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Mac Rountree

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  1. Mac Rountree

    Sunday Gift

    Thomas, I hadn't thought of Mark being touched by the divine but you are absolutely right that he has wisdom. Hmmm, you have given me something to ponder: being divine v. being touched by the divine. Uncle Samuel was right to pass along the ring of the head of the household to Mark. Thank you for reading. Mac
  2. Mac Rountree

    Sunday Gift

    Children in ancient cultures were often sacrificed to appease the gods. Some of those thoughts are still present in some cultures. Luckily, Ehud was an only child so that the father cannot exact punishment on other children. Mark will find a way to protect Ehud. Thank you for reading the book. Mac
  3. Mac Rountree

    Sunday Gift

    Thank you very much. Mac
  4. Mac Rountree

    Sunday Gift

    Agreed. The source of the semen.
  5. Mac Rountree

    Sunday Gift

    Punishment from his father.
  6. Everyone was dressed for church except Dan. He had worked non-stop since returning to Algiers and was exhausted. He joked and said the other doctors were trying to extract payback for his long “vacation.” The hospital administrator even said if Dan had time to fall in love and get married, he must have enjoyed his time away. Dan chuckled and continued to see patients at the hospital. He typically had two or three medical students following him each day. Dan had always been self-assured, but now he had a commanding presence that he didn’t possess before. He had picked up that attitude while working at the Duke Medical Center. He was recognized as the smartest and most highly skilled fellow in Durham, and he brought that self-assuredness back to Algeria. Most nights, Dan would arrive home after the children had eaten. He and Mark would sit on the patio and enjoy a light meal while ruminating about their day. Dan’s days were filled with patient care, but also, he was being pressed into service to help design the medical delivery services in the time of Covid19. He was thankful that he wasn’t providing care to C19 patients because he would have felt a need to self-isolate. He didn’t want to isolate and miss a minute with his family as they were exploring Algiers. The aunts had booked an engagement with Belinda to take her shopping one morning. Security was now at a higher level because many of the bandits who typically preyed on people on the edge of the desert were making their way into the city. With her fair hair and skin, Belinda was ripe for picking for slavery and being sold deep in Africa. The aunts had security men who worked on their properties to keep beggars and vagrants at bay, and they were their de-facto security staff when the aunts went out. Robert had insisted that he would also accompany Belinda whenever they were out of the compound. Sufiyan did not let the others know, but he and Cecilia followed them in the Land Rover. He was prepared to rescue his goddess and her brother if trouble presented. Cecilia had developed a plan to scoop Belinda in her arms, cover her with hijab, and secret her from the marketplace. Sufiyan was to rescue Robert, and together, all four would escape together. Sufiyan decided the aunts could fend for themselves. The aunts, particularly Josefina, was insistent that Belinda needed some jewelry. They couldn’t understand why she didn’t have her ears and nose pierced. Mark just about stroked when this was mentioned. Mark said that she was too young. They eventually negotiated that she could have her ears pierced. Mark was adamant that no nose piercing was allowed. When Belinda returned from her shopping and lunching with the aunts, she wore sapphire earrings and had a charm bracelet. The aunts thought it would be appropriate dangling from her wrist. They had each bought her a charm. When one bought her a Mogen David, another bought her a cross. Belinda saw the sliver moon of the Islamic faith and asked if she could also have that. The aunts had a hard time refusing the child. Robert had convinced the aunts to let him get one ear pierced, and he had a hoop placed in it. He thought he looked like a pirate. There were plenty of pirates who plied the seas along the coast, and he was fascinated by the stories of their exploits. Mark told Dan of his struggle to remain civil when Belinda and Robert returned with the aunts. He had no idea that Robert would want a pierced ear. Mark had invited the aunts to the patio, where Cecilia served iced drinks, dates, and small pastries. When Belinda and Robert showed up on the patio, one of the aunts said she had one more present for Belinda. It was another charm. Not to be outdone, the other aunts had secretly purchased additional charms for Belinda. They were for future events, but when one aunt showed off, the others decided they were not going to be one-upped. Sufiyan found a pair of pliers so that Mark could attach the additional charms to the bracelet. There was now a jingle from the various gold ornaments when Belinda moved her wrist. After the aunts left, Mark made both Belinda and Robert sit and write thank you notes to the aunts. Good manners would go a long way with these formidable women. He knew the day would come when there would be a huge blow-up, and he didn’t want past grievances being laid at his feet. Past grievances were often petty events nurtured and fed until they reached a level of importance far above the actual infraction. Mark met with Uncle Samuel. It had been a courtly meeting. Uncle Samuel had been very deferential, and they made small talk. Mark knew that the most important topic was not being addressed, but he didn’t know what that was. He also didn’t know how to ask the purpose of why Uncle Samuel was meeting with him. Finally, Mark stood and told Uncle Samuel it was so good to see him and hoped that he would visit often. Uncle Samuel jumped up from his seat like it was on fire. He was hedging and hesitating, saying good-bye. He then reached into his jacket pocket, pulled out an object, and placed it in Mark’s hand. Mark looked and saw a gold ring made in the shape of a Lion’s head. The glistening eyes were rubies. “This ring has always been worn by the head of the family. I do not want that title, and I am formally requesting that you be the head of the family.” Mark looked at the beautiful ring. “I am honored, Uncle Samuel. I should talk with Dan because this ring came down through your family, and it should rightfully be on his finger, not mine. I am head of the family in this house but not the entire L’Oranise family in Algeria.” “I have already spoken to Daniel and told him what I planned to do. He said it was right and proper.” Mark nodded his head while he pondered what Uncle Samuel had done. Mark then motioned for them to be seated again. “Tell me what it means to be head of the family. What do you and the aunts expect? Tell me about the other family members. I do not want to assume responsibility until I fully understand what you need from me.” Uncle Samuel laid out for Mark what he had thought was involved in this position. Mark nodded his head while the academic in Uncle Samuel would recite chapter and verse of the family history. After an hour of talking non-stop, Uncle Samuel looked sheepish and apologized for being so verbose. “I want to make sure that you know that we already hold you in high esteem. My sisters are more than I can manage. My nieces and nephews need a strong man to respect and follow. I love my libraries and research but do not have the strength of character when they start squabbling. My sisters are already saying that you have the wisdom of Solomon. There is no higher honor in our family unless they call you Rebbe.” Mark slid the ring on the fourth finger of his left hand. It was a perfect fit. Mark thought the very idea might be possible because he had married not just Dan, but his family. He wore the wedding band from Dan on the middle finger of his left hand. Mark stood again, and Uncle Samuel joined him. The man was smiling and looked very relieved. That night when Dan got home from the hospital, they were sitting at the table eating when Dan noticed the ring. He reached out and held Mark’s hand. “This is as it should be. You honor me. You honor our family.” There was nothing more to be said. The two had no discussion about Mark’s position in the family. It was done. Uncle Samuel had started taking Robert to Torah study on Saturday morning and told Belinda that girls were not allowed. Belinda went to the aunts to learn how to celebrate Shabbat. Mark and Dan were surprised on Friday night when Belinda lit the candles on the table and asked Dan to lead them through a Shabbat meal. Erin couldn’t decide whether to participate but knew it would be rude to leave the dinner table. Mark smiled, thinking that Belinda would eventually worm her way into the Jewish faith and get what she wanted. Now, it was Sunday morning, and Erin had asked if they could go to Notre-Dame d’Afrique Basilica. It was built in a neo-Byzantine style and looked much older than its years as it wasn’t completed until 1872. The Catholics in Algiers would say to the people in Paris that they had their own Notre-Dame. It was not as large as its Parisian sister, but that didn’t matter to the people of Algeria. When they were dressed, they met in the foyer where Sufiyan was waiting to chauffeur them. Erin looked at Belinda and started chewing on her lip. Belinda knew something was wrong and waited a while for her nan to say something. “You need something to cover your head. I don’t know what they do in the United States, but here you wouldn’t go into church without your head covered.” Erin went to her room and returned with a white lace handkerchief that she had purchased for Patti. She saw this as an emergency and therefore had preference. After Erin pinned the lace to Belinda’s hair, they got into the Land Rover with Sufiyan driving. When they were deposited in front of the Basilica, Sufiyan made clear for them to wait there until he returned. He was concerned about them wandering around the city on their own. He said twice for them not to leave until he returned. Belinda was wearing her pectoral cross and was the first one into the massive church. The greeter caught his breath at seeing the cross on Belinda. She smiled and offered a blessing when he handed her a bulletin. The rest of the family followed Belinda up the center aisle. She chose row number six. She liked to sit close to the front. They all reverenced the altar before taking their seats. Erin was thankful they did not embarrass her by not knowing proper church etiquette. Robert and Belinda understood the entire service, which was conducted in French. Erin followed most of it. Mark was picking up more of the language as he understood the structure of the Mass. When the service ended, and the priests were recessing, Belinda slipped from her seat and started walking with them. There was a bit of a kerfuffle in the narthex. They didn’t understand why a young girl was wearing a pectoral cross; she explained that she was clergy at Duke Chapel in the United States. No, she was clear, the chapel was not Catholic and wanted to know why that mattered. Belinda grew weary of them asking her endless questions and walked to the great West Doors, where she commenced her routine of thanking people for attending and offering a blessing for the sacred day. Mark stood back amused while Erin pulled on his coat sleeve and said that he should stop her. “Good luck with that, Erin. She is God’s anointed, and I am not messing with God. I have already had enough bad luck in my life.” “Women are not allowed to do what she is doing, Mark. The Pope doesn’t allow it.” “Well, Erin, I don’t see the Pope anywhere around, so unless the priests chase us off, she is going to do what she has always done.” Erin wasn’t sure if a bolt of lightning was going to come piercing through the roof and kill them or whether it would occur when they walked into the plaza in front of the Basilica. She had never seen such sacrilege as a young girl wearing a pectoral cross and blessing people. The nuns at home wouldn’t dare cross that ecclesiastical line. As they were getting into the car, Mark suggested to Belinda that she write the Dean of Duke Chapel to let him know what she had done. Mark thought the Dean would be interested that Belinda was carrying forth the ministry of the Chapel on a different continent. He could only chuckle at the reaction of the priests. Little did they know what Belinda had planned. Dan was napping on a chaise when they returned from church. He laughed when Belinda told him about wishing everyone a blessed day. She told him how it was a good thing he had taught her French so she could explain to the priests precisely what she was doing. Dan looked at Mark and smirked. “There is no keeping her down. You know that she is a goddess who has been sent to live with us.” “I am getting used to that idea. Belinda is leading us because I have no idea what it means to be a goddess.” Erin looked at them with her eyes sparkling, “then you should come to Holy Ireland where we have imps and sprites and fairies and goddesses, and of course, blessed St. Patrick. I feel more Celtic when I am with you because this is somewhat beyond anything allowed in blessed Ireland. There are many myths and tales of the Celtic people, but maybe they are just truths that we cannot understand.” Cecilia had a light lunch ready for them. They ate, and then Mark announced it was time for naps. He didn’t plan to sleep but needed Dan in their bed. It had been another busy week at the hospital, and Dan needed special attention from his husband. Mark started by giving Dan a massage using a fragrant oil, then made him lie on his back while he kissed and licked his body. Dan was moaning one minute, and then Mark heard him lightly snoring. Mark chuckled and knew that their lovemaking would continue but that his husband was physically exhausted. Mark pulled Dan into a spooning position, and they both fell asleep. Sufiyan knocked on the bedroom door and didn’t receive a response. He knocked again, louder this time. He heard voices, and then someone said to come in. Mark and Dan were lying in bed with a sheet covering their legs and abdomen. They were flushed. “Dr. Daniel, there is a boy at the door. He says he is here to see you and the master.” “Do you know him, Sufiyan?” “He is the grandson of your aunt Rachel.” “Take him to the patio and give him something to drink. We will be with him momentarily.” “Yes, Dr. Dan.” Sufiyan backed out of the room and closed the door. Dan looked at Mark and shrugged his shoulders. “You are the most remarkable man in the world, my master. I love you more than life itself. We will continue later as I need filling again.” Mark pulled Dan to him and kissed his mouth. He was so in love with his husband. “You are my master. I am like a dog waiting for you to pet me. I am ever ready to please you. I will do whatever you want and follow you anywhere. I am nothing without you.” Dan could only grin at the acclimation. Actually, Mark had mounted Dan like a dog a few minutes before Sufiyan had knocked on the door. They kissed and were ready to continue when Dan said they had a guest waiting. “I know that my aunt has a grandson, but I don’t believe I have ever met him. Let’s see what he wants.” They walked into the shower and washed off the most obvious signs of their lovemaking. They put on cotton draw-string trousers, linen shirts, and sandals and walked to the patio holding hands. They needed to touch each other and were flushed with love that flowed from them. A boy stood in front of them. Mark thought he was the most beautiful child he had ever seen. His eyes were green and lit up when he saw the two of them approaching while holding hands. His skin was the color of café-au-lait, and he had the longest fingers that Mark had ever seen on a boy. He was tall and painfully thin. Mark decided he was more beautiful than handsome. Beside the boy were a piece of luggage and a case for a musical instrument. Dan greeted the boy in French, and Mark understood what was being said. They spoke a few more words, and Mark could tell that Dan was starting to get upset. Mark placed the palm of his hand in the middle of Dan’s back. Dan looked at him with a look that screamed, “help.” Mark reached out his hand in greeting to the boy, who returned the gesture. Mark then indicated that they should be seated. Mark called for Sufiyan and asked that he get Robert and Belinda to join them. The boy drank the juice and ate the food that Cecilia brought him. Mark knew the boy had not eaten in a while, given that he almost inhaled the food. Mark asked that more food be brought for everyone. When Belinda and Robert appeared, they were surprised to see the young boy sitting at the table. The boy jumped up, pointed at himself, and in English said, “Ehud. My name is Ehud.” Robert gave Mark a questioning look and then turned to smile at the boy. “My name is Robert, and this is my sister, Belinda.” Belinda blushed when she looked at Ehud. They all ate and tried to have a conversation, but Ehud wasn’t disclosing much about himself. Finally, he looked at Mark, sighed, and asked if he could speak to the head of the L’Oranise family - in private. Mark didn’t know that family problems were going to present themselves so soon. Mark took Ehud to the front room and instructed everyone to stay on the patio while they talked. Mark indicated a chair for Ehud to sit in and then sat on a sofa. Ehud sat gently as if he was in pain. Mark waited for the boy to speak, yet he sat in silence. “Ehud, you came to see me. Here I sit. What do you need to say?” Ehud looked at the floor and then raised his head to look directly into Mark’s eyes. “I need your protection.” “What kind of protection. From whom?” “From my parents. My grandmother Rachel said for me to come to see you. She said you would help me.” “Why do you need protection from your family?” “They plan to kill me.” Mark was startled by the declaration. “Tell me more.” Ehud laid out his bill of particulars. His mother was Jewish and had married an Ethiopian man who converted to Islam and now followed Shari law. As he grew, Ehud refused to perform the rituals expected of boys to transition to manhood. His father was continually berating him and saying that if he didn’t cooperate, he would never be allowed to live with their tribe. Then the worst of the worst happened when Ehud was found with another boy. He heard his parents talking that night, saying he was of the devil and must be sent out to perform a pilgrimage that would determine whether he could continue to live with them. He was to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. On his own. Mark didn’t know the specifics but knew that climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro was beyond the capabilities of many able-bodied men. Surely, this boy would have died trying to climb the mountain. “Why Mt. Kilimanjaro?” “My name is Ehud Daniel Kilimanjaro. My father’s ancestors took the name because it has always been a rite of passage in our family to climb the mountain. Only those blessed by the gods come down from the mountain and then go to the Serengeti plains afterward where there is a celebration of manhood with the killing of an ox.” “How did you get here?” “Normally, a father and son climb together, but my parents delivered me at the foot of the mountain. My father said he was not going with me, that it was my journey to make alone. They gave me money to leave for the gods on the mountain and to pay for transport home. They watched me take the first steps up the mountain, and once I was out of sight, they left. I understood that I had been sacrificed to the gods of the mountain. I walked back down and found a caravan traveling from the Serengeti to the port of Algiers. I gave them all of the money I had, and they brought me with them.” “Why aren’t you at your grandmother’s house?” “She is afraid. When my father finds out I am alive, he will try to kill me. He says I have dishonored the family. My Bibi is afraid that if she keeps me that he will kill her also. She told me you are as wise as Solomon.” “Where do you plan to live?” The boy did not answer. Mark saw tears running down Ehud’s face. Mark twisted the family ring on his finger and knew what he had to do. “You are staying with us while we figure this out. I will have Sufiyan show you a room where you can sleep. I suggest you take a bath before dinner. How is that you know English?” “My mother worked at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa and learned the language, and then she taught me. I know Hebrew, Arabic, French, and English.” Once again, Mark felt his language skills were put to shame. Mark stood, and Ehud jumped up. Mark could see a look of pain cross Ehud’s face. “Welcome to our home.” Ehud threw his body against Mark’s and held onto his waist. “You are Solomon. I promise I will be no problem.” Mark rubbed his hand across Ehud’s head and realized that he needed not only a bath but also a good shampoo. “How long did it take you to get here?” “Seventeen days.” “I will tell Cecilia to make a special dinner for tonight. You also need to meet Nan, who is the children’s grandmother.” Mark called Sufiyan and told him that Ehud needed a bedroom and would be staying with them. Sufiyan bowed, and when he stood upright, he looked at Mark like he wanted to tell him something. Sufiyan took Ehud to the bedroom while Mark continued to sit on the sofa. He needed to think. Mark was in a quandary, as he didn’t understand the customs and didn’t want Ehud’s father arriving at their home wanting to kill the boy. Mark wouldn’t let that happen if he could help it, and he certainly didn’t want Dan or the children to be at risk. He knew without a doubt that he could not turn this boy away. Mark decided he would talk to Uncle Samuel. Sufiyan appeared at the door and said that he saw bugs crawling out of the boy’s tote and didn’t think it should be brought into the house. Mark asked him to have Ehud unpack it in the yard and for everything to be washed before being brought inside. Mark looked at the hand that had rubbed Ehud’s head and decided that a good handwashing was in order. Sufiyan took the vehicle and made a quick trip to the bazaar to see if anyone was there selling clothes on a Sunday afternoon. There were a couple of vendors who did not observe the Christian sabbath who sold him some clothes. Sufiyan knew that Mark would want the boy to have better clothes, but these would do in the interim. He arrived home and found Ehud naked in his bedroom. Sufiyan explained that his clothes were being washed and that he had brought him something else to wear. Ehud had tears in his eyes as he looked at the new clothes; he had never been given new clothes. While Sufiyan helped Ehud put them on, he noticed the marks on Ehud’s back, buttocks, and thighs. The boy had been beaten many times. Sufiyan led Ehud to the patio where the family was gathered. Cecilia had put out food for them to snack on while dinner was being prepared. Sufiyan indicated to Mark that he needed to talk. “Mr. Mark, that boy, he has been beaten. I have seen that kind of beating among the tribal people. Some people die from those beatings. His back, it is raw. Should I tell Dr. Dan?” “Thank you, Sufiyan. I will have Dr. Dan help him. Mark paid attention to Ehud and could see the pain in the boy’s eyes. Belinda asked about his musical instrument, and Ehud said he played and sang. After they finished dinner, Ehud took the oud from its case and tuned the strings. He then started playing and singing while sitting cross-legged on the patio deck. They were all taken with his skillful playing and beautiful voice. It was if an angel was in their midst. Mark called an early end to the evening and told Ehud that Dr. Dan would help him with his pajamas. There were no pajamas. Dan didn’t know why Mark had said he would help. Mark pushed them both toward Ehud’s bedroom. Mark kept Belinda and Robert on the patio where he talked about them having another brother. Mark looked up, and saw Dan standing in the doorway. Dan was actually shaking and had tears in his eyes; he then turned and walked back into the house. Sufiyan appeared and announced that he was driving Dr. Dan and Ehud to the hospital. Belinda and Robert were both concerned about Ehud and wanted to go with them. Mark told them that they would all visit Ehud the next day. Belinda was not happy. She was immediately smitten with this beautiful boy and couldn’t stand the thought that something might be wrong with him. Mark tossed and turned all night after not hearing from Dan. The morning dawned bright and hot. Mark was about to call the hospital when he heard a car in the drive. Dan walked in the front door after exiting the taxi. He looked devastated. He went to Mark, wrapped his arms around his husband’s neck, put his head against Mark’s chest, and wept. Belinda and Robert were astounded as they had never seen Dr. Dan that upset. “He is going to be okay. You should have told me sooner. Another day and sepsis would have set in and taken him away. How can people be so cruel?” “What does septic mean, Daddy Dan?” “The term is sepsis. It is blood poisoning. Our Ehud is very ill right now. I stayed with him all night because he should not be alone.” “Daddy, take me to the hospital. I need to see Ehud.” “Finish your breakfast, Belinda, and if Daddy Dan says you can see Ehud, then I will take you.” “I think we all need to take shifts to stay with him. After I shower, you can take me to work, and you can sit with Ehud. He would enjoy being with Belinda and Robert. He asked about them several times last night. He was afraid they wouldn’t like him if they knew what happened.” Erin spoke up and said she would take the evening shift. Mark decided a conversation with Uncle Samuel was needed that morning. When they arrived at the hospital, they were given gowns, masks, and gloves. Belinda balked until Dan explained how infectious Ehud was. “Darling, Ehud was very sick last night. He said angels were visiting him. He had a very high fever.” “No, Daddy Dan, I asked the angels to stay with him. When I heard you were taking him to the hospital, I spoke to Sister Mary Agnes, and she said that angels would be there to look out for him.” Dan had witnessed the power of his daughter before and did not question that she had done precisely that. It was comforting for Dan to know that the Goddess Belinda was taking care of Ehud. The boy needed all of the help he could get.
  7. Dr. John, Welcome back to the world of Yonatan and Matan. These intrepid scouts have an interesting year to maneuver through. Of course, their circle of friends and family are with them every step of the way. Thanks for reading. Mac
  8. Mac Rountree

    Carefree Day

    Anton, I am glad that I am not the only one with covid-cobwebs. I love that term. Black, Green, Pink and Yellow use only surnames. Pink is the only security person who discloses the source of her name - upcoming chapter. Jeremiah Lipscomb was a gay homeless youth who was kicked out of his home. Erick and Todd encounter him at the homeless shelter in Williamsburg and call Yonatan for help. Yonatan asks Black to go to the shelter. Black takes his bf, Tim Sturdevant, to meet Jeremiah. Tim becomes the foster parent of Jeremiah and through extension Black become a de facto father. Tim is still the foster father in this book. Sorry, it gets complicated when there is a length of time between the books being posted. Thanks for reading!! Mac
  9. "It is beautiful outside. What do you think about cutting class today and spending it on the river?" Yonatan grinned at Matan and liked his lover’s idea. "Do we call in sick for class?" "Yep, spring fever. Come here and let me feel your forehead." Yonatan walked over to Matan. "Yep, just as I thought. You have a fever. You are burning up." Yonatan reached out and grabbed Matan's junk. "Yep, and you are hot, also. I think you need me to provide some medicine to make that swelling and fever go down." "Neither of us has taken a day off from school this semester, so I think we will be alright cutting classes for one day. Let's send emails to our professors." Yonatan called out Black's name as he stepped through the door. "Is the boat ready for an outing? We are going out on the river today." "I can have the boat ready in 30 minutes. Are we going to pack lunch or do we eat at one of the dock restaurants on the way?" "Let’s pack some snack food. We will plan on a big dinner tonight.” Matan came out of the bedroom wearing a pair of speedos. Yonatan caught his breath, looking at his partner. He was stunningly beautiful in a pair of green trunks, which complemented his red hair and fair skin. “You are beautiful. I mean, you are really, really beautiful. I am already hard just looking at you.” Black stood back, smirking at how these guys were hyper-sexual with each other. He thought they were always a heartbeat from jumping into bed. Matan twirled and then looked at Black. “Do you think Jeremiah and Bobby might want to go with us?” Black was taken aback by the question since it was a school day. “I need to check with Tim. I don’t think he will be happy about Jeremiah taking a day off from school.” “Call and find out. It would be enjoyable to have them join us on the boat. They are always up for some fun times, and we don’t see them enough. They are like dolphins in the water.” Black walked into another room and called while Yonatan was getting changed. He put on his speedo but also had his boat shoes, shorts, and a windbreaker. “It will be cool on the river, Matan, so that you will need more clothes than that.” They walked into the kitchen, where Black was packing a picnic basket. He said that Jeremiah and Bobby would arrive in about 45 minutes. “Can we water ski today?” “Matan, I think it will be too cold on the water without a wet suit. It is early April; you might freeze your balls off.” Matan grabbed his junk and laughed. He acknowledged it was early, and he didn’t want blue balls from being in the cold water. Water skiing would come later in the spring. Jeremiah and Bobby arrived and were bouncing on the balls of their feet. “Thank you for inviting us. Daddy Tim let us come, but we both have to work in the bookstore on Saturday for going out with you today.” The four young guys and Black walked down the steps to the dock. Matan and Jeremiah loosened the lines, and they drifted away from the dock. Black started the engine and guided them to the channel. “Where to Captain?” “I want to see the Ghost Fleet.” “Aye, aye, captain. We will head north.” Black turned the wheel, and the boat left the mouth of the Nansemond River and headed up channel in the James River. There was mostly commercial traffic on the river that day. Several container ships were heading north to the Port of Richmond. Black stayed clear of them as their boat was just a speck compared to those ships. Jeremiah stuck by Black’s side, asking questions about the boat and how to plot a course in the river. Black was so happy that his son wanted to know how to safely navigate the river; Black was a patient teacher as he used a teach-back technique to make sure that Jeremy understood what he was told. Matan and Yonatan sat in chairs on the stern deck. They would point out different landmarks, and both enjoyed the views. Matan grabbed Yonatan’s hand when he saw a bald eagle. The bird circled overhead and then dove straight down into the river and grabbed a fish. Matan could only gasp at the beauty of the sight. It had not been that many years before that the bald eagles had practically died out from the poisons emitted from the chemical plants in Hopewell. It was wonderful to see them returning. Matan stood and held onto Yonatan so he wouldn’t fall over. The river was relativity flat, but they were still moving with a fair amount of speed and would occasionally cross the wake of a cargo ship, and he didn’t want to be tossed overboard. Black had taught Matan and Yonatan boat safety lessons each time they went out. There was always something to learn, but they were fairly skilled already for their size boat. Matan was glad that Yonatan made him bring a lightweight jacket as it was rather chilly. After standing to watch the eagle, he sat in Yonatan’s lap. He wiggled and then laughed when he felt the effect he was having on his partner. He leaned over and kissed him hard on the mouth. It was no quick peck on the lips; this kiss was deep and sexy. “Stop it, or I will have to fuck you right here on the deck of the boat.” Matan grinned and said he wouldn’t mind. “Yeah, I would be the one embarrassed. You would enjoy showing off.” They grinned at each other. Yonatan grabbed Matan and kissed him. They were both weighing the options of dropping down to the deck when Bobby came and sat in the chair beside them and said he had never been upriver before. “We are going to see the Ghost Fleet. These are a lot of World War Two ships that are moored in storage on the James River. The military keeps them somewhat ready, in case they are needed. They are a reserve fleet though it will require a lot of work to put back into service, but not as much as building new ships.” Black maneuvered the boat in front of the line of cargo ships, and there was no wake to cross. He opened the throttle all of the way, and there were five men with huge grins on their faces. It was the perfect spring day to be on the water. They saw the lines of ships in the distance, and Black slowed their speed. When he did, Jeremy asked if he could be pilot the boat. Black looked askance and asked if he would keep them safe, and Jeremy swore that he would. Black knew there only one way to learn how to skipper a boat, which was to do the job. Black choked back the speed a couple of miles per hour and held the wheel while Jeremiah settled himself in the captain’s seat. “Steady on, Jeremiah. When we come abreast of the fleet, slow it down even more, and we can look at them.” Bobby moved beside Jeremiah while Black went back to talk with Yonatan. Jeremiah wasn’t satisfied with the distance they were from the ships and maneuvered out of the channel. Yonatan and Matan knew they were approaching the ships but figured that Black had instructed Jeremiah on how to approach the massive vessels. Black felt it first as he was thrown off balance and went to the deck. Jeremiah's eyes opened wide, and he pulled back on the throttle. They all felt the bump when the outboard motor bumped the sandbar under the boat. Black jumped up from the deck and lunged toward the wheel. He looked up and saw they were practically under the ships. He then looked at the navigation screen, which was blinking and warning that they were in less than three feet of water. Jeremy had taken them over a sandbar. Black turned off power to the motor and called for Yonatan and Bobby to pull up the motor and secure it. Black wanted to yell at Jeremiah, but he was too busy cursing himself. He should not have left Jeremiah alone at the wheel. “Matan, go to the bow and drop the anchor.” Matan scrambled to the bow and dropped the anchor, which stilled the boat. When the boat stopped moving, everyone waited for Black to explode. He didn’t. Instead, he pulled off his clothes and was wearing a budgie warmer underneath. The other men looked in awe at the body in front of them. They forgot about their predicament. “I need to check the rudder and propellor, and I can do that best while I am in the water. We have to make sure we don’t have a bent crankshaft or have lost the propellor. Black grabbed the ladder stored on the port side and attached it to the lee side. He climbed down the ladder and, while holding onto the side of the boat, started moving his legs in a circular movement, trying to find the river bottom. He wasn’t successful. He pushed away from the boat and started swimming. Suddenly he stood, and the water was at his waist. He kept a hand on the side of the boat as he moved to the stern. He asked Jeremy to take the key out of the ignition and to give it to Matan. Black reached out and inspected the propellor for damage, then he turned it and did not encounter any problems. He asked Jeremy to turn the wheel, which put the outboard engine in a different position. Black then turned the blades again. He didn’t notice any problems. Yonatan helped him lower the engine into the water. Black dove underwater and tested the propellor again. He surfaced and grinned. Black asked Yonatan to strip to his swimsuit and get in the water with him. Once Yonatan was in the water, Black asked Matan to turn on the navigation system, and when the system booted, they needed to know where there was the channel which the ships would use when being moved from their moorings. Matan, Jeremiah, Bobby, all conferred to make sure they were giving Black accurate information. “Okay, Yonatan, you and I are going to push the boat until we get to the channel. The bottom will drop off suddenly, so be prepared. I don’t want you to drown.” Black grinned at Yonatan and knew the man was an excellent swimmer. Bobby pulled up the bow anchor, and the boat’s bow started swinging. Black told Jeremiah how to position the motor, which would help them as they pushed the boat. Both men pushed the boat south along the sandbar. Matan gave them notice when they were six feet from the drop off. The boat started floating toward the channel. “Okay, we are going to get out the way. Yonatan, get in the boat.” Yonatan did as he was instructed. Black grabbed the ladder but stayed in the water, and then told Matan to give him notice when they were in the channel. Matan gave a shout-out, and Black told him to start the engine. It started with no problem, and there were no untoward sounds. Black climbed into the boat and then told Jeremiah to take the helm and get them back in the channel very slowly. Jeremiah realized they were drifting quickly, and he opened the throttle and moved them to the center of the channel. When they were safe in deep water, Black moved beside Jeremiah and told him to head north in the channel. Jeremiah was surprised his dad would let him continue to skipper the boat. He was scared that he was going to mess up again. When they were north of the Ghost Fleet, Black told Jeremiah how to safely turn the boat, so they were heading south. Black then took the helm and gave a narrative about the ships they went past. He described the different types of ships and their functions in the war. Black had slowed the boat and moved out of the channel, but his eyes were continually glancing at the navigation system to ensure they were in deep waters. Once they were past the ships, Black showed Jeremiah where they were going and said to keep the boat in the channel. Jeremiah was hypersensitive about his mistake and double-checked everything he was doing. He kept waiting for Black to yell at him, but his father kept up the praise for his good navigating. They approached a beach, and Black asked Jeremiah to let him have control of the boat. Jeremiah gladly turned it over to his father. Black positioned the boat and asked Yonatan and Matan to drop the bow and stern anchors. They did, and the boat stilled in the water. Black grinned and said the boat would block them from view when they went swimming. Black attached the ladder and then dropped his swimsuit before diving off the side of the boat. The last the boys saw of Black was his naked white ass. When Black surfaced, he chided them to drop their suits and join him. Bobby was the first to jump, then Jeremiah did a cannonball. Matan was frightened about being in the water, and Yonatan immediately sensed his trepidation. Black chided Matan and asked if he needed a Mae West. “What’s a Mae West?” “A flotation device. You young guys don’t know anything.” Black moved his hands like he was holding onto large mammary glands. Yonatan laughed and told Matan to hold his hand when they jumped. “Remember, I will protect you.” Matan dropped his suit and wagged his penis at the guys in the water. He wasn’t afraid to show his man bits, but he was afraid of drowning. Yonatan and Matan stood on the gunwales of the boat, and on the count of three, they both jumped. Yonatan held hard to Matan’s hand and pulled his partner to him as they surfaced. Matan was grinning. The others knew of Matan’s limited swimming experience and kept close to him while they frolicked in the water. At one point, Black pulled Matan to his chest, so they were looking at each other; Black then floated on his back with Matan lying on top of him. They both grew wide-eyed when they realized they were both chubbing. Matan started laughing and slipped off the body of the bigger man. Black flipped in the water, hoping that no one could see his tumescence. He wasn’t so fortunate as the other guys talked about what he was packing. There was good-natured ribbing. Yonatan was the first to say he was hungry. They climbed into the boat, with Matan going first. As Yonatan started up the ladder, Bobby reached out and slapped his ass. Yonatan was caught by surprise and fell back into the water. Everyone thought that was hysterical. It then became a contest to see who was going to climb next. They all knew there would be ass slapping. They did not notice that Black disappeared until he pulled himself into the boat from the other side. He didn’t need a ladder to pull his body over the gunwales and into the boat. He flexed his muscles and said he might be an old man, but he still had the moves. None of them knew how old he was but figured he was in his mid-thirties. He was in incredible shape. Black took command and told Jeremiah to climb the ladder. He reached out and grabbed Jeremiah’s hand when he was climbing on board and yanked him into the boat. The boy flew through the air and then was standing on the deck. After Jeremiah yelped in surprise, he grinned from ear to ear. While that was happening, Yonatan scooted up the ladder, so Bobby was the only one left in the water. “Come on boy, take your punishment. You either come on board, or we leave you in the river.” Bobby climbed aboard, knowing that he would pay for smacking Yonatan’s ass. He was surprised when nothing happened while he put his clothes on. Then, in a synchronized movement, Yonatan and Matan grabbed him and tossed him overboard. “Man overboard, man overboard.” Bobby was spurting water from his mouth and grinning. He hadn’t had this much fun in a long time. Yonatan reached out a hand to help him up the ladder, but Bobby was hesitant. Finally, he allowed Yonatan to help him aboard, and he received a big hug. Matan then gave him a hug and said he hoped he brought some more clothes. They all looked at each other and laughed. Their pendulous cocks were all shrunken from the cold weather. They were grabbing their junk to try to restore warmth and get the blood circulating. Black put on his swimsuit and told them they were ready to leave. “We are heading to Burwell’s Bay for lunch. We will beach the boat and eat on the shore.” “Yonatan and Bobby, be ready to lift the motor when we get there and then get in the water and push the boat to the shore.” It went exactly as Black planned. He, Jeremiah, and Matan waded to shore with the foodstuffs. They ate sandwiches and chips, drank Coca-Colas, and then laid on the sand to nap. Matan had his head on Yonatan’s chest and liked listening to the steady beat of his heart. They all had on swimsuits, but it didn’t hide much as they were all showing wood. It was late afternoon when they roused and knew they would have to race downriver to reach the dock before the sunset. Yonatan and Bobby pushed the boat into deeper water, climbed aboard, got seated, and then Black opened the throttle all of the way. Everyone was cheering. Black looked at Jeremiah and pointed to the wheel. “Take it, Lieutenant. Get us back home.” Jeremiah grinned and had never felt so affirmed. He was extra careful of the late afternoon boaters and the ships plying the channels. As they drew near the landing, Black stood beside Jeremiah and instructed how to safely come alongside them and give instructions to the others for securing the boat. Jeremiah got it exactly right. When he turned off the engine and handed Black the key, he was beaming. “Thanks, dad. You are wonderful.” Bobby came up and hugged the two of them. They smelled food when they were on the deck. Tim was waiting for them; he told them to strip and rinse off before coming in the house. The swimsuits were laid on the deck railing to dry. They went running through the house to bathrooms to properly shower. Yonatan and Matan pulled out some clothes for Jeremiah and Bobby to wear. They didn’t fit very well, but at least they covered them while they ate dinner. Jeremiah was like a magpie, telling Tim about what he had learned. He left out the part of grounding the boat on the sandbar. Black said that Jeremiah was an excellent student. Bobby sniggered and said, “ yeah, except when he grounded the boat.” Everyone gave Bobby the stink eye. Tim was immediately concerned and asked what had happened. Black made light of it and that Jeremiah had acquitted himself brilliantly the rest of the day. “Dad, I only have one question.” “Okay, what is it?” “Why did I have to give Matan the ignition key to the boat?” “It was a safety thing. I was trying to control my emotions and problem solve how to get the boat back into deeper water. By giving Matan the key, neither you nor I could get angry and throw the key at each other or overboard. Always try to have someone else there – a safe person. Remember, it is not about the person but the problem. Matan would not let either of us do something foolish. By the time we got our emotions under control, I handed the command back to you. Then you did a bang-up job for the rest of the day. I am so proud of everything you learned today.” Bobby looked at Jeremiah, pleading forgiveness with his eyes. Jeremiah smiled, then reached out and grabbed Bobby’s hand. All was forgiven. “Next time, I am going to teach Bobby. We’ll see how he does.” Tim brought out a store-bought cake and said he hadn’t have time to bake that afternoon. “Eat your dessert, and then we are going home to sleep. You boys have school tomorrow.” “Tim, thanks for letting them go out with us today. It was one of the best days we have had in months.” “You’re welcome, Matan. There will be hell to pay if Jeremiah’s grades drop. He has a 4.0, and we want that to continue. Black and I are so proud of him.” “Sometimes we need a day where the cares of the world disappear, and we get to be young men. Today was that. Yonatan leads such a busy life between school, the crazy family foundation stuff, and then being the best lover in the world. Today there was no one with problems for him to fix, or something that he had to address, or overbearing professors with endless lectures. He needed a break, and I figured Jeremiah and Bobby did also.” Matan leaned over to kiss Yonatan, and their bodies melted into each other. “Okay, you guys leave. I have a partner I need to ravish tonight. Don’t worry about the dishes; Black will wash them tomorrow.” Yonatan ducked as a napkin was balled up and flew by his head. Everyone kissed goodnight and agreed it was a special day. Matan had not seen Yonatan as relaxed in many weeks. Neither had anticipate that their lives would be so incredibly busy. They often had to remind people they were young college guys and were supposed to be having a fun time without life’s stressors. People would nod like bobble-head dolls and then present the next thing that needed attention. Yonatan was excited as he and Matan compared their sunburned skin. “We are getting our base tan. We will be rocking suntans by the time June arrives. Here, let me put some lotion on you.” Rubbing lotion on each other led to the anticipated play. The lotion was smeared across their bodies and the sheets as they made love. When they finished, they lay in each other’s arms, giggling and laughing like teenagers. Which is what they were. Matan didn’t care that his burn was already hurting because it had been the perfect day with his partner. Yonatan thought it reminded him of his seemingly carefree days at Camp Falls. They fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.
  10. Anton, There are lots of opportunities for challenges and growth within the family. Mark will find a way to push through and protect the nascent family that he and Dan have created. What is always clear is the love between the two men and their love for the children. Thanks for reading. Mac
  11. Thanks! I am enjoying exploring spirituality and thin places. I am also interested in how "religious" people can accept the notion of spirituality more than reality. Mac
  12. The month of July easily slipped into August, which made Mark ponder his upcoming travel schedule. Dan was at the hospital every day, and their lives had fallen into a routine. The kids frolicked in the bay in front of the house each day, went to the bazaar with the aunts at least weekly, and learned Arabic and Hebrew from Uncle Samuel. The languages were incredibly difficult as the kids had to learn new alphabets, spelling, and word meanings. They were intent on mastering these new languages as Uncle Samuel arrived three mornings a week to teach them the language and Jewish history. He laughed and said it was his own personal Hebrew School. Belinda and Robert loved him and drew out his caring and fun personality. He was a natural teacher and had eager students. Erin excused herself from the lessons, saying that she was too old to learn a new language. She believed that her Christian God gave the Celtic language to the world after the Fall of the Tower of Babel and that all people should be speaking the language of St. Patrick and the leprechauns. Mark worried about how bizarre it felt settling in as a family and into this strange new land, which was so different from North Carolina. Mark had to remind himself that he and Dan had only been married a few months and had been dating for less than a year. The children were acclimating much easier than their father. Mark often found himself contemplating the fact that over the past year, he had fallen in love with a man, accepted and supported his trans child, had moved halfway around the world, and was starting work in places where he didn’t know the people or their languages. He could have easily been bowled over by the extent of changes in his life, but he somehow managed to meet each day afresh and deal with its opportunities. He was ever the optimist but spent considerable time wandering in the mental land of what-ifs. In some ways, Mark rationalized he had been satisfied with his life in Hillsborough until Belinda presented with gender issues. He then would think further and realize that wasn’t right. His moments of disquiet weren’t just about Belinda though he was frightened about the fact that he truly believed that she was more than human. He would often constrain his brain from thinking what else there might be. When he allowed the wholeness of the universe free reign in his mind, the notion that Belinda might be a divine spirit challenged him at a fundamental level. He was a Christian, after all. Then he opened himself to the possibilities and could only smile. Why Belinda? Again, Mark tried not to be egocentric and wonder why God had presented his family with this challenge. He started reframing the idea of it being a challenge to thinking of their lives as a gift and an opportunity. Some nights, Dan would arrive home from the hospital and find Mark sitting on the patio staring out to the sea. Mark would be in his own head as he tried to make sense of the world. Dan knew Mark was struggling with all of the upheavals in his life, and Dan allowed his husband the space to explore and be muddled. Dan embraced the world as it came to him; he didn’t spend time in the world of philosophy and wondering about the whys and why-fors. He dealt with patients who presented with medical problems, and he figured out how to deliver the necessary medical care. He didn’t need to be existential and think about life's meaning at the hospital; it would have paralyzed him. He saw life and death every day. He believed it the cycle of existence from the beginning of time: it was simple as that. Dan hadn’t anticipated falling in love while working at Duke Hospital and having a ready-made family. He fooled himself into thinking that everything had happened so easily though it was not easy when they were in the throes of fighting Mark’s family. It was not easy when Mark walked away from their relationship; it had almost killed him. They made major life decisions in a short time frame because the choices were ungirded by absolute trust and love. They were now in Algiers, and none of those ghosts needed to inhabit their minds. Dan was thankful that he could not see the future; he accepted what life gave him and was infinitely thankful for the bounty in his life. He knew with every fiber of his being that he had found his life mate. Dan thought that Mark was godlike and had two children, one, a child, who bridged the gap between human and divine, seemed only natural. Dan knew exactly how to make Mark happy when his husband was deep into his own head. The first was very easy: both Mark and Dan were very sexual beings and were easily plugged into each other. Dan would give Mark a certain cue, and they would both be aroused. A look, a touch, or nod of the head would have them rushing to their bedroom. It was easy and natural lovemaking. Each was open to exploration, and Dan was delighted when he realized how far Mark would travel down the pathway of the erotic. Dan was more sure of his role as the more passive partner though there was nothing docile about his physicality. Sometimes Dan would see a look in Mark’s eyes and know his husband needed for him to take charge sexually. Dan explored that side of his sexual life in a more cerebral way. In the hospital, he was in charge and gave directions to people and expected them to perform as he demanded. He brought that same mindset to the bedroom when Mark’s needs arose. It surprised him how Mark became very centered in life when Dan took control and put him through a rigorous workout. Mark would re-emerge as the lion of the family after being plunged into the deepness of physical conquest. It was as if he understood the parameters of the world, especially the ground where he firmly planted himself; after Dan had handled him and made him whimper with need and desire, he was ready to re-engage. Dan was a neurosurgeon and didn’t understand the psychology at play and decided he didn’t want to explore it any further. Each time Mark came back stronger and more loving, and that was all that mattered. They would be satisfied, fulfilled, and ready to tackle the world again. The second way to make Mark happy was more of a challenge because Mark needed talk therapy. Mark would want to talk and talk, ad infinitum, about esoteric ideas. Dan would patiently listen as Mark worked his way through tautological discussions that had no answers. Dan knew how to stop the talking by kissing Mark. Mark would still try to talk when Dan started kissing him, but by the time they ended up in bed, more essential needs demanded attention. Mark would be swept up in lust. Dan finally told Mark that he should see a therapist who could help him process his thoughts. Mark went once, and the therapist couldn’t comprehend the idea of two gay men having children, a transsexual child, and the fact that they felt no shame. He didn’t go again. Mark finally understood that he was trying to make sense of gratitude and the gifts he had been given in life. He didn’t feel worthy. Once he said that Dan told him to watch Oprah on television, and she would help him solve all of his gratitude problems. They both laughed, but Mark started watching Oprah on the internet. Through Oprah, he discovered the work of Brene Brown, and from there, he started learning the language of gratitude. From gratitude came the daily work of constructing blessings. Mark stopped worrying about the unsolvable parts of life. He also had faith that everything would all fall into place one day, and he would stop worrying. Unsurprisingly, Erin was struggling with assimilating into this novel family. She had fought against her reactions when she realized these men were married and had two children. She got over that. She was caught by surprise to learn that her adopted family was Jewish when it was revealed during the first visit from the aunts. Erin had grown up learning the church’s teachings about Jews and how they had killed her beloved Jesus. She was hesitant to question what she had always been taught but listened to Uncle Samuel talk about Jewish history and the many myths and lies told about Jewish people. Uncle Samuel had few nice words about the nascent theology of the early church and how they had created stories that castigated his people and caused endless suffering throughout centuries because of these fabrications. Erin was beginning to process this new information and was frustrated that she had so readily accepted church dogma. One day, Erin was sitting on the patio when Belinda came out of the water. It was the first time that she had seen her granddaughter naked. Erin caught her breath and then was confused. How could her granddaughter have a penis? It wasn’t possible. She felt that the people she loved had lied to her. The venial sin of lying was one thing, but what they were doing to Belinda was something she could not accept. Never! This was a mortal sin. She was angry but didn’t want to show her discomfort to Belinda, so she waited until that night until the children were in bed. She didn’t know how to approach Mark and Dan through a rational conversation, so she blurted it out. She accused Mark and Dan of wicked things, said they were of the devil, and that she would return to Ireland. Dan had been waiting for the conversation. He calmly explained, from a medical perspective, what was happening. Mark recounted the life of his younger child. Mark then raised the most specious idea of all: that Belinda was divine. Erin pondered that for a few minutes, and like Sufiyan and Cecilia, accepted that as fact. She believed in the thin places of life where the human and divine co-existed. It was a widely accepted belief in Ireland. She told the men she needed to pray about what they had said. The men were astounded that she was willing to accept Belinda's possible divinity more easily than tolerating transsexualism, which she saw as sinful. Dan made clear how important it was for them to keep their conversations confidential. “We do not live in an accepting society, and we do not want harm to come to Belinda. You know something special about her, and you are in a privileged position. Please honor that. I encourage you to talk with Belinda and listen closely to what she has to say.” “Are you going to make her have an operation?” “Erin, she is way too young for anything surgical. Mark spent a lot of time meeting with the doctors in North Carolina to understand what was happening with Belinda. The doctors laid out all options. We are approaching this one day at a time and letting Belinda lead us. She is a happy child, and that is all we wish for at this time. She is very intuitive and knows when people disapprove of her. She gives love freely when it is first offered to her.” “I won’t tell her about this conversation. I want to talk with her but don’t know what to say.” “I suggest you start by asking her where she got her beautiful name. She chose the name and may tell you the story of her life. If she does, that will mean that she trusts you completely. Honor that trust. If you cannot honor that trust, Mark and I will pay for your plane ticket to return to Ireland. We hope you stay here because you have become part of our lives, and we love you.” Erin thanked the men and told them that she had a lot to ruminate on and needed to go to bed. After kissing the men on their cheeks, Erin walked to her cottage. Mark and Dan sat without talking. Dan could sense how afraid Mark was and so he reached out and held his husband’s hand. Finally, Mark stood and Dan joined him and held him. They hadn’t figured out how to tell the world about their daughter. Certainly, Dan’s initial conversation with Sufiyan and Cecilia had not gone well. Dan regretted telling them to leave if they couldn’t live with the children. He threatened them by saying if they told anyone about Belinda, he would have them brought up on charges of stealing from his house, which would put them in jail. Dan knew they could not live their lives by threatening people into silence. Both men were wrapped around each other as they slept that night. They needed the physical touch and love of the other. Morning brought a resolve between the men to make the house a safe haven for their family and a home where they could talk openly. Dan spoke with Belinda at length that day and told her what he wanted to do. He then called a meeting of the household. His approach was that they were blessed because they had a goddess in their midst, and they had been given the life challenge to protect her. He didn’t talk about whether Belinda was male or female; rather, he spoke of her being a goddess. Mark was astounded at Belinda’s poise while they talked with her and about her. Robert was sitting beside his sister and was holding her hand. At several points in the conversation, he looked at Belinda and then hugged her. He was her St. George. Mark thought about how much she had matured in the prior year. She had come into herself. Even Mark started believing the conceit that his child was a goddess. Erin decided that she was going to stay and protect her granddaughter. After lots of conversations, she decided she trusted Mark and Dan, and accepted the idea that they were singled out to raise this child. Erin knew she was Belinda’s nan and was going to be part of the child’s raising, also. If Belinda was a goddess, then she was going to be an Irish Catholic Goddess. Mark felt that just as one crisis was handled, another one arose. He was on the telephone and computer each day as he tried to manage the various university sites across Europe where students would be starting school in a few weeks. He knew that he would have to travel but wanted to wait until his children were in school full-time. Plus, Mark was trying to work out a schedule aligned with Dan’s at the hospital in Paris. Mark knew that once he was in the European Union, he could travel around more freely than flying in and out of Algeria. He and Dan decided that even with a resident visa for Algeria, Mark would not go through Algerian customs alone. Both men acknowledged that Erin had turned into a godsend as it allowed them to both work in Algiers and Europe. She was always ready to step in and help when needed. Erin was also a useful buffer between the children and the aunts. She had no problem stalling the aunts when they would show up unexpectedly, wanting to take the children on an outing. The aunts also tried to direct the dietary habits in the home until Mark met with them and told them to stop. It was a tense exchange because the aunts had brought the rabbi from their synagogue. Mark had asked Dan for guidance before the meeting and felt that he had a basic understanding of the Jewish dietary laws. Mark refused to let the rabbi inspect their kitchen. Mark refused again when the rabbi suggested he instruct the children on what they could and could not eat. When he had finally had enough of the goading, Mark told them that he would maintain the household the way he wished and would not be subjugated to their instruction and inspection. The rabbi reminded Mark that they preferred to think of the children as Jewish and asked one last thing: for him to inspect Robert to ensure that he was circumcised according to Jewish law. Mark nearly blew a gasket as he escorted the man from his home. He was still outraged when Dan got home. “Be glad that the rabbi doesn’t know about Belinda. He would be at a total loss when he inspected her penis.” They both laughed at that thought, and the storm clouds passed. Mark had agreed that they would go to the Shabbat services on Friday nights and that Robert could, if he was interested, attend the Torah studies on Saturday morning accompanied by Uncle Samuel. Belinda was more interested, but Uncle Samuel told her that she would not be allowed because she was a girl. Mark chuckled, thinking that Uncle Samuel had not come up against Belinda before and was due to learn a hard lesson if he refused her. The aunts knew they had seriously overstepped the boundary of interfering with Dan, Mark, and the children, so they sent gifts of apology to Mark. Dan instructed him to keep them and to send thank you notes. They both knew that the aunts were testing Mark, and he had gained points by standing them down. They may have disagreed, but they respected that he was firm in his resolve. “Remember, we may need them one day. They are of old Algiers and know many people who may be helpful to us.” Mark knew how to write a thank-you note that could be read as either a thank you or a fuck you, and he smiled as he put pen to paper. He chose to write heartfelt thank-you notes to the women. They were doing what they felt was best, and the fact that they went to so much trouble indicated their desire to include him and the children as part of the Lillie-L’Oranise clan. Cecilia and Sufiyan met with Belinda and Erin every Monday morning to review what was happening at the house during the week. Erin would suggest certain foods that Mark and the children might like and helped Cecilia prepare them. Most of the meals were Sephardic Mediterranean styles of cooking that were delicious and nutritious. They ate outside every night, and they grew to expect the smell of meat cooking on the grill. All of the fresh produce and fruit was helping Mark lose his few extra pounds. He was learning to eat Middle Eastern food but still preferred rice over couscous. He would often be giddy after dinner from drinking the pitcher of wine that was always present at meals. Mark did lament one day that he wanted a combination dinner from Parker’s Barbeque in Wilson, NC. He loved their pork barbeque with half of a fried chicken and a side of Brunswick Strew. He missed hush-puppies. He grew very homesick while the kids seemed to be enjoying this new cuisine. He hid his feelings because Dan reveled in making this a home for the family. Suddenly, Mark was swamped with work as Duke tried to figure out how to handle their international properties and students returning to study. Mark knew he had to fly to France and planned to stay in their Paris home. There were lots of tears and goodbyes when he left the house for the airport. It was just a hop across the Mediterranean Sea, and he took the metro from the airport to a stop near the house. Mark had studied the maps and knew he would have to figure out how to get around ancient cities in Europe. He spent a week visiting the Parisian sites before flying to Rome. Luckily, the administrators at each site were bi-lingual, which gave Mark some grace time as he learned the various languages he would need. He sent post-cards to the children and Dan from every city he visited. He told them that the following summer, they would take an extended vacation traveling around Europe and to decide where they would like to visit. Joe sent Mark emails about what he observed when he was in his office at Duke. He was only a consultant, but Duke provided him nice office space. Joe wasn’t convinced that Mark was being kept up to date, but then again, it was hard to know the latest as everything was shifting daily. Time took care of some of the problems when students from the U.S. could not get visas to study in Europe. Likewise, many European students had trouble getting visas for the U.S., and their parents were concerned about their children traveling. A new way of thinking about their studies evolved, and many European students went to nearby sites. Luckily, none of the Duke satellite facilities were being closed. The constant juggling and trying to find solid ground in life wore Mark down physically and mentally each day as he traveled and met with new site administrators. Late one Friday afternoon, he arrived in Paris and happily got out of the puddle jumper airplane. It had been a short jaunt but scary as they flew through a summer thunderstorm. When Mark arrived at the house, he walked into the foyer and heard music playing in the library. He walked into the room and wrapped Dan in his arms. They had not seen each other in two weeks, and their needs were overwhelming. After being satiated from lovemaking, they showered and went to a local café to eat a late dinner. “We have a call scheduled with the children in the morning.” “Really? It will be good to hear their voices. I miss my children – our children.” Mark looked at Dan with an apologetic smile. “We are going to Zoom with them so we can see and hear them.” Mark couldn’t stop grinning. He loved and missed his children. The next morning at 10, Dan dialed into his Zoom account, and then the children appeared on the screen. Erin was sitting between them with Cecelia and Sufiyan in the background. It was the first time that Belinda and Robert had Zoomed. “Oh my gosh, look at you, the two of you look so good. I could hug you all day long.” “We miss you, daddy and papa.” “I know, but we can see each other through the computer. This is great, thanks to your Papa Dan. He is a magic maker with technology.” Everyone had a good time chatting, especially Sufiyan and Cecilia, who thought it was incredible to communicate in this new way. “When are you coming home, daddy?” “Well, Dan and I will need to be here through next Friday, so I think we will fly out on Saturday morning. We should be home in time for lunch.” “Uncle Samuel is coming this morning to help us with our Arabic language studies. Sufiyan and Cecilia help also. It is the only language they use in school, so we are working hard to learn.” “Good for you. I know it is hard, but both of you are very smart and will learn it soon. You are much better than me.” “Nan, is there anything you need for us to bring you from Paris?” “No, Daniel, just to have you home will be a blessing enough.” “Well then, by this time next week, we will be together. We will take a taxi from the airport.” Everyone said goodbye and hung up. There were disappointed looks in Algiers and Paris as none of them liked being separated. Mark was gutted because he had never been separated from his children. He was practicing gratitude and blessings that Dan, Erin, Sufiyan, and Cecelia were created a new normal for their lives. He even was thankful to the aunts and Uncle Samuel. Dan grabbed Mark’s hand and said they were having a late lunch in the Eiffel Tower, and they should dress. The men ran upstairs to their bedroom. Mark had wandered through the mansion when they first arrived in Paris and again when he came to the continent to visit educational sites. He didn’t know if this mammoth space would ever feel like home. Then he looked at Dan and knew that his husband was his home, and life would be complete and filled with love.
  13. Thank you. You would think an author would know the titles of his books! Mac
  14. Matan swept his curly hair back from his forehead. His hair had gotten longer, and it was not unusual for him to wear a hairband to hold the mop of red curls back from his face. It was highly becoming, but, of course, Yonatan thought no matter what Matan wore and how he looked that he was a piccolo angelo. Matan being a little angel was all in Yonatan’s imagination as he looked directly into his boyfriend’s eyes; they were now the same height. Matan’s growth spurt had been remarkable, and now he was a tall, lean, handsome man. Yonatan was much bulkier from his years of working on the farm and natural physiognomy. Matan said that Yonatan’s pecs were like climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro as he worked his tongue across his lover’s hairy chest. Matan was slim with narrow hips and had a slight rise in his squared pecs. He definitely had a runner’s build. Surprisingly both were aware of another area of growth for Matan – it brought a smile to their faces. They were both astounded when Matan wanted to measure their equipment one day. Matan was proud that they were the same size with one difference; Yonatan had low hangers, and Matan’s testicles were pulled up close to his body. Matan laughed and said it made it easier for Yonatan to get to the promised land. Matan called his butt Canaan: the land of milk and honey. Yonatan was glad that it didn’t take forty years to find it. “Do you want to know something?” Matan looked directly into Yonatan’s eyes. “I think there is something you want to tell me.” Matan’s smile melted Yonatan. “Let me give you a massage before we take a trip.” “What trip?” “You’ll find out. Now go to the bedroom and get out of those clothes.” Yonatan happily complied. When Matan came out of the bathroom, he was wearing a towel around his slim waist and was carrying a bottle of scented oil and a beach towel. “Let’s put this towel on the bed so we don’t get oil on the sheets.” Yonatan gave him a jaundiced look because they were constantly trying to remove oil, lube, and body excretions from the sheets. It was a joke between them. “It’s just that I don’t want to have to wash the bedsheets again today. These were fresh this morning.” “Maybe we should do this on the deck.” “We need to purchase a massage table.” “Do you think the kitchen table will work?” “Nope. Tim and Black are around somewhere. Who knows where Green is? And don’t forget that Pink shows up unexpectedly.” Yonatan was standing in front of Matan, showing his full need. He leaned in for a kiss. Matan then spread the towel on the sheet, guided his lover to the bed, and laid him on his back. He then reached into the drawer of the nightstand and pulled out a mask. Yonatan’s look of surprise made Matan smile, and he let out a low chuckle. “This is all about feeling the sensations. Focus on your body and my oily hands.” Yonatan was a control freak, and putting on a mask made him anxious. He trusted Matan completely, but they had never done anything like this before. “Relax, Yonatan. Look at me and tell me you trust me with your life.” Yonatan smirked. Matan was serious, and the look immediately left Yonatan’s countenance. “Do you trust me?” “Yes.” Yonatan sighed and let Matan put the mask on his face. Yonatan could feel his pulse racing. Matan started by pouring some oil on Yonatan’s chest. He slowly massaged the pecs and told him how much he loved them. He then moved to the shoulders and from there to his neck. It was when Matan started massaging Yonatan’s head and face that he finally started to relax. Matan would slide his fingers into Yonatan’s mouth and tell him to suck them. Yonatan almost went to lift-off when Matan slid three fingers into his mouth. Matan was whispering softly in Yonatan’s ear when he rubbed his fingers around his lips. Their chests were rubbing together, and they could feel their tumescence as they brushed their crotches and stomachs against the other. Matan then moved down Yonatan’s body and massaged his legs. When he flipped Yonatan onto his stomach, the man was practically like jelly. He spent time working on Yonatan’s shoulders because that was where his partner carried most of his tension. The knots of anxiety were gone when Matan moved south. Yonatan’s ass received a lot of attention. Yonatan kept pushing his glutes in the air and whimpering when Matan worked his cave. “You want me to take you, don’t you?” “Hmmm, yes, take me, lover.” “Not yet, but I plan to enter Jerusalem soon. I plan to crash through your mighty gates.” “Oh fuck, you’re killing me. Please let me have some release.” “You’re going to get release very soon.” Matan worked down the legs and then feet. Yonatan didn’t know that his feet could be so erogenous. He was bucking on the bed, trying to free himself. Matan had gained so much upper body strength that he was able to hold Yonatan down. Matan finished, slapped Yonatan ass, chuckled, and told him it was time for a shower. Yonatan reached up to take off the mask. “No, you don’t. It is not time for that to come off yet.” Matan led Yonatan to the shower, where he washed his lover’s hair and body. It was very sensuous as he handled the big brute body. Yonatan then felt shaving cream being applied to his face as Matan carefully shaved him. Yonatan leaned against the shower wall when he felt a pair of lips kissing him and then saying it was time to get dressed. First, however, Yonatan was handed a toothbrush and told to clean my fangs. Matan led Yonatan to the bedroom, where he started to dress him. Yonatan thought, “Lord knows what he has me wearing. I know he has exquisite taste, but I don’t know if I am going to look like a preppy boy or a French gigolo.” Yonatan felt Matan slip espadrilles on his feet – perhaps, he thought, he was dressed like a Spanish fisherman. “Are you ready to go?” “Where are we going?” “That’s not an answer to the question I asked.” “Yes, I am ready to go.” “Good, take my hand.” Yonatan knew that they were on the back deck and then down the steps to the river. Matan and someone else helped Yonatan into the boat and they departed the dock. Yonatan was completely unaware of the direction they were taking until they passed under the James River Bridge. They could hear the vehicles on the grates above. “Relax and enjoy the smell of the river. Can you hear the birds?” They kept going. The boat finally docked and Matan helped Yonatan out. Matan was very good at telling Yonatan when there were steps or a ramp. Yonatan chuckled and said he needed a white cane. Matan helped Yonatan into a chair and seated himself. “Okay, you can take off your mask now.” Yonatan pulled the mask up to his forehead and was blinded by the sun. As his eyes slowly adjusted to the afternoon light, he made out the faces of his friends. They were all grinning. Erick and Todd, Eron and Tayloe, Pate and Timmy, Ayal and Zeke, and Black and Tim were looking at Yonatan. Matan had a broad smile on his face. Erick was the first to speak. “This is a thank you for being the best friend in the world. You are a gift to us.” Yonatan smiled and asked what he was talking about. “The Rabbis of Paris and Vienna are going to conduct our service. They are both coming to Washington, DC. Our parents are over the moon.” “Well, I did the best I could.” “No, you did better than that. You performed a miracle.” “I made a request. It was their decision.” “Whatever, I am glad that you could help.” Tayloe stood and raised a glass of champagne. “To Yonatan, the fixer.” Everyone else stood and raised their glasses. “To the fixer.” Yonatan chuckled, thinking that he had yet another name. The Fixer. That was the most difficult name because he didn’t want to be expected to solve all of their problems. Eron handed Yonatan a package and told him to open it. When the wrapping was ripped off, and the box was opened, he saw kippahs - one for each person at the table. “These are our brother kippahs. We are now all brothers, and we will wear these at our commitment celebrations.” They all donned their kippahs. Luckily, Matan had brought bobby pins to affix them to everyone's hair as a breeze was blowing. Other people in the restaurant looked at them, trying to figure out who they were and what they were doing. Food started arriving. Tayloe had been busy before they arrived, ordering for the table. Platters of wonderfully prepared fresh-caught flounder were placed on the table. The sun was setting on the marshes around Lynnhaven when they finally finished. “Let’s go home.” Matan took Yonatan’s hand as they all walked down the ramp to the boat. “Are y’all going with us?” “Yep, all of our cars are at your house. We parked there, and Green drove us here.” At that point, Yonatan looked up at the dining deck and saw Green waving at them. He was always around if you looked for him. The trip upriver was beautiful. As they passed Newport News Shipbuilding, the men stared in amazement at the aircraft carrier being built. It was humongous. Then they navigated under the James River Bridge as they headed to the confluence of the James and Nansemond Rivers. They arrived at the dock, and Tayloe and Todd help secure the boat before everyone headed up to the house for late-night drinks. “Oh Yonatan, we are all spending the night. We will have breakfast on the table at 8 a.m. Be on time. I think Matan needs to finish what he started earlier today.” Todd was being a smart-ass again, but he was absolutely right. Matan grabbed Yonatan’s hands and said it was time to cross into Canaan. He gave a lascivious grin at everyone and then licked his lips. “I am ready for dessert.” “I think I am going to give you the main course.” “Even better. I am a growing boy and am hungry again. I need you to feed me.” Everyone chuckled as the pair headed to their bedroom. The rest of the fellows sorted out where they were sleeping. Pate and Timmy had never stayed in the house but were shown to a bedroom. Yonatan closed the bedroom door and looked at Matan. He smiled and walked over to his partner. “Did you have a good time?” “Yes, I was surprised and don’t know that I like the term, the fixer.” “That is your gift to people. You make things right. You have made my life perfect…except for one thing.” Yonatan was confused, and a wave of anxiety rolled over him. He wanted Matan’s world to be perfect. “What didn’t I do?” “You haven’t ravaged me yet tonight. I need ravaging on a regular basis. Yonatan, I am yours and need you right now.” They practically ripped their clothes off. There was a trail of clothes from the bedroom door to the bed. Yonatan ravaged Matan until the younger man begged for a break. Yonatan awoke at 3 a.m. and found Matan nibbling on Mt. Kilimanjaro. “I need more, please. My tank is empty.” Yonatan chuckled and they started again. They didn’t care if their lovemaking could be heard through the house. They both knew they had each found the perfect man in the world - they knew they were blessed. Matan could feel it as Yonatan marked his neck. Matan was chuckling as he decided that turnabout was fair play and owned Yonatan twice over - one for each side. The knock on the bedroom door woke them. Was it already time for breakfast? They washed their faces, brushed their teeth, and tried to tame their hair. They were wearing speedos and kippahs when they walked into the breakfast room. There were wolf whistles. “You are two good looking Jew boys. Oh my God, you would cause a riot on the beaches of Tel Aviv.” Todd looked at Erick and asked how he knew about the beaches of Tel Aviv. “My parents took us on vacation to Israel. They were fascinated by Jerusalem, but Eron and I wanted to spend time in Tel Aviv. We went to the beach in our American swimsuits. We also had beach towels over our shoulders, were covered in sunscreen, and had on hats to protect us from sunstroke. We looked like complete dorks. When we got to the beach, we saw the most beautiful men from around the world wearing skimpy little swimsuits. Eron and I went out that day and bought the smallest suits we could find. I think that was the day I knew for certain that I was gay. I wanted to have sex with each man on the beach.” “I always knew you were a slut, little brother.” Off they went on their rant about who was the little brother. Everyone enjoyed their bantering. That led to stories about when they each realized they were gay. There were some hilarious stories. They looked at Yonatan when he had grown quiet. “I knew when Matan seduced me that I was gay. Unequivocally. I was totally in love that night. Nothing had ever felt so right in my life.” Matan got up from his chair and sat in Yonatan’s lap. He was no longer the boy from the past summer but a man. “I knew when I saw Yonatan that I had to have him in my life. I was standing there in my father’s Jams, feeling embarrassed as all get out, and this big, blond goyish God was standing in front of me. It was love at first sight.” They kissed and their swimsuits revealed their growing need. “Excuse us, but we have some unfinished business.” They ran to the bedroom and reached for the special container of unguent. It was the same kind they had used the first night they made love. Their needs outweighed good sense as Yonatan plowed into Matan, who gasped, had a look of pain on his face, and then tried to adjust his body. Yonatan realized that his need had caused pain and started to apologize. “Don’t you dare. No apologizes. Take me. Make me yours, Degataga. Make love to your Indian brave.” Yonatan did. Certainly, the sheets would need washing again before night. They helped each other to the shower and spent more time than usual cleaning each other before putting on their swimsuits and kippahs again. They found the guys on the deck. Matan started hobbling around like a broken, old man. Everyone laughed at his antics. “That man practically broke me in half. I don’t know that I can sit.” “TMI. TMI.” Pate was laughing at their behavior. “Hey Fixer, how about fixing some lunch?” Tayloe was laughing and rubbing his stomach. “You must be ravenous after a morning of hot sex.” “How do you know it was hot?” “We could hear you. Neither of you is quiet. We were all walking around with erections as we lived vicariously through your sexual escapades.” Yonatan blushed. Matan grinned. Just at that moment, Black came through the door and announced that lunch would be served in fifteen minutes. “Wash your hands. Especially the two of you. I hate to think what those hands have been up to this morning.” Everyone hooted as they headed inside to clean up for lunch. It was a more serious conversation at lunch as Eron and Erick talked about the upcoming commitment ceremonies. “The word we received was that the Rabbis are going to offer blessings for a Jewish home. They are skirting the idea of a commitment ceremony while offering us blessings. It is unclear whether the Rabbi of the National Synagogue will participate, but I can’t imagine him letting the other Rabbis get the upper hand. Rabbi Schulman in Newport News will co-officiate at the ceremony in Williamsburg.” “Martine is sending out fabric squares for the chuppahs. There will be two chuppahs: one in Washington and one in Williamsburg. She has already told us that she and Geneviève will quilt them afterward. Our mothers are working day and night on the parties and receptions. They are trying to save as much money as possible to put in the “baby fund,” as they call it. Our dads are playing golf and drinking liquor.” There was general merriment all around before the guys took a nap after lunch. When they reassembled on the deck, Pate told everyone that he had enjoyed the gathering, but he and Timmy had to head back to the beach. The others said they needed to leave also. It had been a great Saturday night and Sunday. The house was quiet as Matan and Yonatan pulled out their school books and started studying. Yonatan was struggling with a course on the history of the Supreme Court. He had asked Dr. Antonucci to be his advisor and suggest courses that he should take. He told Yonatan the professor for the course was “hard as hell” but that he would leave the course with a better understanding of the judicial system than he would receive from any other professor. Dr. Antonucci was right. Yonatan was learning a lot, but it was at a cost. He studied as much for this one course as he usually did for two or three. Per usual, Matan barely glanced at his books before closing them and said he knew the material. Yonatan knew not to challenge him by asking questions. Matan’s photographic memory was evident as he not only told Yonatan the correct answer but on which page he would find the answer. Yonatan thought he was a show-off. It had been an enjoyable weekend with friends, yet Yonatan pondered the notion that he was known as the fixer for his friends. He accepted that role in the family but was concerned that their friends would expect too much of him, and he couldn’t bear to disappoint them. He felt he was so fortunate to be gifted with these friends and wanted to live life to the best of his abilities.
  15. The chapters will be published at least weekly. Daily????? Not going to happen. LOLOLOL. I am publishing two books on GA at this time which along with my other obligations is all I can manage. Thanks for your enthusiasm. Mac
  16. Belinda is a unique character who is as much goddess as human. Sufiyan and Cecelia understand two spirit people from their culture and realize how rare and privileged it is to be part of that family. Mac
  17. Anton, Mark did the right thing by being so involved in her development in North Carolina. Dan is able to explain the possibilities of two-spirit people, which a lot of cultures acknowledge, and how to keep their family matters a private issue. Sufiyan and Cecelia have accepted having a goddess in their midst.....and Belinda is a goddess in every sense of the word. Thanks for reading. Mac
  18. They are getting settled and everyone is playing nice at this time. Children certainly have the ability to acculturate fairly quickly. Thanks for reading. Mac
  19. Tony, Thank you. It is great to be involved with this family again. Mac
  20. Tony, You are welcome. Mac
  21. “Welcome to our home.” Dan put his arm over Mark’s shoulder and kissed his cheek. They stood in front of a sprawling low-slung, white stucco house sited on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. The children stood in front of them, and Mark reached down to touch their shoulders. Erin was standing to the side, watching her new family. It had really happened – they had left Hillsborough and were now at their new home in Algiers. Mark was both delighted and frightened at the same time. For a fleeting moment, he wondered if he should run. Dan could sense Mark’s hesitation, so he tightened his grip on Mark’s shoulder and then said he would like to show him their new home. Just at that moment, the front door burst open and a handsome young man came out to greet them. He bowed with his hands in a prayerful mode. He was speaking in Arabic, so Mark didn’t understand what he was saying. Dan answered him and then introduced Mark, the children, and Erin to Sufiyan, who bowed after each introduction. Sufiyan kissed Belinda’s hand and spoke to her in French. Belinda smiled and responded in kind. Her French lessons had paid off as she and Sufiyan were able to communicate. He bowed to Erin and called her wise grandmother. Sufiyan then started gathering the luggage to take inside. They walked into a foyer that was crisp and clean. The white walls and brown tile floors were immaculate. In a niche in the wall was a large pot holding bougainvillea that was cascading down the wall. There was a round wooden table in the center of the foyer with a glass top. Dan dropped his hat on the table, sat in a side chair, removed his shoes, and then wiggled his toes. The others followed his lead. Dan then walked them through the house, showing them each room. When they walked into his mother’s room, Belinda’s eyes lit up and she asked if this could be her bedroom. Dan said he was so glad that she had picked the room and told her it was created especially for her. Robert picked out a bedroom after they had surveyed the entire house. He was deliberate in his choice – it wasn’t the best room, but it was beside Belinda’s room as he needed to be close to his sister. When asked which room she wanted, Erin said she would take whatever was convenient. Sufiyan suggested she might like the guest house as it would provide her some privacy. She said that sounded splendid, and, in fact, she needed a nap to recover from the boat trip. She looked exhausted, and Dan was concerned about her health. The rest walked onto a patio overlooking the bay and beyond to the Mediterranean Sea. Dan started pulling off his clothes. “The last one in is a rotten chicken.” “Rotten egg, Daddy Dan.” “Yes, a rotten rhinoceros.” They were all laughing as they dropped their clothes and ran into the warm water. It felt so good after journeying from Barcelona. Their spirits and energy revived; Robert said he wanted to play chicken. Robert and Dan were against Mark and Belinda. “Whoever wins is the rotten raccoon who eats the rotten eggs.” They all laughed at Robert. Robert thought he was almost too large to climb onto Dan’s shoulders, but Dan’s wiry frame was deceiving. The man was a powerhouse. Belinda easily climbed onto her daddy’s shoulders. Belinda and Robert were fierce competitors. Mark and Dan were both sturdy beasts that were being ridden by seasoned avians. Finally, as Belinda thought she had knocked Robert off his stride, Robert grabbed his sister, and they both went down together. They decided it call a truce as they could see Cecelia putting out food and drinks on the patio table. The four trudged through the water toward the shore. None put on any clothes. When they walked on the patio, Cecelia looked at Belinda, said something under her breath, and ran into the house. A few minutes later, a flustered Sufiyan came onto the patio, looked at Belinda, and then turned around and went back into the house. Belinda very quietly gathered her clothes and was putting them on when Dan stopped her. She was crying as Dan wrapped her in his arms. He picked her up and handed her to Mark. He kissed her cheek. “I will be right back.” Dan disappeared into the house, and Mark could hear an intense conversation. When he reappeared, Mark could sense that Dan was angry for the second time that day. Dan feigned happiness and jollity while they ate the food and drank apricot juice. After finishing the food, Dan suggested they shower and nap. He said they would eat dinner at sunset when the heat of the day was retreating. Dan was quiet when he and Mark went to their suite of rooms. After the door had closed, he turned and grabbed Mark and held onto him. Mark knew that Dan needed comforting. “Let’s shower, nap, and then talk. You don’t have to carry this burden alone. We are husbands and we share the load.” Dan nodded his head and walked into the shower room. Dan said that freshwater was sometimes at a premium, but they should enjoy the shower. They gently touched each other while washing. Dan slumped against Mark and said he needed to sleep. Mark grabbed a Turkish towel and dried Dan before leading him to a large bed where they stretched out. When they awoke, Dan and Mark were wrapped around each other. Dan’s earlier countenance of anger and hurt had disappeared and he smiled at his husband. Dan started by kissing Mark on the mouth, then on the throat, and he turned his body so they were worshiping each other. They did not want to move after the last splash of life had been expelled by each of them. Dan put his head in Mark’s crotch, chuckled, and said he found where he wanted to live. Mark flipped Dan’s body so he was lying on top. Mark reveled in the weight of Dan pressing down on him. He put his arms around Dan’s pelvis and pulled him in close. He smelled the essence of who Dan was. They fell asleep again. A knock at the door awakened them. “Monsieur Doctor, the time is it for dinner.” Dan awoke but was groggy. He had a grin on his face as he twisted his body and kissed Mark. “I think a quick rinse in the shower before we dress. Yes?” Mark allowed himself to be led again into the shower room where Dan soaped Mark’s chest and put his ear against the chest cavity. “What are you doing?” “I know you have a big heart that is filled with love. I was just listening to it. I have to make sure it is ticking tocking and still filled with love.” Mark grinned because he knew that Dan’s English was impeccable but he was now using pigeon English for some reason. “My husband, you are the reason it is so filled with love. Let’s go find the children.” Mark was opening his suitcase when Dan stopped him. Dan opened a closet door and pulled out cotton trousers that tied at the waist and a loose cotton shirt that hung to his knees. There were sandals for their feet. Their toenails had bits of red nail polish left on them. They held each other’s hands when they walked onto the patio. They were greeted by Erin, the children, Sufiyan, and Cecelia. Mark could smell meat cooking on the outside grill. A beautifully laid table was awaiting them. Candles were glowing that had been placed around the patio. The patio was oriented to the northeast to protect it from the heat of the noonday sun, so they couldn’t see the sunset but were astounded by its reflective beauty on the water of the bay, trees, and the growing shadows of the house. The entire patio had a rose-colored reflection. Sufiyan carved the meat at the grill while Cecelia loaded the plates with vegetables. Carafes of wine were at the table. When Mark suggested that the children were too young to drink wine, Dan said that they were in Algiers and would live like Algerians. “Their wine is not too strong. Just enough to kill any bacteria in the liquid. It is also sweeter. Sweet youth, sweet wine. Our wine is much stronger.” Cecelia paid particular homage to Belinda and bowed to her each time she approached the table. Dan tried to pretend that he did not notice, but a smile crept across his face. Sufiyan deferred to Belinda and asked her if he could clear the table. Belinda responded in French and with a nod of her head. The message was clear: Belinda was the woman of the house to whom all answered. After dinner, Sufiyan came to the patio to tell Dan that his uncle was on the telephone. When Dan returned, he asked Mark of his plans for the next day. Mark laughed and said he had nothing to do. “Good, good. You can help prepare for a family visit tomorrow afternoon. I need to go to the hospital in the morning and will arrive before the aunts arrive.” “Your aunts are coming tomorrow?” “Yes. The word is out that we are here. They want to visit their defiled nephew and the people he brought with him to Algiers. This should be fun. Sufiyan will help Belinda learn the proper protocol tomorrow morning. You will make sure that you use your best southern manners. They can be intimidating, but remember, you are a lion. Find the icon that Sean painted at Christmas and I want it mounted in the foyer. They will understand the symbolism. You are to be the man of the house during the visit. Mark was unsettled by the comments but decided to do as Dan had asked. The next morning came too soon for all of them. Belinda and Robert had found their closets filled with summer clothes that Algerian children typically wore. Sufiyan had removed their western clothes during the night for cleaning and storing. The clothes would only be needed when they traveled to Europe. Dan was in his hospital whites as he finished a cup of expresso and kissed Mark good-bye. “I will see you this afternoon. Remember, you are the lion. They all speak English but often swear that they don’t. French is a native language to them. Robert and Belinda will be able to interpret. Don’t pretend to understand them when they speak French; make them speak English. If they start to speak Ladino, you are on your own.” Dan laughed as he hugged Mark and walked to the front door. Mark heard a motorcycle start and leave the drive. Belinda, Robert, and Erin finished breakfast and were lounging on the patio. Sufiyan appeared and asked to speak to Mademoiselle Belinda. The two of them went into the house where they remained ensconced all morning. Mark decided to email his boss, Mike, at Duke, to let him know that he was in Algiers and ready to start work at any time. He didn’t expect an answer so soon, but Mike said he was at the office early because of a problem in Venice. Mike let Mark know from that point forward the emails would be coming directly to him to handle. Mike wrote that he was so glad that Mark was now available to handle these problems eight time zones ahead. It would make their work more much more efficient. Robert appeared and said that lunch was ready. Cecelia had prepared them a lunch of fresh fruits with different breads and dips. Belinda explained what each item was and how to eat it. She also poured them a thick sweet tea and passed around small cakes. This was a prelude to what she would do during the visit of the aunts. She was impeccably prepared and functioned way above her tender years. When they finished, Belinda put her hands in the air and clapped twice. Both Sufiyan and Cecelia appeared, bowed to Belinda, and took away the plates and glasses. “Well done, my darling daughter. You are a fast learner.” Belinda practically purred from her father’s praise. A nap was ordered during the heat of the day. Each person repaired to separate rooms where fans stirred the hot air. There was no central air conditioning, so they would learn to live like the native Algerians. Late in the afternoon, Mark took a shower and dressed in the outfit that Sufiyan had laid out. It was a mix of Western and Algerian clothes. Mark decided it was comfortable and handsome. He went onto the patio where Belinda and Robert were painting their toenails. Belinda insisted she paint Mark’s also. Erin wandered onto the patio and ended up with painted nails. Dan would be the only one without painted nails. Belinda asked everyone if they were ready because it was almost time for the visitation. They nodded and Mark was once again, astounded by her calm presence. Mark was sent to the front gathering room. It was a handsome room that was rectangular with a fireplace at one end. The furniture was modern and covered in brightly covered cushions. The tables had glass tops. There was little in the way of decorative items. It reflected the modernist, brutalist style that was popular in the last midcentury. The sound of tire crunching on the pea gravel announced the rival of the aunts. Mark tensed up and reminded himself that he was the alpha lion of the pride. Erin entered the room and sat to the side. She deliberately chose the chair so Mark assumed she sat where instructed. Mark could hear voices from the foyer. Robert was speaking in French to introduce his sister. There was a smattering of voices; then, Mark heard a sharp intake of breath. Several other people had intakes of breath also. They were looking at the icon. Robert led the contingent into the gathering room and introduced his father to the ladies. They were dressed in high Paris fashion and glittered with jewels. Mark thought they were gaudy but acknowledged that he didn’t know Paris fashion. There was one elderly gentleman dressed in black who stood in the back. He was cleaning his glasses. Mark knew him to be the beloved uncle, Samuel. Mark asked the ladies to sit and then went up to the man and bowed. A slow smile crept across the man’s face, and he grabbed Mark’s two hands together, leaned forward, and kissed him on both cheeks. Mark pointed to his chair and asked the uncle to sit. The man deferred. “That is the chair of the lion. Dan has chosen rightly.” Mark apologized that Dan was running late at the hospital, but it was his first day back at work, and his time was in high demand. Belinda clapped her hands and food appeared. Belinda knew precisely what to do. She prepared plates for each of the aunts and the uncle. Robert poured them drinks. Neither said a word while doing these tasks. Mark looked on with a passive smile. When his children finished, he thanked them for showing hospitality to their aunts and uncle. “I am pleased to meet the family of Dan and now the family of myself and my children. It is so good of you to come to our home. My children’s grandmama is here with us, and I thank her for her loving kindness to our family.” Just as one of the aunts was going to speak, the front door opened, and Dan walked in. He was still in his hospital scrubs. “I see that my husband has everything in hand. Forgive me for running late. Please give me five minutes while I shower and change. It is so good that you are joining us this afternoon.” The look of shock on the aunts’ faces was priceless. Mark, remembering that he was the focus of their curiosity, told them about the family’s journey from Hillsborough to Algiers. He gave a high-level, though humorous recounting of their pilgrimage, the same as he would do at work. When he invoked humor, the women tittered. The uncle sat chuckling at Mark’s telling of their journey. Dan appeared in the doorway, dressed much like Mark. All of the women wanted a hug, and Uncle Samuel grabbed Dan’s hands and then kissed both of his cheeks. When Dan was seated, Belinda prepared him a plate of food, and Robert poured him a drink. “This is for you, papa.” Robert smiled when he handed the plate and glass to Dan. He then leaned over and kissed Dan on the cheek. Dan glowed with pride. “My children love both of their fathers. We are so fortunate that Dan found us and invited us into his life.” “My husband, it is you who chose me. One night after a wonderful musical performance, you told me that you chose me. It was a special night in my life for which I am eternally grateful. We are together and are making this a Jewish home.” Erin drew in a loud breath. All eyes turned to her as she coughed to cover up her faux pas. Mark smiled and looked at Erin and then the aunts. Dan had made clear that Mark was the head of the house, so Mark took the plunge. “I have been talking, and I know that you have many questions, so we would like for you to ask them so we can get to know each other better.” They were hesitant at first, but then there was an onslaught of questions and statements. Mark, Dan, and the children handled each question gracefully. Erin also answered questions about her life and how she ended up being a grandmother to the children. There was much commiserating about the death of her husband. “These two men were heroic, trying to save his life. Mark was like a lion as he continued to push air into my husband’s chest. Even after Dr. Daniel said there was nothing more to be done, it was Mark who continued. He was fearless and then his tears flowed when my husband died. No one could have done more. I can only imagine he will be like that when protecting his family. He is the son I always imagined having.” There were tears in Erin’s eyes, and one of the aunts came and sat beside her, held her hand, and offered up her French perfumed handkerchief. Another of the aunts turned to look at Dan. “What about your mother’s jewels? What will happen to those?” Dan was caught off-guard by the sheer audacity of his aunt’s question. She was the greedy aunt. Dan looked at Mark with a look of hopelessness at the tactless inquiry. “The jewels of Dan’s mother are to be revered and protected. When Belinda comes of age, Dan will decide whether she receives them. Perhaps there will be other children. Who knows? At the time of Belinda’s marriage, they could be a present to her. Perhaps. But at such a young age, we must find something more appropriate for Belinda. She is young and needs less expensive jewelry that will suit when she is in public. Perhaps you can take her to a jewelry store and help her pick something right for young girls. She should start to build her own collection. She should not presume to be an heiress to the L’Oranise family jewels. That is a gift that may be bestowed only if she is found to be worthy.” The aunts nodded at Mark’s wisdom. They were thankful that he wasn’t after the family money and would protect the family heritage. Mark noticed that one of the aunts was looking at his feet. He wiggled his toes and smiled. The aunt then looked at the toes of the children. She then looked at Dan’s toes and saw the same color red. Dan laughed and said that he and Belinda had conspired that they all needed pedicures and painted nails to celebrate finishing the walk across Spain. Mark knew that the aunts were scandalized at their behavior but he didn’t care. He now understood the pecking order of the family, and he and Dan ranked above all of them, including Uncle Samuel. They could paint their toenails any color they chose and nothing would be said against them. After a few moments of quiet, Belinda clapped her hands twice, and Cecelia and Sufiyan came to collect the dishes. This was the signal that the gathering was finished. Mark stood and everyone followed his lead. “Please know that our home is open to you at any time. If you need anything, you are to let me know. Dan is very busy at the hospitals both here and in Paris, so please reach out to me. His work is so important as he saves lives. We don’t want to disturb him with family troubles. I will confer with him, of course. I will also be traveling throughout Europe quite a bit this fall, but family always comes first.” One by one, the aunts bowed to Mark. His munificence was more than they had hoped for. He was indeed the leader of the family. They just had to conspire to make him and the children Jewish. They decided he had a Jewish soul, and if he had been born anywhere else except America, he would have been Jewish. There were kisses on cheeks as the aunts and uncle left. The uncle grinned at Mark and told him that he wanted to meet with him soon. “I know you are a busy and important man, so I beg your indulgence to spare some time to review some family issues. I need your wisdom.” “I will always have time for you, Uncle Samuel. You are my family now.” Everyone left, and Sufiyan closed the front door. The family then burst into laughter. They had passed the test and were relieved. Cecelia appeared at the doorway and asked Belinda a question. Belinda thought for a moment and then answered. Mark was at a complete loss at what had just been said. Dan smiled and said it was the perfect choice. Everyone in the room spoke French, except Mark. He decided right then that as the alpha lion of the pride, he needed to know the language, and he was going to learn French. They went to their rooms and donned loose-fitting garments and met on the patio. A breeze was blowing off the sea. Belinda had asked Cecelia to fix finger foods for dinner. They sat in the twilight and deconstructed the afternoon’s conversation. They decided that Erin deserved a special award for her comments about Dan and Mark’s efforts. Her special reward was kisses on each cheek. Night was falling as the weary travelers realized they had not fully recovered from the journey. They found their way to their bedrooms. Sufiyan and Cecelia sat on the beach and discussed their first two days with their new masters and the children. Neither could explain how Belinda, who was a young girl, had a boy’s appendage. Sufiyan said it was no ordinary appendage and that she must be a desert goddess who had been sent to their home. Both Sufiyan and Cecilia decided to build an altar in the garden for Belinda; it would bring good luck to the house. They swore they would protect their new goddess from all danger.
  22. Anton, These families are challenged but in each instance they are able to overcome and succeed. The timeframe for the story is 1990. Thank you for the suggestion for adding that piece of information because the world has changed dramatically in the last 30 years. Yonatan and Matan are based in southeastern Virginia. Thanks for reading. Mac
  23. “Hello, brother of mine. The one I love so much. The one who is so kind and considerate and would help his brother in a time of need. You are more handsome, kinder, and probably better equipped than me.” Todd laughed at Tayloe’s opening gambit. “This must be important if you are starting our conversation by flattering me.” “You just don’t know. Apparently, Eron has not spoken with you yet.” Todd could feel his blood starting to run cold. “What is wrong? Is something wrong with Erick? Tayloe, talk to me and tell me what is going on.” “There is just a minor snafu, and since you are one closest to Yonatan and Matan, Eron and I thought you could help.” “Time is money, Tayloe. You have told me that a million times. Quit pissing on my leg and tell me what is going on.” Todd heard Tayloe take a deep breath. “There is a problem. I don’t think we can get married.” Todd was out of his chair. “What do you mean you don’t think we can get married? You and Eron? What have you done to him?” “Actually, this affects you and Erick also. The Chief Rabbi has said that we cannot have our commitment service at the National Synagogue.” “What the fuck?” “Hmm, Eron has been walking circles around my office for the last hour screaming those exact same words.” “Does Erick know?” “Not yet. I decided to call you first.” “Okay, what is the problem? Is the synagogue already booked, is the Rabbi on vacation, is the city shut down for an apocalypse?” “We are gay.” There was silence on the other end of the telephone. “Todd, are you there?” Tayloe heard whimpering on the telephone. “It’s okay, little brother. We will work through this. We need a strategy session on how to convince the Rabbi that he should conduct the service.” Tayloe still heard crying. “Todd, you are breaking my heart. Please don’t cry. We can work through this.” “I knew it was too good to be true. What do we do?” “Eron and I are on the way to Williamsburg to talk with you and Erick. We also need to talk with Yonatan and Matan.” “Why do we need for them to be in a meeting about our ceremony?” Tayloe could hear the edge in Todd’s voice when he suggested they ask Yonatan to help. “Eron has a plan and it will require Yonatan to do something he might not want to do.” “Tell me. I hate surprises.” Tayloe finally chuckled. “I like suspense. You have to wait.” “You are a mean man. That is probably why you are a good lawyer. Lawyers are mean.” Tayloe chuckled again. “Why don’t we meet at the tavern and ask for a table in a corner. The conversation might get a little heated.” “Let me see if they are available. Both of them always seem to be so busy these days.” “See you tonight.” Todd dialed the number and spoke with Matan. He seemed delighted at the invitation and said they would be there with bells on. “Careful with the bells in the tavern. You know it is very conservative.” Matan laughed and said that if they didn’t like his bells, that he and Yonatan would buy Colonial Williamsburg and turn it into a gay retreat. They both laughed. Erick and Todd were pacing in front of the tavern waiting for the others to arrive. Eron and Tayloe walked up with Yonatan and Matan. They were hugging and laughing. Erick joined the frivolity in hugging his cousin, Matan. Todd's father's questioning led Mr. Cohen to further investigate the Emmanuelson family and discovered that Erick and Todd were related to the Feldsher family through Oscar’s marriage to Rebekkah Emmanuelson. Abraham’s survival was directly attributed to Oscar’s connections in Brussels during the war. Matan said they were kissing cousins, or as they said in the south, fence-rail kinfolks. Matan and Yonatan had many conversations about what that meant for the family's wealth and investments. They asked Monsieur Lambert to help them understand what that meant under both European law and Jewish law. Judy became an emotional wreck when she and Herbert were told that she had a cousin who had survived the war. She had lived all of her adult life thinking that she was the only survivor of the Feldsher family. Technically, she was correct. Rebekkah was an Emmanuelson and had married into the Feldsher family. Judy didn’t care. Abraham and Rachel found themselves on a flight to Paris. All it had taken was a call from Judy to Yonatan. Yonatan had contacted Etienne and asked him to look after these family members. Etienne was not on that particular flight, but the Emmanuelsons found themselves feted as if they were royalty. Poor Abe was completely undone by the lavishness. Rachel was awed but kept her thoughts to herself. The long weekend in Paris found the cousins talking for hours. There were many tears shed as Abe had brought a photo album that had somehow survived the war. Judy had all of the pictures copied and took copious notes on who was in each photograph. Judy had discovered family members that she knew nothing about. Mr. Cohen flew to Norfolk on that same weekend and said he had some preliminary findings he wanted to share with Yonatan. Matan was very emotional after finding that his friends were actually family; he was in favor of splitting everything fifty/fifty. Mr. Cohen suggested it wasn’t quite that simple. Yonatan understood the legal principles at play and suggested there was further research he needed to conduct. Mr. Cohen reminded Yonatan of their first meeting when Yonatan had asked insightful questions. Mr. Cohen smiled and said that Yonatan’s legal brain was sharpening, and he was pursuing the principles of wealth distribution. At Yonatan’s directive, Matan had called Eron and Erick cousins but did not have conversations with them about what that meant, exactly. And here they were at the tavern having dinner. Yonatan thought the meeting was of utmost importance since the invitation had come that day. He noticed that Eron and Tayloe were quite reserved. He couldn’t decide whether that was because they were lawyers or that there was a pressing issue that needed discussion. Todd and Erick ordered wine for the table. Yonatan immediately told the waiter that he and Matan would be drinking ice tea. He didn’t want to be carded. They were dressed in suits and perhaps looked of legal age, but he didn’t want to push it. Plus, he wanted a clear head anticipating that there was a meaningful conversation to be had. Tayloe poured wine and immediately gulped his glass. He then poured a second glass. Everyone at the table was looking at him. Eron put his hand on Tayloe’s arm and looked at him; nothing further needed to be said. Tayloe caught the waiter’s eye and ordered a glass of ice tea. When the waiter said the dinner special was Ossobuco, Yonatan immediately claimed that as his entrée. Matan said he would take a nibble but wanted the filet. Both Eron and Tayloe chose the Dover sole. Erick and Todd chose the chicken entrée. Appetizers arrived, green salads, and then the entrées. The discussion was about school and work. Matan said he wanted dessert. Everyone laughed, knowing that Matan was a sugar freak and loved desserts. When the confections and coffee were put on the table, Yonatan slipped a credit card to the waiter. “This has been wonderful.” Yonatan looked at the four men. With three of them, he saw something in their eyes which he could not decipher. When he looked at Erick, all he saw was his usual look of love for Todd. “I have a feeling we are here for a reason other than to share a meal. Anyone care to start?” Erick asked Yonatan what he meant? “Ask them. I think something is going on.” Erick turned to Todd and asked him if there was something he didn’t know. Todd looked guilty and immediately turned to Tayloe. Tayloe turned to Eron. “As you know, I said I would arrange for everything in Washington for our commitment ceremony and party. This morning I hit a snag.” There was silence and everyone waited and looked at Eron. “The Chief Rabbi of Washington said we could not have our commitment ceremony at the National Synagogue in Washington. He said we were gay, and they didn’t allow gay ceremonies there.” Erick immediately grabbed Todd’s hand and looked into his eyes. “You knew and didn’t tell me.” “I just found out, and we figured there was enough worrying without having you upset also.” “I am now upset on two levels. First, we can’t have our ceremony at the synagogue, and second, my fiancé withheld information from me.” Todd stared at Erick while trying to figure out what to say. “I am sorry, I am so sorry. Please Erick, I love you. I just didn’t want you to get upset.” “Too late for that, don’t you think.” Erick took on the role of the dispassionate lover. He wanted to know specifically what was said by whom, to whom. Eron recounted the entire face to face conversation before he had been escorted out of the synagogue. All of the desserts were pushed to the center of the table. No one had any appetite. Todd was quick on the uptake. “How dare he? We haven’t had a problem arranging for the ceremony here.” “Actually Todd, I needed to talk with you about Rabbi Schulman. I spoke with him this morning, and he said no.” It was Todd’s time to be upset with Erick. All conversation stopped. Finally, Matan spoke. “Yonatan, you can fix this.” “How? How am I to fix this problem?” Matan then laid out his rationale for solving this problem. Yonatan listened, nodded his head, and glanced at his partner. “People were wondering how it was that we were able to meet with the chief rabbis in Paris and Vienna. I just dismissed it as being nothing more than a trifle, but let me dig further into that. They are Orthodox Rabbis who were welcoming. There has to be a reason for them to meet with us. I think I know what it is, but let me investigate.” Yonatan told them not to pursue anything until he had made some inquiries. “This is rather touchy, and we don’t want to back anyone into a corner. We need to give everyone lots of room to maneuver so we get the outcome we need.” Matan smiled. “He’s my husband. He is going to be a lawyer. I love him so much.” Everyone laughed as Matan leaned over and kissed Yonatan. The dessert plates were moved again, and like magic, the sweet confections disappeared. As they were leaving, Black and Green walked up to the group. They were a regular part of Yonatan and Matan's lives and basically disappeared into the woodwork. “Anything I need to know, boss?” Yonatan laughed. “Were you listening again? Do I have a hidden microphone on me?” Black smiled and Green said they would talk later. The next day, Yonatan was on the telephone to Monsieur Lambert. He felt that Mr. Cohen would hem and haw and not give him a direct answer. He wanted to know the gritty details. He wasn’t surprised when he heard the old adage: follow the money. “Yonatan, those old geezers were nice to you for a couple of reasons. You brought in a tremendous amount of money and influence. You also gave them heightened prestige in both the Jewish and philanthropic worlds of Paris and Vienna. Don’t think they didn’t go out and tell people how they would be making decisions about helping people in need. Somehow, they elevated their positions in the decision making process. I guess that they have been cutting deals. I am a Jew and wouldn’t talk badly about the Rabbis, but I am also a lawyer. So, there you are. “How can I convince them to exert pressure, so these commitment ceremonies happen in Washington and Williamsburg?” “This is going to require more than a telephone call. Do you have some frequent flyer miles you want to use?” “Geez, I don’t want to fly over right now.” “My guess is that is the only way this will happen. Also, meet with them individually. You know the power dynamic of two against one. You will lose if you meet with them together.” Yonatan sighed, “Do you have any good news?” “Yes, your rooms in my house are being cleaned and decorated for your summer internship.” “You don’t have to do that.” “Yes, I do. Lester is spending the summer also. You introduced us. He will be interning in the law firm also. Redecorating the rooms is a thank you gift.” Yonatan laughed and said he never thought of himself as a Dolly Levi. They both chuckled, and Yonatan wished Max the best. “One more thing, make your flight arrangements, stay in a hotel, call the Rabbis the day before you want to meet with each of them. Don’t let them know you are meeting with both. Ask each for an individual intercession. Also, don’t tell anyone you are coming. This meeting has to be covert, or you will fail.” Yonatan was heavy-hearted when he put the telephone back in its cradle. Black walked into the home office and asked Yonatan whether there was anything they needed to discuss. Yonatan laughed and asked Black how soon it would take before they could depart. The flight was scheduled for Sunday night. Yonatan told Matan that he had to go to Paris and Vienna, and it was secret. Even from Judy and Herbert. Matan wanted to go, but Yonatan said it would work better if he went alone. Matan pouted and said he wanted gifts from each city. Yonatan laughed and said he would try to make time for shopping, but he had his doubts. Matan then said he needed to coordinate Yonatan’s wardrobe for the trip. “You need to look European. You should look of them and not like some American hick who has come to town.” Matan organized everything and put a label on each suit for each meeting. Matan also briefed Black on checking that Yonatan was wearing what he was supposed to. Matan knew that Yonatan would put on a pair of jeans and a blazer and think that he looked just fine. On Sunday, Yonatan and Matan finished dinner, then Black appeared, and said they needed to leave for the airport. Matan insisted he drive them. Black laughed and said, in that case, Green had to ride also. Black did not want Matan to be on the road alone. Green would also accompany Matan to class for the next two days. They arrived in Paris on Monday morning and Yonatan called Monsieur Lambert’s office. His secretary notified Yonatan that he had an appointment with the Rabbi that afternoon. She advised Yonatan not to come to the office as Mr. Jenner was in all day. Yonatan decided to go shopping for Matan. Black had Amit, his driver, take them up and down the Champs de Elysée several times. Yonatan was thrilled, pointing out different buildings to Black. At the appointed time, Yonatan was standing in front of the synagogue where the Chief Rabbi had his office. He and Black sat in the waiting room. Yonatan was nervous and kept reviewing the notes that Monsieur Lambert had prepared. The discussion was laid out in a specific order leading to the ultimate request. The ass-kissing, as Yonatan liked to think of it, went on longer than necessary. Yonatan talked about the importance of the Rabbi’s voice in the decision making of the foundation. Yonatan listened while the Rabbi talked about his thinking on the best way to leverage the funds. The Rabbi was leading the conversation as Monsieur Lambert had predicted. Yonatan listened and made non-committal noises. Finally, the Rabbi looked at Yonatan and told him that the request he was going to make wasn’t possible. Yonatan gave him a quizzical look and asked what he meant. “You came today to ask me to intervene so that the Chief Rabbi in Washington would conduct the commitment ceremony for the Emmanuelson twins. I cannot override his decision.” Yonatan was taken off stride. “No, monsieur. I came to ask you to conduct the service in Washington.” Yonatan was making this up as he went along. He hadn’t planned to ask that at all. “You are asking me to conduct the ceremony in Washington? It is not legal!” “It is not legal anyway. Gay marriage is not legal in the United States. We are asking you if it were possible for the Rabbi of Washington to let you lead the ceremony he does not want to do.” The Rabbi looked at Yonatan and then turned his chair to look out the window. They sat in silence. “Bring your chair and sit beside me.” “You are asking me to lead the ceremony? What would the people of Paris think if they heard about this? And they will hear about this.” Again, Yonatan was making up the script. “They will hear that the Rabbis of Paris and Vienna went to America to honor brothers whose entire family died in the Shoah except for Judy and Abraham. Two great Jewish families who gave so much to the communities of Paris and Vienna. And today, we have two Jewish families who plan to continue to give to these deserving communities. Also, that the Emmanuelson family, a Jewish family, will continue to grow and thrive in the Jewish communities in Washington, DC, and Williamsburg, VA, because both Eron and Erick plan to raise their children in the Jewish faith. Matan and I will raise our children in the Jewish faith. You will be directly responsible for the continuation of Jewish families in America. That is what you say to people who question what you do. You are the link between those of blessed memory and those yet to come.” The Rabbi sat in silence. “So, you have already been to Vienna? You have already received approval from Rabbi Herzl?” “No, sir. I came to you first because I am of you. Matan and I are of you. Have we let you down? Have we dishonored you in any way? No, because I respect you and honor you.” Yonatan took a deep breath. “You will call Rabbi Herzl and tell him that the two of you will travel together to Washington, DC, to conduct the ceremony. You will also call Rabbi Schulman and ask him to conduct the ceremony in Williamsburg. I know that I am asking a lot, but there is much to be gained from this. The Jewish community will thrive because of your generosity and kindness. Perhaps, you can suggest to the Chief Rabbi in Washington that you celebrate Shabbat together the night before. Can you imagine having three Chief Rabbis celebrating Shabbat together in Washington DC? I can assure you that the press will want to talk with all three of you.” There was silence as they watched the sun going down across the rooftops. “You are going into the law profession?” “Yes, monsieur.” “A good field of work for you. Who coached you to prepare for this meeting?” “I spoke to Monsieur Lambert, but we went off the script that he had prepared. So, it was basically me pleading my case.” “You know that the Chief Rabbi in Vienna only likes the best hotel rooms.” “I can make that happen. If he has a preference, please let me know.” “I think that he and I should have equal accommodations. It wouldn’t look good for one Rabbi to be at the Hay-Adams and the other to be at a Holiday Inn.” Yonatan tried hard not to laugh. “I agree.” “Well, I cannot say for sure. He is a tough nut to crack. I will tell him that if he doesn’t do this, that the Vienna Foundation funds will be turned over to Paris.” “Perhaps you should have been the lawyer.” “Perhaps, perhaps. When do you fly back?” “Well, my plan was to fly to Vienna tomorrow and then back to Virginia. I would prefer to go to Brussels to stay in the apartment rather than going to Vienna.” Neither needed to talk about what happened in Vienna the last time Yonatan was there. “Go to Brussels. Leave the old man in Vienna to me. Stand, let me give you a blessing before you leave for Brussels. There is a commuter flight tonight that you might want to catch. Don’t let the Jenners know you have been in Paris and not visited with them.” Yonatan and Black made it to the airport and were seated in separate sections of the plane. Black was nervous the entire time. Yonatan was exhausted but had good news to take home. When Yonatan and Black finally arrived at the apartment, Black ordered dinner from the hotel they had used before. Yonatan picked up the telephone and made an international call. “Matan, you won’t believe what happened today.”
  24. Yonatan and Matan are back in Book 3 of the series. The first book was "Jimbo" followed by "Make Me As An Apple of Your Eye." The Emmanuelson twins are getting married and need Yonatan's assistance while he and Matan are trying to focus on their college education. Summer arrives and the fellows head to Paris for internships where they are also preparing for the birth of a child. When school resumes, events turn upside down, and the fellows realize that they are still being followed by forces who seek to destroy them and their family.
  25. Flesco, I have been Senior Warden and also Treasurer. I am also an A++++++ personality. LOL. Thank goodness, I have moved past those two different positions and now am satisfied to sit in teh pew. Both can be thankless jobs. Mac
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