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Sunday, July 03, 2011

Book One - Chapter 9

Chapter Nine

What he turned out to be was the most favorite tenant they’d ever had. They and all their friends adopted him, almost like a pet, and they adored the pet of their pet too, the playful puppy, Hawk.
            “It’s like having a sensuously silky black Persian kitten show up on your doorstep. He doesn’t really provide any useful function except that he just makes you want to smile when you see him stalking across the yard or sunning himself at the pool,” said Vic.
            “Yes, and you can hardly resist the urge to reach out and stroke him.” Chas agreed.
            It was almost a relief that he was straight because there were no jealousies or hurt feelings to contend with as there most likely would have been had there been competition for his attention among their guests. Not that everyone didn’t seek his attention. They vied for that devastating smile to shine their way but without the sexual element, there was nothing hurtful in it.
            So they babied him and pampered him and spoiled him, sharing their food with him (they were both wonderful cooks, he’d never eaten so well), showing him off at their parties (which he usually joined for a while but left before things started getting more, well, seriously gay), taking Hawk for walks during the day while he was gone.  He told them to come in the house to get Hawk or water the plants or whatever whenever they wanted. Private as he was, for some reason, it didn’t seem invasive when they entered his space. They had thought they’d clean the house for him but discovered, it never needed cleaning. He was a perfect housekeeper himself. No dish was ever undone, no bed ever unmade, no pillow ever out of place.
He came over and watched the ballgames with them in the high ceilinged Victorian living room with its plush rugs and carved wood fireplace and tall windows with velvet draperies and the round tower room at one end.  Mostly stretched out on the floor with his head resting against a big pillow, Hawk’s head on one brown leg.

            They were definitely curious about his personal life and peered through the bay window in the French county kitchen to see who he was bringing home with him tonight. Sometimes he paused in the light of the floodlight in the yard and gave them an ironic salute before he escorted his company into the carriage house door.
            Chas watched the parade of blondes, redheads and brunettes and said, “and they accuse us of being promiscuous.”
            They were open about their nibbiness but he didn’t seem to resent it.
            “Rafe, Darling, do you ever sleep with the same one twice?”
            “Hardly ever. Life is less complicated that way. Go out with them twice and the next thing you know, they have expectations I don’t want to have to deal with.”
            “We couldn’t help but notice that you had two girls with you the other evening, Rafe.”
            “Best friends,” he explained, “they like doing things together.”
            “That was a beautiful African-American girl you were with last night, Rafe.”
            “Do you guys have a bell that rings when I come through the garage door so you know to race over to your windows?” he asked, grinning.
            “No, we just keep one eye out for your return when you’re not here. Do you mind?”
            “No,” he smiled in amusement. “I don’t care. It’s almost like having Mom and Dad waiting up until I get home, which incidentally, my own parents never did.”
            One thing about the carriage house – “You guys have taught me something.”
            “What’s that, Rafe?”
            “I never knew how much women love mirrors. Sometimes, when they’re going down on me, they glance over at the mirrors in the bedroom and get so caught up in admiring themselves with my cock in their mouth, they lose their train of thought and I have to remind them to keep going. If I ever buy my own house, I’ll probably have a mirrored wall.”
            “We’re so glad we can be of assistance, Rafe Darling,” Vic said dryly.

            Sometimes, their friends developed mad crushes on him. They watched to see if he needed their help in extricating himself but he never took offense and wielded his rejections with kind courtesy, using them as his shield.
            “I’m wildly attracted to you, Rafe. Just let me give you a blow job. I know I could make you so happy.”
            “I can’t do that, Blake. I promised Vic and Chas I wouldn’t get involved with any of their guests. They have sort of a non-fraternization policy and I respect them too to let them down but if I was going to do that, Blake, you’d probably be the one.”
            “I would, Rafe?”
            “Yes, but it’s not going to happen so…..”
            “Have you ever been tempted, Rafe, even a little bit, by a man?”
            “You know, Vic, I guess I’ve never given it any thought. It’s not that I’d have any moral compunction against it. If, say, I was in prison and there were no women, I wouldn’t go without sex. I’d probably be the first one to tag myself a partner. I imagine one mouth on your dick feels pretty much like another. It’s just the girls have always been so available, I never had to think any farther than that.”
            “Yes,” said Chas in his wry manner, “I suppose when you’ve taken it upon yourself to single-handedly fuck one entire half of the sexual universe, you don’t really need any more options.”

            They faithfully read the Princeton Weekly Bulletin on-line for news about him. Then they started going to his games, jumping up and screaming, “run, Rafe, run” when he got a hit. When he drove one home, he always looked up and gave them a victorious thumbs up as he jogged back to the dugout.

            “We read in the newspaper that grades have been handed out. You’re doing okay with your grades, aren’t you, Rafe Darling?”
            “You’re asking me about my grades, Vic?” he asked incredulously. “Am I going to have to start bringing you my report card next?”
            “Well, no, of course not….not unless you just want to.”
            “I don’t want to, Vic, but if you’re really that curious, you can look them up on the internet. My user name is rvincennes; my password is raven103.”

            “Straight A’s!” he told Chas proudly that night. “A’s as far as the eye can see!”
            “Do you think we’re starting to know what it feels like to have a son, Vic?”

            “Hi, Ren.”
            “Hey, Gil, how’s it going in lovely New Jersey?”
            “One more year after this one, Renny, and we’ll be lazing on the sunny beaches of coastal Alabama.”
            “I’m don’t blame you for being impatient to go. You’ve got a wonderful place there.”
            “And what about you and Maggie? Did you find anything in Florida?”
            “No, Maggie fell in love with a place in Fort Lauderdale but, you know, Gil, it’s me that has to deal with property managers and being concerned with whether it’s going to be blown away in a hurricane. I’m trying to pare down my responsibilities, not take on more. She was sort of disappointed but I told her, I’d buy it for her and put it in her name, give her a checkbook and an allowance to take care of it and turn all the decisions over to her and if she wanted it under those conditions, fine.” He chuckled. “She decided against it.”
            “Whew, more power to you, Ren. I don’t think I could get away with handling Cindy that way. But anyway, to the main reason for my call, I think you made the right move letting Rafe live off campus. He actually seems happy this year.”
“Good, I thought getting him out of the dorm would help.”
“Yeah, it seems like Rafe’s Riders has ended. Don’t hear anymore about it. I think that was more about relieving stress than the women themselves. I suppose he just takes them home now. It’s too late for Helene Barnes though. She came to me and said she was leaving Women’s Studies, that she’d just lost the heart for it. I’d love to know what happened between her and Rafe but I don’t suppose I ever will.”
“I’m still willing to sound him out about it if you want me to, Gil.”
“Yeah, why don’t you? I know I said not to at first but I’m just damned curious to know the story. Don’t browbeat him though, just see if you can find a way to bring it up and feel him out. Everything else with Rafe is the same. Grades –A’s, baseball stats – great. Far as I can tell, he drops into Ivy and eats now and then when he’s on campus all day but mostly, he’s a commuter. Does what he has to do here and leaves.”
            “Okay, I appreciate the call, Gil, and I’ll see if I can do a little interrogation for you.
“All right, talk to you later, Ren.”

Dear Rafe – Haven’t heard from you. Is everything okay at your end? How are you getting along with your landlords? Do you like it there? I’m dating again but I decided to play the field a little this year and not get hooked up with just one person. Well, I suppose I would if I really liked someone a lot like I did Cal but I haven’t been with anyone else I felt that way about. I think I’ve been doing some good stuff for the Scribe. I’d like to be Editor next year. I talked Mom into letting me get a puppy for IN THE HOUSE, can you believe it? She said she’d approve it since I was the last kid left. She said she never would let anyone else because she couldn’t let just one do it or she would have had 6 or 7 dogs running around underfoot. Maybe she just feels sorry for me because I’m alone so much. Anyway, I’m going to get a Yorkshire Terrier. Misty’s little dog had a litter of pups and they’ll be weaned next week so I’m going to go choose one. I love you, Rafe.

Hi Lane – You’ll love having a dog with you all the time. I hated always having to put Raven out in the kennel but it’s great to have Hawk right in the house. I don’t let him sleep on the bed though. I will NOT sleep with a dog! This is the best place. I sure lucked into something good. Vic and Chas are terrific. They poke their nose into every bit of my business but for some reason, it doesn’t bother me like it would if it was anyone else. I think they would adopt me if they could. They even come to my games! School is so much more relaxing since I’m here. That’s really good about your writing. Hey, Honey, are you sure you’re all right with this dating stuff? I’m getting kind of a bad vibe. Talk to me.  I love you too.

Hi Rafe – Well, I got my little girl and she is the most adorable thing in the world. I named her Shasta. I keep her in her crate beside my bed, at least until she’s potty-trained. Mom and Dad left for Spain so it helps a lot to have something else alive in the house. I got named the Queen of the Harvest Ball. That’s nice, I guess, only being the 4th Vincennes girl to get it, it’s more like it’s expected than anything else. I’m going to the dance with Brad Andrews. He was named King and since he doesn’t have a steady girlfriend either, we figured we might as well hook up. I can’t really explain how I feel over e-mail. It’s too complicated. I’ll just wait to talk to you when you come home at Xmas which seems like eons away but I guess it will eventually come. I’m glad you’re happy at the new place. All my love, Lane.

Lane – Things are kind of hectic right now. Stacks and stacks of assignments but if you really need me to, I’ll make a quick trip home, at least an overnight. Let me know.  I’d suggest you come here. You have your car now and it’s a fairly quick trip (even quicker the way I drive – ha!) but I don’t suppose you want to leave Shasta right now. You could bring her with you. Let me know. I’ll come if you need me. I know how you feel about being elected Queen, felt the same way about being King. Like they just give it to every Vincennes out of force of habit. Well, you’ll be the last. R

Rafe – No, that’s okay. Geez, if I was the cause of you getting a bad grade (like an A-) I’d never forgive myself! It’s nothing that can’t wait ‘til Christmas. I don’t know what you’d do anyway. I have some family news. Wyatt saved some of his men who were pinned down in Iraq and got awarded a Silver Star! Pretty neat, huh?  I don’t know all the details. I suppose we’ll hear about it when he comes home. They are going to have another baby and so are Jocey and Edgar. We just keep growing and growing but I doubt if any of our generation are going to match Mom and Dad! And, last but not least, Annecy is engaged to one of the other veterinarians at her clinic. She’s getting married next October here at St James, with an outdoor reception at the house. She wants all her sisters to be bridesmaids – even me!

Lane – Hurray for Wyatt! Now that’s impressive! Baby news is getting to be pretty old hat in our family. Nice for Annecy. I’m glad she asked you too since the two of us usually get left out. Not that I mind but I know you do. How’s the housebreaking going? Hawk was a breeze but I’ve heard small dogs are harder. Anyway, I’m lucky because Vic and Chas love Hawk and take him for walks and let him out while I’m gone. An A minus? Honor would impel me to commit hari kari! R

Lane didn’t know if she really was going to confide in Rafe when he came home and that would feel really strange because she’d always told him absolutely everything but she wasn’t sure about this. The fact was she’d gotten a little desperate and had sex with four boys since school started, trying, hoping, to discover that there was someone out there besides Rafe who could make her feel the way she wanted to feel. Because what if no one could make that happen except her brother? Where was that going to leave her? Would it mean if she ever wanted to get married and have a family, she’d finally have to settle for a man who didn’t excite her?  Or would she end up hanging around at the edges of Rafe’s life, waiting for his 20 percent? How pathetic was that? And it hadn’t worked anyway and now she felt a little sick and ashamed of what she’d done.  None of the four had come remotely close to bringing her satisfaction.  In fact, she couldn’t wait for it to be over.
She’d come home on top of the world after the trip to New Jersey. She’d talked Rafe into staying three days although the apartment business was already taken care of by then. She thought he would have preferred to just head back but he’d let her have her way.  And he was sweet and wonderful and generous the whole time and even after they got home. And then he left for school again and her good mood just crashed and she was back to trying to figure out where she was going with her life.

He came home to the gatehouse to find a large, lighted wreath, featuring red ribbons and a smiling Santa, on his front door. Inside, on the mantel, was a small tree covered with white lights, gold bows with trailing streamers and gold and silver bulbs. Lying beside it was a small package, also wrapped in gold with a tiny gold bow on top. It was laying on top of a card with his name on it. A second package was larger and had a tag that said, “for Hawk”.
He grabbed up the packages and told the puppy who was impatiently waiting to go out, “we’d better take these over so they can see us open them, don’t you think?”
He didn’t even knock at the door anymore, just opened it and called out, “you guys home?”
“In the living room, Rafe, come on in.”
He opened Hawk’s gift first – an intricately handtooled leather collar with his name on a silver nameplate.”
“I’m glad you did this,” Rafe told them. “I’ve just been using Raven’s old collar but I think he deserves one of his own.”
Then his present, which turned out to be a small gold bullion bar, smaller but a little thicker than a credit card, rounded on the corners, with the words engraved in tiny letters, “love and luck”.
“It’s a good luck piece, Rafe, to keep you safe. We both held it and infused our love into it.” Vic explained.
“And it’s a little thing so it’s convenient to carry in your pocket. We know you don’t like ostentation.”
“It’s the coolest gift I’ve ever been given,” he told them.” I’ll always keep it with me.”
            They had roast pork and potatoes in the bright yellow kitchen and he hugged them both before he left. “I have something for you guys too but it’s not quite finished. Everything got too frantic there at the last. I’ll probably send it. I’m leaving early in the morning, probably before you’re up. I’ll see you when I get back.”
            His card said, “To Rafe with love from your “godfathers”, Chas & Vic.” He propped it up on the mantel beside the Christmas tree.

When he did come home, he ended up convincing Laney to confide in him, pulling her onto his lap, saying, “come on, Honey, you can talk to me.”
So she told him about the four boys and held her breath to see if he was going to be upset with her but he wasn’t, which she should have figured, really, because Rafe was the most non-judgmental person she knew.
“It’s no big deal, Lane. You tried something. It didn’t work. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Sex doesn’t change you. You’re still exactly the same person you were before, no better and no worse.” He stroked her hair, “but, Honey, I do think you’re rushing things. Remember me telling you lots of girls need to be in love before they can reach a climax?”
“Well, I expect you’re like that and I don’t think it’s something you can force, Sweetie.  You’re only 17 and you have no idea who or what the future is going to bring you. Why don’t you just take it easy and not worry about it quite yet. If it is going to happen, it will be when it’s meant to. If you try too hard, you’ll just get more and more stressed and make it worse, like those women who don’t get pregnant until they finally give up.”
She put her head on his shoulder, “Oh, Rafe, I feel so much better talking to you. I wasn’t going to tell you but I’m glad I did.”
“Well, sure you were going to tell me, Lane. You always do.”
He breathed his warm breath into her ear, sliding his hand up under her shirt. “In the meantime, there’s one thing I can fix for you, Lane, since it seems that no one else can.”
She felt that familiar tingle shoot from her groin up into her belly, the same one she’d been feeling since she was seven years old.

Shasta attached herself to Rafe. It made Laney a little jealous although she was used to that way he had with animals that seemed to attract them to him. In a way, she guessed it was good because she’d not been having much luck with housebreaking but Rafe took Shasta in hand and within a few days, she had it down pat and no more accidents. He’d convinced Magdelene to let Hawk stay in the house when he was there too.
“Are you getting soft in your old age, Maggie?” her husband asked. “Your rule about pets inside used to be absolute and now you’ve allowed two of them.”
“Well, Rafe said he keeps Hawk in his apartment so he’s not used to being in a kennel and you know, his dogs are always so well behaved….”
He patted her hand affectionately, “I don’t care, Darlin’, I’m only teasing you.”
The puppies loved having a playmate too. You could hear them chasing one another down the hall. Hawk, in that awkward gallop of a 9 month old German Shepherd, with paws still too big for his body, and Shasta, pattering along behind, trying to keep up, a gnat to his bumblebee. When he couldn’t stand the racket anymore, Rafe snapped his fingers, telling them “cool it” and they’d flop down on the floor beside him and go to sleep, the Yorkie curled up beside Hawk’s belly.

Rafe was surprised to be summonsed to Renny’s study. Usually Renny had a reason to call him in and there was no reason he could think of that his father would want to talk to him.
“So, Rafe, how’s it going at school so far this year?”
“Good, Dad. Being in the apartment is like being in heaven after the the dorm.”
“I’m glad it’s working out for you so well. And school itself, that’s all right too? Your classes are okay?”
“Yes, my classes are going fine.”
“And football?”
“Yes, fine too.” He was becoming cautious now. Something must be up. Renny wasn’t usually one for wasting time on small talk.
Renny sensed the guard coming down although there was no perceptible change in his son’s posture.
“Well, Rafe, I’ve been given a homework assignment too. I was asked to feel you out about something but I guess I’d just as soon ask you directly and I expect an honest answer.”
“What’s this about, Dad?”
“The business about you and Professor Barnes and whatever happened between you.”
Jesus, how did Renny know about that?  He was silent, trying to decide how to respond.
“Don’t be figuring how to con me, Rafe,” Renny said sharply, “just tell it to me straight.”
“I’m not trying to con you, I was just trying to think where to start.”
“The beginning usually works the best,” Renny responded dryly.
Rafe took a deep breath. “She called me to her office at the start of last year. She had no reason to do that because I wasn’t taking any of her classes. She didn’t even know me except what some of her students had told her. She was especially upset about some of the girls calling themselves Rafe’s Riders because sometimes when I went out in the car, I took a woman with me and we stayed at a hotel overnight. But, Dad, that wasn’t my idea. I’ve never told anyone the name of any girl I’ve ever had sex with, ever. If anyone talks about it, it’s them, and I can’t control that. Anyway, she told me I was a sexual predator. It pissed me off because it isn’t true. I don’t deny sleeping with lots of girls but they are always free and willing and I don’t pretend I’m going to marry them or anything. She fucked with me, Dad, and I decided I was going to fuck back with her.”
“And how did you do that?”
“I found out she had a girlfriend who was bi. I joined the gym where she worked in order to meet her. We started having an affair. Ms Barnes caught us in bed together.”
“You set that up on purpose?”
Black eyes held black eyes.
“That was pretty cold, Rafe.”
“I was just going along minding my own business, not bothering her at all. She’s the one who decided to jump into my life. If she’s paying a price for it now, it’s her own fault.”
“I gather she’s paying a rather steep price. I hear she’s leaving Women’s Studies altogether.”
The smile was there and then it was gone. “She was a hypocrite. Lots of posters on her wall glorifying choice, but treating her girls like innocent maidens taken advantage of by an evil male. It was bullshit.” The tone of his voice was unyielding. “She should have thought twice before she tried to screw me over, Dad.”
“Yes, it sounds like she didn’t know what she was dealing with, but then, I doubt very many people know what they’re dealing with when it comes to you, Rafe.“
“But you do, Dad?”
“Yes, Rafe, I do.”
They stared each other down. Rafe’s eyes dropped first.
“Dad, I…..”
“That’s all I wanted to know, Rafe. You can go now.”

“So, Gil, that’s the story.”
“Wow, I hope Rafe never decides to turn to criminal activities or we’re probably all in trouble.  I can understand him being angry and maybe striking out in some way but such a calculated cruelty is sort of breathtaking. He homed right in on Helene’s biggest vulnerability.”
“I don’t think Rafe is one for striking out impulsively. Anything he does will always be carefully planned.”
            “Scary, Ren, because he’s so fucking brilliant. Poor Helene. She really loves that girl. What she did was stupid but I don’t think she deserved to be punished so severely.”
            “He’s always been the way he is, Gil, even when he was a little boy. I doubt he’s going to change. So, I just wanted to share the information with you, like I said I would.”
            “Okay, Ren, thanks.”

            The drawing was delivered while he was still in Maryland. He’d done it mostly at the art building on campus since he couldn’t hide it from them in the carriage house. It was the size of a poster, a collage of them in various activities – Vic standing over the stove tasting from a big spoon, Chas arranging a vase of flowers, Vic opening the door of his Jaguar, Chas at the piano, both of them kissing with their arms around one another.  At the very bottom, he’d written – “thank God for family, Rafe”.
            Vic had tears in his eyes. “Oh, my God, Chas, isn’t it marvelous? Did you have any idea he could do this?”
            The individual illustrations were so intricately detailed- each key of the piano, the pan on the stove, the trim on the Jag, the petals of the flowers – and they themselves were so unstudied, not in the least like they were posing, but just them unselfconsciously being Chas and Vic.
            “No, no clue, Vic. Our Rafe is a boy of many talents.”
            It was matted and framed in walnut. They gave it the place of honor in the foyer.
            Everyone who saw it wanted to hire him to do one for them but drawing was only something he did for fun. He had no desire to turn it into a job.

            “Rafe!” Chas’ voice was verging on hysterical.
            “What’s the matter, Chas?”
            “It’s Vic. He’s in the hospital. He got beaten up. They’re taking him into surgery. I’m so worried, Rafe, I’m just wrecked. Can you come?”
            “I’m heading for the garage now. Hang on, Chas. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
            He sped even more than usual getting to the hospital. He found Chas in the small waiting room outside surgery, holding a paper cup of coffee with shaking hands.
“God, I’m glad to see you, Rafe. I stayed with him in E.R. until they brought him here. He looks like a villain in a horror movie. His face is swollen like a black balloon. His nose and, they think, his cheekbone is broken, some teeth gone. The doc also suspects he has some broken ribs and his hand is fractured. The cops said it looked like his attacker hit him over and over in the face and then, after he fell, kicked him in the side and stepped on his hand, grinding it into the concrete.
            “Was he conscious?” Rafe asked.
            “Barely. The officers tried to take a preliminary report but he wasn’t able to tell them much. They said they’d come back later when he was more coherent.”
            Rafe kept Chas company until Vic was taken to the recovery room.
            “I’m going to leave now, Chas. I don’t want to be here when the cops come back because I don’t want them to associate me with Vic. But Chas, I want to know every detail. If they know who did it and who it was and any other information they’ll give you about him. If you don’t think you can remember, write it down so you can tell me later. Call me when you’re ready to come home and I’ll come and get you. You’re not in any shape to drive. Tell Vic when he wakes up, I’ll be back after the police have gone.”
            “Why don’t you want to be here, Rafe? You’d be more likely to ask sensible questions than me right now.”
            “I’ve got my reasons. Trust me, Chas. It’s better this way.”
            “You’re not in any trouble with the law yourself are you?”
            A smile flickered across Rafe’s face, “no, and I don’t plan to be.”

            Chas called him later and he went back to the hospital. Vic was awake by then but groaning with pain.
            “I talked to the officers, Rafe,” Chas told him. “There was a witness and they arrested the guy. His name is Bob Bolover. They charged him with Battery but they said he’s probably bonded out by now. They would only say he’s from around the neighborhood. They said he came out of Granger’s Bar. That a few blocks down from Vic’s office.”
            “He just kept saying he hated fucking faggots, Rafe,” Vic mumbled through his broken mouth. “Every time he hit me he said it was for being a faggot queer.”
            Rafe’s eyes got colder and blacker as they talked.

            Rafe slipped into one of the back benches of the courtroom when Bob Bolover was arraigned. He pleaded not guilty, of course. His attorney was with him. Battery, if it caused bodily injury, was a Class A misdemeanor, with the maximum penalty being a year and/or a $5,000 fine but, realistically, a plea bargain would probably result in the A being knocked down to a B which carried 180 days in jail and up to a $1,000 but Bob Bolover was a first offender so he likely wouldn’t even get any jail time, just a pre-trial diversion or probation. They could have made it harder on him if they’d charged him with a hate crime, since he’d obviously beaten up Vic for no other reason than that he was homosexual, but the prosecutor chose not to file those charges, too much of a hassle to prove.
Didn’t matter anyway. Rafe was only there to get a look at the guy. Bob had worn a suit for the occasion but it didn’t fit him very well and he didn’t look very comfortable in it, like wearing a suit was something he didn’t do often. It was a little tight across his paunch. He was tall and while he’d obviously been muscular once, he was starting to run to fat now. His brown hair was worn in a buzzcut. Rafe was too far away to see the color of his eyes but he’d remember the falsely humble smile and remorseful voice Bolover had displayed for the judge’s sake.
            Afterwards, he tailed (Rafe grinned at the word, it sounded so private eye official) Bob Bolover home to his small two-story frame house on Maple Street. Once he knew where Bolover lived, he rented an old white Chevy Cavalier from a Rent-a-Wreck agency (an ice-blue Corvette not being the best for unobtrusive surveillance) and followed him off and on until he got a feel for Bob’s schedule. He bowled on Tuesday nights and afterwards, he went to Granger’s. Once there, he could be relied upon to stay until closing time.

            “What clothes of mine do you guys think are the gayest?”
            “The gayest, Rafe?”
            “Yeah, of anything I have, what would a gay guy like best?”
            “That black silk Ralph Lauren jogging suit. I’ve only seen you wear it once.”
            “Oh, yeah, I remember. My sister, Annecy, got it for me for Christmas.”
            “You should wear it more often. You look gorgeous in it,” Chas told him.
            “What’s this all about?” asked Vic, home now but still looking considerably worse for wear.
            “An eye for an eye,” said Rafe

            That night, he put on the black jogging suit along with black running shoes. He’d bought some make up at the drugstore. He brushed the merest drift of blush across his cheekbones, not enough to tell he had it on, just enough to add a faint rosy hue to his cheeks. He applied some barely pink lip gloss to his lips to give them the least suggestion of color. He thickened his long black curly lashes with enough mascara to make them appear even longer and curlier and blacker. He tousled his hair, which gave him a disarmingly boyish look. He put the switchblade in his pocket.
            Granger’s was a typical nondescript working man’s bar. There wasn’t anything special about it except to the customers who hung out there. You wouldn’t associate the word ambiance with Granger’s but people who think of a particular tavern as their second home develop a deep affection for the comfortable camaraderie their place offers them. Granger’s was like that. It had plank floors and a long back bar, featuring quarts of various kinds of cheap bar alcohol. Most of them were rarely moved from their locations on the shelf because Granger’s regulars tended to drink beer, especially Budweiser because Bud was the beer on tap.  There was a jukebox in one corner. Most of its offerings were country but with a little rock and roll thrown in as well, southern rock like the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top.  There was a television on one wall, almost always turned to ESPN.  A couple of pool tables took up space at the back and the rest of the room had booths along both sides (cracks in the red pseudo-leather patched with silver duck tape) and some black metal tables in the middle. You’d sometimes find a few women at Granger’s on Friday and Saturday nights but on week nights, it was usually only men, including lots of bowlers or soft ball players, depending on the season.

Rafe waited until he knew Bob Bolover had had plenty of time to settle into Granger’s with his bowling buddies and then he drove down to the neighborhood and parked the white Cavalier a couple of blocks away. When he entered the front door and walked up to the bar, he added just a hint of swish to his stride, something he’d learned by watching some of Chas and Vic’s friends.
Bob Bolover was sitting, arms resting comfortably on the bar, with a mug of beer in front of him. Rafe minced over to him and ducked under one arm, snuggling his upper body against Bob’s neck and shoulder, in a loving and intimate way.
“What are you doin’, Daddy?” he asked in a sweet, rather breathless tone, “are we going to be together again tonight?” He smiled adoringly at the older man.
Bob pulled his arm back and jerked away violently. His face grew instantly flushed.
“What the hell is going on? Who are you? I’ve never seen you before in my life!”
 “But, but,” Rafe’s voice quavered, “last night when I was sucking your cock, you said to call you Daddy. You called me your beautiful boy.”  Tears began to trickle out of his big, dark eyes.
The regulars could imagine how you might call this young fella’ a beautiful boy if you were, well, inclined that way.
 Bob Bolover had jumped off his stool. He was standing now, tensely, staring at Rafe with eyes dazed by anger and confusion. His normal reaction would have been to strike out with his fists but he was numbed into inaction by sheer disbelief about what was happening.
“You’re insane!” He looked around at the others in the room. “He’s fucking insane! I don’t even know him!”
The attention of the bar patrons was captured by the fascinating scene being played out before them. Their old pal, Republican-voting, NASCAR watching, high score-bowling, beer swilling, jeans wearing Good Old Boy, Bob, versus the sweet young piece of pansy ass. Hell, there wasn’t anything on the t.v. that could match this for sheer entertainment value.
“How can you hurt me this way, Daddy, when you told me you loved me?” Rafe was pleading now, “It’s because you’re ashamed of me in front of your friends, isn’t it?” With that, he laid his head down on the bar and began to sob.
If Bob had wanted to resort to violence, it was too late now. It would look like he was beating up on Bambi.
“Jesus, Bob, why don’t you take the poor kid out and love him up a little and make him feel better?” a man called out from down the bar.
“Shut up, just shut the fuck up!” Bob yelled. “You guys know me! You know I’m no fucking queer! You can’t believe this bullshit story!”
Slowly, Rafe lifted his head, tears still flowing down his cheeks. “I guess you just used me,” he said softly. He walked slowly toward the door, head hanging in dejection. Silently they all watched him go.
“You guys have to know it’s a lie, don’t you?” Bob begged.
“He seemed awful believable to me, Bob,” one of his teammates opined. “Appeared genuinely heartbroken. Kid deserves an Academy Award if he was acting.”
“He was acting!” Bob insisted.
“But why?” another bowler asked. “That’s the question? What’s his motive, Bob? Seems crazy to think he’d just waltz in off the street and accuse a perfect stranger of such a thing for the hell of it.”
“I don’t know what his motive is!”
“You always have been apeshit about gays, Bob. You even got arrested for beating that one up. Maybe now we know it’s to cover up how you really are.”
“Fuck you guys! You’re as nuts as he is. I’m getting the hell out of here.”
“Yeah, maybe you ought to go on down to the Crystal Cave (a well-known gay bar). That’s probably where your pretty boy is right now. Maybe you can sweet talk your way back into his good graces.”
They all laughed as he went storming out the door.

Just as Bob had his hand on his car’s door handle. Rafe appeared silently from around the back.
“I’m going to kill you!” Bob promised, making a frantic grab but Rafe was quicker and the next thing Bob knew, one arm was around his neck and a knife point was at his throat, right at the bottom of his ear. Two men huddled outside Granger’s front door smoking a cigarette. All they saw was the two bodies pressed tightly together, Rafe’s arm around Bob’s neck in what appeared to be a loving embrace.
“Kiss me,” Rafe told him.
            “No!” Bob roared.
“Either you give me a big kiss or I’ll slit your fucking throat.” The knife’s point pressed a little harder. The voice was icy and lethal. Bob knew he was a dead man if he didn’t do as he was told.
He leaned down and pressed his lips against Rafe’s. Now the tears, tears of shame and frustration, were running down Bob’s face. The smokers pointed and snickered, then disappeared inside to tell the others “the rest of the story”, how Bob and the boy had met outside and exchanged a long romantic kiss. Guess what the kid was saying must be true. Who’d a’ thunk it, old Bob, the gay-hater?
The next thing Bob knew, he heard a chuckle and Rafe was gone, just disappeared like mist, like he’d never been there at all.
Bob drove home knowing no one would ever believe him now and even if, by some chance, they did, they’d have nothing but contempt for him for letting some teenage faggot so thoroughly play him. He’d never be able to face his bowling team again and it was for sure he’d never step foot inside Granger’s again either. And, he’d kissed another male! No matter if he was in fear of his life or not, he’d actually kissed another man! Sweet Jesus, it made him sick to even think about it and he knew he never would quit thinking about it. He even dreamed about it that night and woke up nauseated and sweating, with the feel of Rafe’s lips against his.

“Oh, my God!” They were all sitting around the breakfast table. Chas and Vic had invited him over for breakfast burritos. Chas was glancing through the morning paper.
“What, Chas?”
“That guy that beat you up, Vic?  He committed suicide! Hung himself!”
They both looked at Rafe and shivered a little looking into his ice water eyes.
“Did you have something to do with this Rafe?” Vic asked him in a hushed tone.
Rafe shrugged. “I might have told him the first part of the story but he figured out the ending on his own.”

Rafe – I got your e-mail address from Jeri, your fan club president. I’d like to do a follow-up story to the one we did last year. Get in contact with me when you get back to Maryland so we can set something up. My phone number is 410-001-2987, in case, you lost my card.


From: Professor Mowbray, Mathematics Chair, Princeton University
To: Rafe Vincennes
Dear Mr Vincennes:
I am writing to inform you that you have been named Student of the Year in Mathematics. I’m sure you are aware this is the highest honor our department can bestow. This is the third year in a row you’ve been so honored, an unprecedented achievement. The award is given at our annual Math Banquet. This year the banquet will be held on April 27 at 6:00. Although you have not attended in the past, we would very much appreciate it if you would plan to be present this year. Please RSVP by April 12.


Rafe – Got your e-mail addy from Jeri. Get ready, Boy, you’re moving up this summer. I’ve got your schedule all planned out.  Chet

Chet – Whatever you say, Boss. Rafe

Rafe, isn’t it strange to think we’ll both be seniors next year? I need to be deciding what I’m going to do after high school since the Vincennes females, unlike you guys, can go wherever they want. I’m seriously thinking about just going to the U of M and sticking around close here. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up!  I’m dating Todd Mackey now. It’s no great love affair but I like knowing there is one person that I can count on doing things with.  Shasta is fine, growing. Well, she’s not actually growing very much. I think she weighs about 5 lbs now. Only 2 weeks until you get home. I can’t wait to see you!  Love, Laney

Rafe, Only two weeks ‘til you get home. We can’t wait to see you! Jeri & All

Christ, Lane, be a little adventuresome! Go south or west or somewhere into a completely different environment! You’re lucky you can consider all the possibilities and decide what sounds exciting. When I come and see you at college, I want to go somewhere interesting, like Albuquerque Fucking New Mexico or someplace! Took Hawk to the vet for a check up and he weighs 73 pounds. I think he’s going to be bigger than Raven. Love R

“Yeah, Gil, what’s up?”
“I need a favor but before I get to that, I need to vent. You inflicted that son of yours on me so you owe it to me to listen.”
“Fire away, Gil, I’ll I’ll sit here until you’ve had your say. What’s Rafe been getting into now.”
Renny could hear Gil release a long breath.
“I swear I’m glad he came to Princeton in my last four years because after dealing with him, I really need to retire. I couldn’t face another one like Rafe, Renny. He’s the most frustrating and exasperating student I’ve ever had to deal with.”
“Spill it, Gil.”
“Well, first, I can’t talk about him without using a whole string of superlatives, both positive and negative. Academically, he may be the most gifted student we’ve ever had and he seems to do it with one hand behind his back, Ren, like he only puts in the minimal amount of effort it takes to accomplish what he needs to accomplish. He won’t do anything to capitalize on his achievements to benefit either himself or Princeton. For instance, do you think he’s ever given an interview to any sports reporter despite his athletic record?”
“I have a feeling you’re going to tell me the answer’s no.”
“The answer is no, although oddly enough, that’s ultimately worked in his favor, not that I think he cares. The coaches actually love it because it seems like the more he avoids the press, the more intrigued with him they become. It’s almost like the usual story of the triumphant sports hero is old hat and the new story is the mysterious anti-hero. It’s all become part of his mystique. 
Now he’s become the darling of the gay community. You probably know his landlords are Chas Chatham and Victor Bollan? Chas is a prominent architect and Victor is some kind of computer software wizard. They’re gay.”
“Yeah, Laney, told me about them.”
“Well, Victor got the shit kicked out of him by some gay-bashing bigot sometime in January, I think it was. He went to court and bonded out right away. Everybody figured he’d get a slap on the wrist but the next thing you know, the guy hangs himself and talk on the street is Rafe had something to do with it. I don’t know if it’s true, Ren, and I don’t want to know. Rafe cost me my Professor of Womens Studies, someone who was renowned in her field, so if his penchant for exacting extreme justice has reared its ugly head again, I’d just as soon be kept in the dark this time. But, anyway, the gays all believe it and he’s become their Knight in Shining Armor. Now a whole group of them come to his games and more than that, they donate money to the Princeton athletic program and they are a bunch who are above-average affluent so it isn’t just small change. We’ve received checks totaling thousands of dollars with the notation “on behalf of Rafe Vincennes”. It’s just unheard of.
“Are we getting anywhere close to the favor, Gil?” Renny asked in amusement.
“Yes, I’m getting to that right now.  Rafe was just named Mathematics Student of the Year for the third time, an unbelievable honor. And, believe me, Renny, it wasn’t because they wanted to do it. They’d have much preferred to give it to one of their more cooperative kids, one who belongs to the Math Club, and gets involved in their projects and actually seems to like Math.
“So why didn’t they?”
“Because it would look like a farce if they didn’t give it to Rafe when no one deserves it as much. Here’s another example of what I was talking about earlier. Rafe wrote some kind of analysis paper for an assignment. I’m not that great at Math myself so I don’t understand what it was about but it was so good, his professor sent it on the Journal of Mathematics, the most prestigious publication in the field. And they printed it and then requested something else from him. Most students would kill to be published in the JM and it brings huge kudos to the Department for one of their kids to be singled out in that way, but, you know, Rafe said he only did the first one for a grade and he wasn’t interested in writing anything else. Here’s the nut of my call. Rafe didn’t go to the awards banquet the last two years. The Head sent him an e-mail about it this year and asked for an RSVP by April 12, which he never got. He came to me and asked me to order Rafe to come to the dinner. I mean, Christ, Ren, three times they name him Student of the Year and he doesn’t even bother to pay lip service to that kind of tribute! I told Mowbray  I flatly cannot order a student to attend an award ceremony but maybe I could somehow persuade him to go.”
“And that’s where I come in?”
“That’s where you come in, Pops.”
“Okay, tell your guy he’ll be there.”
“Thanks, I really appreciate it, Ren.”
“Seems like the least I can do after what Rafe’s put you through.”

Rafe – Put the Mathematics Award Banquet on your calendar. You will be attending. And you need to RSVP with an apology for being so late in responding. Then reply to me and confirm. Dad

Goddamn it! He didn’t want to spend an evening at a fucking boring Math Awards banquet! And where in the hell does Dad get his information? He’s got to have a spy on campus, but who? Still, the man on the other end of the e-mail owned his car and was paying his rent so…...

Dad – Message received. RSVP sent w/apology. R

To: Professor Mowbray
From: Rafe Vincennes
Dear Professor Mowbray:  I’d like to apologize for inadvertently deleting your e-mail re: the Awards Banquet. I am, of course, thrilled by the honor the Department has given me and I’ll be pleased to attend the ceremony. Rafe Vincennes

He sent a copy to Renny.
Renny forwarded a copy to Gil.

Rafe – I got your e-mail address from your sister. I’ve got a proposition for you. Steve, our lead guitarist, is going to be gone in August. He teaches at Georgetown and has the opportunity to spend the month in England. Would you be interested in sitting in with us? I can’t think of anyone else who could do it and sound good on such short notice. I’d owe you big time if you say yes. Please let me know asap. Duke

Duke – Sounds like fun. Call me at the house around the first of June. I’ll come to some practices and get back in sync with you guys before August. Rafe

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