The following fictional narrative involves sexually-explicit erotic events between men. If you shouldn't be reading this, please move on.
In the world of this story, the characters don't always use condoms. In the real world, you should care enough about yourself and others to always practice safe sex.
The author retains all rights. No reproductions or links to other sites are allowed without the author's consent.
The town of Stafford, the Sunrise Arts Center, and all the characters in this story are fictitious.
Special thanks to Mickey S. and Drew Hunt for inspiration, advice, and encouragement throughout the writing of this series.
We often had kids at Sunrise after school working on projects assigned by their teachers. Some were required to come and see what was in the various galleries and write a report on something there that grabbed their interest. Others used our library. We had the best collection of books, slides, and dvd's on the various genres of art and on art history in the city, and everyone knew it.
I'd often see two or three wandering around the galleries with notebooks or clip boards. Sometimes I'd see one poring over a book in the library. I always tried to stop, introduce myself, welcome them to the center, and chat for a few minutes.
One afternoon there was a kid working alone in the library. He was sitting facing the door, and when I looked in, he smiled. I went in and sat across from him. I stuck my hand across the table and said, "I'm Whitney."
He shook my hand. "Nice to meet ya, Dr. Pell. I've heard about you. I'm Judd Thomas."
"Everybody at Sunrise just calls me Whitney. Is this your first time here?"
"No, sir. I was here in grade school and again in middle school on field trips. But I haven't been here for a year or so."
I couldn't tell how tall Judd was because he was sitting, but I guessed about six feet even. His blond hair was lighter than mine and was cut in a high and tight. He was wearing a button-up shirt that was hanging open. Under it a blue tee strained across his fine pecs. His shoulders were broad. His shirt sleeves were rolled up to reveal tanned forearms sprinkled with hair that was lighter than that on his head. There was a nice crinkle around his hazel eyes as he smiled across the table at me.
"Do you have a school art project of some kind, Judd?"
"Yes, sir. I'm taking an art class because my counselor says it will help me get into college. But I have to tell you, I'm lost. I have to write a term paper on something, and I don't have a clue. I'm just a dumb jock. That's why I'm here so early in the semester. I want to get started on it. You know, so I'll have plenty of time."
About that time a couple of adults came in to look for something.
"Judd, why don't you come down to my office? Maybe I can help you get started, or at least we can brainstorm for topics for your paper."
"That'd be so great. You sure you've got the time?"
I could see he was blushing, for some reason, despite his tan.
"Sure. Let's go."
In my office I asked to see the assignment sheet for the term paper. Then I began to explore possible topics with him. I asked if in his previous trips to Sunrise he'd run across anything that he'd especially liked.
"Well, sir, there was this one book I found in your library one day. I didn't get a chance to look at it for very long before we had to leave."
"Do you remember what it was?"
"Not really. It showed all these fantastic statues by some Italian guy. He lived in the Renaissance, I think. The stone he used, I guess it was marble, was real white. I can't explain why, but I loved looking at them."
"Were they nudes, Judd?"
He blushed again. "Yes, sir."
"Could they have been by Bernini?"
"Yeah! That was the name!"
"Well, I'm sure we still have that book, which you could check out. And Sunrise has a dvd with most of the works of Bernini which you could use in our media room any time we're open."
"Wow! That would be cool!" He paused. "But I don't know about taking the book home."
"A lot of those statures were of naked guys. If my buddies on the soccer team saw me with a book like that, they'd give me a rough time."
"Even if they knew it was for a school project?"
"Yeah, I mean, yes, sir. Some of them have made some remarks just because I'm taking art."
"Is this most of the guys on the team, or just some?"
"Oh, only a couple. And they're always teasin' and callin' guys names."
"Well, then, maybe you should just tell them you need the art course for college and this book is for a required project. And then let them say what they will."
He sat up a little straighter, squared his shoulders, and said, "Thanks, Dr. Pell. I think I'll do that."
A week later, I saw Judd in the hallway. "Hey, Judd, how's soccer season?"
He beamed at me. "Great! I scored two goals last Friday, and we've won both our matches so far."
"Congratulations! How's the art course coming?"
His smile vanished. "Not so good. I'm really lost in there. The others all seem to know so much more than me. I feel out of place."
"Well, hang in there. Have you talked with your teacher?"
"Yeah, but I don't think she's much interested in me because I'm a jock, not one of her art students. She said I should just study harder. Or find someone to study with."
"Look, Judd. Art is supposed to be fun. If you really get stumped, come to me, and I'll see if I can help. And, you know, most of the art students at Stafford High come here for one thing or another. I am getting to know a lot of them. I'll keep my eye open for someone who might enjoy being a kind of study partner, or someone who could at least give you a little help."
"Cool! Thanks, Dr. Pell."
"Judd, it's Whitney, please."
"Oh, yeah. Okay. Thanks, Whitney."
He gave me a sweet smile and went on his way. I turned to watch him as he walked down the hallway, admiring his broad shoulders, narrow hips, long legs, and beautiful butt.
I turned abruptly. It was Jean, grinning at me. "You're wanted on the phone. It's the agent for one of the acts you're trying to line up for next year. Shall I tell him you'll call back?"
"No, that's okay. I'll take it."
As we walked back toward our offices, she said, "He's cute, isn't he? What's his name?"
"Judd Thomas. But I'm not used to talking with women about what guys are cute."
"Relax, boss. No reason why we can't enjoy the same eye candy. So long as we don't touch, right?"
After my phone conversation I took the newly-accumulated stuff from my inbox. Before I looked at any of it, however, I wondered about Judd's interest in Bernini, whose sculpture included many sensuous male nudes. Odd thing for a jock to be interested in. Unless . . .
I was glad Fr. Gary had suggested the book group. I'd found the recent meeting lively, I'd really liked the novel we discussed at that first meeting, and I'd had two encounters I thought were significant. I'd met Frank, to whom I was instantly attracted, and I'd met my erstwhile friend Burke.
Burke's case was not uncommon. He had always been gay, but he'd done what so many men had done in those days, stifled his gay instincts, married, and lived the life of the good husband and father. I had to admire him and all those others like him. But I ached for Burke as well, knowing how much he had yearned – and burned – over the years. I honored him for keeping his commitment to his wife.
He'd invited me to dinner at some unspecified time. I couldn't decline if asked. To refuse the offer of hospitality would surely hurt Burke. But I wondered if he would, after all, invite me when he'd had a chance to think things through. He said he'd told his wife that we'd been high school friends. Now that I was slowly coming out in the community, what might she suspect about the kind of friendship we had back then? I supposed he could always tell her he didn't know I was gay, although Burke struck me as being so honorable I wondered whether he'd lie to her. I decided I'd accept an invitation if it was forthcoming, but I wouldn't be hurt if Burke never called back.
Frank was another matter. The man and I shared at least three interests. We were both parishioners at Holy Trinity, we were both English teachers, and we were both gay. Surely all that was worth exploring. Should I cook dinner for him? No, not for our first meeting. A public place would be better.
So I called him one evening and asked if he would be my guest for dinner that Friday evening. He said he'd like to, but that he was going to a soccer match after school that afternoon and he'd need time to go home and get cleaned up after that. Then he said, "Are you a soccer fan, Jon? Our team looks good this fall."
"I've never played, Frank, but I used to go to Clearfield matches occasionally, especially if a hunky student I knew was playing. That wouldn't be the case here, would it?"
"Busted!" He chuckled. "Yep. I do like soccer and often go watch the guys play. But this fall there's a really cute senior who's in my AP English class. Why don't you meet me at the soccer field?"
"Okay, but why don't we just go somewhere casual afterward so you don't feel you have to go home first?"
"Sounds like a plan. I'll look forward to it. Do you know where the soccer field is?"
"Well, if it's on the high school campus, I suppose I can find it. You know when I was at Stafford High, it was the old building, the one they're now using for a middle school."
"Oh, that's right. Look, you can't miss it. There won't be much of a crowd, but you'll see where people are congregating. And all the playing fields are near the football stadium."
"I'll see you there."
Although Stafford is an English name, the high school sports teams had always been called the Highlanders. The school colors were maize and black. Maize, I suppose because no one wanted to associate the word "yellow" with the teams. The honor guards, who carried the US, state, and school flags, wore kilts in some yellow and black tartan. I used to know which one, but I've forgotten. The band wore white uniforms with gold and black trim.
Of course, the band and even the cheerleaders weren't there that afternoon. They turned out for the football games, but soccer wasn't that big a deal in Stafford. Nevertheless, there were perhaps a hundred people in the bleachers on the home side of the field. Frank was waiting for me there and he saw me before I spotted him.
"Jon," he said, shaking hands, "I'm glad you could come."
"I'm glad to be here. Thanks for suggesting this."
"I've been eager for today to come, actually. Now, let's find some seats. It's easier to see what's going on from the last couple of rows, and the parents and girlfriends all want to be down close to the bench, so if you don't mind a little climb . . . ?"
"Fine with me."
It was a lovely early fall afternoon. I was wearing khakis and a sweater. Frank had on dress slacks, a shirt with a tiny check in it, and a plain knit tie. He didn't seem to mind the slight nip in the air.
He chose a place where no one was sitting close to us.
"Now," I said, "show me the hottie."
He chuckled and said, "See the one standing by himself over there, the kid with the blond crew cut?"
"That's Judd Thomas. He not only looks great, but he's also the best player on the team. And I'm discovering he has a brain. He's doing beautifully in my class."
"Sounds almost too good to be true."
Something about the way he'd said that took my attention. "But . . . ?"
"Two things. He tells me he's taking an art course suggested by his academic counselor, and he's having trouble with it. Thinks his art teacher is talking a foreign language most of the time. I know he's bright, Jon, but he seems lost in that class. It won't help his chances of getting into a good college and perhaps some scholarship money if he doesn't do well in it."
"Maybe he could get some help at Sunrise. We must have someone there who could give him a little tutoring. I'll talk to Whitney."
"Don't bother. Judd tells me he's already talked with Dr. Pell. Says Pell helped him a lot in getting started on his term paper, and that Pell is looking for a tutor for him."
"Okay. Sounds like that problem is under control. Now, you said there were a couple of things bothering you about Judd?"
"That's right. He doesn't seem to have many friends. He's the best player on the team. He's gorgeous. He's bright. And he is a really sweet kid. What's not to love? I know he's been dating a girl, the same girl, occasionally for a couple of years. But he doesn't seem to have any close male friends. Doesn't run around with the rest of the team. He had a good buddy through sophomore year, but then that kid's dad was transferred to Atlanta, so the family moved away."
Just then, things got started on the field and we turned our attention to the game. Woops, match! Frank explained that Stafford had won their first two matches handily, but that Asheville was another matter. This would be a real challenge for the local boys. It was an exciting contest. Whatever Judd's life was like off the field, he was a natural leader on it. He scored two goals, and the Highlanders eventually won a hard-fought battle, 4-3.
As we reached the bottom of the bleachers, I looked up to see Frank, who was a couple of steps ahead of me, talking with a flushed, sweaty, excited, and absolutely breathtaking Judd. Frank introduced us. He took my hand, apologized for being sweaty, said he was glad to meet me, called me "sir," of course, as well-brought-up southern boys do, and trotted off to the showers.
"Damn, Frank. How do you concentrate in class with that hunk sitting there?"
He laughed. "Come on, Jon. You've been a teacher all your life. You must have had the same problem."
"You're right about that. Even though for twenty years I had a partner I loved totally, I couldn't help being turned on by some of the young studs in my classes."
"So you know we stay behind the desk when we've got a hardon and try to concentrate on the day's topic of discussion. At least that's how I did it."
I chuckled. "Yeah. You and me and about every other gay teacher in the world, I suspect."
We took both cars to Friday's, where we arrived early enough to beat the Friday evening crowd and get a booth. I'm not usually a beer drinker, but when Frank ordered beer, I thought that seemed appropriate for after a sporting event, so I suggested we get a pitcher. He asked for an order of stuffed mushrooms to go with it. I love those things, so I told the cute boy who was our "server" to double the order.
After he had brought the beer, promising our `shrooms would be out soon, the boy scurried away. I caught Frank looking at his ass as he left. "Man, there are a lot of cute guys in this town," I said.
He turned back toward me, grinned, lifted his mug, and said, "Including present company."
I hadn't blushed for I don't know how many years, but I know I blushed then.
"That's very sweet, Frank. But you know I meant all the great-looking kids we've seen this afternoon."
"I know. Nevertheless . . . ."
The man sitting across from me wasn't bad looking either. Frank had told me he'd be retiring in a year or so. I knew he could have retired after twenty years in the state teachers' system if he'd wanted to, but he obviously hadn't. I assumed he was in his early sixties and was waiting until he was sixty five. He wore his years well. About my height, 5'10', he had dark brown hair with surprisingly little gray in it and his blue eyes still sparkled. He wore rimless glasses with very small lenses. He outweighed me by a little, but he didn't seem to have a paunch, and that's rare in men in their sixties. As we talked and ate, I found myself wondering what he looked like naked. That startled me, for I didn't make a habit of undressing old men with my eyes. Young guys, sure, but not those my age.
We ate mushrooms, drank beer, and talked until the boy came back for our orders. Frank sighed and said he'd love to have the ribs but that he'd be sorry all night if he did. So he ordered salmon instead. I'd thought of ordering the ribs, but decided it would be unkind to eat ribs in front of him, so I ordered a small steak.
We ate and talked about teaching, favorite authors, life in Stafford, and I don't know what all else. Time passed much too quickly. It was the best time I'd had since Will died.
Since it was only about 8:30 when we left the restaurant, I asked Frank if he'd like to come back to my place for a nightcap.
He smiled. "Jon, it's a sure sign that I'm getting old, but I have to ask for a rain check. I'd love to spend some more time talking with you, but it's Friday night. You remember what that's like, surely. After a week of teaching you need to just collapse."
I did remember. "Then I hope we can do this again soon, Frank. Thanks for suggesting the soccer. I really enjoyed it. I might become a regular."
He beamed. "Oh, you should." He fished out his wallet, took a card from it, and handed it to me. "Here's the schedule. Come whenever you can. Maybe we can do this again."
I wanted to hug him, but remembering his position in the community, I just shook hands with him instead.
Back home, I took a shower and then pulled on some sweats, which felt good now that the evening had gotten chilly. Soon it would be time to have a fire in the fireplace. I poured myself a glass of JD, put on some Vivaldi, and sank into my favorite chair.
I'd felt so comfortable with Frank I hated to have the evening end so early. I could understand he was tired, but I wasn't asking him to do anything physically strenuous. All I suggested was that we have a drink and continue our talk. Was his refusal a rebuff? Was he eager to get away from me? Or did he know that I was attracted to him. Was he afraid I'd come on to him?
I sat there and dithered like a teen with his first crush. How ridiculous! I'd just wait for Frank to make the next move. Of course I would. On the other hand, if I hadn't heard from him by Friday, I could always go to the soccer match. I pulled the card out of my shirt pocket where I'd stuck it. Shit! The match the next Friday was away. Maybe I'd wait a couple of days and then call.
Just then the phone rang. It was Burke.
"Jon, how are you? I hope I'm not interrupting something. I've been trying to call you since late this afternoon."
I laughed. "Burke, it's good to hear from you. And you aren't interrupting anything. How are you?"
"Oh, fine, fine. Marcy asked me to call and invite you to Sunday dinner if it's not too short notice."
"My calendar isn't very crowded these days, bud. I'd love to come."
"Let's see, which service at Holy Trinity do you go to?"
"I love Rite 1, Burke, so I make a point of going at 8:00 fairly often. I can't sleep late these days anyway, so getting there at that hour is no hardship."
He laughed. "I know what you mean, Jon, I surely do."
I went on, "But I love to see the real deal at 11:00, so I go then sometimes, too."
"Well, if it's just the same to you, Marcy says come at 1:00."
"Thanks, I'll look forward to it. But Burke, uh, are you alone?"
"Yeah, bud. Marcy's upstairs."
"I don't want to make problems for you, so I've got to tell you that I'm out to some people in Stafford and will probably be discreetly coming out more in the coming weeks. If you've told Marcy we were good friends in high school, what's she going to think when you invite me over, knowing that I'm gay?"
He chuckled. "Jon, I appreciate your thoughtfulness, but that's not a problem. I've told Marcy that you and I fooled around some back then but that I haven't touched another man sexually since. And that's the God's truth!"
"And she's okay with that?"
"Yes, sir, she is. I've reminded her how much I love her pretty regularly now for 42 years."
"Whew! That's a relief. Now, give me your address."
The address he gave me was in a subdivision that wasn't even there when he and I were kids, so he also gave me directions. I wrote them down, hoping I'd be able to read them the next morning, thanked him for the invitation, and we hung up.
I seemed, finally, to be getting a bit of a social life in Stafford. Unless, of course, Frank had for some reason decided he didn't want to pursue what I had thought was a blossoming friendship.
Jerome was always around Sunrise. I don't know how we'd operate without him. He was the go-to person when things didn't work. He had a part-time assistant to help keep the floors polished and the fingerprints wiped off the glass doors, and all that. But Jerome was the man around the place so far as everyone was concerned.
He was big. About six feet, 225, all muscle. His skin was lighter than Louis', more of a café au lait color. At thirty, his hairline had begun to recede, so he kept his head shaved. He wore small gold hoops in both ears. Jean said once he looked like Mr. Clean with a suntan.
At first, though I saw him in one building or the other just about every day, I didn't have much to do with him directly. He knew what needed to be done, and he or his assistant, LaKeesha, made sure it was done. If I had a special job for him, it was usually relayed through Jean.
When it came time to hang the first new exhibition of the fall, however, I told the chair of the gallery committee that from now on I'd see to that, and she needn't come in. I think she was a little miffed, but I wasn't about to let any amateur supervise a hanging as long as I was around. Maybe that wasn't politic, but some things are just too important to trust to others.
So Jerome and I did the work. Even with the A/C at its constant 75 in the main gallery, it got warm under the lighting as we measured, placed, pounded and hung. Then we had to adjust the lighting. Part way through the process I pulled off my button-up and worked in my white tee and jeans. I wished I'd been wearing shorts.
Jerome had to go up the tall step ladder, adjust all the track lights he could reach until I was satisfied, come down, move the ladder and do it again. He had soaked through the polo shirt he was wearing, so I suggested he could take it off if he wanted to.
"Are you sure, Dr. Pell? What if someone came in?"
"Hey, Jerome, it's hot work. Besides, no one but Jean is supposed to come in while we're hanging a show, isn't that policy?"
"I just want you to be comfortable. You don't think I'm coming on to you, do you?"
"No, I reckon not. Besides, if you did, I figure I could take care of myself." I was relieved when he grinned.
So we finished the job. Before we were through I had my shirt off, too. And, though I had only been concerned with his comfort, I did enjoy watching his muscles ripple as he reached up to re-aim the lights and as he moved the ladder.
When we were finished I asked him to go to lunch with me. He thanked me, said he'd like to, but that he was too sweaty.
"Okay, can you get home, get a shower, change clothes, and meet me at Applebee's in 45 minutes?"
"Sure can," he said, grinning.
"That's an advantage of living in a little city, I guess."
I needed to go home and clean up, too.
After my shower I changed into fresh khakis, a blue oxford button-down shirt, and cordovan loafers for the exhibit-opening reception that evening. I threw my blazer in the back of the car. I made it to the restaurant in about 50 minutes.
After Jerome and I had ordered our lunch, I asked him to tell me about himself.
At first he seemed a little hesitant, but once he got started, he opened up, telling me he'd enlisted in the army when he'd graduated from high school and had been sent to the Gulf for a short tour of duty before the troops were brought home. After four years in the service he didn't re-enlist. He came home and used his G.I. benefits to go the local community college for two years. An only child, he lived with his mother, who worked as a receptionist at a local dentist's office. After getting his associate's degree, he took the job here, hoping to save the money and go to one of the nearby universities and take a degree in counseling. He said his fondest dream was to manage a youth center.
"Oh, and I sing in the choir at First Methodist downtown." He took a sip of his tea, grinned at me, and said, "And that's the Jerome Huggins story."
We had to hurry to get back to Sunrise because we both had lots to do before the reception that evening. At some point during that busy afternoon, I thought, `He still lives with his mother?'
I had a plan. I was going to try to celebrate my birthday the way I wanted to, even though I knew I shouldn't.
Whitney had been sweet and gentle when he discouraged me. Well, yeah, he'd been pretty firm, too, but I was hoping he just needed some persuading.
A few days later I stopped by Jean's office to pick up the last batch of pix I'd left with him. They were the raunchy ones, of me doing things to myself in front of the camera. Like always, the folder was sealed in a manila envelope. Miss Jean said he'd looked at them, but there was no note. I handed her a folder with some of my watercolors in it, took the envelope, thanked her, and left.
I was disappointed that there wasn't any kind of note with the last batch of photos. He might at least have said something! But then I figured I should be happy he hadn't called me in and yelled at me or anything. Maybe he was just speechless. I decided to be hopeful.
I knew what I was planning to do the evening after my birthday was dangerous. It could get me in a shitload of trouble. But don't they say, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained?"
My birthday was on a Friday, the end of the second week of October. My folks offered to have a party for me, but I thanked them and told them I didn't know enough kids to have a party. When I came down to breakfast that morning, there was one small present on the breakfast table. It was wrapped in gold, with a silver ribbon. And, like I said, it was a very small box. I wondered if they'd given me jewelry of some kind.
It turned out to be the keys to a new Sebring convertible. Black. After nearly wetting my pants and hugging both Maman and Papa to death, I grabbed my backpack and the keys, and took off for school.
The next night, I told them I had a date. I promised I'd be home, but said it might be 1:00 or so. They almost argued with me about that, but then my dad said, "You're 18 now, Louis. We have to trust you. Just be very careful, tu comprends?"
I hugged and kissed them both and headed for the garage and my new wheels. I'd checked with Miss Jean to see if she knew what Whitney had planned for the weekend. She told me he'd said he was going to do some work around the yard and house on Saturday afternoon and then just veg out.
Hoping my folks wouldn't come into the garage, I changed from the clothes I had been wearing into my outfit for the evening.
I'd cut the grass, trimmed a lot of the bushes, done some weeding, and put down new mulch. My muscles were beginning to ache by the time I finished. I'd had a light lunch, so I was starved. Grungy as I was, I drank a big glass of water, then poured myself some cabernet, and nuked an individual pizza. That wouldn't take long, and I really needed to wash my funky bod.
I had just stepped out of the shower, dried off, and was toweling my hair when the doorbell rang.
I couldn't imagine who it could be. If it was someone selling something, they were going to get short shrift from me. Unless, I thought, grinning at myself in the bathroom mirror, it was a couple of those cute young Mormons who go door to door.
I wrapped the towel around my middle and went to see who it was. Without thinking to use the peep hole, I simply opened the door.
There was Louis. I swear I nearly fainted. Grinning from ear to ear, showing an expanse of brilliantly white teeth, he was wearing a cutoff tee, short shorts riding so low he should have been arrested, and sandals. I could see abs that wouldn't quit in the gap between his shirt and his shorts, not to mention his happy trail and just the top of what appeared to be a bushy set of pubes.
"Whitney, I'm legal. Yesterday was my eighteenth birthday. Now I want you to give me my present. Fuck me, daddyman!"
To be continued