Gr8 Green

Gr8 Green

By Jennifer Sue

Heart of12379719-crop.pngthe Beholden.

“That brings up another issue,” Brenda continued. “Kathan, you are well into puberty as a boy. It will be difficult to reverse so I’m afraid you won’t make a convincing girl.”

“That’s why I need to get on testosterone blockers ASAP,” Kathan vehemently declared. “I know I can’t just start being a girl but I can stop being a boy. I’ll go androgynous for now.”

“Androgynous...” Brenda stated the word slowly. “So how do you think your classmates will respond to that?”

“I don’t care how they respond,” Kathan affirmed. “They don’t like us now. They already assume we’re gay. My being androgynous will not significantly change their perceptions. Look, I’m not stupid. I’m not going to suddenly go all girly. All I’m going to do for now is to completely stop pretending to be a boy. I’ll be like a die-hard tomboy... a girl dressed in boy’s clothes. I’d like to see a doctor to get the blockers but I doubt if there is any doctor nearby who would cooperate. Somehow, I need to get blockers.”

Chapter 1: Love Grows in Madison, West Virginia, Heart of the Appalachians

Even before he began school, Karl Howard displayed an artistic ability. By age three he was able to stay within the lines of the drawings in coloring books and had an eye for the right colors and hues. In kindergarten when his classmates were drawing stick figures, Karl could draw people and animals that were easily recognizable. The child could spend contented hours coloring and as he grew older, sketching and drawing.

That didn’t mean the child was not physically active. In fact he was agile, fast and strong for his age. As a pre-schooler he enjoyed chasing butterflies, climbing trees and in general simply frolicking outdoors. As he grew older his interests in art and nature expanded to exploring the forests, fields and streams around his home drawing what he saw and imagined.

At age three he joined a soccer team because that’s what his big brother Kevin did. Older by two years, Kevin was a swaggering prima-donna jock even at the age of five. As the years passed, Kevin became a talented super jock, excelling at football, baseball, and basketball.

Karl played well in every sport he was signed up for and always made first squad. However, as each year passed, he became more and more disillusioned. Despite his natural ability in sports, the joy of playing steadily evaporated. What sport he tolerated were simple pick-up games. Team sports did less than nothing for him. Despite being told that organized sports built character and encouraged teamwork the observant boy saw very little evidence of those lofty goals. The over-bearing often vulgar parents demanding perfection from their kids, coaches and teams; the unspoken but never-the-less tangible expectation to win at nearly any cost; the anything goes as long as you don’t get caught attitudes and the swaggering of the wannabe prima-donnas on the teams totally turned him off.

The move from a small elementary school to the middle school for sixth grade made Karl feel even more out of step with the other guys than he had in the past. As the year progressed many guy began to enter puberty. Nearly all the guys felt the need to ‘man up’ and leave little boy activities behind them. Sports, always a dominant factor in their early lives, grew to even greater prominence. Most of those who were not sports oriented had few choices, a one way ticket to nerdville, rednecktown or, for a few, sissydom. Virtually no one struck out alone, staying true to themselves while all their peers changed, seldom for the better. Karl went his own way, filling the void left by faded friendships with his art and love of nature.

By the time Karl finished sixth grade and the Little League season, he had his fill of organized sports. “I don’t want to play team sports anymore,” Karl announced to his family after the last game of the season.

“Don’t talk so damn stupid,” Ken, his father, scoffed. “Sports is the backbone of America. It builds character! Your team made it to the regional playoffs and you were voted MVP of the team. Not wanting to play sports anymore... that’s just ignorant!”

“What’s ignorant is the way the adults curse and chew out the refs, coaches, and players,” Karl tersely rejoined. “The only character it builds is that anything goes as long as you don’t get caught. I’m sick and tired of all the crap and false morality. Nope, I’m done with sports.”

“I don’t know what bug got up your ass but you will play sports,” Ken scolded. “It’s what we do in this family! I don’t want to hear another word about this. The subject is closed.”

With the freedom kids enjoy in the summer, Karl spent his days exploring the natural world in the forested rugged mountains around his town. Leaving after breakfast with a backpack full of snacks, drinks and art supplies, he returned home in time for supper. The boy reveled in nature and filled his sketch books with quality drawings. At the same time, Kevin spent most mornings at the local playground with his buddies playing whatever sport struck their fancy. His afternoons were spent at the pool showing off for the girls.

During supper one Sunday evening in mid-July Ken announced he’d signed both up for a week-long football camp to prepare for the upcoming junior high football season. The camp started the next day. Kevin smiled in anticipation while Karl sighed.

Ken frowned and looked at his youngest. “What’s the sigh for?”

“I don’t want to play football,” Karl replied looking directly into his father’s eyes. “I told you at the end of Little League I’d had it with organized sports.”

“Bah, don’t talk so dumb,” Ken shook his head. “You’re a talented player. Once you get out on the field with the other guys you’ll change your mind. There’s nothing like working up a sweat and slamming bodies to toughen you up and make a man out of you.”

“Talent... it doesn’t take talent to smash other people.” Karl declared. “Besides, who says I WANT to be toughened up and be MADE into a man?”

Kevin snorted which only served to further upset his dad. “So you want to spend the rest of your summer fluttering around like some fairy drawing pretty pictures? Don’t think your mom and I don’t know what you’ve been doing every day! A boy your age should be out rough housing and playing with your buddies! Hell, we paid for a family membership at the pool and you haven’t even been there! The fact you spend every day alone flitting around the countryside is making people think you’re a faggot! Football camp starts tomorrow and you’re going!

Karl was upset but knew that pushing the point would only make the bad situation worse. When the meal was finished, he cleared the table and did the dishes without being told. The boys swapped the task every day. The difference was that Kevin had to be told while Karl did it without being reminded. When the dishes were put away, Karl headed to his bedroom, pointedly avoiding the usual Sunday family time.

The following day was trying for the plucky boy. As ordered, he headed off to football camp with his brother. At first Karl participated in the running and exercises somewhat enjoying the physical exertion. It wasn’t until they began to get into the drills that Karl lost all zeal. The staffers were frustrated with Karl’s sudden reticence as they knew he wasn’t coming close to his level of competence. It was clear to everyone he was simply going through the motions during the drills.

When the coaches questioned the recalcitrant boy he looked them right in the eye. “I did not want to come here. In fact, I’m done with ALL sports. The only reason I’m here is because my dad is making me be here. While I have to be here, no one can make be participate. In fact, as of now, I’m done.” With that he walked to his backpack, pulled out his sketch pad, sat on the sidelines and began to draw the scenes before him.

No amount of coaxing or threats swayed the stubborn but polite boy. While the coaches didn’t like the turn of events they realized they were not going to change the obstinate boy’s mind so they let him sit on the sidelines sketchbook in hand. Despite frustration with their inability to motivate the talented boy to play the coaches were quite impressed with his artistic skills.

Each evening Ken would ask the boys how camp had gone. Kevin eagerly told of his exploits while Karl sat somberly silent ignoring the conversation. When questioned the only response they got was a half-hearted shoulder shrug. The parents didn’t miss the difference in the attitudes.

Friday evening for the camp closing program the families of the boys attended. The coaches proudly explained how they worked with the boys in developing their skills. Groups of boys proudly demonstrated what they had learned. The only boy who did not was Karl. Instead he sat off to one side by himself sketch pad in hand busily drawing the scene.

At first Ken thought Karl was being saved for some spectacular exhibition, but as the closing wound up, he began to realize Karl was not going to be demonstrating anything. When he questioned the coaches about his youngest’s efforts during the camp, they responded they were impressed with Karl’s sketches. It took all of Ken’s will power to keep from exploding.

On the way home Ken let the boy have it with both barrels. “What the hell’s gotten into you? All the coaches could say about your effort for the week was that you made great sketches! Do you have any idea how embarrassing that is? Damn it, Karl, I know you can play football! Why the hell aren’t you even trying?”

“I told you I don’t want to play sports and I didn’t want to go to camp,” Karl defiantly declared. “You made me go anyway. It really shouldn’t surprise you I did as little as I could.”

Ken was steaming. “So I wasted my money paying to send you to camp just because you didn’t want to?”

“That’s pretty much exactly what happened,” Karl flippantly declared.

Ken pulled the truck over to the side of the road and reached around grabbing Karl by the shirt and violently shaking him. “You freaking little shit! I was gonna whip your damn ass when we get home but I’m gonna do it now!

“Kenneth, let Karl go and settle down, NOW!” Karen commanded her angry husband as she placed a firm hand on his forearm. “You won’t whip anyone’s ass. Karl told us right out he didn’t want to go to the camp but you blew him off. I’d have done the same thing he’s done if I were in his shoes. When we get home, you two stay away from each other. Tomorrow when you’ve both cooled down we’ll discuss this like human beings. Do you understand?”

Ken released Karl with a snarl and pulled back onto the road spinning the tires on the berm sending gravel flying into the bushes by the roadside The tires chirped and left dual five foot long patches of burnt rubber as the truck jumped onto the paved road. He was too angry to reply but knew better than to let the situation snowball into a husband/wife brawl. He usually lost those.

“I never lost my cool,” Karl declared as he calmly fixed his shirt.

Karen shot a death-ray gaze to silence the boy. It irked her to realize the youth HAD kept his cool while punching all his dad’s buttons. However, she couldn’t fault him too much since he had stated up front he didn’t want to go to camp. That didn’t mean she supported his position, just that she knew he stood by his words.

Kevin sat silently and watched the unfolding drama. Like many teen guys, he was drawn to carnage such as NASCAR wrecks and MMA bouts. While he couldn’t fathom why his little brother didn’t want to play sports, he admired his courage in standing up to their often bullying dad. Of course he also expected their dad would kick Karl’s ass.

When they arrived home Karl exited the truck. “I’m not hungry. I’m going to bed.” With that he headed to his bedroom.

Ken was clearly fuming while Kevin did his best to be inconspicuous to avoid being burnt by the boiling inferno inside his dad. Karen cut up a beef stick and cheese for a light supper since no one was in the mood to eat. Normally just a beer drinker, Ken consumed shots and beers, drinking himself into oblivion.

Saturday morning at 8:00 Karl pulled the rope to start the lawn mower. Mowing was one of his weekly jobs and he did it without complaint and never needed reminding. The roaring of the mower as it passed back and forth over the lawn outside the master bedroom windows did nothing for Ken’s massive hangover.

When he angrily stumbled into the kitchen on his way to the rear deck to yell at the boy Karen cut him off. “You know he mows every Saturday morning at this time.”

For a moment he debated ignoring her, but even in his hung over state he knew when to cut his losses. With a snort he turned and made his way into the bathroom for a nice long hot shower. By the time he made his way back to the kitchen for his morning coffee, Karl sat there drinking a glass of orange juice. Despite the pounding headache he could see the sweatstained boy had enjoyed torturing him with the obnoxious noise. Just seeing the smug boy irritated him.

“You think you can pull one over on the old man,” Ken fumed as he cradled the steaming cup of coffee while glaring at Karl.

“No sir, I was simply doing my chores just like I do every Saturday,” Karl calmly replied.

“Don’t be a smart ass,” Ken sneered. “You’ve wasted my money and then rubbed it in my face.”

“I’m not being a smart ass or disrespectful, just honest. I told you I didn’t want to go to the camp, so it was your refusal to listen to me that wasted the money. If you’ve signed me up for football you’d better cancel my registration or you’ll be wasting that money,” Karl calmly spoke as he looked unflinchingly at his worse for the wear father. “If you had bothered to ask if I wanted to play we could have avoided this entire mess. But you never ask, you always TELL us. You even tell us what sports to watch on TV and expect us to join you. Kevin may be okay with that but I’m not. You can beat the crap out of me if it’ll make you feel better but you can not make me kowtow to your demands. I’ll do my chores and get good grades, but me and sports, from now we’re like a baking soda and vinegar bomb.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PT5jrKOY5tw

Ken opened his mouth to yell at the boy but one look at Karen warned him off.

The rest of the weekend was tense. Karl blithely went about his normal routine while Ken continued to fume. That his son had calmly outwitted him did not sit well. On Monday he got a refund for Karl’s cancelled football registration.

The next few weeks in the Howard home were tense. Ken and Karl faced off each day. Ken did his best to stare down his recalcitrant son but Karl never even blinked. The fact the stubborn boy was unerringly calm and utterly polite and respectful in all but his refusal to be in any way involved in sports truly ate at the proud macho man. It had become a battle of wills and Ken finally realized that when he grew angry and lashed out, the boy won. It took every ounce of his strength to reign in his anger every time he saw the even-tempered contrary boy.

School resumed the last week of August with Karl beginning seventh grade. His former peers on the football team disdainfully let everyone know that Karl was a sissy who liked to draw pictures. By the end of the first day snide comments and outright slurs quickly became de rigueur for their disdain for the calm independent boy. Things grew worse in phys-ed class as they headed out to play soccer during the second period class on the third day of the new school year.

“Sir, I respectfully decline to play soccer and every other sport,” Karl spoke calmly and clearly as the class reached the playing field. “I’ll run laps, do calisthenics, or any other physical exercise you deem appropriate. But at this point I will not participate in any sport.”

The coach was quite surprised and upset by the polite yet brash declaration. “What do you mean you won’t play soccer or any other sport?

The rest of the class quickly gathered around the two waiting for battle to begin. Karl had openly confirmed what the football players had been claiming.

“I mean no disrespect, Sir. All my life I’ve been forced to play sports by my father. The more I played, the more I hated doing so,” Karl patiently explained. “It wasn’t easy and still isn’t but this summer I finally put a stop to my dad forcing me into sports. If I engage in sports here it will encourage him try to force me into sports again. I’ll flunk the course before I allow that. I’m not refusing physical exercise. As I said I’ll run laps or do push-ups and sit ups without slacking off. But unless my parents’ attitudes change, I will not participate in sports.”

The coach realized he had a possibly nasty situation on his hands. The boy was one of the smaller guys in the class, standing just five feet tall and weighing 93 pounds, yet the brazen boy was cool and calmly defying him. The spunky kid had obviously planned this confrontation. If he let one student refuse to participate, it could lead to a rebellion. Yet with the class surrounding them he could do little to the impertinent lad without losing them. “I don’t have time for this now,” he scowled. “Run laps while the rest of the class plays soccer. If I see you slacking off you’ll regret it. Rest assured we WILL be discussing this matter with the principal!”

“Thank you, sir,” Karl replied with a polite nod of the head. “I expected nothing less than a meeting with the principal. I promise to impress you and the rest of the class while running laps. With your permission, I’ll begin.”

The coach wasn’t sure how to handle the otherwise polite spunky kid but nodded his head. Karl promptly sprinted to the track surrounding the soccer field and began running laps.

The coach and the rest of the class kept an eye on Karl as he ran at a steady jog around and around the track for the entire forty minutes of class. His gym uniform was soaked from his perspiration. Only twice did he pause, stopping for a few seconds to re-hydrate at the drinking fountain beside the track. The stamina the boy presented impressed everyone. In the showers the other guys checked out Karl’s slender yet firmly muscled physique. While not bulging in muscles, they were quite evident. After seeing how he held up under forty minutes of basically nonstop running and seeing that he was indeed in good physical shape they had a difficult time understanding his refusal to play sports.

One of the boys who had watched Karl closely was Kathan Wheeler. Standing five feet seven inches tall the imposing seventh grader weighed 150 pounds of near solid muscle. His mother and he moved into the area settling on the farm his grandmother owned just outside of town right after the end of the previous school year. Finding friends in the area had been difficult since most of his time was spent working on the farm not to mention his size intimidated his age peers. Like Karl, Kathan didn’t really like sports but his father had made him play. Kathan tried to enjoy the competition and desperately wanted to experience the oft promised development of moral fiber and sportsmanship. Like Karl, Kathan found reality seldom lived up to the promise. The big guy didn’t like the touted false front of character building and sportsmanship but kept hoping to find it.

On the first day of the summer football camp he’d been impressed by Karl’s agility, speed and stamina as the boy went through the exercises. Like the other boys he was puzzled when Karl stopped even trying after the coaches spoke to him. That he sat on the sidelines drawing confused the big lad.

During that initial day Kathan made a few friends and questioned them about Karl’s obvious boycott. The guys knew Karl and informed Kathan the boy was a faggot who would rather draw than play football. That answer didn’t make sense to Kathan but he realized voicing his doubt could alienate his new friends so he kept his thoughts to himself, realizing that as the new guy, paying attention to Karl could result in his being labeled a faggot too. While he had nothing against gays, it seemed they were not well tolerated in this area. Even so, he did manage to run past Karl several times and even the brief glimpses he had of the boy’s art work impressed him.

After camp, Kathan wound up as first string defense on the same Pop Warner team Kevin did. It didn’t take long for him to realize from the scuttlebutt that Kevin was Karl’s older brother. Kevin didn’t mind talking to Kathan as he was an excellent player. In bits and pieces the younger boy learned more about the mysterious boy who refused to play sports. The more he learned, the more respect he had for Karl.

On this school day Kathan was deeply impressed when Karl politely yet boldly stuck to his guns concerning his refusal to play sports. When he witnessed Karl demonstrating his physical stamina and strength, Kathan was even more impressed.

At the end of his third period class Karl received notice to report to the office. Upon reporting in, the secretary spoke into an intercom. Almost immediately he was shown into the small conference room off the side of the counter. The coach, principal, vice-principal, and head councilor sat around the table looking at him as he entered.

“Good afternoon,” Karl spoke clearly as he stood by the table facing the adults. “Let me start by stating I mean no disrespect. I know why I’m here. I am not refusing to take phys-ed. As I showed the coach earlier, I’ll do laps, calisthenics or any physical activity other than sports. As I proved today, I will not slack off. My reason for refusing to participate in sports is I absolutely detest organized sports. From my earliest memories my father forced me to play sports. The more he pushed, the more I hated it. I told him last spring at the end of Little League I was done with sports but as usual he blew me off. I have not even watched any sports since then. It came to a head this summer when he signed me up for football camp and Pop Warner. He never asked, simply told me. I tried to refuse but he made me go to the camp so I simply refused to participate. Needless to say he is quite angry with my decision. I know he’s just waiting for me to play sports in phys-ed so he can get on my case about sports. I will not give him that satisfaction. However, if you can get my parents to promise not to try to force me to join any team sports, I will have no objections to fully participating in phys-ed class. Failing that, if my offer of alternative physical activity is unacceptable, then I will simply fail the course.”

The adults looked at Karl for a few moments as he stood boldly before them. Then they looked to the coach who had told them of the boy’s cool, unflinching determination in refusing to participate in sports as well as the amazing stamina he’d displayed running laps. The coach merely nodded.

“We will have to discuss this matter,” the principal finally declared. “We will contact your parents about your request. At this time we can not grant permission to do alternate activities in phys-ed until we can make a full determination of the situation.

“Thank you for your consideration,” Karl replied. “In the mean time, if you’d like to verify what I’ve stated about my parents, sports, and myself, you can ask my brother Kevin.”

The coach was taken by surprise. “Kevin Howard is your brother?”

“Yes sir,” Karl answered. “Unlike me, he lives for sports. That’s why he and my father get on so well.”

With that Karl was dismissed. The staff discussed the situation. They were all aware of Kevin’s sports involvement and by association that of their father Ken. If the boy had enough gumption to stand up to his gung-ho jock dad, they realized there was little they could do to force the boy to do so in class. Of course they would contact Mr and Mrs Howard, but they already realized the stubborn boy would fail rather than give in. For a straight A student to be willing to take an F meant he was absolutely serious in his determination to avoid sports. The fact he’d presented a way out of the problem, offered alternative activities and proven he would do them, gave them a lot to consider. The principal checked the file and called Karen to let her know of the problem.

Karl entered the forth period class giving the teacher the pass he’d been issued. Most of the guys snickered and made rude comments about the stubborn boy. Kathan kept quiet but fumed that the guys with whom he’d become friends were harassing a boy who showed courage and strength.

After the class ended, they all headed to lunch. By choice Karl was the last of his class to join the food line, as he did every day. Upset with the attitude of the guys towards Karl, Kathan hung back so he was just in front of Karl. As they exited the line Kathan hesitated as he looked at the table where his erstwhile buddies were busy ripping down whoever was in their sights at the moment. Karl stepped around him and headed for what was dubbed the loser table, taking a seat away from the other school pariahs. Kathan was fed up with the macho posturing and surly attitudes of his ‘buddies’. With a sigh he turned and followed Karl, taking the seat across the table from him.

Kathan’s action was not unnoticed by his buddies who began pointing and snickering, with the occasional ‘faggots’ comments carrying to the outcast table.

Karl looked up at Kathan and smiled. “You’ve got a few seconds to prove you sat here to get on my case.”

“That’s not going to happen. I came to say how much I respect you,” Kathan declared. “Those guys are just jerks and I’m tired of trying to fit in with them. If you’ll have me, I’d like to be your friend.”

“I’d be glad to call anyone who willingly walks away from those jerks my friend,” Karl smiled. “It’ll be rough playing on the team with them. My brother may be able to take off some of the heat for a bit but he’ll eventually turn against you too when the peer pressure gets too much.”

“Like you, I really don’t like sports. I never thought of not playing until I saw you do it. I just joined the team when we moved here because that’s what my dad always had me do,” Kathan said. “I’ve been thinking of quitting the team but I don’t feel right about doing it.”

“Please don’t quit the team,” Karl urged. “Even though you don’t like playing, you made a commitment so you should complete it.”

“I know, but it’s nice to think about it,” Kathan sighed. “I shouldn’t have tried out in the first place.”

“I know that feeling,” Karl sighed. “Did your dad make you join?”

“Not this time, my mom and I moved here at the end of the last school year to live with my grandma after my dad got thrown in jail. He had a good job but was also in a motorcycle gang and got busted dealing drugs. Mom and I didn’t know anything about it but we lost all our so called friends and the motorcycle gang thought we knew where dad kept his stuff so they were always watching us,” Kathan explained. “Mom divorced him when they sentenced him to one to three years in jail. I’m glad he’s out of our lives but it’s hard to move and start over. I really wish I’d met you when we got here. I wouldn’t be in this mess.”

“We can’t change the past and dwelling on it will eat you,” Karl sighed. “I only stood up to my dad last spring but he blew me off. The first time I actually refused to play was during the camp this summer. My dad threw a fit but mom kept him from beating me. My home life has not been very nice since then.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Kathan answered. “I know how miserable life is when there are family issues. There is one thing I’d like to clarify. Are you only refusing to do sports in gym because your parents might use it to force you into sports?”

“Yeah, I don’t mind gym class sports. It’s team sports I detest,” Karl explained. “I told the principal and staff that if they could get my parents to promise not to try to force me to play team sports I’d participate in gym class as expected.”

“That’s cool,” Kathan smiled. “I don’t mind gym class sports either. Now lets get off sports. If you don’t mind, I’d like to see your art work. I managed a few glimpses of your sketchbook during camp and liked what I saw.”

The two boys were well on the way to becoming best friends.

Kevin quietly chuckled when he heard the wild running rumors about his younger brother’s actions in gym class. When he heard about Kathan joining Karl for lunch he lost some of his joviality. Although a formidable human wall on the line, after living with his brother, Kevin recognized the big guy’s heart wasn’t in the game. But he was convinced Kathan had integrity so Kevin was sure he’d finish the season.

Karen was not thrilled when she got off the phone. With a sigh she called Ken to tell him they had a meeting with the principal about Karl. As expected, Ken was not a happy camper. His demeanor didn’t improve as he sat with the Principal and staff after passing Karl and Kevin seated in the outer office at the end of the school day. Karl’s demand of a promise not to try to push him into team sports ate at the proud man’s guts. It was quite humiliating to be facing these men under these circumstances. The school officials could tell by Ken’s hard set jaw, beady eyes and the veins visibly pounding in his temples that he was barely controlling his anger.

Karen sighed deeply, placed a restraining hand upon Ken’s tensed iron-like forearm and nodded her head in acquiescence. The coach stepped out of the office to wave Karl into the meeting room. One look at his dad and he knew he’d be lucky to make it through the evening unscathed.

“Karl, your father and I promise we will not try to force you to play team sports,” Karen declared as Ken glared at the unflinching boy.

“Thank you,” Karl replied before turning to the Principal. “With the promise you’ve witnessed I will fully participate in Phys-ed classes. I apologize for the inconvenience this caused but I felt I had no other option.”

The family left the school in silence. Normally preferring to ride with his father, Kevin chose to ride with Karl and his mother. Karen wasn’t pleased with what Karl had done but understood it had been the only way. It was quite late when Ken arrived home. How he managed to drive was a mystery as he was unable to make the walk of twenty feet from his truck into the house. The brothers and their mom managed to carry the unconscious drunken man into the house.

Ken had the worst hangover in his life, even worse than the one he’d had a few weeks before. For the first time he was too under the weather to make it to work. Home alone all day wallowing in his fury he helplessly fumed. Karl had once again outwitted him. By setting up the promise before the school officials, he’d tied his hands. There was no way he could lash out as the situation demanded because he knew the school officials would be looking for signs of abuse. From that day, Ken never spoke to Karl, he barely even acknowledged his existence.

That evening at supper the tension was so intense it could almost be cut with a knife. It was the last meal Karl had with his father. Thereafter, if his father was home, Karen and Kevin ate with him while Karl ate alone.

Kathan made his intentions to finish the football season known but also made it clear that it would be his last participation in team sports. The jocks didn’t understand and since he was best buddies with Karl, they assumed the sissy artist and the big guy were gay. Slurs and insults were hurled at the by then near inseparable duo. Drawing strength from their friendship, both boys blithely ignored the derogatory comments. By the time the football season ended, the volume of insults dwindled since it was clear the pair would not react. The virulency, however increased as the haters grew frustrated.

Now that he had a real friend for the first in his life, Karl found it easier to put up with the tension at home. Kathan visited the Howard home a few times but the tension was quite palpable. Ken tolerated the big guy but since he’d already sided with Karl on the issue of sports, he was barely civil. As it became clear that Kathan had been ‘poisoned’ on sports by Karl as well as their ‘unmanly’ closeness, Kevin slowly transitioned from sticking up for his brother and friend to toleration. By the time the football season ended, all pretense of acceptance faded and the duo became an anathema to the jock although he let it be known that if anyone who got physical with Karl he would not be happy.

It quickly became routine for Karl to hang at Kathan’s home. The ‘old Dobbins place’ as it was known, had been the family farm since before the Civil War. In the 1940s with the sons off to war and the family patriarch too old to farm on his own, the fields went to seed. After WWII, when it became clear the returning vets didn’t want to farm, he began to sell off parcels along the main road, now US Route 119, now a 4 lane divided highway with 25' grass median. When he passed on, one of his sons moved back to the farm, doing a bit of small scale farming while holding down a full time job.

Two miles north of Madison on US 119 is an intersection. To the west of the intersection Ramsey Road is a short connector to Deerfield Lane and Skeens Road. An Exxon gas station/food mart is on north side of Ramsey/east of Skeens. White House Road is the lane on east side of the intersection heading into a west to east valley. The homestead is hidden deep in that mountain valley. White House Road is in reality a rutted stone lane a mile and a third long. The valley floor is just under 800' above sea level, normal for the low lying areasin that region of the Appalacians. The lane hugs the bottom of the north mountain slope leaving the valley entrance fairly flat 300 feet wide by 3000 feet deep. At that point it slowly narrowed to 100 feet wide over a distance of 500 feet. The northern mountain slope was a fairly consistent 45 degrees going up 400' to a height of 1200' for the length of the arable area of the valley. The southern mountain slope was 30degrees going up 600' to a height of 1400'. Where the valley narrowed to 100 feet wide at a depth of 3500 feet from the road, the southern slope eased to about 15 degrees widening the farmable land to 500 feet wide by 3500 feet deep. At the edge of the gentle slope the mountain resumed it’s climb of 30 degrees. At that point the main east/west valley split in three. The northeastern branch headed of at a 45 degree angle into the north mountain ridge which soars another 250' to 1600' height. The useable area of this fork was 200 feet wide narrowing to nothing over 300 feet length with a slope of 15 degrees before swinging up into the 45 degree slope to the summit of the ridge on all three sides. The southern branch had a useable area of 200 feet wide narrowing to nothing over 400 feet long with a slope of 15 degrees before swinging up into the 30 degree slope to the summit of the ridge on all three sides. This valley was now an overgrown orchard of apple and cherry trees. The center prong is the main valley continuing east. The useable area of this fork is 400 feet wide narrowing to nothing over 500 feet with a slope of 15 degrees before swinging up into 40 degree slopes to the summit of the ridge on all three sides. The house, barn and outbuildings were built onto the useable area between the northern and central valley forks to make the most of the late afternoon sun.

The homestead consisted of sixty seven farmable acres between the steep tree studded rocky sides of the mountain ridge that surrounded the valley. The bottom land was now mostly overgrown fields and pastures. After sixty years the sloped arable land had virtually reverted to woodland. The homestead consisted of a white washed old stone farmhouse, solid but still without central heat, an old timber frame barn, an implement shed, and a chicken coop. The outbuildings were still solid but needed painting. The tin roofs on all the buildings were in need of minor patching and re-coating.

Harriet Dobbins, Kathan’s grandmom, was a weary woman in her early sixties. Since the death of her husband two years previously her life had been empty. Even though she could retire, her office job in the county courthouse had been the only reason she’d had to leave the house. When her daughter, Brenda asked if they could move in she welcomed their company. Brenda, an RN, had little trouble getting a job in a nearby nursing home.

The homestead buildings and about six acres surrounding it remained open. A large vegetable garden that had sat idle since Kathan’s grandad died had been tilled and planted by Brenda and Kathan when they moved in. Although started in June, the garden had produced well.

As time allowed after they’d become best friends, Kathan and Karl cleared the underbrush from the orchard and picked baskets of apples from the trees which they sold to a nearby farmer’s roadside stand. After reading up on orchard pruning the boys set out to cut back nearly ten years of unrestricted growth. They tended the dozen chickens still being raised for family use and generally cleaned the place up. The pair worked well together and Karl spent most weekends there, sleeping over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. Harriet and Brenda liked Karl and were amazed by his artistic abilities. The sketches of the farm and it’s environs were impressive. Karen Howard made token protests about Karl spending so much time there but the women assured them they enjoyed his presence since he was a great friend for Kathan. With Karl gone so much, life in the Howard almost returned to normal so she didn’t push the issue.

After the Christmas holidays, things at school grew worse. Karl and Kathan were quite inseparable. Kevin joined his football buddies harassment that since Karl slept over three nights a week the pair had to be gay. Several times confrontations loomed, but the duo stood their ground and never blinked an eye. Even though only in seventh grade, Kathan was one of the biggest guys in the school and had earned a begrudging respect as a defensive lineman. Karl was still wiry and tough, easily beating out everyone else in speed, endurance, and stamina in phys-ed. Together, they made a formidable team that none of the detractors wanted to physically challenge. None of the other guys interacted with the ‘gay couple’ either out of disgust or fear of associative repercussions.

In the early winter before the first snow, while trimming the orchard and clearing underbrush, they discovered an overgrown decrepit shed that had been hidden by ivy vines amongst the trees by the far edge of the orchard. The building was in such poor shape it was only held up by the ivy overgrowth. Coming up to the front they peered between the crumbling boards.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/theclanwellspoint/8567264564/in...

They saw the shape of a huge vehicle covered by a worn canvas tarp. Curious, they investigated from every side but were afraid that trying to force entry would bring the old shed down. From what they could see the vehicle was immense. Besides that all they could surmise was that the tires were flat. But in their youthful imaginations they could see the old car was exciting and impressive.

The boys returned to the house to huddle around the old cast iron wood and coal burning stove that served as the source of heat for the old home. Harriet smiled as she listened to them excitedly telling how they had found a huge old vehicle in the crumbling shed.

“My goodness, I’d forgotten all about that old tank,” Harriet exclaimed as she gave the boys hot chocolate. “That car has been there since 1963. Kathan, my father-in-law, your great grandfather, bought that car new in 1958. It was huge and heavy but it was the fastest car I’d ever seen or rode in! It was so big and fast that it terrified my mother-in-law and she refused to ride in it. Believe me, that did not sit well with your great grandpa! In fact, the last time it was driven was for my wedding. It was our limo to the church and reception. When your great granny refused to get in it to ride home your great grandpa became so angry and frustrated he parked it in that shed and locked the doors. I don’t think anyone has been there since.”

“It’s probably in bad shape and the tires are flat,” Kathan said before he hopefully asked. “Do you think Karl and I can fix it up?”

“You’re welcome to try but I think it will take a lot of work,” Harriet chuckled. “It’s been in that shed for 41 years. It’ll probably take the two of you until you’re sixteen to get it running!”

“We’ve got the time,” Kathan said with unbridled excitement. “We were afraid the shed would collapse so we didn’t go inside. What kind of car is it?

“It’s a 1958 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser,” Harriet chuckled. “I remember it had the biggest most powerful production engine ever made up to that point. I remember them saying it was fully loaded as well as something about triple carbs and putting out 400 horsepower.”

That made the eyes of the boys lit up. Turnpike Cruiser... just the name said it all! They quickly researched the car.

What they found made them eager to get the monster car back on the road. In the late 1950s America was just beginning to really discover the open road and Detroit was building cars that flew down the road. All was good in the world and the U.S. was set to take off. Cars of that era are remembered for the unique styling cues and wide array of gadgets. The general population was intrigued with space ships and luxury cruise ships. America was fascinated with anything that flew or went into space. It was the beginning of the space age and everyone wanted to be a part of it. It seemed like every car wanted to be a space ship. The 1958 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser may have been the best example. The Turnpike Cruiser was an original. They might best be described as the Jetsons meet Detroit. What better name for a top of the line Road King than Turnpike Cruiser?

The 1958 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser was indeed a tank but a luxurious one! Just 6,407 Turnpike Cruisers were made that year. The one Karl and Kathan wanted to rebuild was a fully loaded 2-door hardtop. Ahead of their time features were the "Breezeway" power rear window that could be lowered to improve ventilation, "twin jet" air intakes at the upper corners of car's wrap-around windshield, "seat-o-matic" automatically adjusting seat, an average speed "computer" which would tell your average speed after a trip, a stand-up rear deck medallion that was internally illuminated whenever the headlights were on, side running lights on the rear roof posts, secondary raised turn signal indicators on the front fenders, air conditioning, seat belts, tachometer, side mirror/spotlights, as well as safety features including a padded dash, impact absorbing deep-dish steering wheel, and safety automatic door locks.

The best feature was the Ford developed the MEL ("Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln") engine. The 1958 Super Marauder 430ci Y-block engine with triple two barrel carburetors was the first American production automobile engine to attain a 400 hp rating right off the assembly line. The Y-block was designed with the cylinder block casting extending below the crankshaft centerline, giving great rigidity and support to the crankshaft's bearings. In these engines, the casting extends 3.625" below the crankshaft centerline, which is more than an inch below the bottom of the crank journals. The block was cast as a side-oiler, it sent oil along a passage located on the lower side of the block first and the cam and valve-train second. The main bearings were 2.9", while the rod bearings were huge at 2.6". The connecting rod beam had a unique triangular shape with the shoulders for the bolts sitting low toward the cap mating surface. The engine in this car featured the tri-power intake manifold with three 2 barrel Holley 2300 carburetors. All MEL engines had wedge shaped combustion chambers entirely within the block. The chambers were formed between the flat head surface and an angle milled block deck (10 degrees off square with the bore axis), with the piston top determining the compression ratio and combustion chamber shape. The perfectly flat head bottoms permitted larger valves. The heads were designed so that no two exhaust valves were adjacent, and compression in all cylinders was exactly the same.

The original factory specs for the car were impressive: Weight: 4320 pounds; Length: 213.2"’ Width: 81"; Height: 56.1"; Wheelbase: 122"; Front Track: 59.4"; Rear Track: 59"; Turning Radius: 43.7'; Front Legroom: 44.1"; Rear Legroom: 43.4"; Front Headroom: 33.9"; Rear Headroom: 33.2"; Front Bench Seat: 61.3"; Rear bench seat: 62.9"; Passenger Compartment Volume: 102.3 cuf; Trunk Volume: 31 cuf; Front Suspension: Independent ball joint with coil springs; Rear Suspension: Longitudinal leaf spring; Steering: Gear Recirculating ball and rack; Engine: Ford MEL series V-8, 430 ci Super Marauder; Ignition: 4-stroke spark; Fuel: High octane Gasoline; Fuel system: 3 2-barrel Holly carburetors; Valves: 2/cylinder, V-90 degree OHV; Bore: 4.3"; Stroke: 3.7"; Compression Ratio: 10.5:1; Horsepower: 400; Torque: 480 ftlbs; Transmission: Multi-Matic 3 speed; Gearbox: Lincoln Turbo-Drive by Borg Warner 2.91 Diff. ratio; Fuel Capacity: 20.1 gallons; Tire Size: 8.00 - 14, Tread Width: 8", Rim size: 14". The factory acceleration standards for the two ton plus behemoth were impressive: 0-20 mph: 2.0 sec.; 0-40 mph: 4.4 sec.; 0-60 mph: 7 sec.; 0-80 mph: 12.3 sec.; 0-100 mph: 19.4 sec.; 0-130 mph: 79.5 sec.

Zero to 60mph in 7 seconds was impressive, especially for a car that weighed nearly 2 1/4 tons! The boys so wanted to fix it up and get it on the road. But that would take money.

The enterprising boys decided to create a business. At their age they were quite limited in opportunities. The most obvious was landscaping and associated activities. Despite their desire for the monster car they were both interested in the environment so they called their venture Gr8 Green. Karl drew up flyers and business cards with their business name and used Kathan’s home phone number. The duo worked diligently to earn money. Together they shoveled snow, dug and tended gardens, mowed lawns, planted flowers and raked the accumulated leaves from under shrubs and bushes to earn money to repair the car. They went so far as to make two wheeled tow behind carts for each of their bikes to haul their equipment from job site to job site. The duo quickly earned a positive reputation for quality work at reasonable prices. They also worked on the neighboring farm during peak labor times, which not only earned them cash, it cemented their trustworthiness with the farmer. He was the one who had bought their apples for his roadside stand and would now buy other produce they brought to him. With the weather warming they began bracing the walls and roof of the shed that held the car so it wouldn’t collapse.

Once they felt safe enough to approach the car, they discovered it took a great deal of WD40 and a long piece of pipe to increase the leverage on the lug wrench to break the lug nuts loose. Once all were loose, they dug out beneath the frame so they could fit a bottle jack beneath it to raise the body enough to free the wheels. After blocking the body a foot above the floor of the shed, they removed the four wheels.

Just after Easter in 2005 they loaded the heavy wheels on a 2 1/2 feet by 5 feet heavy duty garden wagon. Using the 1999 Cub Cadet 3186 garden tractor that Kathan’s grandfather had purchased, they towed it the two miles to Dinky Dow’s garage, the best mechanic and body man in Boone County, West Virginia. Dinky Dow’s garage was located at the next intersection north on US 119 where WV Route 3 intersected, about 1500 feet north of White House Road. North of the intersection WV Route 3 and US 119 were the same road.

A lot of people respected Dinky for his mechanical ability, honesty and fair business dealings. At the same time nearly early everyone thought he was at best slightly insane. Most people didn’t even know his real name. Of course, Dinky preferred it that way as he never liked his name, Clarence Dimwity. The weird intense young man had enlisted in the Marines right out of high school in 1966 and served two thirteen month tours in Vietnam. Those who knew him said he was not quite right before he went to ‘nam, but he certainly wasn’t any better when he returned. The man was friendly yet anti-social. The garage was a concrete block three bay affair with an added fourth bay attached in back and a fifth bay that had been added to one end of the main building. This room was properly vented serving as a paint room that was also set up to ‘bake’ the paint jobs. The place was heated by an unwieldy old cast iron coal furnace that he’d modified to burn drain oil along with the coal. Dinky lived in a small mobile home behind the garage. The place was littered with the carcasses of cars and trucks. In the front of the building was an illuminated flagpole. The US flag proudly flew above a USMC flag.

In addition to working on customer’s vehicles, Dinky bought selected wrecked vehicles from insurance companies at bargain prices. Then he painstakingly rebuilt them. When they were ready for resale, most were in better condition than when they originally came out of the showroom. Dinky always got top dollar for the rebuilt vehicles because the customers could depend upon the quality of his work.

Karl and Kathan had gotten to know the bearded wiry man when they offered to shovel the snow from around the cars on his crowded lot. At first Dinky thought to humor the boys but when he saw their effort he was impressed. In them he saw himself at that age, full of spirit and ambition. It did his weary heart good to see that at least some kids in the new century had drive and focus.

Since the boys had no desire to hang out where the other junior high guys did, nor were they welcome, they began to hang around Dinky’s to learn all they could about repairing cars. Dinky took them under his warped wings and mentored them. For the first time in forty plus years Dinky finally had people who were genuinely interested in him as a human being. The years of repressed memories, the shear hellish fighting he’d been in... long denied PTSD... he was finally able to find someone, no, sometwo, to talk out his demons. Talking with the boys, who listened intently and asked pertinent questions, allowed him find a long denied sense of solace.

The boys could almost feel the adrenalin, the fear, the terror, the hate, the raw desire to kill and rend human beings as they listened to Dinky tell them of his 26 months in ‘Nam. But what held his attention and that of the boys was the 4 worst months of hell on earth. Dinky was with I Company, 3rd Battalion, 26th Marines during the siege of Hill 881 outside Khe Sanh from January through April 1968. The company was surrounded and cut off for the entire time, supplied only by helicopters. In actions before the siege the Vietnamese rangers he’d fought alongside had called his berserk battle behavior ‘dien cai dau’ which meant ‘crazy’. His fellow grunts nick named him the American pronunciation for the French/Vietnamese words, Dinky Dow. During the siege on Hill 881 he lived up to that designation. As the relief choppers swooped in to offload supplies and take out casualties he was one of the men who consistently broke from the safety of their positions to carry stretchers with wounded and dead to the choppers and to lug the supplies to safety. Once a chopper lifted off before he’d gotten clear of the underslung cargo net and a foot had gotten snagged in netting. He flew the five miles from Hill 881 to Khe Sanh dangling beneath the chopper by that one foot. Two days later he flew back to Hill 881 on the next supply run. Dinky had earned three purple hearts, a Bronze Star, a Silver Star, and numerous South Vietnamese medals for his fierce selfless actions. It wasn’t until he’d shipped back to the US that the PTSD hit him.

It was only when the boys showed up with the wheels and flat tires that Dinky discovered they intended to get an old car running. When they told him the car had sat in a shed for 41 years and only had 8763 miles on the odometer and that it was a 1958 Turnpike Cruiser with a Super Marauder engine, Dinky’s eyes lit up! As a teen he’d seen Kathan’s great grandfather drive the impressive beast. Dinky instructed the boys in how to remove the rotted flat tires from the rims and watched as they did the job. Then he inspected the wheels. Other than a bit of rust they were in good shape. Under his tutelage they sanded the rust off and primed the wheels. Then they installed used tires. Of course that all took several days.

Dinky and the boys loaded the wheels on the back of his beat up old wrecker. Driving to the propped up shed he watched as the boys installed the tires, removed the blocking and filled in the holes they’d excavated to jack the car. Only at that point did they remove the worn canvass tarp that had hidden and protected the old car from the worst of the elements. The boys were all smiles as they saw the faded paint and dirty windows. Even in such poor shape it was impressive! Dinky then hooked the front of the car to the wrecker and pulled the behemoth into the sunlight for the first time in 41 years. http://www.flickr.com/photos/theclanwellspoint/8567268710/in...

Stopping at the house, Brenda and Harriet looked over the car. Brenda didn’t think she’d ever seen such a huge car. Not that he really had a choice, Dinky joined them for supper before taking the 58TPC back to his place. Per his instructions, the boys had cleaned out the fourth unused service bay Dinky had filled with used parts. The 58TPC would live there as the boys rebuilt it under his exacting skilled instruction.

Of course the boys did not spend a lot of continuous time working on the car. They still had to earn money to invest in the effort. Dinky also made it a rule they could only work on the car when he was available to supervise. In effect he took the boys under his wings as apprentices. They did a lot of basic mechanic grunt work on customer’s vehicles. They also patched roof leaks and replaced broken and cracked windows in the building. About half their free time was spent working with Dinky. The grizzled vet was duly impressed when he discovered the boys had washed and polished his wrecker making it appear almost new. What really impressed him was what Karl had painted on the doors. http://www.flickr.com/photos/theclanwellspoint/8707694678/

In 4" high letters the words “The Few. The Proud. The Marines. Semper Fidelis” was painted in a large circle. Centered inside the circle was the USMC emblem. The word ‘Leatherneck’ was emblazoned above the emblem while ‘Ooh Rah’ was emblazoned beneath the emblem. ‘Dinky’ was printed on the left side of the emblem while ‘Dow’ was on the right side.

As Gr8 Green, the boys also continued doing yard work for others. On the homestead in addition to their chore type work they also repaired the roofs on the farm buildings and enlarged the garden. The excess produce made it’s way to the roadside stand.

The work ethic of the boys did nothing to endear them to their peers. Even though few people could fathom why the boys detested sports, many adults begrudgingly admired their willingness to do jobs, to do them fast and well and for a fair price. If the boys were gay as the rampant rumors declared, other than being best buds there was no overt show of affection between the pair. In addition, the boys were straight ‘A’ students who never misbehaved, never disrespected anyone, always completed their assignments, and were invariably polite and honest. Those attributes alone alienated them from their peers. Parents began using the school and work ethic of the duo as examples they wanted their children to emulate. By the end of the school year Kathan and Karl were totally ostracized by their schoolmates.

The school administrators were aware of Karl and Kathan’s alienation from the other students. As such as they planned the new school year steps were taken to keep the boys together since as a pair they were intimidating enough to keep the haters at bay.

During the school year Karl’s life in the Howard home continued to deteriorate. Ken steadfastly refused to acknowledge his renegade son. Kevin found it easier to join his peers in putting Karl and Kathan down than to stick by his bro, the attitude of his dad making his actions palatable. Karen could not understand the actions of her youngest son. That he was unyielding in his position on sports was beyond her. While she loved the boy, his stubbornness threatened to tear apart the family. It was more than she could handle. The only time the family seemed functional was when Karl was staying with Kathan. On the last day of the school for the year, Karl came home with Kathan. The duo packed up Karl’s clothes and the few other belongings he wanted into duffle bags. On their bikes they peddled out to the Dobbin’s homestead where Karl intended to spend the summer.

Kathan’s mom and grandmother were more than glad to have Karl stay. They were quite aware of the strained relationships in the Howard home and could not understand why Karl’s stance on sports had created such a schism. The were happy to let the boys be together as much as possible. The work the boys did around the homestead was greatly appreciated and they never created issues.

Their Gr8 Green business and the car they were rebuilding became the focus of their lives. To document the restoration of the 58 TPC they had started a photo journal beginning with the 58TPC in the decrepit shed. They intended to document every step of their work. Under Dinky’s watchful eye the boys began by stripping the body. They removed the fenders, doors, hood, and trunk lid from the body. Pictures were taken and notes made as each body part was dismantled to it’s basic components. Next they tackled the interior completely removing every piece. Then they pulled the engine and transmission assembly and placed it to the side. The final step was to pull the main body off the frame.

With the car in pieces, one piece at a time they began to remove every bit of rust and paint from each component. In areas where the metal had deteriorated, they had to determine the extent of damage since all bad metal had to be removed so as to leave only intact good metal as a base to attach new sheet metal. Once the areas to be replaced were delineated and marked, cardboard templates were made of the area to be replaced.

The crusty old man made the boys practice cutting bad body parts and welding new steel replacements on some of the junkers on the lot making sure they knew how to safely handle the air tools and MIG welder. Only once they understood safe and proper procedures did he allow them to begin repairing the body parts of the 58TPC.

The deteriorated metal was then cut out and the templates checked for proper fit. The original body metal was 18 gauge steel so all replacement sheet metal was of the same gauge. Once the metal replacement part was cut, it was shaped to the approximate contours needed. Then they butt welded the replacement pieces to the remaining original steel. The last step was to grind down the weld. They were to grind it almost flush leaving a very slight crown. Dinky cautioned them to avoid touching the panels with the grinder as they can get too thin really fast using the power tool. If they discovered any pits or missed spots while grinding they were to go back and touch them up with the welder again.

At that point they mixed Bondo fiberglass body patch which was then spread over the patch. After a rough power grinding the they had to hand sand the surface smooth. The effort to smooth the curved and contoured surfaces was involved and time consuming. One error would ruin everything. Under Dinky’s patient watchful eye and with the intensity of youth the boys learned from their errors and soon mastered the task of restoring the parts. Once repaired, each piece was primed on all surfaces to protect it. As part of the apprentice training Dinky gave to the boys, he had them assist him in repairing the vehicles he rebuilt teaching them how to spray prime and paint vehicles with even coats and without runs.

With the start of summer school vacation the boys were together 24/7. It didn’t take them long to realize they were more than best friends, they were soul mates. Although they openly talked about nearly everything, discussing their mutual attraction made both feel uneasy. Whenever it came up they gingerly danced around the subject. While they were open minded about gays, neither felt they were gay yet their undeniable mutual attraction made both feel guilty. They had nothing against gay relationships but the idea that theirs might be a gay relationship was a turn off for both. Yet as the days passed the emotional tension they felt was becoming palatable.

On June 21, 2005 they were picking early ripe tomatoes from their large vegetable garden while listening to the radio. During the noon news it was announced the second Gwen Araujo murder trial had begun the day before in California. The first trial held in 2004 resulted in a dead-locked jury so the judge had declared a mistrial. The boys knew about the murder and exchanged looks of disgust. With all the hassles they had in school and from the hater kids out of school they did their best to stay on top of current events that pertained to discrimination of any sort. They knew that 17 year old Gwen was a transsexual who had been murdered when friends she’d been partying with discovered she had a male body. They beat and strangled her. The boys felt the same thing could easily happen in their area if anyone discovered a transsexual.
(The Gwen Araujo Murder http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jk_lxpW654 )

As they continued to work, both became lost in their thoughts about the unnecessary death and discrimination in general. The way the local people hated them for rejecting sports was downright scary. What would they do to a tranny?

Kathan suddenly dropped to his knees between the rows of tomatoes and began retching. The noise attracted Karl who promptly ran to the aid of his friend. Once Kathan had emptied his stomach, he flopped back on his butt with his head cradled in his hands as he cried. Karl knelt by his friend, wondering what was wrong while putting his arms about the sobbing boy trying to console his best friend. Kathan leaned into Karl, burying his face in the smaller boy’s chest while wrapping his arms about Karl in a fierce bear hug as he gratefully accepted the offered solace.

It took nearly twenty minutes until Kathan regained control. Softly he snuggled his head into Karl. “Thank you for being here for me.”

“You’d do the same for me,” Karl replied just as gently held his friend.

The boys relished the physical closeness, something they’d avoided in the past.

“Karl, please don’t hate me,” Kathan whispered as he began to tremble while still hugging his friend.

“You know I’ll never hate you,” Karl replied. “But what happened?”

“The news about Gwen Araujo... it made me think... and I realized the truth,” Kathan sniffled.

“What happened to Gwen was and is a tragedy,” Karl answered. “But what truth did you find?”

“You and me... we’re way too close to just be best friends,” Kathan explained. “We’ve talked about our relationship. We know neither one of us is gay. Yet we can’t deny that we’ve always danced around the fact we’re honestly in love. Karl... I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

Karl was caught off guard by the sheer intensity of Kathan’s declaration. Yet as he thought about it, he had to admit Kathan was right. Taking a deep breath he spoke. “You’re right, I love you too. But how can we do this if we’re not gay?”

“I know how,” Kathan shivered as he snuggled into Karl. “You’re straight, a heterosexual. I’m... I’m like Gwen.”

Karl froze still firmly holding Kathan as he assimilated that not so simple yet simple declaration. For several moments his mind whirled. It WAS a simple solution to their dilemma. Yeah, right, a simple solution that would be tremendously difficult to implement. Still, he could not deny they were in love. If Kathan was a transsexual... he was a girl... so their love would not be gay... it would be hetero. It made sense of the turmoil that their mutual affection had engendered. “How do you know you’re a girl?”

“I’ve never really felt like a boy,” Kathan explained. “My earliest memories are of my dad scolding me for acting like a sissy. He forced me to bury any and all sissy thoughts and feelings while forcing me to be a jock. But the whole time I was empty, just going through the motions, pretending to be a boy. I was always lost and hopelessly depressed. Then mom and I moved here. I went to the football camp and joined the football team because that’s what boys did... especially boys as big and strong as me. I was trapped in an unhappy life. Then I saw you refuse to buckle under during football camp. I’d never seen anyone with enough guts to refuse being a jock. It made me question what I was doing. Then when you refused to play sports in gym, well, that gave me the courage to change, to drop sports. We became friends that day. You saved me from a life of hopeless frustration. In fact you saved my life... you have no idea how often I thought of killing myself.”

“All I did was be your friend,” Karl demurred.

“That’s just it,” Kathan sighed. “I never had a friend. Oh, there were a lot of guys I’d hung around, but they were never friends. I was always the odd one, the one who never fit in. Heck, except for you that hasn’t changed. We’re kindred spirits.”

“Okay, I can agree with that,” Karl nodded. “You’re the first friend I ever had.”

“But you’re still a guy, you never questioned that you were a boy. You just march to your own drummer. I admire that about you. Me, I’ve always been afraid to be myself. Heck, to be honest, I’ve never had a clue as to who or what I am. Even with you, I’m merely your shadow.”

“No Kathan, you are your own person,” Karl replied as he stroked Kathan’s hair. “I may have broken you out of your shell, but I love YOU, not my shadow.”

“I love you, Karl,” Kathan sighed as he snuggled closer almost purring. “All these months I’ve felt guilty for loving you. We both knew we were in love but we also knew we weren’t gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with being gay, it just isn’t who we are. I never fit in as a boy because I’ve NEVER been a boy! I’m a GIRL! God, it makes so much sense! Everything that’s been wrong in my life is resolved by my being a girl!”

“I don’t understand,” Karl frowned. “How can you be so sure?”

“I’ve been in denial,” Kathan giggled at his sudden emotional freedom. “Anytime I even began thinking that I wasn’t a boy I shut it down. I was brainwashed into believing I was a boy! Today, thinking about Gwen, the truth hit me. I’m a girl! Of course, I’m not sure if you’re good boyfriend material.”

“What???” Karl was shocked and pushed Kathan back a bit so he could see his face.

“Your girlfriend is a lot bigger than you and butt ugly,” Kathan giggled as he mischievously looked into Karl’s eyes.

Karl chuckled. “I’m not a shallow man. I don’t judge a person by their looks but what’s in their heart.”

When they returned to the house for supper, they were grinning and holding hands. Kathan’s mother and grandmother were surprised but not shocked. They knew the boys were more than best friends. But their smiles and hand holding was a major step up in their relationship. The women kept silent but watched the boys closely. After they finished the meal, they stayed seated and waited.

“Mom, Grandma, I’ve finally figured out who I am,” Kathan began while holding on to Karl’s hand. “I love Karl and he loves me, but we’re not gay. I’m a transsexual... in my heart and soul I’m a girl!”

That the boys loved each other was not a shocker, but Kathan’s declaration that he was a girl... that was unexpected.

“Okay,” Brenda nodded slowly. “Just how have you decided that you’re a girl?”

“I’ve never been a boy,” Kathan explained. “I never fit that mold. Dad tried to force me into that form but I never quite fit. I didn’t know why until today. Then it hit me. The reason I never fit in as a boy is because I’m a girl.”

“It’s not that easy,” Harriet offered. “You just can’t decide you’re a girl.”

“It didn’t happen like that,” Kathan smiled almost beatifically. “It was a revelation. Look, I can’t really explain how I know I’m really a girl, I just do. It’s not a decision I made, it just is. It’s sort of like most people are right handed while the others are left handed. No one decides to be left or right handed, they simply ARE. Look, you’re right handed and you know how to write. If you try to write something with your left hand you can do it but it’s awkward, sloppy, and just doesn’t feel correct. That’s how I’ve always felt trying to be a boy. I could do it but it never felt right. I just never knew why until today.”

“I can see your point,” Harriet nodded. “But what caused this revelation to happen today?”

“We were listening to the radio while we were picking tomatoes,” Kathan explained. “During the news they reported the start of a new trial in the Gwen Araujo murder case. You remember she was the transgender 17 year old who was murdered when her physical gender was discovered while partying with friends. I got to thinking about how hellish life must be for a transgendered person when it hit me that I’m transgendered! Everything that’s been wrong in my life fell into place. It’s why I am the way I am. I’m a girl trapped in a boy’s body!”

Harriet and Brenda exchanged looks of surprise but both nodded their heads. Everything that Kathan said rang true.

“Well, this raises major concerns,” Brenda began. “If you two are lovers we shouldn’t be letting you sleep together.”

“Moooom,” Kathan groaned. “We are NOT lovers nor will we be! Neither of us is gay and any ‘sex’ we have would be gay! We’ll cuddle and hold hands... maybe an occasional kiss... but that’s it!”

“You may say that but it won’t last long,” Harriet chuckled. “Horny teens who are always together will eventually do the deed.”

“Ma’am, I respectfully disagree,” Karl spoke up. “We may mess around a bit but we’ll never get past 1st base until Kathan is all girl.”

“That brings up another issue,” Brenda continued. “Kathan, you are well into puberty as a boy. It will be difficult to reverse so I’m afraid you won’t make a convincing girl.”

“That’s why I need to get on testosterone blockers ASAP,” Kathan vehemently declared. “I know I can’t just start being a girl but I can stop being a boy. I’ll go androgynous for now.”

“Androgynous...” Brenda stated the word slowly. “So how do you think your classmates will respond to that?”

“I don’t care how they respond,” Kathan affirmed. “They don’t like us now. They already assume we’re gay. My being androgynous will not significantly change their perceptions. Look, I’m not stupid. I’m not going to suddenly go all girly. All I’m going to do for now is to completely stop pretending to be a boy. I’ll be like a die-hard tomboy... a girl dressed in boy’s clothes. I’d like to see a doctor to get the blockers but I doubt if there is any doctor nearby who would cooperate. Somehow, I need to get blockers.”

“We can check on the internet for a source and strength,” Karl suggested.

“I don’t think that’s a wise thing to do,” Brenda cautioned.

“Mom, chill,” Kathan pleaded. “We’ll do our research and share our findings with you. I only want blockers right now to keep me from getting any more butch. We promise not to even try to get any female hormones without a doctor.”

“We’ll see,” Brenda sighed knowing the two would not be denied nor would they violate their word.

That’s where things were left. West Virginia in 2005 was not exactly the place to find help dealing with transgender issues. They did find a web site called Susan’s Place which had links for Transgender Resources. Through those contacts and subsequent contacts they managed to locate an out of country internet pharmacy that provided Spironolactone. By the end of July Kathan had the illicit drug and began taking the minimum100mg per day.



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