Chapters 1 - 5
Copyright © 2009 by the author under the pseudonym Gee Whillickers. All rights reserved.
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This story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any actual place, event, or person, living or dead, is purely coincidental. This story is intended for adults and contains subject matter not suitable for children. Parental Advisory in effect.
** 1 **
"You're kidding me," said Dr. Richard Strade, his eyes wide. He seemed to shift uncomfortably in his plush office chair behind the large mahogany desk as he looked across the desk at Dr. Mills. "Absolutely not! There's no way that can happen. The lawyers would have a field day, never mind the media if they ever got wind of this," said Richard.
"I know," replied Dr. Stuart Mills, looking around the nicely decorated office and letting his eyes slide over the wall of books before looking back at the hospital's Administrator. His voice sounded hesitant. "I'm well aware of that. I was reluctant to even bring it to you. Hell, if it was anybody else but you Rich I wouldn't have dared to mention it at all. But I promised I would at least ask. He can be quite persuasive for an eleven year old."
"But that's just it! He's barely eleven! He should be asking for trips to Disneyland, or visits from pro athletes like the other kids his age," Dr. Strade replied, his voice raised slightly. His grizzled face furrowed into a thoughtful look. He said more quietly, "You know Stuart, the Dreams Come True Foundation could easily argue that he's not even eligible. This experimental treatment is having a very high success rate. There's a reasonable chance he could make a full recovery."
" `A reasonable chance...` That doesn't sound like you Rich. You know as well as I do why it's still experimental," answered Dr. Mills. "Anyway, as you well know, he's not like other kids. In some ways he's more like an adult stuck in a kid's body."
"Maybe in some ways, yes. But only in some. In other ways he's no different than any other kid at this hospital. Besides, I simply can't imagine going to the Foundation with this. How would I even approach it? It's not like they've got trained people lined up to meet this... this.. umm, request," Dr. Strade finished awkwardly. He shook his head. "I can't believe we're even talking about this. It's not even in the realm of possibility. And there's no parent in the world that would allow their child to be the other part of this request."
"Child...? Oh, my. I'm not being clear here. He's not asking for sex with someone his age before he dies. He specifically wants it to be an adult." Dr. Mills made a wry smile. "He says most other kids his age are much too childish."
Dr. Strade peered at Dr. Mills over his glasses. "This just gets worse and worse. What should I do, post an ad on the hospital's web page?" His voice became sarcastic and theatrical, " `Wanted, mature horny woman to get it on with dying eleven year old boy.` Oh ya, that'll go over real well with the Board." He chuckled a bit, "Come to think of it, I can think of two or three of our nurses here that would probably take on this task."
Dr. Mills looked back uncomfortably. "Uh, Rich, it's not a woman he's asking for."
Dr. Strade just stared back at him with his mouth open.
** 2 **
"Come on Karen, I never took you for a homophobe," said Craig Huntley quietly, looking around at the nearby tables to ensure they weren't being overheard. The hospital cafeteria wasn't terribly busy at this time of the morning and he was acutely aware of how well sound carried here when it was quiet.
Karen Huntley glared back at her husband, her lips a thin tight line before saying, her voice a little too loud, "I am NOT a homophobe, and you know it. This has nothing to do with that. This is our SON we're talking about. He's a CHILD for god's sake!"
Craig looked back sadly. "He's dying."
Karen's voice raised slightly more. "Don't you think I'm aware of that!" Her eyes glistened, not quite tears yet. She said more quietly, "Craig, I know he's dying. And you know I love him. When the Dreams Foundation told us they could grant a wish for him, I thought maybe for the first time in weeks we'd have a tiny bit of joy in our lives. But this...." She shook her head sadly, pushing her uneaten waffles away from her, "This is just adding more grief." She breathed in and out slowly, controlled, before adding, "Craig, this is just... weird. We've both known our son is a little out of the ordinary since he was six months old. Gifted, sure, but different in other ways too. I couldn't give a damn if he turns out gay or straight, but this is totally out of left field. I can't even imagine how he told you."
Craig looked back at his wife steadily before reaching for her hand across the table. "I think he almost didn't. It's been five days since I told him about the Foundation's offer, and asked him what he wanted to wish for. I expected him to be excited. He was too, for a few seconds. Then he got real quiet before saying, `Umm, Dad, can I think about this for a bit?` I thought that was a bit odd at the time. Him thinking about it sure, that I could understand, but I couldn't help but wonder why the sudden change in mood. With everything else going on though, I put it out of my mind. This experimental treatment stuff has got all of us messed up. To have us dare to hope something at this stage... it's so difficult." Craig took a long drink of his coffee, now lukewarm, before continuing, "He didn't mention it again until I asked him again about it Tuesday night."
Karen laughed oddly, a bit wildly. A woman in business attire seated two tables away looked at her curiously. "And what, he told you he wants to get it on with some pervert?! A catholic priest?! Some Michael Jackson impersonator?!?"
Craig took his hand away and looked at his wife carefully for a moment before answering. "He's still our Ray," he said quietly. "He didn't answer right away, just looked uncomfortable. I asked him what was going through his head. Karen, he told me to forget about the wish thing. That it wasn't important. But I could tell he was lying. You know Ray, he hardly ever lies, and he's lousy at it. So I pushed him to answer. He finally did. He just looked down at his sheets and said so quietly that I could barely hear him that he wanted to have sex. With a man.
Craig looked ashamed. "I almost blew it Karen. It's like my brain turned off. I like to think of myself as enlightened. Open minded. But this shocked me completely. I actually stood up and started to walk out of his room. I wasn't even thinking really, just hearing blood pound in my ears, seeing colors. I veered off at the last second and pretended I was getting a cup of water from the cooler the whole time. But Ray's not stupid. He knew. He didn't say another word to me the whole evening. He wouldn't even look at me." Craig stopped talking suddenly, and looked to the right and up at the ceiling. He looked very much like a man that was trying hard not to cry.
Karen just looked back at Craig, her expression unreadable. Craig continued eventually, "Karen, you know our Ray. Loud. Confident. Always looks right at you when he talks and very rarely hesitates to let anyone know what he thinks. He's even handling dying better than most adults I know possibly could. For him to be so, well, reserved, I should've known he was struggling with something very difficult to tell me. Then I reacted the way I did, and, well.... Like I said, I almost blew it. Thank god we were able to talk about it a bit yesterday. I still don't understand it. We talk about everything. At least I used to think we did, before he got sick. Now this. I didn't have any idea he was in the least interested in sex yet. Never mind something like this. I said that to him yesterday too. He was almost back to his old self." Craig chuckled and shook his head. "He just laughed and told me he's been jerking off since he was seven years old."
"But Craig, I doubt he even knows what he means when he told you this. Come on, he can't possibly have any idea what he might be asking here." Karen set her jaw like she had made an important decision. "Yes, he obviously doesn't know what he's saying. He's been through so much. It's obviously affecting him in ways I hadn't realized. We'll just have to help him understand that he doesn't really want this." With that she pulled her cold waffles back towards her and began to eat steadily.
"Honey, believe me, he knows. It's not like you to have a closed mind. Especially when it comes to Ray and that brain of his. He wouldn't go into details, but he said enough. I have no doubt he knows exactly what he's saying. I don't like it either, on many levels. But he was brave enough to tell me what he was thinking." Craig shook his head. "I know it can never happen of course. How could it? But at the very least we can respect him enough to show we understand what he's thinking. Especially now. After all, what's the harm?"
Karen didn't even acknowledge what Craig said but answered him as if he had said something completely different. She smiled and said, "Yes, we will help him understand that he is much too young to have such thoughts, and that he will definitely be happier choosing a trip to the beach or something for his Dream."
** 3 **
"Ray, quit it! Give me back my marker!" demanded Kimberley Huntley with a pout directed more at her father than at Ray.
"What marker?" asked Ray, looking at his little sister with exaggerated innocence, his wide blue eyes flashing amusement. Indeed, there was no marker to be seen other the the one Ray was already holding.
"Raymond Huntley, you will stop teasing your little sister!" Craig said, failing to sound as stern as he wanted while looking up over his magazine from his nearby chair in Ray's hospital room.
"Wait a minute Kim, I think I see it." Ray reached his empty hand past Kim's head and pulled it back suddenly. A pink felt marker clutched in his fingers. "Here it is," he said, handing the marker to his sister while smiling at her.
Her anger forgotten she looked at the marker and at her brother. "How did you do that Ray?"
"It's magic Kimmy. I keep telling you."
Kim looked at her big brother skeptically, but decided it wasn't worth pursuing. "Dad, where's Mom? I'm hungry." Despite this she didn't even look at her dad, but resumed coloring in her pink monkey with large uneven strokes.
"She should be here soon sweetheart," Craig responded just as Dr. Mills walked into the hospital room.
Ray forgot about the coloring book he was working on with his sister. "Dr Mills! I read those articles you left here about the treatment. So then I googled it and found a bunch more stuff. Is it true the British study barely found an eight percent improvement over the control group?"
Dr. Mills blinked a couple of times before answering. "Well, yes. But that was one of the first studies. The treatment has been significantly tweaked since then. The last few studies were getting quite a bit better numbers than that," he said and finished walking towards the family.
"So when do I start?" asked Ray.
"Eight days from now, first thing next Friday morning," answered Dr. Mills, looking at both Craig and Ray. "I have some information here about what to expect after we start, and some stuff you need to know about side effects and the like, although," he looked at Ray with amusement, "I'm sure Ray already knows as much about that as I do." Dr. Mills dropped off some leaflets and papers on Ray's bedside table.
Ray suddenly looked uncomfortable and glanced at his sister before looking back at Dr. Mills and asking, "So, umm, Dr. Mills, did you ask Dr. Strade? Like you promised?" Ray took great interest in the pattern of the floor tiles after asking.
Dr. Mills let a breath out slowly and sat down in the chair beside Craig before answering. "Yes, I did. Ray, I think I told you what his answer was likely going to be. Almost would have to be."
Ray sighed but didn't say anything.
Craig raised his eyebrows at Dr. Mills in question.
Ray answered for him. "Dad, he knows. Ok? We talked yesterday."
Kimberley looked at the three of them with her eyes narrowed. "I'm not stupid, I know you're talking about something you don't want me to know about!"
Craig laughed. "You're entirely too smart for your own good. Both of you are. C'mon, let's go get some food while we're waiting for Mom. Let your brother talk to Dr. Mills for a bit."
Dr. Mills waited for the wide hospital room door to close on its sprung hinges before turning back to Ray. "Look, Ray it's just not possible. Even if you were an adult this would be a major big deal. You aren't an adult. Aside from the political and cultural stuff, legally this is cut and dried. It doesn't matter what you say. It doesn't matter how smart you are or how many books or articles you've read, or how enlightened you sound when you talk about this stuff. It doesn't even matter what your parents think or say, or that I wouldn't have the first idea of how to even begin dealing with this request," he shook his head, "obviously going through the Foundation would be completely unthinkable. The fact is, Ray, you simply can't consent.
** 4 **
Much later that day, a preoccupied Dr. Stuart Mills pushed open the west door and walked towards the employee parking lot, the bright late afternoon sunshine making him squint. As a result he almost walked into someone coming the other way. "Excuse me, I'm sorry... Oh. Hi David."
David Lewis, head of the hospital's legal department, stopped and smiled broadly, "Hey Stuart. Haven't seen you for a few days, have you been at another conference?"
Stuart moved away from the doorway to allow someone to pass before answering. "No, just hiding down in pediatrics these days. That new experimental treatment study starts next week, this time with kids and teens, and I have to make sure all the i's are dotted and t's crossed beforehand. We have fourteen families signed up."
"Well, you need to take some time off for a change. Did you see that ending in the game yesterday? What a turnaround!"
"The game? No, I haven't had time lately to watch any TV. Listen, Dave..." Stuart trailed off and started again, standing up straighter, "David, I'd like to ask you some legal questions."
"Sure, go ahead. Listen, walk with me if you have a few minutes now. I have to drop off this briefing at legal."
Dr. Mills turned around and re-entered the hospital with David. He briefly explained Ray's Dream request and Dr. Strade's inevitable answer.
David stopped walking and turned towards Stuart. "Listen Stuart. You know as well as I do this is a non-starter. I'm surprised you even brought it up. This can't happen on so many levels."
Stuart breathed out heavily from between his pursed lips. "I know. Aside from everything else, especially these days, it's illegal."
"Right. Obviously. So why are you asking?"
Stuart looked steadily at David, and asked, "In your legal opinion, why were these laws crafted, why is this illegal? Leave out everything else. Just answer that question."
"C'mon Stu. It's well established in the psychological community that sexual contact of a minor with an adult leads to all kinds of serious psychological problems into adulthood."
"In all cases?"
"If there's exceptions, I don't know about them."
Stuart waited for two nurses to move out of hearing range before answering. "Dave, this boy likely won't have an adulthood. This is a dying boy's wish, bizarre as it may seem to us."
"It really doesn't matter. The law is the law."
"So the law exists to protect the boy's well-being now and into the future. That doesn't really apply in this case, since a future isn't likely. So how can the law even apply?"
David just shook his head. "I didn't say it made sense. It doesn't matter if it's logical. We're talking about sex here Stu. Nothing about sex laws is logical. They're mostly based on cultural opinion at the time the laws are drafted. You know that." He stopped for a moment and then continued, looking hard at Dr. Mills, "If anything like that was even being hinted at actually happening, I sure as hell wouldn't want to know about it." With that David looked pointedly at Stuart for a few seconds before turning and walking away down the corridor.
** 5 **
Raymond Huntley was breathing hard, sweat glistening on his smooth eleven year old body. His eyes were closed. He heard another boy's voice in his ear, also breathing hard, say, "Wow, that was awesome. Let's do it again!"
Ray opened his eyes, sat up straighter on the hard wooden bench and wiped some sweat off his forehead with the sleeve of his jersey. "Yeah, their goalie sucks. Gimme a minute to catch my breath and we can try the same play next time we're out there."
Ray was annoyed at himself. Two minutes running, probably less, and he was winded. He could remember when he could run and run for a whole soccer game and barely feel out of breath. At least his coach seemed to understand. Maybe too much. Ray was getting kind of tired of the pitying look on his coach's face every time he caught him looking at Ray. This sick and dying stuff really sucked. Strangely, aside from having to catch his breath every time he walked up a flight of stairs he didn't feel much different than he used to. At least he was out of the hospital. Well, until Friday anyway. Ray looked up at the other boy.
"Hey Dennis, you wanna come over for a bit after the game? I can ask my Mom to drive you home later if you want," asked Ray.
Ray liked spending time with Dennis, but that wasn't his sole motivation for inviting him over. Ray would do almost anything right now to avoid being at home alone with his mom. His dad was spending the weekend at work trying to catch up. Kimberley was at a friend's. He was tired of his mom acting so weird lately. Ever since he got home. Ever since he told Dad. Damn it, he thought to himself, why did I have to tell them. Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Of course it blew up in my face!
Ray shook off these thoughts and forced a smile at Dennis.
Dennis answered, "Yeah, sure! Lemme ask my mom if it's ok after the game."
The coach yelled in their direction, "Dennis, get your butt back in there!" His voice changed completely, became much quieter and almost maudlin, "Hey Ray, kiddo, umm, do you think you might be ready to get into the play again? If not just let me know, take all the time you need."
Ray rolled his eyes while looking at the ground so the coach wouldn't see. He muttered quietly to the ground, "I'm not dead yet for chrissake." Then much louder, "Yeah, sure Coach." He jumped off the bench and trotted back onto the field sighing, seeing his mother waving at him much too energetically from the other side.
The back seat of the car was way too hot. Ray felt sweaty and a bit queasy. He could smell sweaty boy from himself and from Dennis sitting beside him. It was quiet in the car. The only sound the hum of the engine and the air conditioner, and the repetitive thu-thump of the tires hitting the freeway's expansion joints. The silence was getting awkward. Oppressive. Ray's mom didn't talk to him much since he got home. Except to ask in over-excited tones if had picked a trip destination yet.
He could see Dennis looking at him every few seconds out of the corner of his eye. Now that they didn't have the game to talk about, it seemed Dennis didn't know what to say to him. They hadn't spent any time together since he was diagnosed.
"So whattya wanna do when we get to my place?" he asked Dennis when he couldn't stand the silence any longer.
"Umm, I dunno. We could play video games I guess. Or do you have any new models we could work on?"
"Yeah, ok. I think I have one I haven't opened yet." This felt weird to Ray. Everyone treated him different since he got sick. He was used to Dennis and him chatting up a storm after a game. About everything, or nothing. Laughing at stupid stuff. He couldn't remember feeling awkward like this before around Dennis. He couldn't ever remember having to actually search for something to say. That's one of the reasons he liked Dennis. They could talk about astronomy or model building or soccer in equal measure. It didn't matter. Everything was interesting. All topics were fair game. When adults weren't around, even sex.
The car had barely stopped before the boys were out and running towards the house where they had to wait impatiently for Ray's mom to finish parking the car and unlock the house. Once up in Ray's room he reached up into his closet in pulled down the unopened box with the model of the pride of Queen Victoria's fleet, the 1860 HMS Warrior inside. He hadn't even taken the plastic off the box yet. Raymond had received the model for his birthday from his Dad. Two days later after fainting in gym class and being taken to the emergency department Dr. Mills told him he was dying, and his life changed completely.
Dennis seemed uncomfortable as he watched his friend standing there looking at the model silently. He looked like he had come to a decision, and he opened his mouth to ask, "So, what's it like? Dying I mean."
Ray looked up at his friend. He didn't answer immediately and Dennis blushed and looked down at the floor. "Sorry," muttered Dennis.
"No, it's ok," Ray answered quickly. "I mean, everyone avoids talking to me about it and acts all weird around me. Now you actually ask me and all I can do is stand here and stare at you. I'm being stupid. Besides, maybe I won't die. Dr. Mills and Mom and Dad keep saying I gotta keep it in perspective but I hope the new treatment will work. You know, the last two experimental treatment studies had a full recovery rate of 68%. I have a chance. A real good chance." He sat down on the bed, the model still in his hands. "The truth is though... well...." He went silent a full ten seconds before adding, "I'm scared Dennis." His eyes filled with tears. "I don't want to die," he finished quietly.
Dennis sat down beside his friend, legs and arms touching. "I don't want you to die either," he said, his own tears starting to form before he turned and pulled his friend in for a hug. Ray set the model down on the bed beside him and hugged back, feeling the support in Dennis' arms around him.
Dennis' arms were still holding Ray tightly as he asked, "Is that why your mom is acting so strange?"
Ray pulled away slightly, his arms still loosely around Dennis, "No, that's not why. Or at least not entirely. Remember when you slept over at my birthday? Remember what we talked about? Well, she knows. And I think she's pissed."
Dennis looked puzzled for a second before his mouth dropped open, "Oh my god. You mean about having sex with a man. How'd she find out? You didn't DO it did you?!"
"No. I wish. You know what the Dreams Come True Foundation is?"
"Sure, they have commercials to raise money all the time. They give wishes to dying kids." Dennis blushed again, realizing he was now referring to his friend.
"Well, I'm supposed to pick a wish. So I told my dad and Dr. Mills I wanted to have sex with a man before I died."
"You didn't!!" Dennis said with his eyes wide and and an expression of half horror, half amusement on his face.
"I did," answered Ray proudly. His expression quickly turned sullen however. "But I fucked up Dennis. Dad almost disowned me at first, though he got over it and seems fine now. Well, sorta. He must've told mom though. Ever since she's been acting all funny. It's like if she pretends hard enough it'll go away. She keeps asking me where we're going for a holiday and talking to me like I'm six again. Dr. Mills didn't act any different but he told me that it couldn't happen in a million years. That's the law, kids can't have sex."
"But, you and me..."
"No, that's different I think. I mean with an adult. He said I can't consent"
"That's stupid. You're the one who asked first. Of course you're consenting."
"Apparently consent doesn't mean what I thought it did," answered Ray.