Nifty Disclaimer - This story is a work of fiction and contains scenes including sexual relations between people of the same gender. If this isn't your cup of tea, or is illegal where you live, please do not read. Any relation between fictional characters and real people is purely coincidental. All work is copyrighted to Dan Kirk © 2004
“So, you miss school for a week and expect me to accept this for an excuse?” Mr. Borsch demanded on Monday morning. He was holding a hand-written note from Ronald Reagan, on White House stationary.
“Um, you could call him and verify it if you think we forged it?” Brian half-asked, half-offered and Mr. Borsch broke out laughing.
“That’s a good one.” Mr. Borsch said as he laughed. “My god, could you imagine some kid trying to forge a note from the President to get out of school?”
“Well, it would have the virtue of never having been tried.” I offered and he laughed even harder.
“Okay, I take it you two got your assignments?” He asked when he calmed down.
“Yeah, and we even did them.” Brian joked but Mr. Borsch didn’t laugh this time.
“How the hell do you two get into these things? The White House! For a week!” He asked, and I assumed it was rhetorical because we both just shrugged. “Okay, well get off to class before you’re late again.”
“Yes sir.” Brian and I said in unison and headed off to English. There was a constant buzz everywhere we went since everyone seemed to know we’d been in the White House. Our English teacher seemed a bit miffed at us when we did show up, but then he always seemed miffed at us.
“So, they get tired of you at the White House finally and kick you out?” He said sarcastically as we entered the class, several minutes before the bell rang.
“Naw, we got tired of that place first.” Brian said with a shrug. “You know, it’s nothing but old paintings, old furniture, and the most powerful people in the world running around. School’s much more exciting.”
“I’m sure.” The teacher said in a disbelieving tone as several girls who were also early giggled at Brian’s sarcasm. That afternoon our baseball coach let us know how displeased he was that we had missed a week of practice and a game. Fortunately we’d won the game or our asses would really have been grass. As it was, we ended up spending the entire practice running laps around the school.
I’d spent Sunday night at my Mom’s apartment, talking with her and Jenny quietly long after I should have been in bed. I had to lie to her, because she wasn’t cleared for any of the information on what had really happened, and I had to honestly admit she was a security risk. I remembered her first divorce with Dad in another life, the drunken rages and her calling everyone and telling them everything she could while she was drunk. She seemed to be doing better this time around, but I could never be sure. Mrs. Reagan had talked to her for over an hour at the White House on Sunday, and Mom seemed to have a circle of more supportive friends than I had remembered her having the previous time.
It didn’t hurt that the lawyer she had hired was charging her next to nothing instead of his usually exorbitant fees. He was a friend of Dr. Erickson, Mom’s boss, and was giving her special treatment, including cheap fees and far more time than he’d normally give a divorce case. Monday afternoon, I returned to the Rush farm and settled in, glad to be back ‘home’ after all. Still, I had work to do and unlocked the study downstairs with a soft sigh.
There were now two safes in the far wall, and one of them was mine. Mr. Rush had agreed to share the study with me and, as I now had a security clearance as high as his, it was no issue for me to be in there with some of the documents he occasionally brought home from his work. Those were locked in his safe, to which I did not have the combination. I opened my safe on the first try and took out the documents that I would be looking over. Every other day I’d give Dyadya a sealed pouch that contained my notes and any files that I no longer needed. He’d take them into Livermore where he handed them off to an FBI agent who delivered them to Travis AFB. From there, they’d be flown to Andrews on a regular military flight. There were plans underway to hook the house up to the nascent military network that would one day be the Internet. When that happened, my reports would be sent in by computer.
For now though, they traveled by sealed pouch to Washington where they’d be opened first at the CIA and then distributed to a very small list. They no longer went directly to the President, but rather to the analysts and advisors he’d designated. Some might make it directly to his desk, but most would not. Another new addition to the study had been a new phone line, one with a scrambler box attached to it for conversations that I might have with analysts who had questions on my reports. That first Monday, I spent two hours working, earning myself one thousand dollars as per the contract that had been worked out.
Brian had remarked that it was practice for billing hours as an attorney.
Then, I worked on my homework before dinner. Trevor and I talked about baseball, since he was pitching in the next game. It felt good to be back to what was almost normal, until Tyatya mentioned some more news that was broadcast about the changes in the Soviet Union. The new purges were now hitting the public news and comparisons were being made between Shevrenadze and another Georgian who had led the Soviet Union: Joseph Stalin.
One of the other additions to the house had been a surprise for me. Dyadya instructed the technicians to install a regular phone line into my room while Brian’s parents had installed a phone line into his room. This was a luxury few teenagers got at this point in time and it allowed us to talk well into the night as we adjusted to no longer sleeping in the same room as we had done in the White House. I was no stranger to phone sex, but I’d never been so satisfied by that as I was that night.
By the end of the week, our new routines were well established and I was fast growing comfortable with the changes. In a house from where they could see the entire Rush farm, two Secret Service agents now lived. Their job was to make sure there wasn’t any attempt on my life from the new leaders of the Soviet Union. The chance was remote since there had been a long-standing unspoken agreement that assassination within the borders of each country would not be done, but the government was playing it safe since it could not lock me up somewhere.
I’d spend one or two hours each night going over the files, and send them in with Mr. Rush on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays along with my notes. I went to school as normal and while there was a lot of joking and comments about the White House stay and us now being ‘important people’ because of our ‘friendship’ with the President and his wife, things were settled down by Friday. We won our Friday night game, and as we had the last time, Brian and I didn’t bother changing, we just hurried home and up to the barn where we shed our uniforms.
That night I finally figured out how to take him into my mouth again without pinching his dick off with my braces.
I spent four hours Saturday morning going over the documents Dyadya had brought back with him on Friday night. These were fresh SIGINT from their television broadcasts and gave broad hints of the future road they were trying to take in order to keep the regular population happy. The US government probably had a thousand ‘experts’ on Russia, but few of them had the perspective of looking at things from the certainty that the Soviet Union COULD cease to exist.
It was an important distinction and probably one of the reasons why the CIA had never predicted the collapse originally. When you look from the outside at a huge monolith, you can’t see the cracks inside. You can imagine smashing it apart, you can imagine ways to cut off corners, but you never see the internal stresses that could shatter it without any intervention on your part. I HAD seen that monolithic stone façade shatter though, and knew that it was possible, and so when I looked at anything, that perspective was ever-present in my thoughts. If someone had just told me it could shatter, and I trusted them, I might believe them, but I still would not look at it from the perspective they did.
Another change I had to adjust to was never knowing if a thing I remembered from before was definitely going to happen. World events had changed so radically that the future was no longer a known quantity, and I found myself having to face down a nagging sense of fear that anything could be waiting around the corner, including my death, or worse: Brian’s. He noticed the change too because I was now dragging him off to secluded spots every chance I could get, just to wrap my arms around him, to kiss him, or to make love to him. I even once hinted I wanted him to go the last step, but he’d pulled back and forced me to talk about what I was feeling instead of just letting me react to it all.
April turned into May, and the court hearing was nearing for my parents’ divorce. As the weeks went by, that became more and more worrisome, and Mom frequently came over with Jenny for us to visit and talk. She wasn’t handling the stress well, but Mom B, a friend from her work, and two phone calls from Nancy Reagan had her keeping strong without resorting to pain pills or to alcohol. It also helped that her lawyer was a total shark, and was preparing to eviscerate Dad at the hearing if he didn’t drop the custody request.
There were three mediation meetings before the court hearing scheduled for the end of May. At the second meeting, Mr. Barzone, Mom’s lawyer, brought up the incident of Dad’s attempted molestation of Jenny as one of the things we’d be presenting in court to justify Dad not getting custody. Dad’s lawyer, a woman named Cheryl Collins, backed down from custody of Jenny and agreed Mom would keep custody of my sister. They didn’t back down from the demands of Dad having custody of me though.
Before the third mediation, I had to sit down with two court-ordered psychiatrists. One was obviously neutral in the whole affair and approached her interview with me from that perspective. The other was definitely biased from a Christian perspective and kept on trying to get me to admit I was ‘sick’ and needed help. He left very unhappy at not having achieved his goal and I left very worried that this whole thing would blow up on the ‘gay’ issue and get national attention.
The third mediation meeting ended in chaos. Mrs. Collins started off with reports from the male psychiatrist that I was ‘maladjusted’ and in ‘denial’ about having several mental issues that he believed ‘must be dealt with immediately for the subject’s own sanity’. Then she attacked us on the fact that I was not actually living with Mom, but rather was allowed to run ‘amok’ at will, receiving no real parental guidance at all. The third issue they brought up was my continuing ‘unhealthy’ relationship with Brian, and hinted at more issues they would bring up in trial. Futher, Dad was now demanding child support and alimony because Mom had ‘abandoned’ him and was now making more than he was.
The upcoming court trial also caused the government a great deal of concern because of my continuing work. National Security was not something to take lightly as the Soviet Union set about a program of readying their armed forces to a higher level of competence. Apparently, Alexei was of the same opinions as I on their readiness and his father was listening. Their ships were putting to sea more frequently, and test firing more weapons than ever before, and that had our government worried. The Solicitor General of the United States met with the judge who was to be hearing our case, and set out certain guidelines on different issues.
The bible club at school got into the whole act the last week of May by posting flyers that ‘God’s Will’ be done at the upcoming custody trial of a ‘lost sinner’. They held prayer meetings around the flagpole that week and the school seemed tense as people began to take sides on the issue. I didn’t need Mr. Borsch to warn me not to react to that little move; I knew that well enough on my own.
Tension escalated as several local news stations started calling Mom, and the Rush family, to try to get interviews. Following the advice of Mom’s attorney, we didn’t grant the interviews even when Tom Brokaw from NBC called in person. Barbara Walters was the next national reporter to try and for me, that was hard saying no to since I’d always liked the woman’s interviews. The hearing was scheduled for the Tuesday after Memorial Day, and the day before there were news vans camped out near the farm’s entrance, their cameras recording Trevor and I as we went about our regular morning chores.
They followed us as all of our families met for a big barbeque in a local park. The local police actually had to be called at one point to keep them back from the picnic table where Brandon’s family, Brian’s family, Trevor’s family, and my Mom and sister joined us to eat. It wasn’t comfortable, but none of us wanted to be ‘intimidated’ into not going through with our planned holiday.
Nanny, Papa, and Grandma, none of whom I had seen since it became public knowledge about my relationship with Brian had holed up in their houses and dealt with reporters on their own. Nanny and Papa were resolute on not sticking their noses into this business that was far more ‘public’ than they cared for. Grandma on the other hand was scheduled to be a witness for Dad’s side of the hearing. When it came time for the hearing, I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that this was really going to get ugly.
As Mr. Barzone had reminded us, most family courts did not look on the ‘gay’ issue with too much compassion these days. To make matters worse, the judge we’d gotten was a staunch member of a local church, although not First B or Orangeburg, which seened the silver lining to that gray cloud. In all the cases tried in family court involving a gay parent or gay child, the court had not yet sided with the gay parent or the parent who was accepting of the gay child. The best thing we had going for us was that I was fifteen, and quite able to speak for myself.
Brandon and Trevor joined Brian and I at the barber shop that morning. We’d all taken the day off from school, even though it was prep week for finals. The judge was known to hate long hair, so we all got short, military-style haircuts that left us with the shortest hair of any student in the school. I had fun going over Brian’s hair and spiking it up in a style that wouldn’t be popular for a few years, and he looked damn good. Then, we dressed in suits and were driven down to the courthouse where I met up with Mom and Jenny, both wearing new dresses, and our lawyer, Mr. Barzone. All of our parents were there to offer moral support. Some could be called to give testimony for the different aspects of the case depending on how long things went today. It could be a long hearing, or a short one, but we didn’t know which way it would go because the judge was the unknown variable in this equation.
There were cameras and reporters all over the place, but we ignored their shouted questions as we made our way inside just before ten in the morning. Inside, the courtroom was packed with people and I could see Dr. Darnell sitting behind the banister separating the attorney’s tables from the gallery. Sitting beside him was Dr. Millswith a smug look on his face as if he already knew the outcome. Grandma sat with them as Dad’s attorney and Dad talked to her quietly across the banister. Mom and Mr. Barzone went to their table and I took one of the seats that had been saved for us. Brian sat next to me, with Trevor’s parents on the other side of him, and the rest of our extended family in the row behind us. The rest of the room looked mostly like reporters, although I did see both psychiatrists I had met with, and the court investigator who’d come out to the farm the week before. The judge came in, an elderly man with a stern gaze and constant frown, and as we sat down the court clerk called out the case number and stated all parties were present.
“Before we begin this case, I want to lay out some ground rules.” Judge Stauffer said with a sharper frown than the one he had walked in with. “Invariably, messy divorce cases always end up giving me a headache by the time they are finished but this one has given me a whopper of a headache even before we get started! I had hoped all issues would be handled in mediation and not this courtroom. I also don’t like the media attention this case is receiving either. There will be no grandstanding for the cameras by either side or I will hold those responsible in contempt of this court. Further, if I feel anything being discussed is of a sensitive issue for the welfare of the minors involved, I will close this hearing to all but the interested parties. Is that clear?”
“Yes, your honor.” Both attorneys said cautiously.
“Now, let’s begin with the plaintiff.” He said with a firm nod of his head. “What issues have been resolved and which remain to be resolved?”
“Your honor, plaintiff has acceded to the request of Mrs. Jones that the youngest child, Jenny, remain in her custody.” Mrs. Collins began, remaining in her seat. “Mr. Jones will pay four hundred per month in child support and will receive unsupervised visitation of every other weekend and a minimum of two weeks per summer. Both parties agree that the child shall be free to request more time during the summer with her father and any such requests will be granted by both parties.”
“That sounds fine, so ordered.” The judge intoned quickly. “Now, what’s next?”
“The physical assets of the couple have been split already and there are no disagreements over further disposition of those assets.” Mrs. Collins continued, handing several papers to the bailiff who took them to the judge. “The couple has further agreed to splitting of the current debts, as detailed in those papers.”
“Mr. Barzone, are these accurate?” The judge asked looking up at Mom’s attorney.
“They are your honor.” He said aloud as he nodded.
“Good, then let them be entered into the record, so ordered.” The Judge said. “What next?
“Your honor, Mr. Jones withdraws his request for alimony payments and that leaves only one remaining area of disagreement, custody of the elder child, David Ray Jones, Jr.” Mrs. Collins said.
“That’s damn smart.” The judge agreed. “I sure as hell have never given a man alimony and I wasn’t about to start. Okay, does Mrs. Jones agree that the only remaining issue is custody of the son or is there anything else?”
“Your honor, my client’s only remaining issue in this case is the custody of her son, David Ray Jones, Jr.” Mr. Barzone said.
“Very well, we will move on that point.” The judge said with his characteristic frown. He shuffled some papers on his bench and looked at the attorneys again. “I have here the reports of both psychiatrists that interviewed the subject, although I find it hard to believe they are talking about the same boy. I also have here the report from my own court investigator who states that the boy wishes to remain under the care of his mother. Has there been any change in that?”
“No change your honor.” Mr. Barzone said.
“Your honor, we would like to challenge the findings of Dr. Elizabeth Harmon.” Mrs. Collins said sternly and the judge sighed.
“Councilor, if you do that, I am quite sure the defense will challenge the findings of your specialist.” The judge said tiredly.
“We will and do, your honor.” Mr. Barzone interjected.
“See?” The judge replied with a deeper frown. “I’m going to let both sides present their specialist’s findings and make no ruling on the validity of either. We’ll just let them stand in the record as is. Mrs. Collins, please explain why your client feels he should be awarded custody against the wishes of his son.”
“Your honor, there are many reasons for my client’s position.” Mrs. Collins said and I had to brace myself for all the crap that I knew was going to spew out of her mouth as she continued. “First of all, the juvenile’s mother is exercising custody in name only. David Junior does not live with her at her residence, only visits her on occasion, and has not been allowed to see his father since before their separation. Furthermore, she has allowed him to continue in a perverted lifestyle, as noted by Dr. Bremmer in his report, without seeking out the professional help he needs to cure him of this illness. He is allowed to consort with all manner of people that is not healthy for a boy his age, including known perverts dying of a disease that could be easily transmitted to him and end his life! Furthermore, he has been allowed to take trips across the country without parental supervision, and on one occasion left the country with his mother and sister, again without the permission of the father. In the last year, he has been put into the foster care system, labeled a juvenile delinquent, investigated for possession of illegal drugs, and required to take drug tests for that reason. He’s had to undergo regular blood screenings to verify if he’s yet to be infected with AIDS because of his continued contact with such sick people and he’s been the cause of several disturbances in his school on repeated occasions. He’s had to endure abuse at the hands of his schoolmates, and has been a regular fixture in his principal’s office. All this has happened under Mrs. Jones’s so-called custody and my client is being torn apart watching his son self-destruct. The boy needs firm, loving guidance as only a father can give and that is why we are seeking full custody of him at this time.”
“Very well, Mr. Barzone, I trust you can provide explanations for these allegations?” The judge said to Mom’s attorney. “I hope they are good ones because I’m inclined to grant Mrs. Collins’s motion right away.”
“Your honor, instead of just making grand statements as Mrs. Collins just did, I’d like to ask that the minor in question be called to the stand and allowed to answer the claims made by opposing coucil.” Mr. Barzone said as expected. He felt the best way to answer the allegations was to let the judge see, and hear me respond to them. Mr. Barzone was quite certain once the judge heard me speak he’d be convinced that as much as he may not like me being gay, I was fully capable of handling myself and was not ‘sick’ or a juvenile delinquent.
“Are you sure you wish the young man to take the stand?” The judge asked cautiously while I saw Mrs. Collins whispering with Dad.
“Your honor, he’s a bright young man who is more than capable of speaking up for himself.” Mr. Barzone answered. “His mother and I have every faith in his ability to answer these allegations for himself. Mrs. Jones provides him the support and guidance he needs, but she also provides him the freedom to grow into the adult person that we all know he can be.”
“Very well, Mrs. Collins?” The judge asked Dad’s attorney.
“Your honor, we have some reservations about subjecting the poor young man to such a rigorous questioning.” Mrs. Collins said cautiously, glancing back at me where I was smiling slightly.
“I will take your concerns into consideration, Mrs. Collins.” The judge said after a moment’s hesitation. “If he appears to be going through undue stress we will end the testimony. The court calls David Ray Jones, Junior to the stand.”
I stood up slowly, grateful for Brian’s comforting squeeze on my arm and walked forward. A bailiff led me to the stand and I raised my right hand to swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This was California so there wasn’t a bible and there wasn’t ‘so help me god’ at the end of the oath. When I sat down, I found the judge looking at me sternly.
“Now, young man, do you understand the importance of the oath you just took?” He asked me with that stern gaze. I met it easily. It was far easier to meet than the glare I’d noticed Dad sending my way. The man really was making it hard for me to love him these days.
“I do, your honor.” I said firmly, carefully keeping my voice under control so that it didn’t break. “I swore to tell the truth only, to not hold back parts of the truth in the hopes of evading an answer I don’t want to give, and so forth. It also means that if I lie, or do not tell the whole truth, you can find me in contempt of court with an appropriate punishment, and that my whole testimony will be suspect.”
“Okay, go ahead Mr. Barzone.” The judge replied, taking a longer look at me. I’m pretty sure he thought I’d been coached in that line. Mrs. Collins and Dad were both frowning fiercely now. When I noticed Grandma crying a little, I felt guilty, but then she was the one supporting Dad in this.
“David, you feeling alright now?” Mr. Barzone asked, starting off with a very friendly tone from where he was standing next to Mom’s seat.
“Yes, sir, a little nervous but okay overall.” I said with a smile. I was nervous, but I also was feeling confident.
“That’s fine, David, it is okay to be a little nervous.” Mr. Barzone said with a friendly smile. “Would you care to explain to the court the events that led to us being here today?”
“Objection your honor.” Mrs. Collins said as she stood. “This question has no bearing on the matter of custody.”
“Your honor, as you will hear from young David himself, his answer to this question does have direct bearing on the issue of custody.” Mr. Barzone countered.
“Objection overruled.” The judge said and then looked at me. “You will answer the question young man, but keep your answer focused on why you may not wish your father to have custody.”
“Yes, your honor.” I said and then took a deep breath. “In October of last year, my father and Dr. Darnell, the pastor of the church my family attended at the time, pulled me into the pastor’s study at his home. There they asked me to participate in several activities at my high school. I left without actually agreeing to do either, and then thought about those activities before deciding they were morally wrong. The first activity was to use my position as Freshman Student Body President to interject a prayer into the school’s morning announcements. They wanted me to do this as an act of civil disobedience, knowing I’d be punished and then they could take the issue to court where they hoped to win a legal victory allowing prayer in some form into public schools.”
“Your honor, this is hearsay and conjecture!” Mrs. Collins said quickly.
“David is this something you assumed they were wanting or what someone told you the individuals involved wanted?” The judge asked me sternly.
“No, sir, it is what Dr. Darnell and my father explained to me in the pastor’s study at his house.” I reaffirmed. “None of it is conjecture on my part and I was told directly by the two of them.”
“Mrs. Collins, your objection is overruled.” The judge said with a frown. “If you wish to dispute the veracity of the witness’s statements, you may do so on cross-direct or you may call other witnesses to do so.”
“Thank you, your honor.” Mr. Barzone said. “What was the other thing they wanted?”
“The other thing they wanted was something I view to be morally and legally wrong.” I said in a firm voice, only looking at the lawyer, not anyone else. “They wanted me to join in publicly harassing a young man who had been caught in a comprising situation by his parents and was presumed to be homosexual. They wanted the young man to be pressured at home, at church, and at school to accept their teachings. Although they did not specify what type of harassment to use, I believe it was intimated that it should be at least verbal slurs and possibly non-damaging physical stuff like pushing or shoving him, the kind of things that happen all the time in schools, but concentrated on him.”
“I see, and what did you end up doing?” Mr. Barzone asked me when Mrs. Collins didn’t object.
“I went to the principal on Monday morning and met with him in his office, along with another student.” I answered.
“What did Mr. Borsch do?” Mr. Barzone asked me.
“He thanked me for informing him of these matters and advised me to not get involved in trying to stop any bullying of the student who had been mentioned.” I answered. “He stated that the student involved would be watched after by his staff.”
“And what happened later that day?” Mr. Barzone asked, leading me onwards.
“At lunch, the specified student was being verbally harassed and was tripped by another student.” I said carefully, remembering to not mention names of other minors. “One of my friends was intervening while a staff member was ignoring the whole situation. I joined my friend in supporting the other student since the staff was not intervening like they were supposed to do.”
“I see, and what happened as a result of that?” Mr. Barzone asked quietly.
“When I got home after football practice that night, Mom was on the phone with dad.” I answered. “Dad was on a cross-country trip doing his job as a truck driver, but he’d heard from the pastor that I had done none of the things I was supposed to do, and that I had stuck up for the student instead of picking on him. Dad told Mom to ground me for my disobedience.”
“David, why exactly did you disobey your father?” Mr. Barzone asked me.
“I disobeyed because what he wanted was morally and legally wrong.” I said firmly.
“How would a young man like you understand why something like these actions would be wrong?” Mr. Barzone asked me.
“Mr. Barzone, I have not received a single grade lower than ‘A’ since the sixth grade. In the sixth grade I received all ‘A’ grades except for a ‘C’ in handwriting. My sixth grade teacher said I had the worst handwriting she’d ever seen and I’d better plan to become a doctor so no one would expect to be able to read what I write.”
That got a grudging round of laughter from half the room, even the judge laughed for a moment before I continued.
“I have been very active in after-school activities since the seventh grade, including debate team as well as all manner of team sports.” I said after pausing for the laughter from my last comment. “I am the Class President of my grade in school, and I’ve been extremely active in the community as well. Not to mention I was required to attend church two to three times a week while my father was a pastor. Some things about right and wrong may be subjective in some situations, but using my superior height and build to bully a kid half my size is not something that is shades of gray. Further, the Supreme Court itself has ruled on the appropriate place for prayer in public schools, and I must say their rulings are pretty clear, even a freshman in high school can read them at the public library or the school library.”
“So you weren’t just basing your opinion on feelings?” Mr. Barzone asked.
“No, sir, but feelings were a part of it.” I admitted. “I was outraged that anyone would encourage a high school student to disobey the law to further a political agenda or to bully another student.”
“Settle down, Mrs. Collins.” The judge said before she could object. “He was quite clear it was his opinion, not fact so objecting now will just piss me off. Speed this up, Mr. Barzone.”
“Yes, your honor.” Mr. Barzone said. “Now, David, what happened after your mother informed you that you were grounded?”
“I went to my room and she came upstairs after a bit.” I answered. “She wanted to know why I defied my father and in answering I told her I was gay and that I was in a relationship of over a year with someone she knew. She reacted badly and called Dr. Darnell, our pastor. He came over with Dr. Mills, the pastor of First Baptist and several other church members. They attempted to confront me and force me into a ‘prayer meeting’ in which I did not wish to participate. Eventually, my mother asked them to leave, but Dr. Mills continued attempting to force me to comply by using physical force. After he ignored several verbal orders to cease, I used minimal force to remove myself from his grasp and went to my room. The police came and eventually arrested him for assaulting a minor. I understand the DA later decided not to pursue the case. When father returned later in the week, we had a large family argument after I refused to submit myself to the religious rituals with which I did not agree. Social Services removed me from the home, for which I am grateful because at the time I did not feel safe at home. Later, Mom separated from Dad, and we reached agreement on the current living situation.”
“Mrs. Collins stated that while in foster care you were arrested for drug possession.” Mr. Barzone stated, carrying us to the next incident. “Would you please explain that?”
“I was never arrested.” I stated first. “During my time in foster care, I was removed from the original home I was placed in and sent to a new home where I was locked in a room and forced to stand instead of sit or lie down. My bag of belongings was taken from my possession, and the foster parents destroyed one of my personal belongings. Then, they called the police and reported finding a bag of drugs in my duffel bag. The officer investigating the incident was very smart and figured out the bag had been placed there in an attempt to frame me. He took me to the local hospital where I was given a drug test to confirm the absence of drugs from my system. Both a urine specimen and blood specimen proved there were no illegal substances in my system. I was returned to my mother’s custody at that time because she had just separated from my father. She and I reached an arrangement where I would stay with a friend’s parents so that I would not be forced to change schools in the middle of the school year. Those foster parents who attempted to frame me and who mistreated me were investigated, as was the social worker who placed me there. The foster parents are serving time in jail for that and for other incidents of abuse that were uncovered during the investigation, as is the case worker.”
“Your honor, I would like to submit the case record from Social Services, the investigation records of the Barringers, the mentioned foster parents, and the court records from their trial and the trial of Ms. Flores, the social worker.” Mr. Barzone said with a grin. The judge wasn’t happy from his expression, but accepted the documents. Mrs. Collins was deep in whispered conversations with Dad and the two preachers who were leaning over the rail. “Now, David, Mrs. Collins said you’re also allowed to visit sick people who pose a significant risk to your health. Would you tell us about that?”
“Since 1981, I, along with a friend, have visited AIDS patients in hospitals, primarily in San Francisco, although I’ve visited patience in Paris and most recently in Washington D.C. in the company of Mr. and Mrs. Reagan.” I answered, throwing in the Reagan family as suggested by the lawyer. “My visiting these patients is something I’m extremely dedicated to, and in the past, others have tried to say it makes me a health danger because I could catch the disease. While that remains possible, just as it’s possible for anyone in this room to catch the disease, several prominent doctors have stated generally, and specifically to my case that it poses no significant risk to my health.”
“Your honor, I would like to submit written statements from leading experts in this field on this particular question.” Mr. Barzone said and Mrs. Collins looked like she wanted to object, but she didn’t. “Now David, let’s address the matter of you traveling overseas and cross-country without your father’s permission. Please explain the purpose of those trips.”
“The trip overseas was to Geneva, Switzerland and Paris, France, both during the same week earlier this year.” I answered with a smile. “The temporary custody order given last year does not require notification of travel or gaining Dad’s permission. I’ve read it and it specifically states that. We went to Europe, Mom and Jenny and I, in the company of Dr. Grayson from San Francisco. He was accepting the Nobel Peace prize and invited us to accompany him and his family to the ceremony. on the return leg of that trip, we later stopped in Paris so he could consult with his peers there, and I visited several wards there as well as did some of the usual tourist things like climbing the Arc d’Trioumph and the Eiffel Tower and going to the Louvre.”
“I see, and the other trip across country?” Mr. Barzone said with a smile.
“I went to Washington D.C. with a friend’s family.” I said with a smile. Here was the closest I was going to get to a lie. “Mr. Rush received an award from President Reagan and then my friend and I were invited to visit with them for a while. After much discussion, Mom agreed to let us stay. We were in the White House or in the company of Mr. and Mrs. Reagan, or one of their staff people the entire time. We visited an AIDS ward in that city while we were there, and threw a football with the President on the South Lawn of the White House.”
“I think I saw a picture of that.” The judge said aloud. “Didn’t the President hit you with the football?”
“Yeah, the flashes from the cameras distracted me and I didn’t catch it in time.” I said with a wide smile. “He gave me a bad time about that all night, saying I must be a real bad football player if I let camera flashes keep me from catching the ball. I didn’t have the nerve to tell him that I was a defensive player and it was my job to make the other guy drop the ball, not to catch it.”
“I wouldn’t have told him that either.” The judge said, and I sensed he was warming up to me. There was some laughter to that.
“David, it sounds like you lead a pretty interesting life for a high school student from this small town.” Mr. Barzone said. “Why don’t we finish with you telling us what you think of your home life right now?”
“Well, it is a little unusual, but it’s not awful.” I said slowly. “In fact, I’d have to admit that it’s downright good at times. I stay day-to-day with a good friend and his family. I see my boyfriend regularly. Usually, I’ll see my little sister a couple times a week. She likes to stop over at one of my friend’s houses where we work out a lot and she’ll hang out and talk for a while. I see my mom a couple of times a week, and stay with her every other weekend so we can stay connected. We usually talk on the phone every other day so she stays current with what’s going on in my life. She attends most of my games and she’s started going with me to the Bay Area when we visit the hospital there so that’s even more time we spend together. In all honesty, my sister needs her attention more than I do right now, but I know that she’s there for me if and when I need her. She’s never failed to be there for me if I needed her advice, or just to be held by my mother. I think that’s what lets me do the things that I can do, knowing she’s always right there, ready to help me out with everything I’ve needed. Yeah, events over the last year or so have kind of forced me to grow up more than most kids my age, but I still live with a lot of adult guidance from my friend’s parents, and my own mother. I still get told when to go to bed, to turn the stereo down, to get the chores done, and do my homework. Sometimes, I get told by Dyadya and Tyatya and my mom, all in one night.”
“Who are Dyadya and Tyatya?” Mr. Barzone asked on cue.
“Oh, Mr. and Mrs. Rush. The terms mean ‘uncle’ and ‘aunt’ respectively.” I answered with a smile. “They are the family I stay with on a day-to-day business. They keep me quite busy with chores around the farm when I’m not doing homework or something else.”
“I see, and now David, I want you to tell me what you think of your dad.” Mr. Barzone said in a very careful voice. I was ready for this, though, and looked him in the eyes. He looked almost pained.
“I love him.” I said firmly. His resolve visibly wilted as I continued. “I resent his attempts to use me to further a political agenda instead of concentrating on being my father, but I do not hate him for that. His goals, and my goals, for my life have irrevocably parted ways. I will not though, ever stop loving him and hoping that some day we will reach some reconciliation. If I thought there was some hope of honest reconciliation, I would welcome returning to a home with him in it, but he has made it clear that his conditions for such reconciliation are beyond the price I or my mother is willing to pay.”
“Thank you, David.” Mr. Barzone said with a smile. “Your honor, this finishes my questions.”
“Very well, Mr. Barzone.” The judge said with a firm nod. He wasn’t frowning now, but neither was he smiling. “Mrs. Collins, you may proceed with any questions you have.”
“Thank you, your honor.” She said, rising to her feet. She looked pinched almost as she looked at me for a long moment. “Davey, you said that you and your dad have different goals in your life. What are your goals?”
“First, to enjoy what remains of my childhood.” I said carefully. “To spend time with my friends, my family, play sports, and finish high school with a good grade point average. Right now, I have a 4.0, I play football and baseball, and I manage to spend time with those family members who are willing to spend time with me. In the long-term, I am looking at attending college, and although I haven’t picked one yet, I am looking at UCSF, UC Berkely, or USC as probable schools for undergraduate studies followed by Stanford for Law School. Longer term, I plan on going on to practice law.”
“You’ve got your life all planned out for yourself, don’t you?” She said patronizingly and I just nodded. “Tell me, where does what your father want for you conflict with these goals?”
“Well, first they conflict in my choice of friends.” I stated firmly. “He would have me turn my back on good guys because of his religious beliefs.”
“But aren’t those the religious beliefs you’ve been raised to share?” She countered quickly and I smiled.
“I was always under the impression that we were constitutionally guaranteed the right to choose what religious beliefs we hold.” I said. “Last I heard, there wasn’t an age limit assigned to that guarantee by the founding fathers.”
“There are several court rulings regarding the rights of parents to enforce religious beliefs on their minor children.” She countered.
“Most of those cases deal with minor children younger than myself and in cases where one parent is from a religion and the other practices another or no religion.” I debated easily. This was something I’d expected. “There are an equal number of cases where courts have ruled that attempting to force older minors to follow family religious beliefs can constitute abuse.”
“We’re not here to debate these things.” She broke in before I could say more and I had to smile at her nasty tone. “Davey, isn’t it true that the only reason your father and you don’t get along is that he believes it is wrong for you to engage in sexual activities with the young man you call your boyfriend? Isn’t it that you insist on practicing a perverted lifestyle, that several medical and psychological doctors have called a sickness, why you refuse to obey your father? Isn’t it because he only wants to make you well that you resist his legitimate authority?”
“Let’s see, I’ll take your questions one by one.” I said a little sarcastically. “First, whatever my boyfriend and I do together violates no laws in this state. Second, our relationship is monitored by his parents and my mother and we willingly abide by all strictures they have set. They do not try, as my father did, and would, to keep us apart or to discourage the natural progression of a relationship that has lasted over two years, far longer than most teenage romances. Second, my practicing a lifestyle as an openly gay young man is not in my opinion, and the opinion of many others, in any way ‘perverted’. It is out of the ordinary, it is not common, but it is not perverted. We love each other just like a heterosexual couple can love each other. We are faithful to each other, and we are looking forward to exploring our lives together. The other month I stayed in the White House and I got to see an older couple very much in love with each other. I have no problem imagining Mr. and Mrs. Reagan living their lives together after he leaves the White House, spending time on their ranch, riding horses together and simply enjoying each other’s company. That’s what I want with my boyfriend, and that’s what he wants with me. What’s so perverted about that? Also, in answer to your second question, you might find a few doctors and psychologists from religious backgrounds who call being gay sick, but the American Psychological Association has said it is NOT a sickness or disease, and the majority of doctors and psychiatric professionals in this country agree with that decision. Third, my father gave up what legitimate authority he had when he kicked me out of his house several months ago. He is the one who said I was to never return if I left, and he is the one attempting to force me to do things that every competent doctor and psychiatrist says is not necessary. If knowing who I am, and being at peace with that makes me sick, than a lot of people in this country are worse off than they thought they were.”
“Let’s talk about your so-called good friends.” She said. “Do any of them do drugs or drink alcohol?”
“Ma’am, how many high school football players do you know who haven’t taken a beer at a party?” I said with a laugh that managed to get a snort from the judge and laughs from a few other people. “If you’re asking if I’ve had a drink, I’ll have to claim the Fifth Amendment so as not to incriminate myself, if you’re asking if my friends have drinks, well, I’ll have to admit they do on occasion. None of my close friends have gotten really drunk around me though. The one time they did that, I got so pissed they were scared of me for weeks and didn’t touch a drop for nearly a year afterwards. A drink now and then doesn’t hurt, but getting drunk and doing stupid stuff does hurt someone in the end and I won’t stand for that kind of behavior. As for drugs, I do not use drugs, I refuse to hang around with anyone who uses drugs, and if someone I care about was to use them and I found out, I would seriously consider reporting them to the authorities to get them the help they need. I’d probably try to talk to them first, convince them to stop and get help, but if that didn’t work, I’d be talking to the school counselors. That includes steroid use on the team, if you’re wondering. No one, much less kids like me, needs to mess up their bodies that way.”
“So you claim to have no knowledge of a ring of football players selling and using drugs on your campus?” She asked me, pulling a document out of her briefcase. “I’ve been told by several trustworthy sources you are associated with a drug-selling ring and personally profiting from polluting your fellow students.”
“Objection!” Mr Barzone nearly roared as a loud murmur filled the room. Mom looked very worried. Brian and the others looked as shocked as I felt.
“Councilors, approach the bench.” The judge said warily. I could still hear them whispering from where I sat. “Mrs. Collins, this is pretty explosive stuff here. I must ask what evidence you have to back your claim up.”
”Your honor, I have sworn statements from three schoolmates of the young man stating they have observed him and his friends selling drugs.” She said. “They were too scared to go to the police but some good community citizens convinced them to come forward now. I also have financial statements of a fake corporation named D&B Consulting. It lists young David and his friend Brian Breckenridge as registered owners and Mrs. Jones and the Breckenridge parents as trustees, but it’s not listed in the divorce assets. I believe we can show this fake corporation has been established illegally, without the knowledge of any of David’s parents, and is being used to finance a drug operation.”
“Mrs. Collins, I am aware of this corporation and the source of its funds.” The judge said so quietly I could barely hear him. “They are not from a drug operation or any other illegal operation. Further, I can not allow you to bring them into evidence.”
“Why not?” She demanded angrily.
“I cannot for reasons that I have been requested not to divulge.” He said. “Further, I am motivated to advise you that if you pursue any further search of these records, or discuss them publicly, you will face arrest and prosecution for violating national security.”
“What?” She nearly shrieked aloud. “What do these boys have to do with national security?”
“I don’t know.” The judge answered. “I was told point blank it was no concern of mine, and I’m advising you that it is no concern of yours as well. As it is, there’s a gentleman in the back of this room who will probably talk with you as soon as this session is over, and I advise you to listen to everything he has to say. Now, let’s see these sworn statements of yours.”
She handed them over, looking very sullen and glancing to the back of the room where a man with a briefcase and dressed in a dark suit was now standing, talking quietly to another man in a dark suit. Meanwhile the judge was looking over the sworn statements and he was frowning. I was almost sweating, trying not to look at them.
“Mrs. Collins, these are full of hearsay and innuendo, but no clear statements of wrongdoing.” The judge said. “Are the boys who gave these statements prepared to appear here?”
“Your honor, they and their parents have asked that they not be forced to testify based on a fear for their safety.” She replied.
“Your honor, without the ability to rebut this testimony I must object to its admission here.” Mr. Barzone said firmly. “Further, if they believe these claims they should be forwarded to the police department and DA’s office for prosecution.”
“Mrs. Collins, if you can’t present these boys for questioning, I will refuse to admit these so-called statements into evidence.” The judge said sternly. “I find no clear statement in here that David Jones or anyone he associates with is involved in drug use or the sale of drugs. The closest it comes is ‘I heard that football players like Davey use drugs’. That’s not a declaration that the person making the statement saw the young man using drugs, or that they have direct knowledge or even hearsay. It’s rumor-mongering and I’m amazed you would attempt to pass this off as evidence in my court.”
“I’ll withdraw the evidence your honor.” She said in defeat and he nodded. She stuck out her hand for the papers back but he held onto them, giving her a stern look.
“Objection sustained.” The judge said as the two attorneys resumed their places. “The clerk will strike the last statements uttered by Mrs. Collins from the record and the court will admonish Mrs. Collins to present proper evidence and questions in the future. Mrs. Collins, do you have any further questions?”
“I do not, your honor.” She said.
“Very well, does this end your presentations or do either of you wish to call further witnesses?” The judge said. “Frankly, unless you have something earth-shattering and new, I am not in the mood to hear it.”
“No, your honor.” Mr. Barzone said while the bailiff escorted me back to my seat. Mrs. Collins was whispering with Dad and the two preachers fiercely and everyone was watching them as they debated something for several minutes. I caught occasional phrases from them, or single words, and it seemed like they were pushing her to call one or all of them to the stand and she was telling them to cut their losses. Finally they glared at her after she said something and she turned to the judge who was patiently waiting.
“Your honor, my client has nothing further to present at this time.” She said.
“Very well, I’m also ready to make my decision.” He said. “I hereby grant the divorce as petitioned with the amendments made today. In the matter of custody of David Ray Jones, Junior, I find it to be in the best interests of the minor that he remain under the custody of his mother in whatever arrangements she deems best for him. No child support has been requested and as the court has reason to believe the young man has some legitimate financial means to support himself, in no way related to the specious charges raised here, we find that financial support is not necessary and so not ordered. Visitation for the father is something I am hesitant to force when there is so much animosity between father and son. The court hates to see such cases and hope that the two might one day reach reconciliation, but will not attempt to force the issue. The father may request visitation, and the mother shall grant it under reasonable conditions upon the consent of the minor. If the father wishes to revisit this decision on visitation, he may do so in six months. Case adjourned, and we will recess for thirty minutes before I hear the next case.”
“Thank god.” I muttered under my breath as Brian hugged me. Mom got up and hugged me across the banister while my father glared at us. The two preachers were all but yelling at Mrs. Collins as the man in a dark suit holding the briefcase came up to her, spoke into her ear for a moment and they walked away, totally ignoring the two preachers who stopped yelling to stare after them with sharp frowns. Brian’s parents were hugging Mom while Trevor’s parents all but tackled me. We headed out of the courthouse, and the glare of the sun blinded me to the mob of press that was outside. For a moment I froze, but Mr. Barzone stepped up to the microphone and gave a very short statement.
The most important thing he did, as far as I was concerned, was the way he downplayed the drug-selling allegation. He adroitly pointed out that Davey and I did a lot of speaking engagements on various issues and that we occasionally received funds for that. He said it was only natural our parents would set up an account for us and that for tax purposes it would be easier to do it as a limited liability corporation, and that we could use it for college in our future.
All true, and none of it really having to do with the account to where my payments from the US government went. They were made by three dummy corporations and were primarily private. The only way the lawyer could have gotten a record of them was from an employee of that bank who knew about it, and that employee would likely be facing jail time now, as well as the unemployment line. There were strict laws about leaking stuff like that.
After ditching the reporters, it was time for a celebration lunch, and I was surprised to overhear Mr. Barzone asking Mom if it was too soon for a man to ask her out on a date. Mom’s smile was radiant though, and I felt a lot less concerned for her. I didn’t need someone to ask me out, Brian’s hand sat on my thigh all through lunch.
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