This story is a continuation of the story of Kevin Foley, Rick Mashburn, and their "sons," Tim Murphy and Kyle Goodson, that started in "Tim." It is about gay men and gay boys, and it contains descriptions of sex. The sex is never intergenerational. If you are offended by descriptions of gay sex, or if the law in your area forbids you to read them, please exit the story. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy it. I appreciate feedback, and you can send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At 4:20, the back door burst open and a barrel of monkeys poured in. Tim and Kyle had spent at least some time at our house every day since Tim's dad, George Murphy, had come home from his hospital ship duty in the Indian Ocean. They usually waited until around seven, when we got home from our workout at the gym, but that day was special because of Justin.
They told me and Justin "hi," and they immediately got themselves a snack.
"You want a snack, Justin," Tim asked when he came back into the den with two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a glass of milk.
"What are you eating," Justin asked.
"P B and J," Tim answered.
"Like peanut butter," Justin asked. Tim and Kyle used those initials all the time, and I had assumed that was kid talk for peanut butter and jelly. It had been for me and my brother when we were kids.
"Yeah, you want some?"
"Yeah. I wouldn't mind having one or two," Justin said. He started to stand up, but Tim stood up before he was fully off the sofa.
"I'll make 'em for you," Tim said.
Justin got a rather surprised look on his face, but he sat back down. Tim and Kyle came back in together, Tim with two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a glass of milk for Justin, Kyle with two hotdogs, chips, and a coke for himself. They started munching away.
"I guess I don't get anything," I said forlornly.
"Shit, I'm sorry, Kevin," Tim said. "That was rude of us."
"I'm fine, Tim," I said, "but it was a little rude, you know? I'm really glad you offered Jus a snack, but you should have included everyone in the room."
"I feel like shit about that, Kevin," Kyle said. "I know better than that."
"I know you do, Kyle, and so does Tim. We forget sometimes, though, you know? You didn't hurt my feelings, but, remember, you could have," I said.
"I know, Kevin. Thanks," Kyle said.
"Jesus Christ! What is this, fucking Leave It to Beaver," Justin asked. Like us and our boys, he obviously knew the old TV shows from Nickelodeon.
"Justin," I said in a serious voice. "That's another thing we don't allow in this house."
"Beaver," I said.
It took all three boys a second to get my pun, but, when they did, they all laughed, Justin the loudest.
"Did you guys have a good day at work," I asked Kyle and Tim.
"Yeah. We met this really cool naked guy, and he had a hard-on," Tim said. "It was pretty awesome."
Justin brightened up at that line, his mind's eye no doubt seeing the dollar potential in what they had said.
"Yeah? Who was he," Justin asked.
My boys looked at each other and then at me, and all three of us laughed.
"It was you, man," Tim said.
Justin blushed. It was cute. He was cute when he did that, and my heart did a kind of flip for him.
"We're sleeping here tonight, okay," Kyle asked.
"Of course it is, but you don't have to ask, Kyle," I said.
"We know," he said. "Our parents already know."
"Cool. So what are we going to do tonight," I asked.
"When is Rick coming home," Kyle asked.
"He usually works out on Wednesday. We both usually work out on Wednesday," I said.
Just then we heard Rick's car screech into our driveway. He could do some amazing things with his car that I couldn't do and really didn't want to learn how to do. Laying two month's worth of rubber coming into our driveway was definitely not something I valued, but I knew he had done it to impress the kids. Rick had given Kyle lessons on how to make his tires squeal, but Kyle didn't have the balls to do it like Rick showed him. We all waited for The Man to come inside.
Rick came through the door from the garage and stopped in the kitchen for a few seconds. He picked up two bananas and an apple on his way in. He kissed me hello when he came in, and Justin was all eyes when he saw that happen. Rick sat next to me on the sofa, and his musk filled my nose. I started to get hard, but I knew there was no way anything would come of that right then. He took his shirt off and dropped it onto the floor. Again, Justin was all eyes.
"Did you have a good day, Babe," I asked.
"I met this really cute kid today," he said. "He was wearing some really unusual jewelry, and I had to work my ass off to get him out of it. Oh, that was you, Justin."
Tim and Kyle laughed delightedly at him. In their eyes, Rick was the perfect guy: gorgeous, built like a brick shithouse, and a hell of an endurance athlete. Plus, he was funny and smart and compassionate. What was not to love? I realized I was probably overlooking a flaw or two in my assessment of him, but, hell, he was mine, and I had a right to think what I wanted to.
Justin blushed again, and I wondered if we were actually getting to him at some level.
"What are we going to do tonight," Rick asked
"Who wants to swim," Kyle asked.
"Oh, yeah," Rick said. "Let's swim."
Swimming meant we would go down to Kyle's house and use his pool. Rick and I had keys to the Goodsons' house and to the Murphys' house--Kyle's and Tim's, respectively--and the boys both had keys to our house. That meant the three families were free to come and go as they needed to in each other's homes. During the summer, the Goodsons were rarely home before nine or ten at night, and, since his discharge from the Navy, George Murphy wasn't home very often, either. He had an oral surgery practice to get off the ground, and he definitely worked at it. Tim and Kyle basically migrated among the three houses, and I doubt that they spent a night apart that whole summer. Rick and I both thought of ourselves as those boys' auxiliary parents, and that little encounter I had had with the two of them over not offering me a snack was typical of the kind of parenting we did.
Tim and Kyle were such good kids that we rarely had to get down on them, but they were still kids. They pushed the envelope from time to time, just as Rick and I had done at their ages. A couple of times when Tim was living with us full time, we heard them come home when we thought they had been drinking. One night in particular they had taken Kyle's car down to the beach a few blocks from our house to meet up with some of their friends, and they had walked home. That, in itself, was a give away, but at least they had walked home and Kyle hadn't driven home. We heard one of them puking in the hall bathroom.
"Shit. One of them's drunk," I said, as I was starting to get out of bed.
Rick grabbed my arm. "Whoa, Babe," he said. "They're probably both drunk. Let 'em be kids, okay?"
Just then we heard a second round of puking, and the sound was distinctly different from the first time. We knew it was the second one, but we didn't know which one it was.
"But they can't do that," I said.
"Why the fuck not, Babe? I did it at their age. Didn't you?"
"Yeah, but..." I started to say.
"Yeah, but nothing," he said, interrupting me. "Let 'em be kids. They acted responsibly. They walked home. Kyle didn't try to drive home. They're probably feeling pretty miserable right now, just like you and I did. It's the ritual, Babe. We did it. Our dads did it. They're doing it. The next generation will do it after them. Just chill, okay?"
"How the fuck did you get to be so smart," I asked him. I knew he was right and that we had to give them freedom to experiment and be a little bad now and then.
"By marrying you, that's how. Now shut up and go to sleep."
We snuggled up against one another and sleep came quickly.
The next morning Rick asked the boys if they felt okay. They both blushed a deeper red than I had ever seen before. Rick insisted they each drink a glass of water with two seltzer tablets in them, and they puked again. They both looked and, I was sure felt, like shit. I offered Kyle a cigarette and blew smoke right at him, and he almost puked again right there. Rick was silently laughing his ass off while that was going on.
I won't say those boys never drank again while they were with us, but what happened that night never happened again.
We piled into Rick's Trooper, us in the front seat and the three boys behind us. Kyle lived in the next block, and the walk would have taken us no more than five minutes. We took the car anyway. I grabbed a bunch of towels before we left our house. Rita Goodson, Kyle's mom, had a maid a couple of times a week, but I always felt like we should take our own towels.
The spermlets and Rick jumped out of the car as soon as Rick parked it. Justin hung back with me, as we walked to the pool in the back yard.
"I don't have a suit," Justin said.
"Yes, you do," I said. I was sort of touched by the fact that our big gay hustler thought he needed a suit to swim with us.
"No, I don't," he said.
"Your birthday suit, man. That's how we're going to swim. You got a problem with being naked in front of other guys," I asked.
"Shit," he said, grinning at me.
All five of us dove into the pool with reckless abandon. We dunked each other, lifted each other by the feet to throw back into the water, dove off the diving board, and had a rollicking good time. Kyle was the first to get on the diving board and bounce up and down so that his penis flapped up and hit his stomach. Tim did it next, and Rick, not to be outdone by his little brothers, did it, too. I noticed that Justin was all eyes when they were up there.
After a long while, I needed a break. I asked Rick to join me poolside, just when the boys were starting a game of "dick tag."
"He's an interesting kid, isn't he," Rick asked.
"You don't know the half of it," I said. Then I proceeded to tell Rick all the stuff that had happened that afternoon after I took Justin home.
"What's going to happen to him," Rick asked.
"I don't know. What do you want to happen," I asked him.
He thought for a few moments. He looked at me, and then he said, "I want him to be our kid, Babe. He's going to have to be in foster care somewhere. Why not with us?"
I laughed and grinned and just about lost it in the tear department, all at the same time. "God, I love you," I said.
"I was thinking exactly the same words you just said."
"Jesus, that's fucking scary, but I kind of like that, you know?"
"Oh, Babe. I know. I truly know, man." I kissed him after I said that, and, of course, the boys saw us. Justin screamed out "whoo hoo!" Kyle, our self-appointed protector, jumped on Justin and dunked him deep when he did that.
The next morning all three boys showed up at the breakfast table.
"Justin's going to work with us today," Kyle said. "He's going to be liaison boy between the beach and the pool. It's a new concept I've been working on for some time."
"Bullshit," Rick said. "You've been working on that since last night. Didn't we have a conversation about you and Herman yesterday, Kyle?"
"Yeah, we did Rick, and I said you were right. But I talked to my dad about this last night on the phone when we came home. He's cool with it, Rick."
"Is your dad going to talk to Herman," Rick asked.
"Find out, please, before Justin goes with y'all," I said.
"Call him now, Kyle," Rick said.
"Yes, sir," Kyle said. He tended to use "sir" and "ma'am" a whole lot more often than Tim did, and I attributed it to the fact that he was from the South, where well-raised kids address all older people with one or other of those titles.
Kyle went over to the phone and called his dad. He asked Gene Goodson if he had talked to Herman about Justin.
"What'd he say, Daddy," Kyle asked.
"Oh, good. I think you'll like him when you get to meet him. He swam with us at the house last night."
"Yes, sir, he is."
"No, sir, he's not from here. We'll find him one, though."
Kyle laughed. Then, "Bye, Dad. I love you, too. Kiss Mom for me." Then he hung up.
"It's all done," Kyle said when he came back to the table. "I feel better knowing that. I thought about what I did yesterday, and I'm going to talk to Herman and apologize. I really did act like a prick to him."
Nobody said anything, but I knew Rick was beaming with pride at his boy inwardly.
"What did he ask you about me," Justin asked.
"He asked if you were gay," Kyle said. "I told him you are."
"Why'd you do that, man," Justin asked. He pronounced "man" with two syllables.
"He's cool with it, Jus," Kyle said.
"Just 'cause he's cool with these two don't mean he wants his kid hanging around with a fag," Justin said. "It's called guilt by association, you know, Kyle?" Justin looked down at his plate.
Kyle froze in his place. Then he slowly looked at Rick, Tim, and me to see our reactions. Tim mouthed "tell him."
"Jus, you haven't figured it out," Kyle asked.
"Figured what out, dude?" Justin had lit a cigarette a few moments before, and he thumped ashes from it into his plate. I wanted to scream at him at that moment. Instead, I reached for an ashtray that was on the counter and put it down in front of him. He didn't respond in any way.
"Tim and I are gay. We're boyfriends."
It was Justin's turn to freeze. In a few seconds he said, "Jesus Christ. I ain't fucking believing this shit."
"I don't get why you're upset because these guys are gay, Jus," Rick said gently.
"I ain't upset that they're gay. I'm just confused, is all," he said.
"Why are you confused," Rick asked.
"Yesterday I offered these guys blowjobs, and they said 'no.' I tried to come on to Kevin yesterday three or four times, before and after I knew he was gay, and he told me to not do that no more. I just don't know what to think."
"Do you think blowjobs and butt fucking is all there is to being gay," Rick asked.
"Well, ain't it," he asked.
"Jus, everybody at this table likes blowjobs and butt fucking, man. But it's a way of communicating something to the person we care about. The person we love." Tim and Kyle were taking in Rick's every word, and so was I. I had no idea what effect it was having on Justin.
"I don't know nothing about caring about somebody who fucks me or whose cock I suck," Justin said.
"I know you don't, buddy, but fucking ass and sucking cock ain't all that being gay's about," Rick said. "That ain't even ten percent of it."
Justin didn't respond.
"We all need to get to work now, guys," Rick said, "but we're going to talk about this some more, okay, Jus? As a family. Okay, Jus?"
Justin didn't reply.
"Okay, Jus," Rick said again.
"Whatever," Justin said.
I wanted to wring his fucking neck for disrespecting my guy with that comment, for disrespecting all of us. I started to say something in anger, but Rick grabbed my hand. He raised his eyebrows at me, and that meant "lighten up," so I held my tongue.
"Justin, I know you don't have any money," Rick said. He took out his wallet and laid a twenty on the table. "You're going to need some smokes and some lunch and about a gallon of sun screen on that snow white ass of yours. See y'all later, guys." He kissed me goodbye, told me and the kids he loved us, and then he was gone.
"Shit, we're already late for Justin's first day," Tim said. "Let's go."
They were out the door in a flash, leaving me with a pile of dirty dishes. I poured myself another cup of coffee from the thermos pot on the table and lit up a smoke. I thought about many things. I thought about what Rick and I had agreed upon the night before at the pool, and about us taking Justin in as a foster child. I thought about the conversation I had had a few months before with my friend Monte on his boat about the landmines that littered the path of fostering an older kid, especially one with Justin's history. I thought about Tim and Kyle, and how easy they were to love, how wonderful they were as human beings. I had never felt toward them the rage and animosity I had felt toward Justin that morning when he had said "whatever" in that dismissive and contemptuous tone of voice when Rick had tried to reason with him and extend his love to him.
"Jesus," I prayed out loud, "I put it all in your hands. Let me have the kind of patience with Justin that Rick has. Make Justin understand that it's okay to be gay but that being gay isn't really about the life he's been living for so many years. Please bring him around so he can be happy. I know this isn't a very good prayer, but I mean it from my heart, Jesus. Amen."
I got to work an hour late that morning, but nobody even noticed. They all knew I often worked till eleven o'clock, or even midnight, and my boss knew I wasn't a slacker. Jeff, the assistant I shared with the rest of the sales team, wasn't there yet because of his wife's doctor's appointment. The first thing I did after I got some coffee was call my brother.
"What the fuck do you want," he said instead of the usual "hello."
"I was calling my best friend, a guy named Craig Foley. You see him around there anywhere?"
"What's the matter, Kev? You sound like you're in trouble, bro. What's going on? Is Rick okay? Are the kids okay?" He was talking a mile a minute.
"Everybody's fine, bubba. I need some advice, that's all," I said.
"Kevin, I'm sorry I started the conversation the way I did. I figured you just called to rag me about something, that's all."
"I know, Craig. I don't take any offense at your shit. You know that."
"I know, but your voice..."
"Rick and I are distressed, and the boys are a little distressed, too, and we don't know what to do. I need legal advice."
"What the fuck's going on," he asked.
I told him about Justin in pretty good detail.
"Whoa," he said when I was finished. "This kid ain't no Tim or Kyle, is he?"
"This kid ain't worth one of their pubic hairs in the bottom of a urinal," I said.
There was a pause, and then he laughed hard.
"Little brother, if they gave Nobel prizes for metaphors, that one would be a winner, hands down." Pause. "So I gather you don't think all that much of this kid. What's his name?"
It was my turn to laugh. "His name is Justin."
"Does Justin have those big, outrageous tattoos all over him," he asked. He was playing with me, and I suddenly realized it.
"No tattoos, but he has a gold loop through each nipple," I said.
"Oh, my God. I'm getting an erection."
"Shut up and tell me what the fuck to do, asshole," I said.
"Ssssuck them, brother. Ssssuck those nipples," he said.
"Okay. That's it. I'm hanging up now. I'm calling Cherie. I need serious legal advice about what to do with this critically abused, sixteen-year-old gay orphan who happens to be living in my house, so I'm calling your wife. Goodbye."
"HEY," he screamed into the phone. "Don't hang up! Don't call her! I can help you."
"I know you can, Craig. That's why I called you. But will you?"
"I was just playing with you, Kevin. You know that. Please don't be mad at me, man."
"I know you were playing with me, Craig, and 99.9% of the time I love doing that shit with you. But this is serious, bro."
There was a pause for a pretty long time. I could hear him breathing hard, and I knew he was trying to keep from crying. Finally he spoke.
"I know it's serious, Kevin, and I'm sorry I was so immature just now."
He paused, but I didn't say anything.
"Here's what the deal is. You don't want to get the police involved. It's not really a law enforcement issue, at least not from the boy's point of view. But you do need to get the child welfare people involved. I don't know what the agency is called in Florida. Here in Louisiana it's called Children's Protective Services. It might be the same thing there, but, if it isn't exactly that, it's going to be something that means the same thing. Look it up in the white pages of the phone book, under "Florida, State of." Call them and ask to speak to a supervisor. Don't deal with an ordinary worker. Those people are way overworked and underpaid. Talk to a boss. Tell her, or him, what you told me. And call me back after you talk to them, okay?"
"Okay, I'll do it. Thanks."
"Are you mad at me? Please don't be mad at me," he said.
"Yeah, I was mad at you. You really pissed me off," I said.
"Are you still mad at me," he asked in a pitiful voice. "I don't want you mad at me."
He was very close to tears, if he wasn't actually crying at that moment.
"How could I stay mad at my brother and best friend," I asked.
"You're my best friend, too, Kevin, and I love you," he said.
"I know you do, and I love you, too. Let's just forget this conversation ever happened, except for the good stuff you told me just now, okay?"
"Okay, but I can't ever forget that that kid ain't worth one of Tim's or Kyle's pubic hairs at the bottom of a urinal, man. That was fucking poetry."
"Go to work," I said, laughing. "Bye. I love you."
"I love you, too."
We hung up.
I didn't waste any time in pulling out my phone book. I looked up "Florida, State of," and I was amazed at the number of listings. I found a listing for "Children & Families, Department of," but that had a whole array of divisions, too. There was a number for a Child Abuse Hotline, but I decided that wasn't really what I wanted. Then I saw a listing for something like "Foster care and adoptions, legal." I called that number.
I didn't get a person, of course. I got an electronic system that gave me many choices, none of which meant anything to me. I listened to the menu once and couldn't decide whom I needed to talk to, so I went through it a second time. I finally decided to press 4 for Foster Care Services.
"What," a man's voice said.
"Is this Foster Care Services," I asked.
"Yeah, sorry. My secretary must be away from her desk. This is Foster Care. Are you a foster parent?"
"No, I'm not. Not officially, anyway. Can you help me with a problem with a kid?"
"Well, you probably need the school district. Their number is..." and he rattled off a number.
"No, the kid's not in school," I said.
"Well, here's the number for Truancy Control," he said, and he said another number.
"It's the middle of the summer, man. No kids are in school right now," I said.
"Oh, yeah. Right. Why don't you just tell me what the problem is, and maybe I can refer you to the right agency," he said.
I told him Justin's story, including the part about Rick having to cut the handcuffs off his ankles.
"Where are you right now," he asked.
"I'm at work, in the sales department of the hotel at the Surfside Resort."
"Wow, a high roller," he said.
"I'm not a high roller. I just work here, man," I said. "What happens next?"
"I'm going to go out there to see you. Is that okay?"
"Yeah, please come out. I'll be here," I said.
"Okay, I'll be there in thirty minutes," he said.
"Okay. I'll be looking for you."
After we said goodbye, I called Rick.
"Can you come to my office right now? I need you here."
"Is this about Justin," he asked.
"I'll be there in ten."
He got there in a few minutes. He closed the door to my office when he walked in, and he kissed me.
"Why are you so stressed," he asked.
I told him about my reaction to what Justin had said to him, about my phone call to Craig, and about my adventures with the welfare system's phone thing.
He took them one at a time.
"I knew Justin pissed you off by what he said, Babe, but you can't let that bother you, you know? He's fucked up really bad, you know, and you and I and the boys have to help put him get back together again. Do you know what I mean?"
"Do you think we can do that," I asked.
"I don't know, but we can try. But I know we absolutely can't let him get under our skin the way he got under yours this morning. Are you with me on that?"
"If you keep me balanced, I will be. I need you for this, Rick."
"I know you do. I'm here for you, Kev. You know that, man. I'm here for you first and always. You know I love our boys, but they ain't shit compared to you, okay?"
I knew he meant what he said before he said it, but it sure was good to hear him say it.
"So what about Craig," he asked.
I recapped our conversation for him.
"Kevin, he was joking you, man. You know that. Craig loves you almost as much as I do, and you know he does. I agree he went too far, but you know he loves you, don't you?"
"Yeah, I know that, but he didn't take me seriously at first, you know? That really hurt."
"But it sounds like he did take you seriously, eventually, right?"
"Yeah, but it was only after I said I was going to call Cherie that he got serious," I said.
"Kevin, Craig has never impressed me as the model of maturity. Do you know what I mean?"
"Yeah, I do, and he even said on the phone he had been immature."
"Well, what about the welfare people?"
"The guy's going to be here in just a few minutes. That's why I wanted you here."
"Well, here I am," he said.
I didn't say anything for a few seconds. Then I said, "God, I love you."
"I know you love me, and I love you. We both know that. We don't have to say it all the time, but I love you, too."
"What did I do to deserve you," I asked.
"Well, it's your right eye. The one that sort of stares off into space at that funny angle, seeing nothing. I can't resist that."
"You asshole," I said. I hit him affectionately on his arm, and he laughed.
"Where did that come from," I asked.
"Where does anything I say come from?"
"Yeah, but you can't see it with that funky eye."
I laughed. God, I loved that boy.
The child welfare guy arrived just then, and Rick and I were laughing our asses off when Jeff brought him in to my office.
"How'd it go," I asked Jeff in a quiet aside.
"It was unbelievable, Kevin," he said. He grinned a broad, toothy grin, and I was happy for him. He had heard his baby's heartbeat, and I knew that had to be a wonderful sound to him.
"Let's talk about it when I finish with this, okay?"
"Okay," he said. "I can't wait to tell you about it. Do y'all need coffee?"
"Wait up a minute. Let me see." I turned to the child welfare man. "I'm Kevin Foley, and this is Rick Mashburn," I said.
"Williams. Tyrone Williams," he said, shaking my hand first and then Rick's.
"Please have a seat, Mr. Williams. Can I offer you some coffee, or maybe some water or juice," I asked.
"Coffee sounds good," Williams said.
"I'll have some coffee, too, Jeff. Do you want anything," I asked Rick.
"Some water, please, Jeff," Rick said.
"Mr. Williams, I told you pretty much all I know about Justin on the phone a little while ago," I said by way of an opener.
"Please call me Tyrone, and may I call you Rick and you Kevin," he asked, looking first at me and then at Rick.
"No. Call me Kevin and him Rick," I said.
Tyrone chuckled. "Sorry about that, fellas. I think it must be the heat." We chuckled politely. "First of all, you did the right thing by calling me, Kevin. I know it probably took you a half hour to get to me through that damn telephone system we have, but you made some lucky guesses and got to the right place."
You got that right about the lucky guesses, I thought.
"Do you know if the boy has any relatives who might be interested in him," he asked.
"He thinks he might have some grandparents, but he's never met them," I said.
Jeff brought the refreshments in at that moment, and we took a few seconds to get those sorted out.
"So, effectively, he really doesn't have anybody, is that your read, Kevin?"
"That's our read," I said.
"'Our' read," Tyrone asked. He sounded puzzled. "You and your wife?"
"Rick's and mine," I said. "We're a gay couple, Tyrone."
"Oh, I see. I was wondering why you were here, Rick, but now it makes perfect sense."
"Does that present a problem," I asked.
"Not to me," Tyrone said.
"To us being his foster parents," Rick asked.
Tyrone's face sort of lit up at those words.
"Would y'all be willing to do that," he asked, rays of hope shining from his face.
"Yeah. I thought that's what this was all about," Rick said.
"I hadn't said that yet, Babe," I said.
"No, he hadn't, but, my God, that changes everything. I had no idea what I was going to do with that kid," Tyrone said. "Do either of y'all have any experience working with kids?"
We told him about Tim and our involvement with him over the last six months or so.
"Jesus be surely smiling on me today," Tyrone said. That was the first African Americanism I had detected in his speech, and it truly did seem to fit perfectly. "I'd like to talk to Justin."
"He's at work with Tim and Kyle right now," I said.
"Now, who's Kyle," Tyrone asked.
I explain who Kyle was.
"You fellas are pretty remarkable," Tyrone said.
"Well, I don't know about that. Let's go talk to Justin," I said.