A Major Success|
Book 6 of Outside the Foul Lines
by Rick Beck
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We were late getting out of bed Christmas morning. Harold was reading in the main salon when we went out for coffee. There were good morning and Merry Christmas hugs exchanged. Harold opened the small gifts from Santa Claus. Mostly it was clothin and items for school.
Andy gave Harold the gifts we'd held out for when we got up to watch him open it. The first was a rather stylish jacket Harold had taken time to try on when we were out shopping one day back home. Andy went back the next day to buy it.
"Oh, this is just the ticket," Harold said. "I've seen this before. It fits nice."
"You have," Andy said. "You can exchange it if you like."
"No, it's perfect for when I go to the doctor's lounge. I'll look as distinguished as the real doctors. Thank you," Harold said, hugging Andy and then me.
"Inside pocket," Andy said.
Harold slipped his hand inside the pocket and brought out the computer chess game.
"Oh, man, thank you. I can practice. I need practice," Harold said.
"It's only for chess. They had them with a 1000 games, but you've got to spend some time studying. I'm not going to give you things to distract you. You seem to enjoy chess."
"This is fine. I don't play that much, A. G."
"Here," Harold said. "This is from me. A. G. had them made, J. D., but it is my design. I took it to him and told him what I wanted. I hope you like it."
Andy and I opened the small gifts at the same time. In my box was a chain with the letters, AG&JD, at the center point on the modest gold chain. On Andy's chain was, JD&AG."
"It's beautiful, Harold. I love it," I said, putting it on and checking it in the mirror behind the bar.
"They did turn out beautifully, Harold," Andy said.
"Boy designs jewelry in his spare time?" John Paul said.
"I get ideas about things," Harold said. "My mind doesn't sit still much."
"You sure do," John Paul said.
"Andy took it to the jeweler and he designed it," Harold explained.
"He did what I told him to do," Andy said. "I gave him your design. He built it."
"Turned out nice," Harold said, looking at Andy's.
"Very nice," I said. "I can wear it under my uniform."
"One more gift, Harold. I found this in Key West." Andy reached behind the tree and brought out the gift.
The case was a shiny cherry wood. Harold released the latch and opened it to reveal a chessboard. On either side of the playing surface were onyx chess men, beautifully carved.
"Oh, rock chess pieces. How clever," Harold said.
"You keep this in a safe place. When you go to the doctor's lounge to play chess, you take this board, and they'll know you mean business," Andy said. "Then I want you to kick ass."
"Yes, sir," Harold said, feeling the wooden board before checking each chess piece.
"That's a fine chess set, Harold. Your doctor buddies will be impressed," John Paul said.
"I'm impressed. You shouldn't spend so much money on me, A. G. You'll spoil me."
"Someone's got to do it and I kind of like it," Andy said.
Gene was busy loading up the serving counter with food. The inside of The Do smelled like a fine restaurant. I needed coffee and couldn't resist one of Gene's thin pastries. We'd be eating all morning as Christmas Carols played softly over the speakers as we chatted and chewed.
"Weather's clear. Next forty-eight to seventy-two hours will remain calm and partly cloudy. I suggest we set sail and move away from the mainland to avoid the currents and random showers that can pop up," John Paul advised.
"Carry on, John Paul. Sounds like a plan," Andy said. "You're the driver."
"Can I help you? I want to see how you unfasten the sails," Harold asked.
"Come on. Get some shoes on. Don't want you stepping on anything," John Paul said.
It turned out to be a nice Christmas. After Gene started clearing so he could begin working on Christmas dinner. Andy and I went out on deck to enjoy the fresh air. We'd begun walking off the meals we enjoyed.
There wasn't a lot of exercise, once we came out of our cabin in the morning. We did swim when the conditions were good but the last few days weren't that nice. Even though the weather cleared, the sea was still a bit choppy, after the storm system passed.
It wasn't rough enough to be unpleasant, but it wasn't conditions favorable for swimming. We talked about it at dinner and John Paul told us conditions were improving by the hour. The clouds had begun to diminish.
Andy and I retired early, after Christmas dinner and some conversation. John Paul and Harold were sitting down for another round over the chessboard. Andy and I planned to go a few rounds ourselves. We hadn't had our hands on each other all day, even if it was only five o'clock. It was still Christmas and there were still gifts we had to give.
I left the cabin early the next morning to get my first cup of coffee and grab a muffin with butter and jam out to the fantail where I'd continue to read Lolita. Harold had beat me to it. With his legs crossed and barefooted, reading one of his textbooks as the breeze ruffled his white polo shirt.
The sun was bright and the clouds moved lazily in the sky above The Do. It was the kind of day John Paul predicted. I arranged myself beside Harold and we exchanged smiles and without a word we read.
It was about seven thirty. Andy would sleep until about nine. I tried not to bother him when I got up, wanting him to get all the rest he needed. He needed a lot when we spent half the night making love.
When I emptied my cup of coffee, I finished reading the page, and I went in to get another cup and I brought back one for Harold.
"Thanks," he said, putting the textbook in his lap to sip the hot brew. "A. G. looks good, J. D. He's all tanned up. Looks like a brother with that brown head of his."
"He's feeling better. He's eating better," I said.
"Rehab'll be no picnic," Harold said, looking into his coffee cup.
"I suspect not," I said. "He's tough. He says he'll play again. I wouldn't bet against him."
"You know your coffee, J. D. It's perfect."
"Gene picks out the beans special. Best coffee I've had. The man is an artist," I said. "I've had some rank coffee in my time."
"How are you? You like this water deal?"
"It's great. Like being at the house, only water instead of grass. Nothing for A. G. to mow," I said smiling.
"No, not hardly. When he goes to rehab, you make sure I know his schedule. Once you're back in Louisville, I'll get home from time to time when he's going to be there."
"I think he's going to do four days in Indianapolis and three days at the house. He's got his weight room at the house and he can use that. Once I'm back in Louisville, he plans to spend a day or two a week with me."
"Just keep me in on the plan. I don't mind driving home," Harold said, picking up his textbook.
When I went in for my next cup of coffee, Andy stood with his plate, thinking about bacon or links. Gene brought out some fresh eggs with ham and onion, a favorite of ours.
"Andy, you were married?" Gene asked.
"Me? Not as anyone would notice," he said, smiling at me. "Do and I are a couple. We haven't found a need to call it being married. I'm not into labels."
"I see the resemblance between you and Harold. You have similar builds. I figured Harold was your son and not Do's," Gene explained.
"He's our son," Andy said. "He was hand picked, or we were hand picked. I'm not sure. No biology involved, just good luck."
"Ah," Gene said. "How did you decide on a black child? I thought maybe you had a relationship with a…. When you were younger."
"I am younger," Andy reminded him. "No, Do and I are college sweethearts. I was too skinny and too poor to date before Do. All I liked was baseball."
* * * * * * * * *
"John Paul and Gene were about to go swimming a few minutes ago," I told Andy. "Harold was in here reading, but he's disappeared too. Our kid doesn't swim, does he?"
"I don't think so," Andy said. "We better go make sure he doesn't drown. You know he's fearless."
"John Paul and Gene will look after him," I rationalized.
"Yeah, but I want to make sure he knows what he's doing," Andy said. "Harold thinks he's indestructible."
"Have you ever known Harold not to know what he's doing?"
"Good point," Andy agreed. "Let's go check on him anyway. We haven't had our walk yet and we are out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico."
I followed Andy out of the salon.
Sure enough, up near the bow, John Paul and Gene were swimming, as they often did from the same spot. Harold was in the gulf with them and they were having a grand old time.
They didn't notice us because of the horseplay and the noise they made. Harold was doing fine. I wasn't sure how Harold would take to the two men on the boat with us, but he'd taken to John Paul right away.
"Go down and get a couple of towels, Do," Andy said. "They'll freeze when they come out. The breeze is cool this morning."
As soon as I came back with the towel, Harold swam to the ladder and came out of the water.
"Thanks. I knew it was going to be cold when I came out. You're a life safer."
"Where'd you learn to swim?" I asked.
"School. They have a pool. It's good exercise. You don't think I keep this lean body by sitting on my ass, do you?"
"No, speaking of your skinny ass, where's your bathing suit?" Andy asked.
"We're out in the middle of nowhere. What bathing suit?"
Harold didn't seem to have any inhibitions about being naked in front of us. The idea he was swimming naked, wrestling with two gay men made me uncomfortable, and I didn't know why. I wanted to protect Harold, which was a bad road to head down with our boy.
"Harold, you shouldn't be swimming naked with other guys," I explained without explaining anything but my ignorance.
"Why not? They're guys. I'm a guy. You're guys."
He made it all quite simple.
"Yes, but I don't think it's a good idea," I said, as Harold dropped the towel and stood there in all his glory trying to analyze what the hell I had on my mind.
"I don't have a swimsuit and they're naked. I'm naked. What's the deal, Do? You're not a prude."
"It's not appropriate," I said, looking at Andy for help and he got busy watching the horizon.
I was on my own.
"Why? I can't think of anything that makes it inappropriate. Unless John Paul and Gene are… they are aren't they? You think one of them is going to make a pass at me? Is that it? J.D., you don't think I can't say, 'thanks, but no thanks? I don't swing that way?' I'm not a child," he explained.
"No, you aren't. I wasn't thinking you'd know how to handle that. We never discussed it," I explained, because I wouldn't know what to say.
"You think no one has ever made a pass at me? I've had more passes made on me than they make at the Indy 500. One day I might think about trying it, but not so much today. I've got enough responsibility keeping up my end with the babes, you know. Adding a new wrinkle at the moment isn't in the cards."
"I suppose. Go put on your shorts," I said.
"What, you embarrassed by the fact black boys make you white boys look a little deficient in the dick department?"
Andy began to laugh, which made me laugh, and Harold began laughing. Harold did have plenty to offer in the dick department, but he'd rarely been naked in front of us.
"You don't have anything on Andy," I said, trying to sound a little less like someone who had lost his mind.
"What would you expect? He is my Dad," Harold said with a smirk, and the dick deal was done.
Andy was left laughing as Harold went to get his clothes on, ignoring my over reaction to nothing.
Why the sudden attack of homophobia concerning Harold, I didn't know. I felt protective of him. I didn't want him upset or made to feel like a piece of meat, but he was right. He was capable of handling such things himself.
I felt bad about bringing it up. I felt worse that I could think John Paul or Gene might be inappropriate with Harold. I had no reason to think that. I didn't know what was wrong with me, but it didn't please me to set straight by a nineteen year old.
He was an intelligent adult who could figure out how he wanted to handle such situations. I was embarrassed that seeing them have a good time made me think something sexual could be going on without Harold being aware.
I'd never been around gay people. I'd been around homophobes all my life. As a boy the fear of homosexuals was biblical and universal. There were so many stories about teenage boys being touched inappropriately in parks and in bathrooms that I couldn't keep up with them all.
Teenage boys being molested was epidemic in Statesville, but these events were a lot like terrorist attacks. I was constantly hearing about them, but I never knew anyone who was molested or blown up. I only wish I'd been able to find someone who was interested in me. No one was and I wasn't sure anyone ever would be.
When Harold first began coming over to the house, it was obvious he was analyzing what the relationship between Andy and I was. Somewhere along the line he'd figured out we were lovers. No doubt the affection we showed one another gave us away.
We didn't purposely show affection in front of him, but you can't hide fondness. Once Harold figured it out, he no longer watched our inner actions with curiosity.
We were told by his caseworker that there was a good chance Harold had been molested by adult males, who dated his mother. This wasn't an unusual occurrence, but Harold never spoke of it. I wouldn't know how to bring it up.
At the time Harold came to us, he was more mature than we were in some ways. He could take care of himself, but he wasn't allowed, once he was in the system. He had to be with someone and so he picked us. The social worker knew it was the best option available.
In a few months Harold would be twenty. All three of us would be in our twenties. My desire to protect him wasn't appropriate. I couldn't claim it as my reason for going off the rails about John Paul and Gene. I felt bad about it.
As loving as my parents were, and as much as they loved Andy, the religious overtones at my house were stifling to a young gay boy. My parents would fight anyone who said something disparaging about me loving Andy, but I knew they didn't approve of my love for Andy. It went against their religion and religion was way more important than love, even the love of parents for their child.
I was an intelligent adult, but when it came to my son, adopted or not, I went straight to regarding any contact between Harold and two gay men as sexual in nature. All the evidence ran against it. The only thing sexual about it was what went on inside my head.
One more problem was the way I saw Harold, who was a charming handsome young man. Was it my own sexual feelings being projected onto other gay men? I didn't think so, but I didn't think I was homophobic either. I couldn't find an answer that was satisfying.
I thought of all the possibilities, because I needed to know if I needed some professional help. Was I carrying around things that needed to come out? Why would I suspect people who were beyond suspicion? I didn't like it. I din't like myself very much for thinking it.
* * * * * * * * *
Harold's departure from the Key West airport was sad. We'd had a wonderful time, Andy and I wanted him to stay with us. For the first time I had the feeling Harold would rather stay than go. It was probably the most unique experience of his life, and he didn't want it to end.
We were going to eat in Key West, after Harold's plane left, and we'd spend the night docked there while we made plans for the next two months. We'd head back to Destin the last week in February, when our vacation would end.
We decided on seafood for dinner. Andy and I were becoming addicted to the stuff. There wasn't a lot in the way of seafood in our Indiana, and then it could never have been as fresh as we were getting on the gulf.
We had drinks after dinner and I got something off my chest. I couldn't remain silent any longer.
"I have an apology to make to both of you," I said, without Andy encouraging me. "When you were swimming with Harold. I was worried about him… About you…. I don't know what I was thinking. I'm sorry I was capable of thinking such a thing. I don't know what I was thinking. You've been wonderful friends and you deserve better."
"Andy mentioned it," John Paul said.
"You what?" I said to my one true love.
"Cool your tool, babe. I know how you dwell on things when you think you've done something wrong. I could see this coming and I wanted to make our friends aware of it. You beat yourself up over anything you can't explain."
"Where are you from, Do?" John Paul asked.
"Statesville," I said, not seeing that mattered.
"Indoctrination is a powerful force. When all you hear are negative descriptions about queer people, it's difficult to sort through it to get to the truth, when there's no countervailing argument to refute the bullshit."
"I'm gay. I'm ashamed of myself," I said.
"Don't be. What's the last book you read about queer people?"
"You're reading Lolita, one of the most scandalous books ever written. You don't read queer literature?"
"No," I confessed. "I never thought of it."
"I'll give you a list of queer books I like. You need to learn something about your own people. Don't feel bad, Do. The most homophobic people I've known are queer," John Paul said. "You were concerned. That's allowed. Now it's over, but if you educate yourself about being queer, you'll feel better. You can't rely on what you were told as a boy."
"You've got nothing to apologize for, hon. You've treated us good as gold. Having a misguided thought loose in your head isn't a sin," Gene said. "If that were the case I'd be in a world of trouble."
"If it eases your mind, Gene and I decided a few years back, letting someone else in on our relationship is a good way to separate us. We do a solo act. Harold is a lovely lad and he'll have no difficulty attracting his share of lovers, but he's too young for our taste. Not that I didn't love him. He's as impressive a young man as I've met in ages. I hated to see him go."
"Yes, he is," Andy said. "We want to protect him, even when there's no reason. We're learning."
"How would you like to go dancing. I know a club with a dance floor. It's not usually too crowded this time of night," Gene said.
"I'd love to dance with you, Do," Andy said.
"I've never danced with anyone before," I said.
"Nothing to it. Just let him lead and you'll find your way," Gene said.
"Don't be sure. I've never danced before either, but I am an athlete of note. I'm willing to give it a go. I hope I'm not too hard on your feet, Do."
"You be as hard as you want, Andrew. I love it when you're hard."
It was a lovely evening. Having a few drinks did help to numb our lack of dancing skill. It wasn't too difficult once we watched the dancers.
We watched gay people dance. There were some straight couples as well, but it was a gay club. It was the first time I'd been around my own people. They seemed fun and they were having fun.
We had fun. We left the dance club just before midnight. John Paul and Gene walked in front of us holding hands and Andy and I held hands. We'd never held hands in public before. We passed people and people passed us. No one paid any attention to two couples holding hands on the streets of Key West.
As small a thing as that was, I felt liberated doing it. I was expressing something about myself I'd never openly expressed before. It was good to feel free. It was better to feel free, holding Andy's hand.
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