SUMMARY: At a time of national turmoil, the lives of four boys become connected as each struggles to accept his sexuality and to address the challenges he faces in life. To the extent the boys succeed in coming to grips with those challenges, it may be in ways that prove surprising or troubling. This story is also being published on my blog and you can find a longer synopsis there. While some events, locations and features in the story have been moved forward or back in time for dramatic and other purposes, it takes place during an era when prejudice against homosexuals is rampant and the gay revolution in America is still in its infancy. Italics are typically used within the story to indicate what a character is thinking or saying to himself. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.

WARNING: Sex is not the primary focus of this story. If you're looking for erotic content, you'll do much better with other stories on Nifty. While sexual content is secondary and incidental, the story does include some scenes that depict sex and violence, sometimes graphically depending upon the characters and circumstances involved. For that reason, the story is intended for mature audiences only. If you do not wish to read such material or it is illegal for you to do so, please look elsewhere. The story remains the property of the author and may not be reproduced in any form without written permission. It is protected by the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. You may download a single copy to read offline and to share with others as long as you credit me as the author, but you may not use this work for commercial purposes. You may not use any of the characters, bars or other fictional locations described in the story in your own work without my explicit permission. Nor may you use, alter, transform, or build upon this story in any way.

AUTHOR NOTES: Thanks to Robert Frost for the use of his poem. It is one of the most beautiful poems I’ve ever run across and it captures the essence of what comes next in the story really powerfully. I would also like to thank the insightful reader who first brought this poem to my attention. I don’t know whether he is still following the story, but I hope so. My biggest thanks go to some people who wish to remain anonymous and who helped me with so many of the details that it would be ridiculous trying to point all of them out. As usual, I would note that this is my first effort at writing a story. As a general rule, I only plan to publish one chapter a week, usually on Thursdays, although I missed that this week because of Thanksgiving. I hope you had a good one. This story may or may not be moved to a different section than this one in the near future, but I can't tell you where or when because I don't make those decisions. If you don't find it here, you'll have to look around for yourself. As noted, the latest chapter will always be posted on my blog before being published here. You may want to bookmark the location in the event you cannot find the story here at some point in the future and you wish to continue with it: Comments and constructive criticism are welcome. Flames will be ignored. If you would like to let me know what you think, feel free to contact me at Thanks for reading the story. I hope you enjoy it.

THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER: In Chapter 23, Josh tells his mother Coach Johnson is abusing Tommy. Initially unable to believe what she's hearing, she finally realizes he's telling the truth when Josh comes out to her and explains what happened the previous summer. Josh explains Tommy's fears about going to the Sheriff and asks his mom to adopt Tommy. She agrees to try, but in turn asks Josh to remain silent while she pursues the matter. The following day Josh's mom talks to a lawyer, Mr. Simmonds. At his request, Josh calls Nolan and asks him to play the recording of his conversation with Coach Johnson the previous August. Nolan agrees to do so. Once he does, Josh's Mom asks him to bring Tommy back to their house the next afternoon. She warns him not to get Tommy's hopes up about adoption, however, since the final decision will be up to the courts. Playing on Tommy's curiosity, Josh is able to persuade him to come back to the farm the following day. Then the whole story comes out in front of the Sheriff and Mr. Simmons. The Sheriff arrests Coach Johnson and agrees to Tommy's plan not to tell his parents until the following morning and then only by himself. That evening Tommy runs away from home and the police are unable to find him. Coach Johnson gets sent to jail while Josh wins the state championship in the backstroke. But Tommy's disappearance continues to bother Josh, who blames himself for not getting involved sooner.


Part III - Desperation, Degradation and Despair

Chapter 24

Nature's first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf's a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

As I stared out the window of the rig, I could see my face reflected in the lights of the passing vehicles. Josh was asleep, of course, long since asleep, but he would be stirring soon enough given the hour.

He wouldn’t know I was gone when he finally awakened. He wouldn’t know for hours and hours if everything went according to plan. I was thankful for that because I figured he would cry at some point once he found out. Probably not right away; and certainly not in front of others. But Josh was more emotional than he tried to let on, and I figured he would cry at some point because I knew he would miss me. Just like I knew I’d miss him as well.

As far back as the previous Fall Josh had seemed different somehow. I didn’t know why exactly, but he actually seemed to care about me and it helped pretending someone did. No one had ever cared about me before in my life, genuinely cared, and it made putting up with everything a little bit easier.

What I didn’t know until later was just how much he was in love with me. It wasn’t until that first evening alone together in his room that I knew; and even then Josh still didn’t know it himself.

But he was.

I could see it in his eyes, those little puppy dog eyes that just stared at you sadly, hoping you would smile and, by smiling, wash away all of the loneliness and despair, all of the longing and hours of waiting alone, all of the fears, the tears, and the pain.

It was something I had never seen before in my life and would probably never see again for that matter. But it was there and I knew it for sure even if Josh didn’t know it himself quite yet.

I had wondered at the time what I should do. It would have been easy to walk across that room and just kiss him. He wouldn’t have resisted. He would have welcomed my kiss at that moment and then tortured himself later for betraying his friend.

I wasn’t a saint, of course. I had been waiting a long time for just the right chance to do it and, right then, alone in his room, I wanted his ass more than I had ever wanted anything in my life up until then. And I could have had it right then too. I knew it for sure.

He would have given it to me without even knowing why he was doing it. But he needed more time to figure it out. For the moment, he was keeping it hidden beneath the mask he needed to wear to conceal it from me, to conceal it from himself even more.

So I hadn’t crossed the room that evening and I was never going to get him in bed with me now. And I was sorry about that, genuinely sorry. It would have surprised him for sure because he had always taken his masculinity for granted. But he would have surrendered it to me that evening because at the moment of surrender he would have known what he was only dimly aware of before. He would have known he loved me and that by letting me do it to him I could fulfill what he longed for more than anything else.

Like I said, there was a part of me that wanted to do it, to fulfill his need to be loved. But Josh was one of those relentlessly positive people who believe there’s a solution for every problem. And maybe he was even right about that. I just didn’t believe it. But no matter how much I tried, I could never convince him there just wasn’t a good solution, at least not for me. Once he told his Mom, it was all over, of course. There was no way she wasn’t going to the Sheriff.

I did appreciate her efforts to look out for my best interests by getting that lawyer for me. But he was as clueless as the rest of them. The guy actually believed some counselors could put my family back together again somehow and we would live happily ever after just like they do in fairy tales.

It was pretty obvious he didn’t have a clue when it came to my parents. Once my Dad found out what had happened, the only thing that counselor would be putting together again was me; if I was still even alive, of course.

My father had always hated me. Knowing I was sucking some other guy’s dick would have sent him totally over the top. He would have killed me. I knew that for sure.

So I didn’t really have any choice, Josh, I remember thinking to myself. I knew what I had to do.

I had gone home with the Sheriff late that evening after persuading him to do things my way. I had gone in by myself. As usual, my parents were drunk and out cold. I had gone up to my room and given the signal and watched while the Sheriff and Mr. Simmonds drove off.

Once they were gone, I packed as much as I could into the duffel bag, grabbed the money I had been stealing from my parents nickel by nickel, and took off for the truck stop over in Rutland. I knew the sooner I could get there the better.

I had followed the back roads out of town and then started walking along the highway. If I had to, I was going to walk all night to get there. I had built it into my plan. But around midnight one of the very first cars I tried to hitch a ride with actually stopped. The guy was wearing an Army uniform and must have taken pity on me. He didn’t ask any questions and it wasn’t very long before he dropped me off where I wanted to be. I was ahead of the schedule I had planned out; so far, so good.

It wasn’t a real truck stop, of course, just one of those restaurants all the truckers stopped at to get some food in their stomachs before heading off to wherever they were going. I did my best not to call attention to myself. I just waited there in the shadows until one of the truckers emerged from the joint and then made my pitch.

“Hey, Mister, I need a ride. Have you got room in your truck for me?”

Most of them just ignored me because it was against the rules. I knew that. But occasionally one would ask where I was headed.

“South,” I would usually respond. That was just ambiguous enough to be interpreted however they liked. By then I had pretty much decided I didn’t want to head for Albany, Boston or New York. I figured the cops would be looking for me for sure in those places. Philadelphia or someplace even further south would be better, I remember thinking; California best of all.

But usually the ones who asked would take a closer look at me when I emerged from the shadows and decide they didn’t want anything to do with some kid who was obviously running away.

I kept working on my pitch all night long, refining it, trying to make it more believable to them. It was hard to know whether it was getting better because they kept walking away. Most of the night had already passed without any luck and I was pretty cold by then. I was also getting more and more nervous. I was scared one of them would radio the cops and the State Troopers would show up at any moment and haul me away.

It was a little before 6 a.m. when the guy emerged through the door and headed over to his rig. I was pretty desperate by then. I needed to catch a ride really soon if I was going to have any chance of getting away.

“Hey, Mister,” I pleaded. “I really need to catch a ride south. My grandma is sick and I need to visit her before she dies. Are you headed south, Mister? Can you help me out? Please?”

The guy eyed me suspiciously for a moment.

“That’s why they invented the bus, kid,” he replied. “The whole idea behind the bus is to get you from one place to another.”

“I know that, Mister,” I said. “But it’s just me and my Mom. My Dad died a couple years back and my Mom doesn’t have any money to buy a bus ticket for me. That’s why I’m asking for some help. I really want to see my grandma before she dies. Please, Mister? Could you please help me out?”

I laid it on as thick as I could, doing my best to look like someone desperately in need of help; which I was, of course, so it’s not like it was a complete lie either. And by then I could force the tears to flow from my eyes so I did; no sobbing, just the tears.

The guy eyed me again.

“Have you had anything to eat this morning, kid?” he asked.

I hadn’t, of course, and I think it must have been obvious to him just how cold and hungry I was. I was shivering pretty badly by then.

“Not really,” I replied. “But I need a ride more than I need food. I can go without food.”

“Well I’m headed down to Washington, D.C.,” the guy replied. “I have a load I need to deliver there. Then I’m headed west to Memphis. Are either of those in the general direction you’re headed?”

“Yeah,” I replied immediately. “Washington. That’s where my grandma is in the hospital.”

I didn’t know anything about Memphis at all so that’s why I chose Washington instead. I knew it was the capital of America.

“Okay,” he replied, shrugging his shoulders. “You can ride with me. But we better get you some food to bring along. I don’t want to have to be stopping along the way because you’re hungry, kid. And don’t forget to take a piss and a dump while we’re in there too. Once we get rolling, I ain’t planning to stop because you forgot to take a piss and a dump.”

I followed him back into the restaurant. He asked what I wanted and I tried to pick out the cheapest stuff I could see on the board. It only took a couple of minutes for the food to arrive and by that time I had finished going to the bathroom. Then we headed back out and I climbed up into his rig while he tossed my duffel bag in behind me.

While he maneuvered the truck out on to Route 7, I starting devouring the food he had bought for me. By the time I finished I was pretty tired. I tried to keep myself awake, but I think the guy knew.

“You can sleep if you want, kid. We won’t be in Washington any time soon.”

I closed my eyes and fell asleep pretty quickly after that. I’m not really sure how long I slept, but eventually I woke up and looked out the window. The sky was really dark and it was raining a lot, slowing us down.

“Where are we?” I asked.

“We’re in New York, about thirty miles north of New Jersey. Do you have a name, kid?”

“Umm, yeah, I do, Josh,” I lied. “My name is Josh.”

“Mine is Bob,” he replied. “You slept for a pretty long time, all the way down the Thruway. You must be really tired out.”

“A little,” I said. “I’ve been tossing and turning a lot lately, thinking about my grandma,” I added, lying to him once again.

We chatted back and forth about pretty much nothing for the next couple of hours. By the time we reached Delaware the skies had turned even darker and the rain was pounding the road really hard. I wondered whether it was snowing back up in Vermont. If it was, it was going to be a blizzard.

“How much longer?” I asked.

“In this rain, with this traffic, who knows?” Bob replied, disgustedly. “Two to three hours for sure, probably three; and it could be more if this rain keeps coming down like this. You can go back to sleep if you want. You look like you could use it and it’ll make the time go faster.”

I closed my eyes and started to think.

So what are you going to do when you get to Washington, Tommy? You don’t know anyone there. You don’t have enough money to get a room. And it’s raining like hell. What are you going to do, Tommy? I asked.

I didn’t have any answers right then so I decided to ignore the whole thing.

I’ll figure it out when I get there, I replied. I’ll have lots of time to figure it out.

I remember sighing, then wondering how it had come to this.

Not that it was a surprise, of course. I had been thinking of running away for a long time, ever since I was a little kid really. I guess most boys think about running away at some point, but it seemed like I had been thinking about it forever.

I still remember the first time I ever saw a map of the United States in school. I was very young at the time, but I recall writing down the names of different cities and then trying to find out more about them. Even back then I guess I was trying to figure where I would run to. And just as importantly, I remember spending time writing down lists of all the things I would need to bring with me when I ran away.

You couldn’t just run away, of course. I might be dumb like my father kept telling me, but even I knew you had to have a plan. So back then I spent lots of time planning my escape.

Like I said, my father had always hated me. I was the reason he had to marry my mother in the first place and he never wanted to be married to her. He just wanted to fuck her. I was the reason he was stuck in that dead end job of his without any prospects. I was the reason the only friends in his life were the beers he brought home every night.

The thing is, I can’t recall the first time he beat me up. It must have been when I was really little because I can’t even recall a time when he wasn’t beating me up. It happened all the time. At first I remember wondering why he was doing it. I mean, it wasn’t like I was trying to disobey him or do something bad or anything. He never really explained what I was doing wrong and I remember wondering what I could do to make him like me better.

When I got a little older, I tried out for Little League figuring maybe he would be proud of me if I played baseball like the rest of the boys. I had enlisted my Mom to help; and even though he didn’t want to do it, she had made him drive me to where the tryouts were being held. I didn’t have a bat, a ball or a glove, but one of the coaches lent me a glove. The first time a ball was hit to me I muffed it and I could hear him laughing up in the stands. He seemed to laugh forever.

“Good job, you doofus,” he screamed really loud so everyone heard.

I didn’t muff any more after that, but that first mistake was the only thing he talked about all the way home; how he wouldn't have missed an easy one like that, how I would never be any good at baseball because I was too stupid to be good at anything. He wasn’t really interested at all, to be honest, and I didn’t really have any way of getting to the games on my own. So that was the end of that.

It was only as I got older that I began to understand it really had nothing to do with me. He wasn’t beating me up because I had been bad or had disobeyed him or any other reason that might have been understandable. He was beating me up because he could. I mean, the only other person he could beat up was my mother and he did that at times as well. But, unlike me, she would fight back when he hit her. Or grab a knife and threaten to kill him in his sleep and I think that scared him a lot. It sure scared the hell out of me when she screamed it at him.

I never fought back or threatened him. For the longest time, I was just trying to figure out what I could do to make him happier with me.

My mom? Well, let’s just say she wasn’t like other moms. She was drunk most of the time when she was home. I’m not really sure why she drank all the time. Maybe she didn’t want to be married to my Dad. I could understand that. Or maybe it was some other reason. She never told me why.

Every once in a while she would make an effort to stop drinking and to pay more attention to me. She would start acting like the other moms, telling me she loved me and how proud she was of me. The first couple of times it worked. Those were the only times I could remember being happy with either of my parents. I wanted to love her so much.

But, the thing is, she was a drunk and her periodic efforts to get herself sober usually only lasted a couple of weeks at most. Sometimes they only lasted a day. After the first couple of times I figured it out. As much as I wanted her to succeed, I knew it would be over real quick. After that I played along with her because I knew it made her feel better, like we were a real family. But it didn’t really make me feel better because I knew it would be over soon enough.

When I finally got to school, I began making a few friends. But that didn’t last very long either. I remember being in the second grade and there was this other boy named Timmy and we became best friends. Timmy and Tommy everyone said. Everyone thought it was cute how we played together so well. And then one day Timmy told me he couldn’t play with me anymore. I asked him why and he told me his Mom said I was white trash and she didn’t want him hanging around with me anymore./p>

I didn’t really know what she meant by that exactly, but it made a pretty big impression on me. I mean, I knew I was white for sure so I figured she must be right about the other part of it too.

The thing is, it was hard to make friends with other kids. I could never bring them over to my place. I didn’t want them to see my parents or just how poor we were. And as for their places, well, sometimes some of them would invite me over. But it was usually only for one or two times. After one or two times I didn’t get invited back any more. I guess all the Moms must have figured out I was white trash. I remember wondering how all of them figured that out so quickly and whether there was some way I could hide it from them.

By the time I was in middle school I was pretty much of a loner. I didn’t have any friends and I didn’t play any sports because my parents couldn’t afford to buy me any of the stuff you needed, like a ball, a glove or whatever. Not that they would have bought me those things if they had the money. They wouldn’t have. And they weren’t like the other parents in any event, interested in what their kid was doing and happy to drive me around to practices and games.

High school didn’t really change anything for me, at least not my freshman year. By then I was starting to get interested in girls. But it was strange because I remember having the same feelings for some of the boys as I did for some of the girls. It wasn’t all of the boys, just like it wasn’t all of the girls; but it was enough to make me wonder about myself. I remember thinking I was different somehow. But I didn’t really know how exactly.

Still, I tried to blend in and did a pretty good job. I even invited a girl to the first dance at school that year. She accepted and I remember being really happy about that. I was looking forward to it and I even asked my Mom to trim my hair for the big occasion early one morning before she started drinking. But two days before the dance the girl backed out. I never knew why exactly, but I suspect she had finally gotten around to telling her parents who her date was and they had persuaded her to change her mind.

By then things like that didn’t bother me. I went to the dance anyway and had a pretty good time. I danced with a couple of the girls and they seemed to enjoy it. And I enjoyed dancing with them too. And then Jean Marie Bridges asked me to walk her home and I did; except she took me around back to this old barn behind her house when we got there. And then she took me inside and asked me to kiss her. She said a boy had never kissed her before and she thought I was cute and wanted to see what it would be like to kiss a boy.

She was kind of pretty and I didn’t have a problem with that and we just stood there kissing for the longest time; and then she reached over and took my hands and put them on her tits. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do so I just kind of rubbed them. I don’t know why I did it exactly, but she didn’t ask me to stop or anything. In fact, she started tugging at the belt on my pants and I pretty much figured it out after that. I mean, the truth is, Jean Marie knew what she wanted that evening. She even had a condom and made me put it on. And then I did it for the very first time.

I liked it; and I think Jean Marie liked it too because she was moaning a lot. I remember wondering on the way home that night whether she would want me to be her boyfriend after that. I wasn’t sure I was ready to have a girlfriend just yet. And then I started wondering what it would be like to do the same thing to this boy at school I thought was really cute. I don’t know why that thought occurred to me, but it did and it got me excited all over again and I was pretty sure it was something I would like doing if I ever got the right chance.

As for Jean Marie, well, she seemed real embarrassed when I saw her at school the following week and begged me never to tell anyone what we had done. I didn’t have a problem with that. She seemed like a nice enough girl and I didn’t really want anyone being mean to her for something like that.

So I pretty much got through freshman year without any problems, at least any more problems than I already had. Because right about then it seemed like my Dad was beating me up more than ever.

I don’t even know what I was doing that day in August when I walked by the basketball court down at the playground no one ever used. It was near the tenements we lived in. No one was there except Wayne. I knew who he was, of course. Everyone knew because Wayne was the quarterback of our high school football team and he was a really good quarterback. He was popular and had lots of friends. I didn’t really know him at all. I just knew about him.

It surprised me when he called me over.

“Hey, Tommy,” he said. “Come over here and shoot some hoops with me.”

I remember being surprised he even knew my name. There was no reason he should have. I was a nobody at school and we didn’t take any classes together except for PE. He had never said boo to me before, but I wasn’t about to complain. I walked over to the court where he was standing.

“I’m not very good, Wayne,” I said. “If we play a game, you’ll destroy me.”

“Hey,” he replied, “no problem, dude. I’m just looking for some company to shoot hoops with me.”

So that’s what we did for the next hour, shoot hoops, and I was right. I wasn’t very good. But Wayne never put me down. He even offered me a couple of tips.

The really surprising thing was he asked me to come back the next day and do it again. It kind of shocked me, to be honest. I mean, after all, Wayne had lots of friends. He could have asked anyone and they would done it just to be with him. The fact he was asking me was really surprising. But I said yes, I would do it, and I went back the next day; and then the day after that too when he asked me again.

And then he invited me over to his house on Thursday and that was the most surprising thing of all. He said he liked hanging out with me and we could play some of the video games he had. I had never played any video game before, but, hell, I was willing to make a fool of myself because Wayne had said he liked hanging out with me.

No one had ever said that to me before.

So I went over to his house the next afternoon. His parents were off working and we played games for a while. And then we went up to his bedroom and he showed me all of his trophies. There were lots of them and I remember being totally in awe of him.

The next thing I knew he was asking me whether I had ever messed around with another boy before. I hadn’t. But I knew what messing around meant. I had been messing around with myself since the seventh grade and I liked it. So I told Wayne the truth and he asked whether I wanted to mess around with him that afternoon.

I wasn’t really attracted to Wayne like some of the other boys, but it seemed like something a friend should do so I said sure. And that’s what we did. And then we started doing it every day when his parents weren’t around. And I liked it. It was a couple of weeks later, not long before school opened, when Wayne brought up the subject.

“Have you ever had a blow job, Tommy?” he asked.

I told him no and he said he wanted to give me one. But I told him I didn’t think he should because I didn’t know whether I would be able to return the favor. Wayne just said he understood and that he didn’t expect me to do that. But that he still wanted to do it to me as long as I promised never to tell anyone about it.

So I made the promise and he did it to me and it felt good. In fact, it felt really good and I liked it a lot.

Wayne did it to me a couple more times and by then I was pretty sure I wanted to return the favor. But then school started and we didn’t have time to get together any more in the afternoons because he was practicing with the football team all of the time.

In fact, once school started, Wayne seemed a little distant. He never invited me to sit with him at lunch or talked to me at school. It was like I didn’t even exist anymore. And then one afternoon I ran into Wayne and a couple of his friends and Wayne suddenly started beating me up.

The thing is, I didn’t have a clue why he was doing it. But he was and his friends were helping him do it. They beat me up pretty bad that day. But the next day was even worse.

I was walking from one class to another when this boy named Jimmy came up to me.

“Did you really think he would let you do it, you queer?” he asked.

“Do what?” I responded, annoyed.

“Don’t try to deny it, faggot,” he replied. “Did you really think Wayne would let a doofus like you suck his cock? You’re disgusting.”

So that’s how I found out it was all over the school I had asked Wayne to let me suck his cock. I mean, my life had been pretty bad up until then. But now it became a lot worse. I could have denied it, I suppose. I could have told them the truth. But no one would have believed me. That’s just not how it worked at school.

I mean, Wayne was the quarterback of our football team for crying out loud. Right then during football season he was probably the most popular guy in school. I was nothing. In high school, once you were pegged, you were pegged; and by then I had been pegged. I knew it.

It was right about then I decided I needed to stop thinking about running away and actually do it. So I started serious planning again. And now here I was, heading for Washington, D.C.

I guess I must have fallen asleep again after that because the next thing I recall Bob was nudging me.

“We’re in Washington, kid,” he said. “Not too far from the bus stop. Do you want to get off there?”

“Yeah, the bus stop would be good,” I replied.

I don’t know why I said it because he could have dropped me off on the moon right about then and I wouldn’t have had a clue where I was.

When we got to the bus stop, I opened the door to hop out.

“Thanks,” I said, turning to him and extending my hand. “I really appreciate the ride, Bob, and the food too. Thanks a lot.”

“You’re welcome, Josh,” he said, shaking my hand. “I hope everything works out good for you; and for your grandma too.”

“Me too,” I said, slamming the door behind me and jumping off of the rig with my bag.

[Please check the Author Notes in the header above if you haven’t already done so]