SUMMARY: At a time of national turmoil, the lives of four boys become connected as each struggles to accept his sexuality and to address the challenges he faces in life. To the extent the boys succeed in coming to grips with those challenges, it may be in ways that prove surprising or troubling. This story is also being published on my blog and you can find a longer synopsis there. While some events, locations and features in the story have been moved forward or back in time for dramatic and other purposes, it takes place during an era when prejudice against homosexuals is rampant and the gay revolution in America is still in its infancy. Italics are typically used within the story to indicate what a character is thinking or saying to himself. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.
WARNING: Sex is not the primary focus of this story. If you're looking for erotic content, you'll do much better with other stories on Nifty. While sexual content is secondary and incidental, the story does include some scenes that depict sex and violence, sometimes graphically depending upon the characters and circumstances involved. For that reason, the story is intended for mature audiences only. If you do not wish to read such material or it is illegal for you to do so, please look elsewhere. The story remains the property of the author and may not be reproduced in any form without written permission. It is protected by the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. You may download a single copy to read offline and to share with others as long as you credit me as the author, but you may not use this work for commercial purposes. You may not use any of the characters, bars or other fictional locations described in the story in your own work without my explicit permission. Nor may you use, alter, transform, or build upon this story in any way.
AUTHOR NOTES: This is my first effort at writing a story. As a general rule, I only plan to publish one chapter a week, usually on Thursdays. The latest chapter will always be posted on my blog before being published here. Comments and constructive criticism are welcome. Flames will be ignored. If you would like to let me know what you think, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading the story. I hope you enjoy it.
THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER: In Chapter 22, Josh skips class to talk with Tommy, trying to persuade the boy to come home with him that evening. Tommy refuses the offer and tells Josh that he's planning to run away from home in May. The boys have an exchange that leaves Josh wondering just how platonic his motives are for wanting to help Tommy. That night he calls Nolan and the two of them talk through the situation, helping Josh formulate a plan to deal with the issues that are preventing Tommy from going to the Sheriff. The next day Josh confronts Tommy at the bus stop. Worried about Coach Johnson's imminent arrival, Tommy agrees to go back to Josh's house. But it's just a trick to get Josh away from the bus stop so the Coach won't see him. Then the trick backfires. When the coach arrives at the bus stop and doesn't find Tommy waiting for him, he drives off alone. Tommy and Josh go back to Josh's house where they discuss the situation. For the time being, Josh promises to leave Tommy alone while Tommy promises to let Josh continue working on a solution to his biggest concern, that he'll be taken away from his parents and put in a juvenile facility if he turns in the coach to the Sheriff.
Part II - Innocence Abused
I’m not really sure why I went back the next day, but there I was again, hiding in the woods near the Elm Street bus stop. I guess I was hoping Tommy wouldn’t show up, but he did. Or maybe I was praying Coach wouldn’t come by, but I was wrong about that as well. So it didn’t really surprise me when Tommy got into the car and the two of them drove off together. What surprised me was when I started to cry.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop the tears. They seemed to come out of nowhere. I remember being ashamed about that and I tried my best to wipe them away while I walked home that evening. But I guess I didn’t do the greatest job in the world. When I got there, my Mom saw my face was still streaked with some of the tears and she asked me about it.
“It’s nothing,” I said, embarrassed to have her see me like that.
“It must be something, Joshua,” she said, “and it must be something important because the last time I saw you cry was at your Dad’s funeral and that was four years ago. There’s nothing wrong with crying, Joshua. Sometimes it helps. But it can also help to talk about things too.”
I just stood there looking at her. Suddenly the whole situation seemed totally overwhelming and completely hopeless to me. I needed help and I knew it.
“Mom, can I ask you a question?”
“Of course, you can, Joshua,” she replied.
“Suppose you knew someone who was in trouble, big trouble actually. And suppose you knew something about the whole thing that might help, but he didn’t really want your help. Plus helping him might end up hurting you somehow. Do you think you should help him anyway? Or would it be better to stay out of it and mind your own business?”
“It’s very hard to know what to tell you, Joshua,” my Mom responded, “at least based on what you’ve told me so far. If there’s something you want to talk to me about, by all means let’s do that. You know you can always talk to me, Joshua. I’m not promising I can help, but I’ll try.”
“Well, I don’t know, Mom,” I said. “It would be hard, really hard, to talk about this. You might not like what you hear.”
“Yes, I know, Joshua, sometimes things can be hard to talk about,” she replied. “Why don’t you just start at the beginning and tell me. Like I said, I’ll do my best.”
“Well, the thing is, there’s this boy at school, Mom,” I said. “You’ve met him. It’s Tommy. Tommy Taylor. The thing is, somebody told some lies about Tommy and that made him really unpopular at school. He doesn’t have any friends and the kids pick on him a lot. And the other thing is, well, his parents drink a lot and get violent with him at times so he only goes home late at night to sleep. And then one of the teachers at school befriended Tommy; except he didn’t really want to be friends with Tommy. He wanted to, umm, he wanted to, well, um ...”
I stared down at the floor. I couldn’t go on.
“He wanted to what, Joshua?” my Mom asked gently.
“He wanted to abuse Tommy, Mom, abuse him sexually, I mean, and he did,” I finally blurted out.
I looked at my Mom. She touched her hand to her mouth and I could see she was shocked, but she didn’t say anything.
So I had finally said it and it felt good, but I knew there was no going back now.
“And this teacher is still abusing Tommy, Mom,” I continued. “In fact, he, um, well, the thing is, well, he made a video of himself and Tommy having sex and is using that as a way to force Tommy to continue doing stuff with him.”
“Oh, my Lord,” my Mom whispered, horrified.
“And the thing is, um, well, I’ve talked to Tommy about going to the Sheriff about this. But he doesn’t want to do it because he’ll get in big trouble with his Dad. His Dad will beat him up really bad, maybe even kill him. And I told Tommy the Sheriff would protect him by taking him away from his parents, but he doesn’t want to go to one of those state facilities or be put in the custody of some stranger.”
“Do you know who the teacher is that’s abusing this boy, Joshua?” my Mom asked, quietly.
“Yes,” I said. “I know. It’s Coach Johnson.”
“Oh, my Lord,” my Mom replied, stunned by what I had just told her. “Are you sure, Joshua? I mean, Coach Johnson has been at the school for years. There’s never been anything to suggest he would do something like that. Why do you believe what this boy is telling you, Joshua? Maybe he’s just making up a story for some reason neither of us understands.”
“No, he’s telling the truth, Mom,” I responded. “I know it for sure.”
“How do you know, Joshua?” my Mom asked. “How can you be so sure about this?”
“Well, for one thing, I’ve seen the Coach picking Tommy up out at the bus stop at Elm Street and Route 91, the one that’s closed for the winter. I’ve seen that with my own eyes and not just once either.”
“But that doesn’t prove anything, Joshua,” my Mom said. “It doesn’t mean he’s abusing the boy.”
“I know it doesn’t,” I replied, “but Tommy wouldn’t tell a lie about something like this, Mom. I just know it.”
“How do you know that, Joshua?” my Mom asked again. “I mean, yes, Tommy seemed like a nice enough boy. Although I have to say it seemed very strange to me for him to be asking for wine at supper that first night you invited him over here. He seems a little ... I don’t know what exactly. He seems a little wild to me, I guess.”
“That’s just because he has terrible parents, Mom,” I said. “He’s really a very good kid.”
But I could tell my mother was still skeptical. It seemed like I didn’t have any choice.
“All right, Mom, I didn’t want to tell you this, but the reason I know Tommy is telling the truth is because Coach Johnson tried to do the same thing to me last summer,” I replied, breathing in deeply.
“Do what, Joshua?” my Mom asked.
“He tried to abuse me, Mom,” I said.
My Mom didn’t say anything to that. She just stood there silently and I could tell she was having trouble comprehending what I had just told her. I wondered whether I should just shut up, but it seemed kind of late for that.
“It was while Nolan was here last summer,” I continued. “And Nolan helped me get away from Coach Johnson so nothing ever happened. I swear, Mom, I swear to God. Nothing happened.”
“This is almost beyond belief,” my Mom finally said, disgusted. “It’s just so hard to believe anyone would do something vile like this, especially here in our little community. Why? Why would a man with such a fine reputation like Coach Johnson try to abuse you, Joshua, or Tommy for that matter either.”
“Because he’s a pedophile, Mom,” I blurted out. “He likes having sex with boys. And, the thing is, it’s a really long story, Mom, but the point is it isn’t just me saying it. Nolan can back me up. In fact, Nolan has a recording of the conversation I had with the Coach that evening and nobody listening to that conversation will have any doubt what the Coach was trying to do. I suppose it isn’t absolute proof that the Coach is abusing Tommy, but I just know he is and I don’t think he should get away with it either.”
“There’s more to this, isn’t there, Joshua?” my Mom finally asked. “There’s something you’re not telling me.”
So there it was. It was beginning to sink in and now my Mom wanted the whole story.
“Yeah, Mom, there is. Do I have to tell you? Don’t you know enough already to figure out how we can help Tommy?”
“You have to tell me the whole story, Joshua,” she replied, quietly. “I need to know everything if I’m going to help you and Tommy.”
“Okay, well, then, the thing is, Mom, umm, you know ...” But I couldn’t finish the thought.
It was hard and I was afraid and I didn’t really want to tell her because I was scared she would hate me once I told her.
So there I was, stammering, trying to say it but not knowing how to say it. And then I just blurted the whole thing out.
“I mean, this isn’t easy, Mom, and I know you’ll be really disappointed with me, but the thing is I’m gay,” I said. “And Nolan is too. I’m sorry to tell you like this. But it’s true. And, the thing is, Coach Johnson caught me kissing Nolan in the gym last summer and he made me come over to the school that evening. And he tried to use the two of us kissing as a way of forcing me to have sex with him. But I didn’t want to. And thank god Nolan followed me to the school that night and recorded my conversation with the coach. And, like I said, anyone who listens to that recording is going to know Coach Johnson is a pedophile. So that’s pretty much the whole story, Mom. The only other thing is that Tommy needs someone to adopt him or he won’t tell the Sheriff and I was hoping you would do that to get him away from his parents. That’s the only way I can think of to help Tommy out of this mess, but I really need you to help me and I’ll do whatever you think is right.”
I was kind of surprised by her reaction. My Mom didn’t say anything at all. She just put her arms around me and hugged me real tight. She hugged me like that for what seemed like forever.
“Finally,” she sighed. “Thank you for telling me this. I love you, Joshua. I want you to know I’ll always love you and nothing will ever change that. I’m so proud of you for finally telling me this. I know it couldn’t have been easy.”
It meant a lot to hear that from her right about then.
After that we talked for a long time that evening. Mom had a lot of questions. At the end she told me she loved me again and always would; and that she didn’t care if I was gay or not, that she just wanted me to be happy. But she told me not to say anything to anyone about what we had discussed, that she needed to see someone first.
The next day when I got home Mom was waiting for me with Mr. Simmons, one of the lawyers in town. He asked me a lot of questions, including whether I thought Nolan would still have the recording of my conversation with Coach Johnson and whether he would let him listen to it. I said he did and I thought Nolan would let him listen if I asked.
That evening I called Nolan and explained what I had done. I thought he would be really mad with me because it would all have to come out and his parents would find out he was gay. But he wasn’t mad at all and the next day he called Mr. Simmons and played the recording for him.
The day after that my Mom asked me to bring Tommy back to the house, but not to tell him what I had done or any of the rest of it.
“I don’t think he’ll come, Mom,” I said, “at least not unless I have a real solution to offer him.”
“You can tell him you’ve found someone willing to adopt him, if need be, and some other people who are willing to help him as well. But don’t tell him I’m willing to adopt him yet, Josh. I want to do it, but it’s up to the courts. They have to decide whether to take him away from his parents temporarily and whether they’re willing to place him with me; and even if they do, terminating their parental rights is a long and complicated legal process. Only after the courts do all of that could I adopt him and only if that's what Tommy wants as well. So I don’t want to get his expectations up too high just yet; the last thing in the world that boy needs in his life right now is any more disappointment.”
I remember being really proud of my Mom for being willing to adopt Tommy. To me it was the perfect solution and I knew everything was going to work out for the best now that I had spoken up.
At first Tommy didn’t want to come back to the house with me that afternoon and it was really hard persuading him so finally I told him I had found someone to adopt him.
“I don’t believe you,” he said. “You’re just making that up to get me to go with you. No one would ever adopt someone like me.”
“You’re wrong about that, Tommy,” I replied. “I know someone who would.”
“Who?” he asked.
“I’ll only tell when we get back to my house,” I replied. “But it’s someone I know you’ll like a lot. Besides, what have you got to lose? You’ll have plenty of time to walk back to the bus stop if you don’t like the person I’ve found.”
By then I think his curiosity had gotten the better of him and he finally agreed to go back to the farm with me.
When we got to my house my Mom greeted the two of us and took us into the kitchen. She had baked up a pile of oatmeal raisin cookies and put them on the table, along with two glasses of milk.
Tommy took one of the cookies, bit into it, and his eyes started twinkling. My Mom sat down at the table across from him.
“Tommy, Joshua told me what’s been happening to you,” she said, softly. He looked at me as if I had stabbed him in the back, but didn’t say anything in response.
“There are two people in the other room who would like to talk to you, Tommy. One is Sheriff Halverson and the other one is Mr. Simmons. Mr. Simmons is lawyer and he’s going to be your lawyer. Do you know what that means?”
“No, Mam,” Tommy replied, shaking his head.
“It means Mr. Simmons is going to work for you and he’s going to do that for free. His only job is going to be to give you his best legal advice and to do whatever you would like him to do. He only works for you. Not for me or Joshua. Not for your parents or anyone else. Just for you. Do you understand?”
“Not really, Mam,” Tommy replied. “Am I in trouble now? Is that why I need a lawyer? Is the Sheriff going to put me in jail?”
“No, Tommy, you’re not in trouble at all,” my Mom replied. “But you need someone to look out for your best legal interests and Mr. Simmons has agreed to do that for free.”
After that my Mom brought the Sheriff and Mr. Simmons into the kitchen. Tommy looked at both of them, then took another cookie from the plate. My Mom asked me to tell the Sheriff what I knew so I did. Tommy just sat there looking at me while I told the Sheriff everything I knew.
I couldn’t tell what Tommy was thinking exactly, but I knew he was nervous because he was gobbling the cookies down in bunches now and I figured he was probably mad at me for telling on him.
When I had finished talking, the Sheriff asked Tommy whether I had told the truth.
“Do I have to say?” Tommy asked, looking over at Mr. Simmons.
“No, you don’t have to say anything, Tommy,” Mr. Simmons responded. “But I think it would be best if you did. You’re not going to be in any trouble at all if you tell the truth.”
“You’re wrong about that, Mr. Simmons,” Tommy replied, his voice cold and detached. “I’m going to be in big trouble, real big trouble, with my father.”
“I know you’re worried about that, Tommy,” Mr. Simmons said. “And I also know you don’t want to be placed in a state facility or with some stranger. I’ve talked to the Sheriff and both of us will be there with you when you talk to your parents about this tonight.”
“We’re going to make sure they don’t do anything bad to you and we’re going to talk to them about getting some counselors to help you and your parents deal with this whole situation, to help you become a real family again. And if that doesn’t work out, we’re going to find someone who will love you very much, someone who will adopt you. We can’t make any promises, but there is a real good chance it will be someone you know and like.”
“Look,” Tommy finally said, “I know everyone is trying to be helpful and I guess I should be grateful for that. I’m not going to lie to you. What Josh said is true. Coach Johnson has been abusing me and he does have videos at his house of the two of us having sex. Just so you know where to look, he keeps them in a special compartment he’s built into the closet in his bedroom. And I hope you can put him in jail for a long time so he won’t ever do this to anyone else.”
“But I don’t want you or the Sheriff to be with me when I talk to my parents about this, Mr. Simmons, at least not the first time. You don’t know my parents like I do. If they see you and the Sheriff with me, they’re going to be spooked. It'll be better if I can tell them about this myself tomorrow morning before they go to work. After I do, well, we can try that idea you have of having some counselors help us become a better family. Maybe that will help. But I need to speak to them first and I need to do that alone.”
“Are you planning to arrest Coach Johnson today, Sheriff?” Tommy asked, turning and looking at Sheriff Halverson. “If you do, then I can tell my parents in the morning we need to stop by your office at the end of the day and you can be there when I fill in all the details if that’s what you want. That would probably be for the best.”
“I don’t know about this, son,” the Sheriff responded. “If what Joshua told us is true, your father sounds like he has a really bad temper, Tommy. I wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to you because Mr. Simmons and I weren’t along to help out when you speak to your parents. And, yes, I am planning to arrest Coach Johnson later today. My deputies are down at the Courthouse getting a warrant to search his place right now.”
“Well that’s good to hear,” Tommy replied. “I’m glad it’s all over now and I’m really looking forward to getting my life turned around for the better.”
“But as for the rest of it, coming back to my place with me and telling my parents tonight, well, I just don’t think it’s a good idea, Sheriff,” Tommy added.
“Why not?” the Sheriff asked.
“Because they’ll be drinking and there’s no telling what my father might do after you leave,” Tommy said. “It would be better if I went home alone late like I usually do and told them in the morning we need to go down to your office after they get home from work in the evening because of a problem I’m having at school. My Dad won’t be happy about that. But he’ll do it because he don’t want no problem with the law; and he won’t hit me either if we do it that way. He’s not all that bad in the morning when he’s sober.”
“I don’t like the idea of leaving you alone in that place with your parents one more night,” the Sheriff responded, shaking his head. “I tried to get DCF, that's the Department for Children and Families, over here today to do a home assessment right on the spot, but the earliest they can get someone here is tomorrow. So I think it would be best if I went back to your place with you and let your father know he’ll be in big trouble if he touches a hair on your head. Frankly, I don’t like the idea of leaving you there with them at all, but that’s a decision for DCF to make. The only place I can put you is in jail and I don’t want to do that, especially since Coach will be there as well.”
“He could stay with us for the evening, Sheriff,” my Mom interjected. “That wouldn’t be a problem.”
“Thanks for the offer, Emily,” Sheriff Halverson replied. “That would be perfect if I had any choice in the matter, but frankly I don’t really have the authority to place him anywhere except jail; and, like I said, that’s not something I want to do.”
“What do you think I should do, Bill?” the Sheriff asked, turning to Mr. Simmonds.
“Well, like you said, Sheriff, it would have been best if we could have gotten someone from DCF over here today,” he replied. “But there’s no use crying over spilt milk. I actually think what Tommy says makes a lot of sense. If we do it his way, we’ll have time to brief the DCF case worker before we meet with Tommy and his parents tomorrow evening. The three of us will be there with him when he breaks the news to them. And the DCF staffer will be able to do an immediate home assessment and make a decision on whether leaving Tommy with his parents would endanger his welfare. I'm betting they'll want to place him in custody right away and I'm pretty sure they'll follow our recommendation on where to place him.”
“What time does your father get off work?” the Sheriff asked, turning to Tommy.
“He gets off at 5 p.m.,” Tommy replied. “And he’s usually home by 5:30. My Mom gets home around the same time so the three of us could come down to your office by around 6 o’clock tomorrow evening, Sheriff. That would make the most sense. They just can’t afford to miss the work because money is so tight these days.”
“Okay, let me think about that a little more,” the Sheriff said. “You’re right that Coach Johnson is the immediate priority and I’m going to need you to help me arrest him, Tommy. Are you willing to do that?”
“Sure,” Tommy responded. “I’ll do whatever you want.”
I could tell Sheriff Halverson was impressed with how cooperative Tommy was being. He agreed to meet Coach Johnson later that afternoon at the bus stop and to go back to the Coach’s house with him. Later, Mr. Simmons called my Mom and told her everything had gone according to plan and that the Sheriff had arrested Coach Johnson after Tommy and he went into Coach’s place.
Coach Johnson had tried to deny the whole thing, telling the Sheriff he was just tutoring Tommy at home. But he shut up pretty quickly once the Sheriff found the tapes exactly where Tommy had told him he would. Sheriff Halverson was reviewing the tapes while his deputies continued searching the house and collecting evidence.
It came as a big relief to both me and my Mom. Everything was working out exactly as planned and Tommy was finally safe.
Still later Mr. Simmons called back again and explained everything else that happened that evening. How the Sheriff had finally agreed to Tommy’s plan and how the two of them had taken Tommy back to his place late in the evening and waited outside while he went in by himself. And then how Tommy had given them the agreed upon signal from his room upstairs that everything was fine.
Everything had gone great and things were looking up for a change. I remember feeling really good about getting involved and doing my best to help Tommy when I went to bed that evening. I was proud of myself.
Now that the truth was out, we could be friends. I had already decided I would begin eating lunch with Tommy at school and didn’t really care what Wayne or anyone else said. I didn’t even care anymore whether they thought I was gay. The people I loved the most in the world already knew I was. I didn’t really care anymore who else knew and I wasn’t going to let it stop me and Tommy from becoming friends.
The next evening the Sheriff and Mr. Simmons stopped by our house around 8 p.m. I knew something was wrong right away because neither of them was smiling.
“I’m sorry to tell you this, Emily,” the Sheriff began, “but neither Tommy nor his parents showed up at my office this evening as planned. We waited thirty minutes for them to arrive. But they didn’t. So we went out to their place. Tommy’s parents were there, boozed up, but Tommy wasn’t. It turns out he never told them anything about all of this last evening and he wasn't there in the morning when they got up. They thought he had gone to school. But we checked and he didn't.”
“In fact, it looks like Tommy may have run away,” Mr. Simmons interjected.
“I should have never listened to him,” the Sheriff chimed in. “I should have taken him into custody last night. I don’t know why I didn’t. He just seemed so cooperative the whole time and I didn’t think one more night at home would matter. I guess that’s why I did it, but it was a mistake, a terrible one.”
“But we’ve put out a missing person’s bulletin on him,” the Sheriff added. “Between us and the state police, I’m sure we’ll find him pretty soon. But right now we have no idea where he is. I don’t think he could have gotten very far, but I wanted to ask Joshua whether Tommy ever talked about running away.”
“He did once, Sheriff,” I replied.
“Did he say where he might run to?” the Sheriff asked.
“He mentioned Albany, Boston or New York or maybe the West Coast,” I responded.
“That’s pretty much what we figured,” the Sheriff replied. “I don’t think he’s gotten that far, but we’ve alerted the state police in New Hampshire, New York and Massachusetts as well and they’ll be looking for him too. Like I said, I’m sure we’ll find him soon enough. There are a lot of people out there looking for him”
But the Sheriff was wrong about that. Tommy had vanished into thin air. As the days passed and he didn’t turn up, I remember becoming more and more worried, then more and more depressed. In the end, after all their searching, they never did find him.
I remember being devastated by that, wondering whether he was okay, worried that something really bad might have happened to him. It drove me crazy at times, but Nolan kept trying to reassure me that Tommy was smart and would be okay.
I wanted to believe that. But at night when I turned off the lights in my bedroom, I kept dreaming he had gotten lost in the woods and something terrible had happened. I started sleeping with the teddy bear Nolan had given me and waking up with night sweats.
Like Nolan had figured, Coach Johnson’s lawyer copped a plea so neither Nolan nor I had to testify at his trial. With the videos in hand, the state had him dead to right and he got sent away to jail for a very long time. I was glad about that.
Eventually word got around town about what had happened. It always did in small towns like ours. Some people even figured out Tommy was the boy who had been abused. But since the case never went to trial, no one ever found out about Nolan or me. I’m not sure it would have mattered if they did because my life was moving on by then.
I won the state championship in the backstroke I had wanted to win so badly. My mother was even there when I did and she was so proud of me. But when I got home that evening from the swim meet, I went up to my room, started crying uncontrollably and just tossed the trophy aside. It didn’t mean anything to me, nothing at all.
By then Nolan had come out to his parents. I guess it bothered them some at first, but they did finally accept it and even agreed he would still be able to come up to Vermont for the summer and spend his vacation with me. Having Nolan there made a big difference, I think.
It also helped when neither my Mom nor his parents objected when we told them we were going to be roommates at Williams. I think they knew we were in love and just accepted that we weren’t going to let ourselves be separated again after that.
But, the truth is, I never really did get over what happened. It was always there lurking in the recesses of my mind; and I often wondered what would have happened if I been there for Tommy earlier in the year like I should have been.
[End of Part II]