Chapter 4: The Word of Man
Huck Yoman, Rayne's father, sat quietly in his car. It was just before seven AM, and he was a couple of hundred feet away from the campground entrance. Huck watched the space there carefully for any sign of his son.
He saw movement, and Huck sat forward. He could see three boys. From that distance, it was hard to make out detail, but he could pick out the black hair, and the bigger frame of his own son. He could also see the bandage on Rayne's head. Huck set his jaw, and he frowned. "Hey, boy," he whispered, using the little nickname he used to use when Rayne was younger. The lump in his throat and the tears about to fall were both signs of the torment he was going through over his son and his failed marriage.
Huck knew he wasn't supposed to be there. But, he had to see his son. Huck had to make sure Rayne was okay. As he watched the boys wait for the school bus, and as they milled about a little, Huck heard the words of Pastor Rogers in his mind. 'You need to show Rayne you don't accept his way of life. You can't accept this choice, or you're complicit in his sin.'
He felt great conflict. Huck was still a believer, even after all that had happened. People talk about "the perfect storm," and that seemed to be what had happened to their family. Ironically, the Yomans had met the Andersons at a couples' retreat organized by the church they all attended. Frank was even a deacon. After that retreat, which was supposed to bring married couples together, his wife became even more distant than before. It was only six weeks later that he came home to the letter telling him and Rayne that she and Frank were moving to the Bay Area to be together. He had been quickly surrounded by members of the church and Pastor Rogers, but the other side of the storm was about to hit, and he didn't even see it coming.
Rayne had become more and more surly and reluctant to get ready every Sunday morning when it came time to go to church. In hindsight, he saw now that the repeated railings from the pulpit over the sins of homosexuality and abortion had been eating away at Rayne, until he would no longer darken the door of the church, no matter how much pleading Huck did. Then the Sunday morning after his wife had left, Huck begged Rayne to go with him to church. He needed to feel that they were still a family and that they could move on together. That's when Rayne had finally told him that he was gay and that he refused to ever listen to another sermon from Pastor Rogers. The shock was enormous. Huck felt like he was losing everyone who had ever meant anything to him, all at once. He went alone that Sunday, and when the preacher took him aside to console him, Rayne's confession just came out.
Pastor Roger's first solution was to send Rayne to one of the "healing" camps that he had heard great things about. Instantly, Huck rejected that idea knowing that he could not live without his son right now and frightened of what it would do to Rayne. The boy was already hanging by a thread after the rejection and abandonment by his mother. Sending him away to be "healed" was not an option. So the good pastor gave Huck his second best plan to root out the sin: Ignore him until he repented of his sinfulness and returned to the fellowship.
And Huck strove to steer his son to the one path to salvation, the only way that the preacher said would save his son's soul from Hell. But, he could also see that Rayne was in agony. They used to be close, even friends. And now Huck was told he had to distance himself from his own son. That, according to Pastor Rogers, he had to show constant, united disapproval of Rayne's choice. After a few months that had taken a toll on both of them. Huck had read the statistics on gay teen suicide. He knew what was at risk. Desperate to gain some kind of relief for himself and for Rayne, he enrolled the boy in The Raven Project.
He realized Pastor Rogers wouldn't approve. But Huck couldn't watch Rayne fall apart. And he didn't know what else to do. He couldn't show any sort of acceptance of Rayne's life. 'So I'll put him with others who can.' Huck knew that this flew in the face of the spirit of what the pastor said he ultimately was supposed to do for Rayne. The Raven Project accepted homosexuality - they even advertised that fact. But his son was so close to breaking. Huck could see it, every time he looked at Rayne.
Yesterday, when he got the call from Jeremy, Huck had to force himself to strive for detachment. He wanted to go running straight to his boy. But, the words of Pastor Rogers kept repeating in Huck's mind. 'This life is fleeting. His eternal soul is at stake. You can only reward Rayne with affection and comfort when he shows true regret and a willingness to change.'
He watched as the big yellow bus pulled up. The boys filed onto the vehicle, and it slowly pulled back onto the twisty road leading back to Crescent City.
Huck sighed, and he rubbed the day's worth of bristly growth on his face. He had to go to work, and his need to see Rayne put him behind. He'd probably be late now. But, in his mind, Huck didn't truly have a choice. He had to lay eyes on Rayne.
Now confident that his son was okay, he pulled onto the road, and he headed toward Crescent City.
As the little red hatchback car drove in the wake of the school bus, Harlan stepped out to get a look at the license plate. He memorized the combination of numbers and letters, and he filed them away for later. Then he stepped back into the foliage along the road.
It was Harlan's weekday morning ritual. He would get up, and he ensured the young artist, Elias made it onto the bus safely. The moment a kid walked to the bus was often one walked alone, or with other kids. And it was a prime moment for a young person to go missing. And that was the reason for Harlan's vigil. No one ever knew he was there. Harlan was very good at remaining unseen and unheard when he wished it.
This morning Harlan noticed the car. He saw it drive slowly past the entrance to the campground, and then as it parked further up the road. Harlan wasn't entirely sure the single man in the vehicle was interested in the kids until he left after the bus picked them up. Now he knew.
As Harlan carefully reentered the campground, he turned toward his cabin. He only had a little time before he had to be at his dad's shop in the city. So he'd have to work fast.
'All right. Let's see who you are, and why you're eyeballing the kids.'
Shawn Cassidy's grin was plain to see as Bailey pulled into the gravel lot. Granite's base of operations was currently just off of the 199, a bit south of where they were working on the CalTrans road-widening project. There was barely enough room for the mobile work trailer, various road equipment, a couple of porta-potties, and parking for ten or so vehicles.
Bailey got out of his truck. Shawn dodged a few of the other guys on the crew as he neared Bailey. The short, blonde man typically worked for Granite as skilled labor, and he had been with the outfit for a couple of years. But, now he was assigned as Bailey's assistant - for a very specific reason.
'Good morning.' Shawn signed and spoke at the same time. Bailey could tell the man liked to use his ASL skills. Despite the little sleep Bailey had gotten, and the unpleasant surprise of Harlan finding an old performance of Bailey's online, he smiled at Shawn.
'Good morning.' Bailey grinned. 'Coffee?'
Shawn laughed. 'Yes. Coffee in trailer.' He made a motion with his head toward the building. 'Hurry before coffee gone.'
Bailey smiled, and he followed Shawn inside.
The rest of the crew nodded and greeted Bailey as he and Shawn ran into them. When needed Shawn translated. The young man impressed Bailey. He knew ASL very well, even some of the more nuanced bits. Shawn didn't suffer the "tone deaf" problem of some hearing signers - where they didn't pair the hand movements and motions with expressions and postures. He was easily as expressive as a person speaking verbally.
'I learn for grandmother.' Shawn told him at one point. 'Grandmother deaf five years past.' Shawn took care of his grandma, and he learned to sign along with her when her hearing declined to the point of legal deafness and then beyond.
Regardless of the reason that he learned to sign, Bailey knew Shawn's presence on the crew was the reason Granite was able to hire him. Though Shawn wasn't a certified ASL translator, they could accommodate his muteness, all thanks to this young man.
Bailey got his coffee. What Bailey found funny is, after he learned to sign and after he came to depend heavily on it for his communication, he hated having his hands full. It would be comparable to another person walking around with a piece of beef jerky between their teeth. So he filled a little thermos with the coffee, took a sip, and he slipped it into the large front pocket of his thick docker work pants.
Now armed with caffeine, he smiled at Shawn. 'We go look at new road part (section). We test strength (sturdiness).'
Shawn rolled his eyes, and he grinned. *sarcastic* 'No trust?'
Bailey laughed, though only the sound of his breath as it passed through his mouth could be heard. 'No. No trust.' He smirked and motioned at the both of them. 'Our job (to be) untrusting.'
'You invited (to) lots (of) parties?' Shawn laughed at his own joke. It was true that Shawn and the crew dreaded to see the engineer out examining their work. Invariably it meant there would be more work ahead for them should the engineer find issues with the project.
Bailey shook his head with a smile, and he pointed, his eyes narrowed. Shawn only grinned. And then the two men got on with the business of ensuring the 199 highway didn't slump into the ocean the first time a loaded logging truck rumbled past.
Harlan stood behind the counter of his father's shop. It was mid-afternoon when his phone buzzed with a message. At the moment, it was only him and his dad, Gary in the business. The older Flemming was busy stocking some locally made wooden spoons. After a careful glance at his dad, Harlan unlocked the phone.
'Huck Yoman, H Street Crescent City. Surf Apartments, Unit 2A. No address change for 8 years.'
The message was short, to the point, and it was all Harlan needed. He nodded to himself, satisfied.
"Harlan. Help me with this pot." Harlan looked up from his phone to see Gary standing beside a large ceramic pot the boy, Elias made. There were intricate geometric designs on the piece and multiple glazes. The colors on it shifted from black to light tan. It was beautiful. But it was heavy.
Harlan stepped over, and he helped Gary move the pot into the corner of his ceramic display. Most of the products highlighted local artists, and Gary was proud of that fact. As they stepped back to look at it, Harlan glanced at him. "Dad, you mind if I cut out a bit early? I've got an errand to run in town."
Gary nodded. "That's fine, son." He smiled affectionately at Harlan. "You help me plenty - and I appreciate you." He patted Harlan's shoulder. "Go on. I'll see you tomorrow."
Harlan left, and he drove his used, white Honda Accord over to the address given to him. He looked at the three-story building from the street where he parked. He got out, and he walked around the building. 'No red hatchback.' It was only three PM. So Harlan was fairly sure it'd be a bit before whoever drove the car returned. Most local people had regular jobs. And the fact that this guy lived there for eight years meant he was likely not at the campground for Elias. Something else was going on.
Harlan debated. He probably had time - at least an hour before most people started leaving work.
He quickly decided, and he walked over to the door. It was one of those buzz-through jobs. Harlan first tried 2A. He waited, and no one answered. Then he started with the top floor, the third level. On his second attempt, button 3B, a crackling voice came over the speaker. "Hello?"
"Yeah, hi. I've got a delivery here for 1B. Can you buzz me through? Nobody's home in 1B. And I wanted to leave it inside the door, so nobody takes it."
"Oh, yeah. This isn't the best neighborhood. Good idea." The door buzzed. "Have a good day."
"Yup." Harlan smiled, and he opened the door. "You too."
Harlan entered the lobby of the building. There were locked mailboxes on the wall, an elevator, and stairs leading up. Harlan took the stairs up a flight. He walked past 2A, and he put an ear on the next door. It was quiet in 2B. And the same held true for 2C. The floor was empty.
Harlan went back to 2A. Then he took out his kit. The door had an older three tumbler lock. And it only took him about twenty seconds to open it. He entered, and he shut the door quietly behind him.
He looked over the apartment. It was well kept - everything was neat and in place. Harlan walked over to the kitchen table. On the corner was a stack of mail. Careful to keep everything the same order, Harlan looked through the little pile.
Bills, mainly. Nothing was labeled as overdue. 'He keeps up on his expenses.' His face took on a thoughtful cast, and he walked into the living room. There on the coffee table was a flyer.
'If Being Gay Doesn't Define you, then you Don't Have to be Gay.' Harlan snorted. "Yeah, and if being straight doesn't define you, you don't have to be straight. Fucking stupid."
He noted the position on the table and the way the flyer was folded. Then he picked it up, and he read through the document. It was filled with the false belief that a person could change their sexuality, and, more - that a person would need to if they were anything but straight.
Harlan felt that old, deep flame of indignance begin to burn in his chest. Years back, Harlan left home because his father couldn't accept that he was attracted to both men and women. And that very nearly destroyed their relationship. Luckily, Gary came around. But it was Gary and his viewpoint that changed, not Harlan.
A sticky note was attached to the flyer. 'Huck, at least take a look at this program. I think Rayne could benefit from this man's help. Your son deserves every shot at redemption. Give it some thought. - Rev Rogers'
"Ahhh. Rayne. You're Rayne's dad." Harlan shook his head at the note. "Fucking preacher."
Harlan was ordinarily able to filter the world through a very subjective and clinical view. But there were a few things which pushed his buttons. Use of religion as a weapon against different sexualities was one of those. To claim a higher power disapproved of gays was an argument which believers found hard to refute. They couldn't ask the higher power, they had only the word of church leaders to guide them. And in Harlan's experience, those leaders could be some of the most judgmental people he had ever encountered.
Harlan carefully put the flyer with the attached sticky note back into its spot on the coffee table. There was a business card laying beside the brochure. It was for a local Baptist preacher named David Rogers. Harlan took out his phone, and he snapped a photo of the card. Then he narrowed his eyes as he thought.
'So, dad sends his gay kid to gay camp? Even after he gets counseled by his preacher to get him enrolled in conversion therapy. And then, dad comes to secretly see his son after he had his little dip in the river.' Harlan had heard about Rayne's near tragic fall in the Smith River, and he knew the teenager was lucky to have survived it.
Laying open on the table beside the flyer for the conversation therapy was also an advertisement for a support group for parents with gay kids. It wasn't local - it was some organization in San Francisco. But there was a little bit of information in it. And it looked like Huck had highlighted parts.
Harlan rubbed his jaw. "Dad seems conflicted." Then his eyes found the preacher's business card again. He stared at the little rectangular piece of cardstock. "And you're not helping."
Harlan had figured out the mystery. He knew who was in the car at the campground entrance, and he knew that there was no threat to his charge, Elias. As it concerned his responsibilities toward the boy, Harlan was absolved. He could drop this, and let whatever happened between Huck, Rayne and the preacher happen.
Harlan left the apartment and locked it up after he ensured everything was precisely as he had found it. Harlan got into his car, and he began the drive back to the campground. The situation turned over and over in his head. From what he saw, Huck was deeply divided.
'I wonder what Huck would decide if he didn't have that preacher poisoning his mind?' His eyes narrowed. Harlan knew that he didn't have to get involved. But few things riled him like a father rejecting his son - particularly for something that couldn't be helped, like sexuality.
Harlan got to the campground, and he pulled into his cabin's parking spot. Then he tapped his fingers on his steering wheel. He only had so much influence he could exert over his various contacts. And his guy at the DMV had already come through for him twice.
'I'll do it myself this time.' He looked on his phone for 'Rev David Rogers.' Both the location of the man's church and a white page entry popped up. Harlan selected the white page entry, and then he snorted at the ease of the search.
'Got you.' Harlan smiled. He now knew where the man lived.
Harlan got out of his car. He went straight inside his cabin, and he sat at his desk.
"Okay. One more thing to do before dinner."
Harlan opened the little laptop on his desk. He unlocked the encrypted machine, and he sighed. "Time to pay the piper."
All things considered, Bailey had a good day. He and Shawn inspected the work done so far. And Bailey got to show the younger man some of the things engineers looked for during their testing.
Shawn even sat with Bailey over his lunch. Bailey's meal was simple - a cold-cut sandwich and an apple. But it turned into something fun, thanks to Shawn. The younger man had a great sense of humor, and Bailey breathed his near soundless laugh more than once during their meal. He seemed to genuinely enjoy Bailey's company, and the two talked throughout their meal.
Bailey wore a little smile as he pulled into his parking space, but then it disappeared. As soon as he stopped, the man, Harlan, walked purposefully down the paved loop toward him.
Bailey got out, and he cast a wary glance at Harlan. The brown-haired fellow stopped in front of Bailey. His face was neutral, and his green eyes looked at Bailey with an unusual intensity.
'God, what now?' Bailey gave him the barest of smiles.
Harlan then moved his right arm. 'I'm sorry.' Harlan signed against his chest. But, with the deadpan expression on Harlan's face, it "sounded" like a little kid being forced to apologize for something. Like he didn't mean it.
Bailey suppressed his initial irritation. 'He's trying.' Before he could stop himself, he signed back, '(It's) Okay.' Though Harlan didn't understand the sign, Bailey's face and the nod of his head got his point across.
Harlan swallowed, and he nodded back. The man stood awkwardly for a moment, and he cleared his throat. "Uh, so you hear okay?"
Bailey nodded. He held up a finger, and he took out his phone.
Harlan waited while Bailey typed out a message. Then he flipped the phone around so Harlan could see it. 'How'd you find out about my singing?'
Harlan rubbed the back of his head, and he looked a little uncomfortable. "Ah, I looked for your name online." He shrugged. "I was, ah, just curious."
'Just curious. Huh,' Bailey thought, and he eyed Harlan. He knew there were still videos of his performances out there in the world. Though Bailey found it very painful to view them himself, he realized that there wasn't really a way to purge them from the internet.
Harlan smiled at Bailey. "Ah, anyway, I wanted to say I'm sorry. And, that I didn't mean to offend you." Harlan then nodded, and he looked away.
'He's sort of cute.' Bailey studied Harlan's face. 'He's really nervous too.' The mute man could tell Harlan wasn't comfortable with apologies, and that made his attempt even more meaningful.
Bailey smiled, and he put a hand on Harlan's shoulder. When Harlan looked at him, Bailey nodded reassuringly. Bailey pointed at himself, then at his cabin.
Harlan got the message. "Ah, okay. Yeah, I've got to get stuff ready for dinner anyway." He stepped back. "Sorry to keep you."
Harlan turned, and he walked away, back to his own cabin. Bailey watched him go. The man got to his door, and he looked over his shoulder at Bailey.
Harlan smiled, a little nervously at Bailey, then he disappeared into the building.
Bailey stood and gazed at the cabin, a moment longer. Then he allowed himself to smile. 'Well, maybe I'll sit at the fire again tonight.'
Harlan closed the door behind him, and he leaned his back against it. He took a breath and tried to calm his heart as it hammered in his chest.
"Jesus, man." Harlan grimaced at how jittery and weird he felt. He raised his hand up to eye-level. He looked at it while it slightly vibrated. Harlan laughed, and he balled his fist. "Wow. Get ahold of yourself."
Harlan shook his head, and he went to his cooler. He removed his planned dinner for the night - some beef, vegetables, mushrooms, and chunks of pineapple, all marinating in a savory, citrus-based sauce. He put the suspiciously large amount of food out on top of the cooler to warm a bit. Then he sat at his computer.
"Okay." He pulled up the webpage he had saved. And he scrolled down the various videos showing how to sign commonly used phrases. "How do I ask if he wants food?"
Harlan spent the next half-hour watching and repeating the short chain of signs which meant "Do you want to eat with me?". Finally satisfied with his grasp of the phrase, Harlan picked up his bag of food, took a moment to gather himself, then he exited the cabin.
Bailey was in the mood for something different tonight. He had two large portabella mushrooms, and he removed their stems. Those, he chopped, then Bailey mixed the pieces with a little pesto and some crumbled blue cheese. Then he stuffed the caps with the mixture.
He also recently tried Larrupin mustard sauce. The Swedish-style, sweetened dill mustard was terrific. And it set off everything from salad to meat. He carried a plate with his prepared mushrooms and the jar of mustard sauce out to the camp kitchen.
Harlan was already at the grill. The man was focused on his task, and he carefully turned four kabobs. The aroma given off by the cooking meat, vegetables, and pineapple made Bailey's mouth water.
The fellow, Orson, sat and talked with a tall, broad blonde man at the picnic table. There was also a waifish boy there with green eyes and blonde hair. When Bailey approached, Orson stood. He moved so smoothly with his prosthetic, Bailey forgot he only had one leg.
"Hey, Bailey." He motioned at the hunk of a man beside him. "This is my boyfriend, Joseph."
The guy stood up, and he smiled at Bailey. "Hi, good to meet you."
Bailey nodded. It was evident that Joseph didn't expect any words from him. And Bailey was thankful he didn't have to explain his lack of speech.
"And, this is Elias." Bailey watched as Orson lay a hand on Elias' shoulder. The way Orson stood with one arm around Joseph's waist, and one on Elias made Bailey think of a little family.
He smiled at them all. 'Wait. Elias.' He held up a finger, and he stepped over to the kitchen. Bailey picked up the mug he liked to use in the morning. He held up the piece, and he pointed at the beautiful, dark green ceramic. Then he motioned at Elias.
The blonde young man grinned. "Yeah, I make them. I did that one." Elias cocked his head. "Do you like it?"
Bailey made a face as if it would be impossible not to, and he nodded.
"Keep it," Elias offered. Then he bit his lip. "Rayne told Avery and me what you did for him." Elias' eyes were bright, and they glittered in the light from the newly-built fire in the pit. He nodded at the mug. "Consider that a little reward for jumping in the river after my friend."
Orson squeezed Elias, and he looked down at the boy. He was apparently proud of the young man.
Bailey nodded his thanks. Orson and his two men sat back down, and they continued to talk among one another. Then Bailey looked over at Harlan. The man stared at Bailey, and he could see wheels were turning behind Harlan's eyes. Harlan shook himself, and he took his skewers off of the grill.
Harlan started to clean the metal surface, but Bailey shook his head. The bit of residue on the grill wouldn't hurt his mushrooms. He held out his hand for the tongs in Harlan's other hand.
The brown-haired man hesitated for a long moment. It was almost as if he was trying to make some kind of decision. He stared at Bailey, then, finally Harlan set his jaw, and he handed over the tongs. He gathered all four of his kabobs, and he put them on a plate. Then he started to walk off.
"Jeez, Harlan. Are you hungry?" Elias called after him. "That's a lot of food!"
Harlan didn't answer. He put his head down, and he continued on. Bailey watched as he entered his cabin, and the door shut behind him.
Bailey couldn't be entirely sure, but in the firelight, he thought he saw something on Harlan's face.
'Fear?' Bailey put his mushrooms on the grill, and he turned the heat down, so they heated through without burning them. 'Was Harlan afraid just now?'
"Fucking coward. You fucking COWARD." Harlan fumed. He berated himself behind the door of his cabin. "That's what you need to learn to sign." He shook his head. "'Hi, my name is Harlan, and I'm a fucking coward.'"
He ran his hands through his short hair, and he groaned at himself. Harlan had done many things in his life which required courage and nerves of steel. Yet, when it came down to asking a mute man to sit and eat with him, he couldn't do it.
"All right. Next time." Harlan nodded to himself. "Yeah, next time you get the chance, you ask him."
Harlan looked over at the four kabobs that slowly cooled on the coffee table. They looked delicious, and they dripped rich, meaty liquid onto the plate beneath. But it was more than he could possibly eat alone.
Harlan sat down at his coffee table. "Guess I'll have leftovers." With a sigh, Harlan began to eat.
Author's Note: Before all the hate mail starts - yes, I'm aware religions differ on homosexuality. But take your average Baptist church, and you will be hard pressed to find an accepting environment for us. I want there to be no mistake - what is happening to Rayne HAPPENS. Really. I should know, I lived through a similar experience. Now, if you have an organized religion which accepts you, then good. But, never let any organization tell you that who you are is inherently wrong. I don't care who or what they say is underwriting them.
Author's Note: Please let me know your thoughts about the chapter at the following email address link. Wayne Gray
And thank you for reading!
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