The Man from Swift Current
© 2011 Russ Nielsen
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Chapter 70: Ben and Janice

Ben was so excited about going out with Patty and Irene he couldn’t concentrate on his studies.   He kept looking over at his cousin, and shaking his head in amazement.   Glenn had always come through for him.   Finally, he closed the textbook he was trying to read, and called Zach.

“Hey, Zach, do you want to go early to hockey practice, and take a few spins around the ice before the rest of the team gets there?”  Ben asked.

“Sure.   I don’t mind getting in a little extra practice.    I’m pretty excited to be going to see the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus tonight.   I’ve heard a lot about them.   I wish Todd were here to enjoy it with me.   Do you want me to pick you up, or are you going to walk over?” Zach asked.

“Would you pick me up, please?   I’m bringing a change of clothes for the concert, so I can change into them after we practice,” Ben said.

“What about Glenn?   Is he coming with us?” Zach asked.

Ben turned to me and asked, “Do you want to watch us practice this afternoon?”

“Yeah, sure,” I replied.   “I’ve finished my homework already, so I’m good to go.”

“Yes, he’s coming with us, so you’d better get Mark, too,” Ben said.

“Sounds good,” Zach said.   “See you in a few minutes.”

Ben grabbed some nice slacks and a collared shirt out of our shared closet.   “What are you wearing to the concert?

I was having a difficult time deciding.   I’d laid out a couple of outfits on my bed.   “I can’t decide.   What do you think?”

“I think you’re over analyzing it, and need to just choose an outfit,” Ben said pointing to the pair of slacks and shirt that mirrored his.   “I like this one.   That way we’ll look like twins!”

“Twins?  I don’t think so!   I’m taller than you, still!” I exclaimed, laughing at Ben’s hurt expression.

Ben couldn’t stay serious for long.  “I guess you’re right.   You might be taller, but I’m the better looking one anyway!   Go ahead and wear whatever you like.”

I punched my cousin in the shoulder.   “You had better remember who set up this little soirée.   Besides, who was complaining about his inability to get the cute girls to go out with him?”

Ben laughed.   “Not me!”

I went to slap him up the side of the head, and he ducked under my arm, tackling me onto my bed and knocking the wind out of me.   “Hey!   Remember, I’m the one you asked to help you get a date!” I said, laughing when I got my breath back.

“I’m just making sure that you remember who has the superior body strength and by far the best physique!”   Ben laughed, as he pulled me back to my feet.

I grinned at my cousin.  “I’ll grant that you have the superior strength, because I’ve not been as diligent at working out at the gym as you; however, I think Zach has the best physique.”

Ben poked a finger at my chest.  “Only a gay guy like you would notice that!”

I replied, “No, I think the girls will take notice, too.   You’re good looking, Ben, but Zach is absolutely stunning!   I know he has a boyfriend, but I can’t help admiring his beautiful body!”

Ben grinned and said, “It’s a good thing Zach’s gay!   That way I can have all the girls to myself!”

I quickly changed into the outfit that matched Ben’s, and was combing my hair, when we heard Zach’s knock on the door.   Ben said, “Let’s go, Glenn.”

Ben ran down the stairs with his gym bag and opened the door.   He impatiently waited for me to come outside.   Seeing his look, I said, “I’m hurrying!   It’s not like we’re going to be late to an important date or anything.   It’s just hockey practice!”   Ben has been badgering me about being more punctual, lately; and it’s starting to get on my nerves

Ben replied, “That’s true; but I’m trying to get you to be on time, since you have a tendency to always run late!   Rick asked me to keep an eye on you, and part of that is trying to break you of bad habits.”

As we climbed into the backseat of Zach’s car, I grinned at Ben and replied, “I don’t have any bad habits, so you’ll have to find someone else to reform.”  I paused for moment, grinning.   I continued, “Someone such as Zach or Mark, for instance.”  

Mark glanced back at us from the front seat with a raised eyebrow.  “What exactly are you two talking about?”

Before Ben could answer, I said, “Ben’s trying to reform me.   He says I’ve got bad habits that need fixing, like being perpetually late.   I like to think of it as being fashionably late.   No one wants to arrive early to a party, or you might give your hosts the impression that they aren’t organized enough, or make them uncomfortable, as they finish their last minute preparations.”

Mark laughed.  “Ben, you’re sure one to talk.   You have a couple of bad habits yourself, so don’t go trying to reform your cousin, without at least working on some of your own bad habits.”

Ben said, “I’m just trying to keep my promise to Glenn’s boyfriend to keep an eye on him, and keep him from missing Rick too much.   I thought helping Glenn in the self-improvement arena would be a nice surprise for Rick when he comes home.”

I responded, “I’m aware of my faults, cousin.   I do appreciate your willingness to help me, but I’m happy with who I am.   Can I improve in some areas?   Maybe, but let’s not worry about those, for now.   I want to have a great time watching you guys practice.”

Zach pulled into the Mariucci Arena parking lot, and chose a space close to the entrance.   The guys went to the locker room to change into their gear, and I went into the arena.   I found a seat by the coaches.   They greeted me and continued their discussions about the different players, and what they needed to work on for the next game.

I love watching Ben’s team practice.   Hockey is one of my favorite sports.   Unfortunately, I’m just not a good hockey player.   I was so wrapped up in watching the team practice that time seemed to fly.   Soon the guys came off the ice, and headed back to the locker room to get showered and ready for the concert.

We left the car at the arena and walked over to the bookstore to meet the girls.   Patty looked wonderful!   I whistled when I saw her.   She blushed, but laughed at my reaction.   “Thank you for the compliment,” Patty said, her dark eyes sparkling.

Irene looked great, too!   Mark said, “Irene, you look great tonight!”

Irene smiled up at Mark and said, “You look pretty good yourself, Mark.”

Patty, turning to the three girls standing next to her said, “Let me introduce you to our friends from the dorm.   This is Janice, Donica, and Holly.   Girls, this is Ben, Glenn, Zach and Mark.”

Janice had curly brown hair that framed her heart-shaped face.   Her warm, brown eyes seemed to draw you to her.   She was a couple of inches shorter than me, with a slender build and very long, beautiful legs.   Ben reached out and shook Janice’s hand.   “I’m glad to meet you.”

Donica looked like she stepped off the cover of Ebony Magazine.   She had jet black, shoulder length hair and stood a couple of inches taller than me.   Everything about her screamed, “I’m a fashion model,” from her excellent posture, well coifed hair, manicured nails, and perfect face.   Donica nodded her head in acknowledgement of our introductions.   She smiled and said, “I’m charmed to meet you.”

 Holly was the same height as Donica, but had bleached blonde hair and blue eyes.   I was beginning to get a complex about my height with so many taller girls around me who made me feel short!   I looked a little closer at Holly’s round face and noticed that it was completely covered with makeup.  I tried not to stare, but I’d never seen anyone with that much makeup on their face.   Holly asked, “How do you do?”

I replied for all of us, “We’re great.   Thanks for asking, Holly.   Where are you girls from?”

Janice said, “I’m from Toronto.   I grew up in the city and love it.   I’m studying computer graphics and art.”

Donica said, “I’m from Detroit, and I’m studying fashion design.”

Holly said, “I’m from Huntsville, Alabama, and I’m studying business management.”

Patty said, “I’m from Los Angeles, and I’m majoring in music.”

“I’m from New Mexico, and majoring in music as well,” Irene said.

“We’ve told you where we’re from.   How about you guys?” Patty asked.

Zach and Mark both said, “We’re from Duluth, Minnesota.”

Zach continued, “I’m studying sports medicine.”

Mark said, “I’m studying physical education and sports medicine, too.”

We all started walking, so we would get to the concert on time.   We talked, as we went.   Janice and Ben walked ahead of us.   I watched Ben talking animatedly to her about hockey.  

Donica and Holly were walking with Mark who was all smiles, as the two girls told him about their classes, etc.   Zach and I walked with Patty and Irene.   Patty looked over at me and asked, “Glenn, can I ask you question?”

“Sure.   Go ahead,” I replied, wondering why she was acting so weird.

“Are you gay?” she asked.

“Yes.   Why?” I asked.

Zach answered, “Glenn, don’t be dense.   She doesn’t want to invest a lot of time chasing you, just to find out you’re gay!”

Patty nodded her head, “Zach’s right.   I’d hoped we could be more than just friends.   I’m somewhat disappointed, but I still think we’re going to be great friends.”   Patty smiled and took my hand, entwining her fingers with mine.

Irene smiled and said, “I won my bet with Patty.   I told her you were gay the moment I met you.”

Patty stuck her tongue out at her friend.  “Go ahead and rub it in!”

Irene laughed and said, “Don’t be such a sore loser.   Zach, are you straight or gay?”

Zach winked at her and laughed.  “What do you think?”

Irene looked at Zach for a moment trying to decide.  “I’m not sure.”

Zach smiled and said, “I’m gay and have a wonderful boyfriend.”

Irene sighed, “Why do all the best looking guys have to be gay?   Why?”

Zach and I laughed at her question.   I replied, “I don’t have an answer to that question.   My boyfriend is the best looking guy I know.   He’s in the Marine Corps, and has ten months left on his tour of duty overseas.   I can’t wait for him to come home.”

Patty said, “That’s so cool that you’re waiting for him.   I thought that most gay guys never committed to just one guy.   Most of my gay friends are always jumping from one relationship to another it seems.”

“I’ve been with Rick for a little over a year now,” I said, smiling proudly.   “I hope that Rick will ask me to marry him when he gets back.”

Zach said, “Todd and I were together for two years, and then split up last year.   We just got back together last weekend.”

Irene asked, “Is Todd going to school here?”

“No, he’s attending college at the University of Minnesota in Duluth.   He’ll be coming down next weekend to stay with me.  I’ll introduce you to him,” Zach said.

Irene smiled, “I’d like that.   I do have a favor to ask of you, Zach.   Will you introduce us to some of your straight teammates?”

Zach laughed, “Sure.   I’ll warn you though that some of them are real womanizers.   I don’t think you want to get involved with a love-them-and-leave-them type of guy.”

Patty replied, “You’re right.   I want someone to go out with me.   You know, someone to have fun with on weekends, and who’ll become a good friend.   I’m not interested in a serious relationship, but I do want to have someone to go out with and enjoy college life.”

Irene agreed, “Patty’s right.  Neither one of us wants, or needs a serious relationship right now.   College is a time to experiment and have fun.   I don’t want to be tied down by a serious relationship.”

We chatted about the guys on the hockey team.   Zach gave a pretty good summation of each one’s strengths and weaknesses for the girls.   I listened just as carefully as the girls.   Not that I’m interested or anything, since I have a boyfriend, BUT one never can be too prepared!   By the time we reached the concert hall, Patty and Irene had identified who they wanted to meet of Zach’s teammates.   I’d also made a mental check list of who I wanted to meet, as well, since Zach also talked about his gay teammates.   It seemed that my time in Minnesota was going to be wonderful!

I asked Zach, “So you never hooked up with anyone on your team?”

Zach made a face and responded, “No.   I was totally miserable all last year.   I never did try to get with anyone here; because I was still in love with Todd, and wanted him back something terrible.   I just couldn’t bring myself to admit that I was wrong when I told Todd to get lost.   So, I avoided him as much as possible every time I went home.   My Mom knew I still loved Todd, and kept inviting him over to our house for parties and stuff.   She tried pretty hard to get me to talk to Todd.   It wasn’t until Robbie threatened to move in on my ex-boyfriend that I decided I needed to do whatever was necessary to get Todd back.”

Patty said, “Wow!   You guys sound just like a straight couple.   I guess I never thought that it didn’t matter if you were straight or gay to have relationships between two people who love each other get so complicated.   I had a relationship go sour on me, just like you did Zach, but we never did get back together.   I’ll be twice as careful getting emotionally involved with someone next time!”

We arrived at the concert hall.  We picked up our tickets at the will call window and found our seats.   We had just gotten settled, when the house lights were dimmed and the performance began.   To say that I was totally blown away by the excellent performance would be an understatement!   After the program was over, I told Zach that I would meet them out front, since I wanted to go down and meet some of the performers.

I managed to find my way backstage.   I asked one of the choir members how I could audition for their group.

“Pardon me, can you tell me how I can audition for the chorus?” I asked a slender young man who looked like he was just a little older than me and about the same height.

He pushed his blonde hair out of his pale blue eyes and grinned at me.  “Auditions are in two weeks at the First Christian Church at 2201 1st Ave. South, Minneapolis.  If you need directions, here’s my cell number,” he replied handing me his business card.   “Also, you can check out our website at www.tcgmc.org for more information about the chorus.  The guys are great, and if you make it through the audition, I think you’ll really enjoy being part of the show.   You can be a volunteer to help us with the shows, even if don’t sing with us.”

I read the name on the card he handed to me, Justin Cardin, Computer Specialist.   “Nice to meet you Justin,” I said.   “I’m Glenn Nielsen.”

He shook my hand, “I’m glad to meet you.   Are you going to college here?”

“Yes, today was my first day of classes.   I’m a transfer student from Georgia Tech.”

“Cool!   I graduated last spring, and just started my first job working for a local computer firm.   I apologize for being so forward, but are you dating anyone?” Justin asked, smiling at me.

“Thank you for asking, Justin.   I would love to date you, but I’m in a committed relationship at the moment,” I said, smiling at the handsome young man in front of me.

Justin’s smile had slipped a little, but he quickly recovered.   “Thanks for being honest with me.   If you ever change your mind, I would love to have a chance to get to know you better.”

I said, “Justin, can we at least be friends?   I don’t know very many people here.”   I hoped Justin would say, ‘yes,’ since he seemed like such a nice guy.

Justin’s smile returned.  “I would like that.   It’s just that sometimes when guys are in a committed relationship, they don’t want to hang out with single guys like myself.”

“I understand why you might feel that way about committed couples.   My partner is overseas on active duty with the Marine Corps, and has ten months left before he comes home.   It’s been really hard for me the last four months, since he left.   You’re right about couples though.    Before Rick left, we didn’t associate with many single guys.   I’ve been pretty lonely since he left,” I said, trying to keep my voice from betraying me.   As I said the words, the truth of them really hit home.   I blinked my eyes quickly to try and stop the tears from escaping.   I partially turned away from Justin hoping he hadn’t noticed.   I rubbed my eyes, while I worked to get my emotions under control.

Justin waited, until I was more in control before he said, “I’d be honored to be your friend.   I can see that you must really love your partner.   He’s a very lucky man!”

I smiled.  “Thank you, Justin, for your kind words.   I’m sorry for letting my emotions get out of control.   I’m not normally such a cry baby.”

Justin put his arm around my shoulders and said, “You can call me anytime you need to someone to talk to when things get tough, or you just need a shoulder to cry on.   I’ll talk to you soon.”

“Thanks, Justin,” I said, and made my way back to the front of the concert hall to find Zach and the girls.  

Zach was telling jokes, and had the girls laughing pretty hard, as I came up behind them.  

Zach said, “Well, Glenn, did you find some cute guy to hang out with?”

“No, but I did get some information about auditioning to be part of the chorus,” I said.

Zach guffawed, “Do you really think you sing well enough to be part of their group?”

“No, but I plan to try anyway.   It can’t hurt.   Besides, if I don’t make it, I can be a volunteer to help out with their shows,” I replied, answering Zach’s question honestly.

Irene said, “Good for you, Glenn.   I’m glad you’re going to try out.   I think you might just make it.   You play the violin really well.   Maybe you could become part of their show by playing your violin with them.”

Patty agreed, “That’s a great idea!  Why don’t you suggest it to them when you audition?”

I replied, “I think I will do just that.   Thanks for the idea!”

Ben, Janice, Mark, Donica and Holly joined us.   Ben and Janice were holding hands, and it was pretty obvious that they liked each other.   Donica and Holly were still vying for Mark’s attention.   Mark had a girl on each arm.   The look on his face confirmed that he was enjoying himself very much.

We escorted the girls back to their dorm, and headed back over to the Mariucci Arena to pick up Zach’s car.   He dropped Ben and me off at our house, and they returned to their dorm.

Ben and I found Taka sitting at the kitchen table writing a letter to his parents.   I sat down and asked, “How difficult is it to learn Japanese?”

Taka said, “We begin learning to write Japanese in primary school.   We learn the Katakana and Hiragana, which are simplified phonetic forms of our language.   Later, we learn to write using Kanji, which are based on Chinese characters and are much harder to learn.   I think that Japanese is very hard for foreigners to learn, because of the many Kanji that exist in our language.   There are nearly 50,000 of them.   We teach foreigners to speak Japanese using the Katakana and Hiragana.”

“Wow!   I didn’t know Japanese was so complicated.   I guess I won’t complain about learning French and Spanish, which use the same alphabet that we do in English,” I said.   “Why are you writing a letter to your parents?   Can’t you just send an e-mail or make a phone call?”

Taka looked up from his letter.  “My parents made me promise to write a letter home every week, so I wouldn’t forget how to write Japanese.   They think that I will become lazy and not uphold the family honor.”

Ben looked surprised and asked, “Why would you dishonor your family if you forgot some of the Kanji?”

“It would be dishonorable to write a letter using Katakana and Hiragana, because they are only used by children and foreigners.   I must show the proper respect for my ancestors by learning to write properly using the Kanji characters,” Taka said, very seriously.

I was surprised to hear Taka talk about honoring his ancestors.   I’d never heard of that concept before.   Of course, I’ve never studied anything about Japanese culture either.   “Is it very important to always bring honor to your family?” I asked.

“Yes.   It means everything to my parents.   My parents are not happy with me, since I didn’t pass the entrance exam to the University of Tokyo, like my older brother.   Rather than disgrace the family by going to a lesser university in Japan, I chose to come to the United States to go to college.   I can still honor my ancestors by doing well here.   I hope to work for Nippon Telephone Company, when I return home to Kobe.   They are looking for businessmen who speak good English, and can work well with Americans.”

“I hope you can realize your dream of working for Nippon Telephone.   Are you doing well in your business classes?” I asked.

“Yes.   I have all A’s so far.   My parents say that my classes must be too easy, since I’m getting all A’s.   They want me to find harder classes to take, or transfer to another university where the classes are harder,” Taka said.

Ben asked, “What will you do about Midori, if you transfer to another university?”

“Midori will wait for me.   We can’t get married until I have saved at least $50,000 dollars to give gifts to all of her family,” Taka said, seriously.

I was shocked.  “Why do you need so much money?”

“The more gifts a man gives to the bride’s family, the more honor he brings to his family and to the bride’s family.   Most of my friends have not married, because their parents insist that they must save $100,000 dollars before getting married, so they won’t bring shame to their family,” Taka said.

“So what do you do in the meantime?” I asked.

“We will just live together, until I have saved enough money to get married properly,” Taka replied.

Ben asked, “How long do you think it will take to save that much money?”

“Midori and I think that it will take about seven years, if I get a good job with Nippon Telephone Company.   If I don’t get that job, I don’t know how long it will take,” Taka said, looking very worried.

“Will Midori wait that long to get married?” I asked, wondering if I could wait that long for Rick to ask me to marry him.

“Yes.   I think she will.   She says that she loves me, and will wait for me to save my money for her,” Taka said, with great certainty.

Ben said, “I’m glad we don’t have that custom in Canada.   I don’t think I could wait for seven years to get married, if I found the right girl.”

“I don’t know if I can wait that long before Rick asks me to marry him,” I said.

Ben replied, “Why are you waiting for him to ask you?   Why don’t you ask him to marry you instead?”

“I would ask him to marry me, but I want to know that Rick will say ‘yes,’ when I ask him.   I also want him to be ready to be married when I ask him.   I know he still isn’t completely comfortable with the notion of marrying a guy.   I know he loves me very much, and I think we will stay together forever, but the marriage thing has Rick a little nervous,” I replied.

Ben laughed, “It sounds like he’s a little afraid of making a permanent commitment to me!   Maybe, we’ll need to encourage him a little.   I’m sure the rest of our family will help us, because they really like Rick.”

I smiled, “I’d like to wait a while, before putting pressure on Rick.  I know that he’ll eventually warm up to the idea.   Ben, you sure took a liking to Janice tonight.”

Ben’s face lit up like a hundred watt light bulb.  “Yes, I really like her.   I think she really likes me, too.   We’re going on our first official date tomorrow night.”

I whistled, “You didn’t waste any time did you, cousin?”

Ben blushed, but managed to respond, “I just wanted to make sure Janice knew I was interested in dating her.”

I said, “Ben, I don’t think you have anything to worry about.   She only had eyes for you tonight.   After we were introduced to her, she didn’t even acknowledge that anyone else was at the concert except you!”

“You’re right, Glenn.   She and I really hit it off from the moment we laid eyes on each other,” Ben said, smiling broadly.

“Cool!   I hope things work out for your two,” I said.   “I’m going to bed.   I’ll catch you later, Taka.”

Taka said, without looking up from his letter, “Okay.”

I headed upstairs to our bedroom.   Ben followed me.   “Thanks for helping me meet someone new, Glenn,” Ben said, giving me a quick hug.

“You’re welcome, Ben,” I said, returning his hug.

I sat down at my computer, and logged into my blog.   I started writing about my day.   Ben sat down at his desk to do some more studying.   We finished about the same time, and called it a night.


Rick was startled by the appearance of what seemed to be a whole platoon of MP’s who entered the mess hall.   Rick had come for his usual cup of coffee and a quick breakfast.   He was even more surprised when they approached the table where he and his friends were seated.

They stopped, and Sgt. Riehle said, “Corporals Lernier, Kelly, Butler, Smith, Bacon, and Fischer, please follow me.”

I looked at my buddies, and saw the same look of surprise on their faces, as I’m sure showed on my own.   We left the mess hall, and were surrounded by the MP’s.

They escorted us to their offices, where we were placed into separate rooms.   I hadn’t been waiting very long when the Judge Advocate (JAG) officer showed up.   I stood and saluted him.

“At ease corporal,” Capt. Letcher said.   “Please be seated.”

Rick sat down, as did Capt. Letcher.   “Do you know why you’re here?”

“No, sir,” Rick replied.   He was starting to get worried, since the JAG officer had showed up.

“I’m here to represent you, and the rest of your friends.   You are being investigated with regards to Corporal Meyers’ death and for trafficking in illegal drugs,” Capt Letcher said.

Rick was totally and completely taken by surprise by what Capt. Letcher had just said.   His mind couldn’t grasp that he was the subject of such an investigation.

Capt. Letcher continued, “Each of you will be held in solitary confinement until the investigators finish their work, and a determination has been made whether or not to convene a court martial.   Do you have any questions?”

Rick looked across the table at Capt. Letcher.   “I have a lot of questions, but, right now, I’m so completely stunned I can’t think of what to ask.”

Capt. Letcher replied, “Well, let me see if I can answer some of the questions that I normally get in these kinds of situations.   You have the right to be represented by a military attorney.   At the moment, I’ve been asked to serve as your legal counsel.   If you aren’t satisfied with me, you may ask for another military attorney, or in some circumstances, you may request a civilian attorney to represent you.   Sgt. Riehle has already interviewed you, so it’s too late to tell you that you could have requested legal counsel to be present during questioning.”

“How long can they hold you in solitary confinement?   That will depend on your commanding officer, and the circumstances surrounding your case.   Sgt. Riehle has presented sufficient evidence to warrant placing you under arrest.   What rights do you have?   Those are defined in the military code of the United States.   I have a copy that I will leave with you to read.   I will return tomorrow to answer any additional questions you might have.   I recommend that you request that I be present during any additional interrogation sessions.   I’m here on base, and will be available to you at any time,” Capt. Letcher said.   He stood up and Rick stood as well and saluted the superior officer.

Rick looked around the room for the first time since he entered.   There was a cot in the corner besides the table and two chairs.   He wondered if this was where he would be held.   His thoughts were interrupted by the door opening.   He turned to look at who had come into the room.

He started to get up when, he recognized Sgt. Riehle.   Sgt. Riehle said, “Don’t get up.”

Rick sat back in his chair, as Sgt. Riehle took the chair opposite him that Capt. Letcher had just vacated.

Sgt. Riehle looked him in the eyes and said, “We need to talk, corporal.”


Prev To be continued . . .