Conversations With Myself

A Novel by Altimexis

The Whispers of Time
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Book Three • Chapter 3 – Suspicious Lies

December 1983 • Chris-17

“Oh my God, what a great movie!” my date, Reanne exclaimed as we exited the theater. Personally, I’d thought it was rather depressing. I’d have much rather seen Silkwood or Sudden Impact, but I knew enough to let the girl pick the movie and she’d chosen Terms of Endearment. I guess it was OK – just not the kinda movie I usually liked to watch. Certainly not the fare of most teenage boys, but I wasn’t alone in this. There were a lot of us who were suffering through watching a chick flick.

Reanne was a sophomore at the university, working towards a degree in Education. She intended to go for a teaching certificate and hoped to teach English in an inner city high school one day. I was a sophomore in the physics department but, with my eighteenth birthday still a few months away, I was a couple years her junior. We met through a creative writing class we shared. Maybe it was naïve of me to think I could make it with a girl two years older than me. Perhaps it was even more naïve to think I could turn myself straight. All I knew was that I was gonna have a son one day, and I wanted to be sure I’d be ready to make it with Jen when the time came.

“Jack Nicholson’s performance was incredible,” she went on, “and Shirley McClain was totally believable in her role. I’d bet my first year’s salary that they both win Academy Awards for this one.”

“You may be right about them winning awards,” I agreed grudgingly. “The acting was superb.”

 “I bet it wins best picture too,” she added.

“No way it’ll win best picture,” I replied. Enough was enough. “Not going up against movies like Scarface, Star Wars VI or even Octopussy.”

Octopussy!” She shrieked. “You can’t be serious.”

“Best James Bond film ever,” I replied.

Rolling her eyes, she responded, “Need I say more? Besides, Roger Moore is such a fag. I don’t know why the girls all like him.” Oh, this date was not going well.

“You really think Roger Moore’s gay?” I asked.

“I hate the way they’ve stolen that word,” she replied. “Gay used to mean happy, you know? It’s criminal, what they did, taking such a nice word and turning it to mean something so perverted.” She added, scrunching her nose in distaste as she said, ‘perverted’.

“I don’t know,” I challenged. “I think it’s nice that they found a label for themselves that doesn’t have a negative connotation.”

“Why in hell would you care, Chris?” She countered. “It almost sounds like you’re gay or something.”

Rather than admit to being gay, instead I replied with, “I had a best friend who was gay when I was twelve. We hit it off right away. He was absolutely brilliant and we found we had a lot in common. But there was no question that he was gay. He had a lot of girly mannerisms. He said he’d always been that way and that he couldn’t change if he tried. That’s when I realized that gay people don’t choose to be gay. They’re born that way. It’s no different than being born blue eyed or left handed.”

“Sure it’s different,” she practically shouted. “Being gay is just plain wrong. It’s a perversion against God’s will.”

By now we’d reached my car. Rather than continue to argue in the middle of the parking lot and attract a crowd in the process, I unlocked the passenger door and held it open for Reanne, and then walked around the car got in on the driver’s side, slipping behind the wheel, however I didn’t start the car just yet. For one thing I was too angry to drive, and for another, I wasn’t sure I wanted to follow through with my plan to take her to Forest Park for a make out session.”

Changing tactics, I asked Reanne, “How will you handle it when you see two boys in your class smiling at each other and holding eye contact a little too long?”

“That doesn’t mean they’re queer, Chris,” Best friends do that too you know.”

“What if they hold hands for a moment, then let go and look around the room to see if anyone was watching?”

“That still doesn’t mean anything,” she countered.

“Do they actually have to kiss for you to see their relationship for what it is?” I asked.

“Boys would never do that in school,” Reanne argued. “Even if they were queer. That’d be a good way to get beaten up, or dead.”

“Exactly,” I said. “You won’t see boys kissing in high school because they’re afraid for their lives —”

“As they should be,” Reanne interrupted.

“But just because they don’t kiss in front of you the way boys and girls do, doesn’t mean that gay kids aren’t there. They’ll find other ways of showing affection if you know what to look for.

“What if you smell pot coming from a remote girls room, and go inside unannounced only to find two girls making out? It could happen you know.”

“In that case, obviously, I’d send them to the principal. They’d undoubtedly be expelled for immoral behavior.”

“What if you came home early to find your teenage son in bed with another boy?” I asked.

“That would depend on his age. If he’s young, like twelve, thirteen or maybe fourteen, well, boys fool around when they’re young. Girls too. I’m sure you must have with your little friend. I had a friend like that too, but it was just a phase we went through while we learned about our bodies. I would take the time to remind my son about moral responsibility, though.

“On the other hand, if he were older, like fifteen, sixteen or seventeen, then he’s old enough to deal with the consequences. Either he gets help or he gets out.”

“You’d throw your own son out onto the streets?” I asked incredulously.

“No son of mine would be a homosexual,” she answered. “If he chooses the homosexual lifestyle over Christian values, then he’ll get what he deserves.”

“Do you have any idea what would happen to a fifteen-year-old kid on the streets of Saint Louis?

“The Bible is clear about the fate of the man who lies down with another man —”

“As it is about your right to buy and sell slaves,” I interrupted. “If I take a male friend to bed, it is an abomination, yet the Bible says I can buy a stranger’s children and take them to bed with me. You seem to have no problem with the idea of forcing your gay teenage son into a life of prostitution. Tell me, is that what Jesus would do?”

After a very long pause, Reanne replied, “Chris, I thoroughly enjoyed this date. Really, I did, and I don’t mean just because the movie was fantastic, which it was, even if you didn’t like it. I just think that we don’t have enough in common. Maybe it has something to do with the difference in our ages, but also I think it’s more a matter of us being very different people.

“At the time I appreciated it that you let me watch the movie. When I was seventeen, most boys I knew wanted to spend the time making out. I thought that showed just how mature you are for your age, but now I’m wondering if it’s just the opposite. I think that maybe you didn’t try to make out with me because you’re inexperienced and maybe a little bit scared.”

She’d hit a bulls eye with that one. Although I’d made out plenty with Frank, I just wasn’t into making out with a girl. The thought of it left me feeling terrified, and nauseous. I knew I’d have to get over it if my son was ever going to be born.

“Your thinking is naïve and you wear your nervousness on your sleeve,” she went on. “I had my share of boys in high school. Now I’m ready for a man. I’m sorry, Chris, but you need to find a shy freshman girl who didn’t date much in high school. You’re just not ready for a woman like me.”

Although her words stung, I knew she was right, even if her attitudes on being gay were reprehensible. On that, however, I couldn’t blame her. I was raised with the same attitudes, which I’d probably still have if Frank hadn’t forced me to accept myself for who I am. I hadn’t realized I’d been crying until I felt Reanne squeeze my shoulder.

“Hey, hang in there,” she said. “She’s out there somewhere, waiting for you.”

Oh, I knew she was out there all right, and that one day we’d have a son together, but only if I could learn to get it up with girls.


December 1990 • Chris-24

Sitting in front of my Macintosh computer, I felt a prickly sensation on my neck, as if someone were standing behind me and looking over my shoulders. Instinctually, I allowed the pinky finger on my left hand to overreach an apparent press of the ‘1’ key, hitting the escape key instead. The screen instantly went blank, and then the computer restarted with the familiar, all-too-happy-sounding chime for which Macs were known. It didn’t matter that I’d just lost three hours worth of work. The main thing is that, if there were someone behind me, they couldn’t have read much before I forced the computer to restart. To all the world, it would appear that my computer had simply crashed but, thanks to the secret partition installed on the hard drive, the computer would boot back into a set of files that bore no resemblance to the ones I was working on for OTT.

“I swear your computer crashes every single time I get near it,” Wang Lee stated from behind me. My sense of being watched had been real and it was a good thing I’d dumped the computer session I’d been working on. He must have snuck up behind me and would have been able to read things I definitely didn’t want him to see. Fortunately, I’d been able to act in time to prevent him from seeing much. “I swear it doesn’t like me,” he continued in flawless English.

“It must be your magnetic personality,” I responded as I turned my head and looked up into the eyes of my lover. “Your magnetism causes the hard drive to freeze up.” He then lowered his face to mine and our mouths and tongues met in a sensuous dance. Even as the kiss deepened, I could not help but feel guilty in that I was deceiving him. I trusted Wang completely, but I couldn’t trust his judgment when it came to Charles Hudson any more than I could trust mine when it came to Wang Lee. My love for Wang had to take a back seat when it came to keeping TTT out of the hands of those who might use it against us. Besides, assuming Wang was on the up and up as I knew he was, there was no reason for him to be suspicious of the way my computer behaved whenever he was around.

Before long, Wang was buried deep inside of me, giving me intense pleasure with each and every thrust. Sweat poured off of both of us as we barreled toward the inevitable release we both knew was coming. There were times when we would go slowly, taking the time to bring each other to the brink, only to back down and prolong the pleasure. There were times when we would spend all night making love. This was not one of those times. We were both way too horny to take it slow, and so it wasn’t long before my spunk rocketed out the end of my member, landing as high up as in my hair and all over my face as Wang filled my bowels with load after load of his essence.

Coming down from our shared high, Wang scooped up a little of my stuff from my face using his index finger, then he playfully deposited it on the end of my nose, and then kissed and licked it off. That led to more kissing and, by the time we were through, Wang had my spunk smeared all over his face too. We were both fully aroused again and so we settled into a slow, sensuous 69 that lasted well into the evening. By the time we enjoyed our second mutual orgasm, there was damn little spunk left inside our balls with which to have tried for a third round, which was just about the last thing on our minds. We were thoroughly and completely spent.

After ordering a pizza for dinner, we both took a shower, together, and got ourselves extra squeaky clean. It would not have done to have answered the door with cum in my hair, after all. Still, it was pretty easy for the delivery boy to see what we’d been up to. He arrived a little earlier than expected, or perhaps it was that we’d spent more time in the shower than expected. When the doorbell rang, I was forced to throw on a pair of briefs and shorts before I could answer the door. It was only after I’d taken the pizza box from him that I realized my wallet was not in the pocket of this pair of shorts.

Apologizing to the kid, who looked like he was barely sixteen, I invited him in while I went to get my wallet. Seeing my predicament, Wang decided to save me the trouble by bringing his wallet and paying the pizza delivery boy himself. Unlike me, though, Wang had neglected to put any clothes on, and so he greeted the delivery boy in the nude. When he realized what he’d done, Wang blushed intensely, which any other time would have been cute, but he was obviously terribly embarrassed. The pizza boy blushed too, but the grin on his face told us he enjoyed the view.

Although not the best way to eat pizza from the standpoint of controlling where the crumbs went, Wang and I settled down on the living room sofa, side-by-side and cuddled together with the pizza box in our laps. I still had my shorts on and Wang was still in the altogether. Nestled together like that, we took turns feeding each other slices of pizza, not caring that crumbs were falling onto our chests and getting lodged in our pubic hairs, nor that we were getting pizza sauce all over our faces, slices of pepperoni and bits of sausage, mushroom, olive and green pepper all over our chests. Every now and then one of us would reach over and lick up the sauce off the other, but our frequent kisses only served to smear it all around. We were certainly gonna need another shower after this.

“Your Mac sure crashes a lot,” Wang began, bringing up a subject I most definitely didn’t want to discuss.

“IBM PCs crash a lot too,” I pointed out. “DOS is even more of a kludge of an operating system and Windows is far from ready for prime time as far as I’m concerned.”

“They don’t crash if you load BSD Unix on them,” Wang suggested.

“Unix! Are you kidding?” I responded.

“Not at all,” Wang countered. “You know that, as an operating system, Unix is rock solid. It has protected, dynamic memory allocation, preemptive multitasking and a solid kernel that keeps on ticking, even when entire subsystems fail. I hear that Berkeley Systems Design will be releasing a free version of their OS within the next few years, but with my connections at the university, I can get you a free copy of BSD Unix right now.

“I know that you’ve got a fair bit invested in that Mac of yours, but I can get you a nice HP PC at a substantial discount. Jobs and Wozniak aren’t the only Silicon Valley kids to have started a business in their garage, you know. Hewlett and Packard are Stanford grads themselves, and they’ve been very generous in providing equipment to Stanford University and to Stanford students. I got my computer for under a grand, which I’m willing to bet  is a lot less than what you paid for your Mac.”

I wasn’t about to tell Wang that I got my Mac, a pre-release version, no less, for free, paying only for the secretly upgraded hard drive, so I remained quiet.

“Just say the word and I’ll get you the latest HP PC at university cost,” he continued, “and I’ll help you compile BSD UNIX on it. That’ll take care of your crashes for good, and you’ll have a robust operating system that’s much more secure. You’ll be much happier with a BSD machine.”

Sighing, I replied, “But Wang, not that I don’t appreciate the offer, but I already have my Mac, and all my software is Mac software. All my writing is in Microsoft Word and my mathematic formulas are in MathType. It’s hard enough to get a Windows version of Word, and it won’t run under DOS or any flavor of Unix.”

“Vi is a great text editor,” Wang challenged, “and MathType is available for Unix.”

“That may be true,” I argued, “but Vi is a text editor. It's not a word processor. It's not even WYSIWYG. Trust me, once you use a real WYSIWYG word processor like Word Perfect on the PC or Word on the Mac, there’s no going back. Sorry to disappoint you, but I have way too much invested in the Mac realm to switch.”

Tweaking my nipple, Wang replied, “Suit yourself. I just think it’s ridiculous to put up with all the crashes, but I can understand that you have a major investment in a software ecosystem, and don’t want to change horses so late in the race.

“Now let’s get this mess cleaned up, and get ourselves cleaned up,” he added with a wiggle of his eyebrows as he stood up, taking the pizza box with him, and then he extended his hand to help me up too. Thank heavens he dropped further discussion of my computer.


December 2004 • Chris-38

“Goddamn it, it’s cold!” my son exclaimed as a sharp gust of wind buffeted us. Poor Andy was dressed in nothing more than a pair of shorts and his hiking boots. I was dressed a bit more sensibly, in jeans, a long sleeve cotton, western-style shirt and a light-weight insulated liner, which doubled as a jacket. Even then, I was cold, so I could only imagine how Andy felt.

But then a faint smile appeared on his face and he said, through clenched teeth and clutching himself tightly, “I guess I shoulda listened to you.”

I could have rubbed it in, but I wasn’t going to do that. The poor boy was miserable. Chuckling, I replied, “It looks like there’s some shelter ahead under that outcropping. Hang in there for ten minutes, then we’ll break and get out some warmer clothes.”

It was Andy’s winter break and we were spending it on a one-week backpacking trip, in the backcountry of Joshua Tree National Park. It was not the best time to be away from the lab, but it had been more than a year since I’d taken any time off, but that was before September 11, the fateful day when my life changed. Not just my life, but the world as we knew it. Not just the world, but time itself. I had been in crisis mode ever since, and it was taking a toll on me, and on Andy too. He had his friends, but he needed time away too. And he needed time alone with his dad.

Actually it was Frank who suggested the trip. He saw what work was doing to me. And it was he that pointed out the need Andy and I had for time alone together. He was growing up! He was a teenager and before I could turn around, he’d be in college, on his own. Hell, in another year he probably wouldn’t even want to go hiking with me.

Getting Jack to go along with me taking a vacation, particularly with the whole situation of Chris 30’s affair with Wang Lee still up in the air, had been a major challenge. Although using TTT on a frequent basis would have been counterproductive and probably harmful, I needed to be available to deal with any crises that arose on a moment’s notice. On top of that, I was still under house arrest and technically not entitled to any time off, ever. Even Jack could recognize the futility of that, however. Unless I took time off from work, I’d burn out and TTT would never come to fruition.

My original plan, which was to go on a backpacking trip in Big Bend National Park in southern Texas, had to be dropped. It had been a trip I’d wanted to take for years, but it was just too remote. In an emergency, getting me out of there could take days. It also posed an unacceptable security risk. As remote as it was and with its proximity to Mexico, Big Bend was already a major drug trafficking area. It would have been far too easy for foreign nationals to get to me there.

Although the backcountry of Joshua Tree was also remote, we’d planned our route such that we were never more than a half-day hike away from the nearest road. Jack insisted that I carry a satellite phone with me, which added more weight to my backpack than I cared to think about, but with it I could be back at the lab in 24 hours or less. Joshua Tree was also probably one of the last places foreign agents would think to look for me. Nevertheless, Federal Marshals we’re stationed at strategic locations throughout the park.

Reaching the outcropping I’d noticed earlier, we pulled off to the side of the trail and dismounted our backpacks. I quickly doffed my liner and zipped it into the matching hooded shell, the combination making for a respectable light-weight but warm parka. With it I felt warm but not uncomfortable, particularly after I donned a pair of ski gloves.

I’d offered to buy Andy similar attire before we left, but he’d just rolled his eyes and insisted he had more than adequate clothing. He’d been on lots of backpacking trips before, after all, but he evidently hadn’t a clue as to just how cold it could get in the desert in the winter. That fact was borne out moments later when he donned a T-shirt, a hoodie and a windbreaker.

Incredulous, I asked, “That’s all you’re going to wear?”

“Well yeah,” he answered. “I’m perfectly comfortable, Dad. The hoodie’s wool and quite warm. Really, it is. If it gets any colder, though, I packed a down vest, just in case.”

“Aren’t you at least going to put on long pants?” I asked.

Shrugging his shoulders, he responded, “Why would I wanna do that? The hoodie more than compensates for my bare legs, and I’m much more comfortable this way. Besides, Dad, we’re in the desert. I didn’t even bother to bring long pants.”

Shocked, I responded, “The nighttime temperatures are generally below freezing and can get down into the twenties or even the teens, here —”

“And my sleeping bag’s rated down to zero degrees, Dad. ’Sides, I won’t even be wearing my clothes when I sleep.”

“But what will you do if you have to get up during the night, or when you get up in the morning?” I challenged.

“Then I’ll put on what I’m wearing now. If it’s really cold, I’ll put on my down vest too.”

“But it can snow up here in the winter, or we could get sleet, or freezing rain. Maybe you could wear my spare pair of jeans,” I suggested.

“I have a 29-inch waist, and a 36-inch inseam. What size do you wear, Dad?”

“You could cinch the waist with your belt,” I answered, “and tuck the legs into your socks.”

Getting an almost horrified look on his face, he responded, “You want me to look like dork of the year?”

“It’s not like there are that many other people on this trail, Andy, and none that you’ll ever see again,” I pointed out. The lack of people during the winter months was one of the main reasons for coming here. Most chose to visit during the spring, when the wildflowers were in bloom, the highs were in the eighties and the lows around fifty.

At the end of December, however, we could expect highs around sixty, but with relentless sunshine that could still burn one’s skin and blind the eyes. My approach was to wear a long sleeve shirt, a hat and sunglasses. Andy was a typical young teen. Hence he’d brought only shorts and gone shirtless. He’d soon find out the hard way that this was not a good time to work on his tan!

Getting right in front of me and looking me in the eyes, he replied, “Dad, don’t worry about me so much. I’ll be fine. Really, I will.”

Laughing and smiling at my wonderful son, finally I acknowledged his independence by saying, “I guess I’ll have to take your word for it.”

Grinning back at me, he turned back toward the trail and we headed out. Scarcely an hour later, we were standing at one of several scenic vistas that we’d be encountering on our trip and the view was spectacular. The wind was still blowing fiercely, however, so in spite of the bright sun, I kept my parka on. Andy, on the other hand, dropped his backpack and removed his windbreaker, his hoodie and his T-shirt, stuffing the hoodie and T-shirt back into the backpack. He put the windbreaker back on, but left it open with his chest fully exposed. He then grinned at me, as if challenging me to say something. Wisely I think, I decided not to.

I had to admit that Andy looked incredibly handsome with his windbreaker open and flapping in the wind, showing off his deeply tanned torso. Hell, if I were honest with myself, he was downright sexy – not that any parent wants to think of their son that way. I had no doubt that if we encountered any girls his age along the trail, Andy would have their number within a few minutes. It would probably work with some of the boys too, not that Andy would be interested.

This would have been a perfect spot to stop for lunch, but it was in a designated no food zone, undoubtedly to cut down on litter. I was hungry, which meant that Andy must be starved. After we each shot what seemed like an entire roll of film, I suggested that we head back down and find a spot to eat our lunch. Andy readily agreed.

It took a little under an hour to find a suitable spot. It was a bit off the trail and, with nothing more than a rock to sit on that was just big enough for the two of us, it gave us complete privacy. In the time it took us to get there, the wind had died down and, with the sun beating down on us, I was positively roasting in my parka. As soon as I got my backpack off of me, I stripped off my parka and even took off my shirt, which caused Andy to smile with an ‘I told you so’ kind of smirk.

Whereas Andy was tanned enough to maybe get by without getting burned for a short while, I most certainly was not, and so I got out the sunscreen and started to apply it liberally to my face and arms.

Andy surprised me, though, when he said, “Want some help with that, Dad?” He was a teenager, and teenagers aren’t known for being so thoughtful.

Turning toward him and smiling, I replied, “Sure, that’d be great.”

Holding out his palm, I squirted some of the sunscreen into it, and then he proceeded to smear it on my back while I finished doing my front. “’Sides,” he continued, “you can return the favor. I may be tanned but with this much sun, without a shirt on, I’ll burn to a crisp by the end of the week.” Maybe the boy had some common sense after all.

As I applied sunscreen to his back, I couldn’t help but notice how well-muscled he was, and how tall! He was fair bit taller than I was, and he was only fifteen and far from done growing. My little man wasn’t so little anymore.

Sitting down next to each other, we each got out a package of canned rations which we heated using a portable camp stove. On a one-week backcountry trip, space in our backpacks was limited and weight had to be kept to a minimum. We’d been advised to carry a gallon of water per day, and would have needed even more if we’d carried dried food. Even without the food, seven gallons of water amounted to 56 pounds of weight for the week apiece. Fortunately our route involved multiple loops and branch points along the way. Hence we were able to cache some of our food and water along the way.

Sitting together with Andy in such a quiet, remote area, I really hated to break the silence, but this seemed to be the perfect chance to talk about what was on my mind. We had both been through an horrendous ordeal and this trip was, in part, a chance to heal ourselves, mentally and physically. We were both seeing a counselor and there were occasional group sessions, but those seemed scripted and we rarely got a chance to talk about our shared torture at the hands of Iranian terrorists. No therapist could know what it’s like to go through something like that, and so I began, “Andy?”

“Yeah Dad?”

“I think we need to talk about what we went through. Not the way we talk with Dr. Clarke, but as father and son. I know he’s trying to get us to open up and discuss our feelings, but it’s not just about feelings, you know?”

“Yeah, I do know, Dad,” my son responded. “I mean, sure, when the UPS delivery guys grabbed me and put a gun against my head, it scared the fuck outta me.”

He paused at that point, probably waiting for me to respond to his use of the ‘f’ word, but instead I interjected, “It scared the fuck out of me too, bud. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have a gun against your head, but I’d choose that, a hundred times over, rather than experiencing the terror of knowing that any second, someone you love more than life itself could be brutally murdered, right in front of you.”

“I know just what you mean, Dad,” Andy replied. “You weren’t there when Mom was shot. Nothing gives me nightmares… not the gun against my head, nor being bound and gagged for all those days, nor sitting in my own piss and shit… like the memory of seeing Mom get shot.

“I know you two had your problems and I don’t blame either of you for the divorce. You didn’t intentionally deceive her about being straight, ’cause you were putting so much energy into deceiving yourself. A lot of gay guys go through what you did, and a lot of their wives and kids get hurt in the process. Personally, I blame the racist, bigoted, religious homophobic nuts in society for making gay guys like you feel shame for something that’s perfectly normal.

“But Mom never blamed you for misleading her. She blamed you for cheating on her, but long ago she came to realize that it was inevitable. She told me that, quite recently in fact. She was a great Mom —”

At that point, Andy’s eyes filled with water and tears streamed down his face. I couldn’t help but pull my crying boy to me, feeling his sorrow – our sorrow – as his hot tears dripped onto my bare shoulders and rolled down my back. When we pulled apart, I realized that I’d been crying too.

Laughing a bit, I went on, “I guess we are going to discuss our feelings too, after all.”

“Yeah, but this is different, Dad,” Andy replied. “You understand what it was like way better than Dr. Clarke ’cause you were there! You didn’t just read about theories of PTSD in a textbook or a series of journal articles. You didn’t attend some lecture or course on anger management. We shared in the terror together, and we understand what each other went through. I think that may be what makes it bearable. Just knowing that someone who loved me was with me the whole time made all the difference. I know this sounds horrible, but even though I would have been thrilled if they’d released you and just kept me, I was glad they didn’t, ’cause I needed you.”

“I on the other hand, would have given them my left nut if they’d released you,” I responded. “That’s one thing I think that’s different between a parent and a child. We are born with an instinct to protect our children that overrides everything else.”

“Your left nut, huh?” Andy said with a smirk. “I think I’ll keep my nuts, thank you very much, but I’d be willing to part with my right little finger or maybe just the fingertip if I had to.”

Laughing a bit of the absurdity of it all, I responded, “Somehow, I don’t think terrorists are interested in your body parts.” Then lapsing into a mock voice of Frankenstein’s Igor, I continued, “Ooh, a finger. Yes, I want your finger, and your left testicle too. And if you throw in your big toe, I’ll let you go free.”

Laughing hysterically, probably more at my terrible impersonation than at the content, Andy replied, “Dad, this is serious!” But he kept right on laughing. After a few minutes, he continued, “Really, seriously, cutting off the tip of the little finger on your non-dominant hand… your left hand or my right hand… would send a powerful message to the terrorists that we’re as tough as they are.”

“Or it could make them retaliate against you,” I added. “By their nature, terrorists are unpredictable. And somehow I doubt they’d let you anywhere near a knife. But if you did have a knife, surely it would be better to use it to kill the terrorists than to mutilate yourself.”

“You’re wrong, Dad,” Andy responded. “In our case there were two terrorists but usually there’d be more. And they both had guns. Attacking one of them with a knife would be a good way to get your head blown off. No, the ultimate goal is escape but, in the short run, the goal is to get control of the situation. Cutting off a finger has shock value, showing them that you’re as tough or tougher than they are, yet it wouldn’t likely startle them into doing something rash like shoot you.

“For example, let’s say the terrorists ask you to make a propaganda video to show everyone you’re alive, but the last thing you want to do is help them recruit more followers. By cutting off your little finger, or biting it off if you don’t have a knife, and telling them to use your finger as proof instead of the video, you’d gain the upper hand.”

“Jesus,” I replied. “The human mouth is dirtier than the asshole, at least in terms of bacteria. I can’t begin to imagine going Hannibal Lecter and biting off my own finger. If you did, you’d likely wind up with infectious gangrene of the whole hand and maybe sepsis before you could be rescued. Biting your finger off would be a very bad idea.”

“So would making a video,” Andy countered. “They use them, Dad, to recruit more terrorists. That’s how they operate now, ever since their attempt on September 11. I just couldn’t be a party to that. Since I’m prolly gonna die anyway, why not do something positive… or negative depending on your viewpoint? Why not try to psych out the terrorists?

“And with your finger, between your finger print and DNA, they’d have absolute proof they’ve got you. Psycologically, they’d have to use it, but then you’d know. You’d know that it was me that was calling the shots.”

“But if you do survive, you’ll be left spending the rest of your life with one less finger,” I pointed out.

“Dad, I wouldn’t cut the whole finger off,” Andy replied. “I’d only cut off the finger tip… just enough to show I’m serious without having to cut through a lot of bone. And it’s not like either of us plays the piano or another musical instrument or anything. It might slow our typing down a few percent, but losing the tip of the little finger on our non-dominant hand would hardly affect us at all.”

“But what about the pain?” I asked.

“What about the pain.” Andy answered. “Nothing could have been more painful than watching my mother shot dead in front of me. I’d cut off my whole left hand before I’d go through that again.”

What could I say to that? There would be many discussions about kidnapping, terrorism and the pros and cons of finger amputation in the coming days, but for now we were done for the day. After sitting in silence for a few more minutes, I said, “We’d better get going if we’re going to make our next camp site before sunset.” With that, we both got up, mounted our packs and resumed our hike.

The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of David of Hope and Anthony Camacho in editing this story, as well as the support of Awesome Dude for hosting it.
This story is purely fictional and any resemblance of characters to real individuals other than named historical figures is purely coincidental and unintentional. Some characters may be gay and at times engage in homosexual acts. Because the story explores characters at various stages of their lives, they may be underage during early sexual explorations. Obviously, anyone uncomfortable with this should not be reading the story, and the reader assumes responsibility for the legality of reading this type of story where they live. The author retains full copyright, and permission must be obtained prior to duplication of the story in any form.