By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 47

ungentle reader, (as you and I value what we should ashamed—after witnessing a few minor circus-marvels—to call our "lives,") let us never be fooled into taking seriously that perfectly superficial distinction which is vulgarly drawn between the circus-show and "art" or "the arts."  Let us not forget that every authentic "work of art" is in and of itself alive and that, however "the arts" may differ among themselves, their common function is the expression of that supreme alive-ness which is known as "beauty." This being so, our three ring circus is art—for to contend that the spectacle in question is not an authentic manifestation of "beauty" is as childish, as to dismiss the circus on the ground that it is "childish," is idiotic.  ~ e. e. cummings

That afternoon, after the rodeo, Brett Jones and his commander returned to the clinic in Parson.  Arnie Steven found a wheelchair in an old store room, they got out and dusted off.  They put Jones in a hospital gown and set him in the chair to do his interview with his commander.  They brought in a young gay man who was a master at makeup and was always in demand by the different theatrical groups and sometime stores who wanted him to put on a cosmetics demonstration for women of the communities.  He was very good and made Jones to look like he’d been run over by a Mack truck.
  They wanted to give the impression he was slowly recovering so they could buy him and Del Hawkins more time to visit with his new found friends.  Arnie knew if anyone could perform a miracle it would be his friend Basil Troubadour, a cosmetics and makeup expert.

Basil Troubadour was not the name with which the young man was born, but it was the name he chose for himself after his was thrown out by his family at the age of fifteen.  He found himself on his own, with less than ten bucks, to face the harsh realities of an increasingly hostile world.  He chose to turn his back on that chapter of his life and never looked back.  No one knew his real name.  His favorite spice or herb was Basil and he loved to sing.  He fancied he would become a wandering troubadour as of old.  Surprisingly, it worked for a while until he turned his first John who turned out to be an undercover government agent.
  He was thrown into a Cheney camp as a socially undesirable, which seemed pretty ironic to Basil because the government cop certainly found him desirable enough to enjoy making passionate love to him while fucking his tight young ass.  At the very least he had to find him desirable enough to spend the night in his bed and doing it again in the morning before arresting him.

When you’re young, you expect more honesty from the world which ultimately leaves you grasping at the straws of disillusionment.  In many cases, disillusion equaled death.
  Basil was forced to do heavy labor twelve to fourteen hours a day with little to eat while living in unhealthy conditions.  He used his wits and fought to survive, but he came down with a bad cold.  He wasn’t allowed to rest or take care of himself properly.  His keepers labeled him a goldbrick and beat him to make him work.  He developed pneumonia in both lungs and was near death when he suddenly disappear from his bed one night.  He was now eighteen years old and had traveled a long way in his short time.  He developed an interest in makeup while working behind the scenes of one the many shows the same sex communities produced.  He knew he could do a better job than the couple of men trying to smear paint and powder on people's faces.  In two years time he was considered a genius at his art.  Since imports of cosmetics into the communities were scarce, he did what any enterprising entrepreneur might do, he got on the Internet, researched everything he could find on organic components of cosmetic chemistry and made his own.  He developed a small but thriving business, and a faithful following within the communities.  

The kid was hardly the epitome of masculinity, but he had the face of an angel, a brilliant mind, with a well defined body from several years of hard, forced physical labor in a Cheney camp.  Getting to work around and be in close physical contact with a huge man like Officer Jones with a perfect body was a challenge for him, but he presented himself as a true professional and his work came first.  He carried himself with dignity and authority.  He heard of the good work and miracles Brett Jones had done and volunteered his services.  He also happened to be a close friend of Arnie and Dr. Stevens, and a personal makeup and costume advisor to Keekepata.  He found Brett Jones a refreshing change from the group of people with which he usually dealt.  Brett knew very little about the so called raptured communities (a misnomer, but one Jones could relate to and a concept many in the communities supported)  He didn’t want to appear insensitive, but he was curious.

“Do you enjoy living in the gay community, Basil?” he innocently asked the young man to make conversation.

“Please,... Officer Jones,.... sweetheart,.... don’t let anyone hear you use the ‘G’ word!”  Basil exclaimed, making a dramatic gesture, looking around in an exaggerated manner like he was trying to see if they were being overheard.  Of course they were being heard, there were several other people in the room.  He smiled wickedly and winked at Jones.  He continued to talk as he worked.  “Remember when blacks were called ‘niggers’ and after civil rights it was considered politically incorrect to use the ‘N’ word?”  Brett nodded his head.  “So it is here in the colonies with the ‘G’ word.  Admiral Long has decreed the ‘G’ word is not to be used to describe males of the same sex persuasion.  Neither is the ‘L’ word used to describe females who are so inclined.  It is considered politically incorrect.  It’s an effort to do away with prejudices by a multiple of means, in this case labeling folks.  I, for one, fully support the Admiral and his policies.  Because the Admiral and his cowboys have saved most of us from sure death, there has been little dissent to his policies.  On a personal note, I never really considered myself that way, because there’s just some days I don’t feel like being gay.” Basil tossed off with a flourish of his hand which was holding a makeup brush.  “We have considered another, more inclusive term for ourselves which encompasses all gender anomalies.  We refer to ourselves as ‘Tweeners.’"  He went on to explain.

“Originally it came about as an accidental byproduct of a technical inconvenience rather than an attempt at social bigotry, or at least that’s how our historians are recording it.  After the colonies were set up, the breeder communities had to pass through a series of gates to get from one major community to another on the Bandersnatch.  Breeders would have to pass ‘between’ the two same sex communities to get to the other breeder community.  I’ll share a secret with you.” he dropped his voice, but everyone in the room could hear him, “Just between us, I think it was a clever plan of Admiral Long’s to force the breeder communities to interrelate with us.  Everything has been growing at such a fast rate, that’s just the way it was until about six months ago when all the gates were upgraded to go directly where you choose.  The gates can easily be changed with an ID key card.  We just run our key card through the scanner and punch in our destination.  Since the ‘G’ word is off limits to the breeder community as well, they began to refer to our communities as ‘between land’ and its inhabitants as ‘betweeners.’  Unlike the word ‘Negro’ which was morphed into the derogatory term ‘Nigger’ by Southern whites as a racial putdown, some old cowperson rather innocently shortened it to Tweeners.  We are, after all, for all practical purposes, still living in the altered state of Texas.” Basil laughed at his own joke.  Brett thought it was funny and laughed.  Basil continued to work and expound.

“So the other communities started referring to the residents as ‘Tweeners,’ and as the radical homosexuals of the eighties took the word ‘queer’ and made it their own, much to the consternation of the Joe Sixpack’s and the Homer Simpson’s of the world, we ultimately adopted it as our own; however, it wasn’t fully accepted right away.  Many didn’t particularly care for it at first, because it sounded too much like ‘weeners,’ and while it’s true many of us love to suck a big, fat, tasty weenie from time to time, we certainly don’t consider ourselves weenies.  Personally, I prefer a nice, big, juicy kielbasa; the hotter the better.” he giggled, made another exaggerated flourish, then continued.

“Because of our progress with our social status within the communities, we were beginning to see a payoff for our hard work.  More and more same sex couples are leaving the Tweener colonies and integrating into the larger communities.  We have developed a new vision for ourselves as having value and worth from earning  people’s trust and respect, where before, in your world, beyond certain parameters we were never given a chance.  We were always considered second or even third class citizens no matter our accomplishments.  Like the blacks, they considered us born to perdition, or we chose to be the way we are and don’t want to change.  Hate the sin, love the sinner was an empty phrase used by the extreme right.  It never quite worked out that way.  It didn’t matter how many times we accepted Jesus as our personal savior, we were still queer and never fully accepted into their congregations.  Those who tried were constantly under suspicion and watched closely for the telltale whiff of male ejaculate on their breath.  According to most fundamentalists, homosexuality is the one sin Jesus’ blood just can’t wash away.  Too bad they never looked at the total figure of Christ more closely.  It isn’t just to be disrespectful or irreverent many of our kind refer to him as the Pansy of Palestine or Nazarene Nancy; there’s a certain embittered identification.  

As you know, in 2015 it was finally legislated by the Bush regime we were not deserving of any rights whatsoever and finally our sexual nature alone became the justification for murder by right wing religious zealots.  That’s why the Cheney camps have a high percentage of homosexuals, although you would never find Cheney’s daughter and her partner in one.  Originally, the political justification for placing us in camps was to protect us from the extreme right, but that was just a ruse for the real reasons.  We were an easily available and free work source for the corporate elite.  Once thrown into a camp there was no way out but death.  We were worked to death in forced labor and denied proper medical care so we would die from the least health problem which could easily be medically corrected.  Murder by neglect and inaction is still murder.

The more we began to think about the term Tweeners, which was hotly debated, it was pointed out by some of the more wise among us, it might have a more inclusively positive context rather than negative.  It was agreed the word was probably more apt than we originally considered.  It’s a condensation of the words “in between,” which was successfully argued really doesn’t set us apart from society into a separate group.  In effect, the term implies we’re in the middle between the breeder sexes, so by placing us in that position they’re unwittingly forced to accept us as part of them— part of the whole package of humanity, for good or bad, warts and all.  In reality, we have never been a separate group, just like the different races on Earth have always been part of the same species.

We’re the same as the rest of humanity and should not be cast out.  To be a homosexual and all it implies is not a choice, but must become thought of as  more than simply a deviation or mistake of nature.  It’s important we accept who we are, respect our nature and learn to consider our difference as the gift of our birthright.  Many of the so called primitive societies readily accept homosexuals as an important part of their culture, or at least they did until they allowed themselves to become tainted by Christianist fundamentalism.  We were considered wise men, shamans, holy men and prophets.  In Hinduism many divinities are androgynous.  There are Hindu deities who are intersexual (both male and female); who manifest in all three genders; who switch from male to female or from female to male; male deities with female moods and female deities with male moods; deities born from two males or from two females; deities born from a single male or single female; deities who avoid the opposite sex; deities with principal companions of the same sex, and so on.  One of the most important aspects of Hinduism is the belief that both God and nature are unlimitedly diverse.  It’s only when one investigates the Abrahamic religions one finds homosexuality presented in a negative manner.”  Basil stood back to assess his work like any artist might.  He continued with his work and explanation at the same time.   

“How hypocritical for the religious right to preach intelligent design while on the other hand they are busily destroying that which they claim their intelligent designer created.  That’s why they insist homosexuality has to be a choice.  It’s their justification for murder, just like they preached and believed it was acceptable to mistreat and lynch a black slave because he was a son of Ham, born to a life of perdition.  Slaves in the past were considered property and subhuman.  So are they today and forced to service their male master's in a homosexual manner.  Just as gays were lumped in with the undesirables in Nazi Germany and died right along with the so called chosen race, so they are considered unworthy today and consigned to death camps.  This all evolved and was brought about through the courtesy of the Christian and Muslim religions.  It occurred to me, any god is only as intelligent as those who worship it.  If we’re born as homosexuals and placed here by their creator, then by casting us out as sinners or perverts or killing us because of their fanatical beliefs, goes against the very tenets of their faith, or worse, it might even be argued their creator ain’t all that intelligent.  At the very least he’s a piss-poor designer.” Basil laughed.  He was infectious and everyone laughed with him.

“To complicate the issue, if scientist prove there is a genetic predisposition for homosexuality, which is highly unlikely given all scientist today are those who subscribe and support Creationism science, for all the unborn babies the Christianist wish to protect through strict anti-abortion laws, if ten to twenty percent are unfortunate enough to carry and test positive for the homo gene, will they make an exception and legislate an amendment to approve them for abortion?  What difference does it make if you kill them in the womb or allow them to be born, only to grow up miserable and unhappy in an ignorant, biased, unhealthy society, whose fear and hatred will ultimately kill them anyway?  I sometimes wonder how many people out there recognize their difference, are afraid, are fiercely hiding their true nature and wish to god they’d never been born?  That’s too horrible for me to contemplate.  No one should have to live in fear and self-loathing because of a repressive society.  It makes a mockery of democracy and a once proud and free people.  It’s a shame America never survived to see its great promise fulfilled and become the great nation our forefather’s envisioned.  There is only one maxim to live by:  no man is truly free until all men are free.

In my humble opinion, the very worst of all this is our brothers with whom we share a common ancestor, who are ninety-eight point nine percent DNA/genetically compatible with us, the great apes and other primates who are being exterminated the world over at an alarming rate for food.  It’s like killing and eating your second cousin.  It is nothing less than an acceptable form of cannibalism.  Hopefully, we’re going to turn that around with the rapture and exodus.”  Basil finished and there was a hushed silence in the room.  He began to blush as he turned and began to pack up his makeup case.  He turned and looked Brett Jones directly into his eyes.

“I’m so sorry, Officer Jones.  I apologize for my pedantic rant.  I’m afraid I got carried away, but in my defense these things are very important to me, Sir.  Since I’ve been here I’ve been encouraged to participate and allow my thoughts and opinions to be heard.  To answer your original question, I'm humbled and grateful beyond words to be here and to be a part of all this, to live in a community where my talents and work are appreciated, where I’m free to live and love as I choose, where I can walk among people and not worry about someone saying something snide or derogatory when I walk away.  I was never very political before, but I’m learning.  I’m willing to do whatever it takes, and if necessary, I’m ready to give my life for what I consider our greatest hope, the rapture and the exodus from this overburdened planet.  We could leave tomorrow, and it wouldn’t be too soon for me.”

“Nothing to apologize for, young man.” spoke Brett Jones with a lump in his throat.  “You spoke clearly with great passion.  I’m impressed.  You taught me some things of great value, and I share your opinions.  By your definition, I was forced to accept a life as a Tweener when I was sold to the Holy Prophet by my dad as a teen.  My youth was spent in his service performing homosexual acts with him and his cadre of supporters.  It was only after I joined the Officer corps I found our roles reversed, and I was asked to fuck him.  You see, to punish him, Jesse Watkins and Utah switched his sexual organs from male to female.  I’m able to perform for him, but I don’t really consider myself a breeder even though I prefer to be the sexual aggressor.  I can more readily identify with you and all Tweeners.”

“Thank you, Sir.  You’re very gracious and I hope my work will buy you the extra time you need to remain with us a while longer.  I plan to join our choir this evening in songs for your happiness, success and speedy recovery.  I hope you enjoy your stay with us and your heart is opened to the many wonders our society has to share with you.  By the way, you look positively awful.” Basil grinned wickedly.

Officer Jones gave Basil a hug and thanked him for his valuable help.  They set Jones up in his room at the clinic in Parson.  The Tweener community brought in unbelievable flower arrangements and tastefully set them around to look like he received them from all over the world.  The place smelled like front row, curbside at the Rose Parade on a warm day.  They began with a short talk by  Commander Hawkins who was in charge of Officer Jones.  He gave the viewing audience the basic information about what was wrong with his officer and said he was recovering at an undisclosed location.  Hawkins emphasized Officer Jones was doing fine and the doctors expected a full recovery, but it might be several weeks before he is able to return to his duties.  As his commander, Del stated he was most concerned his officer is allowed the time he needs to rest and fully recuperate.  He then announced Officer Jones would give a brief statement.  Basil’s makeup job was perfect.  Poor Brett looked worn and frazzled with dark rings under his eyes.  He looked pale and weak.  He spoke in a quiet voice he rehearsed beforehand.

“Hello, everyone.  As you probably know I’ve experienced some health problems recently, but I’m recovering nicely.  I won’t go into details, because I’m not sure I fully understand what happened to me, but the fine team of doctors at the clinic tell me I suffered a minor stroke.  The physicians here are excellent, and they were able to fix the problem.  I’m improving every day, but as you can see I’m still a bit weak and need a little more time to heal.  I’d like to thank all of you who have been so kind and generous to send cards and letters and remembered me in your prayers.  These gifts may not seem like much to you, but they mean a great deal to me.  I’ve been told many of you have given money to the Holy City Chapel charity fund.  From the smallest to the largest donation, they are equally appreciated.  Most of all, I hope you keep sending your prayers for me, and I’ll return to my post in the Holy City as soon as the good doctors release me.  Thank you for caring so much.  I send my love to you all.”  

* * * * * *

The video was prepared and sent immediately to the Holy City.  It just appeared as an untraceable signal on the Holy City’s secured and most advanced communications network.  Scudder was notified immediately, he called Austin in and they reviewed the video.  They sat in silence afterward.  Taycious was waiting for Scudder to comment and vice versa.  Finally, Scudder spoke.

“What da’ ya’ think?”

“He don’t look too good, but at least he’s alive.  They seem to be taking good care of him.  I didn’t know Hawkins went with him.”

“I knew about it.  I didn’t say nothing.  I’m glad he did.  Where do you think they are?”

“It’s hard to tell.  It looked like any normal clinic.  Didn’t look too big or fancy.  You gonna’ pump Hawkins or Jones when they return about where they been?”

“I’ll ask, but if they don’t wanna’ tell me I ain’t gonna’ push.  Aside from giving me a cunt, I don’t think them men mean us any harm or have plans to overthrow the government.  I don’t think they’re terrorist or anarchist.  If they meant us harm they wouldn’t a’ brought me back to life.  Damn, I ain’t never missed a body like I miss that big eared cowboy, but not necessarily for sex.”

“Jerry...?” Austin raised an eyebrow.

“Okay, okay, my cunt started to moisten and itch when I saw him, but it’s more than that.  He brought life and meaning back into this place.  That chapel is so damn dull without him and Hawkins.  It feels like there’s a pall over the place and everyone who comes to service is depressed because he ain’t there.  I think a lot of them folks come to worship him.”

“He’s healed a lot of folks.  They’re grateful.  Some come because he gives them hope.  A lot of folks come for the dog and pony show and the naked men.  You notice I ain’t missed a service in a while.  Where can you go to church, get a free show like they put on, and keep an erection all the way through a dull and boring sermon?”  The men shared a laugh.  About that time there came a flash in the room and Del Hawkins was standing in front of the two men.  Scudder was startled at first, but he realized it was a form of projection he’d never seen before.  Hawkins was like a three dimensional hologram.

“Good evening, your holiness.  Howdy, Mr. Taycious.  I’m coming to you from the clinic where our boy is recovering.  What’d you think of the video, Sir?  Is it adequate for the public?” Del asked.

“It’s fine Commander Hawkins.  Where are you?”

“Don’t rightly know, Sir.  I can’t describe it.  It’s like nowhere on Earth.  It’s like everything is in another dimension of time and space.”

“Okay, I promised myself I wouldn’t push, but how is our boy?”

“He’s doing much better, Sir.  They got him up and walking several times a day, and he’s packing away the food.  That’s always a good sign.  He didn’t want to be in bed for the video so we put him in a wheelchair.”

“How much longer you think it’s gonna’ take for him to be well enough to come back to us, Son?”

“The doctors say he’s doing better than expected considering, but they estimated about a week and a half to two weeks.  If you don’t need me there, Sir, I’d like to stay on with him for at least another week.  I got vacation leave coming I ain’t taken if there’s a problem.”

“Nonsense, consider yourself on assignment on my orders.  I’d rather you be there with him.  I know it’s part of you job, but you’ll be doing me a personal favor to look after him.  I know he loves and respects you like a dad.”

“Yes, Sir, we have a good relationship.  I’m fond of him.”

“The public is starving for information.  I’m gonna’ release this video this evening and go before the cameras to make a statement.  Now, what I want from you is another video by this weekend to show Sunday evening.  Make the next one a little longer, and I want you to interview him, understand?”

“Yes, Sir, holy father.  As you wish.  Thanks for letting me stay, it will mean a lot to him.  It means a lot to me, Sir.  I’ll keep you informed.”

“Please do.  Is there anything you need from us, Son?”

“Just your prayers, Sir.”

“You got ‘em, Commander.  Tell my boy I love him, and I’m looking forward to him coming home.  Tell him to take his time and not become anxious.  His job will be here when he gets back.”

“Thanks, Sir, I will.  Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Son.” and Hawkins winked out.

The two men were silent for a while.

“Well, we know one damn thing.” Scudder said.

“Yeah, what’s that, brother?”

“They’re technology’s gotta’ be considerably more advanced than ours.  I’ll bet if they wanted to they could take over.”

“Somehow, I don’t think that’s what they got in mind, Jerry.”

“I think you’re right.  Do we know any more about where all them folks is going what’s disappearing from the camps?”

“No, not a clue.”

“How many this week?”

“Figures are still coming in but a ball park guess is a little less than a thousand.  It varies from week to week.  Mostly it’s the sick and dying who disappear.  The staff says most of them would die within a week or two anyway.  Other than being baffled, the directors of the camps don’t seem too concerned about it.  It saves them having to dispose of the bodies.  I don’t know why that should be such a big problem for them, they just shove them in one of them huge ovens and bake ‘em like a batch of brownies.  Then they sell their ashes for fertilizer.”

“What kind of folks are they taking, Austin?”

“All kinds and colors, gays and straight.”

“Does our intelligence department know who’s taking them?” Scudder asked.

“They think it’s the Grays, but they can’t be sure.  Why would they only take the sick and dying?  It don’t make sense.” replied Austin.

“You think there’s any connection between the missing and them folks Jones is with?” Jerry asked.

“I have no idea.  It’s been suggested, but we really don’t know that much about them or what their agenda might be.  If I were to hazard a guess, I don’t think they have anything to do with it.  They seem to operate on a different level.  There’s been a lot of speculation about the forces of good and evil coming in to play recently.  They ain’t done nothing to us really bad, but they have come to our rescue with Officer Jones, but remember, you sent for them, you asked for their help.”

“I know.  I’m grateful they came, and to be truthful I’m kinda glad for the chance to experience women’s plumbing.  It’s a lot better’n I thought it might be.  Do you think they might be transcended beings and the recordings in the bible and other holy texts don’t describe them properly?”

“Might be.  The angels that came to Abraham told Sarah she would yet beget children in her eightieth year sat down and ate food with the old man.  The men who came to Sodom, whom Lott rescued from a crowd of men who found them sexually attractive, were physical beings.  Jacob wrestled all night with an angel until he would agree to bless him.”

“Yeah, well the first time they looked like angels, but I knew they weren’t.  The second time, the one called Jesse looked like a grizzled old cowboy and his partner could have been his cow dog.  Could these advanced people be living and working quietly among us, and we have no way of knowing?”

“Maybe we’ll learn more from Commander Hawkins and Officer Jones.”

“We’ll see.  By the way, how are the conditions in those camps?” Scudder asked.

“They were pretty bad the last time I check, and I’ve heard they’ve only gotten worse.  If you ask for a tour of one, they’re only going to show you the model camp where everyone is well fed and healthy.”

“You think we should look into them?”

“You do and you’ll stir up a major hornet's nest.  Them large corporations are making fortunes from the slave labor in them camps.  They are your political base and your bread and butter.  They are the party and they own you, but since you’ve instigated new laws about them and you’re head of everything, you could force their hand.  You could make them see to it conditions improve.”

“Make a note of it and remind me next week.  I’ll think about it.”

 * * * * * * *
Little Bear joined his big, mature cowboy bear-master in the Jacuzzi on the patio off their room in the hotel on the Buttercup.  Other than Waco and Captain Vinceeth, they were the only two staying in the hotel at the time.  It wasn’t open to the public yet, but about half the rooms were done.  Angus spread his legs and Little Bear sat down on the bench in front of him.  The hot water was wonderful.  He leaned back against the man-mountain and felt his hairy chest against his back as Angus enfolded him in his arms and stole a kiss.

“You were wonderful, Son.  It was well worth the wait.” Angus whispered to him.

“You were pert-damn fine yourself, Master.  How did you know that’s the way I like it?”

“In case you forgot, cowboy, yore’ master is my nephew.  I asked him how you like it.” Angus grinned. “I rarely get to fuck one of my slaves that hard, not because I can’t if I wanted to, but I just ain’t the kind of man to force rough sex on a body unless he needs to be taught a lesson or is being punished; even then, I try to find some other way to punish him.  When I first started fuck’n ma’ little brother I fucked him pretty hard until he got broke in real good.  I don’t fuck him very often anymore, but when I do I’m a bit more considerate of his needs.”

“Well, this is one cowboy who thinks on the way you fucked me as being very considerate, Master A.  I need to get fucked the way you done it, the way Master Waco fucks me, or I ain’t satisfied.  You can’t tell me you didn’t enjoy it neither, ‘cause I felt it in the way you fucked me.”      

“You won’t git no argument from me, Son.  You were shoving it up to me as fast and hard as I could give it to you.  You stayed with me the whole time.  I love you, boy.”

“You know I love you, Master A, and you’re right, it was worth the wait, but you know what?”

“What?”  Angus asked softly as he bussed another kiss behind Little Bear’s ear.

“That shot Admiral Long give you has turned you into a human bull.  I’ve watched you change these last few years and you’ve gone from an fine looking middle aged man to a strong, younger man.  You remind me of a big, hard charging, raging bull in his prime.  We studied in school about a mythological creature called a Minotaur, who was half man, half bull.  You remind me of the descriptions of him.   The shot’s done the same for my granddad and to be honest, I’m beginning to look on him in a new light.  But you take my breath away when I’m around you.  I ain’t never felt closer to another man than when we's working together in that bed.  Thank you, Master.  Any time I can do that for you and you can get away, I would certainly appreciate it, Sir.”

“We’ll see each other again.  I have to consider my wife and other responsibilities, but she understands I have to be away sometimes.  I can take you with me when we go to cattle auctions and a few other out of town trips I have to make with my ramrod and his slave.  I hardly ever interfere in their relationship, but as his master, I have to fuck him a couple of times a month or the slave board will think I’m showing him favor over my other slaves.  He don’t have that much more time to go.  His parole hearing is in August.”

“Will you miss him being your slave, Sir?”

“I know I can be honest with you.  Yes, it will rip my guts out, but I won’t stand in his way of becoming a free man.”

“As I understand it, he’ll still have five more years of probation, won’t he?”

“‘At’s right.  I ain’t talked with him or my ramrod too much about what he wants to do.  He can stay around the ranch and become number two ramrod if he wants.  I’ll pay him for his work.”  The men made a little more love and took another sip of their drinks.

“Son, there’s something I have to talk with you about.  Maybe you saw me talking with your granddaddy and the sheriff this morning.”

“I noticed ya’ll got your heads together with Admiral Long and Master Charlie jawing about something.”

“Since they knew you an I were gonna’ spend the night with each other, I got elected to tell you what we’s talking about.  A couple a’ nights ago yore’ daddy got real drunk in a tavern halfway between our town and Digby.  He got into a fight with a cowboy over some barroom floozy, pulled out a knife and damn near stabbed the man to death.  The cowboy’s in the hospital, but he ain’t expected to recover.  He may die.  Anyway, the sheriff and your two uncles had to go out there to arrest your dad, and he’s in our jail now.”  Angus held the boy tight.  He felt the young man tense in his arms.  He raised his hands to his face and started sobbing.  Angus held him tight.  Angus let him go, turned him around to face him, threw his arms around him and held him in a bear hug.  Little Bear let it all out.  He understood what it meant, and Angus’ hesitation to tell him.  His dad would be sold as a slave.

“Now, we don’t want you worrying none.  Jessie Watkins and Utah have been out to the hospital most of the day.  We don’t know yet if the cowboy’s gonna’ live, but they’re doing everything they can for him.  As you know, for attempted murder the judge’s got no choice but to sentence John Tin Penny to lifetime slavery.  The lawyers might argue he was drunk, but that ain’t a strong defense today.  With the new government we got there’s certain crimes that carry mandatory sentences.  Attempted murder is one of them, whether somebody’s killed or not.  Lazarus has already agreed to buy him, and he’s to become my slave.  My trainer is going to train him.  I been needing a couple more cowboy slaves.”

“Oh, God, Master, I feel so bad.  I been angry at my dad for selling me into slavery, but to be honest, I ain’t had it so bad,— especially after I come to live with the Goodnights.  Hell, I’s treated like family by ma’ master and brothers, and Master Charlie, he’s like a dad to me.  I sleep with him several times a month to keep him company.  Sometimes my master and brothers got so many things going I find myself alone.  Master Charlie ain’t never turned me away.  In some ways, my daddy selling me was the best thing what could’ve happened to me.  I wanted to love my dad, because— well,— he’s my dad.  I know he’s come to a lot of our games.  I talked with my granddad a lot about him, and I urged granddad to forgive my dad.  I’s just coming around to it myself when this happens.  It’s almost like it’s a kind of justice for him, but mostly I feel hurt and ashamed.  I feel ashamed for my tribe, my granddad, my uncles, but most of all for me.  I feel embarrassed.  I thought someday I might get to be with my dad again, but now I won’t get to.  Now, I don’t want to.  He ain’t worth my care.  I’m ashamed to be his son.”  Little Bear sobbed some more and Angus comforted him

“Don’t judge him too harshly, Son.  All men make mistakes.  Some make bigger mistakes than others.  I know how you feel.  I was devastated and embarrassed when my little brother done what he done.  I felt shame for him and our family, but you learn to accept it and eventually you will forgive him.  Your master, your brothers, Master Charlie, me, Admiral Long and your family are all looking out for you.  We won’t let nothing happen to your dad.  Your granddad was more worried than you, but he knew beyond a doubt Lazarus and Charlie wouldn’t let John Tin Penny go to just any master.  Even when they do bad things, family is important.  I could’ve given up on my little brother, but I didn’t.  I’m glad I didn’t.  He got his life turned around.  I don’t have no fear of him being free.  He’s learned how to live and become a man with principles and responsibility.  You’re learning the same thing every day.  Not quite the same way as my brother had to learn, but you live as part of a greater family what expects certain things from you.  You have no idea how loved and respected you are among us.  Your granddad and your people are very proud of you, Son.  So am I.”
Little Bear resumed his place sitting in front of his big, bull of a master.  They were quiet for a while as they finished their drinks.

“You ready to go to bed, Master?” Little Bear asked.

“I think I am.  It’s been a long, exciting day, and this evening couldn’t have been better.”

“If you need some more during the night, I certainly wouldn’t mind, Sir.”

Angus kissed the young man gently.  “I’ll keep that in mind, Son.  I jes’ might take you up on that.”

They slept well together, and early in the morning they made love again.  Little Bear knew these men kept their word.  Master Angus was right.  He learned these things from them.  He was proud of who he had become.  He knew he didn’t have anything to worry about.  He would deal with his dad’s embarrassment with all the love that supported him.  He said a prayer for the cowboy his dad hurt.  His small, selfless gesture was heard, and it turned the tide of the man’s recovery.  Jesse breathed a sigh of relief, smiled, winked at his partner and petted him lovingly on the head.

* * * * * * *

The next day was another full day of celebration.  It was the cowboy’s sixteenth birthday party.  It went off without a hitch.  There was a sense of sadness cast over the day for Little Bear because of his dad being in jail, but he announced to his immediate family, while he appreciated their sympathy and concern, he was not going to let the mistakes of his biological father cause him to miss a moment’s joy of the day, and he expected his brothers to do the same.  Angus asked him the night before if he wished to visit his dad in jail, but he declined.  

“He gave up all caring and responsibility for me when he sold me into slavery.  Other than come watch me play football, he’s never made an effort to visit me.  Tomorrow is me and ma’ brother’s sixteenth birthday party.  Why should I put my life on hold because of his foolishness?  He ain’t going no where.  I’ll have plenty of time to see him later if I change my mind.” Little Bear told Angus.  His words seemed a bit harsh to Angus, but he couldn’t fault his young devotee some bitterness toward his dad.  One reaps what one sows.  Angus couldn’t imagine any man being less than a good father to the young man he had come to love and admire.  What little time, guidance and love he contributed to Little Bear he felt was wisely spent.

* * * * * * *

There were rumors circulating Captain Vinceeth asked the Admiral and Charlie’s permission for a two day holiday after the event in Parsons to take Waco and a number of folks to Mars for another celebration.  He had a couple more surprises for the cowboys and invited them to go along.  All the family wanted to go, and by that time, the greater family included a lot of folks and critters.  Trey left it up to Waco and Ox to make sure Ping and Pong and their kits were invited to join them.  The Trong-Fielding family wanted to go because Gavin and his younger brother Jerry had been to Mars a couple of times and told their parents all about it.  Captain Trong wanted to visit with the new families of Volgorons and everyone wanted to see the new animals.  Jack Hall and Warren Steele wouldn’t pass up a trip to Mars and volunteered to wrangle the critters again.  Naturally, they would take their mates, Buck and Horse, with them.  During the day people were coming up to Waco, Trey, Lazarus and Charlie to ask if they could be included in the brief trip to Mars to return the winged ponies to their families.

Charlie invited his brother to go along and bring his family.  Angus had never seen the wonders of Venus or Mars and was curious to go.  Waco asked if he might invite Shane and his Master Bill Birdsall along and Angus gave his permission.  The Chief’s two sons hadn’t been to Mars, and he asked if they could go along.  Lazarus invited the sheriff and his family, but explained the no clothes rule to walk among the animals.  The women who didn’t want to participate could watch from the balconies of the rooms of the lodge in which they would stay the night.  Sheriff Lassiter and his young son Donny didn’t want to miss the opportunity.  Donny was now ten years old and had become a great friend of Ox and Waco’s.  He spent a great deal of his spare time with the cowboys. He knew he would have a great time with his buddies.

After the football game and the birthday party broke up all the guest from the communities and Earth-side township departed.  The remaining folks gathered for a light supper and planned to get an early start to bed.  They were leaving early the next morning though the huge gate.  Lazarus wondered why Trey would want to wait until morning when they could just as easily spend the night on Mars at the lodge.  
“We discussed the possibility,” said Trey, “but we thought it might be late evening by the time we wrapped things up here.  Once there, it might take sometime assigning rooms.  It would be dark by the time we could get the ponies back to their families, so we thought, for safety reasons, if we waited until it was full light, it might be safer for everyone concerned.”     

“Good thinking, Son.” Lazarus praised him, nodded his head in understanding, but raised an eyebrow.  Charlie and Lazarus walked away.

“You think he bought it?” Trey whispered to Waco.

“Not for a minute.” Waco chuckled.

“Yeah, me neither.  The old man’s lived too long.  He knows we’re up to something.” Trey laughed as he hugged Waco to him. “At least we have a couple more evenings together.  Should we invite our other half to join us this evening?”

“You’re right, he’s big enough to be our other half.  He might enjoy it.  Let’s leave it up to him.” Waco allowed.

Of course the big lummox wanted to join them.  Waco and Ox even got Trey to try his first taste of lummox milk.  Like most skeptics, he found it quite to his liking and began to suck Ox’s left teat for more while Waco enjoyed some from his Lummy’s right one.

* * * * * * *

The next morning early, everyone gathered in the enormous transporter room.  Captain Vinceeth and his men already had the beautiful winged horses waiting for everyone to gather.  Waco requested Kyron to activate the gate, and it was opened.  Trey, Waco and Ox were the first to walk through accompanied by the coyote gang and Waco’s posse.  Donny Lassiter, his dad and family, and the rest slowly followed.   When Brett Jones found out he and his commander were invited, he asked if he might invite Basil Troubadour to go along?

“I’m sure it would be all right with Captain Vinceeth and Waco, but aren’t you worried you might be sending young Basil the wrong message?” Del Hawkins asked his young officer.

“What wrong message, Sir?” Jones asked with a blank look on his face.

“He might think you’re inviting him because you have ulterior motives.”

“What’s ‘ulterior’ motives, Sir?” Jones asked innocently.

“It means you might have some reason for inviting him other than just to enjoy his company, or because you like him enough to want to take him to your bed.”

“Gees, I didn’t think of that.  Would it be wrong?” Jones asked innocently.

“Not if it’s something you wish to do.  I’m sure he would be thrilled.”

“I’ll admit I find him attractive, but I wouldn’t want to take advantage of him sexually.  Why would wanting to enjoy his company mean I have other thoughts in mind?” Jones ask for further explanation.

“Never mind, Son.  I shouldn’t a’ said nothing.  I was out of line.  Knowing you, you’ll have no problem either way.  Somehow your innocence and honesty manages to get you through most situations where other men might have difficulty.  You’ll do just fine.” Commander Hawkins laughed and shook his head in wonder.

Basil was thrilled and flattered the big officer requested his company and jumped at the chance of accompanying Brett Jones to Mars.  He had never been before, but he heard from several of his fellow Tweeners what Mars was like and was told to dress in his cowboy clothes.  Everything was informal on Mars, and if he was going to go among the animals he would be expected to be naked.  The thought didn’t bother Basil a bit.  He had a well defined young body and wasn’t the least shy about such things.  He had a number of scars on his back and butt from beatings suffered in the Cheney camps, but his closest companions insisted they gave him character.  Basil was one of the fortunate patients who came directly aboard the Bandersnatch and was fed a steady diet of lummox milk to help heal his pneumonia.  As a result, he could listen to and speak with most of the critters.  He was anxious to try his new talent with the exotic creatures on Mars.  He arrived at the gate to join Officer Jones and his commanding officer Del Hawkins along with Brick Armstrong, Tim, Stan and Jimmy Bob.  They didn’t recognize him at first in his cowboy clothes and his big hat.  It was like he was a changed man.  He was most fetching in his Western attire.  Brett Jones recognized him immediately, gave him a welcome hug and offered his big hand as they walked through the gate together.

Last to pass through the gate were Jack Hall, Buck, Warren, and Horse.  Jack held Ping’s small hand in his and Buck held Pong’s hand.  Warren carried Jill and Horse carried Jack.  The spacer dogs along with Moe ran ahead of Stan and Jimmy Bob.  Scraps and Happy, along with Maxine, Patty and Laverne, went through the gate with Lazarus, Charlie, Arlen Jones and Bryce along with Blake Tindell and the Stamper men.  

“You get the feeling them men got something up their sleeves, pardner?” Lazarus asked Arlen.

“I don’t know, brother.  Our half of the coyote gang whispered to me they had a suspicion it’s something big; bigger even than them incredibly beautiful horses.  Them critters blew me away.”

“They were pretty damn spectacular.” added Charlie.

They got to the other side and were met by the android staff from the lodge.  There were about a hundred people not including Captain Vinceeth’s men he let have shore leave to attend the rodeo and birthday party.  They followed Waco, Trey and his men with the six ponies out to the balcony.  One of the androids opened a gate.  The horses knew they were home and broke into a run to the shear edge of the balcony.  There was about a thousand foot drop from the balcony to the valley floor below.  The crowd gasped as the horses leapt over the edge, spread their huge wings and began to soar through the air.  The atmosphere in the caves was just a bit heavier with a slightly higher oxygen content for the sake of the large animals.  Lower oxygen levels was one of the main reasons many prehistoric large animals became extinct.  They lived in a time when the oxygen levels on Earth were much higher and could support larger, giant creatures.  The winged horse needed extra oxygen as well as the large Mammoths and Mastodons.

Everyone moved to the main balcony and looked out across the savanna.  Those who had never seen the sight before were speechless.  They stood and looked in awe at the indescribable beauty of the landscape with the mountains and waterfalls in the distance, the glorious, fresh water river than ran down to large lakes and marshes, and the variety of wonderful creatures below them as far as their eyes could see.  It was a wonder to behold.  Brett Jones and Basil walked hand in hand under the close eye of Commander Hawkins.  He had a big smile on his face.  He knew what they must be feeling.  He could remember his first trip and seeing the panorama for the first time.  He was so thunderstruck, for a moment he thought he might lose control of his bladder functions.

“Officer Jones...”  Basil breathed almost undetectable. “Please, ...don’t let go, Sir.”

“I’m here, Son.  I promise, I won’t.  Don’t you let go.”  he smiled.

“No,— never, Sir.  Am I really seeing this?  It’s incredible.  It’s far more than I expected.  My friends didn’t tell me how grand and encompassing this place is.  It makes me wonder why I’m here?  By all rights, I should be dead.  This is all too much.” tears started falling from Basil’s eyes, “My brothers in the colony told me about some of the animals, but I thought ‘Sure, sure,... you seen one zoo, you seen ‘em all,... but this.... I guess I feel like I don’t belong here; like I shouldn’t be here; like I don’t deserve to be here.”

“Nonsense!  Don’t talk like that, boy!  Of course you deserve to be here.  You belong by my side.  You’re here because I wanted you to be here with me when I experienced this.  I had no idea it would be this grand either.  You ain’t dead and you didn’t die, because you have a greater purpose.  I could ask you the same question, ‘Why ain’t I dead?’  You never tasted death, but I did.  I been there.  Done that.  I seen the other side.  We’re here, together, for a reason.  Don’t never forget that, Son.”  Jones let go of the young man’s hand, dropped his big arm around his shoulder and pulled him close.  He bent his head down and bussed a kiss behind Basil’s ear.

“Thanks, Officer Jones, I needed that.”

“So did I, Son,... so did I.”  he smiled at Basil.

* * * * * * *

“Ladies and gentlemen,” spoke one of the androids, “for those of you who wish to go down with us onto the savanna to meet the animals up close and personal, we will be taking the shuttle train, which Master Waco and his men have aptly named the Matterhorn express.  It will be leaving in ten minutes.  There are lockers at the station for removing your clothing.  You can’t walk among the animals wearing clothes.  They don’t wear clothes and they get nervous around humans who do unless we’ve been working with them day in and day out.  Still they prefer everyone be as natural as they are.  Those among you who do not wish to go down to the savanna may stay behind, and we will either see you to your room or we will serve light refreshments and various finger foods on the balcony to your right, where you may see all the others down below.  You will not be embarrassed by their nakedness because you can’t see a lot of details from this height.  No pun intended.” added the android which got him a laugh.

“Dad are you going down there?” asked Sonny Steele’s oldest son.  It was his four boys first trip to Mars.  They heard all about it and knew it was where their little brother and sister, Adam and Eve, were from.  They brought their families along.

“Are you kidding?” asked Sonny, “I can’t let yore’ ma go down there without me.  She’d adopt twenty more of them damn kids without so much as a how-dee-do.” Sonny let out a roar.  Vivian poked him with her elbow.

“Ouch, woman!  That hurt!”  Sonny grimaced.

“I meant for it to.” Vivian laughed.  “Talk about me?  It’s you what leaves a trail of bread crumbs.  You should try telling them boys the truth from time to time.” she grinned wickedly.

“Why?  They don’t never believe me no how until they hear it from you or their granddaddy.” Sonny grinned real big.

“You mean ma gits naked?  Granddad, too?” asked Justin.

“Oh, don’t be such a prude, Justin.  I raised you boys up better’n ‘nat.” admonished Vivian.  She gathered up Adam and Eve, and they were ready to go.  They were looking forward to seeing their Evanescent friends and relatives again.

“Bring the whole family.  You won’t be sorry, Son.” Warren spoke up. "Fifteen minutes in the raw and you won't even think on it."  Warren assured them.

The four Steele boys decided to go.  One wife said she would stay behind on the balcony, and that was only because she was very pregnant.  The kids, including the little girls, couldn’t wait to get down to the savanna.  The train was filled with people.  Lazarus and Charlie were surprised when Trey and Waco motioned for them to come to the front of the train to sit with them.  They somehow managed to get Ping and Pong strapped in with them and Jack and Jill were strapped in with Lazarus and Arlen.  Charlie and Ox were seated next.  Warren and Horse were seated right behind them.  Lazarus turned and looked at Charlie.  Charlie grinned and shrugged like he didn’t understand what was going on either.  

“I think we’re about to find out, Boss-man.” Lazarus tossed off.  He turned back around as Charlie and Arlen laughed at him.

Little Bear played conductor and walked the length of the train inspecting every seat belt.  When he was satisfied everyone was strapped in tight he jumped in the last seat next to Lucas and strapped himself in.

“All aboard!”  he yelled to the front.  Waco was playing engineer and pressed the large red button on the dashboard.

“Welcome to the Matterhorn ride to the savanna station.” said a recorded voice over the speakers in the train as the canopy slowly lowered and locked into place.  “Please hold on tight to the padded bar in front of you and do not try to stand during the ride.  We hope you enjoy your ride with us.”

The Matterhorn express left the station right on time and the androids brought up another train for the rest of the people traveling down to the savanna.  The cowboys didn’t misname the train.  It was every bit as good and thrilling a ride as the Matterhorn ride at Disneyland.  The kids were hooting and hollering and having a big time as the train reached its maximum speed zipping in and out of the mountain with ease.  It wasn’t a long ride, but it was just long enough to be an exhilarating experience that got everyone’s already overactive adrenalin going.  Everyone was in a party mood, laughing and talking loudly as the train gracefully pulled to a stop at the lowland station and the canopy opened for disembarking.

“Please exit to your right, and watch your step.  Parents, please mind you children to insure their safety.” The announcement came from the train speaker.

Everyone followed Waco and Captain Vinceeth.  Little Bear stayed behind to direct the next train load of folks to the locker area.  By the time they arrived most of the first group were undressed and putting away their clothing.  They waited for the second and third trains to arrive before going to the savanna.  Lazarus notice Waco and Trey were very attentive to Ping and Pong. . . more so than usual.  He figured whatever their secret was, it probably had something to do with them.  He thought about knocking on Waco’s mental door, but reasoned he probably wouldn’t get much.  He was right.  When everyone was completely naked, Waco waved his arms for everyone to listen up.

“Everyone take it slow and easy.  Kids, don’t do a lot of running at first.  Let the animals come to meet you and get to know you.  If they want to sniff you, let them.  It’s their way of getting to know you.  After a while, you can run, laugh and play as much as you like.  Don’t be afraid to make some friends.  Trust me, they’re as curious about you as you are about them.  If you wish to take a ride make sure your get your parent’s approval and don’t try to ride an animal unless they offer.  It’s just good manners.  If you see an animal you’re particularly taken with, you may graciously request a ride, but not until you’ve made a friend of him or her.  Remember,— a few kind words of sincere flattery will take you a long way.” Waco smiled.  “Everyone ready?  C’mon then, let’s go make some new friends and remember each of us is a representative of our specie.  If you think you’ve hurt someone’s feelings, apologize immediately and promise never to do it again.  Make sure you do the right thing and make us proud of you.  You’ll be glad you did.  Above all, remember to have a good time.  They love it when they feel like they’ve been good host.  When it comes time to leave, be sure you thank those you’ve come to know and especially those who have honored you with a ride.”

Everyone filed slowly out onto the savanna.  Trey was holding Pong’s hand and Waco held Ping’s.  Jack and Jill crawled up on Ox and Horse’s shoulders respectively so they could see above the heads of the human’s.  Trey turned to Lazarus, Arlen, and Charlie.

“Admiral, Captain Jones, Ox, Horse, Dad— ” Trey grinned and winked at Charlie for calling him dad.  For some reason Charlie blushed.  They shared a laugh. “Stick with me and our cowboy for a while, if you will.  We’d appreciate it.” he didn’t explain further.

Waco and Trey wandered far ahead of the crowd.  Animals were already gathering and the crowd was disbursing among them.  Some of the folks spied old friends they met before and had come to love.  The Stamper boys had certain animals with which they were great friends.  The big lummox or Volgorons were seen approaching in the distance and the coyote gang decided to approach them first.  They made friends with them on previous trips and love to play with many of the Evanescent children they adopted.  It was like visiting family and renewing old friendships at the same time.  The first to get to the other folks were the Evanescent children who had grown considerably since they first came to the caves.  They took some getting use to, because they would become so enthused they would melt into their new friends.  The kids adapted to them quicker than the adults, but they soon came to feel they were wonderful spirits full of love and kindness.

Sonny’s boys better understood why their mom and dad adopted a pair.  The thought crossed their minds as well.  The Evanescent children were great host and would introduce their new friends to different animals.  They helped speed up the process of getting to know one another.  They were a great help, because there was so much to see and a large variety of critters to meet.  The Steele boys were stunned.  All they could do was giggle like school boys.  Their mother and father watched them, their wives and children and marveled at how naturally they seemed to fit in with their surrounding.  Everyone was so gob-smacked with the animals and soaking in so much new information they soon forgot their nakedness and inhibitions about being nude in front of others.  They watched as their families petted a beautiful pair of Unicorns and chatted up a wonderful family of Kentuarians.  A huge lummox male held two of their kids, one in each arm as he took them to meet one of the largest bull Mammoths.  It was a scene of pure bucolic bliss.  Vivian locked her arm in Sonny’s and leaned close.

“Does this look like a scene from the garden of Eden or what?” Vivian asked Sonny.

“It’s unbelievable, darlin.’  To me it looks like what the garden of Eden probably should’ve looked like without the damn snake.  To my way a’ think’n these folks got it right.  The bible's version... not so much.  In the first place, what omnipotent god would allow an evil presence in his perfect garden he created for his innocent children?  Why would he put one big delicious apple tree right smack dab in the middle of it, then tell his kids they can’t eat none?  Hell, I may be jest a dumb old cowboy, but I know’d better’n to tell a kid he can't have none if there's a treat involved.  Any parent worth a damn, knows you can't never tell a kid he can't do something if'n he's a mind to.  You and me, we learned the hard way.   You don't never tell a kid not to put beans in his ears!  It's the first damn thing he's gonna' do when he finds one.  You can count on it!  The first bean he comes across,” Sonny snapped his fingers, “right in his ear it goes, quicker’n shit through a goose, ‘cause you done told ‘em not to.  'Member how much it cost us for that bean-ectomy they done on Ty?  I swear sometimes I understand why some animals eat their young."  Sonny laughted,  "J’ever wonder why God couldn’t a’ been jes' a little more lenient and forgive his naive children?  Hell, they didn’t know no better.  How could they?  They ain't et from the tree of knowledge yet.  They's dumb as a box of rocks.  They didn't even know they's naked until they ate the apple.  A big, slick talk'n snake, who god created, slithers along and tells 'em it's 'okay' to eat an apple, h'it won't hurt nothing.  The poor kids, how were they to know?  Why didn't the old man jes' killed the damn snake?  It’s what I would a’ done.  Hell, the first thing a cowboy learns is always plumb kill a rattlesnake.” Sonny sighed and shook his head like it was all too much for him to consider,  “Ever’ damn time I see all this, I still can’t believe it.  It's like these folks is given us another chance to return to the garden.  Feel my arm, darlin’” Sonny instructed her.  Vivian ran her hand up and down her cowboy husband’s tightly muscled arm and felt bumps all over.

“I got ‘em, too,— only they ain’t on my arm.” Vivian cackled quietly.  Sonny slipped his hand to her shapely rear and felt her bumps.

“My goodness,‘at’s mighty nice!” he exclaimed, “On you they feel good.  On me they jes’ look stupid.  Makes me look like a turkey what’s been plucked of his feathers.” Sonny laughed.

“That’s all right, cowboy.  I know how to talk turkey.  Gobble, gobble.” she teased as she looked down at his ample saddle horn waving in the breeze.  Vivian laughed as her husband blushed bright red. “Too bad you can’t grow some a’ them bumps down there.  A few well placed bumps along yore’ turkey neck might be interesting.” she allowed.

“Oh, lord, woman!  Don’t let them damn kids hear you say that.  Adam would be all too happy to provide me with any size and as many bumps as you can handle.  Talk about yore’ speed bumps.  And don’t talk like that no more, neither.  You wanna’ embarrass the crap out a’ yore’ old man.  It’s hard enough on me now that I’m younger from that damn shot.  Being in the altogether with these healthy animals makes my blood boil.”

“Oh, happy day.” teased Vivian as she reached back and pinched Sonny on his butt.  He jumped like a frog on a hot rock.  A huge Kentaurian couple saw her and laughed at them.

“Stop that or I’m a gonna’ take you rye-cheer in the middle of this damn field and invite every critter on the savanna to watch.” Sonny threatened.  That got a round of laughter and applause from a herd of Kentuarians and a trumpet or two from some nearby Mammoths.  It was like Sonny had his very own cheerleading squad urging him on.

Waco and Trey led their party away from the main crowd, down into a valley where there were outcroppings from large, overhanging rocks.  It looked like there were several small caves and buildings of some sort made from some of the rocks piled neatly together.  Captain Vinceeth held up his hand.  There were about thirty-five or forty people gathered around who made the journey with them.

“This is where we show you one of our other special surprises.  This surprise is to be shared by all, but it will be most important to four individuals in particular.  Cowboy?” Trey spoke to Waco.  Waco put his fingers to his mouth and gave forth with a great whistle like it was a signal to someone.  Trey motioned for everyone to look up into the rocky cliffs and caves.  One by one beautifully colored heads popped up from behind the rocks.  Big heads and smaller ones of kits until all fifty-eight critters were standing among the rocks displaying their beautiful new full coats and tails from the good and abundant food of which they had been partaking for the last month.

“Sweet Jesus!” mouthed Lazarus in awe.

“Mother of God!” added Arlen Jones.

“Incredible!” exclaimed Charlie.

Ping and Pong looked, then looked again.  They were stunned.  Jack and Jill jumped down from Ox and Horse and quickly joined their parents.  Pong looked at Ping and blinked back tears.  Ping already had tears streaming down her pretty face.  She nodded to Pong and they slowly set out to meet their new family members.  Ping stopped and looked at Pong again and slowly shook her head.  They turned in unison to look at the men standing behind them with faces filled with unconditional love and empathy for them.  Several had tears running down their faces.  They rushed back to Trey Vinceeth and each took one of his hands.  They rubbed their scent from the glands on their faces onto his hands.  It was a pure, sweet, slightly spicy fragrance.  It was the smell of love mixed with the joy of surprise and gratefulness.

“They’re thanking you, Captain.  It’s the greatest act of love their race can bestow on another specie is to gift him with their personal scent.  By sharing their scent with you, they have bestowed the honor upon you of making you family.  It’s a rare privilege and a great honor.  They want you to know how humbled, honored and grateful they are.” Waco explained.  

Trey knelt down and took them both into his big arms and hugged them.  He spoke directly to them.

“I was just doing my job, friends.  We rescued them about a month ago.  It was the right thing to do.  I hoped you would be pleased.  They will tell you their story, and I’ll tell the others over supper this evening.  Go with our love and enjoy.” With those words he send them on their way.  Jack and Jill waited for their parents before they approached the group.  It was terribly moving to everyone who witnessed Ping and Pong meeting each and everyone of their new family.  It was all very formal.  There was much bowing.  They would bow to each other and hold their stance for minutes at a time.  It was like they all knew the same greeting and meeting rituals.  It was like a courtly dance.  Jack and Jill were taught manners but never had a chance to use them before.  Ping and Pong were proud of their kits.  They handled themselves with dignity and grace.

“Where the hell did you find them, Trey?” Lazarus asked quietly.

“It’s a long story, Admiral, but well worth the telling.  I’ll tell everyone this evening.  In the meantime, the short version is, they were marooned on a derelict freighter of the Grays.  They were the only survivors of a space battle fought several generations ago.  A couple of thousand of their forefathers and mothers were kidnaped by the Grays.  They were being transported to the Reptiles for food.  They also happened to be one of the Gray’s favorite foods.  They were exceedingly clever to salvage enough of the wrecked cargo ship to maintain a colony onboard for so long.  They lived there for several generations.  Since we knew Ping, and Pong and their kits, we recognized them immediately.  We brought them here along with the winged ponies.”

“I was sure Ping and Pong were the last of their kind.” said Lazarus, “We shared worries they might be faced with inbreeding if they had family, but with Jessie and the Krysallians they probably could’ve altered their chromosomes just enough to create hybrids for a new genetic pool.  Now we don’t have to worry about that.  There’s enough gene pool up there it won’t be a problem.  Congratulations, Son, you done it again.  With this one you managed to blow this jaded old spacer out of the galaxy.  Your father, grandfather and great-grandfather would be proud of you.”  Lazarus pumped Trey’s hand and slapped him on the back.
“We were just at the right place at the right time, Admiral.  They were way out of the normal space lanes and their ship had fallen into orbit around a small, insignificant class ‘M’ star.  It was fortunate for them they had enough light for growing several species of plants for food, recycled moisture, and oxygen.”

“Do you really believe it was just by chance you came upon them, Son?” Lazarus asked Trey.

“No, Sir.  Not any more.  My mate told me the other night we were told to fly out of our regular path to avoid detection from the Grays.  We didn’t want any confrontations while carrying such precious cargo as the winged horses.  Rescuing the ring-tailed critters only contributed to the value of our cargo.”

“It seems like the ancients are gathering together the beauties and greater intelligence of the universe for the final exodus from Earth.  I guess you found out for yourself just how intelligent them critters are.” Lazarus said.

“Absolutely.  I’ll tell you later, but I wouldn’t mind having several permanently assigned to the Banshee to give us a hand.”

“I ain’t never been sorry I rescued Ping and Pong and took them on for companions.  We’ve been through a lot together and traveled countless miles through time and space.  They saved my hide too many times to count.  A man couldn’t have no finer company or companions.” Lazarus allowed.

Soon the ring-tailed critters began to come up to the huge, naked Captain who rescued them and each, in turn, took his hand and gifted him with a small amount of their scent until everyone had bestowed the gift of family upon their hero.  They did the same with Waco and then moved to Lazarus and Charlie.  Waco and Lazarus could speak to them with their minds and welcomed them to Mars.  The critters expressed their great joy and happiness to meet Captain Vinceeth’s mate, his Admiral and Waco’s father.  They felt so much safer knowing the Captain and his men had such close and wonderful family.  It meant they entrusted themselves to good and honorable humans.  Meeting Ping and Pong and their kits went a long way to convince them they made the right decision by leaving the only home they knew from birth and throwing their lot in with another specie with whom they were unfamiliar.

Everyone was having such a good time, no one wanted to return to the upper level for lunch.  They didn’t have to.  The androids anticipated as much and brought picnic baskets for everyone which including large cloths they could spread on the lush grass of the savanna and eat their lunch sitting on the ground.  They had a wonderful time and many of the animals stood around watching them eat.  The kids made friends quickly and would slip a morsel to one of their favorites thinking they were being clever.  Everyone knew what they were doing but nothing was said.  No one scolded them.  They were allowed to feed the animals.  

The kids were led by the coyote gang and they tried riding anything or anyone who would let them.  They particularly enjoyed the big elephant-like creatures and the Kentaurians.  The Kentaurians could speak and made many of the younger children happy riding them around.  The coyote kids could talk with the animals, and had been around their cowboy brothers long enough they could charm the balls off a billy goat.  They shared bits and pieces of their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches they found in their lunch baskets for dessert with the Mammoths and Mastodons

* * * * * * *

As the day progressed Basil Troubadour couldn’t help but sneak a glance at his date from time to time.  Brett Jones unnerved the young man several times by looking directly at him without guilt or shame.  It was like he was drinking Basil in like a clear drink of water which seemed to only temporarily quench his thirst.  Basil couldn’t be sure, but each time he looked at Officer Jones he could swear he began to look better to him.  His ears seemed to be smaller than when he first met him, and his face began to look downright ruggedly handsome.  ‘How could that be?’ he thought to himself.  ‘Maybe it’s the power of love or infatuation.  No, don’t even think about it.’ he chastised himself, ‘This is just a social setting, and he’s just enjoying your company.  Let yourself go and enjoy his company without trying to sink your fangs into the man.  You ain’t starved, girlfriend.  You got lots of friends and an occasional partner.  He’s much too important and much too good for the likes of you.  Don’t mistake his goodness, his kindness for including you for anything more than what it is.  He’s just a generous and gracious man.’ he warned his heart.

Jones requested a lunch basket for two from one of the androids and thanked him after the droid spent sometime finding one for him.

“You’re welcome, Sir, but you don’t have to thank me.  I’m just an android servant, a machine.  It’s my job to see to your needs and comfort while you are visiting Mars.”

“Yes, but you’re an intelligent machine who’s capable of understanding appreciation.  It is the least I can do as a human to express my gratitude for your position, your effort to please and your service.”

“Thank you, Sir.  You thanks is greatly appreciated.” The android bowed smartly and went about his business.

Basil was blown away by Brett’s humanity and his humility.  He was more and more impressed and charmed by the big, somewhat ugly, sometimes ruggedly handsome man who seemed to change from moment to moment.  He was confused.  Officer Jones handed the basket to Basil as if he knew the younger man would know what to do with it.  Basil didn’t hesitate and proceeded to make a pallet, remove the food and placed it around for them.  They were away from the other groups but had a couple of Evanescent children with them and several critters grazing nearby.  They shared their meals with the children and gave them their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to enjoy.

“May I ask you a question, Officer Jones?”

“Yes, if you agree to start calling me, Brett.” he replied.

“Thank you, Sir.  I was brought up in a strict Southern Baptist home where any man older than I, or even if I was in doubt as to his age, I must refer to him as 'mister' or by his official title until he told me otherwise.  If I failed to show proper respect I was severely beaten.  Old habits and traditions run deep.  My question may sound strange, but I’m confused about something.”

“What’s ‘zat, Son.”

“When I first met you... I don’t know.... I thought you looked different than you look now— now that I’m getting to know you.  I make it my business to memorize faces, especially those I work on, and I spent an hour or more making you up for your video.  I memorized your face and features.  I even dreamed about you and recalled your face in detail.  You don’t look the same to me now.  Maybe it’s because I’m getting to know you and like you more.  Maybe that’s it, but you seem to be better looking now, but just as attractive to me as when I first met you.  It seems like I’m contradicting myself.  Does any of this make sense to you, or am I being a stupid child?”

“I understand completely, Basil, and no, it ain’t you what’s being a child.  It’s me.  The face you worked on and memorized is my real face.  The child, the little boy inside me wants you to like me, but he’s got issues about his looks.  He keeps changing my appearance even though I’ve been fighting him.  Here, let me show you.  Turn your head away from me for a moment.”  

Basil did as instructed and looked away.  Jones told him to turn back and look.  Basil turned a looked then gasped.

“My God!  That’s the face I memorized.  How did you do that?” he asked.  Brett related everything Jesse explained to him and how he is now a separate specie halfway between human and Evanescent.

“That’s incredible.  You mean you’re like them?  You can become anything you want?”

“Yes, essentially, but I’m so much more than either specie.  I’m still learning to control it.  It’s all so new to me.  I don’t know everything I can do yet.  So you see, the kid in me wants you to like me, but I’ve been fighting changing myself to look more handsome to you.  I made my ears smaller.  I don’t know if you noticed, but I changed the size of my penis several times to get your attention.  I feel like a prairie chicken doing his mating dance for an available hen fluffing his feathers and strutting to make himself more attractive, so she’ll like him enough to mate with him.  Mind you, I don’t think on you as a hen.  I’s jes’ using it as an analogy.  I know I’m doing it, but it embarrasses me, so I make myself go back the way I was.  I don’t want to be something I ain’t.  It would be hypocritical of me.  Besides, h’it ain’t right for me to assume I could make myself attractive enough to please you anyway.  It weren’t my purpose to invite you along on this trip so’s I could seduce you.  I jes’ thought we might enjoy each others’ company.  So far I ain’t been wrong, have I?”

“No, of course not.  I’m enjoying myself very much.  I think you’re too honest to try to seduce anyone under false pretenses, Sir.  You mean you can change yourself to look like anyone you choose, Brett?”

“Yeah, pretty much.  Is there anyone you’d like me to look like?”

“I’d like to see you do it.  Can you look like Captain Vinceeth?”

“Yeah, he’s easy.” Brett began to change right before Basil and a moment later he looked like a double for Trey Vinceeth.  Basil looked over where Waco and Trey were sitting to compare.  He couldn’t believe Brett Jones looked like a double for the captain.”

“Hoe-lee shit!” he exclaimed, “Excuse me, Brett.  Please forgive me.  I know you’re a man of God in your beliefs.  I should really be more careful.” Brett instantly changed back to himself with his huge, Dumbo-like ears.

“That’s all right, Basil.  I ain’t no man of God.  Back in the Holy City my brother officers affectionately refer to me as Dumbo Jones because of my big ears.  I guess it’s true, ‘cause like Dumbo, I learned how to fly.  I’m basically jes’ a simple, humble man who’s been given some unusual gifts for what purpose I don’t know.  It’s all new to me.  I’m just now understanding there ain’t nothing sacred about my powers, but I’m trying to learn how to use them the best I can.  If I have a little fun with them, I don’t think the powers that be will fault me none for it.  All I know is to keep doing what I’m doing, try to live as good a life as possible and help those I can along the way.”

“You don’t have to be somebody else around me, Sir.  Just be yourself.  I think there’s great beauty in you no matter who you look like, but I will have to admit the idea of a man what can adjust the size and length of his penis is a major turn on.  Can you do the same with your balls?” Basil challenged.

“I can make them so big I can tie ‘em in a knot and fling ‘em over my shoulder like a sailor’s seabag.” Jones smiled and winked at him.  Basil made a mime of fanning himself and rolling his eyes.  They shared a much needed laugh.

* * * * * * *

The afternoon wore on and it began to grow dark.  Many had already taken the train back to the lodge, but there were still a few stragglers.  The coyote gang couldn’t get enough.  There was always one more critter to meet and spend some time with.  They wanted to stay the night with the lummox and Evanscent children.  Lazarus and Arlen put the kibosh on that.  So did Ranger Gibbons his wife Mary.  Bobby and Elsie Jessup agreed with their master.   Even coyotes need food and a good rest for the night or they tended to be cranky the next day.  Their parents did 'okay' the coyotes to stay the night with Jack Hall, Buck, Warren Steele and Horse along with some of the critters.

Everyone had to get back for the evening meal.  There was to be some announcements and some entertainment.  The journey back on the train was not quite as exciting as the trip down, but it was a pleasant ride.  Everyone hurried to their rooms to clean up and dress for supper.  Dress was not formal.  They were on a small vacation so casual clothes and Western wear were perfectly acceptable.  Most of the Captain’s men were staying on board the Banshee which was docked in the main Mar’s port bay.  There were a few officers and a couple of line mates who were given permission to stay with their cowboy partners in the lodge.  Only those Visallians staying at the lodge joined the group for supper.  Keekepata and her court were being wined and dined by her fellow countrymen on board the Banshee.  It was a great treat for the crew to have her dine with them.

Supper was delicious and prepared by the team of androids taking care of the lodge.  It was served family style.  There were platters and steaming bowls of good food, enough for everyone to have as much as they wanted.  Everyone had enough to eat, and no one walked away hungry.  A few of the grownups had a little wine with dinner grown in the vineyard in one of the great caves used for agriculture.  It wasn’t a great wine, but it had its moments.  Charlie announced the birthday boys who reached their sixteenth birthday were allowed one glass if they wished.  Waco ordered one glass, took a sip and passed it around to his brothers so they all could have a taste.  Little Bear declined.  Lazarus looked at Charlie and smiled.

“A taste ain’t gonna’ hurt ya’ none, Son.” Charlie said quietly.  All eyes were on Little Bear.  They knew for all his bravado about not caring to see his dad, he was hurting inside.

“Thank you, Master Charlie, but I will make you, Admiral Long and Master Angus a commitment and a promise.  I will not repeat the sins of my father.  John Tin Penny is no longer my father.  I am no longer his son.  I would not keep the last name of Tin Penny were it not for my beloved grandfather and my honorable uncles who have all been good to me and loved me without measure.  One day, if I am ever granted my freedom, I will choose a father for myself, a man who will be proud to call me his ‘son’ and whom I will be honored to call my ‘dad.’  We will be joined through blood bonding.  Until that time, I have no dearth of male role models to aspire to.  I neither have enough fingers nor enough toes to count the men at this table who I consider exceptionally worthy adult role models to emulate, but above all, the good and wise Chief of our tribe will guide my spirit and my steps into manhood.”

There was a deathly silence around the table.  Waco rose and slowly started clapping for his brother.  One by one every man, woman and child rose from their seats to applaud the young man for his words.  The old Chief was distraught and in tears as he was the last to stand and put his hands together for his grandson.  Everyone had been worried for Little Bear, but his words told everyone he was growing up, he was overtaking his father and would soon leave his memory behind, even though he knew his dad would become Master Angus’ slave.   

At the end of supper Trey Vinceeth stood and told the story of rescuing the flying horses and how later he and his men rescued the ring-tailed critters.  It was another moving moment and everyone stood and applauded for the captain and his men.  Ping and Pong and their kits weren’t present.  They opted to stay the night with their kin.  There was much to catch up on and many things to tell their relatives about new possibilities for their futures.

“And now we have some entertainment planned.” said Trey. “I talked with the Kodaly’s and our young officer from the Holy City and asked if they would gift us with a song or two this evening.  So now I will turn our program over to Johauk Kodaly.  Johauk?” Trey motioned for the young man to rise and come forward.  Basil turned and looked at Brett Jones in a questioning manner.  Brett rose from his chair, leaned over, kissed Basil behind his ear and whispered, “Wish me luck, cowboy.”

“Break a leg, Officer Jones.” Basil smiled.

The Kodaly family gathered around an electronic keyboard synthesizer Johauk programed to sound like a cathedral pipe organ complete with unnicked pipe chiffs.  It sounded for all the world like an ancient baroque pipe organ Bach might have played.  They performed a couple of works, one by Bach for lyric baritone and chorus, another by Franck, ‘Panis Angelicus,’ but the last one they performed brought the folks to their feet.  It was the wonderful song ‘Time to say Goodbye.’  It was originally for tenor or treble voice, but Johauk transposed it down to a baritone range.  At the very last minute Brett leaned over to the fine, young musician and spoke to him.

“Let’s do it in the original key, Maestro.” he smiled as he made his request with confidence.

“Are you sure, Sir?” Johauk looked puzzled.

“Trust me, friend.” Brett smiled at him.  Jones found out on the Bach piece, which always was a stretch for his tessitura, he could handle it better than he ever could before.  He found he could shorten his vocal cords to accommodate any range in which he wished to sing.  About halfway though the song there wasn’t a dry eye in the room and when he finished with the chorus of the Kodaly family backing him up, the room erupted in applause.  Everyone was on their feet cheering for the young officer they had all come to love and admire in such a short time.  Basil was stunned.  He had no idea his friend had such talent.  All in all, Brett Jones had many talents Basil Troubadour wanted to experience if he could.  The more wonders he found out about the big man, the more insignificant he felt himself to be.  What did he have to offer this man?  Everyone settled down and took their seats.  Trey Vinceeth rose again and thanked the Kodaly family and Officer Jones for the wonderful music.  He joked he was a little disappointed he didn’t get to see Officer Jones float in the air while he was singing.

“I’m sorry, Captain.  I’ve learned to control it, but I don’t need to be singing anymore to rise in the air.” Jones stood, spread his arms and rose a little higher than the table.  Everyone gasped and then applauded again for him.  He smiled, nodded to everyone, then lowered himself to the ground and sat down again.  He was blushing and laughing at the look on Basil’s face.

“I told you I could fly.” he said.

“I never... I thought you were joking, Sir.”  Basil replied and shook his head in wonder.

“I can’t wait any longer, Son.” Lazarus directed his comment to Captain Vinceeth.  “What is the final surprise you have for us?”

“You’ll have to wait until morning to find out, Admiral.  I’m not trying to be mysterious, but it will take a trip of an hour or so by sub-train (subterranean) to get to the place where we found the final surprise.  Not everyone will be allowed to go.  Only the adult males, including those over sixteen years, and the androids in charge of the planet when we’re not here.  I promise you, what we found will be well worth the wait.  Nothing you have seen or experienced so far will prepare you for our last surprise.”

End of Chapter 47 ~ Waco’s Lummox
Copyright 2007 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All rights reserved ~
Mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com