My Belovèd is mine, and I am his.
Song of Songs 2:16
A surprised Andy Helder grasped Carl's arm and swung the
boy around. Both of them were now facing Carl's persistent, unwanted
the crowd eddied around them in the bar's "hook up" room behind the men's room as the man named Duke stared balefully at
his prey. Duke was not used to being resisted. Usually his
good looks, coupled with his overbearing physical approach to securing
partners for sex, sufficed. He wasn't in the habit of having to cruise anyone for long before hitting pay dirt.
Who the fuck does this kid think he is? Duke asked himself. He's hot, but still... The
man decided that intimidation, as usual, was the appropriate course of
putting his hand in a pocket, pulled a knife. Pushing a button on the
handle with his thumb, a four inch blade shot out and
locked in place with a click.
Andy Helder's eyes narrowed. He wasn't cowed. Pushing Carl
back with his arm, he made a quick, smooth, lateral sweep with his
right leg and kicked the knife out of the Duke's hand before the man
could even react to the threat. The knife arced through the air
and then skittered across the floor, coming to rest against a wall.
"That wasn't nice, faggot!" Duke told Andy, stepping toward the two boys
menacingly. Carl, over his shock now about what was going down, stepped
forward himself and punched their aggressor in the nose with a closed fist as hard as
he could. The man's nose flattened with a
sickening crunch. Blood flew everywhere, splattering on Carl's T-shirt, and Duke went down
like a brick onto the dirty floor. Hands over his
face, groaning, he didn't even try to get up.
An instant later, Andy pulled Carl through the gaping crowd and the swinging door back into
the bathroom, and then out to the bar proper. They made their
way quickly across the crowded dance floor, and found Cam and Kevin
still sitting at their table.
"Hey," Cam said in surprise when the two boys reached the table.
He stared at Andy and the blood spatter on Carl's T-shirt. "What...?"
"We have to go," Andy said. "Right now! There was trouble in the restroom."
"Well, shit!!" Kevin said, throwing back the rest of his glass of beer as
he took a last look at the two gyrating dancers in the middle of the
bar. "I was just gettin' to like this place." He grinned at
Carl. "I can't leave you on your own for a minute, can I?"
His gaze swung over to Andy. "I didn't expect to see you here,
"I know," Andy said. "Let's go."
Cam and Kevin slid off their stools, and the four boys made
their way swiftly through the crowd toward the front door. When
they hit the sidewalk, they trotted along Bourbon Street for a
Looking back, they saw a N.O.P.D. squad car, all lighted up, without
siren, pull up to the bar. Two officers got out and went inside.
Reaching an intersection, the four boys turned toward the River and
trotted another block before making a turn on to Royal Street and
heading back toward their hotel.
Looking around, they didn't see anyone coming after them, and slowed to
a fast walk.
Cam looked over at Andy as they walked along.
"This is a shock," he told the boy. "I never had a fucking clue you were one of us."
The kid chuckled ruefully. "I guess we're all pretty good at hiding who we are, huh?"
"Yeah," Cam nodded. "Just what happened in the bathroom, anyway?"
"Some guy had the hots for Carl, and didn't want to take 'no' for an answer," Andy said. "He pulled a knife on 'im."
put his hand on the back of Carl's neck and left it there for a moment as they walked.
"The karate king here kicked the guy's knife right out of his hand!" Carl
"And then Carl rearranged the asshole's nose," Andy added.
"Dude, that was a good punch you threw there!" he told Carl, turning his head to look at the boy.
Carl smiled, but didn't respond. The sidewalk narrowed at that point, and Carl and Andy moved ahead of Kevin and Cam.
"I knew your cute little ass would get us all in trouble," Kevin said, grinning as he looked at Carl's butt.
"Uh huh," Carl mumbled, rubbing vainly at the blood spatter on the
front of his shirt. "Shit! How am I gonna get upstairs to our room in
this shirt? If Father Jim sees it or gets wind there was a
problem tonight, our nights out on the town will be a thing of the past."
"When we get back to the hotel, I can run up and get you a clean shirt,"
Andy suggested. "You can wait in the parking lot
until I get back."
"No problem there. Carl's good at skulking," Kevin kidded.
He stared at Andy's back. Good, broad shoulders on the kid. And also a nice butt in
They arrived back at the hotel fifteen minutes later, and didn't see anyone
from their group in the lobby. Carl decided to chance
going directly to his and Andy's room, and the four of them got on an elevator.
"Let's talk," Cam suggested to Carl and Andy as the elevator climbed
smoothly to the third floor. "I'll get us get some soft
drinks. Let's get together in your room in ten minutes."
"All right," Andy said, and he and Carl went into their room right
away when they reached it. Cam went down the hall to get some
sodas while Kevin sat on the bed in
his and Cam's room, debating whether to knock on Yolanda's door so he
could take Casey for a while. Probably too late, Kevin told
himself. It was 11:30, and he was afraid Yolanda might have
gone to sleep, and decided not to chance it. He went into the
bathroom to take a leak, and then went back and sat on the bed.
When Cam came back with the sodas, he went in and sat down next to his partner.
"You didn't get Casey?" he asked.
"Naw. Yolanda's probably asleep."
"Oh," Cam said, putting down the four cans of soda on the bedside table.
"I've always liked Andy," Kevin said, unsolicited, changing the
subject. He put an arm around Cam's neck. "I hope he and Carl get to know each other on this
"Well, duh!" Cam said, chuckling at his partner. "They're
rooming together, and now they know they're both gay. What're the
odds they'll find something to do while they're in that room at night?"
Kevin smiled and gently pushed Cam back on the bed.
"You're such a cute little wiseass, sometimes I can't stand it!" Kevin
moved his face over Cam's and hovered there for a minute before
lowering his head and giving him a soft, prolonged kiss.
"Love ya, buddy," Cam said when they broke the kiss. "Can't help it," he added, looking deep into those brown
eyes. He reached up and put his
big hands at the sides of Kevin's head and caressed his face with his
"We better go next door if we're going," Kevin finally said.
He was half hard just from looking at his boyfriend and being touched
Cam sighed, and they stood up, both of them rearranging their equipment
so they didn't betray how turned on they were. Grabbing the soft
drinks, they went next door and knocked.
"Yeah?" they heard Andy ask quietly.
"New Orleans Police," Cam said in his deep voice. "Open up."
the door open, and the three of them stood there looking at each
other for a moment.
"Come on in," Andy said, moving out of the way.
Carl had already changed his bloodied shirt, and was sitting on the bed farthest from the door.
"I'm glad you guys are all right," Cam said as he and Kevin went in
and sat down in two easy chairs. Andy walked over and sat beside
Carl on the bed.
"Yeah," Carl said. "No wonder Father Jim doesn't want anybody
walking around alone at night."
"Rules, smules," Cam said. "Kevin never lets anything keep him
from his beer, no matter what. He's a thirsty boy."
Kevin looked over at his partner suspiciously.
"Yeah," Cam continued. "Rain, snow, sleet, high wind, or dark of
night, nothing deters Kevin when it comes to beer. I remember one time he went into a
bar, looked around, and said to the bartender, 'Gimme a beer before the
problems start.' The bartender shrugged and gave him a beer. Kevin sat there drinking, and about ten minutes
later, he said to the bartender, 'Gimme another beer before the problems
"This went on for a hour, and Kevin had polished off five beers by
then. One more time, he said, 'Gimme a beer before the problems
"By now the bartender was getting weary of this act, so he looked around
the bar to see if there was any trouble brewing. He didn't see
any, so he said to Kevin, 'Are you gonna pay for any of these beers?'
"Kevin looked at him and said, 'Ah, now the problems start.'"
They all laughed, even Kevin.
"You little shit!" Kevin told Cam. "You're gonna pay for that!"
"Don't I always?" Cam said.
They all took a drink of their soda, and Carl looked at Andy. "Are you
a karate expert?"
"I wouldn't say that, but I've been at it for about six years. I started when I was a little guy," Andy said.
"I could tell," Carl said, thinking how easily the boy had disarmed Duke.
"Andy, I nearly crapped my drawers when I saw you walk up to us in the bar with
Carl," Kevin said. "After all the years you and Cam
and I played sports together, I never had a clue you were gay."
"Same here," Cam said. "How long have you known?"
"Since I was in eighth grade, I guess," Andy said. "I knew I
really liked looking at guys even back then, but I was pretty good
at pushing my thoughts
away until I was a sophomore. That's when my fantasies about guys
really took hold. I faked people out by dating a lot of girls,
but I knew the truth about myself and never got serious with any of
"You out to anyone?" Cam asked him.
"Nope," Andy said. "Except now to you three." He paused. "It feels
pretty good, to tell you the truth." He looked over at Cam and
Kevin. "What about you guys?"
"We're out to the family, and so is Carl. " Kevin said. "And to Father Jim. That's it."
"Father Jim?" Andy said in surprise. "How'd that happen?"
"He was over for dinner at our house one night, and he used an upstairs
bathroom before we ate," Kevin said. He looked at Cam and grinned. "Mr.
Libido and I thought we were alone up there, and were standing in the
hall kissing, and Father saw us. He apologized to us for catching
us, if you can believe that, and nothing more has been said to us since
then. He doesn't pretend he doesn't know about us or anything, though."
"Does he know about you?" Andy asked Carl.
"Yes," Carl said. "I went over and talked to him about being gay
during the time I was getting some therapy for some things that
me. His attitude was such a relief to me after hearing how evil homosexuality is from my priests in the Catholic church all those years when I was growing up. I guess that's one
of the reasons our whole family is attending the Episcopal church
now. I'm not too religious, but I have to admit it was great
to know that God and the Church don't hate me for what I am.
And the family has been so loving and accepting..."
He looked at Andy. "If you ever need to talk to anyone about who
and what you are, I can recommend Father Jim. Anything you say to him is under the seal of the confessional,
he says. He's supportive, and he can back up what the Episcopal church says
about being able to be gay and be Christian at the same time. You can't go wrong with him."
Andy looked at Cam and Kevin. "How did you all come out to your parents?"
"I consider Cam's mom and dad to be my own. Along with Ian and Mary," Kevin said, and then
frowned. "You probably saw on TV that my real dad tried to kidnap
my son Casey."
"Yes, I did."
"So my real dad is more or less dead to me, and he doesn't know I'm
gay," Kevin said. "That's a good thing. Anyway, back
to your question." Kevin laughed. "Catherine confronted Cam
me at supper one night after she
noticed that only one of our beds was being slept in every night."
"Oh. How'd she take it?" Andy asked.
"She cried a little," Cam chimed in. "More out of worry about the crap
that gays sometimes have to take in life than in
disappointment. She's amazing. And she's tough. We have to love her for that,
even when she's on our case about something or other."
"What about your dad?" Andy asked Cam. "He's pretty famous."
"He lives in L.A., and he knows," Cam said. "Uh, he's gay, and
lives with his partner, John Kelley, in Malibu. They're good
together. Kevin and I and Carl are going to live in their house when we go
to school at U.C.L.A. this fall."
"I see," Andy said. "I didn't know your dad's gay."
"You must be the only one on the planet who doesn't," Cam said, smiling. "He's totally out."
"Your mom and dad are divorced?" Andy asked.
"Yep," Cam said.
"And they're still friendly?" Andy asked.
"Yes, they are. Catherine even likes Alex's partner," Kevin said.
"That's awesome," Andy said.
"Do you think you'll ever come out to your parents?" Carl asked Andy.
Andy sighed. "I don't know. I don't think they'd hate
anything, or throw me out. That's not their style. I've
never in my life, ever, heard a prejudiced word about anybody come out
mouths. I guess they're the typical Marin County liberals--live and let
live. I don't know whether my brothers would accept me as
gay or not."
"You have two brothers, right?" Cam asked.
"Yeah. One a year older than me, at Berkeley, and one a year
younger. Roger, the younger one, is with our group here in New Orleans. He's staying down on the
second floor, I think."
The four boys continued to talk for another ten minutes, when a knock
sounded on the door. Carl got up and went over to answer
it. It was Father Jim, doing a bed check on his crew. Carl
hid his right hand, now swollen from hitting Duke, behind the door.
"Hey, Carl," the priest said. "Hi, guys," he added, looking in at
the other three boys. "Oh, good, Cam and Kevin. I was wondering where you guys were,"
he said. "I just tried your room. Anyway, it's time for you
all to hit the bed. You'll get an automatic wakeup call from the
front desk at 8 o'clock. We have to be ready for church and on the
bus by 10 a.m. Mass is at 10:30. You can get a glass of
juice or something in the dining room before we go, and we'll have a short meeting there before we head out. They're
serving us a big breakfast at
church after Mass."
"Thanks, Father," Kevin said, yawning and stretching. "We'll be ready."
"OK, boys. See you tomorrow."
"Father, are we going to work out a schedule for running while we're down here?" Cam asked.
"Let's talk about it tomorrow," Father Jim suggested.
"Cool," Cam said.
Carl closed the door and went back and sat down. The four
boys talked for a few minutes more, and then Cam yawned himself and suggested
they get to bed.
"Thanks, guys," Andy said as he stood up. His face turned a
little red. "You don't know what a relief it is for me to be able
talk to you about who I really am. You know."
"Yeah, we do know, buddy," Cam said. He walked over to Andy and
gave him a hug, rubbing the boy's back with one hand, and then kissing him on the cheek. Kevin followed his example.
"'Night, guys," Kevin said when he reached the door, he swung
around. "I'm glad you two weren't hurt at the bar."
"You mean when the problems started?" Andy asked.
"Yeah," Kevin laughed. "Right then."
He and Cam
shut the door behind them and went back to their own room.
Carl and Andy opened their suitcases on the racks provided, and took
out their toothbrushes and toothpaste. They glanced at each other
in their boxers after they each pulled off their T-shirts, sneakers and
Levi's. They were both built, and liked what they saw.
"Go ahead, I can wait," Carl said, nodding toward the bathroom and feeling a little awkward.
"I'm not shy. We can share," Andy responded.
They went into their bathroom and shared the sink. When they were
finished brushing, Andy unwrapped two glasses, taking off the cardboard
covers and discarding them in the trash. He handed a glass to
Carl, and they rinsed their mouths, spitting the water into the sink.
"Thanks," Carl said.
Andy nodded, and then went over to the toilet, snaked out his dick, and
took a leak. What the kid was packing was reflected as
Carl watched him in the mirror. Nice tool, the boy thought.
Big. Nicely shaped, with a big mushroom head on it When Andy was
finished, he shook off, put his dick away, and went back to the
bedroom. Carl took his turn at the toilet, flushed, and joined
Andy had pulled back the covers on one of the beds, and was sitting on
the edge when Carl came in. He watched Carl as he pulled down the
bedspread and covers on the other bed and lay down.
"We don't have to do anything, Carl," Andy said. "But...will you sleep in my bed with me?"
Carl smiled, happy the boy had put into words what he'd been wanting to
suggest. He threw back the covers and went over to Andy's bed as the
latter climbed in and scooted over to make room. They put their heads on their pillows and
turned on their sides toward each other.
"I've never been in bed with anyone before," Andy said into the silence as they studied one another's face. He hesitated, and then said, "I've been alone with what I am for a long time."
I felt that way once, Carl thought to himself. His heart was hammering
in his chest as he pulled his hand out from
under the covers and reached over to brush Andy's long, bronze-colored
hair back from his face. He used his injured hand, the knuckles
swollen from hitting Duke back at the
bar. Andy took hold of Carl's wrist and examined the boy's hand.
"Let me get some ice for this," Andy suggested.
"I can do it."
"I want to," Andy said. He got out of bed and pulled on his
pants, T-shirt and sneakers. Grabbing the ice bucket and leaving
their room door slightly ajar, he went down the hall to an ice machine
and filled the bucket up. Once back in the room, he wrapped some of
the ice in a hand towel and took it to Carl.
"Thanks, man," Carl said, moved by this small, unsolicited
service. He wrapped the towel around his hand and immediately
felt the coolness. It felt good.
Andy stripped down to his boxers again, and climbed back into the bed. They looked at each other.
"I knew I liked you the minute I saw you at St. Andrew's," Carl told the boy quietly.
A little smile curled at the corners of Andy's mouth. "Why is that?"
"Because you're so good looking," Carl said. "I
thought maybe at first that it was just physical. That's the way
it is sometimes. But I'm beginning to find out there's more to
you than that, and I'm glad."
"Don't jump to conclusions," Andy responded. "I have my problems."
Carl shrugged, looking into Andy's blue eyes. "Don't we all, dude," he said. "Don't we all."
Andy yawned, his breath smelling like tooth paste as it wafted into
Carl's face. He reached up and turned off the wall-mounted
bedside light, and then
he put his arms around Carl and pulled him closer to his own
body. That's where they left things, though. Soon they were
both asleep, dead tired from the trip and from the stress of their night out, breathing quietly as the air conditioning
At about 2 a.m., Carl woke up with Andy's hand on his dick. They
kissed for a while, then shucked off their boxers, and jacked each
other off onto their underwear. Happy and now perfectly relaxed,
they held one another close as they fell back to sleep.
* * *
On the other side of the wall, things were a little more
lively. After Cam and Kevin brushed their teeth, Cam climbed into
the bed they were going to use while Kevin took a shower. Still a
little buzzed from the beer, Cam lay there thinking about Carl and
Andy, remembering the excitement he had felt back when he and Kevin
first committed themselves to each other and they had initially given
that commitment its physical expression. He smiled, realizing
that the excitement of that first encounter had never gone away
completely. He hoped it never would.
Kevin finished his shower, toweled off, and came to bed stark naked and
still damp. Cam looked up at his partner's groin as the boy moved
toward the bed, Kevin's long, fat dick sprouting in all its glory out of a
forest of black public hair, his cock hanging down low over his
balls. Cam could feel his own groin tighten. He moved up a
little in the bed.
"Sit on my chest," he instructed Kevin.
Kevin smiled and complied. His dick began to harden as he
contemplated what was going to happen. The head of Kevin's cock
hovered at Cam's mouth as the latter's tongue extended and licked the end of it, traveling in a circle.
"Yeah!" Kevin said.
Using one hand to guide Kevin's cock, Cam used the other to snake
around behind Kevin's butt. He rubbed the boy's perineum between
his balls and anus, and Kevin was quickly at full mast as Cam then
repeatedly licked the head of the rampant dick bouncing in front of
him. Pulling back on the head of Kevin's dick with thumb and
forefinger, he opened the slit and gently probed it with his tongue
before accepting the entire head inside his mouth. Kevin bent
forward to bring his dick down to a better angle, his face a mask of
pleasure. Cam reached up to Kevin's chest and rolled and
tweaked first one nipple and then the other.
Cam adjusted the pillow to make his head more horizontal, and Kevin
began thrusting slowly, very slowly, in and out of his lover's
mouth. It wasn't long before Cam detected the sweet taste of
pre-cum on his tongue. Taking hold of Kevin's thighs, he slowed
down the boy's movement as much as he could. He wanted to keep
Kevin on the edge for as long as possible. Both boys began to
perspire despite the air conditioning as Kevin gradually tried to quicken and lengthen his strokes.
"Oh, man!" Kevin said, his eyes closed as he worked, his desire to cum
escalating despite Cam's best efforts to slow the process down.
The pre-cum was still flowing when Kevin eventually reached the point
return, and began blasting semen into Cam's waiting mouth. Some
was fired down Cam's throat and some stayed on the boy's
tongue--viscous, thick, pure essence of Kevin. It was what Cam
right then, and Kevin had never disappointed him. When the last
of the many eruptions was over, Kevin groaned, froze, and then
gradually lay forward on Cam in a state of neural collapse. Cam
smelled Kevin's sweat, and rubbed his nose across the boy's perspiring
"Ohhhh, Lord," Kevin exhaled softly, not moving.
After a few minutes, Cam rolled his partner off of him and over
next to him on the bed. He pulled the sheet over them both, and
held Kevin close to his body.
"Now you're pregnant," Kevin croaked groggily.
"You think?" Cam responded, smiling.
"Do you want me to do you?" Kevin asked, totally relaxed in Cam's arms.
"Maybe in the morning," Cam said. "In the shower."
"You sure?" Kevin opened one eye and looked over at that face he
loved. He moved closer and soul kissed his boy, tasting his own
seed as he did so.
"I'm sure," Cam said when they disengaged.
Putting his hand on Cam's chest, the last thing Kevin remembered was feeling Cam's heartbeat. Persistent. Steady. Strong.
A minute later, they were both asleep.
The two boys awakened when the phone rang the next morning at 8 a.m., giving them their wakeup call.
Untangling himself from his partner and the bedclothes, Cam got out of
bed first and went into the bathroom. After relieving himself, he
turned on the shower, climbing in after the water was warm. He
heard the toilet flush again, but fortunately it had no effect on the
temperature of the shower water. He was facing the spray when he
heard the shower curtain slide back, and Kevin stepped in behind
him. He turned Cam around, and held him as the water cascaded
down over them both.
Kevin's love for his partner swept over him anew, and he began kissing Cam and gently nuzzling his neck.
"You don't have a clue..." Kevin started to say.
"How much I love you. And how glad I am that you love me. And Casey." He put his forehead against Cam's, and
they stood there looking into one another's eyes.
"I do know," Cam contradicted him softly.
Kevin turned Cam around again and stood behind him, still nuzzling his neck,
holding and caressing his body with one hand, fondling Cam's package
with the other until the boy was hard. Using some soap as lubricant, he stroked him
at gradually increasing speed until Cam finally ejaculated on to the
shower tile. He shot five times, a copious
load, and then totally relaxed, leaning back into Kevin's body. After several
minutes, Cam came back to life, standing again on his own, and Kevin deflected
the stream of water to wash off the wall. Then Kevin soaped up
his partner, washing him head to toe.
so good, Cam thought to himself, reveling in his lover's touch.
Then he turned around and washed Kevin, returning the favor.
Their ablutions completed, the boys toweled one another off and dressed
in dark slacks and short sleeved white shirts to go to church.
"You look butch with that five o'clock shadow!" Cam teased his unshaven
partner before they were ready to leave their room. "It's a good
thing I'm so submissive."
Kevin laughed. "You? Submissive? When was that?
I must have missed it. Of course, there was that split second two
weeks ago when you let me have my way with you..."
"Humph," Cam said. "A split second is all it takes to get you off. Not much staying power."
"You ungrateful little fuck!" Kevin said, laughing.
Kevin telephoned Yolanda next door to see if he and Cam could pick
Casey up and take him downstairs to the dining room so they could spend some time
with him. Yolanda said the baby was ready, and Kevin went next door and got
him and brought him back to their room. Casey was all bright eyed
and looked happy, and Cam wanted to hold him, but Kevin made him
wait his turn. After checking to see that they had their wallets
and their keycards for the room, the two boys, followed by Yolanda,
took their baby
downstairs along with a bottle of mother's milk that Yolanda had taken out of
the little refrigerator in her room. In the dining room, Cam and Kevin were
surrounded by the boys in the family and then by a crowd of St.
Andrew's guys and girls who wanted to see
and talk to the infant before he was fed.
Looking happy, William Carson was with
the girl he'd been bird-dogging back at the St. Andrew's parish meeting
in San Rafael as the crowd surrounded Casey. Angela. Angela something was her name, Cam thought to himself.
Cam went to get some orange juice for Kevin and himself, and ran into
Emrick and Andy Helder in the line. They looked happy and
relaxed, too. Very
happy and very relaxed, as a matter of fact. The two boys had eyes only
for each other, eyes that for the moment, at least, said clearly, "I
When the two of them got their juice, they went over and sat with Cam
and Kevin and Casey. Kids kept coming by the table and talking
to Casey and making a fuss over him. The little guy was popular.
A few minutes later, Father Jim stood on a chair and asked for the crowd's attention.
"Thanks for being so prompt this morning," the priest told the
group. "In a
few minutes we'll get on the buses to go to Mass. The parish
church we're going to be associated with during our stay is dedicated
to St. Thomas. It's a small church, not all that far from the
French Quarter. In many ways it's an unusual church because its
membership is so diverse. I'm told that it's a real reflection of
our society: the people there are rich and poor, black and white and Latino,
and old, gay and straight. It was founded several years before
1850 during the time of Leonidas Polk, who was a bishop of the
Episcopal church and later a Confederate general. As you might
expect, it has had its ups and downs over the
"St. Thomas's church building suffered no damage at all from Hurricane Katrina, and the
parish hall incurred only minor wind damage. They were lucky.
They are situated on high ground, so that when the levees collapsed and the city was flooded, their buildings
"I hope you'll use the opportunity this morning, when we arrive, to
spread out and introduce yourselves to as many people as
possible. You'll soon get a sense of this, but the people of New
Orleans are very grateful to have us down here as volunteers to
help gut houses and speed the recovery process. The federal and
state programs to provide money for rebuilding are doling out funds at
an extremely slow pace, so what we are going to do will really be
"As I told you last night, St. Thomas's is hosting breakfast for us
after Mass. Enjoy that, and when you introduce yourselves, please let the people know we're all
happy to be down here to help out the community.
"Are there any questions?" The priest waited, but heard
nothing. "All right, let's board the buses. Please remember to offer our thanks
to God during the Mass for this opportunity to be of service."
Cam ran interference for Yolanda and Kevin, who was carrying Casey, and
everyone streamed out of the hotel and boarded one of the three buses
parking lot. Fifteen minutes later they were pulling into a
spacious parking lot, and the St. Andrew's parishioners streamed into
the front door of St. Thomas. The church was small, seating only
people, so extra chairs were set up in the back to help accommodate the
additional people expected. The Church calendar was a few weeks
into the Sundays after the feast of Pentecost.
The visiting St. Andrew's parishioners found places to sit, and Father Jim left
them to go to the priests' sacristy to vest. He was to be the
deacon of the Mass, and would be preaching.
Having been fed back
at the hotel, Casey's eyes were closed in sleep as he was passed from
family member to family member as each grew physically tired from
The procession began with the opening hymn, the thurifer leading the
way as the thurible released the sweet smell of incense while the three
and their altar servers moved forward. Heads in the congregation bowed
as the processional
cross was carried forward. Kevin smiled. Episcopalians were
so well mannered in church, he thought to himself.
Once in the sanctuary, the celebrant took the thurible and circled the
censing it, flanked by the deacon and subdeacon, and then the Mass was
underway. After the gospel was sung down in the midst of the
congregation by Father Jim, he went to the pulpit. Invoking the
Trinity, he waited until one could hear a pin drop, and began his
homily. He preached on the Lukan account of Jesus' healing the
centurion's slave. As Cam reflected on his words later, the
essence of his message was that Christians must understand that they
are not in the world to serve themselves, but to serve God and to serve
others, just as
their Lord did during his days on earth and since then. No
boundaries to service, no barriers.
"Brothers and Sisters of St. Thomas's," the priest said, "I invite you to look upon us who have come to
visit you in a time of great trouble for your city. We share your
faith, and we come to share your sufferings, just as those who have been
here before us and will come here after us have done and will do.
We offer our love, our prayers, and our modest service to New Orleans
as healers and builders. May our work carve out for your city one
of the many small steps forward to make it whole after your great tragedy
from Hurricane Katrina. We are grateful for the opportunity to
join you as healers and reconcilers in what is sometimes a sad, beleaguered and contentious world."
Even hardheaded Kevin was moved by the message, and squeezed Cam's hand
as the congregation stood after the homily to sing the Nicene
Creed. The rest of the Mass went smoothly as the congregation
were communicated, and everyone flocked into the parish hall for
breakfast. The crowd from St. Andrew's followed instructions, and
mingled with the people of St. Thomas's until the servers began
bringing huge platters of eggs, bacon, toast and various jellies, and
orange juice and coffee out to the crowd, who quickly found seats after
the rector offered thanks.
The women of St. Thomas continued to bring food out of the kitchen
until even the most voracious of the boys was sated. At that
point, Father Jim held a short meeting with those who were interested
in running in the morning during their stay in the city. The bad
news was that runners would have to be up by 5:00 a.m., and in the
hotel parking lot and ready to run by 5:30. The good news was
that the temperature at that hour would be as cool as it would ever be
during a superheated New Orleans summer day. Not
many people were interested enough in exercising to make plans to run at such an early hour except for the
MacKenzie-Carson-Emrick boys, Berto Hernandez, Andy Helder, Ian and Mary, Catherine and a handful of others.
When they left the church to board their buses, the reality of the
mid-day heat and
humidity of New Orleans hit the Californians. Once back at
the hotel, the kids and some of the adults changed into swim suits,
and soon were having a good time in the swimming pool.
The pool was cleverly constructed, with one wall reaching down only to
the water, dividing an indoor portion from an outdoor portion so you
could swim from inside to outside and back again if you wanted to do so
leaving the water.
After the group had been swimming for about 45 minutes, Father Jim
walked through the outdoor area where some were sunbathing, and
cautioned them from staying out in the strong sunshine too long.
Sweating at work the next day through a sunburn would be very
uncomfortable, he told them. Hearing that, Cam and Kevin took
Casey and sat on the inside pool deck, people-watching after they had taken
turns swimming. Some of their peers, both girls and boys, were
exceptionally attractive, Cam thought as he looked around.
And their priest was clearly a hunk. There was just no two ways
The group from California spent the rest of the day swimming, using the
exercise room (mostly the boys), eating, checking emails on several computers
which were in the lobby, and walking around in the French Quarter
in groups, sightseeing.
On instructions from Father Jim, all the
were back at the motel by 10 p.m. that night. The priest called
everyone together in the dining room before they went to bed.
wakeup calls were scheduled for 6:30 a.m. When a few kids complained about getting up at 6:30, the
priest told them that they would thank him for starting the work day
early because of the heat they would face in the city by mid-morning.
Following the meeting, Kevin grinned as Andy and Carl left before anyone else to go upstairs
to their room. He nodded at the two boys, and asked Cam,
"Whaddaya s'pose they're gonna do?"
"Watch TV, no doubt," Cam said, smirking.
When the 5 a.m. wakeup call for runners came the next morning, Cam was groggy and
considered blowing off running that day. Kevin wouldn't take "no"
for an answer, though, and when Cam didn't get up, got back in bed and,
holding him down, began raining kisses on Cam's face, neck, shoulders
and chest. Cam tried to keep his eyes closed, pretending to be
"After kisses come the licking and drooling," Kevin told him. "Who knows where things will go from there?"
"Uh-h-h-h," Cam groaned. "Don't..."
"But yes, my Cameron," Kevin said, awake and playful. "You
have a devil on one shoulder telling you to stay in bed, and an angel
on the other, telling you to get up. You will get your ass up and run with me this morning!"
"You can be such a shit sometimes!" Cam told his partner, smiling in
spite of himself, keeping a hand over his face to ward off Kevin's
"It's my duty," Kevin said. "And my pleasure," he added with an evil grin.
Twenty minutes later the two of them were in their running clothes down
in the parking lot, where they joined Father Jim, Ian, Catherine and
Mary, along with William, Mark, Dan, Berto, and also a few other boys from St.
Andrew's who were jocks. Carl and Andy were nowhere to be seen,
causing Cam and Kevin to shake their heads knowingly at each other.
"Mommy!" Kevin said to Catherine. She was there, and right on time. "Sometimes you amaze me."
"Sometimes I amaze myself," Catherine said.
"I had a terrible time getting Kevin out of bed this morning," Cam told her. "He's such a lazy butt sometimes..."
"Why do you lie like that?" Kevin asked him, looking over at Father Jim.
"Because I can," Cam said, straight faced.
"Father, will you hear Cam's confession later today?" Kevin
asked. "He's carrying around a lot of sins. Bad ones.
I know that better than anyone."
"How many hours will I need to reserve for this?" Father Jim asked,
laughing. "But it's my job. Maybe I can do it after dinner."
The priest had arranged for a N.O.P.D. officer on a bicycle to
accompany the group while they ran, although at that hour of the
morning there was little traffic, and presumably any bad guys were still in bed. The crowd first ran a block
over to Canal Street, and began running away from the River down along
what New Orleaneans called the "neutral ground" of the wide
street. Streetcars would be traveling where they were running
before too long that day. William Carson set his pedometer as
they settled into a steady pace. Cam and Kevin looked at each
other as they began sweating profusely in the cool, early morning
humidity. When the sun came up, the heat would be brutal, Cam thought to himself.
In fact, it was brutal even without the sun. Within three blocks, the runners' shirts were soaked through. Even the cop on his bike looked damp.
Everybody toughed it out, though, until Father Jim turned them around
when William's pedometer read two miles. He told them that a
total of four miles was plenty for the first day until they got acclimated to the heat
and humidity. Nobody argued with him.
Back in their room at the hotel, Cam and Kevin stripped off their
running clothes and climbed into the shower together. Standing
under the cool spray of water, they held each other for a long time
without moving much. Once they were cooled off, they washed each
other, the way they liked to do.
"You think we can get Casey before we go down to breakfast?" Cam asked.
Kevin shook his head. "I don't think Yolanda will be awake yet. When we come home after work, we'll get him, 'K?"
"OK." Cam traced the bridge of Kevin's nose as the water splashed down
on them. "You and Heather made a cute baby, y'know."
"So did Catherine and Alex," Kevin said, kissing Cam. "And he's all mine."
Grinning, the two boys finished their shower, dressed in their work
clothes, and went downstairs for breakfast. Andy and Carl were
there at a table already eating, when Cam and Kevin went through
the line, and they went over and joined them.
"Where were you two assholes this morning for our run?" Kevin said
after he'd said grace over their huge plates of food for him and Cam.
"Well..." Carl started to say.
"Don't lie to me, boy!" Kevin said, cutting him off and grinning. "I know exactly where you were and what you were doing."
Carl was used to sparring with the guys about anything and everything that happened to
come up in conversation, but Andy turned red as a beet and looked down
at his plate as he ate.
Kevin laughed and pointed at Andy. "You don't have to say a word,
Carl." He looked over at Cam. "I think we have our answer. Boys gone wild!"
"Shut the fuck up, Kevin," Carl said, and then grinned. "You should have been so lucky."
"How do you know I wasn't?" Kevin said. "Some of us are
disciplined and still have our fun. I'd better see both of you
down in the parking lot tomorrow morning ready to run, or we're gonna
have to split you two up."
"Good luck with that," Carl said disapprovingly.
"You do know that you need to have Father Jim's written permission to
have sex on this trip, don't you?" Cam asked, trying to look serious.
"You two are so full of shit you're gonna explode," Carl said, laughing. "Let's see your permission slip."
"It's hidden up in our room," Cam said, taking a big bite of scrambled
eggs. "Well hidden. We wouldn't want any thieves to steal
it. They might think they could get wild like you two and go on an extreme sex
"Yeah, right!" Carl said, laughing. "You guys are so-o-o twisted!"
"Uh huh!" Kevin admitted. "And your point is...???"
Even Andy laughed at that, and the four of them started talking about the work they might be doing that day.
After talking for a while, Kevin stood up and looked at Cam.
"Let's hit the room for a minute before we have to go to work."
"Yep," Cam said. "Right behind ya. See you wimps on the bus," he told Carl and Andy.
Cam started to follow Kevin out of the dining room when he suddenly did a one-eighty and went back to the two boys.
"Don't take it too seriously when we tease you," he said. "You
two guys obviously feel something for each other, and that's great!" Then he
turned and walked away fast to catch up with Kevin at the elevator, leaving their two
friends staring at each other in surprise.
"That's why they're my brothers, y'know," Carl said quietly, looking at Andy.
"You're lucky," Andy said.
"We're lucky," Carl said hopefully.
Some minutes later, the St. Andrew's contingent were all dressed in
their grubbies and waiting in the parking lot to board the buses. The
devastation they all saw on their ride into the heart of the Ninth Ward stunned them.
"Jeez," Kevin groaned, looking at Cam in the seat beside him.
"This looks like an old World War II movie of Germany after the
Cam nodded somberly as the buses weaved down streets partially blocked
by houses which had been washed off their foundations and were sitting
in the street, and flooded out cars. It took some skillful maneuvering by the drivers to
get the buses around the refuse.
Father Jim had kept families together as work partners where he
could. The MacKenzie-Carson-Emrick-Hernandez site was three clapboard
by side. The owners of the three houses were all there, and
greeted the work contingent with sincere thanks. The houses would
first have to emptied of moldy furniture which had been under water for
several weeks after the storm before the work of gutting the insides
down to the studs could even begin. There was a supply truck
there waiting for them at the site, and the kids and adults were first
given several wheelbarrows per house along with hard hats, gloves and
breathing equipment so they wouldn't inhale the omnipresent mold.
The vehicle also disgorged a large portable generator, into which large
fans would be plugged by extension cords running to the
generator roared to life, and air soon began circulating in the
houses. In the
sticky heat, it was a godsend.
The first task was to build walkways from the front doors of the houses
to the street, using old boards and plywood. That completed, the
workers donned the hard hats, the breathing equipment, and the
gloves. They began hauling rugs, furniture, kitchen cabinets
and equipment through the houses and down to the street. The
owners of the house Cam and Kevin were assigned to, an elderly black
couple, wept as they watched the treasures of a lifetime being hauled
outside. Cam pulled up his mask and talked to them for several
minutes, trying in vain to give them a little comfort. They were
After his next trip outside with his wheelbarrow, Cam went to the supply truck and asked for breathing masks for the old couple.
"These masks are only for the workers," the equipment man told him.
"Come on, man!" Cam said, annoyed.
"I don't make the rules," the guy said somewhat apologetically.
"I'll buy them," Cam said, reaching for his wallet.
"They're not for sale."
Cam didn't argue with the man. He walked next door, beckoning to
Father Jim to come outside. He did, pulling up his mask.
"Father, I want a couple of masks for the owners next door. The
equipment manager says they're only for workers. How about using
"Good thought," the priest nodded, and saying nothing more, went over to the truck.
Words started flying quietly between the two men. But when Father
Jim stepped away from the truck, he had six masks in his hands. He
gave two of them to Cam, and started toward the other two houses with the remainder to give them to the homeowners.
"Be sure you turn these in when we leave the site today, OK?" the priest said as he walked away.
"Thanks, Father. I will." Cam gave them to the elderly couple, and helped put them on the two masks correctly.
The work was backbreaking. Cam and Kevin, and Carl and Andy, who
were working with them, were bathed in sweat after the first fifteen
minutes. Their T-shirts and old Levi's were soaked through and
clinging to their bodies. Just as they were beginning to get
thirsty, a canteen truck pulled up outside and passed out water and ice
packs in several coolers. As they'd been told they should, the
guys sat down in the shade once each hour for five minutes and drank
water and held ice packs to their heads. Cam made sure the old
couple got water and ice for themselves. Then it was back to work.
About 11:00, Father Jim walked over from the house next door and told
everybody that they would have lunch break at 12:00 for thirty minutes,
and then work until 2 p.m.
"We can work longer," Kevin told the priest.
"You probably could, but I'm not letting anyone work past 2:00," Mason
said. "None of us is prepared for sustained exposure to this kind
of heat," he added. "I'm not sending any of you home in a body bag, or to the hospital with heat stroke."
"Yes, sir," Kevin acquiesced, knowing that sparring with the priest
would get him nowhere. The man was right, and when you're right, you're right.
They knocked off at noon, and a canteen truck was waiting for
them in the street. Cam and Kevin got three bottles of water each, two to drink
and one to pour over their heads, some Doritos (mostly for the salt),
and a sandwich they had never heard of called a Muffaletta. It was
hollowed-out Italian bread filled with ham, salami, cheese, olives, olive oil and
pickled vegetables. Delicious. Sort of a Sub, but better. A delicacy peculiar to New
Then it was back to work, with a five minute break stretched to
ten during the last ninety minutes as the heat began to wear them
When they all were finished that day, the three houses were bare of
furniture on both floors, and a small start on tearing out the inside walls had
begun. Their bus came promptly at 2 p.m. The four boys looked
(and felt like) something the cat had dragged in as they collapsed in
their seats inside the cool bus.
Cam and Kevin took quick showers back at the hotel, put on their swim suits, and went
down to the indoor portion of the pool. Floating around in the
cool water was like heaven. Yolanda had brought Casey down to the
pool with her, and when Cam was cooled down completely, he got out of
the water and held the baby on his lap on a towel.
Andy and Carl had joined them. When Ian came into the pool area to swim, he sought Carl out.
"I heard from Captain Ridenour," he said. "Your dad's trial
begins a week from today. We're going to have to catch a plane next Monday."
Carl's face turned pale. "Oh, man," he said. "I'm gonna hate this."
"I know," Ian said. "But we've known it was going to happen
sometime. I'll stick with you all the time." He
smiled. "Stick to you like glue."
"All right," Carl said, none too happy. "Are we gonna drive right to the courthouse from the airport?"
"No," Ian said. "We're taking a helicopter. We'll land right
behind the courthouse, and we'll go inside surrounded by cops so you can be briefed by the prosecutors.
Carl's face brightened a little when he heard he would get to ride in a helicopter.
"All right," he said. "I'll try to get myself psyched up."
"Good deal," Ian said, shaking Carl's hand, and then hugging the boy to
his chest and kissing him on top of his head. "You'll do fine,
and your dad's going to be staying for a long time right where he belongs--in jail."
© 2007 Don Hanratty
My continued thanks to Dan, Craig K and Mike G for making these chapters of Belovèd readable.