DISCLAIMER: The following story is a fictional account involving teenage boys who are gay and trying to cope with love and homophobia. Sexual activity takes place in this story and there are references to gay sex, and anyone who is uncomfortable with this should obviously not be reading it. With a few very obvious exceptions, all characters are fictional and any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental. Conversations with real individuals are strictly hypothetical and not meant in any way to imply an actually conversation that has taken or might take place. Although the senators in this story bear strong resemblances to Senators Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh of Indiana, any references to their beliefs are based on pure conjecture. Although the story takes place in actual locations and establishments, the author takes full responsibility for all events described and these are not in any way meant to reflect the activities of real individuals or religious establishments, governmental nor school or corporate policies. The author retains full copyright of this story, and of stories based on these characters.

Please note that this is the twenty-first in a series of short stories known collectively as Naptown Tales. The series of stories can be found on my GayAuthors Page and on the Naptown Tales Page at Awesome Dude. Slightly modified versions of some of these stories that are suitable for younger teens can also be found on the Altimexis Page at Codey's World. Please see the Introduction for important background on the series.

Summer Internship

A Naptown Tale in Twelve Parts

by Altimexis & David of Hope

Part Two

A Brother's Interference - Trevor
by Altimexis

"Are you sure you want to take this on, Brad?" I asked my good friend's brother as we discussed his idea for establishing GSAs in each of the district's three middle schools. "This is a major undertaking we're talking about. You've already got a lot on your plate as a member of the student council, and eighth grade is already enough of a pressure cooker."

"I know that, Trevor," Brad answered me, "but this is something I really want to do. It's something I have to do. People like you and Kurt shouldn't have to grow up feeling all alone until you get to high school. Helping to set up the GSA's is the least I can do to help out. You've already set up one killer of a website. I figure I can piggyback a district-wide website on what you've already done. The biggest hurdle is getting straight kids to volunteer to help out. If we can just get a critical mass of straight kids in each middle school . . . we prolly just need ten to start with . . . that would be enough to make the gay students feel safe enough to come forward. But finding those ten kids in each school who feel comfortable enough in their own sexuality to help out will be the hard part.

"My hope is that we can count on others like me . . . younger brothers and sisters of gay high school kids . . . siblings who've seen how much the GSA's made a difference in their older brother's or sister's lives. We're the ones who know. It's up to us to make this thing happen."

"You know there's a good chance people will think you're gay, Brad," I warned.

"I realize that," Brad admitted, "and you know what? It won't matter and I don't care what people think. I know I'm straight, and that's all that matters to me. I'm willing to deal with whatever flack comes my way. I got just a taste the other day of what my brother gets, and I didn't like it. If he and Jeremy can put up with that kind of shit all the time . . . if you and Kurt can, then I certainly can once in a while. Let me do my part, Trev. I have to do this."

"You're a special guy, Brad," I said, shaking his hand. "I'm sorry I won't be around much this summer, but I'll do what I can to help via e-mail, and Barry Smith, as the vice president of the GSA, will be happy to help you out, too. Like you, he's a straight guy with a gay older brother."

"Thanks a million," Brad said with his killer smile, "I really appreciate it."

"The pleasure's mine," I replied as I walked out of his house and then took off in my Jetta.

Man, I had a lot to do before leaving for Washington. My first stop, however, was to pick up Kurt, my boyfriend, my lover, my fiancé. Yeah, ever since Spring Break, Kurt and I had hardly spent any time apart. I think his mother in particular recognized the change when we got back from DC and realized that we were now officially a couple. She never once denied his requests to spend the night with me when he asked. For that matter, my parents were pretty understanding, too, although they were quite obviously not quite as approving when it came to the matter of the two of us having sex under their roof. Not that they ever said anything or tried to stop us, but they clearly were less than happy with what they still viewed as a sin against God.

All in all, Kurt was spending at least four nights a week in my bed, and sometimes more than that. If I thought we could have gotten away with it, I'd have had him move in with me. We were so much in love, and we were still learning how to make love. We'd long since become intimately familiar with every square millimeter of each other's body, and the little places where things could go. I knew what made him feel good, and vice versa. Everything we did was an expression of our love for each other. I'd never been so happy in my life.

As far as I was concerned, Leviticus was written by a false prophet - it contains so much hatred and malevolence. What Kurt and I shared was the love that God intended us to share - of that I was absolutely certain.

Pulling into Kurt's driveway, my face lit up when he flew out the door of his house, an overnight bag in his hand. Leaping into my car, our lips met in the middle as our tongues engaged themselves along the way.

"Mmm," I said, "Ill never tire of that."

"Me neither, babe," he agreed.

"Ready to do some shopping?" I asked.

"Ready and psyched," my lover purred. He was adorable.

The Page Program provided their own uniforms for us to wear, and we'd be paying for the blazers and slacks. We had to bring our own dress shirts, ties, underwear and socks, of course, but we'd also need casual clothes for the weekends, and we'd need a sports coat so we could go out to a concert or for a special occasion if the need arose. In addition, we'd be attending Randy and Altaf's wedding in New Haven over the Fourth of July weekend, and for that we'd each need a new suit. Unfortunately, Kurt was growing like a weed and needed all new clothes. Hell, I guess I'd grown quite a bit, too. This shopping trip was going to cost us an absolute fortune.

The first stop for shopping was Target, right near where David and Brad lived. There was no point in going to an expensive store to buy underwear, pens, digital camera cards and the like. Kurt and I made quick work of it, picking up several pairs of boxers, some note pads, pens, SD cards and so on. I told Kurt to wait on buying the socks, however. "Gold Toe socks last for years. Cheap socks last only a few weeks. I learned that lesson from my dad, and he was right," I explained.

Next, we headed over to the Fashion Mall at Keystone at the Crossing. We could've gone to the megamall at Castleton Square, but I hated that place, and besides, the Fashion Mall had much nicer stuff. Sure, it was more expensive, but the quality was well worth the price. Then again, my parents had money, and we could afford it, and I was going to make sure Kurt had nice things, too.

There were several nice stores to choose from . . . Lord and Taylor, Bloomingdales, Banana Republic and so on. We took our time and picked up enough `wrinkle-free' white shirts for each of us so that we wouldn't have to do laundry more than once a week. We also picked up some nice polo shirts for each of us for more casual wear, and some plain old T-shirts, some shorts and some khakis. We got some dress shoes to match the uniforms we'd be wearing, some new sneakers and of course some dress and casual belts. We also picked up a pair of dress slacks and a sports coat for each of us, and finally, suits for the wedding. The alterations, of course, would take about a week.

The grand total for all of this came to nearly six thousand dollars - yikes! Good thing it was going on my parents' credit card!

After we took everything out to the car, we headed back to my house and quickly brought everything inside. My parents were still at work, but my foster brother, Sammy, and his best friend, Paul, were home and playing a game of Grand Theft Auto on Sammy's X-Box up in his room.

As we dragged bag after bag up to my room, Kurt suggested we take a break from unpacking all the clothes.

"Why?" I asked. "What did you have in mind?"

His very suggestive smile said it all.

The giggling that came from the next room as I closed the door told us the younger boys knew exactly what we were up to, but we didn't care. The moment I pressed the door lock, Kurt was the only thing in the world that mattered. God, he was beautiful. I knew that to some, he might not be all that handsome, but to me, he was absolutely stunning. He had boyishly good looks. His strawberry blond hair was absolutely perfect. The smattering of freckles across the bridge of his nose was abso-fucking-lutely cute. His eyes were as blue as the ocean, and his teeth were white and straight and perfect in every way. His lips were full and red and just so kissable, and kiss them I did.

Having him lift his arms, I pulled his shirt over his head to reveal the most beautiful torso imaginable. There was a light dusting of freckles over the tops of his shoulders that just seemed so right on him. They just accentuated his utter cuteness. His areolae were dime-sized, light brown and nipples erect. His chest was otherwise completely smooth. His abdomen was toned and flat, with a cute innie of a navel, and the barest hint of a blond treasure trail leading into his boxers, visible just above his shorts.

There was an unmistakable tent in his shorts, and I couldn't help but drool at what was inside. Reaching for his belt, I unfastened it, and then I unsnapped and unzipped his shorts and slowly lowered them, leaving only his boxers to cover his throbbing prize. A large wet spot was already forming and I knew he wouldn't last much longer, but then neither would I. I could feel the heat radiating through the fabric as I grabbed hold of what I so desired.

Kurt toed off his sneakers and I removed the last vestiges of his clothing, leaving him standing naked before me in all his glory. He truly was a Greek god as far as I was concerned.

Using my tongue and my throat, I gave Kurt the pleasure he so desired. My reward was the sweet taste I had come to love completely, and the knowledge of the ecstasy that we'd shared. When I came up for air, I shared Kurt's essence with him as we kissed passionately, and then he undressed me and he returned the favor.

Snuggling together, side-by-side on my bed, Kurt said, "What a nice way to spend the afternoon."

"Mmm . . . I couldn't agree more, but if we don't get these clothes sorted out and into the wash soon, my folks'll know what we've been up to," I mentioned before kissing my boyfriend one more time.

"And that matters to you because . . ." he asked before kissing me back.

"Oh, I guess it doesn't really matter, other than that we do need to get this stuff in the wash sooner or later; but later's good," I agreed.

Unfortunately, my foster brother had other ideas, as there was soon the sound of banging on the door.

"Hey Trevor," Sammy shouted through the door, "I know you and Kurt are foolin' around, but we need your help, man."

Sighing, I plodded over to the door and unlocked it, letting Sammy and Paul inside.

"Oh man, guys, you could have at least put some clothes on," Sammy said as his face turned bright red.

Paul, on the other hand, giggled like a schoolgirl.

"Hey," I said, "You're the one who wanted to barge on in here right after we'd just had sex."

"Whoa, bro, TMI, dude," Sammy said with a grin on his face.

"Like you didn't know what we were up to," I laughed, nudging my brother in the crotch with my knee.

Throwing Kurt his boxers, we got dressed as I asked Sammy what was up.

"Actually, nothing," he sheepishly admitted. "I just wanted to see if I could get you to open the door."

"Oh, you are sooo gonna get it now, bro," I said, "but just you wait 'til you're trying to make out with someone in the privacy of your bedroom."

"Hmm . . . what should we do to these bozos," Kurt said, joining in.

"We could strip them naked and throw all their clothes in the wash," I suggested.

"Nah, there's no way all of Sammy's stuff would fit in just one load, and they'd prolly just use towels or something to cover up, so what would be the fun in that?" Kurt pointed out.

"Yeah, you're right, Kurt," I agreed.

"Maybe we could strip them and lock them outside," I suggested instead.

Kurt got a thoughtful look on his face as Sammy and Paul got a look of what could only be described as one of terror.

"Mightn't they just hide out in the back yard?" Kurt pointed out. "The back fence is pretty high and unless one of the neighbors is looking out a second floor window at the time, they might not see anything."

"Yeah, but there's always the chance they might look, and that's good enough for me."

"But then Sammy and Paul will just go skinny dipping in the pool until your folks get home, and then you'll have to explain why they're skinny dipping in the pool," Kurt made me realize.

Turning to Sammy, I said, "Sammy, I guess I'm not going to do anything for now, but know this. Some day when you least expect it, some how, some way, I'm going to get even with you."

"Damn, that's worse than making us go skinny dipping in the pool," Sammy said. "Come on, Paul, let's do it," he said with a wicked grin as he turned to his best friend.

My foster brother and Paul then both stripped out of their clothes and ran out of my bedroom and down the stairs. What the fuck had I just gotten myself into, and what would my parents say when they got home to find my brother and his best friend naked in the pool.

Under the Weather - Cliff
by Altimexis

It'd been a few weeks since Linda and I had been goin' out. She and I have a lot in common. We've both been seen more than our share of life's hardship for kids our age. Me, well, I lost my parents when I was ten, then got put in a group home, then in foster care, and just when I thought things couldn't get any worse, I got sent to a Christian Camp for the summer. Not that there was anything wrong with being in a Christian Camp or anything. Actually, the camp was real nice and I really liked all the campers, and I certainly had nothing against being Christian - after all, I was a Christian before my parents got killed, and I guess I still was, when you get down to it - I just wasn't real keen on God and religion after all the bad things that had happened to me.

But at camp, I found that evil really does walk the earth. There was a counselor named Gary who made me do things with him. I tried to resist his seduction for a while, but then his tactics became more threatening and I had no choice. He made me do sex things with him and with the other campers in my cabin, and if I didn't, he told me he'd drown me in the lake, or worse yet, he'd kill some of the other campers and make it all look like an accident. There were times I'd wished he woulda just killed me and gotten it over with, but I coulda never lived with myself if he'd killed someone else on my account, and that's why I went along with everything he made me do.

Sammy Franklin and I both had to do things with Gary, and with some of our other cabin mates, while he recorded it all on his camcorder, but it was never more than one or two of us at a time. We all learned how to perform oral sex and anal sex - how to give it and how to receive it, too. At first it hurt, but eventually I got numb and learned how to turn my brain off while it was happening. My dick worked OK - it had to or Gary would beat me - but there was no pleasure for me in anything we did.

As bad as everything had been, the absolute lowest point came when one of the kids in my cabin took out his frustration by molesting and beating up a little kid in one of the other cabins. If we'd have all been strong and pointed the blame at Gary, everything would have been fine, but we couldn't do that. We were scared shitless, and we all did what Gary told us to do - all of us, to the last one. We all blamed Trevor Austin, an openly gay junior counselor in our cabin. That's what Gary said we should do if anyone was caught - `blame the faggot', as he put it. I felt horrible about doing that. Trevor was a good guy, and he had a terrific boyfriend, Kurt, who was teaching me things from the Bible that were actually making me think about going to Church again. The look on Kurt's face when they came and took Trevor away is one that will haunt me 'til my dyin' day.

Well, Kurt wasn't about to leave well enough alone, so when Trevor was arrested, he set out, unbeknownst to us, to prove Trevor's innocence. What he did backfired and nearly ended up getting us all killed, but like I said, Kurt's one hell of a guy. He put his own life on the line to save us all, and now he's getting' a Congressional Gold Medal for what he did, and what he's done since. Gary raped Kurt, too, and Kurt was forced to do all sorts of stuff, but in the end, he put Gary behind bars. What an amazing guy!

Most importantly of all, Kurt got me into a good home. Sammy too. He got us great foster families, and it's a good thing he did, 'cause now we're HIV-positive, thanks to Gary. Yeah, that's the real kicker. A final parting gift from the bastard. He gets a jail cell and three squares a day, with all the meds he'll need to live out what might well be a normal life, and we're stuck taking all the same meds and maybe starin' death in the eye, thanks to him.

But there's no point in dwellin' on all that. I go see a `shrink' . . . Sammy and I both do . . . we call him `Doc' and he really has helped us get through the whole thing. Doc's a good guy and he's always telling us to concentrate on the good things in life, and to put away the bad. That doesn't mean we should forget about them - they'll be with us for the rest of our lives, but by concentrating on the good, we can deal with the bad . . . and Linda's definitely one of the good things in my life.

Yeah, Linda's had it kinda rough, too. She's HIV-positive, just like me. She wasn't raped or anything, but she had a pretty bad thing happen to her. Her mother was a drug addict, just like Sammy's mother is, only Linda's mother used heroin, which she injected using needles that weren't clean. She shared the needles with other IV drug users and I guess some of them had AIDS. Linda was born to a mother that was HIV-positive - a mother who never had proper medical care. If her mother had been on the right drugs during pregnancy, Linda would have been OK, but she didn't, and so Linda had HIV at birth.

Linda's early years were a lot like Sammy's, only her mother wasn't well enough to be a prostitute, and she stole to support her habit. If it hadn't been for her grandmother, Linda might never have survived. Eventually, Linda's mother came down with AIDS, but she refused medical treatment because it meant going into drug rehab. I couldn't believe she would do that. Linda's mother died in less than a year.

Linda now lives with her grandmother, who loves her with all her heart. She's getting the treatment she needs and has been living with HIV for all of her thirteen years. She's thriving. It just goes to show how far HIV treatment has come.

I really like Linda . . . I like her a lot. Ever since we started going out, I've been tryin' to get my best friend, Brad, to get a girlfriend too, so we can all go out together, and maybe make out together, and maybe do more. A couple weeks ago, we did do more, but things didn't exactly work out the way I'd planned it. After spending some time hanging out in Broad Ripple, we were going to go back to our own houses to make out and see if we could maybe go all the way. Well, both Brad and I were pretty successful in getting our girls into the sack, but we didn't count on the surprise element of our brothers. You see, my foster brother and Brad's brother are boyfriends. They both just got their driver's licenses and my brother, Jeremy, just got a new Boxter for his birthday, so we figured they'd be out driving for, like, forever. Wrong!

Never underestimate the sexual appetites of a couple of sixteen-year-old boys! When Jeremy and David got home to David and Brad's house and found Brad in bed with Charisse, all hell broke loose. The worst of it was that Charisse turned out to be an outright homophobe and stormed out of there, leaving a totally dumbfounded and very apologetic Brad in her wake. When he owned up to what was going on, and my role in the whole ordeal, boy, did my brother let me have it.

The thing is, Linda and I aren't in it for sex. We really do love each other. I'm still not sure I buy the seriousness of what Jer said about the need to use condoms, other than to keep Linda from getting pregnant. Linda and I are both HIV-positive and even if the strains are a little different, I would think the medicines would work the same on both, so what's the big deal? Still, ever since that first time, Linda and I have been careful. We've been using condoms most times . . . I think we've only forgotten them maybe twice since then.

Although one time she started her period in the middle of me fucking her. What a time to not be wearing a condom! Well at least I didn't have to worry about her getting pregnant, even if it was kinda gross. She was so embarrassed, but I told her it was cool and all. I really, really do like her. I mean, if you can deal with having her blood all over your dick, that must be love, right? I know there may be hurdles ahead for both of us with the HIV and all, but I think she may be the one.

Just recently I've come down with a summer cold, however. It's probably nothing, but the last few days I've had a sore throat, and some swelling in my neck and I've felt kinda feverish. It's prolly nothing. I haven't told Jeremy - I don't want to worry him with him going off to his summer internship - but Carlotta, my nanny, she's insisting I go see Rick - he's my HIV doctor. Even the common cold can be serious with HIV. He'll prolly run lotsa tests - I hate tests but, hey, it comes with the territory. The most important thing's to make sure that my CD4 count's OK.

If my CD4 count starts to drop, it's prolly 'cause the HIV's getting the upper hand, and my viral load's on the rise. Can't let that happen - not even a little bit. Yeah, even the common cold can upset the balance, strain my immune system and put my whole system outta whack, just like that. Or my HIV could mutate . . . or I could have picked up a new strain from Linda, but like I said, the meds I'm on should still work, so I think that's the least likely thing.

In any case, Rick knows his shit, and he has lots of tricks up his sleeve. If my count drops, he'll know what to do. He always does. . . .

Summer School - Sammy
by David of Hope

It hadn't been long after we got back ta school after spring break, when I was at school havin' lunch with my best friends - Brad, Cliff, an' Paul. Naturally, we was talkin' about our favorite subject - girls - what else. We were bein' kinda quiet 'cause we didn't want the others in the lunchroom to hear what we were sayin' about 'em.

"That's interesting fellas," the voice a Ms. Perkins said as she stood at the end a the table. How did she sneak up on us? "I'm sorry to interrupt such great enthusiasm, but I want to see you, Sammy, and you, Paul, in my office as soon as you're finished with your lunch."

The four a us musta turned beet red knowin' that a female had heard some a our comments about tits and boxes.

I was still embarrassed when we walked inta her office ten minutes later. It hadn't affected Paul the same as me - he always took everythin' in stride as if it was a normal thing ta be talkin' about. In situations like this, Paul's innocence dissolved any thought a embarrassment. As soon as she saw us, she beckoned us in ta sit on the chairs in front a her desk. There was somethin' special about Ms. Perkins - as soon as we were seated, she pulled the chair from behind her desk an' sat in front a us on our side a her desk. She never acted official-like.

With a big smile, she began, "Judging from the progress the two of you have made since you've come here, Sammy, I assume that the two of you study and do your homework together. Is that right?"

"Yeah," Paul said, "Sammy and I almost always do our homework together. He's smart and I learn better from him."

"Is that right Sammy?" she asked.

"Well yeah, Ms. Perkins. Most times it's easy for Paul ta pick up on some a the stuff, but when he doesn't unnerstan' somethin', he asks me an' I show 'im a different way a looking at the problem, then he unnerstan's it."

"That's interesting. I thought when I introduced the two of you that you'd just be buddies, but something unexpected has happened. Paul, you've made some unusual and unexpected advances since you and Sammy have been together. Sammy, you've absorbed everything that's been put to you . . . and . . . you've been a good teacher to Paul. That is a surprise. Now the final exams are coming up soon and all your teachers expect that both of you will do very well on them. Sammy, do you still want to attend any summer classes?"

"Oh yes ma'am, I do! I wanna be able ta get inta those advanced classes for high school that you told me about, an' then I wanna go to college some day too. You said that I could."

"That's good Sammy, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. First things first. Summer classes. . . . Paul, the courses that Sammy would be taking this summer may be a little advanced for you, but I'd like you to try them. If you make the same progress this summer with these classes as you have during the last year, I'll be amazed, but nonetheless it might be a great experience for you . . . especially if the two of you continue to study together. The main thing for you Paul, is if it doesn't work out and you seem to be getting frustrated, don't worry about it. Learn what you can and be proud that you got as far as you did. It may work out and who knows . . . the two of you just might finish regular eighth grade together."

I was amazed. Paul might be that good academically? Paul was equally amazed. He looked at Ms. Perkins like she was an alien from outer space or somethin'. Then he grinned.

"Ya mean it?" he asked.

"I most certainly do," Ms. Perkins said still smilin'. "One thing I must warn you about though; there are no school busses running in the summer, so you'll have to make other arrangements to get here and back home. In addition, the schedule is a bit more relaxed than during the rest of the year. One thing you will enjoy is the fact that the classes are smaller and there aren't as many students in the school in the summer months. The summer teachers won't be the same teachers that have been teaching you throughout this year; most of the teachers that work here take the summer off, so it's teachers from other parts of the district that want to do this type of work in the summer instead of taking an extended vacation. They're very qualified. Classes will start the week after your regular school year ends, right through to August 7th. Classes will start at 9:30 and end at 2:30 in the afternoon. You'll be taking four or five classes a day with only a half-hour for lunch. Some of the subjects you'll be taking will be Mathematics, English, Reading, Science and Social Studies. I'll have a full schedule set up for both of you if you're agreeable to that."

"Awesome!" Paul laughed. "Sammy I hope I can do it."

"Don't worry about it man, we'll make it through together. If Paul an' I pass all these subjects, will we be able to go on together inta regular eighth grade?" I asked.

"Definitely, Sammy," Ms. Perkins replied still smiling. "The main thing is that you both have a desire to learn."

By the time we left Ms. Perkins' office, Paul an' I were hyped. Regular eighth grade - no more Special Ed - Wow!

I didn't say anything to Trevor an' Kurt on the way home 'cause I knew that they'd be goin' ta Washington as part a the Page Program this summer an' they were all hyped up about that.

Instead, I waited until suppertime. After I explained the whole thing to Mom, Dad, an' Trevor, they were happy as all get out, especially about Paul, but so was I. Dad said he'd see what they could do about getting Sammy an' me ta school - something as simple as that wasn't gonna stop us from takin' our classes this summer.

By the time our regular school year ended, Paul an' I did do great on our final tests. I got straight `A's an' so did Paul except for a couple a `B's. Who'd a thought!

That night at supper, I was so proud when I announced my grades. Once Mom, Dad, and Trevor each gave me a hug after supper, Trevor let out with his good news. Kurt was goin' ta get a Congressional Gold Medal and a Young American Medal for Bravery. There was goin' ta be a big ceremony in Washington and they wanted us ta be there too.

Once Trevor left for Washington to start his page assignment, the house seemed empty. Although he wasn't always there all the time, I still missed him.

As it turned out, our folks worked it out that Mom would take Paul an' me ta school, an' Paul's Mom would bring us home.

It was the Tuesday of our first week a summer classes. Our last period of the day was with Mr. Hinner, our literature teacher. At the end of the class, he asked me to stay behind. Naturally, Paul stayed behind too.

After all the other kids had left the room, Mr. Hinner tol' us ta sit at the desks at the front a the room. He asked me, "Sam," he always called me `Sam', "I understand from your Social Studies teacher that you spent your spring break in Washington DC."

"Yeah, we did, sir," I answered. "Paul, an' my bro, Trevor, an his frien' Kurt, our frien' Brad, his bro, David, an' Jer'my an' his bro, Cliff."

"Sam, what was the most impressive thing you experienced in Washington?" he asked.

"First off, I guess it was the plane ride. I'd never been on a plane before. Then we got ta ride in this humungous stretched Hummer limo. It was awesome. Calvin was our guide. He was great. Once we saw a few of the sights, I was really impressed with the Lincoln Memorial. That statue inside was enormous. How did somebody carve that thing? More than anythin' though, I think it was the art, sir. It kinda started with some a da sculptures. It was kinda like I could feel what the guy was thinkin', what he was feelin' when he was put'n some a da things tagether. It was like lookin' inta the beautiful thoughts the artist was feelin' when they created the stuff. Then da paintings, they really got ta me. Like I said, I felt what they felt, the things they were tryin' ta say when they painted. Losin' Paul one afternoon really scared us an' we got lost in a pretty bad part a town. That's when I realized that bein' a frien' ta Paul was more important than anthin' else. Best frien' I got."

"I can see that." Mr. Hinner said. "I'm not going to keep you here any longer today, I don't want you to miss your ride, but maybe we could talk again tomorrow."

When we left the school, Hilda Manning was waiting for us and tol' us that she was goin' ta the mall to do some shoppin'. While she went on with her shoppin', Paul an' I sat at the food court an' reviewed the stuff they'd taught us that day. I really wanted Paul to learn this stuff - I knew it'd make a big difference ta the way he thought of himself - not as a dummy with Down's Syndrome, but a teenager with a future - the same as me. For some reason, I was really proud a him as his intelligence started ta show itself.

The next afternoon, Mr. Hinner asked Paul an' me ta stay back again. He turned one of the desks around an' sat in front of us.

"Sam," he began, "Have you ever heard a recording of your own voice?"

"Uhh . . . no sir," I thought for a moment, "Can't say I have."

"Well Sam, I hope you don't object, but yesterday, I wanted a sample of your conversational vocabulary," he said, "so I recorded what you had said in our short conversation. Would you care to listen to it?"

Naturally, I didn't object, but as I listened to it, I realized what a hayseed I sounded like. Actually, I prolly had a scowl on my face by the time the short recording finished. I was almost ashamed.

"God, Mr. Hinner, I sound like an idiot!" I exclaimed.

"No you don't!" Paul almost shouted. "You're too smart."

Mr. Hinner smiled. "Paul, you and I think alike. Sam, you're not an idiot. Actually, you're both quite intelligent. Sam, what I want you to do is read something I wrote from what you said yesterday. Read it slowly and pronounce every word carefully."

I looked at the piece of paper he handed me. Everything I'd said had been typed, but the grammar and the words were sometimes a little different. I did as he said and pronounced every word. He did correct me once when I'd dropped a `g' when I'd said `somethin'.' When I finished reading the paragraph, I set the paper down and looked at Mr. Hinner. He was smiling.

"Listen carefully," he said as he turned on the recorder again. This was a recording of everything I'd just read complete with the interjection Mr. Hinner had made. Right away, I could hear the difference. It didn't sound stupid - it sounded like the way I would want someone to tell me a story. It made me smile.

"Sam, I take it that you heard the difference and understand what I'm trying to do."

"Yes, I do, Mr. Hinner." I said slowly, concentrating on every word. "It sounds so much better . . . it sounds right."

"It sure does!" Paul said. He was smiling when I looked at him; so was his Mom as she stood at the door. We hadn't heard her come in.

"Sammy, you're a fast learner . . ." Mrs. Manning said, "all you have to do now is concentrate and practice. Soon it will come easier."

"Hi Mom," Paul said smiling as he jerked his head around.

"Mrs. Manning, I'm Adam Hinner," he introduced himself as he stood up. "I'm glad you agree with me. Sam," he continued, turning to look at me, "I have a feeling that you're going to go far someday and you might be in a position where proper elocution is required. It will make a big difference to your audience if you can pronounce your words properly. Paul, you're no slouch yourself . . . if you continue to follow Sam's example, you'll be right behind him."

"Thank you Mr. Hinner," I said, "You're a good teacher and I'll do my best."

That was the truth as far as I was concerned. He took a boring subject like Literature and made it interesting and now he'd given me a bonus - I was learning to speak properly.

That night at dinner, I spoke slowly as I explained to Mom and Dad what had happened in Mr. Hinner's class.

Dad smiled as he looked at me. "Sammy, I always thought of your accent as being part of your charm as a little kid, but you're no longer just a little kid. You're growing up into a young man and I like the change. Proper elocution goes with the maturity that's a part of you. Son, I like the change and no matter what you do, I'll always be proud of you."

"Sammy," Mom began, "You're a changed person from the boy we met in Dr. Jenkin's office. You have matured and you've made us very happy, in that you've worked hard and taken advantage of the opportunities that have come your way. As proud of you as we are, you should be very proud of yourself too."

I had to get out my chair and give both of them a tearful hug because I knew that without them, I wouldn't have had any of these opportunities. They sure knew how to make my waterworks start dribbling.

That night, as I was getting my stuff cleaned away for school tomorrow, my cell phone rang. It was our state's senior senator. He asked if I was going to Kurt's award ceremony and banquet on the weekend in Washington. Naturally I was - Mom and Dad had confirmed that weeks ago. Paul was coming too. The senator asked, as part of an introduction to Kurt's speech, if I could give a description of what happened at the camp and about the things that had happened in Kurt's life since then. Well, I'd done that before, in the high school gymnasium with Kurt, when we told the story of what happened at the summer camp.

"Sure," I said, "I'd be glad to." I wasn't about to become ashamed of what had happened that summer. With the way things had turned out, the doctor had told me never to be ashamed and, slow but sure, the shame was going away.

After I closed my cell phone, I wondered how I was going to get through it. I was really going to have to practice every word I spoke so my dumb accent didn't come through.

The authors gratefully acknowledge the invaluable assistance of Trab and Alastair in proofreading our stories, as well as Gay Authors, Awesome Dude and Codey's World for hosting them.


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