The following fictional narrative involves sexually-explicit erotic events between men. If you shouldn't be reading this, please move on.
In the world of this story, the characters don't always use condoms. In the real world, you should care enough about yourself and others to always practice safe sex.
The author retains all rights. No reproductions or links to other sites are allowed without the author's consent.
Thanks to Patrick for lots of good advice as I worked on this chapter and to Tom for doing the editing. I'm always grateful to Evan, Ash, and Mickey for their help, love, and support.
NOTE: I have always tried to answer every email I get from readers of my stories. Recently, however, I was offline for 6 days as a result of Hurricane Charley's visit to my area. In the process of getting back online, I somehow managed to lose some recent email. If you wrote to me in the first two weeks of August and didn't get an answer, I apologize. I'd really like to hear from you, and I promise to respond this time. --Tim
Max was excited throughout July because of the upcoming General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Minneapolis, to be hold from July 30 – August 8. Two landmark decisions were to be taken at that meeting. Episcopalian groups like Oasis and Integrity, with support from others within the Church, were pushing for a rite to bless same-sex unions, and the Diocese of New Hampshire had selected Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, to be their new bishop. Both issues required action by the clergy and lay delegates to the Convention.
One afternoon Max and I were meeting at Noplace for lunch. I'd been to the library, having gotten back to my research, and he'd been at St. Peter's. After we'd both ordered reubens and beer, Max put his hand on top of mine.
"Timmy, I feel as if a load of bricks had just fallen on me."
"What's up, Max?"
"Father John can't be here on Sunday, August 10. He has a long-standing obligation to be at the Cathedral in Cleveland that day. So I have to do both services, including the sermon."
"You've done that before, haven't you? So what's the big deal?"
"Tim, that's the Sunday after GenCon. We'll know by then what happened. And the whole congregation will be there, probably, to see what's said in the sermon about the two big decisions."
"So you are really going to be in the spotlight that morning, huh Max?"
He grinned nervously. "More like the hot seat, I'd say."
"I suppose it's tough because you won't know until the last minute which way the votes on those two big issues went."
"Yeah, there's that. But whichever way they go, I've got to say what I think. And that may piss off some people, either way."
"Have you talked with the rector about that?"
"And he said . . . ?"
Max grinned. "He said he knew I'd be tactful, but that he'd be disappointed if I didn't say exactly what was in my mind and heart at that moment."
"Damn, Max. Fr. John just went up several notches in my estimation."
"Yeah. Underneath that smooth exterior is a pretty gutsy guy." He paused and then grinned. "On the other hand, I can't help wondering why he agreed to be out of town that particular Sunday."
"Oh, come one. You don't really wonder, do you?"
Max grinned again. "Not really. He was in effect summoned to be at the Cathedral that Sunday by the bishop himself. And, Tim, he told me had every confidence that I'd, as he said, `tell `em what they need to hear'."
His hand had been lying on mine throughout the conversation. If he didn't care that we seemed to be holding hands in a bar, I didn't. I turned my hand over so I could squeeze his. "Max, I'm so proud of you. I'll be there. In fact, I may do something unheard of and come to both services."
He laughed and disengaged our hands so he could take a swallow of beer. "Maybe just one, Tim. The walls may fall in if you show up there twice on one Sunday."
A day or two later I was having lunch with Rick. We'd seen each other fairly regularly the last week or so. He was still new in town and I thought he might be lonely. He knew about my situation with Cedric, or lack of situation with Cedric, so we saw each other or talked on the phone every other day or so. That particular day he'd invited me to his apartment.
Rick had found a nice unit in a new building, one I'd never been in before. He was on the top floor, which was the tenth, and it had a great view of the campus. His dining table was in front of sliding glass doors which opened onto a small balcony. It was a nice, mild northern Ohio summer day, and he had the sliders open. A light breeze was blowing, so he had the AC turned off and the windows open.
He served a cold gazpacho he'd made plus a baguette from Fein's and a nicely-chilled pinot grigio. We were working on the dessert, spumoni with pirouettes, and espresso.
"So, Tim, what's going on with Max? I haven't seen him for a week or more."
"Oh, he's practically chewing his fingernails about what's going to come out of his church's general convention in Minneapolis next week."
"Well, I have to hand it to the Episcopalians. They seem to be closer to doing something meaningful for us than any other denomination. They're certainly light years ahead of my church."
"Yeah, well, you devout types would do well to pray. The Episcopalians haven't done anything yet. So far it's all just talk."
"Ever the cynic, Dr. Mead?"
I took a sip of espresso. "I hope not, Rick, honestly. I think I just don't want to get my hopes up and then have them crushed. But Max is `cautiously optimistic'."
"I shall do some praying."
"Say, Rick, there's some news about Max."
"He's going to celebrate at both the services on August 10, the Sunday after GenCon ends. He'll also be delivering the homily. And, of course, it will have to be about the results, whichever way things go."
"That's great! I'm so pleased for Max. I've seen him celebrate the Eucharist, but I haven't heard him speak. I'll look forward to it."
"You've seen him celebrate?"
"Yeah, when my friend Ned was here earlier. He's an Episcopalian, and I'm thinking about becoming one. We went to mass at St. Peter's. That was while you were still staying at Cedric's bedside. In fact, it was Max who told us after the service that morning what had happened to Ced."
"I didn't know that."
"Well, I have some news for you."
"Such as . . . ?"
"Ned's coming for that weekend. So, of course, we'll be there to hear what Max has to say."
"Do you have any plans for the evening before, that Saturday night?"
Rick wiggled his eyebrows at me. "Well, yes, for later that night. I expect there will be some steamy sex."
"God, Rick. I envy you."
"Oh, Tim, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said anything like that. I know how much you must miss what you and Cedric had."
"No, no, Rick! I'm sorry I burst out like that. I'm happy you have someone like Ned in your life. Must be great to have an old friend who's also a compatible sex partner." I rushed on to try to cover my gaffe. "What I meant to ask was, would you be willing to have dinner somewhere with Max and me? I think it would be good if we took his mind off what he had to do the next day. Besides, he could give us all the lowdown on what really went on in Minneapolis. AND, I'm dying to meet your Ned."
"Sounds like a plan, Tim. I know Ned liked Max, and he's heard a lot about you and is looking forward to meeting you."
"Great, Rick. I'll get in touch with Max. I may have to pressure him a little. He may say he has to retreat and meditate or something that night, but if I know him he'll have everything for the homily worked out in his mind well before Saturday evening. Shall I make reservations somewhere?"
"I know it's a little pricey, but could we go to Stefan's? I'll even treat."
"Stefan's is perfect. But there's no reason why you should treat."
"Perhaps," Rick said, grinning, "we'll have to arm wrestle."
"Uh oh, I'm doomed." I chuckled. "We'll settle that matter later."
I helped him load his dishwasher, thanked him for the lunch, and went to my office to work a little on my fall-semester courses. From there I called Max to tell him about the proposed dinner at Stefan's with Rick and Ned. He quickly agreed to come along.
"You know, Tim, I think I've got both sermons pretty well worked out in my head. I'll just have to make some notes that Saturday morning."
"Both sermons? You doing a different sermon at each service?"
He chuckled. "No, dummy, I have to have a sermon if we win, a different one if we lose."
"Well, duh! Of course! But, tell me, Max. Won't part of the message be the same, whichever way things go in Minneapolis?"
"Yep. And that's why I can take time to have dinner with you guys that night. I just hope you'll let me make an early evening of it, since I'll need to go home and do some serious praying."
"Understood, Max. I'm really looking forward to that dinner. I'm coming to enjoy Rick's company a lot, and I'm eager to meet his friend Ned."
"Yeah, Ned's one great-looking guy. I can't help imaging the two of them going at it."
"Father! You're such a perv!" I howled.
"Uh huh. Just wait `till you see him."
"Okay, Maxie. Talk to you soon."
"Love you, Tim."
"Love you, Max."
I had never paid any attention to things like church conventions before, but I confess I watched the television reports coming out of Minneapolis. I wasn't really surprised at the posturing of the bishop from middle Florida, the diocese where Stan and Doug lived. We already knew what sort he was, and he behaved true to form. One evening he actually appeared on Pat Robertson's program, and it was hard to tell which of them was the more fundamentalist, the more conservative.
But the good guys won!
I called Max Friday afternoon and invited him to come to my house for a relaxed dinner to celebrate. Obviously excited by the results, he readily agreed. He asked what I was going to fix. When I suggested lamb chops on the grille, he said he'd bring the wine.
It was an ebullient Max who arrived at my house with a bottle of "J" pinot noir, a wine for special occasions.
"Max, that's pretty fine stuff for chops off the backyard grille. Sure you don't want to save it for something special?"
"Tim, think what's just happened! This is a very special occasion, dear friend. You and I will sit here and drink every drop of this, toasting all those good people who just did the right thing in Minneapolis."
I set the bottle on the kitchen counter. Then I hugged him. Into his ear, I said, "Max, you are absolutely right. And I'm honored to get to share this special moment with you."
"Hey," he said. "I almost forgot. Mark and Lori send their love."
"Yup. They called a couple of hours ago. It seems the German television has been covering the GenCon, and they called as soon as they heard the news. Mark said he'd never been more proud of being an Episcopalian."
"And what's so funny, professor?"
"Max, I'm just as happy as you and Mark over what happened. But the word `proud' hit me. Just what is the chief of the seven deadly sins?"
It was his turn to chuckle. "Yeah, it wouldn't do to go feeling self-righteous over what's just happened. But you can surely understand Mark's happiness, can't you?"
"Sure can. My sense of irony just kicked in there for a minute."
I opened the wine and set out some caviar and water crackers. It had warmed up, so we decided to stay inside, even though I was doing the chops out back. We sat at either end of the sofa, twisted around to face each other. I lifted my glass and said, "To progress."
"To progress. And enlightenment. And love."
"Hear, hear!" Then I had a sip of the wine. "Oh, Max, this is really good stuff. Certainly a wine fitting the happy occasion."
He sipped and nodded his head, agreeing.
After we'd had some caviar on crackers and another sip or two of the wine, I said, "But Max, there were some really vocal opponents to Claiming the Blessing and to Bishop Robinson in Minneapolis. Surely there's going to be a rough time for your church for a while."
"Oh, yeah, there's bound to be."
"So, do you have some sort of long-term prognosis?"
"Well, it's early days yet, but I'm optimistic. There were people who threatened to leave the Church when we modernized the language of the Book of Common Prayer. There were those who threatened to leave when we started ordaining women priests. And again when we chose the first woman bishop. But most of those people are still with us. I think Episcopalians realize that we must all eat at the same table, even though we may not agree on everything. So, yeah, Tim, the disgruntled folk will make a lot of noise for a while, but the fact is, my church took a major step forward this week."
Tears came to his eyes. "And I can't tell you how happy I am that they did."
I put my glass down and scooted over to him. I took his face in my hands and planted a light kiss on his lips. "I'm happy for you and for your church, Max, and for all of us. It is a marvelous moment."
The next evening Max walked over to my place and we went to pick up Rick and Ned at Rick's place. Rick apologized about not offering to drive, but he could only get two people into the Boxster. I was a little embarrassed, for the Camry was beginning to show its age. I thought perhaps it was time for me to think about getting something newer. I decided to consult my car guru, aka Chaz. The Camry seemed particularly shabby as we pulled up under the porte cochere at Stefan's.
Maurice had done right by us again, finding a table off by itself, so we could talk without having to worry about being overheard. I've got a theory about Maurice. I think underneath his severe demeanor, he's one of us, and looks out for his gay customers. Certainly I've always had a great table whenever I've made the reservations. Or, perhaps Stan has given him orders to look after "his boys." I wouldn't put that past Stan.
I missed Kent. He had gone off to Duke to law school. Our waiter that evening was Kevin, who was about five nine, with brown hair and eyes, on the thin side, with a cute ass and beautiful eyelashes. Like all the wait staff at Stefan's he was perfectly trained. You'll laugh at me when I tell you that I can't remember what anyone had to eat, especially when I've already mentioned Kevin's ass. But first things first, right?
It turned out to be quite a dinner.
* * *
Stefan's was a nice restaurant. The room was beautiful. There were windows looking out on a small lake. Our waiter, Kevin, was a cutie with a great butt, and he did his job perfectly. Besides that, the food was superb.
All the talk at first was about what had happened in Minneapolis. I think we were all elated about that. As I told Max, I was really looking forward to hearing his sermon the next morning. And, as he remarked, we all had a lot to thank God for.
Toward the end of the meal, something strange happened. I asked about Cedric. I had never met the guy, but Rick had kept me informed about what had happened to him and about his amnesia. I also knew that Rick had really liked Cedric all three times they had been together and that Cedric and Tim had been lovers. I was at Max's church with Rick when we found out about Ced's accident, and that was when he was still in a coma at a hospital in Cleveland. So my question was innocent enough.
Max looked at Tim for a moment, as if he was studying him. Then he said, "There is some news. Ced's been dating a guy he works with, an intern in his dad's law office. A guy named Judd something or other. Turns out they played baseball against each other in high school."
"How'd you know that?" Tim asked.
"Trey told me one day."
Tim took a sip of his wine. "Oh. Did Trey also tell you what Judd looks like?"
I think if I'd been Max, I would have lied and said no. He smiled, shrugged his shoulders, and said, "A little taller than Ced, blond, good looking. At least that's what Ced told Trey."
Rick took his hand from the table, put it on my thigh, and squeezed. Then he looked at me and grinned. "Sounds good to me," he said.
I should explain that Rick was on my left, Tim on my right, and Max across the table from me.
Tim looked at Rick, then at me. "So, you guys, you two have known each other since Cranmer?"
Rick left his hand where it was. "You know we have, Tim."
"So, what's with you now? Are you two a couple or what?"
Max gave Tim a strange look. Rick squeezed my thigh. He grinned at Tim. "Depends, Professor Mead, on what you mean by a `couple.' You're right. Ned and I have known each other since college. We never lost touch while we were in grad school or while I was bumming around afterward. Now that we're in adjacent states, we've been getting together when we can. Right, Neddie?" He gave my thigh another squeeze.
I jumped. From the squeeze, not the question. Then, looking at Max and Tim and grinning, I said, "Yeah, and we generally manage to have some pretty hot sex, too." I figured that would put an end to Tim's questions.
Everyone laughed. Then Rick looked at me and said, "Yes, old buddy, we sure as hell do!"
Kevin of the cute ass came to clear away the main course dishes and to recite the dessert options. When that was all taken care of, Rick, who had removed his hand from my leg and put it around his wine glass, cleared his throat, almost as if he were going to make an announcement.
"Okay, your turn," he said, looking at Max and Tim. "You two have also been friends since college. Ced's getting on with his life, obviously. I saw you two dancing at the Phoenix. You looked great. Sexy. As if you belonged together. So what about it? Isn't it about time to admit that you're a couple? Or should be?"
Man, you should have seen the reaction. They both blushed. Tim has the typical fair skin of a redhead, and his face, neck and ears were bright red. Max, who has a slightly darker complexion, with some ruddiness in his cheeks all the time, nevertheless managed to look pretty flushed. Then they exchanged glances, looking as if they'd been punched in the gut. Rick was watching them intently.
Max apparently wasn't going to say anything. He just looked steadily at Tim. Tim reached over and took Max's hand in his. Then he looked at Rick.
"Depends, Dr. Modarelli, on what you mean by `couple'." He looked at Max and then back at us. "I've loved this man since we were freshmen at Kenyon. I'll always love him. He is and, I hope, always will be my best friend." Max was staring at Tim as if spellbound. I didn't know at that point what else Tim was going to say, but I did know one thing. Father Max was totally in love with Tim.
Tim continued. "If either of us had known back then that we were – are – gay, we might have been together all these years." He looked at Max. "Maxie, I don't think I've ever come right out and told you how much I regret that."
"Yeah, I know, Tim. We both feel that way."
Still looking at Max, Tim said, "But Cedric was my partner, my lover, just about my whole life for over a year. We were committed. We'd even talked about going to Vermont and getting married someday. I can't just give up on him. I love him so much." He searched Max's face, as if he were seeking approval, permission.
I've known for years that Rick can sometimes be relentless. He seemed to be that night.
"Tim, Cedric may never regain his memory of that year you two had together. Meanwhile, he's getting back into the world. He's dating, moving on."
Still holding on the Max's hand, Tim said, "Yeah, so I've learned."
"Besides," Rick continued, "you need to face some possibilities."
"I am sure you have thought of this, but Ced may never get his memory back. And you'd be foolish to spend the rest of your life waiting for him." Tim started to say something, but Rick held up his hand. "Please, Tim, let me say one more thing. Then I'll shut up." Tim nodded. "There's another eventuality. What if Cedric regains his memory but decides he doesn't want to get back with you?"
Tim, whose blush had long since disappeared, seemed to pale. I noticed that he squeezed Max's hand.
"Yes, Rick, I've thought of that possibility. I've just been hoping that he'd eventually recover from the amnesia, and we'd just pick up where we left off."
"Tim," Rick said, leaning forward, "I've come to care a lot about you. I want us to be good friends. But I wonder if you aren't being a little unreal in your expectations. You simply can't predict when or whether Ced's memory will return, and you have no idea how he's going to feel when and if it does."
I was thinking how much like a professor Rick was sounding just then, but what he was saying to Tim made a lot of sense. I didn't know what he was doing to his fledgling friendship with Tim, but I certainly admired him at that moment. But then, I've always admired Rick.
Tim let go of Max's hand, leaned back in his chair, and sighed. Then he finished the wine in his glass. I noticed that the observant Kevin hadn't brought our desserts. He'd had plenty of time, but he must have seen that something very intense was going on at our table and had the tact not to interrupt.
Max took a long drink of water, but he never took his eyes off of Tim. And still I could see the love and concern. I must say, I had never met Cedric, but I knew how much Rick liked him. I envied Tim that two such men could love him. And I must say I wondered a little why they did. I was sitting at a table with three short men, two of whom I thought were better looking and sexier than Tim Mead. And right at that moment I thought he was being remarkably stupid for not seeing what was so obvious to Rick and me, that Max was devoted to him.
As I said, Tim sort of deflated after Rick's suggestion about Ced not wanting to reunite even if he got his memory back. He was obviously thinking that over.
"What about this? Don't you think I owe it to Ced, to what he and I had, to wait a while longer? It's only been three months. If I found someone new and a month from now he got his memory back, where would we be? It would be a real mess."
It wasn't for me to say, since I had just met Tim, but I thought he was being pretty unrealistic. And he'd not said anything at all about getting together with Max. Was he stupid, or what? There was this hot little stud, as good looking in his own way as Rick, and built along the same lines, obviously totally gaga over Mead, and the little redhead just didn't see it.
Kevin brought dessert and coffee. Max and I managed to change the topic, and the rest of the meal was quietly congenial.
After Tim and Max dropped us off at Rick's place and we were undressing for bed, I grabbed Modarelli, who was looking gorgeous in his black bikini briefs, and said to him, "Hot damn, Rick! You're not only the sexiest little dude I know, but you're smart, too. I might even get to like you."
He grinned as he stuck his finger into my crack. "And what would I have to do to help you like me?"
He found out pretty quickly.
* * *
When Tim pulled into his garage, he turned off the ignition and sat there.
"Max, I'm sorry about what happened this evening."
"Sure. It must have been embarrassing."
"It's okay, Tim."
He fiddled with the keys. "You know, Max, if things had been different . . . ."
"I know, Tim."
He got out of the car, so I did, too. Ordinarily, since it wasn't late, he'd have invited me in, but he remembered promising to get me home at a reasonable hour. He walked to the driveway with me. He held his arms out, and I hugged him. Then he kissed me. Not passionately, but it was more than a peck. I wanted to pull him close to me and ram my tongue down his throat.
"I love you, Max."
"Love you, too, Tim."
"I'll see you after church tomorrow."
"Thanks. Pray for me. Woops, guess that's not a good request."
He hugged me again. "Max, if I were a praying man, I'd pray for you. You know that, don't you?"
"But, sweetheart, I KNOW you're going to tell those folk what they need to hear, and you'll do it with gentleness and dignity and love. And I'll be SO proud of you."
He swatted me on the bottom. "Now, babe, go pray or whatever. I'll see you tomorrow. Are we running?"
I grinned. "You betcha."
"Okay, then, I'll see you bright and early."
* * *
After our run the next morning, I asked Max how he felt about his sermon. He answered that he thought he was ready.
"Not everyone will like what I have to say, but that's their problem. At least I know what I have to say, and I hope I can build some bridges."
"Max, I didn't know you were a Rogerian."
"Hey, he makes a lot of sense, especially in my business."
"Carl Rogers makes a lot of sense for all of us."
"Yeah, you're right. So, I've gotta go and get ready for the early service."
"You don't mind if I only come to the late service, do you, babe?"
He grinned. "Of course not. Two services would be `cruel and unusual punishment' for you, Tim."
I swatted him on the butt, and we parted.
Trey, Chaz, and I went to St. Peter's together. We met Rick and Ned outside. All of us sat together about ten rows back, directly in front of the pulpit, where Max could see us. We thought it was a good idea for him to see such an array of his friends.
I noticed that both Rick, nominally a Catholic, and Ned, an Episcopalian, genuflected when they entered the pew. Chaz and Trey, who were Protestants but not Episcopalians, didn't. I didn't. I wished, however, that I could feel more secure about their god. Intellectually, I couldn't accept anything like the divinity they prayed to. Emotionally, I wished there were such a being. I needed to pray to him. For Ced. For Max. For my friends. For me.
Just before the procession, David slipped into the pew with us. I don't know how he knew Max would be doing the service, but I was glad for Max's sake that he had come. All the way from San Francisco, he'd come. I thought Max would be thrilled to see him.
The Episcopal service was very familiar. I went to Morning Prayer and Holy Eucharist with Max often at Kenyon. I admit I hadn't been to church between graduating from Kenyon and Max's showing up on campus except for weddings and funerals, but I'd been to St. Peter's often enough since he came back into my life. It was a curious thing. I had trouble believing in the God who was supposed to be behind it all, but I had no trouble seeing why Christians loved and followed their Christ. And I finally admitted to myself that I loved the service. I had had some sort of emotional experience the previous Christmas when I was there with Ced and all our friends and Max was assisting in the service. Never figured out exactly what that was about.
On this particular August morning, however, I felt goosebumps when the processional started, and I nearly lost it when Max, preceded by a tall teen carrying the cross, came past our pew. He was wearing his white alb. I don't know whether it was the music, the cross, the ceremony, or Max, but I felt like crying. And I felt such a strong love for Max, my good, dear, friend.
After the opening sentences, the Collect, the Old Testament lesson, the psalm, and the New Testament lesson, Max came down into the congregation, preceded by the crucifer and two candle bearers (that's what acolytes means, isn't it?), to read the Gospel. He looked so beautiful there as he read. White is perfect with his ruddy complexion and chestnut hair.
Next came the sermon.
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," he began. I joined the rest of those there in saying "Amen."
"Although we are using Rite 2 to celebrate the Eucharist this morning, I'm sure you all remember the following words from Rite 1: `Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets'." He stressed the word "all."
`Good for you, Maxie,' I thought. `That's getting right to the point!'
"We Episcopalians have always thought of ourselves, perhaps sometimes too smugly, as being an inclusive church. Most Episcopal churches allow any baptized Christian to partake of the Body and Blood of Christ with us. We encourage people of all ethnicities to worship and serve with us. We have women deacons, priests, and bishops. We have signs in all our towns saying `The Episcopal Church Welcomes You,' and we believe it. As of this week, my friends, we took another giant step toward inclusiveness."
Max went on to explain that the recent Conference had put the Church on record as saying that members of the GLBT community were no longer pariahs, were entitled to the full benefits of being Episcopalians.
I'm ashamed to admit that my mind wandered just then. I was thinking about Stan and Doug in Lake Polk, Florida, and wondering how that very conservative community was reacting to the events in Minneapolis. I resolved to call them as soon as I got home to see how they were faring. They had trouble with the community when they were outed. Doug had to give up being a Eucharistic minister in the church he and Stan attended. And their bishop, the one who had rescinded Doug's license, had been prominently opposed to the acceptance of Bishop Robinson, both during and since the Conference. I admired them in a way for staying there and trying to be a force for good in their community, but I wondered why, since they didn't have to stay there, they just didn't get out.
"So, my friends, let us go forth and love one another. Amen." Thus Max ended his homily. The congregation repeated the "Amen." Then we all stood up for the reading of the Creed, and the service moved on.
To be continued.