After walking out of the Woods and into the area we call the back yard, Rob and I saw that Mom and Dad were still in the process of taking their weekly tour of the Swamp. They were standing in the far corner of the lot on the other side of the pool from us. Dad was talking away at Mom, pointing his walking stick at the ground and in the air, gesturing with his free arm, clearly in the process of explaining something to her.
Looking at the spectacle of my father in the midst of one of his explanations Rob asked, pointing at Dad, "What in the world is he up to?"
"He's just explaining something to Mom, probably telling her about his plans for building the garage and workshop. He's got enough bedsprings rounded up to pour the foundation so he'll probably be starting on that soon."
"Bedsprings?" Rob was clearly confounded by what bedsprings had to do with constructing a building.
Chuckling a little bit I explained, "Yeah, bedsprings. Whenever Dad pours a concrete slab around here, he doesn't go out and buy reinforcing steel. Instead, he covers the area inside the forms with old bedsprings to reinforce the concrete. Hey, they're made out of steel. And you don't leave any of the cloth or padding on them, you rip all that off. Actually, they seem to work better than ordinary reinforcing iron; you never get any cracks. But god help the pour dumb son of a bitch who ever has to tear that slab out. Hey, I'm telling you, old bedsprings have many uses. When you run across them, just take them home with you, tear off any old fabric and padding, then go stack them up out of the way. Eventually, you'll find a use for them in some home improvement project."
"Does your dad just drive along, picking up stuff off the side of the road? asked Rob in disbelief.
it's something useful," I responded. "On the last weekend of every month,
Dad goes dumpster diving. See, that's when people who rent their places move; so
Dad gets in his van and drives around picking up stuff they've thrown away. That's
when you get the best stuff. You can't believe the things people will throw away
when they move. And it's not just junky stuff, it's perfectly good things, like appliances
"Clayton, I can understand your Dad wanting to build a workshop, but why another garage? Why not just have a big storeroom on the side of the workshop so he can clean out the one you've already got?"
"The type of garage Dad has in mind is not one to park cars in, it will just be a single bay with the hydraulic lift in it so he can work on cars. See, it's going to have to have a really high ceiling in it so he can raise the cars up in the air to work on them. It will be two stories tall with a large storage area so he'll have plenty of room for all his stuff. Dad's had the blueprints drawn up for several years, tinkering with them. You see, we never just haul off and build something. When you get an idea for anything, you sit down, draw it up, do a materials sheet, everything. You work out all the problems you may run into on paper so that when you start building nothing gets wasted, including your time. And while you're doing that, you also think, 'Now what else can I do with this in the future; what else can I perhaps add later? What do I need to do now so that when I come back later to add to this, it will easily fit in?'"
Rob walked along thinking this over. "So these projects are bona fide construction jobs, not just weekend warrior things."
"Yes. Dad takes this stuff seriously. Just like the Gazebo. Okay, I had the idea, Dad liked it, so the first thing I had to do was work up the CAD drawings."
"What's a CAD drawing?" asked Rob.
"Computer assisted design. It's a computer program you use to draw blueprints up with."
"Yeah, I had to do the whole layout, including all the details on how the joints in the framing of the Gazebo would fit together so I'd know exactly what angles to cut the lumber, how the planting beds would be laid out so I'd know how much stone I'd need and so I'd mix up just the right amount of mortar. Everything, including cost estimates. Dad even had me out there with a surveyor's transit measuring the ground elevations so that I'd get the drainage right so the place wouldn't get flooded during a rainstorm."
"Clayton, I still can't believe this. You're eighteen years old and you know all this stuff about construction."
"Rob," I answered, feeling a little embarrassed, "it's not that big of a deal. You gotta remember, Dad started teaching me all this stuff when I was five or six years old. And he didn't make me do it, I wanted to do it. Okay, so other kids are out there playing soccer on weekends with their Dad being the coach. Sure, they have fun, but when they're done, what have they got to show for it? Me? I'm out helping build the pool and the pool house, and Dad is my coach, teaching me things and supervising. We're both having fun doing this. And when we're through, we've got something to show for what we've done, something our friends and us can continue to enjoy for years and years. It wasn't work, it was recreation. And it wasn't all just construction stuff we did. My parents took me camping and hiking and all that stuff too. Okay, other families took raft trips down a river; we did the same, except we took kayaks. Why be ordinary when you can do something different, learn something new and have even more fun?"
"Well," remarked Rob slyly, "you certainly turned out different. Most parents don't have a son who can build houses, and a queer one at that, the son, not the house, that is."
"Thanks," I responded with a smirk, then added, "dicksucker."
"Watch it, Cum Lips," Rob snarled back, a smile on his face, "your parents will hear you."
As we neared my parents I saw that Wilbur had joined them, he often accompanied Mom and Dad on their Sunday outing. Seeing us Wilbur trotted over for his obligatory head scratching then walked over to my parents with us. As we approached I could hear Dad telling Mom, " . . . all other sorts of possibilities. The fact it would be separate from the Shack is the key." Seeing Rob and me, Dad looked at us, waving us in his direction and said, "C'mere, I wanna ask you something."
"Sure, Dad, what?"
"I was telling Kathleen I've been rethinking this whole garage deal. Rob, so you'll know what I'm talking about, the plan has been to build a combination garage, workshop and storeroom."
"Excuse me, Dad," I interjected, "I've told Rob the overall plan, so you don't have to go into all the details."
"Oh, good. Okay, the only thing carved in stone is that the thing has to be two stories tall for the car rack to work. Next to that is the workshop. I've decided that only needs to be one story tall; if we wanna work on something really tall, we can do that in the garage section. So then you got the storage portion on the end, two stories tall with the second floor extending over the workshop.
Now here's what I've been thinking about doing instead. Extend the length of the building on the storage end, put all the storage down on the ground and then build an apartment on the second floor over the storeroom and workshop. Whaddya think?"
After pondering on this a moment I asked, "Dad, what good is more living space? We already got two guest rooms and in a few years when I move out, you'll have my room as well."
"That's the point I've been trying to get across to Kathleen!" exclaimed Dad in a frustrated tone of voice. "We got all this living space, just sitting there doing nothing. You can't rent it out, or at least I wouldn't want to; I don't mind inviting strangers over for a party but I don't want 'em living under the same roof with me. But if you put the thing out here, completely separate from the Shack, you can rent it out. Use the rent money to pay for somebody to take care of the fucking yard after you're gone. Or cut a deal with some couple to live there rent-free if they'll clean the house and do the yard. Hell, you could move into it while you're going to college."
Now there's an idea I like. Completely separate living quarters, but immediate access to everything else. Make it a hell of a lot easier for me and Rob to . . . . Wait a minute. Now I know what Dad is doing. Rental income my ass. He's come up with a way for Rob and me to live together. And he's just come up with it in the past few hours. If this had been something he'd been thinking on in the ordinary course of business, he would already have a draft set of building plans prepared. Realizing this I told him, "You know, Dad, that's worth thinking about. Particularly the long term, having someone around to help maintain the Swamp."
"That's what I told your mother. When she gets old and decrepit, we can bring in a housekeeper and have her live out here with her husband the gardener. Or, move Kathleen out here so my mistress can move in with me." Dad looked over at Mom with a leering look, Mom shook her parasol back at him, then they both smiled while Dad continued. "Even if nobody ever lived there, you can still use it for storage. Hell, by the time you build the storeroom and workshop all downstairs, add in a two car garage for the tenants, you'll have enough room to put a two thousand square foot house up there. Run a fence from the corner of the building back to the creek and they can have their own damned back yard. Probably will have to sound insulate the garage and workshop so the noise won't bother 'em, but big deal. Just build a double firewall and stuff it full of old mattresses to kill the sound, we got plenty."
There's something you need to understand about old bedsprings. When you find some, there's usually an old mattress in the vicinity as well. Dad always hauled the two home together; he hated to break up a matched set. The square footage of the attic area of a building is always the same as the area of the foundation, so once you have enough bedsprings to reinforce the foundation, you also have enough mattresses to put up in the attic area as insulation. Old mattresses make great attic insulation. Because the bedsprings also got used for fences and other things, we had an oversupply of mattresses, so using them for soundproofing was a perfect way to get rid of the excess.
Mom looked at Dad and me and said, "Listen, you two just go ahead and do whatever you want. I'm never going to use the thing. C'mon, Ted, let's finish our walk."
"Okay, dear," Dad replied cheerfully, taking Mom by the arm and resumed escorting her on their way. Mom stopped, and she and Dad turned back around to face Rob and me.
Looking at Rob, she smiled and inquired, "Rob, what did you think of our ducks?"
Smiling back at Mom, Rob answered, "They're quite impressive. How did you get them to learn to do that?"
"Clayton did it for a science experiment when he was in grade school, he can tell you about it."
Looking at me Dad added, "And don't forget the part about you dragging my ass down there to the creek at the crack of dawn to videotape you blowing a whistle at those damned ducks. Oh, there's another thing I want you to be thinking about, Clayton. I don't wanna fart around on this garage and I'm tired of waiting. Hell, if the damned thing was finished, you and Rob could have fixed his car yourselves rather than him having to waste money by taking it to a mechanic. Anyway, when you start college, you're not gonna have a lot of free time, so I'm thinking about just hiring you for the whole summer to build the thing so it will get finished. We'll talk about that later, okay?"
As Mom and Dad walked away I could hear my mother asking what was wrong with Rob's car and Dad told her something I couldn't hear as they were out of earshot. Damn he is smooth, working the fib about Rob's car into the conversation that way.
I asked Rob, "You think Andy would mind if I told him I've decided not to work down there this summer?" Andy is the owner of the moving company. I'd stopped by to talk to him a few weeks ago about working there again this summer, mainly so Rob and I could be together. However, the prospect of building the garage was more exciting to me than sweating away in the back of truck all summer.
Rob answered, "Andy? No, it won't bother him if you explain what you're doing, he'll probably be happy for you."
In a subdued tone I told Rob, "I had looked forward to getting to be with you again at work, but it probably wouldn't be such a good idea now, having your husband working there with you."
"Yeah, you're right. Besides, we'd have to keep our clothes on at work anyway, so we're really not missing anything. In fact, it would be kinda rotten having to resist kissing you all the time. Hell, I wish there was some way I could work with you building that garage just so I could learn how to do construction work. Those guys get paid a lot more than I do."
After hearing that last statement something occurred to me. I told Rob my suspicion that Dad's new idea about an apartment over the garage might somehow be intended for our benefit. That might make an interesting topic for conversation over dinner, involving Rob in the project somehow. Rob and I decided to try to get with Dad alone later to talk with him.
Walking back to the Shack to get a couple of more beers, Rob asked me about my science experiment with the ducks.
"When I was in the sixth grade, we read something about some old scientist named Pavlov who started ringing a bell every time he fed his dog. After a while, it got to where if Pavlov rang the bell, the dog would start salivating and licking its chops, even if no food was around. It showed something about learned behavior in animals. We had to come up with a science project and I thought about training Wilbur that way, but he doesn't drool or lick his chops over food, he's too polite. So, I figured instead of one lousy mutt like Pavlov had, I'd have Pelletier's ducks and improve on the experiment."
We walked into the Shack to get some more brew as I continued, "See, all I knew about Pavlov's dog was that it would respond to a bell, but whether it was a particular bell or any old bell, the book didn't say. So I wanted to go a step further and show that I could train the ducks to respond to a particular sound. That's why I used that English bobby whistle, you never see them in this country. Plus, I didn't want other people to fuck with 'em by blowing a regular sports whistle, you know, like the kind a referee uses and anybody can get their hands on one."
Opening his fresh beer, Rob commented, somewhat sarcastically, "That was very considerate of you."
"Yeah, I didn't wanna have somebody over at the golf course blowing a whistle during a golf tournament and having the whole crowd getting invaded by a herd of ducks."
Rob chuckled at that last statement as we walked back out to the patio and I continued, "I also wanted to see if maybe I could show that the ducks would in turn train one another. So I rounded up twenty-four of 'em and kept them in a pen up here so they wouldn't know what I was doing down at the creek. They were my control group."
We sat down at the patio table, each lit a cigarette and I went on, "Okay, the duck feeder goes off the same time every morning and the ducks know that. When you go up there right after the sun comes up, they're all standing around, waiting for the feeder to go off so they can eat. So I just disconnected the timer from the motor and then would blow the whistle and manually turn on the feeder, and did that every morning for two weeks. On the way back to the Shack, I'd feed the ducks I had in the pen as well, but I didn't blow the whistle at them. And I got Dad to videotape me doing all this one Saturday morning, giving my narration about what all I'm doing.
"So, two weeks go by and on Sunday afternoon, I go down to the creek with my whistle and some corn and Dad's got the video camera. I blow the whistle and, sure enough, it worked. Here come the ducks. We came back to the ones I got in the pen and Dad tapes me blowing the whistle at them. Of course, they don't do shit, well, actually they did; they ran away, which was kinda a neat addition to the experiment I hadn't figured on.
"Then I got my control group of twenty-four ducks and put little collars on 'em so you could identify them from the rest of the bunch and turned 'em back loose with the others. The next morning, Dad and I go down to the feeder, and the ducks are all there waiting, including the twenty-four with collars on. See, even though it had been two weeks, they still remembered their old routine. So I feed 'em, but I don't blow the whistle. And I hook the timer back up on the feeder because I'm done with that part of the experiment.
"Okay, that afternoon, Dad and I head to the creek. I blow the whistle and here they come, but not any of them had a collar on. That's why I had to videotape this whole thing, so I could double check the collar deal. And we do that every afternoon. After three days, the collared ducks have all joined the group that responded to the whistle. Of course, I couldn't prove for sure whether the other ducks had taught them about the whistle, or whether they were just responding to some group herding instinct, but it was still kinda neat. And I also had footage of me blowing other types of whistles, but the ducks wouldn't do anything in response. I got an A on the experiment."
"That was really cool of your father to help you, mine wouldn't have done anything like that."
I thought it rather odd that Rob should say something about his father, other than what he had told me about getting beaten up and thrown out of his house, he had never mentioned anything about his family. So I asked him, "Rob, I don't mean to pry, but have you had any contact with any of your family since, well, you know?"
Rob took a sip off his beer and told me, "No, Clayton, that's all right. You're not prying. After it happened I called and talked to my older brother about maybe getting some of my stuff but he told me Dad had them throw away everything that belonged to me. Then he told me to fuck off and never contact any of them again. Well, that and if he ever saw me again I'd get the same thing my father had given me, only worse. That's one of the reasons I changed my name, so they couldn't find me."
"You changed your name?" I never knew that. I knew that Rob had used alias street names but had no idea he'd also changed his actual name.
"Yeah. Just before I got off the streets for good, I wanted to put everything from my past behind me, so I hired a lawyer and got a new name. You see, if someone from back then recognizes me, they'll use the old one or one of the street names I used and I can just tell them they're mistaken. When I was hustling, I even started keeping my haired bleached to throw people off my track, looking toward the day I would have all that behind me. I've even considered having plastic surgery done to get rid of the scar on my cheek just so I won't have to see it and be reminded of all that. Oh, and Clayton, please do something for me."
"Don't ask me what my original name was. I don't want to deny you anything and I don't want to lie to you either. So please, just don't ask."
"Okay, I won't." We sat there silently and then something occurred to me. "Rob, I know this will come up sooner or later, and that's the only reason I'm asking. If somebody asks me about your family, what should I say?"
"Tell 'em the same thing I do. My parents died when I was little and I was raised in some foster homes. When you tell people that, they nearly always shut up and don't ask any questions about details, like how they died or how old was I or any of that. If they do ask anything else, or say they're sorry, I just tell 'em, 'that was a long time ago and doesn't matter now.'" After a few more moments of mutual silence Rob asked, "I got a question for you."
"You've told me that it doesn't bother you about what I used to do and I believe you, but there is something. This is pretty rude, but, well, when we're having sex, do you ever think about the other dicks that have been in me or where all my dick and hands have been?"
After thinking this one over I told him, "I don't ever remember thinking that, well, I have thought about it occasionally, but I can never remember thinking about it when we're being intimate. You gotta remember, I've got the hots for Rob, the person, the exterior packaging is an added bonus. A hell of a bonus, actually."
Rob broke into a smile which made me feel better, and said, "Yeah, I guess I'm the same way about you. You know, we do make a killer looking couple. And that's gonna be another source of problems."
"What kind of problems?" I couldn't imagine how being a handsome couple would result in difficulties.
"Clayton, just wait until you and I start going out in public together as an openly gay couple and you'll see. Everyone will think the major reason we're together is because of our looks. And it will be worse when we're around other queers. They'll think all you and I are interested in is sex, so they'll try to horn in and get in our pants. And you're going to have a rougher time than me because of your looks and personality. See, that's another reason for the ring. I didn't give that to you to brand you as belonging to me or anything. I wanted you to be able to avoid having those horny bastards from hitting on you. With the ring on, some will see it and leave you alone. If they do hit on you, just show it and tell 'em you're married. But even then, there will be some who won't give up. You can tell 'em to leave you alone, but whatever you say, however polite or rude you are, they'll keep at it and will not give up."
"Rob, I kinda have a hard time believing that, but do I detect the voice of experience here?"
"Yes, sir, you do. Now don't think that's some special burden you have to endure just because you're a damned handsome gay man. Attractive women have to endure the same thing from the same type of straight guys. You've seen 'em. The arrogant bastards who think they're god's gift to women and that there's not a female on the planet who wouldn't give anything to get in bed with 'em. Well, there's a queer version of those sorry bastards as well. And you'll run across them, you won't be able to help it."
"So what do I do?"
"Well, if I'm around, I'll handle it; if you're by yourself, well, you might consider what I've sometimes done to get someone's attention."
"What's that?" I wasn't so sure I wanted to hear this.
"After you've told them to leave you alone or fuck off or whatever, they'll start touching you, happens every time. When they put their hand on you, grab their thumb and bend it backwards, really hard, and quietly tell them that if they ever do that again, you'll break their fucking hand. If they try to kiss you, and some will, grab them by the windpipe with your thumb and forefinger, and clamp down hard; it'll scare the shit out of 'em since they can't breathe or even yell out. After their eyes get really big, turn 'em loose and tell 'em, 'get outta here.' Then they'll leave you alone. Don't kick them in the balls, it makes too big of a scene. And before you say anything about how awful that is, you just need to remember that there are some people in the world who do not respond to reason and logic or have any respect for other people. If it were otherwise, there wouldn't be so many people in prison. You have to deal with them accordingly. Those two little things about grabbing their thumb or windpipe leave no marks or causes any physical damage, other than hurting like hell. They leave no evidence to get you in trouble. If you slug the guy or kick him in the nuts, you're running the risk of getting arrested for assault and it upsets everyone else in the bar or wherever you are. So just remember what I told you. Let's drop this subject and go on to something else."
Actually, I was rather glad to learn those two defensive techniques. Dad had taught me a lot of things but not anything about how to defend myself. I'd never been in a fight with anyone. Rob was right. I have had a very sheltered life and there was a lot of stuff, bad stuff, in the world I knew little or nothing about.
Knowing that Mom and Dad were out of sight, I got up out of my chair, stepped over and kissed Rob on the top of the head. I remembered an earlier conversation and asked him, "You wanna go for a ride in Kildare, we got plenty of time before supper."
"Sure, that'll be neat. I'd forgotten about him."
Walking into the garage, Rob was truly surprised. Understanding Dad's proclivity for bringing home all sorts of useful objects other people had discarded, he had undoubtedly expected to see a mess. Instead, he was impressed with the order of the place with the neat aisles of shelves, racks and labeled drawer units. See, having lots of stuff to build and repair things with is rather useless unless you know what you've got and how much, so everything is arranged by categories in a tidy fashion. Plus, by keeping things neat, you can actually cram more stuff into a space than you can if you just heap things around. Our garage looks more like a hardware store than a junk shop. Not only is it five cars wide, it is over twice as deep as an ordinary garage to accommodate the workshop area on the back wall, together with providing additional storage space.
After touring the place, Rob asked, "Where's Kildare?"
"Over by the far wall." Leading Rob around the stack of mattresses that ran nearly the full depth of the garage from floor to ceiling, we found Kildare, quietly waiting for us to take him on his weekly outing. I explained to Rob that any automobile, particularly antique ones, have to be run on a regular basis. The worst thing you can do is stick a car in a garage and not use it. If you do, all the seals and gaskets dry up, the gasoline and oil begin to foul and eventually, parts will begin to clog and freeze up and it takes a major overhaul to get the thing running again. The antique cars you see in museums are, in nearly all cases, not in running condition. All of the gas, oil, water and other fluids have been drained out to help preserve them, but you can't just fill them back up, jump in and take a ride. If you did, you'd be squirting oil and fluids all over the place.
If you're expecting an explanation of how to drive a World War One army ambulance, then you're in for a disappointment. If you wanna know how to do it, go to a library, or go out and buy one and teach yourself. The levers, pedals and switches on Kildare would take forever to explain, and even then, you really can't do it without pictures or having the real thing at hand to demonstrate. Suffice it to say, after priming the engine, setting the spark and throttle levers, I hand cranked the engine to get it started, readjusted the spark and throttle, released the hand brake, engaged the transmission and pulled out of the garage.
Even though he's old enough to be my great grandfather, Kildare is in great shape and Dad has done his best to keep him as close to original as possible, oftentimes having to make parts that were missing or worn out. Other than not being muddy, nor having any medical supplies or a wounded doughboy in the back, he looks like he just came back from a battlefield in France. If you're timid, forget about going for a ride in him. Everyone, I mean everyone, stares at you as you race and clatter along the streets at a blazing twenty miles an hour. Quickly snap the spark and throttle levers in the right way and Kildare will backfire and fart a little cloud of smoke out his tailpipe to amuse spectators. Kildare is a lot of fun.
Pulling into the parking lot of a supermarket, I guided Kildare into a vacant spot, set the brake, killed the engine and got out to head into the store. Rob followed me asking, "You gonna leave him there?" (Kildare has no ignition key, nor even any doors on the cab; there's no way you can lock him up.)
"Sure," I happily replied. "He won't get stolen. Nobody knows how to start him."
In the store I got a couple of gallons of milk (I drink a lot of milk) and some cigarettes. Rob didn't need anything so we checked out. The clerk didn't ask to see my ID for the smokes; they never do because of the way I look, which also makes it easy for me to buy beer even though I'm not supposed to do that for another three years. Getting back to Kildare, there was the usual little crowd of people looking at him. I opened one of the double doors on the back of the box, put my milk and cigarettes in, then went around to crank him to life again, made him backfire for the benefit of the crowd, and drove away attempting my best to be nonchalant and look like I couldn't tell I might be doing something a little out of the ordinary. Rob instinctively followed my lead, not breaking into laughter until we had gotten back on the street.
We drove around for about twenty more minutes talking over possible evasive actions we could take during dinner conversation to throw Mom off the scent of Rob being gay and came up with some workable scenarios. We then went back to the Swamp, returned Kildare to his place in the garage and went to the kitchen to put away the milk. Talk about role upheavals in an otherwise classic domestic scene. Mom was in the den watching a baseball game on television. Wilbur was next to her chair, lying on his back asleep. Dad was in the kitchen preparing a vegetable course for supper. Queer son returns from the store with his boyfriend/husband. The dog was the only one evidencing any sense of normalcy.
After Dad politely refused our offer to help get supper ready, Rob and I went to the Saloon to shoot some pool and a snag an occasional grope until dinnertime came. I periodically checked in with Dad to see how progress was going. When he started carving up the ducks, Rob and I ended our pool tournament and we went to round up all the stuff to set the table out on the patio. Mom helped us carry the food out as Dad finished the carving. The three of us sat down at the table and helped ourselves to the wine while waiting for Dad who appeared shortly.
Setting the meat platter down on the table and seating himself Dad announced, "Okay, dig in. Rob, just pretend you're in a cheap boarding house and grab whatever you want whenever you want. Don't be timid."
"Yes, sir," answered Rob cheerfully, and we all began helping ourselves to the meal, getting our plates filled, then commenced eating.
All right, Clayton, let's get the ball rolling. You and Rob have discussed how to get the ruse on Mom started, so get going. "Mom, Dad, just so you'll know, I've told Rob I'm gay, so there's no problem mentioning the subject." Okay, I haven't lied. I've just left out the fact I told Rob that I was gay some eleven months ago.
Dad was about to speak, just as Rob and I had figured he would, but contrary to our plan Rob broke in with, "Before anyone says anything, there's something I need to say."
Dad answered for all of with, "Go ahead, Rob."
"Ted, Clayton, I know we agreed to something else this afternoon, but I just can't do it, and I'll apologize in advance for spoiling anything or upsetting anyone. Mrs. Pell . . . uh, Kathleen, I'm gay. Clayton and I have been seeing one another for close to a year. In simplest terms, we're in love with one another and after a long discussion last night, we've decided to commit ourselves to one another. We had talked earlier today about hiding this from you for the time being and later springing it on you as a surprise. But after thinking about it, I can't do that. Clayton is too important to me. I can't in good conscience demean our relationship by hiding it or using it for purposes of pulling a joke on you. I know this . . . ."
Dad interrupted Rob by saying, "Rob, don't worry. Clayton, Rob, Kathleen knows all about your relationship. It seems I'm not the only Sherlock Holmes around here. Kathy, you wanna tell them?"
"Rob, I suppose Clayton has told you I've know for some time that he was gay."
Smiling slightly Rob answered, "Yes, ma'am, he did, and I think that was very considerate of you to let him have the time to work things out for himself."
"Thank you, Rob," replied Mom, "I think it is going to be nice to finally have a man around this place who isn't constantly trying to hide things from me, as if it ever worked in the first place. But, even though I do love surprises, I think you're right. This is too important. I suppose Ted and Clayton have been playing together so long they just do it without really thinking. And, if they were otherwise, I probably would not love them both as much as I do.
"Clayton, I began to suspect you and Rob were getting serious about one another shortly after I determined you were gay. Call it a mother's intuition or whatever you wish, and even though you tried to hide it, I could see the sparkle in your eyes whenever Rob's name was mentioned."
Looking at Mom I said without question in my voice, "You really could see it, couldn't you."
"Yes, dear, I could. I am your mother after all."
Looking over at Mom, Dad instructed her in a resigned tone of voice, "Tell him the rest, Kathleen. We're all big boys around here."
"Well, if you insist. Uhmm, Clayton, there was something else that really gave it away."
Closing my eyes, the "oh shit" feeling washing over me, I simply said, "What?"
"Well, honey, oftentimes when Rob's name came up, particularly when you had plans to meet with him later, you had the habit of crossing your legs in a somewhat peculiar fashion to suppress getting an erection. But don't feel badly, your father used to do the same thing when he and I were courting."
"Mommm," I moaned, debating whether to crawl under the table or simply have a heart attack and die. Rob was turning a vivid color of red while Dad ducked his head down suppressing his laughter.
"And the rest, Kathleen, he's part of the family now," muttered Dad.
"Oh, yes," Mom calmly continued. "Rob, when you and Clayton were chatting with the daft earl and me in the front yard, I noticed something different about you from when you and I were in the kitchen earlier."
I could tell by the tone of his voice the "oh shit" feeling was coming over Rob as he meekly replied, "What was that?"
"You were wearing different socks, presumably, Clayton's. I knew the two of you had gone swimming, so you had every reason to undress and redress. But you wouldn't have gotten your clothes mixed up if you were merely friends. Romantic love can make you totally oblivious to so many things."
Rob and I both looked down at our feet. Yep. Wrong socks. Mrs. Eagle Eye strikes again. Addressing the other three I asked, "So where do we go from here?"
"Well," answered Mom, "I suggest that we resume eating our supper before it gets cold."
So we did. While we were eating Dad and Mom explained to Rob and me that during their walk earlier that afternoon, they had a long discussion about us and that everything was fine with them regarding our relationship. Dad even told Mom what his plan for revenge was. In July, he and Mom were planning to have their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary party at the Swamp. Dad was going to surprise Mom by dragging in a minister and announcing at the beginning of the party that there would later be an exchange and renewal of wedding vows, insinuating that it would be him and Mom before the altar. When it came time for the ceremony to begin, he would pull Mom back at the last moment and throw Rob and me out before the minister to publicly exchange our commitment vows to one another. Of course, all the guests and Mom (so we thought) would have just shit, which is what made the plan so appealing.
After finishing their joint narrative of their afternoon discussion, Dad in all sincerity said, "Rob, Son, there is something Kathleen and I would very much like for our silver anniversary together. We do want to renew our vows to one another, and we would very much like the two of you to join us in formally expressing your love and commitment to one another, if that would be okay with the two of you. You don't have to give us an answer now, just talk it over and do what you wish."
Mom then added, "There's also something else. Don't worry that we may think you're rushing into anything. Ted and I had only been together six months or so before we decided to be married to one another, and we then began living together as a couple even though we didn't have a public ceremony until a few months later. As far as we're concerned, you two are the same. We want, and we truly mean want, the two of you to start living together as a couple should. We don't give a damn what anyone else may say or think. Ted and I do not want the two of you to be apart. That simply is not a natural thing.
"And there is another reason you need to be together, starting immediately. Like any married couple, you are, in a sense, going to have your own battles to fight; because you are gay, you'll undoubtedly have even more challenges than a straight couple. For you to win, you can't be apart from one another. Ted and I, from the very beginning, had the agreement that in the ordinary course of our life together, we would go to bed with one another every night, business trips and things like that excepted of course. And we also agreed that we would never go to bed together at night if we were angry with one another; if we had a problem, we would work it out before we retired for the night. More than anything else, that's what has kept our marriage together and working, and we hope the two of you do the same."
Rob and I had listened silently and very attentively to what my parents had told us, and we knew they truly meant every word they said. Dad and Mom joined our silence as the four of us solemnly continued eating our meal. After a bit, Dad looked at Mom and said, "Kathy, I think there's something else that made our marriage work that these two ought to know about."
"What's that, dear?"
Looking intently at Rob and me, pointing his finger at us, with great emotion in his voice, Dad told us, "Never, never under any circumstances, should you ever hold back from expressing your love for one another when you have the desire to do so." Dad then turned and took Mom's fork from her hand, put it on her plate, stood up, pulled Mom to her feet then wrapped his arms around her and they gave one another a long, passionate kiss and began crying softly. After breaking apart, wiping the tears from their eyes Dad added, "Don't worry what the neighbors may think." Continuing to look at Rob and me silently for a few seconds, Dad yelled at the top of his lungs at us, "Well, when in the goddamned hell are you two fucking idiots gonna kiss one another for god's sake?"
Having broken the ice for us as only my father would, Rob and I stood up and unabashedly followed my parent's example. Mom and Dad sat back down and resumed eating in apparent oblivion to the embrace Rob and I were in. It was the best kiss Rob and I had ever had together. What else can I say?
After sitting back down at the table, I quizzically looked at Rob and then looked at my father and asked, "Hey, Dad, this apartment over the garage thing, you wanna come clean on that with us?"
Dad finished chewing, swallowed, took a drink of wine, loudly sat the wine glass back down on the table and said, "You little shit. Whaddya think? Despite what Dragon Lady here says, the old earl ain't completely daft. You're damned right I would like for the two of you to live here, but more like next door neighbors so you can have your privacy and freedom. If you two wanna go live in Bumfuck, Egypt, then go ahead."
Clearing his throat, Rob said, "Ted, there's something I'd like to ask about that garage."
"Sure, go ahead."
"Well, I'm probably going out on a limb here, but there's something I would like to ask for you to consider."
"Rob," answered Dad, "if you're gonna last around this joint, don't be so fucking polite. If you got something to say, say it. Whatever it is, it can't be much worse than Kathleen discussing the condition of her son's penis in public."
Rob and I both cringed at Dad's reference to my dick while Mom asked him, "Do I need to go get my parasol?" Dad grinned at her and happily resumed finishing off his supper.
After regaining his composure Rob continued. "Well, I'm curious about the building of the thing. You said earlier that you wanted Clayton to work on it full time this summer. I am really impressed with all you have done around here, building everything yourselves. Clayton has been telling me about it much of the afternoon and I am amazed at what all he knows about construction. The job I've got is not a bad one, but there's really no future in it for me. I was wondering if there might be some way I could work on the project, not just a little bit, but full time so that Clayton and you could teach me about building things. Construction work is something that interests me but I don't have any knowledge or experience in doing it."
Dad butted back in with, "So what you're saying is that you wanna go to construction school. Is that it?"
"Yes, sir, in essence, that's what I'd like."
After finishing his wine Dad said, "Well, construction sure offers more of a future than hauling somebody else's furniture around town. You know, there's something else to. A couple of months ago I was having a drink with Sam Reynolds over at the club. Sam was the builder who developed this area, he and I were sorta partners on it. He was just getting out on his own then, like I was too, and he's done pretty damned well for himself. Anyway, Sam's bitching and griping that he's having to turn down jobs because he can't get good people and in particular, he can't find decent foremen to run jobs. Poor old guy is sixty something years old and he can't find anybody to run things 'cause they don't know their ass from a hole in a ground about all the aspects of construction. The carpenters don't know shit about plumbing, the electricians couldn't lay a row of bricks if their life depended on it. He was even asking about maybe hiring Clayton; he's wanted to use him for years but couldn't since it would fuck up his insurance with Clayton being a minor.
"Tell you what. Let me give Sam a call and see what we can get worked out. I like the possibilities of this. And that's even more reason to add in the living quarters to the garage. Hell, with a little bit of ingenuity, we could probably work in ninety percent or more of all the stuff you run into in either a residential or commercial project."
Sitting back in his chair and firing up a cigarette, Dad looked at us and happily remarked, "Well, folks, I know what I'm gonna be doin' for the rest of the evening until bedtime. I'm gonna be down in the Cellar designing me a new garage. Since I did the cookin,' I'll let y'all tend to the washin' up." Looking over at Mom he asked, "What's on your dance card for tonight, darlin?'"
"Well, I was going to work on the invitations to the anniversary party. I suppose I also need to read up on my etiquette. I'm not sure of the appropriate way to announce Rob and Clayton's nuptials. I don't recall Emily Post or Amy Vanderbilt covering the nuances of two men getting married, so that will probably take up my entire evening."
Rising to his feet Dad looked at Rob and me saying slyly, "Guess that means you two will have the run of the place. My optometrist has cautioned me about eyestrain by working in the evening, so I'll have to keep the blinds shut in the Cellar and the bedroom. Keep a close watch on things for Kathy and me tonight, will you boys? C'mon, dear, let the youngsters handle the dishes. Good night, see you in the morning."
Joining Dad in his exit Mom also bid us good night and we returned the same to both of them. Eye strain my ass. Mom and Dad were letting us have the run of the place to ourselves for the night. Rob and I silently smiled at one another, watching the bulge in each other's shorts increase in size.
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