Chapter 8

by JWSmith

By nine-thirty the next morning my bags were packed and I had checked out of the hotel. I was sitting in the lobby waiting for my dad. In the back of my dulled mind I kept hoping Rob would show up and tell me it had all been a joke. He didn't and it wasn't.

I don't know how long I had been waiting, sitting there with my arms on my knees as I stared at the floor, when I felt a firm hand on my shoulder.

"There you are, Son. Ready to go home?"

I looked up and gave him a wan enervated smile and nodded. I stood up and Dad wrapped his arms around me. In a low voice he said, "I love you, Son, and what ever is the matter we'll deal with it. Come on, lets get out of here."

Neither one of us spoke until we turned off the 405 and headed west on the 101. Dad looked at me.

"You look like you lost your best friend. Do you want to talk to me about it?"

I stared out the side window along time before I got up the nerve to tell him. I didn't come right out and tell him that I was gay, even though I'm sure he would have taken it right in stride. I started with meeting Miki and discovering my sexual preferences through her little games. I told him about the doctor and then about meeting Rob.

"I really thought I had found my true soul mate. The one person I would spend the rest of my life with." I told him.

"Son, before you go on with this story, you need to know something. Your ol' dad really fucked up." He stared at his hands on the steering wheel. He didn't look at me as he continued. "Robert came to see me a couple of weeks ago. He was in town with friends, so he thought he'd look me up. He said wanted to meet the father of the man he loved. He told me about how he felt about you and that the two of you were planning on a life together when you got home. I didn't want to believe him. I lost my cool. I told him to stay away from you, that he was a bad influence on you. I threatened him with dire consequences if he didn't. I thought for a moment that he was going to argue with me, but then he deflated and said he respected you and your love for me. He said that he was sure that you would obey me; if that was my decision he wouldn't make it difficult for you. As soon as he left I regretted what I had done. He had come seeking my approval and I had scorned him. I had no right to do that. I would have attempted to rectify what I had done, but I had no idea of where to find him. I thought that he would tell you about it, and you would set things straight, but I guess he didn't tell you did he? "

I stared, open-mouthed, at my dad. I never doubted for a moment that he would not be really upset by my homosexuality. It was my fault that Robert had unknowingly outed me. I had always talked as if they already knew. But I couldn't believe my father had put an end to my relations with Robert.

He continued.

"I can hear the love in your voice as you talk about him. You're my son. My firstborn. I didn't want to believe that you might love another man. I couldn't stand the thought of you going through the hardships, the hatred that lovers of men are put through." He went off on a tangent for a moment, as he was prone to do sometimes. "There's a word I heard recently that seems to becoming the accepted term for homosexuals. The word is Gay. I can't understand why that particular word was chosen." He cleared his throat, and got back to the subject. "However, Son," he turned and looked me in the eyes, "I want you to know that I love you no matter what you are. I wanted to blame Robert for turning you gay. But I know, I am a doctor after all, that you are what you are. You can't choose to be straight or gay. You are an adult. You're twenty-four and old enough to know your own mind. "

He stared out the windshield for several moments

"We should turn around and go back to talk to Robert. I need to apologize to him. And to you. I'm sorry it was just a knee jerk response."

I didn't know how to respond. I sat slack-jawed, staring off into space. My world had been shattered and it had been my beloved father that had done it. I heard him apologizing, but it didn't mean anything. Nothing meant anything until it registered in my benumbed mind that he as turning the car around to go find Robert.

Dad looked at me.

"Jim?" ( My name is Harold James Junior. In my family Dad is Hal and I am Jim.)

I tried to make my eyes focus on his face. Tears were coursing down my cheeks. I worshiped the ground on which my father walked on. He had destroyed my world with a few words. He said he was sorry, but what the hell did that mean if Robert was out of my life. I dropped my head and continued to leak tears. I watched them splatting on my Levi's. It's strange how the mind will sometimes focus on minutiae at times like this. I was fascinated by how much liquid was pouring from my eyes, and how fast the material of my jeans absorbed it. I felt Dad's hand on the back of my neck. He massaged it.

"I am so sorry, Buddy. I really fucked up. We're going to go find Robert and straighten out this mess I've made. Everything is going to be okay."

We sped back into L.A. When we neared downtown. Dad broke the silence asking me for Robert's address. I pulled it out of my wallet and handed him it to him.

"I should have asked sooner, he lives in the Hancock Park area." He said after reading the address. He exited at Alvarado, near downtown, and headed back up Beverly Blvd. I stared at the passing buildings, not knowing if there was still a life for me with Robert. I couldn't bring myself to hope. I'd just have wait and see.

Dad stopped in front of an upscale duplex. Parked in the driveway, I saw the car in which Robert had driven me to the hotel. Dad got out instructing me to stay in the car. I don't think I could have moved if I had wanted to. He walked up to the door and knocked. I saw Suzy answer the door. Dad talked to her for a moment and then went into the house. A few minutes later he came out. He walked up to my side of the car and opened the door.

"Robert needs our help."

I looked up at him not comprehending what he was saying. I wanted to panic. Something was wrong with Robert.

"Come on, Jim, pull yourself together and come help me."

I slid out of the car and followed him into the house, dreading what I was going to find. He led me into the bedroom. Suzy came out of the kitchen and followed us. She started talking. She ended every sentence and every pause in the sentence with a rise in her voice like she was asking a question or seeking approval of what she said. I didn't know it then but it is what is now referred to as the West Hollywood accent. Nearly every native, adopted or natural, that lives west of downtown L.A. sounds like they are seeking approval of what they are saying.

"I didn't know he was a drunk when I met him. But drinking's all he seems to want to do; drink and smoke some pot. If he's not drunk he's stoned. Yesterday when he went to the airport was the first time I'd seen him even close to being sober since I've known him. Then when we got back here, he sat and stared at the ceiling a long time. And then he made a phone call and then started drinking like really seriously. He downed like four shots of vodka, nearly as fast a he could pour them. After that he just drank right out of the bottle. I don't think he slept last night. He just sat at the kitchen table nursing that damned bottle. He finally passed out about ten this morning, after throwing up all over the kitchen table."

Her monologue was beginning to get to me.

"How long have you known him?' Dad asked.

"Oh, I met Bobby just a week or so ago. He seemed so nice, not like most of the low lifers that usually come into the bar to watch me dance. You see, I'm an exotic dancer. You know with feathers and not much else. Men love to be teased like that. But Bobby was different. He wanted to know the real me. So I agreed to see him. It hasn't worked out though. I didn't know he was such a lush."

I knew that Robert hated to be called Bob or worse, Bobby. I shut off her babbling. I studied her big boobs and thought about all the times I had had my hands on Miki's; they were about the same size and shape. D cups. I shuddered. I couldn't imagine Robert wanting to bed this trampy woman.

I looked down at Robert lying on the bed. Between Dad and I, we had done an excellent job of reducing a beautiful sensitive man to this. The bitch could have at least cleaned him up. I went into the bathroom and found a towel that I wetted. I went back to the bed and stripped off his messed shirt. I wiped his face off and then the rest of him. Dad gathered several shirts and pants. He found a suitcase and packed them along with underwear and socks. Suzy stood helplessly in the way and never stopped her running dialog. I managed to get a clean t-shirt on him. My four years of training as a medical corpsman came in handy. I didn't even have to think, I just did what had to be done.

Suzy was saying, "Bobby was so gentle and loving in bed, but he could never get it up. You know what I mean? He just drank too much. Such a shame, too, 'cause he's got a big one. And he doesn't like kissing." I know I was blushing. I knew for a fact that Robert loved kissing--- at least with me. I glanced at Dad. I guess he had tuned her out; he showed no reaction to what she said.

Dad took one of his business cards, wrote something on it and handed it to Suzy. "This is where we are taking him. Make sure that his roommate gets this card." He turned to me. "Let's get him on his feet and take him out to the car."

We half carried, half dragged him out to the car. "Get in and I'll hand him in to you." I opened the back door and slid half way across the seat. Dad maneuvered Robert in headfirst. I grabbed him under his arms and pulled him in, onto my lap, as Dad lifted his legs. He lay on his side with his head in my leg. Dad went back in and got the suitcase and another pair of shoes. He reiterated his instructions to Suzy.

We headed back toward the 101. I finally figured out how to make my tongue work again and asked, "Where are we taking him?"


"Um." I said. Dad glanced at me in the mirror; he looked angry. I smiled at him. He Smiled back and winked at me.

That was the last thing uttered until Dad pulled into the clinic in Santa Barbara. For two hours and twenty-five minutes he drove' occasionally glancing into the rear view mirror at me as I held Robert in the back seat, occasionally glancing up at Dad. Robert would groan or mutter something unintelligible once in a while. My mind slowly started functioning again. Robert's behavior began to make sense. The devastation I had experienced began to dissipate. I began to feel like a ninny for crying so much. I suppose it was partly because I was so physically and emotionally exhausted.

As I sat in the back seat with Robert's head resting in my lap I realized that I had come out to Dad and he had been okay with it, even to the point of going back into the city to get Robert. Although, the plan, I think, was just to talk to him, apologize and let him know that he accepted him and our relationship. I loved my Dad; I worshiped him. This experience made me realize he wasn't super human; he could make mistakes, too. But what made him the best in my eyes was that he wasn't above admitting he'd fucked up and he was willing to try to rectify it. A man can't do any better than that.

Dad drove up to the admittance entrance of the Clinic. Two orderlies came out to assist. They laid Robert on a gurney and wheeled him inside. Dad accompanied them. The elderly lady at the desk smiled at dad as he filled out an admittance form and signed it.

"Out drumming up business, Dr. Hal? She asked.

"Well, things look a little slow around here, Judy. Looks like you could use some new customers."

"He looks awfully young. What's his story?"

"Friend of the family. Had some personal problems. Tried to solve them with alcohol. He just needs to detoxify, I think."
He followed the gurney through the double doors. I was standing back, feeling detached. Judy looked at me and smiled.

"May I help you young man?"

I walked up to the desk.

"Is it okay if I follow my dad?" I asked looking toward the doors he has passed though.

"And you are?"

"Hal Jordan, ma'am."

"Little Jimmy? My you've grown up. I remember you used to run through here terrorizing the whole place. Where have you been? I haven't seen you for years."

"I just got discharged from the service two days ago. Robert's my buddy."

I had been inching toward the doors as I answered her questions.

"Well, what are you waiting for? Go catch them. Second door on the right.

You have certainly grown in to a handsome young man."

"Thanks, ma'am." I said, heading full speed for the doors.

"And polite, too." I heard her say as the doors swung closed behind me.

Dad had already started a glucose IV in his arm. An orderly left the room carrying a blood sample. I walked up to Robert's side and brushed the hair from his face.

"Is he that bad off, Dad?" As I watched him tape Roberts arm to a board.

"It's only glucose with a mild sedative. It will raise his blood sugar level, and help him sleep so he won't have too bad a hang over when he wakes up."

"And when do you think that will be?"

"Probably early tomorrow morning."

"I want to be here." I said.

"So do I, Son. I've got a lot of talking to do."

I looked across the table that Robert was laying on and smiled.

"I love you, Dad."

"You know, Jim, there is nothing I wouldn't do for you, or the ones you love." He hugged my shoulders with one arm.

The two orderlies wheeled Robert to a room. All rooms in the clinic are private. Dad and I followed making sure he was comfortably tucked in to his bed.

Dad put his arm around my shoulders.

"Come on, Son. You look exhausted. You need a good night's sleep, too. Tomorrow is probably going to be an emotional day." He led me out of the room and through the clinic to the car. He opened the car door and I got in.

"I'll be right back. I've got to call your mother." He said and closed the door. I lay my head back and was immediately asleep. I awoke to my mother stoking the side of my face.

"Mom." I grabbed her around the neck and hung on like a needy little child. Tears were flowing down my cheeks again.

"Welcome home, Jim. I've missed you. When was the last time you had a good night sleep?" She whispered in my ear. I let go and stepped back.

"I'm sorry mom."

"For what, Dear? You've done nothing wrong."

Obviously Dad hadn't told her that I had come out to him. I looked over Mom's shoulder at him. He smiled and shook his head.

"It's your place to tell her, Jim."

"Tell me what?"

I stood there looking dumbfounded.

"What do you need to tell me, Jim?"

I looked at her and shook my head.

"We've got to talk, Mom, but later. Where are the kids?" Being the oldest of eight I was surprised that none of them, especially the two youngest, weren't hanging on my arms.

"Well, Davy and Joe are surfing. Jan is with one of her girlfriends shopping. Billy is staying over night with his buddy Tim. And the three youngest are at summer camp. That' leave the house to you, your dad, and me for the next few hours. So come in the kitchen and have a bite to eat and then I don't want to see you again until you've had at least eight hours of sleep."

My mom can say more with out being interrupted than any one I know. Maybe that comes with being the mother of eight. Anyway, by the time she finished I was sitting at the kitchen table with Dad. She was pulling food out of the fridge and setting the table for one of her cold feasts. I was suddenly ravenous. I filled my plate with cold roast chicken, homemade potato salad, pickled beets and a Mexican bean salad. She poured a big glass of milk and plunked it down in front of me. She sat down across from me.

"Okay. Talk." She commanded.

I made noises around a mouth full of food. And of course the next command was, "Don't talk with you mouth full, Jim." I swallowed and grinned. It was so good to be back home. I laid my fork down and became serious. I took a slug of milk, and pushed back from the table.

"Dad hasn't told you any thing?"

She looked exasperated as she glanced at him. "No."

I studied my lap for a few seconds. I looked up and stared into my mother's face. "Mom, I'm gay."

"Well, I'm happy that you're happy, Son." She gave me a one-sided smile and raised her eyebrows.

"No, you don't understand." Before I could go any farther, dad interrupted.

"Margaret, that is a new term that has come into common use in the English language. It means that Hal is a lover of men."

Mom blanked out for a moment.

"What a silly word to use for that."

"Well, it's better that faggot or queer or Nancy boy or Nelly." Dad said.

"Alright! Enough." She shuddered. "I hate those words they are so demeaning."

This was one of these moments that I feel like reality has taken a hike. I had just come out to my mother and she is discussing semantics with Dad. I got up and started out of the room.

"Where are you going? You just tell me you're gay and get up and leave the room?"

I turned back and looked at her. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Dad grinning. He has always enjoyed my mother's eccentricity.

"What? Don't you want to know how I feel about what you just told me?"

"I hope, Mom, that you will accept me and continue to love me."

"Accept you?" She was now raising her voice at me. " Don't insult me. You are my firstborn. I will always love and accept you." She calmed down. "Of course, I had hoped that you would be the first to give me a grandchild, but I will happily accept that you will be the first to give me a son-in-law."

I thought Dad was going to fall out of his chair laughing. He stood up and leaned over Mom and kissed her cheek.

"You never cease to amaze me, Mar."

She giggled like a schoolgirl and pushed him away and held her arms out to me.

"Come here, my dear boy, you look like you are in bad need of a mother's hug." She was totally right. I knelt beside her and wrapped my arms around her waist. She hugged me to her bosom. Dad knelt beside me and hugged us both.

When the hug broke up, Mom had to hear all about Robert. When I got to the final phone call before leaving Myrtle Beach, and Robert's actions when he met my plane she interrupted my story.

"So why the change of heart, doesn't he know he had a good thing?"

"That's where I come into the story." Dad said. He then told her about Robert's visit, and his reaction to what Robert had told him. Mom shook her head.

"I'm ashamed of you, Hal, I thought you were more open minded than that."

"As you should be, Mar. It was a stupid knee jerk reaction. But I am trying to rectify it." He went on to tell the story of the rest of the day.

"Well, I want you both there at poor Robert's bedside in the morning when he wakes up. I want this mess straighten up ASAP so I can meet my new son. Now you get to bed." Pointing her finger at me. "I'll wake you about five so you and your dad can get to the clinic."

I took a long hot shower. I was feeling better about things. I was out like a third strike as soon as my head hit the pillow. I don't think I even dreamed.

From out of nowhere Chapter 9

Robert's bed was in a semi-sitting position when we enter the room at six. He had a pillow behind his head. His eyes were close. I guess he was dozing. He didn't even stir as we entered his room. Dad stood at the end of the bed watching as I stepped up to the bed and took his hand, which was lying on his chest. I leaned over and kissed him on his lips. A tear slipped out of his closed eyelids and slid down his unshaven cheek.

"I'm so sorry, Hal, I was so eager to meet you dad. I should have waited. I really fucked things up for us." He whispered. I thought he was awake and talking to me, but he never opened his eyes. "Will I ever see you beautiful face again?" I, like the dummy I am, stood there with tears in my eyes holding his hand, not saying a word. Dad reached down and wiggled Robert's foot. Rob opened his eyes and saw Dad at the end of the bed. I could see fear in his expression. I squeezed his hand.

"It's okay, Rob." I said. He turned his head and looked at me and then looked back at Dad.

Dad started talking. After he had apologized and explained everything, he ended with, "You and my son have my blessings. I hope you two will have a long and happy relationship."

"Thank you, sir."

I cleared my throat. They both looked at me like I was supposed to say something. I just grinned at them both.

"Well, if my verbose son has nothing to add right now I guess I should do my doctor thing."

He stepped up and took Rob's hand from me and took his pulse. He then took his little flashlight and shined it into both of his eyes. He asked him how he felt.

"I feel pretty good. I'm hungry. But I've got a question first. Where am I? How did I get here and how long do I have to stay?"

"Well, you are in The Clinic in Santa Barbara. Hal and I brought you here when we found you passed out in your apartment. And--- you should be out of here in a couple of hours."

"What is this place? I've received too much kind attention for it to be a public hospital."

"The Clinic is a private hospital. We treat alcohol and drug addiction mostly. Three other doctors and I started it about fifteen years ago."

"I can't afford this. I'm just a law student at USC."

"As a member of the Jordan family you are entitled to free treatment. Just don't make a habit of it." Dad grinned at him. "Alright, I'll leave you two alone for a bit. A nurse will be in shortly to remove the IV from your arm."

I watched Dad out the door. I stared out the window. I felt disjoined. Robert took my hand. I looked down at his hand holding mine. I looked up at Robert's face. His eyes were closed. There were frown furrows between his brows. He was chewing on his lower lip. My gaze wandered back to the window and out.

"Hal? Where are we? You're coming across kind of gray and muddy."

I squeezed his hand. "I don't know, Rob. Three days ago I was so sure of a future together with you. Now I don't know." I looked him in the eyes. "I mean is this how you're going to react to problems down the road, alcohol and loose women? I couldn't abide that."

"I really screwed up didn't I?" He said. I didn't respond. I waited to hear more. "I picked up Suzy with the drunken idea that you would--- Hell! I don't know what I was thinking. The only thing the alcohol was good for was shutting out other people's emotional broadcasting. I could see the pain in your eyes and I felt like a shit. But your dad had been implicit. At least I couldn't feel your pain in my head.

"When I watched you walk into the hotel and the doors closed behind you I felt like they had closed my life. There was no reason to go on living. I knew you were hurting, too. I had to call one last time to see if you were going to be okay. When you turned away from me I wanted to die. When you hung up, if I'd been more of a man I would have taken my gun and put an end to all the pain, but I guess I'm a coward when it came right down to it. So I drank myself into a stupor." He paused.

"Maybe that was a good thing, me being cowardly. It has given us another chance, if you're willing to take it with me. I promise I will never attempt to close you out again, Hal."

"That's all I ask. How about women?"

Robert started laughing. "I never told you about what happened with Miki the night you tried walking the moonbeams. I was doing pretty well with her until you got up and left. Miki was so frustrated. She was horny; I couldn't get it up and you had disappeared. What was the poor woman to do? And Suzy, well, she blamed the alcohol. Hell, if I'd been stone cold sober, I still couldn't have fucked her."

"Are you telling me you aren't bi-sexual, Robert?"

"I'm telling you that you are the only person, male or female, that turns me on."

"But--- we've never been to bed. How do you know I can turn you on?"

He placed my hand on his crotch. He had a roaring hardon.

"This how I am, when I'm near you, Hal. Since that day I found you on the beach. Your touch flips my switch."

"How did I never know this?"

"After that first day on the beach I always wore a jockey strap to contain it."

"Oh." I thought for a moment. "You've never had sex with anybody? You're a virgin?" I asked. He blushed. "That's so cool, Rob. What a gift." I smiled sadly at him, and added. "I wish I could give you the same."

He studied me. "Hal, that's one of the things that attracted me to you. You are such a stud. A man of the world." It was my turn to blush.

The nurse chose that moment to come in to remove the IV.

"Mr. McGuire, the doctor says you can be released immediately." She said as she removed the tape that strapped his arm to the board. She turned to me. "Your dad asks that you get some clothes for Mr. McGuire from his car." She dug into her pocket and handed me Dad's car keys. I left the room as she pulled the needle from Robert's arm.


Mom rushed out to greet us as we pulled into the circular driveway. She grabbed Robert around the neck and pulled him down to her level and gave him a kiss on each cheek. "Robert, my poor boy, what have my men been putting you though? I do hope you forgive them. They were raised better than that. At least, Jimmy was. Well, a few good home cooked meals and lots of rest and exercise and you will be as well as ever. What are we standing around out here? Lets go in and get these boys settled in." She turned to me. "Jim, take Robert's things out to the bunk house. You boys will be staying out there."

I noticed Rob's confusion and laughed. "Rob, at home, to my family and friends I'm Jim. Hal's my dad."

"I wondered how you knew who was to answer when somebody said 'Hal'."

Dad put his arm around Rob's shoulder and guided him toward the door. Mom was already there, waiting impatiently. I grabbed his things out of the car and followed them into the house. I dropped the bag with Rob's dirty clothes in the laundry room and headed out the back door to the guesthouse that Mom insisted on calling the bunkhouse. I dropped the suitcase and shoes on the foot of the bed. I felt so happy I wanted to sing. I was home. Rob was with me. My parents had just adopted him. How could life be any better? I headed toward the kitchen. I stopped and dipped my hand into the pool. The water was cool but not cold. The day was warming nicely. A swim would be fun later.

Rob was sitting at the table eating a big sandwich with a tall glass of milk. Mom and Dad were seated on each side of him. They were all looking at me as I entered the room. I stopped and shook my head. "He told you I was nearing. Right?"

Mom grinned and nodded her head.

"One thing I will never be able to do is sneak up on you." I said to Robert. Dad chuckled.

"Would you like a snack, Son?" Mom asked. She was already up and making me a sandwich.

"Where is everyone?" I asked. "I've been gone four years and nobody's around to welcome me back. What gives?"

At that moment my oldest little sister walked into the room. I jumped up and met her halfway to the table. She's a tomboy turning into a young lady. Her long auburn hair curled about her face. She wore a pair of her bother's jeans and one of their shirts, the tails tied around her midriff, and old pair of well-worn tennis shoes. She took my breath away. She squealed and grabbed me around the neck kissing me on the cheek. " Oh, Jimmy it's so good to have you home." Over my shoulder she saw Rob and pulled back from me. She blushed. I took her around the waist and turned to him. "Rob, this is my sister Janice. Jan this is my buddy Rob." She held her hand out to him. Rob abruptly stood up knocking his chair over. He grabbed for the chair while trying to shake her hand. He had turned three shades of red. He ignored the chair and took her hand. "It's nice to meet you, Jan. Hal, you didn't tell me you had such a lovely young lady for a sister."

"Hey she was in pigtails climbing trees the last time I saw her."

Hal had turned to upright his chair. Jan turned to me and whispered. "He's cute." I whispered back, "I know. Keep your hands off him. He's mine."

Jan blanched. She pulled away from me. She looked at me like I had slapped her. Bursting into tears she fled the room.

"Jan." I started after her. Mom stopped me. "Let me go talk to her."

I collapsed into my chair, dropped my head on the table and covered it with my hands. " How stupid can I get? I never even thought about how she would react." Dad covered my hands with one of his.

" I think we'd better discuss this before revealing your sexual preferences to your brothers, Son. They've all been raised to be accepting of people, but this hits close to home. I think you'd better let me talk to them. Let's not shock them."

I nodded my head in agreement. I sat up and looked at Rob. He was looking very distressed.

"Why don't you boys go on out and get some rest. Dave and Joe won't be home for another couple of hours."

We both nodded. We left the table, my sandwich untouched. I walked out the backdoor. Robert followed me. I was numb with shock. How could I have been so stupid? I had never even considered how my sister would react. I walked into the bunkhouse and just stood there. I didn't know what to do. I had accepted my sexuality with few qualms, making plans to spend the rest of my life with Robert. I never considered how the rest of the world would react other then the Air Force. How could I be so naïve?

I heard the door close and then felt Robert behind me. He wrapped his arms around me and kissed the top of my head. He didn't say anything. I didn't either. After a minute or so I turned in his arms and hugged him. He leaned back and lifted my chin. He kissed me lightly on my lips.

"Welcome back to California, My Love."

I laid my head on his chest. "God, what a roller coaster ride this has been."

"It'll only get better, Hal. We're together now. That's the way we'll stay."


After Mom talked to Jan, they asked Rob and me to join them in the kitchen for a conference. They figured it might be best if the rest of my siblings weren't told right away. After Jan's reaction I agreed. I assumed that they had gotten Jan to promise not to say anything, too. I guess that they thought she would be discreet. We were wrong. After a warm reunion with my brothers and other little sister, Jan came out to join the family for dinner. She was sullen. She continually glared at me and ignored Robert altogether.

Dad was grilling hamburgers and Mom was in the kitchen preparing everything else. It was a warm evening and we were all playing in the pool, except for Jan and Joe, being fraternal twins they're a lot closer with each other than the rest of us, except for the other pair of twins and they are another story. They sat on the edge of the pool, dangling their feet in the water while they talked with their heads together.

I had been watching Jan as unobtrusively as possible since she had joined the rest of the family. I was dying to know what she and Joe were saying, but without being totally obvious, there was no way. My other siblings were having a ball, ganging up on Robert and me. We were playing water polo and since we were the grownups, it was them against us. If it hadn't been for Dave who was taller than I am, there would have been no competition. Billy at 15 was giving it his all, trying to best his big brother, Toni was that awkward stage of being 13, and half way to being a women. She was having more of a battle with her self, wanting to join in the horseplay and at the same time be a young lady. And the younger set of twins, Marty and Matt, were like a pair of young telepathic raptors the way they would attack us from different angles at the same time.

I got engrossed in the game and forgot for a few minutes about Jan and Joe. I looked up to see Joe standing inside the lanai looking at me. When our eyes connected he whirled and went into the house. I had a strong feeling of guilt sweep over me. I knew that Jan had told him. At that moment, Dave and Billy attacked, sending me down for a good dunking. I came up coughing and swam to the edge of the pool and crawled out. Amidst hoots and catcalls, I grabbed a towel and headed into the house.

"I'll be back and I'll get you both." I yelled back at them.

"Yeah, yeah." They yelled, not believing me.

I walked down the hall of the boy's end of the house. All four doors were open and the rooms unoccupied except for one. I quietly knocked.

"Joe? Can I come in?"

I heard a muffled sound I took for assent and opened the door to a darkened room. The blinds were closed and the curtains drawn.

"It's so dark in here. Are you in mourning?" I joked.

"Yes." Came the muffled answer. Joe had his face buried in his pillow.

I closed the door and sat on the edge of his bed. I placed my hand on his back.

"You want to talk about it?" I asked.


"Jan told you about me."


"Are you mad at me now?"


"Do you hate me, Joe?"

He sat up and looked at me. "I love you, Hal. You're my big brother. I've always loved you and I've always wanted to be just like you." He stopped and twisted around so he was facing away from me. He looked at the darkened ceiling and snuffled. He rubbed furiously at his eyes. With his body still turn from me, he looked at me over his shoulder. "And I am. I'm just like you." He whispered.

I was silent. Stunned. Was this how it felt to others to learn that I was gay?

"You hate me now. You sit there staring at me like I'm some kind of scab." He jumped off the bed, strode across the room and turned on me. "I turn out to be like you and even you don't like it." He turned to the window pulling the curtain aside; he lifted a blind slat and stared out. "I don't want to be this way. I've fought it since I was fourteen when I found out that girls really don't push my buttons." There was a long pause, and I still sat there not responding, wrapped up in my own thoughts. "I hate being this way. I want to be like other guys." He fell to his knees weeping. I moved to him kneeling in front of him; I pulled him against me and held him tight. I still couldn't find my tongue. "How can you stand yourself, Hal?" He laid his head in the crook of my neck. "I just want to die."

"NO, no, Joey." My brain had finally shifted into gear and started working my mouth. "You have no choice in being what you are. But you can choose to accept it and make the best of it. Joey, I love you, baby brother. I've always been closer to you than to Dave or Billy. There's always been a special tie between us.

I'll help you get through this. I'll be here for you."

For several minutes I just held him, caressing his back and making soothing sounds. When he finally stirred I let him go and sat back on my heels.

"Does Jan know?" I asked.

"No, no one knows, except you."

"Joe, have you ever had sex with another boy?"

He shook his head.

"Well, how do you even know you would like it?"

"That's all I think about. I got to where I couldn't even take a shower after gym. It's been a living hell for the last three years, Hal. I'm so glad that I am through with highschool."

"I can't promise you it will ever be easy, Joey, but not hiding it from the one's who love you will make it better. Mom and Dad will still love you; that I can promise."

There was a knock on the door.

"Dad wants you guys to come eat." It was Billy. He opened the door and peered in. "What are you two doing in here in the dark, anyway?"

"Get the fuck out, Billy. You know you're not to go into someone else's room unless you're invited." Joe screamed at him.

"It's okay, Joe let it go." I said under my breath.

"Geez, you're such a pervert." Billy said. He slammed the door as he left.

"Come on, Joe, wash your face and let's go eat."

"I don't really feel like eating."

"Do it for me, please?"

He smiled, got up and headed to the bathroom. I bounded out of the bedroom to catch up to Billy. I fell into step with him and put my arm around his shoulder. "That was uncalled for, Billy."


"Calling Joe a pervert."

"Well he is. All he does is mope around all the time. He used to be so cool. Now the only time he's cool, is when he's on a surfboard. He's so depressing any other time."

"Give him slack, Billy. He's got some hard problems to deal with. Okay?"

"Sure, Jim. For you, I'll do that."

"That's my little buddy." I squeezed his neck as we stepped out into the back yard.


We had all gotten our plates filled and were sitting around the long trestle table under the big old liquid amber in the corner of the yard, when Joe finally came out. Everyone looked up at him. He returned their stare and then dropped his eyes.

"I'm just like Jim." (Hal Junior) He muttered. Mom and Dad, Robert and I sat there with our mouths open. Dave, Billy and Toni were looking puzzled. Jan jumped up over turning her plate and drink.

"Is this family having an epidemic? First Jim, now you." She glared at here twin brother. "And look at those two, they are never apart and they are always touching." She pointed at the youngest Baxters, who are identical twins. They were sitting on a bench by the pool their plates in their laps. They couldn't have been sitting any closer to each other with out one being in the other's lap. They had always been like that. None of us thought anything of it.

Dave my oldest brother and Toni my youngest sister were still totally confused. Billy was smirking at Joe.

"That's enough, Janice, sit down and behave yourself." Dad injected.

"What's going on here? I don't understand." Dave said.

"I do." Billy leered at Dave. "They're faggots."

Mom stood up and slapped Billy hard across his face.

"Don't you ever use that word again. Or any other like it. Do you understand me, Peter William Baxter?" When Mom used one's full name, that person knew they had truly transgressed. And Mom never used violence except for the very worst of crimes. I was thankful that she saw the use of that nasty word in that category.

Janice stood up and started to leave the table. She was sitting next to Dad. He took her hand and stopped her. "Sit down, Sweetheart. We need to have a family conference right now before this gets blown out of proportion. Now Jan I don't know what your problem is with this, but I think we need to work it out."

"The guy she has a crush on told her he isn't interested 'cause he already has a boyfriend." Toni piped up.

"Toni, I'll get you for that. You blabber mouth." Jan said.

"Okay, girls, enough." Dad turned back to Jan. "Is that true?"

"Yeah, and everyone except me seemed to already know it."

"I can see how that could upset you, but why are you being hostile to your brothers?" Jan shrugged. "Do you think that they chose to be---" He stumbled on the word, "gay?"

"Well, didn't they?" Dave asked. Jan just stared at her plate. Everyone else was paying close attention.

"David, would you choose a life style that is so difficult? Where people hate you just because of who you love?"

"Of course not, Dad, I've got more sense than that."

"Do you think Jim and Joe don't have enough sense to choose not to be gay if they could?

"They are both smart guys, Dad."

'Well then, do you really think they chose to be gay?"

Joe and I were both shaking our heads.

"No, Dad, they didn't." He turned toward Billy and I. "I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking. If anyone gives you any hassle I'll take care of them."

"Me too." Billy chimed in. I looked at Joe there was a little glint of light back in his eyes. I stood up and hugged him. And then each and every one of our brothers and sisters did the same to Joe, me, and Robert. As Jan hugged me she whispered. "I'm so jealous. Robert is so handsome." And then she hugged Robert, whispering, "You be good to my big brother, you handsome brute." Mom and Dad were standing right next to us and heard it all. They looked so proud of all of us.

The mess from our picnic was all cleaned up. Everyone except my three older brothers and I had retired to the house to do other things. Rob had gone into the bunkhouse to take a nap. Joe suggested another game of water polo, Dave and Bill against the two of us.

"Nah, I don't feel like it." Dave said. He was the one that was always after the rest of us to play another game. Bill followed Dave's lead.

"I don't want to either." He said.

"Afraid us gay boys will whup yer straight butts?" Joe jeered at them.

" Yeah we're really scared, you little lolly licker." Dave said.

"Yeah, really scared." Bill echoed.

"Take that back, Dave."

"What's little Joey gonna do, run to his twin sister for help?"

I stood up at that point.

"Dave, that's enough. You should apologize to Joe. He doesn't deserve to be treated that way by his older brothers."

"Go to hell, Jim. We had a normal family before you showed up with your boyfriend. Now Joey wants to be just like you."

He ran out the back gate. I heard his car start up and pull out of the driveway. Joe was in tears. Billy was sitting there looking distressed. I wrapped an arm around Joe trying to console him. He broke away from me and ran into the house. I heard him yell at someone, "Nothing! Just leave me alone." to someone's query. And then a door slammed. I looked at Bill. He walked over to me and hugged me.

"I'm sorry, Jim. It just's going to take some getting used to. Dave will come around. His best friend's younger brother is gay. Dave and I are the only ones that know that, outside his family. Tomorrow he'll be okay."

I hugged him back. "Thanks, Bill. I hope you're right. I love you, Bill."

"Uuuuugh. Don't say that, someone might hear you."

"I can't help it little brother. I do." I laughed and headed into the house.

"I love you too, Jim." I heard him say soto voce.

I went into the living room. Mom was reading a magazine by the big picture window. I flopped onto the sofa across from her. She lowered her magazine and smiled at me.

"Don't worry Jim, they are good boys. They'll come around."