Far From Home

Authors Note: Standard disclaimers apply here... If it illegal to read about homosexuals and any physical expression thereof, then go away (though there isn't any sex yet... so if that is what you are looking for, then it might be best to move on). This is my first time writing fiction, and I appreciate feedback.


from last time...

I don't really remember walking back to the car, but I suppose I must have given the fact that I was sitting in the passenger seat next to Sam. "Charlie... Charlie... HELLO?" She nudged me a little and I came back to the planet Earth.

"He kissed me," was all I managed to say.

"I wondered if he was gong to get up the nerve. He talked about you every time you were out of earshot yesterday. I told him to go for it." She had a look of accomplishment on her face. "So...?"

"I'm just shocked. I mean, it is a little weird having your roommate slip you some tongue, you know?"

"Come on. We had better hit the road. We've got things to do once we get home." She put the Suburban in drive and we were back in Virginia by dinnertime.

Chapter 6

"Welcome back kids," Sam's mom called as we walked through the door, suitcases in hand. "I trust your stay in Pennsylvania was a good one?"

"It was great. Penn has such a beautiful campus--much nicer than Georgia Tech," said Sam. "And I got to meet Charlie's roommate Justin. He's really nice, isn't he Charlie?"

"Can it Sam!" I said, giving her the evil eye.

"Oh I sense a story here!" said Sam's mom.

I blushed slightly, "Not from me. I'm going to take my suitcase upstairs."

I carried my belongings upstairs to my room--I still couldn't get over that--my room. I heard a laugh from downstairs that could easily be identified as Sam's mom. "I guess Sam told her of my adventures," I mumbled to myself.

I walked back downstairs into the living room. Sam and her mom were sitting on the couch--Sam's mom had a case of the giggles. "So was he a good kisser, Charlie?"

If you haven't picked up on this fact thus far, I embarrass quite easily. This was no exception. I went cherry red and quickly made my way into the kitchen. Sam came in after me. "Oh, is our little Charlie bashful?" she said as she walked over and pinched my cheeks.

"I'm sorry, but where I come from, it isn't usual practice to sit around with mom and talk about guys."

"You should have seen Seth at your age Charlie," announced Sam's mom as she walked into the kitchen. She put on her oven mitts and moved towards the stove. "He would come home from school and tell me of his exploits all the time. He was quite the little Romeo during college." She opened the stove and pulled out a huge baked ham and held it up for our inspection.

Now "huge baked ham" is a description that hardly does any justice. This was no common "huge baked ham." This was artwork. It had those little cloves studding the outside, and it had a glaze on it that looked to be an inch thick--like it had been dipped in honey and then frozen. And the smell! Mr. Butterball was turning over in his grave--I was getting weak in the knees.

"Mrs. T. That looks and smells absolutely amazing! What's the occasion?"

She put the ham down on the stove and turned to me. "Well Charlie, this is your first real meal in our house as a real member of our family. I wanted to make it a special one."

She looked at me with nothing but love in her eyes. I teared up and began to tremble slightly. And then it hit. I lost it. I shrank to the floor and began to sob. Sam and her mom were next to me in an instant. They latched onto me as I sat on the floor weeping.

"Sam, why don't you set the table in the dining room. Charlie and I need some alone time." Sam got up and left the room. Sam's mom sat down and pulled my head to her bosom, rocking back and forth slightly. "There, there dear. Let it out. It's okay...."

For all my supposed strength and willpower--convincing myself that I was okay with what happened--here I sat crying on the kitchen floor.

I wept and wept, trying to speak between the powerful sobs. "How could they do this to me...? What would I have done if you all hadn't been here?"

"Charlie, I've said it before and I'll say it again: you have a place in our family. They don't know what they've missed--they don't know what a special person you are."

We sat there for a few more minutes while I calmed down. "Thanks Mrs. T." I said.

"I think you can safely call me 'mom' Charlie, if you want to."

"How about Momma T?"

"Done!" She tousled my hair. "Now run upstairs and get yourself cleaned up. I'll have dinner on the table in a few minutes."

"Thanks Momma T, for everything."

I went upstairs and washed my face of the tearstains. By the time I returned, everyone was already seated and ready to eat. I took my place at the table and looked at my new family. "John, will you say grace?"

He nodded as we bowed our heads. "Dear God, we thank you for the meal set in front of us and for all of the other blessings you have provided our family. We ask that you continue to look over us in this New Year. We also thank you for Charlie, the newest addition to our family, and we ask that you look over him in his time of need. In your name we pray, Amen."

Dinner was every bit as good as it smelled. "Momma T, you need to give up on the self-help books and start writing cook books. This ham is the best I've tasted."

"I thought you might like it." We ate in a comfortable silence for the next few minutes before Sam's dad spoke up.

"Charlie, I imagine that you have a few things to do before you and Samantha leave for Atlanta?"

I thought for a moment before speaking. "Yes sir. I need to go by my house and pick up my belongings. I don't really want to go back, but I need to. I also need to get in touch with Grandpa's attorney in Richmond and let him know what's going on. He's the trustee of the trust that Grandpa set aside for me."

"Well don't think that you're going back to your house by yourself," offered Sam. "I'm coming with you."

"We will too Charlie," said Sam's mom.

"You all really don't need to go. I don't have that much to get and I'm sure that Sam and I can manage. I'll go at lunch tomorrow. Neither of them will be home then."

Sam's mom regarded me carefully. "Are you sure?"

"I'll be fine," I said resolutely.

I looked down at my dinner plate. "I hope I'll be fine," I thought to myself. I picked up my fork and continued eating, being careful to leave about a fourth of the food on the plate so Momma T wouldn't offer me anymore. I could always snack on leftovers later.

After dinner Sam and I retired to the den and watched a movie. I debated going out to Shorty's, but decided against it. I was going to have a long day ahead of me.

Little did I know how long.

Sam was kind enough to wake me up at 8:00 a.m. She came bearing coffee. Smart girl.

"Get up! We've got to unpack dad's car so we can have a place for your stuff when we head to your house."

"Hrmph--" was all I could manage from under the covers. I tended not to sleep, but rather to fall into a nightly coma. Sam walked over to the window and opened it. I felt the cold January air begin to seep into the room and under the covers. Then, she walked over to my bed and ripped the covers off.

"You Bitch!" I yelled.

"Get up! Mom left some ham biscuits in the oven. She got a call this morning and had to fly to Chicago to meet with her publishers. She'll be back this evening."

I trudged into the shower and reappeared fresh and clean some twenty minutes later. "So your mom is in Chicago?"


"When will people discover the wonders of teleconferencing?" I asked.

"Well, apparently she sent them a treatment for a book she was thinking about and it raised some eyebrows."

"Really? About what?"

"Mom won't tell. She never tells us anything about what she is writing until it gets published."

"Stella Tillman--jet setting authoress!" I proclaimed.

"She is a force to be reckoned with."

I got dressed and we unloaded the Suburban. An hour later the contents of my dorm room were sitting in a corner of my new bedroom.

"We might as well go now Charlie. We don't have all day."

"Yeah... no use in putting it off." Ten minutes later we pulled into my driveway. Twenty minutes after that I was still sitting in the passenger seat.

"You know, we do actually have to go in the house to get your stuff. I don't think you are strong enough to bring your possessions down here by force of will alone."

"Yeah... ok." I fumbled for my keys as we made our way to the front door. After a few attempts I managed to get the door open. The alarm started chirping and I punched in the code to disable it. "Wow, the haven't changed the locks or the alarm code yet. They really love me," I said sarcastically.

I took a deep breath and inhaled all the familiar scents of my parent's house. It was almost overwhelming. I climbed the stairs and headed to my room as Sam advised me she was headed to her car to get some boxes. I entered my room and looked around. So many memories. How many times had I laid on that bed talking to Sam on the phone until the wee hours of the morning? How many times had I sat at that desk and studied for a test in high school? Sam interrupted my trip down memory lane.

"What stays and what goes?"

"CDs go. Stuff on the bookshelf goes. I'll start with the closet."

There really wasn't much I wanted to bring with me. I've always been a rather frugal person and I honestly didn't have a lot of stuff. The desk was the last thing to be packed up. I walked over and looked at the pictures I had standing in frames. Me and dad at Disneyland... me and mom at the beach... and one of my grandfather in his study.

"These go too?" Sam asked, referring to the pictures. I picked up the picture of my grandfather and flipped the other two face down.

"Just this one." I said flatly. "They aren't really my family anymore." I paused, giving myself a minute to recover. "Let's start taking this stuff out to the car."

After our third trip Sam gave the room a once over. There was one suitcase left. "Are you sure that's all you want to take?"

"That's it--" I stopped. I heard a faint noise that became clearer after a few seconds. "That is the sound of an eight cylinder American engine pulling into the driveway."

Sam rushed over to the window. "Charlie, it's your dad. He's home." I started to get a little dizzy but Sam shook me out of it. "Come on. Let's go. Now!"

I grabbed the suitcase and flew down the stairs and out the door. There he was... standing there in the driveway... his face red with anger. "What are you doing here?" he demanded. He practically spat the words at me.

Calm... Remain calm... "I came to get my things. Frankly I'm surprised you hadn't hauled them off to the dump."

"Believe me, I thought about it. Now get out of my sight and off my property." His anger became more intense.

I reached into my pocket and found the keys to my Subaru. I picked up the suitcase and walked towards my car. I had gotten the key in the passenger side door when he whipped me around.

"What the fuck do you think you are doing? You came to get YOUR things. You've done that. That car is mine you miserable little faggot. I bought it, and you can't take it with you!"

Sam charged at my father, "You fat son of a b--"

"Sam!" I yelled. I held my hand out at her, as if to block her advance. "Sam," I said more calmly, "turn around and get in your car." She stared at me for a second, trying to judge the look on my face. She picked up my suitcase and walked to her car. She didn't get in; she just stood there.

I turned my gaze back to my father. "And as for you--"

"Get your pansy-ass faggoty self out of my sight! You disgust me. You sorry excuse for a son, you are a waste of...." He went on and on, hurling insult after insult at me.

Perhaps you've heard the story of the mother whose son is trapped under a two-ton automobile? How she develops superhuman strength and picks up the truck to save her child underneath? It's a simple biological response to an extreme situation caused by a surge of adrenaline. Well... I guess that is sort of what happened to me. I felt my face go flush and I started to tremble slightly--not from fear but from anger.

"ENOUGH!" I yelled at him. He stopped mid-sentence and the look in his eyes wavered slightly. I started speaking in a very low and deliberate tone:

"All my life I was never good enough for you. You made a point to remind me of every time I failed or every time I disappointed you. You made it your mission to remind me that I wasn't good enough. But I know I'm good enough--you on the other hand are a sorry excuse for a father. I used to feel sad whenever I thought about mom not being able to have any more kids... I used to dream of having a little brother to play with. Now I can see that it was only a blessing. I wouldn't want another kid to be subjected to your demented version of parenting. It is you, Stan, who disgust me."

Few people have seen me mad. I am not one of those people who fly off the handle screaming and yelling. I possess that rare ability to completely tell someone off without raising my voice... being able to tell them to go to hell in a whisper. I find it is more effective.

My dad stepped back a bit in response to my verbal assault. "How dare you criticize me. You faggot! I hope you rot in hell! You are not my son!"

And then I did it. I hit him. Perhaps that's not a strong enough description for it--I decked him. That surge of adrenaline got an outlet as my fist made contact with his face. I didn't mean to hit him that hard, but it was hard enough to land him on his back.

"And you are not my father."

Now I know what some of you are thinking... how cliché a thing to say... sounds like an after-school special, right? Some overblown emotional opera. Well, I tell it like it is, and that's what happened.

My dad propped himself up on his elbows and looked at me with fear in his eyes. I threw the keys to my car--or rather his car--at him and started in the direction of Sam's car.

It was then that I noticed Mrs. Pulaski, our elderly next-door neighbor, staring at me. She had apparently been out to get the morning paper and witnessed the whole affair. I smiled at her and called, "Good morning Mrs. Pulaski," in my best All-American Happy-go-lucky voice.

She stood there with her mouth hanging open. I hopped into Sam's car and we left.

"Charlie... wow... I mean... Wow! I didn't think you had it in you!"

I nodded slightly and stared out the window until we arrived at my new home. Sam suggested that we go out to lunch, her treat, but I declined. I told her I wanted some alone time, so I grabbed an icepack for my hand and headed upstairs. I sat down and admired my view of the back yard and the line of trees beyond.

I was still there when Sam's mom got home at eight o'clock. I heard a knock on my door a half an hour later.

"Come in," I announced.

The door opened and I heard Momma T's voice. "I come bearing gifts," she said as she walked over to the window where I was sitting. She sat down next to me and handed me a mug. "Irish Coffee," she explained. "Heavy on the Irish."

That got a slight chuckle out of me. "Thanks, I needed that, and I most certainly need this after today." I think the coffee was about half liquor.

"Sam told me what happened. Congrats! He got what he deserved. You wanna talk about it?"

"Not much to say really. He said things, I said things, and I hit him."

"You laid him out from what I heard. I wonder how he will explain the shiner you gave him to his collogues at the Law School?" That got another chuckle out of me. "Sam ordered some Pizza. It should be here soon. Why don't you come downstairs and join us?"

Just then the doorbell rang. "Speak of the devil!" she declared. I followed her out of the room and down the stairs. She opened the door, not to the delivery guy, but to two police officers.

"Ma'am we have a warrant for the arrest of one Charles Ezra Ashby for the charge of Assault."

"That dirty, low down, son of a bitch!" She yelled.

"Can this day get any better?" I asked of no one in particular.

Sam and her father appeared from the living room. "What's going on?"

"Charlie is being arrested. John, call our lawyer."

"No," I said. "Call grandpa's lawyer. His card is in my wallet upstairs." The officer cuffed me and read me my Miranda rights.

"Charlie, don't worry about a thing! We'll figure something out," she said as I was being loaded in the back of a police cruiser.

The next two hours were taken up by paperwork at the police station. After fingerprints and a mug shot, I was taken to a holding cell. It was apparently a slow night because I was the only person in the holding area.

One would expect me to be hysterical or upset at this point. My former father had me sent to jail. What I felt was closer to irritation... and hunger. I hadn't eaten since breakfast and it was getting near eleven o'clock.

I heard a door open at the end of the hall and the officer announce "Five minutes ma'am"

"Thank you Officer Drake, you're such a nice man!" Momma T appeared in front of my cell a second later. "Charlie, are you alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine.... Hungry, but fine. Why do I smell french fries?"

"Here you go." She produced a bag from behind her back that bore the logo of a local fast food chain. "I convinced them to let me bring you some food. Apparently the guard's wife is a big fan of my books. I gave him an autograph and promised to send her autographed copies of everything I've written. I called your lawyer in Richmond. He's going to call back in an hour or so."

"Thanks," I said as I tore into my hamburger and fries. "I can't believe he did it--no, actually I can. What a jackass!"

I looked at Momma T. She got a strange look on her face that resolved itself into a big smile. "Charlie, what's your home number?"

"555-3688, why?"

"Charlie, it is time that someone made your dad aware of the ramifications of his actions." She walked over to the door and knocked. The guard appeared a few seconds later.

"Officer Drake, am I safe in assuming that Charlie has not used his one phone call?"

"Yes ma'am."

"Well, we need to make that phone call now."

"Yes ma'am. Let me go get the keys."

"Oh Officer Drake--what's your first name son?"

"Bobby, ma'am."

"Bobby, we don't want to put you to any trouble. My cell phone is in my purse, we could use that."

"Well, I guess that would be okay..."

"Of course it would Bobby."

She was playing him like a violin. He was eating out of her hands. They left and reappeared with the phone a second later.

"And Bobby, I assume it would be okay if I made that call for him?"

"Well ma'am... I don't know... that's not the usual way..."

"It's okay with me!" I piped up. I didn't know what she was up to, but it was bound to be good. The officer looked at me, then at Momma T, then back at me. "Well, I guess it would be okay."

"Bobby, you are a prince among men." She pinched his cheeks and he blushed. "Now if you will kindly give us some privacy, we have a call to make." She shooed him away and he disappeared behind the steel-reinforced door. She looked at me and smiled. "Dial it kid."

I punched in the numbers and handed her back the phone. "You know, they'll have gone to bed by now..."

She dismissed my comment with a wave of her hand as she hit the "talk" button. "Hello? Mr. Ashby...? This is Stella Tillman.... Well I don't give a rat's ass whether or not you want to talk to me. But trust me when I say that it is in your best interests to hear what I have to day.... No sir, I am not threatening you. I'm only making you aware of what will happen tomorrow morning.

"Tomorrow morning I'm going to call my publicist--you'd like her, she's a lesbian. I'm going to tell her the tale of a charming young man whom I much admire. I'll tell her the story of his very intolerant father who has excommunicated him from his own family. I'll tell her the story of this father getting his estranged son imprisoned for assault.

"After I finish telling this story, my publicist will telex, email, fax, or call every gay rights organization in the country. By noon there will be a nice press release sitting on every news desk in Virginia... You know how the local news is always looking for a good human interest story.

"By the end of the day, that same press release will be in the hands of every gay rights group that exists. I'm sure that some of them will be more than happy to foot the bill for an attorney, and you know that wherever they go, the six o'clock news will likely follow. I wouldn't be surprised if you have reporters on your front lawn by week's end.

"In six months, our young Charlie could be on the college lecture circuit, and I'm sure I can use my influence with my publisher to get him a book deal--at the very least a book written about him.

"Think of it Mr. Ashby. Your son will be the poster boy for every movement and cause that will have him. And everyone you know will know that that is your son. They will know your actions in this matter... your colleagues, your friends, your golfing buddies, and your students.... Let that one soak in for a second."

She paused and winked at me. It was all I could do to contain my laughter.

"Now that you know what could happen tomorrow morning, let me tell you what will happen in the next hour. You will use whatever legal expertise you have to get these charges dropped. Charlie will walk out of this building tonight a free man, and we will have no further dealings. Do I make myself clear?"

Again, another long pause, then, "Good." She snapped the phone shut and I broke out in hysterics. I've never laughed so much in my life! I could picture my dad sitting on his bed with the phone to his ear... in his boxers and t-shirt, literally peeing all over himself, his mouth gaping wide open.

"He will rue the day that he ever messed with my family," she said. Just then the officer reappeared.

"Ma'am, your time is up. You can come back tomorrow."

"Oh Bobby... That won't be necessary. Charlie will be leaving shortly, mark my words." She smiled at him and then pinched his cheeks once again. "You are such a nice man! You tell that wife of yours that she is lucky to have you!"

He blushed again. "Yes ma'am."

Forty-five minutes later he came to my cell. "Mr. Ashby, you are free to go."

"Thanks Bobby." I was escorted to the lobby where Sam ran over and hugged me.

"I'm so glad you are okay"

"Yeah, this day has a happy ending after all I guess."

Sam's mom's cell phone started ringing. "Hello...? Oh, Mr. Hester... no, don't worry... everything is okay, Charlie has been released and the charges have been dropped... Not a problem. I'll give him the message." She snapped the phone shut and put it back in her purse. "Charlie, your grandfather's attorney wants you to call him tomorrow. Right now though I think its time we headed home."

"If it is all the same with you, Momma T, I need a drink. Sam, do you feel up to it?"

"Need you ask?"

Shorty's was still fairly crowded when we got there. I ran into Dan, my old boss, on the way in. He waved us through to the bar. It's nice to have connections.

I ordered a Long Island Iced Tea, and Sam had a Coke since she was driving. I downed my drink and ordered another. It had been a long day, and I think I deserved it.

"Penny for your thoughts?" she asked.

"Oh, I'm just trying to figure out what I'm going to do. I don't have a car, I don't have a job, and I’m a college dropout. It's a lot to process."

"You've got some money in savings, right?"

"Yeah, I've got about $1800 in my savings account. I can use that to hold me over until I find something."

"And you know that Mom and Dad would co-sign on a car loan in a heartbeat. Don't worry Charlie, it will all turn out okay."

"That's all fine and good to say... but for the first time in my life I've had the rug completely pulled out from under me. I'm a Taurus. I need stability. I need to know what is going to happen tomorrow... and I don't. It's very disconcerting."

"Well then, let me tell you what is going to happen tomorrow, which is Friday. You're going to get on the phone to your grandfather's attorney in Richmond, you can go see him, and then go from there. One day at a time. We'll worry about Saturday tomorrow afternoon."

I sipped on my beverage... the first one was beginning to take the edge off. "Okay, you've got yourself a deal."

"Robert Hester please," I said into the phone.

"May I tell him who is calling?" the secretary asked.

"Yes ma'am. It's Charles Ashby."

"Oh, he is expecting your call Mr. Ashby. Just one moment and I'll transfer you." She put me on hold and I was treated to delightful elevator music. After a few seconds Mr. Hester picked up the phone.

"Charlie, would you mind explaining why in the hell I got called out of a business dinner with tales of an assault charge? Who in the hell did you assault?"

"It's a long story Hess. I was going to call you this week anyway... I just took a rather round-about way of doing it."

He laughed at that. I could hear him puffing on a cigar. "So what's going on? And why in the hell were you in jail?"

"Like I said, it is a long story--and one best told in person. Could we meet today?"

"Oh, today's no good. How about next week sometime?"

"Next week I'm leaving for Atlanta."

"What in the hell for? Last time I checked, the University of Pennsylvania was in Philadelphia, not Georgia."

"Like I said--"

"Yeah yeah yeah... long story. I get it. How about tomorrow? The office will be closed but we could meet for lunch."

"Sounds good... when and where?"

"There's this new Greek place in Carytown called 'Corfu' that is all the rage. Let's meet there at 11:30. Do you know how to get to Carytown? It's on the Powhite parkway off of I-64..."

"Yeah I know the way. I'll find it. Until tomorrow then?"

"Tomorrow Charlie."

I put the phone back on the cradle as I heard Sam walk up behind me.

"See Charlie, Saturday is taken care of. We'll work on Sunday tomorrow."

The restaurant was easy enough to find, though parking wasn't. It was in Carytown, a very hip part of Richmond, filled with neat shops and places to eat. I entered the front door of "Corfu" a few minutes late and told the hostess I was meeting someone. She showed me upstairs, and sitting at a large table in the corner was Robert Hester, chugging on his cigar.

"Charlie my boy! Get over here!" Hess got up out of his chair and gave me a hug. "Did you have any problems finding the place?"

"No, though parking was a different story."

"That's Richmond for you." The waiter made his appearance and asked us for our drink orders. "I will have a Guinness, and Charlie will have a beer too. What type Charlie?"

"Uh... um... Amstel Light?"

"Yes, Charlie will have an Amstel Light." Not only was I underage, but I look about sixteen. However, Hess had a commanding authority in his voice that just dared the waiter to ask for my ID. He shuffled off to get our drinks. "So Charlie, what in the hell is this Atlanta deal about, and more importantly, why in the hell were you in jail?"

"Well, like I said, it's a long story. Where shall I start?"

"The beginning is as good a place as any," said Hess as he puffed on his cigar.

"Well, let me see if I can give you the Reader's Digest version. I came home for Christmas, went out with my friend Samantha, and came home at 4 in the morning. My mom was waiting for me and started making a fuss over my coming home late. We got into an argument when I kind of let the cat out of the bag. I uh...."

"You? What?"


The waiter took that moment to return with our beverages. I decided to give the Gyro platter a try while Hess had something more exotic--and something I couldn't pronounce. The waiter dashed back to the kitchen with our orders.

"I um, I told them that I was gay."

"I see."

"They didn't take it so well. Dad kicked me out of the house."

"Your dad always was an asshole." Hess took a sip from his Guinness and sat back in his seat. "So, what happened then?"

"Well, I don't really remember what happened after that, but from what I can gather based on the facts, I walked a mile and a half to my friend Sam's house with my suitcase. It was just beginning to snow and they found me on the porch in the morning. They took me to Tennessee with them for Christmas. While there I decided that I didn't want to go back to school in Pennsylvania. We decided that I'd move down to Atlanta with Sam and enroll in Georgia Tech next year."

"Georgia Tech? Why in the hell would you want to go there?" Hess went to the University of Georgia before going to Law School at William and Mary. So obviously he wasn't a fan of Tech.

"I'm not going to UGA Hess, so give that one up." I smiled at him and he gave me a chuckle. "So I went to Penn a few days ago and withdrew from school." I debated telling him about kissing my ex-roommate, but thought better of it. "And then, Thursday I went back to my house to pick up the rest of my things. I tried to go when I knew my parents wouldn't be there, but my dad pulled up as we were taking the last load out.

"He asked me what I was doing, and I told him that I was getting my stuff. He told me to get off his property, and when I went to get into my car, he told me that it was his and that I had to leave it. We had a few verbal exchanges, I started reading him the riot act, he said something that set me off, and I decked him. He landed in the grass."

Hess started cackling like a mad hatter. He settled down in a few minutes. "You really knocked his lights out?" I nodded, which only produced more laughter from him. "Wow Charlie, I would have paid for 50 yard line seats to see that one."

"Well, a few hours later, the cops appeared at Sam's house and arrested me for assault. While I was in jail, Sam's mom called my dad and... convinced... him to get the charges dropped. An hour later I was released and I made my way to the closest bar for a drink."

The waiter returned with our food and we started eating. After a few minutes Hess spoke up.

"Charlie, now when you said that Sam's mom 'convinced' your dad to get you out, what did she do exactly?"

"She threatened to make the poster boy for gay rights. She made it known that everyone my dad knew would know of his son's 'dirty little secret.'"

"She seemed pretty fierce when I talked to her on the phone. She sounds like good people."

"She is," I said. We continued eating in silence, and in a few minutes our waiter cleared away our plates and brought us another round.

"Well Charlie, let me let you know a few things. First, your Grandfather would have not tolerated your father's behavior. Charles Jonathan Ashby was a good man, and someone I was proud to call my best friend. Now it's no secret that John and his son--your father--didn't get along. That's why I'm the trustee, not your father. That's also why your grandfather set up this trust for you. He had issues with your father, but he always loved you."

"I remember coming to visit Grandpa every summer. He had that wonderful house on Monument Avenue, and he would always take me to the museums in town. The science museum was always my favorite."

"When he went in the hospital that last time, he told me that he was sorry he was going to miss your college graduation."

Neither of us spoke for a few moments, lost in recollection. After a while Hess reached down and produced his briefcase. He opened it and pulled out a thick manila file folder.

"Now Charlie," he said, putting on his spectacles, "how much do you know about your trust?"

"Not a lot really. I just know that Grandpa set it aside for my college expenses."

"Well, yes and no. Your grandfather was a smart man. He always believed in putting money away for a rainy day. When he put this money aside, he put in more than enough for four years of college, plus some extra for emergencies. Now this money has been sitting around for eighteen years, but it has not been sitting idle. It has been invested, and has matured into an appreciable sum.

"Now there are a few rules governing its disbursement, but John was wise enough to allow me a bit of discretion in some important areas. Now let me ask you a few questions... how is your financial status at the moment? How are things?"

"Well, I've got a little less than $2000 in my bank account right now from my job at the record store and from some freelance computer work I've done. I don't have a car. My computer had an unfortunate run in with a stairwell. I'm going to be living with Sam in Atlanta, and my permanent address is now with her parents. I guess that's about it."

"Ok," he said without looking up from his stack of papers. "Now as far as job prospects when you get to Atlanta, what's that like?"

"Well, I've got a few leads from Sam's roommate's boyfriend, but nothing concrete yet."

"Okay, so you are going to need money for a new car, some startup money for your first few months, money for a new computer, furniture in your place in Atlanta... hmm... let's see.... can you think of anything else?"

I sat there dumbfounded for a few minutes. I wasn't expecting this. "Um... uh... no, I don't think so."

"Ok." He pulled out a calculator and tapped on the keys for a few seconds. "There, I think that this should do it." He handed me the calculator. I stared at the number on the display before the realization hit.

"Thir... Th...." I was speechless.

"Thirty-five thousand dollars."

"Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh...."

"Now I want you to do something special for Sam's parents here. Send them on a vacation or something. They are good people and I want you to tell them that I appreciate everything you've done for them. Were your Grandfather still alive he would have done the same."

"How? I mean.... Oh my God," I tried to form the words. "Hess, how much money is in this trust?"

"Well, your grandfather put away fifty-thousand dollars into your trust in 1980. It was invested in a variety of areas, and has grown to quite a substantial amount. You will have more than enough to finish up at Georgia Tech. It's a bit less expensive than UPenn. In fact, you'll probably have enough to go to grad school, if you want."

"Wow," was all I could say.

"Now I want you to go and spend some money on yourself. Buy a nice car, get a nice computer, and don't worry about money. If you need any more, just give me a call." He closed the manila folder and put it back in his briefcase. "Now, you give me a call in August when you enroll in classes at Tech. I will need to get some more information from you then. It's going to take me a week or so to get the disbursements from your trust and take care of all the related paperwork, so call me when you get to Atlanta so I can arrange to wire the money to you."

The waiter brought the check and dismissed my protests over his paying for the meal. "I can write it off on my taxes as a business lunch," he explained.

We got up and walked out of the restaurant. "Charlie, call if you need anything... and remember, your grandfather never stopped loving you, and he would be there for you today if he could." He shook my hand and walked to his car. I turned around and walked to the lot where Sam's jeep sat.

Wow. Life looks good. Life looks really good.

Wow... That was a long one! The bulk of this was written in two days. I went to a local java joint one friday night and wrote up until the dinner scene with Sam's parents. The next night I went back and wrote everything but the final meeting with Robert Hester. My hand was actually cramping when I left at 2:00 a.m. Woo Hoo! I closed down a coffeehouse!

Thank you to everyone who has written me. I **think** I've gotten back to everyone. Special thanks go out to David (he who edits, and takes his sweet time doing so! **wink**), Scott the Aussie, Rachel (The Amazing Ms. Orton), and the Arizona Loner (we do know how to drive in the east! I swear!).

And who could forget... Dank Uli, der kommt aus Deutschland. (Did I get that one right? If not, blame Altavista!)