Saturday, instead of skate boarding , saw the boys at Will and Sam’s in the afternoon setting up the tent in the backyard. It was a nice four-man with square sides so they could all stand up inside. It took an hour to settle on a location and get the tent up, then hunt around to find four sleeping pads and have things pretty well organized. Will and Sam had invited Kim’s Dad and Roger’s parents as well as David and Jackson for a barbeque in the evening, meaning the boys didn’t have to cook, and after the adults left they’d have the backyard as their own camp ground. Susan was spending the night at a friend’s, having chosen not to be in a house full of boys!
The evening went well. Roger’s parents had emigrated from Switzerland when he was five, and his father taught at Portland State University, so he had a much in common with Will, Sam and David. Roger’s mother worked in marketing for a local company, so there was a common basis between them and Kim’s father who was in sales, which made for pleasant adult conversation. The boys had eaten on a separate picnic table with Kaiser next to them, and by 9:00 PM the adults were getting the vibe that it was time to clear the yard, and all graciously said their goodbyes.
It was still light, so they played badminton, which Kaiser thought was a game designed so dogs could chase the birdie, and then as it started getting dark they went through the relay of using the bathroom, brushing their teeth and donning pajamas. The tent had a net doorway and a big net window at the rear, so there was plenty of air flow and it was comfortable inside. Jerrod had brought Kaiser’s bed and set it in the middle of the tent, and he happily circled three times and laid down.
It was almost dark, and when Eric turned off the flashlight, he said, “You guys do what you want, but Kim and I are ditching these pajamas.” They all had light sleeping bags, and it only took moments for Jerrod and Roger to see the outlines of two naked boys embracing on their side of the tent.
“No staring,” Eric said, and he and Kim started giggling. “Don’t worry,” Kim added, we’ve got good taste, and we’re not going to get it on…too much. Just loving and cuddling, you know.” They cracked up again and went back to making out.
Jerrod rolled on his side, so he was facing Roger and said, “What a set up! Eric told me a couple of days ago they’ve been trying to get us together. Did you know that?”
Roger smiled widely and said softly, “Yeah, they told me that, too. And that I’m too timid.”
“Eric told me that, too, and it kind of pissed me off. But, you know, I like you and all, but I’m still sorting out my stuff and they’ve been boyfriends for a year, but I’ve never had a boyfriend and I’m not sure…”
He stopped when he felt Roger’s hand stroke his cheek. “Relax, Jerrod. I haven’t either. I know I’m gay and I know I like you a lot and you’re fun to be with, but on the experience scale I’ve got like zero.”
Jerrod smiled softly, Roger having taken the pressure off. “I like your hand on my face, it’s nice and soft…kind of like you are.”
“Well, you know, you may be more athletic, but it seems to me that you’re kind of soft and sensitive. I watch you and Kaiser, and you come off like the most caring person around.”
“Well, Kaiser is a very special dog,” he said, stroking Roger’s cheek, “so it’s not hard to love him and take care of him.”
Roger just stared at him. There was just enough light left that because of the netting in the tent they could still see each other’s eyes. Jerrod looked back, and they were eye to eye, and something seemed to soften between them, and Roger said, “If you treat me the way you treat Kaiser, I’d be a very happy guy.”
Jerrod had to quickly sort out in his mind what that statement really meant, especially given what he’d gone through earlier in the year that no one else knew about, but he trusted this boy. In fact, there was more than trust. He liked him a whole lot, he enjoyed being with him. Could he say more than that? He wasn’t sure he could go that far. This was all new ground, but he liked the way it felt, and he certainly would do nothing to treat Roger with any less care and consideration and…yes, love, than he treated Kaiser.
“You can plan on being a very happy guy, then,” he said back with a wide smile. Roger reached over and put his arm over Jerrod’s shoulder and asked softly, “Can I have a hug?”
Jerrod didn’t even have to think about it. He shifted his body toward Roger and pulled him in for a hug. He loved the feel of the strong arms around his back, but he especially liked the feeling of the other boy’s lips and chin in the curve between his neck and his shoulder. They seemed to fit naturally. He could see over Roger and could make out Kaiser curled up in the center of the tent, sound asleep. Beyond Kaiser he could see Eric and Kim had swung around and were in the sixty-nine position. Jerrod surprised himself to realize that he didn’t care. What mattered was that this new connection had been built with Roger, and they were together and a wonderful energy was flowing between them.
He turned his mind back to the hug, squeezed Roger and then ran his hands up and down his back. He heard a slight moan of pleasure, and then something on his neck that could only have been a kiss. Roger had kissed his neck! How awesome was that. After some seconds, he leaned away from the boy in his arms, and watched as Roger raised his head, a momentary flash of concern shooting across his face.
“No worries, Roger. I just wanted to look at your face again. You are beautiful, you know.”
It was too dark to see the blush he was certain his comment had caused, but he continued on. “Can I kiss you, ‘cause I love your hair and your eyes, but I’ve wanted to kiss those lips of yours since that first tennis game.”
He heard a little whimper, and then felt Roger’s hands slip up behind his neck, his fingers running into Jerod’s hair as he softly pulled them together. When their lips met it was like magic. It was a new sensation for both of them, but they felt the flow of emotion, and after a few seconds, Jerrod’s tongue flicked against Roger’s lips, which opened further and the emotion of their kiss deepened as they pulled each other closer together.
When they finally came up for air, Jerrod whispered softly, “You’re not just beautiful, you’re a great kisser. Are you sure you haven’t had a boyfriend before?”
Roger giggled softly, “No, I guess my lips just know what to do when they find the perfect match.”
Jerrod pulled him closer, as if that was possible, and said softly, “I’ve never felt like this before. Having your arms around me is totally amazing, kissing you is like a dream. Is it okay if we go slow?”
Roger whispered back, “Yeah, totally. It’s new for me, too. I can hear those two getting it on over there, and that’s cool for them. But we don’t have to do what they’re doing. I’m totally blissed out just holding you and having you kiss me.”
They continued that way until finally they both fell asleep in each other’s arms, foreheads touching, and arms intertwined.
Kaiser found them that way in the morning when he walked over to them, and licked their faces to let them know it was time for one of them to let him out of the tent.
Will and Sam cooked them breakfast, and after they broke down the tent and stowed all the gear away in the garage, they walked down to the tennis courts with Kaiser in tow. It was now a Sunday routine for the four boys and their dog, with one difference on this day. After occasionally touching hands as they walked along, finally Jerrod and Roger started holding hands for the last couple of blocks to the tennis courts.
Eric had been watching it all, and eventually said, “Finally! You guys are so cute together. We were beginning to worry you wouldn’t get connected.”
Jerrod glanced at Roger and then at Eric and Kim, and said, “No worry there. The only worry I’ve got is I leave for racing camp tomorrow, and will be gone a week.”
“Yeah, that’s a bummer. But you know, if it’s true love, you’ll survive.” He stopped now, outside the tennis court, and Kim turned with him, and they were holding hands. Jerrod and Roger stopped in front of them and Kaiser pulled up right next to Jerrod.
“So,” Eric began, “did you have your first kiss last night? Was it as great as the first kiss I had with Kim?”
Roger blushed. Jerrod had talked about some of this with Eric at the skate park, so he felt a little confident.
“Yes, we did. And it was wonderful. You told me about your first kiss and that made me pay attention, and I can tell you two things. First, that first kiss was outrageous. And, second, Roger is an amazing kisser.”
Eric looked at Kim while Roger looked at Jerrod, then they both looked at each other, and then they all cracked up. It was so cool and so funny at the same time. Kaiser sat beside Jerrod, obviously wondering if they’d all lost their minds and why all of them weren’t inside playing tennis.
They dragged out the afternoon as long as they could, knowing Jerrod was leaving the next day for a week. After walking through the park and having some lunch, they walked Kim and Eric home, then Jerrod and Kaiser walked Roger home. Roger’s parents offered them some iced tea, and his Mom called David to let him know that Jerrod was at their home and would be coming home soon. Finally, they had to say goodbye, and Roger walked them down the sidewalk and knelt down to give Kaiser a goodbye hug, and then stood and turned toward Jerrod and pulled him into a hug with a surreptitious kiss on the cheek slipped in for good measure.
“Have a good racing camp. You’ve got my phone number. Call me if you can. Otherwise, I’ll see you when you get back, okay?” He wanted to say more, but it seemed premature.
Jerrod was touched by the words, and wanted to express his feelings too, but it seemed awkward on the sidewalk. “There’s a pay phone off the lobby, so I’ll call you at least once, more if I can. Thanks for being you. This has been the best twenty-four hours of my life.”
“Me, too. I’m going to miss seeing you.”
David arranged his schedule so that he’d be on campus Tuesday and drove Jerrod back up to Timberline the next day. They were trying something new. Jackson had taken the BMW and David was driving the Durango. They’d put down the rear seats and had Kaiser along for the ride.
Jerrod had been quiet so far this morning, and finally David said, “Kaiser seems to be a good traveler.” Jerrod said nothing and just glanced at him. “Meaning,” David went on, “he hasn’t thrown up yet. I understand that dogs that don’t travel well regularly throw up in the car.”
Jerrod finally got the joke and started laughing, turning to pet Kaiser who was lying in the middle of the rear deck just behind the front seats—so he could be reached and also look out the windshield.
“Yeah, you’re right. He is a good traveler. Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention.”
“You seem preoccupied. Anything you want to talk about?”
Jerrod fell silent, then said, “If it’s okay. And you don’t need to tell me, I know everything is okay as in I can talk to you about anything.”
David nodded and smiled. “And?”
“And…the sleep over was great and then yesterday I spent a lot of time with Roger, and…”
“And, you have feelings for Roger. Is that what you’re trying to say?”
“Yeah. Is that okay?”
David laughed softly, being careful not to offend Jerrod. “Wait a minute, let me get this straight. You’re asking me, a gay guy, if it’s okay for you to have feelings for another boy your age? What do you expect me to say except ‘certainly’ it’s okay?”
Jerrod blushed. “I know it’s stupid, it’s just I’ve never had a boyfriend and I haven’t been sure about my feelings about guys, and being with Roger just makes me feel like I’ve never felt before.”
David let a little silence build between them, then softly said, “Well, I think you’ve said it all right there. Most people wonder about or feel mixed up about their feelings for the same gender, because our society pretty well says it’s abnormal. Even if it’s technically legal, the culture, most religions, most families, most parents send a different message. So, feeling confused or mixed up is normal. That said, what I hear you saying is that you’ve been having feelings like you’ve never had before when you’re with this one person, and presumably those are feelings that make you feel warm and good and happy…and maybe even a little horny? For the record, Jerrod, those are all wonderful and healthy feelings to have. At your age, or even at my age.”
“Thanks for that.”
“Roger’s mother called when you were there yesterday to let me know you and Kaiser would be heading home before long, and she said it was obvious the two of you were close and were having a good time.”
“Do you think she knows he’s gay?”
“I don’t know, and I didn’t ask. However, mothers tend to be perceptive about those things. Does Roger consider himself gay?”
“Yes, that’s what he told me.”
“Then it’s a reasonable bet that he’s told his parents, and if so, the tone of the conversation I had with his mother yesterday says they’re okay with it.”
Jerrod became quiet, then said, “I can’t even conceive of my parents being good with it.”
“Do you even know you’re gay? Remember what I said a few weeks ago about doing the work to know yourself? There’s personal identity and sexual identity. They’re connected but separate. Have you decided?”
“Not really. That’s why I’m confused. We held each other and kissed each other and it was wonderful, but I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure it all out. Why is it so hard?
“Life can be complicated, and for most of us it is. You should have been around twenty years ago when this newly ordained minister who had never even thought about being gay fell in love with this seventeen year old boy and suddenly had to deal with that reality and all the implications that came with it.”
“That was you?”
“It sure was. All I’ll say right now is know thyself and be true to yourself. At the end of the day you have to be true to yourself, no matter what.”
A minute later they pulled into the Timberline parking lot and decided to take Kaiser on a walk around the lodge before Jerrod checked in and David drove home.
A week later it was Jackson who pulled in driving the Durango. Kaiser spotted Jerrod as they pulled into a parking place near the front entrance, and started whipping his tail and whining. After they’d let Kaiser out and he jumped all over Jerrod, they took a short walk.
Jerrod said, “I thought you’d be working today.”
He got a grin in reply, and Jackson said, “I took the day off because I’m between projects, and it was my turn. David’s done three of these drives.”
“I know, and they’re kind of long drives. You guys have really been great to me. The longer I’m here the more I appreciate it.”
“You know what, that feeling plays both ways. David and I talked about you, and we feel the same way. The longer you’re here the more we appreciate you, too.”
They’d loaded Jerrod’s gear in the rear and Kaiser in the back of the Durango and were heading down the mountain.
“Did David tell you what I told him about Roger? My feelings for Roger and stuff?”
Jackson glanced at him and said, “He did, though he made clear it was confidential, meaning not to bring it up unless you did, and you know what? I think it’s fab. He’s a great young man. So are you. And he’s really good looking, too. Are you going to see him tonight?”
“God, I want to. I’ve missed him like crazy, and a couple of calls on the pay phone in the lobby just didn’t do it?
“It’s hard to talk love on a pay phone, isn’t it,” Jackson said, laughing.
“I don’t know if it’s love, but I sure like him.”
“Do you know Roger’s phone number?”
“Yeah, I called him on the pay phone.”
“I mean have you got it memorized, not written down on a piece of paper in your duffle bag. I ask because I just got a mobile phone at work, and I happen to have it in the car with me. If you’re up for it, you can call him and see if it’s okay for me to drop you by his house to see him and catch up, and then I’ll come pick you up later this afternoon?”
“You’re serious? You’d do that for me?”
“You don’t think I’m shitting you, do you? The phone is here in the console. Call him. Work it out.”
He did and the excitement built in Jerrod’s voice as the call went on. Jackson dropped him off at the Astren house where Roger said he’d have lunch ready, and Jackson said he’d be back around 4:00 PM to pick him up.
They greeted each other with an intense hug, happy that Roger’s parents weren’t home, and the hug soon became a short make out session. Lunch was simple, sandwiches and chips. Both boys were making eyes at each other and abandoned the kitchen for Roger’s bedroom where they spent the afternoon in each other’s arms, alternating catching up on the week with expressing their affection for each other. They finished the afternoon with some tennis.
On the ride home Jerrod was quiet for a while then said, “How come you’re not asking me how it went.”
“Because it’s your business. You decide to tell me and David if you choose to. That’s up to you.”
“It was great. It was a basic lunch, and we talked about the racing camp and stuff. Then just spent time together, and yeah, we were hugging and kissing and stuff, then we played some tennis, and then we were back by the time you came to pick me up. It was just great.”
“I’m happy for you. You sound like you’re in love.”
Jerrod felt himself choke.
Jackson looked at him. “Did I say something wrong?”
Jerrod took a couple of deep breaths and then said, “No, nothing wrong. I just don’t know about the love part. I really, really like him and really like spending time with him. I just feel warm and happy when I’m with him. But love is a bigger, heavier thing, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is, but don’t make so big a thing out of it that you deny yourself something wonderful and beautiful in your life. Look at us. When David and I met he could have said ‘I’m an ordained minister so no way I can love you. I’ve got all these rules and expectations I’ve got to follow.’ But he didn’t. He got real about how he felt, was completely honest about the things he was struggling with, and got in touch with the real him, and here we are.”
“He said something like that when he took me up to camp, he said ‘follow your heart,’ is that what you mean?”
“Yes. It’s easy to be frightened by big and emotional feelings. But you know what, it’s those big and emotional feelings that make life worth living.”
When they got home, Jackson started dinner prep and Jerrod unpacked, and they had most of dinner underway when David got home. Dinner conversation covered most of the subjects he’d talked about with Jackson, and David lent his own encouragement. They were pleased the racing camp went so well, but in the context of discussing emotions and the emerging relationship with Roger, ski racing seemed to be almost an afterthought.
The next morning, David woke early and after the required bathroom stop went to the kitchen to brew the coffee. As he looked around after pushing the Start button, he noticed Kaiser wasn’t in his crate, wondered what that signified and then quietly looked in the living room, the study, and then in Jerrod’s room. What he saw surprised him.
He quietly went back and got Jackson up, whispering for him to be quiet as well, and walked him back to the doorway to Jerrod’s room. Kaiser was lying next to Jerrod on the bed, Jerrod’s arm was draped over the dog’s shoulder and Kaiser’s head was resting on Jerrod’s upper arm. They were both sound asleep. Jackson was wide eyed and grinned foolishly as he looked at David.
David pulled him into the kitchen and Jackson said, “That’s pretty amazing.”
“It is, and I think I understand what happened, but let’s let them wake up when they do, let him come tell us about it.” Jackson nodded and headed for the bathroom. They’d finished up their own breakfast when Kaiser trotted into the kitchen followed by Jerrod who was smiling timidly as he met David and Jackson’s gaze. “Kaiser came in and slept with me last night.”
“We noticed,” David said.
“It was so cute,” Jackson added.
“You better take him out and then feed him. What do you want for breakfast?”
“Is French Toast okay?”
“Sure. I’m not on campus today. I’ll get it going.”
When he got back and fed Kaiser, then was sipping his orange juice, Jerrod said, “You’re not mad that Kaiser slept with me?”
“Why would we be mad. I’m not sure dogs on the bed is the approved routine, but we haven’t established what is, so why would we be mad.”
“I guess I can imagine what my parents would do.”
“You know by now that we’re not your parents, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I do, but some beliefs die hard I guess.”
Jackson squeezed his arm and said, “You want to tell us what happened?”
Jerrod smiled and said, “Well, we put him in his crate right there when we went to bed, and then sometime in the night, I don’t know what time, but it was early, I woke up when I felt this bump on the bed. That’s when I realized it was Kaiser. I must have not latched the door in the crate right. He’d come into my room and just jumped up on the bed right next to me. I didn’t go get him or tell him to come up, he just jumped up and woke me up.”
“I wish we’d had a camera when we saw the two of you laying there asleep this morning!”
Jerrod had a timid grin as he said, “It was so cool. I woke up and he was there, and I put my arm over his shoulder and we both went to sleep.”
“That’s pretty neat,” Jackson said softly. “I guess you can be pretty sure that he likes you and thinks you’re the best.”
Jerrod blushed a little and said, “He’s the best.”
David had caught his eye and asked, “How did that make you feel?”
“Well, like he liked me. He wouldn’t have done that if he didn’t like me.”
“Yeah, okay. We know he likes you. In fact, I think he likes all of us. We had a good week together while you were at camp, and we can make having a dog in our life work. So, yeah, he likes us all, and maybe you most of all. But I asked how it made you feel.”
Jerrod was quiet, then he blushed again, this time more fully, and his eyes misted and he hesitantly said, “It made me feel accepted. You know, like he chose to come be with me, so I’m okay and he accepts me, or something like that...”
“You know we accept you, too, don’t you?”
“Yeah, but you know, Jane is my aunt and your sister-in-law, and she asked you if I could stay here and you’re good guys and all, and said yes. So, I was pretty sure it’d work, and I probably even figured you’d accept me. Even after I told you about all the shit in my life last year with the fraternity. But Kaiser didn’t know any of that. But he still accepted me.”
His eyes were really red by then, and he was fighting back tears.
Jackson softly said, “For the record, we accepted you for the same reason Kaiser did, because you’re more than okay. You’re a good guy. Even if you did some dumb and crazy stuff last year, you’re a good guy.”
“The thing about dogs,” David added, “or at least what I’ve read about them, is that they live in the now. They don’t assess motives or know about your past or your family or any of that. They just know you and how you relate to them. So, you should feel proud about what just happened. He doesn’t just accept you. He’s moved to a new place in his relationship with this household. He doesn’t want to be alone at night. He wants to be with you. Like you said, he accepts you and that’s because you’re a good guy.”
They were quiet and Jerrod looked back and forth between them, and then looked down at Kaiser curled up on the floor under the kitchen table somehow managing to be in touch with all of their feet at the same time.
David went on, “Now the next question is if you can accept it. Can you accept that he accepts you and why? It’s important, because you came here pretty uptight and insecure with what appeared to us to be some real self-confidence issues. It looks to me like you passed the big test, because Kaiser doesn’t know about any of the stuff in your life, he just knows you and he showed last night that you’re the most important thing in his life.”
Jerrod blushed again and then said, “He just wanted to not be alone, like you said.”
“No, he chose to be with you. He could have stayed in his crate where he’s slept since he got here. He could have jumped up on the couch in the living room. He could have come to our room. But he didn’t. There’s a reason why and I’d just ask you to think about it, that’s all. Oh, and we’ve got to go to the pet store and get another dog bed, so he can start sleeping on the floor next to your bed at night.”
Jerrod had made a deal with David and Jackson that they wouldn’t do his job and mow while he was on the mountain, so Tuesday he spent mowing. The grass was longer than usual, and it was slower to cut, and he also had to trim the edges, but it looked good when he was done, and he was happy. Kaiser spent most of the time on the edge of the back porch lying at the top of the steps watching. When he finished, Jerrod took a shower and then made a late lunch and decided to take Kaiser on a walk. They headed toward the river at Oak Bottoms Park, but only got two blocks from the house when they met a couple coming toward them on the sidewalk.
It was a lady and her son, and he appeared to be twelve or thirteen, and he walked with a limp. As they all got closer, Jerrod shortened Kaiser’s leash and at the same time realized that the boy appeared to have one arm that wasn’t fully developed. But, his eyes were bright and he was smiling and he was looking at the dog with anticipation. Jerrod glanced at the lady and saw concern on her face.
He softly tugged on Kaiser’s leash and nudged him with his knee so he’d step off the sidewalk onto the grass strip, then tugged on the leash and said “Halt,” and when Kaiser promptly halted he said “Sit,” and the dog did. As he softly said, “Good boy, now stay” to Kaiser, he saw a look of relief on the lady’s face and excitement on the boy’s. It was another ten paces before they drew up in front of Kaiser and Jerrod, and the boy stopped, clearly wanting to interact with the dog.
The lady said, “Ask if you can pet the dog, Sean.” The boy nodded and looked at Jerrod and asked the question, with just the slightest slurring of words.
Jerrod had never had a close encounter with a developmentally disabled person before, so he was nervous, but he knew he wanted to do the right thing, and make sure it was safe. He said, “Sure you can, but let me kneel down and kind of hold him. He likes people a lot, and I don’t want him to push you over if he gets too enthusiastic.”
The lady said, “Just wait a minute, Sean.”
Jerrod didn’t think it was necessary, but he knelt and put his arms around Kaiser’s shoulders, forming a restraint if needed, and said, “Alright Sean, come meet Kaiser. I told you he likes people. I’m betting he’s going to like you. Put your hand out first so he can sniff it, okay, then you can pet him.”
Sean took a half step forward and did what he’d been asked, and Jerrod could feel Kaiser’s tail wagging against his leg as he made to lick Sean’s hand. “See, I told you so. He likes you.”
He let the boy pet Kaiser for a little while then said, “You can get closer if you’d like, if that’s okay with your Mom.” He looked at her and she smiled and nodded. “Go ahead, Sean, he seems like a nice dog. Give him a hug if you’d like.”
Sean knelt as best he could and hugged Kaiser, who immediately took that as a request to lick the boy’s face. Sean started giggling, and Kaiser loved it and licked some more. Jerrod had released his shoulder hold, and Kaiser unconsciously leaned forward against Sean and licked more actively, and Sean giggled harder. Then, as Kaiser pushed some body weight against him Sean lost his balance and tipped over onto his back in the grass. His mother caught her breath, and Jerrod had a momentary panic, but Kaiser simply stepped up next to the boy and continued licking his face. Sean kept on giggling, wrapping his good arm around the dog’s neck in a hug of complete pleasure.
Jerrod glanced at Sean’s mom, who was now smiling, and who said, “That’s a wonderful dog, and you were right. He really likes Sean.”
“He likes people, and some people he likes more than others. Do you live around here?”
They introduced each other and discovered that Sean and his parents only lived four blocks away, and before he even knew what he was saying, Jerrod found himself suggesting that maybe he and Kaiser could take Sean for a walk once or twice a week. His Mom thought it was a nice idea, but suggested they start all together, and they agreed that they’d meet at Oak Bottoms Park on Thursday afternoon.
Jerrod told Roger about meeting Sean when they spoke on the phone, and he asked Roger to come along on Thursday. It was propitious because not only did they have a great time with Kaiser and Sean, they were able to work on structured retrieving. It took some explaining to Sean, who easily got excited, but he finally understood that Jerrod would position Kaiser with a Sit/Stay, and then Sean could throw the tennis ball, after which Jerrod would say, “Kaiser, Fetch!” The return got a little confused because Kaiser thought he was supposed to bring the ball back to Jerrod and drop it at his feet, but Sean was so excited about how it was going that he was calling Kaiser to bring it to him, and Kaiser was at a loss. He finally dropped it between them, and laid down looking at both of them. Jerrod said softly to Sean, “You’ve got to remember to say ‘Give’ when he comes back with the ball. Then he knows he’s supposed to drop it in front of you.”
Sean smiled and nodded, and they all ended up laughing together about it. Sean’s Mom was thrilled that Sean was accepted and having such a good time. They agreed on meeting at the park every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon during the summer.
As they walked back to Roger’s house, he asked Jerrod if he understood what he was doing? Jerrod was surprised and asked what he meant.
“Don’t be offended. I just wonder if you understand how wonderful what you’re doing is for that boy?”
“What do you mean? We’re letting him play with Kaiser. How can that be anything but wonderful?”
“You’re missing the main point. Sean has cerebral palsy. I know because I have a cousin that has it, too. His is a little worse than Sean’s, but most kids avoid being around kids with cerebral palsy, or the other developmental disabilities, too. Kaiser doesn’t even see that Sean had CP. It almost seems that way with you, too. You just see Sean and that he needs to have some fun in his life.”
“I…I…well, I never thought of it that way. He’s just a neat kid with some problems, and he loves Kaiser, so why wouldn’t we share Kaiser with him if it makes him feel better?”
Roger put his arm around Jerrod’s waist and pulled his close. “See, that’s what I’m talking about. You don’t see the limitations or the handicap, you just see the person. That’s very cool. I think it’s part of why I like you so much.”
“You do? Like me ‘so much?’ I thought you just liked me?”
“I like you more and more, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. My Mom asked about you and me and I told her the same thing.”
“What, that you like me?”
“No, that I like you an awful lot.”
“Does your Mom know you’re gay?”
“Of course, both my parents do. They are totally cool with it. Remember, they grew up in Europe. And the best part, no pressure one way or the other.”
“You are so lucky, Roger. My parents are part of the rich upper crust back in Philly, and they’d totally freak.”
“Are you sure?”
“Pretty certain, but you know what? They’re there and we’re here, at least for another five or six weeks, so we’ve got each other and don’t need to worry about that.”
The next week was more of the same, all four boys spending more and more time together, Roger even coming over to help Jerrod with the lawn mowing, the regular tennis and skate boarding. All in all, the kind of daily activities that can make summer vacation during high school so joyous and memorable. The twice weekly sessions with Sean continued to be great fun for all, and Kaiser benefited enormously as well, learning to follow the commands associated with Fetch without getting flustered by other people being involved. They’d even added an innovation of their own, teaching him to learn “Attention!” which meant to sit/stay next to the person who had the ball, and then to wait when the ball was thrown to start the fetch until he was released with the Fetch command.
Friday night, Jackson asked Jerrod if he had plans for the next day?
“You mean after I mow?”
“Yeah, as in Saturday afternoon. Want to be part of a family tradition?”
Jerrod was curious now and smiled as he nodded. “What’s the deal?”
“Will still has his 1967 Chevy Nova, and a couple of times a year we get together and do a lube, oil and filter change and then go for a drive. The idea would be to drive over there and do the work in his driveway. It should only take thirty or forty-five minutes, and maybe we’ll get lucky and convince you guys to pull a wrench and get some dirt under your fingernails! Then we’ll all go for a ride. You can’t let older engines just sit in the garage all the time, they need to be run periodically to keep the lubricants running through the engine and the battery charged.”
Jackson watched Jerrod’s smile widen and then turn into a grin. “I talked to Will and Kim’s going to be there too, so why don’t you call Roger and then we can all take a cruise when we’re done.”
Jerrod was on the phone in no time, and they all planned to meet at Will’s house at 1:30 PM. Both of them had crawlers and the tools, and Jerrod got his first experience of being on his back under an engine opening an oil pan drain. When they were finished, they cleaned up, and then headed east from Sellwood till they reached McLoughlin Blvd. and headed south till they got to a park on the Willamette River and stopped for a drink. Roger had been in the back seat, leaning forward most of the time as they talked cars and manual transmission. While both boys had driver’s licenses, they confessed they’d never driven a manual transmission. On the way home they switched places with Roger in the front. They all waved goodbye as Will turned the Nova up his street, and after they’d parked the Challenger in the garage Jackson thanked them for the help and said, “Maybe next time we go someplace with little traffic and you guys learn how to drive a car with a manual tranny and four on the floor.” Both grinned with anticipation.
The last week of July things changed because Dieter and Robert had previously invited David and Jackson to join them for five days at their beach house on the Oregon coast. It hadn’t been discussed previously because David initially thought they would have to cancel out when they found the dog and then Jerrod offered to stay for the rest of the summer to take care of Kaiser. However, Jerrod was responsible and dedicated and had Roger, Eri and Kim as a support team, and now they felt they could go and leave the house and Kaiser in his hands.
They coordinated it with Will and Sam, and Kim’s Dad, all of whom agreed they’d keep a watchful eye on the boys. What ended up being agreed on was that all the boys would stay at the house, camping in the back yard with Kaiser, and each parent would rotate coming over to cook dinner. It would be like a kind of summer camp, except that instead of being up in the mountains it would be in the back yard.
Will brought over the tent and they all set it up at the far end of the lawn. The boys had all agreed they would work as a team, helping each other with the chores they had to do at home to free up as much time for their camping event as possible. Before they left for the coast, Jackson commented that as much as he liked the beach, without being able to take Kaiser, he’d almost rather stay and be part of the camp. But he knew full well that he would be a cold fish in an experience like this for four sixteen-year old boys.
Jerrod and Kaiser walked David and Jackson out to BMW Wednesday morning to send them on their way. Jackson gave Jerrod a huge hug and said, “Hey, bro. Remember what I said about love and those wonderful feelings and not denying yourself important things like that, okay? Have a good time…and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” He leaned back, wiggling his eyebrows and giving Jerrod a lascivious stare.