Mountain Magic by Sequoyah
After breakfast, the three of us sat at the kitchen table, nursing cups of coffee and discussing what we would be doing while the grandparents were gone. "I didn't have to go to Asheville Monday for piano lessons, but I do have lessons today and Friday. In fact, I need to be rolling soon," I said when I looked at my watch and discovered it was already 9:00.
"I need to go into Clarksville when you go," Jason said. "Jake and I are going to work out schedules and responsibilities for the new crew since you will no longer be working."
"When are you meeting with him?" Wesley asked.
"He suggested we have lunch together. He said he knew I'd be trying to live on peanut butter and jelly while Grandmom is gone."
"Then why don't we take the truck into Clarksville later? Douglas has to leave right now and we'd just have to wait around for your meeting and all."
"Sounds good to me," Jason said.
"Well, I'm off," I said as I walked around the table and kissed Jason. "See you later, lover," I added.
My time with Professor Jamison went extremely well. After debating about a lot of pieces, Professor Jamison had finally said, "Look, you are going to have to work on a lot of music if you play again with the symphony. This "Western North Carolina Sampler" is a freebie for the public. You, nonetheless, want to work on something worth your time and effort. I think it would be a good idea to pick something which is showy--the occasion calls for that--but something that would be usable later. The first movement of Tchaikovsky's Concerto No. 1 comes to mind. The concerto certainly served Van Cliburn well."
"I had thought about the first movement of the Grieg, but the Tchaikovsky would be ok."
"Nothing wrong with the Grieg," Professor Jamison said, paused, and added with a smile, "A thought occurs--always a dangerous situation. I know Alexas is still working on the program and there would be no good reason why you couldn't do a piece in both halves of the program. That way you're not tied to one long piece and can come up with two rousers. The pieces probably shouldn't be extremely well-known. People tend to applaud themselves when they recognize a piece, and don't and listen to the music--
at least that's my cynical theory."
"In that case, one has to be a Litolff, something from his Concerto Symphonique, either two or four," I suggested--tentatively.
"Ok, and something from one of Rachmaninoff's concertos."
Before I left we had decided I would do the third movement--Allegro scherzando--of Rachmaninoff's Second Concerto in C minor. Eventually I would learn all it. The second piece we chose was was actually two, the second and fourth movements of Litolff's second Concerto Symphonique. Professor Jamison suggested I work on other movements of the concerti just to keep things in perspective, but concentrate on the movements I'd be playing for the "Western North Carolina Sampler" in February. He also told me he wanted me to have as much experience as possible playing with the symphony in preparation for the summer. He also underscored the fact that I needed to stay on top of my practicing. "The performance will be upon you before you know it," he said. I wouldn't actually start practicing with the orchestra until late January. When that started, I'd have to go to Asheville two evenings a week.
Driving back to Clarksville, I was daydreaming about Jason. I think Wesley was at least half serious about "showing us how" to make love, but we were doing very well--very, very well, thank you--on our own. Of course, how long we would be able to "stay outside" was a real question. We both had been doing a lot of reading on the internet, and so far were pretty ok with the line we had drawn, but both Jason and I had admitted we had liked kissing our lover's cock and having ours kissed and were pretty sure--damn sure!!--we'd like other things a mouth could do down there.
Also, I did wonder about how we were going to tell the grandparents, and knew that couldn't be put off forever. Both Jason and I were convinced that we wanted to tell them rather than being "discovered". I was sure if we were up front about being gay it would be much better than being caught with our pants down or--more likely--off.
I had the Jeep's radio on, but was paying little attention to it until I heard "The Circle of God's Chosen." When I heard that, my ears really pricked up.
The announcer had broken into the regular program with a special announcement. "At 10:00 this morning a raid was made on the enclave of a religious group calling itself The Circle of God's Chosen. The group established a compound in a remote area of Haynes county, known locally as Sadies Cove, several years ago."
"A previous raid had resulted in the arrest of three adults who were charged with child abuse. At the same time, six children were taken into custody by Children's Protective Services. The three adults were released under bond and obtained a restraining order against Protective Services forcing the release of the six children."
"In ordering the release of the children, Judge Harrison Patterson said, 'As I stated in dismissing the charges against the parents charged earlier, I believe what this country needs is more parents who believe in strict discipline and a Christian home. The place of children is with their parents and if more parents took their religion as seriously as members of The Circle of God's Chosen, I'd have fewer juvenile delinquents showing up in my court.'"
"According to local law enforcement officials, Judge Harrison dismissed the charges against the adults arrested in the first raid when told children and adults had left the cult's compound. 'Those parents and children are together where they belong and the law should let them be,' Patterson commented, in ordering the charges dropped."
"Today's raid came as a result of a report from an emergency room nurse. Teachers, nurses, doctors, all who work with children, are required by state law to report suspected child abuse. The nurse suspected abuse in the case of a ten-year-old girl brought to the emergency room suffering from a broken arm and other injuries. The injuries, and evidence of earlier ones, appeared to be the result of beatings and sexual abuse. Arrests were made and others are anticipated. Deputy District Attorney Joseph Anderson has stated that these charges will not be dropped and he has the backing of the State Attorney General's office in the matter. 'This time I want it to be clear that discipline does not, and cannot, mean beating a child and I promise to do everything in my power to get that message across loud and clear,' Anderson said."
"According to a case worker, Children's Protective Services also had an anonymous report of a fourteen-year-old brought to the hospital emergency room in November suffering from exposure. The fourteen-year-old had also been severely beaten. He was found in a ditch several miles from the group's compound by three students on their way to Coldsprings High School. The teenager has since become the legal ward of a Haynes county family."
"Sheriff Tommy Hall, when questioned, said,'We have been led to believe the young man's family belongs to The Circle of God's Chosen. We, and other law officials, want to contact the young man as a possible witness in the case against members of that group.' When asked why he was not subpoenaed, the sheriff said to protect him, all records concerning him, his hospital stay and his placement were sealed, and Judge Frazer has refused to issue a warrant opening the records."
"When contacted, Judge Frazer said the young man had suffered enough and was making a good adjustment to a normal life with a normal family. 'If he chooses to come forward, I applaud his courage. If he chooses not to, I respect his right to happiness without having to re-live a nightmare. So far as I am concerned, that settles it.'"
"Lawyers for both the Asheville Citizen-Times and TV 13, WLOS, have challenged the judge's decision claiming the public's right to know. When asked to comment on the challenge, Judge Frazer said, 'The public has no right to know anything involved in the situation under question and the Citizen-Times and WLOS can challenge all they want to, but the record remains sealed.'"
"'Without legal authorization we must refuse any effort to gain information about the young man,' Mr. Robert Gillis, the hospital administrator, said."
"State and local law enforcement officials are hoping the fourteen-year-old and his guardians will come forward on their own and that he will agree to testify against his abusers."
I wondered if Jonathan had heard the news and, if so, what he would do about it. I knew he wanted to put his life in Sadies Cove behind him and that he feared having to go back. Hank said Jonathan was having fewer nightmares, but there were still nights when he held the young man for an hour or more after a particularly violent nightmare. The nightmares almost always involved him being dragged back to the compound by someone or something.
Well he'd have to make that decision himself, because I was sure none of us would put pressure on him to testify. Even though it would be good to stop the child abuse in the name of religion, I knew we would all back Jonathan in any decision he made.
It was almost 1:00 when I got back to Clarksville. When I checked by the music store, Mrs. Dennison told me Jake came by to pick up Jason, and the others had gone to Wendy's for lunch. "They said for you to meet them there if you got back before too late. They left about ten minutes ago."
When I got to Wendy's the three were still standing in line, not yet having placed their order. There were only a couple behind behind them so I just got in line. Standing with the Deep Cove crowd was a very good-looking young man: six feet two or three, well built, solid, with bright red curly hair and a very fair complexion. His eyes were an astonishing green and he had a sprinkling of freckles across his nose. I thought I knew him, but couldn't remember when I had seen him if I had. I guess he just looked like someone else I knew, but I hardly thought I'd forget someone as hot as he was. "Hi, Guys," I said as I got in line.
The three turned around and Wesley said. "How'd it go today?"
"Great," I replied. "Really great. Listen to the radio this morning?"
"Nope, we were busy and have some great news for you," Hank said.
"So do I--well, maybe not great, but definitely news. Save me a place."
The elderly lady in front of me turned and asked, "Those your buddies?"
"Yes, Ma'am," I answered
"Then go on ahead of us. We're in no rush."
"Thank you, but you have been waiting."
"Go on ahead," the man, her husband I guessed, said. "Enjoy your buddies while you are young and have time."
"Thanks very much," I said and stepped ahead of them.
When I did, Hank said, "Douglas, this is Tom MacCarter. He's new around here. Tom, Douglas McElrath, another brother." We shook hands and before we could get into a conversation, the cashier was ready for our orders. As soon as they were ready, we went to a center table and sat down. "So what is your news?" Hank asked.
"Wait a minute! I just remembered. Sorry, Tom, I thought I recognized you but couldn't think why. I just remembered. You were behind us at Grace for the Christmas Eucharist."
"That's it," Tom laughed. "We've all been trying to remember where we had seen each other."
"Yeah, I looked around for you at the service, but I didn't see you."
"Dad had gone from the communion rail to check the weather and came back and got us. He was afraid we'd be snowed in--or out, I guess. We were snowed in, but we did make it home first.
"Well, what's your news?" Hank asked. I told them what I had heard about The Circle of God's Chosen, including the appeal for Jonathan to come forward and testify against the leader and his parents. "I didn't realize it, but the whole group can be charged as accessories to child abuse IF they knew it was going on."
"Oh, they knew all right. They darn sure as hell knew." Jonathan said.
A week or so ago while Jonathan was out of the room, Hank told us Jonathan was learning to cuss. "He's as funny as a crutch and just about completely inept when it comes to real cussing."
"Even when a kid was punished like I was--with only the parents and preacher present--the rest of the group would know because what had been done would have been described in a prayer meeting. Sometimes the punishment was carried out when everyone was in the meeting house. They knew all right. I hope something is done, but I'm afraid to testify. I'm afraid I'd just vanish."
"You know we'll stand by you regardless," I said. As I did, I realized Tom had a very puzzled look on his face. I wasn't about to tell him about Jonathan, that was for Jonathan to do. I guess Jonathan noticed Tom's puzzlement because he gave him the Readers Digest condensed version of how he happened to be living with Hank's family, omitting why he had been beaten. "But I believe you said you had news as well."
"We sure do," Hank said. "Tom came by the store asking about some group he might play with shortly after we got in this morning."
"Before I could get into that, Hank asked if I'd like a job in the music store," Tom laughed.
"I had told Dad I'd like to work a regular schedule with Jason and the crew and he thought it was a good idea. He suggested he hire someone part-time to take my place and I told him I thought I should pay for a worker. He didn't want to do that, but we finally agreed I'd pay half. Since Dad had an opening, Tom will be working at the store. That's not all, Tom plays fiddle and mandolin. Tom, Douglas plays classical piano. Anyway, Tom's looking for a group to play with."
"Sounds great," I responded. "What brings you to the thriving metropolis of Clarksville, Tom?"
"I have lived all my life in College Park--guess you wouldn't know College Park. It's between Atlanta and the Atlanta airport. Anyway, I had lived there all my life until Christmas break. Both my parents were looking forward to retiring and when they asked last summer, I told them I would like to get out of Atlanta." Tom paused, got a far-away, pained look on his face and seemed to not be with us. Suddenly he realized he wasn't speaking, blushed and said, "We've had a place over on the North Fork of the Pigeon river where we have spent part of our summers as long as I have been around and for the last two--three years we've spent some weekends or a few days there."
"They asked me how I would like to live there year round. I suspect they expected me to choose to stay near the city, but I thought it would be a good change for me. We have been coming up most weekends since last summer, getting the place in shape for year-around use. We finished Thanksgiving break."
"Mom and Dad had planned to retire at the end of this school year. Then both of their schools got in the middle of a squabble between the school board and the State Board of Education. My parents were both thoroughly disgusted and, when they were talking about it one night at dinner, I asked if they couldn't retire right then and they said they could. 'Well, then, retire and we'll move at the end of the first semester,' I said. They both asked how I felt about leaving my school and classmates my senior year. We talked about that and I finally convinced them I had no real attachment to the school, College Park or anyone. They agreed we'd move as soon as our schools got out for Christmas break."
I extended my hand and said, "Welcome to Haynes county and Coldsprings High School, and I hope you don't regret your choice. What grade are you in?"
"He's a senior," Wesley said. "Two new additions to the senior class."
"Yeah, and we still have to figure out how to get your Charlotte ass in school. We gotta get you enrolled," Hank said to Wesley.
"Why can't you just call and have your old school fax your transcripts?" Tom asked. "That's all I had to do. Enrolling is easy since you just get signed up for the classes you were taking, or something close to the same thing."
"Ok, Hank," I thought. "Get out of this one."
Both Hank and Wesley stammered around, digging themselves in deeper, until Jonathan said, "Seems Wesley's former school has a rule about not sending transcripts until everything is cleared up and Wesley hasn't been able to get everything done. Problem with some nonsense about parents and addresses." You could almost hear a sigh of relief from both Hank and Wesley. Tom looked doubtful, but said nothing.
We finished lunch and then went back to the music store. As soon as we were inside, Hank said, "Tom, you want to find a group to play with, why don't we start a group? Jason's not here but he plays guitar, as does Wesley. I play banjo and a little fiddle. Found out last week Jonathan played bull fiddle for The Circle of God's Chosen's Heavenly Choir. May take a bit to get him sinful enough to play naughty music, but I suspect he will corrupt quickly. I think we have a bull fiddle here he can use. So why don't we get together and see if we are worth listening to?" Hank asked.
"Sounds good to me," Tom said and everyone else nodded approval.
"Can we all be here tomorrow morning, say at 10:00?" Hank asked. Again there was agreement.
Just then Jason walked into the store. He joined us at the back of the store where Hank told him about trying to get a group together. He liked the idea.
When we got home, Wesley and Jason got out their guitars and started playing, finding out what they knew in common and trading tips and techniques. I listened to them for a while and realized that I was not going to enjoy a concert; this was practice. Since they were upstairs in the den, I left them to their own devices and went downstairs to my own practice.
An hour and a half later, I felt Jason's presence rather than seeing or hearing him as he approached my back and placed his hands on my shoulders. I turned my head to see him bending over me. His kiss was very soft, but nonetheless sent an electrical charge through my body.
"Love me?" Jason smiled.
"More than I can say or prove. Never, ever doubt that."
"I don't, and I love you every bit as much. All day I have caught myself thinking about you, daydreaming about you. This time last year I was struggling to stay in school, find a place to stay warm and dry, to find something to eat. Now I have a real home, a real future and, best of all, I have you. At long last I feel complete, whole."
I was overwhelmed with both Jason's words and the intensity with which he spoke. "Jason, you leave me at a loss for words. I mean yes, I know I love you and that you love me, but I guess I haven't really thought about it beyond just loving you and being loved by you. Kinda like I was a lot concerned with lust, hormones and the newness of it all." Having said I was at a loss for words, I was proving otherwise, but then I really did run out of things to say.
I turned around on the piano bench and locked my legs around Jason, who put his arms around my neck. He leaned his forehead against mine and we gazed into each other's eyes. He ran a finger around my lips, smiled and leaned in for a great kiss. When he broke the kiss I said, "Jason, I remember how very lost I felt--in spite of how my grandparents cared for me, loved me--when I first saw you across the park. In the moment when our eyes met, I knew how lonely and hurting I was, but at the same time I felt as though you would be my healer and you have been."
"A year ago?" I continued, "In spite of all I felt toward the Wilsons, I was a lot the same. I was a selfish--very selfish--snobbish, insufferable brat. I don't think I knew what real caring love was. I looked at my parents as the source of what I wanted, hated that they were making ripples in my world by the increasingly obvious problems in their marriage. Unlike you, I had all the things I wanted and, while I didn't realize it, I was as lacking in understanding, care and love as you were in physical needs. But, in a real sense, I was forced to trade all the things for a life where things aren't too important and one in which I know the love of a good family and of a good man. As much as I regret the loss of my family, what I have now makes it more than bearable."
Jason smiled, ran his tongue around my lips and then invaded my mouth. We were locked in a very passionate embrace when Wesley called from the kitchen, "Are you two planning on living on love or do I need to start supper?"
I was surprised when I looked at my watch and discovered it was time to do the evening chores. "Why don't you start supper and Jason and I will get on the evening chores."
"Chef's choice?" Wesley called from the kitchen.
"Chef's choice," Jason responded. Truth of the matter was Wesley could do little in the way of cooking beyond grilled cheese sandwiches and soup or bacon, grits and eggs, but what he fixed within his abilities was up to him.
I had forgotten all about the radio broadcast, and remembered it only while Jason and I were milking. "Jason, have you heard about the raids on the compound up in Sadies Cove?"
"No, something happen up there?"
"Yeah. I heard about it on my way home from Asheville." I then told Jason what I had heard and added, "The authorities have made an appeal for Jonathan to come forward to testify. Unless he does, nothing that happened to him can be used against them because the hospital will release nothing about him--not even his name and much less what had been done to him or where he is."
"I wonder if the Dennisons know that?"
"Surely they do," I responded. "I mean it has been on all the Asheville and local news programs. The sheriff would have seen to that. I know Hank and Jonathan know about it since I told them at lunch."
"I think you should call and find out what's going on when we get to the house," Jason said. "I don't know what Jonathan will do--how he'll respond--but he should know he can testify if he wants to. I know it would be painful, but that bunch needs to be stopped. It's one thing to have any religious belief you want and it's another to mistreat people, especially children," Jason said, with not a little passion and feeling.
When we got back to the house and had taken care of the milk and washing up, Wesley had the table set, a plate of bacon and eggs and a bowl of grits waiting while he took toast out of the oven. While he did that, Jason poured glasses of ice cold milk. I have heard people talk about glasses of warm milk helping you get to sleep, but the very thought of warm milk makes me gag.
We sat down to supper and none of us started eating. Instead we were just sorta sitting at the table, heads down, waiting. Finally Jason said, "Let us pray," which surprised me no end. He said a short grace and we all dived in to the food.
"Darn, I forgot," Wesley said suddenly. "Jonathan called and asked if we had heard any more about the raid on the religious compound. He said he'd like to come over after supper and talk about it. I told him we'd be happy to listen. Right?"
"By all means," I answered.
After we had eaten and cleaned up, we were all in our den, doing nothing, while the TV droned on. I suddenly realized the Asheville TV station was doing a fifteen minute special report on the situation in Sadies Cove.
The TV newscaster repeated what I had heard earlier: "Authorities are asking anyone knowing about the abusive activities carried on at the compound to contact them at the number on the screen. An unidentified caller had phoned the sheriff about a situation which happened last November. Channel 13 has learned a teenager was treated at Haynes Medical Center then, but the hospital is under a non-disclosure order and will not release any information about the young person. Deputy District Attorney Joseph Anderson is especially interested in contacting the teenager. 'His testimony would be invaluable in our investigation,' he said."
It was half an hour later when Hank and Jonathan arrived. Jonathan looked very down--little wonder. We all went upstairs to the den and, before he sat down, Jonathan said, "Look, Hank and I have talked with Mom and Dad about my testiying. Mom and Dad said the decision was mine to make and they would support me regardless of what I decided. I know I need to go talk with the authorities, but I am frightened. I'm afraid someone from that bunch will do something to me."
"There is the threat of police action if they try anything," I said.
"But what good will that do?" Jonathan asked. "The police are all over their case now and the people arrested earlier disappeared. I heard they have warrants for others they haven't been able to locate."
"Do you think they can find you? Do anything to you?" Wesley asked. "The hospital is giving out no information."
"Of course they know where I am. My parents signed releases so Mr. and Mrs. Dennison could be my legal guardians. They know where I am all right."
"But they wouldn't dare try anything at your place or with any of us around you," Jason said.
"Yeah, I know, but I'm still worried," Jonathan said and looked it.
"Look," I said, "we'll make sure someone is with you at all times. I seriously doubt anyone from that place will do anything if there is someone or someones with you. We'll just have to make sure you are safe, Lil' Bro."
I didn't realize just how upset Jonathan was until he burst into tears and grabbed Hank who was sitting beside him. Hank hugged him tight.
"What do you think I should do about testifying? I'm really, really afraid to do that, but if I don't, they might get off and keep harming kids. Besides, Dad said whether I testify or not, they know where I am if they want to try something. I sure don't know what to do."
"I'd say you have to make that decision," I said. "I'm sure we all have an opinion about it, but it's you that will be exposed. I will tell you this, anyone of us will defend you to our dying breath."
"I sure hope it doesn't come to that, but what Doug says is true," Jason said.
"How about if we go with you to talk to Mr. Anderson, the deputy district attorney tomorrow. You can explain your fears and see what he has to say?" I suggested.
"Sounds good," Hank said. "How about it?" Jonathan agreed and we decided since they were all going into see about playing together, I would go with Jonathan to see Mr. Anderson.
We all reassured Jonathan again that we'd protect him, and when he said he felt better, Jason suggested we go down for ice cream and cake.
"You have cake?" Hank asked. "How is that possible with you three in the house?"
"You think we'd eat all the cake? Look at our fine figures. We have to keep them, so we don't eat cake," Jason said.
"Yeah, right!" Hank responded.
In the kitchen I asked, "Coffee?" and got nods from all except Jonathan. When I asked, "Milk, Jonathan?" he nodded. While I was making coffee. Jason spooned up ice cream and Wesley cut large slices from half of a coconut cake Grandmom had for Christmas.
As we ate and drank we talked about the possibility of the group actually playing together--bluegrass or at least mountain music. "Tom knows a lot about such," Wesley said and laughed. "Seems real funny that a guy from Atlanta knows more about mountain music than some of us hillbillies. He's even played in honky tonks around Atlanta."
"Well, the only thing I know how to play is church stuff," Jonathan said. "Don't know how that's going to fit in."
"I suspect it will take a very short time for you to learn to play very wicked and sinful music," Jason said with a melodramatic sneer as he gave Jonathan a noogie.
The rest of the evening was spent in light-hearted conversation about things you might expect: music, food, school. There was, for a bunch of teenage boys, very little talk about girls. Surprise, surprise!
After Hank and Jonathan left, I suggested Jonathan's fears were not altogether unfounded. "Anyone who would beat their own child the way Jonathan was beaten can't be trusted."
"They can't be expected to act in a rational, normal way either," Jason said.
"Well, it's time we got to bed. Who's sleeping-in tomorrow?" I asked.
"Why don't you," Jason said, "since you don't have to go to Asheville."
"I'll never turn down a chance to sleep-in and you know it," I replied.
When Jason and I got in bed we talked about the situation with Jonathan. Both having seen what his own parents and the preacher had done to him, we were really worried about him offering to testify. "I know we meant it when we said we'd protect him to the death, but we're normal. What if we slip up?"
"The only thing is for us to do the very best we can and hope for the very best outcome. Anyway, there's no way we can do anything about the situation tonight," I said, but that didn't mean we stopped talking and worrying. We talked about the fact that whether or not he testified, Jonathan would be just as much in danger one way as the other since, as he said, the Sadies Cove bunch knew where he was and could grab him anytime. The result of our talking and worry was we were not in the mood for any hot and heavy love-making, but never underestimate soft, loving kisses and being held.
I didn't wake up until Jason leaned over and kissed the end of my nose. "Your breakfast awaits, Sleepy Eyes," he said as he kissed first one then the other of my eyes. Dragon mouth and all, I reached up and pulled his lips to mine, giving him a good morning kiss. "Bathroom routine, now!" Jason said, making a face.
I took care of nature's call and dragon mouth and when I returned to the room, Jason was waiting for me and didn't object at all to a hot, heavy good morning kiss.
Wesley put the last of the breakfast on the table as Jason and I walked in--
sage sausage, pancakes and syrup. We each had a glass of milk with breakfast and when we had finished, got cups of coffee. As we sat drinking coffee, Jonathan and Hank arrived on their bicycles. Hank poured himself a cup of coffee and made it half milk with enough sugar to make it syrup. Jonathan got a glass of orange juice.
"Jonathan and I talked with Dad again this morning. He is also kinda uneasy about Jonathan's situation but, as he pointed out, Jonathan is right. That bunch in Sadies Cove knows where Jonathan is and knows he is being urged to come forward and testify."
"Yeah, like he said, it really doesn't matter whether I offer to testify or not. Either way they cannot know I will not. Guess I may as well do like we talked about last night, since it's not going to change anything so far as what the abusers think."
After we finished our coffee and juice, we put the cups in the sink and got ready for Clarksville. When we arrived, Tom was already at the music store even though it was a half hour before the group was to get together. Wesley explained briefly what Jonathan was facing without going into any details.
"Well, Jonathan and I will be on our way. Be back soon, I suspect. Let's get it over with Jonathan," I said, taking him by the hand.
Mr. Dennison had phoned Mr. Anderson, the deputy district attorney (DDA), and he was expecting us. When we reached his office, he said, "Douglas, seen any kung fu movies lately" and we both laughed.
"Not recently," I replied and then said, "Mr. Anderson, this is Jonathan. Mr. Dennison called you about him, right?"
"Right. Have a seat guys and let's talk."
I thought Mr. Anderson would have had some information about what had happened to Jonathan, but when the judge who had taken care of the situation said he was sealing the records, he meant it.
Jonathan told him, briefly, what had happened to him without saying why. When he finished, Mr. Anderson told Jonathan all he needed from him was testimony about being beaten. "I'll need approval to get the hospital records and that may take care of the situation. If not, I would like for you to testify in court."
Jonathan told him what he had concluded about testifying and the DDA agreed with him. "I guess that about wraps it up," Mr. Anderson said and stood up.
When we stood, I saw two men in handcuffs being brought into the courthouse. Jonathan saw them as well, turned snow-white and started shaking. I put my arms around his shoulders and hugged him to myself. "It's ok, Jonathan. I'm here," I said as I eased him back to a chair and put his head between his legs, fearing he was about to faint.
"Gertrude, would you get Mr. Henderson a glass of water or something," the DDA called to his secretary. She came quickly with water and a coke.
"What has upset you, Mr. Henderson?" he asked as he handed Jonathan the coke.
"Please, call me Jonathan. Mark Grey, he's one of the men in handcuffs. He's Minister of Youth for The Circle of God's Chosen. He's mean, really mean."
"I know he kicks and hits kids who don't do what he says. He hit me and knocked me down once, then kicked me, because I turned the wrong way when we were marching to a work detail."
"He kicked you? Really kicked you?" the DDA asked.
"Yes, sir. He kicked me so hard that I threw up. But that's not the worse. The worse thing he does is to do things with kids. Have sex I mean."
"Do you know that for a fact? That he did, I mean."
"No, I just know what they, boys and girls, said. Some of the boys and girls say there are others involved--Abel Mitchell and Noah Holland do things with boys. Some other men do things with girls. That's what some of the kids said when there were no adults listening. I always tried to do what he said so I didn't get hurt."
"Well, he can't hurt you now. He's on his way to be arraigned and then to jail."
A few minutes later Jonathan said, "I'm ok."
"Sure?" I asked.
"Yes, are you sure you're ok?" Mr. Anderson asked. "You can stay here as long as you like." He was standing beside Jonathan's chair and had his hand on the young man's shoulder.
"I'm ok," Jonathan said. "I need to get with the guys and see if we can play together."
"Play together?" the DDA asked.
Jonathan told him about the guys thinking about forming a group to play mountain music. I was pleased Mr. Anderson kept asking questions because it took Jonathan's mind off of Mark Grey and made me feel better about the DDA. I feared he was interested in Jonathan only because he could help him win a high profile case, but he seemed genuinely interested in Jonathan as a person. I should have known he would be a people person from the dinner and movie we had together some time ago.
As we were ready to go, Gertrude walked in and handed some blue covered papers to Mr. Anderson. He unfolded the papers, read the top sheet quickly, looked up at Gertrude and said, "Fun time. This is a motion to dismiss, based on the separation of church and state from Robert E. Lee, esquire."
"The segregationist lawyer?" Gertrude asked.
"Well, he was until that issue was settled. Now he seems to be finding survivalists, white supremacists, skinheads who want to prove the Constitution protects them regardless of what they want to do and offers no protection to anyone else."
"He plans to argue first, that parents have absolute rights in regard to their children--that they could, I suppose, beat them to death and the state would have no right to intervene. Second, he'll argue that the punishment of children by parents is a part of their belief system and the state cannot interfere with religious practices. Well, he can't win in the end, but I suspect what would have been a short and swift road to justice just got longer. But it changes nothing so far as you are concerned, Jonathan.
Jonathan said, somewhat wearily, "I just want it all to be over. I thought it was. I had just about forgotten about what it was like at that place. I began to really think about Hank and Rosemary as my brother and sister and Mr. and Mrs. Dennison as my mom and dad. Of course, sometimes ...."
I remembered once, when Jonathan first joined the Dennison family, Jason and I were with Hank, Rosemary and Jonathan. We were waiting for the two young ones to bring us milkshakes and burgers, when Hank had commented on how often he had heard Jonathan crying late at night. Jason said, "If you're not too macho, you can try the McElrath medicine--holding him and maybe even singing a lullaby to him. Works for me when Douglas does it."
"Yeah," Hank had said, "but you're in love with him and you're gay."
"That has nothing to do with it," Jason had responded, a bit hotly. "It makes me feel safe and cared for. There's nothing sexual about it."
A couple days after we had talked, Jason said Hank had come up with a silly grin on his face and said, "Thanks for telling me about the McElrath treatment for hurting young men. It works."
"How long can I be tortured?" Jonathan asked, near tears, calling me back to the present. "I know every time I get to feeling safe and forgetting some terrible things, they will be back, making my life miserable. I don't like being frightened."
"I understand," Mr. Anderson said. "I wish as deputy district attorney I could assure you it would all be over quickly and I can only hope it is. In the meantime, no-one has challenged Mr. Dennison's guardianship, so try not to worry."
Jonathan was pretty glum as we walked back to the music store. When we walked in, our cohorts were in the back of the store making music. Not the best I had ever heard, but definitely music.
As we walked toward them, they gradually stopped playing and Hank quickly put down his banjo and met Jonathan, put his arm around his shoulders and said, "It's ok, Lil' Bro. It's ok." Jonathan grabbed him and started crying.
"What's happened?" Hank asked, clearly concerned, as he held Jonathan's head on his shoulder and stroked his hair. I didn't say anything, but thought about what had been said about my holding Jason. In my book, Hank was no longer an often unthinking boy, but a very caring, very mature young man.
Hank finally sat down on the floor and pulled Jonathan down beside him. Soon we were all seated on the floor, talking about Jonathan's situation and trying to assure him he had nothing to worry about. All hoping, I suspect, that our seeming confidence would hide our concern and worry from Jonathan.