“Who feels injustice; who shrinks before a slight; who has a sense of wrong so acute, and so glowing a gratitude for kindness, as a generous boy?”
Stony and I wakened and quickly dressed, leaving Jeremy slumbering in our bed.
“I’ll put more covers on his bed before night,” I said absently walking toward the kitchen, not really wanting to share our bed with another person another night.
“Tell him to leave his door open in cold weather – helps the heat to circulate,” offered Stony thinking the same as I did.
Drinking our coffee while sitting at the kitchen table, we reviewed the conversation I had with Aaron the night before and rehashed the actions we decided to take as a result. Aaron was not very receptive, at least when I talked to him, to receiving his son back into the house and the family. I discovered, during our conversation, he was much more homophobic than I realized! He’d kept it quite concealed over the years, evidently not wanting his position as deputy sheriff to be jeopardized should the public confront him with it. In our community and, knowing the current sheriff as I did, I doubted that would ever happen.
I asked Aaron if he had any objection with Jeremy living on the Island with Stony and me and his response was a snorted, “Hell, no- birds of a feather flock together!” I found my first cousin’s attitude quite disconcerting! Stony and I agreed to see our lawyer on the mainland and get the proper paper work done, including medical and other releases, permission slips, temporary custody, and other necessary forms we’d need to insure Jeremy’s residence on the Island and his protection and welfare!
School might be a problem, specifically transportation and attendance, during bad weather or that time of the year during freeze-up and spring break-up on Johnson’s Slough and the river. He could use the boat when the river was open, the ATV to cross the ice during the winter, and at those times when he had to stay on the mainland because of school activities or weather related situations, Mom and Jim or Carter would shelter him, of that I was certain, but I did need to check on it.
Stony interrupted my concentration by posing, “Maybe, this is the time for us to check into that airboat we talked about.”
I didn’t have a chance to answer aloud, but nodded my agreement as Jeremy made his appearance, all dressed and ready for the day, but looking really, really tired, but hungry.
Jeremy pulled up a chair, settled himself and apologized for crawling in with us during the night. “I know it sounds stupid, but, man, I got cold, so rather than hunt for more blankets, I just crawled in with you guys.”
“No problem,” Stony responded and proceeded in telling him about leaving the bedroom door open and where the extra blankets were.
I suspect it was more than just being cold, I think he was just plain lonely and bereft with sadness and desired human, familiar, and safe company to ease his pain. I was about to get up and fix a cup of hot chocolate for him, when he surprised me by asking, “J.T., can I have a cup of coffee with cream this morning? I’d drink a soda, but I think it might freak you guys out, so I’ll drink coffee instead.”
Drinking the hot brew, he inquired, “What did you find out from Dad?”
I didn’t try to sugar coat his father’s reaction, although I did blunt some of the language Aaron used, and didn’t tell him everything his father said to me concerning gays and what he thought of his son and his lover!
“So,” Jeremy acknowledged when I finished, “he really doesn’t want me back anytime soon, right? We may as well get my stuff hauled over then, shouldn’t we?”
Nodding, I tried to suggest, albeit not expecting it, that we could hope Aaron would change his mind before Christmas break was over. “Don’t count on that,” Jeremy snickered, “Amy Sue will torpedo any notions of that happening, so it looks like you’re going to have a permanent resident on the Island.”
That was fine with Stony and me, but I still had other concerns.
“Speaking of Amy Sue,” I continued, “you know she’ll have it spread all around through her friends that you have a boyfriend and got booted out of the house. It may be pretty ugly and difficult to go back to school after Christmas break. You may be harassed and tormented by other kids not as tolerant and understanding as you’d hope. The friends you thought you had might not so friendly and there are those who want to be more than just ‘friendly’ if you know what I mean!”
“Yeah, I know, but the school has a pretty strict anti-harassment policy and I don’t hear much going on in school. There are those who sucker-punch other kids and that kind of shit, but if the principal finds out there’s hell to pay. As far as friends go, I don’t have many to begin with and for those who want to get in my pants, they can forget it; Cage and I are a couple so anyone else just doesn’t stand a chance.”
Although Jeremy already stated his intention to move his gear to the Island and announced his new residency on the Island, we reached the point where I really needed to verify his commitment. “Jeremy,” I asked, “if it can be arranged, are you willing to live here with Stony and I?”
I raised my hand, stopping him before he spoke. “There’ll be a few rules, simple but few and important. We expect you to do your school work and keep your grades up to your ability; let us know where you’re going, who you’ll be with, and what time we should expect you home; respect yourself and others; no drugs and; do your share here at home such as keeping your room picked up and helping with the chores and tasks of living on the Island.”
Jeremy pursed his lips as if in deep concentration and in the midst of a heavy decision, nodded his head accepting the rules, but added, with a twinkle in his eye, “Can I have an occasional beer when the weather is hot?” and laughed. “Seriously,” he asked, “Can Cage come over to visit when he’s in town?”
“Of course,” we both echoed.
After breakfast, while Jeremy and Stony fed the chickens, filled the wood box, and cleaned the snow off of the solar panels, I made a grocery list, as well as a list of phone calls I had to make and stops in town. Having a teenager around the house would certainly alter our grocery list and our lives, but I know that Stony welcomes it as much as I do. I wanted to stop in town at the attorney’s office, the bank to open an account in Jeremy’s name and secure a debit card for him, an electronics store or big box store to purchase a cell phone for him and arrange for satellite television, high speed internet, and the WIFI equipment to make it operational. We’d need it if Jeremy was to do any research or log into the school for homework assignments, grades, and other things.
I was secure financially with savings and investments and, along with my pensions and Uncle John’s legacy, which would come in handy in making the purchases and raising a high school lad. I also wanted to check into an airboat, but first we had to go to Aaron’s and pick up Jeremy’s clothes and other personal belongings. It wasn’t a stop I really relished, but one that had to be made. I just hoped we wouldn’t get involved in some sort of confrontation.
Stony filled the wood stove, dampened it down to hold the fire and the three of loaded on the ATV and puttered over the ice to Hennessey’s and then to Carter’s where our vehicles were stored in the rear garage.
Jeremy was quiet as I drove to his house, hands folded on his lap, as he sat between us. I stopped the truck in the drive in front of Aaron’s and cautioned Jeremy to stay in it while I went up to the house. Sue, Jeremy’s mother answered the door when I rang the bell, and seeing it was me, called Peter to the door with her.
“Sue,” I began, “are you certain you and Aaron want to do this?”
She nodded her head, responding, “Aaron is really upset; he can’t accept his youngest son or any male being a homosexual. I’ve suspected it of Jeremy for some time, but never said anything. I think it’d be better for Jeremy and for the rest of us if he lived with you on the Island. Amy Sue would just make life miserable for him and us if he’s here. You know Aaron, John Thomas, she can do no wrong as far as he’s concerned and I’ll never change that.”
Jeremy saw me talking to his Mom and slipped out the driver’s side door and stood near the front of the truck, watching patiently, but making no moves to come to the house and engage in the conversation. Sue stopped talking to me when she saw Jeremy, walked to him, and hugged him tightly. I could hear them both crying. Stony crawled out the other side of the truck and came up the walk when Peter motioned us both inside.
“I’ve packed all of Jeremy’s clothes, school books, and anything else that is his in boxes and stacked them, here, near the door,” he said as he motioned toward the stack of boxes. “I persuaded Dad to let him take the lap top he got for Christmas. Dad didn’t want to at first, but he finally gave in when I pointed out it was really a present from all of us and it wasn’t fair – as if he’d really be fair about anything concerning Jeremy.”
“Peter,” I asked gently, “where are you in all of this?”
Peter looked sorrowfully at me, tears running down his cheeks, and choked, “He’s my little brother, John Thomas, and I love him. How do you think I feel?”
Oh, man, Peter was taking this really hard and it didn’t make it any easier on Stony and me, but, hoping to find out a little more, I asked, “Does Uncle Rod and Aunt Emma, your grandparents know?”
“Yeah,” he said, taking a deep breath, “Amy Sue called them this morning and told them. She just couldn’t wait to spread the news. I don’t know what they said.” He paused a moment and angrily sputtered, “You know, John Thomas, she can’t celebrate enough all the shit she’s dumped on Jeremy. Someday, the chickens will come home to roost and she’ll wish she hadn’t done it all.”
With that, he started carrying boxes to the truck and Stony and I followed him, each with a box to load up. In less than fifteen minutes, we had all of Jeremy’s belongings packed. Sue gave her son a final hug and Peter walked over, hugging his little brother, running his fingers over his face, and murmuring, “We’ll keep in touch; I won’t forget you and you better not forget me, Little Brother,” and stepped back as we clambered back in the truck. Just as I was starting to pull out, Peter stepped to my window and asked, “Can I come and visit him on the Island?” and clasped my hand, slipping a piece of paper in it.
I smiled and nodded, responding, “Anytime, he’s your brother, I’m your cousin, and it’s named Gifford’s Island and you’re a Gifford – of course you can,” and backed slowly out of the driveway. Before I drove away, I looked at the paper; on it were e-mail addresses and telephone numbers Peter thought Jeremy would want and need. Good for him, I thought and drove back to Carter’s. We left my truck, loaded with boxes, in the garage to protect it from the elements and took Stony’s truck for the rest of our errands.
Our stop at the lawyer’s office was very productive and he indicated he would have the necessary paperwork done in a couple of days, and, if Aaron and Sue were as cooperative as I indicated, there should be no problem with Jeremy taking up residence with Stony and me. He said he would have to name me as primary custodian and doubted he could name Stony since there was no blood relation. The bank was a piece of cake and we were assured Jeremy’s debit card would be in the mail in a couple of days. Stony suggested an electronics store for our satellite setup and Jeremy pointed us to one of the more reputable ones, according to all of the kids in school, he thought. I wasn’t a bit disappointed and we set up an appointment for Monday, next, for installation. It was a bit of a problem convincing the techie we visited with that I’d pick him up at Hennessey’s and he’d have to take everything from his truck over to the Island on an ATV to do his work, but once he understood, he did seem rather enthusiastic, if for nothing else, getting a look at the Island.
On the way to the supermarket, we stopped at my fisherman friend’s house and arranged for him to shop around for me for a used airboat, reasonably priced of course. At the market, we purchased our groceries, along with fresh fruits and vegetables, and some fresh meat. We had plenty in the freezer, but there was a sale on beef roasts and hamburger and I knew I could fix a hot meal that would be devoured by Stony and Jeremy if I had the meat available. The freezer would have to stay full. We had plenty of canned vegetables and fruit, but the fresh always is a treat.
We transferred our purchases to my pickup, parked Stony’s inside the garage, and had Jeremy follow us on the ATV to Hennessey’s. He crossed the ice to the cabin and returned with the black sled. It took more than one trip to ferry everything across to the cabin and put inside. The last trip, Stony rode with Jeremy and I drove my truck back to Carter’s and the garage. I’d made it about half way back to Hennessey’s when I heard the ATV coming up the street in the direction of the river. Jeremy turned it around when he arrived near me, I climbed on the back, and we rode back home.
Stony and Jeremy had already carried all of the boxes to Jeremy’s new room and while he was busy unpacking and arranging things to suit him, Stony helped me put away our groceries and other supplies, then began assessing our electrical needs for the electronics we’d ordered.
“We’ll have enough power generation and reserve to handle the television, the satellite system, and the WIFI. I picked up another power inverter at the electronics store that will be more than adequate. I just have to do some additional wiring and that won’t take much,” he announced after spotting where all of the equipment was to be located.
Jeremy came out of his room seeking a place to charge his new cell phone and laptop and soon he and Stony were talking all things electronic. It appeared to me I was going to have to learn a few things myself if I were to have even the foggiest notion as what they were talking about.
I decided not to change our daily routine concerning cocktail hour and supper, although I knew it’d change once school started, waiting for Jeremy to come home or if he had school activities or events to go to. Mornings would be a bit more hectic and a change for us since we had to get him up and across the Slough to catch a city bus to school. Equipping him with a cell phone was an absolute necessity given where we lived. He needed it to contact us and vice versa, especially since transportation to and from school could be a bit difficult at various times and he’d need to contact Carter or Mom for a place to crash for the night or longer. Having never been a parent, I was beginning to wonder how they ever did it and kept their sanity. I guess I’d find out!
Before supper, I fixed our drinks and a soda for Jeremy and we sat in the living room enjoying some summer sausage and crackers while the pot roast and veggies I put in the oven did a slow roast for our evening meal. The warmth of the wood stove, the anxiety, distress, and aching muscles from hauling, lifting, and traveling in the cold added to our tiredness as we sat quietly, each absorbed in his own thoughts trying to process what happened within the past twenty-four hours and the changes in our lives. Stony and I now had an almost sixteen year old living with us and our lives would have to adjust to it. No longer would it be “the two of us,” but now “all of us,” a family group to consider!
The silence was broken by Jeremy asking, “John Thomas, what did I ever do to deserve the treatment I got at home? I’ve been a good boy, doing what I was told, and never caused any problem for the folks. My grades are good and I’ve never been in trouble in school. Does being gay make me such a bad person my Dad can’t stand the sight of me and Amy Sue hate me so much?”
He stopped a moment, scratched his head, and continued, “Am I any different than I was a week ago, a year ago, or five years ago?”
Jeremy was struggling, trying to find answers, while maintaining a brave an attitude as possible, but I could see the water welling in his eyes as he was coming to realize how outcast from his immediate family he’d become. He was seeking answers from me, but I didn’t know if my feeble attempts at helping him would be sufficient, but all I could do was relay to him what I’d learned from my own experience and from Mom and Uncle John Gifford.
“Jeremy, I don’t think you’re a bad person and you shouldn’t either. The fact you like boys rather than girls shouldn’t make you any different from those who like people of the opposite sex. The problem is really not you, it’s those who let their own twisted beliefs, bigotry, and hypocrisy, interfere and affect their relationship with others that have the problem. Nothing “made you gay” or can anything “cure” you of being gay and that’s just the way people have to accept you. Those who purport to be Christian in our community and denigrate you, accusing you of all things sinful, should act more Christian and there’d be few problems! You are what you are and created as such so that’s the way people have to accept you, no more no less. If they don’t, that’s their problem!”
“I’ve been confronted, over the years, with those who claim my sexual preferences are against God’s commands and their god will punish me so they make big issues concerning praying for my salvation and return to ‘normalcy.’ I do know, sometimes those who shout the loudest, protesting my behavior are the most quiet when they get caught sucking some guy off in a public restroom or fucking one of the choirboys.”
Stony joined in by saying, “I believe in our country we all have the same freedoms to love who we want and how we want without the interference of others or the imposition of some church’s rules or Bible thumper interpreting them as the ‘law of the land.’ If you read the Constitution of the United States, you’ll find no reference to ‘marriage’ or ‘one man/one woman’ or any other reference to cohabitation of same sex or different sex couples. Those concepts are impositions by the religious beliefs of others who try to interpret the Constitution to suit their own doctrines and impose them on the rest of us.” He snorted angrily, “After all, didn’t Jesus love one of his own disciples?”
“Jeremy,” I continued, “I don’t know how much consolation you can get from this, but you’re not the only one in the world who has these same thoughts and doubts. Each person has to resolve them to their own satisfaction. I do know this, you are lucky to have a boyfriend who loves you; you have Stony and I who also love you and support you and many others who’ll support you and protect you and assist you in every way. Jeremy, you also have the Island, like I did and now Stony, to retreat to and seek refuge on, safe from the predators of the world. Unfortunately, many gay kids don’t have that and that’s so sad. What a sorry commentary on the lack of compassion by others for their fellow human beings. There are those who have no one and don’t know where to turn. Those are the people who we need to reach out to and offer our support.”
Jeremy thought a moment, slid one arm around me, giving me a big hug, and did the same to Stony. A smile came across his face as he said, “Thanks, I needed that.”
So did we!
(Author’s note: Thank you for reading “Gif’s Island – Chapter Nineteen –“Who feels injustice; who shrinks before a slight; who has a sense of wrong so acute, and so glowing a gratitude for kindness, as a generous boy?- Thackeray.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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