This story is posted for the exclusive enjoyment of readers of the Nifty Archive. While you are free to make a personal copy, no copy of this manuscript may be published, copied, posted to another web-site, or otherwise disseminated without express permission from the author.

The contents of this story are fictional. Any resemblance of characters to living or lived persons is strictly coincidental. Certain characters engage in sexual acts which may or may not be legal in the state or country in which a reader may reside. Any reader with objections to graphic descriptions of sexual encounters between males who may not have reached the legal age of consent, or whose local, regional, state or national jurisprudence prohibits such descriptions, should not read further.

Chapter X

Saturday, July 3, 1993

It only took a minute to clean up the kitchen a few crumbs here, a water spot there. We threw out all the sandwiches we'd made up Friday night. The bread was a little soggy, and Mom cautioned us to throw stuff like that out, not try to economize and then get bellyaches from a little mayo gone bad, or whatever.

Then we set out to re-plow the fire break. Brad opened the big door to the shed, and let me drive the little tractor out. He pulled the plow attachment around so's I could back the tractor up to it, and popped the female receptacle over the male and pushed the big cotter pin in so it wouldn't disengage.

We loaded a couple of big rocks into the hopper to keep the plow blades down with all the roots, they would tend to ride up. After we hooked the rig to the tractor, Brad let me do the driving, and he just followed alongside, pulling root clumps aside, chucking them towards the center of the clearing. We'd pile them in the pickup and haul them down to the green waste center, alongside Parker's.

It went fast we'd hauled out the big stuff the day before, so the plow did a pretty quick job. The trees around the clearing have had their surface roots so well plowed over the years that it's only the scrub that takes root, and the roots stay pretty shallow. By around one o'clock, we'd completed two passes of the entire break, and had a respectable pile of detritus ready for recycling.

"Let's haul all that after we take a break," Brad hollered over the sound of the old tractor.

"You gotta deal," I yelled back. My arms ached from manhandling the steering wheel the tractor had one-man power steering, and four hours of driving is not easy work.

"We'll grab a bite at Herb's." Brad said as I shut the engine down and pulled off my gloves. "Or would you rather eat at Ed's?"


Ed's is the closest Radford has to a restaurant. The food is good, and the desserts are home made and fabulous. He's only open for lunch during the winter, but serves all day from June to October.

"How much we got left in the kitty?"

"Only about a hundred. We blew a lot on groceries and wine."

"It got you in the mood, didn't it?"

I didn't know what to say to that, so I just grinned like a cat. "Oh give me the deposit from the chipper, will ya? I forgot to ask for it."

Brad pulled the bills out of his pocket. There were five twenties they'd given us not only the deposit, but both days' rental. There was a business card, too. It read `Mark Chatman and Don Mounty, 3446 Radford Road, Radford, CA.' and their telephone number. Simple, but pretty definite.

"We gotta give back part of that," I said

"We'll take it by tomorrow."

"I'd like to see what they did with the old Hamilton place. It was getting pretty run down."

"C'mon, hit the shower!" He was already loping towards the cabin.

It doesn't take long when you're on a mission and it helped that we were only wearing grungy shorts, which we left on the porch on the way in. We couldn't keep from copping feels as we lathered each other. There's something about taking a shower with Brad that makes it incredibly hot, even when we don't take time to mess around. I hope I never lose that.

We took the `Maro, as it was gorgeous top-down weather. On the way, we talked about Mom and Dad.

"Suppose they'll get here this afternoon?" I asked. Brad swung the `Maro onto the road and goosed it.

"Unless something came up at the office, I suppose so."

"What could come up?"

"Well, Dad said Susie was out all week, and Willa Jenkins is leaving. That's probably got him humping."

I felt a little better. "Oh, right! I was starting to get a little . . . "

"Yeah, I know," he said, stroking my leg. "I could feel it."

He knows me.

We pulled into Murdoch's parking lot. You could tell it was a holiday weekend, all right. We had to park all the way down by Ed's. We saw a couple of closer spots, but Brad doesn't like to park the `Maro in parking spaces unless there's lots of space. People throw their doors open and chip paint all the time, not caring.

"Let's call first, Brad."


There was a line of strangers in front of the pay phone, so we edged into Murdoch's and begged a call from Bertha, telling her that Mom and Dad were a whole day overdue. Not quite the whole truth, but Brad exaggerates once in a while. Bertha let us use the phone in the office, where it was a little quieter. The store was mobbed at least for Murdoch's.

Brad made the call. "Hi! We're at Murdoch's. We're going over to Ed's for lunch."

I breathed a sigh of relief.

"Call us at Murdoch's. We'll ask Bertha to . . . " he stopped in midsentence with a funny expression on his face, then hung up the phone.

"What?" I grabbed at his arm.

"The phone rang once, same recording, then it hung up before I finished. The tape must be full."

"Same message about going out to dinner?"


"You think . . . "

"They're on the way," Brad said. "Mom would have left a different message if they weren't."

I had this real funny feeling in the pit of my stomach.

"Don't be dumb, Loon," he said from behind me somewhere. "There's nothing to worry about."

He knew what I was thinking. I'd pictured the Jeep down a hillside somewhere, on its side.

"Bertha, if Mom and Dad call, would you let us know if it's anything important?" he called out to her behind the partition. "They were supposed to get up here last night, and there's nobody home."

"You betcha, Mike!" Bertha always called Brad `Mike.' Not because she couldn't remember his name she knew the names of all the people in Radford, even a lot of the regular renters. She said Brad looked just like my Granddad when he was married. I don't see it, though. Granddad was handsome, true. Don't get me wrong, but God gave Brad an extra helping of looks when he made him. I think Bertha was looking through those rosy glasses when she thought of Granddad. For instance, he had slightly "jug" ears not as bad as Perot, but definitely pronounced. Brad's ears are Perfect.

"We're going over to Ed's. We'll stop by here on the way home," Brad sang out as we turned towards the front door. Bertha was already engrossed with a customer, but she nodded at us to let us know she heard.

We passed on doing any shopping. Mom and Dad would be bringing up a pile of stuff, at any rate.

"I'm not all that hungry, Brad."

"Bull your belly has been growling like thunder since we showered."

"I just . . . I just got a feeling something isn't right."

As we walked out the "Exit" door next to the office, I looked down the ramp, and saw familiar faces.

"That's the Chains!" I said without thinking.No, not Chains. Mounty and Chatman. Don Mounty and Mark Chatman. I have a real problem remembering names sometimes.


"Don and Mark."

"Hey, guys!" said Mark, as he turned at the foot of the ramp.

"What's happening," said Don, giving a little wave. It didn't look like a gay gesture, but I wasn't sure what that looked like, so I looked around at other people in the parking area. Nobody paid us any attention at all, except a girl who looked at Brad like he was a fudge sundae. Charcoal toast was her fate for certain, if she so much as got close to him.

"Mom and Dad still haven't showed," I babbled incoherently. "We're trying to get a message to them."

"Well, they say there's record traffic," Don said in a serious tone. "Wouldn't surprise me but that's all it is."

"Anything we can do?" asked Mark. He's like that just volunteers help whenever it looks like it might be needed.

"Don't think so," Brad said. He was sounding too steady, too serious. There was an undercurrent of tension there. He was worried, too.

"We're just gonna get some lunch," I said apropos of nothing.

"I could use a slice of Ed's pie, at that," said Don. "Hang on for a minute we'll join you. Just want to get a bag of cornflakes." He turned and went in the "Exit" door, just pulling it open with his hand at the top corner. That was what most of us did when we went in to get sodas or ice no point walking around the long ramp if you only need stuff from up front. Only tourists used the "entrance."

Brad and I sat on the edge of the down ramp, and Mark asked if we knew what time Mom and Dad had left. We told him we thought they would have left around two on Friday afternoon, getting here around nine or nine-thirty, depending on traffic.

"Maybe they had to stay an extra day," Mark said.

"They sure didn't want to," said Brad.

"They've had the same message on the machine since Thursday," I blurted. "And the message tape is full."

"Probably nothing to get worried about," said Mark, watching the Exit door. "Maybe you should call the neighbors?"

"Shit!" said Brad. "I should have thought of that!" He leapt over the railing and went back in. I stayed with Mark, and we talked a little about the crowds at the beach and stuff.

Maybe ten minutes later, out pops Don, underneath two giant bags of dog chow. He was almost too tall and too wide for the door, even without the bags.

"Just getting two today," he said, loping down the ramp as if he wasn't carrying anything. "There must be fifty people in line."

"I thought you were getting corn flakes." I said, a little confused.

"Don't mind him," laughed Mark. "That's what he calls the dog food. It looks a little like corn flakes mixed with dried veggies."

I glanced at the door to see if Brad was next to come out, but it was an out-of-towner waddling behind a cart loaded with two cases of beer.

"Your brother's going to meet us over at Ed's," Don said, turning towards the parking area where Brad and I had left the `Maro. I had to scramble to keep up.

Mark jumped in front of Don to open the back of a big old GMC pulled next to our `Maro. The rear door had been taken off, and there was just a big net stretched across, which he lifted up. There was a dog in the back huge. It took up the whole width of the truck when it turned around. It was obviously happy to see the two men, as its tail thumped against either side of the van. I swear it was smiling.

It almost looked like a Great Dane, but there was something different, and it took me a minute to realize that the ears were floppy, not sticking up and pointed like Great Danes were. It was a deep, rich color, almost black, but in the sun you could see it was an impossibly dark brown.

"Wow!" I said. "What kind of dog is that?"

"Bittersweet Chocolate Dane," said Don, with obvious pride. "Color breeds true for the past seven generations."

"Why are the ears floppy?" I'd never seen a Dane with ears like these. Sort of like shortened versions of a retriever's ears. Not at all ugly. You could tell who the masters were he paid no nevermind to me at all.

"We don't cut!" said Mark, pushing the dog to one side as Don dropped the bags on the other. "If God wanted Spock ears on a dog, he'd have designed `em that way." The dog or, rather, bitch licked at Don's arm as he loaded the bags.

"She isn't slobbering at all I thought Danes slobbered."

"She's English stock," said Don, giving her a caress as he lowered the net. "Doesn't have the big jowls of AKC breeds. Lives longer, too."

"Danes usually go at eight or nine years," said Mark. "Their hearts give up pretty quick. Ours usually last twelve to fourteen."

"How come?"

"Good genes," Don grinned. "Slightly smaller than American breeds, finer bones."

We walked towards Ed's on the South side of the parking lot, as Don and Mark filled me in on their breeding. I never knew there was so much to bloodlines, and that there were so many types of Danes.

As we waited for a table to clear, Brad came in behind us.

"Anything?" I said. But I knew the answer, even before I saw the cloud on his face.

"The Fisher's are unlisted, the Sprachs aren't home, and Wilma Ripley says she hasn't seen Mom since they played bridge last week."

"What about the Strohmeyers?" Catherine Strohmeyer was a busybody. She used to complain to Mom if I didn't wear my bike helmet. Her husband beats up on her. At least that's what Mrs. Ripley told Mom once.

"No listing either. I may have spelled it wrong."

"We'll try again after we eat."

Shelly, Ed's niece, showed us to the booth by the window that she'd just cleared. She was looking fine. Wearing an engagement ring already. Just graduated from high school last year, and going to UC Davis. I remember when she was wearing braces a couple four years ago she definitely has grown out of the training bra she wore then.

We caught up on her life in a few minutes, found out she was getting married to Will Potter, the guy from Fall Creek she dated all through high school, before they went back to school -- he was going to Davis, too. She was impressed that Brad was going to Princeton.

Somehow, I got seated catty-corner from Brad, across from Don next to Mark. I felt a little isolated, almost. I didn't know what to order, so I let let Brad order for me -- he usually knows exactly what I feel like, so I got a tuna melt and a glass of milk.

I saw flashing lights of a police car, except it was a Suburban, not a Cruiser, sort of reflected in the glass of the window behind the next booth. I turned around to see what it was doing, but it had disappeared behind Murdoch's I guess. I just got this awful feeling that something was really wrong, something real bad was coming. I looked back at the reflection in the window. It was still there, but real faint, a long way off.

"Come on, Loon, snap out of it, for chrissakes!" Brad said, irritated. "Stop imagining things!" I snapped out of my frame of mind, and looked at him ready to say something nasty. Brad said it while Don was talking, but neither Don or Mark seemed to notice. They were talking about the renovation of the Hamilton place.

"Sorry," I said to Brad, as Shelly delivered the plates. "I can't help my imagination."

Brad got a really startled look on his face, then drank some tea. His hand shook. I saw.

"What for?" asked Mark. He and Don had big slices of apple pie with cheddar, while Brad was going to wrap himself around a bacon cheeseburger.

"I'm just," I started.

Brad threw me a look that said to cool it.

"I'm just thinking about the fireworks."

Don didn't believe me for a minute, I could tell. He gave Mark a look I couldn't quite figure. Mark was next to me, so I couldn't see what he looked back.

"You wanna meet up for dinner Sunday night before the fireworks if your folks don't get here?" Mark said to Brad. "We've got a barbecue spot reserved on the beach, and it won't take any effort except you have to cook your own steaks."

Don chipped in. "Jim and Jerry are bringing the salad and potatos, and we always have a couple of extra steaks."

Brad looked at me for a second before responding. "Thanks. Maybe we'll take a raincheck on that," he said through a mouthful of burger. "They've got dinner all mapped out, and they'll be here for sure, even if it is tomorrow."

"Suit yourselves," said Don. "If you change your minds, we're right in front of the showers, on the right hand side of the beach."

I wondered what it was like to be gay and have gay friends in a straight place like the Beach. Did people stare at them? Insult them? I couldn't imagine being seen by other people as queer, outcasts, sick. Didn't they worry about someone throwing the first stone, spray-painting their car? I wondered if they were obvious when they got together, like the gays they show on television, all lispy and limp.

Brad gave me a look that said `snap out of it! NOW!,' so I asked some dumb question, like what time the fireworks were going to start, and we finished our meal quickly, since there were still a bunch of people waiting for a table or booth.

When we finished, Mark got up and paid the bill. Didn't even ask.

"We'll pay," I said to Don as we were getting out of the booth. "We ate more than you guys did."

"Let us do this, this time," he said back to me. "You can get the next one."

"Thanks," said Brad, effectively acquiescing.

"We owe you on the chipper, too," I pursued. "You paid the deposit as well as the rental. We ought to pay the rental for yesterday."

"Don't worry," said Don. "We can square that all up later, after we get the final bill. Parker usually gives us a discount, since Mark rents a lot of shit from him all year long."

I nodded, and the subject was dropped. I didn't think of the fact that we had only paid $75 for deposit as well as rental, and Don had given us $100, until the following week.

We sauntered out into the sweltering heat of the parking lot, now jammed with last-minute weekend shoppers.

At the back of their old GMC, the Dane had its head out the tailgate, looking at us as we approached. Pretty dog. No barking, just excited, tail wagging back and forth, wriggling. "I want a dog like that," I promised myself. "Big, loving, quiet and intelligent."

"You talking about me?" Brad said in my ear, quietly.

I started from my reverie. What the hell made him say that? "The dog, dumdum."

"What about her?"

"I was talking about the DOG!"

"Oh," he grinned at me.

Shit! Was I talking out loud? I must be losing it!

We bade our goodbyes, and Don and Mark jumped into the big truck and backed out as we walked towards the store entrance to see if Bertha had gotten a call. Somebody swung quickly into their parking slot before they shifted out of reverse, and a guy that had been waiting gave the interloper the international one-finger sign of disapproval. Nice family values. He had a kid in the car with him, too.

We waved at the guys as they pulled past us, then turned into the store.

Murdoch's isn't built for crowds. Three registers churned and beeped, and the lines went all the way back into the aisles. Bertha was on register one, and cool as a cucumber. She saw us come in the exit door, shook her finger at us to show that she'd seen us, then hollered out over the din that there'd been no call. "But I'll send Terry up to your place to fetch you if they do," she said, still pushing stuff through the scanner.

"Thanks, Bertha!" we said in unison. I was about to turn to go, when Brad grabbed my arm.

"We better get some stuff for supper."

"What, and wait in line for half an hour to get outta here?"

"There's no meat in the fridge," he said, already on the way to the back of the store.

I tagged after him, but with a shopping basket. If we were going to fix dinner, it would be more than just meat. There was nothing left of the soft groceries we'd brought up with us.

While Terry helped two other customers, we discussed the menu. The veal chops looked good. Can't get them at home, unless you go to a specialty butcher. Our local Safeway only carries "select" meat, which Dad says is the next grade after dog food, and the veal always looks like it's too old, all red instead of white like it's supposed to be.

We decided on little stuffed pasta with cream and parsley as a starter, then veal chops pan-fried in butter with fresh sage and zucchini pan-roasted with garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. It's one of our favorites of Mom's best meals, and easy to prepare at the last minute when they got in.

But I knew there was something really wrong. I knew they'd not be arriving that night. It was something I wouldn't let myself say even think. But I knew.

By the time we got back to Reston, it was already five o'clock. We threw the food into the fridge, along with yet another block of ice we'd snagged at Murdoch's on the way out, and threw on our work shorts to fill up the pickup with roots and stuff. We made the first dump run, loaded up the rest of the stuff, and got back from the second run at seven-thirty.

Brad let me take the first shower, while he put the pickup and the tractor away. While I was waiting for Brad to shower, I sat on the front porch and drank a big glass of spring water, thinking of nothing, just enjoying the evening, the cool, the sounds of the forest. I leaned up against the redwood column that supported the roof, and sort of dozed off, I guess, only for a second.

I dreamed I saw Dad's Jeep. It was laying on its side at the bottom of a grassy hill. There was no one in it. I turned at a snapping sound, like a rubber band popping against a windowpane, and I was all of a sudden in the kitchen at home, and it was cold. Like a winter day, cold and . . . Mom and Dad were on the floor, in front of the dishwasher, laying on their sides. There were gags on their mouths . . .they weren't moving. Dad was staring at me . . . there was rage in his eyes, hate, anger.


I jumped at Brad's voice, above me.

"No sleeping on the job, fella!"

He was still dripping from his shower, drying off with a towel, naked as a jay bird and a thousand times more sexy. I reached up and caressed the family jewels. Nothing sexual, just familiar touching, real intimacy. He spread his legs a little to give me better access as he toweled his hair.

"Just day dreaming," I lied.

"Think we ought to go ahead and eat?"

"Brad, I . . . " I couldn't finish. I wanted to tell him. But it was just a dumb dream, right? "I guess so."

"I think we ought to open that other bottle of wine, too."

"What other bottle?"

"We bought two bottles, remember? Duh!"

"Oh!" I'd forgotten thought we'd drunk it whatever. "I could use a glass right now."

He leaned down towards me. I thought he was going to kiss me. I let go of his babymaker and reached for his shoulder, but he twisted a little to one side and then rose back up, two wine glasses in hand, half full of the deep red wine.

"Thought so," he said, sitting next to me, still naked and gorgeous, handing me one of the glasses. Everything went in freeze-frame slow motion as we raised our glasses and clinked them, then took a first sip staring into each others' eyes, just like we had the first time. My heart was in my throat, I got a little choked up, and I could feel my eyes get a little brimmy.

"I love you too, Loon," he started. "More than I thought I could ever love anybody. It makes me hurt inside sometimes, how much I love you. It makes me feel inside just like you feel inside right now, and it's going to be worse whenever we're apart."

There was something different about his voice. Sort of an echo missing, something like that. It was too . . . undistorted. How did he know what I was feeling inside?

"You . . . read me, don't you?" I had to ask. "You know what I think and . . . what I feel."

"I'm . . . not sure," he whispered. "I just . . . know somehow, like I was thinking it myself, feeling it myself, but I know it isn't me, it's you. It isn't all the time, only some of the time. And only since . . . since we . . . got together."

"I hear you sometimes," I said softly, almost afraid someone else might overhear. "I hear you when you aren't talking sometimes, and it's a little scary."

He looked at me funny. "Like now?" he said his lips behind the glass.

"No, of course not. It's when you talk without anyone else hearing, when your tongue is in my mouth and you can't be talking, but I hear you anyway."

"Oh shit!" he said. "I thought so!"


"I didn't say anything out loud."


"Now." He said, his lips over the top of the glass so I could see that they did not move.

"Don't be ridiculous!" I said. "It's your voice I hear, not someone else's!"

"I haven't said a word out loud since I sat down," he said. "Except when I whispered that I wasn't sure I could hear what you're thinking sometimes." He said that out loud - I saw his lips.

"That's crazy!" I almost shouted.

"I'm not talking out loud now, am I?" His mouth was wide open, his tongue wasn't moving, and he was looking me right in the eyes. "But you can hear me?"

"Of course I hear y . . . " Then I stopped. Did I hear him? "Say something else like that."

"I love you." He kept it simple. "Every time I look at you, I wonder why God has been so good to me to bring you into my life."

I heard what he said, but I didn't hear it, not with my ears, I mean. "It sounds different a little. Like it's . . . like a Walkman sounds through those speakers that fit inside the ear, you hear everything else at the same time, and you can't tell where the sound is coming from."

"Let's try something."


"Shut your eyes and tell me where I am, where I sound like I am."

"Okay." I shut my eyes. I heard him get up, then lean over. He kissed me on the back of the neck, and shivers crawled over my backbone.

"How loud do I sound?" he whispered in my ear.

"You're whispering," I half-giggled. "But I can hear you fine."

"Where am I?"

"On my right."

"How far away?"

"A few inches."

"How about now?" he said in a normal voice.

"About two or three feet away."

"And now?" he almost shouted, but not directly in my ear.

"Maybe five or six feet away."

"What about now?" he said in a low voice.

"A couple of feet."

"Can you hear this?" he whispered.

"Maybe two feet," I said.

"What about now, Loon." Normal voice, right in front of me.

"One or two feet."

"How far away does this thing work?"

"How the hell should I know?" I said a little testily. "Maybe we should have it tested."

"No way!" he said in a loud `voice.' "They'd put us into a tank somewhere, make freaks out of us." He was on my right a little, maybe ten feet away.

"Then we should test it ourselves!"

"We just did open your eyes," He whispered, so I figured he'd be right in front of my nose.

He wasn't in front of me, like I thought. I looked down the porch not there. I got up to look in the house.

"Over here!" called his voice. I snapped my head around he sounded sort of distant. On the path maybe. There was an echo.

"Look at me!" he cried out, and I looked from where the echo came. He was at least a hundred feet down the drive. Still naked. He looked like a Ken doll with a pubic patch. I thought of the doll.

"I do not!" he said from right in front of me, no more than two feet away. "My knees bend, and so do my elbows!" There was no echo. "I'm also anatomically correct!"

"Can you hear me?" I thought to myself, but sort of `at' him. He started to walk back towards me.

"Like you were right here."

"Oh, shit."

"No shit."

"You got ESP," I thought at him.

"I think we both got it," he said. I could tell he didn't say it out loud no echo.

"I wonder if he can "hear" things I thought to myself." I pretended I was talking to me, not to Brad.

"Did you hear that?" I "said" to him.


"I just thought something at myself and not to you," I said aloud.

"Didn't hear it."

At least he won't hear some of the weird things that go through my head. Like last night when I was afraid I might be dirty when he was inside me.

"Loon, that would never bother me," he said, mounting the stairs.

"How do I turn it off?"

"I don't know!" he said, sitting next to me again, holding my hand. "I only just found out I could hear you." This last he spoke aloud.


"At the Lake," he said softly. "I heard you calling for me. After you went under."

Wow. Mega-heavy trip.

"Yeah. Scared the piss out of me. Your voice got weaker and weaker. But I could still hear you calling for me, even after I had you on my shoulder."

"Can you tune me out?"


"So you don't get bored with constant chatter," I said, chucking his chin lightly.

"I can . . . not listen, but most of the time I can't `hear' you, unless I really . . . concentrate, I guess you'd say. I don't know how it works. Sometimes you're on the other end of the line, sometimes not."

"Anybody else?"

"Nope. Just you."



"Brad, this is gonna sound weird," I started.


"Let's not . . . tell anybody."

"They'd say we were making it up, anyway."

"I mean . . . they'd put us away in Alamagordo, wouldn't they?" I said. "Besides, there's something else."


I thought of when we were making love, when I was inside him, when I felt . . . saw . . . what he was feeling, felt like I was him when he was holding my nuts, looking into my face even as I was me looking into his eyes.

"Wow." He said. "No secrets, huh?"

"I think we're getting into something pretty off the charts," I mused.

"God is being awfully good to us," he thought. And I got a rush of his faith, so much stronger than mine had been. He believed in God, I could feel it, and it gave my faith wing. I knew then that God was with us, knew us, loved us. Funny how I had never realized how deeply religious Brad really was. How much I wanted to believe, all these years, and didn't, not really. Until now.

"You will know me better or worse than anyone on earth," he said, holding me in his arms. "You'll know when I'm afraid, when I'm thinking bad thoughts, when I have . . . nasty urges."

I can't imagine him having weaknesses, truly nasty thoughts.

"I'm only human," Brad said. "I have fantasies that make me feel guilty, dirty."

"Like what?"

"Like seeing Saddam Hussein torn into bloody pieces by his own people, like the Unabomber being eaten alive by that flesh-eating bacteria," he said. "I've imagined seeing Bud screw a girl, his dick so big, she can't take it all. I imagined once sucking his dick. I look at some people and know that I'm prejudiced against them, like really grossly fat people, like people that use the F-word in public, like people that dress like druggies. I've . . . I've even thought of watching a dog . . . do a guy."


"You don't want to know."

"I'm not going anywhere with that!" I joked.

"It was a sick thought," he said softly. "I saw that Lab from across the street humping on Billy's leg, and I wondered if dogs do it with . . . I mean if people let a dog . . . well, you know."

I did - I "saw" what he had thought, saw the Labrador push Billy to the ground, saw Billy's clothes evaporate, saw the dog mount the boy and begin humping . . . and the image disappeared.

"You let me see that?"

"I can't keep secrets from you, Loon. I don't think I know how."

"But you shut off the picture."

"It . . . it's sick. I don't want to see it anymore."

"Me either."

He pulled me into his arms. "I'm a little scared about where this is going, Loon."


"You think something bad has happened to Mom and Dad." It wasn't a question.

"I . . . " I thought of the picture I'd seen. "I thought I saw the Jeep."

I thought of the image of the Jeep on its side at the bottom of a grassy hill. I willed away the image I'd had of Mom and Dad in the kitchen.

"Yeah. I see it. Do you think it's . . . real?"

"I don't know!" I cried, and tears threatened the gates. Brad held me and made me feel better, and his strength flowed into me.

We sat there for a while, just drinking the wine, wondering about what we'd discovered. He didn't think at me, but talked to me. I didn't get the "echoless" sound. He said it was hard to concentrate enough to think at me instead of talk, it takes a lot of "emptying out" of his thoughts.

I know this sounds weird, but we just accepted it for what it is. We could talk to each other without anybody hearing us, that's all. It's like foreigners that come here and speak in their own language. Knowing that no one can understand them, they're free to say anything they want.

We couldn't hear each other all the time, but most of the time the "radio" was "on." We could make it go "on" when we needed to or wanted to. It's the best thing for making love that God ever gave us. We tried it out that night.

Many thank to all of you who have sent me your comments on Reston. I try to answer every e-mail, but I got so many, I lost track of who has and hasn't got a personal response. I hope I haven't offended anyone with the "canned" response I used for the days when there were just too many to answer on a personalized basis. A guy's gotta eat!

I've also written a couple of short stories, Silk ("Beginnings") and China Beach ("Military")

If you have any comments, or about the writing quality or about the plot, send me a note at