Castle Roland


by Joe Writer Man


Chapter 9

Published: 8 Apr 14


Copyright © 2012 - 2014 by Joe Writerman and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.

All Rights Reserved

Breckenridge, Texas, Jordan's Viewpoint

Centennial Logo"Eric, come sleep with us. It's all good." I said to Eric. He'd sat down on the floor and was resting against a pole that supports the house. He looked into my eyes. I shrugged my shoulders, took off my pants but left on my underwear, and then headed to the bathroom, peed, brushed my teeth, picked a zit on the end of my nose, washed it with some special soap Doctor John gave me to use for early acne, and then returned to the room we were sharing to find Eric sitting on the side of the bed with Luke.

Luke said, patting Eric's shoulder, "He's a bit bashful about sleeping with us. He's afraid that he's just going to be in our way if we decide to… you know, get intimate."

Eric nodded. He then got up and walked into the bathroom, closing the door behind him after turning on the light.

Luke patted the bed, then got up and took off his clothes, leaving on his underwear. Our lips kissed tenderly. Luke whispered, "I love you, Jordan. Don't ever forget it."

Eric soon returned and started to sit down on the floor. Luke urged him to come to our bed and lie down so that we could all go to sleep. I scooted into the middle of the bed and patted the mattress for him to come join us. Reluctantly he walked over and sat on the edge. Luke pulled the covers down to show him that we were wearing our underwear and followed it up with, "We're not going to do anything with you, Eric. You're safe here. Nobody else will bother you."

"That's just it, I want to have sex; I want somebody to fuck me."

I replied, "Well, we're not going to fuck, but we can jack off." Then, simultaneously, Luke and I skucked off the thin cotton material separating us from the open air, stroked a couple of times… Eric had his clothes off in record time…

As usual, I was up just before 5AM. Without turning the light on, I didn't want to awaken Eric and Luke, I trudged into the bathroom, closed the door, peed, washed my hands, then turned off the light and padded to our bed. Both of them were sleeping soundly, as evidenced by their deep breathing nearly in time with each other. I walked around to the other side of the bed, leaned down and kissed Luke's temple. Quietly, I headed upstairs to have a glass of milk. Hopefully there were some cookies left.

They leave on the light over the stove so that whoever gets up will not be in complete darkness. After pouring a large glass of milk, I went to the kitchen table, sat down, pulled the computer keyboard to me and logged on.

Jared had given me a username and password, and basic instructions about how to get onto the Internet. He'd also created an email account for Luke and I to have and use. I scooted the laptop close enough to use, but waited until I was finished eating and washing my hands, before opening it up and logging in.

John, as he'd done with his own sons, had created and set up parental controls to prevent our going into adult sites that were rated less than stellar. While we'd never had a computer back home, I did have access to them at school, so I knew the basics of getting around the net for researching homework assignments. Jared had readily given us lessons on how to do so much more with the tool, and he'd shown me short-cuts for getting here and there, and doing this and that, more efficiently. John's only rules were to leave the laptop on the kitchen table, and to not eat or drink while using it.

Once it was at the home screen, I clicked on my name which took me to the suite of tools that I was authorized to use. The first place I went was to my email inbox. There was one from Michael, which I opened. It read, "Check this out." I touched the mouse to the link and up came a website that had a bunch of boys scattered all around the page. In the center was the picture of a dude that looked exactly like Lawrence, though the face was a bit blurred. Clearly he was naked, at least he appeared to be because the picture stopped just above where his genitals would be. I looked away just long enough to get my wits back, and then quickly returned my eyes to the screen for another look so that I could be sure… and I was now absolutely sure it was him… although his eyes were sad and distant, they were definitely his.

Raging curiosity forced me to click on the montage. The cursor didn't stop blinking until I got to his belly button. Knowing that this was forbidden, I clicked on the image, which sent me to another page on another website. This website, titled, 'VIP', had pictures of celebrities and child actors, both new and old. Some of the pictures of people I recognized, most, though, I didn't recognize. Lawrence's picture was in the top right hand corner of the page. The picture of him, thankfully, showed that he was dressed. The background setting was the White House and its lawn. His picture looked mostly normal, the only thing I saw different from him today was his smile. I remembered how he'd said that he had been forced to appear happy – well, this picture proved his words to be true. The Lawrence I knew today, the smile he shows us today, is much, much different… it is more natural; it is him.

Without thinking any more about it, I clicked on his picture. I was taken to yet another website. This one required registration. Its appearance was like the ones for The Globe, The Enquirer, and those other glamor publications that promise to give the absolutely low-down truth on actors, politicians and other people who make national news.

After registering, I logged into the site and was taken to a page that had an image of Lawrence, appearing pretty much like his own self, other than him being a bit younger than he is today. Beneath his picture were pictures of his parents, a dog, a cat, and a brief bio sketch that tells his name, birth date, likes, dislikes, his accomplishments, etc. I didn't know he was a champion swimmer and skater; he'd never told us. I didn't know that he had been in the National Honor Society for perfect grades. Nor did I know that he was an accomplished pianist, and that he'd won awards for his age group.

I closed my eyes, and didn't even try to hold back the tears that threatened to fall, thinking all that he had accomplished in such a short time, and then there is now, and why he's where he's at. But why? Why would someone do this to him? Why?

Then another thought passed through my mind. This one stuck there. I do believe that who Luke and I see, today, is the real Lawrence. Slowly but surely, he was letting us into his mind, into who and what he really is – a really, really kewl dude, a brother, a friend, and confidante.

I got up from the table, walked to the counter, retrieved a paper towel, blew my nose hard, wiped my eyes dry, and then sat back down, took in a deep breath, and clicked the little place that said, 'Read more…' This took me to another page, and then another, and then another, and finally, fifteen rows of thumbnails were below a banner reading , 'Heartthrob Sensation: Lawrence'. On each side of the banner were pictures of Lawrence fully unclothed, or at least the illusion of him being undressed was there passing through my mind. At the same time, I felt like I was violating his private space, that if I were to click on a picture, my mind would be forever changed, that I would never see Lawrence in the same light as today.

I then remembered that we were on truth missions. Somebody needed to know the truth; someone needed to hear and see Lawrence's side of what had happened to him, and to us… we'd talked about it. We'd convinced Lawrence that the truth needed told, and this included all three of us… so that other people weren't taken hostage like we had been.

If this was Lawrence's truth, then no matter how bad I felt, it needed to get out. This couldn't ever happen again, ever.

I clicked on the first picture of the first row. It showed two boys sitting in a boat. One of them was Lawrence. The other I assumed to be Aaron. They were obviously very happy and contented. Their smiles were infectious, and genuine, too. Their demeanor – laid back. For the first page of the website, these were the types of pictures being taken.

The second page showed them skiing, together, side by side, out on the water of a beautiful lake.

The third page showed them in their quarters – changing out of their swimwear, taking showers, getting dressed, eating, laughing and enjoying themselves. At the same time the pictures on the open areas of the boat included men on each side. I assumed these men were Secret Service agents assigned to protect and oversee Lawrence and the other guy's safety.

The fourth page contained pictures of them in their quarters, getting ready for bed, turning off the lights, and then the pictures turned to what appeared to be very high quality infrared shots that showed them in separate beds, leaning toward one another, kissing, and then jacking off, rolling over, and going to sleep.

I thought about Lawrence's words about not having any privacy; he had none whatsoever. How so ever true were his words. Did he actually know the extent to which 'those people' kept tabs on him? Did he know that whoever was taking pictures knew that he and Aaron had kissed goodnight? Did he know that his most private and intimate moments were being captured? Would he have approved?

No. No, he wouldn't. Not then. Not now. Not ever would he permit his personal space being invaded like 'that'. Never.

Page ten showed Aaron and his family sitting side by side at a table eating breakfast. Lawrence was sitting opposite Aaron. Two still shots went to their feet and legs… their toes were intertwined together. The next three pictures showed that their lower legs were wrapped together, and the next six shots showed exactly how tented out their boardie style swimsuits were in front. If Lawrence and Aaron were aware, their eyes and demeanor did not tell the story. The only thing that showed on their faces was that they were incredibly happy.

Pages eleven and twelve were devoted to their skiing out on the lake. They were going so fast. The outward spray from the sides of the boat was incredible. I also saw grave concern written on their faces as several stills showed them being taken across wakes and close to trees, yet their skills with navigating those perils was absolutely perfect.

Pages thirteen and fourteen showed a snarling Lawrence giving holy hell to two of the agents. He was pointing out onto the lake, to the back of the boat, and the two sets of skis standing up against the canopy. The last two pictures on page fourteen showed only the agents talking together.

Fifteen through most of twenty were more pictures of bathrooms, undressing, showers, dressing, sleeping, eating, mingling with the two adults who looked a lot like the boy accompanying Lawrence in most of the previous pages.

The hairs on the back of my neck arose at seeing the two adults standing in front of a chain gate like thing. They looked none too happy. Gone were their smiles and laid back demeanor. On the left side of the picture, I saw a hand holding something that I couldn't make out. Micheal had shown me how to make a page appear larger, so I Control Shift %2B'd four times. Oh my God, that hand was holding a handgun at the ready, pointing toward the man and woman who looked a lot like Aaron.

The next few pictures showed the man and woman walking down a, what is it? A gang plank? Toward another smaller boat… the scenes of the adults stopped after they were seated.

On page twenty one, halfway down the page, Lawrence and, I'm going to assume Aaron, were seated close to each other with their shoulders touching. Their facial expressions were, at first, concerned, and then terror… the very last picture in that showed only the seat.

I jumped out of the chair at hearing footsteps coming up the stairs. Quickly, I closed the laptop's lid, and then ran to the doorway to see who was walking up. My heart, already beating at a million to none, didn't even relax at seeing Luke. I stepped aside to permit him entry into the kitchen, and then pulled him into my arms and hugged him oh so tight. By this time, my composure was beginning to break down, but somehow maintained. Whispering into Luke's ear, frantically I asked, "Is Eric awake?"

"No he's asleep. What's the matter with you? What's wrong?" Luke asked, very concernedly, rubbing the small of my back, stopping at the waistband of the shorts, then back up until his hand stopped at my neck where he lightly held on.

I broke away, just for a moment to close the door leading down to the basement. When it was closed, I whispered, "I found a website. It shows Lawrence and another guy I think is Aaron. Lots of pictures. A gun…" My composure threatened to totally fail. I would have lost it if Luke wasn't with me, but instead of losing it, I put my arm around his waist and led him to the kitchen table. I sat down then made room for him to sit with me. I opened the laptop lid, brought the software out of 'sleep mode', reentered my password twice before getting it right on the third time. My hands were shaking. I started sweating, and foreboding sensations began traveling through my body, as I hit the page-forward button. I clicked the very first thumbnail on the top left hand corner. My heart stopped at seeing Lawrence lying prone on the deck with a man straddling his butt, pushing hard on Lawrence's back over the area where his lungs would be located. Luke violently trembled. He tightened his hold on my waist.

The rest of the pictures on the page showed both boys lying side by side in what I recognized to be the bunkhouse. The very last two pictures were closeups of their faces… they both looked like they were – dead. The only thing that kept me from totally losing it was knowing that Lawrence is NOT dead. But what about the other boy? Is he dead, like Lawrence thinks he is, as he looks in this picture?

According to the page numbering scheme at the bottom of the page, next to the page forward arrow, there were two more pages to go. Luke quickly took control of the computer, paged forward, and then began rapidly clicking on pictures of Lawrence in varying poses, at first dressed, and by the end he was obviously being sexually engaged… by men… even though his eyes were wide open… his expression showed only – dead. I know of no different words to describe what he looked like. Luke began rapidly clicking Control-S, saving them to a folder he created. When he was finished, he typed in a password, and then zipped the folder, went to email, attached the file to a blank email document, typed in Dale's address, and then wrote: "Keep these safe. Luke & Jordan".

Before he could hit the SEND button, John walked into the kitchen, looked at us hunched over the laptop. Luke looked down and very quickly clicked SEND. He then closed the lid. I thought I was going to pass out, my heart was racing again, I started sweating profusely. John walked over to us, and asked, concernedly, "What's up, boys?"

Without waiting for an answer, he walked over, looked into my eyes, took hold of the laptop, opened the lid, and said, "I hope you guys haven't passed by the controls I set up. If so…" He opened the lid. Seeing the password page, he turned the laptop to Luke and looked intently into his eyes. Luke, not knowing my entry authentication, looked into my eyes. I looked into John's eyes. Mine filled with tears. I just knew he was going to send us on our way, for many of the pictures that he would see on the page were – pornography, but they involved Lawrence, in the worst possible way.

John, Doctor Finnegan, I realized, had never done or said anything to either me or Luke to distrust him. As a column of bile threatened to spew forth, I quickly swallowed it down, several times in rapid succession. When I felt that I could possibly speak, I choked, "Sir, I was not looking for pornography, but I found… I found… what Lawrence said about what happened… it's all true. But, there's a lot here that he didn't say… there's no way he would have known… please don't get pissed… I didn't mean to…"

At the same time, a phone, far away, downstairs, began ringing. The ring tone was Dale's. Luke got up from the chair, ran to the door to the basement, then down, taking the stairs two at a time. Luke's voice was muffled. Eric then started talking, though I could not understand what he was saying.

I looked into John's eyes, then turned to the computer, entered my registration information. Quickly, I pressed the last page arrow, the one that had the pictures of Lawrence's dead appearing face, with a man lying between Lawrence's splayed wide open legs. The smile on that man's face was sickening.

John quickly took in a deep breath. With his voice shuddering, he whispered, "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I didn't know it was this bad… I am so sorry for doubting…" Footsteps hit the stairs. Quickly John closed the lid on the laptop, unplugged it from its charger, and said, "Jordan, I need for you and Luke to keep this between yourselves, for right now. I just don't want anyone else hurting. It's got to stop." I nodded as he patted my shoulder. Luke and Eric topped the landing and walked to us. Luke handed me the phone, then looked questioningly into John's eyes. John nodded.

I reached for the laptop in John's hands. He gave it to me and suggested that I go into his office so that Dale and I could talk privately. John put his hands on Luke and Eric's shoulders and led them into the Great Room. I took off for John's office, closed the door, and then sat on the sofa, put my legs up, and the first words got blurted out, "Dale, there's pictures. This fucking asshole was abusing Lawrence…" I couldn't continue, and despite trying to hold back my emotions… while I didn't sob, I couldn't speak for my throat was too tight to get anything out.

And then something else took me over: I was pissed. I was pissed that anybody would abuse Lawrence. We love him. He's a good person. He's our brother. You can fuck with me, but don't fuck with my family.

I said into the phone, "Dale, that motherfucker is mine. I will hurt that son of a bitch, so help me God."

Dale, apologetically, sincerely, said, "Jordan, I understand your anger and frustration…"

I interrupted, "Dale, that's just it… there's no way you can understand unless you've had a grownup's dick up your ass, tearing it apart. That motherfucker is all mine."

Dale continued, as I breathed hard, "Jordan, stop. Just hold on a second. Just breathe slowly, in and out, in and out, relax, just breathe, calm down. We'll talk this through. Trust me, my ears are open."

Dale's comforting voice had its effect. I willed myself to do as he said, and it worked, though slowly. But, I was still on an adrenaline high… just not as much.

"Okay." I said, calmly, then added, "He's still mine. He will pay. Dale, I sent the pictures to you in an email."

Dale asked, "Does John know about them?"

"Yes, he's seen the worst of them. He told me that he'd take it from here. Dale, I mean what I say."

"I know you do, Jordan. There's just one little problem, though. You see, you will be given anything that is left of that piece of crap. Do you understand me?"

I wiped away all remaining tears, put my feet on the floor, sat straight up, and closed my eyes as yet another wave of anger started washing through me. I wanted the son of a bitch on a rotisserie spit. I could taste the desire. In my mind I saw Lawrence in those pictures, and in my mind… and then the conversation with Eric took hold… I relaxed again, I had to. "I understand. There won't be much left. Doctor John is a surgeon…"

Dale cleared his throat. I know he was trying not to laugh… all he managed to say was "Oh my, that's right. Well, Jordan, there you have it. You have a surgeon and a pissed off gear-jammer… I hope you aren't wanting very much left for yourself. In all seriousness, Jordan, the rage you are feeling, while it is quite justified, is not going to do you any good. It will eat you up. Trust me."

I closed my eyes, reached up and wiped the moisture threatening to spill from my eyes. Memory of Dale's pleasant expression and the strength in his arms and person came directly into my mind. His words awakened a fear that I'd not felt before. Luke's dad had broken his trust; he'd abandoned us. That had hurt Luke to his core; it still does. I can see it in his eyes. Yet, I wanted to believe Dale, too. Dale had never done anything to intentionally hurt us. Why would he start now?

I started to speak, but no words would come out. I twice cleared my throat, and tried to speak again, finally my words found a broken voice, "I trust you, Dale. But, it's hard. I've never trusted a man before; not until you came along. And now there is John. I'll be okay, just give me time, okay, please?"

"Jordan, I would never ever hurt you boys. I understand that you need time. And I will give you just as much as you need… but, at some point, you are going to need to trust someone… someone to help you along in your young years. Jordan, I will have this same conversation with Luke. You two are together. You two boys are not the only members of the family who have 'gay' on their minds."

"What do you mean 'family'?"

"Oh. Hmmm… A family, a group of people… family… it has a nice ring to it."

Just as I was getting ready to say that he must have a really good family, Luke walked in, closed the door, scratched the right side of his privates, making sure that I saw what he was showing, but then sat down when he saw that I was still on the phone. I rolled my eyes up into my head, and turned back to the conversation. I put the cheap phone on 'speaker' so that Luke could listen in, and add anything that was on his mind.

"We will be returning to the Mainland on Friday morning. Our vacation has improved, so we're going to enjoy it. I know you guys are in safe hands. John is a good guy. He'll look out for you. Just do what he says. We'll get together, soon, more than likely over the weekend, if that's okay with everybody there."

Maui, Hawaii, Dale's Viewpoint

We hung up. I sat still for a moment, thinking about those boys, all they'd been though in their short lives, their dreams, their needs as growing kids who'd been given a raw deal… kids get into trouble as they learn, but these kids did not deserve what they they'd been handed.

I'd put John's phone number in my notepad. I got into it, then punched in the numbers. He answered on the second ring, "Hello."

After pleasantries were exchanged, I got down to brass tacks, "Jordan told me about the pictures he found of Lawrence on the Internet. And he tells me that you're aware of them."

"Yes, I'm afraid so. The pictures are, without doubt, child porn. They show despicable situations the boy was in and forced to undertake. Unfortunately, law enforcement in this godforsaken Podunk town is not even an option. And, I do not trust the Feds enough to take this situation to them, not now. Jordan told me that he emailed you some of the pictures, did you receive them?"

"I don't know… let me get the laptop going… hold on just a second." I walked over to the bar, retrieved the machine, brought it back to the table, turned it on, logged in, and opened email. I said, "It must be a big file, or the connection, here is slow… there it is…"

John offered, "You will probably want to look at the last two or three pages for right now…"

I opened the last page, and clicked on the very last picture. I took in a deep breath, and then immediately clicked the picture closed. I'd seen enough to last a lifetime. I gasped as a column of bile rose in my throat. I swallowed it down, then said, "John, if I ever get my hands on… I will take care of what is left. Soon, within minutes his body will not be…"

John's voice, taking on a steely tone, stated, "Before I studied to be a surgeon, my original specialty was going to be pathology. I'm sure the skills I learned in that discipline could be put to good use. We would have to do something first… you and Jordan, and anyone else who wants a part of him will have to do their work before I take over. I gave the Hippocratic Oath, where I will not harm a patient. But, if the patient is already deceased, I will take very good care of the decedent's remains. He will not be identifiable; even a dental examination will be impossible."

I could not help but to cautiously smile. My smile was more from being nervous than anything else.

John continued, "I am going to sit both Jordan and Luke down and talk with them. They, as you know, are very upset. I do not want them to carry that rage around inside of themselves. They're good kids, Dale. They've got their futures to live. There is one more thing that I need to disclose to you." His voice was quiet, subdued. All trace of what we were talking about doing, but would likely not do, was gone. After a one minute pause, "Dale, the boys are fitting in here very well. They are relaxing, somewhat… but, I must tell you that they look up to you. They are fine here… for the time being. I will welcome them into my home…"

I nodded knowingly, appreciatively, "I know. We hit it right off. They're good kids who got a raw deal in life. I'm glad you are there." I needed to break through the melancholy, if only for a moment. "Did they tell you about the embarrassing episode in the truck… the one that had us in stitches, literally?"

"No, I do not recall."

I went on and told him what had happened in the cab of the truck that day we were speeding down the highway… with the underwear waving out the window for all to see.

"That sounds like something they would do." John said, chuckling.

"Doctor, can I ask how Lawrence is after his operation? I understand the whole confidentiality thing, so if you can't tell me, then can you just say if he is okay?"

"Oh, that's okay. Lawrence did just fine in surgery. His operation was a complete success. I believe he is going to be just fine. His main problem was an abscess. He also had a very tight stricture, or a scar tissue. I cleaned out the infection, removed the core, then performed a specialized procedure to remove as much of the stricture as possible, yet maintain the normal body elimination. He may have to have this part of the procedure performed before he fully matures. He does have evidence of an old colon perforation. He told me that he'd had an emergency operation overseas. Basically, the procedure was satisfactory, however there were some specific things to be done that were not performed.

I am concerned about one thing… and that is his pain tolerance. The operation he had performed today creates a great deal of discomfort, yet he had not asked for very much medication to control it."

I lamented, "He probably taught himself to feel no pain. What about his future physical needs?"

"Additional scar tissue is the main concern. Re-injury is another concern. There are exercises and dilation apparatus that he can do and use to help along the healing. I think he's going to be just fine, given time. His biggest hurdles are going to be his emotions and feelings."

Near east of Wichita, Kansas, Adam Wright's Viewpoint


"Hey yourself. Did you sleep good?" I asked the chocolate skinned sixteen-year-old young man plopping his butt down on the sofa next to me. He took my arm, pulled it around his shoulders, then looked deeply into my eyes.

I smiled, squeezing his hand.

"Good. What's for breakfast? I'm hungry." The boy broke away, but only briefly. He grabbed my hand, urged me to stand, then urged me into the kitchen and to the stove. He pointed at it. His stomach then let loose with a gurgling howl. I chuckled, unable to stop myself. The expression on his face told me that there was no time for fun and games about his eating.

Knowing that we needed to be at the rehabilitation center later in the morning, I gave in after playfully smacking his butt which caused him to smile warmly, then his facial expression tensed up, causing his forehead skin to wrinkle. His eyes, though looking into mine, turned blank.

Knowing that he'd done that before, that he had suffered some brain damage due to having been stabbed followed by massive blood loss and subsequent cardiac arrest, I took hold of his arm, squeezed lightly, and inquired, "Wayne, are you with me?"

Due to oxygen starvation his brain had endured about a year ago, after being stabbed nearly to death, the rehab specialists had told me he would sometimes fade away for short periods of time. Patiently, I awaited his return. Gently, I twice called his name.

Approximately five minutes later, as though he was awakening from a dream, his eyes blinked, then focused. The look in his eyes was now bewildered, like he was trying to find out where he was. But then the wrinkles on his forehead relaxed. I drew him into my arms, hugged him quickly, firmly, then reached down to retrieve a pan to make our breakfast.

I told him to retrieve bacon and eggs from the refrigerator. For a moment, he stood there, clearly bewildered until I repeated my request. Then, as if nothing ever happened, he followed through. My next requests for milk, seasonings and whathaveyou were met with amazing clarity. The doctors explained that these were minor brain seizures. Wayne would have no recall of anything that happened during them.

When it came time for plates, he once again stared blankly – but only for a few seconds. He was somewhat confused, I walked him to the pantry, retrieved two Chinette paper plates… and he took it from there, doing his responsibility just fine. He then sat down at the small desk in the dining room, within view, turned on the computer monitor… within minutes he was flying electronic helicopters.

I gently reminded him that it was time to eat. He paused the game. Silently he devoured everything that wasn't nailed down to the table. One thing that had not left him was his ability to eat. When he was settled into his food, I grabbed a bowl of cereal.

Once we finished, he began performing his responsibility of kitchen cleanup. Once that was finished to my specifications, he sat back down at the computer and resumed play. He really gets into flying helicopters. I had my doubts about his playing computer games, but the rehab people said it would be really good in developing concentration and eye and hand coordination. I found out that they were absolutely correct, in fact, I believe the games brought him further in his recovery than all the state supported rehabilitation they could throw money at. I watched him getting into the game with a warm heart, thinking back to when he had first arrived here.

For a while, after James left my care, I slunk down into a deep depression. I worked only to meet bills, otherwise I just moped around this huge house without purpose. I'd grown fond of that boy. The boy, James, was so grateful for giving him a place to live, plenty of food in his stomach, many shoulders to cry on, and people to believe in him, no matter what.

Truth be told, he did more for me than I could ever have done for him.

Tony and I had striven to find him a good home, because neither of us were in a position to adopt him. When we found the Richardsons… well, they were a godsend. James has flowered and prospered beyond my wildest dreams. He's such a good kid, despite where he came from.

James stays in touch with me on a monthly basis, sometimes more often. He's so busy with working not only the farm his parents own, but also his boyfriend's mother's farm. She's alone due to her husband being arrested and charged with homicide of her sister's son, so the kids do all that they can to keep the farm going. And they do a really good job, although Dan, James' adoptive father, is about to put his foot down on the amount of work that James is doing. We talked about it some, and concluded that James and Rocky need time to just be boys. They are growing up so fast. A kid has to have time to play, relax and get comfortable with his world.

That's why I took Wayne into my home. The kid didn't have a chance in the world, not after the Burrough's West Baptist Church gang took him from the rehab hospital using the guise of giving him a good and loving home in which to grow. I still don't know how they got their hands on him, and CPS won't say. The only thing of any significance the caseworker said of Wayne's journey was that time spent in the youth home was relatively short, approximately nine weeks. Wayne was literally dropped off on the caseworker's office doorsteps with a note attached to his shirt, saying that the boy was not salvageable.

For the first five weeks of his 'freedom', he was in the care and custody of the local youth detention center, where, because of his mental disabilities, and his love for sex, he was abused horrendously.

Tony, my attorney, caught wind of Wayne's plight. He immediately filed injunction after injunction, writ after writ, motion after motion, and finally he got a judge to check out the situation in more detail. The judge said that if the State was able to provide a good foster home, then he would consider an application for placement. The boy was placed in Tony's custody for a short period of time.

That's how I met Wayne.

And then he and Seth, Tony's son, got into a huge fight. Blood was shed. Words were said. The tension in Tony's household was too much for them to take on any lengthy basis.

Since I had been appointed a temporary guardian for James, I applied and was given permission to foster Wayne for an indefinite period of time.

He and I get along great, although bedtime is a chore as he is terrified of closing his eyes for any length of time.

We got around that when I rearranged his bedroom suite so that it faced the living room and my office area. He goes to sleep on his side facing out of his bedroom, and so long as he can see me he falls asleep.

The boy also experiences night terrors. These, though, are decreasing as time goes along. The last one was two nights ago. He was screaming Seth's name, and was wildly thrashing his arms and legs as if to get away from his attacker. I wonder if Wayne's terrors are not caused more by the period of time he spent with the Church home, rather than the fight with Seth.

Wayne does not recall the dreams. He only becomes aware when I take him into the bathroom to clean up and take a shower, because he loses control of his basic bodily functions.

The rehab doctors have said that Wayne is operating in a ten to twelve year old category. I took him back to Tulsa for a comprehensive reevaluation just two weeks ago. They were hopeful, and said that he had made progress since they'd last seen him at their facility.

At no time would Wayne permit me to be out of his sight. He would have a severe anxiety attack when I so much as went to the bathroom without him. He couldn't see me.

The doctors said that he had never attached himself to any staff or visitors, until I arrived in his life – and he in mine.

I don't think I would do very well around here without his presence. He's never gotten angry at me, in fact he strives for my approval at every turn.

The boy got up from the desk, walked over to me holding the front of his sweat pants, looked into my eyes. Silently he was requesting permission to take care of his business. I nodded. He took off at a brisk pace across the living room, heading toward the main bathroom. He made it. Sometimes he doesn't.

The doctors told me that he had died multiple times in the ER and in the operating room back in Chicago where he had lived with his mother. They also told me that Wayne has a history of doing hard drugs and drinking excessively. So, whenever I look at him, I see a miracle. And for that I am blessed.

After fifteen minutes, I wondered what he was doing and where he was. Normally, due to his separation issues, he would be right back, but this time he wasn't. I got up and followed his footsteps.

In the main bathroom, the commode has its own alcove and cannot be seen from its doorway. I walked on in since the door was wide open, then quickly turned and left the room. He was in the midst of a masturbation session. I'm very proud of him for finding solitude in a private place, for he usually has no restraint about taking care of his sexual needs at just about any time or place in the house. We've gone round and round about his need for privacy. It is a concept that he has a very hard time with, due to his need for my presence. Wayne is quite vocal when his release is in progress, and this time was no different.

Within a very short time, he appeared and sat back down at the computer table, looked into my eyes for approval. He knew I wasn't all that crazy about him walking around the house without any clothing, so when I pointed toward his room he got up, went there, and returned wearing a pair of bright red gym shorts. I nodded, approvingly. He smiled and got back into the game.

Since he was fully involved, I went back to my office, did some paperwork, took a phone call, and arranged a photo shoot for a family of twelve for Christmas presents to their family.

An hour or so later, Wayne came into my office and stood at my desk. I looked up. He was flexing his arms so that the ripples of muscle in his belly were clearly evident. He giggled when I rolled my eyes.

Although he didn't verbalize anything, I knew what he wanted to do, so I got up, went into my bedroom, shed my clothing, and put on a pair of gym shorts. We went into the gym and worked out together. The boy was getting stronger and stronger as each day went on. Though he's fairly short in stature, and light in weight, he's a tightly packed package of energy. He remembers his workout regimen, needing only minimal direction so that he doesn't hurt himself.

About halfway through our routine, he tossed his shirt and watched it land in the corner. He turned around to face me. His smile told me that he was about to get into some serious business. He turned to the dummy. Using everything he had, he gave it a brutal series of kicks and punches, in rapid succession. I was very pleased with his much improved coordination, though his concentration waxes and wanes, at times. One lapse cost him a smack down to the mat. He was not anticipating the swing back, even though he'd already handled it successfully several times during this workout..

When he didn't immediately jump up, I walked onto the mat, went to him, grabbed his outstretched wrist and started to pull him up, but he had other plans. He's good, real good, but not too good for me. When I had him locked to the mat, he grinned like a Cheshire cat, as did I.

"You did very well today. I'm very, very proud of the way you handled yourself. That poor dummy though, uhm, uhm, uhm… okay, shower time." I said, getting up from the mat.

I turned away and started walking toward the door leading out of the gym. Before I got ten steps, I found myself falling to the bare-wood floor. I outstretched my arms to break the fall. Autopilot kicked in. Within two seconds I had my assailant on the floor, on his back, with my forearm braced against his neck. I was not smiling, but I was not pissed. He'd done this before, and I had come down hard on him, and I came down on him again, "You got me this time. Our workouts are for defense only. Do not attack unless attacked. You can get yourself in deep trouble had you done this to someone else. I'm not mad at you. I'm telling you this for your own good. Shower time."

The boy went into his bedroom and I went to mine. Five minutes later he appeared, undressed for a shower. The huge long incision scar that runs from the base of his neck down into his pubic bush never ceases to amaze me; it's a stark reminder of the difficulties he's had growing up.

Sometimes he's a sixteen-year-old young man. Sometimes he is a little boy. This morning he regressed into his safety net of a childhood that he really hadn't experienced. Sometimes we shower together. Most times we do not. Today was another one of those days we didn't.

When I saw that he was okay, I went into my room, showered, got dressed, grabbed my keys from the locked safe, and walked into his room to see that he was dressed in sweats, standing there looking at a torn and tattered picture. I knew what that picture was… it was of him and his mother back when he was a little boy. I walked to him. He looked up. Tears were in his eyes. He said, "That's my mommy."

Solemnly, I nodded. Reverently, he slipped the picture into a small baggy, put it in a drawer to the nightstand next to his bed, walked over, took my arm in his, and then we took off for the rehab facility. I walked him inside, checked him in, and then left the building to run errands, none of which are worthy of repeating.

When I picked him up later in the day, he was calm, serene. He casually told me about all of the things he'd done while we were apart. The supervisor told me that he'd done just fine, that he hadn't withdrawn into himself, hadn't gotten angry, and that he'd been compliant… all in all a very good day.

We stopped at an excellent steak house, loaded up and ate in companionable silence. Once we were finished, stuffed like porcupines, I decided that we would take a drive out into the country to see the sights. Instead, I turned onto the freeway, and once we were out of town, I put my foot down. The Porsche responded accordingly. When we approached the Oklahoma border, I looked down to the speedometer, noting the display reading 141 miles per hour. I looked at Wayne… he was smiling his million dollar smile, one that I could not get enough of. He's like any other boy. Like me, he loves the wide open spaces. Although I don't think he is even aware of the thrill of driving down a freeway breaking every speed limit law in the country, he, perhaps, senses my thrill.

Once we got past the border, I slowed down to the 75 mile per hour speed limit, found a place to turn around, and then headed home.

Although it was early, I could tell that he was completely worn out. The boy gave no argument about going to bed. One thing that helps him to not have the night terrors is a good back rub. After he completed his bathroom duties, he came and got me from my study area, took me to his room, disrobed to his skin, got into bed, and handed over the bottle of body lotion which I used to rub down his taught and tired back muscles. He was sound asleep before I was halfway finished. I leaned down, kissed the area between his shoulder blades, covered his nakedness with the covers, and then headed to my office to finish editing a photo shoot that I'd performed the previous Thursday and Friday while he was in an all-day regimen at the rehab center.

As I worked, I thought a lot about John. I'd forgiven him long ago. Living a life filled with resentment is not for me; not normally, although there are times when I do.

I learned all about forgiveness from a twelve-year-old child named James. He'd been horribly treated, and almost killed by his parents – all for being himself, a child who needed direction and guidance, not punishment in the way they doled out. His father had reduced the child to a dog… even dogs usually get more love than he received.

The boy had forgiven his parents. He taught me how to forgive myself for taking full blame and responsibility for the auto accident that had killed my wife and son, years ago.

I still blame myself. But I no longer loathe each and every breath that goes in and comes out of my lungs.

My beginnings of 'funk' were stopped by the phone ringing. I looked at caller id, smiled, picked up the receiver and said, happily, "Hello there, James. And just exactly what did I do to deserve Your Highness' call?"

Giggles greeted my attempts at humor – attempt successful! "Oh nothing. I just wanted to call and say 'hey', so 'hey'!"

"What's up little man?"

"Hey." The boy said, yawning. He chuckled, and said apologetically, "Sorry about that."

"You sound tired, kiddo." I responded. Duh.

"Yeah, a little bit."

"How's the family?"

"Oh… they're pretty good."

"And Rocky?"

"Dynamite!" James said, his voice rising, happily, fondly.

Rocky is his boyfriend. They're solid, one hundred percent.

He continued, less exuberant, perhaps even a bit embarrassed, "Uhm, I need to ask you something…"

"Ask away, James. You know you can ask me anything anytime. I'll always be here for you. I'm just a call away." I replied gently. I knew he had something on his mind, and didn't know how to ask.

After what he'd been through during his early years, he was still hesitant at talking with adults, although his family, his new dad in particular, was a whole different story, and me… he's more open with me than anyone… he's said so.

"Would you do a shoot of me and Rocky? I want to give it to Mom and Dad as our Christmas present."

"Of course, no problem."

"I want some of just him and me, too." James said, shyly.

"I can do that, too. What were you thinking of?"

"Can you, will you, would you think about something intimate; something that we can look at now, and keep for the future to remember how much we were and are in love. Something very special."

"Well, yeah, I can do that… where were you thinking of using as a backdrop?" I asked him. He knows my photography is really good, and that I prefer doing natural shots outdoors. So does he.

"Uhm, well, we were thinking of something extremely intimate, yet subtle… like using sheets and stuff, maybe satin." James was clearly nervous now; I heard it in his voice.

I realized it was time to be an adult. I do value my freedom. Very softly, yet firmly, I replied, "I will do any photographs of you and Rocky that you want me to do… so long as they are what you can show your parents."


"Yes, you have a nice butt."

"Rocky thinks so." The boy responded, chuckling.

"Very funny." I chuckled, knowing he would drop the subject.

The boy giggled and then said, "I had to try."

"When you're eighteen, we'll talk about it. And even then, I'll say 'no' to any sexual stuff. I make a good living doing what I do, and I do not want to be known as a porn photographer."

"Okay. Yeah, you're too good to do that stuff… besides… it's boring."

"What? With that hunk you have for a boyfriend… you are actually looking at porn?"

"We both do. Together. Gives us new ideas."

"There's only so many… nevermind."

James giggled, wildly.

I love hearing him laugh. He didn't always laugh. There was a time when he had nothing to laugh about; there was a time when he hated himself… to the point where he didn't care if he lived or died. Thank the stars that he lived. He's a good kid, so loving and oh so very sensitive.

He got me again. I love him for that. Makes him feel good. I never get tired of hearing his giggles.



"I love you. Thanks for everything."

"I love you, too. You're welcome. You are the bright spot in my life, James. I love hearing from you. And I'd love to see you again." I said, fondly remembering how he and Rocky came down to the lake house to spend Memorial Day weekend with me.

"I know. Me, too. Mom told me to ask you to come to Thanksgiving Dinner, can you, please?"

"I'd love to. Count on it."

"Great! I'll tell her. Have you heard from Tony?"

"Why yes… I just talked to him the day before yesterday. He asks about you. He would love to hear from you, you know." I said, lightheartedly, although I was serious. Tony was a friend to James when I couldn't be there, or when he needed a different perspective.

"Yeah, I need to call him… maybe he can come up, too?"

"I think he'd like that. As you know, Seth doesn't come around too much, not since…"

"Are they still going together?"

"Unfortunately – yes."

"Is he still doing drugs and stuff?"

"Yes, and it's breaking Tony's heart."

"I can only imagine. Adam, Seth can't come here. Not when he's doing that shit. Mom would have an absolute shit fit if she knew everything he's doing, including that worthless piece of… never mind, I'm trying to watch my mouth."

"Promise me this, if you can… if he calls asking for help… talk to him. You were once friends, tight friends."

"Yeah, that's right. But… I can't be around the drugs and stuff. It's not me. There are some pot heads around school… they're losers." James said, adamantly. I was glad to hear his stance on the subject, and I'm even more happy about his decisions, considering where he came from, alone, out on the streets, from an unhappy and uncaring home, etc.

"I appreciate you telling me this, James. One thing you might want to remember… perhaps, just perhaps… the kids that do and sell drugs may or may not have a happy home, or they've gone through some serious stuff that they don't know how to deal with other than for escaping from it. This is just another perspective. How you deal with it is up to you, though."

"Thanks, Adam. Sometimes I really get strong about that kind of stuff." James said, backpedaling a bit.

"Having your views and convictions is natural and normal; just remember that many things in our lives are the way they are because we feel like there aren't other viewpoints. Try to leave yourself open to try to understand where someone else is coming from." I said, seriously, yet gently.

"Dad says the same thing."

"You're growing up."

"Yeah. I've got a bunch of pubes." James said, deadly serious.

I sputtered and spat out a mouthful of iced tea when his words came tumbling out… and my nearly choking to death set James off on a laughing fit, at my expense, of course, as usual.

God, I love that boy. He's a good kid. He got me again, but good.

In the background, I heard Dan's voice, and knew that Dan loved the boy like he was his own son… which he is… by adoption and heartstrings.

"Are you okay, Adam?" James asked, sincerely.

I smiled, "Yes, I'm okay – this time. That's twice tonight you've managed to choke me up… you're getting good, really good."

"I love you, Adam. I hope you can come up for Thanksgiving."

"I plan on it. Good night, be good for your folks. They love you, you know."

"Yeah. It feels really good… to be loved. I love you. And thanks. For everything. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for you and Tony." James said with his early adolescent deep and low husky voice, that was just beginning to crackle. Continuing, "I'll call you more often, I promise. I've got to go now. And Adam, please bring Wayne. Skeeter would love to see him again. We're working on Joey's parents… hopefully he'll make it… Skeeter gets lonely. When he's like that, he is hard to deal with."

I thought for a second before responding, "Are you and your brothers taking into account that the love of his life lives so far away? He needs his family more than ever during those times. Be a friend. You know how to be a good one. About us coming for Thanksgiving… count on it."

"Kewl. Okay, Dad is looking at me with the eye, gotta go."

"Good night, James."



"Thanks for taking care of Wayne. You're a good man. I love you." Click.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dale's Viewpoint

After returning from a fun-filled day, which included Bradley and I taking short commuter flights to and from Honolulu to retrieve his necklace purchase from the glass-blower in the touristy section of Waikiki Beach, we returned to Maui in time to spend the rest of the day at the beach, going out in the surf, and hoping the dolphins would return for some fun. They didn't show themselves, but we had fun anyway.

Showered and dressed, we ventured out to this Thai restaurant we'd seen from the road a couple of times. I'd never had Thai food before. These specialty foods were something that just wasn't seen in our part of the country, in the relatively small town where we lived. The waitress was very helpful to interpret dishes we could not understand. I ended up having a roasted pork chop, steamed vegetables, a tossed green salad topped with sprinkles of cheese and seasonings… oh my, was it wonderful.

From there, we took off for a butte overlooking the west shores of the island, to watch another sunset over the water, knowing it would be our last time as we were soon returning to the mainland to resume our lives… or start life all over again as the case may be. As much as the whole issue of dealing with Regina and our marriage deeply troubled me, as the sun set, I could see the same thing happening to us, and, at the same time I realized tomorrow would be a different day, with new things on the horizon as the sun arose. I took in a deep breath and somehow just knew that everything would work out in the end… knowing it always had.

As the sun 'hit' the water, Carlin sat in my lap, leaned back into my chest, pulled my arms around him so that he was firmly snuggled in, I counted even more blessings as my arms rose and fell with our breathing in harmony. I kissed his temple and whispered into his ear, "This is pretty awesome." To my entire family, I said, "I love you all so very much. I'm glad we got to spend this time together. I really am. What I want you to do is this: take this moment and etch it into your mind, so that when things get rough, you can bring this memory back and feel the peace and serenity that we feel right now. Although this is putting our trip to a sunset, we all know that the sun will rise tomorrow morning. It will dawn a new day. I don't know exactly what things will be like when we get back, but just know that everything is going to work out for the best."

Rachel said, "I'm sorry, Dad. But you're right. Just know that we're here, and always will be."

Melissa, seemingly reserved, said very softly, "I'm sorry, too. Sometimes I think that if I wasn't here…" Bradley started to say something, but she put her fingers to Bradley's lips, to shush him, "then I wouldn't know what real happiness really is. This has been the best trip of my life. I'll always remember it. Tonight, I called my mother and told her how happy I was here with you and your family, and this hunk sitting holding me in his arms… You know what she said?" Without waiting for replies, she continued, "This is what dreams are made of. Dreams do come true."

Jeremy picked up, "Dad, we'll get through anything. Melissa's mother is absolutely right. I don't know what you and Mom are going to do, but I know that whatever it is… things will work out in ways that we don't now understand, and we'll be all the stronger for it. Yesterday morning after breakfast, I called my company, spoke to Don, a VP. I asked him what jobs he might have available. He is looking for a shipping and handling manager. He's very interested in your experience. I told him only that you are looking for a change, that you want to get off the road on a day to day basis. Anyway, he wants to talk to you when we get back."

"Thank you, Jeremy. I've given a lot of thought on what you're saying, about making a change. You're right… I'm ready for something to do that is closer to home. Who knows what that opportunity will bring to their lives. I'll call them."

Bradley gave me a reserved smile. He nodded. I know he would be waiting for me to actually take the action. I've told him before, back when he was trying to work through the whole bad thing that had happened to him, that I could get a job that would keep me at home. So I understood his skepticism. I said, "Bradley, I am making the change. I have nothing to hide from or run away to. The truth is: I love your Mother; I always will. What I now know is she and I will go our separate ways. I have already forgiven her. I've loved her for just too long not to. At the same time, in the same breath, I cannot live like that, knowing just beneath the surface there is a very angry and unfulfilled person living within her skin. You kids will have to come to your own conclusions. I do now, and will always respect you decisions."

Bradley spoke up, saying to Carlin, "Carl, I know that I've been kind of distant from you, especially since you told me you're gay. I've been locked up in thinking that gay people… well… I thought, something happened to me a few years ago which left me very angry at gay people. I remembered something that a therapist said… she said that what happened is not about gay people at all. Instead, what happened is something that sick people did and do. I'm sorry… for thinking about it all wrong. You're an okay dude. I love you."

Carlin bounded up and out of my arms, walked to Bradley, wrapped his arms around his uncle, holding on tight. My grandson sat down next to Bradley and leaned in so that they were touching. Bradley wrapped his arm around Carlin's shoulders. The waning sunshine showed me that his eyes were glistening. He quickly reached up and brushed away unshed tears.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The flight back home, though long and largely boring, was uneventful. Contrary to the eighty degree weather in Hawaii, we were greeted with temperatures in the upper twenties, and there was a few inches of dirty white snow on the grassy surfaces. We'd failed to pack coats, so we were, to say it lightly, frozen to the core by the time we got to the parking lot where our car had been left.

Regina had written down the parking section and even the number of the space we'd parked in. A dull stabbing sensation started burning in my chest as the tram approached. Something told me that we would not have a car with which to drive home. Jeremy's facial expression changed to disappointment when the realization hit him, too. Calmly, he said to the driver, when our stop was fast approaching, "Would you please wait here for about two minutes. We're probably going to need you to return us to the rental car area."

The man agreed. Jeremy and I got off the tram, looked all around, and then walked to the number that I remembered… my worst fears were realized with reality. Jeremy and I returned to the tram and sat down. Each of the kids, even Jeremy, had sadness in their eyes. I suddenly realized they were looking to me to see what my reaction to all of this would be.

It was time to take my own advice. Very softly, I said, "Close your eyes. Do you see the sunset we saw last night? Think about it. The sun will rise tomorrow morning." I held out my arms. Slowly, one by one, their hands joined with mine. "Do you remember how peaceful you felt? Do you remember me saying that everything is going to work out? Did your heart believe that everything is going to be okay? Well, remember what you felt as we go on about our day. When trouble strikes, take in the memory. Relish it. Hold onto it. We'll get through this."

When I opened my eyes to check on my silent family, I saw the bus driver looking at us, taking it all in. His eyes appeared a bit wet. When our eyes met, he nodded, turned around, changed gears, and slowly took off.

Each of the kids simultaneously opened their eyes. I saw that their worry had considerably lessened. Each was in his or her own thoughts, making sense of what didn't seem to make sense.

All sense of serenity went out the window when I turned onto our street. Even I was not so hopeful, and then everything shattered when we got within vision of the home we'd had for years and years. Melissa broke the silence, "Oh my God, my Mom's here." And then she started crying. I looked into the rear view mirror only to see her eyes streaking with tears, and Bradley's arms holding her tight to him, comforting her. He looked up. Our eyes met. Deep within, I saw a very scared little boy, even though he's seventeen. He's so vulnerable and sensitive to these types of things that we're looking at in our lives today.

Rachel's eyes told me a different story. In them, I saw a slow building anger, although she was keeping a fairly good lid on her deepest thoughts. Rachel, normally easy going and relaxed, is someone not to reckon with when her family is involved.

I pulled to the curb, put the vehicle into Park, turned to Jeremy, sitting in the passenger front seat, and said, "Jeremy, will you please take everybody to your house? This is between your mother and me. We need to work something out. Remember the sunset. Don't forget it. Melissa, I want you to be with my family… only because you are a member of MY family, please, if your parents will permit it."

Melissa said, "My Mom and Dad are not like that. They aren't like your wife. They would never put up with that crap. God is very real in our home. The God we have is all loving, no matter what. You know, I was worried about her finding out that Bradley and I are intimate, before marriage. When Bradley gave me his gifts… my fear melted away. And then it all, every bit of it went away when we were sitting in the tram in the parking lot at the airport, remembering the wonderful time we had. I called my Mom. I told her that Bradley and I were intimate, and you know what she said? She said, "Thank you for telling me, Honey. Your Dad and I have talked this over. We agree. If it's okay, if Bradley is okay… you are our Daughter… and he is our Son. God has blessed our family. We'll talk more about what this all means when you get home, but don't worry, just be careful. I'm too young to be a Grandmother."

Jeremy touched my shoulder and pointed down the street. My heart stopped when I saw Melissa's mother standing across from Regina. They were both waving their arms and pointing their fingers toward one another. I said to him, "Take everybody to your house. I'll call you later when we somehow get this worked out."

Melissa, normally quiet and shy, said, "That's my Mother." Without another word, she opened the rear passenger door, got out and headed 'that' way. Bradley, not wasting one single second, took off after the love of his life. Carlin, sitting in the middle, quickly scooted toward the open door. Not knowing what he was up to, I commanded, "Close the door, Carlin." I turned to Jeremy, "Just do it for me. Please take our family to your home. I've got to settle this."

I opened the door, climbed out, and headed toward the woman with whom I'd spent my whole adult life with, we'd shared everything, we'd created two beautiful, loving and responsible children, and now hell on earth. My mind went Red when I saw her slap Bradley, knocking him to the ground. I tore out like I'd never torn out, intent on stopping this insanity right here, right now. I arrived just as her arm went into an arc to strike him again. I grabbed her arm, pushed it into her chest, and said, angrily, "Stop it right now. I will not have this." She wrenched her arm away, balled her hand into a gnarling maze of fingers tightly held together. I said, "Don't do it. I've never hit a woman before, but I can guarantee you that if you so much as aim toward him again, I cannot guarantee that I won't." I turned to Bea, and said, "Would you please take our children away from here?"

To Bea, Regina snarled, hideously, "And you, you evil Spawn of Satan's daughter, take her to your den of sin. Mark my words, you all are going to rot in hell."

Bradley took the few steps to where his mother was standing, got into her face, and much to my surprise, said, "No, Mom. I don't know you anymore. You are not the mother I grew up with. I'm going into the house, get my things, and then you'll never see me again. I am so out of here. Come on, Melissa."

Regina started shouting at their backs as they made their way to the house. Neither looked back. I continued holding Regina's wrists. Bea looked at me intently. Her words chilled me to the bone, "Dale, my daughter is not ever permitted to step foot on your property ever again. I will not subject this crap to her. She's nearly grown, and is making her own choices… I respect them. I respect your son. I have indirectly invited Bradley to come stay with us. The boy has been through enough already." Then she turned to Regina, "May God love you." She turned on her heels, went to her car, got in, locked the doors, and sat and waited after starting the engine.

I turned to Regina, "Yes, may God love you." I pulled her claws out of my wrist, walked past her without saying another word, went into the house, walked to Bradley's room. My son was angry and hurt beyond words. He was fighting to keep in check a dam of emotional hurt. He looked just like the day before we talked about his attack. Melissa, meanwhile, was busily going through his drawers, pulling out underwear, socks, t-shirts, and other various and sundry items, while Bradley madly flung his hang-up shirts and pants to the bed. I knew that he was inconsolable, but, as his father, his daddy as he calls me, it was time for me to step up to the plate and be one. Without any words or warning, I walked to my son who was facing away from me. I put my hand on his shoulder, squeezed just enough to get his attention. When he attempted to pull away, I put my arms down his back and brought him into my chest, and held him oh so very tight. He was fighting me to get away. At the same time, I held him all that much closer. I whispered in his ear, telling him that everything was going to work out, that I would come get him as soon as this was all over. I told him I was so proud of him, that I loved him so very much, but as his dad, he needed to listen to me very carefully because this may be the only chance we get to share our pain – while the pain was happening, real time. Slowly, very slowly, he began relaxing, if only a little bit, at least he wasn't fighting me any longer. Melissa walked over, stood behind him, and sandwiched Bradley between us. Tears were freely flowing from her eyes. I put my arms around her back, and pulled her into our cocoon.

I heard something behind me. I just thought it was Regina coming to continue the arguments. I held my children all the tighter, then took myself back to the sunset, hoping to take these two children with me.

Then it happened.

Everything changed.

Firecrackers. The sounds of M80′s reverberated in the room. Three of them exploded, before I realized what was happening, then another, then pain, excruciating pain. Bradley wrestled away, or tried to, knowing what was happening, even though I didn't want it to happen, I pulled both of them into me as hard as I possibly could, knowing that doing so was shielding them against terror… the very best that I could. I suddenly realized that my lights were dimming, too fast, way too fast. With all of my remaining strength, I pushed the kids into the closet and closed the door just as Regina appeared holding a weapon up toward my head… without a second thought, I connected my raging, pain-filled fist to her face, sending her to the floor with a dull thud where she lay still.

Knowing what had just happened, very calmly, I picked up the phone, dialed 911, and announced, "I've been shot. This is a nightmare. Please help us."

I put the phone down, looked at my wife of thirty seven years lying on the floor, unmoving, even her chest was still. I looked up to the ceiling, fervently praying my loved ones find everlasting peace, and, yes, for Regina to find salvation.

Bradley's Viewpoint

My hands were shaking so badly that I could hardly use them, nevertheless I managed to fumble around in my pocket, grasped hold of my phone, brought it out, dropped the damn thing, fumbled around for it some more, frantically looking for it, finally finding it. Melissa helped me punch those three simple keys, 911.

Before the operator had a chance to say "What is your emergency?", I shouted, "My dad's been shot… hurry!" I screamed, crying into Melissa's breast, not knowing what else to do. I dropped the phone to the floor as my terror turned to something else, something I was unfamiliar feeling. To Melissa, "Stay here. I've got to check on Daddy."

Despite her protests, I got up, cracked open the door, and then my heart stopped at seeing Mom lying on the floor at the end of my bed, and then I saw Dad's form slumped forward, with his head resting against the nightstand table, about five feet away. His face was pointed away from my vision. To whatever God existed, perhaps Melissa's family's version of God, I don't know which, I prayed that both my Mom and Dad were okay, that they were just lying perfectly still, afraid of one another to the point where they felt the only safe thing to do was to play dead. This only happens in the movies, not now, not here, please God.

As if my mother were to suddenly jump and grab my legs, stealthily I walked to her still lying perfectly still body, and peered down. Her eyes were staring straight ahead, "Mom? Mom, please wake up. I love you, and I'm sorry I talked to you like I did." I reached down to take hold of her free hand, and it was then that I saw her still holding the gun tightly to her chest. Gingerly, I took hold of the gun, pried it away from her clutches, and then sat it on my dresser. Realizing she was dead, I crouched down, tenderly rubbed her cheeks, fervently praying her eyes would open, knowing they never would, and fervently hoping and praying that this nightmare was over and done; or that it had never happened to begin with. But she lay unmoving, staring straight ahead into the carpet, lifeless. "God, don't send her to hell, please. She means well, I know she does." I said softly, wiping away tears that were free falling down my cheeks, knowing that she was gone, and would never return.

Movement caught my eye. I looked over to Dad. He'd moved his arm to try to sit up. I ran to him and helped him to sit upright, knowing that an injured person is not to be moved. At the same time, I screamed for Jeremy, Rachel, anybody… I hoped Carl didn't come running in… he didn't need to see this, not now, not ever.

There was no response from them.

Dad raised his head and looked into my eyes, and said, "Son, I think I'm going to need a doctor. Be calm. I'm not going anywhere, right now…"

"Dad, we called 911. They're on their way." I said, calming down a little bit.

He touched my cheek with his bloody hand, but then retracted it after seeing blood on the back of it. I didn't care. My dad touched me. He's alive. He urged me to sit down next to him. Very quietly he said, "Bradley, I'm afraid I will never forgive myself for striking your mother."

"But Dad, she was shooting you. She shot you. With a gun. She shot you. She was going to kill us. She's crazy, Dad."

"Watch your mouth, boy. That's no way to talk about your mother. She meant well. Now, about… oh hey, Melissa. Would you do something for me?"

Clearly in shock, all Melissa could do is nod. Dad continued, "Would you please go get Jeremy. Do not, I repeat, under no circumstance… do not bring Carlin back here."

Melissa was out of the room in a New York second.

With just Dad and me sitting next to one another, with my hand, small in comparison to Dad's huge hand, over his, I said, "Dad, Mom's dead. Please don't die. I love you."

Dad choked back a sob as hard as he could, before saying, "I know. I'm so sorry." He looked into my eyes with his brimming with tears, "Can you forgive me?"

"Yes, I feel no hatred to you, or to Mom either. Dad, she wasn't 'right'."

"I loved your Mom, Bradley. She brought a lot of joy into my life. She brought you children into the world. Both you and Jeremy are precious gifts from God. So was your Mother. You're right, your Mother was misguided, but I have to believe she meant well."

Just then Jeremy came storming into the room. I looked back toward my door and saw him standing there, for a moment, with total shock clearly written on his face and in his demeanor. Then he looked into my eyes. Despite my best attempts to withhold them, to hide them away, tears began flowing down my cheeks and landing in my lap. Dad patted my back, then he stood up, took hold of my hand, and then we walked to Jeremy. Dad said, "Jeremy, I'm okay. Do not let Carlin in here for any reason. He has no business seeing us this way."

I heard sirens, lots of them, in the background. Dad said, calmly, "Let them in, please."

Before I could do or say anything, several adult male voices were screaming for us to hit the floor and do not move, no matter what. They kept screaming for us to hit the floor. They then hit the hallway. I was not about to leave my dad. The hell with them.

As best as he could, dad positioned himself between us and them. He turned around so that his back was toward us, and then said to the cops, "We're unarmed. The gun is up there on the dresser. I've been hurt. I probably need a doctor."

The officer came around the bed. I reached up to scratch my ear. He trained his weapon. I turned away from him to console my dad who was moaning with each breath. Dad said, "Ya gotta do what the officers tell you, Bradley. Turn around so he can see you, lay on the floor or something."

"Dad, you were there when I needed you. You defied me, remember?"

"That was different, My Son."

"No. No, it's not different. You saved my life. I can't save yours, but I can be here, and I will be right here with you." I said, confidently, defiantly (yes, me – defiant). I did turn to the cop. He had his gun pointed into the air; it was no longer trained on us.

The cop took our words into account. He holstered his weapon, pulled out a baggie like thing, took the gun from the dresser top, secured it, dropped it into the bag, then sat it back on the dresser. He walked over, leaned down and patted us for weapons. He clicked his shoulder radio, and said, "Unit Twenty-four to dispatch. We need EMS, the coroner, and homicide, code 3 on EMS, one party injured. The scene is secure."

"Dispatch to Twenty-Four. 10-4."

Dad said, "This is a mess…"

Several other officers entered the small bedroom. They surveyed the situation. I don't know what they did, Dad was my only concern. Despite my protests and the cop protesting for dad to stay still, he managed to sit up on my bed. He said, "I'm sorry, Son. Your bed is going to be a mess."

"You need to go with the officers. They will want a statement. I'm going to be okay. Go ahead." Dad said, gently squeezing my thigh.

One of the four officers, still in the room, said, "Sir, you need to stay still. EMS should be here very soon."

Dad retorted, "Sir, there is no way that they and all of their equipment can get in here. As soon as I get my bearings, I'd be much obliged for some assistance. Go on, Son. I love you. I'm going to be okay."

Two of the officers, one on each side, escorted me out into the kitchen. There, in 10 words or less, I told Jeremy what had happened.

A man wearing a cowboy outfit, with a big star on his left breast, approached. His badge read "Major Rod Anderson, Homicide". The man sat me down at the table, but things were not going well… my stomach started heaving, like a dog does just before it pukes… I ran outside where I promptly fell to the ground on my hands and knees, and then let my stomach ride the roller coaster from here to hell.

Carlin dropped to the ground next to me, put his arm around my waist, and provided encouragement as I nearly strangled myself from the strenuous exertions.

Melissa dropped to her knees and began wiping my face with a cold wet washcloth, talking to me, asking what happened, and how is dad. Too many questions, too soon, I snapped just as another wave of nausea overtook me, so I didn't say anything, other than the sounds of choking half to death came out from deep within me.

Jeremy walked over, bent down, held my shoulders as yet another wave hit like a tidal wave. I'm glad he did; his touch was comforting, then he started rubbing my back, encouraging me to let it all go, to get everything out of my system.

And then a massive hiccup attack took over. I had to sit up to breathe, and did so, looking at my pants and seeing what a mess they were, and bloody, too.

EMS finally arrived. The first thing they did was to run to me. They had their equipment on the ground before I or anybody else could say that Dad was going to be their patient. Finally, between gulps, I said, "Dad's in the house, back in my room."

A blond paramedic lady stayed while the others left. In no uncertain terms, I 'told' her to go with her partners to take care of our dad. I wasn't polite with my request. She didn't take my outburst personally, instead she nodded, got up and walked into the house. Jeremy patted my back, and then helped me up to a standing position. I was wobbly and weak, but I quickly shook it off when the officer apologetically said that he needed to take our statements.

Carl grabbed my wrist. Terror was causing him to shake. His eyes had so much uncertainty in them that I said, "Dad has been shot. I think he's going to be okay." The boy wrapped his arms around my waist and began softly crying. I squeezed him tight, then continued, "I have to talk to the officers about what happened. They have some questions to ask."

Jeremy added to Rachel, "Honey, why don't you take you, Melissa and Carl home? There's really nothing more you can do."

Reluctantly, Rachel, Melissa and Carl walked to the rental car and slowly made their way through the maze of police and private cars, and EMS vehicles. Jeremy and I put our arms around our waists and walked toward the detective's vehicle. He was standing, waiting. He wanted to talk to us individually, Jeremy first, so I walked to Dad's rig, and was about to climb up when Mr. Winston, the next door neighbor intercepted me and urged for me to come to their home. I walked over to the detective's car and peered through the glass. He opened the window, I told him where I was going, but would be gone only for a little while, and that I would be with our long-term neighbors. He nodded, giving me permission. I looked at Jeremy. He nodded.

Mr. and Mrs. Winston are okay people, though their three kids are spoiled fucking brats, though, as I found out more than once, they are perfect little angels when their folks are around. The oldest boy is maybe fourteen, and the youngest girl is around ten, and the middle one somewhere in between, maybe twelve.

Mrs. Winston, seeing the condition I was in, quickly ushered me into the kitchen, urged me to sit in one of the chairs, and then she doted on me like I was a little one. Nobody asked what had happened. They were polite like that, never getting into anybody's business unless it was given to them. She made me a cup of hot Chamomile tea, then sat down beside me in her chair and just waited patiently for me to take a few sips. I looked behind me to follow her gaze. Her husband, Mr. Winston, and their three kids stood there with concerned looks on their faces. I didn't see the brat in any of the kids' faces, instead I saw only concern. They were usually too good to talk to my family and the neighbors.

I really didn't want to get into it, and said so. Mrs. Winston said to the oldest, "Sherrill, would you be so kind as to take Bradley to the bathroom so he can clean up. Give him a pair of your sweats; you've got a plenty."

The boy nodded, and said, "Sure, Mom." To me he said, "I know I've been a dddd…. butt head… I'm sorry. I'll get you some clean clothes. If you'll come with me, I'll show you where the bathroom is."

I nodded, then looked at Mrs. Winston, just to make sure. She patted my blood spattered wrist, then let go.

He led the way back to his room. I was surprised to see it sparse of furniture, plain white walls with no posters or anything else hanging. I had figured he had everything he'd ever wanted, and then some, just because he was a fucking brat, or so he'd seemed to be.

The boy was kind of big for being fourteen. They'd invited us to his birthday party that summer, but as usual, I had declined. Although I didn't want to admit it, we were about the same size. He entered, urged me to follow, and then got into his dresser drawers, retrieved a pair of sweats and a pair of plain white underwear, and then he said, "The bathroom is across the hall and down a door. Look, I'm really sorry I've been such a dick-weed. It's not who I really am. And, I'm sorry for whatever happened… if you need any help, then just call out. Oh, towels are in the bottom cabinet by the bathtub."

I nodded, and said, "I haven't taken it personally, Sherrill. I didn't cause you to do those things. Thank you, though. I appreciate your giving." He nodded, then showed me where the restroom was, and grabbed two towels, laid them on the vanity, and then exited, closing the door behind him.

A light knock on the door jerked me from my terrorized thoughts. In a daze, I reached for the door knob to open it, when it opened. Mrs. Winston and a police officer were standing there, the officer in front of her. He said, "Son, I need to take your clothes into evidence. Please undress and drop each article into this bag." He opened it wide. I looked at Mrs. Winston. She said, "I'll be close by. Honey, just do as the officer says."

I looked at the officer. He nodded. I took off my shirt, dropped it in. Next my socks. He wanted my shoes, too. When I undid the clasp on my jeans, he kinda sorta turned away, but not quite. In went my jeans. He said, apologetically, "I'm sorry, but I am a part of the chain of custody, so I have to observe to make sure the chain does not get broken in any way. Just drop them in. I'll then be on my way."

I turned around, facing away, put my thumbs in the waistband, lowered them to the floor, then turned around just enough to drop in the clothing, and then got into the shower stall, turned on the water… I heard the bathroom door close. I looked out. I was alone.

I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed some more. I couldn't get clean enough. I realized, just like before, when I'd been attacked, that I was trying to wash away the terror, shame and guilt. So I stopped. I just stood there letting the water run over my head and down my body. It was like I wasn't even there. I was in a vacuum. I couldn't even cry, even though I wanted to.

When I finally gave up trying to wash away the pain and hurt, I turned off the water, reached out for the towel that had been hanging on a rack next to the shower door, but, instead, one was handed to me. I felt fingers. Surprised, and somewhat upset, I looked out. Sherrill was standing there. The sincerity in his eyes told me that he had no malevolent intent. He wasn't paying any attention to my nakedness, but I was self-conscious about who saw me without clothes, even though the family had enjoyed itself at the beach – without any clothing. Still – that was then. Now was now. Since he was paying no mind to my body, only his eyes were searching mine for any sense of anger or resentment, I stepped out and stood on a towel. I took the towel, turned away and started drying my hair. I felt another soft towel rubbing against my cheek, shoulders, and on down my back, stopping just above the cleft, then it went outward, down my legs. I raised my foot. He dried it. Then did the same to my other one, taking care to not 'touch' me. He then wrapped the towel around my midsection. I dried my face, ears and neck, chest and belly.

He left the room, but his mother caught him going out. She said, angrily, "What in the Sam heck are you doing in there? Get out of there. Bradley, please excuse my son's total disregard for your privacy. He knows better."

The boy lamented, "Mom, I've been an ass to him. I made sure he had towels."

"Boy, you are in deep doo doo."

"Mrs. Winston, it's okay. He was just being helpful, is all." I took a different tact, "Uhm, Ma'am, my family just returned from Hawaii. We spent quite a bit of time swimming their naturist beaches. I appreciate your son's thoughtfulness."

"Still, he should have asked you before going in." Mrs. Winston said, parentally.

After making sure my towel was appropriately placed, I turned around and looked into her eyes, "He did." She looked at her son, who I assumed was standing just outside the doorway, to the side, I couldn't see him.

I just wanted this to get over. I'd just lied. It was something that I do not do. I wondered why I lied to her. She was looking into my eyes. She knew. I knew. This was an uncomfortable situation. I reached down to the front of the towel, grasped it… she quickly closed the door… just as my towel was about to expose what I had no plans to expose. The sweats were good quality Nike's. They fit perfectly.

Mrs. Winston had me sit down at the table. She'd made some finger peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches, offered me the plate and poured a hot cup of tea. She sat across the table, looked into my eyes, but didn't say anything until I started eating the offerings she provided. She regarded me for a moment before saying, very quietly, "Honey, I don't know the details of what happened to your family today. The policeman wouldn't say. One thing I want to ask of you – please do not lie. I know. You know I know that what you said is not the truth. My son did not ask permission, did he?"

I swallowed hard. Thankfully so, the peanut butter was thick and got stuck in my throat. I looked at her and nodded, reaching for the tea. I scooted in so that only she would hear me say, "Ma'am, I'm actually glad he was there for me. I appreciate your family's generosity. I misjudged him. He's actually a kind and caring person. Please don't…"

"Mom, Bradley… look, I appreciate your words, but Mom, I didn't ask and he didn't ask either. Bradley shouldn't be getting into trouble for what I did. I'm sorry. Dad already knows."

Mrs. Winston nodded, surprised. She looked at me, then to her son, "Ma'am, I'm sorry, too. I shouldn't have lied to you. Two wrongs do not make a right. I do not feel that Sherrill was wrong."

Mrs. Winston stood. She reached out her arms… to me? I stood and walked into her hug. It was warm, friendly, and genuine. She then turned to her son, held out her arms. They joined for a hug, and then, separated, she bopped his head, and told him, sternly, to not do it again.

On my way to the front door, Sherrill reached into the closet, pulled out a gym coat, which I saw was a prized and coveted Oklahoma Sooner's sweat jacket. Those things are worth a million bucks since Oklahoma was kicking some serious kick-ass in basketball. I said, "I can't take that. This shirt is long-sleeved, it's just fine. Anyway, I need to go take care of business. Thank you all so much for everything."

I saw hurt in Sherrill's eyes, but I was not going to take the jacket. I thanked them all again, then headed outside to the detective's car. Jeremy and the officer were talking.

I gave my statements, leaving out nothing, and feeling like shit when I told them what actually happened, and what had happened on our vacation, specifically Mom's behavior and attitudes… it was the hardest thing I'd ever done in my life.

An officer brought the keys to mom's car to us, said we could leave, but to not leave the state until the investigation was completed.

Jeremy said that Dad was being taken to Oklahoma City. Our hospital is a Podunk facility. When I had appendicitis, I had to go to Oklahoma City to have it removed there, because the surgeon here was out of town, and his partner was only a GP. He said we'd go down tomorrow, which didn't really settle very well with me. Dad needed his family close by for love and support. Jeremy was the adult, so I gave in.

Melissa had showered and eaten by the time we got to Jeremy's house. Her parents were also there. The expressions on their faces spelled worry and concern. Melissa was sitting between them. Her eyes acknowledged my presence. I saw longing in them. I started to worry when she didn't get up, so I walked to her, put my hand on her shoulder and rubbed her tight neck muscles. Reluctantly, she put her arm around my waist. She drew in a long deep breath and said, "Bradley, Mom and Dad know about our plans to marry. Mom." Melissa quickly patted my butt and dropped her arm by my side.

"I saw that." Melissa's mom, Beatrice (aka Bea) said, and then continued, "Bradley, Steven and I have talked this over very carefully. Although I am from the old school, meaning that I do not condone premarital relations, however this is one of those times where I see that you two are real, and that you are committed to one another. Just because I do not condone your physical lives, this does not mean that I am from the dinosaur era, neither is my husband."

Steven, Melissa's father and Bea's husband, took it from there, "That's right. Bradley, you are a mature young man. I am so sorry about what happened tonight. I wish there was some way my wife and I could take the pain of losing your mother away. We will be here to support you in any way we can. My wife and I would like you to come stay with us for as long as necessary. My daughter needs you. She's been through an ordeal, too. Healing is going to take some time. Understand that there will be pain that will never completely go away. When my brother was murdered seven years ago, it left a void in me that will never completely heal."

"My Mom wasn't murdered. My dad was shot by her. There is no doubt in my mind that my Dad saved our lives by putting himself between her and us. I no longer knew her. The hardest question I have, and nobody has an answer, is: Why? I really don't want to talk about this right now. I'm sorry. I just don't."

"I understand, Bradley." Steven said, nodding carefully. Continuing, "I didn't want to talk about it either. It will take you some time to come to an understanding that works for you. We're here for you when you're ready, but we're not going to push you into talking about it."

"Thanks. Thanks for everything. I appreciate your support; I really do. Uhm, I'm really, really tired. Can I go to bed, now?" I reached down to pick up a chocolate covered cherry.

Steven said, "You can come to our home. You are more than welcome. I believe you and Melissa need to be together. It's okay."

I looked at Rachel standing in the archway. Jeremy had excused himself to shower. Carl was looking deeply into my eyes. There was longing in them. There were unshed tears just beneath the surface. His mom put her arm around his shoulder. He buried his face into her side, and frantically ran his hand across his face to keep himself in check.

I walked to Rachel, leaned in and whispered, "Can we stay here tonight? Carl needs us."

She kissed my cheek, then said to Steven and Bea, "We would like for Melissa and Bradley to stay here tonight. My son and Bradley are tight. They are both processing a lot. Perhaps they can help each other better than we adults can do."

Bea and Steven looked deeply into their eyes. They came to a conclusion. Bea said to Melissa, "Honey, we would prefer that you were home tonight. They are going to be up early to head into the City. There's school… but then again… I don't suppose it would be too much to ask if you were to sign into the school's computers… you have a hot spot, you know. Bradley, that goes for you, too."

Rachel winked in my direction, "It's a three hour trip, one way…"

No sooner had Bea and Steven left than a knock on the door interrupted our moment of silence when nobody could figure out what to say or do. Jeremy walked to the door, peered out through the peep hole, and then warily opened the door. A small figure dropped through the threshold, held out his arm, then dropped it.

Carl shrieked and ran to the figure, a boy. Quickly, he sat down and pulled the boy's head into his arms and held on tight. Rachel ran over, too. Jeremy squatted down, looked into the boy's eyes and said, "Let's get Robbie inside. Oh, son, what has happened to you?"

"My Dads were arrested and taken away to jail three days ago." The boy started whimpering. Jeremy scooped Robbie up in his arms and held him protectively, taking him into the great room where we all sat down and listened to him tell us about what had happened.

My blood boiled with anger at the system, for taking his parents away. I'd met them. They were beautiful people, and they damn sure loved their son. There was no doubt in my mind that Robbie was being well cared for and loved by them.

Carl was way beyond concerned. When his dad sat down, Carl joined and began tenderly, lovingly rubbing his hands all over Robbie to quiet the boy's whimpers and sadness. Their love was evident.

And Jeremy and Rachel accepted this boy that their son loved with all of his heart, without a qualm.

I looked at the mantle piece clock. It read 11:15PM. Although we were exhausted, this child's needs came above all else. Lovingly, tenderly, Jeremy and Carl supported Robbie as they walked to the back of the house, surely to get Robbie washed up and ready for bed. Rachel and Melissa took to the kitchen to get him some food to eat, because, surely, he was half starved, surely he hadn't eaten anything for God only knows how long… three, maybe four days, longer?

I got up, walked into the kitchen, asked if they needed some help, and when they said no, I walked from there to the bathroom to see how they were doing. Jeremy exited and said, "The boy doesn't want me in here with them… maybe you could lend them a hand?"

"Sure." I peered into the room… when I saw Carl's expression of frustration and sadness, all sandwiched into one, I entered, closed the door behind me so that we were in privacy, walked to Robbie and said, "Let's get you a bath. You'll feel better. We're all guys here, so don't worry. I know about Carl, and I'm cool with you guys."

A look of relief washed across Robbie's face. Between the three of us, we got Robbie's dirt caked clothes off. When it came to his underwear, he looked deeply into my eyes with question. I said, hoping to allay his worst fears, "Robbie, it's cool. I've got one of them, too, and so does Carl. You are a boy, correct?"

Without further delay, he lowered his boxer-briefs, kicked them aside, covering his very erect wiener with his hand while reaching for a towel. The towel dropped to the floor, and when he instinctively reached for it, his hand fell away, showing us all he had and has. Clearly flustered, he looked at Carlin for approval. Carlin's response: he stripped to the skin in a heartbeat. They compared dicks, and yes, I looked, too. Feeling way overdressed, I made my exit, knowing that Robbie was in good hands. On my way out the door, I grinned to myself. Carlin had confided that they had fooled around some. I didn't even want to see that, and by their appearances, it was time for me to leave.

Rachel and Melissa had made a mountain of bacon, cheese and tomato sandwiches. Jeremy was being severely (playfully, of course, I think) chastised for dipping his fingers into the bacon, then we were both being given the business when I reached in, too.

Later, after we'd eaten, we sat and listened to Robbie tell how his dads were rousted from sleep, promptly arrested, had the house locked up, and how the cops put Robbie out into the cold, not even bothering to call CPS. The boy had slept under their deck porch in back for the past three nights, and then when he couldn't take it anymore, he ventured to Carl's to see if we had returned. The boy was mildly emaciated and very dehydrated. Rachel was quick to give him all the orange juice he could handle, and he ate voraciously, with Carl helping him every step of the way, of course, and of course Robbie was eating up his boyfriend's attentions!

Before we headed to bed, Jeremy called University Hospital in Oklahoma City to get an update on Dad. Although Dad was going to be extremely tender for a few weeks, all of the bullets thankfully missed vital organs, and the doctor in charge of his care was quick to point out that Dad was being a bit unruly, and that he had threatened to get a cab to come home.

That's Dad for ya.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Jeremy's Viewpoint

The gang was slow to awaken, given we'd only had about four hours of sleep… hopefully everybody got some playtime to relax and wind down from a completely horrific day. When I walked into Carl's room, I turned on the light, and well, let's just say that Robbie was lying supine with his eyes wide open. I didn't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that lump in the middle of the bed, over Robbie, moving purposefully, was none other than my son. I quickly made my exit, quietly closing the door behind me so as to not disturb them, or worse, embarrass them away from doing something very natural to them.

I went to the kitchen and put on coffee, lots of coffee. The jet lag was catching up on me big time. After having a cup of the brew, I went to the door to their room, knocked softly, not knowing if they were 'decent'. Carl quickly answered, smiled sheepishly as he opening the door, still pulling on his underwear, nearly tripping to the floor. Robbie, standing in the middle of the room, stark naked, looked into my eyes with fear and a touch of terror in them. Using my usual conversational tone of voice, I simply told them to take their showers and get dressed. To Robbie, specifically, I said, "Robbie, we are naturists. You are certainly welcome to wear whatever you choose, but don't be too surprised to see quite a bit of skin in our home. There's nothing to be ashamed of."

Robbie sheepishly nodded in understanding as he grabbed a pair of underwear to cover himself, and then he scurried to the bathroom, pulling Carl with him. I grinned as I walked back into the kitchen, grabbed me another cup of coffee. Rachel looked into my eyes to see what I found so amusing. I told her the amusing part, but refrained about telling her about the moving covers, and left it at that.

Instead of fixing a big breakfast at home, we stopped at Denny's and had our fill until we were ready to pop from full tummies.

Bradley's Viewpoint

Carl awakened me by thumping his knuckles against my chest, which earned him a gouge in his ribs which sent him into hysterical laughter, which, in turn, earned us well-rehearsed glares from Rachel. Robbie looked on with a smile plastered across his face. Before he could react, I grabbed hold of his arm and pulled him onto my lap, and then I proceeded to tickle him to the point of him begging me to stop for fear that he was going to pee his pants. Rachel glared at me for creating pandemonium in the tight confines of the back seat.

Upon arrival to the hospital, mad dashes were made to the restroom in the lobby to unload breakfast, orange juice, coffee and water. Robbie moaned a couple of times when he was in the stall, however in the stall next to him was a giggling Carl.

Jeremy, meeting me at the sink before the moaner and giggler arrived, told me to keep my observations to myself, so that they weren't embarrassed. I was quick to point out that I would never in a million years embarrass them – his turn to chuckle knowing my statement was not entirely true. After drying our hands using the blower thingie, spontaneously, Jeremy and I quickly hugged. I'm so glad to have my brother back. We were once so very close, but everything seemed to change right after my attack. Dad told me that Jeremy didn't know how to talk to me about it. Mom had said that, after receiving counseling on her own with that fucked up idiot preacher, that Jeremy couldn't hang out with a sinner such as me. Even though he was out of the house, married and on his own, she made things so difficult that he soon stopped coming over, except when he knew she was going to be away.

My grip tightened on my brother. He pulled me in closer, "It's going to be okay, Bradley. We're going to work through this. We have to." Our conversation ended when Carl and Robbie exited their respective stalls and began washing their hands.

Melissa and Rachel were waiting for us. Melissa took my hand in hers. We kissed briefly. When Robbie and Carl exited, they looked at one another, and then took hold of their hands, and looked up for my approval. I walked to them and said, "You guys look good together, but if I were you, I wouldn't walk around here holding hands." They parted, but I put my arm around Carl's shoulder, showing them they could walk together like brothers. This is a strange place, likely full of red-necks, perhaps even people who would want to hurt them just because of who they chose to love. Or was it even a choice?

As we made our way to the fifth floor ICU, I got to thinking about Carl and Robbie's obvious love for one another, and just conceded that theirs was just like Melissa and I shared – we hadn't asked for it… instead we were just drawn to one another.

Carl looked into my eyes, questioningly. I took hold of his shoulders, then we walked fast to be ahead of the others. When we were a safe distance away, I said very softly, "Carl, we're cool. I love Melissa, you love Robbie… the important thing is that we love and are loved. Not everybody out there in the world loves gay people, so be careful… at least be aware of what you are doing in public. Promise me you will… I just don't want anything bad to happen to you."

Carl looked up into my eyes. He was searching for the right words to express his feelings. Finally, he said, "I just wish I could hold Robbie's hand like you do Melissa's. Nobody says anything if you guys kiss."

Sadly, I confessed my hopes, "Carl, I hope Bryce gets elected. Things will be different, I'm sure. Until, or if that happens, just be aware, okay?"

The boy shrugged his shoulders, in defeat, but nodded seriously, in understanding that's just how things are right now.

Without too much trouble, Jeremy and Rachel led our way through the maze of corridors to the Surgical Intensive Care Unit on the fifth floor. When we arrived at the entryway of the waiting room, the room was filled with people. Finally, in the back of the room, we found a place for Rachel, Melissa, Carl and Robbie to sit while Jeremy and I were visiting with Dad. The receptionist, when queried, said that Dad was in cubicle number seventeen, and that a nurse was required to escort us into the inner sanctum of the Unit.

After receiving requests to wish Dad the best, to have a speedy recovery, Jeremy and I walked down the long hallway to the Unit itself.

For some unknown reason, I felt my throat tightening as we walked closer and closer to the big double doors that would lead us inside. When we arrived, I turned toward the wall, rested my head upon it, and tried to withhold the tears that were beginning to trickle down my cheeks. Jeremy walked over, put his hand on my shoulder, squeezed slightly, then released his hold, turned me toward him, and pulled me into his chest. It was then that everything ganged up in my head. I put my arms around him and broke down, releasing all pent up tension and worry, and pain, from all that had happened over the past day, and even from all the bad shit that had happened when we were in Hawaii, seeing Mom lying on the floor, dead, the sounds of gunfire, feeling Dad tense up from being shot, the blood, his moaning and groaning from pain and heart ache.

When I started to recover, Jeremy reached into a linen cart, retrieved a hand towel, gave it to me, which I used to wipe my eyes, the snot from my upper lip, and then blew my nose long and hard into it, causing me to loudly fart just as a group of nurses walked by. I felt myself heat up from embarrassment, but then Jeremy sniggered, which broke the moment, and permitted me to chuckle at the absurdity of it all. It also broke the tension in my mind, body and soul.

I took a deep breath as I pushed the button on the intercom to announce our arrival. A nurse spoke through the small speaker, asking us who we were and who we were there to see. Jeremy gave the nurse a code number. The big doors swung open, allowing us entry.

A nurse met us at the big U-shaped desk in the center of the big room, took us into a conference room, and proceeded to tell us that Dad was going to be okay, that he had some serious flesh wounds which were causing him quite a bit of discomfort, and then finished off by saying Dad had been pretty darned unruly with the staff because he so desperately wanted out of there!

I related. I wanted him out of there, too.

She walked us down to an enclosed cubicle, opened the curtain for us to see him sitting up in bed, seriously scowling – until he saw us. Then his eyes narrowed into but slits, and he exclaimed, dogmatically, "Get me out of here!"

The nurse looked into my eyes, winked, and then quickly made her exit, surely not knowing what his next demand would entail.

We walked into the cubicle. I regarded Dad carefully, sizing him up to determine just how badly he'd been hurt, from my own perspective. "Dad, are you okay?" I whispered just loud enough to be heard over the beep-beep-beep of the heart monitor and oxygen hissing into his facial mask. Jeremy didn't waste any time. He went to Dad, leaned over and gently hugged him. Dad was slow, but he was able to raise his arm to reassuringly pat Jeremy's cheek, and said something I couldn't hear. Dad then motioned for me to come to his other side, which I did. He put his arm around my waist and patted it, which told me he was going to be okay, given time.

Dad told us of his wounds, that all were superficial, except for one which was lodged against one of his ribs on the left side, saying that it just nicked the rib but didn't break it. Quietly, somberly, his voice slightly breaking, with unshed tears behind his eye lids, said, "The mortician was by this morning, just before you guys got here… everything is taken care of from the financial end… but… I need for you to pick out a nice casket for your mother. I'm not going to be able to be there to do it. Jeremy, would you close the curtain?"

I was closest to it, so I got up and closed the cubicle door and returned. Dad urged us to sit beside him on the hospital bed. Dad's face started scrunching up, even before we got seated, and when we got settled, without being asked, we came together. Great racking sobs escaped my Dad… he was hurting so badly over what had happened.

I had a thousand things to say to him, but these were his moments, so I just stayed quiet. He just needed us with him so that he could safely express his profound hurt and grief. I stayed strong. I had to. Dad, in his own way, had always been there when needed. Now was his time.

Dad recovered his composure, and then, with great pain emanating from his body, hugged both me and Jeremy tightly, and whispered how so very sorry he was for having to do what he did, that he didn't know what else to do at the time.

Just as he had been firm with me, I pulled back, and said, forcefully, "Dad, you saved Melissa's life. You had no choice. Everything happened so fast. It seemed like forever, but everything happened in less than a minute. Dad, you did not point a gun and shoot her. She did. She shot you. I have no doubt that you saved our lives."

"I loved your Mother, Jeremy, Bradley. I loved her with every fiber of my being. She gave me two boys that I love and cherish more than life itself. She gave me a wonderful life, despite my being gone so much. I guess she was lonely, which led her to be in cahoots with… with… that church."

"Dad, they're fanatics. They preach hate and discord, not love and tolerance." Jeremy hissed. "They are the ones who killed our mother. They took her away from us."

"Your mother made choices, boys. Sorry, you will always be my boys. Don't take offense. I'm just lost right now." Turning to me, "Bradley, try to understand while my mind is telling me that I did the right thing because your lives were in danger, my heart is breaking at what I actually had to do, then my mind argues some more."

"Maybe if I would have done something different, Dad…"

"No. Just stop it. Don't even go there. Just don't go there, my Son. And that goes for you, too, Jeremy. God forgive me."

"He already has, Dad." Jeremy said. I nodded. I had long ago learned of the loving God who took care of us, no matter what, and loved us no matter what. I just had to believe it, because it was coming from deep within my being.

"Dad, you had no choice. Mom wasn't always like that. The Mom I'm going to remember is the one who took care of my skinned knees, fixed good meals, made sure that we were clean, and that we had good clothes to wear, and yes, she whupped my butt a few times, but, hey, I had it coming. I felt her love."

Jeremy said, "Bradley's right. I think we ought to celebrate her life. She was a good Mom, and, Dad, we saw that you two were happy most of the time, before, back in the old days. Ditto everything Bradley said about her, our real Mom."

A nurse entered the cubicle, walked past us to the IV pole that had three bags of water dripping through clear tubing into Dad's wrist. She injected some medicine into the bag and said, "This is a dose of antibiotics. Though, thankfully, no major organs were damaged, your Dad has some serious soft tissue injuries that are prone to infection, so we're giving him plenty of antibiotics to stave off any complications." She then asked Dad, "On a scale of one to ten, how high would you rate your pain with ten being excruciating?"

"Physically, I'm at about a three. Emotionally, I'm at 133, probably higher, but this is a good starting point. I'm glad my children are here."

The nurse said quietly, "We raise and support our kids while they're growing up, and then they support us. My husband died a couple of years ago. Without my children and my job, here, I wouldn't have made it. So I understand where you're coming from."

Dad nodded. The nurse left, leaving us to think about what they had just said.

Jeremy and I were just getting ready to get up and leave so that Rachel and Melissa could visit, when a man opened the curtains. It was the same detective that had yesterday taken my statement. I waved him in, got up off the bed, and was going to give the officer room to sit in the chair so that he and Dad could talk, but the detective motioned for me to stay, and said, "This won't take very long. Mr. Wilson, although our investigation is not yet complete, and will not be completed until we receive the full autopsy results, I can, at this time, say that you are not going to be charged with any crime. I'm very sorry about everything that has happened in your family, and this may not help things in your lives, we've found your actions to be fully justified from the eyes of the law. The coroner will be releasing the decedent's body tomorrow, so, please, feel free to plan any funeral arrangements."

"Yes, I spoke with a funeral director just this morning. My sons will be picking out a casket, since I'm going to be here in the hospital for several days."

"Very well. Again, I'm sorry things had to end this way. Sir, I am going to keep this investigation ongoing; I want to find something that will directly tie this incident to Burroughs West Baptist Church. There are some serious allegations against that organization; things that I want to look into, deeper."

"That makes two of us." Dad answered, resignedly, looking directly into the detective's eyes.

"Oh?" The detective inquired, curiously.

Dad just said, "I cannot really talk about it. I've made promises that I intend to keep." Dad then clammed up, avoiding any further questioning by the officer, much to the officer's dismay.

Assured that he was going to get no further information out of Dad, the detective took his leave, just in time for a doctor in a green set of scrubs to enter. He introduced himself as James Merriweather, Chief of Trauma Surgical Services, and that he was here to check on Dad's condition.

Jeremy asked a few questions and received answers to them. The doctor flat out said that Dad's large size kept him from getting mortally, or worse, wounded from the gunfire. He said that one of the bullets had missed his cervical spine by one half an inch. As it is, Dad is going to be somewhat weak in his right arm, because some nerves had been severed or badly injured when the bullet tore through the soft flesh and firm muscles. The bullet was lodged in an area too dangerous to operate on for removal, for fear of further damage and possible paralysis.

Since Dad was doing as well as could be expected under the circumstances, he would be kept in the hospital for about ten days, because he needed the antibiotics administered intravenously for a total of ten days, starting yesterday. Dad inquired, and tried to bribe the good doctor, that he would be well taken care of, and could receive the antibiotics at the hospital in our town. The doctor sniggered, and said no way would he release Dad to their care. He didn't add anything more… he didn't need to go into explicit detail. We already knew they were understaffed and underrated.

Resigned, Dad slumped down in bed to get comfortable, knowing there was no use in arguing with the doctor. He did ask, "Doctor, can my grandson come in to see me for a while. I'm sure he's scared, and that, without doubt, needs to see that I'm actually alive. He's been through a lot the last day or so…"

"Well, I have good news, on two fronts. Yes, I will write an order permitting your grandson to visit, but not here in the ICU. There's just too much going on that he would not understand. The other thing, and I think this will meet your approval – we're transferring you out of ICU to a private room on this floor."

I looked at Jeremy, grinned, and then took off for the waiting room where our family was anxiously awaiting some word about Dad's condition. When I arrived, Rachel was sitting in a chair looking on at some people sitting across the waiting room. I didn't see Carl or Robbie. I walked over to her, told her that Dad was doing as good as could be expected, considering the circumstances. She offered that Carl and Robbie had gone to the restroom several minutes ago, that she expected them back just any second. I told her I would go check on them because I needed to use the can, too. I leaned down, kissed Melissa's lips very tenderly, and told her that I thought everything was going to work out, and to the both of them I told them that Dad was not going to be charged with any crime. Their facial expressions turned to relief.

After kissing Melissa one more time, I took off for the restrooms down the hall, entered, expecting to see Carl and Robbie. But there were no noises in the room, even when I called Carl's name. I found it weird, but went ahead and walked to a urinal, pulled out my flesh, drained my needs, shook it the perfunctory number of times, put it back, walked to the sink, washed my hands, dried them, then went to each of the two commode stalls, and very inconspicuously looked beneath the stall doors. Nobody was in there. I was the only one present in the entire restroom.

Somewhat concerned, I returned to the waiting room after searching the halls, only to find Rachel and Melissa waiting expectantly. I walked to them, sat down and said that Carl and Robbie were not in the restroom, or anywhere else that I checked. Just as we were about to get up and go looking for the kids, an armed security officer entered the waiting room with Carl and Robbie restrained by his hand around their necks. We all jumped up, relieved that they were, but alarmed that they were detained. The officer released both boys to Rachel and said that they were found wandering the halls, obviously lost and misplaced. Concerned about how much trouble they were going to be in, Carl sat in a chair next to Melissa's. Robbie, subdued and so very afraid, joined him, sitting on the edge of the seat. Carl put his arm around Robbie and whispered something into his ear. They were both very, very quiet, otherwise. I knew something was up, but not exactly what.

The officer said, and I didn't understand all that he said, he just ended with, "… don't let it happen again." And then he took off, after giving Robbie the 'eye'… the 'look' was unnerving. Robbie cowered back into his seat and remained mum.

I looked at Rachel, "The doctors said Carl can see Dad. Dad's being moved to a private room on this floor somewhere…"

Just then Jeremy walked in, took one look at the situation, and was about to come to us, but Carl jumped up and ran to his Dad, tightly put his arms around him, as if he was afraid. I turned back to Robbie. Tears were gathering up in his eyes. I looked at Rachel, then took hold of Robbie's hand and led him toward the restroom to find out what was the matter. He stopped before we could go in. He looked up into my eyes and said, painfully, "Uhm, that cop… well, he saw me and Carl… seriously, we just peed, washed our hands… and we kissed… that's when he walked in… I'm sorry. It's all my fault… I shouldn't have…"

"Robbie, just stop. There's nothing wrong with kissing, but I told you earlier – you've got to be more careful. Did the cop do or say anything?"

Robbie's eyes fell to the floor. His shoulders shook, then he looked up. Tears were dripping from his eyes, and then, unable to say anything because he couldn't talk, came to me and put his arms around my waist and began softly crying. I put my arms around him, knowing he'd been through so much, and waited for him to tell me what had happened. But, before he calmed down, Jeremy and Carl came walking up to us. Carl looked into Robbie's eyes, clearly not knowing what to do next. The look in Jeremy's eyes, and the expression on his face told me there was trouble. He leaned down and gently took hold of Robbie and pulled the boy into his chest and said, "I'm sorry that happened to you. It's just untrue." To me Jeremy continued, "That officer said some filthy, despicable things that just aren't true. There are mean people in the world, and well, you just met one of them."

I looked into Jeremy's eyes. He shook his head slightly. My blood was on its way to a boiling point. You can fuck with me, to an extent, but don't fuck with my family. There will be hell to pay for anyone that does.

We walked back to the waiting room. Melissa and Rachel looked up. Carl and Robbie sat down, subdued, but feeling better, at least for the moment.

About an hour later, Dad was moved to a private room on the floor. Though the number of visitors were supposed to be limited to two, the nursing staff didn't say anything when the whole bunch of us were in Dad's room. We could tell that Dad was getting tired, in fact he mentioned it, but insisted that Carl stay behind while we walked to the waiting room.

While we were waiting for Carl, Robbie whispered in my ear that he needed to use the can, but was afraid to go alone, so I escorted him without question.

Leaving Dad in the hospital was the hardest thing I'd had to do. At the same time I was just very fortunate that he was still very much alive, albeit very sore.

November 5, 2012

Breckenridge, Texas, Zeus's Viewpoint

"Aculeate Zeus, come with me." The man, my Trainer, Kenneth, spoke from behind me, startling me. My assignment was to clear away and scrub spotless all pans and metal-ware utensils utilized for food consumption.

"Yes, Brother."

Quickly, I turned around, dried my hands as quickly as possible on the burlap covering my loins.

When my hands were dry, without hesitation, I slipped my fingers in the material and lowered the rough material until they fell to the floor. I then quickly picked them up. Kenneth snatched them from my hands and held them up to his nose. He breathed in deeply while sinisterly looking into my eyes. At the same time, he was searching my body from head to toe.

I dared not look down, for if my eyes wandered from him, a severe Dressing Down would occur. Over the eleven months I'd been here, I'd learned and continued to learn many lessons about what I was to do, and what I was not permitted to do. One of them was to permit him to appraise my body whenever he wanted it. His desires ran strong. His desires were not to be denied. I was his servant. I was a good servant. I never complained or turned him away.

He closed the distance between us, never letting his eyes leave mine. When he was within arms' distance, he reached down, took hold of my soft flesh and began squeezing it teasingly, trying to get me to respond. My eyes stayed steady to his. Inside, I drew in all of my strength to counter his motions, to push down any pleasurable feelings, knowing that if I didn't squelch them… he would break me in half.

He released my member just as my last reserve was about to break down. When he turned away to lead us to the Holy Board, the punishment room, or perhaps even the Dressing Down room, I quickly glanced down to see my flesh pulsing in time with my heartbeat. Although I'd felt no pleasure, I was alarmed to see my maleness at full staff. With him leading the way to the loft, I was able, I had time to reach down to squeeze my remaining testicle very hard, sending pain up through my stomach… but it worked… my flesh was compliant by the time we reached the stairs.

He grabbed hold of my earlobe and tugged it so that I obediently followed him up into his lofty apartment, at which time he tossed me onto the bed like a rag doll.

I willingly gave of myself to him. Quarreling with him did no good. Long ago, I learned to meet his every desire, for fear that he would kill me. There was more than one time when I wished for death, when I wished that he would rupture me, when I could join other kids that had disappeared into the night, never to be seen again.

Two weeks ago, at a time when three Brothers took me to be theirs, I had a dream. In it, my love was beckoning me to him. He held out his hand for me to take, but my reach was two inches too short, then he disappeared, but he left behind a longing I'd not ever known before. That was when I started spewing juices from my body, during the night, and there was nothing I could do to stop them.

Brother Kenneth discovered the stains on the hard concrete floor where I slept. I was taken to the Temple, held to the Wood until the weight became unbearable, chastised repeatedly, then constantly, and then locks were placed on my wrists to hold me upright in a standing position, continuously repenting, but not requesting mercy.

On the second morning, I was released after my wrists and fingers turned black and blue. Contrite and willing to do anything to please my Master, I permitted our Matriarch to rub my hands and fingers until the blood flow returned and the pain ceased to consume me.

Last night, my love returned and said goodbye because he would no longer be the cause of my pain and suffering. I told him that I was not hurting. He called me a liar. And then he vanished… leaving me to suffer.

Brother Kenneth, feeling frisky, had me three times before he permitted my use of the restroom to expel that which needed expelling. When I was nearly finished, my Master entered the restroom, completely ignored me, got into the shower and began washing his body, my job. It was my job to cleanse him!

Quickly, I finished evacuating, then without taking time to cleanse myself, I got up, flushed, and then ran into the shower and took the wash sponge from his hands and proceeded to wash him from head to toe, even stepping up on the step stool to wash his hair, as I was trained to do.

When I was finished with my job, he rinsed the soap away, and then did something he'd never ever done before – beginning with my hair, he lovingly, gently, and thoroughly washed my body, and then held me close to him as the shower rinsed the soap away.

His needs were great and unsatisfied compelled me to take his hand and lead him to the bed where I offered of myself as he needed.

He refused my offer.

I cried bitterly, hoping against all hope that I had not disappointed him in any way. Repeatedly, I tugged on his member while, at the same time, making my anal orifice open and willing for his attention, but, still, he refused, in fact, he pushed me away.

"Clean my quarters, then I will speak with you. Go, be gone."

Without delay, I quickly and efficiently cleaned his bathroom with special soaps and disinfectants, for he was adverse to anyone but him using his commode. He would inspect my handiwork with detail, so I carefully washed and dried his throne so that it sparkled with the bright white light shining upon it.

I returned to his room. He was getting dressed. I finished his efforts by zipping up his zipper and arranging his shirt so that it was straight and neat. When I was finished, he went to the full length mirror to make sure that he was presentable, as though nothing had ever happened. Nothing did happen. The events were already forgotten.

He nodded his approval. That was my cue to go back into the restroom to retrieve a burlap garment to cover my nakedness, but before I could put it on, he had to inspect me. Returning to his room, I laid on my back and brought my knees up to my chin, at which time he sniffed my area making sure I was spotlessly clean and appealing to all his desires.

"Very well. Arise." The man said, absent of any emotion.

For the very first time ever, the man took the burlap loin cloth from my hand, straightened it, then urged me to lift my legs, one at a time. He pulled the cloth up over my legs, thighs and buttocks, stopping only for a second to kiss my wilted flesh, and then used the little ties to hold the garment snugly to my hips, just like he'd taught me to do, long ago.


"Yes, my Lord."

The man hesitated but for a moment before saying, softly, almost unbelievingly, "Your responsibilities are changing. You will be residing with me from now on out. With this accomplishment, you will be afforded certain privileges."

"Oh thank you Lord and Brother." I gushed at the thought that I would no longer be required to sleep on the cold floor or cold hard tables, with no blankets, not even a sheet. "I am here to serve you. I will try not to fail you. Punish me at will if I do fail."

Humbly, meekly, I walked to Brother. He reached down to squeeze my flesh through the rough material. He said, "Very good. You're learning. You are forgiven of your sins. Come. Follow me."

He led the way to the back of the building, toward a room that I didn't recognize. He motioned for me to stand next to the operating table sitting in the middle of the room. My insides started churning with a dread that I hadn't felt in a very long time.

I'd heard screams coming from this side of the building, but I never knew what was causing people, young voices to scream until they didn't scream anymore. There was no crying, only screaming.

"Zeus, your challenge now is to welcome and prepare new Initiates. I will teach you everything you need to know to succeed. Follow my orders to the precise letter, and by the time you are sixteen you will rise to a new level, one that has not yet been bestowed on anyone of your kind."

"Yes, Brother. Your orders are my commands. My only desire is to please you."

"Yes. Now watch me very carefully. I am going to set this room up for a new Initiate. I expect you to reproduce, step by step, without reminder."

A cold chill ran up and down my spine, settling in my lower back. Then I shuddered as he reached up into the cabinets to pull down supplies. Some were wrapped. Some were not. When he had everything he wanted sitting on the bed, he reached into a cabinet. He pulled out a motor looking thing with wire attachments on its top side. A long cord extended from the back of it. He said, curtly, "Lay this on the table, in the center."

When that was accomplished, he ordered, "Hand me the package wrapped in white paper, then hand me the brown paper covered package."

Within mere minutes, he had attached wires to the motor, and then showed me how to attach the opposite ends to small alligator clips. He tested them for tensile strength, being careful to show me how to do it. I took it and tested it, to his satisfaction.

We continued to 'set up' the room. It took about fifteen minutes, or so, I don't know for sure. It seemed quick, yet it seemed like forever, too.

"Here, hold this mattress up." He said taking hold of my hands and guiding them under the thin flat rubber mat, at which time I lifted it to the level he prescribed. He then reached beneath the bed, retrieved something that I couldn't see because of the angle. When he lifted it to table level, I gasped spontaneously… it was a bedpan. Brother looked into my eyes. I couldn't read him. I'm not supposed to read his facial expressions and emotions. Even so, his expression… did it leak out the trace of a smile?

"Place this in the depression, right here." He said, pointing to a large hollow place in the metal frame, just beneath where the mattress would lay on all sides around it.

"Sir, Brother, may I ask you a question so that I can learn?"

"No. No questions. Just do as I say when I say… you know better than to ask me questions, don't you?" The man turned around, gasping, his face reddening.

"Yes, Brother. I'm sorry, Sir. I promise to never do it again, Sir." I pleaded. I walked to the board, a three foot long, six inch wide mammoth weapon used to bring Initiates into compliance, grabbed hold of it, heaved it up and extended it to Brother, and then turned around, bent over, grabbed my ankles, and waited for the inevitable licks that I would willingly take, to make me a pure, chaste person.

Instead of being bashed with the wood, I heard paper shifting. Brother Kenneth signed a few times. I dared not look back to see what was troubling him, for fear that he would be displeased, more than he already was. Then he chuckled as footsteps, his, came walking toward me. I then felt his hands spreading my cheeks, and then a cold hard object being pushed against my anus. Knowing that I was to relax, and knowing that he had had me three times, I easily relaxed, permitting my back door to open, if only a little bit. It was then that a cold hard metal object, a very large one, larger than I had ever experienced, slowly made its way past the muscle, until I felt its coldness deep within my body, and it kept going and going and going. I dared not move. And then the coldness turned warm, then to an uncomfortable level, and then I felt the thing insert further into my body, until it could go no further, or was the entire length of the cylindrical object inside of me?

What was he going to do to me?

What was he doing to me?

I pressed my forehead to the floor to stay steady. I began fervently praying, not for mercy, but that he would find whatever he was doing – pleasurable and fulfilling for him. I then started feeling something strange throughout my entire body. It wasn't painful at all, just strange. I cannot adequately describe the sensations coursing through my veins. I found myself to be very erect, however.

The pulsing sensations became very strong. They were not uncomfortable, rather I was feeling something that I had not felt for a very long time, for as long as I could remember, and I was trained to remember everything, in minute detail – pleasure, only it was not emanating from my member. It was coming from all directions.

And then all of the sensations took over my entire mind and body. I writhed and fought the pleasure, pain, pleasure, pain, pleasure, horrific sensations, to no avail, until I fell to the floor soaked in sweat, and quivering until I could no longer quiver. I was just a blob of jelly hanging from a spoon, ready to land on the floor or kitchen counter.

Vaguely, I recall the object being removed from deep within my bowels. It exited my opening. I felt myself gaping wide open, and I, for once, did not care. I could clean the floors… I had done floor duty for a very long time, and I had cleaned up horrible filth since being here in the Temple.

I must have passed out, because the next thing I recall is being picked up and gently, lovingly held to his chest, while he whispered encouragements and reassurances into my ear.

Rapidly, I began returning to reality when I felt something very warm and wet surrounding my penis, and then went into spasms, unable to stop myself from going over the edge. My eyes popped wide open… I was lying on Brother's bed, alone, all by myself. My stomach was wet. My penis lay wilted against my lower abdomen. I reached down and touched the edge of the circumferential scar. I jumped from the powerful sensation of being touched, sexually, yet I wasn't sexually touching my penis, not at all.

I took in a deep breath, opened my eyes to see Brother watching over me. Immediately, I became totally frightened. I bounded up and out of bed. I nearly fell to the floor; my legs were so weak, and I was slightly dizzy. Brother reached out, took hold of my shoulder to steady me as I slowly returned to reality.

Brother smiled. I'd never seen him smile like that, ever. Then he said, "You will never again experience pleasure like that ever again. Come. We must see the Elders." He handed me a garment, which I put on, then followed him down the stairs. I held onto the banister as I still felt weak and somewhat disoriented.

We went back to the room. On the table was an elongated tube like thing, the likes of which I'd never seen before. Next to the tube was a labeled tub of lard. A gouge in its center told me that it was used to lubricate the tube. Then I closely inspected the tube, to find the thing smeared with brown stuff for approximately four feet. I looked at Brother, but didn't say anything, until I saw the alligator clips attached to electrodes where the eyepiece was located. I said, "I must clean this at once, Brother."

"Yes, yes you must. But hurry. We have things to do and people to see. We shant keep them waiting. Chop Chop."

I took the tube to the sink. Using sponges and special soaps that Brother gave to me, I cleaned the tube until it was sparkling clean. I then washed any remaining remnants in the sink down the drain, and then dried all surfaces so that Brother would be proud of me.

"Zeus, turn around, we've got work to do."

He finished showing me how to assemble the room, just right, according to specifications, and then he turned me loose to do it on my own. I didn't miss one single detail, getting it set up to perfection each time.

When I had everything put back into its rightful place, I stepped to the tube lying on the counter in a carrying case, and looked at it curiously. Brother walked over, and said proudly, "This is the Great Neutralizer. Tell me, do you feel horny. Answer me honestly, young underling. You will receive no punishment for being honest with me."

Quickly, I replied, "No, Sir." I then lifted out the garment to show him I was not desirous in the least. He reached his hand in, took hold of my flesh, squeezed it several times, and then more and more until he smiled and looked into my eyes and said, "Very well. Your first assignment will be to assist me. Each of the boys will receive one treatment. I will test you throughout the night. Do not push me away. This finding could be a great breakthrough in our endeavors."

"Yes, Brother. I will help you in any way that I can."

Brother looked at me with skepticism, then took my earlobe and pulled me along until we reached a door where Brethren entered and exited. He extracted a card key from his front pants pocket and inserted it into a card reader slot. The door clicked. The man pushed the door open, put his hand on my shoulder and urged me to enter. The door began to close on us. He pushed the door open, and in the process the card key slipped out and fell down toward the floor. My reflexes instinctively caught it before it hit. He was oblivious to its departure. And I didn't say anything. But a plan hatched in my mind within ten seconds. My heart began racing. The blood was pumping through my ears so loud that I could hardly hear. Quickly, without even thinking about it, I shoved the card down into the garment, in back, and tightened my butt cheeks against it, praying that it would not slip out and fall to the floor. If that were to happen, it would be my death, and I knew it. I would be dispatched in a heartbeat, and I would be required to dig my own hole for burial. It had happened to others who had escaped, or tried to escape. I'd watched them bury the kids. In fact the older boys were required to assist.

When I entered the room, Brother urged me to sit in a chair in the middle of the room, all by myself. The chair was a sturdy solid bare wood piece of furniture. Several adults were sitting in a semicircle, facing the chair. Everybody's faces were grim, serious, stoic, reserved; I could not read any of them. Very carefully, I sat down as directed; taking as much care as I possibly could, to not drop the card no matter what, even though the thing was biting into the tender flesh of my bottom.

"Let us pray." An older woman, sitting in the center of the semicircle, said quietly, reverently.

I held my head in prayer, praying only for the strength to not drop the card, no matter what, and prayers for strength to get as many of the kids out as I could. My mind narrowed to a point where I could see myself getting them out of here, some way, somehow. There were six rooms for bunking. The clock on a mantel piece read 10:30pm. Only ten minutes had passed. The kids would be asleep. I would be, too, eventually… though my mind is going too fast to even think about sleeping.

Thinking… Brother uses the card to enter and exit the building. He uses it for the staff restrooms. He uses it for the galley. He uses it to retrieve supplies from the cabinets that lock. And he uses it to enter and exit the dungeon. To my knowledge, tonight there is nobody locked in the hole. And he uses it to enter, initiate, and exit the gallery where the photographic equipment and computers are located. I'd twice had my pictures taken. I'd been taken to…

"Aculeate Zeus, your elders have watched you very carefully over the past few months. You are taking instruction well. You are taking your retraining in stride. We are pleased with your progress." The woman said seriously.

Brother Kenneth turned to me, "We have reached a consensus. From this day forward, you will learn the retraining process from an entirely different angle. You will be assisting us with leading discipline. You will learn how to Retrain. You shall acquire certain privileges. The first privilege is that you will not be restrained to the floor, nor will a staff member be present when you are relieving your bowels and bladder, and you will be permitted to shower alone. Your behavior will be, however, more closely scrutinized. This means that should your Initiates create a problem, then you will be held accountable."

"Yes, Brother Kenneth. I understand. Thank you, Sir. Thank you my Surrogate Brothers and Sisters."

"You will be given more privileges as you prove yourself to Me and to your Surrogates. I will teach you everything you need to know. Your first challenge will arrive in the morning. His given name will be Shakah. According to my sources, he is, what is the right word to say? A hellion. He is a little older than most Initiates, but still within our selection criteria. It will be your full responsibility to rehabilitate him to our ways of living and thinking, and doing. Your fate rests with his success."

"I will not disappoint you, Sir, Brother."

"We shall see. You are dismissed. Make sure your peers are appropriately bedded down, their restraints tight, their eyes closed, and their chests heaving with sleep rhythms."

"Yes, Sir. I will not let you down. I promise."

The woman next spoke, "Zeus, you are also permitted to spill your seed. If you prove that you can accept and carry out your responsibilities, there will be more privileges given to you. To get started, go ahead, strip down, spill your seed. Elder Speer, obtain a test tube to catch his offering."

"Yes, Grand Matriarch." A young man, who could have been seventeen years old, said reverently. He got up from the chair, walked to a cabinet, opened a door, reached in and retrieved a test tube.

I looked at Brother for guidance, but he looked away toward the guy who was just sitting down. Brother said, "Lars, strip naked, stand in front of this youngster, stroke yourself." Brother looked at me, and smiled.

The boy-man dropped off his robe and pushed down his burlap garment, exposing his hairless genitals, and then he began stroking with purpose. I felt nothing, not a stir in my loins. His penis quickly arose and stood out at a 45 angle to his tummy. He, too, had been circumcised, most likely in the same way I had been done – without anesthesia of any kind. All I had been given was a cloth to bite down on. The pain had shifted from my penis to my mouth, as two teeth broke off. Then everything went into a blur… I think I had passed out.

Back to the moment. The boy-man, Lars, slowed his efforts to an occasional stroke just to keep it erect. He then walked to me and held it out to within one inch of my nostrils. I looked at Brother for guidance. His expression was non-plussed, unreadable.

Very slowly, taking care to not dislodge the card from my butt cheeks, I untied the ties and pushed the loose garment down just enough to free my totally uninterested penis, then took hold of my flesh after once again checking with Brother to make sure this was okay. He nodded, smiling. I remembered what he had said about sexual desires. I began stroking my organ with purpose, going so far as to close my eyes, and take me back to the day on the boat when my love and I kissed meaningfully. I pleaded for him to return to my dreams, this time, this dream – awake.

For several moments, I stroked, hoping against all hope, that for a change, I would get hard. I didn't know what they would do if I didn't.

Lars took my free hand and placed it around on his butt and urged me to rub my hand up and down in his valley of darkness. He then closed that one inch and rammed his raging hard penis into my mouth and down my throat, causing me to seriously gag. His breathing became ragged and jagged. I knew he was about to blow his shit down my throat. If my Master wanted him to do it, then I would take it, although I had not been subjected to this sort of sex. At the last possible second, due to oxygen deprivation, I pulled back to get my breath. At nearly the same time, he spewed his fluids, sending them to land on my lap and legs, which took the emphasis off of me.

I looked at my Brother, shocked that I would be permitted to do such a thing… in the presence of him and the elders. Is it a ruse? Are they lying to me? Is it a trick? The card. Oh my, the card. At the same time, I knew my Brother had the last say so in anything and everything. I looked into his eyes, and waited for his answer. My organ was soft although a faint twinge of pleasure began emanating from it. Brother Kenneth's lips quivered, the hint of a smile clearly evident.

Before I could react, he motioned toward the door, "Check on the initiates. Make sure they are asleep. Then go to my bed and sleep. Your day will begin early. Our arrivals are scheduled for 0500 hours. Now go." Brother ordered.

The damn card had separated from my butt cheeks. I could feel its facing resting against my hole. Fervently, I prayed with everything I had in me. I could not let the kids down. And I did not want to die.

Fearfully, warily, with my fingers shaking, I reached back behind me to carefully place the card just so, so that when I stood I could push it back between my cheeks, using the guise of straightening the garment. Lars was still standing in front of me. I quickly calculated how I could get up without him seeing what I was doing. I projected that Lars' legs would hide my move in case the card came loose, so long as it didn't fall to the floor. I just hoped he didn't say anything.

In one fluid move, I stood up, pushing my hand against my hole and placing the card just right, and then, at nearly the same time, closed the drawstrings tight and stood to face them, pulling my hand from my bottom. I then clenched my cheeks tightly. It worked.

Brother Kenneth said, "You are excused. Go check on the others. Make sure they are asleep. You did well tonight. The Elders are pleased."

"Are you coming to bed soon, my Lord? I want to be ready to please you."

"I will be to bed later. Do as you are told. NOW!"

Without another breath of air, I went to the door, opened it, and then exited the room and made sure the door was securely closed and locked. For a moment, once I was outside of their chambers, I worried that this was all a trick – was the card required to open the door upon exit?

I wasted no time worrying about something I did not know. The plan was in effect – now. It was now or die a horrific death at their hands, while they smiled and chuckled. I've seen it before; I was required to watch them torture a young boy to death, and then using a high powered assault rifle they put him out of his misery, just last week.

Quickly, stealthily, I entered the main bunk room, pulled the card out of my butt, held it in my hand, and went around to each kid, awakened them with my hand over their mouth, and then I used the card key to release the restraints. "Be quiet. Do not make a sound. We are escaping, right now. I am going to open the front door to freedom. You run and don't stop. If you fall down, get up and keep running, don't stop no matter what. Now… go quietly. Follow me."

"You three, wait up." I said to a small boy of ten or eleven, another guy who I estimated to be my age, and another guy between our ages.

Very, very, very quietly and carefully, I peeked my head out to make sure the Brother and Surrogates were still in their Prayer Room. The door was closed; there was no sign of them. Quietly, quickly, efficiently I ran to the front door, executed the card, quietly opened the door, and told the kids to run and to not stop no matter what. The others, the three other boys and I went to the kitchen. I told them to get us several bottles of water, that I would get some robes to cover our nakedness and to provide care against the cold air. They already knew we had to be deathly quiet, and we had to act fast. I ran to the robe room, retrieved several white and brown robes, put one on, and then raced back to the kitchen, only to find that they were already gone.

After taking one more look around to make sure we hadn't left anybody behind in the main room, I exited the building and just started running in the dark, slipping and falling two or three times until I ran right into the three boys, sending us all to the ground.

Our first difficulty, or blessing as the case was, was the darkness. A sliver of the moon provided us with a little bit of light, but not much. Just like I told the other kids, we ran, staying together using our footsteps as a guide to the others, pushing out of my mind the gravel tearing away at my feet. We stopped when we reached the sound of running water. "You guys stay here. I'll test the water to see how cold and how deep it is."

I flung off the robe, gritted my teeth, walked until my feet hit water. It was freezing cold, but it was no match to the cold water treatments we'd received as punishments. This cold water was a piece of cake. I called out, "Over here. Hurry."

They soon arrived. I said, "It is cold. We've got to stay in the shallow, or else we'll get hypothermia. Here are some robes, put them on, and let's get going. If we take this route, then their damn dogs will lose our scent."

"How the heck did we get out of there?"

"It's a long story."

The smallest boy took my hand and held on tight as we made our way upstream. Fortunate for us the channel was shallow, not rising past our knees. Even though the moonlight was not bright, its reflection on the water made it seem lighter. We walked for two or three miles before stopping in a sandy area covered by a canopy of trees, blocking out the moonlight. "We're going to camp out here. I will probably be awake most of the night. You guys sleep. We'll get up at first light. We've got to move fast. They will be looking for us. If they find us…" I didn't even finish the sentence; we all knew what the consequence would be. The smaller boy had just arrived a few days ago, so he probably didn't need to know what would happen if we were found.

I dug into one of the deep pockets of the robe, retrieved a bottle of water, took two swallows, passed it around telling them to keep it quick and shallow, that we didn't have much, that it would have to last us.

The night air was chilly. Everybody hunkered down together after I told them that we had to stay close for the warmth that our bodies gave off. Even I joined them, but I would stay awake, the bottles were digging into my side… I made sure they were that way.

I fell asleep, damn it. When I awakened, the sun was just beginning to create light in the sky, though faint. "Wake up you guys, we've got to get going."

Within a couple of minutes, we were standing next to a tree draining the cans, and then we took off upstream, staying close to the tree line so that we wouldn't easily be seen.

The terrain was rugged. Several fallen trees across the creek forced us to backtrack to take an alternate route. The steep banks were the main obstacles in our way. Finally, we just stayed up on the road, carefully keeping track of what was going on around us. Thankfully the road was deserted and nearly overgrown with dead weeds. I hoped and fervently prayed that we could just drop down should anyone come along, since the weeds were tall.

I opened a bottle, took a few swigs, and then handed it to the others, reminding them our water supply was to be preserved as much as possible. I thought that since the temperature was cold, not hot, that our thirst would be much, much less. To an extent I was correct. The guys each took a couple of swigs and passed it to the next person.

Our peace and tranquility was short lived. Off on the eastern horizon, we saw a dot in the sky. The sound of whipping helicopter blades preceded the machine up in the air.

The oldest boy quickly grabbed hold of our robes and more or less threw us down a culvert. We then scampered into its depth, just as a chopper flew overhead, sending dirt, dust, gravel and tumble weeds blasting through the manmade cave.

Editor's Notes:

I have a few comments about this story and perhaps some connections to other stories, as well.

I have been editing for Joe Writer Man for quite a while, now, and I have enjoyed doing so, very much. He, along with very few other authors, has a wonderful ability to bring the people he writes about, totally to life. We, his readers, become completely involved with them, to the extent, that we not only care about them, but begin to think of them as our extended family.

It hurts like hell, when one of more of them are in pain, be it physical or mental. We suffer right along with them. In my opinion, this is the mark of a very good author.

Robert Heinlein once said that he believed that when a certain point of skill was reached by a good author, once such a point was passed, the people in the story gained a soul and became real. From then on, their lives and or deaths had the same consequences as that of any "real" person's would have.

It is my experience that very few authors achieve anything close to that. Heinlein himself was one of those people, as was, in my opinion, Asimov. There are others, but, to be honest, I can't come up with too many of them, off the top of my head. I will name some, here. Please note that just because I missed some, it is not because I believe the ones I don't name don't qualify, it is my deficiency in memory, that is at fault.

Dan Kirk comes to mind, as do DarkStar and Str8mab. Kyle Aarons would be another one of these people, along with Wolf Walker and DaBeagle. I suspect you know where I am going with this, I have to put Joe Writer Man on that list.

And I know this will surprise some of you when I add one more. Someone else, whom I recently began reading and, in fact began editing stories from, has started on the path toward building his people into such a state. I am speaking of Rilbur. Let me be clear here. I am speaking of one aspect of his writing abilities. The more he writes, the better his stories become, and I do believe he has the potential to become very good indeed.

Each of us, as authors, has his or her strengths and weaknesses. No matter what weakness an author might have, In my opinion, those weaknesses pale to almost nothing, if they have the one outstanding ability, and that is to be able to bring their characters to life.

I am sure I have said more than I should have. I was once accused of writing a set of editor's notes that was longer than the chapter they were written about.

I don't think I even came close to that, this time.

I will close by saying that I love this story, and am very happy to be editing for Joe.

Thank you, Joe for allowing me to be your editor.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher

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