Absolute Convergence: Transformations
By John Yager
This is the fourth chapter of a new story about Robert Ballinger and William Amsted and their life together.
This story spans five chapters and, while it is being added to the existing Absolute Convergence file, it constitutes an independent, self-contained narrative about one period of about ten days. I've therefore taken the liberty of giving it the subtitle, Transformations, to distinguish it from the original series. While it will be helpful for readers to know the original Absolute Convergence series, in which all the principal characters were introduced, this story should stand on its own merits.
Absolute Convergence made its first appearance in January, 2001, as a series which eventually ran to a total of eighty chapters, the last of which was posted in January, 2004. I never anticipated the series continuing for so long and I am still amazed by the incredible loyalty of readers who stayed with me from the beginning. I am also sincerely appreciative for those newer readers who have contacted me from time to time to say that they've discovered the series and ventured through the collected chapters.
I'm always glad to receive comments, questions, criticism and encouragement and hope to continue hearing from you. I try to answer all messages promptly. If I'm slow at times it's only because of the pressures of work.
Andrew has agreed to continue giving me much needed proofing and editorial help for which I am sincerely grateful.
This work is copyright © by the author and may not be reproduced in any form without the specific written permission of the author. It is assigned to the Nifty Archives under the terms of their submission agreement but it may not be copied or archived on any other site without the written permission of the author.
All the stories I've posted on NIFTY can be found by looking under my name in the NIFTY Prolific Authors lists. If you'd like to receive e-mail notification of subsequent postings, previews of upcoming stories, and other bits and pieces, please let me know by sending your request to the e-mail address below.
"Remember," Peter Amsted said as we lingered over coffee that evening, "that by the mid-1960s there were only a few of the old studios which were still in business."
"TV took its toll," Allen Cage agreed, "and now, ironically, it's providing the revenues which are keeping most of the existing studios going."
"It really is a complete reversal," Peter agreed.
"MGM may be a little less dependent on TV production," Tony Self ventured. In 1977, that may have been true.
"It all depends on the season," Cage responded, to which the others laughed. "Show me a studio with a successful TV series, and I'll show you an increased budget for new films. The studios which aren't turning out profitable TV shows are just pulling in their horns and putting out a lot of press releases about 'quality over quantity,' and 'not pandering to popular taste.'"
"Are you're saying Columbia and Warner Brothers are doing the same thing?" I asked. "Are they funding films from the profits they make from TV production, films which might not make it on their own?"
"To one degree or another they all are," Sam Rubin responded.
"Paramount less than the others, perhaps, but to some degree, as Allen said, they're all dependent on income from TV."
"Twentieth Century Fox and Universal," Peter said, "are becoming so diversified they're hardly recognizable as a film studio any longer. I understand Bill Sanders over at Universal is even advocating they get into theme park."
"Hell, don't knock it," Cage said. "It worked for Disney."
"I thought Sanders was at Fox," Horst Beck said.
"He was, the last time you were in the States," Tony Self said, which prompted more laughter.
"Well, by the time I come back in September," Beck said, "he'll probably be back at Fox."
"I know, we're more mobile than a bunch of baseball players," Self agreed.
"Well, not our little team, gentlemen," Peter said. "Let me remind you; if our plans are going to work, we have to be in this for the duration."
"Yes, the long haul," Cage said.
"I never did understand that particular Americanism," Peter said with a jovial smile.
"It's a trucking term," Cage explained.
"'Trucking?' How do you spell that?"
"Well, if all else fails," Self chuckled, "we can just sell NSB to Desilu and go off to Italy and produce spaghetti westerns."
"I always fancied Hong Kong kick fighting flicks, myself," Peter said as the party began to break up.
I'd never been to a Jewish funeral before and had no idea what to expect.
The synagogue were Dexter Cohen was a member is a Reform congregation, Temple Israel, on Hollywood Boulevard. I later got the impression that Dex had not been very active in the congregation, but he'd been a generous financial donor and his funeral reflected the respect with which he was regarded.
Peter had been correct in thinking there would be a major traffic problem at the synagogue, and had suggested William and I go with him in the studio limousine he'd requested, rather than taking an additional car.
We drove over to the Beverly Hills Hotel, where Peter was staying, in my car, not the black Firebird I'd bought when I first came to LA in 1972, but a new silver Porsche which I'd gotten in the spring of 1977.
From the hotel to the synagogue was only a short drive but in typical Peter Amsted fashion, we took our time, arriving only moments before Dex's family.
I knew Peter would want to make an entrance and it was clear he also wanted to show William and me off. I think he must have felt being seen with him at the funeral would improve our recognition, important to him, if not to us, because of the board meeting scheduled for the next day and his plan to have us appointed to new and more important positions at NSB.
As we were going through the huge front doors of the synagogue two huge limousines pulled up at the curb, just as the one which had brought us pulled away. From the first car, Dex's current wife and two children descended. From the second car came an attractive but middle aged woman, Dex's former wife, accompanied by two boys in their late teens.
I didn't know Dex's family, or families, but as we waited in the entry area, Peter whispered explanations to William and me.
The service itself was not as different from Christian funerals I'd attended as I expected it to be. There was a long and glowing eulogy, and a series of prayers, some in English, some in Hebrew.
The entire service lasted just over an hour and then we were on our way again. Peter's limo was waiting where he'd said he'd meet us at the side of the vast building.
I thought later that it was not all that different from my father's funeral, which William and I had attended less than a week before.
It was expected that we'd go on to the burial at Hillside Memorial Park. From there we went on to Dex's house in Bel Air, where there was a buffet lunch.
In the car going to the cemetery and then on to Bel Air, Peter closed the window between the passenger and driver's compartment and told us where he felt things were with the NSB reorganization.
He said he and the other men with whom he'd been meeting were holding together as a group and there as even a chance they were going to gain the support of at least one of the other current directors.
He wasn't sure if the man, or men, in question were really persuaded by the thinking of Peter and the others in his group, or if they just saw the writing on the wall and had decided their futures with NSB were best served by being on the winning side.
In any case Peter felt support for his agenda was strong and was sure there'd be no problems implementing his plans.
We didn't get away from the buffet at Dex's house until late that afternoon. We then returned with Peter in the limo to his hotel.
Peter had a dinner appointment with
some of the principal NSB stockholders and William and I were finally free.
We were happy to go home for what we hoped would be a quiet evening alone.
"You know, Robert," William said as we were turning onto Colorado Boulevard, "Peter has never visited us; we've always gone to him."
"I guess you're right," I said, thinking back to our years together at Alvarado Court.
"It's so typical of him," William went on, "but, actually, I'm rather glad he's never been to the apartment at Alvarado Court or to the house in Pasadena. I think somehow if would have felt like an intrusion."
"He's never tried to invade our life together, William. At least I've never felt as if he has."
"You do realize that if this NSB reorganization goes the way he wants, we'll be forced into closer contact with him."
"I suppose so," I agreed. "Does that bother you?"
"Yes, a little. I've felt as if, while I couldn't claim he was out of my life, I'd minimized contact by increasing the physical distance between us. Now I sense that is about to change. Do you realize we've seen more of Peter in the last few days than we've seen of him over the five years we've been together?"
"Maybe that explains something that happened last night," I said, finally getting to the issue I'd wanted to talk about with William all day.
"What's that?" he asked as we pulled
into our drive at home.
"Let's go in first," I said, wanting to talk about it in the most relaxed way possible.
"No way!" William exclaimed when I'd told him what he'd said the night before while we were making love. "No fucking way!"
"Yes, William, really," I said, drawing him closer to me.
I'd gone to the kitchen as soon as we'd gotten in the house and fixed us a pair of stiff drinks. I knew this was going to be difficult and I wanted to cushion the blow as best I could.
When I came back into the living
room William had taken off his dark pinstripe suit jacket and hung it over
the back of a chair. He pulled off his tie and tossed it over the chair
back as well.
Finally, sitting side by side on the sofa, I'd told him what he'd said the night before.
"When was this?" he demanded, his voice softer now but with a tremor I knew was born of rage.
"While we were making love."
"While you were fucking me?"
"And I called you Peter?"
"You said, 'harder, Peter, fuck me harder.'"
"Oh, damn," he moaned, "god damn," and then began to sob.
I held him for a long time. Eventually he settled down and the sobbing ceased.
"Finish your drink," I whispered, and he did. The ice had melted but he swallowed the diluted whiskey and set the glass aside.
"I thought all that was behind me, Robert," he whispered, then added, "behind us."
"It had to surface, lover," I said. "Maybe it's time."
"I just wanted it to be over."
"You've never told me what went on between you and Peter. I've never asked before, but now I am."
"You don't really want to know, Robert. I don't want you to know."
"Look, Will," I said, lifting his chin so he had to look at me, "nothing could make me stop loving you. You do know that, don't you?"
"Then let me in, William. Help me understand what happened. It was all before we met and it is irrelevant, but I think somehow it has to be exorcised."
"I've always known someday you'd ask and I always feared that if you knew it all, you'd hate me."
"Lover," I said, looking deeply into his eyes. "I suspect what happened between you and your father was his doing, not yours. But whatever it was, no matter how bad it was, it is a part of you. I love you and I'll never stop loving you. Just help me understand."
"It isn't pretty, Robert," he whispered. "Why should all that ugliness intrude on our life? It doesn't belong here."
"You said we'd be seeing more of Peter once the NSB deal is done. If that's true, we need to face this now. I need to understand what we're dealing with."
We sat in silence a while longer as the evening came on. Eventually William moved in my arms, lifting my hand gently from his shoulder as he stood.
"Come on," he whispered. "If we have to do this, I want us to get undressed and into bed. Maybe then, with you holding me, I can let it all out."
"I guess it started when I was eight," William said when we'd gotten undressed and were lying together in bed. My right arm was under his shoulder and I held him close to me. He lay on his side, his face nestled against my neck, his lips only inches from my ear and spoke so softly his voice was little more than a whisper.
"We weren't having sex then, but Peter was clearly moving me in that direction, although I certainly didn't realize it at the time. I was in primary school, what you'd call elementary school, and living with my mother.
"I can't remember anything before their divorce when my mother and Peter and I lived together as a family. I lived with my mother but saw Peter often and they had some sort of shared custody arrangement so I was with him from time to time. That summer, when I was eight, mother was doing a film in Italy and she's arranged for Peter to take me while she was away.
"I'd never been with him for such a prolonged period before and, for that matter, I'd not really been around many other grown men. He'd arranged his work so we could be at the house in Surrey for the entire two months and I was very excited about all the things he'd told me we'd do together."
"Did he follow through on all that?" I asked.
"Yes, to the letter," William continued.
"I think he wanted to show me what a great guy he was.
He also wanted to show mother that he could be a responsible parent. She was properly impressed and from then on I spent a good bit of time with Peter each summer. That was before Charlotte, of course, but even after they were married, I spent time with him, sometimes when Charlotte was around, sometimes when she was away.
"That first summer, though, the first thing I noticed was the way he contrived to be naked around me. It seemed natural enough at the time, at least to a small boy, and I had no other experience with adult males, so no idea of how they comported themselves together or with their sons.
Peter always slept nude and made it clear that I was welcome in his room and in his bed. Some nights I'd just feel alone and a little frightened in his big house, and would wander in to join him for a little cuddling or a bedtime story, but many nights I ended up sleeping the entire night in his bed. I'd always slept in proper pajamas but after the first or second night I was sleeping nude as well. I think in my childish mind it was a sort of 'man thing' to do. Dad did it, so I wanted to do it, too."
"It wasn't long before I was just going to his room, to his bed, every night and it became the usual thing from then on, at least until he and Charlotte were married, and after, whenever she was gone.
"I have to admit that I was fascinated with his adult male body and couldn't get enough of seeing him and cuddling with him. Peter was always affectionate with me and I felt very loved.
"I was also fascinated by his cock. To me, as a small boy, it seemed huge, but also, he was uncircumcised and I was. I'd seen other boys at school who had foreskins, but they were all small like me.
"In England it was unusual for a boy to be circumcised so I was the exception to the rule, and always felt a little strange as a result. Seeing Peter's big, uncircumcised cock was amazing to me and a constant source of fascination.
"Peter's parents had been very free thinkers. They went to nudist camps and were advocates of free love, all that sort of thing. I guess his causal attitudes toward nudity, and even toward sex, were understandable.
"Was he ever overtly sexual with you?" I asked.
"No, not that summer, not for several summers, actually. But the following summer when I was nine, there was an incident which had a lot of ramifications later in my life.
"I'd gotten into a shed where the lawn equipment was stored. It was very much against the rules, but the sort of thing a kid is likely to do. I suppose it could have been dangerous because there were chemicals and insecticides, as well as some dangerous tools.
"I got caught, of course, and that night in dad's room he said he'd decided I had to be punished.
"To my surprise he asked me what punishment I thought was best.
"I was terrified, and said I didn't know. We were naked, sitting up in his bed, and he calmly went over several alternatives, some involving loss of privileges over a week or two. Finally he asked if boys at my school were ever caned.
"I told him they were, but it had never happened to me.
"'If I spank you, Will,'" he said, "'it will hurt, but it will be over.'"
"I told him that that was what I preferred.
"He told me he could use a stick or switch and cane me in the typical public school manner, or he could spank me with his hand. He didn't have a switch and, as frightened as I was at the prospect, I just wanted to get it over with and asked him to use his hand.
"He moved to a chair and told me to lie across his knees. I was shaking like a leaf but I did as he said. He positioned me over his thighs so my butt was centered and then spanked me fairly painfully. I cried, but the worst part was that my little boy prick went hard and pushed down into the tight, warm space between his legs.
"I was livid with embarrassment and when he was through, Peter stood me up, hugged me and gave me a kiss. 'There,' he said. 'Now it's over and you'll not do such a silly and dangerous thing again. We'll not speak of it further.'
"My penis was sticking straight out, all three inches of it, and Peter had to have seen it, but he never said a thing.
"I know now that the experience colored my relationship with him in ways I couldn't understand at the time."
"So punishment became implanted in your mind as a sexual stimulant," I said, stroking his broad, muscular shoulders.
"Yes, punishment and pain, interspersed
with love," William whispered, so softly I hardly heard him. His breath
was warm on my chest and I suspected that he'd begun to doze.
To be continued.