This story is a continuation of the story of Kevin Foley, Rick Mashburn, and their "sons," Tim Murphy, Kyle Goodson, and Justin Davis that started in "Tim" and continued in "Justin." It is about gay men and gay boys living and loving together as a family, 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.
Kyle, Part 1
I woke up when Rick got up for his run, but I stayed in bed and slept a little longer. When I checked the clock, and it was ten after seven. I knew I hadn't been dozing very long, so I figured Rick must have left the house around 6:30.
I hope he remembers we have to go pick up Jerry, I thought.
I decided to get up, in case Pat was an early riser. I put my briefs on and padded out to the den. It was a little chilly, and then I noticed we had left two windows open a little the night before. I closed them. I decided to put the heat on for a few minutes to take the chill off. I looked down at my chest, and it was covered with goose bumps. My nipples were hard and small against the cool air.
After I got myself a cup of coffee, I sat down and turned on the TV set to see what kind of news might be on. The first story was about the sex scandal in Boston. The Pope had ordered the cardinals in the United States to Rome to meet with him to discuss the matter. I thought about the two boys we had who had both been abused sexually, and that made me angry.
Brian was the first to join me. He, too, was in just his briefs.
"Good morning," I said. "Did you sleep good?"
"Yeah. I slept real good. It's cold in here," he said.
"I just turned the heat on for a few minutes. It should get better. Come here and sit next to me. I'll warm you up," I said.
He gave me his beautiful smile and joined me on the sofa. I put my arm around him, and he leaned into me to snuggle up.
"So, you like Dave, huh?"
"I like him a lot," he said. "He's really nice, and he's funny, too. We laughed a lot."
"Are you doing anything with him today," I asked.
"Is it okay if he comes over," he asked.
"Sure, it's okay. Jus and Jay both have to work, but Tim and Kyle will probably be around here. You all can hang out with them."
"Yeah." Pause. "Kevin, can I tell you something?"
"Of course you can. What?"
"Dave and I kissed last night."
"Did you like it," I asked.
"Yeah. I liked it a lot. He showed me what to do with my tongue. We both got hard."
"Well, you knew about that, didn't you?"
"I knew what Jus and Kyle said, but I didn't really believe them. Now I know it's true. Does that happen every time," he asked. His innocence was just like Tim's and Kyle's had been almost a year before.
"I think it does, Bri. At least, every time with that kind of kiss. If I kiss you like this..." I gave him a peck on the cheek. "...then nothing happens. But it happens when you kiss like you and Dave did. I guess that was the first time for you, huh?"
"Yeah. I feel grown up, sort of," he said. "My first date, my first kiss."
"Well, you are growing up, son," I said. "And you're doing a good job of it, too."
We settled into companionable silence for a little while.
"Thank you for taking me," Brian said, out of the blue.
"Taking you where, Bri," I asked.
"Kevin! For taking me in. For letting me live here."
"Duh!," I said in self-mockery. "Well, you're fitting in really good around here, Bri, and we love having you. The other boys already think of you as their brother. Did you know that?"
"I sort of had the feeling they did. I wish I could get to know Justin better, though."
"Well, Jus has kind of a different sort of life than the rest of you, you know? I mean, he doesn't go to high school, like you guys do, and he works a good bit, too. You'll get to know him, don't worry. It just might take a little longer, that's all," I said.
"Who's your favorite," he asked.
"Oh, Brian, I can't have a favorite. You're all my boys, man."
"Kyle's my favorite. I love Tim and Jus, and even Jason, but that Kyle is something else, that's for sure. He kind of reminds me of Rick a little bit," Brian said.
"Me, too. Justin calls him Little Rick, sometimes," I said.
He laughed. "I like that. Little Rick. Does Rick like him to be called that?"
"Rick loves it," I said.
Kyle stumbled into the room just then, as though on cue. He saw how Brian and I were sitting, and he tried to wedge himself between me and the arm of the sofa, on the opposite side of Brian. I nudged Brian and myself down to make room for him, and I wrapped my right arm around his shoulders. He leaned into me as Brian was doing.
"Good morning," I said, once we were settled.
"Mmh," he grunted in response.
"Why don't you go back to bed, if you're still sleepy, bud," I said to him.
"I'm okay," he mumbled.
"Is Tim awake," I asked.
"No. He's still asleep. Can I have some coffee?"
"Of course you can, Kyle. But you have to get it," I said.
"I know," he replied.
"Why did you ask if you can have some coffee? You know you can have anything in this house..."
"Except the booze," he said in unison with me.
He and I both laughed.
"Do you want some coffee or juice or something, Brian," he asked.
"Some juice would be good," Brian said.
In a few seconds, Kyle came back with a cup of coffee for himself and a glass of juice for Brian. They both sat up straight to have their drinks.
"I'll get you some more coffee, if you want, Kev," Kyle said.
"Please, Bubba," I said. He got it for me.
Pat came into the den, after stopping in the bathroom. He was fully dressed.
"Good morning," I said. "Did you sleep well?"
"Morning. I slept great, thanks. How about you?"
"Me, too. Would you like some coffee," I asked.
"Yes, please, but I can get it for myself," he said.
He came back with coffee and sat in the leather club chair that was at an angle to the sofa. We made small talk for a few minutes, and then I noticed the time. It was 7:45, and I knew we wouldn't have time to cook breakfast that morning.
"Kyle, you and Brian go get us some breakfast, okay," I said.
"Sure. Sausage biscuits?"
"You can get some of those, but get a mixture. Get some ham biscuits and steak biscuits, too. Rick's not going to want to eat sausage," I said.
"How many people are here," he asked.
"Let me think." I mentally counted everyone. "Six. Get eighteen biscuits, okay?"
"Okay." He and Brian went to their rooms and came out thirty seconds later dressed in tee shirts, shorts, and running shoes.
"Here's some money," I said, picking up my wallet from the coffee table.
"I have money," Kyle said. I knew there was no point in arguing with him about it. He always had money, and he wasn't afraid to spend it on us whenever we would let him.
"Those kids are really good looking," Pat said after they had left, "especially Kyle. How old is he?"
"He's going to be seventeen in two weeks," I said. "He's the alpha male among the kids."
"And Tim's his boyfriend, right," he asked.
"Yeah, and those two are so in love with one another, I'm surprised everybody at school isn't on to them," I said.
The back door opened, and I heard Rick pouring himself a cup of coffee. He came into the den and kissed me good morning.
"Morning, Pat," Rick said. "Was everything okay last night?"
"Morning," Pat said. "Everything was great. I really need to be with people like you guys."
"What do you mean," Rick asked.
"I was just thinking how incredibly normal and happy everything is here--you guys, the boys, the house. Everything," he said.
"Well, you're always welcome here, buddy," Rick said. "Speaking of the boys, where are they?"
"Tim's not up yet, and I just sent Kyle and Brian to get breakfast," I said.
Tim walked in. He told everybody good morning and got himself a cup of coffee. He was still partially erect. I was sure Pat and Rick noticed, just as I did, but nobody said anything about it.
"Brian had fun on his date with Dave last night," Tim said.
"Last night was Brian's first date ever, Pat," I said. "He was a very proud boy this morning."
"Why? Did he get lucky," Rick asked.
"Get out of here, you dumbass," I said to Rick, laughing.
"Yeah, he got lucky," Tim said.
"He did," Rick and I said in disbelieving unison.
"He and Dave kissed. Is that what you meant?"
"No, but that's lucky enough for him right now," Rick said.
Pat was taking it all in, obviously enjoying Rick's foolishness and Tim's naiveté. Kyle and Brian came back with breakfast, and Tim got up to help set the table. In a minute we were at our places and breakfast was underway.
"How was your run, Babe," I asked.
"I only did twelve. I remembered we have to be at the hospital at nine, and I got a late start, as it was," Rick said.
"Who's sick," Tim asked.
"Rick's checking in for extension surgery. Finally," Kyle said.
"Very funny, mister. Did you know you're the donor?"
"Nuh-uh," Tim said in mock panic.
"Yep. Every centimeter helps, Tim," Rick said.
"So that'll be what? like, two centimeters for you, right," Kyle said.
Pat was laughing at what to us was ordinary word play.
"No. It'll be a meter and a centimeter after the transplant," Rick said.
"Yeah, in Kevin's dreams," Kyle said.
We all laughed hard at that line.
"Go ahead and say it, Brian," Kyle urged.
"Rick, he got you last," Bri said.
"Who made you referee, anyway," Rick asked Brian playfully.
"Kyle," Brian said.
"Oh. Figures," Rick said. He was finished eating by then, so he excused himself to take a shower. I needed one, too, but mine would have to wait until we got home from the hospital.
"Nobody ever said who's sick at the hospital," Tim said.
"Some guys beat Jerry up, Bubba," I said. "We're going to get him. Pat, Rick and I talked about it last night, and we want you guys to stay here for the rest of the weekend, at least. Okay? Tim and Kyle, y'all are going to have to sleep somewhere else tonight and tomorrow night, okay?"
"Aw, no fair. We can sleep with Brian," Tim said. I figured they wouldn't like that idea, but our beds were limited.
"We won't do anything," Kyle said. "Scout's honor, Bubba. Come on, Kev. We have to be here with y'all."
"Is that okay with you, Brian," I asked.
Brian looked at Kyle. Kyle had an expression on his face that made it clear to everyone that Brian didn't really have a choice.
"Sure. I'll even sleep between them," Bri said.
Hearing Brian say that suddenly made me feel uneasy about the rather puritanical stance I had taken.
"Okay," I said. "Kyle, help me clean this up."
Kyle followed me into the kitchen with the breakfast debris. He and I set everything down, and I put my hands on his shoulders. I looked him in the eye. He tensed up a little, and I knew he was anxious.
"Kyle, what's our first rule about sex in this house," I asked.
"Both guys have to absolutely want to do whatever is done."
"That's right. What's the second rule?"
"What happens behind a closed and locked door is totally private."
"That's right. You didn't have to give your honor not to do anything, if y'all sleep with Brian, and I release you from that. I'm doing that, Kyle, to let you know I have total and complete trust in you and Tim. Brian just came out of a very bad situation," I said.
"I know. He told us about it," Kyle said.
"He's still very vulnerable, and he really looks up to you and Tim, but especially you. Please don't hurt him," I said.
Kyle's eyes filled with tears, and I could tell they weren't happy tears.
"How can you not know me and Tim better than that after all this time, Kevin?"
I watched his face contort with pain. Kyle, like Rick, was a whole lot more sensitive than his surface demeanor suggested, and I had just pierced the surface.
"Oh, baby! I hurt your feelings, didn't I? I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to do that."
"I know you didn't mean to hurt my feelings, but you did. You say you trust me, but then we have this big talk, like you really don't trust me. I might be a kid, but I know right from wrong."
"Kyle," I said, "I'm so sorry, baby. You're right, and I was wrong. I really do trust you, Kyle, and I should never have doubted for a minute that you and Tim would do right by your brother."
We were hugging each other by then, and I felt his tears drip onto my shoulder. Why was I so fucking stupid, I thought. Why didn't I know there was nothing to worry about?
"You were scared a little while ago, weren't you," I asked.
"Yes," he said in a very weak voice.
"Are you scared now," I asked.
"A little," he said.
That rattled me.
"Do you know that I love you," I asked softly.
"I think so," he said.
"Oh, baby, please don't pull back from me. It would break my heart if you thought I didn't love you. You didn't do anything wrong. I wasn't thinking when I said that stuff, Kyle. Please, please don't pull back from me," I said. Tears were streaming down my face by then, too.
Nothing happened for several moments. We were locked in an embrace.
"Let's forget this ever happened, okay," he said.
"Can you do that," I asked. "Can you forget that I hurt your feelings?"
"I won't forget it, Kevin, and neither will you. But I do love you. More than I loved Clay."
"Kyle, you're our big boy. Do you know what I mean? You and Rick keep our whole circle together. Are you aware of that?"
"We couldn't survive as a family without you, Kyle. Our circle keeps getting wider and wider, and you and Rick keep taking more and more pressure to keep us together. I am so proud of the way you helped Justin. And I'm so proud of the way you're helping Brian. They need you, and Rick and I need you. We all need you," I said.
"I know it's that way, Kev, but I can't help it. I don't try to dominate, but they want me to. I know what the word 'responsibility' means, and I know I've got a responsibility for them. That's what hurt me so bad, man. That you, of all people, thought I didn't know what my responsibilities are. I will never let you down. I'm not even seventeen yet, Kevin, but I think I'm a man. I take care of my brothers and my friends. I live up to my responsibilities."
"Oh, Kyle," I said. "I know you do, Bubba. I know you do."
We stood there quietly for several moments. I thought about how wonderful that kid was. He was dead right. He was a man, an adult male, in every sense of the word.
"Let's pull ourselves together. We've got to go get Jerry," I said.
"Can I have a kiss," I asked.
"Yes," he said. "Let's kiss and make up."
We gave each other pecks on the cheek. He and I washed our faces in the sink and dried them with paper towels. I scurried through the empty den to our room, where I put on jeans, a long sleeve shirt, and my shoes. I met up with Rick and Pat in the garage at 8:40, and we drove to the hospital.
I couldn't get my mind off what had happened with Kyle that morning. I sat quietly during the drive, and I was sure Rick noticed. Finally he spoke.
"Is something wrong, Babe," he asked.
"I'm a little upset."
"Did I do something," he asked.
"No. Of course not. It's something I did." I told Rick and Pat what had happened. "What makes me do stuff like that, Rick?"
"You were concerned about Brian, Kev. Don't beat yourself up about it. One thing we know is that Kyle has a stainless steel spine. And he gets over stuff like that fast, remember?"
"He knows who he is, Rick. He knows it's you and him that hold together those charts Pat made last night. He said something that really struck me. He said he knows what the word 'responsibility' means. He said he's not even seventeen yet, but he thinks he's a man. He is a man."
"He's what the Jewish people in south Florida call a mensch," Rick said.
"What does that mean," I asked.
"It literally means 'man,' but the connotation is a strong man of honor and integrity. The Smoker is a mensch. At seventeen, Kyle's a mensch." Rick was clearly excited at that concept.
I laughed with delight at Rick. He was obviously as proud of Kyle at that moment as he had ever been.
"You haven't called him The Smoker in a long time," I said.
"I know. I think about that nickname sometimes, though. I'm surprised I haven't called him that," Rick said.
"Pat, before we met Kyle, we knew Tim had a friend who smoked. Rick had seen the two of them smoking in Tim's back yard, so we started referring to Kyle as The Smoker. That's what that's all about," I said.
"I can't believe how close you guys are to those kids. How much they mean to you guys. I take it you and Rick aren't into the bar scene, circuit parties, the whole Queer as Folk ethos," Pat said.
Rick and I both laughed.
When we got Jerry home from the hospital, all five kids were there waiting. They knew very little about what had happened, but they were very solicitous for Jerry's well being. Once we had everybody settled, adults on furniture, kids on the floor, Jerry recited the tale of what had happened.
"What do they look like," Kyle asked.
"They were pretty ordinary-looking guys," Jerry said. "Roger's brother has a goatee, but it couldn't have been more than a week or two old. He's a dirty blond, kind of like Rick. The other one has dark hair. I know I would recognize them if I saw them again."
"How do we recognize them," Kyle wanted to know.
"Kyle, the cops are on this, man," Rick said. "You stay out of it."
"Me and Kyle could fuck them boys up good," Justin said.
"You, too, Jus. You stay out of it, too," Rick said. "I mean it, now. Both of you. You don't need to be tracking anybody down and getting in fights and shit like that. You hear me?"
"Yes, sir, I hear you," Kyle said.
"That's not what I mean, Kyle. I know you physically heard me. Don't do anything," Rick said.
"Rick, think about this, okay? Over 150,000 people live here. There's probably more than one guy with dirty blond hair and a goatee here. And there are a lot of guys here with dark hair, too," Kyle said.
"Okay, I see your point," Rick said. "Come and help me make some lunch, Kyle."
Rick and Kyle went into the kitchen. The rest of us made small talk until lunch was ready. Brian told Jerry about himself, where he was from, what he liked to do. The usual stuff when two new people are becoming acquainted.
We always stocked up big on cold cuts from the deli, chicken salad and ham salad spreads, also from the deli, bread, chips, pickles, olives, and a hundred other snack foods for the weekends. We never knew how many boys would be in and out of our house throbbing with hunger, and Rick and I ate a good bit, too. That strategy paid off for that lunch, as Rick and Kyle set out a buffet that rivaled many I'd seen in restaurants. There was a crock pot of hot soup that I knew came from cans they had heated in the microwave, and a big bowl of salad that was straight out of a plastic bag, but there was enough other stuff to feed lots of people.
Jerry went straight to the table, and Pat got his food for him. I noticed that both of the Taylor brothers got healthy plates full of food. Kyle came to the table with his food, followed almost immediately by Rick. Jerry said grace, and it was touching.
"Heavenly Father, we thank you for the food you have given us and for the hands that prepared it. We thank you, too, for the brothers gathered here and for their love for one another. We are outcasts to many, but we are always your sons. Give us the grace of forgiveness toward those who do us wrong. We ask this through Christ our lord."
"Amen," we all said in unison.
"That was good, Jerry," Kyle said.
We didn't have to do any passing or preparing before we ate, so we all chowed down.
"Did those guys you had the ceremony for keep their same last names, Jerry," Kyle asked.
"What do you mean, Kyle?"
"Well, sometimes couples take a hyphenated last name, combining both of theirs. Or they put their names together to make a new name, like Murphson or Goodmurph, or something like that," he said.
"It was Walt Fitzpatrick and Roger Kennon. So what could they do with that? Fitzkennon? Kenpatrick? Those work," Jerry said.
We continued eating and making small talk. Suddenly, Rick got a rather stricken look on his face.
"Kevin and Kyle, can we talk in the kitchen, please," Rick asked.
"I'm still eatin', Bubba," Kyle said.
"That's okay. Bring it," Rick said. His voice let us know he had something very important on his mind.
Once in the kitchen, Rick closed the door to the dining area.
"That was pretty fucking clever, Bubba," Rick said to Kyle. Kyle grinned.
"Don't be grinning at me, Kyle," Rick said. There was anger in his voice.
"Yes, sir," Kyle said.
"What the hell are y'all talking about," I demanded.
"Tell him," Rick said.
Kyle hesitated for a few moments, and then Rick nudged his shoulder.
"I now know what might be the last name of one of the guys who hurt Jerry," Kyle said.
I thought back over the conversation at the table, and then it dawned on me. "My God! You do," I said.
"Kyle, please, please don't do anything," Rick pleaded.
There was silence for a moment.
"How can I stand by and watch my friend get his knees broke and him put into a coma and not want to do something about it," Kyle asked. He was trembling with rage.
"What if you got hurt? Huh? What if you got killed, Kyle," Rick asked.
"Justin will be with me," Kyle said.
"But let's assume he only has one bullet in the gun, Kyle, and it's got your name on it. Let's make a list of the people who will be devastated when you die, Kyle." Rick pulled three or four paper towels from the dispenser and got a marker from the drawer.
"First, Rita and Gene." He wrote their names on the paper towels. "They just lost Clay, and now it's time to lose their second son. Kyle."
"Don't...," Kyle said.
"Then there's Tim. The love of his life. His reason for being. Gone."
"Don't do it anymore," Kyle said. He was close to tears.
"Yeah, I am. Then there's Kevin and Rick. They lose their first-born son. He's gone! They're devastated."
"Don't do it anymore. Please!" Kyle was crying for the second time that day. "I won't do anything. I swear on my honor. On my Eagle honor. I won't do anything."
Rick grabbed him up in a huge hug, and he kissed his forehead.
"I'm so proud of you, I can hardly speak, Kyle. I'm proud you wanted to get revenge for what they did to Jerry, but I'm even prouder of you for seeing why good sense says not to, man," Rick said.
"This has really not been my day," Kyle said through his tears.
"Son, this has been your day in spades," Rick said. "You may not ever know how much this has been your day, but this has really been your day, Bubba."
"So why did I cry sad tears two times today," he asked.
"Cause all that shit you got down there is artificial, and you're really a girl, that's why," Rick said.
"You wish," Kyle said.
"I don't wish. I ain't got no use for no girl stuff down there. If you ain't caught on to that by now, Bubba, there's no hope for your sorry ass," Rick said. "Now, wash your face and get back out there for some more food."
Rick and Kyle looked at one another at that moment in a way that let me know they were one soul divided into two bodies. I thought back to earlier that day and how I had made Kyle cry. A deep sadness came upon me, but then I realized that it truly had been a day of enormous growth for him. He did have a backbone of steel, and he was a mensch in every sense of that word. I regretted that Gene and Rita weren't privy to what had gone on with Kyle in our house that day because I knew they would have been enormously proud of him. But boys grow up in lots of ways that their parents can't ever know about or comprehend.
Florida State University was playing football that afternoon on TV, and that gave us something to do. As FSU alums, Rick and I felt we had a moral obligation to watch the Seminoles whenever they were on television. Tim and Kyle, and Justin and Jason had more or less become fans by default. Brian wasn't a football fan, but he and Dave, who was a very big FSU fan, watched the game with us, too. Jerry and Pat were both college football fans, but they were big supporters of Boston College.
The game that day was against Duke, and, as usual, it was terribly one-sided. As a result, we all pretty much lost interest in it once Florida State was ahead by twenty-one points before the half.
"Have you guys been following the stuff going on with priests in Boston," Jerry asked.
"I have been," I said. "Do you know any of those guys?"
"What's been going on with priests in Boston," Tim asked. "That's where I was born. In Boston, I mean."
"Oh, really," Pat asked.
"Yeah. My dad grew up there," Tim said.
"Hmmm," Pat said.
"Some priests in Boston have been accused of sexually abusing children, Tim," Jerry said. "Not just in Boston, but that's the place where the biggest scandal is going on right now."
"Girls or boys," Jus asked.
"Mostly boys," Jerry said.
"What have they been doing to 'em," Jus asked. "To the boys, I mean."
"Well, you don't ever get a really clear picture," Jerry said, "but evidently it has gone as far as having anal sex with the boys. I think most of it is less dramatic than that, like touching and kissing, and even masturbation. Both ways."
"Did the boys not want them to do it," Kyle asked.
"I'm sure some of the boys did want it, Kyle, but the way most people see it, and that includes the law, an adult can never touch a child in a sexual way, even if the child wants it," Jerry said.
"They didn't want it, even if they were gay," Justin asked.
"You don't know that, Bubba," Kyle said. "What's a child, anyway? Am I a child?"
"Legally you are, Kyle," Pat said. "Anybody under 18 is a child, according to the law."
"It's a mental sickness, Kyle," Jerry said. "There are lots of theories about why it happens, but nobody knows for sure."
"I've known some sick motherfuckers in that way," Justin said. "And I don't even think most of them were truly gay."
"Many of them are not gay, Jus," Jerry said. "But it makes the public think, in their crazy, mixed up logic, that gay men go after kids. You know that's not true."
"I don't know about that. Kevin and Rick came after my ass a little while ago in the kitchen pretty hard," Kyle said.
Everybody in the room looked shocked and stared at Kyle. Rick blushed, and I'm sure I did, too.
"That's not funny, Kyle," Rick said. "Tell them what happened."
Kyle got a stricken look on his face when he realized the impact of what he had said within the context of that conversation. He blushed a deep red.
"No. No. I meant that as a joke, but it was totally stupid," Kyle said. "They would never come after me sexually. They got on to me for wanting to catch those guys who hurt Jerry and for tricking Jerry into telling me the last name of one of them. I'm sorry. What I said a minute ago was a shitty thing to say, and I'm sorry I said it. Kevin, Rick, guys, I'm sorry."
"It's okay, Bubba," Rick said. "But think before you talk, okay? This stuff with these priests is very serious."
"Yes, sir. I know that. No more jokes about it from me," Kyle said.
"The worst part seems to be the cover-up," I said.
"No question about that, Kev," Jerry said, "but you'd have to be part of the clerical culture to really understand it. I honestly don't think those guys were consciously trying to cover up wrong doing."
"Well, how do you explain it," Rick asked.
"Priests are very public figures," Jerry said. "Almost everything they do pisses somebody off. Let's say a priest goes out with his visiting brother and sister-in-law for a night on the town. They end up at a club, and the priest and his sister-in-law dance. Absolutely nothing sexual at all. Just dancing. The priest is in regular clothes, but there's a parishioner in the club. The next day, it's all over the parish that the priest is out dancing in a nightclub with a woman. Before long, the bishop's office gets a phone call about it. The first hundred times that happens, they investigate. 'Yes, bishop, I was out dancing. She was my sister-in-law, and my brother was there with us.' After a while they stop taking those things seriously."
"I see what you mean," I said. "In the hotel business, we get tons of complaints, and everybody is trying to get a free room."
"And look at the people who are coming forward now. It all happened years ago. They're calling up and saying stuff like, 'When I was thirteen, I was an altar boy. Father X fondled me, and I want a million dollars because it ruined my life.' What did the priest do? Pat the kid's butt? Or did the priest jerk the kid off? There's a very big difference in my mind. A hundred guys have patted my butt in basketball games and football games, but I never once thought of that as sexual. And I'm gay, for God's sake," Jerry said.
I looked at Brian when Jerry said that, and he didn't flinch. He was taking it all in.
"The money is the wild card in all of this," Pat said.
"What do you mean," Rick asked.
Pat spoke. "Well, the Church has already paid out millions and millions of dollars over this crap, and they're going to have to pay millions and millions more, probably. The bishops have been real quick to settle the cases so they won't go public and give the Church a bad name. And also to save money in litigation fees. What's to prevent a guy from coming forth right now and saying he was sexually molested in, say, 1976 by a priest who is now dead? I don't deny there has been serious abuse of kids, but I'm just real skeptical about the ones who want a ton of money now for something they say happened 20 or 30 years ago without any witnesses."
"There were no witnesses to what happened to me," Brian said.
"Me, neither," Justin said.
"That's not true, guys. Think about it. Brian, it happened when you were fourteen, and you ran away when you were fourteen. That was the alert to what was going on in that foster home. Jus, you were sixteen when you made that phone call to the desk at that motel. You might not have intended it to, but that set into motion a whole series of events that got you out of that shit," Rick said.
"True," Brian said. Jus nodded, too.
"You're not forty years old and just now coming forth with it. Demanding money."
"Don't you think they were scared to say, Rick," Kyle asked.
"There's no question about that in my mind, Kyle," I said. "Sure, they were scared. Sure, they felt a sense of loyalty to the Church, and they didn't want to betray that. Those were good boys, guys. I know that. They also didn't want people to think they were gay. All of that is probably true. But how do you separate out the real issues from the guys who just want the money?"
"The cover-up stuff is still pretty bad, though," Rick said.
"That's the real issue for the Church, Rick," Pat said. "What you guys have said about guys reporting that stuff decades later and them wanting money is all true. The bottom line, though, is some of it was reported as it happened, and nothing was done. I heard what my brother said about the culture and about complaints. I know that's true, but some of it was contemporaneous, not decades old. There is a big difference between 'Father is dancing in nightclubs,' and 'Father is fucking my son.' Heads are going to have to roll on those cases."
"Do you think that cardinal in Boston's head will roll," I asked.
"I hope so," Pat said. "I'm sure he's a good man, but I thought the cardinal before him was a good man, too. Now there are allegations that he was involved with guys, too. Again, you don't really know what to believe. The former cardinal in Chicago was accused by some guy of the same thing that allegedly happened twenty years before, but later the guy said he had lied. Who do you believe? Who do you pay the millions to?"
"The former bishop here resigned from Palm Beach because of his sexual abuse of kids in the past," Jerry said. "This is very close to home for us, guys. And the new bishop in Palm Beach just resigned for the same reason."
"Don't say it, Kyle," Rick said. "I know what you're thinking."
"What? Good action in Palm Beach," Kyle asked.
Rick laughed. "I knew those exact words were brewing in that empty head of yours."
"Jeez, can't anybody have privacy around this place," Kyle said. He was grinning big over the fact that Rick had said that.
"The Diocese of Palm Beach must really be torn up over that. Two bishops in a row," Pat asked.
"Yeah. Two in a row," Jerry said. "Two bishops out of three."
"I don't even know who the bishop here is," I said. "He doesn't live here, right?"
"No, he lives in Pensacola. Our bishop is a black man from Louisiana. I've never met him, but I've corresponded with him quite a bit. He knows I'm gay," Jerry said.
"Is he okay with that," Rick asked.
"He seems to be. He's letting me live here and minister," Jerry said.
"How could he stop you, if Father Larson said it was okay for you to be here," Rick asked.
"He could deny me faculties. That means, he could say I couldn't say Mass or administer any sacraments here, Rick. I would be trespassing if I lived in the rectory against his will. Legally, he owns it. He personally owns all Catholic property in the diocese."
"That's pretty damn powerful," Rick said.
"It is, and that's one reason the bishop is so important. Most Catholics don't even know who their bishop is, much less know him personally. But he is damn powerful. He's the pope of his diocese," Jerry said.
The game had ended long ago, and FSU had, once again, convinced Duke that their sport was really basketball and not football.
"We've been talking about religion a lot," I said, "but the fact is we usually go to church on Saturday at five. We need to get going, guys."
"No, you don't," Jerry said. "We can have Mass right here. Have you got bread and wine in the house? I know the words by heart."
"Of course we have bread and wine in the house," I said. "But it's regular bread. Rolls, even. It's not hosts."
"Do you think Jesus used hosts at the Last Supper, Kevin," Jerry asked.
"I guess not."
"And we won't tonight, either. And everybody who has been baptized can eat of the body of the Lord," Jerry said.
"Have you been baptized, Jus," I asked.
"I don't think so. Is that like dunking in a river?"
"That's one way to do it, Jus," Jerry said.
"Yeah, I've been through that. At a Baptist church."
"That counts, Jus. That was baptism," Jerry said.
Our coffee table became an altar for the first time, and Jerry said Mass on it. He really did know everything by heart except the readings. He asked for a Bible, and I got one for him. He even said a little sermon about how the Christian community is supposed to serve and help one another. He talked about us and our circle, and about how we are a community. He had said that before, but it was good to hear it again.
That was a hard day for Rick and me and Kyle. I was convinced Kyle, The Smoker, was a prodigy of sorts, and I was determined to make sure he got the love and attention he needed to grow into a great man.