AN EXHIBITION OF THE ART OF LUKE HANS LARSEN
It is said that an artist, if asked to explain a work, will simply point to the work itself. While I believe my work can and will stand on its own, much of it is extremely personal and I believe that someone viewing a work will have a deeper appreciation of the piece if some of its history is known. Accordingly, each piece -- or in some cases a collection -- is shown in this catalog and in many cases a simple statement made concerning it as a piece of art. Following that are comments which you may or may not read as you see fit. They will, I believe, open a new depth for anyone viewing any of the works.
There are many to whom I owe much for their help in making this exhibition possible. However, there are some who must receive public acknowledgment and my deepest thanks and appreciation. Literally, without their help, this exhibition would never have been. Mrs. Millicent Willingham demanded that I produce a worthwhile exhibition and, when money proved a problem, took away that excuse by providing funds. Further, she handled all the publicity for the event and arranged for two receptions following the recital concert and the opening of the exhibition. Mr. Thomas Washington of Lexington Foundry provided materials and labor for the casting of the three bronze statues in the major exhibition piece. Without Herr Hans Dietrich the materials and labor would have been worthless because he provided the expertise needed to cast the bronzes. Uncle Michael Sanders, who was only recently reunited with his brother David Andrews, volunteered to place his years of experience at my disposal in setting up the exhibition and handling any dealer interested in my work. Finally, Mr. John Stephenson, my art teacher since junior high, helped me understand that life requires more than bread and butter; it also requires art. For any acclaim this exhibition may receive, much belongs to him. And, finally, to The Family who gave me life in the beginning and continues to sustain it, this exhibition is dedicated.
Luke Hans Larsen
The exhibition is arranged in
four galleries. The main gallery is in the Common Hall and the three
smaller galleries are in three classrooms across the hall from the
The Main Gallery
The exhibition's major piece Surrounded
by So Great a Cloud is set up in the center of the main gallery.
The other works in the main gallery are described, beginning at
the outside entry and moving clockwise around the hall.
When everyone gathered around the major piece in the main gallery, I removed the veil covering it and, as I did, Mr. Stephenson turned it on.
Surrounded by So Great a Cloud -- A Moving Sculpture: The sculpture consists of three bronze castings -- made using the lost wax process; an etched glass panel -- etched using chemical etching, sandblasting and diamond drill carving; all mounted in a steel framework. The pieces are mounted in a manner which allows them to be moved by small electric motors in the base of the work. The bronze castings are of the three families which make up The Family, my extended family. They are on a scale of approximately one-to-two and average three feet in height. The glass panel is three by five feet by two inches thick.
The Artist's Comments: Of all my work, Surrounded by So Great a Cloud has the most complete history of its evolution available for all to see. On the reverse of the panels behind the sculpture are the sketches I made as the idea evolved. These range from formal sketches in a sketch book to those made on the edge of class notes, to sketches made on school napkins, to several made with felt-tip pen on toilet tissue! Originally, the sculpture was to be a single three-sided sculpture in clay with one side devoted to each of the families which make up The Family. As I sketched and thought about the project, the concept evolved into the sculpture you see before you.
While I was thinking about the sculpture, I ran across an article on the lost wax process of casting bronze and became fascinated with the possibility of having the figures cast. I soon learned there were two major problems connected with using the ancient lost wax process. The first was finding someone who was expert in using the process and the second was money. Fortunately, both were solved at the same time when Mr. John Stephenson, my art teacher, put me in contact with Mr. Thomas Washington of the Lexington Foundry. While the present foundry does not have the expertise to do the casting, Mr. Washington asked a retired craftsman, Herr Hans Dietrich, to look at my clay sculpture. Herr Dietrich graciously came out of retirement to do the casting, and Mr. Washington provided the materials and labor. Neither man would accept payment for their work and the sculpture was made possible through their skill and generosity.
About the time I had decided to cast the statues in bronze, if possible, I recalled a phrase used in the Mass on All Saints' Day: "surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses". The phrase lodged in my mind and I began to think, not of a cloud of witnesses surrounding me and The Family, but the cloud of people who surround us with their love and concern. I very much wanted to capture that idea and honor those as well as The Family. If I could come up with a way to do that, I would solve another problem. Elizabeth Andrews, wife of David and mother of Michael, died two or so years ago. I was struggling with how to include her when the picture was further complicated by the marriage of David to Dr. Margaret Bailey, who had earlier been accepted as a member of The Family. The answer came as I was walking down the street window shopping. I suddenly noticed the reflection of people in the glass of the window. I would, I decided, do a glass panel with the faces of those who surrounded The Family. Again, expense almost eliminated the idea since a sheet of glass large enough to do what I envisioned and the tools and materials to do the etching were expensive. When Mrs. Millicent Willingham gave me money to carry out the project, I was terrified because I had never done work in glass before and knew I would have to teach myself and, more terrifying, had to be successful in doing the panel. Fortunately, I loved every minute of the learning process and was, I believe, successful in carrying it out. Many citizens of Concord may be seen in the panel and at the top is Elizabeth who, The Family knows, still surrounds us with her love.
The final figures are very much as I originally conceived them, except each family became a separate piece and they were cast in bronze from clay sculptures. The faces and torsos of the figures are quite detailed, but the balance of each figure is intentionally unfinished because I believe that at any point in our life we are "unfinished." The figures, it will be noted, are mounted on a revolving steel platform around and above which the etched glass panel, mounted in a steel ring, revolves as well, "surrounding" The Family.At the close of this exhibition, Surrounded by So Great a Cloud will find a permanent home at the James Sanders' Hospitality House where, it is to be hoped, those staying to be near loved ones in the Concord Hospice will find themselves surrounded by love and concern.
As soon as the veil was removed, there was absolute silence in the room,
so much so I wondered what was going on. I soon found out as I looked
around. The expressions on the faces of the people I loved told
me I had struck a chord in each of them. I watched as tears formed
in the eyes of Michael and David. Mom and Dad both reached out and
placed an arm around my waist. Matt walked up behind me and kissed
me on the neck then put his arms around me. Yong Jin and Greywolf
were suddenly holding hands as David reached behind himself and
took Margaret's hand in his. Mary Kathryn walked in front of me
and pulled my arms around her waist. Silence still reigned. Finally
Michael spoke, his voice choked with emotion, "There's Mom, still
watching over us all." Once he spoke, others started speaking.
"There's Chelsea and Gladys and Dr. Walker. Without their having watched over us, this wonderful piece would never have been," Matt whispered. Then, in a voice tinged with a some anger, he continued, "Luke Larsen, how could you have ever dared think of taking your talent from us and the world? How could you have dared take this from us? How could you dare?" The "silence in church" atmosphere which had prevailed was broken and others started naming the people in the cloud: Uncle Michael and Mr. Stephenson, Ms. Jones, the entire Fellowship, Mr. Swartz, Fr. Tom and about a dozen others.
"Luke, if this was all you had done, your exhibition and your stature as an artist would have been firmly established," Greywolf said.
After everyone had stood looking at the piece for a very long time -- the glass panel had made two or three revolutions -- Mom said, "I think we need to kinda stay together as we move through the rest of this exhibition". The Family agreed -- of course the Fellowship, including Michael and Mary Kathryn, had seen all the other works in the gallery and hung back so Mom and Dad, and all the others could see everything.
The Family: A series of eleven paintings portraying the members of the artist's extended family. While there are slight variations in the size of the eleven canvases, all are approximately four feet high and conform to the Greek idea of the Golden Section, a height to width ratio which is expressed by the formula w/h = h/w + h, or about 3/5. All except one have a similar background, a grayed off-white which helps each figure seem to stand out from that background. The eleven use the full range of acrylic painting techniques from what may first appear to be pen and ink drawing through the delicate colors and edges of watercolor to paint applied in the manner of oils.The figures are painted to provide some insight into how the artist sees the members of The Family, his relationship to each person and often the person's ethnic background. Each canvas is complete unto itself but the whole is greater than its parts in that, taken together, the eleven paintings picture The Family -- not just individual members.
"I think each of you will recognize the subjects of The Family," I said.
Beowulf -- Jens Larsen: Jens Larsen, the artist's father, is of Scandinavian background and, accordingly, is portrayed as Beowulf, the great Scandinavian hero. He is pictured in full battle gear, except for his helmet which he holds in his left hand. The bloody sword in his right hand suggests he is resting after having killed another monster. The early Anglo-Saxons were great metal workers in iron, bronze, and gold. Gold ornaments were frequently enameled in bright and beautiful colors. To accomplish the look of such work in this painting, a great deal of gold leaf has been used, along with extremely high-gloss acrylic paint.The Artist's Comments: My father is a modern Anglo-Saxon hero to me. His monsters -- it is true -- are not external, but he has done battle against internal monsters, monsters which challenge his loyalties. I was extremely interested in including the beautiful "duck" helmet uncovered in the Sutton Hoo excavations, but to have Beowulf wearing it would have completely obscured Jens' face. At the same time as I struggled with how to show his face and the helmet, Jens had what was probably his greatest struggle and, when I realized he had -- again -- slain the monster, I suddenly thought about presenting him as resting immediately after his victory -- helmet in hand. The ornaments and helmet are based upon those uncovered in the excavations at Sutton Hoo, England, which have provided much of our knowledge of the skills of the Vikings.
As Dad approached "Beowulf", he stopped quickly, looked at the catalogue, looked at the painting and his eyes filled with tears. "Luke, you have honored me far beyond what I deserve. Matt asks how you could dare think of taking your life, I ask myself how I could have dared to treat you as I did. And, my God, I even thought of disowning you. Son, can you -- and Matt -- ever forgive me?" He was crying openly, something I had seen him do very few times in my life.
"Dad, I hope the painting answers
your question." Dad wrapped me in his arms and hugged me so tightly
I thought I would stop breathing. "Thanks, Dad," I said as he released
me. He then embraced Matt in an equally tight bearhug.
German Tavern Maid -- Gabrielle Larsen: Gabriel, the artist's mother, is German -- Bavarian to be exact -- and is portrayed as a Bavarian tavern maid of, perhaps, the eighteenth or nineteenth century. She is dressed in Bavarian dress -- a low-cut white blouse with puffed sleeves and a richly embroidered skirt and vest. She is shown carrying a tray laden with food above her head with one hand and steins of beer in the other. The tavern and patrons are done with light brush strokes in earth tones, only slightly darker than the background.The Artist's Comments: Originally when I thought about a painting of my mother, I decided to present her as Brunnhilde, the heroine in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelrung". In fact, I even started that painting. I had chosen Brunnhilde to be Gabrielle because of my mother's ferocious loyalty and devotion to The Family, and her willingness to sacrifice on their behalf. That incomplete painting is exhibited directly below the final representation of Gabrielle. However, as I painted, Brunnhilde seemed too war-like to represent Gabrielle. I then saw her in terms of her care for The Family and realized she was more like a tavern maid -- youthful, joyful, playful and dedicated to seeing that the physical needs of its members are met while being a good listener and one who did not allow her personal concerns to overshadow her concern for family members. Also, I knew that a tavern maid was there to serve, but that there were limits beyond which she would not budge -- Gabrielle, my mother! Finally, I see my mother as a beautiful young woman and the tavern maid is surely that!
When the group moved to German Tavern
Maid, Mom immediately started laughing. "Luke, how did you know
I once wanted to be a tavern maid? Some of my happiest memories
are of going to the tavern with my dad and watching the maids waltzing
around, keeping the customers' hands off while flirting like mad.
It seemed so much fun!" She, then, looked at the catalogue and,
after reading what I had written, "Nice to know your grown son still thinks
of you as a beautiful young woman!" she said as she kissed me. "And
I am really glad you didn't finish the Brunnhilde one. I always
thought she was too serious and a pushy broad." Her laugh proved
the tavern maid was an accurate representation of my mom.
Water Sprite of the River Falls -- Mary Kathryn Larsen: Mary Kathryn, my sister, is portrayed as a water sprite at the falls on the Sequoyah River which runs through the families' farms. She is seen here, nude, sitting atop Lookout Rock, her golden curls blowing in the wind. Youthful, obviously, but definitely a well-developed young woman. An acrylic water color technique was chosen to emphasize the delicate nature of the creature and the beauty of the falls. At the same time, there is enough color and substance to indicate her strength.The Artist's Comments: Mary Kathryn is definitely a water sprite and no other figure would have done her justice because she is -- as water sprites are -- playful, often mischievous and very beautiful. While water sprites are expected to be nude, Mary Kathryn's nudity is also a nostalgic look back to the time when the children of the family went skinny dipping at the falls and, at risk of being strangled by Mary Kathryn and my mother, that still sometimes happens! A beautiful, spirited young woman, Mary Kathryn is sometimes known as Wild Woman and even that element can be seen in this water sprite who is certainly not one of those Victorian "fairies". This is a full-blooded, full-spirited water sprite. To my eye, she is completely at home at the falls.
"Luke, I want to buy that piece on an installment plan!" Michael said
as the rest of the family saw it for the first time. "I figure at a
dollar a week, my great-great grandson will finally get you paid!"
"I hope you four don't think we haven't known that skinny dipping is still often the order of the day," Yong Jin said. "Luke, it's a magnificent work and really captures Mary Kathryn's spirit and beauty."
Runner, A Self Portrait -- Luke Hans Larsen: The artist is portrayed as a runner running down a country road, approaching a huge old oak on the side of the road. The technique used is essentially that of poster art, but with greater detail in the setting, especially in the large oak tree. The runner is running "flat out" and can almost be heard shouting as he runs.The Artist's Comments: I have always been reluctant to do a self-portrait. Somehow or other it has always seemed egotistical to me. When I realized that the series would be incomplete without one, I first decided to use the caricature Millie Willingham -- who dares defy Millie? -- demanded for the posters announcing the event, but I realized it was not in keeping with the series. After working very late one night, I was reluctant to get up and get dressed for the daily run the kids in the family do together. However, when I got up and got moving, I realized that the morning run was one of the things which bonded the Gang of Four -- the name the four kids have given themselves -- together. And, more than that, I realized on that morning I was alive. In that moment of realization I was, in the words of C. S. Lewis, "surprised by joy". When I again approached the task of painting myself, I wanted to capture both the runner and the joy I felt. A part of that joy came not only from just being alive, but also from where I was. For The Family, the old oak shown in the background is a kind of symbol of our having taken root and growing in the beautiful area of the county where we live.
"Luke, do you know the Navajo run to greet the rising sun, shouting because
they are alive?" Greywolf asked. "In fact, on one of their days
of celebration, men run twenty or so miles shouting all the way
because they are alive and are blessed. You are so alive in that
painting and, Luke, you have the depth and strength of that oak.
Never forget that. It will serve you well if you ever begin to question
yourself, I mean your strength and depth of spirit and character."
"Yonghon Tongmu, I'll promise to play More for you tonight in exchange for that picture of the man who makes that song mean so much to me," Matt said.
I planned to give Matt the painting if he wanted it, but I couldn't miss this. "I'm sure you wouldn't dare add something to your program at this late date but, Sarang Hanun Pomul, it's a deal!" I laughed, knowing that the program for tonight was fixed in concrete. Nonetheless, I couldn't resist kissing the one who inspires me to sing More.
Lakota Medicine Man with St. Michael -- Patanka St. Michael Greywolf: Greywolf is the head of the Greywolf family and, while it is never discussed or even mentioned, head of The Family as well. Here he is seen as a Lakota medicine man, illustrative of his Lakota background, dressed in a buffalo robe complete with a buffalo head. His well-known long hair is shown hanging free and his face is painted in a traditional pattern of red, black and white. He carries an eagle's claw in his right hand and burning sweet grass in his left. He has several eagle feathers in his hair and wears a choker of bone and pipestone. His chest is covered with a breastplate of bone. The technique for this part of the painting is similar to an oil painting which allows for showing great detail. Standing behind Greywolf is St. Michael -- done with a much lighter touch, but with great detail as well. St. Michael holds a shield to protect, not himself, but faint figures seen in the background, and he stands with sword raised.
The Artist's Comments: There was never any question of how Greywolf would show up in this exhibition. His name made it very clear. Raised by his Lakota grandfather until the grandfather's death, Greywolf was taken in by an uncle who abused him horribly. Eventually he was rescued by an Episcopal priest. After it became clear he needed healing from the abuse of his childhood, the priest took him to a Lakota medicine man. Near the end of his stay with the medicine man, he went on a vision quest during which he was given his Lakota name Patanka. While the word means buffalo, it means much more to the Lakota. Patanka, for a Lakota, holds the fullness of one who protects the weak and provides for all. When he returned to the priest, he sought baptism and was given a Christian name which resonates with his Lakota one -- St. Michael, defender of the weak and struggling. No greater honor can be bestowed on a Lakota than being given an eagle feather -- this is the reason Greywolf is shown with several in his hair. Should anyone doubt that Greywolf is well named, they need only ask someone who was present when the former principal of Independence High School made derogatory statements about a young man before the entire student body!To the best of my ability, the symbols and clothing of Greywolf as a medicine man are correct. I knew what he was to be in this series of paintings, but assuring the accuracy of the representation required considerable research. I hope I did it well.
There were no comments on Greywolf's picture for the longest
time. Then Greywolf said, "Luke, you must have done some serious
research because there couldn't be a better representation of a
medicine man. I must say, though, I'm afraid you have given me more
power than I have, but I think Matt has inherited the spirit of
a medicine man..." He was silent for a moment, then said quietly,
"One of my greatest wishes is that you and Matt will have an opportunity
to meet a real one. They have powers -- great powers -- which I
don't understand, but don't need to. The power is just in them."
Korean Mother -- Yong Jin Greywolf: Yong Jin is Korean. She is shown here in a hanbok, the national dress of Korea. Each stage in a woman's life dictates the color and trim of the hanbok. Yong Jin is shown as a Korean mother. Her hanbok is a deep, rich blue with white bands embroidered in purple at the end of the sleeves and around the neck, announcing she is the mother of a son. Her hair style is that of a married woman. Her dress and hair style both show she is yongban, a member of the Korean aristocracy.
The Artist's Comments: Because Yong Jin is obviously a lady, I chose to show her as yongban, a member of the Korean aristocracy, regardless of whether or not her Korean bloodline supports that position. She is dressed as the mother of a son -- again, not only because she is, but also because it characterizes her. She is the mother of a son for whom she sacrifices, but also for whom she has high expectations and on whom she places high demands -- gently, but firmly. But Yong Jin is not just the mother to Matthew, she is also a demanding mother to the other sons and daughter of The Family, never expecting or accepting less than the best any of them has to offer in any of their life's endeavors. As a teacher, she expects and demands the same of her students. She is shown laughing because, as she once said, Koreans are the Italians of Asia and her frequent laugh, sense of humor and enjoyment of conversation support the claim.Originally I planned to show her standing before Namsan, the sacred mountain in Seoul, done in an ink and brush style. While that style is seen often in Korea, I changed my mind after seeing a picture of Kunjongjon, part of the Kyongbokkung palace complex. The use of the Korean decorative coloring, Tanchong, used on the building is especially beautiful to me. The seemingly simple yet complex patterns are painted in vivid colors of red, orange, blue, yellow and green, plus others based on iron compounds. The very brilliant colors and seemingly simple yet complex patterns were Yong Jin for me. Thus, she is shown before the Throne Room of Kyongbokkung which is decorated with Tanchong.
"Obviously, more research, Luke. And I am glad you placed me before Kunjongjon.
It means so much to anyone who loves Korea. One day the whole complex
may, once again, be freed from the Japanese building erected to
stop the flow of chi and, maybe then, Korea will be whole again.
And I appreciate your ignoring my "tainted" bloodline. I am proud
of it even though it makes me a mongrel to most Koreans.
Shaman -- Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf: This portrait of Matt was an extremely simple one to conceive, but very difficult to execute. The painting reflects Matthew's Lakota and Korean spirituality in that it is of a divided shaman, one side a Korean shaman and the other a Lakota medicine man. Unlike the painting of Greywolf as a medicine man, which is done in great detail using color, this one is done entirely in black and white, appearing as a pen and ink drawing. Except for the face, the work is almost an abstract. The two sides blend together in the face so Matthew is clearly visible, but the balance of the painting is vague and unclear because Matthew's vocation as a shaman is -- to me and, I suspect to him -- vague and unclear.The Artist's Comments: There has never been any doubt in my mind that Matthew Greywolf can perform magic since the first time I heard him play the organ. And as the years passed, I sensed a great depth of spirituality in Matt. Once, when he told his mother he could sense a presence before a person came into the room, she told him he was from a family in which, for five hundred years at least, there had been shaman -- odd in Korea where most shaman are women. Later, when Greywolf spoke of a Lakota medicine man -- another version of the shaman -- I sensed a resonance within Matthew with that tradition. As soon as I thought about doing The Family, I realized Matthew would have to be presented as a dual shaman.
"As I said," Greywolf commented when he saw the painting of Matt, "I
think Matt has inherited some, if not all, of the power of a medicine
"He definitely inherited power from his Korean shaman ancestors," Yong Jin said confidently. "More than that, I am convinced he has also empowered the Gang of Four. That explains how all four knew about their conception."
"Well, I can't come up with a better explanation," Jens said.
"I was sure when Luke told me he knew when Matt was approaching. Now with Michael's positive statement that Margaret is carrying twin girls..." Yong Jin mused.
"She certainly is," Michael was quick to state.
"I guess this is as good a time as any to make the announcement," Margaret laughed. "I found out yesterday that he is at least half right. I am carrying twins."
"Twins and specifically Kathryn Elizabeth and Mary Margaret to be specific," Michael said in a definite no-questions-allowed voice.
An American Pioneer -- David Andrews: David Andrews is of Scottish-Irish ancestry which goes back to before the founding of this nation. The fiercely independent people from which David sprang settled in the mountains of Appalachia and eventually some members pushed westward. The painting is done in the style of Norman Rockwell, to many THE painter of American life and ideals. Long dismissed as "just a commercial artist", Mr. Rockwell's work has recently won wide acceptance and acclaim in the art world with exhibitions in major American cities. David is dressed in buckskins and is wearing a coonskin cap headgear like that made famous years ago by the movie "Davy Crockett". He is leaning on a Kentucky long rifle, peering off into the distance as though listening for danger or hearing a call to adventure.The Artist's Comments: This is the only work in my exhibition which consciously seeks to imitate another's work and style, but when I decided David had to be portrayed as an early American pioneer, Norman Rockwell immediately came to mind. While Mr. Rockwell worked in oils, this -- as most of my painting -- is done in acrylics, but using the techniques I would have used had I been working in oils. I chose to present David as a pioneer, not only because of his background but also because, as a male nurse, he pioneered in that field. Further, David was a pioneer in getting the first serious EMS team and equipment for Concord and the surrounding areas.
"Luke, I see you don't miss a trick do you?" My granddad would have been
proud of that painting and the fact that you chose the pioneer image.
He never grew tired of telling me stories of those folks who struggled,
demanding freedom in -- and a living from -- these mountains. Thanks,"
Guardian Spirit -- Elizabeth Andrews: The painting of Elizabeth is the only painting in the series which has a different background. Here, instead of the grayed off-white, it is a blue so pale it may appear at first as white. The figure is almost invisible, having been done in a blue only ever-so-slightly darker than the background. The figure is of Elizabeth Andrews as she appeared in her most robust youth. She is seen standing on Lookout Rock at the river falls, looking down on four figures playing on the beach -- The Family's four children at six or seven years of age. Careful examination will reveal that Elizabeth is smiling, happy, observing the children at play.The Artist's Comments: How does one paint a spirit? How can someone who is no longer alive be portrayed as a presence as real as a living person? This was the problem presented to me when I approached a painting of Elizabeth Andrews. After years of happiness with little heartache or pain, it almost seemed The Family was required to pay back bills when Elizabeth discovered she had cancer. Her struggle was brave, but the disease wrapped her in pain and took her from us -- first because of her disease and pain and then, finally, when her death released her from her suffering. Yet, to a person, we know Elizabeth is still a part of us, loving and watching over us. As I thought about how to go about the task, I recalled many happy moments with Elizabeth, but kept coming back to the idea that she was watching over us. It was this which reminded me of the times she stood on Lookout Rock at the top of the falls, watching over the four children playing below. That was Elizabeth. In deciding to convey the idea of her as guardian spirit, I saw her -- faintly -- in that place watching over us in happy days. To achieve a distinction from the living family, I decided to change the background color of this canvas and to use the slightest possible difference in color between the background and the figures. It was only when I had finished the painting and was examining it that I noticed Elizabeth was smiling.
"Luke, I'm really glad you included Mom. I wouldn't have thought of your doing so, but I should have known you would," Michael whispered with tears in his eyes. "I know she watches over me. Most of the time I don't think about her as much as I did, but I do miss her terribly at times."
"And you should," Margaret said as she placed her arms around Michael's shoulders. It was the first time I had ever seen her really seem like a mother to him. He buried his face in her shoulder and had a good cry as David embraced the two of them.
Greek Warrior -- Michael Andrews: Michael is a handsome young man in every sense of the word and he is a warrior for justice and right. This painting joins the two. On the usual grayed off-white background is seen a Greek style vase in black with white decorations, Michael as a Greek warrior, spear raised, fighting off a snarling dog -- the dog of prejudice and injustice.The Artist's Comments: As a part of the application for a summer art camp I attended two years ago, applicants had to submit a "study of the human body". When the campers arrived, I was somewhat chagrined to discover I was the only one who had done a nude! Others had drawings or paintings of hands, faces, sketches of other parts of the body and only one other had a full figure and it was a pencil drawing of a draped woman. I had done a nude of Michael in charcoal and pastels. I recalled that work and decided that, in order to show both Michael's physical beauty and his passion for justice, there was only one possible answer: the painting you see -- Michael as a Greek warrior. Preliminary sketches I did were not satisfactory for my concept but, as I was trying to decide on what approach to use, my sister asked me a question about "The Odyssey" which she was reading for an English class. When she showed me the passage, I noticed a small illustration of a Greek vase on the page. The idea of a Greek vase painting came to me and, at first, I dismissed it as pretty far out. However, as I started sketching, I came to see the possibilities. When the painting was finished, I found it struck the very note for me that Michael in his youthful eagerness for right does in reality.
"There's a real man and he's mine, all mine," Mary Kathryn said as she
made a great pointing gesture toward the painting and pulled Michael's
lips to hers for a mouth-filling tongue kiss.
Mother Watching Over a Sick Child -- Margaret Bailey Andrews: The painting of Margaret was done as a period piece. The scene is a bed in a log cabin with a child lying, back to the viewer, half-covered, and a woman, Margaret, sitting beside the bed. She is seen in profile by the dim light from a fireplace and the candle sitting on a table beside the bed. The fire and candle cast a glow over her face and the bare back of the child. While the child is obviously a nearly grown young man, she sees him as a child. What can be seen of her face expresses both her deep concern and her boundless hope as she watches into the night. The colors used are muted earth tones illuminated by the warm glow of fire and candlelight.The Artist's Comments: The world knows Margaret Bailey Andrews as a doctor, and that she is. However, The Family came to know her in more than a professional role when she was called upon to help save the life of one of the family's children, me, who lay near death. While the child in the painting is obviously a young man, the concern shown by Margaret is that of a mother watching over her child. I chose the setting to reflect Margaret's own heritage as a child of mountain pioneers -- as is her husband David -- and the courage of those women who left the comforts of the "civilized" part of colonial America to follow their husbands and families into the wilderness. The darkness surrounding the two is intended to indicate the seriousness of the situation, but the glow of fire and candle suggests hope and happier days ahead.
Millie, who had been standing behind The Family, said, "Beautifully
done, Luke. Beautifully done. And for those of us who know you,
there is no doubt who the young man is. Margaret, you did the world
a great service when you kept this young fellow alive."
"I was only a part of what kept him alive, a very small part. Matt has to take most of the credit. He may not be a medicine man or a shaman, but no one will ever convince me otherwise," Margaret responded.
The Artist's Comments on the Series: When I first thought about painting the members of The Family, I intended to do rather traditional, almost photographic, likenesses but the more I thought about it, the more it became a spiritual journey into what The Family is and means to me. I realized, as soon as I started painting, that I had undertaken a major project -- since the entire series had to be completed in a three-month period. Often it seemed I would never complete the paintings but, when they were finished, I realized that I knew and loved The Family as I had not done before. That, alone, made the exercise worthwhile for me. I hope the results are worthwhile for the viewer.
"Luke, I don't think I have
ever known a family who has been honored as much, and certainly
not more, than you have honored yours in these works. Not only are
the paintings and the sculpture outstanding art -- and while I'm
no expert, I know they are -- but they also speak of a deep love
and affection not often found among today's families, I'm afraid,"
Ms. Wright said.
When we had finished with The Family, all those present read their catalogues and spent time where they wanted looking at the rest of the work in the main gallery.
Exercises, Techniques, and Methods: On the wall opposite The Family are displayed works by the artist produced as required exercises in art classes and art camp, experiments with techniques and tools, and application of various methods. These will be described briefly beginning near the back wall and moving clockwise.
A Vase: Done as an assignment in a pottery class, this is the only example of wheel thrown pottery found in the exhibition and the only one owned by the artist. He says, "I must have thrown a ton of clay before I achieved anything worth keeping. When I had created this pot, I was finished with trying to throw pots." The pot stands twelve inches high and is similar in shape to American Indian pots. The glaze has a white slip underglaze covered by a terra cotta color opaque final glaze which has been engraved to allow the white slip glaze to show through. The design is based on pre-Columbian Mayan patterns of circles and curves.
Michael -- A Nude Study: This charcoal and pastel study of Michael Andrews was part of the inspiration for Greek Warrior in The Family series. Michael is shown standing, arms outstretched, in the exuberance of youth. His strength and physical beauty are apparent, as is his joy at being alive. (Artist's note: This sketch is the property of Mary Kathryn Larsen and was graciously loaned by her for this exhibition.)
The River Falls at Night: Another class assignment, this time for a photography class, resulted in this picture. The assignment was to capture a night scene. The artist chose not to do an obvious one -- a brightly lighted scene -- but to attempt to capture a special place, the river falls. The final print was the result of several night's experimentation and at least half a dozen rolls of film. The length of the exposure is evident from the track left by the rising moon above the lip of the falls.
Lifeline -- A Montage: "Using anything you like, create a montage of your life. You may use photos, magazine pictures, objects. The only two rules are you may not leave any of the background showing and you may not use words except those found on objects or pictures." This was a semester-long class project in my junior year. The result was much larger and more complicated than I anticipated but, when I started gathering materials for it, I found so many things I wanted to include: one of my first baby shoes, my first book which bears teeth marks proving I attempted to read it with my mouth, school pictures from the first grade on, magazine pictures of a bicycle, a report card from sixth grade, a picture from my junior high prom, a note from Greywolf to my dad telling him Matt and I had been showing off in Matt's new Jeep and he was grounding us for six weeks, a number of matchbox cars from a collection I started in grade school and continue to the present, and many other things. The actual time line follows a serpentine route over an entire sheet of plywood.
Costume Designs: These are sketches for some of the costumes designed for Independence High School's Drama Club's 1993 production of Macbeth. Shown are the battle costumes of Macbeth and Macduff, Macbeth's costume as king, the costumes of the three witches, Lady Macbeth's costume -- worn at the beginning of the play, and her sleep walking costume.
The Artist's Comments: Asked to design the costumes for Macbeth, I really didn't know where to begin. In the light of the fact that I was given a free hand, I looked into how the play had been costumed in recent productions, some using modern dress. I quickly decided to go with the time of the setting and started research into the dress of the period. The acrylic watercolor sketches are the result. The major characters' costumes are pretty much what one would expect, but the witches offered an opportunity to experiment. One is dressed in a filmy grey and black costume which looks much like rags. Another is dressed in a distorted version of court dress with the expected bright colors and careful fit changed to muddy browns and yellows and the fit made loose and askew. The third witch is dressed as a temptress in a clinging gown of translucent green. All characters are shown on the set which was also my design.
Life, Death and Transformation: This is a highly abstract oil, one of the few in the exhibition, which uses color to signify the three stages in this spirit journey. Moving from left to right and bottom to top, life is symbolized by green, death by black and transformation by yellow. The paint has been applied to the canvas with a palette knife in geometric shapes and swirls. Each stage blends into the next, moving from the rich green in the lower left corner to the almost-white yellow in the upper right corner.
The Artist's Comments: Having gone through a near-death experience and a transformation, I sought to convey something of that experience through painting. Clearly, I came to understand, it was possible only through a metaphor, an abstract, in which colors represented the journey I had taken. I chose green, the color of life, to represent my life before the experience. It is the color of spring, of growth, of life itself since we are utterly dependent upon the green of plants for our life. The paint has been applied to the canvas with much texture as life is many textured. When I first conceived of the painting, I thought of using black for death, but recalled the actual experience where death appeared as darkness, but not simply black -- it was a smoky darkness. The paint has been applied to the canvas in great swirls as if drifting smoke. This is most noticeable when the color gradually lightens to a dark gray. As with death, my initial choice of color for the transformed life was different from the final choice. Initially I had chosen red, the color of blood. However, as I thought further, the proper color was yellow, the color of light. Accordingly, the transformation aspect of the painting ranges from a gray, smoky yellow where it mingles with death to the very bright and light yellow of the full transformation. Here the paint has been applied in a manner that suggests rays of light.
The Fellowship of the Rings: A pen and ink drawing of the right hands of an Independence High School group dedicated to elimination of prejudice and discrimination. All ten selected Hopi overlay rings as a symbol of their fellowship. The rings are shown on the hands which form a circle, a fellowship circle.
The Artist's Comments: Originally calling themselves by the somewhat arrogant name "The Select Few", Michael Andrews, Mary Kathryn Larsen -- sophomores, Linda Randolph -- a junior, and Matthew Greywolf, Paula Wright, Larry Watley, Eugene Willingham and myself -- seniors -- were a group of high school friends. Contrary to custom, Michael was persuaded to run for student body president, usually seen as a junior privilege. During the campaign, Bill Lance joined the group after Michael's campaign posters were vandalized. Two of the group had purchased Hopi overlay rings which were admired by the others and all decided to select and wear Hopi overlay rings from the collection of Mr. Swartz of Swartz's Jewelry Shop. Bill Lance, very angry over the vandalizing of Michael's posters, announced he was withdrawing from the campaign in support of Michael Andrews. When he made the announcement on the school TV, Bill displayed his ring and announced that he was a member of "The Fellowship of the Rings" and the name stuck. Not a part of the original "Fellowship of the Rings", Jacob McAllister joined the group after the election. The pen and ink drawing was done from many sketches made during lunch which the group eats together.
Mentors -- Michael Sanders and John Stephenson: A pencil drawing of Michael Sanders and John Stephenson shows the two men working while setting up this exhibition.
The Artist's Comments: This is my latest work. Mr. Stephenson has been my art teacher since junior high school. Uncle Michael has been an art dealer in Charleston for many years and is a graduate of the Chicago Art Institute. When he came to live in Concord, he offered to help mount this exhibition. During breaks, I sketched the two men and then, from memory and the sketches, did this pencil drawing of the two at work -- my two mentors.
Prom Queen -- Paula Wright: This full-length portrait is of Independence High School's 1995 Prom Queen, Paula Wright. The figure is done using acrylics as one would oils. The figure stands alone on the canvas before a background of white with the faintest tinge of green. She is dressed in a red Korean hanbok with accessories and hair style which might be seen on a young Korean bride.The Artist's Comments: Paula did me the honor of being my prom date for this year's prom. Her dress was kept secret until I arrived to pick her up. Yong Jin Greywolf and my sister Mary Kathryn had decided she had the coloring and poise to be beautiful in Mrs. Greywolf's hanbok. Needless to say, they were correct. After this exhibition, this portrait is a gift to Paula's mother, Ms. Sandra Wright.
Mom and Yong Jin got a great kick out of playing "do you remember" as
they looked at the montage. Ms. Wright exclaimed over the painting
of Paula and actually squealed when she read that it was to be hers.
When she did, she ran over and hugged me and gave me a huge kiss.
"Just wish you were available," she laughed. "If Paula didn't grab
you, I think I would try to interest you in an older woman!" Having
been around Matt too long, I blushed.
Uncle Michael and Mr. Stephenson forgot where they were, I guess, as they stood before the drawing of the two of them. They were holding hands like two teenagers. "Your first sale, Luke," Uncle Michael said. "I'm offering $1,500 for the drawing and if someone else wants it, I'll pay $100 more than their highest offer. That is mine and John's for the house. And I want Life, Death and Transformation. I think there will be several offers for it, so we'll wait about setting a price, but I want it."
"Uncle Michael, I feel I should give the oil to you for all you have done. And I am definitely giving you and Mr. Stephenson the drawing. It's your housewarming present. I would be honored to have you accept it."
"Luke, we would be pleased and honored to accept, wouldn't we, John?"
"Indeed we would."
The Second Gallery
The Second Gallery is located across the hall to the left.
Retrospective: This gallery contains examples from throughout the artist's life and needs no explanation.The Artist's Comments: A retrospective? A not-quite-eighteen-year-old with a retrospective? That was a question I asked when it was suggested by my mentors. Both reminded me that a retrospective traces the development of an artist, regardless of age. Accordingly, Uncle Michael and Mr. Stephenson asked my parents and members of my extended family for anything they might have for this exhibit. The two men made the selection and mounted this display. In the retrospective, you will see a crayon "drawing" made before I started going to school, a Thanksgiving turkey made from a hand print in kindergarten and other things I drew, made and painted since I was three or so until the present. It is a kind of "empty the attic" exhibition which I hope you enjoy.
I knew the general public would not get the kick out of the retrospective
members of The Family did. They were all soon busy playing,
"Do You Remember When?"
"There's Luke's masks of the three other kids," Mom said. "Remember when he did those? The first time he was doing Michael, he forgot to oil his face well and we had to chip off the plaster. Michael was doing his best to scream and yell, but his face was all sealed behind plaster!"
"There's his first oil. He painted that in Matt's room -- I can't remember why" Mom said.
"I do. I had told him if he did it in his room I'd bust a bottom," Jens laughed. "And with good reason."
"I learned that when I went up after it was finished and Greywolf and I had to get paint remover to clean up the floor. But the painting of the barn is good. It never looked like a child's work," Yong Jin said. "And how old was he? Eight or nine as I recall," Yong Jin said, still looking at the picture of our red barn.
Other such comments continued as the retrospective took on the appearance of a retrospective of the life of The Family.
The Third Gallery
The Third Gallery is located across the hall to the right and contains what must be termed commercial art.
Macbeth: This poster for Independence High School's 1993 production of Macbeth shows Macbeth and Macduff meeting with the three witches on the heath. The figures are done very realistically and the lettering is of the period.
A Midsummer's Night's Dream: Done in watercolor, the poster for Independence High School's 1994 production of "A Midsummer's Night's Dream" captures the fairytale-like nature of the play. The characters are shown in the famous forest practice scene with Bottom in the donkey's head.
Campaign Poster: Michael Andrew's campaign for student body president at Independence came at the insistence of a group of friends following his bold stand against prejudice. Michael was the first student to challenge the principal's derogatory remarks concerning a former student and spearheaded a service of repentance and memorial for that student, Gregory Burnette who, because of prejudice, took his own life. The poster shows Michael jumping hurdles -- he is on the track team -- and his slogan: "No hurdle too high for Independence with Michael running!"
Concert and Exhibition Posters: These have been seen all over town. Done in blues, they are caricatures of the three leaders of the concert/recital and of myself: Paula Wright, Eugene Willingham, Matthew Greywolf and Luke Larsen. The lettering was chosen from a serif font discovered in a book of 18th-century font designs.
The Recital/Concert Program Cover: The decision to use lettering as decoration resulted in this cover. The background is a rich ivory and the lettering is done in an iron oxide brown. The very fancy cursive font was found in the same book as that used for the posters.
The Exhibition Catalog: The cover for the exhibition should have shown one of the major pieces from the exhibition. This posed two interesting problems. Two of the pieces which might have been on the cover were to be kept secret until the opening of the exhibition. The Family, which might have been used otherwise, did not lend itself to photography. The final decision was to utilize the caricature of the artist already used for the poster announcing the combined concert and exhibition.
The remainder of this collection are caricatures done in pastels and charcoal.
Millie Willingham, shown in her full glory with her J. D. and branch in hand. (Author's note: For all of you who do not know, J. D. is Jack Daniels, a Tennessee sour mash whiskey -- and if you're old enough or a real rock and roll fan, Janice Joplin's drink -- and branch -- as in branch or creek -- is the southern expression for water added to sour mash whiskey.)
Fr. Thomas of St. Mary's, shown in full vestments, but racing to the front of the church for service, late as usual.
Gladys and Chelsea of ICU, shown dressing down an unknown doctor.
Mr. Ron Mitchell, shown explaining a calculus problem to a group of bewildered students.
Bill Lance, ladies man and jock, evidenced by the lipstick on his face and his basketball uniform.
Ms. Jones, shown in her principal's office, laughing at some student prank.
Linda Lipinsky, shown in full battle array ready to do battle with any male who does her wrong.
Jacob McAllister, shown extending his hand to Michael Andrews after the student body election.
Herr Dietrich, shown examining the clay models for The Family bronzes.Mr. Tom Washington, shown looking over a bronze casting.
Again, those looking at the pictures revealed their own interests as
they looked and chatted among themselves. "Luke, I'm pleased you chose
to put my drink in a Jack Daniels' glass. Don't own one, but would
hate to think someone might get the idea I drink Kentucky bourbon,"
Millie laughed merrily.
"Luke, I almost stole that caricature of myself before my mom saw it, but I guess she's seen worse. At least the lipstick is on my face!" Bill grinned.
"Luke, are Mr. Washington and Herr Dietrich coming to the exhibition?" David asked. "It would be a pity if they didn't."
"Mr. Washington called earlier in the week to say Herr Dietrich was ill and he didn't know whether they would make it or not. He called again and said when he told Herr Dietrich he thought he was too ill for the trip it was like magic medicine. He was up and around the next day. They drove over yesterday and spent the night so Herr Dietrich wouldn't become overly tired and they will be spending tonight here as well. I tried to get them to stay with us, but Mr. Washington felt that a hotel would be best. But they will be here."
"Even if you couldn't see his face, everyone who knows him would know you captured Fr. Tom," Linda said. "It's the 10:59:59 sprint to the back of the church for the 11:00 service, sure enough."
"How many times have I seen that look on Ron Mitchell's face," Greywolf laughed. "Calculus is so simple to him he just can't understand how students don't get it."
"I appreciate the scene you chose to put me in," Jacob said. "I really learned a lot from the election. Frankly, I think it is my finest moment to date -- I mean acknowledging that the better person won. And it was the beginning of friendships I will remember always."
Linda just looked at her caricature and said, "What can I say? It's me all right."
And so the conversations went.
After everyone had seen all they wanted to see, I said, "Ok, if you will all gather in gallery four, there is another unveiling."
The Fourth GalleryThe Fourth Gallery is located directly across the hall from the Common Room.
When everyone was present, I lifted the veil from the one piece which
was absolutely not for sale -- ever. There had been silence when Surrounded
by So Great a Cloud was unveiled; now there was the sound of
sudden intakes of breath when I unveiled the only work in the fourth
The Fourth Gallery contains a single painting Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf: The medium is acrylic, but the technique is one used with oils. Done in great detail, the painting is a full length, life-sized portrait of Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf. He is dressed as a Lakota warrior in moccasins and a breech cloth of white buckskin which emphasizes his darkness. Aside from these, he wears nothing except a headband, choker, and arm bands of red and black bead work -- the colors of a warrior. Shown in profile, his face is also painted in a red and black pattern suitable for a warrior. In his hair, which is loose and streaming in the wind behind him, are two eagle feathers -- a mark of honor, and especially so for this young warrior. Clearly visible on his cheek is a scar received in his battle to save a life while risking his own -- the mark of a true warrior. He is looking into the distance, seeing what others may never see.The Artist's Comments: Once, while walking with Matt across the meadow from the falls on the Sequoyah River, a stiff breeze came up and caught Matt's unbound hair, causing it to stream out behind him. In a flash, I saw him as a true Lakota warrior. The sun highlighted the scar he had received when he gave no thought to himself in order to save my life. I knew I wanted to capture that picture and struggled off and on for several weeks trying to do so. I did sketch after sketch without success. Then, one night after I had been working for some time, the portrait you see suddenly flashed in my mind. I grabbed my brushes and started painting furiously before the mental image disappeared. I painted until sunrise, working without stopping. I painted until I had captured the spirit of Matt. When I laid down my brushes, the picture was complete as you see it. Not another brush stroke was added.
After the initial intake of breath, silence descended upon the gallery.
People moved, as little as possible, to allow everyone to get a good
view of the painting. I was afraid to look up and see what was going
on. Finally, when I did, I saw tears streaming down Matt's face.
Greywolf had become a Lakota chief, standing proud, looking first
at the painting, then at his son, then back at the painting. Yong
Jin was teary eyed as was Gabrielle. Dad stood, looking like Beowulf,
acknowledging another great warrior. The silence was finally broken
by Millie who whispered softly, "Greater love hath no man..." Matt
moved across the room quietly and stood before me, looking at the
painting as he reached behind himself and took my hands. The silence
descended again after Millie's statement and lasted for at least
five minutes -- it seemed a year -- then everyone started talking
at once, all wanting to tell me how great the painting was. Matt knew
how to let me know and, in front of everyone, took me into his arms
and gave me a deep, passionate Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf
"Beautiful job, Son," Dad said. "I am proud of you beyond measure. Matt, you have a fantastic mate. Love him for your lifetime." I could hardly believe my ears.
Almost everyone wanted to look at something a second or third time so it was almost 1:00 when Uncle Michael closed and locked the doors. "Everyone is invited to my place -- I guess I need to say our place, mine and John's -- for lunch." And that was how the newest couple was introduced to the family.
I certainly hope that each of you were able to imagine the works in this exhibition. In writing this section I have discovered that even though I can't draw worth diddly, describing a work of art is a poor way to display it. Maybe one day someone will become Luke Larsen long enough to do a painting. Who knows?
Remember, you write, then I write. Sequoyah
Overture for Trumpets -- Henry Purcell
Te Deum laudamus (excerpt) -- Antonio Dvorak
danket Alle Gott -- Sidfrid Karg-Elbert
on the Doxology (Old 100th) -- Henry Purcell
Five Hymns for Organ,
Rex Tremenda from Requiem -- Hector Berlioz
Prelude to Mefistofele -- Arrigo Bonito
Rigaudon -- Andre Campra
Sheep Shall Safely Graze -- J. S. Bach
Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring -- J. S. Bach
Family: A Tone Poem in Four Movements --
Grand Choeur Dialogue -- Eugene Gigout
Christ on the Mount of Olives: Hallelujah -- Ludwig Van Beethoven
Three African American Spirituals for Organ and
Symphony No. 2 in C sharp minor, Op. 26: Preludio -- Marcel Dupre
Gigue Fugue in G major -- J. S. Bach
Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major -- J. S. Bach
Acht kleine preludien und fugen -- J.
Suite Mondale, Op. 43: Toccata -- Flor Peeters
Toccata in E minor -- Johann Pachelbel
-- Charles Gounod
Deum in C major -- Benjamin Britten
Tongmu: Fantasia on "More" in Four Parts --
The Brass and
The Mixed Chorus
Disclaimer: The selection of music and its performance
in St. Mary's Church does not imply endorsement of the religious
expression in the music or of St. Mary's. The music was selected
based on the desires of the performers and its merits as music.
The performance is being held in St. Mary's because of the
necessity for Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf to present
a recital on the organ at St. Mary's and through the generosity
of St. Mary's in offering this performance space.
How This Program Came to Be
Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf did an independent study in music this, his senior year. A recital was to be the basis for his grade. When Mr. Derrick Smith, music teacher at Independence High School, was unable to prepare the Percussion and Brass Ensemble and the Mixed Chorus for spring concerts, Greywolf invited the two groups to join in his recital. Student directors Paula Wright and Eugene Willingham, together with Greywolf, put together the recital/concert including arranging much of the music.
Overture for Trumpets -- The program opens
with fireworks from the Brass and Percussion Ensemble joining
the organ in this explosive composition.
Te Deum laudamus (excerpt) -- The program
continues with an equally fiery work by Dvorak in which the
Mixed Chorus joins the ensemble and organ.
Nun danket Alle Gott and Now Thank We All Our God
-- Karg-Elbert's composition, based on a melody by Johann
Gruger, is performed by the organ and ensemble. Following
it, the hymn "Now Thank We All Our God", by Martin Rinckart
as translated by Catherine Winkworth, is sung by the chorus
accompanied by the organ.
Voluntary on the Doxology (Old 100th) and All People
Who On Earth Do Dwell -- As in the previous
work, the Purcell Voluntary is followed by the hymn on which
Purcell's composition is based, a melody from Pseaumes octante
trois de David. The hymn sung by the chorus, again accompanied
by organ alone, is a paraphrase of Psalm 100 by William Kethe.
The interlude for ensemble and organ was written by Greywolf
and arranged by him and Willingham.
Five Hymns for Organ, Brass and Percussion Ensemble and Mixed Chorus -- This is a work based on hymn tunes from The Hymnal 1982 of the Episcopal Church. The descant for "The Spacious Firmament on High" was written by Wright with help from Greywolf. The five hymns have been arranged by Willingham, Wright and Greywolf.
All Things Bright and Beautiful -- The hymn tune is Royal Oak from The Dancing Master and the words are the work of Cecil Frances Alexander.
The Spacious Firmament on High -- Creation, the hymn tune, is by Joseph Hayden. The words are Joseph Addison's paraphrase of Psalm 19:1-6. the descant is by Greywolf.
All Creatures of Our God and King -- The melody is an adaptation of Lasst uns erfreuen by Ralph Vaughan Williams. The words are William H. Draper's translation of words by St. Francis of Assisi.
Praise to the Living God -- This selection from a Medieval Jewish liturgy was translated by Max Landsberg and Newton M. Mann. The hymn tune, Leoni, is a Hebrew melody.
Grace -- New Britain, the hymn tune, is from
Virginia Harmony and the words are by John Newton.
Rex Trenenda from Requiem -- Composers have
frequently omitted the Day of Judgement from their Requiems,
but not Berlioz. In fact, after seeing the Michelangelo frescos,
he began imaging music which would express the "overpowering
majesty and terror of the Day of Judgement. In this music,
the composer depicts humanity's reaction when brought before
the 'King of Dreadful Majesty'." The work places great demands
upon the chorus.
Prologue to Mefistofele -- Many are the retellings
of Faust. Bonito not only wrote the lyrics for the opera Mefistofele
based on Faust, but also the music. The opera opens with a
prologue in which the Tempter wagers with God that he can
obtain Faust's soul. The prologue concludes with the heavenly
hosts resuming their eternal praise of God.
Campra: Rigaudon -- A rigaudon is a lively old French dance done in 2/4 or 4/4 time. Campra was an early eighteenth-century composer who was well known both as Master of Music at Notre Dame and in the French opera house. This piece could well be used in either and, perhaps, was used in both. It is often used today as wedding music. The chorus is given a break as the ensemble and organ present what seems almost a dialogue between the two.
Sebastian Bach: Sheep May Safely Graze and Jesu, Joy of Man's
Desiring -- No church organist is, it seems,
without the ability to play these two Bach pieces in his or
her sleep. Because they are so familiar and so often used,
they are not as appreciated as they might be. "They are the
two 'real' pieces I first played at St. Mary's and I often
use them when I haven't had done adequate practice for a service,"
Greywolf acknowledges. "Nonetheless, I love these two wonderful
pieces very much and would not feel that I had presented a
recital without playing them."
The Family: A Tone Poem for Organ, Chorus and Ensemble
original composition by Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf
is dedicated to his extended family: the Andrews, Larsen and
Greywolf families who comprise The Family of the title.
Movement One: Beginnings -- The family had its beginning when three young men met when all were in the military. Two were married -- Patanka St. Michael Greywolf had met and married Yong Jin Kim while an Army Officer in Korea, and Jens Larsen, a Marine officer, met and married Gabrielle Hauser while stationed in Germany. David Andrews, a Navy officer, was unmarried when the three met. Later he married Elizabeth McDowell, a sweetheart from his college days. When the time came for the three to be discharged from active duty, David had located three adjoining farms outside Concord where the three families now live.
piece opens with an original composition by Greywolf called
"The River Falls". This composition ties the entire tone poem
together in recognition of the central place the falls (on
the river which flows through all three farms) plays in the
history of The Family. When first introduced, "The River Falls"
is heard in a lyrical and very romantic mode. The voices of
the chorus are used, as they often are in this work, as an
instrument, i.e., there are no words. Included in the movement
are variations on four national anthems -- United States,
Korea, Germany and Denmark -- and a Lakota chant, honoring
the heritage of members of the family. The meeting of the three
men is recalled through the use of three military anthems, sung
as a canon by the men of the chorus. It concludes with a rendition
of the children's song "Old McDonald Had a Farm" in which
members of the ensemble and chorus provide the animal sounds.
Movement Two: Children -- Within three years of moving to the farms, the three women gave birth to four children: Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf and Luke Hans Larsen, who were born on the same day, and Michael Andrews and Mary Kathryn Larsen, born a few days apart two years later.
The movement opens and closes with a version of "The River Falls" suggestive of a children's play song. Between the opening and closing, three lullabies are heard, sung by the women of the chorus -- Korean, German and American. One of the moral values held in high esteem by the families is that of tolerance. An incident illustrating this is reproduced when half of the men of the chorus start doing "movie Indian" war whoops and are interrupted by the other men who do Lakota war cries. This event took place when the three boys were young and Greywolf stopped the "movie Indian" war whoops and taught the boys a Lakota war cry. This same war cry played a significant part in the revolt of students and faculty of Independence against pejorative remarks made by the former principal. Also included in this movement is a toccata and fugue on the round -- technically a canon -- "Row, Row Your Boat". When the chorus and ensemble join the organ, the audience is invited to sing along under the direction of Ms. Wright.
Movement Three: Pain and Conflict -- Obviously, people have pain and conflicts -- sometimes minor, sometimes major. Three families cannot hope to live almost as a single family without experiencing pain -- from things as minor as childhood scrapes and bruises to the major pain of illness and death from cancer of Elizabeth Andrews. Likewise, conflicts happen -- some minor as political disagreements to serious conflict arising from misunderstandings and a clash of values.
This movement is written in an atonal and dissonant mode -- one section employs the twelve tone row. The choral section again uses the human voice as an instrument. The concluding rendition of "The River Falls" begins as a dark dirge and rapidly evolves into utter chaos with the chorus and ensemble clashing with each other and the organ.
Four: Reconciliation -- "The River Falls"
which opens this movement begins with a brief reiteration
of the chaotic rendition from the previous movement which
soon becomes pastoral in nature. The middle of the movement
includes Jan Struther's hymn "Lord of All Hopefulness", sung
to the Irish hymn tune "Slane." The movement concludes with
the Book of Common Prayer version of Psalm 133: Ecce, quam
bonum! -- Oh, how good and pleasant it is when brethren live
together in unity!" The hymn tune is an original composition
by Greywolf based on "The River Falls".
Grand Choeur Dialogue -- The second half of
the concert/recital opens, as the first, with a great display
by the organ and ensemble in this work.
Hallelujah from Christ on the Mount of Olives --
Not to be left out, the chorus also contributes to the fireworks
of the second half with this work by Beethoven.
Three African American Spirituals for Organ and
Chorus -- Historic
black colleges, in the middle of this century, were lead by
Fisk University in bringing African American spirituals to
the attention of the American audience. Tours by choral groups
from the universities often endured great hardships because of segregation,
but continued -- often providing a significant income for
their schools. Usually the spirituals were unaccompanied,
but the first two presented in this concert are accompanied
by the organ and the third adds the Jazz Ensemble made up
of members of the Brass and Percussion Ensemble and feature
LaTishia Gregory on piano.
Symphony No. 2 in C sharp minor: Preludio --
No organ recital would be complete without a work by Dupre,
French Romantic organist and composer.
Gigue Fugue in G major and Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C
major -- Again, two extremely well-known pieces
by Bach and favorites of Greywolf.
From Acht kleine preludien und fugen -- Bach's
"Small Preludes and Fugues" are used extensively in all manner
of settings. Greywolf has chosen four for this program.
A twentieth-century Canadian composer, Peeters is well-known
for his liturgical works and his work with hymn tunes often
heard in churches. Greywolf has chosen a Toccata from one
of his longer works, Suite Mondale, Op. 43.
Toccata in E minor -- Pachelbel is another
organist/composer who is a "must" in any organist's repertoire.
Sanctus -- The Sanctus is a part of the Mass
and is usually sung by the congregation. Composers, however,
have written very elaborate Masses which preclude congregational
participation. While this undermines the whole idea of the
congregation being an integral part of the celebration of
the Eucharist, the music certainly has a place in celebrations.
Clearly, while Gounod's Sanctus is beyond the abilities of
an average congregation, the music certainly captures the
spirit of the Sanctus as the song "angels, archangels, and
angel choirs" sing to glorify God. Ms. Wright points out it
tries the abilities of the Mixed Chorus.
Te Deum in C major -- Benjamin Britten, an
English composer of our century, was once credited with keeping
British hopes alive during the Second World War when there
seemed to be no reason to hope. Certainly in his Te Deum the
sense of hope and strength is very present as will be felt
in this performance by the chorus, ensemble and organ.
Greywolf: Yonghon Tongmu: Fantasia on "More" in Four Parts -- "More," the theme from the rather grotesque film "Mondo Cane", became a popular song in the sixties. For The Family, it has almost become a theme song. Greywolf has written a fantasia on the tune and incorporates in it "The River Falls" heard in the first of his compositions "The Family." The fantasy describes a relationship.
The piece opens with a very lyrical and pastoral rendition
of the song played on the organ. As the work continues, the
ensemble begins "The River Falls" in the background, providing
a backdrop for the main theme. The men of the chorus begin
singing the words to "More" to a variation of "The River Falls"
while the women sing "More" in a lullaby-like manner, suggesting
the innocence of childhood. The choral part becomes more animated
as "More" is sung in the manner of a children's play song,
complete with hand play by members of the chorus. The ensemble
grows increasingly soft until it is heard no more and the
chorus "winds down" in the manner of children exhausted by
a day of play. The organ continues, softly, playing the theme
as a lullaby until it, too, is heard no more.
Darkness: As the first section of the piece suggests the innocence of childhood, the second suggests death, not of innocence, but death itself, It opens with a chaotic version of the theme being played by the ensemble while the chorus, often using voices without words, suggests a flickering in and out of consciousness, going from clarity of the song to an incomprehensible rendition of it. Meanwhile the organ modulates from the original major key to a minor one as the song becomes a dirge. The dirge continues as the chorus alternates between male voices singing, without words, in a minor key and very changing tempo -- suggesting a struggle against darkness, and female voices singing, again without words, in a major key -- faintly at first but growing stronger, suggesting the struggle is being won. However, from time to time, when life seems sure, the male voices of doom override the female voices. Finally, the organ modulates back to a major key, supporting the women's voices as the male voices gradually fade. The section ends with the chorus and organ softly playing and singing the theme when the trumpets, including the organ's state trumpets, announce the successful end of the struggle and the chorus bursts forth in a triumphant version of the theme.
Love: "More" is a love song and to use it as a theme for the part of the fantasy called "Love" would appear to be easy. Greywolf reports that it was the hardest of the four sections to write. "It is a love song and therefore very easy to become sentimental and the love I wanted to describe was not sentimental, but profound." The section opens with "The River Falls" being played by the ensemble in a pastoral mode. When the organ joins in, it employs flute stops and the rarely used vox humana stop. Both organ and ensemble gradually move from the falls theme to "More." As soon as the melody is clearly established, the chorus joins in, singing "More" in a very pure, simple manner. "More" goes through several transformations becoming a waltz, played by the organ alone, a lilting version sung by the chorus and finally a passionate version using all the available musical resources. This section concludes with an organ and ensemble arrangement reminiscent of the big band era as a soprano and tenor duet sing the song to each other and then together.
"The River Falls" theme is heard once again and for the last
time as the fourth part opens. The organ and ensemble join
to paint a picture of sunrise over the river falls. Faintly
heard above the rather quiet falls theme is the duet from
the previous section, singing "More" in a quiet, lyrical manner.
As the sun finally breaks free of the horizon, the organ,
ensemble and chorus break forth in a joyous rendition of "More."
The remainder of the movement comprises a number of versions
of the song -- some played by the organ alone, some by the
ensemble, some sung by an unaccompanied chorus and others
performed using combinations of the three. The arrangements include
a Latin one, a country-western one, a rock and roll one and several
others. The piece concludes with an "all stops" version of
the song, ending on a definite triumphant note.
After the excitement of Sunday and the terrific love-making of Sunday night, I expected to find it hard to wake up Monday morning. I didn't because I was awakened when I felt Luke's lips against mine and his whisper, "Dark Angel, I love you more every day I live". I returned his kiss passionately and whispered back, "Bright Angel, you are the reason I live every day!" Reluctantly, we got out of bed and crossed the hall to brush our teeth and take a piss--not in that order--before we pulled on sweats for the morning run. We climbed down the trellis and found Michael and Mary Kathryn waiting for us. "Luke, Matt, we need to talk as well as run this morning. I mean serious talk."
"Ok, we'll run and jog back so we can talk," Luke responded. "Now let's run. I feel so alive!" We started running and Luke started shouting, greeting the morning, and the three of us joined him. After we had run about three miles, Luke said, "Ok, let's jog and talk".
"Luke, Michael and I had a long talk last night about you and Matt. I think anyone looking at your painting of Matt and how it was displayed would realize that it was more than a painting done of a brother by a brother. Matt, most of the kids who saw you kiss Luke accepted--at least tolerated--what was clearly not an expression of brotherly love. To be honest, you two outted yourselves yesterday almost as clearly as if you had made an announcement. As I said, most kids I heard mention it were at least tolerant, but I know some are not," Mary Kathryn said. "And we all know the least tolerant ones weren't there yesterday. Today with this all-school field trip the good, the bad and the impossible will know all about it. I'm sure the kiss will be the topic of the morning gossip. Then, when they see the exhibition, they will see the painting."
"Since we are going directly to St. Mary's, you won't have to worry about the reaction when you get to school, but before the day is over, everyone in school will be talking--one way or the other. I don't know what the reaction will be. I know that Independence has made a lot of progress in the past few weeks, but a lifetime of homophobia doesn't get washed away in days. Be warned and be careful," Michael added.
"I hadn't given thought to that," I admitted. "I guess we should have."
"Matt, what's done is done and if we outted ourselves, I guess we wanted to, whether we were conscious of it or not. We have said before that our love will sustain us through anything. I hope we are right because I think we are facing a real test of our love here. And I hope that you two have overstated the case. If not, we'll just have to deal with it."
"Remember, we are here for you," Michael said as he kissed Mary Kathryn and turned to go up his walk.
We all fell silent, lost in our own thoughts as we jogged the rest of the way. When we reached my place, Luke kissed me and said, "Matt, I think we might have breakfast with our families this morning". I agreed and watched as he and Mary Kathryn jogged home.
When I had showered and dressed, I went downstairs to find Mom and Dad waiting breakfast for me. "Matt," Dad said,"You don't know how proud you have made your mom and me. Your recital was splendid and the original compositions were outstanding. Your acceptance to Oberlin not only means a great deal to you and Luke, but also to us since it is a recognition of your talent and hard work. We're having dinner here tonight so we can all boast and celebrate." Then there was a long pause. "But there is something else." Another long pause. "Now please don't take what we have to say as criticism."
"Yes, please don't," Mom added.
"You know that we accept and love you dearly and that we are happy that you have the love of Luke. Regardless of what we might have preferred, we are overjoyed that you have found the happiness you have with the man you love so deeply. However..."
I braced myself for... I didn't know what.
"However, I hope you realize that this weekend has changed things dramatically. Luke's painting of you, especially displayed as it is, caught the attention of a number of people. It didn't take a rocket scientist to see that it was not just a painting, but the painting of someone loved deeply and, to be blunt, not as a brother. Then your 'Fantasia' could hardly have made your feeling for Luke clearer if you had called it 'Luke Larsen'. Again, don't get me wrong. I am not condemning or even questioning what the two of you did. Both works were statements of great love and I can find no fault with that. Also, I understand that when Luke came downstairs to congratulate you, you kissed him in a most unbrotherly fashion..." Dad paused.
I blushed then hung my head. "It's true, Dad, Mom. I couldn't contain myself I was so happy and excited. And, yes, I gave him a full, tongue-in-the-mouth kiss. I'm sorry."
"Are you?" Mom asked. "I really doubt that, Matt. And I don't expect you to be."
"You're right, Mom, I'm not sorry. I am sorry and maybe worried about what that impulsive action may bring about. Michael and Mary Kathryn talked to us about it this morning."
"Well, I think it is safe to say you two are about as out as you will ever be. Maybe that is best, I don't know. But I do know you are probably facing some rough times ahead. Your mom and I wanted to be sure you realized what had happened and to know that we are here to offer any support we can. And to make sure you understand were we stand, I want to say again, your mom and I are very, very proud of you and Luke. And we are also pleased you have found so great a love. We do know that great loves can withstand a lot, right, Yong Jin?"
"Very right, Greywolf," Mom replied as she crossed the kitchen and kissed my dad then the two of them embraced me.
After breakfast, I went to pick up Luke. As he got in the Jeep--since Michael wasn't going to the actual school building, he decided the rules against sophomores having cars didn't apply and he picked up Mary Kathryn--he said his family had a discussion and as he talked about it, I told him it was the same discussion I had with Mom and Dad. Nothing more was said about how we had--unconsciously--outted ourselves.
"Matt, are you excited about today?" Luke asked as we approached St. Mary's.
"I didn't think I would be. I thought by today the performance would be old hat, but I'm getting butterflies just as I did Saturday and Sunday."
"So am I."
When we reached St. Mary's, all the crew was already there. The ensemble and chorus were in the church, warming up, and the docents were waiting to begin. Soon the buses pulled in with the juniors and seniors for the exhibition. Luke had walked into the back hall where I was vesting a short time before and, just before I was ready to go to the organ, took me into his arms for a magnificent Luke kiss. I didn't want to let him go. My mouth and then my whole being was filled with the taste of Luke. When we finally broke our kiss, I thought I saw a shadow at the other end of the hall, but decided this morning's talk had gotten to me more than I thought.
Leaving Luke, I went to the organ prepared to start the third performance of the recital/concert. Eugene, Paula and I had decided it was very long for school kids and cut out a few things, but the basic concert and recital remained intact.
As soon as I had given Matt a good luck kiss, I went back to the exhibition. Perhaps I was being overly sensitive, but I thought the crew were being especially attentive when I arrived. "Luke, Ms. Jones suddenly realized that two classes are too much to try to see the exhibition at the same time so she has decided the juniors will go first and then seniors. If you'll look out in the church playground you'll see just how mature the seniors are." I walked over to the window and saw seniors in high school being kids again--sliding, swinging and playing like little kids.
It seemed the juniors were either totally disinterested or full of questions. It took a while to get them all through the exhibition. I hung around, answering questions when asked, but mostly just observing. I was especially observant when a group went into the gallery with Matt's picture. There were a lot of questions, but nothing to indicate that anyone saw the painting as anything more than a painting. I must confess I was relieved.
When the juniors had finished going through the exhibition, the seniors came in--and the juniors hit the playground. The seniors were generally more interested than the juniors. Four guys--Independence's "skin heads" seemed to take special interest in the exhibition. Michael was their docent and they kept asking questions of him and me as well.
It was nearing time for lunch when all the seniors had gone outside except the Fellowship and the junior basketball players who were laughing and talking with Bill. Jacob and Mary Kathryn were just outside the gallery door when the four with Michael entered where Matt's picture hung. As soon as they were inside, Shawn McKay whipped out a knife and lunged toward the painting of Matt shouting, "Why are we looking at a picture of a shit packing, cock-sucking faggot?" as he slashed the painting. The three with him shouted, "Cut the queer's picture again, Shawn. Get the cock sucker good." I felt as though a knife had gone through my heart. But the worse was yet to come. As Michael rushed toward him, Shawn turned, knife still in hand, and slashed Michael. As Michael fell to the floor, Mary Kathryn screamed, "Bill and you basketballs players, get in here now! Someone call 911!" Bill rushed into the room as Shawn lunged toward me. He quickly took Shawn down and wrestled the knife from him.
Jacob and the basketball players quickly took care of the other three as Mary Kathryn and I rushed to Michael. He was covered with blood and I could see he had been cut badly. "Get Mr. Allan and Greywolf," I said as I ripped off my shirt and tried to stop the bleeding. It was soon obvious that the cut had started just below Michael's right eye, crossed his cheek, then his chest to just below his rib cage and then turned in the opposite direction, slashing open his abdomen. Mr. Allan and Greywolf came and started administering first aid as best they could. Michael was losing a tremendous amount of blood and nothing they did seemed to stop it.
Ms. Jones appeared at the door and said, "The EMS is on the way. It's only three or four minutes to the hospital. I have also called the police. The basketball guys and Bill have the four involved well in hand. I am sending everyone else into the church." Before she had finished speaking, I heard the sirens of the EMS team.
Unfortunately, David was on duty and came with the team. I met them at the door and said, "David, Michael's been hurt. I think you better let your team mates handle this." He, of course, ignored me and rushed into the room. Two team members were working on Michael and David, being the professional he was, joined right in, nonetheless, tears were streaming down his face.
While the other team members worked on Michael, David got on his radio and called the hospital telling them the situation and that they needed to have a surgeon standing by ready to operate. "Michael, I am sure, has a punctured bowel and has lost and is losing a great deal of blood. Call Dr. Bailey--Dr. Andrews and tell her. We are ready to transport. We'll need someone to work on his face as well. It is cut badly. His blood type is AB positive. You'll probably have to find someone who can donate since I doubt that there is enough available."
When the EMS team left with Michael, Ms. Jones had returned and said, "Greywolf, you are not capable of driving a bus load of kids. I have called for drivers to take everyone back to school. When we get there, I will send them home. You need to stay here. I haven't told those in the church what happened, but when I do, you and Yong Jin will need to be with Matt."
"We'll need to be with the whole Fellowship," Greywolf replied quietly. "We will take care of them."
I walked down the hall and walked up behind Matt who was still sitting on the organ bench. As soon as I saw him, I couldn't hold it any longer. I burst into great sobs and clung to him. "Matt, Michael has been hurt. He's been hurt really bad." I had forgotten about Mary Kathryn until she put her arms around me and started crying. I quickly told Matt what had happened.
"Why Michael? Why Michael?" Matt kept asking. "Michael has done nothing. We are the guilty ones. Why Michael?"
The three of us held each other as Ms. Jones walked to the front of the packed and overcrowded church.
"Students, Independence has had another tragedy resulting from intolerance and hatred. Shawn McKay made some accusations about Matt Greywolf and then slashed a magnificent painting of him done by Luke Larsen..."
"One queer's painting of another queer," someone shouted from among the packed students.
There was a brief disturbance and Tanishia Berry was walking up the packed center aisle, dragging a girl by the hair of her head while twisting her arm behind her back. "Ms. Jones, you had better take this bitch before I take care of her!" she said as she shoved a girl down in front of Ms. Jones.
"You stay right there or I'll turn my back and let Tanishia have a go at you," Ms. Jones said. "Not only did Shawn slash the painting, but he also slashed Michael Andrews' face, chest and abdomen. While there is no official word at this time, Mr. Andrews, who was with the EMS team, thought it was very serious, very serious indeed. He told me there is always hope, but that he felt Michael might well die from his wounds. Blood is critical because Michael had lost a great deal before the EMS team got here and was still losing blood when they left for the hospital with him. Michael has a rather rare blood type and there probably is not enough at the hospital. If you are eighteen and are willing to give blood, stay behind and you will be taken to the hospital so your blood can be typed and drawn. If you're not eighteen, but would like to donate, you'll have to have parental permission. You can call and have your parents meet you at the hospital. If you are not going to the hospital to give blood, will you please leave the church quietly and board the buses. You will be taken back to school and then home. And keep Michael in your thoughts." She then looked down at the girl still on the floor under Tanishia's watchful eye and said, "Your are suspended until there can be a hearing. I suggest you see if you can use the phone here and get someone to take you home. Your parents will be in my office tomorrow morning at 8:00 sharp."
"I might have known you'd take up for faggots!" she shouted and, before Ms. Jones could stop her, Tanishia gave her a good smack to the mouth. In response the girl shouted, "Even you, you fucking nigger, you are taking up for faggots!" she shouted.
"Forget the phone and get out of my sight!" Ms. Jones said.
As the students started leaving the church, I noticed several were kneeling before they finally got up. About fifty students were still in the church when Ms. Jones asked, "Are you waiting to go to give blood?" All nodded. "I have a bus waiting to take you to the hospital." Soon only the Fellowship was left and Ms. Jones came back to make sure we were ok.
We told her we would go to the hospital as well, "But first we need to get ourselves together," Matt said. "I miss Michael. This is the kind of thing he could handle." Before we left, all of us, except Paula, knelt for a time. She stood straight, her hands uplifted. As we got up she said, "Think a Jewish prayer might help as well as a Christian one and I pray standing". Mary Kathryn hugged her tightly and began to cry softly.
The Fellowship walked back to the parish hall and, when we got there, Gertie met us. "Fr. Tom has gone to the hospital. Matt, Greywolf and Yong Jin went to tell Jens and Gabrielle. Millie is on her way over. I suggest you go into the conference room and wait for her. I put some drinks in there for you. Anything else I can do?"
"Gertie, could you call Gladys and Chelsea? Please?" Matt asked.
"Didn't need to. They called here. Someone from the hospital had called them about possible emergency duty. They resigned last week, you know, because the hospice is opening next week. They are coming by here to see how you all are doing."
When Gladys and Chelsea arrived, there were hugs and introductions since they didn't really know all the Fellowship. "Hatred strikes again. When will it end?" Chelsea asked. "But right now I guess you are wondering where things stand. I know you've been through a lot and I wouldn't dare try to lie to you. Michael is in a critical condition. He has lost a tremendous amount of blood because the cuts were deep. While it is fortunate no vital organ was cut, his bowel was nicked. That means there is a grave danger of serious, and I mean very serious, infection. Mary Kathryn, I hope his beautiful face can be repaired, but it was slashed deeply. We were told a plastic surgeon was being flown in by helicopter from Lexington, but what the outcome will be is very much up in the air. Right now the important thing is to keep him alive. And I'll not try to sugar coat it--that is not going to be easy." Mary Kathryn turned snow white and collapsed.
Chelsea and Gladys soon had her conscious again. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make trouble," she said, then started crying. Then, as she had done when she was a very young child, she crawled in my lap and put her arms around my neck. I held her close.
"Chelsea and I resigned from the hospital last week in anticipation of opening the hospice next week, but it was only a formal opening since we are not really ready for patients yet. We have told the hospital we will be doing private duty nursing pulling twelve-hour shifts to take care of Michael."
"Then," Matt said to Mary Kathryn, "you can be sure Michael will have the best possible chance of making it. Death has to get permission before he takes someone from these two."
Time dragged on as it does when you are waiting, not knowing what is happening. Bill, Linda and Jacob excused themselves saying they would be in the office for a short time.
When they returned, Bill said, "We got the ball rolling for Independence to hold a vigil outside the hospital. There will be students there around the clock until Michael is out of danger. The first group is going there now. Linda, Paula, Jacob and I are going to the hospital as part of the first group holding the vigil," Bill said.
"We'll take Mary Kathryn and stay," Gladys said "and we'll keep you posted on anything we learn. Let's go, Mary Kathryn."
Matt and I sat silent for a few minutes then Matt got up and said, "Luke, I'm going into the church for a while before we go to the hospital". I followed him, as did Larry and Eugene. The four of us walked down the hall to the church, holding hands, saying nothing. When we reached the church, we went to the altar rail and knelt. We stayed for a good while. When we got up and walked back to the parish office, Millie was talking to Gertie. Both were crying. It seemed strange to see Millie crying. It just was so out of character.
"Matt, Luke, Larry, Son," she said through tears, "I feel terrible. Somehow or other I feel as though I am responsible for this."
"Millie, that's exactly how I feel. Had I not kissed Luke..."
"Or if I had not painted that picture..."
"Stop it all, all of you!" Gertie said. "No-one except the boy who did it and his henchmen are responsible. How could you have known that he would do such a horrible thing? If we all didn't do things out of fear of what someone else might do, we'd never do anything. What you three did was wonderful and shows the world what love is about. That angry young man showed what hate can do. We can't stop doing things because there's hate in the world!"
"I know you four want to get to the hospital although I doubt there will be any news for a long time. I had just got the Oberlin people on their way when I heard what had happened. I'm on my way home to get things set up to make it headquarters until Michael is out of danger. There'll be food and beds there for all who want or need them," Millie said.
The four of us hugged Millie and we all had another good cry, then we left for the hospital.
I couldn't believe how interested Shawn McKay and his three skinhead buddies seemed to be in the exhibition. It was also strange that their girlfriends were not with them, but standing on the steps outside. Usually they were attached to the side of their "men" as if they had been born siamese twins. Not only did the four keep asking me questions, but also Luke. Every time Luke got a few feet away, one of them would call to him with a question.
It took them so long to get through the exhibition that all the other students had gone outside, leaving only the Fellowship and some of Bill's friends from the basketball team inside. We were finally ready to go into the fourth gallery, the one with the painting of Matt. As I always did, I stood back in order to allow those viewing the painting to receive the full impact of it. Suddenly Shawn McKay reached into his pocket and pulled out a long knife. Before I knew what was happening, he slashed the painting. I rushed toward him just as he turned and lunged at me with the knife. As he did, my world turned red and pain I could not have imagined took over my entire being. I fell to the floor and it seemed as though the pain and the red were all of my world. I heard voices at first, but they soon faded away. As the voices faded, the red started turning to gray, then black. I was alone and I didn't know where. I was only conscious of the pain then... nothing except blackness and pain.
When we got to the hospital, there were about fifty students outside, standing holding hands, heads bowed. When we got inside, we found Mary Kathryn, Mom and Dad, and Yong Jin and Greywolf in a waiting room. "David and Margaret insisted on being in the operating room," Mom said. "The doctors tried to keep them out, but finally let them go. We have heard nothing."
Larry and Eugene, Matt and I were standing, each holding his love. "Matt, if I hadn't done that painting..." I said, as I felt the tears rolling down my face.
"If I hadn't kissed you in front of all those students..." Matt said through his tears.
"Stop! Stop that nonsense! You are not responsible for what happened to Michael. Don't you dare start being guilty for being in love and letting it show," Larry said. "Don't you dare get yourself into the trap I fell into. Even though I did something terrible, I have had to get rid of the guilt. It will eat you alive and for what? It has been a long, hard struggle for me to finally forgive myself for what I did to Eugene. Don't you two even start. Don't even start collecting and holding on to guilt. Shawn McKay attacked Michael--not you two."
"He's right, you know," Jens said. "I have been down that path and I can tell you, it accomplishes nothing. You didn't do anything to feel guilty about."
As he was talking, Chelsea came into the room with David and Margaret. "These two need to be out here. There's nothing they can do in there except make things harder on the doctors who are working to save Michael." It was the Chelsea of no nonsense who spoke and it was easy to see that she was not taking anything off of David and Margaret.
David sat down with is head in his hands, weeping while Margaret sat beside him, stroking his hair. "To be honest," Margaret said, "it doesn't look good. They have finally got the bleeding somewhat under control, but Michael lost so much blood, he is barely alive. The hospital is out of his blood type and no-one wants to try giving him universal donor blood until it is absolutely necessary."
Chelsea had left the room and when she returned said, "Dr. Bai... Andrews, there is a whole line of kids waiting to give blood. Parents are arriving, offering to give blood and to give permission for their kids to give blood. The lab is flooded. If you are up to it, could you lend a hand?" Margaret was out of the room like a bullet.
We waited--can anything be more difficult than waiting in a hospital?
An hour or so later, Gladys appeared. "There's a bit of good news. There were several people who had the right blood type and the cross matches are ok. Michael is getting the blood he needs and seems to be responding to it. He's nowhere close to being out of the woods, but we no longer have to worry about the blood supply--at least for now."
"Luke, we haven't offered to give blood," Matt said.
"Nor have we," Eugene said.
David raised his head and said, "Larry, Eugene, I don't want to hurt you, but one of the questions you will be asked is whether or not you have had sex with a man. Eugene, it is known that you have--without your consent--so your blood will not be accepted."
"Neither will mine," Larry said, hanging his head.
"There's nothing to be ashamed of," David said, "it's a precaution which, in your case I am sure is unnecessary, but there is no need for you to have to be subject to the questions and refused. You have my heartfelt thanks for your willingness to give blood."
Matt and I went out and joined the line of those waiting to give blood and Larry and Eugene joined the vigil.
The hospital was taking blood from all who offered, but the supply for Michael was still very small. Why didn't he have a common blood type?
When Matt and I reached the nurse doing the forms, she asked if we had had sex with a man in the past two years. When we both answered "No," she looked up in surprise. "I guess you now see how a stupid assumption--which apparently you had--can hurt and maybe kill," Matt said through clinched teeth. I thought she would apologize, but she didn't.
When we took our forms to the next person, he said, "There seems to be some question about your giving blood. I'll need to check this". As he got up to leave, Margaret came out of the lab. "Dr. Bailey--I mean Andrews, would you check these forms please?"
As soon as Margaret looked at them, I could see steam coming out of her ears. In a cold, calm voice she said, "They have my clearance". Then, after signing the forms, she walked over to the woman who had questioned us and said, "Come with me!" When Margaret came back, the woman was no longer with her and someone else took over her job.
Neither Matt nor I had the right blood type, but we donated blood nevertheless. After we had sat for the required length of time, we walked back to the waiting room, drinking our OJ. Chelsea was there. "Good to see you two. I have news which I was just about to tell everyone. The bleeding is under control and the surgeons are doing the repairs. There was some leakage from the bowel, so there is still a danger of a major infection. Fortunately, Michael appears to have no allergies to antibiotics and the IV antibiotics have been started. After the doctors got the bleeding from the cut on his face stopped, they did nothing else, waiting for the plastic surgeon from Lexington to arrive. He is here, but hasn't started work yet because the other wounds are more critical. There will probably be no more news for an hour or so if you want to stretch your legs or whatever. Also, Gladys and I are making reports to Millie's place and to the students outside."
Matt and I decided to go see and thank the students. Outside it was obvious that most of those holding the vigil had given blood because they had the telltale bandaid. Others got up when students returned from giving blood and went to give theirs. As soon as we were outside, the members of the Fellowship came over. "Chelsea and Gladys have kept us informed," Bill said. "It looks a bit brighter than I expected. When I saw Michael lying in that pool of blood, I thought he was already dead. Thank God, I was wrong."
We talked about what had happened and, once again, Matt and I were chided for taking blame. "I have told everyone my house is headquarters until Michael is out of danger," Eugene said. "Millie is sending over sandwiches and drinks for those participating in the vigil. Mr. Stephenson and Uncle Michael came by to offer food and beds to any who wanted them during the night."
When we went back into the hospital waiting room, there was no more news. We sat, waiting with David, Mom and Dad, and Yong Jin and Greywolf. After another hour or so, Dr. Walker came down the hall to the waiting room. He did not look at all happy. "I'm afraid I have some bad news. Michael has taken a turn for the worse. The doctors have done all they can do, but I'm afraid... I'm afraid we are going to lose Michael. I'm very sorry. Everything seemed to be going so well and the plastic surgeon was ready to start work on his face when everything seemed to go wrong. No-one is sure why, but it looks bad, very bad."
Suddenly I had the strangest feeling--I don't mean from the news. It was hard to describe. I looked at Matt and saw a very strange look in his eyes as though he was feeling something as well. In a voice I hardly recognized as Matt's he said, "Dr. Walker, Luke and I need to go to Michael".
"You know that cannot be... well, that is very irregular Matt but I have seen you perform a miracle before and, frankly, there is nothing else we can do. Come with me." He led us down the hall and into the operating room where there were several doctors standing, looking at Michael and the monitors. "Doctors, this is Matthew Greywolf and Luke Larsen. Had Matt not performed what I consider a miracle, Luke would no longer be with us. They have asked to come here and I see no reason not to permit it. Guys, get washed up and the nurses will provide you with gloves, gowns and masks."
As we were washing up, I asked Matt, "Matt, what are we doing? Why are we here?"
"I don't know, Luke. I simply don't know, but when Dr. Walker was talking, I had the strangest feeling and felt like you and I had to go to Michael." I didn't answer, but I knew what he meant.
When we went back into the operating room, the doctors watched as we moved toward Michael. Of course he was hooked up to all kinds of things, his face had a compress on it and he looked dead. Purely and simply, he looked dead. Matt walked to the other side of the operating table and when he did, took off the gloves the nurse had given him. I followed suit. Two doctors started toward us, but Dr. Walker held them back. Matt touched Michael's left foot with his hand and placed his other hand on the side of Michael's head. As he did, he looked as though an electric charge had passed through his body. I had no idea what was going on, but again followed suit. I couldn't believe how cold Michael's foot was when I touched it with my hand. As my other hand approached his head, I felt as though something was flowing through me and into Michael. I could feel myself growing weaker as the flow continued. I closed my eyes, concentrating on--what?--I didn't know. Gradually I began to feel pain and my world was turning red... then... nothing. The next thing I knew, I was on a gurney with Gladys standing over me. "What happened?" I asked.
"I'm sure I don't know," she replied. "You and Matt went into the operating room with Dr. Walker and then you were wheeled out on gurneys, unconscious."
"He's with Chelsea right over there. I think he's coming around too. I don't know whether it was the blood you gave--that shouldn't have made any difference--or the sight of Michael, or what, but apparently you two fainted. You haven't eaten all day, have you?" I shook my head, but I knew that wasn't the reason for our passing out. "Now just lie still for a while. You seem to be ok, but I don't want you passing out on me. We've got to get some food into you soon."
I was very tired and sleepy and slowly drifted off to sleep. As I did, I felt the pain again and my world turned red as it had done when I touched Michael, but it was not as bad.
I didn't know where I was or what was happening. All my world was red and smoke and pain--horrible, terrible pain. More than anything, I wanted to be out of pain. I wanted the darkness of the smoke to cover me and take away the pain. Slowly, beginning at my feet, the smoke covered me. It seemed to be entering my body, replacing it. As it did, the pain went away. Soon it would be over, the pain would be gone. Soon, soon, please soon. As the smoke whirled around me, it covered, then entered my stomach where the pain was terrible and the pain went away. "Please, take it all away," I cried to myself, for I was alone. Just before the pain completely vanished and I drifted into the smoke to sleep, I felt a presence--no, there were two--approaching. They wanted to bring the pain back! I tried to scream, but it was like a nightmare; I could make no sound. "Please go away! Take the pain away!" I wanted to cry, but no sound came.
Suddenly, the presences I had felt approaching reached out and touched me. There was a blinding flash of light and in it I saw Matt and Luke, dressed as Lakota medicine men, reaching out and touching me. Again and again, lightening bolts came from their hands and ripped through my body. The pain was terrible! With each lightening bolt, Matt and Luke became smaller until, finally, they disappeared, leaving me in body-wracking pain. The smoke was gone and, as it disappeared, I saw Mary Kathryn, holding our son out to me. Then nothing.
As I had told Luke, I didn't know why we needed to go to the operating room or what we were to do when we got there, but I knew we had to go. When we were all properly prepared, we approached the operating table where Michael lay. Without thinking--how would I know what to think?--I took off the gloves that covered my hands and Luke did likewise. When we touched Michael, I felt as though a tremendous lightening bolt shot through my body and into Michael's. As I continued to hold his foot and with my hand to the side of his head, the lightening bolts continued, each one leaving me in greater pain and definitely weaker. Energy or something was leaving my body and being replaced by pain--horrible, terrible pain. Everything turned red. I saw nothing except red--the red of blood. It seemed as though blood was pouring over me, covering my eyes until all I could see or imagine was blood, red blood, and all I could feel was pain. I felt myself growing weaker and weaker, then nothing.
When I came to, I was lying on a gurney outside the operating room with Chelsea standing over me. "Here, drink this," she said, handing me a cup. I was almost too weak to raise up so she placed a hand behind my head and lifted it from the pillow and held the cup to my lips. When I had drunk the liquid, I lay back down, exhausted. As I drifted off to sleep, I saw that red world again and felt the pain, but it wasn't as bad as it had been when I touched Michael.
When I waked up, Luke was half sitting, half lying on the gurney beside me. He bent over and kissed me softly as he whispered, "Sarang Hanun Pomul, what happened in there?"
"Yonghon Tongmu, I wish I knew what and how and why, but I don't. I don't know anything about it. I just knew we had to do it."
"Well, I see you're awake now, Matt. What happened?" Gladys asked.
"As I just said to Luke, I don't know what or how or why anything happened except I knew we had to go to Michael. Is there any news?"
"Nothing since you went in. Wait a minute, here comes Dr. Walker now with the chief surgeon."
"Matt, Luke, I don't know what went on in there..."
"Neither do we," Luke and I said at the same time.
"Well, maybe we will know something later, but I suspect not. By the way, this is Dr. Martinez, the surgeon who was working on Michael."
We shook hands as Dr. Walker said, "I have told Dr. Martinez about how you pulled Luke out of the grave and he wanted to meet you".
"Matt, Luke, I have been witness to some strange things in my life, but I think your--what?-- performance in the operating room has to be one of the strangest. I would hate for my colleagues to hear me say it--they would laugh me out of town--but as soon as you two touched Michael, I saw a strange light pass from you to him. I don't know what was going on, but I will tell you that, while he is not out of danger by a long shot--he is still in very very critical condition--there is hope, and reason for hope. It was very strange to see you two pass out as he grew stronger. He is almost--almost--stable. If he stays as stable as he is, I think the plastic surgeon will risk working on his face. If Michael is stable enough--and that's still a big if--I only hope he can do a decent job because the cut is deep and I'm afraid it damaged some nerves--but the major thing is that Michael live. Now he may make it. I'd just like to know what you did."
"So would we," Luke said quietly.
Dr. Martinez, once again, said how puzzled he was and he and Dr. Walker went back to the operating room.
"Chelsea, these two have eaten nothing today. They shouldn't have given blood in their condition, but I think we need to order them to go home--or to Millie's--and get some food and rest," Gladys said. "I promise we will call you if there is any news at all."
Chelsea said, "I think we need to get the family to go as well, at least to eat".
Well, who can deny Chelsea AND Gladys? The Fellowship was gathered together and joined by the family. "We're going to Millie's for food and a bit of rest," Jens said. "I think you and Margaret should come as well." David refused.
Margaret was determined to stay with him until Yong Jin took her in hand. "You have been working like a dog and I know you haven't gotten any rest or food. You're coming with us."
"I am not leaving David here alone with our son," she said most emphatically. "Our son," she had said. I guess you can plan not to be a mom to someone, but then you find out you are.
"Margaret, for the sake of yourself and your twins, at least take long enough to put your feet up for a few minutes and get some food. I'll stay with David," Jens said. She was reluctant to leave but, after a soft kiss from David, which turned quite passionate, she left with us.
After we had eaten and Margaret had relaxed as well as she could for half an hour--at least she put her feet up and, when she did, I noticed they were swollen from the hours she had been standing and walking--she was determined to go back to the hospital. Greywolf took her. The rest of us were sprawled out on chairs and on the floor in the living room. There was very little being said--I am sure all of us were buried in our own thoughts.
I was glad I was surrounded by people who cared about me and about the love of my life Michael. They all loved Michael for sure, but I didn't just love Michael. Michael was my very life. My every heartbeat was because Michael loved me. And now... well, there was hope, but... I don't think I could live without Michael and his love. I felt myself slowly sinking into hopelessness as I thought about life without my man. There would be no life without him. I could feel tears forming again--I thought I had long ago cried until there were no more tears.
Luke must have noticed because he got up from where he was sitting between Matt's legs and walked over to me and put his arms about me. "Sis, Michael will make it. Remember, you and he had a son. Just remember that. A dead man does not father children. Michael will make it. I know it." As he gave me a hard Luke squeeze, Millie came into the room with a tray of sandwiches and drinks. We had eaten only a short time before but teens are always hungry, I guess, and all of us had missed lunch.
"I'm taking this into the library," she said. "There has just been an announcement from WLEX that a student had been attacked in Concord today and LaTasha Jackson was on the way to cover the story. You know the rest, 'Film at 11:00'. It's 10:30 now so you may want to go upstairs to Eugene's to watch or come into the library with me."
"Millie," Luke said, "I know we're supposed to be adults and I'm sure you suggested Eugene's place thinking we might like to be alone--alone together I mean--but, to tell the truth, I don't feel too adult right now and would like a mom around." Heads nodded all around.
Millie got misty eyed as she said, "Luke, I have never been more honored".
As we started to the library, the doorbell rang. When Millie went to the door, she came back with Uncle Michael. "I left John to take care of the students coming over from the vigil," he said. "When I heard WLEX was doing a report tonight, I felt I should be here with you since the parents are at the hospital." Before he had finished speaking, he was being hugged by the whole group.
As we got settled with the sandwiches and drinks, waiting for the news, the phone rang. Everyone froze. I guess in such situations, you always expect the worst. Millie answered the phone and her whole body relaxed almost immediately but, just as quickly, it became rigid as she got a stricken look on her face.
As soon as I saw the look on Millie's face, I knew the worst had happened. I supposed I would have burst into tears, but I guess I had already cried myself out. I stood, stunned, waiting for the words which would end my life.
Millie hung up the phone, turned to all of us who were waiting for the bad news. "I guess our news today comes as good news, bad news. The good news--the very good news--is that Michael has stabilized and the bleeding has been stopped. The plastic surgeon has started working on his face. Dr. Walker came out and told David and Margaret that he was very confident that Michael would live. He told them without the blood students and parents had given, he would not have. Now the bad news. Michael will carry a scar on his face for the rest of his life according to the plastic surgeon. He thinks it might not be too bad and, if it is, additional reconstructive surgery can be done when he is well. But, and this is the bad news. He is certain the slash to Michael's face caused nerve damage. Nerve damage cannot be repaired. This means there will be facial paralysis. He is not sure how much--it may be very bad or not so bad. Exactly how much damage has been done and how much paralysis there will be will not be evident for sometime. Michael is, of course, still under anesthesia and won't be conscious for some time. Even then he will be heavily sedated."
"But he is out of danger?" I asked. "He will live?"
"Well, he's still in a very critical condition, but there is real hope that he will make it. Dr. Walker is not one for undue optimism and he is very optimistic at this point. Every time I think about how a jackass damaged Michael's beautiful face I get so angry I am ready to strangle the son of a bitch with my bare hands. I keep thinking we will never see that famous Michael smile again," Millie said.
"Well, at least he will be with us," Luke said. "I didn't think he would make it when I saw him lying there on the floor. But I am so angry, so very, very angry."
We were all very silent for a time, then Eugene asked, "Millie, what will happen to those who did this to Michael? Surely they won't get away with it."
"I'm not sure exactly what will happen. But I can assure you that they will not get away with it as long as I have money and lawyers--if that's what it takes to make sure they don't. My poor Michael's beautiful face and smile..."
"But he'll still be Michael--and my man. So long as I have him, I don't care how he looks. I mean, I wish his face hadn't been cut. I wish he hadn't been cut. I wish he didn't have to suffer as I know he is, but he was cut and it looks as if he may live. That's all I ask, 'Let him live! Let him live!'"
"Holy shit," Luke said, then everyone became very quiet since we all--I'm sure--thought of Michael. I felt tears welling up. "There is hope--real hope--that Michael will live. That's all I want. Sure, I wish his face won't be scarred--he had such a handsome face--and if I never see that special Michael smile again, I'll miss it big time, but at least I'll see Michael. I'd be lying to say that I don't appreciate Michael's physical beauty--I sure do--and that very special Michael smile, but what really counts is Michael and that is inside". My tears stopped. "I just want Michael and he is gaining ground."
There was all around agreement from the Fellowship and Bill said, "From what I heard, you and Matt had something to do with that."
"Maybe so," Matt said. "I don't know what we did or how we did whatever we did. But, whatever it takes, I'm ready to do to have Michael back."
Finally it was 11:00 and time for the news. Every eye was fixed on the TV as the anchor, Stu Howard, opened the evening's report. "This weekend Concord's Independence High School celebrated the arts when it presented a concert and art exhibition for the community, but more on that later. Today the town's pride in its high school suffered a serious blow as the result of actions by eight Independence students." He then described the events of the day. "Now we go to LaTasha Jackson who is standing by at the hospital in Concord for the latest... LaTasha."
"Stu, Michael Andrews, who viewers may recall was responsible for a special service following the suicide of a gay former student at Independence broadcast by WLEX a few weeks ago, was attacked today as he served as docent--guide--for the art exhibition of Luke Larsen, a senior at Independence. He was with four Independence seniors in the last gallery of the exhibition when he was slashed across the face, chest and abdomen by Shawn McKay after he had slashed the only picture in the gallery, a painting of Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf. Michael remains in very critical condition here after having almost died from loss of blood. I am told that, had Independence students and parents not given blood, he could not have been saved."
"As soon as he was sufficiently stabilized, a plastic surgeon flown in from Lexington began work on his face. Doctors report that the scar he will always bear is not their major worry. The slash damaged facial nerves and Michael will suffer some facial paralysis. How much is unknown at this time."
"LaTasha, what happened to the slasher?"
"He was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to commit murder. Also arrested were the other three males with him and the girlfriends of the four. The sheriff reports that there is evidence that the eight planned the attack after someone told them about the painting. It is reported that McKay made some very obscene remarks about the subject of the painting, inferring that he was gay. One of the girls made similar remarks when Ms. Jones, the principal of Independence, announced what had happened to the juniors and seniors who had been sent into the church where the exhibition was held. The other seven are charged aiding and abetting attempted murder. Later today there was another interesting development in this case. The eight students, it seems, are members of a youth group from the Temple of Praise. According to Elder Eugene Joyce of the Temple of Praise..." We all looked at Eugene who turned red with anger but said nothing. "They are 'the elite of the fag fighters.' Rev. Jonathan McBride, who is presently in jail on state child sexual abuse charges and federal child pornography charges, formed the youth group, and here I am quoting Elder Joyce, 'to fight the ever-growing number of homosexual perverts in Concord who are seducing young men into their perverted lifestyle.'"
"Do we know Michael's condition at this time?"
"Dr. Walker says he is, and I quote, 'cautiously optimistic.' Michael is still in a critical condition, but stabilized. All we can do now is wait--and pray."
"Thank you, LaTasha. Before we move on to other news, my director has asked me to take a most unusual step and announce programming on another TV station. WABD will broadcast the tape of the exhibition tomorrow evening at 8:00. Michael and Mary Kathryn Larsen, the sister of the artist and, according to a good number of Independence students LaTasha talked with, Michael's girlfriend, are docents for the televised tour and there is an interview with Luke Larsen, the artist. The concert by Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf--the subject of the slashed painting--and the Independence High School Percussion and Brass Ensemble and the Mixed Chorus will be broadcast in two parts, at 8:00 Wednesday and Thursday evening. More news after this commercial announcement... One moment, I have just been advised that National Public Radio's 'Performance Today', heard on WABD, will broadcast two original compositions by Greywolf next week. Now this message..."
Millie switched off the TV and we all sat, silent, for awhile. Gene was sitting between my legs and I could feel the tenseness in his body. Suddenly he started shaking. I wasn't sure what was going on until he spoke--quietly, calmly, but between clinched teeth. "That dirty bastard! He raped me and heaven knows how many others, then starts a youth group he calls fag fighters! The dirty, rotten son of a bitch! He didn't seduce kids; he raped them and then preached against gays and... and worst of all, his fag fighters tried to kill Michael! Even if being gay was wicked and evil and deserved punishment, they got Michael." Gene started crying hysterically, completely out of control. All I could think to do was to hold him tightly and rub his back. Everyone just looked on with great love and concern for my babe.
Gradually Gene got control of himself and, when he did, he put his arms around me and kissed me passionately, his lips crushing mine in his passion. "It's ok, Babe," I said. "There's nothing we can do right now."
"But there is something I can do Wednesday. I am going to tell the whole rotten story of what McBride did to me and how my father defended him when I was still sore and torn apart from having been raped. Let them just try to disprove my testimony!" Gene was ready to fight and that was good, because his anger would sustain him in the ordeal he had ahead.
"It's 1:00," Millie said. "I know it might be hard, but I think you all need to get some rest."
"Millie, before we do, we need to go to the vigil for a while," Luke said. "Everyone else has participated except Matt and me and we should have been there long ago."
"Best I recall, you two were doing something--no-one seems to know what--far more important."
"I still want to go," Luke replied.
"I need to go, Millie. Unless I go, I know I won't get any rest--not that I expect to anyway."
"We'll all go," Bill said as he stood and extended his hand to Linda.
I don't know exactly what I expected to see when we got to the hospital--maybe five or ten students--but there were about fifty. I went over to a fellow I knew slightly from a class a couple years ago--Albert Mills--and asked how things were going.
"There have been between fifty and a hundred students here all evening--some going and others coming. We've been posted on Michael's condition as I'm sure you have." I nodded. "Someone said Ms. Jones was coming back later. She was here until about an hour ago. I think she's trying to decide what to do about school tomorrow. She mentioned seeing if she could get approval to call it off, but we told her we thought we needed to be there. It's kinda like having a support group."
"I hadn't thought about it, but I think you are right. Have you had anything to eat?" I asked.
"Yea. Mr. Sanders brought some food and we are kinda staying in shifts. Some leave and go to his place to grab a few winks and something to eat and drink, then come back so others can go. He's really a great guy. Mr. Stephenson is working overtime as well, helping see that there is food and drinks and helping people find a place to rest. They're living together, you know." I nodded. While we were talking, I saw Mary Kathryn, Luke and Matt go into the hospital. The rest of the Fellowship joined the quiet vigil--I, maybe for the first time in my life, got some really serious praying done--for Michael and for Gene and for all who suffer because of the hatred in the world.
After we had talked with some of the students holding the vigil, Luke, Mary Kathryn and I decided to go inside and see what we could learn. We found Jens, Dad and David sitting quietly in the waiting room. When we went in, there were hugs and tears all around. "Any further news about Michael?" I asked.
"None since we called Millie's. The plastic surgeon finished about an hour ago and--well that was after you had been called. Anyway, he is confident Michael's face can be repaired if what he did wasn't enough, but he still couldn't tell us anything further about the nerve damage. I suspect they will be moving Michael shortly. Since he has Chelsea and Gladys, he can go into a private room as soon as everyone is sure he'll remain stable."
"Did you get Margaret to go home?" I asked. "I am concerned about her. I noticed how swollen her legs were when she was at Millie's."
"Yea, that's a problem pregnant women have. Usually not this early, but she had been on her feet all day and rushing around working in the lab. But, no, she didn't go home. Yong Jin and Gabrielle kept trying to get her to go, but she is more stubborn than those two and you know that is saying a lot," David half smiled. "Your mom and Gabrielle went home, but Margaret is asleep in her office. She wasn't tired she said, but finally agreed to lie down for a few minutes. That was over an hour ago. When I checked on her she was sound asleep."
While we were talking, Dr. Walker came down the hall. "David, since Michael will have the best two intensive care nurses in the business, he is being moved to a private room. He should be there in ten or fifteen minutes. He's doing well. You can see him when he's settled, but..."
"I know. Five minutes."
"Right. Right now our only worry is infection. He is getting IV antibiotics, but you can never tell about the bugs which live in the intestines. And I couldn't fool you if I tried; there may have been a nick in the intestines we missed. I don't think so. We went ahead and did a section to make sure we got the known nick. I'm going home now. The plastic surgeon is still here--he's sleeping in a vacant bed--and Dr. Sterling, who did most of the surgery, is also here. Michael will be well taken care of."
"Thanks, Dr. Walker. I appreciate what you have done and are doing."
"By the way, I keep intending to tell you how excited I am that Margaret's pregnant. I always knew she would be a good mother, but Elizabeth couldn't have been a better mother for Michael today than Margaret."
"I know. They both have said again and again that Margaret is not Michael's mother, but I didn't miss it when she referred to him as 'our son'," David said with a huge smile.
"I think only you and Margaret should be allowed to see Michael tonight and tomorrow. That is unless Matt and Luke are needed again. I tell you, I have never seen anything like what happened in the operating room before and I never expect to see it again. Well, and I guess Mary Kathryn is almost immediate family so, young lady, you can see your man, but don't be surprised at how he looks. I'm gone. Goodnight."
"Goodnight, Dr. Walker, and thanks," David said.
Luke and I said goodnight as well and went back outside. The weekend had been beautiful, a typical sunny May weekend. The moon was waning and was just past the beginning of its last quarter so the nights had been fairly bright, but tonight even the moon hid her face at what had happened to Michael. The night was dark, completely overcast. My spirit was equally dark.
Ms. Jones had just arrived and was walking toward the students when we got outside. "Students, I have talked with Millie--Mrs. Willingham--and she conferred with several board members and we decided to delay school until 11:30 tomorrow. That way we will get full credit for a school day and you can all be together. We'll actually start with lunch and immediately after will have an assembly. No roll will be taken so if you need to stay home and rest do so."
Albert Mills spoke up and said, "Ms. Jones, I suspect we need that assembly more than we need rest." The students standing around him all agreed.
"I see the Fellowship is here, but I think I'll play mom and send you all home or wherever you'll get some rest. I know this has been an impossible day for you."
"We promised Millie we'd be back soon, so I guess when your mom and your principal tells you to do something you'd better do it," Eugene said.
When we got back to Millie's, she had food and drinks again and, in spite of the fact we had been eating all night, we dived in. Uncle Michael had gone home, but came back just after we arrived.
"Luke, I have a restoration expert flying in from New York Wednesday morning to see how the painting can be restored."
"Uncle Michael, that's not necessary. A painting is just a painting, but Michael is a human being--a great human being. I can paint another painting, but no-one can make a new Michael."
"Yes and no," Uncle Michael responded. "True, there can never be another Michael, but he had a team of experts working to restore the original. And you know full well, you can never paint another painting to replace the one that was slashed. Sure, it may look the same, but you know that your heart was in that one and anything else would not do. We'll definitely have it restored. The very slashing now becomes a part of its history and even more reason it is so special--not that it wasn't very special already."
"You're right, of course, but somehow or other it's not too important when I think about Michael."
"Of course it's not as important as Michael, but that doesn't mean it is not important. It'll be restored."
"Ok, children," Millie announced, "it's time for bed--long past. Son, I'll leave the sleeping arrangements up to you. I'm headed for bed."
Before Eugene could say anything, Luke spoke up, "Look, people, in times of crisis the Gang of Four have always slept together. Maybe strange, and I don't know where, but Matt and I are sleeping with Mary Kathryn."
"Simple," Eugene said. "Linda and Paula can have the guest room and Jacob and Bill the futon in my room. You three can have my bed and Larry and I will find a place downstairs. There's a second guest room."
Larry laughed and said, "Gene, that's kinda foolish. It has twin beds and I am sure Bill and Jacob would be more comfortable there than sharing a bed."
"And you wouldn't mind at all sharing a bed with Eugene," Jacob laughed. "Sure makes sense to me."
After assuring each other that we knew we wouldn't get any sleep, all of us were in bed and sound asleep in a few minutes.
Millie didn't have to call anyone; we were all awake and dressed by 8:00. As soon as we could finish breakfast, Luke, Mary Kathryn and I went to the hospital. The others went home for showers and clean clothes. Of course, Larry stayed at Millie's since he was practically living there these days.
When we got to the hospital, we saw none of the family until we went to Margaret's office. They were all there. "Kids, Michael seems to be doing ok," she said. "Today is important because if there is to be infection, it will probably show up before the day is over. You know it's unusual, but Dr. Walker is in charge and he says the three of you are immediate family and can go in for five minutes."
When we reached Michael's room, we hesitated--I guess getting up courage for what we would see. When we entered the room, Chelsea was checking Michael's vital signs in spite of the fact that he had all sorts of monitors just as he would have had in the ICU. There was another bed in the room and Gladys was in it, fast asleep. In a very low voice Chelsea said, "Gladys took the night shift although, to tell the truth, neither of us got much sleep out of worry for our boy."
"How's he doing?" Mary Kathryn asked.
"It looks pretty good. His temperature is a bit high and I am hoping that's from all the surgery. I sure hope he doesn't develop an infection. He shouldn't, since he is getting IV antibiotics, but you never can tell."
Michael's face was bandaged and he, of course, had tubes and wires coming and going. Mary Kathryn was reduced to kissing him on the forehead as I had done to Luke. I was sick of hospitals and even sicker of the hatred that put Michael and Luke in one.
Luke and I walked over to Michael's bed after Mary Kathryn had kissed him. We both placed our hands on his forehead and stood silent for a few minutes, then it was time to go.
We dropped Mary Kathryn off at her place then Luke and I went to mine. Mom and Dad were in the kitchen drinking coffee when we walked in. As soon as I saw them, I burst into tears again and Luke did as well. "I still feel responsible for Michael's being in the hospital," I said through my tears.
"And so do I," Luke said.
"I don't know what more I can say than what I have said," Greywolf responded. "You two are no more responsible for Michael's being hurt than I am. Sure, your actions gave an excuse for some hate-filled semi-humans to attack him, but it could just as well have happened to someone else because of something they did--or didn't do--or were--or were not. Look, you both believe you were born gay. Because you are gay, you are in love with a man. But that gives no-one an excuse to hurt you, much less an innocent bystander. One of the girlfriends of the skinheads called Tanishia "nigger." Don't you think they might well have hurt her because she is black? Think about that. Michael is suffering on your behalf--not because you chose for him to do so. I won't say that he wouldn't have had he been asked because I believe he would, but none of you had a choice in the matter. I hope you will come to understand and accept that and stop blaming yourselves for something about which you have no choice--being gay and falling in love. Now you two better get ready for school. I think it is important that you be there--to show appreciation for the support students have given Michael and to show you are not afraid or ashamed of your love--which by now is surely well-known at Independence."
I guess it's strange, but love and lust gets quickly separated sometimes and this morning was one of them. Luke and I did a lot of hugging and soft, gentle kissing as we showered and I kept kissing his back and neck as he shaved, but there was nothing lustful about it. I guess we just had to assure ourselves that our love made us strong in the face of what had happened to Michael--our beloved brother. When we were dressed, we skipped breakfast--I guess all we had eaten in the past twenty-four hours would have kept us going for days--picked up Mary Kathryn and headed for school.
Lunch was an interesting affair. There were, of course, a few students who tried to pretend they weren't pointing us out or standing and staring, but who were really giving the whole Fellowship a once-over and especially me and Luke. Most, however, came by our table, asked about Michael and gave all of us a hug or a pat on the back.
As soon as lunch was over, we all went to the assembly. There was one good thing which came out of the weekend. If everyone knew Luke and I were a couple, there was no reason we shouldn't act like any other couple. We walked into the auditorium holding hands. I was surprised when Larry and Eugene did not--at least as a couple. Of course, I suppose if anyone wanted to pretend nothing was going on, the fact that all the Fellowship--in one combination or another--was holding hands would be as good a cover as any.
When we had all gotten seated, I leaned over to Larry, who was sitting beside me, and asked, "Why were you and Eugene not holding hands--I mean just the two of you--as Luke and I were doing?"
"I wanted to--started to--but Eugene said we needed to wait until he testified. Otherwise, that smart lawyer will say he was gay anyway and went along with McBride because he wanted to get fucked. He's sharp, my man is," Larry said, smiling at Eugene.
When Ms. Jones stood up, there was immediate silence. She had certainly established herself as principal--and a very respected one.
(Author's Note: Ok, some of you dislike didactic so you can skip the next part if you like, but something needs to be said about situations such as the one in which those Independence High School students find themselves. Skip at your own risk!)
"Students, as you all know, we of Independence High School have had great moments of glory in the past few days. We have also had moments of shame. I want us to acknowledge our moments of glory first. For those of you who were fortunate enough to attend the concert and tour the exhibition, you know without a doubt that your fellow students did us all proud with their talent, discipline and hard work. Nothing can take that away from us. I am happy to be able to tell you that both the concert and exhibition will be featured on WABD, the PBS station in Lexington, this week. That is an honor no other high school in this state has ever received. Additionally, excerpts from the concert--specifically from Matt Greywolf's compositions--will be broadcast nationally on PBS." The applause was thunderous and soon practically every student was standing and applauding. Many were whistling and then the Lakota war whoops started. As soon as the noise died down, Ms. Jones said, "Paula, Eugene, Matt and Luke, please come up on stage. You too, Larry. I don't know whether you students are aware of it or not, but without Larry there would have been nothing to broadcast. He was responsible for seeing that all the taping was done."
When we got on stage, the applause and war whoops started again. Once the students grew somewhat quiet, Eugene took Paula by the hand and walked to the mike. "The conductor of an ensemble is pretty worthless without an ensemble, the members of the ensemble deserve your applause more than I. Please stand." More applause and more war whoops.
"The same can be said of the director of a chorus," Paula said into the mike. "Ladies and gentlemen of the chorus--artists and musicians all--stand." More applause and war whoops.
Ms. Jones finally held up her hand and again got instant silence. "Yes, Independence High School had moments of glory this weekend. And while I must talk about our moments of shame, before I do, I want to talk about other moments of glory we shared the last few days. When Bill Lance announced that there would be a continual vigil until Michael Andrews was out of danger, I expected it to be held by a handful of students. I am told on good authority that there were never less than fifty students and at times close to a hundred until it was time for you to come to school. And, lest you think the vigil is not going on, as the last student left this morning, the school board took over and will be there until students return. For those of you who might not have heard, it appears Michael is out of danger thanks to all of you who, literally, gave your blood for him as did many of your parents and friends. Today is crucial for Michael. He is still in danger so keep him in your thoughts. Yes, you Independence High School students demonstrated with your presence and your very life's blood that you care--and that is truly a moment of glory."
"But great shame was heaped upon us as well. I need not tell you what happened; you all know. Hatred and prejudice once again caused some of your classmates to almost kill a very promising young man, a man so respected you elected him your president--the first sophomore ever to be elected--and he will, because he must live, be the first junior to hold that office next year. Had so many not done so much, he would not be alive today. As it is, he will go through life disfigured because hatred took a knife to his face. 'Why? Why?' I keep asking myself."
"I want you to listen to me very carefully. Michael was attacked because a hate-filled person decided that a painting was done out of the love of a man for a man. And you know I am not talking about the love of one brother for another--although that is certainly true in this case. Now whether there is more than brotherly love between--and yes, I dare say it--Matt and Luke, I ask you: what has that to do with you and your life? Oh, I know that some, perhaps most, of you have been told--again and again--by your parents or your church that a man being in love with a man is a sin. I don't believe that but, even if I did, what right does that give me to intrude into another's life? What harm does a man loving a man do you? Can you see how illogical that is? Can you understand that we all have different definitions of sin--which I might add we always apply to others, seldom to ourselves--but even if it is a sin, what difference does a man loving another man make to you and your life? What cause do you have to damn? Are you the judge of who and how another loves? What right do you have to condemn love--any love in any form? Hatred you can condemn, yes, because it does hurt and harm as you all have seen so clearly.
Michael will go through life scarred--physically if not emotionally as well. Four young men will probably spend the best years of their life behind bars--not only making no contribution to the welfare of the world, but also costing tax dollars which could be spent on schools and roads and countless other things we all need. Four young women may well be too old to bear children when they are out of jail. And just how will they adjust to a world that has passed them by? And for what? Because they were enraged over the supposed love of one man for another? Is there ever enough love in the world, so much that we don't need more? And when hatred rears its ugly and life-condemning head, there is less. And if I must speak of sex, any condemnation of two men having sex you might want to advance applies equally to sex between a man and woman outside of wedlock. The number of pregnancies at Independence each year testifies to the fact that a lot of sex is going on among you and none of you, to my knowledge, are married. And, let's be honest, a rather large number of you are having sex without getting pregnant. So please think about the words you use, the remarks you make; while they mean little or nothing to you and maybe even to those to whom you are speaking, words meant as a joke often encourage those who are filled with hatred. They are, in fact, enraged at themselves, but take it out on others."
As Ms. Jones stood silently, Luke leaned over and said, "Matt, will you hate me if I make it official?"
To answer, I reached out and took his hand and we walked to the mike together. I could feel my heart pounding and could feel Luke's as well where he clutched my hand.
"Ms. Jones, I would like to speak, if I may." Ms. Jones merely pointed to the mike. Luke took a deep breath, and stood silently. I wondered if his knees were shaking like mine. "Fellow students, you all know me. Most of you have known me since first grade. All of you know that the Larsens, Greywolfs and Andrews are very close. We are a family. Michael and Matt are my brothers. They would be no more so if we had the same parents. Michael almost died yesterday and, without you, he would have. There is absolutely no question about that. I wish there was some way I could repay you for what you did and are doing for my brother. The truth of the matter is that he is not out of danger yet. In fact, there is a possibility Michael will develop an infection as a result of leakage from his intestines which were cut by McKay's knife. Michael lay at death's door yesterday and may yet pass through it. Why? Because society has decided that those of us who are gay are less than human." With Luke's speaking the unthinkable, there was an audible intake of breath among the students. "According to all reliable research, ten percent of the boys born in the world--everywhere and all the time--are born gay. I am among that ten percent." I squeezed Luke's hand hard and he squeezed back. "This year a young man, Gregory Burnette, died. He was gay and because he was gay, he was hounded to death. Is it any wonder that those of us who are gay hide the fact, even from ourselves?"
"Only a couple months ago, I attempted to take my own life because I was gay. I was gay and I was in love with Matt Greywolf. I couldn't tell him for fear of losing his friendship which would have killed me as surely as a knife to my gut would have. When Gregory was raped and beaten, all I could think about, day and night--every waking moment--was that someone would find out I was in love with Matt Greywolf and do to him what had been done to Gregory. Honestly, I was concerned about him, not myself, because he meant more to me than I did to myself. Finally I could take it no longer and the only way I saw out was death. I attempted to kill myself, without thinking how many people I was hurting. Fortunately, Matt saved my life and--through my desperate act--miracles of miracles, I found that Matt loved me as I loved him."
"We have worked hard to keep our love more or less a secret out of fear. But I guess when you are an artist, your heart has a way of expressing itself. Greywolf--Patanka St. Michael Greywolf--pointed out that it didn't take a rocket scientist to realize that the painting of Matt, displayed alone in the exhibition, spoke of more than brotherly love. Obviously he was right. But now I want you to ask yourselves, 'Is the Luke Larsen standing before you not the same Luke Larsen you have known for years? Is he somehow or other evil, wicked, a seducer of boys now that you know he is gay?' Or is he simply a more honest Luke Larsen who is being all of who he is and not hiding a part of what makes him who he is? Thank you."
The students were all very quiet and I didn't know what it meant, but I knew I had to speak as well. "My name is Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf and one of my compositions played this weekend was 'Yonghon Tongmu: A Fantasia on "More",' a love song that means much to the three families we call the family. I was not courageous enough to dedicate it to Luke, but so all of you will know, Luke is my Yonghon Tongmu, my soulmate. Unlike Luke, I gave no thought to what might happen because I was gay--I would have denied it, I guess. I just didn't think gay or straight. All I thought about was how much I loved Yonghon Tongmu. I, too, feared letting him know of my love for fear of losing my brother and my best friend. I had resigned myself to a lonely life because my love, my only love, for as long as I can remember was and is Luke Hans Yonghon Tongmu Larsen. But I couldn't, I thought, let that be known."
"I am the impulsive one--Luke can attest to that--and this weekend, on impulse, I kissed Luke in front of members of the chorus and ensemble--not a brotherly kiss as those who saw had to realize. We both blame ourselves for what happened to Michael. Michael--of which there is none straighter--is suffering and almost died--and yet may die--because his brothers are gay. But I'll repeat the question Luke asked you: 'Are we different because you know we are gay? Are you going to treat us differently because we are different from ninety percent of the men you know? Where's the threat? Why the hatred? Are we wicked sinners?' I don't believe so. When you start thinking that way, you might want to start including everyone else who is different--those of us who are from different races, who have more or less money, who are smarter or not as smart. There are those who can't do English very well, but who can make a car out of junkyard parts. Where do you draw the line? When is different anything other than different? Only when it hurts and harms others or yourself. Otherwise, different is just different, not wrong. And Ms. Jones raised the question of sex being sinful and evil. It can be. It was when Gregory was raped. It was when Eugene was raped and sexually abused. It is when it brings an unwanted child into the world. But when it is an expression of love, real love, caring love, love that thinks of the other more than of the self and--you know, guys, more than the need to get your rocks off--is it evil? And while, frankly, it is none of your business, Luke and I are both virgins. Ms. Jones says she is proud of Independence and we have had moments of glory this weekend. Let's not allow a few to give us any more moments of shame."
Again there was silence, absolute silence until Luke hugged me to himself and someone shouted, "If you love him, why don't you kiss him?" The students started shouting and applauding as I turned bright red, but before I could say or do anything, Luke kissed me--a pretty tame kiss I might add--in front of the students of Independence High School. There was great laughter and some boos at Luke's action. That was to be expected. I looked over at Larry and Eugene who gave Luke and me a shy smile and Eugene mouthed, "Later."
Ms. Jones quickly pointed out the difference between intolerance and disagreement. "Some of you applauded, some of you laughed and some of you booed when Luke kissed Matt. There's nothing wrong with your expressing your personal feeling and opinion about such a public display of affection between two men. You have that right, but again, what you DO NOT have is the right to intrude into their life in anyway that says because they are different, they are less. Nor, I would be quick to add, do they have a right to intrude into your life. Luke and Matt, I expect you to maintain the same rules about showing affection as are applied to any other couple in this school. And you, students, I expect to respond to any show of affection on the part of Matt and Luke the same way you would any other couple. That's tolerance--acceptance of people as people even when we disagree with their actions. Treating each other as we want to be treated. Respecting as we want and expect to be respected. I have lived long enough to know that honor, respect and acceptance is what its about. None of us have a corner on truth or on righteousness, but we can have a world in which we can accept and respect all sorts and kinds of people who work to make this a better world. Sure, applaud if you are comfortable with a man kissing a man or boo if you disagree, but you cannot, must not put down those who accept or those who reject the action and never, ever do you have the right to show disrespect to those who disagree or those who, as Luke and Matt, are different. Remember, each of you is different in one way or another."
There was silence after Ms. Jones finished speaking. I guess students were thinking about what had just happened and what had been said and what it all meant. Me? I felt as though I had just been broken out of a shell where I had been a prisoner for so long.
The students gradually started talking among themselves and the noise got louder before Ms. Jones stepped to the mike, cleared her throat several times and, when the students got quiet said, "Matt, Luke, I hope you two will confine such behavior to places other than school." But, she laughed, "if I remember my math, there are about thirty-two or so more young men at Independence who are gay. And, of course, there are gay women as well. They are your friends, your leaders, your artists, your ballplayers, yes there are even gay football players. They are your fellow students. Michael Andrews lies in hospital because some do not like that and forget the contribution made by the gay students of this high school. I would have had to say unknown gay students, but we know two of them of them because they are brave men, who help make Independence great. Let us never forget that. You have shown your greatness in this year. We must not let a few take that from us--now or at any time." There was, again, long and sustained applause and Lakota war whoops.
"I know that some of you are planning on continuing the vigil at the hospital. Others of you may well need some rest since you have had little since yesterday. It is, therefore, with great pleasure I announce the school board has declared the rest of the day a human resources field trip. That means you are free to go out and be a human resource to those in need--your parents who need to know you love and respect them, to Michael as you keep a vigil--whatever--and express your appreciation for the human resources around you--for your teachers and parents and friends. In plain English, school is over for the day." More shouting and cheering.
"Well, we don't have to worry about being outted," Luke said as we started walking off the stage. "How do you feel about what we did?"
"I believe the term is scared shitless," I said, then added, "but, Luke, I feel as though I have broken out of a jail we put ourselves in. I expect a lot of joking and name-calling and all that, but I'm glad. I am Matt and I am gay and I love Luke and that's been said out loud for the world to hear. If people have a problem with it, they have a problem. I just hope they don't decide we need a problem as well. Know what I mean?"
I guess both Luke and I were naive. We kinda expected thirty or so men to come walking up to us and say, 'I'm gay too,' but no-one did. That didn't mean we weren't surrounded by students as soon as we were off the stage. Larry, Eugene, Bill and Jacob all gave us hugs and surrounded us like bodyguards, but it wasn't necessary. A goodly number of students--men and women--did come up and shake our hand or hug us and tell us how brave we were and how our being gay made no difference to them. One of the football players laughed as he said, "I won't have to worry about you hitting on my woman and maybe she'll stop drooling over you two guys, but I'm not even counting on that!"
When we got outside, the day had turned grayer and there was a cold mist falling. It immediately made me think about Michael. I could sense Luke doing the same and soon we were both crying. "Michael, Michael, Michael. Why does Michael have to suffer because we love each other?" Luke expressed my feelings exactly.
We went straight to the hospital. When we arrived, arrangements had been made by the hospital staff for the vigil to be held in the chapel, out of the rain, but since it was small, only twenty students at a time could be there. Others were holding their vigil in the parking deck. When Luke, Mary Kathryn and I got inside, we went to Margaret's office. The receptionist told us to go to Michael's room at once.
When we entered the room, Margaret grabbed us and hugged the three of us tightly and started crying. "Michael has taken a turn for the worse. The doctors are not sure whether the raging infection he developed is from leakage yesterday or if there was a place cut they missed. That is easy to do. To complicate matters, he has a severe reaction to one of the antibiotics. We almost lost him from that and he's not recovered from it yet. His throat closed and he was unable to breath so it had to be forced open. He was given drugs to counteract the reaction, but his response to them has been slow, if there's been any at all. Now he has a raging fever from the infection as well. The doctors are trying to decide whether to risk an operation to see if there is additional leakage or take a risk with different antibiotics and trust there has been no new leakage. I wanted the joys of motherhood--kids-- but I should have known they come with pain. My poor boy, my son." Mary Kathryn held Margaret in her arms and let her cry.
Suddenly all the alarms on the monitors went off. Gladys and Chelsea sprang into action. Margaret rushed to Michael, screaming "Michael, Michael, you can't do this! You can't die. Gladys, Chelsea, send a code. Michael is dying!"
Once again I felt that strange sensation I had felt before. I looked up and met Luke's eyes.
I was not conscious, but I remembered what had happened. Again and again I saw the light flash off of a long knife as it came toward me and then felt unbearable pain. Each time I wanted to cry out, screaming "No! Stop!" but each time no sound came and the knife brought its searing pain into my body again. Each time the pain got worse. Then, a new pain. I was on fire. I was sure I was dead and had been cast into hell. I was being consumed by fire. It did not replace the pain of the knife, which kept coming, but added to it. Finally the fire was so intense, the other pain seemed like it would be a relief.
Just when I thought I could stand no more, I couldn't breathe. My throat was closed and I felt as though my body was being consumed by insects--stinging and eating my flesh. If I wasn't dead and in hell, I longed for death if it would take away the pain, the unbearable pain. I struggled for breath. I was ready to give up when, faintly, I saw a shadow standing just out of my line of vision. I turned my head as much as I could and saw Mary Kathryn. Was I never to hold her in my arms again? Was my life with her over after it had just begun? Was this the end? I struggled to pull air into my lungs. I had to live. I had a whole life ahead of me with my wild woman, my Mary Kathryn.
I struggled so hard and then I felt a new pain, a pain in my throat as if it was being forced open. Then, gradually I could breathe, but the insects were still stinging and biting and I was still being consumed by fire. I wanted to live so much and struggled so hard, but could I bear the pain? I was torn between loving life so much I was willing to endure anything and wanting it all to be over. Then, as a miracle, I felt nothing. It was as though I was above my bed, looking down on a body people were working on and calling Michael, but I wasn't there. I saw Margaret and Mary Kathryn, Matt and Luke and Chelsea and Gladys, looking at my body. I tried to shout, to have them look up and see me, the real me, but they did not. I was no longer in their world.
The world in which I found myself was one of absolute silence and the pain was fading away. Slowly I was leaving the world of pain--not only pain, but also the world as I had known it. Feelings, emotions seemed strange in this new place. Even my love for Mary Kathryn seemed distant, even unreal, disconnected from the me that was no longer a part of her world--the world of flesh and blood and passion--and pain. I tried to remember the feeling of love and warmth and passion I had with Mary Karthyn, but like the pain, it was becoming a memory, only a memory. But most of all I was no longer in pain. The price was high, but the pain was gone. Then I realized what was happening--had happened. I was dying or maybe even dead and I welcomed it, longed for it because I was out of pain, no longer suffering. I could see the monitors with their flashing lights and knew they making sounds, but I heard nothing. As I floated above the scene, I could see the people talking, but I heard nothing. I was free of pain--then I saw Margaret crying and Mary Kathryn holding her. I had loved both so much, but now that seemed like a dream about another Michael, a Michael who could no longer endure the terrible, terrible pain. I couldn't go back; I wouldn't go back to the pain. I saw my brothers, both looking very serious. I had loved them too, but I could not go back. I couldn't endure the pain. I simply could not. I must go on in this world, my new world. Why didn't they realize that? Why didn't they understand that I welcomed death, wanted death, longed for death because with it there was no pain. Strangely, I realized, there was no longer any feeling of love--just a faint memory--but that didn't matter. They would forget--I was already forgetting.
When I had made my final decision, I saw the six people in the room suddenly moving about. Margaret quickly, but firmly, took Mary Kathryn by the arm and led her out the door, then closed it, leaving Mary Kathryn outside. Chelsea and Gladys were working on my body, but I was not there. They were trying to get me to come back, but I was moving further and further away from them. I was not in the body they were working on. I knew they wanted me back, but I had made my decision. I couldn't endure the pain and they loved me so they would understand that I was suffering and now I was not. They would understand. Now I was no longer a part of their world. As I watched, the scene below started to fade away. I was gone.
Just before I was compleletly in my world and their world had faded away as a shadow, I saw Matt look at Luke and they moved quickly to the bed where my body lay, Matt to my head, Luke to my feet. Just before what I knew would be my final look at those I had loved, both reached out and placed their hands on my body. Matt's hands were on either side of my head; Luke's were holding my feet. I screamed, "No! I hate you for wanting me in pain. Get away from me!" I felt as if something was pulling me back into my pain-filled body. I struggled against the powerful force which was drawing me back into their world, the world of my pain. I was too weak to fight. It seemed as though a hole had appeared between the world in which I had been floating and the world where my body lay on the bed and I was being sucked through it and into my body. The pain!! I was being consumed by fire. Insects were chewing, biting and stinging my body. Why did they want me to suffer so? I hated them for bringing me back to the pain! I wanted to die. Why wouldn't they let me?
Then I had the strangest sensation. I felt a river of pain, springing from the center of my body and flowing in two directions, one toward my head and the other toward my feet. As the river sprang up, I felt the fire flicker and go out. The insects disappeared and I was no longer in great pain even though I was back in my body. I don't know what kind of power or magic Matt and Luke had, but they had brought me back. Suddenly I was filled with shame. I wanted to cry I was so ashamed, but I could not. I had chosen comfort and a bodiless, loveless spirit existence over one in which I was loved by those around me and one in which I loved so deeply. I was so ashamed. How could I ever look them in the eye? How could I tell Mary Kathryn I loved her more than life itself when I had chosen death over life with her? How could I accept her love when I had taken mine from her? I was so ashamed! How could I hold my head up among those who loved me when I had chosen death over life? My mind was awhirl, but I was in no real pain and I slept.
Michael was in dire trouble, I knew that. You don't spend thirty years in a hospital and twenty of those in ICU without knowing when someone is at the point of death and Michael was. I knew that Margaret knew it as well, but was being the ever-hopeful mother. She broke down when Mary Kathryn, Matt and Luke came into the room, but didn't tell them just how serious Michael's situation was. He was near death when he was brought in, but responded quickly to the blood he was given. We all knew there was a possibility for a serious infection, but we all hoped for the best.
Tuesday his fever started going up and he was given drugs to help bring it down with little response. He was burning up. The IV antibiotics were not doing what everyone hoped they would do. It was very obvious that he had a massive infection. Then he started reacting to one of the antibiotics. That alone is enough to kill a relatively strong person and Michael was anything but strong. The blood he was given helped, but was not enough to restore him to health--not by a million miles. The doctors were waiting, trying to decide whether or not he could withstand an operation to repair any possible leakage from his intestines. Then he reacted to the antibiotic. In his present condition an operation was sure death, not that he wasn't at death's door anyway. Now, with Matt, Luke and Mary Kathryn present no-one was willing to speak the unspeakable. Michael was dying. Not only was he dying, but also he had to be in sheer agony. The monitors, if Margaret had looked, were telling the story and forecasting the future--a future without Michael. Suddenly it was all over. The alarms on the monitors went off and Margaret yelled for us to call a Code Blue as she quickly got Mary Kathryn out of the room. Gladys called the code--"Drug reaction to antibiotic," she shouted toward the intercom. As she did, I saw Matt and Luke move quickly to Michael's bed, one at the head and one at the foot. As they placed their hands on Michael, the alarms stopped almost instantly. As they stood, holding his head and feet, it was as though the monitors had been placed on rewind, changing from announcing Michael's death to showing him gradually coming alive. In a matter of minutes--actually seconds--Michael's vital signs were better than they had been since he was brought in. Within five minutes at the most, he was simply sleeping and appeared to be without pain.
Luke and Matt were another matter altogether. Both had collapsed and, when I rushed to Matt and touched him, I knew he had a raging fever. He was also groaning in pain and his body was covered with blotches and rash. He looked as though he had a reaction to the antibiotic rather than Michael.
When the Code Blue team rushed into the room, Gladys said, "Michael is ok all of a sudden, but you need to care for these two. They are in pretty bad shape."
The head of the team and a teammate took one look and quickly inserted breathing tubes in Matt's and Luke's throats. "We'll get them into beds as soon as possible and if you will examine them, Dr. Bai... Andrews--maybe we can find out what is wrong."
"Just take my word for it because you wouldn't believe me if I told you, but they are both reacting to an antibiotic. Give them the drug you brought for Michael's reaction. Then find a room for them. I'll be with them and as soon as I can confirm what I know to be true, I'll write orders."
"The semi-private room next door is empty; we'll put them there."
"Gladys, you stay with Michael and I'll go with the other two," I said as Dr. Andrews left the room, following the boys as they were moved next door. Matt and Luke were placed in beds and Dr. Andrews examined them and wrote orders for their medication. As the Code Blue team left one of the nurses said, "I'll bring what you have ordered."
"Make it as quick as possible or we'll have another emergency on our hands. And be sure to bring allergy test kit so I can check before before starting the antibiotic. We've had enough of that for a long time," Dr.Andews added said.
As soon as the team was out of the room, I asked, "Dr. Andrews, do you know what happened to the two boys?"
"You won't think I'm crazy?"
"Not unless you say something that contradicts what I just witnessed."
"Well, you were there and you saw what happened. Michael was dead. I don't think he will never be more dead than he was minutes ago. Now he is free of fever and the reaction to the antibiotic is over. But here we have two men burning up with fever and showing every sign of a drug reaction. What do you think?"
"You'll think I'm nuts, but I think--how I surely don't know--Matt and Luke took Michael's problems into themselves."
"I don't think you're nuts because that's exactly what happened. I was worried that they, too, would burst open death's door, but then they are healthy and strong. They haven't lost any blood--well not any to amount to anything. They did give blood, but not enough to matter to their bodies. You're right, I haven't the foggiest idea how they did it, but they did. Now we have two strong healthy men to fight off the infection and drug reaction that was Michael's and I am going to treat them accordingly."
As she finished, the Code Blue nurse brought the drugs Dr. Andrews had ordered and she started caring for Matt and Luke. The shots they had been given each to counteract the drug reaction--which had been Michael's--were obvioulsy working and she said, "That takes care of one problem".
Between the two of us, we got the boys undressed and in hospital gowns--as beautiful as they were, I started to not bother and just let them lie there in their natural beauty, but Margaret said, "Chelsea, don't you think you had better get those two covered? I know they're young, good looking and sexy, but..."
"They sure are that," I replied with a smile.
When we had finished, I used the test kit for allergies the nurse brought while Dr. Andrews checked the boys. "Ok, Chelsea, how does the test look, ok?" I nodded and Dr. Andrews said, "You've a lot better at IV needles than I am." So I inserted the IV needles and started the antibiotic drip. We both gave a sign of relief.
When the alarms on the monitors went off, I immediately had that strange feeling again. I looked at Luke and knew that he felt it as well. This time I grasped Michael's head and Luke his feet. As soon as my hands touched Michael, I felt a stream of scalding water rush into my body. It seemed to be carrying millions of stinging, biting, chewing insects which immediately started stinging, biting and chewing my whole body. As I continued to hold Michael's head, the pain grew worse until I could stand it no longer and all went black.
When I became aware again--I won't say conscious because I knew I wasn't--I was in another world. My body seemed as though it was aflame. I was burning and, in addition, I still could feel the insects stinging, biting, chewing all over my body. I was in agony so terrible I didn't see how I could stand it much longer. When I thought I was at my rope's end and simply wanted to die to escape the pain, all went black again.
The next time I became aware, I could feel the insects falling from my body. Their stinging and biting was fading away and they had died or flown or whatever. Finally, they were gone. I still felt as though my body was aflame, but even that was less intense. I felt a prick in my arm--I think it was my arm--and soon drifted off into, not blackness, but sleep.
"Chelsea, I see the medication I gave Matt for the reaction is taking effect . How about Luke?"
"Same here. I can practically see the blotches disappearing and he is breathing normally." "This is what should have happened with Michael. It shouldn't have taken long at all for it to have given him relief. I don't know what was wrong, but Matt and Luke seem to be responding very well. I'm going to give them shots to lower the fever and a pain killer. I think they are out of danger." After I had given the shots, I said, "Chelsea, I'm going to talk to the family. I know David is here somewhere and I suspect Yong Jin and Greywolf have arrived from school by now. I'll be in my office; if you need me, call."
"Dr. Andrews, will you stop by Michael's room and let Gladys know what is going on? I know she's on needles and pins."
"Sure, and I'll see that you hear from Michael as well."
When I entered Michael's room I couldn't believe what I saw. Michael's color was good and he looked as if he was sleeping normally. "How's my son doing?" I asked.
"Dr. Andrews, I don't believe it even though I saw it, but as soon as Luke and Matt took hold of him, he came back to life and is--as far as I can tell--exactly what you would have expected for someone who had been cut open, but without infection or drug reaction. He's doing great. How about the other two?"
"You saw it, Gladys. They took Michael's infection and drug reaction from him and into themselves. Fortunately, they are strong and healthy and the drugs are working. They were in bad shape until the drug reaction was counteracted. I have given them medication to lower their fever and to combat the infection. They should be fine--in a few days."
"Well, as you said, I saw it with my own eyes but, believe me, I'll keep it a secret or someone would lock this old nurse up in a looney bin!" "I'm going to see who's here and give them the news. Also, have the desk page Dr. Walker and have him come to my office, please."
Yong Jin and Greywolf were in my outer office with David when I got there. "What's going on, Margaret?" Yong Jin asked. "Someone from the hospital called us on Greywolf's cell phone and said we needed to come as soon as we could. They also said they were trying to contact Jens and Gabrielle." Before Yong Jin had finished, Jens and Gabrielle came into the room, followed by Mary Kathryn.
"Ok, I am a thoroughly modern person. A doctor trained in the medical sciences," I started. " I think we know that," David said with a smile, "so get on with it."
"I said that because you're going to think otherwise, I'm sure, when I tell you the latest development. First of all, so you don't go off and not hear the whole story, everyone is ok, or will be."
"What do you mean 'everyone'?" David asked.
"Ok, everyone sit down and I'll tell you the whole stor... Dr. Walker, glad you're here. It'll save me having to tell the story over."
"Gladys and Chelsea both told me what happened. I guess with you as a witness I'll have to believe it, but this gets stranger and stranger."
"Ok, folks, this afternoon Michael was suffering from a massive infection..." " I had hoped it wouldn't happen and I'm still not sure whether it was from a leakage we missed or just the leakage from his intestines yesterda, but, yes, he had a massive infection which shot his temperature sky-high earlier today," Dr. Walker added.
"Then, to complicate matters, he reacted to one of the antibiotics he was being given to combat the infection--a severe and life threatening reaction. I thought he might be holding his own, but he was not. This afternoon, when Matt, Luke and Mary Kathryn came here from school, Michael died."
"He what???!!!" David shouted. "And you didn't call me? How could you, Margaret?"
"Calm down, David. I told you everyone was ok or would be. Michael went flat line--he was dead. And as soon as the alarms on the monitors went off, Luke and Matt rushed to him, one grasping his feet, the other his head and, believe it or not, the monitors reversed themselves. From saying Michael was dead, they announced he was alive. Matt and Luke, however, fell to the floor showing all the signs of the drug reaction Michael no longer had, and both burning up with fever. They are now in a room next to Michael's. The medication to counteract the drug reaction has done its work and they are out of danger from that. Both are still feverish but are responding, apparently, to the drugs I have ordered to bring their fever down and combat the infection. When I left, both seemed to be sleeping normally after having been given some pretty powerful painkillers. Now, family, that's all I know."
"You are trying to tell me Luke and Matt took Michael's medical problems as their own and he is free of them?" David asked.
"No, I'm not TRYING to tell you that, David. I AM telling you that. How? I don't know. Such doesn't happen in my world."
"Remember I said that I thought Matt had the power of a Lakota medicine man and that I didn't understand--physics doesn't have a place for that sort of thing--the powers of a medicine man, but I knew they were there and I thought Matt had them?" Greywolf asked.
"I don't know whether it's Lakota or Korean, but I do know that my Korean ancestors who were shaman passed power from themselves to someone close to them. I guess in the non-scientific world of the shaman, Matt had a double entry-way and apparently he has taken Luke with him. Doesn't surprise me," Yong Jin said. "Well, I doubt that Margaret or I will write this up for a medical journal," Dr. Walker laughed. "We'd be treated as nutcases. But I saw what happened when those two touched Michael yesterday so I'm not surprised--well, that's not so, because I am surprised--I don't disbelieve what Margaret said happened. In fact, it would be hard to do, wouldn't it?"
"So where are we?" Jens asked.
"Dr. Walker will need to examine the three, but I think what he will find is that Michael is free of the reaction to the drug and the infection and simply has to have time for his wounds to heal. I suspect he'll be ready to go home in a few days--within a week anyway. I think he will find that Luke and Matt are suffering from an infection--the drug reaction has been taken care of, I think--and that will take a few days to get over. If the antibiotics work for them, they'll be out of here before the weekend, I suspect."
"I'll do an examination, Margaret, but I am sure I'll find the things you just said. Some strange things happen in this world and I think this is the strangest I've witnessed--and I'll not be able to talk about it because no-one will believe me. Well, I'll check the boys."
Everything looked under control and suddenly I was exhausted. David took me by the arm, kissed my softly and said, "Come on, Mom, let's check on our son and go home and get some rest". David's saying "our son" was not lost on me and I was very happy.
As Margaret and David left, Yong Jin, Gabrielle, Jens and I went to check on our sons. Chelsea had an orderly helping her give them sponge baths in cool water to help get their fever down. They were obviously two very sick young men, but Chelsea assured us they were improving minute by minute. While we were there, Dr. Walker came in, examined the two and said, "Dr. Andrews hit the nail on the head. These two have an infection. But they seem to be responding to the medication and, in Chelsea's hands, they should be up and around soon. But I wouldn't plan on their being in school for a few days.
When Yong Jin and I got home, we sat and talked for a very long time. We both talked about things we had never discussed before--about the shaman in Yong Jin's family and about my experience with medicine men. "I never told you because I thought you would think me a superstitious fool, but I knew Matt was different practically from the moment he was conceived. In one sense, I was pleased because, should he be a shaman, it would--to me--take away some of the sting of being mixed. It would affirm my Korean heritage. In another way I was afraid. Shaman often live very isolated lives. So when he grew up to be a very popular and well-liked young man I was relieved. From time to time--such as his being able to sense Luke--I was sure there was a shamanistic side to him. I guess it was proven when--as has happened for centuries in my family--someone he loved received the power as well. Luke knew when Matt was coming long before he was in the room with him, remember?"
"Well, it took me longer to wonder about Matt being a medicine man. I, too, feared what that might do to him. Medicine men have great power, but they are often outsiders. Many, I have been told, are gay--except Lakota do not talk about gay and straight--they just talk about people who are special. But I'm trained as a scientist and I kinda thought all that was just old wives' tales, but, then, I would never have been healed by shots and pills as I was by the medicine man. There are still mysteries in the universe."
"Yes, and I think one of them is a Lakota Korean American you and I brought into the world. I only hope he does good with his power and is not hurt by it. Now, let's get to bed. We do have school tomorrow," Yong Jin said with a particular sparkle in her eye.
Our love making was tender and passionate. As we lay naked in each others arms, I said, "You know, my Korean lover, young people have lust and the desire, but I think experience makes up for any decrease in lust. We could never have made love when we first met the way we do now."
"That's because you were always in too big of a hurry," she laughed as she bit a nipple.
Lunch Wednesday was a strange affair. First off, Mary Kathryn told us Matt and Luke were in the hospital and why. I guess those of us who grow up in the modern world just don't understand that we don't know everything.
"That sounds like some kind of magic," I said.
"You think it sounds like magic? You should have been there. It was really, really weird. If someone other than Margaret had told me about it, I would have thought they were smoking some strange herb," Mary Kathryn laughed, "but I know what happened. Margaret told us all about it after it was over. Michael was dead--all the monitors attached to him said so--then he wasn't and Luke and Matt were sick--very sick. I mean just like that--bingo and it happened
"So that explains why Luke and Matt aren't here," Linda said, "but where's Larry and Eugene?"
"I guess they are downtown," Jacob said. "Didn't McBride's trial start today? Hold up. Here they come."
"Sorry we're late. What's the news from Michael? Where's Matt and Luke," Larry asked as the two sat down.
Mary Kathryn had to tell the story again and, when she finished, Eugene said, "Man, who's going to believe that?"
"Where have you two been?" Linda asked. "We thought you'd have been at the trial."
"They're picking the jury today. The judge sent word I needn't show up until tomorrow. Larry and I went to see Ms. Jones."
"Look, Eugene's been doing well--actually he hasn't, but he says he is--but the trial is really going to be bloody so we wanted to ask Ms. Jones about the Fellowship being there for him."
"And she said?" I asked.
"She said it was ok if our teachers would excuse us. I got permissions forms for you to get signed by all your teachers. And you'll need a parent to sign as well. If all sign, you can go and we'll be there until this mess is over. I mean who's doing anything in school now anyway?" Larry laughed.
"Think we can we see Michael, Matt and Luke today? I'd sure like to see them to make sure they're ok," Jacob said. "I mean all this stuff about strange powers and so on..."
"Probably can. Let's all go immediately after school," Mary Kathryn said.
At the hospital, Mary Kathryn checked to see about visitors. The charge nurse said we could see the guys. "They're doing ok," she said. We were told all three were in the same room. Dr. Andrews was in their room and we could hear her talking before we went in. "Chelsea, Gladys, these three young men look in better shape that you two. Now that we have managed to get all three in the same room, it's time for you two to get some rest. Ok, I know you two are iron women, but enough is enough. You have to get some rest. The family can take over now and David or I will be around in case we're needed. Now you two get out of here." The two nurses left, looking as if they would drop any minute, but managed to give us big smiles as they left.
Dr. Andrews stepped into the hall to speak to us before we went in. "The guys are pretty much out of it right now," Dr. Andrews said. "They are improving by the minute, but all three are very weak from what they have been through. Matt and Luke are still fighting the infection, but they are almost over it. Michael... Michael... Well, Michael should be doing ok--and he is physically--but he seems really depressed. He just doesn't seem himself. I guess it's part of his being so sick, but it's... well speak to them, but don't stay long. And be careful with hugging Michael. Remember, he's only held together with cat gut and stainless steel right now."
When we walked into the room, Matt and Luke both smiled--weakly--and reached out to embrace each of us. Michael lay, looking at the ceiling as though we were not there.
When Mary Kathryn walked over to his bed, he didn't move. When she bent over to kiss his forehead, it seemed as though he kinda turned away from her. What was going on here? I guess... well, I didn't know what I thought. Maybe he was worried about his face and how he would look. I just didn't know. He certainly wasn't the old Michael who was always on top. The bandages on his face made talking hard, I'm sure, but he said nothing. I suppose all of us noticed that and decided to leave him alone. I knew something was eating him, but you don't press matters when someone is just back from the dead.
Matt and Luke were another matter. Sure they were weak--very weak--but full of questions. They wanted to know what was going on at school since they had outted themselves, what was happening with the trial and what we thought about the strange thing they did with Michael. Everyone tried to talk at once until finally, as usual, Linda got the upper hand. She told them there had been little said at school about them so far as we knew, the trial would start as soon as a jury was picked and that we had a hard time believing what we were told about their bringing Michael back. I was looking at Michael as Linda talked and when she mentioned the two guys bringing Michael back, I saw a tear in his eye. I really wondered what was going on, but it was time for us to go. Matt and Luke got hugs from everyone and Michael, again, seemed to be avoiding all of us so we just said, "See you, Michael," and left. Before we did, Mary Kathryn once again bent to kiss Michael and he definitely turned away from her.
Thursday we all met at school, took our permission slips to Ms. Jones and left for the trial.
The first witnesses were the three who had been in the state hospital. All three had been released to a halfway house, but the defense attorney kept trying to make the point that they were mental patients and their testimony couldn't be depended upon. Finally, some tapes of them were shown. I got sick at my stomach. Clearly, the early ones were of boys being raped by McBride. There was no question about that. The later ones showed them in all kinds of sexual activity with each other and they didn't look as if they were being forced.
The defense used to the latter tapes to prove, he said, that they were homosexuals and were doing what they wanted to do. The persecuting attorney pointed out even if what the defense attorney said was true, it didn't matter since all were under-age. The guys were questioned about why they had gone along with McBride and said at first it was because he kept telling them he was helping them get the devil out. Later, he gave them money, lots of money. All three are from very poor single parent families and the money was just too much temptation, I guess. Besides, they had been raped at 12 or so and where do you go from there? I must admit as much as I had hated them when they tried to run us off the road, I felt sorry for them. I don't think the defense got very far with his "they're mental patients" argument and certainly not with "they're gay so they were doing what they wanted" argument, but who knows?
The three's testimony took all morning and, when the lunch break came, the Fellowship--less the three guys, of course--were standing on the courthouse steps when the three came out. When they saw us, one of the three, Danny Elrod, walked over to where we were with the other two following. I was surprised first that they would approach us and then because it looked as though Danny was their spokesman. He had always been Jake Hilliard's yes man. "I guess you folks don't want to see or talk to us, but I hope you will listen. First of all, Eugene, I'm glad you had guts enough to escape McBride. We didn't. I know you can't forgive us for what we did--we can't forgive ourselves--but I did want you to know how very sorry we are for all we have done. It's not really an excuse, but we were so under McBride's power--the money, his pressure on us, his getting our parents to believe he was doing us good, a whole lot of things--that he really got us fucked up. Our time in the mental hospital and now in the halfway house and the counseling we are getting is helping. I just hope we can overcome our past. As I say, I don't expect you to forgive us, but I did want you to know how sorry we are and how hard we are working to get ourselves straightened out. Also, Eugene, how much we admire you, not only for refusing to fall into McBride's trap, but also for testifying against him."
"Danny, and you too Jake and Buddy, you have no reason to apologize to me especially. Gregory is dead and nothing can change that. Forgive you? I think I can. I know how easy it might have been for me to be where you are. The important thing is that you continue to get help so you don't become a McBride. I've been told that often happens--abused become abusers. And the most important thing is that you forgive yourselves and get on with your life, making it a good life in spite of the shit you have been through." I was surprised when Danny stuck out his hand that Eugene didn't just shake it, but pulled Danny to himself for a hug. The rest of us shook hands with Danny, Jake and Buddy. "Keep working on becoming the great people you can be and don't let McBride drag you down for your whole life," Eugene said. The three guys who had been the terror of Independence were all weeping openly as they turned to leave. Larry hugged Eugene to himself and said, "Babe, you are a bigger man than even I thought." We all agreed.
Millie was waiting for us at the courthouse door. "Son, I was told what you said to the three who testified this morning. You are a real man in my book! Not that you haven't always been, but that clinched it!" she said as she hugged him. "All of you are great in my book."
The afternoon started with a surprise. The prosecution called Eugene's father as a hostile witness and asked him to identify Eugene in the tapes. He kept refusing until Judge Snow said, "Mr. Joyce, either answer the questions or you're going to jail for contempt."
Old man Joyce reluctantly agreed that the tapes were of Eugene. When he was asked if Eugene had reported any such events to him, he said Eugene had been possessed of the devil and "I didn't and don't believe anything he said or says. He's a faggot. I know that now. I should have suspected it all along." There were immediate objections and the lawyers and old man Joyce were warned that all answers were to be to the questions asked and the events under consideration. The lawyer had to be warned several times that the present had nothing to do with the case.
I think the responses, even though wrong and out of place, served a real purpose. They made Eugene coldly angry. His testimony was matter of fact, straight forward and he did it all without breaking down, which we all feared. There were several other witnesses called by the defense to testify to McBride's good character and his crusade against homosexuality. None, however, could deny the evidence of the tapes. In a final, desperate effort to get the tapes dismissed, McBride's lawyer charged they had been doctored or were faked. An expert witness from the FBI testified, "The tapes you have seen are exactly as they were when they were taken from Rev. McBride's house. They have never been out from under lock and key except when they were being viewed and there were always at least three court officials present when they were taken from the locked box, while they were being viewed and when they were locked back in the box."
When Judge Snow asked how many more witnesses McBride's lawyer had, he said he had a hundred or so character witnesses. "Do any of them have direct knowledge of the events recorded on the tapes we have seen?" she asked.
"Of course not, because we believe those events were staged."
"Even those in which Rev. McBride appears?" she asked. There was no response.
After court was dismissed, we all went to the hospital. Luke and Matt were doing so well they had been told they could go home after Dr. Walker checked them tomorrow. They were full of questions about the trial. "I'm no lawyer," Larry said, "but I think it's about over. It's hard to argue with video tapes." He then told them about our conversation with Jake, Danny and Buddy."
"Man, it will be hard for them to forgive themselves, but at least they have made a start," Luke said. We had all just about forgotten about Michael since he had turned away when we came in and didn't seem to want to talk. He definitely turned away from Mary Kathryn's kiss, again. "How can you get forgiveness? How can you forgive yourself when you know you've done something terrible," Michael said softly.
"What do you mean, Michael?" Eugene asked, turning toward Michael.
"Nothing. Never mind," he said and turned to face the wall again. Something serious was going on here. What had Michael done that he felt he needed forgiveness or to forgive himself? We all looked very puzzled.
The second day in court went quickly. The hundred or so character witnesses turned out to be two: Eugene's mother and father. The rest, the lawyer said, had asked to be excused. After preaching about McBride's crusade against perverts and faggots, on cross examination, both Joyces were asked if the Rev. McBride was the person in the tape of him raping Eugene and in others of him sucking or fucking some kid. They both shouted that the tapes were fakes but, in the end, the tapes made short work of McBride's character witnesses.
It took the jury twenty minutes to find McBride guilty on all counts and, as had been said before, he will be an old man before he's free. And the feds hadn't gotten him yet.
Monday, Matt and Luke were back in school, somewhat worse for the wear, but present for lunch. They told us what they did, but didn't know why or what or how they had done it. "I guess it'll always be one of life's mysteries," Matt said. "But we do have a problem."
"Yea, how well I know," Mary Kathryn spoke up. "Something's bad wrong with Michael. Do you think he's afraid of how he will look? That doesn't make sense. I'm the one who will have to look at him and I don't care how he looks."
"I don't think Michael is that shallow," was the surprising response from Linda. "If my face got messed up, I'd just about die. But Michael? No, I don't think that's what's wrong. Luke, I think you and Matt ought to go see him today. Maybe he'll talk to you. Something has to be done. He's completely withdrawn from all of us." "Including me," Mary Kathryn said as tears fell down her cheeks.
"I agree with Linda," Jacob said. "You two guys saved his life, but you're also brothers. Maybe he'll talk to you. And if not, you'll just have to be firm--damn firm--with him."
When Luke and I reached the Jeep, he grabbed me and gave me a full Luke kiss. "That'll save the family jewels from that damn stick," he said. No-one had said anything one way or the other to either of us and I wondered if students were going to just take two gay lovers in stride. I sure hoped so. I knew it was great not having to pretend any longer.
When we drove by Eugene's former home, the front door was standing open and the house was obviously empty. "I guess the Joyces realized they needed to be somewhere else now that the Temple of Praise has been shown for what it really was. And think, David and Michael were in that shit for a long time," Luke mused. When we reached Michael's room, Dr. Walker and the plastic surgeon--Dr. Lucas--had just finished working on Michael's face. "Dr. Lucas, this is Matt Greywolf and Luke Larsen."
"Fellows," he said as he extended his hand, "I've heard it, but not sure I believe it. But something must have happened because Michael is doing great. As you can see, he has a scar, but the redness will go way and, when it is completely healed, it will hardly be noticeable. But I guess you two only specialize in drug reactions and infections because his wounds are still there, but healing nicely. Michael, smile, please." Michael turned to face us and gave a very forced smile. "As you can see, there is nerve damage and some paralysis. Not as much as I feared, but he will always have a bit of a crooked smile--but crooked smiles are sexy, I'm told." He patted Michael on the leg and turned to go.
"Luke, Matt, if you can spare a few minutes, I'd like to have you talk with Dr. Lucas a bit."
"Sure. Laters, Michael," I said.
As soon as we were in the hall, Dr. Walker said, "That was only half true. I'm sure you expected to be quizzed about what you did for/with Michael, but there's nothing to be said about that. It happened and we'll never know how or why I suspect. I just wanted to get you out of the room so we could talk. Dr. Lucas, will you join us?" Dr. Lucas nodded and we went to Dr. Walker's office.
"Guys, I am worried about Michael. He is healing fine. He seemed indifferent to the scar on his face and the paralysis. Most people couldn't wait to get a mirror to have a look, but when we handed him one, he just glanced at his face and then pushed it away. I think part of that is because he's just not as vain as most teenagers, but there's something else. Something is wrong. He's not just pushing mirrors away, he's pushing people--everyone--away. That's just not Michael. David and Margaret are very upset--although Margaret keeps making excuses for him."
"That' s the reason only Luke and I are here," I said. "The Fellowship talked about it at lunch and thought maybe he'd talk to me and Luke."
"Straight up, doctor, how rough can we be on him? Michael can be stubborn as a mule and it may take some pretty hard talk to get him to talk."
"He's in good shape physically and I think getting really angry would be better than the funk he's in now. What do you think, doctor?"
"Get him to talk, just don't mess up his face or bust any of his seams, but something needs to be done and I don't know how to go about it."
When we went back to Michael's room, he turned to face the wall, saying nothing. Luke and I sat silent, waiting. "What in the fuck do you two want," Michael finally said, turning to face us. "Why the fuck don't you just leave me the fuck alone? Nobody asked you to be here. I don't want you here."
"You are wrong, Oh Foul-Mouthed One," Luke answered. "The whole Fellowship asked us to be here. The two doctors who were just here asked that we be here. Only my fucking foul-mouthed brother doesn't want us here." "You're right about that. Why can't you just leave me alone? Why don't you just get the fuck out of my room?" "Because we are here to whip your ass if necessary. You are being a first-class shitty asshole, Michael, and if your were at death's door, I might take that. But you ungrateful little shit, we pulled you out of death's door, got sick as hell in doing it and, by damn, you're at least going to talk to us even if you aren't glad to be alive. I have never seen you be such a shithead even at your worst when your mom was dying. What in the hell is going on with you?" Luke was fairly screaming.
I must admit, when it comes to being a foul mouth, my brothers could outdo me with very few words. I didn't try. Quietly I said, "Ok, Michael, something's eating you, so spill it, Lil Bro, spill it."
Suddenly I could see the anger leave Michael as tears formed in his eyes. "That's better, Lil Bro," I said. "What's eating up your guts?"
"Bro, you'll never understand but, Luke, I think you can." Great sobs shook his body and it was, of course, painful. Luke sat on his bed, held him close and stroked his hair. "It's ok, Michael, your brothers are here. Just take it easy. We promised the doctors we wouldn't have you bust any of your seams. Take it easy." Michael did calm down, but continued to weep softly as Luke held him and stroked his hair. With his other hand, he patted the bed on the other side of Michael and I joined them.
With great effort, and I am sure great pain, Michael half-raised himself and wrapped an arm around my neck. "It's ok, Lil Bro. Just take it easy. Don't hurt yourself. Now what's this all about?"
Michael then told us about his wanting to die. Weeping he said, "Luke, at least you were thinking of Matt when you tried to kill yourself. I was only thinking of me. I hated you and Luke. I hated Mary Kathryn because you all wanted to bring me back. I wanted to die. I just wanted to die. I didn't want to live. I wanted you to forget me as I was forgetting you. No-one was important to me, no-one, except myself. How can I tell Mary Kathryn I love her more than life itself when I wanted to toss away my life and her with it? How can I stand to look you two in the face when I hated you because you wanted me to stay here?" Michael went on like that for at least ten minutes--crying, weeping, sometimes almost shouting, other times just whispering. Neither Luke nor I tried to stop him. We both just sat, holding him, stroking his hair. I knew his agitation was bound to be hurting him, but he seemed indifferent to it.
When he was finally calm, I spoke very softly to him. "Michael, I wasn't cut, so I couldn't have been suffering the way you were, but I wanted it to stop. Yes, I guess if it took death to stop the pain, I wanted to die, but... well, I didn't and you didn't. I don't know how I would have felt had someone kept me in that pain as--how I don't know--Luke and I did you. Does that mean you hated us? Does that mean you loved Mary Kathryn less? I don't think so. I think it simply means that you were beyond what any human can be expected to endure. We're not perfect, we're not immortal and we can't endure everything. You met your limits. Thank God, Luke and I were able to take some of your pain away so you could endure, so you could live. That's what friends and brothers do--even when you may think you don't want it. Lil Bro, it means you're human. There's no reason to regret that. There's nothing to be ashamed of or sorry for. The love that binds us together, more closely than any of us realized, prevailed. For that, be thankful and live the life you have been given back. You did die, you know. But, for whatever reason, death couldn't hold on to you just as he failed to hold on to Luke. Look what that has meant to me, to you, to Luke. the same thing is true for you. We don't know why you could be snatched from the jaws of death, but we can know it was for a good reason. And, be honest, are you sorry you're back? If you are, then you have reason for feeling as you do, but I know better. You don't feel ashamed because you don't love Mary Kathryn or me or Luke or Margaret. You feel ashamed because in a moment of torture, you forgot. We all can understand that--if not now, then one day when we reach our limit."
"But how can I ever forgive myself for hating the people who love me and whom I love? What can I do?"
"Michael, you have to forgive yourself because... well, because the only way you can ever make it up to us," Luke said, quietly, "is by being Michael and living the great life Michael has ahead of him. And you can't do that and hate yourself or put yourself down."
We talked for another half hour and, just as we were about to leave, Michael said, "Thanks, Matt, Luke. Don't ever fail to tell me off when I need it. I still have to think about what I did, but I'm on the right road, I think."
"Sleep, Lil Bro," I said. "We need you well, soon."
Luke and I went back to my place, got undressed and slipped into my bed. Before we had expressed our love for each other beyond a few passionate kisses, we were sound asleep.
Dad came up later and woke us to say David and Margaret wanted to talk to us. We quickly dressed and went downstairs.
"Luke, Matt, I don't know what you said or did this afternoon in Michael's room--and probably wouldn't believe it if you told me, but he asked not to be disturbed for a while after you left and when he called to have the 'Do Not Disturb' sign removed, he was pretty much the old Michael. When Mary Kathryn came by shortly afterward I was sure he was going to split a seam or two before he let her go. He then had her close the door and they talked--I guess they talked, I don't think he could have done much else--for half an hour or so."
"All we did was give him a brotherly talk," Luke smiled.
"A real brotherly chat," I added. "I'm surprised parts weren't heard all the way to your office, Margaret."
"Well, it worked," David said. "Dr. Walker says he can come home tomorrow. We had thought about keeping him at the hospital since Margaret and I will be there and not at home, but Chelsea and Gladys would not hear of it. They insisted on taking care of him during the day. If all goes well now, he may be able to go to school--at least half day--next week."
"And you two deserve all the credit," Margaret said.
"Believe me, I feel no more responsible for what happened than you do. It was something more than me which I don't understand," Luke said. I agreed.
Gabrielle and Jens insisted that Luke go home for the night and Yong Jin and Greywolf were equally insistent that I stay in my own bed. "You two need rest to recover and, after all, I suspect Thursday night will be a long one for you," David said with an evil smile.
Luke and I looked at each other blankly, then I felt a smile crossing my face as that famous Luke grin covered his. "I know you folks aren't going to believe this, but I had forgotten..." he said.
I tried to put on a hurt look, but finally just grabbed Luke and tried to suck his tongue out of his mouth. After a battle of the tongues, I gazed into his eyes and said, "I did too, Bright Angel."
I ate with Mom and Dad and we talked about what had happened a bit, but I was really exhausted and almost went to sleep before I finished eating. I was completely taken by surprise when Dad picked me up, Mom kissed me on the cheek, and he took me upstairs, undressed me and put me to bed. "You are a wonderful son, Matt. And I love you dearly," dad said, as he kissed me on the cheek and tucked me in bed as he had done when I was a little boy. I doubt he was downstairs before I was asleep, dreaming of my beautiful, loving Yonghon Tongmu.
Couples at Independence had a long-standing tradition of car leaning. After they parked in the parking lot, the guy would go around, open the door for his girlfriend and they would then stand, leaning against the car. Usually it was the guy who would place his arms on either side of her, his hands resting against the car while they talked, but occasionally it was the other way around. Either way, there were some exchanges of kisses, but nothing excessive. If they were really into being a couple, the guy--the girl if she was on the outside--might push his hips against hers, but moving them around was frowned on. If a couple really got carried away, they could expect a chorus of "dry fucking, dry fucking" from the others. It was something that just wasn't done--in the parking lot at least.
When Luke and I arrived at school Tuesday, Mary Kathryn jumped out of the Jeep and hurried into the building. Luke also jumped out quickly and came to my side of the Jeep, opened the door and, when I got out, pinned me in the "Independence car lean". As he leaned into me, I could feel his hardness as he pressed his hips against mine. When he gave me a great Luke kiss, I objected, "Luke, everyone is going to see us".
"So? They know about us now, so why try to hide?" Of course he was right. As Luke finished speaking, Larry and Eugene drove up, followed by Bill and Linda. Bill and Linda had long ago gotten into the car leaning habit and we just spoke and they went at it, but I was surprised when Larry got out of the car, grabbed Eugene and immediately had him leaning against the car, giving him a passionate kiss. "Whoo! Look who's joined the club," Luke laughed.
As I turned to look, four of the football players walked by Larry and Eugene. "Well, well, well," one of them, Marc Stanley, said, "look who has joined the faggots, as if we didn't know. Pretty boy toy you've got there, faggot."
Larry, wisely, decided to play it all off as a joke. "Yea, you're right. From what I've heard, you're just jealous. Guess you're sorry he's mine and you didn't get him first."
The football player who had made the remark lunged at Larry shouting, "You faggot son of a bitch!" The next thing he knew--or any of us for that matter--he was in the dirt. Eugene had ducked under Larry's arms and decked him in a blur of motion.
As he stood over the player, Eugene said, "Looks as if Mr. Football Hero slipped and fell in the dirt," and extended his hand to pick him up.
"Keep your faggot hands off me!" Marc responded and got up, brushing himself. His buddies were laughing. Most of the students in the parking lot were also laughing, happy to see a bully put in his place. After all, the guy must have had almost a hundred pounds and a six-inch advantage over Eugene.
"Guess you need to pick on someone your size who is not a black belt," Larry laughed.
As the little drama ended, the warning bell rang and immediately Ms. Jones was heard on the outside intercom speaker, "Will the following students report to the front office at once... Larry Watley... Eugene Willingham... " She was pausing after each name.
"Oh shit, Eugene exclaimed, "we're in trouble, Lar."
"Paula Wright... "
"Maybe not," Larry responded.
"Maybe you are. Matthew? She called you Matthew," Luke said in a puzzled voice.
"... and Luke Larsen. Thank you."
As we walked into the school, a surprising number of students spoke to Eugene, making such remarks as, "Good job, Man." "He had it coming." "We'll have to call you Flash from now on." Some students indicated their displeasure at four guys walking down the hall holding hands, but few said anything. Most just ignored us.
When we reached Ms. Jones' office Paula was already there. "Understand there was a bit of a commotion in the parking lot this morning," Ms. Jones said with a raised eyebrow, looking at Eugene.
"Nothing worth discussing," he responded.
"If that's the way you want it, ok."
"It started as a joke and I think ended with someone being a joke," Larry said.
"Let's drop it," Eugene suggested.
"So long as you are sure," Ms. Jones said. "But if it happens again, I definitely will do something. There's a very fine line here between student jokes and outright bigotry. If it's crossed, I want to know about it. But that's not why you are here. A letter arrived yesterday after school. It was sent to me, but had separate letters inside addressed to each of you. Lucky me, I know what's inside," she laughed as she handed each of us a letter from Oberlin.
We were ripping into them like kids Christmas morning as the exclamations started. "Holy shit!" from Luke; "Hot damn!" from Eugene; "Frigging awesome!" from Larry; a squeal from Paula and I just stood with my mouth open.
"I plan to announce the contents during homeroom," Ms. Jones said. "Students need to know that talent helps, but discipline and hard work are what count."
The letters were official confirmation of our acceptance at Oberlin and of our full scholarships. But there was more. A special scholarship fund would pay for all our books, supplies, practice rooms--big items for three of us--studio and lab fees. If we could sleep on the ground and go without food, college would cost nothing! Of special interest to most of us was the statement that the scholarships would cover any fees or charges involved in any joint enrollment.
"I will make an additional announcement this morning regarding graduation. Ms. Norman and I have calculated every way we can think of and the results are the same every time. Matt, Luke, you are absolutely tied as top students--as valedictorians. Our decision is that the two of you will be the two speakers. I will leave it up to you to determine the order in which you speak and what you have to say. You should have been told earlier, but we were trying to come up with some difference so one would be valedictorian and the other salutatorian, but we couldn't. Do you think you can handle that?"
"I don't think it will cause a family fight," Luke laughed, "especially since tomorrow is our birthday."
Ms. Jones laughed and I blushed. "So you have kept the promise you made to yourselves--not that it is really any of my business."
"We did," Luke said. "But you need to know, Matt and I have never ditched school before, but don't look for us Friday."
"What about senior practice? That's Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning."
"I guess we'll just have to be perfect Thursday." Luke laughed.
"I think we can handle that," Ms. Jones said.
There were five happy campers walking to homeroom. When Ms. Jones made the announcements, there were cheers and most everyone in our homeroom piled around Luke and me, hugging us, shaking our hands and patting us on the back.
Walking down the halls was a new experience since Luke and I were almost always holding hands. I think I had forgotten just how much holding hands can mean, but I was glad to be reminded. Of course, it also meant there were some dirty looks and a few rotten comments, but we chose to ignore them. Being able to hold hands and let the world know of our love after trying to hide for so long was worth putting up with dirty looks and comments. "Sarang Hanun Pomul, the poor suckers just don't know about being in love," Luke smiled at one point.
The Fellowship had just settled down for lunch when a runner from the front office brought a FedEx overnight package to the table. It was from Professor Ruth Rote-Batten and addressed to the five of us--now officially the Oberlin Five. "I think Paula as the only lady among the Oberlin Five gets to open it," Jacob said.
"Ok, but hurry up!" I urged. When Paula opened the package, there was a letter and a pile of pictures, diagrams and a map. "Well, read the letter to us, Paula! Don't hog it for yourself," Larry chided.
As Paula read, our mouths fell open. Sometimes life deals you a hand so good it's hard to believe. Seems the Professor was the last surviving relative of a great-aunt who had left her a house on Lake Erie, near Loraine. The stipulation of the aunt's will was that it was to be used to benefit an Oberlin student or Oberlin students in any manner the professor chose. She said she had decided to sell the house to the five of us--if we were interested--for $50,000 down and a balance of $50,000 to be paid in five yearly payments. She wrote that would benefit us and the money she got would benefit other students. The official appraisal--enclosed--of the house and the five acres of lake front property was $850,000.
"Look at this map," Larry said. "We'll have practically a straight shot to Oberlin and it's no further than Elyra we had talked about. No further from Cleveland either."
"Look at the floor plan of the house," Eugene said. "It's huge--four bedrooms upstairs with two baths, the usual kitchen, dining room, living room, and family room down plus a library and two more bedrooms and a bath. All huge, I might add. And look at this sun porch overlooking the lake!! Man, we could move in a neighborhood."
We all started looking at the pictures of a huge Victorian house sitting near the lake, surrounded by old trees and sand dunes. "It's so old, I wonder what shape it's in?" Practical Paula asked.
Larry was examining a document which didn't look too exciting, but proved to be very interesting. "This is an examination of the house by an official inspector and states that the heating plant, the plumbing and electrical systems were updated three years ago and are in perfect order. Winterizing was done ten years ago and renovated last year. The old lady--our benefactor--sure kept things in good shape. According to this, the exterior needs painting and the interior needs cosmetic work. Man, what a deal!" Having said that, Larry suddenly got a pained look on his face and said, "But we all have to come up with $10,000 plus $2,000 more this year."
"But we pay nothing for college," Paula said.
"I know, but I wouldn't have had anything for college anyway. I mean my mom and I have always been pretty low on funds."
"Not to worry, Lar. We'll work something out," Eugene said.
"Gene, you took me to love, not raise," Larry responded.
"Not Fellowship business," Eugene responded, but it did dampen the spirit of our excitement a bit.
After school, Luke and I went to the hospital. Michael was sitting in a chair when we arrived. Luke greeted him with, "Looks like progress to me".
"I guess," Michael said with what had become the new Michael smile--different from the old one, but definitely Michael. "It sure hurt like hell, but I have been walking around a bit. Kept thinking what would happen if I had gotten hold of a weak cat or the staples were cut-rate. I could just see my insides dumping out on the floor!" he laughed. "Actually, Mom told me I was doing great and that there was no real reason for me to stay here, but she wants to keep an eye on me. I'm going home tomorrow under the watchful eye of Chelsea one day and Gladys the next."
Without thought, I jumped in with, "Mom?"
"Yea, Mom. I think it's a title she has earned and... well, I hope it's one she'll allow. Doesn't mean I don't still love my mom, Elizabeth, or that Margaret is a replacement. It means that when I needed a mom, Margaret was my mom. But guys, this is THE WEEK! Right?"
I blushed big time as Luke got a wicked grin on his face and said, "Yea, and Matt better make the wait worth it!"
We talked to Michael a while longer. He was the Michael we had always known--bit more sober--but very much Michael. "Matt, Luke, when I get out of here and am up to it, we've got to talk. I have had time to do a lot of thinking the last day or so. But what's going on? I miss seeing the gang."
We told him about the incident in the parking lot and he said, "Just watch for knives. They hurt!"
"Don't think there'll be any more trouble out of that bunch. Eugene made Marc look like a fool," Luke said, "but, hey, we have great news." We then told him about the additional scholarships and the house.
"Hey, two years from now Mary Kathryn and I can move in. We'll only need one bedroom."
"You're talking about my baby sister," Luke said in his serious big brother voice.
"Damn right I am! Doubt that we'll wait that long, but we'll be eighteen which I believe is a magic age," Michael grinned his new grin.
"Dr. Lucas was right, that new grin and smile of yours are different, but definitely Michael and they're as sexy as Matt's scar. Man, you guys are getting all the breaks," Luke laughed.
"If you don't mind, I think I'd rather be less sexy," Michael said.
"Add me to that list," I agreed.
"And I don't think this is sexy at all," Michael said as he dropped the hospital gown from his shoulders revealing a huge, ugly red scar crossing his chest then his stomach. "At least the son of a bitch didn't get a nipple. I need both when that wild woman gets hold of me!"
"You're pushing it, Brother," Luke said again with a wicked grin.
"Aside from your private time which we all know about, when's the birthday celebration?"
"Can't happen with you out of commission," I said. "We have put the official 'everyone come party' on hold until we see how you do. May be a week away."
"You don't have to do that."
"We know we don't have to, but it's not a party without a Michael," I said and suddenly choked up. I guess the strain got to all of us because we were soon a teary eyed bunch holding each other. "Michael, you have always been special, but I never knew how special until I saw you go flatline. Bro, I am going to burn a train load of candles in thanksgiving for your being back."
"You can toss in some for me as well," Luke said as he dried his eyes.
"Well, I never thought I would say otherwise, but I didn't..."
"Drop it, Lil Bro," I said.
"Ok, but in spite of what I might have said, I'm damn glad I'm back and I plan to stay a long time."
A nurse came into the room to check his vitals and I said, "Guess we better go," and leaned over to hug Michael--gently and he kissed me on the cheek and said, "Thanks, Bro." He did the same when Luke leaned over him.
"Want to stop by Uncle Michael's and see what's going?" I asked as we got into the Jeep.
"What are you trying to do, avoid me?" Luke asked.
I blushed and said, "Well, in a way. Thursday is so close that I keep thinking, 'What's a day or two?' when I want you so bad."
"Know what you mean, Dark Angel, know what you mean. But I really do need to see him. I had completely forgotten the exhibition had to be taken down. We'll need to work on that this afternoon, I'm sure. St. Mary's would probably like to have their space back."
Uncle Michael met us at the door and, before he could speak, Luke said, "I have to apologize, Uncle Michael. I had completely forgotten about taking the exhibition down. I'm sorry. It was thoughtless of me.
"I would have thought less of you had you been concerned about it given all that has gone on. But not to worry. It has been taken care of. In fact, when John and I went over last Wednesday to start taking it down, there was a crowd of people going through it and Fr. Tom asked that it be left up until yesterday. The movers came in and packed everything up, including those works which were sold. They moved the sculpture to the hospitality house and I had taken the pencil sketch of me and John earlier to be matted and framed. I think it turned out well, what do you think?" He pointed to the sketch which was displayed over the living room fireplace.
"It looks great. I'm so glad you like it, small token of appreciation that it is," Luke said.
"Yea, I guess you could call it a small token, but I wouldn't. Not even where money's concerned. The first offer I had from a dealer was for $250. Fat chance he had to purchase it. It was not for sale! I think he would had still been bidding had I not finally convinced him it was not for sale at any price--when I finally said 'No' and he knew I meant it, he had just offered $700. I finally said, 'It's mine, period'. But come and see what is left for the gallery. By the way, I had Paula's picture framed as well. Her mother has it."
I was surprised at how few pieces were on display. "What happened to the others," I asked.
"Sold, all sold"
"Even that montage?" Luke asked. "That hardly qualified as art."
"Maybe to you, but the dealer who got it had to outbid several others. It increased your sales by a good bit over a thousand."
"Holy shit!" Luke exclaimed.
"Overall, you did pretty well. Sales came to a bit over $18,000. I let one dealer have the entire set of the family with the promise that he would not sell any individual work, but keep each family together. I would like to have had them all together, but having been in the business, knew that was unlikely. By the way, the abstract cost me $2,000 and I didn't think I would get it at that. You are a talented young man and I don't want you selling yourself or your work cheap."
"Damn, I can't believe this day with the house and all," Luke said
"What's this about a house?" Uncle Michael asked. We told him about the house, the scholarships and Eugene's putting a football player in the dirt.
"The house and scholarship are great news, but watch out for the football player. Jocks can get nasty when they make an ass of themselves and everyone knows it," Uncle Michael warned. "But to more pleasant things than jocks. Isn't this Thursday the magic night?"
Well, what do you expect? I blushed and Luke laughed. "Sure is," he said.
"I know you two want your time together and with Michael still in the hospital, when's the party?"
"Not sure. That'll depend on Michael."
"I'd like to have it here if you will. Meanwhile, if you two would like it, I'd enjoy treating you to dinner in Lexington Thursday--I mean just the two of you. I'll take care of all the arrangements and you can have the Lexus so Luke won't damage important equipment," Uncle Michael laughed.
"What do you think, Matt? You're the one who can't wait."
I blushed again and said "Actually, sounds good. Say 8:00? We could come back and..."
"And?" Luke laughed and I blushed.
"Well, that's up to you, but I'll make reservations and take care of everything. You could even spend the night in the hotel if you didn't want to drive back."
"Uncle Michael, you know this is serious business for us. I mean, I am looking forward to a hell of a lot of fun, but it's..."
"I know, so what are you saying?"
"We have promised each other our first time would..."
"How thoughtless of me. I should have known. At the falls."
"You know, you could have chosen a better day to be born so your eighteenth wouldn't have fallen on the dark of the moon. The falls will be dark. I don't know about you, but I want to see Joh... my lover..."
"You want to see Mr. Stephenson when you two are making love," Luke said matter-of-factly.
"Damn, So do I--I mean I want to see Matt when we make love."
Uncle Michael got a funny look on his face then said, as though coming out of a trance, "You will have dinner in Lexington, right?"
"Sure, and thanks for everything, Uncle Michael," I said.
"Oh, by the way, Luke, the painting is in excellent hands--the very best--and will be fully restored, but it will be a month or so before it is finished."
"Uncle Michael, I know I told you that the painting wasn't important after what happened to Michael--and compared to Michael it wasn't--but you were so right. It is important and there could never be another one--at least so far as I am concerned. That painting is, for me, an attempt to express my love for Matt. I felt like a knife had been driven through my heart when it was slashed. I can never thank you enough for getting it restored. It's kinda like getting Michael into the best possible hands. You did that for my painting--for me--and I do appreciate it. Just as we'll have to wait for Michael to heal, I'll wait for the painting, knowing both will have suffered, but both will still be with us. Thank you!" and with those words, Luke hugged Uncle Michael close.
As we got into the Jeep to go home, Luke said, "It has really been a great day." I agreed.
We went to my place and sat and talked about the events of the day and the future. We decided, in general terms, what we wanted to say in our speeches. "We'll have to work hard on those Friday," I reminded Luke.
"Yea, we will, but I don't think that's a problem. Meanwhile..." We did some pretty fantastic love-making, something we had been neglecting lately, but managed to save ourselves for later if you know what I mean.
Wednesday at school was uneventful until Luke and I were ready to leave. Of course there were a few cat calls and some dirty looks, but again, that was a small price to pay for being able to hold my Yonghon Tongmu's hand when I wanted to and sneak a kiss from time to time.
Luke wanted to see Mr. Stephenson before we left to thank him for helping take down the exhibition. As we walked toward the art room, I saw Marc and his three buddies disappear around a corner. Just as we were about to turn into the art room hall, Eugene came down the hall headed for the band room. Before he reached it, Marc and his three fellow jocks jumped him.
Again, before I could see what was happening, he had one groaning on the floor, but the other three grabbed him. As Marc pulled back his fist to punch Eugene in the stomach, Larry flashed around the corner and Luke and I ran toward Eugene. I wasn't much of a fighter, but I grabbed one of the jerks, put my arm around his neck and started choking him. Larry punched one in the gut big time and Luke did the same. By then the jerk on the floor was up and headed for Eugene. Big mistake! He hit the floor again. The guy I was holding got loose and Eugene floored him. Luke and Larry had the other two and Eugene said, "One at a time!" Larry laughed and released the guy he was holding. As soon as he was free, he rushed Eugene. "Another turd on the pile of shit," Larry laughed. "Luke, free that poor guy. He wants to fight." As soon as Luke released him, he took off down the hall, running for his life.
"Hold it, Ben," Mr. Smith shouted. Then he said, "Ok, looks as if the fight's over and I saw it all."
"So did I," Mr. Stephenson said. "I pushed the emergency button, but it looks as if everything is under control. You three head for the office and collect your buddy Ben on the way. When I get there, you had better be there. Luke, Matt, Eugene, Larry, let's take a casual stroll to the office," he said. "I've called for someone to watch my class."
"So have I, "Mr. Smith said. "And here they come--coaches," he laughed. When they arrived, he said, "Thanks for watching our classes. We have to take care of four of your football players." The coaches snarled.
When we reached Ms. Jones office, she had the four writing out their version of the incident. They finished just about the time we walked in. "Come in gentlemen. Eugene, I understand you and your three friends attacked these four young men who were merely walking to class."
"That's strange," Mr. Smith said. "Are they in your class, Mr. Stephenson?"
"No, if they were walking to class, they must be in yours. I mean, after all, we have the only classrooms in that area. Very strange. But it didn't appear that way to me."
"Oh, were you two teachers witnesses to the attack on these four young men?"
"Actually, no. What I saw was the four attacking Mr. Willingham who was alone, walking to my class," Mr. Smith said.
"Appeared that way to me as well," Mr. Stephenson said.
"Eugene, would you like to give an account of the incident?"
Eugene told Ms. Jones exactly what happened. She asked if that was what we had witnessed and we agreed. "And you two teachers as well?"
"That was the incident we witnessed," Mr. Smith said.
"Right. That's what I saw," Mr. Stephenson added.
"Ok, the fun's over," Ms. Jones said in a very stern voice. "You fellows made some very bigoted remarks this morning which Mr. Willingham chose to ignore. That would have gotten you in deep hot water, but he let you off. Now you have committed a tribunal offense. I will have the four you attacked write up your version of the incident as well as the two teachers. You will go before the tribunal for a bigotry-related fight and writing up a false report and I can assure you that you will be expelled from this school."
"All of you are seniors, right?" All four nodded. "You all four have football scholarships to college, right?" Again all four nodded. "Well, you can forget them. You have to graduate and you cannot since you will be expelled. As of now you are suspended until the tribunal meets and rules on your case. Although I can tell you, that is a mere formality. I believe the expression is you have really fouled your nest. Do you understand what that means?" Again four nods.
"You are to leave the campus at once and not return. I'll have to call, but since this is Wednesday and graduation is Sunday, I'll ask for the tribunal tomorrow. Unless you hear otherwise, it will meet to deal with your case at the central office at 10:00. It won't take long then you can find something to occupy your time because I can assure you you will not be coming back to school."
"You mean we won't walk? We won't graduate?" Marc asked.
"That's exactly what I mean. It's over. You blew it. You are out of here."
"Is there nothing we can do?" one of the others asked. "My dad will kill me."
"Pity," Ms. Jones said. "Had he taught you right from wrong he would have saved himself the trouble."
"Ms. Jones," Eugene said, "I hate what these four jerks did and I think they richly deserve the punishment they'll get, but I hate to see them mess up the rest of their lives because they were assho... jerks. Maybe if they could be taught a good lesson it would be worth more than putting them on the street."
"Did you have something in mind, Mr. Willingham?"
Eugene had the most wicked smile I have ever seen spread across his face. "Well, I don't know. Maybe."
"Look, Eugene... Mr. Willingham," Sandy, one of the four was begging, "We'll do anything if we can graduate and keep our scholarships. We're sorry."
"Bullshit," Larry exploded. "You're sorry you got caught. If you had found Eugene alone, as you thought he was, you would have beaten the shit out of him. Don't give me that 'We're sorry' bullshit." Marc and his buddies had gotten a look of "We may get out of this" on their faces, but when Larry exploded, it quickly faded.
"Ms. Jones, they like calling people names. Maybe if they could experience that, they would think twice about doing it. That would be better than expelling them."
"Ok, if they are willing, I say we forget the whole thing. Beginning the minute they walk out the door, they are to walk, holding hands. Check and see which pair has the most classes together so they will be holding hands most of the day. And no changing partners."
"You're full of shit, Willingham," Marc said.
"Wait, I'm not finished. Tomorrow and Friday the two partners are to kiss each other--full, open-mouth, tongue-and-all kiss--in the cafeteria when ALL the students are present."
"I'll see you in hell first!" Marc exclaimed.
"Very unconventional, Mr. Willingham, but since they aren't interested, the tribunal is tomorrow at 10:00. I guess..."
"Look, I don't like this one frigging bit," Randy, one of the four said, "but without graduating and that scholarship, I'm nothing. Besides, I'll be beat to death by my dad as well. It was a stupid thing to do and I know we deserve being expelled because we have been told that's the punishment. And I can tell you, Sandy and I have all our classes together. Sandy, you've got a boyfriend." Sandy blushed, but he reached out and took Randy's hand. "May we go now?" he asked. Ms. Jones nodded. "And as much as I hate to say it, thanks, Eugene, you're a better man than I am and you sure can move. Damn, I couldn't believe how fast I hit the floor." Having said that, Sandy and Randy walked out of the office holding hands.
"Marc, I'll see you and Ben at the tribunal."
"I guess not," Marc said in a very defeated voice and took Ben's hand and walked out of the office.
The two were hardly out of the door before the pent-up laughter started. "Well, for once in my life I have seen the punishment fit the crime," Ms. Jones said. "Now I have to call four sets of parents before they are on my back. Do the write-ups because if those four don't take advantage of your generous offer, Eugene, they are out of here, out of graduation and out of college scholarships. 'A full, open-mouth, tongue-and-all kiss' in the cafeteria? Really, Eugene, you are too much. I hope they don't come to you for lessons!" Eugene started making gagging noises. "Ok, do the write-ups and get out of here," Ms. Jones said, laughing her head off.
Well, you can imagine what happened when the four super jocks started walking all over the place holding hands.
The next day the football jocks had decided to help out their buddies and all were paired up, holding hands. Students were having a field day and the teachers as well. You know that anything going on in the school is a topic of conversation in the teachers' lounge. It was fun watching teachers try to hide their smiles as a pair of jocks walked down the hall holding hands. It was especially bad when Ms. Jones changed the marching order for graduation so the four were together--holding hands--for graduation practices.
But it all stopped--except for the four--after lunch. I had started to wonder about Sandy and Randy before lunch. They seemed to be enjoying the hand holding. Well, about half-way through lunch they stood in the middle of the cafeteria and Randy shouted, "If you folks need a lesson, watch!" He pulled Sandy to himself and gave him a kiss that wouldn't wait. I mean he would give Luke a run for his money--well, not really, he wasn't that good--but a major kiss it was--open-mouth, tongue-and-all and it wasn't a quickie! Ben and Marc, on the other hand, just walked to the middle of the room and gave each other a pretty terrible kiss--but it did meet the requirements. That did it. The shouts and hoots and catcalls--the general student chaos--was enough to stop all the hand holding among the jocks--except for the four.
As soon as we could, Luke and I left school. It was our big night, but we decided we needed to see Michael so we drove to his place. Chelsea was there and Michael was in the downstairs bedroom/nursery. "I know you're being babied," I laughed, "but isn't this a little much?"
"You try walking up and down stairs after having your belly cut open and you'll welcome baby toys and cute animals on the wall," Michael laughed--carefully. "Actually, I'm doing great, but stairs I can't handle yet. But why aren't you guys off saving your energy or something," he said with a wicked grin and started singing--off-key I might add--an old love song, "Tonight We Love".
"I guess we've waited long enough that a few more minutes won't matter and we had to check on our brother,' Luke said, seriously.
"Hey, lighten up. I'm ok. Got some things straightened out--I think--in my head. Being put out of commission for a while is not all bad, but I think the method could be improved on," Lil Bro responded. "What happened at school today?"
We told him about the fight and the resulting punishment.
"Stop!" he said, "laughing hard hurts." And he was laughing so hard tears were streaming down his cheeks. "Marc and Ben holding hands! Man, I'm sure sorry I missed that. But get out of here. I understand the big night starts with dinner in Lexington."
"You know better than that, Oh Corrupter of Baby Sisters!" Luke said. "The big night starts with play time in the shower."
"Well, keep it a bit calm. You don't want to run out of steam before the main act. Now go!"
We did. When we got to my place, we raced each other up the stairs and as soon as we were in my room, Luke took me into his arms and started kissing me. He could give lessons on kissing to anyone! While we were kissing, we were both getting all tangled up trying to undress each other, but we got it done. When we were undressed, Luke stepped back, holding me at arms' length, and said, "God, Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf, you are so beautiful! You are a hard, handsome man, Sarang Hanun Pomul, but you are also beautiful." Of course I loved to hear those words, but even more I loved admiring the blond god standing before me--hard both in body and otherwise. Suddenly he scooped me up and carried me to the bed and, just before he lay me down, half-turned and said, "You almost crushed some packages".
On the bed were two small boxes and a much larger one. Luke picked up a note lying beside the two small ones and read, "For two wonderful sons. May your love grow as ours has. Yong Jin, Greywolf, Gabrielle and Jens." We opened our box and inside each was a beautiful--short--silver chain. "What the heck is this?" Luke asked, puzzled. Sometimes he can be pretty slow. I reached up and unclasped the chain holding his medallion, slipped the long chain from it and replaced it with the shorter one from his box. "Guess I can be pretty dumb sometimes," he grinned sheepishly.
"Especially when your mind is all on making out," I laughed as he replaced my chain. The larger box was from David and Margaret and contained more massage oil and shampoo. It also held a small stainless steel vacuum bottle with a note attached which read, "This will keep the oil warm".
"What's your pleasure, Bright Angel?" I asked.
"You," he replied promptly.
"I mean how do you want me?"
"All the way, Matt, all the way."
"Here and now?"
"Yea, but I think I can wait. How about a massage and a great shower before we get ready?" Luke grabbed the bottle and went running down the stairs. I glanced at the clock and hoped that Mom and Dad would be held up a bit at school. Otherwise, they would see a naked blond god heating massage oil in the microwave! While Luke was heating the oil, I snagged a couple of beach towels for the bed and had just gotten them in place when he came running up the stairs. "Ok, Babe, time for play." he kissed me passionately and then said, "On your belly, Lover".
I rested my head on my arms and felt the stream of warm oil on my back. Luke started massaging my neck and shoulders, kneading the muscles. It felt sooooooo good! He gradually moved down my back, eventually reaching my butt. As he kneaded my cheeks, his fingers occasionally slipped into my crack and brushed my rosebud. I had been hard before--I thought--but now--well, I was lying on a hot iron rod and wetting the bed with precum. I was so hot I started moaning and Luke laughed. "Tonight I'm really going to make you moan sure enough!" He finally moved down my legs kneading the muscles good. "Babe, you are tense as hell. I should have done this a couple days ago."
"I wouldn't have objected," I said as I turned to look at my Bright Angel. He was now massaging my feet, taking pains to work on each toe. When he finished, he kissed my feet and then sucked a toe. It made me hotter than ever.
"Turn over, Dark Angel, he said and when I did, I saw what I had suspected. I was streaming precum. "Luke, Babe, I am so hot. I want you right now!"
"No, first time at the falls?" he asked, seriously. "If that's what you really want..."
"Luke, you know that's what I really want but, well, it's not what I want. It's what my lust is demanding. But back off a bit, ok? I really do want you to take me all the way the first time at the falls."
It's hard to be massaged by your lover and it not be erotic, but Luke came about as close as possible. He avoided my nipples and my Chili Pepper altogether. I loved the massage, but I didn't get as hot as usual.
Old cool Luke. As I massaged him, he got hard as a rock, but never even suggested we do more than play around. "Matt, your hands feel sooooo good on my body. I love your touch. I love to feel your hands on my naked body," he said. When he turned over on his back, I continued massaging my love. Finally, he pulled me to himself and pressed his lips against mine, passionately. His tongue invaded my mouth and the taste of Luke filled my entire being. We continued kissing and holding each other which was a bit difficult because we were covered with oil. We kept sliding around over each other. It became very funny and soon we were both laughing like fools.
We hadn't heard Mom and Dad when they came in, but now I heard them talking. I glanced at the clock and said, "Luke, we better get that shower". He scooped me up in his arms--and dropped me! His oil-slick hands and my oil-slick body were not a good combination. When I fell to the floor, Luke dropped down beside me as we both laughed our heads off. "I guess we better just walk across the hall," I said.
We played around in the shower, but held back a lot since... well, after all, tonight was the night. We had finished showering and dried our hair. Luke's was quite long now and was a beautiful blond Afro it was so curly.
When it was time to get dressed, I wondered what Luke would wear. He had become quite clothes conscious--I didn't mean clothes crazy, just conscious of what he wore--in the past weeks, no longer tossing on just anything. I hadn't seen him in dayglo green shorts with a shocking pink tank top and open orange shirt since I don't know when. Not that he didn't look good enough to eat in anything, but you know what I mean.
I had already decided I would wear my buckskin-colored slacks and a matching silk shirt. "I see the bride is wearing white," Luke laughed. "Well, almost white. I guess that means you have played around a bit. I hope with no-one else!" I slugged him on the shoulder.
Luke dressed all in black. Just as my near-white outfit showed off my darkness, his black made his golden hair and body shine. For the first time, our medallions could be seen at our throats. When he was dressed, I couldn't stand it any longer. I grabbed him and kissed him with utter abandon--kissing his neck, throat and mouth. "Yonghon Tongmu, I love you beyond measure. I am so happy, so damn happy, I can hardly contain myself."
"Sarang Hanun Pomul, I have loved you with all that I am for eighteen years, maybe longer. I'm not sure I didn't love you before I was born. And I never dreamed I could even tell you, must less hold you in my arms, kiss you and make love to you." Then he became very quiet. "Matt, I almost faint when I think how close I came to making all of this impossible. What if Gabrielle hadn't come home early? What if you hadn't known where to find me? What if..."
"No what ifs, Luke. I think about that day and get cold chills, but it was also the day that made tonight possible. No what ifs, just ises--what is." Luke kissed me again, this time softly, gently with a heart filled with love--love for me, the luckiest man in the world. "Do you think we can get control enough not to announce our approach by a tent preceding us?" I laughed.
"I doubt it, but we can try."
When we got downstairs, Mom and Dad were in the library. When we walked in, both whistled. "Mighty good looking man you have there, Son," Dad said.
"Don't think Mr. Larsen did so badly either," Mom added.
"Mom, Dad, don't expect us at school tomorrow," I said.
"Why not? You're not planning on staying up all night are you?"
"Depends on how much loving an eighteen-year-old can stand," Luke answered.
"I think I might warn you that I heard rumors of a skip day for the Fellowship tomorrow. Something about never having ditched school and this looked like the time to do it.
I groaned, "They wouldn't!"
"Oh, yes they would," Luke laughed. "You know they would."
"The grapevine with whom I spoke said they might well show up at the falls around 9:00. Just a rumor, of course," Dad said.
"They wouldn't. They couldn't. You are kidding, Dad, right?"
"Just a rumor, but I think I'd bank on it if I were you. You don't have anything to hide from them do you?" Dad laughed.
"Well, to be honest, Greywolf, unless we're being 'sexually active'"--Luke used a much-mocked counselor's voice we had all heard since middle school, that of Mrs. Yonetta Esterbrook-Smythe who said "sexually active" as she would have said "shit wallowing". Anyway, he continued, "... unless we are being 'sexually active' when they arrive, they have seen all we have to offer," Luke laughed and I blushed.
"Be careful driving and, remember, I'm very serious about this, Luke and Matt--very, very serious--slow and easy. You want this to be a beautiful night you will always remember. If you rush things, you can hurt each other. Be tender, be gentle, be loving and make the stars spin," Dad said quietly.
We kissed both my parents and then went to Luke's to tell his parents goodnight as well. Unlike Dad, Jens pulled us aside and then said almost the exact words Dad had used to tell us to be gentle. As we kissed Gabrielle and Jens goodnight, even Jens got teary eyed.
We got in the Jeep and drove into town to pick up Uncle Michael's Lexus for the drive to Lexington. We would be dropping it off when we got back.
The drive to Lexington was uneventful. Uncle Michael had a CD burned of the music we loved, including several versions of "More." I know kids thought we were weird listening to that old music at top volume, driving through Concord and then Lexington with the windows down so the wind could blow our hair but, hey, they didn't know about being in love.
When we reached the hotel restaurant, the maitre d' told us that he had a special table reserved for us and that Mr. Sanders had requested that Nelson be our exclusive waiter. After he had shown us our table, which was in a very private nook, Nelson came and greeted us. "Your uncle has ordered everything so all you have to do is enjoy yourselves. I wasn't on duty tonight, but he hired me--at a generous wage I might add--to take care of you two. So tonight's the night?" I blushed; Luke nodded. "By the way, what's been going on in little old Concord? I heard Michael was hurt and McBride is in prison."
"Why don't you serve us and then sit down so we can tell you all about it?" Luke asked.
"Man, the maitre d' would have a litter of kittens."
"Send him over," Luke said, "after you bring our drinks".
It turned out, as I expected, anything Mr. Sanders' nephews wanted, they got. If they wanted a waiter sitting with them, a waiter sat with them. Kinda strange, but I think we enjoyed our time at dinner as much with Nelson as we would have alone, but it didn't keep us from playing footsy under the table.
Nelson had been really concerned about Michael and we told him everything was fine and he was home. We didn't try to tell him the details of what had happened at the hospital; he would have thought we were nuts! As we got ready to leave, he asked, "When are you guys coming back to the club? We'd love to have 'Mr. Greywolf and his entourage' back."
"As soon as Michael's able. We promise," I said.
We were about four or five miles out of Lexington when the wind suddenly started blowing like mad and the rain came down in sheets. The wind and rain finally got so bad we had to pull off the road. Luke couldn't see to drive and even the Lexus was being buffeted by the wind. The thunder and lightening were crackling and rumbling across the sky. "So much for a night at the falls," Luke said, heartsick.
"Yea. It all started out perfectly, now this. But the lightening is beautiful." Luke agreed and we cuddled close to each other and watched the storm.
"It's beautiful all right--from inside the car--but the falls..." I waited for Luke to say the next word. I was holding my breath.
"Ok, Matt, what do we do? We have talked and planned and dreamed about our first night being at the falls, but we have waited--actually very patiently, I think--for our big eighteenth and now this. What do you want to do?"
"What I want to do is to take you right here in this car in this storm. That's what I want to do. No, I'm too much of a romantic. I mean, I'm always ready--hot to trot I believe it's called..."
Luke gave me a wicked Luke smile and kissed me hard, passionately, lustfully.
"I want you right here and now, but I want to make love to you under the stars at the falls. I guess if there could be two first times..."
"You're only a virgin once," Luke said. Then, finally, "Out with it, Sarang Hanun Pomul, as hot to trot as you are, you want to wait."
"I don't want to--well, yes I guess I want to. You're not mad or hurt or..."
"Matt, one of these days you'll learn us Nordic types can be romantics too--we just don't let it show. It's unmanly, you know. Yea, if there could be another first time, you wouldn't have to take me right here. I'd be all over you, but I want our first night to be under the stars at the falls as much as you do. So it's another night of cuddling, holding each other, loving each other without going all the way. And, hey, I have no complaint about the job you have been doing... but I am disappointed."
"Same for me, Bright Angel. Well, the wind and rain seem to have slacked a bit. I think you can drive now." We started off again and both were strangely silent until Luke said, "Matt, so many good things have happened this week, as big as this disappointment is, it's been a great week".
I kissed him and said, "Indeed it has. Even the fight was a lot of fun in the end." The thoughts of the two jock couples holding hands and enduring the cat calls made us both laugh. We were enjoying ourselves, even though we had been disappointed. Actually, we were so wrapped up in each other and our love that we failed to notice the wind and rain had stopped until Luke exclaimed, "Holy shit, Matt, look at those stars!" I looked up through the windshield and saw the sky spangled with bright stars. There was not a cloud in sight! I don't know which of us had the bigger smile.
When we reached Uncle Michael's, he insisted we come in. "I know you're in a hurry to get to the falls--even I was young once--but John and I would like to toast your first night. It would mean a lot to us." After all Uncle Michael and Mr. Stephenson had done for us, how could we refuse? As we walked in, Mr. Stephenson was hanging up the phone. "Parents. Sometimes I wish all my students were orphans," he laughed. "Present company excepted, of course."
Uncle Michael appeared with a bottle of champagne and four glasses. After he had filled the glasses, he raised his and said, "Luke, Matt, may your love grow forever and may you know the beauty of love and sex as I have known it twice in my life."
As soon as we had drunk the toast, Mr. Stephenson raised his glass and said, "May your love be ever faithful and may it be as deep and strong as the love I have found with Michael and may your love-making set a new standard for spinning the stars!"
Luke raised his glass and said, "Here's to the finest friends, mentors and teachers a man could ever have. May your love keep you forever."
Finally it was my turn and, as usual, I was already teary eyed as I raised my glass and said, "Mr. Stephenson, Uncle Michael, may you love each other more each day 'til death do you part--and beyond."
"Matt, Luke, I know you want to get out of the company of two old men and be on your way to a night of fantastic love-making. But before you go, do take the advise of two old men--keep your love-making gentle, loving, slow and easy. Always, always remember to listen to your lover and never forget that your love-making is to give your lover pleasure, not to pleasure yourself. If you do, you will learn the secret of making love, your greatest pleasure comes when you are thinking of making your lover happy." He then laughed, "I know you usually hear it in church, but it is true of love-making double time, 'It is more blessed to give than receive'. But the amazing thing is that in giving, you truly receive. Now get out of here and have a wonderful, magical, beautiful night under the stars." We hugged both men, whom we had come to love dearly, went outside and got in the Jeep. We said little as we drove into the country, but I couldn't help but notice the grin on Luke's face. Me? I wasn't grinning, I had a smile all over mine.
When we reached the gate to the falls, Luke hopped out, opened it, and I drove through. After he closed the gate, he hopped back into the Jeep and we drove to the path leading to the falls.
As I crossed the canes, I noticed Matt was carrying a package. "What's that?" I asked.
"I don't know. When we were walking out the door, Uncle Michael handed it to me and said, 'In case you have forgotten something'."
"Holy shit, Matt. After all Margaret told us and all the things she gave us to read. After all the preparation we have done for tonight, I forgot to..."
"Oh, damn, Luke, so did I. We forgot lube and all that. At least I did."
"Well, I did too. Shit! Piss! Fuck! Where does that leave us?"
"Standing in the middle of the night unprepared. That's where it leaves us."
"Well, open the package and see what Uncle Michael thought we were dumb enough to forget."
Since the night was dark it was hard to see what was in the package but when Matt opened it, I could see a grin on his face again. "Not to worry. Saved by Uncle Michael again. Man, what a welcome surprise!"
But the surprises were not over yet. As we neared the falls, there was a glow coming from them. "Damn, do you think there's a fire? Would put an end to the night at the falls wouldn't it?" I said, somewhat bitterly. I grabbed Matt's hand and raced down the path. As soon as we emerged from the cane brake, we both stopped dead still. On the beach was an air mattress bed surrounded by at least a hundred candles. All around the falls were other candles placed here and there. The scene was breathtaking.
"Luke, Uncle Michael said, 'I like to see the face of my lover'. That phone call and the toasts and talking to us was partly a ploy to keep us there until these candles could be lit--by whom?" I asked.
"Remember what we did for Margaret and David? It's a good bet that they and Mary Kathryn--maybe our moms and dads--did this. Matt, we are so loved."
"Yea." We stood, taking in the beauty of this special place lit by many candles with the stars sparkling above. I was so overwhelmed that I found myself shedding tears of joy--not something I do as easily as Matt. He, of course, had tears running down his cheeks and a beautiful smile on his dark, handsome face. My heart was about to burst as I looked at him, the candles reflected in his black, black almond eyes and giving a glow to his beautiful dark skin. How could life be more perfect than it was at this moment? The answer came when a boom box in the dark started playing "More". "You can bet that's Larry's handiwork," I commented as I took Matt in my arms and we started dancing. Matt's head was nestled in the crook of my neck and as we danced, I took the bands from his hair. As it fell loose, our world was filled with the fragrance of Matt. God, I loved this man so much I thought I would pass out!
We continued dancing as I lifted his head so I could look into his eyes. As I did, he smiled and whispered, "Luke Hans Yonghon Tongmu Larsen I love you so much I don't think I can stand it, my beautiful Bright Angel." He then kissed me, not lustfully, but passionately, softly, gently, as we continued to dance, our lips sealed together. The music kept on and we danced, but while we were dancing, I unbuttoned Matt's shirt and kissed his bare chest and first one nipple then the other. When his shirt finally fell to the ground, he had unbuttoned mine and it soon joined his.
We danced, bare chest to bare chest as we kissed, more passionately now, our tongues doing the duel we both loved so well. I unsnapped his pants and unzipped them as we still danced but, when they fell, so did he. "You sure know how to break up a romantic moment," he laughed, sitting bare-assed--we had decided this was a 'no briefs or boxers' night--on the sand of the beach. I reached down to pick him up but, instead, he quickly unbuttoned and unzipped my pants. They, too, fell, tripping me and I fell down beside him. We both slid our pants off our legs and stood, again holding each other close.
I felt his hardness pressing into me as I'm sure he felt mine. We started brushing off the sand which was sticking to our butts, but we were not getting rid of it. The thoughts of making love to my Dark Angel in a bed filled with sand didn't appeal so I took immediate action, sweeping him into my arms and racing for the falls' basin where I tossed him in and dived in right behind him. We swam for a short time, then got out. "Just exactly how do you expect me to get dry, Mr. Larsen?" Matt laughed. Earlier I had spied a basket near the bed and, when I opened it, it had towels, a blanket and other things including the vacuum bottle. I tossed Matt a towel and showed him the bottle. Taped to it was a note which I took near a candle to read. I read, "Enjoy this, but remember, oil and latex do not mix! Use accordingly." I looked up at Matt and said, "This is for later."
We dried each other and, as we were wiping our feet, Matt started giggling. "Remember when Yong Jin used to tell us after playing barefoot all day, 'Don't forget to wash your feet before you go to bed or you'll be sandpapered!' Carefree days. And, oh how I loved you even then, Luke."
After we had carefully removed the sand from our feet, we lay back on the bed. Matt immediately became my wild Lakota Korean beauty, kissing my chest, nipping my nipples, his body atop mine pressing Chili Pepper into Little Luke. He started licking and kissing my chest then moving down my body. When he reached my belly button, his tongue tickled it briefly before he moved down, took Little Luke in his hand and stroked him a few times. Looking up, he got a huge grin on his face as he kissed Little Luke. But this time he didn't stop, he kept kissing Little Luke's head, then started running his tongue over it. "God, Matt, that feels soooo good. I don't think I can stand it!" The words were hardly out of my mouth before Matt took Little Luke into his hot mouth. It felt wonderful! He continued doing things with his tongue, then started gently sucking as he also stroked me slowly. His tongue found Little Luke's slit and thrust inside, then started moving 'round and 'round my now very sensitive head. All the time he was looking across my stomach and chest, keeping his eyes on mine. As much as he could without ceasing to give me pleasure with his mouth and tongue, he smiled--my beautiful, beautiful Matt smiled.
I started to move so I could take Chili Pepper into my mouth, but Matt sensed what I was doing, looked at me and said, "No. I want to make love to you and you can love me by accepting it. I want to pay attention to loving you or your loving me and I don't think I can do both at the same time." With his words, I relaxed and allowed myself to experience the loving Matt was giving me.
Once he tried to take more of Little Luke into his mouth and gagged--not very romantic. "Matt, don't. You were sending me into outer space when you were just kissing and tonguing Little Luke." Matt understood that the head was the thing and he again started a gentle and then not-so-gentle sucking, his tongue working wonders as he stroked me slowly. But the experience was beyond what I had dreamed and that, coupled with the fact that we hadn't made love beyond a few kisses for several days, meant that I couldn't hold out long. "God, Matt, you are driving me crazy! Babe, I can't stand any more! Babe, you've got to stop! Damn, Babe, don't stop! Don't you dare stop! Holy shit, damn that's wonderful." I was practically shouting between groans. My climax hit me before I knew it. I just had time to shout, "Matt, I'm cu... " before I started blasting man's seed into his mouth. Bless Matt's heart, he took it all. Again and again I blasted his mouth full of my manhood and he took it all. Then there was a final blast which shook my body as the stars started spinning and all went black.
Finally I heard Matt calling faintly, "Luke, Babe, are you all right? Are you ok?" Matt's anxious voice reached me and I slowly opened my eyes to find myself looking into pure heaven. Matt's face was inches from mine and his hair had created, as it had not done for what seemed like weeks, our special world.
I smiled, pulled his mouth to mine and as my tongue invaded his mouth, the taste of Matt was mingled with the taste of my own man's seed. "Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf, I have never been more all right! I guess I just can't take you full force! I think I kinda blacked out."
"You sure did. I hope I didn't break something," he smiled.
"From what I saw and felt, it was all working perfectly, Dark Angel." I again pulled Matt's lips to mine for a deep, passionate kiss.
I'll admit I was drained by Matt's love-making and was happy when he just lay beside me as we both stared into the heavens. "Luke, did the stars spin for you? They did for me. I felt as though you were pouring yourself into me and every drop was precious beyond measure."
"Matt, they spun, they sang, they danced with the joy, at the love I felt for you and the love I was receiving from you."
"Luke, I am so happy, so very, very, very happy. I have, finally, given you something I have wanted to give you so very, very, very much for such a long, long time." We both fell silent, just enjoying the touch and pleasure of our bare bodies being together. After a while, I reached down and found Chili Pepper was ready for more love-making.
I turned on my side and Matt did likewise and as we gazed into each others eyes, I stroked Chilli Pepper slowly then started kissing Matt--on the mouth, then his neck and his chest. Keeping Chili Pepper in my hand, I licked and nipped Matt's beautiful dark nipples, sucking first one, then the other. Both became hard as I continued to mouth them. Finally I could stand it no longer and kissed my way to my goal, a steel rod called Chili Pepper. Matt had a special gift for me, thanks to Greywolf. I slid his foreskin back and ran my tongue around the groove where it met his head. Still exploring with my tongue, I pulled his foreskin forward and ran my tongue between it and his head. Matt was making little whining sounds, like a little puppy. I couldn't help but laugh. "Has baby puppy lost it's mommy?" I asked as I looked up at Matt and smiled.
"He just needs you to give him some more petting," Matt smiled back. I used my tongue to give Chili Pepper pleasure, then sucked him into my mouth. Sucking and tonguing Chili Pepper's head, I also stroked him slowly. Matt was groaning softly and whispering, "Yonghon Tongmu, Yonghon Tongmu, Yonghon Tongmu. Oh, Yonghon Tongmu, you make me feel so good. I love you, Yonghon Tongmu!" then he was groaning again. His hips started thrusting upward, pushing Chili Pepper deeper into my mouth. "Oh, Luke," Matt said between clinched teeth, "you are making me feel sooooooo goooooood!" I started moving my tongue between his foreskin and head again then I sucked harder and took more of Chili Pepper into my mouth. Matt's hips were thrusting upward and moving around in small circles and he was breathing in gasps as he groaned. Finally, he said, more loudly than before but still between clinched teeth, "Yonghon Tongmu, I love youuuuuuuuu!" as Chili Pepper exploded in my mouth. I was afraid I couldn't swallow as fast as Matt was shooting and I didn't want to lose a single drop of his gift to me. As the last blast hit the back of my throat, Matt collapsed and lay very still, but his eyes never left mine.
I crawled up his body and he pulled my lips to his in a crushing kiss, his tongue probing my mouth. My whole being was flooded with the taste of Matt, my lover, my Sarang Hanun Pomul, my world. He continued to kiss me and then, as I lay atop his body, he took my face in his hands, looked into my eyes and said, "More than the greatest love the world has known, Yonghon Tongmu, is the love I give you 'til death do us part and beyond." As he spoke, I felt tears in my eyes and saw tears streaming from his eyes. I kissed the tears away and said, "And such is the love I give to you, Sarang Hanun Pomul, 'til death do us part." I then slipped the ring from my finger, took Matt's ring from his, and slipped my ring on his finger. He took his from me and placed it on my finger and as he kissed me said, "'Til death us do part."
Again, we lay side by side in the afterglow of our love-making, staring at the stars. "Bright Angel, I wonder if the stars are looking down on any other couple as happy as we are at this moment?" Matt asked, quietly.
"I can't answer that, Dark Angel, but I can tell you this, they are not looking down on a happier couple. And here's to them all--young and old, rich and poor, bright and dark, gay and straight--here's to all who love and are loved as we are," I said and blew a kiss to the stars.
We lay silent for a time, then Matt got up, found the boom box and started the music again. When he started back, he took the bottle and two beach towels from the basket and walked back to where I lay. Soon Matt had me on my stomach and I felt a stream of warm oil on my back. It felt so good in the cool night air. Matt gave me an excellent massage. As he massaged my feet, he kept kissing the bottoms, tickling the fool out of me. Then it was my time.
We fooled around, sliding over each other's oil-slick body, playfully nipping here and there. Not having to worry if we decided to kiss Chili Pepper and Little Luke, but not getting as aroused as might have been expected. We were playing and having a good time. Then, remembering the problem oil-slick bodies can be, for the second time, we dived into the basin. We only swam for a few minutes, then used the soap Matt had found in the basket. "Damn, the family sure takes care of its children," I said as he came walking to the basin carrying it.
"Yea, we are two lucky guys who chose our parents well," Matt laughed. He started soaping my body as we stood in a shallow edge of the basin. It took some doing to get a good lather since I was covered with oil, but finally I was "fat free" and lathered Matt good. Just to be on the safe side, we lathered each other well again, then dived into the water to wash the soap away. It took a long time for us to dry each other because we kept interrupting the process for kisses, each more passionate than the last. When we were finally as dry as we could be, Matt pulled me close, his cheek against mine, and said, "Luke, I want us to be united. I want you inside me. Please, Luke."
"Dark Angel, there is nothing in the world I want more except to have you inside me."
"Please," Matt pleaded, "now, Luke." I scooped Matt into my arms and carried him to the bed. Without putting him down, I swept the oily towels from the bed and laid my precious treasure on the bed. As I did, I noticed when he had brought the oil he had also brought lube. We started making mad passionate love, our lips sealed against each other and our tongues going wild. Then, with our mouths open, they did battle outside our mouths. Finally, I broke off our kissing and started sucking and nipping Matt's hard, wonderful nipples. As I did, I reached for the tube of lube which had a nozzle on it and slipped it into Matt, making sure I had a generous supply inside him. I also took a large amount on my fingers as inserted one into my love. I moved it around slowly, then added a second finger into the place where he wanted me. As I continued, I felt him relax and asked, "Are you sure you want me inside you? It will hurt."
"Yes, I want you inside. Yes, yes, yes.
"You're not afraid? Nervous?"
"Why would I be? You're my Luke, my Yonghon Tongmu, my all."
I took another large amount of lube for Little Luke then placed Little Luke against Matt's rosebud as he reached down and pulled his cheeks apart. "Babe, you will tell me to stop before I hurt you, won't you?" I was nervous, I'll admit. I was so afraid I would hurt my Matt.
"Don't be afraid, Luke, I want you inside me NOW!
I pushed forward slowly and as soon as Little Luke's head was inside, stopped. "Are you ok, Babe?"
"Just wait a minute until I relax more," he replied. "I'm ok. It does kinda hurt some--just a little bit--so don't move." Was careful not to move inside Matt as I started kissing him like mad. I could feel him relax more and more, but I waited until Matt said, "Now, go ahead." I pushed again and more of Little Luke entered the most wonderful place he had ever been. And I stopped. After I had waited a bit, I pushed again. Stopping and waiting, then pushing again, I was finally inside Matt--all the way.
I was very still, just enjoying being completely united with my love. Matt looked up at me, smiled and said, "Luke, make wild, mad, passionate love to me!" In spite of his request, I still took it very easy for awhile until he started bucking his hips to meet my thrust into his hot, tight, magic love place. As I gradually started thrusting harder and deeper, Matt started groaning again, this time saying, "Yes, Luke, yes. Harder, harder. Deeper, deeper. Make love to me. Make me know you are inside me." In spite of the fact that I had had a tremendous climax only a short time before, the pleasure of being inside Matt was too much and I knew I couldn't hold out long. In order to make the pleasure last, I thrust deep inside Matt and lay still atop his body and we kissed passionately. After awhile, Matt said, "Luke, again. Let me feel you thrusting in and out of me again. Let me feel you cum inside me." I started slowly, but soon I was moving in and out of Matt in rapid, deep strokes, but still being careful. And if I thought my first climax was perfect, the one which rocked my very being this time was perfect times two. I thought I would never stop. Matt was groaning and whispering my name over and over then he said, "Luke, I feel you pulsing inside me. Babe, you are making me feel so great. God, Luke, I love you." Again, with the last explosion, this time deep inside Matt, I collapsed as my world became one of sky rockets and fireworks, then nothing.
When I came to, I was still inside Matt--barely, because Little Luke had grown soft--lying atop his body. He took my face in his hands again, smiled and kissed me. "Luke, I have waited so long for what you have just given me. Had I known it was like it was and had I been told I had to wait a hundred years, I would have waited. My soulmate, we are now truly one and I have never known such happiness and pleasure until this moment. God, I love you, Luke, my Yonghon Tongmu."
I felt Little Luke slip out of Matt as I leaned forward to kiss my love. "Matt, my one love, my happiness and pleasure is beyond all bounds, but it is incomplete until I feel you inside me."
There's no use going over the details of preparation again--but you got to remember that you skip nothing! Matt was in a rush and went absolutely wild kissing me and mouthing my nipples as he prepared me for his entrance. After he had covered Chili Pepper with lube, he started to enter me. He was so aroused and hot I had to say, "Whoa, Babe, slow and easy, remember." He pushed in and it did hurt. I guess he saw me grimace and stopped and pulled back. "Easy, Babe. You're going to have to do a little more with your fingers and stuff. I tensed up I'm afraid. Just go slow and easy, stopping along the way."
"But Luke, I've hurt you." He was right. I mean he hadn't intended to and he hadn't hurt me terribly, but I just wasn't ready when he started. I saw tears in his eyes and I saw right away that he was no longer hard enough to enter me.
"Matt, Love, yes, you hurt a little bit me. But didn't I hurt you?" I tried to comfort him.
"Not like I have hurt you." I held him close and said, "Matt, you are always hot before I am, ready to go at it before I am, wanting no holds barred. And that's ok for some things, but now you are going to just have to go slow and easy. I want you inside me, Babe. I need you inside me. You know that. Maybe I haven't prepared myself as well as you, but don't let one little mistake take anything away from us. I want you, I need you, I have to have you, Matt." My hand found Chili Pepper and I began to stroke him slowly as I kissed Matt, assuring him of my love and need for him. Soon he was hard and hot again. While I worked on Chili Pepper, Matt was opening me up with well-lubed fingers.
This time Matt was gentle and took it very slowly. He, as I had done, pushed just inside me, stopped and waited as he kissed my neck and mouth. Then, bit by bit he pushed all of Chili Pepper into me. I felt full--filled with Matt, united with Matt. I had known my greatest pleasure when I was inside Matt. Now, as he started slowly pulling out and pushing in me, I wasn't sure which gave me more pleasure. I was now fully relaxed and welcomed Matt's man's tool. It felt wonderful and, unlike Matt, I wasn't very quiet as he increased the depth and speed of his thrusts. "Yes! Matt! Yes! Damn you make me feel so good. Harder and deeper, Lover." I was practically shouting. Matt was pounding in and out of me as he reached down and took Little Luke in his hand and started stroking him in rhythm with Chili Pepper's moving in and out. Again I was surprised when I realized I was going to climax again. "Matt, I am cumming again," I shouted and, as I exploded over his hand, I felt him explode deep inside me. My climax was short and not as intense as the two previous ones. Matt, on the other hand, kept pulsing and pulsing inside me. Finally he collapsed, exhausted, atop my body, breathing in short, quick gasps.
When Matt had finally recovered, he looked at me, smiled and said, "Luke, if I never know that much pleasure again, I have known pleasure. Yonghon Tongmu, you, again, have made me the happiest man in the world." We held each other in the cool night air, cuddling and whispering to each other of our love as, one by one, the candles flickered out and we were left with each other in the darkness of a night of wonder and love. We slept.
I awoke to the sound of birds singing in the predawn light, raised up on an elbow and looked at my sleeping soulmate. I remembered our love-making the night before and felt his having entered me. It was not an unpleasant feeling, quite the contrary. His love-making had been careful, gentle and loving, but intense. My eyes started filling with tears of sheer joy. But then I remembered how I had attempted to enter my beautiful Luke and was suddenly ashamed of myself. I had been too quick and too careless because I was thinking of myself. Of course Luke had made light of it, but I was ashamed. I felt more tears welling up in my eyes. I was filled with conflicting emotions: extreme sorrow for having hurt Luke and thanksgiving for the overwhelming joy I felt for being loved by the man who was my life. As the two emotions filled my being, my eyes overflowed and a tear dropped to Luke's hard chest.
That tear and the ones which followed disturbed Luke's sleep and slowly his eyes opened. "Luke, Yonghon Tongmu, I am so filled with joy that someone as beautiful, loving and caring as you loves me as you do and I am so sorry and so ashamed I hurt you," I said through the tears streaming down my face.
"Ashamed and sorry? Why? Why, Matt?"
"Because I hurt you last night being selfish. Luke, I was so intent on getting inside you, uniting my body with yours, as my spirit has always been, that I hurt you and I am ashamed and so sorry, so very, very sorry." I was crying now, out of control.
Luke reached up and pulled me to himself, placed his lips against mine for a tender, soft kiss. "Matt, we both know you are always ready to go further and faster than I am. I know that you had no intention of hurting me--and you didn't, not seriously anyway. But even more importantly, you were eager to love me, fully, completely, totally--and for that I am eternally thankful."
"Luke, you're just trying to make me feel better."
"No, I'm trying to make you realize that your love-making was a dream come true for me. Was it perfect? I guess if I had to give it a rating I'd say the beginning was probably a six or seven but, Babe, the rest was pure ten. Next time will be better, but the first time made the stars sing for me." Having said that, Luke once again placed his lips against mine and a kiss which started gentle and tender soon became filled with passion. As he broke our kiss, he got that evil Luke grin on his face and said, "All you need is more practice. Now make love to me."
This time I was not going to make a mistake.
In the predawn light, I made love to Luke and, this time, I was gentle, caring, loving. As my climax approached, I pulled Luke's lips to mine and sucked his tongue into my mouth just as I was hit by a bolt of lightning. As it continued, I experienced what Luke had experienced before--I passed out from the sheer pleasure and intensity of my climax and my love for my Bright Angel.
When I was again conscious, Luke smiled up at me and said, "See, I told you practice would improve your love-making". I noticed then that Luke's hard stomach was also covered with man's seed. The intensity of my love-making had also bought him to a climax. That wonderful feeling which follows love-making filled both of us as we lay in each other's arms.
Luke finally said, "Matt, you know I love you and all that, but to tell you the truth, we're kinda yucky from our love making. How about a quick swim?"
"You think we can stand the water? It's kinda chilly."
"I'll get you warm again soon enough!" Luke jumped up, grabbed the soap Margaret had given us, and two towels, and headed for the river. He tossed the towels and soap on the water's edge and dived in. I knew the water would feel cold, but I also knew I'd never make it unless I jumped straight in so I dived in behind him. We splashed around for a few minutes then Luke got the soap and started lathering my body, paying particular attention to Chili Pepper. As soon as he had me covered with lather, I took the soap and did the same for him. "Luke, Babe, you are turning blue!" I laughed when I saw him covered with goosebumps and shivering. We both dived under the water, swam for a few minutes, then got out. We started rubbing each other vigorously with the towels, getting dry and a bit warmer. When we finished, we again lay on the bed, covered with a warm blanket and cuddling, getting warm.
I was laying on top of Luke, running my fingers through his hair, kissing him from time to time when he looked up at me and said, "Sarang Hanun Pomul, let's watch the sun rise on our new life together". As I got off the top of his body, he grabbed the blanket from the bed, wrapped it around our shoulders and we walked to Lookout Rock, our arms about each other's waist. When we reached the lookout, we sat down, me between Luke's legs, and he pulled my body to his. I twisted around for kiss after kiss, then we sat in silence as the morning rays of the sun announced the arrival of a new day--the first day in our new life together.
When the sun was fully above the horizon, Luke took the blanket from our shoulders, spread it on the rock, and was atop my body in a flash, kissing me, licking and kissing my chest and nipples which he also started nipping, making love to my body. He kissed his way down my body, then his mouth and tongue were making me very hot, giving me so much pleasure, I was groaning. When he took one then the other of my family jewels into his mouth I was in pure heaven, but nothing compared to what I felt when he started kissing Chili Pepper. '"Luke, I can't stand it. Please take me into your mouth," I begged. Luke did as I asked, keeping his eyes fastened on mine. His tongue gave me pleasure I couldn't have imagined before last night and this morning was better! He started moving his mouth up and down Chili Pepper very slowly and then increased in tempo. He was also stroking Chili Pepper as his mouth gave me more and more pleasure. I was moaning and whimpering again. As he looked into my eyes, he smiled without stopping his love-making, still moving his mouth up and down on Chili Pepper. Without thought, my hips started rising to meet his mouth's movement. For the second time in the morning's early light, my climax exploded, rocked my being. Chili Pepper was so sensitive that it was almost painful as Luke continued to move his mouth up and down him, then he realized how I felt and withdrew his mouth and kissed Chili Pepper then me. He lay atop my body and I wrapped my arms around him, kissing him deeply, passionately, lovingly.
I reached down and took Little Luke into my hand and found him hard already. Now it was my time to kiss my way to that wonderful part of my Luke. Recalling all he had done to give me pleasure, I took my time, kissing and licking his manhood--all of it. Ever the not-so-subtle Luke, he was urging me on until I finally enclosed Little Luke in my mouth. When Luke climaxed, once again I swallowed rapidly, not wanting to waste a drop of the salty sweetness of his gift to me. As we lay in each others arms, Luke said "Sarang Hanun Pomul, that's two tens you have given me this morning".
"Yonghon Tongmu, the pleasure you gave me was two tens only if ten is perfection and there is no higher score!" We continued lying in each others arms, kissing and telling each other of our love until Luke said, "Matt, you know that I love you and sex with you is more wonderful than I could have imagined, but there is something else that occupies what is left of a teenage mind when sex is taken away."
"Food," I laughed.
"Right. Babe, I am starved."
"Maybe I need to feed you again," I laughed.
"Don't get me wrong, Dark Angel, but I think I'd like breakfast right now."
In a pouty voice I said, "You'll take breakfast over me?"
"Babe, I've had you, but I haven't had breakfast." With those words, we got up, walked to the bottom of the falls, arm-in-arm, stopping for some passionate kisses.
"I see you like tongue for breakfast," I said after one especially passionate kiss.
"I like tongue anytime," Luke laughed, "but right now I want food!"
We dressed and, leaving everything as it was, walked to the Jeep. As we emerged from the cane brake, I saw Jens and Gabrielle leaving their house. "I guess that settles that," I said. "I guess we'll have to deal with Mom and Dad's cooking."
"Let me at it," Luke said as he hopped in the Jeep.
When we reached my place, there were four places set at the kitchen table. "You're expecting company?" Luke asked.
"No, we figured after a night of wild sex our sons would show up for the second most important thing in a teenager's life," Dad laughed. "And from the looks on your faces, I sense that I was not wrong about the night and, with the way you two headed straight for the kitchen, I don't think I was wrong on the second count either! Get washed up, breakfast will be in five minutes.
When we came down, breakfast was ready and we sat down. Dad didn't do his usual quick grace, but added a thanksgiving for his two sons and their love and for giving them a wonderful night to express their love for each other.
"I wonder how many sons are lucky enough to have their father offer thanks for their loving each other," Luke asked very seriously. "Wouldn't it be great if all parents were thankful their sons were loved and loved in return? Greywolf, Yong Jin, as Greywolf was saying grace, I was so thankful that you accept Matt and me and our love for each other. We surely have had it easy when I think of what Eugene has gone through. Thanks," he said as he got up and kissed Mom and Dad on the cheek, hugging them. Old cool Luke had tears in his eyes.
"Luke, you know I count you as a son, but Matt is my flesh and blood. His dad named him Sarang Hanun Pomul because when he was born he was our Beloved Treasure--and he still is. Nothing will ever change that. He is Sarang Hanun Pomul, gay or straight. And you are his Yonghon Tongmu, his soulmate. He is happy. You make him happy, therefore there is only reason to give thanks for the two of you and your love. There is no room for anything else or anything less," Mom said.
A silence followed Mom's words and only the noise of eating was heard. Suddenly Luke laughed, "You want to know, but are too polite to ask. That's why there's a silence. Well, I can tell you: your son is no longer a virgin, the sex was great, waiting probably made it better and we both got loved and made love--no fucking, Greywolf--just making love with our whole bodies, no holding back."
Mom and Dad roared laughing. So did Luke as I turned redder and redder.
"I think I pretty much figured that out," Mom said, "the minute you two walked in the door, arm-in-arm. But, Matt, I was a bit worried because you left a package...."
"So did I," Luke confessed, "but Uncle Michael and Mr. Stephenson saved the day again."
"Well, we're off to school. Teachers don't get to take a skip day,' Dad said.
"I trust you are taking seriously the Fellowship's declaration of a skip day," Mom said. "I have. Gabrielle, Margaret and I have prepared food and drinks for the day. They are in the cooler and baskets over there, along with some other things you might need," she said, pointing to a large cooler and three picnic baskets by the kitchen door. "Are you going to need anything else?"
"I'll grab some more towels and a couple more blankets. I think that will do it. Sure sorry Michael is missing out," I added.
"Don't bank on it," Dad said.
After Mom and Dad left for school, Luke and I went upstairs and took a long, hot shower. I was happy to learn that our new freedom in love-making had not lessened the pleasures of old. We played and held each other in the shower as we had always done except there wasn't a great deal of playing with Chili Pepper or Little Luke. To tell the truth, Chili Pepper was a bit on the tender side and Luke said, "I think Little Luke is a bit sore from his new exercise routine," and we both got the giggles which were not stopped when we tried kissing each other.
We took our time drying our hair. Luke was now wearing a headband all the time to keep some control over his beautiful golden halo. Hair dry, we dressed in shorts and open shirts, took the picnic things to the Jeep and returned to the falls just before 9:00.
Promptly at 9:00 all hell broke loose. Car horns were blaring and Eugene's trumpet was sounding "Charge!" Luke and I rushed down the path to see Bill's car, Michael's Tracker and Eugene's convertible all parked beside the Jeep. Bill, Mary Kathryn, who was driving the Tracker, and Larry, who was driving Eugene's car, were all leaning on the car horns. Eugene was standing on the passenger's side of his car, blowing his trumpet for all he was worth. Mom was right, Michael was not left out. A make-shift stretcher rested across the back of Eugene's convertible and on it lay Michael.
There were hugs all around and then Jacob and Bill helped Michael to his feet and placed their arms under his to steady him. The others grabbed whatever they had brought and, with Eugene trumpeting away, we walked down the path to the falls.
When we reached the falls, Bill said, "Ok, Mary Kathryn, clean sheets for this bed of sin so I can help Michael down". Damned if Mary Kathryn, Linda and Paula didn't take the sheets from the bed where Luke and I had made love, carefully folded them as one would have done the flag and, as Eugene played "More," presented one to me and one to Luke in a manner as formal as you can imagine. Luke laughed and I blushed.
As soon as that was over, Bill and Jacob carefully helped Michael to the bed. "Hey, I won't break," he said. "A good cat gave his guts to hold me together!" The expression on his face told a slightly different story. It was still a bit painful for him to move or be moved in certain ways.
As soon as Michael was settled, everyone sat on or near the bed. "I hope you don't think we are invading your time and space," Paula said when all were settled.
"Well, I suspect we could have worked in a few more tumbles in bed had you not shown up," Luke said. "I mean, Matt might have gotten bored, but seriously, with all that has been going on, graduation kinda slipped up on us--me at least. I know we had planned to ditch school one day, and this is it. And while I plan to spend an awful lot of time in the next fifty or ninety years making love to my Sarang Hanun Pomul, I just suddenly realized that we have very few days to be together as the Fellowship. I wouldn't have thought about it...."
"Yea, we know you had only one thing on your mind," Michael laughed.
"Smartass. I didn't think about graduation, but I'm glad someone did. I'm glad you're here."
"That goes for me as well. Man, I could get all sad if I thought about that a lot, but today's for fun," I added.
"Except maybe for one thing. Matt and I have to do speeches and I think it would be great if we took some time as the Fellowship to talk about those."
"Great idea, Luke," I said. "After lunch when we are just lazing around."
"You know, while I was ditching school for the hospital, I got to thinking about the Fellowship--I mean how it came to be and all it's been through," Michael said. "I mean, only a few weeks ago the Fellowship didn't exist, there were just a few smartasses calling themselves the Select Few. Now look... We have been rejoined by Linda, Bill and Jacob have become a part of all of us and so have Larry and Eugene. We have lost one--Sheldon--and gained some really great people who have stuck together through a lot of pretty tough shit."
"Gad, I forgot. I had news of Sheldon to pass along but, when all hell broke loose, I forgot. Seems Sheldon's mom called about a week and a half ago, crying and weeping because Sheldon was in trouble. 'The richy bitch daughter of one of the town's most self-important families is accusing my Shelly of getting her pregnant. She claims he spent a weekend with her at her family's lake house, having sex. I knew she was lying because Shelly was in Concord attending the prom and parties with you,' she told me. 'Would you be so kind as to confirm that? The girl's family wanted to get Shelly charged with statutory rape, but she is over sixteen and can give consent to sex, so that was out. But now they want Shelly to pay for an abortion. He is so upset and I thought you would want to clear his name.'"
"So Sheldon got what he wanted and now doesn't want to pay," Linda said. "How very like a man!"
"Does that include me," Bill asked and he wasn't laughing.
"I'm sorry, Bill. No, that doesn't include you. It doesn't include any of you guys. "Well, hell, it doesn't include anyone except those guys who want to fuck every girl they meet and walk away--leaving broken hearts behind and, too often, kids. I apologize to all of you. Just an unthinking--prejudiced--comment. I'm sorry," Linda said and kissed Bill softly. "No, it's not like a man at all, come to think of it. It's like a spoiled brat."
"No disagreement there," Paula said. "I told Sheldon's mom that he had been here, but all he did was pester me for sex which I would not provide, so he got mad and left early Sunday morning. 'That couldn't be,' she replied. 'He didn't get home until Monday evening.' I suggested she check to learn when the girl had left home and when she got back and she told me the girl's parents had said she left in her car about mid-afternoon Sunday and came back Monday night, having called Sunday to say she was spending the night with a friend. It was obvious to me that Sheldon called her, took her to the lake and had sex with her Sunday night and Monday and then, for whatever reason, dumped her. She, however, had a memento of their time together--she was pregnant. So the Fellowship never had Sheldon and wouldn't have lost much had he been a part of it. End of story. Well, I think it's time to get naked," Paula laughed, stood up and started undressing. She was followed by everyone except Luke and me--and, of course, Michael. Soon they were all diving from the top of the falls and swimming in the basin.
"Chelsea says she checked with Mom and I can swim if I can stand it--but I have to be careful and take it easy, but I don't want to right now. You guys go on."
"Laters," Luke said. "You said you wanted to talk to us. Is now a good time?"
Michael became very silent. He was sitting up, but his head was down. He kept staring at his hands, folded in his lap. Finally he raised his head, "Yea but, first, was it as good as you thought it would be?" he asked with the new Michael wicked grin.
"You can't imagine how good," Luke said, "and, Man, it's about loving!"
"Sad you agreed to wait?"
"No, I'm not," I answered. "We weren't ready. We had too much to work through. We had to rethink what our friendship was about and build on that; then we could become lovers fully and completely. I'm glad we took the time. Besides, we have a lifetime to make up for any lost opportunities," I smiled.
"I knew that would be the way it was," Michael said. "Well, I've got a couple or three things I want to talk about--I need to talk about. First off, I need to talk and have you two listen because, otherwise, you're going to tell me to forget it and I can't and need not to. Ok?" Luke and I nodded. "I need to talk about wanting to die or, I guess, to stay dead. I look back on that and realize I just wanted out of the pain. When I was dead, I felt I was forgetting all of you and even my love for Mary Kathryn was slipping away." Michael had tears in his eyes, something seldom seen. "Now, I realize just how precious every moment is. I know I am going to miss my brothers like crazy when you go to Oberlin, but you'll still be there if I need you. I look at Mary Kathryn and I want to live to be a thousand if she's with me. I know I'm only sixteen and she is too but, brothers, I don't think I could love her more if I were fifty. She is my whole life and I savor every moment of living just knowing she is here and she loves me. And I needed you to know that."
Michael fell silent and Luke put his arm around him and said, "Michael, I know exactly how you feel. You can understand how I feel when I realize I almost killed myself, but the good side to that is all that was made possible by it--including having an appreciation for every single minute I'm alive. So, yes, I understand what you mean."
"Well, there's something else I think I learned from the whole experience. I was well on my way to becoming a complete asshole. I guess all sixteen-year-olds--males especially"--Michael smiled--"believe they are immortal and I was definitely proven wrong on that score but, also, I think I felt I was all-knowing. I knew everything. I was always right. I was becoming a self-righteous prick...."
"Michael..." I started to say.
"I talk, you listen," Michael said quickly. "Sure, I know what I did about the service for Gregory was right on. I know that most of what I did was right, but I was beginning to feel that anyone who disagreed with me or who had a different idea was bad wrong. Well, my brush with suicide--and that's what it was--sure taught me that I was not all-powerful or always right. I hope I remember that lesson and, if not, you'll remind me of it. I would hate to become a self-righteous bigot, even if I am right! And another thing, I know that I have been a track star where angels tiptoe, and that's one thing I don't want to change. I talked to Fr. Tom about that and he says his only regret is that he has always been too cautious, too careful, fearing to take stands that were right because it would offend someone. I don't want to ever think that about myself."
"Don't think there's any reason to fear there, Lil Bro!"
Michael smiled and said, "Ok, next item on the agenda. It has to do with this summer. It's kinda like what you two faced--well kinda. When the bishop was here, he asked all of us to consider being counselors at Camp St. Francis this summer. Bill and Linda are going and I think Larry and Eugene may, depending on what Eugene has to do for McBride's federal trial. Mary Kathryn and I have talked about it, but I don't think I'm up to it right now. Maybe physically, but not mentally and emotionally. Mary Kathryn understands part of that, but there's another side which I'll get to later. Anyway, we are going to be separated for a month this summer. I'm sure of that. I haven't told Mary Kathryn the whole story but, whether she goes or not, we are going to be separated. I think that's a good idea--not that I like it--since we have been together our whole lives and I think time apart right now would be helpful. But I'm afraid... well, I want our first time together--you know--to be like yours. You know, planned and not just...." Michael was having a hard time, but both Luke and I kept our mouths shut. "Ok, to be blunt, it is going to be so easy to have sex 'to remember each other' before we separate or to celebrate our being back together. I mean the temptation is great enough now, but then we'll have a reason. Help me out, Brothers."
Luke smiled and said, "Michael, seems to me you have it all figured out already."
"Lil Bro, Luke doesn't quite understand. I do. Look, the only reason--the absolutely only reason--last night was our super special, stars spinning first night of making love without bounds was because of our brother. Cool Luke, that's what he is. Several times I was ready to go at it big time and each time Luke was willing, but asked me if that was what I really, deep down, wanted. The answer to that was yes and no, but each time because of Luke, the final answer was no. I don't know which of you two will have to take responsibility for making your first time special and not a rush job, but each of you will have to remind the other from time to time, I suspect. I will tell you, although many times I didn't think so, the waiting and having a special night was the right choice. Talk about it with Mary Kathryn. You two will have to decide when the time is right."
"Hell, I knew you'd say that. But moving on so you two can hit the water. Remember when Millie said, 'Michael, I don't know whether you're going to end up a lawyer or a priest' or something like that?" Luke and I nodded. "And, Luke, do you remember what you said when I said something like, 'I never thought about that'?"
Luke laughed, "Yea. I said 'You'd not be able NOT to think about it after this'. I thought about that the other day and said to myself, 'And he hasn't been able not to think about it'. And I was right."
"You were right. But it's not simple. Especially since I recovered consciousness in the hospital, I have been thinking, 'Ok, so you were given your life back. For what? Just to live as another cog in some wheel?' I don't think so. I have always assumed, since I was a little kid and watched those TV lawyer shows, that was what I was going to do. I liked the idea of defending some poor jerk who was innocent or putting some shitass like McBride behind bars. It was thrilling. It still is. But you're right. Ever since Millie made that statement, I haven't been able not to think about becoming a priest."
"I have talked to Fr. Tom about it and he has been helpful in some ways, but he keeps telling me I would never be the kind of priest he is. 'You'd never be as comfortable as I have been with things I should have spoken out against, so you will always be in hot water.' But he has also said, 'A lawyer may save an innocent person or put a guilty one in jail, but,' he says, 'it's a one-at-a-time thing. A good priest can influence a large number of people to do that. A good priest helps many people take stands, change their minds, work for justice and goodness and love.' Well, I think I see his point, but I'm still confused. I talked to Dad and Mom and both think I need time to think and reflect. Fr. Tom has suggested I might consider spending some time at a Benedictine abbey so I could think through things and I have decided to do that. Now, how do I tell Mary Kathryn?"
I'll admit I had thought about Millie's remark and had thought I wouldn't be surprised if Michael decided to become a priest. I remembered the dream where he was presiding over Luke's and my commitment ceremony, but it still came as a shock. I mean, becoming a priest... Michael wearing a weird collar? Obviously Luke was as shocked as I. We both were silent. After several minutes, Luke finally said, "Well, Michael, I think you'll just have to tell her."
"Holy shit, I knew that would be your answer."
"Can't run your life, Lil Bro," I said, "but I'm beside you."
"Me too," Luke said as Bill yelled, "You lovers going to come in or not?"
Linda, Paula and Mary Kathryn had gotten out of the water and Mary Kathryn was walking toward us. Linda and Paula had spread a blanket a short distance from Michael and were sunning themselves. Luke and I stripped off our shorts and shirts as Mary Kathryn sat beside Michael and picked up a small bottle and started rubbing some kind of oil on his chest. "Luke, I think it's time we hit the water," I laughed as Michael looked up, first with that new smile then with a "why are you abandoning me?" look.
After we had swam for a while, the four of us were just standing in water up to our nipples when Jacob said, "Guys, I have a major problem".
"What is this?" Luke laughed. "I thought this was a ditch school and have fun day and it's more like 'Dear Abbie'! All right, young man, what is your problem?"
"Ok, you all know I like to play the field. I mean not fuck around--sorry, Bill. I mean I don't--didn't want to get tied down to one girl. I wanted to be free to go out with a lot of girls, not find one to take home to my mom, but I've got a problem. See, I think I'm falling for Paula. Damn, she is some woman! I like everything about her--her independence, her values, her willingness to take a stand. She's a damn strong woman and makes me feel like a real man when I am around her. As I said, I think I might be falling--shit, I may as well be honest--I have fallen for Paula, big time and I don't know what to do about it!"
"Have you said anything to her?" Bill asked.
"No, I'm... Well, to tell the truth, I'm afraid to. I have never wanted to be attached to a woman and I'm afraid.... Shit, I'm afraid she will tell me to get lost. I don't know how I would take that. I'm afraid..."
"It would end your friendship?" I asked, as Luke nodded.
"Yea, damn right!" Jacob said. "Then there's next year. I'll be here and she'll be in Oberlin. Man, that's hundreds of miles away."
"Well, one thing is for sure, if she's not interested, you'll know right away. I have known Paula since we were kids and she doesn't say things just to be polite. Next year might not be a problem at all," I said, realizing I wasn't helping the situation. "If she's interested, then you'll just have to work out how you'll handle a relationship when you are separated. Meanwhile, you need to realize next year is three months away and time is wasting. Go for it, Big Man."
"Hell, yes!" Jacob said, but his voice revealed he was shaking in his boots--had he had any on. But he walked to the beach, snagged a free blanket and said, "Paula, how about sunning on Lookout Rock?"
Paula looked at him, smiled and said, "Sure".
By the time Paula and Jacob had reached the top of the falls, Michael and Mary Kathryn were deep in conversation, Bill and Linda were lying beside each other some distance away playing lovers' games as were Larry and Eugene. Luke and I walked down the river where we sat down, talking about this circle of friends which would soon be separated. It was a happy-sad time for us. We had continued talking for half an hour or so when Michael shouted, "Holy shit!" When we looked up, Paula and Jacob were standing atop Lookout Rock, locked in each others arms, engaging in what was way beyond a friendship kiss.
When they heard Michael, they broke their kiss, waved to us below and, holding hands, dived over the falls. When they reached the shore, the whole crowd was waiting for them. Jacob walked up, his entire face covered by a huge smile and Paula's was only slightly less so. "She's interested, guys," Jacob beamed and gave Paula a quick kiss which she returned. That, of course, called for a round of hugs. When we had all calmed down a bit, Bill said, "Ok, now that we've got our love lives straightened out--I guess we have--Michael, you and Mary Kathryn seemed to be solving the problems of the world over there, did you get finished?"
"We reached a stopping point," Mary Kathryn answered in a manner which made her meaning impossible to determine.
"In that case, I think it's time to eat," Bill said. There was complete agreement on that. "And I think we might dress for dinner," he added. We all slipped on shorts and shirts, spread out a tablecloth and put out the food. As you would expect when Margaret, Gabrielle and Mom prepared a picnic, we had a feast spread before us.
I was surprised when we found one of the baskets contained two bottles of Dad's good wine and real wine glasses. "Paula, I think you should, as the newest of the attached women, do the honors."
I was delighted when Paula took bread in her hands, lifted it up and said, "Blessed be the God of the Universe who has given us bread to feed and strengthen our bodies". We all said, "Amen". She then poured a glass of wine, lifted it up and said, "Blessed be the God of the Universe who has given us the fruit of the vine to gladden our hearts and cheer our souls". We again said, "Amen". Then she surprised me by spreading her arms and saying, "Blessed be the God of the Universe who created us to love, and who has given us friends and lovers to make our lives complete". We shouted, "Amen!"
We had a lazy meal, eating and talking, sometimes about the present, sometimes about the past and sometimes about the future. "I guess I hadn't really thought about what graduating high school meant until today," Paula mused. "It's not about school at all, is it?"
We all became very silent, each buried in his or her own thoughts. No, I hadn't really thought about what graduation meant beyond it being the end of high school, but I certainly did now. In a few short days or weeks at most, the Fellowship would not have lunch together--maybe ever again. We would soon be scattered for the summer--Paula to the New York mountains to work in a camp, Mary Kathryn, Bill and Linda in a church camp on a nearby lake, Luke to Sarasota, Michael to a monastery to struggle with his vocation and me to Sewanee. Only Jacob was an unknown--at least for me. "Jacob, where are you headed for the summer?"
"I have a job starting Monday week and basketball camp for two weeks later. After basketball camp, I guess I'll come back to my job. Think I might need some extra money next year for phone calls," he grinned as he looked at Paula. Paula beamed back at him.
"Ok, you two," Linda said, "when did all this stuff get started?" Leave it to Linda to want to know everything.
"Honest? I can't really say," Jacob mused. "When I joined this group, Paula and I were kinda the odd-balls. Then I started having some problems with my dad, nothing real serious, I guess, but it was bugging me and I found Paula was willing to listen--I mean really listen. She wasn't all the time giving me advise, but asking the right questions to get me thinking. Then she never treated me as some kind of jock hero without a brain. She became my very best friend, the kind of friend I had never had before."
"When Michael was hurt, I lost it. I had never had to deal with the possibility of someone close to me dying and there was Michael, whom I respected beyond measure and looked up to, at death's door. He had become a brother I had always wanted and never had and he was dying. Not only that, he was dying because of hatred--someone hated the brother I had just found and come to love. When I came unglued, Paula was there, not telling me I was a sissy or that I shouldn't be upset, she just held me and let me bawl--something I hadn't done since I was a kid."
"Later I realized I kept reminding myself that I was a free spirit and wasn't about to get tied to one woman--and didn't know why I needed to remind myself." Jacob smiled and continued, "Next thing I know, I couldn't wait to see Paula in the morning and I kept looking for her in the hall and decided I must be nuts. I was also frightened--scared shitless would be more like it. I had never asked a girl out who said 'no', but that was because I was a basketball jock and showed them a good time. I knew that if I asked Paula to go out, she'd probably say 'yes', but it would be as friends. I kept telling myself I wasn't falling for her because she never gave any indication she thought of me other than as a friend and a member of the Fellowship. I was afraid that if I did fall for her and she said 'no', my little ego couldn't take it. Then today when I saw her naked"--Jacob blushed--"I don't mean I suddenly got sex on my mind... well, I did, but... well, I realized that Paula was a beautiful, strong woman... well, I realized that before, but... well, what I mean is I suddenly realized that all that talking I had done to myself was wasted. I mean, I knew that I had fallen for Paula the day I first saw her, but... well... actually, I tried it out on Matt and Luke just to hear myself say it and it sounded right. I was shaking like a leaf when I asked her to go to Lookout Rock with me and, Man!" Jacob was speechless.
"Paula, when did the bug bite you?" Linda demanded to know.
"It was a gradual thing. I can tell you when that redhead came over to Michael the day of election and admitted the better man had won, I found I had immense respect for him. And as he said, as the odd couple in this bunch, we became close friends. When I discovered he was funny, he was gentle and caring as well as being a real man, I looked forward to seeing him and spending time with him. All the time I was reminding myself that I didn't want to get hurt again and when I was convinced Jacob would never intentionally hurt me, I almost turned loose, but then there was college next year and Jacob would still be here. I didn't want to get involved and then be separated again. But today when he came to me like a little boy, yet very much a man, I knew what I had been hiding from myself. I don't use the word lightly, but I knew that I had fallen in love with a redheaded boy/man and I was happy."
"It's the water," Luke said solemnly. "And this special place. It just breeds love." Of course all this called for a round of hugs and celebration.
I remembered that we hadn't finished the wine and brought out the second bottle, and we toasted the newest couple in the Fellowship.
We were all sitting on the bed now and Luke said, "Ok, gang, Matt and I have to have speeches ready for Sunday. Ideas?"
"Given this year--actually this spring--at Independence, you might call them 'The Good, Bad and Ugly'," Linda laughed.
"Hey, that might not be so way out," Jacob said.
"Yea, remember Matt's composition had sections called darkness and light," Paula mused. "I think there's something there."
"Matt could do darkness and Luke light," Eugene suggested. "I think that is a good idea--darkness and then light and there could be also be an aspect of past, present and future."
"Hey, we could even do a kind of dialog or point/counterpoint rather than two straight speeches," I suggested. With Paula taking notes with a pen and paper Mom had thoughtfully put in a picnic basket, we did a brainstorm and, within a short time, had an outline of a single speech to be given by Luke and me.
After we had finished, we all sorta flopped down on the bed and a blanket or two next to it and fell asleep--sleep ranks next to food for teenagers, I think.
When I waked up, Mary Kathryn was rubbing oil into the scar on Michael's chest and stomach. When I looked at her she said, "Vitamin E oil. It's supposed to make the scarring less. I think it's helping."
"I don't know whether it's helping or not, but the scar certainly looks less frightening than it did last week."
"Yea, then it looked as if I had been poorly put together from spare parts," Michael said. "And of course if the oil is doing no good for the scar, it's still kinda nice to have your chest rubbed, especially your nipples!"
Mary Kathryn gave him a playful smack and said, "No spare parts, Michael. You have no spare parts," and laughed as she kissed Michael's chest--actually one of his nipples.
Luke must have heard us talking for he had now rejoined the land of the living. Bill and Linda were still asleep, but Paula and Jacob had gone back to the top of the falls. I couldn't tell whether they were asleep or just lying very still beside each other. I shouted, "Paula, time to get naked again!" She raised up and gave me a high sign and started stripping off her shirt and shorts. Jacob was right behind her and when both were in their birthday suits, they grabbed hands and dived.
The shouting and splashing was enough to get Bill and Linda back with us. As Bill walked over he asked, "Michael, want to get in the water? I understand Chelsea said it was ok."
"I sure do. I could use some help getting up. Getting up and down still hurts sometimes." Bill reached down as did I and we lifted Michael to his feet. "Thanks, guys, once I get on my feet, I'm ok." Mary Kathryn put her arm around his waist and he hers and the two of them walked into the water. I didn't think Michael would be doing any diving for a while. But he did swim. Later he said it had hurt a bit, but moving in the water actually was easier than trying to do too much moving on land.
We swam and played around in the water for an hour I guess and then all flopped down on the bed again. It was a bit crowded, but we all sat Indian style facing the center. Actually, Larry and Eugene and Bill and Linda had stacked up blankets and pillows to "expand" the bed so we could all get around.
Michael had overdone the swimming and being in the water, I'm afraid, and Linda, of course, pointed that out. She and Mary Kathryn arranged pillows so he could lie back, but still be a part of the group.
As soon as we were settled, talk got very serious very quickly. "Ok, we've taken care of the rest of the world by getting Matt and Luke on the right track for their speeches, but we need to talk about us for a change," Linda said. "We'll be splitting up for the summer, right? I think we ought to give some thought to the summer and to the future. Bill and I are going to Camp St. Francis for senior high camp. We'll leaving Sunday the thirteenth--Mary Kathryn, you and Michael are going as well, right?"
"I am, but..."
"I don't think I'm up to it right now," Michael said. "When Mary Kathryn leaves, I'm going to a special camp to do some work which I can do, even if I'm not completely well."
"Looks to me as if you're pretty near well now," Paula observed.
"Well, I know I have a long way to go yet," Michael said. "I think I better kinda take it easy."
"But I'm going," Mary Kathryn said, "and I have told Fr. Tom I'd stay for the third and fourth grade camp the following week as a counselor."
"I didn't know that!" Linda exclaimed. "Bill and I are too! I'm also staying for the middle school camp the following week."
"So am I," Mary Kathryn said. "I didn't know you were. We have really been missing out on keeping up with each other lately."
"I wonder why?" Larry laughed. "It's not as if something has been going on, NOT!"
"Bill is doing a third and fourth grade camp! I can't believe it!" Jacob exclaimed. "They're just kids. You'll have to wipe their noses and probably their butts."
"Hey, watch your mouth," Bill laughed. "I adore kids and I especially like them before they start thinking they're adults. It's the middle school ones that I think I would kill. They think they are grown and get into all sorts of stuff they can't handle--remember??? And, besides, the girls are at least twenty years older than the boys and a head taller!"
"And they would be after your bod, Bill," Mary Kathryn laughed.
"Actually, they won't get a chance. I'd strangle any little bitch who tried," Linda laughed. "But after the third and fourth grade camp, Bill will be in basketball camp with Jacob for two weeks. I'll do the middle school camp. I know how hard life is for middle school girls so I wanted to do that. And, as he said and I discovered, Bill loves kids. We lucked out in that they were back to back with the senior high camp and I think three weeks is enough for anyone."
"Jacob and I will be in basketball camp the last two weeks of June, getting back here July 1," Bill said."
"Yea, I have a job this summer. I'll be working through the first week in August except for basketball camp. I got a construction job. Should keep me in shape because I know I'll get all the scut work. At least it will be out of town. I'm staying with an aunt in Lexington. My dad and I have worked through a lot of crap, but I think being away will be good for both of us. But now that there's..." Jacob looked at Paula and, being a typical redhead with fair skin, his blush just about lit up the falls.
"Not to worry. You wouldn't see me anyway," Paula said and kissed Jacob on the nose. "I leave Sunday the eleventh for the New York mountains to work in music therapy in a camp for kids with problems--not that there seem to be any without--and will be there until the last of July. I guess this new relationship gets an early test."
"Which it will pass with flying colors," Eugene, who had been very quiet, said.
"How about you, Eugene? What does the summer hold for you?"
"I wish I knew. There's the federal trial of McBride coming up and I suspect it will drag on and on. So I guess I'll spend most of my time in Lexington at the Federal Courthouse."
"And I'll be right with him although I have found a job. The guys who taped the concert and exhibition called Mom about my working as an intern this summer. I didn't think I could since I had no place to stay there and no way to get back and forth--besides, it's a long trip. Mr. Greentree said if I didn't mind sleeping on a pull-out couch on his sun porch, I could stay with his family. Eugene and I talked and we decided I needed to do it. Another separation, but I suspect he'll be there a lot of the time. Of course, I need the money and, while it doesn't pay a lot, it beats Mickey D's. Oh, and another bit of information not shared. When I told Mom about the scholarships and the house, she told me she and my father had taken out an insurance policy when I was born to pay for college. She has kept it up until I was eighteen. Not much, but there's $12,000 which will take care of my part of the house purchase."
"What are we going to do about that?" Luke asked. "We got that shit load of stuff and that was the end of it, it seems."
"With my mom Millie around? Not on your life! Mr. Fox got all the papers drawn up and the Oberlin Five are now a corporation which owns the house--well, except for the yearly payment. We have to pay Millie the $50,000 back, but she went ahead and made the purchase knowing we would all be in on it. Luke is president of Oberlin Five, Inc., Larry is vice president, Matt is the secretary and Paula is the treasurer. 'Money needs a woman's hand,' Millie said! We each own twenty percent of the stock and if Bill, Linda and Jacob graduate next year and get in Oberlin--if they want to--we can sell them shares. Then the next year we can sell shares to Michael and Mary Kathryn."
"Matt, you will be at Sewanee?" Linda asked.
"Yea, I'll leave Sunday the eleventh like you campers and be gone for four weeks."
"Yea, unfortunately, for six weeks. I leave the eleventh and won't be back until July fifteenth. A hell of a long time to be separated from Sarang Hanun Pomul."
"Well, we have something to do before we all get separated for the summer," Michael said. "Uncle Michael wants to have a birthday party for the two former virgins...."
"Michael," I shouted and turned red as Luke laughed.
"We also promised Nelson we'd come back to the club as soon as Michael was up to it," Luke said.
"Ok," social director Linda took command again, "looks as if we will have between now and the eleventh to get all the Fellowship stuff done before we scatter. Michael, think you'll be up to Lexington by the tenth?" Michael nodded. "Ok, that's break-loose-at-the-club night. What about graduation parties?"
"Combine it with the birthday party," I suggested.
"No way, Jose," Linda said. "We have two party occasions and that means two parties. What time's graduation Sunday?"
"Two o'clock," Luke answered.
"Ok, family picnic here Sunday afternoon, beginning at four or four-thirty. Mary Kathryn, Paula and I will take care of that--actually, we'll get our parents to do it. Now, how about Wednesday night for the birthday bash?"
"Let's make it Thursday," Luke grinned. "It'll be a birthday party and the first week anniversary of..."
"Luke, I'm going to kill you!" I laughed and blushed.
"Sounds good to me. Social calendar set for the beginning of the summer. How about the end?" Linda asked.
"We'll all be free beginning August sixth," Jacob said. "And, as I recall, there's a house on a lake that needs painting and maybe furnishing. Sounds like it's just calling for the Fellowship to come to Lake Erie."
"Paula, you got a winner this time," Linda said. "We'll all go to Lake Erie for a paint party. We could stay a couple or three weeks to get the job done and have fun. But there's my mom who would never stand for it."
"How about if we took along some pretty great parents?" Larry asked.
"Like who?" Jacob asked.
"Like the whole damn bunch--I mean if you want them. I'd love to have that kind of house party since we'll not be seeing them for ages," Eugene said.
"Don't think mine would be interested," Jacob said, "but I sure wouldn't mind having the others."
"Same goes for mine," Bill added. "they're great folks, but the idea of spending two or three weeks with us just wouldn't be to their liking, but I'm all for it."
"Ok, that's settled," Linda said. "which is good because it's time to get home."
And so the ditch school day came to an end as we packed up everything and headed home. It was a day to remember. I wasn't at all unhappy that Luke's and my privacy had been invaded. We had years ahead of us to enjoy each other, but the days of the Fellowship--at least as we had known it--were coming to an end. As Luke and I took the last basket to the Jeep, he kissed me and said, "Sarang Hanun Pomul, friendship is what it's all about. I'm glad we had this day with those very special people in this special place."
"So am I, Yonghon Tongmu. So am I."