Castle Roland

The Concord

by Sequoyah


Chapter 18

Posted: N/A

ASP--The Concord Five--Chapter Eighteen--Keith

The Greywolfs were not home when we arrived from the airstrip. I was surprised when Matt just opened the door. "Are doors usually unlocked?" Marc asked.

"We seldom lock doors out here. Haven't seen the necessity. It's such a habit that we didn't lock the door in Ohio until Waterside. Now we have a security system which is monitored. Don't like the idea that doors have to be locked, but like the fact that someone might enter the house and do it or us harm less. After the bomb scare, everything is secure, but here, nope, don't lock doors. Come on in and I'll show you to your room, Marc."

Matt took us upstairs and showed Marc into a large guest room. "I love these old farm houses," I said. "They have such huge rooms and high ceilings. Makes me feel comfortable."

"Marc, I hope you will feel comfortable. Make yourself at home. If you need something, ask. I think you'll find most of what you need either in your room or the bathroom. I think I'll shower and change clothes before we leave for the Cosmos. When did the Cosmos become a teen hangout?" Matt asked.

"It's not really a teen hangout," I said. "But since Chris became a part of the Fellowship, we get together there, especially when he has to work and we need to talk about something. Demetri has kinda adopted all of us."

"Something else I meant to ask: what's with all the checked shirts?"

The Ohio crew knew about the attack on Michael, the resignation of the coaches and the parade, but not about the theme of the parade. "The Fellowship decided we needed a parade, but we had so little time we knew we couldn't build floats. Since Jackson has always referred to us as farmers and hicks, we decided to run with that. Instead of floats, we're using farm machinery and everyone is dressing in checked shirts and jeans. Victoria Henry, a sophomore, made a deal with Bargains Galore and so we got the shirts for five bucks. She also got money to help those who couldn't afford even five dollars. Each class has a color. I'm a senior so I'm wearing red and white. Michael is a junior and is wearing green and white. Classes are marching in the parade and will all sit together, at least until half-time."

"Wild!" Marc said. "I'm beginning to like this school more and more."

"Join up and I'll make you like it even more," I said. Marc had been putting his things away but, when I said that, he stopped, walked over to me, put his arms around me and his lips against mine. His tongue invaded my mouth and he pressed his hips against me. Instant hardon!

"You two start that and you'll never make the parade," Matt laughed as he walked out the door and down the hall to his room. Marc waved "bye-bye" to Matt without taking his lips from mine. His tongue was working miracles and I was really getting hot. Finally I broke the kiss and said, "Marc, you are starting something I don't want to stop, but I think we better go downstairs and meet your hosts."

Marc looked into my eyes, smiled and said, "If you insist, but I can't get enough of you, Keith. You are all I have thought about, dreamed about, wished about since the Ohio weekend. You know, I have had lovers before--sex partners is more like it--but I have never come close to loving another man the way I love you. More than anything in the world, I wish we could be together--not just a weekend here and there, but really together. I love you, man, I really, really do."

"Marc, I can't begin to tell you my feeling for you. I love you, that's true, but it doesn't begin to say what I feel. I dream of you, I daydream about you and when I'm not dreaming, I'm thinking about you, about us. I want to be with you, I want to make love to you, I want us to be what Matt and Luke, Eugene and Larry are, a committed couple."

"Man, that's a big step. I mean those four talk about until death do us part. Are you ready for something that heavy? Don't you think we might work our way toward that? Are you sure you want something that permanent? Are you really sure? Really?"

I felt as though Marc had plunged a knife in my chest. I looked down so he couldn't see the tears welling up in my eyes. He had talked about being in love and all that sort of thing and I guess I had jumped to the conclusion that he meant more than obviously he did. What could I say? What should I say? I could laugh it off, maybe, I could lie or I could be honest. Well I wasn't in the mood for lies and pretending. I looked up into Marc's eyes and said, "Yes, damn right I am ready for that kind of commitment. It's the kind of commitment I am more than willing to make to you and, to be honest, it is the kind of commitment I expect from you if we are to be lovers. Not fuck-buddy stuff, no boy toy, no sex kitty."

As soon as I started talking, Marc bowed his head so I could no longer see his eyes. I couldn't tell how Marc was reacting. I didn't know what he was thinking. I was growing weak-kneed, waiting for some response. Finally, he looked up, a smile slowly spread across his face, he gave me a passionate kiss, broke it and said, "Then if you are serious, Keith Lewis, will you marry me?".

"Will I what?" I couldn't believe what I was hearing, or maybe I just thought I had heard wrong.

"Will you marry me? Won't be legal and doesn't have to be as elaborate as Matt's and Luke's ceremony, but will you promise to be mine until death do us part?"

"You are damn right I will!" I practically shouted as I grabbed Marc and swung him around.

"Then if you will put me down, I have something for you." He went to a suitcase, took out a small box, opened it and inside were two identical, richly engraved, gold rings. He took them out and slipped one on the ring finger of my left hand. He held the box while I took the second ring out and placed it on his finger. "One of these days, Keith, we will have a ceremony to let the world know we are committed to each other." I grabbed Marc again and kissed him like it would be my last kiss. Finally, we broke apart and he laughed, "I really do think we need to go downstairs and greet my hosts".

ASP--The Concord Five--Chapter Eighteen--Chris

When I got to the Cosmos after school, Granddad was still baking cookies. We had done several batches the day before, so we had a whole shitload already! But I also knew the crew could put away a pile and some other kids from school had started dropping in for cookies and a drink. There were only four people in the cafe, two farmers who often came by for baklava and coffee and two men I had not seen before. When I walked in, Granddad said, "Chris, I have a couple people you need to meet". I walked over to the table where the two men were sitting with Granddad and he introduced me to them. "Mr. Hieronymus and Mr. Anickton, my grandson, Christopher." As I shook hands with the two men, Granddad said, "Chris, Mr. Hieronymus and Mr. Anickton are from the Hellenic Society of Jackson. They came by to talk about a scholarship. The Society gives one each summer for a student to go to Greece. They would like for you to apply for it. Gentlemen, Chris is very involved with a parade this afternoon and this is not a good time to talk to him. I'm not sure he's calm enough to make sense," Granddad laughed.

"We have heard about the ball game tonight, but didn't realize there was a parade involved. So you have something to do with the parade?" Mr. Hieronymus asked. "Sit down and tell us about it."

I sat down and told the two men about the attack on Michael, the football team's decision not to allow the four responsible to play, the resignation of the coaches, the whole story.

"Sounds pretty impressive to me," Mr. Anickton said. "I like the idea of students being responsible for their school. So when and where is this parade to take place?"

"A group of the student leaders will be gathering here shortly. At 5:00 the parade will assemble and start about 5:30."

"I can see why you are excited and that this is not the time to talk about the scholarship. We'll leave information with Demetri and get back to you later. To change the subject, from the Jackson paper it seems this game will be a walk-away for Jackson. Now, without coaches and four of the best players gone, it should be a slaughter," Mr. Hieronymus said.

"I hope Jackson is thinking that way because I believe there is a surprise in the works," I responded.

"Think we might stay around and see," Mr. Anickton said.

As he spoke, Matt came in with Luke, Mary Kathryn, Michael, Marc and Keith. "With you in a minute," I called.

"Go on and get with your friends, we've got until March to get everything in for the scholarship. It's awarded April first--and it's no April Fool joke."

"Thank you and I will definitely be in touch," I said as I shook hands and went to join the gang. Granddad had started serving cookies and coffee, but I told him to go back to his friends and we would take care of ourselves. Everyone had finally decided they liked the coffee and Michael and I were busy serving them when Bill, Jacob, Linda and Rachel came in. "Where's Jack and Susan?" Jacob asked. "Don't tell me he's running off with my girl."

"He'll not get far," Rachel said while trying to look tough.

We had all gotten seated when the two came in with Dan right behind them.

We ate cookies and drank coffee, all the time becoming more excited and nervous.

"Why is everyone so nervous?" Marc asked. "I thought everything was under control."

"If there is one thing this group knows, it's that everything is never under control," Linda said.

While we were eating and talking, Fr. Tom came in. "Come join us, Father," I called out.

"Don't mind if I do," the priest said, "Especially if I can get a coffee."

"Coming right up," I said.

When Fr. Tom got his coffee, he said, "I have great news. We had the re-inspection today and everything passed. We could open tonight."

I could see the wheels spinning in Linda's head. "Why not? Why don't we have a victory dance tonight? Won't have to have food. The drink machine works. Why not?"

"Don't have the sound system in place," Keith said. "Think it would not be wise to start with a poor system."

"How long to get it set up just for tonight?" Jacob asked.

"With help, half an hour, forty-five minutes max," Keith replied.

"It's just after four. Could we get it and get it set up before 5:00?"

"If we had a way to get it all, I suspect we could."

"I have the family van," Matt said. "How many do you need to get it?"

"Luke, Jacob, Chris and Bill, if you could help, I think we might make it."

"Let's go," Jacob said. "Father, is the parish house open?"

"Gertie should have gone, so no, it's not."

"Hold up," Bill said. "We are about to go dashing off without asking a very important question. Father, could we have a dance tonight?"

Fr. Tom laughed and said, "I was wondering if I had been booted out. Sure, why not, especially if it's a victory dance. The parish house will be open when you get there."

Eugene and Larry walked in as we were leaving. "What's up?" Larry asked.

"We saw you coming, so we're leaving," Luke said and laughed as we left.

When we got to Keith's place, his dad had just gotten home. Keith introduced Marc and the two shook hands. Keith told his dad what was up and he helped get the equipment into the van.

When we reached the parish house, Fr. Tom was waiting for us. The rest of the gang was busy setting up the room. With Keith directing, the sound and light equipment was soon in place and tested. When the test finally met Keith's approval, Jacob said, "Four-forty-seven." We all piled into the van and Bill's car and headed for the vacant lot behind the courthouse where the parade was assembling.

The marching band was leading the parade, of course, followed by the hay baler with its two dummies. The president of the freshman class was driving the tractor pulling the baler. She was one good-looking farm girl! The rest of the class officers were riding on the baler. Behind were the members of the freshman class, marching and dancing down the street, all dressed in their black and white shirts.

Following the freshmen was a hay rake, driven by Victoria Henry. She had added a straw hat to her dress and she, too, was a good-looking farm girl. The sophomore class officers were having a hard time staying on the rake and some of them finally gave up and just walked beside it. The sophomore class was the largest in the history of Independence and the stream of blue-and-white-shirted students just kept coming.

The junior class "float" was an ancient combine. Someone had painted a banner which read, "Jackson is like the chaff which the wind driveth away" and hanging from the chute where the straw is discarded was a dummy dressed as a Jackson football player. Susan was driving the combine and the rest of the junior officers were on it.

When the juniors in their green and white shirts had passed, the senior "float" appeared. The seniors had been very secretive about what they were using and as it came down the street, everyone started laughing, except me--it was a manure spreader. Fortunately, unlike the other "floats" it was a brand new, unused machine. Its banner read, "This is for you, Jackson". The senior officers were all sitting in and on the manure spreader, tossing candy wrapped in brown paper to the spectators who packed the sidewalks along parade route. The seniors following their officers were carrying pitch forks and hoes as they sang the school fight song.

Michael and Jacob, and the two other student government officers, riding on a brand new, bright green tractor, followed the seniors.

The brass and percussion ensemble on a flat-bed truck appeared, and it was obvious they had done some quick work with the cheerleaders who were on a flat bed coupled to the first one, performing to the music.

Finally, what had developed from our idea of having a hay trailer with the football team appeared. It was not a hay trailer, but a flat bed behind an eighteen-wheeler. On the bed was a huge hay pyramid with the football players standing on the steps of the pyramid, looking tough, until they got tickled, which happened often. They were also tossing a football around. The players had buckets of foam "footballs" and, from time to time, they threw passes to kids on the sidewalk.

The parade started at 5:30 and it was 6:15 when it finished a second turn in the stadium. As the classes passed their designated section, they peeled off and filled the bleachers. Gradually the home side of the stadium filled with blocks of color as students found their places. I leaned over to Mary Kathryn, who was seated in front of me and said, "One damn good parade, regardless of how the game goes."

The announcer introduced the Jackson team as they ran on the field to the cheers from the visitors' side of the stadium. Usually the cheerleaders hold a large banner at the home team's end of the field and when the players are announced, they run through it. Tonight was very different. As each player was announced, he walked on the field, escorted by a farm girl. That is all except one. Margie was escorted by a real stud.

Independence got to kick off and Margie demonstrated how it should be done, but things went downhill from there. It was soon obvious that losing several hundred pounds of brute flesh made a real difference. Jackson pretty much went were they pleased, when they pleased. It took only a few minutes before they had scored a touchdown and the extra point. Jackson's line looked like a gorilla convention. Even the largest guys on Independence's team were small in comparison.

When Independence finally got the ball, it was fumbled and recovered by Jackson. The visitor's side of the stadium were laughing hysterically. We had high hopes, but they weren't realistic, obviously. At the end of the first quarter the score was twenty-one zip. It was obvious Independence couldn't do a running game without the four who were not on the field. Every running play, which was Independence's standby, ended when the ball carrier hit a wall of hard flesh.

At the beginning of the second quarter, Skinny Dawson caught the kick-off and went streaking down the field. A couple times someone attempted to tackle him, but grabbed an armful of empty air. He was a red, white and blue blur. When he crossed the goal line, he was all alone. The score was now 21 to 6. Independence easily scored on the extra point kick. The score gave new life to the team, but not enough long enough. In rapid succession, Jackson scored two touchdowns, including the extra points, and a field goal. The score was 38 to 7. "The score's beginning to look like a basketball score," I said to Susan who was sitting near me.

It was almost the end of the first half when Independence recovered a fumble on the Jackson ten yard line. "I hope they don't think they can run the ball through that line," Jack said. "A field goal doesn't help much, but it beats nothing. Looks like that might be in the offing as Margie is back on the field." However, the play was very unexpected, a pass to Skinny. "Skinny's so small, I think the other team just overlooks him," Susan laughed. With the extra point, the half-time score was Jackson 38, Independence 14.

During half-time, the band and cheerleaders put on a great show. While Independence was well on its way to a good butt-kicking, spirits were high.

When the game resumed, things looked better, but Independence hadn't added to the score and Jackson didn't need to. Jackson fumbled on their ten yard line again and before they knew what happened, Skinny was covering the ball with his body. "Where the hell did he come from," Jack laughed. "I tell you, that kid's invisible. Now I hope they don't think they can push Jackson over the line." They didn't. Instead, the ball sailed in the air and landed in Skinny's waiting arms. It was almost impossible not to make the extra point and Independence now had a score of 21 and Jackson had not scored in the second half.

On the next play, Skinny caught another pass and was promptly put on the ground. "That Skinny's going to be crushed by those Jackson bruisers," Mary Kathryn said. The Fellowship had re-grouped during half-time and were all sitting together. Marc and Dan had joined us. The team got set up for its next play and it was obvious they were going to pass to Skinny again, so obvious that Jackson was taken by surprise when Margie kicked a great field goal. "24 to 38 sure sounds better than 21 zip," Dan said. "Think 24 is 24 points more than Jackson thought we'd make."

The next time Independence got the ball, Skinny was running out for a pass when a huge Jackson player tackled him as he turned to catch the ball. The fifteen-yard penalty and first down was a boon to Independence. "That's the first time Jackson had a penalty called on them tonight, but not the first time it should have been called. They are pulling some pretty rotten tricks," Marc said. "Watch number 27."

On the next play, number 27 grabbed Bradley's face mask, and threw him to the ground. The officials either didn't see or ignored the incident, calling no penalty. For the first time, Mr. Allan took some direct action in regard to the game, lodging a protest. When play resumed, number 27 tried to grab Bradley's face mask again, but he, and some of his team-mates, were so intent in his mischief that they failed to see what was going on and an Independence player raced down the field with the ball and across the goal line. The extra point was also good.

Jackson seemed rattled for some reason. They hadn't scored since half-time. Of course Independence had scored only once. Jackson made up for their failure to score when they recovered an Independence fumble and scored. Amazingly, the kicker missed the extra point, but the score still was 31 to 44. Suddenly Independence seemed to catch fire. Margie was still on the field and started the scoring with two field goals, one right after the other. With the score at 37-44, Jackson called time-out. Play had hardly resumed when the third quarter ended.

When the fourth quarter resumed, a number of players had left the game and the Independence ones walking on the field were essentially bench warmers. Most were too small to be football players, but I guess the co-captains decided to let everyone play. "Looks as if it's 'Let's give everyone play time' or Independence is trying something wild," Bill said.

"Maybe this is where Jackson gets confused because the players aren't those they had scouted," Michael said. Confusion reigned on the field, that was obvious. Not only were the players not what Jackson expected, but also the plays were unorthodox to say the least. As a result, Independence quickly scored a touchdown and the extra point, tying the game at 44-44. "The score looks more and more like a basketball score. Damn, I don't think I've ever seen a game with such high scores," Dan said.

After an Independence time out, Jackson pushed Independence into its own end zone for a safety and the score was 44-46. The play seesawed back and forth with Jackson playing very conventional and orthodox ball and Independence having everyone wondering what would happen next. In a fluke, the ball fell into the hands of an Independence player who looked at the ball, looked surprised and started running like his pants were on fire. It was clear he was only interested in escaping the Jackson players headed toward him. He wasn't even looking where he was going, but back at those chasing him. He was so intent on escaping that he didn't realize he had scored a touchdown until one of the Independence players, laughing his head off, pointed to the score board as the extra point made it read 51-46. The Independence stands went wild.

The celebration was short-lived as Jackson quickly scored two field goals, bringing the score to 51-52. Jackson called a timeout and made several substitutions. Skinny and Margie went back in the game and play resumed with just minutes on the clock. Jackson was within yards of scoring a touchdown when an illegal block penalty was called. With third down and twelve yards to go, Jackson fumbled and Independence got the ball.

Independence huddled and when they put the ball in play, Skinny was racing down the field for a pass when he was tackled. The pass interference penalty gave Independence a first down. Again, Skinny raced down the field, drawing the attention of Jackson which permitted Margie to try for a field goal. The ball sailed through the air and seemed to trip the end of game buzzer as it sailed through the goal posts. It took a few seconds for what had happened to sink in, then the Independence stands went absolutely wild. Someone started war whoops and soon the stadium was ringing with them as the scoreboard flashed the final score, Independence 54, Jackson 52.

When the pandemonium had subsided a bit, Michael was at the microphone. "Independence students! There will be a victory dance at St. Mary's Teen Club following tonight's game. Everyone is welcome--even if you're no longer a teen."

Fans had started leaving the stadium when two policemen raced across the field, chasing someone. When they caught him, they put him on the ground and cuffed him. When they lifted him to his feet, I saw it was Phillip Curran.

ASP--The Concord Five--Marc

I am not a big football fan and, actually, know little about the game. There is so little action most of the time I get bored and start looking around, missing what little action there is. But tonight's game was different. It was about much more than football. I was almost as excited as Keith and the other Independence students, and when Independence actually won, I was celebrating with the best of them.

After the game, we all piled in Matt's van and Bill's car and headed for St. Mary's. "Who's driving your Tracker, Michael?" Matt asked as it pulled past us leaving the parking lot.

"Maybe Yong Jin and Greywolf. You have the van and I think their other car is being worked on. I'm sure it is."

"There's another couple in the car," Dan said. "Speed up a bit and we'll see."

When we pulled up alongside the Tracker, Michael said, "It's Mom and Dad. What are they doing here? Who's keeping the girls?"

"I'm very sure they are being well cared for," Mary Kathryn said as she stroked Michael's back.

When we reached St. Mary's parking lot, we pulled up along side the Tracker. "Who's caring for the girls?" Michael asked as soon as he could get out of the car.

"They are in good hands," Dr. Andrews said. "Chelsea is babysitting."

When we got in the parish house, there were a few others there. Dr. And Mr. Andrews and the Greywolfs were the only older people. Well Fr. Tom was there.

"Mom, Dad, did you see the police get Phillip?" Michael asked.

"Sure did. Suspect he wishes he had missed the game on two counts now," Mr. Andrews laughed.

Keith pulled me in to a corner, gave me a quick kiss and said, "Marc, I've got to go DJ, but I had to have a kiss before I started."

"I think you need a real one," I said, and gave him a passionate one.

When we walked back out into the main area, there must have been fifty to sixty kids standing around, talking excitedly.

Keith flipped some switches and lights started dancing around the room. "Good evening to Independence students and friends who are celebrating a special victory tonight. Originally the teen club was scheduled to open Friday, but with the great day and evening we have had, let's celebrate. All of you have seen the rules for the club, they are few--no drugs, no alcohol, no fights, no putting anyone down. EVERYONE is welcome. To open the celebration, an old, old song which is very, very special to me and my friends. It's a slow one for dancing with the one you love." I knew what was coming and really wondered how it would go over with this crowd. "For my special someone and all the special someones here."

When "More" started playing, Greywolf and Yong Jin, Dr. And Mr. Andrews moved onto the floor. I watched to see what Matt and Luke, Eugene and Larry would do, knowing that what they did could make or break the club. Before two lines had been sung the two couples moved onto the floor followed by Bill and Linda, Jacob and Susan, Jack and Rachel. Dan and Chris were looking at each other and finally moved onto the floor. "Damn," I said to myself, "I am not going to miss out on this". I walked over to where Keith was set up, extended a hand and he smiled and we moved onto the floor, but stayed near his equipment so he could get back to it quickly when the song ended.

When it ended, Keith started a very up-tempo one and the older folks left the floor for the younger crowd. I was at the edge of the floor and couldn't see what was going on. I could see no-one dancing. Everyone was standing in a circle, keeping time. I walked over to where I could see what was up. In the center of the circle was a girl, I think I was told her name was Victoria Henry, doing some wild dancing with the ensemble leader. Keith had told me his name was Jose Gomez.

When the song ended, everyone applauded and cheered. There were a couple more fast dances and Jose and Victoria were dancing fools--they were terrific. The next slow dance, two girls I hadn't seen before moved onto the floor. Fr. Tom came up beside me and said, "It was very important that the "Everyone Welcome" message got across. We have gay couples, a lesbian couple, mixed-race couples and even," Fr. Tom laughed, "Matt and Luke, a mixed-race gay couple, as well as kids from the old mill village and the upper-crust part of town. What more do we need to say, 'All are welcome'?" I think the point has been made. Now we wait for the fall-out. I have never really had a decent moral battle in my life and here, as I face retirement in a year or so, I think it's time I did. But I'm sure you are not interested in that."

"Actually I'm interested in anything having to do with Keith's town and life. But what I really want to talk with you about some time is the commitment ceremony you had for Matt and Luke."

"Actually, Marc, I didn't have it. They asked me to celebrate the Eucharist and I did, and then blessed their union. I couldn't keep from it. The Bishop gave me some flack about it and made me promise I'd never do it again. What I didn't tell him was that I didn't expect to be asked to do it again, bless the union of Matt and Luke that is. Taking a bishop literally is often the easiest way to deal with him," he laughed. "But are you planning on a union ceremony, I assume with Keith?"

"Sometime. We have known each other for such a short time, but I think we're in this til death do us part. I guess you could say we are engaged at this point."

"I noticed the rings," Fr. Tom said. "They are beautiful. I hope you will take time to really get to know each other. That's the problem with most couples today, I think--gay or straight--they jump into something without knowing each other."

"That's going to be more difficult than I thought. I haven't told Keith yet, but my dad heard his new wife--or girlfriend, I can't keep up with it--propositioning me last week. Dad may or may not know I'm gay, I think more than likely he knows, but forgets. He even forgets I'm around most of the time. Anyway, I knew he had heard the latest in his string of conquests trying to make me one of hers, so I got the jump on the situation by telling him about it and how uncomfortable I was when she did it. Just before I left, he gave me a handful of brochures for private schools--all well away from our place in Florida. I guess I'll have to go and that probably means I'll see even less of Keith than I thought."

"Hmmm, let me think about that. I think I know a school which you might find worthwhile and allow you to see Keith occasionally at least. Check with me before you leave."

"Thanks for your interest, Father."

"Just hope I can help."

It was almost 10:00 when the dance got started, so it seemed like no time before Keith announced the last dance of the evening. Knowing what it would be, I walked over to where he was sitting and, as soon as "More" started, he literally jumped down and into my arms. Several other couples joined us, of course all the Fellowship, but I was pleased to see several black couples on the floor.

Keith had told me in Ohio that the black community in Concord was small but, as many of the whites, most were old families. Even in 1995, many black parents didn't want their children associating with white kids, just as many white parents didn't want their kids associating with black children. It was obvious that the kids had other ideas, as there were a few mixed-race couples on the floor. Keith had also told me, when I asked about Jose Gomez, that there was a small, but growing, Hispanic community in Concord and both blacks and whites were having to learn to deal with the newcomers. I was pleased to see Jose was not the only kid of Mexican ancestry on the floor.

ASP--The Concord Five--Chapter Eighteen--Michael

Mom and Dad left the dance shortly after it really got started. I was sure Mom wanted to get back to the twins. Probably being a bit over-protective. When they left, so did the Greywolfs. The dance over, Keith started getting his equipment stored. We were all ready to help him, but he said there wasn't much anyone could do to help, so everyone left except Matt and Luke, Marc, Mary Kathryn and myself. When everything was properly stored, we got in the van and Luke said, "Matt and I are staying at his place tonight and we asked about getting you home, Marc, and they said try to get there by 1:00. Mary Kathryn and Michael have a midnight curfew since tomorrow's not a school day. Do you have a curfew, Keith?"

"I do, but it's 1:00 tonight."

Luke said, "It's 11:30 now, we'll do a slow drive home and drop off Mary Kathryn and Michael and go to the Greywolfs' for a while, then see that you get home Keith."

"Sounds good to me," Marc said.

I expected everyone to start making out like bandits, but it didn't happen. Mary Kathryn snuggled up to me, Keith snuggled up to Marc and we all talked about the evening. "I still find it hard to believe that Independence beat Jackson," I said. "And the score!"

"It would be hard to convince anyone that it wasn't just a runaway game with scores like those," Marc said. "And as little as I know about football, I know Independence wouldn't have beaten Jackson without some very unorthodox football. And the very idea that a skinny kid could do what--what is his name?"

I laughed and said, "You know, I don't know. I didn't pay attention when it was called tonight and I don't think I have ever heard him called anything except Skinny, Skinny Dawson. He is skinny, but he runs like the wind. And Margie... that girl has fought to be on the football team ever since she was a freshman. She got put on the team this year because her dad was bringing a lawsuit against the school. So the two bench warmers saved the day."

"Because students were in control. They didn't have to put on a show for their coaching peers, all they had to do was pick the best for the job and do it," Mary Kathryn said.

"Man, I'd give anything to be a part of a school like Independence," Marc said.

"Think the only choice you have is Independence," Keith said. "I don't think there is another like it."

"Well, I guess you don't have to worry about that now since you are in college," Luke said.

"Why do you say that?" Keith said.

"Yea, I'm a senior in high school this year," Marc responded.

"Since you and Douglas are such good buds, I guess I thought you were the same age," Luke commented.

"It makes sense," Marc said, "and we are the same age--well, almost. But you know school systems. Douglas is three weeks older than I am. When we were three, we started in a private preschool--me because Dad was gone most of the time and he thought my nanny was spoiling me, Douglas because his mom didn't want to be bothered. We became instant best buds at three and still are. But Douglas' birthday is the last of August and mine is the middle of September. I don't know about school cut-off date in North Carolina, but in Florida--at least when we started school--you had to be six by September first to start first grade, no exceptions, so I have always been a year behind Douglas. Yea, I'm a high school senior this year."

We all continued to talk about the game, then the dance. "Fr. Tom seemed pleased that guys danced with guys and girls with girls, blacks with whites and Mexicans with whites and blacks," Marc said.

"I was glad too," Keith said. "We said it would be open to all and meant it."

"We've already had some problems because of that. Someone called the health department and fire marshal and demanded inspections. The repairs and changes that had to be made delayed the opening, but this was a grand way to get started. Of course I'm not fooling myself. There will be more flack if I know Concord and its bigots," Mary Kathryn said. "Keith, I loved you starting with THE song. Well, here we are. Guess this is goodnight." Luke had driven into the Larsens' drive while Mary Kathryn was talking.

ASP--The Concord Five--Luke

"Make it a short goodnight, Golden Eagle," I said as Mary Kathryn and Michael got out of the van.

"That reminds me. I have been thinking about this whole Indian medicine bit ever since I was in Ohio," Marc said. "It is very strange."

"You don't know what strange is until you are in the middle of it," I said. "You have seen Michael's chest haven't you?"

"Yea, where he was knifed."

"Well, most of the scars are from him being knifed, but he also has scars from an experience in a sweat lodge. You know about the sun dance?" Matt asked.

"Only from watching "A Man Called Horse," Marc replied.

"That might be a Crow ceremony, not Lakota, but the piercing is the same. Michael has scars on his chest like he was pierced for a sun dance, but he got them during a sweat lodge ceremony. Exactly how, I can't say, don't know. But, yea, it's pretty weird," Matt said.

We talked about the sweat lodge and our experience in the Black Hills, the parts you can talk to other people about. Marc was fascinated by our vision quests and getting our names. "Seems like someone wanted to make sure you were a wolf man," Marc laughed. "Silver Wolf Greywolf."

"Ever hear all his names?" I asked.

Both Keith and Marc said they had not. "I did hear you call him what I thought was a strange pet name, but don't remember it," Keith said.

"I hope you are ready for this," I laughed. "His full name is Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Silver Wolf Greywolf. His mother is Korean and his dad gave him a Korean name, Sarang Hanun Pomul, which means--his dad thinks at least and his mother is not talking--beloved treasure, and he is," I said, as I leaned over and kissed my Sarang Hanun Pomul.

As I did, Michael climbed back in the van. "Man, that Mary Kathryn is hot stuff and can get me steaming, but it's as cold as Dante's hell out there! Sure glad the cold front waited until after the game." I drove Michael home. As he left the van he said, "See you all tomorrow. 'Night."

When we got to Matt's place, his Mom and Dad were in bed, so we tried to be very quiet. When we got upstairs, Matt said, "Give a call when you are ready to go."

"If you don't mind, I'd like for Keith and me to talk to you two for a while. No use getting all steamed-up with only half an hour or so to do something about it," Marc said.

"Sure, come on in our room," Matt said.

When we got inside, Keith said, "That sounds great: 'our room'".

"That's what it is, it's our room. We decided we would spend time with both sets of parents, but as a couple, not as singles. Sometimes our parents, especially my dad, forget that we are a couple, but by us acting like--being--one, they get reminded," I said.

"I'd like to learn as much as I can about being a couple," Marc said. "I don't know how we are going to work it, but that's what I want for us and that's what I hope Keith wants."

"I sure do, but with us being separated, it's not going to be easy."

Both Keith and Marc had a hundred questions about what it meant to be a committed couple. I was surprised that Marc was so insistent on having a ceremony. Keith looked at it as a nice touch, but it definitely meant more to Marc. Finally Matt said, "I don't think you are ready for that step yet because it means something different to each of you and until you can agree on what you are doing, you better not do it."

A few minutes later, Keith exclaimed, "Hey, I'm going to be late if I don't get moving."

"Marc, think you can find your way back or do we need to go with you," I asked.

"I'm sure I could in the daylight, but I'm not at all sure I can at night. I'd appreciate it if one or both of you would go with us."

"We'll both go," I said.

After driving in Cleveland, driving in Concord at 12:45 was a dream. At midnight, most of the traffic lights change to blinkers and there were very few cars on the street. It took hardly any time for us to reach Keith's place.

Keith got out, followed by Marc, and the two walked, hand in hand, to the front door. The outside light was not on, but a nearby street light lit up the front porch. When the two reached the front door, Marc took Keith in his arms and gave him a long, passionate kiss. But all good things must come to an end and, reluctantly, Marc left Keith standing outside the front door and returned to the van.

As he climbed in, Marc said, "No-one has ever loved someone as much as I love Keith. The very thought of leaving him again tears me up. Every minute I am with him a voice in the back of my mind reminds me of how little time I have with him. I've got to figure out a way to be with him."

"Not sure I go along with no-one ever loving someone as much as you love Keith. As a matter of fact, I think the two in the van with you have a love at least equal to yours but, yes, I think you need to figure out a way to be with him if possible. Love can grow when you are separated, but the day-to-day stuff a couple has to work out requires day-to-day contact. Being together on a daily basis soon rubs away excessive romanticism and you have to deal with the things which irritate hell out of you as well those which are priceless," I said.

"And, believe me, there are things which can really bug you when you are together every day," Matt said.

"Such as, Lover?"

"Such as your habit of rolling up in the cover and freezing me to death when we are asleep."

"And you put your cold feet in my back when you crawl in bed late."

"And Matt always leaves the cap off of the toothpaste."

"And Luke puts the toilet paper on the holder the wrong way.

"And Matt can be a real grouch in the morning."

"And Luke is cheerful when he gets up. He even whistles in the morning!"

"Hey, I didn't mean to start a family fight and have it end up in a divorce!" Marc laughed.

"Well, we were having fun at each other's expense but, seriously, the little things the other does which you dislike are the things you have to learn to live with."

"Or which you have to try to change," Matt added.

"And there are a hundred little things that go to make you very thankful you have your partner's love," I said, "like waking up and him being beside you."

"That's what I want but, even before that can be true, I've got to find a way to see Keith more than an occasional weekend. I knew that in Ohio, but now I definitely know it has to be."

"Maybe you can do it. Sure hope so," Matt said as I pulled into the Greywolfs' drive.

After Matt and I had said goodnight to Marc, we went to bed. Matt spooned myself into my back after kissing me goodnight. He was on his way to sleep when I turned over and asked, "Matt, why is love so difficult?"

"What do you mean, 'difficult'?"

"Well, I was thinking about Marc and Keith. It looks as though they will be separated and seldom get to be together. At best, they will have a couple weekends a month together. Then I got to thinking about others we know. Your mom and dad, for instance. There were objections to them being in love because of racial difference. Mom's family objected to Dad, I suspect out of guilt because they remembered what Hitler and the Germans had done to the Danes. David and Margaret had to overcome an age difference and a status thing--she being a doctor and he a nurse--and a money thing since she makes a lot more than he does. Uncle Michael and John had the same kind of money problem and an age difference. Michael and Mary Kathryn are too young. We sure had our problems. I wonder why that is?"

"Remember 'The Scarlet Letter', Luke? Hester called her love-child Pearl, after the parable of 'The Pearl of Great Price', a parable about a man selling everything he had to buy the pearl? I think that's about love. Love costs because it is so valuable. It is in short supply so, in order to have it, it costs much. You have to be willing to give up everything in order to have it. You may not have to actually give up everything, but you have to be willing to."

"And hate is cheap."

"Maybe, maybe not. I guess you have to give up love, which is priceless, in order to hate, but I guess if you hate, you fail to see that love is a priceless treasure."

"Pretty deep stuff there, Dark Angel."

"Yea, but love is, pretty deep stuff I mean."

"Yea, but so very simple at the same time," I said as I kissed Matt very gently.

"Yea, it's as simple as getting a butterfly kiss from someone you love, your soulmate," Matt said as he snuggled in my arms and was asleep in seconds. I wasn't. I thought about our conversation about love. Matt was right, of course. Love is a treasure of great price and I was certainly willing to pay whatever it demanded of me because, without Matt's love I had nothing, was nothing.

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