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The Deal - working title


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I'm not really sure where this is going.  I've had this idea for a while now, about an adult who gets to go back to childhood with his knowledge of his adult life intact.  I've seen several stories like this, but thought of a few angles I would like to explore.  See what you think of this opening.  It doesn't fit in with my Canterbury stories at all, so it's pretty much a stand alone sort of idea. I'll expand upon it little by little as it takes shape in my mind more.  If people like it, I'll see about  continuing it.


“You know, you are a total failure as an adult,” the man who sidled up to me at the bar said.  He quickly ordered a drink while removing his coat.  He’d caught me in mid sip, just about to swallow down the last of my double bourbon and ask for another.  I looked over to him, my eyes blurry with all the alcohol I’d previously poured down my throat.  My skin felt itchy and it was like my stubble kept trying to roll around on my face.  Three days without a shave and I didn’t care if I went thirty more.

“Comfy in there?” the guy asked.  I managed to focus my eyes enough to make him out.  Strong face, almost classical, like a Greek statue.  No beard on him.  Hair the color of warm wheat in a sunny field.  Couldn’t make out his eye color in the dim light of this smoky hole in the wall.  His suit was impeccable.  Gunmetal gray, pin striped, tailored to his narrow waist and broad shoulders.  Power tie that looked fresh from the dry cleaners.  Just like the kind my former boss would wear once, throw away and have twenty more waiting in his walk in closet, no doubt bigger than my entire flea-bitten apartment.  Same just out of college age as my last boss, too.  The prick.

“In where?” I asked, tilting the shot glass around by my fingertips.

“In the bottle, sir,” he deadpanned, reaching for the glass offered him.  He turned and leaned back against the bar with his wine glass in his hand, elbows up on the bar.  “Seems you are determined to either climb into the bottle with the booze or let the booze pickle you from the inside out.”

“Says the guy who ordered a glass of merlot,” I countered, draining my cup.  The amber liquid should have burned going down, but by this point in my drunk, I was feeling the warmth only.  And thankfully precious little else.

“Moderation is the key to enjoying the complexities and mysteries of alcohol,” he replied, taking a sip.  “But I see you choose to seek wisdom at the palace of excess.”

“Under it, if possible.”  I signaled to the bartender, who held up a finger as he spoke with one of his waitresses.  “What business is it of yours?”

“Funny you should ask,” he said, rubbing a finger around the inside of his wine glass.  The dark liquid followed, making a soft ringing sound as his finger rubbed hard on the lip.  The tone would have been pleasant if it wasn’t leaning on my own descent to blissful unconsciousness.

“Would you stop that?” I asked.  He pulled the finger out of the glass and brought it to his lips.  He inserted the finger and slurped the rich, purple liquid off.

“Indeed.  Stopping.  That’s what I’m here for,” he responded.

“Just finish your drink and let me finish mine, okay, buddy?”

“Buddy!  Oh yes, I quite like that.  Not the same as my real name, of course, but the familiarity of it!  Oh, the hint of such close and intimate friendship!  Yes, that will do wonderfully.  I thank you,” he beamed. 

“Whatever,” I said, raising my hand towards the barkeep again.

“Anyhow,” my new buddy said, turning dramatically, “To the matter of stopping.  And your absolute abject failure as an adult.”

He was not only starting to get on my nerves, but now was being rude in suggesting my flaws were evident.  Guy was a total stranger to me.  And while I wasn’t above picking up a stranger in a gay bar like this, or starting a fight with one, I just didn’t have the energy to deal with it.  Besides, he sounded either entirely too camp to be real or just plain crazy.  Neither of which are appealing to me in either a fuck or a fight.

“Ya know, Buddy, you’re really beginning to piss me off.  I had a good depression going here and you’re starting to turn it into an aggression.  Piss off.”

“Maybe later.  Actually, I’ve been sent here to stop you.”

“Ain’t happening.  Once they cut me off here, I intend to take one home and drown in the comfort of my own rented shithole.”

“Deplorable.  But, you have been a waste of an adulthood, so I guess that’s to be expected.”

“What the fuck do you know?” I shouted, or tried to, getting more and more irritated at this guy by the moment.

“Well, I know that your name is Chadwick Parisse, aged 48, that you are presently unemployed because your former boss didn’t like you drinking at work.  You have been a mostly closeted gay man for most of your life, only coming out three years ago after your father’s suicide.  Your ex-wife completely emasculated you when she found you in bed with that horrible leather daddy.  Your failed marriage has left you destitute, bereft of any companionship from your life before, absent from your teenage daughter’s life and basically renounced by your son as a quote-unquote degenerate freak.  You recently acquired a legal status of Driving Under the Influence and a period of probation, which your currently highly intoxicated state is in direct violation of, by the way.  Oh, and your car has been repossessed for failure to make payments in a timely manner.”

I pushed back from the bar, about ready to clobber this effete, bothersome, nosy, know-it-all until his dumb voice just stopped talking.  It was like he knew at least eighty percent of my failures and was laying them out, casually, just to piss me off.  I was in just the mood to do some damage, to spread the hurt around to someone other than me.

“I am here to make all of that stop,” he said, as I rounded to face him.  That brought me up short.  Even staring over my one extended fist, I wasn’t sure if I was seeing him, or two of him, maybe three of him.  I shook my head to clear my eyes some, but that only made me dizzy.

“The fuck you say?”

“Yes.  Indeed.  I do say fuck.”


“I am here to offer you a way out of your failed adulthood.  One that ends all these legal and financial woes, allows you to explore the sexuality you have desperately craved since childhood with acceptance and emotional support, and grant you the chance to undo all the horrendous errors that led you to be the human waste material you have grown to become.”

“Fuck you!” I shouted and lunged for him.  He simply stood up from his leaning position on the bar and stepped back, allowing me to fall flat on my face.  From there, he didn’t move, even as I tried to regain my feet.  The bourbon had robbed me of fine motor control, at this point, so balance and stability were not in my pockets.


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Yes, I like it, with one exception: "...Actually, I’ve been sent here to stop you.” - "I am here to make all of that stop..."  The second statement is I think obvious without spelling it out, and the first, "I've been sent here," is simply too classic. There would be much more mystery without that statement. Who is this stranger? We can already deduce that something is happening here, I don't think I want to know that he's an angel or whatever sent there, unless the story is about where he has come from, but I rather think it is about our drunken "hero" reliving his life?

I would definitely read more of this ☺

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Robby, the premise is one that I think a lot of us have thought about, at one time or another. I suppose that there are stories Out There, however I have not read anything worthy of merit, yet.

I also agree with Will on the efficacy of his exception. I don't think we need to know much about this stranger, other than his effect upon our protagonist.

Would I read more? Yes.

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Hi my fourth Musketeer! 

I agree with theaforesaid in what both asserted and hope you pick up the literary challenge with your typical zany and off-left-of-field way of addressing the subject. However, I equally strongly hope you do NOT do it yet!


Because this site and others of this genre has sufficient stories of the, what I shall call the "hanging-chad" variety. They rob the reader just as those chads robbed the US of their rightful leader. I know I do not need to tell you that you already have five stories In Progress on Castle Roland. Two of these have seen no new chapters for over 9 months and one for over 3 years. This is almost Comicality territory, about par with Kyle Aarons!

I often have to juggle writing academic articles for different magazines and journals, but I recognise my limitations and though I would love to do everything which catches my imagination - and for which in these cases I can earn a Shilling or two - I recognise that if I'm to do a satisfactory job of one or two, I cannot do five. Which is why my narrative writing has come so much later in my life than it has in yours, I expect. 

Of course you needn't heed me. 

But my teen readers who enjoy your hot stories hope you will. They are keenly awaiting the next installments of Riposte. 



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  • 4 weeks later...


Another one that I found in an old thumb drive.  Similar theme, possibly different approach. Not really planning on doing anything with it, but if someone needs de-inspiration, this may be something to dissuade you from following this line and actually doing something productive.  Try not to cringe too much.


Things I’d Tell a Fourteen Year Old Me



I’m no brilliant scientific mind.  Heck, I’m barely hanging on in my job as it is.  I know Mom told me there’d be days like this, just wish it weren’t months on end of such days.  Rest her soul.  So while I’m doing at least a passable job of getting by at doing my job, this strange switch up had me completely at wits end.

At first I thought the whole thing was some kind of dream.  You know, the sort of thing that happens after eating Mexican food, slurping down a generous portion of strawberry-blueberry yogurt and then downing waaay to many beers, then drifting in and out of sleep on the couch yelling at your favorite team completely screwing up against their hated rival.  One of those things.

But it was too real to be a dream.  Painfully so.

When I opened my eyes, I was lying in a concrete tube.  My feet were slightly higher than my head, spread, with one knee poking up and the other sorta leaning over.  My skull felt like the inside of a wrung bell.  Sorta vibrating, thin, hollow and there was a weird echo, which I later associated with the tube itself.

I guess that was my first reason for suspecting I was dreaming.  You see, I recognized the tube.  Between my feet was a bit of graffiti.  Something I remember very distinctly from my youth.  The tag was three lines which read “We were SEXY!  We were FREE! We were the BEST of ’83!” scrawled onto the concrete surface with an old El Marko chisel point.  Other images along the inside of the tunnel also reverberated in my memory.  A crudely drawn Van Halen symbol, one of those weird head and nose poking over a fence faces with the words “Kilroy Wuz Here!” written under it, even a poorly rendered image of a cock about to enter a vagina with a series of phone numbers and dates written beside it.  Kids telling tall tales about getting tail.  Or offering it, with a sense of both humor and barely hidden desperation.

All of it was painfully familiar to me.  This tube was the one in the playground near my house when I was a kid.  Looking out from the tube, as I started to get up, I could see the houses and other playground equipment from that park, near my childhood home.  I bonked myself on the head, standing up too quickly, and cursed silently.  I crouched over and stumbled through the entrance, my face feeling the gentle play of shadow and light through the trees at the edge of the park, my feet sinking slightly in the cool, crispy-crunching sand around the Tubes.  Plural, and I remembered why almost at once. 

Ahead of me, just as huge as I remember, was a giant oak tree.  Some intrepid parent, whose name was lost to kids my age, had long ago put up a length of inch and a half thick anchor rope, tied at the loose end with a giant knot.  The frayed end of the rope, past the giant knot, was the perfect length to grasp and hang onto while you climbed the Tubes.  The one I woke up in was the larger of the two, with the smaller one wedged up tight against the big one, forming a perfect climb up to the top.  From there, it was a simple matter to jump, tug hard on the rope and wrap feet or legs over the top of the knot, and then just enjoy the ride. 

The perfect Tarzan swing.  I remember going out on that swing line, twisting around a protrusion in one of the upper branches and making a sudden right swing, slamming hard feet first into the bole of the tree where it split in two huge forks, kicking off with a bit of a spin and back to the Tubes (an original name that stuck) and doing some very squirrely jump off move, somehow landing back on the top.

The memory caused me to smile, and I unconsciously reached out to the rope.  Such simpler times, I thought.  So much fun.  The world was still a huge wondrous place full of the power and joy of youth.  How had it all gone so wrong?

That was when I notice my hand.  I’ve not had an easy life.  I didn’t end up where I thought I would when I was growing up.  I’ve had a lot of tough jobs.  It wasn’t rocket surgery, but I was proud of the work I did.  Much of that work was physical, semi-skilled labor.  You develop a sort of honorable resume when you work with your brains and hands.  Small scars.  The little stress lines and veins showing where you developed muscles and such in your hands.  All of this and just the knowledge of what your hands look like as you work, that’s all tightly ingrained on your psyche.  It’s part of your identity.

So when I looked at my hands and saw… they were smaller, smoother, that the callouses I’d developed over 20 years of doing hands-on work, minus many of the little scars that time pits against flesh… when I saw that, it shook me.  I looked down, to my feet.  Sure enough, my shoes were old school Nike’s with the red swoop, the leathers formerly white but looking kind of grubby, well-worn cracks showing why they felt so comfortable, almost like they had been sewn around my feet.  I’d had about six or seven pairs of shoes like this when I was a kid.  Each time I got a new pair, I’d hold on to the old ones until they practically fell apart.

I was feeling very shaky at this point.  My jeans were tight, with a red bandana wrapped around my right thigh, held in place with a safety pin hidden under the flap.  My left knee had an almost worn spot in it.  My shirt was an open sided white T-shirt that I’d cut the sleeves off and had a British flag iron-on that I’d put on it, badly.  The wrinkles I’d ironed over sort of broke up the flag a bit, so it was original.  It was the shirt I wanted to wear to go see Def Leppard in.

Then my hand clutched at my chest and belly.  It was as if the last 25 years of bad eating and lack of exercise and other bodily abuses had just somehow melted away.  I felt only the slightest of tummy rolls.  I wasn’t some alabaster god of sculpted muscle or anything like that, but my body felt firm and smooth to the touch.  My hand slipped in the wide side slits that constituted the side of my flag T and found no chest hair, no treasure trail around my navel, no small scar from when I had my appendix removed in college.  I could actually feel the top of my hip bones, the crest of the ilium, as it’s known.  I was scrawny, but not waifishly so.

I actually leaned against the side of the Tube, feeling a bit of the whole world tilt around me.  This had to be a dream.  It had to be.  There was no way I could be back in my young body from over 25 years ago.  No way, man.  I suddenly had a need to check the contents of my pockets.  Might have seemed a silly thing to do at that moment, but I’ve always heard that in dreams the details often have more meaning than the scenario.  Not sure where I heard that bit of pop-culture psychology from, but it made sense, so I just clutched at using reason and logic to make sense of what I knew, deep down knew, couldn’t be real.

The front two pockets had a combined $2.73; why the pennies were in one pocket and the other change kept separate didn’t make any sense to me.  Also, I had about four inches of wooden pencil, a blue Pilot pen, a receipt from the ice-cream shop for a large strawberry milk shake with caramel (an old favorite), and half a pack each of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit and Double Mint gum.  There was also a bit of balled up aluminum foil that had held the last of the cinnamon toothpicks I’d bought in school that day, I somehow remembered.

The back right pocket had an oversize comb with a long handle.  Okay, that much was true to what I remember from my youth.  Dad was always on me to comb my hair.  He used to say it looked like a rat’s nest, which I remembering at that time as being about what I was going for, kind of a feathered back, semi-organized mop.

Which brought me up short, just my hand on that comb, poking up so high out of that pocket that it actually grazed a belt loop.  Dad.  He’d died a few years back, and that simple act of touching the comb brought back memories of him.  How he’d been this strong, distant figure in my teen years, working a second job as well as his military career to support his family.  His occasionally strong outbursts, his constant smoking, how when I got home from school I had to be quiet to keep from waking him up before he had to go into his second job.  How in those last few years we’d been like friendly strangers instead of family, how we never really connected.  How in those last few months I’d had so many chances to connect with him after the doctor diagnosed him with cancer…  How frail and worn out he looked as we stood around the hospital bed and watched as his heart monitor took so very very long to announce he was beyond our reach forever.

I turned in that moment and leaned my face against the Tubes, covering my head in my arms and just cried like a child.  It was hard for me to realize that there were so many lost chances in my life, so many of them based just on my own stupidity and stubbornness.  So many things I should have done, people I should have valued.  Yeah, that would be the right thing to say at this point, but mostly, what I felt was shame and loss.

I never really appreciated my father as much as I should have.  In my selfish youth, I didn’t understand the sacrifices he’d made for me and my sibs.  I didn’t really know that those times he tried to share things with me and I was just too busy or too afraid or…or a million other excuses.  I just didn’t realize at the time that one day… one day far too soon in my life, he’d be gone.  And all those things I wanted to ask him, that I wanted to understand about him, would forever be gone for me.

I don’t know how long I leaned against that cool concrete culvert tube converted to playground equipment, but I felt the wind stirring around me and whistling into the thin fabric of the T-shirt.  Looking around, I noticed that the sun had angled closer to the ground through the trees, making the shadows grow longer.  Between the blocks of townhouses street lamps began flickering to life; that slightly purplish light building to what would eventually grow into the shining white cones of illumination that split the night in the neighborhood.  I wondered for a moment what I should do, as I rubbed at the tears that lined my face.  I turned and leaned my butt against the Tubes, considering my next move.  Heck, it was my dream, right?  I could make the choices.  Even if I did still feel a little like a raw nerve from the crying and memories.

For some reason, I’d expected to find a cell phone in my pocket.  They’ve become such a part of my life now, that I simply couldn’t imagine not having one.  They double as phone, information center, memory, camera, alarm clock… so many things they take the place of in our modern life.  To not have one, I suddenly felt vulnerable, disconnected.  Out of touch.

However, when I leaned back on the Tubes, I did feel something else in my pocket.  I reached back to the left back and withdrew my wallet.  It was of a vinyl weave material, blue, with a rainbow stripe directly over the Velcro closure flap.  I opened it and found the few meager bits that any kid of my generation would have at that time.  About eight bucks in cash, my library card, pool pass, teen club card, boy scout “totin’ chit” (or knife license), my medical card, school ID and my military dependant’s ID card.

My Dad was a career military man, who’d been in the Navy before he and Mom had even married.  All my life, we’d moved around every couple of years.  It wasn’t anything new to me.  As a kid growing up like that, you learn to make friends, learn to lose friends, all based on how the orders come down from on high.  It was a time for me when my bicycle was my best friend and freedom was the ability to take that bike almost anywhere on the base that I wanted to. 

The dependent’s ID opened up so much more of that for me.  With it, you could get into places without your parents around.  You could go to the bowling alley, run to the base gym or racquetball courts, go to the pool or just buy stuff at the base exchange (the military version of Wal-Mart).  As a dependent, you were eligible for one of those cards at age 10.  It was status.  It was a milestone, a rite of passage, almost.  It was freedom.

I reluctantly looked at the face on the image of the card, and… it was like staring at old photographs, although this one was new.  The cards had to be updated every so often, every year for kids, since there was a picture as part of the physical description.  Based on the date listed on the card for renewal, this version of me was 13 years old.  I looked around for a moment, my adult mind looking for evidence of what time of year it was.  There were a few clumps of leaves raked together, but this was a base in Florida, and the seasons don’t dance the same way here that they do in other parts of America.  If I was guessing things right, it was early fall.  A few houses had Halloween decorations showing, but not many, so I guessed that it wasn’t quite the middle of October.  My birthday was coming up, then, since I was born on Halloween.

My stomach growled up at me as I refolded my wallet and tucked it into the almost too tight confines of my jeans back pocket.  The wind blew and chilled slightly against the damp tracks on my cheeks.  A stirring in the leaves hinted that the temperature would be dropping soon. 

A sudden sound from my wrist caught my attention.  I don’t know how I hadn’t noticed the big Ironman digital watch strapped to my left arm.  The simple double beep indicated the top of the hour and as I watched, the tiny light in the side of the face dimmed out.  The watch showed that the time was 6 o’clock on a Friday.  Specifically, Friday, October 6.  The year wasn’t shown, but I guessed offhand that, based on the clothes I wore, sometime in the mid 1980’s.  In hindsight, I probably could have looked at the cards in my wallet and deduced the year based on the expiration date on my ID card, (and already realized since I was 13 what the year had to have been) but I had other worries on my mind.

Like what should I do next.  All sorts of memories about those days fought for dominance in my mind.  Not only that, but… if I went home, would I already be there?  Was this weird dream for real?  If it was real, where was the kid me?  Was he stuck in my older body in my older time?  How did all this happen?

As is usual with teenagers, the stomach often makes decisions for you.  It growled again, tightening.  Reluctantly, but eyes wide to take in everything, I started trudging home.  The path went behind many of the townhouse blocks, four units to a block, mostly.  The playgrounds were set up in the “back yard” areas, giving the kids a vast expanse of traffic free play zones.  It also gave us a way to move around that didn’t involve a lot of adult’s knowing where we were, a kind of freedom in its own way.  It was our world between homes.

My house was second from the right in our block.  Good ole Sawhill Court.  It was a universe unto itself when I was a kid, and now it was the universe I found myself in again.  I smiled, looking at the white granite stones that marked the path up to my house.  The powder blue Dodge station wagon that was “Mom’s Taxi” and the closely trimmed grass of our tiny front lawn, all felt so comfortable and homey to me.  I guess that memories aren’t always bad.  This was a safe place for me.  My refuge.

I walked up to that door with a quiver in my belly, not just from adolescent hunger, but also from cautious anticipation.  I kept trying to tell myself that this was only a dream.  But I’d never had a dream so vivid, with feelings of touch and sound and smell, of the heat of the sunlight and the harsh bark of minor pain and the coolness of wind brushing on my flesh.  It was more real and in many ways more alive than I’d felt in months in my reality.

So why was I so afraid of just a dream?  Why was I so afraid of what I was about to walk into?  If it was all a dream, didn’t I have control?  If that was the case, why did I feel like something else was at work here?  Something that I had no control over.  I think that’s what spooked me the most, that sense that after years of being at least marginally in command of my own destiny, within reason, that I was now at the whims of a situation I don’t even remember getting sucked into in the first place.  It’s all still just a dream, I remember saying to myself.  Just a dream.

I opened the door and was immediately struck by three things.  First, the scent of chicken baking in the oven.  It’s such a powerful scent memory for me.  My mother was very good at mixing up meals and making them all have something unique to them.  I remember that at that time, she’d been experimenting with recipes, most of which turned out pretty good.  But her baked chicken was a specialty.  The spices lifted into the air as they penetrated into the slow cooking meat, leaving a pleasant, hearty aroma in the house.  Whenever I think about home cooking, the scent of my mother’s chicken is the first memory that hits me.  To this day it still makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

Second was the sound of the TV, changing channels quickly.  The base had only recently gotten cable TV and we had been enthralled by all the channels and options.  From the sound of it, someone was channel surfing.

The third thing that hit me was my dog.  Our family has a history of poodles.  This spunky little guy was the most recent.  He was all black with a small patch of white on his chin and chest.  He was a bouncy bundle of energy and barks, who always ran to the front door anytime the doorbell rang, racing to let everyone know that he knew someone was there.  His name was Peppy, arguably after Pepi le Pew of Loony Tunes fame. 

I had forgotten how much I loved that little barking shit machine.  He came bounding around the corner from the living room into the entrance hall, his voice letting out three sharp yips before realizing it was me, and then he just ran up and leaned a shoulder into my calf in greeting.  I frog squatted and lifted him up into my arms, burying my face into his licking muzzle.  Images and memories flooded me again… his quiet companionship at those times when I couldn’t talk to my parents about something, the way he’d come running up the stairs in short staccato bursts of steps, how he’d nose open the door and then jump up on the bed when I’d turn in for the night. 

I felt tears welling up in my eyes as I remember how, years later, he’d grown old, tired.  He’d still had the will and drive of a puppy, but his limbs had stiffened, and he’d become very sick.  How I cried that night when I got home and found out that my Dad had found Peppy dead, curled up beside my bed.  He hadn’t even had the strength left to get up there one last time.  I just held him to me, feeling his breath in my ear, the mad ticking of his heart against my chest.  I put my back to the door and slid down, just drowning in the love that a dog and boy share, and that a man misses so much when his boyhood friend had become a faded, lost memory.

“I love you, boy,” is whispered to him, unable to even say his name just then, keeping that moment for just me and him.  I don’t know what happened to arrange all this, but at least with all the sadness this strange transference was bringing to the surface, it brought some joy as well.  Hugging my dog, reveling in the simple and unquestioning love of one being for another, at that moment, all was right with the universe.

“Who is it?” I heard my mother call from the living room.

“Just me,” I replied, trying and failing to keep the tears from my voice.  That too was a shock.  I didn’t remember it sounding so high pitched.  I guess we all think our voices have always been what they are, in a way.

“Will you set the table?”

“Okay,” I said back, reluctantly letting Peppy go.  He trotted back to the living room, doubtless looking to hop into someone’s lap for free petting.  He was an attention hound to the core, and I loved him for it. 

I stepped into the bathroom for a second, staring at my young face in the mirror.  I needed to wash away the dirty tear tracks on my cheeks or there’d be questions.  There was a cluster of forming zits, tiny ones, about to explode on the side of my left cheek.  Another one, larger and about the right size, color and roundness to pop, sat at the spot where my right nostril and cheek met, just above my ski-jump nose tip.  I’ll deal with that one later tonight, I thought.  My brown eyes had a very light color that day, almost golden brown.  My hair was, typically, a bit messy.  I kinda liked it a little long, but the feathering took a lot of work.  I usually looked like I’d been out in the wind a lot of the time, mostly because I was.

After washing my face and hands, I went into the kitchen and promptly raided the fridge.  I grabbed out a can of grape Shasta tonic and poured it over ice, inhaling the fresh bubbly scent of fresh poured soda.  It was just something I always did, but the power of that memory made me smile, and for a brief moment, I forgot all the bad memories, concentrating on the good.

“Don’t spoil your dinner!” Mom called from the living room, the TV clicker shifting stations again, settling on the local news.

“I wont,” I replied, opening the cupboards to pull out plates.  The ritual of setting the table calmed me down immeasurably.  The simple white plates with the blue cornflower design at the rims always said home to me.  I took great care in setting the silverware up right, with paper napkins tucked under the knife side, glasses set out above the forks, even in putting a wooden pot holder near the center for the pan of chicken to rest and two cloth pot holders for the veggies I’m sure were soon to be prepared, most likely, instant mashed potatoes and French cut green beans.  I finished my grape tonic during the table arrangement and smiled at how efficient and normal it looked.  Like I had been away for a long time and came home to find the table all laid out for me.  It felt like….home.

I heard the front door open and in walked my brother.  He looked filthy.  He held an unmatched sock in his hand, loaded with marbles from his most recent conquest, no doubt.  He’d gotten a reputation as a marble hustler in the neighborhood, his skill with the shooter and prowess at arranging bets had his marble collection constantly growing.  It was so weird to me that in a time with Rubik’s Cubes and all manner of puzzle games and such, the ever present Atari video games and our fairly big set of Legos that my brother and his friends were so into marbles.  But that was how it was, and he was not only good at it, he triumphed.  Which also explains why he was so dirty.

“We having chicken?” he said, casually petting Peppy, who naturally had to come greet or attack whoever had entered his home.

“Yeah,” I said in a daze.  I remembered him differently than I saw him now.  Little brothers are typically tag-alongs for some reason.  We’re almost two years apart and he was held back one year because he had an undiagnosed eye problem in second grade.  He just needed to be able to see.  His grades were always better than mine, though I was arguably much smarter.  He just worked harder than I did.  I was always a lazy shit in school.  He did well in math, which was always my downfall. 

I remember feeling so superior to him in those days.  Yet here he was, not much caring about seeing me, off doing his own thing.  I felt a weird twinge of guilt.  Had I abandoned him?  We moved in such different circles, his typically much larger than mine.  Did I mistreat him?  We weren’t what you’d call…close.  That much was true.  But I didn’t even seem to have the “big brother” role in his life.  He found his own way.  I couldn’t help but wonder if that was a good thing or not.  I do remember having a serious attitude about him at times.  I was messy a lot, and he was Mr. Clean.  I wonder if that had been the wedge that I felt at that moment, or if there was something more.

“James?” my Mom called from the living room.


“Go wash up for dinner,” she called back.  He stood up from where he’d bent over to pet Peppy and looked back at me, a curious expression on his face.

“What?” he asked.  I must have been staring like an idiot with my mouth hanging open.

“Uh, nuthin’.  You win much?” I replied, focusing things back on him.

“Like you care,” he said, with all the bitterness that a 12 year old can, and headed for the stairs.  Wow, I thought, I must be a total dick.

Dinner was a blur.  I remember my sister sort of just playing with her dinner.  For some reason, she wasn’t much into meat.  I must have been looking like something was wrong because Mom kept looking at me funny.  She said nothing, though.  She and I are very similar.  We both respect privacy and understand that sometimes you have to figure out the questions before you can ask them.  As a kid, I was so terrified of the answers sometimes that I decided the questions themselves shouldn’t be asked.  You don’t rock the boat when you’re in it.

After loading the dish washer and helping put away the left overs, I wandered up to my room, Peppy on my heals.  The stairs were just as I remember, and I slipped into my room, first door on the left, just past the linen closet.  Inside, I bounced onto the big double bed, pulling whichever blanket was on top over me.

The room was just as I remember it.  My mother’s sewing machine was near the door, folded away into the table top that I used as a desk.  My dresser and mirror were there, covered with stuff.  The few shelves I had were loaded with toys, mostly Transformers and Star Wars stuff.  I had a few books, several drawings on my wall, a poster of a kitten in glasses that said “too smart to study, too cute to care,” an expanding hat rack on one wall with my two baseball hats and three jackets hanging on it.  It was a very sparse room, compared with what friends of mine had.  I was more into books then.  Didn’t have a need to cover the walls.  God, I remember thinking at that point, I’m a boring kid.

There were some other things in there that had some color and resonance.  I had a small tape deck radio.  Not many tapes, but I loved them.  I had a few puzzle toys, a selection of Rubik’s Cubes, one shaped like a three sides pyramid, one that was a cylinder that had movable plastic bits you had to line up.  One of the cubes was in pieces since I’d lifted one part out with my pocket knife and took it apart instead of figuring out how to actually solve the puzzle.  Seems I was looking for short cuts even back then.

Peppy hopped up next to me and curled up in a loose fold of blanket, his tiny black eyes looking up at me with liquid anticipation.  He was just happy to be with me.  Looking back, I realized that so few others shared that opinion, then.  Thinking on it now, that hasn’t changed much.

I felt the tears welling up at that thought.  My life had started out with such promise.  Such talent and so very much support.  And much of it, I’d either pissed away in fear and arrogance or tried to ignore, suffering in loneliness and despair.  What a fool.  What a raging, idiot fool.

“Not so easy to realize these things, is it?” a voice spoke.  I opened my eyes and looked around the room.  But the room was gone.  My body floated on a blank white sheet of ice, adrift in a black sea.  Stars shown brilliantly above me, unfettered by city lights or forests to block their cold, insistent power.  No moon stood in the sky.  No other light or body of any kind was within sight.  Peppy, too, was gone.

“Wha?” was my enormously articulate reply.

“You have questions, I’m sure,” the voice echoed.  I scanned around for the speaker, but could see no one.

“You have been given a second chance, Luke.  But not as you might think.  You cannot relive that part of your life as was shown you.  The you that is still almost 14 years of age, he has to make the decisions that will change your life.  He must live as he should.”

“I don’t understand.  Who are you?  WHERE are you?”

“Those questions I cannot answer.  You will be given the opportunity to help your younger self.  You will have your full memories, your full wit and wisdom.  You can influence events, but you cannot give your younger self orders.  And you cannot directly affect the nature of things.”


“Your younger self will be able to see you, touch you, hear you.  But only he.  All others will not know you are there, nor can they touch you or hear you.  Only the you that exists in this time can be real.  To him you will be as a spirit.  A vision.”

“Like a ghost?”

“That analogy is close, but a ghost of the possible future.  If you hope to make that future better, for the you of this time and the you that will be, then it is imperative that this young man make proper decisions,” the voice said, and an image of my younger self, snuggled into the blankets, fitfully sleeping, swam before me, as if projected into the air.

“He’ll never believe me.  He’ll think he’s going crazy.”  I stared at my sleeping younger form and thought of all the weirdness that happened to me when I was that boy.  I thought of all the strange thoughts, the denial of my feelings, the loneliness and isolation I enforced upon myself.  I thought of all the things I’d wished I’d done.  I remembered the anger, the lashing out.  I remembered my parents’ faces when my grades came in and were far from worthy in their eyes.  I remember how I would overhear them talking about me at night when they thought I was asleep.

“Would it be any worse than what he tortures himself with now?” the voice intoned with slightly warbling echoes.  “This chance is not offered lightly.  Even now, your true self is on the edge of death.”


“You are in a place between places, a time between times.  Your existence stands upon the knife edge.  It takes but a little push in any direction to make you fall into oblivion.  As we speak, your body is dying.  Your life is dripping away, one precious drop by drop.  The medics of your time are trying to extract your form from your vehicle.”

“Was…. Was it my fault?” I asked, thinking that it was an accident.

“Completely so.  You had chosen to end your existence.  This cannot be permitted.”

“What makes me so important?  Others are more worthy of second chances,” I blurted out.

“For that very reason, you must have this second chance.  One life affects many others.  Your path has not brought you joy, helped others nor has it been sufficient to the talents you possess.  Your life has not been worthy, but it can be.  And one life can be the difference in so many other lives.  That is why you are given this opportunity.  Fail, and nothing changes.  Succeed, even a small amount, and the world becomes a better place for more than just this sleeping child.  This is the critical point in his life, as in yours.  The choice is still yours.  Save this young man’s future and thus alter your own life, or allow things to simply play out as time has shown.”

“What if I can’t make him change?” I said, pointing to the sleeping boy who was and is me.

“Then you fulfill your own prophesy.  Think of all the lives that this boy is connected to.  As a man, you know how those connections played out.  You know how the world and the human condition really work.  All this boy needs is the right insights and help.  You never got that.  This is your chance to give it and receive it.”

“I don’t know if I can?”

“You are the only one who can.  You know what his path is.  You know what he will endure.  And you alone know how he truly feels.”

It all seemed so crazy.  I looked down on my younger self, and the memories poured back into me.  Memories of injury, emotional pain, isolation, self-loathing, anger, oh so much anger, frustration, and ultimately, giving up on myself.  That in particular stabbed me deeply.

“What must I do?” I asked, knowing that things were about to get very awkward for me, two ways at once.

“It will begin when he wakes.  He will be the only one that can see and interact with you.  You will be given no help other than your own intellect and memories.  You will not be permitted to alter the course of events through direct action.  Only he can change the actual path of his life.  You must be a guide.”

“What, like a guardian angel?”

“If that term helps you, then so be it.”

“But I can’t affect the real world at all?  Anything physical is out of my control and I can’t interact with people at all?”

“There may be those who can sense your presence.  Animals mostly, but some humans will have the special talent from time to time.  Your younger incarnation, however, will see and hear you, and can feel your touch, even if you cannot physically control him.”

“When he wakes up, huh?” I said, looking at my sleeping teenage body, remembering what it was like to be that body, even just for those few hours.  “Okay,” I said and suddenly, I was lying in bed with myself, both of our eyes slowly drifting open, facing in, irises locked.




My headache had been worse than ever all day.  I had a weird dream about being in a car wreck and watching as my juices all squished out onto the pavement.  It was like a Freddy Kruger movie I’d snuck down to watch on Skinimax that night after Dad went to bed.  Just gory all over.  How Marc liked all that kinda stuff was just beyond me.

I felt like staying in bed all day, maybe just curling up with a Stephen King book or re-reading A Princess of Mars for like the eighth time.  Not like I had anyplace to go.  It was Saturday and I left most of my school books in my locker.  Didn’t have many friends and didn’t really feel like going out to find them anyways.

Besides, going out meant a chance that my secrets might be seen.

So I was perfectly content to just stay in bed and let the morning drift into noon.  I reached down and cupped my junk.  Since I had my own room, with my own door and its own lock, I had taken to sleeping nude.  Made it easier to jack off if I got a boner.  I wasn’t really in the mood just then, but the morning semi felt good in my paw.  A brief flash of seeing that junior kid who’s gym locker was by mine, and his huge bulge in his underwear….I pushed that thought aside, taking my hand off my stuff.

I fought against thoughts like that a lot lately.  I remembered all the “hygiene” stuff they taught us in fifth grade and again in seventh grade health class.  Even that embarrassing “class” my parents made me go to from church.  But despite the church class saying that its likely only a phase, I was just dying for this phase to end so I could have those feelings thinking about girls again, like I should.

I fought hard to stay asleep, too, turning over several times to get back into the dream world, feeling Peppy shift and get up a few times.  But, my body was telling me that I needed to get to the bathroom sometime in the foreseeable future.  The insistent tickle in my bladder needed a release.

So reluctantly I opened my eyes….only to see other eyes.  For a moment I thought I’d done something stupid last night and didn’t remember it, like maybe re-arrange the furniture so that I was staring at the mirror (and that suddenly seemed like a good idea, to see the mirror from my bed so I could see me do my thing).  But the face attached to those eyes wasn’t me.  It was older, probably coulda used a shave, kinda balding, and rounder than my face.  Right away I thought I was still dreaming, until the face smiled at me.

“Hello me, it’s me again,” the face said, grinning.

Okay, maybe it was a little bit of an overreaction, but I screamed.  I mean, here was this….guy, like some guy older than my Dad, lying in my bed, staring at me like we’d….I didn’t even want to think about what we’d might have done.  I didn’t know who this dude was, or how he got there and all I could think of was that maybe I’d been….touched?

“Aggghhhhhh!  MOOOOOOOMMM!” I cried out, and like instantly the guy beside me was waving his hands and trying to shhh me, but I wasn’t having it.  I grabbed a blanket and moved away from him, covering myself and hoping to put a little distance between us.  Peppy bounced on the bed, looked at me, looked at the dude, and then looked back at me, his head doing that twisty dog confusion thing.

I must really be losing it, because apparently I’d forgotten to lock the door last night.  Mom and Dad came into the room, looking around like there was a fire or something.  Mom came to my side.  Dad let his eyes go over the whole scene, trying to figure out why I’d been screaming like a little girl.

“What’s wrong?” Mom asked, trying to get me to calm down.  She held onto my face looking to see if I’d had another bloody nose.  I get those from time to time.

I pointed wildly at the guy, who just lay there on top of the blanket pile, studying his fingernails for some odd reason.  Peppy jumped down by my side, pushing his wet nose against my neck.  Mom and Dad both followed my gaze, and my arm.  Both stared at the spot where the guy was, but it was like they were looking for something else wrong.  Like a strange man suddenly showing up in their son’s bed, much less the bedroom at all, was nothing to concern themselves with.

“I don’t see anything,” Dad said, his voice slightly irritated.  “What happened?”

“You don’t see him?” I asked, looking to Mom.  When I turned back, the guy was gone.

“See who?” she asked.  “Luke, there’s nobody there.”

“I…” was all I could say before I looked around at their faces.  “It must have been a dream,” I said at length.

“Dream, huh?  That’s just great,” Dad grumbled.  “Next time, Lucas, keep your dreams to yourself.”  He seemed so ticked that there wasn’t anything to my screaming.  Like disappointed, like.

“It seemed so real.  He was right there in my bed and he looked so real.  He had eyes and everything.”  I felt like I was a babbling idiot for having woken them up like this.  “He spoke.”

“What did he say?” Mom asked.

“I think he said, Hi me, it’s me again.”

“What a silly thing to say.  Such an imagination,” Mom said, getting up and giving the room one quick glance, including into my open closet.  “This place is a pigsty.  In fact, it’s the worst pigsty I’ve ever seen.  You need to clean it up before you go anywhere today.”

“Yes ma’am,” I replied, looking around.  Looked normal to me.  Only four pairs of socks and undies on the floor.  Maybe four and a half pair of socks.

Mom went out, closing the door and right away I heard her and Dad talking in that sort of hushed way, like they were trying to keep the argument low but really wanted to speak out loud.  I knew they were talking about me, and with that tone, it’s never good.  That’s the sort of voice they use when figuring out what sort of punishments to dish out for bad report cards or acting out.

I reached under my pillow to where I stash my briefs each night.  Never know when you need to go to the bathroom, so it’s good to keep them where you know where they are.  Speaking of the bathroom, I needed to go.  All that grape soda had stuck with me through the night, even despite me having a long teasing session.  I’d kinda discovered how tingly good it felt to tug a terry cloth towel back and forth beside my nuts as I play.  God it feels good.  I tug on my undies and scrounge for a t-shirt, go take care of business in the bathroom.  When I get back….

You ever get this feeling that there’s like eyes on you?  I mean, every hair on the back of my neck and the little ones on my cheeks was standing up like I’d licked a 9 volt.  Twice.  Despite my bedroom door being closed and locked this time, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was still under someone’s scrutiny.

Since I had no plan other than to descend back under my pile of blankets as naked as humanly possible and disappear into a book, I saw no reason to stay in my clothes.  I stepped out of my briefs and looked around for the book I’d been a quarter way through when I finally went to sleep last night.  I found in on the nightstand, but when I reached for it, for some reason it took a header to the floor.  I bent over to pick it up, noticed an extra sock and a couple of balled up pieces of paper that missed the waste basket by half the room.  When I turned around to hop into bed…

“Fuck!” I called out, shocked.  My hands instantly went to cover, tugging my shirt down.  That weird old bald dude was there…AGAIN!

“Will you shut it!” he called out.

“Who the fuck are you?!  What the fuck are you doing in my room?!” I shouted.  I was kinda scared, kinda worried.  But I figured that the parent’s weren’t that far away.  This time they’d be sure to see him.  Just to be sure, though, I dropped the book on the bed, turned and picked up my racquetball racquet, ready to smash balls.  Or whatever part he put my way.

“Wow, I’d forgot about that,” the guy said, smiling a bit.

“Don’t you move or I’ll frickin’ brain you.”

“Lukas Michael Devereaux,” the old guy said calmly.  “You have nothing to fear from me.”

“The hell I don’t!  Who the hell are you?”

“If I told you you wouldn’t believe me.”

“I bet shore patrol will believe me if I knock you the fuck out!  How’d you get in my bedroom?”

“You keep a journal.  It started as a dream journal, but now you just write things in it that confuse or inspire you.  You’ve been climbing the outside of Fort Barrancas for the last year since Tommy moved.  When you were almost five you were temporarily paralyzed when you kicked a Portuguese man-o-war that had come on shore.  You wont eat eggs, even though you eat stuff with eggs in them all the time.  And last year on your birthday, you and Tommy and Dennis wound up sucking each other’s dicks while you were spending the night in Dennis’ basement.”

I was completely shocked.  I’d told no one any of these things, certainly not some old fucker.  And I’d told no one at all about Tommy and Dennis and me.  The thing about the man-o-war wasn’t in my journal.  Nor the stuff about how I hate eggs.

“How…..?” I started, but he cut me off.

“Put down the racquet, and we’ll talk.  Keep shouting like that, and people are gonna think you’ve lost your marbles.  And I don’t mean the ones you gave your brother because they bore you.  Actually because you’re no good at them and he’s great at them.”

I dropped the racquet and it bounced off my bare foot.  I barely felt it.  He kept his distance.  I felt like I was hollow inside and the hollow place was opening up, the sides of the empty just peeling away down the center like some sink hole swallowing buildings and cars and everything around it.

“How could you know all these things?”

“You have a scar, a little check mark shaped scar, on your right hand, by the first knuckle of your pointy finger.  You got it when you and James were fishing down by the gym, at the old sea plane ramps.  The knife slipped when you were cutting bait.  I know, because I have that scar too.  Look,” he said, offering his hand.  Unconsciously, I looked down at my own hand, to the scar he mentioned.  That had happened only two months ago, but the scar was clear against my tan.  I looked over at his hand and then looked up to his face in shock.  The scar was there, the same place, the same shape.

“I must be going crazy.”

“I know how you feel.  When this first happened, I didn’t know what to make of it either.”

“How can you be me?”

“I’m a possible you.  Think of it as…well, like I’m from a possible future, sent back here to fix something we do wrong in our past, which is your present.”

I sat down on the bed.  My hands sort of gathered in my lap as I sat there and one more definitive bit of proof was needed.  Something no one could possibly fake.  “Take off your pants.”

“What?” he said back, a little bit too suspiciously.

“Look, if you’re me then you know what I’m about to look for.  Something nobody would know about.”

He reluctantly lowered his pants, letting them drop to the floor, where they pooled around his ankles.  His legs were kinda skinny below the knee, like Dad’s, but the thighs were full and had a certain shape to them, like mine and Mom’s.  More muscle in different places.  My Dad has chicken legs, all straight and narrow and stringy.  I got Mom’s more muscled looking legs.  This guy had them too.  But that wasn’t my ultimate proof.

I reached out and grabbed his junk.  He seemed to know what I was looking for and simply held still and let me look.  I was circumcised when I was a baby.  Twice.  Mom thought part of my foreskin had grown back so she had me done a second time.  It left me with a very specific scaring pattern on my wang.  I looked just behind the head of his dick, right up on top, where the channel usually is on most boys and found what I was looking for.  A little knob of skin that the doctor forgot to take off.  It has a very familiar shape and feel to it for me.  I knew it right away and felt that it wasn’t some kinda weird Star Wars make-up thing.

“So it is true,” I said, letting go of his and looking at the smaller same part of mine.  “How did this happen?”

“To be honest, I don’t really know.  There was a car wreck.  I’m told that in the future, I’m actually dying.  This is to be like a second chance, for both of us.”

“I must be losing my mind,” I said aloud.  “Puberty is supposed to do weird things to your brain, like maybe my headaches.  Did we ever get those cleared up?”

“The doctors could never figure them out.  I still have killer migraines all the time.  It’s like the normal state since I was, well, you.  There are a few days here and there that it lets up, but for most of the time, I’ve had to learn to manage.”

“No medicines?”

“You know how painkillers make us feel.  You know why we don’t like them,” he responded.  And he was right.  I hated how powerful headache medicines made me feel like I was always drowsy, or made my tongue feel swollen and dry, or how my head felt like it was suddenly a solid brick.  It was almost worse than when the headaches were at their strongest.

“So, are we…” I began, but didn’t know what I was really asking.  Not sure I even wanted to know all the answers.

“I have some guidelines that I have to follow for this, okay?”

“Oh, there’s rules to this?  That makes sense.”

“Save the sarcasm for your writing, okay.  We’re in this together.”

“I don’t see that.  You might be me, but I’m not you.  Not yet.”

“That’s kinda the point,” he returned.  “Look, we made a lot of mistakes along the way to where you become me.  A lot of mistakes that can be fixed.”

“Oh, so you’re here to fix me?” I blurted out.  He sighed and sat on the bed like how I do, sort of leaning on one folded up leg, his hands dropping into the half lap formed there.

“Okay, granted, every cell that makes up your body now is not the same as every cell that makes up my body in the future.  In fact, by the time I graduated from college, every cell that was part of me then was already replaced from the cells that started out as you now.  The same could be said for all the cells that made us up when we were born.  Those bits of Luke are long gone to both of us.  But, while we’re not the same person, either in the body or the mind, we share a…” he seemed to be searching for a word.

“Soul?” I asked, feeling like somehow saying it might have God strike me dead for even entertaining such an idea.

“I don’t know what it is we share.  We’re like different versions of the same life, separated by the thing that binds us.  I am you, just you in 30 years or so.  Just as Baby Luke is both of us, just in the past.  And we resemble Baby Luke to a degree, but there are marked differences.”

“The brain doesn’t change.”  I don’t know why I said that, or why I felt so sad in saying it.

“What?” he replied, his eyes narrowing slightly.

“The brain.  All the cells of the brain don’t change.”

“Okay, they don’t reproduce, but they do change.  Look, can we forget the basic biology for a second here?  We both know you’re super smart and incredibly smug about it.  Let’s get to the heart of the matter.”

“Hey, you brought it up!” I returned defensively.

“See, this is why we’re so fucked up later in life.  Everything is a fencing match to you.  Parry and dodge, look for that opening and strike.  Jeeze, if only you’d apply that mentality with a little deeper insight to your chess game, you’d be killing it.  No wonder James keeps showing you up.”

That stung.  I mean that really hurt.  Here I was, smarter than James, older than James and supposedly better than him, and he could whip me in just about anything.  Yeah, I know marbles are kinds a stupid and chess is for detached eggheads who would suck at real wartime thinking and throwing a spiral doesn’t make you a genius, but… to have your younger brother show you up all the time, to be less than awesome at something sometime… it eats you up inside.

“All of this doesn’t matter,” I said bitterly.  “None of this is real.  My overactive imagination is just doing what it always does.  A lot of nothing.  Don’t even know why I’m having this conversation.”

“Guess this gives new meaning to talking to yourself, huh?”

“Wow, write that one yourself?”

“See, if only we’d harnessed that razor sharp wit earlier and done something with it other than antagonize everyone around us for our own failures…”

“Oh, now it’s us and we, not you, the stupid kid who’s talking to himself?”



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Another one that I'm not sure where it would go.  Parts of this became the ideas I started putting into different parts of my Canterbury stories, notably some things about Paul from "Wearing the Inside Out" and Meryl from "5th Age"

  It is something that I couldn't bring myself to throw away.  Maybe something here is good, sparks an idea or two.  Maybe it is cringy enough to scare you back into saner paths of writing.  Enjoy.


The streets of Boston aren’t what they used to be.  The huge public works project called the Big Dig is in the midst of tearing apart and rebuilding a major highway through the heart of the city, actually putting it under the city, at the same time as the roadway was still in use.

Bloody Colonists!  Still think they can do everything properly with just science and tools.  What do they know of the fundamental nature of the universe?  I’ve already forgotten more secrets of reality then this crop will ever know with their empiricism and computers and confounded nuclear science.

Sound a bit bitter, do I?  It’s my right, by all the eons!  I’ve been striding this planet since before any of you even were third generation invaders to this land.  I’ve seen more of the follies and misrepresented ideas of your forbearers that I almost expect you to be the money hungry, grubby little twits you seem to believe other countries are.  Then why do I stay here, you ask?  Why muddy my feet in the trappings of your modern world and all its conflicts, confusions and conflagrations?

Because I am waiting for someone.  That’s right!  I’m here because like it or not, this is going to be the place where the greatest hero of my homeland’s history and legends is going to resurface.  Not on his own native soil, and not on the native soil that bore him up on his previous incarnation either.  Here, in this land where stupid, dirt scratching malcontents wastefully dumped tea into a harbor, plundered the armories of the royal defenders and staged a bloody rebellion that only a third of the people here wanted in the first place.  Gives me gas just thinking about it.

And you run about screaming about terrorists in the night!  Look at your own history, fools!  You started out as terrorists yourselves, or at least embraced the ways of terrorists once they had control.  Makes me sick!

Sorry about that.  I get into a tirade and it’s enough that you basically have to knock me off my roost to quiet me.  Spent too much time transformed into a rooster, I guess, to remember that not all crowing is beneficial.

Me?  Oh, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you who I am.  I know I look a bit spotty for my age.  Must look like a ruddy nipper by now.  Youthening is a curse as well as a blessing.  All the knowledge of the ages, the returning vibrancy of my own boyhood and still, an old fool trapped in a young one’s body.  The gods themselves must be laughing at Merlin.

Yeah, that’s right.  Merlin.  Not because my mother was some mad drug hazed hippy girl in the sixties, nor because my father had a meanness to him beyond his penchant for literature.  No, my name is Merlin, the Magician.  I can see by the dull spark in your eyes you haven’t quite caught on yet.  Yes, THAT Merlin.

And no, I don’t do any card tricks.  If that’s the only reason you started listening to me the you can bugger off, I have work to do.

What?  Well I can ruddy see I look like I’m only 14, and dressed like a modern child of this city.  Wouldn’t do much good to go wandering about in my old robes, now would it.  They’d lock me up in some mad house somewhere, and I’ve already escaped from enough of those in my time to know I don’t bleedin’ like it.  So my hair is flaxen black instead of white and my body stopped making facial hair a long time back.  So bleary what?  I’m aging backwards, you see, until the next time he emerges.  I just have to find him before I become too young to do anything, to help him attain his destiny.

And before I bleary forget everything.  I remember the future, you see.  I knew all of this around me would happen, even as I curse it.  Even as I know you don’t believe a word of it.  But you see, I’ve been forgetting things lately.  Things I shouldn’t forget.  And at this delicate point in my life, when most of my magic is weakened, I find myself wondering if the fates have finally released me from the cycle.  If perhaps I get to actually live for myself for once, instead of for my once and future king.

What?  You want to know how it is that I came to be here, sitting in the middle of Boston Common, staring about from this memorial to a war I actually picked up arms and fought in as a man of thirty years age?  It is a tale I am living through this very moment, because instead of just repeating it, I am living it, breathing it, feeling it, much as I imagine you must in your normal life.  This is passing strange to me.  I remember the future, but the future isn’t how I remember it.  The next ten years of my life are uncharted for me, and to be honest, after so long simply knowing, this is somewhat frightening.

I don’t care if you believe me or not.  Really I don’t.  You aren’t the one I’m looking for.  For all I know, my memory and visions may have finally left me for good, and I may never meet Arthur again.  The fates are being most unkind to such an old soul.  I’d give my eyes to be able to see the future again.  But to this point in time, everything stops.

I’m not scaring you, am I?  These wizened eyes of blue that seem so out of place on such a young face aren’t making you think of calling the men with the butterfly nets, are they?  Good.  Then sit and listen to a tale told by an old fool given the rages of an old fool all wrapped into one.

When I first came to Boston, following the signs of the Siege Perilous and the castings I had done over my philosopher’s stone, I was in my late twenties.  I know I look a mere pup of 14 now, but that’s the thing about aging backwards, it takes its time to really do you in.  The year was 1964 by your calendar, early March of said year, and the winds that rip through these streets were just as crowded with the cars we see about us today.  More so, in fact, because the Boom children were buying things at an unheard of rate.  I had fallen into a sort of despair, really.  This city, like so many other so-called modern cities was like a fortress to me.  The thought that my tower, so far away and crumbled to ruins so very long ago made me homesick for the open, rolling hills and the deep forests of England, my home.

I had explored much of this New England, finding it every bit as familiar as my one true realm, even going so far as to visit the standing stones of your land’s version of Stone Henge, somewhat north of here in the New Hampshire village of Salem.  There is deep magic here, untapped, but it flows so freely among the people of this region that they barely notice it themselves.  Would that I could open their eyes, maybe make them see that they are truly the descendents of the most noble of races.  There are even traces of the fair folk here, although I hasten to add they want nothing to do with most of these people.  They lost hope for your kind long ago, and only reluctantly speak to me when I impose my will over them.

I knew that somewhere near this city, this shore, my liege would again be reborn, and soon.  Do keep in mind that for me soon is a relative term, one that might encompass months, years, decades, even centuries.  I have been waiting for signs of Arthur’s rebirth since then.

But I do not wait idly.  Such would bore me to tears no man or child should have to shed.  I learn about my surroundings, the people, the places, the events, I even become a fan of the local athletics clubs.  I am still a fan of the more manly arts, after all, and I find the evolution of sport to have fascinating resonances of the times when my king held court.  Blood sports, no matter how civilized we try to make them, are still something that we all share in common.  It’s not quite as drawn out as I remember the Roman’s sports, but there is far more drama and life to them now than the predetermined outcomes of gladiatorial combats and mock sea battles.

I even became a legal voter here.

Don’t comment on my accent, I’m still telling a story, you wee pup!  Not that I’d expect you to understand this lost art.

I sublimated myself in the culture and passing of this city for close to forty years now, becoming steadily younger at a very slow rate.  Only last decade I had stopped shaving.  Last month I discovered that my nether hairs were falling out, in clumps I could grasp in full hands.  My voice has become squeakier I’ve noticed and my arms don’t hold to as much strength as they once did.  Thankfully, such regressions in age usually happen all at once and then slow down to long periods of relative sameness.  Although, I must admit, in the last few times I’ve reached a beardless age, I discovered my king early and was able to begin aging again.  This time, I fear that I might be too late.

So that’s my story to this point, at least as much as I’m willing to tell a passing stranger.  I must soon be off.  I’ve been adopted by a local couple, you see.  In order to maintain my freedom, I had to give up my autonomy to the Commonwealth and now I am a in a home with love and trust and responsibility.  It will be difficult to cut ties with my new parents when the time comes, but I will do what I must.  My king requires my service and I shall be true to my oaths of old.

As is so often said here as a parting, “Cya.”



He hopped up and moved away from me, heading for one of the subway stations not far from here, probably up to Government Center Crossing.  I got up to follow him, not sure why.  He was such an angry kid, I guess, that it made me worry about him.  Being only 14 myself, I knew that there was danger in the city for a kid that ran the streets alone.  Even now, in the summer time, with baseball fever in the air and tourists flocking about with disposable cameras, the city wasn’t entirely safe.

Then again, here I was, running around with just my skateboard.  My pals were supposed to meet me here an hour ago, but I guess they forgot.  Typical.  Well, in their defense, they might have had stuff to do.  Parents can be a pain sometimes.  Still, I wasn’t just a kid on the street, you know.  I was a lot like that Pink Floyd song Dogs; I knew how to pick out the easy meat, with my eyes closed.

Kid Merlin there, no matter his worldly airs and self professed street smarts of the ages, was just practically begging to get mugged, roughed over or worse.  They say that one in a hundred people is a psychopath.  Well in a city of some six or seven million regular residents and about two times that in commuters each day, Boston was bound to have its share of those.

And an empty subway stop was a likely spot for a single kid to get trapped.  I admit that those echoey tunnels used to scare the crap out of me when I was younger.  But I’m a city kid, born with concrete under my feet and subway tokens dropped in my Halloween bag.  Navigating the asphalt jungle was my native gift.

I dropped the board on its wheels and I hopped on, switching my footing as the hill took me down faster.  It didn’t take me long to get to the corner of the crosswalk that lead over to Government Center, just in time to see Merlin reach the top of the steps, adjust the position of his back pack and head left, towards the T station entrance.  I’m gonna have to race to catch him, I though, and pounded up the steps, pausing a moment to drop some spare change in street guy’s cup.  Hey, he might be a heroine addict for all I know, but it doesn’t hurt to give someone a hand now and again.  My act of kindness might be the thing that helps turn him around.  At least he’d have enough money to get a decent meal.

Once at the top of the plaza, the board hit bricks again.  I cruised up to the T station entrance, which brought me back underground.  I know that Boston’s an old city, but did they have to build everything up just to build it back down again?  Architects must be some fruity people.

He had already ducked inside and I fished around in my pocket for a token.  Still had six left, which would be plenty for a while.  I slipped inside and dashed down the inbound side, guessing that he was heading for the Green line.  I figured from his expensive sneakers and the way all his clothes looked like he’d only worn them today for the first time that he must live in one of the more posh neighborhoods.  My guess was he probably lived in some high rise down by

Coppley Square
or around Back Bay, where the upper upper middle class were striving to break into the lower upper class.

By the time I got down to the platform, I saw that the train was pulling out, hissing and squealing as it rode the rails, electric sparks of actinic blue showing where the train’s contact point met the third rail.  Merlin was all alone, sitting with his back to a tiled post.  The only other person down in the tunnel was a greasy looking old man, kinda the type your parents tell you to stay away from because he might be crazy or sick or diseased.  I usually stayed away because his type had that wild look in the eye.  Not the fun wild look either, but the messed up head full of bad wiring look.  That and he smelled like he hadn’t seen the good side of soap since before Clinton was elected.

And the greasy geezer was moving towards Merlin, looking around the platform.  He didn’t even look up the stairs, but I still grabbed a wall, trying to stay in the shadows.  I peeked around the edge of the wall, just enough to see what happened down below.  The geezer came up on Merlin’s blind side and wrapped a hand around first his mouth and then one of his arm, dragging him back to a shadowy area left of the staircase.  Merlin never stood a chance, the geezer was just too large and powerful.  But what could I do?  I mean, who knows what that guy is capable of?

You know what, though?  As scared as I was I didn’t even think twice.  I took a deep breath and called up my acting skills for what my brain rapidly threw together as a plan.

See, my board is a Frankenstein.  I cobbled it together from different parts on purpose, customized, you might say.  One of the unique attributes of that customization is that if I grab the front trucks, or wheels for you non-skaters, I can put my forearm snuggly inside the area between the front and the back trucks, wedging my elbow under the edge of the back truck.  This makes a rather easy way to carry it, but it also gives me a sorta shield.  My pals often try to snap my deck, claiming they can punch right through it.  So far all they’ve managed to do is bruise their knuckles.  This was part of my plan.

I started down the stairs, walking loudly, making as much noise as I could, dropping into the corniest Californian surfer accent I could come up with, acting drunk, stoned and stupid all at once.  I barely could hear Merlin struggling in the corner.  I took my time looking around to that way, marveling in a very impressed California surf dude way at the wonders of Boston’s underground.  I don’t remember how many times I said “Whoooa!” and “Duuuude!” at stupid things around the platform before focusing on the dark corner.

“Hey dudes!” I said, trying to get my eyes to look spaced out.  It’s not all that hard, really.  I didn’t have my contacts in and I never wear my reading glasses when I skate.  Ma says it gives me an intellectual look when I have those wireframes on, which is 180 degrees left of center from what I want to look like when grindin’ edges.  Parents!

Geezer looked scared at first, but his eyes seemed to be traveling me, looking to see if he could victimize me next.  Got to admit, I kinda look the part.  There’s literally nothing to me, all stringy muscles under tight skin.  I guess it’s a skater thing, stay lean and light and you can pull any trick out there.  I was wiry, but not really strong.  It would be that speed and the reflexes I depend on so much in skating that would either save both me and Merlin, or get us both in a world of hurt.  But what the hell, it was too late to turn back now, wasn’t it?

Something in me still made me go forward.  What I can’t say.  Sometimes you just go with your gut instincts, you know?

“Like, uh, heheheh, uh when’s like the next train to Haymarket come through here, dudes?” I said, walking forward.  “I got this map somewhere, and it, like, says there’s a train for the yellow line through here, right?”  Oh, I’m so glad no one I knew was watching this.  Any Boston native could tell you there was no yellow line.  I was really hamming up the dumb surf jock line, even as I got really close to them.

“Get out of here, punk!” the geezer shouted.  I made like I was seeing Merlin trapped under his hands for the first time.  He had the guy down on one knee, his right arm shoved back behind his back painfully.

“Whoa!  Little Dude, are you like, hurt or something?” I said, still moving in, this time bent double to get a better look at Merlin.  I even faked an off balance step to try and imitate like I was stoned.  Geezer bought it, all the way.  He leaned forwards, pulling Merlin deeper into the shadows, away from my eyes….which put him in perfect position.

“Hey dude, that’s so wicked not cool,” I said, reverting to my normal voice halfway through.  You might call it a New England accent, I call it proper American.  God talks like we do, dontcha know!

Geezer suddenly looked up, perplexed by my dialectic switch and that’s when I let him have it.  I ripped my right arm forward, putting my whole weight behind it and letting the board slip off my elbow.  It pivoted against the trucks held in my hand and swung in a tight, fast arc, intercepting the Geezer right at the temple, across his forehead.  His lights went out.

“C’mon, Merl,” I said, helping him to his feet and then charging back up the steps to the sunlight and heat outside.  We got about twenty running steps and collapsed at the flagpole in the middle of GovernmentCenterPlaza.  He looked none the worse for wear, but scared three shades whiter.

“Did….did you kill him….” Merlin panted at me.  I just shook my head.

“I saw….saw you were in trouble……had to help.  You okay?”

“Fine…..shaken but not stirred,” he said, smiling up at me.  You know for a second there, I could have sworn that his smile really was magical.

“What’s your name, chap?” he asked, getting his breath back.

“Chap?” I replied.  Clearly his Merlin fixation was deeper than I knew.  He was acting all British and stuff.  Like in some old movie or something.  Duncan,” I said, keeping up with his earlier James Bond reference.  “Alex Duncan.”

“Well, Alex Duncan, I thank you for your timely rescue.  Had that miserable troll gotten any further away, he might have been the end of me.”

“Yeah, you should probably stay away from those types,” I heard myself saying.  “There’s all kindsa creeps in the tunnels these days.  Best bet is to stick with crowds.”

“And huddle together like the rest of the sheep,” he said out the side of his face, turning his head to look back at the T entrance.  “You seem to be rather a resourceful fellow,” he said, looking back at me.  “And noble.”

“Noble?  Hey, look, I just don’t like watching kids like me get used to test the third rail so some sicko can get his jollies off.  I mean, who knows that that grease ball wanted with you.”

“What more noble purpose can there be than to defend those that can’t defend themselves, Duncan.  To stand up for those in peril.”

“Look, stop it, Okay?  You’re just a normal kid, like me.  Well, maybe not like me all the way, but just a kid, alright?  The sooner you give up this Merlin crap the less trouble you’ll get yourself into.”

“Maybe.”  That was all he said.  But it was the way he said it, something in his voice making me doubt my own common sense.  Look, I’m no genius myself.  I struggle through B’s and the occasional A in school, even though I’m in the high classes.  But reality was where I parked my board at night, not in whatever fantasy was churning above his eyebrows.

I was suddenly taken aback by his appearance.  I mean, in the Commons before he had been odd, out of place.  I guess that was what drew me to him.  Curiosity.  Now that I got a decent look at him, I felt my breath catch.  I’d seen that face somewhere before, I just couldn’t place it.

You know that de ja vu thing that they talk about on movies and on TV shows about ghosts and UFO’s and mental powers.  We’ve all felt them.  Well, for the first time, I felt it hit like a runaway train.  I mean, I actually had to shudder through a breath as I looked into his blue eyes.

“You feel it too, don’t you?” he asked, but it was more a truth than just a question.

“I don’t know what I feel.”

“The passage of fire in your soul, the crash of lighting behind your green eyes.  I can see through you, Duncan.”

“Hey, the first name is Alex, okay.  Only my teachers and coaches call me Duncan.”

“I am sorry, Alex.”

“No biggie.”

“But you feel it.  The pull of destiny, the stirrings of fate within you.”

“Man, you are seriously starting to weird me out,” I said, kicking my board up to my hand.  I fit it back on my forearm and started to walk back towards the Commons.  There was a hotdog vender out there that I had a sudden urge to go visit.  Normally I don’t eat like there’s no tomorrow, but I was feeling really hungry a lot lately.  Must be about to hit a growth spurt.  About damned time too!  I’m tired of being so shrimpy!

Merlin stayed close to my heels, looking around.  “You can’t tell me you don’t feel something,” he said, half a step behind.  “I can see it in your eyes.”  Which was a weird thing for him to say, since my eyes were facing away from him.  “I’d wager you even have the birthmark,” he said.  I stopped, dead in my tracks, and turned on him.

“What birthmark?” I asked.  This was a secret only two other people I know of knew.  The mark was someplace where you’d have to look really close to see, almost too close for polite society.

“It should be above your left ear, a small mark, shaped like the crescent moon.”

“How the hell did you know about that?!” I said, rounding on him, grabbing a fistful of his shirt in my left hand.  “I’ve never told anyone about that mark!  How the fuck do you know about it?”

“You’ve had dreams lately,” he said, looking down at my fist then back to my eyes.  “Dreams of a deep forest, treading in the very steps of a great black wolf.  You scent him, know he’s there ahead of you.  You hunt him, but not alone.  You are part of a pack, not it’s leader, but one of it’s best trackers.  You stalk and you hunt, always moments behind him, not able to catch him.”

I let him go and sat down on the steps going down to

Government Street
.  He was dead on accurate correct.  The birthmark, the dream, the sense of something inside me quickening.  It was all too creepy, but I couldn’t deny it.

“You are the one,” Merlin said.  “I have been waiting for far too long to be wrong again.”

“What are you saying?”

“You are Arthur, reborn.  The once and future king of the Britons.”

“No I’m not.  I’m Alex, the once and future trouble maker in a house full of rug rats,” I said, trying to make some sense.

“You cannot deny your destiny,” Merlin said, looking at me with a twinkling in his eyes.  It made my throat catch, and something else stirred, although not something within, but something without.

“I can’t be Arthur.  He was just a myth.  A story told to make medieval nights pass.”

“No,” he insisted.  “Arthur and the knights of the round table were and are and will be again.”

“But I can’t be,” I was practically screaming now.  “I’m not like that at all.”

“Perhaps a demonstration of my abilities will help convince you?”

“What abilities?”

“I am Merlin.  If you know the legends of Arthur and Camelot, then you should be able to remember all about Merlin the Magician.”

“What, you gonna do some card tricks, make my board float on air, turn me into a tiger?”

“That last might be a little difficult.  You don’t really have tiger size.  Maybe a goat or a large dog, but that’s all I can promise.”

“I’m outta here,” I said, surging to my feet.  “No offense, Merl, but you really should take your meds on schedule.  I’ll cya round,” I said, heading across Government for that hot dog vender and some lunch.

Now, it should have all ended there, except that it didn’t.  That night, while I slept, or more correctly, tried to sleep, my mind kept drifting back to Merlin, to his skinny legs, his dancing eyes, the way he spoke.  I felt that same stirring as on the steps of GovernmentCenter in the middle of my crotch again.  I had tried to jerk off before going to sleep that night.  Usually there was no trouble, the ole pole even getting up and ready before I even hit the sheets.  But tonight, instead of images of staring into the girls washroom, or the boys showers at school, thoughts of Merlin kept intruding.  Not even vaguely sexual images of him, just him.  And it was ruining my desired bed time activity.

I’d known for a while that I go both ways.  It’s not such a big secret, even though my pals and I joke about it all the time.  I’m not keeping anything secret.  Boys get me just as hot as girls.  I’ve even been with both, if you know what I mean.  Nothing too serious, just some really fun times naked and stroking various parts with each other, even for each other.  All in good fun.  I just wasn’t ready to let anyone in the back door yet, and taking someone else’s body seemed to be something that, while I was interested in trying, should be saved for love.  And so far, I hadn’t found anyone that I could honestly say I loved, aside from my parents and sibs.

Now, here was this obviously crazy boy giving me night shudders that had nothing at all to do with getting into his pants or tasting his lips.  Or did it?  Seems I was going more than a little crazy this time.


I was certain that He was the one.  He acted chivalrously, defended the meek, even though he thought me daft.  He must be the one, I thought.  That night, back at my new parents’ flat, I couldn’t sleep.  The sense of history and time was pulling at me.  I couldn’t remember him, but it all felt right.

And wrong.  There was a nagging in my head that said things had taken a definite change.  Whatever this new, unforeseen variable might be, I was bound to a certain end.  It pestered my thoughts preventing me from attaining sleep.  I got out of bed, altering my nightclothes to allow my turgid boyhood some space and some coverage and went into the kitchen.  Lately, it had been going more and more rigid at night.  I remembered back to my original adolescence, uncounted centuries back.  I never remember having such engorgements at night, or as constantly during the days as well.  Perhaps this modern age was affecting my youthening body in ways that the ancients of my true youth never anticipated.

But this night was different.  Every time I closed my eyes, or let my hand snake down to apply some subtle pressure to my young cock, I kept seeing him.  Protecting me.  Coming to the rescue.  Strong and sure and fast and able to deceive someone much stronger than himself to gain an advantage.  His fast smile, his even quicker temper.  The way his eyes would flash when he thought I was a lunatic.  And the saddest thing about all of these images was not only that they were making me randy, but that I wanted to learn more about him, to know him, to get my hands all over him.

Oh gods of old, was I infatuated with him?  Unable to countenance sleep further, I stalked quietly into the kitchen, suddenly feeling far more young boy than old man.  There had to be a reason for all these strange desires, these odd heats beneath my skin, but what?

In the kitchen I proceeded to another rather common teenage ritual, the refrigerator raid.  I fussed around in there a moment and pulled out the raspberry preserves, a guilty pleasure that I found only tasted better while still cold on hot toast.  I also pulled out the remaining milk in the plastic jug.  As I turned and closed the door to the refrigerator, I saw that my mother was awake, and staring at me.

“Couldn’t sleep?” she asked, her maternal instincts zeroing in on me with startling accuracy.  She could tell that something was terribly wrong within me, and I knew from past experience that she wasn’t about to let it go undiscovered.

“Fancy some toast?” I asked, trying not to feel like the small child caught with his hand in the sweets jar.

“Sounds good,” she said, near whispering.  “Keep it down, Dad’s still sleeping.”

We set about making our snack, sitting close together.  I imagine that this is what my own youth was like, with my birth mother.  My memories stretch back over most of human history, but for the life of me, I can’t remember the shape of my own mother’s face, may her soul be resting in peace.  I still felt very close to this woman who was my mother now.  She was younger than she would have been had I truly been her son, but that did not remove from her the sense of ageless wisdom and boundless love.  Mariam, her name was, with brown hair and eyes, and a pure face that betrayed her Aquitaine heritage.

“So, what’s got you so uptight, Earl?’ she asked.  It was the name that I had given to the authorities as my birth name.  Earl Walsh, although I had since adopted their last name of Markham.  It was close enough to my own true name that I’d react to it and, I had to admit, I liked the thought that I was her son Earl.  Despite centuries of being an adult, of being one of the most powerful beings on the planet, it struck me as so frightfully comforting to actually be someone’s son again.

“I can’t get It to leave me alone,” I said, glancing down.  We were totally open about most matters.  Something she was adamant about was communication.  I could tell her anything, and she made sure I knew it.

“It?  Oh, IT!” she exclaimed, suddenly realizing that I was blushing.  “I see.  Um, why do you think that is?” she said, lifting a piece of toast to her mouth.  “Did you meet someone today?”

The thought of what she was implying struck me as kind of odd.  Yes, I had met someone today, but not in a way that should have given me this result.

“Yes,” I said, suddenly feeling very guilty for some reason.  My eyes fell to my troublesome lap and the raging need sequestered within.

“Well, that’s a good thing, honey.  It’s been so long since you brought any friends here.  Who is she?”

“Um, Mom, it was a boy,” I replied.  And the truth of it knocked me over like a stone ax to the head.  “He saved me in the T this afternoon.”


“A man tried to grab me down in the T station.  Actually did a pretty good job of it.  He was dragging me off into the shadows when this boy I met in the Commons came down and rescued me.”

“Why didn’t you tell us about this, Earl?”

“I didn’t want to worry you.  Besides, Alex decked the guy.”  I paused for a moment and thus the whole story came out in vivid detail and then I admitted to seeing Alex in my dreams, to remembering the terror of having that man’s hands on me and then Alex coming to my rescue.  It all made too much sense.

“Honey!” she said, taking me into her arms.  And I must admit, it was a very comforting place to be.  And something inside of me clicked as well.  Perhaps this wasn’t the return to old patterns.  The way of the world had long ago shifted.  My magic wasn’t failing because I was growing younger all the time.  It never had before.  No, the reason for it all was made plainly obvious to me now.  Merlin the Magician wasn’t needed anymore.  If Alex was Arthur reborn, so far from England, perhaps the cycle had ended.  And with it, the magic, the power of the old gods, even the call of Avalon itself, swept into the past.

Perhaps my time of being Merlin had ended and now I was given the last gifts the old gods and the old magic could give me; a chance to be a normal boy, a normal life.  Perhaps destiny had released us all from the curse.  Perhaps.

I actually felt tears going down my cheeks.  The events of the afternoon were now made more mundane and more dangerous at the same time.  That man would have harmed me in unimaginable ways, and Alex had saved me.  What I felt for Alex was more akin to hero worship than the pull of destiny.  I shook in Mariam’s arms, holding tightly to her.  The tension in my pajama pants faded as I felt more young, more frail and vulnerable than at any other time in my long existence.

“Shhh, shhh, easy Baby,” she said to me, her voice cooing and gentle as I cried out to her.  Her hand swept through my hair and I let her, no longer feeling the power of ten thousand years at my beck and call.   I was no longer Merlin the Magician, I was simply Earl Walsh Markham.

“Now, this other boy….”

“Alex Duncan,” I supplied.

“Does he know that you feel this way towards him?”

I barely know, Mom.  And I don’t understand it.”

“It’s okay, my darlin’ son,” she said, holding my head next to hers.  “We’ll help you figure it out.”

“Figure out what?” Dad said, coming into the kitchen as well.  He was a tall man, also with dark hair, but with eyes of a crystal green.  I would have been proud to have been his true son.  Everything about this man spoke of gentle power, of wisdom and carefully maintained control over most things, but also of his abundant love, which he lavished on me without question.  He was playful and he would play rough with me, like a father and son would, but always with a sense of gentleness, kindness and restraint.  He’d never laid a hand on me with anything other than love.  They thought they had adopted me at the age of 12, just shy of 13.  Now, after nearly two years in their home, as their son, I felt as though I had lived here all my life.

Perhaps that was the case after all.

“George, have a seat.  Family meeting time,” Mariam said.  Dad sat down, his eyes instantly coming further open as he focused on the two of us together.  He took the seat I had vacated when I leapt into her arms.  His hand shot to my shoulder, its size, strength and warmth rubbing comfortingly.  He could see my distress and his eyes slipped between me and Mariam, seeking answers.

“Tell Dad about what happened today, honey,” Mariam said, giving me a kiss on the cheek.

I explained about the attack and how Alex had come in and saved me.  Dad got visibly upset that someone had nearly taken me away.  Then I told him about how I felt about Alex, how my body reacted, how I couldn’t sleep, and about how confused I was.  He listened without asking any questions, his eyes full of compassion.  He reached out to me when I finished and took me in his arms.  I never felt so protected as when in their arms, either of them.  I was discovering that letting go of Merlin was becoming easier the more I felt Earl was loved.

“It’s okay, son.  These feelings are normal.  I don’t know if you will always feel this way, but do not think that you are wrong or strange.”

“I know,” I breathed against his shoulder, snuffling back tears.  “I can’t help it.”

“I know, Baby,” he said, holding me, his fingers running slowly up my back, not being sensual, just calming me with his presence.  “I’ll tell you what.  Let’s get some rest and we can figure it out in the morning, okay?”

“Promise?” I asked.

“I promise.”

I slid from his arms, but not before he planted a warm gentle kiss on my forehead and I got the same treatment from Mom.  I slipped off to my room, still in command of all my mental faculties, my memories of incantations and rituals that would have scared off lesser beings, but still feeling very much the small boy who was having difficulties sleeping because he was suddenly infatuated with another boy.  And in the darkness of my bedroom, with a combination of knowing my adopted parents were on my side and a slightly full belly, I drifted off into sleep.



My brother woke me up by bouncing around in my bedroom, chased by my three sisters, all of them with squirt guns.  I was the epitome of pissed off older brother.  I jumped out of bed and threatened to skin them all alive and sell them to the pet store as naked mole-rats, chasing them out of my room.  My “morning disease” was apparent, and it was only their fear of my wrath and the fact that I was moving too fast for it to become noticeable to the rug rats, that kept me from an embarrassing moment or three.  I slammed my bedroom door and tried to go back to sleep, dropping on my bed so my boner was pinned between me and the mattress.  But it wasn’t working.  I was too angry and too awake now to just flop on the bed and return to dreams.

HA!  Dreams, more like nightmares.  I saw myself suddenly running about chasing dragons and slaying black knights and rescuing maidens (who turned out to look like Merlin) and facing off against ogres and trolls and all manner of fictional beasts.  Usually my dreams are a lot more erotic or just plain about skating.  Yeah, I know, I’m stuck in a rut, but skating is what I do.  It’s my Verb!

But I couldn’t get him out of my head.  Merlin.  That smile that said he already knew it all.  That destiny was something he wrote last week as he remembered it.  His claim about being able to turn me into a goat.  The only power he seemed to have was over my raging hard on.  Goat, indeed!  I already had one horn!

I slunk downstairs and into the kitchen.  Time for some fuel.  I poured myself a quick bowl of cereal, not really caring whether it was the corn flakes I liked or that marshmallow stuff my brother and sisters all love, with the leprechaun on the box.  I really didn’t care.  I just wanted something to gnaw on until I woke up more.

The events of yesterday afternoon still haunted me.  Not so much the rescue bit.  Strangely, that part didn’t bother me much at all.  It was like battling random freakin’ nut cases was a common occurrence and I was too good at it for such a low level one to even look harshly at me.  I gottah stop putting things into video game analogies, I told myself.  I’ll end up like Johnny Peterson down the street, never leaving the house, always either online or messing with his collection of game consoles.

Breakfast over, I went upstairs to the bathroom and took a shower.  Me and my brother share a bathroom and it’s not a big deal if he wanders in to use the john while I’m chasing suds under my arms.  As long as the little creep doesn’t flush and burn me, I’m cool with it.  I mean, we’re guys right?  No biggie.

So of course he comes in while I’m stripping down to hop in the shower and he just drops trou and squats on the pot.  Normally, I’d have no troubles with this, but he looks up at me as says, in his most annoying voice “Hey look!  Mine’s almost as hard as yours is.  Look!”  Sure enough, the little demon had a tiny stiffy poking up.  He naturally had his hands on it.

“If you’re gonna play with that thing, go into your room and do it, okay?” I asked, putting the big brother authority into it.  In answer he farted into the bowl, loudly.  He thought that was terribly funny and I just climbed into the shower, my dick trying to be a flagpole the whole time.

I took my time in the shower, ya knowhatImean?  The hot water and the sense of hands all over my body was making me even crazier for a flat out stroke off session.  I just let the water flow, sat on the molded seat in the shower stall and spread my legs wide, going for it.  Merlin kept appearing in my fantasies as I was waxing the ole carrot and I can’t believe how intense it felt when I finally splattered the drain with boy jelly.  I couldn’t believe the effect this boy was having on me.  It had never been that good before, nor had I ever shot so far.  White cream was running down the farther side of the shower curtain….

Just inches from my audience.  My stupid little brother had been watching me the whole time, his face peering in near the bottom of the shower curtain.  He suddenly got this really scared look on his face and let the curtain drop.

“Joey!” I screamed, in anger and bolted up from the shower stall.  He was trying to scramble to his feet, but his socks on the bathroom tile weren’t giving him any traction.  The little pervert had nothing on below the waist but those socks and one hand was still busy on his little cock.  I easily grabbed him from behind and bodily flung him onto the bed in his room, landing a bare second behind him, crushing him to the bed.

“If you ever, EVER, do that again, I’ll beat you so hard you wont grow anymore!  You get me?!”

“I’m sorry, Alex,” he said, repeating it over and over.  “I just wanted to know what it’s like.”  Okay, not a situation that they tell you anything about in health class, huh?  Here I was, naked and wet, a semi dripping limp after an awesome orgasm, laying on top of my now terrified and sexually excited little brother and I was issuing threats.  Yeah, I’m really noble, now, huh?

I got up off of him and he sat up as well, crying.  What is it about ten year olds that lets them cry and make you feel bad for something they did wrong.  “Well you could have asked me about it.”

“I thought it would all be like in the internet and you’d show me how and all,” he sobbed.

“Wait a half.  How are you seeing that kinda stuff on the internet?”

“Um, I kinda borrowed your screen name,” he replied guiltily.

“Oh Jesus Christ!” I shouted, nearly jumping on him again.  “Joey, you know you’re not supposed to use my screen name.”

“I couldn’t help it.  I wanted to know what it really felt like.  I wanted to see what happened when you do, you know, it.”

“Joey, you’ll just have to wait and see.  And watching me isn’t gonna help you figure it out any better.  It’ll only creep me out.  No more watching me in the bathroom, okay?”


“I mean it, Joe!  I’ll whip yer ass good if I ever find out!”

“Okay, okay!  I wont do it again, I promise.”

“And no more using my screen name.  I’m changing all the passwords tonight.”  He looked downcast.  Something clicked in the back of my mind.  This wasn’t just guilt, or the consequences of being caught at something naughty.  Joey was upset over some other repercussion.  “What have you been looking at?” I asked, thinking that he was upset he couldn’t see any dirty pictures anymore.


“No bullshit, Joey.  What have you been looking at on my screen name.”

“I just talked to your friends on the instant messenger and….and ….and I sent a few e-mails.”

“You WHAT!?”

“I was just curious!” he yelled back.  “I wanted to know about some stuff….and I couldn’t talk to Dad about it.”  I knew right away what he meant.  My father was a strict Catholic.  Brought up in the church, lived about three blocks from his home parish, even had the local priests over for dinner every month or so.  Hey, five kids at home and two in college, oh yeah he was Catholic.  Hey dad, ever hear of a condom?  But asking him about sex was like pulling teeth.  Don’t get me wrong, my Pops is a great guy.  He’s just not too keen on explaining private stuff like that.  It’s always freaked me how he lets Mom talk to us about that, and that’s about as embarrassing as life gets, telling your mother that you get stiffies all the time.

I understood Joey’s predicament, but that didn’t excuse the invasion of my privacy that he had just done and apparently been doing for a while now.  I was so mad at him I could have raced him down to the Charles and chucked him in, just like he was….just like I was, for that matter.  I sat down heavily on the bed, not sure what to do about it.

“I’m sorry, Alex,” he said sobbing, walking on his knees on the bed toward me.  I, unfortunately, have a soft place in my heart for my little brother.  Probably a matching place in my head, for that matter.  I reached out to him and hugged him against me, one armed.  He quieted down a lot.

“I’m still wicked mad at you,” I said, softly.

“Uh huh,” he replied.

“You aren’t getting off easy either.  You owe me, big time.”

“Uh huh.”

“And you can knock off the cute act, cause I ain’t buyin’ it.”

“Okay,” he said, sounding like I’d just told him his kitten had been run over in the street.

“I’m serious, Joey.”  I stood up, leaving him on the bed alone.  “If you want to know something that you can’t talk to Dad about and don’t want to hear from Mom about, then ask me.  But no more of this spying bullshit and definitely no more using my screen name.”


I picked up my towel and proceeded to dry myself off, remembering to also turn off the shower, which had been still going ever since I jetted the jalopy almost on my brother’s face.  Still, images of Merlin and his dancing eyes were in the back of my head.  I didn’t know what it meant, but I had a way to at least get some answers.  Back to the Commons, I thought, getting dressed.  If he’s there, then I get a chance to talk to him.  If he’s not there…..well if he’s not, it’s not like I can track him down in a city like Boston with only a name like Merlin to go on.  For all I know, it could be his real last name.

I grabbed up my board, slung my pack around my shoulders, made sure I had some pocket money and hit the pavement.  There’s a T stop not far from my house and I could be downtown in just a few minutes.  The weather was great, just slightly hazy and getting hot.  Perfect for skating because that meant the tourists and the business folks would be staying where the AC was cranking.  Me and my pals would have the Commons mostly to ourselves, and if Merlin showed up there, I’d have some questions to ask him.

It was about that time that I noticed another connection between me and the Arthur legends, though.  The bottom of my deck was the only place that had any real art or logos left on it.  The original deck art was a mostly faded, scratched over and dinged up decal of a fire breathing dragon, and one of those logos was for Excalibur wheels.  Odd, no?


I woke the next morning feeling somewhat better.  And still as randy as a pig in high summer muds.  No help for it, unless I choose to take matters into my own hands.  Somehow that just felt like cheating, though, so I decided against it.  The day would show me which way to spend my resources wisest, I knew.  Better to hold on to that tension in case I needed it for something else.

I ambled into the kitchen and sat staring at the table top.  No one else was awake in the house yet, choosing to sleep in on this Saturday morn.  I conjured for breakfast, literally.  My spell should have graced the table with bacon and eggs, crispy and warm, stuffed with cheese and bell peppers, with a tall glass of cold milk to help wash it down.

But like most of my magic of late, it backfired.  Instead of bacon and eggs, I got green eggs and ham.  Thoroughly unappetizing, despite the good doctor’s prescription for it in children’s literature.  I quickly dispelled the abomination, hoping the smell would evaporate before Mom and Dad got up.  I then set about making a proper breakfast, the old fashioned way.  There is one thing you definitely know how to do when you’ve had the length of human history as your experience pool.  You definitely learn how to cook.

Dad was up first.  It was the usual thing.  He normally was up very early for work, even though he only worked three T stops away.  Mom was a deep sleeper.  I smiled as he walked into the kitchen and I added another egg to the frying pan.  He started the coffee.  Although I prefer tea with breakfast myself, this was part of Dad’s morning ritual and as such I just watched him.  If I was lucky, I thought, I’d be half the man my Dad is when I grow up.

For a second there, I stopped and had to realize what I had just thought.  Surely, this double existence was going to drive me as batty as I already felt.  Here I was, the greatest Enchanter of legend, trapped in the body of a child and having a child’s thoughts, dreams, desires and turmoil.  And the strangest thing about it all was that I felt it with all of my millennia of existence backing it.  Like this was the new natural order of things and I had bloody well better accept it.

I cooked the eggs just the way we both liked them, over medium, a handful of ham cubes and shredded cheese tossed on top, the bacon done until the fat was crunchy on the outside and gooey inside.  I piled my plate and his and set them on the table.  I looked towards the back of the flat, where Mom and Dad’s room was, and gave Dad a meaningful glance.

“Leave her sleep some more, son.  We’ll just have breakfast for us.  Let’s move to the living room.”  I smiled at his suggestion, said with his usual mischievous smile.  What I had said last night hadn’t changed anything between us.  He was still my Dad first.  The feeling that came over me at that was so….so awesome.  There are levels of love in this world, and being a parent was obviously somewhere near the very top level, if not there already.  I only hoped that one day I got the chance to be someone’s dad, and that I could do it at least half as good as mine.

We moved our breakfast out to the living room, where he promptly got out the TV remote and set the channel to the local all news station.  He was watching the financial reports as we ate.  My mind was far from the screen, however.  I kept seeing Alex’s face.  I imagined the feel of his hand going from more than just my hand as we ran from the T station.  I imagined how he could be brave and strong in any situation.  I imagined the feel of his strong sweaty body against me, both of us overcome by heats deeper than either had ever felt before……

“I said, are you alright, Earl?” Dad repeated.  I stared down at my lap and the plate of breakfast rapidly cooling there.

“Yeah,” I replied.  “Just thinking.”

“Ah.  About that boy from yesterday?”

“Yes,” I admitted, blushing.  I looked him right in the eyes.  “Do you think it’s possible for people to be different people at the same time?”

“I don’t follow,” he said, turning the TV off.  He came over and sat down beside me, but on the floor, near my legs.  This way he was close to me, he let me still have the whole couch to eat breakfast on and he wasn’t looking at me so I’d feel less nervous.  The thoughtfulness of the man touched me deeply, and I was suddenly proud that this man and his wonderful wife, out of all the kids they could have taken from the orphanage, had chosen me.  I was certain that I was grinning like an idiot.

“I mean, there are times that I’m the me I’ve always been, but then there are times I’m a different person.  The same but….I don’t know, somehow changed.”

“You aren’t hearing voices, are you?”

“No, I’m not schizoid, Dad.  I mean…..do you think that it’s possible someone could change and still be who they were?”

“Of course,” he said, after a brief pause.  “That’s called life, my son.  You start out one way, and as time progresses and you grow, you change.  You are still all the people you ever were, just now you are that person grown up a little more.”

“But I’m already grown up.”  Was I whining?  I put the plate on the coffee table, suddenly not as hungry as I was before.

“Earl, I’m nearly 33 and I still don’t feel all the way grown up,” he said, patting my leg below the knee.  “if you ask Mom, I’m still somewhere around 12 some days.”

“How long does it normally take?  To be all the way grown up, I mean?” I asked, the innocence of youth overshadowing the acquired knowledge of ages.

“I don’t know that.  I think even the wisest of men wouldn’t be able to answer that.  I think it takes a lifetime to just figure it out.”  He turned his head and looked up at me.  “Don’t be in such a hurry to grow up, kiddo.  Mariam and I just got to know you, we’d like to keep you a little while longer before you spread your wings and leave us.”

“I’d never leave you, Dad!” I swore, sliding off the couch and into his lap.  He held me, and I held him back.  How could I have possibly thought of leaving them.  They loved me without limits.

“Now, son,” he said, sitting me back farther on his lap so that he could look at me.  “Sooner or later all things change, even the seasons, even the land, even the sun.”


“Even you and Mariam and me.”

“But you’ll still love me, no matter what?”

“No matter if you sprout horns and chase rabbits at or turn blue.  You may change, but you will always be my son.”

“Thanks, Daddy,” I said, strangely feeling it was not only right, but something that he needed to hear.

“So, what do you want to do about Alex?”

“You remembered his name?”

“He seems to be very important to you.  That makes him important to me.  Plus I have to thank him properly for bringing you back to us, safely.”

“Oh Dad, he’s all I can think about sometimes.  I can’t get him out of my head.”

“Sounds like you’ve got it pretty bad.”

“Got what?”

“A bad case of lovin’, kiddo.”

“Oh be serious!” I said, slugging him in his shoulder.

“I am serious.  That’s not a bad thing.  Love is always a good thing.  Now how he feels about you in return is what you must consider next.  And don’t be too surprised if he shies away from you.  Love can be a wonderful thing, but it can scare people some times too.”

“So….so what do I do?”

“Learn his mind.  Become his friend.  If he can’t love you the same way you love him, at least you can be his friend.  And as tortuous as that may sound, sometimes it’s the stronger man that can say no.”

“But sometimes it’s the braver one who can say yes,” I returned evenly.  “I think he’s the bravest guy I know.”

“Well that makes him the second bravest guy I know then,” Dad smiled again.

“Thanks,” I smiled back, feeling just plain proud.  I lay back against his strong chest and just held on for a long time.  I needed his strength to help me figure out my next move, whatever that might be.  And for once, something aside from the vagaries of fate was pushing me forward.


Seems my pals were also suckers for air conditioned comfort.  I was kinda upset that none of them showed, but what the heck.  I wasn’t about to waste a beautiful day like today without seriously thrashin’ the Commons, and every set of steps, hand rails, planter boxes, every banked curbside and park bench along the way.  I was having the time of my life, just pulling ungodly stunts for no apparent reason and with no audience.  I was like a kid with a new toy and the rolling streets of Boston were my personal playground.  Even the occasional beat cop would smile my way as I was just having a blast without getting in anyone’s way.  I would never be able to brag later about pulling a hand plant on the steps of the State House, and then rolling that into a rail slide on a handrail, but I didn’t care about bragging rights.  I was in the zone, the world was suddenly a vast playground of obstacles to hop over, grind on or just plain play tag with.

Through it all, I kept thinking of Merlin.  Well, that’s not true, entirely.  I did think a bit about my brother’s antics and how ticked I still was at him.  I mean, that was the most private, secret and intimate thing a person can do alone, and he made it into a personal peep show.  I seriously had to put some grays into an effective punishment for the little twerp.

But I kept seeing Merlin, too.  It’s funny.  Before, skating was just something I did for me.  I mean, it gets my pulse going, it’s not easy so it’s a challenge and I just love the feeling of weightlessness jumping over and sliding around on things, getting the wind in my ears.  Now, though, I kept wondering if Merlin would be amazed at what I could do.  Wondering if he liked watching how I could fly.

Crazy, right?  I mean the kid was obviously lost in the clouds.  Thinking I was some ancient British king reborn.  I mean, yeah, I saved him from that sicko in the subway, but that was a kid helping another kid.  Anyone else would have done it, right?

Yet I still can’t keep from thinking about him.  He was so certain about things.  Everything he said was mad strange, but he seemed to think it was totally on target.  Was there something to it?  Besides….I was having passion flashes about him too, and more often than once I had to just push my board to the limits of speed and turning power and kick flippitude just to try to burn out the need to find a private space and spank the frank.

This kid was having serious effects on me, wicked.

My shirt was soaked through with sweat when I stopped to get something to drink, sometime just before .  There was a Dunkie’s on the corner and I stopped in for a strawberry coolata.  Ice cold and loaded with sugar, all tart and sweet.  You can’t beat a coolata on a hot day to bring you back down.  Just don’t drink it too fast or you’ll get a brain freeze.

As I was coming out of the shop, though, I felt something that froze me solid and burned down to the bottoms of my sketchers all at once.  I nearly felt my hat fall off.  Walking around the lower section of the Commons, right next to the start of the Freedom Trail, was Merlin, wandering about aimlessly like he was looking for someone.  Like he was waiting for me.

And since I wasn’t the type to run an hide when I saw someone looking for me, I rolled right over to him.  About twenty feet from him, he heard my wheels on the brick sidewalk.  I rolled to about ten feet from him, kick-flipped into the air and caught the board in my hands, landing on my feet, one-two.

“Hiya, Merl!  Seen any dragons that need slaying?” I asked playfully.  His grin opened up a little more and I nearly dropped both coolata and board, feeling my fingers go tingly under his gaze.

“Hello, Alex.  None today, sadly.  Vanishing breed, dragons.  My father is here.  He wants to thank you for saving me yesterday.”

“It was nothing,” I said, looking at my feet.  Geeze, this was starting to feel serious.  I was looking like some kid talking to a girl he liked for the first time.  Not at all like me.  I’m normally a people person.

“To him it means a great deal.  And to me as well.”

“Look, Merlin, I….”

“So is this the famous Alex?” a tall man said, walking over to us.  He had a genuine smile and a look that said professional to me.  He had on sharp clothes, much like Merlin and he put his hands on Merlin’s shoulders from behind.  I was suddenly immensely jealous of this man.  And the real kicker is, I wasn’t really sure why.  Maybe it’s just that he got to touch Merlin so intimately in public and I never would have that chance, in public or in private.

“Dad, this is Alex Duncan, the boy who helped me out yesterday.  Alex, this is my father, George Markham.”

George reached out to shake my hand and I kinda put my paw out there automatically as well.  He had a grip that was all confidence and calm.  No worries in his life that he couldn’t handle, I felt sure.

Markham?” I said, tasting the name for a second before it clicked.  “Any relation to Markham Financial group?”

“You might could say that,” George grinned back at me.  “My father started that company.  Me and my brothers currently run the show there.”

“You know about financial groups?” Merl asked, like I might be some kind of raving idiot.

“Yeah, well, you know, I read the papers.  They also have some of the best steps for throwing tricks off of.  As long as you don’t get caught by a beat cop thrashin’ there.”

“Well, I want to thank you properly for helping Earl out of a tough jam yesterday.  He gets a little sidetracked at times, always thinking about other things instead of on where he is.”

“Er, no problem, George.  I’d have done the same for anyone.  I’d like to think that, er, um, Earl would do the same for me.”  Okay, so I kinda almost called him Merlin.  I had kinda figured that the name was a ruse from the start, but now I knew.  The question is, do I tell the father that his son is delusional and leave them, hoping for the best, or keep it a secret and try to talk to Earl about it later?  Things didn’t seem to be right for that kind of talk.  Best to feel out the situation and go from there, I decided.

“Actually, it is a big deal to me.  Not many strangers will look out for each other these days, especially after 9-11.  And I want to thank you properly for being not only a prized citizen, but for the life of my son.”

“Look, no offence, George.  I think you’re a nice guy and all, and I know that Earl there means a lot to you, but I just normally don’t take gifts or praise from grown men I meet in the streets, ya know?”  He was making me feel a little uncomfortable.  Whatever happened to just being an anonymous hero and leaving it at that?

“Well, can we at least buy you lunch?  Any place you choose?”

“Lunch?”  My stomach betrayed me, growling loudly.  Seems that coolata wasn’t going to be enough for the old gut to deal with.  It wanted serious chow, and after all the energy I’d been burning off in the Commons and along the way here, it started to sound like a good idea.  Except for one fact.  I stank.  No two ways about it.  I was drenched in drying sweat and my underarms were practically letting off a smell like a garbage barrel outside a fish market after dark.  Totally low tide smell.

“I’m not exactly dressed for anyplace fancy,” I said, hoping that they’d take a hint and just let me off the hook.  No dice.  George wasn’t having any of it.  We settled for going to someplace where my body odor wouldn’t be all that offensive.  It was a short walk to Quincy Market and the huge food court there.  We got some serious Japanese food and sat down outside, watching the tourists and shoppers going about their business.  I really like Quincy Market and the whole down town area around Fanieul Hall.  It was where the old town center of Boston met the modern.  You got a sense of the city’s age and culture from here.

“So, which school do you go to?” George asked, trying to start up a conversation.

“Um, that’s not the sort of information I tell people I’ve just met, sir,” I said.  I was trying to be polite and street smart at the same time.  After all, if Merlin/Earl was seriously warped, what might be going through his father’s head.  Heck, they didn’t even look like father and son.  Not to me anyways.  And I was still having odd flashes of feeling about Merlin.  He was agitating my senses just with his presence, making me, idunno, anxious, ifuknowhatimean.

“Oh, sorry.  I guess I’m trying too hard.”

“No, it’s just, you have to protect yourself some times.  This situation really is weirding me out, you know?  I mean, I was just being the good Samaritan, just looking out for another kid.  I never expected lunch and all.”

“Dad, the Sox are in town tomorrow.  Can we go?”

“Uh, we can see, kiddo.”  George was a little upset that his son had asked in front of me.  Red Sox tickets weren’t cheep, and from the look of their clothes and the way he spoke, I got the feeling that George had tons of fat stacks, just an ATM away.  Earl would never know the kinds of struggles that my parents went through just to keep the brood in clothes everytime the school year rolled around, or how far meals would have to stretch after Christmas.  My parents both worked and worked hard.  They did the best they could.  From the look of it, so did George, just that he didn’t have to put as much into his work as my Pops did.  Bankers don’t work as hard as construction foremen, but they do take home more every week.

“I meant Alex, too,” Earl said, quickly.  My eyes snapped open.

“Well we’d have to ask his parents about that, Earl.  And I think you’re putting Alex in an awkward position.  It’s not very fair.”  There was something going on here that I didn’t quite understand.  The “D’uh!” sign must have been going off over my head.

“But we were lucky just to see him today, Dad.  I didn’t know when I’d see him again to ask?”

“It’s alright,” I said.  “I’d love to go, but, tomorrow I’ll have to keep an eye on my sibs until my grandmother comes home from church.  And after that, well, Sunday dinner is usually the only time we all get together to eat, so it’s a big family thing.”

“Perhaps another day, Dad?  We could take the company box seats?”  Box seats?  Apparently the Markham group was raking in more than I gave them credit for.  The yearly ticket prices alone for box seats must be staggering.

“We’ll talk about this at home, Earl,” George said with some strength to his voice.  Earl was taking a severe chance, all to get my attention.  And unfortunately he had it.  I just wasn’t sure if I wanted his old man to know how much of my attention he had.  My shorts were tenting.  Good thing we were sitting down and had food in our laps.  I took a long draw from my bottle of tonic, thinking about something else, like baseball or cars or bus schedules, anything to take my mind off my crotch.

“Um, guys, I gottah be getting home.  My Mom will be home from work soon and Pops is likely gonna be in late again tonight.  He works on the Dig.  So he’s gonna be hurting putting in overtime today.”

“Okay,” Earl said, his face really going sad on me.  I felt an urge to hug him, but with his father right there, I wasn’t even gonna try it.  “Can we talk on the phone some time?”

“What about I give you my screen name and you can instant messenger me?”

“That’ll work,” his grin returned.  George produced a small note pad and a pen from his back pocket.  While he was back there he pulled out a tiny cell phone and began dialing for someone.  That gave me and Earl a moment of privacy as I wrote down my screen name, Sk8rStar7, and he wrote down his.

“Listen, my little brother thinks he’s a hacker.  He knows most of my screen names and the passwords.  Ask me any question at all if you suspect it’s not me you’re talking to and use a double question mark.  If I don’t reply with, eh….”

“Excalibur,” Earl suggested with some certainty.

“Okay, if I don’t reply with Excalibur, then you know it’s not me.  I’m gonna change the codes tonight, but he’s a sneaky little bastard.”

“Very well.  Alex?”


“When you rolled up to me and did that trick thing….were you showing off?”  Damn, he hit the nail right on the head.

“A little,” I said, and I couldn’t help but grin like I’d been the cat caught with a mouth full of canary.  He actually blushed, and I kinda felt myself blush as well.

“Thank you.  I really liked watching you fly.”  Oh MI god!  He knew that I wanted to fly just for him.  He knew it!  Something was coming over me and I didn’t know where it was leading, only that suddenly my heart was thrumming away like a jet engine and I needed some distance.

“Yeah.  Look I gottah get if I’m gonna catch the next train.  Tell your Pops I said thanks and I’ll talk to you tonight, okay?”

“Okay, Bye.”

And I scooted, taking off at a run and dropping my board almost as soon as I was onto the sidewalk again.  I pushed it, riding hard and not bothering with unnecessary tricks.  Unfortunately I wasn’t cutting a clean profile to the wind when I stood sideways on the board.  I had a little wind resistance sticking out from behind my zipper.  I got to the train station and made it inside just in time to grease my hips through the doors.  Four stops later I jumped off and headed for home, trying to let the screaming in my head stop long enough to tell it I wasn’t going back to just pick Earl up and drag him off to the bushes somewhere for some, shall we say, personal time.

On the way home, I took out the folded piece of paper that Earl had given me and unfolded it.  I hadn’t looked at it at the time, but now, I suddenly wanted to know the name I’d be scanning the net for when I finally got to use my computer at home.  Written there, in spidery script was the screen name TimtheEnchanter1988.  I took that to heart for a moment until I recognized it as a Monty Python reference.  Figures, I thought, he’s still trapped in the Merlin delusion.  But here I am in seriously more than “like” with him.  I just wish for the life of me I knew why.  He wasn’t overly good looking.  He wasn’t even vastly charismatic.  But something about him was stirring my old tickle pickle a bit and I knew that something between us was forming.

Now if someone would just kindly tell me what that was, I’d at least be able to keep myself from going nuts a little longer than normal in my house.


“He seemed nice,” Dad said, patting my shoulder as we walked to his office building.  He needed to pick up a few things for a meeting on Monday, and I would have a chance to use the bathroom.  I had far too much tea that morning and it had gone through me like bacon through a duck.

“Yeah, but he was holding back, huh?”

“You have to admit, it isn’t a normal situation.  And, uh, I thought you weren’t going to push him so hard?”

“I panicked.”

“I guess so.  But you can talk to him tonight.  Now before you get any ideas about Red Sox tickets, Mom and I are gonna have to meet his parents.  That’s the least we can do.  They deserve to know who will be in charge of their son for a few hours, and whether or not we are evil trolls that eat children,” he said, grabbing my shoulders and fake choking me from behind.  It really hits my tickle spots when he does that and I could not help but to giggle insanely.  “Ah Ha!  There’s my laughing boy!” he shouted, picking me up to ride on his shoulders.  I felt terribly embarrassed by how easily he lifted me, but I was in virtual heaven up on him like that.  I felt like a very small child, safe and secure and totally happy with the world.  You’d think I was ten instead of 14

“Put me down, Dad,” I said, giggling.  “We’ll never fit through the doors like this.”  He complied, reluctantly and we walked to the office trading bumps and kicks up the backside, giggling like lunatics.

Once in the office, I went immediately to the bathroom and released the pressure on my bladder.  Just that simple process had me thinking about Alex again.  At once, my boyhood surged into a turgid state.  I wouldn’t be able to leave the restroom with it in this condition, so I sat down and began the necessary exercises to exorcise the small demon.  It didn’t take long, not with the memory of Alex in the air fresh on my mind.  I saw the strong curves of his face, the way the sweat ran down his arms and legs, how his face practically glowed as he performed that trick for me.  I let the wave take me and emptied my seed down the toilet.  It was a particularly powerful event, and I nearly lost the ability to stand as I voided.  I do remember chanting his name as I let fly.  The experience left me drained in many ways.

I cleaned up and headed back to Dad’s office, where he was still on the phone, talking to someone in Hong Kong.  I know this because he was speaking in Chinese, and as if he were a native.  I watched in fascination.

When he hung up the call he reached across and ruffled my hair a bit.  “Well, sport, looks like we’ll have to get the spare rooms set up for a bit.”

“Why’s that?”

“My friend from Hong Kong is bringing his son over to Boston for a visit.  It’s the only time they get together for a few months, so they are taking a holiday over here.”

“His son?”

“Yes, well, there was a nasty divorce and he only gets to see the boy four times a year.  I understand that he’s about your age, maybe a little younger.  We’ll be having them as house guests for 9 days.”

Suddenly I was in a panic.  Nine days with a strange boy that I would no doubt be forced to chaperone around Boston.  That would mean nine days that I wouldn’t be able to spend with Alex……I was getting flustered.  “When will they be getting here?”

“Five days from now, so that makes it…..Thursday, on the red eye.”

“oh,” was all I could muster to say.  My plans were suddenly turning on their ears.

Wait a moment! I commanded myself.  You are Merlin the Magician!  You can cause continents to shake and crumble!  You once brought down fire from the sky to slay a dragon and hurled rocks across leagues of open ground to breech castle walls!  Dealing with a mere nuisance like a foreign child shouldn’t be anymore trouble to you than…….than……

Who was I kidding?  My spells were fading, as was all my magic.  I was now enraptured of a boy I barely knew and could barely recall all the events of my long existence.  My life cycle of growing younger then suddenly being a sturdy yet aged sorcerer was at an end.  I was not the most powerful being on the planet anymore.  I was a child named Earl, who had some magic talent and plenty of knowledge of the past, yet the future was no longer mapped out for me.  And now I was to be saddled with a Chinese boy as a tag-a-long for the next week and a half, without the benefit of seeing and being with the boy I suddenly wanted to be very carnal with.

“Hey!  Why so glum, chum?” Dad said, coming around from behind his desk.

“I guess I’ll just have to tell Alex I can’t see him for a bit,” I said, my voice almost cracking.  I felt like my lower lip was to drag before my toes on the ground when once my snowy beard nearly did.

“Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  A lot can happen in five days, Earl.  Don’t give up on yourself or on Alex yet.  He may just want to be friends, but I think he’s a bit taken with you as well.”

“Does that make you mad?”

“Earl, look at me.  I couldn’t have children of my own.  I accepted that.  Mariam accepted that.  When we got to the orphanage, we weren’t looking for a kid that was pretty, or a kid that was smart, or handsome, or that could do tricks on a skateboard.  We were looking for a kid that needed us.  That needed us unconditionally, the way we needed him unconditionally.  That kid turned out to be you.

“So am I upset that you are having emotional difficulties with your feelings for another boy?  No.  I don’t understand all of it, probably about as much as you don’t either.  But I want you to be happy, and if having Alex as a friend, or possibly more than a friend makes you happy, then I will be happy for you.”

“You know that I want to be, um, really close to him, right?”

“One of these days, I’ll tell you about my best friend when I was your age.  Until then, just know that you aren’t alone, and that no matter how much Mom and I don’t understand all of what you are going through, we’re here for you.”

“I don’t understand it, you’re right.”

“It may only be a phase, son.  You might grow past these feelings, you may grow into them.  I don’t know, and right now, neither do you.  The only advice I can give you about love is this: it’s more about giving then about getting.”

“Thanks, Dad,” I smiled, leaning in to hug around his waist.  He patted my head and let his other hand stroke the back of my neck.

“Come on, then.  We’ve got to be getting the spare rooms lined up so your mother wont have a cow about the visitors.”

“If she does have a cow,” I said, trying to remember a joke I heard somewhere, “can we barbeque it?”

“Oh, funny guy, now, are we?”

We chased down the hall to the elevator, giggling.  I was starting to like just being a kid.  Perhaps I should just like Alex for himself and let all this ancient business about Arthur and the Knights die.  The magic was leaving me, and the legends were obviously not enough for others anymore.  Perhaps it was time to let new legends write themselves into the folk lore of this age.  Perhaps it was just my time to be responsible to only myself.

But I still had a deep need to simply be with Alex.  A need that hopefully I would get some measure of enjoyment from later tonight.


Dinner was a wash out.  Mom and Dad started arguing about stuff again.  Mostly it was about money.  Someone had forgotten to enter something into the checkbook and there was a call from the back about a bouncy.  The girls went to their rooms, being totally silent for once.  Jack was looking miserable as he sat on the floor of my room, playing the PS2.  He was shooting things up in a game called Robotech: Battlecry, a game about piloting a transforming fighter jet/robot and fighting off alien hordes.  He was pretty good at it and it kept him from seeing the new codes I was using for my computer names.

I thought about cutting him off from the PS2 because of the events of this morning.  After all, I earned the money for that system by pulling odd jobs and shoveling out cars in the winter.  I coulda done it easy and he’d have to put up with it.

But it wasn’t in me to take away his one release when the folks were getting rowdy like they were now.  Don’t get me wrong, they’d never hit each other.  That was never an issue.  But when it came to money, hooo boy!  Better have every single cent accounted for.  And it hit Jack kinda hard when they argued like that too.  He didn’t like seeing people angry at each other, at least not people he knew.  He could watch pro wrestling all night and not worry about it, but if it was his friends or family that was having a row, he took it personally.

So I was online, chatting with about sixteen thousand people at once, when the new IM tag for TimtheEnchanter1988 sprang to life.  My heart quickened, and I exhaled loudly.  Jack didn’t seem to notice, which was just as well.  I was already showered and dressed for bed, which meant I had on a pair of loose jogging shorts.  Jack was dressed much the same, except he also had on a Spider-Man t-shirt.  It was too hot in the house for me to wear a shirt though, so I went without.  I usually slept in nothing anyways, with the windows open and the door locked.  The only door that never got locked was the one to the bathroom between my room and Jack’s.  We kept it open so that a draft through my windows would carry over into his.  Which meant I had to be very quiet at night when I was…..well, you get the idea.

I turned my attention to the screen, uncertain if I should IM first or if I should wait for him.  Didn’t want to seem too anxious.  But those jogging shorts were already beginning to get tight.  I freed the essential parts from the shorts and let the cool night air linger there.  Fortunately, my computer desk was solid across the front, so no one could see my lower anatomy from the other side.  I was spared from having to decide to IM first though.  Earl IM’ed me.







Right all three times.  How are you, Earl?  ;~)

Better now.  I have to tell you something.


Yeah.  My Dad’s friend from HongKong is coming here on Thursday.  He and his son will be staying with us for 9 days.


No it’s not.  I wanted to

To what?

I wanted to be with you.  Alone.

Oh.  I kinda figured that out.

I really liked it when you did that skateboard thing.  You were awesome.


Excalibur.  Sorry, was just trying to figure out how to reply to that.  My face was burning.

Did I do that?


But I think I liked when you did that.

I’m kinda liking you a lot.

Hey,  you alive over there??

Hehehhehe, Excalibur to you too.  Just thinking.

Too much of that hurts some times.

Hheheheh LOL

Hey Earl.  About this whole Arthur and Merlin thing……I’m kinda worried about you.

Me too.

Don’t be silly.  I’m serious.  Do you really believe in all that stuff you said in the Commons?


Excalibur.  Hang on a minute.



Oh good.

So this Merlin thing, I mean…..is it true or are you just making it up, playing a game.

I wish I could say that I was making it up, Alex.  But I can’t.

Truth is, I wish I could show you, but it seems that my magic isn’t what it once was.

Who’s is?

No, I’m telling you the truth, but I think that something else has happened along the way.  It’s hard to describe.

I’m not going anywhere.


Don’t mention it.  (_8(P)

I think that the cycle that keeps bringing the Knights and myself and Arthur (you) around time and time again is finally over.  That this last time it spat us out and let us finally be, so that we are the masters of our own destiny now.  I think, at least for me, it’s giving me back my childhood.

Which means that I am Arthur, right?

I don’t know, not for sure anyways.  I have too many feelings churning in me, mostly about you, but I

But you what?

I don’t know what to believe anymore.



Dude, are you crying?


Please don’t.  I didn’t mean to upset you!

It’s okay.  I probably needed to let this out.

Wait a half…..how’d you know I was crying?

Dunno.  Just kinda felt it when you stopped typing’s all.


Excalibur, yeah?

Sorry.  Um, I think I really like you, a lot.


I think I like you more than boys ought to like each other.

Who set that kinda limit, I wonder.

Don’t make fun of me, I’m trying to tell you how I feel.

Let me see if I understand you then.

Your heart is pounding all the time when you think about me,

You can’t sleep well at night.

You feel lost when you go looking for me and I’m not there.

Your dick is harder than an icicle in January.


Any of this hitting close to the mark?

Maybe you do understand.

I don’t, I just feel the same way.  Understanding means experiencing.  So far all I’ve experienced of you is saving you from a creep in the T, having your Dad practically throw me a parade (which was seriously creepy at first, you know) and then you talking all crazy about being Merlin and me being Arthur and all.

Crazy, huh?

Yeah, pretty much so.

I was serious about a Red Sox game.  But Dad says we’d have to meet with your parents first.  He said that they’d want to know who you were with and that we weren’t gonna take you home and make you into mulligan stew.

Hehehehe, they might just let you take me home, just to make it quieter around here.  Lol



Oh, sorry, I keep doing that

Actually I kinda like it.  It’s like a secret code.


What’s your question?

Alex, do you like me, I mean really like me like what you wrote above.

I think so.  I kinda can’t get to sleep without um

Without what?

Without having to polish my sword.

LOL.  I’ve been thinking about you while waving my wand, too.



LOL,  will you be at the Commons again tomorrow?

Probably not, Earl.  Family duty calls.  But I’ll be there Monday for sure.  Bright and early.


Excalibur! Really


No double question marks?

Hehehehehe, tease!

Maybe, but you wont find out for sure until at least Monday.

I feel weird talking like this to you….kinda sexy

You sure took a long time writing that out.  I bet you are as nervous as I am


Really, now??

Ex –Cal-i-bur!

Now who’s being fresh?


I’m not entirely alone here you know….but I really want to,

To do what?

Polish my sword with you.

You randy thing, you, LOL

Truth be told, I want to too.

Really badly.

I’ve already whipped out the wand once today thinking about you.



Was I good?



Hope so, cause the store bought stuff isn’t as much fun  (_8(P)

I didn’t think it would be this easy

What, like you didn’t have years of practice before

No not that LOL.  I mean this.  I thought you might hate me for being so direct like this.  For saying how much I like you.

Yeah, I can see where you might normally be scared.

But I’m not that tough to excite these days.  And I kinda like you.  I hope we can just hang out and not be all trying to grope each other all the time, too.  I’ve got plenty of buddies, but not a lot of really good friends.  Sign of the times, I guess.

Hey, you okay over there?



Yeah, just, uh, cleaning my nose out.  I don’t have any friends at all.  Most of the people in my building are either really old or really young and couldn’t give a shit.

Some mighty sorcerer I turned into .  I can’t keep from talking to you without going into hysterics.

It’s okay, Earl.  I understand.

Well, I don’t understand, actually, but I will listen.

That’s a start I think.

Oh, Mom just gave me the lights out warning.  I guess I better go.


I’ll see you on Monday, right?

Yeah, that’s set in stone.  I’ll be there.

And I’ll be seeing you in my dreams tonight.

Same here.  I hope you don’t mind if my dreams are really nasty……I’ve kinda got some energy to work off, ifuknowhatimean!


Goodnight, Merlin.

Goodnight, Arthur

You know, I never did like the name Arthur.  I’ll just call you Alex

Better than being called Wart again


Goodnight, my Alex.

You too, Earl.


I sat back and let the IM fade, turning off all the programs and turning off my computer.  My erection hadn’t subsided any, and I was raging for a little private time with the ole bone.  But I let myself just sit in the chair and drift, thinking about Earl and about how long it would be until I saw him again.  Jack was still bashing aliens.  I didn’t realize that I had drifted to sleep in the chair until I heard him creeping up on me.  I still had my crotch exposed and he was just inches away from visibility there.

My arm shot out like a cannon and caught his hand as he was reaching for my notebook.  I keep one near the computer in case someone has something for me to write down.  Just this minute it had me new passwords written down until I memorized them.

“Try that again and I’ll have to bloody your lip up, Jack,” I said, looking up from under my eyebrows, squinting to look like Clint Eastwood or Hugh Jackman, mean.  “What?”

“You fell asleep at the computer.  I was only going to wake you so you could go to bed.”

“Jack, so help me, if I ever catch you trying to lift my notebook again….”

“I wasn’t!”

“Just…..just go to bed, okay?” I said, releasing him.  I still had to figure out a way to punish him or else he’d just invade my privacy and my computer again.  But I was too tired to do anything about it tonight, so I just slipped over to my bed, slipped out of my shorts and slipped between the sheets.  I clicked my clock radio on and set the volume at really low so that it was just a murmur, a bare noise to help me drift into dreams.  Dreams about Earl.


The dream slipped sideways through the aether and I came to rest on my feet, yet floating.  I was in my old robes, tailored down to my current stature, my staff in my hand.  Beside me, I floated, dressed in chain mail and leathers, Excalibur in my hand.  We looked at each other and nearly laughed, save that we both felt a terrible presence near us/me.

“Are you alright” we both responded at once, looking around.  It was weird, but I felt that I was in two places at once.  In my own head and in Alex’s/Earl’s.  The sense of being in two places at once was only exacerbated by the fact that every thought, every word every breath seemed to be an instant echo, a mirror image of the one beside me, who I also was.

Then a voice came down on us, the breath of it like a fell wind from under some dragon’s massive wing.  Me and I both stared up at the source of the voice and the wind, which was one and the same.

“Be thou still!”

A command, and one we/I could not stand against.  “Thou art released from thy previous bonds of peril.  The past hath been laid to stone.”  The voice echoed as if on a great canyon wall not far off, such was its power that even the echo was pummeling

“To what end?” We/I spoke.

“To the forbearance of a curse, which now lacks the fire of its time.”  A wave of the voice passed over Us/Me and shook the farther walls of the canyon.

“Then we are free of the call of destiny?”


We/I fell over at the power of this proclamation.  What was happening, who was speaking?

“Thou art freed from the constraints of thy past mistakes.  But the future is still thy destiny.  Re-found that which in ancient times was sundered.  Re-build that which was lain to waste by internal strife.  Re-claim the honor of my Table and return the virtues of my Order to the world, for it now is thy domain.”

“You would that we seek to rebuild the table?” I/We asked.

“You have already begun it.  Now, go forth and do as you must.  Repeat not the mistakes of old.  Bring forth the Order anew and return all lands to justice and the prosperity of peace.”  A final wave of the voice’s power broke over Us/Me and……


I awoke with the sensation of falling, and nearly tangled myself in my bed sheets trying to sit up.  My skin felt clammy and I was racked with the shivers.  I got out of bed, anxious, bewildered and uncertain, and turned on my computer, begging it to hurry up.  An imperative had been placed upon me and I was fully in its grasp, as was another, I was of a mind to believe.

As soon as the computer came online I cued up my instant messenger and looked for Alex’s screen name.  Almost instantly, Sk8rStar7 came up and I tagged in at once.




You too, huh?

Did you feel that dream?

Oh I guess you did.

Wow, this is mad strange.  Trippy.

Was that real?

Hey, we were both there, it has to be real.

Ohmigod, Earl that means you are right!  We are….you know

Yeah….rebuild the order…..I wonder if that means

If it means what I think it means, we’re in for a rough couple of years.

Yeah, I know.  Rebuilding the Order of the Knights of the Round Table…..tall order. But what can we do?

Dunno.  Whatever we do, we’ve got to get started on it real soon.  That much I know for certain.

Can you come over to my house tomorrow, about four in the afternoon?

I can try.  Mom will take me over, as long as we have good directions.

Um, Alex??


You feel it too, now, right.  We are supposed to do this for the whole world, aren’t we?

Yeah, I guess so.

Good thing Boston’s called the Hub of the Universe, right?


Let’s get some sleep. I’ll E-mail you a route to my house from GovernmentCenter. You can figure out the train routes from there.



Excalibur, what?

Did you polish your sword?  ;~)

Hehhehe, not yet, but it’s out of the sheath now!

Boing!  (_8(d)


Okay, g’night then.  Cya tomorrow.



But I couldn’t sleep, any more than I could get it up right now.  The voice was still in me, through me.  I got out my notebook and started writing down things at random, brainstorming notes.  I left the computer on, and noticed that Earl’s screen name, TimtheEnchanter1988 was still active.  I let it sit for a moment, thinking that maybe Earl had left if on and just gone to sleep.  Somehow though, I knew that it wasn’t the case.  He was just as wired as I was by that dream.  A shared dream, no less.  And with the way I felt about Earl now and how that dream had us both as two people but one person but……

I am, was and probably will always be confused about that dream.  All I know is that it happened, it was real and it was making me consider changing my whole life.  Suddenly, Earl was a major part of that.  He was as much a part of me, part of my future, as my right arm.  As much as my skateboard.

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