Posted July 4, 2012 - Happy Birthday America!

Legacy

A Naptown Tales Sequel by Altimexis

Chapter 12 - Dinner for Four - Sam Austin

The last few days had been some of the worst of my life, which was saying a lot. I grew up the son of a crack-addicted prostitute and spent most of my youth in and out of group homes and foster care. When I was twelve, I got a lucky break and was sent to a church-run camp for disadvantaged youth, but then I was placed in a cabin with a pedophile for a counselor. Over the next few weeks, ‘Gary’ as we all called him, systematically molested and raped me, and then he made me engage in sex with the other campers while he recorded it on his camcorder. Thanks to Gary, I became HIV-positive and had to take a shitload of drugs to keep myself from getting AIDS, right up until they were finally able to cure me of the infection.

The one positive thing to have come out of that experience was that I was adopted by the Austins. Yeah, Sammy Franklin became Samuel Franklin Austin, and I couldn’t have been happier. A friend of mine from my cabin at camp, Cliff Daniels, was taken in by the Kimballs and he eventually became Clifford Lawrence Daniel Kimball-Roth, but Cliff’s HIV became much worse than mine, and he ended up dying of AIDS.

It was a tough childhood, but I overcame adversity and persevered. Finally, in good schools with teachers who cared, I developed an insatiable thirst for knowledge. I wanted to make up for all the lost time when I lived on the street and hardly paid attention to school, when I deigned to attend at all. I suddenly realized what I’d been missing and that I was actually smart. I came to love reading books, learning new languages and exploring other cultures, and I developed a lifelong appreciation for the arts. I read two or three books every week and by the time I finished my first and only year in high school, I was fluent in French, Spanish, Italian, German and Russian. French and Spanish were the only languages I actually studied in school - the rest I picked up from courses over the Internet. It turned out I was a natural.

My intelligence, however, was very nearly my undoing. How well I remember the sequence of events that almost led to my destruction. It was my guidance counselor who suggested I take my SAT exam in the spring of my freshman year of high school. It was my freshman year in name only, as most of my courses were at the sophomore and junior level, based on my achievement test results. She told me it would be good practice for the future. Little did I know she had an ulterior motive.

I was stunned when the results came back - I had a perfect score. She met with my parents and me and made a strong case for me going to college the next year, at the age of fifteen. It wasn’t what I wanted - not at all. I was finally getting to live the life of a ‘normal’ teenager and I wanted badly to continue being a kid for a little longer. Mom and Dad, however, were swayed by Ms. Crandall and started looking into colleges that might still consider my admission so late in the year.

I really wasn’t interested in attending college just yet, but they were my parents and they only wanted what was best for me. We started by focusing on my attending a local university such as Butler or IUPUI, or even the local community college, but then Case Western Reserve took an interest in me, which was something even I couldn’t ignore.

I’d fallen in love with the CWRU campus a couple of years earlier, when we visited Cleveland over the Thanksgiving weekend. I really liked Cleveland as a city and Case was located in the University Circle section of town, which was a particularly attractive part of the city. Located right on Euclid Avenue, which is the ‘main street’ of Cleveland, it was accessible by light rail, subway and bus. The campus was also well suited to getting around by bicycle and on foot. With its stellar reputation, I’d already considered Case to be among my top choices in colleges.

When CWRU contacted us, I began to change my mind and became enthusiastic about attending college. It was, after all, only a five-hour drive from home, so it wasn’t that far away. True, I wouldn’t be able to get my license and drive on my own until late in the school year, but at least Mom and Dad could visit me often. Case had an outstanding program to train teachers and they were thrilled at the prospect of having a student with my abilities.

It was thus that I accepted an offer to attend Case Western University on full scholarship in the fall of 2011, at the age of fifteen. I was admitted to the College of Arts and Sciences and chose to major in Integrated Language Arts, a joint program with John Carroll University, which provided licensure in Secondary Education. I’d already decided I wanted to teach in either middle school or high school and, with my love of reading, teaching Literature and English Composition seemed to be an ideal fit. I decided to minor in French and Spanish, my two favorite foreign languages. I seriously considered extending my studies and majoring in Art History as well, but the bottom line was that I didn’t want to be an ‘art teacher’.

The only downside to the program was that John Carroll University is located five miles away - a fifteen minute drive by car, but an hour by public transit. Fortunately, most of the courses at John Carroll were senior level courses that I wouldn’t take until I was eighteen at the earliest and, by then, I hoped to live off-campus and have a car in any case.

The process of selecting a dorm room was an interesting one. First year students are required to live in one of three residential ‘colleges’ each of which has three or four dormitories. Although students were not required to specify a particular college or dorm, after reviewing the on-line materials and visiting the campus, I decided to request assignment to Cedar Residential College, which has a focus on the arts. Although I wouldn’t be studying Art or Music, I thought I’d probably have more in common with students with an interest in the arts than, say, jocks. Not that any of the students would have an interest in socializing with a fifteen-year-old ‘super genius’ in the first place.

After filling out an on-line ‘lifestyle indicators’ survey, which included such items as whether I smoked (I didn’t want to be anywhere near smoke), whether I preferred a quiet, social or active room (quiet of course), whether I liked my room neat, ‘lived-in’ or messy (OK, so neatness isn’t one of my virtues), what time I usually like to go to bed (midnight) and what type of music I like (Rock), I was assigned to Taft House and given a roommate.

After a phenomenal summer in which my parents took me on a month-long European vacation that included visits to Amsterdam, Brussels, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Frankfurt, Munich, Prague, Dresden and Berlin - man, what a trip that was - Mom and Dad had to get back to their business and so it was Trevor and Kurt that helped me get settled into my dorm at Case. Even before the move, I’d corresponded with my roommate, so I had a fair idea of what he was like. Still, I was totally unprepared for campus life…

 

Friday, August 26, 2011
Thirty-two Years Earlier

“I still can’t believe my baby brother is starting college,” Trevor said as he helped me carry some of my stuff into my new dorm room. Man was the room tiny! It was so small that my bed was located over my desk and a small chest of drawers. I brought a lot of stuff with me - a Harmon/Kardon dock for my iPhone, a PS3 that doubled as a blu-ray player, an iPad, a twenty inch LCD TV and a fifteen inch MacBook Pro - and I had no idea where I was gonna put it all.

Just as Trevor left for another load, Kurt entered the room carrying a big box of books. “Where you want these, bro?” he asked with a giggle.

Looking around at the available space, or lack thereof, I sighed and said, “Back in Dad’s Escalade. There’s no way I have enough room for all those books. I prolly won’t have time to read ’em anyway. If I do find the time, I’ll just have to download stuff to my iPad instead.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Kurt said with a smile.

As Kurt was turning to carry the box of books back into the hall, a guy I recognized as my roommate walked in and said to Kurt, “Hey Sam, I’m Bryce. I can see you have your hands full so I won’t try to shake your hand, but it’s nice to finally meet you.”

Clearing my throat, I announced, “Actually, I’m Sam. That’s my brother-in-law, Kurt.”

“Oh man, I’m sorry, Sam,” Bryce apologized as he shook my hand. “I mean I knew you were young, but I didn’t realize you were that young. Well, I knew you’re fifteen, but Kurt looks more like he’s fifteen than you do.” Then turning to Kurt, he said, “I’m sorry if that didn’t come out right.”

“Not a problem,” Kurt replied. “I’ve always looked young for my age. It may be hard to believe, but I’ll be eighteen in November.”

“Really?” Bruce exclaimed. “I’ll be eighteen in October. We’re, like, almost the same age. So are you a freshman, too?”

“Actually, Kurt’s starting his sophomore year at Boston University,” I replied.

“Wow, I guess genius must run in the family,” Bryce commented.

“Except that I’m adopted and Kurt’s my brother-in-law,” I pointed out.

“Well duh,” Bryce admitted. “Sometimes I can be a little dense, so don’t mind me.”

At that moment, Trevor returned, carrying a box containing my PS3, a bunch of games for it, and some DVDs and blu-ray discs of my favorite movies.

Bryce’s face lit up when he saw what was in the box and rather than introducing himself to Trevor, he said, “Oh cool… a PS3! I have an XBox-360. We’ll have a blast playing all our different games.”

“By the way, I’m Trevor,” Trevor said as he extended his hand. Bryce sheepishly apologized and shook Trevor’s hand. “I’m Sam’s bro,” Trevor added and then he said, “and I take it you’ve already met my husband.”

“Your husband?” Bryce said as a look of confusion, followed by what could only be described as joy, crossed his face. “You mean you two are, like, married?”

“Just over a year,” Kurt replied as he slipped his arm around Trevor’s waist.

“That is so radical!” Bryce exclaimed. “Oh man, here I was worried how Sam would take it if he ever found out… if I ever came out… and it turns out his brother’s gay.”

At that moment, however, a woman’s voice could distinctly be heard from the hallway calling out, “Bryce, Honey, where are you?”

Getting a panic-stricken look on his face rather than one of embarrassment as I would have expected, Bryce whispered loudly, “My parents don’t know!”

Before Trevor and Kurt even had a chance to pull apart, a very smartly dressed woman appeared in the doorway, followed by an athletic-looking man. “Oh there you are she said, but then she caught sight of my brother and his husband with their arms around each other. Getting a look of disgust on her face, she asked, “Do you know these people?”

“Mom, Dad,” Bryce said as he pushed me forward, “This is my roommate, Sam. His brother, Trevor,” he added as he nodded in Trevor and Kurt’s direction, “and Trevor’s legally married husband Kurt, are helping him to move in.”

“Are they going to school here?” she asked with a distinct frown on her face, treating Trevor and Kurt as if they weren’t even in the room and undoubtedly wondering if they’d be a part of her precious son’s life.

“Actually,” Trevor replied, “I’m a sophomore in Computer Science at MIT, and Kurt’s studying Sociology at Boston University.”

“You’re Trevor?” she asked with a look of astonishment on her face. “I assumed it was the other way around.”

Laughing, Trevor explained, “Sam’s adopted, which is why we don’t look anything alike.”

“So then you’re not staying long?” she asked for confirmation.

“Just long enough to help Sam settle in,” Trevor replied, “and then it’s back home to exchange my Dad’s Escalade for my Jetta before we head off to Boston.”

She definitely looked relieved, but then she totally floored me when she turned to Bryce and said, “You know, I’m sure it’s not too late to change roommates.” Talk about rude!

“Why should I, Mom?” Bryce replied angrily. “I like Sam, and he’s like a super genius or something. He’s only fifteen and he’ll prolly be a good influence on me. And besides, it’s not like he’s the one who’s gay.”

“Well are you?” she asked as she fixed her steely stare on me.

Now I had a dilemma. I’d pretty much accepted that I’m very much bi. I definitely like girls - I really, really like girls - but I’m easily turned on by hot guys too. The last thing I wanted, however, was to get a new roommate at this late stage, ’cause it prolly wouldn’t be someone who matched my ‘lifestyle indicators’. Although I didn’t want to lie, telling Bryce’s parents I was bi obviously would not go over well. I therefore decided to tell a partial truth and replied with a smile, “You have nothing to worry about there. Unlike my bro, I like girls.”

“Well that’s a relief,” his mother said.

Bryce’s father, who’d been silent up ’til then, looked at Trevor and Kurt with a scowl and said, “You two do realize you’re going to Hell, don’t you?”

“Mister… ?” Kurt started to reply.

“Gordon,” Bryce filled in.

“Mr. Gordon,” Kurt continued, “My father was an evangelical minister… actually, I assume he still is. Anyway, he abandoned his family… my mother and their three sons… when I came out. ’Course it was pretty hard to deny it when I came out in an article on gay youth in the local newspaper. He couldn’t hack having the whole congregation know that in spite of what he preached, his youngest son turned out gay.

“In spite of all that, I plan to follow in my father’s footsteps. After I get my degree in Sociology, I plan to enter seminary at BU and to earn a doctorate in Divinity.”

“Knowing all you know, how can you choose such a deviant lifestyle?” Bryce’s father asked.

“I didn’t choose my ‘lifestyle’… it chose me. I was born this way. I’ve never been attracted to girls and couldn’t have relations with one if I tried.”

“But that’s the devil in you, boy!” Mr. Gordon practically shouted. “God created Adam and Eve… Not Adam and Steve.”

Rolling his eyes, Kurt countered. “God created all of us in His image, and that includes those of us who are gay. Unlike you, I’ve actually read the Bible… all of it… in the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. I have a photographic memory and can recite it all, too, chapter and verse. Not once did our Savior speak on the topic of homosexuality. It’s not even clear that the abomination of the man who lies down with another man quoted from Leviticus is actually referring to homosexuality. What is clear is that eating bacon is an abomination. Wearing clothes that are made from a blend of different fabrics such as cotton and polyester is an abomination. The owning of slaves, however, is perfectly acceptable.

“Jesus himself refuted the strictures placed upon us by the Old Testament, which is why we can enjoy eating Lobster or wearing a sweater made from a silk and cashmere blend. Why should I be judged solely based on whom I love? Is that what Jesus would have done?”

“But everyone knows it’s wrong!” Mr. Gordon shouted.

“No, they don’t,” Trevor replied. “In a series of polls conducted over the last year, a majority of Americans have indicated that they view gay relationships as being equivalent to straight ones. Many denominations now ordain gay ministers. Even the Evangelical movement has a few, and my husband intends to be one more.”

“I still think it’s sick and perverted,” Mr. Gordon said.

Pulling Kurt closer, Trevor countered, “This ‘pervert’ is the youngest person ever to receive the Congressional Gold Medal. He rescued Sam and several other kids at a camp where they were being abused, at tremendous risk to his own life. He arranged counseling for all the victims, he arranged foster care for those that turned up HIV-positive and he’s spoken out repeatedly on issues of rape and sexual abuse. He was even featured in a Frontline documentary. He’s truly one in a million.”

“Wait a minute!” Bryce’s father shouted. “Weren’t you boys involved in a prostitution scandal last summer?”

“It was two years ago,” Trevor corrected, “and it was alleged by someone like you… someone who took offense to the awarding of the nation’s highest honor to a gay teen. We were fully exonerated in the end.”

“Everyone knows about Obama’s ‘gay agenda’ and that he interceded on your behalf,” came Mr. Gordon’s unbelievable reply. It was obvious there was nothing Trevor or Kurt could say that would change his mind. They were sinners to start with, as far as he was concerned, so of course they were involved in a prostitution ring.

Then turning his cold stare on me, he asked, “Kurt found foster parents for the campers who were HIV-positive. Are you HIV-positive, Sam?”

Swallowing hard, I wondered how I was gonna get out of this one, but I realized I couldn’t and so I answered, “Unless Bryce and I have sex, which I can tell you now ain’t gonna happen, there’s no way he’s gonna catch it from me.”

“Come on, Bryce,” his mother said as she forcefully took hold of his arm, “you are not rooming with this pervert.”

“So now I’m a pervert too?” I asked incredulously. “I’m a pervert because a pedophile raped me?”

“AIDS is God’s punishment,” Mr. Gordon alleged. “You got what you deserved.”

Seconds later they were gone, and I broke down and started to cry.

“There’s nothing wrong with you,” Trevor said as he put his arm around me and comforted me.

“It’s not that,” I replied. “I just feel sorry for Bryce. He has such a tough road ahead.”

It didn’t take long for Student Housing to fix me up with a new roommate. The matchup couldn’t have been much worse. Whereas I liked classic rock, he liked the most God-awful rap and hip-hop music, which he played at top volume on his cheap boom box. I liked peace and quiet and to spend my free time reading, he liked to party hearty and often spent time with his friends in our tiny room getting drunk at all hours of the night. Although I liked things a little messy, he treated our entire room as if it were a laundry hamper. He left his dirty clothes everywhere, including on my bed.

By Thanksgiving I was on the verge of flunking out, but I didn’t want to disappoint my parents and so I kept my troubles from them. I put on a brave face over the holiday weekend and they never had a clue that anything was wrong. What waited for me upon my return was a nightmare.

“You killed our son!” Mr. Gordon screamed at me when he spotted me in the lounge of our dorm. “You turned him gay, and then you killed him, you sick son of a bitch.”

“What the Hell are you talking about?” I practically screamed back at him.

“You made him gay!” he shouted again. “He told us so on his deathbed! You killed him!”

Before I even knew what was happening, Mr. Gordon had lifted me into the air, punched me hard in the face and flung me to the ground. I have no memories of what happened after that, but later found out that he kicked me a few times, including in the head, and then stormed out. Bryce had downed a full bottle of Extra-Strength Tylenol and died of fulminate hepatitis, but not before coming out to his parents as he lay dying. Mr. Gordon decided it was my fault. The one consolation was that he would have lots of time to reflect on his actions from his jail cell, as there had been plenty of witnesses to the assault, which was deemed to be a hate crime.

I woke up two days later to find my parents and Trevor, Kurt, David and Jeremy, all by my side. Although I made a full recovery within days, Mom and Dad found out what had been happening with my roommate. They couldn’t not see what was happening when they visited my room while I was in the hospital. It was only then that I admitted that I was on the verge of flunking out.

At their insistence, I went home with them and sat out the remainder of the semester. Because of what had happened I was given all ‘incompletes’ rather than failing grades, but that meant I’d need to go back and retake all the courses - otherwise I would be given failing marks that would follow me the rest of my college days.

Mom and Dad had serious reservations about me going back to Case, but I felt I had to. The trouble was that I was seriously depressed and would have likely only flunked out again had I tried it on my own. I hadn’t been at such a low point in my life since I first found out I was HIV-positive and my biological mother abandoned me.

“What’s up, bro?” Trevor asked as he flopped down on my bed. He and Kurt were home visiting for their winter vacation.

“Same ol’, same ol’,” I replied.

“That’s what I was afraid of, bro,” he replied. “You know, life’s thrown you far more than your share of curve balls. I coulda never made it through half the shit you’ve had to deal with in your life. Beyond a doubt, you’re the strongest person I know, but even the strong need help now and then.”

Then, turning to face me directly, he said, “What happened at Case wasn’t your fault, bro. Bryce seemed like a nice guy, but his parents were bona fide nut jobs. That his father actually put you in the hospital should be proof enough. I got lucky… my parents were just as religious, but they were open to reason and their love for me took precedence over what they were raised to believe. If I’d had parents like Bryce’s, I don’t know what I’d have done.

“We’ll never know all the reasons behind Bryce’s suicide, but the conflict between his sexuality and his parents’ sense of morality prolly had a lot to do with it. There was nothing you could have done to prevent it. Hell, he wasn’t even in the same dorm after his parents made him move, was he?”

“He wasn’t even in the same ‘college’,” I admitted.

“They took him out of your life and for whatever reason, he couldn’t deal with his life at Case,” Trevor continued. “And then you ended up with a party animal for a roommate. No one can be a serious student and live with that. That wasn’t your fault either, but you could have and should have done something about it. You should have spoken to the RA about it, and you should have let Mom and Dad know what was happening. They could have helped.”

“Now you’re kinda burned out. I’ll bet you feel like you gotta go back, but you already feel like you’re doomed to fail.”

My eyes opened wide as I realized that was exactly the way I felt.

“Bro, you have nothing to prove… not even to yourself. You’re hands-down the smartest guy I know, and this comes from someone whose husband has a photographic memory and skipped his last two years of high school. What I think you should do is to take the next semester off. Maybe take two or three courses at the community college, but live at home and get your life back together. Don’t worry about what you’ve missed at Case. As smart as you are, you’ll catch up.

“You can start back at Case in the summer, when there’s fewer students around and things are a bit easier. Next fall you’ll get a decent roommate in one of the second-year dorms and, by then, you’ll have regained your confidence and it’ll be smooth sailing from then on.”

Trevor was absolutely right. I’d been put through a meat grinder and needed time to heal. Mom and Dad were very supportive and the extra time I spent at home that spring made all the difference in the world. I totally aced the three courses I took at the community college and then went back to Case in the summer, acing the courses I’d had to drop the previous fall. I still managed to graduate by the age of nineteen, the same as I would have if nothing had gone wrong.

Three years later, at the age of 22, I obtained my doctorate from New York University and then returned home to begin my teaching career in an inner-city high school.

 

“You look like you’ve seen better days,” came Barry’s voice, seemingly from out of nowhere and bringing me out of my reverie. As I slowly began to focus, I remembered where I was, in my underground office on Capitol Hill. It was little more than a cubicle, actually - Congressmen didn’t rate more than that in time of emergency.

“You know,” Barry continued, “I think I know some folks who are even more bummed out than you are over David’s assassination. Last time I saw Jeremy and his kids, they were still in shock. I can only imagine what they must be going through. Something tells me they’d appreciate being invited to one of Congressman Austin’s world-famous dinners, and I think it might do you a world of good too.”

Barry wasn’t kidding when he spoke of my world-famous dinners. The Washington Post referred to them as ‘legendary’. Gourmet cooking was my passion and I often entertained important guests in my brownstone on Capitol Hill. Obviously I couldn’t cook dinner for Jeremy and his kids there, but I had a feeling Barry could find a kitchen for me to use somewhere in Underground Washington, and preparing a gourmet meal actually would do me a world of good.

“I trust you can set it up?” I asked.

“You know I can,” he answered.

“Trouble is, there probably won’t be much in the way of ingredients available.”

“You leave that detail to me,” Barry replied. “Just tell me what you need and I’ll do your shopping for you, as always.”

Thinking for a minute, I said, “I think I’ll start with my lobster bisque, and then I’ll follow that with a spinach and feta salad. For the main course I’ll grill fresh deep sea bass if you can find it, otherwise halibut, with my honey ginger glaze. I’ll steam some broccoli and make my famous portobello risotto. For dessert we’ll have blueberries and cream.”

“It sounds wonderful,” Barry commented. “Considering the time, would you like me to pick up your pressure cooker?”

Realizing we were indeed short on time, I replied, “Yeah, I’ll need it for the risotto.”

It was shortly after I hung up the phone from talking to Jeremy and getting his acceptance for dinner that another familiar face appeared just outside my cubicle.

“Kurt,” I said, “What brings you to my elegant office under Capitol Hill?”

“Hey, Sammy,” he answered. “The reason I’m here is that President Schroeder has asked me to compile a short list of potential vice-presidents. I’d like to talk to you about putting your name on it…”

The author gratefully acknowledges the invaluable assistance of David of Hope in editing, Low Flyer in proofreading and Ed in beta reading my stories, as well as Gay Authors, Awesome Dude and Nifty for hosting them.

DISCLAIMER: This is a fictional account of the assassination of the first openly gay president of the United States. Except as noted, all characters are fictitious and the reader is cautioned against attributing anything from the story to real individuals. There are occasional descriptions of consensual sex between underage boys and it is the reader’s responsibility to ensure the legality of reading this material. The author retains full copyright.