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Everything posted by sojourn

  1. sojourn

    Chapter 51

    I am aware of the shift you describe. The shift toward events was a reflection of the characters shifting focus from intimate interpersonal developing relationships to engaging extraneous goals. I felt it was appropriate. I am glad you liked some of it. Thanks for posting your comments. Jim
  2. sojourn

    Chapter 1

    Strange how "making a living" interferes with our lives. thanks for commenting. Jim
  3. sojourn

    Chapter 51

    Their beliefs are as impactful as that of the "Green Party" in national politics. When beliefs are on the line, facts and logic hold little sway. Your argument doesn't really serve as an example of why I might be wrong. First off, I think the denominations you site are almost insignificant in representative numbers. Unitarians have less than 200,000 members. The United Church of Christ, less than a million members. (I wasn't sure you meant the United Church of Christ or the United Church of God, so I googled both. The United Church of God damn sure doesn't believe in gay rights... I got to the "just like other sins" and quit reading.) The number of Jews in the world is declining, not increasing. The total impact of those "supportive" folks you cited is slightly less than that of the green party in our current national political scene. I am not even sure what Unitarians actually believe without googling them. Exactly what percentage of "christians" do you think support gay rights? By support, I mean what percentage of denominations welcome and respect gay members as equal in the eyes of god and man? Over 70 million American Catholics, 66 million Assemblies of God members, 16.5 million Southern Baptist Convention members vociferously oppose gay rights. That was just three I thought would be easily recognizable or at least somewhat familiar to the average reader, unlike your heroic examples. You may list "christian" and jewish denominations that support gay rights but they are in a very small minority compared to the membership of those that outwardly and actively oppose gay rights. I offer a comparison... Not all people under the Axis powers of WWII supported the attacks on foreign sovereign nations or the resultant killings, devastation, and destruction that ensued. However, a hellavu lot of their citizenry heeded the call to war. Our country declared war against Germany, Italy, and Japan, not some representative, political party, or royal family. There were no exceptions made for those who didn't agree with hitler, mussolini, or hirohito and yet stayed to fight against us. I would suspect that the percentage who didn't wholly support their leaders were a far larger percentage than the percentage of christians who may indeed support gay rights in spite of their denominations leadership's opposition and yet those nations fought for 6 deadly, destructive, and devastating years. Many, many, more christians oppose gay rights than support them. Let those that support gay rights make their church leaders come out in support of gay rights... then you may defend them with some dignity. I suspect that most christians and most republicans don't really give a damn about gay rights one way or the other. That is also a problem. I think your point is that "not all christians/jews/muslims hate gays. I never said every one of them did. I just said religion and republicans oppose gay rights and the facts bear me out. (I don't think it is any coincidence that 1/3 of all republicans are evangelical christians.) If you took the whole of the Abrahamic religions today, christians, jews, and muslims, what percentage would you say "support" gay rights? You sound like the guy who insisted that republicans were not all anti-gay. And yet republicans proudly oppose gay rights as a party platform, ipso facto, if you are a republican you support anti-gay legislation. They have promised to work to overturn "gay marriage". The republican led DOJ recently faced off against the EEOC by defending a boss who fired a man after learning he was gay. The man was represented by the EEOC who supported his claim of discrimination. And yet the Department of Justice went to court in opposition of gay rights. Your tax dollars at work on both sides of the issue of gay rights and discrimination. There's a lot that I don't know. There are a lot of things science cannot effectively explain but that doesn't mean that god has to be the answer to anything we can't explain. Early man couldn't explain nature so he turned to god. Ignorance is a transitory state if we choose to educate ourselves. We no longer worship the gods associated with the harvest, the sea, and our heroes are no longer identified as offspring of the gods. If we elect to not question then we will never find the real answers. I believe that all religion is bad, corrupt, and evil. (Please note I did not include philosophies in that statement unless some individuals get rich from espousing said philosophy.) I believe that republicans are anti-gay and more concerned with protecting their individual wallets than defending or even upholding the Constitution let alone "christian values". Democrats are only marginally better than republicans in that they are currently the only viable alternative. At least they openly say they support gay rights. I believe that if Constantine the Great had not realized that having one religion with one god would simply things all around and better unite his empire and his military we would likely be worshiping a plethora of different deities today. By god, he was right. It worked. You may believe in imaginary friends but I have indeed outgrown the need. I look for explanations, not rationalizations. If you want to discuss my views or just rant, my email address is sojourn1950@yahoo.com. As always, thanks for posting your comments. Jim When
  4. sojourn

    Chapter 1

    You are dirty-minded. That makes you my kind of people. Thanks for commenting. Jim
  5. sojourn

    Chapter 11

    I actually consider your confusion as to who to root for a compliment. Thanks for reading and for commenting. Jim
  6. sojourn

    Chapter 51

    Actually, shortly after this story began, I considered letting Jeff read the "Personal Journal of Winston Nathaniel Adams" with the idea of shifting the focus of this story to Texas in the 1870’s with "modern life" visited only in vignettes. I gathered enough "period" information for a viable tale and wrote the first chapter. I then decided, or more to the point my characters decided, Jeff and Paul's story deserved more attention. I don’t regret that decision but as this tale evolved, I felt the characters, Winston Adams and John Grant, stretch and grow more insistently in my conscious thoughts. I look forward to exploring cowboy, actually "Waddie" life through the eyes of a Bostonian lawyer seeking his fortune in the Wild West and a quick-tempered, down on his luck cowboy in a time that folks could not discuss straight sex without using euphemisms and alluded to gay sex, if at all, in only the most obscure terms. A time when "deadly" disagreements were more likely to be settled by "shoot first", "ambush", or "shoot 'em in the back" rather than the Hollywood myth of the "Main Street, quick draw, face-to-face, showdown." Thanks for posting your comments. Jim
  7. sojourn

    Chapter 51

    I agree with you about fear. We tend to associate fear with potential physical harm or the threat of death but the threat of change or possible loss may also inspire fear. Fear is one of those "lizard brain" functions that are hard to control. (Many people call it “The Lizard Brain” because the limbic system is about all a lizard has for brain function. It is in charge of fight, flight, feeding, fear, freezing-up, and fornication.) I may be crazy but I suspect the lizard brain maybe the root source or perhaps the cause of certain diagnosable mental disorders. Specifically, depression and feelings of inadequacy which I suspect relate to survival instincts. Yeah, I am still pondering the validity of that concept. Thanks for posting your comments. Jim Jim
  8. sojourn

    Chapter 51

    Screen writer huh? My sons and exwife often complained when I would guess a major plot twist or who the "perp" was in TV and movies. Only my youngest son shows the same "irritating" trait. Thanks for posting your comments. Jim
  9. sojourn

    Chapter 7

    We all have our issues, likes, and dislikes. Obnoxious bully is one I choose to not be around. thanks for posting your comment. Jim
  10. sojourn

    Chapter 15 Final

    Thank you for letting me know my story has moved you. Apparently your questions about Wylie, Linda, and BJ were answered. I'm glad. Thanks for posting your comments. Jim
  11. sojourn

    Chapter 12

    Humans behavior is complex and unpredictable. Even in hindsight it is impossible to say why someone reacted in a certain way to a given stimulae or situation. I was married and loved my wife, although I knew from childhood I was gay. So to me, them getting married was not a stretch. But, we all know their marriages, just like mine, will not end in "happily ever after". Thanks for posting your comment. Jim
  12. sojourn

    Chapter 11

    Your comment reminded me that my then editor reacted very strongly when he read the rape scene. He said, "Wiley would never do that!" I was flattered that he felt he knew the man I had literally created. When I persisted with my plot line, he quit. On the upside he has become a devoted fan who consistently posted comments both favorable and otherwise. Thanks for posting your comments. Jim
  13. sojourn

    Chapter 51

    I often wondered if you looked at the chapters after they were posted. It was sometimes a pain for me to read them 3 or four times before you saw them and still there would be glaring errors. Thank you Naboy.
  14. sojourn

    Chapter 51

    The scope and focus of the “Gay Us Carnival in Texas” drew a lot of attention. What started a few months ago as an idea of an “in-your-face” celebration of being gay in Texas was fast becoming a juggernaut that ate up his time. He’d had to hire another attorney in order to continue providing free legal aid to the community. He, Paul, and the family initially agreed that the event would likely attract some locals and perhaps some folks from Dallas and Abilene, much along the lines of a county fair. Jeff’s intent was to use the rides, games, and live musical entertainment to attract folks. Once inside the gates every venue but the rides and food would serve to bring attention to the plight of gay’s in today’s society and to lessen the negative view many folks hold in regard to gays. Just as importantly he wanted normal folks to see how their opinions concerning gays had been impacted by the media, politics, and religion. He wanted folks to see the truth about the intentional marginalization of gays in America. (Much of American society views “gay” as a topic that doesn’t affect them and one that, if ignored, will simply go away. Religious leaders and politicians use “gay” as a way to strengthen their influence by insisting that being gay is against god and nature when homosexuality has been documented throughout most mammalian species and love between two men is cited at least twice in the bible. Hatred and disdain are very basic and powerful emotions that can easily override reason. They can help to elevate, strengthen, and solidify any group. The Nazi’s denigrated the Jews and blamed them for Germany’s problems. White slave owners and later white landowners denigrated and engendered fear and disdain of blacks in order to maintain a cheap labor force. Today, preachers and priests allow and even encourage homophobia by either actively condemning gays or by simply never addressing homophobia as being “unchristian like”. Politicians actively fight against laws that legally protect gay-rights and refuse to acknowledge gays as a valid minority.) One focus of the Carnival would be the role of gays throughout history, such as Hadrian and Antinous? Alexander and Hephaestion? Achilles and Patroclus. Jeff wanted to highlight the contributions that gay professionals make to our modern everyday life as doctors, lawyers, farmers and factory workers. The fact that religions, governments, and societies have lied about any leaders or prominent figures whose sexual orientation may have been other than “totally straight” would also be discussed. Whether through outright denial as in the case of Abraham Lincoln, burning personal papers, as relatives of some authors and songwriters such as Stephen Foster have done. Then there are those who simply refuse to address reality as in the case of director Ron Howard who ignored an indecent exposure arrest, a seven-year live-in same-sex relationship, and numerous other same-sex “encounters” and declarations of love involving the subject of his film, “A Beautiful Mind”. Obviously, Howard felt, and rightly so, that the truth was not conducive to good box office. John Nash’s true-life story as a Nobel Laureate in Economics who was also treated for paranoid schizophrenia was academy award winning cinema, while Nash’s attraction/love for other men was not. The man’s biographer and the subsequent movie downplayed Nash’s gay side, the reading and viewing public for which they were produced was not and is not gay-friendly. Howard defended leaving out any reference to Nash’s “gay activities” by saying, “it was just an unfortunate period of the man’s life”. The question should be... ‘given the role being gay contributes to teen suicides and psychological struggles, how much did the specter of emotional and sexual desire, that even today is denigrated, defiled, and held to be illegal by 75 sovereign nations, impact the man’s mental health’? These were but a few of the topics to be presented and open for discussion. The goal was simply to make attendees more aware and to provide some insights into the effects that even subtle institutionalized bigotry can have on LGBTQ youth and adults in everyday life. The turn out was expected to be moderate at best with, hopefully, sizable growth over the coming years. The grant from the Adams’ Family Trust ensured financial backing for the next five years. Soon the inquiries and subsequent reservations for the wedding ceremony and reception convinced them to prepare for a tremendous turnout for the initial celebration and perhaps expect a decline in subsequent years. Perhaps people were just curious and wanted to see what the fuss was all about. The price of food and beverages was reduced to half price when presenting coupons from the booklet that each attendee received upon entering the gates. Rides and games of chance could be sampled with tickets included in the same admission booklet. The family soon realized folks would be showing up from around the nation and more than a few from other countries. The Carnival itself was not enough to inspire international travel but it did attract some whose plans brought them stateside and whose curiosity was peaked by the juxtaposition of a “celebration of gays” in the American heartland of the cowboy/redneck/politically conservative/red-state/christian stronghold. For weeks preceding the Carnival weekend, Jeff and Paul had been awash with requests for interviews. Their presence on national talk shows reached into the homes of most American families. Their open, honest personalities won over the host and the audience. The handsome gay couple with the beautiful, quick-witted, sharp-tongued little girl was fast becoming the “poster boys” for young, openly gay couples with children. The American public embraced the young family as if they were music idols or movie stars. Even though the most zealous fans were gay, the majority of those that “googled”, “followed”, “tweeted”, “blogged”, and or “vlogged” about them were “not gay”. Even the movie production company they had met in Hawaii reacted to their ‘15 minutes of fame’ and asked that Maria’s few lines in their Rom-Com be expanded to a full-fledged supporting role with more dialogue and more on-camera time. They offered to bring the cameras and necessary sets to her, not to mention a salary offer that shocked Paul. Both Daddies agreed to immediately nix the offer without consulting the budding starlet. As it was, the film was rushed into theatres with a brazen banner across the billboard, “Featuring America’s Precocious Preteen Princess”, Maria Wilson-Adams”. When the movie came to the local theatre it sold out every showing of its three-day run. Maria and DJ saw it once and neither seemed overly impressed with their appearance on the big screen. Maria observed that it was only slightly better than watching their home movies on their own theatre screen at home where she got more camera time. Her parents, grandparents, and uncles all smiled in understanding. The home movies focused almost exclusively on one major star… Maria. For a week or so Maria and DJ were major celebrities at school. The Princess was miffed that she had to explain that there was no “line” between her names and that “Wilson” was now her middle name. Her teacher helped by explaining that it might be considered a “stage name”, like many celebrities or superheroes used to protect their real identities. That only added to the couples already bulletproof playground cache. The movie poster featuring her name, even misrepresented, opened up a Pandora’s box of questions at home that came dangerously close to revealing her brush with stardom. Only after an exasperated Daddy suggested they pack a picnic and go for a horseback ride “right now” did Maria relent with her dogged inquiry. Paul later confided in his husband that deflection, dissembling, and avoidance were essential tools in his piss-poor attempt at effective parenting. Jeff compared Paul’s parental tactics to his training and experience in the legal profession. He was a quick study and, again, affirmed that they must always present a united front when dealing with parental issues. The phrase “We’ll have to discuss this with your Daddy” soon became as popular a tool as the old standbys, ‘We’ll talk about this later. We’ll talk about this when you're older. We’ll talk about this when you have your own children. We’ll talk about this when I’m dead.’ Maria had been as eager as anyone to help organize the Carnival. She insisted on having wandering face painters, balloon artists, and magicians around the rides for the “younger” folks. Tink made the mistake of referring to that group of rides as “the kiddie ride area”. Even his very thick Russian accent, which fascinated Maria, was no excuse for such derogatory language. Maria jumped the man immediately and educated him on the importance of avoiding language that served only to “belittle” the person as if they were somehow less important than a grown up. They settled on “preteens” and “younger folks” as the preferred pronouns with “children” being only marginally more acceptable than the major insult of being referred to as a 'kid or 'kiddie'. After Maria was convinced she had corrected Tinks attitude, she huffed, “Kids, after all, are actually young goats.” Paul was pretty sure he had just heard his daughter channeling her grandmother Mellie. (Use of the word “pronouns” required immediate explanation to a suspicious and already miffed five-year-old Princess.) Maria’s eager involvement in the planning came with an ulterior motive. She had already briefed DJ that the meetings that focused on the Carnaval were their best chance to finally learn the truth about sex. Since the wedding ceremony was going to involve lots of couples about to get married so they could have sex, the forbidden topic would most likely be discussed at some point. They just had to be there and listen. The two were constantly underfoot and together whenever the opportunity arose. Neither child asked the same parent twice in a row for permission or for a ride to the other's house. They would listen attentively to any conversation from which they were not intentionally barred. Maria would grill her Daddies concerning any meetings that had taken place while she was at school. Afterward, she and DJ would pow-wow via FaceTime or compare notes at school the next day. So far, her “kid-friendly” search engine was not much help in piecing together the various clues concerning “sex” and why it was such a big deal to grownups. She was pretty sure of the mechanics, every barnyard animal had a penis or a vagina and she had seen animals mate. She just felt the grownups were hiding something more than reproduction. Otherwise, why would that they refuse to discuss it without getting nervous or embarrassed? Both “children” considered the talks of “rides, food, fun, and fireworks” more important and just as exciting to discuss in their follow-up chats. The discussions on serious topics like institutionalized prejudices of churches, schools, and entertainment venues, hate crimes, and subtle or even subliminal bigotry were downright boring. During a long, drawn-out discussion regarding how to effectively incorporate serious points of discussion into an actual carnival atmosphere, Maria began to fidget. When one gay psychologist offered the topic of “responding with encouraging positive and supportive dialogues in the workplace whenever hate speech is overheard by gays or straights”, Maria’s fidgeting became distracting. Daddy Jeff offered. “Wouldn’t you like to go play or help Uncle Fred in the kitchen”? Maria could be stubborn and this time she insisted on remaining at her Daddy’s side. When another professor suggested a game show type format imitating “Jeopardy” or “What to Say When” format Maria lost all pretense of being the slightest bit interested. Her Daddy Jeff said, “Maria, if you want to attend these meetings you have to learn to just be patient. I know you find it hard to understand but these talks are about serious issues affecting gays are more important than those about fun, food, and fireworks. Now, I would like for you to either excuse yourself or sit still and just be patient.” Maria countered with, “I know it’s impotent to help people not to hate. Just like people hate Uncle Daniel for being gay and Sheriff and just like people hate other kids at school for being hispanic or black. I know we won’t stop real haters because they hate themselves more than they hate other people. I try to be patient and listen carefully but the words are mostly big and the people aren’t talking to me. Besides, you weren’t so patient when we were waiting for Daddy to get his leg sewed up at the clinic. When he was being a patient, you were being very ‘m-patient’. Grandma and Grandpa both told you so a couple of times.” Then, with folded arms, she added, “I don’t think being ‘patient’ runs in our family.” Maria then mumbled to the others in attendance, “Scuse me”, got up, eased her chair up against the conference table and slowly walked out. Jeff sat there slack-jawed at having been put in his place by his five-year-old daughter. Later, after a serious discussion with his husband, Jeff was still unsure if Maria’s remarks were an intelligently considered and calculated riposte or just an offhand comment that came out sounding more profound than it was. The more he learned about his daughter the more fascinating, endearing, and impressive he found her to be. The sudden surge of pride he felt was like an endorphin rush to his brain. He made a mental note to guard against becoming one of those father’s who constantly brags about his children. He put that “patient” encounter among his “hold cards” should some unsuspecting parent brag that ”My child is so smart and mature, why just the other day…” Jeff knew that he had an ace-in-hole with this story. He began refreshing his memory with examples that would clearly justify his daughter’s right to be described as “truly exceptional”. Later, in bed, he began to rehearse to his husband his list of “impressive things Maria had said or done”. He had barely begun when Paul smiled at him with a look of unabashed love and planted a kiss on his busy lips that made Jeff want to list all his husband’s “truly exceptional” attributes. Paul’s intention was to acknowledge his husband’s obvious love for their daughter but the kiss they shared grew into something more demanding and the night slipped away in a blur of heated passion. Morning light found them regretting they had fallen asleep without cleaning themselves. Dried cum sticking to body hair can range from inconvenient to downright painful. Jeff and Paul’s newfound popularity was not without its annoyances. With a security team already in place, those seeking photo-ops and impromptu personal interviews were kept at bay. It wasn’t long before speculation concerning the couples wealth began to appear as a menu item on the media feeding frenzy. Fortunately, the best they could come up with was that Jeff was a reputable attorney and the scion of an old and successful Texas family with cattle and oil interests and Paul was a practicing veterinarian. The omnipresent, albeit discreet, bodyguards only added to the speculation. Some opined that they were in reality just ranch hands that had been drafted to keep the paparazzi at bay. The singular annoyance for Paul was when a clip of him was featured on one of those TV programs that caught ‘stars’ in awkward or embarrassing situations and had a team of ‘posed to appear relaxed’ commentators. It was a video of him from behind, pissing beside his SUV. It was shot from the rear and only allowed for jokes addressing the resultant large puddle, his ass filling out his snug-fitting Wranglers, and the angle of his well-worn hat. "His stance", according to one female paparazzi with five brothers and two ex-husbands, “is indicative of the more casual stance of a well-endowed man”. That observation inspired gibes and catcalls from Sam, Dave, Fred, and even his own husband. Some were encouraging him to prove the woman right and others decrying her for physically lacking the appendage she had so glibly evaluated. Sam snorted and stated flatly, “I’ve pissed alongside and peeked at men and boys from around the world and I’ve never noticed endowment size reflected in any particular stance.” Paul jokingly argued, “This woman has unimpeachable credentials. It’s likely she has seen her father, her brothers, and both husbands pissing countless times and she simply noted discreet telltale signs signifying a larger or lesser endowment. In fact, this woman just might be considered as a court-approved technical expert.” This last was offered with a grimace determined to smother his own shit-eatin’ grin. Jeff laughingly challenged Paul’s defense of the woman, “She definitely would not be allowed to testify as an endowment expert.” Shifting into a totally affected, pontificating, air of superiority, he added, “She has yet to offer any credentials to the court indicating formal or official training. She proffers only anecdotal accounts involving an insignificant data set. She has also failed to offer any observable variables in a man's stance that reflect a corresponding indication of size.” Shifting back to his normal persona Jeff teased, “If she’d said your stance had indicated a “teeny weeny”, you’d have dismissed her as an unqualified piss-freak trying to ‘belittle’ your manhood. All of us here know that your manhood can’t be belittled even flaccid.” Jeff leaned in and kissed his husband as he surreptitiously fondled the appendage in question. As Jeff and Paul separated, Dave chuckled and commented, “My duties as a bodyguard mean that Paul’s protection and safety are my paramount professional priorities. However, Paul’s pissing was not specified in my contract as an instance requiring protection nor am I willing to accept splatter as a consequence of my employment. Being pissed on in the line of duty is not something I expect to be adding to my CV anytime soon. If I’m expected to shield Paul’s cock from the paparazzi I think we need to renegotiate the contract and add waterproofing to all our clothes.” Sam snorted, “I think it would simplify matters for everyone concerned if we just got Paul to wear Depends.” Jeff cleared his throat, “I hope I’m still above ground when my husband has to start worrying about incontinence. I hope our great-grandchildren are there to tease us about it. In the meantime, I perceive all this parlance of Paul’s potential porn star pissing pecker has petered out.” The response was a chorus of loud, obnoxious, exaggerated groans, and a chastising smack against his bicep from his husband. Soon after returning from Hawaii, Raymond and Daniel had decided to have a pool and pool house built that were identical to Jeff and Paul’s. Raymond had explained to his brother that the cousins would eventually be visiting back and forth and he didn’t want Jeff and Paul’s place to become the default gathering place just because they had a pool. Jeff insisted his big brother was jealous and suffered from “pool” envy. Raymond had reminded his “little” brother that Jeff and Daniel both knew only too well that his “playground equipment” was the one more likely to be envied. He pointed out that his swimming pool and pool house were identical to Jeff’s, not larger, which might have given some credence to Jeff’s remark. Paul upped the ante by arguing that his and Paul's home would become the gathering place as the children grew simply because he and Paul were “kewler” than Raymond and Daniel. Daniel stated flatly that should that be the case he could simply lock up the “kewl” dads on any given weekend and the kids would have no choice but to be at their place. As the argument devolved, more and more ludicrous threats, options, and enticements were proposed until Raymond Googled and made reservations for a “weekend in space” for himself, Daniel, and three others to be named at a later date. The reservations would be accommodated at a “mutually convenient time” within the next decade. No one could top that. What child wouldn’t be in awe of one who was going to take them on a journey into space? Daniel and Paul were stunned. Jeff was just pissed because he didn't think of it first. A few days before the Carnival, Joe and Mellie were hosting the youngsters, including the boys and girls from Chicago, on an overnight trip to San Antonio to take in the Alamo and the River Walk. Doc’s sons were already begging their Dad to move them all to Texas so they could own their own horses just like Maria and DJ. Raymond and Daniel decided to host a poolside cookout for their friends and the visitors from Chicago. It was a chance to show the family’s Chicago guests, Doc Steelman and Bradley Davis, some ‘down-home’ Texas hospitality. Runt and Larry were hesitant to attend as guests but Raymond and Daniel explained that Jeremy, who worked for Raymond, and Nathaniel, who worked for Daniel, would be attending as well as several off-duty bodyguards. The catered party centered around the bar-b-que pit, which was actually part of a very well equipped outdoor kitchen. The large, heated swimming pool explained why dress for the evening was “casual, bring swimwear”. The dinner was self-service as was the well stocked wet bar. The bar featured a tropical theme that was reminiscent of the secluded, rustic, beachfront lodgings that had been the “honeymoon” suite for both couples for a few days after their Hawaiian wedding. Paul had made no secret about his burning curiosity to see Doc Steelman’s endowment, “first hand”. Jeff teased him by insisting, “It'll likely take two hands to handle that whopper and you'll still have enough flesh exposed to make the average man jealous.” He was amused at his lover’s fascination with the other man’s “freakishly large endowment”. A small cloud of concern hovered on his mental horizon, ‘was his husband a size queen’? ‘Would his above average manhood satisfy his husband in the years to come’? Bradley had confided in Jeff that Doc had some self-image issues. In high school, he had been ridiculed and branded “GC” for gargantuan cock. Girls who dated him were either morbidly curious or just plain ignorant as to why boys especially called him “GC”. In the end, it really didn’t matter, he was in his second semester of college before he lost his virginity to a girl. As an adult, he had been refused penetrative sex on more than a few occasions with male and female partners due to the size of his fully aroused manhood. Bradley acknowledged that Doc was now quite proud of his endowment and recognized that most of the rejection he had experienced in his youth had been due to envy, fear, or just plain ignorance regarding the elasticity of human bodily orifices. Fortunately, Bradley felt Doc was damned near perfect in every way and every dimension. Jeff cleared it first with Raymond and Daniel then getting Bradley’s approval he approached Doc who simply smiled and shrugged his shoulders indifferently. Jeff was prepared to offer Sam and Dave a cash incentive to be the first to get in the pool naked but before he could add the part about money, they both were happily cavorting in the altogether trying to push each other into the pool. Soon, nudity was everybody’s accepted dress code. Paul was not the only one who seemed mesmerized by Doc’s endowment. When asked the dimensions Doc told Paul to find a tape measure and Bradley would do the honors to show both flaccid and aroused states. Daniel quickly provided a tape measure and the results were indeed impressive 8 ¼ inches flaccid and 11 ¾ fully erect. The girth was 6 ½ inches and seemed to vary little with arousal, with the head being only slightly larger than the shaft. Bradley proudly proclaimed that it was capable of even greater size when properly stimulated. In spite of several encouraging voices, he declined to publicly prove his assertion. It wasn’t long after the measurements were complete that Doc donned his swimsuit and others followed suit. The majority opted to remain nude. Later, in the privacy of their bedroom, Paul advised Jeff that he was likely to never see a human penis that large again even in porn. It was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity. Jeff was taken aback as he realized that his lover had wanted to see the huge dong as a physical curiosity rather than an object of lust. When he suggested as much to his lover, Paul immediately agreed and looked accusingly at his husband, “Did you think I wanted to have sex with Doc? When I said I loved you, it implied and maybe I should have stated that I only expect to have sex with you. I can’t see a time when I would choose to have sex with any other man.” He wrapped Jeff in a snug embrace. “Were you worried that I might jump Doc once I got a gander at his gooser? Jeff, you are and always will be the only man for me. You’re my lover, you're my best friend, you’re my husband, and a father to my daughter. I might look and might even get aroused by other men in porn or in real life but you are the only one I want to relieve my sexual tension. And, I certainly hope you feel the same. If ever we decide to be other than monogamous, I want us to discuss it before either of us breaks that bond.” Jeff’s mumbled response was an attempt to concur with his lover’s sentiments but whatever he tried to say was lost in the smoldering kiss that Paul planted on his lips. That smoldering soon burst into flame and the blaze of passion consumed any doubt and concern either man may have been harboring. After some concentrated effort, both men slipped into nocturnal bliss. Dried cum would be dealt with in the morning. As the Carnival weekend neared, the entire family and their friends were totally and eagerly involved with the planning and organizing of the Carnival. The professional staff Jeff had contracted was more than capable and implemented ideas and suggestions from the financiers as well as those of the gay and gay-friendly organizations that participated. The end result was that the “Gay-Us Carnival in Texas” promised to be one of the largest “free” gatherings in the state in over a decade. It advertised “fun for all ages”. The fact that that fun also included informative and educational presentations regarding gays throughout history, up to and including modern society’s views, laws, and imposed and institutionalized limitations was also emphasized. The opposition from various religious denominations and political organizations was also explored. Paid advertising was, obviously, limited to gay-friendly media sources but the internet soon had masses of, mostly younger people, looking forward to attending. It was a happy coincidence that the first day of the Carnival was Earth Day. While the local enthusiasts would have joined in the festivities in either Dallas or Abilene, this year they were given a grant from the Adam’s Family Trust to organize local events that could include folks that were ostensibly in town for the Carnival and to man information booths within the Carnival. The only stipulations were that their celebration would be totally inclusive and no product endorsements or commercial activities were allowed within the fairgrounds. The music and colorful celebrations of Earth Day seemed almost a preamble to the main attraction. Jeff felt that the two celebrations complemented each other as they both focused on that which was nature and natural without religious or cultural overtones. The gates to the “Gay Us Carnival in Texas” opened at twelve noon and yet hours before that the lines were already long. The raucous circus-like sounds of the calliope, the smells of “fair fare” seemed to elevate the level of excitement and anticipation as the revelers passed through the gates. Soon, the metallic rattle of the rides and the screams of their riders added to the sense of being someplace beyond the mundane. The crowds were in a festive mood and congeniality was the rule. People seemed to sense that everyone else was there to simply have a good time in the nice weather and were with people who truly accepted everyone regardless of social standing, race, or sexual orientation. Bullies, homophobes, and ruffians were soon identified and insistently encouraged to leave quietly or go to jail. Troublemakers were monitored until their cars left the fairgrounds parking lot. Along with those that were eager to attend were folks who, at first, loudly called for boycotting the local area for days leading up to the Carnival and threatened a permanent boycott of any business that remained open for the Carnival weekend. Even local preachers encouraged the faithful to visit loved ones outside the local area for the duration of the “satanic celebration”. One Dallas megachurch preacher revealed that he had talked to god, requested, and had been assured rain would dampen all three days of the celebration and that a tornado was expected to strike the town and destroy it and all who attended the “deviant and idolatrous celebration”. He insisted the town would be remembered as the modern-day equivalent of Sodom and Gomorrah. It made no difference when more than one bible scholar pointed out that ancient text had revealed that the original reason attributed to Sodom and Gomorrah's destruction was their refusal to grant hospitality to travelers, a critical element of survival in primitive desert regions. It was only after the Romans captured the Jewish homeland and brought with them the Greek tradition of an acceptance of same-sex relations that the jewish scholar’s amended the text to include ‘deviant sexual behavior’ as a major cause of both cities’ destruction. At the time, the ruling jews felt threatened that their youth was too accepting of the Roman occupation forces and too willing to adopt the more hedonistic Roman lifestyle. As religious holidays go, Bacchanalia was a lot more fun to celebrate than Passover. Most all Roman religious celebrations included feasting, music, and more than a few included sexual activities. Whereas, the Jewish god, Yahweh, had killed Onan just for masturbating. The religious wackos and right-wingers had called for people to drive into town with the intent to impede and obstruct traffic flow. A little research with google maps would have had them making different plans. Their overall impact on this small Texas town would have hardly earned a raised eyebrow from a seasoned ‘big city’ dweller on his daily commute. Law enforcement was legion and every inauthentic impediment to traffic was met with a citation and or a tow truck. In three cases the drivers were placed under arrest. Those were the ones who argued that they had god on their side and asserted they should be applauded for doing god’s work in opposing the celebration of this “perverted lifestyle”. They found little sympathy among the police officers who were being paid double their normal wages by those who lived that “perverted lifestyle”. This was a real chance for any hate mongering preacher and or politician to get face time with the public. It was more than a little incongruous to have people of all ages, many in obvious family groups, entering the gates in obvious anticipation of a good time, as sour-faced preachers and politicians ranted and raved-on all about them before their respective camera crews. The christian networks and cable news networks were all out in force. One popular televangelist made a beeline for a particular young family of four about to enter. With cameras rolling, he stepped in front of the father, “Young man, don’t you realize that it’s your responsibility to guide your family in the ways of righteousness? Leading them into this celebration of this depraved lifestyle is leading them and future generations straight into the gates of hell and into the arms of satan!” Feeling the spirit take hold he shouted for all to hear, “Turn away! Turn away from this evil! God will forgive you if you turn away now.” Then, in a diatribe directed more toward the crowd and the cameras than to the startled young family, he continued in a loud, practiced, undulating voice, usually intended to move his congregation. “Being queer is a choice that is made by condemned degenerates. For the sake of your children’s, children’s, children, turn away.” The happy little family had been caught completely off guard by the preacher’s vitriol. The father swallowed his smile and searched the shocked faces of his wife and children. He shrugged from under the preacher’s grasping hand and turned a cold, threatening glare on the older, balding, man. “I was raised by people who listened all their lives to men just like you. They taught me to hate and mistrust anyone or anything that was different from me and mine. They made me watch your sermon every Sunday. You talked about god’s love and blessings with a smile and spit out hate and damnation for anything you don’t approve of or anyone who disagreed or refused to send you money. You, who got caught screwing your secretary behind your wife’s back? You, who paid her off and paid for her abortion with money that hard-working folks, just like my parents, sent to help you spread god's word. All you spread was her legs, your seed, and a whole lot of hate. In my book, you, and your damnation ain’t worth a pile of cow shit. On second thought, real cowshit can be used for fertilizer and yours is just hot-aired hatred. “I just got back from Afghanistan where I served with all colors and all kinds of people. In the army, I learned that blacks and Hispanics aren’t bad just because they have a different skin color or a different cultural background. In country, I learned that people with different beliefs can still be good people. I learned that morality doesn’t depend on any religious beliefs any more than a professed belief in god is a guarantee of moral behavior. I saw an openly gay atheist take a bullet for a born-again bigot that had been cussing and condemning him for being a coc…, er, uh, gay non-believer just two days before that firefight. Don’t tell me or my children that being gay is wrong or that god doesn’t love gays. I can see by your clothes, your watch and your jewelry that you believe in money much more than you believe in god. You’ll fly back home on your private jet just so you don’t have to mingle with the same folks that paid for your jet. It’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into heaven. You are a multi-millionaire and insist that folks living on social security should send you money rather than buy medicine they need and can barely afford.” The preacher was shocked speechless. This was a complete surprise to him. He looked closer at the man’s wife and realized he had made a serious mistake. He turned to walk away when the father looked at his wife then back to the preacher. “One more thing…” The preacher turned back toward the man. The father took a deep breath, stood a little taller, and without warning rapidly punched the preacher man in the face three times before the man could cover up or turn away again. “That’s for all the Sundays I was forced to listen to your hate mongering bullshit AND for those gays, and other minorities whose lives you have helped to make more miserable. Jesus would be ashamed of you and your white-bred hatred especially considering he was not even white himself.” It was just as the preacher was regaining his footing and the father had gathered his family to enter the gate that another, almost identically attired, family of four approached. The men could have been brothers and the women twins. The mother spoke first, “Ralph, honey, sweety, are you okay”? She rushed in and began to nurse the much older, fallen man. She dabbed at his broken, bloody nose with tender affection and familiarity. The newly arrived “father” accosted the wounded man, “I damn well better get the rest of the money your personal assistant promised me for this gig. Turns out, being stuck in this one-horse town with your new mistress and her two bastards in a cramped motorhome isn’t quite the weekend getaway he said it would be.” Staring at the departing “real” family the actor continued, “If you took your cue from the wrong man, that’s not my problem. I was rehearsed and ready. You owe me and you’d best pay up in cash or I’ll be talking to CNN before you get out of the emergency room.” It seemed everyone but the cameramen had forgotten this scenario was being broadcast live to the faithful followers that had paid the ‘reasonable offering’ in advance. The cable news networks went crazy with the professionally captured video. Except, of course, the one cable news network that had the preacher on a retainer as a frequent consultant specializing in ‘American Family Values’. They were ‘conveniently’ unaware of the scripted confrontation that went awry. Ignorance may be bliss but it can also be a conscious decision. In spite of the preacher’s demands, Daniel refused to arrest the “assailant”. Ostensibly, due to the fact that several times the preacher had laid hands upon the man. Daniel reasoned that any judge would see that as provocation. In truth, Daniel would have arranged a parade through the fairgrounds to honor the man for overcoming a lifetime of ingrained bigotry and realizing the truth about the man behind the curtain. The ‘real’ family was flown, that evening, to New York City for interviews on three network morning talk shows and two cable news networks. There was even a book offer to document the father’s transition “From small-town bigot to Enlightened War Hero”. The book deal fell through, however, when the decorated war hero was offered an even more outrageous sum for sitting down with screenwriters to take the same story directly to the ‘big screen’. The “I’m not a father in real life but I’ve played one in a staged, botched, anti-gay, video”, became almost as famous as OJ’s houseboy, er, uh, whatshisname. After the talking heads on network and cable news shows lost interest, he was able to establish a modest, albeit short-lived, career on reality tv. Having trained and qualified folks onsite freed up everyone to simply enjoy the weekend’s festivities. The “Big 4”, as Tink had labeled them, insisted that they be advised of any significant issues that might arise, especially concerning security, publicity, and anything involving the anti-gay protesters. They were not on the scene for the confrontation but it was the smaller family jet that transported the father and his family to New York in style. The others were impressed that Daniel, (Actually, Jeremy at Daniel’s behest.) had arranged for the soldier and his family to be interviewed by the various television entertainment venues in New York and arranged for their transportation and five-star accommodations. He did admit he had nothing to do with the book or movie deal. He just thought the family might enjoy a few days in the Big Apple as a token of appreciation from the Adams family. Daniel basked in the praise of his kinfolk for acting in a way which they had not considered but most heartily approved. The fairgrounds and rodeo arena took on the record-breaking crowds and festivities as if it were an everyday routine. The motels and local campgrounds had been booked solid for the last three weeks. Three of the real estate acquisitions the Adams family owned in town were opened up to men, women, and the third to couples and families. The only requirement was that each person had to have a sleeping bag, which could be purchased on site before he/she was admitted. Each housing unit had porta-potties and trailered shower facilities. What happened within the ‘men only’ showers and sleeping quarters, according to those interviewed, was, “proper, comfortable and constantly monitored by armed security guards… we just slept”. While rumors and a few videos purported the activities were more in keeping with those of a “no holds barred, Gay resort. The ‘Big 4’ never asked for details from the security forces that were assigned to monitor the sleeping quarters. Luckily, those same agents never had to falsely protest their lack of personal involvement. The merchants in town were ecstatic about the unusual and much-appreciated increase in revenue. Some ranchers even brought saddled horses into town and offered group trail rides, for a fee. Almost immediately, discussions were taking place as to how to entice these people, gay and straight, to come back and spend more money. It seems they were awed at the spending power that came along with gays and gay-friendly folks no to mention their overall peaceful behavior. The next City Council established the third weekend in April as the designated date to celebrate the annual “Gay US Carnival in Texas”. They also set up a committee to explore hosting more festivals. It was also decided the town would invite the “gay” rodeo organizers to use their arena and fairgrounds. The actual Carnival layout was easy to navigate with posted maps and paid staff wearing rainbow-colored vests circulating among the crowds to provide information and assistance as needed. Security was also highly visible in the same rainbow vests, except they also had the usual policeman’s equipment. That was fitting, seeing as how security was made up of off-duty police officers from neighboring towns, cities, and counties. The numerous first aid stations were staffed by EMT’s with ambulances were at the ready. Jeff had two helicopters on standby to evacuate anyone who might be seriously injured or have a medical emergency. His ace-in-the-hole was that Ilya’s men were also on hand, incognito, and just like the rainbow vested helpers they also were circulating among the crowd. Tink had set up a command post that monitored all communications and coordinated the policemen, the EMTs, the information assistants and the family’s own security forces. Jeff felt they would be ready for almost any contingency. The layout and the sequence of events were purposely staggered so that people wouldn’t have to miss one event in order to see or participate in another. Presentations were limited to 15 minutes with a follow-on question and answer session that ended after another 15 minutes. Each presentation was repeated so that Carnival goers had ample opportunity to visit every booth and experience what each had to offer. After attending a presentation each attendee was presented with a colorful gemstone. Publicity for the Carnival had highlighted the fact that a “rainbow” array of fake as well as some real gemstones would be awarded to those who attended any of the “gay awareness and education” presentations. Each presentation resulted in the attendee taking away a uniquely colored gemstone that just might be real and thus potentially valuable. Granted, the odds of any one stone being “real” were staggering but folks jealousy guarded their collection as if they were holding a winning million dollar lottery ticket. Some attended the same presentation multiple times if they found a particular stone attractive. Attendees began to collect and trade the stones with an eye toward having them mounted in bracelets, brooches, necklaces, or cocktail rings. In fact, the two booths that were initially set up to accommodate those looking to “mount” their momentoes had grown to five in number by Saturday mid-morning and each of those had lines of waiting Carnival goers. Anyone who followed the circuitous route from any of the four entrances, until they came full circle, they would have seen almost everything the Carnival had to offer including food and rides. There was a gauntlet of engaging, entertaining, educational and informative booths peopled by folks who were intent on hawking their particular brand of entertainment that just happens to be supportive of gay rights. One booth offered prizes for sharpshooters who took aim at heads of state and regimes that openly persecuted gays and other minorities. One booth featured the old ‘knock over the milk bottles with a baseball’ in which each oversized bottle was labeled with a psychological shortcoming that was possibly linked to homophobia. Paul took aim at a bottle that read, “penile dysmorphic disorder”. When he only knocked over three of the ten bottles he asked what it meant. The barker, a psychology graduate student, happily replied, ”More than 90% of gay men and lesbians report being targets of verbal abuse or threats, and more than one-third report being survivors of violence related to their homosexuality. “Penile dysmorphic disorder or I’ve got a small penis, may be a contributing factor in homophobia and hate crimes against gay men. It’s pretty well accepted that most men would like a larger endowment than they were born with. Some, even if their equipment is above average, will develop a deep-seated resentment or even violent hatred for gay men. Some homophobes feel they are less well endowed that gay men. Gay pornography, like straight pornography, most often features exceptionally well-endowed actors. This, it is thought, can lead to or reinforce a focused and irrational hatred of gay men. It would be unacceptable to turn that anger against themselves or against straight men. Homophobia is often times in line with associated religious or socially ingrained prejudices. That is to say, the common hatred against gays in religion and society can be reinforced or intensified in those who already have feelings of inadequacy. While bigotry and prejudice in religion and society as a whole is detrimental, it’s the true homophobe that incites and acts out his anger in violence against gays. “There’s also evidence which shows individuals who score in the homophobic range and admit negative affect toward homosexuality demonstrate significant sexual arousal to male homosexual erotic stimuli. It suggests that these are men who act out when confronted with stimuli they either consciously or subconsciously deny and at the same time, find stimulating. Given society's disdain for even a hint of same-sex attraction, some men have internalized the concept that any level of male bonding and friendship or camaraderie is tantamount to being gay and is therefore objectionable. “A more comical observation is that most ‘homophobes’ don’t actually hate homosexuals they simply fear being labeled as a homo. Verbal and physically aggressive behaviors can be an attempt to hide a same-sex attraction. If you add God into the mix then the poor man has the added incentive of not only avoiding social isolation and ostracization but he can also avoid excommunication and eternal damnation. Hate and anger directed toward any given minority are often readily tolerated, accepted, and even encouraged if said minority can be easily identifiable as possessing beliefs, behaviors, characteristics, and traits not in accord with the overall standards and or beliefs of the established majority. In other words, his hatred and anger that is directed toward gays find a more acceptable outlet than dealing with his own feelings of inadequacy or same-sex attractions.” Paul was impressed with the answer and by asking more questions learned that he was addressing a man who was recognized as female at birth but was mentally and emotionally a man inside. He admitted that “penis envy” had been a real aspect of his life growing up. It was after years of counseling that he, at last, felt “whole”. It was only through Jeff’s insistence that they moved on. Jeff could see that Paul was about to ask what kind of plumbing was in place down there. Some mysteries were better left unsolved. Jeff, Paul, Raymond, and Daniel visited every booth whether it was a game of chance or involved a measure of skill. The skills involving air rifles, darts, baseballs, basketballs, etc. provided an opportunity for friendly competition. There was lots of trash talking whoever was taking a turn. An “accidental” nudge seemed to be par for the course. No one was keeping score, except the barkers, and everyone was laughing and having a good time. Maria was making the rounds with DJ and his Dads but had given strict orders that her Daddies and Uncles were to collect the offered jewels for her. Not a man among them dared to show up at the end of the day empty-handed. When it came time for the wedding vows, more than one hundred couples joined hands. Paul noticed some “couples” were actually made up of more than two people and a mix of genders. Polyamory, polygyny, polyandry or Polly Anna, it made no difference to Paul. The couples who were legally bonded today had the proper paperwork in hand. The rest were here to celebrate a commitment ceremony among themselves with family and friends amidst a totally accepting gathering. How relationships were established and maintained among consenting adults was not something he felt particularly qualified to judge or to even inquire about. Joe now possessed the credentials to legally wed folks in Texas. From the podium, he scanned the participants. He saw his nephews looking only slightly less nervous than at the ceremony in Hawaii. He saw their friends from Chicago, Doc Steelman and Bradley Davis, Sam and Dave, Larry and Runt, and much to his surprise he saw Tom and Tink alongside Fred and Rosarita. Still more shocking was a couple of good friends that he had known almost all his life and yet here they were, two best friends, divorced, neighboring ranchers, tough old cowboys, about to wed each other. He began. “Mawage is wat bwings us togever today…” After the laughter died down he continued. “Laughter is the hallmark of any really successful celebration. We are gathered to celebrate the wedding of some gay folks and some straight folks in a setting of not just tolerance but a setting of complete acceptance. It has been within my lifetime that same-sex activity could be punished by a prison sentence. Those caught in such a situation, even if not jailed, were often rejected by their family, fired from their job, ostracized by their community, excommunicated from their church, and could be verbally and physically assaulted without consequence. Today, less than half the states make it a crime to discriminate against gays in employment, housing, hate crimes, etc. The times they are a changin. Today, we celebrate a major change. In so doing we must remember to be on guard because there are those, in this country, who seek to revoke that right and wish to, again, make acts of physical intimacy between same-sex couples illegal. “When my family suggested I perform the ceremony today I was at first hesitant. I felt any openly gay member of the clergy would be a more appropriate choice. During a discussion, I realized that there should be no differences in any aspect of a person’s life because of their sexual orientation. I look forward to the day when being gay is less an issue than being left-handed or having red hair. “As to marriage, the law and religion offer legal and socially recognized bonds intended to serve this mortal coil. Marriage is an old and venerable institution. Originally, marriage was a negotiated treaty intended to strengthen bonds between families within a tribe, within a region, within a nation. Eventually, negotiated marriages were used to strengthen international bonds. The times they are a changin. Today, marriage is negotiated by the participants themselves. Some will poopoo the notion that marriage is a negotiated contract more than a holy union. I beg to differ. As is the case in of most treaties, the more we discuss and specify the actual details the more likely we are to honor this treaty, especially if it specifies how often sexual activity may be anticipated.” This last got a chuckle from the crowd. “Humans are a carnivorous herd species. That puts us somewhere between sheep and wolves, except we possess more complex communicative skills than either. These communicative skills mean we are negotiators by nature. We use a variety of sophisticated tools including our time, our money, and sometimes violence to negotiate for food, shelter, commodities, real estate, and social status. “Each of you has stated your intent to contract with your significant other through your online participation form and your license to wed. You have agreed to tolerate their annoying little habits and immediately and repeatedly forgive their foibles and frailties. With the full understanding that they make the same commitment to you. You have agreed that, presently, you are compatible on a number of levels and more importantly you have committed to embracing the growth and changes you, your partner, and y’alls relationship will encounter. Marriage is not the end goal of a successful courtship. Marriage is the beginning of a life-long partnership that requires continuous committed and active participation on both parts if that union is to endure. I believe the marriages most likely to succeed are those involving good friends who enjoy, love, lust after, and respect each other. “The words of the ceremony are ones I have chosen with the help of my wife Mellie. She said, that the most important part of any marriage ceremony is the part that encourages the newlyweds to expect change and growth in their partner and themselves. Life is not a static endeavor. People change, as do circumstances, situations, and conditions. If you understand that and If you acknowledge and adjust to changes as they occur together as a couple, you stand a much better chance at an enduring partnership. “Now, please join hands and repeat after me, “I, state your full name, enter into this matrimonial state with you freely and with sincere intent to sustain, encourage, and defend you with all my strength, might, and mind. I accept your faults as part of what I celebrate as your uniqueness. I promise to put the family we are ahead of all others in my life. You are the one with whom I want to share my successes and the one I want to console me in my failures. I want to spend my life with you. It is with sincere intent and commitment I thee wed.” “If you have rings you should exchange them now.” After a moment Joe continued, “You may now kiss your newlywed.” Just before the newlyweds began to leave the massive reception, Joe grabbed the microphone and asked his family to join him at the front of the pavilion. As flutes of champagne were served to those in attendance. Lifting his glass, he spoke clearly but with strong emotion. "I want to toast the man who conceived of this celebration and in a very short time has made it a rousing success. To Jeffrey Grant Adams, who has made his entire family and a lot of gay folks very happy today." Turning to Jeff he added, "Son, I know your Dad would be mighty proud of you right now." Then in a booming voice, he shouted, "TO JEFF!" Affirmations of "To JEFF! echoed throughout the pavillion., Afterward, Jeff and Paul were walking with Sam and Dave toward their SUV when Raymond trotted up and called out to his brother. Jeff halted and turned to see what his brother needed. Raymond skidded to a halt and began, “Jeff, you remember the journals that were written by the first Adams men to settle in Texas”? Jeff nodded as Paul stepped up beside him. Raymond continued, “Well, you know each male member of the Adams bloodline has access to those journals. I meant to talk to you sooner but the weddings and the Carnival kinda shoved that aside. Anyway, I’ve had those journals transcribed and I’ve sent a copy to your personal email address.” Turning to Paul, Raymond continued, “I sent you and Daniel a copy too. I know you were taken by the portraits hanging in Jeff’s bedroom. Well, here's your chance to read what they had to say about the early days of building a real Texas empire from scratch.” Even before they were out of the parking lot, Paul had pulled up the email and was beginning to read the “Personal Journal of Winston Nathaniel Adams”.
  15. sojourn

    Chapter 38

    I prayed most of my life for god to make "normal". I couldn’t understand why I was "afflicted". Finally I understood I was always normal, just gay. Which, as you say, is "atypical" but perfectly normal. I am glad you are at peace. I understand that your faith comforts you. Mine gave me, at times, my only solace. I have found my real strength and comfort in accepting the truth. Thanks for posting your comments in a way that expresses your beliefs without trying to deny me my right to disbelieve. Jim
  16. sojourn

    Chapter 38

    I was a believer for many years. Leaving that behind was a painful period for me. I think I am a better person now. One is not a more moral person because of one's faith. Religions have often used faith to commit heinous crimes against other men. (God directed the murder of men, women, and children.) Moralty is a shared concept agreed upon by the prevailing society. (Human sacrifice is immoral today but was accepted in many ancient societies. Old Testament Abraham thought it was acceptable and he fathered the two largest religions in the world today. I am convinced that there is no god, no Satan and no demons, no angels etc. Having said that, I have had personal experiences that make me think there is much more to the human condition than science can currently explain. I am equally convinced that science is the best route to gain better understanding not some imaginary, mythical, being whose existence is touted most often by those seeking to influence or control others. We believe primarily because we are raised in a society that is permeated with rituals, opinions, behaviors, and values attributed to a Judeo/Abrahamic deity that stole "scripture" from older religions just as Christianity and Islam stole from the Jewish faith. Thanks for posting your comments. Jim
  17. sojourn

    Chapter fourteen

    Not understanding your first statement but I think "orgy" implies more than two individuals. Thanks for commenting. Jim
  18. 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?.
  19. 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
  20. sojourn

    Change of Heart

    Attorney Jeffrey G. Adams feels antsy even though life in Chicago is actually going very well. Still, going back home to Texas for the holidays after almost three years away feels like the right thing to do. Maybe the change of scenery and a chance to visit with family and friends will settle his disquiet. But, maybe the change he really needs is not a physical change at all. Maybe the change Jeff really needs is a Change of Heart. Once back home, he'll learn that the best "life’s lessons" are almost always a shared experience.
  21. 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?”
  22. 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
  23. 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
  24. 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
  25. 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.

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