A Life Discovered

Chapter 11

By Bensiamin


They left Bailey’s apartment early, both having busy days ahead with catch up for the missed work the day before. On the drive in Bailey thought about the night before and how it had just been time together and sensuous. Eric hadn’t expected anything beyond the opportunity to be with him and hold him and comfort him. He’d understood that Bailey was still vulnerable and had shared another quote from Gibran that meant a lot to him. He’d said it was from The Prophet and was also about love.

Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself. Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; for love is sufficient unto love.

If Bailey had read it in a book of poetry it likely wouldn’t have meant near as much, if he’d even fully understood it. But the way Eric had been there for him, supported and helped him, and cared for him made it clear he understood love that was unlike anyone Bailey had known before. It was an understanding he both wanted to emulate and be part of.

When he was caught up with email and voicemail, he met with Everett for a quick update on the prior day’s staff meetings. That didn’t take long, and then he met with the IT Director for an update on the dashboard. A consultant had been selected who was available to start in two weeks. He had submitted a scope of work document that estimated three weeks maximum development and programming time, barring unforeseen complications.

They discussed the details of the development work, and Bailey made clear that Everett had approved a dashboard design layout that assumed a level of function that neither of them wanted to change. He was assured none of that functionality would change unless there was no alternative. Bailey nodded and then asked if they’d be seeing iterative versions as the development proceeded. The reply he got was that it was in the plan, and there would likely be three prototypes, at least two, which would test the layout and function as well as the ability to pull and display the required data.

Bailey nodded and then said, “That’s great. When we have those meetings, I want you to be the person presenting the prototypes because you understand the IT side as well as the development work. You can answer the kinds of questions that will come up and that I won’t be able to.”

“But won’t that mean I’m stealing your thunder? This is your project.”

“No, it means the project gets done properly and I don’t look dumb because I can’t answer questions about databases or programming interfaces. Anyhow, once it’s finished, maintaining it is going to be an IT responsibility, so you may as well have some ownership now.” He left feeling good about the meeting and appreciated once again Eric’s suggestion that he let the man be the hero.

Thursday night when they talked, Bailey told Eric how good it had felt to have him stay with him on Monday and Tuesday nights. He then asked him if he’d stay for the weekend.

“Really? You want me to?”

“Of course, why wouldn’t I. It’s just my plain Jane apartment in Auburn, not your upscale one in Syracuse, but I want to be with you. Also, I want to do something special on Saturday night.”

“Yeah, what’s that?”

“I want to invite Annabelle and Flynn as well as Dan and Becky over to have dinner with me and my boyfriend.”

“Really? You want to do this? It’s a big step, and one you can’t take back.”

“You’re not trying to talk me out of it, are you?”

“Not at all. I just don’t want you hurt.”

“I won’t be. I’ve already talked to Annabelle and Dan about you, and Annabelle wants to meet you. Dan deserves to, and then everyone knows what the deal is. That I’ve got a boyfriend who’s smart and attractive.”

“Okay, I’m in for the weekend, and we can plan a menu, and both cook. How’s that?”

By the time they got to the Friday meeting, manufacturing had worked out the method to cut down the skids, which did not involve a chain saw, and combined with the door frame removal they were confident about getting the manufacturing equipment into the building for installation. Additionally, they had enough buffer time built into the schedule that it looked like there would be no negative impact on the occupancy date. Everett was very pleased. The rest of the discussion was about the interior build-out schedule and when the new equipment started being installed.

Over lunch Eric explained that the project was now far enough along that his involvement wasn’t needed any longer. Bailey looked unhappy. “I’ve been worried about that, and I don’t want it to happen.”

“Well, the reality is that architects design the building including the interior. It’s the interior design team that do the offices, and the project managers who will work with your folks for equipment installation. I’ve stretched it out as long as I could, and actually, the problem with the oversized equipment got me two weeks longer than planned.”

“But I really look forward to seeing you on Friday morning, even if we do talk and text during the week.”

Eric grinned, and said, softly, “Sweetheart, you’re not going to get all whiny and pouty, are you?”

“You mean like someone who just realized they’ll be seeing less of the person they love?”

“Yeah, something like that.” He paused and then added, “But I have a consolation prize for you.”

“Oh, what’s that?”

“It’s the shelter project. I’ll be meeting with them weekly, or almost weekly, as we work through all the plan revisions. That means I’ll continue being in Auburn on Friday afternoons for the next month or two. Maybe we can work something out for dinner and an overnight on a regular basis. What’a ya think?” He was still grinning and now wiggling his eyebrows.

“That’ll work, I guess. It starts tonight because you’re staying the weekend, right?”

“Sure does.”

“Cool. I’ve got a frozen lasagna in the freezer and salad stuff and bread, so we’re good for tonight. We can figure out the menu for tomorrow and then go shopping in the morning.”

“We’ve got a plan. I’ll be at your place around five thirty.”

Bailey happily watched him leave the cafeteria and was already looking forward to the evening. Eric arrived with two bottles of wine. “Just in case. I forgot to ask about your wine cellar at lunch.”

“Right! Cellar. What I’ve got are in the kitchen closet. Now, come here and kiss me.” When they broke Bailey picked up Eric’s bag and led him to the bedroom and pointed at the dresser. “I emptied the middle drawer, so you have a place for your stuff, instead of leaving it all in your bag.”

“This is sounding permanent.”

“Is that something you’d want?”

“Someday, sure. Right now, though, we live and work in two different towns.”

Bailey dropped the bag on the floor and somehow hugged Eric and pushed them both down onto the bed. He kissed Eric quickly and said, “I know this feels a lot different than last weekend, but I’ve worked out a lot of stuff since then, and almost all of it involves you. Is that too much? Scary?”

“What? No. You remember I told you I’m kind of conventional and that I love you, right? So, that’s a pretty solid place to start from. I’ve thought about how cool it would be for us to live together. My place in Syracuse is too far to commute in the winter for you, and the same is true about this place for me driving to Syracuse in the winter.”

Bailey kissed him again and said, “I know that’s all true. I guess for now we switch off and play house at each other’s apartments, right?”

“Well, let’s not get carried away with the ‘play’ part, because I’m real serious about you. But we’re not leaving play out because we’re going to play and have a good time, and remember what I said, sex is supposed to be fun.” Eric rolled Bailey onto his back, and they could both feel each other's hard ons.

“I like the sound of that more and more,” Bailey said.

“Do we need to eat dinner? Maybe we could just stay in here? I can go get a bottle of wine and two glasses.”

“That’d be cool except I put the lasagna in the oven when I got home.” He kissed Eric again, then said, “Let’s go do the wine and then dinner, and then come back in here and make love. I think I’ve figured a few of those things out too.”

Eric softly said, “Promises, promises!”

“Pretty much, and if you’re a good boy you’ll get to find out.


Eric was able to find out that Bailey had managed to get beyond the fear of being a cocksucker, though it was no surprise that he had no notion of how the gag reflex works when you try to give the first blowjob to your boyfriend.

They slept in a little in the morning, then went for a run. After they’d showered together, with the requisite playing around, then settled on a menu and then went grocery shopping. By evening they had things under control, with beer on ice for Dan, Becky and Flynn, and both good quality red and white wine options.

Bailey answered the door when Annabelle and Flynn arrived. Eric was finishing up trimming green beans and placing them in cold water to rehydrate. He turned from the sink as they all walked into the kitchen. Bailey introduced them, and Annabelle looked appraisingly at Eric and then back at Bailey.

“He’s better than a bull.”

“What?” Bailey was gob smacked.

Annabelle cracked up. “Don’t you remember when you told me about seeing him, about how you felt, you asked if I thought it was weird because you were seeing a guy?”

Bailey felt the blush start on his face and glanced at Eric who had a bemused look on his face.

“I didn’t really say that did I? What does that have to do with a bull?”

“Yeah, you did, but it was early, and you guys were just getting to know each other. Anyway, I told you that he sounded wonderful and that I’d only feel weird if you felt this way about a bull! So, now I finally get to meet him.” She stepped forward and pulled Eric, who was drying his hands with a towel, into a hug as she said, “I’m Annabelle. Bailey and I used to talk all the time till he met you, and now I hardly hear from him.” She laughed, and Eric found himself hugging her back and laughing along with her.

“Are you guys done making fun of me? I was still figuring stuff out back then.” He turned to Flynn and asked, “Does she take over every conversation like this?”

He grinned and nodded, and said, “Pretty much. It’s part of being the lead wrencher. She knows how to apply pressure to nuts.”

“Ouch! Anyway, Flynn, this is my boyfriend, Eric.”

Eric shook his hand and said, “I’ve heard a lot about both of you. All good, and thanks for joining us tonight. Let me get you something to drink. We have two types of beers and either red or white wine.”

Flynn asked for an IPA and Annabelle requested Chardonnay while she asked about the dinner menu. “I didn’t know Bailey could cook.”

“He knows the basics and I’m a little better, so we we’re a pretty good team.”

Bailey laughed and said, “Meaning I know how to warm frozen meals and a few other things. This guy is already teaching me how to peel and chop onions and how to fine dice carrots. Can you believe it.”

Annabelle rolled her eyes as Flynn took a long draw on his beer. “Sounds like a match made in heaven,” she said, “doesn’t it, dear?” The last comment was directed at Flynn who was able to ignore it because the doorbell rang.

Bailey went to let Dan and Becky in, and when they came into the kitchen, it was suddenly crowded. Annabelle, knowing Dan, introduced herself to Becky and then introduced her to Flynn. Dan and Becky then looked between Bailey and Eric, and Bailey said, “And this is my boyfriend, Eric. Thanks for coming tonight. Can I get you both a beer, or, we have wine?”

They asked for beer, and then Bailey said they needed to move to the living room if anyone wanted some space or to sit down. “Sorry, this is my small apartment, but it’s all I’ve got to offer.”

He had anticipated that Annabelle had informed Flynn about his dating Eric, and expected that Dan only told Becky about it after the dinner invitation. So, after everyone was seated, he looked at them and said, “Okay, thanks for being here. I know there’s going to be a few awkward things, so I figure we’ll get them out of the way first. Like, how come I have a boyfriend when this time last year I had a girlfriend?”

Becky said, “Yeah, what’s up with that? I didn’t know you were gay, neither did Morgana.”

“I’m not gay, Becky. I’m bi. Also, Morgana and I fell out of love, and she moved out. It was a pretty miserable six months after that, but then I got very lucky early this summer. I met this smart and funny guy who’s also pretty attractive and he liked me for some reason. So, we went out a couple of times and I discovered something about myself I didn’t know.”

“How could you not know something like that?” Becky replied.

“Because I never knew it was an option. And then I discovered something else. You fall in love with a person. In this case the person I fell in love with is a guy. You four are the closest people in my life, and I want to be honest with you about what’s going on in my life and my relationship with Eric.”

He turned to Eric and took his hand. “Sorry to put you on the spot like this, but…you know.”

“I do know, and no worry.” He turned from Bailey and looked at his friends. “I’m gay and have been all my life. I came out when I was twelve or so, and it was easy because my parents knew and approved, and I had a lot of supportive friends. I want you to understand, if you don’t already, that doing what Bailey is doing tonight takes a lot more guts, a lot more strength, than saying who you are when you’re a kid. I’m lucky because I fell in love with a wonderful guy, and it turns out he has a wonderful set of friends who support him. So, I hope we’ll all be friends as well.”

Dan stood up, pint in hand, and said, “That’s exactly what’s going to happen.” He looked at Becky and added, “Isn’t it?” After a second, she nodded and Dan raised his glass and went on, “So, here’s to Bailey and Eric.”

The rest of the evening went smoothly, and the vibe was upbeat. Bailey prepared the salad, and Eric did the green beans tossed in soy sauce with sriracha sauce and slivered almonds. Along with garlic mashed potatoes that accompanied pork chops in a mustard vinaigrette glaze. Everyone thought the food was terrific and most had little room left for dessert.

Dan and Becky were the first to leave, and Annabelle helped Bailey wash dishes while Eric and Flynn talked in the living room. She smiled at him and said, “Great evening, Bailey, and more power to you for organizing it this way. Just so you know for sure, you’ve got a great person there, and your dad would be proud of how you handled it all.”

He smiled back at her. “Thanks for saying that? I guess that’s all I can hope for.”

“For sure. Now you guys just need to get on with your life, and don’t let the bigots or the details get in the way.”

When they left, Eric and Bailey dropped onto the couch with a final glass of wine. “I’m probably going to have a hangover in the morning,” Bailey said.

“Take two aspirin with a full glass of water before we go to bed. Works every time, and you’ll be fine when you wake up in the morning. Besides, you get to sleep in an extra thirty minutes because you don’t have to drive from Syracuse to the shelter.”

“Thanks for the words of encouragement.” Bailey paused, leaning on his boyfriend’s shoulder. “And thanks for being here tonight and helping me pull it off. It means everything to me.”

“I know it does. Those are the most important people in your life. How could I not want to be part of it? Besides, someone needed to be here to catch you in case you blew it and fell on your face.”

“Yeah, right. Ha, ha.”

“Which, for the record, didn’t happen. You handled it perfectly. I’m pretty sure even Becky was convinced. But she was pretty skeptical for a while.”

“Well, she’s a girl and she knows Morgana, so…of course,” Bailey said. “I’m happy Dan took a strong stand.”

“He’s always been your best friend, and it’s fair to say he always will be. You should cherish that. It’s an important part of life.”

“Trust me, I will.”

They continued to talk together softly on the couch. One thing led to another and before long both of them had their hands down the front of the other’s underwear as they kissed. Eric pulled back and said softly, “Let’s go to bed.”

Bailey kissed him back and replied, “It’s been a long day, I bet you’re tired, too.”

Eric grinned lasciviously and whispered, “I am, but I’ve got a little surprise for you.” Bailey’s eyebrows went up.

“It’s an extension of when you asked me to teach you about gay sex. Do you remember when I showed you what docking was?” Eric wiggled his eyebrows.

A smile slipped across Bailey’s face. “Yeah, I do. I never thought it was possible to know what having a foreskin would be like. Then there was how silky and sexy if felt to have your foreskin over the head of my cock.” He paused and then went on, “But how can there be some kind of extension from that?”

“Well, I was thinking about what might be new and fun, and I dropped by this store I know. So, you come with me and let me undress you, and remind you how good docking feels, and then I’ll show you how amazing it feels to use this thing called a stroker.”

“A stroker?”

“Yes, sweetheart. It’s a male masturbator for two. So, we both slide our cocks in from opposite ends. After I get you fully hard with a little docking, we take it up to the next level sliding our cocks on each other in this transparent tube. Trust me, it’s pretty hot. Are you up for it?”

Bailey grinned. “Oh, I’m up for it,” he said softly. Then he added, “And happy you’re such a thoughtful teacher!”


Bailey was a little bleary-eyed when he made it to work at the shelter just before eight o’clock the next morning. Luckily for him, it was a typical morning with no changes to the routine, and by lunchtime he felt back to normal. About two o’clock he was finishing up exercising a mixed breed dog that clearly had some Labrador retriever in him when he got called to the front. He put the dog in its kennel and walked to the reception desk and asked the receptionist what she needed.

To his surprise the man standing on the other side of the counter was his attorney. They looked at each other in surprise and then the attorney said, “Hello, Bailey. I didn’t know you worked here.”

“Yeah. I started volunteering in the middle of the summer. It’s a good thing. All these animals need homes and love, you know. What are you doing here?”

“What you just said is exactly why I’m here. I’m settling the estate of one of my clients, and that includes his dog. I just don’t know what else to do, so here I am.”

Bailey looked from the attorney to the receptionist and back. She said, “Aren’t there any family members who could take the dog?”

“Sadly, no,” the attorney replied. “He was a retired priest and only child, so there is no family. He has left all of his assets to various Catholic charities, but as you can imagine, none of them are interested in a one-year-old dog.”

“Let’s see this dog,” Bailey said, and walked around the counter to eye the carrying case on the floor. “What breed is it?”

“He is a beagle, and his name is Walter,” the attorney said. “He’s just over a year old, according to his papers. My client died of a heart attack, and always had a dog. He certainly seemed healthy when he acquired Walter, and seemed perfectly healthy the last time I saw him a month ago.”

Bailey was on his knees in front of the cage. He could see part of the dog’s face, and the glistening eyes through the cage door. “Can we bring him out? He’s sure quiet for a beagle. Didn’t he howl or bray all the way here?”

“He did make a little noise, but nothing outrageous. Go ahead and open the door. He didn’t want to get in, so I imagine he’ll be anxious and relieved to be out of there.”

Bailey opened the door and swung it wide open. Walter didn’t move. He remained at the back of the crate looking out. He wasn’t fearful, but he also wasn’t confident. Bailey laid down on his belly, so he was at the same level as Walter, looking directly at the beagle, and softly said, “Come here, little guy. Everything’s going to be okay.”

The receptionist was peering over the counter trying to understand what was going on, with one of the shelter staff lying flat on the floor. “Why don’t you just reach in and pull him out,” she asked.

“Because he’s in a new place. His owner died and suddenly disappeared. He’s probably afraid and traumatized.” Bailey looked up at her. “How would you feel?”

She acted embarrassed and said, “Do you think a treat would help?”

“Can’t hurt,” Bailey responded.

“Here,” she said, reaching over the counter and handing him a treat. “They’re liver flavor. Supposed to make a dog do just about anything.”

Bailey took the treat and reached part way into the crate, slowly waving it around. He saw Walter’s nose twitch and then watched him take a hesitant step forward. He pulled his hand back a little and called him softly, and the dog followed. He pulled back his hand, so the treat was just outside the crate door, and Walter’s head emerged. Bailey felt like he was having a flashback. Walter looked like Daisy, only younger.

“Come here, buddy, come on. One more step and you get a treat.”

Hearing his voice, Walter looked at him, catching his gaze, then looked back to the treat. “Yeah, it’s a tough decision, right? Do you want affection or liver?” A minute later Walter took another step and at the same time Bailey gave him the liver treat and slipped his other hand behind the dog’s front legs. As soon as he swallowed the treat, Bailey lifted him off the ground, and then turned and spun on his butt to sit up and clasp the dog to his chest.

He felt a moment of tension in Walter’s body, but it was quickly resolved by stroking from his ears down his back. The dog wiggled closer in Bailey’s embrace, and then reached his head up and licked Bailey’s neck. “What a good boy. See, you were just a little afraid of being in a new place.”

Bailey slid backwards so his back was against the reception desk and continued to stroke and talk to Walter. The attorney watched in wonder. The receptionist said nothing, but sat down in her chair. A minute later she said to the attorney, “So, to be clear, in the absence of family or friends of your client who will take the dog, you are signing the dog over to the SPCA?”

“That was my intention, yes.”

“We will do our best to place the dog with a good home. You need to understand, though, that at present we have more animals coming in than we do being placed.”

“What does that mean? I assumed you’d just be able to place the dog with a good family right away.”

“It’s never that simple. The dog has to be processed, then we have to match the dog to a prospective family, assuming one is interested in a beagle. They have a bad reputation as a nuisance that make a lot of noise with all the braying and howling.”

The attorney looked flustered, as if what he thought would be simple and straightforward had suddenly become complicated. He looked at Bailey, “What happens if the dog can’t be placed?”

“We don’t euthanize dogs at the SPCA. We keep them until they can be placed.”

The attorney looked down at Bailey as he answered and then he noticed the tears, and said, “Bailey, are you all right?”

Bailey looked up and said, “I’m okay. You probably don’t remember, but the last dog my dad had was a beagle. Her name was Daisy. Walter looks so much like her that I just went back to those first years when Daisy was still alive. Dad never got another dog after her because he adopted me.”

“I didn’t know that part, or that the dog’s name was Daisy.” He paused and then said, “What are we going to do? I expected that the dog would find a good home rather quickly.”

Bailey continued to hug Walter, who had now settled in his arms and continued to lick his neck. “The dog will have a good home,” he replied.

“I’m sorry,” the receptionist said, “that is certainly our goal, but you can’t guarantee that to be the case.”

“Yes, I can, because I’m going to give Walter a home.”

The attorney looked at him and said, “Bailey, are you able to do that? I think it’s wonderful if it can happen, but is it possible?”

“I live in an apartment, but the building has other pets. I’ll figure it out. Will you trust me?”

“Of course, I’ll trust you. You’re one of my clients, for goodness sake.” He paused to collect his thoughts. “What do we do now?”

“If you two are acquainted and Bailey is going to adopt the dog,” the receptionist said, “then there’s no need for the dog to go through our intake process and all the paperwork. You two can simply work that out between you and Bailey can take the dog.”

Bailey stood up, still holding Walter. “I promise you he’ll have a good home. I have my regular job tomorrow, but I can come by your office afterward and sign whatever you want me to.”

“You want to do this? Are you sure?”

“As sure as I’m standing here. Dad never got another dog after Daisy, so there’s that. I’ve also had a few changes in my life in the last couple of months that have to do with love and being loved. I can tell you for certain that Walter needs to be loved.”

“I’ll stay late at the office tomorrow. Call me when you’re off work and I’ll draw up some documents.” He held up a packet of papers. “I also have his papers, so I’ll have those for you as well.” Bailey agreed and said he’d hold Walter in his crate till he got off work in a couple of hours, then take him home to his apartment.

Bailey took Walter’s crate into the kennel area and set it to one side and finished the exercise routine, then he got a leash and took Walter for a walk in the exercise area. He immediately urinated on a bush and then two minutes later had a bowel movement. Bailey praised him and thought to himself, ‘That boy has bladder and bowel control!’ After Walter was back in his crate, Bailey then did the afternoon kennel and crate cleaning, and then did the final feeding for the day.

He stopped at the market on the way home and bought a couple of stainless-steel bowls, a leash and a bag of kibble as well as some canned dog food. When he got to his apartment, he coaxed Walter out of the crate and said, “Okay, buddy, you’re home now.”

He watched Walter sniff around the living room and the kitchen, then followed him as he investigated the bedroom and bathroom. When Walter was done, he put down a bowl of water and then mixed up some kibble and canned dog food and squatted next to the water bowl. Walter came right over, and he said, “Sit.” Walter did, and Bailey thought to himself, ‘at least he’s got the training basics, hopefully he’s housebroken too!’

After Walter had eaten and they were back in the living room, he sat down on the couch and patted the cushion next to him. “Walter, come!” Walter just looked at him.

He tried, “Walter, up! Up!” This time the beagle looked at him attentively and then jumped up and circled around twice before he laid down with his head on Bailey’s thigh. Bailey stroked from the top of his head, down his back to the base of his tail, and then wiggled his fingers behind Walter’s ears. He heard a sigh of satisfaction as the dog relaxed. So did he.

For a minute. Then he thought, “What have I done?” All the complications of having a dog suddenly hit home, not the least of which was that he wouldn’t be spending the next weekend with Eric at his apartment in Syracuse.

He picked up his phone and called Eric, who answered on the first ring. “Hi, sweetheart, what’s up?”


“Well, what?”

“Well, will you still love me if… if I did something without telling you?”

Eric chuckled. “I guess it would depend on what you did. It’s not criminal or a felony, is it?”

Bailey chuckled back. “No. But maybe it’s worse.”

“No way! Come on, fess up. What’s going on?”

“I adopted a dog.”

“Really? You did? What kind of dog? Is it a puppy? Is it cute?”

“It’s a he, named Walter. He’s a year old, and his owner died, and he needs love and a home. Kind of like me.”

“Then you did the right thing.”

“But we’re just getting started. I mean, you and me, really started, and this will complicate things.”

“Maybe, but I can tell from your voice that you did this because it needed to be done.”

Bailey then told Eric everything that had happened. “It was my attorney, dad’s attorney. Daisy was a beagle, and the attorney had this beagle whose owner just died, and he was in his crate and afraid and needed to be loved.”

“And who better than you to step up and take care of him.”

“Are you telling me that you’re a dog person?”

“I was. Meaning we had a dog when I was in high school. A Golden Retriever. He died when I was in college and mom and dad didn’t get another dog. So, yeah, I’m out of practice, but I like dogs.”

“But things will get complicated. Like I can’t come stay with you next weekend if I have a dog.”

“Well, then. Can I come stay with you?”

“Sure. Of course. You can come tonight, or tomorrow. I want you to meet Walter. You’re gonna love him too.”

“It’s too late tonight, and I can’t tomorrow because I’ve got an architectural association meeting. But I’ll come down on Tuesday. I want to meet this hound.”

“How do you know he’s a hound?”

“I told you we had a dog. I’m not totally clueless, you know. I know beagles are hounds. I also know they have a lot of energy. How are you going to handle that with work?”

“I’ve got to work that out. I’m thinking of calling Annabelle next. Dad used to take Daisy to the office. Annabelle may be cool with it.”

“Fingers crossed. Call me tomorrow and let me know how it goes.

When he called Annabelle and described what had happened and asked if he could bring Walter to the garage while he was at work, she was momentarily hesitant, but then agreed. “I got used to having Daisy around back in the day, though she was older and spent most of her time on the couch in Colin’s office. This is a much younger dog, though, and we don’t have a fenced area. How’s that going to work?”

“That’s where the pain will come in, Annabelle. Someone will have to take him for a walk in the morning and the afternoon. I know it’s asking a lot, but I’ll drive over at lunch and take him out, too, so he’s not cooped up.”

“You’d do that? You’re really sold on doing this aren’t you, Bail?”

“Absolutely. Wait till you meet him, Annabelle. You’re going to love him. He’s a sweet, little dog. He’s laying right here asleep with his head on my leg right now.”

“Okay, bring him over in the morning on your way to work. I’m always in by seven thirty. We’ll sort the details out in the morning.”

Sorting out the details meant introducing Walter to Annabelle, who liked him immediately. Bailey reported that he’d walked him outside before he went to bed, folded a couple of towels to make a dog bed next to his own, and that Walter had slept through the night and gave all the signs that he was housebroken.

“Here’s the towels and his leash. I’ll stop at a store today and get two real dog beds, one for here and one for the apartment.”

About that time one of the other mechanics walked in and asked, “Hey, who’s this cute little guy?” Bailey introduced them, and it was clear the first person on Annabelle’s staff was a dog person and liked dogs.

At lunch he ran to Target and bought two dog beds and two bags of treats, then whipped back to Annabelle’s to drop one off. She was in the office writing up an invoice, and Walter was curled up on his bed of towels when Bailey walked in. He looked up in greeting, and then trotted over to meet Bailey at the door. Bailey scratched his ears and said, “Hi, little guy.” He then picked up the towels and set down the dog bed. Walter came over to check it out and Bailey picked him up and set him in the bed. He looked at is suspiciously for a few seconds, and Bailey said, “I know, it still smells new,” and then Walter circled twice and lay down with his head resting on the bolster, watching what the humans did next.

“Did everything go okay this morning? No problems?”

“No problems. He’s pretty popular already, and only barks if he gets startled. The customers like him and he likes them. He hasn’t done any howling, so that’s a good sign.”

“Thanks, Annabelle. You’re a life saver. I’ll be by after work to pick him up. Here’s a bag of treats so he can get one after he’s taken out for a walk. I’ll be giving him a main meal in the morning and at night, so that’s all he should need.” He looked around, hugged Annabelle and said, “Thanks again. You’re the greatest.”

When Bailey met with his attorney after work on Monday, he was presented with a simple transfer of ownership document that would go along with the pedigree papers. They chatted for a few minutes and then he asked, “Are you and Walter going to be okay in an apartment? You know you own your dad’s old house? Maybe you should consider living there instead of renting it.”

Bailey said he’d think about it, and related how things had worked out with Annabelle for Walter to be at the garage while he was at work. The lawyer nodded his head and said, “That’s a good start, but won’t he need more space than an apartment and the office at the garage? You should think about what I said concerning the house. Right now, it’s earning you some money, but you’d both be better off living there.”

He swung by the garage to pick up Walter, who was being played with by one of the other mechanics. He was on his back and getting his belly rubbed, while the man waited for Annabelle to finish the paperwork on an auto repair he’d just finished.

Annabelle smiled at him and said, “It’s convenient having Walter here. It gives these guys something to do while they wait for me to write up their jobs. It’s better than talking about fishing or the weather.”

With his belly rub complete, Walter turned his attention to Bailey like he’d just realized that the source of his dinner had arrived. Bailey asked, “Are you ready to go home? Want some food?”

Walter hopped out of his bed and followed Bailey out the door to the car. When he opened the driver’s side door Walter looked at it suspiciously, so Bailey picked up his front paws and set them on the door sill and said, “Walter—up, up!”

Walter looked at him like he was making no sense, so Bailey lifted him up and set him on the floor or the car, and then patted the seat and said, “Up, up.” Walter’s eyes lit up and he hopped up on the seat, stepped over the console and sat down in the passenger seat. “Good boy, Walter. You’re a fast learner.”

Eric called him after he got home from his meeting and Bailey walked him through Walter’s first day as his dog.

“It sounds like it went pretty well with Annabelle?”

“Seems like it,” Bailey replied. “I think she likes him more than she’s letting on right now. The other mechanics like him, so that’s good. I’m already thinking it could soon be kind of a nuisance though. You know, when the novelty wears off.”

“But isn’t it like the old days,” Eric asked, “when Daisy was there with your dad?”

“Yeah, it is, but back then dad was there, and Daisy went wherever he did, so it wasn’t like other people were being relied on.”

“Well, maybe it’s just what they need to spice up their life. Especially if he’s that cute and likes to have his belly rubbed so much. I mean, what’s not to like?”

“Good point. You’ll see tomorrow when you meet him. I hope you like him and don’t think I screwed up by adopting him.”

“I doubt that will happen. I’ve got a four o’clock meeting so won’t be able to leave before five o’clock, so I’ll see you by six.”

“Cool. I’ll feed him when I get home, and then we can take him for a walk.”

When Bailey dropped Walter off at the garage in the morning, he asked Annabelle if it would be a good idea for him to set up one of those portable kennels in the back of the building so he could be outside for part of the day. She said it sounded like a good idea for summer and fall but wouldn’t work in the winter. He said he’d think about it and left for work. When he came back at lunch he took Walter for a short walk, and then sat and talked with Annabelle some more. Walter walked over and stood between his legs, and the stood on his rear legs like we wanted to be picked up. Bailey lifted him into his lap, and he curled up and dropped his head in satisfaction. Annabelle just smiled knowingly.

That evening he picked up Walter on the way home, and they stopped by the grocery store for some food for dinner. Walter hopped up and was peering out the passenger window when they pulled into the parking lot. Bailey parked and then said, “You stay here for a few minutes. I’ll be right back.” Walter looked unhappy, but didn’t bark or howl, so Bailey shut the door and walked to the store. When he looked back from the front door, Walter was still watching. He wondered to himself what kind of a test this would be and if there’d be any damage to the car when he returned. He was pleasantly surprised to see Walter no longer standing at the window when he came out and approached the car quietly to find him curled back up on the passenger seat. When Bailey unlocked the driver’s door, Walter raised his eyebrows as if to say, “What took so long? I’m waiting for my food.”

Bailey fed Walter as soon as they got home, hoping to start a schedule where he’d know pickup at the garage was soon followed by a bowl of food. Walter then settled onto the couch while Bailey started preparing dinner. He added some diced onions to ground round for hamburgers, preheated the oven to warm up some frozen sweet potato fries, and made a salad. He’d just put the salad in the refrigerator when he heard Eric’s knock on the door. Before he could say ‘It’s open,’ Walter barked and jumped off the towels, trotting to the front door.

Bailey turned from the refrigerator to hear Eric say, “And who do we have here?” Then Eric knelt down on the floor and extended his hand, palm down. Walter was watching him suspiciously. Bailey walked over and said softly, “It’s okay, Walter. This is Eric. He’s my boyfriend. He’s gonna be your daddy too.”

Eric flashed him a quick glance and turned back to the dog, who was now sniffing his hand. Slowly Eric turned his hand over and then tickled under Walter’s chin and then stroked his hand around his face and down his neck and back. Walter seemed to enjoy it and stepped closer for more. Eric looked up at Bailey and smiled.

Bailey looked back wanly. “What have I done? Now I won’t get a kiss and your tongue down my throat when you come in, instead I have to watch you greet the dog.”

Eric grinned and said, “Well, sweetheart, you did adopt the little guy.” He now had both hands behind Walter’s head and was kneading behind his ears. He looked up and said, “He’s a sweet dog. Just enough watch dog to do that job without being obnoxious, but basically an affectionate dog.”

“You approve?”

“So far, yes. I haven’t had to clean up a pile of vomit or dog shit yet, so check back after that happens.”

“You mean if that happens. Now, get up off the floor and give me a kiss.”

Over dinner they talked about the complications that having Walter in their life would pose. “Look, it’ll mean some change,” Eric said, “but we’re just getting started, so we can make our life work with Walter if that’s what we want to do. I can see it’s what you want to do.”

“Does that mean you’re cool with it? That it’s what you want to do?”

“So far, so good. I don’t see any deal killers.”

“The deal killer, actually meaning the main problem, may be this apartment. The building allows pets, but my lawyer already asked me if this was going to work and why I don’t stop renting dad’s house and move there so he’d have a house and a yard. Meaning we’d have a house and a yard. What do you think about that?”

“On one level it makes sense, but on another it means more work. Houses are more complicated and more work than apartments, and then there’s the yard. Lawn mowing. Raking leaves in the fall. Shoveling snow in the winter. Remember all of that?”

“Yeah, I do, and that’s the kind of stuff I’ve been thinking about since the subject came up.” He reached over and took Eric’s hand and said, “But maybe you could move in, and we’d have our house. We’d be like a family. What about that?”

“It sounds attractive, except my job is in Syracuse. Remember we talked about the problem commute in the winter?”

“So, what do we do?”

“Tonight? Nothing. Well, not nothing. We clean up these dishes and then we walk Walter and after that we settle down for the rest of the evening and then I thought I’d do that thing you asked me about a few days ago.”

“Yeah? What was that?”

“You asked me to teach you more about gay sex.”

A grin spread across Bailey’s face. “Yeah, I like that idea. Let’s get these dishes washed and get on with the evening.”


Bailey had fed Walter and was putting a casserole in the oven when he heard the garage door open and then close as the Audi pulled in. In his peripheral vision he saw Walter raise his head attentively. A minute later the door to the kitchen opened, and Walter stood up and trotted to the door to be properly greeted.

Bailey turned to the door, dropping the hot pot mitts onto the counter and saw Eric, who had knelt down to greet Walter. He said, “Hi, angel. How was your day?” He then stepped over to put his arms around Eric’s waist and kiss him. His coat was cold against Bailey’s chest after working in the kitchen, and he shuddered, then pulled his boyfriend closer.

He felt Eric’s lips nuzzle his ear and softly say, “I love the way I feel when you call me angel.”

Bailey giggled. “Well, you should be used to it by now. You’re my angel in all the best ways. You’ve been my protector and guide and lover, so there you go.” He stepped back and said, “Drop your coat and get a glass of wine and help me with the rest of dinner.”

Eric came back in a minute, poured himself some wine and asked, “How did Walter get along with the new doggy door set up today?”

Bailey grinned. “He was inside the garage and happy when I got home, and he’d obviously been out a few times. I could tell by the tracks and the yellow snow.”

“We’ll have some grass reseeding to do in the spring, and probably piles of dog poop we missed to pick up as well.”

“Yeah, that’s the price we have to pay.” He turned to Walter and scowled. “Walter. Do you know what a pain you are? How much effort you take? How lucky we were to buy a house with an insulated garage?”

Walter had returned to his dog bed, but lifted his head at the sound of his name. He wasn’t interested in moving off his dog bed again, but appeared to smile as if he understood and took for granted that human beings were supposed to provide those types of services in addition to food.

Eric sniffed the air. “I smell Mexican chicken casserole.”

“Oh yeah! Help me do the salad and then all we have to do is dress it and warm up the tortillas.”

“And we have plenty of that lime and cilantro cream sauce?”

“We do. If we didn’t I would have made something else. You don’t think I’d let you down like that, do you?”

“No way, Jose.” Eric wrapped an arm around Bailey’s waist and said softly, “I’m just checking. Have I told you how happy I am that we’re now living together in our own house?”

Bailey tipped his head up as if he was calculating. “The answer would be yes for each and every of the thirteen days since we moved in here.”

“And not only did you get to celebrate your twenty-second birthday here, but we get to spend our first Christmas together in our new house. How great is that?”

“Pretty great, if you ask me.” When the salad was prepped, Bailey picked up his wine glass and nodded toward the living room as he said, “I still don’t believe the timing, that we could sell dad’s house and find this one halfway between Auburn and Syracuse.” They sat down together on the couch directly across from Eric’s stereo cabinet. Bailey had The London Philharmonic’s orchestral album of Pink Floyd music playing. Walter followed them in and hopped up on the couch next to Eric. He circled twice and dropped his chin on Eric’s thigh, looking expectantly back and forth between them.

“I have to admit I looked down my nose at Camillus, but that’s a Syracuse snob thing. It made the house more affordable and splits our commutes just about in half. All that on top of having a fenced back yard, and that we could get that contractor to modify the garage for Walter.”

“Yep, amazing timing. The contractor, however, was all you. It helps being an architect who knows who to call.” Bailey went on, “And Walter seems very happy with having his own backyard with a doggie door into his own heated area in the garage. Dad would have called it decadent and hardly becoming a dog that considered himself an upstanding representative of the breed.”

Eric was stroking Walter’s head and replied, “Don’t be picking on him. He’s a fine and upstanding dog. I’d argue that he might actually restore the breed’s reputation because he doesn’t howl or bray. Do you, boy?”

Walter raised an eyebrow as if he understood he was the subject of the conversation, but also couldn’t be bothered to be involved in it. They talked about their day as they sipped their wine, and Bailey told Eric that the dashboard was now formally up and running and Everett was happy and satisfied. “He’s already shown a pre-release version to his counterparts at a meeting in Chicago early this week. He said I should be prepared to go with him on one of his next corporate meeting trips to show it to the other division CEOs.”

Eric smiled at him. “That sounds great, except for the part about going to Chicago in January. The weather is even worse than here.”

Bailey grinned knowingly and said, “The next meeting isn’t going to be in Chicago?”

“Oh, no?”

“Nope. There’s another corporate acquisition in the making, a company in Arizona, and they’re going to have the meeting in Scottsdale at some resort, so the execs can visit the company. Visit the company and play golf!” He leaned over and said softly, “Fancy a trip to Arizona next month?”

“How do we do that?”

“Easy. You fly down on the last day. Everett knows we’re together and he suggested it. He said if you’re in that I can extend my reservation at the resort at the corporate rate, and we’d just have to pay that part.”

“He’s a cool dude. I’ve got unused vacation days and getting out of central New York in January sounds very attractive to me.”

“I’ll fill you in on the dates as soon as I hear.” The timer went off in the kitchen and Bailey stood and extended his hand to pull Eric to his feet. They walked to the kitchen hand-in-hand, with Walter padding behind.

After they’d done the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen, Bailey poured them both another glass of wine and they walked back to the living room hand in hand, Eric saying, “We’re so domestic.”

Eric put on the Juan Carlos Jobim album of greatest hits, keeping the mood soft but upbeat, and as “A Girl from Ipanema” played, he said, “You know how lucky we are, right?”

“I think about it every day. Compare where I am now with where I was a year ago. My girlfriend was breaking up with me and moving out, and for a while I thought life was going down the tubes.”

They talked about getting through those months and how Bailey had made it, then Eric said, “And then along comes summer and this very cute guy with wavy brown hair suddenly starts showing up at the Friday morning project meetings.”

“You have no idea how nervous I was. This was…I mean, still is, my first real job. And Everett was handing me all this responsibility like he had it on good report that I had my shit together.”

“He was right.”

“Well, let’s not make that call too soon. And, Mr. Tester, for the record, you’re biased in your assessment.”

“Why? Because I thought you were cute?”

“Well, yes. And, because it didn’t take me long to figure out you had designs on me.”

“Of course, I did. Who wouldn’t? You were trying to be so serious but were clearly working through a ton of shit.”

Bailey leaned across Eric, giving him a brief kiss as he did so, and stroked the top of Walter’s head again laying on Eric’s thigh, and said, “Yep. And then you took me out to dinner, and we ended up on that pier for a kiss that burned the soles of my feet.”

“Which fortunately for us, Adrian capture with his camera.”

“And was cool enough to tell us about and share with us.”

“That was totally amazing.”

“You understand that you helped me sort through so much of my stuff…and here we are…on the other side.”

“The other side with our own house and dog and my parents thinking you’re the best thing since sliced bread.”

Bailey grinned. “Your parents are totally cool. I love them to death. That said, think about where we are. It’s almost the middle of December. Christmas is around the corner. Tomorrow we’re going to buy a Christmas tree. We’ll have our friends over and do all that fun stuff, and we’ll do it together. What a contrast this Christmas is to last year. I never dreamed it would change and be this good. Since I met you, it just seems to get better and better.”

Eric smiled and kissed Bailey’s cheek and then sat up. He said, “Funny you should say that. When I was putting all the records away in the stereo cabinet, I saw a lot of albums that I loved when I bought them and some I haven’t listed to for a long time. There’s one that has this special song I want to play for you.”

“Is it as good as Spins?”

“You’ll have to tell me after you hear it.” He disentangled himself from Bailey and Walter and stood up, crossing to the stereo cabinet as he said, “Spins was kind of about coming together and the first kiss or two. This one’s more philosophical. When I found the album, I re-read the lyrics to this song and realized that when I first bought it, I really liked the guitar arrangement and the riff, and especially Greg Brown’s deep voice, but that the meaning of the lyrics went by me.”

“I find that hard to believe.”

“Why? I wasn’t in love then. I hadn’t found my soulmate. I hadn’t experienced a relationship that started out great and then got better and better.” He paused and then said, “You up for this?”

“You’re not going to make me cry, are you?”

“I don’t think so, sweetheart. I think you’ll really be into it. Remember what I said about how songs make you feel the lyrics. That’s what this is about. I sat on the floor in here and read the lyrics, and then re-read them a couple of times. Anyway, I just want you to feel some of what’s being said in this song, like I do.”

Bailey smiled, and said, “Bring it on.” Eric put away the Jobim album and put on the Greg Brown record and as he sat back down said, “It’s called “If I Had Known.” A pretty simple title for a pretty substantive song. Like a lot of love songs, it’s about a guy and a gal.” He turned to Bailey and smiled seductively, then added, “Just let that part go by and picture me instead.” Then he sat back down next to Bailey, handing him the album cover with the lyrics and taking his hand.

A little creek you could spit across
Jimmy and me each took one more toss
Our spinners bright in the evening air
People always said, There ain't no fish in there
Well grownups they ain't always right
Jimmy and me walked home slow that night
Right down Main Street in our P.F. Fliers
With two 5 lb. bass making grown men liars

Jimmy if I had known-
I might have stopped fishing right then
It's just as well we don't know
When things will never be that good again

A hayride on an Autumn night
Well we was 15 if I remember right
We were far apart at the start of the ride
But somehow we ended up side by side
We hit a bump and she grabbed my arm
The night was as cold as her lips were warm
I shivered as her hand held mine
And then I kissed her one more time

And Jane if I had known-
I might have stopped kissing right then
It's just as well we don't know
When things will never be that good again

She was older than me I guess
Summer was invented for her to wear that dress
I knew about risk and she knew about proof
And that night she took me up on the roof
We could see the lights of the little towns
We could watch the August stars come down
Shooting stars, meteorites-
We went on a ride through the sky that night

And, oh, if I had known-
I'd do it all over again
Some things just get better and better
And better than they've already been

Watch the YouTube video of Greg Brown performing If I Had Known


“Wow!” Bailey said, as the last guitar sounds ebbed into the silence between the tracks.

Eric stood up and lifted the tone arm, then said, “I’m glad you liked it. Can we talk about it for a minute?” Bailey nodded.

“I mean more that that wild electric guitar solo in the middle. I mean about the lyrics, the message.” Bailey nodded again, waiting.

“We don’t have to analyze every line, but you heard the two visual part of the story, right? Fishing and kissing.”

“I like kissing better.”

“Me too, sweetheart. But that’s not the point. The point is that in both cases he didn’t know at the time he caught the five-pound bass or later when he had that first kiss and Jane took him on a ride through the sky, that it would never be that good again.”

Furrows appeared on Bailey’s brow, and he said, “I needed to hear you say that.” He paused and then added, “to understand that it can happen, and you don’t even know it happened.”

“That’s what hit me when I read the lyrics again the other day. It’s a song about not knowing when things in life have gotten as good as they can get. You know, like if that was the best fishing ever then he might have stopped fishing right then.”

“Or if he’d know that the kissing that night was the best ever,” Bailey added, “he might have stopped kissing then?”

Eric knelt down in front of Bailey’s and took both of his hands in his. “Well, that’s a hypothetical. Maybe…maybe not. But a big part of the message is that everything peaks. I guess some things sooner, some later. It’s easy to miss when it happens. I’ve got to believe that, like you said, we’re going to get better and better and better. But we live in a finite world, life changes and so do we.” Eric paused and his eyes got soft. Bailey thought he could see moisture in them.

“Oh, angel, what are you thinking?”

“That this kind of thing can, likely will happen to us too. I just want us to be conscious of it. Never to stop loving and talking. And to promise each other that we’re going to try not to reach that point. And if we do, that we commit to not letting things fall away from there. Fall away from that point when they were the best ever.”

Bailey let Eric’s hands go and slid his up his boyfriend’s chest, across his face and to the back of his neck. Then he pulled Eric close, their lips meeting as Bailey said softly, “I promise. I never want us to take what we have for granted or slip back from the best moments…whenever they happen.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too, angel. So much. And you know what? That best moment that you’re worrying about us reaching some time? That moment is a long way away from us. We’re not even close to it.”

“That’s what I wanted to hear,” Eric said softly, as he pulled Bailey tight to him.


Over breakfast, Eric asked, “What time are we meeting Adrian.”

“Ten o’clock. We haven’t seen him for a month, and he was bummed to learn we were moving up towards Syracuse.”

“But he’s a good kid, and knows how to capture the vibe with his camera. He did it on the pier?”

“I’ll never forget that. It’s my wallpaper forever.”

“That’s how Everett found out about us, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, he was amazed when he saw it, and he didn’t even have your tongue shoved down his throat!”

“Do we need to give Walter a bath?”

“I don’t think so. He got one last weekend, and he’s been rolling in the snow. He smells fine. I already checked. We can just brush him and spray some of that cedar coat spray on him. Anyway, this isn’t a formal deal, we’re not getting dressed up. We’re just going to the mall where they’ve already got a Christmas tree set up with lights and decorations.”

“Yeah, going to the mall with our dog to get our first Christmas card photo taken.”

“Which just goes to prove that you’ve made me as conventional as you claim you are.”

AI-generated image by Bensiamin using Microsoft Designer

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