Posted August 1, 2018

Summer Job

A Short Story by Altimexis

Asian Pizza

 

Note: This story is a sequel to the short story, February Surprise. Readers may wish to read that story first to better understand the characters depicted in Summer Job.

“Hey kid,” a burly, overweight man called out to me, “could you be a bit more attentive and refill my water now and then?”

Truthfully, I’d been more than attentive. I’d already refilled his water, twice, and was headed back to his table with a pitcher to refill it a third time. He’d only just ordered, too. I couldn’t help but wonder if the guy was diabetic, or maybe on drugs or something. His date for the evening had barely touched her water.

“I’m sorry, sir,” I replied as I refilled his glass. “I’ll try to be more attentive.” I practically choked on my words. The only way I could have been more attentive would have been to stop bussing other tables and just stand there, ready to refill his water after every sip, but the customer was always right, and so I sucked it up.

What a contrast! The guy was dressed in only a wife beater, shorts and sneakers. He was a slob and he didn’t smell all that pleasant either. His date, on the other hand, was wearing a nice dress – not a fancy one, but one that fit her well and made her look younger than she probably was. Her attire was appropriate for an upscale restaurant like ours. The guy – well, he made me wish we had a dress code, but this was The Village and even nicer establishments than ours were informal.

Most of our patrons made reservations, but a fair amount of our business was from walk-in customers – people who spent the day wandering around the shops of Broad Ripple, strolling along the canal, or maybe hiking or biking on the Monon Trail. It was only natural that after a day spent out in the humid, summer heat, people would want to sit down in a cool restaurant and enjoy a nice meal. Of course, that meant people weren’t always dressed for the occasion, but so long as they were wearing a shirt and shoes, we never turned them away.

Still, I couldn’t help but wonder why a nicely dressed woman was with such a slob, but there was work to do. As soon as I refilled the man’s glass, I was on my way to another table to clear it and get it ready for the next customer to walk in the door. It was a Saturday night and Saturdays were always busy in the summer.

It’s funny, the last thing I expected was to have a summer job at all, but to be working in my family’s restaurant was astounding. I’d just graduated from Northview Middle School and in a matter of weeks, I’d be starting life as a freshman at North Central High School. I was barely fourteen – just old enough to get a work permit with my parents’ permission. There were plenty of things I’d have rather been doing than bussing tables, too, like reading a good book and cuddling up with my boyfriend. The one consolation was that my boyfriend was here with me, working by my side.

The amazing thing was that Jeff agreed to spend the summer here with me, working instead of enjoying his summer off. It wasn’t like he needed the money, either. His parents were killed in a bus accident in New York when he was nine. Between the money he got from selling his parents’ condo and the settlement he got from the Metropolitan Transit Authority, he had a trust fund worth millions. However, as he often pointed out to me, other than to buy a car when he turned sixteen and for his college education, he couldn’t spend any of it until he was twenty-one. Eventually he might use it to start his own business – maybe even to start our own business together, but that seemed lightyears away. Yeah, Jeff’s decision to be here with me was truly a reflection of his love for me and thinking about that made me feel all tingly inside.

I couldn’t help but think back to when we became boyfriends, back in February. I’d been crushing on Jeff since I started middle school, when I was only eleven. I didn’t really understand my feelings back then, but I just couldn’t take my eyes off of him. For close to three years I kept my feelings to myself and never gave anyone the barest hint that I was gay. I had a lot of friends, many of them girls, and I somehow managed to fend off their advances and avoided situations where I’d have been expected to bring a date. When I went to a dance or to the movies, it was always with a group of friends. I was pretty popular and was even elected the eighth-grade class president at Northview Middle School. But because of my nervousness about being gay, I never got to know Jeff and, in spite of sharing many of our classes together, he was never more than an acquaintance.

However, as our final year of middle school reached and passed the mid-point, it dawned on me that next year I’d be going to North Central High School. North Central was the biggest high school in the state, with nearly four thousand students in four grades, and more than a thousand more in the vocational program. If I didn’t get to know Jeff now, how would I get a chance to know him amidst five thousand kids? Finally, I decided to bite the bullet and I gave him an anonymous Valentine’s card, signed only with my first initial, ‘J’, and with my phone number, printed at the bottom of the card as ten tiny digits, practically too small to see without a magnifying glass.

But Jeff’s smart and he figured it out. He sent me a text that evening. I invited him to go with me to an LGBT teen dance in The Village that weekend, except for one minor problem, in my nervousness I forgot to tell him which dance I was inviting him to. The LGBT dance would’ve been safe. Most of the kids would’ve been strangers, and even if we knew some of them, they’d have been like us. But Jeff assumed I’d invited him to the school dance, which was the night before. When he texted me to ask where the hell I was, I nearly crapped my pants. I realized how stupid I’d been, but then he suggested I meet him at the school dance anyway.

I wasn’t out to anyone – not even my parents – and the LGBT dance seemed like a perfect opportunity to test the waters. Going to the school dance was a big deal, as it meant I’d be coming out to the entire school – three schools actually, since the dance was open to all three middle schools in the district. No way! How was I gonna do that, but then Jeff’s best friend, Jerome, texted me. Not only had Jeff already come out to everyone, but he’d turned down both girls and boys while waiting for me to show up. Suddenly I realized I could well blow my one chance I had to win over the boy I kinda loved. So I sucked it up, threw on a dress shirt and my new leather jacket, and asked Mom to give me a ride. I’d already told her I wasn’t gonna go this year, so when she asked why I changed my mind, I told her that someone I really liked asked why I wasn’t there. She absolutely floored me by asking me who he was! She already knew I was gay! So did dad!

When Jeff and I took each other in our arms and danced, it was oh so very worth it. Coming out at school turned out not to be such a big deal after all – not even here in the Midwest. I guess most of my friends already suspected it and weren’t at all surprised. Go figure.

I headed back into the kitchen with a loaded tray of dishes I’d cleared from a couple of tables, and I handed it off to Jeff, who was working as a dishwasher for the evening. Usually, he would have been out front with me clearing tables, but one of the dishwashers had called in sick and Jeff and I were low men on the totem pole. Plus my Grandpa preferred to keep Asian faces out in the dining room where they could be seen and, on that count, I fit the bill. After handing Jeff the tray, I leaned over and gave him a quick kiss.

“There’ll be none of that,” Grandpa admonished me with a smirk and a wink. Grandpa was a part owner of the restaurant and the head chef. “Busing tables is hard work that requires your full concentration, Justin, and as we all know, this job needs your full concentration, since you’re not all that smart.”

I knew Grandpa was only kidding me, but I couldn’t help but respond. “One friggin’ tenth of a point. I missed being valedictorian by one friggin’ tenth of a point. And for that I get nothing but abuse.”

“There’s only one valedictorian,” Jeff countered, “but you were the class president, and you gave me a good run for the money.”

“We’re probably the only ones who could stand each other, especially the way you talk, Jeff,” I responded.

“What’s wrong with the way I talk?” Jeff replied, knowing full well what I meant. To me, one of his more endearing features was the way he spoke more like an adult than a kid.

Flipping him off, I responded, “You know very well what I mean, professor.”

“Hey, no loitering in the kitchen,” Grandpa reminded me, and so I headed back out into the restaurant and proceeded to clear the next table and, since the table cloth was stained, I rolled it up and added it to my tray, deftly replacing it and setting the table for the next customer. I then grabbed a water pitcher and refilled the guy in the wife beater’s water glass yet again, before clearing and setting another table. I headed back into the kitchen and handed my tray off to my boyfriend with a kiss.

Truthfully, I didn’t need the money from this job either and I had better ways to spend my time, but my grandparents needed the help. Running a restaurant is a grueling business with hours that often last from early in the morning to late at night. Costs are high, help is expensive and competition’s fierce. Mortality in the restaurant business is high, as my grandparents and great grandparents and great, great grandparents could attest, personally. They’d had to sell out twice – once when people moved from downtown to the suburbs, and again when a lengthy highway project made it virtually impossible to get to their restaurant. So they moved yet again, to a smaller, more upscale venue in The Village.

Ours was truly a family business, with a number of my aunts, uncles and cousins involved. Things were especially busy in the summer, when an outdoor patio only added to the fray. High school and college kids were hired to handle the increased activity, and that included Jeff and me.

Heading back out into the restaurant, I began to think about the differences between Jeff’s family and mine as I went about my work. It's funny, but I’m part of a large, extended family with a long history, right here in Indianapolis. At one time Asians in the Midwest weren’t treated all that well, and so we’d all had to stick together to survive. I’d never given it much thought before, but the contrast with Jeff’s family made me appreciate what I had.

Jeff was orphaned at the age of nine, when his parents were killed in a bus versus taxi accident in New York City. His dad was himself an orphan who grew up in foster care, and so Jeff had no knowledge of any family history on his father’s side. Jeff’s mom’s only living relatives that he knew of were his grandparents, and they weren’t exactly forthcoming about how they came to live in Indianapolis. I asked Jeff about it once, but he didn’t even seem to care that his grandparents never mentioned any other relatives. This led me to believe that his grandparents were estranged from their brothers and sisters, or even their own parents if they were still alive.

Returning back to the kitchen with another load of dishes for Jeff, I couldn’t help but marvel at the hustle and bustle inside, most if it involving my relatives. Four generations of Langs, Lins, and Chens were scurrying about, preparing some of the best Asian food on the continent. My family had a history that in many ways gave me a place in life.

My great, great grandparents moved to Indianapolis from Chicago, right after the Second World War. It was a difficult time for them, as prejudice against the Japanese still ran high. Unfortunately, most people didn’t distinguish between Japanese and Chinese Asians, and so they lumped all of us together and treated us much the same as they treated African Americans. Moving to Indianapolis was supposed to offer them a fresh start, but my great, great grandparents quickly learned otherwise, as no one would rent them an apartment. They ended up buying a dilapidated house for next to nothing in a rundown, inner city neighborhood, and fixing it up themselves. All of their neighbors were black, and they were the only white faces around. The blacks treated them a lot better than most of the white, non-Asians did.

Since there weren’t many other Asians in Indianapolis at the time, they opened one of the city’s first Chinese restaurants, right downtown. Because of the proximity to the State House, they did a very brisk lunchtime business, a lot of it as take-out. I’m told the governor himself ordered from their restaurant frequently, both for lunch and dinner. In the evening they served traditional Chinese American dishes at round tables with a Lazy Susan in the center, allowing patrons to share in eating all the dishes ordered. It was a new concept for Indianapolis and reservations were often booked, weeks in advance.

The next time I headed out into the restaurant, Uncle Morris, who was the maître d’, took me aside and said, “Justin, there’s been a change of plans. Kurt and Sandy both called in sick a few minutes ago. With Mora already out tonight, that leaves us down three servers, with no one else available to come in tonight. I can get by with only one bus boy, but I can’t get by with only two servers. I know it’s asking a lot of you when you’ve never waited on tables before, particularly on a Saturday night, but I’ve watched how you interact with patrons and you’re a natural.”

“You’re asking me to be a waiter?” I asked in disbelief.

“Well, the P.C. term is ‘server’, but yeah, I really need you.”

“But look at me, Uncle Morris,” I responded. “I may be Asian, but I hardly look the part. I’m only fourteen and I look more like I’m twelve. Who’s gonna take me seriously? Wouldn’t it be better if Jeff waited on tables, and I took over washing dishes? He may not be Asian, but he’s tall for his age and could pass for sixteen.”

“I’m glad you have faith in your boyfriend, Justin,” Uncle Morris answered, “but our patrons have certain expectations of what a server at an upscale Asian restaurant should look like, and that includes being Asian. Besides, you have an unusual poise for one so young that goes a long way to making you look much more mature than Jeff, even though he’s already close to six feet tall…”

 “Six-one,” I corrected.

“Your face is young, but in the dim lighting of the restaurant, most patrons won’t notice that. If it’ll make you feel better, I’ll try to seat mostly teens at your tables.” Turning to face me, he added, “I have faith in you, Justin.”

Looking down at my uniform, I responded, “I can’t wait on tables looking like this.”

Putting his arm around me, Uncle Morris answered, “Let’s go back and see about getting you a proper server’s uniform.”

As I changed into my new uniform, I thought a bit more about my family.

My great grandfather was an electrical engineer who was hired right out of Princeton to work for the Radio Corporation of America. The RCA Research Laboratories, located in Princeton, New Jersey, were heavily involved with the development of color television. Until then, the biggest obstacle was that color signals were incompatible with black and white TV. There were already more than ten million televisions in America, so simply scrapping black and white transmission wasn’t an option the way it was when we switched to digital. One of the RCA engineers came up with the idea of simulcasting a black and white ‘luminance’ signal on one channel and a separate color ‘chrominance’ signal on another, but that still meant maintaining two transmissions for each broadcast.

It was my great grandfather who realized that, so long as the black and white signal had detail, most people wouldn’t notice if the colors did not. Hence the color signal could be compressed and embedded in the existing black and white signal using a subcarrier. I still don’t fully understand the technology, even though I grew up hearing the story again and again, but the resulting transmissions could be broadcast over existing television channels and were fully compatible with black and white television sets.

Of course, it was my great grandfather’s boss who took credit for the idea, and instead my great grandfather ended up being sent to Indianapolis to oversee the manufacture of the RCA color television sets that soon became a staple in American households. Not long after moving to Indianapolis, he was introduced to my great, great grandparents’ family, and shortly after that, his marriage was arranged to one of their daughters.

At first they lived with my great, great grandparents in the inner city, but after the birth of their first child, they decided to move to the suburbs. Unfortunately, they found much the same difficulty with finding someone willing to sell an Asian family a house in the suburbs that their parents had found in the inner city. Finally, they found a developer that was willing to sell them a new house, but it was in the all-black Grandview neighborhood. It may have been all-black, but the houses and yards were well-kept, and the house was a modern split-level as nice as anything in a white neighborhood. As in the inner city, they found their black neighbors to be friendly and welcoming.

The important thing was that the elementary school was part of the Metropolitan School District of Washington Township, arguably one of the top school systems in the country. It fed into North Central High School, the same school I’d be going to in the fall, but back then North Central was in the old building. Now, the old building was used for Northview Middle school – the school I’d just graduated from.

Looking in the mirror of the locker room, I had to admit that I looked good. In the server’s uniform, I really did look older.

Exiting into the kitchen, I headed straight for the maître d’s desk, where Uncle Morris was waiting for me. Showing me the seating chart, he said, “Justin, I’m going to start you out with these two tables in the back…”

“But that’ll hardly make a dent,” I complained. “That’ll only reduce the load for the other servers by one table.”

“Even one less table will make a big difference for them,” Uncle Morris countered. If you do well with those, I may increase it to four tables, but not yet. If you take on too much, you’ll not be able to keep up and the customers will complain. Worse still, they may not come back. I can’t afford to let an inexperienced server get in over their heads, even if they are a family member. It’s bad enough that I’m feeding you to the wolves,” he laughed, and I couldn’t help but laugh with him.

“There are four specials you need to know about,” he continued. “They’re not on the menu and there’s no shortcut for memorizing them. They’re posted on a blackboard by the kitchen door in case you forget, and on a blackboard where the patrons first enter. There’s a calamari stir fry appetizer that servers four, but can also be ordered as a main dish. It contains mushrooms, shallots and asparagus, and is served over saffron rice. For the main course we have a surf and turf special consisting of a petit fillet, grilled as desired, with scallops and shrimp in a medley of summer vegetables. We also have a vegetarian special entrée consisting of summer squash, cauliflower, tomatoes, mushrooms and sesame-encrusted, fried tofu. Trust me, it’s incredible. You can tell them that, too.

“Although the desserts are on the menu, it looks tacky to bring back the menus after clearing the main course, so you’ll need to memorize all of them. There’s sesame-encrusted fried ice cream. The ice cream is vanilla bean and it’s home made. We also have a traditional New York cheese cake, a fruit tart, and homemade cookies. Finally, tonight’s dessert special is a stir-fried fruit medley, flamed at the table, that has to be tasted to be believed. Obviously if anyone orders it, we’ll have one of the other servers do the actual flaming. You’re too young for me to let you play with fire,” he added with a wink.

“Finally, if any of the patrons asks for advice in selecting a wine or wines to go with their meal, or if they order wine, don’t hesitate to tell them that you’re too young to serve them alcoholic beverages. There’s no shame in admitting that, and many of your fellow servers are in the same boat, including Charles tonight. I’ll be happy to take over when that happens.”

“Do you have any questions?” Uncle Morris asked me.

“Other than what to do if I spill coffee down a woman’s shirt, not really,” I replied with what I was sure was a hint of nervousness.

Putting his arm around my shoulders again, he responded, “Justin, you’ll do fine. There are two parties waiting for tables, so why don’t you seat one of them while I seat the other. Don’t forget to give the woman her menu first, although that won’t be an issue with your first couple, and give them ample time to look at the menus and decide, but not so much that they think you’ve forgotten them. If they seem to be taking a lot of time to decide, go back and ask if they’d like some recommendations.

“Your first couple is under the name ‘Randy’, and it’s a party of two. Call out the name and then escort them to table fifteen. I’ll take care of seating the Jerome party of four, but just because I’m taking care of seating them and getting them their menus, don’t forget about them.”

Turning to the small seating area in the vestibule, I called out, “Randy, party of two,” with as much confidence as I could muster. I wasn’t really paying much attention to the couple getting up from their seats, but then was shocked when I realized it was Randy Jeffreys and Scott Taylor. Now I knew Scott was gay. He came out when Jeff and I did, at the Valentine’s school dance. He’d been dating Bryce Walker, but then they broke up about a month ago. Truthfully, I wasn’t sure what they saw in each other besides both being gay. Scott was a bit of a geek like me, but Bryce was a real jock – a football star.

However, I couldn’t believe that Randy Jeffreys was gay. He’d been real tight with Stacy Grant since the sixth grade! Rumor had it that he had an assigned seat in detention, ’cause he’d been caught so many times for PDA with her. No way he could be gay, yet here he was, dating my friend, Scott.

“I didn’t know you were working here, Justin,” Scott said as I took them to their table.

“My grandparents and family own the place,” I explained, “so yeah, Jeff and I are both working here for the summer.”

Holding the chair out for Randy, I couldn’t help but let my curiosity get the better of me. “We’re not supposed to ask personal questions,” I began, “but I can’t help it. Randy, what happened to you and Stacy?”

Sighing, he replied, “I really liked Stacy… maybe even loved her. I wanted to be straight. I really wanted to be straight, but my eyes had other plans. Stacy caught me staring at Scott and she called me on it. Up ’til then, I hadn’t even realized I’d been staring at Scott, but then he stared back at me, and he smiled, and then I knew. Finally, I realized I’d only been fooling myself.”

“So you asked Scott out?” I asked as I handed Randy his menu, and he nodded his head, yes.

“How’d Stacy take it,” I asked as I handed Scott his menu, since he’d seated himself in the meantime.

“Surprisingly well,” Randy answered. “I mean her older brother’s gay, and I’ve known him for a while because of her. Maybe that’s one of the reasons Stacy and I got along so well. Maybe she saw a little of her brother in me.”

It was amazing how natural it felt to interact with kids my own age, and my nervousness at being a server vanished completely. “Gentlemen, we have some excellent specials tonight,” I began, and then I rattled them off without a moment’s forethought. Although the calamari appetizer was intended to serve four, they both decided to try it. Of course, most of us teenage boys can put away two full meals with ease, so I doubted Randy and Scott would have any trouble finishing it. For the main course, they decided to try both specials – the surf and turf, and the vegetarian stir fry. There was a bit of a tense moment when Scott wanted the fillet done rare, and Randy wanted it well-done. You can’t exactly make a small fillet half and half, so I suggested they order it medium-rare and split it, center and outside.

A smile took over my face when I got to my second table and found that Jerome, party of four, was Jerome Williams, Jeff’s best friend from when he moved from New York to Indianapolis, right after his parents died. Jerome was a true friend to Jeff and helped him through the worst time in his life. He was also the first person I told I was gay, in the hope of getting together with Jeff in the first place. He’d been great about me and Jeff when we came out. It turned out he’d already figured Jeff out, even before Jeff realized he was gay.

Jerome was with his latest girlfriend, Tonya, and a couple of other good friends, Frank and Brenda. Of course, he had to ask, “Jay, my man, I thought you were workin’ here as a busboy. What are you doin’ waitin’ on tables?” Jay was Jeff’s nickname for me, based on the way I’d signed the Valentine’s card. So naturally, Jerome called me that, too.

“Three of the servers called in sick,” I explained.

“Ah, that explains it,” Jerome responded. “I knew they’d have to be pretty desperate to let you work as a waiter.”

“Jerk,” I replied, and then I asked, “Are you aware of our specials?”

The other kids all nodded their heads, but Jerome, God love him, said, “What specials?” We both knew he was yanking my chain, but I sucked it up and rattled off the specials from memory. The four of them ordered the calamari, sizzling seafood soup, the vegetable stir fry as well as three main dishes from the regular menu.

I was surprised at how much work was involved in serving even two tables, as the appetizer and soup were ready to be served within minutes of my placing the orders. Additionally, there was rice to serve, as well as Jasmine tea. Once the main courses were served, I had some downtime and so I went back to thinking about my family.

My great grandparents had four children – three boys and one girl, my grandmother. Although arranged marriages were still the norm, she had a very strong, independent spirit. Taking a job as a server in her grandparents’ restaurant, she took a liking to a young chef’s assistant, my grandfather. The scandal that followed their falling in love was epic, but in the end, they were allowed to marry. Buying a house across the street from her parents, they had two children of their own, including my dad.

After getting a degree in chemical engineering at Purdue University, where he met my mom, Dad returned to Indianapolis to work for the pharmaceutical giant, Ely Lilly. By then they could have bought a house in any neighborhood in the city or suburbs. They could have even bought a house in the upscale community of Carmel, where the family restaurant had moved. Instead they chose to buy a house near my grandparents in Grandview, just on the border with North Crows Nest, which as luck would have it, is where my boyfriend lives with his grandparents.

Because of a quirk in the way the school district set up school boundaries to ensure ‘diversity’ in all of the schools, I went to Crooked Creek Elementary School whereas Jeff went to Fox Hill. Although nearly all my classmates at Crooked Creek went on to Westlane Middle School, my house was within a narrow strip of two streets of houses that went to Northview instead, which was fortuitous. Otherwise, Jeff and I might never have met.

Noticing that Randy and Scott’s table had already been cleared, I asked them if they were interested in dessert. Of course they were interested in dessert. They were teenage boys, after all. Randy ordered the fried ice cream and Scott ordered the flamed stir-fried fruit, which was really meant to serve two. Because things were so busy, Uncle Morris showed me how to flame the fruit, and then he actually let me do it. It was fun!

I ended up bussing my own table, and then I went to get the next couple seated. Jerome party of four was still getting started with their main courses, the slow pokes. Or maybe Randy and Scott were just faster eaters. Maybe two guys would always eat faster than guys and girls, or two girls.

Looking at the seating chart and the name written in on table fifteen, I called out, “Jeffries, party of two.”

An old couple came forward, maybe in their fifties, I’d guess. They were around the age of my grandparents. As I led them back to their table, the woman said, “Such a handsome young man. I bet you drive all the girls crazy.” I smiled, but couldn’t say much of anything to that. Broad Ripple was gay-friendly – especially The Village – but this was still the Midwest and this was an older couple. I wasn’t about to hide who I was, though. I was an out and proud gay teen with a wonderful boyfriend. But I wasn’t about to flaunt it either, especially to my customers who may be quite conservative, and so I stayed quiet.

The man insisted on holding the chair for the woman, whom I assumed to be his wife, and then I held the chair for him, and handed them both their menus. After rattling off the specials, the man proceeded to order a meal from the menu that he obviously knew by heart. These were regulars and I made sure to give them impeccable service, starting with serving them their tea and getting their soup order in, right away.

Jerome, party of four was still barely on their main course.

“Justin,” Uncle Morris approached me, “you’re doing an excellent job. That was some tip you got from that first couple.”

I hadn’t even looked at it, actually, and I told Uncle Morris as much.

“They left you a twenty-dollar tip on a sixty-dollar meal. That’s…”

“Thirty-three percent,” I interrupted. It was probably because they were my friends, but eighty dollars was a hell of a lot of money for a teenager. Even if they went Dutch, it was a hefty first date.

“So do you think you’re ready to handle maybe another two tables?” Uncle Morris asked.

“As long as Jerome, party of four, keeps eating so slowly, I won’t even notice the extra tables,” I replied with a laugh.

“Understood, but that’s not why I asked,” he replied. “I asked because I think you’re ready for it. However, slow patrons on a busy night can be a challenge. When there’s a line out the door and even people with reservations have to wait, we need to turn the tables over quickly without making our patrons feel rushed. Some restaurants will even start clearing away plates that are still half-full, but that’s not something we’ll ever do here. Still, there are subtle things a server can do to keep their patrons eating without making them feel rushed. Although it should never be anything but a last resort. If a group seems more intent on talking than eating, frequent interruptions to ask how their meals are can make it difficult to carry on a conversation.

“So are you ready to handle four tables?” he again asked.

“Ready as I’ll ever be,” I answered.

There was no doubt that serving four tables was twice as much work as serving two, but it was way more efficient. No sooner would I turn in an order for one table than the food for another would be ready, and so there was a lot less down time and less time to think.

Finally, Jerome, party of four, finished their meals and the girls made it clear they were too full for dessert. I could tell that Jerome and Frank wanted to get dessert, even though they were probably equally stuffed, so I asked them if they wanted to take dessert home with them, like the cheesecake or the cookies. Well, it was worth a try. Jerome and Frank split the bill and left me a fifty-dollar tip! Man, that was nice.

The patrons kept coming and I kept serving, well into the night. As the sky darkened and patrons lingered more over their meals, Uncle Morris gave me another two tables, so I was handling nearly as many tables as the other two servers. Actually, six tables was supposed to be a normal load, but we were still shy a server. Uncle Morris was also covering six tables himself in addition to serving as the maître d’, so the other two were handling nine tables each, but that was a hell of a lot better than twelve or fifteen.

 

By the time we closed in the early morning hours, I was beyond exhausted. So was Jeff, yet we had to be back for Dim Sum Sunday Brunch at 10:00. The restaurant would close at 6:00 on Sunday night, and not reopen until 11:00 AM on Tuesday, so Jeff and I would have Monday to crash. Uncle Morris took us both home. I didn’t even remember getting undressed, when the alarm on my phone went off at 9:00 Sunday Morning. I barely had time to shower and get dressed before Uncle Morris picked me up. I felt like a zombie, and Jeff didn’t look much better. At least we’d have a little time to scarf down some breakfast and coffee when we got to the restaurant.

I was surprised when Uncle Morris asked me to work as a server again, but they were still short-staffed. At least serving dim sum was a lot easier than waiting on tables. Ours was a dim sum brunch, so there was a set price instead of paying by the piece. Like a lot of places, we reserved the right to charge for wasted food, but I never saw us do that, even when there were whole plates of uneaten food.

As a server, I rolled a cart around the restaurant, laden with lots of little serving dishes of small morsels of food. They were all clearly labeled, so no one would get stuck eating pigs feet unless they wanted to. Mostly, we served boiled, steamed and fried dumplings of all sorts, stuffed with seafood, chicken, beef, pork or vegetables. We also had fried calamari, steamed octopus and even some sushi. The sushi actually came from a Japanese restaurant down the street, since we didn’t have a sushi chef. In return, we kept them supplied with a steady supply of cooked seafood dishes for their all-you-could-eat Sunday buffet.

I made sure to run my cart by every one of my assigned tables, so that no one would feel they weren’t getting their money’s worth. I kept everyone’s coffee, tea and water glasses filled, too. I couldn’t serve the champagne that came with the brunch, but we had other people doing that. Because it was, more or less, a buffet, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of tips, and was flabbergasted when I earned a solid 25% on the tables I served. That was double what anyone else got!

By the time we cleaned up and put everything away, I’d earned a couple thousand dollars in tips in less than 24 hours. I thought maybe it was because I was so young and people felt sorry for me, but Uncle Morris took me aside and said, “Justin, I’ve gotten more compliments from patrons about you in the past two days than I usually get on any other server in an entire summer. Your tips reflect that, and I expect it won’t be long before regulars start asking to be seated at one of your tables. That’s what happens when we get an exceptional server.

“What I’m saying, Justin, is that you’re a natural. I hope you’ll seriously consider staying on during the school year, and maybe even consider a career with the family business. You could earn fifty grand, just working nights and weekends during the school year. Figure double that if you worked full time as a server… not that I’m suggesting you drop out of school. Your parents’d have my head if you did that.

“Seriously, work here year-round, but stay in school, get an Ivy-league education… maybe a Harvard MBA… and then maybe you and your boyfriend could one day take over the family business and keep the tradition going.

“Regardless, I’m glad to have you for the summer and plan to keep you as a server, rather than as a busboy.”

I was shocked. I didn’t think I was doing anything differently than any of the other servers, but I was pleased I was doing so well. I’d never thought of going into the family restaurant business, but I enjoyed what I was doing and realized this was something I could easily do for the rest of my life. Not as a server, but if Jeff went into it with me, we could easily afford to open our own restaurant, or even a chain of restaurants. Not that I wanted to openly compete against my family, but I was already learning a lot about preparing upscale Asian dishes, and why stop there? In New York, something called fusion was all the rage. Jeff talked about how much he missed the unique food he used to enjoy back there, and I wondered why that wouldn’t work in a place like Indianapolis. Combining Szechuan, Thai, Mexican and Italian styles, for example, could result in some phenomenal new tastes. It was, pardon the pun, food for thought.

Little did I realize at the time that my boyfriend and I would soon be doing exactly that.

But first, there was our education to think about. I grew up around the restaurant business and yet even I wasn’t sure I’d want to work in it for a living. The hours were punishing and patrons were unforgiving. We were both smart, but Jeff was particularly gifted in science and seemed to be leaning toward a career in Medicine. I myself was a bit of a math whiz and had planned to be an engineer, like my dad. There was nothing that said we had to go into business together, but it would be a lot more fun if we did. Of course, that all assumed we’d still be together after college. Much as I wished for it to be so, I knew that the odds were against us, but I could always hope.

I kind of felt badly for my boyfriend, being stuck back in the kitchen washing dishes all weekend. Hopefully we’d have enough dishwashers next week so he could return to bussing tables, and maybe eventually he could work as a server, too.

As we both changed out of our uniforms, Jeff asked me, “How about staying over tonight, and maybe tomorrow night too?”

“Would your grandparents be cool with that?” I replied.

Laughing, he responded, “They’re the ones who bought me a supply of condoms… not that I’m ready for hot, torrid sex just yet.” He blushed like crazy at the mention of hot, torrid sex – it was so cute.

“Well I’m not so sure about my parents,” I replied, “but I’ll ask them. It would be so cool, just to wake up in your arms.”

“Yeah, that would be nice,” he agreed. “Just cuddling up with you would be outstanding. Of course it would be even better if we were naked,” he added with a smirk, which made him blush even a deeper shade of red if that were possible.

“Just don’t let my uncle hear you say that,” I whispered. “If my parents think we’re gonna do anything more than the usual sleep-over stuff like playing videogames or watching movies, they’ll never let me spend the night with you.”

“Why don’t you text your parents now,” he suggested. “Then your uncle could drop us both off at my house. I’ll text my grandparents too, to be sure it’s OK.”

“But I’d still need to stop by my house to pick up a change of clothes and such,” I pointed out.

“I can lend you whatever you need,” he suggested.

“Are you kidding?” I practically gasped. “You’re nearly a foot taller than me.”

“So? Some of the clothes I wore when I was nine should fit you perfectly,” he suggested with a hint of mischief in his eyes.

“Jerk,” I responded.

“Seriously, Jay,” he went on. “I still have some very nice clothes from a year or two ago that should fit you fine. In fact, I think they’d look fantastic on you.”

Getting out my phone, I responded, “Well, let me see if the rents’ll go for it.”

As I typed away on my screen, Jeff got out his own phone and texted his grandparents to ask if I could stay for a sleep-over. As I was still texting, Jeff suddenly got excited and pumped his fist into the air, saying, “They said YES!”

Moments later, I had my parents’ permission too. We’d cuddle up and watch some movies, or maybe play video games, or maybe both. Tomorrow, on our day off, we’d spend the whole day together, maybe skating, or hiking in Holiday Park. Or maybe we would have wild, torrid sex, or, well, maybe not just yet.

 

One of the benefits of spending the summer working in a restaurant, besides getting to spend it with my boyfriend, was that there’s always plenty of extra food for the staff to enjoy. We had to prepare enough food to be ready for whatever our patrons might order, but that meant a lot of food went to waste. A lot of other restaurants sometimes try to repackage their leftovers and serve them on subsequent nights, but we have a reputation to uphold. The staff, most of us starving high school and college students, never had trouble finishing off whatever didn’t sell.

When we got home, Jeff’s grandparents were getting ready to eat dinner. Since we were already stuffed from all we’d eaten at the restaurant, we declined their invitation to join them, but couldn’t turn down an offer to eat dessert with them later. We headed to Jeff’s room to get ready. Working all day in a Chinese restaurant meant smelling like Chinese food at the end of the day.

Because the house was built into the side of a hill, the front was one story, but the back side was two stories and Jeff’s room overlooked their large back yard. Opening the door and walking out onto his balcony, Jeff followed and put his arm around me. I suggested, “You should try to talk your grandparents into putting in a pool. You’ve certainly got the space for it.”

Shaking his head, he replied, “They’d never go for it. I’d never go for it. The back yard’s beautiful with all the shade trees, and private. I’d hate to see any of the trees cut down to make room for a pool. Besides which, we’ve got a membership at the JCC and the facilities are fantastic. It’s only a short bike-ride away.”

“Maybe we could go over there tomorrow,” I said.

“That’s a great idea,” he agreed. There was so much we could do at the Jewish Community Center too, besides swimming. It was too bad my family didn’t have a membership. You didn’t have to be Jewish to join either, but I could always get in as Jeff’s guest, nevertheless.

“We’d better go shower,” Jeff suggested. “They’ll be ready for dessert by the time we’re done.”

“I could definitely go for a shower with you before dessert,” I replied, teasingly. Jeff had his own bathroom off his bedroom, but it was tiny and the shower was barely big enough for one person, let alone two.

“You know we can’t both fit in my shower,” Jeff replied, “but you’re welcome to watch,” he added with a sly smile, before he stripped outta his clothes right in front of me and walked seductively into his bathroom. Turning on the light, he turned around and said, “You’re welcome to strip too, Jay. This isn’t supposed to be a one-man show.”

Woah, what brought that on? Sure, we’d had a few sleepovers since we got together in February, mostly at his house, ’cause my sisters don’t seem to understand that Jeff is my boyfriend and not theirs. We’ve slept together in our boxers, and we’ve seen each other in the showers after gym class at school, dozens of times, so it wasn’t like we hadn’t ever seen each other naked before. But showing off for each other – that was something new.

“Come on, Jay, we don’t have much time!” Jeff reminded me as he stood, obviously waiting for me to strip out of my clothes.

The mere thought of it had given me a raging boner, making me more than a little nervous, but then Jeff had a boner too, so what the fuck was I waiting for? I pulled my shirt off over my head, toed off my sneakers and dropped my pants and boxers in one move. I noticed that Jeff was still just standing there, gawking at me, so I said, “Well, like you said, we don’t have much time!”

That got him moving as he turned around, adjusted the water and got it. In no time at all, he was squeaky clean. While he was drying himself off, I got in the shower and washed myself off too, and then I got out and dried myself. Jeff gave me one of his deodorant sticks to use, and he lent me a pair of boxers and a pair of his board shorts.

We were both still shirtless and barefoot when he said, “OK, let’s go get dessert.”

Looking at the smirk on his face, I knew he was pulling my leg, so I said, “OK, I’m ready… let’s go.”

After a bit of hesitation, Jeff asked, “Do you think maybe we should put on some shirts?”

“Well, you look absolutely phenomenal without a shirt,” I answered, “but I look like a scrawny little kid. Besides which, it’s probably not proper for a guest to show up without a shirt and shoes… unless it’s for an outdoor barbecue.”

“You are anything but a scrawny little kid,” Jeff replied, “but Grandma would definitely prefer you wear a shirt. Me too. However, I never wear shoes in the house. I always go barefoot, except when we have guests and eat in the formal dining room. I’ve never worn shoes when eating in the kitchen, and I’d feel a bit funny if you did.”

“OK, I can live with barefoot,” I responded, “but could you maybe get me one of your old shirts?”

Looking through some boxes under his bed, he found an old T-shirt of his that was too small for him, but it fit me perfectly.

I really looked good in it, so I asked Jeff, “Would you mind if I keep this?”

“It looks great on you, Jay,” he agreed. “I’d love for you to keep it. In fact, you really ought to try on more of my old clothes. I was just going to give them away to charity any way, but if this shirt is any indication…”

There was no doubt that Jeff’s wardrobe was a lot nicer than mine. Most of his clothes were designer labels and they just fit a lot better than the cheap Chinese imports my parents bought for me. But the amazing thing was that although Jeff had nicer stuff – much nicer stuff than I did, he never made a point of it. If anything, he downplayed what he had. The offer to give me his old clothes was genuine and not done out of pity. One thing Jeff was not was a pretentious snob.

Jeff grabbed a polo shirt for himself from his closet. It looked incredible on him, as all his clothes did, and we headed out to the kitchen. Thankfully, Jeff’s grandma prepared a light dessert with chunks of fruit and a scoop of peach ice cream. It was the perfect summer treat for a couple of teens who’d already gorged themselves at work.

Afterwards, we helped Jeff’s grandma clean up, and then we headed downstairs, where they have an awesome rec room with a ping-pong table, a pool table and a fantastic model train set, based on late nineteenth century New York City, that Jeff and his grandpa put together themselves. There was a walk-out patio with a huge, built-in brick and gas barbecue too. I mean, I lived with my parents and sisters in a very nice, middle class four-bedroom house, but Jeff’s house was awesome.

The reason we went downstairs for the evening, though, was for the home theater. Actually, Jeff had his own 50-inch TV in his room, but the home theater downstairs was just too amazing for a couple of teenage boys to pass up. They had an 85-inch OLED 4K HDR screen that cost as much as a car. They had a 7.1 Dolby Atmos surround sound system with humongous amplifiers with real vacuum tubes inside and ginormous speakers and subwoofers from brands I never even heard of before. I mean, no boy could ever pass up a setup like that, even at the expense of private time with their boyfriend.

Firing up the system, we settled in to the sofa and cuddled up together as the Roku home screen loaded.

“So we can watch pretty much anything you want,” Jeff mentioned. “Between Netflix, Amazon, HBO Now, Hulu and Vudu, there isn’t anything we can’t stream.”

“You have all of those?” I practically squeaked. “I’ve been trying to get my folks to at least get Netflix, but we do have Direct TV Now and Amazon Prime. Sometimes we have to wait for months to see if a movie will become available on Prime, before my folks’ll let us rent it. It’s not that their cheap but, as they’re constantly pointing out, between the restaurant and our studies, we’re way too busy to watch much TV. It makes a lot more sense to rent movies ala carte, but by the time we get to see them, everyone else has already seen them in the theaters or on Netflix.

“At least now with you, I’m finally getting to see some movies while they’re still in the theater.”

“We could still go out if you want,” Jeff suggested. “I’m sure Grandma would be happy to drop us off in Glendale.”

“Nah,” I replied. “this is perfect, just like this. There’s still time to watch a couple things before we head upstairs for the night. And with Dolby Atmos, It’s just as good as in a real theater.”

“Well, it’s not IMAX,” Jeff countered, “but I’m not complaining.” And then he added, “By the way, we also have a bunch of subscriptions, such as Showtime and CBS All Access.”

“You have CBS All Access?” I almost shouted. “You know how much I like Trek. I’ve been dying to see Star Trek Discovery…”

“But wouldn’t it be worth six dollars a month to subscribe to CBS All Access? At least during the season? Or you could just binge watch during your free trial.”

“Yeah, but I’d need a credit card, even just to get the free trial,” I pointed out.

“But don’t you have an Apple ID?” he asked.

“Well yeah,” I answered. “I need one for purchasing apps… and for Apple Music.”

“So, you can use your Apple ID to sign up for a free trial of CBS All Access, and then cancel before you get billed for a second month,” Jeff pointed out. “Just download the CBS app and sign up using an in-app purchase.”

“You can do that?” I asked.

“Gees, of course you can,” he answered. “It’s no wonder you weren’t the valedictorian.”

I couldn’t let that one slide, so I pounced on him and we rolled around the sofa and ended up falling onto the floor. Perhaps I shoulda thought about the fact that Jeff’s bigger before I attacked him. I might have a black belt in Jiu Jitsu, but Jeff had already learned how to counter most of my moves and it didn’t take long for him to have me pinned. However, he left my arms free and his armpits were wide open, so I countered with a tickling assault. We both ended up wearing ourselves out before long and ended up with me just lying there on top of Jeff, both of us out of breath and panting.

After a while, I noticed that Jeff’s lips were less than an inch from my own, so I closed the gap and we kissed. Boy, did we kiss. My erection was straining to rip through my shorts, and I could feel Jeff’s pushing against my thigh.

“You know, we don’t have to watch anything at all,” Jeff suggested in a breathless voice. “We could just go up to my bedroom right now and pick up where we started.”

“But it’s still pretty early,” I pointed out. “If we go up now, your grandparents might think we’re having wild, torrid sex.”

“Who said anything about wild torrid sex?” my boyfriend teased. “Seriously, we could tell them we decided to get ready for bed, and then watch something in my room. Whether or not we actually watch something is strictly up to us.”

“But won’t they still be suspicious?” I asked.

“Of course they will,” Jeff answered, “but they trust us, Jay. They know we’re teenagers and they probably think we’re already having sex. More than anything, they know we’re responsible, that we’ll be safe and that neither of us will do anything to hurt the other.

“So let’s go up and get ready for bed, and then maybe we can spend a little time watching some Star Trek and cuddling up together before we have wild, torrid sex.”

God, my face was on fire. How in the world could Jeff could talk so casually about his grandparents knowing we might have sex? I could never talk about it with my own parents, let alone my grandparents. To be honest, the thought of actually doing anything with Jeff had me terrified. Not that I was a prude or anything, or that I didn’t think about sex about a thousand times a day, or jerk off whenever I could like any other sex-crazed teenage boy, but even thinking about jerkin’ off together made me so nervous that I feared I wouldn’t be able to perform. What would Jeff think of me then?

When Jeff noticed me just standing there, not making any attempt to move, he asked, “Jay, are you all right?” Truthfully, I didn’t even hear him speak. I was just so wrapped up in my anxiety… in my fear.

“Jay?” he repeated. When I still didn’t move, he said, “Jay, you’re still nervous, aren’t you? I mean, we’ve only been together a few times, but we agreed we weren’t ready to do anything yet. Now, it’s the summer and even though we’re busy with our jobs, school’s out and there’s no homework to worry about and, well, I’m horny, all the time. You’re just so Goddamn cute and sexy, and sometimes I just can’t help myself.”

He took a step forward, rested his hand on my shoulder and gently caressed my face. Looking deep into my eyes, Jeff continued, “The last thing I want to do is pressure you into doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re not ready for sex…”

“But that’s just it, Jeff,” I interrupted, finally getting my voice back. “I’m horny too. You’re the sexy one. Making out with you is the greatest feeling on earth. Just thinking of seeing you hard and touching you gives me a hard-on as tough a steel. There are sooo many things I want to do with you… I have such evil thoughts… I don’t know why I’m so nervous.”

Laying his other hand on my other shoulder and using both his hands to caress my head, Jeff responded, “I’m nervous too, babe. You can’t imagine just how nervous I am. I want to do everything with you imaginable, and maybe some things neither of us has imagined before,” he added with a blush, “but the thought of actually doing anything kind of leaves me terrified, you know? I’ve no experience with this, at all, other than… you know… by myself. What if I get it wrong? What if I accidentally hurt you, or what if I can’t even perform?”

“That’s exactly the way I feel, Jeff,” I interrupted. “I’m petrified of screwing it up!”

“Babe, doesn’t it make sense to figure it out together?” Jeff countered. “If we make mistakes… no… when we make mistakes, we’ll learn from them. And who better to learn from than each other?

A smile spread across my face, matched by the one I saw on Jeff. “Yeah,” I agreed, “We’re both new at this. I want to do everything with you, and soon, but I want us to take our time. I know that doesn’t make sense…”

“No Jay,” my boyfriend interrupted. “It makes perfect sense. If we rush head-long for the finish line, we may miss some of the goalposts along the way. We might miss some things that are important… things that could bring us joy for decades to come.

“Let’s learn about love, Jay. Let’s learn about love together. Not that I don’t love you now, but I’d like for the physical love we share to grow with the love we feel in our hearts. If we do that, the hot, torrid sex will surely follow.”

Wow! What a wonderful way to put it all together.

“So what do you say we watch a little Star Trek,” Jeff said, interrupting my thoughts. “I think it might help to get our minds off sex for a while, so that when we do do anything, it won’t feel so unnatural.”

Smiling, I replied, “Sounds like a plan.”

But then all of the nervousness returned when Jeff reached down and pulled off his shirt, leaving him in only his board shorts. What the fuck?

Smiling a wicked smile, Jeff said, “It’s not what you’re thinking, Jay. I figure we’re going to snuggle up together while we watch Star Trek, and it’s more fun to snuggle up, skin-to-skin. You can leave your shirt on if you’d prefer, though. It’s just that I think taking it off would serve two purposes. Firstly, it’d allow us to be more intimate with each other without the usual sexual distractions, since we’ll be focused on the TV. Secondly, it’ll help desensitize us to our bodies, and I think we really need to do that to get over some of the nervousness we feel about intimacy.”

Looking at my boyfriend like he’d grown another eye in his forehead, Jeff responded by asking, “What?”

“I think I fell in love with a middle-age man in a teenager’s body,” I replied, and then we both laughed.

Breaking contact just long enough to remove my shirt and drop it on the floor, I gave my boyfriend a quick peck on the lips, then moved to sit back down on the sofa. Jeff joined me there, and we snuggled up with each other, melting into each other as if we were a single person.

Switching to the CBS app on his Roku, Jeff quickly selected the season opener for Star Trek Discovery, and we started watching. Because Jeff had the more expensive, premium subscription, there were no commercials and the episodes passed quickly as we became more and more engrossed in the action on the screen.

It was as we were starting the fourth episode that Jeff’s grandparents came down to say goodnight. Actually, we didn’t know they were there until they walked right in front of us, blocking our view. I looked at my watch and realized it was after 10:00. We’d already been at it for two hours!

“Are you guys planning to stay down here overnight?” Jeff’s grandpa asked teasingly.

Shaking his head, Jeff answered, “Nah, we’ll go upstairs soon. Otherwise we’d just end up falling asleep down here.”

“And your bedroom would be a lot more private for other things you might want to do,” his grandfather added.”

“Grandpa!” Jeff practically shouted as he turned red, all over. I could feel myself blushing too.

“Guys, I’m just teasing you,” he added with a laugh. “But just so you know, we aren’t going to be checking up on you any time before we leave for work in the morning, and we aren’t going to check to make sure you’re actually watching the TV. After all, kids have gone to movie theaters to make out since before we were born.

“Tonight, you have the downstairs to yourselves.” Oh God, how embarrassing. And Jeff’s grandmother was right there with him, too.

Jeff was still blushing, but he seemed to take it all in stride. He kissed his grandmother on the cheek and gave his grandfather a hug. They both did the same with me too. I felt a bit funny, hugging them like that when I wasn’t even wearing a shirt, but before I could worry about it, they were gone.

I could tell from the shadows outside that the sun was just beginning to set, even though it was ten o’clock. Indianapolis is right on boundary between time zones – the boundary should’ve passed right down Meridian Street actually, but it was moved a bit west to keep all of central Indiana in one time zone. Thus we were about the last place in the Eastern Time Zone to see the sun set. Although we were exhausted from a long day at work, we were still wide awake and so we went back to watching Star Trek.

The show was incredible. What a fantastic idea to make Spock’s half-sister the main character, and to bring in the alternate universe the way they did. I couldn’t wait to watch the second season. I was gonna have to sign up for CBS All Access so I could see it. No doubt about it.

Before we knew it, we finished the season one finale and it was 6:30 in the fuckin’ AM. The action on the screen had kept us both wide-awake in spite of an exhausting week at work, but as soon as he switched off the home theater, Jeff’s eyes started to close. I could have easily gone right to sleep myself, had it not been for a full bladder.

Because there was a full bathroom downstairs, I headed right to it and let loose with my stream, not even bothering to close the door. Soon, I was joined by Jeff, who let loose with his own stream next to mine.

“I can’t believe we watched Star Trek Discovery for fifteen hours straight,” I said as we washed our hands at the sink.

“Actually, it was only ten hours without the commercials,” my boyfriend pointed out, to which I responded by sticking my tongue out at him, but then he continued, “which leaves us with another five hours to do other things.”

“What other things,” I asked him with a smirk.

“For watching more Star Trek, of course,” he replied. God, he was as bad a tease as I was. “Actually, getting some sleep might be a good idea,” he added.

“Yeah, I could definitely go for getting some sleep,” I responded, and added, “and in a real bed.”

“Definitely,” Jeff agreed as he grabbed his shirt and led the way back upstairs to his room. Jeff’s parents were already awake, getting ready for work, so we wished them a good morning. Closing his bedroom door behind us, we washed up and brushed our teeth, side by side at Jeff’s sink.

As we approached the bed, however, I felt my nerves return and I could tell that Jeff was nervous too. Maybe more than a bit nervous.

“Could I ask you something, Jay?” Jeff asked.

“Of course you can,” I replied. “You can ask me anything.”

“At home, what do you usually wear to bed?”

Swallowing hard and coloring up like crazy, I replied, “Well, I really prefer not wear anything. ’Course with sisters who can barge in on me any second, and with parents who tend to open the door first and then knock, I don’t exactly get to do that very often. So except for when I’m at home alone and can sleep in the nude, I usually sleep in my boxers, like I do here.”

“I’ve been sleeping in the nude since I was eleven,” Jeff responded. “Other than getting easier access for jerking off, it just feels better without anything confining me, if you know what I mean.”

Oh yeah, I knew what he meant. I knew exactly what he meant. During the day, I liked the support from wearing boxer briefs, but at night, even the loosest pair of boxers or pajamas seemed too confining, particularly when waking up with a full bladder and a hard-on. Yeah, I definitely liked the freedom of not wearing anything, but was constrained by the social norms in my family.

“So what I was thinking, Jay,” Jeff continued, “is that maybe for the next step in our relationship, we could try snuggling up together in bed and sleeping in the nude. Like with cuddling up with our shirts off, maybe sleeping next to each other without any barriers between us could help to diffuse some of the sexual tension we might otherwise have if we just undressed for sex.”

I wasn’t sure I agreed with him, but I had to admit that sex was just about the last thing on my mind. After ten straight hours of watching Star Trek, all I wanted to do was go to sleep, and so I hooked my thumbs in my shorts and boxers and pulled them both down in one motion. Letting them drop to the floor, I stepped out of them, pulled back the covers and climbed under them. Jeff did likewise, and then we snuggled up together. The feeling of his arm around my chest and his dick against my ass was stimulating, but I was way too tired to feel aroused.

 

The next thing I knew, bright light was streaming into Jeff’s room from between the slats of his window blinds. Looking across my boyfriend at his bedside clock, I was shocked to see that it was already 2:13 in the afternoon! Sitting up and stretching, I made a beeline for Jeff’s bathroom, and was soon joined by Jeff at my side as we both let loose into the toilet bowl. After washing our hands, Jeff suddenly said, “Race you!” and then streaked outta his bedroom.

“Wait!” I shouted to no avail. He was already in the kitchen, without a stitch of clothing.

When I didn’t follow, Jeff called out, “What are you waiting for? There’s no one home but us. Grandma and Grandpa left for work hours ago.”

Still feelin’ a bit funny about walking nude in someone else’s house – not that I’d have ever gone nude in my own home – not with my sisters always around – reluctantly I walked out into entryway, to sounds of Jeff’s guffaws. Noticing the living room windows with their draperies open, I asked, “Aren’t you afraid of someone lookin’ in and seeing us through the windows?”

“You’re too self-conscious, Jay,” my boyfriend admonished me as he joined me in the entryway. “Look, it’s pretty dark in here with the lights off, and it’s bright and sunny out there. The only way anyone could see in is if they put their face right against the glass and their hands around their eyes. If they do that, then they deserve the embarrassment of getting a peep show.”

“But what about our embarrassment?” I asked.

“What embarrassment?” Jeff responded. “I certainly have nothing to be embarrassed about, and neither do you. You have one hot bod and should be proud to have other people see it.”

Shaking my head at my boyfriend’s antics, I asked, “So what’s for lunch?”

“Well, there’s cereal and toast,” he said with a laugh, “or we could send out for pizza, or we could grill some hot dogs out back.”

Jeff musta seen my face light up when he suggested barbecuing hot dogs, ’cause he said, “Ok, hot dogs it is.”

Heading back into the kitchen, he got out a package of Hebrew National hot dogs, some buns and paper plates, and a package of frozen, diced onions. “These hot dogs are awesome with grilled onions,” he added with a smile. “Why don’t you grab whatever you want on your dogs from the fridge and bring it down with you, along with a couple of cans of pop. Whatever you like will be fine with me.”

Taking his cue, I grabbed a jar of sweet relish, a bottle of spicy brown mustard and a couple of Cokes, and followed Jeff downstairs. Jeff opened the door and waltzed right outside, seemingly unaware he was still nude. But then I realized I was being silly, as all the trees left the patio completely shielded from the neighbors. Once outside, I also noticed that the shade from the trees made it surprisingly comfortable for such a hot, summer day.

“I’ve always wanted to do this, Jay,” Jeff said as he fired up the grill and threw the hot dogs on. He set the buns on the upper rack and emptied the package of onions onto a sheet of aluminum foil on the grill. They immediately started to sizzle, being that they were still frozen.

“What, make hot dogs on the grill?” I asked innocently enough.

“No, silly,” he answered. “I’ve been helping my grandpa grill stuff since I moved here. No, I meant just being out here in the nude. It’s always been a fantasy of mine, well, since I was ten. Of course I could have never done it with my grandparents around, and I never had someone to share it with before.” He blushed when he said that. He was so cute!

“So, is it everything you thought it’d be?” I asked.

Turning around and kissing me, he replied, “It’s more… so much more.”

Turning back around, he turned the hot dogs slightly, stirred the grilling onions, and opened each of the buns and put them open-side-down back on the grill, so they’d be lightly toasted inside. A few minutes more and the hot dogs were bubbling on the surface and the onions were a nice golden brown.

Shutting the gas off, he took a paper plate, placed three open buns on it, added three hot dogs and a hefty layer of onions before handing the plate to me. He then repeated the procedure with his own plate and carried it to the picnic table, motioning for me to do the same. “I guess I should have brought out something to sit on, but these extra paper plates should do just as well,” he suggested, and then placed a couple of paper plates right next to each other on the bench seat, sitting on one of them. I sat down next to him, such that we were touching from shoulder to toe.

I added some relish to each of my dogs, and then squirted on a healthy stream of brown mustard. Jeff did the same. Biting into my first dog, I actually moaned – it was that good.

Smiling, Jeff said, “There’s nothing like a good Kosher dog, grilled over an open flame and smothered in grilled onions,” and then he took a bite of one of his own dogs.

Being teenagers, it didn’t take long for me and Jeff to polish off our hot dogs and drain our Cokes. After growing up on Asian food, and now working in a Chinese restaurant, it was sure nice to eat some quality junk food, rather than the slop they served at school.

While we were eating, Jeff said, “You know, you look absolutely adorable.”

Knowing we’d yet to shower, I somehow doubted that, but I could certainly play along. “Well, if I look anything like you, my hair’s sticking straight up…”

“Which only makes you look more adorable,” Jeff agreed. “My mouth tastes like onions and hot dogs, and,” smelling under his arms, he added, “I totally stink."

“Maybe we should try going to school lookin’ like this,” I suggested.

“Might be worth it if they put us together in detention,” Jeff responded without missing a beat.

“I’m not even gonna dignify that with an answer,” I replied.

“You’re just not smart enough to come up with one,” came Jeff’s retort, to which I stuck out my tongue at him.

Getting a more serious look on his face, Jeff moved his face closer to mine and our lips made contact. We might have tasted of onions and hot dogs, but more than anything, I tasted Jeff’s love as our tongues slid across each other. I became insanely hard as the kiss seemed to go on forever. Knowing my boyfriend was probably in the same state, I desperately wanted to reach out and touch him where no one had touched him before – not the way I wanted to. I’d wanted to do it before, on previous sleepovers, but then something stopped me. Was it fear, or just nerves. Was it wrong to touch my boyfriend that way? No of course it wasn’t. Kids our age had sex all the time – even at fourteen. Some of them did it so casually that they didn’t seem to care who or what they were fucking. But I cared. I was pretty sure Jeff did to. He’d said as much when he spoke of our physical love growing with the love in our hearts.

The longer we made out, nude and sitting outdoors on a picnic bench, the more conscious I became of the pounding of my heart and the throbbing down below. More than anything I wanted to feel Jeff’s hand around me, maybe even his mouth, or someday to feel myself inside of him. I wanted to feel my own hand around him, to taste him and someday, to feel him inside of me. Finally breaking the kiss, I looked down at him. He was beautiful.

Jeff’s breath seemed to catch in his throat, and then he started shaking his head, and said, “Do you have any idea how beautiful you are, Jay? You’re like a fine porcelain doll, but I’ve never seen a doll with a boner that pulsates with its heartbeat.”

I couldn’t help but laugh at the idea of a porcelain doll with a pulsating boner. “I can picture it now… new from Mattel, the baby boner doll. Touch it and it stands at attention. Fondle it and it pulsates as if connected to a real beating heart. Stroke it and it cums!”

Both Jeff and I were in hysterics now, imagining the absurdity of functional, anatomically correct doll. “Of course, you’d probably have to be eighteen to buy one,” I added.

Shrugging his shoulders, Jeff added, “But kids our age could probably buy one if accompanied by an adult… not that I’d want to know any adults who’d be willing to accompany me to a toy store so I could buy an ejaculating doll.”

“I’m sure you could find a nice priest who could help you with that,” I suggested.

“Oh, that was bad,” Jeff responded. “I’m not sure which would be worse… buying one with a pedophile priest or with my grandparents.”

“Fuck, that’s gross,” I replied as I scrunched my nose. “Talk about spoiling the mood!”

“Well, you were the one who brought it up,” Jeff pointed out. “Now if we could get back to the matter at hand, pun intended, could I maybe touch you, Jay?”

My erection had completely disappeared with our laughter, but the mere suggestion of being touched brought it back, full force. Rather than say anything, I simply nodded my head.

The feelings that came from Jeff touching me were so different than what I’d been expecting. I knew what it felt like to be touched by my own hand, but being touched by another boy, and not just any boy, but the one I loved, felt a thousand time more intense. The feeling was electric. I inhaled sharply when he made contact, but that was only the half of it. I wanted it to go on forever, yet I desperately wanted Jeff to stroke me. These new feelings were demanding a quick release!

“I’ve always been fascinated by foreskin,” Jeff began as he slowly started to move mine up and down. “Of course I don’t exactly miss mine. I hardly remember what it was like to have one before my bris. Most of the kids I grew up with are circumcised, so having a foreskin always seemed rather exotic to me.”

“Well, it’s not exactly like I’ve ever been without mine,” I responded. “I’ve never known anything else. But if you keep playing with it like that, you’ll soon get a feeling of just how sensitive the foreskin really is.”

Quickly letting go, much to my disappointment, Jeff said, “I imagine you’d like a chance to feel me too?”

“You really need to ask?” I replied. Reaching forward, I took Jeff in my hand and it was his turn to gasp. This was my first time feeling another boy and it was the boy I loved. I couldn’t get over how different it felt compared to feeing my own. It wasn’t just that he was circumcised either. His was longer and thinner than mine. The skin was so smooth, yet underneath, he was impossibly hard. Even the throbbing was different and then I realized – he was throbbing to the beat of his own heart rather than mine. It was so cool, just thinking about that.

With my left hand, I reached underneath and cupped his balls. They were a bit bigger than mine, but not by much. I rolled his balls gently around in my hand and felt the wrinkly thickness of his scrotum. Slowly, I slid my right thumb over the surface of his glans, which made him shiver. I did it again and he moaned, and then said, “If you do that even one more time, things are going to get a bit sticky.”

When I realized what he meant by that, I answered, “And that’s a problem because?…

Rather than answer me directly, Jeff reached out and grabbed me with his right hand, using his left hand to pull my face to his. We kissed each other passionately while we stroked each other under the table. It didn’t take long. I thought I knew what an orgasm was, but that was before. The feeling started as a tingling in my toes and quickly worked its way up my legs, into my chest and then enveloped my entire body. When it gripped my balls, I was forced to break the kiss as I let out a loud wail – I could only hope the neighbors didn’t hear it – and my balls drew up tight. Momentarily, I stopped stroking Jeff as my white-hot spunk rocketed out with impossible force. Jet after jet erupted and flew up into the air, but I was so engrossed in my orgasm that it didn’t even register until it had passed – that my cum was all over Jeff’s chest, his face and even in his hair.

Jeff was panting and hard as steel, so I resumed stroking him. It only took one stroke before his spunk was flying – that’s how close to the edge he’d been – and soon I was similarly covered with his cum. Once he’d come down from his high, Jeff said, “Wow! Never in a billion years would I have thought it would be like that! You are so fucking sexy, Jay. That was so amazing. I love you so much!”

“I love you too, Jeff,” I replied. “With you, I could fly to the moon and back. We’ve even got the rockets to get there.”

“God I can’t believe you said that,” Jeff responded with a laugh, “I can just picture us, jerking each other off and flying through space. They could call it spunk-powered flight,” and then we both started laughing hysterically.

After our laughter subsided, Jeff said, “We made a mess.”

“Yeah, we did,” I agreed.

“We probably should shower,” he continued.

“Definitely!”

“And the downstairs shower is big enough for two,” he added.

I’d not considered it before, but he was right! “So what are we waiting for?”

Our erections never really did go down, and the suggestion of showering together had me hard as steel once again. Taking my hand in his, Jeff led me back inside. We certainly didn’t save any time or water by showering together, but it was a lot more fun. Nothing felt sexier than making out with my boyfriend in the shower, our soapy bodies sliding against each other with our dicks trapped between us. Although we had both just cum, it still didn’t take long and the second orgasm was just as awesome as the first. It was a lot of fun washing each other, too.

I loved the feel of shampooing Jeff’s hair and washing out the cum. I didn’t think I’d ever want to be a hair stylist though, but even if I did, I somehow doubted I’d be helping to wash the cum outta my clients’ hair. That thought started me laughing uncontrollably and when I told Jeff why, he was laughing too.

After applying deodorant, Jeff looked in the mirror and noted, “I need a shave.” I hadn’t realized it before, but Jeff had noticeable stubble on his face. Reaching out, I could feel it with my fingers, and I wondered why I hadn’t noticed it when we were making out. I’d certainly be noticing it now! I didn’t need to shave yet, but apparently he did, a few times a week or so he said.

Before heading upstairs, we went back outside and gathered up the remnants of our lunch, disposing of the paper plates in the trash and the cans in the recycling bin and putting the condiments away in the refrigerator.

Once inside the bathroom off his bedroom, Jeff grabbed his shaving kit, applied lather and started to whisk the stubble away from his face and neck as I watched him. I couldn’t help but get aroused again – he was just so sexy when he shaved.

After he was done and we were back in his bedroom, Jeff opened a drawer and tossed me a pair of Speedos, getting out a pair for himself.

“Speedos? You want me to wear Speedos?” I asked incredulously.

“I just want to be able to enjoy my hot boyfriend is all,” Jeff answered.

My continued state of arousal made it impossible to get the Speedos on, so I said. “Jeff, I don’t think this is gonna work.”

Realizing he was in much the same predicament, Jeff said, “OK, boardies it is,” as he tossed a more substantial swimsuit my way.

“So I take it we’re going to the JCC?” I asked

“You want to?” Jeff asked in return.

“Hell yeah!” I replied.

“Why don’t we put on some sun screen first?” Jeff suggested as he tossed me a tube of SPF 45 from his bathroom. “It’ll be easier while there’s still nothing in the way.”

“I definitely like the sound of that, Jeff,” I agreed. I wasn’t sure why we bothered to apply it to areas of the body that wouldn’t be exposed to the sun, but we sure had fun applying it to each other.

Grabbing his book bag, he added a couple of beach towels, the tube of sun screen, a padlock, a couple of T-shirts for later and both of our phones. We slipped on our sneakers and Jeff handed me a pair of his sunglasses to wear. After Jeff left a note for his grandparents, we slipped out the door and Jeff locked it.

 

The trip on foot up Hoover road was short and it only took us about a half-hour. It would have been ten minutes or less by bicycle, but that would have meant going out of the way to pick up my bike, which wasn’t worth it. When we got to the JCC, we headed straight to the back entrance, where all the athletic facilities were located. Jeff showed his membership card and we headed for the men’s locker room.

We dropped Jeff’s book bag in a locker and locked it up with his padlock, and then headed outside, to the JCC’s gigantic water park. It didn’t take long for us to spot several friends and acquaintances from school, including Jay’s best friend, Jerome. Jerome was far from the only African American in the water park, but I couldn’t help but chide him, “Funny, but you don’t look Jewish.”

Jerome responded, “Neither do you, Jerk.”

“Actually, there are quite a few Asian kids here that are adopted and Jewish,” Jeff pointed out.

“Better to adopt a Korean kid who’s white than a black kid from America, who really needs a home,” Jerome responded.

“I couldn’t agree more,” Jeff replied. “Perhaps one day, Jay and I will adopt a couple of black kids. What do you think, hon?”

Holy fuck! We’d only been dating since February, and now Jay was talking about raising kids? Actually, the idea kinda gave me goosebumps inside, ’cause it meant Jeff saw us getting married and being together long into the future, but we were still kids ourselves. Raising a family seemed so far off.

When I didn’t say anything, Jeff responded, “What’s the matter, Jay? Don’t you want kids? Would having a black kid be a problem for you?”

“No, I do want kids,” I replied. “Very much so, and I don’t care if they’re black or anything else. I’ve always wanted kids, but I’m barely fourteen. Having kids seems so far off, you know? You kinda blindsided me with that one, Jay. You put me on the spot.”

“Really? I just assumed you felt like I did is all,” Jeff answered.

“I think what you’re boyfriend’s saying is that he thought that this is the sort of thing you guys should have discussed in private,” Jerome added. “By bringing it up in front of friends, you put him on the spot and made him feel uncomfortable.” That was exactly the way I felt.

“But you’re the one who brought it up in the first place,” Jeff pointed out, rather testily. It was the first time I’d ever seen Jeff respond this way.

“Calm down, Jeff,” Jerome countered. “Jay doesn’t even disagree with you. He feels the same way you do, but there are some things that couples have to work out together. There are some things couples never work out and they either learn to agree to disagree, or they don’t make it as a couple. You have to remember that Jay isn’t your reflection… he’s your equal partner in this.”

“Then why doesn’t Jay tell me that himself?” Jeff asked.

Finally getting my nerve back, I replied, “I shouldn’t have to.”

Rather than say anything else, Jeff made a running leap into the water, earning a whistle blow from a nearby lifeguard.

“Does this happen very often?” I asked Jerome.

“Not very, but Jeff doesn’t handle disagreements very well. You have to remember that he lost his parents when he was young, and that he’s never had brothers or sisters he had to get along with. Even with minor disputes, he feels rejection and takes everything personally. He’ll eventually come around and he’ll apologize profusely, but he’ll brood alone, by himself most of the afternoon before he realizes just how silly he’s being.

“He’s worth it, though,” Jerome added.

“Yeah, he is,” I realized as I watched him careen down one of the water slides. “Let’s go swim,” I added.

I really hated to spend the day at the JCC separate from my boyfriend, who was also there, but he needed to get his anger out of his system before he could come to terms with it and we could move on.

I enjoyed my time with our friends, but my eyes kept being drawn back to Jeff, who looked miserable. My heart went out to him, however I couldn’t help but feel that this was his issue to work out first, before we addressed anything else like having kids.

After a while, we stopped to eat and grabbed some burgers and fries from the snack bar. I saw Jeff do the same, but he sat alone while our friends and I joked with each other and traded insults. After we’d rested a bit, Jerome suggested we all try to get a court and play some basketball. The indoor, air-conditioned gym was probably in use, but there were several outdoor basketball courts free and a pick-up game sounded like fun.

Still seeing Jeff sitting alone, I went up to him and said, “Me and the guys thought we might shoot some hoops. We all know I’m the best, so I thought maybe we needed someone who plays like crap to balance things.” I was lying through my teeth. Neither of us was very good, but Jeff was a good foot taller than me and a hell of a lot better than I was.

Laughing, he replied, “You’ve got to be joking, but you’re on.”

Jerome had already gone inside and signed out a ball, and reserved a court, so Jeff and I headed over to where the other guys were. I was disappointed that Jeff chose to be on the other team from me, but not surprised. The game was surprisingly even and I couldn’t help but admire how sexy Jeff was as he ran down the court in nothing but his swim trunks and sneakers, the sweat glistening on his bare skin.

In the end, Jeff’s team won by a point, for which I was glad. Jeff needed the release of the physical activity, and he needed to feel vindicated, even if it was on the basketball court rather than the court of opinion of our friends.

Afterwards, we went back to swimming, and this time Jeff joined us. He still wouldn’t talk to me, but at least he wasn’t sulking. It was already pretty late, though, and it seemed we’d scarcely gotten wet when the whistles blew and the announcement sounded that the pools would be closing in fifteen minutes. Gees, the sun doesn’t even set until after ten, so why’d they halfta close the pools at eight?

When the final whistle blew, we all headed back inside to the pandemonium of the locker room. We didn’t bring a change of clothes with us, other than T-shirts, but it was still warm outside and so we didn’t bother with them. We just put on our sneakers, checked our phones for messages, and headed out with our friends. Everyone else lived in different directions from us except Jerome, who’d come by bike. Even so, he walked his bike so he could chat with us until he reached his street, and said goodbye.

When we were finally walking alone, Jeff broke the silence and said, “I’m sorry I acted like such an ass. I just assumed you felt like I did about having kids.

“Why didn’t you ever tell me you didn’t want kids?”

“But I do want kids, Jeff… every bit as much as you do. You just never asked, and you made an assumption that wasn’t yours to make.”

“You want kids?” Jeff responded. “But I thought this whole argument was about the fact that you didn’t want kids.”

“That’s not at all what I said, Jeff,” I replied. “I just hadn’t given it much thought before today. I’d always figured that someday we’d adopt, but that’s a long way off. The one thing I feel strongly about is that I don’t want to pay a surrogate to have our kids.”

“Why bring a kid into the world when there are so many kids in need of a home,” Jeff added.

“Exactly!” I agreed. “It’d be different if we were a boy and a girl and could have kids of our own, but since we can’t, why not adopt a child that most couples don’t want. Maybe a toddler, or maybe even an older kid who just lost their parents…”

“Like I did,” Jeff interrupted.

“Like you did,” I echoed.

“So what was the argument about, then,” Jeff asked.

“You flying off the handle when Jerome told you the discussion about having kids shoulda been a private one between you and me,” I replied.

“I flew off the handle?” Jeff asked,

“Yeah, you did,” I replied, “and you spent all afternoon sulking.”

“I guess I did do that,” Jeff responded. “I tend to do that when I get angry.”

“So I gathered,” I replied. “Jerome said as much.”

“He did?” Jeff asked. “The jerk… but he’s right.”

Then putting his hand on my bare shoulder to stop me from walking, he turned to face me and I did likewise. “Jay, I’m really sorry,” he said. “I was a total asshole. I put you on the spot. I knew I was putting you on the spot. I guess I was kind of hoping I could back you into a corner and get you to agree to having kids. Having kids is important to me, but forcing you to answer the way I wanted you to wasn’t the way to do it. It was wrong of me, and even if you didn’t want kids, forcing you to say you did would have been a fucking disaster.

“I guess I need to learn to be more patient, and to talk things out with you rather than expecting you to go along with whatever I say.”

“Apology accepted,” I replied, and then I kissed him on the lips, right out in the open where anyone could see us. Jeff grabbed my hand and we held hands the rest of the way home.

 

As soon as we walked in the house, Jeff’s grandfather intercepted us and said, “Why don’t we sit in the den for a bit?” It was evident he wasn’t giving us much of a choice, and so Jeff dropped his backpack by the door, and we both kicked off our sneakers and headed to the den. Once we were inside, Jeff’s grandpa added, “Have a seat, boys.”

He began with, “I want to start by saying that I wasn’t meaning to spy on you. I just wanted to make sure you were up and that you were OK.” What the fuck? Jeff’s grandpa was at work all day. How could he have spied on us, but then I noticed that Jeff was white as a sheet.

“As you know, or as at least Jeff knows,” he continued, “we have a security system and that as part of that security system, there are hidden cameras in the entry way, the living room, kitchen, rec room and at the front and back entrances outside.” Holy fuck!

“Of course, there are no cameras in the bedrooms or bathrooms. The only places we have cameras are in common areas where we’d usually have our clothes on. The intent, after all, is to catch burglars… not to intrude on anyone. The cameras have motion sensors, so they only record when there’s someone to see, and what they see is transmitted to a cloud-based server where it can be accessed if there’s ever a need. Additionally, I can pull up any of the cameras remotely using an app on my phone.

“Today I saw something I’m sure I wasn’t meant to see…”

“Holy shit,” Jeff interrupted. “Fuck!”

Jeff’s grandpa ignored the language and continued, “For what it’s worth, I’m not so old that I don’t remember how exciting it is to go around the house naked at your age.”

“You went around naked when you were our age?” my boyfriend practically squeaked in surprise. Personally, I didn’t even want to think about Jeff’s grandpa in the nude, even if he was our age at the time.

Smiling, he replied, “I will neither confirm nor deny public or private displays of nudity when I was a teenager.”

“Public?” I asked. “What do you mean by public?”

Turning beet red, Jeff’s grandpa answered, “Back in the seventies, when I was in my teens, there was a fad called streaking. Kids stripped to their sneakers and ran naked through public areas. There was even a streaker on television during the Oscars once, but that was staged…”

“I can’t believe you ran naked in public, Grandpa,” Jeff interrupted.

“Well, there was strength in numbers, but a few of us ended up getting detention,” Grandpa answered. Woah, he ran naked in school. “My parents were not happy about that.” Then getting a more serious look on his face, he asked, “Is there anything else you’d like to talk about, boys?”

“Why would there be anything we’d want to talk about?” Jeff asked with the most innocent smile.

“I think you know exactly what I mean, Jeff,” his grandpa answered. “Do you need for us to buy more condoms?” he asked. Fuck. Jeff’s grandpa musta seen us having sex!

“In spite of the way it looks,” Jeff answered, “Jay and I are taking it slowly. This was the first time we actually did anything more than just making out, and even then, there was no exchange of body fluids. Just some mutual exploration.”

“Jeff, it truly doesn’t matter to me what you and Jay do together, so long as you respect each other and are safe,” his grandpa continued. “You know, a lot of kids think that oral sex is safe, so they don’t use protection. Although it’s unlikely, you can still get HIV from a blow job though.”

“Grandpa!” Jeff exclaimed as he colored up and covered his face with his hands.

“There are other things you can get from oral sex besides HIV,” Jeff’s grandpa went on, “some of which are equally serious… like herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia and human papilloma virus. Boys, you need to wear a condom, even if it’s only a blow job.”

“Grandpa, that sounds so vulgar,” Jeff admonished his grandfather. “A blow job is something you see advertised on the walls of bathroom stalls. It’s something desperate old men go to truck stops for. It’s something closeted married men go the strip for, to proposition teenage prostitutes because they remind them of their own teenage sons.”

“Jeff, where do you even hear such things?” his grandpa asked.

“You know how much I like to read,” my boyfriend answered, “and there isn’t much I haven’t read about, either in books or on the Internet. When you’re a gay teen, you really have to be aware of some of the worst things that go on out there. Better to be overly cautious than naïve and taken advantage of.”

“I have to agree with Jeff,” I added. “There isn’t much I haven’t read about either.”

“But Grandpa,” Jeff went on, “I promise you that Jay and I will be careful, OK. I don’t think you need to worry about us having anal sex for a long time, but we probably will have oral sex, and fairly soon. When we do, we’ll use condoms. I made you a promise and I’ll keep it.”

“I will too,” I chimed in, blushing furiously.

“And you don’t need to worry about buying us condoms either,” Jeff continued. “It was a nice gesture, but this isn’t the Dark Ages when you grew up. I can walk into any drug store, grab a box of condoms off the shelf without having to ask for them, and purchase them with my phone at a self-service kiosk. Not that I would try to hide what I’m buying in the first place. I’m proud that I have a wonderful boyfriend and that I have a healthy sex life.”

God, I couldn’t believe that Jeff said all that to his grandfather. Apparently, he couldn’t either, from the way he seemed to be studying the pattern in the rug. The conversation was sooo embarrassing. It seemed so – What’s the word? – Surreal.

“The Dark Ages, huh?” Jeff’s grandpa asked as he shook his head. “Grandma’s probably wondering what happened to us, so let’s go eat. The dinosaur steaks should be ready by now.”

Dinner was pretty amazing. We ate outside, so we didn’t even have to get dressed. Jeff’s grandma served a white bean soup that was unlike any I’d ever had, followed by broiled salmon fillets with a mango salsa that was incredible. She also served homemade mashed potatoes and succulent steamed spinach, then topped the meal off with peach cobbler ala mode. What a fantastic meal!

Wondering how in the world she was able to prepare such an outstanding meal in so little time when she works, I asked if she could give me the recipes. I thought maybe I could learn to cook stuff like that, but she explained that she picked the food up at a gourmet grocery in The Village that specializes in ready-to-prepare meals.

After the meal, we went back to Jeff’s room and straightened things up a bit. We picked up our clothes and made the bed. We then took turns in Jeff’s shower, washing the chlorine out of our hair and off our skin.

Jeff pulled back the covers and we snuggled together underneath them. Looking each other deeply in the eyes, Jeff asked, “So, do you want to watch more Star Trek?”

Giving my boyfriend a playful shove, we wrestled around in bed a bit before ending up in an extended make-out session. After several minutes, Jeff opened one of his night table drawers and got something out. The next thing I knew, he was unrolling a condom onto me. That could only mean one thing – well, maybe two, but we weren’t ready for the second one.

“Could I have one of those too?” I asked. Jeff handed me a condom of my own, and I wasted no time in unrolling it onto Jeff. Before long, we were up close and personal with each other’s anatomy. I learned a lot that night before we finally fell asleep in each other’s arms. For one thing, we both learned that we have back teeth, and they can hurt a hell of a lot when they scrape across sensitive areas. We also learned about the gag reflex and how to begin to overcome it. Finally, we learned how much more enjoyable it was to bring each other to the brink, and then back off a little bit, prolonging our agony – I mean – enjoyment. We used up six condoms, which was pretty amazing considering that we got off a couple of times in the afternoon already. By the time we snuggled up to go to sleep, we were beyond spent.

 

The next thing I knew, the room was flooded with sunlight and Jay and I were still snuggled in bed. I searched around for my phone and, finding it buried under the sheets, was shocked when I saw the time. It was 9:08 and in 22 minutes, Uncle Morris would be picking us up to take us to work!

Suffice to say, Jeff and I got ready in record time. There was no time to eat, but there’d be no lack of food at the restaurant anyway.

As promised, Uncle Morris had me serving tables and, by Thursday, I was handling up to ten tables at a time with ease. The tips I was earning were unbelievable too.

Then on Friday, reports started to emerge from local hospitals of several cases of salmonella food poisoning and by Saturday, the Health Department called to notify us that two of the cases were patrons of ours that had eaten in our restaurant within the past week. By then there were more than twenty cases, city-wide, of which only two of them had eaten at our restaurant, but that didn’t matter. Many a restaurant has gone bankrupt from the mere allegation of food poisoning, even after being vindicated. As they say, a good defense is a good offense, and the best way to prevent catastrophe was to get out in front of the story.

Grandpa immediately closed the restaurant until further notice, promising our patrons that we would not reopen until the source of the food poisoning was identified and dealt with. He put all the servers to work calling all of the patrons who could be identified who’d eaten a meal with us during the prior two weeks. We identified five additional patrons who were exhibiting symptoms but had not sought medical care, and we notified the Health Department. Needless to say, they were all evaluated and provided with appropriate antibiotics. We then began the process of looking at the items eaten by the involved patrons and quickly discovered that all of them had ordered a side salad – something unusual in a Chinese restaurant. That turned out to be a huge clue.

By Sunday, more than forty cases of salmonella food poisoning had been identified, city-wide, with about a dozen other restaurants identified as possible sources of the food poisoning. Narrowing down the source of the food poisoning did not go nearly as smoothly at the other restaurants, however, but based on the information provided from our restaurant, samples were taken from the lettuce and other salad ingredients at all of the restaurants involved. By Monday, which should have been my day off, the Health Department confirmed that all of the sickened patrons had consumed Romain lettuce, either in a salad or as a garnishment, and that the lettuce had come from a single source.

Rather than enjoying my day off with my boyfriend, we were both working diligently with the other restaurant staff to remove and destroy all supplies of food, and to thoroughly cleanse and disinfect every square millimeter of food surface in the restaurant. The carpets were cleaned, the floors were scrubbed and the cash registers, computers and phones were sprayed with electronics-safe chemical disinfectants. Even the ventilation ducts were professionally scrubbed and disinfected. Over all, we spent tens of thousands of dollars thoroughly cleaning the place, not to mention the money we lost during the time we were closed, nor the cost of the discarded food. It was all money well-spent.

By Tuesday, the Health Department had confirmed that the source of the food poisoning was Romain lettuce that came from a single farm in central Illinois. The farm provided lettuce to restaurant wholesalers throughout the Midwest. In the coming days, reports emerged of more than two dozen salmonella outbreaks from as far away as Little Rock, all of them traced to the same Illinois farm. Once it became evident that the outbreak involved multiple states, the CDC became involved. However, they were quick to publicly praise our restaurant for our early cooperation and, hence, the speed with which the source of contamination was identified. Thanks to our involvement, no one died from the epidemic and the CDC estimated that more than a dozen lives were thus saved. We became a local hero overnight! Jeff was proud of the way my grandfather handled it. So was I.

We reopened on Friday, but it quickly became apparent that the whole episode had only enhanced our reputation. Our reservations were booked for months into the future. Even after we added Sunday evening hours and Monday hours, squeezed in another six tables on the patio and obtained permission to add six tables out front on the sidewalk, our walk-in business was out the door until closing, seven days a week. I thought we were busy before but now we were insanely busy.

I ended up waiting on ten tables routinely and sometimes even more, but I learned how to be more efficient and still managed to serve my customers with a smile. Jay was also promoted to the waitstaff, even though he wasn’t Asian. As busy as we were, our patrons were happy to be waited on by a personable server, regardless of age or race, so long as they were served quickly. It was a balancing act – turning over the tables as quickly as possible without making our patrons feel we were rushing them. I’d been to plenty of restaurants where the server kept interrupting when you were trying to read the menu, but couldn’t be found the moment you were ready to order. I strove to appear ‘like magic’ when needed, yet be invisible otherwise.

Because of the added workload, Jeff and I were each given two days off each week, but we balked and threatened to walk out when they were non-overlapping. In the end, Uncle Morris agreed to give me Monday and Tuesday off, and Jeff Tuesday and Wednesday off. Our concession was that we both had to work on our three busiest days, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but that also meant getting more tips.

Jay and I made the most of our shared time off, pretty much doing everything we could from Monday night through Wednesday morning. As I’m sure everyone was dying to know, we made the most of Jeff’s JCC membership, going for frequent swimming in the extensive outdoor water park, swimming in the natatorium in inclement weather, and occasionally playing a game of pick-up basketball with friends from school. We even met some kids we hadn’t known before. They were either a year or two ahead of us or behind us, or they went to Westlane Middle School and would be going with us to North Central High School in the fall.

We also had quite a bit of personal time together, and we made the most of it. Without getting into the details, suffice to say that we had to make a couple of visits to the CVS pharmacy in Broad Ripple for more condoms. The one thing we didn’t get was a summer vacation. With the uptick in business at the restaurant, Uncle Morris really needed us and with the money we were earning from tips, it hardly seemed worth taking time off for a vacation. We’d just have to make do with the week off during the fall teacher conference, and maybe winter break, too.

 

In August, as our preparations for high school were in full swing, Grandpa cornered Jeff and me as we were changing out of our server uniforms back into our street clothes at the end of the day. It was a bit embarrassing, standing there in our boxers and being confronted by my grandfather, particularly when what he was asking was so serious. “Justin,” he began, “and you too, Jeff, I would like your advice. You’re both young and may have different ideas from those of this old man, who’s set in his ways.

“We’ve been approached by the owner of the pizza place next to us. They still have several months on their lease but are on the verge of bankruptcy. They’re going to close at the end of the week, regardless, but if they can sublet their restaurant to someone else, they might be able to avert declaring bankruptcy. Obviously, they’d like to find someone willing to sublet, with the option to take over the lease when it ends. Since our business is booming, he thought we might be interested in expanding.

“What do you boys think about the idea of taking over the space next door and expanding the size of the restaurant?” Wow! This was huge.

It was my boyfriend, however, who spoke up first. Without a moment’s hesitation, he answered, “I think it’s a phenomenal opportunity, but I don’t think you should expand the restaurant. Not this one. Large Asian restaurants have come and gone. You’ve been there and done that already. The last thing you want to do is compete with the likes of China Buffet. Not that adding the restaurant next door would make this place so big, but this is The Village and its popularity stems from the variety of small, cozy restaurants. Although it would be great to have more room, in making this place larger, it would no longer be the right kind of place for The Village. You’d end up losing business, even as you pay more in rent.”

“That is exactly my fear,” My grandfather related.

“The pizza place failed for two reasons,” Jeff continued. “Firstly, the pizza wasn’t anything special. It was good, but mundane and not much better than Papa John’s, so it wasn’t worth making a special trip to The Village for. The second reason was that it was next to this place. Anyone stopping in for pizza would see just how popular we were, even before the salmonella outbreak, and so they’d start to wonder why the pizza place wasn’t nearly as busy.”

So what would you suggest?” Grandpa asked.

Suddenly, a totally crazy idea came to me in a flash. “Asian pizza,” I answered. Grandpa looked at me like I’d gone completely crazy.

“Seriously, Asian pizza,” I continued. “Look, the equipment’s already there and it looks like it’s good quality equipment. You can probably negotiate with the current owners to take over the equipment at minimal cost as part of your deal with them. You could completely gut the dining area and rebuild it with décor to match our place, so it would be evident that they’re owned by the same family. You could then devise an inventive menu with pizza and pasta based on Asian themes.

California Pizza Kitchen already has a few Asian-style pizzas – particularly a Thai pizza – but there is no restaurant that I’m aware of that is based solely on Asian-Italian food. Certainly not in Indianapolis. Fusion is all the rage these days. Imagine a pizza topped with Szechuan beef, chicken or shrimp? Or pasta with sesame chicken. Or kung pao pizza. Or moo goo gai pizza. Perhaps even a Szechuan beef taco, for those wanting something totally different. There are so many possible combinations and they’re guaranteed to bring in the younger clientele that can’t afford to eat in our restaurant very often. A large gourmet pizza may cost forty bucks, but it can feed four people… or two teenagers,” I added with a laugh. “It would bring your amazing cooking to a younger crowd.”

“Exactly what I was thinking,” my boyfriend added.

To say the Asian pizza restaurant was successful would have been an understatement. On the weekends, both restaurants were absolutely packed, with customers lined up out the door. Grandpa let us run with it and although we weren’t making much money from tips, he paid us managerial salaries, even though we were only working part time. Most of the ideas for the pizza place, however, came from Jeff and me. The menu, the physical layout and the décor were all our ideas, as was the advertising. In every way it was our restaurant, even though we were still in high school.

It didn’t take long for the news media to get wind of the pair of fourteen-year-olds who’d single-handedly built a successful food business. Our pictures were on the front page of the business section of The Indianapolis Star, and we were featured on a number of local newscasts and news programs. We were even featured on the Today Show. Needless to say, business became even crazier than it was already and we had to hire more staff to cope with the demand. In the spring we bought an old garage a block away and converted it to a giant kitchen, adding row after row of commercial gas stoves with woks for preparing the stir-fry we used for our pizza toppings. Of course, the crusts were still made on-site and the finished pizzas were still fired in our brick ovens, so our pizzas would always be fresh for our patrons.

Because of the proximity of The Village to both Broad Ripple High School and North Central, the pizza restaurant became a popular after-school hangout and the takeout business exploded. We got to know quite a few teenage patrons who frequented our place, and they got to know us as well. Everyone knew we were a couple and most people with fine with it. There was the occasional asshole, however, and anyone who couldn’t accept dealing with a couple of gay teens was quietly asked to leave. Anyone who chose to be disruptive, however, quickly learned that I had a black belt in Jiu Jitsu. I’d been studying it since I was eight.

Jeff put his computer skills to good use and designed our own smart phone apps, so kids could order their pizza from their phones, even as they waited in line. That still left us with a gaping hole, however, when it came to pizza delivery. We started out by relying on Seamless and GrubHub for folks who wanted their pizza delivered, much as my grandfather did with the Chinese food next door. However, a lot of kids couldn’t afford the fees and ended up ordering from Dominos or Pizza Hut. We approached Grandpa with the idea setting up a combined delivery service for both restaurants. If he would provide the startup funds and manage the delivery service, we would add his entire menu to our smart phone app. Not only was the delivery service a resounding success, but we ended up taking over preparing the food for take-out and delivery for both restaurants in our off-site garage.

After all the publicity, we were approached numerous times about selling out or even franchising the business, nationwide. We politely told those that approached us that that wasn’t going to happen. The restaurant wasn’t ours to sell, nor were the recipes we used for the pizza toppings, which had been in the family for generations. We were just a couple of high school freshmen who’d had a good idea and got lucky. Our restaurant was popular now, but tastes change and people quickly tire of them when restaurants expand too fast.

We’d grown quickly, but not beyond what a couple of high school freshmen could still manage working nights and weekends. We were happy running a local, family restaurant and had no intention of doing otherwise until we finished college, if even then. Jeff and I were maintaining straight-A averages in spite of our involvement with the restaurant. We intended to finish high school as co-valedictorians, no matter what the restaurant threw our way.

Nothing, however, could have prepared us for what was to come for our fifteenth birthdays. Jeff celebrated his birthday in late April with family and friends. Because my birthday party would be for family only, we ended up making Jeff’s party into a combined one, primarily for friends. The weather turned out to be glorious – never a given for Indianapolis in the spring – so we were able to hold it outside at Jeff’s place. The food was catered and his grandparents actually hired a live band. I wondered what in the world they’d do to top it next year for our sweet sixteen.

My family birthday celebration was held three weeks later at the Holyhock Hill Restaurant, a famous Indianapolis institution for nearly a century. Jeff’s grandparents were invited too. It was a rare departure from traditional Asian food for my family, but Holyhock reportedly had the best fried chicken in Indiana and we were not disappointed. The food was served family style on large platters and, in addition to fried chicken, there was fried shrimp, fried cod and of course, French fries, coleslaw and mashed potatoes. It was a meal guaranteed to raise your cholesterol at least a hundred points, but it was a complete contrast to the upscale Asian food we usually ate. We were kids and we loved it.

After singing Happy Birthday, blowing out thirty total candles and eating a traditional birthday cake, Jeff and I got down to the serious business of opening our gifts. I’d asked for a new iPhone X and was not disappointed. We were both astounded, however, when Jeff got one too. It was evident my family considered him to be family, but they were treating him like a full-fledged son-in-law, which was awesome.

After a few more rounds of gift-giving, Jeff and I were each given a large envelope. I opened mine and found some sort of certificate inside. Upon further inspection, I realized it was a stock certificate for the pizza restaurant and associated garage. Apparently, I now owned 5000 shares of corporate stock, as did Jeff. “How many shares of stock are there?” I naïvely asked.

“There are fifteen thousand total shares, Grandpa answered.

For some reason my mind was blanking out completely, and so it was my boyfriend who responded, “You gave us each a 33 percent interest in the pizza restaurant? Together, you gave us a two-thirds controlling interest?”

Holy shit!

“Justin, and especially you too, Jeff,” Grandpa elaborated, “It’s evident to all of us that you two are a predestined couple. The two of you share something that few couples have… more than love, but a shared identity… what others call being soul mates. You’ve been together a little over a year and already, you finish each other’s sentences and thoughts the way old married couples do.

“In our culture, marriages are arranged because we believe that young people do not yet have the wisdom to find the one who is their predestined mate. So we rely on professionals to find that person for them. My wife, your grandmother, Justin, did not believe in such traditions. She fell in love with me and I with her, defying our traditions until our families relented. Somehow we knew that we were a predestined couple, and after thirty-eight years of marriage, I think there are few who would argue that we were wrong.

“Unfortunately, there are no arranged gay marriages in our traditions. So much of our culture is based on the importance of having offspring. Indeed, I suspect that much of the reason for homophobia in the world is because of parents who refuse to legitimize relationships that don’t bring them grandchildren. Today, many heterosexual marriages do not result in any children and many homosexual ones do, so there would seem to be no justification whatsoever to reject love wherever we find it.”

Looking me directly in the eyes, he continued, “A soul mate is a soul mate, regardless of whether they are a boy or a girl, or whether you are a boy or a girl. There is no question in my mind that you and Jeff are a predestined couple and that you will be together throughout the remainder of your days on earth, and in eternity.”

Then turning to Jeff, he added, “and I’m going to hold you to that, my other son.”

“You have my promise on that, grandfather,” Jeff responded.

Then turning back to me, he said, “I have given you both equal shares in the restaurant, amounting to a combined controlling share. You deserve it. The idea for the restaurant was entirely yours. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever conceived of an Asian pizza restaurant. Not only has it done exceptionally well, but it has only added to business, not infringing in any way on the profits from the original restaurant. In fact, with your apps and your ideas for take-out and a delivery service, you’ve managed to grow both businesses. The pizza restaurant, the delivery service and the take-out facility has more than tripled the family’s investment… an investment that would have never come to pass had it not been for your brilliance, and you did it all in just nine months. Needless to say, whether or not you end up going into the restaurant business for a career, you two deserve your fair share of the profits from this one. I have chosen to keep a share of the business equivalent to our original investment, and to grant the two of you shares equivalent to the growth it has realized under your direction.”

Wow! What could I say to that? I was absolutely stunned. It took my boyfriend saying, “Thank you grandfather, for putting your trust in us,” to get me thinking again, and so I added, “and we are grateful for the future you have given us.”

“You two gave yourselves that future,” Grandpa countered. “I just helped to enable it. I know you do not need the money, but a restaurant is about more than money. A restaurant is your creation… It’s what you make it to be. A restaurant has a soul, as you two have already proven so adeptly.”

I couldn’t help by reflect back on the extraordinary events of the past year, the year I was fourteen. I’d gone from being an insecure thirteen-year-old, hiding behind his tightly-sealed closet door, to an out-and-proud gay teen with a boyfriend and a successful restaurant business. Although most high school relationships don’t last, it was becoming more and more evident every day that ours was one of the few that certainly would. We were madly in love with each other, we shared so much in common and the differences between us that seemed to push most people apart, only served to bring us closer together. And what started out as a summer job turned into a real business that we built together, even though we were only fourteen.

There was no doubt - Jeff and I were in it for life, or as my grandfather put it, soul mates for all eternity.

The author gratefully acknowledges the invaluable assistance of David of Hope for editing as well as Awesome Dude for hosting this and my other stories.

DISCLAIMER: There are descriptions of sex between underage boys and, obviously, anyone who is uncomfortable with this should not be reading it. All characters are fictional and any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental. The author retains full copyright of this other stories based on these characters.