Luke and I still were scheduled to be on opposite ends of the east coast next year.
Mr. Swartz came back with a beautifully wrapped box and gave it to Michael, who took it with an almost worshipful attitude. Luke and I paid Mr. Swartz and we walked to the Jeep, Michael carrying Mary Kathryn's gift like it was the Holy Grail!
As we took Michael to his place, I noticed Mom and Dad were home so Luke and I stopped by. I was having dinner at the Larsens' and Luke and I were working on calculus. The AP exam was Thursday and I really felt shaky about it. In fact, I was feeling so shaky that Luke and I worked until midnight every night, spending more time on calculus than English once he felt confident about English, and now English was over we had really decided to work on calculus. We stopped each night at midnight and piled into bed without a lot of playing around. I was so tense that I was making him tense and we were still running, so we were getting about six hours sleep. Wednesday, we picked up Michael and Mary Kathryn after their AP exams. Both said they were confident they had done well. "How about spending some time at the falls?" Luke suggested. "I think all of us could do with some relaxing time." He had instant agreement.
"Just remember I have this week's only practice this afternoon," I reminded the crew.
Mary Kathryn crossed the canes and, when we had reached the beach, she said, "Guys, I feel like skinny dipping," and started undressing. Luke and I undressed each other, stopping for a kiss or two. When we were undressed, Michael still had his boxers on and the tent in them suggested why he was slow undressing. "Get 'em off, lover, and I'll take care of your growing problem." Michael set a new world record for boxer removal. Man, he had popped a great boner! Mary Kathryn laughed, grabbed it and raced to the top of the falls and, without releasing Michael, dived. They swam back to the beach and, when Michael got out, the river had done its job. "Told you I'd take care of that boner," Mary Kathryn laughed.
"Well, that wasn't exactly what I had in mind," Michael pouted.
"Better clean up your mind, Michael Andrews," Michael's Larsen said as she kissed him good time.
"By the way, Michael, happy belated sweet sixteen! I forgot yesterday."
"So did I. I was too busy worrying about the AP exam and a few other things. Thanks."
"Matt and I have AP calculus exam tomorrow so we'll be ready to leave after lunch--can't miss lunch with the gang these days--so why don't you see if David will write you permission to check out early and Luke and I will take you to get your driver's license."
"Hot damn! Man, I sure would like that!" There was no question about the kids of the family getting their licenses as soon as they turned sixteen. We started driving tractors on the farm before we started school and were driving the farm trucks before we were twelve. Nonetheless, we were all required to get our learner's permit when we were fifteen and drive with the adults. Also, our parents required us to take drivers education even though we were all good drivers. After we got our licenses there were very strict rules about what we could and could not do. And the rules were enforced! I got my Jeep for my seventeenth birthday and shortly after, Luke and I were showing off in MickeyD's parking lot and Dad saw us. Luke and I were grounded for six weeks and my keys were taken for that time. We even had to ride the bus to school and we learned our lesson! "The next time it will be six months," Dad told us, and we knew he meant it.
We started swimming and diving again and, after half an hour, we lay on the blankets in the warm sun. As much as I might have wanted to make out with my man, I was asleep in minutes. I suddenly waked up, wrapped in Luke's arms. I looked over at Mary Kathryn and Michael and they, too, were wrapped in each other's arms, sound asleep. I carefully freed myself and raised up on an elbow to look at my Luke. Honestly, he was so magnificent he took my breath away. I leaned over him and pressed my lips to his in a tender kiss. Luke opened his eyes, smiled and pulled me atop his body as he returned my kiss. "Babe, I'd like to keep this up, but I'm due at St. Mary's in half an hour."
"Then I guess we need to get dressed. Look at my baby sister and our brother Michael," Luke said. I guess it sounds silly to talk about a very well-developed sixteen-year-old man and an equally well-developed not-yet-sixteen-year-old girl, both nude, wrapped around each other looking innocent, but that was the only way to describe them.
"Matt, I know Michael talked to you about the sex thing and a birthday present, but I think he has something else going on. Have you noticed he seems distracted at times."
"I thought about it, yea, I think so. Wonder what's bugging him?"
"Don't think he's having second thoughts about his Larsen do you?"
"I think he's having second million thoughts about his Larsen and all of them good--maybe naughty, but good. No, I think, even though they are young--don't laugh, compared to us, they're young--I think their love is on just about as solid ground as ours, Yonghon Tongmu." I smiled, thinking about how Michael had carried Mary Kathryn's birthday present. "I just don't know what, if anything, is going on with him. I guess we'll know when he wants to tells us. Right now, I've got to rush or I'll be late. But, first, watch this." I then yelled at the top of my lungs, "Hi, Jens!"
Luke immediately saw what I was up to and yelled just as loudly, "Hi, Dad!" Needless to say, Michael and Mary Kathryn shot straight up.
"Damn you, I ought to bust your ass!" Michael said, still red in the face from blushing. Mary Kathryn just pointed at him and laughed.
"I've got to go, now that everyone is wide awake," I said.
"Hold up a minute, Matt. I need to go with you. I want to talk to Fr. Tom."
"Doubt he will be there, Lil' Bro. He's seldom in the office this late in the day."
"Well, I kinda have an appointment," Michael answered.
"In that case, you better get some clothes on." Michael quickly dressed and the four of us walked to my place. Luke kissed me, Michael kissed Mary Kathryn and Michael and I got in the Jeep.
As soon as we were under way, Michael asked me, "Matt, do you think I am a religious person?"
"I don't know. What do you mean a religious person?"
"Well, you know..."
"I'm not sure I do. If you mean what most people mean by being religious, you know, a goody-two-shoes who is afraid of doing something for fear it might be wrong or that others might disagree; who works hard to make people think he is religious; who sees church as a ticket to heaven; who shows up every time the church door opens, but you would never know it by the way he treats people; then hell, no, you're not religious. Thank God! In fact, no, I don't think you are a religious person."
"I think you are a full red-blooded man who has a sense of right and wrong, of justice and injustice, far above that of many adults and certainly almost all sixteen-year-olds. I think you will stand up for what is right, seldom counting the cost to yourself. You respect people--even those of us others condemn because we are different--and you love and respect a woman and I mean both love and respect. You stand by your friends at all costs, but aren't afraid to disagree or set them straight when they are wrong. You love life and being alive, and don't let disappointments or hurt destroy your spirit. You think deeply and, I suspect, engage in a dialog with the whole of creation and your God. In my book, that makes you a very religious person. No, that's wrong. A religious person, I think, is what I described as a goody-two-shoes. You're not a religious person. You are a spirit man, may even be called a spiritual man, but that's often taken as being weak and you're not. You are a spirit giant and warrior."
"Wow! I just keep wondering about what makes a person religious. I mean really religious and not just a church-going bigot."
"Michael, I grew up in St. Mary's and I have come to believe two things are important and the rest is window dressing. The first is that loving God means loving and respecting your neighbors, and that's everyone and everything from people to bunny rabbits to the falls, to... everything. I guess I owe a lot of that to Dad and his Lakota background. The second thing which is important is to remember nothing can separate me from God's love of me... nothing! Don't get me wrong, I love church. I like the ceremony of the liturgy. I love the music, the hymns, the bells and candles and flowers and incense--the whole smear. I love them, but that's not being a spirit man--religious maybe, but it's not important. For me, those things help remind me of who I am--God's beloved son--and what I'm placed here to do--to love people and to bring joy to as many as I can. So am I a religious person? No, I hope not. Am I a spirit man. God, I hope I am and that I will become more so."
"That's what I mean. I look at the family and see what we have gone through--the pain and the joy--and how, when the chips are down, we support and love each other and I say, 'That's what being religious means." Then I think about all the hate spewed out at the Temple of Praise--even if McBride hadn't done what we know he did--and all the pain caused by the teachings Jens heard at Immaculate Conception and following what is said to be religious. I get confused."
"Michael, I'm no expert, but anyone who says that the love I have for Luke and he has for me earns God's hate is full of shit! It's about loving and being loved, about accepting the way life is and the people in it, and accepting your own acceptance. And that's not religion and I want no part of being religious. That's spirit."
"You mean that, don't you?"
"You're damn frigging fucking right I mean it."
"Matt, think you better stick to being an expert on things spiritual and let me and Luke be the experts on things filthy mouth," Michael laughed, then said, "Thanks, Bro."
I walked into the office with Michael and Gertie said, "Hi, fellows. Michael, Fr. Tom is in his office. Matt, he wants to see you before you go."
"Thanks, Gertie. See you after practice, Michael."
Practice was almost flawless. We concentrated on my two compositions and a couple other pieces which needed some work. We decided we would do another practice the next day and then Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the next week since so many in the chorus and ensemble were taking AP biology and AP chem tests. When we broke up, I went to the office to see what Fr. Tom wanted. When I got there, Michael was still in his office, but Gertie said Fr. Tom had instructed her to send me in as soon as I arrived.
I knocked on the door and walked in. "Matt, good to see you. How did practice go?"
"Almost perfect. I am getting worried that we might start getting cocky, things are going so well."
"Maybe I need to have Millie come around. I'm sure she could take care of any cockiness!"
"Threat enough Father! Gertie said you wanted to see me?"
"Yes." Michael started to get up. "Sit still, Michael, nothing private about this. In fact, it may be of interest to you and your family. Matt, Millie called the Bishop..."
"Oh, boy, Who's in trouble now?"
"Actually no-one I hope. She invited him to the concert Saturday and he had a commitment at St. Paul's, Jackson, Saturday morning and you know that means he has to be there. But he said he was scheduled to be in Brevard at St. Matthew's Sunday, and that was so far from Concord he didn't see how he could make it Sunday afternoon either. But after all it was Millie who had called, he had to come up with something. So he said since he was scheduled to be at St. Mary's June 4th, if I could arrange to exchange visitation dates with St. Matthew's, he'd be here Saturday night and stay over. Of course, that poses two problems--aside from getting in the housekeeper in two days to clean up after me before he arrives! First, you are so involved in the concert that it hardly seems fair to ask you to prepare for the bishop at the same time, and second, that means I have just over a week to prepare anyone for presentation and confirmation. Nevertheless, I called St. Matthew's thinking Fr. All-Important-Cardinal-Rector--bit catty, but true--would say definitely no but, unfortunately, the exchange suited him fine since it allowed him to make the steeple chase which he MIGHT miss if the bishop were there. So the ball's in our court."
"Don't think the music is any problem. As I recall, the bishop is pretty much tone deaf anyway--at least he never sings on key--and there are pieces I will be using in the concert I can use for background music for the bishop."
"Not nice, Matthew."
"I wasn't the one who called Father Bailey Father All-Important-Cardinal-Rector," I replied.
"Michael, I guess you think we're evil. Actually, the bishop is a pretty strong person and a good man, but there are priests who think they have a handle on God and they are the second incarnation and they really, if you'll pardon the expression, piss me off. I think I am a pretty good--actually, mediocre, but good--parish priest. I try to take care of the people who look to me. I know I'm not overly important in the scheme of things; I wish I were and had been braver at times, but never have I thought I was special just because I wear a collar backwards. OK, Matt. I'll see what I can do about confirmation. Know anyone interested?"
"I am and I suspect Dad and Margaret are. Probably Mary Kathryn, but I don't know how Jens will take to that," Michael said.
"Think you can count in Luke and probably Eugene and maybe Larry. Linda may even rope that lapsed Baptist she's hanging around with into something like that."
"Well, you take care of the music and Gertie and I will see who and what we can round up. By the way, Michael, tell your uncle we received his letter of transfer from St. Michael's, Charleston. I guess he must have decided he can take high church."
"Remember, he came to Charleston from Chicago so I guess he thinks St. Mary's is kinda low, but he's closer to home now than he was in lower-than-a-snake's-belly South Carolina brand of churchmanship," I laughed.
I expected Michael to have some comment about Fr. Tom's and my discussion or maybe even his talk with the priest, but when we started home all he said was, "I guess I have some things I need to think about. Maybe talk to you one of these days, Bro?"
"Anytime, Lil' Bro."
Michael was silent for a time and then he said, "Matt, I keep having the strangest dream." He then told me about his dream of Mary Kathryn and the baby and his being there and not being there.
"That's strange, Michael. You know I had a dream I had forgotten about until you mentioned Mary Kathryn and the baby. Some time ago I dreamed Luke and I were having our commitment ceremony and when I looked up, you were standing in front of us in full vestments and I looked around and Mary Kathryn was breast feeding a baby which was certainly your baby, but I thought about Mary and the Christ Child. Seems similar to your dream."
"Scares the shit out of me, Luke. Me a priest? I don't think so. Not in this lifetime."
"Remember when Millie said she couldn't decide whether you were going to be a lawyer or a priest and you said you wouldn't even think about it or something like that and Luke said you would now?"
"Yea, I remember. Look Luke, keep all this to yourself, ok. I'm just a little confused right now."
"More than a little confused, Lil' Bro. You just called me Luke twice," I laughed, "but, sure, between us. Let's drive by and take a look at the place Uncle Michael has bought."
"Great! He seems really excited about it." When we reached the street, we passed the hospice where there were people working on the landscaping--the house looked finished outside. A block later, we passed one of the "smaller" Victorian houses--Dad had told me once it was a "cottage" because it had "only" four bedrooms on the second floor and a master suite on the first along with a living room, dining room, parlor and kitchen. There were a number of workmen around it, but Uncle Michael had described a much larger house so we drove on.
Two blocks later we saw all kinds of vehicles and vans parked on the street and, as soon as we saw the house, we knew why. There must have been a hundred people working outside. A group was pruning old shrubs, getting them back into shape, while others working on the landscaping were clearing away brush and debris. Another group was preparing the lawn for new sod. A crew was down on the river building a new dock and a gazebo. Several were working on installing a beautiful stone walk from the house to the river. Roofing people covered the roof, making repairs and painting the old pressed tin roof. A crowd who looked like spacemen in their suits were busy blasting off layers of paint from the exterior walls including the tons of gingerbread adorning the old house. The ornate iron fence surrounding the property was almost completely repaired. "Man, it sure must be costing a mint," Michael commented. "And look just how damn huge that place is. But I am sure this is it. Just for Uncle Michael? It must be great to be loaded."
"I can't wait to see the inside," I said, "and your and Mary Kathryn's celebration will be here. Wow!"
When we got home, I told Dad and Mom what was going on at Uncle Michael's and at the cottage. "And the bishop's coming."
"Yea, I know about the bishop coming. Fr. Tom called me to give me the news and to ask me to talk to Jens and Gabrielle about Mary Kathryn," Dad said. "I was going to leave a message on their machine, but Luke answered the phone. When I told him what I had called about, he said he was ready to become a full-blooded Episcopalian. I told him to have Jens call me. I have no idea how Jens will react to the possibility of Mary Kathryn leaving the Roman Catholic Church." While we were talking, the phone rang and Dad said it was for me. "Luke."
"Yea, Luke, what's up?"
"Matt, Mom called and she and Dad are going to be late getting home. Some kind of meeting. She has called Yong Jin about my eating at your place. I don't know why, after seventeen years, she thought she needed to ask. Michael had already asked Mary Kathryn to have supper there. He had something to talk with her about. All top secret apparently. Anyway, I'll be coming over for supper. Do you want to start work early on calculus? I know Greywolf will read us the riot act if we stay up too late the night before a big test and I think just a little more and you'll go in feeling confident."
"Luke, I think it would take a miracle to make me feel confident but, yeah, come on and we'll do some work."
"Ok, on one condition: no playing around, ok?"
"Well," I whined, "it's not ok ok, but all right. No playing around. Strictly calculus."
"All right, Sarang Hanun Pomul, it doesn't have to ALL be calculus, but mostly. I mean this is serious business."
"I know that, Yonghon Tongmu, and I do want to make you proud of me."
"Sarang Hanun Pomul, you know I'd be proud of you if you flunked calculus, but I don't like the idea of being proud of a corpse and you would be one if you flunked the calculus AP! I'll be right over. Till then, I love you, Babe."
"Same here, Babe."
It was about six-thirty when Luke arrived and aside from a greeting kiss--which was not to be sneezed at--we hit the calculus. We worked without stopping until Mom called us to dinner at 7:30. A few things I had been confused about were now clear. Not only was Luke a whiz at calculus, but also he was a great teacher. And, believe me, he took it seriously!
We had a fairly leisurely supper and when we started back upstairs, Dad said, "Guys, it's over at ten-thirty and to bed. Luke..."
"I know, Greywolf, I planned to go to my own lonely bed tonight."
"Daddy, why can't I have my play toy to sleep with?" I asked in my best whiney little kid's voice.
"Because, Baby Matt, you don't have a play toy to sleep with. You just keep playing around and don't go nighty night," Dad responded in baby talk.
Promptly at ten-thirty, Luke stood up, swept me into his arms and gave me a good night kiss that would certainly make for good dreams, and went home. I quickly undressed and slipped into bed, and thought about how hard he had worked to make sure I would do well on AP calculus. He was right; he had made me pretty confident. Not only did my nightly reflection give thanks for him and his love, but for the very practical way he had shown that tonight.
At lunch, Luke and I were in a reversed position from what we had been after the English exam. I said I thought I had made a four and Luke said the test was what he expected. Michael and Mary Kathryn were passing out invitations to their birthday celebration to the Fellowship. As soon as the bell rang, I asked Michael if he were ready and he said he was past ready. We checked out and went to get Michael's driver's license.
The thing about the people who work in the driver's license place is they think they are doing you a great favor rather than remembering they work for you as a taxpayer so they are never in a rush. There were not many people waiting in line when we got Michael there, but it was obvious it would take longer than need be. It took an hour to get Michael up to the desk, take the written exam and do his road test, but it was finally over. He had his brand new license and I let him drive the Jeep. We still had about two and a half hours before practice, so we went to MickeyD's to celebrate. When we had our burger, fries and coke, we went to a local drugstore which still had an old fashioned soda fountain and had a double thick, double malt shake. I mean a real shake. MickeyD's burger may be passable, but fake milkshakes are a crime. When we finished, I suggested we show Luke Uncle Michael's place. As we drove up, Uncle Michael was standing in front, directing some men who had started to paint the outside.
When we walked up he said, "Hi, Guys. Didn't expect to see you this time of day." We told him we had done the AP calculus exam and were free and David had given Michael permission to check out to get his license. Michael proudly produced it for Uncle Michael to examine. "Well, since you're here, would you like a tour? I'm afraid the inside is a mess with all the work going on, but it'll be presentable by Saturday, Michael. At least the important part will be." As we entered the house he told us its history. It had been built by a tobacco baron who had twelve kids. The downstairs--living room, parlor, dining room--were huge and had 14-foot ceilings. The kitchen, which was through a large butler's pantry, was also huge. There were also three large--actually huge--bedrooms, each with a sitting room. "The old man's mother lived with him. In fact she outlived him, according to stories, to spite his wife who took her darling baby boy," Uncle Michael laughed. "These will be redone with wider door openings, and made into a gallery--I may sell some things, but mostly it will be showing things I have acquired and local artists' work. Luke, if there is anything left unsold after your exhibition, I want to put all of it on display if you will. I'm pleased there is already an outside entrance so people can come without having to go through private space."
"Let's go upstairs." There were wide, very ornate stairs leading to a second-storey landing with doors on either end. "There are six bedrooms on each side of the staircase. The six through that door, the north side of the house, were the boys' and there is an outside staircase because boys will be boys, you know, and if daddy didn't know they were bringing in women, it didn't happen. Or maybe they brought in men and daddy certainly wouldn't want to know that! The first three will be turned into a studio and storage space for local artists. The back three, which will be closed off from the front three, will be another private studio and darkroom--reached from the private part of the house. The six on this side," Uncle Michael said as he opened the door, will be our... my space. I like what Millie did for her son's wing and I'm planning something similar. A large sitting room, library/music room, a huge bedroom and a large bathroom with a separate toilet--that's a Japanese idea we should definitely adopt! A doorway will lead to the private studio on the other side of that wall. Work will start here as soon as the carriage house is done."
"There's a carriage house?" Luke asked.
"A very nice one, almost identical to the one in Chicago. It brought back wonderful memories. I had thought about living there myself--to remember earlier days--but events have changed my mind. As a matter of fact, it is almost finished--living room, dining area and kitchen downstairs and large bedroom with bath and a studio upstairs. I do expect to move into it this weekend or the middle of next week at the latest. I will be there until my place in the big house is completed. Michael, you're getting the guest room back."
"The studio area will be the last renovation since it will change the roof and outside to admit light. Well, actually, the skylights are being installed as the roof is repaired. Lots of renovation and changing to be done."
"Wow!" was all I could say. Luke and Michael, well, you know what they said, "Holy shit!"
"After you move into the big house, what's to happen to the carriage house?" Luke asked.
"I hope to have an artist in residence to offer classes and exhibitions to the community. That artist will have a small stipend to take care of his--or her--personal expenses, the carriage house, and freedom to take paying students as he or she wishes. Actually, not a bad deal for a young artist and it could add greatly to the life of the community."
"Can I sign up as the artist in residence?" Luke laughed.
"Actually, I thought you might like to do that in the summers while you are in college, seriously. And I guess we could even have a musician in residence. Same residence I suspect," Uncle Michael smiled.
"Uncle Michael, do you know what's going on at the cottage down the street," Michael asked.
"Sure do. It's a kind of bed and breakfast for people who need to be near the hospice which is just down the street. When you have people you love dying, you need to be close and you need a comfortable place to stay where you don't have to worry about anything. Just before he died, I asked James to put a sizable amount of money into a trust fund to, in a manner I decided, benefit a hospice. That fund will enable making the cottage very pleasant and provide for food and a cook and housekeeper to take care of people without cost. The upstairs will have two rooms for guests and the downstairs will have four. The upstairs will also have an apartment for, I hope, a couple who will serve as housekeepers and cooks for the James Sanders Hospitality House. Luke, I want a nice sculpture in the front of the cottage. Be thinking about whether or not you would take a commission to do one."
"Think I just might. I might even have one that would kinda sum up what that place is about, "Luke said with a sly grin.
"Well, I really wasn't hinting," Uncle Michael said, then added, "Well, to be honest, I was. I agree, it sums up what I want that place to be. Think about it."
"If you're not busy, maybe we can talk about that and the exhibition while Matt's at practice, that is if you aren't anxious to get somewhere Michael."
"Well, I had thought I just might, possibly, maybe, be allowed to drive the Jeep to school, but that's ok."
"It's ok with me if it's ok with Luke," I said.
"You can drop me off here and come back after you go to school provided if you pick up a woman you keep your hands off her and she keeps her hands off you." Luke sounded very serious.
"Well, holy shit, Luke, I may as well not go."
Luke laughed and said, "Go ahead, baby brother and be careful with my baby sister!" Michael gave the big YES and tossed the keys in the air.
"Luke, you may as well stay here. Michael can drop me off at St. Mary's. We'll be by after practice." As I walked into St. Mary's, I wondered if Uncle Michael made a slip? I was sure he said, "This will be 'our'..." and quickly changed it to "...'my' space" when he showed us the upstairs. And there was a small private studio--with a darkroom. I think David was right about who Uncle Michael was courting." I soon forgot that as practice began, a practice which demonstrated there was no place for cockiness on any of our parts. We sucked!
When I got home, I was just about exhausted. The bad practice took more out of me than two good ones would have done. I must have shown my condition because, when Luke and I walked in, Mom said, "Bad practice I see".
"It really was terrible. Nothing seemed to go right. Afterwards we decided we would practice tomorrow and have parents pick up their kids because we are going to run straight through the whole program, then work on the really bad spots. I don't know what was wrong, but I know it was bad."
"Maybe bad rehearsal, good performance," Mom said, trying to comfort me.
"Sure. In that case we should really be great. I'm going upstairs."
"Supper in an hour or so," Mom said. "I'll call you."
Luke and I went upstairs with his arm holding me close. When we got to my room he said, "Sarang Hanun Pomul, you had two good practices so don't let one get you down." "Luke, if it had been the first with two good ones following, I would have been elated, but this way... well, if you do a painting and it is good, it stays good. If it's bad and you do it over and it becomes good, it stays good. Good paintings don't become bad paintings. Concerts do. I really feel terrible. I have a blasted headache; think the practice might have been my fault. I just..."
Luke took me in his arms, kissed me gently and said, "Dark Angel, you need some loving".
"Luke, you're not going to believe this, but I just don't feel like making out."
"I didn't say you needed to make out. I said you needed some loving," he responded as he started undressing me. When I was in my birthday suit, he picked me up, put me on my bed and undressed himself. I was so down when I saw his naked body I didn't get hard. I really was down! He lay beside me, wrapped his arms around me and pulled my body to his. Holding me, he kissed me gently as he loosened my hair. With his free hand, he stroked my hair as he sang softly, "More than the greatest love...". Resting my face in the crook of his neck, held securely in his arms, I drifted off to sleep.