Fourteen Chapter 48
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Anton and Daniel 11
May 19, 2018
Reverend David Kennedy from the Gates’ Church, the United Methodist Church, had chosen to come calling in a polo shirt and slacks to keep the tone light and informal.
“Reverend, hello, won’t you come in?”
“Thank you Remy, hello Greyson, it is good to see both of you,” he reaches out to shake their hands with a friendly, warm clasp.
“Likewise, I’m sure.” The greeting is muted.
The church had been a major supporter for the couple during the dark days of the past fall and winter. This generation of the Gates family is Methodist by tradition rather than conviction; they are not particularly religious, but in this small Ohio town it’s a social necessity to belong to some church. So they do, appreciating the tone and environment it provides for their son, and being themselves only vaguely believers they find the generally laid back congregation friendly and useful.
Remy is a local girl, educated well and married well; raised in a casually nondenominational way as a Congregationalist, reflecting an independent streak in Remy’s family. Greyson’s father Herbert is a devoted Methodist lay minister in Cleveland, an altogether different proposition.
To Remy growing up, church was about good people gathering in a social way or doing some good works project. It was never important to her which church; she understood the role of church in family life in south central Ohio far better than her big-city husband does a decade and a half later.
Remy and Grey settled on the UMC in deference to tradition — and to Herbert in the interest of family peace.
In the way of small towns, Remy and Greyson Gates have been given to understand that not many people approve of the way they are managing their family’s all too public affairs these days. The Gates resent people thinking they understand or should even have an opinion on the matter of Jeremy; and they were wary as soon as Reverend Dave called to set up this visit.
A fair amount of time is spent on social chitchat before the Reverend gets down to business.
“Folks I want you to know, to remind you I guess, because I’m sure you do know, that your faith community is here to support you in any way we can. I can only imagine that things are still pretty heavy on your hearts.”
“Of course. When we gave our public statement we should have mentioned the church specifically; I’m sorry we forgot.”
“Oh, Remy that’s—”
“Not to take issue with what Remy just said, Dave, but quite honestly we’ve recently found a lot of people seem to think help is to tell us what we’re doing wrong,” Greyson interjects, keeping his temper contained. “And a lot of others are not willing to talk to us or associate with us at all. We seem to have stepped on everyone’s toes.”
“I think you know I’m not much for that approach, Greyson. I’m here today to see if I or the church can help you in any way.”
“Yes, well, it hasn’t been feeling good; it hasn’t been a help; all I’m saying.” Greyson is determined his anger will not spill out, but is wondering if maybe it should….
“I am sensitive to the thought that I may be butting in where I’m not welcomed”—a pause—”but as pastor I wanted to present myself to you; if you need someone to talk to, or if you are struggling with right action, with what is right for you two, for your family, with what is right for Jeremy, I am available to talk. And you know I am not prone to judgments.”
“And I appreciate the thought but the fact is, we are not feeling it serves Jeremy’s best interests for us to tell people where he is, or in fact what our plan is for him at the moment. And I’m afraid, as much as I respect you, Dave, I don’t feel any weakness in my resolve about that.”
“Well, I cannot really argue with you, but being honest and being that I care, I have to say you two don’t seem terribly at ease with whatever the situation is. I don’t know why you haven’t reunited with Jeremy, and I know you two well enough to know you’ve not taken that lightly. You clearly have your reasons. I also know you as sound people and sound parents. I owe you to believe you have good ones. So I want to respect your decisions and I have no doubt at all you have Jeremy’s best interest as your highest priority.
“Since you know where to find me if you want my help, I can leave you to your day.”
But as he starts to rise, Remy asks him a question.
“Reverend Kennedy, what is the position of the church toward gay people?”
“Well, Remy I am sure you already know the answer to that. The church is straining to deal with it mightily. It has been an issue ever since the church united nationwide in 1968 and it has grown since then; it has become a huge challenge for us and we seem headed to a serious confrontation over the questions of gay clergy and gay marriage. I fear it may split the church, if we cannot find a resolution. Both sides seem determined to draw a line. Compromise eludes us.”
“Exactly. Gay people are welcomed as long as they keep quiet and don’t marry and don’t try to be clergy and agree to, to, to accept biblical … censure. Perfect second class citizens. They have to compromise their very natures to be included at all.” Her anger is less contained than Greyson’s.
The minister takes a deep breath. “Remy is there some reason you ask that at this moment?”
“It’s been on my mind. That’s all. I guess … that’s all.”
“I assume it’s on your mind because of the Chattanooga pastor who was defrocked in March for performing a gay wedding?”
“That caught our attention.” In fact it had happened only a few weeks after Sophie told them their son was gay.
“Remy, I think you know where I personally stand on these matters. I am not happy with the hardline stance. I will have some painful choices to make if the hard liners don’t soften their stance this year or unless some sort of a compromise arises.”
He breaks for a moment then resumes, “I don’t know that I can in good conscience refuse to marry a gay couple should one come to me seeking that ordinance. And I would not hesitate to accept a gay person as fellow clergy, or support their ministry as proper. But if I don’t refuse I may lose; I could be defrocked for doing that. I am deeply distressed to see some gay clergy being defrocked or in fear of it; they are deeply spiritual and good people. We will be poorer without them.”
“I’m sorry Reverend, I should have known better. I did know better. Just, well someone I care about happens to be gay, and … ”
After the Reverend leaves, Greyson said “Still think we should talk to Herb about it?”
Shaking her head, “Sorry that was a dose of reality. Your dad is not exactly on the flexible side. His lay ministry; he’ll feel he has to take the hard line and frankly that’s where he’s most comfortable. He won’t understand it and it will just divert everyone from the real issues we can do something about. We will leave it out of the discussion.”The
She paces the parlor impatiently. “Actually, I don’t know that it has much if anything to do with Jeremy’s plans or his actions anyway. If he is gay, does it matter, or at least matter now? In these circumstances? But I don’t know how we bring it up when the time comes.”
“Don’t worry about it, Dad will have lots to condemn without even going there. And unless Jeremy tells us, technically we don’t have to go there either.”
Bella Vista, Costa Rica.
Daniel leads with his tongue, inviting Anton to part his lips. Their mouths pause in the mingling of their currents. Daniel withholding the penetration and Anton wanting to submit to the tongue. Tease the lips with a moist tip. Circumnavigate Anton’s parted lips before darting in. Anton bites Daniel’s tongue. His teeth saw the surface gently as if to circumcise Daniel’s probing member. Their lips are resting lightly together. Daniel pulls free and tries another penetration.
Daniel kisses the smile on Anton’s lips. The curl-corner where it lifts to Anton’s heavy-lidded eyes, then there is a kiss on a close-shaved cheek. Daniel’s palm fingers the bangs receding from Anton’s forehead. There are beads of sweat cooled by the Costa Rican night. Daniel strokes his lover, then glances at Fourteen.
A heavy rain pounds on the stateroom cabin roof. It is a palm-slapping thunder that resonates into the three men’s bloodstreams. The afternoon shower is a shared hoofbeat charge accelerating to some inevitable maelstrom of weapon-wielding bodies. 62°F out on the Gulf of Nicoya, getting hotter by the minute in Surocco’s stateroom. Daniel and Fourteen are cooking Gallo Pinto on the bed. If the rain lasts, they will all stand in the cockpit, pitting spent cocks against each other, and wash the sex off in the fresh flood.
Fourteen pulls out of Anton. When he stands, his manhood is proudly naked like the rest of him. He swipes his length with a Wet One, then squeezes fresh lubricant in his palm. The self abuse brings a smirk to his lips and a glimpse of tongue. There is some messaging between Daniel and Fourteen. A length of eye contact, a shift in Fourteen’s stance that lifts his shaft towards the flesh-knot of his navel.
Daniel resumes kissing Anton. Fourteen watches while his fingers pleasure himself a moment. When Fourteen has sex, his bobcat mouth closes hungry against either man’s lips. He tried making love with mouths before. First with Cameron Krueger in North Platte, then with Rafael Martinez in Topolobampo. Butterfly-kisses, Tuan-Levi kisses with Levi. This is too jackrabbit-heart-hurt for Fourteen, he wants the kisses fucking hard. The lovers kiss soft-tender.
Fourteen’s shaft slides back into Anton with the requisite result. Anton’s smooth body wants to lift up off the bed as Fourteen presses in. It is a ripple that reaches his mouth and leaves it slack for Daniel’s attention. Breath caught, Anton resumes mating with Daniel’s mouth. Their tongues are a slow twine echoing the push and pull of Fourteen’s cock. Stroke Mister Christian, God damn your eyes! Put your back into it!
Daniel betrays Anton’s lips to be unfaithful with his turgid cock and the hard muscle of Fourteen’s belly. He can see the boy’s shaft pump between Anton’s flung legs. Daniel lets his hand rest on the small of Fourteen’s back. Muscles flex, perspiration lubricates. It is a tangle-tango, so Daniel eats Anton’s crotch for a bite, before licking his way back to Anton’s mouth.
Anton took Fourteen’s first mindless load as Daniel fucked him. The young mastered him in unique ways. “You’re my sweet bitch, aren’t you?” Daniel always reminds him. “I need you so much!” his young lover always adds, and Daniel’s voice is earnest-honest. They gift each other in the coupling. “Oh yeah!” Daniel tells it like it is.
Anton has to watch Fourteen’s face, feel the hands tell him what to do. Fourteen’s eyes say, You may take me. His finger along Anton’s jaw says, Open your mouth. A tickle of Anton’s stretched throat says, Your mouth can have me. Then Anton worships the fucking perfection of Fourteen. He can lay his hands on Fourteen’s flanks, cup his scrotum so the sweat-heavy-hairy balls can be tasted like the zest from a tangerine rind. Fourteen’s hands run across Anton’s back to join Daniel’s at his hips, just to say, You please me.
Anton took Fourteen’s first mindless spurts on his grateful tongue. Deep throating is for the Queen of Hearts, Ishmael. Anton has a taste for his salty cabin boy. Sometimes, Fourteen gives it to him, sometimes he has to take it. Fourteen strokes the soft skin beneath his jaw as the pulses peanut-butter his mouth. First mindless spurts; the hard shaft is oh-so-deliberate in Anton’s ass.
Anton can luxuriate in Daniel’s reassuring kisses as Fourteen proves his staying power. Sometimes, the strokes are so slow, reaching so deep, that Anton believes the boy really is fourteen. Anton’s knees are at his chest as the boy’s fingers dig into the back of his thighs.
Fourteen watches the lovers. They are a study as their bodies talk to each other and their mouths break to whisper in each other’s ears. Daniel has shot that look at Fourteen. The one that praises-owns his adolescent body, and warns Fourteen that before long, it will be his turn to take Daniel’s cock. I’m going to breed you, you cocky little bitch. Fourteen’s anus tingles in anticipation, like his glans begins to tingle in Anton’s rectum.
Fourteen squeezes Anton’s cock, milking the soft flesh with the rhythm of his fucks. It is all so gentle that Fourteen’s heart beats unnoticed in his sweating chest. The rain-cooled air wicks the lines of sweat coming from Fourteen’s armpits. Anton is a pleasure to fuck, because it is all pleasure to the middle-aged Millennial. Anton will luxuriate in the orgasms Fourteen generates. He barely breaks his kiss with Daniel when Fourteen’s cock induces another climax.
Fourteen pulls out and wipes his shaft a second time. He interrupts the mouth-coupling to pull Anton’s face onto his waiting cock. There is some rearrangement on the bed. The sass needs to be fucked out of Fourteen by Daniel. Maybe the youth’s cum needs to be fucked into Anton’s mouth a second time. Fourteen welcomes being taken from behind.
His stretched cock welcomes the anal probe and the strong hands owning his waist. Daniel’s hand slides across his chest and up to his shoulder. It is like the man thinks. He has to hold Fourteen down on his cock or he will jet up through the open skylight into the Costa Rican monsoon. Oh god! Anton is eating him alive.
Fourteen comes in Anton’s mouth. First duty done, Fourteen falls in his turn on Anton’s excited member. Anton might take a turn fucking him, but for now, it is Daniel driving his Top-Dom pride into Fourteen’s stretched anus. Fourteen adjusts himself so his splayed knees have him in a cobra-pose on the bed. He can just be open to this invasion and his spilt-milk junk can udder free with after-drops dripping off his tip. “Fuck me,” Fourteen snarls at Anton. The man nods a promise.
Anton moves away from Fourteen’s head to stand beside Daniel. Daniel is busy breeding the sassy little bitch. Anton praises every muscle-crevice on his partner’s body. He hugs Daniel from behind. Anton fucks the boy through Daniel’s unrelenting movements. He kisses Daniel’s back; tastes the fluids passing from his lover’s commanding body into the smooth boy on the bed. Queen of Diamonds, King of Hearts, and the Joker in the pack; Fourteen likes to switch up games. He is the utility player on the field.
Daniel empties himself into Fourteen, then pulls out quickly. The boy’s anus is half open, waiting for Anton. He never moves a muscle, just finger clutches at the bedding, Fourteen’s head tosses once or twice. It is a pleasure taking the boy, and from the way Daniel leans against the desk and watches, Anton thinks his lover might like fucking Fourteen’s fresh cum into Anton’s ass a second time.
“Where did you find those?”
“Find what?” Anton asks innocently.” He takes a sip of beer and shifts his legs so he can rest more comfortable on the cockpit bench. He adjusts his dark glasses, careful to keep the grease off his lenses. The humidity is spectacular and he is glad to sit in the shade.
“The bag of Doritos, Anton. I’m pointing right at the bag of Doritos.”
Anton glances between the half empty bag and his partner. “I bought them, of course.” And waited until the little Soup Nazi was off the boat, Anton adds to himself. Anton pops another Dorito into his mouth. There is something humiliating-nostalgic-exhilarating about hiding things from Fourteen. It is like sneaking things (boys-to-men) past the gimlet eye of his mother and all of her loyal minions. “You look so serious. Are you going to rat me out?”
“How are you going to hide the empty bag?”
“Fourteen is not the boss of me.” Which is so not true! There is something sensual about the way the teenager hands over a plate of measured rice and beans, heaped greens, and grilled fish. Anton gets the silent warning in Fourteen’s mothering command. Positively Oedipal, Anton admits. “Oh god! He is out there now on that fishing boat discovering fresh health foods to starve me with. Do you remember the buffet in Acapulco?”
“The men in the club, or the brunch we had in the morning?”
“Ha, ha, ha!” Three Doritos go in at once, as if there is some danger Daniel will side with Fourteen on the matter of Anton’s diet, and confiscate the bag. Three-egg omelet sizzling in butter, the bacon and cheese! “I’m vanishing before your eyes.”
“You’re looking damn good to me. Fourteen is a good cook.” Daniel snags a few chips from the bag. “You get all your favorite foods.”
“What kind of teenager eats like this?” Anton is aggrieved.
Daniel laughs out loud. “That’s just how he feeds you, Anton. Sit down with him in a fast food joint. He’ll inhale half a pound of beef and supersized fries between sucking down a chocolate shake. Ten minutes later, he has to try pupusa that some street vendor is grilling.” Then Daniel has to wait while the boy charms the old woman into teaching him her street food tricks. Then it is off to source pork rind paste and pickled cabbage.
“Stand up, love.” Daniel commands huskily.
Anton slithers into Daniel’s arms like a queenly cat. They kiss, then Daniel’s lips travel south along Anton’s clean chest and he pulls Anton’s shorts down. A hand comes up to cup the liberated scrotum. Anton’s nacho-lips are passionate against Daniel’s mouth.
Daniel gently takes Anton’s dark glasses off. His hand runs down Anton’s back in a possessive familiarity. The back of his other hand feels the lean torso. Then with a quick smile, Daniel lifts Anton easily into his arms. Anton is cuddling into him when Daniel drops him into the water.
There is a choice between a shriek and a last drawn breath. Anton opts for the shriek. He goes under. Opening his eyes, he orients his body in the slightly murky water of the sheltered gulf. After the stultifying heat of the cockpit, the warm water is perfect. Anton pushes once and heads for the light.
Daniel is naked on Surocco’s deck waiting to join him. “You needed a swim.”
Daniel does this regularly with Fourteen. It has been a ritual between them since the Gulf of California. Very amusing, Anton thought when he was watching from the deck.
“True sailors never learn to swim. We see no point in putting off the inevitable.”
Daniel jumps on top of Anton and they go down together. This is bliss, Anton assures himself. The long sail down the California coast to San Diego, the long troubled wait for Daniel to finish his doomed interviews in Chicago, this time with Daniel is why he sabotaged Chicago. Anton and Daniel coil around each other in sinuous rapture. Daniel is Poseidon and he is Eros, which is inscestous, but what does that matter? The gods were free of that curse.
Daniel has no idea how long Anton can hold his breath when passion is involved. Anton lets his Daniel propel them to the shining surface while he wraps himself about the man. Neither is hard, this is the intimacy of affection between them.
“Race you to the beach.” Anton challenges as he breaks free with a back kick against Daniel’s chest. The playful thrust forces Daniel under again. Anton does not stay to watch. With three powerful strokes, he is off to the sandy strip of beach backdropping Surocco’s idyllic anchorage. Daniel admires his lover’s form a moment before setting off in chase.
Anton waits prone for Daniel on the margin of sea and sand. From here to eternity, Daniel, Anton’s heart sings. Poseidon rises from the sea and there are earthquakes as they come together in the caressing surf. Sand tends to grate the teeth after that.
“So now you are worried we might have an audience?” Daniel laughs at Anton as they recline together in the sand.
“I’m checking for velociraptors.” Anton replies. “They escaped the island, remember?” The clouds are looking pregnant with the inevitable late afternoon shower.
“That was Hawaii, I think.”
“Of course it was.” Anton smiles. “It was supposed to be Costa Rica. Perhaps Fourteen will skip the fish and serve us plesiosaur. That would probably be like fishy quail. I’ve eaten alligator, did you know that?”
“What haven’t you swallowed?”
The mention of Fourteen, and their resting on the beach so far from Surocco, reminds Daniel of their conversation hiking up Cosinguina above Potosi. “Fourteen thinks you are going to beach him.”
Anton frowns a little at this change in conversation. “Well, that’s an accusation.”
“I told him we were his friends, although, I’m not certain that we are.” The boy definitely wants to be on board, quite eager for the men’s attention. Adolescent enthusiasm does not negate the sense of guilt Daniel feels. Anton seems quite unaffected by the perilous arrangement.
“You do know how this works?” Anton asks, thinking Daniel really does not.
“I can see how it is going.”
“Jeremy asked to crew.” Anton begins. “He wanted to leave San Diego, his reasons, we learned them later. Daniel, each port we stop in, there is a decision to make. Didn’t you realize that? There is no contract.”
“He said he wants to get to Antigua. Do you know why?” Daniel sits up and rests his arms across his knees. “You would let him walk away in say, Panama City?” Daniel looks at Anton.
“Antigua and Barbuda is his business. The passport, I don’t know.” Anton shrugs. He lets some sand trickle through his fingers.
“Do you care?” Daniel challenges.
“Perhaps,” Anton concedes. “I care enough to let him stay on board. What did you think we are, a throuple now?”
“No, not that.”
“He is crewing, Daniel.” Anton emphasizes this. “He and I understand this. If he is tiresome, I leave him on the beach — some port, not a deserted island like this.” Anton waves his hand vaguely. “If we are tiresome, or he changes his plans, or we change ours, then he will wave cheerio and off he goes to find his own way.”
“You’ve done this before.” Daniel realizes.
“I have, I did.” Anton nods firmly. “My mother, well you can imagine. I crewed when I could, before I had a boat of my own.” Anton understands the differences between them. While Daniel summer-jobbed his adolescence, Anton cruised. “I cruised during my holidays.” And when I say cruised, darling, I mean cruised. Jared Hogan’s Atlantic crossing was not my last voyage by a long shot. Anton loves Daniel for his earnest work ethic.
“Cut him loose at fifteen?” Daniel challenges Anton again.
“If Jeremy asked me for a plane ticket home, I’d send him first class. Do you know where his home is?” Daniel nods. “I’m not oblivious, Daniel. I think he handles everything very well, bar an illegal gun now and then. Age of consent is fifteen years here. But that is not the point. He has more than earned his place on my boat. When the time comes, I will see that he gets where he needs to be.”
“I know you think he is just like you were. You see yourself in him.” Another sex god revelling in the ocean.
“Okay, I do, but you are projecting too. Not every family is like yours Daniel. Oh, don’t get me wrong. You have a wonderful, supportive family. Not everyone does, and you need to remember that. Not everyone wants…” Anton has to stop there. Not everyone wants a career.
“Friends come and go.” Anton offers this for Daniel’s consideration. “Our young friend will go his way.”
“That is what he said to me.” Daniel frowns.
“And he is right.”
A silence builds between them. Anton thinks about how much Daniel means to him. The lengths he has gone to keep Daniel by his side. The perilous things I’ve done. He should not broach the subject, but their conversation driving around Ometepe Island in Lake Cocibolca comes back to haunt him.
“Stay with me till the Keys; at least till the winter. Then, I promise I will do everything in my power to get you started.” I can fix my mistake in Chicago.
“”I’m not Beckett!” Daniel is quarrelsome. He flings a handful of sand towards the water.
“Of course you’re not!” Anton quickly assures him.
Daniel looks at his lover. Damn! Fourteen has whipped him into shape! The long cruise from Seattle is so obviously what Anton needed. Daniel did not recognize the transformation till now. He’s thirty-six. The anxieties pressed down on Anton by his business, the break-free partying, it was not what Anton needed. Anton needed this. Perhaps he even needs Fourteen. Someone he can share his love of sailing with.
Daniel’s appreciative glance is reassuring. It helps to ease the panic Anton feels at losing Daniel. “We will reach Key West, maybe take the coast to St. Petersburg. Then, we can see. You’ll get a job, or I can help you start your own firm.” This is hard for Anton. He was willing to cross the continent and moulder in Maryland just to satisfy Beckett’s ambitions. Maryland for Christ’s sake! He was going to do that for Beckett. Then, Beckett dropped him like a used condom.
Anton stares anxiously at Daniel. God help me when he learns I made those phone calls. Anton can fix his mistakes with phone calls too. They say, “I love you,” when Daniel is deep inside him, but what does it mean? Anton is Anton, rich, generous, and available. Valerie Avakian was a beauty too. Anton’s first heartbreak (age twelve), his mother warned him. Your love will not always be returned. Sometimes it seems too soon to say he loves Daniel. Sometimes it seems the words will come too late.
“I love you, you know.” Daniel looks at the older man.
Anton blinks a few tears. I’ll fix it! He promises himself.
“He’s back.” Daniel points to the oily-rust-ravaged hull peeling paint. It clatters around the point and slows as it reaches Anton’s gleaming sailboat. Fourteen is animated with a boy about his own age. Anton is right. Fifteen is a man, some places. They are content to let Daniel’s confession be the last between them for a while.
“Fish for supper, again.” Anton sighs heavily. Fourteen is holding up a large trophy.
It is good. Fourteen can make it tasty for the men. He gestures for them to stay on the beach. When he joins them, he has brought a bounty of fish battered in crushed Doritos and spices. The three men fry it on the beach and roll the fish in flour tortillas still hot from the pan. Fourteen grins at his friends and they grin back.
May 26, 2018
In Southern Ohio days that aren’t hot, cold, rainy, or humid are rare enough to mandate recognition and enjoyment. So Greyson and Remy Gates are sharing a long moment on the wide glider on their wraparound front porch, enjoying the rare spring day, the bright flowers Remy has planted along the walk; the freshly mown grass of the emerald lawn; trees leafing and blooming; neighbors doing the same thing on their porches or stoops or walking by, outwardly friendly if subtly not as effusive as the Gates have come to expect over the years.
Chillicothe is a small town, connections run deep, neighbors are important. And the Gateses’ neighbors want to be there for Greyson and Remy, but the relations are more strained these days, there is doubt, there is a darkness that threatens everyone’s children somehow; an unconventional, really, inexplicable resolution to every parent’s nightmare which doesn’t go over well. Questions go unasked; are rebuffed subtly; and certainly go unanswered.
No matter how strained the relationships, nor how lovely the day, these people can’t absolve themselves of the responsibility they feel for the life of their absent boy. Greyson takes the initiative, reflecting on the phone call the day before.
“I’ve been thinking. If we can’t get him home, and we both agree we can’t at the moment; we must try to set up some kind of structure for him. Support and guidance. He’s too young to live without. And in my mind he needs it even more because of the San Diego thing.”
They speak in code, it’s always the San Diego thing or the Arizona thing or the RV thing, or the County Fair thing. Never in public, and rarely in moments of private candor, do they talk of abduction or rape or kidnapping or murder or bullets or arson; matters that lie so close to those things for their son. The neighbors won’t understand, the FBI might; and either way it’s a dangerous problem. Their isolation is palpable. They ward off well-meaning curiosity of small-town-FBI-nosiness; they resent being told they are fumbling the ball, a metaphor people think their son can be reduced to. Unspoken accusations; even darker suspicions; even the unspoken unspeakable ones, make themselves felt. Anger builds and there are few outlets for it.
They can only rely on each other.
“There are a number of questions that come to mind,” Greyson continues, “He may not agree, but I think we ought to see if we can get him to see sense? What can we offer that makes sense, and that a boy of his age having the damage he’s carrying will see as sensible? Can we get him to tell us more at least and then make him see that his reality is unsuitable?”
Greyson sounds more uncertain than she has ever heard him.
“You’ve decided before he answers, that won’t fly. You have to ask him to evaluate his situation, say it seems problematic maybe but you need to ask him if it’s really suitable, and if not, you say why not. You can’t dictate this. He’s a teenager, so I don’t know. What if he doesn’t agree? How much influence do we really have?”
He pauses in reluctant agreement. “OK, I think we have to be willing to throw out the book, Remy. This isn’t going to be a conventional parenting experience unless he decides otherwise. We have to give him more leeway than I really want to.” A pause. “But I’m convinced this is necessary. On the one hand we have to have some agreements about accountability. We give him something, we create an expectation that he gives us something.” Greyson thinks to himself, it reminds him of some very tricky client relationships…engineering is precise, people are not. The obvious courses of action, the simple plans, sometimes don’t work for reasons of personality. “And I guess we need to brainstorm a little here, what do we want to start with, what is most important and how can he achieve it? And again be accountable?”
“Good, I agree with all that, Grey, I think, well, we’re going to have to figure out how to talk to him about it once we get clarity on what we want. But figuring out what we want, what we can really hope for comes first. I’ll start, I know this will be hard to get a fifteen-year-old to agree to, but we need to ask him to think about a real education for sure, not just this GED thing, and that did not sound to me very well planned out, I got a pretty haphazard vibe about it. I am not willing to forego his education or delay it for years and he needs more than a GED, longer term.”
“Let’s say I agree.”
“Do you not agree, hun?”
“No, of course I do, just saying it’s nebulous. I think we have to give him credit for doing the GED, in some ways it really is more than most kids in his situation would be doing. But I feel there is more, an even higher priority,” her husband says. She waves to the unresponsive neighbor pulling weeds across the way. Mr. Poulson, he thinks. Never has much luck with that lawn for all the trying. Sometimes effort just isn’t enough.
“For instance I want to have some talks with him about safe living, maybe structure around who he has for companions; you know how important peers are to teenagers, how easily they can be led into dangerous decisions; and about having people around him he can trust and rely on. That’s the real reason for San Diego after all. Though, I suppose he had no way out of Arizona so maybe it’s not fair…”
He continues, “…and maybe more to the point, ones we can trust and rely on. This is what parents do at this age, isn’t it? Watch out for the dangerous kid, rein in the peers that present a potential danger? Veto the really bad ideas. Validate the right decisions, point out the dangers of the wrong ones? Show him which companions are not good…but what kid pays attention to that advice? I guess I’m thinking of the RV thing. Anyway how can we possibly do that….”
He is lost in sad thoughts for a moment and resumes, “Then this is probably lower priority than the other issues but shouldn’t we be offering money if we want him to stay away for the moment? How does he make his living? But how do we take it back if things change, without his feeling betrayed? I have the sense,” Greyson starts over, “It sounds like he’s taking pride in taking care of himself but at that age, well we should be prepared to at least backstop him financially, don’t you think?”
“Mixed bag that…” she responds, “if he is responsible with what money he has then sure, to some degree; and it’s not unrelated to the peer problem, Grey. If he had money would he be free to choose better companions? Or find worse? But it seems so – daunting to ask a boy of his age to really understand how to manage money. If he was here in Chillicothe I wouldn’t expect it, that’s for sure. It would be our job to teach him that; and while it’s more necessary there,” as if I know where there is, she thinks, “I’m not sure it’s practical without someone there to guide him. Sort of takes us back to the problem of his companions and peers.”
And in a moment of frustration she flares, “Who the hell is he with anyway? Why don’t they just return our boy to us!”
For a few moments they both commiserate silently. The anger subsides. These are practical people, they can endure the pain, the frustration, they can’t let go, won’t let go, for their boy.
“For that matter I always thought he chose his friends well. Shay, Wade. Maybe those two are a bit goofy, but there’s nothing about them that seems reckless or dangerous, or even unkind. And Shane, well I always thought he was pretty passionate about his friendship with Jeremy. And solid. He’d go to the mat for Jeremy,” says the father in him.
Greyson continues, “To be fair to Jeremy, he’s never been careless with money, he always saves part of his allowance. When he has a goal, he can be pretty single minded about it in fact. Remember when he saved up for the concert thing, that singer, and he even said he’d pay us back for your ticket if you had to go along; yeah, he’d pay back your ticket? And the bike, and his phone, he worked hard to come up with his share. And remember when he went to summer camp after sixth grade, and how he saved up for some of that, to have spending money at camp, when he knew we’d give him some anyway? I’d say Jeremy is good at saving money and conscious of his spending and that shows he wants to take it on. I don’t know another kid I’d trust with a chunk of money – he’s not impulsive about it at all.” From the practical father.
“Keep talking, but keep in mind there’s a fifteen-year-old at the end of the rainbow, not a pot of gold.”
“I suggest this is our best plan. We talk generally about structure, – let’s call it a plan, not structure, less likely to hit a sore spot, teens don’t like structure but a smart one likes to have a plan – not try to nail down anything in his next call, but see if he will agree that he needs a plan and see if he’ll agree we can offer our guidance. Then if there’s time we can ask him what his educational goals ought to be, since he’s already working on that. It will validate that we are giving him credit for what he does,” she continues.
“Rem, even that seems pretty ambitious, but it’s a start. I like it. Let’s see how he reacts, we’ll see where we go. I agree, but we have to recognize something – he’s more in the driver’s seat than we are, and at best it’s all three of us collaborating on Jeremy’s next steps; on his future.”
“Grey… it is the right thing, of course, but.” Tears start to drip slowly from her face. “It’s just that it puts it in my face. He is not the boy who left for the County Fair on his bike that day, and he’ll never be that boy again.”
Greyson takes her into his arms, she sobs silently for a moment. “But he is still our boy. He is the boy we made, the one we raised. He has that boy’s good heart, I’d bet it. Even if he’s not the same. He’s done as well as anyone could hope to with adversity that would challenge anyone.”
Besides, he thinks, he’s a teenager, no one gets through that without changing. I mean, isn’t that the whole point?
Anton had watched the WX reports with a mind on the strength of a Papagayo. The weather report predicted a four-day window. He chatted with some other skippers and found himself deciding to cut a corner on the coast. Ten miles offshore, Surocco began experiencing eight to ten foot swells from the west. The winds about 25 knots from the east. Not liking this, Anton turned back to the 15-fathom line where the seas came down to two or three feet.
“Look, Fourteen,” Daniel shakes the youth’s shoulder. “There is a pod of whales out there.”
Fourteen is stretched on the foredeck cabin where the mainsail offers shade from the afternoon sun. He sits up and turns to where Daniel is pointing. “I don’t see.”
“They are pretty far out.” Daniel admits.
“Okay, yeah, I see something. Which way are they going?” Fourteen stays on the forecabin roof where he has a height advantage. He wants to see the breaching whales better.
Fourteen scrambles across the pitching deck and dives down his berth to grab his phone. When he reappears, he punches Anton on the shoulder. “I’m going up the mast.” This is a fact-request.
Anton feels the sailboat’s conversation with wind and wave. “Not without a harness,” he concludes.
Daniel wraps the line around a winch so he can pay it out as Fourteen climbs the main mast. The men watch Fourteen monkeys confidently up the footholds. In a way, Jeremy Gates is climbing for his life.
At the top of the mast, Fourteen scans the ocean between Surocco and the Panamanian coast. The whale pod is too far away, he has had better shots. Despite that, Fourteen takes his phone out and tries a video. He is gyrating wildly on Surocco’s heights. No Six-Flags-Disney ride compares. Months on from San Diego, this is a comfortable-familiar thrill.
Too far, Fourteen decides. He looks to the horizon all about. Clouds building, corrugated ocean, a cargo ship and a like-minded regatta of sailboats bound southward. Fourteen thinks he might recognize Mary Rule’s Gravity if he saw her.
Everyone born in Jeremy Gates’ generation expects a platform. His grandparents’ generation was expected to be seen and not heard — maybe the Boomers saw (TV) and were not heard. Unless, of course, they were young anti-Levis taking to the hippie streets to protest Levi and Tuan’s everything-was-unfair-in-love-and-war. Fourteen is GenZ and tired of being seen and not heard.
Fourteen Instagrams his life for after-sharing. The trickle-down news from Chillicothe makes it seem like there is a lot of seeing Jeremy Gates going on in the generational backchannels. Every imagined thing he does lies between the light and the darkness in those before-people’s imagination. People, family-friends who must be pausing in their day-to-day to SnapChat impressions of the silent, missing one. Every little thing you do is between light and darkness.
Mary Rule’s questions come back to Fourteen, echoing his parents’ halfspoken concerns. GenZ’s can pursue their passions anytime, anywhere, at any level. Education shifts below Fourteen on the sailboat. It is out there under-on-above the water and the shoreline passing by. Education is YouTube accessible. Fourteen knows better than his elders. He can do it all, even from Anton’s ketch.
Fourteen risks dropping his phone to take a selfie on the mast: hair distressed, cool Oakleys shading the eye-sparkle, but not the tangerine grin on his firm jaw. So cool in this awesomeness of his now.
Jeremy Gates is used to his own brand since his parents planted his cherubic smile on Facebook. First everythings, first branding, the normal footprint of his generation. What are you going to do? does not rest on walking the high school halls to the university door. Fourteen is living beyond the box. This new world around him is maturing him in ways beyond his connected friends. He does not feel that there are any limits.
Colby Island, Panama
May 31, 2018
“KE7 Queen Of Diamonds, ketch Surrocco calling VE7NXW, sloop Gravity, Gravity come in.”
Mary checks the Automatic Identification System at Gravity’s compact map station. The three companions on Surocco are not joining her, the AIS plots the ketch 25 miles away in the Secas Island Archipelago. She is on the west coast of Pride Island waiting for her batteries to recharge.
She wonders if Anton has been calling her for a while. Mary is back from stretching her legs on the crescent beach, sharing the palm groves with Kate. Gravity could have taken Mary to the Polynesian Islands. Sail to India like that girlfriend of Jeremy’s, Sophie?
Mary ate on the shore the night before. Fried steak and French fries, her dad would have loved that. It was lonely by herself. Kate was there, in her way, but Mary had a passing thought about spinning away a winter’s evening with the crowd in Vancouver.
Kate social-butterflied for the both of them, kept Mary connected. Anton’s cheerful banter on the VHF and young Jeremy’s visit off San Juan del Sur felt like her first connections since the goodbye party in Victoria. Not five minutes sparring with Anton (Queen of Diamonds) Schroeder, and Mary Rule got the picture. Kate was the social butterfly, but Mary’s Automatic Identification System could tell a hawk from a handsaw, or a pink flamingo at any rate!
She goes out, exchanging tropical heat for tropical drizzle. She shakes hands with Anton using the remote-control microphone beside the tiller. Mary imagines Anton sitting at his helm. For some reason, she is imagining Jeremy swimming off the long ketch’s stern.
“Thought you would be off to the local fleshpots, Anton. Have you found yourself a Sandals with tinker bells there, over?
“You wound me!”
Anton swivels at the map station in the corner of the salon. He smiles at Fourteen over in the galley.
“Hey Mary — over!” Fourteen tosses out. To please Anton (and Daniel), Fourteen is keeping the next meal to a simple pizza. Daniel reaches over and takes another sausage.
“Good to hear your voice, Jeremy, over.”
Anton is gregarious and the deprecating humor of Mary Rule’s responses reminds him of best company. Friends like Tyrone Casey. They chat pro forma about the voyage south.
“Why don’t you come this way, you old vagrant. We could travel in company a while, trade insults?” Fourteen grins agreement. “I’ll let you set the pace, over.”
“Set the pace indeed! Like you ever set the pace when someone stuck their oar near your dark waters. Anyhow, Gravity will leave your pansy scow in its wake.”
“I’m afraid not, you old dyke.” This is a stab from miles away. If Mary takes offence, she will drop the line. Ships passing in the night with just a soft collision. Anton waits out the reply. His Automatic Identification is fairly sophisticated too.
“She has electric, Anton. With the right conditions, Mary brags she can boost sail speed forever. She told me!” Fourteen advises.
“What, that old bird?”
Fourteen nods back confirmation.
“Are you afraid to follow a slip of a girl, over?” Mary chimes in.
“Always, in every way! Over.” Anton replies. Valerie Avakian is no easy act to follow.
“I’ve got a transit date to make, else I would be your fag-hag dearie. That’s why you find me on the move.”
“My agent in Panama City can arrange a date we can transit the canal together. Let’s meet and talk about it, over.”
Mary hears the sound of laughter from the beach-side restaurant where she had her lonely dinner. She knows she is bound for the frigid banks of the Nova Scotian shelf. Once back in Dartmouth, she might slip south of the Georges Bank and let Gravity taste the Carolinas some winter. She could not stay far from Kate; once you find her, never let her go! Mary is saying a slow goodbye to the Pacific. No rushing it, Kate seems to tell her.
“I’ve seen the Pearl Islands, you unrepentant old queer.” Mary almost said chicken queen. They had each other’s measure, and it was nice to talk without restraint.
“Say yes!” the boy adds from over the water.
Anton’s handle Queen of Diamonds and this boy Jeremy, troubling. You let it go, Kate. Teach the day, do what you can, then go home for goodness’ sake. She told her Kate this year by year, helping her to rock the tears away.
Only, once and awhile, they came to perch on the tables Mary fought so hard to get. Maybe they lay down on a table like they were at the end of things and something about Miss Rule made it better. The hurtful-precious moments when they lingered in her room. Mary hears the diamond in Anton’s world chattering brightly.
“I’ll meet you at Contadora. Lord knows you’ll be picking up diesel or fresh men. We will haggle double dating Lake Gatun together then.”
Isla Secas, Panama
“My god, I could get behind that!” Daniel marvels at the 106-foot Westport when it first joined the collection of craft in the island’s shelter.
“I’m sure it has more bedrooms than my Seattle condo.” Anton grunted, unimpressed. “Mejor Tiempo, Ecuadorian registry.”
Then met up with Alvaro Isaias on the Secas Island pier, both parties curious about the island’s sprawling resort. The men found it family-friendly-disappointing. It took a brief exchange on this for Anton to sense Isaias’ petro-power arrogance and Alvaro’s kindred-spirit with his mother. The Ecuadorian businessman had the same heavy wears the crown persona Valerie Avakian had. It was the c’est moi assurance Anton was born to. Style and opinion, no right way, wrong way, just my way.
Anton thinks he despises-rebels against this born-refined arrogance. Giving up Mirage Property Advisors was his part-parcel of his antipathy for throwing his weight around. Unless it involved Surocco. “Clear the line,” Anton will snap at Fourteen, and the boy is gratifyingly on the problem.
The melding of the two entourages on the pier is fortuitous. Daniel and Fourteen balance the winsome decorations at Alvaro’s side. The hetero-homo symmetry begs a frown or self-deprecating smile. Alvaro and Anton like looking into mirrors, and the Secas Island Archipelago is a mingle-moment at life’s endless LinkedIn-cocktail party.
The young ladies draw their judgements on Anton’s young men. Daniel is eye candy like themselves. Fourteen is an adorable mascot. The rent-boy beside the hunky man is someone girls pet and tease, allow to paint their nails, seduce perhaps for the story-telling value. Daniel’s bed-qualities are a given, the tawny-tom-cat more interested in the Panamanian beach-boys is just memory-moments from lost school days.
The three boys beside the runabout are probably tourists at the nearby resort. Brothers? The eldest is about Fourteen’s age, too well fed, but friendly to the others. The youngest points to the Westport, then Anton’s sleek sailboat. There is a discontented stir as Fourteen thinks he would rather be on the beach with those boys.
There is a Tyrone-Casey-vibe to this coming together on the resort pier. Alvaro Isaias’ decorative companions, Anton’s Daniel, the wrong-right interests. Fourteen is simply crew, friend, crew-friend. He could not explain this three-way accommodation to his parents. Crew with benefits? It is not a very adolescent thought, but Jeremy Gates is not like the very adolescent Panamanian beach-boy staring hungrily at Alvaro’s curvaceous companions.
The Islas Secas Spa rejected by the men (after pitchers of margarita), Anton and Daniel accept an invitation to Mejor Tiempo. Fourteen begs off, or perhaps he is not invited. Crew more than friends for the evening. He takes the tender off in the direction of the Panamanian boys. Everything is private-spectacular here. He could flood his growing Instagram page with sea birds floating over blood-orange sunsets, iguanas, patterned sand, and palms bowing to the beauty of it all. If you could see what I have seen, dad. Someday he will share the Instagram link, some safe-day.
Motoring-moody back, Fourteen can see the large hemisphere of what Anton explains is a satellite link. Surocco could easily have that, when hell freezes over, Anton’s next words on the satellite-internet subject. The serenity-now of Surocco plying the Pacific current as dawn rises over the American coast, and then mother calls, or Anton’s minions demanding access. “Bugger that sort of thing,” Anton explains tartly. Bugger the 100-foot luxury of it all, too. Fourteen shares Anton’s chauvinism for sailboats. Anton has him somewhere between New York harbor and Liverpool, manning up in a North Atlantic gale, or some man’s bed. Fourteen prefers Surocco’s scale.
He listens to the swell of party white noise drifting from the anchored yacht. The Fourteen-designate young woman jetted to the neighboring boats with friendly invitations. She passed close to checking Fourteen-possibilities. Unless she has a strap-on, I’m not interested, Fourteen smirks. This is not what he really wants right now.
The GED science textbook feels particularly pointless in this private eco-haven off Panama’s coast. Be ready for Chillicothe is an exhausted earworm from Fourteen’s frayed superego. He tries a while longer, then nearly bats his tablet off the salon table. Positioning the young woman or the teenager from the beach ready-willing in the V-berth fails to rouse him. Sex comes too easily, and it is not what he needs.
“KE7QOD, Surocco calling VE7NXW, Gravity; Mary come in, over.”
“Surocco, Kilo Echo 7 Quebec Oscar Delta, this is Gravity, Victor Echo 7 November X-ray Whiskey; I read you Jeremy, 5 by 5, how me, over?”
“Umm, Mary, I read you, ah, over.”
“What are you boys doing, disturbing an old woman’s bones at this hour, over?”
“Oh! Sorry, were you sleeping? Umm, over.”
“Not at all.” Mary is in her cockpit with the concertina and two fingers of rum (who’s counting?), more interested in the flexing-former than the liquid-latter. “It’s a rare evening for a talk.”
“I think it’s going to rain again Mary, over.”
“Then I’m singing in the rain, boyo.” Mary tries a few bars on her concertina, but they rapidly transition to Stan Rogers again. The boy’s voice lifts her spirits. She takes a lick of rum. Stan Rogers conjures Kate almost as well as K.D. Lang. The boy at the other end of the VHF likely knows neither artist better than the old show tune. “So what are you boys up to on this fine night, over?”
“Anton and Daniel are across the way on this Gucci yacht. Anton doesn’t even speak Spanish!”
“That won’t stop the likes of him, over.” Mary feels a few drops. She moves down to the cramped map station at the end of the couch she uses these days. The boy has come to talk, but Mary gets there is nothing particular on his mind. “What’s this Daniel like, over?” Mary primes the boy’s pump and settles with her rum.
Jeremy’s young voice flows over Mary, a-certain-slant-of-light oppressive with its heavenly-hurt of missing Kate. Mary always thought Kate had the heart to read these boys-to-men better than she could. She primes the pump as Jeremy’s admiration for the younger man spills out. Sure, and the strapping man might be the natural pattern for this boy. Not Anton with his Queen of Diamonds swish.
The voice across the ether goes on about university and architecture. “My dad’s a civil engineer, sort of same, no it’s different, isn’t it?” There is a pause as the family from his undisclosed before intrudes. So tempting to ask questions, Mary stops the impulse with another taste of rum. “School is important.” Oh, so tempting! She waits because the boy has not ended his transmission.
Fourteen stares at the VHF, “VE7NXW” breaks the silence.
“KE7QOD,” Fourteen replies automatically. He knows they want more from him. The GED ebook Daniel found for him. The math textbook he stole from Barry Gordon in Michigan. Fourteen knows he makes this effort sound like he is registered in school, making progress. He is saying it to put his parents’ fears to rest. Mary Rule’s silence just reminds him that learning celestial navigation or how to troubleshoot a diesel is not going to cut it. That is Sophie’s world and Jeremy Gates within says, not the plan, dude. “So, I guess Daniel is pretty smart. He has a notebook stuffed with cool ideas. Anton says he is ready to have his own architectural firm, work for himself, over.”
She cannot resist, “What would you like to do?”
Everything! Fourteen thinks. “Grandpa and dad, civil engineers. Dad has done cool stuff, maybe. I’m a good cook! I could do that.”
You have to have a plan, this message is so between-the-lines in his phone calls with his parents. Mom mostly, when his dad gets at him, Fourteen knows they are going to have the talk. Mom asks about Fourteen’s companions, the immediacy of moms. “I have a job, it comes with my own place.”
Things are going well. Hell, since August, this is the best I’ve ever done. How sad is that? He has his berth. He could Sophie Wright back onto another boat. Fourteen admires his friend for that. Nothing could trip Sophie up. Rafael in Topolobampo, even stupid Raul bumbling on Surocco. The friends Rafael brought on their road trip; too far, too much in between. Fourteen feels that. (Fucking) Cordell and the waiter, just poison bites, salt water drying your throat. Anton and Daniel are his friends, but no time for friends his age. All snatched away in the sheet-lightning-terror of an August street. He is desperate to explain this to Mary. It hurts in the dark sometimes.
He catches his breath, because it seems he has been holding it. “I,” he pauses, then tries again. “I was in this place, they only had solar power. I learned a bit about it. I could do that! Tell me how you rigged Gravity. Did you name her? Kate, is that the woman in the picture on the wall? Is that you and her?” Jeremy Gates does not want to think about before, the pressures on his all-alone after, he needs Mary to distract him now. You’re doing your best, Fourteen assures Jeremy.
Sophie Wright 2:43 p.m.
⏹ Show pictures
Well now I’m in Concepcion. That is in Chile. Graham said, “I’m going to land you in Conception. Never thought I’d be back to this.” Thought that was pretty funny, he did. Thought San Diego should have been named Conception by the bloody Conquistadors. Too funny, he thinks.
Graham pulled Born to Run out of the water. We are going to take a look see around Chile while they do the once over. Next is the long passage to the islands. Climb a mountain, me.
Thought I’d do that in India. You know how you can climb a mountain to the Kwik E Mart and talk to some old Abu about the meaning of life? Some dirty old man with a beard? Guess we both know that type. Maybe I can find one with some answers. I don’t speak Spanish like you say you do. Hope the old Inca knows some English.
Graham’s a sport, thank you very much for asking. Doesn’t know what to do with me. Don’t know what to do with me either, if it comes to that. I could use a bloody drink and a fag! Well, I’ve got you stuck in my business, don’t I? Hahaha
Seriously Jemz, keep talking to me. Talking to the ‘rents is good. How’s your mum and dad? Maybe we can face up again, now I’m on the beach. They say Chile has good wines too, what a cock up.
June 3, 2018
They sit in the large country kitchen at the big Victorian rustic table, the cell phone lies on the table between them as they wait for his call.
“Hi mom and dad.” His voice is cheerful.
“Hello son how are you.” Perhaps Grey’s pro forma carries a little of the tension he feels.
“I’m just fine. Things are going pretty good. Are you guys ok?”
“That’s good to hear, Jeremy. We are well. Your mom and I would like to discuss some things with you.”
Uh oh, the boy thinks. That doesn’t sound good.
“Uh, OK, what’s up?”
“Nothing bad… we want to talk about our relationship with you. See, we’re your parents, but where you are, we can’t really parent you. It is a concern for us.”
“Well… well I can’t come home, I told you.” He is ready to argue.
“I understand and we agree with that. You can’t come home. We both agree that at the moment it is not possible. We are just wanting to work with you about how to deal with it as it is. We’d like to have a plan, or some plans we can all agree to.”
“What does that mean?” Defensively.
“Well would you agree, don’t you that you still need us, that you aren’t yet ready to be an independent adult?”
“…Uh—yeah sort of,” he is hesitant, ‘but I am taking care of myself—”
“No doubt, Jem. In fact dad and I are very impressed at how you’re so able to do things without us. But there are some ways in which we think you might need help with it. For instance, do you need money?”
Good idea, lead with something he’s likely to find attractive, Greyson thinks.
“Oh mom, well, no I am ok with money. I have a job, I don’t need anything more.” He is proud.
“Sure, ok, but realistically son, maybe we have some experience here, jobs go away, pay doesn’t come in. What if you get sick and can’t work?”
“Well…I’m healthy I’m OK.” Jeez, parents…
“Sure and we sure hope that doesn’t change but certainly you might be in a position where you can’t bring in enough money at some point. And if that happens we want to be here to backstop you, to help you along, as long as you’re being responsible with your spending. And I’m sure you will be, you’ve always been responsible about money.”
“Um… ok I guess I see that.” He’s cautious.
“We also want to talk about your education plans.” She shifts topics quickly since money hasn’t elicited the positive response she was hoping for.
“I told you I’m working on a GED program.”
“Jem, I want to give you credit for that, we were really pleased to hear you were doing something, and we support that. But we think it’s not enough, at least, not in the long run. One day you want to go to college don’t you?”
“Um—” he is fumbling, “well, yeah, I guess…” Truth is, college is a priority of the past, a more or less assumed life path for the boy on the bike, but not for the one snatched off it. “I mean, honestly, I don’t know if I’m sure about it anymore.”
“Some things have gotten lost in the past year, son,” says Greyson. “I am sure if you think about it, in the long run your future lies in having a college education. No matter what you do, education will give you better choices and better opportunities. And it’s not just about getting a job, it’s about understanding the world you live in better, being able to make the most of it.”
There is a long, thinking pause.
“Okay, Dad, I suppose so, it’s just not like the top thing in my head right now. Besides I can’t go to high school.”
“We aren’t saying that at all son, that you have to go to high school, or even that you must go to college. But we want to be sure you are in a position when the time comes, to do the things in life you want to do. We are doing what parents do son, we are making sure your future is right. And we do have a better picture of what school can do for you, don’t you think?”
“So…what do I do?” He’s not closed to the idea but it’s confusing him.
“Honestly, right now we don’t know. We don’t know where you are, or what’s possible for you. But if you will start to share more with us, we can try to find answers. And,” he pauses, “it will be something we understand must be a joint process with you, not us just telling you what to do. We want to guide you but we want you to participate in planning your future,” he concludes.
“Jem, you know we love you, we want to work with you not force you into something that isn’t right for you,” his mother offers.
“Um. OK. OK. I like that. I still don’t know what to do.”
“Well I think we can do this if you can share some information with us, like where you are, what you do, what is your day like? That will help us figure out how to help you.”
He thinks for a moment.
“I’ll send you something. A picture is worth a thousand words. I’ll call you next chance I get.”
As the call ends the parents are unsure whether it was successful.
“Look, we got him engaged on the idea that we need to be a part of his life as parents, that we will support him and work with him, that he needs a plan around education. I think that’s the goal we really needed to achieve don’t you think, Grey?”
“I suppose so.” He is reluctant in his agreement; Grey is the civil engineer, to whom accomplishments are measured against mileposts, literally. “I suppose it’s a start,” he’s also an insightful man, “I guess we can’t push too hard too fast or he could get his dander up, dig in his feet.”
The phone pings. He’s sent his photo.
I have written a variety of short stories and novellas. You can follow this safe link to my Body of Work.