This is a work of fiction.  It will contain a few graphic scenes of gay sex.  If this is objectionable to or illegal for you, please do not read it. 

As with my other stories, which can be found under my name in the Prolific Authors section of Nifty, this work will contain only a little sex.  It deals principally with relationships and growing pains of young teens, and as sex is a part of most teen boys' lives, it is a part of this story.

This story is copyrighted by the author.  His permission must be obtained for any use of this story other than reading it on the Nifty Archive site

This story will be fairly long.  I will try to post chapters as rapidly as possible with the hope one can go up every other day.  I hope you find it entertaining.

Much credit is to be extended to those who helped me with proofreading and editing this.  It took a lot of editing.  I needed a lot of encouragement and help, which was generously and skillfully provided.  Without the help I received, this story would be filled with mistakes, typos and errors in continuity and logic and style and grammar and spelling and syntax.  I would like to blame these myriad blunders on the editors and take credit for all the good stuff, but then they probably wouldn't want to help the next time I tried this, so reluctantly, I take the blame and give them the credit.  That's actually the way it really worked anyway.

In the past, you readers have been extremely kind in giving me your feedback.  I respond to all notes, and enjoy hearing from you.  I can be reached at:

Cole Parker

Josh, Evolving

by  Cole Parker

Chapter 1

What is it that attracts us to someone else?  Why this cute guy instead of that one?  Josh didn’t know, and didn’t ponder it.  He just watched the two boys across the food court, sitting at a table with drinks in front of them.  The food court was mostly deserted, and the empty high-ceilinged space was just noisy enough that, from a distance of only about 15 feet, Josh couldn’t hear what was being said, but he had a clear view of both boys faces as they sat next to each other, absorbed in their conversation and in each other.

Both boys were good looking and appeared to be about his age, 14.  One had dark straight hair cut fairly short and spiked with enough gel that it almost glittered.  He had a slightly flushed complexion with flashing dark eyes which lighted his face, a very cute and captivating face.  He wore clothes that were quite like Josh’s own, expensive, in the current style and clean, and they appeared to fit him like a glove.  There was no reason, if Josh were to think about it, why he shouldn’t be as drawn to this boy as to the other, yet it was the other boy he couldn’t take his eyes off.  Every time he looked at the dark-haired boy, he found that only moments later, his eyes returned to the other boy again.

          This other boy had a different look to him.  He wasn’t as animated as the dark-haired boy, and his appearance wasn’t as trim and presentable.  He had an unruly mop of dark blond hair that appeared to be a little too long, but it looked like this was not because it was a style he intentionally wore as much as because he just hadn’t had it cut recently.  His clothes were a little plainer than Josh’s and the dark-haired kid’s, didn’t seem to fit quite as well and were somewhat rumpled looking.  His face was cute, too, but in a different sort of way.  It was rounder than the other boy’s and didn’t have the same animation or healthy glow to it.  His eyes also didn’t seem quite so electric, but instead appeared deeper and more somber.  He wasn’t smiling much, either, but seemed simply to be listening intently as the other boy talked expressively, vehemently even, gesturing with his hands and arms.

          There was a distinct difference in the two boys, and many would have been more taken by the dark-haired boy who showed great life and enthusiasm as well as a distinct charisma and who carried himself with self-assurance and perhaps, in his very vivacity, displayed some youthful charm.  Josh found himself ignoring all that.  He simply couldn’t look away from the other boy, the one that showed very little spirit, no self-confidence at all and seemed to be withdrawn into himself.  And Josh didn’t know why he found him so compelling.  There was just something about him, his look, his demeanor, just something about him that kept Josh’s eyes returning to him.  Josh thought about it while he sipped his coke.  Sure, this guy was very attractive, embarrassingly so, but quite a few kids had that quality.  Josh wasn’t sure what it was.  Perhaps it was that he looked, well, perhas it was that he didn’t look like most guys that are that strikingly cute or handsome looked.  Good looking guys tend to act a little too full of themselves, generally.  They usually know they’re good looking and a self-sure cockiness results.  This guy didn’t show that at all.  He looked almost a little vulnerable, sitting a bit slumped, his arms close to his body, his deep eyes showing nothing.

          Josh knew he had to stop staring.  He took another bite of his Whopper and reached for a fry.  He looked around for a moment, seeing the mostly empty tables crowded together, the bright glare of the colorfully lighted food stands, then glanced down to dip his fry in his ketchup puddle.  He did not want to stare too intently at the two boys, but found it hard not to.  He casually looked back up.  The blondish boy was staring at him.  Their eyes met momentarily, then the boy was looking back at his companion again.  Josh looked away, too. 

          Josh wondered if the kid had felt him staring.  He hoped not.  Social self-confidence was something he lacked, one of the reasons he was shy with people.  It seemed to him like a self-perpetuating puzzle: how was he to learn social skills if he had no one to practice them with, and how could he find someone to practice them with if he didn’t have any ability to talk to people to start with?  He had only a very few, very casual school friends and no close friends at all.  Which was why he was sitting at a table in the food court in the mall at three o’clock on a Saturday all by himself instead of with a group of friends. 

          He had come shopping at the mall and was taking a break.  He’d grabbed a burger, fries and coke, the All-American teenage meal, and was relaxing in the fairly empty food court.  He’d had no problem finding an empty table at this time of day.  The sounds of the tables being cleaned, people calling to each other across the court, echoed a bit in the large space.  He’d found a table to his liking and sunk into the plastic chair.  He spent a lot of Saturdays doing this.  Without a mother to shop for him and a father who––well, shopping for Josh seemed such an outrageous idea it wouldn’t even pass through his head­­­.  Josh enjoyed these trips because then he was out with other people, even if “with” suggested more than was really happening.  Maybe “among” was a more appropriate word.

          Josh looked over to the other table again, this time trying to be more discrete.  What he saw was the dark-haired boy leaving, the blond looking down at the table, his expression unreadable.  Then, when other kid was gone, he looked up again, directly at Josh.

          Josh started to turn away, and then, for some reason, didn’t.  It felt both scary and exciting to look at this guy, this guy he was attracted to, and have him look back.  Josh wasn’t used to being at all bold with other kids.  It always got him in trouble if he was.  Someone would always say something challenging to him and he had no idea how to respond, and this usually ended up in derisive laughter directed towards him, or sometimes something even worse.  But always, it ended with him feeling like crap, ashamed of himself but totally unable to do anything about it.   

          But now the guy was looking at him, and he was looking back.  Josh didn’t understand where the courage for him to do so was coming from, and when he saw the other kid stand up and start walking toward him he realized he’d made a mistake.  The kid was going to ask him what the fuck he was staring at him for, and what was Josh going to answer?  He’d been through this before.  It had never worked out well for him.

          Yet he still couldn’t look away.  There was something about this kid that he found almost mesmerizing.

          The guy reached his table and looked down at him with little expression on his face, his eyes a dark gray color that gave no hint of what he was thinking.  He was about Josh’s size, and on closer observation it didn’t appear his clothes were rumpled as much as that they were a little too big for him, or at least that they hung loosely on his frame. 

          “Hi,” said the kid.  He had a soft, somewhat breathy voice, entirely non-aggressive.  He didn’t smile, and his eyes gave nothing away as he looked at Josh.

          “Hi,” Josh responded, and as usual in any sort of meeting with someone new, started feeling very tongue-tied.  He felt an immediate sense of relief, however, that the other kid didn’t seem the slightest bit belligerent.  And with that relaxation, some excitement arose in him.

          “May I sit down?”

          “Oh, sure.”  Josh was a little surprised.  No other kid his age ever asked his permission to do anything.  Something about him, his demeanor or maybe his body language, evidently gave them an immediate understanding they didn’t need to.

          There was a pause as the kid pulled out one of the flimsy plastic chairs and sat down.  They were round tables, and he sat not right next to him, but closer than Josh expected.  He glanced at Josh, and Josh looked down.  Being near to the kid, seeing him up close and hearing his voice, Josh felt the attraction even more, and that made him feel even shakier than usual.  He knew this wasn’t going to go well, and he started wondering if he could just stand up, excuse himself, and leave.

          “I saw you looking at me.”

          Josh’s face reddened.  “I’m sorry.”  His worst fears seemed about to be realized.  His voice rose in pitch as he said rapidly, “I shouldn’t have done that.  I was almost through eating anyway.  I’ll go now!”  Josh felt his blush coming stronger, and felt himself start to sweat, his nervousness now a tangible presence.

          “No.  No.  Wait.”  The guy reached his hand out and laid it on Josh’s arm as Josh was pushing back from the table.  The hand didn’t grab him or hold him, just rested on Josh’s forearm.

          Josh stopped, his chair only pushed back slightly, just starting to rise.  He looked up and met those eyes again.  This time, there was expression in them, but he couldn’t tell what it was.  He just knew it wasn’t threatening or mocking, the two expressions experience had taught him to read so well.

          “Wait.  I’m not upset you were looking at me.  In fact, that’s no problem at all.  What’s your name?”


          “Hi, Josh.  I’m Bryan.”  For the first time, the boy smiled.  A quick smile, but a smile.  Josh looked at him, and he’d have sworn his heart jumped a little.  But as he was looking, he noticed the smile never reached Bryan’s eyes.  Those were just as unreadable as ever.

          “Hi, Bryan.”  Josh said it carefully.  His normal uncertainty was kicking in.  He didn’t know what was going on here or what was going to happen, but the chemistry he’d felt from across the room was still working.  He liked the fact this boy he found so incredibly attractive was sitting here talking to him, even if it did scare him. 

          Bryan spoke again.  “Hi.  I’ve seen you here before.  You probably haven’t seen me, but you come here all by yourself a lot, and I’ve seen you walking around.”

          Bryan paused, but Josh didn’t respond.   Josh instead was simply looking at Bryan.  He’s been given tacit permission to do so, in his mind, and he was taking advantage of it.  What he saw, now that he could look at him closely, was a boy who looked nervous.  He’d walked over to the table calmly enough, his voice didn’t sound uncertain, but now, sitting here, trying to start a conversation, he didn’t seem confident at all.  And Josh realized the longer the pause was growing without him not responding to Bryan’s statement, the more nervous he looked.  Maybe, Josh thought, I should say something.

That of course was difficult for Josh, perhaps the world’s worst conversationalist, at least in his own mind.  Still, Bryan seemed to be waiting for him to speak.  That was odd.  Most guys could care less whether Josh ever said anything at all.

Josh was about to say something, anything, when Bryan broke the silence first.

          “So you don’t have anybody to hang with here?”

          The question startled Josh.  That’s what I get, he thought, for not talking up before.  Now this.  He didn’t want to answer this question.  Not this one.  It made him sound like such a loser to say, ‘No, I don’t have any friends.’  But for some reason, making things up never occurred to him.  So he again didn’t respond, but started feeling uncomfortable, knowing he’d just been asked a question and hadn’t answered it.  He had known this wouldn’t work, trying to sit here and talk to someone he was attracted to, maybe even try to make friends with him.  He needed to leave.  Things would only get worse.

          Bryan suddenly spoke again, as though realizing he was about to lose Josh.  Perhaps he’d seen or sensed the consternation Josh was feeling.  “Hey, Josh, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked you anything personal like that.  My fault.  I was just trying to start a conversation.”  Then, as an apparent afterthought, he added, “I sometimes have a problem trying to say the right thing when I meet people.”

          At that, Josh’s face lost some of its tenseness.  “Really?  I have the same problem.  I have a hard time just talking to people I don’t know.  Well, actually to guys I do know, too.  I don’t know why, but I find it much harder to make conversation than other guys seem to.”

          Bryan’s face relaxed a little.  Josh could see it, not only in his face, but all over.  He appeared to calm down.  He seemed suddenly more comfortable, now that Josh was talking a little.  Josh wondered why that was.  Did he want to make friends, just like Josh did?  Could that really be what was happening here?  Maybe, thought Josh, he could make this work.  Probably not, but it was worth a few more minutes to try.  He’d really like to make a friend, and he was already physically attracted to this guy.

          “Really?  You too?  I’ve always been that way.  I have to force myself.  I’ve found the more I do that, the easier it becomes, but it’s still not easy.” 

          Without pause this time, and feeling better about talking, Josh jumped in with, “But if it’s uncomfortable for you, why did come over to talk to me?”

          Bryan didn’t answer right away and Josh saw his mind working.  It occurred to him suddenly to wonder if not everything Bryan was saying was true.  Josh was very honest, and as with many basically honest people, very naïve.  He did know that honesty wasn’t a universal attribute, however.  And, watching Bryan search for words to answer a very simple question, he got the impression he shouldn’t be too quick to take everything Bryan said at face value.  The thought disappointed him. 

          Bryan eventually smiled again and met Josh’s eyes.  “I’ve seen you here before, you were by yourself, and I thought you might like some company.  Yeah, it’s a little hard for me to talk to someone like this, but it’s hard being alone, too, and as I say, I’m getting better with the talking to strangers thing.  I’m working on it.  You about done shopping or you got more to do?”

          Josh relaxed.  “Just a little more.  I’m going to stop in Holden’s and look for a couple books.”

          “Yeah, I’ve seen you go in there a lot.  You must like to read.”

          “That’s my favorite thing.”  Josh quickly looked down after saying that, a pang of his former uneasiness returning.  He got teased at school a lot for having his nose in a book all the time, and had come to know other guys didn’t see reading the same way he did.  As soon as he said it was his favorite thing, he realized he’d just as well as said, ‘Hey, look at me, I’m a nerd.’  He felt the blush coming back.

          “That’s cool.  I used to read all the time, too.  I love science fiction.”

          Josh quickly looked up at Bryan, and it was Bryan’s turn to look away.  Josh thought he looked embarrassed, like he’d just said something he wished he hadn’t, though Josh had no idea why that comment would embarrass him. 

Bryan looked like he was struggling with himself for a moment, and then his expression changed, changed back to the unreadable, emotionless one he’d had when he first sat down. He looked back up at Josh again. 

          “You did?” Josh asked, surprised.  “That’s past tense.  You don’t read any more?  Why’d you stop?  I mean, that’s what I do all the time.  I can’t imagine just stopping!”

          “Uh, well, things changed.”  Bryan’s face showed some regret, and then it became unreadable to Josh. 

          “What do you mean?”  Josh was sincerely curious, wanting to know why this boy, indeed anyone, would stop reading, what set of circumstances could be responsible for such a thing.  Bryan’s comment, and his apparent sadness and then the abrupt shutting down of his emotions, had affected him. 

          “Do you really want to know?” asked Bryan.

          “Yeah, if you don’t mind telling me.”  Josh wasn’t feeling so uncomfortable, he suddenly realized.  As long as they were talking about something other than him, and talking about something he was interested in, like reading and whatever he could learn about this boy he was so oddly attracted to, he was hardly nervous at all.

          Bryan inhaled deeply, then let it out.  He appeared to have somehow made a decision.  

          “I have to tell you about myself for you to get it.  And I’m afraid this is going to be a long story, if you’re going to understand.  Long.  You sure you want to hear this?”

“Sure.”  Josh looked at him expectantly.

Bryan looked back at Josh, then settled in his chair a little more comfortably and began.  “Everything was great until my mother died a couple months ago.  We lived around here, I went to school at Taft, I had a bunch of friends.  Just normal, you know? 

          “Then, my mother died.  Cancer.  One of the ones that go really fast.  She got diagnosed and within a month, she was dead.  The doctors kept just shaking their heads all the time, saying there was nothing they could do.  And I guess that was right, there wasn’t, because they sure didn’t do anything.”

          Josh was listening, staring again openly at Bryan, who was wrapped up in his story and didn’t even notice.  Josh could hear pain and bitterness in Bryan’s voice, and could feel something in his own stomach, hearing those emotions.

          “Anyway, she died, and Dad and I buried her.  It was hard, just tore me apart for awhile, I was crying all the time.  But Dad, he was a basket case, and he didn’t come out of it.  After a week or a little more, I started to pull myself together.  Every day after that, it got just a little easier.  It still hurt a lot, but I began functioning again.  Dad didn’t react that way.  What he did do was start drinking.  At first, that just meant he was drinking and then sleeping a lot.  But later, after his body had learned to handle the alcohol a little better, he didn’t sleep so much, and he started brooding.  And getting angry.  He started doing that a lot. 

          “So I started trying to stay out of his way.  When I was with him, he’d start out finding fault with something, anything, then get really angry.  So, I started trying to not be around him.  I would avoid him as much as possible, and if I had to talk to him, I’d try to do it as early as possible, before he’d had anything, or at least too much, to drink.      

          “This was all really hard for me.  My mother had just died and I was trying to learn to deal with that, and then my father became someone I don’t even know, and I had to sort of hold everything together at home.  It was really tough.  I had to deal with my father some because I didn’t know how to do everything I had to do.  So even if I knew he’d get angry, I didn’t have any choice.

          “I’d tell him things, like I needed money for groceries, or he had to write checks to pay some bills or stuff like that.  If I didn’t go shopping, there’d be no food in the house.  I had to go all the time because I couldn’t carry much on my bike and he was too drunk all the time to drive.  I cooked for both of us, then told him his was ready and took mine to my room so I didn’t have to eat with him.  A lot of the time, later when I looked, I found he hadn’t eaten anything, and I just threw it away.

          “This went on for several weeks.  I was going to school, then trying to take care of things at home as much as I could, avoiding him whenever I saw he was drunk, which was most of the time now, just trying to get by, hoping he’d come out of it and stop drinking.

          “Then one night I was in bed and he stumbled into the room.  He’d never done that before.  I’d been asleep, but he came in and grabbed my arm and yanked me out of bed.  He began yelling something about his dinner being cold and I could damn well serve him a hot dinner once in a while and all kinds of shit like that and a lot of it didn’t make any sense.  He was really out of it.

          “Anyway, he’s holding on to my arm, yelling at me, and I’m standing beside the bed where he’s yanked me to.  I always slept naked, ever since, well, a couple years, you know?  And I’m standing there naked, he’s yelling at me, I’m scared, and he starts looking at me, up and down, and stops yelling.  But doesn’t stop looking.  I try to pull away from him, and he feels me struggling and pushes be back onto the bed, hard.  I’m lying there all sprawled out where I fell and he’s staring at my crotch.  I get a really sick feeling, scared and upset.  I couldn’t pull the sheet over myself because he’d thrown me down on top of everything.  I quickly turned over on my stomach to hide myself, so I wouldn’t be so exposed.  That didn’t work either, because he’s now looking at my bottom.  I hear his zipper going down, so quickly look back around.  He has his pants around his ankles and is stroking himself, looking at my butt, the strangest look I’ve ever seen in his eyes.”

          Bryan’s voice had gotten a quiver in it and he stopped, his memories apparently overcoming him for a moment.  Josh didn’t know what to do.  He’d never heard anything like this before.  He wanted to say something, anything, to be supportive or show he was sorry, but was stunned.  He just sat there, filled with emotions, but unable to speak.

          “I was really terrified now.  I didn’t know what to do.  I looked at his face, and he was looking at me, and his eyes had become a little glazed.  He was still stroking and was about half hard.  I knew if I didn’t do something right then, even though I was scared shitless, I was going to get raped.  By my own father!  I could only think of one way I might get out of this, so I propped myself up on one elbow and said, ‘A drink, Dad.  You need another drink.  Let me get it for you.  Then you can do what you want.  Sit down on the bed here, I’ll get your bottle and a glass.’  I don’t know how I was able to say that.  My voice didn’t even sound like me.

          “All the time I was talking, I was wriggling down the bed.  I slid off the end onto my feet and walked out of the room, trying to stay away from him.  He was sitting down on the bed as I went through the door.  I was shaking I was so scared.  I could have run outside, but I was naked.  If it didn’t get back into that room in less than a minute, he’d realize something was up and come looking for me.  But I didn’t know what to do!

          “I realized I had to have my clothes, whatever I did.  Then I remembered I had dirty laundry by the washing machine.  I ran in there and found enough to get dressed.  The back door was right there and I had it open so I could run out if I heard him coming.  I didn’t.  After I was dressed, which took well over a minute, not hearing him, I got a little braver, or stupider, and stuck my head around the corner into the hallway.  Nothing.  Maybe I was foolish, I don’t know, but I started making my way as carefully as possible back towards my bedroom, ready to run if I had to.  Drunk as he was, I felt I could get away from him.

          “I got all the way to my bedroom door.  I snuck a peek in.  He was lying on my bed, his pants still around his ankles, passed out.  I think I breathed again then for the first time since this had started.  I slumped down against the doorframe, I was shaking so hard, I couldn’t have stood back up then if I’d had to.  I just sat there and tried to calm down a little.

          “I had to leave.  That I knew.  Nothing had happened tonight only because he’d been drunk and passed out.  But he’d been ready for it to happen, he’d been willing, and when he got drunk again, if he felt that way again, he could do the same thing.  Any other night, any other time, he could feel that way, and I had no idea when that might be.  At that point, to me, it seemed it was only a matter of time.  I had to get out.

          “Dad had an old duffle bag he’d brought home from the Army.  I got it and tried to think what I needed to take, but my brain wasn’t working very well.  I think it was too focused on being scared.  I decided I had to have my clothes and schoolbooks, and they were in my room.  I really didn’t want to go in there, but I had to.  Very quietly, I slowly inched my way in.  Dad seemed completely passed out.  I could hardy look at him, but when I did, I realized, with his pants still bunched up around his ankles, even if he did wake up he’d have a difficult time trying to catch me.  So, I got the stuff out of my room I needed. 

“I stuffed the bag with clothes, some food, a couple blankets, my toothbrush, whatever I thought I’d need.  I took all the money I could find in the house, which was only about $40.  I put all my school stuff in my backpack and put that on over my shoulders, then picked up the duffle bag.  Then I opened the front door and walked out.

          “I had no idea where to go or what to do.  I’m a 14-year-old kid out late at night with a large duffle bag.  Where am I supposed to go?”

          The question was probably rhetorical, Josh wasn’t sure, but an answer jumped to his lips before he even thought about whether he should interrupt or not.  “The police?  Did you call them?”

Bryan didn’t respond, still seeming deep into remembering what had happened.  Then he brought his eyes up to Josh’s, and Josh saw the pain in them.  “No, I didn’t call the police.  Maybe I should have.  I thought about it.  Would you have?”

          Josh was about to say yes, when something occurred to him.  He thought about it for a moment.  “If you’d have called them, what would have happened to you?  Your father might have gone to jail.  Do you have any relatives you could live with?”

          “No.  My mother was from Russia and had no relatives here, and my father only has a couple cousins and I haven’t even ever met them.”

          “So they’d put you in a boys’ home or something like that?”

          “Probably.  I wasn’t sure, but that seemed most likely, some sort of city or county children’s agency.  I’ve read about places like that.  That’s scary.  And that’s what I thought about when I thought about the police.  And there was something else, too.  Until my mom died, Dad and I weren’t  enemies.  We weren’t exactly buddies, but we sort of got along OK.  Basically, he left me alone, and I was OK with that.  Her dying knocked him off his feet.  I didn’t dislike my dad.  I felt sort of neutral about him.  Yeah, he scared the crap out of me that night, and he’d been angry since he started drinking, her death had changed him, but I’d been hoping he’d come out of it and stop drinking, get back to the way he’d always been.  I’ve been hoping for that so hard!  He was really all I had.  And, I thought if I called the police, he’d get arrested, I’d get put into a foster home or a group home  or whatever it is they do with kids like me, and there wouldn’t be any way I’d ever get back with Dad.  My whole life, everything I knew, would be gone.”

          Bryan paused again, then asked softly, “Could I have a sip of your drink?”

          Josh quickly shoved the cup towards him.  “Have all you want.  I can get you more.  Hey, you want anything else?  A burger or anything?”

          Bryan smiled, and this time it reached his eyes.  Josh thought they looked sad, even with the smile.  “That’s awfully nice of you.  Let’s hold off on that.  I need to finish this.”

          Josh had half risen, and now settled back in his chair.  Bryan continued.

“So it’s about midnight, the houses on the street are dark, and I don’t know what to do.  I try to show up at a friend’s house, his parents are going to want to know what’s going on, and whatever I say, they’re going to call my father, and the result of that won’t be good, whatever it is.  I decided right then, what I had to do if I ever hoped to stay away from home for awhile and then maybe get back with my father, was to find somewhere to stay and continue going to school.  If I didn’t do that, someone would eventually be checking on me, and the shit would hit the fan.  So wherever I went, I had to be able to get to school on time the next day.” 

          “So what did you do?”

          Bryan smiled, as though remembering his own cleverness.  “It’s still warm out, and there’s this little park just up the street from us.  I walked up to it, then went to the back where there are a few big trees.  Not really a woods, but if you’re behind the trees, you can’t be seen from the street.  I just took out the blankets I’d brought, laid them down, then lay down on them and sort of rolled up in them.  It might have been all the emotions or something, but I was asleep almost before I closed my eyes.”

          Josh was just staring at him.  The thought that kept running through his mind was, what if this had happened to me?  Could I have coped like he did?  This was unbelievable, that this kid could survive something like this all by himself.

“So you slept in the park, then went to school the next day like nothing had happened?” he asked, his voice revealing his rapt fascination with the story.

           “That’s what I was thinking.  Too much had happed too quickly for me to have given it much thought, though.  But yeah, that was my plan.  I sure hadn’t thought it all out, though.”