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16. A Naptown Surprise - Brad From Naptown 21 - Summer Internship

Altimexis%s's Photo   Altimexis, 16 Jan 2011

Summer Internship

A Naptown Tales Novel by Altimexis & David of Hope

Fifteen School Buses

A Naptown Surprise - Brad
by Altimexis

“I can’t believe the way they’re crucifying your poor brother!” Kayla said as we both sat with Cliff and Linda in the Kimball’s great room, watching the Nightly News at 6:30. She was right . . . it was awful. For days now they’d been grilling poor David, Jeremy, Trevor and Kurt in front of the select joint ethics committee on ‘The Hill’ for allegedly running a gay prostitution ring out of their dorm room. The whole thing was preposterous.

My parents along with Jeremy’s were in Washington with them, and I’d wanted to be there for my bro, too, but Cliff’s CD4 count had recently taken a nosedive and now he was within a hairsbreadth of being classified with having AIDS. There was no way I could leave my best friend under the circumstances, even if it was prolly his fault this had happened in the first place. We were all praying the new meds he was on would do the trick.

David was my brother, and the other guys were our friends. Anyone who really knew them would have realized that it was absolutely impossible for them to have done such a thing. David was in love with Jeremy. He could no more have sex with someone else than he could live without oxygen. He just couldn’t do it. He was more likely to eat a thick, juicy steak than to cheat on Jeremy, and David hadn’t eaten a steak since he was younger than I was!

“Too bad you’re not on the committee,” I told Kayla, my girlfriend of the past month. Yeah, Kayla and I were getting tight . . . really tight . . . and unlike the fiasco I’d had with Charisse, the girl I’d tried to bed earlier in the year, Kayla wasn’t a homophobe. In fact, we’d met through my attempt to establish a GSA in each of the district’s three middle schools. I hadn’t gotten very far in recruiting many straight boys - something that was essential to my strategy - but she was one of several straight girls that came my way.

It turned out that Kayla went to my middle school and had been in my grade level all along, but with so many students in my class, we just never traveled in the same circles. We did have one big thing in common, however - we both had gay older brothers who’d had a rough time in middle school, and that’s why we felt so strongly about the need for GSAs in the middle schools.

The more we got to know each other, however, the more we realized that our common interests extended well beyond our brothers or the GSA. We genuinely enjoyed being around each other, talking to each other and, well, making out, but we both agreed that’s as far as we were going to go for now. Kayla meant far too much to me to even consider her as a conquest. Maybe someday we’d let things progress further, but our friendship, and maybe, yes, love, needed to come first.

“David’s doing a good job of holding his own,” I commented. “No one holds up better under pressure than he does,” I observed with pride.

“Kurt’s pretty amazing, too,” Cliff added. “It’s hard to believe he’s only fifteen.”

“Jeremy and Trevor are hanging in there, but they sure look like they’ve seen better days,” Linda admitted. “I think the whole thing’s wearing everyone down.”

“Guilty until proved innocent . . . that’s the way it works in the news,” Kayla proclaimed. “All everyone sees on TV is four gay boys being questioned about their alleged prostitution. They don’t hear the full answers, so it’s only the questions that matter. The answers don’t even count.”

“And it’s particularly hard on poor Kurt,” I agreed. “The fallen hero.”

“If only there was someone out there showing them their support,” Kayla said, “showing the rest of the world that there are people who know them and believe in them . . . people who are willing to stand up for them.”

Suddenly, it all came together for me. Kayla was brilliant! I hugged her and said, “Kayla, you’re a genius!” as I pulled her to her feet and spun her around in a circle. I kissed her on the lips. I kissed her long and hard.

“What is it, Brad? What did I say?” she asked.

“How many people do you know who believe in those guys?” I asked.

“You mean people who would go to bat for them?” she asked.

“I mean people who would be willing to drive, or jump in a car with someone, or jump on a bus and stay overnight in a hotel, just to show their support for David, Jeremy, Kurt and Trevor,” I clarified.

Kayla’s whole face lit up as she thought about it and said, “Personally, I think I know of at least a dozen kids who’d do that, but that’s just off the top of my head. There might be many more than that.”

“Yeah,” Cliff chimed in. “David’s the Junior Class President. The guy won by acceleration, after all.”

“The word’s ‘acclamation’,” I corrected Cliff.

“Whatever,” he said as he rolled his eyes. “It goes without saying he’s one of the most popular boys in the high school. Jeremy, too. You could prolly fill a bus with kids who’d wanna show their support for those guys. And even though Trevor’s a geek, he’s President of the GSA and he’s pretty popular in the senior class, too. I think there are a lot of kids in the sophomore class that would go to bat for Kurt, and beyond, particularly now that he’s won those medals. Our high school takes pride in those guys.”

“Not just the high school,” Linda countered. “I think there’s a lot of kids in the middle schools who’d be interested, too. Some of the brothers and sisters of the high school kids, and some kids who just feel what’s going on in Washington isn’t right. It’s time for us to show the rest of America that not all Midwesterners are backwards homophobic racist hicks.”

It was sooo funny, but Cliff and I pulled our cell phones out at exactly the same time. We both ended up talking to our fathers simultaneously, who it turned out were seated next to each other in a restaurant at that moment, so we ended up in a four-way conversation about our idea for a caravan of kids to Washington . . . a show of support for our brothers.

Our dads loved the idea. They thought the best thing would be to use school buses to transport the kids to Washington - there would be much more of an impact that way - but the kids would need to pay their own way for the transportation and lodging. I was shocked by that, since Jeremy’s dad could easily afford to pay for it, but he explained how important it was that people get the message that kids were willing to do this on their own. It mustn’t look like Jeremy’s father was buying the kids’ support, and I could understand that. What Mr. Kimball could do was to guarantee a minimum payment for transportation costs, just in case not enough people signed up, and he’d put his lawyer in touch with the school superintendant to help get the ball rolling. Otherwise, this would be our project. That this was a kid-run, kid-organized project was crucial to the public image, and to the project’s success.

Cliff and I had scarcely hung up our phones when the house phone was ringing off the hook. Later that night, Harold Warren, a reporter with The Star, came out to interview us on what we were trying to organize and why. The next morning, ours was the lead story on the front page of the paper! Fortunately, Mr. Warren had the experience and the foresight to tell us to have folks call the paper with inquiries about the trip. They set up a special line for us and charged us a nominal fee - I guess this sort of thing happens at the last minute all the time - it’s one of the ways the paper makes money.

Going on-line and with help from Mr. Kimball’s lawyer, I reserved a block of fifty rooms at the Hampton Inn in Germantown, some twenty miles north of Washington. With two double beds in each room we never dreamt we’d come close to filling all fifty rooms. That was two hundred kids, after all. Even at the discounted rate of $129 per night for two nights, each kid would have to fork over a hundred bucks and change, including the tax and their share of the bus fare, and even that was ’cause we got a local gas station to throw in the gas for free at Mr. Warren’s suggestion.

At a little after 10:00, I got a call from the paper. Two hundred kids had already signed up for the trip, and calls were still coming in like crazy. They wanted to know if they could take back-up reservations, in case anyone dropped out, and in the meantime asked if we could try to add more buses and rooms so more kids could go on the trip. When I asked, it turned out kids were signing up from all over the city - not just from our own school district. It was awesome.

Well, I got right on the phone with Mr. Kimball’s lawyer to see if we could get more buses, and he just laughed and assured me we could get as many buses as we wanted at the same rate per kid. I then got on the phone with Hampton Inn to see about getting more rooms. I figured we’d need at least twice that many, and maybe more. It turned out that getting them all in one place was gonna be an issue, and when I explained the situation, they sure didn’t sound thrilled with the idea of having hundreds of unsupervised teenagers running amok in their hotel. I guess I could see their point. When I threatened to take our business elsewhere, they suddenly ‘discovered’ they had a Hilton hotel in Gaithersburg that was even a little closer to Washington, with two hundred rooms available if we needed them - not that I expected we would - and they’d even give us the same price of $129 per night if we promised to have at least one adult staying, too, for every forty kids on site. I wasn’t sure where I was going to come up with that many adults, but I knew I’d think of something. There was no way I was going to pass this up.

With a new plan in place, I called the paper back and told them we could now accommodate up to eight hundred kids. The woman I spoke to was delighted. She said she’d already taken close to 350 back-up reservations, so we were well on the way to filling even that number.

In the end, we didn’t fill two hundred rooms at the Gaithersburg Hilton, but 177 was still an impressive number. We ended up filling fifteen school buses. About half the students were from our school district, and the rest were from all over the metro area, which was a very impressive showing indeed. It seemed that attitudes toward gays had changed substantially in our city from what they’d been in the past. We had kids as young as twelve years old, and kids who were in college, and more than enough adult chaperones, ’cause a lot of the kids’ parents wanted to go to show their support, too. All the TV stations came out to film us as we headed out for the long trip to DC. Wouldn’t David be surprised to see us? Unless someone had tipped him and the others off about our plans, he wouldn’t have a clue.

There was a real spirit of camaraderie on the bus I rode on. I really missed Cliff, but his doctor said his counts were still too low for him to go. I knew he was in great hands with Carlotta, his nanny and housekeeper, but the trip wasn’t the same without him.

With frequent stops for food and restroom breaks, the trip took nearly all day, and even then, we were still an hour outside of Washington by the time we arrived at our hotel. Getting checked into our hotels took forever, and I was sure glad I had all those adult chaperones. Without them, things would have probably deteriorated into complete chaos.

That evening in our hotel rooms, we gathered together and assembled signs. There was no way, after all, we could all fit inside, so Jeremy’s father made arrangements for us to obtain a permit to hold a peaceful protest rally outside the Capitol building. With nothing more than white poster board, magic markers and wooden posts, we constructed signs with slogans like, “Free the Gay Four”, “The only Pimps are on the Committee”, and my personal favorite, “Bury McCarthy back in the 50’s”.

With our pickets ready to go, we hit the sack.

The one thing I didn’t realize when I agreed to the switch from the Hampton Inn to the Hilton was that, whereas at the Hampton Inn, breakfasts are free, at the Hilton, they’re not. Thank God I’d told everyone meals were at their own expense, or I’d have been on the hook for thousands of dollars out of my own pocket. I did complain to the manager, however, and although he didn’t give us all a free breakfast, which is what I’d wanted, he did point out that the breakfast buffet we were getting for $13.95 was a whole lot nicer than the continental breakfast at the Hampton Inn, which was worth maybe six dollars at best. He therefore gave us the buffet for $7.95 a piece, which was really, really nice of him. Wow! It really pays to speak up!

It was quite a site as our fifteen buses drove down I-270 during rush hour, and then around the Capitol Beltway, across the American Legion Bridge, along the George Washington Parkway, back across the Potomac and onto the National Mall. The buses paraded themselves in front of the US Capitol before finally lining up along the Mall. The buses then disgorged their passengers and the parent chaperones organized us into peaceful columns as we held our pickets high in protest, preparing to march up to the steps of the Capitol. Mr. Kimball’s lawyer met us there and pulled aside a number of us, myself included, whom he felt would be particularly good speakers to testify before the Select Ethics Committee. He also selected fifty ‘spectators’ for whom he had tickets to sit in the gallery inside. The rest would remain outside for an organized, peaceful protest. This was gonna be great!

Going through security with all the other kids was a chore, but it was nothing I hadn’t been through before.

When we got to the committee room chamber, we were all seated behind a wooden railing, with those of us who planned to speak being seated in the front row. David, Jeremy, Trevor and Kurt hadn’t arrived yet, nor had the members of the committee, and so we sat, and we waited, and waited.

When David entered the chamber and saw me, he was utterly shocked. At first Jeremy didn’t see me, but then he saw David staring at me and a look of complete surprise took over his face. Soon all four boys were looking at me, and then noticing several other familiar faces in the crowd in total disbelief. Before they had much time to contemplate what was happening, however, the members of the Committee arrived and we were all asked to rise.

After the committee chair had gotten some preliminaries out of the way and was about to resume questioning, Jeremy’s father’s attorney asked to approach. After talking quietly to the committee chair for a minute, the chair nodded and then the attorney returned to his seat and the chair said, “Very well, you may make the request formally.”

“If it pleases the members of the committee, we have a large number of visitors in the gallery today, and an even larger number of visitors outside who have organized a peaceful protest on behalf of the four subjects of this investigation. The visitors present in the gallery have asked to speak directly to the committee on behalf of the subjects today. We would like to see as many of them have an opportunity to speak as possible, but in the interest of time, I would like to propose that we limit it to twelve individuals who know the subjects personally, each speaking for ten minutes. If there is time after that, perhaps we could allow an additional twelve individuals to speak for five minutes apiece. I’m bringing this up first thing because we are taking about at least three hours of testimony, or more if the committee members wish to question any of these individuals. These people have all come from the subjects’ home city. They know them far better than any of the other people in this room.”

Damned if it didn’t take the members of the committee more than an hour to argue the merits of allowing us to speak, and the amount of time we should be given to speak. In the end, the committee voted to allow six of us to speak for up to fifteen minutes each, and an unlimited number of those present to speak for up to five minutes each. With the committee free to ask questions as they saw fit, it was likely we’d be there the rest of the day doing this.

Mr. Kimball’s lawyer then introduced me by saying, “First to speak will be Bradford Reynolds, the organizer of this whole thing. Young Brad is the thirteen-year-old brother of David Reynolds, but when you hear him, you’ll realize how much alike the two brothers really are. When he thought of the idea of bringing a bunch of friends to Washington as a show of support for his brother, he thought he might get a busload or two, but then the local press got wind of the story, and he ended up with fifteen school buses full of kids, all of them willing to use their own hard-earned money or allowance to pay their way. That goes to show you how much their community values these four boys under investigation.

“Brad, come up here and tell the members of the committee how you feel about your brother and the other three boys you call your friends.”

I could see the tears running down David’s face as I approached the ‘hot seat’. The message of his love was clear and I almost lost it too, but I kept myself composed.

Beginning my speech, I said, “Ladies and gentlemen of the committee, I want to thank you for the opportunity to address you this morning. I do not dispute the severity of the crimes that have been alleged, and I emphasize the word, ‘alleged’, nor do I challenge the need to investigate, but I cannot help but compare what is happening here today to the McCarthy era of the 1950’s. Going after my brother, going after Jeremy Kimball, going after Trevor Austin and particularly after Kurt DeWitt, a boy you recently honored for his selfless acts of bravery, simply because of a rumor started by a tabloid is unconscionable.

“For days now, you have been grilling these boys about their alleged activities and yet they have been unwavering in their testimony, no matter what you have thrown at them. Where are the people who actually made these allegations in the first place? Sure, a reporter may not be obligated to reveal their sources, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring them before the committee for questioning. You can force them to answer, under oath, if they even have a source in the first place. Is the source reliable? Is there more than one independent source? Can the committee even verify the validity of any of the claims of wrongdoing? This is basic detective work. The committee owes my brother and his friends that much.

“And where are the witnesses? Being seen entering the same hotel as a congressman is hardly a crime . . . it’s a coincidence. We’ve heard testimony that they had lunch there and nothing more, so why does this keep coming up? Unless you can produce a witness that can place them with the congressmen, you simply have no case.”

Pausing for dramatic effect, I continued, “But I’m not here to tell you how to do your jobs . . . what do I know? I’m only thirteen, after all. I’m here to tell you about my brother and his friends. I’m here to tell you about the remarkable young men whose lives are being thoughtlessly destroyed in the name of political expediency. These are young men with enormous potential who have so much to contribute to society.

“Growing up, my brother was always my hero. Although I was always his ‘bratty little brother’ being three years younger than him, he never looked down on me. He always treated me with respect. We grew up in a house with adjacent bedrooms and a shared bathroom, and I always knew if I had a problem, I could walk through the bathroom and knock on his bedroom door. No matter how big the problem, no matter how big his own problems might have been at the time, he was always there for me.

“When David started middle school, he started to change. He’d always been one of the most outgoing kids in school, and he slowly became shy and withdrawn. He spent a lot of time holed up in his room, so I knew that something was wrong, but he didn’t want to talk about it . . . not even with me. I was really worried about him. And then one summer day he showed up at our house with a friend from school, Jeremy Kimball, and David’s whole disposition had changed. He was happy and he had a goofy grin on his face, and then I knew.

“Suddenly the past three years made sense. My brother was gay. He’d probably just been bummed out about it. To me, it didn’t matter whether my brother was gay or straight. I was just glad to have the old David back. I always figured he’d eventually get a girlfriend, but Jeremy’s been, like, a wonderful boyfriend to my brother. I couldn’t be happier for the two of them. Jeremy’s foster brother, Cliff, is my best friend, and Cliff’s girlfriend and my girlfriend have become close.” David’s head shot up when I mentioned I had a girlfriend. I guess I hadn’t been doing a good job of keeping in touch. “Kayla and Linda are right over there, by the way,” I said, pointing to the gallery.

Continuing, I said, “So David and Jeremy have been together for two years now. They came out to both sets of parents the day they got together. I guess you could say they fell head over heels for each other. They came out at school, too, and are both on the Student Council. David was the Freshman Class Treasurer, and then he ran for Sophomore Class President, and won by a landslide, trouncing his two opponents. No one even bothered to run against him for Junior Class President. He and Jeremy are, like, two of the most popular boys in the school, as I’m sure you’ll hear from some of the others here today. People don’t care that they’re gay . . . they’re cool, but they’re just good kids.

“They’ve had their picture on the front page of the local paper three times. They’re the face of gay youth in our community, and we’re talking about a very conservative, Midwestern city.

“The thought that they could be running a prostitution ring is laughable. David and Jeremy are so much in love. They only have eyes for each other. Ask anyone who knows them. They spend all their weekends and their summers together. The thought of either of them being with someone else is impossible to conceive. As the expression goes, they’re like yin and yang. I love them both. They’re my brothers, and my best friends.

“Another thing you seem to be overlooking,” I added, “is what could possibly be the motive for prostitution? “These boys have loving relationships, so why would they look elsewhere for love or sex? The have great expectations for their future. David has ambitions in politics and dreams of getting a Law degree from Harvard, so the last thing he would want to do is get messed up in something like this. Jeremy also has his sights on Harvard Law, and he has more than enough money for the both of them to live off for the rest of their lives, so why would he need to resort to prostitution?

“Trevor is the president of his school’s GSA. He’s a devout Christian who’s helped many gay youths come to terms with their sexuality. In some cases, I’m sure, that has meant saving lives. He built the GSA’s website from scratch and already it is a top-ten resource for gay teens nationwide. He, too, has more than adequate means, coming from a background of affluence, and certainly has no need to stoop to prostitution. His boyfriend, Kurt, was just awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. He plans to dedicate his life to the study of Religion and to the Ministry. He is as ethical a person as I have ever known. How can this committee even question his willingness to resort to prostitution? Trevor and Kurt have been in a monogamous relationship for a year, and they plan to marry next summer. For them, there is no one else but each other.

“In here, there are fifty children from our community who have come to speak to the members of the Select Committee today on behalf of my brother and his friends. Outside this building, there are more than six hundred more, and some fifty of their parents, who dropped everything they were doing this summer to show their support. That should tell you something. It should tell you how much the children of my community value the four teenagers who are before you today, accused of crimes in a witch hunt that more than likely has arisen, let’s face it, simply because they are gay, and because some people took exception to a gay teen receiving a Congressional Gold Medal.

“Thank you for your time, and for listening to me.”

The chairman of the committee didn’t waste any time in getting to the bottom of my little excursion. “Brad,” he asked. “Not to belittle your accomplishments or anything, but it seems rather amazing that a thirteen-year-old could pull something off like this . . . coordinating getting fifteen busloads of teenagers all the way from the Midwest to Washington on your own. In fact, it’s preposterous. This committee takes a very dim view of people using kids for their own bidding and I for one intend to get down to the bottom of who’s really behind all this.

“Remember, son, you’re under oath here, so tell me the truth. Whose idea really was it to organize a caravan of buses to bring all these kids here today.”

Smiling back at the senator, I said, “You’re looking at him, Senator. My girlfriend did play a bit of a role . . . she said words to the effect that there needed to be someone out there to show support for David and our friends, and that’s when the idea came together in my head. I realized then and there that we all knew kids who would be willing to give up their time and money to travel to Washington on their behalf.

“My initial thought was to get some older teens with cars to help and form a caravan of cars, but Jeremy’s dad thought that would be too risky in terms of liability issues . . .”

“So you admit Thomas Kimball had something to do with this?” the senator interrupted.

“Mr. Chairman,” I said, “I couldn’t organize something like this without contacting my parents. At the minimum, I had to get their permission. My best friend, Cliff, called his parents, who are also Jeremy’s parents. It’s unfortunate that Cliff couldn’t come with us, but his CD4 count is too low.”

“What do you mean, his CD4 count is too low?” Jeremy screamed out.

“We didn’t want to worry you,” Jeremy’s dad called out to his son. “The new drugs will probably help, so there’s no need to worry.”

Jeremy was actually crying, and David took him into his arms. I knew just how he felt, ’cause I felt the same way.

In the meantime, the chairman was pounding his gavel and yelling “Order! Order in the chamber!”

The chairman resumed his grilling by asking, “Once again, Mr. Reynolds, explain Mr. Kimball’s roll in helping to set this whole thing up. How much of this was his idea, and how much of it was yours?”

“Making the trip to Washington with as many kids as we could as a show of support was entirely my idea. Getting some of them to testify before the committee was my idea once I realized that was a possibility. Using school buses instead of a caravan of cars was Mr. Kimball’s idea. He explained that if one of the cars was involved in an accident, there could be liability issues. He said the school could charge us a flat rate per seat for the bus and driver, and he had his lawyer contact the school superintendant on my behalf and make the arrangements, for which I was grateful. I could have done that myself, but Mr. Kimball just saved me time.

“You have to understand, Mr. Chairman . . . Mr. Kimball could have paid the entire cost himself. He didn’t do that for precisely the reason you’re alluding to. This was entirely my idea, but I’m only thirteen and I’ve never done something like this before. Mr. Kimball just pointed me in the right direction and got me started.

“For the hotel, I went on-line and checked on some rates and went with Hampton Inn, but a kid can’t make a reservation for such a large block of rooms without the help of an adult, so I again had to use Mr. Kimball’s lawyer to set things up. Unfortunately, the initial response was overwhelming and we quickly needed a larger block of rooms. When I called, they weren’t exactly thrilled to have their hotel overrun by a bunch of kids. We eventually worked things out with the Hilton in Gaithersburg for the same rate so long as we agreed to bring at least one adult for every forty kids. Actually, it wasn’t ‘we’. I did that all on my own. The only thing is, I didn’t realize that breakfast wasn’t included, so when we got there, I spoke to the manager and got him to knock six dollars off the price of the buffet.”

The chairman looked kind of impressed and said, “You sure you’re only thirteen?”

“Absolutely sure,” I replied.

“How in the world did you manage to get so many kids?” the chairman asked.

“The local paper found out about what I was doing and asked to interview me. Of course I agreed.” Smiling with pride, I said, “It was the lead story on the front page the next morning. You have to understand that this whole charade of a hearing has been front-page news back home. With so much interest in the story, the reporter who interviewed us warned us we could get a lot of phone calls. He said the paper could set up a call-in line for us. The cost was really reasonable, too. Boy was I glad we did that. The paper took care of everything . . . getting names and addresses, verifying payments and so on.

“So we drove in the buses all day yesterday, we stayed overnight in the Hilton, four of us to a room, and here we are.”

I guess the chairman couldn’t think of anything wrong with what I’d done, because he didn’t ask any more questions. He asked the other members of the committee if they had any questions, and none of them did, either, so he told me I could step down. As I did, I could see by the looks in my parents’ eyes that they were proud of me, and loved me. Hell, I’d only done what David would’ve done if the situation were reversed.

When I got back to my seat in the gallery, Kayla gave me a quick hug and a peck on the cheek and whispered in my ear, “You were awesome.

“Thanks,” I whispered back.

The next person to speak was Barry Smith, the vice president of the GSA, who was straight, but who had a gay brother, and who lost his own parents due to homophobia. Barry was best friends with my brother and Jeremy, and was really an amazing person. In his testimony, he described what had happened to his family, and how David and Jeremy helped him get through a very rough period in his life. He talked about how much he looked up to Trevor and how he considered him to be a mentor.

Then Debbie McLaughlin addressed the committee. She and her wife made the trip, even though they were newly married and her wife had just been through an hysterectomy. Debbie spoke of how Trevor and Kurt had done so much to help them through the ordeal of coming out when their parents discovered their relationship, and how Trevor had prevented her from committing suicide. The committee chair tried to make a big deal of how they’d snuck behind their parents back all those years, but Debbie quickly put him in his place by saying, “If you’d been told as a little boy that if they found there was something you were born with they didn’t like, what would you have done? Given the choice of being thrown out of your house to live on the streets, being sent away to a school where they torture you until you pretend not to be the way your are, or sneaking around behind your parents backs, what would you do? I lived in constant fear from the time I was eleven until I decided to take my own life. Thank God Trevor Austin came along and helped me find my way home.” Man, what a powerful answer.

Three other people spoke from the high school that I didn’t know really well, but they sure couldn’t say enough about how fantastic David and his friends were and how much they meant to them in their lives. Finally, it was time for anyone else that wanted to, to speak, and just about everyone else in the gallery wanted their five minutes worth. There were even kids from other schools who just wanted to say how much the stories they read on David and Jeremy in the paper had meant to them in allowing them to come out.

When we broke for lunch, there were still a majority of kids who had yet to speak, and Mr. Kimball’s lawyer made it clear that everyone who wanted to speak would be heard. I practically ran to my brother and he engulfed me in a bear hug, right there in the committee chamber.

“I can’t believe you did this for me,” David said as he lifted me off the ground.

“You’d have done the same thing for me,” I countered.

“Yeah, but you’re only thirteen. I’d have never had the balls to pull something like this off at your age,” he said.

“I learned it all from you bro,” I replied with a smile.

“I’m never, ever calling you ‘squirt’ again,” David said with tears in his eyes. Looking deep into my eyes, he said, “You’re not just my bro, you’re my friend . . . my best friend . . . right up there with Kurt and Trevor. I don’t know what I did to deserve such a wonderful brother . . . just know that you’re the best.”

At that point I totally lost it and I was crying, too.

“We need to get going if we’re going to get back here in time for the proceedings to resume,” Mr. Kimball’s lawyer reminded us.

As we started to head out of the chamber, I noticed that Kayla had been standing next to me the whole time.

“David, I’d like you to meet my girlfriend, Kayla,” I said introducing her. “Kayla, this is David, but I think you know that.” I then introduced her to Jeremy, Trevor and Kurt. My parents, of course, already knew her.

As we walked, David whispered into my ear, “You being careful, bro?”

Feeling myself turn red, I whispered back, “David, please, we haven’t gone beyond making out . . . at least not yet, and we don’t plan to for a long time.”

“Wise move, my man,” David agreed. “You’ll know when the time’s right . . . there’s no hurry. “

“Easy for you to say,” I whispered back.

“That’s different,” David replied with a snicker, and I couldn’t help but laugh, too.

When we exited the Capitol building, the sight that greeted us was amazing. All the students that came with us for the trip were holding their picket signs high, and they were surrounded by a large crowd of people who’d gathered around them, some curious, but a lot who seemed to be adding their support. There were camera crews and reporters from the news media all over the place filming the whole thing. The publicity we were getting was great!

When we got closer and people started recognizing us, a loud cheer erupted from the crowd. I could tell how much this meant to David and the others. Finally it was evident that there were people out there who were on our side. The feeling at lunch reflected the change in everyone’s mood. I could just sense the feeling of hope around the table.

Back in the committee chamber after lunch, kid after kid got up once again to speak on behalf of what David and Jeremy and Trevor and Kurt meant to them. Some knew them quite well and told anecdotes of the things they did at school to make it a better place. Some didn’t know them at all, but told about what an inspiration they were. Some of the kids were gay, but a lot of them were straight. I was amazed at the outpouring of support from our own hometown. That afternoon there were another 40 teenagers that got to speak for five minutes. The support in that chamber was overwhelming.

I hated to return home the next morning with everything still unresolved, but committee hearings have a life of their own. Still, I could tell that the tide had been turned. We got off the buses to a hero’s welcome and I was even interviewed by all the TV stations. A picture of me testifying in front of the committee was on the front page of The Star that morning, and a picture of me getting off the bus made the front page of The Star the next morning. Wow! I was a real local celebrity.

Even though the hearings continued for a few more days, it was evident the committee was trying to find a way to save face and make a graceful exit. There was a big editorial in our local paper about how ridiculous the whole proceedings were. The New York Times was even more direct in their editorial, shaming Congress for carrying on an investigation with no more evidence than an unsubstantiated report in a tabloid. Not only that, but the letters to the editor ran more than two-to-one against the committee. In the end, it was the committee that got dragged through the mud, and my brother and friends came out of it smelling like a bouquet of roses.

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