The House on Cherry Street

Chapter 10

On the Friday night before the celebration we had planned a cocktail party for those who were arriving early which turned out to be almost everyone. Kahli had fixed delicious hors d'oeuvres which he served in the basement room. The bar was loaded with beer, wine and soft drinks which kept everyone busy until eight o’clock. Doug rose to officially welcome everyone. He was emotional as he spoke about his brief time with Brad. He explained that weather permitting we would gather at ten in the morning for the spreading of Brad’s ashes in the garden. He explained that the occasion would be clothing optional because Brad worked naked in the garden.

Ty sheepishly raised his hand, “Mr. Cole is it appropriate for me to tell everyone when I got to know the naked gardener?” Indicating affirmation with his right hand Ty continued. “I was Brad’s physical therapist after his bicycle accident. I moved in with him after I got my PT degree to work at the hospital. I continued to be his physical therapist. I helped him in the garden so I guess you could say I was the second naked gardener.” Ty went on to tell the group about growing food for the farmer’s market both in Traverse City and South Bend. He concluded, “Brad was a fragile angel who I came to love very much.”

Kahli said, “If Ty was the second naked gardener then I was the third. When I was in high school my parents and I lived in the house next door. From my room on the second floor I looked down into the garden. When it was warm I would watch Ty and Brad working in the garden. I got myself hired to mow Brad’s lawn. After they confronted me about being a peeping tom I got naked and worked with them. I ended up living in this room during my senior year and continued living here when I went to the culinary program at the college. When Brad had the farmer’s market stand I would cook prepared dishes using vegetables from his garden. Brad’s garden started my career in the kitchen. I’m executive chef at a country club near Chicago.

Ryan spoke, “Since it appears that we are speaking in order of meeting Brad then I am probably next.” I came to know Brad accidentally because I needed a place to stay when I was working with a landscaping outfit in Traverse City. I don’t remember how I found out that Brad had a room to rent. When I came to see the place Brad proposed a lower rent if I would help him in the garden. I desperately needed to save as much money as I could. He not only gave me a break on the rent he fed me for free. He also provided other manly benefits.”

Doug spoke up, “You and he were lovers?”

“It wasn’t that we were lovers as much as being naked with him in the garden caused me to be horny. That condition led to other things.” I could see Ty and Kahli nodding their heads. “Yes, we had sex as I suspect others before me did. Ty and Kahli were nodding their heads. “Sex with Brad required positions that would not hurt his injured back.”

Doug said, “That I understand. I had the same experience.”

I said, “Let’s not get bogged down in sex. I was either the fourth or fifth naked gardener. Ryan and I lived in this room the following summer when both of us worked for the landscaping firm. I think that was the last year the back garden was fully planted. For the three of Brad, Ryan and I the garden was too productive. We couldn’t eat all that we were growing so we supplied a local food pantry during the COVID 19 time. That fall Brad decided to plant six fruit trees – two apple, two cherry and two apricot. During the winter he visited us regularly in Bloomington when he was working in Tennessee. He left Sonny with us when he traveled.

Georgia spoke for the first time, “I met Brad and Sonny in Bloomington. He was quiet, shy guy but really nice. Georgia sat next to Ryan holding his hand, “I liked Brad. I was always happy when he left Sonny at the house. I loved to take Sonny for a walk. I haven’t decided if I’m going to be a naked gardener tomorrow but we’ll see.

Young man carrying a laundry basket

Darren's picture of Brad for Doug

Darsh said, “Even though we didn’t get to be naked gardeners we had plenty of opportunity to be naked with Brad when he would stay with us in the Bloomington. He didn’t have any inhibitions. Darren got Brad to pose naked. We hope this doesn’t make you too sad, Doug, but Darren framed a photo Brad for you.” Darren pulled the framed photo out of it’s brown paper cover and handed it to Doug. We could see the tears forming in his eyes.

He said, “Thank you. Seeing his wonderful face makes me sad but thank you.” There was additional conversation and the four wrestlers asked if the hot tub was warmed. They were told it was. Ty and his husband, Fred followed them outside.

Ryan said, “Doug, Brad was totally in love with Ty but Ty broke off their relationship. I know Brad took it hard. When I moved in he was glum much of the time. I think I cheered him up.”

Doug said, “I know you did. Brad told me the whole story. I found that Brad was a private person and it took me quite a while to get him to open up. I don’t know what happened with his parents but I know he worshiped his grandmother. This house was his sanctuary and his personality lightened up as soon as we arrived last summer. I think it is totally appropriate to leave him in her garden.” There was nodding and murmurs from the group.

Fifteen minutes later the four wrestlers came in carrying their clothes. Danny said, “We’re practicing for tomorrow.”

Georgia smiled, “Your cock seems to be ready.” Danny apparently hadn’t noticed he had a hard on.

He snapped, “You’ve seen it hard before and may see it that way tomorrow.” The boys got dressed and left for the motel. Doug, Tad and I planned to sleep upstairs when Kahli said “Can I sleep in the bed down here?”

Doug surprised us, “Kahli, why don’t you come sleep in my bed. I would enjoy being with a handsome young man who cooks so well.”

Kahli momentarily hesitated but smiled, “Sure.” I was happy for Doug that he could cuddle in Brad’s bed with a cute young guy.”

Doug and Kahli went upstairs. Their door was closed when Ryan and I went to bed. Kahli was making breakfast when I joined him in the kitchen to get my coffee. He smiled, “Doug is a gentle lover. I have never been with an older man but he’s fun.”

Doug walked in naked, “I’m ready for the celebration. I shed my boxers as did Kahli and we began our celebration of Brad’s life.

I said, “Doug, do you want to go outside with me. I want to break up the ground around the fruit trees before everyone gets here. That will make working the ashes in easier. We walked out leaving Kahli preparing the food for the luncheon.

While we were breaking up the soil around the tree a man I didn’t recognize came through the basement door. He saw us and immediately slipped off his shorts and tee shirt. He introduced himself as Joshua and said, “It’s been quite a while since I have been naked in this yard.” He said, “Where should I stand to lead the service?” I motioned toward the gazebo. He continued, “I was Brad’s priest when he came back to Traverse City. He was really down. It may not have been right but Brad and I became more than friends for a short time. I’m married and have two wonderful children but Brad will always have a special place in my heart. What do you have in mind? Are people going to speak about Brad?”

Doug said, “Father, we intend to spread Brad’s ashes around the fruit trees. Each person who wants to work the ashes in can do that. We have three shovels so we’ll have to take turns.”

“Do you expect any women or is this a men’s only event?”

“We have invited two women. We knew you were married and thought maybe your wife would be here.”

“She seriously thought about it. Since she didn’t know Brad she decided not to come. She was curious about attending a clothing optional funeral.”

I said, “One of the women who may be topless has a physical effect on the twins and their friends. I would like you to say that getting hard is God’s way. No one needs to hide something that they can’t control.”

Joshua said, “This is the first clothing optional funeral I’ve ever officiated. I would not have thought to say that.” The day turned out to be sunny with a slight breeze gently shaking the flower petals of the fruit blossoms in full bloom.

When the celebration started as expected the men were naked except for a few wearing flip flops on. Georgia was topless and her full breasts seemed to shine. Miss Minnie entered in full church dress including a hat. When she came through the door Joshua said, “Excuse me, Miss Minnie, I didn’t know you were coming.”

“Father, I live next door. Judy and I have had the joy of watching these guys garden for all the time we’ve lived in the house. Judy would be here but knew she can’t stand for very long. I suggest we wave at her once the service starts. I looked up to the second floor window and waved.

Minutes before ten Joshua stepped up on the deck of the gazebo. The assembled group stood before him. He started with a welcome and asked God’s blessing on the group assembled to celebrate the life of Brad Bellamy. He complimented the group standing naked before him. He said naked is the way we came into life. He admonished the group to show no shame for their bodies for the parts they couldn’t control. That caused the four wrestlers to move their hands from in front of their manhood to reveal what I suspected would happen when the boys saw Georgia’s boobs.

Joshua said “I found a poem entitled The Naked Gardener by Taylor Mali. I would like to read a modified portion of it to you. When I finish if anyone would like to speak of Brad come up beside me. He opened the folded paper in his hand and began to read:

Naked as Adam in the garden, flushed,
sweaty hair, a beautiful mess,
a half-dead struggling plant in your hands
your only natural dress.

You ask me to throw out the plant,
say please, and give me a kiss.
But the truth is I would do anything you want
if you asked me naked, like this.

You twirl to continue your rounds
and leave me, a lucky man
wishing for once I were a thirsty fern
being blessed by your watering can.

I watch you walk away, transfixed.
I am love struck and smiling wide
until I notice the next plants needing water
are the ones on the deck . . . outside.

But off you go to tend to your beauties
watering them one by one.
Radiant man clad only
in the glorious rays of the sun.

I have always considered it fortunate
that we live on a hill in the middle of the woods,
'cause if a maiden were to come right now
she'd die from one glimpse of your goods.

O Naked Gardener, carry on
there is no one but me who can see.
And I hope one day you feel as beautiful
as you look every day to me.

There was quiet. I tried to imagine Brad and the others kneeling in front of a wilted fern. Joshua said that was part of a longer poem by Taylor Mali. Would someone like to speak? Doug stepped up with his eyes shining with sadness and joy. He said, “I didn’t know Brad nearly long enough. But he gave me more love and joy than I have ever had. I want to believe he is in a better place. I want you to know that Brad’s will stipulated among other things that a scholarship be established in the horticulture and culinary program at Western Michigan University where Brad graduated. I will double the amount to be given out annually to student in their final year of study.” He turned toward Joshua and said, “Are we ready?” Joshua nodded his head. “He held the open box containing Brad’s ashes and said, “At Brad’s parent’s request we are spreading his ashes in his grandmother’s garden around each of the six fruit trees. Hopefully, the beauty we see today in the blossoms carry on year after year as the fruit is produced. There are three shovels so take turns taking some ashes on your shovel and working them into the soil around an apple, cherry or apricot tree. We will water after everyone is finished.


Doug took the first scoop of Brad’s ashes and went to apple tree as a gust loosened a shower of white petals onto him. Everyone applauded. Ty and Ryan followed. Each selected one of the cherry trees.

Cherry tree in bloom

Cherry Tree in Brad's Garden

A pink cloud of petals fell onto them. I did not watch closely but it seemed that everyone participated. Kahli was crying like a baby as he scooped up the ashes. Instead of putting them around a tree he stepped to the side and tossed them into the air. The ashes gentle descended onto the grass. Joshua was last and took the remaining ash to the first apple tree and gently put his hands on the soil. He said, “We ask God’s blessing on Brad and all that have assembled to celebrate his short life. May Brad rest peacefully remembering how he affected each of our lives. He will always be our naked gardener.” There was applause and hugs all around. Each wrestler gingerly hugged Georgia and Miss Minnie.

Kahli stepped up on the gazebo deck and invited everyone into the basement to the food tables. He asked that Ty and Fred come with him to set the food out on the table. The crowd ate and enjoyed each other’s company for another hour. The breeze had stiffened. I called, “Look everyone it’s snowing.” The cherry, apple and apricot blossoms filled the air and covered the ground around the trees. It was a magical sign to me that Brad appreciated what we had done. As people were getting clothes on they told Doug how magic the celebration was. I was happy that, even those who didn’t know Brad, got to experience our sending off celebration.

The following day Doug, Tad and I met with the realtor we had selected to list Brad’s house. We asked her, if possible, would she find a buyer who liked to garden. We explained how special the fruit trees were. We knew she couldn’t guarantee what a new owner would do but we could hope. She brought one client, a fellow in his mid-50’s, who made an appropriate offer and we accepted even before leaving Traverse City.

The drive back to Poseyville took most of the next day. Tad and I had to go to work the following day and were immediately busy. I had almost totally forgotten about Doug’s dream for Tad and I until one day Mr. Cole who is CEO of the brake division came into my office. I immediately stood up. He said, “Randall, I understand you are to be congratulated. My cousin, Doug Cole, tells me you’re about to finish your master’s degree in mechanical engineering. I understand from Mr. Effinger you are doing excellent work. I would like you to consider working in my office.” I was surprised but pleased. “He also tells me you and my cousin, Tad, is planning to get married.”

“I’ve asked Tad but he hasn’t said ‘yes’. We haven’t decided when.”

“I’m sure he will at the right time. Can you join me for lunch in the executive dining room? I want you to meet our new executive chef,” he said smiling. “I think you know him.” I couldn’t imagine who he was talking about and told him I needed thirty minutes to complete a project for Mr. Effinger. We agreed to meet for my first meal in the executive dining room at twelve thirty. I tentatively walked into a room on the side of the main cafeteria where six tables were set with table clothes and silverware. Mr. Cole was speaking to Kahli. He said, “Randall, meet our new executive chef.”

I said, “I think I see the work of Douglas Cole before me.” Mr. Cole laughed and Kahli pulled me into a hug. Mr. Cole proceeded to introduce me two vice presidents who were seated. Kahli left to prepare our lunch. Before we were seated Doug walked in with another executive who I assumed he was Mr. Kevin Cole. I had spoken to him after the accident. Doug said, “Randall, this is Kevin Cole.”

I shook his hand and he motioned for the four of us to be seated. Mr. Cole said, “You and I spoke at the time of Doug’s tragic accident. Doug tells me you were a friend of his companion.”

The word ‘companion’ told me all I needed to know so I said, “I met Doug first. He may have told you I met him at a gymnastics meet at IU. I didn’t know Brad at that time but met him when my roommate and I were working on a landscaping crew in Traverse City. We rented a basement room in his house. Doug may have told you we lived in a house Doug owns in Bloomington.”

The other Mr. Cole said, “Kevin, Randall is about to complete his Masters in Mechanical and is joining my executive team.” Both Doug and Kevin smiled as Kahli approached our table with bowls of hot soup. He served each of us and I saw Doug wink at him. The French onion soup was followed by a toasted ham and cheese sandwich on French bread. For dessert Kahli served apple pie and ice cream. I didn’t say much at lunch as Doug described his and Brad’s trip in New Zealand before the accident. When the conversation slowed Doug looked at me and smiled, “When are you and Tad going to buy a house in Evansville? Aren’t you getting tired of driving from Poseyville?”

Wanting to change the subject I said, “Tad and I have discussed it but we’ve been too busy to do anything about it.”

Mr. Kevin Cole said, “Doug, you know Aunt Mildred’s house is going to be put up for sale. Maybe they should look at it before it’s listed. It will sell fast because of her beautiful gardens. She moved into an assisted living facility.”

Without commenting Doug said, “Randy, call Tad and have him meet us after work. Kevin, do you know who has the key? What’s the address?”

“Dorothy, has the key for sure. The house is at the end of Maple Street.” Tad met us after he finished work at six. Dorothy joined us and was pleased that Tad was considering buying. Shortly after our visit Tad and I became homeowners in Evansville.

We needed to renovate not only the kitchen but we wanted a bigger room for entertaining. We wanted the work completed before we moved in. Tad and I continued to commute from Poseyville through the summer. I saw Kahli and Doug a great deal after I finished school in July. Tad and I decided to get away from the Doug’s constant discussion about our wedding. We were both able to schedule a five day vacation to Kentucky Lake. We were still undecided if we were ready to get married even though the wedding was being planned. The trip would be our time to sit quietly and discuss our future life.

I reserved a house boat that could sleep four even though it was only going to be the two of us until the weekend. Kahli packed enough food and drink so we didn’t have to go to shore to eat if we didn’t want to. We planned to find a quiet cove, anchor and relax. From almost the moment we left the pier we were naked and didn’t attempt to cover ourselves when other boats passed us. Boaters yelled or whistled but we didn’t have anything harmful happen. The first night we anchored in a long cove and could see a couple of other houseboats. We were too far away to see the people.

On the little charcoal grill that hung off the boat’s railing I cooked hamburgers. Tad got out the chips and condiments. He opened a beer for each of us. The sun was setting as we sat at the small table on the back deck. I said, “Tad, let’s be honest with each other. Are we ready to get married? If we aren’t we have to stop Doug from believing that we are.”

“I agree and honestly I’ve thought a lot about marrying you. We’re both type A personalities. I hope we will be happy with each other. We both work too much and play too little. I don’t see that changing. You’ve got your new, demanding job. I didn’t tell you but Mr. Smith offered me the position of assistant sales manager. I want to take the job but I don’t know what to do. I do love being with you and making love with you. But is that enough?”

“I’ve decided I am willing to take a chance. I don’t care if we keep our finances separate because you have much more than I have.””

Tad said, “I don’t want that. If we get married we have to go all the way. We have our house and Aunt Mildred’s garden. How about making naked our preferred dress for gardening? Since there is no one behind us we can have a clothes free zone.”

“Why do you think your uncle Doug is so intent on us having a big, splashy wedding?”

“I think he wants to make a statement about gay marriage to Evansville. He has had to live a closeted gay life. He’s ready to throw the doors open. He wants us to lead a life that he wasn’t able to enjoy.”

“Do you think anyone knows that he’s gay?”

“I suspect my mother has guessed since she knows you and I live with him. We know she doesn’t care. She and Carl probably figured it our when they were in New Zealand. Doug may have told them about his relationship with Brad.” We sat quietly eating until Tad said, “Uncle Doug may want to thumb his nose at his conservative Catholic family who we work for.”

I said, “The question is do you and I want to be actors rather than husband-to-be and husband-to-be? Doug’s major preoccupation is planning our splashy wedding. He wants it to be the social event of Evansville. Evansville is your town. I’m the outsider.”

Tad said, “Let’s swim. The moonlight is beautiful.” After we floated around for a while Tad and I spent the next few hours lounging and making love. We watched two sunsets and two more sunrises before Kahli and Doug joined us. We decided that we would be frank in our discussion of the wedding with Doug after he came Friday.

On Friday afternoon we moved our house boat back to the dock to pick up Kahli and Doug. Kahli had texted when they were thirty minutes away. They were going to join us for the last two days of our time on the lake. The weather was hot but there was no rain. After picking them up we found a new cove further away but more crowded because it was the weekend.

Over cocktails we told Doug we had decided that our marriage wouldn’t take place until the following May. We recommended that the wedding take place in Tad’s mother’s Episcopal Church. We stipulated that the reception would be at our house in a big tent in the expansive garden. Doug was sure Tad’s mother would push for the country club. Tad said, “It’s our wedding not hers.”

As the four of us sat on the top deck Saturday night Tad told Doug and Kahli what we wanted. Doug wondered why we were waiting so long. Kahli came to our rescue, “Doug, it’d take that long to do invitations, reserve the church and reserve the tent. There are a million details that you and I will have to attend to.” Doug didn’t immediately agree. I wondered if Doug wasn’t being completely honest about something. We slowly motored back to the pier on Monday morning and loaded the cars for the drive back to Poseyville.

Kahli told us the painting in our house was completed and the new flooring was in throughout the first floor. Aunt Mildred’s furniture was dated. We weren’t interested in antique family pieces so Tad’s mother decided what to keep and what to sell. When we didn’t get home too late to Poseyville we spent time ordering furniture online. Dorothy took charge of the decorating but listened to our preferences. Tad seemed to be growing closer to his mother as they worked together decorating.

By late October we were ready to move from Poseyville. Tad and I had little more than our clothes in Poseyville so the move was easy and went smoothly. Doug was sad to see us go but loved that Sonny was staying with him. Kahli announced he was moving in with us from Monday thru Wednesday nights to avoid so many trips to Poseyville. It was obvious to us that Kahli was doing the wedding planning and letting Doug do all the detail work. We enjoyed having Kahli’s sparkling personality and we ate well when he was with us. About once every couple of weeks he would get in bed with us for fun.

Doug planned his Thanksgiving dinner which had been postponed last year not only because of his accident but also the COVID 19 scare. Kahli told us that this was going to be the Thanksgiving to end all Thanksgivings. Doug decided to send formal invitations to forty people including my boss and his wife; Dorothy, Carl, Ryan, Georgia, Brice, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. When Kahli tallied the acceptance he knew he had to fix dinner for thirty people.

Thanksgiving day Doug was really happy. Brad’s name was rarely spoken but it was clear Doug didn’t have Brad too far from his thoughts. Doug dressed in his finest dinner jacket to welcome the guests when they arrived. Kahli was in the kitchen with his new helper, a cute Asian fellow. When Ryan and Georgia arrived I notice her stomach was not as flat as it usually was. She smiled at me confirming her secret. Since everyone attending was already on the wedding invitation list Doug raised one of the many toasts to Tad and I for our upcoming wedding. No one was surprised and joyfully toasted us.

After the feast it seemed like only a day before it was Christmas. Because the executive dining room at Cole was closed Doug and Kahli took a two week cruise through the Caribbean to South America. The first time I saw Doug in late January I noticed he was thinner and his complexion was pale. I didn’t say anything but mentioned it to Tad who said he hadn’t noticed.

My observation was correct because Kahli called the following Thursday when he got back to Poseyville. He reported that Doug had with a bad cold when he arrived. He said, “I insisted I drive him to see his doctor in Evansville. When we met his doctor at the emergency room the doctor decided to admit Doug for what his doctor thought was pneumonia.” Tad and I went to see Doug the second day he was in the hospital. He was not in intensive care but was alone in a room. He was being given oxygen through a tube in his nose. He smiled and looked pale. He inquired about a few items for our wedding. We deferred to Kahli for answers.

Doug was released a couple of days later but his recovery was slow. Kahli was not only cooking for the Cole cafeteria and executive dining room but also caring for Doug with the help of his helper, Vincent. Kahli stayed with us infrequently. Tad and I went to Poseyville in early April to bring Doug up to date with our marriage ceremony. He seemed pleased and listened. Kahli was doing the detail work. It was obvious to me that Doug was failing. I told Tad my concern on the way back to Evansville, “I hope Doug makes it to our wedding.”

He said, “What do you mean?”

“It’s clear to me Doug is not the Doug you and I saw on Kentucky Lake. I think his pneumonia drained him.” Tad didn’t say anything more but told me he had spoken to his mother about my concern. He said she and Carl decided to drive out and see for themselves. When they returned to Evansville they stopped to report that they agreed that Doug was weaker. They felt he would make it to the wedding if it was the last thing he did.

Our May seventeenth wedding day finally arrived. The night before there was a small rehearsal dinner at the country club attended by my mother, my brother and his girlfriend, Dorothy, Carl, Brice, Doug, Kahli, Vincent, Tad and Mr. Smith. Tad had asked Mr. Smith to be his best man since his own father was traveling somewhere in the world. I was disappointed when Ryan, who was to be my best man, called to tell me he couldn’t attend since Georgia was expecting their child any day. Kahli was happy to step in. I had mentioned to the priest at the Episcopal church about our friend Joshua from Traverse City. He said that he and Joshua were classmates in seminary. The morning of the wedding I was surprised and pleased that Joshua stood with the other priest to give us our vows in front of a fully packed church. The need for social distancing was finally over.

When Joshua arrived at our reception I immediately thanked him for coming and offered him a place to stay if he was staying over. He accepted since he had already arranged for someone to take his place at mass the following day. Dorothy hovered over Doug from the moment he showed up at the church. He, she and Carl sat on Tad’s side of the church and my mother, father and sister sat on the other side. The day was crisp and Aunt Mildred’s flowering trees were at peak perfection. The magnolias were glorious. The three pink dogwood trees flanked the entrance to the massive tent we had erected for the reception and dinner. Both Mr. Kevin Cole and Mr. David Cole attended with their families.

Kahli decided on plated meals which required that he hire six servers to assist him and Vincent. The servers were handsome young people who were his students in the culinary program at the Evansville Community College. The day was perfect in every way. My husband-to-be was stunning in his white tuxedo jacket. He seemed to be the happiest person at the party. I was happy but had a small twinge that we were performing for Doug. I let that thought pass.

When it came time for the wedding toasts there were several before Doug slowly rose and walked toward the microphone. He held the microphone in one hand and steadied himself with his other hand on the back on my chair. He started, “Most of you know I’m Tad’s uncle Doug. I am so happy to be here today to celebrate the love of two people I love very much, Tad and Randall. I met Randall at an IU gymnastics meet. We have been friends ever since. I am doubly happy that he’s marrying my nephew, Tad. I think this might be the first gay marriage in Evansville but I don’t think it will be the last. I wish I would have been born later so I could have been as open with my life as these two outstanding citizens of Evansville are. Please raise your glass with me to these two men. Before he returned to his seat he hugged me and kissed me on the cheek and did the same to Tad. I noticed Dorothy stand, followed by Carl and then the entire room stood to applaud Doug as he slowly walked back to his seat.

Long before the wedding Tad and I had decided not to take a wedding trip immediately. Rather we planned a trip Europe sometime in the fall. That was a good decision because Kahli called the following Thursday when he got to Poseyville to tell me he found Doug slouched in his chair with Sonny at his feet. He said he knew that Doug had passed away by the way Sonny was guarding him. He said, “I called you because I don’t know what to do.” I asked him if he had felt for a pulse. He said he had and reported there was none. I called Tad and told him the news. I suggested he call his mother. I called the only funeral home in Poseyville to arrange for them to pick up the body. I called Kahli back and told him to expect someone to come to retrieve Doug’s body.

I sat back quietly at my desk at Cole. I was happy that Doug had made through our wedding. I couldn’t help but wonder if COVID 19 took one more victim even though the virus was supposed gone. I was happy he got to see the wedding that he planned. He left this world having seen his dream come true - a big, splashy, gay marriage happen in Evansville.

Doug’s instructions regarding his funeral were specific and were found in an envelope on top of his desk. He wanted his ashes to be combined with Brad’s in Traverse City if that was possible. If not he wanted to be with us in our garden around the flowering trees. Tad worked hard convincing Dorothy to allow Doug’s body to be cremated. She said that wasn’t her family’s tradition. Tad prevailed but his mother insisted that his ashes be interned next to their parents in the Catholic cemetery.

I knew Tad and I didn’t want to make her too angry so once we received the ashes from the crematorium we took a small amount out for a special package to be sent to Traverse City. We contacted Joshua who agreed to approach the new owner of Brad’s grandmother’s house. Joshua reported that the new owner was happy to accommodate the priest’s request. We sent the envelope with Doug’s ashes to mix with Brad’s ashes in the orchard. I had peace of mind knowing Brad and Doug were together nourishing the fruit trees in Brad’s cherished garden in Traverse City.

Author’s note: The story is completely fictional and the author reserves all rights to it. Sharing is encouraged. I want to thank Don W for proofreading of the story. The pictures were found on the internet without photographer’s credits. I would be happy to credit the photographer if they contact me. If you have comments about the story please email them to I am always happy to hear from readers.