23 September 2004

Well, it looks like summer is finally starting to slowly slip into fall.  Soon the leaves will be turning, the weather will be cooling, the cats will start shedding all over my furniture again, etc.  Where has the year gone?  Anyway, I hope everyone enjoyed the last chapter and thank you to those of you who wrote to say so.  As always, I do try to respond as time permits, so if you feel like you have any comments about the story, please feel free to email.

Kind regards and best wishes for a safe and happy week,

Michael Garrison

And now, on a very special "Two Lives - Two Loves"...........Just kidding; sorry.  I  had to get it out of my system...I hate that overused phrase.  I'd almost rather visit my dentist than watch a 'very special' anything.  My feeling being that if they have to tell you it's very special, it isn't. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the story:

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 23

Jon’s goosebumps had plenty of company now.

The dead phone continued ringing in my hand. Dead; heh. There was an ironic choice of words. I had a really good idea of who it was and I wasn’t terribly happy about it. But what was gnawing at my stomach the most was that it was coming to Jon’s phone, not mine.

“It’s for you,” I said meekly, trying to inject some humor into the situation as I handed the phone back to Jon.

“No hablo ingles, dude,” he cracked, waving the phone away like it was radioactive. “Ain’t nobody on that thing I want to talk to!”

I smirked at Jon for sticking me with the dirty work. I flipped open the cover with the same tentativeness that’s usually reserved for when a kid checks his closet for monsters.

“Hello?” I said. I’m sure it goes without saying that there was absolutely no one there.

“Hello?” I said again. I don’t know why I said that again. I don’t know why anybody would say hello again. I’m holding an obviously dead phone in my hand, there’s absolutely no one on the other end; hell, for that matter, there’s not even an ‘other end’ for anyone to be on, and yet I said hello again. There must be a stupid-gene, common to all mankind, that clicks in at times, like in the movies, when someone’s talking on the phone and it goes dead and they start tapping at the cradle switch like the other party’s going to magically reappear. I didn’t feel too stupid, though; I had other thoughts going through my mind.

“Hmm,” I mumbled as I flipped the cover shut, ending the ‘call’.

“Well?” Jon asked. “Who was it?”

“Nobody,” I said, handing the phone back.

“No, really.”

“There was nobody on the phone,” I said again, maybe a bit more sharply than I should have.

Jon wanted to say something. I could see words trying to get from his brain to his tongue, but they weren’t coming. He gave up trying and clipped the phone back on his belt as he shook his head. I had just eased us back onto the path again when his phone started that damned ringing again and I slammed on the brakes, again. This was starting to get really old, really fast and I was getting more pissed than scared. Jon, however, was clearly more scared than pissed.

“Is it still off?” I asked as I slammed the gearshift into park, lurching us to a halt.

“Hey! Easy with that…” he started to say before I cut him off.

“Is it still off?” I asked again.

Jon looked up at me and just nodded. He hadn’t turned it on when he’d clipped it back to the holster. He was solid goosebumps now, and I put my hand on his thigh, rubbing him, trying to calm him down and remind him I was there for him.

“Baby, I think you’re gonna have to answer it if we’re gonna get any peace,” I said.

Jon put his hand on mine and nodded. His other hand shook as he unclipped the phone and flipped it open.

“Hello?” he whispered.

I studied him as he listened. Sometimes I can hear the murmuring of the other party on the line but this time I couldn’t. Jon, however, was apparently hearing more than he wanted to. His golden tan gave way to an ashen white as his mouth slowly fell open.

He listened for a minute or so, squinting, his eyebrows knitting together as if he was trying to hear better.

I shrugged, asking who it was with my upraised palms. Jon shook his head and held the phone to my ear. There was nothing, not one sound.

“I don’t hear anything,” I said. Jon looked at me as if I was crazy as he pulled the phone back to his ear.

“You can’t hear that?” he whispered quickly. I could only shrug and shake my head.

He listened for a few seconds more and pulled the phone away from his ear, staring at it like it had just spoken in tongues. Well, I don’t know; maybe it had. He flipped it shut and held it in his lap.

“Well? Who was it?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said. “But it was the same voice as at home this morning.”

“So what’d it say?”

Jon hesitated for a moment, cautiously collecting his thoughts, wanting to sound as rational as possible. “I’m not sure,” he said. I didn’t interrupt. I let my hand go back to his lap, letting him know he wasn’t alone in whatever was going on.

“It was hard to pick out, you know?” he began. “It was garbled at first, then I thought it said ‘need you’, ‘need your’ or ‘heed your’, something like that; then it got garbly again…”

“Garbly?” I’m sorry, but every now and then Jon would make up words on the fly, particularly when his mind was racing. It was my duty as an upperclassman and fraternity brother to call him on it.

“Yeah, garbly,” he said, ticked at having his thought interrupted. “Got a problem with that?”

“No,” I said, straight away. “Then it got all garbly again, and?” I prompted.

“And it sounded like it said ‘joy’ or something like that, you know,” he continued. “Then it got all GARBLY again,” he said, punching at my favorite word just to poke me in the ribs a little. I winced appropriately. “…and then the phone went dead.”

I had no idea of what to make of it. “That’s all you got?”

“Pfft,” he snorted, “I think that was enough. It was like trying to listen to somebody talk through water, you know?”

Jon was obviously excited, but I knew that if he said ‘You know’ one more time I was going to lose it. I did my best to let it pass.

I also knew exactly what he was referring to. In those dreams I’d had, the voice on the other end of that incessantly ringing phone had a similar sound to what Jon had described. There was another sound, too.

“Was there kind of a weird, deep hum that faded in and out, kinda like when you’re trying to tune in a weak AM station?”

Jon looked up at me, relieved that I didn’t think he was insane. “You know it?”

“Oh, yeah; I know it,” I confirmed. “That’s the same thing as happened with that phone thing in my dreams.”

“But we’re awake,” he said. “And it’s happening to me, now!”

“Yeah,” I said. “This is definitely getting out of control. We’ve gotta get some answers out of Alicia. This pussy-footin’ around crap’s gotta stop.”

“No shit,” Jon said, nodding agreement.

We were mostly quiet as we headed back to town. We stopped to get the tanks refilled and I gave Dave the highlights of our dive. I didn’t tell him about the trailer, though; I didn’t feel like listening to a lecture about proper dive procedures or being just too stupid for words.

Jon poked around the store while Dave and I talked. He kept winding up at the display case with the watches. His was seriously waterlogged from the other day at the pool and would probably cost more to repair than to replace. He just looked, though. He didn’t ask to see anything.

His browsing was just a pretense. We both knew it. He was worried about the phone calls and was trying to be nonchalant about. He didn’t want to let down his guard and be seen as anything other than mister rough, tough, football guy, at least not in public. When we were alone it was a different story.

He didn’t bother with pretenses at home. He opened himself freely to me and allowed himself to be anything but rough or tough. He’d never admit it but Jon was a very sensitive guy when you stripped away the veneer, and I’m not talking about his clothes, mostly. Beneath that rock hard chest beat the heart of a real humanitarian and I thought it was perfect that he wanted to be a doctor.

While Dave went to check on the tanks, I watched Jon as he rambled around and let my mind drift. My ‘sight’ was getting clearer, sharper. Practice, I guess. I could see him as a comforting physician who cared more about his patients than his billings. I could see him taking from his own pocket or doing without himself so that someone could get the proper care. God, I loved him so much. I wanted to just wrap my arms around him and never let him go. I had to resist temptation, though. Jon didn’t like public displays of affection, not wanting it generally known that he…we were lovers. I had to be happy with just admiring his body when we were out and about.

“What?” Jon asked, catching me smiling at him.

“Nothin’,” I leered. “I was just thinking that we need to get the young doctor home for his injection.”

“Huh? Oh!” he said, catching on.

“Diabetes or something? Sorry to hear that,” Dave said as he dragged two of the tanks out from the back. He was obviously one to say whatever crossed his mind. “Yeah, I’ve got a cousin with that. Has to watch it like a hawk. You a doctor? Look kinda young.”

“Pre-med,” Jon said. “Yeah, I need my injection,” he began, looking at me from under his eyebrows. He was afraid I might be getting a little too close to giving us away. “But we’re meeting some friends for lunch first. I can hold out.”

“Yeah, well, you keep an eye on it,” Dave said, not really knowing what to say other than the usual, harmless chit-chat. “You guys stay safe.”

It was almost noon when we pulled into the Beef N’ Bird, but the parking lot seemed light for it being near lunchtime. I got the impression that this was the kind of town where people ate early rather than opting for a fashionably late lunch.

We spotted a Sheriff’s patrol car a few spots away, facing out in case of an unexpected call. Alicia had beaten us here and found a quiet booth in the back, away from the few customers, so we could talk freely.

“Hey, guys!” Ron greeted us at the hostess stand, menus in hand. “How’s things going?”

“Dude; you get promoted to hostess?” Jon asked, taking the opportunity to needle Ron. “Where’s you’re skirt?”

Ron flushed a little but tried not to show his amusement. He knew Jon meant the small jab good-naturedly. “You wish. She called in sick, which means her highness went shopping or something. The rest of us are just seating the customers when we see them,” he said, seeming ticked about his added duties. “Come on, I got you all set up.”

“There they are!” Alicia grinned as she set her iced tea down to shake hands. She looked all business now in her uniform and hair pulled back, not the softer Alicia from the night before. “How’d breakfast turn out, Brad?” she said with that air of knowing damn good and well how it turned out.

“Ooooooh, it could’ve been better.”

“What?” Jon said. “You knew about that? I thought the place was on fire!”

“I just suggested he do something nice for the both of you. I didn’t tell him to burn the house down, hon,” Alicia chided. “I heard the call,” she continued. “I’d’ve come out but I was on another call at the time. Everything okay, though, I take it.”

“Alicia,” I sighed as I slid around in the booth after Jon. “You would not believe the morning we’ve had.”

“I’m listening.”

“You guys want to order first before you get started?” Ron asked. “I don’t want to miss any of this.”

We gave the menus a quick look, gave Ron our order and he hurried off to get it in. Jon and I were both starved and we probably ordered more than we should have, but there’s something about nearly getting killed that sharpens a guy’s appetite. You look for even the most mundane things to remind you that you’re still above ground, or water, as the case may be.

Ron brought us back some sodas a basket of chips to crunch on and then fell silent as I started telling them, with Jon jumping in occasionally to fill in details and generally take care of the color work, about how busy our morning had been.

There was no restaurant beyond the limits of our booth. It was just us around the surrogate campfire of the table candle listening to the story. I started with a recap of my morning meditation. Ron and Jon just listened intently; Alicia nodded knowingly and with approval. They chuckled when I told them about the smoking sausages and the fire department, cringing when I mentioned the broken window. Jon piped in to tell them about the phone call he got as the fire department was breaking in and I saw Alicia’s eyebrows go up like a guard dog’s ears.

“Wait! Hold on a sec, there, hon,” she said, holding up a hand as if stopping traffic.

“No, wait; it gets better!” Jon said. “Tell ‘em,” he said, nudging my arm.

I watched Ron and Alicia’s mouths slowly fall open as I told them about the quarry, about the trailer; well, not everything about the trailer, that part was just for me and Jon. I told them about my seeing Grandfather and barely getting out with our skins intact, about going back a while later…

“…and it was just gone,” I said, looking at their incredulous expressions.

“Oh, my God!” Ron whispered.

Jon turned to me sharply. “You didn’t tell me that!”

“Sweet Jesus!” Alicia added.

“Didn’t want to upset you,” I shrugged. Jon just rolled his eyes and shook his head.

“I’m telling you here and now,” Alicia began. “You two guys were meant to live. Not a doubt in my mind. Do you realize what a gift that was?”

“Gift?” Jon grunted. “Remind me not to come by your house on Christmas.”

Alicia smirked at Jon but let it slide. I could tell she knew he was still greatly stressed and she’d seen enough stressed out people in her line of work that she knew when a barb was sincere or not.

“Oh, that isn’t the end of it,” I said.

“Hold on a sec; I don’t want to miss this,” Ron said as he bolted for the kitchen. He came back and set our burgers in front of us and we paused long enough to take a couple of bites.

“And then?” Alicia prompted.

Jon waved at me to do the talking while he continued to inhale his food and I told them about the phone calls on the dead phone. Still chewing, Jon unclipped it from his shorts and waggled it in the air for his touch of emphasis. Alicia took it in her hand and studied it, turning it over and over like she was trying to get its vibes.

“Whoa,” Ron murmured. He stood there searching for words but none came.

“So having said all that,” I began. “What the hell’s going on here?” Jon nodded in agreement as he sucked down the last of his fries.

Alicia looked back and forth at us and then down at the table. She just spun Jon’s phone around a couple of times, trying to think of what to say, forming her thoughts carefully as if she was giving testimony.

“Well, if there is such a thing, let’s start with the easy part,” she began, running her fingers through her tightly bound hair.

“First off. Brad? I want to tell you that I’m glad you started your meditations, so are your guides. I saw that you had really good results for a first time out.”

“I did?”

“Hon, I can see them almost jumping up and down, they’re so excited. Like they’re saying ‘it’s about time’. You know, some people take a long time to get as far as you did this morning, in just one sitting,” she said, wagging her finger at me. “…even though, in reality, it’s just a small step. Some people never get there at all. But then something happened. It’s like you vaulted over a spiritual fence like some suspects I’ve chased.”

We chuckled at her analogy and I could feel Jon loosen up now that he was securely among friends with a full stomach.

“Is that the gift you mentioned,” Jon asked.

“Kind of. It’s a multi-parter,” she said, taking another sip of her tea. “What I don’t think you fully appreciate,” she continued, looking me straight in the eyes. “…was that when it looked like you two were history, you kept your head and opened yourself like you’ve never done before. Well, consciously, anyway. This wasn’t like those dreams where something came and got you when you were unguarded; you called on your guides and Grandfather came, and you listened. You’re a lot stronger than you give yourself credit for.”

We were too stunned to speak. Ron had to go take care of another table. The lunch crowd was starting to filter in but he made sure we were left alone as best he could. I was thankful for that. Anyone overhearing us would be sure we were certifiable. Alicia could tell I wasn’t completely grasping the importance of what she was telling me.

“Congratulations, son,” she began again. “You had your first real, all-by-yourself kind of vision.” I shook her extended hand. “Some people go their whole lives looking for a vision and never get one.”

“First?” Jon asked. “What about all the little flashes he gets now and then?”

“They’re flashes,” Alicia said. “Some people call them intuition, things that just come to them. It’s like up to now, your guides found the right frequency for you all to talk on but your volume was turned way down.”

“And that’s different from what happened how?” I asked.

“You believed and trusted. You were ready, and you opened yourself up to hear and when you did, it was like trying to compare AM radio with high definition TV. There’s just no comparison.”

We paused. I didn’t know what to say and had to let it sink in for a moment. Alicia obliged.

“The rest of the gift,” she began again after a moment. “…was for both of you.” Jon looked up from the candle he’d been staring at intently while he listened.

“It’s really kind of a left-handed gift, but it was your shared experience of nearly drowning together.”

“You call that a gift?” Jon asked.

“When you consider that people usually have to go through a near death experience to get the lesson, then yeah, I call that a gift!” Alicia said, getting perturbed with Jon’s attitude.

“Sorry,” he mumbled.

“Me too, hon,” she whispered. “I know it hasn’t been one of your better days; I’m sorry.”

“So go on,” I broke in.

Alicia paused and took in a deep breath, “Your experience was a reminder to get your priorities straight. It was a kick in the pants to realize that there’s something more important than fast cars and ‘cool gear’; all that stuff is just window dressing. Any good, stiff wind can blow it all away at any time. Guess what’s left after that?”

We sat there silent, like a couple of schoolboys who didn’t want to risk giving the wrong answer.

“Anyone? Anyone?” Alicia said, mimicking every teacher we’d ever had. Neither of us spoke.

“Hmm,” she said, disappointed that neither of us spoke up. “Well, you’re not fooling me with that silent bit; I know you both know the answer. That’s only part of it, though,” she continued, leaning closer to us, making sure we wouldn’t be overheard. We leaned in to her. Jon winced, shoving the candle aside when its heat started to singe his nose.

“See, the lesson was given to the two of you,” she said softly. “…it confirms what I’ve been seeing.”

“Which is?” I asked.

“Oh, my God; it speaks!” Alicia jabbed. I rolled my eyes and saw Jon snickering out of the corner of my eye. I waved at her to go on.

“It tells me that you two are meant to be together. You guys are two halves of the same coin.”

She studied our reaction, or non-reaction as it were. It’s like when your mom tells you exactly what you’ve been up to after you’ve been trying your hardest to keep whatever it is a secret. You go to ground and keep quiet, like a rabbit trying to get away from a fox.

“Yeah, I know,” she said. “I understand you don’t want your relationship generally known.”

“Kinda figured you knew,” I said.

“Ron didn’t tell you?” Jon asked.

“Didn’t say a word,” she said, shaking her head. “He likes you guys a lot; I know that for a fact. And he respects your privacy. All I’m saying is that your experience is a sign, to me at least. It’s kind of the Universe’s way of confirming that you belong together, that it’s supposed to be that way.”

“So you don’t have a problem,” Jon began, then paused to look around. “…with us being gay?”

Alicia slumped towards Jon, seeming disappointed but staring him dead in the eyes. “Jon, I’m sworn to uphold the law, not stupidity.” Jon sat back and beamed his trademark smile. A sense of relief washed over both of us. “You two belong together. That’s all I can say. It’s like, if one of you didn’t exist, the other’d be nothing. Well, maybe not nothing, but seriously incomplete.”

Thirty-two,” came the call from her radio on the table next to her. Alicia picked it up and thumbed the key.

“Thirty-two, go ahead,” she said, adjusting the volume and holding it to her ear so as not to disturb the other patrons. She listened intently for a few seconds. “Ten-four,” she answered, clipping the radio back to her belt. She got up quickly and tossed a few bills onto the table.

“What’s up?” I asked. She smirked.

“Abandoned milk truck out at the power plant. I’ve gotta meet the Highway Patrol. What a world we live in,” she sighed. “Wanna come? See if you get any vibes? Practice never hurts,” she offered.

“No thanks,” I said, waving it off. “I’ll pass.”

“Suit yourself,” she said. “You might not have a choice much longer, though.”

“Meaning what, exactly?” I asked, not knowing what to make of her somber tone.

“Hey, what about the phone calls?” Jon interjected, trying to squeeze in one last question before she ran. Alicia stopped.

“Yeah, we need to talk about those; don’t worry about it for now,” she said, her steady voice betraying a note of concern. “Are we still on for tomorrow?”

“Yeah, say around ten-ish?” I said.

“Good. I want to read that house again; gotta run!” she called, waving as she headed out. We listened and heard her sirens as she flew out of the parking lot, fading in the distance as Ron came back to see if we needed anything.

“Sorry, guys; we got busy all of a sudden. What did I miss?

“We’ll fill you in later,” I said.

“Yeah, we’ve gotta run. You’re coming by for dinner, right?” Jon asked.

“Absolutely. What time?”

“Say around four-thirty, fiveish; thought we’d hang out at the pool for a while.” I said. “We’re having another guest join us, by the way.”

“Who?” Ron asked skeptically.

“One of the firefighters who was at the house this morning. Nice guy. Said he wanted to know if the house is really haunted, so I said he should come see for himself,” I said. “I think you two might hit it off. Besides, we need a fourth for bridge!” I added, smiling at my own small joke.

Ron gave me a sideways glance with a twisted smile. “Yeah. I think you’re just trying to get me into trouble.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said with the feigned innocence of a baby lamb.

“Yeah, right, Yenta,” Jon said. “Let’s book.”

“What’s… yenta?”

“He’ll explain it later,” Jon said, thumbing at me as he slid out of the booth. “I’m staying out of it.”

“Oh, don’t pay him any mind,” I said. “Just remember to pack a bag.”

Neither one of us spoke much as we headed home. We didn’t need to. Jon was the only one to talk, warning me about a radar trap he saw up ahead. It was close; we narrowly missed getting caught as I eased us back to 53. I swear, he could see a fly on a barn door in the next county, just like with the trailer. I definitely had to get my eyes checked, but, trust me, that was the least of my concerns. Jon and I were both in a hurry.

It had been a long, difficult morning and we were just happy to be here but we desperately needed some alone time. Not with Dave, not with Ron or Alicia, not with half the Fire Department standing in the front entry, no one; just us, away from prying eyes.

With a cloud of dust trailing behind, I gunned the engine as we turned into the front drive. I was about to turn off to go around back when I noticed Jon squinting at something ahead.

“What now?”

“Pull up to the front,” he said, pointing.


Jon didn’t say anything. He just kept squinting at whatever it was, cocking his head as if trying to bring it in clearer. I pulled to a stop in front of the house as dust from the gravel drive swirled up around us.

“Okay? What?”

“Look,” he said softly, pointing at the front door.

“Yeah? So what abou…” My words trailed off when I saw what he was looking at.

The front windows were completely intact. No broke panes, no plastic, no nothing. It was like nothing had ever happened.

“Oh, Jesus,” Jon muttered.

To Be Continued