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This story is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to people, living or dead, is entirely a coincidence. As the author, I retain all rights to this story, and it cannot be reproduced or published without explicit consent from me. This work is copyrighted © 2015 by Steven Wells.
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Jeffery Comes Home
"So, Trevor," I said as we sat down to dinner after Philip and I arrived home from Chicago. "How has your group at school evolved?"
"Wicked cool!" Trevor answered. I smiled at Philip. "Mr. Willis agreed to be our advisor. He was flattered we thought to ask him. He told us an interesting story about his growing up, too."
"How so?" I asked.
"He was bullied in high school because of his sexual identity," Travis explained. "He didn't get into too much detail with the exception that he took a course of action not normally affiliated with, and I quote, `a little gay boy.' He first took a martial arts class in his sophomore year of high school and learned to defend himself. He started working out during his junior year in high school. During one altercation in the hallways, he threw one of the bullies against a bank of lockers with a martial arts move. He also pointed out he was not advocating for bullying the bullies."
"Great words of advice," I added. "How is the interest in the group from the student body?"
"It's been cool," Trevor added. "We have about 30 people who are interested in attending the first meeting. One of the straight dudes offered to set up a website for our group based on the mission statement of GLSEN. So, we're off to a good start."
"Any opposition?" Philip asked.
"It's funny you should asked that question, Dad," Trevor continued. "You remember my former mother and father, the ex-Congressman and his wife?"
"Ah... How could we forget?" Philip responded.
"It seems the esteemed ex-Congressman, his wife, and Mr. and Mrs. Sager—Emilie's parents—have contacted the school board, under the auspices of their right wing nut case church," Travis so eloquently explained. "The group is `appalled' at the `lack of sensitivity to the community on issues involving despicable lifestyles of homosexuals.'"
"And, what was the boards' reaction?" I asked.
"The board has told the nuts in the group to basically buzz off in a nice fashion," Trevor said with a smile.
"So, Jeffery," Philip began. "You've made a difference in Olney already! Congratulations."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Philip," I replied. "We still have a long way to go. We have only uncovered a small group of idiots who live here. Life could get even more complicated as we move forward with the revolution here in this small, Southern Illinois community."
Chapter 14: Another Life
The year had flown by. Trevor finished his junior year in high school with a straight A's. Philip, Trevor, and I did our ubiquitous college campus tour the month of June. We toured the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, Northwestern, Loyola, Stanford, and finally Harvard. Trevor's choice varies from day-to-day and coast-to-coast. Will it be Harvard or Stanford? Philip and I hoped for something closer, but Trevor is having nothing to do with the thought of going to an Illinois university.
I sat in my office the Friday before Independence Day. Trevor knocked on my door. He was flanked by Robbie and Johnathan. "Dad," Trevor began, "can we talk to you for a moment?"
"Sure," I replied. "Have a seat."
"Dad," Trevor began. "I know this will not come as a big shock to you, but there are people in this community who can't afford enough food to feed their families."
"How do you know this?" I asked. He was absolutely correct, but I wanted to know how this problem affected Trevor and his friends.
"We ran into Gerald Marks at McDonald's," Trevor quietly explained. "He was in our class at school... Dad... he was sorting through a trash can outside McDonald's looking for food! We gave him $40. At first he wasn't going to accept it, but we told him it was for his family. He almost cried, Dad! He almost cried!"
"You are right, guys," I explained. "There are indeed many families in this community who can't afford to feed their families on the money they make. Sometimes it's temporary if one of the bread winners loses a job. Other times, the parents—or in some case parent—is underemployed. Some are even on welfare and collect money through the SNAP program. How do you think you could help?"
"We thought about a community garden somewhere in town," Robbie suggested. "But it is sort of late in the growing season to be successful this year. Maybe next year."
"Where would you have this community garden?" I asked.
"Well," Trevor began. "This church sits on about 10 acres I believe."
"Yes," I said.
"The buildings and parking lots only take up about half of the land," Trevor continued. "We thought maybe the church would be willing to loan the back three acres to the community garden effort for next summer."
"You can talk to the board of the church and get their permission," I suggested. "If you hurry, you could meet with the board next Wednesday. Also, talk to your dad. He runs a 5,000 acre farm. He might have some ideas about crops you could raise for the last part of the summer."
"Could you talk to the board for me, Dad?" Trevor asked.
"Nope," I replied. "Your idea. You make it work. You will also need to arrange for donations for seeds or plants. Some people in the community might not be able to afford even seeds."
"I guess we have our work cut out for us," Johnathan remarked. "Trevor, you need to talk to the board. I think you might have more name recognition than the two of us. I can talk to the hardware store about seeds or plants. We can all talk to Philip about crops."
"I think you guys are on the right track," I said to the boys. "Don't give up if things seem not to be going as fast as you like. Some of these projects are very, very bureaucratic. And, with bureaucracy comes delays and slowness. You might also want to talk to the people who run the food bank. They can always, always use monetary donations."
"Fundraising event," Trevor thought out loud. "Entertainment donated by a first rate group. Like maybe Chris Williamson's tenor group. High school auditorium. Or, a very large, well-established sanctuary... like the one here."
"Don't bite off more than you can chew, Trevor," I cautioned.
"When have you ever known me to not finish something I've started?" Trevor asked.
"Never," I added.
"What do you think of the idea?" Trevor asked.
"Great idea, Trev," Robbie said.
"I think there will be a lot of people who could get involved in this fundraising event," Johnathan added. "It would be a great social time for the community. Plus it would be fun. Provided, Trevor, you can convince Chris and his group to be our entertainment."
Philip and I were sitting in the living room after dinner. Trevor was on the phone with Sam and Chris Williamson.
"So, what would it take to get you and your friends to help us out, Chris?" Trevor finally asked as he switched to speaker phone.
"When do you think you would like to have this event?" Chris asked.
"End of summer or the beginning of fall?" Trevor asked. "It would give us time to sell tickets and advertise the event."
"How about the beginning of October?" Chris asked. "We will have our CD officially on the market by the beginning of November. It would be a good preview for our group."
"CD?" Trevor asked. "You guys are coming out with a CD? Outstanding!"
"We have finished recording all of the tracks," Chris explained. "It is in the production stage right now."
"What's your group called?" Trevor asked.
"Four Guys and an Orchestra," Chris said. "Actually, we haven't decided yet. The marketing people are trying to name us."
"Which would you rather do this in?" Trevor continued. "The high school auditorium or the UCC sanctuary?"
"Which has more seats?" Chris asked.
"It's a tossup," Trevor explained. "The sanctuary probably has better acoustics but the auditorium has an orchestra pit and a professional class lighting and sound systems plus a back stage rivaling many Broadway theaters."
"Auditorium," Chris replied. "How about two shows? Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. All you would need to do is find room to house about 95 people."
"Consider it done," Trevor replied. "How much can we get for tickets?"
"We are doing a benefit for HomeFront in December," Chris explained. "The tickets are between $45 and $150."
"Wow!" Trevor exclaimed.
"In January, we will be on PBS at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Hall," Chris explained. "You can use the upcoming shows as PR for when you advertise the event."
"This is going to be so cool!" Trevor exclaimed. "Say hello to Donny, Mathew, and Joshua. Also, give our best to the dogs."
"I'll talk to you soon," Chris replied.
"Say hello to your dads, Trevor," Sam chimed in.
"I'm on it," Trevor replied as he hung up the phone.
"So, dads," Trevor began as he sat in the living room with Philip and me. "What do you think so far?"
"It sounds as though you will have a very successful event," I replied.
"There might be some organic farm in the area willing to underwrite the event so you can keep ticket prices down and still make money for your cause," Philip said with a smile.
"Really?" Trevor asked with a little surprise in his voice. "How much underwriting?"
"We can talk about it later with our marketing group," Philip replied. "Of course, we would need to be mentioned as a sponsor."
"What if I were to get other sponsors?" Trevor asked.
"Such as?" I asked.
"Car dealerships, Macy's, Walmart," Trevor suggested. "Walmart is, after all, responsible for some of the underemployed people who rely on the food pantry in this area."
"I don't believe I would use those words in your sales pitch," I said with a smile. "It's true, but not something they will want to broadcast."
"Maybe if the organic farm in the area comes up with enough underwriting, you won't need to bother with other sponsors," Philip suggested with his dimple laden smile.
"I'll hold off then," Trevor replied.
I was working feverishly on my talk for next Sunday. I had a reputation—among my mother, Philip, and me—of procrastinating. It was Friday. Nothing had hit me.
My mother stopped on the other side of my open office door. "Having a difficult time with your talk for Sunday?"
"How did you know?" I asked.
"The look on your face," my mother explained. "Vacant."
"So, you think your only son has a vacant look on his face?" I asked.
"Yes," my mother replied. "Maybe you need to go for a drive or a walk to clear your mind and give you inspiration."
"Maybe you are right, Mom," I said as I shut off my laptop and shoved it into my backpack. "On days like this, I sometimes wish I would have bought a convertible... Maybe I should get a motorcycle."
"Are you out of your mind, Jeffery," my mother proclaimed. "People who ride motorcycles, I believe, must have a death wish."
"Then, if I decide to get one, I won't tell you," I said as I slung my back pack over my shoulder and headed out the door to my car. As the summer heat hit me in the face, I vowed to write a thank you note to the guy who invented air conditioning.
As the air conditioning began pumping cold air, I headed the car toward the south and to the farm where Philip worked.
As I pulled into the driveway of the office and parked behind Philip's truck, I noticed Mabel looking intently at me. I noticed a weak moo as she sauntered toward me. I walked to the fence and waited for Mabel to arrive. She stared intently at me.
"Hello, Mabel," I said. "How has your day been?"
I paused as Mabel gave me another mooing sound.
"I guess you and I are having the same kind of day," I confided to Mabel.
Again Mabel responded another slightly louder moo. She was still staring at me. It seemed as though she was smiling.
"So, are you and Mabel enjoying your conversation?" Philip asked me.
"Yup," I replied. "We are having the same kind of day, I think. I have writer's block and Mabel has something going on."
"Mabel hates the summer heat," Philip explained. "She prefers to coolness of her digs in the barn. But, I make her come out to eat. Otherwise, she won't get any exercise."
"So, Mabel, pay attention to Philip," I said quietly. "He has your best interest at heart."
Philip handed me two sugar cubes. "Give her these. She will be your friend for life."
"She won't bite me will she?" I asked with a little panic in my voice.
"No," Philip replied with a smile. "She will slobber on your hand, but she won't bite you."
I slowly extended my open palm with the sugar cubes toward Mabel's mouth. Her giant cow tongue slipped out and quickly removed the sugar cubes from my hand. She only slobbered slightly.
She gave me a hearty moo and turned to return to her home in the barn.
"So, you've bonded," Philip said.
"I guess you could say we have bonded," I replied. "Now, I need your help, Philip. I can't for the life of me write anything interesting for my talk on Sunday."
"I have some things to take care of at the bank," Philip explained. "Why don't we go to the coffee shop and talk? I'm not certain I can help, but I will listen."
"Thanks, sweetie," I said as I gave him a quick kiss. "I will see you at the coffee shop in a few minutes."
"Give me ten minutes to finish up here and I will be on my way," Philip replied.
"I'll see you in a few minutes," I said as I headed back to my car.
I found a parking space just outside the front door of the coffee shop, grabbed my backpack and headed inside.
"Jeffery!" Mel almost screamed as I walked through the door.
"Did I miss something, Mel?" I asked.
"No, silly," Mel excitedly replied. "I'm just happy to see you! It has been so long!"
"Mel," I replied. "I saw you last Sunday at church. I haven't seen you this excited for a long time. You must have news about something."
"I guess I am just a little excited," Mel explained. "My cousin's kids from Chicago are spending most of the summer with us. Their mother has some health issues, and she needs to concentrate on getting better. The kids don't know about the health issues. They are just excited to be spending the summer with us in the country."
"How old are the kids?" I asked.
"Twin boys," Mel replied. "Four years old as of last May."
"Can you handle twin, four-year-old boys, Mel," I said snippily. "You are not as young as you used to be."
"Listen, dude," Mel said. "If I have a problem keeping up with them, I will send them to your house for a rest."
"Are you threatening me?" I asked with a smile.
"Yes," Mel replied. "Now, are you expecting your husband or are you alone today."
"Philip should be here shortly," I replied.
"Ah!" Mel added. "He's walking through the door now. Let me know what I can get you. It will be on the house because you might be my emergency babysitter for the rest of the summer!"
"Thanks, Mel," I replied as I greeted Philip. "Mel is in rare form, Philip. Be prepared."
As Philip and I settled at a table in the window my phone began to ring. It was Brandon Martin. "This is Jeffery."
"Jeffery, Brandon here," Brandon announced. "Where are you right now?"
"I'm with Philip at the coffee shop," I replied.
"Stay right there," Brandon said. "I have a surprise for you. I'll be at the coffee shop in about 15 minutes with your surprise."
"I hope this is a good surprise, Brandon," I said.
"It is," Brandon said. "I'll see you in 15 minutes."
After I ended the call, I turned to Philip. "He said he has a surprise for me. I wonder what he is up to now."
"We will soon find out," Philip said with a smirk.
"I know that look, Philip," I said with squinty eyes. "What are you and Brandon up to now?"
"What are you talking about, Jeffery," Philip replied. "I'm not up to anything."
"I will sit here and pout until you tell me what is going on," I added.
"It will be a long 15 minutes," Philip said with a smile. "Just remember what Mabel told you today."
"Does that old cow have anything to do with this?" I asked.
"Mabel will be one pissed off cow if I tell her you called her an old cow," Philip replied.
We talked some more before I felt a hand on my shoulder. When I turned around, I almost went out of my mind with shock, amazement, and happiness.
"Anthony! What the fuck are you doing here?" I asked as I pulled him toward me into a hug. Anthony was my "Lost Sheep" in San Francisco whose wedding we attended in February. His husband Peter was standing next to him.
"Is that any way to greet your friends whose wedding you officiated a few months ago?" Anthony asked.
"I'm just surprised to see you two here," I said. I was almost crying. "This is in the middle of farm country. Not a travel destination."
"Actually, Jeffery," Anthony began. "This will be the home of Anthony and DOCTOR Peter Chow-Sanchez in about two weeks."
"You are shitting me?" I almost screamed. I quickly looked around the coffee shop to make certain we didn't have any church members in the audience. "Wait a minute... Doctor?"
"Yup," Peter replied. "I finished my PhD in Drug Rehab Psychology."
"He will be helping to start the county's first substance abuse rehab center at the hospital," Brandon explained. "Anthony will be our psych nurse in the unit."
"Fantastic!" I added. "How long will you be here this trip?"
"We have a flight back to San Francisco on Monday morning," Anthony said. "We've been packing up the apartment for the last two weeks. Then, we will be back here in two weeks. Of course, we will need to buy a car. Neither one of us has ever owned one. Can you help?"
"I know the perfect person to help you out," I said. "Have you found a place to live yet?"
"We are looking at a couple of apartments tomorrow," Peter explained. "Eventually, we want to buy a house. I can't believe I am actually saying that."
On Sunday morning, I was ready to give my talk to the congregation.
After a terrific rendition of "Lean on Me" by the choir, I pushed the button on the podium and the power point projector delivered an image of Mabel.
"Some of you may be asking why I am showing you a photo of a cow. Well, this is Mabel. And, my talk is, after all, `The Best Advice Mabel Gave Me.' She is an older cow who is a mainstay of Organic Farms Inc. south of town. She is a wise cow, and she recently gave me some sage advice about living life to the fullest. And, I want to share her advice with all of you. She and I may have been listening to the same billionaire who is running for president. Mabel's thoughts led me to 2 Timothy 1:7: `For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.'"
"But, before I go forward with the advice of a wise cow, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce two people who mean a lot to me, to Dr. Lopez, to Dr. Martin, and a bevy of other people. Some of you may remember my story of a lost sheep I found in San Francisco and went on to become a nurse after a life lived in the streets and on drugs. Anthony, Peter, could you please stand so everyone know who I am talking about."
"I am proud to introduce Anthony and Dr. Peter Chow-Sanchez. Anthony was my lost sheep in San Francisco. He met Peter in AA. Together they will be starting the substance abuse unit at the Richland Memorial Hospital. Please give them a hearty welcome after the service."
"You will also be hearing from my son Trevor about a project he will be working on during the summer," I explained. "His project does have a direct relationship to my talk. So, please give him any support you can. Do not be surprised if he someday becomes the person who eliminates hunger in the world."
"In the meantime, I will get back to my story about Mabel and living life to the fullest..."
"...So, the next time you look around your neighborhood, your city, your state, your country, don't look with fear. Look as Mable taught me to look. See the power of love and compassion for others and the good you can do for the world."
To be continued...
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