No Advantage
Chapter XII

To give Dad time to think and to keep Mom thrown off the scent, Dad suggested, no, Dad told Rob and me to go swimming. It was a perfectly natural thing; whenever my male friends came over during the summer we always immediately hit the pool.

As with everything else Dad built at the Shack, the pool was no exception. The thing is huge, but it is more than just a hole in the ground filled with water. It has fountains, waterfalls, slides and such; it looks like something you would see at a luxury resort. In addition to housing the water well and all the pool equipment and mechanisms, the pool house has changing rooms, complete lavatories with showers, even a small kitchen. There's also a supply of bathing suits, towels and pool stuff that floats that Dad picked up at an inventory close out sale. And, yes, there's a washer and dryer as well. As Dad looks at it, a washer and dryer costs no more than a good television set so why not scatter them around wherever they'll be convenient? We even have a washer and dryer in the kitchen. Throwing a pool party is no problem for us; all you need is good weather and a supply of people, everything else is readily available on hand.

Before putting on swim trunks, safely inside the pool house, Rob and I had to have a hug and caress session, naked, of course. We can't help it; it feels so good to hold one another without the distraction of clothing. Having recently taken care of one another in my closet, neither one of us became erect, but it still felt good for our chests and soft cocks to press and rub together. What felt even better was hearing the words "I love you" whispered in your ear between nibbling kisses to your neck and ears. After much too short a time, in order to keep up appearances, we separated, donned our trunks and went out to jump in the water.

Wilbur was waiting for us outside the pool house. Picking him up and holding him in my arms I asked him, "Wanna go swimmin' with a couple of queers, Wilbur?" Wilbur licked me on the face indicating his delight in getting wet with us, so I jumped in the pool with him and Rob followed. Wilbur swam over to his ledge (yeah, it's a custom built thing we did for him so he can easily get in and out of the pool by himself), climbed out of the pool, shook himself vigorously then walked out on a diving board and laid down. After splashing and paddling around for a bit I hollered at Rob, "You want something to float around on?"

"Sure, why not?"

"C'mon," I called out before diving forward in the water swimming toward the pool house. After climbing up the ladder out of the pool, I looked back and saw Rob swimming in my direction. I thought about standing back and watching him exit the pool, remembering that day last summer, but decided against it; the memory of that scene always knocks me out and if I were to see a live replay of it I'd probably faint. As Rob reached the ladder I turned and walked over and went into the pool house. Rob joined me while I was digging through the supply of pool stuff that floats looking for a couple of lounge chairs and one of those inflatable round things that holds your drinks. "Hey, do me a favor," I said to him, "pour our beers into some plastic cups; there's some in the kitchen cabinets."

"Okay." Rob went into the kitchen, returning shortly with two plastic cups, one of which he handed to me saying, "You're red, I'm blue, like the toothbrushes; think you can remember that?"

"Yes, darling," I smirked back at him. Having located the necessary pool furniture I dumped the rest back into the bin and pulled out an air hose from inside the bin connected to an electric air pump, flipped an electrical switch and began inflating one of the lounge chairs.

Looking at what I was doing Rob remarked, "Your father thinks of everything doesn't he?"

"Yeah, pretty much. Actually, more of what he does is see stuff and then figure out how to put it to use. Like this thing. On his way home from work one day, Dad saw a gas station being torn down, so he pulled off the freeway and goes back to look. This was one of the things he picked up; it's the pump out of one of those coin operated tire inflator things. The big air compressor from the station they tore down is out in the garage, along with the hydraulic lift thing they use to raise cars up with so you can work on 'em."

"You have a car lift in your garage?" Rob asked incredulously.

"Yeah, but it ain't hooked up; it's stacked over in the corner with the tank, pipes and valves you need to run the thing. Dad's talked about building a separate garage and workshop so we can have a place to work on cars and stuff. I never can remember parking a car in the garage, well, other than Kildare; it's always been full of stuff Dad drags home."

"Clayton, that's a five-car garage! And it's full of his junk?"

"Yeah, but it's not junk," I continued as I finished inflating the first lounge chair and started on the second, "it's all stuff Dad somehow plans to use on future home improvements and additions, stuff you don't wanna leave out in the rain, like tongue and groove wood flooring, wallboard, sacks of cement, a couple of washers and dryers. All the heavy stuff like bricks, steel beams, trusses and the like are down at the Quarry."

"The what?"

"The Quarry. You know, like a stone quarry where they dig marble or granite out of the ground."

"You have your own stone quarry?" Rob was clearly being taken aback by all of this.

"No, it's not a real one, we just call it that. You see, twenty, twenty-five years ago when Dad got the land and decided to start building the Shack, he knew he'd never be able to get the exterior bricks to match if he just bought 'em as he went along. They'd just built a new hospital in Huntsville, so Dad cut a deal to tear down the old one. He actually got paid to do it, not a lot, but just enough so it wouldn't cost him anything out of pocket. The way he really underbid the other demolition contractors was on his labor cost. Wanna guess what he did?"

"I'm afraid to ask."

"He leased convicts," I said as I finished airing up the second lounge chair.

"He what?"

"He leased convicts, just like Scarlet O'Hara running her sawmill in Gone With The Wind."

"Oh my god," laughed Rob, "he didn't."

"Yeah, he did." I finished airing up the little floating table thing, switched the air pump off, threw the air hose back in the bin, stood up, grabbed a lounge chair and my beer, Rob grabbing his stuff as well, and we started walking back to the pool while I continued. "Dad went down to the state prison there in Huntsville and somehow managed to convince the warden to let him rent a bunch of rapists, burglars, armed robbers and other assorted convicted felons to tear down the hospital. He got 'em dirt cheap; the only people he had to pay full price for were the guards and the truck drivers to haul all the stuff away. Dad said Mom like to have shit when she found out what he'd done."

As we walked outside, Rob was laughing and shaking his head; he couldn't even talk for his laughter as I finished the story. "Dad went out and put this big-ass razor wire fence around the place and starts herding guys in prison uniforms in there under armed guard and tears the fucking building down. Real assembly line operation; I'll show you the pictures later if you wanna see them. He had like twenty guys doing nothin' all day long except chipping old mortar off of bricks and stacking 'em up in piles, week after week. Plus he got tons of marble and other stuff; that's where all the marble and most of the tile in the bathrooms, kitchen, this pool, the pool house all came from there. What Dad didn't want, or would get ruined if he left it outside for a long time, he sold. The first homes the developer built out here were built with some of the lumber Dad salvaged from that hospital. He even used the mortar that had been chipped off the bricks as well as broken bricks and busted up tile and concrete for erosion control down in the creek and on the golf course."

Rob and I tossed our lounge chairs in the pool, put the beers in the floating table thing and jumped back in the water. After we got situated on the lounge chairs, beers in hand, I went on with the tale. "So Dad winds up with a gazillion bricks, god only knows how many tons of marble, tile and limestone blocks. He used some of the money he got from selling the salvage he didn't want to build the building for the electrical substation, piles all this other shit up next to it, then puts a fence around the whole thing to hide the mess. We call it the Quarry. Every time you build something around here, you just go down there and get whatever stone or brick you need. God only know what it would have cost if Dad had just gone out and bought stuff, particularly all the slate roofing, copper pipe, you know, the really expensive stuff. Everything around here came out of that hospital. You know what all that really neat wood paneling in the den and the Saloon is?"


"Doors. Hospital doors off all the rooms. Dad stripped off the paint, sawed 'em down, sands 'em, stains and finishes 'em and, bingo, you got inch and three quarters thick solid wood paneling."

"So all of this," said Rob as he waved his arm in the air, "is salvage and scrap that didn't cost your father anything?"

"The vast majority of it, yeah. The only really big expense has been all the concrete, but even that wasn't too bad. If he needs some poured, he just keeps his eye open and when he sees any concrete work being done in the area, he goes and talks to the guys and makes a deal to tag onto the other project to keep his cost down. You don't really see how much concrete there really is around here. The driveway, the patios, the walkways; all of that is concrete slab. The first building project I can remember helping Daddy with was covering the driveway with bricks."

"Wait a minute," said Rob, "where did those bricks come from; they're different from the ones on the house."

"Listen, if you're gonna be around here, never call this place a 'house;' it's the Shack, got it?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good boy. Anyway, the paving bricks. You can't use building bricks for a driveway; well, you shouldn't, anyway. They're not hard enough, so they'll crumble away over time; plus they're too flat, so water doesn't wanna run off of them and they're slicker than owl shit when they're wet. You gotta use paving bricks; they're fired differently in the brick kiln to make them harder, plus they have a rough, slightly rounded face surface so they're not so slick when it rains. And they are expensive as hell compared to regular building bricks. Dad got all these out of downtown Houston."


"He got 'em out of downtown. The city went in to redo some streets. After tearing up the old asphalt, they uncover all these old paving bricks that had been put down a hundred years or so ago when they first paved the streets. The city guys were just scooping 'em up and hauling 'em off to the landfill. Dad looks out of his office window and sees this going on, so he goes down, talks with the guys, then goes and borrows a dump truck from some friend of his, gets the city guys to load him up and he starts shuttling back and forth between here and downtown Houston all night long hauling in bricks, dumping 'em out in the driveway from the Shack all the way down to the street. He even got the city guys to start dumping their loads here, rather than at the landfill.

"I was in the first or second grade then, so every day when I got home from school, I was out in the driveway, scraping bits of old asphalt off of those things and laying 'em out in a herringbone pattern. When I was finished doing the driveway and the front entrance and walkways a few months later, Dad poured a bigger slab for the back patio and I covered that to. There was still a huge fucking pile, so Dad had me clean the rest of 'em up and haul 'em down to the Quarry. We about used all of 'em up when we built all this patio area and walkways around the pool."

"Clayton, you were a seven or eight-year old-kid and your father had you carrying tons of bricks all the way down there? Is that how you got all your muscles?"

"Nah, I didn't have to carry 'em, I hauled 'em down in Kildare."

"You said something earlier about Kildare, who or what is that?"

"Oh, I never told you about Kildare?"

"Clayton, I'm beginning to realize there's a lot of stuff you never told me about, not that it's bad, it's just, well, different."

"Yeah, I guess so. Anyway. Kildare is Dad's pride and joy. He's a World War One army ambulance that Dad uses instead of a pickup. Dad got him when he was fourteen years old; it was the first thing he ever bought at a salvage auction. There used to be this old television show on about some medical doctor called Dr. Kildare. So Dad named the ambulance Kildare, get it?"

"I got it. Does your dad have names for everything?"

"Only things he really likes or hates. Kildare is really cool. I'll take you for a drive later. He only has a top speed of about twenty or so miles an hour and everybody stares at you when you drive him, particularly when you goose the throttle and make him backfire. But he's great to go pick up things in if you're not in a big hurry and don't have to go very far."

"Hey, guys," said my father from behind us, "got time to talk?"

"Hi, Dad," I said, paddling my lounge chair around in the water so I could see him with Rob following suit as Dad pulled up a chair and sat down by the edge of the pool. "I was just telling Rob about Kildare. Would you mind if we took him out later for a ride?"

"No. He hasn't been started this week so he could use the exercise. Just be sure and run him for a good half hour so he gets good and hot. Listen, if you two would like to spend tonight together here, I got a way to sneak it past Kathleen."

Rob and I looked at one another. Spend the night together, in my parent's house? Dad clearly could tell what was going through our minds and before we could say anything he stepped in. "Hey, listen guys, be realistic. What's the difference between spending the night here together or across town in Rob's apartment like you did last night? None. I know you want to be together; you're normal human beings. And I know that normal human beings have sex. God, Clayton, you think Kathleen and I don't have sex just because you're off in another part of the house? Does us being in another part of the house stops you from masturbating? And get that look off your face, there's only two kinds of liars in the world, the guy who says he never masturbated and the guy who says he quit. So don't give me that horrified look. Listen, all I wanna do is help the two of you keep your private life private, that's all."

Looking at Rob I told him, "He's right. What's the difference whether we're here or at your place?" Rob shrugged his shoulders in resigned agreement, so I answered for both of us, "Okay, Dad, what you got in mind?"

"Rob, what time do you have to be at work?"

"Not until nine tomorrow."

"Perfect. I can drop you off at your place on my way to work, it's just off my regular route, unless you've moved since you and Clayton worked together last summer." (When I had some transmission work done on my car last summer Dad had dropped me off at Rob's apartment so I could ride into work with him, so he knew where Rob lived.)

"No, sir, I'm still in the same place."

"Okey, dokey. Here's the fib. Rob, your car broke down last week; it's in the shop and won't be ready until tomorrow or Tuesday. See, that's the reason Clayton had to go by your place last night; you ain't got wheels, so he had to pick you up to go to the movies. I only saw Clayton's car out in the driveway a little while ago so I figured your car is still at your place, right?"

"Yes, sir."

"So here's how tonight goes. I'll hold back on getting supper ready. We'll eat, have a good time and let it start getting late. Clayton, you say you got some kind of test you need to study a little bit for tomorrow, so rather than waste the time running Rob home, he'll just spend the night in the guest room by yours, but let me be the one to invite him to stay. After Kathleen and I hit the sack, you two do whatever you wish. Rob, I don't know how familiar you are with the Shack, but our bedroom is plumb over on the other side of this joint. You guys could have a hockey game and we wouldn't know it. All you gotta do is be in the kitchen at 7:30 tomorrow morning to catch a ride with me. How's that work?"

Rob and I looked at one another. I didn't know exactly what he was thinking but this was beginning to sound almost like one of the games we played. Neither one of us could find any holes in the plan so we accepted Dad's offer.

"Great," continued Dad, "let's get to the next part, throwing Kathleen off the scent about you two, both for tonight and for purposes of getting even with her. This part is critical. Do either of you have a problem with not letting Kathy know Rob is gay, going so far as to say and do things in such a way as to lead her to believe he's not? You're not going to lie to her, just not tell her everything."

"Maybe," I said, "depends on what you got in mind."

Dad laid out the scheme, at least the general outline, the details could be worked out later. After Rob and I discussed it briefly we agreed to keep Rob's sexuality under wraps for the time being. We really didn't want to wait, but Dad's plan for revenge was well worth the price. Besides, we'd been under cover for nearly a year so what was a while longer? Reaching our mutual agreement of conspiracy Dad said, "Okay, let's get started. Now, the closer we stay to reality the better. Rob, the last time you had to put your car in the shop, what was the problem?"

"The rear engine seal had to be replaced."

"Okay, that's why it's now in the shop. When we're around Kathleen, I'll bring it up, we'll discuss it a little bit and let it drop; don't run the subject into the ground. Now, Clayton, there's something you need to do."

"What's that, Dad?"

"Don't let your mother see you without a shirt on, at least for a week or so. The haircut looks good, Ape Boy, but if she sees that today or in the near future she'll know it was done over at Rob's and that'll blow his cover."

Dad was right. I was already getting used to the body trim Rob had given me and had forgotten about its implications; nobody but a couple of queers would do that on a Saturday night together.

"All right," said Dad as he stood up to leave, "I'm off to get Kathleen primed. You two keep screwing around, but get some shirts on. It's about time for Kathleen's Sunday afternoon stroll down to the creek so don't do anything out in the open you wouldn't want her to see."

Rob and I got out of the pool, pulled the air stoppers out of the inflatable things and left them in the sun to deflate and dry before going back into the pool house to dry off and get dressed. Well, dry off, have another naked hug and caress session, then get dressed. After I had finished tying my sneakers I told Rob, "C'mon. Lets go put your stuff in the dryer." We folded the deflated pool furniture, placed it back in the bin and left the pool house to return to my room. After putting the bedding stuff in to dry, and a quick game of tongue hockey (it was a tie on who won), Rob and I went to the kitchen to get a couple of more beers. The place looked deserted so I figured Mom and Dad were out doing their weekly Lord and Lady of the Manor routine.

Every Sunday, weather permitting, Mom and Dad take a walk together surveying the grounds. Dad wears a Sherlock Holmes type cap and carries a walking stick, Mom carries a parasol. Sure it sounds a little nutty, but it is truly endearing, seeing them talking, laughing, holding hands, still being in love. They'll take an hour or more just strolling around, starting in the front yard, around to the back, then off through the Woods and down to the creek.

When they first got the Swamp the place was thickly covered in trees. On the back portion of the lot they left several acres relatively untouched, other than to clear out the brush and thin out the native trees somewhat; hence, this portion of the Swamp is called the Woods. Even though the Woods is not all that large (okay, it is several acres), when you walk into them you would never guess you were in the middle of a city. It was a great place to play as a kid.

In one sense Mom and Dad were ahead of their time, being environmentally sensitive before it really became the thing to do. Dad built small structures and hid them away in the trees to encourage birds and other animals to nest in the Woods. The owls keep mice and other rodents under control throughout the area while the bats do the same with insects. Yeah, people freak out about bats, but that is just plain stupid. Bats are very timid little creatures and will not bite or hurt you. A single bat will consume pounds and pounds of insects per year and it is really a sight to see at dusk as thousands of bats come flying out of the Woods to go feeding.

By carefully selecting plants and not overdoing the watering, we never have to use pesticides. Not only does this make upkeep easier and cheaper, we're not dumping pollutants on the ground killing the earthworms that keep the soil aerated. At night, it's not unusual to see a family of raccoons traipsing through the back yard, stopping by the pool to get a drink or wandering around on the patio inspecting things.

Dad did some of his typical engineering with the plants as well, but it's not blatant or out of place. For example, nearly all of the fences we have are not what most people think of when you say the word "fence." Instead of some butt-ugly thing built out of wood that will rot away after a few years, ours consist mainly of vines and bushes that cover metal trellises. Dad never met an old set of metal bedsprings he didn't like and invite to come live with us. True, it does sound super weird, welding bedsprings and discarded oilfield pipe together to build a trellis, and it does look kinda crappy the first year or so until the vines and bushes get it covered, but the result is well worth it.

Wanna have a security hedge? Simple. Just spend a few years collecting old abandoned metal supermarket shopping carts, stack 'em up down side up, weld 'em together, put razor wire (left over from the days when you leased convicts) along the top, plant some vines and bushes underneath and let nature take over. There ain't no way anybody will be able to climb over that thing.

Wanna rustic footpath? Easy. Call a roofing company and they'll give you all the old asphalt shingles you want that they've torn off houses when putting on new roofs. Then dig a shallow trench where you want the footpath to be and cover the bottom of it with the shingles so the grass and weeds won't grow through. All you gotta do then is start hauling in leftover gravel from construction sites, scatter it over the shingles back up to ground level and you'll be done.

I suppose one of the most valuable lessons my parents taught me, not by words but by their example, was the value of long term planning and patience. Most people want instant everything. I can almost hear our neighbors talking, "Fred, honey, I would just love to have a greenhouse so I can raise orchids." "Okay, Marge, dear, let me look in the phone book and I'll have you one built next week." Next week, Fred spends a few thousand dollars so Marge can spend her spare time growing a flower that will look good for two or three days and win her a blue ribbon from the garden club.

What happens at the Swamp? Ted goes out and tears down a hospital in a city sixty miles from where he lives, then uses some of the old windows and lumber to build a greenhouse himself over the course of a couple of months. Kathy then starts cultivating vines and bushes from cuttings she swiped from a public park in order to help create fences that will last a century or more. Other than their time and personal effort, Ted and Kathy haven't spent a cent.

Stand back and look at these two pictures. Fred and Marge, typical suburban couple. Ted and Kathy, the neighborhood wackos. Just which couple is the crazy one?

I explained Mom and Dad's Sunday afternoon ritual to Rob while we left the kitchen and walked through the dining room into the living room. Checking the coat closet in the north entranceway, I saw that Dad's Sherlock Holmes hat and walking stick were gone along with Mom's parasol. I told Rob, "C'mon, let's go find them, you'll love seeing this." We walked out into the front yard and, sure enough, there they were, strolling along together, Dad smoking his one cigar of the week, poking things with his walking stick. As we walked over to them Dad spotted Rob and me, greeted us and turned to Mom saying in a mock English aristocratic accent, "Your ladyship, I have instructed Rob that it is unnecessary to continue addressing us as 'Mr.' and 'Mrs.;' henceforth, I am to be called 'Ted" and you shall be addressed by him as 'Dragon Lady.'"

Mom smiled demurely at Rob while closing her parasol, then began to use it to gently but firmly whack Dad several times about the shoulders and back, admonishing him for his last comment. Completing her assault on Dad she turned to Rob, reopened the parasol, returned it to rest on her shoulder and told him, "Don't mind the old earl, he's rather daft. 'Kathy' or 'Kathleen' will be fine, Rob."

"Yes, ma'am," replied Rob with a smile, suppressing his urge to laugh out loud.

Dad, in normal voice, then told us all, "The ducks ought to be done in a couple of hours so we'll eat about five," and then added, "we're not keeping you from anything you had planned, are we, Rob?"

"No, sir, and by the way, thank you both for the invitation to dinner."

Mom and Dad jointly replied with a jumbled together "you're welcome," "no trouble at all" responses. "Hey, still on the subject of ducks," continued Dad, "you fed 'em yet this week, Clayton?"

"Oh! No, I haven't. I'll go do that right now." Turning to Rob I told him, "You'll have a blast seeing the ducks get fed, let's go."

As Rob and I turned to leave, exchanging "see you laters" with my parents, Dad added, "Rob, don't be alarmed. The ducks we're having for supper came from the supermarket, not the creek."

Walking back to the house, Rob asked, "What's with the ducks?" I explained to Rob that the ducks were my father's version of running a charity. Years ago a couple of ducks appeared down on the creek that divides our property from the golf course. Mom really liked them so Dad went to a feed store and bought a fifty-pound sack of corn and started feeding them to encourage them to hang around. They did. And they soon invited all their friends over as well. Within a few months, we had ducks running out our ass and feeding them got to be a chore rather than an amusement. So Dad rigged up an automatic duck feeder, using an old oil drum filled with corn. A small electric motor on a timer kicks in for a few seconds every morning, triggering a sprayer apparatus on the bottom of the oil drum that shoots a few pounds of corn out across the ground.

All was well with the ducks, except that my father, being Dad, had to figure out a way to get the corn for free. Feed corn bought in bulk is really cheap, but it was the challenge that motivated my father. Plus, the damned ducks kept getting in the swimming pool and eating flowers Mom planted (unlike squirrels, Wilbur liked the ducks so he never ran them off), so Dad needed to come up with a way to corral them elsewhere.

He solved the two problems by acquiring some old coin operated peanut machines like they have in bars, they look and work like a gumball machine; stick a coin in, twist the handle and a handful of peanuts drops out. Dad then made a deal with the country club to put the machines, filled with corn instead of peanuts, out on the golf course and behind the club house along the creek with signs explaining which local charity the proceeds go to. It's amazing how many people will shovel a quarter into those things to get a handful of corn to toss out to the ducks. The personnel at the country club keep the machines filled, collect the quarters, buy more corn and local charities get the rest, a surprisingly tidy sum each year. As he arranged in advance, the club gives Dad a sufficient amount of corn to keep the ducks properly fed and happy, which we still do using the feeder on our side of the creek which has to be refilled once a week. The ducks know they'll only get fed at our place once in the morning so they spend most of their time hanging around the golf course waiting for golfers, their friends and family members to supplement their diet. Dad also had me build little duck houses and stash them away along the creek to motivate them to stay away from the Shack. Every now and then, one or two of them will be out wandering around in the back yard or taking a dip in the swimming pool, but not very often.

Rob had been to the Swamp a few times before but we'd never been to the Woods together; previously, if we weren't swimming or shooting pool in the Saloon, we were making out in my room. Walking into the Woods we were out of sight so we walked along holding hands, stopping every now and then for a kiss.

"This place is amazing, Clayton," Rob said. Leaning over and giving me a kiss on the cheek he added, "I feel like we're two lovers walking along in a forest or something."

"Yeah. Kinda makes you're glad you're queer, doesn't it?"

Stopping and turning toward me Rob gently hugged me to him telling me, "Clayton, I don't ever remember being this happy and feeling so good."

"Me neither. You know, I don't know how I ever went so long without telling you that I love you.I just want to keep telling you that, over and over again."

"I know, I feel the same way." Giving me another kiss and breaking the hug Rob smiled and said, "C'mon, show me the ducks."

"Okay, we gotta go by the Gazebo and get some sacks of corn to fill the feeder with."

"What's the Gazebo?"

I was beginning to feel like a tour guide. "It's a gazebo, one of those little round things like they have in parks, except this one is octagonal. We built it for Grandma when she lived with us and we keep the corn stored there."

"I take it your grandmother is dead."

"Yeah, she died a couple of years ago; all of my grandparents are gone."

"I'm sorry."

"That's okay. Dad's parents both died of old age when I was still in grade school; they were in their forties when he was born. Mom's father died of cancer just after he retired. I never really got to know any of them that well, other than Grandma, Mom's mother."

"So she came to live with you after your grandfather died?" asked Rob.

"Not exactly. A couple of years before Grandpa Winslow died, Dad remodeled the guest bedroom suite next to his and Mom's so Mom's parents would have a place to stay when they came to visit. Dad figured with them being retired they'd want to stay longer than just a couple of days at a time, so he wanted them to have something nicer than the guest suite. It's actually the nicest one we've got. It's got it's own private patio, a small living room instead of just a sitting room and a little kitchenette. Mom and Dad use it now, rather than their old one. Grandpa and Grandma only got to stay in it a couple of times before he died."

"That's sad," commented Rob sincerely.

"Yeah. After Grandpa died, Grandma continued to live in their vacation house in Florida; they'd sold their regular house and moved there when Grandpa retired. It's a nice place by the ocean, sorta in the country, but you could tell Grandma was lonely. Mom has two brothers; one out in California and the other one, well, he never amounted to much.

"So Dad started working on Grandma, getting her to come and visit as often as possible. He told her he was just using up his frequent flyer miles from work before they expired to get the airline tickets to fly her back and forth, but that was just a story he made up so she wouldn't feel bad about accepting the tickets that he was actually buying for her. She starts coming and going, staying a little longer each time. Dad starts in on her with 'Hell, Evelyn, why do you keep hauling clothes back and forth; just leave the damned things here for next time' sort of stuff. When she was here, Dad even hauled us to church every Sunday, dragging Grandma along so she could meet people her own age. Mom got a seniors group going over at the country club, throwing parties and stuff for them at the Shack whenever she came to visit. Pretty soon, Grandma was staying longer and longer each time. Finally, she came to see us one time and never left."

"That was really sweet of your parents to do that."

"Yeah. And Grandma was a blast, she was a lot of fun to be around and go places with. After she moved in, she went out and bought a book to teach herself how to play bridge, then starts having bridge parties over here every Wednesday afternoon. I'd get home from school and the Saloon would be full of middle-aged and elderly women, sitting around, playing cards, having a few drinks. They'd start out playing bridge but after the drinks got going, most of them would switch to poker. I'd go in and be the waiter and bartender. It was a hoot seeing all these old ladies, playing cards, throwing darts, shooting pool, playing shuffleboard. And they're throwing back drinks, getting a little tight, but never drunk. Dad loaded up the jukebox with the kind of music they liked, made sure he had exactly the right brand of whatever each of them liked to drink. After Grandma died we tried to keep it going, but with her not around it wasn't the same for anybody, so it just sorta dwindled away and stopped."

"How long did she live with you?"

"Hmmm, about five or six years. She was actually in rather good health the whole time. But she had a stroke one night and died a few days later. It was good that she went that way."

"Yeah, I know what you mean."

Pointing down at the gravel path we were walking along I told Rob, "That's why Dad and I put in these paths so it would be easier for Grandma to take her walks. She said walking helped her arthritis and she would be out here every day, rain or shine, once in the morning and again in the late afternoon before supper. And she didn't just amble along like we're doing; she pumped it up and really walked.

"Dad ambushed the homeowners' association and country club to get them to approve spending the money to build and maintain trails along the creek, together with building a couple of footbridges so you can get from one side to the other. If Grandma wanted to go walking by herself, she could stay on the Swamp; if she wanted to be around other people, she could go out on the public trails along the creek. I'm not sure, but I just know Dad rigged that vote of the homeowners' association somehow, just so Grandma could go walking however she wanted to. He conned the people at the country club to get in on the act, convincing them that having access to walking and biking trails would increase their membership, which it did.

"While they were building the creek trails, we built Grandma the Gazebo at the back of our property overlooking the creek so she would have a nice, private place to sit and rest during her walks. It was my idea and Dad was all for it. I think it's about the only time around here that he actually went out and bought most of the stuff so the thing would get built quickly and be just right. We'll be there in just a minute."

As we neared the end of the path I told Rob, "This sounds stupid, but close your eyes and let me lead you in."

"You're kidding."

"No, I'm not, please do it," I gently pleaded, "just for me."

"Okay," Rob pleasantly agreed while closing his eyes. Taking him by the hand I led him through the break in the crepe myrtles that form a boundary around the Gazebo on three sides. The honeysuckle and jasmine vines were still in bloom and their faintly sweet smell filled the air, mixed in with that of the wildflowers. After I could tell that Rob had detected this subtle scent and could hear the gentle splashing of the little waterfall, I told him to open his eyes.

A pleasant smile came across his face and his mouth slightly opened in awe as he slowly and silently looked about. In the center of the area is the Gazebo, a peaked roof, eight-sided wooden structure some sixteen feet in diameter. On the creek side of the area is a waist high stone wall, offering a view of the creek below and a wooded area of the golf course on the other side. The wall curves around and heightens into a miniature stone hillside over which a waterfall splashes down into a reflecting pool. Slate flagstones cover the ground, except for terraced planting beds filled with bushes and wildflowers. The leaves from overhanging branches of trees shaded the area from the late afternoon sun and a gentle breeze passing through the mist from the waterfall pleasantly cooled the air.

Rob took in the view as well as the mixture of smells. Walking up the steps into the Gazebo he turned to me and said in true amazement, "Clayton, this place is spectacular. It's like something out of a fairy tale. I never knew people actually built things like this."

"It is something, isn't it?" I replied as I joined Rob and we sat down together on a bench. "The thing that makes it look like something out of a storybook is that the Gazebo is the only thing that looks man made, kinda like a Hansel and Gretel cottage out in the forest. Everything else is intended to look more like something out of nature; that's why there aren't any bricks, only natural rock. See, all the stonework is a little rough and irregular, there aren't any straight lines in nature. The flagstones are slate roofing tiles, but we broke 'em up so they'd be irregular. You know how we got the lichens or whatever you call the green stuff on the rocks to grow?"


"Poured buttermilk on 'em."

"Clayton, you're full of shit."

"No. It really works. See, buttermilk has some kinda microbe culture or something in it. When we were finished with the stonework, we just wet it all down really good with water and splashed a couple of gallons of buttermilk around on it. In just a couple of days we had the stuff growing, and it makes it look like the stonework has been here for centuries."

Rob asked, "This nature stuff, mixing it with the Gazebo, was that your idea?"

"No, the juxtaposition of nature and man was Mom's idea. Dad and I both liked the idea and that's what made this really fun to build, we'd never done anything like it. That's another reason why we had to buy so many of the materials 'cause we didn't have hardly anything on hand we could use. For the concept to work, the Gazebo had to be absolutely perfect and pristine, so no second hand lumber or anything. All the lumber had to be brand new and pressure treated so it wouldn't rot, plus, we didn't want to paint anything. To keep the thing from looking harsh, we lightly sanded all the edges of every piece of lumber to take off the hard edges so it would look and feel softer. After it was built, we washed it down with battery acid and some other chemicals to make it look a little weathered.

"On the stonework, everything we had in the Quarry was used, but it wasn't rustic looking, so we bought all the rocks and stuff from some farmer out in the country; it came out of an old riverbed. Mom bought all the plants and flowers so she could mix 'em all up, just like things grow out in the wild, but there's a drip irrigation system hidden underground so that everything will stay watered and look good all the time. The water in the waterfall is pumped up from the creek so it will have the right smell; not only would you have smelled the chlorine in city water, it would hurt the stuff growing on the rocks."

"Clayton, how long did it take to build this?"

"I spent most of my summer vacation from school working on it and then some, so probably about four months. There's a lot up here you don't see 'cause we wanted it hidden. Even though the idea was to have a rustic look, Dad insisted on running utility lines up here so Grandma could have a ceiling fan or a drink of water to cool off during her walks, as well as a place to pee if she needed to. See, the electrical substation is right next to this so it was no big problem to get water, sewer and electricity in here. There's a lavatory hidden away back in the corner, but it's not rustic. It's built out of brick, has hot and cold water and is all marble on the inside so it's easy to keep clean; it even has a little refrigerator in it so she could have a soft drink or a glass of wine if she wanted. And there's all sorts of other stuff stored away by the lavatory; bench cushions, cleaning supplies, gardening tools and such. There's also Plexiglas panels and a door stored away over there too so the Gazebo can be enclosed and heated in cold weather; the lavatory also has ventilation and heat. Dad was concerned that Grandma might get up here and need some help, so we even ran a telephone line up here from the house."

"I can't believe your Dad did all that for his mother-in-law. He must have really loved her."

"Well, that was part of it. He also did it so I could get more experience building things. I had a lot of fun helping build it; in fact, I did most of the work. But Dad also had an ulterior motive of his own."

I could tell from the grin on his face that Rob was beginning to see an aspect of my father most people never realize is there. Grinning back at him I told him, "Grandma never came up here when it was dark; she was afraid she'd trip and fall over something. But this place has lights. Low voltage stuff stuck back out of sight in the crepe myrtles and planting beds, nice and subtle. This place looks good in the daylight, but at night, it is really romantic. That's how I knew another reason Dad did all this was so he and Mom could come up here and make out at night."

"You sure about that?"

"Yep. Several years ago I was up late on a Saturday night watching a movie in my room. It was like one in the morning when the movie ended but I wasn't sleepy. We'd just finished some more improvements to the pool so I decided to go for a swim. It's the middle of the night, nobody around to see, so I just go skinny-dipping. Well, I'm all naked, swimming around, and I get a little horny, so I figured I'd go over, lie down in the grass and jack off. After I get completely out of sight of the Shack, I noticed that the lights were on down here, you could see them reflecting off the water in the creek. I thought at first maybe we had just left them on by accident, but then it occurred to me that somebody might have climbed up here from the creek side. Since it's a common element of the subdivision, anybody can walk along the shore and we hadn't completely finished the security hedge to keep people from being tempted to trespass on our place.

"So, I go back to my room, put on some clothes and come up here to take a look. And I'm being really quiet. As I got closer, I could hear that somebody was up here messing around. Wanna guess who I found?"

"Your parents."

"You got it. And they weren't just holding hands. They were going at it down on the floor of the Gazebo."

"You saw your parents fucking?" cried Rob in amazement.

"Well, just a glimpse. They had the bench cushions spread out on the floor and were having a great time. It occurred to me later that one of the reasons they were probably up here was that had they been doing that in their room, they might have woken Grandma up what with all the noise they were making. And it being one in the morning, there's not going to be anybody walking along down by the creek who would hear them."

Rob didn't say anything in response. He was too busy laughing so I continued, "So I snuck out of here really fast and went back to my room. God, that was weird. You know, that's one of the things you just can't imagine, your parents having sex. At most maybe quick, quiet and gentle. But not screwing like bunnies in heat."

Rob continued to laugh as I went on, "And I guess I can't say anything against that. There's been lots of times I'd come up here and jack off watching guys jogging along the trails. That's one of the reasons I built the stone wall so I could just lean on it, look down at the passing scenery and beat my meat without anybody down there knowing what I was doing."

Looking askance at me Rob commented, "Clayton, you are one horny pervert."

"Worse than you may think. When they were building the trails I let the contractor tie into our water line so he could put in a drinking fountain just below here and gave him some limestone blocks so he could build a bench there so joggers would have a place to stop and rest, and give me the opportunity to stare at 'em longer."

"You're as devious as your dad."

"Hey, Dad's a good teacher. It may be a little pervy, but it's sorta a turn on to strip off after you get in the Woods, walk around nude, go over to the wall, wave at a cute guy down there taking a break and him smile and wave back, having no idea you're standing there buck ass naked stroking your hard on."

"You ever think about inviting one of those guys up here for a little fun?"

Looking at Rob somewhat in amazement I replied. "Of course! All the time. That's what I was fantasizing about, thinking about getting the guy up here, pulling down his shorts and getting it on together. And I knew there were some guys who would have gladly gone along with that. Most of the guys would just wave back, maybe say something and go on jogging. But there were others who would stand there and talk a little bit, kinda playing with their shorts or scratching their balls with a look on their face that says, 'Hey, you want some of this?' But there was no way I could do that. Not on my own place. Word would have gotten around about the queer kid up on the hill who'd suck you off. That would have been disastrous. I may get horny as hell but I ain't stupid."

"Yeah, I know what you mean."

I softly punched Rob in the arm telling him, "C'mon, let's go feed the ducks." I got up, sat my beer down on the table and walked out of the Gazebo with him following. I went over to the corner of the wall opposite the waterfall and turned around into a small area shielded from view by the crepe myrtles and opened the door on one of a series of lockers (salvaged from, where else but the hospital; they'd come out of the operating room's changing room so doctors and nurses could hang up their clothes while changing into scrubs). I pulled out a sack of corn and handed it Rob, then grabbed one for myself. Before closing the door I removed an English policeman's whistle from a hook inside the locker and handed it to Rob saying, "Here, you'll need this."

"What for?"

"You'll see." I led the way down a flight of limestone block steps set into the side of the cliff bordering the creek, completely hidden by a vine covered metal trellis that arched over the stairway into the hillside. Reaching the bottom I pulled my keys out of my pocket and unlocked an iron gate and walked out. I walked about twenty yards over to a grassy area, sat my sack of corn down on the ground next to the duck feeder and climbed up the ladder built into the stand, checked the motorcycle battery on the motor to make sure it still had a sufficient charge, then unfastened the hinged lid on top and flipped it open. I looked down at Rob and said, "Tear your sack open and hand it up to me," which he did and I poured the grain into the feeder. We repeated the process with the other sack I had carried down; however, I didn't pour all of it in so that a couple of pounds of corn were left in the sack.

Closing the top of the feeder I climbed back down and told Rob, "Now comes the fun part, let's go over and sit down on the bank," which we did. After we sat down I tore the second sack completely open so we could each easily reach the remaining corn. Looking at Rob I said, "Okay, now blow the whistle, just give it one long, loud, hard blast."

Rob pulled the whistle out of his pocket, took a deep breath and did as I had instructed; the shrill sound was somewhat like a miniature steamboat whistle echoing along the creek. When he had finished he looked at me and asked, "Now what?"

Pointing down and across the creek to the back of the clubhouse on the golf course I told him, "Just watch, here they come." As I was saying this, ducks began congregating along the far creek bank, a whole herd of them, jumping in the water and madly swimming toward us, quacking and bumping one another to be first in line at the cafeteria. Words just can't describe how funny it is to see and hear a hundred or more ducks charging directly toward you through the water, flapping their wings, racing, quacking and fighting one another to gorge themselves on some corn. With Rob and me both laughing at the spectacle, I nudged him in the side with my elbow and told him, "Now when they get here, just pick up small handfuls of corn and scatter it out across the water."

As the avian multitude neared we began scattering the corn. A few of the ducks managed to grab kernels as soon as they hit the water but most had to dive down under water to varying depths to seize their portions of the corn as it sank in the water.

A herd of frenzied swimming ducks is funny; being mooned by dozens of duck butts as their owners dive underwater is hilarious. And they're quacking up a storm the entire time, raising and shaking their heads as they swallowed individual kernels of corn. I've seen this every weekend for years and I still find it funny. Rob, however, seeing it for the first time was overcome. He was laying on the ground laughing so hard he was having difficulty breathing. After distributing all the corn I got up and pulled Rob to his feet telling him, "Let's get out of here before they come up on the bank and mug us for more." We ran back to the stairs, snatching the empty sacks off the ground along the way.

Closing and locking the gate behind us, we climbed up the stairs, tossed the empty sacks in the locker, replaced the whistle on its hook and walked back through the Gazebo, grabbed our beers and headed back toward the house still laughing. Walking through the Woods, Rob stopped me, put his arms around my waist, gave me a kiss and a hug telling me, "God, how I love you," as his laughter subsided. Pulling back from me with his hands still on my waist, he gave me a long look with that killer Rob smile on his face. We stood there, silently holding and looking at one another, and I saw a familiar sparkle in his eyes. Eventually Rob quietly told me, "Clayton, I need you, and I hope the day never comes that I don't. If I go overboard with you, will you be patient with me?"

Answering his question with a long kiss, we turned and walked back to the Shack.

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