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Chapter 73 – The BIG Meeting

 

“Before we start our meeting, LeVar, I want to apologize again for trying to deal with it while all this other insanity is going on.”

 

“Don’t worry about it, Max.  I’ve rather enjoyed myself tonight.  It’s been a nice break from real life to get to know your family.”

 

“Thanks, I hope the boys didn’t drive you crazy.”

 

“Nope, they were a lot of fun.”

 

“I’m glad to hear it.  So, did you three have much of a chance to get know each other a bit during the meal,” I asked.

 

“We did, Max,” Stan replied.  “It’s nice to see Mr. Burton’s such a down-to-earth type of person.  He’s not at all what I expected from someone who makes his living in Hollywood.”

 

“Thanks, Stan, I try,” LeVar responded with a smile.  “And, again, LeVar is fine.”

 

“I’ll try to remember that, sir.”

 

“So, after having a little time to talk to Rich, what do you think of my choice for Jake?” I asked.

 

“I’m impressed,” LeVar answered with a smile while Rich blushed at the compliment.  “Rich seems like the intelligent, personable, yet still somewhat naïve young man that Jake is.  He certainly looks the part of the ‘All-American’ character you’ve created.  My only real concerns are his obvious youth and complete lack of experience.  Jake is at least five years older than Rich and I think, even with makeup, it would be hard to convince audiences he’s twenty-three or four as Jake is in the first book.”

 

“Both valid points, LeVar, but neither present insurmountable problems in my mind.”

 

“How so?” LeVar asked with interest.

 

“Well, while I don’t know a whole lot about the movie industry, I do know the first step to any production is the creation of the screenplay.  In all honesty, I think it will probably take two years to adapt the first book into a workable and filmable script.  Then you’ll have some additional time between that process and the beginning of the actual shooting to arrange for locations, work out travel plans, casting the rest of the characters, etcetera.  I figure we have at least three years before we’d be ready to start actual shooting.  That will help close the age gap between the two.  During that time, Rich could be working with a Springfield theater company to work on some basic acting skills and learning how to work with a director.”

 

“I think you’re right about the time involved, Max.  Especially since I want you directly involved in the work on the screenplay, script and casting.  I really don’t want to lose any more of the story than we absolutely have to.”  He then turned his attention to Rich and asked,” What about you, Rich?  Are you willing to jump through those hoops to be ready when the time comes?”

 

“You bet,” Rich answered enthusiastically.  “I’ll do whatever I have to, to make this happen.”

 

“I’m glad to hear it.  I assume you’d be willing to work with some of my people to help you out the next few years.”

 

“Of course.  As long as it doesn’t interfere with school too much.  I still want to graduate, ya know?”

 

“We can work around your school schedule without a problem.  I want you to receive your diploma, too.  Now, do you have any problems with portraying a gay character?”

 

“I shouldn’t since I’m gay, too,” Rich answered.

 

“Especially since he’s spent the last four to five years acting like he’s a straight kid,” Stan chuckled.  “Playing himself for once should be a piece of cake.”

 

“Dad, please,” Rich moaned.

 

“Since you brought that up, LeVar, there’s something I need to tell the three of you.”

 

“What’s that?” LeVar asked.

 

“I hope this won’t have a major impact on the direction you want take these movies, but I learned something rather surprising this morning.”  I paused for a moment and took a deep breath before continuing, “Jake Franklin is really me.”

 

“What!?” Rich exclaimed with surprise.

 

“Yeah, that was close to my reaction, too, Rich,” I grinned.

 

“And how did you make that connection, Max,” LeVar asked.

 

“It’s a long and ugly story, LeVar, and if you watch our interview on TV with us tonight, you’ll get most of it.  When my therapist first suggested the idea this morning, I thought he was off his rocker and I needed a new therapist, but the more we talked, and the more I’ve thought about it since then, I’ve realized it’s the truth.  So, knowing that, Rich, are you still interested in becoming Jake Franklin?”

 

“More than ever, Mr. Sanders.  I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have multiple personalities.”

 

“After having dealt with the problem for a long time, it’s not a lot of fun, you can trust me on that,” I replied with a twisted smirk.  I turned my attention back to LeVar and added, “If you want to talk more about it after our show, I’ll answer any other questions you may have.”

 

“That’s fine, Max.  It does add a little twist to Jake’s story, but we can deal with it.  It also makes your request for Jake’s sexuality to be more obvious in the movies than it is in the books more understandable.”

 

“Now, what about the other terms and conditions I had, LeVar?”

 

“Like we talked about on the phone, I don’t have a problem with splitting each book into two movies.  I agree that’s the only way we can do it and still have the movies make sense.  And I’ve already said I want you involved in the screenplay creation and casting.  I want you as involved as you want to be right through to the final editing.”

 

“That sounds great.  You’ve certainly addressed all my concerns.  Now, what about the financial end of this project?  Is what you said in your e-mail really what you’re thinking?”

 

“Of course, it is, or I wouldn’t have sent it.  I know the price for the book rights probably seems low to you at $50,000 per book, but that’s actually pretty high for buying a book’s film rights.  That’s how much faith I have in this project, Max.  The average price to buy the film rights to a book is much lower.  The ten points on the film’s budget is also above average, for most contracts, but the additional ten points I’m offering on the gross profits is way above average.  That is usually in the two to five percent range, but with you being more involved in the movies than the typical author, I feel it’s warranted.”

 

“And what kind of budget do you think it will take for the first two movies?” I queried.

 

“I figure between fifty and seventy-five million, each.  You would receive your first ten once we start principal photography.  The ten points on the gross profits is a little more involved, what with the later release to home video, TV broadcast, streaming, whatever follows the initial release to the theaters.  My proposal is to pay you quarterly for your share of the grosses.  And that’s for each movie, not each book.  And I expect the budgets for the following movies to increase, so your income from them would go up, also.”

 

“Okay, let me see if understand everything you just said, because this is all new to me.  We start with fifty thousand for the rights to the first book, and that gets paid when we sign contracts.  If we assume a fifty million budget for each of the first two movies, that means I’d get ten million for the two films from the first book at the beginning of actual shooting.  Then, if they bring in a profit of another fifty million each after their release, I get another ten million in three months.  Then every three months after that, I’ll receive payment for any further profits from other distribution routes.  Do I have all that figured correctly, because it sure sounds like a lot more than anyone else has offered?”

 

“Right on the money, Max,” LeVar chuckled.  “Sorry, couldn’t help the bad pun.  But I think your numbers for the gross profits are extremely conservative.  I think we’re going to realize way more than you think we will.  Oh, and you’ll receive the $200,000 for the rights to all four books right up front.”

 

“And what about Rich’s income?”

 

“Well, after what we just talked about, this is going to sound pretty stingy on my part, but I’m agreeing to work with a complete unknown to get these movies done so you’ll be happy with the finished product and proud of them, Max.  For the first two movies, I’m thinking of a straight salary of $250,000 plus two percent of the grosses for Rich, and again, that’s for each movie.  Based on Max’s example, that would be $1,250,000 for each, totaling two and half million for the first two movies.  And if we do really well at the box office, and I’m sure we will, that number could go up dramatically.  I’ll bump his salary to $500,000 plus three percent for the next two movies from the second book.  The next two for the third book, a million salary and four percent, and any others after that, two million plus five percent.”

 

“Ohmigod,” Rich squeaked with delight.  “I can’t believe that.”

 

“The two things Rich will need to handle his business is a good agent and a business manager.  I’ll be happy to recommend a couple of very good agents who won’t screw you over and I know several decent business managers, too.”

 

“We could sure use some help with the agent, LeVar, but I’ll handle the rest of it,” Stan said.  “I’ve heard way too many stories about kids and young adults who get ripped off and taken advantage of.  I won’t let that happen to my son.  Besides, I’m a financial advisor for Edward Jones.  I know a thing or two about dealing with other people’s money,” he added with a grin.

 

“That’s fine with me, Stan, whatever you think is best to protect Rich’s financial interests.  One other thing I’ll be expecting from you, Rich, is that you be drug-free.  I don’t and won’t have anyone working for me that uses or abuses drugs in any way.  And that includes marijuana, even though it’s now legal in many states.”

 

“No problems, LeVar.  Where do I sign?” Rich asked eagerly.

 

“Hold on there, Rich,” I said.  “While everything we’ve talked about sounds great, it’s not a done deal.”

 

“Oh, c’mon, Mr. Sanders,” the young man pleaded.

 

“Sorry, Rich, but I need to talk all this over with Tom and my attorney before I fully commit myself to it.”  I turned my attention back to LeVar and asked, “How soon do you plan to release the second movie after the first one is out?”

 

“I was planning on only a three or four-month gap between the two.  You’ll be receiving your first payment on the grosses for the first film just as the second one hits the theaters.”

 

“How the heck are you gonna have the second movie ready for release that quickly?”

 

“Easy, we’ll shoot both the first and second at the same time.  That way we don’t have to worry about Rich’s appearance changing dramatically from one to the next.  That’s one of the things that always bothered me with the Harry Potter movies.  They were good movies, but each was supposed to cover a year’s worth of time.   And the way they did them, it was plainly obvious that the kids had aged more than a year between each film.  I want to avoid that problem with this project.  And if we have a bit of a gap between the movies for each book, a small change in Rich’s appearance wouldn’t be a big issue.  The way the books are timed, there’s a year or two between each of them and that should coincide nicely with the gaps between each pair of movies.”

 

“And what about the next three pairs of movies?”

 

“We’ll do the same thing.  We’ll start work on the screenplay for three and four while we’re shooting one and two.  By the time, the first two have had their run in the theaters and we see how we did, then we should be almost ready to start the next two, and so on until all eight movies are done.”

 

“That sounds good to me, LeVar.  How do you guys feel about that idea,” I asked, looking to Rich and Stan.

 

“Works for me,” Rich answered.

 

“I think I’m good with that,” Stan agreed.  “Rich will be done with school before he has to deal with that schedule, so I don’t see any problems.”

 

“Okay, I have one more big question for you, LeVar.  What happens if I end up writing some more books?”

 

“Well, it’s been so long since your last one, I assumed you were done with Jake.”

 

“I kinda did too.  Until this morning, that is.  After the epiphany I had, my mind is already working on at least two more books, and possibly more.”

 

“Well, I’d have to read them before I can give you a real answer, but I’d be willing to continue making movies as long as you keep cranking out books.”

 

“That’s what I was hoping you’d say.  Now that I understand where Jake came from, I want to complete his story.  And, honestly, my own story.  Since we’re linked way more than I realized, I suddenly seem to have a lot more I’d like to see Jake accomplish before I retire him for good.”

 

“I’ll look forward to it, Max.  Any other questions or concerns from any of you?”  Stan, Rich and I shook our heads in the negative and LeVar continued.  “Okay, here’s what I’ll do.  When I get back to my offices next week, I’ll have the basic contracts drawn up and FedEx them for you to review.  That gives you some time to think about everything we’ve discussed and formulate any other concerns you’d like to have addressed.  It will also give you time to talk to Tom and your sons, Max.  Feel free to show the contracts to your attorneys and get their opinions, too.  If you find any changes you’d like made, e-mail or call me.  We’ll discuss it, and if we agree to the modifications, I’ll have new contracts drawn up and resent.  Sound good to everyone?”

 

“Perfect,” I answered.

 

“You bet,” Rich gushed.

 

“I’ll answer that question when I see the papers, LeVar.”

 

“Great.  It sounds like we have a deal to make some movies together, guys.  Shall we adjourn and go watch Max’s television debut?”

 

“Let’s go,” I answered as we all got up, shook hands on our tentative deal and headed out of the study.  As we reached the living room, everyone got very quiet for a moment before picking up the threads of their ongoing conversations.  Tom gracefully extracted himself from his chat with our parents and headed in my direction, a look of serious interest on his face.

 

“So, how’d it go, mister rich and famous author?”

 

“You won’t freakin’ believe it, bubba,” I answered with a wide grin.  “But we’ll talk more about it later.”

 

“Bet on it,” Tom chuckled.  “Are you ready to watch our interview?”

 

“Do I have a choice?”

 

“Not with all these people here, you don’t.”

 

“Wait, where’s Justine,” I asked when I finally realized the extra tables and chairs were gone.

 

“Packed up and moved on.  She said she’d send us a bill in a couple of days.”

 

“Did you give them anything before they left?”

 

“What, I look like a country bumpkin to you?  I may still be adjusting to being rich, but I’ve learned a thing or two in the past couple months.  I broke into the safe and gave them a hundred bucks each before they got out of here.”

 

“Perfect, thanks, hon.  Well, let’s get this show on the road.”

 

“Where’s everyone gonna sit?  We only have the twelve seats in the theater.”

 

“We’ll just have to take some dining room chairs in for whoever needs them.  I figure our boys can double up like they usually do.  That’ll save us a few seats.”

 

“Well, let’s make it so,” Tom laughed.

 

“Just had to go there, didn’t ya?”

 

“With Geordi La Forge in the house, you bet I did.”

 

“Alex, Joey, Logan, Josh and Eric, front and center, please,” I called out.  The five jumped up and joined Tom and me, anxious to do whatever we needed.  “Do us a small favor, please, and move the dining room chairs into the theater so we have enough seats for everyone.  Thank you, boys.”  As they got busy with the task I’d given them, I turned back to the remaining group and said, “I’ve been told there aren’t going to be any commercial breaks during the show, so if anyone needs a pit stop or a drink before we settle in the theater, now’s your chance.”  People started moving about, some headed for a bathroom and others for the kitchen.

 

As they did, Mom and Dad came over to us and Dad asked, “How ya doin’, son?”

 

“I’m pretty good, Dad.  We’re glad you two could come out tonight.  Sorry we haven’t had a chance to talk until now.”

 

“Don’t you worry about it, Max,” Mom replied.  “We know you had other things to take care of.  Tom and the boys have told us all about it.”

 

“We’re glad you’ve finally found someone you’re willing to let make the Jake Franklin movies,” Dad added.  “It’s been a long time comin’.”

 

“Yeah, it has.  But after meeting him, I really like LeVar and I’m looking forward to working with him.”

 

“That’s good, son.  We’re proud of you, you know,” Dad replied.

 

“Thanks, Dad.”

 

“So, you’ve got a deal, then?” Mom asked.

 

“Not quite yet.  I still need to talk to the big guy, here, and make sure he’s okay with everything.”

 

“But why?” Dad asked in confusion at my hesitation.

 

“Because, once we’re married, half the book rights belong to Tom, along with half of everything else.”

 

“But you wrote the books long before you two got together.”

 

“Yeah, so what?” I asked wondering where his questions were headed.

 

“Well, aren’t you gonna have a pre-nup or somethin’?  You know, to protect your assets?”

 

“Why should we, Dad?  We’re not ever gonna need one.”

 

“I hope your right, boy.  I’d hate for you to lose your ass if shit don’t work out ‘tween you two.”  Mom gawked at Dad like a set of devil horns had just sprouted from of the top of his skull.

 

“Listen here, you crotchety old bastard,” I began, raising my voice more than I intended and attracting attention from the others still in the area, “It’s my damn money.  You have absolutely no say in what I do with any of it, even if I croak tomorrow.  My will has already been updated to include Tom and our sons and I have no intentions of changing a word in it.  Unless, of course, you’d like me to take you and mom back out of it.  Keep this shit up and I’ll do exactly that.  You hear me?” I yelled in his face.  Dad had been shrinking like a dick in cold water throughout my diatribe.

 

Taken aback by my standing up to him the way I had, my red-faced father sputtered for a moment before responding.  “You know, son, you’re right, it’s none of my damned business, and I apologize for sticking my nose into the middle of it.  I think a hint of my old self just surfaced and got the better of me.  I’ll make sure I talk to that shrinky-dink about it tomorrow.”  He then turned to Tom who was barely keeping his emotions in check and added, “Tom, I need to apologize to you, also.  I’m sure I sounded like I was questioning your motives for marrying our son, but that was not my intent.  I know you two love each other, just like Rose and I do, and I’m sorry for being such a jackass.”

 

After the apology, a much calmer Tom responded with, “Thank you, Jim.  But one thing you should know to remove any doubts you may have about my motives, I’m not really that comfortable with Max’s wealth, but I’m slowly getting to where it doesn’t bother me quite as much as it did.  But, ya wanna know somethin’, he earned it, fair and square, and he should be able to do what he wants with it, without anyone questioning his motives.  If he wants to leave some to me in his will, fine, if he doesn’t, I don’t give a rat’s ass.  I love Max and our sons, it’s that simple.  The money doesn’t matter to me one bit.  He could lose it all tomorrow and I’d still be here.”

 

“I understand, and again, I’m sorry for behaving so badly, especially with all these people here.  I hope you can both forgive me.”

 

“We’ll try,” I retorted, “but you better back the truck up and keep it in your own lane, all right?  You worry about your own damn house and let us worry about ours.”

 

“I’ll make every effort to do just that, boys.  Again, I’m sorry.”  He and mom turned to head for a bathroom and as they walked away, Mom smacked the old man on the back of his head hard enough to rattle the rocks that were loosely roaming inside his thick skull.  We could also see she was giving him a piece of her mind, though we couldn’t hear what she was saying.

 

I turned to Tom and quietly asked, “What the fuck was that all about?”

 

“It’s hard tellin’ with your dad, babe, but hopefully it was just a one-time aberration.  His apology seemed pretty sincere.”

 

“I hope it was.  I don’t want to have to deal with shit like that from anyone.  Especially him.”  While the two of us talked, Bill and Estelle had joined our tiny huddle.

 

“How you two doin’?” Estelle asked.

 

“I was great until two minutes ago,” I answered.  “I’m just glad LeVar wasn’t in the room to witness it.”

 

“Don’t worry about your dad, Max.  He knows he screwed up, I could see it in his face as he passed by us on our way back from the bathroom.”

 

“I hope he does.  Well, shall we get settled in and ready to watch?”

 

“I’m ready if you are,” Tom answered.  He then turned to the kids and called out, “Boys and Carrie, you take the front row, two to a chair except Eric and Carrie.  Our parents, LeVar and Stan can have the second row and rest of us will use the dining room chairs.  Let’s go.”  Tom led the way to the theater and everyone followed behind while I brought up the rear.  Since it was our interview, we didn’t really need to see it, but I did want to watch the reactions the others would have, especially LeVar since he knew nothing of my history.

 

As everyone settled in, Mike and Andy hopped into the same chair, the twins were sharing one as usual, and T.J. and Logan ended up together.  Josh took the seat next to Joey and Alex, leaving Eric and Carrie in their own chairs next to each other.  The second row filled out as Tom had suggested, which left Ken, Tom, me, Lee, Carl, Rich and Rick in dining room chairs behind the second row.  Without preamble, I punched the button on the remote to bring the satellite to life and drop the screen and projector from their hidden cubbyholes.  I had just switched the channel to the proper station to catch half of the last commercial before Ray appeared.

 

“Hello and thank you for joining us for tonight’s special broadcast.  I am Raymond Snell and I help develop and report stories for the NBC affiliate Channel 17 News located in Decatur, Illinois.  During tonight’s show, there will be no commercials to undermine the importance of tonight’s subject.  Over the course of this next hour, you will hear a harrowing tale that will be disturbing to most of you.  While the subject of this show is dark and depressing, we feel it’s important enough to grant it with a prime-time slot.  Without any further delay, let’s get started.”  The screen momentarily faded to black before the image of Tom and I sitting on the love seat in front of the fireplace filled the screen.

 

“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, 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?”

 

“Well, it all started shortly after my thirteenth birthday, when my Sunday school teacher asked me hang back after class one day.  He said he and his wife had some ‘special lessons’ for kids just like me.  I had no clue what they were talking about, but our family had known them for quite a while and we trusted them.  I just assumed my mom or dad had set up whatever they were talking about.  After all the other kids from the class had rejoined their parents, the couple led me into an office I’d never been in before, then opened a hidden door to reveal a flight of steps going down, leading to a solid concrete room.  I knew I was in trouble as soon as the door was closed and locked behind us but didn’t immediately realize how truly serious that trouble was.”

 

“I know you don’t want to give any specifics of what happened, but would you, in general terms, give us a rough idea, and for how long your abuse continued?”

 

“To be blunt, Ray, I was raped and tortured by those two people every Sunday for almost three years.  It didn’t stop until I was almost sixteen and refused to go to church with my parents any longer.”  LeVar turned in his chair and looked at me with astonishment.  After I gave him a quick nod of acknowledgement, he returned his attention to the screen.

 

“And do you know why they abused you?”

 

“At this point, the only reason I can think of is the fact I was gay, and the church despises people like me.  They selected those few passages from the bible that supposedly condemn homosexuality as a sin and drove that message home practically every week.  I’m still trying to get a real answer to the question of why me in particular.”

 

“And why didn’t you ever say anything to your parents, or anyone else, about what was going on?”

 

“Well, first, I guess, was the initial idea I had that my mom and dad had set the whole thing up with my abusers.”  I heard my mom emit a small whimper after that statement and Dad wrapped an arm around her shoulder.  “Second, I also thought if I told them what was happening, they’d get mad at me for complaining about my ‘special lessons’ and start doing the same thing to me at home.  Of course, I was completely wrong about that, but in my mind, at that age, what else could I think?”

 

“Can you tell us how your abuse has affected your life since?”

 

“Several ways, actually.  I’ve lived a rather reclusive life the past twelve or so years, much preferring the isolation out here amongst the trees, than to being out in public.  Sure, I’ve done a couple book-signing events here and there to promote my books, but I hated every one of them.  I always felt too exposed when I was sitting at a table in some bookstore, not knowing who was around me, and what they might do.  I’ve struggled with depression and thoughts of suicide, also, though I didn’t’ really understand why.

 

“I also firmly believe that I’m an atheist today because my abuse happened in a church.  How the hell could I believe in a loving and benevolent god when he was allowing me to be abused the way I was.  But, I guess the biggest problem I’ve had to deal with was coming to terms with and accepting the fact I’m gay.  Because of the brainwashing I was subjected to, it took me a long time to learn how to be myself.  Again, I didn’t understand why.  But once I accepted my new reality, I set about to make some serious changes in my life and live it the best way I can.”

 

“So, why, almost twenty years after the abuse occurred, are you finally telling your story?”

 

“Because I’d suppressed my memories of it all until just recently.  Once it all came back to me, I knew I couldn’t take the chance they were still doing those things and worked with the police to stop them.”

 

“And what happened that caused the memories to come back to you?”

 

“Well, Tom and I are in the process of adopting five boys.  The people responsible for my abuse used to be the foster parents for the two oldest, Joey and Alex.  I saw the couple for the first time in eighteen years when they brought the boys to meet me, so they could spend the weekend out here, along with two of the others.  After the boys actually moved in that weekend, we’ve run into the couple several times at Walmart.  And each time, I had a stranger and stronger reaction.  The last time, I almost killed the man.”

 

“That must have been a scary moment for you.”

 

“It was.  I’d never felt that much anger towards anyone in my life, but some of the things they said that morning brought everything back to me in a flash.  After Tom stopped me from hurting the man, the memories receded again, and we finished our shopping and came home.  After we got here, Tom told me what I’d almost done, and I was confused as hell because that memory had gone with all the others.  He put me to bed and called a psychologist we know to ask for help.  The psychologist and I then spent close to two hours talking about that morning’s events and, after using hypnosis, he helped me retrieve everything from where I’d hidden it.  By the time we were done, I’d remembered every single moment of those three years in that hellhole, what they’d done to me, and my desire to kill the man in Walmart suddenly made complete sense to me.”

 

“And will you tell us what triggered your reaction that morning?  It had to be something major if you were ready to kill a man over it.”

 

“They talked about Joey and Alex the way they talked to me while we were in that room.  See, that day was the twins’ ninth birthday.  When I told the couple we were shopping for their party with the family that night, they said that the boys couldn’t have a ‘birthday’ because they were the ‘spawn of the beast’ and ‘if we shaved their heads, we’d probably find 666 tattooed on their scalps somewhere’.  That was the same crap they yelled at me, pounded it into my head for three years.  I kinda took that as a threat to the boys and reacted out of some unknown instinct to protect them at all costs.”

 

“I can understand that, Max, and I think our viewers will also.  Tom, you’ve been awfully quiet so far.”

 

“Well, that’s ‘cause you haven’t asked a question that was mine to answer, Ray.”  We all chuckled at his witty comeback.

 

“Okay, here’s a question for you, then.  What was your reaction to the events of that day?”

 

“To be honest, Ray, it scared the, um, crap out of me.  In the time I’d been around before it happened, I’d never seen anything from Max to indicate he had anger towards anyone.  Then, after we got home, and I told him what had happened, Max just broke down.  He was really concerned about continuing the adoptions we’re in the middle of when he couldn’t understand why he’d gone after the man at Walmart the way he had.”

 

“But, the psychologist you called was able to help Max?”

 

“Thankfully, yes.  Dr. Kirkland came out that afternoon and, like Max said, after a couple hours, he came back to let us know what was going on.  The news he gave us was appalling.”

 

“Who else was here that afternoon?”

 

“Well, I called Max’s parents after calling Dr. Kirkland and they got here shortly after he did.  I’d also called my parents and by the time Dr. Kirkland was done talking to Max, they’d also arrived.  Oh, and the boys had gotten home from school, also, but we asked them to leave the room when Dr. Kirkland talked to us.”

 

“And do your sons know what happened?  And if so, what did you tell them?”

 

“We originally planned to not say anything to them, simply because of their ages, figuring they weren’t quite old enough to understand.  Kids their ages shouldn’t need to know about things like what had happened to Max.  But, we also had a couple of concerns about how we could keep them from finding out on their own.”

 

“What were you worried about, Max?”

 

“First, I realized that with the couple who’d abused me being Joey and Alex’s former foster parents, we had to know if they’d been subjected to the same abuse I had.  And when I talked to them, I asked, in very general terms, if they’d been hurt in any way by their former foster parents.  At first, they were a bit confused about what I was asking, but thanks to their mental abilities, Joey ‘saw’ an image in my mind that told him exactly what my concern was.  Alex then realized I asked the question because the couple had done that to me.”

 

“Your answer, Max, begs for two follow-up questions.  Had they been abused, also, and what do you mean by their mental abilities?”

 

“Fortunately, no, they’d been lucky and hadn’t had to deal to the horrors I had.  As to their mental abilities, Joey, Alex and another son, T.J., have the ability to read minds.  They can pick up emotions and see images that may flit through your head.  So, even if we hadn’t said anything to them, we knew they’d probably figure it out own on their own, one way or another.  And once those three knew, we assumed they’d tell our other two sons, Mike and Andy, and a friend of theirs who’s staying here, Logan.  Then there was that little meltdown I had in our pool that one day.”

 

“Little?  Are you kiddin’ me?  That was a full-scale nuclear explosion.”

 

“What are you talking about, Tom?”

 

“Well, it had been only a few days after Max’s memories had come back to him, and Logan had just been brought over after his dad had been arrested.  After the deputy that dropped him off left, the boys were all in the pool and Max, our case worker, Carol, and I were sitting at the table by the pool, just talking, when I made a stupid comment.  Max just lost it and screamed something about being raped for three years before breaking down completely.  I got the boys back in the house and after Max had calmed back down, we knew we had to talk to all the boys, just so they could understand what had just happened.  That was not an easy conversation, but we got through it.”

 

“And how are you coping with things now, Max?”

 

“I’ve had to switch therapists to help me deal with all this, but after doing so, I’m better than I was, though I still have a long way to go.  But with the support I’m getting from Tom, our sons and our entire family, I’ll get there.  Right now, I’m just taking it one day at a time.  I still have my bad moments, but there’s a lot more good ones than bad ones.”

 

“And why did you feel you needed to start seeing a new therapist?”

 

“The first one didn’t believe Tom and me adopting kids is right.  She doesn’t think gay people should ever adopt, especially someone with a history of abuse like me.  I didn’t want her bigoted thinking towards gays to have an impact on how we dealt with my issues, hence the need for someone with a more enlightened point of view.  Tom and I both really like the new guy and have asked him to be available to help any kids we work with in the future.”

 

“So, what’s next for you and your family?”

 

“Well, the next big thing is us getting married and the adoptions of our five sons being finalized.  That all happens in May, on the seventeenth.  We hope construction of our new house will be started by then.”

 

“The house you have now isn’t big enough, Tom?”

 

“Well, one of the things we’ve decided to do is create a place not only for us, but also where we can help other kids who are dealing with problems in their lives.  Whether that’s abuse, parents divorcing, issues with acceptance of being gay, whatever.  If we can help, we will.”

 

“That seems to be a very ambitious, though worthwhile, goal, guys.  What has spurred you to do that?”

 

“Well, during the time I was being abused, I kept hoping I could find a safe place to go to get away from it, but there weren’t any in the area.  We want other kids to have that safe place when they need it, so we’re going to create one here.  Once we get moved into the new home, we’re giving this house to our parents.”

 

“Well, that should be interesting for all of you.”

 

“I’m sure it will be, but my parents, along with Tom’s, are looking forward to being closer to their grandsons.  And us, too, we hope.”

 

“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.”

 

“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.”  The screen faded to black again and Ray reappeared.

 

“That concludes my interview with Max and Tom.  But before we let you go, we have something else we’d like to share.  Max and his family were involved with a workshop his sons’ school recently held to help raise awareness among the school’s staff of the problems gay youth face and the risks of suicide due to coming to understand who they are.  I was given a DVD of the workshop and would like you to see parts of what Max had to say that day.”  The screen went black again before the excerpts started.

 

“I’d finally come to terms with and accepted the fact I was gay.  I finally told my sister what I thought would be big news, just to gauge her reaction.  To my surprise, her response was, ‘Yeah?  Big deal, you want a cookie?’.  While I was munching on said cookie, she added, ‘Took you long enough to figure it out, ya bonehead.  So, what’s next, you gonna write a damn book about it?’”

 

“I told her that I didn’t really know ‘what’s next’, but I thought I should probably tell our parents.  She recommended I keep my mouth shut and let that sleeping dog lie.  Unfortunately, I don’t know how to do that.  In my mind, I figured that if, someday, I got lucky and found the right guy, they’d find out the truth then, but announcing to your parents that you’re gay by introducing them to your boyfriend just didn’t seem right to me.  So, against my sister’s better judgment, I told mom and dad who I am.  Big mistake.  Big.  Huge.  I have to go crawl in a hole now and hide.  As usual, Lee was right, and I was wrong.  I just couldn’t win for losing.

 

“I sank even lower into the depression I’d been fighting for years.  There I was, thirty-four years old, living alone in a giant house in the middle of nowhere, a house meant to be shared with a family. My parents hated me and wished I’d never been born.  I suddenly realized that any hopes I’d ever had for having a family had been tossed right out the window.  I mean, let’s face it, what sane woman would marry a gay guy, just so he can live out his fantasy and have a family.  Not even an insane woman would want to do that, and I sure wasn’t in a position to ask.  It was at that point I was seriously considering suicide.  I had nothing in my life to look forward to except more loneliness and pain.”  A brief pause ensued before the next clip started.

 

“One of the biggest problems we, as gay people, have to deal with is religious zealotry.  Let me say right up front that I’m an atheist and as such, my opinions are based on the fact there is no God.  I’m sure that disturbs some of you even more than the fact I’m gay, but that’s not my problem, it’s yours.  Gay people must deal with the problem of religious persecution our entire lives.  It gets a little easier when you can get away from your parents and they can no longer drag you to church, but the pressure is always there from other sources.

 

“Hatred and bigotry, in any form, is not something we are born with, it is something we learn from our parents, families, churches, and peers.  A newborn can’t hate anyone for anything.  It’s only after we start to grow up and we begin to absorb the attitudes of our parents, when they start telling us, forgive me for this example Sergeant Brock, that black people are inferior, or that poor people deserve to be poor, or that being gay is wrong, that we learn this hatred.  That type of thinking is so damaging to a young mind, I can’t believe any god would approve of it, especially one that is supposed to be so kind and loving.  A majority of religions focus on the select few passages from the bible that supposedly denounce homosexuality as proof they are right in their beliefs.  What they seem to miss from the rest of the book is the simple fact that we are all human beings and we are all supposed to love each other.”  Another short pause and the last clip began.

 

“What it all comes down to, people, is love, plain, simple, unconditional love.  Whether it’s from parents, siblings, friends, teachers, it doesn’t matter.  A person on the brink of suicide needs to know they are loved and needed by someone, by anyone.  I will never understand how a parent can stop loving their child to the point of disowning them, simply for the alleged sin of being gay.  If that’s how they react to finding out their child is gay, that they’re so disgusted with the idea that they no longer feel they can claim their own flesh and blood, then, by god, they don’t deserve to be parents.  If you ever find a child in that dire situation, call me and let me know.  I’ll give that child a home and a family that will love them with all their hearts, a family that will give them the desire, no, the need, to live another day.”

 

Ray returned with his final thoughts.  “Max has endured much hardship in his life.  From his abuse as a young teen to the rejection by his parents.  As you heard him say just now, he was so alone and depressed, he seriously contemplated taking his own life.  No person should have to endure what Max has, not the abuse, not the rejection, and certainly not the hatred and ridicule he is prepared to receive now, simply for living his life the best way he knows how.  It’s no surprise that suicide by gay youth in this country is on the rise, given what these young people are subjected to, for no reason other than who they love.

 

“The man I interviewed earlier this week is not the same man he was just a few short months ago.  He has long struggled to be accepted by others for who he is, and by himself.  And he has finally found that acceptance, from his fiancé, Tom, their sons, Joey, Alex, T.J., Mike and Andy, and most importantly, from his own parents who have finally embraced their son for who he is, not who they think he should be.  Max is now a man filled with hope for a happy future and life with his entire family surrounding him and we wish them all nothing but the best.

 

“You also heard Max and Tom talk about what they plan to do to help kids in need and we at Channel 17 support their initiative to do so.  The owner of this local station has pledged to donate $100,000 to help them with their work and we encourage anyone else who supports their plan to contact us here.  We’ll be happy to accept your donations on Max’s behalf to help insure their endeavor is successful.

 

“One last note before we say goodnight.  I was privileged to meet Max and Tom’s sons and some of their friends the afternoon we recorded this interview.  And despite a few excusable eccentricities, I found them all to be highly intelligent, caring, and humorous young men.  I invite you to join us again tomorrow at eight to see their interviews and hear for yourself just how amazing they are.  On behalf of the entire staff here at Channel 17, I would like to thank you for tuning in tonight and we hope to see you again tomorrow night.  I’m Raymond Snell for Channel 17 news.  Good night.” 

 

As the screen faded to black one last time, I was too stunned by Ray’s telling about the station owner’s donation to turn off the TV and Tom took the remote from my limp grasp to do so.  The haze in my brain continued until Tom wrapped his arms around me pulled me into a bone-jarring hug.  The two of us were almost instantly mugged by the boys as they all jumped out their chairs and ran over to join the hug.  When we’d finally broken apart, I accepted hugs, handshakes and compliments from everyone else in the crowded room.

 

“I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m ready for dessert and a drink,” I suggested.  The boys cheered the idea, then led the way out of the theater and into the dining room.  As we exited the theater, LeVar tapped me on the shoulder and jerked his head for me to follow him.  I nodded my agreement and asked, “Grandparents, would you help dish up the brownies and ice cream, please?  LeVar wants me for something.”

 

“Sure, Max, go ahead,” Bill answered as they followed the boys.

 

After Tom, LeVar and I settled into the living room, I asked, “What’s up?”

 

“That interview I just watched was probably the toughest, but bravest, thing I’ve ever seen someone do.”

 

“What?  I just told the truth.”

 

“But at what cost, Max?  To you and your family?  You’ve just told the world about a very dark chapter in your life and the steps you’re taking to overcome it.  Plus, you’ve told everyone who’ve read your books something you’ve kept hidden for a very long time.”

 

“So what?  It’s who I am, and I’m done hiding behind Jake.”

 

“I can see that and it’s big step to take.  Look, I hope you’ll excuse me, but I need to make some calls and change my travel plans.”

 

“Why would you do that?” Tom asked.

 

“Well, I didn’t know until just now about another show where Ray talked to your boys.  I’m not going to miss that and I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to watch it in New York tomorrow night.”

 

“Ha, no I bet you won’t.  You’re welcome to stay and watch it with us tomorrow.”

 

“I was hoping you’d say that.  I’ll be back out in a bit.”  LeVar disappeared down the hallway to make his calls while Tom and I headed to the dining room to join everyone else.  The boys had obviously brought the chairs back from the theater as the table was full and several people were sitting at the kitchen bar counter, also.  Tom and I found our bowls and tucked into them while offering thanks to our parents for taking care of dishing dessert for everyone.

 

“So, what did LeVar want with you?” mom asked.

 

“I’ll wait ‘til he comes back to answer that.  I want to be sure he’s able to work things out before I say anything.”

 

“Sounds interesting, whatever it was,” Estelle grinned.

 

“Could be,” Tom agreed with a smirk.

 

LeVar soon returned to join us, grabbed his dessert before the ice cream melted and commented, “Okay, I’m all set.”

 

“Set for what, Mr. Burton,” T.J. asked.

 

“To stay at least another night and see your interviews with Ray.  I wasn’t about to miss them.”

 

“Cool!” Alex cheered as the rest of boys joined in.

 

“Well, I’ve come up with a new idea, but I want to see if my instincts are running true to form before I say anything else.”  I gave a LeVar a quizzical look and he just shrugged his shoulders in a non-committal fashion before looking away from me.  As people completed their desserts, the boys, of course, being the first to do so, the guys started taking their bowls to the sink before rinsing and stashing them in the dishwasher. 

 

When Alex took Ken’s bowl, I heard him say, “Thanks for agreeing to teach us at home this fall, Mr. Thomas.  We were really hoping you’d agree to do it.”

 

“I’ll look forward to it Alex.”  Ken then turned to me and added, “Well, I think I should head for home.  I need to deal with a few things at home before I can be ready to go to work tomorrow.  Thanks for the job offer, Max, Tom,” he added as he shook our hands.

 

“We’re glad you accepted it, Ken.  We just hope the munchkins can tough it out the rest of this year.”

 

“They won’t much like it, I’m sure, but I bet they’ll all survive it.”

 

“Boys come say goodbye to Ken,” Tom called out over the hubbub of chatter that had started back up.  As I led the way to the door, Ken followed along and when we stopped to say our goodbyes, the herd said their goodbyes, also, and they all thanked Ken for deciding to join us on the ranch.

 

“Alex, Joey, Logan, I’ll see you three in class tomorrow.  T.J., Mike, Andy, Josh, Eric, nice to meet you guys.  I can’t wait for this fall to get here.”

 

“We can’t either, Mr. Thomas,” Joey agreed before Ken headed down the sidewalk to his car.

 

I was just about to close the door when Stan, Rich and Carrie approached to say their goodbyes.  “Thanks for having us come out, Max.  It was nice to meet you and even nicer to meet LeVar,” Stan offered.

 

“Well, it only made sense that you should be here since I really want Rich to be Jake.  I know that by the time we actually get started, he’ll be an adult and able to make his own decisions, but I assumed he’d want your input before we got to that point.”

 

“Well, he’s gonna get it whether he wants it or not,” Stan grinned.  “And thanks for not making a big deal out of Carrie coming with us.  I’m still worried about what Eileen might do.”

 

“No problem, Stan.  I think she made a new friend tonight, anyway, so we’re all good.”  Carrie let go a little giggle of embarrassment at my gibe.

 

Rich then wrapped me in a big hug and said, “Thanks, again, for helpin’ save my life, Mr. Sanders.  You won’t regret it and I won’t let you down.”

 

“I know that Rich.  I’m glad you talked to T.J. when you did and got the help you needed.”

 

“Yeah, me too.  I owe the shrimp my life,” Rich chuckled.  T.J. lightly punched him in the gut for the crack, then quickly jumped back out of the larger boy’s reach.

 

“Careful who you’re callin’ a shrimp, dude.  I’m just the right size to punch you somewhere you ain’t gonna like,” T.J. retorted with an evil smirk.

 

“C’mere, you little punk,” Rich growled.  As soon as T.J. got close enough, Rich picked him up in a bear hug, gave him kiss on his cheek and T.J. returned the show of affection.  “Love you, little dude,” Rich whispered as he set T.J. back on his feet.

 

“Same here, dude.  You have to come back some time so you can go swimmin’ with us.”

 

“I’d love to, dudelet.  Any time, okay,” Rich grinned.

 

“Night, folks.  We’ll see you later,” I said as they stepped out onto the porch with a wave and disappeared into the night.  The next group to continue the exodus was our parents, followed by Lee and Carl.

 

“Max, we’re gonna get out of your hair, too,” Mom said as all four approached the gaggle still hovering around the door.

 

“But we’ll be back tomorrow night for the boys’ interviews,” Bill added.

 

“Thanks to all of you for coming out,” Tom commented.  “Pizza for supper tomorrow night, remember.”

 

“We’ll be here about six again, then?” Estelle asked.

 

“That should work fine everyone,” I answered.

 

As we traded hugs and handshakes with all six, when Dad gave me a hug, he whispered, “Sorry, again, for being such a pain in the ass, son.”

 

“That’s all right, Dad, I’m used to it,” I laughed.

 

“Well, after bein’ around me for thirty-four years, I should hope so.  I love you guys.”

 

“We love you, too, Pop.  Be careful on the way home.”

 

“Always.”  With that parting comment, all six departed.

 

I’d no sooner closed the door and we’d turned back for the living room, when here came Rick, Eric and Josh.  “You guys leavin’, too?” Tom asked.

 

“Yeah,” Rick answered.  “Tomorrow’s still a school day and we need to have a chat when we get home.”

 

“’Bout what, Dad,” Josh asked.

 

“When we’re home, son.”  Rick turned back to us and added, “See you tomorrow night, also, I guess.”

 

“We’ll be here,” I replied.  “Hey, would do us a big favor when you come over?”

 

“Sure, Max, what do you need?”

 

“If I order our supper and give you money, would you swing by and pick it up at Capone’s on your way?  It’d save us the trip.”

 

“You got it, man.” 

 

I dug out my wallet and handed $200 to Rick, adding, “That should cover it.  Thanks, we appreciate it.  But try to keep those two eating machines of yours out of them before you get here, will you?” I asked with a laugh.

 

“I’ll do my best, but do you have any idea how hard it is to drive with two stumps?  They’d probably gnaw my hands right off if I tried to hold them back.”

 

“You could always put ‘em in the trunk.” Tom suggested.

 

“What, the pizzas or the boys?” Rick asked with a twisted smirk.

 

“Dad!” Eric exclaimed from behind his dad.  “That ain’t funny.”

 

“Yeah, it kinda is, but you should know I’d never lock you in the trunk.  Well, let’s boogie boys,” Rick said as he spun around to find his sons.  “Wait, where’d Josh go?  He was just here.”  I turned to look outside and found Josh and Joey sharing a hug and kiss on the porch.  I tapped Rick’s shoulder and directed his attention in their direction.  When he spotted them, he added, “Shoulda known, shouldn’t I?  Break it up you two, we gotta go.”  With one last meaningful look into each other’s eyes and a giggle, Josh followed his dad and brother down the steps and Joey rejoined us inside.

 

“Okay, guys, it’s late and like Rick said, tomorrow’s a school day.  Say good night to LeVar, then showers, brush teeth and get in bed.  We’ll be along in ten minutes and we’ll expect you all to be in bed.  GO!”  The herd charged across the house to say their goodnights to LeVar before disappearing down the hall towards their rooms.

 

As we joined LeVar and settled into our chairs, Tom breathed a sigh of relief and said, “Well, that was a fun night.  And we get to do it all again tomorrow night with three more people.”

 

“Yeah, but we’ll be losing four, too,” I added.

 

“Who’s going to be here tomorrow night?” LeVar asked.

 

“Alex’s boyfriend, Brent, and his parents, Ben and Monica.”

 

“I still have a hard time wrappin’ my head around that, guys,” LeVar lamented.

 

“What’s that LeVar?” Tom asked.

 

“That your sons are so confident and assured with being gay.  Especially at their ages.  I’d never imagined people could know they’re gay as young as they are.”

 

“Not a big surprise, LeVar,” I replied.  “Parents won’t believe it because they don’t want to.  There’s still a huge stigma attached to being homosexual in this country and kids are afraid of being who they are.  Rich is a perfect example of that problem.”

 

“What do you mean?  He seemed fine to me.”

 

“He’s doing pretty well, now, but a couple of weeks ago, he was about to take his own life.”

 

“What!?  Why?”

 

“Well, he was afraid of how his parents would react to the news,” Tom began, “and to avoid having the conversation he needed to, he decided he’d rather die first.”

 

“My God.  If that’s true, then why is he still here?”

 

“Because Joey, Alex and T.J. convinced the school to create a support group for gay youth.  Once that was going, Rich talked to T.J. one day and since T.J. can pick up thoughts and feelings so easily from other people, he ferreted Rich’s plan to kill himself, straight from his mind.  When T.J. came home from school that afternoon, he asked me to go to the school the next day and talk to Rich.  Good thing I did because Rich had planned to use his dad’s gun that same day.”

 

“Oh, geez,” LeVar moaned while holding his head in his hands.  “How did you convince him to not follow through with his plan?” he asked after lifting his head back up.

 

“First, I told him that he wasn’t giving his parents a chance to do the right thing since he refused to talk to them.  Then, I had him come home with me until his mom and dad had gotten home from work.  T.J. and I took Rich home later and we sat in on the conversation with Stan and Eileen.”

 

“How’d that go?” LeVar asked with curiosity.

 

“Not too badly, I guess.  Except, of course, for Stan kicking Eileen out of the house since she flat said she’d wished Rich had actually killed himself.  Guess she’d rather have a dead son than a gay one.”

 

“That’s horrible.  Why are so many parents of gay children like that?” LeVar asked.

 

“I don’t know, but our parents weren’t any better,” I answered.

 

“They seemed okay with you and your family, Max.  To me, anyway.”

 

“Yeah, but that’s very recent.  When I first told my parents I was gay last fall, I figured I’d lost them forever because of their reaction.  But Mom helped a neighbor lady of theirs deal with the recent loss of her partner, and she learned that gay people aren’t any different than she and Dad are.  Dad had to attempt suicide himself before he’d accept me and my family.  And even that acceptance hasn’t become what you’d call perfect yet, but it’s a work in progress.”

 

“Your desire to build a new home and help other kids makes a lot more sense to me, now.  And so does having Jake’s sexuality be more obvious in the movies.  You really do have a personal connection to all of this, in more ways than one, don’t you?”

 

“We both do, LeVar.” Tom answered.  “My parents were much like Max’s, and it took us a couple of years to work things out between us, but we’re in a good place now.”

 

“I’m glad to hear it, guys.  Is there anything I can do to help you with your new home?”

 

“You’re doing that just by making the movies.  That’s more than enough help,” I answered.

 

“Well, if that changes, you just let me know.”

 

“We’ll do that.  Um, would you excuse us for a few minutes to tuck the boys in?”

 

“You go right ahead.  I’m gonna grab a soda from the fridge, if that’s okay?”

 

“Help yourself, LeVar.  We’ll be right back.”  While Tom I headed for the boys’ bedrooms to take care of our nightly duties, LeVar aimed for the kitchen and a cold drink.  After sharing our nighttime rituals with all six boys, we returned to the living room and settled back into our chairs.

 

“So, have you had a chance to talk to Tom about my proposal?” LeVar asked.

 

“Yeah, right,” I laughed.  “When could I have done that?”

 

“That what I figured,” LeVar chuckled.  “So, will I be interfering with anything tomorrow by staying?”

 

“I have to deal with three interviews tomorrow,” Tom answered.

 

“And I need to keep working on my book,” I added.

 

“One of the Jake Franklin books you mentioned?”

 

“No, I’ve started writing a book about my life, the abuse, dealing with what passed for a life after it and where I go from here.  It started out as just general writing about things for my first therapist, but after talking to Tom about it, I’ve turned it into a book.”

 

“Can I ask why?”

 

“A couple of reasons, actually.  First, every time I’ve told someone the story, it gets easier for me to deal with it, and writing about it is helping me a lot.  Second, I’m hoping the book might help other people who’ve been through or are going through what I did.  Just to let them know there is a possibility of a normal and productive life after the fact.  Third, we’re going to use the profits from the sale of the book to help support our new home and the kids we plan to help.  We have no idea what kind of expenses we’re going to have, and I want to make sure I don’t drive us straight into the poorhouse.”

 

“Sounds like good reasons to me, Max.  I hope I get to read it when you’re done with it.”

 

“I think that could be arranged,” I replied with a smile.  “So, what’s this new idea percolating in your head, LeVar?  Is it something I’m gonna like?”

 

“I don’t want to answer that question just yet, but yeah, I hope you’ll like it.”

 

“I guess we’ll see.  Well, I need sleep, but I’m too wound right now.  Would you mind if we took a swim so I can get rid of some stress?”

 

“Not at all.  Mind if I join you?”

 

“That’s fine with us,” Tom answered.  “You won’t mind if we swim nude, will you?”

 

“As long as you don’t mind me wearing my shorts?” LeVar laughed.

 

“Good, let’s get changed and we’ll meet back here.  Grab a towel from your bathroom when you come back.”  We went our separate directions and soon met at the glass doors in the living room.  Tom and I had wrapped our towels around our waist out of deference to our guest.  With the key and towels, we made the trip to the shelter and were soon enjoying some quiet time in the pool.

 

 

Josh and Eric pestered me all the way home about what I wanted to talk about but knowing their reaction to moving onto the same property with Max, Tom and their sons would probably be jumping and screaming, I forced them to wait until we got home to share my news.  After leaving the car in the driveway, I told them, “Okay, go get comfortable and we’ll meet up in the family room for our chat.  Eric, grab me a beer on your way, please.  Thanks.”

 

The two wild things disappeared into the house so quickly, if I’d have blinked, I would have missed seeing the door close behind them.  I followed along and after getting undressed in my bedroom, joined the boys in the family room.  Josh and Eric were already there, impatiently awaiting my arrival, but not so impatiently that Eric forgot the beer I’d requested.  After taking my chair and popping the can open, I was immediately peppered with questions.

 

“What’s going on, Dad?” Josh squealed.

 

“Yeah, what ain’t you wantin’ to tell us?  Mom isn’t coming back, is she?” Eric added.

 

“No chance of that happenin’, Eric, so nothing to worry about with her, guys.  No, I’ve been offered a new job that begins in a few months that I’m seriously considering some changes to our lives.”

 

“What!?” Eric squeaked as his voice caught in his throat.

 

“Where is it?” Josh asked in a much calmer tone.  “Are we gonna have to move?  I don’t want to move anywhere if it means losin’ Joey.”

 

“Well, we wouldn’t have to move, but we might want to.  I’ll let you guys decide that.”

 

“Where’s the job and what would you be doing” Eric quizzed me.

 

“You obviously know about what Max and Tom are doing with building their new home and all that.  Tonight, they offered me a job at their new place taking care of any minor medical needs they’ll have with any of the new kids coming in.”

 

“But if the job’s just at their new house, why the heck would we move?” Josh wondered aloud.

 

“That’s where it gets interesting, guys.  Max and Tom have offered to have us move into our own home on their property.  That way, I’d be close by for any emergency, any time of day or night.  So, what do you think?”

 

“Would moving tomorrow be too soon?” Josh asked with a laugh.  “I’d love living that close to my boyfriend.  We could be together every night,” he added with a gleeful twinkle in his eyes.

 

“Well, it would be kinda nice to have a house to move into, Josh, don’t ya think?”

 

“Oh, fine,” he grumped, “I guess I can wait.”

 

“What about you, Eric?  What do you think?”

 

“I’m all for it, too, Dad.  I hate this house, mainly ‘cause it still reminds me of Mom too much.”

 

“I know, buddy, but I can’t really change that, can I?”

 

“I know that, Dad, but I can’t wait to get out of here.”

 

“Sounds like we’re all on the same page, then.  I’m gettin’ a new job and we’re moving to a new place later this year.  It looks like it’s finally time to start that new chapter we’ve been wanting since your mom took off with that loser.”

 

“On one condition, Dad,” Eric said with as much seriousness as he could muster.  “You don’t ever tell the witch where to find us.”

 

“Eric, that’s no way to talk about your mother,” I scolded my son.

 

“Like I give a shit!  She hasn’t sent us a birthday card, or even called, for years.  Good riddance to bad rubbish, as far as I’m concerned.”

 

“No, no, you misunderstood me.  Witch is much too nice for the likes of her, I was thinking more along the lines of bitch.”

 

“Well, okay then,” Eric laughed with glee.  “I can see we agree on something else.”

 

“Yeah, I guess we do.  Okay, I’ll let Max and Tom know to start preparing for us to join them when we go over tomorrow night.  I guess the first thing we’ll need to do is pick a plan for the new house.”

 

“What about that magazine I got?” Eric asked.  “It’s got tons of them and I bet Ryan can make changes to it if it’s not exactly what you want.”

 

“Don’t you mean what we want, son?  We’re all gonna be living in the same place.”

 

“Well, yeah, I guess so,” Eric answered with a cocky grin.

 

“You really want our ideas for it,” Josh asked.

 

“Of course, I do.  I want you guys to be just as happy with it as I am.”

 

“Cool,” Josh enthused.  “I want my room to be a lot bigger with a king-sized bed, just like Joey’s got.”

 

“I think we can arrange that,” I chuckled.  “We’ll have to do some work on this dump to make it easier to sell and help us pay for the new place.”

 

“Like what?” Eric asked.

 

“Just some painting, a lot of cleaning, fixing a few things here and there.  Luckily, we’ll have all summer to do that stuff, so it shouldn’t be too bad.” 

 

Both boys charged me, wrapped me in a sweet hug, saying thanks and they loved me for changing jobs and moving.  A month ago, neither would have ever considered giving me a hug like this, especially since none of us were dressed.  But ever since that night in the pool at Max’s, we’d all changed a lot and I really loved the closeness the three of us now willingly shared.

 

As we finally broke our hug, I said, “Okay, you two, time for bed.  You’ve got school and I have an early shift in the morning.” 

 

Josh leaned in and gave me a quick kiss, then said, “Night Dad, love you.”

 

“I love you too, buddy, now scoot,” I replied while giving his bare ass a quick swat.  As he giggled all the way to his room, I couldn’t help but stare at and admire that sweet, pale bubble butt as it disappeared into his room and the door closed.  “That means you, too, Eric.”

 

“Um, Dad,” he started as he crawled in my lap and wiggled his tight ass on my rapidly stiffening cock, “can, um, you and me, go and, well, you know?”

 

“No, I don’t know, son.  Remember the rules?  You have to tell me what you want,” though the stiff five inches obscenely protruding from his groin told me exactly what he wanted.  I wrapped a hand around my son’s dick, eliciting a moan from deep within his youthful body.

 

“Oh, God yes, I’m so freakin’ horny, I gotta get off Dad.”

 

“That Carrie’s a cute girl, isn’t she,” I smiled.

 

“Yes-s-s-s-s-s,” he hissed as I thumbed his glans.  “I’ve been hard since I saw her.”

 

“You wanna fuck her, don’t you?”

 

“You have no idea how much,” he moaned as I cupped his wrinkled sack and gave his balls a little squeeze.

 

“Yeah, I think I do,” I chuckled as I slipped my other hand under his ass and caressed his smooth globes.

 

“But I barely know her,” Eric groaned with delight as one of my fingers found his pucker and I gently pushed it inside him.  “ ’Sides, I ain’t got no rubbers.”

 

“How ‘bout I let you fuck me?  We haven’t done that yet and I think I’d like to try it.  You and Josh always seems to like it when I do it to you.”

 

“You’d really let me fuck you?”

 

“If it helps keep you from makin’ me a grampa this young, yeah.”

 

“Then why we wastin’ time out here, old man?  C’mon,” he panted as he got off my lap and pulled me to my feet.  Eric held onto my hand as he dragged me to my bedroom.  Once inside, I closed the door and let him lead the way to the bed.

 

“How do you want me, son, on my back, front, or on top of you?” I asked as we crawled on the bed.

 

“On your back, I want to be able to see your face your first time.”

 

“Back it is.  Grab the oil out of the bathroom, boy.”  Eric zipped into the bath and quickly returned.  By the time he’d crawled back on the bed with me, I had my knees pulled up as far as I could to give him access.  My boy wasted no time in drizzling the oil into my crack and he began massaging it all around my virgin hole.  I couldn’t believe I was going to let my son actually stuff his cock in my ass, but he’d let me do it to him several times, so I kinda figured I owed him.  Besides, he really seemed to enjoy getting reamed by his dad’s eight-inch cock, maybe I’d learn I liked getting it in the ass, too.

 

After several minutes of his ministrations, including inserting a couple of fingers into me and stroking my prostate, he asked, “You sure you wanna let me do this?”

 

“Yeah, Eric, I’m sure.  Whatever you’re doin’ down there is feeling great.”

 

“Okay, here goes.”  My son knelt between my upraised feet and scooted forward so his dick was lined up and on target.  He pushed forward just far enough to make contact and hesitated for just a moment before leaning in just a bit further.  When my sphincter stretched, and his head slipped smoothly inside me for the first time, I gasped in pleasure and my eyes rolled back in my head.  Eric giggled at my reaction and said, “Yeah, it feels good, don’t it?”

 

“Oh, God, I had no idea having a cock in your ass would feel like this, son.  I’da done this a long time ago if I had.”

 

“You ready for more?” he asked.  After a quick nod from me, he pushed the issue further and further until I could feel his pubic patch lightly tickling my balls.  Again, he paused, allowing me the chance to catch my breath and adjust to his invasion.  Once my breathing was almost back to normal, he pulled back until just the head of his sweet dick was still inside me.

 

“No-o-o-o,” I pleaded, “back in, baby, shove it back in.”  Not one to argue with his father, Eric did just that and he pushed his cock as deep inside of me as he could, just nudging my prostate as he did so.  I let go a little whimper of delight before he started to truly fuck me.  I know I wasn’t the first guy he’d fucked since I knew about him and Josh, and he’d told me about fucking Max and Tom in Chicago, but damn he’d learned his lessons well.  Eric knew exactly what he was doing, changing speeds, angles of impalement and depth to generate the maximum of pleasure for both of us.

 

After about five minutes of Eric’s sweet and gentle first fucking of my ass, I was getting close to the point of no return.  I started to grab my own cock to jerk myself off while my boy was fucking me, but he slapped my hand away and said, “No, Dad, I wanna see if I can make you come all by myself.  And I wanna see it spew all over you.”

 

“Well, you better get ready ‘cause it’s about to happen,” I muttered through clenched teeth.  A few more pumps from my lust-filled kid, and my toes curled tightly, my breathing grew ragged and rapid, and I could feel my sack tighten up as my balls drew up in preparation for release.  “Ohmigod, Eric, fuck me harder.  Jam your cock deep inside me.  Oh, fuck me, please, make your old man come.”

 

“Fuck, Dad, I’m gonna pop …” Eric groaned as he stuffed his meat deep inside me one more time and held it there.  I could feel my hole stretch just a bit more as the first shot pulsed through his cock and flooded my insides.  At the same moment, I launched my first shot of semen up to my chin and I felt my sphincter clamp my son tightly.  Another blast from him and I followed suit.  After four more spasms from both of us, my ass was filled with my son’s seed and my torso was covered with my own.  Completely spent, Eric, flopped down on top of me and whispered in my ear, “I love you, Dad.”

 

“I love you, too, son,” I whispered back.  “I’ve never felt anything quite like that in my life.  I’m glad you’re the first guy I ever let fuck me.”

 

“I’m glad I was your first, too, Dad.  I can’t wait until we can do it again.”

 

“Anytime, boy,” I chuckled.  “Except for right now.  I need some time to recover before I could do that again, plus you have school and I still have that damn early shift tomorrow morning.  What say we run through the shower and hit the hay?”

 

“Oh, all right,” he pouted as he started to move off me.  Little did I know that it would be my turn to moan when his now soft cock slipped out of my ass.  The loss of that delightful feeling caused me to pout a bit, also.  Eric helped me up off the bed, led the way to my shower and we climbed in together.

 

“You could take your own shower, ya know,” I offered as he turned on the water.

 

“Sure, I could, but where’s the fun in that?  Besides, I helped make the mess on us, I feel like I should help clean it up, too.” 

 

Who was I to argue that bit of logic?  And even if I tried, I would have quit after Eric grabbed the bar of soap and started to wash my chest and belly.  I hadn’t taken a shower with anyone since the bitch had split, but after feeling my son’s gentle hands, I sure as hell wasn’t gonna kick his sweet ass out of the shower.  And after he started washing my cock and balls, any doubts I had were suddenly washed away.  When he’d finished my front side, I was fully erect again, but he had me turn around so he could work on my back.  And work it, he did.

 

He started at my shoulders and cleaned his way to my feet, bypassing my ass on his way down.  I had a feeling he was coming back to take care of that area, though, and was not disappointed when he had me bend over and stick my butt under the water.  He carefully and completely made sure all the oil was cleaned off before he spread my cheeks wide and began to work on cleaning me out.  God, it felt so good when he opened my hole and let some of the water trickle inside me, I almost came again just from that.  Then, when he slipped a couple fingers inside and swished them around, I lost all control and did pop off.

 

“Really, Dad?  I though you said you needed to recover.”

 

“Guess I lied, son,” I chuckled.  “You done?” I asked as I stood up and turned to face him.  Eric nodded as he handed the soap to me and turned around so I could start on his back.  I took my time and discovered a new admiration for my son’s fine form as I worked up from his ankles, then down from his shoulders to the perfect posterior in the middle.  As I washed his taut behind, I let my fingers wander and they soon found his perfect rosebud.  I returned Eric’s recent favor and allowed a digit or two to linger inside his tight hole before I smacked his ass and told him it was time for the front side.

 

As he turned to face me again, I couldn’t help but notice the rampant hardon gracing his groin.  I started washing his face, then moved slowly down to his shoulders and chest, swapping the bar of soap from hand to hand as I did.  I moved further down and cleaned his gut all the way to his waist before I jumped to his feet and worked my way back up.  When I finally reached the center of his body, I wrapped a hand around his throbbing cock and guttural moan of sheer ecstasy escaped his body.

 

I continued to gently soap and clean his stiff member as he arched his back with wanton desire.  I moved on to his balls, now riding low in the loose sack of skin in which they were cradled.  During our other recent encounters, I’d never really taken the time to fully appreciate how nicely my son had developed during his time wearing shorts.  At this moment, I was in awe of the young man he’d become and proud as hell to have him as my son.  And since I was already on my knees and at just the right height, I followed my instincts and swallowed his pecker. 

 

Eric almost lost his footing on the slick shower floor and he would have fallen had it not been for my hands holding his beautiful ass, pulling him into my face as deeply as possible.  I lavished his turgid member with my tongue, ensuring he was as clean as could be from tip to pubis.  Eric moaned and bucked his hips into me as I continued his tongue bath.  Since my hands were all over his ass, I let a finger find his pucker and slid it inside, searching for his young prostate gland.  I knew I’d found my target when his cock twitched violently in my mouth and his spunk hit the back of my throat.  Not wanting to lose a drop, I swallowed after every volley and held him until the flow was reduced to a dribble.

 

After one last lick across his glans and through his piss slit, I pulled my head back and looked up into his glazed eyes.  “Guess I wasn’t the only one who was ready for another one,” I laughed while I stood up and pulled Eric into a loving hug.

 

“I’m always ready, Dad, you should know that by now,” Eric chuckled.

 

“Yeah, I do.  And now that I’ve finally let myself be fucked, you can have my ass anytime you want it.”

 

“Really!?” he exclaimed.  “That’s cool, Dad.  I really didn’t think you’d like it.”

 

“What can I say, son, you were wrong.  And so was I all these years.”

 

“Thanks, Dad.  As much as I’d like to climb in bed with Carrie, I ain’t ready to be a dad, but I still wanna be able to fuck someone now and then.”

 

“And I’m not ready for that, either, but I’m here for you when you need a gook fucking.  Now, let’s get to bed and get some sleep, young man.”

 

“Yeah, all right.”  Eric turned off the water and I grabbed towels for both of us after stepping out of the shower.  As we dried off, Eric asked, “Uh, Dad, can I just sleep with you tonight?”

 

“Why not,” I answered.

 

“Thanks, old man.”

 

We left the bathroom, arms wrapped around the other’s shoulder and after I pulled down the covers, Eric climbed in.  I followed him and once I’d gotten settled, something happened that, in my thirty-six years of life so far, I had never dreamed would.  Eric leaned over, kissed me, then curled up right next to me with his head on my shoulder.  Soon we were both out like the lights in the house.

 

 

I’d finished swimming my normal twenty laps with a few more at a much slower pace to cool down when I joined Tom and LeVar in our favorite corner and joining the ongoing conversation.

 

“So, if Max agrees to everything, he’s gonna make a buttload of cash, right?” Tom was asking.

 

LeVar laughed aloud and answered, “Yeah, you could put it that way.  But then, we all will, Tom.”

 

“Just couldn’t wait for me to tell you, could you?”

 

“Well, what else were we gonna do?  Watch you swim back and forth, back and forth, forever?  I don’t think so, babe.  I’d rather watch paint dry.  I’ll tell you one thing, though.  If you don’t sign the damn contacts when they get here, I will.”

 

LeVar and I both laughed this time and I retorted, “Guess someone’s finally getting over his irrational fear of being obnoxiously wealthy.”

 

“Yeah, I guess I am,” Tom agreed.  “Besides if we start helping as many kids as you want to, we’re gonna need that buttload of cash.  And more.”

 

“I think we should split the movie profits fifty/fifty, don’t you?” I asked.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Fifty percent for our our needs and fifty percent to the foundation.”

 

“Yeah, that sounds reasonable, I guess.  Not like we need it all for ourselves, is it?”

 

“So, Max,” LeVar interjected, “I have to say I was surprised by your interview tonight.  I had no idea.”

 

“Don’t feel bad, LeVar.  Not many people outside the local area knew anything about it until recently.  But all kinds of people in the central states know it now.”

 

“What do you mean?” LeVar asked.

 

“Well, the interview may have been done by a local news station, but it was broadcast tonight by stations from Wisconsin to Tennessee and Kansas to Indiana.  I’ll be surprised if it isn’t seen by a whole lot more in the morning.  At least parts of it.”

 

“I’m sure it will be,” LeVar agreed.  “It would shock me if the major networks didn’t start calling, all wanting to interview you.”

 

“Well, they can just rebroadcast what you watched tonight.  I’m never doing another interview about my past.  I’m done with that chapter and it’s time to focus on moving forward.”

 

“If you feel that way about it, why did you agree to do it in the first place?” LeVar asked with curiosity.

 

“Well, like a lot of other churches who’ve been entangled in similar events, a group of the church’s members were trying to whitewash the whole thing and say it never happened, that I was lying about the whole thing.  I agreed to the interview with Ray to get the truth out there before their sad attempt at a cover-up could gain any traction.  Besides, now that the couple who abused me have pled guilty, I think all doubt about what’s been happening in that church over the last thirty years has been erased.  At least, I hope it has.”

 

“Excuse me?” LeVar asked.  “The couple who abused you has been getting away with it that long?”

 

“Them and a group of others, yeah.  We didn’t talk about it in the interview because I wouldn’t, but over 3,000 kids have been hurt and damaged in that hellhole, some to the point of suicide.”

 

“Oh, my God.  Is that why you and Tom have decided to help other kids in need?”

 

“That’s part of it, for sure, but my reason is much more personal than that.  I told Tom this just before you got here, but I feel a certain amount of guilt for not stopping them twenty years ago.  All I think about is how many kids I could have saved from the same fate had I just said something.”

 

“Survivor’s guilt, huh?” LeVar asked.

 

“I guess you could call it that,” I agreed.

 

“Max,” Tom interjected, “I’ve told you you’re not responsible for any of what happened.”

 

“Yeah, I know, hon.  And while that guilt gnaws at me, I’m not going to let it beat me.  I’m going to channel it, use it to my advantage, become stronger and more confident than I’ve ever been, and fight for the kids who can’t fight for themselves.”

 

“Well, if you ever change your mind about me helping you two make it happen, just let me know.”

 

“We’ll do that, LeVar,” I replied.  “Well, I don’t know about you two, but I think I can finally get some sleep.  You comin’ with me, hon?”

 

“Yeah, my first interview is early.”

 

“Guess I’ll come on in, too,” LeVar said.  “It’s still early in California for me, but I have some e-mails to deal with, so I’ll be up for a while yet.”

 

“Well, make yourself at home, LeVar,” I responded as I climbed from the pool and headed for our towels.

 

“I’ll do that, for sure.  So, how long have you been a nudist, Max?” LeVar asked as we dried off.

 

“Ever since I moved in here.”

 

“And what about you, Tom?” he asked next.

 

“Only a couple months, really, after moving in here.”

 

“Wasn’t it weird to be naked around other people all the time?”

 

“For maybe an hour, it was, but once you get past that hurdle, you don’t really think about it.  The most difficult thing to adjust to was being nude with my parents.”

 

“Did your sons have any problem with it?”

 

“Ha, none at all,” I answered.  “I thought I was gonna have to start wearing clothes before they came out for their first weekend with me, but they quickly corrected that misconception.”

 

“How’d they do that?”  I explained to LeVar about the boys’ first night here and he almost fell over with hilarity as we stepped into the house.  “I guess I can see that after what they did this afternoon,” he laughed.

 

“That really didn’t bother you, did it?” I asked with concern.

 

“Not as much as I thought it would, guys.  It’s like Tom said, at first it was a little awkward for me, but as we kept talkin’, the more normal it seemed.  Of course, I might have felt different about it if I hadn’t been dressed still.  But it didn’t bother the boys at all, they were just bein’ true to themselves, and that’s the most important thing, I think.”

 

“We do, too,” I agreed.  “Well, I hate to be a party pooper, but I hear my pillows callin’ for me.  We’ll see you in the morning, LeVar.”

 

“We have early mornings here so we can make sure the guys make it to the bus on time.  I hope we won’t bother you,” Tom added

 

“Don’t worry about it.  I’m used to early mornings in Hollywood, too.  Good night, guys.”

 

With a wave, Tom and I headed for our room and LeVar turned for his for the next couple of nights.  After closing our door and climbing in the shower, Tom commented, “Tonight was kinda fun, wasn’t it?”

 

“Well, except for watching the interview, it wasn’t too bad.  It helps that I’m feeling more comfortable being in a crowd, though.”

 

“That’s good, babe.  I’m happy you feel better about that.”

 

“You know what really makes me happy?” I asked.  After a quick shoulder shrug from Tom I continued, “The fact you seem to be conquering your fear of money.”

 

“Like you’ve kept tellin’ me, I need to get over it.  After talkin’ to LeVar tonight and seein’ how down-to-earth he still is after all his years in the business, it’s nice to know that Hollywood doesn’t turn everyone into someone who’s in the business for himself.  It seems like LeVar’s really looking out for you and Rich in this deal.  I just hope we can keep that goin’ here, too.”

 

“He is lookin’ out for us, and I really appreciate it.  And I think we’ll be just fine.  I mean, more money’s not going to change me one bit.  I’m just hoping it doesn’t go to your head.”

 

“I’ll do my level best to remain humble, oh mister rich and famous author,” Tom laughed as I turned off the water.

 

“Well, I should hope so.  What would the commoners think?” I joked back.

 

“Who cares what they think?” Tom retorted with as much sarcasm as he could muster as we dried off.  “I’ll get mine, they can get their own, dammit.”

 

“Uh-oh, Houston, we have a problem.”

 

“What,” he asked while raising his eyebrows.

 

“My nude-lovin’ monster is slowly turnin’ into a money-grubbin’ monster.”

 

“Don’t worry, babe, I’ll be fine.”

 

“I know that,” I replied as I pulled down the covers on the bed.  We climbed in, crept towards the center of the mattress and cuddled together.  “Do you have any idea how much I love you?” I whispered.

 

“Well, since Houston’s involved, I’d guess to the moon and back?”

 

“Way more,” I mumbled as I closed my eyes and fell asleep in my teddy bear’s loving grasp.

 

“I still love you more,” Tom whispered back just before he joined me in peaceful slumber.

 

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