By Tim Mead

Chapter 7

Except for the issued and then retracted invitation to Nigel Brewster's home for supper, by the second week in November Adam hadn't been asked to the home of any of his English Department colleagues.  It wasn't that they were homophobic, or even that they were unfriendly.  They were simply busy with their professional lives, and, he assumed, with their private lives as well.  There were several single people on the junior faculty, at the instructor and assistant professor level, but few of the men and women of his own age, at the level at which he'd been hired, were unmarried.  Or, for all he knew, cohabiting.  

He had picked up an interesting tidbit from Bruce Evans one day as they finished discussing the second chapter of his dissertation.

The younger man was just shoving his copy of the printout, along with a notebook, into his bag.  "I hear the department will be looking for an eighteenth-century person."

"Oh?  Nothing's been said officially, so far as I know."

"Rumor has it that Dr. Brewster's been offered a job in England somewhere."

"As I said, I've heard nothing of it."

Bruce smiled.  "Well, you know about rumors.  Probably nothing to it."

Not wanting to gossip with a TA, Adam asked, "Shall we get together again before Thanksgiving?"

"I can come back a week from today, but I don't know whether I'll have anything for you."

"In that case, how about the week after the holiday?"

"That would be better."

"Are you going away?"

"Yes, I'll be at home.  I'll probably come back Saturday to get some work done."

"Where is home?"

"Indianapolis.  It'll be strange going back for Thanksgiving by myself."

"Why is that?"

The younger man smiled.  "My ex-roomie is from Indianapolis, too.  We always went back and forth together on holidays.  Sometimes he'd drive, sometimes I would."

"Did he graduate?"

"Uh huh.  He's still around, though.  He's spending Thanksgiving here with his partner, Ben."

A faint light went on in Adam's brain.  "That wouldn't be Ben Moss, would it?"

"That's right."

"So your friend's name is Toby Taba?"

"Right again, professor.  Do you know Toby?  Has he been here to do something to your computer?"

"No, the computer's working fine.  I met Toby and Ben at a party recently."

Bruce grinned.  "Ah, yes, the CQ's."

Adam chuckled.  "I hadn't heard the name initialized like that.  I'm just sorry I didn't get a chance to chat more with Toby and Ben.  I'm hoping to get to know them both better."

"It's almost enough to make a guy wish he were gay."

"What do you mean?"

"That's one really interesting bunch of men.  I know or know of several of them, and I'd love to spend an evening visiting with them."

"Do you think Nielsen and Lynch deliberately exclude straight men?"

"Were there any straight men there?"

"I don't think so."

"See!  It's a kind of reverse prejudice, isn't it?  Were there any lesbians there?  Any women at all?"

"No females."

"I rest my case."

"Bruce, it isn't often that a group of gay men would be envied by a straight guy who wanted to get to know them better.  The times, they are a changin'."

Bruce hoisted the strap of his bag onto his shoulder.  "I guess they are.  So you have a good Thanksgiving, professor."

"I will, thanks.  You, too.  Drive carefully."

#          #          #

Late on the Sunday afternoon before Thanksgiving Adam sat looking through the sliders that went out to his tiny balcony.  It was dark, chilly, and rainy, a thoroughly depressing day.

"Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" my ass!  "Where are the songs of spring?  Aye, where are they?"

He was thinking of how much his life had changed in the last few months.  He and Brian had decided on a friendly "divorce," had sold their old house before the market had collapsed, and had gone their separate ways.  Now they were almost a continent apart.  And here Adam was, slowly making friends, slowly becoming a part of the community both the University community and the gay community.  Besides that, he had a new man in his life.  Tony was perhaps not as good looking as Brian, but he had more substance.  He'd lived in many interesting places.  He had a variety of interests.  He not only sold books, but he read them, too.  

Reading books was something Brian seldom found time for.  Adam had often teased his partner  for never seeming to do lesson plans or read anything other than newspapers or magazines. Was there no current scholarship in the field of journalism, he'd asked.  In fact, Brian had occasionally been annoying with his restlessness at times when Adam simply had to work on his preps.  

Tony, on the other hand, had been an English major.  And his dead partner had been a philosophy major.  Obviously Tony wasn't afraid of an idea.  Nor of a conversation about ideas.  

And then there's Blake.

Yes, a lot had changed in a relatively short time, but it was good.  Except for the weather.

He decided a drink would be nice.  He thought of whiskey.  No, that was his usual sleep aid.  Wine would be better.  As he poured himself a glass of chardonnay, he remembered Brian's ploy of saying in response to an offer of wine, "ABC."  When asked, he'd explain that meant "anything but chardonnay."

He took his wine to the living room, set it down, picked up his phone, and hit Brian's number on speed dial.


The voice was not familiar.

"This is Adam.  Could I speak to Brian, please?"

"Oh, hi, dude.  Bri's told me a lot about you.  Hang on a sec, and I'll get him."

A moment later, Brian said, "Adam!  How are you?"

"I'm fine.  How are you?"


"I assume that was Tristan who answered the phone."


"Well, sorry I interrupted whatever you're doing.  I was having a glass of chardonnay, thought of `ABC,' and decided to call."

"You're having a glass of plonk and that reminds you of me?  Not my hot bod and sparkling wit?"

Adam heard a hoot in the background.  

Then Brian said, obviously to Tristan, "Oh, I'm so gonna get you, mister!"

Adam chuckled.  "Now I'm sure you have better things to do than talk with me.  Just wanted to wish you a happy Thanksgiving.  What are you doing for the holiday?"

"Tris and I are spending the weekend in Palm Springs at a clothing-optional gay resort."

"Man, that sounds so California and so gay!"

"It is and we are!  So what's wrong with that?  It's better than that godforsaken place you've taken yourself off to."

"Weatherwise, I'm sure you're right.  So, Bri, I hope you have a great holiday."

"Thanks, Adam.  What are you doing?"

"I'm going to Ann Arbor, spending Thanksgiving with Tony.  But he has to be in his store on Friday and Saturday, so I'm going to Kent to spend the weekend with Tim Mead.  Don't know whether I've mentioned him or not."

"Name sounds vaguely familiar."

They chatted a while longer and then Brian said, "Adam, I've gotta go.  Tris and I are going to a cocktail party in WeHo.  Listen, be careful on the highway next week, okay?  Especially if the weather's bad."

"Yeah, I will, thanks, Bri.  Have a great Thanksgiving."

"You, too, babe."

#          #          #

Adam wound up taking two cakes from Blubaugh's Bakery, one chocolate, the other white with coconut frosting.  Tony had made a concoction of cut-up fruit.  It all went well with Alice's boiled custard.

It was Alice who had prepared most of the meal, though Tony had brought a succulent butternut squash casserole, and Ted had been responsible for an excellent ratatouille.  

The dishwasher was loaded and they were all sitting around Alice's small living/family room, groaning over how much they'd eaten.

They were, Adam thought, a strange quartet.  Alice the widow.  Tony the gay widower.  Adam who'd recently split up with his partner of nearly fifteen years.  And Ted.

The young man sat, legs thrust out into the room, hands clasped across his flat stomach, watching the others, his brown eyes more alert than his casual pose would suggest.

"Ted," Adam said, "I know you're a graduate student and that you've been here since you were a freshman.  What's your field?"

Ted looked at Adam and smiled.  "The same as yours, Adam, only in history."

"Explain, please," Adam said, smiling back.

"I'm specializing in early twentieth-century history.  Especially World War I."

"Oh, I have a historian friend at Colby who's in that area.  Jake Handley."

"Ohmygod, I've read his stuff.  He's made quite a name for himself in the field."

"If you want to come to Colby sometime, I'll introduce you.  I'm sure you'd like him.    What are you doing your dissertation on?"

"The three battles of Ypres."

"I didn't know there were three."

"Oh, yeah, you see . . . ."

"Alice, you and I may just as well take a walk or a nap," Tony said, chuckling.  "I think we're gonna lose these two."

"Oh, no," Ted exclaimed.  "I didn't mean to be rude.  I just get carried away when someone asks me about my research."

"Yes," Adam agreed.  "Sorry."  He looked at Ted.  "Ted and I will have to find a time to talk, but this isn't it."

"So, Adam," the young man said in an obvious attempt to change the subject, "Tony tells me you're trying to track down the author of the inscription on the flyleaf of your copy of Strangers."

"Full marks for tact, Teddy," Alice said.  "And I'm glad you brought that up."  She turned to Adam.  "Have you made any progress there?"

Adam shook his head.  "Sadly, no.  I've looked everywhere I know to look on line.  But so far, nothing."

"Vivian Clay.  Isn't that the name of the woman from whose estate you got the copy of Strangers, Tony?" Alice asked.

Tony nodded.

"If you had dealings with the estate, perhaps you could learn more about her through her executor or her lawyer."

"Not much chance of getting any information from an attorney about a client, even a deceased client," Adam mused.

"Still," Tony said, "it might be worth a try."

Despite having the feeling he'd gorged himself the day before, Adam had no trouble putting away the breakfast of juice, scrambled eggs, and ham Tony fixed him on Friday morning.  As he said to his host, "Good sex always gives me an appetite."

"Satisfying one appetite stimulates another?"  Tony grinned and raised an eyebrow.

"That's it!"

Tony had given Ted and Alice the rest of the weekend off.  He was planning to staff the shop himself both Friday and Saturday.

When they went downstairs to open the store, Tony made a full pot of coffee.  There was an area with a worn old sofa and a couple of easy chairs, nearby floor lamps, and a table with the coffee maker.  

"People like to sit and read and have a cup of coffee.  We have some regulars who come in every weekday, though I doubt they'll be here this morning because of the holiday."

"Do they ever buy anything?"

"Sometimes.  Or at least some of them do.  But there are always a few students who just like to hang out here."

"Can't say I'd blame `em.  It's a great ambiance for the bookish."

"Want to earn your breakfast?"

"I thought I'd done that last night," Adam replied, grinning.

"Oh, you did, you did.  But I need to run down the street to the Polish bakery.  If anyone comes in, tell `em I'll be back in a sec with some goodies."

"I reckon I can handle that.  Just play dumb and say the boss will be right back."

Pointing his hand, finger and thumb extended as if it were a pistol, Tony grinned and said "You got it, ace!"

Tony was gone more like ten minutes, and Adam was relieved no one came into the store while he was gone.  When he returned, Tony went to the table on which the coffee maker was sitting, where he set down and opened a big box.  He reached into a cupboard and pulled out a stack of paper napkins.

"Pour us each a coffee, Adam, if you will, and then have one of these kolachkes."

"Kolachkes?  What are they?"

"Come and find out for yourself."

Adam poured the coffee into mugs he'd taken from a shelf holding a row of them.  Each mug was different.

"Those look like my mother's thumbprint cookies, only they're bigger.  And Mom didn't put a sugar glaze on hers."

"No disrespect to your mother's cooking, but I'll bet hers aren't like these."

Adam picked up one of the pastries and bit into it.  

"Mmmm!  These are still warm!"

"Yeah.  They were just taking them out of the oven."

"In addition to being bigger around and puffier than Mom's, these are just way better.  What's in `em"?

"Well, as you'll notice, the thumb prints in the top are filled with different kinds of fruit preserves.  But what makes them different is they have sour cream in the pastry."

"Mmm!  Heavenly.  Too bad your customers won't get any of these," Adam said, reaching for another.

Tony's smile was almost paternal.  "No problem.  If we eat up all of these, you can go back to the bakery and get more . . . if they aren't sold out by then."

Business that morning was slow.  Slow enough that the two could nibble the kolachkes, drink coffee, and talk.  Adam asked questions about the business and was surprised to learn that over half of Tony's sales were made via the Internet.  

"Even the expensive stuff?"

"Yeah.  I have a number of people like you who trust me.  So I trust them.  If they don't think it's what I advertised, they return it and get their money back."

"Sounds a little risky."

"I almost never get returns, and so far I've never been stung.  Of course, everything's insured while it's in transit."

About 11:15 Tony and Adam were making out behind some stacks in the empty store when the bell on the door tinkled.  Tony stepped back, gave Adam a rueful smile, adjusted his crotch, and went around the shelving toward the open part of the store.  Adam stayed put, waiting for his erection to go down.  He felt like a young teen caught in the school hallway with a stiffie.

"Good morning, Arch," he heard Tony say.

"Morning, Tony.  Have a good holiday?"

"Sure did.  How about you?"

"Oh, same old, same old.  Went down to Toledo to have the big feast with my daughter and her family."

"Everybody there well, I trust."

"Yep, thanks."  Then Adam could hear the man sniff.  "What's that I smell?  Kolachkes?"

"Yep.  Help yourself."

By this time Adam's erection had subsided.  Not wanting to appear to be lurking, he cleared his throat and joined the other two at the coffee pot.

"Arch, this is my friend Adam Craig.  He's a colleague of yours.  Teaches English at Colby State.  Adam, this is Arch Treadway.  He's a professor emeritus in English at U of M."

"You're Archer Treadway?"

The older man nodded.

"Professor Treadway, it's a pleasure.  I've read your books on Miller and O'Neill."

As the two shook hands, Arch said, "Adam Craig.  Stearns, right?"

Delighted, Adam said, "Yes, sir, that's me."

The three sat and chatted for a half an hour, Arch digging into the kolachkes as if he hadn't had breakfast.  Then Arch, without ever having looked at a book, thanked Tony, said he'd enjoyed meeting Adam, and left.

A few customers trickled in after that, some of them even making purchases.

About 1:30 Adam excused himself, went upstairs, returning promptly with two large bowls of salad for their lunch.

Adam hung around, reluctant to leave his friend, enjoying the atmosphere of the store.  He was struck by the way Tony recognized and called by name almost everyone who came in, by his easy manner, and by the knowledge with which he answered his customers' questions.

Finally, however, at about 3:00, Adam said, "I think I'd better get on the road.  I have to get back to Colby and repack for the trip to Kent.  That drizzle out there's gonna turn to freezing rain in a couple of hours, I'll bet, and I'm not eager to be driving in it in the Miata."

"If you're going to live here in the tundra, you'd be wise to get yourself a four-wheel drive vehicle of some sort."

"But they're so ugly.  And such gas-guzzlers."

"Well, maybe.  But you might be surprised what's out there if you look around.  Now, on another topic . . . do you think you could come back next weekend?"

"I could probably manage that.  What's happening?"  He grinned.  "Or do you just want to spend the time in bed?"

"UMGASS, the University's Gilbert and Sullivan society is doing its fall show.  I always go.  If you're interested, you could come along."

"Which one are they performing?"


"Never heard of that one."

"You're not really an enthusiast, I take it."

"I've only ever seen Pinafore and Mikado.  Oh, yes, and that movie with Kevin Kline, Pirates of Penzance, isn't it?"

"Right.  That's the Joe Papp version.  Most G & S purists hated it.  Ruddigore's lots of fun if you've a taste for that sort of thing."

Adam smiled and put his arms around Tony.  "I've a taste for you.  And I'd love to see the operetta with you."

"They're comic operas," Tony said.

"Shut up so I can kiss you."

After the lingering kiss, Adam got into his little car and returned through the drizzle to a dark and very empty condo.

#          #          #

Brian called that evening, ostensibly to see how Adam's holiday was going, though he did most of the talking.

He said he and Tris had had a wonderful time and were looking forward to the rest of the holiday weekend.  Thought they might actually put up their Christmas tree.  That was the first Adam knew that the two were actually living together.  But, what the hell!  He was happy for Bri.  

When Brian asked about his plans, Adam reminded him that he was leaving the next day for an overnight with Tim and his partner.  

Just as they were about to say goodbye, Brian said, "Oh, I have one sad bit of news."

"What's that?"

"Luke Wales is retiring!"

Adam chuckled.  Luke Wales was a young Brit porn star they'd both enjoyed watching.  "I wonder why.  He seems to be in his prime."

"I think he's found a guy.  Go to his website and look at the picture."

"Well, then, more power to him.  To them both.  I'm sure there will be plenty of twinks ready to take his place."

"Yeah, but Luke had something special.  Besides his cute accent.  Remember that scene with the flannel shirt?"

Though, of course, Brian couldn't see him, Adam couldn't help grinning.  "Do I!"

They said their farewells soon after that.

#          #          #

Adam wasn't the world's most cautious driver.  Still, with the rain, he was in the right lane going ten miles under the speed limit.  And the semis passed him going 70, throwing up huge sprays that landed on his windshield, leaving him momentarily blinded until the wipers could clear the water away.  Even though his Miata had a very low profile, he had to correct the steering each time a huge truck swept past.  

Maybe, he thought, Tony's right.  Perhaps I should get something bigger.  But, dammit, I love my cute little car.  It's fun to drive, and it gets great mileage.  Still, if I'm going to be on the road a lot between Colby and Ann Arbor, a more practical vehicle might be a good idea.  Expensive though.  I'd rather spend the money on books.  And with gas prices going up all the time . . .  Maybe I'll just try to get through this winter and then decide what to do.

Even though driving took more of his attention than it would have in dry weather, the mind has to do something, and he found himself thinking about Tony.  

Wish I could have stayed with him for the whole weekend.  Wouldn't have minded just being a mouse in the shop, watching as he took care of customers, chatting with him when the place was empty, perhaps even making out in the back.  And we'd have had two more nights together. But maybe he didn't really want that.  Maybe I'd have been an embarrassment, someone he'd have to explain to his regulars.

he thought brightly, I've always wanted to know Tim better.  We've sat late into the night in hotel bars maybe four or five times, mostly talking shop.  I really don't know anything about his private life except that he has his partner, Max.  I know what he thinks about a lot of writers and about teaching and Kent State.  But not much about Tim the man.

Adam could easily visualize his soon-to-be host.  Tim was about thirty, two inches shorter than Adam's 5'9" with amazing green eyes and hair the color of an Irish setter.  His face and nose were longish, his build wiry.  He'd said something once about having run cross country in college and that he continued to run whenever the northern Ohio weather permitted.  Not especially handsome, he was nevertheless attractive, particularly when he was discussing something about which he felt strongly.  Then his face lighted up and his green eyes practically glowed.*  

About the partner, Max, Adam could only remember that the two had met in college, then been apart for a long time.  And he thought Tim had said that Max, too, had been a runner back in the day.

He was glad he'd been able to stop at a wine store and pick up four bottles of wine, two red and two white.  There hadn't been time to order anything from I-Gourmet.  But at least he wouldn't arrive empty-handed.

Thanks to good luck and his Garmin, Adam pulled up in front of the townhouse shaky but in one piece.

The front door opened as he approached, the wine in a carrier provided by the shop.  There almost in silhouette because of the light behind them and the darkness of the afternoon, stood Tim and Max.  

As he drew closer, Adam could see that Tim was wearing a dark green flannel shirt, jeans, white socks, and no shoes.  God, he has a tiny waist! Adam thought.

Beside him stood Max, who had thick, wavy brown hair, chocolate eyes, a square face, and a ruddy complexion.  Though he and Tim were about the same height, his bone structure was heavier.  He had on a long-sleeve rust-colored tee shirt and baggy brown corduroy pants.  Like Tim, he wore white socks and no shoes.

They both look so young, Adam thought.

Tim hugged Adam in greeting, trapping his arms at his sides so he could do nothing but stand there holding the wine bag and smiling at his friend.

"Oh, I'm sorry.  Let me take that!  Meet Max.  Max, Adam."

Then it was Max's turn to hug Adam.  Even though they'd never met, having talked only on the phone, Adam knew he was going to like the young priest, who looked like anything but a minister.  If he'd been a little taller, Adam might have taken him for a rugby player.

They decided Adam should bring his things in from the car so he could then get comfortable which meant taking off his shoes and having a glass of wine thrust in his hand.

"We debated taking you to a restaurant this evening," Tim explained, "but I vetoed that.  I've only ever really talked with you in a restaurant or a bar.  So we decided," he looked at Max and grinned, "to eat here.  You've probably had your fill of traditional Thanksgiving fare.  God knows we have.  So we're having beef stir-fry.  Hope that's okay."

"Sounds great.  You guys both like to cook?"

"Tim's the cook," Max said.  "But," he added with a grin, "the chef allowed me to do all the chopping."

"And a mean veggie he chops, too," Tim said, smiling and putting a hand on Max's knee.

Looking back on his time in Kent later, it seemed to Adam that all the three of them did was eat, drink, and talk.

He learned that Max and Tim were both from Ohio, Max from the Akron area and Tim from a little town on the Ohio River.  That they had both gone to Kenyon, where they were best friends and might have been lovers if either had been willing to admit to the other he was gay.  That they had somehow managed to lose track of each other after graduation.  That Tim had been in grad school at Stanford while Max was in seminary in Berkeley, though neither knew the other was so close by.  That Tim had been at Kent State a while before Max was assigned the job of associate rector and campus minister at the big Episcopal church in Kent.  Even that Tim had had a lover when Max came to town, though both guys were pretty vague about why Tim and Cedric had broken up.

"Max," Adam had asked, "you've been here about five years.  Doesn't the Church move its priests around fairly often?  Are you in danger of being sent elsewhere?"

Max glanced at Tim and they both smiled.  

"Not really.  As long as I'm happy here and the congregation and my rector are happy with me, I can stick around.  I'm not really ambitious to have a parish of my own.  I love what I'm doing.  Besides," he continued, looking at Tim, "I have a very good reason for wanting to stay right here."

"You're both pretty lucky."

"Yeah," Tim said, "we are.  And we know it."

Tim and Adam couldn't help talking some about their mutual interests, the writers who'd lived through World War I as young men and women and did their main writing in the two or three decades that followed.  Max showed a surprising knowledge of their work.

"After all," he'd explained, "if I'm gonna live with the prof here, I need to know what it is about all these folk that turns him on so.  And after all that reading, I've become fascinated with them, too."

Adam turned to Tim and asked, "Does that mean you've boned up on theology, so you can talk with your guy about it?"

Tim blushed.  "No, I confess, I haven't.  But I think Max's job is more about sociology and psychology than theology.  And, I must confess, I'm a non-believer."

Looking at Max, Adam asked, "Doesn't he come to church?"

Max grinned.  "Actually, he's pretty good, for a heathen.  He knows all about the Episcopal Church, what we are, what we believe, what our traditions are.  And though he doesn't often admit it, he loves the liturgy."

"That's all true.  It's the God thing I have trouble with."

"So you say," Max responded with an indulgent smile.  "You'll come around."

Then Tim changed the subject.  He wanted to know about the inscription in Stearns' novel.

"You say it was on the flyleaf?"


"Of course the paper was pretty yellowed by this time."

Naturally, Tim, a specialist in the period would know that.  "Uh huh.  Most books from that time were printed on cheap paper."

"So what did it say?"   It was Max who asked.

"It was obviously a Christmas present," Adam said by way of preface.  "It was dated Christmas 1957."

"Not long after it was published."  Tim would, of course, know that.

Given the weather, Adam had decided at the last minute not to bring the valuable book along.  He didn't want it getting wet on the way to the house from the car.  But he was able to quote the flyleaf inscription from memory:

"After the date, it continued, `Dear Intellect'"

"Sorry to interrupt," Max said, "but what about the ink?"

"Written in brown ink with a fountain pen.  Ball points were pretty new back then."

"Oh, right."  He smiled and gestured for Adam to continue.

Adam closed his eyes for a moment, opened them, and began: "Pace!  I know Stearns wasn't your favorite of his crowd.   I can't help thinking, though, that some of your criticisms come from pure contrariness -- because you know how much I like his novels.  Still, you'll want this to complete your collection if for no other reason.

"I know you'll read Stranger, and I suspect you'll be surprised by how much you like it, even though you'll probably never admit that to me.

"Merry Christmas, Love!

"Sonny Boy"

"Damned intriguing," Tim exclaimed.  He raised an eyebrow and gave Adam a grin.  "So what can we infer from that inscription?"

Adam knew that his younger colleague was being a bit cocky as he put his question, but Tim's credentials were impeccable, and the grin showed his awareness of the situation.

"Okay, let's see.  `Sonny Boy' is presumably younger than `Intellect.'  They both are familiar with Stearns, though Sonny Boy is more of a fan than Intellect."  Adam stopped and looked at his hosts.

"Sonny Boy thinks maybe the older guy will like Strangers more than he expects to," Tim added.

"Is it a given that Intellect is a guy?" Max asked.

"Interesting question," Adam said.  "I'd assumed so.  Obviously there's a certain intimacy between the two.  But the whole thing feels to me like a note from one guy to another.  Somehow I just don't see a young man showing the kind of deference this note shows and then calling Intellect `love' if it's a woman."

"Mixed with the deference there's an element of teasing, too, Tim added.  "I'm inclined to agree with Adam.  We could be wrong, but I'd put my money on this being a couple of guys."

"Besides that, the handwriting looks pretty masculine.  I'm really sorry I didn't bring the book along."

"Given the weather, we understand.  But could you send us a Xerox, or would that damage the binding?"

"I'll see about it when I get back."

Tim nodded his thanks.

"So Intellect isn't Vivian Clay," Max said.

"I suppose it's just possible that it's V I V I E N instead of V I V I A N.  At this point," Adam said, "I'm not ruling anything out."

"I can see why you're curious to know who wrote it and for whom," Tim said.  "I take it you haven't learned anything more since we talked."

"No, dammit.  I can't find out anything about Vivian Clay.  I've Googled and searched and can't find a thing."

"Have you asked any of our colleagues around the country?"

"I never thought of that.  Good idea!  I'll get on it next week."

Tim nodded, looking thoughtful.  "So will I.  I may not know the same set of Lost Generation people you do.  I'll get in touch with `em and see what kinds of responses I get."

Adam thanked him, feeling hopeful for the first time in weeks that he might actually learn who the mysterious Vivian was and, through that information, identify "Sonny Boy" and "Intellect."

The next morning it was snowing lightly when they woke up.  Max, though he still claimed he was no cook, made wonderful waffles and served them with sausage patties.  Then he left for church.  Tim and Adam followed about a half an hour later.

Adam was impressed with Max's demeanor and grace as he conducted the service.  And, though it was church and therefore inappropriate, with how young and sexy Max looked in his vestments.  His skin glowed as if he were a teen.  Adam decided that Tim Mead was lucky to have Max as his partner.

They went to a restaurant afterward for dinner.  Adam insisted he be allowed to pay, but was outvoted by Tim and Max.

So, once they'd gotten back to the townhouse, he thanked his hosts, invited them to Colby, and set off for home in what was becoming a heavier snowfall.

As he headed west, Adam was reliving what had been a most pleasant visit with his friend Tim and his new friend Max.  He was thinking about when he might issue them a specific invitation to come to Colby for a weekend.  He hoped he could arrange it so that Tony would be there, too.

The roadway of the Ohio Turnpike had been salted and clear when he got on it, but as he travelled west the snowflakes became bigger, the wind increased, and he began to find patches where snow covered the pavement.

Later he slowed down because the roadway was mostly covered with packed snow.  Even so, the semis continued to barrel around him.  To make matters even worse, as he got into Colby County a huge SUV, a Navigator or Escalade or something of the sort, overtook and began to tailgate him.

Just as he saw the sign for the Colby exit, a semi passed and then cut him off as it pulled into the right lane.  Adam hit the brakes, causing the little car to go into a skid and spin around.  The SUV behind him struck the side of his Miata, sending it into the guard rail.

Terrified, Adam was aware that the air bags had deployed, that he'd lost control of his bladder, and that he had pain in his side.  

There was another jolt, after which he lost consciousness.

*The reader is reminded that nothing should be inferred about the author of this story from descriptions of the purely fictional Tim Mead who appears here.

To Be Continued.

Thanks, as always, to Drew, Tinn, and Mickey. 

Emails encouraged at   If you do write, please put the title of the story in the subject line so I'll know it isn't spam.  Thanks. 

Oh, and would you consider sending a contribution to the Nifty Archive?  What would we do without it?   --Tim