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SUMMARY: Landon Bridges is freshly christened history professor at the University of Maryland. He loves teaching, believing it both a noble calling and a way of helping his young charges become wiser and better human beings. Sadly, being both odd and socially inept, Landon’s not a very good teacher. Then he suffers a devastating personal setback, one that leads him to contemplate taking his life. What happens next will surprise and delight you. Please note that italics are typically used to indicate what a character is saying or thinking to himself.
WARNING: This story is a work of adult fiction and intended for mature audiences only. Unless otherwise noted, all of the characters in the story are fictional; any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. While some of the places described or mentioned in the story are fictional as well, others may be real. However, some liberties may have been taken with the truth to enhance the story. Please note that the story may describe, depict or otherwise include graphic portrayals of relationships between men and/or adolescent boys that are homosexual in nature. If you do not like or approve of such discussions or it is illegal for you to read such material, consider yourself warned. If you continue to read this story, you are asserting you are fully capable of understanding and legally consenting to reading a work of adult fiction.
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NOTES: November 26, 2015: Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope this little dessert will help make your holiday feast all the merrier. Thanksgiving may not be a holiday celebrated everywhere, but everyone has something to be thankful for and you can give thanks in your heart every day of the year, including today.
Wondering whether I should have left Woody there, I berated myself severely on the drive home from the Café Palermo. I wasn’t sure what exactly, but something about the place didn’t seem right; indeed, seemed disreputable, even tawdry.
I spent much of the following week wondering whether I would ever hear from Woody again. But true to his word he called Saturday evening to let me know he could indeed go hiking with me if I could drive into town to pick him up.
That wasn’t a problem for me; and so, having agreed on a time and location as to where we would meet, I drove into Washington on Sunday morning to retrieve him.
Our hike took place the weekend before Thanksgiving. On the long drive up to Cunningham Falls Woody asked many questions about me; where I was born, what my family was like, where I had gone to school, and what I did for a living. I was happy to tell him whatever he asked even though he seemed reluctant to say very much about himself.
But then, as we climbed the trail toward the mountain summit, he suddenly opened up. The tale he told was a sad one indeed; one featuring a bed-ridden mother, an alcoholic father, a tragic automobile accident that killed both of them, and then a decision by others to place Woody and his sister with distant relatives who lived far apart.
It hadn’t been easy for them. For his sister, there would be an early marriage to escape relatives who loved nothing more than belittling her. Sadly, she had made a bad choice in a husband. The cad had abandoned her soon thereafter.
Woody’s fate had been even less fortunate. Unwanted by the relatives who had taken him in and bullied for being gay, he had dropped out of school and fled to a larger city; first Baltimore, then Washington, where he ended up homeless. Hearing the tale put my own difficulties in a different perspective. I realized others were far less fortunate than I.
Having reached the summit of the trail we had chosen, Woody and I stared silently into the distance. Soon enough we were absorbed in our own private thoughts. For me the thoughts turned to Massachusetts. The rapid approach of Thanksgiving saddened me as I already knew I wouldn’t be going home to celebrate the day with my parents.
Then I recalled Woody mentioning he lived far away as well. I decided to ask whether he had plans for the holiday.
“Not really,” he replied. “With my parents dead, it’s just my sister and me. She invited me up to her trailer for Thanksgiving, but lives in Perryville north of Baltimore. Even if I had the money to spend on a ticket, which I don’t, the bus ride from Washington would take forever.”
“As much as I’d love to see her, I’m planning to stay in Washington,” he added.
I was sorry to hear that and momentarily considered inviting him to spend the day with me. Upon further reflection, however, it occurred to me that perhaps I could be of assistance.
“I don’t know where Perryville is, but I’m sure I could find it on a map and would be happy to take you there if you want,” I volunteered. “If need be, I could come back at the end of the weekend or whenever you want and bring you back to Washington.”
“You would do that for me?” Woody asked, surprised.
“Of course,” I replied. “You’re my friend, Woody, my only friend, and friends help one another whenever they can. I have nothing else to do on Thanksgiving and would love helping you spend the day with your sister.”
Later, when we got back to my apartment, Woody called his sister and shared the good news with her. On Thanksgiving morning I drove him up to her trailer in Perryville. It was only a two hour drive from my place and the driving proved easy as hardly anyone was on the road.
At first our journey passed in silence, but eventually the stillness was broken when Woody posed what seemed like an odd question to me.
“Do you like me, Landon?” he asked.
“Of course, Woody,” I responded. “Why would you ask a question like that?”
“It’s just that it’s hard to know,” he responded. “You treat me differently from the rest of the men in most ways, but there’s one way you’re the same as them. You’ve never asked my last name. You’ve told me your last name, but you never asked what mine is. None of the men I spend time with ever do. No one does.”
“They’re not interested in my name or who I am,” he added. “They’re only interested in other things. It’s like the real me, the part of me that isn’t my body, is invisible to everyone. Not that it bothers me, I suppose; I’m used to it. It just makes me wonder sometimes.”
I remember being distraught. Since meeting him I had avoided asking Woody too many questions, content to let him tell me whatever he chose whenever he chose to do so. But now I realized what a mistake that had been. Indeed, there was something about his words that sent a chill through my body.
How he could say something like that and seemingly not be bothered because it was what he had come to expect from other human beings; that he would be invisible to them in the ways that mattered the most?
It shocked me.
“I apologize, Woody,” I replied. “I’m sorry. The reason I never asked is because I was taught it was impolite to ask questions like that growing up; that it was better to let people share things with you when they were comfortable enough to do that.”
“I never realized some people might take what I considered politeness for indifference; might feel so lost to the world and invisible by the way they were treated they would never be able to volunteer something as simple as a last name. I’m sorry.”
“It’s not that I’m uninterested, Woody. You’re the only friend I have in the world and I would have been devastated if asking too many questions drove you away. I like you. Please forgive me for never telling you that or asking what your last name is.”
He pondered my response for a moment and then looked out the window of my automobile for several more.
“It’s Walker,” he finally said. “My last name is Walker; my full name is Wilson Woodrow Walker, but I go by Woody because it makes things easier with the men I know. They think it’s an amusing name for someone like me; Woody, that is.”
“And I guess the other thing is I lied to you about was not knowing who Woodrow Wilson was. With a name like mine, it’d be hard not to know. People always kidded me about that when I was young. But it’s better not to volunteer too much when you’re in the hospitality business.”
“I see,” I responded. “Thank you for telling me. It’s a fine name; very distinguished indeed. You should be proud of it.”
Having opened the door, the conversation between us flowed freely. Although I already knew much of his story from our trip to the mountains, I learned more on the drive to Perryville; and I shared more as well.
I revealed the things I had concealed previously; how unpopular I had been as a boy and still was even now and how much that hurt. I told him how teaching was the most important thing in the world to me and how I had just been fired.
“Teaching is like fighting,” he told me. “If you get knocked down, you have a choice. You can stay down on the floor and take the count or you can get back up and keep fighting. You don’t look like a quitter to me, Landon.”
“You should come in,” Woody said when we finally reached Perryville. “I’ve told my sister all about you and she wants to meet you in person, Landon.”
I was reluctant to go in as I had planned on returning to College Park immediately. But Woody insisted so I got out of my car and entered the trailer with him. The smell of food cooking was overpowering and I found myself delighted.
They were familiar smells, welcoming smells, the smells of my youth. I had always loved Thanksgiving for the way it delighted my nose.
“Hi, Sis,” Woody said, kissing her on the cheek. “This is my friend, Landon. Can he join us for dinner today?”
That came as a surprise.
“Of course,” his sister responded.
“Very nice to meet you, Landon,” she added, turning to me and shaking my hand.
“Enchanté,” I responded, bowing ever so slightly. “And while I appreciate the invitation very much, I don’t wish to impose. Thanksgiving is a day for families and I imagine the two of you have much to catch up on. I should be on my way home.”
“That’s crazy,” Woody objected. “I’m only going to be here today. If you decide to leave now, how am I going to get back to Washington?”
That was still another surprise as I had assumed all along he would be staying for several days.
“Did you have other plans for Thanksgiving, Landon?” his sister chimed in. “I’ll understand if you do. But if you don’t have other plans, you’re certainly welcome to join us.”
“No, I don’t,” I replied, looking at her. “But I’m a little surprised because I assumed Woody would be staying here longer. I’m not sure what to do now that I know he isn’t. Perhaps I should go into town and come back later this evening. As I said before, Thanksgiving is a day for family, not strangers.”
“Or maybe you should stay and become part of our family by having Thanksgiving dinner with us,” Woody retorted.
“I would very much like that, Landon,” his sister added, agreeing with him. “Woody has told me so much about you, all of it positive. It would be nice to get to know you a little better.”
Both the invitation and the company were appealing so finally I agreed to accept their offer.
“That’s very generous of you,” I responded; “and, yes, I suppose I can stay, assuming it won’t make a lot of bother for you.”
“Would you like a glass of punch, Landon?” she asked. “I realize it’s a bit early in the day, but this recipe for punch has been in our family forever and Thanksgiving only comes once a year; better to have some early rather than toward the end of the day when you and Woody will be returning to Washington.”
Anxious to be polite I agreed and soon enough found myself asking for a second glass of what proved to be a most delicious drink. I had never had anything quite like it before in my life.
“You better watch it, Landon,” Woody said, grinning at me. “Keep it up and I’ll be the one driving us back to your place.”
“Don’t worry, Woody,” I responded. “I’ve never tasted something quite this delicious, but I’ll be fine.”
Whatever his sister may have thought about the sudden change in plans, she treated me graciously and I enjoyed getting to know more about her.
Having been abandoned by her husband, it was soon apparent to me she was having difficulty making ends meet. In spite of that, she quickly made me feel at home; the longer we talked, the more I found myself liking her. It was apparent she loved her brother very much and was even slightly protective of him.
It was also obvious she had been planning a dinner for two, not three.
I tried to beg off again, but neither of them would hear it. Later, after talking some more, she announced she needed to pick up some things at the store. My offer to pay was politely refused.
“I should be back within an hour or two,” she said. “There aren’t very many stores open today so I may have to drive up to Elkton to find anything open; or perhaps even further.”
After she left I looked over at Woody. By now the delightful beverage I had consumed had taken effect and I recall feeling a bit odd. It seemed to me that perhaps some fresh air would help.
“What should we do while your sister is gone, Woody?” I asked. “Perhaps we should go for a hike.”
“I have a better idea,” he responded, grinning even as he came over and sat down next to me.
Then, to my astonishment and surprise, he began kissing me passionately and running his hands all over my body.
I had never been kissed before except by my mother and Woody’s kiss was far different than hers. Indeed, the longer we kissed, the more I recall thinking it seemed much better than those of my mother. Feeling him touching my body added to the experience as well. It was exciting, more exciting than anything had ever been before in my life.
For a moment I wondered whether I should permit something like this, but his passion was contagious and by then I was in a wonderful mood from both the punch and his kisses; even so, I was surprised when Woody began tugging at my belt in an effort to loosen my pants.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“What does it look like I’m doing?” he responded, grinning. “I’m taking off your clothes so we can have some fun together.”
“Oh, my; I’m not sure that’s a good idea, Woody,” I said, gently admonishing him. “What if your sister comes back?”
“You heard her,” Woody grinned. “She won’t be back for an hour or more and I’ve been thinking about this for days. You’ve taught me a lot of new words, Landon, so I don’t think it would be impertinent for me to teach you one or two new things in exchange. That’s only fair, isn’t it?”
It was hard to resist his logic or perhaps it was just the effects of the punch, but I stopped resisting and soon enough Woody had stripped off my clothes. Having done so, he began shedding his own. When he was finished, I remember being astonished.
Where he had acquired them was hard to say, but Woody’s clothes were baggy and didn’t fit the lad very well. Now, standing before me, I saw something far more impressive; the hardened, muscular, body of a youthful Greek god, smooth, hairless and firm.
At first my eyes were ravenous, trying to take in everything at once; his beautiful face, broad shoulders, impressive chest, and then a thin waist anchored by powerful hips. But soon enough they were focused on something else exclusively. My eyes were transfixed, unable to look elsewhere.
Inexperienced as I was in affairs of the human heart, I knew immediately what I wanted to do.
Kneeling before him, I looked up at Woody.
“May I . . . may I, uh . . . may I . . .”
“You may,” he responded, giggling.
And so that’s what I did.
How long I did it is harder to say, but I think it must have been for a very long time indeed as I recall Woody encouraging my efforts with words that became more urgent as time passed.
In the end, however, he stepped back, depriving me of the best pacifier I had ever had in my life.
“That was unbelievable,” I said. “Thank you, Woody. Thank you so much for letting me do that.”
“You’re welcome, Landon,” he replied, giggling. “If you enjoyed that, I know something you’ll like even more. But you’ll need to bend over on your hands and knees and close your eyes.”
More knowledgeable than Woody in some things, I realized now his understanding of others was far better than mine and did as he suggested immediately. He was proving a most excellent teacher and I his student; an eager student indeed.
Kneeling behind me, he began applying something to my tush.
“What’s that,” I asked, curious.
“It’s called K-Y,” he replied, “and I guess you could say it’s kind of like basting the turkey. Trust me, Landon; it’ll make everything better.’
“I do trust you, Woody.’
As Woody pressed forward, I remember feeling something pushing inside me and then a sudden sense of contentment and pleasure; and yet even as he rocked back and forth against me from behind, I remember the kitchen floor being hard on my knees and mentioned that to him.
“Close your eyes,” he said and I did as he asked.
I could feel him rolling me over on to my back, then lifting my legs and placing them on to his shoulders.
“Keep your eyes closed and relax, Landon,” he said and once again I did as he asked.
I could feel his body pressing back and forth against mine, much more rapidly now.
It felt good; more than good, really. It felt very good and soon enough I found myself moaning as pleasurable sensations overwhelmed me. Eventually I felt some kind of explosion inside me and by now Woody was moaning at least as much as I was.
We lay on the floor together a long time after the explosion. I could hear Woody’s heart beating rapidly as his chest rested against mine. There was something comforting about that. I had never felt as close to a human being as I felt to Woody at that moment.
“Was it good?” he finally asked.
“It was . . . it was . . . .”
For once in my life I seemed unable to find a word that did justice to what had just happened.
“It was the best thing I’ve ever experienced in my life,” I finally settled on.
“Can we do it again?” I eagerly asked.
Woody looked at me and grinned.
“It was that good, was it?” he asked.
“It was,” I responded. “We need to do it again, Woody. I want to do it again with my eyes open to be sure I’m not dreaming.”
That caused Woody to giggle.
“You’re not dreaming, Landon,” he said, “but you’re the teacher, not me. How should I deal with an eager pupil like you?”
“There’s only one way,” I replied. “You must give me another lesson; immediately. Please?”
So that’s what we did. We performed this strange ritual a second time and it was even better now because I could see Woody staring down at me and he was smiling. It was a loving smile and that realization made the experience so much more powerful for me.
So much so I guess both of us lost track of time or were too overcome by passion to hear anything except our own words of mutual encouragement. Or perhaps our collective moaning drowned out the sound of feet on the doorstep.
Whatever the reason, the next thing I knew I looked up at the door. There was Woody’s sister, clutching a bag of groceries tightly against her chest even as she stood there silently watching the two of us. She seemed stunned; too stunned even to avert her eyes from what was happening in front of her.
“Oh, no,” I moaned softly, trying gently to push Woody away.
But Woody had still not seen her and was too preoccupied in any event to be denied at this late stage of the game. As my legs continued struggling to touch the ceiling, his hips thrust forward quickly several times. The next thing I recall was feeling still a second explosion inside me.
“Behind you,” I moaned, pointing.
Woody turned and spied his sister at last.
“Oh my,” his sister murmured, looking into his eyes. “I just remembered I forgot to pick up more buns.”
“Don’t worry about it, Sis,” Woody replied, giggling. “I’ve had plenty of buns for one day.”
It was the most humiliating moment in my life. I could feel my entire body turning red and found myself unable to stop blushing. His sister quickly departed the room, only returning when she knew both of us were dressed and presentable.
Embarrassed, my first instinct was to flee.
“You can’t leave,” Woody insisted, blocking my exit. “It was my fault, not yours. I don’t want you to leave. Everyone always leaves, but I want you to stay.”
“I have to leave,” I insisted. “I’ve never been so humiliated in my life.”
“You?” Woody responded. “You’re feeling humiliated? That’s the only thing that matters? How you feel? Great; that’s just great, Landon. What about me? I thought you liked me? I thought you cared about me?”
“Oh, shit, never mind; I thought you were different, but you’re just like all the rest of them. It’s all about you. Go ahead, Landon; leave then if that’s what you want to do.”
And with that he opened the door and fled, just like I had been planning to do.
I remember feeling badly about that. I didn’t mean to hurt Woody, but I had done so because I had chosen to focus entirely on myself and what I was feeling.
It was at that moment that Woody’s sister approached and took me aside.
“I realize you must be embarrassed, but please try not to be,” she said. “Woody will be crushed if you leave. He likes you very much and wants me to like you as well. And I do like you, Landon.”
“I may not understand everything, but I understand enough to know you care about Woody; and that’s the only thing that matters to me because he needs someone to care about him. Show him you do by staying.”
The words were simple, but affected me powerfully. I had let Woody walk away from me once before. But now, humiliated as I was, I realized how much I cared for him and decided not to abandon Woody again.
I caught up with him soon enough and apologized for my selfishness. We talked for a long time about our feelings for one another and then finally returned to the trailer.
It helped greatly that Woody’s sister seemed to go out of her way to ease my discomfort, even going so far as to put the two us to work.
“Our mother used to insist on having us help out with the Thanksgiving meal,” she said; “and now that I’m a grownup myself, that seems like an excellent idea to me.”
“Woody, you need to season the bread crumbs and finish making the stuffing; Landon, would you like to help by making the salad?” she added, pointing to the lettuce and the rest of fruits and vegetables she had set aside for the task.
“Of course,” I replied, only too glad to have something to do to keep myself busy and take my mind off the humiliation I had experienced.
Somehow we got through the rest of the day without incident. By late afternoon the turkey was ready to be served. Having said grace, Woody’s sister put him to work carving it while she brought the rest of the dishes to the table. What followed was a most delicious and satisfying meal.
Eventually Woody’s sister stood up and looked over at me.
“As Woody knows from long ago, it was a tradition in our family to go around the table and ask everyone what they were thankful for on Thanksgiving Day. We should have done that before I served the meal, but even now it would still be appropriate I think.”
“Since you’re our guest, Landon, let me begin with you; what are your thankful for this Thanksgiving?” she added, sitting down and motioning for me to stand.
Caught by surprise and unprepared, I stood up.
“It’s a wonderful tradition,” I agreed.
“Our family did the same thing. As for me, this has been a most difficult Thanksgiving season for reasons I prefer not to go into. But, yes, there are still things I am thankful for; many things. I’m thankful for being able to spend today with you and Woody and for the most excellent meal we shared.”
“It was delicious, all of it,” I continued, directing my words to Woody’s sister. “The turkey, rolls and mashed potatoes were superb, as were the gravy, cranberries, and the rest of the dishes; my compliments to the cook.”
“And the stuffing, of course,” I added, turning to Woody. “That was wonderful; it was the best stuffing I’ve ever had in my life.”
Woody burst out laughing immediately, as did his sister upon reflection, though more nervously; and then, realizing what I had said at last, I began laughing as well.
Once I started I couldn’t stop. Soon enough I was laughing uncontrollably as I considered my choice of words.
Being able to laugh at yourself can be liberating. It puts seemingly insurmountable problems in better perspective. I may have been fired from my job, but there would be others. I may have been thoroughly humiliated in front of Woody’s sister. But she and Woody had put me at ease and made me part of their family that Thanksgiving Day.
They had shared their love for me in different ways, including a way that was new and quite delightful to me. Experiencing their love put everything in better perspective and helped me understand what was important in life.
Later, just before Woody and I departed that evening, his sister took me aside again.
“Ever since our parents died I’ve been worried about Woody. He was always too mischievous for his own good; and even though he’s eighteen years old, he’s still got a lot of growing up to do. When he dropped out of school last spring because of the bullying, I didn’t know what would become of him.”
“I’ll confess I don’t understand what being gay means. But I do know the only thing that matters in life is whether two people care about one another. I realize today must have been embarrassing for you in some ways, but you shouldn’t be, at least not on my account.”
“Woody cares about you a great deal, Landon, and I know you feel the same about him. He needs someone to guide and mentor him. There’s still so much of the little boy in Woody. Please take care of him. He needs you.”
Knowing she trusted me, I realized I had never experienced a better day in my life. It seemed to me that something important had happened; and while I wasn’t entirely sure what the future might bring, I was determined to be there for Woody if he wanted me to be.
And so as you celebrate the season today I hope you’ll realize that disappointments and embarrassments are fleeting, dear reader, but love is enduring; at least that’s the message Woody and I would like to share with you this Thanksgiving Day now many years later.
Looking for another holiday tale to put you in the mood for the season?
Check out With Apologies Mr. Dickens