Copyright © 2019 DouglasDD. All Rights Reserved.
SATURDAY, APRIL 5
Aiden had a busy Spring Break planned. Saturday would be his day to do what he wanted. Sunday he would be going with his dad, as well as Gordy and Nolan, to the Tacoma Rainiers baseball game. He would then be spending Monday through Wednesday with Uncle Keegan, his father. Thursday was the annual Nooner baseball game for the high school team as well as a morning baseball practice for the Titans. The team would also be practicing Friday and Saturday. Aiden was also planning a big overnight on Friday.
On Saturday, Aiden rode his bike into town to spend most of the day with his friends. The weather was forecast to be cloudy and cool, but with only a 20 percent chance of rain. At school the day before, the boys had talked about the whole “rain chances” thing. “Whatever, if you happen to be where it’s raining, then to me that’s like a 100 percent chance,” Aiden said when Brody mentioned the forecast at the lunch table.
Mason scratched his head in confusion. “That doesn’t sound totally right to me.”
“I think what Aiden is saying is that if you’re wet you’re wet no matter what some weatherman says,” Miles explained.
When Aiden got to Gordy’s house. Miles, Mason, and Trent were already there. The five rode their bikes for an hour before coming back to Gordy’s house for lunch. Their timing was perfect since the 20% rain chance became 100% a block from Gordy’s house.
“See, that’s what I mean about a 100% chance of rain when it’s raining,” Aiden told Mason.
“I think I get it, and I’m glad it didn’t happen earlier,” Mason said. The rain was more of a drizzle during their ride, but as the boys enjoyed their hot dogs and chips in Gordy’s kitchen, the volume increased. They decided to stay indoors until the rain let up, but the rain continued.
Gordy’s mother was happy the boys were a well-behaved lot. While they could be rambunctious at times, they found ways to have fun without tearing the house down. Aiden was worried that the rain would continue all day and all night and rain out the Rainiers’ game the next day, but the rain finally let up around four.
Aiden, Mason, and Miles hopped on their bikes and headed to their respective homes. Trent was spending the night at Gordy’s. Even though it was no longer raining, Aiden still hit some puddles and wet spots on the way home and was cold and wet when he arrived.
Aiden had called home as required before leaving Gordy’s house, so Larry was prepared for his arrival. He sat in Aiden’s road viewing chair, getting out of it when he saw Aiden pumping his bike up the recreation trail that followed Lakeshore Drive. He opened the front door as Aiden pulled into the driveway, instructing him to come into the house through the kitchen after he put his bike away.
“Take your clothes off here,” Larry ordered as Aiden entered the kitchen from the deck.
“They’re not that wet,” Aiden protested.
“Don’t argue, just do it.”
“My underwear too?”
“Not unless you wet your pants,” Larry smirked.
“That’s mean. I’m not like Chase.”
“Chase wets his pants?” Larry wasn’t quite sure he heard that correctly.
“On purpose, when he’s in a dorky mood. But, don’t tell Uncle Troy.”
“Have you ever seen him do it?”
“Yep. He says peeing his pants is why he knows how to run the washing machine.” Aiden wasn’t about to go into Chase peeing on him, Logan, or Dillon. That was an entirely different matter and something his pop didn’t need to know about, especially since it affected Aiden.
“What’s said in Mayfield stays in Mayfield,” Larry grinned. He really couldn’t pass judgement since he remembered the afternoon he, Phil, and a couple of their friends had a pants pissing contest when they were around twelve or thirteen. While it wasn’t one of his shining moments, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
As Larry and Aiden talked, Aiden stripped down to his underpants, which were dark gray Hanes briefs. Larry hung Aiden’s jacket on the laundry room wall and put the rest of his clothes in the dryer.
“I guess I don’t have to take my underpants off or you would have told me to,” Aiden said in a challenging tone of voice.
“Don’t get snippy, son.”
“I’m not getting snippy, I’m just asking. Can’t a guy ask questions around here anymore?” To emphasize his point, Aiden pulled off his briefs and stood totally naked in front of his pop. “Are you happy now?”
“Who shoved a hair up your ass today?”
Aiden thought of Nolan shoving his dick up his ass and blushed but recovered quickly. “Nobody, I just want to know what to do so I don’t get in trouble.”
Larry threw Aiden’s underpants into the dryer in an attempt to defuse his son’s grumpy mood. “Let’s go into the sunroom and talk,” he suggested.
“I don’t want to talk.”
“And I do, so let’s talk.”
Aiden could see that Larry wasn’t going to give; he had pushed his pop as far as he was willing to go. Aiden followed Larry into the serious discussion room.
Larry sat on the loveseat and patted the space next to him.
“I can’t sit there, I’m naked,” Aiden said grumpily.
“I noticed but sit here anyway.”
“You could at least be consistent.”
Larry didn’t take the bait and waited for Aiden to sit. As soon as Aiden plunked his smooth, white bubble butt on the seat, Larry placed his arm around his bare, thin shoulders. “I love you, son.” Aiden tried to maintain his snippy mood, but tears forming gave his true feelings away.
“The problem is Keegan isn’t it?” Larry asked perceptively.
Larry kept his arm around Aiden’s warm, smooth body as the boy contemplated his answer. He made no attempt to speed it up. It was time for him to move from scolding parent to understanding parent. Finally, Aiden coughed lightly and said. “I’m scared.”
“Remember, you don’t have to do this. There is still time to cancel this little trip.”
“He’s different than he was, but I don’t know if it’s real or not.”
“I’ve known Keegan since I was your age. I honestly believe he’s trying his best.”
“If I call you, will you come and get me?”
“In an instant, son, in an instant.”
“I know I called him father on Thanksgiving, but I haven’t called him that since.”
“We’ve noticed. Maybe that’s something you can work on during this visit. A lot of healing took place for both of you when you said that. Maybe it’s time for you to get off your high horse and use that word again.”
“Why are you taking his side?”
“Because you aren’t always in the right son, as hard as that might be for you to hear.”
Aiden walked off to his room without saying anything else. He picked Horace up from his desk, got on his bed and dropped on his back, staring at the ceiling. He wondered why life always had to be so complicated.
SUNDAY, APRIL 6
Aiden and his dads picked Gordy up at his house after the Lansings returned from early church service. Thirty-five minutes later they picked up Nolan in Meadow Park and were on their way to Tacoma to watch Marty play.
The Rainiers’ season had started Friday. They had won their opening game 7-2 over the Fresno Grizzlies and then lost to Fresno 5-4 on Saturday. Aiden had checked the box score before going to bed Saturday night and knew that in the two games Marty had three hits in nine at-bats including an RBI double and two runs scored.
They visited the will-call window when they arrived at Cheney Stadium. They had good seats five rows behind the Rainiers’ dugout. Aiden went down to the end of the aisle and yelled for Marty’s attention. When Marty saw Aiden, he broke out into a big grin and ran over for a quick hello, knowing that Aiden would quickly be joined by a legion of kids.
“I’ll get my first home run of the season for you, sport,” Marty told Aiden as they exchanged a fist bump through the mesh of the protective screen.
“For real?” Aiden grinned excitedly.
“Well, maybe not today, but I will get it for you eventually.”
“You’re mean,” Aiden grinned.
“Being mean is something I learned playing for your dads. See you after the game.” Aiden watched wistfully as Marty went into the dugout. He was surprised by how many kids had appeared yelling Marty’s name and the names of some other players on the field. He tried to figure out how they learned the names so quickly, until it occurred to him that the names on the backs of the uniforms and the programs in the hands of the kids were a gigantic help.
Aiden had his Marty scorebook with him. He hadn’t been able to keep score of one of Marty’s games since his idol played for Everett. It had felt good to pull the book out of his big desk drawer and put it into his backpack. It felt even better to sit in his seat in Cheney Stadium and write Marty’s name in his scorebook when the PA announcer said, “Batting in the number five slot, number fourteen, Maaaaaaaarty Caaaaaaarlson!!!!” Aiden used all capitals to put the name in.
Marty came up in the bottom if the first inning with two outs and runners on first and third. As he watched Marty settle into the batter’s box, Aiden was thrilled and excited and proud beyond description. Nobody in in the ballpark rooted harder for Marty to come through, nobody was more excited when Marty rapped a hard line drive to left field, and nobody was more disappointed when the left fielder ran it down for the third out. Marty excited Aiden with his defense when he made a diving stop of a sharply hit grounder up the third baseline in the top of the third inning, scrambled to his feet and used his strong, accurate arm to throw out the batter/runner by half a step at first base.
Aiden’s hero batted again in the bottom of the fourth. He came to bat with one out and nobody on and struck out when he went fishing for a slider. Fresno drew first blood in the top of the fifth when their center fielder hit a two-run double. The Grizzlies scored again in the top of the sixth to make the score 3-0.
The Rainiers scored a run in the bottom of the inning when Sean Duvall, the cleanup hitter, drew a two-out walk. Marty then drilled a 2-2 pitch to right-center field for a single. The number six hitter followed with a single scoring Sean from second making the score 3-1.
Neither team scored in the seventh and the Grizzlies went down 1-2-3 in the top of the eighth. Francisco Rosario, the number two hitter in the Rainiers’ lineup, grounded out to start the bottom of the eighth. Trey Hargrove kept the inning alive with a one-out single, but Duvall struck out. That brought Marty to the plate with two outs as the tying run.
Aiden was standing up screaming himself hoarse with lots of noisy backup from Gordy and Nolan. Marty’s cheering section was in prime form and the crowd quickly picked up their energy. The first pitch to Marty was a ball. He took the next pitch for ball two and now had a good hitter’s count at 2-0. The pitcher sent a fastball right down the pipe but Marty was thinking of a promised home run and was a bit overeager. He fouled the pitch back to the screen.
“Focus, Marty!” Aiden yelled out. “Get in your zone.” His high-pitched voice carried amazingly well considering all the background noise in the ballpark. Marty almost smiled when he heard Aiden’s urging. He took a deep breath and got set in the batter’s box. It was now just him and the pitcher. There was nothing and nobody else in the world. With the count 2-1 the pitcher tried to sneak a breaking pitch past Marty. What Marty saw was a big cantaloupe coming to home plate as the hanging curveball dropped right into his wheel house. The crowd was on its feet with a thunderous roar as the ball sailed over the left field fence for a game-tying home run.
Aiden was so excited he was shaking. Marty had done it—he had tied the game with a clutch hit! It wasn’t until he sat down and Nolan said, “That was your home run,” that Aiden remembered the promise. Like his hero, Aiden was so focused on the game he had pushed the side issues out of his mind. He grabbed his boyfriend’s hand and almost kissed him. Almost.
The Grizzlies changed pitchers, but the new reliever gave up a double, a walk, and a run-scoring single. The Rainiers now had a 4-3 lead. They brought their closer, Kyle Robbins in to pitch the ninth. Kyle was considered a top prospect and he showed why when he struck out the side for the save. The Rainiers were winners.
After the game Larry, Phil, Aiden, Gordy, and Nolan met with Marty and Rich outside of the Rainiers’ clubhouse. When Marty came out, Steve Parker, the Rainier manager came out with him.
Marty introduced Larry as his high school baseball coach and Phil as his summer league coach. “Those two men helped make me the ballplayer and the man I am today,” Marty had told Steve earlier. Steve then looked up Larry’s record as a high school coach and was impressed. A coach with three state championships next to his name was unquestionably a winner, which meant he produced winners at the high school level. Marty Carlson was proving himself to be a winner in the Mariner farm system and Steve could understand why. He embarrassed Larry and Phil by gushing praise all over them.
Aiden’s party of seven went to Lorenzo’s Italian Restaurant. Aiden made sure to get a seat next to Marty.
“You’re my hero,” he told his hero as the group perused the menus.
“Well, you’re my hero too. You had a role in this,” Marty grinned. “I heard you yelling for me to focus.”
“Yep. I sure wasn’t focused on that swing and miss, but you got my mind back into the right gear.”
Aiden grabbed Nolan’s hand and told Marty and Rich that Nolan was his boyfriend and Nolan blushed a bright red. “Great, it’s lasted since Thanksgiving. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” Marty told Nolan. “The coaches were boyfriends in middle school and Rich and I were friends in middle school and became boyfriends in high school.
“You’ve got yourself a winner in Young Master Aiden, here. And the fact that he wanted you to be his boyfriend means you have to be a winner, too.”
Nolan was still somewhat in awe of Marty and Rich. He loved the way they looked at each other and smiled at each other and seemed so at ease about everything. He was perceptive enough to realize that Rich knew that his husband was a very popular man and would probably become more popular – he often stayed in the background and let Marty enjoy his popularity. Any time Nolan was with Marty and Rich, he couldn’t help thinking to himself that he and Aiden were a gay couple just like Marty and Rich and it thrilled him
“Aiden and I love each other,” Nolan was finally able to squeak out.
“Love my bro with all of your heart,” Marty told him. “Give him every part of you that you can, and you can be assured he will be giving it all back.”
“Thanks,” Nolan said. “I like the things you tell Aiden, and I like that you’re a good example for us. I’ll always treat your little bro very special just like you asked me to at Thanksgiving.”
Marty ruffled what he could of Nolan’s short hair and told him he was special, too.
The dinner was a lively success. It had been a great day for Aiden. But, as he sat between Gordy and Nolan in the backseat of the Honda minivan, his mood was dampened a bit because the next day he would be meeting with his “Uncle” Keegan for the first of three days with him.
“Right. A hotel room with two beds.” Drake shook his head. “Come on now dad, you think that’s gonna keep me from sleeping with you?” Drake had taken to calling Keegan dad since Keegan and Natalie had gotten married at the end of February. It was a small civil ceremony, attended only by Drake and Keegan’s brother Troy. When the papers were signed making Keegan one of Drake’s legal guardians, Drake decided the title “dad” was appropriate. Keegan did nothing to dissuade him; he rather liked being called dad.
Keegan looked over the top of his half-glasses at the fourteen-year-old and frowned. “Are you ever going to get over this desire to sleep with me?”
“Never, since you’re so sexy,” Drake grinned.
“I had no idea you were so crazy when I agreed to be your co-guardian with your Aunt.” Even though Drake called Keegan dad, he couldn’t bring himself to call Natalie mom; she’d been his Aunt since he first saw her. Besides, his mother was still around, drug addict mess that she was. So, Aunt Natalie would always be Aunt Natalie.
“Hey, at least I’m not asking you for an evening of drinking beer and toking weed.”
“That would make me mad.”
“It would make me mad, too. Everything’s so much better with you and me and Aunt Natalie being sober, even if it means I can’t sit naked and jerk off while watching you two make out and fuck.”
Keegan shook his head. He often couldn’t help wondering if he was getting exactly what he deserved in his foster son. Then he remembered that he not only liked the boy, he loved him. The changes in Drake had been phenomenal over the last few months.
“And besides, I’m even doing good in school. Big old 3.4 GPA last report card. Hell, I couldn’t get half of that a year ago. And, I’m on the track and field team. I mean, shit, life is good.” Drake’s event was the 1500-meter run.
“It’s way better than it was, that’s for sure.”
“Yep, even if you won’t fuck my ass.”
Keegan threw the magazine he was reading at the laughing teen. “You’re one of the good things that happened in my life.”
Drake was tempted to say, “Then prove it in bed,” but he knew he’d taken his little joke far enough, an observation he would not have made even a couple of months ago.
“Well, you’re the first guy who’s been anything like a real father to me, even if you did get off to a shitty start doing it.”
“And I’ve made verbal and living amends for that.”
“I know, or I wouldn’t be holed up in this motel room with you.” Drake picked up Keegan’s Sports Illustrated and walked it over to him. He noticed Keegan glancing at his phone. “How come you keep looking at your phone? You think Aiden’s gonna call you and cancel your trip? Because, I got news for you, you can look at the phone or not look at the phone, either way it won’t change shit. If he calls, he calls.”
“Aren’t you turning Professor Philosopher.”
“Hey, I’m gonna be fifteen in less than a month…hint, hint…so I should be able to figure out something.”
“And that was birthday hint number five hundred forty-nine I believe,” Keegan chuckled. “Are you sure everything is set with that Sam kid?”
“You talked to his dad, yesterday, so you know the answer to that.”
Keegan had talked to George Bednarzyk the night before to confirm that Drake had a place to sleep for the next two nights before packing him up into his truck. After the phone call, he told Natalie that the name seemed familiar and she told him why.
“The lawyer for Aiden works for his law firm,” she said.
“And I bet he was the asshole at the hearing,” Keegan grumbled.
“I hope that won’t get in the way of Drake’s plans.”
“Why didn’t you tell me before we okayed his plans?”
“Because I thought you knew.”
Keegan was reminded once again that his brain had still been foggy with drugs and booze at the hearing, even after six months of sobriety. The only way he could have forgotten a name like Bednarzyk was because his brain couldn’t remember to begin with.
“Drake can still visit his friend,” Keegan said. “I mean, it’s not the kid’s fault his dad’s an asshole.”
“The man was doing his job,” Natalie reminded him. Sometimes Keegan could still frustrate her.
Keegan wrapped his arms around his wife. “I know, sweetie, I was just doing a shitty job of being…well…being a sober man.”
“Hey, Earth calling Keegan!” Drake called out, shaking Keegan’s flashback from his head. “Oh, sorry, Drake. Yeah, I talked to him. I guess I’m nervous about this whole business.”
“You’re letting an eleven-year-old kid make you nervous? Have some faith, dad. Isn’t that what we’ve been trying to learn in those meetings we go to? Don’t let fear tell you what to do.”
“Sometimes I think you’re figuring this sobriety shit out better than I am,” Keegan mused. “Which reminds me…I take it that Sam kid is still sober.”
“Yeah, he’s started a group of high school and middle school kids. I’m gonna go to their meeting tomorrow.”
“No shit? How many kids go there?”
“He says usually it’s only four or five, but that all they need to be a group is two and it keeps everybody sober, so who’s counting.”
Keegan nodded. He wondered where all of this help was when he was a kid, and then remembered that he couldn’t let regrets govern his life.
“Well, let’s get our asses into bed,” Keegan said. “We both have big days tomorrow.”
“Yours is bigger. Now you get to play dad to your kid instead of playing dad to me.”
“Who said anything about playing dad to you? I’d like to think I’m not playing at it. I admit I don’t know much about it this being a dad shit, though.”
Keegan was now stripped down to his boxers and started for the bathroom to take care of his evening business. Before Keegan could get very far, Drake hopped off the bed and wrapped his arms around the man who had become his guardian. At five foot six he had to look up to the six-foot one man in front of him. Drake was a bit of a late bloomer and was impatient to grow enough to look Keegan straight in the eye.
“All I know is, ever since we sobered up you’re more of a dad to me than my real father ever was. I love you, Keegan.”
Admittedly surprised by Drake’s sudden show of physical affection, Keegan squeezed the boy’s shoulder, fighting back tears that wanted to form. “And I love you, Drake. You and your Aunt Natalie are the best things to ever happen to me in my life.”
Drake buried his face into Keegan’s bare chest. “Best thing to ever happen to me is getting sober so you could be my real dad.” Drake could barely get the last words out as he started sobbing. Keegan felt the warm tears of the young teen drip down his torso. He finally lost control of his own emotions and let his tears flow as well.
When Drake finally let go of Keegan he wiped away his tears with his right hand. “I don’t remember the last time I cried like that.”
“That makes two of us,” Keegan smiled.
“I keep hearing in my teen AA meetings that when we’re sober we get to feel our emotions both good and bad that we buried in booze, and sometimes they’re almost too much for us. This was good and it wasn’t too much for me…it was perfect.” He stood slightly on his toes and kissed Keegan on his cheek. “Your whiskers feel weird,” he giggled.
“You’re becoming quite the philosopher, you know.”
“That’s because I got you and Aunt Natalie in my life and we’re all sober. I just wish my mom could figure it out. She was a good mom until she got eaten up by drugs and by asshole boyfriends.”
Keegan was hit by a memory of being an “asshole boyfriend” just like those men were. He looked at the beautiful teen standing in front of him and shook off the memories. He was not going to be an asshole husband or an asshole dad. He knew it would take a lot of work to keep that from happening and to make up for the mistakes he would inevitably make. “Bed time,” he finally said. Drake pulled off his t-shirt and followed Keegan into the bathroom.
After peeing, brushing, flossing, and washing faces, Keegan and Drake were ready for bed. Keegan didn’t protest when Drake climbed into bed with him. “I’m not trying to be kinky,” the boy whispered. “I just need you to hold me. Please.”
Keegan wrapped his arm around the teen’s bare shoulder and kissed him on the forehead. “I love you,” he whispered. That was how they fell asleep, wrapped together half-naked, Keegan, the man, feeling protective of the boy, while Drake, the boy, felt loved and protected by the man.
MONDAY, APRIL 7
<Keegan and George Bednarzyk>
After eating breakfast at Big Mike’s Café, which was near their motel in Kentburg, Keegan and Drake got into Keegan’s new Ram pickup and headed west on Highway 12 for Mayfield.
“I wonder what Mike has that’s so big?” Drake mused.
“Get your mind out of the gutter,” Keegan chortled.
“Who said anything dirty? I mean, yeah, I was thinking it might be his feet and feet could be dirty and stinky, so I suppose that could be dirty.”
“There is no way I believe you were thinking Big Mike’s feet were big.”
“Hey, like they say, a dude with big feet probably has a big Johnson.” He looked over at Keegan and smirked. “Besides, I’m fourteen and it’s in the Constitution or somewhere that my mind is supposed to be dirty. So there.”
Keegan gave Drake a friendly punch. “It’s hard to argue with that logic.”
The two remained quiet as they drove past the entrance to the Mayfield Eastlake Park and along the south side of Mayfield Lake. They both knew that Aiden lived on the north side of the lake and that there was no need to mention it. When they reached the west end, Keegan turned left on Lakeshore Drive and headed into town. After snaking around a few side streets, they reached a large brown house. Keegan pulled into the driveway and stopped.
Drake grabbed his gym bag from the backseat, held up his fist to receive his dad’s fist bump, and exited the cab. He was met by George Bednarzyk, who had just come out the door with Sammy following close behind. Sammy and Drake exchanged big grins, then a fist bump, and then headed into the house where they exchanged a hug and a kiss on the lips as soon as they were out of sight of the dads.
“I thought that you were Sammy’s father,” Keegan said. “I suppose I knew it at Thanksgiving. Did you come out to give me some legal advice?” Keegan could feel some of his old negative behavior creeping into him.
“I came here to talk to you as a concerned father,” George replied calmly. “My law firm might represent your son, but I do not. What happens today between you and Aiden is between you and his dads.”
“So, what are you concerned about?” Keegan asked warily.
“Sammy acts the role of the big shot, but he is still quite vulnerable. Is Drake still clean?”
“I could ask the same about your son. I think we need to turn this over and trust each other and trust our kids.”
George gave Keegan a look of respect. “How long have you been sober?”
“I picked up my one-year coin last month and Drake picked up his ninety-day coin after a very unfortunate slip back in December.”
“I’ve got a few years in the program, too.” George wasn’t going to go into the fact that he had thirty-five years sober, at least not then. It wasn’t the proper time. The years were meaningless in this discussion; it was the act of being clean and sober that counted.
“You’ve been Drake’s legal guardian for what, two months or so?”
“I’ve known him longer than that. And I’ve seen a sad lost young man start to blossom and take pride in himself.”
“Just standing here talking to you, I can see the same growth in you, Keegan. And I know your brother and brother-in-law have seen it even deeper. That means we have something special in common.”
“We’ve both helped our teen sons recover from being on the edge of the abyss. I too have seen a sad young man start to blossom and take pride in himself.”
“I think our boys will have a good couple of days,” Keegan said, surprised at how he was talking like a responsible man and even more importantly, like a responsible parent.
“I agree. And, I think the same will be true for Aiden. You’re not the same man I first met who sneered at Aiden’s stuffed donkey.”
“I can’t sneer at it now,” Keegan grinned. “Aiden’s bringing Horace the Donkey with him and has assured me I will get a royal hoofing if I should step out of line.”
“I am sure it will be good for Aiden. Just remember, that he can be a bit headstrong at times.”
“And I know I can be, too. But I think we’ve seen each other enough and talked to each other enough since that Thanksgiving Feast that we’ll work our way through things.”
The two men shared a quick, heartfelt hug. The man who had fathered and raised his fourteen-year-old boy from scratch (not to mention an eighteen-year-old) and the man who was totally new to the game of parenting a fourteen-year-old had a lot more in common than they imagined they did. Their backgrounds and experience might be different, but it didn’t stop them from bonding as fathers and friends.
<Aiden and Keegan>
Ironically, it was Phil, and not Aiden, who occupied the street watching seat in the living room. Phil had taken the morning off work so he could meet with Keegan and drop some hints that maybe a last-minute change of plans might be a good idea. Aiden said he wasn’t interested in watching for Keegan and he was fine with his dad sitting in the chair to do the watching. He waited in the card room playing cribbage with Larry.
Phil was surprised by what he saw turn into the driveway. He knew his brother had purchased a new truck, but the shiny, dark green Ram crew cab with the matching canopy was more than he expected. He walked out to the driveway to meet his brother.
“Yo, bro,” Keegan said as he exited his truck.
“Howdy.” The brothers awkwardly shook hands. “Nice truck. Driving a semi must pay well.”
“The pay’s not bad, and Natalie doesn’t do bad either. Sobriety has been good to the Miller family this past year. But a lot is going to change in a few months.”
“And what would that be?” Phil asked, knowing it couldn’t be anything good.
“Natalie’s pregnant. We’ve got a November baby in the oven.”
Phil was speechless for a moment and then congratulated his brother. “So, Aiden’s going to have a step-brother, is he?”
“Or sister,” Keegan reminded him. “Or a nephew or niece, all depending on how we all look at things,” he chuckled. “So, what brings you out here ahead of our son?”
“I guess I wanted to know which Keegan I was getting.” Phil waited for Keegan to blow a gasket.
Once again, Keegan felt his blood pressure rise and once again he paused and took a deep breath. He stood in front of his younger brother, saying nothing. Keegan could see that his silence was aggravating Phil, which wasn’t his intent, so he broke the silence.
“You’re getting the sober Keegan,” he calmly replied.
“Well, Aiden’s scared. More than once he wanted to call the trip off.” Phil was certain that Keegan would explode this time. His memories told him it never took much to set Keegan off. He was hoping Keegan would stay true to form, which would probably lead to the end of the trip to the ocean.
“I know. Truth be told, I’m scared, too.”
Keegan’s reply wasn’t at all what Phil was expecting. “Say what?”
“Drake said it yesterday, and he was right. He told me last night that he never knew an eleven-year-old boy could intimidate a forty-year-old man.” Keegan flashed a wry smile. “But, that seems to be the case.”
“And so you’re going to call it off?”
“No bro. What I’m going to do is refer you to page 62 in the book where it talks about 100 forms of fear. Fear won’t govern me, and it won’t govern our son. We’re going to head for the ocean to fly kites and to get wet and get to really know each other.”
“Bro, I think there is more to you than I’ve been giving you credit for. I need to make amends for the way I’ve been treating you, especially since Thanksgiving. You came clean then, you’ve been honest ever since, and all I saw was the Keegan I’ve known my whole life.” Phil gave his brother a big bear hug. “Maybe I need to do some more meetings to help get my own ego in check.”
“I haven’t given you much reason to trust me, bro.”
“And I haven’t bothered to consider that the Program works. I’ve seen enough miracles to know that, and I think I’m hugging one of those miracles.” The Miller brothers broke their hug.
Aiden’s high-pitched voice suddenly wafted down from the front stoop. “Hey, are you guys going to talk all morning or are me and Uncle Keegan…er, I mean father…um, anyway, are we going to go kite flying?”
“I like the kite flying idea,” Keegan grinned.
“Me, too,” Larry said. He was standing behind Aiden at the open front door.
“Then I guess you guys better get going.” Phil had to concede the trip was going to happen. Even after the confessions and the hugs, he didn’t want to trust Keegan and wanted to tell him how thoroughly he’d kick his ass if anything off key happened to Aiden.
Aiden tossed his overnight bag into the truck bed but took his backpack into the backseat of the cab with him. He sat in the righthand seat and buckled in.
“You can sit in front if I turn the airbags off,” Keegan pointed out.
“Nope, I’m too small. A kid can only sit in front if there’s no place else to sit.”
“Oh, well, you’ve got this procedure down.”
“My dads know how it all works and I do what they say because it’s safe.” Aiden then went into a change of topic. “Ben, at the hardware store, put some kites on hold for us. I thought if we buy the kites here we won’t have to go looking in stores. They could be sold out or something.” Aiden’s heart was pounding. He was fearful that his father would be upset at his reserving kites without his permission.
“Good thinking, son. You must have inherited brains like that from your mother.”
“I bet you’re smart too.” Aiden unzipped his backpack, took Horace out, and placed him on the seat beside him. “I put him in the backpack because he’s easier to carry that way.” He was ready for his father to be upset that he was a sixth grader in middle school, but still carried a stuffed animal with him.
“Maybe you should sit him in the front seat,” Keegan suggested.
“Why?” Aiden wondered if he might want Horace there so he could toss him out the window.
“So we can both see him and he can keep us both company.”
“Very serious. And don’t worry about the airbags. I doubt he has anything that could break if they were deployed.”
“Well, he could injure his dignity,” Aiden stated as he set Horace on the front passenger seat.
“One of the things I’ve learned recently is that injured dignities are easily fixed,” Keegan said as he put the truck into reverse and started backing out of the driveway.
“That was interesting,” Larry said. “It took them forever to leave and it was with Horace comfortably sitting up front.”
“I hate to say this,” Phil said, “but I think I underestimated Mister Keegan.”
“I think I have a new brother, and I think I could end up liking this version. Now, I’d better get to work.”
“Pick up something at the Burger Barn when you come home. From some of the things going on right now, it would appear that making out in the hot tub and then having wild sex on the pool patio could be quite exciting.”
“Well, then burgers it is. We eat quickly and see if the unknown horny individuals are correct before it gets too cold out.”
“Hmm. The cold didn’t seem to bother them any.”
“Good point,” Phil grinned as he got into his pickup.
As Keegan headed west on Lakeshore Drive and then across Highway 12, Aiden gave him directions to Ben’s Hardware and Hunting Supplies. Ben served them, telling Keegan he was pleased to meet him and informing him about how excited Aiden was about the kite flying expedition.
“The boy rode his bike out here three times until he made up his mind which kites to put on hold,” Ben said. He took Keegan and Aiden into the back storeroom. Twenty minutes later, Ben helped them put four kites into the truck after giving them a four for the price of three deal. “Wind’s supposed to be pretty brisk out there at the Shores. It pays to have a couple of spares.”
Just a little after noon, Keegan was parking his truck in the parking lot of the Tides Inn, the hotel they’d be staying at for the next two nights. Keegan told the desk clerk they’d arrived and asked for a recommendation for lunch. The clerk recommended Steamers next door and told Keegan that he had a room available for early check-in. Keegan and Aiden took their luggage to the room. The clerk was amused by the gray donkey head poking out of the boy’s backpack. He loved it when fathers and sons came together; there was always something special about the occasion.
Keegan and Aiden enjoyed fish and chips for lunch and talked baseball, mostly about the Titans. “We’re not as bad as our first two games,” Aiden insisted. “We just need to get experience because we have so many sixth graders on the team. But we’re really good sixth graders.”
“I have confidence in your coaches, and from what I’ve observed when I’ve watched you play sports, I have a ton of confidence in you.” Aiden blushed. His father was quite different than the asswaffle at the courthouse, or the father who kept criticizing him when they met at The Bear for the first time, and especially different from the piece of shit asshole who lived with him and his mother.
He and his father had met a couple of times since the Thanksgiving feast, had talked on the phone, and had exchanged texts and emails. The result was this trip to the ocean, his first time away from home overnight with his father.
After eating lunch, Aiden and Keegan went to the pickup, unlocked the canopy, and took two kites out of the bed. The sky was gray and the wind was brisk, but it wasn’t raining. Soon Keegan and Aiden were walking along the beach and into the dunes flying their kites. There were other kite flyers at the beach, but there was plenty of room to maneuver the kites without getting tangled up.
Father and son said little to each other beyond repeating suggestions Ben had given them as well as what instructions they remembered from online. For the first time Aiden was laughing and enjoying life with his birth father who had, at least momentarily, moved up the pantheon from his title as sperm donor. The less that was said between them the closer they seemed to become. It was as if they’d been trying too hard in their previous meetings while this time they didn’t seem to be trying at all. They were together and enjoying each other’s company and that was all they needed.
Keegan couldn’t remember the last time he’d laughed and shouted with glee like he was doing that afternoon. He couldn’t remember if he’d ever laughed and shouted with glee when he was a boy, let alone doing it as an adult.
Around three o’clock they wound in their kites and sat on a bench on a berm along the shoreline. “Damn, I need to catch my breath,” Keegan wheezed. “Too many cigarettes.”
Aiden turned his head quickly and looked wide-eyed at his father. “Do you still smoke?”
“Nope. I quit right after Natalie agreed to marry me. The only restriction she put on me was that I quit smoking, which ain’t that easy to do. Plus, it takes a lot of time to get over the evil effects smoking has.”
“She didn’t say you had to quit drinking too?”
“That’s not how it works. Quitting drinking is something we work on a day at a time.”
“Yep, that’s what Marty says and what Sammy told me and what my dads tell me. I guess it works like that for everybody.”
“At least for everybody who is serious about their program in AA, but it isn’t a bad way for anybody to live.”
Aiden nodded his head wondering when his father started sounding like Marty. He stood up and took his camera out of his camera bag. He retrieved his kite from behind the bench and started playing out the line, moving so it would rise high enough to catch the wind coming over the berm. Aiden and the kite caught the wind and the kite was soon flying proudly in the gray sky.
He secured the band to anchor the kite to his wrist so he could set up the pictures he wanted. With a few gyrations he was able to get pictures of the kite string coming straight out of his hand along with the kite attached to the other end. Keegan asked if he could take some pictures of Aiden flying his kite. Aiden had been hoping his father would ask to take pictures. After Keegan finished, Aiden took pictures of Keegan flying his kite. By dinner time father and son were tired and hungry.
After dinner, Aiden called his dads with the promised nightly phone call. He told them that he was having a good time. “The kite flying is kick ass fun,” Aiden said, “but you have to really work hard at it if the wind gets too strong,” he told them. When asked how his father was doing, Aiden told them that he seemed to be having a good time and that he was way different to be with than he thought. “We’re going to take a walk on the beach tomorrow and do some more kite flying,” Aiden told his dads as he finished off his call.
When bedtime came, Aiden stripped down to his Mayfield Middle School Titans t-shirt and his white briefs. Before opening his pants, the memory of a very drunk and stoned Keegan getting him drunk when he was seven popped into his head. But that was then, and this was now. He filled his head with positive thoughts of what had been a great day and took off his pants.
After brushing and flossing and washing and peeing, Aiden set Horace at the foot of his bed to be a guardian donkey. He climbed under his covers and looked over at his father who was wearing nothing but a pair of red, yellow, and green striped boxers. “Good night, Uncle Keegan. Thanks for a really awesome day.”
“Good night, son. And thank you for helping make it special for me.” Keegan wanted desperately to hug his son, but as happened more and more frequently as his mind kept getting clearer, he got a proper sense of the situation. It was obvious to him that Aiden did not want a hug or to be touched, at least not that night. They fell asleep to the roar of the incoming surf not far from their hotel.
TUESDAY, APRIL 8
Keegan woke up ahead of Aiden. He showered, shaved, and dressed before waking up his son. Aiden shook his head sleepily, said good morning to his father, grabbed a fresh pair of underpants, and went into the bathroom to take his shower. When Aiden came out of the bathroom, he was wearing nothing but a pair of black Hanes briefs. While he was still a little wary of his father, he felt that somebody who was drunk and on drugs four years ago was a lot different than his sober father.
Keegan couldn’t help but admire his son’s nearly naked body. He didn’t see him as a sexual creature, like he did Drake, but he did see him as a beautiful example of young boyhood. And to think, half of his genes came from me, he mused.
Aiden pulled a Seattle Mariners t-shirt out of his backpack and put on the same pair of jeans he had worn the day before. He had held them out of the open window and shook what little sand had found its way into the nooks, crannies, and pockets of the pants into the wind. He had a fresh pair of jeans, but they were for an emergency or for the ride home the next day.
After Keegan and Aiden finished breakfast, they returned to their hotel room, took care of teeth and whatever else needed taking care of, donned their jackets, and left for their beach walk.
The wind was cold, but their jackets were warm. Even though the tide was going out, some of the incoming waves would still chase them away from the water. They laughed hard as they ran up to the dry sand. Keegan had brought Drake to this beach more than once and had enjoyed every minute of it as he and the teen built a father and son type of relationship. He was worried that he would find his blood son wanting in comparison. He worked hard not to be judgmental, but it didn’t matter—his time with Aiden was turning out to be as delightful as his experience with Drake had been.
“I bet that water is cold,” Aiden remarked.
“It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out,” Keegan replied.
“Oh, good, that means you can figure it out, too,” Aiden said with an impish grin. It was at that moment, with Aiden sticking a good-natured jab deep into his ego, that Keegan realized he was becoming accepted by his son.
Aiden ran up to the dry sand, removed his socks and shoes, and pulled off his jeans. He was now wearing just a hoodie and black briefs. He picked up his socks, shoes, and pants and walked closer to where the incoming waves moved across the wet sand and set them down well above the damp sand.
“What are you doing?” Keegan asked.
“Just checking if I’m as smart as a genius.”
“And, are you?”
“Yep. The water is freezing,” Aiden giggled.
“I think I’ll take your word for it.”
“I’ve worked hard in my life to attain wuss status and I plan to enjoy it.”
Aiden kept laughing and dodging waves until Keegan decided it was time to turn back. Aiden was happy to leave the water and planned to put his wet, sandy feet back into his socks and shoes as soon as his feet dried. His underpants were wet from the spray he’d kicked up. Since he saw nobody but Keegan in sight, he pulled off his wet underpants. He was surprised that he felt no embarrassment standing in front of his father wearing only a damp hoodie. He pulled on his jeans and told his father he was ready to go.
After an hour of walking away from the town, Keegan and Aiden turned around for the walk back. As they strode side-by-side along the dry part of the sand they could tell by how the incoming waves were coming closer that the tide was now incoming.
Once again, the two said nothing and yet felt everything—a silent bonding moved between them. There was a change along the way. Keegan was thinking about how good his life had become in sobriety when he felt something touch his hand. He looked down and saw Aiden’s fingers work their way to his own fingers. He opened his hand and felt the chill leave his body, replaced by a flood of warmth as his son interlocked his fingers with his own.
The silence continued as Aiden looked ahead as if pretending that nothing different was happening, but none of them could deny the touch of the small, smooth hand squeezing the large, roughened hand. Aiden held his father’s hand until their hotel came in sight. He sat on a bench, wiped as much sand off his feet as he could, and slipped on his socks and shoes. They went to their room, cleaned up, and headed to lunch. Because Aiden’s pant legs were damp, he changed to his second pair of pants. During lunch Keegan and Aiden talked, but not about Aiden’s decision to hold his father’s hand. As he had before, Keegan decided Aiden would talk about the changing dynamics between them in his own time.
The plan for the afternoon was to fly kites. While still brisk, the wind had died down from the morning and wasn’t as gusty as the afternoon before. Keegan used Aiden’s camera to take a few more pictures as they started, planning to get a kite up in the air in a few minutes.
Aiden was working on making his kite do aerobatics. He saw another kite close by being flown by a boy who had just come out from between some dunes. He thought he recognized the red hair when he heard the boy call out, “Aiden! Hey Aiden!” He quickly recognized the boy; he was John Parker, one of his cabinmates at baseball camp.
“John,” Aiden yelled out. “Cabin 12 rules!”
John ran over to Aiden, his kite flying above and behind him. “Cabin 12 rules!” John grinned as they traded fist bumps.
A man who did not have a kite came around the dune while Keegan approached the boys from the opposite direction. The man was Grant Parker, John’s father. Introductions were made all the way around and then the impatient boys took off with their kites flying above them while Keegan snapped off a few more pictures. All the pictures he was taking made him feel truly fatherly.
Keegan and Grant hit it off right away, father to father. “Do you want to get out of this cold wind and get something hot to drink?” Grant eventually
“Sounds like a plan to me. Let’s tell the boys.”
Grant pulled out his phone and called John. John heard the phone ring; the ringtone told him his father was calling, so he stopped his run with Aiden and answered his phone. Grant told him he and Keegan were going into the Shoreline Grill for some hot coffee and that he and Aiden were welcome to join them. The boys declined for the time being.
“Would you rather have something stronger instead?” Grant asked as he and Keegan passed the entrance to the bar.
“I don’t drink,” Keegan told him without elucidation.
“Then coffee it is.” They sat at a booth in the dining room and ordered coffees.
“Do you and John go kite flying in cold winds often?”
“Not really,” Grant laughed. “We much prefer summer breezes, but we do take a lot of excursions. I am a single dad and try to do as much with and for John as I can. What about you and Aiden? Do the two of you do outings like this often?”
“That is a simple question that requires a complicated answer,” Keegan replied. He then gave Grant his short version of his relationship with his son.
“Hard to believe,” Grant said. “Even in the short time I saw you two, I could see a lot of mutual love and respect between you. I can’t believe this is your first father-son outing.”
“It’s gone better than I could have ever hoped for.”
“I take it now that you’ve won this round for visitation rights you’re going to fight for custody of your son.”
Keegan took a deep breath and gave an answer different from what Grant expected. “I am happy with what we have going, and so is my son.”
“But why? You’re his blood father. He deserves to be with his real father and to have a mother and even a brother, as well.”
“It goes like this Grant. Aiden is happy where he is. He is a good student, participates in athletics and other activities, he has a host of friends, and my brother and brother-in-law have done a standout job of raising the boy.”
“Don’t you think you could do just as well as them?”
“Maybe. But this isn’t about me, it’s about my son. I drank away my right to raise my son. Any fight for custody would have nothing to do with Aiden’s happiness and everything to do with my ego. Believe me, you don’t know how tough it was for me to realize that fact. A custody battle would simply be a battle between my son’s happiness and my ego saying that he is better off leaving everything that he has built up in the last three years in order to satisfy that ego.”
Grant sipped his coffee and waited for Keegan to finish.
“Aiden will determine how much of a role I will play in his life. But, I think we bonded a lot today—bonded without us even talking about it. We bonded simply by being with each other and enjoying ourselves together. I am grateful how things have unfolded these past two days. I pray that we can have more experiences like this with each other.”
“I think that will happen, Keegan. I truly respect your stance. That smile on your boy’s face is a thing of beauty and guaranteed to break more than one female heart,” Grant grinned. “A boy doesn’t radiate that kind of positive energy without being as well adjusted to life as a boy of that age can be. You’re a man of incredible integrity and a great example to your son of how a person can pick up the pieces and put his broken life together. I can only wish you the best.”
“Speaking of radiant smiles, it looks like two of them just walked into the restaurant.”
“We think it’s hot chocolate time,” John grinned as he and Aiden sat in the booth next to their fathers.
“You’ll get no argument from us,” Grant said.
That night, Aiden sat on his bed in red briefs and a Mariner t-shirt, watching the Mariner game on television. After they pulled out a 5-4 win with a run in the bottom of the ninth, he got ready for bed. He removed his t-shirt and went into the bathroom. While he was ready to sleep wearing less than the night before, there was no way he was going to be naked in front of his father.
After Aiden pulled the covers over his bare torso, Keegan walked over and gave him a chaste kiss on his forehead, just like Aiden’s dad and his pop liked to do. “Good night, son,” he said as he turned out the light on Aiden’s nightstand.
Aiden watched his dad climb into his bed wearing only boxers. After Keegan turned his light off, Aiden continued to look at his father’s bed in the darkened room. He thought about grabbing Horace, going over to his father’s bed, and crawling in next to him. He wondered if he would feel as safe with his father as he did with his dads. In his wildest imagination he never thought he could have a day as good as this one had been.
He didn’t move, however. He had slept with his dads and with Marty because he felt safe, and comforted, and cared for, and loved being with them. He knew now that his father loved him, but that feeling of safety and comfort hadn’t touched him, yet. Maybe it was time to find out if his father’s touch would give him the same safe, secure, and loved feeling. The key for him was whether his father would welcome Horace into his bed as well.
His father. He had studiously avoided addressing Keegan as father or uncle or any kind of name when he spoke to him. Father seemed too serious and while he was Aiden’s adoptive uncle, Uncle Keegan didn’t feel right, and Keegan just wasn’t an option. But he felt he had a solution to his dilemma.
Aiden contemplated putting his t-shirt on but decided against it. He wanted to be truly touching his father when he gave his father the name he wanted to call him. He got out of his bed and tiptoed to Keegan’s bed, stopping at the edge. Keegan rolled over and faced his son. “You and Horace look like you need something.”
“We need to sleep with you,” Aiden whispered nervously. “Please.”
Aiden’s plea felt like deja vu to Keegan. It felt like just moments ago when Drake had made the same plea. Considering their history together, Keegan hadn’t anticipated this request from his son. In reply, he pulled back the covers and scooted over to make room for his eleven-year-old son.
Aiden set Horace down at the foot of the bed, just like he usually did when he slept with his dads and then crawled into the space Keegan had made for him. He pulled the covers over himself and snuggled up to his father’s bare torso. He took hold of his father’s arm and placed it on his bare shoulder. Keegan took the hint and pulled Aiden in tight.
Taking a deep breath, Aiden said, “Good night, daddy. I love you,” he said just loud enough for Keegan to hear him. Larry was his pop, Phil was his dad. Aiden had stopped calling Larry daddy because only a little kid would use the word “daddy”. But while Aiden wasn’t yet sophisticated enough to analyze his thinking, what he was feeling was that in his relationship with his father he truly was a little kid who barely knew his father, which made the term daddy perfect.
“Good night, son, I love you, too,” Keegan managed to get out before he drenched his son’s bare shoulder with tears of love and happiness.
Next: The Fourth Dimension (Part 1)