They turned their poetry reports in on Monday, and Thursday and Friday were finals, and then Spring Break. Both boys had studied hard through the quarter, notwithstanding their extra-curricular activities, and were confident about their final exams. Wednesday their English lit teacher handed back the graded poetry reports at the end of a class which was review for the final exam.
There was no GSA that week, and they were ecstatic on the drive home because they’d both gotten A’s on their reports, and felt that was a good omen for the pending finals. David was thrilled to learn about their grades and that their conversation about religion and metaphor had helped them both in analyzing the poems and poets they’d chosen.
They were done with class on Friday afternoon in plenty of time to pick up Michael at the train station, and were back home in the early evening after dropping Roger off at his house. David said they were having dinner in on Friday and would go out to celebrate on Saturday.
“Celebrate? You don’t even know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” Michael softly said.
Jackson grinned at him. “Have you forgotten from when you were here last time, it’s all about thinking positive thoughts. That’s what we’re all doing, and so our operating assumption is that we’ll have something else to celebrate tomorrow evening.”
When they went to bed, Michael happily told Jerrod that he’d be fine sleeping in the pullout bed in the study. “I’m not so scared and lonely anymore, and you guys are lovers and need to be together.”
Saturday was Jerrod’s last ski race and Jackson volunteered to run Michael up to the hospital for his scan, and then pick him up when it was complete. Jerrod had another good day, placing in slalom and winning the GS event. Matt didn’t place in GS, so other than seeing him when the team assembled before the race, and a couple of times in the line for the chair lift, there was no interaction. He wasn’t around for the medal ceremony, and Jerrod didn’t even think about it. Matt was leaving him alone and that’s all he cared about. He met up with Roger, Eric and Kim at lunch and they free skied in the afternoon. On the drive home Jerrod found himself thinking about Michael and how his scan turned out.
Roger was staying over, and when they got home, they found the crew relaxing in the kitchen. David and Jackson were sipping a glass of wine, and Michael was sitting at the table, all of them deep in conversation about life in eastern Oregon, how the Pendleton Roundup was one of the largest rodeos in the west, and Kaiser was laying under the table with his chin on Michael’s foot.
Kaiser raised his head as the boys walked in, and Roger’s first comment was, “Wow, man! You’re part of the family now. Kaiser treats you just like he treats us. You may have to join us tomorrow for dog therapy at the hospital.”
Michael smiled and nodded, “That’d be cool!”
Roger and Jerrod sat down at the table and looked at everyone. Jerrod asked, “Are we celebrating tonight? I’ve been worrying the last hour or two.”
Michael broke into a huge grin and gave them both a high five! “Clear again! Not just has my life gotten better since I’ve gotten to know all of you guys, but my health has gotten better since Kaiser became part of the program!”
“Far out! That is so cool. I was pretty certain, but just had a few nagging worries. So, you’re clear again, and good to go?”
“Yeah! Don’t need to come back for three months. And if that’s clear, then it’s six months. I think I’m on a roll.”
It was a wet and cloudy evening, but not raining, so they walked the few blocks to the Sellwood Grill. After they’d ordered Michael asked Roger and Jerrod if they’d been serious about him going to the hospital with them the next day when they did dog therapy.
Jerrod gave Roger a quick glance and saw the smile and said, “You bet. You’ve been on the receiving end, so you know the drill. We’ll just check in with the person on duty in the dog training room, and I’m betting she’ll think it’s a cool idea.
They chatted and watched various people come in and be seated. One was a family with a son that looked to be Michael’s age and a younger daughter. The boy had curly sandy-colored hair and Roger caught him looking.
“He’s cute, isn’t he?”
Michael blushed as he looked at David and Jackson. Jackson smiled at him and said, “Chill, man. In case you’ve forgotten, we’re all gay at this table. You can look all you please, with no judgment. And Roger’s right, he is cute. Maybe you should go over and introduce yourself.”
“What? No way? I’ve never met him, and I’d be totally embarrassed or whatever.”
“I know it’s hard, but it’s not as hard as it seems,” Jackson said to him. “Maybe he’ll have to go to the bathroom for a pee, and you’ll coincidentally need to do the same.” His smile widened and his eyebrows wiggled.
Michael smiled back and cast another look at the boy, who this time was looking at him, and they exchanged smiles. Later, as they finished their dinners, and just as Jackson predicted, the boy stood up, looked around to find the restroom and walked by their table.
Jackson was right on it. “Was he looking at you as he walked by?”
“Well, what are you waiting for. It looks to me like you have a full bladder too. Even if you just say Hi, it’ll be worth it.”
Michael blushed a little, but saw Roger and Jerrod grinning at him, and Roger nodding his head for him to get up and go, so he did.
It was almost five minutes later when they both walked out of the Men’s Room and back to their tables.
After he sat back down, Roger said, “Well?”
“Well, we both took a pee.”
“Okay, and then what?”
“Well, he’s a cool kid named Jonathan. His family lives in Eastmoreland, wherever that is. We said Hi, and he asked if he’d seen me before and I told him probably not since I live in Pendleton. That was about it.”
“Did you get his phone number?”
“Missed opportunity, man,” Jerrod said with a sly grin.
“Hey, it was a good deal,” Jackson added. “You both caught each other’s eye and connected even if it was brief. Just proves that it’s not so hard, right?”
Michael grinned and nodded at him. He waved at Jonathan as they left the restaurant. They watched some TV when they got home, and when the boys went to bed, Roger softly asked Michael if he’d been thinking anymore about Jonathan?
Michael started to blush and then said, “Yeah, a lot. He was cute. I wished I lived here, then maybe I could see him again.”
“Well, we can already see you’ve got a bad case of ‘cute boy on the mind,’ and you’ve got something to celebrate tonight, and we don’t want you to have to jack off by yourself and be lonely tonight. After you get ready for bed come down to our room. You’re sleeping with us.”
“Really? Why? I mean last time was magical and I never thought you want to…”
“Dude. We’re all gay boys helping each other out. Stop overthinking this. Just come down when you’re ready.”
Five minutes later, Michael quietly slipped into their room. Roger was lying in bed naked but covered from the waist down. He grinned at Michael and said, “You know the drill. Ditch the pajamas.” As soon as his T-shirt joined the pajama bottoms on the floor, he heard the door close and Jerrod slip up behind him and place his hands on his hips, then slide them forward to run over his belly and up to his pecs as he pulled him into a hug. Michael felt like his skin was tingling, more so as Jerrod’s hands ran back down his belly to play in his pubes and feel the base of his cock.”
“Wow, man! You’re already hard.”
“As soon as you started rubbing his pecs,” Roger said softly, “he went to attention. He must think you’re Jonathan.”
Michael looked at Roger, smiling, and said, ‘You guys are so fun and so easy to be with. You make me feel like being gay is the most natural thing.”
Roger grinned lasciviously and said to Jerrod, “Bring that young man over here so we can make him feel like a good-looking gay boy is supposed to feel on a Saturday night!”
Sunday morning over breakfast Michael was suddenly nervous about going along for the dog therapy session. The boys were having none of it, making clear he had more right to be there than they did, since he’d been a patient and been on the receiving end of dog therapy.
The message was reinforced when they checked into the dog therapy training room, and the trainer on duty recognized him and thought it was wonderful that he was involved even after his discharge. They all agreed they’d model it like the day when they worked with Suzanne and Rufus, namely that Kaiser and Jerrod or Roger would take the lead when they visited a patient, with Michael hanging back till he was introduced and then they’d play it out depending on each patient’s situation.
They checked in with the Nurse Manager on the Oncology floor, and she recognized Michael and welcomed him back and was overjoyed at his news of his clear follow up scan. She was equally thrilled that he was working with Team Kaiser that day. “It’s so terrific to see you involved, kind of like giving back. And you really know how much it means to the patients. You should see if you can do dog therapy work at the hospital in Pendleton.”
He said he didn’t even know if there was a dog therapy program, but would find out, and then Jerrod was handed a list of patients able to handle visits. The first visit set the pace for the day, when the girl turned out to have lymphoma too, and was excited that Michael had not only been in for the same condition but was well on the way to recovery.
They started talking while she was petting Kaiser, and Michael got her to open up. “I’ve been pretty down,” she said, “like not believing I was going to get better.”
“Hang in there, Nancy. It feels like they’ve knocked the stuffing out of you after the chemo treatments, but each one is a little less bad than the last one, and it won’t be long, and you’ll be bouncing back. Look what happened to me. I’m clear and I’ve got these two great friends now, and I’m pals with this amazing dog.”
She smiled widely and said, “He is the coolest dog.” Her eyes twinkled and she winked at Michael and said, “And these guys are okay too!”
They saw three more patients on the Oncology floor before heading to the pavilion to take a break, and then after lunch went up to the Ortho floor. The second patient on their list had had surgery two days before and was recovered enough for a therapy visit. When they walked in Roger took the lead. On the bed was a young man with a body cast that started at his chest, went down to his groin where it became a cast down one leg to below the knee. He was immobile, had the covers over his groin, and silently watched them walk into the room.
“Hi, Nathaniel, I’m Roger and this is Kaiser. We’re your dog therapy team. I heard a rumor from the nurses that you like dogs.”
Nathaniel looked just a touch wary, but as he realized that the visit was friendly, a wan smile broke out on his face and he said, “Yeah, I like dogs okay. We don’t have one at home, but I like dogs.”
“Do you want to meet Kaiser, ‘cause he’s already told me that he wants to get to know you.”
“What? Has he read my chart? How’s he know anything about me?”
“Easy. He’s a special therapy dog. See, most therapy dogs work with one person, but Kaiser’s so great he needs three. That’s Jerrod, my dog therapy partner, and our friend Michael, back there. Michael used to be a patient here. Can they come in?”
Nathaniel had nodded as he started petting Kaiser’s head. “Wow! He has real soft ears.”
Roger softly gave Kaiser a Stay command so he wouldn’t get too excited, and watched as Kaiser started licking Nathaniel’s hand. In a few seconds it was a match to see who would win, the boy trying to pet the dog, or the dog trying to lick his hand. Nathaniel was into it, letting Kaiser lick a little bit, then zipping his hand around the back of his head to tickle behind an ear, ending up by sliding his hand down the side of Kaiser’s face so it could start again.
“See, I told you he wanted to get to know you.”
Jerrod and Michael had joined Roger and Kaiser at Nathaniel’s bedside. “The nurse told us you had surgery on Friday,” Jerrod said. “How are you doing today? Much pain?”
Nathaniel winced, mainly from having to come back from the temporary pleasure of playing with Kaiser and said, “Some, but only if I move. Not that I can move much with this monster cast. I’m on pain meds so it’s not so bad. I’m kind of used to this shit.”
“That is a monster cast. What do you mean ‘used to this shit?’ You haven’t had one like that before have you?”
“No, not one of these, but last year I had to wear a cast on both legs with a crossbar to keep my legs apart. That was for six weeks, and I’ll have to wear this one for at least six weeks, maybe eight. But with this one at least I’ll be able to use a walker and then crutches and walk.”
“Wow! That cast with the crossbar sounds like torture, man,” Michael said. “What was the surgery you had?”
“A kind of hip surgery when they cut the head off the femur and reattached it in a new position and then they screwed my leg into my hip so the femur will regrow properly.”
“Are you kidding me? That makes cancer seems like a cake walk. I was in for lymphoma, but at least I didn’t have to go through that kind of stuff.”
“Are you clear?”
Michael nodded. “Yeah, I had my follow up scan yesterday and I’m clear. These guys and Kaiser were my therapy dog team and now we’re friends. I’m from Pendleton and staying with them for the weekend for the scan and stuff, and they made me come along for their dog therapy work today. Kinda cool, huh?”
“It is cool. You’re a lucky dude. I’ve been going through this shit for two years. I just hope this fixes it and I get my life back.” Nathaniel grew quiet and they could see the emotion wash across his face.
Michael automatically reached out for his hand. “Can I tell you my secret?”
Nathaniel sniffed and nodded his head.
“Therapy dogs. There was Suzanne and Rufus. They were great. Rufus is a Yellow Lab and you’ll probably meet him. Then I got Kaiser and these guys, and they said because I was getting the best therapy dogs I was going to get better. And guess what?”
He grinned and Nathaniel smiled back at him.
“So, how long are you in for?” Roger asked.
“At least four or five days. That means till Tuesday or Wednesday. Why?”
“Because we’re still in high school so only do therapy on the weekends, on Sunday. That means, you’ll be discharged before we’re back here next Sunday.”
“That’s a bummer. I like you guys. You’re the only people I’ve met that are my age and get it.”
Jerrod and Roger looked at each other, understood the meaning and grinned. Jerrod said, “Hey, Michael, what about we leave for Pendleton a little later tomorrow and come back here in the morning and visit Nathaniel before we go?”
Michael was still holding Nathaniel’s hand and looked at him, asking “Do you want us to come back in the morning?”
“Yeah, that would be really cool.”
They started talking about life and Jerrod handed Nate, as he preferred to be called, a wet washcloth and towel to wipe his hands. He settled back on the pillows and Kaiser laid down on the floor. Nate’s arm was draped over the side of the bed so his fingers could just reach the top of Kaiser’s head. He told them he was fifteen, a freshman in his first year of high school, and had played a lot of baseball before his hip problems started.
The conversation and joking around made it clear that they were all getting along well together, and Nate was totally connected with Kaiser. They kept talking and Jerrod was just beginning to think about how much time they’d spent with Nate when they heard an unpleasant voice from the doorway.
“What the fuck are you two doing here?”