Dad knocked on my door at 7:00 and reminded me breakfast was at 7:30. I tossed on my robe and went to the bathroom where I quickly showered and shaved--I had to start shaving when I was fourteen; and now that I was on my way to sixteen, I had to shave everyday unless I wanted to grow a beard, which I had given some thought. When I finished, I got dressed in record time and headed downstairs.
The doorbell rang as I reached the bottom of the stairs. "I've got it," I called since I was right at the front door. Opening the door, I stood facing a BIG police officer. I don't mean big fat, I mean big as in muscles. You don't see a build like that very often. Rarely would be more like it. He was blond, blue eyed, tanned with a high and tight haircut and a uniform which had to be tailored, maybe even while he was in it! I bet most of the girls in his high school class pitched a fit when they learned he was not interested.
"Mr. McCarter?" he asked in his soft Georgia voice.
"Tom McCarter, Officer."
"Joe Turner, Tom."
I reached out to shake his hand and said, "Come on in. Breakfast is waiting."
Joe stepped inside and as he did he said, "Tom, you've got balls, Man, thank goodness."
"Joe, good to see you again," Mom said as we walked into the breakfast nook. "You need to stop by occasionally. How's Trey?"
"Yeah, I think about dropping in when I come by, but it's usually when you folks are gone. Trey's doing great. Just got a promotion. He's now a regional supervisor for track maintenance of the Southern, assigned to tracks from Atlanta to Macon. Of course, he's still right out there working with his crew so he's staying in shape. Kidded him about going soft when he started supervising. He could probably have a desk job by now, but has an agreement with the vice president in charge of track maintenance. Trey would quit in a heartbeat of they tried to move him inside."
"And Queen Joyce?"
Joe started laughing and could hardly get stopped so he could speak. "Sorry about that, but Queen Joyce is an officer in Alpha Kappa Alpha--the black women's sorority. They recently had a big do in the ballroom of the Nikko Hotel. Queen Joyce gave me orders to get dressed in a formal uniform-as though I had one-and told Trey "You rent a nice conservative tux.' Of course, Trey had no trouble renting a formal outfit, there are formal rental places in every mall. It took awhile and a lot of shopping before I found something which might pass as a formal College Park police uniform. Queen had said, "You two get yourselves as beautiful as you can and be ready. I'll pick you up.' She arrived-on time for a change--in a limo--all dolled up in eye-twisting shades of the sorority's colors, pink and green. Queen was dressed in yards and yards of hot pink and dayglo lime green."
"When we got downtown turns out this party was for members and their children. One of the ladies guarding the door reminded Queen Joyce that, 'only children of members are invited, not friends."
Already Mom and Dad were having a hard time controlling their laugher.
"The doorkeeper asked, pointedly, 'These young men are just friends, aren't they?' Queen Joyce drew herself up to her full height said, 'Hell no! They my boys.' The other lady asked, 'Adopted?' Queen fastened her eye on the woman and said, 'Certain not! They be mine. Twins. A hard delivery. Like to have lost the black one, but he growed up right well. White one growed up well too, just a little light in the skin for me, but you love'em the way they come.' Queen then licked a finger, reached up and started smoothing my hair with her wet finger as though I had hair long enough to get out of place and as she did said, 'Son, never can get that hair to behave.' Now when Trey wants to get my goat, he licks a finger and does the hair bit."
"Needless to say, Trey and I were standing there about to bust trying to keep from laughing, wondering what Queen Joyce would do next. As we walked into the ballroom, she did that language switch thing she does--from street to drawing room--and said, 'I'll never understand why some African-Americans think they are a cut above regular folk when they get a little bit of power. Doorkeeper at a black sorority's do. Now that is a job which is going to save the world.' Yeah, Queen's in fine form. She'll be moving in with us soon."
"To live?" Mom asked.
"Yes, ma'am. Trey and I are closing on that big yellow brick house on the corner of Rugby and College next week. We wanted Queen to move in with us, but she refused. "Don't want you in my business and I sure don't want to mess in yours,' she said and really put her foot down. Trey couldn't budge her until we took a good look at the house and discovered how easy it would be to have a mother-in-law suite. The contractor will do that before anything else and promises it will be finished within four weeks. That way, as Queen says, 'You won't be in my business and I won't be in yours, so long as you behave.' Queen will have thirty-five years in this year and may retire. She's diabetic, you know, and only recently has it under control so we want her where we can look after her."
"I'm not sure Fulton county schools can survive without the Queen," Dad said.
"I know two former Fulton county students who would agree."
I supposed I should eat, but wasn't very hungry because my stomach kept getting tied in knots. Nerves. When we finished, Mom told us to go to the living room and she'd bring coffee. When we were seated, Joe turned to me and said, "Tom, your dad told me briefly what had happened last night on the phone, but how about you giving me the whole story."
I sighed and started from the beginning--from the fact that Shawn got me all hot and bothered the first time I saw him--to my talking with Mom and Dad last night. Joe asked a question now and then, but mostly just let me talk.
When I finished he asked, "You wiped Shawn's semen from your face with a pair of shorts?" I nodded. "I hope you still have them, unwashed."
"I do, only because there was so much going on when I got home."
"We'll need them," Joe said.
I got the shorts and just seeing them made me sick.
When I got back downstairs, Joe said, "You know I have diddly-squat authority in regards to what happens in Gray county, but since you just want to make sure Shawn and Harold don't seduce another young fellow in camp and keep their mouths shut, I think I can bluff them by APPEARING to have some authority. I suspect Sarge will keep his mouth shut because he could be in deep doo-doo with the state if this ended up in court. After a scandal a few years ago at a Caroll country camp for troubled youth some pretty strict laws governing camps were passed."
"It has very little to do with the present situation, Tom, but I hope you'll drop by the station or house if you want to talk. Being gay in high school is not easy." I remembered his story and nodded. It sure was easier for me than it had been for him, but I still had three years to go. "And, it occurs to me, we'll soon be neighbors when we get moved into the Rugby house. It's only across the park and four, five blocks up the street.
The phone rang and when Mom answered, she called from the kitchen, "The camp crowd is at the station."
Joe said, "I'll run over and lead them here. When they arrive, we'll play it by ear," Joe said. "Tom, just relax. I'll be right back."
A few minutes later Dad said, "I see a car pulling up behind the cruiser so I suspect Sarge and the boys have arrived."
When the three got inside, introductions made and everyone seated, Sarge said, "Mr. McCarter, I have talked with my two counselors about the accusations Tom made against them and they realize how serious the charges are. They are very aware of the damage such accusations could do to their lives. I, of course, am aware of the damage such accusations can do to my camp. I'm sure there's been a misunderstanding and we can get the matter cleared up quickly. I am concerned that you have the police here, though. Even if something illegal did happen at camp, it is in Gray county."
"You misunderstand, sir," Joe said. "I am here on behalf of the Georgia gay law officers. Since I am stationed here, it saved a middle Georgia gay officer from having to drive up."
"The Georgia Gay Law Officers? Association, League, what?" I thought. When I looked at Joe he winked and I thought, "Joe has just invented an organization, but actually, he only said the Georgia gay law officers. He certainly didn't say anything about an official organization. Suggest it, maybe-suggest it, yes, say it--no"
"Oh" Sarge said, and continued, "Mr. McCarter, I can understand your being upset when your son told you a story about camp, a story about events which I have difficulty believing occurred and which my two counselors have denied. I don't know why your son might have made up such a story, a story which could damage these two young men for the rest of their lives, not to mention the damage it could do to the camp." I think Sarge was talking fast, hoping he could create a large smoke screen for him and his counselors to hide behind.
"Sarge, I think before we give the two accused an opportunity to tell their side of the story it would be helpful for them to understand just HOW damaged the rest of their lives could be. You are right. What they have done could, indeed, ruin the rest of their lives. I am sure you are well aware of what the two are facing if their guilt is established."
"Fellows," Joe turned to the two and said, "Given Tom's age and your age, the one of you who had sex with Tom committed statutory rape. See, given Tom's age, he cannot have consensual sex with either of you. In fact, here in Georgia, there is no such thing as consensual male with male sex. Statutory rape is good for ten to twenty years in prison unless I am mistaken. That's for starters."
"Georgia also has a sodomy law for which you can be sent to prison for up to ten years for engaging in oral or anal sex-Georgia law calls both sodomy. You may think Georgia has no right in your bedroom, and I agree, but it's the law's here and was upheld by the US Supreme Court a few years ago. Besides, you two weren't exactly in your bedroom. For the moment, even leaving Tom out of the equation, you've got ten years each on that score. But that's not all is it? Didn't one of you claim to have had anal sex with Tom? Shawn, I believe. Sodomy--that's ten years for Harold and twenty for Shawn. And we're just getting started."
Joe turned to Sarge and said,"Sarge, here's a tie-in with the camp you might think about. As your employees--counselors--Shawn and Harold were in positions of authority over minors-campers--including Tom. As their supervising employer, you can be held responsible for their actions."
Turning back to the two counselors, Joe continued, "The state is concerned about those in authority using that authority to secure sexual favors. I think the initial concern was for prison guards and law officials, but the law has wider application. We have a former Fulton county teacher serving twenty-eight years for becoming sexually involved with students under that very law." Joe turned to Sarge again and said, "I'm not sure exactly what the penalty for the camp might be, Sarge," then turned to the two young men and said, "The counselor at the falls--Shawn I believe--could get twenty to forty years of jail time added to what he has already racked up."
I thought I saw Harold give Shawn a smug look which quickly faded as Joe continued. "Well, actually, neither of you get off. It is my understanding that the two of you actually entered into a wager, a bet. That,too, is, of course, a violation of another Georgia law with a small penalty so we can ignore it for our purposes. HOWEVER, the wager was that one of you would seduce Tom and become involved with him sexually. Since the two of you agreed on the wager, you were, in fact, conspiring to commit a felony. Actually two felonies. One to have sex with Tom and one to pay off the bet with sodomy. Conspiracy carries a very heavy penalty and may even have you ending up in federal as well as state court. Conservatively I estimate you two face somewhere between fifty and a hundred years in prison."
I had been watching Sarge as well as the two counselors as Joe reeled off the charges and he was shaking his head, looking at Harold and Shawn from time to time. It was clear to me that if he could be convinced of what had happened, Shawn and Harold were in deep doo-doo.
"Well, Mr. Turner, what you say is probably true, I don't know about that, but as I see it, at best this is a serious case of he says, they say. There are two young men denying everything and only one boy accusing them, a boy who, I assume, admits he's gay and two straight counselors who have never had a blemish on their record the three years they have been counselors in my camp," Sarge said with more conviction that I thought his face indicated.
"Then I guess there's no way out except court," Joe said. "I suspect just the accusations in court would do damage to the camp, but it's a bit more than just he say, they say," Joe said as he reached down beside his chair and tossed my cum-stiff shorts on the coffee table. "I'm sure all three of you know about DNA evidence and those shorts, which Mrs. McCarter can certainly identify as Tom's in addition to the fact they have his name inside--following camp regulations. The spots are dried semen, Shawn's semen and that can be identified beyond a shadow of a doubt. I guess court it is. That means your camp goes down the tubes and these two fellows become guests of the state of Georgia for the rest of their lives or until they are very, very old men."
Shawn and Harold had been very smug since they walked in the door. They had sat quietly, looking at their nails, generally looking bored and uninterested, but that suddenly changed.
"Wait a fucking minute!" Harold shouted, jumping up so quickly his chair shot out behind him. He had absolutely no color, was trembling and shaking and looked as if he would collapse any minute. "It was just a bet. Shawn said Tom set off his gaydar and and he would like to get him in bed. I said, 'Yeah, wouldn't we all.' Shawn said, "Bet you a good fuck I'll have him before this session of camp is over.' That's it. When he came back from rowing up the river, he said 'I had him.'"
"Harold, shut your big mouth," Shawn said, but the damage had been done.
"I think he has said too much already," Sarge said. "Shawn, speak up. What part of what Tom reported is not true."
"All of it. Every bit of it."
"Including what Harold has just admitted?" Sarge asked.
"Well, Harold and I did play around a little, but that's it."
"And when those shorts are tested, they'll not find your DNA?"
"Well, they might. I mean I did go swimming with Tom, but that's all."
"Explain how your cum got on his shorts swimming, Shawn. I'd like to hear that," Harold said. "Why do you keep lying? You even lied about having sex with Tom, about fucking him, you know that. Sarge, I'll testify against that liar if I can escape jail."
"Nobody's going to jail," Shawn said. "Just shut up."
Joe sat, looking at Shawn--that would have been enough to scare me into confessing anything--and Sarge and Harold had him pegged as well.
Joe finally spoke,"Harold, you are a wise man. Shawn is not only a jerk, but also stupid. You know that shiner Shawn has came from Tom's fist and you know why. Mrs. McCarter, give Harold a pen and paper, if you would. Harold, write out all you know about what happened and your involvement. Sign and date that, then at the bottom, state you'll not be in a position of authority over minors and specifically you will not serve as a camp counselor, for five years and that you will testify against Shawn in court should that be necessary. All with the understanding that you will not be charged with the crimes associated with this incident so long as you do not reveal anything about this agreement or the incident. Sign and date that."
Mom handed Harold a pad and pen and he went to the dining table and started writing.
"Sarge, I want a statement from you that the two will not serve in any camp for the next five years. I think you can handle that through your professional organization." Sarge nodded and Mom handed him a pad and pen and he joined Harold.
"You know something, Shawn, with that pair of shorts and Harold's statement, I could lock you up right now and then call the Gray county authorities to come and get you. So far as I am concerned, gay or straight is never a problem or issue until some jerk makes it one. You took from a kid a precious thing. You took from him the wonderful experience of losing his virginity in an act of beautiful, loving sex. His parents might have, but I wouldn't have objected to what you did--illegal as it was--if you had meant what you said and given him a beautiful first experience, but you didn't. You took what could have been a wonderful memory and turned it into a nightmare. I'm going to take great delight in seeing your ass in jail where, by the way, it will likely be welcomed by some of the other residents."
"Give me a fucking pad and pen," Shawn said, standing up.
"Will a regular one do?" Mom asked in her "I'm just a dumb southern girl" voice. Shawn grabbed the pen and paper, sat down at the table and started writing.
Fifteen minutes later the three were ready to leave for what I was sure would not be a pleasant ride back to middle Georgia. As they walked out the front door, I heard Sarge say, "You two better find someone to come and get you because I'll give you fifteen minutes to get packed and off the property when we get back."
"Impressive, Joe," Dad said.
It was almost lunch when the camp crowd left and Dad asked Joe if he was free to go to lunch.
"Sure, I'm off-duty today," chuckled.
"If you pulled off what you did off-duty, you must really be something when you are on duty," I laughed, feeling like I had just gotten out from under a cloud.
"Have you been to the new place on Main Street?" Dad asked. "I have heard it is exceptional."
"That's what I have heard as well, but I haven't been," Joe said.
"Then we need to check it out," Dad said.
"Before I leave, I need to return the cruiser" Joe said. "Tom, like to ride along?" I nodded. "Pick us up at the station if you would," the officer said.
"See you there," Dad responded.
When we got into the cruiser, Joe said, "So, how do you feel about being gay, Tom."
"Guess I haven't given it a lot of thought-about how I feel about it I mean. Mom and Dad were easy with it. Well, I think they were concerned about the problems just being gay can cause for me, but otherwise, they are supportive."
"Yeah, I sure saw that today. Lot different from my experience."
"Dad told me about that. I don't know if I could cope without Mom and Dad. Well, I could, but it wouldn't be easy. I did have a rough time when my best friend found out. I was in love with him and he is straight. But we decided our friendship was worth saving and we're ok now."
"Setting aside what happened afterwards, you did like playing around with Shawn?"
I could feel my face turn red and said, "Yeah."
"I sure hope so! Sex is great! It'll be better than you can hope or dream when you are with someone you love. I think it might get better the longer you are with a lover. It has for me and Trey. Well, here we are and there's your Mom and Dad. Tom, I meant what I said about your giving me a call if you need to talk. Trey would say the same. I certainly hope you'll come by when we get moved in. Maybe Trey and I can help make being gay not just not bad, but even good. You're gay and I'd like to know you see that for the beautiful thing it is just as I hope straights see being straight as a beautiful thing and that gay and straight both see their sexuality as gift. End of lecture," Joe said.
I smiled and said, "Thanks, Joe. Thanks a million."
Dad picked us up and went to the new restaurant, Bistro on Main Street. In spite of the temperature--it was a typical summer day in College Park--we decided to eat outside. Shortly after we were seated a really good looking guy a few years older than I came to take our drink orders and as he walked away, Joe leaned over and whispered, "How do you like the view on Main Street?"
I could feel my face burning and knew it was bright red, I finally was able to whisper back, "Like most everything in College Park, a bit old, but obviously well-built. Definitely worth a second look."
Joe laughed and said, "I like you, Kid." I didn't say it, but the feeling was mutual.
After lunch, I tried to call LaTasha, but as Keith had said, I got a message that the number was disconnected. I told Mom I was going to see if I could find out what was up, got on my bike and rode the two miles to LaTasha's apartment. I sure hoped someone was home because I could use a tall glass of water to replace what I had lost riding a bike mid-afternoon in a Georgia summer.
I saw someone at the front window of her apartment as I rode up, but when I rang the bell, no one came to the door. I rang the bell again and heard movement inside, but still no one came to the door. I rang again, then thinking the bell might not be working--not working? I heard it when I pushed the button--I knocked on the door and then again, louder. Still no one came. I finally gave up and left.
About half way home I decided I'd whip by the Andersons to see if anyone was home and would shed some light on the situation.
I rang the bell and a few minutes later saw Mrs. Anderson coming to the door. She peeked out through the sheer curtains covering the glass side panels before opening the door. She said "Good to see you, Tom," but didn't ask me in and stood in the door, making it clear I was not wanted inside.
"Mrs. Anderson, I wanted to find out about Keith. I expected him to be back this weekend. He's still in Detroit?"
"Yes, he is Tom and is probably going to start school there...."
"Could I get his address? His phone number? I'd like to talk with him."
"He can't be reached by phone and if you want to write him, bring me the letter and I'll mail it."
"Is there something wrong, Mrs. Anderson?" I asked, not being able to think of anything else to say. Obviously there was.
"Keith has some personal problems he has to work through and he is in a place where he is free to do that," she said. "We hope he can come back after Christmas. Good to see you, Tom," she said and closed the door.
As I pedaled my way home, my mind was racing. I couldn't imagine what kind of problem Keith had that required his being away from College Park all summer and fall. When I told Mom and Dad, neither of them had any idea either.
We had just put the last load into the car and the pickup when I remembered I had promised to call Keith at 8:00. I glanced at my watch and saw it was 7:56. I ran into the house and upstairs to my room where I got the number I had written down last night. I don't have a phone in my room and didn't want to go into Mom and Dad's room, so I went downstairs, picked up the kitchen phone and dialed.
The phone was picked up on the first ring and I said, "Keith? Tom."
"Thank God you called Tom. You were my last hope."
"Tom, I'll try to make this quick since I may have to run-literally-any minute. I am hidden here in Detroit, but I don't know how much longer I can stand it or will be hidden. I am in constant danger and don't know how I can escape. Have you seen LaTasha?"
I told Keith about trying to see her and the outcome. I also told him how his mother acted. "Keith, what's going on?"
"Tom, when we got back from that camp in north Georgia, I spent that week in College Park, then went to Albany for my usual summer stay with my grandmother. While I was there, LaTasha's brothers were trying to join a gang...."
"In College Park? Keith be serious."
"Not in College Park, East Point."
"Same difference, Keith. College Park or East Point, we are still talking small town Georgia."
"No, metro Atlanta, Tom. I know folk from College Park and East Point like to pretend they are out of the big bad city, but face it, those two towns are really part of Atlanta. But never mind."
"East Point has a lot of Latinos moving into the low cost housing there. As soon as a unit becomes vacant, another family moves in. Well, some of those families come complete with gang members right out of LA. Seeing that, the blacks in the projects and section eight apartments feel they are being run out of their own space. They had some local 'gangs', but they wanted 'the real thing with fire power,' I was told."
"You know how some kids are on a treadmill from Atlanta to Detroit to Chicago to...well, you know the drill. They live with one 'auntie' until she can't take them any more and ships them on to the next. I heard your dad say his school has a thirty percent turn over each semester because of such. That means College Park and East Point have teens who know about gangs all over the country. Some of those "living with auntie" kids were probably members of gangs. Anyway, the locals had to have their own "real gangs with fire power" and recruiters from LA's and Chicago's black ghettos were only too happy to oblige. They arrived in force some time ago."
"LaTasha's step-brothers are fifteen and seventeen and had been gang wannabes since their first trip to juvie for torturing dogs and cats when they were eight and ten--before they knew anything about gangs beyond TV. They've been in and out of juvie court ever since, often being home for less than a month between stays in the juvenile detention center. LaTasha's stepfather beat them, but it only made them worse and certainly didn't stop their getting in trouble. In fact, they got worse and he got jailed for child abuse. Nice situation, right?"
I was stunned and said so. "Keith, LaTasha is such a nice person. All this doesn't make sense."
"Surprised me as well," Keith said. "I was even more surprised that kind of stuff could be going on and my not know about it. Anyway, to make a long story short since, as I said, I may have to hang up and run any minute, there was an incident in East Point and I got fingered by the boys' gang."
"Fortunately, I was in Albany when it happened and got shipped straight up here. I'm still in the dark about what happened and why I was marked for-what?--more than a good beating I am sure. So here I am in Detroit and I can tell you, things are not any better here except no one's targeted me-yet. I live with Aunt Octavia and her two boys in the projects. I'd be afraid to go out at night even if I didn't think there might be someone from the Chicago-East Point gang looking for me. For all practical purposes, I'm a prisoner. Think there is anyway you could help me out? Get me some place safe before I crack up?"
"Keith, we got to get you to North Carolina. We're leaving for there tomorrow-or maybe even tonight-and staying until time for school to start. Any ideas on how you might escape?"
"I don't have time for details, but I think I could get downtown to the bus station-I know I can after everyone is in bed-probably around four or five in the morning. Auntie will be asleep and the cousins won't be back from tom catting then. But once I get there, what then? I have no money, nothing."
"If there was a way we could get the money to you, Mom and Dad would help."
"There's a way. Western Union. Dad had to bail a cousin out of a tight spot several times. He calls it wiring money. I know I have seen Western Union stickers just about everywhere. I am almost positive there is one at the bus station. If not...."
"Let's assume there is and if not, call from the bus station, collect. So get to the station, get the money and buy a ticket to Asheville. Take the next bus leaving heading in that direction. If you have a lay over, make it somewhere else; don't hang around Detroit. Got a pen and something to write on?"
I gave Keith Dad's cell phone number. "Call at your first rest stop and we'll meet you at the Asheville bus station. Oh, if Western Union uses a password, it'll be East Point Tom. Think you can manage all that?"
"I'll sure as hell try. I owe you big time, my brother." I heard what might have been a car backfire-or a shot--and Keith said, "I got to run!"
Keith didn't hang up, just dropped the phone and seconds later I heard what I definitely thought were shots. I really wondered what Keith had gotten himself into.