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sojourn last won the day on June 14 2011

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About sojourn

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  1. sojourn

    Chapter 16

    Today, an announcement of impending fatherhood is a statement that may stand with little or no preamble. We readers would have been accepting and perfectly comfortable with Daventry making such a statement. The language and tactful approach Daventry used to reveal the impending arrival of an heir is a classic example of Mark's respect for not just "historical accuracy" but his desire to give his readers a sense of the "rules of decorum" that were in observance among the nobility and gentry of that period. Thank you Mark for painting a more detailed portrait of Granger and his peeps. To paraphrase Ensign Pulver, "Now, what's this I hear about no sex between consenting adults on this ship?.
  2. sojourn

    Chapter 49

    The only pain I felt was that the characters were somehow diminished by a too aggressive plotline. A reader, of this story, emailed me to let me know that there were two types of gay stories posted on these sites, either masturbation motivation or romance tales. He advised me to chose one or the other since it was obvious I couldn't do both well. That hurt a little since I was trying hard to satisfy both needs. Your comment lets me think about something on a much higher level as a "writer" and that is balancing the characters so they don't get lost in the plot. I find that flattering. I read your comment and left it alone for a day. Reading it again gives me the same smile as when I first read it. The 'phantom laughter' was one of my asides that wasn't intended to blatantly spark that association with Gordy. Although the opportunity to make that association was totally intentional on my part. I think, only one other reader mentioned the laughter and tied it to Gordy's ghost. It's like that old David Steinberg comedy routine in which he says, "Now, a joke for those of us who are psychic". A long moment of silence and then laughter. He states flatly, "We know who we are." I put subtle remarks that have a meaning within the story. Most readers are like me and it doesn't even register. I am sure I would miss every one of them. I figure I include at least one or two lines taken from popular music in each chapter. They were all top forty hits from decades gone by. Although, I have used lines from Adele and Sam Smith. Theirs most definitely melded into the story rather well. Thanks for such a thought-provoking and insightful comment. Jim
  3. sojourn

    Chapter 50

    Early in the morning on Valentines Day, the house seemed to be overflowing with very hurried and excited strangers. Paul had thought it impossible that the place could look any more like a tropical paradise, he was admittedly wrong. Big Time! Colorful flowers adorned every flat surface and even more dramatic arrangements hung from any convenient support structure. The fragrance was distracting. Even the smell of breakfast bacon was all but smothered beneath the strong exotic floral scent. Paul recalled an Aunt who insisted on dousing herself with rose scented perfume. That cheap and heavy fragrance forever after tainted the smell of even real roses. This scent he could live with every day. It inspired memories of springtime honeysuckle, soft breezes, jasmine and yes, roses. Jeff pointed out that the house was not even the main focus of the floral extravaganza. This overabundance of floral arrangements was just an overflow from the ocean view ceremony site. There the elevated platform was covered in petals of varying shades of blue and white. The aisle, down which both couples would stroll to the diaz was strewn with even more blossoms of blue and white. The only contrasting color was the red ribbon that held bouquets together at the end of each row of seats and the grooms' bluebonnet boutonnieres. Raymond and Daniel had joined the family for breakfast in the large dining room. Daniel equated the level of tension with having to march in some holiday parade where dignitaries were in the viewing stands while he and the other ‘suited monkeys’ performed their marching routine and their superiors threatened, cajoled, and ordered them not to ‘fuck it up’ in marching formation or afterwards when they would be allowed to interact with the onlookers. Raymond said it felt like some graduation ceremony, only more important and definitely life-altering, in a very good way. His butterflies were at least as fluttery as his lover’s. Jeff opined it was like presenting his opening remarks for a jury and a courtroom filled with reporters and cameras. Except, here he was less confident and all he had to remember was to say, “I Do”. As he said this, he smiled at his lover as if this statement was a heartfelt declaration. And it was. Paul admitted he felt the same level of apprehension that he did when Maria made her debut and changed his life forever. He was certain this day would be no less ‘life-altering’. Suddenly he remembered an old song “The Look of Love” and how the girl was so emphatic about how her lover looked like he was in love with her. Paul felt he knew exactly what the lyric writer meant. TR and David Jantzen laughingly offered condolences and reminded each man that this was a celebration of their commitment to each other. Their decision to share their lives had already been made and that moment of decision was really the watershed moment. Today was just a party to commemorate that decision. Joe, sitting at the head of the table added, “You guys just have to bear with it a few more hours. Let the ladies do their thing and then you can get to the good part of being married.” At Grandpa Joe’s last remark, Maria’s gaze met DJ’s. She then turned her gaze to Joe and said, “Grandpa, is the ‘good part of being married’ about sex?”. Joe without hesitation, replied, “Yes, Princess, sex is a very good part of being married. And an even better part is having someone who is always going to stick up for you, even when you’re wrong. The good parts of being married is like going to a playground with your bestest friend after being in the classroom for too long. You’re excited about the swings and the slides and want to play on everything and more importantly, you want to share that playtime with your bestest friend. The best part of being married is not the sex, it’s the sharing.” That explanation was greeted with exclamations of affirmation and a toast “to sharing”, with mimosas. Joe regretted that Mellie wasn’t here to hear his heartfelt definition of marriage. Maria decided that sex must be just as much fun as swings and slides… She dismissed that idea as, “inconceivable”. Of all the family and guests at the table, Maria was the only female present. Mellie and Cora Mae had assigned the other females multiple tasks to ensure nothing was overlooked on their seemingly endless checklist. The event coordinator that had been hired was experienced enough to allow both “Mothers-in-Law” to get as involved as they chose and yet it was he and his staff who followed up and ensured no detail was overlooked. The largest tent Paul had ever seen was set up to shelter the celebrants from the late afternoon sun. Even in tuxedos, the sea breeze kept the men comfortable. In spite of the tropical setting, everyone was dressed mostly in lightweight suits and ties and every lady was wearing her finest summer dress. Maria was dressed in a creation that made her look like a fairy princess in shades of blue. Paul realized that the ladies had done some serious coordination in their dresses. In fact, he had seen bridesmaids at other weddings that had been less coordinated in their dresses. Paul chuckled as he thought of his ‘fairy’ Princess and Grandma Mellie and Cora Mae as the groom’s fairy godmothers. The ceremony was conducted in a traditional fashion. Maria led the procession down the aisle with a cushion bearing the rings. Names had been embroidered onto the pillow so each man grabbed the right ring for his husband. There were the usual questions and the usual responses, times two. No one wanted to recite prepared statements. It was enough that they could legally commit to each other before witnesses with a simple, “I Do.” Maria smiled the entire time. She absolutely beamed when her Daddies lifted her up and simultaneously kissed her cheeks immediately after sharing their first kiss as husbands. The rings were custom-made gold coin bands that featured half-carat dark blue diamond solitaire stones. Joe had them made from antique $20 gold pieces that had been in the family since the first Adams had arrived in Texas in the 1870s. The diamonds were from a necklace that once belonged to Alexandra Feodorovna, the last Tsarina of Russia. Each ring was a handsome, eye-catching piece of jewelry. Raymond, just like Jeff, had a few rings that had been gifts from friends and family and of course, from graduations. His other ‘jewelry’ consisted of the usual collection, tie pins and tie clasps, cufflinks, and about a dozen expensive and not so expensive wristwatches. Two of those in his collection had belonged to his father. Both were self-winding and every subsequent addition was also an ‘automatic’. He was not one to wear rings. His mother had insisted it was ‘unmanly for a man to adorn himself’. Although, his mother’s husband was quite fond of ‘bling’ and wore a variety of gold rings with precious stones, gold necklaces, and gold bracelets. Since a wristwatch was not included as ‘adornment’ Raymond wore one that had belonged to his father every day. He grinned to himself as he added, ‘and now a wedding ring’. It struck him as odd that Jeff, Paul, Daniel and himself, all wore wristwatches as a matter of routine. But then, it was so much easier to simply glance down for the time instead of digging out or hunting down a cell phone. None of the four were enamored of social media and used their phones for calls, texting, and searching the internet. He, like the rest, used Facebook to keep in touch with acquaintances only because it was expected. He couldn’t remember the last time he had posted a picture or even updated his site. Maybe he should add ‘publicist’ to Jeremy’s growing list of responsibilities. He just as quickly discarded the notion. It would serve no real purpose and might provide the wrong people with some too personal information. He asked himself, ‘Am I being paranoid’? The answer was a resounding ‘No! Just aware’. The reception was well underway when the newlyweds arrived. Of course, this was according to plan. The guys had insisted on not having a receiving line. Instead, they would greet their guests informally at the reception. Mellie and Cora Mae had decided that the newlyweds would make their first appearance at the reception in spotlights on the dance floor. They made unabashed threats to intimate aspects of their anatomies should they arrive before the ladies had texted them to do so. At the emcee’s direction the music stopped, the lights went down, and the couples took their places well apart from the other. A spotlight found Raymond and Daniel. The emcee announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, friends and family may I present Mr. Raymond Cargill Adams and his husband Sheriff Daniel Lovan Adams.” A fulsome round of applause and cheers greeted the happy couple. As the applause died the spotlight faded and as it did another found Jeff and Paul and began to brighten. “Ladies and Gentlemen may I also have the distinct pleasure of presenting Mr. Jeffrey Grant Adams and his husband Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Paul Wilson Adams.” An equally enthusiastic round of applause greeted this couple as well. The spotlight slowly faded. “Ladies and gentlemen for their first dance the newlyweds have asked that we give the band a break and play an old standard they have collectively chosen.” The emcee continued, “They also asked that their guests be advised that no choreographer has been engaged and that youtube will not be waiting with bated breath for some show-stopping fancy footwork. They insist you will see just your average cowboys struggling not to step on each other. Further, they ask that you all join them on the dance floor after the first chorus. This, I am told is an attempt to hide their collective ineptitude and to reduce the likelihood they might be laughed off the dance floor. “Without further ado. Maestro, if you please.” As the first melancholy notes emanated from the speakers, every adult soon recognized the tune as Etta James’ “At Last”. When Jeff and Paul proposed it be their first dance as married couples, Daniel and Raymond were onboard right away. Both Raymond and Jeff had formal dance instruction and took the lead both in arranging the moves and in the actual dance. Now, as the mellow tones and plaintive declarations of having found true love, “At Last”, washed over the crowd, the moment took on a surreal quality. The tent grew dark as colored lights caressed the loving couples as each man got lost in the eyes of his life’s partner. Each man melded into his lover’s embrace as they glided effortlessly across the dance floor. Miss James sang as if the song had been conceived, written, and arranged just to accentuate the love that these men so obviously shared. The crowd was awed by the poetic beauty of the moment. While Mellie and Cora Mae and maybe a couple of other ladies had unabashedly shed tears during the actual ceremony, now, every woman in attendance was dabbing away as they watched romance in motion on the dance floor. The lovers exchanged whispered endearments and vows of love they would never reveal to others as the music waxed and waned. It was moments after the closing strains had faded before the two couples relaxed their embrace and became aware of the absolute silence that had settled under the darkened tent. They stood alone on the dance floor, illuminated by a rainbow of colored lights. No other couples had deigned to join them. Paul would recall, and the video would show, that it started with a single anonymous person clapping, then two but soon the entire crowd was applauding and cheering uproariously, punctuated by whistles and a few raucous catcalls. The video went viral. It was Joe who took the MC’s mic and shouted, “Play it again! This time for everybody.” He then took his lovely wife and deftly swept her into his arms, recalling, as did every couple on the now crowded dance floor, the romance they had once felt sure would always be “Unforgettable”. While Raymond and Daniel, Jeff and Paul wanted just time to internalize what they had shared on that dance floor, the guests insisted they dance. First, it was the women who gushed about how romantic the evening had become. Then came the men, some forced by their wives to dance with other men for the first time since junior high dances made same-sex dance partners a must to avoid embarrassment in front of one’s entire school. Even Uncle Joe took his turn with each of his four nephews. Miss Julie, who had refused to stay at the ranch house and opted for the hotel instead, made sure that she danced with each of the grooms and whispered encouraging words of long and happily married lives to each man. Each man was somehow comforted and reassured by her words, no matter how much a skeptic he might otherwise profess to be. Raymond let her know she had been right, Raymond Cargill Adams Jr. had shown his pecker in a sonogram. He had shared the news with just his family that day and wanted Miss Julie to be included in this most joyous news. It was two days before the flight back to the mainland. The wedding and the reception were both pleasant memories. The videos and still photos were exceptionally well produced. The sharing of the wedding cake was shot a number of times to focus on each couple taking turns feeding his husband. Luckily the macadamia nut/espresso frosting was delicious enough so that even after several bites each man took a large slice for himself. In fact, while Daniel and Raymond encouraged Cora Mae to collect the recipe, Paul and Jeff were doing the same with “Uncle” Fred. With their return to Texas fast approaching, Jeff made sure that all the typical “tropical vacation ticket” items had been punched. That included volcanoes, sailing, windsurfing, Pearl Harbor (adults only), beaches, luaus, pineapple cut ripe from the “tourist” field that tasted as sweet as sunshine and fresh coconut plucked from atop a palm tree by a sarong-clad young man. They also experienced hula lessons, Poi and Spam prepared in “imaginative” ways. On the mainland or on a tropical island, to Paul, Spam tasted like he still couldn’t afford “real” meat. Maria didn’t comment on the Spam but she insisted Poi looked and tasted just like the paste she used in school. She was convinced that this “lousy imitation of smashed potatoes” got its name because someone just didn’t know how to spell “phooey”. Either that or “Yuck” in Hawaiian was already taken.” No one argued with her or even questioned her own ability to spell ‘phooey’. Both her Daddies thought her reasoning was sound. Now, Jeff, Paul, and Maria, along with TR, David, and DJ Jantzen were being allowed to watch a second unit director and his crew film some background shots for a Rom-Com that was partially set on a tropical island. The major stars were not required for these scenes, in fact, most of the movie was shot on a soundstage in Hollywood. Maria and DJ had been coached to be very quiet and to save any comments or questions until the director said, “Cut!” The shot being filmed was at the edge of a pineapple field. The tourists, having seen the pineapples in their natural state, would be getting back on their tour bus. It was a short shot with no dialogue involved. When the director was told the owners were on the set, he asked if they would like to be “extras” in the movie. Jeff explained the term to Maria and DJ. She immediately got excited at the idea of their classmates seeing DJ and her up on the big screen. The “extras” were told were to stand and in what sequence they were to board the bus. In the family, TR and David would lead followed by DJ then Maria who would be followed by Paul and lastly, Jeff. The director wanted to get different camera angles and wanted the people to be more eager to board the bus in one take and less eager in another. After getting set up for the fourth take, a frustrated DJ muttered under his breath, “This stuff makes learning to hula look like a good time.” Maria looked the director in the eye, folded her arms across her chest, and stated emphatically, “Frankly, DJ, I’d rather watch for falling coconuts.” No one was sure if the director thought of any other unique shots. Thankfully, Jeff made their excuses and the group made a hasty retreat to the ranch house where they lounged around the pool and discussed their brush with stardom. The next day the second unit director (2ud) was at their door, literally hat in hand. It seems that the director had seen the “little girl with the attitude” and liked what she saw. Since she was also the screenwriter it was no real challenge to write a segment wherein the observant little girl with an attitude delivers a scorching address decrying the heroes milquetoast attitude while his more handsome and more mature billionaire competition is winning the female leads most desirable hand with apparent ease. Our hero has yet to declare anything beyond friendship for his heart’s desire. Jeff wanted to dismiss the offer out of hand. Paul felt they should at least read the script. Just saying, “read the script” made both men laugh at the absurdity it all. They read it and called Maria to join them. Once they explained there was to be more filming and she would be reciting dialogue she turned to the 2ud, “Will I get money?”. The man assured her she would be paid for her efforts and more should the lead director decide to use her scene in the actual movie. Maria turned to her Daddies and said, “I’d like to do this. Being an extra would have been neat but actually saying something in a movie would be a hunerd times better.” Paul read the lines to Maria to see if she could memorize and recite her lines. It was resolved very quickly that remembering her lines would not be an issue. The 2ud asked that she wear the same clothes as yesterday. Luckily the hamper had yet to be emptied. The group then returned to the location to find the bus and the extras already waiting for them. Paul was surprised and disappointed to learn that the scene would be filmed using a double. The star was a real hottie that started his career as an overweight dunderhead. Jeff teased his husband about having to settle. Paul assured his husband that he would prove tonight that Jeff was nobody’s consolation prize. The double was about the same height and build and his hair was the same color as the male lead’s but that was where the comparison ended. The scene called for the lead and Maria to watch as the female lead was driven away from the tour bus by the older, rich guy. Maria was to look up into the face of our hero and say, “You know Mister, I saw you two feeding each other pieces of pineapple. You both looked like you were in love but then you let her go off with some guy in a fancy car without saying nothing. Grandma Mellie says anyone with one eye and half sense can recognize true love when they see it. Seems like you need to stand up for yourself and tell her how you feel. If you DON’T say anything you’re gonna lose her anyway. So what’ve you got to lose?”. “Cut!” the 2ud shouted. Maria had obviously ad-libbed about her “Grandma Mellie”. The man seemed not to have noticed. “Perfect. I think we got just what we needed in one take.” On the way back home Jeff and Paul shared doubts that the footage would adorn anything but the cutting room floor if it made it that far. Maria was pleased with the whole movie making experience but insisted she would never be an “extra” again. “Stars get all the attention. Why would anyone settle for being an extra?”. By the time the larger jet rolled out for takeoff, Paul was eager to get back to work. He was sure it would be easy for him to remain on the island and maybe set up a practice here, pretty much like his life back home. It just seemed, to him, like life here would be viewed as being lazy instead of laid back. Even if he worked the same number of hours and kept to his usual routine. Life here would still feel like he was being lazy. Damn his upbringing! Back at home, the news was at least not bad. The City Council had approved the permit for the Carnival after the ranch had committed to an exclusive five-year feed contract with Ervie Barstow and two more commercial properties had been purchased under the auspices of Jack Darling. Of course, with Georgia out of the picture, the permit was all but guaranteed to be approved but both Jeff and Paul felt obliged to follow through on Bart Breedlove's suggestions. It just made sense to have council members on your side. The eve of the election had almost everybody a little on edge. Gram and Sarah were both confident Daniel and Joe would win by wide enough margins to preclude any possible challenge. Of course, Gram’s smug attitude just served to aggravate Daniel’s already elevated anxiety. The Republicans would shout about “an underhanded win by default” but they refused to acknowledge the fact that their chosen candidate was the underhanded one nor would they elaborate on specific plans to challenge the “obviously rigged election”. One spokesman stated that “Electing a gay man to enforce the law is like hiring a pedophile to run an orphanage. You’re just asking for trouble.” When asked to comment on the City of Del Rio electing an openly gay veteran as Mayor, the three most senior County Republicans who had called the election night press conference hurriedly walked out without comment. The results were not a landslide but it was better than the margin even Gram had predicted. Daniel was exuberant and declared in his acceptance speech that he now “felt he had a mandate from the citizens of the county to provide equal, honest, and transparent law enforcement. To again establish credible and professional law enforcement that served all the people, equally.” The local Chief of Police refused to comment on the outcome of the election. Joe had insisted that Daniel speak first at their joint press conference. I feel a certain amount of pride in our newly elected Sheriff seeing as how he is my nephew by marriage. I’ve known Daniel since he was a little boy. Personal integrity can be a matter of choice. Anyone can decide at any time to take on the mantel. But, with Daniel, it wasn’t like that. His folks taught him from an early age to do what’s right because it is the right thing to do. Not because of some reward in the great beyond. Daniel does the right thing because it is not his way to do otherwise. Some old folks called that kind of philosophy the “cowboy way”. My Daddy, like Daniel’s Daddy just knew it as the way any human being ought to behave. Joe stepped back and pulled Daniel, who was standing on the stage alongside him, into a hug. He then turned back to the camera’s and the well-wishers, “As Mayor, my first act will be to loosen some restrictions that have given certain businessmen a chokehold on this City. These regulations have served the major business owners and impeded others from setting up shops that might have provided jobs and much-needed revenue for our City. Bids were blatantly chosen based on who submitted them rather than the cost savings they might represent. That is coming to a screeching halt. “Already, new tech industries are relocating to existing facilities and we are seeing growth in both population and building occupancy in rental units and existing home sales. This City is on the cusp of significant growth. It is my goal to encourage such development and to seek out industries that might benefit from our location and our available workforces. We intend to seek out those businesses that provide or encourage, through funding, higher education for their employees. We will be establishing a clinic with limited care facilities and beds for our people. The city parks and recreation will be refurbished through available grants that have already approved funding. Some of this is from new sources, some were simply never explored due to lack of motivation. Speaking of motivation, those folks who do their job well will keep their job. Those who were appointed out of favoritism or nepotism and are just here for the paycheck will soon be seeking other opportunities. It is said that a new broom sweeps clean. Let it be known that we are not a broom we are a cyclonic vacuum cleaner and we will get rid of the dirt and detritus left over from previous administrations. Let this be notice to all current City employees. If you choose not to readily serve the people of this City, you will not be financially sustained by those same people. Get with the program or get out.” The cheers forced reporters to cover their microphones. Most of the media were there because of the “gay Sheriff” story. More than one hung around to get the story behind Joe Adams “the cyclone sweeper”. Joe was not amused at the moniker. On the weekend following the election, a cookout for the Adams family was underway at Joe and Mellie’s. Although “Maria’s” pool was finished and filled, it would be a week or more before it was approved for casual use. Both the other Adams households were thinking of following suit and having pools installed. Joe told of an older brother who had drowned as a toddler in a neighbors swimming pool years before Jeff’s father, his older brother, was even born. Swimming pools were never discussed as even a remote possibility. Joe and David learned to swim in cattle troughs with their friends, unbeknownst to their Mother. Their father was proud that both his boys were good swimmers. He played with them in hotel pools while their Mother refused to ever see them in water deeper than a bathtub. The major topic was the Carnival. News had spread and folks, both gay and straight, from all over the country were signing up for the group nuptials as part of the Sunday evening closing ceremonies. There were already just shy of sixty couples that registered for the ceremony and follow-on reception. Yes, the Mayor had agreed to conduct the opening and closing ceremonies. Joe agreed but declared he would abdicate his obligation if any gay man flashed his junk at those officiating from the stand. “I don’t want any of you boys to think I don’t love you like my own sons. But, some of the stereotypical “gay” behaviors just make my skin crawl. I don't’ know if I’ll ever understand a transgender man wanting to cut off his, uh, manhood.” He shivered noticeably and continued, “I guess it just takes some getting used to and some tolerance and a desire to be inclusive even when it’s uncomfortable. Each of you is a fine example of what I always thought a real man should be. I guess I fall into the trap of thinking masculine men are superior human beings. I hate to think that I have subconsciously held almost the same kind of bigoted perspective as the Nazi’s did about the Aryan race. I like to think I am a better man than that. I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul.” Paul recognized the line from “Invictus”. Joe continued, “It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll,” Raymond and Jeff joined in… “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” Joe smiled beneficently at each of the group in turn. “I am also grateful for the fact that I am fortunate enough to be a part of this particular branch of the Adams Family.” Paul looked at Daniel and together they, “Snap, Snap. Snap, Snap. They’re creepy and they're kooky, mysterious an…” Joe’s countenance shifted from the gentle loving expression he had displayed just an instant before into an enraged, furious, red-faced mask of determined mayhem. His chest swelled as his posture mirrored the threat in his voice. He snarled through gritted teeth in an almost inaudible growl, “Who told you?”
  4. sojourn

    Chapter 49

    "the intimacy of the early chapters of this story and the others in the overall cycle. Somewhere along the way this grew into a Dallas-style soap opera while I was being charmed by the characters rather than the small story of new love and discovery it seemed to start as." Your sentiment touched me greatly. I was also hurt somewhat by this passage in particular. Because just as flattering as the rest of your comment was, this part was special because it is so insightful. I knew when Paul's house burned that there was no going back. It shifted then from a character-driven love story to a plot-driven... whatever it has become... a saga? I knew it for what it was when it happened. I just couldn't see sustaining a storyline much beyond their getting together and I wasn't ready to let them go. I could have done many things that could have kept the focus more intimate but I didn't want to expose too many flaws in Jeff or Paul. I wanted them to be receptive to love, to be vulnerable but strong. I like it but it's not my favorite story. That will always be my first effort, "Gordy comes Home". It still chokes me up to read some passages. It has a lot of personal pain that I was experiencing in that tale. Still, there are good things to be said about this one also. I will miss them, one and all. Thanks for an honest review. Jim
  5. sojourn

    Chapter 49

    Thank you for your kind words. I am having a hard time leaving these characters on their own. But, I am confident that they will continue to live lives guided by integrity and wisdom. Thanks again, Jim
  6. sojourn

    Chapter 49

    Let us examine your comment... "Nope"? does that mean that Nathan was less than perfect? Less than adequate? Less than effective? I don't recall your volunteering to edit in any comments you have posted over 48 chapters. "I am sure he did his best" I edit whatever Nathan edits before it gets posted. I am responsible for each posted chapter, NOT Nathan. He never made a single chapter "perfect" but he made every chapter he edited better. "But for a non US reader..." Does that somehow validate your criticism or soften it? I have readers who use translating software to read this story and tell me they enjoy my efforts. I have readers who identify as speaking multiple languages and state that English is not their mother-tongue and they too tell me they enjoy the story. So don't use your residence in another English-speaking-country as a qualifier, I don't accept it. It's like the Australian herein who harshly criticizes our politics and yet uses his "non US" status to feign ignorance when it serves to his advantage. Having his cake and eating it too. Aren't you trying to do the same? Cultural barriers aside, I should take your words as a sincere compliment. You, despite the poor editing, have hung in there for 48 chapters of over 280,000 words and played hush-mouth this whole time. It must have been one helluva story. Thanks for posting your comments. Jim Jim
  7. sojourn

    Chapter 49

    The arrangements to include Jeff and Paul in the wedding were seamlessly integrated and really required only minimal adjustments. More flowers, a few more chairs, and… well, that was about it. The only reserved seating was for the family. Mellie and Daniel’s Mother happily embraced the notion of a double wedding. Daniel’s Mom was thrilled that Jeff was sharing her son’s special day, just as he and her son had shared so many ‘special’ family days in their youth. She felt there was a certain continuity in their getting married at the same time. She had certainly chastised the boys and swatted both butts as though they were both her own. She wistfully recalled that Jeff’s Mom had treated Daniel exactly the same way. She affirmed to herself she would help Mellie make this wedding something Jeff’s Mother would have been proud of. The organizers had been at the ranch on the big island for almost a week. Jeff and Paul decided to fly in on the weekend before the wedding in order to maximize their ‘alone’ time in the tropics. Raymond and Daniel would be arriving on the larger family jet with TR and David and other guests on Tuesday. Daniel couldn’t see taking a leisurely honeymoon in light of recent events and the upcoming election. He was concerned that voters might think he would be taking them for granted. They would stay until the following Sunday as would Jeff and Paul. Paul had arranged to take off the entire week. When you’re paying for your bosses to have a week-long vacation in Hawaii, in the middle of winter, getting time off was not a real issue. The Jantzens would also stay the rest of the week and fly back with the four newlyweds in the same larger jet. TR, David, and DJ would be staying in a suite at the beach-side hotel. That four-star hotel just happened to border the ranch and coincidentally belonged to the Adams Family Trust. Booking rooms for the wedding guests had not been an issue. The entertainment encompassed everything from lazing in the tropical sun on the beach with their beverage of choice to fishing, swimming, with or without the Dolphins, tours of Pearl Harbor on Oahu, parasailing, zip lining over the canopy, helicoptering over volcanoes and of course the nightly Luau and hula demonstrations. It was just as Mellie and Caro Mae had envisioned. This wedding was already the talk of the town and would be for years to come. It was the highlight of everyone's year and to some, it was the trip of a lifetime. Back home, rumors about the wedding were already circulating like crazy. The most popular one was that Cora Mae had paid for the wedding out of some big lottery prize that she had been keeping secret. Once back home, Cora Mae would find herself being treated with obvious deference in shops and restaurants. She lapped it up and was only too happy to play hush-mouth as to the truth. She and Mellie would get more than a few good laughs as people fawned all over Cora Mae. The flight went faster than Paul had expected. He had been told it was to be ‘a little over six hours from hometown to Hawaii’ but the time just seemed to fly by. It was certainly the longest flight he had ever experienced but he had Jeff and Maria to keep him occupied. He was, again, impressed by the quality and variety of fresh and prepared food, snacks, and beverages. Each entree was of four-star quality. The flight attendant admitted that the meals had been brought from two well-respected hotel restaurants that especially prepared and then froze meals for first class and private passengers. He confided that the crew’s usual in-flight fare was more along the lines of take-out burgers, chicken, and pizza. Paul only gave a moment's thought about how much it had cost to accommodate him and his family. He forced himself to acknowledge that this was now his life just as struggling in college and being a single father had once been his lot. He smiled as he realized how much better his life was now. There was a time when he felt that having someone in his life whom he could love and be loved by was just a pipe dream. Now, it seemed he had it all. He had to be the ‘Luckiest Man in the WorldMaria was just as enthralled as any first-time flyer could be. She was invited into the cockpit shortly after the plane reached its cruising altitude. Once her awe was subdued, Maria looked around thoughtfully and asked, “Why do they call it a cockpit”? Fred flushed bright pink even though he was beginning to get used to her insightful observations and probing questions. Fred knew only too well that Maria’s favorite word was, ‘why’. The pilot and copilot both hesitated before responding. That pause allowed Fred to provide the answer, “In the early days of flying, chickens were sometimes transported by airplane. Everyone knew that roosters made a lot of crowing noises to boss the other chickens around so they let the rooster ride up front to keep all the chickens quiet on the trip. Roosters are also known as ‘cocks’ because of the ‘cockle doodle do’ noise they make… so the control area of the airplane is known as the cockpit.” Maria suspected there was more to the story just by looking at the relief on the flight crew’s faces but she let Mr. Fred’s answer stand for the time being. She decided that Mr. Fred had been watching too many cartoons where animals did human things. Eventually, she and her escort Mr. Fred rejoined her Daddies. Immediately she began to lobby for flying lessons. She was less than pleased to learn she had to wait at least a few more years to begin. She looked at Sam and Dave to verify that what her Daddies had told her was true. She didn’t like the idea that “dickscimpanation” was directed toward her because of her age. Her Daddies took the opportunity to explain that ‘dis-crim-a-nation’ implied a voluntary element, meaning someone had to choose to deny someone or some group of people an equal opportunity. Whereas, age restrictions were meant to keep all people as safe as possible no matter what race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Maria stated flatly, “I’m pretty sure this ‘not flying’ thing is just like all the rest of the grown-up things I can’t do or learn about. It doesn’t make sense that somebody can fly before they can drive. Y’all say that I can start flying lessons as soon as I can reach the pedals and see outside the windows at the same time. Grandpa already told me I couldn’t get my license to drive a car until I was fourteen.” Maria screwed up her face even more and stated emphatically, “I’m pretty sure keeping a aeroplane in the air is a lot harder than just keeping a car on the road. And cars are way smaller than aer-o-planes.” Her facial expression slipped into her patented pleading puppy dog look, “Couldn’t I just start right away with a little plane”? The discussion was not resolved but was put into the ‘we’ll talk about this when we get back home file’. Thank god for the old ‘we’ll talk about this when… we get home… when you’re older… when you’re married… when you have children of your own… when I’m dead.’ Jeff was, of course, a well-seasoned traveler but found mundane things suddenly interesting when viewed for the first time through eyes of those he loved. The configuration allowed Maria to nap undisturbed by any activities in which those in the common area or even the more intimate activities in the closed-off master suite might engage. Once they were on the tarmac and had been greeted with a fresh flower lei and the obligatory “Aloha”, Maria asked, “Daddy Jeff, is the sun different in Hawaya?” Jeff was confused by the question, “No honey, everyone on earth shares the same sun. It’s the only one we have. Why did you think it was different”? “It just feels warmer than the sun at home.” Paul had been distracted by a nearby executive helicopter that was preparing for takeoff. He heard only that the sun was warmer than at home. He saved Jeff by telling their daughter that the sun ‘was warmer’ here and she was so smart to realize that so quickly. It was all because they had traveled to a place that got a lot more sunshine. Maria was informed and flattered and was completely satisfied with her Daddy’s answer. Jeff mouthed a silent, “Thanks” to his lover. Paul just smiled knowingly. On the helicopter ride to the ranch, Jeff pointed out several movie sites, including several with giant reptilian skeletal pieces. The mention of ‘movies’ grabbed Maria’s attention and forestalled questions about piloting a helicopter vs an ‘air-o-plane’. Jeff offered, “After some Japanese cowboys expressed keen interest in seeing some of the backdrops for a Sci-Fi blockbuster that had been filmed here, ranch management struck upon the idea of guided tours to complement their horseback treks. Now, the movie tours and gift shop are viable sources of revenue.” He smirked as he added, “Everyone wants to see the bones of a dinosaur killed by a T-rex or to step into the footprints of the lizard that ate Manhattan. “The movie production companies not only pay well for the use of our scenery but are required to remove any structure and return all landscapes to their original condition. It’s sometimes to the ranch’s advantage to keep buildings in place or to allow changes a film crew made to the landscape to remain.” Pointing to an escarpment he continued, “Some caves dug out during WWII were expanded to shoot a prisoner of war film and the ranch now uses it to house staff and families any time weather conditions require folks to seek shelter. A few weeks ago that false nuclear missile alert had employees showing up with families in tow looking to take shelter in the caves. The ranch management has responded by increasing the food and water stores to accommodate their employees’ families. They also are digging deeper into the escarpment. This has become even more of a critical issue in light of Puerto Rico’s latest hurricane disaster. We’ve set up solar panels and battery banks. Hawaii has historically been in a sweet spot as far as really rough weather was concerned. With global warming that may change and the ranch needs to be prepared. There’s always a chance of an erupting volcano.” At that, Maria’s eyes went saucer wide, “Daddy Jeff, are we gonna get burned by laba”? Jeff chuckled as he watched his daughter and his mate both in rapt attention in anticipation of his answer. “No Princess, we are in no danger. Volcanoes don’t have laba it’s ‘lava’. And we will be perfectly fine. In fact, in a day or so we’re going to fly in this helicopter to see two volcanoes that are way on the other side of the island.” Maria relaxed once her Daddy pulled up a google earth to show where the volcanoes were located in relationship to their ranch. Paul was surprised that his explanation included the term “our ranch”. Maria seemed to accept it as readily as if he had said “our dinner”. Two SUVs were waiting to take them to the ranch house. Paul had been impressed with Jeff’s home… now ‘their home’ in Texas. Here, he was overwhelmed. The house looked like an ante-bellum southern plantation house complete with huge windows and high ceilings. It was set in a perpetual springtime flowering backdrop. Jeff told them it had been redone from time to time and had been severely damaged by a Japanese bomb on December 7th, 1941. Jeff was pretty sure that the size of the house had made the pilot think it might have been a strategic target. It was a massive whitewashed three-story structure with a bomb shelter built beneath the full basement. Apparently, the owner of the ranch was at home when the bomb hit. He spent the rest of the war stateside and had the bomb shelter completed before his return to the island. The house was large enough to accommodate the extended Adams family as well as Daniel’s folks and his Uncle Frank and Aunt Betty with lots of rooms left empty. Paul was impressed at the casual air the entire home seemed to exude. It was massive, airy, welcoming, and comfortable. He did smile to himself when he noted the ‘cowboy’ or ‘paniolo’ influence randomly displayed throughout the ‘home’. The ranch portion of the enterprise was a calf-cattle operation wherein the cows birthed calves that would be shipped state-side to fatten up for slaughter or whatever their fate was to be. Cattle here also provided high-quality beef for local and some stateside specialty markets. There was also a nursery that provided tropical and exotic plants to locals and shipped to customers worldwide. Paul was especially impressed with the forest of palm trees. The flowers for their wedding ceremony were provided by their own nursery including Texas Bluebells. One aspect that got Paul’s attention was the sheer number of movies that had used the ranch as a backdrop for filming tropical settings. Currently, negotiations were underway to host an entire TV series. The details were yet to be resolved but Paul was eager to hear all about it. The ranch house itself was off limits to any film crew as well as the guided tours that were conducted via horseback or air-conditioned buses. There was even an overnight horseback excursion that appealed to some of their wedding guests. Paul insisted that to come from Texas to Hawaii and ride horseback was to take a “busman’s holiday”. For a Texan to do a horseback and overnight campout on a tropical island was beyond the pale. Jeff had seen many cowboys take a girl he’d just met on those horseback treks to impress his lady-friend. If the cowboy got really lucky he might convince her to go on an overnight trail ride. He didn’t bother pointing this out to Paul, in part, because he totally agreed with his lover. The first afternoon was spent on the beach in front of the hotel. Paul was beginning to enjoy having his every whim catered to. His frozen fruity concoction of choice, Pina’ Colada, was never allowed to melt. He hadn’t gone out for ‘drinks’ since college and somehow a coconut and pineapple concoction never seemed to fit with the menu being served. Here, it seemed the absolutely perfect accompaniment. Jeff must have agreed since he too consumed a fair bit of the tropical concoction. Beachwear had been supplied by Mark Sanford. Paul insisted they all looked like some Sears catalog ad from the 1960s. While different colors were involved, each man was dressed in trunks almost like the latest James Bond, just not skin tight. Maria and Rosarita were in simple off-white one-piece suits. Paul did notice that every man in their crew had a broad white band across the middle of his trunks that were the same off-white. The group was not together as one but separated by couples with Sam and Dave and then Fred, and Rosarita ensconced separately so as to form a triangle that had Jeff and his family closest to the water’s edge. Maria built a sand castle that she decorated with seashells. She begged her Daddy Jeff to video her with their creation and send it to DJ who she announced was ‘stuck in school’. Jeff took it upon himself to stress the importance of school and how this wedding was a once in a lifetime family event and that was the only reason she was missing class. He also reminded her that her Daddies had some school work for her so she would not be behind when she rejoined her classmates. Maria informed Daddy Jeff that she was already well ahead of her classmates but would not mind reviewing the stuff she had already learned. Jeff was taken aback by his daughters display of such self-assurance and apparent maturity. He didn’t know what to say so he just scooped her up in his arms and ran into the surf and pretended to cast her into the sea. Maria’s squeals of delight only encouraged her Daddy. When the two settled down, Jeff found he was almost chest deep. He started walking back to shore when Maria insisted she swim back. Jeff was shocked as he watched his little girl competently swim away. When she saw she was impressing her Daddy, she demonstrated several basic swimming strokes. He was also impressed that she listened to his hints to improve her form and speed. It occurred to him that his daughter might be blessed with some physical abilities that absolutely had to be encouraged and allowed to develop. An image of a grownup Maria accepting a gold medal flashed through his mind. He shook it off and committed himself to simply encourage her in whatever endeavor SHE might choose. As the two made their way back to the collection of beach furniture, umbrella, and side tables, Jeff noticed a group of three people, two men and a woman, approaching Paul and their setup. Paul rubbed down Maria with a towel as Jeff dried himself. Instead of continuing down the beach the trio turned purposefully to greet them. The european cut of their swimwear made it obvious they carried no weapons unless the bulges on all three hid more than that with which nature had obviously blessed them. Even as they approached they were shadowed by Sam, Dave, and Fred. The innocuous shoulder bags the guards carried looked like any beach tote that might hold sunscreen, sandwiches, sunglasses or towels. Jeff knew full well that those bags held some serious armament. Each of the three had a hand inside his bag as though about to casually extract an item. He wasn’t worried about the strangers or anyone else. Jeff sized up the approaching strangers. All three were hispanic but with definite features that suggested european extraction and perhaps a common familial relationship. The shorter and apparently younger of the two men spoke, “Mr. Adams, Doctor Wilson.” Turning to Maria he smiled broadly, “Ah Princess Maria, I have been looking forward to meeting you most of all. You are just as beautiful and charming as I was led to believe, it is a true pleasure.” He bowed with a regal flourish that tickled Maria’s fancy. The familiarity was off-putting to both Jeff and Paul. Maria was disappointed that the man hadn’t kissed her hand. Sam, Dave, and Fred surrounded the three strangers. The spokesman addressed Jeff, “It is rude of me not to have already introduced myself, I am Diego Cardoso Da Silva. This is my brother Juan and my Sister Consuela. I think you all are familiar with my name in connection with an unpleasant happenstance in your village. I only know about this because my Russian friends warned me that questions were being asked. It is my understanding that all these questions were answered truthfully. And yet, no one came looking for me to ask even a single question of me, my family, or my fellow villagers. There was no hint of suspicion. There was no noticeable ‘disturbance in the force’.” Juan snickered and shook his head as his younger brother’s normally staid persona allowed his inner geekiness to shine through. Paul spoke up, “Why are you here if you aren’t ‘under suspicion’?” Diego dipped his head to acknowledge the validity of Paul’s question. “In my profession, there are not many occasions or reasons to feel gratitude or indebtedness. And yet, these are my feelings in regard to your decisions as to my fate. There may have been other factors of which I am not aware and frankly that is not important. What is important is that your family had to make choices and those choices allowed me and my village to avoid unwanted and most likely unpleasant scrutiny. This is a unique situation within my own professional experience. I am here to say, ‘Thank you’ to your family on behalf of mine. We are indebted to the Adams family and I am here to convey our willing support if ever you should find a need. Know that you will have an ally in a world in which few, outside one’s family, can be truly trusted.” Diego presented a dark gray business card that was gold embossed. On it was written, “Da Silva Enterprises”, with a phone number underneath. “If ever you or your family stand in need, simply call that number. Be prepared to be rerouted at least twice and you will be speaking to an immediate member of our family who will arrange whatever assistance is required. I must insist that this number be shared only with members of your family.” Without waiting for acknowledgment or a response, Diego, again, dipped his head in deference to Paul and Jeff and again bowed to Maria and turned to leave. His brother and sister, who had remained silent nodded also. The trio made their way toward the hotel’s beach entrance. Sam mumbled something that only his sunglasses heard and then informed Jeff and Paul, “We didn’t intercept him because we did not consider him a threat. He is being followed as we speak. Sorry, Jeff, we f… we messed up. All I can say is, we had him covered long before he made his approach. We knew who he was before he spoke to you.” Paul was staggered. Not because of fear or alarm but by the notion that they were being protected in ways in which he could not have imagined. It occurred to him that security was an invaluable asset. The irony was that the fact that they could afford it also somehow made it necessary. Jeff reassured Sam of his family’s complete faith in their collective and individual efforts to protect them. Jeff stated that aside from living a Howard Hughes kind of cocooned existence their security was the best available by any standards. It wasn’t long after that encounter that the group packed up and headed for the ranch. Joe, Ilya, and Tink were waiting when the group arrived. Rosarita took Maria to ‘do dress up’ and have some ‘girl talk’. The group settled into the massive office reserved for the owner’s use. Raymond and Daniel could be seen on a large screen via a secure video link. The two were settled in Raymond’s home office having morning coffee and pastries. The two men in Texas were already up to speed concerning the beach encounter. Ilya began, “I am sorry for the confrontation. It should never have happened. I underestimated his reach. There was nothing to indicate he had Russian connections that held his interests as their own. The Derzhatel Obschaka with loose lips is about to hear from our people in a way that will make him think again before discussing our affairs. His Pakhan has been informed and understands. It must be done in order to maintain respect within the Bratva. For this assassin to approach our Printsessa and her fathers without being challenged is inexcusable. There are lessons to be learned within our organization as well. Sam, Dave, and Fred will meet me in the gimnastika at 10 pm.” The sweeping gaze he gave the three men was wilting and clearly conveyed that they were going to be ‘taken out to the woodshed’. Ilya looked down at his fingernails and continued, “We have tracked this ubiytsa to a private jet that belongs to a Mexican Cartel that is now over the Pacific heading to Puerto Vallarta. We will maintain alert status until we have him in his dacha again. It is unfortunate that he learned our security is so lax as to allow strangers to approach family members but it is also good in that no harm was done and we will be better prepared in the future. In a way, this man has done us a favor in pointing out a weakness. It is now security policy to allow no strangers to approach without a challenge by the presiding security agent.” Paul spoke up, “Ilya, this man seemed very at ease and I believe he brought his family with him to reassure us that he intended no harm. Was this some kind of warning in disguise”? Ilya smiled at Paul as if a prize student had asked the right question at the right time and showed that he was using what he had learned. “You are right Paul, the man wanted to bring family to meet family to show no ill intent. It is not today’s actions that concern me so much as what others may have learned. We must never be perceived as an easy target. We have respect, uvazheniye, it is unaffiliated kidnappers who know no such courtesies, they are always looking for an easy tsel’, er, target.” Paul and Jeff shared a concerned look as each man considered just how close Da Silva had been to Maria. A few time zones away… Raymond leaned in and whispered, “You can always tell how upset Ilya is by how much Russian he uses. Right now he is ready to slit someone’s throat and piss down his windpipe.” Daniel simply nodded in acknowledgment. Raymond observed his lover closely during the entire briefing. He had long ago internalized the “not quite legal” aspects of being wealthy and dealing with international companies and shady businessmen as well as corrupt bureaucrats. In Raymond’s experience, the term ‘corrupt bureaucrat’ was a redundancy. As a novice international traveler, he had learned quickly that the laws which he had grown up with, understood, and respected did not extend beyond our national borders. Especially those concerning individual rights and freedoms. He had learned quickly and the overnight incarceration had served as a life lesson. It was years later that he learned his stay was shortened by the Adam’s family’s direct financial intervention. As for his own ‘standards of conduct’, he trusted his instincts as to what would and would not allow him to sleep at night. Violence was never a solution, it was a weapon. Raymond understood that his level of personal integrity and honesty had earned him a favorable reputation in the business world. It had amused him to discover that some men thought his “good guy” reputation made him ‘an easy mark’ and equated that with weakness. What they failed to realize was that just as truth was circumstantial so Raymond’s ‘good guy’ limits were also circumstantial, he could, when needs dictated, be vicious, callous, and unforgiving. It was to his adversaries detriment that they assumed this ‘good guy’ was uninformed, unsuspecting, and unprepared. He once overheard a former antagonist advise a colleague, “Don’t think because he has scruples he can be pushed around. That ‘nice’ guy will cut your balls off and feed them to you one at a time A’ la tartare.” Raymond saw no reason to correct the man’s perspective. Raymond also understood that which is praiseworthy today could be immoral and even illegal tomorrow and vice versa. It was not difficult to understand that one faction’s hero was another faction’s villain. Da Silva was a good example, his village folk were extremely loyal and protective of their ‘Patron’ who brought them medical care, education, and job opportunities and yet, the man was responsible for numerous unsolved murders around the world. Raymond was worried that Daniel’s perspective might be a more restrictive and constrained by the ‘rule of law’ and his personal integrity. He was worried that Daniel would insist on respecting legalities. Especially since everyone understood that whatever Ilya had planned for the Russian Mafia “bookkeeper” was bound to be in violation of some if not many American as well as international laws. Daniel had been very receptive when it came to not revealing Da Silva’s role in Jones’ murder. Would he draw the line at standing by while someone was “chastised” for interfering in ‘family business’? Did his lover understand that the word for ‘gym’ that Ilya used meant activity more than a place? Raymond knew from experience that Ilya was going to teach some physical lessons in a game of three on one that would leave some severe aches and pains as well as bruising and bleeding. If there were no broken bones the trio should consider themselves lucky. Ilya would remind them of their mistakes as he administered severe corporal punishment. Raymond watched his soul mate carefully. Once the meeting was adjourned Raymond returned the big screen to the usual image of a painting of a bunch of cowboys breaking wild horses. He confronted his mate with the brutal facts. “Daniel, that Russian mafia ‘bookkeeper’ is about to get a visit that will involve physical assault. It will happen in spite of the man having bodyguards and home security. Adams Family Security agents will visit this informant in the sanctity of his home or office and physically beat him and remind him to respect our privacy.” Raymond twisted his coffee mug, then added, “Sam, Dave, and Fred will likewise get some of Ilya’s physical ‘remedial instruction’, although not as severe. That I know from having worked with the man for almost ten years.” Daniel chuckled and said, “Look, Raymond, I know we aren’t dealing with some barroom brawl here that can be settled with a night in jail and restitution. Then again, I think it’s pretty much just like that except on an international scale. I understood fully that that guy in Russia or wherever he is was going to get the crap beat out of him. That’s not so much to correct his behavior as it is to discourage a repeat by his cohorts. When it comes down to it, this is just like law enforcement except that we are the society that constitutes the law and enforces it. This is perhaps more sophisticated than some tribal warlords I’ve dealt with but the premise is the same. The Family’s existence in this world of international business and finance requires the use of tactics and responses that that might be frowned upon or outright condemned in the press and the courts of what we call ‘western society’ and yet they are a matter of necessity if an organization is to survive and prosper in international markets. A close parallel can likely be found in prison politics or even playground activities. In those situations, without adequate supervision, the rules tend to slide toward more basic survival instincts. It’s all about playing nice with others and the consequences of inappropriate behaviors. They’re times when I want nothing more than to mete out justice that I feel is served up too little, too late. Short of preemptive assassinations I doubt there is much that will shock me about my new family. If I decide to challenge an action or decision the family chooses to support, I won’t hesitate to speak out at the right time and within the family forum.” Raymond was greatly relieved by Daniel’s insights and support. He stood and pulled his lover into his arms for a passionate kiss that led to both men leaving for work a bit later than the meeting had required. Maria had settled in as if she had lived there forever. Mr. Fred had stepped away from his normal kitchen duties but had retained his role as chief ‘not a babysitter’. He and Rosarita took Maria along on most of their tourist jaunts and to the beach. Wherever Maria went security was unobtrusively close by. Da Silva’s visit had increased everyone’s paranoia to some degree. Everyone except Maria. Jeff and Paul had just escaped Aunt Mellie and Cora Mae who insisted the “new” about to be newlyweds to be were kept up on the latest triumph and tragedy affecting the upcoming celebration. The men, on the other hand quickly became bored with the minutia the ladies insisted on sharing. All four men had willingly contributed individually and collectively to the available menus and cake choices. Other than that, they had agreed to anything presented and only expressed an opposing opinion when the ladies tested their attention by suggesting some outrageous color or items or agenda. The one thing they had agreed upon and firmly insisted on was Paul’s idea of a ‘first dance’ music number. It was several days after the ‘beach encounter’ that Maria came in from a horseback ride with her Grandpa Joe. She found her Daddies lounging by the pool. Greeting her Daddies with a hug and a kiss Paul suggested she get a shower to wash off the horse smell and then join them for a snack. In just a couple of minutes, the Princess was back in her swimsuit. Before Paul could challenge her she ran to the pool and dove into the deep end. Her Daddies joined her and proceeded to play her new favorite pool game, ‘tossing Maria’. Jeff and Paul would stand in chest deep water and take turns tossing a squealing, laughing, delighted, little girl into the water only to have her swim back and demand, “Throw me again, Daddy!” Even though she had to swim back and her Daddies took turns tossing her, it was the big strong men that begged for relief. Jeff realized it had been a matter of expediency but he was inwardly pleased that Maria had called him "Daddy" and not "Daddy Jeff." Maria joined her Daddies on the lounges and got a serious look on her face as she spoke without preamble, “I want DJ and his Daddies to stay here at our house instead of at the hotel. We have lots of empty rooms. I would like to have DJ close by and y’all need to get to know his Daddies since we’re going to be best friends for a long time. Jeff looked at Paul and they both nodded. Maria continued, “Good. I also think I should call Mr. Fred, Uncle Fred from now on. I don’t think he would mind and it would be easier for my friends to accept it if he was kind of like family instead of a man nanny. Besides, he is family.” She paused as suddenly as she had begun and waited still searching their eyes, demanding another immediate response. Jeff looked at Paul. Paul looked at Jeff. Both men nodded. Jeff answered, “Well Princess, we think that would be fine as long as Fred is okay with it. You should talk to him before you call him ‘Uncle Fred’. He may not like that idea.” Maria beamed. “I’m pretty sure he’ll agree. He doesn’t like it much either when I call him Mr. Fred. He says it reminds him of some domesticated house servant in some turd whirl country.” Paul was caught mid swallow as the last of Maria’s comment registered. He sprayed Pina’ Colada all over his daughter. Jeff, laughing all the while, wiped Maria with a towel and patted his lover on the back. While Paul was busy choking, Jeff explained that Fred had meant some ‘third world country’. Maria didn’t ask what 'third world' even meant. She simply said, “Oh, then he wasn’t talking about places that didn’t have flush toilets.” Jeff’s laughter died suddenly. He looked pleadingly at his lover. Paul pretended to still be choking.
  8. sojourn

    No Man's Land

    Each time I get an alert that a new chapter has been added, I think to myself, "Self, I don't remember this story." Then I read a paragraph or two and just smile. It soon feels like snuggling under familiar, warm, covers. It amazes me that neither man has died from sexual frustration. Still, I suspect many other men have lived life knowing such attractions and yet never acting on them. I know I did for decades. "Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way". Write faster (As if you could write any slower.) Post sooner (I would be most disappointed if I learned there were advanced chapters just languishing, waiting to be posted.)
  9. sojourn

    Chapter 15

    Consider this an official complaint... Daventry has not seduced Granger! As an aside... I do like that now I can google unknown words such as "razee" without leaving my place in hte story. In the old days of The Gun Room and such, I had to open other browser pages. It was such a chore, I used it only as a last resort. Thank god for groogle. Spell check is also so muche better now two. The only thing that remains unchanged is the supurb story telling skills of Mark Arbour. Mark, Consider this well worded advise... get those too toghert. Write faster. Post sooner.
  10. sojourn

    Chapter 48

    LOL! It is interesting that the hinted at "lining up" has garnered more comments and emails than any explicit sex scene except maybe one particular scene. Doc is like a lot of "overly endowed" men, he sees it as a matter of genetics over which he had no control. He also sees it as having serious implications as to its implementation. Thanks for your comments... who knows, maybe an impromptu gathering could see some serious exposure. Jim
  11. sojourn

    Chapter 61

    ...f hanger. This chapter brought home two points, first, I keep forgetting this story takes place in the past and that I could care less about fashion if I really, really, really tried. Who is this nes JJ? He is clinically self-aware and is consistently considering others. I am rooting for him but not so much for Carullo. As for Dillon, I want someone to erase Zack from Will's memory. Dillon can be shallow and a slacker but I'm betting there is more to him than that which was first presented. If he removes Zack from Will's affections, more power to him. Thanks Mark. Now, write faster, post sooner to end that clif...
  12. sojourn

    Chapter 14

    100 guns of intimidation aside, I need to know if Daventry will keep Granger warm through that cold Nordic winter. BTW Mark, good job on the clif....
  13. sojourn

    Chapter 48

    ail You have wanting to google “Last American Virgin”. I guess that makes us even. Thanks for posting your comments. Jim
  14. sojourn

    Chapter 48

    Thanks for validating my approach. in a few days it will be “Aloha” from Hawaii. Thanks again, Jim
  15. sojourn

    Chapter 47

    Well, Gary and I are both glad you found this chapter. Dennis was jealous of the rapport and support Gary got from his father. I think Gary is in good hands with Seth and his Mother. Thanks for your comments and thanks for caring about Gary. Teens need lots of support especially gay or transgender teens. Jim

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