My Belovèd is mine, and I am his.
Song of Songs 2:16
Andy Helder awakened only slowly from a sound sleep on the fifth morning during
that first week in New Orleans. Naked, totally rested, he lay on
his right side in the double bed he shared
with Carl Emrick, facing him, limbs entwined with those of this boy
with whom he was rapidly falling in love. His eyes caressed
Carl's handsome face, memorizing the strong planes of it.
That he would harbor such feelings for Carl so quickly was somewhat of
a surprise to
Andy. But as they had worked side by side gutting houses in the
lower Ninth Ward
of the Crescent City, his admiration for the kid had grown. Never
in his wildest dreams had Andy
would ever find a person he admired and enjoyed as much as he had come
and enjoy Carl. Being around the boy gave him a natural high,
simple. It made him happier than he had been since he was a
little kid, back before puberty had revealed to him that his
attractions were going to differ markedly from those of his
peers. Now, what had begun in pure lust for the handsome little jock's
blossomed into respect and the beginnings of a more selfless love for
another person than Andy
had ever suspected he was capable of.
Andy had known many jocks among his high school classmates in San
Rafael, acquaintances of his who had seemed mostly arrogant and so wrapped up
in themselves that a real and deep
friendship with them was difficult, if not impossible. Certainly not the
kind of friendship he wanted, anyway. Andy's first clue
that Carl was fundamentally different from many of the self-absorbed
adolescents he knew was the way the boy doted on Casey and handled him
when it was his turn to care for the
child. Cam and Kevin's little boy received a lot of attention
from all the members of the extended family, and even from other
of the St. Andrew's youth group who had just come in contact with the infant. But
Carl's vibe when he held that baby always bespoke love and kindness rather than curiosity, and
no one could
consistently fake that. In Andy's view, that phenomenon told you
unmistakably who Carl
Emrick really was.
Their first sexual encounters had been tentative. Tentative at the beginning, but
satisfying and evocative. After several nights of newfound,
unleashed passion, however, they had begun to give themselves to one
another in a variety of ways that had until then been experienced only
in their imaginations. They each began to learn what the other
liked, and were enthusiastic about broadening their sexual horizons.
Andy had become aware of something else as the two boys shared more and
more of their physical and mental selves with each other. There was a sadness about
Carl that gripped the boy at a level Andy had not yet penetrated.
It had nothing to do with their physical, sexual relationship, which
just couldn't have been better in Andy's opinion as they tried new
things in bed to pleasure one another. Carl had shared with Andy
how much he was enjoying being with him and having sex with him, and Andy had no reason to
doubt him. But there was definitely something stalking Carl's spirit, deep
down, that Andy hadn't been able to figure out.
Andy moved his head closer to Carl's on the pillow they shared, and
inhaled the masculine smell of the boy's short, blond hair. Carl's eyes
fluttered open just then.
"Hey, man," Carl whispered softly, a smile spreading across his face as he looked at Andy.
"Hey," Andy responded. He kissed Carl gently on the mouth, then pulled back to study his face.
"What time is it?" Carl asked softly.
"Early yet," Andy said, looking over Carl's head toward the luminous
face of the clock radio on the bedside table. "Five o'clock."
"Good." Carl shut his eyes again and pulled Andy closer to him,
kissing his neck. "You're such a stud," he told his bedmate with
a little smile.
"Is that right?" Andy said.
"Uh huh. I'd never lie to ya." He moved his hand down and
wedged it smoothly between Andy's muscular thighs just under the boy's
ball sack, leaving it there motionless.
"Back atcha, dude," Andy said, taking a quick breath. He nuzzled
the side of Carl's head, kissing his ear, and he felt his own dick
begin to harden. "You're such a cute, horny little fuck."
"You bring out my best qualities."
"Thanks," Andy said. They lay there in silence for a
moment. "I suppose if we're gonna run, we better think about getting up,"
Andy finally said.
"No-o-o-o," Carl whined. "I wanna stay in bed all day with my hand on your dick. Please?"
"I could live with that. But then I wouldn't be able to watch
that cute little ass of yours twitching along Canal Street in your
"My ass does not twitch!" Carl protested. He moved his hand
higher between Andy's thighs, bypassing his balls, and took hold of the boy's cock, now
engorged. He gave it a stroke. "Hmmm. What a handful
we have here!"
"Don't get me excited, man," Andy pleaded. "Once the launch sequence starts, there's no going back, y'know."
Carl laughed. "No shit?"
"No shit," Andy confirmed. "Father Jim and Ian expect to see us
out on the street pretty soon. Misery loves company, so let's not
"See," Carl kidded him. "Taking the road less traveled is what
makes you a true leader." He reluctantly let go of Andy's penis
the boy's chest, smooth except for a little patch of bronze, reddish
hair between his pecs leading down in a treasure trail to his pubic
hair. Untangling himself from Andy and the sheets, he struggled
to get out of bed so he could go to the bathroom. When he stood
up, his own ample endowment was saluting the ceiling.
"Sweet!" Andy proclaimed, looking at Carl's rampant cock before it and
the body to which it was attached went away. Carl's cut dick,
perfectly formed with a nice big head on it, was pleasingly fat and had
to be at least 7 inches long when hard. Andy had felt
every inch of it when Carl had plunged it home the previous night after
patiently opening him up. Initial discomfort was followed by
exquisite pleasure as Carl had treated him to a long, slow fuck in the missionary position with a
fast and vigorous finish. Awesome! Andy
grinned as he remembered Carl's face hovering over him in the muted
light of their bedside lamp, their tongues exploring one another's mouth.
Thinking about it, he caressed his own stiff dick, very similar in
length and heft to Carl's own, a few more times.
Yawning widely, Andy finally slid out of bed, reaching down to pick up a
used rubber full of pearl jam lying on a kleenex beside the bed.
Carl was already in the shower when Andy threw the residue of the
previous night's lovemaking into the toilet and then relieved himself, flushing the toilet afterward. Shaking
off by habit, he opened the glass shower door and joined Carl under the warm
spray. Soaping up a wash cloth, he began to wash Carl's back. God, life was good!
When Andy was finished with Carl's back and his butt, he soaped up his hands and reached around the boy to wash his package.
"Hmmm," Carl said contentedly. "Your not so hidden homo has come out to play."
"Yeah," Andy admitted with a grin. "Big time!"
When Andy had finished washing his lover, Carl returned the favor.
After they toweled each other dry, they put on their jocks, running
T's and running shoes, and went down to the lobby. The usual
suspects were there in addition to the two of them: Ian and Mary,
Catherine, Alex MacKenzie and John Kelley,
Father Jim, Kevin and Cam,
William and Mark Carson, Berto Hernandez and Dan Emrick, and a couple
of guys Cam and Kevin and Andy had played soccer
with at San Rafael
High. And Angela Crowley, who had just graduated in Cam, Kevin
and Andy's class at San Rafael, and who had been consistently hanging
out with William since they had arrived in New Orleans.
Kevin went over to Mark and put his arms around the boy when he saw him.
"Marky-mark," he said as he hugged him. "I miss you, dude.
How's the side of your head?"
"Good," Mark said, loving the attention. "It's getting better all the time."
"I'll be the judge of that," Kevin said. "I'd better take a look at it after supper tonight."
"Okay," Mark said.
Kevin kissed the boy on the cheek and let him go, paying no attention
whatsoever to anyone who saw him give Mark some affection. Ian smiled,
thinking to himself yet again what a nurturer tough ol' Kevin had turned out to
be. Ian's older son, William, was also moved by what Kevin had done in being kind to Mark.
"Next," Kevin said kiddingly to William, holding his arms open to the tall boy in
jest. To his astonishment, William walked right over and
enveloped him in those long arms of his with no sign of embarrassment.
"Love ya, bro," William said, and with no hint of joking around, kissed Kevin on the forehead before he turned him loose.
Kevin was stunned. Will wonders never cease! he said to himself. William must have gotten laid to make him feel this good! he conjectured.
Cam started toward the lobby doors. "Come on, you homos, you
need to get some exercise before this lovefest gets out of hand," he
smarted off. Catherine shook her head and looked disapprovingly
at her son.
"Takes one to know one," Carl told Cam as he followed close behind him, giving the boy's ass a swat as they walked.
They hit the street, and it was like stepping into a sauna. Their same young
cop, already sweating in his police T-shirt and shorts, gun on hip, was waiting for
them in the pre-dawn light on his bike.
"Have mercy," Father Jim muttered to himself about the heat and humidity after he had greeted the police officer.
"Listen, folks," the priest told the group. "If you stop sweating as we
run, or get a headache, or you feel weak at some point, let me know
right away. It could be the beginnings of heat stroke, and that needs to be
addressed right away. I have a couple bottles of water in my
fanny pack, and I'll share if you get thirsty."
Everybody held up his own water to show that he was prepared.
The runners nodded at what the priest had said and began their
stretches. When they finished, William set his pedometer, and
started their run in the dim light, heading again for the neutral
ground on Canal Street. Cam was running behind Kevin, his eyes
glued to his partner's ass. And to his broad shoulders, which were
stretching the cloth of his T-shirt. He's a hunk, and then some, Cam thought to himself. His gaze moved to Angela Crowley, running beside William. Not bad for a girl, not bad at all. Good for William!
Carl found himself moving along in the "runners trance" that he
sometimes indulged in, letting his body go into automatic mode, leaving
his mind free to think about other things. It wasn't long before
he was stewing about his impending trip back to California with Ian for
the trial of his
father for aggravated criminal sexual assault. As much as he wanted to see his old man punished as he
deserved, Carl was smart enough to know that
testifying in court against Walter Emrick was going to be
hell. He realized that in a sense, he was also on trial along with his
father because his father's attorney would do everything he could to
discredit him and shake his testimony. Or so Ian had told
him. Carl knew that Ian would be rehearsing
him, teaching him what to look out for in the defense attorney's
questions, how not to let the lawyer shake his concentration or his
confidence or engage
in assassination of his own character by innuendo. Ian had been
buttressing Carl's confidence all along by frequently re-affirming to
him that the truth was on Carl's side, and that all he needed to do was
testify truthfully, without shame or fear, about what the man had done
Thanks to his time in therapy, Carl was no longer bothered
by bad dreams at night, and thanks to his newfound relationship with
Andy Helder, he was happy with himself and positive about life for the
first time in a long time. He came out of his reverie smiling,
and looked over at Andy running beside him. Carl couldn't believe
his good luck in finding this boy, and promised himself that he would
treasure every minute they spent together. Andy made that easy to
Carl might have been surprised to know that Ian was also thinking about
the upcoming trial back in Monterey as he ran along the neutral
ground. Ian knew that Carl had come a long way in learning to
like himself as a gay person, and knew as well that his therapy had
helped the boy turn away from blaming himself for what had happened
down in the Emricks' basement. Even if he couldn't prove it, Ian believed that Walter Emrick
had hired Alejandro Hernandez to kill his sons and anyone who tried to
help his sons. Ian promised himself yet again that he was going to see
justice done and Carl's good character affirmed if it was the last
thing he ever did.
The group continued to run along the streetcar tracks away from
the River until they hit the two-mile mark according to William's
pedometer, at which point Father Jim briefly had them run slowly in
making sure they each drank some bottled water. Pretty much
everybody tilted his head back, bottles in the air, and finished off
their water all at once, throwing the empties in a nearby waste can. Cam drank some and poured the rest over
his head. It was lukewarm, but just what the doctor
ordered. Then they were off and running again,
headed back toward the hotel. T-shirts and running
shorts were drenched in sweat by then, and William checked out his new
girlfriend Angela's well filled bra, now visible through her T-shirt.
"You're starting to stink," Cam huffed at Kevin as the former breathed in huge lungsful of air.
"Shutup!" Kevin told him.
"And you wonder why you're not as popular as you could be," Cam
commented, and then concentrated on running. It wasn't long
before they were back at their hotel.
Their friendly bicycle cop had brought a change of clothes in a gym bag, and Ian led
him to the shower room off the swimming pool as everyone headed to his
(or her) room for a quick shower. Twenty minutes later the runners, along
with the cop, joined the other youth group members in their work
clothes at breakfast in the main dining room. The young, white
cop joined Ian and Father Jim at their table, soon joined by William, Angela
and Berto. Cam and Kevin sat with Casey at the next
table, with Alex and John sitting there, too. Cam held the infant and gave him his morning bottle,
trying to overhear the conversation at the neighboring table as Casey practically inhaled the bottle.
The policeman, a young man in his late twenties named Ray Breaux, was enjoying a good breakfast after his shower.
Somehow the conversation at his table focused on the crime rate in New Orleans, and
Ray began holding forth about the blacks who had returned to town
after Katrina. He was critical of the black community, especially for the
black on black
crime in the city, which Breaux claimed currently accounted for most of the
got Father Jim's and Ian's attention immediately. The priest gave
Ian a look, and then went back to his scrambled eggs and bacon. They
for a few minutes to the cop without making any comment.
"I take it you don't have much respect for black people," Ian finally said.
"My experience with them hasn't been very positive," Ray admitted.
"Our black police officers are ashamed of their own community, or so they'll
tell you once they get to know you well enough."
"Maybe you're working in the wrong city," Ian commented, thinking about
population figures showing that although the black population in New Orleans had
shrunk after Katrina, they were still in the majority.
"I grew up here, and it's my city, too," Ray said a little
combatively. "I played sports with a lot of black kids in high
school, and had no problems. But unlike the black kids around
here today, we grew
up knowing the difference between right and wrong. The fact that
so many young blacks don't know that difference is why I'm assigned to go
with you when you run."
Father Mason finished up his eggs, put down his fork, and wiped his lips with his napkin. He looked over at the policeman.
"Why do you think the situation is what it is?" Mason asked as Ian sat
back, waiting to see what developed in this conversation. "There
have to be reasons, don't you think?"
The cop was taken aback, trying to marshal his thoughts.
"Well...I guess part of it is the street drugs. The hurricane
messed up all the established drug territories, so the dealers and their subordinates are busy
killing themselves off to establish new boundaries. That accounts
for a lot of murders in the city."
"I tried to research the situation down here in New Orleans online before we came down here," Father Jim said. "I'm not dismissing street drugs as being part of the problem.
But you probably know better than I do that the murder rate in the city
was pretty high before Katrina, although it's definitely increased
per thousand population after the hurricane."
"We're rivaling Compton, out in your neck of the woods near Los
Angeles, and probably Newark, for the murder capital of the world," Ray Breaux said. "But
drugs were, and are, responsible for at least some of our problems."
"I'll grant you that," Father Mason said. "Of course, New Orleans
isn't the only community that's having trouble controlling drugs," Mason
said. "Well-to-do white kids are just as much into them as any other groups
in society. Maybe more. They have money to spend."
The young cop looked at him warily, not having been ready to have his
ideas disputed by somebody in this all white group. He knew he'd
precise in what he said. "Well, down here in the city, it's more
blacks than anybody else," he said.
"It's a serious problem here," Jim Mason admitted. "But you're
way off base if you don't think that drugs are epidemic among young
people up north of Lake Ponchartrain in, what is it, St. Tammany Parish? That's a wealthy, mostly white parish."
"That may or may not be true," Ray said. "But their murder
rate is nothing compared to ours. So drugs obviously aren't the whole problem. I never said they were."
The priest nodded in agreement. "Do you ever ask yourself what's
made the situation here what it is? A college professor, a
black sociologist named Cornel West, now at Princeton, has studied
African American youth culture extensively. Not long ago,
he wrote an article for the New York Times
about it. What he said, boiling it down, is that young blacks,
especially our young black men, are so enamored and dominated by a life centered around rap music, drugs,
hip clothes, sports and making babies--the heart of black youth street culture--during their school years, that it
takes a strong family dynamic and a strong school system to combat the negatives in street life. It's a powerful culture,
all-consuming, one that's even swept up a lot of white kids on the margins.
By the time many
young black young men hit their late teens to early to mid-twenties, if
they're not dead and buried by then, they awaken to the fact that they
aren't going to be among the chosen few black actors, musicians, jocks
or business kingpins they thought they'd be in order to support
themselves and a
family. It's too late by then, at least in their own minds, to
the basic educational skills that would allow them to participate in a
and meaningful lifestyle. They should have been prepared by
their families and their society for participating, but they're
not. And when there are no legitimate economic avenues open
to them to allow them to survive, they embrace the illegal ones."
Ray Breaux looked unsmilingly at Jim Mason. "So now it's all the fault of white people, I suppose!" he said scornfully.
"To some degree, yes," the priest said. "Take your school system
here in New Orleans. Pre-Katrina, if what I read is true, it was run by people who were
not all that competent and motivated. The system was supervised by a succession of
school boards and superintendents who were polarized along racial lines to the extent
that they couldn't really govern. Add to that a ruling group of
white businessmen, the city's elite, standing in the shadows behind elected black
officials, who were uncommitted to supplying the tax resources to run
the school system properly. After all, why should the white elite
invest in young, inner-city New Orleans blacks when the whites had
children to worry about? An extensive parochial and private
school system siphoned off whites and elite young blacks, leaving only
the many disadvantaged blacks and some disadvantaged whites to languish in an
incompetent, under-funded public school system.
"The parochial schools
weren't meant to do this by their founders," the priest continued,
"but it was an unintended
consequence of what happened pre-Katrina right down to the current
time. Now we're beginning to understand the blood-soaked outcomes when a society writes off
of young people over a long period of time who should have been
invested in, educationally, as God's children. The outcomes are
crime, drugs and
disorder. Many blacks been poorly educated and badly trained
for any vocation. And the final state of these youngsters is
terrible. They are people without hope for the future. And
you, Ray, unfortunately, are among the point
persons who catch the brunt of the problem because you're a cop.
You're angry about the circumstances you face every day, and for good reason. But you need to be knowledgeable about what
brought about the current situation down here, as well as in other big
cities in our country. The reasons for it
go back many decades."
"You liberals are all alike," Breaux said forcefully. "Always
looking for someone else to blame besides those who are really
responsible. Are you a minister or something?"
"Or something," Mason admitted. "I'm an Episcopal priest.
And don't think that a substantial parochial school system run here by
Episcopalians hasn't contributed to the problem, because we
have. Parents have a right to educate their children as they see
fit, or should have that right, but that freedom to choose 'something
better' by the elite
has taken the pressure off the public school system to succeed, and to be
funded to succeed.
There just aren't enough people who have, at least in the past,
insisted on a public school system which can guarantee good, equitable
education and training for all students.
"The school system isn't the only
reason you're facing the problems of violence in the African-American
community, but it's
a substantial part of it. That and the disintegration of families
in poverty. This lack of education, vocational training and poor family ties
among young people in general, not just among blacks, leads to negative
behaviors that reflect the worst human condition of all. I
mentioned it earlier: a lack of hope. People without hope,
whatever their age, can't and don't live happy, positive and
productive lives. Where there is no hope, there is no love.
And where there is no love, there is death, both physical and
spiritual. You police officers often bear the
brunt of our social failures and the moral failures by perpetrators of
violence. We all sowed neglect, and now we all reap crime and disorder.
God is not mocked."
Ray Breaux sat looking at Father Mason for a long moment as if he were speaking a foreign language.
"Well, Father," the young cop said, "I don't think you're right about any of this, necessarily, but you've
given me something to think about. Thanks for that, I guess."
"You're welcome," Jim Mason said, reaching across the table to shake
hands with the angry young cop. "I wasn't trying to put you down,
I hope you know that. Anyway, maybe we can all do something
positive today for people who need it. That's sometimes a battle in and of itself, and we need to be on the right side."
"Yes, sir," Breaux said, standing up from the table and collecting his
dishes and silverware. "Thanks for breakfast. I need to
report to my precinct now. See you in the morning, I guess."
"Good," Mason said.
He and Ian watched the young man walk away, place his dishes at a
collection point, and then leave the building with his gym bag.
Cam, Kevin, Alex and John, at the nearby table, looked at one another
smiled. The priest hadn't said anything they couldn't all agree
with. There had to be reasons for prevailing social conditions, including the negative
"You're just too tough for words," Ian kidded the priest after the
police officer left. "I'm glad I don't have to face you in court."
"Give me a break, buddy!" Mason laughed.
Ten minutes later, after Cam and Kevin had loved on Casey and turned
him over to Yolanda, all the St. Andrew's people went outside to board
their buses for another grueling
day gutting houses in the Ninth Ward.
It was hell out there weather-wise, but Cam noticed that in the trucks there were now
face masks and hard hats not only for all the workers, but also for any homeowners
who were on hand to help with the efforts to gut their houses.
* * *
After work that day, Carl and Andy had gone back to their room,
showered together, and lain down on their bed in fresh boxers for a
short nap before supper downstairs. Carl has been quieter than usual, Andy thought to himself as they lay there facing each other.
"Are you gonna tell me what's bothering you?" Andy asked.
Carl closed his eyes for a long moment before opening them and searching Andy's face. "You don't wanna know," he said.
"That's not true. I want to know everything about you."
Carl was quiet for several long minutes.
"My father beat me and raped me," Carl finally blurted out, looking
like he might lose it and begin to cry. "His trial starts on
Monday, and Ian is taking me back to San Francisco, well, actually
Monterey, on Monday morning. I'm gonna have to testify at the trial, and I'm
scared to go back."
Andy was so stunned at first he didn't know what to say. He
pulled Carl close to him and kissed him gently on the lips.
Nothing was said for several more minutes.
"Why are you scared to go back to Monterey?" Andy finally asked.
"Because I'm embarrassed to have to say in public what he did to me,
and threatened to do to Dan. Ian also thinks that dear ol' dad
hired somebody, probably Berto Hernandez's uncle, as a matter of fact, to kill me and Dan,
and even Ian, because Ian and Mary took us into their
"Where was your mother when all this happened?" Andy asked.
Lacking words at that moment, Andy put his arms around Carl and just
held him tightly as tears began running out of Carl's eyes and on to their pillow. Andy
felt so bad for him that he started weeping silently as well. He couldn't help
but contrast his own loving family with Carl's father and what his
friend had experienced at the man's hands. His own family wasn't
perfect, but it was beginning to look pretty good, all things
Andy reached over to the bedside table and grabbed some kleenex from a
box they'd put there, and wiped Carl's face and then his own.
Then he moved over to partially cover Carl's body with his own, as if to protect him, and
they fell asleep in that position until it was time for supper.
* * *
Several months previously, Father Mason had arranged
for the group to eat at one of the finest restaurants in New Orleans,
the Commander's Palace, on the first Friday night of their two weeks in town.
Getting there entailed riding on the buses
because the restaurant wasn't located in the French Quarter, but Uptown right across
the street from one of the city's venerable, above-ground graveyards. The food
at the Palace was eclectic modern Creole, if one had to classify it, and the
adults in the group were anticipating a fine meal. The
youngsters weren't so ecstatic about going, particularly when they
found out that that they had to dress up for the occasion, or they
wouldn't be admitted to the premises.
"Stand still," Cam ordered Kevin as he tied the latter's tie loosely
without first buttoning the collar of Kevin's short sleeve dress shirt. They'd have time to make
last minute adjustments after they arrived at the restaurant.
Below the waist they both wore khaki dockers and loafers.
Kevin returned the favor with his partner's tie, except at the last minute he tightened
Cam's tie to the point he started to choke the boy before quickly
"See how you are?" Cam said, loosening his tie even
further. "No good deed goes unpunished. I do you a favor,
and you you respond by trying to take me out."
"I am taking you out," Kevin said. "To a nice place.
I just want you to look nice. I don't want you to embarrass
me and Father Jim the way you do so often."
"No," Cam snorted, "I mean you tried to garrote me with my own tie, you idiot," Cam said.
"Oh," Kevin said, grinning. "That." He looked at his
partner. "I'd have given you mouth-to-mouth if you'd stopped
breathing. No problem. And even if you did die, you'd have
gone out looking good."
Cam reached around and grabbed a nice big chunk of Kevin's muscular ass, and hung on to it.
"You're all heart," he told Kevin. "And butt. But you just
"Wait for what?"
"Never mind. Whenever it happens, I want it to be a surprise."
The two of them studied their images in a big mirror mounted on the
door of their closet. They were looking very preppy in a
California sort of way.
"I guess we won't get a chance to visit Bourbon Street later tonight," Kevin said.
"Well, not the gay places, anyway," Cam agreed. "I don't wanna
meet up with Duke, at least not if Carl and Andy are with us. I'm
sure the guy has a long memory--and a long knife."
"I might sneak out after you're asleep tonight," Kevin said.
"Don't even think about it," Cam said.
"Yeah, I might want to meet up with Duke and show him a good time."
"Shit, you can't handle what you already have in bed, let alone take on
somebody new," Cam said. "You don't know how many times I can
hardly fall asleep after we have sex, wondering how it would be to make
love to somebody with some staying power."
He'd heard that line before, but Kevin still broke out in
laughter. Kissing Cam, he pulled the boy toward the bed, and they
lay down on it facing each other.
"After I'm finished with you later, you won't wanna go anywhere," Cam
softly assured his partner, looking deep into his brown eyes.
"I'm counting on it," Kevin said.
"You're so weird," Cam said.
Kevin looked at him seriously. "I know," he said, "but that's the
good stuff in a relatlionship. When I'm old, toothless and bald,
I wanna be lying in bed every night lookin' at you and sayin' weird
shit to ya."
Cam laughed and caressed his boy's face wordlessly until they finally had to roll
off the bed, put on their sport coats, and go next door to Yolanda's room to take charge
of Casey. Cam carried the child in his carrier as they
accompanied Yolanda downstairs to go to dinner. Kevin had the ever-present diaper bag.
"You boys look nice," Yolanda told them. "I dint know you owned ties," she kidded them in her Spanish accent.
"Et tu, Yolanda?" Cam quipped.
"What?" Yolanda said. "Spek English. Or Spanish," she said hopefully.
"It means, 'You, too' in Latin," Kevin translated. "That's all right, Yolanda, I don't understand half of what he says, either."
When they stepped off the elevator in the lobby, a lot of kids, as
usual, surrounded them and wanted to hold Casey and talk to him.
All of them looked good in their "going out to dinner" clothes.
After boarding the buses, they arrived at the Commander's Palace twenty
minutes later. The priest had reserved a large banquet room on
the second floor of the restaurant, looking out over a lighted
interior garden. Cam, Kevin, Andy and Carl sat together, with Casey in his
carrier in a highchair at Cam's side. Cam noticed that Carl's
cheeks were red, looking suspiciously as if he'd been crying.
Andy looked as if he might have been weeping, too, although they both
looked cheerful enough now.
"Everything all right?" Kevin asked the two boys.
Carl nodded silently, not wanting to verbalize his fears about the trip back to Monterey in public.
Everybody looked over the menu, and when it was time to order, Cam and
Kevin both ordered pheasant, with sparkling water to drink. Most of the adults
ordered wine with their meals. The huge dining room buzzed with
conversation as they waited for their soup or salad to be served.
Kevin took Casey out of his highchair, holding him in the crook of
his arm, and gave him a bottle of milk he took from the diaper
bag. After the child had consumed the bottle, Kevin burped him and put him
back in the highchair just in time for the first course to be
served. Casey fell asleep immediately. Father Jim offered
thanks for the food.
"Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for the abundant gifts you have
provided us. We bless you for the food we are about to receive,
and for the opportunity to serve some of your sons and
daughters with our work in this wounded city. Make us strong to
do your will, wielding us as your instruments in lifting up those who
are living with so much loss in their lives. Help us to offer the
gift of ourselves to others, Lord, as your son commanded us, through
the same Jesus Christ our Lord."
The large crowd sat down and began eating as the food was brought out by waiters carrying trays on their shoulders.
Cam's salad, topped with Caesar dressing and crisp croutons and feta
cheese, had little
baby shrimps in it, and Cam practically inhaled it. The pheasant,
when it came, was perfectly prepared, steaming, succulent breast meat,
accompanied by chunks of cranberry and walnuts, with broiled baby
asparagus on the side. Cam glanced around the
room, and all the meals looked good. Kids who normally didn't
ordinarily care what they put into their stomachs were eating hungrily after the
well trained wait staff had supplied them with food. Conversation
dropped off to practically nothing as the meals disappeared at a rapid
Everybody's meal was excellent, and was followed by elegant desserts
like strawberry shortcake in heavy cream, crème
brulée, and different flavors of homemade sorbet. Father
Jim settled up the bill out of the travel fund, and eventually the contingent
of very happy, sated young people and adults left the restaurant,
boarded their buses, and went back to their hotel.
Cam and Kevin went back to their room as fast as they could to change into cargo shorts and
T's. They watched TV for an hour to let
their food digest, and then Cam unfolded their collapsible baby
carriage to take Casey for a walk around the large lobby and maybe around the block, while Kevin
headed for the hotel gym to work out. He did some stretches, and then did some cardio on a
stairmaster. He was just contemplating getting into some crunches to give his
abs a workout when Carl and Andy Helder came in. They both looked good in their tank tops and gym shorts, Kevin noticed.
"Hey," Kevin said, looking up from a mat on the floor. "Don't
tell me there's somebody else who cares about his body in this group!"
"Humph," Carl said. "Some of us probably need it more than
others," he added, trying to look condescending as he contemplated
Kevin's physique. Shit, he thought to himself, Kevin just keeps looking better and better. His muscles always look great without looking as if he's muscle bound.
"Yeah, you do need it," Kevin shot back. "Hey, will you spot me when I do some bench presses?"
"You just wanna look up my shorts," Carl said.
"I don't know," Kevin huffed as he did his crunches. "You look smaller in the crotch every time I look at ya."
"Ooh, burn!" Andy observed, smiling at Carl.
Kevin grinned and said nothing, cranking out his crunches. His
six-pack looked perfect, like a washboard. When he was finished, he held
out his hand and Andy pulled him to his feet.
"Are you guys doing all right?" Kevin asked.
"Yeah. You asked us that before. Why?" Carl asked.
"Right before dinner you looked like you'd been crying."
"You're right," Carl said hesitantly and reluctantly, looking
embarrassed. "I'm just worried about going back for my dad's
"If Ian wasn't going to be with you, I'd be worried, too," Kevin
said. "He's gonna take good care of you." He paused and
glanced at Andy, then back at Carl. "Andy knows about what
happened to you?"
"Yeah," Carl said, sighing. "If I could get out of going back, I would."
"Between Ian and Captain Ridenour and--what was the name of the lady from Child Protective Services?" Kevin asked.
"Mrs. Reed," Carl said. "Lauren Reed."
"That's right," Kevin said. "With them in your corner, you're
gonna be golden. The doctors who examined you will testify, I'm
sure, and the prosecutor will have the pictures we took of you, uh,
after your dad whipped you."
"I know you're right," Carl admitted. "It's still gonna be stressful."
Kevin shut up and just gave Carl a hug. Then he went over to the
weight bench, adjusted the weights, and lay down on the bench.
Carl followed to spot him as Andy got on the stairmaster.
"No peeking," Carl told Kevin, cupping his own crotch as he stood above him.
Kevin laughed and got right into the bench presses.
* * *
Ian sat at a desk in his room, scribbling on a lined, legal size yellow
pad. His wife Mary was still in bed dozing after a session of
love-making. Ian liked to say they hadn't lost a
step over the years of their marriage when it came to having sex, but
that wasn't exactly true. The frequency of their sexual
encounters might be fewer than when they were in their twenties, but
feelings their activities evoked had only improved over the
years. They were more in love than ever. Ian was feeling
good right now.
It had been love at first sight for the two of them in college at
Stanford. As was so often true, Mary's physical beauty had
accounted for Ian's immediate attraction to her, but the tall, athletic
boy-man had been so well mannered and so persistent in wanting to be
around her, that the relationship quickly grew into exclusive
dating. Mary was a very smart girl whose grades and interests
matched Ian's own, and that was a very good reminder to Ian that taking
this girl for granted would be a huge mistake. So their mutual
attraction had grown into mutual respect and admiration. She was the love of his life.
Despite Ian's best efforts to speed things up, the two of them didn't
have sex until they were married during their senior year. They
received their pre-Cana counseling from the Roman Catholic chaplain at
Stanford, although Ian was already restive about some of the teachings
of the Roman Church even back then. After discussion, they knew
that the church's teaching on contraception wasn't something they were
going to follow in their new marriage.
After graduating, Ian was accepted into the School of Law at several
universities, but he and Mary decided they wanted to stay in San Jose
at Stanford. Mary began modeling to supplement Ian's law
scholarship, and was bringing big bucks into the family coffers from
her work while Ian racked up an enviable academic record. He had
offers to join prestigious law firms in the San Francisco area in hand
well before he completed his third and final year of law school.
He chose the firm at which he was now senior partner before leaving
school, and it had been a wise decision, indeed. The old guard at
the firm were pleased when he began to earn them more money than many
attorneys who were years his senior. He was on the fast track to
partnership, and wanting to keep him, the firm made him a partner in
his fifth year there. His meteoric rise in the firm and in his
profession had continued. He was a good litigator, and didn't
like to lose in court, so he was the "go to" guy if you wanted to win
your legal battles.
Life was not without adversity, though. Their first child had died in
childbirth. They had named the baby Ian, Jr., and the infant had been
baptized by the Catholic priest at the hospital before the infant passed away. Ian
and Mary hung in there, though, and within a year Mary had given birth
to William, followed a year later by Mark. Ian was working
long hours in his law practice, but the money was excellent, and he and Mary
were loving and patient with each other and with their offspring.
Things at home were good, and the money continued to roll in, making life very pleasant,
indeed. Mary, often joined by Ian, began to help community
agencies raise funds for work that the couple felt was worthwhile, even
as Ian began to do the legal pro bono work
that was expected of
successful attorneys. The difference between him and some of the
others in his craft was that Ian believed in doing it and enjoyed
working on behalf of those who could never have afforded his services.
Unlike many successful men, Ian was grateful for the opportunities to
achieve what he had achieved in life thus far, as was Mary. That gratitude
for the good
things in life had led to such charitable actions on their part as
taking Carl and
Dan Emrick and Berto Hernandez into the family's home and
affections. William and Mark knew exactly where their parents
were coming from in being generous to others in need, and that made
family life seamless and smooth as it could be. Ian smiled, thinking about his
two natural sons: William, bold and assertive in his approach to
life, not to mention perpetually horny, and Mark, more contemplative and laid back about things.
Even when family life was
challenging, as when Mark was wounded and their apartment burned, Ian
generosity to others continued unabated. They understood that
life demanded sacrifices be made for others. Mary is a trooper, Ian thought to himself, living like a nomad without any complaint for so long. He loved her to death.
Ian had bought round trip first class tickets for himself and Carl for the
back to San Francisco, and he intended to give Carl a good, last
briefing on the plane before testimony began in the boy's father's
trial. The prosecutor assigned to the
Walter Emrick case had called Ian's cell phone in New Orleans to say
selection was complete, that in his opinion they'd gotten a good panel,
and the trial before Judge Peter McDowell was scheduled to begin on Monday
afternoon after lunch with opening statements by the lawyers. Ian
wasn't thrilled that Judge McDowell would be hearing the case, but the
most immediate challenge, after briefing Carl about what lay ahead in
court, would be to get the boy from the San Francisco airport to
Monterey feeling strong and outraged about what
had happened to him,
and ready to do battle with his father's defense attorney when he testified.
Ian listed matters he wanted to brief Carl about: the boy's
dress and demeanor on the witness stand, how to give his own respectful
answers to questions by his father's defense attorney rather than
answers that the lawyer wanted him to give, to be open and graphic about
what his father had done to him in the assault, showing emotion about
it without losing it on the stand, and being ready to address his
sexual history to that point, if necessary, without getting into the
fact that he now believed himself to be gay, and finally, being prepared to
discuss how his father's personality and actions had changed markedly
after his wife's death to the point that he had became a violent molester.
When he had finished the list, he went over to the bed and gently
awakened Mary. She showered and dressed, and then they went
downstairs for a game of bridge with Father Jim and Catherine MacKenzie
in the lobby.
"You were counting cards," Father Mason accused Ian after he and Mary had won several games.
"Of course," Ian confessed without shame. "Just like I do in Vegas."
"I doubt that," the priest said. "The casinos don't like that, and you're still alive and kicking."
Ian laughed, and they switched partners for the remaining games.
Then Mary and Catherine began to win consistently, and Father Jim began
wondering if it were Mary who was counting cards.
* * *
On Sunday morning, the St. Andrew's parishioners once again utilized
the buses to attend Mass at St. Thomas. Father Jim celebrated the
Solemn High Mass, and the Rector, Father Matthew Rukaiser, served as
deacon and preached from the steps to the chancel. The Old
Testament lesson that day was the story of Elijah's raising from the
dead the son of his hostess, a widow, an act which affirmed her faith;
and the Gospel was Jesus' raising of a young man, "the only son of his
mother," in the city of Nain. The priest pointed out that while
all good deeds which benefit human beings are important, the ones which
often tend to make the greatest and most lasting impression are those
which greatly benefit people as individuals. In the Scripture for the day,
he said, two widows received the restoration of their children, providing two wonderful lessons about God's
immense love for all his children. The priest
likened the good deeds done for New Orleaneans by those from St. Andrew's,
San Rafael, to the good works of the prophets and of Jesus himself,
saying that in the giving, there is healing, there is life, and there is resurrection for the city.
"Let me say especially to you young people: I am very proud of
you for coming here to help us," Father Rukaiser said. "I know your parish is proud of you. I ask
you to reflect on the good deeds that you are doing for us collectively,
and doing for individuals here. And I also ask you, when you have an
opportunity, to show appreciation to those in your lives who have
supported you, guided you and inspired you to do good for others.
Every day, one day at a time, we have an opportunity to give thanks for
those who have helped make us instruments of God for the good of
others." The priest then concluded his homily, and in silence went
back to the sedalia in the sanctuary and sat down beside Father Mason.
Catherine was sitting next to Kevin, and he reached down and took her
hand and gave it a squeeze. She looked at him in surprise, and
then gave him a smile.
As the Mass proceeded, Kevin gave thanks for his and Cam's good fortune in
having Casey, alive, healthy, thriving, giving their own lives
structure in the very act of their caring for the child.
Following Mass, the St. Thomas parishioners again served a wonderful
brunch to their guests before the California crowd finally boarded their buses and
returned to their hotel. By that time of the day, you could fry
an egg on the sidewalk, and most of St. Andrew's people hit the pool
for a pleasant afternoon. The kids soon set up a net to play
water volleyball in the indoor portion of the pool while the
adults sat and watched the youngsters wear themselves out in the water.
Andy Helder, with Carl right behind him, sought out Father Mason where he sat talking in a cluster of adults at poolside.
"Father," he asked, "would it be all right if I go to the airport in
the morning with Ian and Carl to see them off? I'll come right
back, I promise."
"If it's all right with Ian, it's fine with me. Do you have cab fare to get back to the hotel?"
"Check with Ian, then, and let me know."
"I will. Thanks," Andy said.
The boys walked around to the other side of the pool where Ian was sitting with Mary and Catherine.
"Father Jim said it would be all right if I went to the airport with
you and Carl tomorrow morning, if it's OK with you," Andy said.
"You do know we're leaving for the airport at 4:30 a.m., don't you?" Ian asked him.
"All right," Ian said, looking up at the boy. "That's very nice of you, Andy. Thank you."
"Yes, sir," Andy said, exchanging a smile with Carl, and nodding over
at Father Jim and giving him the high sign. Then the two boys
went through the door to the outside pool, and dived into the water at
the same time. The cool water felt great.
They came up next to each other in the pool.
"Thanks for seeing me off, man," Carl said. "That means a lot to me."
"Me, too," Andy said. "I only wish I could go all the way back to
California with you." He looked into Carl's eyes. "I'm
gonna miss you."
The next morning, Carl and Andy were up and in their shower by 3:45, as
was Ian in his. The boys spent a long time in the shower, just holding
one another as the water pelted down on them, dreading being apart for the next
week or two. Carl had packed the night before. Andy,
dressed in Levi's and a T-shirt, watched Carl put on a suit so he and
Ian could go right from the airport in San Francisco to the courtroom
"Hmmm," Andy told Carl as the latter looked in the mirror at himself. "You clean up pretty good."
When Carl was ready, he picked up his suitcase, and the two boys went
out into the hall. Before they went downstairs to meet Ian, they
stopped at Cam's and Kevin's door, as they had been instructed, and
knocked very quietly. Cam, clad only in his boxers, opened the
door right away, and after checking out who it was, let them in. Kevin got
out of bed, showing a little wood.
Cam hugged Carl, and kissed his cheek. "You'll do great in Monterey, buddy," he said. "Don't worry about a thing."
"I hope so," Carl said.
"No worries," Kevin said, as he also enveloped the little jock, kissing his cheek. "We love ya."
Cam went to Andy then and gave him a hug, and kissed his cheek as well. "Thanks for seeing our boy off," he said.
Andy nodded, and Kevin went and embraced him, too. "We'll see
you at breakfast, all right?" he said to Andy, kissing him on the
"Yep," Andy said. "Laters."
Carl picked up his suitcase, and he and Andy left for the lobby to meet
Ian, shutting the door quietly behind them. Cam and Kevin hit the
john, and then climbed back into bed. Cam pulled Kevin closer to
his body, and ignoring their erections for the moment, they fell back
to sleep almost immediately.
Ian, Carl and Andy walked out of the hotel lobby, and were very
surprised when Carl's brother Dan got off the elevator and followed
"Dan!" Carl said.
"'Morning," Dan said. "I'm going to the airport with ya."
"Did you ask Father Jim?" Ian asked.
"Yes," Dan said. "I asked him last night."
Ian looked at the boy. "OK, then," he said. "Let's go."
The four of them climbed into a cab that
the front desk had summoned for them. Ian sat in the front
seat with the driver, and the three boys sat in back. Glancing back
at them, Ian saw that Carl and Andy were sitting close to each other, holding hands, and he smiled. There just might be another good relationship like Cam's and Kevin's in the making here, he thought to himself.
There was no traffic except for police cars and National Guard humvees on the streets at that
hour, and the cabbie left the French Quarter, crossing Canal Street
into the Warehouse District, and then on to the Ponchartrain Expressway and the I-10 toward the
airport. Riding mostly in silence, they were there in 20 minutes, checking in for the
redeye flight to San Francisco via Houston.
Ian watched Carl and Andy say good-bye, and was moved by what he
saw. The two boys held each other tight for a long time, finally
breaking to kiss each other on the cheek.
"Think about me while I'm gone," Carl whispered to Andy. "Say a prayer for me."
"I will. Kick some ass, and get back here in a hurry," Andy told
him. He pointed down at his cell phone, clipped to his
belt. "Call me."
Carl nodded, and then said good-bye to Dan, hugging him and kissing him as well.
"Thanks for seeing me off," Carl told his brother.
"Put that asshole away for along time," Dan said, referring to their father.
"Don't worry about Carl," Ian told Andy and Dan as he gave each of the boys a quick hug good-bye. "I have his back."
"OK," Andy said, trying to keep from showing any emotion. His face looked drawn and white as he fought back his tears.
Ian and Carl passed through security, joining the few other
present in having their carry-on luggage x-rayed, and ignominiously
removing their shoes for examination before being allowed to proceed to
their gate. Carl tried not to look back where Andy and Dan were
standing, but he turned around once to give the two a wave. In a few
minutes, they joined the other first
class passengers on the articulated walkway from the waiting area on to
Before sitting down, they put their laptop computers in the overhead
bin, with their suit coats neatly folded on top.
Once in the comfortable seat, Carl looked out the window briefly
before falling asleep almost immediately. He didn't even know
that the other passengers had boarded, and he slept through the
takeoff. The boy didn't want to think about what lay before him
© 2007 Don Hanratty
My thanks to Dan, Craig K and Mike G for their help with this chapter of Belovèd.