This story is fiction. The city of Clifton, and the University of Clifton, exist only in my imagination. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. These stories have as their main character a sexually active gay college student. If this is offensive to you, or if it is illegal in your area, or if you are under age, please leave now.
This story involves a search for personal acceptance, worth, and meaning. There is a religious element in these stories. If you don't like that, maybe now is a good time to leave.
My stories develop slowly. If you're in a hurry, this is probably not for you.
Thanks to Colin for editing.
Constructive criticism is welcome on my e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bryce, Chapter 28 - Homecoming
After the excitement of the fraternity meeting on October 13, things quietened down considerably. Classes took place as usual. In his favorite class, Stuart England, Dr. Dickinson was now lecturing on the career of a former member of the CABAL after that group of advisors to King Charles II had been broken up by the Test Act. This was Anthony Ashley Cooper, who was created Earl of Shaftsbury by King Charles in 1672. However, by the following year he was in opposition, as the CABAL ministry collapsed, and Shaftsbury supported the passage of the Test Act, which specifically required all office holders to renounce belief in the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. From this point on, Shaftsbury was a leader of the opposition to the King, based in good part on his complete antipathy to Catholicism, which he identified with absolute monarchy. It was during these years that the opposition to the royal government came to be called the Whigs, while the supporters of the King were called Tories, the beginning of political parties in Great Britain. In addition, Shaftsbury was a supporter of colonial expansion, being one of the Lords Proprietor of Carolina. At this point, Dr. Dickinson called on Kathy Hunter. She arose, announced to the class that she was "a native of Charleston, formerly Charles Town, South Carolina, which was named for King Charles II. Shaftsbury is memorialized there as well in the Ashley and Cooper rivers, for, as you all recall, Shaftsbury was named Anthony Ashley Cooper. Charleston is where the Ashley and the Cooper come together to form the Atlantic Ocean," she announced. On that note, the class came to an end.
Immediately after that class, Bryce joined some others to work on the fraternity homecoming float. A committee of the brothers had already developed the basic concept, and an alumnus, or 'old boy' of the fraternity, who owned a local business, made space available where the float could be constructed in secret. Just why it had to be secret was not clear, except it had always been that way, and there was a rumor that other fraternities would steal the idea if it were done out in the open. Besides, it might rain between now and homecoming, which was scheduled for Saturday, October 24. The theme this year was "Great Movies," and the committee had chosen to decorate the float with a Gone with the Wind motif. When he was told this, Damon declared that he absolutely was NOT going to be a slave, but there were to be some Federal troops involved, so he could fit in that way. In any case, Damon's Math class did not get out until 4:00, so Bryce would go ahead on his own and put in a couple of hours before returning in time to grab a bite and get to his Milton study group.
The Milton group that Wednesday was spent mostly in going over the midterm exam, and also discussing the various term paper topics the members of the group had selected. Generally speaking, the members of the study group had done pretty well on the exam, so they decided it was definitely worth the time and effort. Although two students in the class had not submitted rough drafts, everyone in the study group had. Mike had everyone there give a brief synopsis of his or her topic, then asked everyone else to contribute anything they came across in their own research to the person doing the topic. That way, if someone happened on a significant point, it could reach the person doing that topic before the paper was handed in, avoiding someone utterly missing a major aspect of his or her topic.
In the Milton class on Thursday morning, Dr. Drake returned the draft term papers, which gave the students something more to talk about and work on. Later that afternoon Bryce and Damon attended the faculty concert featuring the professor who was the leading instructor in horn, Dr. Maurice Brahmstedt. Among several offerings, they performed Mozart's Second Horn Concerto, to the delight of Bryce, for whom this had long been a favorite. Also on the program was the second movement of Bach's Second Brandenburg Concerto. As this was a teaching venue for music majors, Dr. Brahmstedt introduced each piece with a commentary. For the Brandenburg, he noted that from the time Felix Mendelssohn rediscovered Bach's Brandenburg Concerti until the mid twentieth century, the trumpet part was played on clarinets, as no one seemed able to reach the high notes required by the score. It was Adolf Scherbaum (1909-2000) who rediscovered how to perform the parts for the baroque trumpet as they were written, playing the part an octave higher than most previous performers thought possible. This required acquiring a new and difficult technique, but he played it over four hundred times all over the world, and recorded it fifteen times, destroying the myth that the Second Brandenburg was unplayable as written. Bryce found this fascinating, and determined to obtain a recording of Scherbaum playing the Second Brandenburg Concerto.
Damon knew nothing about Mozart's Horn Concerti or Bach's Second Brandenburg Concerto, but he was interested in the trumpet. He loved listening to jazz, which often featured that instrument, so he found the information interesting as well. Caroline, who sat with the guys for this concert, was enthralled, being highly excited by the technical aspects of the presentation. When she heard of Damon's interest in jazz, she mentioned Wynton Marsalis, and the two found they had something in common after all. The concert was something all three appreciated, each for his or her own reasons.
Bryce barely had time to grab a quick burger from the food court in the basement of the University Center before running off to his history study group. It was nearly two weeks before the second examination in History 355, but the study group was concerned. The group met on Thursday evenings, which seemed like a good time back at the beginning of the semester, but Dr. Dickinson scheduled his exams for Wednesdays, which no one seems to have noticed when the group was being organized. Consequently, a topic of discussion this evening was the possibility of another special session immediately prior to the exam. Bryce was again given responsibility for this. Taking this responsibility seriously, Bryce went to see Dr. Dickinson after his French class the following morning, rather than waiting until the History class that afternoon. With the assistance of the Professor, the European Seminar Room was again reserved, but this time on a Monday, to be sure Jack Datillo could attend. This was not the coming Monday, but rather the Monday immediately after Homecoming, and immediately before the exam. He was able to inform all the members of the group about the arrangements that afternoon at class.
This class covered the last years of the reign of King Charles II, starting with Shaftsbury's attempts to exclude the King's brother from succeeding to the throne because of his Catholicism, joined to the so-called Popish Plot of Titus Oates between 1678 and 1681. As a result of the popular hysteria stirred up by Oates, over the next few years hundreds of English Catholics were accused of attempting to assassinate the King, and fifteen prominent Catholics were executed, the last of whom was the Archbishop of Dublin. Oates eventually went too far, even accusing the King's wife, Catherine of Braganza, of being in the plot. Charles questioned him, and showed him to be a liar. Eventually, he was found guilty of perjury, but those fifteen men were still dead. Shaftsbury took advantage of the situation to continue his efforts to exclude James, Duke of York, from the succession, and did get a second Test Act passed excluding Catholics from both houses of Parliament. When the tide turned, Oates ended up in prison, and Shaftsbury fled into exile, to die in Holland. Charles II died on 6 February 1685 (Old Style - Protestant England did not adopt the Gregorian, or New Style, calendar of 1582 until 1752 because it was promulgated by Pope Gregory XIII) after being received into the Catholic Church by the Benedictine monk, John Huddleston. James, Duke of York, became King James II of England and VII of Scotland.
Following this class, Bryce put in a few more hours working on the fraternity homecoming float, but he quit in plenty of time to clean up. It had finally been decided that he would take Curtis and Maddy to dinner on this Friday. With the normal rotation established at the beginning of the semester, this should have been a party night at SAT, but, because of the censure of the fraternity for their unauthorized party the previous weekend, there would be none. Hence, not only Bryce, but Curtis as well, was free for some private socializing. Once again, Bryce made reservations at La Rincon Latina for three. Once again he requested Miguel's table. As they were seated by Isobel Sandoval, Mike appeared. "Buenos tardes señorita y señores. My name is Miguel, and I will be your waiter this evening." With an evil grin, Mike added, "No party for SAT this evening, huh?"
"If you want a tip, you'd better behave yourself," Bryce threatened.
"Ooh Touchy Actually, I think tormenting you might be worth losing any tip you might leave," Mike goaded him. He left menus and departed.
"You and Mike seem to get along pretty well," Maddy commented.
"Yeah. We hit it off the very first day of the Milton class, and it turned out that we attend the same church. But I don't think he's ever forgiven me for choosing Sigma Alpha Tau over his fraternity. He was my fall back, in case I didn't get invited to pledge SAT," Bryce explained.
"You guys are not going to talk all evening about that fraternity, are you?" Maddy demanded.
"No, but I do want to ask one question," Bryce insisted. "What's the latest on Mack and Bick?"
"Well, you know we voted both of them out of the fraternity on Tuesday. That means Mack had to move out of the house. He's out now, as of yesterday afternoon. Of course, Bick moved out early in the semester, after that incident with Damon. I hear they're sharing a place over on Greene Street," Curtis informed Bryce.
After that, the conversation wandered over many topics, as their meal progressed, punctuated by comments from Mike. As they approached the dessert, Maddy mentioned her interest in the excellent music program on campus. Bryce responded with his experiences with Caroline, including the faculty concert on the previous afternoon. Then, Maddy told Bryce that the School of Music put on a musical each fall and an opera each spring, and they were really high quality performances. Bryce wondered why Caroline had not mentioned that, but concluded she was saving it for a surprise. She did tend to announce performances only a few days prior to their happening. Maddy told Bryce that she and Curtis would be attending the performance of the fall musical, which this term was 1776, which was supposed to have an historical theme.
"I should hope so, with a title like that," Bryce declared.
"Yeah. American Independence, and all that," Curtis commented, showing he had not forgotten all his history. "In fact, I seem to have read that it's about adopting the Declaration of Independence."
"That doesn't sound like a subject for a musical," Bryce said. "Are there any popular tunes from this one?"
"Not that I know of," Curtis replied. "We'll just have to go see it and find out."
It was decided that Bryce would consult with Damon, and perhaps attend on the same day as Curtis and Maddy. There would be performances on the last two weekends before final exams, Friday and Saturday evening, and Sunday matinee, December 4-6 and 11-13. Curtis warned Bryce and Maddy, though, not to count on Friday, December 11, for the musical. That was the date of the SAT end-of-semester party. By that time, unless he really screwed up, Bryce would no longer be a pledge, but a brother, and would be able to enjoy the party.
"And," Curtis assured them, "this party has been cleared by the Pan-Hellenic Council. We always have it on the Friday after the last classes. SAT has had that date reserved for centuries ... well, for decades anyway."
Mike appeared at that time with the bill, which he handed to Bryce. He could not resist mentioning, "You guys could always come to the parties at my place. We're not under any kind of ban."
"You just lost your tip, Miguel," Bryce announced, but, of course, he did not mean it. He was just getting back at Mike for rubbing it in, but in fact left him a generous tip.
The days which followed seemed something of a blur. Every moment when he was not in class, or some other organized activity, Bryce was working on the SAT homecoming float. The brothers decided that Curtis would impersonate Rhett Butler, and Maddy would be Scarlet O'Hara, riding on the float, which was made up to represent Tara. But there would be lines of soldiers walking on either side of the float, Union troops on one side, Confederate on the other. Bryce and Damon found themselves on opposing sides, as Bryce was handed a grey uniform, Damon a blue one.
"That's all right," Damon declared. "We can make up after the war."
"I love making up with you," Bryce responded.
Only two real breaks occurred in this intense schedule, the first of which came on Monday, when Bryce returned for his next session with Father Miller. It was, as he had said, at the same time and place as the previous one. Consequently, after his history class, he made his way to the Newman Center, where he was met by the priest. Once they settled in, Bryce handed Father Miller his copy of the book which he had been loaned two weeks previously, The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology, by Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler of Creighton University. He informed the priest that his own copy had arrived from Amazon, and that he had read some parts of it whenever he had a spare moment, but spare moments were rare these days. They agreed to discuss the book at a later time.
"Have you any other questions about what we discussed last week, before we get into something new?" Father Miller asked.
"Well, there is one thing. It might be just a matter of semantics, but I was wondering about that hymn, both English and Latin, that you mentioned at the end of our session. How does charity fit into what you were talking about, exactly? I mean, I understand that, in some sense, we're supposed to love everyone, and to help out those less fortunate than ourselves. In fact, Damon and I do help out at the soup kitchen run by the St. Vincent de Paul Society. But somehow I don't see that as being on the same level as the love of God, or the love I have for Damon, but the hymn almost seems to make them equal," Bryce stated.
"I think we need to get back to the sources for this," his spiritual advisor stated. "It's unfortunate that we have sort of cheapened the word 'charity' to make it almost equivalent to almsgiving. But that isn't the original meaning, although it encompasses that meaning. If we look at the Greek used in 1John 4:8, the words we translate as "God is love" are: Theos agape estin. In the Latin Vulgate, St. Jerome translates this as Deus caritas est. It is from this Latin word 'caritas' that we get 'charity' in English. So, the original meaning of 'charity' is what we sometimes keep in the Greek, agape. Both agape and caritas can be translated into English as 'love,' but it is a special kind of love. The Anglican apologist C. S. Lewis wrote a book called The Four Loves, where he discusses agape, eros, friendship, and affection as four types of love. Perhaps you'd like to read it," Father Miller said. Then, seeing a look of panic on Bryce's face, he smiled and added, "sometime after homecoming."
Bryce breathed a sigh of relief. "So, how does this fit in with the pairing of charity and love in the hymn?"
"The Greek agape and the Latin caritas both carry with it the idea of an altruistic, disinterested love. This is loving with no expectation of any return. It is loving for the sake of the beloved, simply because the beloved is lovable. There is nothing self-serving about this kind of love. It is intellectual and also emotional, but not sexual. It is the kind of love God has for all of us, the kind of love you say you and your mother share. Ideally, it is the kind of love each of us should have for all humanity. This is the love Jesus speaks about when he tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is the word St. Paul uses in that beautiful passage in his first letter to the Corinthians which begins, 'If I should speak with the tongue of men and of angels, but do not have charity, I have become as a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.' But there is also eros in Greek, or amor in Latin. Remember, the hymn begins, Ubi caritas et amor. We got a number of English words from these roots, such as 'erotic' and 'amorous.' This is physical love, sexual love, the love of one spouse for another. Not exclusively sexual, but certainly including that kind of love. It is, I think, significant that in several biblical passages God speaks of his love for humanity using this term. His love for us is intense, passionate."
"So the hymn, which is based on St. John, says that wherever there is this kind of love, God is there?" Bryce asked, with a note of incredulity in his voice.
"Yes. If all were as it should be, every time lovers have sex, God would be there with them," the priest insisted. "And this," he added with a smile, "is what I want to talk about today. Sex."
"Oh" Bryce exclaimed, turning red.
Father Miller laughed. "I don't intend to ask about the specifics of your sexual practices, Bryce. But I think it's an important consideration if we are eventually to get to the issue which you raised last week, namely, how does your sexuality fit with Catholicism."
"Yeah, okay, I guess I see that. You just took me by surprise, there," Bryce conceded.
"Why did God create sex?" Father Miller asked.
"Uh, well, to tell the truth, I never really thought about God creating sex," Bryce admitted.
"Why not? God created everything, didn't he? He must have had some purpose in mind when he devised this particular aspect of the human person. So, why is there sex?"
"Well, if we want to include biology, and the evolution of the species, then I guess I'd have to say the purpose of sex is procreation," Bryce hesitantly put forward, not sure he liked this line of reasoning.
"Yes, that's true from the perspective of biology - from the perspective of the physical aspect of the human person. But is that all we are?"
"Um, last week we mentioned the idea that we are made in the image and likeness of God, and that was not a physical image," Bryce suggested.
"Yes. I would like to pursue that line of thought a bit. We use the term 'soul' to refer to that aspect of the human which is the image of God. That gets confusing at times. Like the word 'charity,' it can have more than one meaning. Aristotle, for example, uses the word 'soul,' or the Greek equivalent, to mean the principle of life, and the organizing principle for each specific kind of life. So he speaks of the souls of plants and animals. But that is not quite how we use the word in Christian theology. For us, 'soul' refers, as you indicated, to this idea found in the creation story in Genesis that humans are made in the image and likeness of God. It is the part of us which makes us a distinct species, and within the human species, distinct persons. It includes the Aristotelian meaning, but with a difference."
Bryce remembered Nan saying his soul was "ratty and tattered." He smiled at the memory, which caused Father Miller to cock his eyebrow in question. In response, Bryce explained, "When my sister Nan was here, she said my soul was ratty and tattered, but she also said what you did, it is the thing which makes me who I am."
"Why ratty and tattered?"
"Because I was telling her about the struggles I was going through to come to grips with my sexuality, with who I really am, and, I guess, also because I was doubting the love of my family when I eventually come out to them," Bryce admitted.
"I see. I think we should put aside your individual struggles for another time. But Nan is on the same track as I am when she speaks of your soul making you who you are. Now, unlike the physical part of you, the body, the soul is not material. There is no place on an anatomical chart for the soul. There will never be a soul transplant, like a heart transplant. So, where does the soul come from?"
"Um, well, I kind of thought it was passed on from the parents, you know, like the body."
"But how can something immaterial be passed on by a physical act? The parents provide the material part of our existence, of course. The genetic contributions of each parent combine to form a new human entity, a person with a distinct DNA from the moment of conception. This is the scientific basis of the Church's stand on abortions. But the spiritual soul cannot be passed on by a physical process."
"What then? I seem to recall from religion classes somewhere along the line that God is responsible for each soul. Is that what you mean?"
"Yes," Father Miller asserted. "That is exactly what I mean. It is our teaching that each human soul is individually created by God, and infused into the physical substance provided by the parents to form a new human being. A new human life begins, distinct from any other. There is no one else, now or at any other time, who is exactly the same as you. This is what gives humans that free will we spoke of last week, and that capacity to love, and the capacity to reason abstractly. This is what makes humans distinct in kind, not merely in degree, from the beasts. This is what we mean by human dignity. So, back to my question: why did God create sex in humans?"
Bryce felt himself thinking, almost as a tactile experience. This was challenging his mind in ways he was not accustomed to. Finally, he gave a tentative start to an answer. "If we are made up of body and soul, of the material and the spiritual, then on the material side, I guess, sex has the same function as in other animals, that is, procreation. But, if we have a distinct spiritual or immaterial side as well, I guess it can have a different function there."
"Good. Go on."
"You said our capacity to love was a function of the soul. I know from personal experience that the kind of love you called eros or amor, is intimately connected to sex. I express my love for Damon with sex. Not all the time, and not exclusively, but there is definitely a connection between my love for him and the sex we share."
"Bryce, you have just made a distinction which eluded many great minds for centuries," Father Miller congratulated him. "You may recall from the Salzman and Lawler book that they think a big part of the problem the Church hierarchy has with homosexuality, and with sexuality in general, is that theologians adopted from ancient Greek philosophy some ideas about humans, including human biology, which we no longer accept as accurate. If we insist that the human soul is distinct from the purely animal principle of life in beasts, then it makes sense to follow through with the possibility that human sexuality might also be distinct from that of the beasts. We can build on that next time."
"Yes," the priest said with a smile, "I'm afraid we have exhausted another hour, and I have another student scheduled to see me. Will you come back next Monday at the same time?"
"You bet. I can see where we're getting closer to what I really need to know. Besides, I work out most mornings to keep my body in good shape. I need a mental workout as well, and this seems to do it for me. I'll be here," Bryce promised.
As he and Damon lay together that evening, after more time spent on the SAT float, and after a sexual bout which had increased meaning for Bryce, he tried to share some of what he had spoken about that afternoon with the priest. Damon listened. He approved of what he heard. But he did not see why Bryce had to jump through all these hoops to arrive at the conclusion that sex was a good thing, and part of their love. Not sharing Bryce's intense commitment to the Church, he did not understand the psychological necessity Bryce felt of finding a way to reconcile his sexuality and love for Damon with his religion.
The other break in the intense preparations for homecoming came in Dr. Dickinson's class on Wednesday. Bryce's paper for that class was on King James II and Anthony Farmer at Oxford. Bryce proposed to utilize the incident of Anthony Farmer to illustrate his contention that King James II did not actually have a consistent religious policy, but rather took each incident as it came up as an opportunity to enhance his royal prerogative. Anthony Farmer was a student at Cambridge, but led such an irregular life that he never obtained a degree, and was "sent down" as they called it, or expelled. Upon the accession of James II in 1685, Farmer professed himself a Catholic, and assisted in putting down Monmouth's rebellion that year. He became the favorite of several influential Catholic advisors around James, particularly the Jesuit Edward Petre. When the leadership of Magdalen College, Oxford, fell vacant in 1687, they convinced the King to nominate Farmer for the position. James chose to interpret this as a test of his royal prerogative, and refused to back down, even when some of his moderate Catholic advisors agreed with the negative assessment of Farmer's character presented by the dons at Magdalen. In the end, the controversy alienated many from the King, and gained him nothing. Farmer was a drunk and a womanizer, whose religious opinions changed with whomever was in a position to further his own advancement. James was clearly more interested in defending the royal prerogative than in advancing the Catholic cause. Bryce was able to exhibit his command of his topic before the entire class.
There was no more drama for the rest of the week, but merely hard work. Work in class, but also work on the homecoming float, and on preparations for the homecoming reception. 'Old boys,' or alumni of the fraternity, would be coming back for homecoming, and the current brothers wanted to impress upon them that they were worthy successors to a proud tradition. Everything was done to make this as perfect a day as possible. At the business meeting on Tuesday, the brothers voted to postpone their scheduled trash pickup, which would normally fall on homecoming, to the following week. Everyone had to be in top shape for the great day.
Saturday, October 24, dawned as a crisp, but not cold, fall day, with leaves turning many colors, but a bright sun attempting to put everyone in a good mood. Quite early, the brothers and pledges began getting ready. The float was moved out of the warehouse where it had been created, pulled by a convertible in which Tom Blankenship, the fraternity president, and the fraternity homecoming queen candidate would ride. On the float itself, Curtis and Mandy, with a supporting cast, would also ride. The remaining brothers and the pledges would walk along in their respective blue and grey uniforms. Tension built. There were last minute dashes to restroom facilities. Some guys pulled on their uniform jackets only as the float began to move into place in the parade. Then, they were off. The car and float slowly moved down the street, with crowds of people - townspeople and visitors here for the event; students, faculty, and staff - lining the streets. Bryce was so taken up in the event that he paid little attention to anything else. He waved to the crowds, especially to small children, who seemed to take special glee in being noticed by someone in the parade. He tossed candy to them, and watched them scramble. He did not even notice that they walked nearly two miles from the starting point to the colosseum where the game would be played. As they passed the reviewing stand, he waved to the University President and other dignitaries. It was a euphoric experience.
After lunch at the fraternity house, Bryce, Damon, and everyone else made their way to the section of the stadium reserved for them. Once again, he was accompanied by Caroline Koehler, while Damon was paired with a beautiful black woman named Sheila, who seemed to have fallen in love with his uniform, for they wore their costumes to the game. As the team came out on the field, the fans went wild with cheering, hooting and hollering and using various noisemakers to show their support. As the team members were introduced by the announcer, Bryce's attention was caught by Wayne Diebold, his acquaintance from the dorm, who looked up to the SAT section and kind of waved. Several of the residents at the dorm had noted that Wayne seemed less of a redneck lately. Bryce grinned and waved back energetically.
The game was exciting. U of C's opponent, Vanderbilt, was close enough in strength to put on a good show, but not so strong as to overwhelm Clifton. The score fluctuated back and forth throughout the first half, with Clifton leading 10 to 7 at halftime. Halftime was also exciting, as it would be then that the homecoming queen would be announced, and the winning float in the homecoming parade recognized. First, the band played and marched, showing off precise manoeuvers which would make the most demanding drill sergeant proud. There was, in fact, a drill sergeant of sorts involved, as the campus ROTC battalion had marched in the parade, and had posted colors at the beginning of the game. Now they performed a smart exercise, displaying incredible skill not only in marching in intricate patterns, but in tossing their rifles about from one to another. When all this was over, the President of the University and a bevy of underlings moved out to the middle of the field. With a wireless microphone, he made the announcements concerning the floats, beginning with third place. The big moment came, and YES Sigma Alpha Tau's float was judged to be the best in the parade Pandemonium in the SAT portion of the stands This was only partly dampened when the SAT candidate came in second in the contest for homecoming queen. The chosen one was crowned by the captain of the football team, who was careful, as he was not exactly sparkling clean after playing half the game. To great cheers, she was hailed by the crowds. The other women formed the court of the queen, trying to look not too disappointed. Following this, the band entertained the crowd with more music and marching until it was time for play to resume. At the end of a closely fought contest, Clifton was the winner by a field goal, 17 to 14. The crowd poured out of the stands and onto the field, cheering the team, and lifting them on shoulders for a victory march around the stadium. It was a very satisfying afternoon.
Following the game, everyone returned to the fraternity house, where returning 'old boys' had been showing up all day. There was food and drink aplenty. As pledges, Bryce and Damon were kept busy attending to the needs of the brothers and visitors. Caroline and Sheila knew what to expect, so they were not too upset at being neglected. They had a good time eating, drinking, and talking.
At one point, Bryce noticed Curtis speaking to an elderly gentleman, who he assumed was one of the alumni. Not long after, the old man approached Bryce.
"You're Bryce Winslow?"
"Yes, sir," Bryce replied.
"I'm Henry Manning. I've heard about you."
"Oh? Manning? Are you related to Curtis?" Bryce asked.
"He's my brother's grandson. Nice boy. I hear you're gay."
Bryce nearly panicked. He did drop the glass he was holding. Picking it up gave him a moment to regain his cool, but that was not nearly long enough. What had Curtis done? Was he about to be dressed down by one of the old boys? Would this cause an incident which would damage his prospects for acceptance? Back to start - what had Curtis done?
He stood up, his face flushed, and timidly responded to the elderly man, "Yes, sir, that's right."
Mr. Manning chuckled. "Good. So am I. But I could never admit it to anyone in the fraternity when I was a member back sixty years or more ago. Now, get yourself another drink." He turned and walked away.
Bryce stood there, stunned. He saw Curtis a short distance away grinning at him. He moved determinedly through the crowd past Curtis on his way to refresh his drink. As he passed, he said in a low voice, "I'll get you for that." Curtis only chuckled, a lot like his great uncle.
After the reception, about nine o'clock, the house emptied out, with most people moving to the University Center, where the homecoming dance was taking place. Along the way, Bryce had an opportunity to let Damon in on his encounter with Mr. Manning. Later, as Curtis was sitting out a dance, Bryce approached, again carrying a drink. At just the strategic moment, he supposedly tripped, spilling his drink directly on Curtis' crotch. Curtis jumped up, yelling a few obscenities in his surprise. He started to say something to Bryce, who was apologizing fulsomely, if insincerely. He stopped. Behind him, he heard his aged relative laughing. With a great sigh, Curtis said, "I should have known. You did say you would get me back."
Damon appeared at Bryce's elbow. "Man, you sure waste a lot of good liquor. That's the second drink I saw you drop today," he kidded.
Curtis had brushed the ice and some of the liquid off his trousers. He leaned over and picked up a handful of ice cubes off the floor. "This is not only wet, it's also cold," he complained. Then, moving quickly, he pulled out Bryce's waistline, and dumped the ice down his pants. "See."
Bryce yelped and hopped up and down, trying to get the ice to drop down his pants leg.
"You guys cut it out. It's getting entirely too close to a burlesque show here," Maddy instructed them.
The rest of the dance was uneventful. It was well after midnight when it broke up. It had been decided that the pledges need not come back to the house to clean up until Sunday afternoon, so both Bryce and Damon prepared to escort their dates back to their respective residences. Caroline lived in a dorm room, but Sheila had a room in a sorority house, so they parted, each carrying out his responsibilities.
Bryce did not encounter Damon on his way back to the dorm. He expected to hear him come in shortly, and when time passed and there was no hint of Damon, Bryce wondered what was delaying him. If he had been straight, he would assume Damon had been invited to spend the night with Sheila, but that was not a consideration here. By two o'clock, Bryce was worried, and was considering going out to search, or calling campus security. Then there came a knock at his door.
He opened to find campus security there without him having to call.
"Are you Bryce Winslow?" the officer asked.
"Yes, I am," Bryce responded.
"Please come with me. Damon Watson was attacked this evening. He's in the hospital, and asking for you."