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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.
The next day I stopped by Richard’s office and retrieved the story we had discussed. He was right. It was very well done.
It engaged your interest and made you sympathize with everything the poor woman it featured had been through trying to keep her family together. As someone who spent a lot of time writing, I admired the author’s way with words. But I had never talked with a reporter before and that made me nervous.
By now it was also finally dawning on me that I might know the reporter in question. If it was the Tommy Williams I knew and I spoke to him about doing a story on Jimmy, he would discover things about me I had never shared with anyone from my home town. Not being sure how I felt about that, I put in a call to Tim to see what else I could learn.
“Morning, Tim,” I said when he answered his phone. “I was wondering whether there was anything more you could tell me about that reporter from the Post you mentioned, Tom Williams.”
“I can’t think of much more,” he replied. “Like I said, he was young, in his mid-twenties, although he looked younger. Like some kind of college student, to be honest. I thought he might be trying to deceive me about working for the Post, but he had their identification card with a picture so I guess he was telling the truth. Kind of odd looking though.”
“How so?” I asked.
“I don’t know exactly,” Tim said. “It’s hard to describe; just different somehow. He was kind of tall and lanky and his hair was a mess; and he had a face you’d never forget. It was very distinctive.”
“Okay, well, thanks, Tim,” I replied. “I’ll give him a call. I guess that’s the only way I’ll know for sure whether it’s the same guy I knew growing up.”
Having finished one conversation, I quickly dialed the number Tim had given me the previous day. It rang several times, then rolled over to an answering machine.
“Hi. This is Tom. Thanks for calling. I’m either on deadline writing a story or out of the office, but if you leave your name and telephone number I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”
I remember thinking the voice sounded somewhat familiar, but before I could think about that the machined beeped.
“Uh, well, hi; my name is Jeff Landry, and I work for Congressman John Bresnahan of Massachusetts. I’m originally from North Adams and, uh, this may sound crazy, but I knew someone named Tommy Williams from North Adams years ago who wanted to be a journalist. I was curious whether you might be the same person?”
“Whether you are or not, I’d like to talk to you. Tim Ward, who works for Congressman Wellman, gave me your name and indicated you were interested in writing a story about AIDS. I may be able to help.”
I left my number and hung up. Two hours later he returned my call and I was quickly overwhelmed by a torrent of words.
“Jeff, is that really you? This is Tommy; Tommy Williams. I go by Tom now because I’m trying to project a more mature image. But, yeah, it’s me; and I’ve actually been thinking about calling you. I stopped by the Congressman’s office a couple of days ago just out of curiosity to see if you were still working there.”
“Your receptionist — I think her name is Annie — told me you still did, but that you were out at the moment. I had another appointment myself at the time so I told her I’d call later. I’ve been meaning to do that, but this new job of mine keeps me running. I’m pretty busy.”
“I guess you know I work for the Post these days. I’m pretty low on the totem pole around here, but the Post is a national paper, unlike the Springfield Republican, which I used to work for. So it’s definitely a step up for me; a big one.”
“That’s great, Tommy,” I replied, finally managing to get in a word. “Sorry; I mean Tom. But I’m happy to hear you got your journalism degree and are pursuing your boyhood dream.”
“You can call me Tommy if you want, Jeff,” he replied. “I actually prefer it to Tom, but Tom sounds more grown up, don’t you think?”
“It does,” I said, agreeing.
“We should get together some time if only for old times’ sake,” Tommy volunteered. “I mean, assuming you have time for a rookie reporter like me. I bet you deal with a lot more important people these days, but I’m trying to expand my sources around Washington. My contact list is pretty small right now because I’m new, but it’d be an honor if I could add you to the list.”
“No problem,” I replied; “though I’m not sure how much of an honor it is. I mean, I’m just a lowly congressional staffer for a relatively junior member of Congress. Congressman Bresnahan is moving up the ranks and I love doing his work on the Appropriations Committee, but neither one of us is that important in the scheme of things here in Washington.”
“That’s not what I hear,” Tommy replied. “I was talking to David Broder the other day because he’s the guy I admire the most here at the Post. I mentioned that Bresnahan represented the district I was from and he said your boss had a reputation for being one of the bright up and coming members of Congress.”
“He also mentioned he had interviewed Bresnahan a couple of times for some columns he was writing about Nicaragua and the Reagan administration’s support for the contras. He said he was impressed with how thoughtful your boss was. Do you have anything to do with that stuff?”
“Actually, I do,” I responded. “I spend most of my time as Bresnahan’s staffer on the Foreign Operations Subcommittee. So I work Central America and the rest of the foreign policy issues.”
“Wow,” Tommy said. “That sounds pretty exciting.”
“It is, actually,” I replied. “I really love working foreign policy, but that’s not why I called. I work other issues as well, including AIDS. The Congressman wants to get more involved with that because there doesn’t seem to be anyone interested in the issue on the Appropriations Committee.”
“Not that we’re on the right subcommittee, at least not at the moment,” I added. “But sometimes you can have influence on an issue if no one else has staked out the territory; and as far as Appropriations goes, no one has, at least not yet.”
“That’s great,” Tommy said. “Tim probably told you I was thinking of trying to do a story on AIDS.”
“He did,” I replied.
“But it’s not that easy,” Tommy continued. “Right now I’m not supposed to be doing substance. I work for the Style editor and the only way I can get into substantive issues is through human interest stories. If I can put a human dimension to a story, they’ll let me get into substance; at least a little. Otherwise the news reporters get a little too jealous of people like me.”
“That’s too bad,” I said. “I actually saw that piece you did on homelessness. It was quite powerful, quite moving; at least I thought it was.”
“Thanks,” Tommy said. “I worked really hard on that article. I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done as a reporter, at least up until now.”
“It was pretty darn good,” I said, agreeing with him.
“So why the call?” Tommy asked. “It couldn’t just be because you were curious about whether I was the same person you knew back in North Adams. Back in those days you totally ignored me.”
“I did not,” I said. “But you were younger than me and working and I was working as well. There wasn’t any particular reason I should know you at all back then. Though I do recall you coming along with your father one time when he interviewed me during Congressman Bresnahan’s first run for office.”
“I remember that, too,” Tommy said. “I wanted to see you so I asked my father to take me along and show me how to conduct a professional interview. I remember him saying you did a very good job explaining the Congressman’s positions on the different issues. He thought you were very poised, especially for being so young.”
“I remember that interview well,” I replied. “I was nervous as hell and trying my best to conceal it. I thought I had blown the interview completely, but the article your father wrote for the paper was quite favorable to Bresnahan.”
“It was,” Tommy said. “It probably would have been no matter what because my father wasn’t a big fan of Tricky Dick and the Republicans. But you probably helped Bresnahan’s case with your responses to my father’s questions.”
“I remember him saying you mustn’t have been involved in politics very long because you didn’t lie and spend all your time spinning your answers. You were honest and straightforward. He liked that.”
“That’s nice to hear,” I said; “very flattering. How is you father by the way?”
“He died a couple of years ago,” Tommy said, his voice growing softer. “It was lung cancer. He was always a big smoker and he was never able to give it up even after the link to cancer was proven.”
“I’m very sorry to hear that, Tommy,” I said, saddened by the news. “Everyone in North Adams loved your father, especially from those early days when he did the sports broadcasts for WMNB. My own father died of lung cancer as well so we share something in common. Not something pleasant though.”
“Thanks,” he replied. “I’m sorry to hear about your father, Jeff. Tobacco is just so addictive. The only good thing that came from it is that I never smoked myself and neither did my brothers. He was always after the three of us not to smoke.”
“I smoked for a while back then, at least briefly,” I replied. “But then I quit.”
“Good for you, Jeff.”
“In any event, you’re right. I didn’t call just to reminisce about old times. I wanted to talk to you about something else.”
“What?” Tommy asked.
“I, uh . . . I may have someone you might be interested in writing that AIDS story about. I’m not saying for sure you would, but I thought we should get together and I could tell you about him. If you’re still interested in writing that story, of course.”
“I am,” Tommy replied. “When could we get together? The sooner the better from my point of view. AIDS is an important story and I’ve been chomping at the bit to find the right angle for a story about it.”
“How about over lunch tomorrow?” I suggested. “We could do it anywhere on Capitol Hill; the Hawk and Dove, Bullfeathers, wherever you want. Or if Capitol Hill doesn’t work for you, we could meet somewhere in between.”
“Capitol Hill is okay,” Tommy replied. “I like spending time up there. I also understand important people like you are busy and I have more flexibility with my schedule in any event. Whichever restaurant you want is fine with me; though I may not have a lot for lunch. The Post isn’t paying me very much and I’m too poor to be able to buy lunches for my sources.”
“That’s not a problem,” I replied. “I make it a habit not to let people buy lunch for me.”
“What about Bullfeathers?” I suggested. “They have a table way in back I could reserve. We would have more privacy that way. Maybe around noon?”
“Noon is fine, Jeff,” Tommy replied. “Even if the story idea doesn’t work out, I’d love to see you again and catch up on old times.”
“Me too,” I responded.
When I got home that evening Jimmy was just sitting there alone in the living room, staring off into space.
“Hi beautiful,” I said, hoping to cheer him up. “How was your day?”
“I sat in this chair all day after I got up,” Jimmy said. “I didn’t have the energy to do anything except sit here. I didn’t even have the energy to set the table or make dinner for you, Jeff,” he added.
From the tone of his voice, I could tell he was on the verge of tears.
“That’s okay,” I said, trying to reassure him.
Walking behind the chair where he was sitting, I started massaging his neck and shoulders.
“That feels good,” he said. “But it makes me feel guilty. I used to be the one who did that for you after work and now you’re doing it for me. You do everything for me, Jeff. I feel so guilty. I don’t give anything back.”
“I like doing it, Jimmy,” I replied. “Besides, I was never able to keep my hands off of you. Remember? I get a thrill every time I touch you so you’re giving back a lot more than you think.”
Jimmy laughed and that made me happy.
“And I had a big lunch so I’m not really hungry,” I added. “Did you have anything for lunch?”
“No,” he said. “I wasn’t hungry. I get nauseous just thinking about food.”
“I understand,” I said. “But we’ve talked about this before with Ned as part of our sessions. It’s really important for you to eat, Jimmy. You need to keep up your strength.”
“Why?” he replied. “Why is it important for me to keep up my strength? I’m going to die no matter what, Jeff. Both of us know it. What’s the point?”
Jimmy didn’t do this often, engage in self-pity, and I couldn’t really blame him for feeling sorry for himself in any event. But it was at times like this I felt like I had to push him as hard as I could.
“The point is they’re going to find a cure for this disease, Jimmy, and maybe sooner than either of us knows,” I lied.
“I know what you’re going through is hard, but you know as well as me that you want this,” I added, moving in front of the chair and shaking my butt at Jimmy.
“And I want it too,” I said. “But what I don’t want is you falling asleep while you’re fucking me and not being able to finish the job because you ran out of energy from not eating.”
Jimmy rolled his eyes, then started laughing even more.
“Really, Jeff?” he said, quizzically. “I have to eat so I can fuck you when they find a cure? I don’t think so, girl. I’m so over you Jeff it isn’t even funny anymore.”
“Liar, liar, pants on fire,” I said, trying to dispel his dark mood by behaving as silly as I could. “You want my pussy, boy. You know it. This is the finest piece of pussy you ever fucked,” I added, bending over and shaking it at him again, this time more vigorously.
“You are too much, Jeff,” he said, giggling.
“I was never too much for you in the old days, Jimmy,” I responded. “As I recall, once was never enough for you. Sometimes twice a night was never enough. When you get better, we’re going to see just how many times you can do it to me in one night.”
“You need a real boyfriend,” he said, shaking his head. “Bitch, bitch, bitch; that’s all you do these days, Jeff. Bitch about me not fucking you.”
“Damn straight,” I said. “If you don’t want to hear me bitch, you’re going to have to get better; and getting better starts with eating something for dinner. What do you want?”
“Nothing really,” he replied, “but I know you won’t accept that as an answer. Maybe some soup and crackers; that’s about all I think I can get down.”
“Soup and crackers it is, then,” I said, standing up. “And who knows? Maybe I’ll add a secret ingredient to the soup,” I added, rubbing my hand against my crotch.
“You do that, Jeff,” he added, smiling. “I could use a little of that secret ingredient right about now.”
“We’ll see,” I said. “I’ll have to check with Ned first to see whether that’s permitted.”
“Forget it then,” Jimmy responded, sticking his tongue out at me. “If Ned had his way, nothing would be permitted.”
Walking to the kitchen, I started the soup. Then I pulled the crackers down from the cabinet and laid them out on a plate. After pouring a glass of water, I returned to the soup, which was boiling by then. Placing everything on a dinner tray, I carried it out and placed it before Jimmy. Then I pulled up a chair and sat across from him.
“I’m going to stay here until you’ve finished every drop and every one of those damn crackers you love so much,” I said. “But it’s a bit hot so be careful.”
Jimmy picked up the spoon, filled it with soup, and then put the spoon in his mouth.
“That’s good,” he said, leaning back in the chair. “I hope we never get to the point where you have to feed me,” he added, glancing at me.
I thought about going back at him with some snarky remark, but something in the way he said it made me realize he was serious. I found that depressing.
“Guess what?” I said, deflecting his comment.
“What?” he responded.
“I actually spoke to the mysterious Mr. Tom Williams of the Washington Post today and it turns out that he’s really just the young Tommy Williams both of us knew back in North Adams.”
“Really?” Jimmy said, his eyes widening while looking at me. “You spoke to Tommy?”
“Yep,” I replied. “It’s Tommy and we had a good conversation and we’re going to have lunch tomorrow; actually not everything was good about our conversation. His father died.”
“Oh, that’s too bad,” Jimmy said. “Tommy really loved his father a lot.”
“But other than that it was a good conversation and I mentioned to him how the Congressman was taking an interest in AIDS and how I might know someone he could use in that story he wants to write about the disease for the Post.”
“Did you mention me?” Jimmy asked.
“No, I didn’t,” I replied. “I wanted to give you one more chance to back out if you’d rather not have Tommy know you have AIDS.”
“I was actually thinking about that today,” Jimmy said. “How Tommy would react, what he would think, and what not. He’ll probably be disappointed in me, but try not to show it because he’s such a nice guy. And I guess I can’t blame him if he is disappointed. But we were best friends and I’d like to see him again no matter what.”
“Seeing him is one thing, Jimmy,” I said. “But how do you feel about him writing a story about you? Not that he necessarily will. He might end up saying there isn’t a story to tell. But who knows? Maybe he will.”
“If he is interested, would you want him to use your real name? If you don’t, we could ask him to use a pseudonym instead. But I can’t say for sure he would agree to that. He might insist on using your real name. How would you feel about that?”
“It isn’t a problem,” Jimmy said, “at least not for me, but what about you, Jeff? What if he wanted to include you in the story as well and use your name? How would you feel about it? I mean, it’s not like you’re out of the closet to everyone.”
“I don’t really see myself as part of the story, Jimmy,” I said, “and I don’t think Tommy will either. You’re the story.”
“I don’t know about that, Jeff,” he replied. “I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I’ll be interested in how he reacts when you tell him though.”
“From what I recall, Tommy was a pretty nice kid,” I said. “He may be shocked when I tell him, but I don’t think it’ll affect how he feels about you.”
“I hope you’re right, Jeff,” he said. “I sure hope you’re right.”
I busied myself with work the following morning. Then, just before noon, I made my way to Bullfeathers. As I arrived a taxi pulled up and Tommy popped out. I recognized him immediately. Tim was right. There was something distinctive about him.
Wow, he was cute as a kid, Jeff, but he’s definitely much cuter as a young man.
“Nice to finally see you, Jeff,” he said, walking over and shaking my hand firmly. “You look good. You haven’t aged a day.”
“Thanks, Tommy,” I said, smiling. “You look even better. What I mostly recall was this undersized skinny kid with freckles and a really serious demeanor. The years have treated you well. You’ve filled in nicely, the freckles are mostly gone, and that smile on your face really does a lot more for you than the earnest look you used to sport.”
“Thanks, Jeff,” he replied; “and here I’ve been thinking all along you never even noticed me back in those days. And yet that description of me back then is spot on. I was kind of . . . I don’t know, a doofus back in those days. In any event, I’m glad to hear I don’t come across that way anymore. I should probably leave right now while the getting is good.”
“I wasn’t putting you down, Tommy,” I said, concerned I had offended him. “I actually liked you back then if you didn’t know.”
“I didn’t,” he said. “Shall we go in?”
With that we entered the restaurant and were led to our table off in one corner. We shared some small talk while looking over the menus, then finally ordered. Both of us ordered salads, Tommy the cheapest one on the menu. After some further small talk, he came straight to the point.
“So you mentioned you knew someone I might be interested in writing about, Jeff. Tell me more.”
“It’s a friend of mine,” I said. “He’s dying of AIDS; at least that’s what the doctors say and I guess they’re right although I still try to hope they’re wrong or that they’ll discover a cure before he dies.”
“Uh, well, let’s hope so, Jeff,” Tommy said, averting his eyes. “I’m very sorry to hear you know someone with the disease. It’s such a cruel disease. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”
It was clear he knew enough about AIDS to also know it was a terminal disease.
“Uh, so what makes this friend of yours so special, Jeff?” he asked. “Why would people who read the Post be interested in him?”
It was the question I had known he would ask all along and I had thought about it a lot the last two days. I still didn’t have a very good answer, but I gave him the only answer I could think of.
“Nothing,” I said.
“Nothing?” he asked, confused.
“Nothing,” I repeated; “and I guess that’s the point. There’s nothing special about my friend. He’s not some brilliant mathematician being struck down in the prime of life; not some well-known celebrity or famous athlete. He’s not a famous artist or writer or someone else in the public eye. He’s just someone’s son, someone’s friend, someone ordinary. There’s nothing special about him and that’s what makes him so special.”
“He’s like all of the rest of the people dying of this disease, Tommy,” I continued. “He was born in a small town and raised by ordinary people living unspectacular lives. He grew up thinking he was normal like everyone else. He ended up meeting a guy and the two of them had sex, but he still didn’t want to believe he was gay; and then they split up and he went off on his own and at some point he finally realized he was gay and that lots of people hated him for that.”
“One thing led to another and he ended up contracting AIDS; and now he’s going to die and no one will ever remember him once he’s gone because he was ordinary, not extraordinary. And yet being ordinary is what makes him extraordinary. He doesn’t blame anyone else for the disease. He takes responsibility for his actions. He doesn’t complain. He just tries to make it from one day to the next and that isn’t easy, believe me.”
It was the best I could do and I remember wondering how Tommy would react to the angle I had offered him.
“Interesting take on the story,” he said. “I’ve actually been struggling to find some kind of angle for this story; something people could grab hold of. I remember growing up reading about Walter Jenkins, Lyndon Johnson’s right-hand man, who got arrested at the YMCA here in Washington for soliciting sex from an undercover police officer.”
“He had to resign, of course, and it was quite the scandal at the time, especially coming just before the 1964 Presidential election. I mention it because I’ve been thinking it would be a bombshell if some prominent politician here in Washington came down with AIDS and I broke the story in the Post.”
“You’re right, Tommy,” I said. “A story like that would be a bombshell and make your career for sure. If that’s what you’re looking for, I can’t really help. Like I said, my friend is pretty ordinary and his story is ordinary as well.”
“Yeah, but I like the idea,” Tommy said. “It would be really challenging for me as a reporter. I mean, writing a story about a prominent politician with AIDS would be easy; way too easy. The shock value alone would make it a big story, especially in a town like this that thrives on gossip.”
“But, like I said, it’s too easy, Jeff,” he added. “You know what I mean? It titillates but doesn’t educate, which is what this country really needs when it comes to AIDS.”
“Taking someone ordinary and making people care about him would be far more impactful I think; a much tougher story to write.”
“So how do you know this fellow, Jeff?” he asked.
It was crunch time and I remember breathing in deeply.
“He’s my boyfriend,” I said, looking directly into Tommy’s eyes.
“I see,” he said, quietly. “Just from the way you were talking about him, I suspected he might be. But I shouldn’t have pried like that. I apologize.”
“It’s okay,” I said. “Most people who know me don’t know I’m gay, but I’m not ashamed of it. I don’t want to try to deceive you either. I have a stake in this. My boyfriend is someone who doesn’t think he’s anyone important. But he’s always been the most important person in the world to me and I want people to know that.”
“Sure,” Tommy said, nodding his head.
“There’s something else you should know,” I added.
“What?” Tommy asked.
“My boyfriend is Jimmy Barnes.”
I could tell immediately from the look of stunned disbelief on his face that Tommy was shocked; more than shocked, really, overwhelmed.
“Um, uh . . . you’re kidding me, right?” he said, his eyes searching for some hint I was joking.
“No, I’m not,” I responded. “It’s a lot more complicated story than you can imagine right now, but, yes, Jimmy and I are boyfriends, at least we were before we broke up and I’d like to think we’re still boyfriends now even though we’re not having sex. He’s living at my place and I’m doing the best I can to take care of him. It isn’t easy, believe me.”
“I don’t know,” Tommy said, shaking his head as if he hadn’t heard a word I had said.
“What don’t you know?” I asked.
“Um, I don’t know . . . uh, I don’t know if I can write this story,” Tommy responded. “I mean, I liked where you were headed with the story and I was starting to get really excited about it. But I know Jimmy. We were best friends growing up and even now I still consider him a friend, maybe even my best friend given how few friends I’ve made over the years.”
“And, uh, I know you as well, Jeff,” he quickly added, “and I’ve always admired you. But whether it would be right for me to write this story? I just don’t know. I may be too close to it to be objective.”
“But that’s the whole point, isn’t it, Tommy?” I responded. “You wouldn’t be writing a news story to appear in the front section of the Post. Those stories have to be objective or at least pretend to be. But you’re writing for the Style section; you’re writing human interest stories.”
“What about that story you wrote regarding the homeless family? How objective was that? What made it so compelling was that you weren’t indifferent to their plight. You cared about them and that came through powerfully in your writing.”
“Uh, I don’t know,” Tommy said. “I hear what you’re saying, but I’m not sure this is the same thing. I would need to talk to my editor before taking on something like this. And I’d have to think about it more. Writing a story like this would be hard for me. I mean, Jimmy and I were close, really close, and I liked him a lot.”
“Sure,” I said. “I understand, Tommy. But whether you take it on as a story or not, I think Jimmy would like to see you. How do you feel about that?”
“Uh, well, I’m not sure,” Tommy said. “I mean, yeah, sure; I guess I’d like to see him.”
And yet there was something in the way he said it that made me wonder whether Tommy did want to see Jimmy.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Uh, well, I don’t know, Jeff. Honestly, this whole thing has fallen on me like a ton of bricks. I don’t know what to think. I mean, yeah, sure, I would be happy to see Jimmy no matter what. If that’s what he wants. But does he really want that?”
“He does,” I said. “But it has to be something you want as well.”
“Okay; I hear you, Jeff. Could I think about it?”
“Of course,” I replied. “Just let me know what you decide.”