When the others had gone, Dr. Paul said, “I’m interested in how and why you two ended up in what is routinely a sophomore or above class. Well, and why you’re in summer school in the first place. Really none of my business, but not what I have come to expect of high school seniors.”
“I’m here more or less to have something to do,” Scotty said. “Bit more than that, but not much.”
“Why I’m here is pretty complicated,” Ethan said. “I guess you could say it’s because I know getting a degree will be a long process for me, so it’s taking advantage of time.”
“I’d love to hear the story if you have time.”
“Sure. We got out of class early.”
“Let’s go to the office. I have cokes in a dorm fridge there.”
When we were settled with our cokes, Scotty said, “I’ll get mine out of the way in a hurry. Last February it became necessary for me to come live with my mom’s sister here in south Georgia. I was living in Marietta. When I got here, I went to school, came home, read, ate, went to bed, got up and went to school. It was pretty boring. When I thought about summer without school or anything replacing it, I was ready to panic. Eli, the plantation manager, said there were things to do on the plantation, but when I mentioned it to my aunt, she was aghast at the idea. She seemed to think it was beneath me as a nephew of the owner of River Bend Plantation. Eli said that would be a surprise to a lot of sons, daughters, nieces and nephews of owners. He suggested I start my college career. It would at least fill the time.
“Ethan and I had gym together at school, but I don’t think you’d say we knew each other. The Saturday after we graduated, we met when we both went fishing. As we were eating lunch, he mentioned he’d be coming here this summer and we decided to see if we could get classes together or at least at the same time and ride together. This was the best choice, so here we are.”
Ethan then told Dr. Paul how he had ended up in a world lit class at summer school—with help from Scotty when Ethan decided to short-change himself. When he finished, Dr. Paul said, “Amazing. I’ll need to remember that the next time I think today’s students are all lazy. So you are learning to manage a business at eighteen. Plan to stay here all your life?”
“I expect to travel some, see the world, but I think south Georgia will always be home. It certainly will be until my brother and sister are able to stand on their own feet.”
“Well, I’ve taken up enough of your time. One day I’d like to talk about plantations. I’m a Tennessee city boy and it’s all very history bookish to me.”
When Ethan and Scotty got back to Arkadelphia, Scotty went to help Sally Ann in the kitchen and Ethan went to the office to work on the books. An hour later he had finished and went home, ready for a swim. Jamie had gotten home shortly before, and when Ethan walked in said, “Okay, big brother, time to take the children swimming.”
The drive to the pond was short, but slow as it went through pecan groves. When they arrived, Scotty saw a large pond, much larger than he expected, of sparkling clear water. “Looks barely deep enough to swim,” he observed.
The Taylors laughed. “I think we can manage,” Jamie said as he stripped off the shorts covering his swim trunks and dived in from a rock overhanging the pond. Sally Ann was right behind him.
“How deep is it?” Scotty asked.
“Where they dived in is about six-eight feet,” Ethan replied. “It slopes down to about twelve feet at the end where Jamie’s heading and the other end is just barely a foot. The water’s so clear it fools you. Come on. Let’s get in.” Ethan grabbed Scotty’s hand and headed for the water.
The water was not cold, but the contrast with the air temperature made diving in a bit of a shock. “Wow!” Scotty exclaimed. “This is cool. Well, I mean cool and cool,” and laughed.
“Want to really cool off, follow me,” Ethan said. “Come on down,” and dived toward the bottom kicking hard. Soon he was entering a layer of very cold water. The water at eight or nine feet down was cold, plain cold. He turned, pulled his arms to his side and shot to the surface, Scotty right behind him.
“Damn! How cold is that water?” he asked as Jamie surfaced by them.
“It’s fifty-three when it comes from the spring.”
“Really fine on a hot day when you’re working in this orchard and need a drink,” Jamie said. “I’ve been mowing in this grove all day today.”
“Thought you were training to be a cattle baron, Jamie,” Scotty laughed.
“I am a cattleman,” he said as he punched Scotty in the ribs, “a bull. Ethan’s nuts, but actually, we cattlemen help take care of the ground cover in the groves since we graze them at times.”
“You like working here and with cows?” Scotty asked.
“Hell yeah, love it. Really like working with Randy.” He got silent for a moment. Scotty said nothing about the tear which rolled down Jamie’s cheek. “I’m like the son he could never have.” Unspoken was, “and he’s a dad to me.” Probably to hide his embarrassment, he grabbed Scotty’s butt, laughed and swam away.
Hard work and sports gave Jamie a nice body which Scotty appreciated, but not as much as he appreciated the other hard, male body beside him. He suddenly realized he needed to head for deeper water as seeing Ethan’s body in the clear water was heating things up. Two beautiful male bodies, but Scotty realized he was very quickly developing feelings for Ethan he did not have for his younger, handsome brother.
Thursday afternoon, Ethan and Scotty went to the library after class and made copies of the stories the lit class would be using the next three weeks, got online and downloaded their assignments for their online courses before going to the student center for a coke. They had talked about To Kill a Mockingbird on the way down and in class so now that was behind them, Ethan said, “Scotty, it’s none of my business and you can tell me to fuck off, but I was wondering. You said you had to leave your home. Can I know why?”
“Sure,” Scotty said, “No real mystery. I got very sick when I was four and spent a year in and out of the hospital. Mom’s entire life was devoted to my care. I guess my parents’ marriage wasn’t the best in the world to start with and had been going downhill before I got sick. The strain of my illness and Mom’s devotion to me was too much and Dad left her. He moved to California and I saw him for a couple of weeks the summers I was six and seven. He remarried and he and his second wife had a son. The wife was very jealous of any time or money spent on me so the last time I saw him was the summer I was eight. After that, it was always ‘inconvenient’ for me to go out. I got a card with a few dollars on my birthday and for Christmas until I was eleven, then that stopped. I haven’t heard from him since.
“Mom remarried the year Dad’s son was born and my step-dad wasn’t too much on kids. He was always angry at me and verbally abusive. When I started middle school, I was sent to a boarding school which I hated, but it was better than living with him on my back all the time. Then when I was on Thanksgiving break last year, he got really angry at me and was physically abusive. As a result, I spent two weeks in the hospital, three days of it unconscious. The hospital reported it and a police officer, Officer Jacobs, investigated but Mom lied to him and my step-dad got away with the abuse.
“When I got out of the hospital, waiting to be released to go back to school, he got drunk and came at me screaming and yelling. I got away and went to the police. There was nothing they could do since he hadn’t been physically abusive again, but one of the officers told Mom if he had to come back, there would be a full investigation. Mom had protected him before, but she knew he would be abusive again and that the officer already suspected there was more to the case than an upset teenager.
“Mom said I had to get out of the house and just going to boarding school wasn’t enough. She actually tried to put me on the street, but I called Officer Jacobs and Mom got all sweetness and light. Officer Jacobs wasn’t buying it and required proof I would have a proper place to stay. Mom called her sister and asked about my living with her. Her sister, Lily Richardson, didn’t like the idea and her husband Ralph said I would be worthless because I know nothing of the operation of the plantation. However, when they looked at the money for my room and board, they liked the idea if not the kid. They would get paid for my keep and could pretty much ignore me otherwise. End of story.”
“Scotty, I can’t imagine that,” Ethan said. “We had it hard, very hard. It wasn’t easy before Dad got hurt, I’m sure, but it was worse after the accident. It took forever to get disability started and it was small. Pine Ridge managed to escape responsibility for anything and all we got out of them was permission to stay in the shack where we were living. However, we were always loved and loved in return. When Mom got sick and died, we lost her small income. Life was hard, but we managed. Ever since Mom died, I have worried about what would happen to Sally Ann and Jamie when Dad died. I was pretty sure, one way or another, I’d be able to make it, but they are so young ...”
“You are so right,” Scotty laughed. “Jamie is a whole two years younger than you are. He’s older than you were when you started work.”
“Well, yeah, but ... I mean ...” Ethan stammered, his face turning bright red.
“You are sooo cute when you blush,” Scotty laughed, pointing to Ethan’s red face.
“I am not cute!” Ethan shouted and dived.
When he surfaced, Scotty grinned at him and said, “Are too!”
The two started trying to duck each other while shouting back and forth, like four-year-olds, “Are too!” and “Am not!” until they were laughing so hard they could hardly say anything.
Ethan was finally able to shove Scotty underwater with a triumphal “Am not!”
When Scotty bobbed to the surface he yelled, “Sally Ann, tell Ethan he’s cute!”
“Cute? Cute? You think Ethan’s cute?” she responded.
“Yeah, for a boy,” Scotty laughed.
“Boys may be cute,” Ethan said, “men are handsome.”
“You think you are handsome? Conceited.” Scotty said.
“Ethan’s handsome,” Sally Ann said, “and Jamie’s cute.”
“What? Who’re you calling cute, prissy sister?”
“I guess you’re right,” she laughed. “Ethan, I guess you’re not cute or handsome. Now Scotty, Scotty’s cutely handsome or handsomely cute.”
The four chased each other around the pond, playing and having a grand time until Sally Ann said, “Okay, time to go. I have to finish supper.”
Sally Ann was turning into a very good cook and trying a lot of new dishes. Since she knew Scotty was coming, the food she served was a bit more than their usual suppers. It looked good and, more importantly, was good. Scotty certainly let her know he enjoyed it when they were having coffee and dessert. Sally Ann practically glowed.
There was more than a little glint of pride in Ethan’s eyes when he looked at his sister. Suddenly, he did a double-take when he realized that his sister was becoming a strikingly beautiful young woman. ‘Damn,’ he thought, ‘Jamie and I will be beating the boys off with a stick.’ He also chuckled to himself when he realized that Jamie was, in fact, a ladies’ man and knew all about the kind of boys Ethan was worried about; he was one. He wouldn’t worry too much as he was pretty sure Sally Ann could hold her own and Jamie would take care of any leftovers. To be honest, Ethan was very proud of his family.
He took Scotty to the Piggly Wiggly at ten and was in bed by eleven. Friday afternoon he’d be in the office making sure the books were up to date, but the morning would be spent with Davis taking samples for soil and foliage testing to determine what was needed in terms of feeding the trees.
By the third week of classes, Ethan had settled into a routine of study—both college and the program Joe was designing for him—work—both accounting and in the groves—and play. Randy and Scotty both kept on him about not taking time for himself. Even Davis got on him occasionally.
Tuesday and Thursday mornings Ethan spent in the plantation office, his office or the groves but after lunch, the rest of the day was set. He met Scotty at the Piggly Wiggly and they drove to the campus for the world lit class. Tuesdays they drove back to Arkadelphia after class where, again, Ethan worked on the materials Joe Maddox had given him, did his bookkeeping duties and studied for his lit class while Scotty studied, helped Sally Ann around the house or worked with Jamie and Randy doing whatever needed doing with or for the cattle. Thursdays, after the lit class, they grabbed a snack, then went to the library. They uploaded the lessons they had completed during the week and downloaded new assignments.
Scotty took on the role of big brother to Jamie and Sally Ann in a way Ethan could not because he had to be father as well as brother. Scotty hoped Ethan understood that and said something to Randy about it. When Randy made some comment about Scotty and Jamie working together Ethan said, “I’m really glad. Scotty has come to be a big brother to Jamie and Sally Ann, especially to Jamie, in the way I can’t. I have to maintain a distance, as much as I hate to, since I am head of the family. I also appreciate the role of dad you’re playing as well.
“I realize Jamie and Sally Ann are growing up. I almost lost it a few weeks ago when I realized not only was Sally Ann growing up, but she was growing into a beautiful woman. There’ll be boys behind every bush soon. I figure Jamie is wise to the ways of wicked boys since I’m pretty sure he is one, so he’ll protect Sally Ann. In fact, I may have to intervene with Jamie on behalf of the wicked boys. I have to set limits for Jamie, but you and Scotty provide the kind of guidance I cannot and I appreciate it more than you’ll ever know.”
“And what about Ethan?” Randy asked. “I know Sally Ann and Jamie are in good hands, but what about Ethan?”
“Ethan’s doing okay. I won’t lie, there are days when it all seems too much. Davis has really been great. I miss seeing as much of you as I did, but I know if I need you, you’re there. I have been very surprised at how much support Scotty provides. I had pretty much dismissed him as a spoiled city kid and he was that. However, he has grown and blossomed since we have been going to the college. Jamie says he’s turning into a real cattleman.”
“I agree,” Randy said.
“I tell you, I have never been as surprised as I was when I went to the cattle shed a couple of days ago and saw him wading through cow shit. His Marietta friends and his River Bend aunt would shit a brick if they saw it, but he seems to be happy.”
“He’s a fine young man, Ethan, as are you.” In spite of his promise to himself to stop blushing, Ethan turned bright red.
The following Thursday, the world lit class was discussing a short story set in a rubber plantation. Dr. Paul asked the class what image the word plantation conjured up in their minds. Of course, given the area, most responses were pretty descriptive of Arkadelphia Plantation. Gone with the Wind also influenced their ideas. Ethan and Scotty, among others, were very surprised to learn that the name plantation was generally not applied to tree farms except for rubber, banana and pines. The word applied to Arkadelphia in some ways—for example, it was large and what it produced was shipped, not consumed locally—and not in others—it was not dependent on a single commodity as its income depended on pecan trees and cattle along with pine, the former two not generally considered plantation ‘plantings’.
After gaining an understanding of what the term plantation generally meant, the class moved on to discuss why the large farms were called plantations. The names, of course, were given when cotton, rice or indigo was the single plant grown and, as with some recent ‘plantations’, it was assumed to carry prestige with it. Scotty had laughed about the latter and said, “There’s a condo complex in one of the most densely populated upscale areas of Atlanta called ‘Lenox Plantation’.
After class, Ethan told Dr. Paul he’d be delighted to have him come to see a modern plantation in operation when he was free. “If I am busy, someone else can show you around. Scotty spends time at Arkadelphia as well. As a matter of fact, Fourth of July is on Sunday this year and that’s a huge celebration at Arkadelphia. The celebration will be Sunday, but we also will take off Monday. Love to have you come and stay over when all go back to work to see all the activity Tuesday or, schedule permitting, come after class Thursday and stay over.”
“Wow, that sounds interesting. I have a class Friday, but I’m sure no-one will object to having Friday off as well as Monday. You sure you could put me up for four or five days?”
“No problem. Sally Ann would be overjoyed at having someone new to try out dishes. Davis—Mr. Edwards, Arkadelphia’s owner—issues an open invitation for the Fourth of July celebration and Jamie and Randy would be happy to put you to work shoveling cow shit—oops.”
“Can I give you an answer next time? I hope to have a friend coming down for the weekend but, given his job, he won’t know until the first of next week.”
“No problem. If he comes and you want to come and bring him, that would be fine. Hope you can make it,” Ethan said. Scotty nodded agreement.”
The evening Freshman Seminar had been a pretty boring affair. It was designed for regular freshman and the first few sessions were ordinarily devoted to going over the student handbook, especially the sections dealing with dorm life, meal plans, etc., stuff which simply didn’t apply to anyone in the evening group which meant the sessions usually devoted to reading the handbook were reduced to two. As soon as the ‘let’s read the students’ handbook’ sessions were over, the seminar got into study habits, social and extracurricular activities, etc. At the end of the previous week’s session, the class was told Dr. Grey, a sub-dean, would be in charge of the next class.
Dr. Grey said he would be discussing college policies and regulations beginning with the university’s non-discrimination policy. “But I’d like to expand that to American society in general. How are the ideals inherent in the policy reflected in society as a whole? We all realize the tremendous strides that have been made in civil rights in the past five decades. Few would argue that the job is finished. Since just over half of this group is Africa-American, let’s start with the question of race.”
The discussion was pretty much what you would expect: a lot of not-so-well-hidden racism on the part of both whites and African-Americans. It was most evident when Dr, Grey asked about Latinos. Gender produced a surprising amount of ‘women belong in their place’ talk since a number of the male students were married and biblical fundamentalists. Ethan was surprised at the number of women who agreed with the ‘wives, obey your husbands’ talk. Religion brought out the fundamentalists’ narrow ‘Jesus is the way, the truth and the life! Believe or you’re going to hell.’ When Muslims were mentioned, just under the surface was a subtext, ‘I’ll be happy to send them on their way.’
Ethan was pretty sure spleens had been completely vented and all the vitriol poured out. He realized he was wrong as soon as Dr. Grey said, “How about sexual orientation?” It really hit the fan big time. Out marched the last of the religious fundamentalists revealing a significant majority of the class in that group. In fact, there were fourteen people in the class and only one in addition to Ethan and Scotty believed sexual orientation should not be the basis for denying rights or privileges to anyone.
A young woman Ethan had enjoyed chatting with suddenly had a frightening expression on her face as she said in a voice filled with hatred, “Fags are fags and queers are queers. They should expect to be treated like fags and queers. What’s the problem? They chose to be fags and queers instead of living a normal, human life. Perverts! They should be locked up. They don’t like it, choose to live a normal, straight life.”
Ethan was stunned. He had been very clear he was gay for a long time now. He was also very, very clear it was not something he had chosen and wasn’t something he could change. He was aware that Davis had essentially disowned Jeff until recently, but he was surprised that students who were seeking to become educated could be so narrow. He was depressed by the comments; Scotty was livid.
“You think anyone would choose to be gay knowing they’d have to put up with people spouting the crap that you just did?” Scotty asked. “Do you think gay men are so dumb they don’t know they’ll be discriminated against, called names, beaten up, murdered? You think we don’t know that? What kind of fool would deliberately choose to be spit on? When, by the way, did you choose to be straight? Was there a box somewhere for checking preference? Did we have to vote on it and I missed the election?
“I’m a natural blond. I came that way. I’m gay. I came that way. Dying my hair won’t change the color of my hair, just the color people think it is. Pretending I’m straight—which I have to do most of the time to get by—doesn’t change the fact that I am gay, just that people think I am straight.”
The class dumb-ass jock—is it a state requirement that every class has to have at least one?—jumped up and started shouting. “You’re queer; you’re a cocksucker; you’re a fag, you get fucked up the ass! Going to the locker room to drool over my junk or one of the other guys’. Cocksucker, ass-fucking queer. A baseball bat is all I need.”
“You are stupid beyond belief. I have never sucked a cock and my cock has never been sucked. Bet you can’t say that. I have never been fucked or fucked anyone. Bet you can’t say that.”
“Well, a girl sucking a man’s cock or a man fucking a girl is natural, normal. You cock-sucking fags are sick. Protected by university policy? You should have the shit beat out of you, cocksucker.”
Scotty stood up and got right in the jock’s face and said, “And just what should be done to a pussy-eating, slut-fucker?”
“Now Mr. McCarter, let’s control ourselves,” Dr. Grey said.
“Oh, I’m supposed to control myself? I’m supposed to just sit here and take the crap being thrown at me while you do nothing? I don’t think so. You have let this group spew hate, prejudice, ignorance and said nothing, then when I defend myself, you tell me to control myself. Seems to me that is a violation of the very policy we were supposedly discussing. It’s certainly a situation that should be investigated and it definitely will be reported.”
“Is that a threat, Mr. McCarter?”
“No, it’s a promise Dr. Grey, a promise to take this to the authorities and if I get even a whiff of any discrimination because I am gay, I’ll report it.”
“I assure you there will not be any discrimination and maybe the class did get a bit out of hand.”
“Thank you for the former, believe I have a right to expect as much. As to the latter, an apology would be accepted.”
“I do apologize,” Dr. Grey said, then dismissed class early. Ethan and Scotty walked to the truck in silence, not because of the ‘discussion’ itself, but because Scotty had outed himself.
Ethan’s mind was in turmoil. Should he tell Scotty he was gay. If so, should he tell him the feeling he had for him was more than friendship? What should he do? What should he say?
Scotty’s mind was equally a whirl. ‘What will Ethan’s reaction be to knowing I’m gay? Will he hate me? Shove me away? What should I say to Ethan? Should I admit I am more than half in love with him?’
Neither spoke as they left the campus, headed for the Piggly Wiggly parking lot. Ethan was determined to get the issue resolved before they parted. A few miles before they reached Braggton, he swung the truck onto a county road and headed toward Arkadelphia Plantation, but before he got to his house, he turned down a farm road. He drove for a couple miles, parked the truck, reached back and grabbed a blanket from the crew seat, motioned for Scotty and got out. They walked a short distance in the moonlight to the pond which Scotty recognized. Ethan spread the blanket, sat down and motioned for Scotty to join him. Neither had spoken since leaving the classroom.
While Ethan was gathering courage to speak, Scotty spoke. “Ethan, I’m sorry you found out the way you did. Randy told me Jeff and Art were coming for the Fourth of July weekend and I planned to tell you then when you had someone you could talk to. Then tonight happened. It was just too much. What I told you when you asked why I was here was true, but it was not the whole truth.
“While I was home for Thanksgiving vacation, I used my step-dad’s computer. I was reading some stories on Nifty, Awesome Dude, couple of other websites and, okay, checked out some gay porn. I’m very careful when I am at school and thought I had been at home. Somehow or other I goofed when I thought I had cleared evidence of my browsing and he found out. There was an argument—or the beginning of one—and when I reminded him I had turned eighteen in October, so I could read and watch what I wanted, he hit me and then went completely ape. As I told you, I was hospitalized. When I regained consciousness, I filed charges which, he said, would result in his losing his job and mean the end of his and Mom’s high living.
“I agreed to drop the charges provided he establish a fund to pay for my education including room, board and an allowance through a bachelor’s degree—and the car. The education part was necessary. The car was revenge. I think he loved that car more than he did anything in the world. He signed the agreement. Mom and I both knew I could not be around her husband. He would go ape again and I’d be hurt, maybe killed, and he’d be in jail. Mom’s high living would go down the tube. I had to find a place to live. I had visited Aunt Lily and liked her—couldn’t say the same for her husband—and called and asked about living with them. Room and board were worked out and I came here in February as you know.”
Both young men were silent again then in a mere whisper, Ethan said, “Scotty, I’m gay.” He had been sitting with is head down, but after he said those words, he turned to Scotty and said again, “Scotty, I’m gay ....” Scotty noticed he said the last word as through it was the start of something he left unfinished. Ethan turned to look at Scotty and saw a mixture of amazement, puzzlement and amusement on his beautiful face.
Scotty asked him a question with his eyes. Unsure of the answer, if any, Ethan was giving him, Scotty placed his hands on the sides of Ethan’s face, leaned toward him and kissed him softly, quickly. When he broke the kiss, Ethan’s expression was one of surprise, nothing more. They looked into each other’s eyes for a moment, then Ethan stroked the sides of Scotty’s face, smiled and covered his lips with his own. The kiss was soft, but not quick. In fact, as it continued, it could no longer be called soft.
When they finally broke the kiss, a smile spread across Ethan’s face and he shouted, “Wow! Damn! Yes!” They lay back on the blanket facing each other, grinning, exchanging kisses. Then they talked. They talked about when they realized they were gay and their growing feelings for each other, but avoided the big question of ‘What now?’ Instead rock hard cocks were streaming precum and inexperienced kissers discovering how important tongues are.
Finally, Ethan reached over, and pulled Scotty atop his body. They had been hard or semi-hard for ages, all this was new and exciting to them. Their hard cocks were pressed between their bodies, Scotty began making small thrusts, rubbing their cocks between them. It was not surprising that both exploded. They held each other tightly as their bodies shook in spasms of intense and exquisite climaxes. In a few minutes, in the afterglow, Scotty smiled down at Ethan and asked, “Does this mean we’re boyfriends?”
“Don’t know. Maybe we can rest a bit and try something new just to make sure,” Ethan laughed. “I know I’ve never felt anything like that or the way I feel about you before.” He kissed Scotty, laughed and said, “But how about we clean up before we do anything else.” The two jumped up, shed their clothes and dove into the pond from rock where they had been lying. They horsed around a bit before getting out. As they dried themselves, Ethan glanced at his watch and said, “Damn! Jamie and Sally Ann will be worried about me.” He pulled Scotty to himself for a kiss, they got dressed and headed for Arkadelphia.
As they approached the house, Scotty said, “I need to call Aunt Lily from your place. She’ll be worried as well.”
“You could tell her we were late and you are spending the night with me,” Ethan grinned.
“Would like to, but I don’t want to mislead her and, besides, I’m not sure we need to do that just yet.”
“I agree, we need time to figure out where we’re headed. I think I know where I want to be headed.”
Scotty smiled at him, gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and said, “Me too.”
After Scotty called his aunt, Ethan took him to the Piggly Wiggly. Since it was not quite closing time for the grocery, they didn’t risk a kiss. A man kissing a man in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot in Braggton was not a good idea.
Back home, Ethan decided he’d skip studying and go directly to bed. He lay awake for several minutes, thinking about what had happened tonight and dreaming of what the future might hold.