Chapter Three

A Child in The Temple


It was almost two p.m. before he woke up.

“Will, have something to eat.”

He sat, bleary-eyed and obviously very sore; he couldn’t really eat anything solid. I gave him a glass of Instant Breakfast and made some French toast, which he softened with a quart of maple syrup and sips of coffee, half milk, ten sugars.

Since he couldn’t talk, I thought it would be a good time for serious discussion.

“Will, I’m very concerned about you. Don’t try to say anything just listen.”

Like a sullen child, he scowled and looked at his plate, pushing his food around with his fork, but I was pretty sure he was listening.

“I don’t know why you are doing the things you are doing, but you need to make a change in your life, or it’s going to be a very short one. I mean that, young man; you could have easily been killed last night. It has to stop.”

He glanced up, then back to his food. His fork scraped noisily along the bottom of his plate. Back and forth.

“I need to call your parents, and we have to figure out what to say to them. I don’t want to tell them this whole story, to be frank. Not because I want to hide anything from them but because I think they’ll be frightened to death if they hear it all. But I’m not sure they shouldn’t be told anyway.”

“Vey don’ care,” he mumbled.

“I am very sure they do care. And you are hurting them very much by this behavior. What’s more, you are making things very complicated for me.”

I saw a tear start down his cheek.

“So what do we do from here?  Where do you go, what are you going to do?”

He was silent and looked down, stopped trying to eat altogether.

“Wan’ . . . I wan’ . . .,” he groped for words. He took a deep breath. “Can’ stay here with you?”

Not that I hadn’t been expecting it. I would be gentle.

“Will. You belong with your mother and your father.”  I knew it wasn’t enough. “I understand you want me to be part of your life too. I would like that, but we have to find a way that is proper to do it, I’m not going to be fucking you and I’m not your father. I’m not sure what I can be for you, but I will do what I can, be a friend.”

I expected him to cry but he didn’t he just got up and walked out and locked himself in the bathroom.


How can he be so mean to me?

Let’s just be friends? 

I turned on the shower so he couldn’t hear me cry; then I decided to get in the shower anyway.

That afternoon he called my folks had me sit there while he told them. He didn’t tell them everything, he just said that I had been beaten up, was not too badly hurt, was OK. I don’t think he was talking to the Colonel, though, just mom.

He let me stay until he went back on Friday, then he drove us back to the base and took me in to mom, early about 0600 because he had to get to work.

That meant at least I got to stay one more night. It was pretty quiet.

I just can’t figure him out. I got into bed with him both nights and he wouldn’t sleep with me. Just more of that “not appropriate” shit. Fuck that. I want him to be my husband, why won’t he sleep with me?  He won’t even let me jack him off.

Everything I do with him is wrong.


My appreciation for Paul grew. I had at first thought him perhaps a notch above what Will had been involved with. A pederast, perhaps, but I was rather desperate; a protective pederast didn’t seem especially bad to me at that point. You can see just how far I had moved over the years. It isn’t as if I thought I had any say in the matter anyway.

My husband was loath to admit it but even he had come to the realization, perhaps only the year before, perhaps a little earlier, with the court case, when it was thrown in his face in the most uncompromising way, that Will was simply beyond our control.


The Colonel could not understand his son, and his feelings for the men who preyed upon him were beyond description. I often thought it a good thing that he had so divorced himself from the situation, steeled himself, insulated himself from the feelings. If he ever unleashed himself I thought he might kill one of them.

Thomas wasn’t the only one who had quite insulated himself from the pain. In the immediate situation, Paul’s call showed me that I could still be shocked. It was a relief to me and a painful realization all the same.

So the more I came to understand Paul and his integrity, the better I felt. I admit, in retrospect, I threw the boy at him, I was grasping at straws. I hoped against all hope that he could be saved, and I pinned all my hopes at this point on Paul. It made little difference to me if he was having sex with the boy; by this time it seemed a small price to pay for protecting him. No price at all, really. He was going to be having sex with some man; it might as well be this one.

It was not so easy to move the Colonel to that position.

A military line officer, a Marine, is not a man who likes to feel helpless, and action is a first consideration, prime instinct. It takes a lot for someone like that to come to accept they simply have no course of effective action open to them. At least, no course that I could accept, and my husband was not prepared – at least not yet – to cross my lines. I admit to wondering if I should not have given him free reign altogether. But in looking back I am certain it would have been futile and counterproductive.

We might lock him up, but short of that we could not control him. If he was not mentally ill, I would not allow them to lock him up in a mental hospital. It was tempting. But I thought locking him up would only make things worse. We wouldn’t have him at all, he’d blame us and we’d be separated anyway. He always came home, so I thought we should count our blessings. If we locked him up and he then got away, I was afraid he’d never trust us.

Never return.


Will hurt Thomas in ways beyond reckoning. And he struck deeply when he gave his father no line of action to pursue. Perhaps that was Will’s intention, conscious or not.

Paul had a relationship with his son, and he so clearly did not. Paul could affect the boy, and he could not. The boy ran to Paul, not to him. It was galling. And of course, he was not unreasonable for holding the opinion that Paul’s interest in the boy was unhealthy.

It made our own relationship quite difficult when he realized I was advocating for Paul.

When we met together with Paul, and the reality of the situation hit us, I was quite surprised the Colonel didn’t take it out on Paul. I was shocked when he went so far as to thank him. A grudging thanks, to be sure.

I think he liked that Paul had stood up to him, and hated what he had said. But the Colonel is a courageous man, and he often displayed it in simple ways. Nothing is more courageous than facing facts you desperately don’t want to face.


When I finally met up with his parents, his mother took it better than I expected; his father was pretty silent, I thought he was appraising me and found me distasteful. I’d met more than a few Marine officers in my days; I wasn’t surprised.

I told them it would not surprise them to learn he had a run in with an older man, was “abused” some, and of his obvious injuries; I left the mention of his anal tear out – ribs, jaw, face  “and some other injuries,” handing them the doctor’s report.

They insisted on repaying me for the hospital costs, and his father softened a bit when he realized that I’d kept the police out of it and paid for the care.

As I was leaving, his father, back almost turned to me, grunted a “Thanks.”

I turned back to him, pulled my courage up into my chest, and said, “You know, Colonel, he wants most of all to have a father; for you to pay attention to him.” 

The older man stiffened.

“Don’t overstep your bounds, mister.” He kept his back to me.

“No sir, I apologize if that sounded critical, I merely wanted to be helpful. He’s headed in a very scary direction. I’m sure it’s been difficult for you both. I’ll take my leave now.”

I walked out and was halfway to the curb when his mother came out.

“Paul. Thank you. Thank you for helping him.”


I don’t know why I sent him home, really.

I mean, I didn’t want to take him on, didn’t want to have to deal with him, but I knew sending him home wasn’t going to change things. I suppose I needed some time to figure out what God wanted me to do; see if there wasn’t some alternative. I think I knew my fate but I was not yet reconciled to it.

I didn’t know how quickly it would fall apart, to be sure, but when it did I could not honestly say I was surprised. It was only two weeks later when my pager when off. I called the answering service to get the message; it was his mother.

He was in the navy hospital. He’d attempted suicide.

§  WILL         

They made me stay in the hospital for weeks.

They wouldn’t let Paul come visit me, but my mom said he wanted to come. I figured he was just saying it though. I was pretty sure he didn’t want me, I was too much trouble.

I kind of liked it, they moved me to another hospital, locked me up on the psych ward which had only adults. They were afraid to have me around kids, they were so stupid, it would have been much safer with kids. No matter. They watched us pretty close. Normally I’d have wanted to get fucked, but I didn’t want anyone to fuck me right then. No more fucking around, time to get serious.

I had to concentrate on getting better, getting out so I could kill myself.


I didn’t want to do this. I truly didn’t.

I believe in fate of a sort, and this boy was, for the passing moments at least, part of mine. I bowed to the inevitable. As soon as they let him go home, I agreed to see him there with his folks.

Predictably his mother was alone. We sat, the three of us, in that painfully clean, elegant, and formal living room. Everything was so very ordered. But it was not a sterile or cold place. Military and domestic, an awkward mix carried off better than you’d expect.

She and I sat in flowered chintz wing chairs and he slouched on the matching sofa.

“Your mom tells me that you have been talking to her about me.”

“Hm. Yeah, I guess.”  He was still pretty out of it. I wondered if they had let him out too soon.

“We’ve been talking about how to help you.”  That got his attention. “Your moth– your parents—,” I lied, “and I have an idea.”  He was focused now.

“Since you aren’t doing real well as things stand, and you want to spend time with me, on a trial basis I’m going to visit with you sometimes here at your home; and IF things go well, I’ll let you come to my place on my days off sometimes.” I had his full attention.

He looked ready to jump up off the couch and hug me, and I was afraid he might, so I crossed my arms and sat back in my chair.

“But this all depends on you behaving yourself,” I cautioned. “If you can’t keep your end of it, then we can’t do it. There are conditions, Will. I can’t have you just running around in the ways you have been.”


I took a deep breath, and spoke sternly.

“No more men. And that’s not all. No making passes at me. No going places without permission. From Friday through Tuesday you are at home, and you obey your parents and the same rules – no men, no hitchhiking, no running around without your parents knowing where you are and who you are with.”

He looked warily. I knew he would agree, I didn’t know if he would conform to the rules.

“And you need to enroll in school. It’s not legal for you not to be in school. Given the schedule, with you not at home during the week all the time, you need to be in continuation school.”

“I don’t need that.”  He was sullen.

I leaned back in the armchair, fixed his eyes with mine.

“Not negotiable. Take it or leave it.”

I sort of hoped he left it, to be honest. But I knew him better than that.



We slipped into an uneasy routine.

I would come by at the end of my day, early afternoon, usually before his father got off duty, and sit with him and his mother around the kitchen table. We had the most amazing conversations.

Sometimes his mother sat there, mute, sitting in stolidity. Other times she left us to our own devices. Eleanor was a remarkable woman, she intrigued me.

She was an attractive woman, thin, regal, reserved, her hair done up in a modest bun, a few whisps of gray. Not pretentious at all, but elegant, she just had an air about her. He took after her, there was not much of his father about him. I saw in the boy, the fine features, even, surprisingly I could see he had her strength, raw, he didn’t know how to access it, but it underlay him. He alternated between puppy dog and patrician.

He must have been a torture to her.

He ignored his mother’s sporadic presence and told me in hitherto unimagined detail of his sex life and experiences; rendered in the most graphic ways. He didn’t hear the anger and bitterness in his own voice, the undercurrent of feeling he denied; the pain and worthlessness and exploitation that underlay these episodes; the abandonment and indifference; the violence, spiritual and physical.

He thought they were amusing anecdotes, perhaps he was trying to titillate me, likely he hoped to hook me in with his story.

After all this, why shouldn’t you have sex with me too? 

It worked to a degree. The stories made me understand the need that had drawn him to me, and the different need that had drawn me to him. I could not be indifferent to his tales, but whenever I commented on them he seemed to take it as rejection of him, as criticism, as finding him unworthy.

I tried vainly to turn the conversations into something more mainstream, but he had determined to unburden himself to me in this way. I did insist that at least a part of our conversations had to deal with the why’s of his behavior, but he displayed no insight, was unwilling to look at his motivations. Why did he live with these men?  He liked them, he loved them. He wanted to get fucked by them. It was fun, it felt good. He never admitted the real need that underlay his passions.

I insisted he find at least something else to discuss for the end of our twice or thrice weekly conversations.

I made him show me his schoolwork, discuss his reading, focus on something other than sex and the hole in his soul he kept trying to fill with men and their cocks.

Now and then I would be invited to dinner.

It was often a forced, tense affair. Eleanor was a wonderful cook; five of us would sit in oh so very correct silence around the polished mahogany table, imported from some overseas tour. The boy’s table manners were impeccable.

His older brother Tom, was almost eighteen, ready to enlist. As much as Will took after his mother, Tom was the image of his father. Not much bigger than Will, but with that lean and hard look you’d expect from a Marine. He was if anything, even more silent and enigmatic, hardly a word passed from him, he sat, he ate, he left. Tom knew enough about his brother’s peculiar life to understand that I had something to do with it, yet he obviously had no idea what I was doing there; and I often felt the same way myself.

Will told me that they had had sex, nothing but a few episodes of mutual masturbation, one blowjob, many years past now.

His brother was not attractive to him, he said. His brother didn’t understand his interest in men. His brother was straight, he said. His brother didn’t hate him or put him down. His brother was nice to him, he said.

What he didn’t say was, his brother had a father. He was not consciously aware of his resentment for the attention and approval Tom garnered. For the time and love of his father that Tom deserved and he didn’t. Tom was the Marine in the family, the successor, the favorite. The only. Not that he didn’t deserve it; I found no fault with Tom.

The Colonel was not happy to have me there, but one evening after dinner we were alone for a moment and he actually told me he was grateful.

“Sir, I just . . . Well, I am obliged to apologize to you. And to thank you.”

“I’m sorry, sir, I don’t understand. You don’t owe me any apologies. Nor really any thanks, either.”

He often spoke with his back to me.

“I misjudged you. I,” he was obviously forcing himself to find the words, “I, thank you for what you have done for William.”  He left the room.

He was what he was. I could see he cared for the boy but was just repulsed by him at the same time. This was not an open or warm man. Well, you don’t get to be a Marine light Colonel by kissing boys.

His father could not give him what he wanted, needed; and no one else could. We each have our limitation, Will was beyond his abilities to cope. Had, I think, been so from very early on.


It was nothing short of a miracle.

That he had allowed Paul not just into the boy’s life but into our home as well made me swell with love for him. I had never doubted my love for that man but in all the years we’d been married, I’d never felt good about how he related to Will. And now, he was doing the most difficult things imaginable.

Perhaps it doesn’t look so courageous, but it wasn’t just thanking Paul, it was conceding to him the right to take his own, rightful place in his son’s life. I had never been more proud of my man. I suspect I had always doubted whether he really loved Will, and now in the moment of greatest pain and stress, I saw what he would do. All to save his son. He would bear any sacrifice or pain, I realized.

It was no small thing for a man like the Colonel. It was a mark of surrender. And Marines don’t surrender.


After a month he asked when he could come to stay at my place.

“Not stay, visit.” I reminded him.


“I’ll talk with your mother and see if she thinks you are ready.”

But for myself, I was worried about how to handle this. It meant juggling a lot of things.

First, I prize my privacy and my moments of isolation, and was loath to give up even a part of my precious time off.

Then there were practical issues, how did I explain him to the landlord, the neighbors?  We had not discussed it, but they probably knew I was gay, it was a big city, it wasn’t a huge issue, but this child, well, that was a more complex matter.

And then Dennis. I wasn’t sure how he would take to having the boy around. It would certainly complicate things for us.

§  WILL         

It was pretty weird all these days but at least he was coming to see me.

I didn’t tell him but I wasn’t behaving all that nice.

I was still going to the heads to find Marines, but I didn’t hitch much. I also went one day a week to continuation school, so I figured that evened it out some. School wasn’t so bad since I mostly got to do my work at home, and it was kind of nice to have him to show it to when I was done, and one night he helped me study for Algebra and it really did help.

I decided to wait to kill myself, to see if I wanted to do it later instead.

At continuation I got to hang out with older kids, most of them were at least 17, some were almost twenty. I blew a few of them, just because. When we took breaks, we smoked cigarettes, sometimes we’d hit on some J’s after but only on days when Paul wasn’t coming over.

But I went to the high school early afternoons a lot of the time and played basketball alone in the yard on days when Paul wasn’t visiting. That’s how I met Jesse. Those courts were usually empty in the afternoons, the wind was blowing sand and dirt a lot and it was hard to dribble and it got in your eyes sometimes, the desert is really a bitch.

He was just a kid, he was younger than me, 14, but he was kinda funny. He had a good sense of humor, and he was absolutely shitty at basketball, couldn’t hit the backboard half the time. He was a little shrimp, like five-two and maybe a hundred ten pounds. But sometimes he’d just throw a body block at me when I was dribbling, though he wasn’t big enough to knock me down. He was pretty determined for a shrimp.

But I met him there a few times, and we got sort of used to it, and he didn’t ask too many damn questions. Just told jokes, and repeated lines from Six Million Dollar Man and Baretta and All In The Family.

I thought he was a doof. But he wasn’t asking questions, or pressuring me, and I didn’t have to work hard to behave around him. I taught him how to shoot a basket. One afternoon he had me come over to his house, we played Monopoly and then Risk.

He called me “meathead” and I told him he was right, I had more meat and got more head than he could imagine. He thought that was funny. He thought it was a joke.

I called him Edith.

I told Paul I had a friend, and he asked me all about it.

First thing I ever did that he liked.


I finally agreed that he had earned a visit to my place, though I certainly had many reservations. I took him home with me one Tuesday.

I figured this boy was pretty jaded, but I determined not to change my basic lifestyle for him. I could not take him to the few bars I frequented, but thought it would do him well to see a relationship between two men that didn’t involve underage boys.

So I asked Dennis to spend the evenings at my place, and tried to show him a more mature idea of gay relationships. Plus, I figured it would keep him out of my bed.

He just got jealous. He was rude to Dennis, ignored him, cut him off, inserted himself between us. Made fun of Dennis.

Now Dennis is a very smart man, one of the main points of our attraction, a computer programmer with a degree in chemistry, and a Master’s in Chemical Engineering. He’s a very sweet and patient fellow, the other point. But Dennis’ patience knew its limits, and Will tried those limits severely.

We went for dinner and a movie, and Will did a decent job of keeping his hands off me in theater. Except for his problems with Dennis, I could not have asked for much better behavior out of him.

But I could sense the venom in him when we went to bed and left him to his own room, alone. This did not sit well.

It set a pattern, we did this every other week for several months, his behavior at home was more even. I began to think we had turned a corner with this very troubled boy-chick.

God laughed at my naïveté.