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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 © 2016 by Steven Wells.
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Jeffery Comes Home
I handed Philip Mr. Delgado's résumé.
"Holy shit!" Philip exclaimed. "Perfect! Our company is poised to launch the construction phase of our operation. Until now, we have been acquiring existing businesses and merging them into ours. We have run out of acquisitions. It is time to build. Why hasn't Mr. Delgado pursued an H1B visa before?"
"Attorney fees," I added. "They can't afford the attorneys who claim they can help."
"Some immigration attorneys are less than above-board," Darryl explained. "They prey on undocumented immigrants."
"Darryl and his team do a lot of pro-bono work," Devon replied. "Mr. Washington has always been sympathetic to people who cannot afford an attorney, as you well know, Jeffery."
"You have saved our asses on more than one occasion," I replied. "Thank you, by the way. I happen to like my ass."
"I do, too," Philip said with a smile. "How do we proceed?"
"We need to keep this under wraps for as long as we can," Darryl explained. "If someone was unsympathetic to the undocumented immigrants, ICE could become involved. ICE would compromise, or even derail, our efforts."
Chapter 23: An End Zone Run
"How did Mr. Delgado make out today?" I asked as Philip and I sat in the living room after dinner. It was almost Thanksgiving.
"I believe, Jeffery, you are single-handedly responsible for my good fortune," Philip replied. "The man is remarkable. He knows his stuff. I need to give him a promotion."
"This was his first day," I said.
"It won't be long," Philip explained. "I'm excited about the potential of having him on staff. Devon and Darryl called me this morning. Mr. Delgado's H1B Visa cleared most of the hurdles. He and his family cannot be deported under any circumstances."
"Some things do happen to those who need help," I replied. "I'm happy everything has worked out."
"Dads," Trevor began as he eased into the chair beside Philip and me. "I have a dilemma. I'm in the beginning of my senior year of high school. I need to make college choices. I've narrowed it down to UIUC, Harvard, Stanford, and Berkley School of Music. UIUC has a terrific composition path. Harvard and Stanford, not so much. Berkley School of Music also has a great composition curriculum. But my real decision lays beyond my BA. If I wanted to go to Harvard Divinity, would I be better off at Harvard for my BA?"
"You've really thought this through, haven't you, Trev?" I said as Trevor ended his summary. "Most people at Harvard Divinity did not attend Harvard for their BA."
"There is also the boyfriend question," Philip added.
"I never did really put the boyfriend question into the equation," Trevor said. "I want to make the right school choice, but I also want to make the right boyfriend choice."
"Going somewhere other than UIUC would definitely end the boyfriend in the equation," I said.
"Besides, it is cheaper," Trevor continued. "We'd save a boatload of money at UIUC. You could buy me a nice condo in Cambridge when I go to Harvard Divinity since I am saving you so much with tuition for my BA."
"Don't count on us buying you a condo in Cambridge," Philip replied.
"I do need your advice," Trevor continued. He turned to Philip. "You liked UIUC, didn't you, Dad?"
"Yes," Philip replied. "It is a magnificent school. Well-endowed for a state school. Even through the school is huge the individual colleges bring students together. It's like going to a small school, except it isn't."
"Chris has wonderful things to say about the music school," I added. "He seems very pleased with his education."
"Sell me on Harvard, Dad," Trevor said to me.
"Harvard is a great school," I replied. "I felt like a poor boy from the Midwest until I decided I was just as competent as anyone at Harvard. I made a lot of friends after the first semester. But, you'll make friends at any school you attend. I expected you to push for Harvard or Stanford."
"Okay. I've made decision. I will apply to UIUC, Harvard, and Berkley School of Music," Trevor decided. "If I don't get into those three, I'll start over."
"Trev," I began. "You can get into any college you want. Your grades are impeccable."
"Thanks, Dads," Trevor said as he stood. "I'll call Rupert for his viewpoint."
When Trevor had vanished to his room, Philip turned to me. "He's a great kid. He has my brains and your empathy. What a combination!"
"Are you saying I am not as smart as you?" I asked.
"Nope," Philip replied. "I am only saying we make a good team."
"Daddies," Sam and Tim said as they slinked into the living room. "We need to ask you something."
"Okay," I replied. "Ask away."
"If we did something we didn't want to tell you about and we told you about something we didn't want to tell you, will we be in trouble?" Tim asked
"You won't be in as much trouble if you tell us what you did you didn't want to tell us about," I added.
Sam looked at Tim. Tim looked at Sam.
"Do you remember the plant which jumped into the toilet a few weeks ago?" Sam asked.
"Yes," Philip replied. "We remember the plant which jumped into the toilet a few weeks ago."
"It did it again, but this time it didn't jump into the toilet," Tim continued."
"Where did the plant jump if it didn't jump into the toilet?" I asked.
"It jumped out the window," Sam explained.
"Why did the plant jump out of the window?" Philip asked.
"It wanted to see what would happen if it jumped out of the window," Tim added.
"What did happen when the plant decided to jump out of the window?" I asked.
"The plant landed sort of funny, and it broke," Sam continued.
"How badly did the plant break when it jumped out of the window?" Philip asked.
"Pretty much," Tim replied.
"Do you want to show us where the plant jumped out of the window and broke?" I asked.
"Sure," Sam replied. "Are we in trouble because the plant jumped out of the window?"
"Let's go look at the broken plant, but you probably aren't in trouble unless you told the plant to jump out of the window," Philip explained as we followed Sam, Tim, Barkley, and Buckley into the bathroom.
"It's lucky the plant opened the window before it jumped," I said.
Philip and I both looked out the window. The plant had smashed onto the back sidewalk under the window.
"The plant is really, really broken," Philip added. "Why don't you boys take the dogs into your room while we clean up the mess the plant made by jumping out the window?"
"Okay," Sam and Tim said in unison as they left with the dogs.
Once the boys were out of the bathroom, Philip and I burst out laughing.
"We need to speak to the plant about jumping out of windows," I said.
"Too bad we didn't record our conversation about the plant jumping out of the window," Philip added.
"Yea," I replied. "It would be a show stopper."
I was giving the talk this Sunday. It was now Friday. I sat in my office and stared into space. `What will I say to the congregation two days from now?' I asked myself.
It hit me! Suddenly, I knew. Mabel would approve.
My talk, entitled "The War on Foolhardiness—Or an End Zone Run," quickly took shape
On Sunday morning, I sat nervously during the first part of the service. My mother kept whispering, "Calm down, Jeffery! Everything will go smoothly."
Finally, it was my turn.
"Good morning! I hope you're not disappointed Mabel or Lost Sheep is not included in the title of my talk today. And, if at times I seem to be getting angry, I am sorry. But, I need to talk about a few issues running through my brain these past few weeks.
Speaking of running. I need to mention the significance of the title of my talk: The War on Foolhardiness—Or an End Zone Run. An end run is a running football play in which the player carrying the ball tries to avoid being tackled by running outside the end (or flank) of the offensive line—or so I am told. Football is not my forte.
In a metaphorical sense, it has come to mean attempting to avoid a difficult situation by dodging it without confronting it directly, or to attempt to circumvent someone's authority by appealing to a different authority.
This is a new era encircling us. We need to prepare to react to almost any situation. It can be fake news. It can be confusing policy decisions. It can be competing narratives. It can be racism, religious intolerance, homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny, or any other hate filled message.
Confusion, competing narratives, and a sense nothing is really true: these words benefit people in power. It's about collective trauma.
Collective trauma is "a shared experience of threat and anxiety in response to sudden or ongoing events that lead to some threat to a basic sense of belonging in society." We belong here. Immigrants belong here. People of other religions belong here. We need to be on guard to push the wrong messages: hate and intolerance.
When messages reek of inaccurate information, mindless theories, and hate, we need to create our own end zone run. This is where it gets good. This church hosts a high school group whose members have concern about new directives and potentially lethal policy decisions coming out of Washington, DC. They meet here in the fellowship room. The second session attendance numbered over 50. These are high school students. They want to take action to have their voices heard.
Out of the last meeting, the group has developed a strategy. They are sending e-mails pleading for positive action from Washington, DC rather than destruction of safety nets for those who are in critical points in their lives. They each have an active list of e-mail addresses for the United States Congress, the United States Senate, and the President of the United States as well as for the Vice President. They have an e-mail list of city council members, county officials, State Representatives, State Senators, and the governor.
These students have also petitioned the city council to make this small, Southern Illinois town a sanctuary city. I know some are not pleased with the undocumented worker situation in this country. But, I believe the last time I looked, our church mission statement encourages helping those who need help. It encourages keeping our community safe and free from hate. It encourages us to work together for a happy, healthy, diverse, and nonviolent community.
So, what do you want to do after this...? Do you want to go home to your comfortable house, enjoy an abundant meal, talk about football and where we will spend our next vacation, and go to work among people just like you?
Or, do you want to go to the nearest food bank or homeless shelter and help those who can't help themselves. Do you want to talk about what we as a community and me as an individual need to accomplish to raise our community out of a vacuum, ferret out hatred, and join a diverse workforce where everyone's work is appreciated? Do you want to make certain people who are working can afford to provide the basic needs for their family?
I am hopeful you have heard the news about the company where my husband works. The company has plans to provide hundreds of jobs to people in this community and pay them a LIVING wage—and not a MINIMUM wage. We need to pull our heads out of the sand and look around us. Is your neighbor out of work and his or her kids are starving? If so, how can you help? How can we all help? Money is acceptable. Volunteering is acceptable. Writing letters and e-mails to government officials is acceptable. Doing nothing is unacceptable. Harboring hate is unacceptable. Tolerating wrongs done to other people is unacceptable. We need to move into this era with pride in what this church, this town, this community, this county, this state, this country, this world.
Before anyone gets any ideas, I am NOT encouraging an uprising. We do not want this to develop into a civil war. We want this to develop into a peaceful attempt to encourage taking care of people who can't take care of themselves, making our world safer, and making our world filled with love and appreciation of others' differences—and don't rule out an end zone run. It may save the world.
Make Me an Instrument of Peace."
Trevor moved from the choir to the front of the stage. Along with him, he had three other friends.
"When my dad was working on his talk today, he mentioned `Instrument of Peace' while we talked. I suggested this song following his talk. I want to thank my friends Jerrad, Terrie, and Hazel for joining me this morning," Trevor explained. Then, he turned to me. "Join us Dad!"
I stood beside Trevor, "I will probably blow this, you know."
"We won't let you," Trevor said before he started the song. The others followed. I was the last to join them.
When we were finished, Trevor turned to me. "See, Dad, you still have it in you even though you are an old man...! Kidding, Dad!"
After the service, we went to Mel's for lunch. Phillip and I with the boys. Janet and Martin with their two. My mother and father. Mr. and Mrs. Williamson.
"Jeffery," Mrs. Williamson said. "Have you ever thought of getting into politics?"
"No," I replied. "I am not suited to be a politician."
"Like I said before, Dad," Trevor interjected. "If a billionaire real estate mogul can be elected President, so can you."
"Trevor is right, you know," Mr. Williamson added. "You have a passion for doing what is right for people. You would certainly be new blood in DC. We need new blood, Jeffery. And, I believe I have this correct, earlier this morning you said, `Doing nothing is unacceptable.'"
"But I would just be one voice in the company of many," I explained. "How could one compassionate voice carry any weight?"
"If the voice is loud enough, you could build a voice which will be more than one voice," Mr. Williamson began. "It could change the way we deal with people who need compassion and not mindless rules about getting food to feed their family, putting a roof over their family's head."
"Why don't you be Jeffery's campaign manager, Mr. Williamson?" Philip asked.
"Tell your husband if he wants to live the life he talked about and decides to run for office, I will be right by his side raising money and giving him advice," Mr. Williamson replied. "He will need a professional campaign manager, but I will be beside him."
"Jeffery," my Mother began. "You've always had an interest in the political process. Why not live it? You could be an example of being a voice of compassion and not greed."
"Congress people do have great health insurance," my Father added.
"And, Jeffery," Janet said. "You remember your stand against a San Francisco city councilman who wanted to end your work helping the men and women in your program. You had balls, Jeffery. Where have your balls gone? We need you. A voice of reason. I know Martin and I would be two of your biggest advocates. We saw firsthand what you did in the Castro. You saved lives, Jeffery. You helped turn drug addicts and alcoholics into mainstream people who cared about the community and those of others with some misfortune."
"I'm not certain, Jeffery, you've told these good people about all of the lives you have transformed in four years," Martin began. "Janet and I know. We watched you do it. You, in some ways, performed miracles for your clients almost every day. You would be damn good at leading the fight for this country to finally involve itself in safety net programs so people would not fall prey to the vultures who are just waiting to swoop in and start picking at carcasses."
"I think you've gotten yourself into a situation," Philip replied. "You need to make this decision, but I will be by your side every step of the way."
"Listen to these people, Jeffery," a man said as he approached our table.
"Congressman Fielding," I said as I stood to greet him. "They have made a compassionate, but overboard, plea for me to run for office. I am, however, not a politician."
"Excuse the French, Jeffery," Congressman Fielding replied. "Bull shit! I sat in the sanctuary this morning and listened to every word you said. You are the voice this country needs, Jeffery. I am not running when this term is up. I agreed to fill in as a temporary Congressman for one reason only. I was angry ex-Congressman Franklin beat the shit out of his gay son. His actions were deplorable. It's about time this community scraped itself out of the hole they have dug in this district and move into the real world. I am not running next term. I will announce my support of your bid for my seat if you agree."
As Congressman Fielding retreated, the group remained silent.
"What just happened here?" I finally asked.
"It looks like you're running for Congress, Dad," Trevor replied.
Christmas had come and gone. Trevor received his early acceptance letters from UIUC, Harvard, and Berkley School of Music. He also spent a lot of time speaking to Rupert on the phone after his Christmas visit to our home.
`We will be seeing a lot of Rupert,' I thought to myself. `It's like sitting back and watching Philip and me a few years earlier.'
January 21, 2018 marked the deadline to register as a candidate of the US House of Representative. I had two weeks to decide. Then it hit me.
"I can't do this, Philip," I said on Monday evening. "If I ran for Congress, it would disrupt our entire life. I happen to like our life here. Secondly, I became a minister for one specific reason. To help people who need help. I did not become a minister to run for Congress."
Before Philip could respond, my phone rang. The caller id identified the caller as Sam Williamson.
"Hello, this is Jeffery," I said as I answered the call and turned it on speaker.
"Jeffery! Chris is with me, and we're on speaker phone," Sam began.
"Philip is here with me as well," I replied. "What's up?"
"We heard you are running for Congress." Sam added.
"You heard the news prematurely," I replied. "I understand the cause, but I don't want to disrupt our family's lives. It would be tumultuous at the very least."
"Think of all the good you could do," Chris added.
"I can do good here," I replied. "Did your parents tell you about my talk yesterday?"
"Yes," Sam replied. "We are calling because we think you would be a fantastic Congressperson."
"I see a few obstacles here," I tried to explain. "First, I am gay. Second, this is a very conservative district. Third, I do not want to abandon Philip and the kids by traipsing off to Washington during the week."
"His real reason, according to Jeffery a few minutes ago, he didn't become a minister to become a politician," Philip added.
"We listened to your talk," Sam replied. "We downloaded it from the church's website. You were terrific. You also said, and I quote, `Doing nothing is unacceptable.'"
"Your father used the same line," I responded. "It's like everyone is ganging up on me."
"We are not ganging up on you, Jeffery," Sam continued. "We just want to influence your decision to become a Congressman. When will you announce your candidacy?"
"Sam," I said calmly. "I have not decided to run. As a matter of fact, unless some monstrous trend appears within now and tomorrow, I will not be running."
"I have some information you," Sam said slowly and quietly. "Do you remember John Ritter?"
"The bastard John Ritter or another John Ritter?" I asked.
"The bastard John Ritter," Sam added.
"What kind of news?" I asked.
"There are rumors his compatriot, Arnold White, will announce his candidacy for Congress within the next few days," Sam quickly added. "Do you have any comments?"
"Republican or Democrat?" I asked.
"Republican," Sam replied. "Rumor also has it he is favored to win against any current Democrat who might decide to run. You are not any of the current, Jeffery. You are the best alternative candidate around. Please, Jeffery! We have about 1,000 people already to contribute $2,700 to your primary and $2,700 to your run against the Republican candidate. You would have approximately $2.7 million in your campaign fund prior to the primary. And, Chris and I are certain we can get more. The average Congressional race in Illinois was $1.6 million. This district was $3 million. You would, for the election cycle, have about $5.4 million at your disposal."
"I will call you tomorrow with a decision, Sam," I replied. "You have given me a lot to think about. Arnold White might be the monstrous trend."
"I thought the possibility of him running would push you over the top," Sam added. "Have a good evening, guys! Give our best to the kids."
"Thanks Sam and Chris," I replied. "Philip and I have a lot to talk about. I'll let you know our decision."
We ended the call. I sat starring at the wall opposite the sofa.
"What's on your mind, Jeffery?" Philip finally asked.
"I... cannot... let... that... man... win... this... race!" I slowly said as I exhaled.
"So, it looks like we have a Congressional race to win," Philip replied.
"You know life will never be the same, don't you?" I asked.
"Jeffery," Philip said as he pulled me closer to him. "I know it will be a different life. We will get through this together. And, you will make one of the best Congressmen in the country. I can feel it."
"You're running?" Trevor said with amazement.
"Yes," I replied. "We just spoke with Sam and Chris. Sam wanted to tell me John Ritter's friend, Arnold White, is planning on running on the Republican ticket."
"That'll do it, for sure!" Trevor replied. "I think it's awesome you've decided to run. By the way, if you want advice on what it is like being a Congressman's son, don't ask me."
"I need to call my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Williamson, Janet and Brandon, and Congressman Fielding," I whispered.
"And Sam and Chris," Philip added.
"Could you please call them and tell them I have probably made the worst decision of my life?" I asked.
"Yes," Philip replied. "And, Jeffery. I meant every word I said earlier. I will be behind you 100 percent. Our kids will be behind you 100 percent. The church you work for, the community in which we live will all be with you. You are a gift to this community."
"Thank you, Phillip," I said as I kissed him. "What do you want to do about dinner?"
"Pizza," Philip replied with a smile. "Organic pizza. I brought some. They are in the freezer."
I sat in the living room, pulled out my phone, and called my parents. "Mom! Is Dad around? I have something to tell you."
"Sure," my mother said. "He's right here. I have the speaker on."
"What's up, Jeffery?" my father asked.
"I received a call from Sam and Chris Williamson a few minutes ago," I began. "They are encouraging me to run for Congressman. I need to do this. John Ritter's friend, Arnold White, is running as the possible Republican candidate."
"Oh! My!" my mother replied. "He is a troubling candidate. How could anyone want him to be their Congressman from this district? It's a slap in the face for the whole community!"
"My thoughts exactly," I said. "I need to call Mr. Williamson and ask him to help. Sam and Chris have managed to find 1,000 donors to give the max to my campaign, $2.7 thousand. They said more is in the works."
"Jeffery," my Father said. "We are so proud of you. You've generated interest in social concerns in this community which in the past have not even been talked about."
"I hope this is my one and only term," I replied. "I have other calls I need to make. I thought you should be the first to know."
"Thank you, Jeffery," my Mother added. "We will give you all of the support we can. Good luck!"
"Thanks," I replied as we ended the call.
Mr. Williamson pledged his unwavering support. Janet and Brandon were ecstatic. Congressman Fielding gave me his blessing.
"I can still change my mind," I said to Philip as he and I stood behind the curtain of the town hall. "I could get up on stage and say to the crowd I quit."
"Before you even say you're running?" Philip asked. "You're not a quitter, Jeffery."
"No, I'm not," I replied. "I'm just nervous. What if I win? I would really be screwed!"
"The reason you are running for election is to win, Jeffery," Philip replied.
"You'll be fine, Dad," Trevor added. "The three of us—Sam, Tim, and me—will be with you all the way, Dad."
"Thanks," I said.
"Will you be famous, Dad?" Sam asked.
"No," I replied. "I will be one of several hundred Congress people."
"You'll still be our Dad, right?" Tim asked.
"Of course," I replied. "I will always be your Dad."
Congressman Fielding approached me and my family. "Are you ready, Jeffery?"
"I will never be ready, Congressman," I replied. "But I have four very good reasons for me to do this." I turned to Philip, Trevor, Sam, and Tim. "You mean everything to me, guys. I am doing this for you. I hope I don't disappoint you."
"You'll never disappoint us, Dad," Trevor replied. "Break a leg out there."
"Break a leg is a phrase for actors, not politicians," I added.
"Think of this as one big comedy act," Trevor added. "Only you won't be making people laugh. You will be making people of this district proud and happy, Dad. Proud and happy."
"Thanks guys," I said.
"Your son is right, you know, Jeffery," Congressman Fielding said to me. "You will make people of this district very, very proud."
I followed Congressman Fielding to the stage. Philip, Trevor, Sam, and Tim followed me.
I looked out at the crowd in the town hall. `Oh shit!' I thought. `A full house. Please, God, don't let me make a fool of myself.'
"Welcome to our community forum," Congressman Fielding said to the crowd. "Today is an auspicious moment for this community. I will use a phrase I just heard backstage to characterize the Reverend Jeffery Harris-LeBlanc. His son Trevor said, `You will be making people of this district proud and happy, Dad. Proud and happy.' Now, I would like to introduce the next Congressman to represent the Illinois Congressional District 15, the Reverend Jeffery Harris-LeBlanc."
The applause burst into a roar. `Holy shit,' I thought. `What have I done now?'
Finally, I moved to the podium. Those few feet seemed like miles.
"Thank you, everyone. Thank you," I began. "I'm Jeffery Harris-LeBlanc, and I am honored to stand here in front of all my family, friends, and community members to declare my candidacy for the Illinois Congressional District 15."
Another round of applause exploded.
"I would not stand here today to declare my intent to run for your US Congressional Representative if it were not for four very special people in my life. I want you to meet my family, Philip Harris-LeBlanc, my husband, and my three sons, Trevor, Sam, and Tim. They are the light of my life. They are the most precious gift a man could ever receive. I am certain many of you also feel the same way about your family."
"We live in a very complex world today," I continued. "We stumble over road blocks on a daily basis as we move forward on the road to life. Certain road blocks need to be eliminated so we can make our path as smooth as possible."
"I have a story to tell you," I continued. "I will be brief. After I graduated from divinity school and was ordained as a United Church of Christ minister, I accepted a position in San Francisco as a youth minister for a UCC church in the heart of the Castro District. The Castro District is home to a very diverse population: gay, straight, transgendered, questioning; black, white, Hispanic, Asian; protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, agnostic; young, middle aged, elderly. Everyone mixed together in what appeared to be a seamlessly happy community."
"I quickly discovered not everyone fit into the mold," I continued. "I encountered a large population of homeless gay youth. They were homeless because their parents abandon them because they were gay. I encountered a large population of addicted men and women. Some were homeless. Others were living on the edge. Some were gay. Some were straight. Some were civilians down on their luck. Some were veterans cast off as disposable vestiges of war. We saved some. We helped some. We lost some."
"The church where I grew up in, the United Church of Christ in Olney, asked me to return to this community to serve as youth minister. So, I packed up my apartment in San Francisco and made the journey to return home. I have been here almost two years. I never dreamed I would be running for Congress. I also never dreamed I would encounter some of the remains of a previous time. Racism. Bigotry. Hatred based on religion or the color of someone's skin. Homophobia. Xenophobia. Classism. Sexism. Homelessness. Food deprived families. All of these issues, I thought, were part of the past culture of this community. I quickly found it still existed. It made me angry. It made me unhappy. It made me fight. So, here I am today. I am here to ask you for your support in my candidacy to fight for the people of this Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. I am not doing this for myself or for my ego. I am running for Congress because I feel someone needs to step up to the bullies and fight for the good people of this country despite race, creed, color, sexual orientation, or mental health. I look forward to speaking with all of you in this district to help me prioritize the fights we need to fight. I need your input, and most of all, I need your support. Thank you for joining us here today."
Another round of applause pulsed through the crowd. People were standing and applauding. Congressman Fielding stepped up to the podium.
"Thank you, Jeffery," Congressman Fielding said as the applause died down. "Someone else here wants to tell you a story. It is a story about the very issues Reverend Harris-LeBlanc talked about today. It is my honor to introduce Trevor Harris-LeBlanc."
Trevor hopped up to the podium and unclipped the microphone. He carried it to the edge of the stage.
I looked at Philip and he smiled at me.
"Thank you for being here," Trevor began. "As Congressman Fielding said, I want to tell you a story. As many of you know, my ex-father, ex-Congressman Franklin, served as Congressperson for six terms before he resigned in dishonor to the country. I owe my life to my fathers, Jeffery and Philip Harris-Leblanc."
"My ex-father, the ex-Congressman from this district, beat me to a pulp one night because he discovered I was gay. My Dads rescued me when I slipped out my bedroom window while my ex-father lay passed out in the living room from drinking too much. They fought to give me hope—free of worry about who I was—a gay teenager whose parents didn't want me anymore because I was, in their words, broken."
"My Dad also helped rescue another gay teenager, not from his parents, but from the racist county commissioner who drove the kid's father to suicide."
"My brothers' late mother chose my Dads to raise her kids after her death because, in her words, she wanted them to grow up in a household built on love and acceptance and not hatred and fear."
"You may think I am boasting. And you're right. I am boasting. My Dad, when he sets his sights on a cause or a wrong doing, fights until he has resolution. So, please join me and stand up for this community by standing with my Dad, Jeffery Harris-LeBlanc."
I watched with tears streaming down my cheeks as the audience gave Trevor a standing ovation.
I stood beside Trevor and hugged him close to me. "Thank you, Trevor. You were magnificent. You should be running for office."
"Later, Dad," Trevor replied.
Phillip stood beside us with Sam and Tim in his arms.
"If I am required to eat one more piece of fried chicken, talk `good ol' boy,' or shake hands with one more old white man, I will go absolutely nuts!" I said to Philip after I came home from a full day of campaigning. "I made the wrong decision. I should throw in the towel."
"I won't let you throw in the towel," Philip replied with a smile. "You would disappoint the boys. You need to show them their father is not a quitter."
"Now you are getting all parent-focused on me," I said. "I don't need a guilt trip. I'm already out of my league."
"Nonsense," Philip replied. "You are not out of your league. You have more education than any other Congress person in the state of Illinois. You have high moral standards. You care about PEOPLE, Jeffery. Do you think John Ritter's lackey is in this race because he cares about people?"
"No," I replied. "All I want to do is come home at night after a quiet day at the office and me with my husband and my kids."
"Don't forget the dogs," Trevor said as he crossed the room to the kitchen. "They wouldn't be happy if you forgot them."
"Thank you for reminding about the dogs," I replied. "I wouldn't want make the dogs angry at me."
"Are we still on for the flyer distribution this weekend, Dad?" Trevor asked.
"As far as I know," I replied. "Talk with Derick. He knows the schedule. I just show up where I am told to show up."
"Got it," Trevor replied as he padded off to the kitchen.
I turned to Philip. "The polls show I am ahead. Can you think of something I could do to make the constituents hate me?"
"Why would you want them to hate you?" Philip asked.
"To lose the primary," I replied. "Then I would be free to resume my former life as a youth minister, husband, and father."
"It's not happening, Jeffery," Philip replied. "I won't let you quit. Even if I need to quit my job and travel with you, I want to see you succeed. We need you, Jeffery. You will be doing this for our boys. You will be doing this for our community. Don't even think about quitting."
"Yes, Sir," I replied. "Are you planning on tying me up tonight and punishing me?"
"Just what we need, Jeffery," Philip replied with a smile. "A rumor about our next US Congressman and kinky sex with his husband."
"Maybe I would be forced out of the primary," I replied.
"Won't work, Jeffery," Philip added.
My phone rang. I saw it was Sam Williamson. "Hello, Sam," I said as I answered the phone and turned it on speaker. "What's up?"
"I thought you should be aware of a situation building into a massive incident," Sam began. "It has to do with Arnold White."
"What about Arnold White?" I asked.
"It seems some of his business dealings have not been as above board as he suggests," Sam explained. "He is a successful business person whose businesses were successful on the backs of people he could run roughshod over."
"How do you know this particular bit of information?" I asked.
"I believe you need to speak with my father," Sam replied. "He wanted me to broach the subject with you. He will remain quiet and not stir up the dirt if you don't want him to do so."
"I don't like the bastard, but I don't want to lower myself to the levels of Arnold White," I replied. "I have principles. No digging in the dirt. If I can't win this election on the issues, I will happily lose."
"We thought you would make this decision," Sam replied. "My father will sit on this information. He does, however, believe you should have the details of his business dealings at your fingertips."
"I don't want to hear it," I replied.
"Got it," Sam replied. "I'll let my father know not to pursue the issue."
"Thank you, Sam," I replied. "And please thank your father for me."
"I will," Sam replied. "Please give our best to Philip and the boys."
"Same here, Sam," I replied as we ended the call.
"Well. Well. Well," Philip said to me after the phone call. "It seems your competition hasn't been as righteous as he says he is."
"I want to win this election because of the issues," I added. "I do not want to be involved with a mud fight. Not going to happen."
"Good for you, Jeffery," Philip replied. "New campaign slogan: "Honest Jeffery. Dirt is not going to happen."
"I never thought I would be saying this, but the new polling numbers are in," I began. "According to the pollsters, it is a tossup between me and Jennifer Miller. The other two are several points behind. I like Jennifer. Maybe I should drop out and let her take over the fight to beat Arnold White."
"Not going to happen, Jeffery," Philip said. "Polls also show you are the only one who can beat Arnold White."
"Maybe he wouldn't be so bad after all," I said with a smile.
"Let me take you into the bedroom and beat some sense into you," Philip replied as he grabbed my hand. "Want to get kinky?"
"We've never been successful at being kinky," I replied.
"But we've had fun trying," Philip replied as he twitched his eyebrows at me.
"Dads," Sam said as he and Tim landed in front of Philip and me. "We need some help."
"Help with what?" I asked.
"Bobby Bateman said we would need to move to Springfield if you won," Tim added.
"Is it true?" Sam asked. "Would we need to move to Springfield?"
"We won't need to move to Springfield, guys," I replied. "We won't need to move anywhere."
"We might visit Daddy in Washington occasionally," Philip explained.
"Washington?" Tim asked. "Isn't Washington where the President lives?"
"Yes," I replied. "It is also where I will be working some of the time."
"How did you know Washington is where the President lives?" Philip asked.
"Ms. Whistle said Mrs. President doesn't want to live in Washington," Sam continued. "It's not big enough for her. Is Washington bigger than here?"
"Yes, Washington is bigger than here," Philip said. "You would like to visit Washington. It has monuments, museums, and lots of people who work for the government."
"Are people who work in the government called morons?" Tim asked. "Bobby Bateman said people who work for the government are morons. Dad, what's a moron?"
"Moron is not a nice term for someone who works for the government," I added. "We prefer to call them government workers."
"I'll tell Bobby Bateman to call them government workers instead of morons," Sam began. "What's a museum?"
"A museum contains items which are important for people to see," Philp explained. "Some are art museums where people look at famous paintings and sculptures. Some are history museums where people see information or items related to the history of our country, for example. You two are both interested in science. They have science museums, too. Washington has lots and lots of museums. Most are free."
"Do they have an Easter Bunny museum?" Tim asked.
"I don't believe they have an Easter Bunny museum," I replied.
"If you get elected, will you start one?" Sam asked.
"I will look into it," I replied. Philip and I tried not to laugh.
"Okay," Tim replied. "We need to talk with Barkley and Buckley about visiting Washington."
"Is there a doggy museum?" Sam asked.
"No," I replied.
"You'll need to start one of those, too, Dad," Tim explained. "Otherwise, Barkley and Buckley won't have a place to visit."
"If I get elected, I will look into both an Easter Bunny museum and a Doggy museum," I added. "I believe I heard Barkley and Buckley calling for you to help them with something."
"They want to tell us about what should be in a Doggy museum," Sam added as the dynamic duo disappeared in a cloud of feet.
"I didn't realize we would be having such stimulating conversations with our now four-year-old sons," Philip added.
"I wouldn't trade it for anything," I replied.
"Neither would I," Philip said as he picked up the remote and turned on the news.
"I think this is silly," I said as we stood in the center of the Church fellowship Hall. "We are standing here in a Church fellowship hall waiting for the election results. Couldn't we have at least rented a hotel suite?"
"Jeffery," Philip said to me. "I don't believe there is a hotel suite in the entire district. This is the best we can do for the time being. Once you become a famous Congressman, we could look into the possibility of building one for such momentous occasions."
"Don't get any bright ideas, Philip," Mel said as she handed me my third cup of coffee. "
"Dad! Dad!" Trevor came roaring through the crowd with a paper in his hand. "I was told to find you. You need to follow me. You need to make a speech"
"What?" I asked.
"The polls have closed," Trevor explained. "You are officially the Democratic nominee for the Representative in the Illinois Congressional District 15. Follow me, Dad."
I blindly followed Trevor to the one of the rooms in the fellowship hall which now served as my campaign staff election night headquarters. They all smiled brilliant smiles.
"So, Jeffery," my campaign manager Bruce Spinner began. "You have a speech to make after your challengers concede."
"Have you written my speech yet, Bruce?" I asked.
"Yes," Bruce replied as he handed me the folder containing the speech.
"Sorry to bother you, but where do you want the cameras to set up?" Murray asked. Murray became my operations chief last week.
"Cameras?" I asked. "What cameras?"
"Television stations, Jeffery," Murry explained.
"Television stations?" I asked. "As in more than one television station?"
"All of the Evansville stations are here as are a couple of Chicago stations," Murry explained. "Also, a camera man and reporter from CNN are here to tape your acceptance speech."
"Why?" I asked.
"Jeffery," Bruce began as he, Mr. Williamson, Sam and Chris Williamson, Janet Lopez and Brandon Martin as well as a host of other friends joined us. "This will be one of the most important races of the November election. You, Jeffery, are the face of new the well-rounded, compassionate, and energetic new leaders of this country. Your November opponent ran uncontested. He represents the old guard, the old school, the old way of doing business, and the old way of treating people. He is old leadership. You are new. We need new. You, Jeffery, will be our new leadership."
"Can't I just say thank you for electing me?" I asked. "I could disappear after my one sentence speech."
"No," the group surrounding me said in unison.
I looked up and, to my horror, saw the room filled with people eager to hear my acceptance speech.
"Mr. Harris-LeBlanc, would you and your family pose for some photos?" a man I had never seen before asked. "Oh! I'm Leland Brooks. I'm the Illinois State Democratic Party representative for the fifteenth Congressional district. I am here to lend a hand to you and your campaign staff."
"I have a representative of the Illinois State Democratic Party assigned to my campaign? Why?" I asked.
"We consider your campaign to be one of the most critical in the State, if not in the country," Mr. Brooks explained. "We put a lot of resources into your campaign. Arnold White needed to be stopped."
"Jeffery," my mother said as she reached my side. "Do you want to have your news conference and acceptance speech in the sanctuary?"
"Terrific idea, Reverend LeBlanc," Mr. Brooks responded. "This is your church, Reverend. This is where your campaign started. Nothing could be more appropriate."
"I agree, Jeffery," Bruce continued. "You started your campaign in this church one Sunday from the pulpit. Give your acceptance speech from the same pulpit."
"This congregation is already proud of you, Jeffery," my mother added. "The congregation would be delighted you chose this place to give your first acceptance speech of your campaign."
"Okay," I replied.
"Jeffery," Shelia our administrative aide said. "I have Jennifer Miller on the line. She would like to speak with you."
I took the phone from Shelia. "Jennifer," I said into the phone. "Thank you for calling."
"Jeffery," Jennifer began. "Congratulations on your win. I want you to know I will be supporting you all the way to the House of Representatives."
"Thank you, Jennifer," I replied. "I am looking forward to working with you. We both fought hard for the people of this district. I want to continue to fight for them."
"I believe in my heart, Jeffery," Jennifer replied. "You will win this election. You will serve the people of this community with honor. Please let me know how I can help you."
"Thank you," I said. "We will win. We must win. I'll say no more on the subject now, or I will be fighting mad when I give my speech."
"Knock them dead," Jennifer replied as we ended the call.
"Let's go Jeffery," Bruce said to me as Mr. Brooks, Shelia, my husband and sons, my mother and father, Mr. Williamson, and Congressman Fielding followed us to the front of the sanctuary.
Bruce handed me the microphone.
I took a deep breath before I began. "Thank you. We've crossed the first hurdle. I didn't do it. You made tonight happen. Jennifer Miller called tonight to congratulate me but also to promise her support in my campaign to become the Congressman from the Fifteenth Congressional District. Tonight reminds me why I came back to my roots. I came back because I wanted to be part of a fight which leads to the building of this community into one built on love and acceptance and not hatred and fear. This will not be an easy fight. We will encounter those who want to remain in the past. We will encounter people who are eager to turn away those who do not look like, sound like, pray like, think like those who want to live in the past—continue the hatred because they cannot imagine a community built on acceptance and love. I believe you know by now I am not doing this for myself or for my ego. I am running for Congress because I feel someone needs to step up to the bullies and fight for the good people of this country despite race, creed, color, sexual orientation, or mental health. I look forward to learning how you want this community to evolve. I need the people in this district to help me prioritize the fights we need to fight. I need your input, and most of all, I need your support. Thank you for joining us here today."
"I want to introduce people who have helped me throughout my life. My parents, Suzanne and Earl LeBlanc, who gave me the spirit of understanding. My husband, Phillip Harris-LeBlanc who gave me the courage to run in this election and my three sons, Trevor, Sam, and Tim. I also want to thank Mr. and Mrs. Charles Williamson for their ongoing support. Janet Lopez and Brandon Martin who helped me through some rough spots while I was working in San Francisco. Sam and Chris Williamson for their help with fundraising. Also, I want to thank the United Church of Christ in Olney for helping me with decisions of faith."
"Trevor," I said as I looked my son in the eyes before High School Graduation began. "I don't know what to say to you Trevor except we are all very, very proud of you. Not only were you accepted at every school you applied to, you also became a leader. You are Summa Cum Laude. You are a wonderful, wonderful son. You also have become one of my best friends. You are competing with my husband, so don't get any ideas. I can feel it. You will do great things with your life, Trevor. Never lose sight of your main purpose in life."
"Be good to everyone and help everyone in need," Trevor added.
"Don't think you are leaving our sights, Trevor," Philip added. "You mean so much to us. We loved you when we met you. We love you now. We will always love you and be proud of your accomplishments."
"I said before," Trevor continued. "You are my rocks. You will always be my rocks. You were and are the best parents a kid can have."
"Do you mean Sam and I have the best parents a kid can have?" Tim asked.
"Definitely, little dudes," Trever said as he leaned down and hugged his brothers.
"Gotta go, Dads," Trevor said as someone wanted him in another place. "I hope I can get through this."
"You will be wonderful, Trevor," I called to him as he left us. "We need to fine our seats."
"Do I see a tear, Jeffery," Philip whispered as he put his arm around my shoulders. "I have a few. Let's join the others."
My parents, Philip's parents, Philip's sister and her family, Mr. and Mrs. Williamson, and Janet and Brandon and their boys were in a single row with room for Philip, the boys, and me at the end.
"How are you holding up?" my mother asked as she patted my hand.
"We've only known Trevor about two years," I began. "It's like he's been in our lives forever."
"He reminds me of you when you were his age," my mother added.
"Except I didn't have the courage to come out of my shell," I added. "Trevor burst out of his shell. Somewhat different in that respect. He's bright. He's compassionate. He's a born leader. He will make a huge difference in this world."
The music started to signal the beginning of graduation. We watched as the graduates march into the auditorium until we saw Trevor. The first row (us) broke out in applause. Trevor turned and bowed before he continued on.
The ceremony continued. Announcements of achievement were first. The last one bestowed Summa Cum Laude on Trevor. The awarding of the diplomas came next. Almost every graduate received a rounding applause from the audience. For those whose applause was not as reverberating, I looked over to the seniors. Trevor, Robbie, and several other friends of Trevor were on their feet in a matter of seconds. I decided to join the crowd which led our entire group to follow suit.
The diploma award ceremony finished, and the principal of the high school stood at the podium. "We are all fortunate today to listen to today's graduation message from Trevor Harris-LeBlanc, Magnum Cum Laude. Before I turn this over to Trevor, and I am borrowing this phrase from Trevor and his father Jeffery Harris-Leblanc: I have a story to tell."
"Trevor Harris-LeBlanc dove into his high school experience feet first. He knew he had something to say, but he didn't know what or how to say it. But he learned. He learned very well and very quickly. He learned from some very solid, peaceful, loving people who surround him. He faced distress the way most of us react to picking out an outfit for the morning. Trevor grew up quickly. He adapted. He learned from the past. He never forgot his friends, his family, and his community. We are all very, very proud of you, Trevor."
"I now present our graduation speaker for the Class of 2018," the school principal said. "Trevor Harris-LeBlanc."
The audience applauded and some of the students were yelling things kids yell at graduations.
"Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" as he waited for the applause to stop. "Thank you for the introduction Mr. Phelps. I appreciate your kind words. And I feel like you set me up to fall on my face."
"Before I begin my talk, I want to thank the people who have helped me most in my life," Trevor began. He looked at Philip and me. "First off, I would probably be sitting under a bridge homeless if it had not been for my two rocks, Jeffery and Philip Harris-LeBlanc, my Dads. I have said this many times, but I owe everything, and I do mean everything, to my Dads."
Trevor paused for an applause. "And, yes, I want to tell you a story. Some of you may know this story, and some of you may not. At the risk of boring those who have heard it before: when I was in my freshman year in high school, I began questioning my sexual preferences. The questioning alone scared me. In my sophomore year in high school, I tried to figure out how to tell my parents, two evangelical Christian parents who had no place in their lives for a gay kid. I know this because I heard them talk about the sins of homosexuals, faggots, and many other terms I won't mention here today. I heard them talk all my life. This scared me most because I was no longer questioning my sexual preferences. I knew I was gay. I knew I liked boys instead of girls."
"One day I heard of the youth minister of the United Church of Christ here in Olney," Trevor continued. "Someone told me the congregation had recently hired a new, fairly hip, youth minister. I went to talk with him. He gave me hope. The Reverend Jeffery LeBlanc as he was called then listened. He listened to a very, very scared kid. He told me his story. I will let him tell you his story sometime in the future. He tells it so much better than I because he lived his story. I lived mine."
"Reverend LeBlanc became one of the first people I knew who had faced my demons," Trevor continued. "We talked. He gave me advice. He gave me his contact information. When I left his office, I knew I trusted him with... my life."
"Fast forward, I called Reverend LeBlanc after my ex-father, in a drunken stupor, beat me to a pulp before he passed out stone cold drunk. He found a book called, `How to Tell Your Parents You Are Gay' I had checked out of the high school library. I locked myself in my room and managed to crawl out of my bedroom window. I ran until I found myself next to the dumpster of the McDonald's parking lot. I called Reverend LeBlanc. He and his husband, then boyfriend, raced to McDonald's, urged me into the back seat of Reverend LeBlanc's brand new car. I was a bloody mess. I don't want to tell you about all of the details because I actually can't talk about it yet. It has been three years. Three long years of dealing with the horrifying events that night."
"My Dads gave me a new chance at life," Trevor said as he wiped away tears. "They adopted me. They clothed me. They sheltered me. They gave me a chance to experience a new and beautiful life. I have an ironic turning point in this story. I swear you can't make this stuff up. My ex-father, the ex-Congressman from the 15th Congressional District was forced out of office. And here comes the punchline. My Dad, Jeffery Harris-LeBlanc, is running to represent this district in the United States House of Representatives."
The audience applauded.
"One last point before I release you from boredom," Trevor continued. "My dad gave me permission to use the analogy he uses often in his sermons. It revolves around a wise old cow who lives at Organic Farms Inc. Her name is Mable. I have this photo of her to give you an indication of her understanding of the surroundings around her."
Trevor flashed the PowerPoint slide of Mabel. "She usually looks younger, but she didn't have time to put on her makeup."
"My other father, Philip Harris-LeBlanc, manages the farm. We have instant access if we need to talk to Mable."
"Mable is a champion of causes. Poor people. Homeless people. Food. Insecure people. Gay people. Straight people. Questioning people. Transgendered people. Immigrant people whether legal or not. Religious people of every religion in the world. People of color. People who are up. People who are down. The list goes on and on. You get the drift. Mable is a very tolerant and empathetic cow. She is another of my role models. Tolerance. Empathy. Love. Caring. Helping. One of us can't do it, Class of 2018. It will take all of us. It will be a lot of work. But you won't have fathers beating up on their gay sons. You won't have fathers committing suicide because of the color of their skin. You won't have families living life faced with food insecurity, homelessness, and feeling powerless. Think, however, of how you will feel. Happy. Hopeful. Over joyed. And, most of all, like you mean something because you do mean something. Let me hear it, What would Mable say?"
"What would Mabel say?" the class responded.
"Mabel will be proud. And I hope all of us, no matter what life throws at us, we will work with one another and for one another. And please, please, let's promise not to forget where we came from. Thank you."
"Trevor," Philip began after we had pulled in the drop off area of Trevor's dorm room. "You have made your Dad and me very proud parents. You are on your way to making a difference, not only in our community, but also this college community. If anyone can organize a group to protest or provide support for a cause, it will be you. We will always be at your side at every turn in your life. Even if we aren't in the same place."
"Thanks, Dad," Trevor said as he wiped a tear from his cheek. "I've said it before, but I need to say this again right now. You are the best parents a kid could have. You are supportive—even when some of my off the cuff ideas weren't exactly the best ideas. You have made me so I am in this very spot as we sit in this car. I'm not certain where I would be right now if it weren't for you two. I love you, Dads. Don't forget it either. You two are my rock."
We all got out of the car and did a joint hug.
Trevor took a box, I took a box, Philip took a box, Sam and Tim carried books as we headed to Trevor's dorm room.
"Trevor," I said as we put the last of the boxes into his dorm room. "Did you leave anything in your room?"
"This is only the necessary belongings," Trevor replied. "I left enough of my personal stuff to make the room looked lived in."
"Thank you, Trevor," Phillip, my other Dad, said. "It is reassuring you are not going to abandon your dear old dads anytime soon."
"I could never abandon you guys," Trevor added with a smile. "At least not until you quit paying for the gas in my car."
All of us moved our attention to the open door, "Hello! I'm Grayson."
"I'm Trevor," Trevor said to my new roommate. "Finally we meet in person! These are my dads, Phillip and Jeffery Harris-LeBlanc, and my brothers, Sam and Tim."
"Good to meet you!" Grayson replied as two older people followed Grayson into the room. "These are my parents, Harold and Claire Whitmore. The two dudes with the boxes are my brothers, Thomas and Stephan."
We all exchanged pleasantries. Trevor kept starring at Grayson. His close cropped blond hair and blue eyes popped against his flawless summer tan. His muscular chest and arms strained against the tightfitting polo shirt. His jeans looked as though they were tailor made for his muscled lower body. His brothers were duplicates of one another and looked very much like Grayson—same blond hair, same muscular body, same tight fitting polo and jeans.
"Do you want some help with getting your belongings into the room, Grayson?" Phillip asked.
"My dad bribed my brothers to bring the stuff up," Grayson replied. "I didn't bring a lot with me this trip."
"Are you twins?" Sam asked.
"Yup," Stephan replied. "You two must be twins, too."
"Yes," Tim replied. "And, we have two dogs, Barkley and Barlow, who weren't allowed to come with us today."
"As it was, we barely had room for my things in the Tahoe," Trevor explained. "Adding two dogs to the mix was not an option today."
"We were going to take Trevor out to lunch before we turned him lose to unpack his stuff," I added. "Would you care to join us?"
"We would love to," Mr. Whitmore said. "Unfortunately, we have to head back to Chicago. I am leaving on a business trip to London at 7 pm tonight. Can we have a rain check?"
"Absolutely," Phillip replied. "You are welcome to join us, too, Grayson."
"I would be delighted to join you, Mr. Harris-LeBlanc," Grayson replied. "I'll just walk my family down to their car, say good bye, and wait for you downstairs."
"Perfect," Trevor agreed. "We will be downstairs in a few moments."
After Grayson and his family left, Phillip raised an eyebrow and turned toward Trevor, "Is he or isn't he?"
"Yes," Trevor explained. "We went through the "'is he or isn't he' conversation early on during our Skype conversations. He hasn't told his parents yet. He's worried his father will go nuts. He is certain his mother will be okay with the revelation, but not his father."
"What does his father do for a living?" I asked.
"Vice President of Sales for a technology company is all I know," Trevor added. "He told his brothers. And, guess what, they are gay, too."
"I wouldn't want to be part of the family discussion when dear old Dad hears all three of his sons are gay!" I added.
"Daddy," Sam said as he tugged Jeffery's shirt sleeve. "I'm hungry."
"Okay," I replied. "The stars have spoken. Let's go eat!"
Tim and Sam took Trevor's hand as we headed downstairs. Sam asked the question. "Are you going to miss us, Trevor?"
"Of course I'll miss you, little dudes," Trevor replied. "But, don't worry we live close enough to see each other fairly often.
"So, you're not going to forget who we are?" Tim asked.
"Guys," Trevor began. "How can I forget who you are? You are two of the most fun five-year old kids I know. I will never forget you! You can have our dads send me a photo of you every day."
"Can we, Daddy?" Sam asked.
"Sure," I replied. "Just remind us and think of creative situations. You can also send us an occasional photo, too, Trevor."
I finished off this phase of the conversation just before we rejoined Grayson, "I will try to find the appropriate moments to share with you."
"So, your family is on their way back to Chicago, Grayson?" Phillip asked.
"Yea," Grayson said. He seemed a little sad to see his family leave. "My father and his business trips take precedence over dropping his oldest son off at college. Oh, well! It's life in the Whitmore family."
"Maybe I should drag you down to Southern Illinois to see how we southerners live some weekend, Grayson," Trevor suggested. "We lead a simpler life than people who live in Chicago."
"You make it sound like we haven't been off the farm," Jeffery added as we arrived at a popular pasta place just off campus. "We have been around the block a few times!"
Once we picked up our food order and found a table, our conversation continued. "I'm not insinuating my Dads haven't seen bigger parts of the country," I explained. "Dad Jeffery lived in San Francisco for four years. He met a lot of homeless gay people, drug addicts, and otherwise unfortunate souls."
"You hung out with drug addicts?" Grayson asked with some surprise in his voice.
Trevor was smiling broadly as I corrected my oldest son's scene setting. "I was a youth minister for a United Church of Christ in San Francisco's Castro district. My responsibilities included working with young men and women, many of them gay and homeless, move on in their lives. Sometimes I was successful. Sometimes I wasn't. But, I tried as hard as I could to be successful. I accepted the position as youth minister in Olney because I was burnt out working in the Castro. And, if I had stayed in San Francisco, I wouldn't have met my husband. I also would not have three terrific sons. So, it has turned out to be a very, very good move for me."
"Wow!" Grayson replied. "Why were the gay kids homeless?"
"Most were abandoned by their parents when the kids came out," I replied.
"Like me," Trevor added. "I probably would be a homeless kid in Southern Illinois if it hadn't been for my two dads. They have been the greatest thing to happen to me."
"Why would you have been homeless, Trevor?" Grayson asked.
"My asshole ex-father, the esteemed ex-Congressman, and my ex-mother threw me to the wolves," Trevor explained. "Jeffery and Phillip save my life."
"Our mommy wanted Daddy Jeffery and Daddy Phillip to take care of Sam and me when she went to Heaven," Tim announced.
"Oh!" Grayson replied as he looked at Tim and Sam. "So, Reverend Harris-LeBlanc, do you have any suggestions on me coming out to my family?"
"Not now," I replied. "But, if you need some advice, I will help you work through your issues with your father whenever you are ready."
"Thanks," Grayson replied. "I will need all of the help I can get."
"What's your major, Grayson?" I asked.
"It is officially electrical engineering," Grayson replied. "My father's idea. He has a degree in electrical engineering from UIUC. He wants me to follow in his footsteps. I'm not certain I am cut out for engineering. I would rather major in English or journalism. My father would have kittens if I changed, though."
"You should come to Daddy Phillip's farm and talk to Mabel," Sam interjected.
"Mabel?" Grayson asked.
Phillip, Trevor, and I tried to stifle our laughs. "Mabel is a cow on Dad P's organic farm," Trevor responded. Dad J did a talk at church about talking to Mabel. He became an Internet success overnight. It might have had something to do with his reference to some billionaire running for President. We're not quite sure which put Dad J over the top."
"You talk to a cow?" Grayson asked. It didn't look like Grayson was buying the talking to the cow business.
"Mabel is a very wise, older cow," I explained. "She has a lot of good advice if you listen very carefully."
"You mean more like a metaphor for listening to a cow give advice?" Grayson asked with a knowing look.
"Sort of," I said. "You need to be a believer for the truth to come out."
"Before Grayson gets the idea we are all a bunch of lunatics," Philip said. "Maybe we should leave these guys alone so they can unpack their stuff."
"Probably a good idea," I replied as we stood from the table and cleared the remains of our lunch.
As we arrive beside the Tahoe, Trevor pulled both of us into a hug, "Thank you for everything, dads! You have made this possible for me. If I hadn't met you, I would probably be working at McDonalds instead of beginning college. I promise I won't disappoint you."
"Trevor," I said. "You will never disappoint us!"
"We are the lucky ones, Trevor," Philip added. "You have made our life together worthwhile. You've been a joy to be around. And, we expect you and any of your friends to visit whenever you want. Just don't invite the whole school to come with you."
"Got it, dads," I said as I tried to discretely wipe a tear from my eye. "I'll keep you posted about any events on campus."
Trevor kneeled down to Sam and Tim, "I'll see you again, soon, little dudes. I love you both. And, take care of the dads while I'm away, okay?"
"We'll make certain the dads are okay, Trevor," Tim said as they both clung to Trevor's neck.
"We need to go before we all lose it!" Philip said. "Keep in touch, Trevor!"
"Will do," Trevor said as we locked Sam and Tim into their car seats.
When we were finally settled into the front seat and Philip had the engine running, I said through the open passenger window, "Take care of our boy, Grayson. He can be a handful, but he's a good kid."
"I'll do my best, Sir," Grayson replied.
As we pulled out of the parking lot, I said to Philip," Don't look back. Otherwise, we may take up residence here."
"I know," Philip replied. "I am very proud of him. We'll miss him, but he's not exactly out of the country for the rest of his life."
A few weeks after we dropped Trevor off at college, Mr. Williamson called. "Jeffery. Charlie Williamson here."
"Good morning, Mr. Williamson," I replied. "What can I do for you today?"
"I want to give you a warning about what might be happening in the next few weeks," Mr. Williamson began. "It might impact the outcome of your election. I had no hand in this. It seems the Attorney General in Illinois has been investigating Arnold White regarding some of his business dealings. I don't exactly know if the investigation will be completed before the election. If it is, it might be in the news. I'm just warning you."
"Should I be concerned?" I asked.
"No," Mr. Williamson replied. "It should not concern you. I am also told they will probably delay the findings of Mr. White's charges until after the election."
"I don't want to be in the middle of this, so I am hopeful the finding won't be released until after the election," I said. "Should I expect any criticism of our campaign?"
"You might want a statement declaring you had absolutely no knowledge of these charges," Mr. Williamson replied. "Keep it simple. Deny you knew about the investigation."
"I'll have my speech writer prepare a simple, two sentence response," I replied. "Thanks for your call, Mr. Williamson. I can't wait to have this campaign over with as quickly as possible."
"We all are, Jeffery," Mr. Williamson replied. "At least, we all are if you win. And we all believe you will win."
"Is there something in the Williamson gene pool which encourages positive thinking?" I asked.
"The real something in the Williamson gene pool is stubbornness," Mr. Williamson replied. "We don't take no for an answer."
"Keep up the good work," I said with a smile.
"Call if you need anything, Jeffery," Mr. Williamson replied. "Have an extra helping of rubber chicken for me. Take care, Jeffery."
"You, too, Sir," I said as we ended our call.
"Hello, Bruce," I said as Bruce Spinner, my campaign manager, moved to my side.
"What was the phone call all about, Jeffery?" Bruce asked. "Anything I should know about?"
"No, but I need to have Zak write a two-sentence response extricating myself from the situation," I said. "Does what I said make any sense at all?"
"No," Bruce replied. "But if you have been in politics for one or two years, you know it is standard procedure."
"Got it," I replied. "I'll talk to Zak."
"Thanks for bringing your friends down for the weekend to help with the campaign," I said to Trevor. "They made an impact on some of the younger voters."
"I wasn't responsible for the mass turnout," Trevor replied. "Sam and Chris organized a huge group. My organizational skills only resorted to the five who stayed with us. Maybe next campaign. They will all be here to support you tonight, Dad. They are just as excited as we are. It's like a movement."
"We are a little too early to call this a movement," I replied. "I haven't been elected yet. I may not be elected. We can talk about a movement tomorrow."
"I'll bring it up tomorrow morning at breakfast," Trevor replied. "Have I told you how proud I am of you jumping into the fray, not because you want to, but because you knew the district needed you?"
"Thanks Trevor," I replied. "I appreciate your positive approach. Always refreshing. How are you and Rupert doing?"
"We haven't had much time alone," Trevor continued. "He works at Starbucks, you know?"
"No," I replied. "I didn't. Do you visit him at work?"
"Nope," Trevor replied. "I don't want to give him the impression I'm stalking him."
"Good choice," I said. "Have you connected with any outside activities?"
"Rupert took Grayson and me to the Gay and Straight Alliance meeting," Trevor replied. "We're getting involved. Other than the GSA, we haven't made any decisions. The three of us have also talked to a student organization called "Hear my Voice..." It's a faculty-guided, student produced, multimedia web publication will assist students in creating professional multimedia elements and platforms that allow students to talk with and learn from one another, faculty, staff, as well as the community about issues of Inclusivity, Marginalization and Diversity. Suggestions?"
"You sound like you are well on your way to finding your place on campus," I replied. "Don't get too caught up, but enjoy the journey."
"Jeffery, Trevor," Philip said as he took his place beside us. "Is this a campaign conversation or not?"
"Nope," Trevor replied. "I'm just trying to keep Dad from thinking about how he will react when he is a Congressman."
"A little nervous are we, Jeffery?" Philip asked with a smile across his face. "Breathe, Jeffery. Breathe."
"Thank you," I replied. "I am remarkably calm."
"Jeffery," Janet said as she and her husband Brannon slip beside us. "We are so excited for you, Jeffery! You do have your acceptance speech already written, right?"
"Yes," I replied. "It is written. I haven't memorized it, but it is written."
"Jeffery," Bruce said as he joined the group. "I have some news, Jeffery. The last poll closed. You won. You had eighty percent. Arnold White at fifteen percent. The rest were write in votes."
"You've got to be shitting me?" I asked.
"No," Bruce replied as several television monitors jumped to life.
I watched in awe as CNN pronounced my victory.
"Jeffery," Shelia our administrative aide said. "I have Arnold White on the line. He would like to speak with you."
I took the phone from Shelia. "Mr. White," I said into the phone. "Thank you for calling."
"Congratulations, Reverend," Mr. White said into the phone. "I have made a statement to my supporters and to the press acknowledging your victory."
"Thank you, Mr. White," I replied. "I appreciate your phone call and your effort on this campaign."
"I believe the district will soon discover their error in voting for you," Mr. White replied. "I have several announcements you will be interested in hearing over the next several weeks. Good luck, Reverend."
"My, my," I replied as I hung up the phone. "Mr. White is one of very few words."
"I hope you don't mind, but I listened in on your conversation," Bruce added. "I think we might need to brace ourselves for whatever he may have up his sleeve."
"He won't have a chance to get a word out of his mouth," Mr. Williamson added as he joined our growing circle. "I believe, and I am not prophetic here, Mr. White could be behind bars by tomorrow evening. The State will be announcing the findings of its investigation of Mr. White's business dealings. From what I understand it is not a nice finding."
"We will deal with Mr. White tomorrow," Bruce added. "We have an acceptance speech to deliver."
To be continued...
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This is my 18th posting of my fourth story on Nifty.org.
I also have three other stories on Nifty:
Sam and Chris in the `College' section
John's Journey Forward in the `Beginnings' section
Life With Tom in the authoritarian section (Please note, this story is not for everyone because there are several scenes depicting Master/slave and BDSM relationships. So, if you are not interested in this activity, please, please do not read this story.)
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