Keith was unusually quiet as we rode toward Hattiesburg, Derrick driving. Earlier he had called the motel and talked to Janice. She told him she'd reserve us a room and that she got off at five. Keith invited her to a swim and dinner afterward and she accepted.
It was a few minutes before five when we arrived and Keith went to check in. Janice had given us a two room suite with a living room area and a bedroom. The bedroom had two king size beds and there was a pullout bed in the sofa. When Keith saw it he said, “No way, Jose. If you two can't sleep together without jump fucking, you'll just have to let me watch. I am NOT going to sleep on a pullout torture rack!”
“Jump fucking?” Derrick asked.
I laughed. A baseball teammate from our freshman year had come to practice one day all bleary-eyed and actually dropped off to sleep while the coach was talking. “Yeager, what's the problem?” Coach asked.
“Coach, Ruth, who lives in the apartment above us, just let her boyfriend move in with her and they have been jump fucking. You know, she lays on the bed and he climbs on the chandelier and jumps. Jump fucking.” All three of us had the teenage giggles before Keith had finished.
“Well, I think I have a date,” Keith said, as he undressed and pulled on his swimsuit. I couldn't believe it when he was whistling before he had completely undressed. Suited up, he grabbed a towel and said, “See you two at the pool--before dark.”
Keith was barely out the door before Derrick asked, “Tom, I hadn't noticed Keith wearing a ring before. Did he and LaTasha have matching rings?”
“Derrick, this is going to sound crazy, but it's the truth. No, they did not have matching rings. Keith found hers in a pawn shop one afternoon when we were just browsing around. Keith wasn't wearing a ring when he went to LaTasha's grave and the Micheaux brothers said LaTasha was wearing it when she talked to them. It's spooky as hell, but I can see no other explanation other than LaTasha gave Keith her ring this afternoon.”
“Right or wrong on that point, it's spooky all right.”
Derrick wrapped me in his arms and as he kissed me, I felt as though a real load was lifted off my shoulders and I was tired. “It has been a long, long, strange day, Lover,” I said.
“It has indeed. I'm pretty bushed too.”
“So am I,” but not TOO bushed,“ I said. We lay on the bed and I guess our tiredness and the emotional strain of the day accounted for the slow and easy love making which followed.
An hour after he had gone to the pool, we joined Keith. He and Janice were tossing a ball back and forth in the shallow end of the pool. When she saw us, Janice waved and motioned to Keith and the two got out of the pool.
“Like something to drink?” Janice asked and both Derrick and I nodded. She walked to a cooler sitting on a bench and came back with two cokes. “Keith tells me you three had quite an adventure today.”
“I guess we did,” Derrick answered. “I'm not sure what we did or were involved in today.”
“You know Pearl River county is next to Louisiana and a lot of the beliefs and practices of that part of the world are to be found in the country where you were today. Best thing to do is just accept it. Otherwise, you'll drive yourself nuts.”
“Ok, but I really would like to know one thing,” Derrick said. “Keith, I'd like to know where you got the ring. Both Micheaux brothers said they had TALKED to LaTasha and said she was wearing that ring or one like it. They described it perfectly. Did LaTasha give it to you today?”
“She did,” Keith said. “I know she did, but I was kinda sitting by her grave talking to her as if she was there and then, suddenly, I was sure she was kneeling beside me. We talked and she told me she had released all the pain and hatred her step-brothers had caused in her and she was at peace now. She talked to me about my life and my need to get on with it. We talked for what seemed like hours, then she kissed me and disappeared. I felt as if all the pain and anger I had felt vanished and then I saw the ring, lying on the stone marking her grave. Make of that what you will.”
“I'd say LaTasha appreciates the love you gave her and have for her, but she wants you alive and living” Janice offered.
“I think you're right,” Keith said. “Now it's six-thirty. How about another swim and then Janice is taking us to a swanky place she knows about for dinner.”
“Yeah, swanky, don't know where he got that,” Janice laughed.
“I suspect Keith is just blinded by your beauty...”
“Wow, why didn't I think of that?” Keith said.
“Because you are too conceited,” Derrick answered. “Anyway, Janice, if we are going to a swanky place, we hardly have clothes for it.”
“You'll do,” she answered.
We swam and played in the pool for about an hour and then went to the room to get dressed.
“You have found one classy lady,” Derrick said and he gave Keith a bop on the arm. “Too bad she's in Mississippi and you're headed for North Carolina.”
“Besides, she's too old for you,” I said. “She's a college woman and you are a high school boy.”
“Rising junior MAN,” Keith said. “And what's with this boy shit?”
Derrick was ready to jump to my defense and I knew it so I said, “Hold it, Derrick. I know the taboo against calling an AFRICAN-AMERICAN boy.” Derrick relaxed. “Keith and I have had fun with the boy bit since we were three, I think. I called him a boy and he objected—neither or us had the slightest idea why—and I said, 'If you're not a boy, what are you?' Old Keith was at a loss and finally said, 'I'm a girl.' Been a joke with us ever since.”
“You know, at times I am jealous of you, Keith, because you know so much more of the man I love than I do and at other times I am jealous of both of you because you have been friends for years. Tom asked me once if I had ever been in love and I had to say no. I mean before I fell in love with him. He asked about having a friend, a real friend, I had to say no to that question as well. Same with your families. Sure, Tom will get a talking to when he gets back, but there'll never be any question but what that's because his parents love him. Yours love you too, Keith.”
“Guess we need to be reminded how lucky we are from time to time,” Keith said.
We at least had clean clothes and when we were dressed, we went to the lobby to meet Janice. She was dressed in a simple summer outfit, but like everything else she had been wearing, looked wonderful in it. Bet Keith really did wish he was older.
We put the top down and turned the stereo up, but not excessively loud and drove through the streets of Hattiesburg in the early evening. Janice was showing us the town and we were, all four, having a good time. I kept thinking, “Keith is born again.”
Finally she directed us back to the motel “so you can get your bearings as I won't be coming back with you” and then we headed back to town. Janice was insisting Keith write down every turn so we could find our way back.
We finally pulled into a street that reminded me of College Park. The houses were about the same vintage—just post-WWII. “Turn in the next drive,” she said as we crossed an intersection.
“This is a restaurant?” Keith asked.
“Not at all,” Janice laughed. “It's my granny's house. She raised Josh and me after our mother died in childbirth and our father left for parts unknown. He drank himself to death some years later, but we never knew him. I told granny about you three and she said, 'Bring them to dinner tonight. I'll try to make it swanky,' so here we are.”
Mrs. La Fayette was a woman, I'd guess in her sixties, very attractive. It was easy to see where Janice and Josh got their good looks. She made us feel like honored guests very quickly.
Over dinner we learned she had been principal of an elementary school, so she and I had things to talk about. She was also very interested in the car. When Derrick told her it had been a real eyesore when he first saw it, she was very interested in the fact that all three of us were in a science-math program, honors students and still took vocational classes. Keith told her the difficulty we had in getting to do that.
After dinner we moved to a screened porch overlooking a well-manicured lawn and beautiful, if small, garden. When Keith and Janice went to serve coffee, Mrs. Lafayette said,”Maybe you can get to see Josh and Janice this fall. They will be at Spelman and Morehouse.”
“I thought they were in college already,” I said, “since they have summer internships.”
“No, they both graduated this past spring, but as your school is math and science magnets, they managed to get into a hospitality industry sponsored program in their high school. They got the internships on the recommendation of their sponsor.”
I glanced at Derrick and we both got a sly grin on our face. Old Keith may have really lucked out and not known it.
When we got ready to leave, we thanked Mrs. Lafayette for a wonderful evening and Derrick and I walked to the car. Keith and Janice came behind us and I noticed they were holding hands. When they reached the car, Janice gave Keith a quick kiss and said, “Goodnight, Keith. Sleep well and maybe we'll meet again.”
Keith got in the car and as we drove off, said, “Man, that is some woman!”
Janice had told Keith she would be at Spelman in the fall and said she would call him.
“Keith, she is a college freshman, you're a rising high school junior. Don't you think she's a little old for you?” Derrick asked.
“Hey, if I said I'm twenty-four and she's twenty-six, would you be saying that?”
“Yeah, I can see your point, but you're going on seventeen and she's going on nineteen. Hummm, even that doesn't sound too bad; but you're in high school and she's in college, that does sound like there's a real difference.”
“Well, I have seen her twice and she said, without actually saying it, 'Don't call me, I'll call you, ' so we'll see.”
I called Mom and Dad and talked to them for a good long time. I told them what we had found out, but not the spooky part. I assured them we were getting to bed and getting a good night's sleep before we took off in the morning. Dad suggested since we were traveling anyway we take in sights if we saw something worthwhile. “We'll see you when you get here,” he said.
I suggested Keith talk with his parents as well, but he was reluctant. Finally he said he would if he didn't have to talk with his dad. “You know how he is,” Keith said and I nodded as I had seen Mr. Anderson go off at the snap of a finger. He always apologized and after he had gone off over Keith having a pistol, had gone in to an anger management program.
We finally agreed Derrick would call Keith's place and get his mom on the phone before turning it over to Keith. Turns out that was not necessary as she answered the phone and she and Keith talked for well over an hour.
When Keith finally hung up, he said, “I didn't realize it, but Mom and Dad had both been concerned about my mental health. Even more surprising, it was Dad who noticed it first and talked to Mom. They planned to get me in counseling as soon as I got back to Callypack,” using the run together way College Park often sounded among uneducated residents. “May still do that, but don't think it's really necessary.”
The trip back to Chattanooga took almost exactly the same amount of time as did the trip from it to Hattiesburg had. Keith was driving first and simply set the car on seventy-nine and kept her there. Derrick did the same when he took over after lunch.
When we reached Chattanooga, we decided we would take in the Tennessee Aquarium. Man, it was great. We all found it especially so since the whole exhibition started with the mountains of Appalachia and ended when the rain from the mountains found it's way into the Gulf of Mexico. Derrick was certainly in no rush to leave the mountain exhibit since he began to make connections with our place in North Carolina.
Keith drove again until we got to Ocoee. We stopped at the visitors center and walked around a bit. I had always been fascinated by the whole TVA project and the Ocoee power stations were part of it. Now the dams, river and lake serve a new purpose. They are prime recreational areas. In fact the 1996 Olympic white water sports were held there, miles from Atlanta.
With our stops in Tennessee it was almost 11:00 when we turned into the drive to our mountain place.
Mom and Dad greeted us warmly, but I knew that was an expression of their love for the three of us and not a way of saying all is well. Supper was great since our trip to Mississippi wasn't mentioned but as soon as we had eaten and the table cleared, Mom put the kettle on. I knew what that meant. As soon as it was hot enough, we all made a mug of tea and went outside and sat on the porch.
The air was so clear the stars looked as if you could touch them. The night sounds which ordinarily sounded so peaceful now seemed to be anything but peaceful.
As soon as we were seated, Keith said, “Mr. and Mrs. McCarter, I know you were very upset with Tom for driving to Mississippi and I can understand that. Maybe if you had been here, you would have seen what he and Derrick saw and told him to go, I don't know. But I'm not exaggerating, Tom saved my life—again.” Keith then talked for half an hour or more with the only interruptions being those seconds when he stopped to sip his tea.
Keith finally wound down and just before he finished, he said, “Maybe, Mr. and Mrs. McCarter, you have a son more adult than we thought.”
Dad agreed and said, “Not sure his mom would agree, but the truth of the matter is, had Tom asked permission, it would not have been given, so if the trip to Mississippi was necessary, I can't argue with you all going. Given the outcome, I can't say anything about it was wrong. I would like for all three of you to think about what might have happened had there been an accident.” Mom nodded in agreement and that was it.
Time for bed, Keith went to the guest room and closed the door without commenting on the fact that he felt ok with being alone. I was very glad I wasn't in bed alone and let Derrick know that.
Mom and Dad didn't leave until Monday morning early and the three of us had another week in Carolina before we had to go back. I never used all my cell phone minutes and since they rolled over, I had a pile of them at the beginning of the week and none by the time I got home. Derrick said the same call was made so many times the telephone dialed the number as soon as someone picked it up. Keith talked to Janice every morning for at least an hour and she called him and talked equally as long each night.
Baseball camp was pretty much a bust. If I had been most kids parents, I would have demanded my money back. After the first two days, the camp was overrun with scouts looking at Derrick and three other guys. It would be two years before Derrick could consider going professional and while the other three were a year older, they were still too young for scouts. The rest of the camp was a kind of backdrop for the four.
Derrick was really angry and at the beginning of the second week demanded a conference with the camp director. He asked the director to address the camp and apologize for the slipshod way it was being run, but nothing came of it. As soon as we got back to College Park the three of us called our baseball coach and told him about the camp. I don't know what else he did, but he switched a couple of guys he had signed up for later sessions of the Tennessee camp to another one.
Summer school is summer school and that means it's not regular school. No discipline problems because if a teacher has to speak to you the second time she says, “Enough, out!” No principal, no parent conference, just, “Enough, out!”
Two classes a day, one from nine until eleven and one from eleven-fifteen to one-fifteen. There was a ten minute break in the middle of each, but otherwise they were two hour classes. To tell the truth, I think most of us liked it.
The first day of summer school, Marc and Kent came walking across campus and, sure enough, they were holding hands. As soon as they saw us, they started running and when they were within speaking distance Marc called out, “Keith! Tom! Derrick! Glad you three are here!”
“What are you guys taking?” I asked.
“Can you believe it? We're doing Algebra Two,” Kent laughed. “You available for tutoring?”
“Sure,” Derrick said. “Get up with us after second class. Maybe we can grab some lunch.”
That first day set the pattern for the rest of summer school. We had class, then the five of us went to Lunch on the Corner, a small place that served lunch only, and had lunch. With Derrick's being recognized for his baseball, his mother and stepfather were sending him a larger allowance so he had his own lunch money. But anyway, he wasn't as touchy about Keith or my buying things for him as he was at first.
Each day we ate lunch; then all five of us went to the College Park library—it was air-conditioned and that was a necessity in July Georgia—and did our homework. Marc and Kent didn't have to have a lot of help, but we were there when they did. It was usually about 2:30 when we finished. Made for little time to loaf, but as Keith reminded us, we'd have it easy during the regular school year.
One thing about attending summer school, it made the time fly and soon it was time for the last day. It only lasted long enough to get our report cards. All five of us had two As and that would really look good on Marc's and Kent's record. They were getting themselves in a good position for college.
When I got home that afternoon, Mom and Dad were busy packing, getting ready for their trip to Vegas for an educational conference of some kind. They were leaving mid-morning. I was planning to drive them to the airport, but they suggested I drop them off at the MARTA station. Suited me. Hartsfield could be a nightmare.
While they were finishing packing, I finished packing myself. Originally Keith, Derrick and I were going to North Carolina, but Keith told us at lunch he wouldn't be going. “Guess I'll come up with your mom and dad, Tom.”
“And just what is more exciting than being with your two best buddies?” Derrick asked.
Keith actually blushed, I think, as he got a wide grin across his face. “I have another invitation and I had to think about for ages—a whole nanosecond—before I accepted. Janice called last night...”
“Man, that must have surprised you,” I laughed.
“Well, it did because as soon as I answered she said, 'Keith, Josh wants to talk to you.' When Josh got on the phone, he said he had talked to his grandmother and she agreed that he had put in enough time with that jerk we met. Josh talked to the restaurant owner and he said he'd give Josh a good writeup for the summer. 'He told me working with the jerk was good experience because there were plenty of them in the industry, then told me to enjoy the rest of my summer,' he said. So Josh invited me down for two weeks. I suggested he and Janice come back with me since I'll have the truck to bring their stuff. They'll have only a day before they get all involved in freshmen orientation at Spelman and Morehouse. While they are doing that, I'll go to North Carolina.”
“Sounds like you've got it bad,” I said.
“Sure feels like it,” Keith replied.
I dropped Mom and Dad off at the MARTA station Saturday morning and went by to pick up Derrick. I had called Joe a couple days before and learned he and Trey were both home over the weekend. I had invited them to go to North Carolina with us, but they had other plans.
When we learned Keith would not be going to North Carolina with us, I talked to Derrick and we decided to talk to Joe and Trey some more about making love—you know, the physical part of it. When I called and told Trey what we wanted he suggested we have lunch with them. “Come when you get your parents on their way,” he had said.
When Derrick and I arrived, Joe and Trey were sitting on a side screened porch and called to us as we started up the walk. We walked into a small garden and took the path to the porch from there. “Come on in,” Joe called out. The two were seated at a small table, glasses of lemonade in hand. They were dressed in shorts and tank tops which showed off their great bodies to excellent advantage.
“Saw your straight buddy drive by this morning,” Trey said, then laughed. “I guess I should say I heard him drive by. He gave a blast on the big horns as he drove by.”
As I had done, Keith had souped up his truck and had nice exhausts that played a sweet tune of power, not loud, just gutsy. The horns were another matter. He had a “town-country” switch and the horn he used in town was close to normal, but powerful enough to let you know he meant business. His “country” horn didn't ask you to let him pass; it blew you out of the way.
“I'm surprised he didn't just fly over to Mississippi. His feet were far enough off of the ground that a few flaps of his arms and he'd be airborne,” Derrick laughed.
While we were talking, Joe had poured lemonade for us and we were just relaxing with good friends and a cool drink. Now that we were here, I wasn't exactly at ease knowing why we were with the two.
“Queen Joyce in the royal chambers?” I asked since I'd seen no evidence of her being around, but there was nothing unusual about that. She had meant it when she said she didn't want the men messing in her business and she wasn't about to mess in theirs. However, Joe and Trey did do some messing in her business when they thought she was endangering her health.
“She surprised us both,” Trey said. “She hung around here trying to occupy herself and failing until one day last week Joe had enough—since I was gone all week I was spared—and asked her what had she not seen that she'd like to see. She started rattling off a list of things.”
“The next day I called a person I know who works for a travel agency,“ Joe said, “and asked her what she could cook up. I dropped off the list I had made of Queen's 'want to see' and gave it to her. We had forced Queen to get a passport ages ago telling her, rightly, that we kept one up-to-date in case an opportunity arose to use it. The travel agent put together an “Around the World” package which included many things on Queen's list and took care of travel, guides, accommodations, everything.”
“Queen balked at the cost until Joe reminded her she had few expenses and her pension was not that slim,” Trey said. “She dragged poor Joe shopping and I thought I had escaped that, but the next day I was home, I got dragged. She packed enough to last a lifetime, but there would be porters and, as you know, the Queen goes in style.. Right now she's in Peru and will be going to Machu Pichu, one of the places high on her list.”
“Yeah, we reminded her she had altitude sickness in Mexico City, but she said she had been getting accustomed to the altitude and, ”...besides, if i poop out, it's ok by me. I've decided there are things I want to see before I die and if I die before I complete the list, I'll know it was my time to go," Joe chuckled. "She doesn't know it yet, but we're joining her in Fiji.”
Finally, after we had been just chatting for half an hour or so, Joe said, “I guess you guys are a little shy so I'll just asked. What do you want to know about?”
Derrick looked at me and we both blushed. With my complexion there was no hiding the fact--I turned bright red.
“Well, we've been--I hate calling it giving each other a blow job or sucking each other off,” I said.
“Yeah, and fellatio sounds like some Italian dance or something,” Derrick added.
Trey started laughing like a fool and when he regained some control said, “I bet a lot of Italians have done that dance.” Then, when he was calmed down, said, “Cocksucking, whatever. You don't have to call it anything since Joe and I know what you're talking about. Problems?”
“Well, we did kinda get hold of a gay porn DVD and the guys in it....”
“Hold it right there,” Joe said. “I can enjoy a few minutes of a gay fuck flick occasionally, but after that it's boring. Those guys do that for money and you are going to be in bad shape if you expect to do all they do. Some of it you don't WANT to do, but anyway, what's your problem?”
“Well, I gag when I try to take all of Tom in my mouth,” Derrick said.
“Any complaints from Tom?” Trey asked.
“Well, no,” Derrick said, “but...”
“Tom, any complaints?”
“Hell no, Trey, man oh man no,” I answered. “Besides, he's getting better all the time. That man's got a magic tongue.”
“How about you, Derrick, any complaints about Tom's technique?”
“Well, no, no, none at all. He's got a wicked tongue too.”
“Ok, important rule: The standard by which you judge your love making is what your partner says, not gay porn, not some web site, not what Trey and I say or do. Ok? It's you and your lover. Sure, your technique is getting better and will get better. That's the reason you practice baseball, why I go to the pistol range and why I keep tuned in to Trey. Practice makes love making better and your partner can, without ever speaking, let you know when you are good and when you are excellent. So long as you watch the teeth and don't bite, your lover's hot mouth and tongue on your cock is ok now and will be better.”
I thought I was sure of what Trey was saying, but I wanted to be sure and we talked about communicating with your lover when you are having sex for a good long time.
“But I suspect you didn't want to come and talk about Italian dances,” Trey said and started laughing again.
“Well, see, Tom and I have been talking and we have two weeks to ourselves in North Carolina and we thought it might be a good time to, you know...”
“You mean that Irish dance, analingus?” Joe asked.
“I don't think so,” Derrick said. “What's that?”
Joe replied that it is commonly called “rimming' and what it entailed. Derrick said it may entail something, but not his tongue. Trey said he agreed. “As much fun and pleasure as it might be, they be some weird little bugs down there,” he grinned.
“Well, I don't think we should tell these two what to do or not do—I mean beyond making sure you two know that no means no, even when your lover says it,” Joe said. “I know some couples who are really into rimming and if you what to try it, be my guest—after you make damn sure you are protected against hep A and B.
“Hep?” I asked.
“Hepatitis A and B, serious liver diseases.”
“We're talking about making love.” Derrick objected, “not some health thing. What's all this disease stuff?”
“Look, making love, like anything else, carries risks. I don't want you to get all hung up on the disease thing,” Joe responded. “You are both virgins....”
I gave Joe a sharp look. See, as much as I was in love with Derrick, I guess I hadn't trusted him enough to tell him about Shawn. Joe returned my look and stopped talking.
“Well, I guess that leaves anal intercourse,” Trey jumped in. He guessed what was going on, I was sure. “If you think fellatio's street names are bad, anal intercourse's are probably worse, but we all know what we are talking about, don't we?”
Derrick and I nodded.
Joe asked if we had been playing with our lover's “back door,” and we told him we had.
Well, we talked awhile, but nothing was said that we hadn't read on Internet sites. Trey said, “Love is required and foreplay essential.”
Joe added, “Too much lube is almost enough and slow and easy is the rule.”
Trey and Joe both started to talk at once, but Trey stopped and Joe said, “And remember, stop means stop!”
“Look, you know all you can learn without practice,” Trey said. “And remember, if either of you doesn't like being top or bottom, then you say so and your lover respects that. Respect covers a very large part of being lovers as it does being friends and I know you two are both.”
“Anyway, Joe and I know several couples who simply do not like anal intercourse. Again, the porn flick would have you believe everyone does it, everyone likes it and that you can just shove it in and pound away. If you want to watch a porn flick now and then, no harm done, I'd say, but remember they are about pumped up sex, not love making. I guess people do those kinds of things, but it's just getting your rocks off. ”
“Yeah,” Joe said. “It's not love when you stick your cock through a hole in the wall for a blow job or when you bend over and take a stranger's cock up your ass. There's no such thing as “safe sex” when every Tom, Dick and Harry pokes a cock up your ass. The vice squad found a thirteen year old kid last week with a man's cock in his butt. The man was old enough to be the kid's grandfather. The old bastard was HIV positive. Kids don't seem to learn.”
That ended our talk about sex and love making and we all relaxed and talked about any old thing which came to mind. Once again, Derrick and I had a great visit with our mentors. I invited them to North Carolina and they said they hoped they could get up, but would have to wait and see what the week brought.
As we got ready to leave, Joe and Trey told us to hold on a minute, went inside and came out with two boxes, Joe handed me one and Trey gave Derrick one. Written in large letters on each was, “To be opened in North Carolina.”
I was all packed and ready to head to North Carolina, but Derrick had somethings he needed to do for his grandmother so we decided we'd leave the next day. “Ten o'clock,” I told him as I dropped him off. “I want to sleep late.”
“Ten o'clock,” he said and started leaning toward me for a kiss when I caught a glance at a guy walking down the street. I got really pissed when we thought we had to straighten up—when it was very wise to straighten up—and pass on exchanging a kiss. If it had been Keith and Janice, they could have been doing all kinds of nasties and it would be ok.
Derrick sensed I was unhappy and simply said, “Save it for when we get to North Carolina,” as he gave my hand a squeeze.