“Oh, maybe I need to hear more about this Arkadelphia Dream,” Capt. Sawyer replied.
“Well, it’s kinda long and complicated.”
“My time is yours.”
"Okay, the Arkadelphia Dream has two parts. The first I completely agree with." Cade then told him about the three plantations, how they worked together and aimed at being models for the production of pecans, cattle and meat goats. "They care about the land and the environment. I'm all for that. I don't know much about cattle and less about pecans, but I do know goats and Andy and Jamie, owners of Philos, are well on their way to having a model set up for goats especially with the help of my brother Caleb. They really care about the animals and people."
“Sounds like a worthwhile dream to me.”
“It is and I’m all for it. It’s the second part that chaps my ass.”
“And what is the second part?”
"I guess the best way to describe it is everyone is part of this big family except families disrespect each other sometimes. That's not permitted. I got no problem with working and living with African-Americans; the Corps taught me that. Hell, an African-American saved my Marine ass more than once in Afghanistan. Same with women. There is a man who is mentally handicapped who works there. A wonderful, hard-working guy. Working with him is great. It fags that give me a problem. Part of the dream is that disrespecting someone gets you fired after one warning. I was there as a guest of my brother or I'd have been fired—and was told so—when I said something about fags. I will not work with a cocksucker. I can't."
“So there are no homosexuals on the plantations?”
“None. I was there for a month and believe me, I can spot a fag a mile off.”
“You can? I’m surprised. Most people can’t.”
“Well, I can and I avoid ’em.”
“I guess you didn’t approve when ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ was tossed in the waste can.”
“Didn’t matter to me. No fags in the Marines.”
Capt. Sawyer wondered where Cade had been since he must have encountered a gay Marine sometime. Two gay Marines had made a big splash on national television during the past year. ‘I guess he either decided they were pretending to be gay or lied about being a Marine,' he thought. As a matter of fact, Cade simply never watched the news or political TV programs. Capt. Sawyer noticed Cade was getting uneasy and said, "Corporal, would you like something to drink? Coffee, coke, water?"
“Water would be nice.”
The captain pressed a button on his intercom and when a male voice answered, asked, “Staff Sergeant, would you bring us a couple of bottles of water, please.”
“Right away, Sir.”
A couple of minutes later a burly, really built Marine came in with two bottles of water, handed one to the Major and one to Cade, making sure Cade got a good look at him. When he walked out, Capt. Sawyer said, “Staff Sergeant Reynolds is the battalion wrestling champion and it looks as if he’ll go further.”
“He sure looks like he could. The Corps must be proud of him.”
“They are. He has won all sorts of awards in the Corps and, I guess, Corporal Hall, you have met your first gay marine.”
“That man can’t be a fag! You’re trying to fool me!”
“Well, I wouldn’t advise you to call him a fag to his face and I think the Corps would take a dim view of your language as well.”
Cade was silent and Capt. Sawyer suggested they look at the work Cade had done on listing his skills. The captain pointed out skills he had which he had not listed. For example, he was a skilled observer. “I suspect that is a skill, not just to spot IEDs, but something unusual about a goat's behavior for example.”
Cade was given some reading material and a writing assignment and an appointment with Capt. Sawyer for three days later. “Corporal, you have an appointment this afternoon with Capt. Richardson at 1430. His office is down the hall, room twenty-eight. Suggest you get some lunch and rest before as I’m sure your leg is ready for a rest.” Cade thanked him, saluted and left feeling better about himself than when he had thought the skills he had acquired in the Marines were useless in civilian life.
After lunch, he lay down expecting to go to sleep at once. For some reason, the morning had exhausted him. Instead of sleeping, he kept thinking about Staff Sergeant Reynolds. He still wasn't sure Capt. Sawyer had not been pulling his leg about the staff sergeant being gay. He sure as hell didn't look gay. That led him to think about the people on the plantations. None of them looked gay either, yet he had been told if he worked there he would be working with at least one gay person.
Well, he was damn sure his brother was straight. Jamie, Ethan, Dek, and Davis were all fathers so they weren't gay. Christopher and Andy were definitely ladies men—he had been out on the prowl with them a couple of times. Rich and Doug lived together, so they might be queer, but Rich never worked on the plantations and Doug only when he was free, which was at most a few hours occasionally. He put Doug in the ‘maybe' column. That left Randy who was married to Ginger and Caleb said he had kinda adopted Jamie because he and Ginger couldn't have kids. All of the women except Ginger were mothers. Hell, maybe there were no fags on the plantations. If not, why mention it?" Which brought him back to the staff sergeant. He never did doze off.
Cade was of the firm opinion that Marines could handle whatever was dished out to them. They sure as hell didn't need a shrink. Capt. Richardson knew the type well. It represented a majority of the Marines he saw every day. "Corporal Hall, I'm here to help you any way I can. Most likely you are pretty sure you don't need a shrink and I can understand that. So let's just chat. Tell me about South Georgia. I am a Yankee myself and suspect the ideas I have of the South come from bad movies—you know, ignorant rednecks and good old boy sheriffs. See you grew up in Hubert County, Georgia. Is that rural?"
Cade laughed. "If it were more rural it would have to be double its size. There are two traffic lights in the county, both in the county seat which has a population of less than a thousand. That's half the population of the county. Most of it is planted in pines. I graduated from the county high school with fifty-two other seniors. We lived over ten miles from the school and had no transportation except the school bus so my twin and I never got to do any extracurricular activities.
“You have a twin. Any other siblings?”
“No, just the two of us.”
Capt. Richardson led Cade to talk more about his family and when he asked about friends, he noticed a change in Cade and since it was near the end of the hour, he quickly ended the conversation.
Over the next couple of weeks, Cade made good progress through his work with Capt. Sawyer and Capt. Richardson. He was surprised to learn he had education money and that he could work on becoming a veterinary assistant at Audubon Community College which would be ideal if he continued to live with Caleb. Of course, working with goats at Philos Plantation would also be ideal, but it looked as though that was not happening. He was not working with fags.
On his third visit to Capt. Richardson, the psychologist asked him a series of yes or no questions, not pausing between one and another. It got the desired result since Cade slipped into a more or less automatic response. When Capt. Richardson asked if he had nightmares nearly nightly, he answered 'yes' immediately. Without pausing, Capt. Richardson asked if they were becoming less frequent and Cade responded 'no.' After several more questions, Capt. Richardson asked, "How'd you like to take a walk? The walls begin to close in on me after awhile."
Cade nodded his head and answered, “Sounds good, but we’ll have to go slow and rest. My leg is still healing.”
“How’s it coming?”
“Very well, I think, but it’s sure slow.”
As they walked in the shade of palms, Capt. Richardson said, “Tell me about the nightmares, Corporal.”
Strangely enough, Cade felt he wanted to talk about them. They often involved horrible things he had seen Afghans do to each other. After talking about that for awhile, he said, “But before a nightmare is over, the explosion which killed my fellow Marines plays out again. It also kills a very good friend of mine.”
“Let’s rest a minute,” Capt. Richardson said, pointing to a nearby park bench. When they were seated, he said, “Tell me about your friend.”
"His name was Jeremy. He was the only person near my age that lived anywhere close; he lived a couple miles from us. He was like a brother to me. Our mom had died and our dad was a drunk. We had nothing. What little Dad might earn he spent on liquor. Jeremy's family weren't rich, but compared to us, they were well off. I might have been jealous except Jeremy helped us all he could." It took a moment, but Capt. Richardson realized Cade was not speaking of a Marine friend, but someone from his childhood.
"Dad was abusive, especially when he was drunk. Caleb, my twin, was much smaller than I was. No way could he protect himself from Dad, so I had to. Jeremy was always there for us. When things got too bad, I'd send Caleb to Jeremy who would protect him, often hiding him in their barn. Never did I suspect Jeremy lived in a worse hell than we did.
"I was thirteen and one morning when I got to school, I learned Jeremy had hanged himself. Before he did, he sent me a letter which I got the day of his burial. In it, he told me his father first raped him when he was nine and had repeated the rape two or three times a week since. ‘Cade, I can't take anymore and I don't know where to turn for help. Everyone I tried to tell told me to stop making up lies.' At the end of the letter, he wrote, ‘Protect Caleb.' I hate fags because they do things like that! I hate that fag father of Jeremy's for killing him."
Capt. Richardson clearly saw Cade was not with him, but in his thirteen-year-old world reliving the pain of Jeremy's death. He didn't think it was in any Marine manual, but he reached out and hugged Cade to himself. The wounded Marine beat him on the chest with a clenched fist as he said through tears and clenched teeth, “I hate them, I hate them, I hate them.” Back in his office, Capt. Richardson called Col. Cannon and he sent a medic to take Cade back to his room and give him a sedative. Cade saw Capt. Richardson daily for the next two weeks as they worked through a tiny part of his anger over the death of Jeremy, his misplaced hatred of gays, his anger with what he saw as pointless deaths in Afghanistan and the loss of his friends and his being wounded in the explosion of an IED. A big pile of shit, but then that was not uncommon among those he saw and he never saw them long enough. He did what he could and hoped it helped.
Six weeks after he had headed for Jacksonville, Cade was headed back to Arkadelphia. Although Cade's progress was rapid, he and Capt. Richardson felt he could use further counseling and the captain made arrangements for him to receive it in Audubon. With the help of Capt. Sawyer, he had also worked out a career and education plan—which included living with Caleb. He had called and talked with his brother and Caleb said he could live with him as long as he needed. Cade had been surprised when he learned he had money to pay for advanced education and after talking with Capt. Sawyer decided he would work on a degree. That way he could go on to vet school if he wanted to and could get in or he could decide he'd just get his certificate as a vet's assistant. So, six weeks after he had arrived at the Jacksonville Naval Hospital, he was on his way to Arkadelphia—his disability tentatively set at fifty percent and the date of his medical discharge unsettled.
As he made the long drive back to Philos, two things kept cropping up in his mind when he was least expecting it. One was SSgt. Reynolds. If there was ever a picture of the perfect Marine, he would look something like SSgt. Reynolds and if there was ever an absolute contrast to what a fa . . . a gay man was like, it was SSgt Reynolds. Yet SSgt. Reynolds was a much-decorated career Marine and SSgt. Reynolds was gay. The other was a conversation he had with Capt. Richardson about Jeremy's dad. Capt. Richardson had shown him an article in the Jacksonville paper about a father who had repeatedly raped his twelve-year-old daughter. After he had read the article, Capt. Richardson asked, "Sound familiar?"
“Yeah, like Jeremy except that girl’s father wasn’t a fag.”
“Maybe, maybe not. Assume he wasn’t homosexual, but heterosexual as you. Does that mean you are likely to rape young girls?”
“Of course not.”
“Right. Of course not. That man and Jeremy’s father are very sick men. They are pedophiles. It’s not a question of gay or straight. Pedophiles sexually assault children. Some of the same sex, others different, but both abuse children.
“Some men rape men, some men rape women. They are rapists, period. A majority of heterosexual men do not rape women. A majority of homosexual men do not rape men. Some gay men are effeminate; some heterosexual men are effeminate. Some heterosexual men look like SSgt. Reynolds; at least you know one gay man does.” Cade had laughed. He decided Capt. Sawyer was pulling his leg and asked the staff sergeant if he was a fag. He quickly learned two things—well, three—you don't call a gay man a fag, some gay men—at least the staff sergeant—were not ashamed of being gay and finally, some gay men can beat the shit out of you if they choose. Fortunately SSgt. Reynolds just demonstrated that by picking Cade up by his waist and holding him bottom side up with his head three feet from the floor. “Gay men come in as many different shapes, act as many different ways, do as many different jobs, are a trustworthy and untrustworthy as heterosexual men,” Capt. Richardson had continued. “Gay men differ from straight men simply in who they like to have sex with, who they love. That’s it, period, full stop.” That was still sinking in, but Cade still wasn’t sure he could live and work around gays.
Ethan asked Davis and Randy to meet with him Friday morning after the last of pecans had been picked up by the buyer—another record crop, by the way—to look over the employee situation at Arkadelphia. When they were all settled in—Molly joined them—Ethan said, “Okay, Randy, you are likely losing Michael this spring when he graduates and you and Christopher will pretty much have the cattle station to yourselves . . .
“Not quite true,” Randy responded. “For all practical purposes, Alfred is full-time with cattle. Andy and Jamie are working at least half-time, so that's equivalent to another full-time employee. Additionally, they and Caleb have worked out the cattle and breeding schedules so when the cows are dropping calves, the goats are not kidding. When we are busy with cows dropping calves and caring for new calves and vice versa, they are pretty much full-time employees. We have finished fencing and replacing pastures, so aside from haying and calving season, we have employees enough. By the way, Michael is applying for a graduate fellowship. If he gets it, he'll still be around and I'm sure will want to work some.”
“Good news,” Davis said. “Molly and I were dreading losing Shawn.”
“Don't think you need to worry about that yet,” Ethan said.
“Guess now is as good a time as any since I gather we’re talking pecans next. Ethan, you’re going to have to find another bookkeeper and I’ll not be working pecans after we complete this year’s harvest. Molly and I have signed up for an around the world cruise leaving Miami the first week in November. With all our stopovers, we’ll be gone until the first of March, maybe later.
“When did you decide this?” Ethan asked, thunderstruck.
"Well, we've been talking for some time now, but it was decided last night when Molly told me about it. She had booked the cruise six months ago and didn't tell me.
"That means we have me, Ash, and Dek to handle the pecans. We have finished interplanting, so there's only routine work to be done, but with the addition of Pleasant Grove, we have seven hundred acres of pecans. We need to add at least one and probably two to the pecan crew. So we need a bookkeeper and one or two people who can work pecans. No rush on the pecan workers, but we really need a bookkeeper now."
When everyone was together at the end of the day, Ethan announced the Edwards’ plans and the necessity of finding a bookkeeper quickly and eventually an addition or two to the pecan crew. “Any ideas let me know.”
Andy had mixed feeling about his genetics lab. The course, and especially the labs, were kicking his butt, mostly because of the volume of the time and study required. It was not his favorite class. Or maybe it was because of one of the teaching assistants. Christine was a rare animal, an undergraduate teaching assistant and gorgeous. She had graduated high school when she was sixteen after having done summer schools in New Zealand, Switzerland and England. With her AP classes in high school and summer schools in college, she was a senior at nineteen, Caleb's age. She already captured a fellowship in genetics when Andy met her. Christine was a rough and tumble tomboy who Andy noted, "cleaned up real nice." She was from an upper upper-middle-class family in Thomasboro and was what African-Americans called ‘high yellow.' Her parents had destined her for Spelman in Atlanta, but she had other ideas. From an upper social and economic class background and a teaching assistant, she was, Andy knew, definitely out of his league but that didn't stop him from daydreaming.
One afternoon in the lab, Andy asked her about the practical application of what he was doing. ‟I mean, can you tell me, Miss Evans, why I need to know any of this?”
"In regard to what in particular? Cows? Pecans? Pines? What?"
“Goats,” Andy replied.
“You’re interested in goats?”
“I’m very interested in goats as I kinda own a few.”
“How many? What’s a few? Two, three, four?”
"I think right now about seventy-five. Well, actually, my partner and I own over seventy-five counting billies and their companions with maybe about fifty more on the way soon."
“Well, I don’t think what you are doing this moment would have any practical application, but genetics can make a real difference. Seventy-five goats and maybe fifty more on the way. That’s a lot of goats. So tell me about this goat farm.”
“Philos Plantation. Our ‘goat farm’ is named Philos.”
“Free after this class?” Christine asked.
“For an hour.”
"Buy you a coffee?"
After class, the two walked to the student center and grabbed cokes. Once they were settled, Andy was only too happy to talk about Philos and goats. Hell, he would have happy to talk about the aesthetics of watching paint dry with Christine, who wasn't treating him at all as if he was out of her league.
Too soon the time for Andy's next class approached and Christine, said, "seventy-five goats on a South Georgia plantation with an African-American half owner. I'd like to have a look at that operation."
“Got anything planned for Saturday?”
“Nothing at all.”
“How would you like to spend the day at Philos Plantation? I’m sure you can get your fill of goats. I could pick you up.”
“Sounds good. Stanley Hall, suite 203, 10:00 Saturday.”
"Bring a swimsuit and dress for a goat farm."
After his afternoon lecture, Andy had a couple of hours before the Arkadelphia van picked him up for the trip home. As he had done for the past couple of weeks, he walked over to the Ford dealer’s to check out a brand new Ford Mustang Premium Convertible. Andy really liked it except it was white and he really wanted a blue car. Further, it was loaded with every factory and dealer installed option imaginable which really jacked the price up. Andy told the salesman he just didn't want to spend that much money. The salesman told him he could find him a blue one, but the price would be about the same. Andy talked to his dad, Jamie and Ethan and all agreed the salesman wanted a huge commission or he could find a blue car with just what Andy wanted on it. "He knows he's got you hooked," Jamie said. "Now he's just reeling you in, gently, but the hook's set."
Andy looked the car over and decided he’d just have to take what he could get. With Christine coming to Philos, he really did want a nice car. When he mentioned it on the way home, he realized he was holding a wild card. “Jamie, think you could go with me tomorrow morning to look for a car?”
“You finally going to turn loose some of that money, Andy,” Christopher chided.
“Maybe,” Andy answered, “but I need Jamie.”
Jamie grinned. He was about to get in a new game.
Next morning, Jamie picked up Andy at 9:00 and they drove to Audubon. Jamie stopped a block from the dealership and said, "Andy, wait for me in the coffee shop across the street from the dealership. How much can I spend?"
“Well, the salesman has never gone very far below fifty thousand. I haven’t built a house and we haven’t sold any pines yet, so I have some money. Just get me a deal.”
“You're looking at Mustang convertible, right?”
“Yeah, a blue one.”
“And you’re giving me a free hand?
Jamie was sure the salesman knew he had Andy hooked because Andy kept coming around. As he walked into the showroom, he spied what appeared to be a new blue Shelby 500 GT parked beside the white Mustang convertible. He knew the blue car and most of its history. A fellow in one of his advanced business classes had driven the car for abqout two or three or months and then he was driving a Ford Focus. In spite of the fact that it was in the showroom, it was actually a ‘used' car. The rumor was that James Frazer, a big shot in South Georgia real estate, had made arrangements with a bank he was associated with to allow his son to buy the car. His dad put down a high down payment and had paid three or four months’ payments when his son was picked up, stoned out of his mind. There was also a small bag of weed in the car. His dad got him off with only a DWI charge, but let the car go back. No one seemed to know why the car ended up in the showroom until another fellow in the class let the cat out of the bag. He said the bank was caught with its ass in a crack and made a deal for the dealer to sell the car on a commission so the bank wouldn't have to put it in its 'For Sale' lot, advertising its mistake. So far it had sat in the showroom for over six months.
Jamie had been concerned the salesman would pull a fast one on Andy since he could not have missed Andy’s interest in the Mustang and his naiveté when it came to bargaining. So far as Jamie was concerned, Andy was a walking disaster when it came to wheeling and dealing.
The white convertible was loaded so Jamie wasn’t too surprised when he saw the sticker price. He did some calculations in his head before he started on the salesman. He soon learned the price he quoted Andy was about as low as he would go. “Black kid has his eye on that car and is about ready to buy. He comes by every few days and looks it over. Checked him out and he has the money to buy it. Just a matter of time and he’ll pay what I’m asking.” Andy had pretty much blocked any negotiations Jamie could do.
“Hell, man, you’re asking almost as much for it as that Shelby.”
The salesman laughed, “Yeah, someone else paid a huge down payment and four months payments on that Shelby. That allowed us to take a bite out of its selling price. It also has a couple thousand miles on it as well making it a used car.”
“So how many is a couple thousand?” Jamie asked.
The salesman poked his head into the car and said, "a few miles under five thousand, four thousand, nine hundred thirty-eight to be exact."
“So why is it in here?”
"We're selling it for the bank. They didn't want it parked on that lot where they park repoes advertising their carelessness with their customers’ money. Said they just want their money and if we kept it here and sold it, we get a commission plus all over their asking price. I could sell it for a few thousand below the price in its window and still make more than I can selling the Mustang."
“Still under warranty?”
“Four thousand below the price in the window, you say?”
“Well, I said I’d make more at two than selling the Mustang.”
“Three thousand five hundred under and you get a check today if it’s ready to roll by 7:00 this evening.”
“Can’t do that. Two thousand two hundred fifty below.”
Ten minutes later after Jamie had pointed out a few things, the salesman said, “I need to talk to my manager.”
“Forget that shit. You’re the salesman and I know all about ‘talking to my manager.’ You have my final offer three thousand two fifty below the window price.”
“I’ll hate myself in the morning,” the salesman said.
“I’ll probably hate you too,” Jamie said.
The salesman nodded okay.
"Wrap 'er up," Jamie said and signed a ‘Contract to Buy' using Andy's name and said, "I'll be back in an hour with a check or cash. Which do you want?"
“Cash is always nice.”
Jamie drove back to the coffee shop and sat down with Andy after ordering coffee and a slice of coffee cake. “Well, Andy, I thought I had lost my magic touch. That salesman wasn’t budging a bit on the price of the Mustang in spite of anything I did. So I gave up. Actually paid a couple thousand bucks less and you bought yourself a blue Shelby. The guy slipped up and said he’d make more out of the Shelby than the Mustang and I nailed him. It’ll be ready in a couple hours. I’ll finish my coffee and we’ll go to the bank and get the cash.”
So it was that Andy had a car he thought worthy of Christine.