The next Monday, Jerrod was standing by the front entrance with some other guys who had clearly been in the same racing camp, when David and Jackson arrived at Timberline around 10:00 AM and pulled up to the front of the lodge. It was a warm day on the mountain, and Jerrod picked up his two duffle bags as Jackson hopped out and got his skis and they walked to the car. He was wearing jeans and a polo shirt. The polo shirt has an embroidered emblem with the Greek letters ΑΜΦ
David came around to the passenger side and put the skis on the roof rack while Jackson and Jerrod put the duffle bags in the trunk. David gave him a quick hug and said, “Good to see you. Jackson took the day off to see the mountain and enjoy the drive. We’re heading straight home, and we’ll fix some lunch when we get there.”
As they headed down the mountain, Jackson turned in his seat and glanced at the shirt logo and said, “Cool, are you in a high school fraternity? What does that stand for?”
Jerrod looked at him like he was caught off guard, then realized what the question was and looked down at the logo on his shirt, glanced up and said, “Yeah, that’s the frat I’m in, the Alpha Mother…., I mean…uh, it’s Greek, you know, it’s Alpha Mu Phi.”
Jackson smiled and said, “Got it. You’ve got to help me out because I didn’t study Greek though David did in seminary. What do the Greek letters stand for?”
Jerrod said, “Like all frats, even ones in high school, it’s three Greek letters and this stands for Alpha Megaloo Phreen. Alpha means first or beginning, Megaloo is exalted and Phreen is the mind. So, it means First Exalt the Mind. It started out as kind of an academic fraternity, but that was a bunch of years ago.”
“It’s not any longer?”
“Well, it’s changed, like so much else.” He paused like he realized he might have said a little too much. “Anyway, my parents agreed to let me join because of the academic history and the emphasis on the mind.”
“Makes sense. If it stimulates your mind and helps you get better grades, that’s good for you and keeps your parents happy. Now, tell us about the racing camp.”
Jerrod felt like he’d dodged a bullet, and explained that the first two days were spent with the coaches getting to know how each camper skied, their strengths and weaknesses , and then the next four were focused on general improvements in form and technique to set the stage for the second camp.
“So, you’ve gone from great skier to killer skier in just six days,” Jackson quipped?
“No, the killer skier part doesn’t happen until after the next camp,” Jerrod responded, flashing a grin that almost turned into a giggle. The banter continued most of the way home. They were happy to see that Jerrod had loosened up a little bit after a week at racing camp.
Lunch was pretty casual, make-your-own sandwiches and potato salad. They ate leisurely and chatted about skiing, Mount Hood, and how big the mountains were compared to back east. As they were finishing, Jerrod realized David was looking at him and when he looked up, he heard David say, “Can I ask you another question?”
Jerrod smiled back but suddenly felt exposed, and tried to dodge by saying, “Oh God, the interrogation continues!”
David grinned back at him, and Jerrod could see Jackson trying not to laugh.
“Interrogation is much too harsh a term, seeking illumination regarding cryptic terminology is a more accurate description.”
Jerrod stopped and his eyebrows tightened as he tried to figure out what David meant.
“Jackson told you I took Greek in seminary, even though it was New Testament Greek, but the alphabet is the alphabet, and when he asked you what that meant,” and David pointed at the logo on Jerrod’s polo shirt, “without thinking you said Alpha Mother…something or other. I know my Greek alphabet and that the word for mother is mitera not megaloo. Would you care to illuminate us?”
Jerrod paused, swallowed, and then meekly looked at both of them. “I feel like I’ve been busted.”
“No need. You just let something slip. Think of it as a Freudian slip. To be busted we’d have to be cops and after your butt for a crime…and we’re not.”
“Okay, so it used to be an academic fraternity, but now it’s more of a party one, but all the parents still think it’s about academics. Anyway, what slipped out is that the insider meaning is that what Alpha Mu Phi really means is Alpha Mother Fuckers.”
He stopped, looked at them both and started to blush even though there was a flash of defensiveness in his eyes.
There was momentary silence, then David and Jackson looked at each other and smiled. The smiles turned into grins and almost immediately after they broke out laughing.
Jerrod was speechless. “You’re not grossed out or pissed?”
Jackson was first to get his laughter under control. “No, man, I can only imagine what you dudes think and do as Alpha Mother Fuckers, but you’ve got a great cover going there…as long as you don’t get busted.”
Jerrod looked questioningly at David.
“Pretty much the same. That’s a study in transmogrification, turning one meaning into something totally opposite. Like Jackson said, it works unless you get busted.”
Jerrod looked relieved and glanced between the two of them. “You won’t tell my parents, will you?”
“Is it that big a secret?”
“Well, yeah, and it’s not just me, it’s everyone else. You know it’s private ‘cause the parents think it’s one thing and it’s actually something else, and it’d gross all the parents out and they’d want to shut it down, don’t you think?”
David then said, “We’re not revealing any secrets. But I have to ask, does it have anything to do with why you wanted to split the scene in Philly this summer?”
Jerrod looked like he knew the game was up and there was no way to dodge now. “So, I’ve been in this fraternity for most of my junior year. It meant I got to know a whole new bunch of guys this year, and that was cool and fun. There were lots of parties and doing fun stuff, but things got complicated a few weeks ago and I just needed not to be there, if you know what I mean.”
“I think I do. When I was at Haverford there weren’t any fraternities. I guess having organizations like that can be cool since you meet and do stuff with different people than the ones you’d be with on the ski or sailing team, right?”
“Yeah, it was a different group. The guys I ski and sail with are good at what they do and that’s all cool, I just wanted some different friends.”
“And how did that work out?”
Jerrod was chewing on his lower lip and knew David had noticed and that it would make him look weak or indecisive, then he said, “I joined the frat because it was a different crowd. Not the kind of dudes my parents would want me running with, but more fun than the academic set and because I just wanted something different and to be accepted for who I am. Like I told you, my parents don’t accept me for who I am. They want me to be what they want! The frat accepted me for who I was. I didn’t have to play the role of the A-student like at school, or the great athlete, or the dutiful son like at home. I got to be me.”
“And who are you?” David said it softly.
“What do you mean?”
“Well it sounds like you found an opportunity to be in an environment with no pressure to conform to outside expectations, but it also sounds like you got to try on a new costume. You know, like be a different character in the play. How did that work out for you?”
The boy was slow to answer, finally saying, “It started out good, but then like I said, it got complicated”
“Playing different characters can be complicated. You know that’s different than knowing who you are, don’t you?”
Jerrod was silent, staring out of the kitchen window.
David continued “Have you ever heard the quote, ‘To thine own self be true,’ the one that Shakespeare wrote?”
Jerrod shook his head.
“A character named Polonius said it in Hamlet, but the wisdom can be traced all the way back to classical Greece where the Delphic Oracle said, ‘Know Thyself’”.”
They were silent, but Jackson caught Jerrod’s eye and gave him a smile of encouragement.
David went on, “So, here’s the deal, and then I’ll leave you alone, okay?”
“The deal is that in order to be true to yourself, you have to know yourself first. That’s where the hard work is. And my experience is that most parents, like most organizations and especially most churches, don’t really spend much time, if any time, helping people discover who they are. Most parents, like most organizations, do what Nietzche was talking about. Did you figure that out?”
“You mean the part about the tribe? How hard it is to escape the tribe?”
“Yeah, and of course parents are members of the tribe, too. And they all work hard at conformity.” He reached over and mussed Jerrod’s hair and grinned at him. He got a soft smile back, and glanced at Jackson.
Jackson caught Jerrod’s eyes again, and then said softly, “And that’s a big deal, because it means most people, and that included me, and him” and here he nodded at David, “and you, all of us grow up not knowing who we really are and we have to spend too much fucking time and energy fighting to be able to figure it out. And sometimes it means we get involved in shit that can backfire and hurt us. It happened to both of us, and so you shouldn’t be surprised to find out it happened to you, too.”
Jerrod said nothing, chewing his lip again as he thought about it. He felt exposed as he looked at both of them.
Jackson grinned at him. “Hey man, this is not an interrogation. Can you tell us where the whole deal is now? You said it got complicated a couple of months ago. I mean, the need to split the scene in Philly is kind of intense.”
Jerrod looked at him and said, “Well, like I told you, yeah, it got complicated. As in a major misunderstanding and then it got confrontational, and suddenly I wasn’t wanted anymore, wasn’t trusted anymore and I knew the best thing was to split.”
“That sounds pretty heavy. Is everything under control now?”
“Well, kind of, I guess. Anyway, I guess I should tell you. Besides the parties there was a lot of screwing around, and some of it not good.” He looked at them as if seeking permission to continue.”
Jackson smiled, nodded and said, “It’s cool. Go on.”
“You won’t hate me?”
“No way. Unless it was really radical, like you killed someone or robbed a bank or beat up a homosexual, we’re not going to hate you.”
Jerrod felt himself flinch, but knew it was a joke to lighten things up, so he smiled meekly and said, “No murder or beating up gays, but we got into vandalism…you know with the spray paint on bridges and trains…and some other things. But the big thing was a few of us were out screwing about one Saturday afternoon and broke into a house where the owners were out of town. It was stupid and there was nothing we wanted in there, so we just split. We told some of the brothers about it that night, and three of them went back the next day. I don’t know if they were going to steal stuff or what, but they got caught by a security guard. Meaning their parents had to go down to the police station and get them out.”
“That’s up there on the radical scale.”
“Yeah, like I said, it was stupid. They hadn’t stolen anything, so it was breaking and entering, and they didn’t have a record, so they got off. You know, first offence and under their parent’s care or something.”
“You mean under parent’s recognizance where the parents are responsible if they do anything else?”
“Yeah, that’s it, and it also means the parents totally lose it and the kids are totally grounded and can’t do anything but go to school.”
Jackson said softly, “My situation was different, but I’ve been there, too.”
“Yeah, my step-dad was a control freak and physically abused me and my brother, and he did the grounded and locked down thing.”
“You know then. The problem was whether those of us that went into that house the day before were going to get busted. If the ones that got caught would spill their guts.”
Jackson softly asked, “And?”
“Well, they didn’t but everyone was freaked, and it turned into a lot of finger pointing and guilt tripping, like they’re seniors and only got caught because we’d been in there the day before, and now they’ve got college at risk.” He fell silent, looking down at the table. When he looked up his eyes were red and he said, “Then they kind of started threatening us, like it was our fault and we were going to pay, like that. You know, they’re grounded and getting punished and we’re scot free.”
“So, you mean they weren’t empty threats?”
“No, a couple of those dudes are hard core football players, and also a little nuts. Like macho crazy. They were usually coming up with the ideas for the crazy shit we did. It was just that this time it went sideways. So, it got more and more tense and threatening, even at school, and I just didn’t want to be around when summer started and school was out. I do sports, but I’m not a fighter and it just got kind of scary. It was bad enough during school…let alone in the summer.”
David knew it was time to lighten it up and said, “So that’s why you cooked up the racing camp idea? And while you pulled that off and got to split the scene, little did you know you’d end up here with us where we can give you the third degree, right?”
Jerrod felt cornered and exposed, but when he looked at them, he realized there was no need. They were both on his side, accepted him and wanted to help. “Yeah, that’s pretty much it.”
“But you know what,” David continued, “you can feel okay about it because we’re not your parents! Is it too much if I ask you if I can give you a hug?”
Jerrod acted momentarily surprised, then it was like a realization hit and he smiled meekly and finally said, “Yeah, that’d be good.”
As David pulled him up to embrace him, he heard Jackson say, “Get ready for another, ‘cause it doesn’t stop with just one.”
The boy found himself fighting back tears. How could he suddenly be so honest with these two guys he barely knew? He appreciated the acceptance and warmth in their hugs, and a wave of relief flooded through him.
“Thanks for accepting me. You know what my parents would do if they ever found out. I’d probably be shipped off to one of those strict boarding schools for troubled kids. It’s so great to be able to talk to you guys, not have to bottle it up, and not feel condemned. I know it was stupid and nothing like that will happen again.”
“That’s good to hear,” David said softly, “as in ‘lesson learned,’ hopefully. I do want to ask you to think about something, though. You clearly feel badly, maybe even guilty, about the whole thing. But have you asked yourself why you did it? Why you stuck with those AMF dudes if they were doing risky and sometimes illegal stuff that you now see for as bad as it was?”
It was quiet. “I’m not pressing you for an answer now, Jerrod, I’m just asking you to think about it, okay?”
The boy felt relief and acceptance wash over him and was smiling when he said, “It’s kind of like that Nietzche quote, right? The one you shared and then asked me to think about.”
David grinned at him and wiggled his eyebrows. “Enough for now. Let’s clean up lunch, and then we’ve got a surprise for you.”
“Not another one! Come on you guys, I feel like I just had a heart attack.”
“No, no, this is a good one. Tonight, we’re having a barbecue, and Will and Sam are coming. Remember, Will is Jackson’s best friend from high school and Sam used to be a ski racer? That also means besides meeting them, you’ll get to meet their son Eric, who’s your age, and their daughter Susan. Oh, and also Kim, who’s Eric’s boyfriend.”
Jerrod’s eyes momentarily widened, then he smiled neutrally and said, “That sounds okay.”
“Yeah, it’ll be fun,” Jackson quipped. “Will and Sam aren’t like us at all. They’re totally laid back. You know, like anything goes kind of parents.” He grinned at David and rolled his eyes.
Jerrod said, “You guys are too much.”
“First, though, since we said that between racing camps we were going to show you the sights, we figured this afternoon we’d take a hike. It’s casual, but a really cool one. We can walk from here down to the river to Oaks Bottom Park, and then downstream along the river on the hiking trail, and circle around the park and then head back here. You’ll see the Willamette River up close and a whole bunch of wildlife and other cool stuff. What do you say?”
“Sounds good to me. It’ll be a nice break from the ski racing drills.”
They were leaving the north end of the park, coming out of the natural area and re-entering the neighborhood when they saw the animal. They’d seen Great Blue Herons on the river, and nutria in the park, squirrels were everywhere, and they’d even seen a couple of deer in the most forested part at the north end. As they came out on the street, though, Jerrod suddenly said, “Whoa! Look at that.” He was pointing across the street where a golden retriever with a reddish coat was about half a block away and loping down the street. He wasn’t on the sidewalk, but rather was running down the street in their direction.
As he got closer, Jackson said, “He’s got a wire clothes hangar around his neck. What’s up with that?” Jerrod glanced at him and said, “We’ve got to help, right?” Jackson nodded and said, “See if he’ll come to you. Don’t scare him though.”
Jerrod stepped off the sidewalk, over the grass strip, and knelt on the roadway as the dog got closer. He slowed his pace, eyeing the boy warily, but not seeming frightened. As he got close, Jerrod softly said, “Hi buddy, how’re you doing?” The dog cocked his head and slowed his pace a little more, down to a trot.
Jerrod sunk down so his butt was on his heels, his eyes almost at the same level as the dog’s, and again spoke softly, “Good boy. You’re a good boy. I can tell from here.” The dog slowed to a walk eyeing the person making the sound.
The boy extended a hand to the dog, and it stopped to sniff, again showing more curiosity than fear. After he sniffed the back of the hand, Jerrod turned it over palm up to try and scratch the dog’s chin. The dog licked the palm of his hand. Jerrod stroked the side of his face and rubbed behind his ears and the dog responded, moving closer.
“Good boy,” he said softly, as he continued to pet his head, “are you lost? Did you break your leash somehow? I bet you’re as nervous as I am, but it’ll all be okay.”
As Jackson and David watched, it was as if the action was unfolding in slow motion, even though it only took less than two minutes. Jerrod was stroking the dog’s head, rubbing behind his ears, and then stroking down the dog’s back. The dog gave no indication that he was going to run away.
David said softly from behind Jerrod, “Go slow, but see if you can get ahold of that hangar. He doesn’t have a collar, so that’s going to be the only way to hold him if he tries to run off.”
Slowly, Jerrod did, petting the dog’s chest, rubbing up under his chin, and then taking hold of the hangar. He pulled the dog to him, and the dog sat next to him, leaning against his side. Jerrod softly said, “Good boy,” stroked the side of his face, and looked up at David and Jackson, and smiled.
“What do we do now?”
“We slowly come over and join you,” David said, “trying not to scare him. We’ll sit down on the curb on either side of you so he can see we’re with you and not a threat. He seems to like people, but I wish we had a treat for him.”
It only took a couple of minutes, and the dog hadn’t spooked and tried to make a run for it. David and Jackson had been able to pet the dog and he clearly appreciated the attention, almost smiling as he looked from one to the other.
Again, Jerrod said, “What now?”
“We need to try and find his home, his owners. Let’s do this. You stay here and hold onto him, and Jackson and I will take the houses on either side of the street and ask them if it’s their dog or if they recognize it. You sit tight and take care of him. Sound like a plan?”
Jerrod nodded, sat back on the curb and pulled the dog between his legs, where he leaned against the boy’s stomach, still appreciating the attention. Twenty minutes later David and Jackson were back, with no luck. There was someone at most of the homes, but no one had lost a Golden Retriever, and none recognized the dog. However, one person who owned dogs had given them an old collar and leash when he learned that the dog only had a hangar around his neck.
They slowly slipped it on the dog, removed the hangar and David said, “Let’s just walk home slowly, see if he’s hungry and then figure out what we do next.”
The walk home was uneventful, and the dog clearly acted like he knew what to do when on a leash, walking next to Jerrod and not pulling on the leash. With the long coat of fur, it was hard to tell if he was underweight, but David said if he’d been on the run for a while, he’d probably have lost weight and be really hungry. They put together some food from leftovers in the refrigerator and fed him on the back porch. The dog wolfed the food down, drank some water and then laid down as if satisfied.
Jackson said, “Back to the original question? Now what do we do? We’ve never had a dog even if we wanted one. If we can’t find his owner, how do we take care of him?”
“Good question,” David responded, “and I’ve got an idea. You remember we met Angela Granger this spring? She lives two blocks over and has those two Labrador Retrievers that she shows. I’m going to call her and ask her what she thinks we should do.”
They heard David on the phone, and he was back in five minutes. “We’re in luck. She was home and is a really nice person, totally into dogs, and she’s coming over to help us out.”
Five minutes later Angela knocked on the front door, Jackson let her in and guided her through the house to the back porch. She walked out slowly, and the dog raised his head curious about the new human being that had appeared but didn’t otherwise flinch.
She walked to him and knelt down next to him, smiled at Jerrod who still was holding the leash, and put her hand out for a sniff. The dog checked her out, licked her hand and she stroked his head, then spent a few minutes getting the dog familiar with her. She petted and scratched his ears, stroked down his back and then stroked the side of his face.
“This dog has a nice temperament. Can I take the leash and walk him for a couple of minutes?”
David said certainly and Jerrod handed the leash to Angela, who stood up, softly pulled the leash as she said, “Come on, let’s go,” and then walked down the porch steps as the dog followed. The dog looked back at David, Jackson and Jerrod sitting on the porch, and they saw Angela shorten the leash to pull him closer to her and start to walk across the back lawn away from the house. He moved close to her and walked alongside. They got to the end of the yard and she stopped, and they heard her say “Halt,” and he kind of stopped. She turned and coaxed the dog to turn with her, and then when they were both facing the house she said, “Sit.” He sat. Then she said, “Okay, let’s go,” tugged on the leash and walked back toward the house and up the steps where she handed the leash back to Jerrod.
“He’s got good temperament, has basic leash training, meaning he knows some basic commands like Sit and how to Heel, but not Halt. Because of that you can probably assume he’s house broken, too. He appears to be pretty mellow, though he seems to be nervous or insecure, which isn’t a surprise after what he’s been through. I think you’re right that if you tried all the houses on the block where you found him with no luck, that he was on the run from somewhere else, especially with the wire hangar part of the story. He seems pretty relaxed now with food in his stomach. What are you going to do?”
David and Jackson looked at each other and then back at Angela. “What should we do?”
“Spend a little more time trying to find the owner, though he or she don’t deserve to have him back if he was on the loose without a collar and tag and was tied up with a wire hangar! That’s simply irresponsible and dangerous. If you can’t find the owner, you have to decide if you’re going to keep him. By the way, if you’re haven’t checked, he is a male and he has been neutered, so someone in his life was once responsible. I’d guess he’s three or four years old. If you don’t keep him, there’s the humane society or the shelter. If you do keep him, you need to take him to the vet for a check-up.”
David and Jackson looked at each other again, then at Jerrod, then back at each other before they said, “We’ve always wanted a dog but never felt we had the time to be responsible owners because we both have full time jobs. What do we do while we decide?”
“That’s easy,” Angela said, “even if he seems okay right now, he’s going to be nervous and insecure in this new setting until he settles in. One of you drive down to my house and I’ll loan you a dog crate and give you some dog food to get started. Feed him in the crate, I’ll loan you a bed to put in the crate. Help him understand that the crate is his place. That will give him his own safe place to settle into while you decide.”
They agreed that Jackson would follow Angela home in the Durango, get the dog crate and food, and they’d follow her suggestions. When he got back, they set the crate up in the garage. David told Jerrod he’d need to watch the dog so he and Jackson could get dinner underway. “We’re having a barbecue, so it won’t be too complicated, but there’s work to be done. You take care of Mr. Dog. Okay?”
Jerrod smiled and stroked the dogs head and they settled down on the back porch. About 5:00 PM David and Jackson came out and announced that the barbecue was under control and that they should feed the dog again before the ribs started cooking. The dog followed them into the kitchen where they prepared his food, and David handed it to Jerrod and said, “You carry it out, so he follows you. Feed him in his crate, like Angela said, okay?” Jerrod nodded, picked up the bowl and shook it to make a little noise and really get the dog’s attention, and said, “Come on, Buddy Boy, supper time.”
The dog’s nose had been quivering and he followed Jerrod across the back porch and into the garage, trailed by David and Jackson who stopped at the doorway to watch. Jerrod went to the crate with the dog right beside him, knelt down and waved the bowl in front of the dog’s nose and then set it at the back of the crate. The dog lifted a paw as if to go in, and then hesitated. Jerrod stroked the top of his head and said, “It’s okay, boy, this is your place,” and patted the bed inside with his hand. The dog stepped in, placing just his two front paws inside the crate and hesitated again. Jerrod stroked his back and said a few more soothing words, and then the dog stepped in and went for the food.
Jerrod looked at David and Jackson triumphantly. “Angela was right.”
They smiled back at him and Jackson said, “You should stay here with him for a few minutes while he eats, making sure he knows it’s safe and comfy in there. I’ll go help David get the ribs on the grill, and you man the dog crate, okay?”
Jerrod nodded, sat down by the entrance and stroked the dog’s rump. “I would have gone in with him, but I don’t think I’d fit and there’s for sure not room for two!”
Fifteen minutes later the baby back ribs had all been seared and were now slow cooking on the grill and David said, “What do you suppose happened to them?”
“Probably nothing bad. I’ll go see,” and he walked to the garage. Jackson came back smiling. “It’s cool. Jerrod is sitting there with him. You should see it. The dog is laying in his crate all relaxed. He’s got his front paws draped over the doorway with his head on them, and Jerrod’s right there keeping him company.”
David grinned, “This I’ve got to see.” When he glanced in it was just as Jackson described, and he said softly to Jerrod, “That’s a sight to behold. Everyone’s going to be here in thirty to forty-five minutes, so maybe you two should come up on the back porch before too long. The dog seems pretty well behaved, so we’ll give it a try with him out in the yard this evening. Sound good?”
Jerrod nodded and David went back to the kitchen to help Jackson finish up the prep and pour a couple of glasses of wine. Shortly after that they watched Jerrod and the dog come out of the garage and David pulled an old blanket out of the hall cupboard that he folded up and placed on the porch. He nodded to Jerrod and said, “He can have a bed up here on the porch too.”
They rotated getting cleaned up for company, one or two of them staying with the dog, and all three settled down on the porch. They were sitting there with the dog on his blanket when they heard a car pull into the driveway, then footsteps and the chatter of people coming down the side of the house and the gate by the garage being opened.
Susan was the first one through, and took the scene in all at once, but was wise enough not to run up to the porch when she saw the new dog. As she approached, she said, “Hi, Uncle David. Hi, Uncle Jackson. Is this Jerrod? And where did the dog come from?” She didn’t wait for an answer, just went straight over to Jerrod and the dog, said “Hi” to Jerrod and sat down next to them, and said, “I’m Susan. Can I pet your dog?”
“I’m Jerrod and he’s not my dog, we found him this afternoon and we don’t know who he belongs to, and you can pet him, but he’s still kind of nervous, so go slow. I think he likes people.”
By this time Will and Sam, with Eric and Kim in tow, had arrived at the porch steps where Will said, “Man, this is a domestic scene. Three guys and a dog hanging out on a shady porch.” He grinned, and went on, “I’ll bet this is a good story.” Everyone got introduced and Jackson handled drink orders while David settled everyone. The adults ended up on the lawn furniture just off the porch, Eric and Kim joined Susan and Jerrod on the porch, full of questions about where and how the dog came into their life. Jerrod told them the story of finding the dog while David and Jackson did the same for Will and Sam.
The dog seemed a little nervous at first, but wasn’t spooked by all the people, and soon settled down again while Jerrod got to know the other teens. The conversation turned away from the dog, and Eric and Kim were full of questions about the racing camp, if Jerrod skateboarded, and what his other interests were. It turned out Eric and Kim played tennis, and they even included Susan in the conversation, though to Jerrod’s surprise it seemed like she was really good friends with Kim, too!
David shortly went to check on the ribs and proclaimed them done, and while he and Will took them off the grill and cut them onto two platters, Jackson and Sam started bringing the other dishes out from the kitchen and laid them out on the two picnic tables. Eventually Sam said, “You kids need to wash your hands before we eat after all this dog petting.”
Jerrod was the last to go and Susan watched the dog while he went inside, and then they both told the dog to “Stay” while they joined the rest at the picnic tables for dinner.
At one point they noticed the dog stand up and stretch, walk off his blanket and come to the edge of the porch at the top of the steps. He laid down there just like he had done in his crate, with his paws draped over the porch edge, and he dropped his head onto them as he watched the action at the picnic tables down on the grass.
Everyone had been talking about the dog, and Will noted that he was pretty low key and obedient if he wasn’t down begging for food at the table.
“We fed him a little while ago, so that probably helped settle him down, but he seems pretty mellow, not high strung.”
Susan said he was really pretty with his reddish color, and that it was really cool the way he laid on the porch at the top of the steps like he was watching everything going on like he was in control.
Will quipped that he’d been here less than four hours and it was already like he ruled the roost, reclining up there like a king surveying his kingdom and that he’d probably be running the place within two days.
David and Jackson looked at each other and then David said, “We’re still trying to find his owners. We don’t know if we can keep him. You know how it is, we’ve both got full time jobs. Anyway, we’ve got some more looking to do in the neighborhood at the north end of the park.”
When they’d finished dinner, the adults cleared the table and suggested the teens take the dog and hang out on the lawn. After they’d all settled down, the dog being the central figure, he loved the attention enough he rolled onto his back and let his belly be scratched. Jerrod didn’t mind sharing the dog with his new friends, and while he’d started out nervous, it seemed that the dog accepted these new people, and not only did they like the dog, they’d accepted him. He’d been watching Eric and Kim who had an easy and happy interchange between them. Finally, after debating back and forth in his mind if he should do it, he got his courage up and said to Eric and Kim, “Jackson told me you guys are together. Where did you meet?”
They both glanced at each other and grinned. It was obvious Eric wanted Kim to answer the question, and he told Jerrod about meeting the prior summer at the Burnside Skatepark and how Eric and his parents had bailed him out of a bad situation and taken care of him for the weekend ‘cause his Dad was out of town, and that’s how he got to know Eric and it all just happened from there.
“I knew who he was and liked him but we didn’t really know each other, and then we both discovered we liked each other a lot that weekend and our parents were okay with it and now we’re boyfriends,” Kim finished with a proud smile on his face.
Susan wasn’t letting that simply go by, and said primly, “Yeah, I thought I’d get a friend, too. Instead Eric got a boyfriend and I’ve always wanted a dog and now you guys have got a dog. Life isn’t fair, you know what I mean?”
“Well, I don’t know about ‘us guys’ having a dog. I’m only here for three weeks, then I’ve got one more racing camp on Mount Hood, then I go home. You heard David and Jackson, they like the dog, but they’ve never gotten a dog ‘cause they work full time.”
Eric looked straight at him. “This is too cool a dog. You just found him, and he acts like he’s your dog already? Look at him. He loves people. We’ve never had a dog for the same reason, both Mom and Dad work. But look at this guy, he’s happy already. You can’t let him go. You’ve got to fight for him. Do you know what happens to dogs that go to the shelter and can’t be placed? They get euthanized. That means killed. You can’t let that happen. If you’re his friend you’ve got to fight for him.”
Jerrod swallowed hard. “I guess, but I’m just a visitor. What say have I got? It’s their house, I’m leaving in a month. And besides, I’ve never had a dog. My parents wouldn’t go for it.”
Kim put his hand on Jerrod’s arm and squeezed, and Jerrod almost jumped. “You’ve got to do the right thing for the dog, man. I can see that’s the kind of guy you are. You’ll figure out what to do. We’ll help however we can. I know my Dad will let me take him home sometimes if you need it. I bet Will and Sam will too.”
He looked at Eric and Susan and both of them nodded.
“Okay, I’ll think about it, but first we’re going to be looking for the owner again tomorrow.”
The evening wrapped up with promises to keep everyone appraised of developments with the dog, who now clearly had five new fans. After the guests left, they left the back door open with the dog on his blanket on the porch while they washed dishes and cleaned up, then all settled down on the chairs on the porch with the dog.
Jackson smiled at Jerrod and asked how he liked Will and Sam and what he thought of their kids.
“They’re cool. They’re really nice people. Susan’s nice and we got along. She really likes the dog. Eric and Kim seemed to think I was okay. They both play tennis and I skateboard, so maybe we’ll do some stuff while I’m here.”
Jackson had caught his eye and asked, “Why did you say they seemed to think you were okay? Do you think they have reservations?”
“Well no, it’s just…I don’t know, I just met them, and I…I don’t have that many friends and they don’t know me, so why should they…” His sentence died.
“Jerrod, have a little faith in yourself. Those two are the most transparent and straight forward young men I know. If they had any concerns, they would have said something, or not, about doing things with you. I think you can be pretty certain they found you acceptable. Probably more than acceptable, you can assume they like you.”
Jerrod smiled a little but said nothing. Jackson continued, “Am I sensing you’re unsure about new friends and feeling a little insecure? I know it can be easier with adults like David and me, ‘cause we’re less threatening and there can be more at risk with your peers, right?”
Jerrod nodded and he looked a little grief stricken. “They’re both really nice, and I liked them, and it was neat they liked me. I didn’t mean to sound insecure and hung up.”
“Maybe cautious after what happened back in Philly?”
“Yeah, I guess. It’s hard when you get burned.”
“It can be, but will you accept something if I tell you?”
Jerrod look concerned but nodded.
“You’re a good guy. Eric and Kim are good guys, too, and they have a very healthy relationship, one that their parents approve of and foster. On top of that, they know another good guy when they meet him.”
“You’re being serious?”
“Yeah, man. I’m telling you the truth. You’ve got to get over what happened. You did some bad stuff, but that doesn’t make you a bad person. You’re just a good guy that did some bad things for whatever wild and crazy reason.” Jackson grinned widely as he made the last statement.
“Thanks. That makes me feel better. Like maybe things will get better. Actually, they’ve gotten better. Just being here with you guys has been huge for me.” He paused. “Is it okay if I ask you guys for the rest of the story about you and Will and how Sam fits into the story, and then Eric and Kim?”
Jackson grinned and set about a quick overview of his friendship with Will in high school, how he knew he was gay but Will had been struggling with his sexuality and ended up acknowledging that he was bi, and what Will went through his first year in college when he got into a relationship with another young man who couldn’t reconcile begin gay with his family expectations and committed suicide. After that tragedy how he came to live with Jackson and David while he got back on track and then completed college at Lewis & Clark.
Then David took over and shared about Sam’s situation and how so many of the teens he’d worked with on campus at the time had been struggling to sort out their identities—their personal identities and their sexual identities. “Now I’m going to tell you something that’s not public, but I know if Will and Sam were here that they’d tell you, because that’s the kind of people they are. What they both figured out when they got close after they had same-sex relationships before, is that in terms of their sexual identities they’re bisexual. They found their other half, personal completion in each other, just like Jackson and I did. Out of that union came Eric and Susan, and I think you know most of the rest of the story.”
Jerrod was speechless. “Wow!” was all he could say. “That’s amazing. Kim told me a little about meeting Eric when he was in a bad scene at the skate park.”
“It wasn’t that terrible, but it was hurtful, and Eric and Will and Sam were there and rescued him, and he and Eric connected, and Will and Sam saw and understood what was happening between the boys. They’d been there, too, so they understood, and they didn’t judge or condemn, they accepted and facilitated, and the result was Eric and Kim became boyfriends. Will and Sam are both amazing people, and they are also amazing teachers and they’re really amazing parents.”
“I guess. How lucky Eric and Susan are.” David saw the flash of envy cross Jerrod’s face and filed that away for later consideration.
They chatted for a few more minutes and then Jackson said, ‘Sorry boys, but it’s getting late and I’ve got work tomorrow. You guys can laze around with the dog in the morning, then cruise around looking for the owner while I’m slaving away on marketing projects.” He grinned and said to David, “Want to trade vehicles tomorrow so you have the Durango to take the dog with you when you’re out searching?
David nodded and smiled back, “Thanks. That’s a good idea. Why don’t we all take the dog for a short walk, then we can tuck him in his crate?”
They were only gone ten minutes, the dog did his business, and when they got back Jackson and David stood in the garage doorway watching Jerrod put the dog in his crate, and give him an affectionate pet on the head. The dog circled twice, and laid down with his chin on his paws, and Jerrod closed the door on the crate. They turned out the light, closed the door to the garage and headed for the house.
After giving Jerrod a goodnight hug, Jackson and David had brushed their teeth and slipped into bed, just settling down next to each other when they heard the howl!
“What the fuck is that” Jackson said?