That afternoon the entire camp went to the waterfront for an extended free swim. A raucous game of water polo ensued with the counselors against the campers. The counselors cleared the beach about 4:30 to give everyone a chance to get ready for the Banquet. Many of the older campers used the time to take a shower. Brian and Jason lingered in the cabin until the crowds died down, The water might be cold, but it was worth it to avoid the crowds. When the shower house cleared out, the two boys wrapped towels around their waists and carried their toiletries to the building.
The small building was empty, but it showed remnants of the previous users. The air was scented with soap and shampoo. A forgotten towel hung on a peg. Bits of soap remained in some of the metal soap dishes, and an empty shampoo bottle sat in a corner.
The two boys proceeded to soap themselves up. Jason had turned his body away from Brian. Brian noticed his body language and wondered what was behind it.
Hey, Jason, Im out of shampoo. Can I borrow some?
Sure. As Jason handed Brian the bottle, he noticed that
Jason had an erection.
The Banquet was held twice during the summer, once just before the end of each session. The meal consisted of hamburgers and fries. Years ago, they served steaks, but Bill discovered that the kids wanted foods they could pick up and not have to fuss with knives and forks. And it was a lot easier on the budget.
After the meal, the dishes were cleared away and the campers and counselors faced the north wall of the dining hall. The microphone was plugged in and the amplifier was switched on. Some campers shifted their seats so they had a better view of the stage area or to sit with friends or favorite counselors. Often many counselors had favorite campers in cabins other than their own. It was a lot easier to like a kid you didnt have to order around all the time and who didnt try your patience constantly. Brian, of course, was an exception.
Tommy was one of the campers who moved and he sought out Brian. They hadnt had a chance to talk or see each other all day. Tommy passed up an empty chair near Brian to sit in his lap. Tommys bright red hair was still damp, but combed neatly into place.
You smell good, he whispered into his ear. Are you wearing cologne?
Dane let me use some of his. Like it?
Bill began by making a short speech. He said there would be a lot of awards. And there were: Best Counselor-In-Training, Best Swimmer, Soccer Player, Baseball, Basketball and Olympic Champion. Each counselor gave out awards in the area that they taught: Sailing, Campcraft, Archery and Indian Lore, and others. Brian hadnt been expecting to win the Nature award, and he didnt. Dane awarded the plaque to Tyrone, an Indian camper. The ceremony also recognized the cooks, maintenance men and the laundry staff.
No one made a remark to Brian and Tommy, although Mike kept flashing them unfathomable looks. While the weight of the younger boy didnt bother Brian, the warmth of this body did. It was a sticky night, and Brian was perspiring. But Tommy ignored his suggestions to sit in a nearby empty chair, and Brian was secretly glad he did.
Bill announced the last three awards: Best Athlete, Most Improved Camper, and Best Camper. The entire camp applauded its agreement with the selections of Best Athlete and Most improved Camper. But the shock came next.
Best Camper for Session One at Camp Homewood goes to, Bill paused for added drama, Brian Kowalski!
For a second, Brian was so stunned, he didnt move. Tommy leapt out of his lap and yanked on his arm. Its you, Brian! Go, go, go!
Brian floated to the stage area. Bill was holding out his right hand to him. Instead of shaking his hand, he hugged the camp director. Bill gave him a plaque with his name engraved on it. He faced the camp, still surprised and stunned, and they extended their applause for him. Perhaps they knew he really had nothing to say. He managed a smile, and mouthed Thank You, although no sound came out. He floated back to his seat.
The campers and counselors closed the ceremony with the Camp Homewood song. Tommy stood in front of Brian and Brian wrapped his left arm around him. Mike stood to his right, and had draped his arm around Brians shoulders. Brian reciprocated by placing his arm around Mikes shoulders.
Brian had held himself together during the whole ceremony, even after he won the award. The camp song brought a lump to his throat. He was close to crying, but he hardened himself. A stray tear found its way down his cheek when he listened to Tattoo. Chris, the music counselor, was playing the tune on the end of the dock, and the melody from his trumpet echoed across the water. Tommy turned around and hugged Brian, and he could smell the younger boys cologne-on-loan.
Outside, the bus that was to take them back to the main campus
arrived. The driver would eat a late meal and shower before spending the night and
preparing for an early morning departure the next day.
Even in late July, northern Wisconsin mornings could be chilly. So it was this Thursday morning at 6 AM when the returning campers were aroused. Brian took a shower and shivered in the chilly shower house. Tip had also awakened at the early hour. He wanted to make sure his only camper who was leaving this Changeover Day would make the bus on time. Tip wasnt anxious to see Brian go. Just the opposite; Brian was one of the favorite kids he had worked with in all his years as a counselor. He joined the others for an early breakfast in the dining hall. He was just starting to wake up.
His duffel bag was loaded into the bus while they ate.
It was a short walk from the dining hall to the parking area where the bus awaited. Brian and the fourteen other campers were followed by an assortment of other campers and staff who had gotten up early especially to see the departing kids off. Bill hugged Brian first. Bill had seen countless campers come and go, but he knew this boy was special. He allowed his hug to speak his farewell.
Tip hugged Brian next. Good bye, my friend. Take care. It was about this time Brian began to weep.
Dane hugged him next. Be happy, love. Then he added in a whisper in his ear, Youre going to make some lucky man very happy someday. He was grinning when they parted, but his eyes glistened with emotion.
Someone handed him a piece of the rough, commercial paper towel that was placed in the bathrooms around camp. He wiped his face. Then Mike approached. Brian hadnt seen him at breakfast, and hadnt seen him with the crowd who walked to the bus.
He engulfed the taller camper and was sobbing. I dont want you to go.
I want to stay, too, Brian cried.
I love you, Brian. Write to me.
They parted. Brians sobs had subsided by this time. He felt cried out. The bus driver, anxious to get back to Chicago, called them to board the bus. Brian was the last to board the bus. Just before he did, Tommy ran up to the door of the bus carrying a piece of art paper.
Brian, heres a picture I painted you.
Brian turned around, and hugged the redhead. I think Ill miss you most of all.
Brian started to cry again. Tommy patted him. Dont be sad. Ill see you at the end of camp. Your foster dad has to go to St. Lukes to pick up Prints, right? Ill make sure Prints gets to you OK. Ill take care of him for you.
Come on, son, the bus driver said. Time to leave.
Brian plopped in a seat by himself and stretched his legs over the seat adjacent to his. He wanted the window seat, and he didnt want to talk to anyone. He wanted to be alone with his feelings. He watched the campers and counselors wave goodbye as the bus pulled out. He twisted his head and continued to watch as Camp Homewood passed out of sight. When they passed the front gate, and the last sign of Camp Homewood, he remembered he hadnt even looked at Tommys painting.
It was a very fitting painting. The painting was cute; only a child could have made so charming a picture. It was a symbol of the thing that had first brought them together. It was a picture of Prints.
Although Brian was certainly a self-aware boy, it would be years until he fully appreciated all the benefits of going to camp. He didnt view TV or play a video game in an entire month, and in this media-obsessed society that was an accomplishment itself. It caused him and his friends to create their own entertainment. He had been brought closer to the earth and nature. Every person at camp was more dependent on the rhythms of night and day, sun and rain. Most importantly, he made friends on his own. Not that he wasnt good at making friends to begin with. But he now could make friends with people of different ages, like Tip and Dane and Tommy, and even with nongay people like Jason. Camp taught Brian that he was responsible for his own relationships. It had given him freedom, and the freedom had taught him that he had control.
At the appointed hour of 6 PM, Matt was waiting for the bus from camp to arrive. A half hour passed and some of the other adults began to get restless. Matt sat on the steps of the Administration Building.
Debbie McIlvain spotted him and waved cheerfully. She sat on the step next to him.
The latest report is that one kid got lost when they stopped for lunch. Theyre estimating arrival at 7:30.
Great, Matt said flatly.
Debbie shrugged. Nothing ever happens when its supposed to around here. So youre taking Brian for the weekend?
Yeah, I have the weekend off. The week after next, Im taking him to a cabin in Michigan.
That should be fun.
Another woman approached. She had short, curly brown hair and shiny blue eyes. She wore makeup, a white cotton blouse over a neat pair of jeans. Matt recognized immediately that his gaydar was sending an alert.
Debbie introduced them. Have you met Mary Harrison? Shes a caseworker for the younger kids.
Hi, she smiled as she shook Matts hand. Ive heard a lot about you.
Well, I hope we can be friends, anyway, Matt quipped.
Both women laughed.
I understand youre fostering Brian Kowalski.
Yes, I am. I just finished the classes and the license is on its way.
I work with the elementary boys, but Brian is special. Ive sort of taken an interest in him. Ill bet you have, Matt thought. How is he doing?
Hes great. A terrific kid. Very low maintenance. Funny, considerate, intelligent, mature for his age, and he dusts very well.
Debbie and Mary laughed again.
What are your plans?
Im not sure. I havent finished the ten weekends yet.
Mary waved a hand. Since youre taking him for a week, we can commute your sentence, so to speak. The reason Im asking is because we like to place kids in homes at natural starting points. The beginning of the summer, or the beginning of the school year, for example. It makes the transition easier.
That makes sense, Matt agreed.
Will you be ready to take him full time in August?
Excuse me, Debbie said. Ill think Ill wait in the cottage. These steps are getting uncomfortable. Nice to see you again, Matt. The steps were a bit comfortable, true, but that wasnt the only reason Debbie excused herself from the conversation. Like Tip at Camp Homewood, she wasnt exactly looking forword to losing her favorite student, even though it was to a person she liked as much as Matt.
He said goodbye to Debbie. Once she left, Matt responded to Marys question. Im ready to take him, I think.
Great, because I know he likes you a great deal, and I want to see this work out for him. We have, shall we say, a bond because we have something in common.
Matt understood both what she was saying and what she was implying. Matt instinctively knew he could trust her.
I have only one problem, Mary.
Im seeing someone.
Why is that a problem?
I thought it might be with some people here.
Mary shook her head. No, Matt. As Im sure Bill has told you, part of the reason he was placed with you is so he can develop a positive attitude about himself. No one expects you to remain single and celibate just because youre a foster parent. Im sure you know, though, that you still have to set a good example.
Ill keep the orgies to a minimum. Once a month, max.
How long have you been seeing....your friend? Effortlessly and almost unconsciously, they both had shifted into Gayspeak. They excluded gender-specific pronouns and therefore anyone who was listening was unlikely to be alarmed.
About six months.
Any chance of moving in?
Yes. Id like that to happen.
Then, its all good. Its important that Brian see a stable, loving relationship. How do they get along?
They havent met, yet. But I think they will do OK together.
Good, I think.... Mary was interrupted by the arrival of the bus. They both stood up.
Dont worry about it, Matt, she said in a low tone. You have enough experience with kids to know what is appropriate and what isnt. Were all pulling for you. And for Brian.
Matt and Mary moved closer to the bus under a large maple tree. They scanned the faces as they exited the bus. Some high school students opened and began unloading the baggage compartment. Brian was one of the last boys to exit the bus. He paused briefly on the steps and scanned the area. When he spotted Matt, he hopped off the bus, pushed a few boys aside, and ran toward the man. He jumped on Matt wrapping his arms around his neck and his legs around his waist, as Deborah Winger did to Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment.
Whoa! Matt said, almost losing his balance. He returned the tight embrace, spun the boy around just once. Matt observed at how right the embrace felt. We belong together, Matt thought.
They were both smiling, clearly glad to be in each others company again.
I missed you, Matt.
I missed you, too.
They gathered Brian's belongings and put them in the trunk of the Saturn.
Almost immediately, he started chattering on about camp, the activities, the counselors, the friends hed made. From his own past experience as a camper and a counselor, he knew the boy would be hungry and tired. Earlier, he had entertained the idea of going to a restaurant, but dismissed it.
Once in Park Forest, Matt pulled the duffel bag out of the trunk. Leah was sitting on her porch.
Hi Leah! He called out. This is Brian. Brian walked to her porch and shook her hand. Once again Matt was impressed by his manners.
Should I take the duffel bag into the house?
Sure, Matt handed him the keys, and pointed out which one opened the back door. Put it in the basement. Im sure everything in there needs to be washed. Brian was pleased Matt trusted him enough to just hand over his keys.
And come back to visit, Leah called after him.
Leah poured tall glasses of iced tea for the three of them. Matt sat in the other chair.
When Brian returned, he sat on Matts knees, casually and matter-of-factly as if he had done it a hundred times before. Matt grinned from ear to ear.
Matts been telling me all about you, Brian. Im glad we finally have a chance to meet.
Thanks, me too.
Did you have a good time in Wisconsin?
It was fun. He launched into another description, some of which Matt had heard in the car on the way over and some of which was new. Matt wondered how much more he was likely to hear. Some things adolescents simply keep to themselves, no matter how much they trust the adults in their lives. As Brian spoke, Matt gently rubbed the boys back. The two adults listened indulgently.
When Brian paused in his monologue, Matt interjected, Lets get you something to eat. He glanced at his watch. Tim should be here any minute.
Brian thanked Leah again. Matt fixed Brian a hamburger and macaroni and cheese. The boy wolfed down an incredible amount of food in a very short time.
They both moved into the living room to watch some TV. Matt sat at the end of the couch. Brian was going to lay down and put his head in Matts lap.
Stop, Matt ordered. Take off your shoes, first.
As he untied his shoes, Brian said, I made you a coffee mug in ceramics.
I cant wait to see it. Is it in your duffel?
Yeah. I wrapped a T-shirt around it so it wouldnt break. Tommy made me a picture.
That was nice of Tommy. When we go to Target to have your film developed, we can pick up a frame for it. You can hang it in your room.
Along with my plaque for Best Camper.
What? You won Best Camper?
Matt hugged him tightly. Im so proud of you, he told the boy sincerely.
Brian reclined on the couch, and put his head in Matts lap. Matt gently ran his fingers through his silken hair.
He had an optometrist's appointment to get new contacts. He should be done by now, though.
Just then, they both heard the back door open.
Hello? they both heard Tims deep voice call.
Were in here.
Tim strode over to Matts side of the couch and smooched him loudly. Very loudly. Matt wondered if he had turned up the volume for Brians benefit.
Brians eyes almost fell out of his head. Matt was handsome, but Tim was hot. And he had never seen two adult men kiss each other on the lips before.
Hi, babe. Let me see your eyes. Sexy. You got green tinted contacts? They look great! How do they feel?
Not nearly as bad as I thought. I can get used to this.
Can I have a kiss, too? Brian asked timidly.
Matt was about to discover yet another of Tims talents. He had a way with kids; a natural talent for saying the right thing at the right time. It was going to be very useful to both of them in the future. And it would be useful to Tim professionally, as well.
Tim smiled at the boy. Im sorry, honey. I never kiss on the first date. Would you settle for a hug?
Brian settled for a hug.
With his head still in Matts lap, Brian dozed off soon afterwards. It had been a long day. Matt still continued to stroke Brians hair. Tim and Matt talked while he slept.
Hes a pretty quiet kid, isnt he?
Hes tired. Hell open up once he gets to know you. Matt paused. How much did the contacts set you back?
Tim told him. Matt shook his head at the price. Are you paying for them yourself? Doesnt your dad provide an optical plan?
Hell, I barely have a medical plan. Its really expensive, and it barely covers anything.
Matt pondered a moment. You know, my plan covers domestic partners. Even of the same sex. It was true. Although Matts salary was on the low end for retail, the company he worked for provided lots of benefits. The company was slightly ahead of its time in this aspect. Perhaps it was a tacit admission that a lot of its employees were gay.
How long do you have to live together?
Six months, Matt answered.
Tim grinned at Matt. Well? Tim moved off the couch and knelt on the floor in front of Matt.
Well, what? Matt grinned back.
Are you ready for me to move in?
There it was. The big question. His last internal arguments were dissolving like sugar in coffee. He could no longer use Brian as an excuse. Mary Harrison had reassured him that singledom was neither requested nor desired of foster parents. Matt had tried to use Tims family as an excuse. But Tim had reconciled with them, and he could go back anytime. And memories of Andy were fading fast, along with the pain Matt associated with him.
Tim leaned over the sleeping youth and kissed Matt again. He put a hand on the boys shoulder; gently so as not to awaken him.
What about Brian? Tim asked. Doesnt he deserve to have two adults in his life who care about him? Doesnt he deserve it after all hes been though? And dont you deserve it?
Matt gazed into Tims eyes. God, those contacts look good.
Dont change the subject, Matt.
Let me think about it.
Brian responded sleepily. Think about what, Matt? The two adults were kissing again. You two are always sucking face.
Time for bed. Come on, big boy, Matt patted his chest.
Would you carry me?
Sorry, kiddo, my back wont take it.
Will you come up to say goodnight?
Yeah. Ill be up in a minute.
Brian very slowly trudged up the stairs. Matt took the opportunity to kiss Tim again. He forced his tongue into Tims mouth.
I dont know if I can keep my hands off you.
Tim grinned. Me neither.
Do I have to sleep in the other bedroom?
Matt sighed. I think it would be best. For tonight, at least. And it will give me time to think. Now, Id better go say goodnight.
Brian had left the door open. Matt recalled that he never did when he was Brians age. He was always masturbating.
Good night, hon. Matt bent over and kissed Brians forehead. Brian reached up and grabbed Matt around the neck. Matt sat on the edge of the bed lest be be strangled. Brian released his hold.
Do you think I could have some friends from St. Lukes over?
Id have to be added to their Visitors List. That could be a hassle. But, Matt added quickly, Ill see what I can do. Good night.
As Matt was leaving the room, Brian said to him, I love you, Matt.
I love you, too, Brian.
Less than an hour later, Tim padded down the darkened hall to the master bedroom wearing white socks and a pair of white boxer briefs. He needed Matt and he was horny.
Tim, go back to your bed, Matt reprimanded him, once he awoke.
I need you, Matt. I cant sleep. Tim said between kisses.
Is the door shut?
They tried to keep their lovemaking quiet, but the bed hitting the wall awoke Brian. The boy immediately knew what was going on. He could hear an occasional moan and even a giggle or two. Brian was as hard as a rock.
There was only one solution. He masturbated himself to the rhythm of the bed as it bumped the wall. In his minds eye, he pictured what they were doing together.
Brian ejactulated long before Tim and Matt were done, and then fell into a deep sleep.
When they had finished, Tim also fell asleep quickly.
Only Matt remained awake much longer, pondering Tims request.