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Chapter 69 – A Busy Week Begins

 

The day began just like every other weekday morning, alarm blasting me from my peaceful sleep at six.  After smacking the device to disable the noisemaker and a quick stop in the bathroom, I traipsed across the house to begin the task of waking boys.  Stopping in the first bedroom, I found Logan, Alex and Joey spread across the bed in a mishmash of limbs and torsos, covers on the floor in a heap.  I tickled the foot closest to the edge of the mattress and found it was connected to Joey when he lifted his head and glared menacingly at me.

 

“Time to move kiddo.  Get those other two lumps kickin’ and get ready for a new day,” I grinned.

 

“You tickle my foot again, buster, you’re gonna pay.”

 

I leaned over his prone figure, hands on each side of ribs, stuck my nose on his and asked, “Oh, yeah?  Watchu’ gonna do, tough guy?”

 

“I’m gonna hug the stuffin’s outta you,” he giggled in delight as he wrapped his arms around the back of my neck and pulled me down on top of him.  Not willing to give an inch, I started tickling his ribs.  He finally let go of me and begged me to stop before he made a mess all over the bed.  Not wanting to wash sheets today, I halted my attack and moved on, leaving the grumbling boy to wake the other two.

 

Stepping into the middle bedroom, I discovered Eric, Josh and Brent stretched out flat on their backs, covers kicked off and three beautiful specimens of boyhood reaching for the heavens.  It took every ounce of willpower in my body to not sample the delicacies so temptingly displayed on this morning’s buffet line.  Instead, I sat on the edge of the bed, laid my right hand on Eric’s stomach and gently shook the young man to wake him. 

 

As he stretched and struggled to become fully aware of his surroundings, his left hand landed on mine.  In his dazed condition, he moved his hand down to his groin, taking mine right along with it.  When he moved again, he gently wrapped it around the stiff portion of sweet teen meat that was ripe and ready for plucking.  Since he still had my hand in his grasp as he did so, he ended up with two hands gently caressing his hardness.  Not one to pass up such an opportunity, I allowed my hand to wander a bit and fondled his loose wrinkled sack while he continued to stroke himself awake.

 

Full realization of what was happening hit him as I slid my hand down just a bit further and began to toy with his tight pucker.  His eyes snapped open just as the first shot of ejaculate landed on his torso with a light splat.  He lifted his head up and, on seeing my smiling face, gave me a grin that silently spoke volumes.  With his spasms receding and penis softening, I leaned over the mural on his torso and cleaned him up with my mouth.  As I moved from his nipples to his belly button and further, my eyes never left his wilting willy.  Upon reaching the tender morsel, I continued my cleaning task until there was no evidence remaining, much to Eric’s delight.

 

“Time to move, young man,” I whispered into his ear after planting a kiss on his lips.

 

“Oh, fuck, if only I could talk my old man into waking me up like that every day.”

 

“There are worse ways to start the day, aren’t there?” I chuckled.

 

“No shit.  If you ain’t careful, Max, I could see myself falling in love with you.”

 

“Sorry, Eric, I’m taken.  Besides, I’m just makin’ sure you don’t explode from lack of sex.”

 

“No chance of that happenin’, man.  Unless Josh and Joey are serious.”

 

“Are you okay with their decision to be with only each other?”

 

“Yeah, though I’m gonna miss playin’ around with the horny little bugger.  I was just startin’ to really get into it.”

 

“Someday, you’ll find someone to take his place.  And if you don’t, there’s always Tom and me.  And your dad, too.  We’d be happy to help out.”

 

“Yeah, don’t I know it,” he replied with a grin.

 

As I stood to move on, I said, “Can you get those other two movin’, please?  You all have to be on a bus shortly.  Thanks.”

 

Before I could get out the door, Eric asked, “Hey, have you heard from my dad yet?”

 

“Not yet, we haven’t.  If he worked as late as he thought he would have to, he’s probably still sleepin’.”

 

“If he ain’t called before we have to leave, I want to call him, make sure he’s okay.  That was a wicked storm last night and I had some really sick dreams.  I’m worried ‘bout him.”

 

“I’m sure your dad’s fine, Eric, but no problem.  We can call while you guys are having breakfast.”

 

“Thanks, Max.”

 

As I turned again to move on, I could hear Eric trying to roust the other two.  Upon entering the third bedroom, there were T.J., Mike and Andy, curled up together and the covers still doing their job.  I leaned over and shook Mike’s shoulder, receiving an early morning grumble from the youngster.

 

“C’mon, young man, let’s get crackin’.  Time to start another fun-filled week of school.”

 

“What planet you livin’ on, Dad?  School ain’t fun,” he retorted.

 

“That may be, but you still need to get movin’.  See if you can get Andy and T.J. movin’ in the right direction, will ya’?  I still need to get Pops functional and start breakfast.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Mike grumped as he rolled back over and started pushing on the other two.

 

With everyone on this end of the house awake, it was time to face the music and start working on the hibernating bear I’d left in our own bedroom.  As I crossed the entryway and passed by the kitchen, I was surprised to find Tom was up and busily moving around as he had already started work on scrambled eggs and bacon.  I added my labor to the project at hand getting toast made and buttered, and we soon had everything ready to go. 

 

“Have you given any more thought to the boys talking to the news guys this afternoon?” I asked as we continued our preparations for the impending invasion.

 

“Yeah, I have, and if it sounds like something they want to do, I guess I’m okay with it.  It’s not like they can tell the TV guy anything the paper didn’t already have.  Besides, if they can help bring awareness to the difficulties gay kids have in being fostered and adopted, I think it’s worth it.”

 

“Thanks, hon.  I’ll bring it up at breakfast and see what they think.”

 

As the boys started filtering in, we put them to work setting the table, then getting milk and OJ for all of them.  After we’d all taken our seats, I decided now was a good time for our chat.

 

“Good morning, boys.  You’ll be happy to know Angela called us last night.”

 

“Really?” Joey asked.

 

“How’s Harry?” Eric wanted to know.

 

“If y’all give me a minute, I’ll tell ya’.  Harry’s still doing okay, so far.  He’s still in the induced coma, but they’ve scanned his head again and didn’t see any more bleeding.  The doctors were planning on reducing the coma-inducing drugs starting sometime this afternoon and, with some luck, they think Harry should start waking up tonight or tomorrow.  They’ll know more after he’s actually awake and they can do some more tests.”

 

“Is he gonna be okay,” T.J. asked.

 

“Nobody knows right now, son.  We’ll just have to wait until he’s conscious to find out.”

 

“Well, at least he’s getting’ better, it sounds like.  That’s promising,” Josh commented.

 

“We think so, too.  Next, not to dump something bad on you this morning, especially after the fun we had this weekend, but you should know that an article about my abuse at the church ran in the paper last week after one of their people interviewed me.  On Friday, despite our request to leave you boys out of the story, they somehow dug up and included your names and how you all ended up here.”

 

“WHAT!” Joey squelched while trying to swallow a mouthful of eggs.

 

“How’d they find that out,” Alex added much more calmly.

 

“We don’t know, but Carol’s office is trying to figure it out.  The only reason I agreed to talk with them is they told us that there’s a group of people at the church trying to deny what happened there.”

 

“You can’t let that happen, Dad,” T.J. commented seriously.

 

“I know that, son.  But, the story in the paper is why Channel 20 was on our front porch Thursday morning.  Pops, of course, got rid of them in his own special way.” That comment drew snickers from the six who lived here as they remembered how that worked out.  “While we got rid of them, I’m not going to let the church bury what’s been going on for years there like it never happened.  So, when you come home this afternoon, a crew from the Channel 17 news will be here to talk to me.  Pops and I have talked about this already, and we have an idea we’d like you to consider.”

 

“What’s that,” Alex asked with concern.

 

“Well, since your names and other information are already out there, we were wondering if you might like to be included in the interview?”

 

“Why the hell would we wanna do that?” Joey asked pointedly.

 

“To help bring some light to problems of gay kids finding good, caring and accepting foster homes and, eventually, being adopted.  I think that you guys could do more to help other kids like you than you might think.”

 

“I’m in,” T.J. replied emphatically.  “I went home with four other people before you and everything was lookin’ cool, right up to the point they figured out I was queer.  Once that light bulb went on, I was right back out the door.  If I can help stop some other kid from goin’ through that, I’m all for it.”

 

“How did I know you’d do it, T.J.?” Tom asked.

 

“ ’Cause you’re one smart cookie, Pops,” T.J. giggled.

 

“And don’t you ever forget that, young man,” Tom retorted while waggling a finger in T.J.’s direction.

 

I looked down the table to Joey and Alex and could see they were having one of their private conversations.  I was wondering what they were thinking about, but T.J. solved that problem for us all.

 

“Oh, c’mon you two.  Don’t be such chickens.  We’ve already told the whole school we’re gay.  What’s the big deal?”

 

“There’s a big difference between the school knowin’ and half the dang state,” Alex muttered.

 

“Get over it already.  A couple hundred here, a couple thousand there.  Is how many people knowing about you going to change who you are in any way?”

 

“Well, no,” Joey admitted.

 

“So, let’s do it.  I bet you could even talk your boyfriends into being here with you.”

 

Joey looked at Josh and received a simple nod of acceptance, while Alex turned to Brent and got the same reaction from him.  With those three settled, it was time to pin down the other two.

 

“Mike, Andy, what are you thinking?”

 

“I think I’ll do it, Dads,” Mike answered.  “After the way my mom and dad beat me, I’m glad I’m here.  If I can help keep another kid from goin’ through that, I’ll do it.”

 

“I don’t wanna,” Andy said.  “First, while I really like playin’ ‘round with my brothers, I don’t think I’m really gay, I’m just havin’ lots of fun.  Second, I don’t wanna be on TV.  I think I’d be too scared to talk.”

 

“That’s fine, Andy,” Tom responded.  “Nobody’s going to force you to do something you’re not prepared to do.”

 

“I know you’re not one of our sons, Logan, but you are living here.  Is there anything you’d like to say?”

 

“Not, really, Max.  The problems between my dad and me don’t need to be shared.”

 

“No problem, young man.  Josh, Brent, you sure want to be involved in this?” I asked.  “You’ll be telling everybody who watches the news who you are.”

 

“If Joey and Alex can do it, I can, too,” Josh replied.

 

“Me, three,” Brent answered.

 

“Four,” Eric answered.

 

“Really?” Tom asked.  “What would you have to say?”

 

“I’d want to tell people that even though my brother’s gay and has a boyfriend, he’s still my brother and I don’t love him any less or differently than I did before I knew that.  I mean, he’s still the same obnoxious little dweeb I’ve known my whole life.”

 

Josh leaned over, pulled Eric into a hug and said, “Thanks jerkwad, I love you, too.”  We all enjoyed a good laugh at that.

 

“Okay, I’ll check with your parents and see if their okay with you joining in.  I guess you three might as well ride the bus here with our boys after school.  And when you get back to the house this afternoon, please, please, please keep your clothes on.  There’ll be cameras here recording everything.”  Everyone enjoyed a good chuckle while thinking about that visual.

 

“We gotta get movin’, babe.  It’s almost time for the bus to show up.  Boys, just drop your dishes in the sink and get ready to roll.  We’ll clean up today.”

 

“Thanks, Pops,” Alex replied as the herd rumbled through the kitchen on their way to the other end of the house to get their things together. 

 

I took advantage of the quiet moment to call Rick and after an abbreviated conversation with a very tired individual, let Josh and Eric know their dad was fine and catching up on some much-needed sleep at home.  I did manage to get him commit to coming over this afternoon to pick his boys up later.  Now, I just needed to get in touch with Monica and Ben to see if they had a problem with Brent being included in the interviews.  Tom stopped in the kitchen to give me a kiss before taking the boys out to meet their morning ride.  Just as I finished loading the dirties in the dishwasher, the phone rang.

 

Not recognizing the number, I answered with a cautious, “Hello?”

 

“Is this Max,” the man asked.

 

“It is, who’s asking?”

 

“Max, it’s George Hamilton, T.J.’s former foster-dad.”

 

“Oh, morning, George.  What can I do for you?”

 

“I’m calling to say thanks to you and T.J. for gettin’ that bastard of a brother-in-law out of ours and Olivia’s lives.  We had no clue what that son-of-a-bitch was doin’ to our girl.”

 

“I’m sure you didn’t, George.  The abuser will never say anything and a lot of kids who are or have been abused also won’t say anything, either.  For some weird reason, a lot of the time, the victim feels that they’re somehow responsible for their abuse, even though they obviously aren’t.  How’s Olivia doing?”

 

“Not well.  She’s been really freaked out since the police called and told us they’d arrested Ralph and why.  She keeps sayin’ it’s all her fault and that he shouldn’t be in jail.”

 

“From what I’ve learned about myself recently, that’s not a big surprise.”

 

“Yeah, we read the story in the paper last week, so you know what she’s going through, then, don’t you?”

 

“A little of it, yeah, and I sympathize with her.  I know I shouldn’t, but I feel some responsibility and guilt for the death of the pastor at the church.”

 

“Well, from what I read, you shouldn’t.  I think that bastard got off lucky.  And Ralph did, too.  I just want a minute alone with him.  Hell, what I wanna do to him wouldn’t even take that long.  And I’d sure save the courts some time and money,” George snorted in disgust.

 

“While I agree with you and understand where you’re coming from, George, that would just cause a whole different set of problems for all of you.”

 

“Yeah, I know.  That’s the only reason I’m not gonna do it.  One question I have that Olivia’s not answered yet is why the hell she told T.J. about what was goin’ on and not us?”

 

“From what T.J. said when he told me about it, Olivia was afraid if she’d said something to you or Nancy, you’d have believed Ralph over her.  That’s a very common worry for kids dealing with being abused, will they be believed?  She also thought that since T.J.’s gay, he wouldn’t really care about what happened to a girl.  I know it took him a while after moving in to share Olivia’s story with me, but I think she underestimated just how much T.J. cares about everybody.”

 

“I’m aware of that, but she’s still pissed as hell at him for talkin’ about it since she swore him to secrecy.  I know she’ll get past that in time, but it won’t be easy for her.  Nancy and I are just happy he finally said something to someone who could do something about it.  We’re proud of the kid for doing the right thing.”

 

“We are, too, George.  If there’s anything we can do to help, just let us know.”

 

“We will.  Thanks again for your help and make sure T.J. knows that as well.  When Olivia’s feeling better about his part, we’ll have to get together so she can tell T.J. thanks.”

 

“Whenever you want, George.  Thanks for callin’ to let us know and please keep us updated on Olivia’s progress as she deals with the aftermath.”

 

“We’ll do that, Max.  Talk to you later.”

 

I was hanging up the phone as Tom came back into the house.  I relayed my conversation to him as we met in the living room and got comfortable.

 

“I’m glad he called.  I’ve been wondering how they were dealing with things after Ralph was arrested.”

 

“About like you’d expect, I guess.  His reaction sounded a lot like my dad’s reaction when I told them about the Muellers.  Of course, Frank and Iris aren’t family, so I would imagine the sting of guilt the Hamiltons are feeling goes much deeper.”

 

“No doubt about that.  By the way, we need to get a hold of the guy who cleared the spot for the boys’ bus shed.  That lightning strike that scared the crap out of all us last night did some pretty serious damage to a couple trees on the other side of the drive.  One of ‘ems still smokin’.”

 

“Thanks for the head’s up.  I’ll try to deal with that today.”

 

“Well, I’d love to sit and chat all day, but seeing as I now have an office, computer, desk and all that good stuff, I think it’s high time I put my ass back to work.  Right after I get out of these damn clothes.”

 

As he stood to head to our bedroom, I followed along and said, “Well, if you’re gonna do some work, I might as well do the same.  Though I’d much rather be working with you than on a book right now.”

 

“I’d like that, too, babe, but you know you have to follow through on it, as difficult as it will be.”

 

“Yeah, I know.  Meet you in the kitchen noonish for lunch?”

 

“You bet.  A growin’ boy needs his food,” Tom laughed as he patted his trim gut.  I just shook my head as I couldn’t formulate the witty retort he deserved at that moment.  Before we went our separate ways, we shared a hug, a kiss and an ‘I love you’.  I turned left into the study to get busy while Tom turned right into the bedroom to get undressed for work.

 

After settling in at my desk, I printed the outline I’d created for the book, then opened the book itself.  I quickly scanned through the first couple of chapters I’d already written to refresh my memory before starting back to work.  Oh, yeah, that’s where I was, just beginning to realize I liked boys more than girls.  After figuring out how I could write about my early inklings without offending people or them not believing that an eight-year-old could possibly know he was gay, I set myself to work.  An hour and a half and three chapters later, I’d reached the point where it was time to start work on what will be the hardest part of the book to deal with, my three years of living hell.  Before continuing, I decided this would be a good time to take a short break, get something to drink, and see how Tom was doing.

 

I grabbed a Pepsi for both of us as I passed by the kitchen and continued on across the house to his office.  When I stepped through the door, he was on the phone, so I perched my butt on his desk and waited patiently for the call to end while handing him the bottle.  His eyes lit up at the simple gesture and he mimed a bit of a thank-you bow in gratitude.  When he finally ended the call, he momentarily laid his arms on the desk and rested his head on them before returning his attention to me.

 

“Oh, god, thanks for the drink.  I needed that,” he moaned in relief as he unscrewed the lid and took his first sip.

 

“Happy to help, big guy.  How goes the battle in here?”

 

“I’m kickin’ asses and takin’ names later,” he beamed.

 

“Really?  That good?”

 

“I wish,” he laughed, “but I had you goin’ there for a fraction of a second, didn’t I?  No, Carol had ten background checks lined up for me when I called her this morning.  I gave her my e-mail address and she sent me all the pertinent info on each one.  I created a file for each, then picked one at random to work on.  Boy, did I ever pick the wrong file.”

 

“That bad?”

 

“Well, the wife wasn’t a problem.  Finding her was a piece of cake and she’s as clean as a whistle.  The husband’s another story.  I’ve searched every little bit of info Carol gave me for him and haven’t found diddly-squat.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was in the witness protection program.  No credit history, no criminal record, no taxes filed under his name, no utilities in his name, absolutely nothin’ ‘cept a driver’s license issued by the state of Illinois three years ago.  And the man’s forty-five!  How the hell do you live that long and not have a history of some kind.”

 

“What’s his name, Rip Van Winkle,” I chuckled.

 

“Can’t tell you.  I probably already said more than I should have due to the agency’s privacy rules, but I’m stumped.”

 

“Not to be a smartass, but did you try Facebook?  It worked for finding Malcom.”

 

“That was my first search.  I got bupkus.”

 

“Well, I don’t have any more bright ideas for ya.  What do you tell Carol?”

 

“I’ll tell what I have, or rather don’t have, and let them take it from there.  Ball’s in their court now.  So, how goes your battle?”

 

“Three more chapters done and ready for the next.  Just takin’ a quick break before I dive into the deep end of the pool.”

 

“Reached that point, have ya’?”

 

“Yep.  And not lookin’ forward to it one bit.”

 

“I wouldn’t think so.  I’d offer to trade jobs for a while, but I really don’t think you’d want me writin’ your story.”

 

“You got that right.  I want people to be able to understand what they’re readin’,” I laughed.  “I just needed to rest my eyes and grab a drink before I got started.  And as some smart person recently reminded me, you gotta start before you can finish.  If ya’ hear shit gettin’ thrown around in anger, just ignore it.”

 

“I wish you luck, babe.  If there’s anything I can do to help, you’ll let me know, right?”

 

“Damn right I will.  Remember, we’re in this shit together.”

 

“Yeah, I keep hearing that,” he chuckled.

 

Before leaving him to his work and returning to my own, we shared another hug and kiss of support for both of us.  I trudged slowly back across the house trying to put myself in the proper frame of mind to tackle what was next in my playbook.  What I finally decided on as I crossed the threshold of the study was to try and write this section from those innocent eyes and soul I left at the door every time I was guided into the room by Frank and Iris.  I thought if I could write about it with the same detachment I’d had when I was in the middle of it, I just might come out the other side in one piece.  Again.

 

Fortunately, after writing four books, I’ve become pretty adept at typing without watching the keyboard and just letting the words flow from my mind, through the keyboard and onto the screen.  Even with my forced ‘out-of-body’ perspective, when I decided it was time to meet in the kitchen for lunch, I discovered I’d written another two chapters.  While what I’d created would never be compared to Shakespeare, after a quick scan through it, I’d have to say I beat those thousand monkeys attempting to best the Bard.  I saved my work and shut down the computer, having no intentions of coming back to this torture after lunch.  I figured my interview later would be more torture than I could stand for the rest of the day.

 

As I left the study for the kitchen, I could feel a certain weight lifting from my shoulders and my step was decidedly lighter than it was when I started writing this morning.  By god, I thought, what if all those crazy people in my life were correct and writing this book was good therapy.  Time would tell.  When I walked into the kitchen, I found Tom rummaging through the fridge, freezer and cabinets, desperately trying to find something to eat.

 

“Qué pasa, Hombre?”

 

“We’re dangerously low on provisions, boss.  Looks like it’s time for another supply run.”

 

“Figures.  Too bad we don’t have time this afternoon.  I can go tomorrow morning after the boys are off to school.”

 

“You sure you wanna go by yourself?” Tom asked seriously.

 

“Hey, the only problem I’ve had shopping is unexpectedly runnin’ into the Muellers.  And since they’re still in jail, I won’t have to worry about them.”

 

“Well, if you feel you’re up to it, I won’t fight you for the honor.  But can you handle two carts in the store without help?”

 

“I’ll be just fine, smartass.  Do we still have bread?”

 

“Yeah, but no ham or cheese.  Or much of anything else to put on it.”

 

“Oh, ye of little faith.  I just happen to know where the proprietor of this establishment keeps his secret stash of peanut butter and honey.”

 

“That actually sounds good.  You probably need to put the sandwiches together ‘cause I bet I’d do it wrong somehow.”

 

“Weren’t you paying attention last time,” I asked.

 

“Honestly, no.  I was too busy watchin’ you.”

 

“Aw, that’s sweet.”

 

“So, did you get any more work done on the book?”

 

“I did, actually.  Two more chapters.”

 

“Are you doin’ okay with it?”

 

“Better than I expected.  When I went back to pick up where I left off, I figured out what I needed to do to get through it and retain what little bit of sanity I still have.”

 

“Oh, what’s that?”

 

“Remember the night I told you everything?  How I said that I watched what was happening from above it all and it wasn’t really me?  Well, that’s what I’m doing now to write about it, I’ve kinda detached part of me from myself so I can put the words to paper without it all coming back to seriously haunt me again.  I know it sounds weirder than hell, but it seems to be working.  And when I came out here just now, I felt better than I have for a couple of weeks, so there’s that, too.”

 

“I’m glad to hear it, babe.  I know I kept sayin’ you should do this, but I was still worried about the effect it might have on you, too.”

 

“I was, too, but I think I’m gonna get through it and be okay.  It’ll be interesting to see what Jason has to say about it after he reads it, though.”

 

I’d finished putting our sandwiches together while Tom had grabbed the Doritos from the pantry and a new Pepsi for each of us.  We sat at the counter to enjoy our simple and very quiet lunch.  The quiet was mostly due to our inability to talk with peanut butter filling our mouths.  After finishing our lunch, we worked together to clean up the minimal mess and Tom headed back to his office to keep plugging away on the work Carol had sent. 

 

While he got busy with his work again, I made a necessary phone call to Monica and Ben.

 

“Hello, is this Monica?”

 

“It is, that you, Max?”

 

“Yep.  How you guys doin’ over there in Missouri?” I asked.

 

“It’s just another day in paradise,” she laughed bitterly.  “The mechanic finally got the part for our car and he says we should be able to get back on the road in about an hour.”

 

“I’m glad to hear it.”

 

“Ooh, sounds like Brent might be getting on your nerves a bit.”

 

“Nothing of the sort.  Brent’s a great kid and he’s been on his best behavior.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say he lived here with the rest of them.”

 

“Careful what you say there, Max.  If Ben heard that, he’d make it happen,” Monica laughed.

 

“And it wouldn’t be a problem.  Hey, the real reason I’m calling is something has come up that Brent wants to do with our boys and I wanted to see if you’d approve of it before it happens.”

 

“Is this related to our talk Friday?” she asked.

 

“No, not directly, anyway.  You said you read last week’s story about me in the paper.”

 

“We both did, and we’re appalled at what’s been going on in that church.”

 

“The only reason I agreed to give that interview to them was the reporter told me there’s a small group of church members claiming it’s all lies.” 

 

“Well, that’s absolutely despicable.  Though I guess they wouldn’t be the first church to try and sweep child abuse under the rug, would they?”

 

“Unfortunately, no, it wouldn’t.  And I can’t let that happen, so I did the paper interview to keep the story alive and refute what these people are saying.  And now I’m doing another interview with the Channel 17 news this afternoon about three.  And since the paper released the names and backgrounds of our boys, I asked them if they’d like to tell their own stories to the TV news at the same time.  Four out of our five have said they’ll do it.  Brent, Josh and Eric also said they wanted to be included in the interviews.  To be there as support and boyfriends.”

 

“Oh, my.  That’s a big step to take, for all of them.  And Brent agreed to be on TV and tell people he has a boyfriend?  I never dreamed he’d be ready for that.”

 

“It was a bit of a surprise to us, too, but considering where our own boys are in the acceptance of their true selves, I could see Brent being there, too.  If you don’t want him to do it, then we’ll make sure he stays off-camera.”

 

“While I don’t really have a problem with it, I need to talk to Ben and see what he thinks.  I know he’s not near as comfortable with Brent’s budding sexuality as I am, but he’s slowly coming to understand it.”

 

“By all means, talk to Ben.  The interviews with the boys can’t start until they get home from school about a quarter to four.  And we can make sure that Alex is the last to go so that should give you plenty of time to talk and make a decision.  You just let us know.”

 

“We’ll do that, Max.  If bumpkin Billy Bob Bojangles finishes the work on our car soon enough, we might be able to be there before they’d be ready for Brent and Alex.  I’d like to talk to Brent face-to-face beforehand, just so I can make sure he understands what he’s doing.”

 

“Understood.  If it looks you won’t make it here before it’s their turn, we’ll keep Brent out of it unless we hear different from you.”

 

“Fair enough, Max.  Thanks for calling to let me know what’s going on.  I’ll call you back as soon as Ben and I have talked about it.”

 

I’d just picked up my book to start reading when the phone rang. 

 

Trading the book for the phone again, I answered, “Max Sanders.”

 

“Max, it’s Dylan.  I have some news for you that you’re gonna love!  You sittin’ down?” he asked as his unbridled giddiness flowed through the phone lines with his voice.

 

“Uh, yeah.  Are you okay?  You sound awful happy to be the gruff cop I know.”

 

“I couldn’t be fuckin’ better if I tried.  And you won’t be either after you hear my news.”

 

“Just spit it out, man.  You’re drivin’ me crazy.”

 

“It just happened, not five minutes ago, and you’re my first call.  You don’t have to come to court tomorrow.  The Muellers accepted a deal and pled guilty to all the charges against them!  In exchange for their pleas, they get life in prison with no possibility of parole.  They’ll never see the light of day as free people again.”

 

“TOM!  Get your ass out here, NOW!” I yelled.  Not ten seconds later, the big guy joined me, his face adorned with a mask of stark terror, unsure of what was going on.  “Dylan’s on the phone and I want you to hear this, just so I can make sure I heard it right.”  I punched the speaker button and asked Dylan to repeat what he’d just told me. He did, and Tom’s face went through several drastic changes as he registered surprise, shock, and joy in the span of six seconds.

 

“How the hell’d that happen Dylan,” Tom asked.

 

“I don’t know for sure, but I guess the prosecutor scared the ever lovin’ shit outta them.  When I find out more details, I’ll let you know, but I didn’t want to wait any longer to call.  I wanted to be the one who told you the good news.”

 

“Thanks, Dylan,” I mumbled through my numbness, “we’ll talk to you later.”  I disconnected the call, sat back in my chair, tossed my head back and just stared at the ceiling for a few moments.  It wasn’t until Tom pulled me into his arms and I could lay my head on his shoulder that I began to weep hot tears of elation.  Since there was really nothing to say at the moment, my teddy bear continued to hold me until I’d gathered myself back together. 

 

Once I’d calmed back down, I muttered, “It’s really true, isn’t it?”

 

“Yeah, babe, it’s really true.”

 

“I’ve never been so relieved in my life.  Or happy.  I really feel like I can move on now and not be saddled with this nightmare.”

 

“I’m glad to hear you say that.  For all of us.  I know you’ve been hangin’ on by a thread for a while, but gettin’ those two out of circulation is huge step forward for you.  For all of us.”

 

“You have no idea how huge.  I know I still need Jason’s help, and I’m going to get it, but I think with them being permanently out of commission, it’ll be much easier.”

 

“At least you never have to see them again.  I was really worried about how you’d react seein’ them in the courtroom.  I actually had a dream about you jumpin’ the bar and killin’ both of them, laughing maniacally as it went down.  I’m glad I don’t have to worry about that anymore.”

 

“There was a chance that could have happened, you know.”

 

“Uh, not really, Max.  You have to go through the metal detectors to get to the courtrooms, remember?”

 

“Yeah, but those damn things wouldn’t pick up a ceramic knife inside a boot, would they?”

 

“Nope,” he answered quickly before turning to face me with a look of concern and added, “Wait, you’re serious, aren’t you?”

 

“Damn right, I am.  On the day their verdicts were to be read, I was takin’ a fuckin knife in there and if they were found not guilty, I was gonna do some very special doctorin’ on those two, right there on the defense table.  Then, I was gonna bury that motherfuckin’ knife in their pathetic excuses for hearts.”

 

“Oh, god, I’m glad it didn’t come to that,” Tom groaned as he shuddered at the thought.

 

“Yeah, me too.  Now, their new cellmates, Beefcake Bubba and Slutty Sally, get their chance to truly see justice is done.  I wish I could be there to watch as some con shoves his cock down Frank’s throat and another one rams it home in his ass.  I’d truly love to hear Mr. War Hero Navy Seal Franklin motherfuckin’ Mueller squeal like a stuck pig.”  Though I couldn’t see my own face at that moment due to the lack of mirrors in the vicinity, I knew the sick and sadistic smile I was wearing would rival Charles Manson’s.

 

“Uh, I think I’m hidin’ the knives tonight,” Tom chuckled.

 

“You’re safe, sweetheart.  I’d never hurt you.”  We shared another quick hug of joy and immense relief.  As we separated, the phone rang again.  I let Tom answer it this time as I was still basking in the afterglow of triumph.

 

“Tom Wright … One second, he’s right here.”  He handed the phone to me and added, “News dude for you.”

 

“Hello?” I answered.

 

“Mr. Sanders, this is Raymond Snell from the Channel 17 news.”

 

“Oh, afternoon, Ray.”

 

“I wanted to let you know that we are about ten minutes from arriving at your home for our interview this afternoon.”

 

I took a quick look at the time and said, “Um, that’s fine, but aren’t you a little bit early.  It’s only two and I thought I’d agreed to three.”

 

“I’m sorry, Mr. Sanders, I should have called earlier to warn you we’d be showing up earlier than you probably expected.  The crew that’s with me will need a little bit of time to look over your home and select what they think will be the best place to do the interview.  They will also need time to set up their equipment and make sure everything’s working properly before we get started.”

 

“Oh, okay, no problem.  I hadn’t thought about what you’d have to do to get ready once you got here.”

 

“Again, please accept my apology for the lack of communication.  We’ll see you soon, Mr. Sanders.”

 

After ending the call, I turned to Tom and said, “They’ll be here in about ten minutes.  I think we should follow the request I made to the boys this morning and get dressed.”

 

“Eh, why bother?” he chuckled.  “Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke.”

 

“You might be a nude lovin’ monster, but I don’t think the rest of the world needs to see or know that,” I laughed.  “C’mon, lumpy.”

 

As we headed for the bedroom, Tom briefly struck a body builder’s pose and complained, “Who you callin’ ‘lumpy’?  Sure as hell ain’t me.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” I groaned.  Once properly attired, we headed back to the living to await our guests with Tom making a quick detour down the hall to lock his office door.  On his return from that task, the drive sensor went off, so he turned for the front door.  He waited patiently while watching out the window for Raymond and his crew to climb the steps to the front porch and then opened the door to let them in.  After a quick greeting and pointing his finger in my direction, they headed on across the house to join me by the fireplace where the fire I’d started earlier was still going strong.

 

“Max, this is Raymond and his guys, Zeke and Greg.”

 

I stood and shook hands with all three men while saying, “Hi, nice to meet you.”

 

“It’s a pleasure to meet you also, Mr. Sanders,” Ray replied.

 

“Please, my name’s Max.  Do you prefer Raymond or Ray?”

 

“Ray is fine, thanks for asking.  Again, I apologize for not calling to discuss our timing before we left Decatur.  I just assumed Doug would have talked to you about it.”

 

“No problem, I think he was too happy I called to think beyond that.  He sounded really excited about me stiffing Channel 20.”

 

“I can assure you he is.  Being allowed the exclusive opportunity to talk to the most important person in the biggest local story of the past few years has him floating across the newsroom.”

 

“Glad I could help make his day,” I chuckled.  “Okay, let’s get down to business.  I assumed we’d just do the interview right here in the living room, but if you want to see if there’s a better place in the house to use, go right ahead.  Tom, would you mind showing Zeke and Greg around while I talk to Ray for a minute?”

 

“Happy to.  Follow me, guys.”  With that, the three disappeared down the hallway leading to the boys’ rooms.

 

“Before you get started on what you want to say, Max, I’d like to say thanks on behalf of myself and the station for letting us be the ones to present your story to the area.  After reading the newspaper articles last week, we can’t begin to fathom what you’re dealing with, then or now.  And I’m sure our viewers can’t either.  I’m proud to be the person who will help remedy that situation.”

 

“Thanks for that, Ray.  I’ll admit, it’s not been a good couple of weeks around here since it all came back to me, but we’re all working through it as best we can.”

 

“What about your sons?  I found out about them in the paper, of course, and I have to wonder what you’ve told them and how they’re coping with it.”

 

“They’re dealing with it pretty well.  And, yes, we have told them the very basics of what happened to me in age-appropriate terms.  We hadn’t planned on doing so this early in the process, but we have a bit of an issue with three of the boys.”

 

“Oh, no, please don’t tell me they’ve been abused, also,” Ray said with serious concern.

 

“No, nothing like that, sorry if I misled you.  Our three oldest boys, Joey, Alex and T.J., all have psychic capabilities.  Though Tom and I had hoped to keep the news of my abuse from all of our sons, we knew that just wasn’t going to be possible with what they can do.  Also, the two people who abused me were the foster-parents for the two oldest, Joey and Alex.  We obviously had to talk to them to find out if the same thing had happened to them.  Fortunately, it didn’t.”

 

“I’m glad to hear they’re safe.”

 

“We are, too, believe me.  Now here’s the thing I wanted to talk to you about.”  I took a short pause to gather my thoughts and as I did, Tom, Zeke and Greg passed by us on their way to see the other side of the house.  “We talked to our sons this morning and, since their names and some of their background have all come out in the paper, they’d like to take some of your time this afternoon to tell you their own stories, if you’re interested.”

 

“Are they really sure they want to do that?  I’d think they’d be scared to death about going on TV.”

 

“You obviously have not met our boys.  While the paper was accurate with what they printed, they didn’t tell the whole story of why we’re being allowed to adopt them.  Apparently, Hank couldn’t find that answer.”

 

“Do you have any idea what they might have to say?”

 

“Part of it will be talking about the difficulties gay kids have in finding good foster and forever homes.”

 

“What the heck would they know about that?”

 

“The boys who want to talk to you are gay, also.”

 

“I had no idea.  And they really want to go on TV and talk about it?”

 

“Yes.  They may also want to talk about the support group they’ve created at their school to help other students deal with what it means to be gay in this repressed country we live in, coming out to their parents and the risk gay youth have of committing suicide.  I’m sure you’ll find your conversations with them to be quite illuminating and interesting.”

 

“I don’t doubt that for a second.  Before they get here, how old are they, sixteen, seventeen or so?”

 

“The twins, Joey and Alex are nine, T.J. is seven, and Mike and Andy are both six.”

 

“You’re kidding me, right?” Ray scoffed.  “There’s no way a kid that age would even think they’re gay, let alone know it.”

 

“Trust me, Ray, when I tell you, they know who they are.  I knew I was gay, or at least different, at the same age.  The fact I’d suppressed and hidden it until just last year doesn’t change the fact of when I really knew what or who I am.”

 

“Well, it they’re willing to talk to me, I’m all too happy to let them do so.  I’m glad I had the guys bring some extra memory cards for the cameras.”

 

“My only request when you talk to the boys is don’t interrupt them, let them say what they want to say.  It’s very important to them that they do this.”

 

“You have my word.”  As we wrapped up our conversation, the other three returned.  While Ray, Zeke and Greg had a quiet discussion, Tom came over to sit with me.

 

“Have a nice chat?” he asked.

 

“Yeah.  Ray seems like a good guy,” I answered.  “He’s ready to talk to the boys, too.”

 

“We thought Hank at the paper was a good guy, too, remember?”

 

“Please, don’t remind me of that asshole.”

 

“Okay, Max,” Ray interjected, “after talking with Zeke and Greg, they agree with you that this is the best room in the house in which to do our interviews.  The light’s good, acoustics are decent enough we shouldn’t get an echo and, most importantly, we have plenty of room to set everything up.  The only other space they say we might be able to use was your study.  I think it would be a nice visual to interview an author surrounded by his book collection, but with including the boys, they don’t think there’s enough space in there.”

 

“That’s fine with us, Ray, but you might misunderstand something with what the boys want to do.  They each want to do their own bit with you and don’t want us on-camera when they’re doing so.”

 

“Oh, that changes things just a bit, but that’s fine.  I still think we’ll set up in here, that way we don’t have to move and reset everything when it’s time to talk to your sons.  Zeke, do you want the fireplace in the background?”

 

“I think that would be a good homey touch, Ray.  If it’s okay with Max and Tom, maybe we could shift the loveseat around so they can sit in it together in front of the fireplace?  I think that would look better than separate chairs.”

 

Ray turned to us and asked, “That okay with you guys?”

 

“Sure, why not,” Tom answered.  “Let’s get some stuff rearranged real quick.” 

 

We got to work and very quickly had just the furniture arrangement they were looking for, the loveseat centered in front of the fireplace for us and a chair just to one side for Ray.  In this setup, Ray would not be in the camera shot with us or the boys, but he was still close enough to look at us when he asked his questions.  And, since they had two cameras, one would be set in a position to record whoever was on the loveseat and the second located to record Ray.  Ray explained that during editing, they would switch from camera to camera to focus on whoever was speaking.

 

While Zeke and Greg got busy setting up the cameras and lights, Ray asked, “Can you tell me about the picture over the fireplace?  Is that the whole family?”

 

“Pretty much,” I answered.  “The picture at the very top is the twins’ parents.  It’s my understanding that picture was taken shortly before they were killed in a car accident.  The next two are Joey and Alex.  Below them are obviously Tom and me surrounding Andy, T.J. and Mike, then the bottom two are our parents.”

 

“It’s looks like you have a great family.  It was nice of you to include Joey and Alex’s parents in the set.”

 

“Oh, we didn’t put this together.  T.J. did it, with a little help from his grandma.”

 

“You want me to believe a seven-year-old came up with this on his own?” Ray asked with surprise.

 

“He may only be seven, Ray, but he’s wise well beyond his years,” Tom replied.  “In fact, they all are.”

 

“Why do you think that is?” Ray asked with interest.

 

“We think it’s partially due to what they’ve dealt with in their lives so far.  They’ve all had to grow up pretty quickly and learn how to deal with issues no kid should have to.  But they’ve done it and seem to be pretty well-adjusted despite their hardships.”

 

“Well, I’m glad they’ve all found two parents who seem like they’ll let them be kids again.”

 

“You can count on it,” Tom answered the implied question.

 

“Ray,” Greg interrupted, “I think we’re ready.  Let’s get mics on you three and we can get started.”

 

We submitted ourselves to the geeks and were soon wired.  Once settled in place, Ray said, “Okay, I’m going to do a little introduction by myself before we get started on your story Max.  I usually do those in the studio, but I think for your story, I’d like to do it now so I’m in the same setting as the rest of the interview.  Is there anything in particular you’re not willing to discuss?”

 

“I won’t talk about any specifics of what happened, so don’t bother asking for that,” I answered.

 

“We also won’t talk about the ongoing investigations,” Tom added.

 

“Sounds fair to me, guys.  Shall we get started?”  After a quick nod from us, Ray signaled Greg and Zeke to start the cameras, then began his introduction.  “Good evening.  This is Raymond Snell and I’m sitting in the home of local author Maxwill Sanders, more commonly known as Max, and his fiancé, Tom Wright.  As many of you already know, Mr. Sanders is in the middle of a firestorm of controversy after accusing two members of Springfield’s South Shores First Evangelical Church of sexual abuse when he was a young teenager.  While the investigation into the allegations is ongoing, Channel 17 has been granted this exclusive interview by the victim of these alleged crimes.  Before we get started Mr. Sanders, please let me say how sorry we are that we have to cover this type of story yet again.”

 

“Thanks, Ray,” I replied, “but one thing I’d like to correct right now is that while I might be considered by many to be a victim, I much prefer to think in the terms that I’m a survivor.”

 

“Of course, I’m sorry for misspeaking.  Why don’t you start by telling us what you can, for instance, when did your ordeal begin?”

 

After taking a deep breath, I began telling an extremely edited version of my story, “Well, it all started shortly after my thirteenth birthday …”  For the next forty-five minutes, I told Ray what I wanted, with him asking periodic questions for clarification and Tom and me answering his questions as best we could.  True to his word, he steered clear of asking for any details of my abuse and also the investigations still going on into the other people involved in the other cases.  When asked about certain church members trying to deny what had happened, we shared what we knew, but little more.  When I thought we were about done, Ray sprang a question on me for which I was unprepared.

 

“Now, Mr. Sanders, I have one more question.  Channel 17 has learned this afternoon that the people you have accused for your abuse have accepted a deal with the prosecutor’s office to plead guilty to all the charges against them in exchange for life sentences in prison.  How do you feel about that?”

 

“Relieved.  Relieved that I’ll never have to see them again.  Relieved that I can, once again, have peace in my life.  Relieved that I can really begin to put all this behind us and move on with the rest our lives together.   Relieved that they’ll never again have the opportunity to victimize any more children,” I answered as I wrapped Tom’s hand in mine.

 

“And what about you, Mr. Wright, how do you feel about this development?”

 

“As a former cop, I think they’re getting off easy.  They deserve a much more severe punishment for what they’ve done, not only to Max, but to all the others they’ve hurt over the years.  But, I’m glad they’ll be off the streets.”

 

“Gentlemen, I’d like to thank you for your time this afternoon.  I’d especially like to thank Mr. Sanders for his bravery in sharing his story with us this afternoon.  For Channel 17 news, this is Raymond Snell.”  Ray gave a slashing motion across his throat to Zeke and Greg and both cameras were shut down.  When both red lights had been extinguished, Ray turned back to us and said, “You both did very well.”

 

“Thanks,” I replied.  “I hope you’ll be able to trim that down to fit in your regular broadcast without losing any of the important parts.”

 

“Actually, Max, a thought crossed my mind the more we talked, and I’d like to make a change in how we broadcast your interview.”

 

“I shoulda known you’d pull some stupid trick,” I vented.  “Give me the memory cards from those cameras right now.  I will not let you hack this story to bits.”

 

“I wouldn’t dream of doing that, Max.  Let me finish telling you my idea.  Like I said earlier, this is one of the biggest local stories we’ve had for several years.  It’s also one of the most important ones and people need to hear it.  Instead of cutting out chunks to be aired haphazardly as part of our regular news, I’m going to talk to our program director and see if we can air the interview, in its entirety, as its own special and separate broadcast.”

 

“You really think they’ll do that?” Tom asked with disbelief.

 

“After watching the whole video, I think they’ll agree with me,” Ray answered.  “Our team really hates to do anything halfway.  And cutting your interview into sound bites will severely reduce the impact of the story.  Does that ease your concerns?”

 

“Yes, thank you.  While that’s not what we expected from you being here this afternoon, we appreciate what you’re trying to do.”

 

“I’ll do my best, I promise.  Once I’ve had a chance to talk with our editors and program director tomorrow, I’ll give you a call to let you know what their decision is.”

 

The front door cracked open and I turned to see who was here.  I found Joey holding onto the door and looking behind him at the herd stacked up behind him.  He was holding his finger to his lips in the universal gesture for silence.  I assume he finally received cooperation from his cohorts as he finally pushed the door open and the group tiptoed quietly inside.  Eric was bringing up the rear and once he was inside, Joey silently closed the door.  Zeke and Greg were both surprised at their sudden appearance, but since Ray had his back to the door, he was none the wiser of the impending invasion.  Tom and I couldn’t help but laugh at the boys’ antics as this was the only time since they had moved in that they’d gone anywhere or done anything quietly. 

 

“Come on in guys, we just finished and are waiting for you.”  That was all it took as the herd rumbled across the entry to join us in the living room.  Ray quickly turned to locate the source of this sudden noise and his eyes widened in surprise as the boys drew closer and then passed him by as the group surrounded Tom and me.

 

“Nice furniture rearrangement, Dads,” Joey commented.

 

“Yeah, we gonna leave it this way?” Alex asked.

 

“Probably not, guys,” I answered and quickly added before another question could be asked, “Boys, you need to meet some people.  The gentleman in the chair is Ray Snell from the Channel 17 news and the other two are Zeke and Greg.  Please go around and introduce yourselves.”  All nine made the rounds shaking hands and giving their names to each of the three strangers.  Ray was the first to break the silence that followed.

 

“From our talks already, I know about your five, of course.  Care to fill me in on the four extras?” Ray chuckled.

 

“Logan is a friend of the twins and we’re being a foster family for him as he and his father resolve some issues.  Josh and Eric are brothers and Josh is Joey’s boyfriend.  Brent is Alex’s boyfriend.”

 

“So, which ones will I be talking to?”

 

“All of them but Andy and Logan.  They said this morning they didn’t want to be on TV.”

 

Andy let go a little giggle and said, “Sorry, Dad, you missed a meeting.”

 

“So, you wanna do this, now?  What made you change your mind?”

 

“Mike and I talked at lunch today and he told me that even though I might not be gay, I could still maybe help some other kid by letting them know about how Mom and Russ treated me and what they can do if it happens to them.”

 

“Well, okay then.  Guess that leaves just Logan who will be sitting on the sidelines.”

 

“Uh, hate to break it to you, Max, but that’s another meeting you missed,” Logan laughed.

 

“You’ve changed your mind, too?” Tom asked with surprise.

 

“Yep.  After talkin’ to T.J. at lunch about it, I realized I could help someone, too.”

 

“Okay, okay,” I called out, holding my hands up in surrender.  “So, how do you guys want to handle this, as a single group, small groups of two and three, or one at a time?”

 

Eric finally waded in to clear things up.  “Here’s what we talked about on the bus, Max.  Mike and Andy want to go first and together, followed by T.J. and Logan, then Alex and Brent and ending with me, Josh and Joey.  Is that okay with you guys?”

 

“I think you better ask Ray if it’s okay with him since he’s the one who’s gonna be askin’ the questions.”  All eleven heads turned in the stunned newsman’s direction and I asked, “Does that sound workable for you?”

 

“Whatever they want, Max, I’m just along for the ride.  Well, and to get a story we can air, too.”

 

“Okay, you’ve got a plan that sounds good, but I have to make one change to the order.”  DING!  “That’s probably your dad, Eric, why don’t you go let him in?”  After he headed for the front door, I continued with, “Okay, we need to swap Alex and Brent so they follow Joey, Josh and Eric.”

 

“Why?” Brent asked.

 

“Because, I haven’t heard back from your mom or dad yet and she said she wanted to talk to you before you joined in.”

 

“Well, that don’t make no sense,” Brent protested.  “Can I call her real quick?”

 

“Go right ahead, young man.  There’s a phone in the kitchen you can use.”  With that, Brent disappeared.  I turned to Greg and asked, “You want to move the mics from us to Mike and Andy?”

 

“Sure.  Come here, boys and we’ll get you all ready.”

 

“We don’t have to wear no stupid makeup, do we?” Mike asked.

 

“Nope, you look just fine as you are kids,” Zeke replied with a smile.  Greg got busy and soon had the microphones moved to Andy and Mike who were sitting patiently on the loveseat and grinning madly at all the attention.  While they were getting wired, Eric brought his dad over to join the insanity.

 

“What’s goin’ on here, guys?” Rick asked.

 

“Well, Max just did an interview with Channel 17 and, after talking to the boys about it this morning, they wanted to tell their stories, too,” Tom answered.

 

“So why did Eric and Josh come here after school instead of just walking home this afternoon?”

 

“They want to be included in Joey’s interview as his friend.  And boyfriend.”

 

Rick’s eyes bulged in surprise with just a bit of fear joining in.  “Uh, I’m not too sure I like the idea of them doin’ that.  Can I talk to them before they do this thing?”

 

“Sure thing, Rick,” Tom answered.  “Why don’t you use one of the boys’ bedrooms?”

 

As the confused father laid a hand on each of his son’s shoulders, he said, “Thanks.  Let’s go guys, we need to have a little chat.”  With that, the trio disappeared down the hallway.

 

Brent finally rejoined us and said, “Mom says she’ll be here in about thirty minutes and I ain’t s’posed to do nothin’ ‘til she is.  ‘Wants to make sure I know what I’m doin ‘fore I do somethin’ stupid’, so she says.  Why can’t she just keep her nose outta it?”

 

“Because she’s your mom and she’s tryin’ to protect you,” I answered.

 

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” he grumped as he fell into a chair to mope.  Alex soon joined him in an effort to cheer him up.  As the preparations continued in the living room, a serious conversation was taking place down the hallway.

 

 

“Okay, boys, what gives?  We’ve all been through a lot of changes lately and I want to make sure you understand what you’re doing and the possible consequences.”

 

“Look, Dad,” Josh started, “my boyfriend’s gonna go on TV and tell everybody who watches he’s gay and he’ bein’ adopted by two gay men and has at least three gay brothers.  I ain’t lettin’ him do that shit by hisself.”

 

“And I’m not lettin’ Joey and Josh do it without me bein’ there to tell everybody I love them both and don’t give a shit they’re gay,” Eric added.  “The fact they love each other makes no difference how I feel ‘bout them.  And it shouldn’t to anybody else either.”

 

“I understand all that and don’t really have problem with either of you joining in.  I just want to know you understand what can happen after this airs and half of central Illinois sees it.  Do you understand the bullying and abuse you could be subjected to from the other kids in school?”

 

“Dad, I already get more than my fair of that shit,” Josh answered.  “Most of the kids in our class already know ‘bout Joey and me ‘cause we’re always together at lunch and any other time we can.  And the kids who don’t like it or think it’s wrong can be a real pain in the ass, too.  But, big fuckin’ deal.  I just blow ‘em off and ignore ‘em.  I ain’t livin’ my life to make them happy.”

 

“I wish you’d told me that was happening so I could do somethin’ about it, Josh.  Do I need to call the school and have a chat with someone?”

 

“Nah, I got this.  And with Eric there to back me up, it really ain’t that big a deal.  It’s just stupid kids bein’ assholes.  I might as well get used to it now since I’ll have to deal with assholes like them the rest of my life.”

 

“Yeah, I got their backs, Dad,” Eric added.

 

“Well, guess there’s not much point in arguin’ ‘bout it since s it seems you’ve both made up your minds.  I guess all I can say is this, go out there and make me proud.  Oh, and not a damn word about …”

 

Both boys rolled their eyes to the extreme and Josh cracked, “Really?  You think we’d freakin’ do that?”

 

“Yeah, Dad, we didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday, ya’ know,” Eric added.

 

“I know, sorry.  I know you’re both bright boys.  What can I say, old habits die hard.”

 

“Can’t think of a better way to die, old man,” Eric retorted causing all three to laugh.  Once the three had regained control over themselves, they left the bedroom to rejoin the group in the living room.

 

 

Rick, Eric and Josh were returning just as Ray was about to start talking to Andy and Mike.  He waited to continue until the three had joined the rest of us behind the cameras.

 

“Okay, boys, I just want to ask you a few questions before we move on to the next pair to interview, okay?”  After nods of agreement from both, Ray added, “I want you to act as normal as possible and look at me when you’re telling me what you want people to know.  Just ignore those silly cameras and everyone else in the room.  Can you do that?”

 

“You bet, Mr. Snell,” Mike replied.

 

“Excellent, then let’s get started.”  He gave a signal to Greg and Zeke to start recording and once both cameras were running, Ray carried on.  “Hi, boys.  Would you like to tell our audience your names and how old you are?”

 

“I’m Mike Broadhead, and I’m six.”

 

“And I’m Andy Cox and I’m six, too.”

 

“And you’re both being adopted by Mr. Sanders and Mr. Wright who I’ve already talked to, right?”

 

“You bet,” the boys answered together.

 

“Would you like to tell our viewers how that happened?” 

 

And so went the interview with Mike and Andy, telling their own stories to Ray and, in time, Channel 17’s viewers.  Ray finally ran out of questions for the two after about ten minutes of talking to them and he gave the slashing motion across his throat to his guys.  As T.J. and Logan moved in to take their places on the loveseat and get wired for sound, Ray congratulated Mike and Andy on how well they did, which brought beaming smiles to both their faces as they shared a high five with Ray.  Once the swap had been made and everyone quieted down again, it was Ray’s turn to take over, again.

 

“Okay, you two.  Same speech I gave Mike and Andy about talking to me and ignoring the cameras.”

 

“Yeah, we got it, Mr. Snell,” T.J. replied.

 

“Let’s get this show on the road,” Logan added.

 

“Looks like we have our orders.  Greg, Zeke, crank ‘em up.”  After a short pause waiting for the cameras to begin recording, Ray started with, “Why don’t we begin by telling us your names and ages.”

 

“Hi, I’m T.J. Sanders-Wright and I’m seven.”  Tom and I almost lost control of our emotions with T.J.’s answer, but not so far as to interfere with the interview.

 

“I’m Logan Campbell, nine.”

 

“Now it’s my understanding that only T.J. is being adopted by misters Wright and Sanders.  Would you like to tell me why you’re here Logan?”

 

“Sure.  My momma died a couple years ago and my daddy’s had a real hard time dealin’ with it.  He changed from bein’ a pretty happy guy into the Grinch and he started to beat me pretty regular-like.  A couple weeks ago, he hurt me so bad, I called 911 ‘cause I was afraid he weren’t gonna stop.  The first cop who showed up arrested my dad for abusin’ me, and after he got taken away by another cop, Deputy Timmons brought me here.”

 

“And why did he bring you here?”

 

“Well, I’d been here the day before for Joey and Alex’s birthday party and he shown up then, too.  Ended up takin’ me home that night ‘cause of the scene daddy made when he dropped me off.  He didn’t much like the idea of leavin’ me here with a buncha gay dudes, even though most of them was my friends.”

 

“And do you know what’s happened to your dad since his arrest?”

 

“Yep.  He spent about a week in jail, and when it was time for him to see the judge in court and all, another cop, Sergeant Brock, talked to the judge and told him he’d arranged for a counselor to work with my daddy and me to help fix our problems.  So, he’s back home now, while I’m here, and we’re hopin that someday soon I’ll be able to go back home and live with him again.”

 

“Is that what you want to happen?”

 

“Course it is.  I love my daddy, I just don’t want him hittin’ on me whenever he gets the itch.  So, I’m stayin’ here with my friends until I can go back home.”

 

“We hope that happens for you, Logan.  Thanks.  Now, let’s talk to T.J.  Would you please tell me how you ended up here and are in the process of being adopted?”

 

“Well, I can’t live with my mom since she’s in prison.  She has been for several years and she’s got to spend a lot more time there.  She told me she don’t know who my dad is, so I can’t go live with him, either.  And since she went away, I’d been livin’ with a foster-family in Springfield, the Hamiltons.  While I was livin’ there, I visited four other homes of people lookin’ to adopt, but when they figured out I was gay, they took me right back to the Hamiltons.  It seemed like nobody wanted to adopt a queer.  Until my new dad came along.  Since he’s gay, too, it doesn’t bother him at all that I’m gay.  Even though I was a rotten little snot the first time we met.”

 

“Oh, and what happened then?”

 

“Nope, that’s ‘tween my dad and me.”

 

With a wry smile, Ray moved along.  “And how do you like living here with your two dads and new brothers?”

 

“It’s great, we got a pool, a theater, great bedrooms that just got all painted up and new furniture, lots of cool trails through the trees.  And I have a whole lot of fun with my four brothers.  I never had a real brother my age before and I was lonely a lotta the time, but not no more.  But, what beats all the other stuff is how much our dads love us.”

 

“That all sounds great, T.J.  Now, your dads said something about a special group you and two of your brothers helped put together at school.  Would like to talk about that for a minute?”

 

“You bet,” T.J. answered with enthusiasm.  “The school had a workshop a while back about accepting gay kids in our school for who they are, and the junk we have to deal with as we grow up, especially the risk of suicide.  Whether it’s the kid can’t accept him or herself being gay, their parents can’t, or bullying from other kids, a lot of gay kids end up killin’ themselves.  It’s a real problem in this country, and the whole world, too, and we gotta do somethin’ about it.”

 

“And how has the reaction been at your school towards the group?”

 

“Pretty good.  We’ve talked to several other students dealin’ with issues already and just last week, Pops and I helped a kid who was actually plannin’ to end his life.  We went home with him so he could tell his parents ‘bout bein’ gay and his plans to kill himself.  After talkin’ with them, he’s in good shape now.  I think we stopped him from doin’ it.”

 

“So, you’ve already saved another student’s life because of your group and, more specifically, your help.”

 

“Well, yeah, I guess so,” T.J. replied as he blushed with embarrassment.

 

“That’s a good thing you did, T.J., and you should be proud of helping a friend when he needed it.”

 

“I guess I am, a bit, but I’m more proud of him for decidin’ he’d rather live.  Everybody deserves to do that, don’t ya’ think?”

 

“I agree with you completely.  Do either of you have anything else you’d like to say before we move on to the next group?”

 

“Yeah, I do,” Logan replied.  “Mr. Sanders and Mr. Wright might be gay, and I know there’s a whole lot of folks out there who don’t like ‘em simply ‘cause of that.  But let me tell ya’ somethin’, they’re about the best people I know.  I don’t know nobody else that would have let me move in with them and live here like they did while my problems with my daddy get worked out.  The world needs more people with big hearts like them.”

 

“Well, I guess that’s all I had for you two.  I want to thank you both for talking with us today.  It takes a brave person to tell your stories like you did.”

 

“No it doesn’t, Mr. Snell.,” T.J. replied.  “All it takes is someone who accepts themselves for who they are and know they can’t do anything to change that.”

 

“Well, thank you for correcting me, young man.”  And with that, Ray gave the slash again and the cameras were stopped.  “You two were absolutely perfect,” Ray complimented as he shook hands with both boys.  “I couldn’t have done it better myself.”

 

“No, you couldn’t, since they weren’t your stories to tell, were they?” T.J. joked and we all enjoyed a good laugh as Joey, Josh and Eric moved in to take T.J. and Logan’s place on the loveseat.  While Zeke moved microphones from T.J. and Logan to Joey and Josh, Greg pulled a new one from his case for Eric.  When all three were ready to go, they sat on the loveseat with Joey on one end, Josh in the middle and Eric on the other end.  Ray signaled his guys and was soon ready to start.

 

Just before he could say anything, Andy and Mike crashed the trio on the couch and, leaning close to Joey’s microphone, Mike chirped, “We know it’s your turn Joey, but we’d like to say one more thing really quick.”

 

“And what’s that Mike?” Ray asked calmly.

 

“When we gave you our names, I said Broadhead.”

 

“And I said Cox,” Andy added.

 

“That was wrong,” Mike gushed.  “Our last name is Sander’s-Wright, just like T.J.”

 

“Or Wright-Sanders, whichever one we decide on when the time comes,” Andy added.

 

“Thanks, we’ll get outta the way now,” Mike concluded, then the two darted back to us and hugged Tom and me.  Both of us were trying to stifle the tears about to drip from our eyes, but it was a wasted effort and both boys soon had damp spots on the top of their heads.

 

Ray began with, “Okay, you three, I think we’re back to you.  And remember …”

 

“Yeah, no cameras, focus on you,” Joey interrupted.

 

“ ’Nuff said,” Ray chuckled.  “Let’s get started with your names and ages, please.”

 

“Joey Sanders-Wright, nine,” he answered succinctly.

 

“Josh Stone, eleven.”

 

“And I’m Eric Stone, Josh’s brother, and I’m thirteen.”

 

“Since I know Joey is part of the family, I think I’ll start with him this time.  Can you tell me how you like being a part of this family your dads have built?”

 

“Obviously, it’s great.  Besides all the cool stuff T.J., Mike and Andy already told you about, just living in a home where you know you’re loved for who you are is a big difference.  The people my brother and I used to live with didn’t really care about us, they just wanted the money they got from the state for being foster-parents.  In the almost five years we lived there, we never got a birthday card or present from them, no recognition at all.  Since we moved in here, we got to have two birthday parties, one with our new grandparents and another one with our friends from school.  It was great.”

 

“So, it sounds like you and your brother have pretty well settled in then.  How do you like having more brothers?”

 

“Oh, we have lots of fun together, especially when we get to go swimming.  We always have a good time in the pool.  Even the time Mike works with us on our swimmin’ so we get better isn’t too bad.”

 

“So, your younger brother is teaching you to swim?”

 

“Well, yeah.  He got a ribbon from the ‘Y’ for being the best swimmer after they gave lessons to all the kids where he used to live.  And they were right, ‘cause he’s really good at it.”

 

“Sounds like a good time.  Is there anything you’d like to say about the support group you helped create at your school?”

 

“Well, we knew we couldn’t be the only gay kids goin’ to school out here and while it’s been pretty easy for us to accept who we are, we know it’s not that easy for a lot of other kids.  And while we were getting ready for the workshop at the school, T.J., Alex and I decided we wanted to help them.  We suggested the group to the school during the workshop and they were all for it.  We had help from one of our teachers and several other people at the school, but I think it’s worked out pretty good.”

 

“Have you talked to many other students yourself?”

 

“A couple, yeah, and they’re all way older than I am.  But if I can help them learn to accept who they are, I’m going to.  There’s no reason a kid older than we are shouldn’t be able tell their parents they’re gay.  If the parents have a problem with it, it’s their problem and not the kid’s.  They just need to open their minds up a little, love their kids for who they are and hope that they’re happy with their lives.  Kinda like my boyfriend, Josh.  He just told his dad he was gay a little while ago and they’re getting along just great.  I just wish it could work out like that in all families.”

 

“And speaking of Josh, why don’t we move to him for a few minutes.  So, you and Joey are boyfriends?”

 

“Yep, we sure are,” Josh answered happily with a big smile while pulling Joey’s hand into his.

 

“And how long have you known you were gay?”

 

“Known?  Just a couple weeks really, but I suspected I was for a couple of years.  It just took me while to sort everything out in my head and make sense of it all.”

 

“If you’ve suspected it for a couple years, why did it take you this long to decide that’s who you are?”

 

“Well, part of it is this, I know most folks don’t believe bein’ gay is what they call normal.  But what really helped me decide I was is when we came over here to swim a while back.  After bein’ here with all these guys, knowing they liked guys, too, I didn’t feel so weird about it no more.  I guess the more you’re around gay people and realize they really aren’t that much different from you, your idea of what’s normal changes.  That was the night I told my dad and brother I was gay.”

 

“And what was their reaction to your coming out?”

 

“Nothin’ but love and support, ain’t that right, Eric,” Josh asked as he looked at his brother.

 

“Absolutely,” Eric agreed.

 

“So you don’t feel any different about your brother since he told you?”

 

“Not a bit.  And why should I?  He’s still my brother and he didn’t change a bit from the way he was before he told us to after.  He’s still the same goofy little dude I’ve always known.  As long as he doesn’t go around robbing banks or killing people, what difference does it make who he loves?  I don’t have to sleep with him, so what should I care.”

 

“Do you think it’s weird for Josh to have a boyfriend?”

 

“Well, I would if he were straight.  But since he’s gay, him having a boyfriend makes perfect sense.  Besides, Joey’s a good kid, fun to hang out with and funny as heck.  If somebody’s gonna crack wise, you can be sure it’s gonna be him.”

 

“Who, innocent little ole me?” Joey asked with a crooked smile, looking around Josh to see Eric.

 

“See, what’d I just tell ya?” Eric asked.  “I love Joey just as much as I love Josh, mostly because of his always positive attitude towards almost everything.  It’s hard to be bored or sad when he’s around,” Eric chuckled.

 

“I can see that.  Anything else you’d like to share?”

 

“I do,” Joey answered.  “While I’m not what anyone would call a believer, the Bible does say, ‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.’  And when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he included the phrase ‘all men are created equal’.  Neither one of those thoughts say a thing about treating us gay people like dirt.  All we want is to love who we choose and to let that person love us back without other people thinkin’ we’re sick or perverted or disgusting.  That’s all we want.”

 

“Josh, Eric, any other thoughts?”

 

“Yeah,” Josh piped up, “I just don’t understand why straight people hate us like they do.  I mean, we don’t hate you because you’re straight.  What gives them the right to hate us just ‘cause we’re gay.  I think that must be some sort of mental glitch only straight people have.”  Tom and I could see that Ray was a having a difficult time maintaining his news persona’s detached sober look, but he somehow managed to pull it off.

 

“Well,” Ray began, “if that’s all for your three, let’s swap you around with the last two.  Thanks for sharing your stories and thoughts with us today.”  With another signal to Greg and Zeke, the cameras were stopped, and the boys started swapping places so Alex and Brent could take their turn.

 

“Uh, Brent, remember you can’t do this until your parents get here,” Tom reminded.

 

“Yeah, I know, but that don’t mean I can’t be ready to go, does it?”

 

“Just making sure you know.”

 

As Zeke and Greg worked on the two, the drive sensor dinged.  Expecting it to be Monica and Ben, I headed to the door to greet them.  I opened the door just as they were getting out of their car and waited for them come on in.

 

“Hi, Monica, Ben.  Nice to see you both again.”

 

“Where’s Brent?” Monica asked in a panic.  “He hasn’t done anything crazy, has he?”

 

“Monica, would you please calm down,” Ben moaned with exasperation filling his words.  “You’re the one who’s been crazy today, ever since Max called earlier.”

 

I hung their coats in the closet and we headed across the house to rejoin the group in the living room.

 

“Where can we talk to Brent?” she asked as we drew closer.

 

“Why don’t you use the middle bedroom down the hall here?” I suggested while pointing the way.  “It’s the second door on the left.”

 

“Thank you, Max.”  She then turned to her son and called out, “Front and center, young man.  We need to talk.”  Brent got up from the loveseat shaking his head in disgust and followed his mom and dad down the hallway. 

 

As we waited for his return, I asked, “Well, Ray, what do you think about what you’ve gotten so far?”

 

“Everything is great Max.  Please don’t take this the wrong way but, while you and Tom were good, your boys and their friends are even better.  Honest, smart, compelling, and they all have interesting stories to share.  Let me tell you, for their ages, they are well above many adults in their attitudes and composure.  I’ve never had the pleasure of being educated by kids their ages, but they’ve certainly taught me a thing or two today.”  While we continued to chat idly, another very serious discussion was taking place right down the hallway.

 

 

“Just what are you thinking, Brent?” Monica asked viciously after closing the door.  “Going on TV to tell everyone who watches the news you’re gay.  Have you lost your mind?”

 

“God, mom, chill out, would you.  I know what I’m doing.”

 

“Are you sure about that.  What do you think your father’s coworkers will think when they see your little announcement?  Or do you even care?”

 

“Dear, you really do need to calm down,” Ben interjected, then he turned to Brent and added, “Go ahead, son.”

 

“Mom, we’ve talked about all of this.  You’re the one who convinced me there’s nothing wrong with being gay, remember?  When I first brought it up a year ago and told you what I was feeling, told you I didn’t want to be this way, that I wanted to be normal, told you how scared I was and afraid of bein’ bullied or beat up for bein’ a queer, you told me I was fine, that everything would be okay.  Now, here you are havin’ a freakin’ hissy fit over me tellin’ others the truth.  My boyfriend is about go on TV and tell about himself and I want to be there with him, right by his side, holding his hand as he does it.  And I want him to do the same for me.  Why are you suddenly freaked out?  And who cares ‘bout the people Dad works with?  If they can’t handle the fact he’s got a gay son, then it’s their problem, not mine.  Or Dad’s.”

 

Caught off guard by Brent’s speech, it took Monica a moment to compose her reply.  When she finally did, she answered, “I know what we’ve talked about and how I said you were fine and everything would turn out just dandy.  I guess I was still hoping this all might be some weird phase you were going through and there might be a slight chance you wouldn’t be gay.”

 

“Oh, c’mon, mom, you expect me to believe that line of bull.  I’ve done a lot of reading on my iPad since I brought it up and even I know you can’t change who you are.  And I’m only ten.  Surely you know that, too.  What about you dad?  What do you think about me doin’ this?”

 

“If this is what you want to do, Brent, I support you.  I know you and I haven’t talked much about the subject or the issues you have to deal with, but your mother and I have.”  Ben knelt in front of his son, took Brent’s hands into his own and added, “I think you know I love you and care about you like no one else but maybe your crazy mother.  I’m sorry that I haven’t taken the time I should have to talk to you more since you first told your mom what you were feeling.  Part of that was just me being uncomfortable with the whole thing.  I’ve gotten over all that, now, and if you ever decide you want to talk to me, just let me know.  I want you to know, right now, that I will support you in everything you do for the rest of my life.  And that includes doing this interview with Alex.”

 

Brent jumped off the bed and knocked both of them to the floor while wrapping his arms around his dad’s neck in a constricting, but loving, embrace.  “Thanks, Dad, I love you, too.”

 

“Then climb off me, kiddo,” Ben croaked.  “You’re killin’ me.”  A giggling Brent rolled off his dad and stood up, then helped his laughing dad back to his feet.  Ben then turned to Monica and said, “Ball’s in your court, lady.  Are you gonna go back on everything you’ve said to Brent for the last year or are you gonna let him be himself?”

 

“Come here, baby,” Monica cooed as she knelt to Brent’s level and held out her arms.  When Brent stepped into them, she grabbed his shoulders and calmly said, “If this is what you want, then do it.  I just needed to see your face and make sure you wanted to do it on your own and you weren’t being forced into doing something you’re not ready for.  I can see that now and I know this is your decision.”

 

“After the talk you had with Mr. Sanders and Mr. Wright on Friday, you should know that they would never force anybody to do anything they don’t want.”

 

A suddenly pink Monica came back with, “I know, but you’re still my baby and I think you still need us to look out for you.”

 

“I do, and I’ll let you, but I think I’m getting old enough to start making some of these decisions myself, and this is one of them.”

 

“Then we better get out of this silly bedroom and let you be with your boyfriend.”

 

 

Several minutes passed as we waited for Ben, Monica and Brent to come back, and when they rounded the corner from the hallway, Brent was in the lead and saying, “Okay, Alex, let’s do this.”  He proudly took his spot on the loveseat while the rest of us got out of the way. 

 

As Ben walked behind Brent, he patted his son on the shoulder and whispered, “Speak from your heart, son.”  Brent gave his dad a thumbs up and then wrapped Alex’s hand in his, steeling both of them for the grilling to come.  Once everyone had settled down and was out of the way, Ray signaled his guys and the cameras were running again.

 

“Please tell us your names and ages to get us started?” Ray asked.

 

“Hi, my name’s Alexander Sanders-Wright.  I’m nine years old.”

 

“And I’m Brent Miller, I’m ten and I’m Alex’s boyfriend.”

 

“Okay, Alex, I’ve heard from your brothers about how much they like living here, do you have anything you’d like to add to what they’ve said?”

 

“Yeah, it’s nice to be able to be a kid again.  Joey and I have never had so much fun.  The jerks we used to live with made us do the dishes, take out the trash, clean the bathrooms, do our own laundry and a whole bunch of other junk they were too lazy to do themselves.  And if we didn’t do all that stuff, we didn’t get supper.  But we did it all anyway, even though we hated it and them.  And you wanna know why?”

 

“I do.”

 

“Because, a lot of people don’t want to adopt kids our age since we’re getting so old.”  A quiet round of giggles filtered through the group at that thought, including Ray.  “All they want is cute little babies.  Add to that we’re twins and didn’t want to be split up, which we knew could happen, well that just made it even worse.  Then, on top of those two, toss in the fact we’re gay and people really don’t want us.  Three strikes and you’re out, right?  Until our dad came along.  He didn’t care how old we were, what we could do around here or even us bein’ gay.  He just wanted somebody he could love and who would love him back.”

 

“It sounds like you guys have filled a big void in his life.”

 

“Yeah, I guess we have.  But they’ve done the same for us, too.  It feels good to be a part of a family where everybody really cares about everybody else.”

 

“And what about you Brent.  How do you fit into this picture?”

 

“Well, like I already said, I’m Alex’s boyfriend.  In know it sounds weird to hear a kid say it but it’s true.  Even though we’re in the same class at school, we never much hung out together until Alex and Joey’s birthday party.  ‘Course, Joey had a boyfriend first and I think maybe Alex asked me to be his out of revenge, but we’re really gettin’ close.”

 

“How’d that go Alex?  Your brother having a boyfriend before you?”

 

“I didn’t like it much.  Actually, I didn’t like it at all.  Since our mom and dad died, we’ve only had each other, and it just didn’t seem to me like Joey could maybe love someone else and still love me.  Our dads talked to both of us several times about the anger between us, but it was Pops who finally got us to wake up.”

 

“And what did he say that helped you two figure everything out?”

 

“He said, ‘You two might be whiz-kids with numbers, but you don’t know beans about math.  You can’t divide love.  You’ll get an imaginary number.  Love can only be multiplied.’  We both thought he was crazy as a loon when he said it, but the more we’ve thought about it, we know he’s right.  ‘Course, he also threatened to knock our heads together if we didn’t chill out,” Alex giggled.

 

“Sounds like your pops is a wise person.”

 

“He is, without a doubt.”

 

“Do you have anything you’d like to say about the support group you and your brothers helped create?”

 

“Just that I think it’s important for every school to have a group like ours.  We’ve already stopped one kid from doing somethin’ really stupid, and we’ve just started.  It’s my hope that since we’re there, we can help others when they need it.”

 

“They sure helped me,” Brent interjected.  “I kinda worked with them to help get things set up, but while I was doin’ that, they were talkin’ to me and makin’ sure I knew it was okay to be gay, especially Alex.  I think that’s one of the reasons I like him so much.  He’s so confident and secure with himself, it kinda bleeds over into me and makes me feel the same way.  Don’t get me wrong, I pretty much already knew I was gay, but Alex has really helped me feel more sure about it than I was before.”

 

“Here, Mr. Snell.  Take this with you,” Alex added as he handed over a disc.

 

“And what’s this?” Ray asked.

 

“That’s a video of the workshop we were part of at the school.  You might find something in there you’d like to include in whatever show you make out all these interviews this afternoon.  Our school is also making it available to other schools if they want to do a similar thing.”

 

“Thank you, Alex.  I’ll make sure to watch this.  If I find anything here that I think we can use, I’ll be sure to include it in our final story.  Well, I think that’s all unless you have something else you’d like to say.”

 

Brent and Alex looked at each other briefly, then turned back to Ray and said, “Nope, we’re good.”

 

“Thanks for your time today boys.  I appreciate your willingness to share some of your stories with us.”  With another slash across his throat, the cameras were shut off.  Alex and Brent both shook hands with Ray before joining the other boys.

 

“Would Rick, Ben or Monica like to say anything before we go?” Ray asked.  With polite declines on the offer, Ray added, “Then if Alex and Brent would let us have our microphones back, we can get packed up and get out or your way.” 

 

The two giggling lads returned so Zeke and Greg could retrieve their equipment, then looked to us and Alex asked, “Hey, Dads, can we have our snack now?”

 

“Go ahead and help yourselves today.  You know where everything is.  Just remember, supper is coming up soon.”

 

“Yeah, whatever,” Joey intoned as the herd rumbled into the kitchen, leaving all the adults behind.

 

Tom turned to Ray and asked, “So did you get what you were looking for?”

 

“More than I bargained for, Tom.  I want to thank all you parents for allowing your sons to talk with me.  It’s a privilege to be allowed to help them share their stories.  I just need the Rick, Ben and Monica to sign releases for your boys so we can air their portions of the interviews.  After our program director and editors have had a chance to watch all the interviews, I’m going to really push them into creating two one-hour special reports to be aired on separate nights.  And if it’s okay with you, Max and Tom, I’d like to see if some of our other network affiliates in the state will do the same.”

 

After looking to each other and both of us shrugging our shoulders, I answered, “If you think the stories are that important and others are willing to air it, we don’t have a problem with that, Ray.”

 

“Excellent,” Ray replied.  “I’ll call you tomorrow afternoon and let you know how we’re going to work this on our end.  If the higher-ups approve my idea, we might be able to air your interview Thursday night and the boys’ Friday.”

 

“Sounds good to us, Ray.”  By the time we’d settled all that, Zeke and Greg had everything packed up and were ready to go.  As the three men headed for the front door, I followed along to let them out.  As soon as I opened the door, the two crewmen were gone but Ray hesitated for a moment.

 

After turning back to face me, he said, “You’re a lucky man, Max.  Those boys obviously love you and Tom and there’s not a doubt in my mind you guys love them just as much.  Cherish that.”

 

“We do, every single day.”  With that, Ray stepped outside, and I returned to rejoin the adults still hovering in the living room.  “Well, this has been fun afternoon.  Thanks for being here with your boys, you three.  I know you were all worried about them doing the interviews, but I think they did extremely well.”

 

“Eric and Josh were much calmer than I thought they would be.  I figured they’d both be too nervous to be able to say anything.”

 

“We haven’t noticed either one being too shy to say what’s on their minds,” Tom laughed.

 

“No, probably not,” Rick agreed with a laugh.

 

“I never realized Brent felt the way he does about Alex,” Ben quietly admitted.  “I really do need to take some time and work on improving our relationship.  I feel so out of touch after listening to what he had to say.”

 

“I’ve been telling you that for a year, Ben.  ‘Bout time you woke up to reality,” Monica scolded.

 

“I know and I’m sorry.  I swear I’ll make up for it, to both of you,” the chagrined man replied.

 

The boys returned at that moment and Brent asked, “We goin’ home now?”

 

“I think that a good idea, son,” Ben answered.  “We need to figure out what we’re gonna do for supper.”

 

“Cool, let me grab my bag.”

 

“Josh, Eric, we need to do the same,” Rick said.  “Get your stuff and let’s head for home.”

 

“You got it, Dad,” Josh replied.

 

“Don’t leave without us, old man,” Eric cracked.

 

“Not a chance, boys.  I’m sure Max and Tom would like a nice quiet evening with their own family.”

 

Tom and I nodded and smiled at all three parents who let go a quick laugh.  As the boys returned with their bags, hugs were shared all around.  With everyone involved in the hug-a-thon, it took almost fifteen minutes for the head count to return to its normal eight.  After just a moment to catch my breath after the long afternoon, Andy broke the silence that had briefly settled on us.

 

“Hey, Dads, what’s for supper?”

 

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