A Rare Gem
edited by Cole, Peter and Scott
Preface warnings apply.
I hung up the phone thinking about how I might help Bryan by making it possible for Andy to come down for the weekend. For some reason or other, the Days Inn told him there was no space available. I was about to call Miss Carrie for suggestions when the phone rang. “Dr. Cranston’s . . . ”
“Derek, Janice. Rose Lee was bleeding to death when we got here. I think we may have the bleeding stopped, but we are out of blood. She lost so much blood we need whole blood in the worse way. I called her family to see about getting some donors, but most are Jehovah’s Witnesses and blood transfusions are anathema to them. None of the others we have tested are the right type. Tell me, dear boy, that you are Duffy negative.”
“A Duffy negative on his way.”
When I arrived, I was quickly prepped so blood could be drawn. Janice came in and said, “Derek, I know you are a rare gem, but I had no idea what a valuable one you were. I almost didn't call you because the chance of your blood matching what was needed was so remote.”
She came back after I had finished giving blood. “I think we're out of the woods thanks to you, but it was real close. We're fortunate that you knew you were Duffy negative.”
“No reason I would have known except in biology when we were studying blood the question of factors found in certain ethnic groups came up and we did typing for some of them. Since Duffy negatives are more prominent among African-Americans, I was checked for that.”
Suddenly there was some kind of commotion outside the curtained off area where I was giving blood and an angry man shouted “Doctor, you ain't putting no nigger blood in my little girl. This family ain't never had no nigger blood in its veins and it ain't now!”
“I'd recognize that voice anywhere. Rose Lee's father has arrived. I'll be back,” Janice said and she left.
Ten minutes later Janice was back. “Well, Hubert Randolph will be cooling his heels in Sheriff Reynolds' jail for a day or so. Rose Lee has stabilized. Now if her mother's prayer group doesn't push her over the edge, she'll make it, but while the hospital has a no more than three visitors rule, those standing in the hall outside her door are actually worse than the ones inside. She won't be back to work anytime soon, not that I'd let her come back. How are you feeling?”
“Fine,” I said and started to get up.
“You just stay right where you are, Mr. Wilson. Ah, here you go,” she said as a woman appeared with a plate and cup. “Orange juice and cookies. Good homemade cookies, no less. Cuthbert's hospital has one advantage over a larger place. It's so small meals are practically custom made. Also, fresh produce is accepted as payment on bills. Summer is the best time to be in the hospital if you have a choice.”
“Janice, I really need to be up. I promised Andy, Bryan's boyfriend, I'd try to find him a place to stay this weekend so he could see Bryan. I planned on calling Miss Carrie and see what she might suggest.”
“You might call Miss Lottie as well. She's really put out at Bryan's father.”
“I remember. Good suggestion.”
“But you can make phone calls from right where you are.”
When I called, Josephine said Miss Carrie had gone over to visit Miss Lottie. 'Hatching up something, I bet,' I thought as I dialed Miss Lottie's number.
“Miss Lottie, Derek Wilson here. Is Miss Carrie there? . . . Could I speak to her, please?” I explained the situation and Miss Carrie asked if I was at the office. “No, I'm in the hospital . . . No, no, nothing like that. Some of my blood was needed . . . Well, you're right, it is kinda rare. Well, it's damn rare.” Miss Carrie said she'd call me back in a few minutes.
She did. She said the sweet boy could stay with her this weekend and with Miss Lottie the next time he came down. I called Andy and found he had gone to work at the pool where he was lifeguard. His mom gave me his number and I called. He was ecstatic.
“I think you can sit up now, slowly and take it very easy,” Janice said.
“I need to see Bryan. I have some good news for him.”
“Fine. I'll call for a wheel chair.”
“Don't be silly. I am not an invalid.”
“No, but you have been relieved of more blood than a simple Red Cross donation and I don't want you passing out.” I didn't argue since a), I knew it would be wasted breath, and b), I was a little lightheaded. An orderly appeared with a wheelchair and wheeled me to Bryan's room.
Bryan was looking better, much better. “Why are you in a wheelchair?” he asked.
“I have a rare blood and some was needed. My doctor wouldn't let me come unless I came in a wheelchair. I had to come because I have good news. I talked to Andy and he'll come Friday after he gets off work. He'll probably be here about ten that evening.”
Bryan looked happy and excited—surprise, surprise—then said, “But that's after visiting hours.”
“Oh, I think between Dr. Evans and myself we can get around that small detail. Of course, I can't really tell from a couple of phone calls, but Andy sounds like a really special guy.”
“Oh, he is, he really is!” Bryan said, then got a pained look on his face and started crying.
“Bryan, what's wrong? You in pain?” He shook his head. “What's the problem?”
“Derek, Andy is all you said and more. I'm dirty. I've been fucked by five strangers just like a slut. I couldn't dirty Andy.”
'Don't panic, Derek,' I said to myself. 'Don't panic!'
Tears were pouring down the young man's face. “I love him too much to let him dirty himself with me!”
I knew the feeling was a common one with rape victims and I knew recovering from being raped did not happen overnight, but that didn't mean the process shouldn't be started.
“Bryan, I want to tell you about someone. His name is Jayden. His dad found a gay magazine in his room and some gay porn on his computer. He beat him and took him to a city in another state and dumped him.” I then told Bryan Jayden’s story. “He was more trouble than he was worth as a whore to the pimp, so Jayden was beaten again and taken to an isolated place in the desert, dumped and left to die.
“You were raped one after the other by five strangers. I can't imagine how horrible that must be for you. I couldn't imagine how horrible the life forced on Jayden was. I do know this: Given a chance, Jayden would have still been a virgin when he was found and rescued. I know given a chance, you would never have had sex with anyone other than Andy; Andy knows that. Andy loves you, Bryan, I know that from talking to him. He doesn't think you are dirty. He wants to hold you and comfort you and eventually, when you’re ready, make love to you. For you, it may be a long time before you can make love without connecting it to being raped, but Andy will move at whatever pace comfortable for you. He'll wait until you are ready for each step and for when your love overcomes your feeling of being dirty. How do I know this? Because I know how it has been between Jayden and myself. He's not dirty or used or less than the man of my dreams as you are of Andy's.”
“I hope you're right, Derek.”
My thoughts were exactly the same. I hoped I was right about Andy, but I said, “I am. I'm not shittin' you. You two have a rough road ahead, but isn't he worth it? I know he thinks you are.” I leaned over and kissed the young man on the forehead and wheeled myself from the room and down the hall to Dr. Evans' office. He wasn't in, so I just waited there until he and Janice came in. “Well, Rose Lee's alive, thanks to you, Derek,” Art said. “Janice said you went to see the boy.”
“I did and we had a long talk. He's at the 'I'm dirty and used and Andy—his boyfriend—is too good for me' stage right now.”
“He's in for long term counseling, I'm sure. He's sure he has no place to go after the hospital and no money for counseling or anything else.”
“I'm not sure about the 'no place to go and no money,'” Janice said. “Miss Carrie and Miss Lottie were together this afternoon and I'm sure it's related to Bryan.”
“Don't think you'd lose that bet,” I said. “I called trying to find a place for Andy to stay this weekend and Miss Carrie signed up for the honor with Miss Lottie signed up for his next visit.”
I was ready to go back to the office, but Janice put her foot down, so I went home, crawled into bed and was asleep in minutes. When I woke up and looked at the clock, it was 5:30. I had slept all afternoon. I showered and put on fresh clothes and went downstairs. Miss Carrie was just walking in.
“You must've got home early because you look all fresh and handsome.”
“I did, way early. I got back about 1:00.”
“Talk all over town is about Rose Lee 'most bleeding to death and you coming to her rescue. Got the Randolphs in a real uproar. Most of them are Jehovah's Witnesses and shun blood transfusions because it's 'eatin' blood.' Old Man Randolph‘s raging because now Rose Lee has African-America blood in her and he's a white supremacist. Lordy, ignorance lives.”
Janice got a call from a county waste management fellow she had helped when he'd had no job and no money but needed medical attention badly. He’d told her he saw an order for a special trash pickup at the Skaggs. “I know you helped the Skaggs kid and think it might be his stuff.”
Janice rented a storage unit and called another fellow she had treated and asked him if he’d pick up everything and store it. A couple hours later, Hanes called to say he had stored it all. She sent me over to check it. There wasn't much, but then Bryan had really lived at Lakeside for the past six years. I did find a framed photo of Bryan and, I assumed, Andy which I took to the hospital.
Any day I was at the hospital and Art was free, we talked about being gay and all that went with that. Man, he was right when he said he had bought into the stereotype, but his views were not held religiously, so he was learning. I smiled when I thought about Andy showing up. He was, from the photo, a stereotypical straight super jock.
I told Andy to come to Miss Carrie's when he arrived and he showed up at 8:30. Miss Carrie insisted he get settled in his room and have supper before I took him to the hospital. “You go now and there will be a hassle about visiting hours. Give visitors time to clear out, then go.” Made sense. Andy had the appetite of the jock he was and consumed two days’ food, all the time assuring Josephine he had never had better.
I took him to the hospital at 9:30 and told him I'd be back for him at 11:30. I wrote an order for him to be with Bryan in case the night nurse needed to CHA—cover her ass. “Andy, one of Bryan's testicles was ruptured and repaired, so no playing around. You don’t have to worry about his getting a hard-on and it hurting. Not even you could give him an erection now. He, on the other hand, is free to do you as he wills.” Both turned bright red and I left. Andy was a really nice guy and it was clear, absolutely devoted to Bryan. By the end of the weekend he had done more for his lover's healing than modern medicine could.
Midweek following Andy's visit, I commented on the number of older people we had seen about something else entirely who had bruises. All had said they had fallen and Janice said, “They seem to fall on a regular schedule,” which was the reason I decided to do a little research in the files. I selected half a dozen people we had seen who were bruised. Sure enough, the first week of the month, they had falling spells. It didn't make sense.
Janice reported my findings to the Sheriff and he said he'd look into it. The next day, an elderly African-American was brought into the hospital. She was one of our patients and Art called and said she didn't need immediate attention, but she had been beaten pretty badly. Janice sent me to talk to her, hoping she'd be more open with me. I spent an hour with her and learned nothing. As I was leaving, she asked if I could do a favor for her and get an envelope to Billy Bob. I assured her I would and took the envelope. I was curious about what was inside and it was not sealed, so I looked. There was eighty dollars in twenties. Why was Miss Lavonia giving Billy Bob eighty dollars? I saw that Billy Bob got the envelope and all he said, “Well, it’s about time!”
The week got busy and I put aside the question of bruises and money in an envelope and worked. I had talked with Miss Carrie about the bruises and money, but she had not mentioned it again.
Friday night after I was in bed, I got a call from a man out in the country saying Dr. Cranston asked him to call me to tell me she needed my help as quickly as possible. He told me he'd meet me at Mt. Carmel church. As I was rushing out of the house, James appeared and I said, “James, I got a call from someone out in the country saying Dr. Cranston needed me. I'm meeting my guide at Mt. Carmel church,” and I ran out the door.
When I arrived at Mt. Carmel, I saw a pickup over to one side of the parking lot and parked beside it. A young man, my age or a bit older, got out and said, “We've had a real bad accident and Dr. Cranston needs your help. Hop in and I'll take you to her.” He drove about a mile from the church, turned down a mere trail for half a mile and stopped. “Here's where the queer nigger learns white folks rule.”
My door was yanked open and I was dragged from the truck. In addition to the driver, there were four others. I recognized Rose Lee's boyfriend and the deputy and Billy Bob. I was tied to a tree and my shirt ripped off my back and the five took turns using a whip on me. “Hey, Depu, you only get five licks. Save some for the rest of us.”
The pain was incredible, and I couldn’t help thinking how my ancestors had endured this for years. I wanted to cry out as each lash hit, but I told myself I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction, and somehow, just through the force of my will, I was able to keep the shrieks inside me.
“Yeah, and he needs to be good for fucking when we get through,” Rose Lee’s boyfriend said. “I want a piece of that nigger ass!”
When all five had had their licks, Rose Lee's boyfriend dashed salt water on my back and laughed. The whipping was bad enough, but the sting of that salt eating at my seeping wounds finally made me cry out. They were all drinking beer and I guess they worked up a thirst whipping me because they all sat down for a beer. “Billy Bob, that nigger sure knows something about the social security checks . He really questioned that old lady Lavonia. You shouldn't have beat her the way you did. She always pays up sooner or later.” They argued about that and it was easy to see they had a protection racket going. Social security checks arrived the same day each month and they were there to collect protection money.
One of them stood up, dropped his pants and started jerking off. “What the fuck you doing, Hog?” Billy Bob asked.
“When I fuck Milenda in the ass, I cum too quick. I want a good long fuck of that queer nigger.” Soon all five were standing in a circle jerking off. First one and then another shot their load and started stroking slowly. “You get a hard-on, you fuck the nigger,” Billy Bob said. One of them started walking toward me, his cock leading the way, but before he had taken two steps, a shotgun blast echoed through the piney woods. “Fuck!” he shouted. “I've been hit in the ass!” Another shot rang out and four ran for a tricked out pickup and the one who had brought me headed for the old truck we came in. The first shots were from a small gauge shotgun I'm sure were loaded with birdshot. The next two blasts were from something heavy and the loads hit the trucks. Neither would be going far as the heavy shot left the radiators leaking like a sieve.
“On the ground, assholes,” a voice called from the dark. “On the ground, hands behind your backs.” It was Miss Lottie's voice! To make the point clear, a shotgun blast kicked up dirt in front them and the five hit the dirt.
Abe Williams stepped out of the woods carrying a shotgun which was designed for elephants, not birds! He started zip tying wrists. Soon all five were bundled up. Abe then methodically tied each one to a tree while Miss Carrie freed me. I heard sirens in the distance and soon two cars, lights flashing, managed to get down the trail, one behind another. The first car was the sheriff's, followed by a Georgia Bureau of Investigation car. I later learned they had been advised of the possible involvement of the Sheriff's Department which gave them authority to come.
Dr. Cranston piled out of the sheriff's car before it completely stopped and I shouted at her before she reached the inner circle. “Stop! There's DNA evidence in the pine straw.” She and a GBI man quickly found five spots of cum in the straw and took samples. That done, she checked my back and said I'd probably be better off to wait until she could take care of it properly.
Since social security checks were involved, the FBI came in on the case. As a result, all five were charged with a laundry list of crimes.
Back at the office, Janice worked on my back and gave me some happy pills. “I hope you don't sleep on your back,” she said when the last bandage was in place. That done, we headed to Miss Carrie’s where she, Miss Lottie, James and Josephine were in the sitting room behaving like friends, not mistress and servants. I learned then that that's what they were, but roles they had played for years were comfortable and they were happy with them. Not for me, but to each his own, I guess, so long as it didn’t involve invading my space.
“How in the world did you all show up when you did?” I asked.
“James smelled a rat and called me and while I was getting ready, he called Abe and Miss Lottie. Abe saw you leave Mt. Carmel and followed, guiding us with our cell phones. Wish we had gotten there earlier, but we got there as quickly as we could,” Miss Lottie said.
“Abe was prepared to shoot to kill when we arrived and found you tied and your back bleeding, but with the three of us, they didn't stand a chance,” Miss Carrie said.
The following week, Bryan was released from the hospital and went to live with Miss Lottie. I don't know how they did it, but they had some way of pressuring Bryan, the second, into establishing a trust fund for Bryan and deeding him the farm next to Miss Lottie's. The farm had acres and acres of pecan groves which had reached bearing age four or five years before and would provide a decent income longer than the young man lived even if he lived to be a hundred.
My time in South Georgia came to an end as summer slipped toward autumn and I was glad because it meant the time Jayden and I would be apart would also end soon, but it was also a sad time. I had learned much, grown much and come to love the people of Cuthbert and Wingfield County. The Saturday before I left to return to Macon, Miss Carrie and Miss Lottie hosted a dinner party at Miss Carrie's. The two actually helped with the cooking much to my surprise. The meal was wonderful and the people great. In addition to the two southern ladies, Janice, Casey, Art, Andy, Bryan and Abe were there. Patricia, Miss Lottie’s great-niece also came and I noticed she and Art seemed to be pretty taken with each other.
Sunday afternoon I said goodbye to Miss Carrie, James, Josephine and Janice and headed for Macon. It was nearly 5:00 when I pulled up to the cabin on the Ocmulgee. It was hot—it was, after all, Macon the middle of August—but the sound of the river and the shade of the old oaks made it feel much cooler than I had known the last eight weeks. I didn't unload the car before I stripped and jumped into the river from the deck. The river was high because the power plant was releasing water, I guess five feet deep, but certainly deep enough to swim which I did for an hour. It felt good. I had missed swimming and diving while I was in Cuthbert. Had I had time, there had been a pool available, but I had always been too busy to use it.
I had picked up an Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the Piggly-Wiggly while buying food and after I exhausted myself swimming, I lay on a lounge on the deck and started reading the paper. The front page of one section concerned the situation in Cuthbert. A couple of Billy Bob's boys had turned state's witness as had Rose Lee. As a result, three of the five had accepted a plea deal and only Billy Bob and Hog were going to trial. In the meantime, they were in jail for lack of a million dollar bond. Mentioned in passing was the fact that the sheriff had resigned after Bryan Skaggs, the second, had been indicted on an election fraud charge resulting from the last election. I was very surprised to learn Abe was running for sheriff. My name was also mentioned in a very favorable light, in fact, giving me more credit that I suspect I deserved.
Monday I met with Dr. Durden and we talked about my experience. He expressed concern over my whipping and I assured him that my wounds had healed well. He then asked if I would be willing to appear before a panel to talk about medical care in underserved areas. I said I would, but wasn’t sure I had anything to offer. He suggested I reflect on my experience both in Cuthbert and Arizona and get my observations down on paper. “By the end of the week you should have your final report ready for Drs. Bailey and Levey as well as being well prepared to address the panel.”
I decided I'd sleep in Tuesday since I had not had a chance all summer, have a swim if the river were high enough, shower, dress and work on the paper for two hours. I'd have lunch, relax for an hour and spend another two hours on the paper in the afternoon, swim, shower and laze around. I did call Chance and Gregory and invited them out. Told them to invite Alfred and a friend if they liked. Thursday evening fit their schedule.
I had kept a daily journal—I appreciated the importance of such when I was writing up my final report last summer—so I used it to help recall things, supply facts and provide a framework for my paper. By Thursday morning, I had a rough draft of the final paper done. After lunch, I had started the editing process and didn't realize it was 5:00 until I heard Chance's car horn.
When they got out of the car, I saw there was a fourth guy with them and hoped they had not been dumb enough to bring along Mike. When they started up the steps it was clear the guy wasn't Mike. He was taller, better built and better looking. He and Alfred were holding hands which was a good sign. “Derek, Stephen Alexander. Stephen, Derek Wilson. Stephen is the guy who was getting back from Haiti the day after Mike proved what an asshole he is.”
“Welcome, Stephen,” I said shaking his hand. “Good to have you guys back on the river. Okay, important question, did you bring the beer?” They had, of course, and we were soon on the deck downing cold ones. They had all seen the Atlanta paper and had a thousand questions. “Derek, the paper stated the five had been charged with rape and attempted rape, but said no more,” Stephen said.
“They had raped a young man who had been dumped when his mom caught him and his boyfriend of five years enjoying each others cock. His dad strapped him and dumped him in the middle of nowhere and he was picked up by the five and raped.”
“Poor guy,” Stephen said.
“Yeah. Had two of the matrons of the county and a black servant not been smart, I would have been raped as well by the same five. They all jerked off so they could last longer fucking the nigger. Fortunately the two ladies and the man who found the original victim arrived in the nick of time with shotguns.”
“The kid has a long rough road ahead. I know, I've been there,” Stephen said in a whisper. “I hope his boyfriend doesn't desert him.”
“I don't think that will happen. Actually, it was the victim who wanted to break their relationship.”
“Because he was dirty, had been used and wasn't good enough,” Stephen said. “My reaction, common reaction, but in my case, my boyfriend walked out as soon as I said it would be awhile before anyone fucked me. It has been, but I'm still in no rush.”
“Neither am I,” Alfred said and kissed Stephen. I learned Stephen and Alfred had been together only a month before Stephen left on a medical mission to Haiti.
“Okay, we've had the opening beer and the river calls,” Chance said as he pulled his T over his head and dropped his shorts moments before jumping into the river. We all followed in quick succession. We ate, talked, drank beer and enjoyed ourselves until two in the morning when we all found a place to sleep. Alfred and Stephen took cushions from some of the deck furniture and placed them side by side. Holding hands, looking into each others eyes, they were soon asleep. Seeing them made me really long to see my Beloved Navajo.
Dr. Durden had the panel assembled and scheduled the discussion for Tuesday morning of the second week I was back. I figured I needed to make a good impression from the start since some of what I had to say was critical of the program at Mercer as it was set up, especially the lack of cultural education. A person might have worked well in Cuthbert, but would have been a miserable failure in Arizona. In short, describing an area as 'underserved' told you very little about it and to function well, an outsider needed to know how to become accepted by the people he expected to serve.
I finished editing my report mid-afternoon Friday and called Dr. Durden to tell him I had it ready for him to look over. “I’ll do a rewrite as soon as you finish with it,” I said.
“Bring it in and I’ll look at it over the weekend,” he said. “We’ll have breakfast Monday and go over it.”
Since there was nothing I had to do over the weekend, I slept in Saturday, swam and lazed around. Sunday I made it into Christ Church and Chance, Gregory and I had dinner afterward and they came back out to the river with me. It didn’t take much urging for them to take my bed for the night and I was glad to give them a place to make love.
Dr. Durden’s Surprise
Monday morning I met Dr. Durden at eight for breakfast to go over my final report before it was sent to Drs. Bailey and Levey. I was sure he'd have a lot of suggestions which would keep me busy the rest of the week. Other than that, I was having dinner with him and his family Thursday night and a farewell bash with the four buddies Friday night before leaving for home Saturday.
When I met Dr. Durden for breakfast, he handed me the report and said, “Excellent job, Derek, excellent. Turn it in. I know it's three or so years away, but when you apply for medical school, please use me for a recommendation.”
“Thank you and thank you for making the summer possible. I'm sure the thought never entered your mind, but a major benefit had nothing to do with medicine. The love of my life and I have been separated since he left for Arizona. We were completely out of contact except for a letter once a week. For us at least, absence has made the heart grow fonder. So many things I discovered I loved about him I would never have noticed had we remained together constantly. Now I can hardly wait to see him and tell him.”
“Well, you have finished your work for the summer except for the panel tomorrow. I am glad you can take the rest of the week to unwind, relax and recharge for the coming year and I can think of no better place to do that than the cabin on the Oculgee. When you leave, just leave things as they are as cleaners will be paid the same for doing little as for doing much. I do look forward to seeing you Thursday night.” We stood, shook hands and parted.
Tuesday afternoon I faced a panel of twelve. There was also a sizable audience which I had not expected. As I sat across from the panel, I could not read their faces at all. The discussion and questions were general and accomplishing nothing in my estimation before the floor was opened to the audience. When he was recognized, a man from the audience asked, “Mr. Wilson, you are an African-American from a small town in Virginia, a town, I assume which has more in common with North Georgia than South Georgia. I have several questions: First, what made you decide to come to South Georgia? Second, you are a pre-med student, not even a med student; aren't you more than a little presumptuous in coming to ostensibly offer medical services where there are medical professionals? Third, how could you expect to understand the culture of South Georgia? Fourth and finally, why do you think you have anything to offer those of us who have engaged in properly training people to serve rural Georgia?”
I could almost see the steam coming from under Dr. Durden's collar. The questioner was an arrogant son of a bitch and I would have liked to have told him so, but I held my temper. As soon as he finished, I thought I could tell correctly who on the panel agreed with him—there were one or two of them—and who did not. “Your name, sir?”
“Sorry, I would have thought you would have known. I am Dr. Kellogg.”
“Thanks for your provocative questions, Dr. Kellogg, and I apologize for not knowing who you are. I'd like to answer the last question first. Doctor, I didn't give any thought to whether or not I had anything to offer you, your colleagues or Mercer Medical School. Frankly, I would much rather be at Dr. Durden's place on the river relaxing. However, Drs. Janice Cranston and Art Evans with whom I worked in Cuthbert thought my observations might have some value. After Dr. Durden read my reports about my experiences this summer and the reports sent to him by Drs. Cranston and Evans, he agreed. All three urged me to make myself available to you, which I am doing. What I think or thought had little to do with my being here.
“I think your third question needs answering next. I am, indeed, from a small town—although the inhabitants would be offended by the adjective—in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. It, while in a valley, has little in common with what I understand to be North Georgia. I attend Old Commonwealth University located in Norfolk, Virginia, a coastal city. I spent last summer working in a clinic on the Navajo reservation in Arizona which was a totally different culture from the one in which I grew up. And let me add, the culture I grew up in underwent a dramatic shift during my last high school years.
“My home until then was a two-parent, African-American home which was struggling economically. We were poor, although we lived slightly better than many of my African-American acquaintances. For reasons I'll not go into, I was forced out of my home and my brother and I were taken in by a white, gay couple. In short, sir, I have learned the hard way that you adapt as best you can and as you learn to understand and appreciate a culture that is not yours. I would add that unless Mercer intends to only train medical professionals who will spend their entire professional careers in rural Georgia, it must incorporate some training in adapting to a culture. But more is involved in what seems a short-sighted stance in my view. You must also learn to accommodate the cultures from which your students come. I have a friend who is a medical student here who grew up in New Jersey, hardly a culture similar to rural Georgia.
“Continuing to move backward, if I came to offer medical care for which I was not trained, it would be not only more than a little presumptuous, but foolhardy on the part of any medical professional who permitted it. I went to learn what I could learn by being in the trenches as it were. If the only service I was capable of offering was emptying bedpans, then that would be what I would do to see how medical care is delivered to underserved areas.
“Finally, what made me decide to come to South Georgia? I started doing a dual major in chemistry and biology and had two excellent advisers, one in each subject. Through a friend of the biology professor, I got to go to Arizona last year. The two advisors were so pleased with how that had worked out, one of them who knew Dr. Durden contacted him about my working in rural Georgia, which I found to be about as different from where I was in Arizona as another country would be. In short, this was where I was offered an opportunity.”
“Thank you, Mr. Wilson,” Professor Grossman, the moderator said. “Other questions?”
Another man from the audience stood and said, “Mr. Wilson, Justin Shaw. I understand last year while in Arizona you played a major role in bringing down a kiddie porn ring and this year in Cuthbert you were involved in the arrest of a number of rapists and a protection racket jerk and also apparently had some role in the resignation of the sheriff. Have you ever thought of giving up medicine and taking up the superhero business?”
After the laughter had subsided, I said, “Mr. Shaw, last year I came very close to being murdered before there were any arrests. This year I was whipped bloody, would have been raped and probably murdered had it not been for three very brave people, two of whom were eighty-plus-year-old southern ladies. If you don't mind, I'll stick to medicine and leave the cape work to someone better able to pull it off.” That pretty much ended the session except for those who wanted to talk less formally. An hour later I was finally able to escape.
It was only 11:30 when I got back to the cabin, but it was already in the upper nineties. I parked the car, stripped as I went through the house, crossed the deck and jumped into the river. The power plant was letting out water, so the river was again deeper than usual and the current quite swift. I knew I needed to start getting in shape because I had been cleared to rejoin the dive team. I swam laps against the current for over half an hour before I had enough and climbed out and lay on a lounge. I was asleep in a moment.
There was another cabin on the river a mile up river from Dr. Durden's and to get to it, the owners drove past my cabin. There was no one there before I went to Cuthbert, but they were spending time there now so I wasn't surprised when the sound of a car woke me—almost. I must have gone to back to sleep in a few seconds because I was dreaming I heard Jayden's voice saying, “Beloved Boy, you’d better be dreaming of me.”
Mostly still asleep, I muttered, “I am and it's a wonderful dream, but I'd much, much rather have my beloved here in the flesh.” As I finished speaking I felt a kiss on my neck, turned over and found myself looking into the eyes I loved so much. “Are you real, Jayden?”
“Does this feel real?” He asked as he covered my mouth with his, his tongue demanding entrance, his arms holding me close.
I was wide-awake, standing, my arms wrapped around the love of my life, our mouths locked in a passionate kiss in half a second. Since I was already undressed, we both worked at getting Jayden's clothes off. As soon as he was undressed, I tossed the lounge cushion on the floor and lay on it. After a few more minutes of passionate kisses, I was ready to taste Jayden's cock and he had the same idea about mine. We had been separated for eleven weeks and kissing passionately for several minutes, so shortly after our mouths had closed over cocks we both exploded. We were both damn good at swallowing each others cum, but we could not handle the loads deposited in our mouths. We did have tongues and soon had each other cleaned up.
I looked into Jayden's eyes and melted. I loved this man so much and had dreamed of our being back in our place, but here, a week early, we were in this wonderful place in each other’s arms. We started with playful kisses which quickly became passionate ones. Jayden broke a kiss, looked into my eyes and whispered, “Derek, I want your beautiful cock inside me.”
I smiled and slid a finger up and down his ass crack, lightly touching him in his most private place. He reached out, got his shorts and took a packet of Gun Oil from his pocket and handed it to me. I tore it open and lubed him and slipped a lubed finger inside his hot, tight love channel. I moved my finger around until I found the hard pleasure knob and massaged it slowly, gently.
There are positions for making love which give more physical pleasure to one or both partners than the missionary position, but I wanted to see my beloved's face, wanted to look into his eyes as I made love to him. Jayden squeezed lube from the packet over my cock. He locked his legs around me, pulling my body to his as he guided my lubed and precum-streaming cock into himself. Slowly I began thrusting into my Navajo.
Even having erupted a very short time ago, I couldn't hold off long. Finally, I knew there was no way I could delay my climax much longer and I began slow, deep thrusts into my love. When I exploded, my body was gripped by deep spasms as I pumped my seed into Jayden. Immediately I went over the edge a second time and I saw stars and fireworks, then nothing. In the intensity of a twin climax, I had blacked out for two or three minutes. Jayden had erupted a second time as well. We then lay in each others arms for several lovely minutes before Jayden said, “I think a clean up is in order.”
“Easy,” I smiled, stood and grasped Jayden's hand and pulled him to his feet and raced to the edge of the deck and jumped in, still holding his hand.
“Wow, this is wonderful. Pity you didn't have this all summer. Of course, there's more water flowing past us every minute than I ever saw after I landed in Flagstaff.” We played and swam for over an hour, spending a lot of time holding each other and kissing.
“Babe, I love having you here a week early, but it seems like a dream and I'll wake up any minute.”
“I don't know about you, Derek Edward Wilson, but I have had some lovely wet dreams, but not even the best comes close to the last hour or so.”
“So how did you get here and why so early?”
“A speaker for a major medical conference being held in Las Vegas was water skiing last week on Lake Mead and hit a submerged log or something and was broken up pretty badly. The organizers made a frantic call to Kathryn begging her to take his place. She had been their first choice anyway, but she didn't want to spend all the time necessary to travel there and back. She told them that again and that she couldn't leave the clinic uncovered for the week it would require. They called back later the same day to tell her they had arranged for Dr. James Patterson, whom she knew and trusted, to cover the clinic. A helicopter would pick her up at the clinic and take her to Page where a private jet would fly her to Vegas. She agreed so long as I could make the trip as well. 'May as well save you some money and I'm sure Derek wouldn’t be unhappy having you arrive early.'
“When I got to Vegas, I called Dr. Levey to find out how to contact you and he gave me Dr. Durden's number. I called him and he said he'd handle everything. 'After the way he handled a panel, it's the least I can do, plus he played Superhero in Cuthbert. Know your flight number into Atlanta?' I gave it to him and told him I wouldn’t be in until after midnight. He suggested I spend the night in a hotel and he’d have someone pick me up and bring me here. Dr. Durden said he’d stocked the pantry and we needn't come into town unless we wanted to. So here I am.”
“So when did Dr. Durden stock the pantry?”
“His wife did. She told him you were swimming and she didn’t want to disturb you.”
“I still can’t believe you’re here and I’m not going to wake up and find it’s all a dream. Maybe if you made love to me, you could convince me you were real,” I grinned. He did and I was.
We again jumped into the river and this time swam laps for half an hour. It was clear that while I had worked over the past weeks, I had not worked at keeping in shape. I hadn't completely gone to pot, but I certainly not ready for the dive team. We did have a good place to remedy that as swimming against the current in the river was a lot more exercise than swimming in a quiet pool.
While I had let myself go a bit over the summer, Jayden had not. I knew he, in the manner of Navajo men, often greeted the sun by running and chanting as he ran. His running style was smooth and graceful. He didn't run for speed, but endurance. I am not sure how far he could run, but it was much further than I could when we started the week, but as the week progressed and he taught me how to run, my running seemed increasingly effortless and as it did, more and more refreshing rather than tiring.
Dr. Durden had stocked the cupboard and fridge well and between us we fixed delicious meals and enjoyed them sitting on the deck. I guess the good doctor had some idea of what we would spend a lot of time doing as the food available indicated he thought a high protein diet was advisable. Beautiful steaks led the list of red meat available to us.
We spent much of our time together talking about our summer. Much of what we talked about we had written in letters, but as we shared it again, we remembered little things we had not put in the letters. I asked Jayden about his second quest since his letters said little more than that he had done one.
When I asked, he smiled and said, “Well, it was like the first, only different. Part of the difference was I had been studying—I can't come up with a better word, but don't think books, reading, that kind of studying—with an elder. I guess the best way to describe how he passed on wisdom is that it was like what you were doing—watching, listening, doing. Since I had been with him, I understood more about meeting the Old Ones and responding to them.
“Anyway, one morning my second week in the Pueblo when I went to the elder, he was holding a horse. There was a bedroll and two leather canteens on his back and a blanket to serve as a saddle. The elder called me by the Navajo name he had given me and asked, 'See the hawk?' He pointed to a speck in the blue sky. I nodded. 'He is your spirit guide. Follow him.'
“Last summer getting to my quest spot was easy. I just let the horse have his head. This year required that I remain alert. At times I had to get off and scout ahead to find a way. I had expected to reach my destination before dark the first day, but the day was ending and I knew I had not. The hawk disappeared and the only thing I knew to do was camp for the night. I hobbled the horse, took a swallow of water, unrolled the bedroll and was soon asleep. After a dreamless night, I awoke before sunrise. All I had was water and not a lot of that, so I drank a swallow and ran to greet the sun. When I came back, the hawk was sitting atop a scrub oak, watching me with golden eyes. I took another swallow of water, threw the blanket on the horse's back, got the two canteens and bedroll on the horse and mounted. The hawk flew from the bush and I started following him again.
“Midday, the hawk had flown into a very narrow crevice in the rock. The crevice was, maybe, four feet wide with walls over a hundred feet above my head. The horse had balked at entering, so I had dismounted and led/dragged him in. A short distance into the crevice, I realized I did not need a guide as I could not have turned around if I wanted. The walls were so high and uneven I couldn't see the sky when I looked up. The crevice was at least a quarter mile long and the going was slow. Finally I could see the end. The tunnel opened into a long box canyon, maybe a quarter mile wide at its widest point. When I emerged from the crevice, I took a swallow of water and gave the horse some. I heard the hawk scream and saw him circling above us. Clearly, I had not reached my destination.
“Mid-afternoon, I must have dozed because the horse stopped and I was facing an unbroken wall of rock. The hawk circled above us, screaming, and finally landed on a bush half way up the canyon wall where he sat, screaming and flapping his wings. I was sure the horse would remain in the canyon as there was a tiny spring and more grazing than we had seen, so I refilled the canteens, took them, the bedroll and blanket and looked around. The hawk was hopping into the air, screaming and landing back on the bush. It finally dawned on me that he was indicating I should join him or at least climb up to where he was. He had wings and could fly. I did not. I was not a rock climber and had no equipment; nonetheless, I started looking for a way up the wall. It wasn't easy and took me at least an hour to reach the ledge where the hawk had been sitting. The hawk hopped into a hole in the rock which, because of the ledge, could not be seen from the canyon floor and which I had not noticed when I reached the ledge.
“The hole was not large enough for me to stand and I could barely enter it crouched over. Nonetheless, in an uncomfortable crouch, I entered. Not only was I crouched over, but was carrying the bedroll, water and blanket in my arms in front of me. A few minutes after I entered, I realized that not only could I not see a light at the end of the tunnel but, in fact, I could not see the end of the tunnel. 'This is not going to be fun,' I thought as I shuffled along, my back already aching. Five minutes into the tunnel I realized that another couple turns and light would not be coming from the entrance and, sure enough, I was soon shuffling along in blackness. I supposed it was a half hour later that I saw the first glimmer of light from the end of the tunnel. I emerged into a small, circular depression with low walls. It was lush with vegetation for a place in the desert. It was, perhaps, a quarter of a mile across and when I climbed so I could see over its low wall, I found it was atop a high mesa.
“The hawk was circling above me, higher and higher, until he disappeared in the clear, blue sky. This was where I was supposed to be. I spent an hour exploring and discovered a small spring with rather large pool of crystal-clear, cool water near the wall across from the entrance. Certainly not large enough or deep enough for swimming, but large enough to bathe in, which I did. Refreshed, I found a place shaded from the sun and spread my bedroll. Before bathing, I had drunk my fill of the clear water and while I was hungry, I had fasted enough recently to where that was not a problem.
“I sat and looked around me. The bowl had abundant water, certainly abundant for the desert, so the plant life was lush for a place in the middle of an arid land. Because of the abundant plant life, there was a rich variety of animal life. I seemed to be in a world isolated from the desert, a world vibrant with life. My world was on a high mesa, surrounded by a low wall. Because of the wall, the shadows of evening were slow in coming. I got up and walked to the west wall and sat atop it, watching a spectacular sunset. When the sun had sunk below the horizon, I walked to the east wall and sat, waiting for moonrise.
“The moon gradually climbed above the horizon, a full moon. In the clean air of the desert, it illumined the landscape as no moon in the polluted skies of the cities and indeed, much of the countryside could. Somewhere a coyote howled and an owl's lonely call echoed. All was peaceful and beautiful. I wondered where you were and what you were doing. I wondered if we both were looking at the moon and I felt close to you, the presence of you. I had no desire to go to sleep, but I did return to my bedroll and as I had done during the day, I watched what was going on around me. The day was over and the day creatures were snug in their lairs, sleeping as the night creatures came from theirs.
“I was, so far as I knew, still wide awake when a figure came toward me and sat facing me, saying nothing. I sat in silence as did he. Finally, he said, 'Wash.' I went to the pond and washed in the cool water. When I came back he called me by my Navajo name and said, 'What is your greatest regret?'
“I thought for a long time—I knew neither he nor I was in a hurry—before I answered. 'My greatest regret is assuming responsibility for that over which I had no control.'
“He spoke again, 'What is your greatest joy?'
“I didn't need time to think about that. 'My greatest joy is having the love of Derek Wilson.'
“He spoke yet a third time, asking, 'What is your greatest desire?'
“I started to answer off the top of my head, 'To love and be loved by Derek Wilson,' but before I spoke, I realized that was not a desire since it was already a reality. I thought for a longtime before I answered. Finally I said, 'My greatest desire is that Derek and my love will bring love to others.'
'He said again, 'Wash' and I did.
“When I came out of the pool, he was no longer present and I was growing very sleepy, but before I lay down, he reappeared and said 'Come.' He led me across the desert and as we walked, he spoke to me of the secrets of the Navajo and how I was one of the keepers of the secrets. He revealed many things to me. From time to time we came to water—a trickle down a rock face, a tiny pool in a bowl worn in the rock by the wind and many others. Each time we came to water, he said, 'Drink. Wash.’ When we got back, I could tell by the stars dawn was near. 'Sleep,' he said and I did.
“I woke when the sun was at the zenith, went to the pool, drank and washed my face. I again sat, watching. A mother coyote came with two pups. While the pups played, she sat and watched me. Finally, she got up, turned and walked away. I felt a though she had somehow shared my life and I hers. As the day wore on, I saw other animals, but none seemed to notice me as she had.
“I again watched the sunset and moonrise and when I went back to my bedroll, a second figure greeted me. 'Yours is a great spirit,' he said and called me by my Navajo name. 'You are a two-spirited one and you have found a two-spirited mate who is also a great spirit. Never fail to honor the spirit of the other.' We then sat in silence as the moon climbed into the sky. Finally he spoke. 'What is your greatest fear?'
“I was shocked as I realized that not long ago I had many fears, but now none came to mind quickly. I thought of the fears that had been mine when I met the Old Ones last year and few remained. As I sat and thought, I suddenly had a great sinking feeling. What if Derek discovered he really didn't want me, if being separated let him see that? 'My greatest fear is that Derek will discover he doesn't love me.’
“'Why do you fear? You have been told your mate is a two-spirited spirit giant. How can you fear?’
“'Because I am not assured my mate is Derek.'
“And why would that matter?'
“'Because my heart belongs to Derek. No other man can bring me the happiness he does, gives me life as he does.'
“He laughed and said, 'Come.'
“As I had done the night before, we walked the desert while he talked of what being a carrier of secrets meant. He did tell me that you, Beloved, had also been chosen, not to be a carrier of the secrets, but as my companion with whom I would share my life.
“We got back shortly before dawn and after he left me, I slept, waking just before the sun crested the horizon. I greeted it, standing and chanting from atop the basin wall. Afterward, I bathed in the pond, filled my canteens, and drank because I knew I was returning to the Pueblo. When my bedroll was ready, the hawk appeared, landed on my shoulder and screamed. I was shocked when he screamed a name that I knew instantly was now my new Navajo name. When he screamed a second time, it was another Navajo name, your Navajo name, our secret names. He then took wing, digging his talons into my shoulder as he launched himself into the air. He was flying, I knew, opposite from the tunnel through which we had entered the basin; nonetheless I followed.
“He led the way to a passage through the wall, wide enough for two men to walk abreast and only twenty or thirty feet long. When I stepped through, the horse was grazing in a broad canyon I had never seen before. I mounted and the hawk led the way. While the trip to the basin had taken two days, four hours after leaving the basin I saw the Pueblo.
“Again, my time and Pueblo time did not agree. I was told I had been gone seven days. I would have sworn I was away for only four and a half.”
Jayden and I talked at length about what the possible meaning of his encounter with the Twins—and he was convinced that's who the two were—was for us, but as mysterious as it all was, it did not tell us of our future.****
****The first human born in the Fourth World is Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé who, in turn, gives birth to the Hero Twins called Naayééʼ Neizghání and Tóbájíshchíní. The twins have many adventures in which they helped to rid the world of various monsters. Multiple batches of modern humans were created a number of times in the Fourth World and the Diyin Dineʼé gave them ceremonies which are still practiced today. [Wikipedia]
Jayden and I slept when we were sleepy, ate when we were hungry, swam when the mood struck and made love. It wasn't all about sex, not at all, but the sex was wonderful. We kept finding new ways to give the man we loved pleasure in addition to the tried and true ones.
In the midst of our enjoyment of each other, and the cabin and river, we gradually began to realize summer was over and we would be back to college soon. We talked about what the coming semester would bring and about plans for the next year. After our summers, we both would need to take a look at the classes we signed up for during spring pre-registration and see if changes needed to be made. We argued a bit about whether or not I would rejoin the dive team. Jayden thought I should; I wasn't so sure. Jayden had to declare a major and I had to reaffirm my decision to do a double major in biology and chemistry instead of being pre-med. And we discussed the house.
We agreed it was crazy to live upstairs when the kitchen was downstairs and talked about what we would have to do to renovate it to suit our wants and needs. After talking for about an hour, Jayden said, “Shit, Dumbass, what we have said is we'd like the upstairs downstairs. Renovating the downstairs last fall cost a lot of money and to change it will cost a lot. We'd need to remodel the upstairs as well. And, to tell the truth, we both know it would not be the same, plus, we are a lot easier to move than our apartment.”
I grinned and said, “You're right and we both know we're happy with our present arrangement, so the only question is, do we kept the guest rooms as guest rooms or do an arrangement like Levi's?”
“We'll talk about that later. Right now it's time I made love to you,” and he did. Sated once again, we lay side by side, exchanging an occasional kiss.
An hour later, Jayden said, “Enough of this, it's time for a swim!” ran to the end of the deck and jumped in.
I woke up in the wee hours Wednesday and saw Jayden lying beside me, bathed in the moonlight. My heart was so full of love for the man it was near bursting. I leaned on an elbow, drinking in the beauty of my Navajo. I was ready to lean over and kiss him when he opened his eyes and smiled. I returned it, looking into the eyes of the one who held the meaning of my life. We kissed softly, wrapped our arms about each other and drifted back into dreamless sleep.
At lunch, Jayden looked at me and asked, out of the blue “Derek, will you marry me?”
“You need to ask?”
“Yes, because I want to hear your answer.”
“Of course I will marry you, my Beautiful Navajo.”
“I know it will not be legally recognized, but my medicine man will perform our Navajo wedding. I don't care whether it's official or not, to my eyes we will be married.”
“Jayden, in my eyes, nothing will make us more married than we are. You are my husband, but when we can, we will have a Navajo wedding. I was thinking earlier this was our honeymoon.”
Later, after we had been in the river, we lay on a lounge, Jayden resting his head on my chest. He raised his head and asked, “Derek, do we need to rush home?”
“Not really. We have a week after we get back before we start fall semester. I guess I thought we'd want to get back as quickly as possible.”
“How about we extend the honeymoon?” He gave me a smile that melted my heart.
“What did you have in mind?”
“The fellow who flew me to Phoenix asked me if I had ever seen Biltmore House in North Carolina and kept talking about it. He also talked about All Souls Cathedral and how they welcomed gays. They are in Asheville.”
“Then let's go home by Asheville.” We were back to dialup at the river, but that was adequate to find a nice bed and breakfast which was gay friendly and I made reservations for two nights. The trip to Asheville would take about five hours, so we'd arrive mid-afternoon if we started early enough, time to at least see All Souls.
Thursday we were having dinner with Dr. and Mrs. Durden. Mid-afternoon, Jayden asked, “Derek, what's the dress code for this evening?”
“Damn, I forgot to ask. I'll bet it's suit and tie.”
“In that case, I'm SOL as I don't have a suit or tie here. Why don't you give him a call?”
I called Dr. Durden and asked him about dress for the evening and he said “Shorts and sport shirts. We'll be eating by the pool. And bring your Speedos.”
I knew where Dr. Durden lived, but had never been to his home. I did know it had been designed by a nationally known architect at Georgia Tech. Very modern, it caused quite a stir in Macon when it was built. There was no question as to which it was on a quiet street of expensive houses on large lots.
Dr. Durden met us at the door and said, “Welcome! Do come in. We are out back.” He led us through the house to a large, shaded patio which adjoined a real swimming pool with a five meter diving platform. Seated around a table were a woman Dr. Durden's age and a young man and woman. “Derek, my wife, Dr. Elaine Kimberly, my daughter Elizabeth and my son Charles. Family, this is Derek Wilson, of whom you have heard me speak often and his . . . ” Dr. Durden came to an abrupt stop.
“My husband, Jayden Fulton,” I finished for him.
“Dad, you have a problem with Derek being gay? Having a husband?” Charles asked.
“Of course not, Chuck. I just realized I'd be outing him and we had never talked about that though I'll admit, Derek, you calling him your husband caught me off guard as I never heard you refer to him as such.”
“No problem, Dr. Durden. I guess I assumed your family knew I was gay.”
“And the husband bit caught me off guard as well,” Jayden laughed. “He has never done that before, but we talked about getting married recently. Derek says he already thinks of us as married. I want a Navajo wedding which we will have when we can. Nice to meet you all. Change of subject, but that is a great pool. Family of swimmers?”
“We all swim,” Elizabeth said, “and call me Beth. Chuck and I swim on teams. Understand you swim on one too, Derek.”
“Dive.” Soon we were all engaged in a lively discussion of swimming and Chuck, Beth and I were in Speedos, diving. They were very good and I was rusty, but after the second dive, Jayden looked at me and grinned when I pulled up to the side of the pool and he said, “I win. You'll be back on the dive team.” I knew he was correct.
After we had finished showing off, we showered, dressed and were seated at the table when Jayden asked, “Dr. Kimberly, do you practice with Dr. Durden?”
“Hardly,” she laughed. “I am a PhD and teach literature at the University. And please, call me Elaine. I hardly expect to be called doctor in my own home and everyone calls my husband Durden. People who have known him for years would have a struggle recalling his Christian name.”
We were served a delicious dinner accompanied by fine wines as Durden was somewhat an expert. Jayden asked for half glasses and explained that he just didn't handle alcohol well. “I am positive there is a difference between the way we Indians handle alcohol and the way you do, but I do know I do not handle it as well as Derek.”
That provoked a lively discussion of alcohol and alcohol laws which led to a discussion of pot which led to . . . an extremely enjoyable evening which finally ended shortly before midnight.
Friday morning—late—we made love, swam, showered and had breakfast. After breakfast, I said, “Babe, I guess we need to check and make sure the piggy is still wiggly.” We drove to the grocery and purchased food for Friday night. The Macon three or four would be bringing the beer. Back at the cabin, we started preparing the food. I made potato salad again, while Jayden made burger patties. I doctored pork and beans out of a can with sweet peppers, onion, celery and some Tabasco and Worcestershire. While I made a green salad, Jayden sliced tomatoes and sweet onions, then the two of us got the corn ready for the pot. By the time we had finished, it was 3:00, time for the Macon crew to arrive.
Chance started blowing his horn a quarter of a mile before they reached the cabin. When he skidded to a stop, four naked men piled out of the car, raced through the house and jumped into the river. There were in for a bit of a surprise since the water level was very low, much lower than it had been anytime they had been at the cabin. What was usually a three foot drop was close to six and there was not that much water to break their fall, so their landing was pretty rough. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but four shaken and chagrined young men climbed the ladder back to the deck.
After a good laugh, we all sat around drinking beer and snacking until we heard the faint sound of a warning horn in the distance. “Ok, guys, we'll have water shortly. That was the warning signal that water was about to start being released.” The river didn't gradually rise; instead a wave passed by the cabin followed by several others until the water was only two feet from the deck and the Macon four were ready to leap in. “I would strongly advise against that,” I said, “unless you want your body to be found washed up on the bank miles from here. You'll never be able to stand in the water until it starts dropping. Right now the current matches that of a mill race.”
Almost an hour later when we checked, the river was ideal for swimming and we all jumped in and had a great time. Alfred took a break from swimming to start the charcoal and when we all climbed out at 6:00, it was perfect and he started the hamburgers. Minutes later we were all eating as if we had been on a week's fast.
The four didn't spend the night at the river as they would be leaving Saturday for a week at home before starting their last quarter in Macon. After six weeks in Macon, they would begin their internships across rural Georgia. Chance and Gregory would be going to Cuthbert and Leary respectively and asked me a thousand questions. They were very excited about that as they would be only forty-five minutes apart and had found a farmhouse for rent almost exactly halfway between.
Alfred and Stephen, who announced they were a couple, were not as lucky. Alfred would be in Clinch County, much of which was part of the Okefenokee Swamp. Stephen would be in Colquitt, three hours away. “I guess the next few months will be a test of our relationship,” Stephen said. Later, when Stephen and Gregory went to play in the river again, Alfred confessed he was head over heels in love with Stephen. “I have never come close to feeling about another man the way I feel about Stephen. Because of his experience, it has been difficult for him to accept that. I think the fact that we will be separated and I will still be there, loving him, may be a blessing in disguise, but damn, that doesn't mean I look forward to it!” After hugs and promises to keep in touch, the four left at 8:00.
Next morning after we had breakfast we took Dr. Durden at his word and only did minimal cleaning, took a final look around to make sure we weren't leaving anything, packed the car and hit the road at 9:00. We stopped in Athens for early lunch and reached Asheville at 3:00, checked in, took a shower—it seemed that ‘gay friendly' included a shower large enough for two—made love, took a quick shower, dressed and headed for All Souls which was only a few blocks away. We were walking up the front walk when I realized we were holding hands. A week at the river where we didn't have to watch displays of affection had made us careless. When I started to release Jayden's hand, he held my hand tighter. When we reached the front, a petite lady was taking down the sign saying the church was open and a docent was on duty. “We're too late,” Jayden said.
“You wanted to see the church?” the lady asked.
“We did, but I guess we can come back.”
“Or you could have an after 4:00 tour,” she laughed. “We have a special for young men who come up the front walk holding hands.” She put the sign away and said, “I'm Martha. Where are you from?”
“We are students at Old Commonwealth in Norfolk. We're on our way home after spending the summer away,” I said. “I'm Derek Wilson from Stanton, Virginia.”
“And I'm Jayden Fulton, I guess from the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.”
“You guess?” Martha smiled. “You got the story, I have the time.”
“You show us All Souls and we'll take you to dinner and Jayden can tell you his story,” I said.
“Well, it so happens, I'm alone and would love to have dinner with two handsome men.”
I am sure the regular tour of All Souls did not last as long as ours because it was almost 6:00 when we finished. I had noticed a nice hotel in the middle of Biltmore Village and asked about its restaurant. Martha said it was usually excellent and I called and was able to get reservations for three at 6:00. It was less than a block away, but I had noticed Martha, who looked to be her late forties or early fifties, used a cane, so we drove.
Dinner was delightful! The Red Stag was not very full, which surprised me, and no one seemed anxious to have us leave so we spent an hour and a half talking. We learned Martha had relapsing recurring MS and was recovering from an episode. She learned both our histories. She also told us part of the history of All Souls not included on the tour, namely the fight to make gays welcome. At one time it reached the point where one member threatened the life of the Dean and armed plain clothes police attended every service. The man was finally excommunicated and placed under a restraining order. Now gay couples who were members of the parish and who had the same counseling as straight couples could have their union blessed. “Nothing legal about it, of course,” Martha said, “but I think the legal things are the state's business and the church shouldn't be involved anyway.”
When we left, we thanked her profusely and she thanked us as well.
Sunday morning we were awake at 7:00 and made love. Jayden was in a playful mood which always delighted me. It was 8:30 before we showered, dressed and went down for the late breakfast at 9:00. Jim and George, the hosts, had been together for over forty years. They were originally from the Midwest, retired to Florida and found too much heat was as bad as too much cold and became what was known in Asheville as half-backs, people who retired from the north to Florida and then came 'half-back'. We had a leisurely breakfast with them—the other guests had wanted an early start and ate early breakfast at 7:30.
Jayden and I had talked about going to All Souls and when we mentioned it, Jim said, “I'd be delighted to have you come with me to the 11:15 service. George sings in the choir, so I sit alone. By the way, I think you'll be surprised at the music,” and we were.
After church, Jim invited us to join the All Souls Gay and Lesbian Group for their monthly lunch which we did. There were about a dozen people around the table; most were older couples who had been together for a number of years. We were treated as guests of honor and had a great time with them. At lunch, much of the talk centered around us and the fact that we were kinda on our honeymoon. Someone suggested we take the Blue Ridge Parkway to Fancy Gap and spend the night in a bed and breakfast there. Before we knew it, we had reservations there and for the night before in Boone, about halfway to Fancy Gap.
After lunch, we went to Biltmore House for a tour. Ours began at 2:00 and the official part lasted almost two hours. Fascinating, but our docent at All Souls was far superior to the one at Biltmore House.
Monday it took us eight hours to make the four hour drive to Boone on the Parkway. We stopped at overlooks, went to see Linville Falls and explored along the way. Both Jayden and I took tons of photos. After a quick shower, we had a good meal at a restaurant recommended by our hosts at the B & B, we came back and cuddled and made gentle love before sleeping soundly in the mountain air.
After breakfast, Jayden called to confirm our reservations at a B & B in Fancy Gap and learned there had been a fire and our B & B couldn't accommodate us. Jayden checked Google and said, “Derek, if we forgo the parkway to Fancy Gap, we can be in Stanton mid-afternoon. What do you think?”
“Babe, I have been enjoying the scenery and being with you, but if you don't mind, I'd say let's head for Stanton.”
“Let's do it. Time with your family will more than make up for scenery which will be there anytime we want to have a look. We can either head south to Wilkesboro and then head back north or we can go north and pick up I-81 outside Bristol. You know how I hate interstate highways,” Jayden said and I agreed. Besides, the scenic route took less time!
We left the B & B before 9:00, stopped in Roanoke for lunch and pulled into Grace House drive at 3:30. My dads were, of course, at work as was Mom. She‘d been making excellent progress toward her degree and was now a teacher's assistant in the Stuarts Draft Elementary School kindergarten and loving it. Since I still had my house key, I let us in. We took our traveling bags up and enjoyed a long playtime and shower. Back downstairs, Jayden suggested we go to the Center, which we did.
Brad was busy finishing the last water aerobics class of the day, but we found Sergeant Major in the office. “Come in, come in,” he said, getting up from the desk and grabbing me in a bear hug. “Looking good, Derek. You too, Jayden,” he said, embracing my Navajo. “As a matter or fact, Jayden, you look wonderful and you both kinda have that glow,” he grinned.
“Guess it's the honeymoon glow,” I laughed. Jayden blushed.
“You get married?”
“Well, Jayden left Arizona a week early and came to Macon. I had finished my summer commitment, but had a week in a cabin on the river. Jayden proposed and I accepted. We discussed it and decided we were as married as anyone else, just without the paper. So, we decided our time on the river would be our honeymoon, then decided to extend it. We went to Asheville, took the Blue Ridge Parkway and when our B & B in Fancy Gap had a fire, we decided we'd come home.”
“'Honeymoon couple back home,' I can see the headline in the Stanton paper now!”
“Jeremy been home recently?”
“He have a good summer?”
“Excellent. He spent the summer as a wilderness camp counselor and loved it although he did seem to appreciate sleeping in a bed and having a hot shower more than usual. He was looking forward to some new semester party at your place!” Sergeant Major laughed. “Guess it can be a wedding announcement party as well since you’re on your honeymoon.”
“Son and son-in-law!” Brad shouted as he came in the office door. “What a great surprise! What's this about a honeymoon?” So we told him what we had told Sergeant Major. “Aquatics practice starting in a few minutes. Care to provide some inspiration and give a demonstration?”
“I'll try, but I am definitely rusty since I haven't had a chance to swim, much less dive this summer. I made my first dive since the end of the semester last week.”
We all went to the pool and, of course, had to talk with Ms. Bianchi and Mr. Malik, then I got into some Speedos. I talked to the team about the importance of eating right, practice and getting proper rest. From my personal experience, I told them the consequences of not paying attention to your body. Then, for the first time in months, I spent half an hour diving. The old thrill was there when I stood poised on the ten meter platform. My dive wasn't perfect—far from it—but it wasn't terrible.
When the team started diving I stood with Mr. Bianchi. “Derek, to most of these kids, that last dive would be a goal they would aim for one day, but you have serious work ahead of you.”
“Yeah, I know. I actually was considering not returning to the team. Jayden was on my case about that, but after my first dive last week, I knew I'd be back and that I'd have to work my ass off.”
“Do be reasonable about it. We don't want a repeat of last year.”
“I think my husband will make sure that doesn't happen.”
“Yeah,” I replied and told her what we had decided.
“If you are serious, you need to do what Sam and Brad have done. Find a good, gay-friendly lawyer and have documents drawn up that give you as many of the rights Haresh and I have as possible. I don't foresee marriage between same sex couples in Virginia for years and until a state's marriages are recognized by all states it's pretty much as it is now and, if I may add, it is sheer bullshit!”
As we were talking, I was observing the divers. The team was doing well at meets and there were two potential college team divers, a brother and sister. When the divers finished, the swimmers started. Again, the team was doing well, but to my eye there were none good enough to make a college team.
I showered and got dressed. When I walked out of the locker room, Jayden was waiting for me and told me Brad had left to pick up Sam and we should just go on to Grace House, which we did.
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