WARNING

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.

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Craigslist

Chapter 72

By: Tim Keppler (nemoami@yahoo.com)

 Edited by: Bob Leahy

We're having babies! Well, we're getting babies. Can you believe that? I'm actually going to be a father! That's something no one would have predicted. We are all just so damned excited. This was a long time coming, but ultimately it just fell into our laps. I guess I should explain...

A year or so ago, Ian said he wanted children. This was shortly before Shawn joined our family. I don't think my reaction to his announcement was what Ian had hoped for. I wasn't against it, but I wasn't for it either. I'd never really thought about it, I guess. I mean, children? Me? Leslie Fung? A father? But he planted a seed. We were sitting in the Rose Garden, over by Tim's place. We were babysitting "the boys" Tim's two youngest kids. They were out on the lawn, throwing a frisbee back and forth, and Ian and I were sitting on one of the benches, watching. They'd worn us out shagging the damned frisbee. When Kai throws a frisbee, there's no telling where it's going to end up. It could land right in your hand, and then again, it could end up in the next county. You end up running like a maniac to catch it. Coordination isn't his strong suit, yet. He's really fun to watch, though. He treats a frisbee like a discus. He spins around a couple of times, and then finally releases it in whatever direction he happens to be pointed when he decides he's spun enough. God knows where he got this technique, but it is really cute exhausting, but cute.

This wasn't our first time babysitting the boys. We've done it a lot. Ian's crazy about them, and Jason knows it, so we have lots of opportunities. I have to admit, I find them pretty adorable. Tim, Kenny, Jason and Dinh have done a really good job with them. They're well-behaved, but also mischievous and fun-loving. With Kenny they get away with nothing. Jason's the same. But with Tim, well, they sort of melt his heart. He'd spoil them if he could, but Jason and Kenny won't have it. They keep these kids on a very tight leash. Watching them today, though, you'd never know it. They are romping, and running, and tripping over each other. The thing about these guys that strikes me as...different is that they're genuinely crazy about each other. They seem to be best friends. The only time they're not together is when they're at school. Ian told me that when he was living with Tim and Co., the boys would sleep together pretty much every night. They started out in their own beds, but every morning you'd find them curled up in Kevin's bed. It got to a point, apparently, where Tim went out and bought Kevin a double bed. "Why fight it?" he'd asked. "If they're gonna sleep together, they're gonna sleep together, and at this point they've outgrown a twin. They're too damned big. Petty soon, one of them is going to fall out."

As we sat there watching that frisbee sail by, Ian brought it up. "You know, I want kids," he said. "I want a lot of kids, but for the moment, I'll settle for two."

It was out of the blue, apropos of nothing. "Kids? Why?"

"Because I like them. They give me a sense of creating something new, of passing something of value back to the world."

I was a little taken aback. I'd never though of kids philosophically. My take on kids has always been visceral they're cute, or they're fun, or they're funny. They're something to love. Ian wanted kids because they represented a way of giving back to a world that had been good to him. They were a gift he could bestow.

"How, exactly, do you propose that we manufacture kids?" I asked with a laugh.

Kai and Kevin came from Kenny's sister. She died of cancer several years ago, and just before her death, Tim adopted her kids. They are Kenny's nephews, Jason's second cousins, and Tim's adopted sons. They bind their three daddies' together a lot more solidly than any scrap of paper the state might bestow on their relationship. Evan, Tim's 17-year-old, was a homeless kid who used to hang out at the gay center he runs. Tim adopted him, too, just as he did Ian several years ago when Ian's parents were killed in a car accident. These were all kids who basically fell into Tim's lap. They came out of the blue, and I have no sense that he was initially even interested in kids. But, he's interested now. He loves and cherishes his adopted kids a lot more than many biological fathers I've met. But at the time, they were all flukes. He didn't go looking for these children. They came and found him, and the likelihood of that happening to us (or anyone) is pretty slim, at least that's what I would have told you a year ago. And then a bunch of dominos began to fall.

Buddhists believe that a key to happiness is banishing desire, but another tenet of the philosophy revolves around being open to what life brings you. To me, these two positions have always seemed to be in conflict. On the one hand you purge your desires, but at the same time you make clear to the universe what your desires are so that they can be fulfilled. Neither Ian nor I is a particularly-good Buddhist. It's one of the very few rational philosophies / religions, though, so I respect it even when I don't understand it, and it works, but I have no idea why. Soon after Ian admitted to me that he wanted children effectively putting a call out into the universe one of his students came to him to talk. Actually, he came to him to cry. Ian had, by now, been working for the past year as a teaching assistant for Cassandra Moore, one of the remaining lights in the whole Transactional Analysis school of psychology. Cassie was very smart, and loved Ian like a son. She knew us well, knew Tim, even knew Shawn. She was a good friend to all of us.

Ian's student, a kid from Hong Kong, had made it into Stanford based on a family income that was fairly substantial. His mother was the primary breadwinner. She was the VP of Distribution for a Chinese company that exported tennis shoes (trainers) to other countries. His father stayed at home in Kowloon playing the stock market and taking care of their kids. Hai, Ian's student, had three brothers, all much younger than he, so much younger, in fact, that he'd never laid eyes on two of them. The youngest was two years old, the middle child was three and a half, and the oldest was four and a half. Hai was distraught. Unbeknownst to him, his mother apparently has suffered from Lupus for several years. Lupus is a nasty disease. A chronic autoimmune disorder, it affect the joints and almost every major organ in the body, including the heart, kidneys, skin, lungs, and brain. Basically what happens is that the immune system, which is designed to protect against infection, mistakenly attacks the body's own tissues and organs, causing inflammation, sometimes severe inflammation. While not specifically degenerative, it does, over the course of time, take its toll on every system of the body. Hai's mother had suffered renal failure. Her kidneys had shut down. She'd been on dialysis. Ultimately, though, she'd died of heart failure, and his father had called two nights ago to announce that his mother was dead.

 

Hai hadn't even known that she was sick. Now she was dead. Worse, without his mother's income, he would have to quit school. His father, it turned out, was not a very good investor, and when the market crashed, he was left with next to nothing. With no savings, and no income, there was no money for tuition. Hai's education was about to come to an abrupt halt, or so Hai thought.

 

The thing about higher education, though, is that the market is awash in scholarships. They're everywhere. You just have to know how to claim them, and how to play the system. You have to recognize your uniqueness and capitalize on it. Honestly, there are scholarships for everything imaginable. There are scholarships for left-handed people. There are scholarships for people going into the field of microbiology. There are scholarships for the overweight. Endowed by private institutions and individuals, there are scholarships for every characteristic known to man, anything that might have caused someone rich some level of angst at some point in their life. So, let's see. What was unique about Hai, Ian asked himself. He was Chinese and he was gay. That's a start. He called a friend who worked at an art foundation, and got the name of a company that specialized in matching applicants with scholarships. Two days later, Hai was "endowed" with at least enough money to make it through to the end of the quarter, and more applications for additional grants and scholarships than he could count. His tuition and living expenses were clearly not going to be a problem. But, they were also not his only challenges.

 

Several nights after the first call announcing his mother's death, his father called again. "You need to come home to mind your brothers so I can get a job." Unfortunately, his father has no skills. He's done nothing for the past twenty years except play the market and mind children. And he hates children. Hai remembers that hatred vividly from his own childhood.

 

It's at this point that I became aware of the problem. It's at this point that Ian mentions it, that he begins to talk about it at home. It's at this point that Ian brings Hai home for dinner. Hai is very upset. The idea of returning to Hong Kong and becoming his father's "wife" doesn't appeal to him. He doesn't like children either, but even if he did, at 20 years old, with a promising career ahead of him, why would he want to devote his life to them? Ian had asked if he had pictures of his brothers, and Hai brought some along with him when he came to dinner. They're cute kids.

 

"Well, if he doesn't like the kids, why doesn't he just adopt them out? No need for you to be their mother," Ian says with a laugh.

 

Hai looks pensive. "Yes. I told him the same thing. But adoptions take time. You have to find someone willing to adopt, and these aren't infants. Most Chinese want infants, like here."

 

Ian nods, looking thoughtful. "But, what if he had people willing to adopt them?"

 

"Well, then the process would be very quick. It would probably take a couple of weeks. It's finding the adoptive parents that's the hard part, and doing that for all three of them. It could take years."

 

Ian looks across the table at me. I nod. "What's the difference, in terms of time, between being adopted by Chinese nationals and foreign parents?"

 

Hai looks confused. "You mean like being adopted by Americans?"

 

"Yeah. Does it take longer?"

 

"I imagine. I don't know." Suddenly his eyes light up. "Do you know someone interested in adopting?"

 

"Yeah...umm...actually...we are," Ian says.

 

Hai is stunned. We're eating pork tenderloin, and he simply stops chewing, and stares at Ian blankly. What can be going on in his mind? What can he be working on? Finally, he looks up. "But, you're gay," he says. "The Chinese government doesn't adopt to gay people."

 

"The Chinese government doesn't know I'm gay. Not even the American government knows that."

 

"Yes, but if you're single, male, and American they'll assume you're gay. There have been many examples of this."

 

They pause, staring at each other pensively. "What if I were single, male, and Singaporean?" Ian asks.

 

Hai looks lost again, and then gets it. He looks at me. I'm Singaporean. He smiles. "Yeah, that'd probably work."

 

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You cannot know how fucking complicated this is. Ian, a single, white male is immediately suspect of the Chinese government. They will block any adoption he tries to carry out in China, because they'll assume he's queer. I, on the other hand, will fly under the radar. Singaporeans can't be queer, can they? The Chinese will let me adopt these kids, but where can I take them? To Singapore, of course, where, after a while, I'll (hopefully) be able to get them passports so I can get them into the U.S. I have a green card, but I'm not a U.S. citizen. These kids weren't born in the U.S. This is a mess...

 

...or, this is a great adventure, depending on your perspective. We'd discussed this...extensively. We wanted kids, Ian, Shawn and I, but none of us was really excited about infants. Unlike most of the rest of the population, I guess, I'm not crazy about babies. I like them a little older. So, the idea of surrogacy didn't really appeal. Hai's brothers, though were a gift made from heaven. They were just the right age and would, in all likelihood, have a better life with us than they had right now. It's a big decision, raising kids, and it took me a while to cozy up to it. But it's interesting, because once Ian told me he wanted them, so did I. Sometimes this is how you find out about yourself. Someone plants an idea in your head, and it's a revelation. I honestly didn't know what this adoption would entail. I didn't what it would involve. We have all summer to pull this off, though, so I was reasonably confident we could get it done.

 

I fly over to Hong Kong three days after the close of classes for Stanford's spring term. I'd been teaching an upper-division course in Melville, and a graduate seminar: Leitmotifs in the Victorian Novel. I needed two days to plow through the final papers and to get the grades in before taking off. I made that deadline by the skin of my teeth. I think I was reading the final paper in the airport departure lounge. It was on Billy Budd. It was one of those papers that brands Claggert (the Master at Arms in the story) as a faggot. I specifically told this class not to research the available criticism. I was looking for their candid responses to the story. But some number of students always research anyway. Do they honestly think I don't know? Do they honestly think that I think that these are original ideas? Do they honestly believe that I haven't read everything on anything I assign them? I had one student last quarter who appropriated large sections of Cleanth Brook's work into his essay on Hardy's Jude the Obscure. Brook was one of the most-famous literary critics of his generation. Did this student honestly think I wouldn't recognize him?

 

Hong Kong is about fourteen hours from San Francisco. It's a long fucking flight, and I can rarely sleep on planes. I do manage to get few hours sleep, though, and the good news is that this is Cathay Pacific. It's a Chinese airline, and is affiliated with American Airlines. Tim has about a million frequent-flyer miles on American, so we all mooch off of him. I'm flying first class, so the flight is comfortable, if long. I get a Combination Seafood Congee for breakfast. Yum. This is a breakfast that Jason would serve me, and Jason can seriously cook.

 

Someone is waiting for me when I get out of customs. He has a sign like limousine drivers use with my name on it: "Leslie Fung". It's written in English. I guess he didn't know my Chinese first name.

 

"Hi," I say in Cantonese, approaching the guy with the sign. "I'm Leslie Fung. Did Mr. Zhao (Hai's father) send you for me?"

 

"I am Zhao," he says, crumpling his sign. "Let's go." He takes me to the train station below the terminal, pays for two tickets, and we ride at high speed to central Hong Kong, and then walk to his apartment. Not a word do we exchange along the way. This feels very much like a "transaction" to me. It feels like I'm here to buy a house. It does not feel like I'm here to adopt children, and it keeps not feeling like that throughout the course of our interactions.

 

When we reach his apartment, the boys are there, along with their aunt, Zhao's sister, who has been taking care of them. Another man is here as well, a lawyer, who has the adoption paperwork in order all in Chinese, of course. I scan through the documents. What I want to be doing right now is getting to know the boys, all of whom look really apprehensive, really scared. What have they been told, I wonder? What do they think this means? Their aunt looks...grim. She looks like one of those communist nurses you saw in anti-communist propaganda years ago a sterile frump who was paid to take care of your children. No wonder the kids look so frightened. There is, in fact, an anti-faggot clause in the contract. "I certify that I am not a homosexual...blah...blah...blah..." Who gives rat dick? What will happen to me after I sign this? Will the ghost of Mao himself come to San Jose and fuck me up the ass for lying?

 

Having read the adoption contract, I sign it, and almost the instant I do, I am lead out of the apartment with the three boys in tow. I expected to be housed at least overnight. That doesn't happen. I flag down a taxi, and we go to a hotel that was recommended to me by a colleague. It's not so bad. We need to stay in Hong Kong until the adoption becomes final. It shouldn't be more that a week or so, according to Zhao's lawyer. In the meantime, I have the boys, and they are seriously freaked. They have no idea what's going on, and no idea who I am. No one has told them anything, apparently. That'll be my job. When we get to the hotel, they're mesmerized, especially the oldest, Feng. At four and a half, he's dazzled by the opulence of what is a two-star hotel by American standards. I don't think he's ever been in a place like this before. It's a palace. The suite has two bedrooms and two bathrooms, and I think that's what surprises him. He wanders from bedroom to bedroom, from bathroom to bathroom. "Which bathroom I can use?" he asks me.

 

"Which one do you want to use?" I reply.

 

He looks completely confused, and I realize that I've given him too many options.

 

"Use that one," I say, pointing to the larger of the two. He nods, and goes off to pee, marking his territory, perhaps. When he comes back, I smile. "Is Zhao your daddy?" I ask.

 

He nods.

 

"And what did he tell you about me?"

 

He looks really shy, staring at the ground. "He say you come to take us away, to take us to better place. He say I should go with you." His grammar is what you'd expect of a 4-and-a half-year-old child, but my Cantonese is awful, too. We spoke Mandarin at home, Mandarin and English. Cantonese is a stretch. Having gotten these sentences out, he starts to cry, and then his brothers, seeing him crying, start to cry as well, and pretty soon everyone's crying. Everyone's despondent. It would be tragic if it wasn't so damned funny.

 

"Mr. Zhao not your daddy anymore," I try to say. "Me your daddy. You eat already? Not hungry?"

 

He nods.

 

"Bedtime?"

 

He nods again.

 

These kids are seriously cute. Frightened but cute.

 

"Let's sleep," I say. Feng nods, taking off his jeans.

 

He gets his brothers out of their clothes, and we pile into bed, a king-sized bed. Where the hell did we find this in Hong Kong? Feng is behind me, and attaches himself to my back. Quan and Tan, his younger brothers, are in front of me, and I reach my arm around and pull them close. That's all it takes. Once they realize that they're safe and...loved...they fall asleep.

It takes six days for the wheels of the legal community to spin. The adoptions are approved. During that time, we go everywhere. We go to Stanley Beach, where the boys swim, we go antiquing on Hollywood Road you can't know what a joy it is to walk through a store full of antique porcelain with three squirmy little boys we even go to Disneyland, the hit of the trip. And...umm...we bond. I fall hopelessly in love...with three little boys. Honestly, I had no idea that I was capable of this. By day six, I'm besotted, and my upper-body strength has improved. I've spent six days carrying Quan nearly everywhere. At two years old, he doesn't move very fast. It's better to just carry him. And it's more fun anyway, because I get to hug him, and...umm...tickle him...and he loves to be tickled. He reminds me of Kai.

On day six, I get the certified letter telling me that I'm officially the daddy of these boys. Next step: ferry them to Singapore to get them passports, because that's their new nationality. Like me, they're now Singaporean. I arrange for four coach seats on Singapore Airlines for the next day. We'll get in at around 3 pm, and my father has agreed to pick us up at the airport. My mother is nearly beside herself with excitement. Not only is her son coming to visit, a son she hasn't seen in a couple of years, a son who is now a Doctor of Philosophy in English, as she's told all her friends, but he's bringing her grandchildren, grandchildren she never thought she'd have. She is nearly frantic, and calls me three times on the day before our flight to remind me to dress appropriately, to remind me to get these boys jackets, to remind me to... "Yeah, Mom," I say on the third call, laughing. "Stop calling me, will you? If you keep calling me, I'll never have time to do all that I have to do before we leave. I'll have to postpone our flight. We won't see you until next week." There's silence at the other end of the phone, and then I start to giggle, and she realizes that I'm playing with her.
She laughs, and agrees that she's been a little too...anxious. "We'll see you tomorrow, Mom, whether we're dressed warmly enough or not."

The boys, too, are excited. None of them has ever flown anywhere before, and only Feng has any real concept of what that means. He's excited to be "going up in the air" and Quan and Tan are excited because Feng is excited. Feng's excitement is highly contagious. Me? I'm nervous. I've been assured both by Zhao's lawyer and by the immigration people that getting these boys from Hong Kong to Singapore will not be a problem, even though they don't have passports. "They are your sons," Zhou's lawyer tells me. "They will travel on your passport. You are a Singaporean national. There will be no problem." I wonder, though. My worst nightmare is not trying to leave Hong Kong. My worst nightmare is arriving in Singapore and being deported back to Hong Kong because the boys don't have the proper documents. But, we're going to do this. We're going to try to get these boys to Singapore, and if we do, I think we're home free.

And it turns out to be clear sailing. The airline checks our documents, my passport and the adoption papers, and waves us through. The Hong Kong immigration officials aren't concerned, either. And when we get to Singapore, we sail through customs and immigration. We're in. Now, it's just a matter of getting these guys documented as Singaporeans so they can get into the U.S.

My father meets us at the airport. I have Quan slung over one shoulder, and Tan slung over the other, both sound asleep. Feng is holding onto my coat. He's a walking zombie, having woken up only minutes before. He's basically still asleep. When my father sees us, he scoops Feng into his arms. "Hello, little man," he says.

"Hello," Feng responds, drowsily.

By the time we get to the car, Feng, too, is asleep. My father lowers the back seat of his Honda hatchback, and we pile the boys inside where they sleep through most of the perilous drive across town. I've forgotten how congested Singapore is. It's not just congested at the end of the day, it's congested all day. When we get home (and it takes us nearly an hour to do that) my mother is just so excited. The boys have woken up, which is good, because there'll be no sleeping through mom. "Hello," she screams at them. Quan, the youngest, sees the glint in her eyes, and runs to her. She scoops him up and tosses him into the air, catching him on the way down. She hugs him mightily, and he giggles. "How are you?" she asks in perfect Cantonese. I had no idea she speaks Cantonese, but she does. They bond almost instantly. Right behind her are Ian and Shawn. They arrived yesterday, I later learn. The plan was that I'd bring the boys home to San Jose as soon as we got them passports, but Ian couldn't wait. He convinced Shawn to come along. He contacted my parents and told them that he wanted to surprise me. I'm surprised, surprised and touched. The boys are shy around so many strangers, but warm up to Ian very quickly. He's good with kids. He has a knack for drawing them out, much of which revolves around tickling. It's a couple of years later that he tells me his theory about these kids, a theory borne out by conversations with them. They'd been seriously deprived...and ignored. They were thirsty for attention of almost any kind, from tickling to a game of tag, from reading them a story to a simple hug. They longed to be recognized, and they sure were tonight. My mother couldn't keep her hands off of them. She doted on them. And they absolutely loved it!

It was dinner time when we got to my parents' flat, and my mother had made beef noodle soup. "I'm sorry," she said. "I'm sorry to have made something so plain. I was just so excited and...umm...beef noodle makes itself."

"I LOVE beef noodle," I scream, kissing her on the cheek. "It's exactly what I wanted."

After dinner, we watch a little TV in the living room over tea. Actually, no one watches the TV. We all watch the boys who are all giggles, chatting away, rolling and tumbling. You'd think they'd been with us forever, so comfortable are they with us now. Tan, the three and a half year old, is especially rambunctious. He's learned to do summersaults, and never seems to tire of demonstrating this skill. After a while, though, it's time for bed...for all of us. Between the travel and the stress of schlepping these boys between two countries, I'm exhausted. There's only one spare bedroom in my parents' flat, so it's going to be...cozy. Feng, Quan and Tan pile into bed first, and then Ian, Shawn and I follow, interspersing ourselves between the boys. It is a tight fit in this queen-sized bed, and I realize how sardines must feel. Still, it's very sweet. I couldn't be happier.

It takes us four days to get the passports. I basically camp out at the immigration office, pushing them along to get it done. We'd gotten photos taken at the local Kinko's. Who knew there was a Kinko's in Singapore? The photos are really cute. Feng has big ears, and looks a little like Mickey Mouse. I think he's adorable, but he hates his photo. While I'm at Immigration, my parents take Ian, Shawn, Feng, Quan and Tan everywhere. EVERYWHERE! They go to the Butterfly Park, to the Jurong Bird Park, to the Singapore Zoo, to Underwater World, to the Science Center, and even to Snow City. It's an indoor center where they manufacture show so you can slide in it...in the middle of hot and muggy Singapore. I haven't even been to some of these places, but my folks are just relentless. They want to boys to see the sights. And they do!

After four days, I have their passports in hand and I have visas to get these boys into the U.S. I also have reservations for flights from Singapore to L.A. and from L.A. to San Jose for the very next day. And, of course, I have more tears than I've ever seen. The boys don't want to leave their new Granny and Grandpa, and Granny and Grandpa don't want them to leave. I finally have to take them to our room for a talk. "Guys, there are lots of fun things to do, and lots of things to see. We'll come back here, and maybe Granny and Grandpa will come visit us sometime. It'll be okay." All of this in my hopelessly-awful Cantonese. Feng nods, and basically translates for his brothers. We'll be okay. They'll be okay.

And we are okay. All of us. Mom and Dad take us to the airport the next morning. They hug us, every one of us, even Shawn and Ian, knowing full well what our relationship to each other is. They love me, and they love my children, and they love my partners. They really don't care how we have sex, I think. They really don't think about it. They don't think about it any more than they would if I were part of a straight couple. "Hmmmm... They must fuck each other." And that's about it. They love us all, and we love them.

Twenty-two hours later we're home...and asleep. We're all exhausted. Jet lag, stress, and fatigue from carrying children from here to there. Quan isn't potty-trained yet, so there's diaper duty, and Tan is very...reticent. He's still very nervous. The cutest of the three, I think, he's going to take the longest to get to know. Sometimes he runs from me crying, and sometimes he simply attaches himself to me and won't let go. I have the sense that he wants to attach himself to me emotionally, but doesn't know how. He's a very sweet little boy, but very fearful. It's going to take us some time to connect. Feng is the trooper. Feng takes charge. Feng will be the CEO of a large company some day, a captain of industry. When his brothers get out of hand, he reprimands them...in the gentlest possible way. "You need to mind Daddy," he says to Tan. And then he hugs him, and pats him on the back. It's very sweet.

Twelve hours after getting home, we're at Tim's for dinner, and it is a fucking mad house. The moment our boys catch sight of Tim's boys, it's just all over. Language isn't a barrier here. Everyone (except Tim) speaks Cantonese fluently. The kids are out in the back garden within minutes of meeting each other, racing around, and playing with the cat. Tim's cat or, actually, I guess it's Kai's cat is a terror. He loves to play, and is as likely to chase the boys around as to be chased by them. He's a flaming orange tabby, moves at warp speed, and is wont to jump from the ground onto Kai's shoulders. I don't know how he does that without sinking his claws into Kai's flesh, but he never has, Kai tells me. "He's a energetic kitty-cat!" Kai says, swinging a purring Thumper around by his paws as though he's a rag doll.

"And?" Tim says, over dinner. This is a Jason night. We have stuffed Bitter Melon Soup, Shredded Jelly Fish, Stir-fried Pork with Snap Peas, an Omelet with Preserved Eggs, and Roasted Bananas in Sticky Rice for dessert. It's a simple meal, but is done to perfection, like everything Jason cooks. I know what Tim's asking me. He wants to know how I like having these three munchkins.

"I love them more than life," I reply, and Ian and Shawn both nod. "I'm not crazy about changing diapers and cleaning up poop, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. They're just so damned funny. Sometimes, though, you get insights into their past that are pretty disturbing. I was sitting with Tan a few days ago, and I stretched. My arms were over my head. I guess it looked to him as though I was going to hit him. He cringed and ducked. `I sorry!' he said. He started to cry. I was really surprised. I asked him what was wrong. He said, near as I can tell, that he thought I was displeased with him. I hugged him, but I had to wonder what his life has been like before this. Tan has a lot of baggage, baggage I don't really understand, and probably never will. Hai isn't going to be able to fill in the gaps for the two youngest kids. He's never even met them. We're having dinner with him tomorrow to introduce him to his brothers. It should be interesting."

"You going to give them American names?" Tim asks.

I pause. "I don't know. I sort of like their Chi..."

"Yes," Shawn interjects. "Ian and I have already chosen them." I am shocked!

"And...?" Tim says. I look at Ian and Shawn quizzically.

"We'll name them Kelvin, Korrie and Kyle," Ian says with a grin.

Kenny, the original K-boy, has just taken a sip of tea when Ian tells us the names. Thankfully, he still has his cup in his hand, or the tea in his mouth would be on my face. He spits the tea back into his cup and starts to laugh hysterically. It was Kenny who named Kevin and Kai, and at the time I think I told him he was a Narcissist. He needed all our children to have K-names, like his. Only the children don't get the joke. Only the children don't laugh. The rest of us are nearly beside ourselves with laughter.

"Okay," Tim says, still choking on laughter.

"What's funny, Daddy?" Kai asks Tim.

"Nothing, sweetie. Your brother has just decided to name his new sons after you."

"Really?" he says. "You gonna name them all Kai?" he asks, amazed.

"Maybe."

"Cool," Kai says, smiling. "We can be blood brothers. But...how will we know which Kai is Kai?"

"Now there's a problem," Ian says, reaching over and tickling Kai, who dissolves into laughter.

"Well, whatever we call these boys," I say, giving Ian and Shawn a mock-angry look, "we're going to need a bigger apartment. A two-bedroom place in Stanford's married-student housing isn't going to cut it with three boys. And besides, I'm not a student. You're supposed to have at least two students living together to qualify for married-student housing. We don't have..."

"Actually, we do," Shawn interjects again.

There's absolute silence. You could hear a pin drop. Jason is grinning, so I assume he knows what this is about, and Kenny, too, is smiling. Tim has a perfectly straight face, but I know he knows, too. He knows...something.

"What the fuck is going on?" I ask.

Shawn smiles. "I'm transferring. Ian and Kenny helped me find scholarships. I'll be starting in the fall. I've been accepted, and I have the tuition. I'm going to Stanford," he screams, elated. "I'm going to fucking Stanford University." He's nearly in tears. He's out of his chair, and he's jumping up and down. He looks just like Kai well, apart from the fact that he's not Asian and about fifteen years older. Me? I'm stunned. Amazed. I motion him to lean across the table, which he does. I kiss him, a really-good kiss. It's a kiss that surprises our three new sons.

Finally, we all sit back down and begin to eat. "Well, regardless of whether we're technically allowed to continue to live in married student housing, we're going to need a bigger place," I say between bites of the stuffed bitter melon, one of my favorite foods. "Two bedrooms aren't enough for us anymore. But, I don't know that we can afford anything more right now. We're going to need to get a realtor, and lay out our income, and figure out what we can..."

"Umm...baby," Ian interjects.

I stop and stare at him.

"Do you remember the Sphinctermanns?" Sphinctermann is the nickname Tim gave to Bob and Celia Klemperer, his next-door neighbors, several years ago. During one of the drought years, he forgot to turn off his drip irrigation system. It ran all night, and the next morning he had a nasty note from Celia Klemperer on his door telling him in no uncertain terms to be more water-conscious. Fine. He'd fucked up. He deserved the repudiation. But, two days later he heard water running. He circled the house, checking every faucet, and he found a faucet on the Klemperer's side of the house that had a hose attached to it. The hose led to their swimming pool. They were filling their pool with Tim's water. They figured that they could parlay that accidental water fuck-up into a full swimming pool, that Tim wouldn't notice, that Tim would think that his unusually-high water usage was the result of his all-night drip system mess up. Tim was livid. He had Bob out there to show him the hose, and apparently taught him some new curse words Bob didn't already know. He named them the Sphinctermanns that day, the gentlest way he could think of to call them assholes every time he talked about them, and he talked about them a lot. All the neighbors knew about the incident. He made sure of it. The Sphinctermanns were the local pariahs. No one would have anything to do with them.

"They live next door, right?"

"Lived," Ian replies. "They move to Southern California to be near their daughter."

I look confused, I guess. "So? Did someone else move in?"

"Not yet."

Now I'm lost. "Do we know who's moving in?"

"We do," Ian replies.

"Who?"

"Us. Tim bought the house. He bought it for us."

I'm stunned for the umpteenth time this evening. "He bought it for..."

"...you, yes," Tim chimes in. "Well, Kenny, Dinh, Jason, and I bought it for you. The education fund was getting a little...bloated. Jason and Kenny have been writing a lot of songs lately, and making a lot of money. We had some extra and needed an investment. So, now we own three houses in a row. Ours, the Sphinctermann's, and Ben and Jeffrey's. Well, technically four. I own Norma's house across the street as well. She doesn't know that. I arranged it through her accountant and my attorney. She was near bankruptcy several years ago. Her accountant told her that a state grant had come through. He had her sign a bunch of papers in order to receive the grant. I was the grant, and what she signed was a bill of sale. I was happy to do it. She's 83 now and a lot better off to be out from under her mortgage." I guess I look as stunned as I feel. "Look," Tim says, "my grandmother bought a house three houses down from my parents when they were young. Neither of them were happy about that. I understand why. I bought the house as an investment. If you want it, it's yours. If you don't want it, that's fine, too. I love all of you, and will love you whether you live next door or not."

What do you say at a moment like this? I think what you say is "Thank you." That's what I say. Tim has never been intrusive in our lives, so I can't see that living next door is going to be a problem. And, god knows, this'll make babysitting a lot easier, not to mention playmates. Norma, his neighbor across the street, doesn't even know Tim owns her house, so it shouldn't be a problem for us. And we'll have way more space, and a fucking swimming pool.

"Do you like to swim?" Jason asks Feng in Mandarin. Feng looks confused. Feng doesn't speak Mandarin. Kenny translates into Cantonese, and explains the rule. "Jason will only speak Mandarin to you, so if you want to eat well, you'd better learn Mandarin. And Tim, Ian, Shawn and Evan will only speak to you in English. They don't speak Chinese. Jason wants to know if you like to swim."

"I don't know how," Feng replies in Cantonese.

"Time to learn," Jason replies in Mandarin, giggling.

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