Standing on the bridge and looking down at the river, I felt a tingle of excitement down my spine. I had been diving off this bridge for a number of years, despite my mother’s warnings to stay away from it.
The river was flowing gently under the bridge. In the summer the current was quite benign. In early spring, when the snows melted upriver, it became a roaring torrent of brown water racing downstream as it carried debris with it. Sometimes it even flowed over the bridge. Once it carried a car which slammed into the bridge. They had to build a new bridge after that.
At 15, I was a good and confident swimmer. Mom had begun teaching me when I was five, and I became stronger as I grew older.
I took a deep breath and dove off the bridge, plunging straight down. I wanted to touch the bottom and perhaps bring up a small rock to show that I had made it.
Grabbing a little rock, I began to soar upward again, but something stopped me. A branch from a sunken tree had snagged my bathing suit. Instinct told me that I needed to get to the top before I ran out of oxygen. I struggled against the branch. That had two effects: snagging myself even tighter and diminishing my air supply.
I decided to remove the bathing suit, but the snag was pulling it too tight. I began to panic as my lungs were using the last of my air. Then the worst happened. I inhaled water and the world went black.
Someone was pushing none too gently on my back. For some reason, I knew who it was. Shit! I thought ─ him of all people. I felt water flow out of my lungs and then out my mouth. Lying on the ground with my eyes closed, I had to admit I liked his hands on my back. A distant siren was wailing and coming nearer. It came right to the bridge before it stopped. I heard doors open and men talking quietly. One asked, “What happened?”
All my friends began talking at once. I knew someone had rescued me and I thought it was Ralph Carter, but I couldn’t figure out why he did that.
A man knelt beside me and asked if I could open my eyes. I did. Then he wrapped around my arm something which began to tighten as it inflated.
“Are you hurt anywhere?” he asked.
“I don’t think so,” I answered groggily.
Another man wheeled a gurney over to me and together they lifted me onto it before putting an oxygen mask on my face.
The first man, who sounded angry, berated my friends. “What are you boys thinking? Did you not see the NO SWIMMING signs?”
I heard a reluctant, “Yes, sir.”
“Look boys,” the man continued, his voice growing calmer. “I grew up near here. I used to swim off this bridge, just as you are doing. But it’s dangerous. My best friend drowned here, and he’s not the only one. Please, stay off the bridge and away from the river.”
The same voice said, “Yes, sir,” and was joined by others.
The two men wheeled me to the ambulance and loaded me in. One asked me my parents’ phone number.
“I’m fine,” I said. “I don’t need to go to the hospital. My mother will kill me.”
“We have to take you there as a precaution,” the other man said. “You’ll be okay, but we have to do as our regulations order, and that means taking an unescorted juvenile to the hospital.”
After he called my mom, he said, “On the phone she didn’t sound like she was going to kill you,” he grinned.
One of the men remained in the back of the ambulance while the other drove.
At the hospital, I was put in a private cubicle. A nurse hitched me up to a machine which registered my heartbeat. I thought that was kind of weird. I could lie there and watch my heart go, thinking about what would happen if it stopped.
Mom came in and gave me a big hug. She was followed by a doctor who checked me all over. He especially wanted to be sure that all the water was out of my lungs. When he found that it was, he told Mom she could take me home, but cautioned her that if I had any trouble breathing, she was to bring me right back.
On the ride home in Mom’s old truck, she was silent. As we drew into our parking space, she said, “I’m not going to lecture you. You scared me to death, and I hope you’ve learned your lesson.”
I assured her that I had and that I would never swim in the river again.
When I was little we lived in an apartment building which Mom had told me was supposed to be for people who needed affordable housing. She managed to pay for it, but only by sometimes sacrificing eating.
When I was four, a boy moved into one of the apartments in our building. He was eleven, but he asked Mom one day if he could play with me, saying that he wished he had a little brother. His name was Wally, and every few days he visited us and played with me. Sometimes, if I was bored, I would ask my mother to call Wally.
Before I was old enough to go to school, I went to Auntie Annie’s, where she took care of me and several other children. I suppose it was an unlicensed day care operation. I was a baby when I first went there. I played in a crib and from time to time Auntie Annie changed my diapers and gave me something to eat.
When I was old enough to no longer need the crib, I began playing with the other children. We stayed in her basement, which was carpeted and equipped with toys and videos. We shared toy trucks and cars, blocks, dress-up clothes, and ─ best of all ─ Legos. Other than the Legos, I liked the dress-up clothes the best. We also shared germs. Sometimes a cold or sore throat would go through the group. Once we all had flu. Even Auntie Annie had it.
That time, Mom had to stay home with me. My temperature went up and up. She called Auntie Annie to ask what to do. Auntie suggested ice baths, so Mom filled the sink with cold water and threw in the ice cubes from the freezer. It was really cold, but it felt good. She was supposed to repeat the bath every four hours until the fever broke. The trouble was that our freezer couldn’t make ice that fast.
Mom called Wally and asked him to go to the corner convenience store and buy a couple of bags of ice.
At last in the middle of the night, my fever broke and I was on the mend. I was a little shaky for a few days, but when I got stronger, I returned to Auntie Annie’s.
For day care, we brought our lunches from home. After lunch, we stretched out on blankets and were supposed to nap. I could never get into napping, but I did stay quiet so others could sleep.
Auntie Annie was not our aunt, of course, but we all called her that. She was a large woman whose body seemed to be encased in layers of fat. In the summer she sweated a lot and often had some difficulty breathing and walking. But she clearly loved us, and we loved her. Occasionally, I wondered if she would die while I was there and what I would do. I didn’t have a very clear idea of death at that point, but I knew it had something to do with suddenly not being in the world anymore. She didn’t die. In fact, she went on for quite a few years after I left her group.
Sometimes she read stories to us, showing us the pictures as she read. I loved the stories and couldn’t wait for the day when I could read.
She always had little projects for us to do, and almost every day I took home some little treasure I had made, very proudly handing it over to my mother, who always praised me.
Mom was single. She worked cleaning the houses of some of the wealthier people in town. It wasn’t a large town. The area my mother and I lived in qualified as affordable housing, but there was another area of large homes with carefully manicured lawns and neatly trimmed shrubs.
Often, my mother would come home with red, raw hands from the chemicals she used for cleaning. One of the women who she worked for noticed her hands one day and gave her some rubber gloves. She told Mom to keep the gloves and there would always be more when they were needed.
Years later, Mom told me that if she had spent money for gloves, she wouldn’t have had enough to feed me. There was always food for me at home, but I noticed that often my mother didn’t eat.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but she was very young. She had me when she was 15. When I asked her about my father ─ even then I knew it took two to make a baby ─ she said she didn’t know who or where he was.
“What does he look like?” I asked, thinking I might have seen him sometime.
“He was just an ordinary boy,” she said.
“But he must have a name,” I said.
“He was just a mistake.”
Shocked, I asked, “Was I a mistake?”
“No,” she replied, and I could see tears in her eyes. “You are the best thing that ever happened to me.”
I thought about that occasionally. If my father was a mistake, why wasn’t I one too? But I loved my mother and I could see the thought of him upset her, so I didn’t ask anymore.
All my clothes came from thrift shops or the Salvation Army. I assumed that was where my friends got their clothes, too.
I usually stayed at Auntie Annie’s long after the other children had been picked up by their mothers. Usually, Auntie gave me a snack to tide me over until supper.
When Mom picked me up from day care in her old battered pickup truck, she always looked tired. At home she fed me, but it wasn’t long after supper that she said she was going to bed. She got me into my PJs and saw to it that I brushed my teeth. Then she put me in the bed next to hers and told me to play quietly until I went to sleep. Being an obedient child, I did as she told me. I had a vivid imagination, so it wasn’t difficult for me to play by myself. Sometimes I played with my toys for a long time before sleep overtook me.
Often when Mom was taking me to Auntie Annie’s in the morning, I saw other children ─ older children ─ walking purposefully along the sidewalks. I asked Mom where they were going, and she told me they were going to school.
“Well, it’s a place where children go to learn.”
“What do they learn?” I asked.
“Oh, they learn to read and to do numbers. Things like that.”
“Why don’t I go?”
“You will when you get old enough.”
“When will that be?”
“When you’re five.”
“Oh,” I said. I counted on my fingers and decided that I would have to wait two more years. “That’s a long time,” I said.
Then we talked about other things.
From that time on, I thought often about school. I asked Mom questions until she got tired of talking about it. Then I asked Auntie Annie my questions. In spring on the day I I turned five, I said, “Mommy, I can go to school today.” I was very excited.
“No,” she said. “You have to wait until the beginning of the next school year.”
More waiting? “Why? I’m five,” I said, holding up the fingers of one hand.
“Oh, Max,” she said, “don’t you ever get tired of asking questions?”
“Well, I’m sorry but sometimes I get tired answering them. I don’t want to hear any more questions about school until fall.”
“When’s that?” I asked.
She laughed and said, “When the leaves on the trees begin to change color.”
Every day after that, I looked carefully at the trees on my way to Auntie Annie’s, but their leaves remained green.
One day in late summer, Mom took me to the Salvation Army and picked out some clothes for me, saying that they would be my school clothes and I needed to take special care of them.
“School!” She had said the magic word so I knew I could ask about it again. “When will I be going?” I asked.
“In eight days,” she replied.
I counted out on my fingers how many days that was, and each day I counted one less finger.
On the fourth day, my mother said, “I certainly hope that school is worth all this build up and that you’ll like it.”
I assured her that I would.
The night before I was to go to school, I was too excited to sleep. I couldn’t even amuse myself quietly in my bed. I’m afraid I kept Mom awake too long that night because when she woke she looked exhausted.
The next morning I was up early, singing to myself, “School today. School today.”
I got dressed in my best clothes. I ate breakfast, although I was too excited to eat much, while Mom made me a sandwich for lunch. Then we walked to school, hand in hand. Well, she walked; I skipped.
We went into the school, which was very noisy with all the kids talking and laughing and calling to one another. Mother took me down the hall to a classroom. We went in and she introduced me to the teacher who looked very happy to see me.
When I said goodbye to Mom, I told her that I would read a book to her that night. I believed that I was going to learn to read that first day. Little did I know.
As I sat in the chair at a table with three other children, I thought, Finally, I’m one of the big kids.
The other boy at my table had brought some flowers for the teacher. She oohed and aahed and thanked him profusely. Putting them in a vase with water, she held them up and said, “Look what Ralph brought to brighten our first day of school.” I was immediately jealous.
Ralph was about my age and size. His hair was carefully parted and combed. His clothes were better than most of us wore to school. They were clean and freshly ironed. He wore leather shoes. No other boys wore leather shoes to school.
He looked at me like something a little dirty that he needed to avoid.
Throughout the day, he showed me how superior he was. When he colored, he stayed carefully within the lines. When the teacher began to show us how to write the letters of the alphabet, his looked almost computer generated. Mine, on the other hand, were shaky. It didn’t help that I was left-handed.
At lunch time, he pulled out a lobster salad roll. Who sends their kid to school with lobster? At recess, he quickly joined in the fun while I held back, watching, before I entered a soccer game. Somehow, as I played the game, I just happened to knock him down and he lay in the dirt, his pretty clothes no longer clean.
He jumped up and began to come after me, but our teacher intervened, telling him it was just an accident.
By the end of the day we hated each other.
At home, my mother asked me how my day had gone, but I didn’t really tell her. Even at that age, I knew there were things you didn’t tell. The word ‘hate’ was one of my mother’s buttons, and if I said it, I’d have gotten at least a 20-minute lecture.
When she asked me how my clothes got dirty, I just said that I’d fallen in a game.
That was the beginning, but Ralph’s and my hatred went on for years. We were both very competitive, and we saw each other as rivals. He was usually the better student; I was the better athlete.
On the second day, Ralph wore sneakers like the rest of us, but his were new and clean and white.
In mid-morning we had ‘Book Time’. There were a lot of books on shelves in the room. Each of us was supposed to choose a couple and take them to our seats, where we could look at the pictures. Ralph was not in his seat. He was sitting in a corner holding a book, his mouth going quickly and silently. He’s reading, I thought. He’s actually reading. He was the only kid in the class who could already read. I hated him more. When I asked our teacher when I would learn to read, she just said that I would probably learn during the year.
When the teacher began to teach us the sounds of the different letters, I struggled to remember them. They were confusing because many of the letters could make more than one sound. ‘T’, for example, could sound like the t in table, but it could also sound like the t in thing. ‘A’ could sound like the a in cake but also like the a in cat. But I labored mightily because I really wanted to learn to read.
I convinced Mom to help me at night. She was tired and sometimes fell asleep over a book, but she tried hard. As I look back on that time, I know that the best thing about it wasn’t learning to read; it was the bonding which took place between the two of us.
By Christmas time I could read some very simple books. Ralph meanwhile had moved on to chapter books, reading everything in the classroom and then going to the school library for more.
And so, the antipathy between us grew. Sometimes we would have races in gym, and I would always win, which made Ralph mad. But his reading and other classroom achievements made me mad. Occasionally, our anger would overflow and we’d fight during recess. Neither of us knew anything about fighting, so we never really hurt each other, and by the time a teacher appeared to break us up, we were ready to stop. Whenever I went home with a torn shirt or dirty trousers, Mom would get very upset. That made me sad, but I just couldn’t stop. I knew that Mom talked with the teacher about my fighting. Apparently, the teacher said I would get beyond it when I learned to express my anger in words.
Mom tried to get me to tell her why I was angry, but I found I couldn't. It would be several years before I could really put my anger into words.
Our elementary school had only one class per grade, so Ralph and I were always in the same class. We learned to appear as though we liked each other, though we were not best friends. That kept the teachers from lecturing us about getting along or working and playing together.
When we were in fourth grade, my mother said I was old enough to walk home from school by myself. The first day I walked, there was Ralph about ten feet in front of me. I ran to catch up to him and jumped on his back, knocking him to the ground. That was the beginning of an escalation in our hate.
From then on, we saved the real battles for after school. We would ‘accidentally’ encounter each other on the way home. A push led to a shove which led to a trip which led to one of us being on the ground with one of us sitting atop his victim and pounding him. More than once that year we went home with dirty, torn clothes. More than once my mother scolded me for fighting. I never told her who my opponent was even though she asked each time. All she learned from me was that it was always the same boy.
Mom continued to talk with the teachers at school, but they either couldn’t or wouldn’t tell her who my adversary was, and since we never fought on school property anymore, there wasn’t much the teachers could do.
One Sunday, the only day of the week that Mom didn’t work, I asked her to tell me about my father. I had asked before and she had always refused, but this time she sighed and said, “Okay, I guess you deserve to know.
“The year I was 15, there was a boy a couple of grades older than me. His name was Piet Walker. I thought he was handsome, and I suppose he figured out that I was watching him a lot. In the spring, Piet suggested that we go for a picnic. I agreed and he picked me up in his old Ford. We drove to a place where there were shade trees growing right down to a stream that ran gently over rocks.
“We ate the sandwiches he’d made and drank the wine he’d brought. It was the first time I’d had anything alcoholic to drink. After a time, I began to feel a little dizzy. I lay down on the grass and he lay next to me, kissing me. It was my first kiss and I was thrilled. I won’t go into all the details, but eventually he pulled down my panties and stuck his penis in me. It hurt a lot and I cried out, but he didn’t stop. When he finished with me, he put his penis back in his jeans and said, ‘C’mon. We gotta go.’
“About six weeks later, I figured out that I was pregnant. I told my mother, who told my father. He was furious and insisted that I get an abortion. When I refused, he said he’d throw me out of the house. After you were born, he did just that. He found an old couple who lived on a farm. The wife was becoming crippled with arthritis, so they needed some cheap help to cook and clean for them.
“I stayed for two years. They paid me almost nothing, but they did provide food for both you and me. When the old woman died, the man put his shotgun into his mouth and blew his brains out.
“I took what little money I had been able to save and came here, where I was fortunate to get this apartment in affordable housing. You know the rest.”
“What became of Piet?” I asked.
“Nobody knows. Both my father and the police searched for him, but they never found a clue.”
I hugged her tight and thanked her for not getting an abortion. She had a rough life, but she worked hard to feed us and to keep us together, and we loved each other intensely.
Sometimes after school, while I was in fourth grade, I would visit Auntie Annie and her little friends. One day she asked if I’d like to read to them, and I jumped at the chance. I don’t remember now what the book was, but I sat in her rocking chair and held up the book so the kids could see the pictures as I read. When I finished, I asked the kids a few questions first about the book and then whether there was anything in the book that reminded them of something in their own lives. Several of them said that when the main character, Timmy, complained of being small, they felt the same way. It turned out that all of those who spoke were youngest siblings. A few said rather wistfully that they wished they could go for a walk in the woods like Timmy did. Without thinking I asked, “Why can’t you?” That brought some rather sad stories about parents who worked all the time.
At that point, Auntie Annie interrupted, and I thought she might be mad at me for the last question. Instead, she suggested, “Maybe I could get a small bus for a day, and we could all go to the woods together. We could take our lunches and have some fun exploring. Would you like that?” There was a chorus of yeses. She turned to me and said, “Well, Max and I will work it out together.”
That was how, as a fourth grader, I became her unofficial assistant teacher. How she managed to get a bus I have no idea. Maybe there was some government office which supported enrichment for kids. Anyway, the appointed day dawned clear and bright. I took a day off from school and we all went to the Parker Woods, which was conservation land owned by the town. As we got off the bus, Auntie Annie said to me, “Keep an eye open and don’t let any of the children walk into the woods without a partner.” She had a whistle which she blew loudly, telling the kids that if they heard the whistle, they were to come immediately to her.
Auntie Annie paired up the children to explore together. I realized that the woods weren’t big enough for kids to get lost, but I prowled around among the trees checking on them anyway. When Auntie Annie blew the whistle, the kids all returned and were counted before she handed out the lunches.
One of the kids asked if they could take things from the woods home with them. That led to a discussion of what was okay to touch and what should just be enjoyed in its natural place. She didn’t ever talk down to them, instead using words like ‘habitat’ and ‘locale’. She told them about plants and animals that were endangered. I remembered her talking about that back when I was in her care.
After the kids rested for a while, they were given more time to explore before they were called to get on the bus and return to Auntie Annie’s. Most of them slept on the bus, and it was a little difficult awakening them to get off when we arrived. Back in the classroom, without anybody saying anything, several of them got out their blankets from their cubbies, stretched out on the floor, and fell fast asleep.
That weekend, Annie told me that many of the parents thanked her and me for the trip and wondered if there would be others. There followed a trip to a lake with a beach, a trip to the zoo, and then, as a special treat, a trip to the town library, where the children were allowed to look at any books they wished. I read them a story there, and that got the attention of the librarian, who asked how old I was. (Why is that always the first question adults ask?) That was followed by the suggestion that I might like to volunteer to read to kids at the library a couple of days a week during the summer.
I loved it! I enjoyed the kids, even the ones who weren’t really listening, and the parents were always very complimentary. It was during that summer that I decided I might become a teacher.
When I was in fifth grade, I got the upper hand on Ralph one afternoon. By then we were strong enough so we could really hurt each other.
After getting in some satisfying punches, I let Ralph get up off the ground. Brushing himself off he said, “You fucking bastard!”
‘Bastard’ was a button word for me, and I flew after him as he ran up the walk. When I got close, he turned around and swung his book bag, hitting me in the head. For a moment I was a little dizzy and groggy. He took advantage of that, shoved me to the ground, and raced home.
The reason bastard was a button word was that by then I knew I was one. I had known for years of my dubious conception, and it often made me feel inferior to the other kids, but nobody had ever called me one until then.
The evening of the day I was called a bastard, the phone rang. I thought it was probably one of the people Mom cleaned for. She answered it and began to speak, but then stopped and listened. Not feeling involved in the call, I went to my room to begin my homework. From time to time I heard her voice but didn’t try to make out what she was saying.
When the call ended, she came to my room and announced that we had to talk. Shoot, I thought, there goes my homework time.
Mom proceeded to tell me that the phone call had been from Ralph’s father, Mr. Carter. He had finally gotten out of his son who his son was fighting with. He called, not to complain, but to apologize. Mom had told him that he didn’t need to do that, that she was the one who needed to apologize. They apparently spoke for some time about what to do. They agreed that both Ralph and I should be grounded. They also agreed that we should be driven home from school in the afternoons. They would take turns doing the transporting. So, that’s how I ended up in the Carters’ car with Ralph or in Mom’s beat-up truck with Ralph and me crammed together on the seat.
Ralph’s father was always nice to me. He had a kind face and a constant smile. When I asked him one day why Ralph’s mother never drove us, I heard a sudden intake of breath from Ralph in the front seat. Ralph’s father was very quiet for a while before finally sighing and saying that Ralph’s mother had died in a boating accident the summer before Ralph began kindergarten. I suddenly felt about three inches tall and had no idea what to say.
As I got out of the car at my house, I stopped at the driver’s window and said, “I’m sorry.”
Knowing Ralph had lost his mother had no effect on how the two of us felt about each other. I felt sorry for his dad, but not for Ralph. I figured that was fair ─ he wasn’t sorry I had no father. We were still enemies. Riding home together each afternoon didn’t change that at all.
I told Mom about Mr. Carter’s loss when I got home, and we had a very quiet supper, both of us thinking sad thoughts.
One evening at the end of supper, Mom got all dressed up and said she was “going out for a while”.
Odd, I thought, she never goes out, but I knew she had a right to enjoy herself occasionally. What interested me was that she had virtually no money to go anywhere. Even a movie was out of her price range. Where could she go?
She came home after I had gone to bed but not to sleep. She looked in on me and she was clearly smiling happily. Hmmm, I thought, what’s going on? Was she dating someone?
Her going out became a regular Saturday evening occurrence. She never said where she was going, but she always came home looking very happy.
It was during one of those Saturday evenings when I was alone that I first discovered the glories of jerking off. I had been lying in bed and gently masturbating, my mind on other things, when I began to feel a strange sensation, a growing tension in my groin. As I rubbed myself harder, the tension increased, and suddenly my cock began to throb in my hand. I didn’t shoot that first time or for a couple of months after that, but I certainly liked the feeling and began to seek it out whenever I was alone.
On a Saturday morning after Christmas, Mom announced that we were going to the Carters’ home for dinner that evening.
“No way!” I said. “You know I can’t stand Ralph.”
“This is not about Ralph,” she said, “and you are going. You are going to take a shower and dress nicely. Do you understand?”
When she got that tone of voice, I knew there was no arguing with her. I simply nodded and left the room.
At 5:45 that evening, having showered and put on some decent clothes ─ my clothes still came from thrift shops, but I had a few things to wear if I needed something for a special occasion ─ I rode with Mom to the Carters’ home. I had never actually been to Ralph’s home, although I had seen it when Mom dropped him off after school. I knew it was in a much classier part of the town than where we lived.
Mom pulled into the driveway, and we went to the front door, which opened even before we had a chance to ring the doorbell. Ralph’s father stood in the doorway.
Good, I thought. Maybe I won’t have to deal with Ralph.
We were invited into the dining room. Mr. Carter caledl for Ralph, and he appeared at last, although it was clear he was doing so under duress. He was neat and clean, but the scowl on his face sent an unmistakable message. Mr. Carter sat at one end of the table while Mom sat at the other. That left me and Ralph opposite each other.
The adults continued to chat comfortably. Occasionally, Mr. Carter asked me a question which I answered politely but briefly. The same was happening between Mom and Ralph.
At the end of the meal, Mr. Carter said he had an announcement to make. Clearing his throat, he spoke to Ralph and me. “Mrs. Andrews and I are going to get married.”
I was stunned but Ralph wasn’t. He stood up, threw his napkin towards his father, and shouted, “No way!”
“Sit down, Ralph,” his father ordered.
Ralph’s look at him made it clear that he was trying to decide whether to obey or defy his father. After a tense moment or two, he sat.
“Ralph,” his father said, “you will apologize to Mrs. Andrews.”
Again you could see the gears turning in his head. He took a deep breath and said, “I’m sorry, Mrs. Andrews.”
“Now,” his father said, “you may stay here with us and be civil or you may leave.”
Ralph stood, said, “Good night,” to Mom, conspicuously not including me or his father. Then he strode out of the room with an angry look on his face.
That left me feeling trapped with the two adults.
“Well,” said Mr. Carter with a sigh, “that went well.”
Mom giggled. She actually giggled! I had never heard her do that before, and as I thought about it later, I realized that I seldom had heard her laugh.
Mr. Carter turned to me and said, “We know how Ralph feels about the announcement. How do you feel?”
What could I say? At last I managed to get out what was foremost in my mind. “Does that mean we’ll all be living together?”
“Yes,” Mom said. “You and I will be moving into this house.”
I felt my heart slam into the bottom of my stomach. “Will I have to share a room with Ralph?”
“No,” said Mr. Carter, “there’s another bedroom you can have.”
“Well,” I said, “you asked me how I felt so, how I feel is, I don’t see how this can possibly work.”
“Your mother and I know how you and Ralph feel about each other, but that’s not what this is about. It’s about how your mother and I feel towards each other. I’m sure both you boys are civil enough to work this out.”
When it was time for Mom and me to head home, she hugged him and gave him a kiss… right on the lips. That really upset me. I thought only high school kids did that. Over the next few months, I learned how wrong I was.
In the car, Mom said, “I know you’re upset by this, Max, but you have to understand this is the first chance I’ve had for real happiness, and I hope you can learn to live with the arrangement for my sake.”
I sighed. “For you, I’ll try,” I said, “but it’s not going to be easy.”
The day before the wedding Mr. Carter helped me and Mom move our stuff to his house. We didn’t really take all that much, just a few clothes and my bed. Whatever else there was went to the Salvation Army.
Do you know how important your bed is? When you’re little it’s the place where you hide from monsters. It’s the place you go when you’re sad or you’re being punished. When you get older, it’s the place where you first discover sexual pleasure as you explore your body and the various ways you find to bring yourself to amazing climaxes. Although Mr. Carter offered to get a new bed for me, mine was the one thing I had that comforted me and brought a plethora of memories. I thanked him but took my own bed with me.
The night before the wedding, I lay awake a long time in that bed. I listened to the unfamiliar sounds of my new home, all the little creaks and groans as the house seemed to settle for the night. I heard Ralph breathing quietly in his room next to mine. I wondered how I would ever be able to get along with him. I thought of Mom and how happy she seemed, and I knew that anything I could do to keep her happy I would try to do. But living with Ralph! Was that just too much?
The wedding was in a small chapel, with only a few close friends invited. A few days before the ceremony, Mom handed me a new suit. I was astounded. I never got truly new clothes. She told me that she and Mr. Carter had gotten matching suits for Ralph and me, as we were to stand with them during the ceremony.
“Mom,” I said, “I don’t know anything about weddings or what to do.”
She smiled and answered, “You only have two little jobs to do. At the beginning of the ceremony, you will escort me down the aisle. Then you will stand beside me, and when the minister asks, ‘Who gives this woman to be married to this man?’ You answer ‘I do’ loud enough so that everyone there can hear you.”
The wedding was to be on Saturday morning at 10:00 AM. I had never been in either a chapel or a church before. I had a chance to look around a little before people began to arrive. The thing I liked best was the stained-glass windows. They were not pictures, just abstract designs, but they were pretty, and I liked the way the light from the sun streaming through them turned to the colors of the windows as it shone on the tile floor of the chapel.
There’s not much to say about the wedding. I guess it was pretty typical. At least it was short. At the end of the ceremony, recorded music came on and Mr. Carter escorted Mom out of the chapel, while Ralph and I followed behind. We’d been told to walk side by side, but Ralph managed to stay a step ahead of me.
The newlyweds had not planned a honeymoon, perhaps because they didn’t want to leave us alone together. We all returned to the Carters’ house. There was a little reception with food laid out on the dining room table for the guests. Everybody stood around and talked for a while. Some tried to engage me or Ralph in conversation. We were both polite but replied with short answers. I stayed well apart from him. He did the same with me.
After everyone had left, Mom and Mr. Carter went into their room to change their clothes while Ralph and I went to our rooms to change into more comfortable clothing. We didn’t emerge until we got hungry.
The Carters’ home ─ I had not yet learned to call it my home ─ seemed very big and fancy to me. In fact, it was a pretty typical two-story garrison colonial. Outside, it was painted white. There were shrubs at the front and around the sides of the house. There was a two-car garage and a fenced back yard. I was to learn that in the summers, Mr. Carter put a barbecue grill out there and often cooked our dinners on it.
Inside, to the right of the hall, there was a living room that stretched from the front to the back of the house. It seemed gigantic to me. It had nicely upholstered furniture, and in one corner, the biggest TV I had ever seen.
To the left of the hall was a dining room and behind that the kitchen, which had appliances and features I had never seen before. What particularly interested me was the dishwasher. I had heard of such things but never seen one before.
Upstairs were three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Mr. Carter and now Mom had the largest bedroom with its own bathroom. The other two bedrooms were about the same size. The second bathroom could be accessed either through Ralph’s bedroom or from the hall.
Seriously, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I had never imagined that Mom and I would live in such a grand house. The only feature I disliked was Ralph. I still had no idea how we could possibly manage to live in the same house. And I feared that, if one of us was asked to leave, the choice would be me.
At dinner that evening, I asked Mr. Carter what I should call him. He thought a minute and said, “Anything you’re comfortable with, Max. Dad is fine. So is Father. And of course, if you feel most comfortable calling me Mr. Carter for now, that’s perfectly okay. I think we’d both be uncomfortable if you were to use my first name.”
Mom and Mr. Carter had made the dinner together in what was to become a partnership in the kitchen. Pot roast, potatoes and carrots roasted with it in the beef juices. Wow, I thought, if we eat like this every night, it might be worth trying to get along with Ralph.
The two of us ate in silence as the adults talked about the wedding, their friends, and their plans for the next day.
While we weren’t rich, we certainly had more money available than Mom and I had ever had. Dad ─ which was how I’d chosen to both address him and think of him ─ worked as a CPA. Mom was able to give up cleaning houses and stay home. I hadn’t realized how her health had been suffering with her long hours of physical work, but when she quit cleaning, she blossomed. She never seemed tired anymore, and I could see that her face wasn’t as gaunt and her hands had healed. One day I hugged her and told her I was so happy for her. She hugged me back, saying that she had always been grateful she had had me rather than get an abortion.
Of course I knew what an abortion was, and it always horrified me when I realized how close I had come to not existing.
I squeezed her again and whispered, “Thank you.” We stayed in an embrace for a few moments until Ralph came into the kitchen, looking for food as usual. After all, we were both growing boys.
Since we’d begun living in the same house, Ralph and I had stopped the physical fighting; we’d substituted verbal sparring instead. Was that progress? I don’t know, but at least there were no more torn or dirty clothes or bruises and sores.
The first time I called Mr. Carter Dad, Ralph stared at me. Later, when we were in the hall to our bedrooms, Ralph said, “Don’t you dare call him Dad. He’s not your dad.”
“He’s my acting dad,” I replied, “and since I never had a dad before and he’s told me I can call him that, I’m not going to stop. Especially not for you.”
He scowled and went into his room. I noticed a few days later that he began calling my mother Mom, which must have been hard for him at first because he still remembered his birth mother.
I was 14 that year. One morning when I sat down to breakfast and said, “Hi”, I got a strange reaction from Mom.
She looked at me real funny and said, “Say that again.” When I did she asked, “Do you realize your voice is beginning to change?”
That became the topic of discussion at the breakfast table. I could see that Ralph was furious. I was beating him at something and there wasn’t a thing he could do about it.
The change was very smooth for me. My voice never cracked, it just went down, and soon I had moved from singing soprano in the school choir to singing baritone.
Changes were coming to Ralph, too. When school got out in the spring, he was 5’6” and weighed only about 140 pounds. He shot up seemingly overnight, and when school began in the fall, he was 6’2” and weighed nearly 200 pounds. Mom complained that she could never keep enough food in the house for him. He went through several sets of clothes that summer and needed total reoutfitting in the fall.
Somehow, Ralph and I survived being in the same house. I think we were making a real effort because of our parents. Nevertheless, whenever we were together, there was an almost palpable tension in the air.
When school began in the fall, Ralph and I were freshmen in the high school, which drew students from a much larger area than our elementary school. The result was that we were not often in the same class, which was a blessing. I no longer felt I was competing with him except when report cards came. Unfortunately for me it became much easier to compare our report cards when our parents had them both. Ralph continued to surpass me in academics with a straight A average. I had a B+ average but suddenly it wasn’t good enough for me, although both Mom and Dad seemed to be more than satisfied.
If neither Mom nor Dad was around, Ralph found opportunities to call me, ‘the stupid one’, which of course I resented. Before his voice changed, I resorted to calling him, ‘little kid’, which he resented. We both knew we were being petty, but that didn’t stop us from trying to put each other down.
At night, as I lay in bed, quietly jerking off, I could hear Ralph in his room, obviously doing the same. His bed squeaked, and sometimes I heard him moan or cry out. I tried to be very quiet, but I knew that if he listened, he could hear me, too. I had to admit to myself there was something sexy about the two of us masturbating at the same time.
About the only time we were actually together was for meals. As growing teenage boys, we ate a lot and often. We’d sit at the table talking with Mom or Dad but never with each other.
Just before Christmas, we all went out to a Christmas tree farm to select and cut our tree. It had snowed the night before. The day was crisp but not too cold. Ralph and I competed to find the best tree. We kept suggesting ones to our parents, but they decided on one that they picked out. I guess they knew if they had selected a tree which one of us had suggested, it could cause a lot of tension over the holiday.
On Christmas morning there were gifts for each of us. It was the first time I’d ever received presents for Christmas. In addition to clothes, I got some CDs and books, and, most important, a CD player.
Ralph and I didn’t exchange presents, and nobody said that we should.
After Christmas I could lie on my bed with my headphones on listening to CDs and blocking out Ralph entirely.
One thing we did more or less together was shoveling snow and cleaning off the cars. Without a word, we carefully divided the driveway in two, each of us having his own area to clear. We each cleaned off a car. Dad had given Mom a new Toyota for Christmas, which I carefully and lovingly cleaned off whenever it snowed, while Ralph cleaned Dad’s car.
Sometimes, when I was doing homework, I was stumped by an assignment. Although I knew that Ralph had the same assignment, I never asked him about it, preferring to ask one of the parents.
In the spring of that year, Mom and Dad announced one evening at dinner that Mom was going to have a baby.
Immediately, Ralph got to the point. “Where is he or she going to sleep?”
There was silence for a moment before Dad said, “It’s a she, and she will sleep in Max’s room. Max will move in with you.”
Immediately Ralph‘s hand pounded on the table, as he shouted, “Never,” and went storming to his room, where he slammed the door.
“Do I get any say in this?” I asked.
Mom reached over and took my hand. “Not really,” she said. “We had hoped you might be happy to have a little sister.”
“Well, I probably will be, but being in the same room with Ralph is going to be a disaster. Couldn’t we add a room to the house or buy a bigger one?”
“That might be ideal from your point of view,” Dad said, “but those would be very expensive propositions, and even though I make a good salary, the price of either change is just beyond what I can provide right now.” Clearly the matter had already been decided and neither Ralph nor I had any recourse in the matter. We didn’t talk about it at all until the move became imminent.
My near drowning happened that summer, and when Mom and I drove home from the hospital, she said, “Max, it’s time for you to move into Ralph’s room.” She was clearly very pregnant at that point, and she said the baby could come at any time.
Dad took us all out to dinner at a very nice restaurant after we had dressed to his specifications: white shirt but no tie, dark trousers, good shoes, and blazers. I had lots of clothes to choose from now, and none of them were second hand or from a thrift store.
As we finished our dinners, Dad said, “I can think of at least three things we are celebrating tonight.” We all looked at each other. “First, we are about to have a baby, second Max is alive, and third, Ralph saved his brother from drowning.” When he put it that way, I realized it really was a very momentous time for the entire family.
The next day, I moved into the room with Ralph. Dad said the first step of the move was for Ralph to organize his stuff so that it took up no more than half the room. Ralph mumbled a lot as he and Dad pushed furniture around so that Ralph’s bed, desk, and dresser were on one side of the room. It was crowded but not overly so, and it would work. I noticed that he took the side of the room with the door to the bathroom. I was left with the side with the door to our walk-in closet.
When Ralph’s furniture was in place, Dad helped me move mine into the room. Of course, Ralph didn’t offer to help, but then I hadn’t helped him with his stuff. My side became a mirror image of his. We both put a couple of posters on the wall over our respective beds.
When we finished, I needed a shower, so I stripped to my boxers and began to walk to the bathroom.
“Where do you think you’re going?” asked Ralph, belligerently.
“Ummm… I’m gonna take a shower,” I replied.
“Well, you’re gonna have to do it without walking through my side of the room.”
Ralph had saved my life, but that didn’t mean he’d warmed to my existence at all, and I certainly hadn’t become enamored of him, although somehow the fact he’d rescued me rather than letting me drown had tempered my hatred to a degree. His attitude, though, kept me from softening up very much. If he wanted the walls to remain in place, I was happy to oblige him.
“Jerk!” I thought. Fortunately, the door to the hall was right on our imaginary dividing line. I walked out the door and into the bathroom from the hallway. When I finished my shower, I walked back through the hall. He hadn’t heard me coming, and I found him in the closet getting some clothes.
“What are you doing on my side of the room?” I challenged.
“Getting clothes,” he answered.
“Well, you’re gonna have to do it without walking through my side of the room.”
“But that’s impossible. The only door to the closet is this one.”
I knew it was a petty argument, but I also believed I was laying down the ground rules for our coexistence.
Ralph stood in the closet doorway trying to figure out how he could get to his side of the room, while I lay on my bed and pretended to read.
After a few minutes he said, “Okay, you can use my door to the bathroom if I can use yours to the closet.”
“Fine,” I said, and he walked to his bed.
On the first night we shared the bedroom, I was lying awake, thinking. I guess he was too.
“Can I ask a question?” I said quietly.
“I can’t stop you,” he said.
“Why did you save my life?” I asked. “You could easily have done nothing, and nobody would have blamed you.”
He was silent for what seemed like a very long time, and I thought maybe he wasn’t going to answer.
Then he sighed and said, “It wasn’t for you. I didn’t give a shit whether you drowned or not. But I knew if you did, Mom would be heartbroken. I’ve seen the way you two relate to each other, and I knew she would be incredibly sad. I couldn’t let that happen.”
“Well, thank you,” I said.
“For saving your life or for saving Mom from your death?”
“Both, I guess,” I replied.
It was a long time before I went to sleep.
The next night, as I lay in bed, I said, “Ralph, can I ask you a question?”
“You know I can’t stop you,” he replied.
“Okay,” I said, “here goes. Can I assume that you jerk off?”
“Dammit, Max, that’s too personal.”
“Well, I do,” I said, “and the best time for me is when I’m in bed at night, just before I go to sleep.”
He was silent, so I went on. “I’m really horny right now, and I just wondered if you would be upset if I did it.”
Again he was silent.
“Okay,” I said, “I’ll take your silence as permission.” I pushed my covers back, shoved down the bottoms of my PJs, and began rubbing myself, enjoying the familiar but always magical feelings. As always, the tension in my groin began to grow until it could grow no more. I climaxed and lay breathing heavily for a few minutes before I wiped myself with an old sock I used for the purpose. Just as I finished, I heard groans coming from the other bed, followed by, “Oh, oh, oooooh!” and I knew that Ralph had joined me.
I rolled onto my side facing away from him, smiled, and went to sleep.
When Holly was born, I immediately fell in love. I held her every chance I got. She lay in my arms looking up at me and cooing. That is, unless she was hungry or her diaper needed changing.
Mom taught me how to change her diaper. Since Mom was breast feeding her, there wasn’t much I could do when Holly was hungry.
If Holly cried in the night, I was right there, holding her and talking quietly to her. Mom came in, pulled out a breast, and fed her as she and I talked quietly. I assumed that Mom had breast fed me, too. Many teenage boys rate girls by the size of their boobs, but I knew that size didn’t matter. It was function that was important.
Personally, I wasn’t interested in rating girls, by their boobs or anything else. Even though I was 15, an age when many boys are trying to get into their girlfriends’ pants, I never thought about it. I did sometimes take special interest in one or another boy in our gym locker room, but I decided I was just a slow developer and didn’t worry about it.
After my victory, in what I called ‘The Battle of the Doors’, we spent a great deal of time and energy trying to diss each other. Ralph was determined to get his revenge.
That was the year I discovered how easy it was to find porn on my computer. Usually, all I had to do was tell the site that I was over 18. I suppose that they asked that to protect themselves from distributing to minors, but it obviously didn’t work.
I watched some porn of a man and a woman having sex. It aroused me some, but then I got curious and searched out two men having sex. That really got me going. I still didn’t understand what was happening with me, but I began to decide that maybe I wasn’t a slow developer.
One day, when I was watching one of my favorite shows, Ralph walked into the room. I hastily closed the cover of my laptop, but I wasn’t fast enough, and he saw what I was doing.
“Jesus, Max, two men? Are you queer?”
“No,” I said. “Of course not. I was just curious about how two guys could have sex.”
Ralph just shook his head and went to his desk.
There was a new boy, Carlo, in school that year. To say that he was different from the rest of us would be an understatement. He was cute in a feminine sort of way. When he walked down the halls he seemed to prance, raising his heels off the floor. If he wasn’t carrying books, his arms would be floating aimlessly as his hands flapped up and down. Sadly, he received a lot of mimicking and verbal abuse at the school. While there was no way that the school could not have known what was happening, no adult did anything to stop it.
There was a piano in the front hall of the school, and before classes in the morning, Carlo could be found seated at it, playing either ragtime or Chopin. He seemed equally good at both. He had a group of girls who usually stood listening to him and clapping.
One day, as Carlo was walking down the hall, Kevin Marsden, who was an asshole of the first order, trailed behind him, mimicking the way he walked. Soon a little parade of Kevin’s friends formed behind Carlo, giggling as they pranced down the hall.
Carlo suddenly stopped and turned around. He was so quick that Kevin had no time to stop and walked into him. The rest of the line piled on behind.
One of the teachers heard the commotion. Coming out of her classroom and seeing a pile of boys on the floor, she asked what was going on.
“We were just having a little fun,” Kevin said.
“Well, if you don’t go right now, you’ll all be late for class.” She returned to her room. The boys dispersed, leaving Carlo in the hallway. He walked to the front of the building and outside, where he turned to go home.
Ralph and I had only one class together that year ─ social sciences. The morning after the parade, an announcement came over the PA system. Usually the system was only used for morning announcements, so when it came on later in the day, everyone stopped to listen.
“We are sorry to report,” the principal said, “that Carlo Rodriguez died last night from a self-inflicted gunshot. Investigators are still trying to determine how he accessed the gun. Grief counselors will be available this afternoon and tomorrow for anybody who wants to talk.”
Even before the PA system switched off, Kevin Marsden said, “Aw, now isn’t that too bad.” His voice positively dripped with sarcasm. Some of the other boys giggled.
Ralph stood up, towering over Kevin, and said, “Come with me, asshole.”
Kevin simply sat looking straight ahead. The teacher said nothing.
Ralph grabbed Kevin by the arm, lifting him out of his chair, and propelled him towards the door. I followed.
In the hallway, Kevin began to whimper, “C’mon, man. He’s no loss. That’s just one less faggot we have to deal with.”
Right there in the hall, Ralph slapped Kevin on the side of his head. By then, a small crowd had gathered, and I kept an eye on them to be sure that none of them attacked Ralph.
Two more slaps and Kevin was actually crying. At that point, one of his friends hit the back of Ralph’s head. I joined in and soon there was a small riot going on. Someone called the school security officer who tried to separate Ralph and Kevin, but Ralph was strong and he held on.
The security officer hurried to the office and soon we heard sirens approaching the school. Police charged through the front door and started dragging boys away. Since Ralph, Kevin, and I were in the middle of the group, we were the last to be ushered none-too-gently out the door and into police cars.
At the station, we were all gathered into a room, and a cop began asking questions.
“You can’t talk to us without our parents present,” one of the boys pointed out.
“Oh, are you the group’s lawyer?” the cop asked, sarcastically.
“No, but my father and mother are both lawyers,” the boy said, defiantly, “and you don’t want to do anything which is unlawful now, do you?”
Two cops stayed in the room with us, while the one who had been talking went out of the room. Soon we had the chief himself in the room.
“Okay,” he said, “is there anyone here who wants to talk?”
We looked around at each other silently.
“Fine,” he said. “We’ll put you in holding cells until your parents can join us.”
With that, he stalked out of the room. As fate would have it, Ralph, Kevin, and I wound up in the same cell.”
“Why did you attack me?” Kevin asked.
“Because you were being a jerk,” Ralph said. “Don’t you see any connection between what you did mimicking Carlo yesterday and what he did to himself last night?”
“No, it was just some harmless fun,” Kevin said.
“Well, obviously it wasn’t fun for Carlo ,” Ralph replied.
Apparently, the school called parents, because soon the station was crowded with them. Dad and Mom paid some sort of bond, and we were released. The ride home was silent. Dad had us all sit in the living room and tell him what happened.
Ralph told first about Carlo being mimicked and then about him dying from a gunshot. Then he told about Kevin. He admitted that he attacked Kevin and tried to say that I hadn’t done anything.
“That’s not so,” I said. “You couldn’t see me because I was protecting your back, but I got in a few swings too. Nobody’s gonna attack my brother unless it’s a fair fight.”
Ralph looked surprised but smiled a little and nodded silently.
The school suspended us all for a week.
Lawyers got charges on most of the kids dropped. Ralph had to go to court on the assault charge. It wasn’t like a court you see on television. Everyone sat around the table and listened to what Ralph and Kevin had to say. Kevin’s father looked at him and said, “You didn’t tell me all that yesterday. You just said that Ralph attacked you for no reason. It sounds to me like he had a reason.”
“Perhaps,” said the judge, “but that doesn’t excuse the assault.”
“Can I withdraw the charges?” Kevin’s father asked.
“No, but under the circumstances, I can minimize the punishment. And when Ralph becomes 18, if he hasn’t done anything else, he’ll have a clean record.
“Ralph,” she said, “I am fining you $100 and ordering you to take an anger management class on Saturdays.
Boredom soon set in as the week of suspension stretched before us. Teachers sent us the classwork we missed, but that was usually also boring. It was bad enough being in school. It was worse, not being there.
When Mom wasn’t home, Ralph and I immediately searched on our computers for porn. I had showed him a couple of the sites I liked, both hetero and gay ones.
On our second night in lockdown, as we called it, I was lying in bed beginning my customary jerking off when I suddenly realized that Ralph was standing by my bed, his cock very much at attention.
“I was thinking it might be fun to jerk each other off,” he said.
“I’ve got something that might be even more fun,” I replied. I climbed out of bed and face him. We were both naked and rampant. I knelt on the floor at his feet and took his cock in my hand. As I held it, I ran my tongue up its length and back down. He groaned. Then I licked the cut head, even sticking my tongue in its hole. I worked on it for several minutes as his groaning grew more intense. Then I took his cock in my mouth and plunged down to its base, so I had all of it. I nearly gagged. Slowly, moving my head, I ran my lips and tongue up and down his cock, jerking him off with my mouth.
When he came, he exploded, his cum shooting to the back of my mouth and down my throat. I kept working him as he exploded again and again. When at last he stopped, I slowly withdrew my mouth, licking up the excess cum as I did so.
“I need to sit down,” Ralph said, a little weakly. I patted the bed beside me and we sat, silently reliving what had just happened. We had both watched oral sex on our computers, but this was the first time we’d tried it.
Without saying anything, Ralph knelt before me as I sat on the bed. He took my cock in his hand and soon had me throbbing into his mouth. Damn, that felt good.
As he finished, I leaned toward him and kissed him on the mouth. He immediately pulled back, saying, “No kissing.”
“Why?” I asked.
“It’s gay,” he said.
“Aren’t blowjobs?” I asked.
“No, they’re just what guys do to relieve themselves. Girls can give blowjobs too, you know.”
As I lay in bed, trying to go to sleep, I wondered if Ralph was gay. I wondered if I was. How did guys know? Clearly neither of us was like Carlo but what did that mean? Couldn’t guys be gay but not as obvious as he was? I went to sleep with these questions still unanswered.
In the morning, neither of us said anything about the night before. We got up, took turns in the bathroom, and since we weren’t going to school, simply threw on T-shirts and old shorts, before going down to breakfast.
Dad had already left for work. Mom was sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee. She had been quite reserved with us since the episode at school. It was like she didn’t know who we were anymore. She told us that she had to go out to do some errands and to meet with an old friend for lunch.
Ralph and I nodded, made some scrambled eggs with ham, and after a silent breakfast, returned to our room. We heard Mom pull out of the driveway and head down the street.
We spent most of the morning doing schoolwork. Around noon, we went to the kitchen and made sandwiches. We sat at the table and ate but said nothing. I, for one, was thinking about what had happened the night before and continued to wonder whether either of us was gay. Or maybe we both were.
In the afternoon, we both searched out porn on our laptops. A while later, Ralph came to me, turned me to face him, and pulled off my T-shirt. I pulled off his. Our shorts were stretched out awkwardly and it was clear we were both horny. We pushed each other’s shorts down and again I knelt before him. I worked very slowly, trying to give him the maximum of pleasure. When he got close to cumming, I pulled off for a minute and let him calm down. Then I returned to his cock, building up once again the sensations in his groin.
Even though I worked slowly, it didn’t take long. He cried out, “Yes! Yes!” and once again I felt his warm cum in my throat.
Suddenly, our door opened and Mom was standing there, her mouth open in shock.
We hadn’t heard her car drive in. Due to the carpeting in the hall and on the stairs, we hadn’t heard her come upstairs. Usually, if our door was closed, she knocked before entering. This time she didn’t. Maybe it was because she heard Ralph crying out.
Instinctively, we reached for our shorts to cover ourselves. Mom didn’t say a word. She just looked at us for a moment, turned around, and closed the door as she left.
“Shit!” said Ralph.
We put our shirts and shorts back on and sat on our beds.
“What should we do?” I asked.
“What can we do,” he asked.
“Do you think she’ll tell Dad?”
“She’s your mother,” Ralph said, accusingly. “What do you think?”
“I think she will,” I said. I was right. About 15 minutes after Dad arrived home, he called us both down to the living room.
“Your mother tells me that the two of you were engaged in… um, sex this afternoon when she got home.”
It was useless to deny it. Ralph answered, “Yes, sir.”
“I thought you two hated each other.”
“We do,” I volunteered. “What we were doing has nothing to do with how we feel about each other. It was just taking care of hormonal necessities.”
“Hormonal necessities?” Dad almost laughed. “I’ve heard it called a lot of things but never that. Okay, I want you both to go up and get your laptops. Be sure that you don’t erase anything before you bring them down. Understood?”
“Yes, sir,” we replied.
As we walked up the stairs, Ralph said, “Damn. Busted!” We unplugged our laptops and carried them down to the dining room and placed them on the table.
“Fine,” said Dad. “Now go back upstairs until I call you.”
When we got to the bedroom and flopped on our beds, Ralph said, “He’ll look in our histories and see everything we’ve been watching. Damn!”
I just lay there, fearing that I might be asked to leave the house.
About an hour later, Dad called us and we went downstairs, where we found him in the dining room. He appeared to be very upset.
“How did you get on all these sites?” he asked. “They’re clearly labeled for over 18 years only.”
“We lied,” I said, and then, trying to justify ourselves, I added, “just like every other teenage boy.”
“I don’t care what other boys do,” said Dad. “I do care what you do, and I don’t like this at all. Now I’m trying to think what to do about it.”
His solution was to confiscate our laptops, making them available only for schoolwork, and checking carefully while we worked with our door open.
“This could all have been avoided if Mom had just knocked before she came into my room,” Ralph said.
Dad shook his head. “Don’t try to blame this on Mom. I agree that she should have knocked, but that has nothing to do with what you’ve been doing. I don’t want to hear any more about the two of you having sex together.”
Rather brazenly, Ralph said, “Then you’ll have to confine us in separate houses.”
“Obviously not, but I could move one of you to the basement.”
The basement was damp and moldy, and it stank. We looked at each other in horror.
“Just remember that will be my next move if I’m forced to take it.” As he began to leave, he turned and said, “Oh, and don’t even think about putting a lock of any sort on your door.”
Back in our room I asked, “What should we do?”
Ralph sighed and replied, “For now, we’ll just have to jerk ourselves off. He can’t ban that. After all, most likely he did it himself when he was our age.”
Even the bad events in our lives eventually come to an end. When our suspensions were over, we returned to school. At the same time, Dad became less watchful of us, and, exercising extreme caution, we were able to return to our sex activities. Ralph had to attend an anger management group on Saturday mornings for six weeks.
We continued trying to diss each other, and much of the time we still avoided being with each other. At school we each had our own group of friends.
One of our chores was to keep the grass mowed and the hedges trimmed. On an unusually hot day in late spring, when we were both working in the back yard, we stripped down to our shorts. As we did with shoveling the snow in the winter, we divided the yard in two and only worked on our own sides. There was only one mower, so while Ralph mowed, I raked.
Suddenly, he slammed into me from behind, knocking me to the ground. We wrestled around for a while. secretly I enjoyed the feeling of Ralph’s bare torso on my skin. I managed to get him off me and to sit on top of him. We struggled and reversed positions several times. At last, when I was on top of him, I managed to gather a large loogie in my mouth and prepared to spit it into his face.
“If that lands on my face,” he said, “I’ll kill you and throw you in the trash.”
Just then he farted. It was the loudest, longest, smelliest fart either of us had ever experienced. I began to giggle, then to laugh. I spat the loogie onto the ground by his ear and rolled off him. I lay on the ground, laughing and laughing. He joined me, and together we giggled and laughed, and yes, we both farted a few more times.
When at last we calmed down and lay on the warm grass, Ralph asked, “Max, why do you hate me?”
I hadn’t thought about the why of it for a long time. Speaking slowly, I said, “It all began on the first day of kindergarten. When you came into the room you were dressed very nicely. You even had on polished leather shoes. In your hand you had flowers for the teacher. Then during the day, you did better than I did in every activity. You colored neatly inside the lines. When we began to practice our letters, yours looked like they’d been written by a computer, while mine wobbled all over the place. It didn’t help that I was left-handed. Then when we got to choose books, I got a couple and sat at my seat, looking at the pictures. I became aware of you, sitting in the corner moving your lips and I realized you were reading. That made me so jealous. I hated you that day and I’ve hated you every day since.
“So that’s why. But why do you hate me?” I asked.
“Because every time we played a game, you were better than I was. You kicked and threw balls better I than I did. You ran faster than I did. I couldn’t find anything I could beat you at, and I got very jealous. I hated you.”
“Are you still jealous?” I asked.
He thought a moment and said, “No. Are you?”
“No,” I replied. “So why do we still hate each other?”
“Maybe it’s just habit, ”Ralph said thoughtfully. “Maybe all the hatred has been a complete waste of time when we could have been friends.”
“We need to talk,” I said, “let’s sit in the shade under the oak. We sat and began what became a game of ‘Do you remember when…’ Soon we were laughing and crying at the same time.
I looked over at the house and saw Mom and Dad standing on the back deck looking at us.
A short time later, Mom came to the tree with lemonade and cookies. Clearly, she wondered what had happened, but we didn’t tell her. We just thanked her, and she went back to Dad, shrugging her shoulders.
We finished our work and walked into the house, where Dad said, “You have half an hour to shower and change into your good clothes.”
Ralph and I looked at each other. “Even our blazers?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Dad.
“But it’s too hot for blazers,” I protested.
“Don’t worry. You’ll be in an air-conditioned car and an air-conditioned restaurant. Now go and get ready.”
We went upstairs to our room. Instead of flipping a coin to see who would shower first, Ralph suggested that we shower together. I liked that idea ─ a lot. We stripped naked and walked into the bathroom. Ralph turned on the water, and when we agreed it was the right temperature, we climbed in.
It was crowded in the shower, but of course neither of us complained. We simply enjoyed the feeling of our bodies touching. When we had washed our fronts, I suggested that we do each other’s backs. I soaped him up, giving special attention to his crack of course, and then he did me. By that time, we were so hard our cocks were dripping precum.
I took hold of his cock and he took mine. Together we began slowly masturbating each other, trying to time it so that we came at the same time. When we did, we shot cum all over each other’s stomachs. By the time we finished we were both a little weak in the knees.
We rinsed ourselves off and cooled down the water gradually until we were standing in the cold, exhilarating shower.
Ralph turned off the shower and when we stepped out, Ralph began to dry me off, so I dried him.
Back in the bedroom, we sat for a moment looking at each other. “Wow,” I said, “that was amazing.”
When we were dressed, we went downstairs and found Mom and Dad also dressed nicely.
In the car on the way to the restaurant, I asked, “Why are we doing this?” Usually we only went out like this to celebrate some family event.
“Later,” was the only answer we got.
It was a Saturday night and the restaurant was busy, but Dad had called ahead for reservations so we were quickly seated. Holly was in a highchair. Mom gave her some little snacks to eat.
Dad told us that this was going to be a full dinner, with appetizers, a main course plus salad if we wanted it, and a dessert. He warned us to pace ourselves.
Mom and Dad both had red wine, while Ralph had Coke and I had ginger ale. Ralph and I had shrimp cocktails, a special treat. The conversation was light and happy, but there was no indication of why we were there.
After the main course we all ordered baked Alaska for dessert, another special treat. When we had finished dessert, Dad said, “I should tell you why we’re here. Your mother and I both observed you talking and laughing and having a wonderful time in the yard this afternoon. We concluded that the war between you is over. Were we right?”
Ralph and I looked at each other, smiled and then nodded to Dad.
“Although,” said Ralph, “we’ll probably diss each other from time to time, because it’s fun.”
Dad smiled and said, “Well, we thought the end of the war was an important family event to be celebrated, so that’s why we’re here.”
On the way home, we talked about what had happened, omitting mention of the farting.
When we arrived, Ralph and I went upstairs to change our clothes. Dad came right behind us. When we got to the room, he closed the door and said, “Have a seat, boys.”
Ralph and I looked at each other questioningly and then looked at Dad.
“I think,” began Dad, “that I reacted a little too harshly to your sex play earlier. I was surprised by it, although as I thought later, I couldn’t think why I was surprised. Your mother was certainly both surprised and shocked. I guess her reaction played into mine. Anyway, we’ve talked about it quite a bit. We know that boys your age are extremely horny. Perhaps what surprised us was that it was the two of you, who supposedly hated each other. We’ve come to a few conclusions, and I wanted to pass them on.
“First, whatever happens in this room is and ought to be private. If that includes sexual activity, so be it. Second, we believe that for now at least such activity should only be between the two of you. No third players; no girls. That’s at least partly for your own protection. Disease can be spread very quickly and it’s not always curable. Third, when and if you get to the point of wanting sex with someone else, please tell us first. Believe me, we won’t say no; we won’t censure you; we just want to talk a little.
“How does that sound?”
“Fine,” I said. “Just so you know, there’s nobody else on the horizon for me.” Ralph agreed.
As Dad got up to leave, we both hugged him and thanked him.
When he was gone, Ralph looked at me, wiggled his eyebrows, and asked, “Shall we?”
In less than a minute, our clothes were off, jackets and trouser on the floor, and we were lying on my bed, skin to skin.
Soon, Ralph’s mouth was enclosing my hard cock, his tongue and lips stimulating the nerves and leading to an explosive shooting to the back of his throat. I reciprocated, bringing him to a climax that caused him to moan and groan and nearly cry out ecstatically.
Although each of us only had single beds, we could both fit on one if we faced one another. Relaxed and temporarily satisfied, we gently rubbed each other’s backs. Soon our lips found their targets and we were locked in a loving, tonguing embrace. It was our first mutually enjoyed kiss, and Ralph certainly didn’t object. It wasn’t long before we were both massively hard, and once again we brought each other to exhilarating climaxes.
Ralph returned to his bed and we both slept until morning.
In the days that followed, we discussed whether we were truly gay or whether we were simply taking advantage of the sex so available to us. I suggested that maybe we needed to get to know some girls before we could truly decide.
It’ wasn’t that we had avoided girls, it was just that we hadn’t really found any we liked.
At school the next day, instead of having lunch together as we often did now, we both sought out tables with girls.
“May I sit here?” I asked one of the girls at a table of seemingly accepting classmates. She smiled and nodded. Her name was Marianna Martin, which I knew because she was in my math class. We chatted comfortably and I found that I quite liked her. Unlike many girls my age, she was clearly not just chasing after a boy. When I said that to her she laughed.
“I may not be chasing but believe me I’m looking.”
“Not at me, I hope.”
“To be honest, the thought had never occurred to me. I’d be happy to have you as a friend, but you’re not boyfriend material for me.”
“How do you know that?”
“Well, of course I could change my mind, but so far I haven’t felt any vibes.”
For the next several days we sat together at lunch. Once I said, “You’re so different from many of the girls in our class.”
“In what way?” she asked.
“Well, I’d probably better not say it here. There are too many ears around.”
“Why don’t you come to my house after school? We can have more privacy there.” She saw me hesitate. “Don’t worry, I’m not propositioning you.”
I agreed to go. At the close of school, I called Mom to tell her where I’d be.
“Who is this girl? Is she someone you’re interested in?” I could hear the hopefulness in Mom’s voice.
“No, Mom, we’re just friends.”
“Well, keep your feet on the floor.”
“Mo…o…om,” I said.
“Just kidding,” she said. I could hear her laughing as we hung up.
At Marianna’s home I was introduced to her mother and then we went into the kitchen to get snacks and drinks.
After we chatted for a few minutes, she asked, “So, how am I different from other girls in our class?”
“Well, many of them only appear to care about how they look, how much skin they can get away with showing, and whether the boys are looking at them. They seem rather… shallow.”
She nodded. “I get that,” she said. “But they don’t just seem shallow, they are shallow. That’s why you don’t often see me hanging out with them.”
“The girls at our table are different. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a misogynist.”
“Oh, I understand and I agree with you.”
Then, out of the blue I said, “When we first met you said you were interested in me as a friend but not as a boyfriend. Why is that?”
“I’m sorry,” she said, “I hope I didn’t hurt your feelings.”
“Not at all,” I replied, “I’m just curious.”
“Well, I keep seeing you with the same boy, and I’m kinda wondering if you’re gay.”
We sat in silence for a minute before I said, “So am I.”
“You mean you don’t know?”
“Exactly. I guess I should explain. The boy you see me with is my brother. Well, not by blood. My mom and his dad married when Ralph and I were 14, so in some ways we’re brothers but that doesn’t seem to affect some… activities we enjoy.”
“You mean sex?”
There it was. I could feel my face was burning and I was sure it was bright red. “Yeah,” I said quietly.
“And you met me so you could find out if you liked girls or not?”
“Well, let me tell you that I thought you were gay when I first saw you. It’s nothing overt or anything, it was just this feeling I had. And then when you and your brother went after Kevin because of what he’d done to Carlo, I was pretty sure.”
“Can we still be friends?”
“I’d like that. You’re my first gay friend.”
Ralph had not had as comfortable an experience. The girl he introduced himself to quickly came onto him. By the second time they talked, she wanted to take him home to her bed. Ralph had indicated that he wasn’t interested, and she dropped him, hard.
When I reported to Ralph about my relationship with Marianna, I said, “I guess I’m gay, but why do I have to fit into a box like that? Why can’t I just be Max and do what I enjoy and what feels right to me?”
Ralph thought a moment and said, “You’re right. We don’t need to be in a box. We can just be us.”
Mom and Dad did notice, of course, that we seldom mentioned girls. Marianna visited us sometimes and Mom invited her to dinner, but it was clear to her that our relationship was more a brother-sister one than us being a boyfriend-girlfriend pair.
Marianna became my confidant, and when she fell for a boy, I became hers.
Since Ralph and I had been watching gay sex on our computers for some time, we were very aware of anal sex. Sometimes we talked about it, but we never mentioned whether we wanted to try it. That was true until one day when I said, “I suppose we’ll never know whether or not we like fucking each other’s asses unless we give it a try.”
Ralph agreed, and we flipped a coin to see who was going to buy the lubricant. I won or lost depending on how you look at it. Either way it was my duty to go to the drugstore to buy some lube.
When I entered the store, I had no idea where to look. I prowled around for a bit and then a clerk asked if he could help me. I’m sure I was beet red when I said, “Umm… can you tell me where you keep your lubricant?”
“Well, there are different lubes for different purposes. What do you want it for?”
By then I was very, very embarrassed. “Umm, well, like, well,” and then I just blurted it out, “for anal sex.”
He never batted an eye. He escorted me to a rear corner where there were both lubricants and condoms.
“Thanks,” I said, taking a tube of lube. My next embarrassing moment was taking it to the checkout counter, but again, the clerk showed no reaction. He simply rang up the purchase, I paid and then left the store, letting out an entire lungful of air I hadn’t even known I’d been holding in.
Later, when Ralph asked if I’d made the purchase I said nonchalantly, “Sure, no problem,” and produced the tube.
After supper that night we went up to our room to do our homework, but neither of us could concentrate.
“Let’s do it,” Ralph said. I agreed, and soon we were naked and rampant.
“How do you want to do this?” he asked.
“Well, why don’t you do me first, then we can reverse it.”
Soon I was on all fours on my bed with Ralph gingerly moving around my anus. He put some lube on his finger and stuck it in the hole. “Are you okay?” he asked.
“Yeah, just take it slowly.”
It wasn’t long before he had two lubed fingers in my hole, and then three. As far as we could tell, some of the pros didn’t even use lube. They just shoved their cocks into their partners’ asses, but we thought that lube was probably essential, at least at first.
Ralph told me to lie on my back and rest my feet on his shoulders. When I’d done that, he lubed up his cock and started to push it into my hole. He met some resistance but was able to work through it until he encountered more resistance. At that point he was hurting me, and I told him so. He withdrew part way for a couple of minutes and then returned to his task. The pain had subsided significantly, and at last he was able to get all the way in. He moved gently in and out.
He continued to thrust and withdraw, increasing the speed until he pushed all the way in one last time and shot his load in my ass. It was a strange feeling, having him inside me. Not unpleasant; just strange. I was so stimulated that when he climaxed I came without even touching my cock. When he finished, he withdrew and collapsed on the bed beside me, still breathing hard.
As his breathing subsided, he asked, “Do you want to try it?”
I wasn’t sure how I was feeling about what had happened. “Do you think all gay couples do that?” I asked.
“Well, I’ve certainly watched some porn where they didn’t, so I guess not all do it. Why? What are you thinking?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I’ll try it tomorrow night. Could we just do our regular stuff tonight?”
He agreed and we had a happy, heated hour of arousal and satisfaction. Finishing, we went into the shower together for our little ritual of washing and drying each other.
We did try it again the next night, with me on top. I think I hurt Ralph quite a bit, but he never said anything. That was the night we discovered the prostate gland, but we could stimulate that manually without doing anal sex.
When we finished, I said I thought it was okay, but I wasn’t really eager to try it again. We never did. We found that what we did with our hands and our mouths was much more gentle and loving than anal sex would ever be.
Since we were in our junior year of high school, Mom and Dad encouraged us to think about what we wanted to do after we graduated. Neither of us was a scholar, although Ralph had seemed so in our early years. We had no desire to go to college. We lived in a small suburb called East Westport and there weren’t a lot of jobs available. So, we considered moving to the nearby town of Westport. (Other suburbs of Westport were Westport Upper Falls and Westport Lower Falls. There was a river to the west of the town which precluded there being a West Westport.) I thought I might like to do something in the food service business, perhaps eventually owning my own restaurant. Ralph thought he might be interested in landscaping. We talked to people who ran businesses in our chosen fields, and they were very encouraging, saying that they never could get enough good help.
By the time we graduated, we had jobs lined up. I was working in the restaurant where we had gone for celebrations, while Ralph was working in a landscaping company which did much more than simply mow lawns and gather leaves.
While our jobs were close enough to home that we could easily commute to them, we began to think about renting a place in town and living on our own. That certainly wasn’t because we wanted to get away from Mom and Dad, or Holly for that matter, it was simply a desire to be more independent.
We told Mom and Dad our plans at Christmas time, and I think they had both seen this coming. At first they were concerned about whether or not our relationship would last, but we convinced them that there was only one way to find out.
Dad helped us figure out how much we could spend without going broke, and we began to look for a place to rent.
It took us a while to find just the right place, but in the spring we found a nice-sized two-bedroom, clean apartment on the second floor of a triple decker. It was on a quiet side street, where the mature trees overhung the road in a green canopy. Most of the other houses on the street were single-family, and we observed that there were young families with small children and the seemingly mandatory dogs.
We set about furnishing our new home with used furniture. Our first and of course most important purchase was a king-sized bed which we called ‘the playing field’. A table and chairs came next. The extra bedroom was furnished as a workroom with our laptops and desks. We found a comfortable sofa and two upholstered chairs, as well as a TV and bookshelves.
Our lease permitted us to have a dog if it didn’t disturb the other residents of the house.
We got a small rescue mutt of indeterminate parentage, named her Sophia, and began to walk her around the neighborhood. She was a friendly dog with both people and other dogs, and she became our link to meeting the neighbors.
The neighbors soon caught on to the fact that we were living together, and perhaps some of them wondered what went on behind the walls of our apartment. On the other hand, we introduced ourselves as brothers so maybe they didn’t.
Our first night in our own place was special. I had the night off, so we celebrated at my restaurant. My boss gave us a special price and free desserts. Back at the apartment, we spent a long, loving evening, never rushing, but climaxing three or four times before we fell asleep.
In the morning I awoke with Ralph spooned behind me. I rolled over and kissed him on the lips. His eyes opened in surprise but then his wonderful smile spread across his face.
He reached down and gently took my cock, which was already hard and waiting. Slowly, his hand moved up and down on my organ of joy , but for a long time he stopped short of bringing me to a climax.
“Oh God!” I exclaimed at last. “Don’t stop now.” He pumped a little more rapidly and suddenly the tension burst out of me as I cried out in ecstasy.
When he finished, I lay back on the bed breathing hard for a time before turning to him with a big grin. “How could we ever have been enemies?” I asked.
He laughed uncontrollably for a bit before saying between giggles, “I don’t know. Think what a loss it would have been if we’d stayed that way.”
I nodded, adding, “I guess those we hate we can also learn to love.”
From that morning on, we never looked back. When we turned 50 our love was as great as it was when we were 18. Our lives were rich in love.
I did in time start my own restaurant while Ralph began his own landscaping company.
When we were financially able to, we purchased a small ranch house, which was plenty big for the two of us.
In her time, Sophia passed away. We realized we both missed having a dog, so we found a new one, a rescue dog which was at least partly basset hound. Sophia II filled our lives with slobbery love. She insisted on sleeping on our bed, but the playing field was certainly big enough for all three of us. Although we were firm about where she could lie, we often awoke in the morning to find her happily snoring between us.
Sophia ll was followed by three more dogs, all Sophias.
Ralph and I grew old together. When we were in our seventies, Ralph had a heart attack. At first I was afraid I would lose him, but he rallied, and after surgery and physical therapy, we were told that he was good for another 100,000 miles.
As I finish writing, Ralph and Sophia V are ensconced on the living room sofa, watching an Olympics broadcast.
Our parents’ fear that our relationship wouldn’t last never came true. They were certainly supportive once they overcame their initial doubts.
Although we began our relationship hating each other, we had many, many good memories of life and love together.
A note from the author
I would like to thank my editors for their help and encouragement. In addition, as always I thank Mike for maintaining the site, and I encourage readers to contribute for its maintenance.
Title photo by Renate Vanaga on Unsplash