Chapter 20
Brittle as a Bird
“This is breathtaking,” said Allen. We were standing on the shore of Sullivan Lake. I
was behind him, as the setting sun silhouetted his naked body. I don’t think I’d
ever seen anything so beautiful.

I walked up, put my arms around him and caressed his soft skin. He had put on
weight over the past few months, and his body was firm and lean. He looked now
as I imagined him in high school.

“Mmmm,” he purred as he pushed himself against my rapidly growing cock. We’d
made love twice, but I was ready to go again. I reached down, grabbed his hard
cock in my hand and stroked it.

“I love you,” I whispered in his ear. He turned and our erections pressed against
each other as we kissed. He led me over to the blanket and we lay down, him on
top of me.

“I never thought I could ever feel this way,” he said as he kissed me again.

We had spent the past two hours making love. Our bodies had melted into each
other, and we had shared a love that had been repressed for years. When he
entered me for the first time, tears of joy ran down my cheeks as I thrust my body
against his and begged for more. When he pulled out, I immediately missed his
closeness and the togetherness we had shared.

For months, I had been afraid that when we made love, our feelings would be
diminished because of his health. However, it made them greater. I think because
we weren’t having sex with wild abandon, and we did have to be safe, it made us
go slower, and thereby intensifying our feelings.

After slowly stripping me, he had roamed his tongue sensuously over my body.
There wasn’t a part of me he didn’t explore. It was something I had never
experienced. Before, my main motive had been to get a guy off, collect my money
and go home. With Allen, however, I wanted the feelings to last forever.

We touched, kissed and licked each other’s body for an hour. I was literally begging
him when he finally rolled a condom over his cock and penetrated me. When he
pulled out and came on my chest, it only took about five strokes of his hand before
our cum was mingled together. Afterwards, we lay back and looked skyward as we
came down from our emotional high.

After resting, we ran to the lake and played together as little kids. I kept grabbing
him and pulling him into the water. It wasn’t a playfulness, but a need. I wanted
my arms around him. I needed to feel his warmth. And I desired to express my
love for him.

When we had rested, he led me back to the blanket and then I made love to him.
Again, we entwined our bodies as I entered him. He whimpered and moaned as I
thrust into him. I literally saw stars when I later erupted on his chest.

“God, Joey,” he muttered as he straddled me. He leaned in and kissed me. I
grabbed his cock and began to slowly stroke him. He threw his head back and
moaned. Minutes later, he shot another small load onto my chest.

“Come on.” I grabbed his hand and pulled him to his feet. We ran together and
jumped back into the lake to wash ourselves off. It was now that we were standing
side by side watching the setting sun.

“I wish today never had to end,” I remarked. He turned and looked at me.

“I was just thinking the same thing,” he replied. “This has been the best day of my
life.” He took my hand and squeezed it. We returned to the blanket and sat naked
as the sun disappeared on the horizon.

We dressed and then headed for home. Home was his apartment. I had been
staying there regularly since I was working at the cleaners below his apartment. I
would usually return a couple of days a week to Ticker’s house, but those times
were becoming less frequent. Now that our love had gone to a new level, I was
looking forward to spending my evenings sharing his bed, instead of sleeping on
the sofa.

On the way home we stopped at the bridge where we had first met. Now it seemed
years ago. We looked over the side at the rapidly flowing water. Neither of us said
a word for several minutes.

Allen turned and looked at me. “This is where it all began,” he said thoughtfully.
“Who knew months ago, that two lonely guys looking for a way out would meet
and fall in love?”

“Things have really changed since then,” I replied as I took his hand and held it.
“You told me that day to jump and I did.” He gave me a puzzled look. “I jumped
right into your life.”

“I’m glad you did.” We embraced and kissed. In Allen’s arms, the lapping of the
water against the banks sounded peaceful and soothing.



“Would you hold still.” Star was trying to straighten my tie. We were in the lobby of
the arena where our graduation ceremony was getting ready to take place.

“I’ve never worn a tie before,” I complained. “I feel like I’m being strangled.”

“You have to look good, Joey,” she reminded me. “You are giving a speech.” She
reached up and straightened the sashes that were draped around me, indicating
that I was a member of the National Honor Society.

Ticker walked up and whistled. “Don’t you look good?” He reached out and
straightened the cap on my head. I smiled when I saw the gown he was wearing.
The largest size available was an extra large, so it was snug around his large body.

“Do you have your speech?” Star asked worriedly. I reached into my back pants
pocket and showed it to her. I had been working on it for two weeks. For years, I
had planned to give a speech filled with hatred for the students who had tormented

But the past year had been a different experience. I still wasn’t popular, but
students treated me with respect. I think Gene had a lot to do with that. Even
though we weren’t good friends, he did socialize with me occasionally at school.
Other students followed his lead and treated me better. I hadn’t heard the word fag
once my senior year.

As if on cue, Gene walked up and put his hand on my back. “Are you ready, Mr.
Valedictorian?” I looked at him and nodded nervously.

By being valedictorian of my senior class, I received a full scholarship to the local
state college. I had been saving the money I made working, and I was set to begin
in the fall. Gene had been accepted on an  athletic scholarship to a university in
another state. Star had been accepted to the same school I was attending. Ticker
had applied, but he still hadn’t received a confirmation. I kept telling him not to
worry. However, he was afraid if he didn’t get accepted, then he and Star would
have to attend different schools.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, please line up.” Mr. Walters was running around nervously
trying to get everyone in their proper line. Since I was valedictorian I was to lead
the others into the arena.

“Good luck,” said Star as she tiptoed to kiss me on my cheek. Ticker and Gene
reached out and shook my hand.

“Show time,” I laughed nervously.

Mr. Walters walked over and pulled me out of line. “Can I talk to you for just a
second?” He led me about ten feet away from the other students.

“I may not have time to tell you later,” he said as he stood before me. “I’ve never
had a student I have been more proud of. There was a time when I was afraid I
wouldn’t see you standing there in line.” Both of us were blinking away tears.

“But you stuck in there, and tonight is your night. I really wish you all the best that
life has to offer.”

I reached out and threw my arms around him. “Thanks, Mr. Walters.” I whispered
in his ear. “Thanks for being here for me.” He squeezed me tightly, and then I
walked back and took my place in line just as the first bars of Pomp and
Circumstance began to play.

I was nervous as I approached the podium. Mr. Walters had announced me with a
glowing introduction. It surprised me when my classmates stood and applauded. I
became overcome with emotion when I looked into the stands and saw Allen sitting
beside his mother. He was smiling down so proudly at me. Tears filled my eyes
when he gave me a thumb’s up.

Since we had rehearsed the graduation exercises several times, I was able to
easily find Ticker and Star. Whenever I needed encouragement to continue, I’d
look down at them for strength.

“As we stand here looking down the road to a new beginning, let us not forget the
roads we’ve already traveled. Nor let us ever forget the people who walked beside
us on the journey to where we are today.”

As I was completing my speech, I was looking around the filled arena. Suddenly, a
lone figure captured my attention. I squinted to make out the figure. It was my
mother! She had attended my graduation.

Choked with emotion, I was able to conclude my speech and returned to my seat.
Once there, I broke down in tears. A girl to my left put her arm around me and
held me as I cried. I had regained my composure by the time my name was called
to receive my diploma. When Dr. Hatfield placed it in my hands, I held it up and
it for my mother to see. I watched as she wiped tears from her eyes.

After the recessional, I left the lobby without talking to anyone and ran to the
bleachers, searching for my mother. I finally saw here just before she was ready to
exit the doors.

“Mother!” I shouted. Her body tensed when she heard me call her name. She
turned and looked down as I approached.

“I’m glad you came,” I said softly. She looked up at me with a tear-stained face.
She stiffened when I leaned forward and hugged her. She kept her arms to her

She looked up at me as tears began to roll down her face. “I’m proud of you, Joey.”

She opened her purse and fumbled around inside. She pulled out an envelope and
handed it to me. “I was hoping I could give you this.”

I started to open it, but she stopped me. “Open it later. I have to leave. Your
father doesn‘t know I’m here.” She touched my arm gently, and the she
disappeared through the door.

I put the envelope in my pocket and returned to the lobby to find Ticker and Star.
Allen’s parents had reserved a table at a very expensive restaurant for a post-
graduation celebration.

Later, alone in Ticker’s room, I opened the envelope. It contained a debit card to a
savings account in a local bank. My mother had written me a note telling me how
proud she was of me. She said she had been saving small amounts since I was five,
and she had deposited the money periodically in a savings account in my name.
She wanted me to use the money for my college education. The account contained


                                                   The Epilogue

“Happy Birthday, Mr. Carpenter, Happy Birthday to you!”  

Twenty-two smiling fifth graders were standing around me singing very off-key. In
front of me was a large cake with my name on it. Instead of placing thirty five
candles on the cake, they had one large candle- a big yellow Mickey Mouse figure.

“Blow it out and make a wish,” one of the students shouted. They giggled when I
sucked in a breath of air and held it for as long as I could before finally blowing out
the candle.

Another student asked, “What did you wish for?”

“If I tell you, it won’t come true,” I responded.

“Here, Mr. Carpenter.” Angela, one of my students, walked up with a present
hidden behind her back. “Open it up. It’s from all of us.”

I couldn’t help but smile at the anxious looks on their faces. To add to the
excitement, I took longer than usual opening the gift. They had given me a coffee
mug that read, World’s Best Teacher.

“Thank you,” I said appreciatively. “Now I have to go out and buy glasses that say,
World’s Best Students. They grinned and giggled.

“Cake and ice cream,” hollered out a student’s mother. She winked at me when the
students ran over to the table, grabbed a plate and started devouring the cake.

“Thanks. Now I’ll have to handle twenty two kids on a sugar high all afternoon,”    
I laughed.

She replied, “If anyone can handle it, you can.”

After eating, I dismissed them to go to the playground for recess. One of my
colleagues had agreed to supervise them while I took a break. She said it was my
birthday gift from her. Of course, I had to promise to do the same when her
birthday rolled around in a couple of months.

I walked over to the table and looked down at the remaining slices of cake. I
turned the gold band on my finger as I thought back to when I had my first
birthday party at Ticker’s house when I was eighteen. My world had changed a lot
since that time so long ago.

I lost Allen two years ago. He got sick with the flu and ended up in the hospital. He
developed pneumonia, and he was put on a respirator. Years earlier, we had drawn
up living wills. It was his wish to die peacefully at our home if that moment ever
came. I was holding his hand when he took his last breath.

His stepfather visited him about three days before he died. It surprised me when
he walked into the bedroom and looked sadly down at Allen. Allen looked up and
forced a weak smile. I quietly left the room. When I returned later, his stepfather
was sitting on the bed rocking Allen in his arms. He never again left his side. After
Allen died, Mr. Albright got up, walked over to the window and opened it. He then
turned, came over to me clutched me in his arms as we cried together.

Allen defined who I am today. His love and overwhelming support made me the
man I became. Looking back, I wouldn’t change anything. I guess because we both
knew that our time together was limited, we lived each day fully and never wasted
a precious moment.

Ticker and Star tell me it’s time to move on, but I’m not ready for that yet. Allen
was my life for fifteen years, and his love is wrapped tightly around my heart. I
want it to stay there, at least for a little while longer.  I know I’ll probably love
again some day, but to do that means I’ll lose a part of Allen. Right now, I’m not
ready to let him go.

I cry myself to sleep each night, but they are not tears of sadness. They are tears
of joy. I’m glad I had the chance to love, to experience a life with Allen, as brief as
it may have been. I may love again, but I’ll never love as deeply.

Allen is still with me. I know it each time I look into the sky and see the stars at
night. He’s the warmth I feel on a sunny day and the chill on a cold, winter night.
He’s the smile on a stranger’s face, and he’s the giggle of one of my students. He
taught me how to feel life and make the most of each day.

Because of that love, I can get up each day and face life without him. I know he
would want me to. So when I return the smile to a stranger, I share it with him.
When I am amused by a child’s giggle, he’s there with me, smiling as well. Allen
will always be a part of me.

Ticker and Star married three years after graduation. They were going to wait until
they finished college, but they couldn’t bear being apart for so long. I was the best
man at their wedding. The big lug dressed up nicely. I cried when Star walked
down the aisle holding her father’s arm. I don’t think I’d ever seen anything more

I am the godfather to their two children. They have a nine year old daughter
named JoEllen. Her name is a combination of mine and Allen’s name. She is
beautiful like her mother, but then again I’m prejudiced. She calls me Uncle Joey.
They have a seven year old son named Jeffrey. After all the years I’d known him, I
didn’t know that was Ticker’s middle name. Star wanted to name him Albert,
Ticker’s actual first name; but Ticker said he’d always hated his name and he didn’t
want to have his son be stuck with a name he himself didn’t like. It doesn’t matter
anyway, because everyone calls him Booger. I’ll let you figure that one out.

Ticker is also a teacher. He teaches English at the same high school we attended.  
He’s put on even more weight since then, so the kids have affectionately named
him Giant. He loves teaching, but kids today are more difficult than when we were
in school. He comes home exhausted most nights.

Star works for an interior design company. She majored in computer
programming; but after a few jobs that she found boring, she ended up doing
something she really enjoyed. She helped decorate our home. She and Allen
conspired and kidded me about having a pink living room. At first, I threw a fit
until they started laughing. She ended up giving us a pink flamingo figurine which
we put on a table in the foyer. It is the first thing people see when they enter our

I attended the local state college and decided to get a degree in elementary
education. I think that day I helped Ticker with his math, and he said I’d make a
good teacher made me realize that was what I really wanted to do. I had received
a master’s degree in school administration, and I was working on my doctorate
when Allen died. Everyone was trying to convince me to go back and continue my
education, but I really wanted to remain in the classroom. I felt it was where I was
needed most.

Gene went to California to play college football. He did very well. He was scouted
by a couple of professional teams, but he was never drafted. Instead, he remained
there and married a girl he met while attending college. Today, he works for a
pharmaceutical company as a district manager. It allows him to do a great deal of

We usually see him and his wife, Tina, at Christmas each year. On a few of those
visits, he stayed at our home. They have no children, although it was obvious Tina
wants a family. Allen told me once he didn’t want children because he didn’t want
to bring them into a bad situation. He never explained what he meant by it, but I’
m sure I understood.

He still looks remarkably handsome. It was as if time didn’t affect him. But
inwardly, he seems hollow. I look into his blue eyes and I see the reflection of
sadness. He has everything a man could want, yet he appears to have nothing. His
life has become an empty shell, and he seems resigned to accepting it.

He flew back for Allen’s funeral and stayed with me. We sat up all night talking. He
told me he was envious of what Allen and I had shared. After talking with him, I
realized he’d locked his heart away and denied himself love and happiness. I felt
pity for him, realizing he got up each day and did what was expected of him. He
had lived his entire life like that, and he had resolved to continue doing so. It
seems like such a tragedy. He still calls occasionally, but our conversations usually
depress me. I hope that someday he’ll be able to live happily, but I don’t think he

“Watcha doing, Mr. Carpenter?” Eddie interrupted me from my thoughts when he
came bounding in the room and looked up at me. I smiled when he reached out
and ran his finger along the cake pan, scooped  up the left over icing and licked it

Eddie had been an introverted student who I took under my wing the first day of
school. He was rather small, and he was an easy target for the larger boys. With
his long brown hair that covered his forehead and his big, beautiful brown eyes, he
was rather effeminate in his appearance.

At the beginning of the school year, he sat in the back of the room and isolated
himself from the other students. When I’d look back at his little body sitting
drooped over in his seat, he reminded me of another boy who twenty four years
earlier had shut himself off from the world. Slowly, I tried to include him in our
classroom activities, and I was able after several weeks to gain his trust.

His trust was cemented the day I saw a larger boy push him into a wall and call
him a fag. Without mentioning names, I spent an hour that afternoon with my
students sitting around me on the floor explaining to them about discrimination. I
explained that there were words that weren’t acceptable to call each other, and
that bullying others was something I wouldn’t tolerate. At the end of the day, when
the other students had left, Eddie came up to me and wrapped his small arms
around my waist. He held me for a minute, burying his head into my chest before
turning and leaving out the door.

Nothing was said, but I understood everything that wasn’t said. I thought how
different my life would have been if someone had taken the time when I was his
age to stop other children from picking on me. After that, I carefully watched how
other students treated him, and I would only interfere if I thought someone had
violated the rules I had laid down that day. Eddie had over time, moved to the
front of the class, and he was one of my better students. I know teachers are not
supposed to have favorites, but I can’t resist  the charms of my brown-haired,
brown-eyed little Eddie.

“Happy Birthday, Mr. Carpenter.” Eddie put his small arms around me and gave
me a hug. Suddenly, he pulled back and said, “Wait a minute. I made you a
present.” He ran over to his book bag and pulled out a piece of paper. He ran back
over to me with a wide grin on his face.

“I made this for you last night,” he said timidly as he handed me the paper. “It’s a
birthday card.” Tears fell from my cheeks when I saw what he had drawn. It was a
picture of him holding my hand as we stood before a beautiful rainbow.

This story is dedicated to the memories of Danny and Jamaal, two
special people in my life who died during the writing of this story.

Read the sequel to Brittle as a Bird, A Bridge to Yesterday.

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