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    Mac Rountree
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Discovering Home - 16. Dude, the Hair

Happy holidays to everyone.

Mac

“Joe, I fully understand. Just saying.”

“Mark, if it were any other time, I would be right there. It’s just this fucking virus, and Thomas still needs me, so I have to be here for him. His mood is still up and down every day. I never know what I am dealing with.”

“I get it. I don’t know how the university ran these sites without someone in Europe to oversee this craziness.”

“Out of sight, out of mind.”

“Yeah, and now that they have someone close by, they are running me ragged. I fly from Paris to Rome to Berlin to Istanbul to bumfuck Egypt. Everyone wants someone to pay attention to them. They are like little children who have been deprived, and now that daddy is here, they all are clamoring for attention.”

Mark laughed.

“I guess it means job security. Mike is very pleased with the job I am doing since he does not get the daily telephone calls complaining about problems.”

“You are the perfect man for the job. How are your language skills?”

Mark laughed and let loose with a string of Italian and French words.

“I haven’t learned Turkish or Arabic yet except for curse words. I am learning the vocabulary of broken toilets and leaking roofs.”

They both laughed.

“Well, buddy, things at the university are good. We are keeping the buildings in good shape and trying to stay healthy. Give hugs to our grandchildren. We miss them so much.”

“Bye, talk to you next week.”

Mark and Joe talked at least weekly about Mark’s work in Europe. Mike had made Joe the primary contact about the European campuses while he handled the Durham campus. Joe was very fulfilled in his new position and had a purpose in life. It sounded like Mark was discovering and fixing lots of problems on the various buildings the university either owned or leased in Europe. Mark and Joe were alike in wanting problems fixed instead of just patched. They were both meticulous in their approaches, and their standards were the highest in the business. They made a good team.

Thomas had been listening to the conversation, and he asked Joe why he was saying that he needed looking after. He was angrier than Joe had seen him in a long time.

“My darling husband, you are at loose ends, so I want to be here to support you.”

“Yeah, poor little Thomas, who can’t take care of himself, needs his husband to hold his hand to cross the street. Fuck that!”

Thomas stormed out of the room, and Joe heard him slam the back door as he exited the house. This behavior had become a regular occurrence. Joe felt like he was walking on a skating rink while wearing leather-soled slippers. He was slipping and sliding every day while trying to remain upright. Some days it was impossible, and he would find himself falling down again.

Joe took a deep breath and went to the breakfast room windows to look for Thomas. He saw his husband sitting on the front steps of the Mill House. He was actually slumping. Joe noticed for the first time that Thomas was looking like an older man. He had always looked much younger than his age, but the last few months had taken a toll on his handsome husband.

Joe thought, ‘Gird your loins and steady on.’ He walked across the field and sat beside Thomas. He didn’t say a word. They sat in silence until Thomas reached out and grabbed Joe’s hand. Joe still sat quietly. Finally, Joe felt the shudder in Thomas’ body, and then Thomas sat upright with his spine fully aligned.

“I refuse to let this get the better of me. I am going to be better.”

Joe smiled. This was the man he knew and loved.

“Joe, I don’t want the house in Southport. I don’t want to move to Charleston. I want to be where you are. Home is with you.”

Joe smiled, leaned over to Thomas, and kissed him.

“You are my home also. Let’s have some tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. I love that comfort food.”

While they ate, Thomas talked about how despondent he had been. He also talked about the end-times and how fatalistic he had felt.

“I am not depressed. I know depression, and I work with those patients. I am merely despondent and rudderless. We built a family here, and I was feeling on top of the world. Then it was all snatched away - my family, my job, my sense of fulfillment. I need to find something to fill my time. It is time for me to stop doubting myself and re-engage with the world.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I have no idea, but watch out, JoJo, it could be life-changing.”

“Should I be scared?”

Thomas laughed in a way he hadn’t in several months.

“We two will do this together. I go nowhere or do anything alone. You are my lodestar, and I would be lost without you. We are not going to crash on some rocky shore.”

“Well, on that note, I will wash the dishes and you go take on the world.”

Thomas did that. He contacted the national church office in New York and asked about available positions in Europe. If Joe was needed in Europe to help Mark, Thomas thought being based there for a few months or even a year seemed like the right solution. Thomas spent the afternoon updating his resume. The worst part was putting the information into the online application. He hated all of those little boxes that required him to type his answers only using a limited number of characters. He thought whoever designed the form must have been ten years old or a sadist. It wasn’t designed for those of a certain age. He saved his work and decided he would continue the next day.

At dinner, Thomas talked about the challenge of putting his information in the computer. Joe suggested he contact the career center at the university to see if they could refer him to someone who could help. He also suggested contacting the Passmore Senior Center, which had staff to help elders find jobs.

“I need someone who understands how to fill out these stupid online applications. I don’t know what keywords to use. Hell, what is a keyword?”

They laughed at the cultural references that were slipping out of usage. There were so many touchstones for the baby boomer generation. Talking about analog clocks, telephones, televisions, and print newspapers started their litany of how the world was spinning forward.

“If we want to be relevant, then we will have to catch up. Who heard of Zoom before Covid19? Mark wants us to start using Zoom instead of the telephone when we talk next week. At least I will get to see him.”

Thomas smiled and asked if Belinda and Robert could be on the session. They also wanted to see Ehud. They had spoken to him but had not seen him.

“I think Mark is in Italy, but I will send him an email and ask. Dan is in Paris this week. Erin is looking after the kids. Thank God they connected with her on the Camino.”

On Saturday, Thomas suggested they go to Vinnie’s for lunch, where they asked Laramie if he knew anything about filling out online applications. When he received a positive response, Thomas offered to pay Laramie for his assistance. Laramie smiled from ear to ear.

“I don’t make that much money, and it would be great to have the extra income. When do you want me to come help?”

They agreed on Sunday afternoon, and Thomas said he would fix them supper as a bonus.

When Laramie arrived the next day, he was dressed in black jeans and a skin-tight green polo shirt. Thomas could count Laramie’s ribs through the shirt. The boy had no muscle or fat; he was all skin and bones. His hair was a mass of curls that looked artfully arranged. Laramie shook hands with Thomas and Joe when he arrived and politely declined the offer of something to drink.

Thomas booted up the computer while Laramie read a paper copy of Thomas’ resume.

“Wow, you are some educated dude.”

“Well, not that educated.”

“Yeah, well, I am focusing on finishing high school.”

“What are you going to do then?”

“I have no idea. I don’t know what I want to do with my life,” Laramie shyly smiled, “except I would like to have a husband.”

“Having a husband is great, but it should not be a career goal. Let’s finish this, and we can talk about boyfriends and husbands at dinner. Joe is better at that than me.”

Laramie asked insightful questions and marked up a copy of the paper resume. He quietly and efficiently entered information into the online form, stopping now and again to ask Thomas to clarify information on his resume. They spent most of the afternoon talking through what Thomas wanted to do and how to fit that into the requested format.

“Let’s fix dinner and review it after we eat.”

Laramie grinned and said that was the most fun he had in a while.

Thomas reached out and patted the top of Laramie’s head. Laramie pulled back with a startled look on his face.

Thomas was chagrined.

“I apologize. I didn’t mean anything sexual. It was an affectionate pat.”

“Dude, it’s about the hair. I spent all morning getting it to look just right.”

Thomas looked at Laramie’s hair and wondered how he could have spent all morning on the tangle of curls. Laramie walked over to a mirror, checked out his visage, and adjusted a curl.

“Everything is okay. No damage.”

Laramie then walked up to Thomas and patted his head before hugging him. They both started laughing as Joe walked into the room.

“Should I be concerned that my husband has found a young boyfriend?”

Laramie blushed while Thomas laughed.

“No way, dear man, Laramie was making sure my hair looked okay.”

They went into the kitchen and Thomas pulled a plate of hors d’oeuvres from the refrigerator.

“Are you old enough to drink wine? Of course, you’re not. How stupid of me. You are still in high school.”

“I won’t tell if you won’t. I would love one glass. Sometimes we sneak a beer or a glass of wine at the restaurant. I prefer wine over beer.”

Joe looked at Laramie and said they could get into trouble if anyone found out they have given him wine.

“I swear I won’t tell anyone. As God is my witness.”

Joe laughed and poured three glasses of Riesling. Cheers.

“Did you make progress?”

Laramie talked about how great it was to help Thomas. He said that he would have designed the website differently to make it easier to complete the forms. He said the best part was figuring out the best way to present the information. Joe then said that his resume was out of date and asked Laramie to help him. Laramie beamed as he took a gulp of wine.

“Slow down, hotshot. You only get one glass, and you are quaffing it like we are going through the entire bottle.”

Laramie smiled and said he was enjoying himself. When prodded, he talked about his home life and that his parents were supportive of him being a gay youth and they said his life choices were his to make. They just wanted him to be happy.

“They were flower children and bought a small farm north of town. They raise vegetables, flowers, have some chickens, and some sheep. They are at the Farmer’s Market every week, or I should say they were until Covid19 closed the market. It has been a rough year, which is why I am working at Vinnie’s. My dad has picked up some part-time work with a construction crew. Mom stays home to tend to the garden and take care of the animals. Neither of them went to college but would like me to attend though they don’t pressure me. Also, they don’t have the money to send me to college.”

“Do you have the grades to get into college?”

Laramie looked at Thomas and started grinning.

“I am a National Honor Society scholar if that counts for anything. I also have a 4.0-grade average. Plus, I am valedictorian of my class.”

“Well, duh, I think that helps.”

They all laughed.

“What would you like to study?”

“I don’t know. I am pretty much a loner in life and haven’t thought about leaving home and going off to school.”

“What is your bliss?”

Laramie said he would think about that and let him know but probably microbiology.

“I know one thing that is your bliss. Finding a boyfriend.”

Again, Laramie blushed.

“Joe, what advice do you have for our young friend?”

Joe started asking questions about what type of boy Laramie found appealing. Laramie looked at his plate and could barely make his responses audible. When Joe asked Laramie if he had ever dated a boy, Laramie nodded his head.

“Have you had sex with a boy?”

Laramie’s mouth fell open, and he sucked in air.

“Well, there is a boy from the next farm. He is perfect though I would never meet his expectations to be his life-long partner. He comes over and we do things. Then he leaves. He always kisses me when he leaves and tells me I am the most important person in the world. He tends to exaggerate.”

“Is he in your grade?”

“Yes, we have been in school together ever since we were in kindergarten. He is a football player and very popular. I am a nerd. Around the eighth grade, he stopped talking to me while we were at school, and he started hanging out with the jocks.”

“I see.”

“He is so handsome, but sometimes I think he pities me. However, for me, when we are together, it is like nothing else in the world exists. He is so gentle and giving. It is like he is afraid he is going to break me in half.”

“What makes him handsome?”

“He is blond with blue eyes. He has this deep chest, and he already has some hair between his pecs. He has really hairy legs, like really hairy. I love his hairy legs and butt. When he smiles, the sun appears. His eyes crinkle when he laughs, which he does quite often. His hands are huge, and the skin is sort of rough from working on the farm. But the best part is that he is so kind. He is everything in life, but he is too good for me.”

“Does he talk to you when you are not in school?”

“Yeah, we both ride our bicycles to school, and he stops by every morning, and we ride together. We ride home together if he doesn’t have practice or if I don’t have to work. We talk and laugh the entire time we are riding our bikes.”

They were eating dessert when Laramie looked out and saw that the sun was getting low in the sky.

“I’ve gotta go. I don’t want to ride my bicycle at night.”

“Put it in the back of my truck, and I’ll take you home.”

Laramie thanked Thomas for dinner. Thomas handed Laramie some folded bills. Laramie saw a $50 bill and his breath caught in his throat. He hugged Thomas and ruffled his hair. Laramie then started laughing as he kissed Thomas’ cheek.

“This is the best day I have had in ages. You guys are the absolute greatest.”

When Joe returned from taking Laramie home, he told Thomas he had saved another boy that day. Joe related that he had seen Laramie trying to count the money without being seen. Laramie had choked up when he finished counting the money and then let out a sigh of relief.

“I think Laramie and his parents live on the edge. That wad of cash will probably feed them and the animals for the month.”

“He earned every dollar I gave him. I don’t know if I can live up to the resume he completed, even though it is technically true. He knew what to emphasize and how to present my case to anyone looking to hire me. The boy is a genius.”

“Well, he is coming over next Sunday to help me update my resume. I don’t really need it, but I thought I would follow your lead and give him some additional work. I doubt he makes much money serving pizza.”

The next week Laramie arrived on his bicycle and spent the afternoon with Joe updating his resume. There was no prescribed format, so Laramie had done some research and offered different ideas to Joe. They had a long discussion about each style's strengths and weaknesses, with Joe finally asking Laramie to choose the best one for him. Laramie then quickly completed the document for Joe to review. Joe was gob smacked at how Laramie made him sound like the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Laramie had just organized the facts; there was no need to exaggerate.

Once again, Thomas fixed dinner, and Joe opened a bottle of Viognier. Laramie laughed and said he would come to help them every week if he got a glass of wine. They ate until they were full, with Laramie showing his humorous side in a way he had not before. Joe laughed at his wry sense of humor and the way he played off the two of them.

“So, how is it that two old dudes like you are in Hillsborough? I mean, I can’t wait to get out of Dullsville.”

Joe gave him a high-level synopsis of their life together. Laramie was enthralled. Just as Thomas was serving dessert, he heard a truck pull into the driveway.

“I wonder who that is?”

Laramie started blushing.

“I invited someone to come pick me up tonight. I hope that is okay. Do you have enough dessert for one more?”

A big blond-headed boy knocked on the front door. Joe smiled and invited Walter inside. They walked down the hallway until they reached the breakfast room table where Laramie and Thomas were seated. Laramie jumped up from his chair, almost knocking it over.

“Thanks for coming to get me. There is some dessert. Do you want some? Do you have time? Did you meet Joe? This is Thomas.”

The words were tumbling out of Laramie’s mouth, and Joe chuckled.

Walter was calm and collected and thanked the men for offering dessert. He dug into the peach pie, and his eyes practically rolled back into his head.

“This is great. This here is probably the best peach pie I have ever had.”

Joe started talking with Walter while Thomas got another slice of pie for the strapping boy. Laramie was tongue-tied and could barely speak. Walter kept looking at Laramie and smiling while he answered questions and shoveled in the pie.

“Thank you, gentlemen, for the pie. That was right dang delicious. Laramie told me the two of you were very nice and helpful to him. Thanks for helping out my best friend. He and I go a long way back.”

Laramie couldn’t see anyone except Walter – his gaze was laser focused. They said good night, and Laramie ruffled Thomas’ hair and kissed his cheek. Laramie hugged Joe as he was handed some cash. Laramie crammed it into the pocket of his jeans. Walter shook their hands and asked if he and Laramie could come to visit with them again the next Sunday.

“I have some things to think about, and I would like to talk with you. I think you can give me some insight. I need for Laramie to be part of the conversation as it involves him also. Some more of the world’s best peach pie would be much appreciated.”

Walter grinned at Thomas. Walter then pulled Laramie into his side for a hug and mussed his hair.

“Dude, the hair.”

Walter laughed and leaned in to kiss Laramie on the cheek.

Laramie’s mouth was left hanging open.

“Joe and I are available. Just give us a call to confirm. Laramie has our telephone number.”

Joe and Thomas watched as Walter threw his arm around Laramie’s shoulder and walked him to the truck. Both men were smiling as the boys stopped to kiss before opening the truck doors.

 

Copyright © 2020 Mac Rountree; All Rights Reserved.
If you enjoyed what you have read, please leave a reaction and/or comment for the author!

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Chapter Comments

Thomas accurately self-diagnosed and looks like he is on a path to much improvement and progress.  This is a common problem with retirement for many.  Personally, I love it!  I am sure that there will come a time when I have to adjust my own vision and find other ways to feel useful.  Meanwhile, I do hope they get involved in Mark's family once again.  Laramie and Walter certainly have strong role models to interact with!

Wonderful chapter!

Tony F

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I'm glad that Thomas seems to have turned a corner.  Now, if only Sidney could perhaps do the same?  I'm rooting for Sidney and Eli, and Laramie and Walter.

 

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14 hours ago, Tonyr said:

Wow! That was fast, i didn't see it coming.  Excellent !

Happy new year Mac.

 

Tony,

Thanks for being a faithful reader.   Happy New Year.  Let's hope it is better than 2020.

Mac

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14 hours ago, drsawzall said:

What a great turn of events, can't wait to learn more about the boys...

Drsawzall,

The boys are great.  

Thanks for being a faithful reader.

Happy New Year.

Mac

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13 hours ago, pvtguy said:

Thomas accurately self-diagnosed and looks like he is on a path to much improvement and progress.  This is a common problem with retirement for many.  Personally, I love it!  I am sure that there will come a time when I have to adjust my own vision and find other ways to feel useful.  Meanwhile, I do hope they get involved in Mark's family once again.  Laramie and Walter certainly have strong role models to interact with!

Wonderful chapter!

Tony F

Tony,

Thomas is having a hard time without a daily regimen.  Like you, I am enjoying my retirement though I have found myself over committed. Sigh - that has been my pattern in life.  I am enjoying my winter break from teaching and singing.  I have another week before it all comes rushing back.  

Thomas and Joe will stay connected with Mark and Dan as well as Sidney and Sean.  They are natural caregivers.

Laramie and Walter are two lucky boys.  

Thanks for being a faithful reader.

Happy New Year.

Mac

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11 hours ago, Brokenbind said:

I'm glad that Thomas seems to have turned a corner.  Now, if only Sidney could perhaps do the same?  I'm rooting for Sidney and Eli, and Laramie and Walter.

 

Brokenbind,

Thomas has had a rough patch but watch out because he is on a new pathway that will prove to be life changing.

Sidney is young and is in a muddle.  Luckily, he has Sean on his side - though that will be challenging in the coming months.  The younger generation will figure things out.   I am already in love with Laramie and Walter.  They are so full of hope.

Thanks for being a faithful reader.

Happy New Year.

Mac

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10 hours ago, Thomas Haworth said:

Re Laramie: Career counselling and resume writing is a wonderful career.

Thomas,

Laramie is so gifted that he will have many career choices available to him.  He is computer and book smart but is not so mature about the ways of the world. Walter's college choice will factor into what Laramie decides to do with his life.

Thanks for reading.

Happy New Year.

Mac

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Just now, Mac Rountree said:

Tony,

Thanks for being a faithful reader.   Happy New Year.  Let's hope it is better than 2020.

Mac

It has to be Mac. 

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9 hours ago, Thomas Haworth said:

Re Laramie: Career counselling and resume writing is a wonderful career.

Yeah, dump microbIology.

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Another very good chapter. The longing for family members separated by distance but close in each of their hearts continues to amaze me.

Giving financial support to Laramie and his parents by hiring him (with really great compensation) is yet another hallmark of Thomas and family. The money may also help Laramie with college, (and Walter too).

Mac, we've just wrapped up what could best be described as a year in Hell, and unfortunately we've got a long slog ahead of us if we want to beat this pandemic.

I need to thank you for your stories that have helped pass the time. You've been a godsend.

Best Wishes to you and yours for a Healthy and Happier New Year 2021.

Stay Safe. 6 ft / 2m apart. Wash Hands frequently (think of it like being in a mystery story :read:and you've got to wipe clean anything you touched), #WearTheMask and (to needle you further - pun intended :whistle:) #GetTheJab. :heart:

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7 hours ago, Anton_Cloche said:

Another very good chapter. The longing for family members separated by distance but close in each of their hearts continues to amaze me.

Giving financial support to Laramie and his parents by hiring him (with really great compensation) is yet another hallmark of Thomas and family. The money may also help Laramie with college, (and Walter too).

Mac, we've just wrapped up what could best be described as a year in Hell, and unfortunately we've got a long slog ahead of us if we want to beat this pandemic.

I need to thank you for your stories that have helped pass the time. You've been a godsend.

Best Wishes to you and yours for a Healthy and Happier New Year 2021.

Stay Safe. 6 ft / 2m apart. Wash Hands frequently (think of it like being in a mystery story :read:and you've got to wipe clean anything you touched), #WearTheMask and (to needle you further - pun intended :whistle:) #GetTheJab. :heart:

My dear Anton,

My grateful thanks for your words of appreciation.   It has been a challenging year for so many people and to know that my writing helped ease the burden, just a little, makes the gift even more precious.  Writing has helped to keep me sane this year. It has been a joy to share the gift.

I have been able to see all of my siblings, save one,  over the holiday season.  Charles and I had a wonderful conversation even though we could not see each other.  His job requires that he report any and all personal contacts and as I am considered a high risk person (age and health challenges) so he is following the rules.  Good for him!!!  Hopefully, in 2021 we will be able to get together again.

I am waiting to hear about getting the jab.  I know where I am in the priority list and so now it is a matter of getting the vaccine at the medical center.  

Best wishes to you for the coming year.  

Mac

 

 

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Yes to echo everyone -- this was another great chapter with two newbies - Laramie  and Walter!!  Looking forward to following those two. It seems Thomas has turned the corner and hopefully Sidney will figure things out as well !!  2020 was a year for the record books and I too am happy to see it end!  Mac, its authors like you who produce stories that enable us readers to escape this madness and create an enjoyable bubble! So my heartfelt thanks to you!  Happy New Year!

Edited by KayDeeMac
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18 hours ago, KayDeeMac said:

Yes to echo everyone -- this was another great chapter with two newbies - Laramie  and Walter!!  Looking forward to following those two. It seems Thomas has turned the corner and hopefully Sidney will figure things out as well !!  2020 was a year for the record books and I too am happy to see it end!  Mac, its authors like you who produce stories that enable us readers to escape this madness and create an enjoyable bubble! So my heartfelt thanks to you!  Happy New Year!

KayDeeMac,

Many thanks for your compliments.  Writing helped me to escape the madness of the past year when I entered the world of these characters.  They were a gift to me.  

I had New Year's lunch with my good friend of 40 years.  We had a wonderful time eating a combination of southern and German foods.  We finished off with French macarons so it was an international affair.  

Best wishes to you in this new year.  I am feeling heartened after hearing of the preliminary election results from Georgia!

Mac

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