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 email@example.com.
Kyle, Part 1
After Sam and Fred and Chad left, Rick and I helped the boys clean up from our cookout. They didn't bother to put their clothes on, but Rick and I got dressed.
"So what is this," Rick asked, "a nudist colony?"
"Do you want us to get dressed," Tim asked. "We're just going to get undressed again as soon as you guys leave."
Kyle slapped Tim playfully. "Don't tell them that."
Rick and I both laughed, and they did, too.
"Tim, buddy, I don't care if you never get dressed," Rick said. "By the way, I noticed tonight that both of you have put on some growth down below."
"We're both turning into showers and growers," Kyle said, and they both beamed with pride at the enhanced size of their equipment.
"It's got to be one or the other, Kyle," I said. "You can't be both a shower and a grower."
"Well, that ain't fair," he said.
We laughed again.
"By the way, boys, I want to say how proud of you I was tonight," I said.
"Yeah, me, too. Sam said Chad hadn't said in three days as much as he said tonight with you guys around," Rick said.
"He was a nice guy," Tim said. "But why is he so feminine?"
"The word's effeminate, Tim, not feminine, although it means the same thing, more or less," I said.
"Effeminate, I meant. Why are guys like that," Tim asked.
"Well, nobody really knows," I said, "but gay guys aren't the only ones like that. There are all kinds of theories about it. I've read that even kids as young as three can be effeminate."
"That's the way they show a lot of gay guys on TV and in movies," Kyle said.
"Like that guy Emmett on Queer as Folk," Tim said. "Of course, that guy Niles on Frazier is supposed to be straight, and he acts like that, too."
"It's part of the stereotype of gayness, guys. Do you know what I mean by that," I asked.
"Not really," Kyle said.
"A stereotype is like a set of characteristics that a lot of people associate with a particular group of people," I said.
"Like black people liking watermelon and fried chicken," Tim asked.
"Exactly, Tim. Probably most black people do like watermelon and fried chicken, but not all of them do."
"I like both of 'em," Kyle said.
"So do I, and so do most people, probably," I said, "but for some reason it's caught on in our culture that all black people like those two foods. With gay people, it's being effeminate. You both know it's not true of most of the gay guys we know, including you two, and there are tons of straight guys who are effeminate, too."
"Is that why Chad gets made fun of," Tim asked.
"Yeah," I said. "There might be other reasons, but that's the main one."
"Tim, you said something tonight that was just perfect," Rick said. "You said something like we make fun of each other to have fun and not to hurt. I was so glad you said that because that's exactly what we do. We make fun to have fun, including the person we're making fun of."
"I know. I do and say stupid things that you guys make fun of, but you've never hurt my feelings. I think Chad gets his feelings hurt."
"You do and I do and Rick, especially, does," Kyle said.
"Hey, watch it, Mister," Rick said, and all of us chuckled a bit.
"Do you see what just happened. Kyle said that to tease Rick. Rick knew he was teasing, and Tim and I did, too. That's making fun to have fun," I said.
"Exactly," Rick said. "Have you guys ever been picked on or been made fun of about being gay?"
Kyle shook his head, but Tim said, "Last spring when I was going out for baseball this guy called me a fag a couple of times, but he called other guys that, too. He wasn't exactly picking on me, but David got mad as hell about it."
"How would you guys handle it if somebody did pick on you about being gay," Rick asked.
"I'd just tell him to fuck off," Kyle said.
"Yeah, me, too," Tim agreed.
"What if he, or they, started roughing you up? What would you do then," Rick asked.
"I wouldn't just take it, that's for damn sure," Kyle said.
"Me, either," Tim echoed.
"Yeah, but what would you do?"
"If we were together, we'd stand 'em down, right, Babe," Kyle said.
"Yeah, but what if you weren't together? Or what if there were six of them and only the two of you? What would you do then?" I really didn't think the two of them would ever have that kind of problem, but I was glad Rick was forcing them to think about it and make some plans on how they would handle that situation, if it were ever to arise.
Neither boy responded to Rick.
"There's safety in..."
"Numbers," Kyle said excitedly. "We'd get Philip and Ryan and David and our other friends to get our backs."
"You're on the right track, Kyle, but your friends can't always be with you. Tim might not even be there. What you do is you run like hell to where other people are, son. You get somewhere where there are others. If you're at school, you haul ass to the office. If you're at the mall, you haul ass to the food court or some other place where there are lots of people. And you yell your head off. You let the people there know you are in trouble."
Both boys were obviously thinking over what Rick had just said.
"I guess on that baseball field, I should have run over to where Coach was," Tim said, "if that boy looked like he was going to attack me."
"Right," I said. "If somebody's going to attack you, they won't do it in front of a whole bunch of witnesses. You get your ass someplace where there is somebody in authority, if you can. At school it might be the office or the library or into a classroom where a class is going on. You get someplace safe. And what Rick said is right. You scream, you yell, you let whoever is there know that somebody is trying to get you."
"Is that going to work every time," Kyle asked.
"Maybe not, Kyle. I don't know about every single situation you may be in, but I know that it's going to work more times than not," Rick said.
"It makes sense to me," Tim said.
"Me, too," Kyle agreed.
"Do y'all know anything about gay history," I asked. "Our history?" I knew that was a huge change of subject, but what I wanted to say was definitely related to harassment.
They both shook their heads.
"Have you ever heard of Stonewall Inn," I asked.
Again, they both indicated that they hadn't.
"Stonewall Inn was a gay nightclub in New York City," I said. "In June of 1969, the police busted in the place and started tearing it up. The guys like Chad who were there--the sissies--stood up to them. There was rioting for two nights at that place. And do you know what happened because those sissies stood up to the police?"
"No, sir," Kyle said.
"A whole new movement for freedom from oppression was born in this country, boys. It's called Gay Liberation. A couple of years later the Gay Pride movement started. It got people thinking. Kyle, I would bet money that if Stonewall hadn't happened, your dad would not have an openly gay married couple running his businesses for him, and he would not have allowed his two gay sons to be honest with him about who they really are."
"My dad wouldn't be prejudiced, Rick," Kyle said.
"Your dad is definitely not prejudiced, son, but he wouldn't have known any different," Rick said. "Do y'all know who Matthew Shepherd was?"
They shook their heads "no."
"He was a gay college student in Montana. He was effeminate, just like Chad is. He was in a bar one night, and these guys took him for a ride. They ended up killing him. They beat him severely and tied him to a fence for him to die and for the wild animals to eat him."
"They said he made a pass at them," I said. "Let's say you were in a bar, and a drunk girl came up to you and made a pass at you. Let's say she put her hand on your dick, even. Would you take her out and kill her?"
I could tell Tim and Kyle were stunned by that question.
"Of course you wouldn't. But that's what those guys did to Matthew Shepherd. But nobody knows for sure he even did that."
"This is really serious stuff, but it's confusing me," Kyle said.
"We're not trying to confuse you, buddy," Rick said. "It's just all coming out real fast. I think Kevin and I both had pretty much forgotten that you and Tim are gay adolescents who live in a very different world than our world. Chad brought it home to us tonight, boys. It's just kind of all tumbled out of us at once."
I checked my watch, and it was only 9:30. That was important stuff we were talking about, and it wasn't yet too late for us to keep on with it.
"Kevin, can I have a cigarette, please," Kyle asked.
"Sure, but where are yours? They were right here."
"I know, but I gave 'em to Chad. He didn't have any."
Kyle lit up.
"How many is that for you today," I asked.
"This is number two," he said.
"How many did you have yesterday," I asked.
"Why do you smoke at all, Kyle," I asked. Then, "Never mind."
"Look," I said, "all of this stuff we've been talking about is related, and Chad's being effeminate brought it all out. The four of us, and Justin and Jason, and many of our friends, owe guys like Chad a huge debt. All of the gay guys we're close to--the four of you boys, us, Sam and Fred, Mont and Ter--nobody ever looks at us or hears us talk and thinks we're gay. Everybody who sees us in casual situations thinks we're straight. And, as a result, we never make them think about homosexuality and the fact that a large number of people in our society aren't straight. But the Stonewall people, and guys like Chad, do make them think. And, hopefully, one of the things they think about is what happened to Matthew Shepherd and a million other gay guys who have been made fun of, harassed, beaten up, and even killed just because they were gay. Does that make any sense?"
"Yeah, it makes sense to me," Kyle said. "We need to honor guys like Chad; not make fun of them."
"Kyle, you have an incredible way of getting right to the meat," I said.
"Yeah. Tell me about it," Tim said.
We paused a second while we processed what Tim had said, and we howled with laughter.
"The smoker," Rick said, and that made us both laugh hard again.
"That's the second time I've heard y'all say that about me," Kyle said. "What is that all about?"
Rick was still laughing, but he tried to explain.
"Before we met you, we knew Tim had a friend who smoked because I had seen the two of you in his yard when I had come home at lunch to check on some sprinkler work I had had done in our back yard. Y'all were both smoking. Then George told us about you, and he said you smoked. We didn't know your name, so we referred to you as 'the smoker.'"
"Okay, I get it," Kyle said. "That isn't the only way you think of me, though, is it?"
"Kyle!" Rick was irate. "We think of you as our son, man! Our little brother! You know we love you like our own flesh and blood."
"Yeah, I know that," he said. His voice was breaking a little. "Next to Tim, I love you and Kevin the most, Rick."
"Kyle, we love you and Tim totally. We love Justin, too, but it's different. You guys are our little brothers," Rick said.
"Jus is our brother," Kyle said.
"I know, Kyle, and that makes Kevin and me happy, man."
"Why does every serious conversation end with somebody crying," Kyle asked, a grin on his face and tears very close to the rims of his eyes.
Rick said, "Because there's so much love in our hearts. That's why. Sometimes it just builds up and has to come out of our eyes."
"Our love comes out of our dicks, too," Tim said with an absolutely straight face.
Kyle rolled his eyes at his buddy, and Rick and I laughed.
Sam, Fred, and Chad showed up at our house around 5:30 on Friday afternoon, ready for our camping trip. Chad's coloring was a light pink, as though he had spent some time in the sun, and he wasn't wearing make-up. He still had small gold loops in his earlobes, but the other ear jewelry was gone. There was one gold chain around his neck and one gold bracelet on his left wrist, and he had reduced the finger rings to one on each pinky. Maybe that's his idea of roughing it, I thought.
Our two spermlets had been at our house since three o'clock, the earliest they could get there after school let out at 2:30. Justin was there, too. He knew Sam and Fred, and he shook their hands, as usual. He hadn't met Chad, yet, though, so we introduced them.
When I introduced them, Justin's body language and facial expression said he had nothing but contempt for Chad.
"Jus, can I talk to you for a minute in the kitchen," I asked. "I need to tell you some stuff for when we're gone."
He followed me in there.
"That didn't go too well just now, Jus," I said.
"What? With that sissy," he asked.
"Yeah. With Chad. He's our friend, Jus," I said.
"Man, Kev, that is so fucking put on, it makes me want to puke," he said.
"I know, but he's our friend," I said. "And it might not be put on. That might just be the way he is."
Jus thought for a few moments.
"You mean that sissy shit ain't an act?"
"I don't think it is, Bubba," I said. "He needs friends bad. Just like you did."
Justin thought for a few moments. Then he said,
"I'm his friend, starting now, I guess."
"I'm proud of you, little brother," I said, grinning broadly and hugging him.
"I'm proud of you and my other big brother, too. What's my other big brother's name again?"
"Get your sorry Alabama ass in there, boy," I said, laughing at what he said and at the delight I felt in him after such a short time.
"Yes, Rick," he said.
"Oh, I'm gonna get you for that," I said, laughing hard.
"Are you coming with us, Justin," Sam asked. He was no doubt figuring out whether there were enough tents and sleeping bags for everybody if Jus were coming.
"No, sir. I've got to work tomorrow. I'm staying home," Jus said.
As we were getting into Rick's car, I heard Sam explain to Chad who Jus was. We've got quite a family, I thought.
The Florida Caverns State Park was in a rather hilly area to the north and east of where we lived. Rick had been hunting around there before, but I had never been there. Most of Florida was relatively young in geological terms, but that part of the state was relatively old. They were finding fossils of dinosaurs in underwater caves at Wakulla Springs south of Tallahassee, and I wondered if there were any of those fossils around where we were.
It didn't take us long to set up our camp site. Tim and Kyle pitched the three tents for us, and they then gathered firewood for a campfire. It was nice to be with experienced campers because they knew how to do things efficiently and well. Chad tried to help out where he could, but it was obvious he didn't really know what to do without explicit direction from one of the boys.
By the time things were set, it was time to cook dinner. Rick, Tim, and Kyle took charge of that, and in no time my stomach was growling because of the delicious smells that were coming off the campfire. Chad and Sam went for a little walk, and Fred and I stayed back to watch the others work. I asked Fred if he wanted a drink, and he said he did. Technically, alcohol was prohibited in state parks, but I had done some checking with some of the people at work who had lived around there all their lives. Apparently, those laws were on the books to prevent groups, like fraternities, for example, from coming in and staging a wild weekend party. People like us, who had a drink or two before dinner, weren't in any danger of the law.
"Kevin, you and Rick and these boys are incredible. Chad couldn't stop talking about y'all last night," Fred said.
"The kids said they liked him," I said.
"Well, he loves them. Tim and Kyle are apparently the first boys he's ever felt even remotely comfortable with," he said.
"That's really too bad, you know? That there haven't been other boys, I mean. He's a nice kid," I said.
"I'm one of those gay men who has a hard time with effeminate guys," Fred said. "Chad is very smart, and he's also very well read. He knows a lot, and he's funny, too, but I just cringe at his mannerisms. Sam does, too, and Chad's his nephew."
"Those three over there don't like that, either," I said, meaning Rick, Tim, and Kyle. "And, frankly, I don't find that appealing, myself. But like I told Justin tonight, Chad's our friend, and we have to accept our friends."
"I'd never do or say anything to hurt that kid," Fred said. "In fact, I'd fight for him, if I had to."
"Fred, it never crossed my mind that it would be any different with you, man. Please don't think I thought that, for even a second," I said.
"Oh, I know," he said.
We sat in silence for a few moments.
"Fred, stop me if I get too personal, okay," I said.
"I know you and Sam are dating, but are you guys living together?"
"We don't know," Fred said.
"Oh," I said. That answer didn't really help.
"We still have separate places, but we spend more nights together than we do apart, Kev," he said. "I had a very terrible thing happen to me not too long ago."
"You lost your partner," I said.
"Yeah." He said that more as a sigh than a word. "We had been together since we were fifteen, and it was only getting better and stronger when he died. I like Sam very, very much. He's a wonderful guy, sensitive, compassionate, loving, but I'm not sure yet that he's another Randy, you know?"
"How long have you guys been dating," I asked.
"I don't know. A few months. I dated Mike for several months after your Super Bowl party. Now, Mike is my best friend, but it just didn't happen between us, you know?"
"I know. Mike is one of my best friends, too, remember?"
"Oh, how well I know," he said. "Mike has a history, too, of course, just like Sam and I do. The thing that's so wonderful about those two boys over there is they're just like me and Randy. Fucking high school sweethearts. No baggage. No pasts to interfere. No ex-lovers lurking behind every pillow for those two. God, I hope they make it."
We were both quiet for a moment. I felt so incredibly attuned to that man at that moment. He was so vulnerable, so alone, yet so hopeful.
"Can I hug you right now," I asked.
"Oh, God, I wish you would, Kevin. This is so hard."
I gathered up Fred in a huge hug. He wasn't crying, but he was close, and so was I. Rick saw us and smiled. Then I saw Kyle notice us and say something. Rick gently bopped him on his head with the barbecue tongs he was holding, and all three of them laughed.
Sam and Chad came back to the campsite just then, and Sam bent down and kissed Fred hello.
"Hey," Fred said. "Did y'all discover anything?"
"Well, we didn't discover anything, but the mosquitoes discovered me," Chad said.
"Oh, so you're like me," I said.
"What do you mean," Chad asked.
"If there is a fire ant anywhere in this park, it will find me, Chad," I said. "Or a mosquito or a yellow fly."
"Oh, yellow flies are the absolute worst," he said.
"I know. I've got some medicine that I take to keep bugs away from me. Would you like to take one," I asked.
"Where did you get it," he asked.
"From a friend who's a doctor," I said. "It works good, man."
"You have friends who are doctors," he asked incredulously.
"Yeah. My parents do, anyway. But I guess they're my friends, too. Anyway, do you want the medicine," I asked.
"Oh, yes, puh-leeze," he said.
God, Chad, you are so gay, I thought, as I got up to get him the medicine.
Rick and the boys set the food on a large picnic table that was in our campsite, and they called us over to eat. Everybody took their seat, and Chad looked like he was poised to dive in.
"Chad, wait up, please," Sam said. "Kyle, as senior Eagle here, will you invoke the Great Spirit upon us and this meal?"
Kyle nodded. He took Tim's hand and the hand of the man next to him. Tim did the same, and we all joined hands.
Kyle prayed: "Great Spirit, come and live in this camp of brothers. You made us, and we belong to you. You made us needy yet bountiful, diverse yet the same. You made us friends. Help us to rejoice in our differences and to celebrate our sameness. You caused our mother, the earth, to render forth this food. May it make us strong to honor her and one another. Great Spirit, come and live in this camp of brothers."
"Whoa, dude! That was awesome," Tim said. He and Kyle knocked their fists together. They were both grinning so hard I expected them to pop their fillings out, if they had any.
"Did you just make that up," I asked. "That wasn't a traditional scout blessing?"
"Not at all, Kevin. That was the best one I've ever heard in--what? fifteen years of scouting? That really was awesome, dude," Sam said.
"Thanky, thanky," Kyle said.
We all dug into the food. All, that is, except Chad. He was sitting next to Rick, but I noticed how he was acting. He sat perfectly still, and tears were in his eyes, ready to fall at any moment.
"Chad? Little buddy? Are you okay," Rick asked.
Everybody stopped eating and focused on Chad when Rick said that.
"I've never been with people like you before," Chad said.
"Are we making you sad, buddy," Rick asked.
"Y'all are making me so happy, Rick. I listened to that blessing. I knew that was about me. I know I'm strange. I know I'm different. I'm always strange and different, but I don't feel that way here. I don't feel separated from y'all, like I always do every other place I am. I feel like I belong here."
"Of course you belong here. You're our brother, asshole," Kyle said.
Chad broke into a huge grin. "Nobody has ever said that to me before to have fun with me and not the hurt me, Kyle."
"Nobody's going to hurt you here, Bubba. This is a safe place," Kyle said.
"You called me 'Bubba,'" Chad said.
"Yep, and everybody here knows what that means. Now, you better eat your steak before Rick grabs it off your plate."
Suddenly, a piece of a leaf of lettuce flew across the table and hit Kyle on the cheek. It stuck to him. He pealed it off dramatically and stuffed it into his mouth.
With total seriousness that only the actor that Kyle was could muster, he said, "I see that the Great Spirit has sent me a little more salad. The Great Spirit knows that the senior Eagle in camp needs his strength to put up with Life Scouts who cannot take a joke--because they don't understand it," he stage-whispered the last phrase to Tim.
What was going on between Kyle and Rick was pure theater, and, I, for one, thought it was hilarious.
"Eat your food and shut up," Rick said.
Kyle grinned. "I got you, didn't I," he asked Rick.
"Yeah. But so what? Shut up and eat."
Everybody laughed at that one.
After dinner everybody lounged around the fire. It was late September, so the fire, while being an essential part of camp, was making everybody sweat profusely. Tim and Kyle took off their tee shirts and sandals, and it wasn't very long before everybody but Chad joined them.
"Anybody know any dirty jokes," Kyle asked.
"I got one in e-mail the other day," Rick said.
"It seems three couples go on a cruise, two straight couples and a gay couple. The ship sinks, and all six of them drown. They go to heaven, and St. Peter meets them at the pearly gates.
"'Sorry, but you can't come in,' he tells the first couple.
"'Why not,' the guy asks.
"'Because you loved food too much when you were alive,' St. Peter says. 'You even married a woman named Candy.'
"The next couple comes up, and he turns them down, too. The reason: they loved money too much, and the guy even married a woman named Penny.
"When he heard that, one of the gay guys turns to his partner and says, 'This doesn't look too good for us, Dick.'"
Everybody but Tim laughed appreciatively.
"Do you get it," Kyle asked him.
"I don't know," Tim said.
"He loved dick too much," Kyle said.
"No, his partner's dick," Kyle said. Frustration was growing in his voice, and Tim appeared to be playing right along with him.
"I know his partner's Dick. How can loving your partner too much keep you out of heaven," Tim asked.
Rick and Chad were about to burst from holding in their laughter. Kyle noticed, and a light went on in his head.
"You're teasing me, aren't you?"
Tim's face broke into a huge grin.
"You monkey," Kyle said. He jumped on Tim and pushed him down. When Tim was on his back, Kyle put his mouth in the middle of Tim's stomach and gave him a loud, wet raspberry. Tim was laughing so hard he could barely breathe, and the rest of us were laughing at their play. They finished horsing around, and Kyle took Tim in his arms and pulled him to him, with Tim's back against Kyle's chest. It was the way they often sat at home to watch TV, imitating what Rick and I did. In about a minute, though, they broke apart because it was too hot to sit like that.
"I wish I had a boyfriend," Chad said.
"Have you ever had one," Sam asked.
"No. I barely have any friends at all," he said. His voice wasn't strained, and he didn't appear to be looking for sympathy. He was just stating a fact.
"You'll get one, Bubba. It's pretty lonesome, isn't it? That's what it felt like to me, anyway, before I met Tim."
"Lonesome doesn't even come close to describing it. Of course, I don't know what I'd do with a boyfriend, even if I had one," Chad said.
"You mean, like, sex," Tim asked.
Chad blushed and looked down.
Kyle started to say something, but Tim shook his head "no," so Kyle shut up. Then he said, "Are we going to rent canoes or horses tomorrow?"
That effectively changed the topic of conversation, and we went on to talk of other things.
Around ten o'clock, the three boys went to their tent, and the rest of us stayed up a little while talking about them.
"You know what Kyle was going to say when Tim made him shut up, don't you," Rick asked.
"No, what," Sam said.
"He was going to tell Chad that he and Tim would be glad to demonstrate sex for him," he said.
"You know, it occurred to me he might say that, too," I said. "I'm glad Tim didn't let him."
We heard giggling coming from the boys' tent.
"Maybe that's what they're doing right now," Sam said.
"I wouldn't put it past 'em," Rick said. I looked at him questioningly. "Yes, I would," he said on second thought. "They wouldn't do that."
"I'll bet they're talking about sex, though, don't you," Fred said.
"I hope so," Sam said. "I don't want to be the one to do it."
"I know what you mean," Fred said. Then, "Do you guys talk to Tim and Kyle about sex?"
"Not on any kind of regular basis, but we have talked about it quite a bit," I said. "We told them no questions about sex were off limits."
More giggling from the tent.
"They have been so nice to Chad," Sam said. "He thinks they're heroes, or something. Which they are, but he doesn't know about that. They're his heroes."
"They like him, too," Rick said. "How old is Chad."
"Fourteen," Sam said. "That was a tough age for me, and it's even tougher for him."
"Well, now that he's got some buddies, maybe it'll get easier," Rick said.
"He asked me this morning if I thought there was a chance he could live with me permanently," Sam said.
"What did you tell him," Fred asked.
"I said we'll have to wait and see. What would you have said?"
"About living with you or living with me," Fred asked.
"About living with me," Sam said to clarify what he meant.
More giggles from the boys' tent.
"I honestly wouldn't have a problem if he lived with you, Sam," Fred said. "I'd still be hanging around."
Sam smiled like that was exactly what he wanted to hear.
The fire was out, and it had cooled down a little. It was still too hot for a sleeping bag, but by then I thought that we'd be able to get to sleep. We said good night to our friends, and Rick and I went to our tent. The boys were still talking and laughing, and I thought how lucky little Chad was to have Kyle and Tim for friends.
The next morning over breakfast Rick said, "How late did you guys stay up last night? There was a lot of talking and laughing going on when we went to bed."
All three of them blushed.
"Chad knows what to do with a boyfriend now, though," Tim said.
Chad giggled a little and blushed a lot.
"Chad, there's no shame in wanting to know about sex, son. It's your right as a human being. You got it from the two experts, by the way," Rick said.
"I know, Rick," Chad said. "There was something Tim and Kyle didn't know about, though."
"What was that," Rick asked. I knew he thought we had covered just about everything with them.
"When you dress up in diapers, does Kevin spank you when you wet yourself?"
Everybody at the table burst out laughing, as much at what he said as at the fact that Chad had said it.
"I'm going to wring your neck," Rick said, pointing at Kyle.
"Moi," Kyle asked innocently.
Then Rick laughed, too.
That weekend at the caverns sealed a friendship among the three boys that I figured would last a lifetime. Chad went home with Sam and Fred for a long weekend in the middle of October, and the decision was made to let him stay with Sam until the end of the school year. His father had calmed down by then, and he and Chad had patched up any differences they had. When his parents saw what a changed boy Chad was by then, they knew instinctively they couldn't deprive their son of the environment on the beach.
Chad certainly didn't become a macho man, but Rick and I noticed some subtle differences. He never wore make-up after that first evening, and he started using the odd four-letter word. He clung to a gold loop in each ear, but that was the extent of the pierced jewelry he wore. Eventually, he got his nipples pierced, but he stopped wearing the rings when one of them got infected slightly. His voice actually changed and moved into a more manly register. He still described "outfits" as "cute," and there were still lots of "fabulous" things in his life. He tried out for a play at school with Kyle and Tim, and he talked about "doing" the "show" while they were in rehearsal.
Most importantly, though, Chad started asserting himself. First with Tim, eventually with Kyle, and then even with me and Rick. He was never obnoxious about it, but he increasingly demanded that his opinion be taken seriously.
"Can you believe the change in him," Sam said one evening, right after Chad shoved Kyle in the pool and started running when Kyle got out and chased him.
"It's unbelievable," Fred said. By then he and Sam were officially living together, and Fred saw the difference in Chad even more than we did.
"He seems pretty happy now," Rick said.
"'Happy' doesn't begin to capture it all, Rick," Sam said. "It's like he's become a person and not a stereotype. Oh, by the way, there may be a little boyfriend action lining up."
"Tell! Tell!," Rick said.
"He's met a kid at school, it seems. The boy's a junior, and he's as much of a flamer as Chad is, or was," Sam said.
"They had a date last weekend," Fred said. "The guy came and picked him up and everything. Chad wanted him to come over here to meet everybody."
"Why didn't you let him," I asked. I was excited for Chad and more than a little disappointed the kid hadn't come.
"His grandparents came to town yesterday," Sam said, "and his mom is taking everybody out for dinner tonight. Believe me, he wanted to come. He knows Kyle and Tim. He thinks they're studs."
I chuckled at that last comment.
"They are studs, Babe," Rick said.
"Did I say they weren't," I asked. Rick was one of those people who saw the boys' flaws and pointed them out whenever necessary but who resented the hell out of anybody else doing so, except me, usually.
"They're studs with hearts," Rick said. Everybody smiled.