STANDARD WARNING: This is a work of fiction. Any coincidence to individuals, living or dead, is pure coincidence. Do not read this story if you are offended by man-to-man romance or sex. Do not read if you are underage according to the laws in the country, state/province, county, city/town/village or township where you live. There is, or will be, sex between males. You have been warned!
Brian's parents were dead. They died in a violent car accident. He had two older brothers and an older sister. He had no living grandparents since his own parents had give birth to Brian late in life. His maternal grandmother, his last living grandparent, died when he was just four. He had only one uncle who lived in California and no one had ever met.
Brian's next oldest sibling, his brother David, was twenty-one and still in college. David and Brian were particularly close despite their age difference. David would have gladly taken Brian to live with him. The problem was supervision. David had classes during the day, worked a part-time job in the he afternoon and studied evenings. David had planned on continuing school and working on his Master's of Fine Arts immediately after graduation, which would require at least another two years of school.
Brian was twelve. He had silver-blond hair and ice blue eyes. His skin was pale, almost transluscent. He had handsome features; a strong chin, an average-sized but somewhat pointy nose and a larger that average Adam's apple. He had a dimple in the exact center of his chin. He had started puberty, so his hands and feet were way out of proportion to the rest of his body. Most of all, his smile was radiant. His late mother used to say that when he smiled, he looked like an angel. The smile was rarely seen recently, however, because the boy had few reasons to smile.
Money was no problem. The Kowalski siblings had been left with a generous trust fund as a result of Bill Kowalski's photoprocessing business.
David was too busy trying to develop his own photography business that he didn't have time to take care of an emotionally dependent twelve-year-old.
The oldest brother, Mark, barely knew Brian. He had a busy job as a computer programmer at AT&T. He was unmarried, but had a steady girlfriend. As with David, supervision would be a problem. Mark felt it would be unwise to leave Brian at home alone from the time Brain came home from school until he arrived home from work. So Mark was ruled out for the time being as well.
The left Noreen. Noreen was a teacher and was currently on maternity leave. She had been married three years. Just two months ago, she had a new daughter. It was either Noreen or a boarding school.
Noreen tried her best. She and her husband did everything they could to make Brian feel comfortable. They gave him his own room, tried to do things with him on the weekends, and accommodated his tastes in music and television. They took him to counseling twice a week to help him sort out his feelings.
For about two months, everything seemed to be working out. The Kowalski siblings let out a collective sigh of relief. Brian was improving in school, and helping around the house.
Then, the problems started. First, he refused to do any housework, Noreen and her husband rationalized this by telling themselves that adolescents seldom wanted to do housework. Then, his grades in school plummeted and he started to get into trouble at school. They told themselves that this was just a delayed reaction to the death of their parents.
About four months after Brian came to live with them in Evergreen Park, there came the thing that all parents dread: the midnight call. It came from the Evergreen Park Police Department. Could someone come to the police station and bail him out?
Steve went to the police station. He spotted Brian sitting on a bench in the harsh glow of the fluorescent light. He was looking down at his mud-stained white Adidas. His silver-blond hair hung limply from his forehead. When he looked up at Steve, his ice-blue eyes were rimmed with red and his nose puffy. Brian had a look in his eyes that was a combination of fright and relief.
The next night, David, Noreen, Mark and Steve had a tense meeting around Noreen's kitchen table. The smell of freshly brewed coffee and a Sara Lee Lite coffee cake warmed in the microwave added to the homey feel of the gathering, but did little to lessen the drama. Brian had been banished to the living room to watch his niece. He was good with the baby--that was one good thing about Brian. Even though the TV was was tuned to Cheers, Brian strained to overhear the conversation.
"The charges are loitering and being out after curfew. Definitely misdemeanor, but he's still in trouble."
Noreen sipped her coffee, then spoke again. "The park where he was picked up at is right across the street from a gay bar. It's a known pick-up place." David's eyebrows shot up, and he leaned foreword with interest.
Noreen continued: "The police didn't say what was going on and wouldn't tell me anything beyond the charges." She sighed and leaned back in her chair. Her pretty face showed the strain of a new baby and a troublesome adolescent brother. "I can't do it anymore," she concluded. "I just can't do it anymore."
"So now what?" David broke the long pause.
"I think....." Mark hesitated, then continued, "....I think we should consider the boys home again." They had discussed it before, just after the funeral. Fortunately, there had been a will and a trust fund, but no provisions had been made for the care of their youngest son. Like many people, the Kowalskis didn't think they would die before he came of age.
David shook his head. "It would kill him. Simply kill him."
"I don't think we have any more options," Noreen replied.
"This is a big step. Can't we think of something else?"
"The state. We could declare him incorrigible and he would be sent to an institution Like the Audy Home."
"That's not Brian, He may be in trouble, and have a bad attitude at the moment, but he's not a hard-core juvenile delinquent." To Noreen, the choice was clear. The Audy Home was a notoriously brutal and tough institution in the city. St. Luke's was a Catholic boys home in Chicago's south suburbs. It was no Boys Town, but neither was it the Audy Home.
Predictably, Brian was upset.
"It's only until I finish school," David tried to placate Brian, "then you can come live with me."
"Why can't I come to live with you now?"
"Because I can't take care of you. I have to study and work."
"But I wouldn't be any trouble. I'll stay out of trouble. I promise."
"You're already past that point, buddy. You've already proven you can't be trusted. No, Brian. We love you, but you have to go. You'll start the winter semester there. That's about three weeks away."
Brian began to cry. David attempted to hug the sobbing boy, but he pulled away. The other siblings looked on uncomfortably, partially relieved, and hoping to God that they had made the right decision.
St. Luke's was Catholic in name only. On the Executive
Director, one of the teachers in the school and the Director of
Home Life were religious. There were mandatory Masses on Sunday,
and religious education classes on Wednesday evenings. But even
the catechism classes were optional, and if the parents objected,
the boys didn't have to go.
St. Luke's Home for Boys had been founded in 1891 by The
Brothers of Charity. It occupied a wooded site by a large creek
in a south suburb of Chicago twenty miles due south of the Loop.
It was shaded by ancient oak and maple trees and most of the
buildings were red brick.
Originally intended as a manual training school and orphanage,
it once had it's own farm, metal and wood shops, bakery and steam
plant, newspaper and printing presses. As society changed, and
the demand for these skills decreased, some of the buildings were
abandoned, and some of the farmland sold to raise cash. The huge
building that once housed the industrial arts classes, for
example, stood empty for twenty years until recently.
There were other changes, too. During the 1960's the ancient
old cottages were systematically replaced by modern, ranch-style
homes. Each home had been built by the generous donation of
corporate citizens in the Chicago area, and many of them bore the
names of their benefactors; Sears, Salerno, Ryerson, Polk and
But the most profound change came in the mission of the
school. No longer was it an orphanage. It now served
"at-risk" youths from single-parent, dysfunctional
homes. The boys were referred there by a variety of agencies.
It's primary purpose was to reunite the boys with their parents,
but barring that, to set up adoption for them.
It was a sunny, December day when David took his brother for a visit to campus. In the car, David tried to be upbeat and positive, but Brian was sullen. He was scared, too, although he would have rather set his hair on fire than admit it.
In the ornate Administration Building, they met Father Martin
O'Donnell, Executive Director. The priest reminded David of a
used car salesman, glad-handing the boy and his brother, slapping
them on the back, and greeting them with an overcheerful, booming
voice. Beneath his exterior, O'Donnell was all business, with an
eye for details, and he ran the institution like a Swiss watch.
He spoke to David privately, first, while Brian sat nervously in
the magnificent Art Deco Main Hall, jiggling his leg.
Father O'Donnell explained to David that the boys were not
wards of the state, They were almost all from broken homes. Some
like, Brian, were genuine orphans, which is the original purpose
of the school. Many had school problems or learning disabilities,
and the school had special education teachers to deal with them.
Many had other problems: physical or sexual abuse, alcoholism or
drug abuse, neglect, police problems. Each student received
counseling at least once a week, up to five times a week, if
They rejoined Brian, and began the tour of campus. It started
with the gym. Fully equipped, it featured weight training
equipment on the balcony overlooking the wooden basketball court.
They went from there past the staff residences and infirmary, and indoor pool to the old Industrial Arts Building. The two story brick building had recently been tuckpointed and the window sashes painted and repaired. Mini-blinds covered some of the windows. Father O'Donnell let them into the main entrance. Over the main door a sign announced the building had been built in 1913. Inside the foyer, a set of of stairs led to the second floor and a skylight opened above them. There was a strong aroma of freshly-cut wood, plaster and paint. To the right was a new, steel door, still unpainted. O'Donnell, took a plastic 'key' and waved it over a metal pad. The door clicked open. The priest reached in and flipped on the lights.
"This was the woodshop. Now it is the computer lab. They
all have high-speed Internet access. We converted it last
summer." Before them gleamed 30 state-of-the-art Hewlett
Packard computers. Brian's eyes almost popped out of his head.
Next, they went to one of the High School homes. The boys were
divided by grade into the homes, also called cottages. Since it
was a school morning, none of the boys would be here. They
attended school at the local public high school, while the
elementary and junior high boys went to school on campus.
Hargrave was an older building on the south edge of campus. It
had not been replaced with a newer ranch-style building, and
there were no plans to do so. Once the trio entered the building,
Brian and David understood why.
Hargrave was one of the two High School homes. From the
outside. it looked like a old ante-bellum Southern plantation
mansion. Inside the main entrance hall, they saw that the
building was really U-shaped. In the wing on the left was a
formal living room with a fireplace and piano and six computers
workstations. In the wing on the right was an informal area with
a TV room and a small kitchen. Upstairs, there was a
houseparent's suite and fifteen tiny bedrooms. The rooms were
minuscule--not more than eight by eight. But each had a window
overlooking the wooded campus. The rooms were spotlessly clean
and obviously a source of pride for the occupant. Each high
school student had a room to himself, O'Donnell explained.
Father O'Donnell then led the two brothers to a junior high
cottage. Most cottages, he explained as they walked, had a
married couple as the houseparents. Some of the elementary
cottages had single women,
Trees cottage was one of the identical buildings erected in
the sixties. Debbie McIlvain was a small woman, with brown eyes
and hair and a radiant smile.
"This is Brian Kowalski," O'Donnell introduced the boy to the woman.
She smiled. "Hi, Brian," she said as she extended her hand. Brian shyly shook her hand.
"Why don't you lead the tour?" O'Donnell invited Debbie.
"This is the coat room." She indicated a room off the back door. "This is where you keep your coat. And shoes. We don't use the front door, except for emergencies."
"And visitors," O'Donnell added.
Debbie grinned again. "This is the living room." She gestured to the large, carpeted area. It was furnished with a motley assortment of furniture. Some of it looked new, and others, like the huge couch, were obviously used. David guessed most of it was donated. There was a dining room attached to the living room so that the two rooms formed an 'L'. On one wall of the dining room was a kitchenette. Only a kitchenette was needed because most meals took place in the the central dining hall
Down the hall, there were six bedrooms. Five for the boys and
one for the "relief houseparent" who supervised on days
the regular houseparents were off duty. There was also a suite of
rooms for the houseparents. The boys' rooms had three beds each
on the right wall and three desks and wardrobes built into the
wall on the left.
"Normally, there's fifteen boys to a home. Our population is a bit low these days. Most homes have ten to twelve boys," O'Donnell explained. "Trees has ten."
>From somewhere outside a bell rang. "That's lunch," Debbie said. "I have to meet my boys in Larson Hall."
"Larson Hall," O'Donnell explained, "is the name of the dining hall." O'Donnell turned to Brian. "Why don't you join us for lunch? You can meet the other boys in your new home."
"New kid. Hey new kid. What's your name?"
Debbie's voice: "Quiet, please." The boys joined hands around the table. Brian reluctantly took Debbie's hand with his left and a Hispanic boy's hand with his right. A moment of silence was followed by Grace.
"Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive through thy bounty in Christ, our Lord. Amen."
A cacophony of scraping chairs and chattering voices followed. The sounds echoed and were amplified by the brick walls.
>From the Staff and guest table David watched Brian. Underneath his seemingly cool facade, David could see his sheer terror.
Brian heard several other boys whisper something about new kid and eye him surruptiticiously. With lightning fast eye movements, Brian caught glimpses of his tablemates. There were five African American kids and two Hispanic. They all seemed to be intensely interested in their lunch of hot dogs and runny baked beans.
After lunch, a short, brown haired boy with thick glasses
shook Brian's hand.
"Hi," he said, "I'm Mike."
Opening a new bookstore is a challenge. And for the next six weeks, it occupied Matt's attention. Book retail is different from other forms of retail. A manager needs intelligent people -- employees who can at least alphabetize. The manager has to act like a stage manager; directing construction workers, the delivery men, and hiring and training new employees. Starting fresh with new employees was one of the benefits. Matt knew he could train them right--his way--from the start.
Despite setbacks like a toilet that wouldn't flush properly
and too much of the wrong size of shelving, the store was taking
shape. It was going to be a state-of-the-art bookstore, designed
specifically to draw shoppers in from the mall. The wild color
scheme included royal blue and sea foam green with highlights of
red and yellow. To Matt, the color scheme looked a bit garish at
first. But the design had won several retail awards, and
increased sales where it had been implemented. This was the first
store in the Chicago area to be built like this.
Matt's life was taking shape, too. He already felt at home
with old friends and family around. His parents were now
divorcing, but for the most part it was amiable. Matt felt he was
healing from the nightmare of Andy and teaching. But he had Marty
to help ease his transition back into south suburban gay life.
Marty introduced him to new friends and advised him on what
people to avoid.
The store opened and was a huge success. The company had a
nasty habit of overbuying merchandise for a new store; therefore
the sections were packed to the gills. The overstocks were full
and display tables were stacked so high, they might injure a
child if they fell over. Matt and his employees fell into the
normal routines of running a bookstore, and Matt began to
experience more free time now that the pre-opening chores were
There was one other drawback to leaving teaching. Matt would
no longer have his summers free. And that prospect made him very
unhappy. He loved his six summers at Camp Homewood in northern
Wisconsin. It was owned by St. Luke's.
Matt loved the whole camp experience; the color wars, reading
to the kids at night, canoeing on the lake, and campfires. He
missed the boys and expecially the staff. His first summer there,
the administration at St. Luke's had decided to do staff
housecleaning, and the entire staff was new, except two returning
counselors. The new staff clung together, and started instituting
changes. As a result, the newer staff became a cohesive group
during camp and also the off-season.
Even when Matt was with Andy, he still chose to spend his
summers at camp. He kept in touch with Andy through letters, and
occasional phone calls. The first summer, Andy even came up to
visit and stayed two nights at a local motel. Matt tried to
convince Andy be apply to be a staff memeber, but Andy refused.
He hated camp and his idea or roughing it was staying at a
Marriott instead of the Ritz.
Matt found that camp was a way to escape the smothered feeling
he often had with Andy and to establish his own sense of
independence. In retrospect, it probably hastened the end of the
Once the store opened and was running smoothly, Matt often
found himself wondering what was going on at camp. It was now the
end of July. They would be having Carnival now, and doing final
dress rehersals for the Play. Next week would be the Olympics and
classes would begin to wrap up.
One Sunday afternoon, Matt was alone in Marty's apartment
flipping through the cable channels. He stopped on Disney where
he caught a glimpse of a summer camp. It turned out to be a show
much like Real World on MTV, only set in a summer camp. He
was riveted to the screen. As the show ended, he snuggled down in
the chair and drifted off to sleep.
Matt awoke in a cabin on the lower bunk. He was in a cabin at
Camp Homewood! He had been sleeping in the counselor's room. From
the looks of it, the cabin was Calumet, where he spent his last
four summers. He bolted upright on his bed and looked around.
There was nothing to indicate that he worked there; no clothes
hanging on nails and the beat-up alarm clock he brought with him
each summer was missing.
He heard voices outside the cabin. He say three boys talking
to each other, walking up the path toward the small building.
There was a blond, a brunette and a redhead. The blond looked
about 16, the brunette about 14 and the redhead about twelve. The
blond carried the redhead piggyback. They were all smiling and
seemed to be in a happy mood.
Matt heard the familiar sound of the door to the cabin being
opened. The spring was being stretched. The Brunette appeared
"THERE you are, Dad! Tim is looking for you!"
Before Matt could ask who Tim was, or who the boy was who was calling him Dad, the Blond and the Redhead burst into the room.
"Dad!" The Redhead engulfed him in a hug.
"Tim is looking for you," the Blond said in a surprisingly deep voice. "I think I see him coming now." The Blond pointed out the window facing the path.
Matt looked out the window. He could see a muscular younger man walking toward Calumet. He was wearing denim shorts and a white Camp Homewood Staff T-shirt. Matt could see that his calves and forearms where heavily veined and muscular. But Matt couldn't see his face! It was obscured by some low-hanging branches!
Matt instinctively knew this was the man he loved. Odd as it
may sound, Matt could feel unconditional love radiating from the
man to him. Matt caught his breath and waited for the man's
arrival. Matt had never felt this way about Andy, or any other
man for that matter. The Redhead slipped his hand into Matt's.
At the very point where the man's face was going to be
visible, Matt woke up.
Matt would forget the details of the dream when he later told Marty about it, but he couldn't forget the feelings. And he woke up with tears streaming down his face.
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