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Bill W

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Everything posted by Bill W

  1. Bill W

    Back Together Again

    Thank you, and it's nice that you're visiting the Curries.
  2. Bill W

    Back Together Again

    Davey, thank you for your kind words and I'm glad to see you're so excited about reading this. I hope you enjoy what I've written this time.
  3. Bill W

    Back Together Again

    Thank you and I'm glad you enjoyed the first chapter. As my editor said, it's like visiting old friends again.
  4. Bill W

    Back Together Again

    Thank you, Andre. Each time I say this is going to be the last book, but it never seems to stay that way. I'm not sure if I'll do another book after this one, but I suspect you'll have at least 50 more chapters with the Currie family.
  5. Bill W

    Back Together Again

    Thanks, Stix. I wasn't sure what the reaction would be to another Castaway Hotel book.
  6. Bill W

    Back Together Again

    Thank you, Janet. I always worry that people will get tired of this continuing saga.
  7. Bill W

    Back Together Again

    I'm glad I made your weekend.
  8. Bill W

    Back Together Again

    Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed being back with the Curries again.
  9. Danny and Brandon's family continues to grow as the deal with new situations.
  10. Since this story is based on a previous story (Castaway Hotel: Next Generation), I will provide some background information about each of the characters appearing or mentioned in this book. This information is for you to reference, but I shall attempt to explain who they are when I mention them in this story so you won’t have to continually look characters up here. I hope this helps you follow and understand the story better. This information is accurate for when this story begins, late November 2017. * * * * * * * * Josh (Joshua) James Currie – 67-year old widower (August 18) with four grown children (2 boys, 2 girls). After his wife died, he decided to take in foster boys so he could help make their lives a little better. After adopting numerous boys and raising them, he's now passed the torch on to Danny and Brandon. Jake (Jacob) McCarthy – 50 yo (January 21) Jake is Shannon’s biological father and Josh’s partner. Jake had married and tried to be straight, but it didn’t work. He and his wife divorced after she figured out his secret, and later she asked him to take Shannon too, after she threw her son out of the house when she learned he was gay. Jake and Shannon eventually met and became friends with the Curries, and they moved into the Currie house after Josh suffered a heart attack. Following some rough times with Josh’s biological children, the two of them had a commitment ceremony and became life partners. Danny (Daniel Edward Roma) Currie – 33 yo (May 6) Danny was Josh’s second foster son (later adopted) and came to live with Josh when he was 13. This happened after his parents (mainly his father) kicked him out of their home after discovering Danny was gay. A few years later, Danny biological mother reached out to renew their relationship and Danny accepted. As a teenager, Danny established a relationship with his best friend, Brandon O’Hara, who was also gay. They have since made a commitment to be life partners. Danny is 6’ 1” (1.85 m), with brown hair, brown eyes, and an athletic build. He went to Penn State University and then the University of Pittsburgh Medical School, where he majored in Pediatric medicine. He currently has his own Pediatric practice and runs a children's clinic with Brandon. Brandon Patrick O’Hara – 33 yo (March 4) Brandon was Danny’s best friend, and when his father took a new job in Texas he came to live with the Curries, so he could finish school in Pennsylvania,. His parents agreed to this so he wouldn’t have to change schools in his senior year. He is also Danny’s life partner. Brandon is 6’ 2” (1.88 m), with blond hair, brown eyes, and a slender build. He went to the University of Pittsburgh as an undergraduate, then attended dental college there as well, concentrating in pediatric dentistry. He is currently working as a dentist in the children's clinic he runs with Danny. Elliot (Edward) Kennedy O'Hara-Currie – 21 yo (June 29) Elliot was out on a trip with his father when two men broke into the motel room and shot his father. Elliot escaped through a window in the bathroom, but wound up suffering from hypothermia. When discovered, he was taken to the E.R. where Danny was working at the time and Elliot ended up coming to live with him. Danny and Brandon adopted Elliot later. Elliot is 5' 9" (1.75 m), with Black hair, blue eyes, and a slender athletic build. He is currently a senior at Yale University. Ian Parker Hill – Elliot's boyfriend – 21 yo (February 2) Ian's father (Cameron Hill) is a doctor (cardiologist) and used to work with Danny, and his mother's name is Erin. The boys met when they were on the swim team together. Ian is 6' 0" (1.83 m), with blond hair, hazel eyes, and a swimmer's build. He's now a freshman at Stanford University. Noah Hunter (Emory) O'Hara-Currie – 18 yo (November 4). Noah's father died from prostate cancer and his mother passed away from breast cancer. He came to live with Danny and Brandon when a colleague of Danny's told him about Noah, and they recently adopted him. Noah is 5' 11" (1.8 m). with brown hair, gray eyes, and an average build. He's currently a senior in high school. Adam Garcia – Noah’s friend. Parents are Judy and Wil. Benny (Benjamin Alan (Devaney Jr.) O’Hara-Currie -13 yo (April 30) Benny was named after his father who left shortly after he was born. When he was four or five his mother made him stay in a dog kennel during the day when he wasn’t at school. Frankie was sent to the house to investigate and ended up getting Benny placed with Danny and Brandon. Benny is 5’ 0” (1.52 m) with brown hair, brown eyes, and a slender build. Ryan Edward (Hayes) O’Hara-Currie -16 yo (October 13) Ryan came to live with Danny and Brandon after being pimped out by the family he was living with and beaten up by a trucker. He lived in another county, but they had no place to put him, so Richard (Little Ricky) took him off their hands and brought him to live with Danny and Brandon. Ryan is 5’ 10” (1.78 m) with blond hair, brown eyes, and an average build. Owen McIntyre – Ryan’s friend. Parents are Terri and Brian. Dion Jamal (Jackson) Currie – 29 yo (November 27) Dion is another of Josh's adopted sons. He was born to teenage parents and raised by his grandmother. His mother took off after he was born and his father, a fireman, was killed fighting a fire. Dion grandmother raised him until she died, and then Sally Swarthout became his guardian. Since she was single and career oriented, she thought it would be better if Dion went to live with the Curries. Dion is bisexual and got a girl pregnant in high school and she was going to give the baby up for adoption. Dion talked Josh into helping him raise the baby, Joshie, who is currently living with the Curries. Dion and Trey, however, have since committed themselves to be life partners. Dion is 5’ 11” (1.80 m), is bi-racial with black hair, brown eyes, and toffee colored skin. Dion has a fantastic tenor voice and won a scholarship for private lessons while still in high school, which were given at the University of Pittsburgh. He later enrolled there and earned his degree in vocal music. He now teaches vocal music at the local middle and high schools. Trey (Alexander Michael Daniels III) Currie – 31 yo (February 16) Trey is another of Josh's adopted sons. He was the third one in his family named Alexander Michael Daniels, which led to his nickname, Trey. He became an orphan when his parents and sister were killed in an explosion at their house while he was on a school trip. After coming to live with the Curries, Trey wrote a play, as a high school project for two of his classes. He later also made it into a video, which was very well received. In fact, his project was so well done that his teacher submitted the work in two competitions, one for writing and another for amateur video production. This led to Trey winning awards at the state, regional, and national levels of the Scholastic Writing and Art Competition. Besides his academic achievements, Trey and Dion have committed themselves to be life partners. Trey is 5’ 10” (1.78 m), with brown hair, brown eyes, and a slender build. He is shy, slightly effeminate, and an avid reader. He majored in English, with a minor in theater, starting at Temple University and then transferring to the University of Pittsburgh so he could be with Dion. He also chose to stay an extra year so he could earn his Master’s Degree in education. Trey currently teaches English at the local high school, but he also has aspirations to become a successful author. Joshie (Joshua Alexander) Currie – 12 yo (September 14) Joshie is Dion's biological son and was born after Dion and his duet partner (Shelly Novak) had sex after receiving rave reviews at the Christmas concert. Shelly figured she couldn't keep Joshie and attend college too, so Joshie lives with his daddy (Dion), poppy (Trey), and papa (Josh), but he also spends time with his mother and maternal grandparents. Trey has also adopted Joshie so he has paternal rights as well. Joshie is 5' 4" (1.63 m), is bi-racial with black hair, brown eyes, toffee colored skin, and is slender. He's very good at sports and is currently in the seventh grade. Wyatt Jacob Currie – 6 yo (October 6). Wyatt is bi-racial, the same as Dion and Joshie, and looks amazingly like Joshie, only not quite as slender. Dion and Trey learned about Wyatt through a professional acquaintance of Danny and wanted to adopt him. Wyatt's mother, Penny (Penelope), couldn't keep him, since she lived with her parents and her father wanted nothing to do with the baby since his father was black. She wanted to find a couple to adopt him that would also let her be part of Wyatt's life, and Dion and Trey were more than happy to do that. Wyatt is 3’ 8” with black hair, brown eyes, toffee colored skin, and has an average build. He is currently in first grade. Kevin Michael (Baxter) Currie – 33 yo (August 😎 Kevin is another of Josh's adopted sons. His biological parents threw him out of their home after he was caught messing around with his foster brother. Kevin’s father beat him quite severely, so Kevin ran away. Kevin is now with Vinnie and they have committed themselves as life partners. Kevin is 5’ 11 1/2” (1.82 m), with longish brown hair, blue eyes, and a slender swimmer’s build. After winning a scholarship, Kevin went to Temple University and continued on to attend Pharmacy School there as well. He now owns his own pharmacy and has hired his best friend from college to work with him. Vinnie (Alvin Mitchell Rydell) Shay – 31 yo – (December 17) Vinnie is another of Josh's foster sons. His parents were killed on one of the flights originating out of Boston on 9/11/2001. Vinnie was born with hydrocephalus and cerebral palsy, so he has to use crutches to get around. Since he and Kevin were dating and Vinnie didn’t want to feel like he was committing incest if he was to be adopted by Josh, the Shay’s offered to adopt him instead and then gave Josh custodial rights. Kevin and Vinnie are now committed as life partners. Vinnie is 5’ 11” (1.80 m), with brown hair, brown eyes, and a slender build. Vinnie has his Master’s Degree in education and teaches physically disabled students at a private school. Jesse Albert (Cornell) Currie – 24 yo (August 26) Jesse is the youngest of Josh's adopted sons. He was left at the Currie home on Easter Sunday by his mother (Alice Wells). She felt he had to get away from his emotionally and physically abusive stepfather before something terrible happened to Jesse. Jesse didn’t speak when he arrived, due to witnessing his biological father being shot to death. Jesse was only 4 1/ 2 when that happened, but he hadn’t spoken since and that became the crux of his stepfather’s abuse. Jesse became close to another of his foster brothers, Andrew, and he spoke for the first time in ages when he tried to explain that Andrew had been hurt in a bicycle accident. Jesse is 5’ 10” (1.78 m), has brown hair with dirty blond highlights, brown eyes, and an average build. He is working as a radiologist at Danny and Brandon's children's health center. Recurring family members: Frankie (Franklin Albert Hopkins) Currie – 34 yo (July 20) Frankie is another of Josh's adopted sons and came to live with the Curries as a result of getting into trouble. Judge Shay asked Josh to take Frankie in as a favor, but Josh was later forced to send Frankie away when he tried to rape Trey. After getting his act together, Frankie came by to apologize for his earlier actions. Trey was so moved by his apology that he asked Josh to arrange for Frankie to move back in. Frankie is 5’ 11” (1.80 m), with black hair, brown eyes, broad shoulders, and a solid build. After earning a two-year degree in criminal justice, he had a difficult time finding a job so he enlisted in the army and became an M.P. Frankie is straight, currently works as a Pennsylvania State Trooper, and has won a major award for his actions on the job. Little Ricky (Richard Elias) Becker – 29 yo (June 17) Richard had lived in a group foster home until the Curries arranged for the Beckers to adopt him. After living with them for a couple of years, his adoptive father had a heart attack and died and his mother was suffering from Alzheimer’s. Since she could no longer care for him, he came to live with the Curries. His mother has since passed away. Little Ricky is 5’ 9” (1.75 m), with light brown hair, brown eyes, and a solid build. He has earned a M.S.W. degree (Master of Social Work) and works for his Aunt Sally (Swarthout) at D.S.S. Nick (Nicholas Mark Lawrence) Currie – 31 yo (February 28) When Nick thought his father hated him because he was gay, he ran away from home. The Curries found him in Arizona while they were on vacation. They managed to reunite Nick with his family, but his parents allowed him to stay with the Curries and go to school there. Nick and Shannon have committed themselves to be life partners. Nick is 5’ 10” (1.78 m), with darkening blond hair, blue eyes, and a swimmer’s build. He earned his degree in computer science and is currently employed as a IT technician in Atlanta, Georgia. Shannon Colin McCarthy – 31 yo (December 16) When his mother kicked him out of the house after discovering he was gay, he went to live with his divorced father. At his new school, Shannon was being bullied by some Boy Scouts, who had learned about his sexual orientation from someone where he used to live, and the Currie boys came to his defense. He became friends with the family, and Shannon and his father (Jake) came to live with the Curries after Josh suffered a heart attack. Shannon and Nick have committed themselves as life partners. Shannon is 5’ 10 ½” (1.79 m), with blond hair, brown eyes, and an average build. He earned a degree in business management and currently works as an accountant for a firm in Atlanta, Georgia. Other family members: Ricky (Richard Allen Glover) Currie – 32 yo (July 7) Ricky was the first boy who came to live with Josh. He was actually a 7th grade student in the middle school where Josh was principal, when Sally Swarthout (the social worker) first paired them up. He was a bit hyperactive and had some slight behavioral problems at the time and needed a home after his drug addicted mother died, since his father was unknown to him and he had no other family that he knew of. Ricky is 5’ 10” tall and has blond hair, gray eyes and an average build. Ricky is bisexual, although he leans toward females. He currently works as a marketing manager for Verizon Wireless in the Philadelphia area. Dustin Mathew (Kowalski) Currie - 34 yo (April 27) Dustin had come to live with the Curries after he was thrown out of his previous foster home, after he was caught in a homosexual act with the foster parents’ biological son, Kevin, who ended up coming to live there as well, later. Dustin is 6’ 0” tall and has black hair, green eyes and a solid build. He is bisexual, but leans toward females. Dustin took technical courses in HVAC and then went to college to earn his business degree. He recently bought the private HVAC company he was working for and is doing quite well. He is married to Katie. Cole David (Van Cott) Currie – 32 yo (October 22) Cole and his brother, Graham, were found abandoned and malnourished as children. They were taken from their mother and placed with Josh. Cole and Graham both suffered from learning disabilities, although Cole had the worst problem. Their mother showed up again a few years later and tried to get her boys back. Once the case went to court, the boys remained with Josh, but their mother was granted visitation rights. Cole is 5’ 9 1/2” tall and has dirty blond hair, brown eyes and has developed a fairly muscular build. Although he had a learning disability, he proved to have a talent for auto repair and bodywork. He is currently the automotive manager for a local automotive dealership. Cole is married to Beth. Graham Thomas (Van Cott) Currie – 30 yo (March 10) Graham and his brother, Cole, were malnourished when they came to live with the Curries. Both Graham and Cole suffered from learning disabilities, although Graham’s problem is less severe than his brothers. His mother showed up again, seeking her boys back. She lost the case but was granted visitation rights. Graham is 5’ 8” tall and has brown hair, brown eyes and a slender frame. Since he had such a difficult time in school, Graham decided to go to college and become a teacher. He currently teaches middle school learning-disabled students in the York, Pennsylvania area how to succeed. Pat (Patrick Alan Murray) Currie – 32 yo (May 28) Pat never had a stable home life, since he was raised by several different relatives and moved around frequently. This caused him to have problems in school. After he got into a minor scrape with the law, Judge Shay asked Josh to take Patrick in. A lab accident in high school left him blind, but he regained sight in his left eye after undergoing an operation. Pat is 5’ 10” tall and has dirty blond hair, blue eyes and a solid build. Pat has a degree in electrical engineering and is currently working for General Dynamics, just outside of Pittsburgh. Sammy (Tsukimo Yamada) Currie – 29 yo (June 1) Sammy and his brother, Andrew, were taken in after Graham insisted they take them in. Graham had read an article about the boys’ Japanese father shooting his American wife and then killing himself. The boys only other relatives were their Japanese grandparents, whom they had never met. After meeting with the grandparents, it was decided the boys would be better off living with the Curries. Sammy is 5’ 6” tall and has black hair, black eyes and a slender build. He majored in history and economics in college and is currently teaching at a high school in the York, Pennsylvania area. Andrew (Furuhata Yamada) Currie – 27 yo (September 12) Andrew and his brother, Sammy, were taken in after Graham insisted they take them in. Graham had read an article about the boys’ Japanese father shooting his American wife and then killing himself. The boys only other relatives were their Japanese grandparents, whom they had never met. After meeting with the grandparents, it was decided the boys would be better off living with the Curries. Andrew is 5’ 4” tall and has black hair, black eyes, and has a petite build. Andrew won some awards for his artwork while in school and is the reason he is currently an art teacher in the same school district as his brother, in York, Pennsylvania. Other recurring characters: Sally Swarthout – Runs Dept. of Social Services and has been Josh’s friend for years. Sally was the person who convinced Josh to become a foster parent and was instrumental in arranging for many of the boys being placed there. The boys call her Aunt Sally. Judge Steve & Mary Shay – Steve was the judge who presided over the first group adoption, but he also arranged for Pat and Frankie to come to live with the Curries. He and his wife have since become good friends of the family and the boys call them Uncle Steve and Aunt Mary. The Shays later offered to adopt Vinnie, to relieve Vinnie’s fears that he’d be committing incest with Kevin. Patrick & Brenda O’Hara – Brandon’s parents. The two families became close when the boys were young, since their son spent so much time with the Curries. That only increased, once Danny and Brandon decided to be partners. The O’Haras have since become Uncle Pat and Aunt Brenda to Josh’s boys. Jeff Goldberg – 33 yo (Feb. 25) Kevin traded his full-scholarship for Jeff’s partial scholarship. Kevin did this because Jeff couldn’t afford to go to college and become a pharmacist on only a partial scholarship. Jeff and Kevin went to Temple together and Jeff now works for Kevin at his Pharmacy.
  11. “Do you think Uncle Ricky is still mad at you guys for tying him to the bed with the dental floss?” Ryan asked as he stared at Noah and Elliot. “I’m not sure, but we only did it because he pulled a prank on Benny, Wyatt, and the rest of you,” Elliot explained. “But didn’t he do that to get even with you for putting the snowman in his car at Christmas?” Ryan pointed out. “Maybe, but he went too far when he upset Noah so badly,” Elliot replied. “Do you think he’s still mad?” Ryan pressed as he looked over at Noah. “Nah, that happened over two years ago, so I’m sure he’s forgotten about it by now.” “Maybe not,” Elliot interjected skeptically. “He didn’t come home for Thanksgiving OR Christmas last year, so it might mean he was still pissed about what happened. He might have even been using that time to plan his revenge.” “That’s not exactly true,” I stated as I walked into the room. I’d overheard their discussion as I was coming to check on them. “Ricky explained that he didn’t join us last year because he was in the middle of a big project at work and didn’t want to waste time making the round trip here. He also didn’t want to spend the day alone, so his girlfriend talked him into spending the day with her family instead, seeing they also live in Philadelphia and it would be a much shorter trip. Ricky said he had a great time with them and was eager to get to know them better, so he accepted their invitation to join them for Christmas as well. I’ll admit that I wondered about his explanation at the time, because he usually prefers to be with the family on the holidays, but I decided to give him the benefit of doubt.” “Well it doesn’t really matter, because he already paid us back for tying him up with dental floss when he came home for Christmas right after we did it,” Elliot added. “If you remember, we tied him up in August, when he came home for Grandpa Josh’s 65th birthday party. We thought he was going to try something when he came home for Thanksgiving, but he didn’t do anything and didn’t even act like he was still upset about it. We figured he’d decided to just let it go, but we were wrong. Regrettably, it just caused us to let down our guard so we weren’t prepared when he got us back at Christmas.” “Yeah, and he got us good,” Noah agreed. “He didn’t act upset or mad when he got here, but we found out later that he was just laying low until the time was right. He waited until our dads went to bed and fell asleep after they’d put all of the presents under the tree. As soon as he thought he wouldn’t be noticed, he snuck down to the family room and stuffed all of our presents in a couple of duffle bags and hid them so we wouldn’t have anything to open Christmas morning.” “But he didn’t take everyone’s presents, just ours,” Ryan countered. “You’re right. He left the adults’ presents there, and that made us suffer even more,” Noah agreed. “He must have figured out that we were the ones who tied him to the bed and realized that we’d feel worse if there were presents under the tree, just none for us.” “But not all of us helped you when you tied him up,” Joshie objected. “No, but I guess Uncle Ricky didn’t want to take the chance that he’d miss getting even with everyone involved, so he took all of our gifts just to be sure,” Elliot reasoned. “That was mean,” Wyatt whined. “Yeah, it was, and Grandpa Josh was really mad at Uncle Ricky for doing that,” Benny chimed in. “Yeah, he was,” Joshie confirmed. “He knew it was another one of Uncle Ricky’s pranks and thought he was ruining Christmas for everybody.” “He did, and it was awful,” Wyatt nearly shouted. “I didn’t get to open my presents until Christmas night, and then I had to go to bed right after that, so I didn’t get to play with anything until the next day.” “But you wouldn’t have had anything to play with if Grandpa Josh hadn’t threatened to do something awful to Uncle Ricky if he didn’t tell him where the presents were,” Ryan pointed out. “Yeah, but then Grandpa Josh made ALL of us promise not to play any more pranks for the rest of the holiday before he made Uncle Ricky tell us where he’d put them,” Noah added. “How come you guys didn’t find them earlier?” Joshie wanted to know. “I thought you searched the house looking for our presents, but you didn’t find nuttin, and they were just down in the basement.” “That’s because we were looking for presents in wrapping paper,” Noah explained. “We saw the duffle bags mixed in with the other things stored down there, but we thought they were just stuff Grandpa Josh or Grandpa Jake had put there. That’s why we didn’t unzip them, cuz we thought they might get mad if we did.” “It was actually pretty clever of Uncle Ricky to bring the duffle bags with him so he could do that,” Elliot reasoned. “He must have figured that we wouldn’t mess with anything we thought one of the adults had put down there.” Everyone nodded in agreement. “Hey, Uncle Frankie’s here,” Benny shouted after his head stopped bobbing up and down. While he’d been agreeing with Benny, he obviously glanced out the picture window and spotted Frankie’s SUV pulling in. As soon as he pointed that fact out to the rest of us, he jumped up and raced to the foyer. “Uncle Frankie’s here. Uncle Frankie’s here,” he screeched, alerting the others. Benny and Frankie had formed an unusually strong bond after Frankie had rescued him from the kennel his mother was keeping him in, and Frankie eventually brought him here to live with us. Benny was beaming as Frankie opened the front door. “Hi, Uncle Frankie,” he shouted as he raced over and wrapped his arms around Frankie’s waist. “Hello to you too, kiddo. Man, I’m not used to being greeted like this. It’s even better than having a dog.” “I like it when you’re here, cuz I get to spend time with you.” “I can see that, and I like spending time with you too. I take it you still like living here?” “I love it, but it’s better when you’re here too.” During their conversation Frankie managed to close the front door to keep out the chilly autumn air. As he made his way farther into the house, with Benny still attached to his hip, he said hello to the rest of us. “I’m shocked that you’re the first one here this year,” Dad said as he gave Frankie a hug. “I started out early this morning so I could spend as much time with you as possible.” “But don’t you usually work on the holidays?” Pop followed as he shook Frankie’s hand. “I used to, but now that I have more seniority I managed to get the holiday and Friday off. Unfortunately, I have to leave Friday night, because I’ve got to work this weekend.” “We’re just glad you could make it for Thanksgiving,” Dad assured him. Dad and Pop followed Frankie into the living room so they could sit down and chat some more, and Benny never left Frankie’s side. A few of us followed them so we could listen to what Frankie had to say, but I warned the boys who came with us not to interrupt. On most holidays, Dad wouldn’t have had time to do this, because he would have been in the kitchen preparing dinner. However, Trey and Brandon had taken over that duty while Dad was spending time in Atlanta while Shannon was recuperating from his injuries. They thought Dad would want to take over again once he returned, but he was more than willing to let them do it from now on. Dad, Pop, and Frankie had only been chatting for about fifteen minutes when Ryan suddenly jumped up and raced toward the door. “Where do you think you’re going?” I asked as I followed him. “Uncle Richard is here,” he replied. I assumed Ryan must have been able to see out the window from where he was sitting and noticed Richard’s car pull into the driveway. Ryan had formed a bond with Little Ricky, as the family still likes to call him, similar to Benny’s bond with Frankie, because Little Ricky had been the one who’d brought Ryan to live with us. Ryan greeted his hero as enthusiastically as Benny had greeted Frankie and was now dragging him toward the living room. “I’m glad someone is happy to see me,” Little Ricky quipped, since no one else had gone out to the foyer to welcome him. “We’re all happy to see you,” Dad responded, “although maybe not as happy as Ryan.” “That’s cuz I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Uncle Richard,” Ryan explained. The rest of us merely nodded in agreement. Throughout the morning the rest of the family continued showing up, one carload at a time. I was busy chatting with my brothers when Wyatt rushed into the room. He had stayed in the family room to watch TV when the rest of us moved to the living room. “Uncle Ricky’s here and he’s got a girl with him.” “That must be his girlfriend,” I explained “He told us he was bringing her with him this year to make up for spending the holidays with her family last year.” After they’d entered the house, Ricky decided to introduce her to all of us at once. “This is my girlfriend, Tiffany Gonzales. I challenged her to come with me this year to see if she could make it through the weekend in this nuthouse with the Looney Tunes I call a family.” “And this is coming from the worst Looney Tune,” Brandon teased. “If you haven’t scared her off by now, she’ll have no trouble with the rest of us. It’s nice to meet you, Tiffany. I’m Brandon.” “Rather than taking time to introduce her to each of you now, we’ll do it throughout the weekend. There are just too many of you and she probably wouldn’t remember your names anyway, so I’ll just introduce her to Dad and Pop for now.” “That’s fine,” I agreed, “and it will probably be better for her as well.” “It’s still nice to meet all of you,” she said. And then she sniffed the air. “Something smells wonderful.” “You can thank Brandon and Trey for that,” I responded, “because they’re the ones preparing dinner. Trey’s the one in the kitchen.” Tiffany glanced around the corner and waved at Trey. She appeared to be the complete opposite of Ricky. She had jet black hair and dark brown eyes, compared with Ricky’s golden locks and smoky-gray irises. She also seemed quiet and demure, as opposed to Ricky’s overpowering gregarious nature, but then again it’s possible that this is merely due to her meeting us for the first time. However, I suspect it might be her usual comportment, but only time would tell. We continued to visit with one another until I was finally able to get Ricky alone so I could speak with him in private. “Do you guys require separate bedrooms or will you be sharing one?” “We aren’t living together yet and have our own places, but we usually sleep together on the weekends.” “In that case, you two can use Vinnie’s old bedroom off the rec room and share the downstairs bathroom with Dad and Pop. That way I won’t have to worry about the boys running around naked upstairs.” “That’s true, but Tiffany might get a kick out of seeing that.” “Possibly, but it might embarrass you and mess up your relationship.” “How so?” “It’s because some of those boys are hung better than you are.” “Really?” “Yes, Joshie seems to be taking after his dad, and Ryan will give you a run for your money in that department as well, and Noah’s hung extremely well too.” “Damn, what kind of vitamins are you giving these boys?” Ricky asked with a chuckle. “Ok, if that’s the case I’ll keep her downstairs.” Regrettably, not everyone was showing up for the holiday this year, because some of the married family members were obligated to spend the holiday with their spouse’s family instead. There was still a huge crowd, though, just not as many as when everyone was here. As soon as we were all seated around the various tables, seeing we wouldn’t all fit around the dining room table, Ricky made an announcement. “I’ve filled Tiffany in about a lot of things, including the various pranks we’ve pulled on each other over the years.” Immediately after he said this the sound of snickering could be heard, but Ricky ignored it and continued. “I’ve also told her that Dad makes us go around the table on Thanksgiving and tell what we’re thankful for, but before we do that I want to apologize. I’m sorry for pulling pranks on you guys in the past and promise I won’t do it in the future. I hope you’ll accept my apology and promise that you won’t pull any pranks on us either.” This not only shocked the collective gathering, but it left us speechless as well. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who wondered if Ricky was serious, or if he was just setting us up for later. I also considered that maybe Tiffany had urged him to do this after he told her about the pranks, so she wouldn’t be caught in the middle of a prank war. “Well I’m thankful for that,” Dad roared, which brought each of us out of our personal reverie. We either verbally concurred or nodded in agreement. After we’d each stated what we were thankful for, including Tiffany, she made another comment. “I really love this tradition. It’s so sweet that I’m going to talk my family into doing it from now on.” “Do you come from a large family?” Pop asked. “Not compared to yours,” she giggled. “Besides my mom and dad, there’s only my brother and sister.” “Are your siblings older or younger?” Dion followed. “I’m the oldest,” she replied. “That’s good, because you’re probably used to taking charge of your siblings at home, so maybe you’ll be able to keep Ricky under control as well,” Trey quipped. “I’m not sure anyone can do that,” she responded as she glanced over at Ricky and nudged him. Obviously, she was well aware of Ricky’s devilish side. While we were eating, different family members were engaged in private conversations, and that continued until Sammy addressed someone at the opposite end of the table. “Little Ricky, are you running D.S.S. now?” “No, Aunt Sally says she isn’t ready to retire yet, but she promoted me to assistant director,” he answered, blushing slightly. “And he’s doing a great job too,” Aunt Sally stated enthusiastically. “I’ve considered retiring, but I love my job and don’t want to give it up. I live alone and don’t relish the thought of spending so much time by myself, so I’ve decide to keep working for as long as I can. I’ve been able to take off more time from work, though, and have used up some of my accrued vacation time in the process. That’s allowed me to do some traveling with my friends, something I’ve been reluctant to do in the past, but I feel better about doing it now, knowing I’m leaving the agency in good hands.” “I think she’s only doing it to see if I screw up while she’s gone,” Little Ricky quipped. “No, I trust your judgment and know you’ll do fine,” Aunt Sally replied. “I’ve been putting my friends off for years when they’ve asked me to go places or do things with them, because I didn’t feel anyone else could do my job. Now, I’m finally able to enjoy spending time with them, because I know Richard can handle any problems that arise.” Besides displaying her confidence in him, it was also apparent that she called him Richard at work. The Shays had joined us as well and were sitting next to Vinnie and Kevin. They’d been quietly chatting with each other until someone at the far end of the table asked one of them a question. “How about you, Uncle Steve? Are you thinking about retiring yet?” Cole wondered. “I’ve talked to my wife about whether I should do that, but we both agree that I should remain in my job as long as there are more boys to be adopted by this incredible family.” “Then you’re never going to retire,” Pat joked. “Maybe not, but the reward of seeing more smiling faces in this house is worth it,” he replied. “So you only adopt boys?” Tiffany asked Dad before glancing around the tables. “Yes, I was a widower when I started and felt it would be best if I only took in boys. I felt it was safer to continue doing that as the family grew, because the temptations are far greater for boys and girls living in the same household that aren’t related by blood. I’ve got two daughters, though, from my previous marriage, as well as a couple of granddaughters and several daughters-in-law.” “I see,” she stated thoughtfully before Ricky spoke. “You would definitely see plenty if you lived here, because during the summer these guys don’t wear very much, and sometimes nothing at all. That’s because they like to go skinny dipping in the pool.” She giggled and asked, “Did you do that too?” “Of course, since it was just us guys, and it’s a great way to cool off on a hot summer day.” “There’s even more to you than I imagined,” she mused, although none of us knew whether it was a good or bad thing. After we finished eating, we split into different groups, with some going into the living room to talk, while others headed to the family room to watch the football game on TV. Some even headed back to the rec room to play games, but that was primarily the boys. During this time I found an opportunity to get Graham alone so I could ask him a question that had been on my mind. “Do you still see ghosts in the house when you’re here?” “Yes, but most of the time it’s just Cody and Brent. They seem to like being here with the rest of you, but sometimes the others show up as well. That mainly happens on the holidays, though, at least as far as I can tell.” “Who else are you talking about?” “That would include Dad’s wife, Elliot’s father, Vinnie’s parents, Trey’s parents, and Sammy and Andrew’s grandparents, along with the Spencers and the Beckers. They all show up from time to time, but they don’t usually stay very long. It’s seems they just want to make sure everyone is doing well and things are going fine.” “I was wondering about that, including whether they are here at other times.” “I think Cody and Brent might be here most of the time, but not the others. I think they only show up on the holidays and the birthdays of those they’re related too.” “I see. I guess that means sometimes it’s even more crowded in here than we realize,” I joked. “Do you think Cody and Brent are aware that we named different parts of the Health Center after them?” “Oh yes, they definitely know that, because they’ve each showed me images of them standing next to the sign with their name on it. I think they’re really proud you did that for them.” “I hope so, because it was our way of honoring them. It was also to let them know we haven’t forgotten them.” “And they seem to appreciate it, and I think it’s what keeps them hanging around here so much as well. They apparently feel the ‘Hotel’ is still their home and the place they feel most comfortable.” “I’m really glad to hear that, and I’m going to let Dad know about this too. I think he’ll be as happy to learn about it as I was.” Later, after we’d all enjoyed a snack and had some pie or another dessert, those living in the area returned to their homes. Once they had gone the others began heading to the bedrooms they were using. For most of them it was a different bedroom than they’d used while growing up, seeing the younger boys were currently using many of those rooms. No one complained, though, as they went to turn in, but before I went up to say goodnight to the boys I stopped by Dad’s room to tell him about my conversation with Graham. “That makes me feel a little better, because I’ve always felt guilty that I let Brent go on that trip when he got killed. I also thought there might have been more I could have done for Cody and possibly prevented him from dying so young as well.” “Neither of their deaths were your fault and they obviously don’t blame you or hold any grudges. They both seem to have enjoyed the time they lived here and are happy to continue hanging around.” “Thanks for telling me this and I’m glad you asked Graham that question. Sweet dreams and I’ll see you in the morning.” As soon as I got to my bedroom, Brandon and I went to say goodnight to each of the boys and tuck them in. Well, we didn’t actually tuck Elliot and Noah in, but they appreciated that we came by to say goodnight before they fell asleep. Once that had been taken care of, Brandon and I returned to our room and turned in as well. The next morning we found Dad and Pop in the kitchen making breakfast for everyone as they got up. We offered to help, but they said they didn’t mind doing it, so we sat down at the table with a few of the others while we waited for the chefs to bring in the food. “Doing this reminds me of when you boys were growing up and I was doing most of the cooking,” Dad said as he and Pop brought the food to the table. “Those were great times and this helps me relive some of those memories.” “If you say so, but we could still chip in so you don’t have to do all the work,” Brandon offered. “You and Trey took care of Thanksgiving dinner, and you help with the other meals as well, so that’s more than enough. Besides, I like making breakfast.” “We like it when you make breakfast too,” Noah chipped in. “Otherwise we’d probably just have cereal and toast.” “Oh, come on,” Trey objected. “Brandon and I fed you better than that while your grandfather was away.” “Ok, I guess maybe you did, but we like it better when Grandpa Josh does it.” I’m not sure if any of the adults followed his logic, but the other boys were all nodding in agreement. “You guys do really well fixing meals,” Tiffany offered. “Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful, the pies were delicious, and this breakfast is incredible. I didn’t know a bunch of guys could do this well on their own, because I’ve never seen my dad or brother helping out in the kitchen.” “It’s not really that unusual,” Dad replied. “If you think about it, some of the best chefs are men.” “You’re right and I never considered that,” she agreed pensively. After we finished our meal, a few of us helped clear the table and load the dishwasher. After that, some of the gang went to the family room to see what was on TV while the rest us went to the living room to chat. During that time we got to learn more about Tiffany and how she and Ricky had first met, and then we regaled her with stories about what Ricky was like when he was younger. She laughed a lot while listening to what we had to say, and there were other times when she would glance over at Ricky strangely. He spent most of the time protesting about the accuracy of the incidents we were recalling, but Tiffany appeared to believe us over her boyfriend’s objections. Those who lived locally and didn’t spend the night showed up before lunch, and then later that afternoon we all went outside to choose up teams for our annual Thanksgiving weekend touch football game. Tiffany joined in and played too, while Dad and Pop refereed. They said they were getting too old to compete with the younger crowd, since the boys were eager to join in this activity as well. It turned out to be a very competitive game and nearly everyone enjoyed it, with the exception of Trey. He managed to turn an ankle and then had to sit out, and now Dion was helping him as he limped toward the house. “Are you hurt, Poppy?” Wyatt asked concerned. “Yes, but it’s not that bad. I just hurt my ankle, but it should be better in a day or two.” That seemed to be sufficient for Wyatt, because he merely said “K” and then raced off to catch up with the other boys. Frankie left for Allentown after dinner, because he had to work the rest of the weekend, and then those living in the area started taking off as well. Before long it was just those of us who either lived here or were currently staying at the house, and we decided to watch a movie before turning in. We spent the next day helping Dad get the house ready for Christmas. A small group went outside to put the lights up along the eves and over the front porch, while another group arranged the various decorations in the yard. Those who were left assembled the artificial tree in the family room and trimmed it, and then they went around the rest of the house putting up the other decorations. Pop kept loading Christmas CDs into the system that could be heard both inside and outside the house to get us in the holiday spirit. The only time we weren’t involved in doing one of those things was when Brandon, Trey, and Tiffany left to fix the next meal. The house was completely decorated by the end of the day, and needless to say we were all exhausted by the time we turned in. The next morning Dad woke everyone early so we could get ready for church, because he wanted us to attend together. When we got there we spent a great deal of time, both before and after the service, chatting with various members of the congregation that we knew. As soon as we were finally able to break away, Dad took us out for brunch. Shortly after we returned to the house, Andrew pulled me aside so we could discuss something in private. “I happened to see Benny naked this morning when he was getting ready for church, and I was a little surprised to see he’s already started puberty.” “You’re right, and even though he may not look it, he’s actually thirteen.” “I guess I forgot about that because he looks so young, but I’m glad he’s maturing so he won’t have to go through what I endured by starting later than everyone else. I was nearly sixteen before I started and had been the brunt of a lot of jokes and a great deal of teasing” “Yes, the other kids at school weren’t very nice to you. Benny and Joshie started showing the early signs of entering puberty shortly after Christmas, even though Bennie is sixteen months older. He might have started a little later than Joshie did, age wise, but the process has continued over the summer and they’re both well into puberty now.” “I can’t believe Benny is that much older than Joshie. I thought they were in the same grade.” “They are, but it’s only because Benny had fallen behind due to the way his mother had treated him. It’s actually worked out well, though, because the boys are very close and like being in the same grade, and they do nearly everything together.” “Do you think that might include helping each other with other stuff as well?” “If you mean sex, they’ve been messing around with each other for a while now, but they haven’t tried anal sex yet.” “How do you know?” “It’s because I’ve talked to Benny about it and he’s expressed some concerns. As he put it, “Joshie has a big one and I’m afraid it might hurt.” “Yes, I happened to see Joshie naked this morning as well and noticed that he’s really well hung for his age.” “Yes, he apparently takes after his dad and might even surpass him before it’s over.” “So what did you tell Benny?” “I explained there are plenty of other things they can do in the meantime, and I promised to advise him of various ways he can prepare himself, if he eventually decides he’s ready to try it.” “I’m glad he’s able to come to you about those kinds of things, like we were able to talk to Dad.” “I’m doing my best, and I’m not the only one. Dion and I have both sat down with the boys several times since Benny’s been here, and we’ve discussed many issues with them, just like Dad did with us.” “I’m pleased to see that you guys are picking up where Dad left off.” When we finished our conversation, we noticed that some of the others were already packing up and preparing to leave, Including those Andrew was riding with, so he went off to do the same. Each one thanked us for the wonderful time before they left, and most of them promised to see us again at Christmas. A few wouldn’t be returning this year, because it was their turn to spend the holiday with their spouse’s family instead. “It was great meeting all of you,” Tiffany said as she and Ricky were getting ready to leave. “I can’t wait to see what Christmas is like here, seeing Thanksgiving was so interesting.” “I’m pleased to hear this mob hasn’t scared you off and you’re still eager to come back to celebrate Christmas with us,” Dad said as he gave her a hug and kissed her on the cheek. “Oh, I’m definitely going to do that. I just want to talk to Ricky about some of the things his brothers told me about him before we see you again.” “They were all lies,” Ricky protested with a grunt. “And you’d better be careful about what you ask me, or I may not bring you back here for Christmas.” Tiffany punched Ricky in the shoulder as they walked to the car, so it appeared she’s a match for him and won’t take his crap. I smiled mischievously while waving at them as they drove off.
  12. Bill W

    Homosexuality: Not sex, but survival

    A very interesting and thought provoking presentation. If only everyone could be so enlightened.
  13. That was one hell of a party, but I think we had too many flaming pumpkin pie cocktails.
  14. Bill W

    Chapter 1

    Yes, gay suicides are a major problem, that's why I used this story to point it out. I'm glad you made out ok and your mother took care of the problem for you. That's for commenting.
  15. Bill W

    City of the Dead

    Thanks, I'm glad it put you in the Halloween spirit - or spirits.
  16. Really, Sheriff, I locked myself out of the house and was just using this to get inside.
  17. Bill W

    City of the Dead

    You're welcome, DaddyD. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
  18. Bill W

    City of the Dead

    Thanks for the feedback, Wayne. It wouldn't have been much of a Halloween Spook-tale if he just prayed, and this is a real thing in New Orleans for those who believe. Take care, my friend.
  19. Bill W

    City of the Dead

    Jamie’s dad died unexpectedly and he never got to say goodbye. This bothered him because the last time he’d been with his dad they had a disagreement that never got resolved. Jamie learns that there’s a place in New Orleans where he might be able to rectify the situation and make contact with his dad’s spirit, but he doesn’t want to go alone. He asks his friend Drew to join him, and Drew agrees, and together they embark on an adventure that doesn’t go exactly as planned.
  20. Bill W

    City of the Dead

    I was a little surprised when I heard Jamie’s voice on the other end of the phone, because we’d unfortunately lost contact shortly after we left home to attend different colleges. I’d first met Jamie O’Conner in fifth grade and we remained best friends until we graduated from high school. However, once we got to college our busy schedules, heavy workloads, and the geographic distance between our campuses caused us to lose touch. Even though I’d always known that Jamie was into girls, since it was a very obvious fact, he didn’t overreact or get angry when I finally confessed that I was gay. In fact, nothing seemed to change in any way until our sophomore year when he made a comment that blew my mind. “Drew, I know you’ve always had a thing for me, so I’m gonna do you a favor.” Just for clarification, my given name is Andrew Fowler and I was named after my dad, although we have different middle names. He prefers to go by Andy, so he and my mom decided it would be less confusing if they called me Drew. “Wait, what makes you think I have a thing for you?” “Come on, bro. I’ve seen you staring at my junk whenever we stay over at each other’s house and get undressed at the same time.” I must have blushed when he said this, because I’d always thought I was being sly and hiding what I was doing. It never dawned on me that he was aware of what I was up to, because I never stared directly at his package. I merely glanced at his penis out of the corner of my eye, and since he never said anything about it I failed to realize that I’d been busted. He’d never confronted me, or got angry or upset, and seeing he seemed to be fine with this, I chose to confirm his observation. “Ok, I guess I did check you out a few times.” “A few times? I think you mean a few hundred times, cuz you did it whenever we were undressing in the bedroom, the locker room, and even when we happened to be standing next to each other while taking a leak.” “Did I do it that often?” “Oh yeah, and there were probably other times too, but I’m ok with it. Even though you know I’m straight, I’m willing to meet you halfway and do some things I wouldn’t do for anyone else.” “Huh? What the hell are you talking about?” “I’m offering to do stuff with you, as long as you promise that you won’t try to stick anything up my butt or start acting all mushy around me, like we’re boyfriends or something.” “Really? You’re willing to do that? But why?” “Cuz I don’t want to see you moping around or being miserable for the next few years.” “Really? Ok, I promise, but I still can’t believe you’re going to do this for me.” “I know, but I am, and I will as long as you follow my rules.” “Yeah. No problem. Just tell me if you think I’m doing something wrong.” “You can count on it.” Throughout the rest of our time in high school we engaged in mutual masturbation and oral sex, but I never tried to get him to do more than that. I was over the moon that he was willing to do this much with me and didn’t want him to stop, but like I said we lost touch after we left to attend different colleges. We’d kept in touch during the first semester, but everything changed after the Christmas holiday and we hardly ever spoke after that. Once we earned our degrees, we ended up taking jobs in different states and hadn’t really spoken or seen one another since then. Oh, there were the few times we happened to run into each other while visiting our parents, but it was always while running errands, so we couldn’t chat for very long. The conversations were usually just about general things, like how we’d been and what we were doing, but we never really shared much personal information. Thinking about this made me wonder how he’d managed to get the number to my mobile phone. As if reading my mind, Jamie said, “I ran into your parents at my dad’s funeral and asked them to give it to me.” “Your dad died? I didn’t know that.” “Yeah, about three months ago. It was a total surprise and happened without any warning. I felt awful because I hadn’t been back to visit since Christmas and didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.” “Damn, I’m really sorry.” “Thanks, and it’s sort of why I called you. I was hoping you’d go with me to New Orleans so I can say goodbye to my dad and apologize for what happened the last time we were together. We had an argument before I left and didn’t exactly part on good terms, so I want to let him know that I love him and I’m sorry those were the last things we said to each other.” “What was the argument about?” “That’s not important, but I need to clear the air and make amends or I’ll never be able to live with myself.” “Ok, but why New Orleans? Is that where he’s buried?” “No, but I’ve heard there’s a place there where you can contact people who are no longer alive. It’s in an area called the City of the Dead and that’s where the Gates of Guinee are located. If you visit the gates in the proper order and do a bunch of other stuff, like make offerings, then a portal will open at the last one and you’ll be able to make contact with someone who has recently passed. It’s just that I’m nervous and don’t want to do it alone.” “Ok, so when are you planning to go?” “I was told this works best if it’s done close to certain holidays, and the next opportunity will be right before All Saints Day on November first.” “You mean we’re going to be doing this on Halloween?” “No, we’ll finish the process before then, but in a way it’s connected to that holiday because it’s based on an ancient Celtic celebration called Samhain (pronounced Sow-in). That’s when the Celts believed the dead return to roam the earth, but now we believe the spirits are able to crossover prior to other holidays as well, like Christmas, Mardi Gras, and a few others. You see, these holidays are the times when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld is its thinnest, so it’s easier for recently deceased spirits to return. The thing is we’ll both have to take a week off from work to do this.” “A week?” “Yeah, cuz we’re only supposed to visit one gate each day. I’ve been in contact with a voodoo priestess from there and she’s agreed to meet with me so she can explain everything I’ll need to do.” “A voodoo priestess?” “Yeah, cuz they’re the only ones who know how to do this.” “Ok, I’ll go with you, but it sounds a little crazy.” We ended up taking two weeks of vacation instead, because Jamie explained there were several other things he needed to do prior to opening the gates. This included meeting with the priestess, being shown where each gate was located, and procuring the various items he would need for the offerings. We also agreed that as long as we were going to be in the French Quarter we might as well take advantage of the situation and enjoy the night life too, so there was an upside to staying longer as well. We turned in our requests and got them approved. Before Jamie contacted me about this I’d already committed to being a groomsman in a co-worker’s wedding, which happened to fall on the same weekend that Jamie was planning to leave. Since I didn’t want to break my word to the other guy, I told Jamie I wouldn’t be able to fly to New Orleans until Monday. This didn’t seem to bother him, because he said it wouldn’t be a problem and we’d still have a week and a half before All Saints Day. The only drawback was that he didn’t want to be in New Orleans alone, so he opted to change his flight to Monday as well. It would also leave us a couple of days to rest up after we got back, and prior to returning to work. It wasn’t very long before it was time to leave, and Jamie’s flight touched down in New Orleans first. He opted to hang around the airport until my plane landed, and as soon as he spotted me approaching the luggage carousel he raced over and gave me a hug. After he released me, he smiled, looked me in the eye, and spoke. “Damn, it’s great to see you again, and I really appreciate that you agreed to do this for me.” “I’m glad to see you too, and you should have known that I wouldn’t let you down or allow you do this alone.” “Yeah, you’re a great friend and I’m going to show you how much this means to me. I want you to know that I’m willing to do whatever you want every night while we’re here, as my way of paying you back. It will be just like when we were in high school.” “That’s really nice of you and I’m really looking forward to it, but there’s something else I need to do first. I’m starving and have to get something to eat. I could only scrounge up a couple bags of peanuts to munch on after I left the house, and it wasn’t nearly enough to tide me over.” “Yeah, I’m kind of hungry too, so let’s find someplace to eat. It will be my treat.” Since I didn’t want to waste time by going to the hotel and checking in first, I talked Jamie into grabbing a bite at the airport. After we’d quieted the rumblings in our bellies, we took the shuttle to the hotel. Once we registered, we collected our key cards and headed up to the third floor to inspect the room. “Not bad. You did a nice job picking this out.” “Thanks. I figured we might as well be comfortable while we’re here.” “So what’s the first thing on the agenda?” “We’re free to do whatever we want until tomorrow morning. That’s when we’re supposed to meet with the voodoo priestess so she can fill me in on everything I’ll need to know.” “Is she coming here?” “No, we have to go to her shop.” Now that I knew what to expect, we unpacked our belongings and got settled in. As soon as we had an opportunity to relax and catch our breath, Jamie suggested that we should go for a walk and familiarize ourselves with the area. It would also give us an opportunity to see what other establishments were close by, so we’d know where to go later to have a couple of drinks. Once we finished our impromptu walkabout we returned to the room. Almost as soon as the door closed behind us, Jamie offered another suggestion. “Let’s take a quick shower and then you can decide how you want to get off before we get dressed and go out to party.” “Are you sure you still want to do this?” “Yeah, it will be just like old times.” “So are you up for a sixty-nine then?” “Ok, but I might be a little rusty. I haven’t done anything like this since our last time together.” “Don’t worry, it will all CUM back to you.” It took him a couple of seconds to catch my drift and notice the play on words, but when he did he chuckled softly before starting to undress. Of course, I took the opportunity to check him out and he was still in great shape. The teenage body I so fondly remembered had matured since we’d last done this, but his six-pack was still fairly well defined. He’d also sprouted considerably more body hair in the interim, but the prize between his legs was just as magnificent as I remembered. I was looking forward to getting reacquainted with it again, but Jamie thought each of us should take a quick shower first, before we got started. It was clear that he didn’t want to take the chance of any hygiene issues, a hang up he’d had since we’d first done this. After making certain we were both squeaky clean, we arranged ourselves on the bed and began sucking each other off. Jamie’s technique had suffered a little during the years of inactivity, but he was still able to bring me to orgasm. Shortly after we’d both enjoyed a release, we got dressed again and headed out for a night on the town. The French Quarter lived up to everything I’d heard about it, and once we’d finished dinner, the booze started to flow quite freely. Before we started, though, we promised each other that we wouldn’t get carried away and wind up totally inebriated, because we had to get up early the next morning and meet up with the voodoo priestess. Don’t get me wrong, because we still had a great time, but without the lingering after effects or any regrets. Well, at least not until the alarm on Jamie’s mobile phone went off at 6:00 the next morning, because we didn’t leave the bar until after last call. Once we’d crawled out of bed and had taken turns showering, we dressed quickly and got ready to go down to the lobby so we could enjoy the complimentary breakfast. As Jamie reached for the door handle, I asked a question. “Why are you wearing a backpack?” “It’s to carry the various supplies we’ll need to pull this off.” That made sense, so we headed down to see what the hotel had to offer. The selection wasn’t bad, and after we’d each finished devouring a bagel, scrambled eggs, and a couple of sausage links, we headed over to the voodoo shop. To say the place was a unique and an interesting experience would be a vast understatement. The shelves in the small shop were filled with an assortment of weird and exotic items and the place smelled of incense. The combination of sights and smells was so overwhelming that I wasn’t able to focus on any particular item for very long before another one grabbed my attention. However, that all changed when I spotted the person we were there to meet. The voodoo priestess appeared to be even more unique and exotic than the items on display, and this was due to what she was wearing and how it made her appear. She had on a multi-colored, floor length robe that was unfastened in the front and exposed the burnt orange dress she wore underneath. She also had a mauve kerchief wrapped around her head, completely covering her hair, and her perfume must have contained musk. The overall effect was overpowering and unnerving. “Greetings, I am Madam Ida and I wish to welcome you to my shop. Is there something I can do to assist you?” “Yes, I’m Jamie O’Conner and I made an appointment to speak with you about the City of the Dead. This is my friend, Drew Fowler, and he’s here to help me.” “Ah, yes. From what you told me when we spoke on the phone, I believe you are actually interested in the Gates of Guinee.” “Yes, I am, because you said that’s the place I’ll need to go if I want to make contact with my dad. He died a few months ago and I never got a chance to say goodbye, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to do that before I leave.” “It will require a lengthy ordeal that will extend over several nights. Everything will have to be done in the correct order and you must follow a prescribed ritual at each gate. Are you sure you have the time and the patience to do this?” “Yes. Absolutely.” “The seven gates are located in seven different cemeteries, but each one is located within the French Quarter. According to voodoo beliefs the gates can be used to open a portal into Guinee, which is the portion of the underworld that all souls enter immediately after death. It is presided over by a ‘loa’, or a spirit known as Baron Samedi. Each soul must pass through this area in order to reach the ‘deep waters’, which they must cross if they wish to be reunited with their loved ones. “There are actually seventeen different cemeteries in the French Quarter that are collectively referred to as the City of the Dead, but only seven of them contain gates. People who aren’t familiar with the area can easily get confused and look for the gates in the wrong cemeteries, which is why I’ll be taking you on a tour. I will show you the precise location of each gate, and I will explain what you are required to do at each location, but you may only open one gate per day. There is a common saying that will help you to remember the importance of doing this correctly, and it goes like this. ‘Seven nights, seven moons, seven gates, seven tombs.’ You must not deviate from this in any way.” “I understand.” “I will only show you the location of the cemetery where the first gate resides, but not the gate itself, because I will have to escort you there when you’re ready to begin. The reason for this is twofold. First, that particular cemetery has been closed to the public due to vandalism, but I’m an authorized tour guide who is permitted to escort people inside. The other reason for this is so I can walk you through the process the first time, to ensure you’re doing it correctly. Today, I will only show you the main entrance to that cemetery, and then I will drive you to the other six gates so you will know where to go. You will be visiting those locations on your own, so it is important that you learn how to get there and where each gate is located inside.” “Great! So will we be starting tonight?” “No, I have an appointment scheduled with another client this evening and won’t be available. Don’t worry, though, because you’ll still have plenty of time to complete the process prior to All Saints Day. It will also give you the rest of today, after I’ve finished taking you on the tour, along with all day tomorrow to collect the offerings you’re going to need.” “Can’t I just get everything here?” “You’ll be able to purchase some of the items in my shop, but you’ll have to go elsewhere for the remaining things. Now, if you’re ready I will take you to the various cemeteries and show you where the gates can be found. Here’s a map that you can use to help you remember where each gate resides, but you’ll also need a pad or some paper to jot down a few notes about the information I’m going to reveal. You mustn’t forget any of these steps and do them precisely as I indicate, so putting everything in writing is the best way to ensure mistakes do not happen.” “Ok, so do you have a notebook I can buy?” She did, and Jamie quickly paid her for it. “You must remember this warning. If you do something wrong, such as approach the gates in the wrong order or open any of them incorrectly, then you won’t be able to unlock the portal when you reach the final gate. Any mistakes could prove costly, and it’s possible that making such an error could allow dangerous spirits to enter our world. Although most souls are eager to be reunited with their loved ones beyond the deep waters, there are others that opt to remain in Guinee. Most of those souls are very evil and wish to escape Guinee so they can enter the world of the living again and do harmful things. This might include harassing the living, creating general mayhem, or even dragging unwary souls into the world of the dead before their time is up.” We followed her out to the car so she could drive us around, and before long she pulled up in front of a cemetery unlike anything I had ever seen before. All of the deceased appeared to be housed above ground, and I later discovered that the dead are interred in this manner due to a high water table in the area. Any hole dug as a grave would quickly fill with water, making it impractical to be used for that purpose. I was still in the process of visually inspecting the variety of elaborate tombs when my thoughts were interrupted by Madam Ida’s voice. “This is St. Louis Cemetery #1 and the location of the first gate, which is the tomb of Marie Laveau. She was a renowned voodoo priestess who died in 1881, and today she is regarded as the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. It is important that you know each gate has its own Guede, or guardian, and the Guede is there to bar the living from trying to enter the land of the dead. In order to convince the guardian that he should assist you, you must display the proper amount of respect when greeting him. This is done by speaking very clearly in a calm, steady voice, followed by leaving a suitable ritual offering before stating your purpose. If that offering is deemed inadequate it would offend the Guede, and the guardians are quick to anger. Trust me when I say you don’t want to be the recipient of a Guede’s wrath.” After making this perfectly clear, she drove us to each of the other cemeteries and pointed out the remaining gates. She advised us of the name of the guardian at each location, explained how Jamie was to greet each Guede, and then she informed him of the appropriate offering he should leave behind. Once we finished the tour of all of the locations, we returned to her shop. “Be careful of making any mistakes, because even the smallest error could result in dire consequences,” she warned after Jamie had purchased the items available there. As soon as he had what he needed, we thanked her for her help and headed out to procure the remaining items at other nearby businesses. “Damn, this sounds complicated,” I stated after we’d returned to the hotel. “Yes, it does sound daunting, but I need to do this. It’s important for me to make amends with my dad so he can rest in peace, and I’ll be able to go on with the rest of my life without any regrets or remorse.” “Ok, so what do we do next?” “There’s nothing we can do until tomorrow night, cuz Madam Ida said everything has to be done after dark. Actually, she said the sun has to disappear completely below the horizon before we can attempt opening any of the gates, so we’re free until then.” “So if we don’t start until tomorrow night, then we won’t finish until October 30th. As long as we’re going to be here for Halloween, we might as well join in the fun. I’ve heard the people down here really go big when they celebrate Halloween and it’s almost as wild and as much fun as Mardi Gras.” “Doesn’t that mean we’ll need costumes?” “Of course, if we want to be part of the festivities, so we’ll have to find a costume shop after lunch and pick something out.” After Jamie agreed with my proposal, we looked around for a place to eat, and then we began asking if there was a costume shop in the area. We ended up at a really cool place that offered a wide variety of Halloween costumes and accessories. We began searching through the male selection and quickly rejected the multitude of superhero outfits that we came across. After nearly exhausting our choices, we each found something that not only appealed to us, but also fit in with the area and what we were about to do. Jamie wound up choosing a getup referred to as the Day of the Dead costume, while I selected one they called the Voodoo Dude costume. Unfortunately, they didn’t have everything we needed on site, so the salesperson offered to have those items shipped in and said we could pick everything up in three days. That would still give us plenty of time to try them on and make sure they fit before Halloween. Seeing we had an unexpected free evening, we went bar hopping again and ended the night helping each other get his rocks off. We went to bed relaxed and somewhat excited as we looked forward to the next day. We slept in a little later than usual the next morning, but we were unable to stay in bed for as long as we actually would have liked. I guess we probably could have, if we were willing to skip the complimentary breakfast, but we were both spending more money than anticipated, so taking advantage of free food was a no-brainer. We discussed cutting back on our spending after we saw the bills for the Halloween costumes, because they cost a lot more than we had first planned. Of course, we could have passed on the costumes, but we felt we’d be able to use them again in the future, and they’d have an even greater impact where we currently lived. More importantly, though, they were going to make this trip more exciting and fun. After we finished eating, we went out to find the final items that we needed for the various offerings. When we returned to the room, Jamie placed everything in the backpack he’d brought along for that purpose. We would take those items with us each evening, along with the notebook containing his notes as we opened each gate in the prescribed sequence. We were more than a little giddy, yet also filled with a slight feeling of dread as we went to meet up with Madam Ida at dusk. After closing the shop and locking up, we rode over to the cemetery and she parked along the street. We walked the rest of the way to the main entrance, which appeared to be the only one unchained. There was a security guard stationed there and Madam Ida greeted him as we approached. “Good evening, Stan. I just have a small, private tour tonight.” Stan merely nodded in response as the three of us passed by, with Jamie and me following Madam Ida into the cemetery as we made our way to the tomb of Marie Laveau. When we arrived at that location she reminded Jamie that the name of the guardian for this gate was Baron LaCroix, and then she guided him through the rest of the process. After he greeted the guardian, Madam Ida urged him to be very formal, polite, and show the proper respect as he made his request. He did as she suggested and followed it by making the appropriate offering, and after Madam Ida confirmed that he’d done well, we headed back to her car. I was slightly confused, because I hadn’t seen the guardian. I asked Jamie about this later and he confirmed that he hadn’t seen anyone either and merely followed Madam Ida’s instructions. I guess the Guede was invisible and only showed itself if angered or upset. By the time we were ready to leave, Jamie was familiar with the process he was to follow, and Madam Ida agreed that he would do fine on his own when he opened the remaining gates. She wouldn’t be with us during those times, so this was the extent of the training he would receive. We’d be totally on our own from this point on. After leaving the cemetery, we returned to Madam Ida’s shop and thanked her again for her help before leaving. Jamie and I then walked back to the hotel, but we were too emotionally drained to do anything more when we reached the room. We opted to merely call it a night, and I think we both fell asleep envisioning the things that had transpired earlier, while at the same time preparing ourselves for what was yet to come. The next five days were merely a repetition of the first night, and I accompanied Jamie while he opened the next five gates. I watched as he went through the same procedure multiple times, and the only changes were that he greeted a new guardian each time and left a different offering at each location. The second gate was guarded by Guede Nibo, the third by Guede Plumaj, the fourth by Baron Cimitiere, the fifth by Guede Babaco, and the sixth by Baron Krimininel, but we never saw any of them either. Jamie displayed the utmost respect each time, and then he would request that the Guede open the gate after he made the required ritualistic offering. These ranged from lighting a specific type of candle or leaving another item behind instead, such as a potion, a charm, or even a spirit. However, these spirits were the alcoholic variety that came in a small bottle. Now that he had completed the process six times, there was just one gate remaining. The only other variation in our schedule during this time was the day we returned to the costume shop to retrieve the items we were going to wear on Halloween. Of course, we also went to different bistros for our meals and we did a variety of other things each evening to help one another get off before we went to sleep. For the most part, though, those days morphed together into one big blur. Seeing Jamie understood the seventh gate was going to be the most important, and possibly the most difficult, he was a bundle of nerves the entire day leading up to the big event. Whenever we left the room to eat he would walk so fast that I nearly had to sprint to keep up with him, and after we returned to the hotel he would pace around the room like a caged animal. If that wasn’t bad enough, one second Jamie would rattle off a series of questions for me, such as: “What time is it, do you remember how to get to cemetery, will you help me find the gate once we get inside, and what’s the name of this guardian?” At other times he would fire off a set of commands that came out of his mouth as one long, run-on sentence. He would direct me to do things like: “Check the map so you know where we’re going, put the backpack by the door so I’ll remember to grab it on the way out, and make sure we have a couple bottles of water to take with us, cuz my mouth gets really dry when I do this.” There were also times when he would sit completely still and remain perfectly quiet as he stared at the floor, wall, or merely into space. During those times I felt he was most likely mentally rehearsing what he was going to do later, but I had no way of knowing this for sure, and I never asked. I didn’t want to disturb his thoughts or take the chance of upsetting him. When the time finally came for us to leave, I made certain we were taking the correct route to the cemetery where the last portal was located. It was another tomb, but this one was at the outer edge of the cemetery, instead of in the interior like the others. Next to the tomb was a towering old tree, which separated that section of the cemetery from the surrounding area. Slowly, Jamie extracted the items he needed from the backpack and began the final step in this lengthy process. I gave him plenty of space so I wouldn’t interfere or inadvertently cause him to stumble. I merely observed as he respectfully greeted Baron Samedi, the final guardian, and made the appropriate offering, but this time his request came at the end. “I respectfully ask you to open the portal the leads into Guinee so my father, Christopher O’Conner, can crossover to this side. I need to speak with him and make amends for how I acted before he died.” Shortly after he finished speaking, the branches on the tree began to sway, slowly at first and then more violently as each second passed. It appeared as if the tree was being affected by a powerful wind, but I couldn’t even detect a mild breeze. After spending several seconds staring up in awe at what was happening above my head, I lowered my gaze to see how Jamie was holding up. Just as I began to focus on him, a form started to materialize between Jamie and the tree. It started out similar to a wisp of fog, growing larger and denser over the next several seconds until I was able to recognize the ghostly features of Jamie’s dad. As the apparition began to move in Jamie’s direction, I took several steps backward, but it wasn’t because I was scared or unnerved. I merely wished to give them total privacy during this unusual reunion. Even though I’d moved away slightly, I never took my eyes off of them and watched their lips move as they spoke to one another. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I could tell from their facial expressions and body language that it affected both of them deeply. After watching this play out for many minutes, Jamie stepped forward and wrapped his arms around his dad’s chest, at least that’s how it appeared. I assumed this meant that everything had gone the way he wanted and they’d both achieved a modicum of closure. I watched for several more minutes as they continued to hold one another and whispered reassuring comments in the other’s ear, but eventually the spectral form of Jamie’s dad began to dissipate. Even after it had vanished completely, Jamie continued to stare in the direction where the last of the mist had disappeared, but he didn’t make any move to rejoin me. I was willing to give him as much time as he needed to absorb what had just transpired until he eventually turned around and began walking in my direction. However, he didn’t stop and surprised me when he wrapped his arms around my chest in a bear hug, just as I’d seen him do to his dad. “Thank you for being here for me. My dad and I had an opportunity that few others will ever experience, and even though he’s dead, we cleared the air about the last time we were together. I know I feel better, and I believe he does as well, so I think it’s time we get the hell out of here.” I merely nodded and walked beside him as we exited the cemetery and started making our way back to the hotel. He was unusually quiet during the journey, although his pace and bearing made him appear upbeat, so I concluded he was satisfied with what had transpired. I think he was also using this opportunity to mentally rehash the conversation he’d just had with his dad’s spirit. As soon as we reached the room, his demeanor totally changed. He was no longer quiet or contemplative and suddenly charged in my direction. Without warning he tackled me and slammed my body on the mattress. “It’s time that I make another payment and demonstrate how much I appreciate you being such a great friend,” he announced as he started removing my clothes. “Ok, but let me do this while you get undressed too.” He nodded, grinned, and got up so he was no longer straddling my body. As soon as I could move, I hurriedly began taking off what I was wearing while he did the same. When we were both naked, Jamie had me lay down on the mattress. I thought this meant we were going to sixty-nine, but he crawled between my legs instead and prepared to suck me off. He didn’t merely take hold of my penis and start bobbing up and down on it as he normally would have. This time was different. Ever so slowly he began to run his tongue across the bulbous head and then he moved lower and licked his way down the length of my shaft. Once he felt he had me sufficiently aroused, he moved lower and gently did the same thing to the sensitive pouch between my legs. He had never done any of these things before, even though I had done them to him, but for some unknown reason he was really getting into it this time. He even sucked my testicles into his mouth one at a time and cautiously moved it around with his tongue. I suddenly felt as if that area of my body was immersed in a warm bath and I was enjoying it immensely. After he did this for a couple of minutes, he allowed my final testicle to slide from between his lips and placed his head over my groin. Without any fanfare, he lowered his mouth and swallowed my shaft, down to the root. As soon as my knob was lodged in his throat, he began nodding up and down on it until my body ached for release. Unable to hold out any longer, I whimpered as the molten juices rose up my shaft and exploded into his gullet. It was by far the best blowjob he had ever given me. After my heart rate slowed to its normal rhythm and I slowly came to my senses, I returned the favor. However, I didn’t go immediately to his groin and started at his nipples instead. I teased each one with my tongue and caused the tiny nubs to stiffen before I placed my lips over it and tenderly added suction. Once I had paid an equal amount of attention to both sides, I moved ever so slowly down his abdomen, kissing every inch of skin as I made my way to his penis. Once there, I repeated every delicate action he had just performed on me, in an effort to give him the same amount of pleasure that I had enjoyed. I backed off a couple of times to delay his release, and this resulted in him having a powerful orgasm. In fact, his semen burst into my throat with such ferocity that I nearly choked. Fortunately, I was able to recover and catch my breath, because it might have been difficult, or even embarrassing to explain what had happened to the paramedics. As soon as Jamie recovered and his head had cleared of the post-orgasmic haze, we took turns showering before we crawled into bed. Jamie didn’t object as I cuddled with him and we both drifted off into a very deep slumber. Jamie forgot to set the alarm on his mobile phone before we turned in, so we didn’t wake up until nearly noon. Even though we had slept for several hours, the cumulative effects of the previous day had left us physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. We might have even remained in bed even longer if our stomachs hadn’t begun to protest, because for the first time since we’d arrived in New Orleans, we failed to take advantage of the complimentary breakfast. Climbing out of bed, we threw on the same clothes we had on the previous day and hurried to the nearest establishment to grab lunch. We stopped at another quaint café that featured local delicacies, and we each selected something off the menu. It wasn’t a fare either of us had ever eaten before, but we found it delicious and quite filling. Stuffed, we waddled back to our room and eventually showered again before changing into fresh garments. Then, we discussed what we were going to do next. “What time should we put on our costumes and head out for the night?” Jamie wanted to know, leaving the decision up to me. “I doubt things will get underway until after dark, so let’s go out for an early dinner first, and that way the alcohol won’t affect us as badly later. As soon as we’ve finished eating, we’ll come back here and change into our costumes, and then we’ll head out for a night of raucous revelry.” We followed this plan precisely and were both pleased with our appearance as we headed down to the hotel lobby on our way to Bourbon Street. In order for you to appreciate how awesome we looked, I’ll describe our costumes in detail. Jamie’s Day of the Day outfit consisted of a pair of red slacks and matching jacket, which he wore over a black dress shirt with the top button left undone. The slacks and jacket had spider web accents woven into the pant legs and sleeves, and there were decorative artificial roses attached to the jacket’s lapels. In addition to those items, he wore a red top hat with more artificial roses lining the right side of the brim, and a white death mask covered his face. There were black circles around both eye sockets and a black spot on the tip of the nose, and those things contrasted nicely with a pair of bright red lips. The overall effect was incredible. My Voodoo Dude costume consisted of black slacks and a 19th century suit jacket that was longer than the equivalent suit jacket of today. Under the jacket was a false vest, and these two areas had several items attached to them. These included a small voodoo doll, a couple of amulets, a few potion bottles, and an assortment of occult symbols and paraphernalia. I also wore a bone necklace that hung down to my waist and pair of fingerless motorcycle gloves on my hands. In addition to those items, I also had a molded, white plastic skull mask and a black top hat. The eyes on the mask were supposed to appear as gaping black holes, and there was a triangular void where the nose should be. Since there was no skin or lips the teeth were visible, giving it an unnerving appearance. The hat was adorned with a black feather and had half-dollar size skull and crossbones on a band that wound around it, just above the brim. In addition to each of those items, I wrapped a pliable, plastic snake around my left arm so the snake’s head extended across my wrist, and I thought this added nicely to the menacing aura. Needless to say, I felt I would give Jamie a run for his money when it came to the best costume of the night. As we made our way to party central, we happened to see Miss Ida as she was locking up her shop for the night. We stopped to say hello, but we had to explain who we were since we didn’t want to remove our masks. She rolled her eyes after examining our outfits, although I wasn’t sure if she had done this out of disgust or grudging admiration, because her lips appeared to curl into a slight smile at the same time. After we thanked her again for her help, we said goodbye and she took off down the street, heading in the opposite direction. Jamie and I were basically strutting while we mingled with the crowd of merrymakers as we made our way along the most famous street in New Orleans. Every so often the procession would stop so we could frequent one of the bars, so it wasn’t long before we’d each downed several drinks. That all came to a screeching halt when we heard screams coming from various locations along both sides of the street. At first we thought this meant someone might be in trouble, but we quickly brushed it off. Instead, we assumed the screams were merely people reacting to someone else’s costume or a prank being played on them, but before long we abandoned that conclusion as well. The screams were quickly becoming more frequent, as well as growing louder, and then we saw a large number of people running away from the areas where the screams were originating. As we attempted to discern the source of the initial disturbances, we spotted several ghostly forms gliding amongst the panicked revelers. I watched in horror as one of the apparitions began strangling one of the partiers in costume, while another ghost was attempting to bash another reveler’s head into the pavement. I spied another specter as it knocked an unwary observer over a balcony, and I heard a woman scream that another spirit had pushed her boyfriend down a flight of stairs. I wasn’t sure what the remainder of spectral forms was up to, although I knew it wasn’t good, so I grabbed Jamie’s arm, spun him around, and began dragging him in the direction of the hotel. We hadn’t gone more than a block before Madam Ida unexpectedly jumped in front of us and blocked our path. “I need to know. Did you follow my instructions to the letter?” she gasped, slightly winded from running around in an effort to find us. “Mostly,” Jamie replied, although I detected a hint of shame, or possibly it was embarrassment in his voice. “What do you mean, mostly?” she screamed in response. “Well, when Drew and I got to the sixth gate I realized that I’d left the offering I was supposed to use there at the fifth gate. It was too late to do anything about it at the time, so I kinda switched the offerings between those two gates.” “And the portal still opened?” “Yes! My father came through and I was able to apologize for how I had acted the last time we were together. It all went fine and we got everything straightened out.” “I’m not sure how that was possible, unless the guardians either didn’t notice the error or they weren’t offended by what you left by mistake. It did create a problem, however, because the portal obviously failed to close once your father returned to the other side.” “So that’s what this is all about?” I asked. “Yes. Typically only the recently deceased are able to pass through the barrier since they haven’t yet acclimated to the fact that they’re deceased. To some extent they realize they are no longer alive, but they can’t resist the urge to go back and observe how their loved ones are holding up. The longer a spirit resides in the world beyond the more difficult it becomes for them to pass through the barrier. However, they can pass through an open portal, and that’s why this is happening now. I suspect a group of evil spirits discovered the opening and crossed over, and now they seem intent on collecting other souls whose time to leave this world has not yet come.” “Is there anything we can do about this? Can we fix it?” Jamie asked since he felt responsible. “I believe so, but I’ll have to go to my shop and collect a few items that I’ll need to pull this off. Once I have everything I need, I’ll go to the cemetery where the seventh gate is located and perform a special ritual to reverse the error. If done correctly, it should summon all of the spirits back to their own realm, and once they are back where they belong, I’ll close the portal so they can’t return.” “Can we help?” Jamie blurted out. He obviously wanted to be part of this process to mitigate the guilt he was feeling. “Yes, the two of you can assist me in gathering the materials I’ll need and help me transport them to the seventh gate. However, with so many people racing back and forth through the streets we won’t be able to drive there and will have to walk.” “No problem. We’re willing to do whatever it takes,” I added to let both of them know I was in this with them. After reaching Madam Ida’s place of business, she scurried around and selected various amulets, potions, and the other items she would need in order to pull this off. She carefully set everything in one of three small buckets she had placed on the floor, and when she was finished she handed one of the buckets to each of us to carry. She also placed a necklace around Jamie’s and my neck and told us that she had placed a charm on it that would help to protect us along the way. As soon as everything was set, we left the shop and began walking at an extremely brisk pace. As we made our way to the cemetery, we skirted around a few individuals currently being attacked by other ghostly forms. Jamie and I wanted to stop and help, but Madam Ida said we didn’t have time. She told us we had a much greater task to perform that would put an end to all of this at once, so we continued on. The cemetery was eerily quiet as we entered and began making our way to the seventh gate. We discovered no other spirits along the way and didn’t detect any other specters emerging from the portal. Those that had already come through were no longer in the area, and this worked to our advantage because we didn’t have to fend them off while Madam Ida attempted to close the portal. She hurried through the preparations and eventually announced that everything was set. Before she began, she directed Jamie and me to wait beside another tomb behind her. Once we were in place, she began muttering a spell that would reverse the situation and return all of the apparitions that had come through the portal in error. Neither Jamie nor I actually saw any of the spirits as they were being pulled back, but we heard what sounded like horrible wails of protest. We also felt the hair on our arms rise, and chills coursed up and down our spines at the same time. I believed these must be signs that the spirits were passing by when suddenly I felt something grab my right arm and shoulder. Jamie was busy staring at the portal and didn’t notice my predicament until I went flying past him. One of the spirits had apparently tried to use me as an anchor so it could remain on this side, but the spell was so powerful that I was dragged along with it. In the blink of an eye I was jerked through the portal, much to Madam Ida’s surprise. I could see the looks of shock and horror etched on her and Jamie’s faces just before they faded from view. I was stunned and had no idea what was going to happen next. I didn’t feel as if I were dead and believed I was merely an unwelcome visitor in a realm in which I didn’t belong. As I looked around to gauge my situation, I noticed this world was drab and colorless before I realized many of its inhabitants were moving in my direction. I was able to make out the features on the faces of each one of these substanceless forms, and they seemed confused as they studied me. That’s when I realized it was probably due to my costume, which I was still wearing. After standing there in an apparent stalemate for what seemed like an eternity, a couple of the apparitions moved closer and reached out to touch me. Before their hands came into contact with my body they yanked their arms back. I wasn’t sure why they’d done this, but after thinking about it briefly I concluded the charmed necklace that Madam Ida had placed around my neck must be keeping them at bay. Since I felt none of them were going to attack or molest me, I began looking around to see if I could spot the portal or another way to escape this predicament. When I didn’t find what I was looking for, I began to wonder if Madam Ida had closed the portal already. If she hadn’t left the portal open, then how would I possibly get back? Suddenly fearing that I was stuck here, I turned to see what the various occupants of this realm where up to. It was difficult to make out more than a few that were closest to me, because their forms seemed to melt into the dreary, monochrome background that surrounded us. This made me wonder if we were in some sort of a building or if this was their entire world surrounded by a single, impenetrable backdrop. I had no idea how long I’d been there before another spectral form began to approach, but I didn’t really pay any attention to it until it spoke. “You don’t belong here.” “No, I don’t, and I didn’t come here willingly. I was dragged by one of the inhabitants of this world who was attempting to use me to keep from being sucked back here.” After I said this, I looked into the face or the specter that addressed me, hoping to see its reaction, and that’s when I recognized who it was. “Mr. O’Conner? It’s me, Drew Fowler. Jamie asked me to come here with him, well not exactly here, but to New Orleans. He didn’t what to come alone when he attempted to make contact with you.” “Yes, I thought I saw you standing behind Jamie while we talked.” “Yes, that was me.” “Then I’ll do my best to help you leave this world if I can. I’m new to this place, but after Jamie summoned me I have some idea where you need to go. Follow me, but stay close so I can protect you from the others.” I did as I was told and followed him through the dimness. It didn’t appear that we were actually going anywhere, because the scenery never seemed to change, but eventually he stopped and turned toward me. “Go through there and you should end up back where you belong.” “Go through where. I don’t see an opening or anything?” “Can’t you see where it is slightly brighter?” “No! It all looks the same to me.” “Then just walk straight ahead and I’ll let you know if you should change direction. I’m sorry, but this is as far as I can go with you.” I trusted that he knew what he was doing and did as he instructed. After what seemed like forever, I emerged into a world that was significantly brighter, although still dark, and recognized the tombs closest to the portal. Jamie raced toward me and wrapped his arms around my body as soon as I emerged. “I thought I’d never see you again,” he blubbered, sobbing like a baby. “And I never thought I’d see you again either,” I responded while returning his embrace. “What was it like? What happened while you were there? How did you manage to get back?” he rattled off in machine gun fashion. “I’ll tell you all about it later, but it was your dad who showed me the way out…” however Madam Ida interrupted our conversation. “Ok, I want the two of you to get behind me while I close the portal. I was tempted to do it earlier, but decided to leave it open as long as I could. I was hoping you might be able to return, and now that you’re with us again I need to do this – and quickly.” “Thanks for leaving the portal open for me, but go ahead and close it now before any of the spirits break out again.” Seeing all of the escaped inhabitants from the other side had been returned, she performed another ritual to close the portal. As soon as she announced the process had been completed, we helped her collect all of the items that hadn’t been consumed, along with any trash from those that had. While we were picking up I overheard Madam Ida muttering to herself. “I’ll have to either stop advising people how to open the gates or stay with them through the entire process.” Jamie didn’t react as if he had heard her comment, and she never admonished him or tried to make him feel bad about the mistake he’d made. She merely led us back to her shop and we walked the entire way in total silence. After we’d returned the buckets containing the leftover supplies and garbage, we thanked Madam Ida again and bid her farewell, and then Jamie and I returned to the hotel alone. When we got back to the room, Jamie quizzed me about my experience. I told him what it was like and what had happened, including when I recognized his dad. As soon as I finished, he told me his side of the story. “I screamed at Madam Ida and begged her to bring you back, but she said she’d never done that before and didn’t have any idea how it might be accomplished. She told me the only thing she could do was leave the portal open a little while longer and pray you could find your way back on your own. I’m glad my dad was there to help you.” “Yeah, me too!” As soon as we finished our discussion, Jamie turned on the television to see if there was any news reports about what had happened. I could sense he was more than a little bothered by the thought he’d been responsible for everything that had happened, including the things we were hearing about now. According to several eyewitness reports, some of the spirits had managed to get as far as the interstate where they caused multiple traffic accidents. It was also being reported that there were fewer than two dozen deaths in total, along with hundreds of people injured seriously enough to require medical attention or hospitalization. Although this was a lot, we were grateful it wasn’t worse. As the evening wore on and after hearing these reports, Jamie started to show signs that he was slipping into a deep depression. I couldn’t stand watching him suffer, so I silently pledged to do everything in my power to make him feel better. I knew he was still fretting about things that had already happened and couldn’t be changed, so I hastily devised a plan to distract him. Without any sign that he was aware of what I was doing, I moved over and started removing his clothing. He allowed me to do this, much like a small child would permit a parent to undress him. I’m not sure but I suspect he might have thought I was just getting him ready for bed, but when I bent over and began working on his manhood, his body stiffened and he spoke. “Not tonight. I’m not in the mood.” “Maybe you don’t think so, but you need this more than ever before. Just relax and let me continue.” He didn’t look convinced, but he laid back and permitted me to do as I wished. It didn’t take long before he became aroused, and gradually started to enjoy my ministrations. After several minutes of giving him my best effort, Jamie blew his wad, and while he was lost in post-orgasmic bliss he fell asleep. I turned off the television and the lamp, and then I slipped into bed beside him. I wrapped my arm around his chest and cuddled him against my body, never letting go. Even though he was sleeping, I’m not sure how restful it was. I had a feeling that he spent the majority of the night mentally reliving the events of the evening, because several times I felt his body jerk and heard him whimper, but as far as I know he never woke up. He and I had already planned to stick around for another day, and I would catch my return flight on Friday. The thing was that I knew Jamie wasn’t scheduled to leave until Saturday and I didn’t want to leave him alone while he was feeling like this. The next morning while he was in the shower, I called the airline and moved my flight back a day so I would be here with him. Fortunately, I was able to arrange this with minimal financial loss, although I would have paid whatever it took, just so I could be here for him. Over the next couple of days we watched several more news reports about what had happened on Halloween night, but the tally of dead and injured only changed slightly from the initial reports. To our surprise, we discovered that Madam Ida and her assistants were being lauded as heroes for the role they played in ending the situation and returning the marauding apparitions. We were also thrilled to learn that the people of New Orleans had written off the events of that night to the holiday, while stating that there was plenty of anecdotal evidence and historical precedent to support this conclusion. Hearing these reports helped to perk Jamie up slightly, even though he knew the truth. He was just relieved that no one was pointing an accusing finger in his direction or laying the blame at his doorstep. In fact, just the opposite was taking place. Even though no one knew our names or anything about us, we were being hailed as the anonymous saviors who worked with Madam Ida to save the city. She never revealed who we were and merely claimed that we had only offered to assist her after we discovered she might be able to end the madness. After having breakfast together on Saturday morning, we returned to our hotel room and collected our suitcases. We had neatly folded and packed our costumes in with the rest of our belongings the night before, so we took our luggage down to the lobby and boarded the shuttle to the airport. I was relieved to discover that Jamie’s flight was scheduled to depart before mine, because I wanted to stay with him as long as possible. When his flight was announced we bid each other a final farewell, but before heading off to his gate he made one final comment. “I’d be willing to bet that after this you’ll never want to hear from me again.” “You’re wrong, because I’d love to keep in touch on a regular basis,” I countered, eliciting a slight grin. “I’d like that too, and I promise I won’t drag you into anything as potentially crazy or dangerous as this again.” I nodded and we hugged one final time before he disappeared from view. Even with the monumental mayhem we’d experienced and my near brush with an early demise, most of the trip had not only been enjoyable, but memorable as well. I was also thrilled that Jamie and I had reconnected and would be getting together again in the future – just not on Halloween. I was lost in my thoughts as I made my way to the gate to catch my flight when my reverie was suddenly interrupted by a man going in the opposite direction. “Thank you for helping my son. You’re a good friend.” I was momentarily startled and confused, because I wasn’t sure if he was speaking to me. As I regained my wits, I glanced around to see if possibly his comment had been meant for someone else, but there was no one else in sight. Since I hadn’t noticed his face, I turned to see if he was still in the area and realized he was looking back at me as he continued walking. As I glanced up at his face my mouth dropped open, because the man looked just like Jamie’s dad, but how could that be? I was about to run after him, thinking I must be mistaken and wanting to know who he was, but he’d disappeared from sight. Was he just a figment of my imagination, or had it really been Jamie’s dad? Had he been able to cross through the barrier again, and if so, was he the only one? THE END.
  21. Bill W

    Chapter 2 - The Adjustment Period

    Thank you for the feedback and I'm glad you're enjoying it.
  22. Bill W

    Chapter 3 - Getting To Know You

    Yes, but hopefully everything works out.
  23. Yes, peers can play a huge role in decisions.
  24. Bill W

    Chapter 7 - First Contact

    Thank you. I hope it inspires any parent who might happen across this chapter.
  25. Bill W

    Chapter 9 - The Camp-Out

    You'll find that Josh has quite a repertoire of spooky stories.

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