Palouse by vwl
Christmas and After – December 1992
Two Months Later
Stan and Greg arrived a week before Christmas to take Micah home for the holidays. Micah threw his bag in the back of the van and then said he needed to say goodbye to Casey.
“Merry Christmas,” Micah said as he returned to their room.
“So when are your folks going to be here?”
“They’ll probably be here tomorrow – or the next day.”
“Then you have at least a whole day to jack off as much as you want. Enjoy yourself, and see you next year.”
“Thanks, and have a good vacation.”
* * * * *
Christmas to Micah was subdued from what he remembered or had experienced in the past. It was still fun; it was still joyous, but it was different. Micah felt like an emancipated son coming home; he felt that half-guest, half-family feeling of such a return. Things were warm and Christmas-like, but a natural distance had grown between Micah and his parents and siblings – except Greg. Micah and his mother tiptoed uneasily around their relationship, with no mention either of music or the Idanha School.
Greg provided the Endicott news. Arturo and Carlos had disappeared from town; some thought they were in jail. Others thought they had joined the military. Jason, on the basketball team, had broken his finger on the day after he had deflowered his girlfriend, and he couldn’t get over the feeling that he was being punished by God.
“What about Amelia?” Micah asked impatiently after hearing about everyone else.
There was a silence. “Amelia left town shortly after you went off to Idanha.” Greg offered no further words, looking nervous.
“And? There’s more, isn’t there?”
“Rumors are she was pregnant.”
“Oh,” was all Micah could say. She never said anything about being off the pill.
“I’m sure she went away to get an abortion, but the story is that her mother got a new job, and she moved away. Nobody knows where she went.”
“Did Dad and Mom know about this before they sent me off to school?”
“I don’t think so. But they probably weren’t surprised. I know they were pissed at your and Amelia’s relationship.”
“Greg, when did you know about this?” Micah asked with some exasperation in his tone.
“I didn’t know till school started here. Honest.”
After the news, Micah rarely left the farm. He did go off to see Greg play in a couple of holiday-tournament basketball games and stayed with his former teammates after the game to visit. When no one was at home, he took his violin out and played some of the pieces he most loved.
* * * * *
The new year came quietly, and a couple of days later, Stan, Greg and he were on their way back to Idaho. Greg had asked to go along despite Micah saying there was no need.
Micah’s resentment at their first trip to Idanha had dissipated into resignation. He could make it until June. He had even forgiven his father; he appreciated that Stan had been a buffer over the holidays between him and his mother.
They talked about the farm – the wheat prices of the previous year and the plans for the upcoming growing season. They talked of Greg’s plans after graduation from high school and his desire to go to Washington State University in Pullman. All in all, the trip into Idaho was cordial.
* * * * *
“Did you have a good vacation?” Micah asked Casey when he got to his cabin.
“It was fine.”
“How was your family?”
There was a long pause. “They never came to get me. I stayed here. I had Christmas over at the main house.”
There was something infinitely sad about Casey’s tale.
“I did get lots of jackoff time, though – with the lights on, even,” Casey said, laughing and trying to break the mood.
Micah wasn’t fooled. He walked over to Casey’s bed, leaned down and gave him a hug, as if some expression of human warmth would eliminate the hurt – his hurt, too.
“Thank you,” Casey said as tears rose in his eyes.
* * * * *
The winter passed coldly but quickly, and light began to come earlier in the morning as spring approached. Micah and Casey managed to get out to the hot springs a few times alone, and Casey never managed to get by without an erection, to Micah’s and Casey’s amusement. But Casey didn’t feel embarrassed anymore, so they were able to enjoy those moments together.
What Casey didn’t know was that Micah was finding it harder and harder to avoid having an erection himself as the year wore on. Casey began to intrude into Micah’s masturbation fantasies occasionally. Micah shrugged his shoulders and attributed these thoughts to the fact he was constantly horny, as any teenage boy would be after several months in an isolated environment among only boys. He acknowledged, though, that he began to have feelings for Casey – physical feelings – but he attributed them to hormones. Amelia hopefully was back home in Endicott, ready for him to return. But his sexual fantasies began to swing between Amelia and Casey. Fortunately, Micah thought, the end of the school year was coming rapidly, and he would soon be back to a normal life.
The river began to rise as spring began, its boulders rolling and rounding downstream pushed by the strong current, sounding like underwater thunder. The hot-springs rock barrier was soon washed away with ice-cold, high runoff water; it would be constructed anew by summer rafters using fresh boulders that had tumbled downstream over the centuries.
The snowstorms turned to rain showers, and soon the lawn began to turn from snow-covered to brown to green. On some days, the weather became pleasantly warm, and the boys moved outside onto the drying lawn to throw footballs or play pickup soccer.
“I’m scared,” Casey said one night as the two boys lay in their beds after lights out. It was the first time Casey had felt comfortable enough to bare his innermost feelings to Micah. Micah moved over to Casey’s bunk, sat on the edge and began to rub Casey’s back slowly and gently, like Greg used to do for him. “I don’t know what I’m going to do when the school year is over. I’ll go home, but I don’t know if I can keep it together.” Micah heard a sob from deep in Casey’s pillow.
“I’m gay. I know it, and I can’t change it. My prayers didn’t work,” Casey continued. “I’m a loser. I’m not what my parents want me to be.”
The last remark shook Micah. “I’m not what my parents want me to be, either, but you have to stay positive about it. You don’t know what’s going to happen. You can’t worry about it. They are your parents, and they have the long ties with you, and maybe they still feel some responsibility for you.”
“I’ll be 18 soon, and I’m afraid they’ll dump me.”
“You’ve got to keep your spirits up, Casey. My Arizona foster mother said something when I had to leave that I will always remember. She said: there are some things in life that we don’t choose; they choose us.” Micah leaned down and kissed Casey on the back of his head.
“Stay with me a while,” Casey pleaded.
Micah lay down on Casey’s narrow bed as Casey scooted toward the wall with his back to the room. Micah put his arm over Casey’s torso and snuggled up to him, careful to make sure that his rising erection didn’t give Casey the wrong idea. Casey quickly fell asleep. Micah considered returning to his own bed, but decided to stay with a troubled Casey.
* * * * *
“Thanks for staying with me the other night,” Casey said a few days later. Then, with an impish grin on his face, he continued: “I now have a new fantasy to jack off to. I imagine you in my bed, but this time we’re face to face, and, well, one thing leads to another.”
Micah turned beet red, but he was happy that Casey could josh about his feelings. “In your dreams.”
“Well, it is in my dreams.” Casey laughed.
“I didn’t mean it that way.”
“It’s in my dreams that you kiss me when you leave at the end of the school year.”
“On your cheek, fine.”
Casey looked at Micah with a mischievous grin: “No, on the lips.” Micah gazed at Casey’s full lips and grinned in return.
Exams concluded in June, and Stan, Betty and Greg arrived in the van for the small graduation ceremony on the green lawn. The new graduate was a quieter and more subdued person – a different Micah from the international celebrity of a few years earlier.
Casey and he had enjoyed a warm but awkward embrace as they realized their lives were taking different directions. “My folks’ll probably be here tomorrow,” Casey answered when Micah asked him when he was going.
“They’ll be proud of you,” Micah said, but Casey knew that the chances of him being accepted as gay by his parents were pretty remote. Despite his parents’ hopes, he hadn’t changed that much despite a year at Idanha, and he didn’t know what would happen to his life. He wanted nothing more than to collect his kiss from Micah.
“By the way, I have something for you.” Micah took out a jewelry box that Greg had picked up at a jeweler in Colfax where Micah had ordered it to be made several months earlier.
Casey opened the box. In it was a small agate attached to a silver-chain necklace. “It isn’t much,” Micah said, “but I found the stone in the river near the hot springs, and I thought it would remind you of some of the good times we had here.”
“It’s beautiful,” Casey said, kissing the stone. Micah then helped attach the necklace to Casey’s neck. “I’ll never take it off.”
Micah laughed. “It’s only a small remembrance, so if you change your mind, I won’t be hurt.” Micah looked at Casey’s face, which showed joy from the gift but anxiety from the uncertainty of his future. “If something happens, Casey, you know where I live and you can get me there, or my folks will know how to get hold of me. Okay? Promise me you’ll get in touch if you need my help.”
“Okay.” Casey didn’t know if he would contact Micah, but he didn’t see much of a future between him and his parents. He didn’t know how many months he could last at home.
Micah then leaned in and kissed Casey – on the lips, softly and gently.
Bring him peace
Bring him joy
He is young
He is only a boy
– Bring Him Home, Les Misérables
Home and College – Late July 1993
Two Months After Graduation
“Stan, we have to do something. He’s driving me crazy again.” Betty sat on the edge of the bed in her pink nightgown. Stan lay on his side of the bed, his reading light off, trying to go to sleep. He knew which of all their children she was speaking about. He turned over, resigned to completing this conversation. He knew his wife well enough to know that she would not be able to sleep until she got everything off her chest that she was thinking.
He couldn’t resist, though: “What has Gregory done now?”
“Not Gregory. Micah. He hasn’t done anything. That’s the trouble.”
“So you can’t stand that he hasn’t done anything? Last year you were worried he was going the other direction.”
Betty ignored the jibe. “He seems so subdued; he seems so indifferent and calm about things. He used to be so lively.” Betty closed her eyes and remembered the young boy enchanted by a violin. “I hate to say it, but I wish he would get mad and yell at me – to show a spark. Isn’t there a happy medium?”
“Maybe he’s just grown up some,” Stan offered.
“What I’m afraid of is that he will wake up on the wrong side of things. I think it won’t take much for him to repeat his adventure with another Amelia and another group of wild boys.
“Stan, Micah’s doing so very little around the house except watching television and playing video games after he does his farm work; he doesn’t do music any more. He scorns church. It’s as if he’s broken. I’m at my wit’s end. He seems to have no vision for his own future.”
“Honey, he got his grades up last year in Idaho. He’s working hard for me this summer. I see just that some of the spark has gone out. He’ll get the rest of it back in time, I’m sure.” Stan didn’t speak what he really thought: that Micah had been pushed way too hard, rebelled, and then had had his spirit broken, not only by their reaction to his rebellion, but also by all the pressures that came with fame at such an early age – and, though Stan would never say so aloud, by his mother’s unrelenting pushing. Micah was hiding from all that was facing him, perhaps reluctant to return to that life and the problems it had caused him in the past. But Stan believed this stage would pass, and at the very least, Micah would become outwardly happy again. Little did he know the turmoil that Micah’s happiness would cause for the Kingman household.
“Betty, suppose he decides he wants to live the life other small-town teenage boys live: having a girlfriend, going to keg parties, staying out late, probably making out or more in the back seat of his car, not wanting to spend much time at home, barely doing his chores – living for the present, in other words. Is there anything terribly unexpected about that? That would be just like his brother, I might point out – hopefully, until Greg matures. And like me when I was a teenager, as you may remember. That’s where Micah is in his life, Betty. You don’t like it. I don’t particularly like it, either.”
“I don’t know. I’m just frustrated. And don’t remind me about Greg and his girlfriend.” Betty grasped Stan’s hand for comfort. “Micah’s done absolutely nothing about college, Stan. Nothing. It’s July. College starts in two months. I’ve asked him about college, and all he says is that he will get around to it.”
“Aren’t children a joy?” Stan said, ironically.
“I suppose they are,” Betty admitted with reluctance in her voice, “but I want so much more for them than they seem to want for themselves.”
Stan pulled Betty to him and hugged her for comfort. “Time, honey. Give Micah time. I doubt if he will be interested in taking over the farm. I think Gregory is the one for that. If we can push Micah into something for the future, so much the better.”
“I think he should enroll in Walla Walla College. It’s a good Adventist school, so he’ll be with good, Christian students. Maybe he’ll find a major that he will like. Maybe he’ll find a nice girl. Plus, he won’t be at home, and he won’t be near any of the loose girls and women of Endicott. If he weren’t legally an adult, I’d enroll him tomorrow, as his parent.”
“Let’s talk to him about college tomorrow. Turn off your light,” Stan said. “Maybe I can think of something to take your mind off Micah.” Micah and his siblings, of course, could never imagine what was going on in that bedroom.
* * * * *
“Micah, can we talk to you?” Stan said the next Saturday afternoon.
“Okay.” Micah was annoyed, anticipating yet another lecture about his behavior. He wasn’t very good about hiding his annoyance.
Stan and Betty were sitting across the kitchen table as Micah nibbled on a turkey sandwich he had made after getting home from a drive to town. Them against me again, Micah thought. As usual.
“What are your plans for next year, son? For college?” Stan asked.
“I’ve got a few applications in my room.”
Betty rolled her eyes. She wanted to point out that most college applications were submitted earlier in the year and that prospective students had already been notified of acceptances. She held her tongue, though. “Micah, your father and I think you should enroll next year in Walla Walla College. You will get a good education there, and the students are good Adventists.” The unstated implication was that the Walla Walla College would keep temptation away from Micah. Micah understood it the same way, but the time over the summer had given him another motive to go: he was getting more and more desperate to get away from home.
“We can make this work. With your savings from music and you working at the farm in the summers, particularly at harvest, we think we can swing tuition and room and board,” Stan said. “You can work during school for pocket money if you need to.”
“Okay.” Micah looked between his mother and father. “If I can get in, I’ll go there this fall.”
* * * * *
Micah was driving south toward College Place in the old family pickup that had been given to him for graduation. The storage space in back of the front seat and the truck bed were stuffed with his belongings. His mother had offered to go with him, but she really had no easy way to get back except to have Micah make another trip. Micah said he could handle everything, and she could come visit some weekend later in the fall.
The parting was sad, as most partings are. To Betty, the love for her son was mixed with the disappointment that he had not followed the career that was open to him. To Micah, it was the second breaking of the links to a home that had been supportive of him despite his rebellious attempts to become independent.
He knew he could come home again, but he could never return as a child who is dependent on the care of parents. He would come back as a different person, bringing his own world to that of Endicott and his family, just as his brother Robert did. But he didn’t know what this new world of his own was going to look like. It wasn’t Endicott; it wasn’t an international concert circuit; it was an unknown. He remembered Megan’s question to him at the end of the wilderness trek – about him hiding from the choices before him. Now he was coming out of that hiding, and it was scary. The only world he knew other than Endicott was that of music, and he had abandoned that, even though he had packed Poppa M’s violin carefully behind the front seat.
* * * * *
To Micah, Endicott was a place that held memories of the months of life with the friends at high school, but graduation had come for his friends, and many of those friends had been scattered with the Palouse winds down highways similar to what he was now driving. Then, there was Amelia. Micah could feel the stirring in his groin from the recollection of the times with her. He had not seen her since he’d come back from Idaho, and he knew he might not see her again. She had left town, and now her interests might lie elsewhere. He knew truthfully that his might as well. But on this drive he enjoyed the memories of their previous encounters. It even crossed his mind to consider if at least some of the pleasure and comfort he’d realized with Amelia might have been partly due to the fact it was done of his own volition, with no one but himself controlling what happened, making rules or scheduling it. It was joy of his own making, coming from his own decisions, and not dictated to him by anyone. Did he like that aspect of it as much as he liked the person Amelia was? Did he like it more?
He pulled up to the loading zone in front of Sittner Hall, a large brick building with a dark, slate roof. The Residence Advisor came out of the front door almost immediately, followed by a couple of smiling students to help him get his belongings unloaded and up into his room where he expected to live for the next nine months.
His was a small, typical dorm room, with space for two single beds, two single desks and not much more – not much larger than his room at Idanha. The bathroom and showers were down the hall. His roommate had not arrived, so Micah chose the bed that looked less worn. He had the two helper students put the clothes that had been stored behind the front seat of his pickup into the closet as he put the first box of many onto his chosen bed. The three of them carried the remainder of Micah’s belongings into the room, setting boxes on the bed and on the floor.
Micah thanked his helpers. After getting parking permits and room and building keys from the residence adviser, Micah drove his pickup to the student parking lot and returned to his room to unpack. He left the door wide open, inviting the other students to drop by to introduce themselves as he filled his dresser drawers, tacked posters on the wall, made his bed, and made notes of things he would need to buy. In an hour he was all done, and he had taken the flattened cardboard to the trash bins outside the dorm.
After sitting back and resting on the bed for a while, Micah rose and wandered the halls, introducing himself as the other students had done with him.
The next morning his roommate, Scott Wagner, arrived with his parents and a carload of belongings. Micah, Scott’s parents and two other students made short work of unloading. Scott was a stocky, red-headed young man who looked as if he just got off the football field at Wenatchee High School where he had graduated three months before. He took after his father, an accountant, except for his green eyes, which he had inherited quite obviously from his mother. The Wagners invited Micah to lunch so that everyone could get acquainted.
* * * * *
As the school year wore on, a polite coexistence grew between Micah and Scott, but no further closeness developed. Scott had strong religious convictions which Micah did not share, and in the past year Micah had developed a somber attitude toward life that the more effervescent Scott didn’t understand. Consequently, Micah was glad to get a single-room assignment for the second year, although he would have to use more of his summer earnings and savings to pay the extra room charges.
Where he had been able to breeze through high school getting good grades, the more demanding curriculum of college forced Micah to study harder in order to maintain similar grades, but studying more suited his mood, keeping him from pondering his future. Micah was neither happy nor unhappy. He no longer had the spirit and sense of direction that had dominated his younger years. The amplitude of his emotions had been dampened by the past few years; he was neither experiencing the highs of his success nor the lows that had stemmed inevitably from his abandonment of music. He wasn’t content, but he was accepting of where his life was.
Micah had achieved a steady-state life: studies, some involvement with the religious groups in the college, an occasional date going to a suitable movie for an Adventist college. It was an undemanding life – a life Micah thought fitted him at this stage in his life; he was a leaf drifting in a slow-moving river.
He spent the summer between his freshman and sophomore years working for his father on the farm in Endicott. Most of the time he just stayed around the farm, working as long as he could to fill the hours available. He had scouted Endicott, and most of his friends were not around, were married or were working. There wasn’t a lot to do away from the farm. From time to time, he would pass by the mobile home where Amelia had lived; it was now empty, with weeds growing taller alongside it. Occasionally, when his mother wasn’t around, he would pick up his violin and go to the music room and play Bach.
He was glad to get back to school a couple of weeks before classes started. Micah wanted to find a way to earn spending money. But College Place was a small town of just over 7000 population. Though it bordered a larger Walla Walla, there weren’t many part-time jobs, given the competition from the number of students at the various colleges nearby.
Micah knew he could find something else to make some pocket money. He was a farm boy and a good worker. He could play the violin and the piano, and maybe he could get a job in music. He could always play on the street with a hat on the sidewalk, just as he had done by accident years earlier in Colfax the day he was waiting for his mother. But he knew being a busker required that the weather not be too bad, and winter would eventually arrive in southeastern Washington.