The House on Cherry Street

Chapter 6

On Monday morning only coffee and tea were served. We helped Kahli load his SUV with his containers and the leftovers. Brad decided to ride back with Kahli so Darsh and Darren could ride back to Traverse City in Brad’s car. Doug told us that he and Brice were waiting around for the cleaners and then would drive to Traverse City. Doug said, “I want to see Brad’s beautiful gardens.” Doug also mentioned that he was going to meet with an historic boat collector. He had decided to sell the Chris Craft since it got used so little. By ten o’clock we were on our way. Ryan and I had to get changed and get to work.

Man standing in garden looking at flower bed

Darren's Photo of Randall

After arrival at Brad’s Kahli’s car was unloaded, we got into our work clothes and were on our way. When we got back we found naked guys in the hot tub and sitting in the gazebo. We joined them and Brad informed us that he was waiting for a pizza delivery. When Brad’s phone buzzed he wrapped himself in a towel, put on his flip-flops and left to collect the pizza. Kahli’s cute butt followed him to get drinks which were placed on a folding table.

Before the sun was gone Darren took pictures of each of us in the garden. No one seemed to care if dicks were up or down as Darren snapped away. After the pizza was consumed we chatted until bedtime. Brad had inflated a queen size mattress on the basement floor. Doug and Brice took our bed. Ryan and I planned to sleep on the blow up. The other guys went upstairs. As we had done at his house Doug wanted Ryan and I to join he and Brice in their bed.

We had a nice time. I felt that the birthday present Doug really wanted was being close to Ryan. We just played with them. We had to be on our way to work at 6:30 so we said our ‘Thank you and Goodbye’ before we got out of their bed. We returned to our temporary bed. As we left Doug said, “Ryan call me soon I have a question about what your plans are with Darsh and Darren. I overheard them talking about living with you guys in Bloomington.”

Ryan said, “I’ll call next weekend. Is that soon enough?” Doug nodded and we left.

By the time we got home from work the next day Brad was the only person in the house. We found him typing away on his computer in his office. Kahli had left for South Bend and Doug and Brice drove Darren and Darsh who were getting out in Indianapolis before Doug returned to Poseyville. It was nice to have our house back. With the leftovers that Kahli brought back we had plenty to eat for dinner. The next day in the garden Brad said, “We have a problem. The vegetables and flowers are too abundant. There’s no way we can eat the produce or enjoy all the flowers which are at their peak.”

As we stood looking at our success Brad said, “I wonder if the food bank could use the produce. I understand that many people who have lost their jobs because of COVID 19 are coming to the food banks. Let’s pick everything we can and hopefully the food volunteers can use the produce. Things worked out and the organizers appreciated the bounty. We were able to load several boxes full of plastic bags filled with beans, egg plant, potatoes, turnips and beets. For the next three weeks we created three or four bouquets for area nursing homes. Brad delivered them but could not go inside. He met an administrative person outside in protective gear to accept the flowers. The three of us felt good that we could do something to help others during the pandemic.

Summer was almost over and it was time for us to go back to Bloomington. I spoke to our landlord about renting to Darsh and Darren. The rent she quoted was higher than ours but it was fine with Darsh. He indicated that he paid for both he and Darren. As requested Ryan called Doug on Friday night after we finished work. We speculated about what he wanted but were incorrect. Ryan turned on the speaker before he called. He wanted Brad and I could hear their conversation. Doug answered and Ryan said, “Doug, the three of us want you to know how much fun your birthday party was.” He acknowledged our compliment.

Then he said, “Ryan, I’ve been thinking of investing in a house near campus in Bloomington. I’m there often and I think it will be cheaper than staying in a hotel. What is your opinion of the house you live in?”

Ryan said, “Its small but works for four. We’ll be back in two weeks you can come take a look. For sure the one bathroom is small and needs updating.” Doug asked for the name of our landlord and I gave him her name and phone number.

Gabled house set in well-kept garden

Cherry Street House

I said, “Doug, I happen to have a picture of the house on my cell phone. Do you want to see it?” He said he did and I texted it off to him. We didn’t hear anymore from him until the first home football game in early September. Darsh and Darren took our old room and we moved into Tyler and Sam’s slightly larger room with a bigger closet. At my encouragement Darsh met our gymnastics coach. The coach asked Darsh to come for a private tryout because our lead team was complete but it was not diverse. I suspected the coach might find a place for Darsh for diversity if nothing else. That did not bother Darsh but it irked me.

With Darsh on the gymnastic team that meant he and Ryan qualified to eat in the athlete’s cafeteria. We agreed that each couple would be responsible for two evening meals per week. That required both couples to have their needed ingredients listed on the magnet board by Friday. Darren’s idea of a meal was sausage pizza with onions and garlic. That meant Darsh got to fix many Indian dishes which we had never eaten before. Ryan and my food choices were traditional. We used our outside grill regularly when we fixed dinner.

Two young men standing

Darren and Darsh

From the university each of us received specific instructions about how class would be conducted. The officials were being cautious even though the pandemic seemed to be lessening. The business school did many classes using a video conferencing feature. Darsh spent many hours in front of our big television screen. Ryan was with him some of the time but he had a different protocol for his education courses. The engineering school conducted in person classes and labs but required that we wear masks and leave an empty seat between each person. The first day of class at all the entry doors we were given N-95 masks with the IU logo on them. We were encouraged to take as many as we thought we needed. Since I didn’t know what the other schools were providing I took enough for the four of us. I put one on and didn’t like the feel of it but abided by the rules.

After classes started Darren and I were coming and going and often would only see the other two guys until the evening. Darren was busy many evenings modeling for art classes. One hot evening when we were having a meal together dressed in as little as possible Darren said laughing, “In the past two weeks I’ve had more clothes on here than in my classes. The teachers want me to live model. I am going to have to be more careful with what I eat. The money’s too good to get fat.” We laughed. After his comment I did notice that Darsh’s dishes were less rich with curry sauce.

Darsh and Ryan had similar business course assignments even though they were in different sections. In addition to watching lectures together they often compared notes and discussed problems. I had a tough schedule of engineering courses followed by labs in electrical and mechanical. The toughest course for me was Beginning Project Management. The professor required that we have written specifications before calculations for cost and material could be determined. I didn’t like writing and had to work hard to write the specifications they way he wanted them.

Doug let us know that he would be attending the Western Kentucky football game on September 12. He said since Brice had reopened the bed and breakfast in New Harmony he wouldn’t be attending. He said he’d stay with us. Ryan said, “I wish we had Brad’s inflatable mattress.” We didn’t so we made a trip to Walmart to buy a queen size mattress. We expected to sleep on the mattress. Doug called the day before and invited the four of us to join him for dinner. Even though Darren had been asked to model he turned the opportunity down to join us. Doug arrived at the house and asked if he could look around. Ryan and Darsh walked in together as Doug was looking at the furnace and hot water heater closet. Ryan said, “Hi, Doug, what’s up?”

He smiled, “I’m going to be your new landlord on Monday. I bought this house.”

Darsh said sarcastically, “Are you raising our rent?”

Taking his comment seriously Doug said, “Not immediately but I may need to after the renovation.”

I said, “What renovation?”

He said, “Let’s talk at dinner because I want everyone’s ideas.” That is what happened. He listened and said on Monday after the house closing he was going to meet an architect and share our ideas. Toward the end of our conversation he said, “Has anyone ever rented upstairs?”

“Not while we’re been in the house. I looked up there and there are two small bedrooms full of junk and there’s no bathroom. The only bathroom is downstairs.”

Doug said, “Here’s what I propose. We get all the drawings and plans done and approved by the city before November 1. I will interview contractors who are willing to complete the bathroom renovation over the week of Thanksgiving. Are you guys willing to live with construction going on after that?”

“Hopefully, it could be after finals,” Darsh said.

“Good point,” Doug said. He stayed three nights and insisted that he sleep on the inflatable mattress. He offered to buy football game tickets but only Ryan and I wanted to go. After the game we had invited members of the gymnastics team over for hamburgers and hot dogs. We introduced Darsh to the team as well as Doug as an athletic supporter.

The following week Darsh and Ryan began regular intense weight and flexibility training to prepare for the upcoming season. Doug departed on Monday afternoon but left the impression that we would see him several times leading up to construction. He emphasized that we needed be out of the house during Thanksgiving week. He assumed that Ryan and I would be at his house and invited Darsh and Darren to join us. Both indicated that they were expected at their respective homes for the holiday.

Over several evening meals we looked at plans which were easiest for me to understand. Darren was only interested in making sure he had a room upstairs with plenty of light for drawing and painting. I reminded everyone that the plans were not for us but had to be workable for students who would follow us. Downstairs plans included removing the closet in Darsh and Darren’s room to expand the bathroom. Doug suggested temporary closets for their clothes until the extension to house for the utilities, washer and dryer and deck could be completed. Darren and Darsh agreed to the inconvenience.

The kitchen layout would remain the same. We would get new appliances and cabinets. They would be installed after the bathroom was completed. Construction upstairs also would be started after finals. The one thing that did happen upstairs over the holiday was the running pipes from the old bathroom. The only other thing that was accomplished during the Thanksgiving week construction was pouring the supports for the outside extension.

Several times in the fall Brad overnighted with us on his trips to Tennessee. He always had Sonny so he left the dog with us for a day or two. He didn’t want to leave Sonny confined to a hotel room while he worked. Having Sonny was a fun addition to our house. He was well behaved and I loved taking him for his walk. I mentioned to Doug the possibility of having Brad join us for Thanksgiving. I told him Sonny would probably be along. He was happy to invite the two of them. Brad planned a trip to Tennessee the week before Thanksgiving so he could stay in Indiana. When we left for Poseyville Darren and Darsh had emptied their room’s contents into the living room. We made sure everything was out of the bathroom and the linen closet.

Once we arrived at Doug’s I studied even though I wasn’t missing any classes. At Doug’s request Brad did major work on Doug’s computer and automation including a new remote security camera system. Brad was busy when he and Sonny weren’t out walking with Doug. We saw Brice on the day after Thanksgiving. He told us he had a full house of guests at the B & B and couldn’t join us for Thanksgiving dinner. As our stay went along Brad and Doug seemed different toward each other. I mentioned it to Ryan who hadn’t notice but that didn’t surprise me since Ryan is the last person to notice that kind of change. He politely said, “That’s fine. I like you better.”

I don’t know if Brad and Doug slept together because our room was on the other end of the house. I thought if being together made them happy then I was happy. When we left on Sunday morning Brad announced that he and Sonny were staying and working from Doug’s before he traveled back to Tennessee the following week. We were anxious to get back to Bloomington to see if the contractor had finished the work. We were pleasantly surprised to find the work was almost done except for the decorative tile around the sink. There was a small amount of painting to be done but the added space; the removal of the bathtub with enlarged double-headed shower with glass doors was fantastic. There were double sinks. The toilet was in the same place. The old one replaced with a water efficient model. By the end of our first week back the contractor was done with phase one. The only problem was Darren and Darsh’s temporary closets made their room too tight. We moved a chair out of our room that we used mainly to throw our clothes on. They moved their temporary closets into our room. Ryan and I tried to keep our sexual activities to the evening since there was less chance Darsh or Darren needed access to their closets. One of them surprised us a couple of times but we just smiled.

When finals were over Christmas vacation was ahead. Ryan got it in his head that we should go to my house so he could meet my family. He knew my relationship with my father was not warm. I did call mother and suggested that Ryan and I come for a couple of days. She was pleased and said she, my father and brother would be happy to see us. I was not sure her enthusiasm would be shared by my father. Darren and Darsh planned to fly to Houston to be with Darsh’s family.

Doug’s plan was for the contractor to begin the demolition work upstairs during that time. Ryan and I were only going to be gone a few days because he made it clear he had to get back to continue training. Gymnastics season had already started. The same was true for Darsh. Fortunately, since the stairs to the upstairs rooms was from the back of the house the contractor’s crew was able to go up and down stairs without disturbing us too much. I was surprised when Doug called to tell us he and Brad were in Mexico. My first thought was COVID 19 but I didn’t say anything. He was interested in how the construction was going. I told him that the contractor had the new rooms roughed out and the plumber was coming along with the bathroom. He asked if the contractor needed any decisions made. Ryan would ask the boss and let Doug know.

The layout of the upstairs included a large bedroom with study area and spacious bathroom. On one wall was a bar/kitchenette. There were two other smaller rooms one for storage and one would be Darren’s studio. It had windows on the south and west side. Darren went upstairs often to see how work on his space was progressing. Doug told Ryan and me to pick out the finishes and hardware which became a group project. The work was completed the first of February. Darsh and Ryan were consumed with classes and gymnastics. Darren was always at the art school so our move upstairs fell to me.

With seniority Ryan and I moved upstairs and Darsh and Darren moved into our room. Doug decided that the third bedroom would remain empty even though several guys on the gymnastics team inquired about renting it. He said he would consider it for the fall. We knew the storage room upstairs was definitely big enough for a sleeping space. Darren had set up his easel in his studio as he called it. He bought some special lights to enhance his photography. He persuaded each of us to pose nude for his camera. Ryan convinced several guys to the gymnastic team to pose.

A wispy blonde named Georgia who loved Darren regularly stopped by to visit Darren. His interest in her was platonic even though we thought she would have preferred something more. We loved when she came over because she made the best desserts.

Darren had mentioned to Darsh and Ryan his desire to photograph them doing gymnastic exercises nude. Ryan said he would ask the coach if we could use the gym at night which required turning the lights on. Coach agreed and laughed, “Am I permitted to watch?”

Ryan answered, “Fine with me. I’ll check with the other guys we’ve asked.”

Coach puzzled, “How many guys are involved?”

“About eight or nine, Rich Brown is still considering it.”

The shoot took place on the Friday night after the conference championships. The team brought home two firsts, four seconds and several other awards. Ryan did well but did not place on the parallel bars but did on the uneven bars. Darsh surprised us with an outstanding performance on the rings which was not normally his strongest event.

Darren hoped to stage a photo exhibit in the student gallery so had to get written permission from each of his models. Gymnasts pride themselves on their bodies so he didn’t have one refusal. He asked Georgia to serve as his assistant. When she arrived her provocative outfit triggered some of the guys. Darren said, “Georgia will put makeup and powder on your blemishes. Don’t worry she has seen hard dicks before.” She acted professionally as she prepared each model. I held the reflector at Darren’s direction as he snapped pictures with a new larger camera. By midnight we were finished. Coach watched but was more interested in Georgia who he stood close to as she worked.

Four images of young men using gymnastic equipment

Darren’s Gymnasts Photos

Since the beginning of the second semester I have been talking to the placement office about an internship. Since the pandemic was affecting companies I had been unsuccessful finding a placement. I had hoped to find one in Michigan at one of the manufacturing operations of the Herman Miller companies. They had not restarted their internship program. I mentioned my frustration to Doug who listened in an understanding way but couldn’t give me any concrete advice.

Several weeks later he called and gave me the name of a man at Cole Enterprises in Evansville to contact. He told me he thought they might have an internship. I texted the name he gave me and requested an interview. I heard from the fellow the next day. He asked that I send my resume and a letter describing my interests. I had been working on my resume so I finished it and wrote a letter describing my interest in finding a diversified engineering experience. I mentioned that I had not decided how specialized to become. After checking the internet and having a conversation with Doug to understand the structure of the company I sent my letter. Within a week the man called and after a short conversation offered me the internship. The stipend was small which was not a concern to me. I wanted to have the experience. I would have to take out a loan because I would not make as much as I did working for the landscaping firm. My decision about taking the internship required other decisions to be made by Ryan, Darsh and Darren.

When Doug found out that I got the internship he insisted that I live in Poseyville to save money. He offered to let me use his second car which was a 2010 Toyota Rav4. That meant I didn’t have to buy a car. I had a thirty minute drive and that was perfect. Ryan contacted the landscaping company in Traverse City. The owner offered him the job of supervisor if he could start in early May. He accepted assuming he could live at Brad’s. When he talked to Brad about returning Brad was pleased but not because of Ryan’s help in the garden. Apparently, Brad was going to be traveling back and forth to the Herman Miller operation in Sheboygan, Wisconsin all summer and couldn’t take Sonny with him.

Darsh and Darren decided to stay in Bloomington and go to summer school. Darsh wanted to finish his undergraduate courses in the business school and start work on his MBA in finance in the fall. That meant that someone would be in the house so Doug decided not to find other summer renters. Plans changed when two wrestlers approached Darsh about renting. They made clear that they wanted to stay on in the fall. Since they were athletes Doug agreed but reserved the upstairs for himself. That was good because on his first visit he found out how hot the room was and ordered window air conditioner units not only for the bedroom but also Darren’s studio.

When I arrived in Poseyville Doug informed me that I would be in the house alone since he was planning to stay at Brad’s. I knew he planned to sell the lodge and the Chris Craft. I was jealous that he would be in the same house as my Ryan but felt his interest had shifted to Brad. Since Doug’s pool and hot tub were open he encouraged me to have friends or acquaintances out. I knew no one in Evansville. I was afraid I was going to have a lonely summer until Brice asked if I would like to work weekends in New Harmony doing general maintenance and occasionally working at the front desk. That pleased me. I wouldn’t get bored on the weekends.

Shirtless middle-aged man

Doug in Michigan

I drove to Michigan for the July 4th holiday. Ryan, Brad and Doug were there. When I told Darren and Darsh I was going they requested that I pick them up and the three of us drive up together. When we arrived at Doug’s I was surprised that there wasn’t a garden planted. Apparently, Brad and Ryan agreed after cleaning out the refuse from last summer that they would plant grass instead of vegetables and flowers. They put in a six fruit trees which wouldn’t bear fruit for several years. All Ryan needed to do was mow. After a fun homecoming in the gazebo hot tub it was clear that Doug and Brad were more than friends. Doug encouraged us to join him at the lodge for one last ride in the Chris Craft before the new owner took it off the lake. Doug wanted to pick up some small family items still at the lodge.

We didn’t plan to stay overnight at the lodge since the new lodge owner was coming on Saturday for a big family gathering. When we arrived the day was warm and sunny. Ryan and I jumped into the cold water but escaped as quickly as we could. Darren was shooting pictures as the six of us lounged one last time by the beautiful lake. Doug didn’t seem particularly nostalgic about the lodge which had been requiring additional maintenance. He seemed to be relieved that the responsibility which had come to him when his father died was going to be gone. As we sat around talking and drinking it was clear he and Brad had made plans going forward. Brad said, “Guys, Doug has invited me and Sonny to live with him. We’ve decided to close my house in Traverse City in mid-September. I don’t plan to sell it but plan to have someone check on the house regularly. Doug and I are planning to fly to Europe for the month of October. Is it possible that Sonny could stay with you in Bloomington while we’re gone?” There was a positive nod from the four of us.