ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Two--Luke
When I awoke, I looked at the clock and saw it was 7:00 in the morning. I started to turn over and go back to sleep until 7:30 when I needed to get up and help Paula with breakfast, but didn't. Instead, I raised up on one elbow and looked at Matt lying beside me. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with love for this man--and his for me, of that I was sure. I slowly slipped out of bed so as not to disturb my sleeping lover and sat beside the bed, just adoring his beauty. He was sleeping very peacefully on his back, his magnificent hair a dark cloud covering his pillow and the rumpled white sheets. His dark, hard body rested on that cloud of black hair, his long, black eyelashes on his cheeks. The sunlight coming in the window made the scars on his cheek stand out and I was suddenly aware of just how he had suffered because of me--and of how his suffering had brought us together.
As I looked at him I thought, "Sure, I love sex with my Dark Angel but he means more, a whole universe more, than sex to me. I love this man unconditionally. I would give my life for him." Being a normal, lusty eighteen-year-old, I loved sex but I knew that if I could never have sex with my Matt again, I'd still love him, still want to be with him, still be with him so long as he would have me. And I knew, from the very depths of my being, he would always love me, want to be with me, be with me.
As I sat there worshipping, yes worshipping, my Beloved, I heard Paula coming down the hall. Carefully, very carefully so as not to awaken him, I leaned over and kissed Matt gently. He smiled in his sleep and my world, my universe, was complete.
I dressed quickly--shower and shave could wait--and went downstairs. As I entered the kitchen, Paula looked at me and smiled as I kissed her on the cheek. "Kinda slow getting up this morning?" she asked as she smiled.
"To tell the truth," I said, "I got up and then just sat looking at Matt. Paula, I absolutely worship that man. I can never tell him how much he means to me or how much I love him."
"Know the feeling," she replied. "I was thinking just before I went to sleep about how much I thought I had loved Sheldon. Well, I did love him but, you know, Luke, even at the best I never loved him as I do Jacob at the least. There is no comparison. And I miss Jacob soooo much. This is going to be a hard year. And you know what? I don't doubt his love for me--or mine for him--but I do think about being separated and meeting someone who might--I don't know--catch my attention. I don't think I'd ever fall for someone the way I fell for Jacob, nor do I think I'd ever meet anyone I could love the way I love Jacob, but being separated... well, it's hell. That's what it is."
I hugged Paula to myself, held her close and said, "I understand, Paula, but Sis, it'll work out. It has to."
As I released her, she looked up at me and said, "Sis?".
"Yea, Sis. I certainly think of you as a sister. You're a part of this wonderful family that surrounds me."
"Thanks, Luke, that means a lot to me, Bro."
"Me too. But I guess we better get cookin'." Paula laughed as we consulted the menu and found it was a waffles morning. "By the way," I said as I got out the ingredients for Belgian waffles, "we're having Belgian waffles. I found an iron for making them a couple days ago." I walked Paula through the preparation of the batter, easy enough unless you have never cooked anything beyond a box of mac and cheese, and she started cooking waffles as I set the table--with Stinky and Woody added to the group, we decided to use the dining room--and prepared a bowl of fresh fruit, and put syrup and butter in a pan to heat.
We had just taken the first waffles out of the iron when the crew--including Woody and Stinky but without Matt--appeared, ready for breakfast. Matt was right behind them and, when he appeared, he took my breath away. I guess I was never really prepared to see my love and he always took my breath away. He was dressed in his school blazer--we had each removed the crests from them--gray slacks, white shirt, and red and blue stripped tie. He looked stunning! His wonderful hair had not been braided but was held in a long, black rope by blue bands.
We had decided each meal would have a host but this morning, Matt, who was the designated host, asked Stinky to do the honors. Stinky offered thanks for us, for the food, and petitioned God to watch over us. The amen spoken, we all started eating and carrying on an animated conversation. When breakfast was over, Matt and the two priests left for Cleveland after taking their dishes to the dishwasher. Larry and Eugene cleared the table. They also took care of the pots and pans--which would have been Matt's job--and left the kitchen spotless.
I knew I'd have to shower after working outside, so I just got dressed in work clothes and joined the others in the garden. It was just past 8:30 and the sun wasn't too hot, but gave indication of a very hot day.
Promptly at 10:00, I heard a car drive up and went around the garage just as Mr. Glaze and two boys got out. He met me before I got to the front, extended a hand and said, "Carl Glaze".
"Luke, Luke Larsen, Mr. Glaze," I replied as I shook his hand. "Sure glad you could come."
"Delighted, and call me Carl. As I told you, I really wanted this place and, when I couldn't get it, hoped someone would who would appreciate it. These are my sons, Derrick and Kent. Derrick is a rising junior and Kent starts college at Case Western Reserve next week."
"Kent, Derrick," I said, shaking the hands of two very nice-looking young men. Both had obviously spent a lot of time outdoors, because they were both tanned and their dark brown hair was sun-streaked.
The four of us walked to the garden where I introduced the three working there. "And there's a fifth, Matt, who is in Cleveland talking with Holtkamp about an internship."
As we walked over the garden, Carl took notes. "I see you've begun tackling the weeds. Until they are gone, there's not much you can do. Planning on composting them I see," he observed. "Excellent." As we walked toward the orchard, he said, "I can see where there was a strawberry bed here at one time. There's some plants under the weeds. Since they have been here so long, they are well adapted to the place. Suggest you rescue what you can and then add others. I'll recommend the varieties." He continued to make observations as we came to the orchard. "These are grand old trees," he noted. "Of course, they have been neglected for years but, with proper pruning and some care, they'll produce well I suspect. It's well-balanced too. You have everything that you could grow easily here, so I'd suggest you just care for what you have already and not replace any."
"The pruning could be a problem," I said. "I'm sure that, even though three of us grew up on a farm, we don't know how to go about that."
"I can get you some material on it," Carl said. "It's not too hard. Well, it's not easy either. There's both an art and science to it," he said.
"Do you happen to know anyone who could guide us? I mean someone who could say, 'Cut this here,' not just make suggestions."
"I'd like to myself, but I'm afraid I don't have time. It needs doing and a spray program started as soon as possible."
"Dad, Kent could easily do it," Derrick spoke up. "You know he's as good as you are."
"Not sure I could trust him on someone else's orchard. He's ok, but..."
"Dad, he's every bit as good as you any day of the week," Derrick said, in what seemed to be a "Here we go again" kind of voice.
"Well, Kent, what do you think? Think you could handle this without messing up?"
"Sure, I think so," Kent answered in a kind of hopeless-sounding voice. "Sure, I could."
"Great," I said. "And, of course, we'd expect to pay you for your expertise."
"Not sure about the expertise," Carl said, and he wasn't laughing.
By the time we had finished, the sun was really hot and we all went to the house for a break. Eugene went inside and returned to the sun porch with drinks and snacks. We then sat and went over Carl's notes. He said he would leave them, but I made notes anyway so I'd be clear about what he suggested. When he finished, he said, "There's an awful lot of work here and you'll be busy with school but, I can assure you, every minute you invest in your mini-farm will pay off well."
"Kent, what's your schedule like? When can we begin?" I asked, turning to the older Glaze son.
Kent had seldom spoken while we were walking around, but Derrick was a regular chatterbox. There seemed to be tension between Kent and his father which Derrick knew and, I suspect, faulted his father for. "I have already registered and don't start school until Tuesday. I would work over the weekend if I could get here. Dad, can I have the truck?"
"Not sure. Don't think so. It's Labor Day weekend and there's going to be a lot of traffic. Don't think you could handle that."
"Look, Kent," I said, having decided I would deal with him since it was his decision to make, "we have a guest room and, if you would like, one of us could pick you up and you could just stay here unless you have other plans. That way, when it gets too hot, we could knock off and work early and late, when it's cooler. How does that strike you?"
Kent's face seemed to light up as a smile covered it but, as he looked at his father, the smile quickly faded. "Well, I'm supposed to go to the family Labor Day picnic, otherwise, I'd love to."
"You never take part in family gatherings anyway," Carl said, "so if you want to do this, you'll not be missed."
"Yes, there is definitely something wrong here," I thought, "something bad wrong."
"It's up to you, Kent," Carl said.
"Fine, I'll do it."
"Great!" Larry said. "We can always make room for one more. When do you want someone to pick you up?"
Eugene was standing behind Carl and mouthing, "Now!" over and over.
When Kent caught sight of him, he started to smile, stopped and said, "If one of you could do it now, I could show you the way to my place, pick up what I need and come back."
"Excellent!" Paula said. "Excellent! How would you fellows like to stay for lunch? It will be ready in fifteen or twenty minutes. Nothing special, but we'd be delighted to have you join us."
"I can't. I have to get Derrick home and go on to the office. Kent can if he wants to."
"Dad, you could save part of your trip if I stayed here and went home when someone takes Kent for his things," Derrick said.
"Sure, no problem," Larry chimed in.
"Ok, I see nothing wrong with that," Carl said. "Thanks for the snack and if I can be of any further help, give me a call. I am really anxious to see this place back as it was in its prime, and it's well on its way. Thanks again and I'll see you later." He stood up, we shook hands all around, and he left.
"Paula, I guess it's back in the kitchen with us." I commented, then said to the others, "Lunch in twenty minutes. Get washed up, but Paula and I have dibs on the showers if you want lunch."
"Derrick, Kent, I'll show you the downstairs bathroom," Eugene said.
ASP--The Oberlin Five--Eugene
When Luke and Paula came down, Larry and I rushed upstairs and took quick showers to wash off the dirt from our work in the garden. We came down just as Paula finished getting the food on the kitchen table. She and Luke had fixed a huge salad and there were cheeses and cold cuts to make sandwiches. Paula was host and offered thanks for the help we had gotten and for Mr. Glaze, Derrick and Kent, our guests. Then we all dived in. The meal over, Eugene and I cleared the table and started the dishwasher. It was noon and the sun was really hot so we decided we'd not go back to the garden. Instead, Larry, Luke and I showed Derrick and Kent around the house and grounds.
Kent was very impressed with Luke's studio. "I draw," he said, "I don't mean the kind you do, Luke. I plan to be a landscape designer so I do design drawing. I'd sure like to have a place like this to work."
"Well, if you don't live too far away and can drive, you're welcome to set up a drafting table here," Luke offered.
"It's not too far away and I do drive, but I can seldom get the car or truck. Dad doesn't want me to borrow them," Kent said quietly, and Derrick made a definite noise of disgust but said nothing. I didn't push the matter.
When we had completed the tour, I offered to take the two brothers home and bring Kent and his things back. "I'll need to check out what tools you have and their condition," Kent said. "From what I've seen, I suspect everything we need is here, but I'm sure all will need cleaning and sharpening. Let's check."
I went with Kent and Derrick and showed them the tool shed and garage. Kent was right, everything needed was there, including the tools necessary for sharpening and cleaning the pruning implements.
Luke suggested I take the truck so if Kent did need something, we could haul it. The Glazes lived about ten miles from the house in a direction opposite that of Cleveland. Their place was neat--a large old house with well-kept grounds and pretty old trees.
Inside, the house was very cosy and comfortable, not overly decorated, just very livable. Mrs. Glaze met us at the door and Kent got a big smile on his face, the first I had seen from him, when he saw her. He introduced us and told her what was going on. "I'm glad," she said. "I know how you hate the family get-togethers, especially all the jock games they play. How can I help you get ready? Do you need anything other than work clothes?"
Kent looked at me with a question on his face. "Maybe a pair of slacks and a neat shirt--nice casual I think it's called. He probably won't need them, but we may decide to do something special. Oh, yea, and a swim suit. I'm sure we'll be in the lake."
"I can take care of that, Mom," Kent said and went upstairs.
"I'm really pleased Kent's going to be with people his own age who will appreciate his skills and talents," Mrs. Glaze said. "Heaven knows it happens seldom and the family get-togethers are horrible for him, poor kid."
I wanted to ask why, but thought better of it. If Kent wanted me to know, he would tell me. "I'm sure he's getting into some hard work, but we'll also have fun. Hey, it's the last weekend before school starts."
Mrs. Glaze asked how we came to be in the house and a hundred other questions. I smiled at myself at some of them, as she would sneak in a zinger now and again. For example, I was caught off-guard when she, somehow, asked about our drinking, smoking--those sorts of things--but she seemed satisfied with my answers.
When Kent came down, he was carrying a gym bag and what were obviously his own pruning tools. "There's a couple things outside I need to get," he said, and kissed his mom on the cheek. He seemed almost happy, very different from before.
"Oh, Mrs. Glaze, I'm sure you want our phone number," I said as I handed her a card. Luke had gotten carried away and designed an attractive "business" card for us. "Feel free to call anytime and I hope we can have you over for dinner soon," I told her. "I mean after we get settled in school. I suspect the next couple or three weeks will be pretty hectic as we struggle with five new schedules."
"I'm sure they will. Take care of my boy," she said as she extended her hand.
I was very surprised on the way home. Kent was absolutely talkative, laughing and obviously enjoying himself. I wondered if he was the same person who had been with me earlier.
We got back to the house in early afternoon. It was still too hot to work in the sun, so Kent had me gather up the tools and showed me how to clean them. "I'll do the sharpening," he said. "There's a right way and a wrong way to do that and if you do it the wrong way, you can damage the tool." He worked quickly and it was obvious he knew what he was doing. As he worked, he simply oozed confidence and self-assurance.
When the tools were ready, Kent, Larry and I went to the orchard. We started clearing weeds, waiting for Luke and Paula, who had some things to do in the kitchen for dinner. When the two joined us, Kent demonstrated how and what to prune, then said, "What I really need to be sure you understand is how. For the time being at least, I'll point out what and where." Larry was going to town with the weed-eater, clearing around the trees. As soon as he had cleared five, he joined the pruning crew.
It was still hot and the work wasn't easy so we took it slowly, but it still went faster than I anticipated. After we had each pruned half or so of the tree we were working on to Kent's satisfaction, Paula went to the house for drinks. The four of us sat under the newly pruned apple tree Kent had finished--he was fast--and sprawled out on the grass which had managed to grow underneath the weeds. Kent had a thousand questions and we were talking like mad when Paula appeared behind the garage. When Kent saw her, he more or less blurted out, "Strange, one woman and four men living together." The three guys looked at each other, "Do we or don't we?" written on our faces.
"Yea, I guess it looks strange," Luke finally said, "but we are like brothers and sister. Kinda one big family that all got into Oberlin and got the opportunity to purchase this place. It was ideal. And don't go falling for that good-looking woman, Kent, she's got a redhead back home who wouldn't like it and I'm positive you'd never get to first base, but she is one good-looking woman, isn't she?"
Kent nodded just as Paula walked up with a jug and glasses. The lemonade she brought sure was refreshing! We answered a thousand questions Kent had: "Where was home? Why Oberlin? What were our majors? How did we get the house? When would Matt get back? What was Matt doing while we sweated?" He laughed when he asked the last one. By the time we had sat for half an hour, we had told him just about all that was to tell except about Larry and me and Luke and Matt being couples and anything that might have hinted at that. I wasn't sure how he'd take that. I never am when I meet someone, and it's a real drag.
We got up and tackled the trees again. Kent seemed pleased with our work and, even though he had to stop often to answer a question or point out where to cut, he finished another tree long before any of us had finished our first. Then he started helping first one, then another. Each tree went faster because as soon as one was finished, rather than starting a new one, we'd help someone who hadn't finished. It was 5:00 before we had a dozen trees done to Kent's specifications--Kent had done four while the four of us had each done two. "Well, we're over half finished with the pruning," Kent observed. "This is not a small orchard."
"Luke and I are finished with pruning for today," Paula said, "we need to go work on dinner. It has to be prompt because Matt has that appointment tonight."
After she and Luke left, Kent said, "I think you might learn faster if we all work on the same tree".
"I'll weed eat under another," Larry volunteered, picked up the weed-eater and went to work.
"I hope you're enjoying this as well as earning some money," I said to Kent.
"Oh, I am," he replied. "I absolutely love it. Besides, it got me out of a family gathering which I hate."
"Sorry to hear that, I mean that you hate family gatherings," I said. "I don't know what I'd do without my family--my extended family which extends quite a ways. Our family gatherings are always great, but then if we were talking about biological parents, it's a very different story. I don't even know where my biological parents are. They kinda abandoned me last year and disappeared. But my adopted mom and the rest of the whole extended family are very important to me and I love being with them."
"Sometimes I wish my family--well, no, not my family, my dad's family and his relatives--would abandon me. I'd sure like to abandon them. Well, to tell the truth, they have abandoned me except I'm still around."
"If you want to talk about it, I'll listen," I said softly, "but I don't want to pry."
Kent hung his head and was silent. I knew he was struggling with himself about what to say to this stranger. When I looked up, Larry was headed toward us but, even before I could signal him, he raised a hand and walked toward another tree and started work again.
Without raising his head, Kent said, "My dad thinks I am a royal fuck-up. He has from the day I was born. I was born with a heart defect and he seems to think that it is my fault--I mean everything else is. The doctors did what they could at the time, but they had to wait until I was older to do more. I was in the hospital for weeks just before I started school, then just before I went to junior high and finally when I was in junior high. Before the last operation, I had to be very careful. I had little strength and almost any activity put a strain on my heart. After the last operation I was fine, but I guess the damage had been done to any relationship with Dad."
"See, Dad was a super-jock. He was a junior high, high school and college football and basketball hero and felt--feels--that you're not a real man unless you are a super-jock as well. I guess part of that comes from growing up dirt poor and sports giving him an education and a good life but, as much as I might have wanted to follow in his footsteps, I was lucky to be able to walk, much less do sports. To be honest, I don't know what Dad said when he was told about my heart shortly after I was born, but I know what he thought, 'Why do I get a reject?' and he has always treated me that way. I can't do anything that pleases him and I try, God knows I try. I am always trying, only to be shot down. It really hurts when I do something I know is excellent and all he does is find fault. But I keep trying to please him, well, I did until I finally realized it was not going to happen so now I just try to please myself--'course that's pretty hard too."
"After surgery in junior high, I could do anything I wanted and started working out. I ran track and played baseball and was runner-up in the state tennis meet last year, but those are, in his mind, not sports. 'Why can't you be a real man and play a real sport instead of getting all dolled-up in a neat white uniform?' he said when I told him I was runner-up in the state tennis meet. I just about lost it, but he didn't seem to notice."
"At the end of my junior year in high school, he got it in his head I was queer. One night at dinner he just flat-out asked 'Kent, are you queer? I think you must be. You never go out with girls and I see you with those sissy tennis players all the time.' I told him I wasn't queer and that I didn't go out because I hadn't met a girl I wanted to go out with. 'Well, you better find one or everyone will know you're a sissy queer,' he said. I had been called Sissy in grade school and the first part of junior high because I couldn't do anything and because I was physically weak and under-developed. Then, after I was well and started working out, I had been called Sissy so long no-one, including me, thought anything about it. I mean, it was just my nickname. But when Dad said that, a nickname I had accepted became poison. Then, last Labor Day at the family gathering, there were a lot of jokes and a lot of serious--well, I don't know that it was serious, religious is a better word I guess--talk about perverts, fags and queers. Dad said, 'I hate to admit it, damn I hate to admit it, but I'm afraid I have one of those perverts living in my house. I think Kent is as queer as a three dollar bill.' You can imagine the hell I suffered for the rest of the day."
"But you're not gay?" I asked.
"No, I'm not. What I said was true. I had never met a girl that I liked or at least one I liked that liked me. Well, that is until just after Thanksgiving last year. A new student joined my AP physics class..."
"How'd you do on the exam?" I asked.
"Made a four. Did you take AP physics?"
"Sure did. All of us did. All fours except Matt. He made a five. His dad is the AP physics teacher, but don't think he gave Matt anything he didn't give all of us. Sorry to interrupt. But, since I have, wasn't your dad happy with that result?"
"No, he pitched a royal fit because I didn't make a five. Anyway, this new girl became my lab partner. She was really fun and I grew to like her a lot. I finally got up the courage to ask her for a date and, when I told dad, I thought he'd be happy. He wasn't and, had Mom not put her foot down, he wouldn't have let me have the car. We went to a movie after eating at Pizza Hut and when we came out of the theater, there was a freak snow storm going on. We started home and got to within a mile of her house when all traffic was stopped. We sat in the car, waiting for the snow plow. At first it was kinda fun. We sat and talked, I mean really talked but, after almost an hour, I began to get worried. Then I remembered the cell phone but, when I reached for it, the holder was empty. I knew Dad had taken it out. 'Can't have you running up a cell phone bill,' he had said earlier."
"It was well after midnight when we were finally able to move, and when we reached Christine's place--her name is Christine Jordan--and I called home, Dad pitched a fit. Seems, to his mind, the snowstorm was simply an excuse I was making. He even found a way my not having the cell phone was my fault. Go figure. The Jordans insisted that I spend the night and Mrs. Jordan called my mom and told her it was too dangerous for me to be out. The upshot of that was that Dad now says I can't be trusted with the car so I'm stuck. And the fact that I don't date--and man, I'd like to--means I'm queer."
Kent fell silent and I joined him in his silence. What was there to say? I mean if it had been one of us I would have given him a big hug, but I wasn't sure he'd welcome that. Finally he said, "Well, let's get the tools together, cleaned and put them away if dinner is at 6:00."
As soon as the tools had been cared for, we went to the house, showered and dressed for dinner.
Everything was ready, the table set and food waiting to be brought in when Matt burst through the front door--and I mean burst. He ran straight to Luke, grabbed him and planted a no-holds-barred kiss on his lips as he swung him around. "Luke, Babe..."
Larry broke in with, "Matt, we have a guest."
ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Two--Matt
I woke up, again without Luke beside me. I would be very glad when this week was over. Even If I were on kitchen duty next week, Luke would be beside me in the morning. I hopped out of bed as soon as I remembered what was happening that day and showered, trying to keep my hair as dry as possible, bound my hair and started to get dressed. I was sure nice casual clothes would be ok, but after I had thought about it the night before, decided to wear a blazer and tie. I mean I wanted to show all possible respect to Mr. Holtkamp. I was glad I dressed as I did because, when I got downstairs, Woody and Stinky were dressed in clericals.
I was so excited I could hardly eat breakfast and as soon as it was over, the three of us headed for Cleveland Heights. Fortunately, rush hour was nearing its end and we were not going into Cleveland proper at first, so we made it to St. William's with time to spare. "Harry won't be here for an hour," Stinky said as we walked toward the back door of the church--it's really the front, but the front of the church is were the altar sits. "I wanted to give you an hour to get used to this organ and its registration," he added.
A middle-aged man with a shock of silver hair met us just inside the church. "Kevin, this is Matthew Greywolf. Matt, Fr. McCall," Stinky said as I shook hands with the priest.
"I understand you're here to impress Harry Holtkamp," he smiled. "Good luck. He doesn't impress easily. The organ's unlocked and waiting for you. Woody, Stinky, I think I can find some coffee if you like and we can let the young man practice in peace." The three left and I walked to the organ. The church was huge, as was the organ. I looked around a while before I approached the console and, when I did, I was a bit overwhelmed with the organ it commanded. I was tentative at first, but gradually warmed up to the instrument and then started having a ball.
I hadn't realized how much time had passed until the three reappeared and Stinky said, "Harry Holtkamp has just pulled in the parking lot, Matt. Maybe you'd like to come down and meet him." I must admit, what I really wanted to do was continue playing.
Mr. Holtkamp came in the back and introductions were made. "So you're the young man with whom I am supposed to be impressed," he said after the introductions. "What do you think of the instrument? You can be frank. My dad designed and built it, so it's not my baby you're talking about."
I assured him that I had nothing but good to say about the organ and he said, "Great. Dad designed it, Holtkamp built it and it's still one of my favorites. I'm sure some of my feeling for it is sentimental, but it is a great organ. Now why don't you show me you are its equal."
I played several small Bach pieces, some more contemporary ones, and the organ transcription of "Light" from "Yonghon Tongmu". When I finished those, I did the most difficult Bach piece I knew and turned on the organ bench to look at the four men. "I was a bit afraid to ask since a lot of organists feel it's not quality music," Mr. Holtkamp said, "but after that next-to-last piece--who wrote that by the way? I don't think I have ever heard it."
"I did," I answered.
"Don't get me wrong, but it's not Bach and if you can play that--incidentally, I really liked it--you shouldn't mind a request. Could you by any chance play a bit of that show-off piece, Widor's 'Toccata' from his 'Fifth'?"
As I turned to face the console, I smiled and said under my breath, "Thank you, Millie!" and ripped into the piece. The organ was larger than any I had ever played, and St. Mary's would sit inside St. William's chancel. No wonder St. Mary's organ had been considered much too large: it was! The reverberation in St. William's was unbelievable! The Holtkamp remained clear, sharp and bright as the toccata built and built, filling the whole church with sound. I must admit, I hadn't played many bars before I had slipped "off this mortal plain" into the world only my music--and my Luke--can take me. When I finished, I was physically wrung out but on a emotional high as I just sat on the bench, my head lowered, listening as the sound gradually faded away. Man! What an experience!
When I finally turned around, all four men were standing. I nodded to them and all four started applauding--Mr. Holtkamp really getting into it. I felt the red gradually starting at my feet and working its way to my neck before a full-grown blush flushed my face. The four kept applauding as I slipped off the bench and walked toward them.
"Young man, I don't know whether or not you'll ever learn squat about building an organ but you sure can handle one when it's put together. You are simply great and I have heard many of the top-notch performers," Harry said as he grabbed my hand. "And you sure got the hang of this organ quickly. I'm sure that with some time on it, you'd be even better, but I'm not sure where the improvement would be."
"Thank you, Sir," I replied. "I'm honored to play this great instrument. You know it has to be half of the equation."
"True," Harry nodded, "but I can tell you, even this instrument of Dad's can be made to sound terrible--I've heard it when I wanted to choke the organist. Thanks, Matthew."
"Thank you, Sir."
Mr. Holtkamp turned to the three priests and said, "You know, I've done a lot of work in the south and I love polite southern young men. Makes me feel old, but I like it." Turning to me he said, "Thanks again, Matthew..."
"I really prefer Matt, Sir," I said.
"Fine, Matt it will be if I can quit being sir. I had planned, to be frank, to make this short, thinking my old buddies Stinky and Woody had just got swept away in the Sewanee heat. But since I have been proven wrong, I need to call the office and make arrangements to be "out of the office" to all but the most important calls. Point me to the phone, please, Kevin."
Fr. McCall said, "Around the corner there, Harry. Surely you remember." Mr. Holtkamp slapped himself upside the head, waved and walk away. "Great job, Matt. How'd you like to do an occasional Sunday? Our organist resigned right after Easter and we are in the process of hiring a new one. In the meantime, we have a supply organist come in for a few Sundays. Most are candidates for the job, but not necessarily. If you'll give me your number, I'll have the chair of the organist committee call you. That is, if you're interested."
"Sure," I replied as I handed him one of the cards Luke had designed for The Oberlin Five.
He glanced at it and said, "Nice. The Oberlin Five is it?"
"Long story, but a great one," Woody said as Mr. Holtkamp came back into the church.
"Got that arranged. How about an early lunch? We can talk over that, then go to the studio."
"Sounds great," Stinky said, "at least so long as you're buying."
"Think I can manage that," Mr. Holtkamp laughed. "Kevin, care to join us?"
"Wish I could, but I have a pain-in-the-ass mother coming to discuss 'the wedding of the year'. Her daughter finally landed someone."
"Thanks, Father," I said as I shook Fr. McCall's hand. "And if you need assistance handling a grande dame and her wedding plans, I have a sixteen-year-old brother who does it well.
"There has to be a story there which I want to hear--and soon," Fr. McCall said as he turned to leave.
Mr. Holtkamp took us into a pretty seedy looking area of the city and to a restaurant that didn't look too good. "I know it looks pretty rundown, but Italian food you wouldn't believe is to be found right here," he said as he parked. It was obvious he showed up there often, as everyone knew him. When we sat down, he said to a man with an apron tied about his waist, "Just bring it on, Harry".
"Harry?" Woody asked.
"Yea, his mother, who still helps out in the kitchen at eighty-five, decided she'd give him a real American name when he was born and chose Harry. He kids me about having an Italian name. The woman still speaks so little English she's often hard to understand, but will remind you in a heartbeat she's "all American, by God!" Mr. Holtkamp laughed. He said the food would be great and, man, was he ever right! It was excellent! I guess I was coming down from an emotional high which had burned a lot of energy, because I ate like a pig.
When we finished lunch, we went to the studio and I was given the grand tour. We started with a letter asking about designing an organ for a church in St. Louis and then worked our way through design, modifications, case design, building, step-by-step. "This is fascinating," I said, shortly before the tour ended, "but I'm not sure I can remember a fraction of it."
"I hope not!" Mr. Holtkamp laughed. "If you could, I'd be out of business. Today I just wanted you to get a feel for the whole process and all that's involved in it. If you decide to come as an intern, you'll gradually learn it all, but it takes time, a lot of time. So are you interested?"
"I didn't think there was any question about that," I responded. "Of course I'm interested. The question, as I understood it, was whether or not you'd take me on."
"You're right. That WAS the question, but the question's changed. I'd like very much to have you full-time, but I know that's not going to happen. But to be of any real benefit to you, you need whole days at least. So I take it you are interested."
"Am I!" I practically shouted.
"Fine. See what you can work out with Oberlin and give me a call. I think I told Woody you'd have to pay your own expenses and buy me lunch when you're here."
"Think you got that backwards," Woody laughed. "YOU are to pay expenses and buy Matt lunch."
"Well, Matt, I know you understand that you'll not be contributing to the company when you start, and won't be for some time," Mr. Holtkamp was serious. "But I do want to make it as easy as possible on you. I'll cover your travel expenses. And, Woody, you'll pay for his lunches," he laughed, then turned to me and said, "Shake?".
"Shake," I replied as we shook hands.
"Great! And, if you're interested, I'd work up some good stuff for the time Kevin calls you--and you can bank on his calling. Think you might just find a job offer there."
I was shocked at the idea, but intrigued as well.
I know Woody and Stinky must have thought I was on speed, from my absolute verbal diarrhea on the way home. I couldn't stop talking about the day, and the more I talked, the more excited I became, and the more excited I became, the more and faster I talked.
Woody finally said, "Hey, Kid, slow down. You're not making sense!" and laughed.
I tried to slow down and stop talking, but the whole cycle started again. Woody had barely got the car stopped in the drive before I jumped out and ran into the house. Luke was standing in the dining room and I was so excited, I saw no-one except my Bright Angel.
ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Two--Eugene
As soon as Larry said, "Matt, we have a guest," Matt looked around, saw Kent and turned ninety-nine shades of red, each more vivid than the one before. "Holyyyyy shit," he said, sounding exactly like Michael as he dropped Luke.
"Kent, this is Matt. Matt, Kent. I apologize, Kent, I should have told you this afternoon when we were talking, but I was afraid... well, I was just afraid. But I guess now it's pretty obvious. Matt and Luke are a couple. In fact, as nearly as gay men can be married, they're married and have had their union blessed by a priest. If you're really uncomfortable with the situation, I'll take you home now or after dinner."
Kent was still looking thunderstruck, then got a strange look on his face. "And you and Larry are also a couple, right?"
"Yes, we are."
"I knew you had some kind of special relationship from the way you look at each other." Kent then started laughing. "It's no wonder no-one is concerned about Paula living with four men. She's as safe as she would be in a nunnery--maybe safer! It's all very strange. I mean, I don't understand it but, no, I'm not uncomfortable, I guess--at least not enough to want to go. No, just give me time. I can and will deal with it. I know it shouldn't make a difference, but somehow or other it does. But that's my problem. Nice to meet you, Matt. Larry called you a wild Indian earlier today and now I can understand why. Well, I guess I got a strange look when you kissed Luke, I'm sure I did, but I don't think I'm uncomfortable now. And, Eugene, I apologize for the language I used this afternoon. Sorry."
I started to say that it was ok and it was a matter of indifference, but that was not true. The words did make a difference. But it was clear Kent was making an honest apology and I just said, "Accepted".
Woody and Stinky walked in during the drama and just stayed silent. Bless them! They were dressed in clericals and I guess that was another shock to Kent. "Oh, Kent, these are two of our friends, Woody and Stinky--have to tell you the story of Stinky's name later. Or maybe he or Woody will. Woody, Stinky, this is Kent, Kent Glaze. He's the county agent's older son. Well, are we going to eat or not?" You can imagine the table conversation was lively and Kent joined right in. He roared when Woody told how Stinky got his nickname. Since Matt and the two priests were pressed for time, we heard a condensed version of Matt's day and he a condensed version of ours. I knew we'd be in for a grand round of talks when the three got back from Oberlin.
After dinner, and the kitchen chores handled, we all settled in the family room and relaxed. Woody and Stinky, of course, had gone with Matt to Oberlin.
Paula put on some nice music and we were just kinda mellowed out--we had put in a good day's work, especially considering the heat, and down time was welcome. Finally, Kent said, "I don't want to intrude or meddle in someone else's business, but could I ask you guys some questions?".
"Sure," Larry said, "but we always reserve the right not to answer."
"Fair enough. First off, when did you know you were gay and how did you know it? I mean, well, Dad tells people I am gay. I don't think I am, but maybe I am. How do I know?"
That was the beginning of a rather long conversation. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised at Kent's ignorance, but I was. I mean he was eighteen--soon to be nineteen--and he knew very little about being gay--or about sex for that matter. I was astonished at how little he did know. I was sure glad Paula was there because she often was able to explain things Larry and I could not, and sometimes--I guess--would not explain. After an hour's conversation, Kent asked, "Then you think I would know it if I were gay, even as ignorant as I am--was?"
"Yea, I think that's safe to say," Larry said.
"But what if I decided to turn gay? Don't know why I would, but suppose I did."
"I suppose you could decide you would have sex with a man--I mean people decide to have sex with sheep, for heaven's sake--but that's not what makes you gay. You might even get involved in what some call the gay lifestyle, but that doesn't make you gay. At least, I don't think so. You just are gay. If you are, you're born that way," Luke said.
"Thanks, guys, and Paula. Not only have you helped me a lot, but I think I understand you two couples better. Thanks. And I know I'll feel more comfortable with you four. Gee, I thought when I found out you were gay, you'd be after me."
"Nope, got all I ever hoped or dreamed for," Larry laughed as he leaned over and kissed me. Luke agreed.
"Oh, Kent, Woody and Stinky are taking us out to dinner tomorrow. Sort of paying us back for taking Matt away today while we worked. These three guys and I have to go to Oberlin to register. Our appointment's for 9:00, but that means nothing from what I have heard. Anyway, plan to go to dinner with us," Paula said, just as the three who had been at Oberlin came in. It was easy to see things had gone well because Matt was all smiles.
"Think dessert is in order," Luke laughed as he met Matt, gave him a quick kiss, grabbed his hand and dragged him to the kitchen. They came back a few minutes later with bowls of ice-cream topped with fresh strawberries. "Next year, these will be OUR strawberries," Luke said as he and Matt started sitting the bowls on the table. When we had all gathered round, I said, "Ok, Matt, out with it. You look like you just won the lottery."
"I feel like it too," he laughed. "Well, we were to meet with the head of the organ department--Professor Isadore Moler, remember him?--but it turns out the head of the whole music department--Professor Roger Stewart--and a couple of college officials met with us. Professor Moler said ordinarily he would have had to hear me play before he assigned an advisor but, since he had heard me already, he was pulling rank. 'He's mine,' he said and thumped his chest like he was Tarzan the ape man."
"Anyway, they asked about my time with Harry Holtkamp and I told them. 'I assume, then, he'll be your supervisor if you are granted independent study,' one of the officials said. Stinky told them he would be and had given Woody a letter to that effect, which Woody handed them. Stinky also told them, if it were at all possible, Mr. Holtkamp wanted me two full days a week. Professor Stewart said he didn't think that would be possible, but they would see what could be done. Among them, they listed the courses I needed to take, after Professor Stewart reminded them of the classes I would not have to take but for which I would get credit because of AP courses. 'The young man is practically a sophomore already,' he said and started trying to work out a schedule. Professor Stewart said it looked pretty hopeless and the others--except Professor Moler--agreed. Moler spoke, 'Look, we're going at this the wrong way. We're trying to fit Matt into a schedule. Why don't we try to fit a schedule to Matt? He laid out six blocks of six and then crossed out the second and fourth ones. 'That's Tuesday and Thursday, for Holtkamp,' he said. 'Now let's begin plugging in classes.'
"'You're giving him a Saturday class?' one of the officials--I think his name was Simmons--asked. 'Of course, if that's what's needed,' Professor Steward said. Well, everything started falling into place except for so-called freshmen courses. 'Look, they're freshmen courses because most freshmen, let's face it, have no real idea of what they want to do. There's no real reason for him taking them this year. Besides, there's only a couple left since his AP credits cover most of them,' Professor Moler argued. Everything had fit in--with my taking 9:00 a.m. classes when I am at Oberlin and including one Saturday morning--except P.E. I though that would be no problem but, apparently, you just can't avoid it your freshman year. 'Play any sports?' Simmons asked. I told him I had played baseball in high school and was a fair tennis player. 'Fine, sign him up for those teams,' Simmons said. When I said I might not be good enough, they all laughed. 'Matt, there are so few men in liberal arts colleges these days, if you can walk you can probably make a team," Simmons laughed.
"So, Gang, everything is signed and sealed and turned in. I don't have to go back tomorrow, so I can work in the orchard with Kent. Well, so far as Oberlin is concerned that's true. I think we need to sit down and talk about it because it involves all of you. I mean, I'll get in late two days a week and will miss Saturday morning things. I think I'll be a drag on the whole household." It was clear those thoughts had just hit Matt because his happy face disappeared quickly.
"Council meeting," Paula said. "Oh, Kent, Woody, Stinky, you are free to stay or leave, but we need to deal with this now." The group discussed Matt's schedule and how it would impact us but, finally, we didn't know because we didn't have our schedules.
We talked about that until Eugene said, "Look, why are we playing 'What if'? We'll know our schedules tomorrow and we can lay out the house schedule then. Right now I say we celebrate Matt's good news and I, for one, say we'll see that you get the time you need--and work your ass off when you are here!" We all laughed and I could see Matt relax.
We sat around the table another half hour while Matt found out what had been going on while he was away, and while he told us more details of his day. Just before we broke up for the evening, Kent said, "Man, I wish I could look forward to living in a group like this. I have never known anyone, including my dad--well, my mom, maybe--who is as concerned about me as all of you seem to be about each other. It must feel great."
"Yeah, it sure does," Matt said and we all nodded in agreement. "It sure does."