"I was steaming and when I glanced over and saw the beatific smile on Mom's face, I had only one thought, 'I don't know how, but I have been had. Shit!' The University of Utah had increased certain areas of my vocabulary considerably! In Strang's office, he said, 'Mr. Crimshaw, we have a contract for you as teacher and IT specialist for New Beginnings starting today. Your annual salary will be fifty thousand a year and you will be provided housing and board. When school is not in session, you will work in our other enterprises as assigned. Is that clear?'
"'That is clear, but I want no part of it,' I said, shoving the contract back toward him.
"'You don't understand, Mr. Crimshaw. This is the signed contract and those are what you are offered and your duties. Should you refuse, the contract clearly states that the first two years' salary was advanced to you and should you not fulfill the contract, the full amount is due at once, with interest beginning when it was advanced three months ago. You, of course, deposited half of it in your mother's account and Ms. Crimshaw has already made a gift of it and a substantial amount of her own monies to New Beginnings for a lifetime residence here.' Mom looked at me with an evil grin on her face and said, 'You thought you had me fooled, didn't you, faggot?' I grabbed the contract and looked at it. Had I not known otherwise, I would have sworn I had signed it.
"We can skip over the next eighteen months except to note that the Prophet had decreed girls of thirteen and men of eighteen were to be married. He claimed to be—and his people believed him to be, or said they did—a reincarnation of James Strang who had taken the name Lehi. He was James Strang returned to restore the true Latter Day Saints. The man was a nutcase, but so were his followers."
Alex then explained the 'marriage ceremony', to Josh and the team, a ceremony which was church-sanctioned rape in many, and perhaps most, cases.
"Here I was, twenty-three and unmarried. The Prophet picked out a bride for me and I was told our 'wedding' would be at a later date. I had to do something because the girl would be examined to make sure she had 'done her duty', but what?
"The gods, or god, or luck smiled on me. From time to time at either the sunrise or sunset two-hour service, the Prophet would suddenly pause, look over the congregation as though he was scanning them and say, in a voice which, I guess, he thought was mysterious, 'I am receiving a revelation that someone has a vision from God.' He would wait and soon someone would stand, trembling, and deliver their 'vision', as often as not gibberish and, occasionally a 'command' to do or not do something anyone with half a mind knew was a decision made by Strang who actually controlled the place.
"Four days before my scheduled wedding, the Prophet went into his 'I am receiving a revelation' act. In case you don't know, the LDS uses bread and water for the Sacrament. It didn't start that way. Originally they used wine and had vineyards to produce it. I had done a bit of research on James Strang and found, in some ways, the Strangites, as they were called, were far ahead of the LDS. They allowed African-Americans into the priesthood in 1849 and James Strang's second wife—as in polygamy—wore pants and advocated for women's rights, but that's beside the point. The important point is they used fresh grape juice in the Sacrament. How that was available all year in the mid-nineteenth century is beside the point. It's what I read. The Prophet followed the mainstream LDS in using water.
"I thought I had the trembling down pretty well and before anyone else could hop up with their vision, I went into it and looked, I hoped, like I was in a trance, and said in a weird voice. 'True Latter Day Saints hear me!' Utter silence. 'Listen to a vision from the holy God. On the day before Marvin Alexander Crimshaw is to be wed, in this place, my true prophet, Lehi, will, at the time of the Sacrament, change pure water, in the clearest of glass pitcher into rich, red, fruit of the vine. It will be a sign that he is the true Prophet. You shall partake of that water changed into the fruit of the vine and you shall savor it on your tongue and know that you are true Latter Day Saints. But beware! If the flavor is not there, then Lehi is not the true Prophet and you shall abandon him and revile him for the truth is not in him. Hear this true vision of the Lord your holy God!'
"I collapsed to the floor, jerking and twitching until I was picked up by two men and taken to Lehi who laid hands on me. I came out of my trance and looked around as though I was bewildered and confused. Each sunrise service until the roof caved in on me, Lehi held up the pitcher waiting for the miracle. Needless to say, it never happened. The miracle was forgotten and life moved on, but I did notice my wedding day never arrived either.
"A month or month and a half before I ended up in New Beginnings Clinic, I was assigned to work in the barn with a guy I had been noticing for several weeks. As we walked to the barn, we introduced ourselves. His name was Dek. As we worked, I noticed he kept sneaking glances at me. I'll admit, I was doing the same to him. My 'when school's not in session' jobs always seemed to involve hard physical labor and it showed. I'll admit I was in better shape than I had ever been. He was also a fine hulk, but I was pretty sure his came out of a gym. Anyway, we talked about how long we had been at New Beginnings and I told him I had been there about eighteen months and expected to be leaving in five or six months. He had come five weeks ago and had forty-seven to go.
"One of the things you learned quickly at New Beginnings is you couldn't trust anyone. He asked why I had come and I told him I didn't have a job and was offered a job for two years at a good salary.
"'Man, I don't think I could take two years,' he said.
"'You get used to it after a while,' I replied and realized I had. 'It's something called the Stockholm syndrome,' I said to myself when I realized how sucked-in I had become.
"'Why are you here?' I asked.
"'Had a great-aunt who married a black man without knowing he could not be admitted to the priesthood. That, of course, changed, but before it did, she heard of a Strangite group and became a part of it. She was rolling in money and the two of them made a lot more. She left a bunch to the Strangite church she attended and the balance to me and my sister. My sister was killed in a car crash shortly before the aunt's will was read and it's all mine. The only requirement was that I attach myself to a Strangite commune for year. This was the only one I found which looked like I could handle. For a couple million, I think I can handle shoveling shit for a year.'
"'Yeah,' I replied, 'but some advice. Watch what you say. You can't trust anyone here.' A short time later, I saw him looking at me and rubbing his crotch. When I looked at him, he quickly glanced away, but he had a tent in his pants.
"We kinda got assigned barn duty and one evening, after sunset service, the bishop of the single men's quarters came to my door and pushed it open. The bishop never knocked and doors had no catches, but were spring loaded so they stayed closed, but could just be pushed open. 'Alexander, we have cows calving and you are on duty to care for them tonight. If one is in trouble giving birth and you can't handle it, give me a call,' he said and left. When I got to the barn, Dek was there along with Jack and Al. There were nine cows in the stalls and all seemed to be going well. At nine, an hour after lights-out, the bishop came down, saw that four of the cows had given birth and said, 'Jack, Al go to bed. Surely two men can handle things now,' and the three left.
"An hour later, the last cow gave birth and I was ready to go to bed, when Dek pulled me into a dark corner and covered my mouth with his. Damn it felt good! We were tongue wrestling as we unzipped pants and took out the other's cock and started giving each other a hand job. Neither of us lasted long and after we had shot, Dek said, 'I've been needing that ever since I got here and from the looks of the load you shot, you've been needing it a long time.' I nodded. When I got back in bed, I thought of Josh and felt guilty. I felt guilty, but Dek and I started looking for opportunities for sex. A quick tongue wrestling if we were in danger of getting caught, if we had longer, we jerked each other off and occasionally, we felt safe enough for blowjobs, but that was very seldom. Maybe it was rationalization, I'm sure it was, but I told myself the same thing Josh did, we were having sex, pure and simple, and that did not betray the love I had for Josh.
"I guess Dek and I became bold, careless, whatever. One Saturday we were again assigned to the barn. We were to stack the bales of hay—the long square ones, not the round ones—to make room for bales which would be coming in from the field. We carefully stacked them to form a wall between the ladder and the back of the loft, tossed loose hay behind the wall and waited for the first bales which were sent up by conveyor. We only had time to toss them aside and would stack them after the hay trucks had returned to the field. As soon as the trucks left we were behind the wall we built, doing a sixty-nine when the bishop yelled, 'I suspected you two were faggots!' He had a strap in his hand and struck Dek across the face with it, laying open his cheek. I managed to turn my head in time to avoid being hit in the face. He blew a whistle and Jack and Al came running. Dek lunged at the bishop, who side-stepped and shoved Dek so he fell from the loft. I am sure he broke something, I never found out. Thirty minutes later we were both patients at New Beginnings Clinic.
Alex then talked about his time in the clinic and all that happened there.
"Josh knows from the raid what went on in that so-called clinic. Either of us can answer questions but, essentially, it was the same as Exodus except more extreme. The levels took longer—the minimum stay was five months, not eight weeks—and the 'nurses' and 'doctors' were sadistic monsters who took pleasure in torturing the 'patients'. I was fortunate, I guess, because I had learned some tricks in Exodus, but I still spent a long time on each level and had just reached level three when I was rescued.
"Abraham Strang, I learned, was the real power behind the throne and, I am sure, knew Lehi was a fraud—well actually a nutcase—he used in his con game called New Beginnings. New Beginnings stood to pick up a pile of money when Dek finished his residence there, so he was sent to the clinic. I read later that good old Mom had been given a contract turning over the fifty thousand I was supposed to receive at the end of my contract, but she was too smart to give it to them all at once and crossed out the clause and had written in after fifty thousand 'at the rate of three thousand per month.' Strang, and two doctors signed it.
"Anyway, that's it except Dek was one of the guys who broke for the fence and didn't make it and was airlifted to the hospital in St. Francis. End of story."
"Is it? End of story, I mean," asked Henry.
"Of course not," Alex replied. "Not by a long shot, but it's a good beginning to the end. At least for me, it will have an ending, I'm sure of that. For some of the guys who were there when I was and for many, perhaps most, of those who came before, there will be no ending so long as they live. It's hard for me to see, but occasionally I realize I'm one of the lucky ones."
"What do you think it will take to put an end to the story?" Shawn asked.
"I've thought a lot of about that. Some things, I think, will be easy. Probably the easiest will be that Josh and I need to deal with our guilty feeling about having sex with someone else. I need to get over the anger I have at Dad for abandoning me. My head knows he didn't and even if he kinda did, it was not intentional. I don't expect to get over the hatred I have for Maria Crimshaw, ever, but I do need to deal with it so she doesn't still have some control over me. While I think some of both Maria Crimshaw and New Beginnings is Stockholm syndrome, I also know I need to get over being easily dominated. I guess it's also something Josh and I need to work out, but we have just assumed I will go to North Carolina and love it. No question, I'll love Josh, but we have made a pretty big assumption about our living there."
Josh's heart fell into his stomach. Alex was right, they—especially he—had made a big assumption about their life together. Josh was used to being the leader, the boss. He hoped he wasn't mean about it, but that needed examination. Maybe he needed time with the team himself. He'd ask about that. Alex's voice called him back to the present.
"No, of course that's not all. I haven't mentioned the biggie and that's sex. The last summer we were in Boulder we talked blowjobs, but never did it. That we decided we would do when we went back the next year. I never fucked Dek, and all of our sex was just sex. We could have become very good friends, I think, but I didn't love him. I know Josh fucked Kelly and was fucked by him, but it was just fucking, right, Josh?"
Josh looked at Helen and she gave him a slight nod. "How deep do I want to get into this?" he asked himself. "Right," he responded, "but I am pretty sure that I see fucking and being fucked in connection with being betrayed rather than in a way of making love at this point. I guess that's something Alex and I need to talk about."
Henry was the methodical one and he ticked off on his fingers, "One, Josh and guilt feelings; two, living together, and where; three, father and feeling of abandonment; four, hatred of mother; five, domination; six, sex—in increasing order of difficulty. Is that it?"
"I hope so," Alex replied.
"Sounds pretty complete to me," Shawn said.
Helen nodded and said, "Ok, Alex, at this point, I only need to monitor your medication with Henry. Henry will see you occasionally to make sure you are doing ok with the meds and adjust as necessary. He, and I, will be available if you need us or want to talk to us, but unless you think otherwise, it will be Shawn who is working on a daily, or whatever, basis with you. Questions? Henry? Shawn? Then I'll leave you in Henry's and Shawn's capable hands." She stood and shook hands with Alex and Josh.
"I know you've barely started, Alex," Henry said "but emotionally, can you handle things without too much pain? Feeling zombie-like? How're you sleeping?"
"I'm not sure. I don't feel zombie-like, but I also feel like I am too fine, too happy for what I have just come from. That make sense?"
"It does. I'd like for you to change the dosage of your meds. I'll write out the instructions. Realize that until it's adjusted, a downward adjustment may be too much the other way. Josh, I'm going to depend on your better judgment here to decide, for example, how many tears are reasonable. Even I could only make a subjective call on that and you know Alex a lot better than I do, but prolonged tears or very few tears call for a further adjustment. Questions?"
"You are not asking me to make adjustments are you?'Josh asked.
"No, no," Henry said. "Just call me if you think the meds need to be lowered further or, less likely, raised. No, I'd never ask you to make the adjustments."
"Good, because—you may recall—psychological drugs are a sensitive spot for me."
"I do indeed recall. Call me if you need me. Josh, glad to meet you. We have to talk horses one of these days." Henry shook hands with the two and, like Helen, left.
Shawn said, "Alex, I guess I see myself walking beside you as you journey to wholeness. I can't make the journey for you and while I may make suggestions, I can't determine the path you take. I have traveled the road with others, but theirs is not your road. At the same time, the roads have common pitfalls, blind alleys, necessary detours and short cuts—some good, some not good. I can, perhaps, spot these and point them out, but you may know, for example, that what I think is a blind alley is really a good shortcut. There are a couple areas about which I have questions now. Both involve Josh. What do you think about the two of you working on the question of guilt because you had sex with someone else?"
"Frankly," Alex said, "I'd like to think that is something the two of us can work out between us and if we can't, then I'll really worry. I'd say we'll know if we need help Monday. If we do, I can see that as something we do together with you."
"That rings true to me," Josh said.
"Fine. We'll deal with anything left over from that Monday, so I guess that means a joint session Monday. Is that alright?"
"I have an appointment all afternoon Monday," Josh said. "If absolutely necessary, I could move that, but it would involve four others and it's important."
"When does your meeting start?"
'We are starting at lunch, but I could make that at one rather than noon."
"I was meeting a colleague for lunch at noon, but I can move that to one and, if not, we can have lunch Tuesday. I think you two also need to be together to discuss living together and you have to look at the where as well."
"I guess we can talk about whether or not we want to live together, but that has long been a settled question for me," Josh said. "I've had experience living with someone, which Alex hasn't, and I'm sure we'll have to make the normal adjustments all couples have to make: who sleeps on which side of the bed, where do you squeeze the toothpaste tube, how does the toilet paper come off the roll; those kinds of important things." He grinned. "But I think you deal with those as they come up since you really don't know what is and is not important until it's too late to back out. The where has never crossed my mind. I assumed Alex would love Sentinel Mountain, all my dreams about it have been dreams of me and Alex there, but I now realize that was my dream and not Alex's, and it may never be his. I may be wrong, but I think I would be willing to give up the Mountain in a heartbeat if it meant having it and not Alex. But any discussion of that will have to wait until next weekend or the weekend after when we can spend a long weekend there. At this point, I wouldn't want to subject Alex to the trip as it's five or six hours."
"As much as I want to see it, there's no rush," Alex said. "I'll be here at least two, three months I suspect and that's plenty of time to spend a weekend or more there."
"Good point," Shawn said. "Just looking over the other items… how about dealing with your feelings of abandonment by your father?"
"That, too, has to be put on hold. I think that is something he and I can work out when he arrives."
"And when is that?"
"I'm not sure. When I was released and called him, he was in London and I told him it would be pointless to make a sixteen-hour round trip for a few hours here. He's involved in some sort of complicated negotiations and I suspect when he gets here will be determined by how those go. Remember, I last saw him seven years ago when he went to New York. I don't know if he is with the same company or what he does. Gertrude—she is his mother—doesn't know either."
"Ok, we'll talk with you and Josh about your relationship Monday. I'll see the two of you at noon. I suspect we will be in my office. Anything else?"
"Yes, if you have a few minutes," Josh said.
"I think I can spare a few."
"Thanks. I realized as you and Alex were speaking that I tend to run my life as I run my business. I'm the leader and while I'll listen to what you have to say, finally the decision is mine. I tend to dominate. I hope I don't run roughshod over people too often; I know I do at times, but I don't know any other way to run a business. I walked out of UC-Boulder the day of my finals and landed a job it should have taken several years to achieve. When it was at a crisis point, I made decisions without a great deal of input and I'm proud of those. Monday, I am essentially turning it over to someone else. Someone I have chosen, someone who has proven his ability and whom I trust. I am becoming a non-participating partner except for handling problems on the east coast and I think I am capable of doing that, but should something happen to him and I have to take over again, I would take over, period. I would be in charge. My point is that running a multi-billion-dollar business and being part of a relationship are totally different ball games. In short, I think I need to work with you or someone you recommend on my natural tendency to dominate, to be in charge. That is especially true for me since the man I hope to have as my lifelong partner tends to allow himself to be dominated."
"Quite clear, Josh. I see no problem with our working on that, but if you or I find we need to, I will be happy to recommend someone."
On that note, the three shook hands and Josh and Alex left, holding hands.
"How about lunch?" Josh asked.
"Sounds great," Alex responded. "Another great, greasy hamburger?"
"Remember that place on the edge of town which had the great hamburgers?" Alex nodded. "I wonder if it's still there or if we can find it?" They found they couldn't just drive to it and were about to give up looking when they spotted it, same as they remembered it from six and seven years ago. Josh parked and they got out. Alex walked around the car and reached for Josh's hand. Walking into a therapist's office holding hands was one thing, but Josh was sure walking into the Cowboy Bar and Grill was quite another.
They stepped into the cafe out of the sun and waited a minute for their eyes to adjust before they could see anything. As they waited, someone called out, "Well, ain't that sweet, a couple fags holding hands."
Josh's temper immediately flared. Had he been alone, he would have ignored the comment, but he was like a mama bear with a cub because Alex was with him. His eyes had adjusted enough for him to see there were only men in the place and they looked pretty rough. Before Josh could say or do anything, Alex said, with a great swagger in his walk and voice, "Hell, yeah, but you needn't worry. You're safe. You couldn't pay me enough to stick my nice cock in that ugly face of yours."
"Yeah, that's what I told him when he wanted to suck mine," a guy sitting at the bar said.
When the man sitting beside him stood Josh saw he was huge, with no fat. He walked slowly over to the loudmouth and said, "You propositioned my boyfriend?" He grasped the heckler by the collar and seat of his pants, walked to the door and tossed him out on the street. As he came back, he stopped and said to Josh and Alex, "I've always wanted to do that like in old westerns, but never had an opportunity." Extended his hand and said, "Name's Syd and I'm straight."
Syd walked back to his place at the bar and as he did, the man who had said the loudmouth propositioned him, extended his hand and said, "Syd, I'm Andy and I'm straight too." The place was rocking with laughter as Josh and Alex were shown a booth and ordered hamburgers all the way and unsweetened tea. Alex had two, as rare as allowed.
Editors: Jesse and Scott.
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