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"No more, please, I can't take anymore "
Boom! A blast of a gun being fired and the sound of something heavy falling to the floor with a thud had Ryan and Kyle running up the stairs, totally forgetting about Jerry who was left dangling from the ceiling by his wrists and struggling to free himself.
"Hey, somebody get me down from here."
Kyle was up the stairs in a flash and Ryan was close behind. Kyle's heart was in his mouth, while Ryan was already praying to God that no one was hurt. As Kyle emerged from the door leading to the basement stairway, he could see Manny lying on the floor. Mark was about half way down the stairs and had a look of dread on his face. As Kyle neared he heard Manny crying and gave thanks that he was still alive. Kyle just stood over him trying to assess the situation. Ryan came up behind him.
"Mark are you alright?" Ryan asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine; but what about Manny?" Mark answered.
Kyle saw the gun near Manny's hand and kicked it away. "Manny are you hurt?"
Iiiiii. hiiiiit myyyyyyyy heeeeeeeead." He responded as he grabbed for his superman action figure.
Kyle immediately felt around the back of his head, but found no blood and scooped the crying boy into his arms and hugged him.
"Does it hurt anywhere else?" Kyle asked.
"I want my mommy," the boy said as he continued to sniffle.
"He's OK!" Kyle said to Ryan and Mark both of whom breathed a sigh of relief as they heard the sound of approaching police sirens.
Ryan immediately went back down to the basement and undid the cuffs on Jerry's wrists.
"What the hell happened?' Jerry yelled, massaging his wrists once Ryan had freed him.
"Our youngest son got hold of your service revolver and it seems he fired it."
"Oh my God, there'll be hell to pay!" Jerry said as Ryan helped him dress quickly. By the time they came upstairs, there were two officers at the door chatting with Kyle and Mark.
Jerry hastened over and intervened, "Its OK guys. There was an accident. I'm Officer Jerome Clark, I'll make a full written report in the morning. Everything here is secure."
When the officers saw his uniform and badge, they were satisfied and left without pursuing the matter. Ryan went into the kitchen and made some hot chocolate. He put a shot of Kalua in the cups of the adults and served drinks to everyone.
"Manny, you must promise me never to touch a gun." Ryan said once they all had a soothing drink.
"I thought it was a toy. I was going to go up and play cowboys and Indians with Mark."
The three adults looked at one another and silently gave thanks that he had discharged the gun before he had reached Mark's bedroom.
"He said he was thirsty and came down for a glass of water." Mark said feeling guilty that he hadn't accompanied him.
"That's OK, Mark, there's no way you could have known that there was a gun in the house. You're not responsible." Ryan said.
"I should never have come here." Jerry said.
"Jerry, please don't feel that way. It was my fault that the gun was left in plain sight. What happened was an accident. Let's just give thanks to the Lord that no one was hurt and let's remember that leaving a gun around even for a moment can be a fatal mistake. If we learn from our past mistakes, we redeem them as well as avoid repeating them in the future. Boys, we will never buy you even a toy gun and if your friends have them, we don't want you playing with them. They look too real and playing games with guns only desensitizes us to violence." Ryan said.
"I think what Ryan meant was, Jerry that you are now one of our friends and we hope you will continue to visit us, but please leave the gun somewhere else." Kyle said.
"Thanks, guys, but I still feel awful." Jerry insisted.
"Well maybe you need a good spanking." Ryan said.
Manny suddenly stopped crying, and looked at Jerry all wide-eyed and everyone began to laugh.
* * *
Later in the week Ryan dropped Mark off for his Religious Education Class and headed to the high school for his third therapy session. By seven o'clock all the members of the group were assembled, except for Roger's mother whose absence was notable. Roger's father was the first to speak.
"I am afraid that Roger's mother will not be attending. We have decided to separate and she has moved out."
"I think we are all sorry to hear that." Ryan was saying when an officer of the court barged into the room and handed him a summons.
"Dr. Loud please sign here. You are now served."
The summons was a citation to appear in court. Apparently Roger's mother had persuaded her friend the local District Attorney to charge him with the crime of corruption of youth and of promoting indecency and she was suing him for provoking discord in her marriage. Ryan read the summons, smiled to himself, and quietly slipped it into his pocket.
"As I was saying, sorry for the difficulties you are both having at home." Ryan said.
"Actually, things have been better since she moved out. There used to be so much tension at home and now it has become very peaceful." Roger said as his father nodded in agreement.
Ryan also nodded his head signalling that he understood and continued. "When two people or two groups have a disagreement how do you suppose that they can resolve their differences?"
"They need to talk it out," said the black jock," Jack Crawford.
"Yes, Jack, you are correct. Dialogue is necessary, but in order for it to be successful, those that participate in the dialogue need certain qualities. Does anyone know what those qualities are?" Ryan asked.
"I suppose that they would have to be willing to listen to one another." Sandy, the flaxen-haired boy said.
"Hearing what the other is saying and not what you expect him to say. Is that what you mean, Sandy?"
"Absolutely!" Sandy replied.
"Do you realize what I just did?" Ryan asked.
Everyone just stared at him wondering what he was talking about.
"Just go over in your mind what Sandy said and then how I responded to him. First he affirmed that listening is needed for dialogue to be successful. Then I repeated in my own words what he said and then asked him if I had understood him. Can you see that? Too often we do not listen to one another and are only thinking about how we are going to respond, so we never really hear what was said in the first place." Ryan said.
"We also need to be willing to compromise," said Roger's father.
"Yes, a willingness to negotiate, that is sacrificing some things in order to gain others, if I understood you correctly?" Ryan said, giving another example of checking what one has understood.
Roger's father nodded his agreement.
"We also need the Christian virtue of tolerance. What does tolerance mean to you?" Ryan said directing the group to reflect deeper.
"It means putting up with jerks!" Carl said just as sassy as ever.
Everyone laughed. "That is correct, but incomplete, Carl. Yes we need to put up with differences, but it means more than that." Ryan pointed out. "It also means defending other's rights to be, act and think differently than we do."
"So we have to accept queers like Roger!" Dean said teasingly.
"Thank you for saying that Dean." Ryan said.
"You agree with me?" Dean said surprised.
"No, Dean, I don't but I want to thank you for giving us an example of bad communication skills."
Dean's dad jabbed him in the ribs.
"Can anyone tell me what was wrong with Dean's comment?" Ryan asked.
"He didn't check with the person who spoke before him if he had understood what they said." Sandy said.
"Yes, that is correct, and he made a joke when we are trying to be serious, and understand one another. Sometimes jokes can help relieve the tension, but when we joke about someone else that can get in the way of real dialogue and can be hurtful."
"Apologize to Roger." Dean's father said.
"Ah, dad, he knows I was only kidding him; we're tight, right Roger?"
"No, we're more than tight, Dean, we're lovers!" Roger said, jokingly, but everyone held their breath. "Hey, guys, I'm kidding." Roger laughed.
And again everyone laughed. The session continued for another hour as the group began to absorb slowly the concepts of conflict resolution. But more than just growing intellectually, the group was beginning to appreciate Ryan who was treating them like, and respecting them as, adults. During the breaks some of the couples sought Ryan's advice on other family problems they were facing. Ryan noticed that the group was now beginning to coalesce more and more. He wondered if it was due to the process or to the absence of Roger's mother. At the end of the session, Anthony arrived with an order of cannoli.
"Everybody this is Anthony and he has brought us a tray of gannoli from his uncle's restaurant."
"These are called 'cannoli'," Anthony corrected Ryan's mispronunciation. "Those on this side have an almond flavor and those for the adults are rum-flavored." The boys lunged for the tray and the rum-flavored cannoli.
* * *
When Ryan got home, he and Kyle kissed, much to Manny's amusement. Then Kyle told Ryan that Mark looked a bit down again. Ryan grabbed Manny and kissed him on the cheek as well as Manny covered his mouth with his hands yelling.
"Not on the lips!"
"That's kind of normal, he's bound to have low days periodically." Ryan said.
"No, I think something happened over at the Church." Kyle said.
"Where is he?" Ryan asked.
"Uh, I think he's emailing his cousin in California on your PC." Kyle said taking Manny and moving him in the direction of his bedroom to get him showered for the night.
"Hey, Mark, how're you doing?" Ryan asked as he entered his den.
"Alright." Mark answered.
"You don't sound alright."
"Ryan, is it true that priests can't get married?"
"Yes, Mark, that is the rule in the Catholic Church."
"Why's that?" Mark questioned.
"Well, I suppose the most basic reason is to put their work preaching before all else. You see they tell us all to put God first in our lives and they offer us the example of this sacrifice: celibacy. It's like being a martyr, but without dying. They hope that by making this sacrifice people will take them more seriously."
"I'm not sure I understand." Mark said disappointedly.
"Well, suppose two people came up to you and told you something and each said the opposite. One was willing to give something up so that you would believe him and the other wasn't willing to give it up. Which one would you believe if they both sounded convincing?"
"Oh, I see. They do it so we believe them more?" Mark said.
"So, why all these questions?" Ryan explored.
"Well, I was thinking that I might want to be a priest, but I also like Linda, a girl in my class."
"Oh, I see, you have another dilemma! Both of those choices sound good, but you know that you could also be a married deacon."
"What's that?" Mark responded, mentally clutching at straws.
"Well the Church allows married men to be like an assistant to the priest. I think deacons preach, and baptize and visit the sick with communion, they don't offer Mass and if their wife dies, they can't remarry." Ryan explained. "But you have a long time to think about your dilemma."
Ryan kissed the boy on the top of his head and left him to finish writing his email to his cousin.
* * *
That evening Bill and Anthony came over to meet Manny. Ryan answered the door. "Hi guys, come on in. Kyle is seeing to his bath, they should be done in a few minutes, come on in and have a seat."
The two felt at home immediately and sat together on the sofa.
"So how's it going for you two?" Ryan asked.
Bill raised his eyebrows. "Just great, we have been using that massage technique you taught us and sex has been great."
Anthony affirmed Bill's comment with his head and eyes. Then they heard the bathroom door open and Kyle came down the stairs while Manny scurried to his bedroom wrapped in a towel.
"Hi guys, how's it hanging?" Kyle asked.
Next Mark came down and greeted his friend Bill and then Anthony. Everyone was smiling. Kyle disappeared into the kitchen to get some refreshments and Manny came downstairs dressed in his PJ's decorated with horses.
"Manny, this is Bill and Anthony. Anthony is Dominic's nephew."
Hi, I'm Emmanuel, but you can call me Manny." Manny said.
Bill pulled a box out from behind his back and handed it to Manny. "Here ya go. This is to welcome you into our family."
Manny opened the box excitedly to find a model airplane to build. "Wow, this is so cool. Look Mark what Bill and Anthony gave me," he said showing his gift, beaming with joy.
"Hey Manny that is so phat. I can help you put it together tomorrow after school." Mark said.
Then Anthony, grabbed Mark's arm and said, "hey big guy, you think we forgot about you?" He said pulling a box of six cannoli's out from behind his back.
"Wow, Manny, these are so great, wait until you taste one!" Mark said, taking the box and passing it to each person in the room. Manny bit into one end of his and the ricotta cheese mixture began oozing out the other.
Ryan jumped up to help him. "Kyle just bathed you, we don't want to get you all messed up now before going to bed." They all sat around chatting for a while and when the guys got up to leave, Manny ran up to each and gave them a big 'good night kiss'" and thanked them.
That night, like the night before, Manny got into Mark's bed and they slept each giving comfort to the other and looking forward to the next day.
Once in their bedroom, Ryan told Kyle about the summons. At first Kyle looked concerned, but then he realized that Ry was Ry and he would be able to defend himself well. Ryan, on the other hand, was very much aware that a charge of corrupting youth if proven would make adopting Mark and Manny impossible. He prayed in silence that night not wanting to alarm Kyle any further than was necessary.
The next day, Ryan and Kyle went to register Manny at the local parochial school. The principal was not too pleased to be registering a child with two gay dads. She was going over the paperwork in the hope of finding an excuse not to accept the child. While they were waiting for her to finish going over the records that the social worker Ryan's ex-student, Mrs. Roman had provided, in walked the priest that had taken care of Mark's request for a Mass for his parents.
"So good to see you again, Ryan isn't it?" Said the priest. "I'm Fr. Mike, the director of the school. I don't think I introduced myself the other day when you brought in Mark. He's a great kid. Sister, don't worry about the papers, I've seen them at Mass and they have an older boy now taking catechism in preparation to join the Church."
"Fr. I'd like to present Kyle, my partner," Ryan said "Glad to meet you Kyle. Awfully young to be a business partner, aren't you?" the priest enquired as Kyle started to reply "Actually, Fr. I am....."
"He's the cabin boy on my yacht. We are going to have to have you and the sister go out with us one of these days." Ryan said cutting Kyle off.
After they left the school Kyle was very quiet. "Something on your mind, Kyle" Ryan asked.
"How come you didn't let me finish saying that we are lovers?" Kyle asked accusingly.
"Oh, Kyle, did that bother you? I'm sorry. I did it to avoid problems getting Manny into school. Anyway, they know our situation, we just don't have to rub their noses in it. There's no way they can condone us." Ryan explained.
"Well, I don't know, it seemed to me that you were capitulating to them. And I don't like having to hide our love. I want everyone to know that you are mine and that I am yours." Kyle insisted.
"Kyle, you're right. Turn this car around. I sit corrected." Ryan admitted. [Well, actually, DQ pedantically amended!]
When they arrived back at the school, Ryan and Kyle headed back into the Principal's office. Fr. Mike was still there.
"Fr. Mike and Sister Mary Rose, I need to tell you that Kyle and I are lovers and we are co-parenting Emmanuel. Do you have a problem with that?" Ryan asked.
Sr Mary Rose was about to react when Fr. Mike cut her off. "Dr. Loud, no, there is no rule against us accepting Emmanuel into the school as long as you both do not intend to oppose publicly the Church's teaching against homosexual acts. I thank you for your honesty. Can I help you with anything else?" Fr. Mike asked earnestly.
"No, Father, not at the present moment. Thank you for attending us." Ryan said, offering his hand which Fr. Mike shook firmly. He also offered his hand to Sr Rose, but she merely bowed to him in an annoyed fashion while Fr. Mike offered his hand to Kyle who not only accepted it, but also flashed his 'wfs'.
To be continued
My story is also to be found on http://tickiestories.us where it usually posts ahead of here on Nifty. You will also find other excellent authors and their stories here. Including a far better one than this by DL. Ed. [Now who's the bastard, eh!]