Don Hanratty
My Beloved is mine, and I am his.
Song of Songs 2:l6

Kevin woke up about 8 o'clock the next morning.  The room was cool--the air conditioning must be on, he thought.  He lay in bed quietly at first, orienting himself, and then sat up and looked across the giant bed to where Cam lay on the other side, snoring softly.  Cam was covered except for one tan arm, which stuck out of the covers, and his hand hung over the side of the bed.  Seeing it reminded Kevin of something Cam had pulled on him just before they had gone into seventh grade, when they had been at summer camp together.

The more Kevin thought about it, the more he thought it was time for revenge for that particular prank.  He slowly extricated himself from the sheet and blanket and went into the bathroom, quietly shutting the door behind him.  To maintain quiet, he didn't flush the toilet after using it.  Padding quietly across the hardwood floor, let himself out of the bedroom and went down to the kitchen, still in his boxers.  Alex's house was empty and quiet.  Finding a pan, he filled it with warm water and carried it upstairs.  He entered the bedroom, and moving stealthily, went over to where Cam lay and slowly--v-e-r-y slowly--put Cam's hand in the water.  A moment later he heard Cam begin to pee, but the boy didn't awaken.  The deed done, Kevin went back to his side of the bed, slid the pan underneath it, and gently climbed back in the sack.  He dozed and waited.

Ten minutes later Cam began to stir.  Then Kevin heard a horrified gasp from the other side of the bed.

"Oh, shit!" Cam said.  "I don't believe this!"

"What, buddy?" Kevin asked innocently.

"I peed in the bed," Cam said incredulously.

"Oh, my goodness," Kevin said.  "How could that happen?  Probably your body is rebelling against those butt-ugly boxers you wear to bed all the time."

Cam noticed that his left hand felt damp and looked over at his friend suspiciously.

"What did you do, dickwad?" he demanded.

"ME?  Now wait just a minute, bud. . ."

A second later and Cam was sitting on Kevin's chest, wet crotch and all, pinning his arms down with his knees, and Kevin was definitely detecting a very unpleasant aroma.

"Ewwwww!  Fuck, MacKenzie, get your scrawny ass off me!!  You stink, you asshole!!  This violates the criminal code of the State of California!!  I'm gonna get Arnold the Governator after you!!  'Course, he won't want to get near you either!!"

"You're going to hell," Cam told Kevin.

"Not for this."

Frustrated, Cam reached down with his left hand and pinched Kevin's left nipple hard, giving it a good twist while simultaneously with his other hand pulling a couple of black hairs out of the little patch between his friend's pecs.

"Owww!  You dumb shit, Mac.  That fucking hurt!!" Kevin yelled.

Leaving the scene of the crime quickly before Kevin could retaliate, Cam ran into the bathroom and locked the door behind him.  The shower started running immediately.

Half hard from the early morning nipple twisting, Kevin lay in bed smiling to himself.  Getting Cam to pee himself had been more than worth a little pain.  Payback, especially long overdue payback from the days of summer camp, was sweet, indeed.  Climbing out of bed and moving quickly, he retrieved the pan of water from under the bed, took it downstairs to the kitchen, dumped it out and dried it on a dish towel, and put it away.  Running back upstairs through the empty house, he climbed in bed again before Cam finished showering.

His usual good humor restored by a hot shower, Cam eventually emerged from the bathroom wearing only a smile, with his big dick and low hanging balls swinging between his legs.  His skin was glowing.  Kevin watched him appreciatively as he went to a dresser and put on a jock and a pair of running shorts.  Rummaging around, Cam found a wife-beater and pulled that over his head.

"Get your fat butt moving, shit-for-brains!" Cam ordered, turning around and looking down at Kevin in the bed.  "Are you going to shower before we run?"


"You should.  Seagulls will drop right out of the sky when they get a whiff of you."

"Hummph!  I'm not the one who peed himself, now am I?  One quick shower probably doesn't get rid of that smell."

"Get moving.  I'm gonna strip the bed.  The sheets and the mattress pad will have to be washed, thanks to you, dumb ass!  I hope I don't find any little gifts you left behind in the sheets on your side of the bed."

Chuckling, Kevin threw back the covers and climbed out of bed.  "We'll stop at a drug store today and get you some Depends," he told Cam.

He went into the bathroom and cleaned his teeth, emerging two minutes later to put on his jock, running shorts, and a T.  Cam was still pulling the sheets off the bed.  There was a big, wet spot on the mattress pad, and he pulled it off and added it to the pile on the floor.

"I wonder when Dad's maid gets here."

"I don't know," Kevin said.  "You might have to"--Kevin let out a gasp for dramatic effect--"do the wash yourself!"

The two boys sat down on the side of the bed to put on their sweat socks and running shoes, and they were set to go.  Cam glanced out the window.  It was overcast, and he hoped that it wasn't smog he saw.

It wasn't.  They arrived back at the house an hour and a half later, temporarily tired out but in a very good mood.  They showered and dressed in khaki dockers, polo shirts and brown loafers for their trip to the sprawling UCLA campus.  Alex had told the boys they could use his red Porsche convertible to go over to L.A., and after the guys looked under the hood and drooled over the car for a few minutes, Kevin won the coin toss to drive first.  He started the car as Cam crawled in the passenger side, and listened to the car tick over smoothly after he enjoyed the throaty roar from gunning it a few times.

They drove directly to the university.  Rather than wandering here and there using a map to try to find their way around the campus, they went to the admissions office right away.  They explained that they had both applied for admission for the Fall semester and needed some help getting around.  After waiting for only a few minutes, they were assigned a campus guide--a cute, blonde sophomore girl named Alice who worked in the office to help pay her tuition.  Kevin flirted shamelessly with her as Cam to rolled his eyes at some of his friend's more outrageous dialog.

Alice took them first to a freshman dorm, and showed them some of the rooms.  The boys, spoiled brats that they were, thought they were drab, cramped, and decidedly utilitarian.  Once they saw them, the two guys started thinking about alternatives to living on campus.  Alice then guided them to them to some of the buildings and classrooms devoted to mathematics, the physical sciences and engineering.  The facilities were impressive.  Then she took them to the Film and Television School.  When Cam was introduced as Cam MacKenzie and the film school office found out he was Alex MacKenzie's son, the two boys definitely received special treatment.  Cam wasn't keen on that, but Kevin ate it up and just rolled along singing a song, so to speak.

They visited several sets where student directors were busy filming fellow students in scripts and productions written for their classes.  Despite a certain lack of sophistication in the presentations, Cam got a good sense of how invaluable this process was in the formation of the next generation of film-makers at all levels.  He knew that's where he wanted to do.

On the way back to Malibu, Cam now at the wheel of the Porsche, the boys discussed their living arrangements for the following school year.  They were agreed that the freshman dorm scene was their last choice, and decided they would look in the real estate section of the L.A. Times and in the ads from a campus newspaper they had picked up for small apartments somewhere in the vicinity of the university.  Apartments that fell in their price range.  They stopped and bought a newspaper and headed home.

They had no sooner garaged the Porsche and walked in the kitchen door than Cam's cell phone rang.



"Dad.  John and I will be home by 7:00.  Do you want to go ahead and eat, or wait for us?  We'll either bring home some good take-out or I'll cook."

"We'll wait for you, if that's all right."

"Good.  Did you guys go down to the university?"

"Yes.  We had a good tour.  Very impressive.  The Film and Television School was great, and we got to watch some filming.  They love you down there, by the way."

"Well, I don't know about that," Alex protested.  "You're only as good as your last movie."

"Maybe.  You're golden right now, that's all I know."

"Anyway, I'm glad you had a good time.  I want to hear more when we get home."

" 'K.  Oh, Dad, when does your maid come in?"

"Maria will be there tomorrow.  Why?"

"Oh, Kevin had an accident in bed this morning, and the sheets need to be washed."

Kevin grinned and pulled Cam's hand with the phone in it over to himself, and said into the microphone, "He's lying!"

Alex MacKenzie laughed.  "There are fresh sheets in the hall closet."

"What about mattress pads?" Cam asked.

"You'll have to wash that.  The washer and dryer are in the utility room.  You do know how to do a washing, don't you?"

"I don't, but I'll get Kevin to do it," Cam said, goading his friend.  "He knows how to do everything.  And I do mean everything.  Just ask him."

Kevin laughed and shook his head.

"All right, I'll see you later," Alex said, chuckling.  He snapped his cell phone shut, turning to John.  "Those guys are on each other's case 24/7.  They're funny as hell."

"Yeah," John said.  "But underneath all the horsing around, there's a lot of love there."

"I know it," Alex admitted.  "They're closer than a lot of brothers I've known, that's for sure."

*  *  *

Kevin and Cam took the newspapers out on the front deck, sat down in the late afternoon sun, and starting looking through the classifieds for apartments for rent in the UCLA area.  There weren't a lot at that time of the year, but the rent on those they did find was astronomical.

"Hmmmm.  It looks as if we might have to break into your piggy bank if we want to live off campus," Cam said.

"You're the one with the bucks, dude.  You could pay the rent for both of us and not even miss it."

"You have the West Coast franchise on bullshit, doncha?" Cam said.

"Well, yeah, thanks to your excellent instruction in the fine art of talkin' trash."

"What are we gonna do?  Those dorm rooms are so small that if you turn over in bed, I'll have to turn over, too."

"Cozy!  I have an idea, but you might not like it," Kevin said.


"Let's ask your dad and John if we can live here our first year."

"Oh, man!  Catherine would shit a brick," Cam said, frowning.  "She'd be left up there in San Rafael, livin' in that big house alone."

"That's gonna happen whether we live with your dad or not," Kevin responded.

"I know, but she might take it as a betrayal of her if we live with Dad, and I don't want that."

"I don't think she'll feel that way, Cam.  She's not like that.  You'll just have to talk to her.  You need to talk to her about getting out from under that big house sometime soon, anyway."

"Easy for you to say.  You know how torn up you were when your Dad sold your house and moved to New York.  We all need a base of some kind, y'know."

"Yeah, I admit I was upset.  But I learned something from that whole deal," Kevin said solemnly.


"I learned that the people we care about are our base, not the place we happen to be living at the moment.  I don't know exactly how to say this--I don't want to bum you out or anything. . ."

"Tell me," Cam said.

Kevin looked away from Cam, squinting at the sun setting over the Pacific.  "Well, let me put it this way.  I care about my dad, and I know he cares about me.  But we've never been that close.  Sometimes I think you and Catherine and Alex, and now I guess John, are all I really have left."

Cam stared at him for a minute, and then reached over and put his hand on his friend's neck.

"Damn straight!" he said.  "You know I love ya, Kev.  It's always gonna be that way, I promise!"

"God, I hope so," Kevin said.

*  *  *

Alex had been thinking all day about how he was going to plead his case with the boys.  He felt he had to explain why he had left Catherine and, now officially out of the closet to everybody but Cam and Kevin, how he had ended up living with John Kelley.  In fact, it was on his mind so much that he had kind of lost his focus on the movie set, and had turned a lot of the scheduled scenes over to John to direct during the afternoon.  In fact, he had finally left the shoot altogether and gone back to his office.  Once there, he viewed the rushes from the day before, and worked with his film editor.  Both the editor and he were perfectionists, so despite his preoccupation about talking to the boys, he was satisfied with what he accomplished that afternoon.  John wrapped early on location, and after he returned to the studio, he and Alex were on their way home to Malibu in their limousine earlier than usual.

"What's the matter with you today?" John asked him as they rolled along.  "You've really been skittish."

"I know.  I'm sorry.  I've just had our talk with Cam and Kevin on my mind all day."

"Our talk?  Are you sure you want me there?"

"I want all four of us to talk, John.  I know you're late on the scene, in a sense, but you're definitely part of the story.  I want them to understand everything that's happened, and why it's happened.  Do you have a problem with being there?"

"No, I guess not, if you really want me to sit in."

"Thank you.  You'll give me confidence, and I can use some of that right now.  I don't want these guys to be pissed off at me--at us-- for the rest of their lives.  And I don't want them to hate us because of Catherine."

"Don't sell 'em short, Alex.  They really love you, both these kids, a blind man can see that.  It's going to go fine.  I think they really want to understand what you've been through.  So, be positive, OK?"

Alex sighed, and took his lover's hand in his and held it.

"I hope you're right.  Thanks for the encouragement.  This isn't easy for me."

"I know."

John put his arm around his partner and and leaned over and kissed him on the lips.  Then they talked about the next day's shoot the rest of the way home.

The boys were still out on the deck catching some rays when they arrived.  Alex and John walked through the house and joined them.

"Hey, guys, how was your day?" Alex asked.

"Good, I guess," Kevin said.  "We got a little bit oriented at UCLA.  Oh, and we didn't put any scratches on the Porsche, so rest easy."

Alex and John laughed.

"Yeah, and we found out some things we didn't want to know," Cam added.

"Like?" John asked.

"Well, we visited the freshman dorms, and they ain't too cool," Cam said.  "In fact, they're downright depressing."

"What's the matter with them?" Alex asked, already knowing what he was going to hear.

"Cramped, dingy, and noisy," Kevin said.  "It'd be like moving into hell."

"And other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?" John asked, grinning.

"Anything decent for rent around campus somewhere?" Alex asked.

"There are probably some decent places, but not anything that falls within our budget," Cam said.

"Well, we can help you with that," Alex assured them.

"But we don't want to be hittin' you up for money all the time, Dad," Kevin said.

Alex reached across the table and slapped Kevin's arm with the back of his hand, and smiled.  "You wouldn't exactly be taking the food out of our mouths," he said, "and it's kinda our job to fork over the bucks so you guys get a good education, ya know."

"Yeah, but still. . ." Kevin said seriously.

"We did have one other thought," Cam said.  "But I want you to be honest with us if you don't like the idea.  This would have to sit right with both of you."

"What?" Alex asked.

"Maybe we could live here with you our first year," Cam suggested.  "That would give us a chance to get oriented down here and maybe find some reasonably priced off-campus housing for our second year.  By the way, this was Kevin's idea in case it doesn't appeal to ya."

John Kelley laughed out loud and Alex grinned broadly.

"You rat!" Kevin said scowling at Cam.  "You really are a piece of work, ya know that?"

"I know it.  Thanks, dude," Cam said with an innocent look on his face.

"John, whaddaya think?" Alex asked.

"I like the idea!" John told Alex.  "I'm really tired of having to run your ass into the sand every time we go jogging, and I never have any witnesses to your humiliation.  And this way I'd have some new victims to test myself against, too."

The boys grinned.

"We'd love to have you guys here," Alex said.  "As far as I'm concerned, unless you have second thoughts, the matter's settled."

Pleased, the boys jumped out of their deck chairs, dapped each other, and then as Alex and John stood up, embraced them and gave each of them a kiss on the cheek.

"Thanks, Daddy, John," Cam said.

"OK, now that that's settled, two things," Alex said as they all sat back down.

"What?" Kevin asked.

"First, supper," Alex said.  "We didn't bring home takeout, but I have some fresh sea bass in the refrigerator that somebody gave me yesterday.  How does grilled sea bass sound, with a baked potato and a salad?"

"Gourmet!" Kevin said.  "Can we help?"

"We?" Cam asked.  "I'm not helping you do anything, Kevin!"  He reached over and gave his buddy's face a light slap, and then jumped out of his chair and over the stairs of the deck down on to the beach, out of reach.  "That's payback for the bed incident this morning," he said.

"You only have one true son!" Kevin told Alex, "and I'm your man.  You guys don't want him here next year, anyway."  He stood up, hands on hips, scowling down at his friend.  "Commere, Cam.  I have something for ya."

"What!?? You think I'm a simpleton like you?" Cam asked, dancing around in the sand, pumping his arms like he was punching a heavy bag at the gym.

"Don't pretend you're in a gym, you dumb shit!" Kevin told Cam.  "It's not like you've ever actually been in one.  You wouldn't know how to work a heavy bag if it bit ya in the ass!"

Cam continued to tease Kevin, punching the air and dancing around.

"When you two settle this little tiff, one of you fire up the grill," Alex instructed.  "And don't use too much charcoal starter and blow it up, either.  The other one gets to make the salad."

"What's the second item on your agenda for tonight, by the way?" Cam asked, still down in the sand, dancing around.

"We need to have our talk before you guys go home to San Rafael," Alex responded.  "And after supper tonight is probably as good a time as any."

"All right," Cam said, and the game playing suddenly stopped.  He came back up on to the deck, and warily giving Kevin a wide berth, went through the sliding doors, heading for the kitchen.

"I'll be with the mature people in the kitchen," Cam told Kevin from inside the house.  Looking back at his dad and John as they followed him inside, he told them, "By the way, you shouldn't trust Kevin with flammables to light the grill!  He's a moron."

Alex and John laughed and shook their heads.  Life was not going to be dull after the boys moved in, they knew that.

*  *  *

Supper was excellent.  The two boys were surprised when Alex had the four of them join hands around the table on the deck for grace before the meal.  They ate just as the sun was slowly dipping below the horizon over the Pacific.  The sea bass was grilled in butter, just right, lightly sprinkled with dill, seasoning salt and pepper, and served up piping hot.  After Cam had cut up tomatoes, cucumbers, red bell peppers, and celery, Alex had added some walnuts and a raspberry balsamic vinegar dressing, shaken together with some honey, to what proved to be a tasty salad.  The microwave made short work of baked potatoes.  The two men drank beer, and Kevin and Cam drank iced tea.  They had some strawberry shortcake for desert with coffee, decaf for the boys and "leaded" for Alex and John.  It was a great meal in a perfect setting, with more eating than talking going on.

After a quick clean-up, they all went into the living room and sat down.  The furniture was Scandinavian, all chrome and a mellow, muted, reddish tan leather, interspersed with glass and chrome bookcases containing antique glassware, pictures and books.  There were glass and chrome side tables and a large, square, chrome coffee table with glass and slate embedded in the top.  One wall of heavy, engraved glass was dominated by a see-through, stand-alone fireplace at the far side of the living room, separating that room from a formal dining room.  Strangely, it was spartan and warm at the same time.

Alex and John sat side by side on a long leather and chrome couch, and Cam and Kevin in twin, plush, form-fitting leather chairs that swiveled all the way around if you wanted them to.  Naturally the boys did a few three-sixties in their chairs before Alex cleared his throat and began to talk.  The boys quit swiveling the chairs and plopped their big feet down on the matching ottomans.

"I'm glad we have this chance to talk," Alex said.  "Maybe we should have done this before, but I wasn't sure you two guys were mature enough until now to understand what I'm going to tell you.  So the time was never right.  I'm not really ashamed of what I have to say to you, and it's time for me to be honest.  I know you've both been pretty mad at me, deep down, for leaving Catherine and you and San Rafael, and I want--I need--to make you understand why things happened the way they did in the family.  I hope that what I tell you will help put my relationship with you two boys on a better footing than it's been the last couple of years."

Alex paused, and then continued.

"John and Kevin, I wanted you here with me and Cam for this conversation because at this point, in one way or another, we're all a part of what's happened and we're all going to have to live with it.  I know I'll be doing most of the talking, but if any of you has anything to say about our situation as we go along or has any questions, now's the time to put everything on the table.  Don't hold back.  Nothing gets settled if you don't really participate."

Alex paused and cleared his throat.

"I'm gay."  The boys were looking at him intently.  Their faces betrayed no shock.

"I've known deep down that I was gay since I was in high school," Alex continued, looking down at his hands.  "I was a jock, a first string basketball player, and pretty popular, I guess.  But the last thing I wanted to admit to myself or anyone else, especially my parents, was that I got off looking at the other guys in the locker room and in the showers.  So I just rolled along, dating the pretty girls and having sex with them when the opportunity presented itself.  I was fortunate enough, or unfortunate enough, not to have any mannerisms that gave me away as being gay."

Alex looked up at the two boys, who returned his gaze unblinkingly.

"I wasn't good enough to make the basketball team at UCLA when I went to college, of course, but I continued pretty much as I had in high school when it came to dating and having sex with women, but liking the boys.  I never had gay sex, though.  I met Catherine when we were juniors in college, and it was love at first sight for me, at least to the extent that I could love a woman.  We didn't have sexual relations until after graduation, when we were married.  It was no big thing for me to wait, you understand, because my interests lay elsewhere.  Catherine didn't have a clue what my real sexual orientation was, and I was able to begin and to maintain an active sex life with her even though I wasn't all that hot about it.  She went off the pill a year after we were married, and pretty soon she was pregnant with you, Cam.

"I believed back then that human beings could do anything they set their minds to, and so I began to make a concerted effort to throw myself into married life and to change my orientation.  I began to pray about my 'problem' every day, and went to Mass several times a week, and conferred frequently with a priest I liked in our local parish.  Even though I was fairly content with Catherine, what I really was--and am--continued to gnaw away at me.

"We had moved to San Rafael from L.A. in response to an opportunity to produce films for an educational filmmaker, and just at the time you were born, Cam, the Stoltzes bought the house and moved next door.  Kevin, you were born about a week after Cam.  Our two families were great support for each other, and without knowing it your mom and dad really helped keep me fighting to conquer my sexual desires for men and to be a good family man.

"I struggled along until three years and a half years ago, when I went into a deep depression.  I can remember sitting in my study at the house at midnight many a night with the barrel of my .38 in my mouth, right on the brink of blowing my brains out.  Only my thoughts of you and your mother sleeping upstairs, Cam, kept me from doing that.  But I knew something had to change for me.  I was in absolute misery.

"So I found a counselor and started working with her, and over the next six months, she helped me admit to her--at long last to someone other than myself--that I was a gay man trying to live the impossible--the life of a heterosexual.  I realized that the sooner I came clean with Catherine and began to make some changes in my life, the sooner I could stop contemplating suicide and maybe, just maybe, find some peace and joy.

"So eventually I did tell Catherine the truth about myself.  I broke her heart.  I know that.  I'm still struggling today with the burden of it.  I wouldn't blame her for hating me, but I don't think she has it in her to do that.  Anyway, I quit my job in San Rafael and moved out of the house and came down here.  I'd paid my dues when it came to directing, so I didn't have any problem getting a job here with one of the big studios.  I began to turn out what I think have been a couple of good films.  I hope I can continue to do that.  Being honest about who and what I am released a tremendous burst of creative energy that has benefited my work as a director, I'm certain.  I was pretty wild when I first moved down here, but I'm not going to go into all that with you right now.

"I met John on a set about a year ago, and we were attracted to each other immediately.  I want you to know that we are deeply in love with each other, we're thankful to have each other, and we're faithful to each other.  I'm sure you've surmised that he's my partner.  I've never been happier in my life, although there's an ache in my heart because I miss you terribly, Cam.  And I miss you, too, Kevin, believe me.

"I think if there's one thing I want you two to learn from what I've told you tonight, it's this:  no one can live the fullest and happiest and most productive life, and attain his true potential, without being honest with himself about who and what he is.  I mean that with regard to sexual orientation, certainly, but I also mean we need to know ourselves in every respect and be honest with ourselves about what we find inside.  That's particularly true for artists, because personal dishonesty is fatal to doing good work.  The price of honesty can be steep for any of us, but the rewards are tremendous.

"So that's my sad and sordid story, guys," Alex concluded.  "I don't mean that my relationship with John is sordid.  There's nothing to apologize for in what we have together.  What was sordid was my cowardice all those years, and my dishonesty with myself and everybody I cared about.  I hope you have it in your hearts to understand why I've done what I've done, and to the extent I've wronged you, to forgive me."

John reached over and took Alex's hand in his.  The partners studied the two boys, trying to discern their reactions.  Cam looked sad, and surprisingly, Kevin looked a little pale and shaken.

"If you have any questions, ask away," Alex broke a lengthening silence.

"I don't have any questions," Kevin responded after he'd recovered himself a little, "but having heard your story, I just want to say there's no way you're a coward, Alex.  I lived next door to you for too long to think that.  I hope you really don't believe that."

"Thanks, Kevin," Alex said ruefully.  "But a braver man would have done things differently.  A lot differently."  If you only knew everything I've done, kid, Alex thought to himself, you might not think so well of me.

"I admit I've judged you harshly in the past for leaving San Rafael, but you've given me a lot to think about," Kevin added.  "I appreciate that."

"I've told you this before, Alex, and I'll say it again," John interjected.  "I know that Catherine is hurt and alone, and that's not a good thing by any measure.  But you and she got a great son out of the deal, and despite some painful years along the way, that's something to be thankful for."

Kevin looked at John, feigning disgust.

"Don't say shit like that in front of Cam, John.  He's got a big enough head as it is."

Everybody laughed, including Cam.

"Mom never told me any of this," Cam said.

"We agreed when I left that it was my job to give you all the facts when the time was right," Alex said.

"Dad, are you still a Catholic?" Cam asked out of the blue.

Alex sighed and hesitated.

"Certainly not in the formal sense," he finally said.  "You probably know that several years ago, Cardinal Ratzinger of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith--you know, it used to be called the 'Holy Office'-- got the current pope to say officially that gay people are 'intrinsically disordered.'

"I think their conclusion is not only insulting, but untrue.  As far as I'm concerned, it was based on a narrow and archaic reading of natural law.  Whenever people start to talk about 'natural law,' I have to ask, 'Natural for whom?'

"So, even though John and I were both raised Roman Catholic, that statement of Ratzinger's put a real barrier between us and the church.  The problem is, that culturally we're both Catholic in our viewpoint about most things in life.  We value the sacraments of the church and what they convey.  So. . .we're on kind of a journey without knowing our destination.  I guess I'd say we're seekers at this point.  We're working our way through a number of different faith groups right now.  For example, we really admire the wonderful political and spiritual support that the Metropolitan Community Church gives gay people in their lives, but their religious services on Sundays just aren't as substantial as we think we need or we're used to.

"Are we Catholics now?" Alex concluded by asking.  "If we are, we're estranged Catholics.  The search continues, that's all I can tell you."

Cam seemed satisfied with that answer, but pensive and a little withdrawn.

The four of them talked for a while about various extraneous things, and then Alex asked the boys what they were going to do the following day.

"We thought we'd swing by Venice Beach just to see what's going on," Kevin said.

"Everything's going on down there!" John laughed.  "Simultaneously."

"Don't drive the Porsche, for heaven's sake!" Alex said.  "You park it down there on the street, and it's gone."

"Take the Highlander," John suggested.  "The keys are on the pegboard in the kitchen.  But set the alarm after you park it."

"Thanks, John," Cam said.  "That's nice of you.  We'll take good care of it."

"Well, we hafta hit the sack," Alex said as he and John stood up slowly.  "Four a.m. comes early.  But I'd like to know whether what I told you tonight makes any sense to you."

"Yes," Cam said.  "But it's going to take some time for all of it to sink in, I guess."

"You're good in my book, Dad," Kevin said.

On that note they all went upstairs to go to bed.

At the top of the stairs, Cam turned to his father.

"I love ya, Dad.  Thanks for letting me know what was behind everything that happened."

Alex embraced the tall boy, kissing his cheek.

"I love you, too, son," he said.

*  *  *

Alex had most certainly not told the boys everything, and also knew he wouldn't do so anytime soon.  He wouldn't tell them how he'd been a total slut after first moving to L.A., fucking anything and everything young in pants that would cooperate.  It had been such a relief for him to be gone from San Rafael, no longer living a sanitized life in a sanitized marriage in their sanitary house on their perfectly nice, sanitized street.  And although he had loved Catherine and had hated hurting her, he had really come alive in so many ways after he was "out" and on his own.  He wouldn't tell the boys that he developed a full-blown cocaine habit that was only addressed and eventually eliminated after John Kelley became his friend, because John simply wasn't having any of that bullshit and wouldn't have anything to do with him as long as he was using drugs.  Any drugs.  What Alex had thought was a ploy on John's part to get his attention had turned out to reflect the man's real convictions on that subject.

John was an extremely handsome man, but as Cam had concluded on his first visit to L.A., he was also beautiful, strong and disciplined inside.  Maybe that came from being raised in Nebraska with all those Midwest values.  Alex had won the boyfriend lottery this time around, because although he knew John loved him, John also had a tough, healthy self image.  Being gay and out had not made John timid or afraid, and he had certainly had the guts to stand up to Alex at a crucial point in the latter's career when it came to drugs.  After they were a couple, and both of them were between pictures, John had packed him up and hustled him off to the Betty Ford Clinic, not taking "no" for an answer.  Alex had emerged clean, committed to sobriety, and his new resolve to eschew drugs had been backed up every step of the way by John.  Alex regularly attended twelve step meetings at noon.  Being sober had not diminished his creativity as a film director, as Alex had worried it might.  In point of fact, he felt much more in control of the artistic process than ever before.

It was amazing to Alex that John and he were so much in tune when it came to their artistic instincts.  They rarely disagreed on their interpretation or approach to the unwieldy, often laborious enterprise that filmmaking represented, and for all practical purposes they were interchangeable on the set of any movie they made together.  Actors and staff liked working for and with both of them, and liked the continuity of vision that the director and assistant director brought to the job.  People "in the know" in the industry had not missed the fact that the two men's positive collaboration brought an extra, welcome dimension to the finished product.

The harmony that obtained on the movie set was no stranger to their bedroom, either.  They were both passionate, masculine men, and their lovemaking reflected those qualities.  So far as the mechanics of their couplings were concerned, they were both versatile in bed, and there were no techniques that they had not tried and enjoyed together.  Their sexual relationship was a major source of satisfaction and thanksgiving for both of them.

Alex was feeling good about his talk with the boys, and when he and John made love that night, it was with both a tenderness and a vigor that reflected their happiness that Cam and Kevin would begin sharing the Malibu house with them before long.  Alex definitely felt his life was on the upswing in so many ways.

Cam and Kevin had gone into their bedroom, the huge, king-size bed still stripped and needing sheets.

"Jeez, Mabel, nobody made up our bed," Kevin complained.

Cam ignored the unmade bed and walked over to the sliding glass doors which opened out on to the upper deck.  The moon was almost full, and gleamed across the water.  It was warm, and the ocean was lapping quietly up on the beach.

"Let's sit outside for a few before we hit the sack," he suggested to Kevin.

" 'K," Kevin said, and followed Cam outside.  For the moment, neither of them wanted to talk about Alex or what he had told them.

They unfolded some lawn chairs which were leaning against the deck railing, and sat down, silently contemplating the beautiful southern California evening.

"This is fanfuckingtastic," Kevin said, breaking the silence after a few minutes.  "I could get used to this with no trouble at all."

"I knew you'd like it," Cam said.  "Thanks again for coming with me down here, man.  It means a lot to me."

"Somebody has to keep you in line.  You should never be allowed to travel without supervision, y'know."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Cam said, smiling and shaking his head.  "I'm glad you like this deck, though, 'cause this is where you'll be staying when we move down here.  Right out here, rain or shine.  You're weak.  This'll toughen you up."

"Uh huh."  Kevin had to laugh.  "Speaking of weak, when we get back to San Rafael, you're gonna start working out with the weights in my bedroom.  With a little cooperation, I might be able to make a real man outta you."

Cam grabbed his dick through his shorts and shook it Kevin.  "'Real man' this, you cream puff!" he said.

"Tomorrow I'm gonna find the biggest, most pierced and tattooed freak on Venice Beach, and rent you to 'im," Kevin retorted.  "More or less permanently.  He'll whip you into shape in no time.  The money will help put me through college."

"I've had enough insults," Cam said.  "I'm goin' to bed now.  I'll lock the door behind me, so if you wanna use the bathroom or anything, just knock," he said, jumping out of his chair quickly and heading inside.

Kevin was right behind him, and after a little skirmish at the sliding door, he kept Cam from locking him out.

They made up the bed with fresh sheets, sans the mattress pad, which had not yet been washed.  Cam used the bathroom first and cleaned his teeth, and then hit the bed.  He watched as Kevin came out of the bathroom after his turn in there and stripped down to his boxers.  God, the kid has a body, Cam thought to himself.  Maybe doing a little work with Kevin's weights wouldn't be a bad idea.

Kevin climbed into bed on his side of the huge bed, pulled up the sheet, scratched his nuts, and both guys were asleep almost immediately.  A soft breeze off the ocean caressed them through the partly open door to the deck.

*  *  *

Kevin and Cam had driven John Kelley's Highlander down to the Venice Beach from Malibu.  Parking was at a premium anywhere near the water, so they ended up parking several blocks inland and hoofing it to the ocean, wearing wifebeaters, jammers, sandals, and carrying their iPods and big beach towels, sunblock and minicoolers full of bottled water.  They had reached the sidewalk paralleling the ocean, and that was where the full impact of the people there had hit them.

To say that Venice Beach is diverse is like saying that an eighteen wheeler is big.  There were tattooed musclemen (and women) exercising on pull-up bars and other equipment, skaters, skateboarders, cops and civilians on bikes, bodyboarders, musicians, volleyball players, old people, young people, big kids, little kids, gay couples, straight couples, fortune tellers, food vendors, beautiful people, ugly people, pierced people, nondescript people, blacks, whites, Latinos, orientals.  If God had made it, it was represented.

Were residents and visitors frequenting the area wary of one another?  Perhaps, a little.  Amused sometimes?  Yes.  The people there weren't necessarily trendsetters when it came to fashion or lifestyle, but in their own nonconformist way, many in the crowds were pretty hip and sophisticated, all things considered.

Cam had noticed one other thing immediately, though.  Nobody on Venice Beach was angry.  He speculated that many of those gathered there were compressed when it came to their daily living arrangements and were sometimes economically oppressed, just like an increasing number of Americans.   But he observed that the people there never seemed pissed off or even slightly concerned about their modest economic means or status, and the weird folks they rubbed shoulders with never fazed them.  There was a bored camaraderie among the menagerie.  Perhaps it was that the beachgoers there had collectively decided that they didn't have to control anyone but themselves in daily life, and that state of mind conferred a lot of freedom.  And as far as economics was concerned, what the heck, their next meal was only a sandwich and a Coke away.

There Venice Beach sat--on a prime piece of California coastline--a Republican's nightmare, providing models of economic non-competition, non-production and contentment taken to the extreme, for all to see.

Following the sidewalk south for a block after they hit the beach itself, Cam and Kevin had finally spotted a bare patch of beach, and hustled over to claim it.  They laid out their towels and then themselves, and applied sunblock to all their body parts they could reach, with each of them doing the honors to his friend's back.

There was a volleyball game going on not far from them, and propping their heads up on their coolers, the two boys watched for awhile.  Guys would come and go after the completion of each game, so pretty soon Cam and Kevin went over and joined in.  The players were damn good, and the boys had to stay on their toes not to be outclassed.  They were natural athletes and tall, though, so they did well.  After three hard fought games, the two guys quit and went back to their coolers, immediately downing huge gulps of their bottled water.  The combination of fresh ocean wind and sun on their sweaty skin felt great.

"You need more sunblock?" Kevin asked before they lay down.

"Yeah, probably."

"Lie down on your stomach.  I'll put it on so the instructions 'Fuck me' stand out nice and white on your back."

"You are definitely a zit on the butt of humanity!  No, THE zit!" Cam said.

"Dickhead!" Kevin responded as he squirted some of the sunblock tube on his friend and began to rub it in.  Cam's muscular back began to glisten under Kevin's ministrations.  This boy's back is a work of art, Kevin thought to himself as he rubbed the goo into Cam's skin.  He didn't want to stop, but finally he didn't have any excuse to keep rubbing.

"You want me to do you?" Cam asked when Kevin finished.

"Yeah," Kevin said, lying down on his stomach.  I'd really like you to do me, he thought to himself, and then was ashamed of what he was thinking.  He turned his head to the side and watched a nice looking girl walking by, and tried to redirect his thoughts.

Cam finished up, flipped the sunblock cap closed, and lay down next to Kevin, looking over at him and nodding at the sea of humanity around them.

"Methinks these people here are on to something, pilgrim!" he said.

"No shit!" Kevin said, grinning.

They each put on their iPod earphones and listened to some tunes.  Momentarily drained of energy, both of them dozed off for a few minutes.

When they woke up, leaving their coolers on their towels, they went down to the waters edge.  Instead of going swimming, though, they did some stretches and took off running on the hard sand just where the surf hit the shoreline, skillfully dodging around people who were in transit from water to land or vice versa.  They worked up a good sweat.  Once back at their starting point, they hit the ocean to cool off and tried to drown each other.

"Feeling too good, my man!" Cam told Kevin, one arm around his neck as they abandoned the water and walked back to their towels together.

"I know, but puhleeze!  No public shows of affection!  Homeland security may be watching!"

"I know.  Write me from Guantanamo, will ya?"

"ME?  Why do you think they're gonna take me?" Kevin questioned.

"'Cause you look suspicious, that's why.  Look at that five o'clock shadow you always have.  That's foreign.  You're gone, dude!"

"If I had a nickel for every lie you tell, I'd never have to work," Kevin said.  "Anyway, once I tell those Guantanamo people all I know about you, you'll be taking an all-expense-paid trip to Egypt for some really intense questioning.  You won't like it."

"I'll sing like a little birdie and implicate everybody I know," Cam promised.

Shaking their towels gently to rid them of sand without pelting their neighbors, they dried off, put on their sandals, picked up their stuff, and headed back toward the car.  It wasn't rush hour yet, but as usual by early afternoon, the expressways had started to jam up.  They were back in Malibu by 4:30, and were wondering what time Alex and John were going to show up.  They just pulled the Highlander into the garage when Cam's cell phone rang.


"Hi, Mommy.  'Sup?"

"Just wondering if you're having a good time," Catherine said.

"Great, actually," Cam said.  "We spent the afternoon on Venice Beach.  You'd love it!" he told her, laughing.

"I wouldn't bet the ranch on that.  Listen, I'm leaving for New York tomorrow for some meetings, so I may not be home when you get back.  When are you coming home?"

"Um, I'm not sure.  I haven't talked to Dad about that, but probably in a couple of days," Cam said.

"All right.  No parties at the house while I'm gone," Catherine admonished.

"Jeez, what a spoilsport!"

"I'm not called 'Mom' for nothing.  I know you two guys.  Is Kevin there?"

"Sitting right beside me, as it happens.  Can't you smell him through the phone?"

"Let me talk to him," Catherine said, ignoring her son's comment.  "I want to see his dad while I'm in New York."

"OK, here he is.  Have a good trip."  Cam started to hand the phone over to Kevin, who snatched it out of his hand.

"You raised a monster, Mom," Kevin told her.  "I hate him.  I heard the word 'trip.'  Are you going away?"

"New York.  I want to see your dad while I'm there.  I don't suppose you have his office number, do you?  I haven't been able to catch him at home."

"Yeah.  Go upstairs and it's taped to my computer monitor."

"All right, I'll talk to him at the office, then.  Any messages for him?"

"Yeah, tell him I miss him," Kevin said.  "That's about it."

"Oh, and Heather Butler called to find out whether you were home yet or not," Catherine said.

"I'll call her when I get home."

"All right.  You boys have a safe trip home, and behave yourselves," Catherine said.

"All right.  Love ya," Kevin said.

"Love you, too, sweetheart.  Say goodbye to Cam, and tell him I love him."

" 'K," Kevin said, and flipped the phone shut.

"What did she say?" Cam asked, holding out his hand for the phone.

"Nothing," Kevin said, slipping the phone under the elastic waistband of his jammers.

"You're lyin'.  And give me the fucking phone."

"Not unless you ask nicely," Kevin said primly, popping the passenger door open and jumping out of the SUV.

Cam got out on his side, staring at his friend across the car roof.

"I'll hurt cha," he promised.  "Why do ya make me hurt ya?"

"I'm trying to teach you patience," Kevin said.  "But do you thank me for it?  No-o-o-o."

Cam stared at him for a long moment, and then started to laugh, eventually bending over at the waist he was laughing so hard.

"You're such a shithead!" he finally told Kevin, straightening up.  "But I don't know what I'd do without ya."

"That's better!" Kevin said with a satisfied smile, flipping the phone to him over the truck.  "See, you can learn!  Catherine said to tell you she loves you.  I don't know why, but that's what she said."

Smiling, Cam plucked the phone deftly out of the air.  They walked into the house chuckling, changed into dry shorts in their bedroom, and sat out on the upper deck in the watery winter sunshine, enjoying the ocean view.

Alex called about an hour later, and said that he and John would be later than usual getting home.  He told Cam that the two of them could either fix their own dinner, buy takeout, or wait until Alex and John got home and eat with them.  Cam said they'd wait because they wouldn't have that many more meals together before they went back to San Rafael.

The limo dropped the two men off in front of the garage about 8:30, and they joined the boys who were down on the lower deck by then.  It was dark and had rapidly started to cool off.

"There's a storm coming in, but we probably have time to cook out if you want to," John told the boys.  "How about steaks, beans, potato salad, and a green salad?"

"Sounds like a well balanced, unhealthy Hollywood meal to me," Kevin said, laughing.

"Oh, shut up!" John said, smiling.  "Alex and I are the ones who have to worry about our arteries."

"You guys fire up the grill, and I'll tell you again, please don't blow it up with too much starter fluid," Alex said.

"Is there pyromania in the family that you're so worried about the starter fluid?" Cam asked his dad.

"Kid, we've got a smattering of everything in the MacKenzie family," Alex assured him.

"Kevin's the one you oughtta be worried about," Cam said.  "'Stoltz' is a Nazi name, ya know.  What they did to London with fire during WWII was just a shame.  I studied that in school."

"That's low, even for you," Kevin told his friend.

"Well, anyway, I'll start the grill, just to keep things safe," Cam grinned.

"Now that I think about it, let's save the steak for another occasion," John told the boys.  "After you light the grill, there's a big package of cut-up chicken in the fridge.  And a huge bottle of barbecue sauce.  Get a big bowl out of the cupboard, and start the chicken marinating in the sauce.  Your dad and I are going to change clothes, and we'll take care of the rest of the menu.  Alex, you want a drink?"

"Oh, yeah!  Absolut on the rocks, please," Alex said.

" 'K," John said.  "I'll bring it up."

"Can we have a drink?" Cam asked, fishing.

Alex and John looked at each other.

"Well, one beer now, and one with supper, if you want," Alex said.  "Don't tell Catherine."

"Off the hook, Dad!!!" Kevin said exuberantly.

The boys started the grill and then began work on the chicken when Alex and John came downstairs and into the kitchen, dressed in T's and jeans, carrying their drinks.

"So, how was your day, Mildred?" Cam asked Alex, and the four of them started laughing.

"You got your father's sense of humor, I see," John said, putting an arm around Cam.

"John, how many times do I hafta tell ya, don't encourage him," Kevin said.  "It's pain for me and torment for the rest of the world."

"I forgot," John said apologetically.

Kevin picked up his beer, held it up for a toast, and the four of them clinked bottles and glasses.

"To a great trip," Kevin said.  "Thanks so much for your hospitality, guys.  We appreciate it."

"What he said!" Cam agreed, and they all drank a mouthful of their beverage of choice.

Bestirring themselves, the group divided up the culinary duties, and forty minutes later, they were standing around the dining table offering thanks for the food.  It was all good.

After dinner they secured the grill and the deck furniture, just finishing up as a blast of rain and wind hit the ocean side of the house.  The temperature had dropped into the fifties, according to Alex's thermometer.  They closed the sliding doors, and Alex built a fire in the glass-walled fireplace.  They sat around the fire, chatting and listening to all kinds of music on Alex's and John's fine stereo system as the cold wind outside buffeted the house.

The two men decided about 11 p.m. that they would have to call it a day because, once again, their day would start at 4 a.m.

"What are you guys gonna do tomorrow?" Alex asked the boys.

"Other than visiting Santa Monica Pier and walking on the beach down there, not too much," Cam said.

"OK.  Have a good time."

"We may be late again tomorrow night," John said.  "So why don't you get some pickup or order in some food."

"OK," Cam said.  "We'll see you when we see you."

"Why do you have to start so early every day?" Kevin asked in passing.

"Mostly, it's the light, Kevin," John explained.  "Unless we're shooting on stage at the lot, we need all the daylight hours we can get.  It's a grind, but it gets the job done.  You think we have it bad, think about the actors.  Sometimes they have to spend several hours in makeup, so they sometimes have to get there even earlier than we do."

"I guess every job has its down side," Cam said.  "Anyway, thanks for a nice evening tonight.  We love you guys," he told Alex and John.  He and Kevin gave them hugs, and they all went up to bed.

When Cam checked the bed, the mattress pad was back in place under the sheets, so Maria the maid had done her thing.  Cam and Kevin cleaned their teeth, and were out immediately after their heads hit the pillows.

The next day they went to Santa Monica Pier, as they had said they were going to do, and ran on the Santa Monica Beach.  The sun was out, but it was much cooler than it had been since their arrival.  After tooling around L.A. for the rest of the day in the Porsche, they went home and caught a nap until 6 o'clock.  They ordered a pizza, and ate it out on the deck, wearing sweats to stay warm.

Jeff Miller, the son of a famous actor who lived next door, Sean Miller, strolled by on the beach, and said hello to the two boys.  He was a surfer boy, a well built six footer with curly, shoulder length blond hair.  He was in his first year of college at UCLA.  Cam and Kevin liked him, and pretty soon, the three of them went inside and started drinking beer in Alex's game room.

"You guys wanna smoke some weed?" Jeff asked them after the three of them were pretty toasted.

"We probably shouldn't," Kevin said.  "We play soccer, and the school runs random drug tests on us jocks."

"Aw, roll the dice," Jeff taunted them.  "Ya only live once, for Christ sake."

Cam shrugged, and Jeff went next door and came back with a substantial bag of grass.  They started rolling some blunts and smoking them one after another with very little interval between.  It was California gold, good stuff, and pretty soon they all were wasted.  Then they got the munchies.  Kevin raided the kitchen for every snack in there, and pretty soon they were drunk on their asses, high, and gobbling down anything edible.  The table in the game room was covered with empty beer bottles, and the ash trays were filled with the unsmokable remnants that even a roach clip wouldn't hold.

That was the way Alex and John found the three of them when they arrived home at 10:30 that night.  Alex was furious, but he never raised his voice.

"Jeff, I'll talk to your mom and dad about your behavior tomorrow, believe me.  I don't allow this shit in my house," he said forcefully.  He walked Jeff into a bathroom, and made him flush the marijuana down the toilet as Kevin and Cam sat in the game room drunk, stoned and stunned.  "Get yourself home," Alex told the blond boy, and booted him out on to the beach.

"Bye, Jeff," Kevin yelled as Alex slammed the sliding door behind their friend.  Kevin started laughing drunkenly as if the whole thing was hilarious.  Cam began laughing, too.

"As for you two, you really piss me off," Alex told the boys.  His quiet voice was worse than if he had shouted.  "I can't believe you'd abuse our hospitality like this!"

"My God, Dad," Cam slurred as Alex stood over them angrily, "this is Hollywood.  Everybody does drugs down here.  You can't tell me that you haven't used some drugs in your day.  This attitude is the last thing I expected from you."

"What, you think that because John and I are a gay couple and we work in the arts, we don't have any values?" Alex asked.  "If that's the case, think again.  I'd like to kick your asses all the way back to San Rafael," Alex continued as John tried to calm him down.  "If you think you're going to move down here and do drugs in my house on my dime while you go through the motions of going to school, you've got another think coming."

"Dad. . ." Kevin started to say.

"Shut up, both of you," Alex said coldly.  "Clean up this mess and get your sorry selves up to bed.  I don't even want to look at you any more."

Alex turned on his heel and marched toward the stairs, leaving John standing with the boys in the game room.

"Jeez, John. . ." Cam said.

"Clean up and go to bed," John suggested calmly.  "You've really stepped in it."

He followed Alex upstairs, where he found his partner sitting on the edge of their bed, looking down at his shoes.

"You were a little rough on them, don't you think?" John asked.

"No, I don't!  I wanted to make a point, and I don't want them to forget it," Alex said.  "I'm not angry because I'm so perfect, as you well know.  I'm angry because I'm afraid for them.  I've know I've been a lousy father.  The evidence makes that pretty clear."

"You have not," John said, sitting down on the bed and putting his arm around Alex.  "You've been a great father when you've had a chance to be, and you're going to have a chance to be one again.  Maybe you should stay home tomorrow morning and talk to the boys.  I can handle tomorrow morning's shoot."

Alex slipped his arm around John and put his face next to his, kissing him.

"God, I love you, John.  Seriously, I don't know what I'd do without you.  If we weren't together, I'd be a fucking mess."

Downstairs, the boys did as they'd been told, and cleaned up the game room pretty well.   Between themselves and Jeff, they'd drunk a case of beer.  When the two boys had finished straightening up, they climbed the stairs to the second floor, and soon had stripped off their clothes and fallen into bed without even brushing their teeth.  Cam's last thought was how bad he felt for making his father angry.

The guys didn't wake up until mid-morning, badly hung over, fully expecting Alex and John to be long gone.  The limo had picked John up at the usual time, but to their surprise--and dismay--Alex was sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee and reading the morning paper when they went downstairs.

"Good morning," the boys mumbled as they took boxes of cereal and bowls out of the cabinets, put milk on the table, and poured themselves some orange juice.  They avoided making eye contact with Alex.

"Good morning," Alex responded, folding up his paper and studying the two of them.  "Do you want me to fix you some bacon and eggs?"

"No thanks," the boys murmured as they sat down at the table, poured milk on their cereal, and began to eat.

"What are you doing home, Dad?" Cam mumbled after a few bites of cereal, still not looking at his dad.  "Where's John?"

"John's at work.  I stayed home because I thought we needed some closure on what went on here last night."

"Oh," Cam said.

"Did it sink in that I wasn't pleased last night?" Alex asked them.

"Yes, sir," the boys said in unison.

"Is this the way you normally conduct yourselves in San Rafael?" the older man asked.

"No, sir."

"How many times have you used marijuana?" Alex asked.

"This was the second time," Cam said.


"The second time for me, too."

"Second and last!!  For both of you!!" Alex said.  "I want your word on that."

"Yes, sir," the boys said.

"Cam, you asked me last night if I had used drugs in my life.  The answer to that is 'yes.'  Lots of them.  But I can tell you right now that there is nothing I did under the influence of drugs that makes me proud today.  I'm ashamed.  With respect to the arts and with respect to relationships, nothing transpired while I was using that wouldn't have been better without drugs.  If it hadn't been for John, they would have destroyed my life.  So I'm not going to sit idly by on my ass while you two start down the path of destroying your lives with them.  I don't care what the prevailing culture is down here.  Am I clear about that."

"Yes, sir."

"All right.  I'm not going to hold what you did last night against you, but on the other hand, I have a long memory.  One thing I want you both to learn from this is that not everybody who seems like your friend, really is your friend.  Jeff isn't a bad kid, but he lacks guidance at home.  That's not going to be the case with you two.  Am I also clear about that?"

"Yes, sir."

"All right.  Eat up, and get upstairs.  Shower and clean up.  I'm taking you guys to the studio with me today."

The boys looked directly at Alex for the first time.

"Thanks, Dad," Kevin said with a hang-dog look.  "We're sorry."

Cam nodded.  "We really are."

"Good.  Subject closed."  Alex pulled out his cell phone and called for the limo to come get them.

*  *  *

That night John, Alex and the boys arrived home from the studio at a decent hour.  After supper, Alex strolled next door to talk to Jeff Miller's parents about the boy's use of marijuana in the MacKenzie home the previous night.  Jeff's mother Susan seemed upset, but Sean Miller didn't react much at first.

Jeff himself wasn't home, but Alex laid it on the line to the parents.

"I know what the prevailing culture is down here when it comes to drugs," he said.  "I know all too well.  But I'm not gonna have it in my home.  My boys are only seniors in high school.  I wouldn't like it at any age, but certainly not at this stage of their life.  Or Jeff's life.  I like Jeff, and I think he's a pretty good kid.  And I like you folks, and you're good neighbors.  But if I find out Jeff's ever supplied my sons with dope again or used any kind of drug in my house, either in concert with my kids or without them, I'm calling the law.  That's not negotiable.  I hope I've made myself clear."

Sean Miller tried to reassure Alex that he was behind him all the way on the drug issue.  The truth was, though, that Alex was just too powerful a director in Hollywood, at least for the moment, for members of the acting establishment to screw with.  So Jeff was definitely going to hear about this from his parents when he got home from school.

Cam and Kevin left for San Rafael that day before they saw Jeff again, so they never did hear from the horse's mouth exactly what his parents had said to him.  But Jeff came next door the following evening when he saw the lights in the house come on, and apologized profusely to Alex and John for his part in the "drugcapades."  The two men accepted his apology, but Alex told the boy what he had told his parents:  any reoccurrence once Kevin and Cam had moved to Malibu from San Rafael, and the police would be involved.  Jeff said he understood, and that it would never happen again.

My appreciation to Chicagoeric for editing and proofing Chapter 2.  © 2005 Don Hanratty.  Contact me at: