The author reserves all copyright privileges. The work may not be reproduced, except for personal use without permission.
Dedication: To Ry and Don. Also I’d like to thank Dan, Bill H. my editor, and the many authors and readers who have been so supportive of this story.
If you’d like to comment or say ‘Hi,’ I’m at JETjt@aol.com. John Tucker
RON AND BRYAN
It was 3:30 in the afternoon on Thursday. Within the corporate jet speeding across Pennsylvania toward its destination at Kennedy International, Matt rose from the sofa where he had been napping. He looked at Ron who was engrossed with some work that he had brought from Las Vegas. Ron always felt the atmosphere on the plane was very conducive to catching up with his paperwork. The aircraft was equipped with all the office equipment and telecommunication devices found in a ground based office and he found that, with the exception of Margaret not being physically there to hand him documents and dispense with them once he was finished, he was able to accomplish all that he could in Las Vegas.
“How ya doin’ Babe?” Matt asked as he moved to a leather chair near Ron.
“Just great!” Ron replied as he looked up into Matt’s blue eyes and smiled, “I just talked to Will and he’s getting Mabel’s little business set up. He probably thought I was crazy when you brought her to the office yesterday. She’s still rough around the edges, but I’m sure she’ll do ok. Will said that he had a couple other businesses for her to take care of too, including our offices. I know she and the boys are trying hard to improve their speech too. The younger boys start school next week. Mrs. Brown from the school district has taken care of that. She’s a real sweetheart. Parker will be driving the boys between the house and school until other arrangements can be made. We may need to hire a driver and buy a couple more cars soon. Our house is becoming like Grand Central Station.”
“I talked to Tyler too. Apparently Aztec is a hubbub of activity with the pending closing of the purchase. He’s kept a low profile, but that will change tomorrow when the closing is done and he takes over. I kinda wish we could have gone too, but I’m sure Will and Tyler will take care of all the necessities. I’d like to stop on our way back from New York, just to make sure that Tyler has enough help, even though it may turn out to be only moral support. We can call him this weekend and then decide for sure.”
“That sound’s fine, hon. Do you have any idea when Tyler might be moving to Las Vegas?” Matt asked.
“No, but I’m sure it won’t be until after New Years. He’s got to make sure that the L.A. office is functioning well, and even after he moves, he will probably go back there one or two days a week for a while. We’ll be going back and forth to New York too, just not as often as I have lately. I’m bringing New York’s greatest attraction with me, to our home to Las Vegas,” Ron said grinning. “ Speaking of that, you didn’t tell me about your calls to your college, your job and your apartment manager.”
“All three calls went well.” Matt answered, smiling back at Ron. “I’m far enough along in my classes to take the finals and be done. They have agreed to let me do it by mail. I might lose a little homework credit, but at worst, it might move my grade down a notch. Before Thanksgiving I was making all ‘A’s so it shouldn’t be a concern. The apartment has a waiting list, so that’s no problem either. Also I talked to my boss at the hotel. Since I was going to be gone so long on the cruise they hired another employee to take my place. I could still go back but I wouldn’t have as many hours. At any rate, it’s fine with them too. I want to go by and thank them, though. They have been super to work for.”
“That’s great Matt, we’ve got a lot to do while we’re in New York. When do you think we should leave to go back to Las Vegas?”
“Let’s ask Jack what he thinks.”
Ron got up and went back to where Jack was sitting engrossed in a book and listening to music on a headset. He invited Jack to join them at the front of the plane to discuss their plans. After he had followed Ron to the seats near the cockpit and they were again sitting, Ron repeated the question.
“It really doesn’t matter to me, guys, “ Jack responded. “I’ll probably fly back commercial. I’d like to get a really good idea of where we’re going with the Turner Consulting office before I go back. I may even stay for more than a week. There is a lot to do before I move here. I have to get the business lined up, a place to work from, and a place to stay, before I can move here permanently. I can’t see the move coming until right after the first of the year at the earliest. I may even come back to Vegas twice more after I move. There is a lot to do to get ready, and I still need to sell my house.”
“I’d like you to meet with Alan and me tomorrow Jack.” Ron offered. “He’s been looking for a facility for the Friendship Trust. I asked him to consider that we might open offices for Turner Consulting and Aztec Turner in the same location. I even asked him to consider the building where Construction Leasing is now housed. That would put all my New York interests in one location, our efforts could be coordinated and perhaps we could achieve some economies that way. We’re all going to have breakfast at the Waldorf in the morning at 8 o’clock.”
“I’ll be there for certain,” Jack promised. “At the lobby coffee shop, I presume?”
“Yeah, that’s the place.” Ron answered. “Well Matt, I guess we’ll be alone
on the trip back. When do you think we should leave?”
“I guess it depends on when you want to see Tyler”, Matt answered. “ If you want to see him at work, Monday would be the soonest we could go. Personally, I’d like to go back to Las Vegas on Sunday, then to L.A. to see Tyler at the end of the week. That way he’d have the week to get his ‘sea legs’ as CEO at Aztec-Turner and probably have a better idea about the challenges ahead.”
“That’s a good idea Matt. We could take Mabel and the boys and Tim too. Make a weekend of it. Maybe take ‘em to Disneyland. They’d enjoy that.”
Matt grinned at Ron. He thought to himself how much this giant of enterprise reminded him of a small boy when he thought of doing things with the kids. He knew that he respected Ron more for his compassionate heart than for his entrepreneurial success. ‘How have I ever gotten so lucky?’ he thought.
The voice of the plane’s Captain came over the P.A. system announcing their imminent arrival at Kennedy, and ordering the fastening of their seat belts. Ron put his papers away and moved toward the chair next to Matt. He kissed his lover gently, winked at Jack, and then took his seat and buckled himself in as the plane moved into final approach position. Jack was thinking of Lonnie who awaited his arrival. He smiled in anticipation.
Ron and Matt enjoyed a wonderful evening in Matt’s small apartment where they were spending the night. After a quick call to Alan and Bryan to announce their safe arrival, they walked to a small grocery store nearby, bringing back a few perishable items they needed for the weekend. Ron sat on a bar stool and talked to Matt after the younger of the two insisted on cooking a meal, something that he hadn’t done since the great dinner he had prepared for Ron weeks before in the same kitchen. They talked of the move and the things Matt wanted to ship to Las Vegas. Matt planned to dispose of most of his things, but Ron insisted that he send everything west that held memories or that he loved. He finally convinced Matt that Ron’s home in Las Vegas was for the both of them, and was more than just a beautiful palace in the desert, but a place where both of their memories could be made, shared and relived together. After a wonderful, but simple meal, they both cleaned up over Matt’s protests about Ron helping, and settled down on the sofa in Matt’s tiny living room.
“You know,” Ron said to Matt, holding his hand and looking around the room, “I love this place; it’s so you. Your hand touched everything I see, and it makes it precious to me. It’s sad to know that after this weekend it will all be gone. I know that we’ll be sending a lot of the things from here to Las Vegas, but I can visualize you moving around this place just as it looks now, a place that was you before I came into your life. This apartment is where I really fell in love with you, out there, outside that door where you told me you loved me. I almost feel like buying the place just to be able to relive that wonderful feeling over and over again.”
“That’s sweet Ron. I’ve been happy here too,” Matt said smiling, “but I’m so much happier with you at our home in Nevada. I could be more than content with you anywhere but I have often wondered what it would have been like if you and I lived here, with no money, only dreams and love to bind us together.”
“I’m sure we would have been just as happy,” Ron added wistfully. “Unfortunately we’ll never know, but we do have an exciting future to build together now. I’m so certain that we can share the joy of our love for each other with others to make life better for them. That makes the future exciting and fulfilling in a way I never dreamed possible.”
Ron pulled Matt to him as he turned to his love. As the distance between their lips closed, Ron said softy, “I love you Matt. You have brought me more happiness than anything else I have ever known.”
“I love you just as much, my sweet man,” Matt responded tenderly. Then grinning suddenly, Matt said, “You’re wicked! You’re just trying to ‘have your way with me’.”
Ron grinned back and responded as his crotch began to get uncomfortably tight. “That too,” he admitted as he kissed his partner’s sweet lips with tenderness and rising passion.
* * *
Bryan and Alan were the last to arrive at the Waldorf. Ron and Matt with Jack and Lonnie were seated at a table for 6 in the far corner of the room sipping coffee and studying menus when their friends approached. Greeting each other with warm hugs, they took their places around the table and perused the menus as the waiter brought more coffee for Alan and hot chocolate for Bryan. On his return they placed their orders and surrendered the menus before he left for the kitchen.
“A dog owner takes his sick dog to the vet.” Ron began. Groans rose from the table escaping from grinning lips. “The vet examines the dog and pronounces it terminally ill. The pet owner requests a second opinion. So the vet brings his own kitten in, and the kitten examines the sick dog and shakes his head. The pet owner requests another opinion. This time the vet brings in his Labrador retriever, who jumps up on the examining table with the sick dog, sniffs and licks it, and then also shakes his head. The pet owner, now convinced, asks how much he owes the doctor. The doctor says he owes $650. The pet owner, surprised, asks why the bill is so high. The doctor replies that the exam was only $50: the additional $600 was for the cat scan and the lab test.”
Groans and laughs arose from around the table.
“I’ve got one,” Bryan spoke suddenly. Everyone looked at Bryan as he started: “In the middle of a show, a guy stands up and yells at the ventriloquist, ‘Hey! You’ve been making enough jokes about us Polish people. Cut it out’. The ventriloquist says, ‘Take it easy, they’re only jokes!’ And the guy says, ‘I’m not talking to you, I’m talking to that little guy sitting on your knee!’”
Ron was sipping coffee as the joke finished and he choked. Locking his lips closed to avoid spewing coffee all over the table, he instead snorted coffee from his nose. Everyone broke up at his reaction, and laughed as he wiped up the evidence of his embarrassment.
“That’ll teach ya!” Matt chided. “Turn about is fair play.”
“See if I ever spend another $4.95 on a joke book,” Ron said laughing at his own misfortune.
The five guys around the table began to applaud at Ron’s promise. Ron grinned.
“NOT,” he responded. Everyone laughed.
After a few minutes of pleasantries, the waiter returned and began serving their breakfasts. Comments and conversations were limited as each of the men ate their fill. On completion of the meal, the bus boy arrived to clear the table and the conversations began in earnest.
“How’s the building search going, Alan?” Ron asked.
“Pretty well, I think,” he replied. I have three lease properties to show you, and one purchase possibility.”
“Where’s the building for sale?” Ron inquired.
“That’s kinda strange,” Alan answered. It’s the building where Construction Leasing is located. They own it! Bryan was talking to his dad, the other night and the subject came up. It seems that Richard wants to sell the building to improve Construction Leasing’s cash position. The building doesn’t have a high occupancy rate and the return is marginal, so Richard wants to sell it and just lease the space that they have.”
“That’s great! The building has 40 stories and Construction Leasing’s offices occupy three of them. I can see great possibilities. Turner Holdings Inc. can buy the building and lease it to our other operations, increasing the occupancy and the return, and at the same time guaranteeing room for expansion.”
“Yeah, I looked into it.” Lonnie said. “The numbers all work. I asked Bryan to request that his dad delay offering it for sale until he met with you this afternoon.”
“That is by far the best deal I found, “ Alan said, but it’s a lot of money.
“What is the asking price?”
“$320 million,” Alan responded. “The appraisal was for $410 million. There is financing in place for $240 million. The occupancy of the building is at 70% which is sufficient to pay the mortgage, management and operating costs if the building were to be sold at $320, but the building will not be profitable without a higher occupancy.”
“I think we can make a deal at those figures. Our own occupancy will increase the income and produce a profit for the building. In some ways it’s trading dollars, but it makes sense to me. I’ll speak to Richard about it today for sure.” Ron said. “I think too, we can forget about looking at the other lease properties, at least until we’ve had a day to explore the purchase. I’ve got a meeting with Richard for lunch there; I think it would be a good idea if we all went. I’ll call him and make sure that he has a plan showing the space available. I’d rather not have us scattered all over the building, but we’ll just have to see.”
“The decision is becoming critical for Friendship Trust. We have 12 people hired already and expect 8 more right after the first of the year. I really don’t have a place to put them.”
“I suspect that there are finished tenant spaces available at the Construction Leasing building. I also imagine that all you will need is furniture, office supplies, and to get the phone system working. You should be able to move in next week if all goes well. We may want to shift you around later, if the space is not ideal, but that will take care of the current problem. Where are your people now?” Ron asked.
“We have a warehouse that we’ve leased for our field operations, but there is really not sufficient office space for our administrative people. We have them there but it’s a jerry -rigged operation at best. By the first of the year, it will become impossible.”
“Let’s hope that the Construction Leasing building will be the answer to all our prayers, Ron said. “What social programs are you beginning at the Friendship Trust, Alan?”
“As you suggested, our grant program is going well. Even though we’ve released little money so far, we have been taking applications and should have the first recipients chosen by the middle of next week. We’ll fax you and Mr. Peterson our choices. We hope to be able to disburse our initial grants by next weekend if Lonnie can stay with us for a short period of time. Our in-house programs are coming along slower and will take longer to get rolling, but a couple of those programs should be in operation by the first of the year. We have a temporary shelter program for teens that is coming along fastest. It should be going by the holidays.”
“I’m impressed Alan. I’ll look at your grant choices, but they are yours to make,” Ron said smiling. “Bryan tells me that you guys are going to be gone around Christmas time.”
“Yeah, he and I are planning on going away alone together, right before Christmas for just a few days. We plan on coming back on the 24th to be with Rich and Brandt for Christmas Eve and morning. I was hoping that we could get away on Saturday the 21st.”
“Can we have our party on Friday the 20th then?” Bryan asked.
Alan looked at Bryan, with a strange look. He was remembering an earlier conversation he had had with Bryan and said, “Yeah, I guess so. I’m not going to have any time to work on it with you though Bryan, so it will be up to you and the boys. Even then it’s going to be tough, because I expect to keep you pretty busy with the Friendship Trust work.”
Alan then looked toward Ron and Matt and explained. “Bryan seems to the think that Christmas won’t come this year if we don’t have a party first. You’re all invited, of course if you’re in town, but don’t expect too much. It’s going to be mostly just a few friends of ours.”
Bryan, unseen by Alan, winked at Ron and Matt.
The two visitors didn’t miss the wink and Matt replied, “We’ll have to see what our schedule looks like but we’ll try to make it. We’ll let you know.”
Ron turned to Jack and Lonnie, and spoke to them next. “What are your plans for the day, guys?”
“I have a meeting with our clients from Thompson Industries at 10 and another with Google Enterprises at 3:30,” Jack replied. “I’m hoping that they will be the first clients for our consulting operation here. I spoke to the CEO’s of both firms from Las Vegas earlier in the week and they both look promising. I should have time to meet with you guys at Construction Leasing at noon, though. Lonnie really needs to get back to work at the Friendship Trust now, if he’s going to help Alan meet his schedule.”
“That should work.” Ron replied. “I guess that covers the bases. Let’s meet at Construction Leasing at noon in their lobby.”
With everyone in agreement, the other couples said goodbye and left Matt and Ron to get on with their tasks for the morning. While Ron took care of the breakfast check, Matt slipped off to see his old boss for a few minutes, agreeing to meet Ron in the hotel lobby minutes later. When they were finished, they met as agreed, then as they climbed into the taxi the doorman hailed, Matt gave the driver the address of his apartment.
“I really need to spend the day at my place, Ron,” Matt said as the cab wound its way through the traffic. “I’m supposed to meet the movers for an estimate at 10, and I need to meet with the landlord to arrange for my moving out. I’d better skip lunch with you guys as well. I’ve really only a couple of days to get things organized for the move.”
“Sure Babe, I can help you for awhile until I need to leave for the lunch meeting. Don’t forget though that we can probably take on the plane about 1000 pounds of stuff that you might need now, or that might be too fragile for the movers to take. We just have to make sure we can get it through the doorway to the hatch of the plane.
“Great! I hadn’t even thought of that.” Matt replied. “We’ll get some boxes and work on that first.”
Ron looked at his partner and, taking his hand, smiled. Matt returned the favor.
* * *
Ron, Bryan, Alan, and Jack arrived in the reception area of Construction Leasing at noon, and then moved to Ron’s office, where the door now carried his name as well as his title as Chairman. Richard, Bryan’s father, and now President of the company, entered the room shortly afterward, extending his hand in greeting.
Ron returned the handshake and the welcoming words.
Richard then turned to Jack. “Jack, its good to see you again,” he said with a genuine smile to the young man who, with his deceased partner, had provided the expertise to send the Company to new heights. “We were shocked to hear about Ted. Please accept our condolences. Are you here to give us some additional help?”
“It’s good to be back, Richard, and thank you for your warm thoughts,” Jack responded. “I’m glad that we were able to help. Actually, Ron will get to the reason for our visit in a minute. First I’d like to offer my congratulations on your promotion. Ron could not have picked a better man.”
“Thank you. Ron has helped in more ways than one,” he said still smiling as he looked at Ron.
Turning next toward Bryan, he opened his arms and moved to his son, welcoming him with a warm hug. He repeated the hug with Alan.
“Hi guys,” he said to them both. “Welcome.” The room was filled with smiles.
“Let’s all be seated,” Ron suggested. “We have some business to discuss together, then the other guys can leave, then Richard, you and I can talk about some other Construction Leasing business.” They all took seats around the conference table at one end of the office, and Ron poured coffee for those who wanted it.
“Richard, Bryan and Alan tell me that you have an interest in selling this building.” Ron began.
“That’s true,” Richard admitted. “An opportunity came up while you were on your cruise to buy out one of our competitors, and the $80 million we could get from the sale of this building plus a little of our own cash could make the deal work. I would have contacted you earlier, but your secretary told me of your being attacked, so I decided to put off the discussion until you had recovered. I hope that your healthy appearance means that you’ve reached that point.”
“Thanks for your concern, Richard.” Ron answered. “Yes, I’m fine now. I haven’t completely regained all of my stamina, but I’m getting a bit back every day. We can discuss the purchase in a few minutes when the others have gone, but I will say that Turner Holdings, Inc. has an interest in buying this building.”
“Wow, that would be great!” Richard said with enthusiasm. “We could both save a lot of money on commissions alone. I must admit though that the building, even at a bargain price, is not much of a money maker.”
“I understand that, Richard, but we have at least a partial solution for the vacancies. We are interested in moving the Friendship Trust headquarters to this building, and Jack is going to open an office of Turner Consulting here in New York, so he would be a tenant. I’m also considering opening an office of Aztec-Turner Security here. Between them all, we can make this building profitable.”
“That couldn’t be better! To have Alan, Bryan and Jack in the same building would be the greatest thing. You can’t know how pleased I am about the idea.”
“You’d also get to meet Tyler, Ron’s brother,” Bryan added. “He’s really a great guy!”
“Oh?” Richard said with a surprised expression on his face, “I didn’t know you had a brother, Ron.”
“I didn’t either,” Ron laughed. “I’ll tell you about that later too. For now lets just say that Tyler is the President of Aztec-Turner Security. He will be living in Las Vegas, but we hope to open an office here so I’m sure you’ll get to meet him.”
“I look forward to it,” Richard said. “If you’ll excuse me just a moment, I’ll have the plans of our available space brought in.”
“Thanks, I know the guys would like to see what’s available,” Ron said in agreement.
Richard rose, stepped to Ron’s desk and picked up the phone. A moment later he returned and as he again was seated, the door to the office opened, and a young man walked in with a thick book of floor plans for the building. The men turned to the new arrival.
‘Wow! He’s stunning!’ Bryan thought.
The young man looked at Bryan and there was an immediate exchange of eye contact. Bryan looked at Ron, who had not missed the glances, and an invisible message crossed between the two friends: ‘He’s on our team!’ They both smiled, nodded, then the thought of another possibility was transmitted: ‘Tyler?’ Nodding again, they almost laughed.
“Gentlemen, I’d like you to meet Dan Barnes, my personal assistant,” Richard said. “Dan, this is Ron Turner our Chairman, my son Bryan and his partner Alan Kent, and Jack Smith. Alan runs Mr. Turner’s New York charity, Friendship Trust, and Jack is going to open an office here for Turner Consulting. They are interested in occupying space in this building, which Ron has expressed interest in buying through Turner Holdings, his parent company.”
“It’s truly a pleasure to meet you all, and especially you, Mr. Turner” Dan responded with a genuine look of admiration. “Your reputation for speedy action is the talk of our offices. I must admit that the successes of your companies confirm the truth to that rumor.”
“Thanks Dan,” Ron said with a grin. “And please call me Ron, at least in private. Mr. Turner was my father.”
“Thanks Ron, that’s very kind of you. I brought the plans for the building as Richard requested. As we look through, you will see the available space marked.”
“Where are your largest contiguous spaces?” Ron asked.
“The entire top floor was recently vacated, and the floor below that only has one small tenant whose lease is up at the end of the year and who would like to relocate closer to the ground floor in a slightly larger space. The floor below that is 80% occupied, but their lease is up in a year. Below that are the Construction Leasing offices.”
“That area sounds ideal. Perhaps I could relocate my office that is now in Construction Leasing to the top floor, and occupy that space with Turner Consulting and Aztec-Turner at least for the coming year. The Friendship Trust could have the next floor down. We could even install a stairway in between the two floors. I’m sure that we will want the floor between those two floors and Construction Leasing in a year’s time.”
“I don’t want to rush things, but would you mind a quick tour? I know I’d like to see the space and I’m sure that Alan, Bryan and Jack would be interested too. Do you have any other spaces that you might suggest?’
“Not really,” Dan answered. “There are other, smaller spaces available throughout the building, but none of them have the same potential for expansion or are as contiguous to each other.”
“Well guys, I think we hit the jackpot. Let’s all go take a look, and then we can decide. I only ask one thing: if you’re not happy with the choice or the arrangement, remember we are not committed, but don’t forget either that we can remodel the space to suit our needs. Richard, would you like to join us?”
“I’d love to Ron. Not only would I enjoy the break, I’d enjoy the company. I’d be spreading flattery if I said it was only because of you. The reality is I cherish every minute I get to spend with Bryan and Alan. There have been too many years that we’ve been separated. I am determined to savor every minute that I can spend with my son now, to make up for it.”
“You don’t know how pleased I am to hear that, Richard,” Ron said smiling.
His smile was a mere candle compared to the searchlight-strength grin that was on Bryan’s face.
* * *
“How’d it go babe?” Matt asked as Ron entered the apartment.
“It couldn’t have gone better,” Ron replied. “We accomplished more today than I ever expected. We’re going to purchase the Construction Leasing building and move our New York operations there. We worked with Jack and Alan on the space arrangements for their operations, and a tentative space for an office for Tyler and for you and me too. Also this morning Jack was able to land his first contract for Turner Consulting and a ‘highly probable’ with another client this afternoon. It was a great day.”
“How’s Richard doing with Construction Leasing?”
“Thing are getting better by the day.” Ron answered. “He’s planning the purchase of his largest competitor which will open up new markets to his operation, and the problems under the former leadership are a thing of the past. The best thing of all is his relationship with Bryan. Breaking through his bigotry barrier was the greatest thing that ever happened to either of them. I’ve never seen Bryan so happy, and from what I hear, things have never been better for Richard at home. How did your day go?”
“It was busy, for sure. ”Matt said. “ But I think I’ve got things under control. With a little work tomorrow and some supervision of the movers on Sunday, we’ll be in great shape by the time we take off for home in Las Vegas.”
“I like the sound of that, sweet man,” Ron said as he took Matt into his arms.
“The sound of what, lover?” Matt asked as he wrapped his arms around Ron.
“Home,” Ron replied as his lips approached those of his lover. “Our home. Together!”
“Mmmmm,” Matt muttered in agreement as their lips made contact.
* * *
Saturday was a busy day for Ron and Matt and was spent almost entirely packing and getting ready for the movers. They had decided to leave most of the furniture and were packing those things that held memories for Matt. They decided to ship a few of Matt’s nicer pieces they really didn’t need, but which would make a nice gift for Mabel as she set up her household in the new house they would build for her.
Matt called Bryan to make sure of the plans for the evening. Alan and Bryan had decided to throw another barbeque at their house even though the day was cold but sunny. Everyone would eat inside, and only the cooking would be done outside. They had invited all of the “New York cruise bunch,” a few Friendship Trust friends, as well as Bryan’s parents, Bryan’s brother Dick with his girlfriend Carol, and Ben and Jerri, their neighbors. It was going to be a full house.
At 5 o’clock the taxi arrived to take Ron and Matt to Long Island. They had decided that a taxi ride would be more of an adventure than their normal limo, and give Ron a better “flavor” of the big city. Gus, their driver, lived up to the tradition with a running commentary on life in the City. He immediately explained that his name was really Guiseppi, and that he was a full blooded Italian, the son of immigrant grandparents, who insisted that their offspring marry “in the faith”, and of course that their spouses be Italian too. Gus’s parents had acquiesced to their parents’ wishes and were the traditional couple with the wife priding herself on raising Gus and his 5 siblings, and feeding them with “genuine” home made Italian meals. She left the “important” things like world peace to her husband, but was not reluctant to contribute her opinion on those matters either. Matt and Ron laughed all the way to Long Island and gave Gus a generous tip for the entertainment.
By the time they arrived, the other guests were beginning to show up too. Brandt and Rich were acting as official greeters and Ben and Jerri were in the kitchen helping Alan and Bryan with the last minute details. Sam Bjornson and Tom Cordero were ‘entertaining’ two other Friendship Trust staffers in the living room telling them an abridged version of the cruise travelogue. Ron and Matt greeted the older couple from the cruise and were introduced to the others before excusing themselves to visit the ‘kitchen crew’. As they spread a few hugs around to Bryan, Alan, Ben and Jerri, Ron couldn’t keep from commenting to Matt when they were alone for a minute, on the happiness so evident in Alan and Bryan’s house. Ron thought about how his own real happiness was only beginning and how much he looked forward to his future with Matt, his handsome partner.
Lonnie and Jack arrived next. It was obvious from the frequent glances to each other that they were happy and in love. Ron and Matt giggled a bit between themselves to see the young guys so smitten. They knew the feeling and greeted the newcomers as warm friends.
Brandt and Rich were the perfect hosts. When the doorbell rang and Richard and Ann Adams arrived with Dick and Carol, they were greeted with warm hugs and kisses befitting grandparents and their Uncle and his love. Matt nudged Ron, directing his attention to the greeting spread by the two boys. “Poor Richard,” Matt said laughing, “he doesn’t know what he’s gotten into.” If that were so you couldn’t tell by the grin on his face. Ron could see Bryan in the face of his friend’s father. The happiness that had been bottled-up all those years had been released and Ron could tell that the joy was totally shared by Bryan’s mother, Ann. The boys escorted the new arrivals around, making sure that everyone had been introduced. Matt could see why his friend Bryan was so delighted to share the same house and life with the animated young guys.
The last arrival was totally unexpected by both Matt and Ron. When the doorbell rang, Brandt ran to answer it as Rich continued the ‘rounds’ with his grandparents. Stepping through the door was Dan Barnes. Even though Brandt had never met Dan, he was expecting him since Bryan had “briefed” the boys about all the expected guests.
‘That devil Bryan,’ Ron thought as he smiled and moved with Matt toward the entry. ‘He’s gonna have poor Tyler hogtied and married, before he even meets his intended.’ Both he and Matt exchanged a knowing glance, and greeted the handsome young man, taking over the duties of introductions so that Brandt could rejoin his own love, Rich.
The evening was starting as a total success. All the friends, new and old shared many laughs and warm thoughts as they prepared to eat. When at last the food was on the table, the guests and hosts crowded toward the dining table and joined hands. Bryan asked Ron if he would like to say a few words and perhaps ask the blessing before they started.
Ron smiled and agreed. He began and the group became quiet as he started to speak.
“Three little boys were concerned because they couldn’t get anyone to play with them”
Groans and boos broke the silence, and more than a few laughs came from all who had been subjected to Ron’s jokes previously. Only Dan had a surprised look on his face. Ron grinned, and ignoring the ‘commotion’, continued:
“They decided it was because they had not been baptized and didn’t go to Sunday School. So they went to the nearest church, but only the janitor was there. One said, “We need to be baptized because no one will play with us. Will you baptize us?” “Sure,” said the janitor. He took them into the bathroom and dunked their heads in the toilet bowl, one at a time. Then he said, “Now go out and play.” When they got outside, dripping wet, one of them asked, “What religion do you think we are?” The oldest said, “We’re not Katlick, because they pour the water. We’re not Baptiss, ‘cause they dunk all of you in. We’re not Methdiss ‘cause they just sprinkle you.” The littlest one said, “Didn’t you smell that water?” “Yes, I wonder what that means?” the oldest replied. “That means we’re Pisscopalians!”
Everyone broke up laughing and hooting. When the noise finally abated, Ron again spoke. “Now that we’ve had a little religious training, I’d like to return thanks.”
The room quieted as the friends bowed their heads.
“Heavenly Father,” Ron began, “Once again we’re gathered together as friends, sharing our lives and dreams with each other. We ask that You bless these lives and fulfill these dreams as we work together to do Your work to bring happiness, success and security to others. Like Your own omnipresence, our friendship and love transcends the miles that may separate us. Let each heart be filled with love and caring for all here and elsewhere we carry in our hearts, and for those less fortunate that we wish to serve. Now, we bow our heads in thankfulness to You for all the many blessings You have bestowed upon us and to thank You for the meal that we are about to enjoy. May it strengthen us to do Your work and to spread the love we feel for each other to others not with us tonight. In your name we pray. Amen.”
“Amen,” repeated the friends.
* * *
The G-V lifted off from the runway, and climbed through the overcast sky toward its destination, Las Vegas. Inside the two men held hands, each lost in his own thoughts, but each felt the touch of his partner. Ron was thanking the heavens for his good fortune, the good and wonderful friends that had come into his life and, of most importance, the good fortune of Matt’s love. Matt was thinking about the ties to his old life that were now severed. His love and trust were now surrendered completely to his partner; there was no turning back. He thought of his future with Ron and his own hope for a meaningful career. There was much to think of and he felt a confidence in the future; a confidence that Ron transferred to others around him by his very presence. The men looked at each other and smiled. They both were overcome with a happiness they had never dreamed possible. They turned to each other and kissed. When the ’fasten seatbelt’ sign went off minutes later, Ron dimmed the lights in the cabin and walked over to the sofa located mid-cabin. Matt joined him in removing the cushions and unfolding the hide-a-bed. The trip home would be a time for their ultimate sharing.
* * * * *