This story details explicit gay sex between men, teens and boys. If you find this kind of thing distasteful, or if you are underage wherever you live, then stop reading this now, and delete this file. The story is completely fictional; the author does not condone or encourage any of the acts contained herein.



Chapter 69

By: Tim Keppler

 Edited by: Bob Leahy

A week after we brought Joaquin home from Mexico, I have him enrolled in private English classes. We were in the middle of a semester at the Junior Colleges, so we couldn't enroll him there, and I've frankly never been impressed with how they teach languages at junior colleges anyway. It's all very academic. A lot of writing and very little conversation. Instead, I go looking for someone who will just spend time talking to him, teaching him how to speak rather than how to write a treatise on Shakespeare. What I find is a former expat who lived for years in Mexico City. What she usually does is teach conversational Spanish to English speakers, but she's willing to take Joaquin as a private student and use the same techniques to teach him to speak English. He's makes remarkable progress. That may have something to do with the fact that none of us, including Evan, will speak to him in anything but English, so it's been sink or swim for him -- and he's swum.

Which is why I'm surprised one night when he comes and asks to talk with me -- in Spanish. "My English is not good enough to make this conversation. Please, it is important. Please speak to me in Spanish, just this once?"

"Si," I reply, and lead him to the office.

"Tim," he says slowly, "I am confused about something. Dinh is...what do you call him?"

"Dinh is my husband, like Kenny and Jason."

He nods. "I have been hearing...screaming...sometimes from the basement, and crying. Three days ago, I heard it again, the crying. I went downstairs to investigate, and I found Dinh tied to a steel frame suspended from the ceiling. He was...umm...naked."

Okay, so I guess this had to happen eventually, and I guess I was pretty stupid not to have preemptively handled it. I should have brought it up rather than waiting for Joaquin to discover it himself. Three days ago had been Tuesday, and Dinh had been grumpy, a sure sign of his need. I'd tied him to the whipping frame, and left him to anticipate what was to come. An hour later, I'd gone back to the basement and spanked him while he stood upright. I'd found that this position makes him feel more helpless, which is what he wants. When we were done, I'd released him, and we cuddled and, ultimately, made love. Joaquin must have gone downstairs after I'd secured him, but before I'd spanked him.

"Si," I say. "What is your question?"

"Umm...do you love him?"

"Yes. Very much."

"Why was he there...like that."

"He was waiting to be spanked," I reply. "If you'd been in the kitchen about an hour after you came up from the basement, you would have heard his screams."

"Buy, why would you spank him?"

"Because he wants me to."

Joaquin looks at me very skeptically. "I am not joking, Tim. You were preparing to hurt him. I cannot...condone this."

I feel my eyes narrowing, which Jason told me once reminds him of a cat lowering its ears just before it attacks. Instead of allowing this to turn confrontational, I get out of the chair, and move to the door, calling Dinh and Evan's names as I open it. They both bounces out of the kitchen and into the office, looking at me quizzically. "Translate for us, Evan," I say. He nods. "Three days ago. That would have been Tuesday. I spanked you, Dinh. But, before I spanked you, I left you hanging from the whipping frame for about an hour."

Dinh nods.

"Did I do anything to you on Tuesday that you didn't want me to do?"

He shakes his head, looking confused.

"Why'd I spank you?"

"Because I was grumpy."

"Why were you grumpy?"

Dinh giggles. "Because you hadn't spanked me."

"You wanted to be spanked? You wanted to be punished."

"Yeah," he says, confused. "What's this about?"

"Joaquin heard you crying before I spanked you, and he's heard screaming from the basement before. He wants to be sure I'm not abusing you...well...not abusing you against your will."

Dinh nods. He's been through this before -- with Evan. Turning to Joaquin, he says, "No. He wasn't abusing..." Then he stops, realizing this assurance will probably not assure. He turns and looks at Evan, then at me. I cock my head, silently asking him where he's going with this. Finally, he turns back to Joaquin. "What do you guys do when you have sex?" he asks. Evan goes crimson. "No. Don't answer that," Dinh says, preemptively, just as Joaquin is preparing to respond. "I don't want to know. It isn't any of my business. Just as what Tim and I do isn't any of yours. I will tell you, though, that one of the things I like when I'm having sex is...I like it to hurt some. And when it hurts, I scream -- because it feels good to scream. I don't think I should have to justify that to you, though. If you want to think I'm a freak because of the way I like to have sex, that's fine. But please keep it to yourself." Long pause. "I'm sorry. I've been a little...provocative in expressing this. It's not the first time it's come up."

Joaquin nods, sadly. "I am sorry, too. It was not my intention to pry." I look at him skeptically, and he looks down at the carpet sheepishly. "Yes, maybe it was my intention to pry -- and to judge. That was wrong. I am sorry. We are different. That is all. I must remember not to judge."

I look at Evan and tell him in Spanish to stop translating. Then I look at Joaquin. "Did your father know you are gay?" I ask in Spanish.

"Yes, he did."

"And, when he found out, when you first told him, how did he react?"

He pauses, and then looks up at me. "He said it made no difference."

I nod, and smile. He gets it. We're all different, and there are all kinds of coming-out scenarios, whether you come out as gay, or as "kinky," or as someone who sobs through symphonies. None of us is "normal," and the sooner we admit our differences, the happier we'll be. My best friend, Gary, confided to me shortly before he died that he had had rape fantasies for years, that he longed to be taken "against his will" and penetrated with a dildo. He considered these fantasies shameful, and had never told Nathan, his husband of nearly twenty years. Gary was the dominant partner in their relationship, but longed to submit. He found that idea so disgraceful that he hid it from the person he loved and trusted the most. How easy would it have been for Nathan to have orchestrated that fantasy, and how much closer would it have brought them if Gary had revealed this hidden desire? Very, very sad.

As Evan and Dinh prepare to leave the office, Joaquin gets up from the chair and moves to Dinh. He hugs him. "I am sorry," he says in English. "I do not think you are freak. I think I have much to learn for... ¿Como se dice `tolerancia' en Ingles?" he asks Evan.




"Si," he replies. "I think I have much to learn for tolerance."


Dinh hugs him back, looking up into his eyes, and they leave together. That was a good language lesson.



San Jose State has a football team. I'm not sure why that surprises me, but it's something I didn't know. I didn't know that state colleges had football teams. The state universities do -- well some of them. A nephew of mine went to the University of California at Santa Barbara. Believe it or not, he's only four years younger than I am. Pat, my sister, who is considerably older than I am, was also an early bloomer, and wont to allow cute boys in her bloomers at an early age. Her son, my nephew, started his college career as I was finishing up my BA. I was proud of him for choosing Santa Barbara, because the student body had voted only a year before to disband their football team. I hate football, although I know next to nothing about it. Soccer is one thing, but football is quite another. Kev plays soccer, so I have to like it, don't I? Or, at least, I have to attend one hell of a lot of games, so I'd better like it -- or die of boredom. Football I cannot abide.

Kenny has similar feelings but for different reasons. Being on the football team requires students to have at least a 2.5 grade point average. If you fall below that, you get kicked off the team. And sometimes, not often but sometimes, Kenny ends up with a student who's on the hairy edge of football extinction. It doesn't happen often because mostly Kenny teaches upper-division classes and grad students. Juniors and Seniors are likely to have settled into the routine of classes. They're likely either to do well consistently, or to do poorly consistently (in which case they're off the football team before he gets them). For those few students who are sitting on the fence, he ends up having to grade their assignments himself because either they contest the grades they get from Dinh (if they're poor), or their coaches contest them. In the three years Dinh and Kenny have worked together, Kenny has only reversed Dinh on one grade, and that went from a C to a C-. Dinh, Kenny felt, had been overly generous. So, the students know that what they get from Dinh is probably the best they're going to do. If they get kicked off the football team, it's Dinh they have to thank for it.

Ernie Chapman is one of those fence-sitters. He has a 2.6 GPA coming into the semester, and is not doing well in either physics or comp sci. His first program in Kenny's class doesn't compile, and despite having spent a good deal of time with Dinh reviewing the code, he's unable to make it compile. Compiler errors are easy to fix. All you do is run the program through an interactive debugger and read the error messages. Errors in logic are the hard part, but he hasn't even gotten to those yet because he can't get the source code to compile. What's more, he doesn't seem particularly concerned about that, something that particularly concerns Dinh. So, after spending a couple of hours working with Ernie, he drops in on Kenny to let him know that Ernie is having problems and seems lackadaisical in his...demeanor. Kenny smiles. "Within two days," Kenny predicts, "his coach will be over to see me. Ernie expects his coach to get him out of this one."

Sure enough, Kenny receives a visit from the junior football coach the next day, pleading Ernie's case. Ernie's a smart kid, he says, he comes from a good family; and he's trying hard. Please cut him some slack.

Kenny has heard all this before. "If I were an English teacher, you could make this case on the basis of style. Maybe I don't like how he writes. Maybe I'm not impressed with the quality of his prose. Maybe I'm being subjective. But, I'm not an English teacher. His program doesn't compile, and my teaching assistant has spent two hours trying to help him understand why. He doesn't seem interested. There's no subjectivity here. Either it runs, or it doesn't. This is an upper-division class. What do you expect me to do? Write it for him?"

Dinh walks in at the end of this discussion, just as this junior coach is leaving -- more or less in a huff. Kenny winks at Dinh, smiling. "That was round one. Get ready for round two -- probably tomorrow."

Sure enough, the next day the head coach drops in during office hours. Kenny smiles when he sees him. "What kept you?" he asks in a slutty voice.

The coach grimaces, but shakes Kenny's hand. The dynamic here is fascinating. Kenny is out on campus. Anyone who has any interest in gay issues knows that he's gay and living with three "sex partners". He basically says so on his campus web page. Coach Markham is a known bigot. He was pro-Prop 8, and had campaign signs and banners pasted on the windows of his office. Now he wants something, and starts his dance. He talks about Ernie as a promising young athlete. He talks about the hopes of his parents, a working-class family. He even suggests that he's part Cherokee Indian, a very blond Cherokee Indian albeit, and this comment makes Kenny giggle. "Why is that funny?" the coach demands.

"Well, I guess it depends on why you think that point is relevant. If you're telling me that I'm discriminating against a minority, I'd encourage you to look at me. I'm Chinese and gay. And note the accent -- at least I'm told I speak with an accent. English isn't my mother tongue. Who's more minor than me? If, on the other hand, you're suggesting that I need to give Ernie a break because he's Cherokee, that leads me to wonder why you believe that members of the Cherokee nation can't write functional code. There's not much wiggle-room here. If there were errors in the logic, there would be some subjectivity to our evaluation," Kenny says, the "our" now encompassing Dinh, who has just walked into the room. "But this is a senior comp sci major who can't even be bothered to trace through his own code to find the syntax errors. My teaching assistant," he says, gesturing to Dinh, "has spent multiple hours with him trying to get him to do that, trying to show him how, and it seems to be entirely...outside his interests. I'm wondering how he got this far. I'm wondering what `help' he's received in the past on assignments. I'm wondering what pressure his previous instructors have endured to bump his grade up. I'm wondering."

The coach is indignant. "Are you suggesting..."

Kenny interrupts him. "You bet. That's exactly what I'm suggesting. And it's not going to happen here. I've reviewed his assignments, and I've reviewed the grades Dinh has given him. Dinh has been generous. Either he can attempt to learn something from the class, or, for one more week before the deadline, he can drop it."

"But that puts him under the 15 units he needs to stay in the football program."

"That's not my problem."

The coach is steamed, and leaves Kenny office with a nod. "Well, that wasn't pleasant," Dinh says, "but at least it's over."

Kenny giggles. "No. Not yet. The most direct route to the gym is to the left. That guy turned right when he left here. Where's he going?"

Dinh thinks. "Professor Frost," he says. "He's going to talk to the head of the department."

"Check," Kenny says. "Round three."

An hour and a half later, Bob Frost appears at Kenny's door. Dinh is working in the corner, correcting exams. "You have a minute, Kenny? Can we talk?"

"Sure," Kenny smiles. "But, before we do, let me give you this to look at." He passes him a file folder with Ernie's test results, his homework status -- many of the assignments missed -- and the source code for his last program. Frost leafs through it, tripping over two uninitialized variables in the definitions section of the code.

"He didn't catch these?"

"He didn't trace the code. Dinh showed him how repeatedly. He didn't seem to care. He expected his coach to take care of this for him."

"That's the problem," Frost comments. "He's gotten a free ride up to now. His expectations have been set by a series of Assistant Professors who have been intimidated into giving Ernie just enough to get by. So, is the buck going to stop here?"

Kenny nods. "The fucking program doesn't compile. How hard can it be? You run it through the debugger and watch it build itself instruction by instruction. When it chokes, you fix it. This isn't rocket science. You'd have gotten error messages after three instructions. He just doesn't care."

Frost nods, pensively. "His father has a lot of money. He gives us a lot of money."

"I'm hoping he'll give his son a lot of money," Kenny rejoins. "He'll need it. He's lazy and stupid. He'll need it."

Frost nods, and leaves Kenny's office. This is a seminal moment, although Kenny doesn't know it at this moment. This is a moment that will change his life -- for the better.


Unfortunately, it's also a moment that changes Dinh's life, and while it may be for the better long term, that's not initially clear.

Dinh likes to jog at the end of the day. It keeps him fit, but it also gives him an endorphin high that he craves. Back in the 1960s and `70s, when jogging was just taking off as a major fitness trend, no one really understood why it made you feel good. Then the medical community began studying the changes to the blood chemistry apparently caused by jogging, and came up with the whole theory of endorphin secretions. It's a theory that's been proven over time. Endorphins are the body's natural heroin, and many a runner is addicted to them. Dinh is one of those runners. When he runs, he comes home happy-go-lucky. When he doesn't run, he comes home grumpy, and looking for punishment. I guess you could argue jogging might go a long way toward reducing his dependence on punishment, but endorphins don't get him off. Pain does.

Typically, long about 4 pm, Dinh will leave Kenny and head over to the gym where he changes into running shorts and a t-shirt. Then he heads for the track, and runs eight laps or a total of five miles. Finally, returning to the gym, he grabs his street clothes from his locker, and heads back to Kenny's office, and they leave for home. Today is no different. He leaves Kenny at around 4:10 pm, suits up in the gym, heads to the track, stretches a bit, and begins his run. It's a beautiful day -- sunny, about 70º, just perfect weather for running. Dinh feels invigorated and lighter on his feet than usual, so his pace is a bit faster than normal. As he's completing his sixth lap, he's surprised to find only four other runners on the track. Usually there are lots of people out here jogging at the end of the day, males and females, students and teachers. Today, there are only four other guys, and one of them, he notes in passing, is Ernie Chapman.

The track was built on the edge of a grove of old redwoods. There'd been a lot of public discussion when its construction was first proposed. Environmentalists had opposed clearing these trees, understandably, and so a compromise was reached. The track actually winds right through a grove of these trees. What this means is that approximately a quarter of the track isn't visible from the bleachers, obscured by a canopy of redwoods. From a spectator's perspective, this makes races a little strange to watch. Runners may enter that canopy in one order and emerge in a different order. Everything depends on how they're able to jockey for position under the protection of the trees. From a runners perspective, though, it's a dream come true because a quarter of every race is run in the shade, allowing them to cool off before they emerge back into the scorching sun. Local runners love this track. It gives them a sense of running in the wilderness -- at one with nature.

As Dinh nears the grove of redwoods, on his seventh lap, the other four runners begin to sprint, closing the gap between them and Dinh. By the time the trees envelope them, they're basically neck-and-neck. If you were a spectator, sitting in the bleachers, you would have seen Dinh enter first, followed closely by the group of four. Then time would sort of...stop...because based on the speed the runners were traveling, you'd expect them to emerge from the grove in about a minute and a half. In fact, no one emerges for about six minutes, and then it's the group of four runners that shoots out of the trees. They run to the other side of the track, and head off to the gym to get dressed. No Dinh.

At 5:30 pm, Kenny is irritated. He wants to go home, but Dinh hasn't come back from his run. At 6:00 pm, he becomes worried, and walks over to the gym. He finds Dinh's usual locker still padlocked, suggesting that he's still on the track, so he heads out the back door and onto the track to look for him. By now the track is deserted. He sees no one. Why does he decide to walk around the entire length of the track? He later admits that he doesn't know. Dinh wasn't anywhere else. Walking the track seems like something to do. When he gets to the grove of trees, the sun is beginning to set. It's dark in there, but Kenny continues on his way, and at about the halfway mark within the grove, he stops. What was that sound? He waits, and then he hears it again. It's a groan. He looks around and sees a slight movement in what looks to be a mound of debris over by one of the largest redwood. He approaches slowly, and the mound moves again, almost imperceptibly. He probes it with his right foot, trying to roll it over so he can see what he's dealing with. As he does, it emits a loud groan as it rolls to the left. And there is Dinh, covered in dirt and blood, nearly naked. His t-shirt is torn, and his running shorts are gone. He's missing a shoe.

Kenny is stunned. Dinh continues to groan, but doesn't seem to be...conscious. He's writhing on the ground, clutching his ribs. It sounds like he crying. Kenny bends down and lifts Dinh into his arms, carrying him out of the grove and back to the gym. Once there, he calls 911 on his cell phone, summoning an ambulance. It arrives fifteen minutes later, taking them both to Good Sam (Good Samaritan Hospital) where Dinh is admitted to the emergency facility.

When I get to Good Sam I have to find parking, which takes forever. Normally under conditions like these, I'd park anywhere, even in a red zone. But all the red zones are already taken, probably by people like me dealing with emergencies like this one. I finally find a doctor's space and pull into it. Hopefully, this is a day off for "Dr. Alfred Jenkins". Jenkins' parking space is on the other side of the campus from the Emergency facility, so I have to sprint to get there. The good thing about Good Sam is that it isn't catholic, as O'Connor is. I'm probably not going to have to fight anyone to see Dinh. The bad news is that it's a behemoth. It goes on for miles, and is rather impersonal when you compare it to a hospital like O'Connor. But, it was close to San Jose State. Kenny made the right decision bringing him here.

The Emergency facility is a zoo. Everyone is here -- old people, young people, toddlers, Latinos, Caucasians, Blacks, Asians -- everyone. And, there are seemingly thousands of them. The state of healthcare in this country is laughable. Anyone who isn't insured ends up in an emergency room because...well...they're not insured. They don't have a doctor. They can't afford preventative medical care. So, when it hurts so bad that they can't stand it anymore, they end up in an emergency room. How much could we save, I wonder, by treating chronic ailments before they become acute? Billions, I'll wager.

Scanning the room, I finally find Kenny among the sea of faces, and make my way over to him, negotiating the aisles of children as best I can. When I reach him, he looks up at me. His eyes are puffy and red, and his lips quiver. He doesn't stand, but he does hug me, and holds me. I stand there, stroking his hair, drawing glances from several of the people in the room. Finally, Kenny lets me go, and I sit down next to him. "What the hell happened?" I ask.

"I'm not sure. When he wasn't back by 6 pm, I started to get worried. I went to look for him. I found him on the track in the grove of redwoods. I carried him back to the gym and called an ambulance. He looked really bad -- bruises everywhere, a bloody nose, and black eyes. He wasn't coherent. He was clutching his ribs and moaning. He was beaten up, Tim, mugged. He's back there now," he says motioning to the door behind the admissions nurse.

I leave Kenny, and move to the admissions nurse. "I need to get some information on my...partner, Dinh Pham. He was admitted a short time ago."

"How are you related to him?" she asks, and I start to have a bad feeling about this.

"We're partners. We live together. We're lovers."

She looks at me skeptically. "Do you have his power of attorney for healthcare?" she asks.

"I do, yes," I say, pulling a file from my shoulder bag. When Kenny called, I realized I might be having this conversation with someone, and so I stuffed my file of documents on Dinh into my shoulder bag. She takes the document, leafs through it, and then hands it back to me, smiling.

"Yes," she says, "you do appear to be his chosen representative." Moving back to her keyboard, she starts to type. "His last name was..."




"The doctors are examining him now," she says, "and they've indicated that they'd like to talk to a family member. That would be you. Let me get an orderly to take you to him. He hasn't been admitted to the hospital, yet, because we don't have any beds. We'll keep him here until a bed becomes available."

At that moment, a young woman dressed in hospital scrubs comes through the door. "Melanie will take you to Mr. Pham," the admitting nurse says. I motion to Kenny to stay put, and I following Melanie into a labyrinth of beds and an atmosphere of what I can only describe as controlled chaos. People are flying around this space at lightning speed, but they each seem to have a purpose and to know exactly what they're doing. It takes us only a few seconds to find Dinh, and when I see him, I feel a little faint. He looks awful. He has so many bruises and contusions that at first it's hard to tell that it's him. He has two black eyes that are so swollen that I don't think he can even open them. He looks pathetic.

"Dinh," I say, tentatively.

"Tim," he slurs.

I go to the side of the bed and reach for his hand, but the nurse stops me. "You mustn't touch him right now," she admonishes. "We're just about to set his broken ribs, and the arm you were about to touch is also broken. We're waiting for his sedatives to kick in so we can do what we need to without hurting him. You can talk to him, though, for as long as he's awake." She smiles. "I'll be right back."

"Baby, what happened to you?" I ask.

"Went running," he slurs. "Got ambushed by Ernie and his friends. Beat me up."

At this point, I don't know who Ernie is, and there's no time to pursue that because a doctor suddenly appears, along with Melanie, the nurse, and two orderlies. "You are Mr. Pham's partner?" the doctor asks.

"Yes," I reply. "How is he?"

"He's actually not so bad. I know he looks a little scary right now, and was certainly in considerable pain, but most of what you see is superficial, and the sedatives have made him more comfortable. What's not superficial are his three broken ribs, and his broken arm. We need to set those now. I'm also concerned about this bruising just above his kidneys," he says, pulling back the sheet. "It looks like he's been kicked here repeatedly. We've taken blood and sent it off to the lab, and we've collected some urine. Those samples will tell us whether there's any damage to his organs. Mr. Pham?" he says, looking to Dinh.

Dinh mumbles incoherently, almost inaudibly.

"Good. He's nearly ready for us to set his fractures. If I may, Mr..."


"If I may Mr. Jensen, I'd like to suggest that you go home. Mr. Pham isn't going to be coherent for at least another eight hours, maybe longer. We need to keep him immobile for a while to let his fractures begin to heal. We'll let you know if there's any change in his condition. Come back tomorrow. Visiting hours begin at 10 am, and by that time, Mr. Pham should be more alert. Be sure to check at the front desk of the main building to find out where he is because he won't be here. We've actually found him a room in one of the wards. It's being cleaned now. We'll move him there as soon as it's ready."

I guess I look a little shell-shocked, because the doctor put her hand on my shoulder and gives it a squeeze. "How long have you two been together?" she asks.

"A little over three years, but I've know him a lot longer than that."

"And you love him, I know. You're concerned. That's understandable. I think he's going to be fine. I'll be his primary physician," she says, handing me a card. "Call me if I can answer any questions. In the mean time, go home and get some rest. Come back tomorrow."

I nod, gazing absently a Dinh, a tear running down my cheek. I ruffle Dinh's hair, the only place I can find to touch him where I'm unlikely to hurt him, and leave with one of the orderlies, making my way back to the waiting area. Kenny is still there, of course, looking depressed. I motion him toward the door, and we leave together, hopping into my car so I can drive him back to San Jose State so he can pick up his own.

"Does Dinh know an Ernie?" I ask.

Kenny looks confused.

"I had almost no time with Dinh, and he was pretty groggy. I asked him what happened, and he said that he'd been `ambushed by Ernie and his friends.' Who the hell is Ernie?"

Suddenly Kenny is ablaze. "That little fuck!" he cries. "I will fucking kill him. He will not walk another day on this earth."

I am totally confused. "Are we talking about Dinh, here, or someone else?"

"We're talking about fucking Ernie. Ernie fucking Chapman." Then he fills me in on what they've been going through with this kid. "Daddy has money," he tells me, bitterly. "Daddy is the CEO of Macrovision and donates heavily to the University. They're afraid of losing his endowments and would prefer to just let him buy his son a college degree. Even Bob Frost is cowed by Daddy. I am going to kill that kid."

"Slow down, Kenny. Dinh wasn't very lucid today. He'd been heavily sedated. We need to be sure that he's sure before we take any action. I'll see him again tomorrow, and the doctor tells me he should be more alert by then. He should be coherent. I'll talk to him then and see what he says."

What he says the next day is the same as what he told me before. "I was running. I was on my seventh lap. I was tired. When I got to the redwood grove the four guys that had been running behind me suddenly overtook me. They tripped me. I fell. Then they started kicking me. I tried to roll myself up into a ball, to protect myself a little, but they got several good kicks in before I could do that, kicks to my belly, my balls and my face. They just kept kicking me, and stomping on me. When I raised my arm to fend off a kick, I heard a crack and knew they'd broken it. I'm honestly not sure why they finally stopped. Did they hear something? I've no idea. By the time they left, though, I couldn't move. I was exhausted, and the pain was excruciating. I couldn't even think. At some point I must have passed out, because the next thing I remember, sort of vaguely, is Kenny carrying me somewhere. And then I was out again."

"Did you recognize any of the guys who did this?"

Dinh nods. "One was Ernie Chapman. He's a student Kenny and I have been having trouble with. He's been..."

"Yeah, I know about Ernie. Kenny filled me in. Anyone else?"

"Not by name. I've seen Ernie hanging out with one of them before class, though."

I nod. "You seem a lot better than you did yesterday. You look like shit," I say, with a giggle, "but you seem...in better spirits."

Dinh nods slowly, pensively. "I guess I am. Today I just ache. Yesterday the pain was so severe that I though I was going to die." Then, he looks down at his hands. "I can't go back there, Tim."

"Where?" I'm confused.

"I can't go back to San Jose State. I'm too afraid. I'm too afraid this will happen again. I feel really, really vulnerable. It's not like the vulnerable I feel with you. It's like...it's like someone could kill me without a second thought. I can't go back. I thought about this all morning. I can't go back."

I give him a hug. It is a sad day when we find ourselves in situations where fear starts to make our decisions for us.

While I'm sitting with Dinh is his hospital room, Kenny is back at the University, teaching. When his 11 am class rolls around, in walks Ernie, taking a seat in the front row, a self-satisfied grin on his face. Kenny greets the students and prepares to begin when he sees that grin again. "Unfortunately Dinh is unable to be here today," he says to the class, and then, looking directly at Ernie, he adds, "he was attacked on the track while jogging yesterday afternoon. He's in the hospital." There's a collective gasp from the students, and a lot of whispering. Ernie is frozen in his seat, the same grin etched indelibly across his face. Kenny looks at him for a moment, and then begins his lecture. At the end of the class, Ernie walks out of the classroom without a word, meeting up with one of this buddies on the way out. He seems to have not a care in the world.

On the way back to his office, Kenny passes Coach Markham, who appears to be on his way to the gym. Markham smiles at him...pleasantly, but with a twinkle in his eyes that suggests something more. When Kenny reaches his office, he finds a note taped to the door. It's from Bob Frost. "Please come see me in my office when you get in." Kenny drops off his books and his briefcase inside, and heads to Frost's office. He finds him with a student, but Frost dismisses her as soon as he sees Kenny. "Please excuse me," he says, "I need to speak with Professor Hsia." Their meeting is not propitious.

"I mentioned to you yesterday that Ernie's father has donated a lot of money to the university over the years. That gives him some clout. He used that clout this morning, contacting the Chancellor about his son's standing in your class. He suggested that Ernie wasn't getting the help he needed to pass the class with an acceptable grade. He offered to rescind his...largess unless Ernie did pass with a grade that would keep him on the football team. The Chancellor contacted me at noon and told me to ensure that he gets a B or better."

Kenny stares at Frost in surprise. "A B is impossible at this point in the semester. The best he could do is a C, and that's if he starts turning in homework and gets his programs to run."

"The Chancellor told me to give him a B. It doesn't matter whether it's possible or not. He needs to get a B."

"So, you want me to give him a B even though he doesn't deserve it. You want me to guarantee him a B, which will mean that there's no onus on him even to attend class. You want me to put my reputation on the line among future employers who will look at his transcripts and see a B next to my class and my name. Is that what you're telling me?"

"Yes," Frost says, simply.

Kenny stares at him for nearly a minute. "Tell you what, Bob. I'll do you one better. I'll get completely out of the way and let you give him any grade you please. You'll have my resignation in the morning, and I don't mean that I'll be resigning at the end of this semester. I mean I'll be resigning tomorrow."

Frost is stunned. "I...umm...I had not idea that you felt..."

"I do. I feel very strongly about this. This boy is a fuck-up who is used to being coddled. You want to coddle him, fine, but I won't be your agent in that. There are three things you need to understand, Bob. First, I don't need this job. Sand Warriors has been a spectacular success. If you think I teach here because I need the money, you're wrong. I teach here because I've enjoyed it. Now I'm not enjoying it. Second, I've had a long-standing offer from Stanford to join their faculty. I plan to accept that offer tomorrow. Third, as you consider whom to replace me with, at least for the rest of this semester, your logical choice would be Dinh. You should know that Dinh was mugged yesterday afternoon over at the track, quite probably by the boy you plan to reward with an undeserved B. Given that circumstance, Dinh would never take my job. In fact, knowing Dinh, I'd be surprised if he ever returns to this university. So, you and the Chancellor have a problem to solve. I'll announce my resignation to my classes tomorrow. Take care." And with that, he leaves Frost's office, closing the door softly behind him.

We have quite a number of phone calls this evening. Bob Frost calls twice before Kenny gets home, and Chancellor Huttenback calls to try to convince Kenny to stay on. Kenny, it turns out, has contributed more patents to the University than any other Comp Sci faculty member. Patents represent value. They bring royalties. They are intellectual capital that the University markets aggressively. If Kenny leaves, a rich source of future patents will dry up. That's not something the Chancellor want to see. Neither does he want to see the endowments from Ernie Chapman's father dry up. And therein lies the rub. "Is Ernie still getting his B?" Kenny asks.

"Yes," the Chancellor replies. "I've promised his father. I can't go back on that promise."

"And I can't abandon my academic integrity in the name of your endowments. So, I'm gone as of tomorrow."

"You are under contract, you know," the Chancellor comments, almost in passing. This is a veiled threat that makes Kenny giggle.

"Do you think the Merc (San Jose Mercury News) would be interested to discover that San Jose State is now selling degrees? Do you think they'd be interested to know why I'm leaving the faculty? And what about the academic community? Do you think your graduates will be impacted by the revelation that grades at San Jose State mean nothing?"

"Umm...yes," he says, backpedaling as fast as he can. "If you choose to leave us, we won't take any retaliatory action."

"Very gracious of you," Kenny comments dryly before wishing the Chancellor a good evening.

Once he's fielded these calls, Kenny and I have a chance to talk. "How's Dinh?" he asks urgently.

"He's better. He looks terrible, if anything worse than yesterday because the bruises have started to blossom. He looks like one enormous bruise. But he's comfortable, and lucid. He can't see very well right now because he can barely open his swollen eyes. But, there is no kidney damage, and they were able to set his bones with no complications. He's hot, he told me, all bandaged up on top. And the cast on his right arm isn't helping his mood either. But, the doctors seem to think he'll mend well. A complete recovery is what they expect." Kenny looks relieved.

"I really feel responsible for this," he says. "Once I knew the game Ernie was playing, I should have shielded Dinh."

"You couldn't know that that idiot would do something like this to Dinh. But, now that you do know, you need to watch out for yourself. If he can do it to Dinh, he can do it to you." Kenny nods.

"What do we do now?"

"Well, I've sort of already done some of it. I took lots and lots of photos of him in his hospital room this afternoon intending to file assault charges, but we've been through this before, and his father is loaded. I think we need to do something more personal, something more satisfying. Dinh confirmed that it was Ernie who assaulted him, Ernie and three of his friends. He doesn't know the friends, although he did say that one of them meets him outside your classroom before and after class most days. Any idea who he is?"

"No, but I saw him today. I'll find out tomorrow. Someone in class is bound to know."

The following day is Thursday. Kenny has three classes. His 11 am class is first, and this is the one that Ernie attends. Notably, Bob Frost has also chosen to attend this morning. Kenny makes his way through his lecture, assigns the homework, and then pauses. "I need to let you all know that I've resigned my position here at San Jose State effective immediately. I don't know what the administration plans for the remainder of the semester or how you'll be graded. Well, that's not exactly true. I do know that Mr. Chapman has been guaranteed a B whether he's able to make his programs compile or not, but I have no idea how the rest of you will be treated. That's a question for Dr. Frost," he says, gesturing to the back of the room where Frost is sitting. "I've enjoyed working with you. You've been an outstanding group of students, and I wish you all the best." Quickly collecting his papers and his laptop, Kenny departs, leaving the class before it actually erupts in confusion.

His farewells to his other two classes are non-events. Kenny is very well liked here, so there's a lot of sadness, but these two classes are graduate seminars, and word has leaked out among the grad students as to the cause of his departure. They understand and wish him well. So, when he gets home he's remarkably light-hearted, something I don't think he expected. I think he was expecting to be sad and depressed, and he isn't. Part of the reason for that is his coming move to Stanford. He spoke last night with the Chairman of their Applied Mathematics and Comp Sci department and confirmed with him that he was still welcome to join the faculty. The Chairman was very excited. He would handle the employment details, he assured him, and ask him to provide a list of the classes he'd like to teach, along with syllabuses. So, from Kenny's perspective, leaving San Jose State has given him about a six-week vacation, after which he'll be working at a much better university.

After dinner, Kenny, Jason and I visit Dinh at the hospital. His bruises, which started out black and blue, became more inflamed yesterday, but by today are turning that ugly shade of yellow that says he's on the mend. He's also more comfortable than he was yesterday. What worried me yesterday, though, was a comment by the doctor that Dinh was lucky that his ribs hadn't punctured his lung. What scared me at the time was that he was on oxygen. "Does he need that to breathe?" I'd asked.

"No," the doctor had replied. "He doesn't need it, but it will make him a great deal more comfortable. It'll make it easier for him to breathe, and that's important not only because of the broken ribs, but because of all the bruising on his chest and abdomen."

Today, I find, he's off the oxygen and breathing comfortably. And, he can now open his eyes wide enough to read and watch TV. We've taken him a couple of books he asked for, one of the Harry Potter tomes and something by Virginia Woolf, of all people. I didn't know he even know who Virginia Woolf was. Go figure.

We chat for maybe an hour before getting kicked out by one of the nurses. Yeah, visiting hours go until 8 pm, but she has to change his dressings, and by the time she's done that, it'll be too late. So, we all kiss him goodbye, and head for home where we find Evan just getting the boys tucked into bed. He joins us in the living room for tea, along with Joaquin, but the two of them soon decide go off by themselves, sitting in the back garden talking and kissing. Excellent! I don't want either of them privy to what we're about to discuss.

"What're we going to do?" Jason asks.

"I'd just as soon kill him myself," Kenny says. "After all, I'm the one to blame for this."

"You are not to blame for this, Kenny. Goddamn it, I wish you'd get that through your head."

Kenny nods, glumly.

"And, anyway, whatever we do, you can't be seen to be any part of it. That doesn't mean that you can't participate, but if we take him, it's going to have to be Jason and I who do that. He's never seen either of us."

"He's pretty big, Tim, and he's strong. I don't think the two of you can take him by yourselves."

"Oh, I think we can. I have a plan."


For my plan to work, we have to be seen to work within the system, and we need an alibi. The first of these we achieve by filing assault charges against Ernie Chapman. Dinh identified him as his assailant, and we have enough history and documentation that the charges are credible. Bob Titus, my attorney, and I do that the next morning, and the police are at the hospital interviewing Dinh by 11 am. I give them the photos I took of him the day after the assault, and they take more of their own pictures, talking to doctors both here and in the Emergency facility. They also interview the ambulance drivers, and, of course, Kenny.

Once they have confidence that the case has merit, they arrest Ernie and hold him, initially without bail, in the local jail. While he's there, detectives begin interviewing other members of the football team, something that Kenny suggested to them. "I just knew that he'd be shooting his mouth off," he says with glee. "The day after the assault, when I told the class that Dinh wouldn't be with us and why, I noticed that Ernie had this little grin on his face. I knew he'd be out there talking it up." And so he has been. He's told several of the players about the assault, and not all of the guys he told like him very much. A couple of them know Dinh, and are appalled that Ernie would orchestrate an ambush with four football players against frail little Dinh. Not only do the police get confirmation of the assault from these guys, albeit from secondary witnesses, they also get the names of the other three assailants. They, too, are arrested.

The two detectives on this case are diligent, and interview everyone with even a remote connection to this mess. They interview Bob Frost, for example, the SJSU Comp Sci department chairman, thereby confirming the issue of Ernie's grades and standing on the football team, and they interview both football coaches.

For my plan to work, I have to depend on the clout of Ernie's father, I have to assume that he can get the judge to assign bail for his son. And he does. Ernie is out on a $500,000 bond within a week. Now it's just a matter of watching him.

You can get anything you want on the internet, and what I want is a small supply of Rohypnol. Rohypnol is one of the three most popular-date rape drugs (along with GHB and Ketamine). Rohypnol (aka: Roofies) has the advantage that it rarely kills the victim, and when it takes effect, the victim appears to be drunk. Its disadvantage is that it takes around half an hour to kick in, but I think we can deal with that limitation.


Early on, when we were going to N'Touch regularly for naked go-go dancing, I realized that Jason would have made a really-beautiful girl. He's got the body for it, and his face is a little androgynous. Given longer hair and some make-up, he'd be really attractive. Plus, he's 5'6" tall, just like a lot of girls. In watching Ernie, we realize that he likes to visit a bar across from the university for a couple of beers after practice, before heading home. That's where we station Jason, dressed as "Jasmyn", on Thursday evening, four days after Ernie is released on bond. He sits in the car until Ernie arrives, and then he follows him in and flirts. It really doesn't take much. Pretty soon Ernie is in a booth with Jasmyn, eating nachos and drinking beer. At some point, Jasmyn slips the roofie into Ernie's bottle of Sierra Nevada. I've been in the bar since before either of them arrived, nursing an Anchor Steam. I, too, am heavily made up, having aged myself through makeup and a grey wig. I look about 55 I'd say. After half an hour or so, Ernie starts to sing and Jasmyn gets a really-embarrassed look on her face, looking around the bar. Finally our eyes meet. "Can you help me?" she asks. "He's pretty drunk. I'd really like to take him home."


I nod, and together we slide him out of his seat, and help him out of the bar. "I'm sorry," Jasmyn says to the bar tender. The bar tender smiles and shrugs. We load Ernie into the back seat of our car with Jason, and whisk him away. Assuming that anyone figures out that this is where he was when he was abducted, they'll be looking for an older man and a very pretty Asian girl. But, how will they know? The other advantage of Roofies is that they tend to obliterate the memory of what happened prior to ingesting the drug. He probably won't remember where he was.


We drive Ernie to our place. Kevin, Kai are staying with Mrs. Leong in Mountain View. Evan and Joaquin are at a friends for a party. I've forbidden them to come home tonight on the pretext that they may have had too much to drink. "Just stay there," I tell them. "Come home in the morning." Peter and Erich are no longer with us. Did I mention that? They moved out several months ago and into a place of their own. Peter is still active at the Center, but they really wanted their privacy, which is completely understandable at their age. So, Evan has become the de-facto nanny for Kevin and Kai, and I couldn't ask for better.


When we get home, we ferry him down to the basement. He is rubbery and can't support himself. At some point he realized that what's happening to him wasn't right, but Roofies are muscles relaxants. There's nothing he could do but flail sort of helplessly. Jason drove into the garage, closed the door, and we entered the house through the kitchen. We took him directly to the basement where we stripped him and attached his ankles and wrists to the four corners of the whipping frame by padded leather cuffs. I wrapped duct tape around his eyes and mouth, and then we left him there to let the drug wear off while we grabbed a shower -- all the makeup was making my face itch.


It takes him six hours to come to life, and when he does he begins to thrash violently. He's not going anywhere, but he's sure trying. We watch him on the monitor in the living room for a while, letting him get his blood circulating. Then after about half an hour of thrashing, he seems to calm down a bit. Time to begin. Kenny, Jason and I all don ski masks. Yeah, I know his eyes are duct-taped, but I don't want to take any chances. We're going to be the obvious choice of suspects anyway. Having him actually see us won't do. We've set up an alibi, though, with Ben and Jeffrey, our next-door neighbors. We send them to Carmel for the day, asking them to assume we were with them. We tell them what we had planned, more or less, and they agree to help -- mostly because Jeffrey and Dinh are tight. If questions arise, and well they may, we will have been in Carmel for the day.


The pregnant question among us has been who will begin. Jason wanted to be first, and so did Kenny, but I convinced Jason that Kenny should be first. I'm concerned that if he's last, he'll take the skin right off this boy. Jason agrees. Kenny will begin.


Ernie's attack on Dinh was in no way sexual, so our response won't be sexual either. No dildos. No getting off. It will, however, be brutal, and Kenny onslaught is nothing if not brutal. He starts with the tawse, and by the time he's done, Ernie's back, ass and thighs are bruised and oozing blood from where the two tongues of the tawse come together in the most horrific pinch you can imagine. Ernie is almost out of voice. The volume hasn't been excessive because of the duct-tape gag, but you could certainly hear the shrieks, and see the tears leaking out from behind the duct tape over his eyes. Jason is next, and works on the front of the boy, but instead of using a belt or paddle, he uses his fists and feet. Jason has been a student of martial arts for years. He can do more damage without a weapon than most of us can do when equipped with one. The rule we establish for this is that nothing will be broken and there will be no internal injuries. By the time Justin is done with him, though, I don't think Ernie knows whether he's broken or not. His balls are certainly bruised and swollen, as Dinh's were. I'm last, and I continue to concentrate on the front of him using the razor strop. I want him bruised and inflamed but without the blood that trickles from his back. By the time I'm done with him he is slumped forward, unconscious. We revive him with an ammonia inhalant, and then douse him with a pail-full of salt water, both because it will disinfect his wounds, and because it hurts like crazy. He passes out again, and we revive him again, leaving him to twist for a few minutes before giving him a liberal dose of chloroform. We dress him in the clothes he came in with, and honest to god, if you saw him on the street, you wouldn't know that anything had happened to him. We bundle him back in the car and drive him to campus where we leave him stilling on a bench in the quad near the gym with a note in his pocket. The note, Kenny's idea, reads: "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Quit the football team, or we'll be back for you."


"Daddy," Kevin asks. "Can I have a pair of shoes like Kai's?"

Jason had found a pair of silver Nikes at Marshall's. They look so cute on Kai. He has such small feet, but suddenly he looks like Captain American...well...in an Asian sort of way. They look really spectacular. Jason bought Kevin a pair of Adidas last month. These boys burn through shoes pretty fast. "Not this month, baby," Jason responds. "We just bought you shoes last month. Next time, we'll look for something a little more interesting than your white shoes." Kevin looks sad, but brightens up when Jason comes at him with a big chunk of papaya. He opens his mouth, and Jason lays it on his tongue. Happy again.

Dinh came home from the hospital after three days. He still looked like shit, but after a week's recuperation, he starts to look...normal. I have steadfastly refused to do anything to cause him pain. I want him to heal -- both physically and psychologically, and I'm starting to have the sense that he's beginning to morph into someone a little less obsessed with his fetish. I ask him about this. "I guess I started to feel differently about myself while I was...umm...recuperating. I mean, I was totally dependent on you while I was in the hospital and for the first couple of days I was home. And, you were always there, telling me what I needed to do. I guess it's not submission I need. I guess what I need is to feel that there's for me, someone I can depend on. You made me feel that without any pain." And it shows. I get him off frequently in the course of his convalescence. He seems happier and less moody. He seems more in love with me than ever before, and that makes me love him more...completely. It no longer seems as though it's the pain he loves. It seems like it's me.

Ernie quit the football team, and we never heard a peep from either him or his father. Our court case went forward, and he was sentenced to nine months of at-home incarceration. He's allowed to go to school, to attend classes, but other than that, he's grounded by the state for nine months, wearing an ankle bracelet that tracked him by GPS. I hear later that he abided by the terms of his sentence, and expressed regret for what he did to Dinh. Who will he be tomorrow? Who will he become? God knows. Today, though, he seems to have improved a bit.

What has not improved is the enrollment in at SJSU in Comp Sci. Since Kenny left, that dropped by nine percent. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. It's not like the need for programmers has gone down. In fact that rose last year by thirteen percent. I prefer to think that it's the loss of their rock star that's caused San Jose State's Comp Sci enrollment to drop. Kenny was quite a draw for the school. His courses in game theory were unique, giving a mundane university a real edge. When he left, they lost that edge. Now the question is, why on earth would you go to San Jose State (other than a low high school GPA or lack of money) given the multiplicity of colleges and universities available to you in the area? There's no qualitative rationale. Big problem.

None of this matters to Kenny, though. Seven weeks later, he's back in a classroom -- at Stanford -- teaching an Introduction to Java course aimed at lower-division students, a course that he calls Algorhythmic Animation for seniors looking to write games that incorporate music, and a graduate seminar on platform design. He's in his element, and Stanford is seriously into him. "One of my friends at Berkeley is hoping to transfer here next year," a freshman tells her advisor, who happens to be the Chairman of Kenny's department. "He heard that Stanford hired Professor Hsia. He says he wants to study with him." This student won't be the only one transferring to Stanford in order to work with Kenny. Dinh will also be coming to continue his masters' work, and to become Kenny's teaching assistant.

Out of the darkness, into the light. Kenny is re-invigorated, Dinh is re-invigorated, and I am re-invigorated. We've seen a lot of upheaval recently, but also a lot of regeneration. I guess that's what life is about.

Published first at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Nemo-stories/