Click on the link below to read Chapter 23 of Homo! in the pdf format (better formatting).
Or just read it below online in the html format.
SUMMARY: What if you were homosexual but refused to admit it to anyone, especially yourself? The year is 1971 and fourteen year old Jimmy Barnes has discovered growing up in a small town can be boring in a way not even the solitary masturbation sessions he enjoys so much can relieve. When his best friend takes a job at the local newspaper, Jimmy finds himself on his own for the summer. What follows is a decade long saga with numerous twists and turns, a tale that’ll reveal the best and the worst of the nineteen-seventies and beyond.
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 For 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.
NOTICE: This story is my property and protected by the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. It may not be reproduced in any form without my written permission. You may download a single copy to read offline and to share with others as long as you credit me as the author. However, you may not use this work for commercial purposes or to profit from it in any way. You may not use any of the characters or fictional places in the story in your own work without my explicit permission. Nor may you use, alter, transform, or build upon the story in any way. If you share this story with others, you must make clear the terms under which it is licensed to them. The best way to do that is by linking to this web page.
NOTES: Please check these notes every week. If there’s something I want to alert you to as I post each chapter, this is where I will I do so.
Although Jimmy was moving in with me, things had happened faster than I expected. I hadn’t thought about where to put his stuff or where he should sleep for that matter. When we finally got back to my place, I suggested we move his things into the second floor bedroom that used to be his.
Jimmy quickly agreed.
“I think that’s everything,” I said, carrying the final load of his stuff up the stairs to the bedroom. “The place hasn’t changed very much since you lived here before. It has more furniture, I guess, but things should look pretty familiar.”
“That’s good,” he replied, as the two of us stood there exchanging small talk to ease the awkwardness of the situation. “It’ll make finding things easier for me.”
“If you’d prefer a different room, we can switch things around tomorrow,” I said. “This is just for tonight. I figured you might want to sleep somewhere you’re already familiar with.”
“That would be the master bedroom on the third floor,” Jimmy responded, grinning at me.
Seeing the grin on his face made me blush.
“But this room is fine,” he added. “I guess we should sleep in separate bedrooms; me being sick and all.”
“It’s up to you,” I said, dancing around the subject because I was conflicted about where he should sleep. “I know you need to rest a lot so whatever works best for you is fine with me.”
“Okay,” he replied. “If that’s what you prefer, separate bedrooms are fine.”
“I’m not saying that’s what I want, Jimmy. I want whatever you want.”
“This is stupid, don’t you think? You want whatever I want and I want whatever you want. If things were different I wouldn’t mind sleeping in the same bed with you like we used to. But I realize that might be hard. You know what I mean? Not being able to do anything. It might be hard.”
“It might be,” I agreed.
“And, uh, I wouldn’t want to put you in danger,” Jimmy continued. “I mean, it’s not like they know all the risks associated with this disease.”
“I don’t know that it would be that big a risk,” I said, surprising myself. “I mean, as long as we slept on opposite sides of the bed. It’s the same bed so I’m sure you’ll recall how big it was.”
“It was,” Jimmy replied, nodding his head in agreement.
“Uh, well, why don’t we think about this overnight and discuss it tomorrow,” he added. “I’ll sleep here tonight. I’m pretty tired after my big shouting match with Ned.”
“Were you really mad at him?” I asked, curious.
“I was,” he said. “When I came back to Washington, the first thing I did was look up your name in the telephone book. I could see right away you were still at the same address. I even came by here a couple of times when you were at work to look at the place. But I never planned to be in touch with you because, uh . . . you know . . . I felt really bad about how I had treated you.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way,” I replied. “I mean, I always felt like it was my fault we broke up.”
“Yeah, that’s what Ned told me,” Jimmy said. “I couldn’t believe it to be honest. I mean, how you could blame yourself like that. To me it doesn’t make any sense.”
“Well, uh, maybe we should forget about that,” I suggested. “That was the past. This is now. The important thing is we want to be friends again; at least I do.”
“Me too,” Jimmy said. “It’s just that, you know, I feel guilty about the circumstances.”
“Uh, well, sure; I understand,” I replied. “Things could be better, no doubt about it. But they could be worse too. We should make the best of it, don’t you think?”
“Absolutely,” Jimmy said, nodding his head.
“In any event, I’m tired and you must be too,” he added. “Why don’t we call it a night?”
“That makes sense,” I agreed. “And, uh, just so you know, you may not see me in the morning. I still try to get into work early. But if you want, I could come by around noon and make lunch for the two of us.”
“You don’t have to do that, Jeff,” Jimmy said. “It’ll just disrupt your day. I can get my own lunch and, uh, we can have dinner tomorrow night like we used to.”
Turning, I started to head toward the stairs, then stopped and walked back over to Jimmy.
“Could I kiss you again on the cheek?” I asked.
“Uh, well, yeah; I guess,” he said. “If you want to.”
So that’s what I did. I kissed him on the cheek.
“Thanks, Jeff,” he said. “I appreciate it, but, uh . . . I’ll have to ask my doctor the next time I see him whether that’s okay. I probably should have raised it with him before, but it’s not like anyone has wanted to kiss me in a long time; at least not anyone who knows I have the disease.”
“Uh, well, thank you for letting me do it,” I said. “And have a good night. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Climbing the stairs to the third floor, I cleaned up quickly, stripped off my clothes and went to bed. As I laid there staring at the ceiling, a million things rushed through my mind.
You want him here in this bed, don’t you, Jeff?
I do, I responded.
But he has that disease you know. You don’t want to get it from him, do you?
If he didn’t have the disease and he was in bed with you right now, you’d be lifting and spreading your legs, wouldn’t you, Jeff? You’d be begging him to fuck you, just like you used to do.
Is there something wrong with that? I asked. I loved Jimmy then. I still love him. Nothing’s changed. But I understand we can’t have sex. That isn’t why I wanted him to come live with me. Jimmy needs help and I want to do my best for him. That’s all; nothing more.
Are you sure, Jeff? For being so sick, he looks pretty darn good, doesn’t he?
He does. He looks awesome.
Looking down, I could see I had gone hard just thinking about how good looking Jimmy still was.
This is going to be difficult, I sighed.
I woke up early the next morning as usual. Knowing Jimmy was still sleeping, I debated whether I should risk waking him up by taking a shower. I decided not to; just to shave and freshen myself up.
When I finished, I dressed, made the bed, and walked down to the second floor bedroom. Peaking in, I could see Jimmy lying face down on the bed, his butt exposed to my gaze.
Incredible, I recall thinking. He still has a terrific body and such a fantastic butt.
Heading down to the kitchen, I made a roast beef sandwich; rare with mayo and onions, the way Jimmy liked. Putting it in the refrigerator, I wrote a note and left it on the kitchen table.
I don’t know if you’re still into them, but there’s a roast beef sandwich in the refrigerator that I made for you. There’s some other stuff in there as well, including peanut butter and jelly and the milk. The chips are in the pantry where we used to keep them.
If there’s anything else you need or you’d like me to come home for lunch, give me a call at the Congressman’s office.
I’ll try to get home early this evening. We can eat out if you want or I can make something for you. And we can talk about living arrangements and things like that.
Love you –
The day passed quickly and without any call from Jimmy. I wondered whether he would still be at my place when I got home that evening. Just the thought he might leave prompted me to head home earlier than usual, around 6:00 p.m.
“I don’t know what’s gotten into you, Jeff,” Annie said, “but you seem to be making a habit of leaving early these days. I’m beginning to worry you might have gotten a life,” she added, smiling.
“If you haven’t noticed, my briefcase is bulging,” I said, lifting it up to show her. “I’ll be working late this evening like always. But, yeah, there’s been some changes in my life and that might affect my hours from now on.”
“Good for you, Jeff,” Annie said, her smile growing wider.
“But it’s not what you think,” I said.
“That would be disappointing if true,” she replied, giggling.
By the time I got home Jimmy was making the table like he used to.
“You don’t have to do that,” I protested. “You need to save your energy.”
“I’m not an invalid, Jeff,” he responded; “at least not yet. I wanted to make myself useful. The least I can do is to make the table and a meal. What do you want?”
“I’m not actually that hungry, Jimmy,” I said. “That’s one thing that’s changed over the years. I’ve tried to eat less and healthier. You know, maintain that girlish figure you used to love so much.”
“I don’t believe you said that, Jeff. Sometimes you’re too much.”
“I never use to be too much for you,” I said, shaking my ass just a little at him.
Jimmy laughed again, this time louder.
“You’re right about that too,” he added. “I could never get enough of that butt of yours, at least back then; and you don’t have to worry, Jeff. You still have that girlish figure.”
“So what did you do today?” I asked.
“I took a bus to the bar we were at last night,” he said. “That’s where I work; at least that’s where I used to work. The boss says business is down so he doesn’t need me anymore. I suspect he doesn’t like having me around because it makes the customers nervous.”
“I can’t blame him. He’s done more for me than most people. I’ll start looking for another job next week, but jobs are hard to find when you tell people you’re sick.”
“It’s not a big deal,” I replied, doubtful he would be able to find a job based on everything Ned had told me about the discrimination people with GRID faced. “What else did you to do to pass the time?”
“I walked to the Clinic for an appointment with my doctor. When it was finished, I walked home.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I protested. “That’s too long a walk. I could have driven you to those places and picked you up if I knew.”
“I know you could have, Jeff. But Ned and the doctors agree I need to keep myself active; keep doing as much as I can for as long as I can.”
“So what did the doctor say?” I asked.
“He said what he always does,” Jimmy responded. “That they really don’t know a lot about this disease so he can’t provide any definitive advice. But he said it was probably okay for you to kiss me on the cheek or for me to do the same; just no french-kissing.”
“Oh, pooh,” I said. “What do the doctors know anyways?”
“Actually they offer some good advice, at least they usually do; although they always couch it by saying they don’t know for sure,” Jimmy replied.
“I see,” I said. “Did you think about which room you want to sleep in?”
“I did,” Jimmy replied. “I’ll sleep where I am now. If things were different, I’d prefer to sleep in the big bed with you, Jeff, but I think that’s too risky.”
“I don’t agree,” I protested, surprising myself again. “How much riskier could it be than standing here talking to you? I think we should sleep together.”
“Are you sure?” Jimmy asked. “It could be frustrating.”
“I understand,” I said, “but I’m an adult. It’s not a big deal.”
I was lying, of course. It was a big deal indeed; a very big deal and I was nervous about it. Sleeping with someone with gay cancer was scary. As much as I tried to remind myself you couldn’t get something like that just by breathing the same air, it was hard not to be nervous because no one knew for sure whether it could be transmitted through the air.
“Okay,” Jimmy replied, “but I’d like to keep the other bedroom as well. It has its own bathroom and I need a separate bathroom.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because that’s where I plan to brush my teeth and shave and do stuff like that. But it’s important we don’t accidentally share a razor or toothbrush like we used to. Do you understand why, Jeff?”
“I guess,” I said.
“Sometimes I cut myself shaving and it’s important for you not come in contact with my blood; at least that’s what the doctors tell me. They’re not as sure about the toothbrush, but it’s probably best not to share them.”
“Sure,” I replied.
“This is really important to me, Jeff,” he said, looking me in the eyes. “So I want you to stay out of that bathroom entirely. I’ll clean it myself; and that’s the only bathroom I’ll be using. It’s just to minimize the risk.”
“I understand,” I responded.
Having already decided to skip my workout the next day, I filled Jimmy in on my plans for Saturday morning before going to bed.
“I’m going to be up early again, Jimmy, so I won’t be around when you wake up. I volunteer at the Metropolitan Youth Center from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. on Saturdays and usually go to the gym after that.”
“I’m going to skip the gym, but I can’t skip the Center since I’m the only person manning the place at that hour. I should be back around 10:15 a.m. unless something comes up; in which case I’ll call.”
“That’s fine,” Jimmy responded. “I’ve heard that Center does a lot of good work, but I don’t know anything about it. What do you do there?”
“Not that much, at least not these day,” I said. “It was originally established as a shelter for homeless kids back in 1973. It went through several reorganizations early on and eventually evolved into a one-stop shopping center for runaway and homeless kids. A lot are gay although many refuse to acknowledge it.”
“Tell me about it,” Jimmy interjected. “I know a thing or two about being in denial.”
“Does that mean you no longer are?” I asked, curious.
“I’m not,” he said. “I actually came to realize I was gay not too long before I left Washington in 1975. I just never got around to telling you.”
“That’s good,” I replied, nodding my head. “Figuring things out, I mean. Sometimes I wanted to talk to you about that, but I didn’t think you were ready back then.”
“I wasn’t,” he replied. “But that’s another story. How did you get involved with the Center?”
“I first started volunteering back in 1979,” I said. “I was no longer accompanying the Congressman back to the district by then. We had entrenched ourselves with the voters and the boss was finally willing to let our district staff do the work I had been doing until then.”
“That was a relief,” I added. “Traveling back to the district had become a real drag by then. I still don’t know how the man does it.”
“In any event, I had more time on my hands. I discovered the Center through another volunteer who worked on the Hill and decided to give it a try. At first I was just answering the phones, but later they trained me and I started working directly with kids. That was more interesting.”
“Who uses the place?” Jimmy asked.
“The target group is kids eighteen and under. It serves more boys than girls. A lot of them are hustlers in need of legal help.”
“How often do you volunteer?” Jimmy asked.
“I used to do more, but now I’m just doing that one four-hour shift on Saturday morning. When I started, it was a two-person shift, but now it’s just me because a lot of the early enthusiasm for the work of the Center has dissipated. It’s harder finding volunteers these days. To tell you the truth, I’ve been thinking of quitting myself.”
“Why?” Jimmy asked.
“Sometimes I wonder whether I’m making any difference,” I said. “If anything, there are more kids out there on the streets these days, but hardly any show up during my shift. I’m not complaining. Someone has to cover that time slot. But with you moving in, it might be better to spend more time helping you out.”
“I think you should stick with what you’re doing,” Jimmy volunteered. “It definitely sounds like a worthwhile cause.”
When I arrived at the Center the next morning there was a young boy pacing back and forth in the lobby.
“Who’s that?” I asked Samantha once she buzzed me in.
“He says his name is Leo and he just showed up at the door a minute ago,” she replied. “Rather than getting started, I figured I’d leave him for you. Sorry about that, Jeff, but it was a long night and I’m pretty exhausted.”
“No problem,” I said. “Been there, done that.”
Walking over to the kid, I introduced myself.
“Hi,” I said, trying to smile and be friendly. “My name is Jeff; Jeff Landry. What’s yours?”
“Leo,” he responded. “Do I have to give you my last name?”
“No,” I responded. “You don’t. Not unless you want to.”
Hearing no response, I moved on.
“What can I do for you, Leo?” I asked. “It’s pretty early for someone your age to be here.”
“I have a friend,” he responded. “He was arrested last night and, uh, some of the guys I know told me about this place and said you might be able to help.”
“Maybe; let’s sit down on the couch over there where I can keep an eye on the door in case anyone else shows up,” I said, pointing.
Leading him to the couch, I sat down in the chair across from him. Over the years I had seen more than my fair share of young boys showing up at the Center, but this kid seemed even younger than usual; thirteen or fourteen would have been my guess.
“So tell me about this friend of yours, Leo,” I asked. “Do you know what he was arrested for?”
“I see. Can you tell me what his name is, where he was arrested, and how old he is?”
“Why?” he responded.
“Uh, well, knowing where he was arrested and how old he is might give me a better idea where he was taken by the police,” I said; “and knowing his name will help when I start making inquiries later on.”
“Okay,” the kid responded, satisfied with my explanation. “His name is Mark, Mark Collier, and he’s, uh, eighteen years old. He was arrested at the Greyhound bus station on New York Avenue. Do you know where that is?”
“I do,” I said, familiar with an area mostly known for prostitution, both gay and straight.
“Could you tell me more about him, Leo?” I asked, probing. “Is he someone you’ve known for a long time; a neighbor, a relative?”
“We haven’t known each other that long, but he’s a friend; he’s my boyfriend actually,” the kid replied, keeping an eye on me to see how I would react.
I tried my best not to betray any emotion.
“But we’re not having sex if that’s what you think,” he added. “Mark says we need to be friends longer before we have sex.”
“Uh, well, that sounds like good advice to me,” I replied. “It’s always good to be friends with someone before having sex, especially when you’re young like you.”
“I’m old enough to have sex,” Leo said, shooting daggers at me with his eyes. “I’m thirteen. I’m not some little kid. That’s how Mark got in trouble last night. He was trying to sell some pot so he could get a room for the two of us. I could have gotten the money a lot quicker by sucking some old dude’s cock. They pay more if you’re younger like me.”
“But Mark wouldn’t listen,” he continued. “He had to do it his way. He doesn’t sell drugs usually, but this older dude he knew had given him a baggie of pot to pay off a debt and Mark thought he could sell it to get the money we needed. The only problem is he ended up selling it to an undercover cop. He should have listened and let me suck some old fart’s cock.”
I knew the kids we dealt with at the Center weren’t saints, but it was a lot to absorb coming from one so young. I also knew he was right. In addition to being young, he was cute as a button and would be in high demand on the streets.
“Uh, well, it sounds like Mark was trying to do you a favor,” I volunteered. “But I need to know more. You said he was selling the pot to get money for a room for the two of you. Are you and Mark homeless?”
“Mark isn’t,” the kid replied; “at least he wasn’t until I showed up. Mark has a job sweeping floors and cleaning up at one of the restaurants near the bus station. That’s how I met him. When I first got to Washington, I was hungry and spotted the place where he works.”
“He was the first person I ran into so I asked him whether they had any food they were about to toss out because I didn’t have any money and was hungry. He got me some food and kind of took me under his wing after that. Mark was living with this older dude who was letting him stay at his place rent-free.”
“Mark let me stay there the next couple of evenings, but the guy he was staying with didn’t want me around. He said I was a runaway and too young; that he could get in trouble by putting me up and I needed to leave. So that’s why Mark was trying to sell the pot; so the two of us could get a room for the night instead of sleeping in the park.”
“I see,” I said, not entirely surprised. It was a story I was familiar with.
“And were you with Mark when he was arrested?” I asked. “Did the police question you?”
“No,” the kid responded. “He didn’t want me to get in trouble so he told me to wait upstairs in the terminal while he went downstairs with this guy who was hanging around; and then the next thing I knew cops were all over the place and took him away.”
“Look, enough with all the questions,” he added, agitated. “Can you help Mark or not?”
“Maybe,” I said, “but the way it works here at the Center is that you tell me how I can help and then I’ll tell you whether I can. What would you like me to do, Leo?”
“What do you think?” he responded, staring at me like I was an idiot. “I want you to get Mark out of jail.”
“And if I can do that, what then?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” he replied. “I don’t understand.”
“If I can get Mark out of jail, where are you and he going to live? Is that something you need help with too?”
“Uh, well, I’d have to talk to Mark about that, but yeah; maybe.”
“Okay, well before I get started, let’s focus on some more immediate issues. Do you want me to call your parents to come pick you up?”
Although I already knew the answer, it was a question I had to ask. Reuniting kids with their families was always the preferred alternative. But it rarely happened with the boys and girls who made use of our Center.
“No,” he responded, vehemently. “I’m not from this area and I’m not going home either. Don’t even think about that or I’ll leave.”
His reaction didn’t surprise me so I quickly moved on.
“Are you hungry, Leo?” I asked. “Did you get any sleep last night? Because we have food at the Center if you’re hungry and a room where you can sleep if you’re tired.”
“I’m not hungry,” he responded, “at least not right now. I’m kind of tired. I’ve been up all night and it was a long walk over here.”
“You walked?” I asked, surprised, knowing the distance involved.
“Does it look like I have wings?” he said, sarcastically. “How else do you think I got here?”
“Uh, no,” I replied, suitably chastened. “Why don’t we do this, Leo. We have a room where you can sleep while I make some calls to try to locate your friend and see what I can do. But it’ll help if you’re rested when I find out whatever I can. Do you think you can help me out by getting a little sleep now?”
“I guess,” he said, shrugging his shoulders.
With that I showed him to one of the private rooms we used to let kids sleep for a couple of hours whenever they needed to.
“This isn’t some kind of trick is it?” Leo asked. “You’re not going to call the cops or some social service agency while I’m asleep to take me away, are you?”
“Absolutely not,” I replied. “Look, Leo, if you’re as smart as I think you are, you checked out this place pretty closely with your friends before coming over here. So you already know I would never do something like that. This is your Center, not mine.”
“In fact here’s the key to the room,” I added, handing it to him. “You can lock the door and be assured no one will bother you while you’re resting. When I figure out where Mark is and what we can do, I’ll come back and wake you up. There’s a bathroom with a shower just off the room if you want to get cleaned up. Is there anything else I can do for you at the moment?”
“No,” he responded. “Just find out where Mark is and help him out.”
It took a couple of phone calls, but I was able to locate where the police had taken Mark. Once I identified myself as being with the Center, the police agreed to release him to me. It was part of a long-standing agreement between the Center, the Metropolitan Police Department, and the D.C. Courts.
Since I couldn’t leave the Center until someone else showed up, we agreed I would stop by shortly after my shift ended. In the meantime, I surveyed the kitchen to see what was available for breakfast when Leo woke up and then made a couple more calls.
Four hours later relief finally arrived. By then I had already talked to Jimmy and explained I would be late getting home. I had also talked with one of the lawyers who provided legal help to the Center on a pro bono basis. He had agreed to meet me at the precinct where Mark was being held around 10:15 a.m.
Walking back to the room where Leo was sleeping, I knocked on the door.
“Who is it?” he asked.
“It’s me, Jeff; Jeff Landry,” I said. “It’s time to get up, Leo; and while you’re getting cleaned up I’m going to make breakfast for you. What would like?”
I explained what was available and Leo made his selections. While he showered, I pulled breakfast together and then returned to the room. He let me in and wolfed down what I had prepared while I filled him in on what had happened overnight.
“I was able to locate where your friend is being held,” I explained. “Ordinarily the police would hold him until he’s arraigned in court on Monday and bail is set. Unless he had the money for bail, he’d have to stay in jail.”
“But our Center has an arrangement with the courts so the police will release him to me this morning if he promises to show up for his arraignment on Monday and then enter a diversion program. Do you think he’ll do that, Leo?”
“What’s a diversion program?” the kid asked.
“It just means he would agree to participate in a program we run that involves some counseling, some skill training, and more. The idea would be to help him find a job and a place to live.”
“He already has a job,” Leo responded. “He gets his food there and can sneak some for me, but it doesn’t pay enough for him to get a place for the two of us.”
“I think we can help you out with that,” I said; “assuming the two of you are open to help.”
Then I explained what I meant.
During the course of the evening I had talked to the emergency supervisor available to help volunteers like myself work through cases like this. After I explained the situation to her, she agreed that Mark sounded like a pretty good influence on Leo and we should do what we could to keep them together if I didn’t change my opinion of Mark after meeting him.
In situations like this, the Center typically relied on a network of people who were prepared to open their homes for up to fourteen days to help kids like Leo and Mark until some other living arrangement could be made. That assumed the kids were willing to be helped and judged responsible.
Unfortunately, the number of people willing to do this had also been on the decline in recent years and there were no spots available at the moment for Leo and Mark.
That was when I had suggested I would be willing to let them stay in my empty basement unit until the Center could arrange a more permanent solution. To her credit, my supervisor had carefully explained the potential pitfalls, not all of which I had considered.
In the end, I had decided to make the offer if I had as much confidence in Mark as Leo. But only Leo and Mark could decide if they were open to such an offer.
“So what do you think, Leo?” I asked, after walking through our suggestion. “Is that something you think Mark would be open to? Something that would interest you?”
“What’s the catch?” he asked. “Do we have to have sex with you?”
“No,” I responded. “There’s no catch.”
“It’s not a problem,” Leo continued, “at least not for me. I’ll suck your dick if that’s the rent you’re looking for. We probably shouldn’t tell Mark though. He says I’m too young to have sex.”
“Well, you know what, Leo? Mark sounds like a pretty smart dude to me and cheating on your boyfriend is never a good thing to do if you want your relationship to last. So if you and Mark promise not to trash the place, to clean it up and treat it like your own home, that’ll be enough for me.”
“But I’m going to have to count on you to persuade Mark it’s a good deal; and if he agrees, we’re going to need to get you back into school as well.”
“I knew there was a catch,” Leo responded. “That’s one of the reasons I ran away. It’s hard enough being beaten up by your father all the time for being gay, but being bullied at school and having no friends is harder still.”
“At the school I’m thinking of, that won’t be a problem,” I said. “It’s an alternative school for kids who are different. All I’m going to ask is that you give it a chance and decide for yourself.”
“I’ll think about it,” he replied, “but I’m going to have to talk to Mark about that too.”
After that Leo and I went to the facility where Mark was being held. I explained what I was proposing to Mark. Unlike many kids I had worked with over the years, he asked a lot of good questions. I remember being impressed.
Once we finished talking I introduced him to his lawyer. He encouraged Mark to agree to what we were suggesting as well, explaining that his arrest record would be expunged if he completed the diversion program successfully.
Then the two of us left Mark and Leo alone so they could discuss our proposal privately.
“He’ll probably do it,” the lawyer volunteered while we waited. “But I doubt the two of them will stick around very long. Streets kids like that who’ve been on their own a long time just can’t take responsibility for their lives. They’ll move in, but they’ll be gone within a few days. For your sake, I hope they don’t sell everything in the place for whatever they can get.”
“And here I thought I was the cynical one,” I replied, knowing he might be right.
“I’ll bet a $100 I’m right,” the lawyer replied.
Although Mark had come across to me as a decent kid, it was hard to know for sure.
“I’ll pass on that,” I said, declining the bet.