On the workbench in the
garage were two beautiful arrangements of poinsettias and evergreen sprigs
with blue berries. The ugly duckling poinsettias had been transformed into
two magnificent swan arrangements by Levi’s skilled hands. “Levi, they are
beautiful. I know about the poinsettias, but where did the stuff with the
blue berries come from?”
“Haven’t you noticed the two
old cedars out front? They must be at least a hundred years old and are
loaded with small blue berries. You take the low arrangement and place it
in the center of the table. I’ll take the large one for the buffet.”
As we stepped through the
door from the garage into the house, I heard the garage door opener start,
but the mechanism had been disengaged so while the motor ran, pulling the
chain, the door remained closed. I laughed and said, “Let’s get these placed
quickly.” With the arrangements in place, I grabbed Levi’s hand and led him
into the parlor. DeAngelo was already in the entry hall as we had planned.
DeAngelo met the dads when they came in the front door. “You leaving
quickly?” he asked,
“No,” Sam answered. “Why?”
“I thought you might be
since you came in the front; I figured you left the jeep out because you
were leaving shortly.”
“You haven’t had a problem
with the garage door?”
“No, I went to see Mom and
Granny Lotz this morning and it was fine when I got back about noon. I did
some reading for next semester and have been with our visitors since 2:30 or
“We have visitors?” Brad
asked. Levi and I were sitting in the two wing back chairs which faced the
fireplace and, therefore, we were not easily seen from the entry.
“Yes,” DeAngelo said and as
we had arranged, Levi stood when DeAngelo continued, “Dads, Mr. Levi Epstein
of New York State. Levi my dads Mr. Bradford Hunsinger and Mr. Samuel
Houston. Oh! And Dads, Mr. Derek Wilson of Alexander County, Virginia.”
Both dads stood in total
shock for a moment before both wrapped me in a bear hug. A few minutes
later, they released me and shook hands with Levi and said, “Welcome to
Grace House, Levi. Let’s get something to drink and find out what’s going
on.” I had the kettle ready and Sam selected the tea and set it to brewing.
DeAngelo got the cups and Sam brought the pot. Once we had our tea, Brad
said, “Okay, we’re ready for the story,”
there’re two,” I said. “There’s the story of Auntie beating up on the Dean
of Student Life and of the arrival and departure of the Lynchburg dragon and
sub-dragon.” As Levi and recounted the stories, we had to stop several times
to allow the dads and DeAngelo to recover from laughing.
“Son, it is so good to have
you home. I know your responsibility to Auntie, but that didn’t make the
thought of the holidays without you any less heartbreaking,” Brad said. “So
where do you want to go to celebrate?”
“How about Grace House?
Tonight is the third day of Hanukah and this is the fourth week in Advent.
We have candles to light and dinner to enjoy. Levi and I brought back fresh
seafood we picked up practically off the boat and we’re having some of it
tonight. You two hit the shower--keep playtime under an hour.”
“No promises, Youngest Son,”
Sam laughed. and the two headed upstairs. They were back in half an hour and
we went to the dining room and Brad asked Levi to light the menorah which he
did as he said the appropriate prayer. Brad then lit the Advent wreath
candle while saying the prayer for the particular day. Levi and I went to
the kitchen to bring out the shrimp cocktails and while we were doing so,
Sam had filled wine glasses for all of us.
“A toast to Auntie and Levi,
slayers of the dragons of Lynchburg,” Sam said, raising his glass. There
were toasts to ‘our sons’ and one to ‘our dads’ and then we ate.
The dinner went much more
smoothly than I had anticipated and we really enjoyed it. Brad suggested we
have dessert and coffee later as we had eaten well and it seemed a waste to
eat DeAngelo’s cakes when we would enjoy them much more in an hour or so.
We all settled in the living
room and Sam asked about photos. “I know you sent us pictures by email, but
I’m sure there are more.”
“Thousands,” Levi laughed.
“Seems most everyone who shows up sooner or later hauls out a camera and we
end up with another disk of photos of King Derek’s Palace or is it Derek’s
Den of Iniquity? Come to think of it, Derek, you might open a present early.
Adam, Janette and Trevor, mass media majors who were in one of our study
groups, sent you a present by me. I’ll get it.” Levi went upstairs and
returned carrying a small package.
When he handed the package
to me, I saw a folded tag attached which read, ‘To King Derek from the
Knights of the Round Table.’ Inside was a note, “Derek, enjoy this as much
as we did making it. A somewhat cleaned up R rated version earned us an A.
Please don’t tell our teacher the model release from you was forged. Bet you
didn’t know Janette had that skill!” I opened the package and inside were
two DVDs. I don’t know when or how the shot had been made, the picture on
Disk One was an overhead view of seven people seated around the round table.
I handed the DVD to Brad who popped it into the player, dropped the
projector and screen into place and started the DVD. It opened with a video
of me sleeping, waking up, headed for the shower in my naked glory, morning
wood standing proudly. “Holy shit! Who did that? When?”
Levi said, “To this point, I
The video ended and a slide
show of still shots started. The entire DVD was a mixture of still shots and
video. It included a section on Derek, King of the Diving World, King
Derek’s Chariot with many pictures which included the LeBaron, and on and on
it went. The disk concluded with ‘Tales of the Adventures of King Derek,’ in
which well over a dozen friends told a ‘Derek’ story. I was very flattered,
and, I admit, proud, at comments made about me and how the apartment had
become an important part of so many lives.
At the end, Adam appeared
and said, “A documentary concerning any royal person would not be complete
without a tour of the palace. Be sure to watch the second part, ‘King
Derek’s Palace’ in which the docent will be Mrs. Amelia Kingston, known to
all as Auntie.”
“You do us proud, son,” Sam
“You do indeed,” Brad added.
“You have every right to be
proud of him,” Levi said. “He’s a great guy.”
“Okay, enough already,” I
said and Levi laughed since ‘enough already’ was one of his contributions to
the vocabulary of the Knights as, I guess, those who hung out at my place
were to be known.
Brad ejected the DVD and
loaded a second one while Levi, DeAngelo and I brought in coffee and the
lava cakes. The second DVD began with an interview with Auntie about the
house, how she happened to have Derek living there and on the transformation
of the upstairs with many before-and-after shots. “As a matter of fact, Mrs.
Kingston, Auntie, would you be so kind as to give us a guided tour of the
palace?” Trevor, who was narrating, asked. Auntie, of course, agreed.
Someone must have carried her upstairs and she and Trevor walked through the
apartment. In each room, the before picture was shown, then Auntie pointed
out how the room was changed and told about the furnishing. It was a
“You sure have a nice place,
Littl' Brother. No wonder people like to hang out there.”
“Well, I like to have them
there. Auntie does as well,” I said.
“And I am sure that is an
important part of why they are there and like to be there,” Brad said.
“Yeah,” Levi said, “the
place is nice and don’t get me wrong, I especially enjoyed it since it was
the library or a pigsty for me otherwise, but don’t let Derek fool you. He
is a well liked--hell, well loved--because he cares about and is concerned
about other people. Never sell your little brother short, DeAngelo, he is a
big man on campus in the way many big men on campus will never be.”
“Bet that fancy apartment
doesn’t hurt his social standing,” DeAngelo laughed.
“I hope not,” I said.
“Of course it’s a nice
place, a wonderful place and we enjoy it,” Levi said, “but with what goes on
there, it’s not a hangout. That round table in the library kept some people
in college this semester and sure helped others get a better grade. I’m sure
if we needed it for something else, Derek wouldn’t hesitate to use it, but
the library is for reading, studying and serious discussions. Those who ask
where the library TV or sound system is when they walk in seldom stay long.
“Occasionally there will be
soft music there, but it’s because of something else going on in the room.
The living room is where we enjoy music, movies, playing games, couples may
make out some there, but it’s off limits when there is studying to be done.
No, DeAngelo, the apartment is a nice addition to the lives of Derek’s
friends and some of his fellow students, but the main attractions of the
Palace are Auntie and Derek, two loving, caring, concerned people.”
“Wow, you really make little
brother sound like a goody-two-shoes mama’s boy,” DeAngelo laughed.
“We had an aquatics coach
who would certainly disagree with you,” Levi laughed. “Because your ‘mama’s
boy’ had enough of his mistreating the team, he told him off and the coach
ended up leaving, not Derek. The man has balls, but he also has a sense of
right and wrong that guides his use of them.”
“Levi, enough. You are
embarrassing me!” I said and meant it. “Speaking of swimming, I told Levi we
went skinny-dipping year round in a pond in the pasture and he doesn’t
“The proof is not far away,”
Brad said. “Let’s go!” Five minutes later we were bouncing down the trail to
the pond. As we approached the pond, I was surprised to see a small building
near where we had always parked the jeep. The jeep had barely stopped before
we all started stripping. As soon as I was naked, I ran and jumped in the
pond as always, expecting to hit bottom by the time the water was to my
waist. I didn’t. In fact, I was floating back to the surface without ever
having hit bottom.
As I broke the surface of
the pond, underwater lights came on and flood lights illuminated a diving
platform, a real one with what I was sure were seven and a half and
five-meter platforms as well as a two meter one for beginners. “How do you
like it?” Brad said, surfacing on one side of me and as Levi surfaced on the
“The platform? You know I
love it, but that’s just part of the changes.”
“Yeah, you know how projects
around here kinda grow. One night we were talking about the fact that one
day we’ll be old and stripping and getting dressed in the middle of a
pasture will be pretty rough. Sam said, ‘Babe, it will not get rough, it is
rough, we just put up with it because it comes with the joy of the pond.’ So
we decided to build a small dressing shelter. We talked about heat and
Sergeant Major said, ‘You have heat; circulate pond water through the
“Sam and I were watching Ms.
Bianchi put some divers through their paces when he said, 'Brad, wouldn’t
our youngest love to be able to dive at the pond. Our thoughts went: A
diving board means we needed to dig the pond deeper--while we are at it, we
may as well make it deep enough for a platform--and we could use more space
so we may as well make the pond larger. Then the question of lights came up
again and that led to illuminating the diving area. We’ve stopped there for
now,” Brad laughed. “So let’s see you two show off.”
For the next half hour, Levi
and I gave the diving tower a real work out. “You’ll have to show off for
Ms. Bianchi and Mr. Malik while you are home, here as well at the Center.
Give our divers something to aim for,” Brad said when Levi finally called a
halt and we were relaxing in the warm water.
Unlike pools Levi and I swam
in ordinarily, the water in the pond was actually potable and unchlorinated
and therefore, there was no real need to shower when we were ready to get
dressed, but we always did. Once dressed, we made a dash for the jeep and
Sam drove quickly over the nearly no trail back to Grace House as the
temperature had been dropping ever since Levi and I had arrived. Inside, Sam
made hot chocolate from cocoa powder and cream rather than a mix, something
Levi had never seen.
While the dads and DeAngelo
were getting to know Levi, I slipped into the office and called Mom. She
sounded as though she had been asleep even though it was only 9:30. “Mom,
this is Derek. You sound as though you were asleep.”
“Derek, Baby, good to hear
your voice, sorry I won’t be seeing you Christmas. Yeah, I sat down for a
few minutes and dozed off. After work I caught a ride to the hospital to
check on Mama. I had to call 911 night before last. She had some kind of
spell. Derek, she is awful weak. Told me she was ready to go home and she
didn’t mean coming here. So how are you? How’s Norfolk?”
“I’m fine and so’s Norfolk,
or it was when I left. I’m home. I’m at Grace House.” I then told her about
Geneva’s arrival and departure. Mom laughed and said she had only met her
once and that was enough. I agreed, then asked, “Tomorrow’s Saturday, so I
guess you’ll be home.”
“Well, I need to get to the
hospital. No real need to stay since Mama sleeps twenty or more hours a day.
The doctor is trying to arrange home hospice care for her. If that can be
arranged, she’ll be here until she passes which can’t be much longer. She
has eaten nothing in almost a week and only takes a sip of water now and
then. She has absolutely refused to be hooked up to IVs. The nurses were
having none of that, but the doctor pointed out that she was alert and in
her right mind when she told them that and it was her right to refuse.”
“I’ll pick you up about nine
in the morning and take you by the hospital. Tell me how long you want to
stay and I’ll take you home. Better yet, call me when you are ready to go
home and I’ll pick you up. I have a friend with me and he and I are planning
on spending the morning at the Center.”
“Thank you, Baby.”
“Now go to bed and get some
“I will. Glad you got to
When I went back into the
living room, Sam asked how Mom was doing. “She had fallen asleep when I
called and sounded very tired.”
“She is,” he said. “She
hasn’t missed a day’s work and has been on duty at home when she was not at
work for the last couple months. Granny Lotz wasn’t able to care for
herself. Family and neighbors have either sat with her or dropped by often
enough to see to her needs during the day until a couple weeks ago. Since
then Granny has had to have a sitter while your mom worked. When they
brought her in night before last, I was told, she was unconscious, but
regained consciousness shortly after she was admitted. Of course she is in
the end stage of life and sleeps most of the time. Soon she will go to sleep
and simply not wake up.”
“Mom said the doctor is
trying to arrange home hospice care for her.”
“That should be no problem
and would certainly be wonderful,” Sam said. “It should have been done a
couple weeks ago, but Mae wouldn’t hear of it. I was afraid she will drive
herself into the ground and get sick herself. Brad and I had done all we
could to help out, but Mae has a lot resting on her. Hospice would take a
major load off her shoulders, but to be honest, Derek, Granny Lotz will soon
be winging her way to glory. I just hope they are ready for her. She is one
fine lady made from pure gold and steel.”
“Derek, I know you have
heard enough from me to know that Granny Lotz is very special to me, but
I’ve never told you why,” Brad said.
“One minute, Dad,” I
interrupted. “Levi, Granny Lotz is my grandmother, well, actually, she’s my
great grandmother. My grandmother was thirty when she had Mom. She died when
Mom was two or three. The only mother she remembers is Granny Lotz and she
has always called her Mama. I know nothing of my grandfather. When I asked,
I was told, ‘Never you mind about that.’ Being my grandmother would make her
special enough, but you may not know African-American families and
communities are essentially matriarchal. Granny Lotz is the matriarch in
Stanton. She is at least ninety, I’m sure.”
Sam laughed. “She was
admitted to the hospital about fifteen years ago and gave her age as
sixty-five. Mae, Derek’s mom, laughed and said, ‘Then you had my mother when
you were ten or so.’ Granny, without batting an eye, said, ‘Yes, we started
young in those days.’ When she was admitted this time, the admitting officer
said, ‘Granny Lotz, I see you were sixty-five when you were admitted fifteen
years ago with pneumonia. That makes you eighty now.’ Granny Lotz exploded.
‘I most surely am not eighty! I was seventy my last birthday.’ Mae almost
died laughing, 'Mama, you live a few more years and you’ll be younger than I
am.' Truth is, no one knows how old she is, but she is at least ninety.
Sorry, Babe, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“No problem. That gives you
some insight into the woman. I’m sure Derek could give you many others.
Often Granny Lotz has ruled with an iron hand. To cross her was to ask for
trouble, serious trouble. There were, of course, many other sides to the
Brad then took up his story.
“When I was in high school I fell in love with my best friend who was
straight. Booker knew of my love for him and he certainly loved me deeply as
a beloved brother, but we both knew there would never be more. We started
jerking off together when we were twelve or thirteen, but surprisingly
enough, we had never done each other.” Brad then told how he and Booker had
been caught giving each other a hand job and the aftermath.
“After Booker’s death, I
lived with Miss Grace until I graduated high school. I toughed it out at
school, taking abuse from students, then I noticed I was getting bad grades
on work I knew was good. I told Miss Grace. Booker’s grandmother, who was
Miss Grace’s live in companion overheard and told Granny Lotz. The two went
to the school and really let the principal have it and threatened a lawsuit
and I did graduate second in my class. I had the grades, but I wasn’t
salutatorian. The school board voted to eliminate the honor; of course they
voted to restore it the next year. At graduation, I was booed and a lot of
names shouted at me as I walked across the stage to get my diploma. As soon
as I had it, I threw my mortarboard at the audience, shucked off my robe,
and walked out.
“I was upset, not only
because of how I was treated, but also because Booker hadn’t been there to
graduate. I just kept walking and crying when I left the stage. I had walked
about half an hour when three bullies who had just graduated saw me. They
beat me unconscious and rolled me into a ditch beside the road. Granny Lotz
had been to graduation and as she was driving back, for some reason, spotted
me in the ditch. She flagged down a car and asked for help and was refused.
After that happened the third time, she managed to get me into her car—the
woman was in her seventies or eighties and probably weighed a hundred pounds
soaking wet—and drove me to the hospital. Apparently someone had alerted the
hospital, because when she got there, no one would answer the emergency
bell. She stormed inside, but was invisible. She got back in her car and
drove me to the hospital in Harrisonville where I was admitted. I was in the
hospital for two weeks. Had she not managed to get me to Harrisonville, I
would have died in that ditch. When I was released, I left Stanton, but
Granny Lotz has always been one of my heroes.
“Brad, after Derek told me
part of your story,” Levi said, “I wondered how you managed to come back to
Stanton and why, so far as Derek has seen, you are not bitter.”
“Oh, Levi, I left Stanton
and went to Charlottesville a very, very bitter, angry young man. I lied to
Miss Grace, telling her I was in summer school at UVA. Instead, I wandered
around Charlottesville, dreaming of nothing except revenge and looking for
trouble, and usually finding it. Anything and anyone was a ready target for
“One night I used my fake
ID, got in a bar and soon had a guy buying me drinks. He, obviously, had
something in mind as he felt me up. I wasn’t objecting, but told him we
needed to continue in private. Instead, he unzipped my pants, pulled out my
cock and whirled me around until was standing in front of the bar, my dick
at full mast for all to see. I saw red and decked him. I was rushed out of
the bar--I was underage, remember--but the police arrived just as I was
tossed on the street. The guy I decked was nowhere to be found. My fake ID
was quickly identified as such so I was taken to the jail and charged with
underage drinking. The next morning, I was taken to juvenile court. I had
been searched and I had a ‘Congratulations on your Graduation’ card from
Granny Lotz in my wallet. Not sure why I had kept it, but I had. Turns out
the juvenile judge knew Granny Lotz and called her.
“She rescued me a second
time. When I was released, she took me to dinner and while I was eating we
had a ‘Come to Jesus’ session. 'You’re simply saving Stanton a job they are
ready and willing to do. They want to destroy you, but they don’t have to
worry. You are hellbent on doing it yourself. You know what they
respect—money. What they hate most is for someone not as good as they claim
to be to have more money and respect than they do. They cannot stand someone
who doesn’t give a gray rat’s ass about being accepted by them. You’re angry
and you’re bitter—well, you can let it destroy you or you can channel it
into something constructive and beat the bastards at their own game.' So now
you know why I’m here and why I owe Granny Lotz.”
We talked awhile longer and
finally Levi said, “You know, Brad, I think you may have just paid back
Granny Lotz. I have expressed it differently, but I have been angry and
bitter at my father, but I think I was doing what he wanted--destroying
myself. Maybe I need to beat him at his own game.”
A short time later I said,
“It’s not late, but it has been a long day. I’m heading up to bed.” I kissed
the dads goodnight and hugged DeAngelo. Levi and I went upstairs, got
undressed and crawled into bed.
We exchanged a great
goodnight kiss and as we broke it, Levi said, “Thanks, Derek, for bringing
me. I don’t know when I have felt so welcomed.” He wrapped his arms around
me, we kissed again and were soon asleep.