Events in this story run from the holidays into early spring and incorporate some events that happen in later stories.
Two teenagers sat in the warm car that had pulled into the driveway. Eric held Tyson's hand even while he put the vehicle in park. He rubbed the back of his boyfriend's hand with his thumb and smiled as he looked up. "You want to come in, Ty? Dad's home but I'm sure he'd like to meet you."
Tyson frowned, remembering his mother's admonition to come right home. "Not tonight. I promised my mom I'd head straight home. If I come in, I'll stay too long. I'm supposed to ask you to dinner on Sunday, though. My mom wants to meet you. I've told her a lot about you." Ty smiled and chuckled, "Mom asked if you had wings and a halo. I told her, 'no, but you don't have horns, either.'"
Eric’s eyes twinkled as he laughed. "Are you sure? You didn't pay much attention to my head. Well, not that head, anyway." He could feel the heat of Ty's blush. "My dad wants to meet you, too. Maybe you could stop by Tomorrow or Friday."
"I'll tell mom that your dad wants to meet me. It’ll probably have to be Friday. I think she has something going on Friday, anyway." Tyson's mood became somber. He frowned and looked down at their joined hands. "I think it has something to do with my dad."
Eric squeezed Ty's hand. "Ok. I'll talk to my dad. If I know him, he'll want to fix something for us to eat. He thinks everything goes better with food." Eric smiled, lightening the mood. "I think he's right."
Ty grinned at his boyfriend's obvious ploy to cheer him up. "Besides, Friday's better for another reason. My teachers haven't let up recently. I still have lots of homework. It's really been a strain to get everything done, go to practice and work, too. I'm doing as much as I can in school. I've even had to do homework during lunch." His brow furrowed as he remembered a recent incident. "My friends think I'm nuts; they keep trying to distract me."
"Why would they think that?" Eric sounded shocked.
"Well, my dad makes really good money, and mom has a great job, too." Ty shrugged. "I just wanted to have money for Christmas. I have an idea for a gift for my dad, and I need a fair amount for that. It's something I think he'd like."
Eric's eyes widened. "Wait, you’re still planning to buy him a gift?"
"Eric, he’s my dad. In most ways he's been a good father. We've done lots of things together, and we have a lot of the same interests." Tears flowed down Ty's cheeks and he sniffed. "I want him to come home. I want him to get over this. I still love him, and I want him to love me."
Eric slipped his arms around Ty and held him till the sniffles stopped. He liked Ty because he was kind and thoughtful, but this went beyond that. It was a side of Ty that Eric had never seen before, and he decided he would talk to his dad about Ty's relationship with his father. His father often helped him understand things that puzzled him.
Ty suddenly realized how long they had been sitting there. "I've got to go or I'll be late." Ty looked into Eric's eyes. "I'll see you tomorrow at work, then Friday I should be able to stay when I bring you home. Friday's the last day of school until after the new year. I can sleep late all next week." He grinned at the thought of two weeks of rest.
Eric slipped his hand behind Ty's head and brought their lips together for a long, slow kiss. When they broke, Eric reluctantly opened the car door, climbed out, and walked around the car. Ty rolled the window down and they kissed again. Ty put the car in gear and backed out of the driveway. Once on the road he waved at Eric, drove down the street, then turned toward the highway. Eric watched him until he was gone, then opened the door and walked into the house.
After Tyson was out of sight and Eric was in the house, a car started. The car rolled into the street and moved slowly toward the intersection. It turned to follow Tyson as the lights came on and its speed increased until it could maintain a fixed distance between the vehicles.
As he drove toward Sanitaria Springs, Tyson became aware of the lights of a car behind him. He was oddly bothered by this. He wasn’t sure why, but something seemed out of place, making his pulse race. He had noticed headlights in the distance before but they were further back, dimmer, and they hadn't bothered him then. He had dismissed them as another cautious driver like himself. It wasn't unusual to see cars on this highway, but usually they tended to travel faster and want to pass. These lights seemed to be staying well back.
Tyson sped up to slightly above the speed limit. The other car matched his speed. Then, When Tyson approached a number of curves, he slowed down well before he had to. So did the other car. In the next straightaway he gradually increased his speed until he was going well over the speed limit. The other car maintained the distance. He slowly brought the car back to the speed limit then pulled out his phone and thumbed an icon. He heard the phone ring.
"Tyson?" his mother's voice was comforting. "What's up? Where are you?"
“I'm on the way home. I dropped Eric off at his house and I think someone is following me. There are headlights behind me and they seem to speed up and slow down when I do. I'm still about half an hour from home. What should I do?" He glanced in the rearview mirror to see the headlights were still there, still pacing him. "I think this may have happened before, but they're closer, like whoever it is has gotten careless about being noticed. You know me, I'm not really a fast driver. Everyone else catches up to me and passes. Whoever this is, they’re staying about the same distance back all the time."
"Ok, Ty. Here's what I want you to do. Just drive home. Keep your phone on and talk to me. Let me know if anything changes. I'm going to see if I can figure out who it is. Get off at exit 4 and go straight home. I’ll be there as soon as I can. Don't hang up." His mother put the phone down and he could hear her opening a door.
When she picked up the phone again, Tyson said, "What about the charges? This will put me way over my minutes for the month."
"You let me worry about that," She replied. "I want to know what's going on. Just put the phone on speaker, put it in the holder, and drive. If anything unusual happens, if the car gets closer, just tell me. I'll hear. If necessary, we'll call the police."
Tyson continued to drive. The headlights didn't get any closer or further away. After a while he could see the glow of lights from the Sanitaria Springs exit. He slowed, pulled onto the off ramp and left the highway. At the end of the off ramp he passed the brightly lit Speedway station where he often bought gas. Tonight the lights seemed reassuring. They pushed back the night, holding it at bay.
He arrived home, going into the house and locking the door behind him. He didn't turn on any lights, but stood at the window and watched the road. A few minutes later, he heard the garage door open. Looking out the window, he saw his mother turn into the driveway and drive into the garage. The garage door closed and his mother entered the house, keys jingling as she hung them on their hook.
"Mom. You're home." Ty cried and hugged her. "Did you see who it was?"
His mother’s grim face gave him the answer. "I have to make a call. I'm going to see if I can't put an end to this nonsense right now. I want you to go finish your homework and go to bed. There's a plate of spaghetti in the refrigerator."
Tyson watched his mother take off her coat and hang it in the closet, then walk up the stairs to her room. He frowned at her back. He was too keyed up to eat so he slipped up the stairs to change his clothes. As he passed his parent's bedroom, he heard his mother's voice.
"Listen. You may be right. You haven't technically violated the restraining order, but following your son home from work could get you in a lot of trouble. If I tell CPS about it, they'll want to know what you're up to." Her voice was controlled and stiff. Tyson could tell she was angry. He'd heard that voice directed at his sister and himself on occasion. It was not a pleasant experience. "You just make sure you follow the judge's orders. If Tyson complains of someone following him again, it won't be you I call.
Tyson was in shock. It was his father who was following him? Before he could turn and go back down the stairs or on to his room, his mother opened the door and stepped into the hall. Seeing her son, her face took on a look of compassion. "How much of that did you hear?" she asked.
"Enough. It was dad?"
"Yeah. I parked at the speedway and saw you drive past. A few moments later your dad's car drove past right behind you. I don't think he violated the restraining order. He wasn't close to 100 yards from you, but I think the judge would have something to say to him. It means he knows where Eric lives. He's watched you take him home this week. I think you should call Eric and let him know, just in case. I don't really think your dad would do something stupid, but it won't hurt to be cautious. He's promised not to do it again."
"Ok, Mom. I'll call Eric. I was going to do that anyway. Oh, by the way, he said he'd come to dinner on Sunday. I almost forgot to tell you with all this other stuff. After I call him, I'll finish my homework. I'm really sorry about all this." Tyson could feel himself getting choked up again. He really hated how this was affecting his family. "I just want everything to go back to the way it was."
"Oh, sweetheart, I know you do." His mom sighed and hugged her son. "Your dad has agreed to go to counseling. That's what I wanted to talk to you about. It's a big step for him. I'm hoping it will help him work through this. I don't understand where this is coming from. His attitude toward gay people is so different from his thinking in other areas. When we were dating, one of the things I like about him was that he was proud of my accomplishments. Some of my friends married men who were jealous of their careers. Your dad has never been like that. He's always supported you and Molly. He's attended your meets and Molly's recitals." She put her hands on his shoulders and looked him in the eyes. "I know he misses us and wants to come home. He's going to have to convince the judge that he can do that
"Why was he following me? Was he spying on me?" Tyson remembered the kiss that he and Eric shared. His father must have seen that. What did he think? Did it make him angry? He could have run him off the road!
"He said he was worried about you. That he just wanted to make sure you were all right. I don't know, Ty. His first counseling session is tomorrow. The counselor reports to Family Court so if he doesn't show there will be consequences. I'm pretty sure he'll be there. He says he really wants to come home." She slipped her arm around him and led him down the stairs. "Let's get your spaghetti warmed up."
In the kitchen she got the plate of spaghetti from the refrigerator and put it in the microwave. Tyson got milk from the refrigerator. Suddenly he realized how hungry he was. The scent of spaghetti sauce triggered an empty feeling in his stomach. He began wolfing down his food.
"I talked to Aunt Laura today. That's another thing I wanted to tell you. She's talked to your dad and she says she think he's honest when he says he wants to come home. As soon as the counselor sign's off on it, the judge will approve a supervised visit to see how it goes." She watched her son demolish his plate of food. She had noticed earlier that he didn't seem interested, and she was pleased that his appetite was back. "This Friday I'm meeting your dad for dinner. I'm hoping he'll tell me how the counseling went, then Christmas Eve I'm going to Aunt Laura's to meet him. I'm going to take our presents and pick up any he has for us. I'm really sorry he's going to have to miss Christmas. It's his favorite holiday. Having Christmas with family has always been really important to him."
"Oh, Mom. I've thought of the perfect present for him. That's one of the reasons I wanted to get a job, so I would have the money to buy it for him. I get my first paycheck on the eighteenth. It's only for one week, but I should have enough to buy his gift. I already have yours and Molly's. I wanted to pay my own way this year."
"Oh Honey, you know I would have given you Christmas shopping money. You don't have to work. Your father and I make enough." She looked at Tyson sadly, as if she realized he was growing up.
"I know mom, but I wanted to do this. Dad's always talking about 'The measure of a man,' and how we should work hard and do our best. I want you and dad to be proud of me." He thought of some of the kids he knew at school whose parents didn't seem to care what they did. There was one boy who had been adopted by a family because his father had been arrested and another whose mother had died from carbon monoxide poisoning. They were lucky they found good families. He shuddered to think that it could happen to Molly and him. "It's why I work so hard at swimming. It's why I mow lawns in the summer and shovel snow in the winter."
His mother wondered where this was coming from. She realized now that Tyson had been trying to win approval for some time. She wondered what had happened that he had become so insecure. When had that started? Why was her son working so hard to please his father and her? Especially his father, she thought.
"Speaking of shoveling snow," she said, suddenly reminded of a call from earlier. "Old Mr. Pfizenmayer called and asked you to stop by when you have a chance."
"I wonder why. I shoveled his driveway and it hasn't snowed since then. Maybe he wants me to do some chores for him.” He didn't mind doing chores for Mr. P. He was a nice old man and interesting to talk to but there were things he had trouble doing. Ty was more than happy to do them. He had a lot of stories and Tyson enjoyed listening to them. "I don't think I'll have a chance before Saturday. I’m really busy with school, practice and work. I'll call him tomorrow and let him know."
Tyson shoveled the last forkful of spaghetti into his mouth and washed it down with the last of the milk. He put his plate and glass in the dishwasher and pushed the button to start the cycle. He kissed his mother on the cheek, said good night, and headed upstairs to his room. On the way he pulled out his phone and touched an icon.
"Hey." Eric breathed into the phone. "I'd almost given up on a call tonight. I thought you'd forgotten me."
Tyson laughed, "No, I had to eat. Mom made spaghetti. It's one of my favorites. Besides, there was a little excitement."
"Excitement? What happened? Did you have a flat tire or something?" Eric sounded concerned.
"No. I thought someone was following me. I called my mother. It turns out there was. I guess my father has been following me home from work."
"Wait a minute. Isn't there a restraining order? Can he do that?" Eric's voice hardened”.
"Mom says that technically he's not violating the order. He's stayed far enough away, but she thinks the judge wouldn’t be happy with him. She told him that next time she'll call CPS instead of him." Saying this made Tyson unhappy. He didn't want his parents fighting and he really didn't want his dad in trouble. "Mom said I should tell you just in case, since he knows where you live, now."
"Oh, Wow. That's right. You've brought me home every night. I'll keep a lookout and let you know if I see him. What kind of car does he drive?"
"He drives a silver Lexus. It's a vanity license plate that says 'DLRPLT.'" Tyson snickered.
"That's weird. What does it mean?" Eric seemed puzzled.
"Dealer Plate." Tyson chuckled. "Everyone says it means he's a pusher, but he sells cars. Well, he owns a dealership here is Sanitaria Springs. It's not one of the big ones, but he does pretty well. He's all about customer service and people are pretty loyal. He's had some people buy cars from him for a lot of years. My grandpa used to own the dealership but he retired and sold it to dad. Dad says he started working there as soon as he could wield a broom. He even went to school to learn to be a mechanic. He doesn't do much of that any more, but he says it's useful knowledge to have. He knows if his employees are doing a good job."
"Wow, That's amazing. So, why are you working at Abercrombie and Fitch?” Eric seemed genuinely puzzled.
"I want to do my Christmas shopping on my own," Tyson avowed. "I want my folks to be proud of me. If I work hard then maybe my dad will accept the fact I'm..." Tyson stopped, suddenly choked up.
"Gay?" Eric supplied. "I see where you're coming from. That's one of the things I like about you. You really care about what people think. Even with all this shit going on you're still worried about what your father thinks. Most of the guys I know would be all, 'My old man is BLAH BLAH BLAH.' I told my dad that you're going to visit Friday night and he's all excited. He really wants to meet you." Ty could hear the smile in Eric's voice. "He hasn't always liked my friends. Although he's never really said, I can tell. He tells me that I should make my own mistakes. He would say something if he thought someone was a really bad choice. I think he's really going to like you, though."
Tyson was glad that Eric had given him a chance to regain his composure, even if only slightly. He cleared his throat but his voice was still a little gravelly. "I hope he likes me, too. I like you and don't want him to think I'm some kind of jerk. I want him to like the idea of us being together."
"Oh, once he meets you there's no question he'll like you." Eric said knowingly. "I'm going to talk to my dad and tell him about your dad following you." He wasn't sure how Tyson would take this. He didn't want to upset him. "He would want to know. I won't keep that from him. He might have someone check to be sure you're not being followed. I don't know. But he should know."
"I figured you would say something to your dad," Ty responded quietly. He was worried about what could happen if his father were caught following him. "I don't want him to get in trouble. I hope mom's call will make him think twice about doing it again."
"I do, too," Eric replied. "Anyway, I'm looking forward to Friday. I want to see the look in my dad's face when he realizes what a super guy you are."
Ty felt his mood lift with Eric's words. "I'm looking forward to it, too, Eric. Right now I have math to do. I don't want to get in trouble for not having it done. My mom was a little skeptical of me getting a job during the school year. It was only because it was for such a short time, and that I promised not to let my grades slip that she said yes. Dad was all for it. He remembered working when he was younger than I am."
"Ok, get your homework done. I don't want the teacher calling your mom and telling her you ought to stay home because your work was bad. I'd be really upset."
Tyson laughed. "Ok, I promise. I want this to work." Then seriously, "I really care about you. You’re about the brightest spot in all of this mess."
They quickly wrapped up the conversation.
He only had a little math to do. He'd saved that because it was his best subject and he wanted to get the rest out of the way. He got his book out of his backpack and found the paper he'd started earlier. While Tyson was finishing the assignment he heard his sister return home. He wondered where she had been. He finished with the assignment and was in bed within a half hour. He had trouble going right to sleep. Memories of his father and his attitude toward gays warred with his memories of Eric. He hoped that sometime soon the two could be reconciled. Eventually, he thought of the kiss Eric had given him and reached down to take matters in hand.
"Good after noon, Mr. Prescott. My name is Sara Gongwher." The therapist was a handsome woman, Perhaps in her forties. "I've been asked by the court to counsel you and report to them when you're prepared to return home. I want you to know that anything we discuss is confidential, and will not be reported to the court or any other entity without your permission. My responsibility to the court is to let them know when we've agreed that you should return home. Beyond that my responsibility is to you."
Grant Prescott was surprised. He was sure that the court would want a thorough accounting of everything they discussed. He was so taken aback that he paused an uncharacteristic moment before he replied. "I, um, I'm rather surprised at that." He continued, "I expected Judge Kirkwood to want a full accounting."
She smiled, "On no. There are professional ethics. The court can require counseling and a report, but in a case like this, the report won't necessarily include personal details." Her voice was calm and inspired confidence. Grant Prescott thought she would make a fine car salesperson.
"Hopefully a time will come when you and I will decide you can return home. Together we'll write a statement for the court and sign it. You can tell the judge why you think it's time to go home. If you decide to include some of the insights you've gained during our sessions that will be up to you. Those insights may, however, bolster your argument. I'll write some observations and recommendations then we'll both sign. The court will expect it to be true and accurate." She watched him as she spoke. She could sense that he was conflicted about what was happening. He was obviously a man who was used to being in charge. She continued, "Once the court accepts that, there will be supervised visits and if all goes well, you'll be home.
"So, Mr. Prescott, why don't we begin?"
"I'm not sure where to start." He replied, looking down at his feet. The therapist’s assessment was correct. Grant Prescott wasn't used to feeling ill at ease.
"Well, I could say, 'At the beginning,' but it may be that that is something we'll need to determine. Why don't you tell me why you're here and we'll go from there?"
Grant Prescott stared hard at the counselor while his mind churned. Finally, he began. "We were at a swim meet at Columbia High. I was watching my son dive when I overheard two girls talking about him..."
Aaron Keeler hummed softly to himself while he put the finishing touches on the meal. Tyson, his son's new romantic interest, was coming to visit. Eric had talked of nothing else for days. He sensed a real difference in the way Eric talked about Tyson. If you listened to Eric, you would believe the sun asked this boy's permission before rising in the morning. In the past he had tried to keep his personal opinion to himself unless Eric asked. A few times he had kept a wary eye out on the relationship. He believed in letting kids explore, but he also believed in parental responsibility. 'Trust but Verify,' to quote the Russian proverb.
He and Eric spent a lot of time talking. He knew what Eric wanted and he encouraged him to hold to his ideals. It was too easy to settle and then regret it later. Some of Eric's relationships had been short lived. He listened when Eric needed to talk and tried to help him understand why. He had listened as Eric told him about this new boy. The reports Eric gave about this new boy were glowing. If Eric was right, Tyson might be a real catch. Mr. Keeler hoped Tyson wouldn't disappoint.
He heard car doors slam, then, after a delay which caused him to smile, the door opened and Eric came in, leading Tyson by the hand.
"Dad, this is Tyson Prescott, I've told you about him." His smile spread from ear to ear.
"How do you do, Tyson?" Mr. Keeler raised an eyebrow and grinned. "Yes, Eric has told me much about you. I'm very glad to meet you."
"Tyson, this is my father, Aaron Keeler."
Ty smiled as he shook Mr. Keeler's hand. He had thought about this meeting and what he should say. He remembered his father's advice, 'Be confident, if you show hesitation or fear you've lost the sale.'
"Then you have me at a disadvantage. Eric hasn't told me much about you," then he added cheekily. "Besides, He's always pulling my leg." Tyson used a phrase he'd often heard his grandfather use.
Mr. Keeler turned to his son and in a serious voice said, "Eric. You leave his legs alone."
Eric's eyes grew round, "Waaahh..." he said, looking between the two in consternation, as he realized they were sharing a joke he didn't get.
Tyson and Mr. Keeler both laughed at Eric's confused look.
A timer started beeping and Mr. Keeler said, "Ok, you guys find seats and I'll get dinner on the table. Eric, get your guest something to drink."
Eric showed Ty where he could wash his hands, then they trooped back to the kitchen to sit at a breakfast nook. Eric asked Ty what beverage he'd like and brought the requested soft drink.
Mr. Keeler brought a large pizza and set it in the middle of the table. The crust was thick and it was loaded with toppings. "I hope you like this. I wasn't sure what you'd like on it. This is what we usually have on a Friday night."
Tyson watched father and son as they helped themselves to the large slices. Then he slipped a piece onto his plate and, because it was really hot, used a fork to cut off a small bite. He blew on it a moment to cool it down then popped it in his mouth.
"Mmmm. This is good. Where did you buy this?" Tyson asked, thinking he'd like to visit that pizza place.
"Buy?" Eric replied scornfully. "I'll have you know dad made this from scratch. He made the sauce yesterday and the dough earlier today. He has it down to a science." Eric smiled at his boyfriend to take the sting out of his words.
"You made this? Tyson asked. "Wow. This is the best pizza I've ever eaten. I wish I could get something like this from one of the shops in Sanitaria Springs."
"Well, I like to cook." Mr. Keeler explained. "I started cooking when I was in college. I worked for a local restaurant to help pay my way through school. I started as a busboy and dishwasher. The cook noticed that I seemed interested and began to show me how to cook. I got good enough that I could fill in on slow nights. It's been really useful."
"Well, I'd come to your restaurant any time for pizza like this." Tyson enthused. Eric said you liked food, but he didn't tell me you could cook."
Eric watched this exchange and smiled. Ty and his dad were getting along well. As dinner progressed, he said little as he watched his father use some professional interrogation skills to find out more about Tyson. Eric had seen this before and knew what his father was doing. Aaron Keeler soon had Tyson telling about himself.
Ty grew quiet. He chewed thoughtfully on his bite of pizza while he thought of recent events. Mr. Keeler was concerned and sensed that Tyson was approaching something painful. "You know," he interjected, "I've known your father for some time. I've bought cars from him. He's always given me a fair deal."
Tyson's head came up and, after a moment, he smiled at Mr. Keeler. "I've heard that from several people. It's something my dad has told me. 'You can make a lot of money really fast by cheating people.' my dad said, 'But you can make a fair return for a long time by treating people with respect and dealing fairly with them.'" Ty smiled at the memory. His father had told him that when he was really too young to understand, but it stuck with him and he remembered the moment when it suddenly made sense.
"I'm not really interested in selling cars." Ty added. "Interestingly, my sister Molly is. I suspect when dad retires she'll get the business, if a small dealership can survive in today's market. I'd like to go to college and become a mathematician." Ty looked at Eric who had a surprised look on his face.
"Mathematician? What would you do?" Eric asked wide eyed.
"Lots of things," Ty replied. "I could teach. There's always a market for STEM teachers in high school or college, or I could be a statistician and work for something like a polling company. There are lots of things I could do."
"STEM?" Eric's brow furrowed as he tried to understand the term. "I think I've heard of that."
His father smiled at Tyson then turned to his son. "STEM stand for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics," he said. "There's a real need for people in those fields, and for people to teach them. I'd say that Tyson has a real grasp on his future." He turned to Ty and winked at him. "Maybe you can help Eric decide what he wants to do." If there were any lingering doubts that his father would like Ty they were erased with this exchange.
After that, the meal settled into easier conversation. Soon the last pieces of pizza disappeared and everyone settled back in their seats.
"That was really good, Mr. Keeler. You can invite me back any time." Tyson laughed and rubbed is stomach.
"Oh, we're not done." Mr. Keeler replied. He got up, opened the refrigerator and returned with a towering confection.
"What's that?" Tyson asked, looking at the dome shaped object. He noticed that Eric's eyes had grown rounder.
"That, my good man, is a Baked Alaska. Haven't you ever had any?"
"No, I think I've heard of it, but I'm not even sure what it is." Tyson watched as Mr. Keeler took a sharp knife and sliced into the swirling mass and placed a wedge shaped piece on a plate and slid it in front of him.
"Eat and enjoy." He said as he placed another piece in front of Eric, then took a slice for himself.
"Wow, this is great." Ty exclaimed. The room fell silent as they devoured their dessert.
After they finished eating, Eric and Tyson Helped Mr. Keeler clean the kitchen. Eric frowned when Ty started helping. Ty noticed and told Eric, "I always do this at home. It's one of my chores. I help with dishes and Molly does laundry. We split some of the house cleaning chores. Both of my folks work. It helps them."
Eric was amazed. He was finding out new things about Tyson.
Mr. Keeler looked at Tyson, then at his son. "Eric, you should take some lessons from this young man." he said with a wicked smile, enjoying Eric’s discomfort.
"Hey! I help. I mow the lawn and shovel the drive. And I do my own laundry, " Eric exclaimed indignantly.
"Yes you do, and it's a good thing, too."
Eric colored and decided to stop talking. He remembered the incident that led to his doing his own laundry and preferred not to discuss it.
After the dishwasher was loaded and running, he and Tyson retreated to the family room to watch a movie while they cuddled on the couch. Mr. Keeler made a strategic retreat to his bedroom to give the boys some privacy. It was nearly midnight when the movie ended. Eric followed Ty out to his car. Ty's departure was delayed while they continued their game of tongue hockey, a game they both enjoyed. Finally, Ty headed home. It was late, but he felt good about the evening. He felt sure that Mr. Keeler liked him. That was important because he really liked Eric and wanted his father to approve of him.
He checked his rear view mirror several times on the way home. There were no headlights pacing him. At this time of night a few cars passed him. He was going the speed limit, something most drivers didn't do. When he reached home he went into the dark house, climbed the stairs and got ready for bed. He heard his phone chime. It was a text from Eric. 'Dad thinks you're a good catch' he read. 'He likes you.' A happy boy fell asleep that night.
Tyson got up early Saturday morning and walked to Mr. Pfizenmayer‘s house. As he remembered, the drive and walk were clear. So this must be about chores. He liked Mr. Pfizenmayer. Mr. P was a close neighbor and had lived in this house long before Tyson's family had moved to the street. Ty had been mowing his lawn and shoveling his drive for years. He was his first customer when he could barely wrestle through the turns. At first he would come help Ty when it was something difficult for a small boy to do. Eventually he trusted Ty to do a good job. Then he began asking Ty to do a few tasks, things that were becoming hard for him. It often meant climbing a stepladder to change light bulbs or bring things up from the basement. Nothing too strenuous, but Ty could see that for Mr. P, who now walked with a cane, they would be difficult. Over time the number of requests grew, and sometimes he was asked to come just for chores.
Mr. P always invited Ty to sit and chat. He had lived a fascinating life and had interesting stories to tell. Ty sometimes suspected that Mr. P was lonely living by himself in that house. Sometimes they would listen to Mr. P's records. They were real vinyl and Mr. P treated them with loving care. They would discuss the records and the artists. Ty learned a lot from Mr. P; he learned to love those early recordings, something his friends didn't always understand.
Ty discovered that his father loved records from the early days of Rock 'n Roll as well. Mr. P had Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bad Finger, The Who, Dylan and many other artists. Often Ty's dad would come with him when he came to mow the yard. He and Mr. P would listen to records and discuss which were the best artists. Ty would join them once he was finished. Listening to them he could tell they both loved those records. His father had a small collection of vinyl, but nothing like Mr. P's. Once he had tried to buy the records. Mr. Pfizenmayer was having none of it. They were his pride and joy and he wasn't letting them go.
'Well,' thought Ty, 'I don't mind doing the chores. They were easy for me, but hard for Mr. Pfizenmayer.’ Mr. P always paid Ty more than he asked. Ty tried to refuse and told him how much he enjoyed the stories; Mr. P told Ty how much he enjoyed having someone to talk to.
This Saturday when Ty arrived, the house was in disarray. There were boxes everywhere and shelves were empty.
"What's going on, Mr. P?" Ty was surprised because the house was always spotless and neat.
"Well, son." he said as he looked around sadly. "My boy Richard has finally convinced me to move into an assisted living apartment. I turn 90 next month. He thinks it would be better for me." Ty wasn't sure that Mr. P actually believed what he was saying.
"Oh, that's too bad. I'll miss you, sir." Ty frowned. "I really enjoy our chats. Where will you be living?"
"There's a place in Binghamton that I like. I've visited it a few times and it seems like a nice place. I'm going to miss this old place, though." He paused for a moment and looked around. Ty wondered what images he was seeing of things long past. "I've lived here for a long time. Missy and I bought this place shortly after we got married and I've been here ever since. A lot of memories in these old walls." His eyes were a little moist. "I'll miss our talks, too. I suppose the new place will have maintenance people who can change light bulbs and replace fuses for me. It won't be the same, though."
"Binghamton isn't so far away. I could come visit you, if you'd like." Ty noticed the glistening moisture in the man's eyes.
"You'd do that for an old man?" Mr. P seemed genuinely surprised. "Richard isn't much of one for visiting, and his kids are busy. Well, you know how it is with teenagers. They have so much to do."
"Oh sure. I'll be going to Binghamton a lot. There's no reason I can't stop by once in a while and see you. You can tell me stories and we'll listen to your records." Ty face broke into a big smile at the thought.
"Oh, well, that's why I asked to see you. Richard has been hinting there won't be room for the records. I think he wants me to give them to him. Well, he's right. There isn't room for the records, but I'm not giving them to him. I know what he wants. He wants to list them on eBay and sell them. He thinks some are valuable."
"I think he's right." Ty interjected.
"Oh, I'm sure he is. So anyway. There are six boxes here. I want you to put them in your car and take them home. They're for you and your dad. I made up my mind that I would give them to someone who would appreciate them."
"You're giving us the records?" Ty was astonished. "Oh, Mr. P. You love those records."
"Yes, I do. That's why I want you to have them. You and your dad will treat them with respect. You'll listen to them and love them the way I did. It will make me feel better knowing they're in a home where they'll be taken care of. I trust you to not sell them the minute my back is turned." Mr. P chuckled.
"You can be sure of that." Ty answered. "How much do you want for them? I just got paid for my Christmas job and I can give you something. If I don't have enough I'll borrow it from mom."
"No, no. I'm giving you the records. You'll pay me by enjoying them and sharing them."
Ty was about to protest that it was too much when he saw the look in Mr. P’s eyes. He knew the man well enough to know he had made up his mind and nothing would change it. He also knew about Mr. P’s son. On the few times they had met he was less than cordial. With a sigh he reluctantly agreed. "Yes, Sir. We sure will. I'm buying my dad a new turntable for Christmas. It plugs into the computer and he can record the music as MP3's. This will keep him busy for a long time." Ty didn't tell Mr. Pfizenmayer that his father wasn't living at home at the moment. Ty had hopes he would soon be back.
"MP3's… I think I've heard of those." Mr. P scratched his head in puzzlement. "They have something to do with music and computers, don't they? I think my grandkids have those. Nasty noisy things they bring into my house.”
Ty laughed at the characterization. "Yes, they're computer music files. They can be any kind of music. I'll bring some when I visit and we can listen to them. They probably won't be quite as good as your records, but I think you'll enjoy them."
"You do that." His mood was buoyed by this exchange. He knew that Ty would keep his promise. "And I'll make sure there is tea and cookies waiting for you." He smiled warmly at the boy and patted him on the shoulder. Ty dashed home to get his car and they set about loading the boxes into the car. Ty drove them home and unloaded them.
He told his mom what Mr. P had done and told her what he was planning to buy his dad for Christmas. She assured him that his father would love both. Privately, she was glad that her son still had feelings for his father. It might take a while, but she was sure that both of them wanted him to come home. She hoped this gift would convince her husband that he was wrong about his son. They had always had a good relationship. She didn't understand what had happened. She hoped the counselor could get to the bottom of it.
Saturday and Sunday were hectic. This was the last weekend before Christmas. The mall was full of shoppers and A&F was busy. Ty, Eric and Mickey were busy with shoppers wanting pictures. Word had spread in Sanitaria Springs that Tyson was Rudolph. There was a steady stream of friends, acquaintances and complete strangers who wanted pictures with him. Both girls and boys had come to have their picture taken. Eve had to monitor the time carefully because these boys were students and the time they could work was constrained by state law.
Three boys came in, chatting and laughing about the reindeer in the windows. When they saw Ty and Eric, one, slightly younger, became excited. He pulled his friends over to show them. His face practically glowed with pleasure.
"Chris, Look, we can get our picture taken with Rudolph, Prancer and Santa." He enthused, nearly bouncing with excitement. "Noel, Get over here. You're getting your picture taken too!"
The one called Noel came closer, but did not get in the tableau. "Leigh, I'm not sure..."
The younger one, Leigh, interrupted him. "Come on. Chris is doing it. It'll be cool. Besides, do you want your boyfriend to have his picture taken with these guys dressed like this and you not be in the picture?"
The one called Noel grinned sheepishly and sauntered over. The younger one grabbed his hand and pulled him in, laughing with excitement.
"Ok, Leigh. Just for you." Noel said with a resigned sigh and took a position at one end. Leigh was sandwiched between Noel and Chris.
Once the picture was taken, three times, once on each of their phones, Leigh insisted that they all had to have boxers like the reindeer had. Ty thought 'It's a good thing Eve thought to stock up on them.' The three boys left after making their purchase. The younger one, Leigh, already planning their next adventure.
Eve, was happy. Santa's reindeer were very popular. She couldn't count the number of high school and even college students, both girls and boys, who had heard the rumor of the reindeer and come to investigate and have their pictures taken. They may have come out of curiosity or for pictures, but many left with merchandise.
Sunday, the mall closed at six o'clock. Once they were dressed, they left and headed to Sanitaria Springs. Ty was bringing Eric home with him. Tyson checked his rear view mirror several times, no cars followed them. He was glad.
His mother had fixed a special Sunday dinner. Roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, and salad with a variety of dressings. She didn't know what kind Eric would like and wanted to be sure. There was also pie for dessert. This was more than they usually had, but she considered this a special occasion.
Molly had stayed home. She wanted to meet this boy. She figured she could pass judgement. He'd better be good enough for her brother. They may bicker and quarrel, but Ty was her brother and she was there to make sure he wasn't hurt.
The boys came into the house and the noise level rose. They were laughing and having fun. Mrs. Prescott smiled to see them enjoying themselves. Tyson introduced Eric much as he had been introduced on Friday to Eric’s father. They sat down to eat and there was some polite conversation before Molly turned on the heat. She wasn't as artful as Mr. Keeler, but she was determined to find out all she could about this boy her brother liked.
Mrs. Prescott let her go for a while, then said, "Molly, Eric is a guest. Back off a little. You sound like a prosecutor cross examining a hostile witness."
Eric grinned at Mrs. Prescott. "It's OK Mrs. Prescott. My dad did the same thing to Tyson on Friday. He's a detective and he's pretty good at getting information out of people. I'm not sure Ty even knew he was being interrogated." He looked at Ty out of the corner of his eye to see what the reaction would be.
Ty looked surprise as he thought about Friday. Then he grinned as he recognized how he had been led to give a lot of information about himself. "You're right. I didn't even notice what he was doing. He's pretty good at that."
"It's one of the things that makes him a good detective. He also has good instincts about people. More than once he's had a feeling about someone that has led him to solve a case. He's interrogated all of my friends like that. They never seem to notice. He finds out a lot about them that way." Eric paused then added, "I do too."
"It's ok. I thought it went well."
"Yeah, it did. He said he liked you. He's doesn't usually say that about my friends." Eric was smiling and almost bouncing in his chair. "That's pretty high praise coming from him. Usually he just says, 'He's ok' or something noncommittal. You were a hit."
"Well, we raised Tyson to be a polite young man." His mother said. "We tried with Molly, but her curiosity overcomes her."
"Mom!" Molly rolled her eyes and made a face. "If he's going to be dating my brother, I want to make sure he's a good guy."
"Well, I think your brother has good taste, Molly. You can stand down." Mrs. Prescott laughed and the boys laughed with her. Molly glowered for a minute, then recognized the humor of the situation and laughed with them.
Shortly after the meal, Tyson took Eric home. Since Eric didn't have a car, Ty had to drive to Binghamton and back. It took longer than usual. It would have taken even longer but Mr. Keeler was home.
Tyson spent Christmas Eve day apart from his family. The store closed at six o'clock and Tyson spent the early evening at Eric's. His mother and sister were at Aunt Laura's. They brought gifts for their husband and father. In addition to their own gifts they had the turntable and a selection of the vinyl records Ty had chosen from the boxes. There was a letter from Ty explaining the records and asking him to please hurry home.
"Tyson worked really hard to give you these gifts." Mrs. Prescott looked her husband in the eye. "He misses his father. He was hurt and confused by what happened at his swim meet. I don't think he knew who you were. I think this proves it. He keeps telling me he wants you to come home. I want you to think about this when you're seeing your counselor." She put her hand on his shoulder and kissed him. "I love you, Grant. I want you to come home, too. Tyson is not the only one who is confused." A tear formed in her eye and ran down her cheek. She gripped her husband's arms tightly and shook him gently, then kissed him again. "I have to go home. Ty will be there soon. Hurry home Grant, Your family misses you."
Once his family was gone Grant Prescott gathered the gifts and took them to his room. He put everything away. The Records and turntable he put in the back of the closet. He stood and looked at them for long minutes, a sad frown on his face. He felt oddly conflicted. His emotions were in turmoil. On one hand he felt anger toward his son for what he was. It was something that boiled up inside of him from a source deep within. He couldn't understand where this was coming from. On the other hand, he felt he didn't really deserve the gifts. He felt guilty for even accepting them. He knew he had treated his son shabbily. 'It's best,' he thought, 'if I put these out of sight until I have this figured out.' He pulled hangers back so they obscured the gift then closed the door to the closet and leaned against it.
Eric slipped out of bed and padded naked across the hall to the bathroom. Soon he returned with a washcloth and gently cleaned his lover. Tyson groaned and his eyes fluttered open. “Wake up, sleepyhead.” Eric said with a smile. “We need to get up. Dad will be home soon.”
“Oh, what time is it?” Ty asked as he looked around for a clock.
“It’s nearly five o’clock. Dad’s due home in about half an hour. It’s a good thing your friend chased us away or we wouldn’t have had any time.”
Earlier Tyson had picked Eric up and taken him with him to visit an elderly friend. It had been Ty’s habit to drive to Binghamton and visit Mr. P before coming to visit Eric. This Saturday Ty had called Eric and asked if he would like to go with him to visit. It was a nice day for the last weekend in February. The air was cold but still. There was no snow, the roads were all plowed and salted. It was a perfect day for their little adventure.
Mr. Pfizenmayer turned out to be a great story teller and Eric had taken to him immediately. For his part Mr. P seemed to understand Ty and Eric’s relationship and approve. After an unusually short visit he chased the boys away with the admonition to, “Go have fun. You have more important things to do than sit around listening to an old man’s stories.” He laughed his good natured laugh then walked them to the door.
He and Ty chatted a bit more, then Ty told him he’d try to come back next Saturday. As they walked to the car they passed a man who was headed up the walk. The man glared at Ty as he passed, then moved on.
“Who was that?” Eric inquired as he glanced over his shoulder. The man was marching to Mr. P’s door, his back ramrod straight. “I don’t like the look he gave you.”
“Oh, That’s Mr. P’s son. He’s mad because Mr. P gave us all his old records. I think he was planning to sell them on eBay or something. Some of them are valuable.” Ty glanced back and saw that the man was still standing at the door, waving his arms. They could hear his voice, but not what he was saying. “He doesn’t visit very often. I think I’ll call later and make sure Mr. P is ok. Sometimes he gets down after Richard visits.”
They were quiet on the drive to Eric’s. Tyson seemed pensive. Later, lying in bed Ty had sighed and snuggled close to Eric.
“What’s on your mind?” Eric asked, stroking Ty’s hair.
“I’m thinking about Mr. P. He’s such a nice man and his son doesn’t appreciate him. He’s always angling for something. I would never treat my dad like that.” There was a sudden hitch in Ty’s voice and Eric felt him shudder. “I found out my dad isn’t living with Aunt Laura any more. He’s moved into an apartment near the dealership.”
Eric began to stroke Ty’s back. Ty put his arms around him and held him tight. Eric could feel the wetness from Ty’s tears on his chest.
“I want him to come home. I know mom goes to visit. If I weren’t there he could come home and be with mom and Molly.”
Eric looked down at Ty with concern. He had heard hints of this before, but nothing quite this direct. “Where could you go?” he asked.
“Maybe I could go live with Grandma and Grandpa.” He sighed. “Right now they’re in Florida. That would get me far enough away that he could come home. Then maybe he would be over this by the time we moved back.”
Eric knew this was another thing he would have to discuss with his father. Thank goodness his dad was understanding. He had lots of experience and would know what to advise him.
Later Ty rallied and they made love, then they dozed off and woke up with barely enough time to clean up and get dressed before Eric’s dad arrived home.
It was Thursday again and Grant Prescott was relaxed as he sat in the counselor’s office talking about growing up in Sanitaria Springs. He seemed to have grown comfortable with the counselor and had little trouble talking during the sessions. He did not realize that Dr. Gongwher was about to throw him a curve ball.
“So,” he continued, a look of nostalgia on his face, “my cousin Raymond and I managed to get into our share of ‘adventures.’” He stressed the word “adventure” and raised his eyebrows at the memory.
“That’s very interesting, Mr. Prescott.” Dr. Gongwher said as she paged back through her notebook. “So, are there any other friends from your childhood you remember?”
Grant leaned back and stared up at the celling as he thought, his forehead corrugated and his eyes half closed. “No, I can’t think of anyone else.” He looked at his therapist. “That seems to be it. I really don’t have much memory of my early childhood.”
“Do you remember last week; we did a rapid response exercise.” She placed her pencil on the table beside her, folded the pages of her notebook back, and leaned forward. “The list of words is fairly long and we were well into it. I was throwing words at you rather quickly and you were answering just as quickly. One of the terms I threw at you was, ‘best friend.’” She consulted her notes again, then looked up at Grant. “The answer you gave is not one of the people you’ve talked about.”
Grant looked at her in confusion. He was thinking over the people he knew as a boy and couldn’t think of anyone he had left out. He massaged his temples with the fingers of his left hand as he thought. He shook his head to indicate he could think of no one.
“I said, ‘best friend.’ Your answer was, ‘Jimmy.’ Can you tell me about Jimmy?” She sat with her hands crossed in her lap and waited patiently.
Grant sat back in his chair and stared at the Doctor. His eyes were wide and his mouth was open in an O.
“How could I have forgotten Jimmy?” he asked, almost in a wail. “We grew up together. We lived next door to each other and did everything together. We were best friends.” He leaned forward, his elbows on his knees. His fingers raked through his hair. “Then, when we were twelve he disappeared. Suddenly he was just not around.” He looked up, confusion evident in his eyes. “I… I think his parents moved away. I remember I missed him terribly.”
Grant abruptly stood and looked around as if he felt hemmed in then, realizing what he was doing he sat back down and gave a nervous laugh. “I haven’t thought of Jimmy in years. It’s almost as if I tried to exorcise his memory.” He rubbed his face with his hands, then looked at the Doctor again. “I can’t remember his face. I suppose it’s been too long.” He went on to recount a few memories of Jimmy, then the session was over and he left.
Memories of his childhood friend continued to haunt him that evening and the next day. It was fortunate that his staff knew their jobs well because he seemed to be useless. Sometimes he would catch himself staring into space, reliving some past episode with Jimmy. Other times he was oddly restless. He would leave his desk and walk around, not really seeing the work that was going on. Saturday was no better, in fact he seemed even more distracted.
That evening he paced around his apartment. At one point he glanced in a mirror and realized he hadn’t shaved, perhaps in a couple of days. He supposed that explained the odd looks from his employees and the way they seemed to tiptoe around him. He was restless and left his apartment to walk to a nearby restaurant. He sat in the bar with a drink as his mind churned.
After a while there was music from the restaurant area. A Karaoke DJ has set up and people were singing, often to laughter and clapping. Then he heard a young boy singing slightly off key. He was confused and looked up. “Jimmy?” he asked, then realized that Jimmy would not be that young, besides he recognized the song.
Suddenly he was filled with anger. He slipped off his barstool and found he had to hold on or risk falling. He looked through bleary eyes at the collection of glasses on the bar before him. He had no idea he’d drunk that much. He turned and made his way through the bar to the restaurant just as the boy was returning the microphone.
“You know,” he growled, “that song is sung by a queer?” He glowered at the boy.
“Yeah, I know a gay guy sings the song. So?”
Grant leaned in and said, “You shouldn't sing songs by that queer. People will think you're queer.”
The boy crossed his arms. “I prefer 'gay'. I'm gay and I don't care who knows.”
“Jesus,” Grant exclaimed “Jesus,” he said again, “this place really is lousy with faggots. God dammit!”
He stepped close to the boy and their chests bumped. Out of nowhere another boy stepped between them and shoved Grant backward. He yelled, there was a confusion of sound, a table overturned. Grant struck out at the new threat and was struck in return. He was off balance and the new boy shoved him away. He stumbled backward and went through the glass wall separating the bar and dining room.
He woke in a cell. He had obviously been sick. His clothing reeked and his mouth felt like sandpaper. After a while a police officer came to the cell door and took him to a room where he could make a call. Shortly afterward his lawyer came and bailed him out.
“You have a court date tomorrow morning.” His lawyer and friend Joe Martin said glancing at him as he drove. “I had to call in a couple of favors to get you out. Fortunately, you’re an upstanding citizen.” He concentrated on his driving until they reached the apartment. “Let’s go inside and you can explain what happened? I have to tell you that I’m surprised. I’ve never known you to behave like this.”
Grant hung his head as they walked up the sidewalk. “I don’t know. I’ve been fine. Since the incident at the swim meet I’ve been going to counseling and I thought things were going well. Then Thursday she threw a curve at me. She asked about my childhood friends and we spent time discussing them, then she asked me about Jimmy.” Grant stopped and looked at his lawyer and friend. “I had forgotten him. How do you do that? How do you forget someone who was that important to you?”
They went inside and Joe waited until Grant took a shower and put on clean clothes. When Grant sat down half an hour later Joe laughed and said, “You smell a lot better. Now make sure you shave and put on a suit tomorrow. You want to look your best in front of the judge.” They spent several minutes discussing the events of the night before.
Finally, Grant got to the heart of his concern. “What do you think will happen?” he asked, worry evident in his voice.
“I’m not sure.” Joe replied. “It depends on a number of factors.” He started counting on his fingers. “There was damage at the restaurant. You may be asked to pay, or help pay for that. If you do that they may decide not to press charges.” Grant nodded his head. “Then there’s the fight. I suppose tomorrow we’ll find out who that was and what they’ll decide to do. That’s potentially the most serious. We’ll just have to play it by ear. With luck we can work something out.” He leaned forward and began loading papers into his attaché case. A few he set aside. When he was finished he handed the small stack to Grant. “These are your copies. Keep them for a while until this is over.” He checked his watch. “I’ve got to meet the family after church. I’ll be here at seven a.m. tomorrow. Be ready, we don’t want to be late.” He picked up his case. “There’s no telling how long we’ll have to wait. If we’re lucky we’ll be scheduled early. We could be there all day.”
With that he left. Grant sat for a while thinking, then made a phone call.
Ty’s mom had received a call from his dad on Sunday and afterward she sat with him and explained what had happened at the restaurant. He was shocked that his father had done something like that. Later he realized that the news would have traveled and everyone at school would likely have heard. He considered asking his mom if he could stay home, but he knew what she would say. Eventually he would have to go and it was better to get it over sooner rather than later, so on Monday morning he got dressed and drove to school. When Tyson arrived at school he felt like every eye was on him. He slumped in his seat during class, keeping his head down. And hurried from class to class hoping that no one would stop him. He heard whispers and assumed it was about him.
At lunch he walked, head down, across the cafeteria and out the doors to the deserted patio beyond. It was cold outside and no one else wanted to brave the frigid elements. He sat on the concrete, his back against the building out of sight of the doors. The stress of the morning made him seek solitude, and this was the only place he could think of where there would be no one.
His trip across the cafeteria had not gone unnoticed. Robin Kirkwood watched, nudged Lucien, and nodded toward the retreating figure. They waited for a moment then Lucien stood and pulled his boyfriend to his feet.
Grant Prescott took his seat in the courtroom between his lawyer, Joe Martin and his wife, Joyce. He looked at her and smiled ruefully. “I’m glad you came. It feels like things are out of control.”
She reached down and took his hand. “I still love you, you fool.” She replied. “What happened anyway?” She squeezed his hand and looked quizzical.
“It’s something that happened during my last counseling session.” He sighed, “How’s Tyson?”
“He’s good, He was upset this morning. He didn’t want to go to school. He decided himself that he should. I think he’ll get past this.” She looked up as the bailiff entered the courtroom. He called for everyone to rise and court began.
The morning wore on. Grant was not the first case heard. They sat through a succession of cases where the judge pounded his gavel and ordered people to pay fines or spend time in jail. As the day progressed Grant grew more and more nervous. Finally, they were called. The Bailiff announced, “Broome County vs. Grant Prescott.” Grant and Joe moved down and sat at the defendants table.
The Prosecutor stood and said, “Your honor, may I approach the bench?” The judge gave permission and the prosecutor went to the bench and they had a whispered conversation. The judge looked up and gestured to Grant’s lawyer to approach. They continued their discussion in tones too low to be heard. Then the lawyers moved back to their tables and the judge announced, “There will be a short recess. This shouldn’t take long so don’t go far. The Bailiff will call you when it’s time to come back to the courtroom.” He looked at Grant and the two lawyers and said, “Mr. Prescott, Counselor, Mr. Prosecutor, would you join me in chambers.” With that he rose and left the courtroom. Grant was confused, he looked at his friend who smiled and motioned for him to follow. They left the courtroom and went into the judge’s chambers.
Judge Livingston motioned for them to sit then said, “The prosecutor has told me that charges have been dropped. The damages at the restaurant have been paid and the young man you struck has declined to press charges. There are, however, a few conditions. Chief among them is that you curtail your drinking and that you continue with your counseling. This court will be monitoring that in the future.”
Grant looked up at that with a puzzled look and Joe spoke to the judge. “Your Honor, I thought that order was from Judge Kirkwood’s court.”
The Judge bit his lip as he looked from the lawyer to Grant. “Mr. Prescott, do you know the name of the young man you struck Saturday night?”
Grant shook his head, “No, your honor.”
Judge Livingston shook his head and said, “His name was Robin Kirkwood. Judge Kirkwood has recused himself from your case.”
“Oh my god!” Grant exclaimed as he leaned forward and put his head in his hands.
The Judge observed Grant for a few moments then asked, “Mr. Prescott, I’ve known your family for a long time. This seems so out of character for you. To satisfy my own curiosity can you tell me what brought this on?”
Grant looked up at the judge. “Thursday I had a counseling session. During the session I discovered I had completely forgotten my best friend. We were best friends until we were twelve, then he disappeared from my life. I’ve been trying to figure it out. I didn’t realize I was drinking that much.” Grant sighed and shook his head. “I think it must have affected me more than I realized. Jimmy was such a part of my life, how could I have forgotten him? Where did he go?”
The judge frowned at Grant. “Jimmy? That name rings a bell. What was his last name.?”
Grant thought for a moment, “Metze. Jimmy Metze.” He replied.
“Mr. Prescott. You and I are about the same age. If you were Jimmy’s best friend, then you must have worked at forgetting him. I remember the summer between seventh and eighth grade. That was the summer that James Metze committed suicide.”
Grant’s head snapped back as if slapped. His eyes grew round and he began to gasp. “The priest!” He yelled. “The fucking priest. He raped him. He came to me crying and I held him. He told me about it and make me promise never to tell.” Grant’s face was pale and he began to sweat. He rubbed his left arm and began to shake.
“Mr. Prescott, are you alright?” the judge asked. Turning to Joe he said, “Mr. Martin, You’d better watch him. I think he’s not well.” Grant slumped in his seat and Joe and the prosecutor lowered him to the floor. The judge hurried to the door and called the bailiff. “I think he’s having a heart attack. You know CPR, can you help him?” Then he picked up his phone and dialed 911. With the Bailiff preforming CPR he sent Joe to find Mrs. Prescott and bring her to chambers.
Lucien and Robin walked through the doors to the patio and saw Tyson sitting against the wall. They walked over to him and stood there for a few moments until he looked up.
“What do you want?” he asked. “Leave me alone.”
“Tyson,” Lucien said, “you can’t sit out here. You’ll freeze. Come on inside.”
“I can’t. Everyone knows what happened. They’re all talking about me. I keep getting looks. I thought I’d be able to take it, but I can’t.” Tyson put his head between his knees again.
Robin spoke up, “Tyson. No one blames you. You’re not responsible for what your father did. Besides, I was as much at fault as he was.”
Tyson’s head came up, his eyes round, “You?” he asked.
“You don’t know?” Robin asked. “I’m the guy who pushed your dad through the glass wall.” He grinned sheepishly. “He was giving Lucien a hard time. I’m going to see a counselor. Ever since they burned Lucien’s bus I’ve been overprotective.” He squatted down in front of Tyson. “Come on in. Remember when I said we have a support group? I think you need them right now. Come on in and sit with us.”
Tyson looked up in confusion. “You want me to join your group after what happened?”
“Not your fault.” Lucien repeated. “Robin is right. Come on and sit with us. Besides, it’s freezing out here and you’re the only one with a coat.” He reached out a hand and Tyson looked at it for a moment before accepting help standing.
They walked into the cafeteria and to their table. Tyson and Lucien sat down. Robin said, “Stay here. I’ll get you something to eat.” Then he disappeared to go to the lunch line. Shortly he slipped a tray in front of Tyson then sat at his own seat and began eating.
Tyson had only begun eating when he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. He slipped it out and thumbed it to life. He stared at the screen for some time trying to make sense of what he was reading, then he looked up and said, “I have to go. My dad’s in the hospital.” There were sudden tears in his eyes. “He’s had a heart attack.”
Robin and Lucien were both out of their seats in a flash. Robin took the phone and read the message. He turned to Lucien and said, “Would you take care of the trays? I’m going to take Tyson to the office and get him signed out. If I can get permission, I’ll drive him. I don’t think he should be driving.” Then he grabbed Tyson’s arm and they left the cafeteria. On the way to the office he pulled out his own phone and called his mother. After a brief conversation he slipped his phone back in his pocket and they hurried on.
In the office Robin saw Mrs. Waldbaum put down her phone. “There you are,” she said, looking serious. “Your mom just called and asked me to excuse you for the rest of the day.” She looked at Tyson. “I have a request for excused absence for you, too.” She wrote the excuses and handed them to the boys who took them and left the office.
They took Robin’s VW and he drove sensibly as Tyson fidgeted in the passenger seat. Robin could tell Tyson wanted to go faster. It was a good thing he had decided to drive him. Finally, Tyson looked at him with a frown and asked, “Why are you doing this?”
“Doing what?” Robin asked, feigning ignorance.
“Don’t act dumb.” Tyson snarled. “Why are you helping me? I haven’t done anything to deserve it, I snapped at you when you offered help before. My dad socked you in a restaurant when he was so drunk he could barely stand. You have every reason to laugh at me for being such an ass.” Ty rocked back in his seat, a scowl on his face and watched the scenery go past. “Can’t we go any faster? My dad had a heart attack.”
“I’m going above the speed limit as it is. There’s a limit on what we can get away with.” Robin glanced at Ty and saw the glint of moisture in his eyes. “I thought we had that incident about the support group behind us. You’re a good guy, Ty. None of this is your fault. Your dad has to come to terms with whatever is bothering him.” Robin concentrated on his driving, especially checking the rearview mirror. He increased the speed another mph.
“I told you,” he continued, “I never approached you before because you had your own friends and seemed to be content. Now I think you need friends. You don’t seem happy.” Robin thought for a moment then added, “Look, you didn’t hit me, and the truth is, if I hadn’t gotten between your dad and Lucien I don’t think any of this would have gone down, so I’m as much to blame as he is. Maybe more.”
Tyson was silent for several minutes, his face turned toward the window. After a while he turned back toward Robin. His eyes were red and his cheeks were wet. “What am I going to do, Robin? Everything is going to shit. What if my dad dies? All I wanted is for him to come home. I’ve worked and worked to make him proud of me. I wanted him to still love me when I came out.” Tyson was in anguish, tears dripping from his chin, making his shirt wet. “This is all so fucked up.”
Robin took a swift look at Tyson. He understood that Ty was hurting. Robin had seldom heard Ty use anything stronger than darn, even when he had flubbed a dive. Ty needed something to occupy his mind. “Why don’t you try texting your mom. Maybe she has more news.” He suggested.
Ty pulled out his phone and began tapping. After sending the message he began rocking in the seat, waiting for the reply. After several minutes the phone vibrated and he looked at the reply. He seemed to be reading it over and over.
“Hey, don’t keep me in suspense. We’re almost there.” Robin entered the exit lane and began to ease off the gas. Soon they were in local traffic where it seemed that every car was trying to obstruct them.
“Get out of our way!” Tyson yelled at some driver who was poking along ten MPH below the speed limit. “Mom says dad’s stable and they’re going to do a heart cath. I dunno what that means.”
“Oh, they did that to Kale. They stick a camera in a blood vessel and push it to the heart, then they can see what caused the heart attack. If it’s not too bad they may put in a stent to open the blocked blood vessel.” Robin flipped on his turn signal and turned into the hospital parking lot.
“But Kale has that scar…” Tyson stopped talking as Robin found a parking place far from the entrance. “Why are we parking this far away?”
Robin laughed, “This is as close as we’re likely to get. When Kale was here we were lucky to get this close.” He turned serious, “The doctor decided that Kale’s blockage was too bad. They did a bypass on him. To do that they had to open his chest.”
With that they jumped out of the car and raced for the entrance.
After Tyson identified himself they gave him the room number and directions to the cardiac unit. They took off for the bank of elevators. Robin had to restrain Ty or he would have run through the halls. They found Ty’s mother sitting in a waiting area in the cardiac unit.
“Mom, how’s dad?” he asked as they approached.
Joyce Prescott stood and embraced Ty. “He’s ok, Ty.” She spoke softly as she hugged him. “They think the blockage may not be too severe. The doctor seems to think it may have been stress related.” She looked up at Robin who was standing back and giving them some space. “Why don’t you introduce me to your friend?”
“Oh.” Ty gasped as he realized that his mother didn’t know Robin. “This is Robin Kirkwood. He wouldn’t let me drive. I think he was afraid I’d have an accident.” He turned to Robin, “Robin, this is my mom, Joyce Prescott.”
“Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Prescott.” Robin said, then smiled. “Ty’s right, I was afraid he’d speed all the way here. He was pretty agitated after he got your message.” He diplomatically refrained from mentioning Ty isolating himself on the patio.
“Kirkwood?” Joyce mused. “Any relation to Judge Kirkwood?
“He’s my father.” Robin replied.
“Oh my,” She proclaimed. “Let’s all set down.” She turned to Ty, “It’ll probably be a while before your dad is out of surgery.” They sat and she put her arms around Ty’s shoulder. “Your dad has had some shocks the last few days. He’s found out some things about his childhood that he had forgotten or repressed. Some things that bear on his recent behavior. Before they took him for the cath he asked if you were coming. I think he wants to see you. I have an idea about this, but it’s his story to tell. Besides, I think it will be good for him, for both of you, if he tells you himself.”
Robin realized he was a third wheel and stood up. “Ty, your car will be stuck in the student lot tonight. I’ll stop by in the morning and pick you up so you have a way to school.”
“That’s very nice of you, Robin. Tyson hates riding the bus.” Joyce stood and embraced the startled boy. “Thank you so much for taking care of my son.”
Robin blushed, thanked her, then left.
Mother and son sat and talked quietly while they waited. After a while the doctor appeared and approached them. “Mrs. Prescott? I’m pleased to report that the procedure went quite well. We’ve inserted a stent and the blood flow seems to have improved. Your husband will be back in his room shortly. We want to monitor things for a bit.”
The doctor left and Joyce led the way to Grant’s room. They waited there until an orderly wheeled the man in on a hospital bed. He looked worn out but he smiled wanly when he saw his wife and son.
Joyce leaned over and kissed her husband. “Don’t you ever scare me like that again, Grant.” She scolded.
“You think you were scared. You should have been me.” He looked past her and saw Ty. “Ty, come here, son.” He called with a scratchy voice.
Ty approached his father and stood close to his mother. “Hi dad. I hope you’re feeling better. I’ve missed you.” He could feel his eyes moisten. Why did that always happen?
“Son, I have a lot to ask you to forgive me for.” He reached out his hand unsteadily and Ty took it. “I’ve just found out some things that I think I need to share with you. It helps explain, but not excuse what I’ve done. I hope you’ll come to understand and forgive me.”
Ty squeezed his dad’s hand, “You know I forgive you. All I wanted was for you to come home.” He leaned over and hugged his dad. When he straightened he noticed his dad’s eyes were moist too.
A few days later his dad was released from the hospital. They spent time every night talking. Grant told Ty about his friend Jimmy. How they had been best friends since they were old enough to walk. How they had done everything together.
“I didn’t understand it then,” he mused, “but I think Jimmy may have been like you.” Grant still had trouble bringing himself to say ‘gay.’ “He was always sensitive. I’ve been thinking about this. I think you and Jimmy would have gotten along well.”
Ty listened to his dad with eager interest. This was the first time his father had talked about his childhood. Ty realized his dad had managed to forget much of it because it was painful.
Eventually Grant was able to tell Ty about the last time he had seen Jimmy. “He came to my house. He’d been crying. We went to my room and he told me about Father McBride. He had been friendly to Jimmy, but that day he’d raped him. Jimmy told me what happened and made me promise never to tell anyone.” Tears were streaming down Grant’s face. “When Jimmy’s dad called and told him to come home he told me to remember that I was his best friend and he loved me. Then he kissed me on the cheek and left. I was shocked, he’d never done that before. It was the last time I ever saw him. That night he found his dad’s gun, put it in his mouth, and shot himself.” He was openly sobbing. “I thought he was better, but I was wrong. I should have gone and stayed with him, but how could I have known?”
Grant paused. This was hard for him. “McBride said the funeral mass. How fucked up is that?” Grant stopped for a moment to regain his composure. Tyson moved closer and hugged him.
Grant continued. “After the funeral he came to me and offered counseling. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘I think you should come and see me.’ I knocked his hand off and told him if he ever touched me again I’d kill him. I stomped out of the church and never went back. I know my parents didn’t understand but I was adamant. Shortly afterward he was transferred to another parish.” He put his arm around his son and held him tight. “I realize now that every time I saw a q… gay person I saw Father McBride and the anger boiled up inside of me.”
“What happened to the priest?” Tyson asked.
“Eventually he was exposed. He went to prison. It turns out he had been moved from parish to parish in order to keep it quiet. Finally, he approached the wrong boy. The kid was smart and told his parents. They went to the police who set up a sting and caught him. He went to prison. He died a few years ago. I remember reading about it.”
On the last Sunday in March Tyson drove Grant to the cemetery. Tyson stopped the car and father and son walked to a modest marker. They stood together in front of the gravestone of the boy Tyson had learned so much about in the preceding weeks. There was one thing Tyson had not known. He read the headstone over and over. He looked up at his father and saw that he had tears on his cheeks. He realized he had tears in his own eyes. If he had not known it before, he realized now how much his father had loved this boy.
In loving memory
James Tyson Metze
August 3, 1971 – June 30, 1984