Summer of My Fourteenth Year(by Grant Bentley)

Summer of My Fourteenth Year

By Grant Bentley

If any nice person, nasty person, place, event, happening, thing, or sport, seems familiar, it is purely coincidental.

Sandy is thirteen years old so it's his fourteenth summer…new friends, new adventures,
and the start of a new life…a life free from what had become daily fear and abuse.

It’s 5:00 AM. It’s raining. I’m wet. I’m cold. And no one cares. I’ve been sitting here in the park, in the rain, all night. My best and only friend had moved away a few months ago. Now, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to go. I feel so alone.

If I go to the police they’ll just send me back. They’ve done it before…twice. I’m not going back a third time. I don’t know how many bruises you need before someone helps you, but I guess seven isn’t enough. That’s how many bruises I had last time they sent me back. As soon as they closed the door, I had eight more, including a black eye. I was twelve…and a half.

God, I’m so cold.

The river’s right there. They’d never find me…not that anyone would look for me. But I can’t. I’m too scared. I don’t want to die drowning…actually I don’t want to die. I just don’t want to go back there again…not ever.

God, I’m so cold.

“Ow! Get away from me!”

Who turned this damn dog loose in the park? Dogs aren’t allowed to run loose in the park! Fuck! I don’t need my face covered in dog drool.

God, that’s gross.

Oh shit! Now some guy’s running over here. Just go away and leave me alone. I don’t need this shit. I just want it to stop raining.

“I’m getting wet. What does it look like I’m doing?”

“What do you care? It’s none of your business what I’m doing here anyway. So just fuck off and leave me alone.”

“Why can’t you?”

“No! Don’t call the cops…please!”

“I guess I don’t have much choice do I?”

Now I was tired, wet, cold, had my face covered in dog drool, and was following a total stranger across the bridge towards his condo.

God, what was I thinking?

Twenty five minutes later I was naked and standing under the warm spray of a total stranger’s shower. Twenty minutes after that, I was wrapped in a bathrobe, sitting at a total stranger’s kitchen table, drinking a cup of hot chocolate, with a twenty pound dog head resting on my lap.

“What’s his name?” I finally asked.

“Casey,” the total stranger replied.

I had seen big dogs before, but this was ridiculous. I was sitting in a chair and he was lying on the floor with his head in my lap.

I had to ask, “What is he?”

“An Irish Wolfhound,” he replied before asking, “So, you want to tell me why you were sitting the park in the rain at 5:00 in the morning? Or do you still want me to fuck off?”

“Sorry about that,” I replied.

“Maybe we should introduce ourselves first,” he said, “I’m Tyler Winters.”

“Hi,” I responded, “I’m Sandy Smith.”

“Hi Sandy,” he said with a smile, “Now, that we know each other, I want you to know that I want to help you. I know you weren’t sitting in the rain half freezing to death for no reason.”

“No,” I replied.

“So, you want to tell me what happened to drive you out in this weather?” he asked again.

“My uncle beat me up…again,” I responded.

“Again?” he queried.

“Yeah, again,” I stated, “He hates me and he’s always slapping me around. Tonight, he used his fists.”

“May I see?” he asked.

I lowered the top of the housecoat so he could see some of the bruises. I would have stood up but Casey didn’t appear to want to move his head off my lap, especially since I had started to pet him and scratch his ears.

“May I take some pictures?” he asked, “They’ll provide strong, undeniable evidence that you were beaten.”

I agreed and Tyler took a whole bunch of pictures of my back, chest, arms, and face where I was bruised.

“Damn!” he exclaimed about halfway through, “He do this often?”

“Usually he slaps me around once or twice a week,” I replied, “But lately it’s been worse. He’s started punching me instead.”

“You say he’s your uncle?” he asked, “Where are your parents?”

“They were killed in a car accident when I was nine,” I answered, “My uncle was given custody of me. I think he figured he would get custody of me AND my inheritance, but my inheritance is in a trust fund until I’m eighteen. He’s been a total prick ever since he found out that all he’s going to get is a thousand dollars a month till I move out.”

“What makes you think he was only after the money?” he asked.

“Simple,” I responded, “He told me. He said that if he’d known all he was going to get was a snotty nosed little fuck like me to raise, he would have told Child Services to go to hell.”

“So why doesn’t he turn you back over to Child Services if he doesn’t want to raise you?” he asked.

“I guess he signed some kinda permanent custody thing when Mom and Dad were killed.” I replied, “Besides, if he turns me over to Child Services, it’ll make him look bad in front of his girlfriend. She shows me off to all her friends and raves about what a good person my uncle is…taking in his sister’s orphan and crap.”

“You said he’s done this before?” he queried.

“Yeah,” I replied, “Not this bad though. I’ve gone to the police twice but they just keep sending me back.”

“Are you serious?” he asked, “Did you show them the similar bruises to the ones you have now?”

“Yeah, but not as many or as big,” I said, “This time he really pounded on me.”

“I can’t believe the police would ignore bruises of any kind on a kid,” he stated.

“Maybe they would if he was a cop,” I remarked.

“You’re kidding,” he said.

“Nope,” I replied, “He’s Staff Sergeant Gordon Raitt.”

“Ohhhh,” he said with an edge to his voice, “I know Staff Sergeant Raitt.”

“I take it he’s not on your favourite cops list?” I asked.

“Uh, no,” he replied, “He has an excellent record as a no nonsense, get the job done police officer, but his tactics and attitude leave a lot to be desired.”

“You mean he’s a, kick their ass first, ask questions later, asshole,” I said.

“Something like that,” he replied with a grin.

“Can I ask you something?” I asked, “Will you get into trouble for having me here? I’m like only thirteen.”

“No,” he replied, “I already talked to Judge West from Youth Court when you were in the shower. Actually I woke the poor man up. He and I have worked together on a lot of cases. When I told him how I’d found you, he, like me, thought there was likely something serious going on with you, so he’s sending over a temporary custody order for me until we get your case sorted out.”

“So I won’t have to go back?” I asked.

“Not if I can help it you won’t,” he stated, “Neither I nor Judge West are big fans of your uncle.”

“Who are you anyway?” I asked, “Like what do you do?”

“I’m a lawyer and a Crown Prosecutor for Family and Youth Court,” he replied, “I prosecute child abuse cases.”

At that point, I let out a big yawn and began to realize just how tired I was. So did Tyler and he suggested that if I was as tired as I looked, I should probably get some sleep. I agreed that I was real tired so he showed me where the spare room was and left me to it. After a quick trip to the bathroom, and as I was I lying there all wrapped up nice and warm, I couldn’t help but smile. Of the million plus people living in Calgary, I couldn’t have picked a better person to find me if I’d tried. Maybe, sometimes, miracles really do happen.

It was almost 3:00 in the afternoon when I finally woke up. When I did, I realized I had a hundred and some pounds of dog lying beside me. As soon as I moved, I received a big lick, and once again my face was covered in dog drool, which not only feels gross but tastes gross too. I ran to the bathroom and there was a new toothbrush on the side of the sink. I don’t think I’ve ever done a better job of brushing my teeth. Casey just sat there in the doorway with his head tilted to one side like he was trying to figure out what I was doing. Once I was sure my mouth was clean, I relieved myself, then Casey and I went to look for Tyler. He’d heard me moving around and met me halfway down the hall. He had my clothes all dry and ready to wear. I thanked him and went back to the bedroom to change with Casey right behind me. When I came back out, Tyler had sandwiches and a glass of milk waiting for me on the kitchen table and a big bowl of dog food on the floor beside my chair.

As we sat there with Casey crunching on his dog food and me filling my face with some pretty tasty sandwiches, he asked me if anyone else had ever seen me bruised up. The only person I could think of was my best friend Jon. Jon had always been there for me when things got tough. I can’t count the number of nights I slept over at Jon’s after one of my uncle’s beatings. Sadly, as I said earlier, his dad got a promotion a few months ago, and he and his family had moved to another city several hundred miles away. I was crushed. I had not only lost my best friend, but my only support. I was now all alone which is why I was in the park in the pouring rain at 5:00 AM.

I gave Tyler his phone number and email address and he said he would be getting in touch with him and his parents. He made it clear that there was no doubt we were going to court with this and a first-hand witness of earlier abuse would be important. When Tyler got hold of them, they agreed right away to be here for the court case. I also found out later that Jon caught crap from his dad and mom for not telling them I was being abused.

It didn’t take Tyler long to get things going. It would be three weeks before the case went to court. In the meantime, my uncle was relieved of his guardianship and his thousand dollars a month. He was issued a restraining order and was forbidden to have any contact with me of any kind, including personal contact, phone, mail, or any form of online contact like email, Facebook, or Twitter. He was not to come within 500ft of me or anywhere I frequented and was likely to be, including the park, my school, and where I was staying. He was also told that he was being charged with assault causing bodily harm, child abuse, child endangerment, and failing to provide a child with adequate care and protection.

The case went on for two days. I testified, Jon testified, Tyler testified and entered his pictures of me as evidence. My uncle’s only defence was to try to explain to the judge that I was an “incorrigible behaviour problem, a thief, an habitual liar, and physically aggressive”. According to him, any time he struck me, it was in self defence. Now, considering I’m 5’4” and a hundred and five pounds of skin and bone while he is 6’5” and two hundred and forty pounds of solid muscle, it was rather difficult for the judge to picture me attacking him and him having to protect himself by beating me up. Also, after some of the things my uncle said about me, Jon’s dad asked to testify. His testimony about my character and behaviour was the exact opposite of everything my uncle had said. When the judge made his decision, my uncle threw a fit. Not only was he found guilty of all charges, but he had just added contempt of court to the list and had had cost himself five hundred dollars. What a total dickhead. However, because of his ‘exemplary’ record as a police officer, he was sentenced to two years probation and a hundred hours of community service.

When we left the courtroom, Tyler suggested we go for lunch. When we were eating with Jon and his parents at the restaurant, Jon’s dad asked me if I wanted to come and live with them. I first looked at Tyler and he nodded. When I broke out into a huge grin, he just grinned back and ruffled my hair. As I turned back to Jon and his dad, my eyes filled with tears, but I did manage to let them know that there was nothing I wanted more. I guess they had talked to Judge West, because they already had a court order giving them full custody of me until I turned eighteen. All I had to do was say yes.

The following day, Tyler had picked up all my stuff from my uncle’s. He had even gone to the school to get a copy of my final grades. We soon had everything I owned in the trunk of Jon’s dad’s car and were ready to go. There was a teary good-bye with Tyler and especially Casey. Hell, I didn’t even mind the face full of dog drool after I gave Casey a big hug.

That was the beginning of my fourteenth summer. I was on my way to a new city, a new home, and a new life.


“I can’t believe it,” Jon exclaimed with huge grin as we got in the car, “I got my best friend back.”

“You can’t believe it?” I asked jokingly, “How do you think I feel?”

On the trip home, our excitement level was off the charts as we chatted about everything, but mostly about what we were going to do for the summer and how much fun we were going to have. It would be especially fun for me because I would no longer have to live in fear, wondering when my uncle was going to take his anger and frustration out on me.

It seemed like no time at all before we were pulling into the driveway. Jon and I were out of the car in an instant waiting for his dad to open the trunk so we could get my stuff out. As soon as the trunk was open, Jon’s dad picked up the biggest box of stuff. Jon and I grabbed a suitcase each and Jon’s mom picked up the smaller box. Five minutes later, Jon and I were in my new bedroom unpacking everything and putting it away. An hour after that, we had all my posters up, my picture of Mom and Dad and me sitting on my night table, and all my clothes sorted and in my dresser or closet. Now done, we just flopped back on my bed and relaxed.

We were laying there chatting for a few minutes when Jon’s mom called to us to get washed up for dinner. She didn’t have to tell us twice as we were both seriously hungry. Dinner was totally awesome…steak, stuffed baked potatoes, baked beans, and Caesar salad. I know, baked beans…but when you’re thirteen, steak and baked beans go together perfectly. After dinner, Jon and I cleaned up, put everything away and did the dishes.

About ten minutes after we were done, the doorbell rang. Jon answered the door. It was three of his new friends he had met at school and who lived in the neighbourhood. I was quickly introduced to Gavin, Kelly, and Brad. Gavin lived next door. Kelly and Brad were brothers and lived a few houses down. In fact they were twins, not identical, but the other kind. When he introduced me to them, I was Sandy, his best friend and new brother. I almost teared up when he said that, but I held it together.

They all said, “Hi,” and shook my hand.

Then Gavin added, “So you’re the Sandy we’ve heard so much about. It’s nice to finally meet you.”

“Thanks,” I responded with a big grin, “It’s good to meet you guys too.”

“Yeah,” Brad said, “When Jon told us about your uncle pounding on you all the time and then said he was going to testify against your uncle in court cause he beat you up pretty bad, we were like totally pissed. No kid should have to put up with that shit.”

“I can’t imagine how shitty it must have been living with an asshole like that,” Kelly said

“It was like totally hell,” I responded, “But I always had Jon. Then when Jon moved, I was all alone and didn’t have him to help me anymore. That’s when it got really scary. If Tyler hadn’t found me that morning, I’m not sure what I would have done.”

“You weren’t thinking of doing something stupid were you?” Gavin asked.

“No,” I replied, “I would have phoned Jon, even if it was just to talk before I did anything. And if I had done anything, it would have been like run away. Even living with that dickhead, I didn’t want to do anything real stupid. Although I guess running away when you’re thirteen and have no money would have been kinda stupid.”

“Well you’re here now,” Jon said, “And nobody is going to kick your ass, except maybe at basketball or Xbox.”

“When did you ever kick my ass at anything?” I queried.

“How about once a day for five years?” Jon responded with a chuckle.

“That’s just cause I felt sorry for you,” I replied grinning.

“Yeah right, in your dreams,” Jon replied.

“Okay,” Brad said, “You guys are already acting a little too much like brothers and you’ve only been back together for what, four hours?”

“Counting the drive home,” Jon answered, “It’s been closer to eight hours.”

“Well, we’re going to The Shoppe for Little Horrors for some ice cream, so I think you better kiss and make up,” Gavin said laughing.

Jon and I looked at each other and grinned as we both said, “Eeewww,” at the exactly same time.

“Oh geez, they’re like freakin’ twins,” Kelly said laughing, “Now we gotta put up with the two of them.”

“You mean you’ve just been putting up with me?” Jon asked, faking a pout.

“Well yeah. You didn’t think we hung out with you every day because we liked you, did you?” Brad questioned trying to look all serious.

“Yeah. Our folks told us we had to be nice to the new kid,” Kelly said just as seriously.

Of course the serious expressions quickly gave way to laughter as Gavin said, “I like you,” and gave Jon a hug and a kiss on the cheek, resulting in another rather loud, “Eeewww,” from everyone.

There was no doubt I was really going to like these guys. They were super nice and funnier than hell. I could tell they had been friends for a long time. It was like they knew what each other was going to say before he said it and I knew it was going to be a lot of fun to be around them. We quickly made our way to the ice cream shop and when we got there, the guy behind the counter knew all the guys by name. I was introduced to him and he greeted me like an old friend.

“The usual?” he asked and got a resounding, “Of course,” from every one.

Once he had served everyone, he turned to me and asked, “What can I get for you, Sandy?”

I had been looking at all the flavours as he was serving the other guys and had made up my mind. “A double French vanilla looks good,” I replied.

“You got it,” he said as he grabbed a cone and scooped up two huge scoops and firmly pressed them together on top of the cone.

As soon as we had our ice cream, we were on our way to the park. When we got there, we found a quiet spot near the river and all sat in a circle eating our ice cream and chatting about me, my life, how much Jon missed me, them, their lives, and two months of freedom to do whatever we wanted…within reason of course.

We also got into a long discussion about a camping trip that was happening soon. I had lived my entire life an hour’s drive from Banff and could see the mountains from my bedroom window, but I had never actually been there. Now, I was living four or five hours away and it sounded like I was going to get to see the mountains up close, maybe even get to do a little climbing. I was already getting excited. In fact, the guys were even giving me a hard time about it.

Five days later, we were on our way to Spray Lakes Provincial Park in the foothills right by Banff National Park. We had a bunch of motor-homes, camper trailers, and fifth-wheel trailers. There were four families going, ours, Gavin’s, Kelly and Brad’s, and Nick’s. I hadn’t met Nick yet because he and his dad had been in Calgary for a week visiting his aunt and uncle, but if he was anything like the other guys, he was going to be a lot of fun to be with.

We all met up at the Mohawk service station where everyone was going to gas up before the trip. It was there that I was introduced to Nick and I was right. He was just like the rest of the guys and seemed just as relaxed and funny as they were. He was definitely a keeper. All of us, except Nick, ran into the service station and grabbed a couple Cokes or whatever and some chips and ran back out to our different vehicles. I noticed that Gavin bought four of everything and on his way back, as he passed Nick’s folk’s truck, he handed him a couple of Cokes and two big bags of chips. At the time, I didn’t give it a second thought as we were quickly on our way.

It seemed to take forever, but finally we were driving into the campgrounds and everyone was backing into their campsite. Although every family had more than enough room in their luxury campers, we were going to really camp. None of this soft beds, colour TV crap for us. We had sleeping bags, air mattresses, and a huge six-man tent that Gavin’s family had used before they bought their fifth-wheel. We were going to rough it. Well, sleep in a tent at least.  

The first thing I noticed when we all piled out of the vehicles and started to look around was that Nick wasn’t right there with us, running around. The second was his dad taking a wheelchair out of their fifth-wheel and pushing it over to their truck. It wasn’t an ordinary wheelchair either. It looked like some kind of custom chair with bigger than normal fat wheels. The third was Nick lowering himself into the chair and right away speeding straight for us.

“This is going to be a blast,” he said with a huge grin, “I’ve been looking forward to this trip for months. I can’t wait to go diving off the cliffs again.”

“No shit,” Gavin responded, “That’s the best part of camping here.”

“Yeah, that and sleeping in a tent,” he said, “And listening to all scary animal sounds.”

“Scary animal sounds?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he replied still grinning, “Maybe we’ll even have a bear wander through camp.”

“No bears,” I responded, “If I even think there’s a bear around, I’ll be in the motorhome so fast.”

“Spoilsport,” he said laughing, “Where’s your sense of adventure.”

“Getting chewed on by a bear isn’t my idea of adventure,” I replied with a chuckle.

“Mine either,” Jon added.

“Just don’t have any food or even food wrappers in or around the tent or campsite and we won’t have to worry,” Brad informed us.

“Thanks for the advice, Daddy,” Nick responded as he got a smack across the back of the head from Brad.

Just then, Gavin’s dad yelled to us that we better hurry up and get the tent set up as we would be eating in about an hour. Jon and Gavin ran over and got the tent. Then the five of us went to work setting it up under Nick’s careful supervision. Once we finally got it set up, we got the rest of our stuff. Then the next half hour was spent blowing up air mattresses and opening up our sleeping bags to let them air out. As we finished blowing up the last air mattress, we got the call to come and eat. There was everything, hot dogs, burgers, baked beans, corn on the cob, potato salad, regular salad, juice or coffee. We weren’t going to go hungry that’s for sure.

An hour after we ate, we were on our way to the cliffs. Now I know Nick was excited about diving off the cliffs into the lake, but I really wasn’t sure how he was going to go about doing that. Or how he was going to keep from drowning once he hit the water. No one else seemed even a little concerned so I figured they must have done this before. How he was going to do it became clear as soon as we got there. There was a long rope tied to a huge tree branch that must have gone fifteen feet out over the water. It had three big knots in it at different heights. The higher the knot, the higher you were above the water when you let go.

When we got up there, Nick grabbed his backpack, pulled out a life jacket, and put it on. So much for my question about not drowning. He also took a short tensor bandage and wrapped it around his ankles and clipped it and then took what looked like the string off a hoodie and tied it around that. He also wrapped a longer bandage around his knees and clipped it on with several clips. I found out later that it was to keep him from doing the splits when hit the water feet first. He wheeled himself over to Gavin who was holding the rope. Once he had hold of the rope and had pulled himself up, he continued to climb the rope to the second knot so his feet wouldn’t hit the ground. Gavin pulled the rope back as far as he could, then ran like crazy pulling the rope along, and let go. Nick went sailing through the air hanging on to the rope until it reached it’s highest point over the lake and he let go. He must have flown another fifteen feet out before he hit the water. Kelly and Brad were in the water ready to help if he needed it, but he didn’t. He popped up out of the water grinning from ear to ear and started paddling towards the shore, with Kelly and Brad right behind him. Once he got close to shore, they picked him up. He wrapped an arm around each of their shoulders, they lifted his legs and locked hands so they were supporting most of his weight and then scrambled the thirty or so feet back up to where we were and set him back in his chair. By now Jon and Gavin were already in the water waiting for me to swing out and jump. The next time Nick jumped, it was Jon and my turn to get him back up. Surprisingly it wasn’t as hard as it looked climbing up the path with him. We must have jumped twenty or thirty times each before it started to get dark and it was a totally awesome.

We decided to head back to camp while we could still see where we were going. We were all very ready to sit around a nice roaring fire and dry off. Of course the fire was already roaring when we got back and everyone was sitting around roasting something. It didn’t take us long to find a spot close to the fire, find some sticks and start roasting marshmallows. I can’t tell you how much fun it was joking, laughing, and getting hot sticky marshmallow all over our fingers and chins. For a moment, I wished Mom and Dad could have been there with us. They would have loved it.

Before we knew it, it was almost midnight and we all set about making sure there was no food or wrappers or anything that might attract bears. Gavin’s dad then slid the cover over the fire pit and we all made a rush to the bathroom, did whatever, washed up, said goodnight and made our way over to tent. Nick’s bag was open near the door so he just flopped out of his chair and rolled into it and zipped it up. The rest of us stumbled around in the dark for a minute or so each finding our sleeping bag and crawling in. We were more than ready for a good night’s sleep. Of course we chatted for a while until, one at a time, we all dozed off. I’m not sure how long Kelly was talking to himself before he realized the rest of us were asleep.

The next morning we were up with the sun which made it somewhere like 5:00AM. Normally if someone woke me up that early I would have been seriously pissed with them, but here, in a tent, in the wilderness, it seemed like the thing to do. Within twenty minutes, we had a fire going, Brad had found a coffee pot, coffee, milk, and sugar in his folk’s trailer and soon we were sipping coffee and warming by the fire. After we finished our coffees, we decided to explore the campground and see if anyone the guys knew was here. We did see a couple of trailers the guys recognized but no one was up yet. As we got near the far end of the campgrounds, we saw two guys who looked like they were maybe in high school walking towards us. It took me a second before I realized they were holding hands, not like that’s a big deal or anything. It’s just not something I’d seen before.

As they got closer, one of them smiled and said, “Hey guys, how’s it goin?”

We all said ‘hi’ back or ‘it’s goin’ good’ or something like that. Then Gavin introduced Jon and me to them. They were Sean McLeod and Wes Taylor. We did the ‘it’s nice to meet you handshake thing’ and were soon having a friendly chat with them. They were usually here with their parents but this time they were on their own.

As we were chatting, Sean asked, “Been up to the cliffs yet?”

“Yeah, we were up there yesterday, almost as soon as we got here,” Nick replied.

“We got here too late last night to go up,” Wes said, “We decided to go for an early walk this morning instead, but we’ll be heading up there after lunch and probably after dinner too.”

“Cool,” Kelly replied, “We’ll see you guys up there.”

And, see them we did. In fact I couldn’t believe some of the things they were able to do, everything from swinging out together to hanging upside down or doing several flips in the air before they hit the water. We spent half the afternoon up there and were back again in the evening. After it started to get dark, we all headed over to their campsite after stopping by ours and getting a couple of bags of marshmallows, a case of pop and three packages of wieners and buns. It took about ten minutes to get a fire going and to start roasting wieners to make hot dogs or roasting marshmallows to make S’mores.

They were probably two of the funniest guys I’ve ever met too. They knew more jokes than I could remember, even if I had a memory stick and a USB port in my brain. It was also a good thing we weren’t with our folks cause some of the jokes would have raised the moms’ eyebrows for sure. It must have been close to 2:30 in the morning before we decided to call it a night.

As we crawled into our sleeping bags and started our nightly chat, I commented on how much fun it had been with Sean and Wes.

“What did you expect?” Gavin asked.

“Nothing really,” I replied, “I’m just saying they were a blast.”

“That was tame,” Kelly said laughing, “You should be around when they really get going.”

“You mean they can get worse than that?” I asked with a chuckle.

“Oh, for sure,” Kelly replied, “They were going easy on you guys tonight.”

“No kidding,” Brad added, “Some of their stories last year almost gave me nightmares.”

“Yeah,” Nick replied, “Some of them scared the hell out of me.”

That was the last thing I heard as, once again, everyone dozed off one at a time until this time it was Nick talking to himself.

The next morning, we slept in and weren’t up till nearly 8:00. This was going to be our hiking day. Once we had finished breakfast, we set out on one of the trails into the forest. A couple of times we had to rescue Nick as trees had fallen across the trail in a couple of places. We just lifted him and his chair over the tree and we were on our way again. Other than that, Nick seemed to keep up with us, no problem. At one point, Kelly and Brad decided to climb up the side of a huge rock. The rest of us just sat back and watched them. When they finally came down, we kept going until the path got too steep for Nick. We found a clearing and decided to eat our lunches before we started back. When we did get back, it was hard to believe we had been gone for more than five hours and it was almost time to eat again.

We waited the required one hour before we made our way over to Sean and Wes’ site and then to the cliffs for some more death-defying plunges into the lake. As it started to get dark, we headed back to their campsite and, once again, sat around telling jokes, roasting marshmallows, and making S’mores until after midnight. There was no chatting until we fell asleep that night. I don’t think any of us lasted more than two minutes after crawling into our sleeping bags.

As tired as we were when we went to bed, we were still up shortly after 6:00 the next morning. This would be our last day before we had to go home. We had coffee and breakfast ready by the time the parents finally got up at 7:00. Once we had eaten, we set out to do as much as we could. We hiked, leapt off the cliffs, watched a couple of osprey swoop down and kinda drag their feet through the water and come up with a fish, and watched some guys jump off the high cliffs on the other side of the lake with some kinda parasail things. They would glide out over the lake and some other guys picked them up with a rowboat. By 5:30 we were slowly deflating our mattresses, rolling up our sleeping bags, and taking down our tent. A few hours later, we were pulling into the driveway at home. Sadly, a long weekend just isn’t long enough.


After Jon and I helped his mom and dad put everything away, clean up the trailer, and park it along side the garage, we were laying on the back lawn looking up at the stars and chatting about the weekend.

“So what do you think of Sean and Wes?” Jon asked me.

“I think they were awesome,” I replied, “Definitely two of the funniest guys I’ve ever met.”

“Yeah they are,” he said, “But what did you think when you first saw them and they were holding hands?”

“I thought that that was the first time I’ve seen two guys holding hands like that,” I replied.

“Like what?” he asked.

“Like boyfriends,” I answered.

“That didn’t like, kinda freak you out?” he asked.

“No,” I replied, “Why should it?”

“Because that makes them gay,” he responded.

“Well duh,” I said with a chuckle.

“So you’re cool with that then?” he queried.

“Yeah I’m cool with them being gay,” I stated with some conviction.

“Uh…but…” he said quietly and paused.

Then, after several seconds, I turned to face him and as sincerely as I could, I said, “I’d be cool with you too. I mean…if…you know…”

“Really?” he questioned just above a whisper, as he turned his head towards me and gave me a weak sorta smile.

“Yeah, really,” I said, “We’re brothers man. Our love for each other doesn’t have ‘only ifs’.”

The next thing I knew, I had a crying friend in my arms.

After a minute or so, he let go of me and with the biggest grin I have ever seen, he said, “Thanks Sandy. I love you too.”

“Yeah, I know,” I replied, “I’ve always known.”

“But you’re not…are you?” he asked still grinning.

“Nope,” I responded, “Afraid not.”

At that moment we heard a shout from the deck letting us know it was nearly 1:30 in the morning and we should be thinking of getting our sorry asses up off the wet grass and into bed.

“We’re on our way,” Jon shouted back.

As we stood up, Jon gave me another quick hug and said, “I knew you’d be cool with it.”

Later, as I was lying in bed I thought about it. My best friend since forever had just told me he was gay. I smiled to myself as I thought of Sean and Wes and realized that one day Jon would be introducing me to his boyfriend. I just didn’t think it would be the next day.

It was almost two in the afternoon before I woke up. I guess the fresh air, and action-packed weekend had wiped me out. When I finally showered, got dressed, and made my way into the kitchen Jon and Gavin were sitting at the table, each finishing up a bowl of cereal.

“Mornin,” I managed to squeak out.

“Mornin,” they both replied.

“Sleep well?” Jon asked.

“Oh yeah,” I replied, “I can’t believe I slept till 2:00 though.”

“I’d still be sleeping if Gavin hadn’t come over,” Jon said.

As I got myself a bowl, sat down, and poured myself some cereal and a glass of milk, I slowly began to clue in that, considering the size of the table, Jon and Gavin were sitting awfully close together. I focused on eating my cereal as I didn’t want to look like I was staring. We quickly got into a chat about our weekend though, and soon I was so into in reliving all the fun we had, I wasn’t paying attention any more. As soon as we finished cleaning up, we made our way into the back yard and just flopped onto the lawn. None of us had the energy to get into any sort of physical activity. This was going to be a day of rest and recovery.

As we were laying there, Jon asked, “Sandy, what would you say if I told you I was seeing someone?”

“You mean Gavin?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he replied quietly.

“Well, I don’t know,” I replied, “I’m not so sure about his eyes. They’re a little too close together and a kinda funny shade of…what is that…iguana shit green?”

So much for a day of rest and recovery. I was immediately attacked by both of them. Unfortunately Jon knew I was extremely ticklish and within two minutes I was about to pee my pants. When I made that fact very clear by screaming it at the top of my voice, they finally took pity on me and stopped. They didn’t let me up however and I was forced to simply lie there with the two of them sitting on top of me. Eventually, after I promised to be nice, they got off me.

“Fuck you guys,” I said, once I was able to breathe properly again, “You need to learn how to fight fair. That was just mean.”

I didn’t get any sympathy from them though. They both just laughed and told me I shouldn’t be so sensitive. This time when we stretched out, Gavin used Jon’s tummy as a pillow and Jon started playing with his hair. It was actually kinda neat knowing they were already feeling comfortable around me. It was only a minute or so later that the gate opened and Kelly and Brad came around the corner.

“What the hell were you guys doing?” Brad asked as he flopped down on the grass, “It sounded like someone was getting killed over here.”

“That was Sandy,” Jon replied, “The boy just can’t handle himself well in a fight.”

“Bullshit,” I responded, “I can handle myself just fine, but not when you and your little boyfriend attack me without warning, hold me down, and tickle me.”

“And just why would they do that?” Kelly asked.

“He was picking on Gavin,” Jon replied.

“Ahh,” Brad said, “Picking on the poor defenceless little boyfriend. Not a good idea.”

“Okay, just when did this become pick on Gavin day?” Gavin asked.

“Apparently about half an hour ago,” Brad replied laughing. Then on a more serious note, he asked, “When did you guys tell Sandy?”

“Actually he’s brighter than he looks,” Jon responded, “He picked up on me last night and on Gavin and me this morning.”

“See, I told you if he was as cool as you said he was, he’d be cool with it,” Brad said.

“I know,” Jon responded, “But it was still a bit scary. Not as scary as telling Mom and Dad though.”

Just then, the gate flew open and Nick came wheeling into the yard.

“Hey, how’s it goin’ kids?” he shouted.

We all responded good or great. As soon as he got over to us, he raised himself up a bit and then flopped sideways onto the grass right beside Kelly and Brad. As soon as he made himself comfortable, he looked at Jon and Gavin, then at me.

“They told you,” he said grinning.

“Yep,” I replied with a grin. That was pretty much the last time it came up.

The conversation quickly shifted to how we were going to spend the rest of the day. Four of us suggested that lying around on the lawn all day worked for us, but Nick said that was too boring. We only had 56 days of summer vacation left so there was no time to waste. We needed to get out and do something. I looked at him for a minute wondering where the hell it got all his energy from. It wasn’t like he’d had a quiet restful weekend.

At first, we simply refused to move. But, after about a half hour, he managed to persuade us to go for an ice cream at least. We all knew, of course, that once he got us up and moving, our lying around on the lawn and relaxing was over. As soon as we started to move, he pulled himself up into his chair and was ready to go. About fifteen minutes later, we were in The Shoppe for Little Horrors. We went over to the park after we got our ice cream. Of course Nick just happened to have a Frisbee in his backpack. Once we were done our ice cream, it looked like we were going to be throwing the Frisbee around half the afternoon.

And, that’s exactly what we did. There was one rule. The only one who was allowed to throw to Nick was Brad because he was the only one of us who could throw with any real accuracy. You see, chasing a Frisbee in a wheelchair is not really all that easy, so it needed to arrive at no more than arms length. Nick did manage to tip over a couple of times when he lunged too far to the side. He quickly righted his chair and climbed back in each time. After an hour, we all began to run out of energy though, even Nick.

We were soon back at our place laying on the lawn, taking it easy. But, not before getting ourselves a nice thick milkshake to quench our thirst and solve some of our hunger issues. Needless to say, we didn’t do anything else that day that required energy. At 5:30 the guys all headed home for dinner. Jon, Gavin and I made our way into the house just in time to set the table for our dinner.

As we were having dinner, Jon’s mom looked at me, then at Jon and Gavin, then back at me. I glanced at them and looked back to his mom and smiled. She just smiled back. She knew I knew.

After dinner, Jon and Gavin disappeared into Jon’s room. I stayed and helped Jon’s mom clean up and do the dishes.

“I hope you don’t feel left out with Gavin around so much,” his mom said.

“No, not really. I’m still Jon’s best friend and brother,” I replied, “And I really like Gavin. But if I do start to feel left out, I’ll let Jon know. Besides, best friends and brothers are forever. Boyfriends at our age, maybe not.”

“That’s very accepting Sandy,” she said, “I’m proud of you for being so mature about it all.”

“I have to admit, I was a little surprised but not totally,” I said, “Jon and I are like real close, but we never talked about girls and stuff best friends usually talk about, so I kinda wondered even before you guys moved.”

“Tom and I noticed that too,” she said, “So I don’t think we were any more surprised than you were.”

“I’m so glad that Jon has you guys,” I said, “A lot of times kids get thrown out by their parents when they come out.”

“That’s something I will never understand,” his mom responded, “How can a parent put limits on loving their children? Your children are the most precious thing you will ever have, and loving them should be unquestionable and unconditional.”

“Yeah, it should,” I replied, “The same goes for best friends too.”

“Jon better appreciate what he’s got,” she said with a chuckle.

“He does,” I said, “I know he does.”

Just then, Jon and Gavin came wandering back into the kitchen.

“Oh, you guys are finished cleaning up already,” Jon said, trying to sound surprised.

His mom just looked at him and grinned, “Don’t worry,” she said, “Next time Sandy and I will leave everything for you and Gavin to clean up.”

“Gee, thanks Mom,” he replied, “You’re so thoughtful. I’m so glad you’re my mom.”

“See, I told you he appreciated you,” I said with a laugh.

“What?” he asked.

“Oh, nothing,” his mom replied, “We’ve just been talking about you behind your back. It’s been kind of fun actually.”

“Oh great, that’s all I need,” he said laughing as Gavin blushed a nice shade of cherry red.

A few minutes later, the three of us were stretched out on Jon’s bed watching TV. After flipping through the channels for ten minutes, we finally found a movie we all wanted to watch. It was the original Karate Kid with Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita. By the time it was over, it was all I could do to stay awake. We got up, had a snack and I headed for bed.

It was almost noon before I woke up the next morning. The good thing was I was feeling well rested and actually had some energy. When I got to the kitchen, Jon was eating breakfast by himself.

“Where’s Gavin?” I asked.

“We decided that you and I should have a day together,” he replied.

“Thanks,” I said smiling, “But you don’t have to do that. I’m quite happy having Gavin around.”

“You don’t feel sorta left out?” he asked.

“A little, sometimes,” I replied, “But it’s not like you guys ignore me or anything. And as long as you don’t have wild, uninhibited sex in front of me, I’m cool.”

“I don’t think we’re ready for wild, uninhibited sex just yet,” he responded laughing, “But, then again…”

“Don’t even think about going there,” I warned laughing.

“Too late,” he said also laughing, “I already did.”

“Eewwwww,” I responded.

We did spend the day together though, and it was just like old times. Jon and I making his mom crazy until she threw us out of the house, then Jon and I throwing a football, playing one-on-one in the driveway, going for ice cream, tossing a Frisbee back and forth, and finally stretching out on their back lawn telling jokes and chatting about anything that came to mind until his mom called us for dinner.

“Where’s Gavin?” his dad asked as we were eating.

“We decided that today was for Sandy and me,” Jon replied, “You know, just the two of us, like before.”

“Good for you,” his dad said, “I’m glad to see you and Gavin are thinking of Sandy’s needs as well as your own.”

“Yeah,” Jon responded, “Brothers gotta make time for each other once in a while.”

I noticed his mom actually had a tear in her eye when he said that and his dad just grinned and ruffled his hair.

After dinner, Jon and I cleaned up and then we wandered into his room, got comfy on his bed, and turned the TV on. Once again, we flipped through the channels for ten minutes. This time, there was nothing worth watching, so we decided to go over to the park and feed the ducks in the big pond. Soon after we got there, Kelly and Brad showed up. They had a Frisbee, so we were quickly involved in a game. We figured out a point system based on the number of catches and accurate throws. Both players got one point for a good throw and a good catch. However, it the catcher missed because of a crappy throw, the thrower lost a point, or if it was a good throw and the catcher missed, the catcher lost a point.

We were about ten minutes into the game when Gavin and Nick showed up and were immediately into the game with us. An hour later and we were on our way for ice cream and / or a milkshake. Oh, and in case you care, since Brad’s the most accurate thrower and Nick’s the best catcher, they won the Frisbee game. Once we got our refreshments, we wandered over to Nick’s and took over their back deck. We spent the next hour laughing, joking, and just plain goofing around. Then Nick’s dad came out and reminded Nick that he had an early doctor’s appointment the next morning. That was our cue to start for home. We all said goodnight to Nick and his dad and left.

Once again, it was Jon, Gavin, and me as we wandered up our street. As we got to Gavin’s, I grinned at them and asked, “You boys want a minute alone to say goodnight?”

“Shut up,” Jon said laughing as he gave me a smack on the arm.

“Goodnight boys,” I said in as sexy a voice as I could come up with, before I took off running across the lawn to our place, leaving them standing there. It was actually kinda funny because it was another ten minutes before I heard Jon come in the front door. I was going to say something to him but I decided not to tease him…this time.


The next couple of weeks became kinda routine. We went to a couple of movies, rented a few more and watched them at our place, Nick’s or Kelly and Brad’s. Gavin had an Xbox and a ton of games, so we spent a fair bit of time over at his place too. We played a lot of Frisbee, threw the football around or played some basketball…either one-on-one, or two-on-two with Kelly and Brad. Neither Gavin nor Nick were much into basketball so they just watched. We did a lot of laying around chatting too.

For some reason beyond reason, both Jon and I were awake and moving around at 7:00 one morning. After breakfast we got into a game of one-on-one. We played until our arms and legs hurt and decided to take a break. We were stretched out in the backyard, each drinking a large glass of iced tea, when his mom came out and handed him the phone.

Listening to one side of a conversation can be really weird, especially when the person you can hear starts getting excited. After about two minutes, I gave up trying to figure out what was going on and just started laughing at Jon as he kept getting more and more excited. When he finally hung up the phone, he asked me if I liked horseback riding. I had to say I had no idea, since I had never been anywhere near a horse in my life. Well except for seeing them in the Stampede parade.

“Well you’re going to get up close to a horse next week,” he said grinning.

“Next week?” I questioned.

“Yeah, next week,” he replied, “You remember Nick’s grandpa and grandma from the campout right? Well they own a ranch near where we went camping and they’ve invited all of us the spend a week there.”

“All of who?” I asked.

“All of us,” he responded, “Nick, you, me, Gavin, Kelly, Brad, and Jamie.”

“Seriously? Wow”! I exclaimed, “Who’s Jamie?”

“Jamie’s Nick’s cousin from Edmonton,” Jon replied, “You’ll like him. He’s kind of a goof, just like Nick. If Nick doesn’t get us into trouble, he will.”

“Sounds like fun,” I said grinning.

Of course, the first step was to talk to Jon’s mom and dad to get permission to go. The second step was for Jon’s dad to phone Nick’s dad to get the details and to make sure they knew we assumed we were all going. As it happens, Nick’s dad knew. He also had the week off, so Nick’s grandparents weren’t going to be on their own with seven thirteen and fourteen year olds terrorizing them. Once that was settled, we were given permission to go.

It was just a few seconds later that Gavin came charging into the kitchen all excited. I guess Nick had phoned him right after phoning us. In fact he had woken him up. Kelly, Brad, and Nick arrived about fifteen minutes later. The guys, except for Jon and me, had been there before so we spent the next hour talking about the trip and how much fun it was going to be. Not just riding horses, but fishing, swimming at the ‘swimming hole’ in the creek, feeding the horses and cattle, riding in the hayrack pulled by two huge Clydesdales, and sleeping in the hayloft of the barn.

Friday evening, Jon and I packed a week’s worth of clothes and whatever else his mom decided we needed and we were ready to go. We all met up at Nick’s at 8:00 Saturday morning and by 8:30 we were on our way. Everyone was excited the whole trip even though we spent four hours cruising down the highway. As we got into the foothills and ranching country the scenery was amazing just like on our camping trip. So was the size of some of the houses we passed.

Finally, we turned down a gravel road and a few minutes later, we were pulling into the most wicked yard I have ever seen. Everything was huge. The house was a huge log house that looked like it was a hundred years old. The barn was huge. There were a couple of four-wheel drive tractors that had wheels that were at least ten feet high. And then there were two huge dogs that must have weighed a couple of hundred pounds each. Nick said they were British Mastiffs. Thankfully, they were as gentle and friendly as they were big. Because they were so big, they made me think of Casey and for a few seconds I realized I missed him and felt a bit of sadness. That’s all the time I had though as Jamie came running over. Nick’s grandma and grandpa were there after a minute or so too. Jon and I were quickly introduced to Dick and Jane, the dogs, and I soon discovered they had bigger tongues than Casey.

Half an hour later, we had all our stuff in what had been the hired hand’s cabin near the barn. A half hour after that and we were sitting down to the most amazing meal I had ever seen. Nick’s grandma called it an afternoon snack. I would have called it a feast. As soon as we finished eating, we were on our way to the horses’ corral. When we got there, we had ten horses, eight Thoroughbreds and two Clydesdales, lined up along the fence waiting for some carrots and to have their noses scratched. They were totally beautiful, especially the two huge Clydesdales Nick said they were eighteen hands high. I had no idea what that meant except it meant they were big, because they WERE big.

A hour later, we had the thoroughbreds saddled up and I was getting set for my first ever horseback ride. Jon, Nick, and I, of course, got lots of help in getting our horses saddled up. Jon and I because we didn’t have a clue, and Nick because he couldn’t reach that high. Nick’s saddle was like a regular saddle but with a high back and wide strap that went around his waist. It kept him from tipping over so he didn’t have to worry about always trying to keep his balance. I was way excited but I can’t say I wasn’t a bit nervous too. In fact scared shitless would have been a better term. I would be riding Fern and Jon would be riding Ginger. We were both promised that they were quiet and easy to ride. That sort of made me a little bit less nervous.

Once we got going, it was awesome though. It was a whole lot easier than I thought it would be. Maybe that’s because Fern knew where she was going and I was just along for the ride. Being on a horse and looking around at the scenery was freakin’ awesome. I think riding through the foothills on a beautiful sunny day is as close to heaven on earth as a guy can get. Judging from the smiles on everyone else’s faces, they felt the same way I did. Most of the ride was spent pointing out some totally awesome sight or some kind of wildlife, like coyotes, or eagles, or a bear and two cubs way off in the distance. I was actually disappointed when we had to turn around and head back.

That was the good part. Now, if you have never ridden a horse before, and then spend three hours in the saddle, bad things happen to your legs and butt. When you sit in a saddle which isn’t that well padded, and wrap your legs around a horse, they don’t like it. Your legs that is. Stiff and sore didn’t even come close explaining how we felt after we got back. It didn’t happen instantly. It kinda built up after we got down and started to walk around. I’m sure we looked funnier than hell as we were walking up to the house. The only one who wasn’t in pain was Nick. His butt was a little sore but that was it. Of course we all felt much better when he told us it would ease up and wouldn’t hurt so much in a week or two. He lied cause it didn’t last a week and it didn’t stop us from going riding every day that we were there either.

“That hot tub is going to feel so good tonight,” Jamie said as we got close to the house.

“No kidding,” Brad responded as both Jon and I yelled, “Hot tub…yeah!” and punched the air.

We got back to the house just in time to wash up for dinner. God, Nick’s grandma was a good cook. After dinner, we went to the cabin, grabbed our sleeping bags and pillows and took them up into the hayloft of the barn. It was so cool. It was at least a foot deep in loose hay at one end and had hundreds of bales stacked up at the other end. Close to the two big doors that opened above the horses corral was a big flat tray thingy attached to a bunch of pulleys. I guess it was used to lift hay into the loft. Jamie and Gavin walked over to it and started to pull on the rope. A few seconds later, Nick appeared and wheeled himself into the hay pushing it along as he made his way to where we were setting down our sleeping bags.

“I don’t know how to thank you enough for inviting us,” I said to Nick, “This is so freakin’ cool.”

“Any time man,” Nick replied, “We just got started though.”

We hung around in the loft for about half an hour talking about our day until Jamie suggested it was hot tub time. We lowered Nick back down to the main floor and then climbed back down ourselves. Then we dashed to the cabin, changed into our swimming trunks and headed for the hot tub. Jamie and Gavin lowered Nick into the tub and then we all slipped in. I can’t begin to tell you how good it felt. Within minutes, the stiffness in my legs began to go away and my butt began to feel normal again. After about an hour, we got out, made our way back to the cabin, changed and then wandered around the yard.

We looked at everything; Nick’s grandma’s garden which looked like it covered two acres, the machinery, including the two tractors, hay bailers, combines, seeders and whatever. Then we went into the shop where his grandpa had several restored cars. I think Jon and my eyes almost popped out of our heads as we looked at them. There was a 1956 Ford Crown Victoria, a 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge convertible, a 1957 Chevy Impala convertible, a 1956 Chevy pickup, and a 1936 Plymouth coupe. Nick said they were worth probably close to $250 000.

After our tour of the yard, we went up to the house for a snack before going to bed. We had sandwiches, cookies, pecan pie and ice cream. I was starting to think we were all going to be fat before we left. It was close to ten when we decided to head for bed. Once we were all in the loft, we began to get undressed and crawl into our sleeping bags. It was so comfortable lying there on top of the hay. Like on the camping trip, we talked until there was only one of us talking to himself as everyone else had fallen asleep.

A warning though, if you have never slept in a sleeping bag in a pile of hay, I’m here to tell you there are some things you do and don’t do. Brush the hay off your feet as you get in. Don’t leave it open but zip it up to the top. Keep your arms inside the bag. If you don’t, the hay and seeds and dust will get inside your sleeping bag and you’ll have a whole new meaning for the word itchy. Getting dressed without having your clothes full of hay isn’t easy either. We showered and changed clothes as soon as we got down and got to the cabin. We also got a great big tarp from his grandpa to lay over top of the hay from that night on.

Like on the camping trip, we were all wide awake by about 5:30 as the sun came up. That first morning when we woke up, Nick opened his sleeping bag, quickly dug through the hay and then rolled onto his stomach. When I asked him what he was doing, he replied that he was peeing. When I told him that was gross, he told it was cool cause he was peeing through a knothole in the floor. I almost peed myself laughing when he said that and had to run to the door before I actually did.

When we finally made our way to the house for breakfast, we were once again fed way too much. Now I was almost sure I was going to be fat before we left. That is until we helped his grandpa feed the horses and cattle after breakfast. Hay bales, I found out, are heavy, especially when you have to carry them ten feet, remove the twine holding them together, and then throw them over the railings into the corrals. Nick did another excellent job of supervising. After an hour of that, I was almost ready for a nap.

But that wasn’t about to happen. Next on our agenda was fishing to be followed by a swim in the creek. Of course, we didn’t catch any fish even though we spend two hours trying. We did catch some aquatic critters when we were swimming though. I think we all had at least half a dozen bloodsuckers attached to various parts of our bodies when we climbed out of the water. If you wanna feel totally creeped out, that’ll do it. Since we were skinning dipping, I won’t tell you where Jon had one. Let’s just say the only person who was willing to help him get rid of it was Gavin. After thoroughly checking every inch of ourselves out and drying off, we got dressed and started out for the house for lunch. There were some pretty steep spots on the path so we took turns pushing Nick uphill. Once we hit level ground though, he was on his own.

After lunch, we saddled up the horses and once again went on another three hour ride. This time, instead of riding east through the open fields, we rode south and spent most of our time in the forest. We saw a couple of mule deer, a moose and five elk before the ride was over. When we saw them, we just stopped and watched. I was actually surprised that they didn’t run away but just stayed there. They were watching us pretty closely though.

Thankfully, I didn’t feel anywhere near as stiff and sore as I did the first day. None of us did. That didn’t keep us out of the hot tub after dinner though. Once we had our fill of sitting in hot water, we got out, dried off, got dressed and just stretched out on the front lawn. None of us had the energy to do much else.

“So you guys having fun yet?” Nick asked.

“Oh my god, this place is so awesome,” Jon replied, “I want to stay here forever.”

“Yeah,” Jamie said, “I spent all last summer here and I didn’t want to go home.”

“I can believe that,” I said.

“We’ve been here like three times,” Kelly said, “And there’s been something new to see or do every time.”

“Yeah for sure,” Gavin said. “Like this is the first time I’ve seen a moose that close up.”

“Tomorrow we’re going to hitch up the team. Grandma’s going to pack a picnic lunch, and we’re going out to Lookout Point. Jon and Sandy, you’re gonna love it,” Nick said.

“Time for a snack boys,” Nick’s grandma called to us.

Several sandwiches, and a large piece of rhubarb pie and ice cream later and we were on our way to the loft for the night. Just as Jamie got to the top of the ladder, he stopped and waved to us to be quiet and whispered to us to move slowly. As soon as he was out of the way, we all climbed up slowly and quietly. Then as carefully and quietly as we could, Jamie and Gavin pulled Nick up. As soon he was up, Jamie pointed up to the top of the rafters. Sitting there watching us intently was the biggest owl I have ever seen. It must have been two feet tall at least. We all sat quietly and just watched it watch us. Nick said it’s name was Thelma which almost started us laughing but we managed not to. He whispered that it had been around the farm for years and often spent it’s day in the loft. After about five minutes, it dropped off the rafter opened its wings which must have been like five feet across and glided out the loft door.

“Holy shit,” Jon exclaimed as soon as we were comfortable, “That thing was huge.”

“Yeah,” Nick replied, “She’s a great horned owl. They’re pretty big.”

We all then made our way over to the tarp, opened our sleeping bags, got undressed and crawled in. Jamie and Gavin helped Nick a bit as his chair got caught up in the tarp. It didn’t take any of us long to get to sleep. The next morning, we got up, had breakfast and helped feed the horses and cattle. None of us were in the mood to go back in the creek and since we knew we were going somewhere soon, we decided to just rest and relax on the lawn.

About 10:30, we helped Nick’s grandpa harness the Clydesdales and hook them up to an old hayrack. Being right there beside them was totally awesome. It made them seem even bigger and more beautiful. I almost fell on my ass when one of them gave me a little push with his nose. He almost looked like he was grinning at me as I stumbled backwards. Nick’s grandma packed a couple of huge picnic baskets and we set out down this windy little road through the trees behind their house. About half an hour later, when we came out of the trees, we were at the top of this huge hill with the most awesome view. It was so awesome that it almost made you gasp when it all suddenly came into view. Way down at the bottom of the hill was a field with what looked like five hundred cows in it. Off to the west was this awesome view of the mountains. There was a herd of whitetail deer on the edge of the trees and two bald eagles circling above us. There were also two other bald eagles sitting near the top of the trees no more than fifty feet from us. I’ve never seen anything like it.

We spread out a couple of blankets and just sat staring at everything. Nick’s Grandma pointed a few things out to us, like a moose that was way down at the bottom of the hill just on the edge of a clump of trees. She also pointed out a golden eagle circling around above the cattle. We hadn’t been there very long before a squirrel started to give us crap. It just sat on a branch chattering at us like it was totally pissed off we had invaded it’s territory. It was actually kinda funny that something that small would be raising hell with us, especially with the two Clydesdales standing near us. One of their ears was bigger than he was but that didn’t slow him down.

We did a bit of exploring in the trees and along the top of a cliff that we found. About an hour or so after we got there, Nick’s Grandma was digging all kinds of food out of the picnic baskets. She had fried chicken, potato salad, lemonade, apples, pears, pecan pies, raspberries, whipped cream, ice cream, and pretty much you name it. We spent the next hour gawking at the scenery and eating. I think I said this already but it was awesome. About 4:00, we decided to head back. We all helped put everything away, what little there was left to put away that is, and within fifteen minutes we were sitting back on the hayrack feeling totally stuffed and totally happy.

I won’t give you a day by day explanation of everything we did the rest of the week. It could get a little repetitious and boring. We did go riding everyday. We never went swimming in the creek again. Nor did we go fishing again. We actually got pretty good at feeding the horses and cattle. Nick’s Grandpa said he was going to miss our help after we left. Jamie did remind him that he would be there for the rest of the summer so he wouldn’t be all by himself. Well, for a few weeks anyway. Unfortunately, the week was over before we knew it and we were on our way home.


Again, after we got back from Nick’s Grandma and Grandpa’s we settled back into a normal ‘we’re on summer break’ routine. The last week of July and the first two weeks of August, Jon’s dad was on holidays. This year, unknown to me, they had planned a trip to Vancouver. It would be Jon, me, Gavin, and Jon’s mom and dad going. Initially, it was only going to be the four of us but Jon begged and pleaded until they finally gave in and said Gavin could go with us.

We had everything packed and in the car on Friday night, the 22nd. Bright and early Saturday morning, we were on our way. We stopped at Salmon Arm for lunch and Hope for dinner. By late evening, we were pulling into the hotel parking lot. Needless to say, after over fifteen hours on the road, we were ready to check in and go to sleep. Jon, Gavin and I had one room, and Jon’s mom and dad had the room next door. We carried our luggage up to our rooms, undressed, crawled into bed, and were asleep in like five minutes.

His mom and dad had had two rooms in the Sands on Davie Street booked for months. They were going to be in for a big unexpected surprise the next day though. Actually, so was I. All they knew is that we would be less than half a block from Sunset Beach on English bay, close to Stanley Park and the Vancouver Aquarium, and reasonably close to Granville Island, the maritime museum and the space centre. Of course, just because neither Jon’s mom and dad nor I knew, doesn’t mean Jon and Gavin didn’t know.

First, that our hotel was in Davie Village which is the gay village. Second, that the weekend of July 23rd was the start of Vancouver Pride. Third, that the Pride parade on July 31st would be going by just a half block from the hotel. It came down Denman Street onto Beach Avenue which took it right past the end of our street. Fourth, that there would be more than 500 000 people watching the parade. And fifth, that Davie Street would be closed off all that weekend for dancing, partying and celebrating gay pride.

It wasn’t until we were up and eating breakfast in the restaurant that Jon’s dad started noticing all the gay pride advertisements, including a brochure on our table. He picked it up and started to read it. About halfway through he looked at Jon and grinned.

“You know anything about this?” he asked.

“What?” Jon innocently asked in return.

“That this is pride week and we are right in the middle of it,” he replied.

“Hey,” Jon said in his own defence, “You picked the date, you picked the city, and you picked the hotel.”

“Uh huh,” his dad said laughing now, “But it seems to me, you were sitting beside me pointing out where everything was, when we were looking for a good centrally located hotel. So, you knew didn’t you?”

“Well, yeah,” Jon replied with a slightly guilty grin.

“This is definitely going to be a lot more interesting trip than I was expecting,” his dad said laughing.

“So we’re in Vancouver for gay pride week?” his mom questioned.

“Not just ‘here’ for pride week, but it appears we’ve chosen a hotel in the village, so we’ll be right in the middle of it all,” his dad replied.

“How exciting!” his mom exclaimed, “I’ve read about Vancouver pride and now I get to see it first hand.”

“It’s going to be so totally awesome,” Jon said with more than a little excitement.

“And best of all,” Gavin added, “We can totally be ourselves here. We can walk down the street holding hands and everything, and nobody’s going to look at us twice.”

“Well maybe twice,” Jon said grinning, “But it’ll be because we’re so hot, not because we’re holding hands.”

“If you really want people to look twice then you’ll need me with you,” I said laughing.

After breakfast, we decided to go for a walk and look around. Jon and Gavin, of course, held hands the whole time. It was cool to see they weren’t the only ones as half the guys and girls we saw were holding hands. Several of them smiled or said, “Hi,” as they passed us. A few even made a point of smiling or nodding at Jon’s mom and dad.

“This is sooo cool,” Jon said as we were walking up Davie, “Why couldn’t it be like this everywhere?”

“Hopefully one day it will,” Jon’s dad replied.

“I hope we live long enough to see it,” his mom said.

After walking a few blocks, we turned right and walked down to the beach. Again, we saw guys holding hands or sitting together on a blanket or towel as they cuddled and gazed out over the water. Even I had to admit it was cool to see the freedom they had to be themselves. On the way back, we stopped at Starbucks on the corner and had a bite to eat and a coffee.

Jon’s mom and dad decided to go on to the hotel. Jon, Gavin, and I decided to do some more exploring along the beach. We found a huge driftwood log and sat for at least half an hour chatting, looking out over the water, watching the ships, and watching the people on the beach. Watching the people was more than a little entertaining, though not always in a good way. Which reminds me guys, if you can’t glance down and see your toes, don’t wear a Speedo. It’s just not right. Besides scaring the crap out of little kids, nobody wants to see two feet of ass crack…ever. And ladies, some of you are not meant to wear bikinis, I’m sorry. Some things should just be covered up. Oh yeah, and they sell bikini wax for a reason.

We also spent some time paddling around in the water before we headed back to the hotel in time for dinner. Afterwards we went for another long walk up Davie street. Jon and Gavin again held hands the whole time and were loving the freedom they felt. There were lots of clubs and places we wanted to go into but we were five years too young so we just had to be satisfied with looking.  We stopped in Little Sister’s Book Store and talked to the lady I think was the owner. She was super nice and told us about all sorts of things that would be going on during Pride Week…things that kids could actually go to.

Of course, we did all kinds of regular tourist things too. Stanley Park, the Vancouver Aquarium, Granville Island, Vancouver Lookout. We spent a day at the aquarium and it was awesome. Being able to go down below and see everything like you were actually underwater with them was too cool. We watched the shows with the dolphins and belugas which were really awesome. I couldn’t help but wonder if they were happy in those, to them, tiny little tanks though. I mean they’re intelligent animals so they must get bored out of their minds.

We must have walked for miles around Stanley Park. It was like being in the wilderness but we were still in the city. And Granville Island, wow. It had everything from a huge market, tons of places to eat, street performers everywhere, guys building boats, glass blowers, totem pole carving…like you name it. We also went to the Vancouver Lookout. The view was wild. I think we could see every part of Vancouver and we had a great lunch in the revolving restaurant.

Then it was Sunday the 31st, parade day. Dykes on bikes led the parade and, wow, did some of them have some wicked bikes, everything from vintage Harleys to whacked out custom jobs and even a couple of trikes. Most of the bars and nightclubs had some pretty awesome floats with, I guess, really awesomely hot guys dancing and even more awesome sound systems blasting out techno and house music at like a million decibels. By the way, the awesomely hot guys comment came from Jon and Gavin, just so you don’t get the wrong idea, hehe.

There were some awesomely hot girls too. Unfortunately, they preferred other awesomely hot girls. Not that they would have looked twice at a thirteen year old guy anyway. Some of the costumes were totally wild and there were a few guys in drag I would have sworn were girls if I hadn’t known better. It was also kinda cool to see that a lot of churches and politicians had a float or a group showing support for gays. Made you think that things are changing for the better for guys like Jon and Gavin. Not everything about the parade was fun or cool. Okay, I love parades, but 3 hours is just too long. Old guys in drag…I dunno. And, naked old guys…what can I say. I’m thirteen and I really don’t wanna know how it’s gonna hang 60 years from now, eewww.

The parade finally ended on the beach where they had a stage and entertainment. They also had all kinds of food stands where you could get almost any kind of snack or drink you wanted. We spent the whole rest of the day down there listening to some really cool bands and singers. Some of them I am going to try to find on iTunes.

Then there were the unusual acts. One was this 300lb guy dressed in a tight purple floor length dress and who, if he had been a she, could have passed for being eight months pregnant…with triplets. He was introduced as Takma Bodi. I can’t imagine who would want it though. He had at least 25lbs of fake blond hair piled like two feet high, 14lbs of make up, and 4in eyelashes. After a couple of pretty bad jokes, he started dancing. Well, he jumped up and down, did a twirl or two, and ran around the stage as he lip-synched to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way. Or maybe I should say they played the song and he moved his mouth. It had to be one of, either the funniest things I have ever seen, or one of the scariest things I have ever seen…I’m not sure which. It was definitely unforgettable. I was also glad he had been born that way because if he looked that way on purpose…well…

But, gay or not, the day was awesome and we all had a blast. Even Jon’s mom and dad had fun. The next week we did the tourist thing again and took in the Capilano Suspension Bridge, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden, and even a harbour cruise. We drove through Stanley Park and across the Lions Gate Bridge, which is pretty cool, to get to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. If you like scary, the Capilano Suspension Bridge is for you. I’m not scared of heights, but I have to admit walking across that bridge was a little freaky. And, as if the bridge wasn’t enough, they have this cliff walk where the walkway is suspended off the side of the mountain. It just plain can’t be explained properly in words. You gotta see it. Like, go to Google…Images…Capilano Suspension Bridge. I mean seriously, you gotta. The rest of the area was just was just too cool too…but the views. Wow. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden was cool, even if you’re not into gardening and I’m not. The harbour cruise was wicked. We spent most of an afternoon cruising around looking at everything and didn’t get bored once.

Too soon though, it was time to leave Vancouver behind and head back home. Since Jon’s dad didn’t want to be totally wiped out from our trip, we decided to make the trip home a three and a half day trip so we could visit some of the really cool towns and cities on the way back. We turned off the Trans-Canada Highway at Hope and followed Highway 3. The scenery was totally amazing. Then, at Osoyoos, we turned up Highway 97 towards the Okanagan. We spent the first night and second day in Penticton on the south end of Okanagan Lake. Jon, Gavin, and I spent most of the day in the water. It was awesome. Not only was the water warm, but the temperature that day was 38°C or 100°F. Even though we all had great tans, Jon’s mom said sunscreen was in order that day.

After dinner, we drove on to Kelowna farther up the lake. We spent the night at the Prestige Inn and again, spent the evening in the lake. If we had thought to bring our skateboards, there was a really cool skatepark close to the Inn. The third day, we continued driving along Highway 97, along the lake. We stopped at some fruit stands and Jon’s mom bought enough peaches, cherries, and grapes to last a year. We also stopped at a couple of wineries and Jon’s dad and mom bought several bottles of BC wine. Our last stop was Sicamous on the Shuswap Lakes. After dinner, we spent the evening exploring and swimming in the lake. They had dozens of houseboats on the lake which, I guess, the Shuswaps are famous for. Spending a week on a houseboat would be okay but I think it would get boring after a while.

The next morning, we were back on the trans-Canada and fast-tracking our way back home. We did stop in Calgary for a quick lunch at Peter’s Drive-In but that was it. Three hours or so after that, and we were home. We unpacked the car and carried everything into the house. After rearranging everything in the kitchen fridge and the fridge downstairs, we finally managed to get all Jon’s mom’s fruit into one fridge or the other and it was time for dinner. Needless to say, Jon’s mom was all in favour of ordering out for pizza.  It wasn’t too long after that that we were all ready for a good night’s sleep.


When we got back, there was someone new to meet. The next day, as we were on the deck eating breakfast, well more like eating cereal for lunch, the back gate flew open and Nick came wheeling into the yard. Only this time he wasn’t alone. He introduced us to Kevin who was staying with his Grandma just a few doors down from Nick’s. He wasn’t just here for the summer either. He would be living with his Grandma permanently.

Jon offered them some orange juice or coffee. They both asked for coffee. We finished our cereal, moved to the grass, stretched out, sipped on our coffees and talked. Nick mentioned to Kevin that Jon and I were best friends since we were little kids, that I had lost my parents in a car accident, and was living with Jon and his family. Kevin was very sympathetic about my parents. I told him that it happened when I was nine, so I was not over it but I was okay with it now. Nick then told him that Jon and Gavin were boyfriends. That got a surprised look from him followed by a big grin.

As we talked, we got into the reason Kevin was suddenly living with his grandma. We learned that his parents had gone ballistic when they found out he was gay. The next day, he was on a bus to his grandma’s. His dad had said he was a man and he expected his sons to be men. Since Kevin obviously wasn’t, he wouldn’t have him living under the same roof as him another day. Plus he sure as hell didn’t want him turning his other boys into fags.

I had heard stories like this but this was the first time I had met someone it had actually happened to. It was one of the saddest things I had ever heard and, like the other guys, I couldn’t help but feel bad for him. But he told us not to feel bad, that he was quite happy with things as they were. His grandma was great and, after meeting us and Kelly and Brad, he figured he was going to be more than happy living here.

We did manage to get onto other topics and called Kelly and Brad over. We spent a good hour and a half talking about our trip, and looking at the dozens and dozens of pictures that Jon’s dad had uploaded onto the computer. The guys thought that the fact that we ‘just happened’ to be there for gay pride week was hilarious. The second we finished looking at the pictures, Nick reminded us that our summer freedom was down to seventeen days. With that, we were off to The Shoppe for Little Horrors. That he had a Frisbee tucked in beside him didn’t go unnoticed either. After a great game of Frisbee, and another hour of chatting and feeding the ducks, we all headed home for dinner.

Tonight was to be dinner at Gavin’s. Somehow, I had become a regular with Jon at Gavin’s almost as much as Gavin had become a regular at our place. After dinner, Jon, Gavin, and I cleaned up the kitchen and went to Gavin’s room to play some video games. After a little while, I decided to head for home to work on my basketball skills in the driveway. Actually it was to give Jon and Gavin some time alone. They knew it and neither of them argued that I should stay. It seemed like it was always the whole crew or the three of us. I figured they would get fed up with me if I didn’t give them some space. About ten minutes into playing hoops against myself, Nick came cruising down the sidewalk.

“Giving the lovebirds some space?” he asked as he turned up the driveway.

“Yep,” I replied with a chuckle.

“I’ve been doing that too…a lot,” he said, a sadness to his voice, “It’s kinda different with Gavin now. It used to be him and me together all the time. I miss that.”

I really hadn’t thought about it before, but Gavin and Jon were together a lot and I was with them a lot. Gavin had even gone to Vancouver with us. Nick and Gavin had been as close as Jon and me. Now, a lot of the time, Nick seemed to be left out. I know, part of the time, he chose to be, but I also know part of the time he didn’t. Unlike me, he had chosen to give them their space…their time alone. 

“You’ve at least been giving them space,” I said, “I’ve been tagging along with them way too much. Maybe it’s time you and me hung out more.”

“I’d like that,” he replied.

“Then let’s do it,” I said with a grin, “And, I think I hear a triple-decker ice cream calling out to me. How about you?”

“Always,” he said with a grin as he spun his chair around towards The Shoppe for Little Horrors.

That was the start of a great new friendship. Soon, Nick was eating at our place, or I was eating at Nick’s. Both Jon’s mom and Nick’s commented on how good it was to see the two of us get together. Even Jon and Gavin said they thought it was cool that we were hanging out. Of course, Jon and Gavin were with us half the time, as were Kelly, Brad, and Kevin, but Nick and I found tons of things to do together…besides throwing a Frisbee around. Best of all, Nick no longer felt left out, and I no longer felt like a tag-along. But, Gavin was and always would be Nick’s best friend just like Jon was and always would be my best friend, but there was a slight change…just a slight change though.

The most upsetting thing that happened during the summer break was Nick’s announcement that we had one weekend left before school was going to start. We made very good use of those last two days. Monday morning there were seven gloomy boys slowly making their way towards the school. Even so, I couldn’t help but smile as I thought back to the awesomest summer ever. A summer of adventure, of change, of lessons learned, and friendships made. A summer without fear, without hurt, and without regrets. I realized how lucky and how happy I really was. Even if I was on my way to school.

Thanks to Colin for editing, prepping, and posting this story for me.