The House on Cherry Street

Chapter 1

Author’s Note: This story begins in a short story entitled Naked Gardener published on AwesomeDude.com previously. Two of the characters, Brad and Kahli, return in this story which takes place during the COVID 19 pandemic.

The four of us were sitting at a tiny dining table for what was to be our last meal together in the yellow brick bungalow on Cherry Street. This was graduation day for Samantha and Tyler who were sitting across the table from Ryan and me. Samantha was wrapped in a towel and had another one covering her freshly washed long brunette hair. Tyler, on the other hand, wasn’t dressed and sat on a towel that he had used to dry himself after he and Samantha showered. Tyler was spreading butter on his toast as I starred at my milk drenched cereal.

Ryan said, “Guys what time do you have to be at the ceremony?”

Sam said, “We’re meeting friends at Bucky’s for coffee in about an hour and walking over together. I think we are supposed to be in line at 11:30?”

I said, “You’re leaving after the ceremony, correct? Ryan and I don’t have to be out of the house until next Saturday. The owner said she’d inspect the house before returning our security deposit. What address should we use to send your money?”

Tyler said, “I’ll text you because I don’t know whether we’ll be at Sam’s or my house.” As Sam raised her hands up to her hair her body towel fell exposing more than half of her beautiful, round breasts. She didn’t try to catch the towel because Ryan and I had seen those breasts and much more plenty of times since I moved in at the start of the semester. I finished my cereal, pushed back from the table and put the bowl in the sink.

Without saying anything I walked onto our porch that spanned the length of the front of the house. Four mismatched chairs covered in faded, flowery fabric sat quietly. I particularly liked the rocker and sat down in it as people were walking toward the stadium where the graduation would take place. I closed my eyes and put my head back trying to remember how I ended up in bed with the most gorgeous, guy on campus. I smiled as I remembered Ms. Saunders passing out a list of the students signed up for her 20th Century European History course my freshman year. She said that we would need the contract information because of the research project that she was going to assign. One name, Ryan Herrot, was listed but there wasn’t anyone I remember introducing themselves as Ryan. I tucked the list of names, email addresses and telephone numbers in my back pack for future reference. The history class would fulfill last required class in the humanities. I would be entering the engineering school by the second semester of my sophomore year.

By the third session of the history class Ms. Saunders asked if anyone knew Ryan Herrot and one girl raised her hand. “Ms. Saunders, I don’t know him but he’s the cute, taller guy on the gymnastics team.”

“I assume he decided not to take this class,” she said in a rhetorical manner. I was curious and decided to walk by the gym to see if I could recognize this ‘cute, taller guy’. I pushed open the gym door and the familiar smell of sweat and male bodies rushed into my nose. I went up the stairs to the balcony because I didn’t want to be obvious. There were eight or nine guys in tight shorts and tank tops practicing floor exercises, racing toward the pommel horse or swinging from the suspended rings. All the guys were short. A couple were pleasant to look at but I couldn’t see a ‘cute, taller guy.’ I walked back down the stairs to continue walking to my dorm. As I pushed the door open I felt the handle being pulled away. In rushed the most beautiful guy I had ever seen and he was tall. I excused myself as he rushed in. He was late for practice. I knew I had found Ryan Herrot but I knew I would never have the courage to speak to him.

I walked back to my dorm trying to think of a way to approach Ryan without being too nerdy. I decided to go to the gym the next day and watch the guys practice. As I was walking into the gym I remembered that I had the list of names that Ms. Saunders had given us the first day of class. I decided I would use the list as my approach. My plan didn’t work because when I arrived Ryan was already dressed and was on the uneven parallel bars. He was working on hitting his dismount solidly. I watched for about twenty minutes but didn’t want to be too obvious so I left. The following Monday I decided to watch the gymnastic practice again. I timed it correctly because I walked toward the door at the same time Ryan did. He held the door open as I walked through. He said, “I saw you the other day watching us practice. Have you ever done gymnastics?”

“No, I’m not very athletic but I like to watch. My name’s Randy, but it’s really Randall Clayton.”

He laughed, “So what do people call you?”

“Randy, except my mother when she’s angry.”

“Well, Randall, I’m Ryan. I’ve got to get dressed. When we’re finished with practice join me in the locker room. I shouldn’t say this to a guy but I love your wavy hair.” He laughed and walked away as I climbed the stairs to the balcony. I sat nervously wondering what Ryan had in mind after practice. I was envious of the gymnasts’ lean, sculpted bodies. I wasn’t fat but I certainly wasn’t tight like these guys. I liked that Ryan liked my hair. I like it as well and spend too much time making sure it is right when I leave my dorm room. I also liked my soft, light blue eyes but think my nose is too big.

When the gymnasts were finished meeting with the coaches Ryan waved at me to come join him in the locker room. I was concerned I’d get hard with a bunch of naked hunky guys. But I had to join Ryan if I even hoped to know him. He waited outside the door until I caught up with him. He said, “You coming to the meet tomorrow?”

“What time?”

“Starts about 11:00 with prelims. Main event is at 1:00.” We were standing in front of his locker and as I suspected there were plenty of naked bodies around. Ryan stripped off his tank top, socks, shorts and multi-colored jock strap. Ryan said, “Like the jock? It’s new; a girl gave it to me.”

“Girlfriend?”

“No, just a good friend who I have known since high school.”

“Isn’t it a funny gift to receive from a girl friend?” He didn’t answer and grabbed his towel as I watched his tight rear end head walk toward the shower room. I sat quietly watching the boys get dressed and leave. Ryan came back and seemed to provocatively dry himself in front of me. I concentrated and didn’t get hard. His penis was a nice size and hung slightly toward his left leg. I really liked his proportions. He pulled up his skimpy Andrew Christian underpants. He smiled, “You asked me about the girl who gave me the jock strap. Her name is Samantha and she and her boyfriend, Tyler, live in a house off campus.

Once we got outside I took a chance and said, “I’m in Ms. Saunders history class and she thought you were taking the course?”

“I dropped the class before the semester started. How did you know I was supposed to be in that class?”

“She passed out a list of names, phone numbers and email addresses the first day of class.”

As we stood in the middle of the sidewalk he said, “Listen, Randall, I like you better as Randall than Randy. I’ll see you tomorrow at the meet. Let’s go out afterward and get something to eat.”

Man performing gymnastics

Ryan on the Uneven Bars

“I’ll be there.” He went one way and I went the other. I didn’t sleep too well as I thought about being with Ryan. Ryan’s routine on the uneven parallel bars went well. He scored well on the pommel horse but faltered on his floor exercises. When I went into the locker room I found Ryan in a grouchy mood because of his performance on the floor. I waited patiently as he showered and dressed. He said, “Randy, I wouldn’t be a good dinner companion. Let’s do it another time.”

I responded, “OK, I’ll stop in occasionally to watch the team practice. I’m confident you’ll get back on your form.” We walked out together and went our separate ways.

I didn’t attend gymnastics practice for a couple of weeks but when I did return he immediately waved. After practice I tortured myself again looking at beautiful naked male bodies including Ryan’s. He said, “The meet this week is in Indianapolis do you want to drive up with me. I know coach wants us to ride the bus but I will tell him I’m going to visit my grandparents after the meet. They live outside Indianapolis.”

Things went better for Ryan at that meet so he was in a much better mood when it was over. I waited for him to shower and dress in what appeared to be new Andrew Christian underpants. It was cool so we had to wear jackets. We stopped for pizza. Ryan didn’t say anything about his grandparents who I thought would be watching the meet.

On the hour drive back to Bloomington Ryan never mentioned visiting his grandparents. I was puzzled but didn’t ask any questions. He did discuss the upcoming Big Ten Conference Tournament but was unsure if he would be selected. He told me that there was practice twice a day for the next two weeks. With midterms approaching I knew I was going to be busy. He stopped the car in front of my dorm. I was ready to get out but before I pulled the door latch Ryan reached across the seat and gave me a kiss on the lips. I happily returned his gesture. As I opened the car door he said, “Hope you stop by for practice.” He smiled as I closed the door.

That kiss took place more than a year ago. I did get to watch gymnastics practice once or twice but Ryan was on edge as the tournament approached. Since the tournament was going to be held in Minneapolis I knew I wasn’t attending. I asked Ryan to text me any news, implying news about himself. He didn’t so I assumed either he didn’t perform in any event or he didn’t do well. I waited for him to return to text him. He quickly returned my text and said, “I’ve got exciting news. Can you join me for coffee at Bucky’s?”

I texted him that I would be there in thirty minutes. I was conflicted because I was doing my best to prepare for my midterm in Chemistry the next day. He had a broad smile on his face as he walked up to me and hugged me. He took my hand and led me into the coffee shop. I ordered Chai with skinned milk and he ordered a latte with milk and sweetener. The place was crowded so we took our drinks outside to a tiny table. Even though smoking was allowed fortunately no one was smoking at that moment.

“Randall, I’ve got great news. The coach told me that with my second place finish at the conference meet I would get an athletic scholarship. If he hadn’t told me I would have had to quit school and work for a year.” I didn’t realize he had financial challenges. I shouldn’t have been surprised since he hadn’t said anything about his family situation either. He said,“Where are you going to live next year? We could live together if we can find someplace cheap.”

“I haven’t done anything yet. I know I don’t want to live in the dorm.”

He added, “Why don’t you look on the University’s housing app? See what you can find. Did I tell you I have a summer job on the lawn crew near Traverse City, Michigan? What are you doing this summer?”

“After finals my father is picking me up. I’m going to work with him on his archeology dig in Southern Illinois. He said he’ll pay me well because the grant he received is substantial. I don’t really like the work because it’s so dirty.”

“You’re lucky to get to spend time with your father.” I detected either jealousy or sadness in his voice.

I said, “Are you going to see your family?”

“Probably not. Oh, if you find housing I can afford $300 but would prefer $250 per month.” I knew that was going to be a challenge in student rich Bloomington. I didn’t say anything because I knew I would find a way to live with Ryan. We finished our drinks. Once again in front of everyone he kissed me squarely on the lips. He turned and waved one more time as he walked away.

I saw Ryan only a couple of times before the end of the semester. After he left for Michigan I received a few short emails otherwise I didn’t hear from Ryan for almost three months. On the housing app I found a brick bungalow on Cherry Street. When I contacted the owner she told me a couple already lived in the house. Ryan and I would be the other two. She told me the price which was $350 per month. I almost said ‘that’s too expensive’ but decided I’d make up the difference. I texted Ryan that I had found a place and included the address. He told me he would be back on August 23.

I arrived in Bloomington on August 22 before classes were scheduled to start. I had not heard from Ryan and wondered if he was going to show up. When I arrived I met Tyler who told me he and Samantha lived in the house. I suspected Ryan would be surprised we would be living with a woman. Tyler showed me around the house since I had not seen the property. There was a sizeable second bedroom with a queen size bed, chests and big closet. He suggested I buy new sheets and towels because what was there was pretty worn. He asked if my roommate was a girl or a guy. When I told him a guy he laughed, “Well, I know you boys will like Sam.”

“I think Sam may know my roommate, Ryan Herrot. He has something she gave him.”

“Sure we know him. He’s a gymnast.”

Sunday morning I sat on the porch waiting for Ryan’s red Ford Escort to show up. He pulled up at ten just as he had texted me. As he walked up the sidewalk I couldn’t believe how handsome he was with a tanned face and sun bleached hair. He hugged me solidly and said, “Gawd, Randall, I’ve missed you. Let’s see the house.”

I said, “Neither Sam or Tyler is here at the moment.”“You mean we’re sharing a house with those two sex bunnies.” He had a funny look on his face, “I thought you said we would be living with a hetro couple? Sam is a piece of work. I told you she gave me my colorful, lucky jock strap.”

We walked into the living room which had a big screen TV on one wall and a sofa and two leather chairs against the opposite wall. The dining room was big but all that was there was a small table with four mismatched chairs. He looked into the kitchen but didn’t seem interested in exploring it. I stepped down the hall to our bedroom. I said, “Only one bed is that OK with you. We could buy twins at Goodwill if you want?”

“Hell, no, I want to feel your body every night.” We looked in Tyler and Sam’s bedroom which was a mess. The bathroom was tiny with multiple towel racks. “How much?”

“More than you said you wanted to pay - $350, but I’ve had a good summer so you pay $250 and I’ll pay the rest.”

“We’ll see. I like this place. I hope I like living with Sam and Tyler.” We stepped through the kitchen to the tiny back porch so I could show him where to park the Escort. He wouldn’t have to park on the street. He seemed pleased.

He drove around to the parking space. I helped him bring his things inside. He didn’t unpack and suggested we go to get pizza for lunch. He said he wanted to tell me about his summer. After we ordered a large pizza with sausage, mushrooms and onions Ryan started to talk. “I know I haven’t been too communicative this summer but I’ve been really busy. I really did miss you.”

“That’s OK. We’re together now. Have you got the athletic scholarship money yet?”

“It’s not really money it is a credit toward my tuition and I get to keep it if I keep my grades up and continue with gymnastics. I plan to do both. I have a favor to ask you. I’m terrible with money and I’d like you to manage my money. Give me only an allowance and don’t give in if I ask for more. I can’t give you my credit card but I promise to tell you when I buy anything like gas for the car.”

“I’ll you manage your money.”

“I really don’t trust myself and I’m living on the edge as it is. I’m trying not to take out a student loan even if I could qualify.”

Ryan continued, “I got really lucky when I got to Traverse City. I didn’t really know where I was going to live and hoped I could rent a room in the house of one of the crew. Most of the crew were Hispanic and had too many kids and no room for me. I slept in my car for the first couple of nights. The older guy who was the leader of my crew said he knew of a guy who lived alone and might have a room. He said he did some landscaping for the guy. He gave me his name but nothing else. I looked the guy – Bradford Bellamy – up on the internet at the library. I cancelled my cell phone for two months to save money. I didn’t see your text until last week.

Anyway, I drove to his house and went up to the front door to be greeted by a big shaggy blond haired dog. He didn’t bark but looked at me through the screen door. I knocked and a short dark haired guy came to the door. He said, ‘How can I help you?’” I introduced myself and told him my supervisor thought he might have a room to rent for the summer.

“He asked my supervisor’s name and I told him ‘Hector Gonzales’. He smiled and said, ‘Come in.’ The house was a bungalow similar to the place we’re going to live. He told me he lived alone because he had recently moved back from Grand Rapids. He seemed like a nice guy but he spoke really softly. He invited me to sit in his kitchen. I was happy to sit since I had been bending over planting all day. Outside the window was a huge garden that needed tending. I said, ‘Looks like your garden could use some work.’ He didn’t smile so I thought I had shot myself in the foot. He said, ‘Grandmother’s garden is too big for me to tend. I was injured and can’t bend over for very long.’

“Anyway, he agreed to rent me a downstairs room for my services tending the garden and mowing the lawn. I thought what a deal. Since I had my clothes in my car I moved into a cool downstairs apartment with an entrance to the backyard. I was able to shower for the first time after three days of work.”

As we finished the pizza I was feeling uneasy that Ryan might be more interested in Bradford than me. I didn’t say much as we drove back to the bungalow. We went inside and met Samantha and Tyler who acted like Ryan was their long lost brother. Ryan was talkative and smiley as we discussed a possible routine for the four of us living together. Sam boldly said, “Guys, I’m telling you I like to be comfortable at home and don’t be surprised if you see me and Tyler naked. I’m looking forward to seeing you naked as well.” Ryan laughed. I knew he would be happy to be naked all the time but I wasn’t sure I would like it as much. Tyler proposed that we create a food fund of $15 a week and divide up the cooking duties since he said that eating in was cheaper than ordering pizza or having something Uber’ed in. Ryan boldly said, “Let Randal manage the money he’s good at that.” Tyler mentioned that he had a membership at Sam’s Club where we could buy things in bulk. The conclusion of the conversation was an agreement that I would apply for a credit card in my name to be used for only food. I would have one card and the other Sam would keep. Tyler and Sam would be cooking Monday and Wednesday and we would have responsibility for Tuesday and Thursday. Weekends we were on our own with leftovers or take out.

Ryan mentioned that when gymnastics practices restarted we would probably need to eat later, like 7:30 which seemed fine with them. We started classes the following Monday. Ryan and I agreed to meet on Thursday afternoon after my first lab in Applied Sciences in Engineering class at the Bank of America branch a block off campus. He wanted me to sign onto his checking account and put my name on his ATM card. I told him that he had to learn to manage his money. He didn’t seem to have any interest in listening to me. I learned that he had just over $3000 in his bank account which by my quick calculations would barely be enough for the school year unless he worked. I couldn’t see how he could work, keep his grades up and do gymnastics. I didn’t want disagreements over money to disrupt our friendship.

Sleeping with Ryan every night was wonderful. We enjoyed snuggling and having sex. He preferred to bottom but agreed to be versatile some of the time. We tried to be quiet but Ryan’s love sounds were noisy but compared to Sam’s loud love screams we didn’t have to worry. We got used to Sam apologizing the morning after she and Tyler had a physically sexual night. In the fall during warm evenings the four of us were in tee shirts and boxers. As Sam suggested modesty was not an issue except when the bathroom door was closed which wasn’t very often.

Ryan agreed to a weekly allowance of $20 which he seemed to run out on Thursday when he would ask me for ‘just a little more.’ I would have to remind him of his financial situation but I would usually give in and ‘loan’ him $10 to pay back. I didn’t hold out much hope I would get paid back. By the end of October Ryan and I concluded that his money would not last the school year. He told me he had a plan which I didn’t like at all. He told me he had been approached by a wealthy athletic department donor to visit him for a weekend. He said he had resisted but maybe he could make some quick money ‘tricking’. I tried to talk him out of his crazy plan but admitted he had to do something. He suggested that we could go together. I listened to his plan but didn’t immediately agree to participate.

Ryan had been working out at the gym from early in the semester until the regular gymnastic practices started in mid-October. The first scheduled meet wasn’t until February. When practices began Ryan’s body was ready. I stopped to watch practice when I could. Ryan was strong but his height was a challenge particularly on his floor exercises. He was definitely at his best on the parallel and uneven parallel bars. His swings were majestic because of his height and he continued to work on hitting his dismounts.

One evening after we finished dinner and were getting ready for bed Ryan said, “That donor I mentioned was at practice today.”

“Did he say anything to you?”

“Yes, he invited me to come to his home near Evansville for Thanksgiving. He said he always invited athletes over who weren’t going home. I asked if ‘my roommate’ could come. You don’t have plans to go home do you?”

I said, “No, because my mother’s parents have already relocated for the season to Florida. I don’t know what my dad is doing. Let me think about it.” I hesitated then added, “If he offers you money isn’t that against NCAA rules?”

“Who said anything about money? He’s just inviting us for Thanksgiving. He’s a nice guy and not bad to look at.”

On Wednesday before Thanksgiving we drove toward Evansville but our destination was a farm outside of Poseyville. Ryan had a specific address that I put in my cell phone’s GPS. We turned off of the main road and onto a long driveway up a gentle hill. The house was a new ranch style house with circular driveway in front. The multiple outbuildings all appeared freshly painted. I was nervous since I had never met this man. When we arrived there were two newer model cars parked in the driveway so Ryan parked in an area to the side of the house. As he walked toward the front door the door opened and a tall, casually dressed bearish man with thinning white hair and light beard stepped out to greet us. Ryan said, “Mr. Cole, this is my roommate Randall Clayton.”

“Nice to meet you, Randy. Good to see you Ryan. Come in and meet some other IU fans.” We walked through a spacious living room and dining room to a large family room with kitchen on the side. Three people rose as we entered. Mr. Cole introduced one man as his cousin, Alfred, and his sister, Dorothy and a man who was introduced as Carl. The cousin was about Mr. Cole’s age but beefier. His sister was matronly and the other man was rather non-descript. Mr. Cole offered us a beer which we accepted. He added that we were going to joined by several others tomorrow for the dinner. I expected a Mrs. Cole but none seemed to be around.

When Mr. Cole returned with our drinks he invited us into another room with a giant TV monitor. He said, “You boys want to watch last year’s conference championships in Minneapolis. If that isn’t what you want to watch here is the controller. I have Netflix if you want to watch a movie. Both Ryan and I were getting relaxed and took off our shoes. Mr. Cole returned to his guests. Ryan said, “Do you want to watch my performance last year?”

“Since you never told me how you did other than that you received a scholarship I would like to see how things went.” He took the controller and fast-forwarded stopping several times for me to see outstanding performances by other guys on the team. Robby Maxwell did an exhilarating floor exercise where he literally seemed to be defying gravity. Ryan stopped so I could watch Mark Johnson on the rings. I had watched Mark do his routine many times but he was really outstanding at the meet.

Finally Ryan said, “Now it’s my turn.” I watched as coach steadied him as he set up on the parallel bars. He started with several majestic revolutions stopping twice for handstands. He walked across the bars on his hands reversing his hand positions. He did a modification of those moves again and then flew into a perfect, steady dismount. He was smiling as he thrust his arms in the air.

“I would have loved to see you live. You were fantastic.”

“Enough of that. What do you want to watch?”

“See what’s on ESPN 2.” He found the channel and some historic football game.

He said, “Not this.”

As he was about to change the channel Mr. Cole came in and said, “Boys, let me show you to your room which is downstairs. You’ll have your own space.” He showed us a basement suite with bedroom with twin beds, a big bathroom with multi-head shower, a living room with fireplace and another big screen TV. The house was situated on a hill one side of the room so through the full windows we could see a hot tub and a covered swimming pool.

He smiled and said, “So glad you guys could come for Thanksgiving. Can you stay until Saturday?”

I looked at Ryan waiting for his response. I was uncomfortable knowing what Ryan’s intention was but decided I was along for the ride so I might as well enjoy it. “Sure, but we have to get on our way Saturday morning.”

“Great. Dinner tonight is casual. You can eat with us or bring your food down here. Tomorrow we will have dinner about 4 pm but there will be plenty of food around all day. We will be joined by my brother, his son and my two grandsons both are so anxious to meet you. They are in high school gymnastics and want to meet a real IU star gymnast. I have a good friend and big IU sports fan, Mr. Tomlin, who will be joining us for dinner, as well. I want you to make yourself comfortable. This is your space.

Ryan shocked me with, “Mr. Cole, do you mind if Randall and I push the beds together since we usually sleep together.”

Mr. Cole smiled. “Ryan, come into the back room with me and we’ll bring out the king size mattress that I use when couples are visiting.” We proceeded to follow him into a storage area. It took all three of us to move the king size Tempurpedic mattress into our room.

Ryan said, “Let us take the twin mattresses back. If you can show us the sheets we can take care of the rest.” I assumed Ryan had seen the same thing that I saw. In an open closet not far from where we picked up the mattress I saw what looked like a rack of leather outfits.

Mr. Cole said, “The sheets are in the closet in the bathroom. When you’re finished come upstairs and you can help me prepare dinner.” When we took the first twin mattress back we looked in the closet and definitely there was leather gear. Looking a little deeper we found a massage table. We finished preparing our bed and went upstairs to the kitchen where Mr. Cole was stirring a pot of chili under the watchful eye of his cousin, Alfred, who insisted we call him Al. Mr. Cole directed us to slice tomatoes, wash and spin the salad lettuce and add other ingredients. In addition, he ordered me to slice two loaves of French bread, spread each with garlic butter, and wrap them in foil for the oven.

I was relaxed and enjoyed being in a happy house for the holiday. I couldn’t figure how Ryan could pull off his escapade with Mr. Cole. That became clearer later when the dinner dishes were in the dishwasher and we had returned to our basement suite. It was cool so we lit the wood in the fireplace with the automatic gas lighter. Ryan and I dressed in our pajama pants and our IU sweatshirts. We had the TV on with the Nintendo controls in hand. Before we got going Mr. Cole and Al came downstairs in robes and slippers. Mr. Cole said, “Boys, we’re getting into the hot tub why don’t you join us.”

Ryan smiled, “Mr. Cole, we don’t have swim suits.”

He smiled and said, “Well, neither do we. Leave your clothes here and I’ll open the cover. The temperature should be about right.” He pushed the door open. Ryan started dropping his pants and I followed his lead. We quickly stepped across the cold stones onto the wooden platform where the tub was located. Mr. Cole and Al were submerged. We swung our legs over the edge and sank into the bubbling, hot water. There was plenty of room for the four of us. The bubbler drowned out any chance of conversation which was fine with me. Al put his big hairy arm around my shoulder and signaled for me to come closer. I watched Mr. Cole do the same to Ryan. Nothing more happened as we stayed about fifteen minutes before Mr. Cole said, “I’ve had enough.” He pulled himself up on the edge for us to see his substantial male member dangling between his legs. It was clear he was in good shape for a man I suspected to be close to sixty. When he turned to put on his robe his butt showed no signs of sagging.

“Guys join me in the shower. Ryan quickly stepped back across the stones to the basement entrance. Al didn’t move so I stayed with him thinking Mr. Cole had something in mind.

I was wrong because Al said, “Let’s join them Randy.” All four of us in the shower was not crowded at all. Nothing more happened but I felt I had experienced Act One of a drama. They dried off, left us to finish showering and get into bed. Ryan said what I was thinking, “What did you think?”

“I thought they would want more.”

“They will. You’ll see but probably not until tomorrow night or Friday.” We slept late and found rolls and coffee on the bar when we walked out into our living space. We didn’t see anyone and didn’t go upstairs until nearly noon. Mr. Cole was in the kitchen but so was a man whom we had seen before. He was in an apron and seemed to be in charge of the preparation as Mr. Cole watched. When we entered he said, “Ryan and Randy, this is Brice Tomlin. He was a champion gymnast at IU a few years ago.”

Mr. Tomlin snapped, “Try thirty-five years ago.” He continued, “I watched you on the Minneapolis video. Your parallel bar performance was breathtaking.”

Ryan smiled, “Thank you.

Mr. Cole got off of the stool, “I hear John and his family.” I’ll be right back. He returned followed by a handsome man, an attractive, athletic woman with short hair and two attractive teenage boys. After introductions Mr. Cole said, “There are snacks in the TV room if you guys want to go in there. You can watch Ryan at the conference meet last year. The boys shook our hands timidly as Ryan led the way into the TV den.

The older of the two boys whose name was Joel said to me, “You’re on the IU gymnastics team?”

I swallowed and Ryan said, “No, Randall is my roommate but he knows a lot about gymnastics even though he isn’t on the team. “ Neither boy asked anything further as Ryan turned on the video. Mr. Cole delivered a tray with meat, cheese, veggies and three different kinds of bread for us to make sandwiches. There was a bucket of soft drinks but no beer. After we each had a plate full we sat in front of the TV monitor. Ryan said, “Guys, I’m only going to show you the IU team but if you see something you want to see from the other teams I’ll stop.”

Joel said, “I want to watch really good floor exercises because that’s what I do.”

The younger boy almost whispered, “I’m learning the pommel horse and rings.”

I could see that Ryan liked his role as mentor as he confidently said, “Let’s start the video.” Mr. Cole came in to see how things were going. Smiling he turned and returned to his guests. We watched with several bathroom breaks for more than two hours. The high schoolers couldn’t get enough and wanted to watch all of Ryan’s performances several times. Finally, they had had enough.

Ryan said to Joel, “Are you hoping to do gymnastics at IU?”

“If I get in. My grades aren’t the best. Watching those guys do floor exercises suggests I’ve got to up my game. I can’t do half of what they did.”

Ryan encouraged him, “Keep working. Are you supplementing with weights in the off season?”

“Dad restricts how much we can do because he says we’re too young to get into heavy lifting.”

Ryan clarified, “I didn’t mean heavy I meant multiple reps.” At that point Mr. Cole came in and invited us to the dinner table. The table was set with white China salad plate on top of our dinner plate. The salad was already in place. Mr. Cole directed the four boys of us to sit together and the adults to sit at the other end of the massive table. There were champagne flouts at each place including water glasses but only the adults had wine glasses. Mr. Cole walked around the table pouring everyone champagne including the high schoolers. When he finished he proposed a toast to family and new friends. I was careful to clink my glass gently since I didn’t want to break it.

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