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 XIII

Sunday, July 4, 1993

"Mr. Throckmorton?" I interjected before the lawyer could launch into his spiel.

"Yes, Timothy?"

"I know you think we're pretty young and all, but do you think you could stop calling us boys?"

Throckmorton didn't bat an eye. "It's just that I think of you as my friends' sons, Tim. I've known you two since you were four and six years old, and it's hard to think that the balls of terror in shorts who used to climb on my lap are now young men."

I was surprised that he called me Tim.

Brad jumped in. "It's just that . . . we have a lot more on our plate right now, and we don't want people . . . " he looked at Mrs. Houston as he said 'people' . . . "thinking of us as being just children."

Mrs. Houston shook her head slightly, but said nothing.

"I assure you, Brad, I do not think of either of you as a mere child." Throckmorton said softy. "Now. Let's start talking about what has to be done in the next week."

Brad and I nodded our assent, and sat at the kitchen table opposite Throckmorton, as he began to write notes on a yellow legal pad that appeared from nowhere.

"As I see it, there are three major themes," he began.

"Firstly, we need to make the necessary arrangements for your parents' funeral services. I have all your father's instructions on that issue, but I will need to know where the address book is kept, which relatives should and should not be invited, and so on. The services will be held here at the First Presbyterian Church, of course, but the ashes are to be scattered at Reston."

"Who . . . scatters the ashes?" one of us asked.

"Your father leaves that decision to you," the lawyer said as he wiped his little glasses. "It is usually the immediate family that does it, but you can have it done by an outside service as well."

"You okay with that?" Brad asked.

"Yeah. Don't want strangers doing it."

"We'll do it." Brad said forcefully.

"Secondly, we need to make the necessary arrangements to ensure that the two of you have as much continuity in your lives as possible. Naturally, you will stay here for now, but we will need to determine what course of action will be taken when you, Brad, enter University, while Tim finishes High School."

"Do we have a say in what happens?" Brad asked impertinently. Underneath it, though he let slip a glimmer of hope at me. "Maybe we can carry this off."

"Of course you do, Brad," Throckmorton said, taking off his glasses again. You will be eighteen fairly soon, will you not?"

"Two and a half months," Brad replied.

"Timothy will be sixteen around the same time?"

"The next day," I chirped.

"Well, as long as the court approves the will, and a conservator is accepted, there is a reasonable chance that you, Bradley, could be awarded guardianship over Tim," said the lawyer. "It will take the court at least that long to have the County Agencies' recommendations, then hear my arguments. There is plenty of precedent for an eighteen-year-old to be given custody, as long as there is an adult counselor available. Even if the Court turns it down -- and I see no reason why it should, mind you -- we can appeal."

My heart took wing. "We're gonna stay together!"

"Was there ever any doubt?"

Damn Perfect brothers, anyway.

"I heard that!"  I got a little laugh from him, too -- even though his face remained frozen and grim.

"We'll do whatever is best for you," said Mrs. Houston. She was still sitting on the kitchen stool, drinking her tea. "That usually means keeping siblings together, as long as adequate supervision is provided."

"That's really white of you," Brad said, his voice dripping with honeyed sarcasm. He got the expression from Dad - it had something to do with Vietnam, I think.

Mrs. Houston looked blank, like she hadn't heard the tone of his voice. I looked at Boo. She showed nothing at all. I wondered if the expression was racist.

"But Brad is supposed to leave for school before our birthday," I almost pleaded.

Throckmorton continued as if nothing had happened.

"There may be a problem with you acting as guardian and going out of state, however," the lawyer said, taking his half-moon reading glasses off and looking at Brad. "The courts don't like to see minors going over the state line."

"So they're going to imprison me here in California while Brad is all the way across country?" I fumed.

". . . stay here," I heard from Brad.


"I said I could stay here," Brad said. There was a sincerity to his offer, but there was a dread there, too.

"No way."

"That's not realistic, Tim," Throckmorton said.

"What do you mean?"

"The Court won't imprison you. It's just that it has a responsibility to ensure that your physical and emotional welfare is maintained. If the Court determines that you are not likely to have adequate protection, supervision and support from a prospective guardian because he may be a full-time college student, it can require arrangements that ensure that you do have those advantages."

"That's why I'm here," said Houston. "My only job is to make sure that you don't lose even more than you have already, that you don't go off the rails because you don't have the right . . . support."

"Yeah, right," I sulked. "So Brad goes Back East and I'm supposed to stay here on my own with someone I don't know telling me what to do?"

"Hey, Bro," Brad said at me. "Be nice! This woman could stab us in the back if we rile her up."

"Yeah, I guess."

"I think we're jumping the gun, here," said Throckmorton. "Why don't we just talk about the general themes, rather than the fine details?"

Nobody responded. I was too angry, Brad was too diplomatic, and I guess Houston was keeping her powder dry.

The lawyer droned on. "Lastly, we have to make the necessary financial arrangements, determine the estate valuations, the property disposition, the setting up of trusts for you two, and so on."

"What about finding the killer?" Brad interjected. "Isn't that included in the list of priorities?"

"That's something that isn't in our control, Brad," Throckmorton responded. "The police are going to make a big deal out of finding the perpetrators in this case. There's too much publicity for them not to push as hard as they have to in order to catch the killer or killers."

"What publicity?" I asked.

"This is front page news all over the state," said our lawyer. "There will be pressure from every political corner to solve the crime."

"Why all the publicity?" Brad came to life.

"Your father was one of the Lieutenant Governor's friends," Throckmorton said. "They go all the way back to Vietnam together, and your Dad was a big campaign contributor."

"You're kidding," Brad said. "Dad's a Republican!"

"He was an intelligent man," said Thurston quietly. "He never let politics outweigh the value of friendship or decency or honesty."

"But why the publicity?"

"Your mother and father were apparently . . . accosted after they left the Capitol on Thursday evening, after a reception and dinner as guests of the Lieutenant Governor."

"Kidnapped?" I asked stupidly.

"And executed," said the lawyer.

The word shocked me. I started to go down the road towards tears again.

"Hang in there, Loon."

A plate appeared in front of me, with a tuna and tomato sandwich, pickles and onions, and a handful of potato chips. Another appeared in front of Brad. I hadn't heard Boo bustling in the kitchen behind us. Two glasses of milk materialized as well, and the iced tea glasses were suddenly no longer there. It was as good a way as any to bribe me out of a funk.

"I think these two should get a break for a few minutes and put on their feed-bags," Boo's voice rumbled over my head. "Can't think on an empty tank."

They tasted almost exactly like mom's - even down to the light sprinkle of salt on the sweet butter. The bread was sliced a little too thin, though.

"Of course, you're right, Beulah." said Thurston. "I forget what it's like to be hungry all the time."

Brad and I plunged in, but we kept talking all the same. Throckmorton told us there was a life insurance policy on both mom and dad, so we'd not have any money troubles for a while. All the bank accounts were frozen, of course, but the insurors would advance funds and pay bills until the court permitted an account to be opened for us.

"I'm glad I have my own account,"  said Brad at me. "We can always live off that for a while."

"How much?"

"Almost eight thousand." It's my F.U. account."

"F. U.?"

"Enough so we can say F. U. to anybody and just walk away." He smiled at me. "You got anything, Loon?"

"Just the money Gran Weston left me," I said. "I think that's in trust, or something, so I can't touch it."

"Yeah. 'Til we're twenty-one."

"I have maybe nine hundred in my savings account."

"What about the house?" I asked aloud. "How long can we stay here?"

"It's insured," Throckmorton said. "The mortgage is paid for by the policy, so it will belong to the estate - you - free and clear. It will be up to the court, though, to say whether or not you can stay here."

The telephone just kept ringing, Boo kept answering and taking messages.

Mrs. Houston cleared her throat to get our attention. "It's usually the Court position that you should stay in a familiar environment," she said softly, so you had to strain a little to hear her. "In a case like this, though, with no close relatives, and Brad not yet 21, I'm not sure what the court will decide."

"Blackmail?" Brad came on the line.


"She wants us to suck up to her, try to get her on our side." Brad was chewing on the inside of his lower lip. I could feel it.

"You reading her?"

"No, I can only read you, remember?"

"I don't like her."

"Me either, but the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

"I don't get it."

"If she'll go to bat for us, against the court or whoever would want to split us up, I want her on our side."

"Go for it."

"Will you help us, Mrs. Houston?" Brad said in an astonishingly pleading way.

"All we have is each other," I said in a little-boy-lost voice. "I don't wanna lose my big brother."

"That's why I'm here," Mrs. Houston said with a smile. "I'll do what I can to keep you boys together."

The Perfect One had made yet another conquest.

"Make that Perfect Pair, Loon." I smiled inside.

Throckmorton looked at me, then at Brad, then at me again. He didn't smile, but there was a knowing twinkle in his eye.

"Right," he said after a tiny pause. "Can you tell me where the address book is kept?"

"Under the telephone, in the drawer," Brad said, nodding at the little shelf unit on the end of the island. Boo opened the drawer and hefted out Mom's little book, full of addresses, birthdays, recipes, newspaper clippings. She handed it to Throckmorton, then swooshed away the sandwich plates before I could get the last crumbs.

"Does your dad . . . did your father have a separate one?" asked Mrs. Houston.

"Yeah, he has a Rolodex on his desk," I volunteered. "Plus the big one in the office."

"I'll get it," Brad said, getting up. He went to the back of the house. Dad's home office was next to my bedroom.

"Tim, are there any people you can think of that need to be told right away?"

I thought for a second. "Well, I guess Dave Garibaldi probably knows already. Mom's brother Jeremy, down in LaLa land." David is my Dad's business partner. A nice enough guy, but a little rough around the edges, sorta. He's got two horses, a wife and two little girls, and that's in their order of importance to him. He loves his kids to death, thinks his wife is a goddess, and you can imagine what he thinks of his horses.

Boo put another plate in front of me - it was a slice of canned apricot tart. I managed to get a forkful in while I was looking through the memory banks trying to dredge through the people we knew. Not as good as Mom's, I warrant, but still good enough to blow away the ones that come in a box.

"Other than them . . . nobody I can think of." I managed to swallow before I spoke -- just.

"What about your dad's . . . close relatives?" said Mrs. Houston.

"He's . . . he was the last," said Brad as he came back into the kitchen, rolodex in hand. "His brother died in Vietnam, and his sister died of meningitis when she was two."

"Oh, I'm sorry," Houston said automatically. As if we even knew them.

Brad attacked the tart with his fork almost before he was back in his chair. The apricot tart, I mean.

"What about the electric and the telephone?" I asked. I have no idea where that came from.

"They'll get the information when we make the changes in billing," said the lawyer. "We have ten days to do it."

We fell into silence for a minute as Throckmorton wrote stuff on his legal pad, interrupted by the telephone again. I wondered if it would be piggish to ask for more tart, but thought better of it and kept mum.

After Boo hung up, Brad asked her who all was calling.

"Mostly friends and neighbors," she said. "Your Momma and Daddy must have had a lot of friends. A few ambulance chasers, reporters, a funeral home, a life insurance salesman, a couple of investment advisors. I took all their numbers, except the cranks."


"There are always a few calls from sick people who think it's funny to tell lies about people who die," said Houston. "Or to claim the deceased had signed a contract for some outlandish service or other." Another piece of tart magically appeared on my plate, and soon followed in its cousin's wake.

"Con men?" Brad asked.

"Yes," said Mrs. Houston. "You have to be very careful about people who claim to have known your parents, but that you don't already know," she continued. "Death seems to bring scalawags out from under their rocks in droves."

Her stock went up a point in my book.

"I agree," chimed in Brad.

The doorbell rang. Boo made a feint to get it, but Mrs. Houston was closer to the hall, and pounced off her perch in a flash, calling out "I'll get it!" before Boo could get her bulk in gear. I thought of a Peregrine Falcon, swooping down from a high building to pluck a City Pigeon from the hand of a little old lady feeding bread crumbs to the filthy flyers. I got a laugh out of Brad.

"That was an interesting duet you played," said Throckmorton, as soon as Rebecca Houston was out of earshot. By way of diversion, I got all the crumbs off the plate before Boo had a chance to take it away.

"What was that?" asked Brad, picture of innocence.

"The perfectly orchestrated play for her sympathy," he said. The twinkle was back in his eye. "Did you rehearse that beforehand?"

"Don't have a clue what you mean," Brad said, swallowing a smile so badly, you could make it out. I suppressed a smirk, but no more successfully than Brad. Throckmorton pressed his lips together, hard enough to make them white around the edges. I think he was trying not to laugh.

"Damned reporters!" came a loud Rebecca Houston voice from the hall as the door slammed behind her. She stomped back into the kitchen, righteous rage in a cloud behind her head. "Haven't got a streak of humanity in their carcasses! Probably tried to interview Mary Magdalene as they were pounding in the nails!"

"Up two more points," said Brad.

"Four," I countered.

The telephone rang again.

"Now," said Throckmorton, "Do you have any questions I can help with now? I have to be getting home pretty soon. Tomorrow's our wedding anniversary, and I don't want Julia to spend the whole day on her own."

Julia, Mrs. Throckmorton, is confined to the house. Mom told me she has Alzheimer's disease, and wouldn't recognize me anymore, she's so bad. It's a shame -- she was nice.

"How many have to be there?" asked Brad.


"The church, the cemetery."

"You need to allow as many people as possible to come to the church to say goodbye," said the lawyer, wiping his glasses. "Your father was active in the Church, the Club, his political party, and his business. Your mother was very active in the Church and the Club, did all that volunteer work in the hospital, and was a past president of the PTA. I would guess that the church will be full."

Our church is pretty big.

"At the cemetery, I would recommend that you limit the attendance to immediate family and very close friends only. It will be a difficult time as it is, and there is no reason why you should subject yourselves to more stress than necessary."

"What about money?" I asked, ever the worrywart.

"Well, all the groceries and household expenses will be taken care of by me for the time being," said Thurston, a little shyly. "Mrs. Holmes has a small fund for the groceries, and checks for bills will come from an escrow account I'll open Tuesday. I guess I should give you each a small amount for any little things that come up." He pulled out one of those long, slim wallets from his breast pocket, and took out some bills. He gave Brad some, and then gave me five twenties.

"Will that do for a few days?" he asked.

"Sure," said Brad. I just nodded. He'd just given me two whole months' allowance.

"I mean, who pays for the funeral and all," I pushed.

"Well, the Court will approve reasonable expenses, as outlined in the will, Tim," Throckmorton said, putting his spectacles in a narrow case inside his jacket pocket. "There will be plenty of money to pay for such things. You needn't worry just now."

"Oh," I said. I don't know why I was so hung up on the money part.

Throckmorton put his legal pad into this little leather case - not a briefcase, moe like a big envelope with a zipper.

"Right. I'm off. I'll leave you with Mrs. Houston for now, and you call me if there's any problem at all. Don't answer the door or the telephone, and put your car in the garage right away. Do not speak with any reporters, at least until we've had a chance to talk about things more . . . at our leisure."

We walked out with him, after he said good-bye to Boo. Mrs. Houston came with us.

"I wish there was someone who could come stay with you," he said as he opened the door.

Brad and I assured him we'd be all right. I had gotten the impression that Mrs. Houston was going to stay overnight,m but it looked like that was not going to happen. It was no disappointment

As we walked out the door to Throckmorton's Jaguar, a '95 XJR, Windsor Blue with creamy Connolly leather, I didn't see the reporters and their camera people. "The TV people have gone," I noted.

"I asked them to back off," said Throckmorton. "Gave them a quick statement on the part of the family, so they'd have something and get the heck out of here. That's what friends and family lawyers are for."

We shook hands after he dumped the address book and rolodex in the back seat. He told us again how saddened he was to lose such good friends, and to see us cast adrift so soon in life, then got into his car, set the muted thunder of his engine alight, backed out of the drive and was gone.

Brad went to get his car from the other side of the street. He put the top up first, and opened the garage door with the clicker in the car. There was nobody hanging around anymore. I guess they all left when the TV truck and the police car left. Mrs. Houston and I walked back into the house. She smelled like bubble bath. It was the same perfume Mom wore sometimes when they went out for dinner.

"Are you going to be all right here on your own tonight?" she asked after we closed the front door.

"Aren't you supposed to guard us, or something, Mrs. Houston?" I said, still a little surprised - but not displeased.

"No," she laughed. "I'm not a prison officer, Tim! And call me Becky, please! I know I'm a lot older, but we're going to be working together for a while, and there's no point in being stuffy."

"Okay. Becky. But I thought . . ."

"Mrs. Holmes will stay here, and a police car will drive by regularly to make sure everything is all right," she said. "If there's any problem at all, I'll give you my pager number, and you have Mr. Throckmorton's number. And don't hesitate to call 911 if there's the slightest need."

I suddenly felt a little left out. Mom and Dad were dead, and we were on our own already. It didn't seem . . . fair, somehow.

Brad came in the back door, and we sat down and finished our sandwiches and milk. It was warm by then, but I didn't care. Boo had found a pork loin in the freezer, and we settled on that for dinner. I would have agreed to horse meat or goat.

"Let's . . . " Brad started to say as the doorbell rang again. Boo made to get it, and Becky showed no inclination to head her off.

"More reporters, probably," I said a little bitterly.

"Let's go for a walk," Brad said finally.

"Why?" I thought at him.

"I want to talk with you, but not at home, with them around," he said.

"Good idea," I said, loud enough for Rebecca to hear. "Why can't we just talk like this?"

"It's . . . I don't know, I just want to talk with you . . . not here. Away."

"Okay," I finished. It's neat being able to hold two conversations at once. We sandwiched a lot in.

I wondered what was on his mind. For some reason, I couldn't read him -- like he'd gone behind the horizon or something.

"Excuse me," said Boo, sticking her head around the corner of the hall. "There's a Reverend Alexander here. Do you want to see him?"

I looked at Brad, and he looked at me and nodded. "Yes," he said. Boo's head disappeared.

"Why don't you sit in the living room," said Becky. "That way we won't be underfoot."

It was a nice way of not intruding. We got up and met Reverend Alexander in the hall.

"Hello Brad, Tim," he said in his deep bass rumble. "I am so sorry your parents couldn't stay with us a little while longer. I will miss them, but not as much as you, I know."

"Hello, Reverend," Brad said. "We're, uh . . . a little . . . lost," he groped for words.

"I know, my sons," he said, and steered us into the living room, that place in so many homes that is used not more than twice a year, either as overflow when the family or great room is full, or when the Jehovah's Witnesses come to the door. My mom invites them to sit a moment and take a load off their feet, then tries to convert them to Presbyterianism. I think she must have got one once, and hasn't given up on trying for a second convert since. She's a persistent . . . she was . . . aw, shit.

Reverend Alexander led us in a short prayer, and I felt myself almost merging into Brad as we prayed -- his faith is that strong. Brad and I sat on the sofa, and it was natural for us to hold hands as we prayed. Brad and I didn't do it deliberately, I don't think, but somehow my prayers and his were identical, and we prayed in unison to God to welcome Mom and Dad, told Him how much we loved them, how much they had cared for us.  Jonathan read us a little from Corinthians, and then we talked for a while about what death signified, how it would affect us.

He walked us through the denial, anger, guilt and acceptance procedure, and told us it was all right for us not to be sad every minute of the day. He said it was all right to burst out in tears to cleanse the dust of death, all right to feel sorry for ourselves for being left behind. We talked about anger, and how we must not allow it to poison our relations with people we loved or liked or didn't yet know. We talked about what we might have done differently that could have made a difference, and came to the conclusion that there was nothing that we could have done to protect Mom and Dad. It was somehow important to hear that it wasn't our fault. We talked about hate, and what it could do to us to let ourselves hate the person or persons who did murder. That it was good to be angry, good to want justice, and good to want mercy. That it was right to hate the crime, the deed, the motivation, but wrong to hate the person. I had a hard time with this last part, but eventually agreed that hating a person was useless. Brad helped me see the logic.

We prayed for a few more minutes, then Brad asked him if he would conduct the funeral for us. He told us that he had already promised Dad that he would come back from retirement to say the services if necessary, but had hoped it would be his son, Justin, that said the service instead. (His oldest boy is -- was --  only six or seven years old.) Jonathan had heard from Throckmorton before the second service that morning. They had agreed on Thursday for the funeral, to be held at the Church, then a short, private service for just immediate family and intimate friends at the crematorium.

"If that's what you want," he said to us.

We agreed, after a quick conversation between the two of us.

Brad said something about wanting the caskets to be simple, that we should give the savings from ornate things to the Church. We didn't talk about it first, but I was okay with that. Reverend Alexander said that the Church was well-provided for in Mom and Dad's will, and there was no reason to be concerned right now for such things.

Brad said we would scatter the ashes ourselves at Reston, and the Reverend said he thought that was a wonderful idea. He recommended we use Mom's spoons. Mom collected sterling silver teaspoons. Not the touristy things, but original French and English tea and coffee spoons. I still have them, tarnished in all the right places, two of them from the 1700's.

I asked him if God would damn the souls of the murderer or murderers. He said there was no way to predict, that sometimes murderers truly repent and find God, and a loving God can see if that is genuine or not, and if it is, bring that person into grace. I wasn't sure if that was the answer I wanted or not, but it seemed to make sense.

When he left, I felt a little lighter, and when he shook my hand at the door, I knew he was truly a blessed man, who had answered the Call with good reason. He gave us each a hug, absorbing a little more of our pain, and promised to call during the week to make sure we were doing all right. I wondered at his ability to carry so much of the pain of others on his shoulders.

"Boo?" Brad hollered from the front hall after Reverend Alexander left. "We're going for a walk! Back in an hour or so!"

Becky came into the hall and asked us if we were all right, and we assured her we were, and Boo just said "Peach Cobbler for dessert." She knew that would bring us back, if anything would. Genius.

We walked down to the trail that leads to the lake in the little park, and just ambled along as we reflected. I heard him pouring over what Reverend Alexander had said, and we talked a little about how we felt God wanted us to handle the situation. We both cried a little, but the deep chest-wrenching sobs were behind us, at least until the funeral. I told him how hard I would find it to not hate the killer, and he told me he felt the same, but would try his darndest. I looked into him, and he had the same turmoil as me, the urge to hate so strong, the desire to love so much stronger, but torn by our loss.

We talked a little about the future, how we might be able to influence the waters in our stream of time, perhaps convince the authorities that the only way to ensure my future was for me to go with Brad to New Jersey. We would probably not want for money, so we could always come back to Sacramento to satisfy any Court requirements for keeping in touch.

At one point, I asked Brad if he thought we were rich. He answered something like "only as long as we have each another," then blushed from hairline to T-shirt collar. I agreed, and we kissed deeply, right there on the Trail, our bodies reacting the way any teens' bodies would. We walked the rest of the way hand in hand. I don't remember seeing anybody at all, not even when we walked around the lower finger of the lake and back over the little footbridge, then back home. We stopped holding hands when we came out onto the street, and walked arm in arm for some reason or other. Propriety, possibly, but I think it was more just wanting to be close, but not let anyone intrude on us.

Becky was at the front door when we got there. "I thought you got lost, or something!" she said by way of greeting.

"Just talking," Brad said. "We needed to sort a few things out."

"I'm like a mother hen," she said with a little grin. "You'll get used to me. I can't help being protective."

We just laughed, then went into the kitchen for something to drink. No need to hit the fridge - Boo already had two glasses of apple juice and some cookies on a plate for us.

"Your uncle called," Boo said as we attacked the mound of Oreos.

"Uncle Jeremy?" Brad said, his mouth half full of black crumbs. None of which got spit out, of course.

"Yes," said Boo. "He left you a number in San Francisco. Said he was up for a film sequence, and got the message through his agent."

"We'll call him right away," Brad said. He took the slip of paper, grabbed a couple more Oreos and his glass, and said "come on" at me as he went to the hallway. I followed, but with the plate, since there were only six cookies left. Brad would want at least a couple more, and I wanted four, too.

We closed the door to Dad's office behind us, and went to the 'phone. Brad hit the 'speaker' button, and punched in the number, not forgetting to punch in the code for AT&T rather than PacBell.

"Hello," answered a man's voice, not that deep, but not high, either.

"Is this Jeremy Waters?" Brad asked.

"Yes, it is," said the voice, a little deeper. "Is this . . .?"

"Yes," said Brad. "I'm Brad Weston."

"And I'm Tim," I added.

"I'm really sorry," said my uncle. "I wish I knew you well enough for that to mean something."

"It does," said Brad.

"Are you guys okay?"

"We're hangin' in there," I said. "Could be better."

"When is the, uh . . .?"

"Thursday afternoon," Brad said. "Church service at the First Presbyterian Church, then a private service at the Crematorium. Will you be here?"


"Are you bringing your . . . partner?" I asked. I suddenly had an insight about the way Mom had spoken about Uncle Jeremy's 'companion.'

"Will that be a problem?"

"Of course not," said Brad. He read me and agreed. One of the things about this thing - you can think to each other a lot faster than you can talk.

"Can you recommend a hotel in the area?"

"You'll stay here," I said. We'd already thought it out.

"Are you sure?" Jeremy asked. "We don't really know each other yet."

"You're family," Brad said.

There was a pause at the end of the line, and a little noise, then "Deal. We'll take you to a nice restaurant."

"We're looking forward to it," I said without thinking. Brad gave me a flame-thrower look.

"We're supposed to be in mourning," he thought at me.

"We're going to meet Mom's brother!" I slashed back. "She loved him!"

"Will you be all right until Wednesday?" Jeremy asked. "We can come up earlier, if that would be of any help at all.

"No, Wednesday's fine," Brad said. "But if you want to come up earlier, the guest room's free any time."

"Your call," Jeremy said.

"Come as soon as you can," I said into the microphone. "We need family."

Brad looked at me in surprise. He hadn't read that coming. He looked inside me and agreed at once. "Yeah," he said. "You're it."

"We'll leave in the morning," Jeremy said.

"You know the way?" Brad asked.

"No, but we'll call from the car when we get into Sacramento and get directions."

"Call as soon as you see the Nut Tree on the North side of the freeway," said Brad. "We live west of the City, between Interstate 505 and downtown."

"Will do," said our uncle. "See you tomorrow."

"Bye, Uncle Jeremy," I said on a whim.

"Bye, Skeet," said my uncle. I wondered how he knew I was called Skeet. "You're in our prayers. Bye, Brad"

We hung up and I got all misty-eyed. I don't know what it was, maybe just the thought that Mom's brother cared about us, even though he didn't know us at all.

"Loon," Brad got on our telephone and soothed me. "I love you."

I burst into tears. I have no earthly idea why. I just turned into his arms, and we stood there in front of Dad's desk and wept together, getting our T-shirts damp with tears, rocking back and forth a little. We both looked into each other, and neither one of us knew what we were crying about, but it felt right, so we did. Then we came out of it together, copped a feel (we were both semi hard) and went back to the kitchen.

Boo looked at us quickly, then told us it was a half hour to dinner, why didn't we take a shower and get rid of the road muck, and Becky said it was a good idea and shooed us back down the hall. When I got into the bathroom, I knew why. My eyes were all red, and my nostrils looked like Rudolph.

I was about to jump into the shower when the door opened and Brad came in, only a towel around his waist.

"You devil," I thought at him, when I read his lust. He showed me a picture of what he wanted to do with my body, and I couldn't say no, so I was soon hollering silently into a towel as he tipped me over the edge and down his throat, his finger inside me, his mind in mine filling me with love.

As soon as my feet reached the ground, I showed him what was going to happen to his seed, and he let me have my way with him, his dick cooperating fully, sending everything he had down my throat. It helped that I had my middle finger pressing on his nut. I cheated, magnifying one of his fantasies - the one where we do it in a floating bed in a space station, looking down at the globe of earth, reaching orgasm just as the sun peeks out from behind the earth's disk. It's easy when you know how -- I just speeded up the rotation of the earth a little, and magnified the image he had of the feel of my butt muscles clamping around his dick, my legs pulling him into me. I increased the olfactory sense of my semen as it flew into floating globules between us, and dredged up the memory he had of the taste of my semen as it shot from me not more than two minutes earlier, just as he imagined snagging a glob from the air. I hardly had to touch him. He whimpered into the towel and exploded.

"You're good," he whispered into me. "Where've you been practicing?"

"Just reading up on your fantasies," I said back.

"Sorry, couldn't hear that," he said.

"Just reading up on your fantasies," I said again, in a normal voice.

"You sound faint," Brad said aloud.

"What do you mean?"

"I can barely hear you," he said.

"Sensory overload," I whispered, pulling him into the shower with me.

"Probably!" he said, shampooing my hair. The ultimate luxury. I shampooed him, and we washed each other thoroughly (more thoroughly in one place than in others, of course) before rinsing and drying. I shaved my chin while he brushed his teeth, and he shaved as I brushed mine. He has a tendency to five o'clock shadow, but light reddish brown, not black. We went to our rooms to dress. I saw Boo's back as I went into my room. She must have been in the laundry room.

When I opened my door to go out to the kitchen, my nostrils were seduced by this wonderful smell. Roasting meat, and herbs, lemon and something else. When I got to the kitchen, Brad wasn't there yet. Becky was putting her scarf over her shoulder, so I knew she was getting ready to leave.

"You aren't staying for dinner?" I asked dumbly.

"No, I have to get home and get dinner into my little ones before we take them to the fireworks," she said. "My husband can cook, but he's best kept out of the kitchen. It takes too long to clean up," she said mischievously.

I hadn't even considered the possibility that she might be a person with a family, not just an agent of the state. "How many kids do you have?"  I asked.

"We have two sets of twins," she said with a little laugh. "All girls, five and eight years old."

"Wow!" I said. And you find the time to work, too?"

"Somebody has to pay for day care!" she joked. "There's no way I could keep my sanity if I stayed home with the four of them every day, all day. They're little imps!"

I thought of her with four kids scrambling all over her, and sent the image to Brad. He was listening in my head to the conversation. He was still in his bedroom dressing, after changing to a different shirt than he first put on, because there was a button missing in the front, then changing his mind again and sewing the button back on. He laughed at the image. I laughed at his vacillation, so we were even.

"What's that wonderful smell," I said to Boo.

"Pork loin with mustard and rosemary," she said. "Or maybe it's the carrots with dill and lemon pepper."

"Oh, is that all," I said. "Fancy cookin' for us rural folk. You're out to spoil us, certain."

I think she blushed, but I don't know how to tell for sure with black folks. I swear her cheeks got a little rosy, honest. She looked like she'd be blushing, anyway.

"Yummmm!" said Brad as he rounded the corner into the hall, barely avoiding the mail basket. I knock it off the table all the time, of course. "Smells wonderful!"

"I hope you boys like creamed spinach," Boo said. "There's no fresh vegetables in the house, so I dug into the freezer."

"Where is it?" I asked. There was only one pot on the cooking surface.

"In the oven," she said. It sounded like 'In the oven, of course.'

"Where are you taking the twins tonight?" Brad asked Becky offhandedly, as he lifted up the lid on the pot of carrots and sniffed.

"Brad, no!" I threw at him. Too late of course.

I listened to the sounds of Becky's silence for an eternity. She looked at me, then at Brad, at me again, and again at Brad. "How did you know I had twins?"

All the while, of course, Brad and I were in conference.

"Brad, you couldn't know she had twins, she never told you!"


"What can we say?"

"I heard her from down the hall?"

"No, that would mean eavesdropping. She said it too long before you came into the room!"

"That's it!"


"Trust me."

"Oh, shit."

"No shit. No lies."

"Sorry," he said to Becky. "I was about to come into the kitchen when I saw my shirt button was missing, and I wanted to quick fix it. I heard you mention it." He didn't lie, not really. He'd heard through my microphone.

She wanted to believe him, I could tell. But she knew he was not telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me Beelzebub. He flushed. Never fails. Brad tells anything approaching a lie, he flushes. A real lie, he turns pink from nose to toes. A whopper, and he's scarlet as Hester's letter.

"I wasn't eavesdropping, really," he said.

Eavesdropping, Becky could accept. I could see it on her face. She decided he was out in the hall, eavesdropping all the time. The only explanation. I started breathing again. My man hadn't lied at all, but she presumed he'd told a little white one, accepted it, and forgot it.

"Whew!" I thought at Brad.

"No shit. No lies, like I said."

"You're gonna get caught one of these days."

"Haven't in the past seventeen, why should I now?" he grinned at me in my head, but kept looking contrite for Becky's consumption. The perfection of my brother was a fraud!

"Yeah," he beamed at me. "It's part of why you love me!"

He was right, of course. I'd known all along that he was a better non-prevaricating deceiver than I could ever hope to be. Me, I get my tongue all twisted up in knots if I even bend the truth a little. He turns the truth in every which way but false, and gets away with it because everybody assumes he's telling a fib when he tells the absolute truth, and that he's being truthful when he's actually convoluting it. Does that make sense?

"Works for me!" he laughed inside me. I could only laugh with him, my love factor creeping up another notch.