I don't know what Harold and Shawn told the director --how they explained Shawn's messed up face-- and I didn't care so long as they did not involve me. I had decided if Shawn tried to push something off on me I'd tell everything I knew about his sexual exploits. I'm sure he was smart enough to know that and to know if I did he would be in major trouble. A scandal like that would not only seal Shawn's future in any camp, but also be a major black eye for the baseball camp as well. Nothing else was said or happened and then it was time to leave camp.
The camp bus ran up I-75 to Atlanta's Five Points MARTA station and it was up to the campers to get home from there. I had been to camp enough to learn to pack light, so even though I had been gone two weeks, every thing I had was packed in my backpack except my sleeping bag and it was rolled and strapped to the backpack. I had learned that while all the brochures asked you to bring your musical instruments for nights around the camp fire, neither my fiddle or mandolin were ever used so I left them home.
When I stepped off the bus, the driver had the luggage compartments open. All I had to do was reach in, grab my backpack and head for the turnstile. This year there weren't even goodbyes since I was the only guy from metro Atlanta in my cabin. I got the train to College Park and decided I wouldn't bother my parents. They would have, of course, come to pick me up, but my place was only a mile from the station and even though the late afternoon was hot, I was in good condition after two weeks in camp. Besides College Park didn't know what HOT is compared to middle Georgia.
I expected to find Keith waiting for me at my place since he should be back in College Park, even if just for the weekend. As I walked home, I was thinking about how much I would tell him of what happened the day before. Who was I fooling? I knew I'd tell him everything. No doubt he'd have some things to say I needed to hear. Just thinking about talking to Keith took a load off me. I smiled and stepped up my pace.
When I got home, Mom and Dad were surprised to see me. "Thought you'd call from the station," Dad said as I dropped my backpack and embraced him in a bear hug.
"Thought I needed the exercise," I said.
"You needed exercise after baseball camp? Are they getting soft?" Mom asked as she came from the den.
"Not that I noticed," I answered as I gave her a hug. "Keith not here?"
"No, was he supposed to be?" Mom asked.
"I thought so. He was supposed to be back from Detroit in time to start baseball camp tomorrow. Think I'll give his place a call."
Keith's mom answered the phone. "Mrs. Anderson, Tom. Keith around?"
"Hasn't he written you, Keith? I thought he would. He's in Detroit. Will be for awhile longer I think. He went straight from his grandmother's"
"Something wrong, Mrs. Anderson? Something keeping him up north, I mean" I asked.
"I sure hope not much longer, Tom. I hope he will be back in a week or so. I'll tell him you called when he phones."
"Tell him to call me. Call collect."
"No need for that," Mrs. Anderson said. "How was baseball camp?"
I gave a noncommittal answer and hung up. As I did I had a feeling, a hunch, something was wrong either with Keith or the Andersons.
I told Mom and Dad my suspicions. Both said they had seen little of the Andersons during the summer, but had no reason to think anything was wrong. "Maybe Keith just needed to get away from College Park to work through some problems."
That didn't make sense to me, but I said nothing.
When I asked about the last session of summer school, Mom said, "I don't know. I thought about forcing you to go to North Carolina for the rest of the summer. Your dad and I are going. Leaving tomorrow, if we can get ready."
"You mean you got off after all?" Mom and Dad both were due four plus weeks vacation time, but thought they were not going to be able to get it.
"Indeed we have," Mom said. I grabbed her about the waist and swung her around.
I called Mrs. Anderson to tell her we were going to North Carolina and asked her to give Keith the phone number there-we used dad's cell phone there--and asked for his number in Detroit. Mrs Anderson said Keith would have to call me because his auntie's number was being changed. She seemed evasive.
Having gotten back from baseball camp Saturday morning and packing for North Carolina the rest of Saturday, all three of us were pretty ragged out by 10:00 and headed for bed. I had just fallen asleep when the phone rang. I was still half asleep when Mom knocked on my door and said, "Tom, it's Keith."
I jumped out of bed and ran to phone. "Keith! Where are you, Man? What'sup?
"Tom, my brother, I don't have long, Got a pencil?"
"Listen. I'm going to give you a phone number. Call it tomorrow night at 8:00 sharp your time. Can you do that?"
"Don't know, Keith. We're leaving for North Carolina in the morning and may be on the road then."
"Can't use your Dad's cell phone?"
"Sure I can. I forgot that. Give me the number."
Keith gave me a number and when I was sure it was right I asked, "Keith, what's going on? Your mom won't tell me anything. All I get is vague answers. Mom and Dad say they don't know what's up."
"I don't either, Tom. Mom just called my granny's and said for me to pack and be ready to leave for Detroit. 'And tell no one, I mean no one,' she said, but told me nothing more. The next morning my Uncle Slim came to my granny's, told me we were leaving and he took me into town, handed me a ticket for Detroit and some money. I was on the way to Detroit an hour later and I still don't know why. Have you seen LaTasha, Tom?"
"Not since the first of the summer. Something wrong with her?"
"Tom, I don't know. I have written her everyday, but got no mail back. I have tried to call, but the phone here at auntie's has a long distance block and I don't know the code to make a long distance call. I did call from a public phone a couple times, but I got a message that her number was disconnected. Tom, Man, I'm going crazy. See if you can find out anything, ok?"
"Of course I will. Just hang in there. I'll call you tomorrow."
I didn't know what to do. How could Keith not be getting letters from LaTasha or call her for heaven sakes?"
I hung up the phone and started back down the hall when Mom opened her bedroom door and asked if everything was all right
"No, Mom, everything is not all right. I'm not even sure anything is right."
"Wanta talk?" she asked.
"Yeah, I do. As a matter of fact, yes, I do."
"Put the kettle on."
Talking when it was needed was a family ritual at our house. It happened seldom, but I suspect because it could happen, it wasn't needed often. I wasn't sure what would be involved in this talk, but I knew I needed my parents.
Before going downstairs, I went to my room and grabbed a robe--all I was wearing was a pair of boxers I had yanked on before going to the phone--then went to the kitchen and put on a fresh kettle of water, got out the cups and tea.
When Mom and Dad got downstairs, I said, "Sorry to get you up after a tiring day, but I really need some help here."
"No problem," Dad said.
Mom and Dad sat down at the breakfast nook table and I went to the kitchen and got the tea.
I took it in and sat down. "Mom, Dad, something is seriously wrong with Keith or with his situation." I then told them about the phone call. "Do you know anything about what's going on?"
Mom looked at Dad and then said, "Tom, maybe a little more than you know, but not a great deal. I met LaLisa in the grocery when I thought Keith would still be in south Georgia with her mother. She told me Keith was going to Detroit to spend some time--maybe the rest of the summer--with her sister Octavia. "We think it will be good for him to be away from LaTasha for awhile. She's a nice girl, good family--well, so far as we know--but they are definitely spending too much time together."
"'Well, LaLisa, you need to remember, absence makes the heart grow fonder,' I said."
"LaLisa laughed, slapped me on the shoulder and said, 'Girl, you got that right. Absence makes the heart grow fonder--for somebody else! That's how I got Alexander. His mama sent him to Macon to keep him away from some hot little thing in Albany, out of Albany into Macon where I was waiting! I snapped him up right quick!'You could have heard her two aisles over! I suspect that's what's going on."
I didn't know that," Dad said, "but isn't it strange, Rebekah? Unless I am mistaken I have heard both Alexander and LaLisa say some pretty harsh things about Octavia. I do know she lives in a really rough neighborhood. Maybe not the projects, but what amounts to about the same thing. I've heard Alexander say more than once Octavia was welcome here, but he was not going into her drug infested neighborhood. I'd think that would be the last place in the world they would want Keith to be. Son, I think you're right. Something's going on here."
"But why is LaTasha's phone disconnected? Why is she not answering his letters?" I asked.
"I don't know, Son," Dad said. "Maybe you can find out more when you call him tomorrow. Rebekah, no reason we can't postpone the trip to North Carolina a day is there?"
"None, none at all."
"Good. Maybe you can check up on LaTasha before Keith calls," Dad added. "Anything else?"
I guess Dad noticed I was stirring the tea leaves and staring into my empty cup. I wanted to talk about what had happened at camp, but I didn't want to either. I was afraid my parents would decide to do something drastic like sue the camp or have Shawn thrown in jail--"not a bad idea," I thought to myself. I realized I was depending on having Keith to talk to and that wasn't going to happen. Whatever was going on with Keith alone was enough to get me down and I didn't need the Shawn affair around my neck as well.
I didn't move my eyes from my tea cup as I said, "Mom, Dad, you know I'm gay and that means if I have a lover, it would be a male. Right?"
I glanced up quickly and saw my dad with a tiny smile on his face.
As I looked back into my cup he said, "I think your mom and I had pretty much figured that out, yes."
"For a long time when I thought about having sex, I dreamed of it being me and Keith. I realize now that what I felt for Keith was pupp--I started to say puppy love, but that's not so. I was as in love with him as anybody my age could be. Getting over loving him was hard, real hard. Even after I thought it was over, I'd see him sometimes and my heart would just about burst. I survived, but it wasn't easy. There were times I just wanted to go to sleep and not wake up."
I looked up and saw panic in both my parents' faces.
"Whoa, don't get upset. I said I HAD felt that way at times. I was pretty sure I was over loving Keith when we could be together all day and I didn't think about kissing him. I really knew I was over it when I saw him with LaTasha and how happy he was. Yeah, that was a sure cure for any left over ideas he might be gay."
"But there's one thing about my loving Keith that I did keep. I kept a very romantic idea about my first time, my first time having sex I mean, making love." I looked up again, hoping my parents knew what I was talking about.
"Good for you, Tom," Mom said. Dad nodded.
"I didn't know who he was or where he was, but somewhere there was a boy, a man, waiting for me as I was waiting for him. I was going to be a virgin for my first real love. But it's not going to be and my first time sure wasn't romantic, or good or anything except cheap. Tawdry. I remember that word from English," I smiled weakly. "Yeah, tawdry, that's what it was."
That did it. I had been angry at Shawn and busted him a couple. I had been angry at myself for being a fool. But now I was sick again, sick that my imagined beautiful first time was gone forever. I couldn't hold back any longer. I started crying as if my heart would break--as if it was broken and it was.
Both parents reached out and put their hands on my shoulders and just let me cry. Mom reached in to the napkin holder and got a couple napkins for me to wipe tears and snot. I needed a couple more before too long.
Every time I thought I had finished crying, I'd remember Shawn and Harold laughing about Shawn "popping my cherry." Even though he lied about fucking my ass, he had given me a blowjob and that was enough to win his bet. He got to fuck Harold because I was a pushover.
I finally got some control of myself and Mom picked up my cup and I nodded. While she poured us another cup of tea, I said to Dad, "Dad, I feel so cheap and dirty, but I also feel cheated. I feel robbed of something very precious."
Mom came back with our tea and as I stirred it I told the whole rotten story of what had happened at camp. I started by saying, "Mom, Dad, I want to tell you what happened, but you have to promise you'll do nothing without talking it over with me. I don't want you doing something as though I was all innocent. Ok?"
Mom and Dad nodded.
I poured out the whole story, leaving out nothing. Mom and Dad were taking it in stride pretty much--I was even a little surprised--so long as I was talking about the falls and what happened there. That was not true when I told them Shawn had seduced me to win a bet and the lie he told about what had happened. I could see Mom becoming very angry. Mom seldom gets angry, but when she does, she's been known to throw things. Dad is the opposite. The more angry he becomes, the quieter he gets and he was being VERY quiet.
When I finished my story, neither spoke. Finally Dad said, "Tom, first, no, I don't hold you entirely innocent for what happened at the falls. I know how difficult it is for a man to say 'no' when he's aroused. I guess it's fortunate that most men don't have to do that or we'd really be in a mess. I never thought about it before, but if two gay fellows are together and one doesn't want something to go beyond a point, it's a guy that has to say 'No'. I don't know that your mother would agree, but in my experience, it is always someone else, a woman, who has said 'No'."
I was surprised when I heard Mom say, "I remember that very well, very well."
Dad sorta cleared his throat. "Anyway, it's unfortunate it happened and particularly that it happened to someone so young--you're just fifteen. Had that been all that happened, I think I might have just called the director of the camp, told him he had a gay counselor who is predatory and let him deal with the whole issue. Shawn does not need to be in a position where he is a supposed leader of young men."
"That's a problem all teachers have to deal with. By their very position, they have power over students and if they cross the line, it is a very serious situation. All our gay teachers are sometimes, I think, too cautious, but as the incident last year at East River proves, maybe not so you don't get tarred with the same brush as the predators."
Last year a science teacher gulled eight seniors and juniors into a "scientific experiment" in which he video taped their being aroused by movies, fondling, etc. He is serving twenty-eight years in the pen as the result of one student being brave enough to say, "Yeah, he fondled me and jerked me off while I was telling myself it was all scientific research."
"Anyway, that is the very least that should happen. Do you agree?"
I nodded and said, "Yeah, I agree. Now that I think about it, the whole thing was too smooth. It was not on the spur of the moment."
"Certainly not," Mom said. "He had made a bet with this Harold fellow sometime before."
I hadn't thought about that. Shawn was planning on having sex with me EVEN before he asked me to go canoeing. "Dad, I've been stupid. I have been blaming myself for, maybe leading Shawn on. He was good looking and I did feel an attraction to him, but he was out to get me to--well, you know. I mean from the very beginning."
"Right. And in that Harold's equally as guilty. He was as much a part of the grand plan as Shawn."
"Dad, I didn't want anything terrible to happen to Shawn because I should have said 'no'. Laying aside the fact that Shawn had planned to have sex with me, I liked it. I really did. I'm kinda messed up about the whole thing. And had I not heard Harold and Shawn talking, I'd never thought anything about their having sex. I mean they are over eighteen and if they want to have sex, it's nobody's business. Right?"
"Actually, no, not in the state of Georgia. You never get old enough for gay sex to be legal in Georgia."
"And just who believes that nonsense?" I grinned. "Bet at least ten percent of the men in Georgia are illegal or wish they were."
Dad laughed and when Mom said, "Tom!" Dad said, "I suspect the young man is absolutely correct, excluding those of that ten percent who are past having sex--over a hundred...."
"Thomas, be serious!" Mom said, but I noticed she was grinning a little bit.
"A little joke helps," I said. "What do we do? I don't want my name spread all over the state of Georgia as a tramp who put out for the counselors. I know what kind of lies Shawn can spin. I heard him. Harold? I don't know that he is as smart as Shawn, but he sure won't play down any sort of sex story."
"I think we should call the camp director now, tonight," Mom said. "I have learned that bad situations are not improved by waiting. We tell him he has two counselors who are preying on campers, name them and have him yank them out of the camp tonight."
"And let him handle Shawn and Harold?"
"I'm not sure. What do you think Tom?"
"How can he do anything about their mouths--telling stories I mean?" I could feel my face burning with a blush as soon as I said, "their mouths."
"Do you want to face them? I wouldn't think that would be too pleasant, something you'd want to avoid," Mom said.
"I think I'd like to set Harold straight and see the fear of God thrown into both of them. I'd like to know that every time they thought about telling some cock tale they'd cringe."
"Thomas?" Mom asked.
"I think it's the boy's call," Dad said and looked at me.
"If Sarge, the director, can take care of the two, that's fine. If not, then I guess he and they have to be faced. Have him bring them up here if he's not convinced they should be black balled as camp counselors," I said. "I don't want them around any longer than I have to, but I do want to let them know how bad their lives can be made. But what if they deny the whole thing?"
"I'm sure they will," Mom said.
"I'm not so sure. Remember this was not something new for them. I think there might be enough stink to nail them to the wall if they try to deny anything. We'll just have to see."
Dad looked at me and asked, "That's it?"
"Yeah, that's it," I answered. "Mom, Dad, thanks. Really thanks."
"I wish I could save you from such hard knocks, Tom," Mom said. "Every mother worth her mama pin wishes she could keep her children safe from the raw side of the world, but we can't. Your dad is more of a romantic than I am, strange to say, but I, too wish you could have had a wonderful first night of expressing your love for someone who loved you deeply."
"I wish you could have gone to him as a virgin, and Tom, you can. I'm fool enough to believe that when your truly love someone and are loved by them in turn, it creates a purity. In giving yourself totally, you will be giving much, much more than Shawn could even have taken from you. Beautiful Child, when you find the one who loves you, he will know that, to him and for him, you are a virgin."
Before Mom was half through speaking, I felt large, hot tears streaming down my face, tears of pure wonder and joy.
When I looked up, Dad was standing in the kitchen door, holding the phone. "Sarge, sorry to get you out of bed at this hour, but I think you may have had your night's sleep. My wife and I have been sitting with our son, Tom, for some time now while he told us of an experience yesterday at camp...Yes, I know he punched one of the counselors. The only problem was he didn't do it the day before...Yes, I do know what I am talking about and I think you need to listen for a change...I don't care what time of night it is. One of your counselors seduced my son to win a bet then not only claimed the bet for seducing Tom, but also told a lie about having anal sex with him... Sarge, don't play dumb and dense with me. YOUR counselor Shawn claimed he fucked my son's ass...Yes, I thought you'd understand that...No, sending Shawn home is not enough. Unless you want your camp put out of business and your life ruined, you need to do something...I think you better just bring the two...Shawn and Harold...Yeah, Shawn seduced Tom to collect a bet he made with Harold. Yeah, both here in College Park at 9:00 sharp...It will be easy to locate us. Just stop by the police station and an officer will be happy to direct you...No, Sarge, there's nothing to talk about. It's late and I need my sleep."
"And just who is this Sarge?" Mom asked when Dad put the phone on the table.
"Sarge Martin. He's the camp director. Actually, he owns the camp. He's a retired Army NCO."
"NCO?" I asked.
"Noncommissioned Officer," Dad said. "Officer, right!" Dad said and reached for the the phone again. He walked on into the kitchen as he was dialing and didn't come back into the breakfast nook until he finished and when he did, he said, "About the police. I know the assault--technically I think that's what it's called, Tom--took place in Gray county and I suspect any legal action will have to take place there, but I hope it won't come to that, but I told Sarge to go by the police station for a reason-well, I didn't know it at the time, but I had a reason. I just called Officer Joe Turner at home, told him briefly what is going on and asked him if he could come by for breakfast and then meet the camp crowd and bring them over. He's actually off duty tomorrow, but not everyone needs to know that. He'll drop by for breakfast at 7:30 and to talk to you, Tom, and then go to the station and drive a cruiser over."
"Someone else who will know I am a fag," I said. "I may as well hang a sign around my neck."
"Tom, I think you'll like Joe. He's a Georgia good old boy in some ways, I guess, but there's a hell of a lot more to him than that would suggest. I had him in English his junior and senior years. His senior year his parents threw him out of his house and he was living in a homeless shelter. He had been there a couple weeks before Queen Joyce found out about it."
Queen Joyce was, and is, a counselor where Dad used to teach. I don't know that I ever knew her real name. She is large, black, suffers fools not at all and is a tiger protecting her cubs when it comes to her students. Apparently she had married--again or maybe he was number three or four, no one knew Queen Joyce's business--over the summer and the principal messed up her name as he was introducing her to the students. When he did, she stood up, sashayed across the stage and said, "You can just call me Queen Joyce." And Queen Joyce she was and is and is to come.
Dad continued, "As Joe told me later, 'Ain't no white boy got a mama any better than this honkie's Queen Joyce.' She had noticed Joe, who was guilty of almost terminal neatness, was disheveled and not too clean. When she asked him about it, he told her he had been put on the street. His old man had caught him kissing another boy who was, he said,'not only a cock sucking faggot, but also a god damn black nigger.' Anyway, Joe said Queen Joyce grabbed him, hugged him to her bosom--'almost smothered me with those big tits,' Joe had laughed. He lived with Queen until he finished high school and rounded up enough scholarships to go to Clayton State and get his degree in criminal justice."
"The boy he was kissing managed to get through high school before his parents found out he was gay and sent him packing. He and Joe got a place together, both worked full-time and went to school full-time until Trey, Joe's boyfriend, got very sick. The doctor allowed him to finish out the semester, but he had to quit work. Eventually, the two worked out an arrangement so they could go to school and work reasonable hours until they graduated a year or so ago. Son, I think one good thing may come out of all this. You'll get to know Joe and I can't think of a finer role model for a gay young man such as yourself."