My Belovèd is mine, and I am his.
Song of Songs 2:16
Any similarity between the characters in this story and any actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
The Roman Catholic church in Seaside
was right where Carl Emrick had said it would be, a few blocks off Highway
1. The parish was in the throes of a building campaign, and Mass
was being held in what would eventually be the gymnasium of the new
school when it
was finished. A new church would be the last to be built on the site, as
was usually the case.
Cam dropped Kevin off at the front doors of the gym/church, and then
parked his precious
Camaro on the outskirts of the huge parking lot so nobody would bang it
with a car door. He made his way inside the building, found
Kevin, and slid
into a folding chair beside him. He had just finished his
personal prayers when the opening hymn started, and a middle aged
priest appeared and approached the temporary altar with a couple of
servers. The official party reverenced the altar and went to the
side. There was no pipe organ, of course, so two
women playing guitars and a man playing bass were carrying the
music. They weren't bad, but not many people in the
sizable congregation sang, including Cam and Kevin.
The musicians played and sang the Kyrie after the people
had been formally greeted by the priest and he had said the opening
acclamations and the collect for the day. Following that, everybody sat for the first
and second scriptural readings and stood for the Gospel reading.
There was no homily. The priest read a pastoral letter from the
Bishop of Monterey lauding the selection of the new Pope, condemning
the overall California lifestyle for its casual ungodliness, and
Church's teaching on abortion, divorce and homosexuality.
The words of the late John Paul II were quoted in which he called
homosexuals "intrinsically disordered."
looked at Kevin, and although they mostly tuned out what they
hearing, especially with respect to homosexuality, Cam was annoyed
enough about what was being said that he reached over
and held Kevin's hand during the part on gays. The people sitting
around them either smirked or frowned about that, depending on their
age, with the older parishioners doing most of the frowning Cam
finally turned loose of his partner's hand when they stood to
say the Nicene Creed. Both of the boys remembered Carl and Dan
aloud in their prayers during the Prayers of the People.
The rest of the Mass continued as usual, and when it was over, the
congregation streamed out of the church into the parking lot. One
kid who had been sitting near Cam and Kevin in church and had seen the hand holding smiled and gave
them a thumbs up as he walked by them. Carl's anti-gay friend Tony,
whom Cam and Kevin had met at the beach, walked up behind them as they
were exiting the church. He either hadn't seen them hold hands
during the reading of the Pastoral Letter, or he elected to say nothing
"Hey," Tony said.
"Hey," the boys said.
"You hear what Carl's dad did to him?" Tony asked.
"Yeah," Cam said.
"I've been trying to call him, but I don't get any answer at the house."
Cam debated with himself how much he should tell the kid. "He's in San Francisco," he finally said. "With friends."
"Oh." The kid paused. "How do you know where he is?"
"I just do, that's all," Cam said.
"Is Dan with him?"
Tony looked at the ground. "All right. If you talk to him, tell him I'm sorry about what happened, OK?"
"Yep," Cam said.
Tony walked off without another word as Cam headed for his car, leaving
Kevin standing near the front door to be picked up.
"Did you feel uplifted by church this morning?" Cam asked after he had
put Kevin in the car, and they were heading back toward Highway 1.
"Oh, yeah," Kevin said. "I thought it was a nice touch when you
grabbed my hand during Mass," Kevin said, grinning.
"What was it Shakespeare said?" Cam asked. "'They do not love who do not show their love.'"
"You're goin' highbrow on me," Kevin suggested with a smirk. "How do you remember that shit?"
"Sleeping with you has improved my mind."
"Yeah, well, we're lucky
Tony didn't see us holding hands in church, or he might have stoned us right then and there in
the parking lot."
"Well, there's getting stoned and there's getting stoned."
"I'm talking about the Old Testament kind of stoning," Kevin
said. "You know, the kind where projectiles bounce off that cute
little cranium of yours."
"That would be harsh," Cam said.
"Well, I like holding all your various body parts, including your hands," Cam said. "I can't help myself."
"Show some self-control, pilgrim!" Kevin suggested. "That way I
won't have to," he added as he reached over and put a hand in Cam's
crotch, gently squeezing his package with his fingers.
"Keep that up, and we're gonna have to detour into the nearest motel."
"I'd wear your ass out!" Kevin predicted.
"You made a good start on that at the cabin. But hold that thought for later tonight."
"OK," Kevin agreed, retrieving his hand. "Y'know, I miss our mommy, dude," he added.
"I miss Catherine, too, come to think about it. But we'll
see her soon. And hopefully, we'll have a new puppy to show her."
"Yeah, man." Kevin rubbed his hands together. "I'm starting to get excited about this dog thing."
"You want a boy puppy or a girl puppy?"
"I don't know," Cam said. "Let's pick one based on personality. Isn't that a revolutionary idea?"
"All your ideas are revolutionary." Kevin paused.
"Well, a lot of them are." He paused again. "Um, well, some
of them are." He stopped. "Er, a few of them are." He
paused again and looked at Cam. "Well, I remember you had one
"I remember that one," Cam said, laughing. "It was when I let you get in bed with me the first time you seduced me."
Kevin laughed. "I seduced you? You were thinking with your dick at the time, stud. Good decision, though."
"I'd be disappointed if you didn't think so."
They continued one-upping each other verbally as Cam followed the
signs off Highway 1 for the kennel, and soon they pulled up and parked
at Davidson's. There were a few cars around, so the boys were
pretty sure the place must be open. They got out of the car, and
Cam stuck with Kevin as the latter crutched his way along to a door
marked "Office," and rang the bell.
A younger version of Mary Carson came to the door, and smiling, let them in.
"'Morning, guys," she said. "What can I do for you?"
"Mrs. Carson from San Francisco recommended we stop here and look for a dog like Alice," Kevin said.
"You must be Cam and Kevin," the lady said. "I'm Karen Davidson,
Mary's sister. She told me about you. I was hoping you'd
"I'm Kevin, he's Cam," Kevin said, pointing at his partner.
"I'm glad to meet you," Karen Davidson said, shaking hands with the
boys. "You know, you guys are heroes to Mary and her family for
finding Alice. That dog's like one of the children."
"It's nice to meet you," Cam said. "We really fell for
Alice. I can understand why the family was so happy to get her
back. We want one just like her."
"You want a bitch, then?" Karen asked. "And if so, do you plan to breed her or show her?"
Cam looked at Kevin. "Well, we're just getting ready to go to
college this next year, and we're gonna be pretty busy," he said.
"So I doubt if we'll get into breeding or showing. Kev
and I kinda decided we'd be satisfied with either a male or female,
just as long as he or she has a good personality."
"I think I have just the dog for you," Karen said. "Let's go back to the kennels."
Mrs. Davidson led the way through a labyrinth of cages and runs until
she came to a cage with a border collie sleeping by her water
dish. The dog stood up as they approached, wagging her tail and
trying to stick her nose through the wire of the cage. She was a
little smaller than Alice, but with very similar markings.
"This is Sam, short for Samantha," Karen said. "She's a pure
bred, of good lineage. In fact, she's Alice's grand niece. But
she has some superficial flaws that make her inappropriate for breeding
or for showing. What a personality, though! Everybody here
just loves her." Karen reached down and opened the latch on the
cage, and Sam came bounding out, excitedly sniffing Karen and the boys
as she circled around them. But she didn't jump up on them, the
"She's not jumping on us," Kevin commented. "Has she had some training?"
"The staff and my husband, Cliff, and I have been working with her,
yes. She doesn't jump on people, and she's housebroken.
Cliff and I take her home with us pretty much every night, and she's
very smart and very docile. She's great with our kids. I
think you'd really like her."
"Uh, how much does she cost?" Cam asked. "Can we pay you with a credit card?"
"She won't cost you anything," Karen said.
"What?!" Cam said. "Of course we have to pay for her."
"It's all been taken care of, Cam," Karen said. "Mary told me you and Kevin wouldn't take any reward for finding Alice, so Sam's a gift to you both from her and Ian."
The two boys stood there looking at each other, astounded.
"I don't know what to say," Cam said.
"Say you'll take her," Karen said. "I know she'll have a good
home with you, and that's what we want for all our dogs, including the
show dogs we sell."
"Well...whaddaya say, Kev?" Cam asked.
"I say, 'Thank you,'" Kevin said to Karen. "We hope to see the
Carsons on the way home this afternoon. We'd like to
thank them personally."
Cam knelt down and Sam came to him and gave him a lick on the
nose. "Hey, babe!" he said. "You're going home with us!"
"Why don't we go to the office," Karen said. "I'll sign your copy of her
kennel club papers and give you her vet records, and she's all
yours. I'll give you a collar, a leash, and lend you a cage for
transporting her home. If you're ever down this way again, you
can drop the cage back off to us."
"Thank you so much, Mrs. Davidson," Kevin said. "We're going to treasure this dog and take good care of her."
They retraced their steps toward the office, with Sam, all excited, "dogging" their heels.
Karen signed the papers and handed them over to the boys.
"You're going into the city, you said, right?" Karen asked.
"Yes," Cam said.
"Well, why don't you walk Sam alongside our parking lot fence and let
her take care of business before you leave," Karen suggested. "Then you can put
her in her cage for the trip. If you ever have any problems with her down the
line or have any questions, just give me a call."
Cam was so happy, impulsively he gave Karen Davidson a hug. "We're really grateful to you," he said.
"Thanks, hon," Karen said. "I'm so glad to meet you both. I
meant what I said about giving us a call if you need to."
"We will," Kevin promised.
Karen put a collar on Sam and snapped the leash on to it, handing the
leash to Cam. Saying good-bye, the boys took Sam out to the
parking lot, and Cam walked the dog in the grass alongside the fence, as
Karen had suggested.
Cam pulled out his cell, and consulting the list of phone
number that Mary Carson had given him, he dialed the Carsons in San
"Hello," Mary Carson said.
"Mrs. Carson, this is Cam MacKenzie. How are you?"
"Good, Cam. Thanks for everything you and Kevin did for Carl and Dan."
"We didn't do much," Cam protested. "Mr. Carson was phenomenal, though, the way he handled things."
"He's phenomenal, all right," Mary laughed. "He makes me tell him that at least three times a day."
Cam laughed. "Mrs. Carson, do you think Kevin and I could stop at
your house on the way to San Rafael and see Carl and Dan for a
minute? We won't take long."
"Absolutely. And you can stay as long as you want. We just
kind of laze around on Sunday after church. Ian and all the boys
are in our little gym working out."
"Great! We'll have another guest with us," Cam said. "We stopped at
the kennels, and your sister gave us your gift. Alice's niece,
Samantha, to be precise."
"Oh, good! That makes me so happy! I hope you boys are."
"We're very happy and very grateful," Cam confirmed. "Thank you so much! So, can I have your address?"
Cam got a pen out the glove box of the car and wrote down the address on a piece of
paper as Mary Carson gave it to him. Then he opened the door of the new cage,
unsnapped the leash, and Sam went right in, and turning around once, lay down. Cam
shut the cage door and put Sam into the back seat of the Camaro.
Cam and Kevin got in the car, and away they went.
Soon they were back on Highway 1 and headed north.
"Cam, if you see a souvenir shop along the way that doesn't look
tacky, let's stop for a minute," Kevin said. "I wanna get something for
"She'd like that. Whaddaya have in mind?"
"Maybe a necklace or bracelet or something," Kevin said. "Something nice, but not too expensive."
"Good plan, dude. I'll go in on it with ya."
"What if I don't want you to?" Kevin asked, throwing out the bait.
"That's immaterial," Cam said, smirking, taking the bait.
"You know I'm her best son. The gift will mean more to her coming from me."
"You're the best son in what way?" Cam asked.
"I'm more obedient, more respectful, more affectionate, more helpful
around the house, more neat and clean, and less trouble," Kevin said. "I'm certainly more
attentive to the Lord, and I pray better than you do when we say grace
at meals. That's just a few things. There are more. It's no contest.
I'm her favorite."
"Even if that were all true, which it isn't, there's one thing that wipes it all out," Cam said.
"You're the biggest bullshitter, and Mommy hates bullshit. More
than anything in this world. That makes me her favorite.
Isn't that right, Sam?" Cam turned his head for a quick look at
the cage and back to the road. Hearing her name, Sam
yipped. Just once.
Cam laughed. "That was a 'yes' from Sam. She already knows
ya, Kevin. I told ya these border collies are smart."
"That was a 'no,' you dufus. You have a lot to learn about dog language."
They continued arguing about nothing until Cam spotted a nice looking
souvenir shop that included "jewelry" on its sign, and he pulled
in. The parking lot had quite a few cars in it.
They cracked the car windows for Sam, and Cam helped Kevin get
out. They went in and headed for the jewelry counter. Kevin
spotted something he liked right away: a "gold" necklace, the
strands of which linked dark green "emeralds."
"Look at that one. It'd be perfect with that lime green suit she looks so good in, doncha think?" Kevin asked.
"It's nice," Cam agreed.
A young lady behind the counter came over and asked if they needed help.
"Yes," Kevin said, pointing at the necklace. "Can we look at that one?"
"Sure," the girl said, bringing it out. Kevin picked it up, and it felt substantial in his hand.
"This is the one as far as I'm concerned," he said to Cam. "You want to look at anything else?"
"Nope. How much is it?" Cam asked the girl.
"Let me see," she said, looking at the tag. "It's $75."
"It won't turn my mother's neck green, will it?" Kevin asked the girl, smiling.
"No, this is a nice piece for the money," she said, flirting with him a little. "Your mom will like it."
"OK, we'll take it," Kevin said, removing his wallet from his pocket
and handing her a credit card. She walked off a few feet to the
cash register and started to ring it up. Cam pulled out some cash
and began to count out a few twenties for Kevin.
"Keep it," Kevin said with a crooked grin. "I'll take it out in trade."
Cam shoved his money back in his pocket, smiling bigtime.
"Deal!" he said. "I'll look forward to that."
They went back out to the car, Sam woofed at them once, and they were
off. They followed Highway 1 for awhile, and then got on I-280 to
go into the city. They were downtown in just a few minutes, and
Cam found the building the Carsons lived in without any trouble.
"Hmmm," Cam said. "I thought they lived in a house," he
said. "From the looks of the building, though, their apartment won't be
They parked on the street, again cracking the windows for Sam, and went into the lobby.
"Gentlemen," a very professional doorman, formally dressed, greeted them. "What can I do for you?"
"We're here to see Mr. and Mrs. Carson," Cam said.
"Are they expecting you?" the man asked.
"Yes, they are," Cam said.
"Dial '24' on this phone," the doorman instructed, and Cam did
so. Mrs. Carson answered, and buzzed them in after telling Cam to
hit the button for the Penthouse once they were in the elevator.
Mary and Ian Carson and Alice greeted them in front of the elevator
door after they were whisked upstairs. Ian shook hands with them,
and Mary hugged them. The boys bent down and petted Alice.
"Where did you park, and where's your dog?" Mary Carson asked.
"She's in the car, and the car's on the street."
"Well, we want to see her," Karen said. "Ian, why don't you show
the Cam where to park in the building, and then bring the dog up. I'm so glad Karen gave you Sam," she told the boys.
"Yes, ma'am," Kevin said. "We can't thank you enough. She's a great dog!"
"Karen must have liked you," Ian said. "She wouldn't give that
dog to just anyone, believe me. Come on, Cam, let's move your car
and get Alice."
Ian and Cam got back on the elevator and went downstairs while Mary
Kevin to the family room. Carl, Dan, and the two Carson boys,
William and Mark, were watching a baseball game on a giant screen
TV. The San Francisco Giants were playing the Diamondbacks.
"Kev!" Carl said, jumping out of his seat and coming over to Kevin,
smiling, high fiving him, and then drawing him into a hug.
"He's moving his car and getting our new dog," Kevin said when they
stepped back. He studied Carl's face. "How ya doin', big
"Good," Carl said, a little unconvincingly. "Kevin, this is my
brother Dan, and this is William Carson and Mark Carson," he
said. Kevin and the three boys dapped one another.
"Make yourself comfortable, Kevin," Mary Carson said, pointing to a chair. "Would you like something to drink?"
"Some water would be great, thanks," Kevin said.
"William," Mary said, "get Kevin some water. Anybody else?"
There were no other takers, and William got up and went over to a
refrigerator hidden behind a panel on the wall, and grabbed a bottle of water out
"Here ya go, man," he said, taking it over and handing it to Kevin with a smile.
"Thanks," Kevin said, and leaning his crutches against a wall, sat in the chair Mary Carson had pointed out.
* * *
Down on the street, Ian folded his tall frame into the Camaro with Cam.
"Did you restore this car?" Ian asked. "Beautiful job!"
"Thanks. Yes, I did, with another buddy. My dad found it in
an old barn at a winery, and talked the people who owned it into selling
it. It took a year of work but it was worth it. I do love this car."
"Rightly so," Ian said, directing Cam
into the condo building's garage and opening the garage door with a
clicker on his key chain. Once parked, Cam turned off the
ignition and turned to the older man.
"How're Carl and Dan doing?" he asked, looking at his host.
"Dan's OK," Ian said. "A little bewildered, I think, but
OK. Carl? Carl has some work to do, but I believe he's going
to come out of this all right. I think I have him talked into
staying in town with us, because the help he's going to need is
here. But if Dan won't stay, I'm not sure that Carl will. Put in a good word for us with Dan, will you, Cam?"
"Yes, sir, I will." They continued sitting in the car. "What's going to happen to Mr. Emrick?"
"He's probably out on bail even as we speak," Ian said. "This
case is air tight, though, as long as Carl testifies. I don't think there's any doubt but
what Walter Emrick will do some jail time. Richard Hanosh, the Assistant Attorney General, may not even agree
to plea bargain, so the guy may do some hard time. And he should!"
"Yes, sir, I agree," Cam said. "Uh, before we knew for sure that Carl's
wouldn't be swept under the rug, Kevin and I took some digital pictures
of Carl's wounds. Thanks to what you and your friends did for
him, now I guess I can erase the memory stick the pics are on."
"Yes, you can," Ian said. "That was a good precaution,
though. You think sneaky, like a lawyer," he laughed. He
turned his head and looked at the cage in the back seat. "All
right, let's take this precious cargo you have back there upstairs and
introduce her to Alice, if they haven't already met."
Ian opened his car door and got out of the front seat. Cam came
around and hoisted the cage out of the back seat and down onto the garage floor,
opening the cage door and snapping the leash on to Sam's collar.
She came out of the cage all happy, wagging her tail and smelling Cam
"Good dog," Cam told her. "Maybe I better walk her outside for a minute before we go upstairs."
"Sounds like a plan," Ian said.
They entered the elevator and went up to the lobby, and Cam and Ian
walked Sam outside in the condo yard. The dog smelled around the yard a little,
then peed, and then they went up to the penthouse.
Mary and Alice were waiting for them at the elevator. The two
dogs sniffed each other thoroughly, Alice not seeming to be upset that
Sam was there, perhaps still remembering the smell of the kennel that still
clung to the new dog. Mary sat on the floor and gave Sam some
Alice trying to horn in for her share.
"What a little sweetheart Sam is," Mary said when she stood up.
"If for any reason things don't work out for her at your house, call
me, and we'll take her. Won't we, Ian."
"Yes, dear," Ian said dutifully. "Cam, the boys are all in the
family room," he said, pointing the way, and he and Mary excused
"Thanks," Cam said.
The guys were all still watching baseball in the family room when Cam
and Samantha went in. Carl stood up and gave Cam a good hug, and introduced him to Dan, William and Mark.
Kevin was sitting in an overstuffed chair, and Cam really wanted to go
over and cram into it with him as they sometimes did to each
other at home. But instead he went over to the couch where Dan Emrick was
sitting and joined him. Sam lay down at Cam's feet.
Cam discreetly checked Dan Emrick out. The kid might not be an
athlete, just as Carl had informed them previously, but he was a
good looking boy. He was slighter of frame and a little taller
than Carl, but with the same good
complexion, and with blond hair long enough to comb. If Dan liked
girls, he was going to be a babe magnet, and probably already
The Carson boys were also good looking, tall like their
William, the older boy, was as tall as Cam, and Mark, the younger, at an or so shorter, was
as tall as Kevin. They had thin, intelligent faces,
black hair, and good physiques on them. They both worked out, and it
showed. And Cam knew firsthand from seeing him naked what a hottie Carl was.
In fact, every guy in the room was hot. And the hottest of
them all was Kevin, Cam thought to himself, looking over at his
boyfriend. He was cute and sexy as hell, sitting there in his
chair with his legs spread wide, jock style, his big, sneaker-clad feet
flat on the floor, a grin on his face as he shot the shit with his new
friends and watched the game. Cam's feelings of
love for him were palpable in his chest right then, almost overwhelming
him as he sat there wishing he could simply go over to Kevin and take
his arms and hug him tight and kiss his face. He thought
about what a wonderful
time they'd had together in bed at the cabin, and then shoved those
thoughts away before he had a physical reaction that would be obvious
The baseball game ended, with the Diamondbacks on top, and the guys were vociferous in their disgust.
"And what's the skivvy on this little one?" William asked, coming over to Cam and kneeling down to pet Sam.
"This is Alice's great niece, Samantha," Cam said.
"She looks like Alice, all right. A little smaller,
maybe. These border collies are smart. Alice is smarter
"You're funny, you dumb ass," Mark said, laughing at his older brother and giving him the finger.
"Cam, you want something to drink?" William asked.
"Yeah, thanks. Some water would be good."
William went to the hidden refrigerator again, and got a bottle of water out of it, tossing it to Cam, who deftly caught it.
"Anybody else?" William asked. There were no takers.
The guys just sat around grab-assing for awhile. Cam turned to Dan Emrick.
"So Dan, how you doin', man?" he asked.
"I'm OK, I guess."
"I know this situation is tough," Cam told him quietly as the other
boys talked. "But something had to be done about your situation
at home. I hope you're not too pissed off about it."
Dan studied him. "Carl says you and Kevin are our friends, and I know
we owe you a lot for what you did, getting Mr. Carson involved and
all. No, I'm not pissed off. But things are pretty fucked
up right now. I don't know what's going to happen to Carl and
me, so I'm kinda nervous."
Cam moved closer to him on the couch, speaking quietly. "I
that! But you're in a good place here with the Carsons, I want to
tell you. Carl did a super job protecting you from what your
dad was into at home. Now Carl is gonna need some help because of
what your dad did to him, and he can get that help here in San
Francisco. He won't stay here, though, if you won't stay,
because he wants to take care of you. I know you don't know me at
all, but I hope you'll give some thought to staying here. I
really hope you will. The Carsons want you to, and your brother
needs it. I'm not trying to guilt you into this, but I'm telling
you the truth."
Dan looked at him. "All right. I hear ya. If I need
to stay, I will. I'm not all that anxious to go back to Seaside
and all the questions and comments we'd face from our friends, to tell you the truth."
"Well, I know you probably need to talk to Carl before you make a final
decision about what you're gonna do, but I hope it's the
right one for both of you."
"Me, too, man. Thanks for talking to me about it, though. Really. Can I ask you a question?"
"Sure," Cam said.
"How did you and Kevin and Carl get to be such good friends all of a
sudden? I never even knew that you guys knew each other until
this situation came up."
"We didn't," Cam said. "Kevin and I were at the beach not far
from our dad's cabin when Carl and his girlfriend and another couple
stopped by after school was over on Friday. We just talked for awhile, and
Carl and I exchanged cell phone numbers. Then, after your dad did
what he did to Carl Friday night, Carl called me up the next day and wanted to stop by
the cabin. He came over and showed us what your dad
had done to him, and that's when I thought about calling Mr. Carson.
The rest is history."
"I was just wondering why he trusted you so much, not really knowing
you, rather than asking one of his wrestling buddies for help," Dan said.
"I can't answer that question," Cam said. "I don't know, except that he was ashamed of what had happened, and didn't
want to go to his friends in Seaside. Maybe he'll tell you if you ask
him. But I'm glad he called me, whatever the reason was."
"Me, too," Dan said, and dapped Cam.
Mary Carson walked into the family room at that point. "Kevin and
Cam, can you stay for supper before you leave for home?" she asked.
The two boys looked at each other.
"Well," Cam said, "let me call our mom, and if she says it's all right, then we'd like to. OK, Kev?"
"Yep," Kevin said, yawning and stretching his arms and legs as he sat in the chair.
Cam pulled out his cell phone and dialed home, where Catherine answered. "Hi, Mom. It's me."
"Hi, sweetheart. Where are you?"
"We're in San Francisco at Mr. and Mrs. Carson's condo."
"Carson? Who are the Carsons?"
"New friends, long story. Anyway, they've invited Kev and me to
stay for supper with them and their sons and some other new
friends. We'd like to, if it's all right with you."
"It's all right, but don't be too late," Catherine said. "You have school tomorrow."
"We won't be late. And we have a surprise for you."
"Oh, Lord. Do I want to know?"
"We have a new dog," Cam said.
"All right," Catherine said, unflappable. "Should I go buy some dog food?"
"That would be nice, but you don't have to. Kev and I can stop at the market and pick some up on the way home."
"I'll do it. Is it a puppy?"
"A little older than a puppy, but not full grown. In dog years, she's a young woman like yourself."
Catherine laughed. "You have your father's gift of gab, kid!"
"I know." Cam grinned. "The good news is that the dog's
already housebroken. Anyway, we'll see you soon. We've
missed you, Mommy. Love ya."
"Love you guys, too. Bye."
Cam snapped his phone shut and looked at Kevin.
"What did she say?" Kevin asked Cam.
"She wanted to know if I was bringing you home, or whether I left you in a ditch somewhere in the Big Sur."
"Liar. Come over here so I can slap you upside the head."
"No way! Mrs. Carson, we'd like to stay for supper," Cam said. "Thank you."
"We'll eat in about a half hour," Mary Carson said. "I hope you all like Tacos and refried beans and salad."
"Love 'em," Kevin said.
Cam and the other boys nodded in agreement.
"All right, I'll call you when we're ready," Mary said, and left the boys to their own devices.
The six boys sat around talking about their schools and sports, and Cam
and Kevin shared their plans to move to L.A. at some point after
graduation in order to attend UCLA. Carl was noticeably silent about his
own plans for UCLA, given what had just happened to his family.
He didn't know if he'd have the money for college now.
"Kevin, what happened to your arm and leg, man?" William Carson
inquired at one point. "Did you smart off to Cam, or what?"
"Smarting off to Cam is an everyday occurrence," Kevin said.
"It's required, and he's too weak to retaliate. No, I had a
little difference of opinion with some guys who were carrying baseball bats.
And it was kind of a near thing, actually. I almost didn't make it,
but I did, thanks to Cam and our mom."
"You call her 'our mom,' but you have different last names," William said. "Are you half-brothers or something?"
"My mom is Kevin's guardian," Cam said. "And believe me, the
experience has aged her twenty years," he added. "But Kev will always be my brother, there's no escape from that."
Carl, who knew exactly what Kevin and Cam were to each other, just sat there smiling, saying nothing.
"Is your dad around, Cam?" Dan Emrick asked.
"Yeah, he lives in L.A.," Cam said. "Kev and I are going to live with him our first year at UCLA."
"He wouldn't be Alex MacKenzie, the movie director, would he?" Dan, a movie buff, asked, just taking a shot in the dark.
"The one and only," Kevin said proudly.
"Holy shit!" Carl said to Cam and Kevin. "You didn't tell me that!"
Eyes got big as the boys contemplated Cam and Kevin, now celebrities by default.
Mary came in to call them for supper.
"Mom!!" Mark Carson said excitedly. "Did you know that Cam and Kevin's dad is Alex MacKenzie, the movie director?!"
"Yes, I did. How many times do I have to tell you and your brother that I know everything!"
"Yeah, right!" William said sarcastically.
"I also know that supper's ready," Mary said. "Wash up, you guys."
Cam went over to Kevin and pulled him up out of his chair, giving him
his crutches. The six boys lined up in front of the little
bathroom off the family room, going in two by two to relieve themselves if they had to, and to wash their
hands. Then they headed for the kitchen, where Yolanda Vega and
Ian and Mary were putting steaming platters of food on the table.
necessary for constructing tacos was laid out on the kitchen table so
that individual plates of food could then be taken into the dining
room. The family was eating there in order to accommodate the
larger than usual number of diners.
Before they began to pile food on to their plates, Ian said, "The Lord be with you."
"And also with you," they responded, all holding hands with one another and bowing their heads for prayer.
"Let us pray," Ian said. "Heavenly Father, we thank you for this
opportunity to gather together around our table this evening with new
friends. You have blessed us greatly in the company we have with
us this evening. We ask that your healing grace may be upon us
all as we face the challenges this life has to offer. Bind
us together in the ties of love and concern for one another that you
have bidden us to form, so that we may become a new family under your
guiding hand. We ask your special care for Cameron and Kevin in
their journey home this evening. Lord, bless this food to our use
and us to your service, making us always aware of the needs of those
around us. We ask these things through Jesus Christ our Lord."
"I wish you could pray like that," Kevin whispered to Cam, who just
shook his head as if there were no hope of that ever happening.
Mary told the boys to go ahead and serve themselves first, and she
Yolanda and Ian stood by watching as the boys went through the serving
dishes like locusts on a grain field as they fixed their plates.
Then the boys adjourned to the dining room. The kids were talking
a mile a minute in about
three different conversations. Cam fixed two plates, one for
himself and one for Kevin. Mrs. Vega followed the kids into the
dining room to pour water, milk, tea and soft drinks for them,
depending on what they wanted. By
the time Ian and Mary followed the boys in, William's and Carl's plates
were empty, and they were
already on their feet to go back to the kitchen for seconds. Cam
wasn't far behind with his and Kevin's empty dishes.
After they had all eaten their fill, there wasn't a morsel of food to
be found on the serving dishes in the kitchen. The two Carson
boys scraped their plates clean in the sink and put them into the
dishwasher to help out Yolanda, and the other guys followed their
example. Then William and Mark gave the boys a tour of the condo,
with Alice and Sam following at their heels.
The place was huge, with six bedrooms, not counting Mrs. Vega's little
apartment, and beautifully furnished. Cam and Kevin were
impressed with the gym, which was fully equipped and put the little gym
Kevin had in the corner of his bedroom to shame.
"I've been trying to get Cam into some serious lifting, but he does
just enough to keep me off his back," Kevin said. "He's such a
Cam looked thoughtful as he scoped out the weight lifting equipment.
"Y'know, guys," he said, "ya gotta be careful with this lifting. It's kind of a double edged sword."
"Whaddaya mean?" Mark Carson asked.
"Well, maybe you guys didn't read about it. This kid in, uh, I
think it was Atlanta, was kind of a fanatic about lifting. Like
Kevin, only more so. Anyway, he went from being buff, like he
wanted, to being an addict about lifting, and got to be muscle
bound. He couldn't stop himself, though, he just kept lifting and
lifting and lifting until he was so muscle bound that when he needed to
take a leak, he couldn't get his dick out of his pants. He had to
have somebody fish it out for him. It was OK if his girlfriend
was around, y'know, but when she wasn't, he had to ask a family member
to do it. As you might suspect, that wasn't popular with
them. And of course, when nobody was around, he just had to wet himself.
"So," Cam concluded, "I just want you guys to be a little restrained about how much time you spend in the gym. Like I am."
The guys burst into laughter, including Kevin, getting red in the face
they laughed so hard.
"You got game, MacKenzie," William Carson said, still laughing. "I like that."
Then Kevin, undeterred by Cam's story,
started talking with William and Mark and Carl about how much weight they were
pressing and what their regimen was. In a little while they all
moved on to check out another area of the condo.
When the tour was over, Cam glanced at his watch. 7:15. He
looked at Kevin, and tapped his watch. "We gotta boogie, dude,"
he told him.
"I know. Does this mean our mini-vacation is nearly over?"
"'Fraid so," Cam said. "But listen, guys, let's not lose
touch," he told the boys. "Why don't you all plan to come up to God's country in San
Rafael and stay with us some weekend before school's out? It's Marin. We'll do something liberal."
"Sounds like a winner to me," William said, chuckling and looking at his brother and
the Emricks, who all nodded. "How about two weeks?" William asked.
"Cool" Cam said. "I'll check with Mom, and call you. But
that should be fine. Maybe Kev will be walking without crutches
The guys all murmured approval, and dapped Kevin.
Ian and Mary Carson came out to the hallway with all the boys to say good-bye to Cam and
Kevin at the elevator. The two boys thanked Ian and Mary Carson several times
for their hospitality, and for Sam, and hugged them.
"You did a good thing for Carl and Dan," Ian said into Cam's ear as he
was holding him. "Thank you. It'll come back to you
ten-fold, you know."
"I can't believe you're thanking me," Cam said. "You did all the work."
Ian shook his head 'no,' and once good-byes were said to everyone, Cam and Kevin
and Sam got on the elevator with Carl, who wanted to see them off at
the car. They stopped off on the first floor on the way down to walk the dog on the lawn for a minute, and then proceeded to the garage.
They walked together to where the Camaro was parked.
"Carl, Kev and I saw your wrestling buddy Tony at church in Seaside
this morning," Cam said. "He wanted me to tell you that he's
sorry about what happened to you."
"Thanks," Carl said. "Maybe I'll call him." He
paused. "I saw you having a little conversation with Dan
upstairs," he said to Cam.
"Yeah, I just tried to point out some of the advantages you two guys
have if you stay in San Francisco, like Mr. Carson wants. Dan
promised he'd think about it, and I think he will."
"Well, thanks," Carl said. "Thanks to both of you. I don't
know what would have happened to me and Dan if it hadn't been for
you. I..." He stopped talking and suddenly there were tears
in his eyes, and he put his head down.
Kevin crutched up to him and gave him a long hug, and when he stepped
back, he touched Carl's face and wiped away the boy's tears, saying
nothing. For a rough and tough high school jock, Kevin was full of
surprises, full of compassion when it was needed.
"You two are lucky to have each other," Carl told them. "Really lucky."
"I know it," Cam said, taking Kevin's place and pulling Carl into a
hug. "Don't take this wrong..." he added, kissing Carl's
"You're our brother now," Cam continued, "and we're gonna be tight from
now on. You just heal up and get your ass up to our house in a couple of
weeks with Dan and the Carson boys so we can see how you're doing, OK?"
"Yep," Carl said, looking a little brighter. "We'll get there one way or another."
"Cool, then," Kevin said.
Cam brought the dog cage out of the Camaro and put Sam
into it, then stowed her in the back seat. He helped Kevin
into the front seat, and put his crutches on the floor in back, closing
Cam got in the car and started it up as Carl walked toward the
elevator, looking back at the Camaro as it pulled away. When the car neared the garage door, it crossed a laser beam, and
the door opened. And then they were gone, leaving Carl feeling lonely in
the pit of his stomach.
But he was beginning to understand now that there was a family who
cared about him and his brother waiting for him upstairs.
* * *
Cam and Kevin's trip home was quick. They
were on the Golden Gate Bridge in fifteen minutes, and from there it
was clear sailing. They were pulling into their driveway in
another hour, both of them looking forward to seeing Catherine and
introducing her to Sam. The porch light was on.
Cam clicked his opener for the gate, and then pulled his car into the
garage. Going around to the passenger door, he helped Kevin out
of the his seat and gave him his crutches. Sam was next.
Cam pulled the cage out of the back seat and set it on the floor,
opening the little door. The dog emerged and circled them
happily, sniffing their shoes and pants cuffs. Cam walked her
into the back yard, and let her do her thing as she did a quick
exploration. Kevin was making his way toward the back door as Cam
pulled their luggage out of the trunk of the Camaro, and trailed by
Sam, went inside.
Catherine was sitting in her bathrobe in the kitchen sipping a cup
tea when Sam and the boys came in. Sam immediately went over to
Catherine and greeted her, ready to be friends. She petted the
dog's head and stood up, greeting her sons with a smile. She'd
"Mom!" Kevin said, and went over and kissed her and got a hug despite his crutches.
"Mommy!" Cam said, mimicking Kevin's tone of voice perfectly as he hugged her and kissed her.
"How was the Big Sur?" Catherine asked.
"A little cold and wet, but we had a good time," Kevin said, obviously
not giving her the details about just how good a time it had been
in bed for the two of them.
"Some things happened that we didn't expect," Cam added.
Cam proceeded to tell her the story about finding Alice and meeting
Mary Carson, and then about Carl Emrick and what had befallen
Carl at the hands of his father, and then how he had called Ian Carson
and gotten him involved, and the professional team Carson had brought with him to
the Sur from San Francisco and what they'd accomplished.
"Is this the Carson who's a defense lawyer in the city?" Catherine asked. "He's frequently mentioned in the newspaper."
"The very same," Kevin said. "A very persuasive man! If you were four feet tall and this
guy told you that you were seven feet tall, you'd believe him!
You'll know what I mean when you meet him."
"Why would I be meeting him?" Catherine asked.
"Well, the Carsons are the foster family for Carl Emrick and his younger brother Dan, and the
Carsons have two sons themselves, and we were going to ask you if Carl and Dan and
the two Carson boys could come up here for the weekend in a couple
weeks," Cam said. "Maybe Ian and Mary will drive them up, who
Catherine laughed and shook her head. "Six of you boys in one house? Have mercy!"
"It would test your skills as a mother," Kevin said.
"As if you two haven't!" Catherine said. "Let's talk about it tomorrow night at supper."
"OK," Cam said. "Now, we brought something for you from the Big Sur."
"If you tell me the dog is a present for me, I respectfully decline," Catherine said. "What's the dog's name, by the way?"
"Sam, short for Samantha," Kevin said. "No, the dog is ours, and
we're not trying to foist her off on you so you'll take care of
her. We got you something else." He reached down into the
outer pocket of his bag, and brought out a little sack with the
necklace in it. "Here it is."
"What's the occasion?" Catherine asked.
"Just 'cause we were thinking about you," Kevin said.
Catherine took the sack and opened it, pulling out the jewelry case and
opening it. There was the necklace, sparkling as if it had cost a
"Oh, how beautiful!" Catherine said, taking it out of the case and
holding it in her hand. "I love it! Thank you so much,
boys. That was so thoughtful of you. I'll wear it to St.
"I cannot tell a lie, it was Kevin's idea," Cam said, enjoying his mother's pleasure.
Catherine hugged Kevin again and kissed him, and then Cam.
"You're both sweethearts."
"Yeah, I know," Cam said with a grin.
"By the way, Cam, Teri called while you were gone and wants you to call her about the prom."
"OK, I will."
"Now," Catherine said, "I have an early day tomorrow, so I need
to get to bed. I'll see you in the morning. Do you want me
to fix your breakfast?"
"No, Mom, I'll do it," Cam said. "I have to take care of our
little Kevin, and he gets surly if what's prepared for him doesn't suit
him. I don't want to subject you to that. I'm used to
dealing with his little tantrums when he doesn't get what he wants."
Kevin slapped his partner on the back of the head.
"Don't lie to Mom," Kevin said.
Ignoring the two miscreants, Catherine pointed at the kitchen
counter. "There's dog food in there, and a plastic dish and a
bowl to feed her and give her water. I bought a bed for her,
too, and put it in your room."
"Thanks so much, Mom," Kevin said. "We appreciate it."
Catherine bid them goodnight, and went upstairs, leaving the two boys staring at each other.
"Did she really mean to say she put the dog bed in our room?" Cam whispered. "Oh, shit, she can't know, can she?"
"I'm not sure," Kevin said quietly, feeling queasy. "She's
totally a smart woman, though," he said. "Maybe she's figured it
"Oh, fuck!" Cam said, continuing to look at Kevin.
"I bet we will."
© 2005 Don Hanratty
Sincere thanks to ChicagoEric and to Dan for proofing and editing this chapter.
I screwed up my email address last time at the end of Chapter 8, and
want to apologize to any readers who tried to contact me and had their
emails returned. The correct address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.