This story may contain scenes of sexual activity between males. If you find this offensive or if it is illegal for you to read this in your jurisdiction, please do not do so. The author does not condone the violation of any laws.
This story is based on an idea I have contemplated for many years but never had the courage to write. Some elements of this story have appeared in previous stories I have written, as I did not think at the time I would ever write or publish Brother Jonathan. Please forgive any redundance.
The story may seem rather dark, but it deals with several difficult subjects. I can assure you that it will have a good ending. Beyond that, I say nothing more. I am grateful for those readers who understand and appreciate what I am doing here and who have written me. I encourage you, even if you disapprove of what I am writing, to let me know what you think at free7thinker (at) operamail.com. Thank you very much!
by Free Thinker
"I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan:
very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love
to me was wonderful, passing the love of women."
II Samuel 1:26 KJV
Late February, 1972
"How is everything? Things are still the same here. My grandparents took me to the opera Friday night. We saw La Boheme. It was pretty cool. I think you would have liked it. I'm going to be on the debate team next year. Mr. Sullivan thinks I should have tried this year. I'm also going to be a page in the legislature next month! I just got the acceptance letter yesterday. And, I get the stay at the Holiday Inn up the street, even though I live here. They want us all together. It will be so cool.
"I got into an argument with my grandparents again last night. They still think the wreck was a accident and they won't listen to me. I KNOW that it wasn't. Daddy told me the night before the wreck that he knew someone set the fire and he was going to call a grand jury. And, then the next night, our brakes go out. Why won't anyone listen to me? Grandad says that there was nothing in Daddy's office about the investigation. Your parents are dead and my parents are dead and nobody will listen to me. Nobody believes me.
"I really miss you, Davy. You're the best friend a guy could ever have. You believe me. I miss talking with you and playing backgammon and especially going to the fort and our sleepovers! HAHA! I really hope you can come for spring break. Grandad said he would pay for the bus ticket. Please talk your aunt and uncle into it. PLEASE.
"And don't worry about people calling you a fag. You're the coolest guy in the world. Just ignore them. And, remember, your best friend in the world is right here in Scottsburg. If you ever need any help, just let me know!
"I miss you.
It was Saturday afternoon when David's uncle had retrieved the mail. He was sitting at the kitchen table looking over the bills and junk when he found the letter from that kid in Scottsburg. Since a couple of weeks after David had come to live with them, he had suspected the kid was queer. He had never actually caught him doing anything and had warned his own two sons to look out and stay away from him just in case. But, the letter just might give him the proof he needed.
Fred had never liked his wife's family. He felt the Hathaway's were stuck up snobs who thought they were smarter and better and more religious than everyone else. It would just fit their son would be a fairy. Fred had never wanted the boy, but his wife had insisted. Maybe the letter would give him just what he needed to get rid of the kid.
He smiled when he finished it. This was, indeed, just what he needed.
At that very moment, David and his Aunt Betty walked into the kitchen from the backyard, clad in their winter coats. Fred tossed the letter to him.
"You got a love letter from your boyfriend."
Davy looked at the letter in disbelief and then up at Fred in fury.
"You opened my mail!"
"You're damn right I opened your mail. And, it's a good thing, too, cause we know you're queer now."
"Fred," Betty began. But, Fred interrupted her.
"Don't start with me again, Betty. I'm not gonna have a god-damned queer in my house."
"I'm not queer and you have no right to read my mail!" David yelled.
"Its my house and I have every right to read anything that comes into this house! And, don't raise your voice to me, you god-damned pervert, or I'll beat the shit out of you! You're only fourteen. You may think you're an adult, but I'm the only man around here."
David was trembling with fury. His fists were clenched in rage and he could barely get his breath. He turned and stomped out the back door.
It was a cloudy day and the brisk wind bit at his face as he nearly ran up the street. His aunt and uncle lived in a small town to the west of Scottsburg, smaller even than Pushitaw. The houses in the area were all boxy white structures with wide yards covered with detritus. There were no curbs along the old and crumbling asphalt streets. The naked trees shook their limbs in anger at the dark and chalky sky, matching David's own mood.
After a couple of blocks, the teenager came to an empty field surrounded by a decrepit barbed wire fence held up by tree limbs planted into the ground as posts. It was mid-afternoon, but the sky had become so dark that the street light on the corner had come on, casting an even more melancholy pale on the scene.
David climbed through the wire, snagging the cheap coat as he did, and struggled through the high, dormant weeds until he came to a large old pecan tree, its gnarled and twisted limbs reaching upward as if struggling for life. As he dropped down on the ground and leaned back against the trunk, he closed his eyes in bitter resignation at the hell his life had become since that horrid, dreadful night almost three years before. An occasional pinprick of sleet stung his cheek as his now shaggy red hair was tossed about in the icy wind.
He pulled Jon's letter from his pocket and read it. Tears formed in his eyes and before he could even finish it, he was weeping. He felt such shame for crying, such shame for loving another boy, such shame knowing that if Jon only knew the truth about him, just how sick and degenerate he really was Jon was turn from him in revulsion. He didn't deserve to have a friend as noble and good as Jon.
He knew that Uncle Fred was going to kick him out. He knew that either he would be homeless or he would have to go to the Pushitaw Boys' Home. He also knew from what his father had told him that terrible things happened to boys there. His father hadn't told him just what happened there, but if Eddie Joe worked there, he had a pretty good idea of what it was that did happen.
Maybe he should go there. Maybe that's what he deserved. Maybe that was all he was good for. At least he wouldn't have to endure the daily insults and harassment and torment from his uncle and cousins and from the kids at school.
And, then, he remembered Spring Break. All winter, Jon and David had written back and forth discussing his riding the bus into Scottsburg to spend the week with his friend. It was one of the few things that had kept him sane those past few months, the hope of seeing his friend once more, of laughing with him, of walking, talking, dreaming, holding.
The sleet was becoming more insistent. David's nose was running, as much from the cold as from his misery. He sniffed and wiped his nose on the sleeve of his coat. Slowly he stood and trudged back through the weeds toward the house.
When he entered the kitchen, his aunt was at the stove breading the pork chops for dinner. The peeled potatoes were soaking in the sink before she would mass them and a couple of cans of Veg-All stood on the counter beside her. She looked up at the boy, her face a mask of pain. She held her arm out to him. David froze for a moment and then, slowly, walked over to his aunt.
She put her arm around his shoulder and said, softly, "I love you David. I love you like you were my own son. I promised Marian that if anything ever happened to them, I would take care of you, and I am. Don't worry, sweetheart. You're not going away."
David closed his eyes and leaned against his aunt. She was his mother's younger sister. She was as close as he would ever get to hugging his mother again. He closed his eyes and submitted to the love.
"We'll get you some help, sweety. I know you don't want to be that way and it was probably that boy that made you this way. But, we'll get you help. Don't you worry. It's not your fault. We'll help you. Pastor Stringfellow will know who to talk to. It'll be alright, honey."
From inside the living room, he could hear his uncle and cousins cheering a skier wiping out at the Winter Olympics in Japan as his aunt squeezed him; and, for the second time that day, his heart broke.
Early March, 1972
Jon was euphoric. Huge, fluffy flakes of snow were gently falling about him as he strolled along the sidewalk on Twenty-fourth St. The giant, red-brick houses with their black wrought-iron fences and their giant old maples, were covered with the first serious snow of the winter. For two months, Jon had been waiting for snow. To his disgust, it had been over seventy degrees on Christmas Eve. It had been not much better on New Year's Eve. Toward the end of January, the weather had teased him with a half inch of snow over night that had melted before he had finished his walk to Emerson High School. But, now! The forecasters had said this was the big one and suddenly, after fourth hour, the superintendent had closed the schools and sent everyone home early before the snow grew too deep. Snow just wasn't that common in Scottsburg.
A couple of younger boys were engaged in a joyous snowball fight in a yard ahead of him. A Ford Country Squire station wagon struggled up the street and slid to a stop at the corner just before a Mercedes sped through the intersection. And, then, Jon was alone again.
It was so quiet. The snow seemed to muffle all the usual sounds of the city, the traffic on the boulevard a few blocks away, the sirens, the helicopters and aircraft flying overhead. It was almost completely silent. He stood still, watching the giant flakes float downward, feeling them land on this face. He felt as if he were a child again.
If only Davy could share this with him.
He sighed and walked on through the rising snow. It would not be long and Davy would come. Spring break was only two weeks away.
His grandparents' house appeared through the thickening snow. He watched as his grandfather's Lincoln turned the corner. Apparently, his office had let out early as well. He waived as the car slowly lumbered into the driveway and up the hill. Davy hurried up the driveway to enter the backdoor, knowing his grandmother would never permit him in the front door with snow on his shoes and slacks.
"Hello, son!" his grandfather's voice boomed as Jon approached the patio. He wrapped his arms around the teenager. It was embarrassing to the boy to be treated as if he were still a child, but secretly, he loved the hugs.
"So, the schools got out early, as well, did they?"
"Yes, sir! Isn't it great?!"
His grandfather laughed as they kicked and stomped the snow off their feet on the dry patio.
"Snow's always a lot more fun for kids than for grown-ups."
"Well, I'll stay a kid forever, `cause I love snow!"
His grandfather laughed again.
"Wait `til you have to drive in it!"
His grandmother was already warming some tomato soup in the kitchen as they entered. As his grandfather went to the front door to retrieve the mail, Jon was assigned to build a big fire in the den as his grandmother came in bearing a silver tray with huge mugs of the steamy soup. She set the tray on the coffee table and relaxed on the couch as his grandfather collapsed into his favorite easy chair and flicked on his reading lamp. As the fire warmed up his brown cords and maroon sweater, still cold for the walk in the snow, Jon sat cross-legged on the floor and gingerly sipped from his mug.
"Well, what have we here?" his grandfather declared, thumbing through the mail. "Another letter from the State House of Representatives. For Jon! Well, we are growing in importance, aren't we?"
The boy grinned as he reached for the letter. Quickly, he opened the envelope, but, the grin disappeared as he continued to read. When he was finished, he folded the letter and replaced it in the envelope.
"Well?" his grandmother asked. "What did it say?"
Jon looked into the fire.
"Come now," his grandfather said. "You're still going to be a page, aren't you? Jon?
"Hum? Oh, um, yeah. It wasn't about that."
His grandparents looked at each other and then his grandfather said, "Jon, may I read your letter?"
Jon sighed and handed him the envelope.
"Please don't be mad, Grandad. I had to ask. I had to do something."
His grandfather's face took a stern look as he began reading the letter, but it softened by the end. He looked at Jon's grandmother and said, "Jon asked Representative Fleming to investigate his theory that someone at the boys home set the fire that killed Davy's parents and then sabotaged the brakes on Bill's car because he was investigating the fire."
His grandmother closed her eyes and shook her head as Jon vehemently declared, "Its not a theory! Its true! I know its true!"
"Jonny," his grandmother started, but Jon angrily interrupted.
"Don't call me Jonny!"
"Young man!" his grandfather declared angrily. "You will not use that tone of voice with your grandmother!"
Jon was clearly frustrated, but he was also contrite.
"I'm sorry, but no one will listen to me. No one believes me and I know I'm right. Daddy told me that some guy named Franklin warned him not to keep on."
"Jon, that was just politics. It was a simple car wreck."
"No, it wasn't. I know who did it."
His grandfather shook his head.
"Jon, come now. How could you know that?"
Both grandparents could see a struggle within the boy and both felt the pain and frustration of not knowing how to help the boy.
"I... I can't tell you. I just know it."
A silence descended on the room as the fire crackled and his grandparents quietly sipped their tomato soup. His grandfather resumed going through the mail.
"Well, look here," he said cheerfully. "Here's a letter from Davy. Or maybe its his aunt. Betty Thorn."
Jon looked up quickly and his grandfather smiled warmly as he handed the letter to the boy. Quickly, Jon ripped the envelope open, not taking the same care with it as he had with the previous one. He held the letter excitedly, but suddenly, he froze. Slowly, his eyes grew wide, his mouth opened, and he began to tremble.
"Oh, Davy," he whispered. "Oh, God!"
The afternoon of
Wednesday, March 17, 1982
Toby Greenfield was seated on the pages' leather covered bench in the front of the House chamber. He was gazing about the chamber in fascination and awe. His fellow pages were bored out of their minds. One of the Representatives had been droning monotonously for the last half-hour about some obscure and arcane aspect of the state tax code and the girl seated beside him had fallen asleep, her head leaning back against the oak panel behind her. Toby thought of awakening her, but decided if she missed out on one of the great experiences of life, it was her fault.
As his eyes roamed about the chamber, he could see many members were just as bored as his fellow pages. One man, seated near the back of the chamber, was actually snoring, much to the amusement of his neighbors. Toby smiled and then shuddered as he watched another politician pick his nose and a third scratch, (at least he hoped he was scratching), himself between the legs.
Toby looked to the right, at the few Republicans in the legislature and his eyes stopped on his sponsor, his mentor, his hero, Jonathan Holbrook. With the exception of his father, Toby had never met anyone whom he respected or revered quite as much as Jonathan Holbrook. He was everything Toby aspired to be, a fighter who had begun his campaign for the legislature while still a senior in college, an inspiration who could spellbind his audience with passion and his eloquence, a crusader who stood up to the forces of evil in politics and never flinched. The boy felt so privileged to be in this man's presence. He was certain that, someday, Jonathan Holbrook would be President of the United States; and Toby Greenfield would be there with him, fighting to make it happen.
It was a moment before Toby realized he had been staring at Jonathan, and another moment before he realized Jonathan was staring back.
Quickly, his face burning with embarrassment, Toby looked away. But, after a few seconds, he glanced back. Jonathan's eyes were still looking in his direction. Toby pointed to himself and raised his eyebrows, silently asking if Jonathan needed him. There was no response. Jonathan was unmoved.
Kevin, too, had noticed Jonathan's silence, his stillness, his steadfast gaze. All day long, in the Education Committee that morning, over a hot dog and Coke at the snack bar, and, now, in the afternoon session of the House, Jonathan seemed far more quiet, more aloof, more pensive than was the norm. He had seen Jonathan turn immediately into the glad-handing politician in the blink of an eye, but there had always been the inner Jonathan. Today, Kevin could see that his friend had retreated and it scared him. He leaned over.
"Perhaps," he whispered, leaning over to Jonathan, "we should pay a visit to Bransted's widow, this afternoon."
There was no response. Jonathan continued staring ahead. Kevin followed his eyes to the young blond page sitting in the front. Frowning, he looked back at his friend.
Still no response. Kevin saw Toby stand and hurry to the Majority Leader, who handed him a note to deliver. As the boy departed the chamber, Kevin looked back at Jonathan. The eyes had not strayed. Kevin sighed with relief, though still not without a undertow of concern. He shook his friend. Jonathan started.
"What's the matter? You've been in another world all day."
Jonathan looked at Kevin in confusion and, then, as if a switch had been flicked, the politician took over.
"I'm fine. I'm sorry. I've just been thinking."
"Well, OK. Um, so have I. Do you think, perhaps, we should pay a visit to Bransted's widow?"
Jonathan nodded vigorously.
"Oh, yes. I've been thinking the same thing. We need to express our condolences."
He paused a moment, and then added, to Kevin's relief, "We also have some questions to ask."
West Park was an older part of Scottsburg, a working class neighborhood where men worked in the factories and refineries of the city after the Second World War and then retired, leaving them time to work on the yards and fix up the houses. It was not overly prosperous, but it was clean and the residents took pride in their homes. Bill Bransted's house was typical of those in the area, a small white frame house with an immaculate lawn and a Ford pick-up in the driveway. What was different, though, was the number of cars parked along the street and the number of people in the yard and around the door.
Jonathan felt distinctly uncomfortable as he climbed out of Kevin's Mercury Cougar. Though and Kevin were colleagues of Bransted's in the Legislature, would their presence be welcome? And, how could he ask what he needed to ask? As they slowly walked across the yard and the first mourners turned to watch their approach, Jonathan comforted himself with the thought that it was, after all, the decent thing to do.
The people outside seemed mostly to be family members and close friends. As they entered the front door, Bransted's brother took them past others to the dining room table and offered them coffer while he went to check on his sister-in-law. Two Democratic members of the legislature, close friends of Bransted's stood together in a corner and nodded, but did not speak, to Kevin and Jonathan.
"Hello," an elderly lady said as she approached. She was immaculately dress in a thirties style dress, with pearls and perfectly permed silver hair. "I'm Mabel Bransted, Billy's aunt. Are you handsome young men friends of Billy?"
Kevin took her hand and smiled warmly.
"I'm Kevin Berkeley and this is my friend, Jonathan Holbrook. We're in the House. We came to express our condolences for your loss, Mrs. Bransted."
"That's so kind of you and we are so grateful. Billy must have had a great many friends."
"Yes, indeed, ma'am," Jonathan replied.
"Yes, indeed, Aunt Mabel," the malevolent voice of Daniel Webster Franklin boomed as he hove into the dining room. "Billy had a lot of friends, some he didn't even know were friends."
Aunt Mabel smiled and wiped tears with a silk hanky.
"He was blessed."
"And, so were we," Franklin added softly. "So were we. And, there I see Malvena."
All turned to the kitchen from which they could see emerging a middle age woman in a sweater and dress, red eyes, but a kind look. Her lips were trembling as she attempted a smile.
"Malvena, dear," said Aunt Mabel, "these young men are friends of Billy's from the Legislature."
The woman's smile warmed as she started to extend her hands.
"Yes," Franklin interrupted. "This is Kevin Berkeley and this," he added with significant emphasis, "Is Jonathan Holbrook."
This most definitely was not how either Kevin or Jonathan wanted to meet with Malvena Bransted. Franklin obviously knew that and, to Jonathan's consternation, was taking control of the situation. It was also obvious that Bransted's widow had been prepped for this introduction. Jonathan noticed a slight hint of fear pass across the woman's face before she nodded to both.
"Thank you for coming," she said softly.
Gently, Jonathan said, "Mrs. Bransted, we can't begin to feel your loss. I lost my parents when I was eleven, so perhaps I can come close, but you are in our prayers. I believe that Bill was a courageous man."
The woman's eyes clouded up again. For the briefest of moments, she looked up at Franklin and then whispered, "Thank you," before turning away.
As Franklin led Kevin and Jonathan to the door, he said, condescendingly, "It was so considerate of you to come. Will be coming to the funeral tomorrow?"
"Of course," Kevin, replied.
Jonathan said nothing, resentment coursing through his heart, anger surging through his soul. He left the other two men behind as he strode across the lawn.
So, ends Chapter 8. Thank you for reading my story. Please write to me at free7thinker (at) operamail.com.