1 September 2004

The last time I sat here writing this, I was wondering what had become of 2003, now I have to ask the same about 2004.  Where has the time gone?!  Wherever it went, it went too quickly!

For those of you who've been following this story, I have to sincerely, on bended knees, hat in hand, apologize for the inordinate amount of time since my last posting.  I had hoped to return to it immediately after the first of the year.  Life, however, had its own ideas and decreed that I had to spend ever-increasing amounts of time in the office tending to clients who, although I love them to death, required a great deal of my attention on an expanding list of projects.  Not that I minded, given the nervous state of the economy, but it just didn't stop.  In February, we were saying that if we can just get through March, we'll be all right.  Then March became April, then May, and so on, which left virtually no time to do any writing that I was at all pleased with.  Things became a bit more manageable in early July but by then I was suffering from a case of good old-fashioned burnout with a couple of tablespoons of depression thrown in for good measure and I felt like doing absolutely nothing, zip, zero, zilch for weeks.  Any one of you who's been through it knows exactly what I'm talking about and it's not pretty.  At the beginning of August, my brain definitely needed a change.  At about that same time, I received several emails from readers who wondered if something had happened to me.  It was from this need for a mental shift and their prompting that I again took to the keyboard and picked up the story.  And I thank them for that.

The story picks up where it left off and is much further advanced, which I hope will give me enough of a cushion, in the event of any professional blips, until the story is complete.

Again, I sincerely apologize, begging your forgiveness and thanking those of you who've been following the story for your infinite patience during what has been a stressful period for me.  I hope I haven't gotten too rusty, and I look forward to hearing from you with any comments that you might have.

Kindest regards,

Michael Garrison

And now, as Jackie Gleason (if anyone remembers him) used to say, "Awaaaaaaaaay we go!".....

This story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. This story also deals with love and consensual sexual activities between men. If you are not of legal age, reside in an area where viewing such material is illegal, or are offended by such themes, do not read further and leave this site now.

The author retains all rights to this story. Reproductions or links to other sites are not allowed without the permission of the author.

Two Lives – Two Loves

Chapter 20

We were physically and emotionally spent for one day but oddly, I was having a hard time getting to sleep. Lying with Jon in the cool sheets, holding his sleeping form to me, I listened to the sound of his deep, regular breathing and felt the warmth of his breath from his face nestled into my shoulder. He’d drifted off with his legs entwined with mine and I stroked his hair slowly, gently as he slept, not wanting to move for fear I’d ruin this wonderful moment.

The idea had come to me on the spur of the moment but I think that swim had done both of our minds and bodies a universe of good. Half running and hopping out to the pool, stripping our clothes as we went, I loved the sight of his moonlit body diving headlong into the water with a yell, followed quickly by my own. We splashed around and at each other. We wrestled around, our personal favorite. The feeling of the water surging around me, the sight of the dappled moonlight playing over Jon’s muscles was almost more than I could stand and I engulfed him in my arms, pulling him close to me. We surfaced only long enough to take in two lung-fulls of air and sank beneath the surface again, our mouths meeting each other halfway. Jon held onto me, his legs around my waist, as I maneuvered to keep us upright, our natural buoyancy wanting to make us surface.

I gasped and saw some of my air head for the surface as Jon gripped us, pulling us together hard, massaging us. I heard Jon moan, too, and saw some of his air escape to join mine. I felt my feet touch the bottom, then slowly settling onto my knees with Jon still wrapped around me. My lungs, our lungs, ached but Jon’s insistent attentions felt so damned good that it was almost overriding our need for air. His pace quickened and I pulled closer, tightening my grip around his back and neck. My entire body crackled with urgency, with a tension made more intense by the odd euphoria from the need for air. I felt Jon’s heels dig deeply into the back of my thighs; I felt his whole body tense and I felt my own muscles beginning to lock around him. I felt his grip tighten, his strokes becoming slow and firm, traversing our lengths from our heads to our roots. I felt the eruption beginning deep within me, a warmth spreading over me to combine with the tingling tension. We gasped again, fighting back the water trying to enter our noses, the last of our air heading for the surface, as our eruptions combined in multiple threads of pulsing heat.

Empty of air, empty of essence, we kicked off the bottom for the surface, gasping loudly and strongly as we broke through, sucking in the desperately needed coolness of the night air. We made it to the side and pulled ourselves up and out, our chests heaving as we fell on our backs. The concrete of the pool deck was uncomfortable and I asked Jon to follow me to the grass beyond where we fell to our knees and into each other’s arms, onto each other’s mouths.  For the moment, there was no house; there was no ghost; there was no Ron or Alicia. There was no one but us, entwined in the soft grass as the moonlight bathed our glistening, wet bodies.

I don’t know how much time went by before Jon stood up, taking my hand with him and told me to follow him with that impish smile of his. He pulled me upstairs and into our bedroom, disappearing only long enough to get us towels to finish drying what the night air hadn’t. Tossing them aside, he told me to lie down on the bed and then followed, head to foot. I grinned broadly, knowing right where my lover was going and adjusted myself so his feet wouldn’t hit the headboard.

Jon’s arms eased around my waist and I rolled back my hip to open myself for him and he followed, taking my cue as, for the first time, we swallowed each other together. Slowly. Deliberately. Tenderly.

I stopped for a second when I heard him gag, that odd muffled sound coming from his nose, as he tried to take me all in too quickly. Jon had done me before, but hadn’t tried taking it all in. I caressed his shoulder and whispered for him to relax, to just open his throat and take his time. It wasn’t a race. He nodded wordlessly and took me into his soft mouth again as I did him. I loved the feel of him on me. I felt him edge his way down little by little, finally reaching my root without gagging and I patted and rubbed his arm, showing my appreciation and congratulating him. His lips smacked as he pulled off, then returning to me as I continued to slowly work his length. I loved the feel of him at the back of my throat and I loved the way he spasmed as I sucked at his head, jumping myself as he returned the favor. He moaned as I lightly massaged his perineum, and I thought what a good pupil he was for following suit.

I moaned as he finally got the feel of it and found his rhythm, his tongue swirling over me on each stroke. I moaned again, deeply, almost letting Jon fall from my mouth as I felt three of his fingers enter me, pushing past the tightness of my opening and massaging me. I almost couldn’t continue but somehow managed to focus through the indescribable sensations my lover was giving me. I began to massage him as well, each of us matching the other stroke for stroke in almost perfect synchronization.

Minute after luxuriously intense minute passed, our muffled, nasal groans filling the room. I felt so very close. Jon must’ve felt very close, too. I saw him push his heels deeply into the bedding, his groin harder into my face. Wrapping my sweaty arms around his sweaty, slippery waist, I took him, all the way down, and I felt him buck in my arms as he groaned again, sending torrents of himself down my throat. I almost gagged as I too cried out and felt Jon force himself down, swallowing me…and swallowing me.

Totally exhausted, we rested for a few minutes. We said nothing, just fondled one another. No talking was necessary; it would have only ruined the perfect moment of being together, of sharing each other. Finally, slowly, we met back at the headboard, pulling the covers up over us as we rested our glowing, smiling faces on the soft pillows. We embraced, tightly, thanking each other softly before our moist lips found themselves again. Our hands and legs caressed every inch of each other we could touch until, no longer able to fend off fatigue, Jon’s face fell into my shoulder, as if in slow motion, and he was gone for the night. I just stared at him for a long while, smiling, playing with his fine, blond strands, before putting my face as close to his as I could, whispering that I loved him more than anything in the world. As if he’d heard me, his body cuddled in closer to me and I smiled again as I eventually drifted off myself.


I hadn’t slept long, maybe a few hours, but I didn’t feel at all tired. I was too keyed up, running over everything in my mind that we’d talked about with Alicia that evening. I really had no idea what I’d signed on for and it worried me. But at the same time, I couldn’t help feeling a strange sense of stimulation. It’s kind of like a horror movie when it gets to the part where you just know that something’s going to jump out and grab the character. You don’t want to look but you just have to look, feeling that you have to go through that door right along with them, no matter what. That’s how I felt right at that moment, except that I was the character, in the flesh.

I lightly ran my fingers in tight circles over Jon’s back, slowly, as I stared at the dark ceiling over our bed, just thinking. I turned my head and squinted at the glaring red of the clock on the nightstand. 3:33. “Meditate, she said,” I thought to myself. Well, it was a sure bet that I wasn’t going to get any more sleeping done tonight and thought I just as well might give it a shot.

I gingerly pushed back the covers and eased away from Jon, trying to be careful not to wake him. I pulled on a pair of shorts and my Nike’s and crept downstairs to begin my morning fight with that caffeine production system.

While it burbled away, I snagged a bottle of water from the fridge and downed a good quarter of it. My mouth and throat felt very dry and the water felt good going down. I wandered around the silent house, turning on only the barest amount of light to see, looking for that spot she mentioned.

I went from room to room. I had no idea what I was looking for and nothing was presenting itself. I heard the last few gasping wheezes of the coffee machine and headed back to the kitchen, made a cup and felt the warm stimulation of my favorite first hit of the morning.

“Candles,” I thought, remembering what Alicia’d said, as I stood sipping my coffee. I went to poke around in the Butler’s pantry where Jon always seemed to find the incidental stuff. Nothing. Then the sideboard, maybe there was something in there. Nothing. I thought that this was turning out to be a less than auspicious beginning but it was one of those instances where if they’d been a snake, they would’ve bitten me, because when I turned around, the candelabras on the dining room table stared me right in the face and my lights finally snapped on. Two of them, with three white candles each. I thought they were a little fancier than what Alicia had in mind but they fit the profile, as she might say under certain circumstances.

I picked up the nearest candelabra and started back toward the kitchen but stopped, turning to look over my shoulder back to the front living room. I don’t know why. I hadn’t heard anything. There wasn’t any fleeting movement out of the corner of my eye that’d grabbed my attention. I don’t know how to describe it other than to say that there was just some sort of pull there. So there I went.

I set the candles on a table next to one of the overstuffed club chairs and went back to the kitchen to find some matches. Neither Jon nor I smoke, so they usually weren’t just lying around and it took a little bit of looking to find a small box of old, wooden kitchen matches shoved in the back of a drawer full of junk. I went back and carefully lit each candle, then turned out the lights, I don’t know why, it just felt right, then kicked off my shoes and snuggled into the big chair. The dark cordovan leather felt cool against my naked back.

The plush Oriental carpet felt warm by comparison. It felt good and I curled my toes up and down in the deep pile as I settled deeper into the chair, adjusting my shoulders against the chair until it felt about right. I remembered, too, that Alicia’d said something about asking my guides for protection and I was stumped.

I have to confess that, although I was raised Catholic, I was never what you’d call a ‘good’ Catholic. I was what you’d call a Christmas and Easter Catholic and, since starting college, I’d avoided Mass even on those two days. And confession? Forget it. I hadn’t been to confession in years. I mean, what was I going to say? Forgive me Father, for I am gay? Yeah, right. I took solace, though, from believing that God loved me even if the Churchmen did not.

I have to apologize for going slightly off-track, but all of that was to say that I’d lost touch with the ritual of praying. So I just sat in the chair for a few minutes, trying to think of the right words to say. Finally, I closed my eyes, thought back to my old Sunday School days and recited the Lord’s Prayer to myself. Then I just sat as still as I could, letting my arms rest limply on the arms of the chair, letting my feet rest flat on the carpet, and tried not to think about anything.

For what felt like an interminably long time, I felt nothing, except for, maybe, feeling a little silly and I was glad Jon was still asleep upstairs. I was sure he’d have something cute to say if he could see me like this. I squinted my eyes and smirked, chastising myself for allowing stray thoughts into my head.

I started taking deep breaths, hoping that that would relax me. I focused on my breathing, thinking that I could keep stray thoughts away and relax me at the same time. I saw the changing light of the candles through my eyelids, their yellowish-red, mottled light playing across them. I could tell that they were flickering, which I thought odd since there wasn’t a breath of air moving in the room. Again I thought not to even think of the candles. Let them do what they do.

I took a heavier breath, trying to purge all other thought, and resumed my deep regular breaths.

Minute after minute after minute went by. I sat deathly still, trying to think of nothing, waiting patiently, which isn’t one of my greatest attributes, for my guides to come to me as Alicia said they would. After a while, I noticed the odd sensation of losing, I don’t know how else to put this, the sensation of my extremities. I couldn’t feel my arms or legs. It wasn’t like that feeling of numbness when they fall asleep; it was as if they just weren’t there. I felt like I should’ve been afraid, but I wasn’t.

Cloudy images drifted occasionally in front of my closed eyes, varying shades of gray against the darkness of my eyelids. At first, I couldn’t make out what they were, but they started to look like faces, pieces of them anyway. It wasn’t like looking at a portrait gallery. It was kind of like a piece here and there, enough visual clues to let me know that I was looking at faces but not enough to really let me see them. Still, I had an odd feeling of familiarity. Then the images faded altogether.

For a while longer there was nothing. No sounds, no images, no shades passing before my eyes. Was that it, I wondered? I was beginning to think that Alicia’s buildup had been a little anti-climactic. I was also beginning to feel the need for some coffee and was about to move from my semi-somnambulistic state when I felt it. A rush of something, I’ll just call it energy for now, that was so damn strong that I thought I was going into shock. I heard myself gasp. That, in itself, was a strange feeling. It was as though I was semi-detached, hearing myself gasp as if I were listening to another person. The energy started at my feet, washing upwards over my entire body like a tidal wave. I can’t begin to tell you how strong that energy was. It felt like it was going to lift me straight out of the chair like I was weightless. It was like I was hooked to electrodes and I could feel my head fall back, pushing against the cool leather of the chair and my chest thrust forward as I gripped the arms tighter.

I have never experienced anything, and I do mean anything, like that before. This was not like the dreams; this was something altogether different. I don’t want to give the impression that I felt like a guy in an electric chair. This sensation felt so good, so energizing and oddly warm, that every part of my body felt alert. The only way to describe it is that it felt exactly like the feelings that surged through me the first time that Jon and I had climaxed together, except that this was many times stronger. Many times.

As quickly as it had come upon me, the wave of energy passed. I fell back into the chair, literally. I hadn’t realized that my body had arched its way out. I had been half standing, with only my hands and the crown of my head touching the chair. I was winded as if I’d been running sprints. The candles next to me flickered madly for a moment or two longer, and I stared at them as if hypnotized, until they quieted themselves, their flames becoming long gold tapers stretching towards the ceiling. I felt my arm slide easily across the heavy arm of the chair and I looked down, seeing it was covered in sweat. I ran my hands over my chest and face. I was drenched. My head fell back against the chair and I stared out into the room.

“Wow,” I quietly asked myself. “What WAS that?”

I felt an odd mixture of energy and fatigue. No, that’s wrong. Not fatigue. Calm would be a better choice of words. It was like there was nothing at all wrong in the world. Nothing. Everything was right. Everything was perfect, except for a slight headache. Despite that, I couldn’t wipe the stupid grin off my face but I couldn’t figure out why I was grinning so much. I had more energy than I knew what to do with and I felt like I could get a new roof on the house before Jon woke up!

I poured a cup of coffee and was just getting ready to take the first sip when the phone rang.

“Shit,” I thought. I quickly, but carefully, set my cup down and half dived for the phone, trying to answer it before it woke Jon. I glanced quickly at the clock over the ovens. Almost 5:30.

“Who the hell’d be calling at this time of the morning?” I thought. I snatched the handset off the cradle in the middle of the third ring.

“Hello?” I said with a touch of curtness.

“Brad, it’s Alicia,”

“Alicia?” I softened. “It’s kinda early. Everything okay?” I asked. I was half afraid she was going to say something had happened to Ron.

“Everything’s fine, hon,” she said. “I was just getting ready to start my shift, but I wanted to say congratulations before I did.”

“Congratulations? For what?” I asked.

“For breaking your cherry, hon.” I could almost see her winking in my mind’s eye. “You phoned home and home answered,” she said. “You just need to pay closer attention.”

“How...,” I began. “How could you know that?”

“Brad, remember who you’re talking to. I felt it while I was getting dressed. You had a really good first session.”

“But that was only, like, in the last hour or so,” I said. “How…?” I asked, totally confused. “You felt that?”

“Oh, yeah,” she said. “You and I are kind of attuned. And don’t worry about the headache. Just drink plenty of water; it’ll go away.”

“How…?” I started, about to ask how she could possibly know about my headache before thinking the better of it. “Yeah, what’s up with that,” I asked. “It happened after those dreams, too.”

“You’re channeling a lot of energy without realizing it,” she said. “Happens a lot with newbies, but you’ll get used to it. Just ask them to not push so hard until you’re ready for more.”

“Them who?” I asked.

“Your guides,” she said.

I was dumbfounded and stymied, not even quite knowing what questions to ask, or even if I should be asking questions. “Hey, can we get together for lunch?” I asked.

“Got some questions, do you?”

“Yeah, you could say that.”

“Yeah, we can do lunch. Say, noonish at Ron’s place?” she said.

“Cool,” I said.

“See you then. I’ve gotta run, but remember to drink a lot of water. Try another session if you like, but take it easy, okay?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Bye, Brad. Go make breakfast; Jon’s waking up.”

“Breakfast? Me? You’d better notify the Fire Department,” I said.

“Bye, Brad,” she laughed, as she hung up.

Make breakfast? Who was she trying to kid? What I knew about cooking could be written on the head of the proverbial pin, with a wide-tipped flair pen. This was probably some kind of test but I didn’t grumble too much as I fished around in the cabinets looking for those pans I’d seen Jon using. Finally, I found a shiny, stainless steel pan that looked about right, fished some sausage out of the refrigerator and got to work. Jon had done all of the cooking so far and I felt like it was the least I could do. I mean, how difficult could breakfast be, anyway.

“DUDE! What the hell’re you DOING?” Jon yelled.

Jon stood naked, half-crouching, in the doorway to the kitchen, tightly pressing his hands to his ears. I would’ve been tightly pressing myself against him right then if I weren’t balancing on the edge of the kitchen counter, frantically waving a magazine at the screeching smoke alarm. I’d hoped to get it quiet before it woke Jon up. No such luck. Well, woken up is too genteel of a word. If there were a single word for his looking like an air horn had gone off next to his ear while he slept, that’d be the word I’d use.

In my panic to quiet the alarm, I’d just pulled the sausages off the burner but it wasn’t enough to stop the pan from smoking like a chimney. Jon leapt at it, threw it into the sink and hit the water, jumping back as the cold water made the hot grease splatter angrily. He wasn’t fast enough, though; a couple of red-hot droplets caught him on his pecs. He screamed and spun around, trying to wipe the pain away, and caught me right in the shins with his flailing arm.

The floor came up at me really fast. It was one time I was really happy that Jon was in my way.

I landed on top of him with a thud. Our grunts echoed off the walls and I prayed that he hadn’t broken anything. We didn’t move for a few seconds as we tried to catch our breath. There was only the sound of the water running in the sink.

“Jon; you okay?” I asked, pulling him around by the shoulder. He groaned in reply, pushing me back as he turned to sit up.

“Well, let’s see,” he started. “I get woken up by a fucking smoke alarm…,”

Oh, I knew he was pissed when he started cursing.

“…I come down to a kitchen filled with fucking smoke, I get fucking spattered with grease, and then, as if THAT weren’t enough…”

The vein on the side of his temple throbbed, his pecs bounced as he gestured theatrically with his arms. I should’ve been afraid that he’d start pounding the crap out of me, but he just looked so fucking hot sitting there naked with his blond hair going everywhere, all I could think about was jumping his ass. Given the situation, though, I knew I’d better not try. That didn’t keep me from smiling.

“…my fucking boyfriend falls on me like a ton of bricks! Yeah, I’m just fucking gre…what’re you smiling at?!”

“You,” I said, unable to stop grinning. I should’ve qualified my statement but I didn’t get time to. Jon flew at me and pinned my shoulders to the floor. I should’ve been terrified from the look on his face, but I couldn’t keep from laughing.

“WHAT?” he demanded.

“I’m sorry, babe; I’m sorry,” I offered, holding up my hands in surrender. “I fucked up. I just wanted to make us breakfast for a change, that’s all. Give you a little break, you know? To show my appreciation.”

Jon’s narrowed eyes softened. His look became a bit sheepish when it sunk in that I was just trying to do something nice for us.

“I’m sorry,” I repeated, leaning in to plant a quick kiss. He opened his mouth to meet mine and our tongues flitted together briefly.

“Sorry I overreacted,” Jon said. “Truce?”

“Always, lover,” I said, as I began to push the shorts down off my hips. I loved the expression on his face as he watched.

“What?” he asked. “You want to have make-up sex right here?”

Now there was a good idea, I thought, but it’d have to wait.

“Hold onto that thought,” I said as I snagged the shorts from my ankles and handed them to Jon. His ‘what-the-fuck-are-you-doing’ look was just wonderful. “You don’t want the firemen seeing that burnin’ wood of yours.”

“What firem…?”

Jon’s question was cut short by the sound of a siren. It wasn’t passing by in the distance; it was getting closer.

“Did you call 911 or something before I came down,” he asked.

“Nope,” I said, shaking my head.

“Shit,” he muttered under his breath as he began to pull on my shorts.

“I’ll hide out in the basement ‘til they’re gone,” I said. “Answer the phone, too.”

Jon just smirked at me as he hopped around, trying to get his toe unsnagged from the other leg as the phone rang. “Probably the alarm company,” he muttered again.

“See you in a few,” I said, closing the basement door behind me.

“Hello?” I heard Jon say as he snatched up the phone on the third ring.

There wasn’t a lot I could do standing naked in the basement except be quiet and listen. I looked at the pile of dirty laundry sitting on top of the washer and thought I could put something on, temporarily at least. I dug around in the pile but everything smelled about a mile south of bad cheese. Jon’s jersey was on top, reminding me that we’d have to do the laundry soon. I loved wearing that jersey, to say nothing of the fact that we were just plain almost out of clean stuff. When it quieted down, I decided I’d throw it in the washer and get that little bit of grunge work out of the way.

I don’t know what was going on upstairs but it didn’t sound good. I heard the doorbell ring just as the phone rang again. After a few moments, the doorbell rang again. I heard Jon yell something; it was short and sharp but I couldn’t make it out. Then there was a crash, like glass or something followed by the dull, faraway thuds of a fist pounding at the door. Then I heard more thuds, then a crash, then another.

I heard Jon yell again, farther away. I couldn’t tell what he was yelling. It was just enough for me that he was yelling. I started for the steps, stopping when I remembered that I was naked.

“Fuck it,” I thought. Stench or no stench, I had to go up and help Jon and dug through the laundry pile as fast as I could, pulling on Jon’s jersey and the first pair of shorts my hand grabbed.

I hit the stairs two at a time and sprung through the basement door. The kitchen was empty. There were shards of a broken coffee mug scattered across the floor. The remains of the coffee spread out from the center like one of those old pieces of pinwheel art you’d do at an amusement park.

I was about to head for the voices I heard in the entry hall when I noticed a couple of firefighters in full gear coming around from the front, obviously searching for any source of fire. I waved and went to open the French doors.

“Mornin’,” I said, extending my hand.

“Good morning, sir,” the lead firefighter said, extending his. “Do you live here,” he asked as he eyed me up and down with that look I’ve seen from ex-military guys. I’m sure I didn’t look my best and I knew my clothes reeked. He was obviously trying to figure out what his company had walked into. His younger partner just eyed me. He seemed suspicious of me. Well, maybe suspicious is too cynical of a word. Curious, maybe? I wasn’t sure what I was getting. There was a little too much confusion.

“For the summer, yeah,” I said. “I’m house-sitting with my friend. His uncle owns the place.”
The firefighters nodded, satisfied at my explanation.

“We got a call from your security company reporting a possible fire,” the older man said. “Mind if we come in and check it out?”

“Fine by me; breakfast got ahead of me, is all,” I said as I walked them over to the kitchen sink and the remains of the sausages floating in the greasy water. “I guess I’m not what you’d call much of a cook,” I added, pointing up to the smoke alarm on the ceiling.

“Yeah, well, I guess that settles that,” he sighed, keying the microphone at his throat to report. His younger partner smiled and nodded. I sensed relief coming from him. He only looked a few years older than me; he was probably new at this.

The voices from the entry got our attention again and we went to see what was happening. We got to the hall to see Jon talking with an older man who had to be the company commander.

Jon was not a happy camper. There was broken glass all around the front door from the shattered sidelights. The commander glanced at the older man with me as we entered. “We good?” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” my man nodded. “Boys were just smoking some sausages; it’s clear.” A couple of the younger firefighters grinned at the bit of dry humor. The more seasoned firefighters smirked at the little joke. It was obvious that, to them, there was no little fire and never anything funny about one.

“Sir, please accept our apologies,” the commander said, turning back to Jon. “Sometimes our younger guys get a little overzealous,” he said with a harder edge as he turned to glare at one of the firefighters who looked like he could crawl under a rock and die. “They’re just trying to do their job.”

Jon looked like he was having a worse morning than I thought. I could feel him suppressing a desire to just flat-out scream in anger. To his credit, he just took a deep breath and dealt with it.

“Yeah, accidents happen, I guess. I mean, you didn’t know what might be happening, right?” he said. The commander sighed just a little, relieved that the situation was diffusing. “No hard feelings, huh?” Jon said, extending his hand.

“Thank you, sir,” the commander said, smiling with some relief. “We…,” he began, looking again at the errant firefighter, “…can seal it up temporarily and you just send the repair bill to me,” he continued, handing Jon his card.

Jon nodded and shook the man’s hand again.

“Thanks, and look, I’m sorry again for popping off like that,” Jon said. “You guys were just doing what you thought was right. I mean, don’t beat him up too bad.”

The commander smiled. “I’m sure he feels bad enough,” he said. “All right, everybody,” he continued, addressing his men. “Quit standing around and get everything stowed. Livingston, cut a piece of that plastic tarp from my truck and secure that window.”

“Yes, sir,” the man, Livingston, said as he ran to carry out his order. Things were finally starting to quiet down.

“C’mon, Hunter; you heard the man,” the older firefighter said to his partner still standing beside me.

“Coming,” he called back, then turned to me. “Hey, can I ask you something?” he began, lowering his voice. I looked him full on. Great eyes, clear, gray-green staring out from under the yellow helmet.

“Sure,” I said.

“And please don’t get angry; I don’t mean anything bad, but,” he continued.

“No prob, man. What’s up?”

“Is it true what they say about this place being haunted?” He asked with the directness of someone who knew he might not get a chance to ask again.

“Jesus, does the whole town know about that?” I said.

“Hey,” Hunter said. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…”

“Tell you what; why don’t you come by for dinner tonight? Then you can hang out and see for yourself. I offered. Then, the little voice started to talk and allowed me to see what I needed to see; I felt the urge and the words just fell out of my mouth. “We’ve got another friend coming; he needs a friend, too,” I said, staring dead into him.

He gave me a confused smile. I knew he wasn’t sure what he’d just heard and was trying to put it together. His eyes blinked unconsciously several times, as if they were priming the pump that worked his mouth.

“He?” he began. “Hey, I…,” he stammered for a moment before looking me in the eyes again. “What time?”

“Say sixish?”

Richardson!” a voice shouted from outside. “Get it in gear!”

“Brad Williams,” I said, offering my hand. “That one over there sweeping up the glass is my friend, Jon Shepard.”

“Hunter Richardson,” he said, taking it. “See you at six?”

I nodded. “Make it five; and bring your trunks. The pool’s just about right. Oh, and if you want, you can stay the night and see if anything goes bump. We’ve got room,” I said, barely able to keep from smiling at my little quip.

“Cool, see you then,” he said, heading in the direction of the barking voice. “See you later. And thanks!” he said, waving to Jon on his way out.

Jon, whisking up the shards in a dustpan, looked up at the young firefighter as he strode out the door, then back at me with that confused look of his.

“What did you do?” he asked, suspecting something was up.

“I think I found a friend for Ron. We’ll be having four for dinner,” I said, beaming back at him.

“Man, let’s not go all Yenta on me, okay?” he said.

“Hey, just trying to do my good deed for the day, Mr. Eagle Scout,” I said, smiling as I bent to help him with some of the larger shards of glass. “I mean, you never know, right?”

“Yeah, especially around here,” he muttered.

“What,” I asked.

Jon hesitated. “Let’s just go get some breakfast and talk,” he said, taking the debris to the trash.

Pensive Jon was starting to peek out. “Great,” I thought. “I’m probably in for it now.”

To Be Continued