* * *
When the food was cooked and laid out steaming on a long table, Ian clapped his hands for attention.
"Let's offer thanks," he said, taking off a ratty old cap that said
"Legal Eagle" with the outline of a law book embroidered on it.
Everybody stood up and gathered around the food table, holding hands.
"The Lord be with you," Ian said.
"And also with you."
"Let us pray. Heavenly Father, creator of life and
giver of hope, we pause to thank you for the many blessings you have
upon all of us here. Out of your goodness we are nourished by
love and joy and kindness and companionship. We are privileged to
have the food that you have given us today, and ask you to bless it to
our use as you bless the hands of those who have prepared it, through
Jesus Christ our Lord."
Kevin dapped Ian silently in approval, and the youngsters had the women
and adult men get their food first before they picked up their own
plates. Catherine put Yolanda Vega first in line. Soon
everybody had helped himself and was chowing down scattered around the
"Delicious, ladies!" John Kelley said. "Ian, good job!"
The women nodded and Ian said, "Thanks."
As the guys were eating, Carl looked over at Berto, who was thin as a
reed, a reed with muscles, though, and grinned. "Berto, you're
getting fat as a little piggy."
"Soo-wee!" Berto yelled, smiling and continuing to shovel down the food.
After two helpings of food, three for some of the guys, there was
butter pecan ice cream for desert. When everybody was finished,
they slumped down in their chairs, groaning. The food table
looked as if it had been visited by a plague of locusts.
Cam motioned to Carl after a few minutes had passed, and the two of
them went through the house and out on to the
front deck overlooking the Pacific. They sat down side by side in
freestanding swing they found out there. The view of the coast
"So..." Cam said, looking over fondly at the studly little jock. "I take it you're not overjoyed about being gay."
Carl studied his friend. "That's true. But I'm not crushed
by it, either. I've been thinking it was in the cards for me for
quite a while. How did you feel when you found out you were gay?"
Cam stared out at the ocean thoughtfully.
"Well," he said, "it was a little different for me because Kevin
the key to what I knew about my orientation. I was in love with
Kevin, and only Kevin, from the time I first thought about sex.
be honest, I didn't look at other guys or think much about them.
Naturally, I didn't think I stood a chance with Kevin when he started
dating, and especially not when he started having sex with
Heather. So I just suffered in silence, more or less, and dated
Teri. I did realize that sex with a girl wasn't going to 'do it'
for me, though, so I didn't want to get started down that road with
"How did you and Kevin find out that you were both gay?" Carl asked.
"We'd just come back from Malibu for a visit with Alex and John while
Catherine was on a trip to New York," Cam said. "While we
were down there, Alex came clean about what he'd gone through when he was
married. He was so miserable as a gay man married to a woman that he almost
committed suicide. I eventually realized that it was only his honesty with
himself, despite how miserable I'd felt when he left Catherine and me,
that gave him his life back. It was his honesty about who and what he is, and who he was
when he was married,
that really affected Kevin and me when Dad talked to us. I didn't
know when, and I
didn't know how, but I knew then that at some point I was going to have
tell Kevin about my feelings for him. Kevin felt the same way I
did, obviously, because he came into my bedroom in the middle of the
night when we got home and asked if he could get into bed with
Bottom line, he did, and he told me that he loved me, and I
did the same, and then we got off together for the first time. We
didn't do everything we do these days as far as the sex was concerned,
but it was the greatest feeling in the world just to get each other off
and for me to hold him close to me. To have him touch me and know
he loved me was
Carl looked down at the deck and shook his head. "I
don't know how I'm ever going to find anybody like you two guys," he
said. "To tell ya the truth, you two are kinda my ideal for what a gay relationship is all
about. I could never be that lucky."
"Yes, you can," Cam contradicted. "You have to know who you are
and what you're looking for, though. The fact that attractive
guys all have dicks and balls and good bodies, and we like that about 'em,
isn't enough of a basis for a good relationship
with a person, I'm sure you know that. Appearance is a factor,
but it's not everything. Anyway, the right guy for you could be
just around the corner. I don't wanna preach to ya, but gettin'
your rocks off with someone without some real affection for your sex partner just
it, at least not long term."
"I don't have any way to meet gay guys though, and that blows," Carl
said. He smiled. "So from now on, I want you and Kevin as my rotating
partners. That seems fair."
Cam laughed. "Well, you know that's not gonna happen, bud."
"Just kidding," Carl said, his face growing serious. "Anyway, I'm
not going to let bein' gay get me down. Every day I live, and
that Dan and Berto live, is a bonus. There's a homicidal fucking maniac
lookin' for us, and who's to say he won't get lucky and find us, and
"He's not gonna find you, and he's not gonna find the rest of us," Cam
said reassuringly, with more confidence than he felt. "We'll just
keep movin' around this summer, and he won't stand a chance of findin'
"My dad's court case is coming up later this summer in Monterey, and I
have to testify. That could be it for me," Carl said.
"No, man, don't be thinkin' that way! The authorities will take every precaution to keep ya safe."
"Uh huh, like they did Mark," Carl said. "It could be a fucking crapshoot when I show up there, and you know it."
Cam shook his head, but knew there was some truth to what Carl was saying.
"Listen, I know there aren't any guarantees for any of us," Cam
admitted. "All any of us can do is live our truth one day at a
time--happy or sad, gay or straight. But I want to promise you
something to take your mind off the bad shit. Kevin and I
will take you into San Francisco first
chance we get so you can meet some gay guys. Maybe William and
Mark know some gays from where they went to school, I don't know. When we get down
to UCLA for school, we'll do everything we can to find you some date
up will be up to you, but I know you're probably more than ready for
"Sounds good," Carl said approvingly. "I'll appreciate the help."
"You're hot, dude, and
you ain't gonna have any trouble attracting some attention," Cam said. "No
judgments from us no matter how you handle things, but I hope you find
someone you can care about and who will care about you."
"Who knows?" Carl sighed. He looked down at his right
hand and flexed his fingers. "Meantime, hand, don't be
Cam laughed. "I know you've been through a lot a' shit," Cam said.
"We all love ya. Don't forget that, no matter what."
"Dan and I are lucky to be in this family," Carl said. "I
know that." They stood up, and Carl popped Cam on the butt, smiling, but his eyes
looked a little damp when they went back through the house to the
Except for Kevin, the rest of the boys had broken out the sun tan
lotion, greased each other up, and lain down in the sun. After
protecting their own skin, Carl and Cam joined them. Casey had a full tummy and was ready to fall asleep, and Kevin was
holding the child under a big umbrella with the adults
and listening to them talk.
Ian and Alex had pounced on the post-Katrina performance by FEMA following the
hurricane devastation along the Gulf coast, particularly in New
Orleans, as the topic of their conversation.
"'Good job, Brownie!'" Alex said, mimicking to a T the President when he'd finally arrived in Mississippi and was congratulating the man who was at that point the very incompetent FEMA director.
Everybody laughed, even the boys. The conversation from that
point was one-sided and spirited, with everyone pretty much in
agreement on how lackluster the job by FEMA had been.
When the ladies had finished straightening up the kitchen, Catherine came outside and went over to the men.
"Alex, why don't you and I and John, and Ian and Mary, sit out on the
front deck and discuss the guys living with you in Malibu this fall?"
"Good idea," Alex said. The three men stood up and followed
Catherine and Mary through the house. At the last minute,
Catherine went back to the pool.
"Cam, Kevin, Carl, we're going to talk about Malibu. Do you want to join us?"
The boys nodded, and got up.
"Bring some folding chairs," Catherine suggested. Kevin carried
Casey, now sleeping soundly, inside the house and put him down in the crib, and then went out
on the front deck, where Cam had brought him a folding chair to sit
on. Carl sat shirtless in the sun on the deck with his shades on, continuing
his quest for an early tan.
"I thought we should all sit down and talk about how things look for
the boys to move to Malibu, Alex," Catherine said to open the conversation.
"I've been wanting to do that," Alex said, "especially since there have
have been some changes in plans since we first talked to the guys about
"Should I be worried?" Cam asked, looking at his dad.
"Well, here's the deal," Alex said, talking especially to
Catherine. "John and I have agreed to start a new movie next
month that will take a year or longer to make. It's going to be a
challenge because...it will be made in England, not in the US. So
we're going to be gone more than we'll be home."
Cam watched Catherine and Ian as concerned expressions crossed their
faces, and there was a moment of silence. Only Mary Carson hadn't
"So, basically the boys won't have any daily adult supervision, is that what you're saying?" Catherine finally asked.
"Essentially, yes," Alex admitted. "We'll have somebody coming in
every day to do the housework and some cooking, but that's not the same thing as
supervision, I admit."
Ian didn't say anything, but didn't look happy.
"And this is a problem because...?" Kevin asked, looking at Catherine.
"It may or may not be, depending on how we think you'll handle yourselves down there," Catherine said evenly.
"I know you guys think you're adults, and all grown up," Ian chimed in,
"and in some ways you are. But life in a big city like L.A.
without any adults to look out for you may be more challenging than you think it
is once you get down there. Particularly with a baby to care for."
"We always knew we'd be responsible for a baby, no matter where we were," Cam said. "That's no change."
"I understand that," Catherine said. "But you're used to having a
lot of backup to help make life go smoothly. You won't have that
"I don't think it's the matter of backup that's worrying you," Kevin
interjected. "I think you're questioning whether or not we're
capable of making good decisions about our lives--and about Casey's
life--on our own. You don't have any confidence in us.
That's what I think."
"That's an overstatement, Kevin," Ian responded. "We do have
confidence in you, particularly when it comes to Casey. But for
good or ill, and I think it's been good, you guys have lived a pretty
sheltered life so far. Living on your own in a place like L.A.
may be more than you bargained for. At your age, you don't know
the evil that human beings are capable of."
"We don't?" Carl asked. "After what happened to Mark, and very
honestly, what happened to me, I think we have a pretty good idea about
the evil in this world. We haven't been all that 'sheltered!'"
Mary Carson had just been sitting there quietly, listening. Now she spoke up.
"You have a point, Carl." She looked at Catherine and
Ian. "The truth is, there's no ideal moment to turn kids loose to
face the challenges this world offers young people. I've always
admired the Amish practice of Rumspringa. Youngsters
16 years old are given anywhere from a year to several years to sample
and experience everything 21st century life has to offer on the
'outside.' It probably tears the hearts out of some of those Amish
parents to permit their children to sample life
outside the community like that, but they do it.
>From what I read, the kids don't hold back when it comes to having a
good time, either, including experimenting with sex and drugs.
Then the youngsters make a decision about the culture they want to
live in. About 80 percent of the youngsters choose to embrace the
Amish way of life when their Rumspringa is over. Here, we
have three youngsters who will shortly be 18 years old. I think they're good young men who are
well grounded in how to make moral decisions, and who are ready to go
to college in the midst of a city in which there are admittedly a lot
of temptations. In my opinion, it would be a shame to deny them
this opportunity to stand on their own two feet. It's time.
They need to know that we trust them and love them, and also that we'll always be
available to them when we're needed."
Alex and John were surprised and movcd, and looked admiringly over at Mary.
After a long silence, Ian smiled ruefully and shook his head approvingly.
"Damnation, woman!" he said. "I wish I could contradict you, but
I can't." He lapsed into silence, looking at Catherine.
"What do you think, Catherine?"
Catherine sighed, and nodded her head. "You're right, Mary.
I say that reluctantly." She looked over at the three guys.
"You don't have any idea how hard this is for me," she said.
"Kevin and Cam, I know you've grown up a lot since Casey came your
And Carl, given your experiences, you've had to toughen up a lot in a
short time." She paused. "So, if you all want to move to
L.A., I'll stand
"Thank you all," Kevin said. "You won't regret this decision, I promise."
Cam, Kevin and Carl were ecstatic, and after everybody had sat around
talking for a few more minutes, they all stood up to go back to the pool
deck. Before going, Cam, followed by Kevin and Carl, went to Mary
and Catherine and kissed and hugged them.
"Oh, what the hell," Cam said after he'd done that, and he went on to
Ian, Alex and John, and gave them the same treatment. Kevin and
Carl followed suit.
When they were all back at the pool and sitting down, Catherine's cell phone rang. She pulled it out of her apron pocket.
"Hello," she said, listening. "Father Mason!" she said then, and
all eyes turned in her direction. "How are you? We haven't
seen enough of you lately." A lengthy conversation ensued,
interspersed with "I see" and "Yes" and "Uh huh" thrown in at strategic
intervals. "I'm sitting here with Ian and Mary and all the guys
right now down in the Big Sur," Catherine continued. "I'll
discuss it with everybody, and we'll get back to you soon. Very
soon. Thank you for thinking of us. It's sounds like a
wonderful opportunity. We'll see you when we get home, and talk
about it some more." She hung up the phone, smiling.
"That was Father Mason," she said.
"Yes-s-s-s-s??" Cam said curiously. "And?"
"The youth group at St. Andrew's are putting together a mission trip
down to New Orleans to gut houses," she said. "He wanted to know
if anyone in our family would be interested in going down there to work
for a week or two. And if any of us adults might be interested in
going along and providing some supervision."
"Awesome!" Berto said. "That'd be a blast!"
"Yeah, man! And I thought this might be a boring summer!" Mark said.
Everybody started talking excitedly except for Kevin.
"I can't go," he said when the conversation tapered off a bit. "I need to stay with Casey."
"If you don't go, I'm not going," Cam said, looking at Kevin.
Things got quiet.
"I agree that Casey shouldn't go down to New Orleans with you," Mary
said to Kevin. "There is a lot of mold in the air down there right now
from the flooding. I'm allergic to mold myself, so I can't
go. If you'd trust me, I'll stay home to take care of Casey with
Yolanda and Rosa. He'd be fine with us. And that way, Catherine could go."
Kevin's countenance brightened a little, but he didn't smile. "Of
course I'd trust you with Casey," he told Mary. "But I'd feel guilty leaving him,"
"Hon," Mary said, "let me help you out a little. You and
Cam have 18 years of responsibility for Casey ahead of you, and you're
going to need a little break from time to time. When college
starts in the fall, you're going to be entrusting him to somebody part
of every day, anyway."
"I guess," Kevin said reluctantly.
Alex looked at John, and they nodded at each other. "If they need
more help in New Orleans, John and I would be interested in volunteering. We
feel as if we should, with all the blessings we've been given."
"Excellent," Ian said. "I feel the same way. And let's
remember one other thing. This is not only an opportunity for the
guys to be exposed to a unique and very vibrant culture, but it also
gets them out of this area for awhile." He didn't need to mention
the name Alejandro Hernandez for people to take his point.
"Do you know when they're going?" Carl asked Catherine. "My dad's trial is coming up, and I have to testify."
"I don't think a firm date's been set for the trip," Catherine said.
"Carl, we'll make sure you're available for the trial if we decide to go to New Orleans," Ian said, "even
if we have to fly you back home for a day. No worries on that
Carl grinned. "Cool."
Kevin looked at William, pointing a finger at him. "There'll be
girls on this trip," he said. "Church girls. They're like
little nuns, though, so maybe they won't be quite what you're looking
The crowd roared.
"Yeah, right!" William said scornfully about the "nun" remark.
His face grew more cheerful. "Don't worry, I'll pray with
'em. Dad always tells me how powerful prayer is. He says
that's how he got Mom."
Everybody laughed again, especially Ian.
Kevin gave William a thumbs-up. "Pretty fast on your feet there, boy."
They all sat around talking as the sun began to set behind the house
and the breeze cooled. Ian got up and laid a big fire in the
outdoor fireplace with logs from the pool house. When it had a
good start, the extended family pulled their chairs around it to soak
up the heat.
After darkness fell and the evening settled in, everybody raided the kitchen for snacks.
At one point, Mark asked Kevin if he would change the bandage under his helmet.
"Sure, dude," Kevin said, and they went inside to the bathroom. Mary smiled at Ian as the two guys walked away.
"Kevin has an admirer," Mary said quietly to her husband, who nodded at her.
When the two guys returned, Mark was sporting a new, very white dressing over his wound peeking out from under the helmet.
Finally it was time to go.
"Some of you guys can stay here if you want to," Mary offered as the youngsters gathered up their stuff.
The guys looked at each other.
"Thanks, Mom, but I think we'll stick together tonight and go back to Alex and John's," William finally said.
After some discussion, Kevin reluctantly agreed to leave Casey with
Catherine for the night after he planted many kisses on that little head.
The guys and Alex and John drove back over to the MacKenzie cabin in
their two vehicles. Alex started a big fire in the fireplace to take
the chill off the cabin before he and John went to bed for the night.
There was a late night card game, and Berto kicked everybody's ass. But eventually the guys pulled out
air mattresses and blew them up with compressed air canisters.
After final preparations for bed, they all settled into their chosen
spots in the great room, stripped down to their boxers. Kevin and Cam were side by
side under one blanket with the two dogs at their feet. Mark
parked himself beside Kevin, and Dan was beside Cam. Kevin
reached over and patted Mark on his helmeted head.
"'Night, Marky-Mark," he said.
Kevin rolled over to face Cam, breathing in the smell of him and pulling their shared blanket over their faces for a moment.
"Love ya, man," Kevin said softly, kissing Cam's cheek. He put his hand on his partner's chest.
Cam turned his face to Kevin and kissed him on the lips.
"Just by chance, I feel the same," Cam said. "Lotsa love," he added sleepily.
Kevin chuckled, and then all was quiet except for the sounds of the
fire and the wind outside. Everyone fell asleep watching the
flickering shadows on the high wooden ceiling of the cabin.
© 2006 Don Hanratty
My thanks to Dan and Craig K and Mike G for editing and proofing this chapter.