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Note: Thanks to Tim and Rock for feedback on the draft chapters. I owe a special thanks to Robb for doing the final proofreading and catching all those silly little errors I missed.
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by Jeff Allen
Marty's dad put aside the ax and began walking toward us. As Marty started to get out, a big brown and white spotted dog bounded up.
"Marlene, back off. Let me get out of the car," Marty patted the dog's head even as he tried to get her out of his way.
Marty's dad reached my side of the car, took off a work glove and extended his right hand through the open window. "I'm Pat O'Connor, Martin's father. Thanks for bringing him home."
The guy was standing close to the open car window, and I had an urge to reach out and run my finger down the dense mat of sweat-soaked hair that covered his chest and belly. Instead, I reached out and shook his hand. His handshake was firm. The calluses added character to the shake.
"Nice to meet you. I'm Trey Arnold, one of Marty's teachers and one of the assistant soccer coaches. I usually give Grant and Micah a ride home. We all live just on the other side of the river from here, so it wasn't out of the way or anything."
"Martin seems to have survived his first day at school."
"I think Grant's taken him under his wing. We're glad he came out for the soccer team. He's got some good moves."
"Thanks. Uh...I was just about to take a break for some water. Would you have a few minutes to talk?"
O'Connor looked over the top of the Volvo. "Martin, why don't you show your friends around the place. There're some soft drinks in the fridge."
"Okay, thanks. Come on guys, anyone thirsty?"
The three boys disappeared into the house. As I climbed out of the car, I took the opportunity to study Pat O'Connor. Something about him really got to me in a way I hadn't felt since Brian. The man before me was solidly built and a couple inches taller than me, putting him about six feet two inches. He had dark brown hair with reddish tones in it. His chest was well-formed with squarish pectoral muscles covered by that dense mat of hair that was more reddish in color than the hair on his head. He wasn't lean, but he wasn't over weight either. He didn't have a defined six pack, but his belly was taut and flat. His old jeans hung low on his hips, and I couldn't see any evidence of underwear. I assumed he was going commando. The trail of hair from his navel began to spread out on his lower abdomen before disappearing under the waist band of his jeans. I forced my eyes to go back up to his face. He was good looking, not like a fashion model ‑ but in a wholesome, masculine way. His eyes were a clear blue color that seemed almost too light next to his dark hair and tanned face.
He led the way over to the shade of a big oak tree nearer the house. I followed and watched his muscular ass move under his loose fitting and low riding jeans. If the jeans had been even a fraction of an inch lower, I would have been able to see the top of the cleft in his ass. Nice!
There was a lawn chair and a two-gallon Igloo thermos under the tree. He filled a cup with water from the thermos and handed it to me.
"Take the chair. I usually have two cups out here when I'm working. One for Marlene and one for me. Don't worry, the cups are clean. Neither one of us has had any yet."
He handed me a cup of water, hitched up his jeans, and sat on the top of the thermos.
"Thanks. The water's good."
"You said you were one of Martin's teachers, right?"
"Yes, I've got him in biology."
"Listen, Mr. Arnold..."
"Call me Trey."
"Thanks, Trey. I'm Pat. Martin's life has been kind of turned upside down. His mother and I are divorced, and she had custody. Last week Martin and his mother had a serious falling out, and she sent him to live with me. This is kind of a shock for both of us. Until last weekend, I hadn't seen him in five years. This is going to take a lot of adjustment on both of our parts. I love him... I'm glad he's here. But I am concerned about him adjusting to a new school and everything. Please call me if you see any signs that he's having trouble in school...academically or socially."
"Thanks for telling me about that. I'll be on the lookout. However, he seemed to fit right in with the guys today. Grant's kind of taken him under his wing. I've known Grant and Micah since they were born. Grant's one of the most popular and level-headed kids at the school. I think Marty's already on his way to having good friends here."
"Those are Donnie Michaeux's boys, right?"
"Sure are. Do you know Donnie?"
"Not well. He's kept my old car running well past the time it should have been sold for junk. He met Martin the other day when we were at the garage getting a new battery. We talked about a couple of things, and he told me that he had two sons over at the high school. I made the connection when I recognized Grant and Micah from a picture in Donnie's office. I'm glad Martin's met up with them."
"On the way out here Marty told us that you're the game warden for the Carter Wildlife Refuge. I teach the tenth grade biology classes, and I like to have people come in who have careers in some field of science or biology. Would you be willing to come and talk to a couple of classes about what you do and the kind of training and education that's necessary for your job?"
"I'm not much of a public speaker, but I could do that."
"Good. Let me look at what I've got planned for the next few weeks, and I'll give you a call to arrange a time. And about Marty, I'm sure he'll adjust to the new school...and his new home. Most kids are a lot more resilient than we think they are. However, if I see anything that concerns me, I'll let you know."
"Thanks, Trey, I appreciate that. As I said, I'm new to this whole parenthood business. I want to be sure I do it right."
We headed back over to the car. The boys were sitting on the porch of the cabin. Grant and Micah got up and started walking toward the car, calling good-byes to Marty as they went. Pat and I shook hands again, and I took one more look at his hairy bare chest and low riding jeans before climbing into the driver's seat.
I was just turning onto the road when Grant said, "You and Mr. O'Connor seemed to get along pretty well."
"Yes, he seemed like a really nice guy and concerned about Marty's adjustment to a new school. I asked him to come talk to the biology classes for a career day session."
"I didn't know that you did career days in your classes. Wait, you just decided to do that didn't you?" He smiled and winked at me.
Grant was straight, but he'd grown up around gay men. The darn kid was also pretty perceptive. I was busted.
As soon as Grant and Micah left with Mr. Arnold, I ran up to my room, closed the door, pulled out my dick, and jerked off. Man, Grant was hot! His brother Micah was no slouch either.
Afterwards, I lay on the bed and thought about my first day at Carter County High School. It wasn't what I'd expected. I'd thought the school would be just a bunch of hillbillies. Yes, there were lots of kids dressed in jeans and tees, but I only spotted one guy with a can of chewing tobacco in his back pocket. Almost everyone I'd met that day had been really nice. Except for Mrs. English, my English teacher, I thought I'd like my teachers. The soccer team was pretty good. Grant told me that they'd won five state championships. The practice that afternoon had felt good, and the shower room had been very interesting.
This might be a pretty good place after all. Now, if only Grant Michaeux was gay. Man, he was so fine. But, I was pretty sure Grant was straight. He and his girl friend seemed really tight.
Now, I wasn't too sure about Grant's brother, Micah. What was with that remark about my dad being hot?
The next morning, my dad drove me into town early...damned early it seemed...for the soccer team's morning conditioning run. We took Dad's big state-issued pickup truck. Sure was a big difference from riding to school in my mom's BMW. We pulled up near the old gym. A couple of the other guys were coming in at the same time. They waved greetings. As I opened the door to get out, Marlene jumped into the front seat, which had been her usual spot. She gave me a sloppy doggie kiss as I leaned back into the truck to collect my book bag.
Grant, Micah, and Coach Trey arrived shortly after I did. Grant and Micah gave me high fives and a quick pat on the rear end.
Man, I thought I was in shape. But not like these guys. I was almost the slowest one on the squad, except for this huge black guy. When I say the guy was huge, I'm not exaggerating. He had to be at least six feet six inches tall and pushed the scale at a conservative two hundred and forty pounds. I knew he hadn't been at the soccer practice the day before. There's no way I could have missed him.
Micah fell back from the pack and kept pace with me.
"Who's the big guy? I don't remember him being on the team."
"That's B.B. He's on the football team. Some of the football guys run with us in the morning. B.B. lives with Coach. He's one of the `cubs'."
"Yeah, that's what we call the guys who've lived with Coach. My dad and TJ are `cubs.' So's Coach Trey. For that matter, I guess Grant and I are `cubs' too, although we were just little kids when we lived with Coach. B.B.'s the only one out there right now."
"I don't understand."
"Have Grant explain it to you at lunch. Coach has been a foster parent for a whole bunch of guys over the years."
"Okay, I'll ask him. Back to B.B., how old is he? He's so darn tall."
"Let's see, he's a junior, so that makes him about seventeen. And as for him being big...he's the biggest offensive lineman in our league. Not many tacklers get to our quarterback because they have to get through B.B. first. He's already had some college scouts looking at him for scholarships."
"I can see why. What does B.B. stand for?"
I almost tripped. "Big Bruce? The guy's name is Bruce?"
Micah chuckled. "Yeah, bad name for such a big dude. He just goes by B.B."
After the run, we scrambled through the showers, ate breakfast in the cafeteria, and headed off to classes. I forgot to ask Grant about the `cubs' business at lunch. I remembered when we were sitting out in Coach Trey's car waiting for our ride home.
Grant looked up and saw Coach Trey coming out of the building. "It's a long and involved story, and we don't have time right now. Why don't you come home for dinner with Micah and me after practice tomorrow, and we'll explain the whole thing to you."
When I asked, my dad said I could go over to Grant's the next day as long as I was home right after dinner to work on homework. I was stoked. More time with Grant and Micah, the two most beautiful boys in the world. I just hoped I wouldn't spring a woodie and embarrass myself.
After practice the next day, we loaded into Coach Trey's old Volvo wagon for the ride out to Grant and Micah's. Coach Trey dropped us off in front of a modest sized house. I recognized the style as something that my mother called a Craftsman cottage. Two dogs were waiting to greet us. One was so old that her muzzle and face were completely white. The other was more energetic in his movements and looked to be only a year or two beyond puppyhood.
Micah told me that the older dog was named Mutt and that they'd had her since he and Grant were toddlers. The younger dog's name was Bouncer. After watching him for a few minutes, I understood the name.
In the house, we made short work of half a bag of Oreo cookies and three glasses of milk while we talked about the day at school.
Finally, I reminded Grant that he was supposed to tell me about Coach's Cubs.
"Right, I almost forgot. You know that Coach Trey is Coach Arnold's nephew, right?"
"Yeah. They look more like brothers though."
"That's `cause they're actually pretty close in age. Coach Arnold isn't forty yet. Coach Trey is thirty. He and TJ were in the same class in high school."
Micah chimed in, "He's our dad's partner...our other dad, actually."
I was stunned. Partner? Other dad? Did that mean they were gay?
I must have had a strange look on my face. I saw Grant and Micah look at one another before Grant spoke up, "I guess before we go much further, we need to know how you feel about gays. Is that a problem for you? I didn't think it would be."
I tried to provide some cover for myself. "No, I've got some friends who are gay. They're just regular guys."
Grant smiled at my answer. Did he know I was gay? What did I do to give myself away?
He took the last swallow of his milk and continued, "Okay, here's the story. Coach Trey's parents died when he was about our age, and he came to live with Coach Arnold. Our dad, TJ, and Karl Henson...the guy who's Coach's partner...were all on the soccer team at the same time."
"Wait a minute; Coach Arnold is gay, too?"
"Yup. Back to my story. Dad got our mother pregnant with me, so he had to drop off the team to work. Our mother left us after Micah was born, and we moved out to Coach's place for a couple of years before Dad and TJ got together and bought this place. I think Coach loaned Dad and TJ some money to start their businesses. As I said, Coach and Karl have had a whole bunch of guys who've lived at their house. Some have been gay. Some straight. BB's the only one over there right now, and he's straight."
"What about Coach Trey?"
"Okay...Coach Trey, Dad, and TJ are best friends. Trey and TJ were roommates and on the soccer team at Adams State. Trey and another guy on the soccer team, Brian Barnes, became lovers. Brian was some sort of accountant or manager for a big firm out of Boston. He and Trey moved all over the country. They built a vacation/retirement place out on the river just the other side of our land. You'll see it sometime. It's really a neat place. Anyway, Brian died of cancer a little over a year ago, and Trey came back to Carterville. He's been one of the assistant coaches since he came back."
"Yeah, it is. Brian was a great guy, and Trey loved him a lot. We did, too. We all hope he finds someone else. He's a great guy. Almost like a third father to Micah and me."
"Do you ever see your mother?"
"The last time she was here was about ten years ago. She tried to get custody of me and Micah, but Dad fought her and won. She left, and we haven't heard from her since. Our mother's parents are still here in town, but they're real redneck bigots and won't have anything to do with us `cause we're half black."
"Wow, that's a lot of information. I'm not sure I'll be able to remember it all, but thanks for filling me in. I had no idea that your dad, Coach Arnold, and Coach Trey were all gay. Is that a problem here? This is kind of a small town."
"Mountain folk sort of mind their own business. I think it also helped that Coach has had such good teams. The whole county is proud of our soccer team. Coach is a great role model for all of us, gay or straight. I think almost everyone in town knows he's gay, but mostly they don't care. They just care that he's a good man and a great soccer coach."
I sat silently for a few moments thinking about all that Grant had said. Then I screwed up my courage and said, "Can I tell you guys about why I came to live with my dad?"
"Sure. We kinda wondered. Figured you'd tell us sometime."
"I'm gay. My mom and stepdad found out and sent me down here. They didn't want me around my younger brother and stepsister."
"Micah and I thought you might be gay. You kind of checked us out a little more than most straight guys would. Man, what your mom and stepdad did is such bullshit! Why do people do things like that? I'm sorry you got kicked out, but I'm glad you're here."
"I hadn't seen my dad for about five years before last week. I was real upset about being sent down here at first. Now, I think I was lucky."
Micah reached across the table and put his hand on top of mine. "We're glad you're here. And in the interest of full disclosure, I'm gay, too."
Grant laid his hand on top of Micah's and mine. "And I'm straight, but no one around here holds that against me."
We all broke into laughter at that remark.
Just then we heard a truck pull into the driveway. Bouncer was at the door in a flash. Mutt struggled to her feet much slower.
Micah opened the kitchen door. Bouncer shot through it. Mutt sat down in the kitchen and swept the floor with her tail.
I heard a man's voice talking to Bouncer. The man's arrival in the kitchen was announced when Bouncer charged back into the room.
TJ hugged Micah, who was still holding the door open, and then caught sight of me. He came over with his hand extended. "Hi, I'm TJ Ladd. You must be Marty. The boys said you'd be over for dinner."
His handshake was warm and firm, and his hands were callused from work, like my dad's. He was about six feet tall, well built and handsome with medium brown hair, friendly hazel eyes, and deeply tanned face and forearms.
"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Ladd."
"I'm pleased to meet you, too, Marty. Do you like grilled chicken and corn on the cob?"
"Good, `cause that's what we're having. Guys, take Marty out to the garden with you and pick some corn. Oh, better get a few tomatoes and cucumbers also. I'll get things set up in here. Your dad should be here soon. I called him on the cell phone on my way out here, and he was just about to leave the garage."
I followed Grant and Micah out to the garden. They showed me how to tell which ears were ripe. I'd never picked my own meal before. We sat on the kitchen steps and shucked the corn. Grant and Micah were quick. They'd obviously had a lot of practice. They had ten ears done by the time I managed to get my one clean.
Donnie Michaeux arrived as TJ was starting the grill. He greeted the dogs first. They were more insistent than the humans. Then he hugged Micah, Grant...and me. I was surprised, but pleased, to be included in the hug. Dad hugged me a lot. My mother never hugged very much. I don't think Gavin knew how.
After hugging me, Donnie went over to TJ. He swatted TJ on the ass and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. I know my eyes must have almost popped out of my head.
Dinner had to have been just about the best I'd ever had. I'd never tasted corn on the cob that sweet! I ate three ears!
After dinner, Grant and Micah rode along when Donnie drove me home.
Dad gave me a big hug when I got into the house. I really liked getting hugged. I think I was `hug deprived' before I arrived in Carterville.
"Did you have a good time?"
"Yeah, the best."
(To be continued)
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Some of the characters who play parts in this story were previously introduced in "When Love Comes" (last posted in the College section on Sept. 6, 2001), "Love of a Lifetime" (last posted in the College section on May 19, 2003), "Finding Family" (last posted in the College section on June 5, 2008), "Construction Job" (last posted in the College section on July 24, 2008), or "Swamp Rat" (last posted March 15, 2010 in the High School section). While not necessary, readers may find it useful to read the earlier stories posted on this site. All of the Adams State/Carterville stories listed above as well as my other stories are also posted at www.crvboy.com.
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