|The Man from Swift Current|
|© 2011 Russ Nielsen
All Rights Reserved
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As Rick led me downstairs, we heard the front door open and we heard Uncle Dave's greeting to my parents, "Can I join the party?"
"Sure, Dave, come on in. We have lots of things going on: board games, video games, and Randy and Shawn are outside playing horseshoes and the teenagers are playing volleyball," Dad said.
"Where are Glenn and Rick?" asked Uncle Dave looking around the front room.
We came up behind Uncle Dave and I said, "We're right here, Uncle Dave." I smiled and squeezed Rick's hand with barely containable excitement. "We were hoping we could go up in the plane with you."
Uncle Dave grinned, "That's why I flew down. I brought Nancy with me and she has already joined your cousins playing volleyball outside. Glenn, is it okay with you if I take Rick up in the plane first?"
I looked over at Rick to see if he was okay with that. Seeing the excitement on his face, I said, "I'm okay if Rick's up for it."
"Of course, I'm up for it. What did you think? That I was going to chicken out or something?" Rick asked punching me in the shoulder.
I grinned, "Yeah, you never know about guys from North Carolina. They sometimes get queer about things."
"Alright boys, enough of that!" Uncle Dave intervened before we got going with the trash talk. "Come on outside and let's get you in the plane, Rick."
When Rick saw the little plane sitting in the field next to the house, he began to wonder if it was really a good idea to go up in such a small thing. Uncle Dave went around to the left side of the plane and climbed up on the wing.
"Rick, climb up on the wing on the other side and climb into the cockpit," Uncle Dave instructed.
Rick gingerly placed his foot on the wing of the plane. He read the writing on the wing. It said, "Step Here." Rick climbed into the cockpit and Uncle Dave showed him how to buckle up. Uncle Dave reached up and closed the canopy and started the engine. It roared to life. It gave Rick some comfort to know that at least it sounded like it could fly. Rick knew he was just being paranoid but he couldn't help it.
Uncle Dave started the plane moving down to the end of the field and turned around. The plane bumped around a little bit on the rough ground but soon the plane was airborne. Uncle Dave took the plane up and leveled her off. He turned to Rick and asked, "Do you want to pilot her for a bit?"
"No. I might try it a little later. What kind of an airplane is this?" Rick asked looking curiously at the instrumentation panel in front of them.
"It's a 1948 Ercoupe. I use it to make a little extra money doing crop dusting for the farmers around here. I especially like flying low under the power lines just for fun," Uncle Dave grinned like a little school boy.
"How long have you been flying?" Rick asked.
"I've been flying about 20 years or so. My Dad owned this plane before he sold it to me. He taught me to fly and I took over the crop dusting jobs after he got too old to fly anymore."
"Have you taught anyone else to fly?" Rick asked.
"I've given Ben a few flying lessons but he's more interested in hockey than flying. It's just not in his blood. Of the family members, Glenn is the only one who has taken any interest in learning how to fly. I've spent a lot of time with Glenn in the air flying around these parts. I guess you could say we are kindred spirits."
"Why doesn't Glenn have his pilot's license if he loves to fly so much," Rick asked.
Uncle Dave's face clouded over as he spoke, "My brother is opposed it and wouldn't allow Glenn to become a pilot. I've never understood the reason behind his objections. Don always was stubborn about things."
"I'm sorry if I brought up bad memories," Rick apologized. "I am curious to know everything there is to know about Glenn."
"You love him very much don't you, Rick," Uncle Dave said making it a statement of fact rather than a question so he didn't wait for Rick to answer before continuing. "But you seem to be troubled by something. I watched you two while you were at my home and every once in a while I would catch you looking really down when you thought Glenn wasn't looking."
Rick was totally taken aback. Rick hadn't expected anyone to notice his preoccupation with the phone call he had received before leaving Atlanta. He had tried to push it to the back of his mind but it kept coming back to haunt him whenever he wasn't concentrating on putting on a happy face for Glenn's benefit.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Uncle Dave asked looking Rick in the eyes.
Rick held Uncle Dave's gaze and remembered Glenn's phone conversation with Uncle Dave when he was so broken up about Ian. In his mind's eye, Rick could still see Glenn sitting on the balcony of their apartment pouring out his soul to this man. Rick guessed if Glenn could trust him, he could too.
Rick started to tell him the whole story of how his Mom had found them sleeping together and had gone berserk. Rick told him about his Dad's conversation with them in Rick's room that day and the subsequent phone call Rick had received just before they left for Swift Current including the threat to their well being his father had made.
"I'm just worried that my overly zealous mother and her brother will hatch some kind of scheme to hurt me and Glenn, but more specifically, Glenn. They blame him for turning me gay and think that if they take Glenn out of my life, they can deprogram me and turn me back into their little innocent child who obediently attended Bible study and church services two or three times a week."
"Do you think your dad's warning has merit?" Uncle Dave asked seriously.
"I do. I've seen my cousins take out guys who they thought were sinners at their school. They beat them up pretty badly. In fact, one of the guys committed suicide a couple of days after they beat him up," Rick said.
"So, what do you plan to do to protect yourselves from this threat of violence?" Uncle Dave said.
"I'd thought of moving to a new apartment and not giving out the new address or phone number," Rick said.
"Okay, that's a good start. How about always being with a group when you go out so that neither one of you is caught out alone?" he asked.
"I'd thought about that, too. But I don't know how we could make that work unless we set up a schedule with all of our friends. That wouldn't be fair to them to expect them to babysit us all of the time," Rick responded.
"It's not babysitting when it means the difference between life and death. It sounds like your family is really serious about getting you back into the fold so to speak," Uncle Dave said.
"My parents are very serious about it and I'm sure that Uncle George is leading the charge and cooking up all kinds of mischief," Rick replied.
"Have you thought of going to school elsewhere? Like here in Canada or in California?" Uncle Dave asked.
"I have but it wouldn't matter how far away we went, they would keep trying to find us," Rick said dejectedly as stared down at the prairie below them. "I haven't told Glenn about Dad's phone call, yet."
"It sounds like you two need to do some talking really soon," Uncle Dave observed.
"I know, but I don't want to ruin Glenn's trip home. He's been so happy here the last few days. I just can't bring myself to spoil the rest of the trip for him," Rick said, his voice full of concern for his lover boy's happiness.
Uncle Dave nodded his head in agreement. "I'm glad to see you're looking out for Glenn's best interests. You are right to let him create happy memories to tide him over during the difficult days ahead. Just don't wait too long to talk about it. When you head back to Regina with Randy and Shawn, you might want to talk to Randy about what you can do. It would also be good to talk it over with Glenn and Randy together. Sometimes, the more heads you can put together, the better chance you have of thinking of a good solution where only one or two can get stumped."
"You're right about that. I've been stewing about it for days and I don't have a good solution so maybe I'll follow your advice. Randy should have some really good ideas because of his training," Rick said.
"Yes, Randy can also help you because he had some pretty bad experiences during high school with some pretty closed-minded people," he said. "Did Glenn tell you what happened to one of my friends when I was in college?"
"Yes, he did and that is why I'm so worried," Rick said, some of the stress showing in his voice.
"The sooner you get everything out in the open between you and Glenn the better. It isn't fair to him if you don't let him know of the danger. I know I said it was good to let Glenn have good memories of his visit home but it's just as important that you tell him about your Dad's phone call before you return to the States," Uncle Dave said.
"I promise I will tell him when we return to Regina," Rick said. "May I try to pilot the plane now?" Rick asked trying to change the subject because talking about his Dad's phone call made him even more worried.
"Sure," Uncle Dave replied. He handed over control of the plane to Rick and explained how everything worked. Rick had to admit he was enamored with flying by the time they landed. Uncle David took over for the landing and they taxied to a stop just shy of the farmhouse where I was waiting for them.
The rest of the afternoon and evening went by quickly with Uncle Dave giving everyone a chance to fly in his plane. That evening, Rick and I snuggled together comfortably in my bed. It didn't take long for Rick to fall asleep having relieved some of his anxiety by talking to Glenn's Uncle. I wondered what they had talked about because Rick seemed much more relaxed after his plane ride than he had the entire trip.
Time flew by between visiting the rest of my family and returning to see Evelyn and Emil each day. Just in the few days since Rick had met them, he had grown fond of them. Rick enjoyed listening to me play the piano for them and hearing stories about me and my family. Emil loved having an audience and spent every spare moment talking about the good old days.
Sunday arrived and with it came the end of our vacation. We were up early and had everything packed in the car before anyone else was awake. I prepared breakfast and had it on the table as Mom came downstairs followed by Dad.
"Thanks, Glenn for fixing breakfast," Mom said giving me a tight hug and a kiss on the cheek.
"Not a problem Mom. You know I love cooking," I said smiling and looking over at my Dad. "I wanted this morning to be a special one for us since we won't be back until the holidays."
Dad spoke up, "Remember boys that Thanksgiving is in October here not in November like in the States. So if you plan to be home for Thanksgiving, make sure you plan ahead to get your assignments from your professors since it won't be a holiday in the States."
"Thanks Dad for reminding me. We will definitely work out our travel plans in the next few weeks," I grinned at Rick and he responded by pulling me into his arms for a quick hug and a peck on the lips before we all sat down to eat breakfast.
Mom looked at Dad and smiled, "Remember how we were when we first fell in love?"
Dad grinned, "Yes, I do and these two are definitely in love!"
I blushed and didn't respond. Rick grinned at me and said, "Yes, we are very much in love with each other."
Randy and Shawn joined us as we started eating. They had packed up last night so they had slept in a little later than we did.
"Good morning, Randy and Shawn," Rick said smiling at them as they sat down.
"Good morning to you, Rick," Shawn said for both of them since Randy had already started eating his pancakes.
"We should be on the road soon," Randy said. "Glenn, these pancakes are really good. Thanks for making breakfast this morning."
We finished our breakfast and said our good-byes. We piled into the Land Rover and we started the trip back to Regina. It took us a little over three hours to travel the 292 km (181 miles) from Aneroid to Regina. As we turned onto the Trans-Canada Highway, Rick decided it was time to talk about his Dad's phone call.
"I need to talk to you guys about something," Rick said, his mouth suddenly dry. "Glenn, you have to promise me you won't get angry, okay?"
I looked at him and said, "I promise not to get angry. Something has been bothering you since we left the apartment. I figured if I waited long enough, you would tell me."
Rick took my hand in his and held it firmly as he told us about the phone call, "We were heading to the airport and I was locking up the apartment since you had already gone down to the Jeep when the phone rang."
I picked up the phone and said, "Hello."
"Hi Rick. It's Dad," the voice said on the other end. His voice sounded rather tense.
"Hi. How is Mom doing?" I said.
"That's what I'm calling about. I don't think you should come home until I call and tell you it's okay. She has really gone off the deep end about you being gay. She has rallied her family to her cause to stop you and Glenn from sinning."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"She wants your uncles to take Glenn out of your life no matter what the consequences. I'm afraid that may include doing Glenn physical harm," he said nervously.
"Do you really think they will try to hurt Glenn?" I asked in astonishment.
"Yes, I do. I have overheard your mother telling them that it would better for you two to be dead then to continue living in sin. You know how fanatical your Uncle George is about his religion." Dad said.
"What should I do?" I asked worriedly.
"Dump Glenn and call your mother and tell her you have repented of your ways. That would be my recommendation. You know I don't approve of a man making love to another man. It isn't right. I'm just not willing to commit violence to get you to stop," Dad said passionately. "The only reason I'm calling you is because it's just as wrong for your mother and her family to commit violence against another human being to enforce their religious views on another. I don't want to see either one of you get hurt."
As I heard this, I started to get angry. I had been worried about our safety a moment ago but not anymore, "Dad, I love Glenn and I'm not leaving him because of someone else's religious beliefs!"
Dad voice had a hard edge to it as he spoke, "Rick, I've tried to warn you. At least I will have a clear conscience knowing that I have tried to convince you to mend your ways. Don't be surprised if your uncle and some of his buddies don't try to take both of you out of this world as the sinners you are!"
The venom in his voice was unbelievable. Was this the same father I had grown up with? "Dad thank you for your warning. You and mother will never see me or Glenn, again, as long as that is how you feel about us. I love you both but I can't change who I am or who I have chosen to share my life. Good-bye, Dad." I hung up the phone and stood there trying to collect my thoughts."
Rick concluded by saying, "I'm really concerned about the very real possibility of my family doing us violence and more importantly the harm that could come to Glenn because of them."
After Rick finished explaining his concerns and why, there was silence in the car for few minutes. Before the silence became unbearable, Randy spoke up, "So, have you thought about what you are going to do when you get back?"
"No, I talked to Uncle Dave about it and he suggested that we put our heads together today and see what we collectively think is the best course of action. I'm not really in any condition to be making decisions right now because I'm pretty messed up emotionally," Rick admitted.
"Smart man," Shawn said. "At least you recognize it and are willing to admit that calmer and cooler heads than yours can help you out."
Randy spoke up, "Do you or any of your friends know someone on the police force?"
"Yes, I do," Rick said hesitantly. Rick started blushing as he explained, "One of my one night stands was with a really cute chick that happens to be on the police force in Atlanta."
I laughed at his embarrassment, "Way to go, dude! I hope you parted amicably the next morning."
Rick smiled at that thought, "Yes, we had plenty of rough, raw sex that morning before she said good-bye and thanked me for the best night of her life."
"Good. You need to contact her and report the threat being made against you and Glenn. Ask her about a safe neighborhood you could move to where there is a good police presence. That should go a long way towards deterring anyone from trying to harm you," Randy said.
Rick smiled in relief, "Thanks, Randy. If Glenn agrees, we will call her from your place."
Rick looked over at me and I nodded in the affirmative. We continued to talk about other safety precautions we could take as we drove. We soon arrived in Regina and we unloaded the Land Rover.
"Rick, there's the phone. Make your call," Randy said pointing to the phone.
Rick fished his wallet out of his jeans and pulled out the business card Melodie had given him. Rick dialed the number and she answered within two rings.
"Good afternoon, this is Ms. Jones. How can I help you?" she answered.
"Melodie, this is Rick Lernier," he said blushing at the memories he had of their last meeting.
"Rick, what a surprise," Melodie said, "To what do I owe the honor of this call?"
"I need some advice from you," Rick said. He quickly went over the fact that he had received a threatening phone call and what had been said.
"Now why is your family threatening you?" Melodie asked.
"Melodie, are you sitting down?" he asked.
"Yes, I am," she replied.
"I'm gay and I'm living with my partner. My parents found out and have threatened to take matters into their own hands to ensure I stop sinning."
There was silence on the other end of the line. Rick started to speak when Melodie cut him off. "Were you having sex with guys when you were with me?"
"No, I'd never been with a guy until a few weeks ago when I met my partner, Glenn," he replied.
"Good," she said. After a moment's silence, she continued, "I'm willing to help you but you need to be very careful who you tell that you are gay. There are too many overly zealous religious people around here who will take the law into their own hands to stop any homosexual activity they see or know about."
"I'm very aware of that. That's why I called you," Rick said.
"I can't promise you that the police department here will help you. Many of the police officers are some of the worst offenders when it comes to harassing gay men. In fact, I know one of them beat some guy up pretty badly when the guy propositioned him in a night club a few weeks ago."
"I know that not everyone sees us as human beings and that we have the same rights as everyone else on the planet," Rick said.
"When do you return home?" she asked.
"Tomorrow evening," Rick replied.
"I will come by with a fellow officer to talk with you about the threatening phone call and give you some safety tips," she said rather tersely. "I will make sure it's someone who doesn't hate gays."
"Thanks, Melodie. We will see you tomorrow night. Good-bye,"
Rick turned to find all three of us standing behind him listening to the conversation. I was first to speak, "I gather Melodie is willing to help us but isn't exactly gay-friendly."
"You're right about that Glenn. I think we have done all we can do for now," Rick said wearily. "I wish none of this was happening. I love you very much, Glenn, but neither of us deserve to live in constant fear of being attacked by such hate-filled people. At least, Melodie wasn't openly hostile for what that is worth."
I pulled Rick into a close embrace and said, "Everything will work out okay, Rick. Stop worrying about it and let's enjoy our time with Randy and Shawn."
"Okay, Babe," Rick said trying to shake off the dark clouds that had been weighing heavily on his mind all week long.
We played board games and had a good time with the guys. Later, Rick and I enjoyed each other immensely in the privacy of our own room while Randy and Shawn were doing the same in theirs from the sounds of things! Basking in the afterglow of our passionate love-making, Rick said, "I love you, Glenn."
"I love you, too," I replied sleepily. Rick pulled me closer to him and I snuggled against his chest.
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