Xavier's Thanksgiving (by Grant Bentley)

Xavier’s Thanksgiving

By Grant Bentley

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

Again, just in case you are wondering, this is a Canadian story and our Thanksgiving is in October.

Thanksfuckinggiving was just two weeks away. My grandma and grandpa Kelly were coming as well as grandma and grandpa Skipsted. Uncle Paul and Uncle Jessie would be there as would Uncle George, Aunt Sally and their kids, my cousins, Kris, Leo, and Josh. Mom was running around trying to find the best decorations and to get everything organized. It had to be perfect you know. Or at least better than what Aunt Sally did last year.

This year, for me however, it didn’t mean shit. I was a month and a half into my freshman year and not a day had gone by without some or several assholes pushing me around, slapping me, or knocking my books all over the friggn’ hallway. You see, early into the summer break, I had made the mistake of telling Sheila Dobbs that I was gay. Why would I do that you ask. Well, because up until then, Sheila had been one of my closest friends. The problem was, she wanted to be closer…too close. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings and let her think I didn’t like her enough to date her, because I did…if she had been a he. So I told her I cared for her…a lot…but I couldn’t see us ‘together’ because I didn’t swing that way.

So, okay, if you have never seen shit hit a fan, you don’t want to. It splatters all over everyone, even onto people who aren’t in the same room, or same town for that matter. Within twenty four hours everyone I knew, and some people I didn’t know, were covered in shit…gay shit. And, let me tell you, no one was thrilled in the slightest. After the fourteenth threatening text, I shut off my cell. After the third threatening phone call to the house, and some new artwork, I was sitting in the living room facing down two very unhappy parents. Thankfully, they weren’t unhappy they had a gay son. They were unhappy about how they found out though. They were unhappy about the phone calls. They were unhappy about the word FAG and the big dick and lips painted on the garage door. But mostly they were unhappy that their one and only son was apparently no longer safe.

A phone call later, the idea being that things would blow over given time away, and I was on my way to spend the rest of the summer with Uncle Paul and Uncle Jessie, who, in case you were wondering, are not brothers. They have been partners since college. You know, like…gay married partners. I’d like to say, thanks to that bitch, my summer was ruined and I was bored stiff, but I wasn’t. You see, they were both in their mid twenties and all the shit I thought was fun, they still thought was fun. Rollerblading, skateboarding, swimming, roller coasters and other mind numbing, stomach turning amusement rides, boating, water skiing, wake surfing, tubing, you name it, we did it. It was totally awesome.

Not only did they make my summer one to remember, but I couldn’t have asked for better advice givers either. They both had ‘been there-done that’ and they weren’t too old to remember being there and doing that. Unfortunately, as soon as I was back home and back in school, I was once again dealing with bitchface Sheila’s shit…her shit, her friends shit, shit from dickheads I didn’t even know, or want to know, and most painfully, shit from my ‘friends’. The advice Paul and Jessie had given me helped…a lot…but no amount of advice stops the hurt of losing the people you thought you could count on most, besides your parents. No amount of advice made the harassment less real or less degrading. No amount of advice made graduation and college seem any closer than four years.

So, as I said, Thanksgiving didn’t mean shit. Well, it did mean an extra day off school and one less day of taking shit. Then, a week before the big day, Kyle Johnson tripped me as I was walking out of the school. As I was lying there on the sidewalk, he yanked my backpack off my shoulders, nearly dislocating my left shoulder, and threw it into the street just as a city bus was going by. Of course it couldn’t have landed in the centre of the bus’s path. No, it had to land directly in front of the wheels. The books, I hoped, would be okay, but my cell, my Ipod, and my calculator were probably totalled. To make matters worse, everyone, including my two, used to be, best friends, were laughing and making ‘poor little faggot’ jokes.

It was all I could do to keep from crying. I had gone to school with these guys all my life. Now, I might as well have been a total stranger. Not one of them gave a flying fuck about me anymore. They all now had a funny story to tell about the school faggot when they got home. If it had been me under that bus instead of my backpack, I don’t think it would’ve made any difference to anyone. I had never felt so helpless and alone in my life.

Everyone just turned, and still laughing, started for home. Everyone that is except Keon Lui. Keon reached out his hand to help me up. I looked at him for a few seconds and took his hand. As he pulled me up, I noticed he had my backpack in his other hand.

“You okay man?” he asked as he pulled me up.

“Yeah, thanks,” I replied, “Just a badly damaged ego.”

“Your backpack,” he said as he handed it to me.

“Thanks,” I said as I took it and immediately opened it to check my stuff. Ipod…still in one piece, cell…still in on piece, calculator…in fifty pieces.

“Fuck my folks are going to be so pissed,” I said, “That was a brand new TI-89 Titanium. My folks paid like $175 for it.”

“They should go after Kyle’s parents for it,” he said, “He threw it under the bus and there were enough witnesses”

“Nobody is going to stand up against Kyle,” I said, “Especially not for the school faggot.”

“I will,” he said, “And please don’t call yourself that. I’ll come with you now and tell your parents if you want.”

“You will?” I asked, “You’re not worried about Kyle and his asshole buddies?”

“Kyle’s no threat,” he said, “He’s just your typical bully. He knows I won’t back down from him and he knows I have friends to back me up. And most of his buddies wouldn’t know what to do in a real fight anyway. They just hide behind Kyle and act tough.”

“Okay, if you’re sure…thanks,” I said with a slight smile, “I just don’t want you putting yourself out there for me.”

“I won’t be,” he replied, “And even if I was, aren’t you worth it?”

“Uh…” I hesitated and replied, “I guess.” He just gave me a little shove, shook his head, and laughed.

Once we got to my place, we sat down with Mom and Dad and I explained to them that things had not been going well at school. I told them about the bullying and about Kyle knocking me down and throwing my backpack under the bus. Keon backed me up. I then showed them my calculator. My dad totally freaked. They both got on my case about why I didn’t tell them about the bullying. Dad was pretty plain when he said it was total bullshit and no kid should ever have to deal with being bullied in school. Kids have the right to feel safe in school. Then he asked me if I had gone to any of the teachers about it. When I told him there was no use, he asked me why. I then named four teachers who had seen me get pushed, knocked down, or called names and had just turned and walked the other way. Well, if he was pissed about my calculator, that was nothing compared to his reaction to that statement. Within two minutes, he was on the phone to Uncle George.

Uncle George was a lawyer with some big law firm in the city. After Dad hung up, he told me that he would be over in about an hour. In the mean time, Dad talked to Keon and me about who, when, and where. I was actually surprised at how many times Keon had seen something but hadn’t been close enough to react. He also backed me up about three of the teachers who had ignored it. The shit was about to hit the fan again. Only this time it wouldn’t be all over me.

Since Mom had dinner ready, she invited Keon to stay since he was probably going to need to talk to Uncle George. He quickly phoned home to let his mom know what was going on and got permission to stay. Uncle George showed up just as we were finishing dinner. We cleared the table and spent the next hour documenting as many instances as I could remember. He was particularly interested in the ones where teachers had ignored it and walked away. Then, he told me he wanted me to report the incident with Kyle to the police. He made a quick call and within fifteen minutes, Keon and I were relating the events with Kyle to a police officer. I also showed him my calculator in pieces. When he asked if there were other witnesses, we said yes, lots, but they were all either afraid of Kyle or on Kyle’s side laughing and mouthing off about the ‘poor little faggot’. He still asked us to give him a list of everyone we knew who had seen what went on. When he left, he was on his way to Kyle’s.

The next morning was interesting. First, Uncle George, Dad, Mom, Keon, and I were waiting outside Mr. Setter, the principal’s office. When he said he didn’t have time for visitors, Uncle George gave the secretary his card and asked her to give it to Mr. Setter. Suddenly, he had time to talk to us. In the next hour, I found out why my uncle was working for such a prestigious law firm. He had Mr. Setter and three of his teachers scared half to death. They were apologizing all over the place and swearing it would never happen again. Two of them actually apologized to me personally.

When the fourth teacher came in, he said he didn’t have time to run after and protect every little pervert they allowed in the school. Uncle George just glared at him for a few seconds. He then asked him if he enjoyed teaching…past tense, because when he was done with him, he wouldn’t be able to get a job at the zoo teaching monkeys how to peel bananas. When he laughed and told my uncle he was bluffing…it would be his word against the word of a couple of perverts, he was reminded of the other people in the room including Mr. Setter. He was also told to expect to hear from the school board within the next 24 hours. His smart-ass grin quickly disappeared and two days after the meeting, his class was being taught by a substitute teacher.

Also that morning, Kyle was conspicuously absent. In his place were two police officers questioning all the kids on the list of witnesses we had given the officer who came to the house. When they were finished, they had eleven kids who were willing to testify against Kyle in court. I was shocked. So was Keon.

Kyle was back the next day. However, he said nothing. Neither did anyone else. The pushing and shoving stopped. The taunting stopped. Everyone just basically ignored me. The only ones who didn’t ignore me were Keon and his friends. In fact they invited my over to sit at their table with them at lunch. And, there was one other person who didn’t ignore me, Daniel Taylor. In fact not only did he say ‘hi’ to me every time we passed in the hallway, but when Ms. Hall told us to pair up in English class for an assignment, he moved his desk along side mine and asked if we could work together. Since I knew none of my ‘friends’ would want to work with me I said, “Sure.”

The assignment title was ‘One Thing We Would Like to Change’. We were given ten minutes to each make a list, then we were to compare our lists and choose one. I could think of about twenty, stop bullying, stop homophobia, stop hate, stop terrorism, stop religious fanatics, stop child molesters, stop wars, and so on. When we compared our lists, we had a lot of the same things on both. Once we had gone over our combined list, we narrowed it down to things we thought hit closest to home for us. We both agreed on stop bullying, stop homophobia, and stop hate. We decided on stop homophobia because it included the other two.

Now, I didn’t miss the fact that homophobia was at the top of Daniel’s list. For me, after the last couple of months, it was a given. But for Daniel? As we talked about how we could change people’s homophobic attitudes, I learned a lot about Daniel. He seemed strong and determined but, at the same time seemed fairly quiet and shy. He also seemed to be one of the sweetest guys I’d ever met. He was a year older than me. He had missed a lot of school last year, which is why he was still a freshmen. His parents had kicked him out of home and he had lived on the streets for five months. He now lived in a group home five blocks from my place.

Now, I’m not a genius, but…he wanted to work with me, was kicked out of home, lived on the streets, was in a group home, and chose homophobia as the one thing he wanted to change? I think Daniel and I had at least one thing in common we hadn’t discussed yet. Time would tell.

As I was leaving the school that afternoon, I heard someone call my name. I stopped and turned and saw Daniel running to catch up to me.

“Hi,” he said as he stopped beside me, “Going my way?”

I just laughed and said, “Yep.”

We walked in silence for a few minutes when he asked, “So how did your parents find out?”

“They found out this summer,” I replied, “I think the picture of a dick, some lips, and the word fag painted on the garage door gave me away.”

“Oh fuck, that would do it,” he said, “How did they take it? I mean, I know they’re okay now, or they wouldn’t be raising hell with Setter, but when they first found out.”

“They weren’t too happy about the art work,” I said with a chuckle, “But they were cool with me being gay…just not the way they found out.”

“My folks fucking freaked,” he said, “If I hadn’t been able to outrun my dad, I think he would have killed me.”

“Fuck man,” I responded, “I’m so sorry.”

“I really thought they’d be okay with it,” he said, “I mean my cousin is gay and they never treated him bad.”

“Yeah, but I guess your son being gay is different than you nephew being gay,” I said.

“It shouldn’t be,” he said, “You should love your own kid more than some nephew you only see once every five years.”

“No shit,” I replied, “Parent’s love especially, should be unconditional.”

“I don’t know why being gay is such a big fucking deal anyway,” he remarked, “It’s just about who we love. It’s not like we’re hurting anyone.”

“Yeah but if you listen to all these evangelical haters, we have some global agenda to recruit their kids into the homosexual lifestyle,” I said.

“That’s so much bullshit,” he stated, “How stupid are they? Can’t they read? I mean it’s a fact that you can’t be turned gay or choose to be gay. You’re born gay.”

“Don’t forget they’re religious fanatics,” I said, “Science and common sense don’t enter into it for them. They don’t even believe what the whole Bible says, just the bits they like. I mean how many times did Christ command people to love one another, not ask…but command, and still all they do is hate.”

“Yeah I guess,” he replied, “But all their ‘God hates fags’ and gay agenda shit just makes bullies think they have a right to torment us.”

“That’s the hardest part,” I said, “Trying to deal with their shit.”

“Well we just need to be stronger than they are,” he said with determination, “We know we deserve every right they have. We also know anything worth having is worth fighting for.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” I said, “But I’m not a very good fighter.”

“Well after what Keon told me went down with Setter, I think you and you’re team are doing okay,” he said with a chuckle, “You gotta admit today was a whole different day.”

“Maybe,” I said smiling, “Today was definitely a change from the last several weeks that’s for sure.”

“That’s because they know you and your family won’t take their shit,” he stated emphatically, “They know now if they fuck with you, they’re the ones who’ll get fucked over. And you got Keon’s crew on your side too.”

“And you,” I said grinning and he just grinned back.

“This is my stop,” he said as we found ourselves standing in front of a rather big two story house, “It’s been cool talking to you.”

“Yeah it has,” I replied, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

As Daniel turned and walked up the driveway into the group home, I smiled as I thought to myself, ‘I don’t have to wonder about that one other thing we might have in common any more.”

When I mentioned Daniel to Mom and Dad, Mom immediately told me I should invite him over for Thanksgiving dinner. I had to admit that I had thought about it, but we had only known each other for like half a day. I also had to admit that I kinda liked him…but still…we had only actually talked to each other for like an hour and a half. Needless to say, Daniel was the last thing I thought about as I fell asleep.

The next morning, as I was walking to school, Keon suddenly appeared beside me. “Mornin’” he said.

“Mornin’” I replied.

“So ready for another fun day of learnin’?” he asked.

“Of course,” I replied laughing, “Can’t think of a better way to waste a day.”

When we walked past the group home, Daniel was waiting on the front steps. As soon as he saw us he jumped up and started down the driveway. And, as soon as Keon saw him, I got a jab in the ribs and a big grin from him.

“Mornin’ guys,” Daniel said as he met up with us at the end of the driveway.

“Mornin’” we both replied.

Jerry joined us as we passed his street and the four of us simply chatted about this and that as we made our way to the school, something I hadn’t done with anyone since last year.

The day turned out to be just as good as the day before. I had lunch with Keon, Jerry and the guys again. This time, Daniel joined us. As we sat there, I couldn’t help but smile. Things were looking up. The bullying had stopped. I was making new friends to replace the ones who had deserted me, friends who knew about me and liked me anyway. I also had a friend like me who seemed to like me and I liked that.

On the way home Keon and Jerry walked with us. They were on their way to Jerry’s, so they turned off about a block from Daniel’s.

“Uh, Thanksgiving is this weekend and we’ve got family coming over,” I said quietly as we stood outside his house, “Mom was wondering if you would like to come over as well. There’s going to be enough food to feed an army and as much as I hate to admit it, Mom’s a fantastic cook.”

“Seriously?” he asked, “You told your folks about me?”

“Uh, yeah,” I said feeling a little embarrassed.

“I’d love to come over,” he said with a big grin, “When?”

“We’re doing the whole ‘Thanksgiving dinner’ thing on Sunday about 1:00, but you can come over anytime…Saturday, Sunday, Monday.”

He just gave me this huge grin before he quickly leaned over and gave me a little peck on the cheek, “Cool, and we have all day tomorrow to work out a plan,” he said, before he turned and ran up the driveway.

I could still feel his lips on my cheek as I walked up our driveway and into the back yard. Apparently, a stupid grin had formed on my face as I walked the rest of the way home, because as soon as Mom saw me on the deck, she had a stupid grin on her face too.

“So I take it Daniel will be coming over this weekend?” she questioned as I walked into the kitchen.

“Uh…yeah,” I replied still grinning.

“Do we need to have ‘the talk’?” she asked, laughing now.

“No we don’t” I stated with more than a little indignation, “You and I will NEVER need to have ‘the talk’, ever.” She just laughed even harder and told me to get my homework done and dinner would be in a couple of hours, like that hadn’t been the routine for the past five years.

When we did sit down for dinner Dad filled me in on what was going on. Teacher number four had been given the choice of resigning, which would allow him to get a teaching job elsewhere, or being terminated, which would make finding a teaching job anywhere else almost impossible. Apparently he was as stupid as he was arrogant and homophobic because he refused to resign. He said his personal beliefs were none of the school board’s business. They informed him that they didn’t care about his personal beliefs unless they put students at risk. In my case, they had, and he was terminated.

As far as Kyle was concerned, he had been charged with assault with intent to injure and wilful damage to private property, my backpack and calculator…and our garage door. When the police searched his parent’s house and garage, they found cans of red and black spray paint. All they had to do was match it to the samples taken from our garage door. Of course we would have to wait for him to go to court and be found guilty before we could go after him for repayment of damages. But that was a given, at least as far as my attack. There would be thirteen witness, including me, testifying against him and zero testifying for him.

The third thing that came from all of this was that the school board ordered every teacher in the division to attend a three-day seminar on bullying. A letter also went out to every teacher, to make sure they understood that any action or non-action they took, that led to any compromise of a student’s safety or well-being would result in instant termination, whether they had tenure or not. It had to be signed and returned to the board chairman by the end of the week. It seems Uncle George had been busy.

When I told the guys on the way to school the next day, they couldn’t have been happier. Daniel almost gave me a hug right in front of the school. He and I did manage to make some plans for the weekend. We had our English class in which we were given time to discus our essay…we didn’t. And we had time at lunch. I think Keon and the guys already had us figured as a couple. Harry was having some friends over Friday night to celebrate the long weekend. He and his dad had moved everything out of the basement except the stereo system and his mom had made gallons of punch and done a ton of baking. It was going to be ‘dance till you drop’. He glanced at Daniel and I and grinned when he mentioned it was couples only so bring a date.

So now, we had plans for Friday night. Saturday would be the mall and a long walk through Glenmore Park. Sunday would be Thanksgiving with the family. And Monday would be skateboarding at Millennium Park with Keon, Jerry and a couple of guys, Manny and Dave, from the group home, and a free concert on Prince’s Island.

On the way home from school, we stopped at Daniel’s and filled Gene and Kathy, the house parents, in on our plans. They were two of the nicest people I’ve ever met and they were actually honestly thrilled for Daniel. It was actually kinda sweet when Daniel ran upstairs to change, they both said that he had had enough hurt in his young life and I better be good to him. I’m not sure what Daniel had told them but they obviously saw me as the boyfriend, or soon to be boyfriend. When he came down the stairs, he almost missed the last three steps and took us both out, but he managed to grab the railing and slow himself down at the last minute. We both got a hug from Kathy as we left and we were on our way to my place for dinner and then a night of ‘dancing till we dropped’.

When we got to my place, Mom almost tripped over herself being nice to Daniel. It was actually funny to watch her. Daniel couldn’t have been happier either. Dad was just as gracious when he got home. Dinner was amazing, both the food and the conversation. I had told Mom and Dad his story, so they were very careful not to bring up any ‘family’ chatter or questions which, I know he appreciated. After dinner, I showed him my room and my MP3 and movie collection on my laptop. Within about five minutes, he was making a list in his head of the ones he wanted to put on his Ipod and his own laptop. We made plans for a day to do that. By 8:00 we were ready to head over to Harry’s.

On the way to Harry’s he said, “Oh my God, your mom and dad are so cool. I can’t believe it.”

“Yeah, they have their moments,” I said laughing.

“No seriously,” he said, “I mean they totally accept you and they totally accepted me.”

“Why wouldn’t they?” I asked.

“Well it’s one thing to accept your son being gay,” he said, “But, within a couple of days, to accept he has….” and he hesitated.

“A boyfriend,” I finished for him.

“You’re cool with that?” he asked.

“Oh yeah,” I replied, “very cool,” and I laced my fingers through his, at which point, his grin could have lit up the city.

“It’s just that it’s like three days.” he said, “and I don’t want you to feel like I’m rushing you.”

“Not to worry,” I said smiling, “I felt something special from the moment you pushed your desk over beside mine.” He just squeezed my hand grinned even more.

There were already about fifteen people at Harry’s when we got there. His mom met us at the door and showed us the way to the basement where everyone was already dancing. As soon as we appeared, Harry showed us where the punch and baked goodies were, told us to have fun, and disappeared back into the middle of the room. We poured ourselves some punch and watched everyone dance for a few minutes. I know we were both a little nervous because we would be the only guy-guy couple on the floor. Finally, Daniel took my hand and led me out into the crowd and we started to dance. Within a few minutes, we had forgotten about everyone else, and were focused on each other and having a great time. That is until I felt someone bump into me. My first thought was, ‘please, not here, not now.’ When I turned to see who it was, it was Keon with a big grin on his face. I gave him a thump on the shoulder and his grin just got bigger.

As we were dancing, more and more kids showed up. By ten o’clock, there must have been twenty-five or thirty kids there. We decided to take a break to get some more punch and some cookies. That was when Daniel poked me and kinda pointed towards the kids dancing. It took me a few seconds, but then I saw them. It was Clark and James, two guys from our English class. Apparently, we weren’t the only gay couple there. When Clark saw us looking, he poked James and they both gave us a big grin and a little wave. When we returned to the floor and started dancing again, they moved over and began to dance with us. It was so cool. In fact they danced with us for the rest of the night. At midnight, Harry’s dad flicked the lights. The music stopped and the party was over. After everyone had a couple more glasses of punch and a half dozen more cookies, they thanked Harry and his folks and began to leave.

Clark and James left with us and we walked together for a ways.

“You two look so good together,” James said as we walked along.

“Thanks,” I said, “You too.”

“Hey, look we’re so sorry about the shit you had to put up with,” Clark said, “We wanted so badly to stand up for you, but we’re not out to anyone except the guys here and we were scared to. I know that’s no excuse though.”

“Hey,” I replied, “Don’t worry about it. I’m not sure I would have had the balls to out myself for me either. And your secret stays with us. There’s no way we’ll out you.”

“Thanks,” James said quietly, “But I think maybe it’s time. We’ve both been agonizing about coming out for nearly a year now. Thanks to you, things have changed around school already. It’s a whole new ballgame.”

“You don’t know the half of it,” I said, “It’s great having a lawyer for an uncle. Jackson (teacher number four) is gone, Kyle has been charged with assault and damaging personal property, the teachers are being read the riot act about how to deal with bullies and what will happen to their careers if they don’t. It’s great.”

“It’s about fucking time too,” Daniel said, “Not just for us, but all the kids who’ve had their lives turned to shit by assholes like Kyle.”

“Well you may not know it yet,” Clark said with a smile, “But, nobody has been bullied since you went after Kyle. You’re a hero to a lot of kids right now.”

“I’m no hero,” I responded, “That was Keon. He stood up for me and went with me to tell my mom and dad and my uncle. If he hadn’t been there for me, I’d still probably be taking Kyle’s shit.”

“Keon may have been there to support you, but you still stepped up and put your ‘gay’ neck out there,” James stated grinning.

“Maybe,” I replied, “But I’m still no hero. I just told the right people and they took it from there.”

“Well whatever,” Daniel put in, “You were the starting point. Kyle fucked with YOU and now life is different for dozens of kids, including us.”

“Daniel’s right,” Clark said, “Hero or no hero, it started with you and we’re all grateful you did something to change things…or Keon, your mom, dad and uncle did. Whatever. Okay? And this is our turn off so we’ll see you guys on Tuesday. Have a great Thanksgiving.”

“Okay thanks,” I said, “You guys have a great Thanksgiving too. Good night.”

Daniel and I continued on to his place. We were both pretty tired after dancing for four hours and talked out after talking to Clark and James. Not too tired to hold hands all the way though. When we got to the front door, Daniel gave me more than a quick peck on the cheek. In fact it took us the better part of fifteen minutes to say goodnight. I don’t think my feet touched the ground all the way home.

Eleven o’clock Saturday morning I woke up with lips pressed against mine. Hmmm, not a bad way to wake up. The first words I heard weren’t too bad either, “Mornin’ Babe.”

“Mornin’ too you too,” I replied as I opened my eyes.

I won’t bore you with a play-by-play of our trip to the mall. Suffice it to say, it was a trip to the mall. We did have a blast at the arcade and ate some seriously unhealthy fast food. Our walk through Glenmore park however was something special. It was long and romantic. We held hands the whole time and, although we met up with or passed lots of other walkers, no one made a comment. In fact we even got a few smiles and nods. We saw tons of squirrels, a couple of coyotes, and even a black bear off in the distance. The canoes and kayaks were out in full force and it was fun to watch them race, practice rollovers, and stuff. We packed some food and sat on the water’s edge to rest and enjoy a quiet lunch. Best of all though was the conversation. We talked about everything. Being kids, realizing we were gay, coming out and it’s consequences, where we want to be ten or twenty years from now, and we talked about us. It was one of the most relaxing, fulfilling, comforting, days of my life. The more we walked, the more we talked, the more I realized what a caring, genuine, sweet person Daniel was, and the more I fell in love him.

Sunday was a different story. Sunday gave a whole new meaning to the word hectic. Mom was running around getting everything ready. Dad was trying to hide so he wouldn’t get swept up in Mom’s frantic activities. Daniel had come over early but he and I didn’t have Dad’s expertise and we found ourselves smack bang in the middle of it all. We made salads, we whipped cream and made several kinds of desserts, we set the table, changed the table cloth and set it again, we washed dishes, we searched for just the right bowl or serving tray, we vacuumed the floor…twice, we made table decorations, and finally, we got to change clothes and wait for people to arrive so we could greet them and show them in.

Grandma and Grandpa Skipsted were the first to show up. After hugs and handshakes, we showed them into the living room and offered them a drink. That’s also about the time Dad reappeared and sat down to visit with them. Uncle George and Aunt Sally were next and we did the hugs, handshake, drinks thing again. And so it went for Grandma and Grandpa Kelly and Kris, Leo, and Josh who showed up several minutes later.

Last, but not least, Uncle Paul and Uncle Jessie, or Paul and Jessie as they preferred to be called, arrived. As soon as they saw Daniel, big grins formed on their faces and he got two of the biggest hugs I think he has ever had. My turn was next. Somehow, we never made it to the living room. Instead, we ended up on the back deck. We were out there for about two minutes before Kris, Leo, and Josh joined us. Chatting with the old folks just didn’t do it for them either. They all wanted to know how I was making out, was I still getting hassled, how did Daniel and I meet, and so on. We gave them the short version of everything from the initial bullying, to losing friends, to Keon stepping in and gaining a whole new group of friends, to Uncle George’s involvement, to Daniel sliding his desk next to mine, and where that took us. I guess I shouldn’t have been, but I was almost surprised by the support we got from Kris, Leo, and Josh. I guess their dad had kept them up to date on a lot of what was going on and, thanks to Paul and Jessie, gay couples were nothing new to them.

Mom had to actually call us three times before we finally got up and headed for the dining room. Now our dining room was not set up for large groups. So the kids usually had their own table in the kitchen. This time, since the weather was so nice we decided to eat on the deck. Much to the chagrin of the grandparents, so did Paul and Jessie. We talked about my summer with them, found out what Kris, Leo, and Josh were up to, got in a few digs, joked and laughed until we hurt. Daniel was right in there having the time of his life. It was without doubt the best Thanksgiving ever. And, unlike the last few years, Kris, Leo, and Josh didn’t leave the first chance they got. Instead, they stayed all day, right up to the evening leftovers and ice cream. When I walked Daniel home around 11:00 he was still smiling.

“You have the most awesome family,” he said as we walked along, “Even your grandparents are cool and fun to talk to.”

“Yeah, I guess I’m pretty lucky,” I replied.

When we got to his place, we sat on the bench on the veranda for close to an hour, cuddling, kissing, talking about the day, and just enjoying each other’s presence. I truly couldn’t remember ever being so happy. It was well after midnight before we finally said goodnight and I started home, a grin all over my face.

It was almost noon before I even began to stir Monday morning. When I finally did, Daniel was sitting on the edge of my bed just watching me. When I asked him why he didn’t wake me, he leaned in to give me a kiss.

“You looked so peaceful lying there sleeping,” he said quietly, “I could sit and watch you for hours.”

All I could do was whisper, “Thanks,” which got me another very sweet gentle kiss.

A half hour later, I was showered and ready to go, and as soon as we finished breakfast, we were on our way to Millennium Park. When we got there, Keon, Jerry, Manny and Dave, were already there along with about fifty other kids. It wasn’t long before we were challenging each other with various skateboarding tricks. Manny and Dave were unbelievably skilled. I thought I was pretty good but, half the time, I just watched them in awe. Daniel and I did learn several new tricks though and we had a blast. After a few hours, we made our way along the river front to Prince’s Island but not before stopping at Eau Claire Market for food and drinks. Once we found a good spot in front of the stage, we flopped down on the lawn to listen to the bands. It included a number of local bands just starting out. For new bands, they were pretty awesome. One called Angry Little Kids was made up of five kids no older than twelve, and they were as good as any band I’ve heard on radio or seen on You Tube.

A couple of hours of listening to the bands, and we were on our way back to Millennium. A couple of hours and a couple of bruises later and we on our way home for dinner…dinner and homework. Unfortunately there would be school tomorrow. We all headed for my place first. Dad had promised us a bar-b-que before we hit the books. After the active day we had had, I think we all ate our own weight in burgers, potato salad, and hot dogs. About 7:00 the guys all headed home except Daniel. He and I were going to finish our English assignment…the assignment that had brought us together in the first place. We thought it deserved our best effort. A lot of writing and a little chemistry later and we were relaxing on the deck with a huge glass of Mom’s punch chatting with Mom and Dad about the weekend and how great it had been. By 10:00 we were wandering slowly back to Daniel’s place. After a, once again, lengthy goodnight kiss or two or three or…I was wandering slowly back home.

As I was walking, I was thinking that, two weeks ago, thanksfuckinggiving didn’t mean shit to me. Now, I was happier than I could ever remember being and I had so much to be thankful for. I had gone from being the bullied school faggot with no friends…to being an undeserving hero to the downtrodden…to being accepted, by those who matter…to having lots of new friends…and above all…to being well on the way to having the worlds most adorable, sweetheart for a boyfriend.

Why? Because one kid had stepped in to help a bullied kid and had stood by that bullied kid to give him the confidence to fight back. A Thanksgiving thank you Keon and to all the ‘Keons’ of this world.