SUMMARY: Past, present and future are mixed together and served up in this loose retelling of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. You can find a longer synopsis of the entire story here. Please note that italics are typically used within the story to indicate what a character is thinking or saying to himself.

WARNING: This story is a work of adult fiction and intended for mature audiences only. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. The story may describe, depict or otherwise include graphic portrayals of relationships between men and/or adolescent boys that are homosexual in nature. If you do not like or approve of such discussions or it is illegal for you to read such material, please take note and consider yourself warned. If you continue to read this story, you are asserting that you are fully capable of understanding and legally consenting to reading a work of adult fiction.

NOTICE: This story is my property and protected by the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. It may not be reproduced in any form without my written permission. You may download a single copy to read offline and to share with others as long as you credit me as the author. However, you may not use this work for commercial purposes or to profit from it in any way. You may not use any of the characters, bars or other fictional locations described in the story in your own work without my explicit permission. Nor may you use, alter, transform, or build upon the story in any way. If you share this story with others, you must make clear the terms under which it is licensed to them. The best way to do that is by linking to this web page.

AUTHOR NOTES: This is my holiday gift to you. It's undoubtedly been done before and better, but every generation of writers has a new take on the tale and this is mine. I hope it will haunt your house as pleasantly as the original. As Dickens noted, I have endeavored not to "put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me." Read, enjoy, and feel free to participate in the creative process, either directly below if you are reading this story at the web site where I post my stories or by sending me an e-mail if reading it elsewhere. You can find my e-mail address at either my web site or my my blog. I would appreciate hearing from you even if only to let me know about any spelling or other errors you find since I would like to correct those wherever possible.

THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER: In Chapter 4 Brian leaves the confessional feeling better about things. He wonders whether he's simply curious or a homosexual, but is still unable to resolve the issue to his satisfaction. On the one hand, he wants to be like the rest of the boys so he's hoping he's just curious. But knowing how attracted he is to boys, he suspects he may be queer. Later in the summer Father Richard invites him and some of the other altar boys from the parish to a Red Sox game in Boston. It's an evening game that will require them to stay overnight in a hotel in Boston. Brian wants to go, but his mother is concerned he may not be mature enough to do so. Brian promises he'll behave like an adult and not cause any problems. With that assurance, his parents agree to let him go. The drive to Boston is uneventful and the game itself a lot of fun. Then, back at the hotel, the group discovers only two rooms have been reserved for them, not three. Brian ends up spending the night with Father Richard, eventually learning the answer to the question he's been struggling with. Waking up from his dream, Brian wonders how he could have ever trusted Father Richard.


A Tale of Sin and Redemption

Chapter 5

It was the day before Christmas Eve. On the Hill, the last of the holiday parties and receptions were in full swing. Given all the free food and drink available, the cafeterias had been abandoned for days. But most people were still taking long lunch breaks so they could sneak off the Hill to buy that one final gift that would make the holiday perfect for someone special.

I hated it!

I hated everything about it.

There was the original reason, of course, and then the one tucked away in the box back home in my bedroom. But by now I had lots of reasons for hating the holiday and I remember thinking about them on the drive home that evening.

There was all the commercialism that surrounded the day for one thing.

Growing up, Christmas had been a holiday I looked forward to after Thanksgiving. But big corporations with merchandise to peddle didn’t like Thanksgiving very much. There just wasn’t that much money to be made off of Thanksgiving unless you sold food. So the big merchandisers had begun pushing the opening of the Christmas holiday season back in time, first to before Thanksgiving and then further and further back until some of the decorations were going up around Halloween or even earlier.

Money! That was what Christmas was about these days, I recall thinking; how to get customers to open their wallets and fork over their hard earned cash.

By now the stores had it down to a science with their non-stop talk of an additional twenty percent off or whatever ridiculous number they needed to plug in order to get people to buy whatever they were selling, most of it imported from Latin or Asian labor markets that paid slave wages.

Were people really that stupid?

Everyone knew the stores were making a profit. They weren’t giving the stuff away. And yet I could see the answer to my question as I passed the malls on the drive home that evening. All of them were crowded with last minute shoppers scrambling to get their gift buying done.

This was America after all, the land of the free and the home of the bargain. Everyone loved a sale and stores knew their customers would respond when they judged the price to be right; or, better still, when time was slipping away and they had no choice except to buy.

How they had persuaded people that exchanging gifts was the true measure of love was hard to know, but somehow they had.

It was an elaborate charade, one both sides were only too happy to indulge; and yet even though everyone knew what was happening, it worked. That was why the malls were crowded with people in December, all of them playing these games. By now the marketing hype was at fever pitch and otherwise sane people were responding to the cues they were given.

What was surprising was not that it worked but how easily it worked.

So, yes, commercialism was still another reason why Christmas was dead for me.

But there were others as well.

Quite apart from what had happened to me, I hated the religious pageantry that surrounded the holiday; all of the mumbo jumbo being peddled by those masters of hypocrisy who took a brief pause in December from the bigotry and hate they preached the other eleven months of the year in order to appropriate the twelfth for their message of peace on earth, good will toward men.

What nonsense!

They didn’t believe it. Spend their lives ministering to the poor and the outcast like Jesus; preaching love rather than hate?

No way were they going to do something like that!

There was too much money to be made fleecing the people who trusted them, especially around Christmas.

Religion? What a fraud!

And then there were the charities, especially the one that made it almost impossible to walk from one place to another in December without stumbling across their ringing bells, red kettles, and outstretched hands. For the needy, they would say, in an effort to get you to stop and toss some coins or bills into their bucket.

But who were the needy? For the largest of the charities active at the holiday season, the needy included all those K Street lobbyists the charity had spent tons of money on to make sure they were exempted from having to hire homosexuals. What a perfectly Christian use of the money people gave!

No, there wasn’t any room for queers at that charity’s inn.

Where was all the love these charities preached, I wondered?

Far too many of them spent the money you contributed on campaigns to raise still more money, hoping the little baubles and trinkets they enclosed with their pleas – the notepads and mailing labels, the calendars and the rest of the junk – would persuade you to loosen your purse strings so you could indulge the holiday without actually having to think about those in real need.


Bah! Humbug!

I hated all of the hustle and bustle that surrounded the days leading up to Christmas, all of the hype and pretense; the mandatory attendance at the parties everyone threw to remind themselves how happy they were and, more to the point, to escape from having to do their work.

I hated the need to be polite to those who stopped by your doorstep after too many drinks and tried to sing Christmas carols whose words they had long since forgotten.

Don’t get me wrong.

In spite of what Robbie had said, I wasn’t Ebenezer Scrooge. I contributed more than my fair share to charity, not just money but my time and energy as well; and I did it for more than one month of the year, that was for sure.

I bought gifts for the young sons and daughters of friends I liked and admired.

I blended into the crowd and wore the mask everyone insisted you wear.

I wished my co-workers Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, or whatever was appropriate given the day they happened to be celebrating.

But now it was almost over and I was glad about that.

Of the time remaining, it was this evening that would be the most difficult.

Tomorrow would be quieter at the office. I would be the only one there and would keep myself busy one way or another.

The day itself would pass slowly, but offered the promise of at last being free of all the hypocrisy and cant for another year.

But tonight was a different story.

It was always difficult the night before Christmas Eve because of the box.


I wasn’t hungry by the time I got home. The drinks and hors d’oeuvres at those last couple of receptions had filled me up. I started a fire immediately and settled into the chair. On the end table, there was the gift Robbie had given me. I still hadn’t read it.

I switched on the television looking for an excuse to postpone the task yet again, then rolled my eyes in disbelief.

One of the networks had just started playing A Christmas Carol, the made for television version.

Give me a fucking break! I screamed. Why were the shows always the same this time of year?

And yet, having told Robbie I would read the book, I wondered whether watching it on television would fulfill my obligation to him?

I had nothing better to do that evening so I watched it. I watched the whole damn thing, just not quietly. As the story unfolded, I found myself hurling editorial comments at the television.

Buy yourself a gun, Scrooge, I remember shouting when the first spirit made its appearance.

That would be the quickest way to deal with those pesky spirits that keep bothering you.

Buy yourself an assault rifle and shoot them!

I remember hooting when Scrooge stared down into his grave, the one the spirit had shown him in an effort to frighten the poor old fool.

That grave won’t be any different whether you’re good or bad, Scrooge, I told him.

Whatever you decide to do, that grave will look exactly the same when it comes time for them to lower you into it.

It ended as it always did, with the old miser reforming himself. I remember getting up and turning the television off in disgust.

Next thing you know he’ll be inviting Tiny Tim over to his house and molesting the kid, I thought.

For some reason that made me laugh.

Yeah, sure, I was being a cynic, no doubt about it.

But that’s what happens in real life, doesn’t it?

There aren’t any happy endings in real life.

Finally, with nothing better to do, I climbed the stairs to the bedroom. Glancing at the picture that hung on the wall, I stripped off my clothes and climbed into bed. As had been the case most nights the previous couple of weeks, I was having trouble getting to sleep and I knew why.

As much as I didn’t want to do it, I could no longer postpone the thing.

It was time for the annual ritual.

Recalling that I still had some joints left, I got up and retrieved them. Then I walked over to the closet and pulled down the box. Climbing into bed, I lit a joint, inhaled the weed, and waited for it to begin taking effect. It was only when I felt the marijuana overpowering me that I finally opened the box and retrieved its contents

I took out the pictures first and sat there staring at them. There weren’t as many as I would have liked, but I found myself lingering over them. Each was a treasure to me.

He had given me a couple himself that he said were among his favorites. But they were also the ones I struggled with the most as I tried to recall what he had told me about when and where they had been taken.

I had taken the rest at various times. I remembered where each of them was taken and how he had just smirked that first time I had asked whether I could take some pictures of him.

“Naked or clothed?” he asked, scrunching his nose up.

“Clothed,” I had protested, shocked.

“I would never take naked pictures of you.”

“You can’t be serious, Brian,” he said. “Why would you want to take pictures of me with my clothes on? I could understand if you wanted to take naked pictures of me. I’ve always wanted to be a porn star. But clothed? I mean, I’ll deny it if you ever tell anyone, but it’s not like I’m the cutest boy in the world.”

I remember laughing when he said it and doing my best to assure him he was wrong, that he was indeed the cutest boy in the world. Not that I really believed it, of course, at least at the time. But I sensed he was insecure about his looks and needed to hear people he trusted tell him he was good looking.

Now years later, stoned and alone, I knew I hadn’t really been lying.

He was so beautiful, so young, so full of life.

Finally I reached into the box and retrieved the notice.

death notice

Even though the message had been seared into my consciousness long ago, I found myself shuddering as I stared at the aging strip of paper.

Then, as I always did, I began to cry.

I cried for a long time that evening.

Eventually the tears stopped flowing, the sobs weakened and disappeared.

I stared at the picture on the wall again.

It was my favorite, the one of the two of us in the mountains together; just looking at it brought back memories.


I never made any close friends in college. I don’t know why exactly.

I guess it was just so hard to trust anyone.

But college had been easier than living at home in some ways. I was just another student after all. No one knew who I was. No one cared and I was fine with that. All I wanted to do was blend in and I did. It made it easier to forget. I put in the four years and got the degree. One of my professors was taking his sabbatical in Washington and needed a research assistant. I didn’t have anything better to do so I followed him to D.C.

I worked the 9 to 5 like everyone else and then retreated to the apartment I had rented and turned the television on. A year came and went, then another; I had started a new job by then, but it didn’t interest me very much. I was alone in a city without any friends. Unlike back in Maine, however, there was no one around to talk to, no one around to divert my attention away from the loneliness.

Another winter had passed. It was spring in Washington and everything was coming alive with the season. I had made my way to the bars by now. I wasn’t going to meet anyone special, to bring anyone home. I wasn’t looking for sex. There hadn’t been any sex since Father Richard, at least not sex with another person. I didn’t trust anyone enough to try to get close like that.

But I knew there would be people like me around in the bars and I needed to be around people like me for reasons I couldn’t explain.

It was strange.

Physically, I liked being part of the scene. Emotionally, I liked being apart from it.

I remember closing my eyes and I could see all of them again.


It had started simply enough. I was going to do a good deed. It’s funny how people fool themselves so easily. I guess that’s the genius of self-deception.

Why I chose Phil’s that evening is hard to say. The place was a dive and not an especially appealing one either. It was probably some kind of rebellion against all the games people played at Hide and Seek and The Pier.

Phil’s was different.

It was located in the basement of a building that hosted two other gay bars for one thing, one of them a favorite of Washington’s drag queens; and what made the whole thing so funny was the place was located right next to the J. Edgar Hoover building, which housed the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Just a couple of blocks further down the road was the headquarters for Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department.

But even though there were cops everywhere, no one ever raided the place. They had years ago, but now things were different. The political currents had shifted because gays were beginning to vote as a bloc and the Washington politicians had told the cops to keep their hands off the gay bars.

You had to walk down fifteen or twenty steps to get into Phil’s. Once inside, the bar itself was long, narrow, and not especially well lit. That was probably just as well because Phil’s always seemed incredibly dirty to me. About the only things it had going for it were the friendly crowd and the cramped quarters. That made talking to someone easier if you wanted to talk. Since I didn’t, I usually found a corner down by the pool table and tried to make myself as inconspicuous as possible.

The crowd at Phil’s was different as well. They were definitely not Washington’s beautiful people. But they were honest about what they were looking for and most were looking for one of two things. A lot were looking to get laid. Most of the rest were looking to get drunk.

I fell into the latter category I suppose. Not that I really wanted to get drunk. I could never deal with the hangovers. But I enjoyed getting moderately buzzed as much as the next guy back then. It helped me relax and took my mind off of things I didn’t want to think about.

I was just standing there minding my own business that evening when I spotted him walking down the stairs. By then I had seen a lot in Washington and understood that not many rules applied in gay bars. It was pretty much anything goes back then, but it was hard to believe what I was seeing now.

He was small and cute in the kind of way most boys are cute. But mostly he was young, much younger than anyone I had ever seen in a bar. He was laughing and smiling as he descended the stairs, and blowing kisses to so many people it was impossible to keep count.

Just by walking down the stairs he had created a commotion and now the place was suddenly coming alive in a way that made clear just how dead it had been prior to his arrival.

I just stood there looking at him as he made the rounds of the bar, first walking to one end, then to the other, stopping and greeting his friends and admirers along the way, and finally returning to the center of the place because, as the center of attention, he knew that’s where he belonged.

It was the curls I noticed first. His hair was somewhere between blond and brown and it was curly, incredibly curly.

The curls seemed to be forever falling across his face and he was constantly brushing them aside in a graceful way that called attention to his eyes. And what eyes they were! He had incredible eyes, so alive, so hypnotic, so totally unbelievable.

They were the kind of eyes that drew people deeply into his soul; and if you let them work their magic, you would never be able to find your way out.

He was dressed like a little tramp that night, with tight fitting clothes and lots of little ribbons hanging from his jacket. And yet my first reaction was how sweet and innocent he was. He reminded me of a song that had been popular a few years earlier.

For some reason I walked over to the jukebox that provided the music for Phil’s and there it was so I pushed in a coin and played it. I think he must have noticed me do it because he smiled when the words came on and nodded ever so slightly in my direction.

You come on like a dream, peaches and cream,
Lips like strawberry wine.
You're sixteen, you're beautiful and you're mine.
(mine, all mine)

You're all ribbons and curls, ooh, what a girl,
Eyes that sparkle and shine.
You're sixteen, you're beautiful and you're mine.
(mine, all mine, mine, mine)

You're my baby, you're my pet,
We fell in love on the night we met.
You touched my hand, my heart went pop,
Ooh, when we kissed, I could not stop.

You walked out of my dreams, into my arms,
Now you're my angel divine.
You're sixteen, you're beautiful, and you're mine.

He was indeed all ribbons and curls and his eyes did sparkle and shine. But he was a boy, not a girl, and he definitely wasn’t sixteen. Seeing him walk down those stairs and enter the place had come as a shock.

Like I said, I had never seen anyone as young as he was in any of the bars I visited. I couldn’t believe the manager had let him in or that the bouncers were leaving him alone as older men surrounded him and competed to buy him drinks.

He was popular, no doubt about it. Guys were hanging all over him and you could tell he enjoyed the attention.

I kept checking to see whether I was misreading his age somehow. I thought I was doing so discreetly, but he must have seen me looking at him. Or perhaps he was surprised when, unlike the others, I didn’t approach him. Whatever the reason, the next thing I knew he was standing in front of me, grinning.

“Why are you looking at me, Mister?” he asked in a friendly enough way, but one that revealed he was definitely already tipsy.

“Sorry,” I quickly apologized. “You just seem kind of young to be in a place like this.”

“I’m eighteen,” the kid replied, nonchalantly. “At least that’s what I tell the manager when he asks. He knows I’m only thirteen, but he lets me in because this place is a dump and he knows pretty young boys like me will help him attract a crowd.”

“My name is Eric by the way, but most people call me Rabbit.”

“Do you like little boys like me, Mister?” he added, backing me against the wall so I had no way of escaping.

The question made me uncomfortable, almost as uncomfortable as seeing someone his age in a gay bar. I decided to be blunt about it.

“No,” I protested, “I don’t like little boys, at least not sexually. My name is Brian; and just so you know, you wouldn’t be hanging around a dump like this if you were smart. I mean, yeah, sure, it’s your life and you can do whatever you want with it, but the guys you meet in places like this are only interested in one thing.”

“And you’re not?” he challenged.

It caught me by surprise. He was definitely quick on his feet.

“Besides, who said anything about sex?” he continued. “I asked whether you liked little boys, not whether you fuck them. I’ll ask that later.”

Then, having said that and knowing he had just totally freaked me out by saying it, he let out this incredible belch.

EXCUSE me,” he said, smiling at me.

Later he would tell me he always smiled when he did that; that if you were young, pretty, and smiled when you belched, people would forgive just about anything you did.

At the time it just made me laugh to hear such a loud noise coming from such a small boy. It put me at ease for some reason and I remember returning his smile. Whatever else he might be, the kid could be funny.

“I’ll excuse you,” I replied, “both for belching and asking that question. But like I said, I’m not interested in having sex with a boy, especially one who’s half drunk.”

“Even if he’s pretty like you,” I added, trying to take the edge off my words.

“But I’ll tell you what. If you sober up before the night’s over and decide you’d like a ride home, no strings attached, I’ll be here.”

“That’s good to know,” he replied, before turning and abruptly walking away.

I figured I had annoyed him with my little lecture, but later, just before the lights came up, he drifted back over to me.

“Still willing to drive me home?” he asked.

No strings attached,” he added, emphasizing the words.

By now he was smirking at me. He didn’t believe for a moment there wouldn’t be any strings attached, but had apparently decided to take me up on my offer.

“I said I would,” I replied. “Unlike a lot of people, I try not to lie.”

“I live really far out, Brian,” he responded, offering me an escape, “all the way out in Rockville. Do you know where that is?”

“I do,” I said. “It isn’t a problem.”

That wasn’t the truth to be honest. It was late and it was going to take a long time to drive out to Rockville and then back to my place in Bethesda. It wasn’t something I was looking forward to. But I had told him I would take him home and I didn’t want to go back on my word.

I mean, I wasn’t blind. I could see all the vultures circling around him, waiting to swoop in for the kill.

“Are you sure about that?” he asked. “If it’s too far out, we could always go back to your place and fuck.”

“Rockville is not the moon,” I replied, trying to suppress just how shocked I was by the offer he had made. I couldn’t believe he had said it.

“I think I can get you there before dawn and I’m pretty sure you’ll sleep better in your bed than mine tonight.”

Neither of us said very much once we got to the car. He was tired and I was as well so I just headed north toward Maryland. Eventually, when we got to Rockville, he came alive and offered the directions I needed to get to his house.

It was one of those suburban ramblers with most of the rooms on the top floor and a couple of stairs that led down to a finished basement.

“Do you want to come in?” he asked, casually.

“My parents will be asleep at this hour, but my bed is down in the basement. You can fuck me there. They probably won’t hear you doing it unless you’re really good at it and make me scream with delight. It doesn’t happen every time; the screaming, I mean. But I like being fucked so it happens a lot of times.”

He said it like it was something he did routinely and I wondered whether he did or whether it was all just an act, a show of bravado.

“No, it’s late, Eric,” I said. “Growing boys need their sleep and I need to get back to my apartment.”

“Or I could blow you right here,” he continued, ignoring what I had just said. “It makes some guys nervous knowing my parents are right above us and might be listening to them fucking me. They’re usually happy to settle for getting sucked off out here in the car.”

“Well, thanks for the offer, Eric,” I replied, shocked still again. “But I try to make it a habit not to have sex in cars either. When you get old like me, it’s bad for your back.”

He just giggled and looked over at me.

“Okay,” he said, “suit yourself, but don’t say I didn’t offer.”

“And damage your reputation?” I countered, playfully. “I would never do something like that, Eric.”

He looked at me and started giggling again.

“You’re kind of different,” he replied. “I’ll give you that. Remind me to tell you that when my legs are up in the air and your cock is up my ass.”

“You wish,” I replied, staring at him. “But that isn’t going to happen.”

Eric opened the door, got out of the car, and stood there for a moment staring at me.

“We’ll see,” he said.

Then he turned and started toward the house. But for some reason I can’t explain I didn’t want the evening to end that way.

“Eric,” I called out, softly.

He turned around and walked back to the car.

“Change your mind?” he asked, and now he was smirking at me again.

“Um, no,” I replied. “Not really; I was just wondering how you got that nickname of yours. You know, Rabbit?”

“Because I liked getting fucked like one,” he responded; “quickly, often, and from behind.”

Whoa, I recall thinking, astonished by his bluntness. Is he serious or pulling my leg?

“Are you sure you don’t want to come in now that you know?”

“Um, well, no, I don’t think so,” I said. “I mean, it’s late and, well, I should probably be getting back to my place.”

“Okay,” he said. “I’m glad we met tonight, Brian. You’re kind of amusing, but I like you.”


After that first night I often ended up giving Eric a ride home late in the evening, at least on the weekends when I visited the bars. It wasn’t every weekend to be sure. Some weekends I never ran into him even when I went searching his favorite haunts.

On still others he would leave the bar with someone else. They always seemed a lot bigger than him and I was pretty certain they weren’t headed for Rockville either. That scared me because he was just so small. I didn’t want him to get hurt.

But there were other times when he sought me out and asked for a ride home and I was glad to do it. By then I saw myself as a kind of guardian angel and liked protecting him from all of the predators circling him in the bars. It made me feel good about myself even though I knew I was only protecting him when he was willing to let me do it.

I don’t know why, but I liked him. He was honest and I trusted him and he could make me laugh. He was the first person I had felt comfortable being around for a long time and I wanted him to like me for some reason. I don’t know why that was, but I really wanted him to like me.

It hadn’t taken me long to figure out that Eric was in charge of his life and that no one was going to run it for him, not his parents, not me or anyone else. But he was willing to let me into his life and I liked that. There was no one else I liked enough to let into my life so being friends with Eric helped take the edge off of the loneliness.

Why he let me do it is harder to know. I don’t think it was just because I was willing to give him a ride. There was more to it. I think he was a little intrigued by me.

He never actually said it, but I think it came as a shock that someone in the bars he frequented would actually do something for him without expecting sex in return. Sex was how he was used to paying for things, whether drinks, cover charges or just about anything else he wanted. It was hard currency for Eric and I’m sure he was surprised when he didn’t have to pay me for those rides back home in the evening.

For my part, I wanted to show Eric there was more to life than the bars. I took him to the movies and different sporting events around town whenever he let me do it. He had an active social life and it was centered in the bars, but somehow he found time to squeeze me in the longer we knew one another.

I also treated him to dinner at some of the restaurants I liked in town. They weren’t the fanciest places in Washington, but they were nice and he was usually hungry; and sometimes late in the evening when we drove out to Rockville via Wisconsin Avenue, he would have me stop at Booeymonger and the two of us would have an early breakfast together.

I liked that.

I didn’t think he would be interested so I was surprised when he accepted my offer to go hiking up at Cunningham Falls in late October. By then the foliage was pretty much down and not many people were around. But he seemed to like the woods as much as I did and that initial trip was followed by two more, including one just before Thanksgiving.

We were just sitting there enjoying the view from Wolf Rock. We hadn’t seen anyone all day even though it was kind of warm and a great day to take a hike.

“It’s really beautiful today,” Eric said, grinning at me. “Let’s get naked and fuck. You can be the fucker and I’ll be the fuckee.”

He said it like it was a perfectly normal thing to say and I just started laughing.

“Do you ever think about anything except sex?” I asked, looking over at him.

“I’m young, Brian,” he responded. “Time is rapidly marching on and it won’t be long before I hit my sexual peak. I need to pack in as much sex as I can before that happens and I get old like you and lose all interest in sex.”

“Oh, I see,” I replied. “You’re kind of like one those squirrels around here, packing in as many nuts as you can before winter.”

I hadn’t consciously thought about it. I had just blurted it out. But he burst out laughing when I said it and I finally realized what I had said.

“Not bad for an older dude,” he finally volunteered, grinning at me.

“Thanks for the compliment,” I responded, smiling back at him; “although I didn’t know being 22 was old. And just so you know, I’m definitely still interested in sex, just not with you.”

I don’t know why I said that because it wasn’t really true. I mean, yeah, sure, I liked sex. I masturbated a couple of times a week. But I hadn’t had sex with anyone since Father Richard. Truth be told, I was practically a virgin.

“I don’t believe that for a minute,” Eric replied. “You know you want this hot little pussy of mine,” he added, standing up and shaking his ass in my face. It was tempting, very tempting, no doubt about it.

“Well, you know something?” I replied. “You could be right because you definitely have a cute little ass, Eric. But it ain’t going to happen. It just isn’t.”

“And why’s that, Brian?” he responded, grinning at me. “You can do it right now if you want. No one’s around. It’s a beautiful day. I’m in heat. Feel free to do it right now.”

“You’re always in heat,” I replied, laughing. “And thanks for the offer. It’s tempting. But here’s the difference between me and the rest of your friends in the bars. Every one of them would be happy to take you up on that offer and fuck you right now. But I’m the only one who was willing to bring you up to these mountains so you could see what real beauty is all about.”

“That’s the difference between sex and love too,” I added. “Those other dudes just want to fuck you. I want to show you what real love is all about.”

He looked over at me and there was a quizzical look on his face.

“Is that what you’re trying to tell me, Brian,” he asked; “that you love me? If that’s what you're trying to tell me, it would be a mistake. I’m thirteen Brian. I like you and we can have sex right now if you want. But thirteen year old boys can’t love anyone, Brian, at least not the way you want to be loved. Don’t go there.”

“I do love you, Eric,” I protested, “but not in a sexual way. Sex would spoil everything between us. But just because we can’t have sex doesn’t mean I can’t love you.”

“You’re weird, Brian,” he responded, “totally weird. I don’t understand you at all. But it’s a nice kind of weird and I’m glad I’m here with you right now.”

“Is it better than trying to touch your toes to the ceiling?” I asked, laughing.

“Don’t press your luck, babe,” he replied. “Maybe it is this afternoon. But I’m sure I’ll change my mind before the evening is over.”

By then I didn’t doubt it. Just from spending time around him, I could tell Eric was more experienced than me when it came to sex; a lot more experienced. But I didn’t hold it against him. He had a terrific sense of humor and made me feel good about myself and I found myself drawn to him for some reason.

From what he told me, Eric was the pride and joy of his parents, but also their greatest despair as well. The truth is they didn’t know how to control him and I could understand why. He was a restless kid full of energy who wanted to experience life to its fullest; on his terms, right here and now.

Ripe too soon, I remember telling myself.

And then I remember thinking that maybe that was better than never having ripened at all like me. So I wasn’t about to judge him.

I wasn’t completely stupid, of course. I knew there was a part of me attracted to him and I wondered about that at times. I mean, he was definitely cute, but hardly the best looking kid in the world. Adolescence wreaked havoc with his face on a fairly regular basis. But he had a smile that charmed everyone and that made you overlook the zits.

Sometimes I wondered whether he was the little brother I never had, someone I wanted to protect very much? Or just a much more worldly and experienced version of my own younger self, someone I envied because of all the lost years of my youth?

We were just so totally different at age thirteen and there was a part of me that wanted to be like him. He was so self-confident and totally in control of his life. I had been completely the opposite and I remember wondering why that was.

Whatever the reason, I wanted to lead by example and serve as a kind of mentor and role model. It was giving a meaning and purpose to my life that had never been there before.

I liked that.