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SUMMARY: At a time of national turmoil, the lives of four boys become connected as each struggles to accept his sexuality and to address the challenges he faces in life. To the extent the boys succeed in coming to grips with those challenges and in doing the right thing, it may be in ways that prove surprising or troubling. While some events, locations and features have been moved forward or back in time for dramatic and other purposes, the story takes place during an era when prejudice against homosexuals is rampant and the gay revolution in America is still at its beginnings. You can find a longer synopsis of the entire story at my blog here. Please note that italics are typically used to indicate what a character is thinking or saying to himself.
WARNING: This story is intended for mature audiences only since it includes scenes that depict graphic sex and violence. While I realize people read stories like this for different reasons, you may be disappointed if you’re reading my story primarily for sexual content. There is some, which is why I’ve included the warning. But if sexual content is your primary focus, you may do better on a site like Nifty.
NOTICE: This story remains the property of the author and may not be reproduced in any form without written permission. It is protected by the copyright laws of the United States. You may download a single copy to read offline and to share with others as long as you credit me as the author, but you may not use this work for commercial purposes. You may not use any of the characters, bars or other fictional locations described in the story in your own work without my explicit permission. Nor may you use, alter, transform, or build upon this story in any way.
AUTHOR NOTES: This is my first effort at writing a story. Comments and constructive criticism are welcome. Flames will be ignored. Any help with spelling and other errors would also be appreciated since I would like to correct those wherever possible. Feel free to leave a comment below or to contact me at kitkatkid[at]planetmail[dot]net if you would like to let me know what you think. Please note that this story is being archived on Nifty. However, individual chapters will always be published here first. Thanks for reading the story. I hope you enjoy it.
THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER: In Chapter 37, Tommy wants to smoke marijuana when he and Andy get back to the apartment. Andy agrees but only reluctantly, knowing that marijuana conjures up painful memories and weakens his inhibitions. While Tommy programs some music, Andy turns down the lights. Jesse makes an appearance once Andy is high, but disappears when Andy reaches out to touch him. Instead, Andy finds himself being led into the bedroom by Tommy. Tommy strips off Andy’s clothes, then his own. Andy helps Tommy get off. Then the two of them go to bed where they end up continuing their sexual encounter, an encounter that finds both of them increasingly aroused and turned on. Andy is surprised when Tommy doesn’t take their relationship to still another level that evening. Instead, the two of them fall asleep. In the morning, Tommy compliments Andy for staying in shape and then the two of them have breakfast together. After that Andy drives Tommy back into town, revealing some of his own insecurities to Tommy in the process. Tommy invites Andy to come back to the Café Palermo that evening to talk, but Andy is hesitant given the bar’s reputation. He lies about having a lot of work to do. That doesn’t fool Tommy, who realizes Andy is lying but doesn’t get angry with him. Instead, he wonders how the two will ever become friends if Andy is reluctant to spend time with him at the place Tommy usually hangs out. Andy heads off to Capitol Hill with a decision to make as to whether he will go back to the Palermo that evening, whether he really wants to get to know Tommy better.
“Come on, Josh, hurry up,” I yelled up the stairs. “I’m going to be late for work again if you don’t get that ass of yours in gear and get the hell down here.”
“I’m doing the best I can, Nolan,” Josh shouted back. “Hold your horses. I’m trying to find something clean to wear.”
It was like this all the time. The two of us were renting a townhouse in Friendship Heights, an upscale neighborhood in northwest Washington, but something would invariably come up every morning to delay our departure for work. It wasn’t always Josh’s fault, of course. I was just as guilty at times.
Sometimes it was all about sex. I would be in the mood when we woke up and end up seducing Josh. Other times he was the frisky one. It didn’t really matter who initiated it, of course, because both of us loved making love and would inevitably end up enjoying the experience. But it wasn’t always about sex either. This particular morning was typical.
Josh had spilled that last cup of coffee he was craving on his suit and now he was trying to find something to wear. Unlike me, however, Josh only had two suits appropriate for work and the other one was at the cleaners. So finding something suitable to wear was proving a challenge for him. I couldn’t help laughing at that.
Poor Josh, I remember thinking. If I didn’t insist on taking him shopping, the guy would never buy a new suit or anything else for that matter. He was totally clueless about clothes and stuff like that. And that’s one of the things I loved about him I guess. He helped balance me off. Without him, I probably would have spent a lot more on clothes than I did and I was already spending too much. But the job required it, of course, so I didn’t really have much of a choice.
“Come on, Josh,” I yelled still again. “I’m going to get my ass reamed by Harlen if I’m late getting in.”
“Reaming your ass is my job, Nolan,” Josh shouted back. “Tell Harlen to keep his hands off of that ass of yours. Besides, it’s not like it’ll be the first time you’ve ever been late.”
Late? What a joke!
How could I be late when I was already working sixty hours a week? That was already way too many hours as far as I was concerned. Yeah, sure, that included lunch and, like everyone else I knew, I did take long lunches. But lunch in Washington was never just about lunch. There was always some agenda at lunch; I mean, hell, that was one of the very first lessons Harlen had taught me. So, yeah, lunch counted too.
And why was I late for work when I was getting in by 8 a.m. at the latest every morning in any event? Most people in Washington didn’t get in until a lot later than that. Except for those idiots who lived out in the Virginia suburbs, of course, the ones who got up at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. every morning to beat the traffic and who were at their desks by 7 a.m. so they could leave every day by 3 p.m.
God, I was so glad I wasn’t one of those idiots.
I remember being ticked off when Harlen told me I should be getting into my office at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building no later than 7 a.m. every day.
“Why?” I had asked.
“Because anyone who wants to be a player in this Administration gets in by 7 a.m.,” he told me. “And they don’t leave before 7 p.m. at the earliest either.”
It was stupid, of course, totally stupid. Did getting in earlier help me get any more work done?
No, it most certainly didn’t. I was already having trouble filling in all the hours from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. with real work as it was, then coming in on Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons to show the flag and pretend I was busy.
Going from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. would mean even less time for Josh and me to have fun together. I resented that. We were already spending too little time together as far as I was concerned, and I knew Josh felt pretty much the same way. But he was being a saint about it as usual.
I remember smiling. It always came back to Josh.
To me it was pretty amazing the two of us were still together after all of these years. In fact, it was coming up on our sixth anniversary together. Who would have believed it? I made a note to myself to buy something special for Josh. We needed to celebrate that anniversary big time, I remember thinking.
Not that it had been easy, of course. Right from the beginning of our freshman year at Williams, we had our fair share of rough times. And I’m not even talking about the classes. Sure, the classes were exciting and challenging, no doubt about it; and they were hard, really hard. All of the other students were incredibly smart and a lot of them were intensely competitive as well. But you expected that. You knew the course work was going to be tough. It was some of the other stuff that came as a shock.
Don’t let anyone fool you. They can talk all they want about what a great experience going to college will be and yeah, sure, they were right about that. It was. But going to college can be tough as well and being a freshman was the hardest in some ways, at least for Josh and me. There are so many things you have to deal with like being away from home and your parents and being totally responsible for yourself for the first time in your life. To me that first year at Williams brought three main challenges.
The first was just getting used to living with someone else. Living together with someone in cramped quarters is always difficult, I suppose, especially if both of you were used to having your own space. It required both of us to make some adjustments. It could have been worse I suppose. Fortunately, both Josh and I were pretty neat. Neither of us liked living in a pig sty. Neither of us snored very much. We tried to be considerate of one another when it came to the belching and farting.
And there were side benefits, of course, lots of really terrific side benefits that made all of the adjusting worthwhile. We went at it pretty good those first couple of months, Josh and me. In fact, it was probably the thing that annoyed me most. Not the sex, of course; both of us loved the sex. But Josh was a bit lax when it came to trimming his toe nails at times and would occasionally nick me when we were going at it especially hard.
So that was one thing.
And then there were the friends, of course. We had different friends and that was a problem.
Josh’s friends were the athletes and the wannabe jocks, all of them macho and all of them suffering from excess testosterone as best I could tell. They liked Josh a lot and not just because he was a good athlete, although he was. They liked him because he was so damn modest; always focused on the team, always determined to give the other guy credit, never trying to tout his own talents, skills and abilities. He was a team player all the way.
They didn’t like me very much. I was too soft, too cute, too uninterested in sports. Too much the opposite of everything they were. One of his friends had even taken Josh aside at one point and suggested I might even be, well, you know, a little too swishy, maybe even a member of the opposing team.
They made me the butt of their jokes and did their best to humiliate me. It got to be too much for Josh so he finally gave up and just came out to them. Told them I was his boyfriend and they needed to respect that if they wanted to be his friends. I was surprised when he did it. He was taking a chance, but he didn’t like what they were doing to me.
He lost some of them with that little announcement. You always did. But it helped him to build a better relationship with his real friends on the teams. And the friends who remained started treating me better after that. I was glad. I didn’t have anything against them. They were Josh’s friends, after all, and anything Josh liked I liked as well.
My friends were different, of course. At first I had trouble figuring out who I should hang with at Williams, where I fit in exactly. But it quickly became apparent I fit in best with the literary types, the writers, the poets, the artists, and the wannabes. And fit in I did.
Being gay was certainly never a problem for them. A lot of them were gay as well. The problem was Josh. Josh was, well, he was just so damn athletic and jockish. At first they put it down to some inner fantasy of mine about being ravished by the all American boy. But it wasn’t long before it started to annoy some of them. Why was I spending so much time with this hick from Vermont who liked playing sports and didn’t know how to dress for a place like Williams?
Josh was pretty good about it. I give him credit for that. But it stated to get to me. I was annoyed they didn’t accept him, that whenever the two of us were together with them there would be those little slights, those snide, biting, little digs they were so good at. Like Josh, I got tired of it.
Look, I finally told them, Josh is my boyfriend. We’re a couple. If you don’t want him hanging around, fine. But I won’t be hanging around either.
I lost some friends in the process. You always did. But, like with Josh, the ones who remained turned out to be my real friends.
So that was the second thing.
But the biggest problem of all that first year was the cloud, of course, the one that seemed to descend over Josh out of the blue every once in a while.
When I had finally gotten up to the farm that previous June, it was there all the time and things were bad, really bad. Josh was thinking about that kid all the time, the one who had run away. He had trouble getting to sleep every night and would talk to me about the whole thing for what seemed like hours and hours. It was almost like he thought something would change if he just went over the same ground one more time and figured out what he had done wrong. He went over that ground again and again.
I did my best to help him work through it and he seemed to appreciate that a lot. He was always telling me how glad he was I was there with him and how much he appreciated me giving him a shoulder to cry on.
I don’t know how much being there helped. The truth is I don’t recall doing very much at all. Mostly what I remember doing was just listening to him, then hugging him until he fell asleep and holding him tight when he woke up at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. in the morning with night sweats.
It had gotten better by the time we got to Williams. Still, there times when I would come back to our place and find Josh just staring out the window at the leaves as they changed colors and then were blown away by the winds that swept down from the Berkshires.
I knew not to bother him right then, just like I knew he would eventually get up and go out for a walk. What I could never be sure of was how long he would be gone. Usually it was just for an hour or two, but sometimes he was gone for even longer than that. But I always made sure I was there when he got back to our place. I always made sure I had some kind of plan for doing something I knew both of us would enjoy, whether taking in a movie, having dinner at Jack’s, or whatever.
Like I said, it got better with time. I guess the memories faded for Josh; or maybe they just receded somewhere much deeper inside of him. But it definitely got better because, if anything, Josh became more loving to me, more anxious to make it good for me, more concerned with us as a couple. He was telling me he loved me more by then and I was beginning to see it in his eyes when he looked at me.
It helped because I had always wondered about Josh deep down inside. Had he told me he loved me that first August together because he did or because I just happened to be the person who was there when he finally decided he couldn’t take it anymore and needed to come out to someone?
By the middle of the second semester I knew the answer for sure. Josh loved me. And my own love for Josh had grown stronger as well for the experience. And so we had gotten through that first year at Williams together and our relationship was even stronger than ever.
Or at least I thought it was. It’s strange how you can want something so bad and then take it for granted once you finally have it in your grasp. I suppose that was the reason for the next crisis, the one in our sophomore year.
There was this freshman in one of my Lit classes who took a liking to me. He was out and he was cute, incredibly cute, and at first I was flattered he wanted to be friends with me. But it wasn’t long before I found myself falling under Billy’s spell. There was just something almost hypnotic that attracted me so much to Billy. I couldn’t figure it out, but it was real and it was powerful and I knew he was trying to seduce me. I mean, hell, I knew a thing or two about seduction by then.
Go ahead and try, I remember telling him early on. I already have a boyfriend and there’s no way you’ll ever succeed.
He just smiled at me when I told him that. I think it made the challenge more intriguing for Billy. And as the year progressed I found myself more and more drawn to him. I wasn’t really sure why.
What would be the harm? I thought. It’s only sex. It doesn’t mean I like Josh any less.
By the time spring rolled around I was all the way there, just waiting to be reeled in by Billy. Josh had decided to visit his Mom on one of those long weekend breaks we occasionally got. When I told Billy that, he had suggested we spend the weekend together. I knew what that meant, of course. I wasn’t stupid. But I had agreed nonetheless. He just smiled so damn coyly when I told him we could do that. He knew he had me by then.
The night before Josh was scheduled to leave we made passionate love. I needed him inside me so badly and I had insisted on him remaining inside me when the two of us fell asleep; except I never could get to sleep that night. I tossed and I turned and eventually Josh just slipped away.
I walked Josh over to the bus station the next morning. He was smiling at me, totally clueless I was about to betray him. When the bus finally arrived, he tossed his bag into the storage bin and then started to climb up the stairs.
“Josh,” I said, calling out. He turned around and looked over in my direction.
“What?” he replied, smiling at me.
“Josh, I want to, umm, I want to . . . .”
I couldn’t even finish the sentence.
“You want to what?” he finally asked, trying to help me out.
“I want to come,” I said. “I want to come up with you and see your Mom. I miss her.”
He was surprised and tried to talk me out of it, of course, pointing out I didn’t have a bag or any clothes or anything else really, just myself. But he didn’t resist when I bought the ticket and scrambled up on to the bus.
I told him why I had decided to come along on the drive up Route 7. It wasn’t the first time I had ever confessed to Josh.
He forgave me, of course. Whatever I did, Josh always seemed to forgive me. And even though I was pretty sure I could count on it by then, it never ceased to amaze me. I mean, what had I ever done to deserve someone like Josh?
“We can’t always control what we feel,” Josh reassured me. “We can only control what we do. Sometimes I see other guys I’m attracted to as well. And sometimes I want them real bad. But then I try focusing on you, Nolan, and it’s always enough for me because I love you. I’ll always love you.”
Like I said, sometimes I wondered what I had done to deserve someone like Josh. He was too good for me. Or was I just too weak? I didn’t really know. The only thing I knew for sure was I loved the guy and never wanted us to break up. I never really looked seriously at another guy after that incident.
The final crisis took place our junior and senior years, and it was the most serious one of them all, I think, because it almost ended up separating the two of us.
It had actually started the previous summer, on June 28th to be precise. That was the night the President went on national television and announced he was sending 50,000 more U.S. troops to North Burkistan.
“My fellow Americans,” he had said, “North Burkistan remains under attack by terrorists who wish only harm to America and its friends. If the terrorists win in North Burkistan, all of us lose and we must not allow that to happen. The world will be much less safe if that happens. It will be much less secure, not just for Americans but for all peace loving people around the world.”
“I take this decision with great reluctance, my fellow Americans. No one who sits in this office can ever take lightly a decision to put our best young men and women in harm’s way. But we have already waited too long. Half measures will no longer do. The hour is late. This is our last chance to finally face up to the challenge these terrorists pose to civilization as we know it.”
“If we fail to stand up to the terrorists in North Burkistan, they’ll bring their murderous hatred to our very own shores. I cannot stand by and permit this. I have sworn to preserve and protect our Constitution, our way of life, and each and every one of you, my fellow Americans.”
“That is why I am making this further commitment of American troops to help the brave men and women of North Burkistan fend off this effort to enslave them. Tonight I ask for your prayers, my fellow Americans, for our soldiers, for their families, and for myself. May God bless each and every one of you tonight, and may God bless America.”
I knew more about the war than most of the students at Williams and I didn’t think the President could be wrong. Josh was the opposite and I remember him being really upset at that speech. By then he was taking every course he could with Professor Jeffords. Jeffords was against what he called the American imperial project and he had made a powerful impression on Josh. That night Josh made his decision to get involved.
At first his efforts were focused on the anti-war movement on campus. It kind of amused me at times because most of those dudes were losers as far as I was concerned. But I was willing to humor Josh. If he wanted to be against the war, fine. No big deal.
By the following summer, Josh had taken a completely different turn, one that was keeping him away from me more and more with each passing week. He had decided to support Governor Anne Henderson Clay in the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination.
I had told him it was a mistake, of course. For one thing, defeating the President wasn’t a sure thing by any means. Yeah, sure, some people were starting to get disillusioned with the war. It had been going on forever it seemed. And a lot more were unhappy because the economy wasn’t exactly booming right about then. But the President was an astute politician and a lot of political careers had been ruined when people bet against him. It wasn’t at all clear to me any Democrat could beat the President.
On the other hand, it seemed clear enough that Senator Jim Bradford had the Democratic nomination for President already wrapped up. He had spent years carefully laying the foundation for his candidacy and most Democrats agreed his nomination was a foregone conclusion.
I had told all of this to Josh, but he just dismissed it, telling me he didn’t care about winning or losing. He just wanted to support someone who was against the war and Clay was promising to reassess U.S. policy and had endorsed some absurd amendment to cut off funding for the war that everyone knew had no chance of ever passing.
So Josh became even more involved in the Clay campaign and by the fall she was beginning to gain some momentum because she was running on a platform of change. Change here at home, change abroad. I remember just shaking my head and being totally stupefied by that. Everybody had seen it before with another candidate who had pledged change and looked what that had produced. How could Clay think she could sell change to the American people after that? But, the funny thing was, a lot of them seemed to be buying it.
By now Josh was spending more and more time away from the campus. I was beginning to worry about that. It was our senior year and I was planning to go on to law school. I wanted Josh to be there with me when I did, and all these absences were beginning to take a toll on his grades.
I sat him down in November and explained my concerns, but he just told me he was thinking about taking the second semester off completely so he could work for the Clay campaign full time. That was too much for me. I pleaded with Josh not to do it. He just kept saying there was all this work that needed to be done and that there weren’t enough people around to do it.
That’s when the idea finally came to me. I told Josh I would meet him half way, that I would start helping out with the campaign if he would cut back his own time, stay in school, and graduate with me the following May.
Josh had agreed to that. He thought I knew just about everything about politics and would be a big asset to the Clay campaign. He was wrong, of course, but it worked out pretty well for both of us. He was still very active in the campaign, canvassing precincts in New Hampshire, passing out literature in Connecticut, and helping to do all of the things that make a campaign run efficiently.
Me? I did what I did best. I hung around headquarters in the different states we were working in, picking up doughnuts and coffee, inputting data into the computer, and occasionally stuffing some envelopes if that needed to be done. But mostly I just chatted up people. It was what I was good at.
Clay stunned everyone by winning the Iowa caucuses, then the New Hampshire primary. Bradford made a comeback down south and then the battle was fought tooth and nail all across the country. By late May everyone knew it was all going to come down to New York. Whoever won the primary in New York was going to be the next Democratic nominee for President. By then both Josh and I were splitting our time between Williamstown and Albany.
It was Albany that really did it for me, of course. That’s why Josh and I were in Washington now. Looking back on it, it’s still hard to believe it had ever actually happened.
We were sitting around the Clay headquarters in Albany waiting for the last debate to get underway that evening. The Governor was flying in from Ohio, but it was getting late and the press was all over our case because they wanted the Governor’s reaction to the death of five American soldiers earlier that day in North Burkistan. Then, out of nowhere, this lunatic raced through the door.
“Can any of you write?” he screamed.
It stunned everyone in the room into silence.
What is it with this dude? I remember asking myself.
I think everyone else was asking the same thing pretty much.
“God damn it, I said can anyone in here write?” the dude screamed again, even louder this time.
Everyone started to fidget, including me. I’m not really sure why I did it, but I raised my hand, kind of slowly and tentatively.
“You there, boy,” the idiot screamed, looking over at me. “Are you trying to tell me you can write?”
“Yes, sir, I can write,” I responded.
“Good,” he replied, seemingly relieved, at least momentarily. “Here you go, son,” he added, shoving a document into my hands.
“This here document is Governor Clay’s statement about the latest killings in North Burkistan,” he continued. “They just delivered it to me from our national headquarters. Do you see what’s wrong with it, son?”
I glanced at the document quickly, but couldn’t see anything obviously wrong. It was long, of course, much too long, but who was I to say that. I was just a gofer after all.
“No, sir, I don’t,” I responded.
“It’s three pages long, son,” he responded. “That’s what wrong with it. Three pages! Single spaced! The god damn Presidential campaign will be over before the Governor has time to read through this piece of shit. It needs to be one page, son, so the Governor can review it before she steps out on to the stage tonight. Do you think you can summarize this document in one page, son?” he asked, staring at me intently.
“Sure,” I said, beaming at him. I was a pretty good writer and figured I could do it if I had a couple of hours.
“How long do I have?” I asked
“Let’s see, son,” he responded, looking at his watch. “I guess you would have had 28 minutes if you had spoken up the first time I asked, but now you only have 26 minutes. We need to release this to the press before the debate begins.”
Oh, shit, I remember thinking. Was he serious? He was giving me 26 freaking minutes to turn a three page, single spaced, document into one that was just a single page. It was impossible. There was no way in hell anyone could do that, including me. Give me a break, for crying out loud!
“Here’s the file on this here round thing, son,” he continued, handing the DVD to me. “You best get to work right away. And son, please don’t try to do it by playing with the margins or those thingies, what do they call them, those fonty things,” he added.
Okay, Nolan, don’t panic, I remember saying to myself. Read it carefully first, then try to summarize it.
That was easier said than done. As I began reading through the document, I could see it was dense, confusing, and even contradictory in places. It seemed to be trying to be all things to all people and it looked like it had been written by a committee. By then everyone in the room was looking at me and you could have heard a pin drop. It took me about six or seven minutes to get through it. Then I slipped the DVD into the computer and called up the solitary file on the disk.
I started trying my best to edit it. Eliminating some of the excess verbiage was fairly easy. Taking out most of the examples helped even more. By fourteen minutes into the exercise I had it down to two pages but then the editing became tougher. There just wasn’t enough room for all of the points the statement was trying to make. Some of them had to go, but which ones? I closed my eyes and tried to think it through logically.
Which of these arguments would resonate most with the average American? I asked myself.
I made a decision to eliminate two of the points and to rearrange and shorten the others as well. I was close now, I knew I was close, but time was rapidly spinning away. I only had another minute or two at most. I decided to run two paragraphs together, but one freaking line still insisted on lapsing over to a second page. I moved back to the initial paragraph, the most important one, the one I figured the press was likely to lead with. It read:
What happened today in North Burkistan was a tragedy, one that every American feels deeply, including me. My heart, my soul and my prayers go out to the parents of the young men who were killed today in North Burkistan. Like the President, I am absolutely committed to hunting down the terrorists who killed these brave young Americans. We can certainly do this without compromising my determination to conduct a major reassessment of U.S. policy in North Burkistan if I am nominated and elected President.
I rewrote it quickly:
America lost five of our best and bravest today. Like all of us, my prayers go out to the parents and loved ones of these young American heroes. We will find those who did this and bring them to justice. But this tragedy reminds us why we need to reassess our policy in Burkistan. We need a policy that honors their sacrifice, but one that gives it purpose and meaning. If I’m elected, that’s what we’ll have.
There, it was done, and with not a moment to spare. I printed a copy out for the dude and handed him the DVD. He glanced at my summary and smiled. Then he walked out of the room without saying another word, not even a word of thanks.
Later on several people came up and congratulated me.
“I can’t believe you just did that,” one of them said. “Do you know who that was?”
“No,” I responded. “Who?”
“That was Harlen Lane,” he said. “He’s the Governor’s closest adviser. I hope he likes what you did because I’m sure you’ll be hearing from him again one way or another.”
And the funny thing is he was right about that. I just didn’t know it at the time.
The Governor did well in the debate that evening. Her statement was well received. She went on to win the primary in New York the following Tuesday and, with it, the nomination as well. I figured it was over about then and I was glad about that.
Josh and I were going to graduate from Williams together as we had planned all along. Law school beckoned and the person I loved was going to be there with me. But mostly I was glad because Josh was in seventh heaven and that made me happy. He considered me a hero and I was content to bask in his praise.