Brandon’s Boys

Chapter 7
School Plus Two

            As of 1 January 2010, there were seven boys living at 1322 S. Chestnut in the group home known as Brandon’s Boys.  In the order in which they joined the group, they were: Daniel, age 16, gay, a sophomore at Baltimore High; Colby, age 16, gay, also a sophomore at Baltimore; Bobby, age 13, straight, seventh grade at St. Rose; Mike, age 11, straight, fourth grade at St. Rose; Clarence, age 13, straight, sixth grade at St. Rose; Leon, age 15, straight, freshman at Baltimore; and Gene, age 18, gay, junior at Baltimore.  Brandon and Chris, living next door, attempted to keep an eye on these guys, but that responsibility fell most heavily on Barbara Menendez, who was the resident cook and housekeeper.


Added Help

            Anne Carter Payne  was extremely grateful to the Todds and Brandon Dowling, who not only helped finance her son’s expenses at the University, but who brought her and her mother to Clifton and presented them with the nice house at 1402 Pine St.  She did not want to complain.  But she was bored doing nothing but maintaining the house and fixing meals for her son and his family.  Her mother, Louise, was quite capable of doing that, as she was just 70, while Anne was 50.  Consequently, Anne spoke about getting a job.

            It was her daughter-in-law, Madeline, who suggested volunteer work, and Louise who suggested that Barbara Menendez at Brandon’s Boys had a lot of work with all those boys.  Hence, with the new year just begun, Anne turned up at Brandon’s Boys and asked Barbara whether she could use some help.  Brandon and Chris were still at the Farm, but a phone call was all it took to get permission.  Brandon not only agreed to the help, but insisted on paying Anne the going rate for a daily, who lived out but came in most days to help with the housework.  That gave Aunt Barbara some time off, and also someone more or less her own age to talk to.  This would also insure that someone was on the premises when Barbara went shopping or some such errand.  Eventually, Anne would also be certified as a foster parent.



            Inasmuch as half the boys at Brandon’s Boys were straight, it was inevitable that Brandon have to deal with girlfriends.  The three oldest boys, Daniel, Colby, and Gene, were gay, with Daniel and Colby forming a loose partnership.  Gene had no special friend as yet, but there were other gays at Baltimore, and he did not lack for companionship.  He became especially close to Martin Sotomayor, whose special friend, Tris Caldicott, was at the University and so not around all the time, and who, besides, was the ward of Ben Spalding, one of the Board members for Brandon’s Boys.  Bobby and Mike were still a little young to be thinking of girlfriends, but Clarence and Leon were not.  In fact, Leon thought he might be the father of a baby born last year, although the mother refused to confirm that, as she was living with another boyfriend and wanted him to be recognized as the father.

            It came as no surprise, therefore, that during the Christmas holidays both Leon and Clarence (they have abandoned their street names) turned up with girlfriends.  Seeing this, Aunt Barbara consulted with Brandon, who in turn spoke with the parents or guardians of the girls involved, after first speaking with the boys.  Clarence admitted he had not yet ‘done it,’ but he and his girl, Bernadette Ngolo, wanted to.  Leon had sex with his date, Anne Nicole Duvall, but she insisted she was safe at the time.  Brandon got promises from both that there would be no more fucking until the girls were on contraceptives.

            Leon adopted a silly expression, which he thought suave, and asked, “And then?”

            Brandon replied, “You know Daniel and Colby are partners and have sex.  I think you also know something about the rules we agreed on, so you tell me.”

            Leon considered.  “First, no violence.  Nobody is made to do anything sexual he or she doesn’t want.”

            “Good.  Now, how does this talk of contraceptives fit in?” Brandon pursued the topic.

            After a moment, Leon replied, “Okay, this is more of the ‘being responsible’ talk we’re always getting, right?”

            “Right.  Any other way you should be responsible beside avoiding an unwanted pregnancy?”  Brandon asked.

            Leon considered, but could not come up with anything.

            “What’s one of the first things we did when you first came here? ... or when any of you first came here?” Brandon hinted.

            A light went on.  “Doctor’s visit.  Watch out for STDs.  But I’m clean, and I’m sure Anne Nicole is, too,” Leon insisted.

            “Fine, but if either of you have sex with anyone else, that brings that into question.  All I’m saying is, be responsible,” Brandon insisted.

            “And if I’m following all these rules, I can fuck Anne Nicole?” Leon asked, just to be sure.

            “Yes.  But there’s one more rule we haven’t mentioned.  Be considerate of the others in the house.  In other words, just like Daniel and Colby, keep it in your room.  And I would also advise you to make certain Anne Nicole’s parents are also on board.  You don’t want to tick off the high school football coach,” Brandon advised the lad.

            “All right!” Leon exulted.  “Anne baby, come to me!”

            Brandon laughed, but before the day was out, Leon appeared with Anne Nicole at the dinner table, with both of them looking flushed.

            Leon quietly said to Brandon, “She’s on the pill.”

            Clarence’s situation was a bit different.  He was in the sixth grade at St. Rose, and just turned thirteen at the beginning of November.  The girl he became involved with was actually a grade ahead of him, although she was eight months younger, having just turned twelve in July.  Bernadette lived right across the street, at Todd House, and frequently rode to school with Clarence.  When he tried to show off, and use the name he had given himself, ‘Bruiser,’ she laughed at him.  She also remembered his first week at St. Rose, when he was in the same class as she, and was totally lost.  Bernadette adopted a maternal attitude, and decided Clarence needed to be protected.  The two became close during the holidays, but neither had experienced sex as yet, and so they just did some kissing and petting, and were quite pleased with themselves.

            However, after talking to Leon, Brandon sought out Clarence at Leon’s suggestion and had a serious talk.  Brandon made it clear that he was not applying pressure, and surely did not want to rush the youngsters, but he did want to make sure they were being responsible.  Brandon went over the same rules with Clarence he had with Leon.  Clarence then talked to Bernadette, who said those rules fit perfectly with what she was being told at Todd House, and so she would ask about starting on protection before things got out of hand.

            When Sandy returned from the Farm on Saturday, January 9, Bernadette asked to speak with her privately.  Sandy was surprised at the girl’s request to be started on the pill, as she was just twelve, but she agreed that it was better to be prepared.  Sex among teenagers was almost inevitable.  It was much better to have it under safe and controlled conditions.  After a visit to Dr. O’Malley, which confirmed that the girl had experienced menarche, Bernadette began taking her contraceptives regularly, and so it was not long before she and Clarence lost their virgin status to each other.


Other Additions

            February came in with a vengeance, being colder and rainier than usual.  Father Lamar Todd was locking up the church after the Saturday evening Mass at St. Martin de Porres, looking forward to a quiet evening before the fire in the rectory parlor.  The lights were on dim, where they would remain all night, and locking up was an unfortunate necessity, as the neighborhood was such that thieves and vandals might otherwise be expected.  As he made his rounds, checking each of the doors from the inside, and grateful that there was a passage from the sacristy to the rectory so he did not have to go outside, his attention was arrested by a cough. Investigating, he found a small boy huddled in the confessional.

            “Ah ha!  What have we here?” Lamar rhetorically asked.

            The boy only hunkered down more and looked pitiful.

            “Come on,” Lamar said.  “You can’t stay there.”

            “Oh, please.  It’s so cold outside,” the boy pled.

            “Don’t you have somewhere to go?” the priest asked.

            “No,” came the unexpected response.

            “What about your parents?”


            Lamar considered.  “Hungry?”

            “Yes, please,” the boy replied.

            “Okay.  Come over into the rectory with me, and we’ll get you something to eat while we try to decide what to do with you,” Lamar offered.

            The boy hesitated, but evidently his hunger overcame his hesitations, and so he accompanied the young curate back to the rectory.  On Saturday evenings, Lamar had a light supper after saying the 7:00 p.m. Mass, so he took the boy into the kitchen with him, and there prepared some sandwiches.  The boy ate greedily, confirming Lamar’s assessment of his condition, and the likelihood that he was homeless.  As they sat at the kitchen table, Lamar asked his name.

            “Roger,” the boy said.

            There was something about the way he said it that made Lamar skeptical.  “Really?”

            The boy hesitated.  “No, but it’ll do for now.”

            “Okay, Roger,” Lamar agreed.

            Just then, the old pastor came into the room.  Father Alexander Wright was in his later 60s, and was very grateful for the relief he enjoyed with the assistance of Lamar.  His previous curate had not been as cooperative.

            “Who are you talking to, Lamar?  You’re too young to be talking to yourself.”  Then, spotting the boy, “Oh, who’s this?”

            “He says he’s Roger, and I found him hiding in the confessional.  He was hungry, so I brought him over here,” Lamar reported.

            Father Wright took a good look at the boy.  “No, not Roger.  You’re Freddie Foster.  Where’s your uncle?”

            The boy shrunk into his chair, “Oh, please, don’t send me back to Uncle Dick.  Please!” He begged.

            “Why, what’s the matter, Freddie.  What’s the problem with Dick Foster?” the old priest asked.

            “He hurt me, and he made me do nasty things.  Please don’t send me back there,” the boy lamented.

            Father Wright took a seat next to the boy.  He reached out and put his hand on the boy’s arm.  “I remember when your mother died.  She was a loyal member of the parish here, and we’ve missed her very much, as I’m sure you have, too.  That was right after Christmas last year, as I recall.  Now, if I’m not mistaken, you went to live with your father’s brother.  Is that right?”

            “Yes,” the boy sobbed.

            “But then you were sent to your mother’s sister in Illinois, right?” Father Wright continued.

            “No.  I don’t know anything about my mom’s sister in Illinois,” Freddie said.

            “But that’s what your uncle told us.  He said you were unhappy with him, and just before Easter, around the first of April, you went to live with your aunt.  Isn’t that so?” Father Wright questioned him.

            “No.  I never went to Illinois, and I don’t know anything about an aunt.  I don’t think mom had any sister,” the boy cried.

            “Tell us, then,” Lamar said, “where have you been since last spring?”

            “On the streets,” Freddie said.

            “On the streets?  You mean just wandering around?  Homeless?” Father Wright wondered.


            “Tell us what happened.  Why did you leave your uncle?” Lamar asked.

            “Uncle Dick was real mean to me.  He said he didn’t want me, but the Welfare people said he had to take care of me.  He made me do all kinds of jobs.  That wasn’t so bad, except that he hit me a lot when I didn’t do them the way he wanted, or as fast as he wanted.  But that was not the worst.  The worst was when he started making me suck his dick.”  At that, the boy broke down crying, and could not be brought to make sense for some time.

            “I never liked Dick Foster, but I never expected something like this,” Father Wright angrily commented.

            “I think Freddie needs to join Leon and Clarence,” Lamar commented.

            “Oh, yes.  That safe house or whatever.  Do you think they’ll take him?”

            “I’m sure of it.  Remember, I serve on the Board,” Lamar assured the older priest.

            “Freddie, do you remember Clarence Brooke, the boy who called himself Bruiser?” Father Wright asked.

            Freddie ceased crying, just sniffling as he considered.  “Yeah.  Back in the spring.  Bruiser helped me a couple of times after I ran away.  But he’s gone.  I heard he was killed.”

            “No, he wasn’t killed.  He just went to live in a safer place,” Lamar said.  “Would you like to visit him?  Maybe live with him?”

            “Yeah!  That would be great!” Freddie replied.  “Anything as long as I don’t get sent back to Uncle Dick.”

            “Let me make a phone call,” Lamar said, getting up from the table and heading to the office, leaving Freddie in the care of Father Wright.  By this time, it was nearly 9:00 on a Saturday evening, but Lamar was pretty sure where to find Brandon.  If he wasn’t at home, he’d be next door with his boys.  It was next door that he connected.

            “Brandon, I’ve got another lost boy for you.  Ask Clarence if he remembers a boy named Freddie Foster.”

            Brandon relayed the question, and got an immediate response.  “Did you find Freddie?  I hope he’s okay.  That uncle of his was a real sleezeball,” Clarence responded.

            “Yeah,” Brandon said, “I think Freddie will be joining us.”

            And so it was, less than a half hour later, Brandon and Clarence arrived at the St. Martin de Porres rectory.  When Freddie saw Clarence, he ran to him, and the two boys hugged.  It took no persuasion at all to get Freddie to go back with Clarence and Brandon.

            Brandon learned that his newest boy was named Frederick Andrew Foster, and was born on 13 May 2001.  He had attended Kindergarten and first and second grade at St. Martin de Porres, but in April of 2009 he had run away, not completing the second grade, and not making his First Holy Communion.  He has been on the streets ever since, surviving by stealing food whenever he could.  The winter was really rough on him.  He happened to be in the vicinity of the church that Saturday evening, and went in during Lamar’s Mass to get out of the cold and damp.  Freddie had not been in school since early April of 2009.  He had no identification, but the recognition by Father Wright and Clarence was sufficient to begin.

            The first thing Brandon did after getting back to Brandon’s Boys, and after introducing Freddie to the others, was to send him to the showers for a good cleaning and shampoo.  His clothing was filthy, and so was put into the laundry, but Chris was sent out to a mall store which stayed open late, and got some essentials.  When Freddie emerged from the shower, he was dressed in underwear borrowed from Mike and a robe until Chris returned.  He was fed again, but before long he was nodding.  For the first night, Freddie was put to bed with Clarence.

            Next morning, dressed in the ad hoc purchases made by Chris, Freddie attended Mass at St. Rose with the rest of the boys.  As he had been taught, he presented himself at communion with his hands folded across his chest, and receive a blessing.  Stephanie Williams came back to Brandon’s Boys with the guys, and interviewed Freddie, promising he could stay there.  Then he had a great Sunday dinner.  In the afternoon, he was sent down to Mansfield Park with the others, as Brandon’s Boys played soccer with all the other boys of the Neighborhood in all weather.  He returned cold, wet, exhausted, but happy.

            After supper, he and Brandon talked.  He agreed to go to St. Rose and to start in the second  grade, so he could make his First Holy Communion.  There would be only about a month and a half overlap with what he had last year, and he could use the review.  Like all the others at Brandon’s Boys, he would be a year behind his age group, but making up for lost time was necessary.

            When Freddie got home from his first day at St. Rose, along with Mike, Bobby, and Clarence, he had a snack, but then was taken by Chris to see Dr. Castleman for a physical, mainly in order to check on his health, but also because it was required by the school.  Then, Chris transported him out to a medium scale mall, and totally outfitted him for winter.  Saturday’s purchases were now his ‘old’ clothes, used for soccer games and lolling about the house, and the clothes he came in were gleefully discarded.

            Later that day, Zip Todd appeared with a copy of Freddie’s birth certificate, showing him the son of Gerald and Jesette Foster, born on 13 May 2001 as he said.  This was followed by a visit from Stephanie Williams, who brought papers temporarily assigning Freddie to Brandon’s Boys as a foster child.  She also said an investigation had been launched into the story of abuse by Richard Foster.  It was nearly two weeks later when she returned with the news that Richard Foster had been arrested, in the first place because he had lied about Freddie’s whereabouts and never reported him missing, to which were added indictments for physical and sexual abuse.  In addition, Freddie’s father had been killed while on active service with the Army, and he was supposed to be getting survivors benefits, but Uncle Dick evidently kept that for himself, another count in the indictment.  At that time, Freddie was definitively assigned to Brandon’s Boys.  He met with Ben Spalding once each week for the remainder of the spring semester, but Ben reported that he was in pretty sound condition, and there was no difficulty believing his account of his treatment from his uncle.  This was reported to Child Welfare, and included in the evidence against Dick Foster.

            On May 9, the Sunday after making his First Holy Communion, Freddie returned to St. Martin de Porres in the company of Clarence and Leon, accompanied by Brandon.  He proudly received communion from Father Todd.  They met before Mass, when Freddie told the priest not only that he was going to receive, but also that he was going to begin learning to serve at the altar.  Clarence and Leon already did that on a regular schedule.  Father Wright was there to congratulate all three boys, who sat with Mrs. Brooke during Mass.  Even though they lived at Brandon’s Boys now, these boys need not lose contact with their family and old neighborhood.

            Eventually, Uncle Dick was convicted and sentenced to prison.

            Less than a month after Freddie arrived at Brandon’s Boys, another addition was taken on.  It was Sunday afternoon, February 28, and the boys were down at Mansfield Park for their soccer game.  Some had removed their coats or jackets, and piled them on the sidelines.  They were just getting started when an unknown boy appeared.  He stood on the sideline, and shook his head in the negative when invited to join them.  Then, as they began to play, he snatched up a coat and began to run.  Several of the guys saw this and yelled, but the closest was Colby, who took off after the thief.  Before the boy got to the edge of the park, Colby was on him, pulling him to the ground and sitting on him.  As the others approached, the interloper was yelling and shoving, trying to free himself.

            With a huge grin, Colby said, “Can it, Spencer.  You were caught red-handed.  That’s my coat.”

            The boy on the ground was startled.  “How the hell ...  Colby?”

            “It’s me,” Colby responded.

            “I thought you were dead,” Spencer said.

            “Nope, but I caught you dead to rights,” Colby replied.

            By this time, the other boys had caught up, and were talking and laughing at the boy on the ground with Colby sitting on him.

            Colby got up, and pulled the other guy up after him.  “May I introduce the totally inept thief Spencer,” he announced.  “I used to know him in my former life, and so did Daniel.”

            “Yeah,” Daniel said, “but he wasn’t usually so easily captured when I knew him.”

            “Daniel?  You too?” Spencer wondered.

            Colby and Daniel passed a significant look between them, then Colby said, “Looks like I won’t be playing soccer this afternoon.  We need to march our prisoner to headquarters.”

            That elicited laughter from the group.  Colby and Daniel claimed their jackets, while noticing the thin jacket Spencer wore.  It was still bitterly cold at the end of February, and only the exercise of soccer induced the boys to remove their coats.  What Spencer had was clearly inadequate.

            “Where are we going?” Spencer asked as Colby and Daniel marched him down Chestnut Street, one on either side of him, and holding on to an arm, just in case.

            “Home,” Colby laconically replied.

            “Our home now,” Daniel more informatively added.

            Spencer got no more information until they reached Brandon’s Boys.  They just marched in without knocking, which seemed to indicate they were, indeed, home.  Back in the kitchen, they found Aunt Barbara, and asked her to fix Spencer something to eat while they rounded up Brandon.  He was located in the library next door, working on his class for Tuesday afternoon, but readily put that aside when Colby told him they had captured another stray boy.  Spencer was still eating when Brandon arrived.  Like all the boys, he had not been getting enough to eat before being captured.

            “Spencer, this is the chief honcho around here, Brandon.  Do what he tells you, and things will get better,” Colby instructed.

            “I take it this young man is known to you, Colby.  And you, too, Daniel?” Brandon asked.

            “Yeah,” Daniel replied.  “We had a few decent times together.  When it was summer, that is.  Winter was never decent when we were on the street.”

            “You got that right,” Spencer mumbled.

            “And your name is Spencer?” Brandon addressed the newcomer.

            He hesitated, then admitted, “Yeah.”

            Brandon said, “I think you two,” addressing Colby and Daniel, “need to come with me, as I don’t think Spencer trusts me as yet.”

            Once Spencer finished his sandwiches and milk, they adjourned to the library.  Once they were all settled, Brandon said to the two residents, “Okay, you two tell Spencer what it’s like living here.”

            Colby and Daniel fell all over themselves trying to tell Spencer how great it was, with plenty of food, warm clothes, regular showers, and a safe place to stay, with no ‘putting out’ required.  Then they also added some complaints about school and keeping their rooms clean, but followed up with accolades about Todd Farm and the horses.

            “You don’t have to pay rent with your ass?’ Spencer wanted to be certain he understood.

            “Nope,” Colby replied, “the only person I put out for is Daniel.”

            That surprised Spencer, who looked toward Brandon.  Brandon smiled, “I’ve known Colby and Daniel were gay from the very start, over a year ago.  Trying to prevent teenagers from having sex is like trying to nail jello to the wall, so I don’t try.”

            “That’s a change,” Spencer said.

            “Spence is one of us, Brandon, and he got kicked out because of it, like me,” Daniel said.

            “One of ....” Spencer began.

            “Yes, I’m gay, too.  And if you stay here any time at all, you’ll meet my partner Chris.  So there’s no problem with being gay, like I said.  You heard what Daniel and Colby said about living here.  Would you like to join us?” Brandon said.

            “Shit yeah!  I thought I was going to die out there.  This winter has been a real bitch,” Spencer replied.

            “Okay.  Boys, tell Spencer what the rules are,” Brandon told Colby and Daniel.

            And so they went over the rules of Brandon’s Boys, checking with each other, then asked Brandon, “Did we leave anything out?”

            “No, you did a fine job, I’m happy to say.  That means you can’t get away with anything if you violate any of the rules,” Brandon grinned.

            “That’s sneaky,” Daniel protested.

            “Were you planning on breaking any of the rules?” Brandon replied.

            “Well, no.  But it’s still sneaky.”

            Brandon turned to Spencer just as Chris swept into the room.  “Hi, everyone.  I was wondering where my partner was.  Should have known.  You must be new.  I’m Chris.  Welcome aboard.  Brandon, my namesake is getting hungry waiting for his daddy to have supper.  You promised to have supper with him this evening.”

            Although a gay couple, Brandon and Chris had decided to raise a child to complete their family.  It was Chris who worked out the details.  He conceived what was called Chris’s Big Idea.  Adoption would be fine, but having a blood relative would be better.  Chris was not in the running as a father, but during his time in Los Angeles Brandon had engaged in heterosexual relations.  It was practically required by his agent for publicity purposes, and he was not allowed to admit his true orientation, one important reason for his move to Clifton.  Then, Chris convinced his sister Helen to serve as mother of a child by Brandon.  Helen and Chris had always been very close, and this was before her marriage to Lars Henrikson.  It took about six months of constant  campaigning by Chris, but eventually he got his way, so now they had a son, even though for the early years he was living with his mother.  The boy was named Christopher Todd Dowling.  So, now Brandon was called away to have dinner with his son.

            “Okay.  First things first.  Supper with Chris, then the third degree for Spencer.  Don’t run off, Spencer.  I’ll be back.  Guys, take your guest down to the rec room and entertain him until I can get back,” Brandon instructed.

            Then Brandon and Chris left to have supper with their son.  Spencer was in a daze, but Colby explained that this was normal after meeting Chris for the first time.  Rather than taking him directly to the rec room, they went upstairs and Spencer enjoyed a really hot shower, cleaning himself all over, including shampooing his hair twice.  When he came out, he was given some of the clothes belonging to Colby and Daniel.

            “Man, you look like a skeleton.  I don’t think I was that bad when I got picked up, but that was October a year ago, and it’s kind of hard to remember,” Colby said.

            “It’s been slim pickings out there all winter,” Spencer explained.

            Daniel stripped away his shirt and struck a pose, showing off his toned body.  “Stick around here, and a year from now you might approach my magnificence,” he teased.

            “You didn’t look like that the last time I saw you,” Spencer said.

            “Part of the deal is membership in a gym,” Colby explained.

            “Better and better all the time,” Spencer agreed.

            It was now approaching seven o’clock on a Sunday evening.  It had been dark for the past two hours, so the other guys had trooped home from the park.  They were not surprised to find Spencer in the rec room.  Young Freddie, the most recent recruit, told him about his connection to Brandon’s Boys, and how much better things were for him now.  The other boys added bits and pieces, all the while slaughtering him in the video game he had on when they arrived.  Aunt Barbara announced supper, and everyone went upstairs, including Spencer.  She laughed at his expression, but said, “Yes, you too.”  He was making up for more than one missed meal.

            Eventually Brandon and Chris returned, reporting that young Chris was now busy slaughtering aliens just like they had been doing.  When everyone had finished eating, and everything was cleaned up, Brandon invited Spencer to return to the library.

            “Do you want Colby and Daniel along?” he asked.

            Spencer grinned.  “Nope.  I think I’m convinced you have no nefarious designs on my body.”

            Daniel said, “If you had seen how wasted that body is, you definitely wouldn’t have designs on it.”

            Spencer attempted to attack, but Daniel easily held him secure.  “See, you need a year at the gym before attempting that again.”

            “Okay, you win.  I really am pretty wasted,” Spencer admitted.

            “We’ll see what we can do about that,” Brandon promised, “But first, some questions.”

            Over the next half hour, Brandon found out that Spencer was legally John Spencer Franklin, born on 10 June 1994, and so he should be in the same grade in school as Leon.  However, Spencer had been on the streets since June of 2007.  It was the day after his thirteenth birthday when he was discovered kissing another boy by his step-father and thrown out.  He had survived, but it obviously had not been easy.  Like Daniel and Colby, he had sold himself in order to stay alive.  He had been physically, sexually, and emotionally abused.  He had trouble relating to others, and was cooperating with Brandon in part because he trusted Colby and Daniel, and in part because he was desperate.  He was aware that he could not survive much longer living as he was.  His mother attended some church, but his step-father did not, and Spencer had not been to a church service in years.  He had completed seventh grade only, and that in a public school in a working class neighborhood.

            After divulging all this information, Spencer agreed to work with Brandon to try to catch up, but he was overwhelmed with it all once he sat back and summarized everything.  Just living from day to day, it was easy to forget or ignore just how much out of the mainstream he was.  Brandon encouraged him, saying they would do all they could to help, as long as he did his part.

            The next day, Brandon took Spencer around to the usual places for check-ups.  There was the mall, where Spencer got some clothing which actually fit as well as the toilet articles a boy of his age might need.  Then, there was a trip to see Ben Spalding, and scheduling regular visits.  Then the physician, Dr. Castleman, who gave Spencer a thorough examination.  He told the boy and Brandon frankly he had never seen anyone so emaciated, and he prescribed a diet and exercises to try to repair the damages done his body.  Josh confirmed, if it were needed, that Spencer’s anus had been abused many times, and needed repair work, an operation to repair torn tissue.  It would be several days before results of the blood tests came back, but it was likely that he had some infections.  Then, they went by O’Malley’s pharmacy to pick up the prescriptions Josh wrote, and then paid a visit to Mike’s Gym.  When Mike saw Spencer in only his shorts, he shook his head.  “I’ve never seen anyone in this bad a condition,” he said, unknowingly echoing Josh Castleman.  He started Spencer on a very gentle set of exercises, needing to build up gradually and not overdo it.

            After lunch, with Aunt Barbara tisk-tisk-ing over the diet prescribed by Josh Castleman, it was off for another round of check-ups.  He visited the dentist and the optometrist.  At least, his eyesight was fine, but he would have to return for more work at the dentist’s office.  Then, back at Brandon’s Boys, Brandon administered a battery of tests to determine his educational level.  He emphasized that this was educational level, nor intelligence level.  “We know you’ve been out of school for nearly three years, Spencer.  Obviously, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do.  This will tell us where to begin.”  The tests put him nearly four years behind his ideal level, which, given the school he had been attending, was not surprising.

            By the time they finished with that, the other boys were arriving back from school.  Brandon told Spencer to take the rest of the day off, and just relax, but talk to Colby and Daniel about home schooling.  Brandon was sure putting Spencer in the grade the tests indicated would be a major disaster, and probably discourage him enough that he might quit.  Home schooling between now and next August seemed to be the way to go.

            Spencer was given all Tuesday to recover.  That evening, Brandon asked, “Are you willing to give it a try?”

            “If you had asked me yesterday, I probably would have said no,” Spencer said.  “Monday just showed me how far behind I am.  But talking with the other guys made a difference.  I’ll give it a try.”

            “Good man,” Brandon said, and set to work.