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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
Man, only a week earlier, I thought my life was over. Got kicked out of my home because I was gay. Shipped off to live with a father I hadn't seen in nearly five years. Scared to death about what was going to happen to me in Carterville...read Hickville...North Carolina.
My father didn't care that I was gay. He was just happy to have me there. I got more hugs from him the first week I lived with him than I'd gotten from my mother in a year. I met some really neat people at my new school. The first two on that list were Grant and Micah Michaeux, who were fast becoming my best friends. I got involved with the best high school soccer team in the whole region...maybe even in the whole state. The coaches were awesome! I even changed my mind about living in a small town in the mountains of North Carolina. Carterville was going to be okay.
If I hadn't been sold on my new situation by the end of the first week of school, the weekend would have done it.
Grant asked me to come over to his house on Saturday morning to spend the day and stay over that night. That was fine with me. My crush on Grant was still strong, but I was finding that I liked Micah almost as well. Besides that, Grant appeared hopelessly straight while Micah was gay.
Dad dropped me off at the Michaeux's on Saturday morning. I helped Grant and Micah with some chores around the house and then they said we were going over to Coach Arnold's for the rest of the day because a lot of the soccer team as well as some of the guys on the football team were going to be there.
Grant and Micah led me to a path through the woods from their house to a well-maintained apple orchard. They explained that the orchard belonged to Coach Arnold, but it was TJ and Ladd Brothers Lawn Services who did the pruning and trimming. Each fall the soccer team sold the apples in town and at school and donated the proceeds to the American Cancer Society. They said that TJ had started that tradition when he was in high school and his father was dying of cancer.
From the orchard, we went up to and then around the back of a white two-story farmhouse. The back yard was huge! There was a swimming pool, a half-court basketball goal, and a full sized soccer field complete with goals. I know my mouth dropped open.
About that time, Coach Arnold came out of the house and greeted us with hugs. He was dressed only in a pair of running shorts. Did I tell you before that all the soccer coaches were in good shape...even if they were older guys?
Micah asked, "Are we the first ones out here?"
"Yup. BB's inside doing laundry, but he should be out in a few minutes. I know some of the other guys are coming out around lunch time. If the day stays as warm as it is right now, I imagine most everyone will be out here before the end of the afternoon. What are your plans? Are you guys here for the day?"
Grant answered, "Probably. Dad and TJ are both at work. Marty's staying the night with us. We thought we'd bring him over and let him get to know the rest of the guys a little better."
"Nice idea." Coach turned to me, "Marty, the rules here are pretty much the same ones as in the locker room. You pick up after yourself. You respect the other guys. There's pop and snack stuff in the kitchen when you get hungry. I'll grill some hotdogs at lunch. If you stay for dinner, I'll grill a couple of burgers for you. There's a jar in the kitchen for donations toward the food. Grant or Micah will show you where it is. Since this is your first time, don't worry about feeding the jar. When you come out again, you can either put money in the jar or bring some food. I'm glad you decided to join the team. I hope you like it."
"Coach, I already like it here. Everyone's been really nice to me."
Grant grabbed the back of my arm. "You want to shoot some hoops, kick the soccer ball around a little, play Frisbee, or hit the pool?"
"I didn't bring a swim suit."
Grant chuckled, "Don't worry about that. Most of the guys go bare-assed. In fact, Micah and I are naked most of the time over here or at home. That's how we have such great tans."
"Okay, okay, Micah and I do have a little genetic head start in the suntan department."
I know my jaw dropped a little. It dropped even more when both Grant and Micah kicked off their sandals and pulled off their shirts and shorts. Grant bent over to gather his discarded sandals and clothes and presented me with a view of his asshole and balls that caused me to spring an almost instant hard on. I kept staring as Grant walked over and put his clothes next to one of the pool side chairs.
I heard Micah giggling softly beside me. "Don't pay any attention to him. He's totally clueless about what he just did to you. Also, don't worry about your boner. I can guarantee that yours won't be the only one on display out here today. The best thing is that no one gives a rat's ass about it. Just don't play with it, and it will go away."
He piled his clothes next to Grant's before diving into the pool.
I swallowed hard, pulled off my clothes and put them beside Micah's.
Grant looked down at my half hard dick and said, "Nice one," and jumped into the pool.
I took another hard swallow and jumped into the pool while thinking I must be dreaming all this.
When you get up at six in the morning, meet everyone for a morning conditioning run, teach a full day of classes, have soccer practice after school, then spend your evenings preparing for the next day's classes before hitting the sack, there isn't a lot of time to get things done around the house during the week. The weekends were normally my time to catch up on the odd jobs. However, the Saturday after the first full week of classes I just couldn't get up the ambition to do much around the house. First, it was a beautiful but very warm day, and second, I was actually caught up with household maintenance chores...at least all the ones that couldn't wait for another weekend.
The house that Brian and I built was set on a twenty foot high bank on the Carter River. We'd purposefully sited the house at the far edge of our property because the other side of the river was the Carter River Wildlife Refuge and would never be developed. I loved sitting on the deck above the river, but that day the river itself called to me. So after eating a light lunch, I grabbed a folding chair, a couple of bottles of water, and a mystery novel and went down the stairs on the bank to sit and read by the edge of the river.
It was cooler down by the water. There was shade and just enough breeze to provide a pleasant temperature.
I started reading, but it wasn't long before I was asleep.
Splashing sounds woke me. I looked up and about twenty yards away saw a figure in waders fly fishing in the river. The splashing sound had been created by a big brown and white dog that was playing along at the edge of the river. The dog was a lot closer than the man.
The dog spied me and came over to my chair. I recognized Marlene and gave her head a scratching as her wet tail wagged droplets of water all over my legs.
"Marlene, get back here! Stop bothering the man!"
Marlene headed back toward her master. I stood and called out, "Hi, Pat. It's Trey Arnold. Marlene's not a problem."
Pat headed toward the river bank. "Oh, hi, Trey. I didn't know that was you. Sorry if Marlene got you wet. She hasn't learned that she's supposed to shake before she greets."
He emerged from the river and walked over near my chair.
"Is that your house up on the bank?"
"I've always wondered who owned it. It looks like a beautiful place and the view up and down the river has to be fantastic."
"Thanks. We...uh, I like it a lot. Want to come up and take a look?"
"I'd love to, but I'm all nasty with these waders and gear. Maybe some other time."
"That's fine. I've got another bottle of water here. Want some?"
"Don't mind if I do. The sun's hot today."
I handed him the unopened bottle, and he sat down on a fallen log across from me before taking a long drink.
"How are the fish biting today?"
He smiled, "Not well. I've had a few nibbles, but that's been it. Right now it looks like it might be peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner."
"He's spending the night with the Michaeux brothers. They all seem to have become friends quickly."
I smiled. "I told you that Grant and Micah were good kids. If he's with them, I'm sure he's having a good time...and meeting a lot of kids."
"That would be great for him. I think he really likes it here. At least he talks like he does."
"That's good. He seems to be fitting right in with the other kids in my class and on the team. Have you given more thought to coming to speak to my classes some day?"
"Like I told you before, I'm not a public speaker, but I think I could do that. What day and how many classes?"
"How about next Tuesday? As for classes, I'd want you to talk to Marty's tenth grade class, of course. Then there's the physical science class, the other biology class, and the AP biology class. That spans the entire day. Could you do that?"
"Sure. I might run out of the school in abject terror after the first class, but I'll give it a go. What do you want me to talk about?"
I told him my goals for wanting the students to know what was necessary to prepare for a particular career and the kinds of experiences that would help them in that process. Then our conversation switched to talking about the soccer team, local politics, and Pat's insecurities about whether or not he could be a good father to Marty. By late afternoon, I knew that Pat and his ex-wife got married in college when she was pregnant with Marty, that Pat had dropped out of college to join the Marines, that his wife had divorced him shortly after he'd entered the Marines, and that she had managed to severely limit Pat's contact with his son after the divorce. He told me that he'd talked with Teresa Cannon, the lawyer who'd worked with my Uncle Parker and with Donnie Michaeux on some legal issues, about changing the child support payments and the legal custody of Marty. Pat seemed to want to talk...and I let him.
Our conversation had been going on for some time and Marlene was napping at Pat's feet when he glanced down at his watch. "Darn, it's almost six o'clock. I guess Marlene and I should head back up the river and start thinking about dinner. I...I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me. I sort of dominated the conversation though."
"Don't worry about it. It sounded like you needed to talk to someone. You said that Marty was spending the night with Grant and Micah. If that means you're free for dinner, I'd love to have you stay. Be warned that I have no idea yet what I'll cook."
He chuckled. "Thanks. I'd like that, but I'm not dressed for dinner. I've only got on an old pair of shorts and this tee shirt under these waders. Besides that, I kind of smell like the river."
"Don't worry about that. I'd welcome the company. I'm a casual kind of person. If you're worried about offending me, you can take a shower in the house. I've got plenty of tee shirts and shorts. They might be a little snug on you, but they're clean. I'd be glad to drive you and Marlene back to your house after dinner."
"You sure you don't mind?"
"I wouldn't have asked otherwise."
We climbed the stairs up to the house. Marlene cavorted in front of us all the way up. Pat pulled off the waders he'd worn all afternoon and hung them over the deck railing before entering the house. Down at the riverbank he'd let the waders drop around his waist. I'd gotten used to the view of his chest muscles moving under the thin fabric of the old tee shirt and the occasional glimpse of some of his thick mat of chest hair through the holes in the old shirt. But I wasn't prepared for what came into view when he began pulling the waders off his legs. The `shorts' he wore under the waders were very short cut offs revealing almost the full length of both his muscular and hair covered legs. I couldn't help but stare. When he turned around to lay the discarded waders across one of the deck chairs, I found myself staring at a large hole in the left seat of his shorts. I quickly digested two new facts. He was going commando under the shorts, and he had about as much hair on his ass as he did on his legs. I managed to tear my eyes away from that muscular and very attractive ass just before he turned back around to face me. Down boy! Off limits!
While Pat was taking his shower, I pulled a couple of salmon fillets out of the freezer and started shucking some ears of corn.
Pat came into the kitchen as I was working on a salad.
"Man, that looks good. Where did you buy the corn? I haven't found any that looks that good."
"The corn plus the tomatoes, lettuce, and cucumbers in the salad are all from TJ and Donnie's garden. I picked them this morning."
"Can I help with anything?"
"You can set the table out on the deck. Dishes and napkins are over in the cupboard, and the silverware is next to the dishwasher. Would you like something to drink? I've got beer, wine, scotch, gin, and vodka."
"Just water or a soft drink for me."
"There's some Diet Coke in the fridge. Help yourself. I take it you don't drink?"
"Right. There's a family history of alcoholism. I decided in high school that the genetic dice were loaded against me, so the best thing for me to do was to stay away from the stuff. You go ahead and have whatever you want; it doesn't bother me."
"I'll probably have a beer with dinner, but I'm good right now."
"Your house is fantastic. The view from the deck is spectacular."
"Thanks. My partner and I built it as a vacation and retirement home. We only got to use it twice before he died."
"I'm sorry. Was he the guy with you in the picture on the dresser in your bedroom?"
"He looks so young."
"He was thirty-two when he died. Liver cancer."
"That must have been rough."
"It was. I'm trying to move on. Every day is a little better. You don't seem surprised that I'm gay."
"I wouldn't have thought so, but the picture in the bedroom sort of said it all. I've never worried about a person's sexuality. We are what we are. We can't change it."
I grilled the salmon out on the deck. The salad was pretty darned good, and TJ and Donnie's corn was excellent. We stayed out on the deck and talked until well after dark, then Pat helped me clean up the dishes before I drove him home.
He'd seen my old Volvo wagon, but his eyes opened a little wider when he spotted the silver BMW X5 in the second bay of the garage.
I chuckled. "Yeah, that was Brian's toy. I use it for road trips and in the snow, but around town I prefer my old Volvo. It was my Uncle Parker's before it was mine, and it belonged to my grandfather before that."
I opened the back door of the Volvo, and Marlene climbed right in like she rode in the car every day. Pat kind of rolled his eyes at her and climbed into the passenger seat.
When we pulled into the driveway at Pat's place, he asked if I wanted a cup of coffee. I accepted. We drank the coffee sitting in two canvas chairs under the big oak tree next to the house. It was a perfect night. Pleasant temperature...katydids chirping in the trees...and Marlene chasing moths around the yard while Pat and I talked.
The single cup of coffee stretched out to three. We just kept finding things to talk about. It was a little after eleven when I pulled back into my own garage. I was going to be awake for a while because of the coffee, but I had really enjoyed Pat's company, and I hoped we would become friends. He was easy to talk to. He was easy to look at, too. There was a sense of innocence about him that was refreshing and quite unexpected.
Late summer and early autumn are always busy times for a game warden. Checking hunting and fishing licenses and making certain no one was hunting or fishing on the game preserve property seemed to take most of my days.
I'd had a problem in the spring and summer with at least one ginseng poacher on the preserve. Wild ginseng caught a good price in the natural botanicals world. During the growing season, my poacher or poachers had pretty much destroyed three natural stands of the plant in the preserve. I'd tried to be watchful, but it always seemed like the poacher was one step ahead of me. At least the fall weather meant that the ginseng was becoming dormant.
My Martin had quickly become Marty. He'd been called Martin back in Chicago, but all of his friends in Carterville called him Marty. The first time I called him that he gave me a big grin and answered, "Yes, Dad." That was one of the first times he called me dad. It made me so happy I almost cried.
He and I fell quickly into a busy yet comfortable domestic routine. The soccer team met at 6:30 in the morning for a conditioning run followed by breakfast in the school cafeteria. Most mornings, Marlene and I would drop Marty off at the school, and then she and I would go grab some breakfast at the Mountain Café. On the mornings when I needed to be out in the field, Trey Arnold would swing by with Grant and Micah Michaeux to pick him up. After soccer practice in the evenings, Trey and the Michaeux brothers would run Marty back out to the house or he would eat dinner with Grant and Micah before either Donnie Michaeux or TJ Ladd, Donnie's partner, would bring him home.
I tried to get to the practices and matches whenever I could. That was maybe once or twice a week. Marlene enjoyed watching the team practice, but she got so excited one time she decided to join the fun. She slipped out of her leash and was out on the field chasing the ball before I knew what was happening. After that poor Marlene was sentenced to sitting in the truck whenever we went to a practice.
I was very impressed with the way the soccer coaches handled the team. Unlike other coaches I'd seen, they never talked to a kid in anger. All the talk I heard standing among the other fathers and grandfathers and a few mothers standing on the sidelines was about how wonderful the coaches, especially Parker Arnold the head coach, were with the team.
I also picked up several other bits of information in conversations with the other soccer parents. I'd check out each new bit of information at dinner time with Marty. He confirmed most of what I heard. Parker Arnold was Trey's uncle and had raised Trey after his parents died. I'd thought at first that they were brothers. They looked very much alike in both appearance and age. It was general knowledge that both men were gay. And that didn't seem to make a whit of difference to any of the parents. In fact, most of the people talked as if Coach Arnold hung the moon. Parker's partner, Karl Henson, owned the local hardware store and was another of the town's favorite sons. If I'd heard the talk correctly, he'd been a cadet at West Point at one time. The two men had been foster parents to a whole string of young men.
I'd gotten to know Trey fairly well by early October. Following the Saturday afternoon and evening at his place by the river, we got together several more times for dinner when Marty was staying over with Grant and Micah. I liked spending time with him, and I found myself looking forward to our next time together. I'm a passable cook with a very limited range of capabilities. Trey, on the other hand, was a great cook. Everything he made was delicious. I'd eaten Italian, Indian, Chinese, Tex-Mex, and classic American cuisine so far. He was also a `neat' cook. I tend to pile all the preparation pans and utensils in the sink as I cook. Trey cleaned up after every major step in preparation. My method resulted in a big clean-up at the end of the meal. Trey's meant that he normally only had the serving dishes, plates, and silverware to wash up afterward. I don't think I could be that organized.
I'd never had very many really close male friends. In high school I was always afraid that if I got too close to someone they would figure things out about my parents. After I met Whitney in college, I spent most of my time boffing her...at least until she got pregnant with Marty and I joined the Marines. After I got out of the service, I was so busy trying to put myself through school and pay child support that I never had time to get too close to anyone.
Trey was certainly intelligent. He and his partner had lived in several different places, and he had interesting stories about each place. He genuinely liked his students and the kids on the soccer team. Sometimes in our conversations when he was talking about something that he and his partner did, his eyes would become incredibly sad, even if he was relating a humorous story. He must have loved Brian very much.
My day at school talking to Trey's classes about what a wildlife officer does turned out okay. I had been really nervous about doing it. I don't think I did so well in the first class of the day which had both Marty and Grant in it, but after that I relaxed and enjoyed the day. I think most of the students enjoyed it, also...at least Trey told me they did.
Everything seemed to be going well.
Until my mother decided to pay us a visit.
(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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