As this story has developed and continued I've received messages from many of you commenting on it's relevance to your own life and your own experiences. I am glad that Absolute Convergence has touched so many of you and that so many of you feel so strongly about the central characters.
At last count, I have received over one thousand messages, which attests to the interest the series has generated.
I am also very pleased and flattered that Absolute Convergence was recognized by the Gay Writers Guild as the best new story which appeared during the Summer of 2002.
I've also been informed that the series has been the subject of discussions on several special interest web sites. I don't know the names or addresses of these sites but would be glad to list them in the introductions to future chapters if readers will sent me the needed information.
I always appreciate hearing from you and try to answer all messages promptly. If I am slow at times it is only because of the pressure of work or my somewhat demanding travel schedule.
Andrew has continued to give much needed proofing and editorial help, for which I am sincerely grateful. I could not post chapters as quickly as I've been doing without his invaluable assistance.
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Both Steve and Sammy were still sleeping soundly when Daniel and I emerged from the shower for the second time in less than an hour. We dressed quietly, left a note on the kitchen table, after we'd cleaned it up a bid, and drove off in the Lincoln.
We found a pancake house a few streets inland from the beach and practically put it into bankruptcy. The sign in the window said "All the pancakes you can eat, from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM daily, 99 Cents."
All the pancakes we could eat was measurable in poundage, possibly tonnage. It was certainly not measurable in numbers. By the time we left the manager appeared noticeably nervous and not at all sorry to see us go. We did leave the waitress, who'd hovered and taken very good care of us, a generous tip.
When we got back to the cottage we found that the note we'd left had been unnecessary; Steve and Sammy were still sleeping.
Daniel and I changed from shorts and polo shirts into swimming suits and T-shirts, packed our bag of tricks, left a new note, took the beach umbrella and a blanket and headed for the shore.
The sands were carpeted with nearly naked bodies. It seemed as if half the university students within the southern half of the United States had chosen to spend their spring break in Gulfport that year.
"It gives new meaning to student bodies," Daniel quipped as we located a scant bit of empty sand and staked our claim.
A few of the girls who'd been so friendly the day before soon saw us and came over to chat. Some of them were clearly interested in Daniel and me. Others asked about Steve and one in particular asked about Sammy. We said they were still sleeping, but would probably join us later.
"The boy with that bright red hair," the girl from Austin asked, "is he really on the Ole Miss football team?"
She was blond, whether naturally or not, I couldn't say, small, about five-three, and really quite cute. She had a tight, well disciplined body which made me think she must participate in some rather demanding sport. She was too short to be very competitive at basketball and I had no idea what sports women played at the University of Texas. I'd try to remember to ask her later, but for now the topic of conversation was Sammy and she didn't seem to be interested in talking about anything else.
"He sure is," I said, flashing her a big smile. "He's famous."
"Really?" She cooed, "he's so cute, but he seems so small for football."
"Sammy's a place kicker," I said. "Do you know what that is?"
"Oh, my yes," she said. "I just knew he had to be something special." The last word, as she pronounced it, sounded like it contained about five syllables.
"Well, he is special," Daniel joined in. "But be careful," he added, turning to give me a covert wink. "Sammy has quite a reputation with the ladies."
"Oh," she said, her voice full of thrilled delight, "I`m not at all surprised!" She smiled again and added, "I'm Tammy, by the way, Tammy Jackson Longsworth, from Brady, Texas."
I told her my name and Daniel's, but it was clear that her only interest in us was that we were friends of Sammy.
After nearly an hour I told Daniel that I had to get out of the sun. "Let's put up the umbrella," he said. Daniel, who never seemed to sunburn, had already acquired a finer tan than I'd get in a month by the sea.
I turned around and looked at the sprawl of kids, both guys and girls, all around us.
"Excuse me, would you all mind if we put up the umbrella?" I said in a rather loud voice to the general population. I didn't want to block the rays from anyone who wanted them and there was no way we could position the umbrella so it only shaded our own blanket.
No one objected and a few of the girls even moved their blankets and beach towels closer to share our island of shade. Tammy and a couple of her girlfriends from the University of Texas were among them.
Another hour went by and I think I must have dozed. All of a sudden I roused from some vague dream by the Austin coed cooing breathlessly, "oh, here comes Sammy!"
I looked up to see Steve and Sammy coming towards us. They'd just gotten across Beach Boulevard and had spotted our umbrella. I was glad to see they were carrying the ice chest, knowing that meant a fresh supply of cold drinks. The chest was being carried between them and over each of their free shoulders were suspended duffel bags, which I knew were stuffed with towels and sun lotion and other assorted beach gear.
Tammy was already on her feet, waving enthusiastically. Not prompting a response, she headed off to greet them, stepping agilely over a succession of scantily clad bodies. I watched their progress as they made their way toward us and Tammy made her way toward them. Steve towered over Sammy by about eight inches. He was also so much larger that he seemed to dwarf Sammy. But despite the dramatic difference in their size, they were equally good looking guys, each in his own way.
Steve was a heavily muscled hunk. There was no other way to put it. He was also a really handsome guy with strong angular features. His short, slightly waving hair was usually light brown but had become golden after a few days in the Gulfport sun. Despite his generally light coloring, he seemed to tan easily. He wasn't as dark as Daniel but he was already darker than me.
Sammy, by comparison, was an incredibly cute guy. His skin had probably gotten beyond any immediate danger of burning by that point in our Gulfport stay, but it still looked more pink than tan. He'd developed a multitude of freckles which spread across his forehead, his nose and his cheeks. His shoulders were dotted with them. Sammy's hair was normally a dark, rich red. He was not at all a "carrot top," but the color I later learned was sometimes called Titian Red. But after a few days in the sun, it had become streaked with lighter tones of gold and bronze and a color which could only be called pink.
Sammy was not heavily muscled but he was very well built. His strength sometimes surprised me. And his physique was incredibly well defined. I doubt if there was an ounce of superfluous fat on his entire body.
Tammy had reached them and was as excited as a puppy. She was almost jumping up and down with enthusiasm. Despite their protestations, she managed to wrestle one side of the ice chest from Steve and was proceeding to walk towards us, sharing its weight with Sammy. Steve had been carrying one of the bags and half the weight of the chest. Now they'd shuffled things around.
They continued on with the chest between Sammy and Tammy. Steve had the two bags, one on each side, their straps resting over his broad shoulders.
I couldn't hear what they were saying but Sammy and Tammy seemed to be having a rather lively conversation as they came on toward us. The continuous buzz of a few thousand college kids spread across the breadth and length of the beach reminded me of a nature film I'd seen of the mating rites of some exotic variety of sea birds on a remote tropical island
. . . not a bad comparison, I thought to myself.
Steve had fallen a little behind but was coming on towards us at his own deliberate pace. I saw that the heads of most of the girls, and quite a few of the men he passed, turned to follow him.
"Daniel, you ought to see this," I said to my still dozing companion.
"What?" He said, rolling over onto his stomach and lifting himself up a little on his elbows.
"That procession over there," I said, pointing toward Steve and Sammy and Tammy as they wove their way through the sea of bodies, progressing slowly in our direction.
"What are they doing?" he asked.
"Just coming over here to join us," I said.
"Why's that girl helping?"
"Tammy," I said, reminding him of her name. "She's putting the make on Sammy."
"Yeah?" he rose up into a kneeling position to get a better view over the mass of sun baked-bodies. "How can you tell?"
"You've got to be kidding," I laughed. "The girl wants him."
"Oh, man," Daniel's laughter joined mine. "The kid doesn't have a chance."
"Which kid, Sammy or Tammy?"
"Sammy, of course. He doesn't have any experience of dealing with girls like that. The poor guy is a sitting duck."
"What do you mean `girls like that,' Daniel?" I whispered, realizing that some of Tammy's friends were within earshot.
"Look at her, Rob," he said. By then they were about forty feet from us, still moving slowly through the maze of bodies. "That is not your easy one night stand. She's not here looking for a few days of sex in the sand, she's looking for marriageable material. And what makes it worse, she's a true Southern Belle."
"Rob, she's already got her sterling silver pattern picked out, and knowing the type, it`s probably Grande Baroque!"
I just grinned and said, "you're just jealous because she's a lot cuter than Star."
"She's a lot more dangerous than Star, fellow," as he gave me a friendly punch in the shoulder. "You're about as ignorant as Sammy when it comes to girls."
"Yeah," I had to agree, "you're probably right."
By then the little parade had made it to our little plot of beach. Sammy and Tammy placed the ice chest against the pole of the umbrella with considerable care and an obvious show of cooperation. She was giggling and Sammy was grinning from ear to ear as they trotted off toward the water's edge where a gentle tide was lapping the sand.
As Steve dropped the bags beside me and flopped down on the blanket, he looked over at Daniel and me, smiled and rolled his eyes. "It looks like you two have attracted a respectable bevy of girls," he whispered, "and Sammy has attracted a one-woman fan club of his own."
"All the way from Austin," I grinned. "Next thing we know she'll be transferring to Ole Miss."
"The University of Texas sure is well represented here," Daniel responded, his voice loud enough to reach over me to Steve's ears.
"Don't include me in that bunch," a girl lying just a few feet beyond Steve said as she sat up and looked over at the three of us.
"Oh, hi," Steve smiled, looking back over his shoulder at her. "I'm Steve and these two introverts are Rob and Daniel," he said. "We're all from Ole Miss."
"Hi, guys," the girl said, extending her hand. "I'm Dorothy and this is my own back yard."
"Yeah?" Steve said. "You're from Gulfport?"
"I'm from Gulfport but I'm a graduate student at Tulane." She turned and pointed west along the beach in the general direction of New Orleans.
"Wow," Steve responded, "that must be great, having the gulf at your door all year round."
She stood up and stretched. The woman was gorgeous, tall and slender and truly built. She had a tan which looked like it had taken a lifetime in the sun to perfect.
"I schedule my classes so I can spend weekends at home. This week I got lucky," she said as she bent over to rearrange her beach towel. "My Monday and Tuesday classes were cancelled."
Steve rose up into a sitting position and rolled over so he could reach the nearer edge of her towel, helping her straighten it out.
"But you're right," Dorothy went on, "a bunch of these girls are from Austin. And," she added, looking over at Daniel, "you're also right about that little chickie swimming with your buddy out there." She pointed in the general direction of the surf.
"Yeah?" Daniel asked.
"Yeah, the sweet as honey, dangerous as hell, oh, so loving southern belle. The only thing I'd differ with you on is Grande Baroque. I'd say she was more the Chantilly type."
"I guess you know your sterling," Daniel grinned.
"I know women."
"Well, apart from silver patterns, how can you tell what university she's from?" Steve said as he again stretched out on our blanket, but moving a bit closer in Dorothy's direction.
"I'd like to say I know the type, but the truth is, you get to know the schedule," she said. "Last week it was SMU and Duke. This week it's the University of Texas and Ole Miss. Next week it will be Tennessee and Baylor."
"You really do have the timetable down," Daniel said, again joining the conversation.
"My daddy's the head of the Gulfport Chamber of Commerce," she grinned. "He tracks the spring break schedule like a circling hawk."
"I guess us college kids bring a lot of money into the area."
"Yeah, money and trouble. The hotels love them and the local police go sort of crazy from early March until mid-April trying to keep things in order."
"Are some groups worse than others?" Steve asked.
"Oh, they all party. Everyone expects that." She reached into her bag and extracted a bottle of suntan lotion, which she began to spread evenly over her beautifully bronzed legs. "All the universities think they're the big party schools but the ones who really get things hopping are the kids from Baylor."
"Yeah?" Daniel asked. "Why's that."
She looked over at him as if he were a little crazy or very naive.
"Baptist," she said softly, looking around to see if anyone was listening. "They aren't allowed to drink or do anything else much, so when they get away from Waco they tend to go a little nuts."
We all laughed and agreed that seemed to make sense.
"Where are you guys staying?" Dorothy asked.
"Oh, we've rented one of the cottages on Teagarden," Steve said.
"Which one?" Dorothy fired back.
"Second one in from Beach Boulevard on the left side," he answered.
"The second one," she mused. "So you have the one with the yellow door and the nice private backyard."
"Yeah, that's right," Steve said. "you really know the neighborhood."
"Truth is, I painted that door last summer."
"No kidding," she smiled. "Those cottages belong to my uncle and I usually work part time for him during the summer." She paused, looked around, and then added. "I especially like that particular cottage because of the private yard. I got in some great sunbathing there, the kind of sunbathing you can only do around here if you have a nice high fence or some dense landscaping."
Steve rolled over and gave me a slap on the butt. "Well, guys, it sounds as if Dorothy made good use of the backyard before any of us had the same idea." It was clear by then that Steve was more than a little interested in Dorothy so I wasn't surprised when he rolled back to face her and added, "you can come over and sunbathe with us any time you want."
"Thanks, guys, but I think I'll have to pass. There's somebody in my life who might not approve," she said, but she was smiling and didn't seem at all offended by Steve's forwardness.
He sounded truly embarrassed as he said, "I should have known a woman as great looking as you would have a boy friend."
Dorothy smiled again. "Not a boyfriend, a girlfriend, but thanks all the same."
To be continued.