From Chapter Four
"'Wait a minute! Who said we're gay?' I said, panicked.
"'Nobody,' Michelle said. 'So don't worry, but I'm not expecting a hot make-out session with you this summer or next. Our secret, a secret between very good friends. Blood oath.' She took a pin from her blouse, pricked her finger and held it up.
"The three of us pricked our fingers, pressed then together as we all said, 'Blood oath.'
"Our fingers still touching, Michelle added, 'Friends forever!'
"'What a way to start a summer program!' I thought."
"As we rode back to the stables, we talked about the implications, not of Alex and my being gay, but of our being gay and involved in the summer program. 'You remember the reaction when Nathan announced he was gay last year. I think it was probably a good thing we were practically leaving when he announced that or he would have been given a hard time, especially in the dorm,' Jean Jean observed. 'Frankly, I hate to hide things, but I think you guys should hide the fact that you are gay and are lovers.'
"'Whoa! Back up!' Alex said before I could get the words out of my mouth. 'We admitted to ourselves and each other we are gay. That doesn't mean we are lovers.'
"'Fuck buddies? Jerk-off buddies? Don't tell me you are just good friends. I'll never believe that!' Michelle announced.
"'Ok, so we're jerk-off buddies, but that's it,' I said.
'''And that would get us excommunicated if we were found out,' Alex said, 'and I sure as hell don't want to have to deal with my mom should that happen.'
"'Well, we're sworn to secrecy and besides, it none of our or anyone's business, so you don't have to worry about us, but you do need to watch how you look at each other. Some of us can spot that,' Michelle said.
"'Look, we're going to be spending a lot of time together and we are good friends. Michelle, I think we just found ourselves two boyfriends.'
"'Good idea,' Michelle agreed.
"'Well, ok,' I said, 'so long as you know it stops with being good friends.'
"We rode back to the stables, groomed the horses and walked to the house. As we left the stables, Michelle and Jean Jean took our hands and the four of us walked to the house. When we walked in the back door, Gertrude said, 'Well, you four make two good-looking couples, but I suspect the configuration I observed as you walked from the stables isn't quite the right one, but who am I?'
"'Damn! You too?' Alex asked.
"'Honey, I've known you were gay before you started school and recognized Josh's status when his eyes lit up when you chose not to move beds last year. Alex, I think your dad suspects, but God help us if that mother of yours finds out!'
"Surprisingly, that afternoon was the beginning and the end of any discussion of Alex and I being gay, well, I mean other than between the two of us. Our bedroom habits didn't change much either, at least for the first four weeks we were in Boulder. I guess, maybe we held each other closer in bed and spent a lot of time gazing into each other's eyes, but that was the only change.
"I was surprised when we were directed to an auditorium when we reported for the opening session the next morning. Each level had a total of only sixty students, divided into four groups of fifteen: English and math, English and science, and science and math and English and social studies. The only time we were not with our group of fifteen was when we had a common field trip, i.e., all the English sections were together for a field trip to a gold mining ghost town. Not only were all the sections of our level together, but also all the levels, two hundred forty students. Since we were together for the first time since we left last summer, the noise level was on the high side as we greeted friends from last year.
"A shrill whistle sounded which shocked everyone into silence. 'Good morning. That's the whistle I use to call my sheep dogs and it always works on high schoolers,' the young man, obviously a grad student, said. 'I am Shep Howard, assistant to Dr. Rollins, head of the summer program. Your tutors are passing out forms which you need to clutch in your hot little hands because you are going to need them, verily you are going to want them after you hear Dr. Rollins. I know all of you are exceptionally bright or you wouldn't be here. I also suspect that ninety-nine point ninety-nine percent of you are bored to tears by high school and the need teachers have to '"teach the test." I'm sure I wouldn't miss my guess if I suggested you'd like to get out of there and be here or at some other, less superior but excellent, university as soon as possible. Well, hang on to those forms. It may be possible. Dr. Rollins.'
"'Good morning and welcome to the summer program. This past fall and winter a group of faculty took a look at two things. First, we looked at the requirements for graduation from high school. Then we looked at the summer program and all that it involves. We believed we had found some hidden treasures in what you will be doing this summer and did some research and found we did, indeed, have more to offer than we thought. It's all in the forms you have which you will be discussing and, I hope, completing with your tutors this morning. As a result, your introductory sessions for your summer's study will take place this afternoon. Plan to be involved until five. We will meet in the cafeteria for our opening meal at six. Dress for that is nice casual -- no jeans or tee shirts.
"'Ok. On to the treasures. English -- language arts, I guess we call it now -- science, math, social studies and foreign language are graduation requirements set in stone. Four of those are being taught in this program. Other requirements are less rigid. We checked with each of your school districts and all of you can test out of the educational technology requirement. Those of you involved in organized activities -- the drama group, dance group, riding, swimming -- can get credit toward your arts requirement or PE requirements. Those are examples. Since each of you have different activities and requirements, your tutors are ready to go over the possibilities with you. When you have met with your tutors and filled out the paperwork, it will be submitted to your school district for district approval of the credit. Questions?'
"'Is this for real?' someone near the back asked.
"Dr. Rollins laughed, 'It's for real as you will soon see. If you look at the bright green sheet in your hand, you will find a room number here in this building and an appointment time. Since we have five tutors for each group of fifteen, we should be finished within an hour and a half or so. Just be on time for your appointment. Oh, before I forget -- and your tutor will remind you -- the educational technology proficiency test will be given tomorrow evening at six. It will be given in various rooms -- we have to have computer access -- so, again, the bottom of the green sheet has the location for your test. Be sure you know where the computer lab you will be using is before tomorrow evening. More questions?' I was surprised. There were none and we were dismissed.
"Jean Jean and Michelle caught up with us as we were leaving the auditorium, grabbed our hands and said, 'Time for a coke while we look at this stuff?'
"'You know good Mormons don't drink cokes,' Alex said. Jean Jean gave him a look that said it all.
"Alex and I checked our green sheets and discovered we had forty-five minutes before our appointment. Jean Jean and Michelle did as well. As we were comparing our sheets, Jean Jean said, 'Hey, what's this? We all have the same room and time assignment for meeting our tutor.'
"'Some mix-up,' I said, 'but not our problem. Let's get a coke.'
"When we finished our coke and started walking to our appointment, Jean Jean took my hand, leaned over and said, 'You can pretend I'm Alex.'
"I looked at her, grinned and said, 'Don't have to. Holding hands with a friend is pretty neat, especially when I would be admonished to avoid it if I was in Wellsburg.'
"'What would happen if they found out, you know....'
"'If I was lucky, I'd just be excommunicated. Worst case, I suppose, I'd be sent to a center where I would be made straight.'
"'You know that; I know that, but that could happen.' Over the next weeks, Jean Jean and Michelle finally came to realize that if we were discovered, life would be hell for us.
"When we reached the assigned room, there was a grad student I had never seen before and, much to our surprise, Mavis. 'Come in,' the grad student said. 'My name is Brad Ellis and I believe you know Ms. Baxter.'
"'What are you doing here, Mavis?' Alex asked.
"'Trying to deal with four smartass kids,' she laughed. 'Think you'll welcome what Dr. Rollins, Brad and I have managed to cook up, but Brad's in charge here.'
"'That must have taken miracle,' Jean Jean laughed. 'Mavis is always in charge.'
"'She's letting me pretend,' Brad said. 'Since there are four of you, we have plenty of time to work on getting you as many credits as we can. Let's start with the PE requirement. You have to have two credits to graduate. What did you have this past year?'
"'Health and fitness,' Alex answered.
"'Perfect!' Brad said. 'I'm sure we can get you a credit for participation skills....'
"'What is that?' I asked.
"'Means you play nicely with others,' Mavis said in a kindergarten teacher's voice.
"'Oh, we do, we certainly do,' Michelle answered in her kindergarten voice. We all laughed.
"'Seriously, I'm sure we can get credit for that and individualized sport for your trick riding last year and this. If not, we'll get you half a credit next year if you continue,' Mavis said.
"'You'll be taking the proficiency test for educational technology, right?' Brad asked. We nodded. 'How do you stand on your math?'
"'Algebra and geometry this year, precal and trig next,' I said. 'I guess calculus in the eleventh grade.' The others nodded.
"'Ok, you did ninth grade English here last summer, tenth grade this school year and will be doing eleventh this summer. This fall, you'll be taking an advanced course -- whatever is offered at your school -- with seniors. That will finish English,' Brad said. 'You will complete your math requirements next year. Want to double up on social studies?'
"'I certainly don't want to. Classes are boring as hell,' Jean Jean said.
"'Agreed,' Michelle added, 'but we can do it.'
"'How about foreign language?'
"'We both did Spanish last year and will continue next year,' I said. Michelle and Jean Jean did as well.
"The discussion continued and when all was said and done, we could easily finish high school in what would have been grade eleven. Mavis would work to get us art credit for our Fourth of July show this year and next -- she assumed we'd be doing one since we'd be in Boulder anyway.
"We completed a ton of paperwork for both the summer program and our respective school districts. Brad and Mavis even applied for art credits for Alex's and my previous Fourth of July performance and the show we did for the festival in Wellsburg. 'May as well try,' Brad said. 'Won't cost anything and who knows, it may work.' It did.
"It was almost time for lunch when we had completed everything, so we four just found a place to hang out until then. 'Josh, you said you might be sent to a place to make you straight if people found out you were gay. You were kidding, right?'
"'Wrong,' Alex quickly responded. 'Aversion therapy it's called. I asked dad about it when one of the fellows from the football team was caught in the Longview Walmart men's room being sucked by a guy. Dad says essentially they show you pictures and videos of men while making things very uncomfortable for you. Ice water baths, sudden, shrill noises and, worst of all, shock. If the simpler things don't work, they connect you to a shock machine which shocks your cock and balls when you start getting a hardon.'
"'Does it work?'
"'Claims are made that it does, but research shows otherwise, but if you believe being gay is a choice, then you can believe that you can cause someone to make a different choice.'
"'Makes my balls ache to talk about it,' I said.
"After lunch we went to our introductory sessions. English was first, and we discovered we'd be reading the equivalent of a novel a week -- short stories, plays, essays and even a novel -- and writing about them. Again, two papers a week, more than two, less than five pages, concerning some aspect of the literary work. 'Nothing obvious or shallow,' we were told as we were handed the reading list and a copy of Merchant of Venice.
"Alex and I went to the library to work since we didn't have a computer at the house. We broke in time to go home, shower and get dressed for the opening dinner. Mavis had said she'd care for the horses since our day and evening were packed.
"I was a bit worried about the proficiency test, because Alex and I were at a disadvantage when it came to computer skills since neither of us had computers at home. Both his mother and my grandmother thought they presented too great a temptation for a young man and, to be honest, we would have had only very unreliable dial-up service and that would have been the pits. I was nervous but it was really pretty basic. We'd have to wait for the official piece of paper to get into our high school record, but the test supervisor assured us we both passed. As we were walking the two girls to their dorm, Alex said, 'Passing that test makes me realize Josh and I are really on our way out of Bumfuck, Utah.'
"Academically, the first four weeks were definitely more demanding than they had been last year. We worked hard, but Brad was an excellent tutor and we were doing well. We were back to riding out to the riding school, having a lesson from Mavis and caring for the horses, but we didn't get to spend as much time just riding as last year.
"Socially, Alex and Michelle, Jean Jean and I were definitely items so far as the summer program students were concerned, but our plan was almost blown after the competency test. Alex and I had left our bikes at Michelle's and Jean Jean's dorm and walked them over to the building where we would take the test. When we finished, we walked them back to their dorm and as we stood saying good night, Roger Smith walked up, a first-year student hanging on him. 'Aren't you going to kiss her?' he kinda sneered.
"I almost panicked. Jean Jean whispered, 'You've never been kissed, have you? Saving your first kiss for someone special?' I blushed. 'I'll handle this,' she grinned. 'Sorry, Roger, I'm afraid that while Josh and I could kiss and not provoke unwholesome thoughts, I'm afraid your seeing us might cause you to have even more unclean thoughts than you have been having. What would your bishop think if he saw the tent in your shorts and the wet spot in them -- unless it's not precum and you have pissed yourself.' Roger vanished in a hurry, but Jean Jean was not going to give him any slack. Every day or so she'd catch him unaware and ask, 'I still haven't had an answer, Roger, which was it?' The story, of course, went through the whole student body like wildfire.
"That night, when Alex and I got in bed, we lubed up our cocks, but before he could grasp mine, I had a sudden urge to crawl atop his body, which I did, pressing our hard cocks between us. We had been generous with the Albolene which made sliding back and forth, rubbing our cocks between us, pretty easy, but Alex reached over and grabbed another glob of the cream and I raised up and he rubbed it on our bellies, making my sliding on his belly, our hard cocks between us, even easier. I thought about what Jean Jean had said about a first kiss and covered Alex's mouth with mine. I guess some things just come naturally because he opened his mouth and I slid my tongue inside. We did tongue battle while I slid over his belly. The feeling I was getting in my cock and from my mouth were amazing and I was sure, totally unwholesome! Alex was kissing and sucking my neck when suddenly he bit down on it and sucked harder. I felt his hot cum gush between us. Mine followed.
"The next morning I had my first hickey which Alex spotted before we went downstairs and I changed shirt so it was hidden -- most of the time. Jean Jean spotted it during one of our sessions and said, 'I guess I can get a good night kiss now.'
"'But only a wholesome one,' I said and laughed.
"The first four weeks passed in a hurry and the week back in Wellsburg took forever. Alex and I had agreed we'd make no attempt to see each other, which was just as well because in addition to the need to catch up on chores and all, grandma had made sure I had three sessions with the bishop to quiz me about my 'learning and spiritual development' and he wasn't talking about the summer program. I had a hard time keeping a straight face at times because one of his questions would bring up an image of something Alex and I had discovered about each other and each other's body. When he asked if I had a girlfriend. I told him, truthfully, I did have. He immediately wanted to know if she was Mormon and when I told him she was not, but was very, very interested in learning about what Mormons believed, he seemed pleased. I assured him that we did no more than walk holding hands and exchanging a goodnight kiss which, I also assured him, was with closed mouths and they had not caused lustful thoughts about her. He smiled broadly and said I was making great progress. I agreed with him.
"Mr. Bledsoe wanted to take us to Boulder on Saturday, spend the night with his Mom and return Sunday since he had a busy schedule Monday, even though it was July Fourth. He said we would hit a drive-thru on the way so we'd leave about ten. I was ready to leave at nine! The trip back was uneventful and Alex and I behaved ourselves while his dad was in Vic House even though we both thought he might not understand our relationship, but would respect it."
I paused, looked at my watch and said, "Mr. VanWinkle, I cannot imagine you not being bored out of your skull by all this ancient history."
"Hardly, but I know you need a break. How about we take a walk around Fisherman's Wharf?"
We walked for about half an hour, bringing me back from those years in Wellsburg and the summers in Boulder which, I am convinced, kept me sane. We bought an ice cream and headed back to the hotel where I would resume the story of my life.
I need someone who speaks Brazilian Portuguese to edit some sentences in Sentinel Mountain.
The Fine Print
First of all, without a
delightful month with S and G in Oz, Sentinel Mountain would never have
been. Fond memories remain.
One of the things that keeps an author looking good are editors. Two from opposite sides of the world worked on Sentinel Mountain.
Jesse from coastal North Carolina (a visit with Jesse inspired the setting for The Saga of the Elizabethton Tarheels) got first crack at Sentinel Mountain and paid special attention to my haphazard use of commas.
Scott from Australia has been editing since second or third chapter of A Special Place. Any polish that Sentinel Mountain has owes much to Scott who managed to edit the manuscript in spite of loss of a job--which he loved, paid the bills and gave him time to work for free--floods and typhoons.
The mistakes are mine.
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