Palouse by vwl
Eastbound – May 1987
Two Days Later
“Why don’t Jake and Robbie have two beds in their bedroom? It’s big enough for two beds,” Micah asked as the car was climbing back up eastbound on I-90 toward Snoqualmie Pass the next day.
Robert looked at Sam, trying to find an answer to the question that he was facing. Sam nodded his okay. “Micah, they have only one bed because they are a couple – as if they are married. Just like us.”
“But isn’t Jake a movie star? And he’s always in the movies with beautiful actresses.”
“Yes, he’s a movie star. But movies are make-believe. In real life, he’s Robbie’s lifemate, as he likes to be called.”
“Oh.” Micah contemplated this for a while. “Do they, uh, have sex, then, like a married couple?”
Robert raised his eyebrows, a gesture that Micah couldn’t see but Sam could. Sam tried to be encouraging to Robert, but he was having trouble maintaining a straight face. “Two people who love each other and live in a committed relationship will care for each other when they are sick, will try to bring joy to each other, will try to comfort each other when something sad happens – and they will have sex with each other.”
“Are you and Sam a committed couple, too?”
Robert grabbed Sam’s hand. “Yes, very much so.”
“Oh. Is that why Jake put you in the room with only one bed and put me in a room with twin beds?”
“Oh.” Micah contemplated the answer as he leaned back in the rear seat. A few miles went by. “Do you and Sam have sex, too?”
Robert blushed at the audacity of the question. He wanted to avoid the topic, but he also wanted to provide honest answers to a curious 12-year-old. “Yes, we do. It is one of the great pleasures of a committed life. Sex really feels good, and the emotions that are involved make us closer as a couple.”
“How can you have sex when there’s no place to put your…thing?” Micah had seen the animals on the farm copulating.
The conversation had gone a bit further than Robert wanted. Even Sam, who had been bemused earlier, was feeling some discomfort. “Micah, have you had an orgasm yet?” Micah looked confused. Robert reworded his question: “Has your penis gotten hard and felt good when you rubbed it?”
It was Micah’s turn to turn red and be uncomfortable. It was obvious to Robert and Sam that Micah had entered puberty. “Does it feel really good after you rub it awhile?” Micah wished he could hide, but all he could do was nod his head in agreement. “Have you had an ejaculation, where stuff comes out of your hard penis?” Micah looked horrified as he shook his head. He knew that something came out of male farm animals when they copulated, and he knew about bull semen that was sold and artificially injected into cows, but he never associated that with his own bodily development.
“When two people love each other, Micah, whether they be a man and a woman, a man and a man or a woman and a woman, they want their mates to have orgasms – that’s the name of that good feeling you have after rubbing yourself for a while – because there is no better feeling, especially when it is associated with love. You don’t need to have a vagina – the woman’s part – to have an orgasm; there are plenty of other ways that two people can pleasure each other. Sometimes, just rubbing against each other is enough.”
“Is that what you and Sam do – rub against each other?”
“Yes, and more. When you’re a little older, you can get a book and read about how people have sex. I’ve already probably gone way past what Dad would have allowed me to say.”
“But you’re my brother, and that’s what brothers are for – to answer questions that I’m too embarrassed to ask Mom and Dad.”
Sam muffled a snicker. He was proud of how Robert had been straightforward with his brother, but he knew Robert was going to have trouble stopping the parade of questions.
“Micah, why don’t you think awhile about what I’ve said, and later you can ask me more questions if you want? You can send me a letter. Okay?”
“Well, okay.” There was a tinge of disappointment in his answer.
With all the questions and answers, they had traveled up to Snoqualmie Summit and were ready to drop down on the eastern side.
Micah leaned up against the front seat again between Robert and Sam. “Why are Jake and Robbie going to pay for violin lessons for me – from Marcia Vilas? Won’t that be really expensive?”
“You saw their house.” Robert pointed out. “Jake became very rich when he sold his stock in the computer-software company that he worked for, and Robbie invested the proceeds really well, so they have lots of money from that. Then, Jake decided to go into acting, and he was very good at it – both on the stage and in Hollywood – and he made a lot of money doing that, too.
“Jake and Robbie are big supporters of the arts, and nothing would make them happier, I believe, than discovering and helping develop a great young musician. I think Jake might have helped you as a favor to me, because we love each other, but he doesn’t need to do it for me alone, because you’re really that good.”
“Does he love you like you love Sam? Did you have sex with Jake?”
“You’re certainly an impertinent little brother!” he said, laughing. “No, we didn’t have sex. We love each other, like brothers. I’m committed to Sam, here, just like Mom and Dad are committed to only each other.”
A few miles later, Micah asked: “Did you know he was going to have Marcia Vilas over for dinner?”
“No. I didn’t even know that he was even thinking about arranging lessons for you. I just wanted to show you off. I said you were really good, and he respects my opinion, but I don’t think he realized how good you are till he heard you play. You realize that if you weren’t a genius, Marcia Davenport would have stayed Marcia Davenport and not Marcia Vilas.”
Micah had settled into the back seat. Ten minutes later he leaned forward again. “Why are you sleeping in separate beds at our house if you’re a couple?”
Sam coughed into his arm to hide his further amusement at yet another precocious question. Robert took the need for an honest answer seriously, though, and Sam caught the change in tone. “Some people don’t accept us as a couple. Based on her reaction a couple of days ago, Mom is one of them. She thinks that the Bible condemns homosexuality, so our relationship bothers her. We decided not to make her too uncomfortable by sleeping in the same bed, so we settled for twin beds. We didn’t want to stress everybody out too much. I came back to Endicott because I wanted to make peace with the family again, so Sam and I are doing what we can to make it as easy for Mom and Dad to accept us to the extent that they can. Dad’s okay with us. Mom’s…well, she’s another story.”
He wanted to say that when they really got horny, they’d figured out a way to get together, but he was sure that Micah didn’t understand the concept of horny yet. Neither Micah nor Robert was aware that the natural amphitheater they had each separately found, where Micah played his violin and Robert played Sam’s flute, so to speak, was known to the other. To each of the Kingmans, it was a secret place, and for each it was a place of exquisite beauty – one musically and the other physically.
“Can I ask you another question?”
“Can I stop you?” Robert said. Sam snickered. “Micah, I told you I would answer any question you ask, so shoot.”
“When I was up in the attic, I opened a box of newspaper clippings – about a Betty Claridge. But when I opened the yearbook, her name was Betty Kingman. Uh, were you born when she was in high school?”
“I was born a month after she graduated.”
“Oh.” Micah contemplated the timing in this statement. “A baby, a husband, no professional music career – it must have been really a blow to where she thought she was going. Do you think she ever looked at you as the reason she couldn’t have a career in piano?”
“I never felt that Mom felt any resentment against me. And, she didn’t blame Dad, either, because she loved him so much. I think she accepted the fact that her life took a right turn from a career that might or might not have been there.”
Robert turned to look at Micah briefly before looking back at the road. “You know, Micah, Mom puts her hopes for a music career in you now.” Robert wasn’t sure that Micah would understand the import of this observation.
Things quieted down, and both Micah and Sam slipped into naps as the terrain became drier and less mountainous, so the only sounds of the car were the hum of tires on the pavement and the soft music of the radio – music that kept Robert awake. They stopped for a quick dinner in Moses Lake before driving the last leg of the journey back to Endicott.
Micah had not registered the coolness of his mother toward Sam, but now that it had been pointed out, he noticed how she kept herself separate and away from the farm and how her face would fall into a frown when neither Robert nor Sam was looking. Their father, on the other hand couldn’t have been more respectful. Stan knew how tenuous the revived relationship with his son was, and, in particular, how important the relationship with Sam was to Robert.
* * * * *
“Greg? Are you awake?” Micah was lying on his back in his bed.
There was no reply for a moment, and then a sleepy, “Yeah.”
“I met Jake Cantwell, the actor, this weekend.”
“Really?” Greg sounded more awake then. “I thought you went to Seattle, not Hollywood. I don’t believe you.”
“Well, I did. He lives in Seattle. They make movies all over, not just in Hollywood. But Robert knows him. They’re friends. We stayed in Jake’s house in Seattle.”
Greg was wide awake now. There was excitement in his voice. “You actually met him? You stayed in his house? What was he like? What did you say to him?”
“I actually slept in his house. He was real nice. I drank some champagne, had a fancy dinner, met some people, and we talked about a lot of things.” Micah stopped, remembering the evening, remembering the feelings of awe and wonder he’d had, and when he continued, his voice was a little softer, sounding wishful. “I think he’s arranging for someone named Marcia Vilas to give me violin lessons. They told me she’s famous. I might get to fly to Seattle, sometimes.”
Greg heard the tone of Micah’s voice. He didn’t respond right away, and the silence grew. Finally, when Micah thought his brother had probably fallen asleep, the boy spoke. “That’s great, bro, and I’m glad for you. But, I wish…”
He stopped, and Micah had to prompt him. “You wish what?”
“I wish you had time to be my brother. I wish we could shoot hoops together more, sit on the steps at night and talk. Wrestle out on the lawn. Make plans for the summer.” He stopped, and it was only after a long moment that Micah heard him repeat, very softly this time, “I wish you had time to be my brother.”
Micah heard the emotion, and then felt it, too. He had to swallow once before he spoke again to get some unexpected stiffness out of his throat. “I don’t know, Greg,” he started, also speaking softly then swallowing again. “I wish I could do that, too. I wish. . . . If there only were more hours to do everything.” Micah moved over to Greg’s bed and began rubbing his back until the deep breathing told him that Greg had fallen asleep.