This story concerns adult and teenage gay males who may be involved in sexual situations. If it is illegal for you to read such stories, or if you do not like to read such stories, please leave now.

This story is copyright 2006 by the author who retains all rights.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

WARNING!! This chapter contains a suicide scene. The scene takes place in this story for character development and disposition. The author apologizes to those who are offended by violent acts occurring in his stories and understands if you choose not to continue following this story.

This is my third submission to Nifty. My previous submissions can be found in the High School section under Kiel’s Story. Any comments or questions are welcome at:

A warm thank you goes out to all who write. I appreciate knowing someone is actually reading this stuff, whether you like it or not. I try to answer all emails, even flames. (I’m a writer, I live for rejection.) Although sometimes it takes a little time to get back to you, I do try to answer. If I'm remiss in replying to yours, I apologize.

The Pastel Cowboy

by Carl Holiday

Chapter 7 – Goodbye Zach

Bruce and Jerry were sitting at their regular table when Zach walked into the Union on Monday. He bought a tuna salad sandwich and an iced tea then went over to the table.

“Hey, the prodigal child returns,” Bruce said. “Haven’t seen much of you, but who was that cute kid with you at Gay Pride? We didn’t see you at the parade, and then only briefly around the street fair. You were on the other side of the street and then you were gone.”

“Jeremy wanted to see what it was all about,” Zach said, thinking back to Saturday afternoon and Jeremy whining on and on about never meeting any queers except Derek, his father, grandfather, and Zach.

“He looked kind of young, who is he?” Jerry asked.

“What were you doing there?” Zach asked.

“Bruce and I went in drag.”

“You made him wear women’s clothes?”

“Hey, it was his idea to where a bra, not mine,” Bruce said. “I was perfectly happy to go as René, but, no, we have to wear sun dresses and wigs and the whole shtick.”

“You two must have been precious, too bad we didn’t see you. Jeremy would’ve loved you two.”

“So, what’s with the kid?” Bruce asked. “He looked a little young to me.”

“He’s sixteen. Don’t look at me like that. I’m only seventeen. I don’t turn eighteen until October.”

“I’m still seventeen, too,” Jerry said. “I don’t turn eighteen till next month.”

“Babies! I’m surrounded by babies,” Bruce said.

“Next month? You mean we get to throw you a birthday party?” Zach said. “Bruce? We’ve got some serious planning to do.”

“Hey, fine, but what’s with the kid?”

“I won’t tell you how we met, but we’re very, very good friends.”

“I’ve seen that look! You’re in love with the kid.”

“Come on, Bruce, not so loud. Everybody doesn’t need to know I’m balling a sixteen year old boy.”

“Oh, my god! You’re not! Tell me you’re not.”

“Isn’t there a law against that?” Jerry asked.

“Only if I’m like an adult. I’m not, by the way.”

“Oh, yes you are,” Bruce whispered. “I know that lustful look. We were too far away, but from what I could see it looked like he’s got a nice ass, for a sixteen year old, that is.”

“Will you get off the sixteen year old shit? But, as long as you want to talk about it, do you know any fifteen or sixteen year old boys who are looking for a boyfriend?”

“What? You want to get rid of him?” Jerry asked.

“He’s still in high school. He’s got two years to go, besides he lives with his grandfather in a huge house up on Foundry Ridge.”

“You know someone from Foundry Ridge?” Bruce asked. “And, you want to get rid of him? What are you some kind of fool?”

“What’s Foundry Ridge?” Jerry asked.

“Where all the money is,” Zach said. “It’s that long hill on the other side of Oak Park Boulevard. You know, the one with all the mansions on it.”

“You know someone who’s rich?” Jerry asked.

“He’s not rich, just his grandfather.”

“And, who is the grandfather?” Bruce asked.

“Charles McDonald, he wants me to call him Bud. He’s got this huge model train layout above his garage, but he won’t let the kids up there. He said it was an adult toy.”

“You call him Bud?” Jerry asked.

“No, I call him sir. Bugs the heck out of him. He tries to be so unrich. Like one of the guys. All buddy-buddy. It’s weird.”

“Hey, isn’t Sara’s last name McDonald?” Jerry asked. “Oh, my god, you’re screwing Sara’s little brother.”

“Not her little brother, that’s Paul.”

“You know the family?” Bruce asked.

“I was invited to Paul’s birthday party Saturday, but Jeremy bugged me into taking him down to Gay Pride. We got out of there when we ran into a bunch of guys dressed up in leather like his dad.”

“Sara’s dad is a fag?” Jerry asked.

“This wouldn’t have anything to do with the Charles McDonald, Jr., who was in this morning’s paper, would it?” Bruce asked.

“Yeah, the one and only. What did the article say?”

“That he tried to plead guilty to sexual assault on a minor and the judge rejected his plea. It wasn’t one of the kids, was it?”

“No, Jeremy’s best friend. Or, at least, his old best friend. Mr. McDonald is a sadist. They were into some heavy BDSM and the kid got burned real bad.”

“What’s BDSM?” Jerry asked.

“Bondage, domination, sadomasochism,” Bruce said.

Jerry looked like he didn’t have a clue.

“It’s when two people get together and one of them likes to be tied up and beaten and the other one likes to tie people up and beat them. I’ve heard it can be a great turn-on, if you’re into that kind of shit. I’ve also heard under the right circumstances it can be rather involved, too.”

“Yeah, those two were definitely involved,” Zach said. “From what Jeremy was saying, Derek was definitely into being dominated. A regular toady.”

“What’s a toady?” Jerry asked.

“Look it up in a dictionary,” Bruce said. “So, other than the sixteen year old you’re fucking, what else has been going on? We haven’t seen you much, except when Jerry sees you in class. It’s almost as if you’re avoiding us.”

“I’m not fucking the kid, okay? And, well, about the other thing, yeah, I was avoiding you guys.”


“Yeah, a little.”

“Of who?” Jerry asked.

Zach stared at him.

“Oh, you mean, you liked me, but then it was Bruce and me, and then you were left out.”

“Three’s a crowd,” Zach said.

“Not with us,” Bruce said. “But, we will tell you when it’s time to leave so we can start making out.”

“We don’t make out,” Jerry said.

“See Zach? We don’t make out. We just sit around and make goo-goo eyes at each other. Actually, we’ve been too busy getting Jerry up to speed with his college papers to have any time for anything that might lead to sex. Not that I wouldn’t mind, Jerry, if you ever have that kind of interest in me.”

“I was waiting for you to make the first move. You’re the one who’s been around the block.”

“What? Me? Don’t let this get out, but I’ve never, ever done it, okay?”

“You’re a virgin?” Jerry asked.

“Yeah, aren’t we all? Well, except for Zach, of course. You’re not a virgin, are you?”

“Nope, I’ve been around the block a couple times.”

“We could have a pool party,” Jeremy said a couple weeks later as he and Zach relaxed at the side of the pool after a few warm up laps.

“What’s this we stuff?” Zach asked. It bugged him how Jeremy seemed to worm into his life. Steven hardly cared what Zach did during the day. Jeremy, on the other hand, once asked Zach whether he folded the toilet paper before wiping his ass or just bunched it up into a wad. Did he use an electric toothbrush or do it the old fashioned way? Little, everyday things seemed to be what interested Jeremy the most.

Zach had put a stop to the twice daily calls, allowing Jeremy one call in the evening before bed, but even those were wearing on his nerves. He just wasn’t into stuff that seemed to interest city kids. He didn’t listen to Jeremy’s music, didn’t play video games, and didn’t like to hang out at the mall.

“I want to meet your friends,” Jeremy said. He pushed himself away from the wall, floating on his back. He didn’t seem interested in a workout. Zach followed him.

“I haven’t met any of yours,” Zach said. Then he remembered the birthday party. “No, I guess I did meet all of your friends. Didn’t I?”

“Yeah, you did. Not that any of them don’t want to meet you under better circumstances, but you know, they’d be kind of nervous.”

“You’d be kind of nervous, you mean.”

“Yeah, but we could have a little party here. Raul could do burgers or tacos, maybe, steaks, if you brought them. It’d be just the four of us, and, well probably Paul and maybe Grandfather, but he wouldn’t stay. He’d just want to meet everyone. He does that.”

“Yeah, I know,” Zach said thinking back to the Saturday when he brought Jeremy home from Gay Pride. Bud had been up in the hobby room when they drove up and called for them when they entered the house. He asked Zach if he had a condom in his wallet like he suggested. Jeremy looked like he wanted to crawl into a corner and die.

Jeremy dove under the surface and headed for the bottom. Zach knew what was going to happen, but wasn’t in the mood for play. Steven still troubled him. It’d been nearly three weeks since the breakdown and he still hadn’t been able to see his friend. In desperation, he called Aunt Jenny who told him Steven was in what she called intensive therapy and couldn’t see visitors. She, also, said she put him on the list of visitors Steven was allowed to see. She said it might be four months before Steven was stable enough for outside visitors, but more likely two or three.

She did suggest he write Steven a letter or two, not daily, but at least a couple a week. He didn’t have to say much of anything, just that he was thinking of Steven and patiently waiting for the day when Steven could come home. Zach started writing and waited for a reply, none came. He wasn’t certain the letters were even reaching his friend. Another call to Aunt Jenny resulted in a mild rebuke. These things took time and Zach had to be patient. Steven would come back, in time. She did say Steven was receiving the letters, but she didn’t know if he was reading them or if he was even allowed to read them.

Zach made it back to the side of the pool before Jeremy surfaced and called out, “Hey! Where’d you go?”

“Over here, honey, I’m over here,” Zach said pulling himself out of the water. He went over and sat on one of the lounge chairs. A party here at the house might be nice, he thought to himself. It would definitely be innocent and safe. He just wished he could find Jeremy a younger playmate. He was tiring of the boy’s childishness.

“Don’t call me honey,” Jeremy said sitting down on the chair beside Zach. “Why can’t we have a party here?”

“I didn’t say we couldn’t. Now that you’ve suggested it, I will talk to Bruce and Jerry. They might be interested.”

“Great! I’ll ask Grandfather if it’ll be okay. I met Roger’s brother today. You know, Johnny? I told you about him.”

“Oh, yeah, I guess you did. Is he cute?”

“Yeah, I suppose.”

“What’d you do? Kiss?”

“No! We talked a little bit about stuff and played video games.”

“Sounds like you had a boring time.”

“No, he’s kind of neat, really. He lives with his mother.”

“Roger doesn’t live with them?”

“No! Roger lives with his dad and his mother. Look, it’s like this. Roger’s dad was, well, he liked a lot of girls in college and, well, I guess, he wasn’t too much into using condoms.”

“So he got two girls pregnant.”

“Yeah, at almost the same time, too.”

“He married Roger’s mother, but has to pay support for Johnny, too.”

“He must be rich, or something.”

“He sells real estate for the family business. But, you know, Johnny is only three months younger than me. He’s a sophomore at Juanita Academy. It’s not as good as St. Xavier’s, but they do have a good football team. He’s a linebacker. They beat us last year and the year before that.”

“Sounds like you two hit it off pretty good.”

Zach stared at the water waiting for Jeremy to respond. He was hoping this might be the boy to get Jeremy’s mind off of him, after all Johnny was supposed to be gay.



“You’re not mad, are you?”

“Should I be?”

“We didn’t do anything.”

“Jeremy, it’s okay. Really.”

“You sure.”

“You can see Johnny all you want. He’s probably got more in common with you than I do.”

“We did kiss a little.”

“Well, you’re a good kisser so he probably enjoyed himself.”

“Can I invite him to Jerry’s party?”

“I think that would be a good idea.”



“Can we go up to my room and do it? I want to feel you in me. Please?”

One last fuck, thought Zach. He kind of wanted the same from Jeremy.

Roger and Johnny came to the party. Sara made a point of being there, too. The party reminded Zach of beach parties out at Glasgow Beach on Lake Eufaula when he was younger and not gay. It was all so innocent, just a bunch of teens getting together for some sun, music, and food. Raul, the McDonald’s cook, prepared a superb picnic with potato salad, barbecued tenderloin, baked beans, and a wonderful chocolate birthday cake with fudge frosting and eighteen candles.

Jeremy, Paul, Roger, Johnny, and Sara were shooting hoops when Zach pulled into the driveway. Johnny was nearly as tall as Jeremy, but built more like the football player he was. In some ways, he looked a couple years older than Jeremy whose body was made for a swimming and gymnastics. They made a good match with Jeremy’s very dark hair and Johnny’s sun bleached sandy hair. Zach watched how they interacted with one another as the basketball moved between them. Their eyes told him he wouldn’t be in Jeremy’s life much longer. He smiled at that thought.

Bud came out of the house about the same time Zach, Bruce and Jerry climbed out of the Ranger. Jeremy and Zach handled the introductions, then Bud took Jerry off to the side. While they were quietly talking, Zach saw Jerry perk up a bit, then they walked back into the house. Zach went over to Bruce, who was talking to Sara.

“No, we live over by the celery farm,” Bruce said. “Or, that’s what it was before they put in that new parking lot for North Park Community College. Well, maybe, a lot longer than that. To everyone in our neighborhood, that empty field was always called the celery farm. I don’t even know if whoever used to have a farm there grew celery, but I suppose they must have.”

“You know, you don’t have any facial hair,” Sara said. “You’re almost like an Indian. Do you have some distant relative who was Indian?”

“Not that I know of,” Bruce said. “We’re all from Scotland, I think. Maybe some far distant relative was a sailor and brought back a native wife, but I doubt that. My people worked the land, then ended up in factories before emigrating to America. Well, actually, to Canada first. My father’s Canadian, but his brother, my Uncle Bill, was born down here.”

“Where’s Bud taking Jerry?” Zach asked.

“And, Uncle Bill is a lot like me, too,” Bruce said. “He’s got less body hair than I do. But, he’s not into cross-dressing like me.”

“You’re kidding, right?” Sara asked.

“No, I make a good looking woman. At least, that’s what Zach thinks.”

“What’s with Bud and Jerry?” Zach asked.

“Don’t you think I look good in drag?” Bruce asked.

“Ohmigod! You’re not gay, are you?” Sara asked.

“Yeah, René’s sweet!” Zach said. “Calm down, Sara, you and Roger are welcome at the party, too.”

“If it was your birthday, you’d get to play with Grandfather’s trains,” Sara said.

“I’ve already played with Bud’s choo-choo,” Zach said.

“That’s because you’re like him,” Sara said.

“Like who?” Bruce asked.

“Bud likes boys,” Zach said.

“Wow! And, he took Jerry, where?” Bruce asked.

“To play with the trains,” Zach said. “Come on, I’ll show you.”

“You can’t go up there, uninvited,” Sara said.

“Sure I can, Bud likes me ’cause I’m a boy,” Zach said. “But, I’m sure you’ll be welcome, too, Sara. Come on, let’s go.”

After dropping Bruce off at his home, Zach and Jerry headed back toward the dorm. It had been quite a birthday party, Jerry even received a few gifts. Yet, nothing seemed to brighten him.

“Do you want to stop for some coffee and talk?” Zach asked as they neared the little shopping area next to campus.

“No, I’m kind of tired. I think I need to lie down for a while.”

“Is there something wrong? You’ve been in a dark mood all day.”

“It’s nothing really. Just family problems, it’ll be okay in a little bit. I just need to sleep.”

“Okay, I’ll take us home.”

“Home? God! Is that what that building is?”

“Home is where the heart is, and that’s where I park my heart.”


“What’s wrong Jerry?”

“Nothing you can fix, but it’ll be alright soon. I’ve got a plan.”

“You sure? I mean, I’ve already been through family shit, maybe I can help.”

“No, I’ll take care of it. It’s nothing, really.”

When Zach came to a stop in the parking lot, Jerry practically jumped out of the Ranger and ran toward the dorm.

“Hey, buddy! You forgot your gifts,” Zach yelled.

Jerry stopped and stood very still for a moment as if trying to decide if he wanted to go back for the gifts. Then he turned and walked back to Zach who was holding the boxes.

“Are you sure you’re alright?” Zach asked.

“Yeah, I’m okay. It’ll be alright soon.”

“I don’t know, Jerry, you don’t sound too good.”

“I just need to sleep. It’ll be alright in the morning.”

They walked to the door without saying anything further. Zach had that familiar queasy feeling in his gut, but Jerry said he was okay so he couldn’t figure out what else to do. He held the door and they went to the elevators. When the elevator door opened at Zach’s floor he turned to Jerry, but his friend looked as if he was miles away.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Zach asked.

“Yeah, it’ll be better soon. I know what to do.”

Zach got out and went to his room. The queasy feeling was turning into nausea and he began to wonder what was in the birthday cake. He went into the toilet, but after bending over the porcelain receptacle and not getting anything to come up, he went back into his room. Something was up with Jerry. He knew it. Something was wrong, but he couldn’t put a finger on it.

He sat on his bed and realized it was nine o’clock Saturday night and he didn’t have anywhere to go. He couldn’t see Steven and Jeremy had gone off with Johnny for a sleepover. He wondered if he’d been right in pushing Jeremy away. It certainly made for a lonely Saturday night. He went over to the desk and started working on some homework.

After awhile his cell phone began to chirp. The clock said ten-thirty. Maybe it was Jeremy. He picked it up.




“I’m sorry.”

“Sorry? What?”

“They said if you used a really sharp knife it wouldn’t hurt, but it hurts like hell. Zach?”

“Where are you?”

“In the toilet, third stall. Oh, Zach, it hurts.”

“I’m coming!”

Zach ran out of his room and stopped at the elevators for a second, pushing the up button. He couldn’t wait and went to the stairwell. Jerry was up two floors and at the opposite end of the building. It seemed to take forever. When he got to Jerry’s quad there were a couple students standing beside the door to the bathroom.

“Hey! You know what that smell is?” one of them asked.

“Blood! Have either of you called an ambulance?” Zach asked.

“No, why? Oh, shit!”

“I’ll call,” Zach said. “Go get the RA and you go with him so he doesn’t get lost. Hurry!”


“Zach.” It was barely a whisper and not a question.

Zach opened the door to the third stall and saw Jerry sitting with blood running out of his wrists. It wasn’t spurting, so Zach suspected Jerry missed an artery. He saw a box cutter on the floor. There was a lot of blood on the floor, too, but Zach hoped it was not enough.

The 9-1-1 operator said an ambulance was on the way, someone had already called. He told her he was with Jerry and would do what he could to stop the bleeding.

“This isn’t a solution, you know that?” Zach said while pulling off his t-shirt and tearing it into strips for tourniquets.

“They said they’re not my parents anymore,” Jerry whispered. “I’m eighteen and they don’t have to be responsible for me.”

“That’s stupid. Raise your hands above your heart.”

“They couldn’t make babies so after nearly ten years they adopted me. Two years later Mom got pregnant. His name is Michael. Two years after that Matthew came. Two years later Maryanne came and they moved me down to the basement because they didn’t have room for four kids up stairs.

“God, it hurts, Zach. I wasn’t much more than a dog to them. They fed and clothed me, gave me a roof over my head. There wasn’t any heat in the basement. In the summer it was great, but in the winter I had to use an electric blanket to keep from freezing. God, I hated them.

“Is that a siren? You got the bleeding stopped. You’re good Zach. I tried Bruce, but he yelled at me. Told me I was a stupid fuck for doing this. What’s wrong with him?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are they coming? I don’t feel so good. They said Julie Winters saw me with Bruce. They said Julie said Bruce was a faggot. That’s what they called him. They said I wasn’t any better than him. I told them. I did. I said, ‘He’s my friend. He’s helping me study.’ It didn’t matter. They said they won’t pay anymore for my education. After this term I’ll have to take care of it myself. I don’t have money, Zach. I can’t, I can’t. Zach?”

“It’ll be okay, Jerry,” Zach said not knowing what more he could do.

“We’ll take over now,” a voice said behind Zach. He turned and saw a paramedic with rubber gloves. The nametag said “Barbara.”

“I got the bleeding stopped,” Zach said, stepping out of the stall.

“Thanks, he’ll be okay,” Barbara said.

Zach stood out of the way as the paramedics worked on Jerry getting him ready for transport. Then, as they were going out the door, he asked, “Where are you taking him?”

“North Park Memorial, they have a psychiatric unit,” Barbara said.

“Oh, yeah, of course,” Zach mumbled realizing Jerry was probably going to need that kind of treatment, too.

He looked at the blood on the floor and then noticed it was all over his hands and jeans. The queasy feeling was gone, too. He called Sara and told her to tell her grandfather. He said he would meet them at the hospital.

By the time Zach reached the hospital, Bud was calling in reinforcements in the person of the hospital director, a personal friend. Money talks, but not to a weekend relief emergency room admittance clerk who knows family is much more powerful than money. That Jerry had no family, now, seemed to be irrelevant. Family was needed for signatures. North Park Memorial was a private hospital, not public. Financial responsibility had to be established and it could only be assigned by family, either in person, by email or fax, or a telephone call. That they’d already informed the hospital they didn’t have a son name Jerry didn’t seem to matter, either.

“Where’s Jerry?” Zach asked Sara who was sitting in the waiting area with Paul, who was leaning against her arm asleep.

“Up in surgery,” Sara said. “They won’t tell us anything because we’re not family.”

“He doesn’t have any family, now,” Zach said sitting down across from her. Paul opened his eyes, looked at Zach, then walked over and sat down beside him. He leaned against Zach and went back to sleep.

“Well, I guess we know who he loves,” Sara said. “You can keep him as far as I’m concerned.”

“You don’t mean that,” Zach said.

“Do you know why? You know, why Jerry did it to himself?”

“Yeah, his family told him to take a hike.”

“How can parents do that?”

“He was adopted and then, suddenly, they could make babies on their own. I guess he had it pretty rough not being related by blood like their other three children.”

“Is that any reason to kill yourself?”

“I don’t think so, but Jerry was under a lot of pressure from them. Maybe he thought his future was so bleak he felt death would be better. I don’t know.”

“Well, he’s got Grandfather on his side now.”


“Grandfather is going to help him. When he leaves here he’ll be coming home with us. Are you going to see Jeremy anymore?”

“I don’t think so. He’s got Johnny.”

“What if he calls you?”

“I’ll try to talk to him. I’m not cutting him off completely, but he needs friends his own age and interests. I can’t talk to him. We don’t listen to the same music. We don’t like the same television programs. Sara, I’ve inseminated cows, castrated calves, shot rattlesnakes, strung enough barbwire around three sections of pasture to last a lifetime, and was beaten senseless so many times in the past year I’m beginning to wonder if all this is real or just a dream I’m having while lying comatose in a nursing home in Hannaford, Oklahoma. We don’t have anything in common.”

As he was saying this, Zach thought about the wonderful sex he was having with Jeremy. That was the one thing they did have in common, but sex couldn’t be enough to keep their relationship going. After all, he had Steven; or, at least he hoped Steven was coming back to him. Jeremy couldn’t be anything more than a fuck-buddy, a really cute fuck-buddy, but nothing more than that.

“Inseminated cows?”

“Yeah, you don’t want to know.”

“But, how?”

“You need a really long rubber glove.”

“Eew! You’re right, I don’t want to know.”

“I told you. Did Jeremy say anything to you?”

“Yeah, this morning before anyone showed up. He was upset because you haven’t spoken to him since last Saturday. I told him basically the same thing. You know, you’re in college, you’re more mature. He practically cried on my shoulder.”

“If he calls, I’ll try to talk to him,” Zach said imagining himself comforting the boy. He didn’t want to be there when it happened, the final realization that they weren’t meant to be.

“What if he asks you to come to the house?”

“Oh, god, Sara, you don’t know what Jeremy means to me.”

“Yeah, I do. You love him and you want to let him go.”

“Hey, kids, Jerry will be in surgery for another few hours,” Bud said sitting down next to Sara. “He did a lot of damage to the tendons with that box cutter. Practically cut his hands off. The docs were surprised he didn’t loose that much blood, but I guess his arteries weren’t where they were supposed to be. He’s going to need a lot of care in the coming months. Oh, and Zach, thank you for calling. Were you there?”

“Yeah, I stopped the bleeding before the paramedics arrived. He called me. I guess he wasn’t really ready to go.”

“Did Sara tell you about Jerry living with us?”

“Yes, sir, I think that’s a great idea. His parents won’t do anything.”

“I know, I talked to them. I’m afraid I kind of lost it and called his father a homophobic bastard who didn’t deserve a boy as good as Jerry. He hung up on me and wouldn’t answer when I called back. As far as I’m concerned Jerry won’t have to deal with those people ever again.”

Bruce was gone. It was as simple as that. He didn’t return calls or emails. His parents wouldn’t talk when he went to their house. Instead, his mother asked if Zach was one of their son’s homo friends. It irked him that they were more concerned about his sexual orientation than whether he might be their son’s friend.

He wondered if most parents were like this. He couldn’t understand how his, Jerry’s, and now Bruce’s parents could totally reject a child, someone they raised to adulthood. It was as if all those runny noses, skinned knees, nightmares, and all the other childhood maladies paled in comparison to their hatred of homosexuals, especially the fruit of their loins.

Zach had little to go on and, well, he really wasn’t all that interested.

He still had to part with Jeremy. He hoped it would be amicably. Two days after Jerry’s suicide, he’d gone back to the McDonald house and made love with Jerry. It was just as it always had been, something so beautiful he didn’t want to let it go. Then he listened to Jerry go on and on about what a neat guy Johnny was and how they were going to start hanging together. They’d kissed on the sleepover and, according to Jeremy, gotten naked together in bed, though, they didn’t sleep together or do anything sexual like he and Zach were doing. Zach stopped listening and wondered how long he was going to put up with Jerry. What he really wanted to know was whether they could remain friends after the breakup.

Jerry moved into the McDonald house on Thursday. They gave him a guest suite on the second floor. He was more subdued than before, but Bud said most of that was due to medication. He was paying for a psychiatrist on top of paying whatever Jerry’s parents weren’t going to pay for the hospital stay.

“We’re kind of concerned about the damage he did to the tendons in his wrist,” Bud said as Zach sat with him in the workshop next to the train layout. “And, the very real possibility of serious nerve damage. And, of course, there’s his mental state. His parents totally fucked that kid. Will you be able to help him study for his finals?”

“Yes, sir, I’ll do anything to help,” Zach said wishing Bruce hadn’t gone off, wherever. “He only has a final in calculus. Doctor Jeffers said he’ll take a paper if one is needed. I’ve gotten all A pluses, so I don’t need to do a final paper. I’ll check and see what we need to do about Jerry.”

“That’s alright. I’ll talk to Dickie. Maybe we can work something out. Where are you going to stay between terms?”


“They close the dorms between summer and autumn terms. Most kids go home, but that’s not an option for you.”

“Jeez, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll call my uncle. He might have a room I can use for a month.”

“You can stay here.”

“No, that won’t work.”

“You and Jeremy still seeing each other?”

“I’m trying to break it off, but I don’t want to hurt him. And, well, I want to stay friends, if only so I can come and see Jerry.”

“How about if I sort of mediate your situation.”

“How would that work?”

“Get you two together in, say, my study or maybe the library and we can talk; and, you two can cry your eyes out. It’ll be hard. I know my grandson will cry a lot.”

“I know, I don’t want to break up, but we have to. It just isn’t going to work out.”

“How about we do it right now?”

And, Jeremy cried.

Zach sat at the opposite end of the white leather sofa in the library trying his damnedest not to start crying himself as Bud sat between them. He was quietly and calmly speaking to his grandson explaining why he and Zach couldn’t go on the way they were. Jeremy was whimpering by the time Bud got to not having sex anymore.

“I know I’ve been very liberal with you and Zach,” Bud said. “But, I guess having even that isn’t enough for Zach.”

Zach looked at them suddenly feeling he was turning into a bad guy. He thought mediation was supposed to be two-sided, but Bud was stressing all of this wasn’t Jeremy’s fault. He was just an innocent victim.

“You’d better talk to him,” Bud said, turning to Zach. “All I’ve done is make him cry.”

He stood up, then said, “Go on, sit next to Jeremy. Put an arm around him and tell him you’re sorry. Then I think you’d better tell him why you two have to break up. And, tell the truth, damn it! Don’t mollycoddle the boy. He’s sixteen and needs to be treated as such.”

Zach moved over and sat down next to Jeremy. When put his arms around the boy, pulling him into a light hug, Jeremy melted into him and started bawling. Jeremy tightly wrapped his arms around Zach and sunk his head into Zach’s shoulder.

Zach felt no better than hog snot. He was worse than bad. He was totally pathetic. The meanest bastard around. And, he loved Jeremy too much to hurt him as he was doing.

After a long while, Jeremy finally settled down to a trembling whimper. He barely whispered, “Why?”

“Because I love you and want to see you happy,” Zach said. He swallowed unsure whether to step into dangerous territory. “We’re so different, Jeremy, I can’t see us being happy. All we have together is sex. And, I’ve got Steven to think about. And, now, you’ve got Johnny on your mind.”

“But, I don’t want you to go,” Jeremy whispered. He still held tightly onto Zach.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Zach said. He could hear the ice cracking around him as he walked out onto the pond. “I still have to come here to see Jerry. We just have to stop loving each other too much. We can’t be boyfriends, but I want us to remain friends, if we can. I love you.”

A shudder went through Jeremy’s body and his arms gripped Zach.

“I love you, too,” Jeremy whispered. Then he abruptly released his hold on Zach and pulled away.

Zach looked into his eyes and saw a scared little boy whose best friend is moving across the country and releases they never see each other ever again. Zach very much wanted to take Jeremy in his arms and kiss him deeply. He wanted them naked.

“Why don’t you like me?” Jeremy asked. The knife seared Zach’s soul as Jeremy pushed it deep into his heart. “I know that’s the real reason. You’ve told me about Steven and how you won’t see him for months. You don’t even know if he’ll love you like you love him. Let him go, Zach. Take me. I’m here and I love you.”

“Jeremy we’re so different, too different. I know what I want to become, now. After being with Jerry and seeing him bleeding, the box cutter at his feet, and hearing him tell me about how horrible it was for him growing up in a family who no longer loved him, changed me. I want to get into counseling. I want to help boys like us who can’t see a future as they are. I want to go back to Oklahoma. There are a lot of us down there who are scared and I want to help them.”

Jeremy smiled and put his arms around Zach.

“I’ll go with you,” he whispered.

“No, you want to go back to Switzerland. You have your heart set on all that snow and all those people speaking French. I don’t want to hold you back. And, I don’t want to learn French. Jeremy, you’ve got Johnny, too.”

Jeremy stiffened and pulled back. He looked as if Zach had slapped him. Fresh tears dribbled down his cheeks. He sat back into the sofa and stared at his knees.

“Jeremy, you’re closer in everything to Johnny. You’re still in high school. I’ve done all the things you’re going to do in the next two years. Well, not all of them, since I couldn’t do anything last year, but I’ve already been through what you’re going to see and do. I love you, but I can’t be with a boy who’s closer to being fifteen than seventeen.”

Zach looked around the room and saw that Bud had left them to sort things out on their own. Jeremy pulled out his handkerchief and began to clean his face. A few tears still tried to escape, but he quickly daubed them and tried to smile. Zach felt a tear dribble down his cheek and Jeremy brushed it away with a finger.

“All we have in common is making love,” Zach said. “There has to be more than just that. I don’t like the music you listen to and you don’t like mine. We never talk about stuff because we like totally different stuff.”

“It’s because I live here, isn’t it? That’s the real reason. You don’t like me because my grandfather is rich.”

“I love you.”

“But, you don’t like me enough to really, truly love me. Okay, we’ll be friends.”

Jeremy wrapped his arms around Zach and tightly hugged him. He sucked on Zach’s earlobe. Then their lips met, but it was not a lover’s kiss.

“Come on, let’s go see if Raul will make us some root beer floats,” Jeremy said. He stood up and held a hand out for Zach. “I want you to know I don’t like this, but I stop pushing if you stop pulling because I do love you.”

Two weeks later when Zach came back to the dorm after his last final, he checked his email. He’d been trying to get in touch with his uncle. He’d left voicemail messages and sent emails, but none of them were answered. He had to be out of the dorm tomorrow. He didn’t want to have to call Bud and go into that house. He and Jeremy still saw each other, but Jeremy stayed away, never getting close to Zach.

There was a new email from Paul Griffin, his uncle’s partner. He picked up his phone and dialed the number.


“Paul? This is Zach.”

“How are you, boy?”

“I have to move out of the dorm tomorrow and I don’t know where I’m going to live until fall term. I was hoping I could ask Uncle David if he had a guest room or something.”

“Well, our guest room is actually David’s office.”

“Well, okay, at least I tried.”

“Wait, I’m not finished. We have three bedrooms, so one of them could be yours.”

“I can move in?”

“Yeah, but we’ve got a small problem. David and I are leaving tomorrow for North Carolina. David wants to go watch a NASCAR race.”

“NASCAR? Uncle David likes to watch car races?”

“Yeah, I think he’s crazy, too.”

“Well, okay, I guess I’ll have to see if one of my friends can put me up for a month.”

“Hold on, boy. I’m not through, yet. Do you need help moving?”

“Yeah, I could use a little help.”

“Okay, I’ll be there within the hour. You get things ready.”

“But, you’re leaving.”

“We’ll take you with us. That way I’ll have someone to keep me busy while David is watching cars go round and round.”

“Keep you busy?”

“Yeah, there’s got to be something to do down there besides watching a car race.”

“Okay, thanks.”

“See you in a bit.”

Zach leaned back in his chair and looked around his room. He knew he wasn’t going to miss this place. He got up and started packing.

Author’s Comments

I apologize for the blood. This was a difficult chapter to write because Zach has to be ready to start the next phase of his life and subordinate characters had to exit. Jerry’s departure had to be drastic so that Bruce could exit, too. When I first decided Jerry needed to leave, I planned on Zach not saving him. Keeping him alive allows him to come back later in the story. Honestly, I don’t like killing characters, especially when they’re young. Sometimes, I can’t do anything except do in a character. I wish the best for Jerry, but the prognosis for his kind of wound is never good.