Jackson had told Jerrod the night before that he’d take Kaiser out in the morning, so the boys could sleep in. He still woke up at 8:00 am, and rolled over to look at the peace on his boyfriend’s face as he slept, curled on his side. Jerrod couldn’t resist. He reached out and softly stroked Roger’s cheek, so happy he was able to wake up like this.
Roger’s eyes fluttered, and the blue eyes appeared. “Sorry I woke you up, lover, but it was magical. I just had to touch your face.”
“It’s okay, liebling. I like waking up that way, and seeing your face when I come to. Looking at you is a pretty wonderful way to wake up, too, you know.”
Jerrod reached for Roger and said softly, and as lovingly as he could, “Hold my hand?”
“Last night was amazing. Are you okay? Are you sore?”
Roger smiled and said, “I don’t know yet. I’m sorry if it was too much.”
“What? What do you mean? How could it be too much?”
“I mean the striptease and stuff. I kinda got carried away. I’m sorry if I blew it for you.”
“Wait, wait. Stop right there. You didn’t blow anything. Well, actually, you did, but that was the point! You made me feel like the most loved person in the world last night. What are you stressing over, and why?”
“Well, that striptease, and then climbing on you and making you fuck me, I mean I’d never have thought that…”
“Roger, you’re my lover and boyfriend. You didn’t force me to do anything. You asked me and then did things for me to make me feel great because you wanted to. That’s what you told me, and that’s what I wanted, and it was totally amazing.” He leaned over and kissed Roger’s lips. “Aren’t those the kind of things you do for your liebling? Stop feeling weird about it, ‘cause there’s no reason.”
“Well, it’s just that it’s not like me to…”
“Oh, I get it! Doing a striptease and getting fucked isn’t what Mr. Timid would have done?”
Roger blushed softly.
“Roger, you told me last night you were now the Former Mr. Timid. Let it go, okay? I don’t care how you would have acted a year ago. I care that you acted the way you did last night and why you did it.”
He pulled Roger close against his chest. “You gave me the best birthday of my life, and I’ve never felt more loved or more alive. When I was deep inside you, I mean there’s no feeling like it in the world. To be surrounded by the heat and softness of the person you love. Totally amazing.”
“You’re sure you’re good with it?”
“Do bears shit in the woods. Hey, boyfriend, it may have been out of character for the old Roger. But it was perfectly in character for the new Roger, the one who’s my boyfriend. The one who’s sexually alive and a total lover.”
Roger was quiet, kissing Jerrod’s cheek, then he said, “I feel sexually alive like I never did before. I mean, it was there, but it was just another thing. Now, with you, it’s something totally different. Right before you came, when you pushed up all the way into me, it was just, I… I don’t know how to describe it. I mean it put me over the top, but suddenly I knew we were one in a whole new way.”
Roger fell silent.
“Are you worried that I didn’t feel the same way?”
“Kind of. I mean, like I said, I feel different, sex with you is like totally different thing than I ever thought it would be. It feels great for me, but I can make you feel wonderful, too. That’s magical.”
“It’s beyond anything I thought possible,” he whispered softly into Roger’s ear.
They fell into silence, then Roger said, “Don’t we need to take Kaiser out? Isn’t it late?”
“Already done. Jackson told me last night he’d cover it. But I’m guessing you need a long piss just like me.”
When they padded into the kitchen in boxers and T-shirts, David had orange juice on the table and breakfast under way. Kaiser came over to greet them.
“Thanks for last night, you guys. It was the best birthday of my life.”
“You are totally welcome,” David said. “It was a pleasure making it happen.”
“And, from here,” Jackson added, “it looks like it was a total joy all around…but we’re not going to press for details. You two just look like a couple of very satisfied cupids this morning.”
Both boys just grinned and sat down, and Kaiser immediately curled up under the table with his chin on Jerrod’s foot.
“Do you guys want coffee this morning? You normally don’t drink a couple of glasses of wine, so you may want a caffeine boost!”
Jerrod grinned again and nodded. He paused, asking himself if he should say what he felt like saying. He decided he should, that they were all on one team.
“Do you guys remember when I told you I played that Peter Gabriel song for Roger a few weeks ago?”
Jackson said ‘yes’ for both of them, and Jerrod carried on. “That CD Roger gave me last night,” and here he reached over and took his hand, “has this amazing song he played for me. It’s called Hold My Hand and the core is ‘I wanna love you the best that I can.’ That was Roger’s birthday present to me.”
He found himself choking up and Roger leaned over and gave him a hug.
Jackson gave them an appraising look then said, “You guys are a study. A pretty amazing study in what unfolding love is supposed to look like, if I do say so myself.”
The following week was uneventful at school, although Roger’s parents had limited him to sleeping over just on Friday night…so the boys immediately went to work on a plan for Jerrod to sleep over at Roger’s on the next weekend.
They found that the deep physical intimacy they had shared on Jerrod’s birthday had changed how they thought of each other and how they talked about sex, making for a much more open conversation with less and less embarrassment, and more and more emphasis on making it the best for both of them. By Thursday, when they got back from their time meeting Sean and his Mom in the park, Roger’s Mom had agreed that Jerrod could sleep over on Saturday… as long as Roger demonstrated he was current on all his homework, and David confirmed the same for Jerrod. They’d be able to sleep in and then pick up Kaiser and head to therapy dog training on Sunday afternoon.
It had been a dry week, and both boys agreed they’d mow and do chores Saturday morning to get in good graces with the adults, and Jackson dropped Jerrod off in early afternoon. Kaiser wasn’t too happy being left out, but settled down as Jackson pulled away with his arm over the driver’s seat scratching behind his ears. They walked to the tennis courts and met Eric and Kim, and were joking about how long tennis would last and how soon the weather would change, and the rain curtain drop for winter.
They joined Roger’s parents for dinner, and then watched a DVD that was just a time filler, after which they said they were heading up and went to Roger’s room. Jerrod heard the click of the door lock as he dropped his pack next to Roger’s desk, and turned to have his boyfriend walk into his arms.
“I’ve been waiting for this all day, liebling. In fact, all week.”
“I know, love, I feel the same way. You were way sexy on the court today. It was warm enough that you were sweating, and your T-shirt was stuck to your chest and belly, and all I could think about was licking it…like this.”
He dropped to his knees, kissing and licking Roger’s belly, running his hands up and across his pecs. He heard Roger moan and looked up into the blue eyes he loved and said, “Tonight I want you inside me, I want you to fuck me.”
A soft smile slid across Roger’s lips and he said, softly, “Do I have to?”
“Yeah, you have no choice.” Jerrod let his lips move down and nuzzle Roger’s cock through his pants, and watched his eyes close and his breathing increase.
“Okay, if you say so. I’ve been dreaming about it all week. How you’re going to do it”
“It starts with getting these clothes off,” and they slowly began undressing each other.
“I got clean for you when we showered before dinner,” Jerrod whispered.
Roger guided Jerrod to his bed and slowly continued to stimulate him with stroking and kisses. Then he slid down, rubbing his face in Jerrod’s pubes and began to kiss his cock. As he heard his boyfriend’s groans continue, he swirled his tongue around his cock-head with its leaking precum, that he softly took it in his mouth. After a few sucks to heighten his excitement, he slowly reached under Jerrod’s legs, hooking his elbows below his knees and lifting his legs off the bed so he could hold them in the air, completely exposing him.
“Beautiful,” he said softly. Then he leaned in and licked below Jerrod’s balls, moving down to lick his perineum and then tickle his hole. It only took a minute before he felt Jerrod relax even as the groaning continued, and he applied some lube with one and then a second and finally a third finger.
Jerrod was writhing on the bed, and finally wheezed, “Roger, fuck me. Now. Please!”
Kneeling up against his boyfriend, Roger pushed the head of his cock against him, waiting for the resistance to ease, then as he slid in, he paused once, and then again, until he could begin to push all the way in.
“Are you okay? Does it hurt?”
“It did for a minute, not anymore.” Jerrod had grasped his ankles and spread his legs as wide as he could, and said, “Fuck me.” Without even thinking about it, Roger did as he was bidden, and all he could hear was Jerrod crying ‘oh my god’ and then as he began to thrust, the words turned to soft grunts that in turn took on a mewing sound as he got closer and closer. Jerrod had begun to stroke his cock, but then realized he didn’t need to. There had been so much anticipation that it didn’t take long for both of them to climax, and then collapse together in each other’s arms.
Jerrod recovered first, and was reveling in watching the look of bliss on Roger’s face when his blue eyes opened. He focused on his face and then he reached his hand up and stroked his cheek. “You were wonderful. My liebling really took control and made me feel completely yours.”
“Was it good for you?”
“Wonderful until you pulled out, then I felt empty. But you’re here next to me now. All is good.”
The weeks flowed, framed by good academic performance and the boys blossoming relationship. All seemed well except for the scowls from Mike Willis at the ski team training sessions. Jerrod just decided to ignore it as much as he could. He hadn’t done anything except be himself, and when he told Roger about it, he’d said much the same: every group seemed to have an asshole or two, so just ignore it. And, he added, stay out of the line of fire. Jerrod and Roger were both doing well in their classes, and they had plenty of time on the weekends, when the weather was good, to hang out with Eric and Kim.
Thanksgiving and the mock trial of Macbeth were approaching, and Jerrod had drawn the lot of being Macbeth’s defense attorney. He told his Dad about it on one of their Sunday night calls, somewhat flummoxed, and asked, “How do you defend a king that became king by a murder?” His Dad said sometimes those are the kind of challenges defense attorneys face, and he was quizzed about the nature of the defense he planned on mounting. When Jerrod described the charges, he said he’d decided the only thing he could think of would be to plead guilty by reason of insanity. Julius chuckled. “Well, back then, in whatever period it took place, but during the time of empires and autocrats, kings rarely were brought to trial. When they were it was frequently a kangaroo court. So, if the plan here is to stage a conventional trial, then that sounds to me like as good a defense as any.”
Jackson’s father, JC, was coming down to visit for Thanksgiving, so the weekend before they spent some time cleaning up the study where the pull-out bed was, making room for a visitor, and washing the bed sheets. That turned into a whole day long house cleaning exercise, but at the end of it they all felt happy and satisfied.
“I think you’ll like my Dad,” Jackson said, “I’ve told you he was a MedEvac helicopter pilot in Vietnam, then a Life Flight helicopter pilot for years in Seattle, and now runs flight operations for Life Flight instead of flying. He works a lot, so we only see each other a few times a year. I guess I’m a lot like him, meaning I work a lot, too, but that’s him and it makes him happy. He has a sister down in McMinnville, so he’ll probably go visit her and their family for a couple of days, but he’s a cool guy. You’ll like him.”
“You told me about growing up and not knowing him till after your Mom died,” Jerrod said. “How was he about you and David?”
“Totally cool, because he had a twin brother who died in Vietnam, and I mean an identical twin brother, who was gay. He understood completely and became the solid rock we could lean on when we needed to. And his Dad, my grandfather, too, who was a retired Army Colonel. They got it and were there for us.”
“Is that why you’re here for us, for Roger and me, and so many other kids you’ve helped over the years?”
“Yeah. Pretty much. You’ve kind of got to, don’t you? I mean pass it on. You know, love and gracious support come to you, you’re pretty much obligated to do the same for the next generation, don’t you think?”
“Well, you guys sure live that idea out. If you didn’t, I don’t know where I’d be.”
Jackson grinned, “Probably in a world of hurt somewhere. Come on, let’s get these sheets folded and put away.”
The next day in English Lit was the Macbeth trial. All the students in the class who were part of the mock trial knew in advance that they’d been chosen by lot for a role and given time to prepare, but had been sworn to secrecy, to minimize interference or conflict. They didn’t know who else was involved, let alone what role others would be playing. So, it was something of a surprise for Jerrod to discover that Roger had been selected to play the Judge of the High Court. The Crown Prosecutor was a girl that Jerrod didn’t know, but who was very sharp. He started to get a little nervous when he saw who the players were.
The rest of the characters were introduced, most of them being characters in the play, witnesses or participants in the crime. In the simplest terms, Shakespeare’s play is built on a few key themes: three witches tell the Scottish general Macbeth that he will be King of Scotland; encouraged by his wife, Macbeth kills the King; he becomes the new King, and kills more people out of paranoia; civil war erupts to overthrow Macbeth, resulting in more death. In other words, there was a lot of death, but the trial concerned the killing of the Duncan King of Scotland.
King Duncan visits Macbeth at his castle in Inverness, and the Macbeths plot together to kill Duncan and wait until everyone is asleep. At the appointed time, Lady Macbeth gives the guards drugged wine so Macbeth can enter and kill the King. He regrets it almost immediately, but his wife reassures him. She leaves the bloody daggers by the dead king just before Macduff, a nobleman, arrives. When Macduff discovers the murder, Macbeth kills the drunken guards in a show of rage and retribution. Duncan's sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, flee, fearing for their own lives; but they are, nevertheless, initially blamed for the murder.
The trial then, is complicated by the lack of direct witnesses, and the apparent guilt attributed to Malcolm and Donalbain. Macbeth begins to go mad, killing comrades, accomplices and those that threaten him. The fact remains, though, that he killed Duncan with his wife’s help.
The class began with the parties conferencing. Jerrod met with the students playing Macbeth and his wife. The girl playing Crown Prosecutor met with her witnesses. Jerrod realized that he was faced with an immediate impasse: the only remaining witness to Duncan’s murder by Macbeth was his wife, and she was protected by virtue of being Queen and married to the King. He tried to explore different ways to sway her to take a position of protecting her husband instead of herself. The student playing the wife was strong willed, and she refused asserting she would lose her throne if the King was convicted and executed, and telling Jerrod that his job was to successfully plead his innocence.
They went back and forth, and Jerrod could see that the Crown Prosecutor was working the witnesses hard, but also knew she would be struggling with similar problems, namely how to mount solid evidence and witnesses to the crime in such a way as to achieve a conviction.
After talking to this Dad, Jerrod had done a little reading on British law and knew that while the Magna Carta had affirmed that trial by jury would be the standard for all subjects of the English crown, that standard did not extend to the King and the aristocracy. King Henry VIII declared himself supreme ruler of Great Britain, and part of his strategy to retain that ultimate power was the suppression and intimidation of the courts. He also used the Star Chamber, initially instituted as a special court for those too powerful to be held accountable in the country’s common civil and criminal courts. It became a political weapon to bring actions against those who challenged the crown, and its sessions were held in secret, with no indictments, no juries, no witnesses and no appeals.
The play was written in 1606, so Jerrod assumed that similar dynamics would have been in play. How then, to defend the King? All it would take was the Crown Prosecutor to find a witness, say another guard who had not been drugged and disposed of, to testify. If the King was on trial, there would be no jury, so the decision would be that of a single person, the High Court Judge. In other words, it would be much easier to lose than to win, since King Duncan was killed in Macbeth’s castle, and the malefactors who were being blamed denied their involvement, then Macbeth and his wife could only claim they had nothing to do with it.
Since the only remaining witness, Macbeth’s wife, was standing with her husband and mainly looking out for herself, Jerrod was becoming more focused on the insanity plea. He knew that the result of Macbeth becoming King had been more murder and death and increasing paranoia and a madness that led to civil war. He suggested that the only practical solution was to plead Guilty by Reason of Insanity. That meant Macbeth acknowledged the crime, but due to his mental instability was not responsible for his actions and would likely, he surmised, be pardoned. Jerrod, as defense counsel, explained how the Star Chamber worked, and Macbeth and his wife went back and forth. They didn’t really like the idea, but the fact was that Macbeth was on trial for murder and a case of some sort had to be made. This was the best thing they could come up with.
Finally, the court was called to order, everyone anticipating that a trial would now begin to unfold. Of course, everyone was wondering just how good it would be, how well the students could carry off their roles, and if in the end it would be persuasive.
Jerrod decided that since the Macbeths had agreed to the insanity plea, the most effective approach would be to declare it at the outset, following the reading of the charges against them, when the High Court Judge asked how they pleaded. He could picture his father, a descendant of General John Burgoyne, in the role, making the plea.
Jerrod sat with Macbeth and his wife, listening to the charges being read, and as the litany of primary and secondary charges got longer and longer, he decided they’d made the right decision. Trying for an acquittal based on evidence would be very difficult indeed. At the end of the reading of charges, the High Court Judge struck the table with his gavel and asked how the accused pled.
Jerrod looked at Roger, at his boyfriend, but all he saw was the High Court Judge. Roger was sitting at the teacher’s desk, protected by the large expanse of wooden surface, and looking both stoic and deadly serious.
Jerrod knew it would be a short oration and began. “Your Eminence, we have heard all the charges laid against the accused, and lengthy they are indeed. In fact, they are so lengthy that they far exceed the scope of the charge laid before us, which concerns the untimely death of King Duncan. The deaths of many other people following that unfortunate event are indeed tragic, as is the civil war we find ourselves caught up in. Those other factors may not be part of the charges before this court today, but they have relevance to the charge that my client was the cause of the death of the King. This has become a benighted and malevolent time, with witches abroad on the moors, prophecies and predictions flying hither and yon, and all manner of events which test the will of good men and, in fact, affect their minds. My client encountered three witches on the moor before King Duncan’s death, and they inasmuch as foretold that death and that my client would succeed Duncan as King. If that is not enough to test a man’s sanity, I ask you what would be?”
The court was quiet.
Jerrod continued. “My client was confused and confounded by that event. Being in the presence of the witches and their brew greatly affected his mind. Imagine the impact of such an occasion, and the accompanying prophecies upon one’s mind. When King Duncan visited Inverness, my client was honored, and when Duncan was subsequently killed there, my client was devastated as all good citizens of Scotland and servants of the Crown would be. We recognize, however, that the murder occurred in my client’s castle and there are no witnesses to absolve my client.”
He looked at the High Court Judge, and Roger sat implacable. He looked at the Crown Prosecutor and she had a dead pan expression.
Jerrod turned back to the High Court Judge, and continued, “Thus, your Eminence, we plead guilty by reason of insanity.”
The room was totally quiet. This was clearly not anticipated, and everyone understood that it would cut what had been expected to be an hour-long exercise into a mere ten-minute trial.
Everyone was looking at Roger, who continued to sit stone faced, gavel in hand, processing what he had heard. His facial expressions gave no indication of what he was thinking. His blue eyes were partially closed, squinting in concentration, and communicating no sense of innocence. Jerrod, to his credit, knew his boyfriend too well to expect to receive anything but impartial treatment.
After about forty seconds, perhaps the longest forty seconds in his life, Jerrod thought to himself, Roger dropped the gavel on the desk. The hard and sharp sound shocked everyone out of their silence, and he pronounced the sentence. “This court finds Macbeth guilty as charged, and he shall be hanged until dead at dawn on the morrow. Bailiff, take him away!”
Jerrod was momentarily stunned, then caught himself and said, “Your Eminence, we object. On what basis do you bring capital punishment?”
For the first time Jerrod saw just the glimmer of a smile on Roger’s face as he said, “Your plea was guilty by reason of insanity. The Crown Prosecution has assembled adequate evidence against your client to bring these charges here today in this court. Regardless of the circumstances, the plea was guilty, and the basis of the Law of this Land is guilty until proven innocent.”
Jerrod was at a loss for words. “But, Your Eminence, I mean…” he looked at Roger, and then glanced at the teacher sitting just off to the side, “but we are trying this case today here in the United States where it is understood that the party is innocent until proven guilty.”
“No, Councilor, the crime was committed in Scotland and this is a Crown High Court subject to the Laws of this Land. The plea was guilty, and the penalty is death. Bailiff, take the defendant away.”
Roger rapped his gavel again and said, “Court dismissed.” Jerrod turned to the students playing Macbeth and his wife and didn’t know what to say. They were actually grinning, and the student playing Macbeth said, “Nice try! I don’t know what else you could have done. I mean, the dude did kill the King, right?”
Jerrod finally realized that was a correct assessment, and he didn’t need to take this personally. He had tried the only option he thought had a chance, but it failed.
Jerrod saw the teacher walk up to Roger and engage him in conversation. Jerrod was still trying to respond to Macbeth, but their conversation went no further as more and more students gathered around and their comments were overwhelming. Finally, they heard the gavel rap a few times, but it was their teacher calling the class to order and telling everyone to get back in their seats.
“The way the trial went, and the outcome achieved was quite different than I imagined. However, I have to tell you, that I am very pleased, because it illustrated at least two things. First, in terms of the play we are studying, you can see how well Shakespeare constructed the story so that Macbeth and his wife, of their own doing, are so deeply embedded in the mayhem that not only are they guilty but there is no way out. Second, though, and quite novel, is what we learned from the nature of the plea that Jerrod made. The fact is that while most of us think that England and the US have so much in common, and in many things we do, in terms of the legal system this is one big difference: guilty until proven innocent versus innocent until proven guilty. So, this has been very productive and educational. I think we can say we learned a lot, and even though the class period isn’t over, we’ll end early. Thanks to all of you who were part of this exercise.”
Jerrod sat down, feeling deflated, as the students started leaving the classroom. In a couple of minutes, Roger came over and sat down and put an arm around his shoulder, “Nice try. That was probably the only way you could have played it. I was impressed.”
“But we lost.”
“Well, yeah. But that’s the way it had to go under the rules, meaning the legal system.”
“But what did I do wrong?”
Roger so wanted to hug his boyfriend and give him a kiss, but he couldn’t in school, so instead he smiled sweetly, tried to look innocent, and quickly blew him a kiss. “You didn’t do anything ‘wrong,’ but you focused on defense strategy and assumed that the jurisdiction was here in the US.”
It took a few seconds for the implications to dawn on Jerrod. “That was a total fuck up. And I even talked to my Dad about this trial.”
Roger grinned. “Maybe Julius Burgoyne Esq. fell into the same trap. Isn’t there a saying somewhere about ‘like father, like son’?”
Jerrod looked daggers at his boyfriend.
“Now, now! Be nice, liebling. It’s only a classroom exercise. Besides, if you’re nice about it, I have a way to make it up to you when we get home.” Roger grinned at him, his face all sweet innocence.
Roger rode with Jerrod on his bus, they said goodbye to Eric, and then took Kaiser for a walk. By the time they got back, they’d talked it out and Jerrod was no longer totally bummed about losing the case. They’d even managed to joke about it a little and agree that it was a major learning experience on different legal systems and jurisdictions. When they got back to the house, they knew there was time before David got home, and retreated to the bedroom.
On Wednesday at the ski team training, Coach informed the team they were fit and conditioned enough that it was time to move beyond the light weights and begin some serious weight training for strength building. There would be core work, but most of the focus would be on leg strength, and the two main elements would be leg presses on the weight machine and the squat lift.
“Okay, listen up. I want you guys to have strong upper bodies, but core and strong legs is really important. The leg press machine targets your quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves, building strength and definition. The squat lift also builds a lot of muscle and power in those muscles, but because it’s a free weight you have to lift with your whole body, it’s a compound exercise that engages all your leg muscles and joints and also works your core and upper body. The key is to work up slowly. Don’t overdo it. I want no injuries this close to snowfall. Got it?”
The team paired off, and Jerrod was with another boy about his size. The training room had two weight machines and two sets of free weights. Matt Willis and his buddy were on the machine next to Jerrod and his partner, and that’s when the comments started.
“What a pair of wimps. We’re coasting with 150 pounds, and they can barely push 100.”
Jerrod and his partner ignored it, Jerrod knowing they were still conditioning and that a muscle strain before the season started would be the kiss of death. He encouraged his partner to ignore the taunts.
When they got to the free weights, the scene was a little different. At 165 pounds body weight, the typical high school student who’d trained would be lifting his own body weight. Jerrod knew better than to go over 130 pounds to start with but could see that Matt and his buddy were starting out with 190 pounds. It made sense. They were bigger guys and had been in football training since late summer.
Jerrod spotted his partner and vice versa, and on the second set they heard the first snide remark. “What are you guys, a couple of pussies? Can’t lift more than that? Most girls can lift that much.”
Matt and his buddy broke into chortles, and Jerrod and his partner ignored them. As they completed their second set, they heard Matt add, “Yeah, not just pussies, but probably fags too. That kid from back east is always hanging out for lunch with those other fags in the cafeteria.”
He looked directly at Jerrod and said, “I heard about you losing your case in that Macbeth trial. I also heard your friend Roger tried to kiss you afterwards to make you feel better. Like I said, it looks like you’re all fags.”
The alarm bells went off in Jerrod’s brain. He knew this was a bully taunting him, but he was trying to start school in Portland as just another student, and these guys were publicly making him out to be a faggot. He also knew it was bullying and against the school code.
His partner looked at him and said quietly, “Ignore them, Jerrod. They’re jerks. They’re always mouthing off. It doesn’t mean anything, they’re probably harmless. If we report them, we’ll screw up the ski team.”
Jerrod smiled wanly and thanked him, took his advice, and hoped this would be a one-time event. It felt unpleasantly like the way he’d felt at the end of Spring quarter back at Haverford School in Philly.
Jerrod filled Roger in on what had happened during training, while he was at GSA. When they got to the house, Jackson’s Dad was already there. David had come home early, and JC has settled into the make-do guest room in the study. David introduced them and suggested they all go on the walk with Kaiser, and they set off for what was over an hour walk along the river and around the circumference of Oaks Bottom Park and back to the house.
JC immediately liked Kaiser, like almost everyone else, and was also impressed with the training he’d mastered so far. On the walk back Jerrod and Roger told him about starting therapy dog training and JC was seriously interested. “You know I work for Life Flight, so you can guess I spent a fair amount of time at hospitals, and I was always impressed by the people and their dogs that did that work. Kaiser sure seems to have the temperament. How’s the training going?”
Jerrod gave him a quick overview of the training sessions they’d had at the AKC facility. Roger made sure that JC understood the approach that Jerrod had taken the day of the qualification and how that had worked to cement his acceptance. “He proved himself that day, and he’s turned out to be unflappable. Well, when he’s on a leash. When he’s off leash, he wants to do the right thing, you know, follow commands. But it’s hard. I mean he’s a dog, and especially when there’s other dogs around he tends to want to do his thing.”
JC grinned. “I think that’s the way it is with dogs!”
They all settled in the kitchen waiting for Jackson to come home. They were going out to dinner tonight to the Sellwood Grill, a favorite local restaurant just a ten-minute walk away. Once things quieted down, and Kaiser was fed and then settled under the table with his chin on someone’s foot, the conversation turned to more mundane things. The boys were silent, holding hands and looking at each other, but David was aware they’d become moody. He watched from afar, and after another five minutes decided something had happened.
When there was a lull in the conversation, he looked at both boys and said, “Okay, you guys, I’ve got a question for you.”
They both knew David too well, looked at each other and then Jerrod said, “Is it that obvious?”
“When someone knows you two as well as I do, and cares about you as much as I do, then, yes, it is. Something happened today, do you want to tell us about it?”
They heard the Durango pull into the driveway, and David said, “Hold that answer. Let me pour our working-class hero a glass of wine, then after he says hello to his Dad, we’ll continue.”
For Jerrod, who’d only seen one other father who accepted his gay son, and that was Roger’s, it was a pleasure to see Jackson walk in and JC greet him. He obviously enjoyed his friendship with David, but as Jackson walked in the back door, JC stood up with a radiant grin, stepping forward to greet his son in a huge enveloping embrace. He got the same back. He felt Roger squeeze his hand, and when he glanced at him, caught a big and encouraging smile.
When the greetings were over and everyone was back at the table and Jackson had had a couple sips of his wine, David said, “You got here just in time for the interrogation?” He wiggled his eyebrows at his partner, and Jackson smiled back, looked at the boys and said, “I thought we were done with that shit last summer?”
Jerrod was encouraged by Jackson’s flippancy, and said, “So did I, but Uncle David seems committed to continue doing this kind of stuff. Roger and I were just sitting here minding our own business, and out of the blue he wants to know what happened.” He grinned, but it was a little weak.
“Okay,” Jackson responded, “so now we know something happened. Are you guys going to fill us in, or do we have to pry it out of you?”
“You can put away the pry bar,” Roger said. “Jerrod’s been getting hassled by a couple of bullies in the ski team training session. Today they started laying it on about him having lunch with the fags. Meaning Eric, Kim and me.”
“There’s a school policy against bullying, isn’t there? And more specifically against harassing gay students, right?”
“There is,” Jerrod said, but it’s hard to enforce. Eric and Kim told us it’s best just to keep our heads down unless it gets out of hand.”
“But today it got more personal,” Roger continued, “because they accused him of something else that involved me.”
All the adults raised their eyebrows. “After Jerrod lost the Macbeth case in the trial,” Roger went on, and he looked at JC and said, “It was an exercise in English Lit--we’ll tell you about that later, I went up to him and put my arm around his shoulder and blew him a kiss so he wouldn’t feel so bad. Well, the bullies on the ski team aren’t smart enough to be in senior English Lit, but someone told them about it, so they laid that on Jerrod today. It’s not just bullying, but it’s starting to get into outing him, and that’s not something he’s ready to do yet.”
“So, you report the kid, that’s easy isn’t it,” JC asked?
“Well it seems like it, but it’d be reporting another ski team member and that could blow up the team and that might be worse that getting outed,” Jerrod said with painful resignation.
“So, what do you think you should do,” Jackson asked, reaching out his hand and taking Jerrod’s?
“Wait and see what happens in the next couple of weeks. The bullies are a lot like the seniors were at Haverford, lots of macho talk. It all just may fade away by the time school starts up after Thanksgiving.”
Jackson looked at Roger. “Do you feel that way, too?”
“Not really, but if that’s what Jerrod wants to do, I’m good with it. Bullies are bullies, and they need to be stopped. He’s got a point about blowing up the ski team, though. In the next few weeks, the skiing starts, then the racing, and if people get thrown off the team this late in the quarter, that would hurt the school.”
Jackson looked at David, who said, “I understand what you’re saying and the balancing act you feel you have to perform here. I want you both to promise us, though, that if this gets worse at all, and I mean at all, you tell us. Like you said, bullies are bullies, and the problem with them is that people can get hurt. Maybe he’s a blowhard, and it’ll blow over when school resumes. But if it doesn’t, I want to know. Agreed?”
Both boys nodded, glad they got a reprieve of sorts. They had a pleasant dinner, part of the conversation about flying helicopters, and Jackson insisted on JC telling the boys about when he’d taken them on a helicopter ride in Seattle years ago. Roger was sleeping over since the next day was Thanksgiving, and they took Kaiser out for a short walk when dinner was cleaned up. They chatted with the adults for a few minutes, and then bowed out and headed down to their room. The first anal sex experience with each other was now behind them, and they were happily discussing experimenting with the different approaches and positions discussed in the gay sex book.
The next morning David and Jackson made it clear that they were doing the Thanksgiving cooking. They’d invited Robert and Dieter, the old friends whose beach house they’d visited during the summer, and dinner was planned for early afternoon.
After a late breakfast, it was obvious that JC and the boys were the odd guys out, so Jerrod suggested they go to the neighborhood park and work Kaiser on basic training skills, as well as his therapy dog work. The put his green therapy dog vest on and headed out.
There were quite a few people at the park getting in some exercise before a Thanksgiving dinner, and many had dogs. The point, then, was to use this as an opportunity to desensitize Kaiser to meeting unknown dogs and people. His temperament naturally went that way, but dogs will be dogs. When they were approaching other people with dogs, Jerrod or Roger, whomever had the leash, would say in advance, “He’s a therapy dog in training,” and that was usually enough for them to control their dog. Most of the time they’d say, “Kaiser, off the trail,” and give him a little tug, and both would step off the trail and Kaiser would sit and watch the approaching dog walk by. JC was impressed, but occasionally with a barking or lunging dog, even Kaiser would have to be restrained a little.
When they got to the kids play area, there were plenty of kids with their parents who took a huge interest in the dog with the vest. A few started walking toward Kaiser, and Jerrod had him Halt and then Sit, and Roger explained that he was a therapy dog in training, and that they could pet him, but it had to be one by one, and no piling on. The parents understood and controlled their children, so the dog wasn’t swarmed, and that allowed Jerrod and then Roger to work with Kaiser and individually interact with each child. There was really no issue with Kaiser. He wasn’t assertive and loved the interaction, but the important part was that he was getting more and more accustomed to controlled individual interaction.
On the walk home, JC asked about the training, expressing how impressed he was with Kaiser.
Jerrod beamed. “Pretty impressive, isn’t he? And this is a dog we found on the run last summer.”
JC shook his head and grinned. “What’s next?”
“Well, it changes next week,” Roger said. “There’s no training session this weekend ‘cause of Thanksgiving, then next weekend we start training up at the Children’s Hospital. That’s when it starts getting real. If he passes that training, we’ll probably start visiting kids in the hospital in January.”
JC paused, then said, “You guys are really into this, aren’t you?”
Jerrod smiled at him and said, “You’ve been in Children’s Hospitals more than we have. You know how hurting and lonely it can be for those kids. Especially the ones that are really sick. That’s what it’s about.”
“But why? I mean, it’s great to help other people, but why this?”
Jerrod glanced at Roger and nodded, and Roger started telling JC about having a cousin with cerebral palsy and Jerrod meeting Sean in the summer and how important meeting with him was to him and how it became important to them. “Sean and his family are out of town for Thanksgiving, or we’d be meeting him at the park this afternoon and …”
Roger paused mid-sentence and appeared to look off into the distance. He slowed and Jerrod saw him raise his hands to waist level, as if to prevent walking into a door or wall. Jerrod looked at his boyfriend’s face, and just before he asked what had happened, he saw Roger mildly shake his head and blink his eyes a number of times.
“Kaiser, Halt.” Kaiser stopped, and Jerrod handed his leash to JC. He turned to Roger. “What happened?”
“Oh, nothing. No big deal.”
“Roger, don’t shit me. Something happened. What is it? Tell me!”
Roger looked directly at his boyfriend and smiled, his blue eyes all innocent. “It’s cool.”
“I don’t think so. Something happened. I want to know what. You owe me that. Tell me.”
Roger looked embarrassed. Finally, when he realized Jerrod wasn’t going to move out of his way till he told him, he said, “I saw a whole bunch of colored dots, and then they were gone. No big deal.”
Jerrod was standing still, but he’d taken Roger’s hands in his and was clearly deciding what to do. “Roger, I love you. Suddenly seeing a whole bunch of colored dots doesn’t seem normal. Has this happened before?”
Roger looked even more embarrassed.
“Roger, it’s me, liebling. Remember? Tell me?”
“Yeah, a couple of times, but it just lasts a few seconds then it’s gone. Not a big deal.”
“Just that, and then it’s gone?”
“Yeah, as in, it’s back to normal already.”
Jerrod glanced at JC, who smiled back at him in an affirming way, and he said, “Okay, but just promise you’ll tell me when this happens, okay?”
When they got home and Roger had headed for the shower to clean up for dinner, Jerrod got JC alone and asked him what he thought?
“First, I’m no doc and I’m not even a flight nurse, so I can’t answer your question. I can tell you a couple of things, though. Most people don’t take early symptoms seriously enough and tend to deny anything is really happening. I’ve heard that talked about a lot by the docs and nurses on Life Flight. When you pressed him, Roger admitted it’s happened a couple of times before. He’s embarrassed about it. You need to stay on top of this, pay attention and make him tell you when it happens. Also, and I only know this because one of our crew had a torn retina a few years ago, an important piece of the formula is if the visual symptoms happen on one side or both sides?”
“What do you mean?”
“There’s an important difference. We’ve got a couple of employees who get migraine headaches, and when they start, they cause visual symptoms that appear in both eyes. A torn retina happens in one eye at a time, so the symptoms are only on one side. Our crew member started out thinking it was a migraine, but he was mainly seeing what he called ink spots, and it turned out they were only on one side and no headache. That helped the docs make the likely diagnosis and send him to an ophthalmologist for an assessment.”
“When they did the visual exam, it was a spontaneous torn retina, meaning it just tore on its own. The one side bit was important in figuring it out and getting him referred to a specialist.
Jerrod thanked JC and headed down to take a shower himself, wondering just what this all meant. He bumped into Roger coming out of the bathroom and pulled him in for a warm and moist make out. “You know I love you, and I wasn’t trying to climb on your case, but this could be serious. You’ve got to tell me when it happens, okay?”
“I will, liebling. I’m sorry I got defensive.”
“No worries, but I saw what happened. You unconsciously put your hands up in front of you like you were afraid you’d walk into a wall of something. That tells me you had a lot of dots and you lost some vision for a bit. We’ve just gotta stay on top of it, okay? Have you told your Mom?”
Roger smiled, nodded his head and kissed Jerrod again. He could feel Roger getting hard under his towel. “Let’s get in the bedroom instead of out here in the hall. It looks like I could relieve a little pressure for you!”