Jeffrey had stacked a magnificent fire and it now roared in the vast opening
in the center of the room. The sweet-smelling warmth, punctuated by the
occasional "pop" or "crackle" of the blaze, suddenly became the sun, the center
of the universe on this incredibly cold night. Dimmed lamps and candles lit the
lovely broad Maple beams of the floor, the tan leather seating and the
carefully-chosen antiques. The dining table on one side of the capacious
building was set with gleaming crystal, china and silver. An enormous fishbowl
filled with ice served as centerpiece of the bar, its top made of green Italian
marble. Expensive bottles of liquor stood like soldiers on the countertop, with
glasses set upside down and ice-buckets with bottles of chilled mixers inviting
the guests to come to help themselves. Behind the bar was a glass-doored,
temperature- and humidity-controlled storage unit laid floor-to-ceiling with
bottles of fabulous examples of the vintner's art.
The snow outside had drifted against the floor-to-ceiling panes of glass
which formed the "living room" extension of what Tim called "The Cabin." What
had, literally, been a one-room cabin had been turned into a year-round escape;
an architectural gem tucked deep into a pine forest, literally a quarter mile
from the nearest residence on one side. The other side of the home faced a few
hundred acres of protected wilderness, a State forest with but a single road
running through it. This was isolation; peace and quiet
sublime; but the house itself was certainly no "cabin." The original cabin, containing a wood stove and made of
logs, was a simple affair which measured about fifteen by twenty feet. The
"cabin" was now the kitchen, with wood-burning stove intact; very quaint in the
presence of the superb modern appliances which surround it. Two halls lead
backward to the "barn;" a structure with a facade of weathered wood rescued from
collapsing farm buildings from New Jersey to New England. Behind the facade
was an ingenious concrete structure which held
warmth in winter yet insulated from summer's heat. Each bedroom in the barn was
decorated in a different style, a whimsical perhaps hackneyed treatment but done
so tastefully in this case it became an adventure to explore. The pool was small
as indoor pools but had been featured in Architectural Digest as an exquisite
example of the marriage of indoors and outdoors seamlessly; a boulder extended
from outside the building, pokes through a glass wall and forms one wall of the
pool where the huge rock's been partially carved away.
The living room extension of the home faced the driveway. Built to imitate
architect Philip Johnson's famous "Glass House" in Connecticut,
the transparent-walled structure with its copper flashing top and bottom was
cantilevered so it seemed to float like a warmly-lit spaceship above the
foundation. The living room alone measured nearly a thousand square feet.
At night, drivers approaching the structure from the tiny drive compared it to
the sterility of an office complex, until greeted by the glow from behind the
double front doors underneath the living space. The custom-built frosted glass
doors open outward to reveal the fireplace chimney, built of fieldstones, upon
which hangs a fourteen-foot tall abstract oil painting depicting an explosion of
yellow, orange, red and black.
Weekend in a Winter Wonderland
The guests had all made it out to southern New Jersey despite the thick
white snow. Fact be known, this close group of friends would've climbed Mount
Everest in a blizzard twice as bad for an invitation to "The Cabin,"
particularly for the weekend. Activities at the weekend retreat typically include hours of witty banter, gourmet
meals accompanied by fabulous wines, much drinking of rare liquors, but best of all, the camaraderie that comes
of a quarter-century's acquaintance or more. Tim greeted each guest warmly as
they arrived, and the huge residence began to bustle with activity.
As Jeffrey showed Warren to his guest room, Warren hissed, "I always get the
Queen Anne room; can't I ever get something a little more butch!?
Jeffrey and Tim had gotten used to the quips made by their guests about room
assignments; but it was house rules, the guests were not allowed to select their
own rooms. This weekend, the biggest joke
was on Bobby, known for his love of all things velvet, silk, and fur. Tim had
decided to give him the "Leather" bedroom. Marc, a Broadway producer and
successful songwriter, was given the only guest room with a glass wall facing
outdoors, as he once had told his host of the magnificent inspiration he derived
from the movements of the birds (and the occasional deer) in the woods outside.
The other guests arrived a bit later.
Jamie had recently parted company with a lover half his age in a very acrimonious,
public breakup that had made headline news in gossip-queen Liz
Smith's column. Jamie tried to keep out of the news all he could, but the young
man had gotten himself a lawyer and won a hefty palimony award rumored to be in the low
seven-figure range. When Jamie pulled up that evening, he was driving a Volvo
station wagon, his "country car." The others peered out the windows
above and whispered whether or not Jamie had
been forced to divest himself of his classic Rolls. Before losing
nearly a third of his fortune, he had always complained about the cost of
everything, probably due to having a Depression-era mentality
drummed into him during childhood. But now, they were all bracing for
stories from Jamie about having to "eat beans out of a can" and drink bag-in-box wine from Sutter Home or (Heaven forbid!) Gallo.
The moment Jamie walked into the room the gossip stopped abruptly and each
guest approached him with a hug and a question about how he was doing. Finally
his sad Basset Hound face lit up when Jeffrey approached with a gigantic glass
containing lots of Bourbon and just a few ice cubes. Jeff carried Jamie's bag to
his guest room and Jamie followed, explaining that he wanted to "powder his
Vince and Benjamin arrived last. They'd been a couple now for nearly a
half-century. Vince had been a teacher in the New York City
public school system for
his entire career. Benjamin thought that very noble, and bore the financial
weight of the couple from their humble beginnings when they'd just met and Ben
was a lowly junior broker
with a small bond trading house. Now on the board of directors of two powerful financial
institutions, Benjamin was in semi-retirement but still kept his fingers on the
pulse of the world's markets and dispensed his advice to Fortune 500 firms in
exchange for a retainer and per-diem fee that would be the envy of any Senior
Partner in a major brokerage firm, or law firm for that matter. Benjamin had
asked Vince to politely leave his teaching job the second time a student brought
a gun to school. Vince retired at age 71 — the third time a student brought a
gun to school.
The Ice-Man Cometh
Friday evenings always began with strong drink. To keep the guests from
getting tipsy, Jeffrey had put out tiny yellow potatoes stuffed with Brie cheese
and dill, scallops wrapped in bacon, and fiery-hot Guacamole with Pita toasts
to go with the drinks. It took two hours before Tim and Jeff even got an inkling
anyone was hungry. Of course, the center of the chit-chat was Jamie, and
rightfully so, because he'd been through so much recently. He'd finally had
enough of the spotlight and suggested that, although the hors d'oeuvres were
delicious, perhaps some of the guests might want to take their supper.
Jeff had out-done himself yet again, starting with a lovely cream of
Asparagus soup, a simple salad of Radicchio and Pink Grapefruit sections,
Vegetarian Lasagne (with three cheeses, though), splendid Anise-scented
grilled Italian sausages and Brussels Sprouts with Pumpkin Chunks in
Nutmeg-spiced Beurre Blanc sauce. The men ate heartily and thoroughly enjoyed
the repast, commenting politely about each dish. Vince and Warren helped Jeff
get the soiled soup and salad plates off of the table mid-meal; the trio would
also load the dishwasher later. These were roles that they'd become accustomed
to and genuinely enjoyed, despite their loud complaints that "a woman's work is
Tim was opening yet another bottle of the lovely Pinot Noir he'd
chosen to accompany the entree course when a loud buzzing sound came from the
kitchen area. The guests thought that it was a timer of some sort; Jeffrey
explained that it was no timer, it was the doorbell to the back door. Warren
motioned for Tim to stay where he was, and he accompanied Jeff through the
kitchen, the pantry and the mud room to the back door. The two of them chuckled
and figured it was perhaps a "secret" additional guest Tim had invited either
for the meal or for the weekend.
The part-time help responsible for the grounds had kept the driveway and
front walk free of snow. They had ignored the lengthy path leading from the
service area behind the house up to the rear door. Fully a foot of snow had
drifted onto the door, making it difficult to open. Jeffrey put his shoulder
into it while Warren turned on the outdoor light.
Warren's scream was so loud and so protracted that Tim dropped his wine glass
on the floor. Nobody cared; all who remained at the dinner table ran to the tiny
mud room off the kitchen to see what had prompted the outburst.
"I think he's dead. Look, he's all blue!" Warren was hysterical. He and Jeff had opened the door to find a young man, near frozen to death, squatting and holding his knees with his hands, right outside the door.
Ever cool-headed, Vince said "I doubt it. He managed the doorbell. Now let's
get him inside and wrap him up in blankets fast."
As Jeffrey and Tim bent down to pick up their uninvited visitor, Benjamin
inquired "do you think I ought to call 9-1-1?"
The young man now being held up in Jeff and Tim's arms tried to raise his
arms feebly. "N-n-n-o-o p-p-police. I'll, I'll ex-x-plain. Please, n-no
Warren fussed and mopped the tall young man from head to toe with a couple of
very thick towels. Vince came running with two down comforters from the linen
closet. Someone moved the table away from the dining nook in the kitchen and
they sat the boy down, wrapped up tightly, on the bench built into the kitchen
The young man Warren and Jeff had found at the door was about six feet tall,
with a thatch of bushy black hair. Sadly, the cold had rendered the boy's lips,
fingers, and even cheeks nearly as blue as were his eyes.
The boy had been completely nude but for a pair of hiking boots.
The Young Man's Story
Jeff microwaved some tea and Vince prepared a warm foot bath to ward off
Benjamin motioned for Tim to join him away from where their conversation
could be heard. After a moment's discussion, Benjamin and Tim returned to the
mudroom. "Now, young man, you're going to have to tell us exactly what you're
doing a mile away from the main road without any clothes, and your story better
be good or we will indeed telephone the police." While Benjamin was saying this,
Tim was digging through the snow outside the kitchen door with gloved hands
looking for some sign of a weapon. He found none.
The boy explained that he was an expert skier who'd tackled some of the
world's toughest trails. That afternoon, he and a group of college chums had
been drinking and they wagered a lot of money on a silly prank which involved
walking down the road in the State Forest to their cars, parked a mile down the
road, completely naked but for footgear. He offered up his parents' telephone
number, but beseeched Vince, who'd picked up the phone, merely to tell them that
he'd been in a fender bender and that it would take a little while to sort out
but that everything and everyone was fine. Vince decided to wait until the boy's
teeth stopped chattering before forcing him to speak to his parents.
It didn't take long at all until the boy, who introduced himself as Jared,
stopped shivering. The color was returning to his cheeks when he asked Jeff for
another cup of tea. Jeff asked if he'd rather have some brandy. Jared eagerly
accepted, "that'll make it easier to talk my way out of this with my folks."
Benjamin was all business and allowed Jared only a few sips from the snifter
of aromatic Cognac before dialing the number Jared had given. A woman answered.
"Are you Jared's mother?"
"Yes, I'm Mrs. Grosvenor," her voice took on a very worried tone immediately,
and she spoke loudly, "where's my son? Is he alright."
Benjamin felt bad and did the best he could to take the crisp, businesslike
tone out of his voice. "Your son's fine. He's just fine. He'd like to speak to
Jared told his mother that he'd been with friends, rattled off their names,
and that he'd decided to go cross-country skiing but that he'd run into a little
trouble with his Jeep afterwards. His mother had obviously asked him when he'd
be home and he answered candidly that he didn't know but that he'd be just fine.
The conversation ended with Jared saying "yes, mother, I've got plenty of money
and I'll be just fine. Don't wait up, okay?"
Jamie asked Jared how far they'd gone into the State Forest and which side
their cars were on. It turns out that their cars were parked on the side of the
main road, a mile down the road. They'd actually been dropped off by Jeep, all
the way on the opposite side of the woodlands. Jared offered up a guess that
he'd been walking nearly 3/4 of a mile before he came upon the house. Jamie and
Vince had the same thought at the same moment, "Where the heck are your friends?
They could freeze to death out there!"
Although Jared seemed to be a bright fellow, it hadn't occurred to him that
of his group of friends, he was by far the best able to handle the cold and that
there were three more boys wandering around, unclothed but for footwear,
somewhere between the house and the drop-off spot in the State Forest. Jamie
said "well, my wagon has four wheel drive, do you think I can make it up that
road?" Jared stood up, saying "Yes, yes. I'll show you the way!" but sat down
after he realized that he still had nothing on. He covered his groin with a
corner of one of the comforters he was wrapped in.
"You get him dressed while I clean off my car," Jamie said to the others.
They were about to go on a mission of mercy. Vince gathered the comforters off
of two of the guestroom beds, and took the two that had been wrapped around
Jared, and handed them to the boy, advising him to tell Jamie to drive
carefully. All the men were relieved when Jamie handed Jared the keys and said
"you've had a lot less to drink than I have, my friend. Just be careful with my
In The Nick of Time
It only took Jared about ten minutes to drive Jamie up the road through the
thick woods before they found the first of Jared's friends. The young man was
obviously in trouble. He stood in the road and waved his arms at the headlights.
Jared said "It's me; I've brought help."
The first passenger, Steven, explained that he was afraid that the other two
boys had had too much to drink and had either frozen to death or were quite
close to it. Jamie gave Ben the front seat where the most heat was, covered him
with a comforter, and they were off again.
A mere three minutes up the road they spotted another young man standing over
another, who appeared to be asleep in a snowbank. Jared and Jamie got the boy
who was standing up, Mark, into the rear of the car. The boy on the ground was a
difficult lift for someone Jamie's age, but he and Jared managed to get him into
the passenger seat. He was unconscious, but had a pulse and was breathing. He'd
been moments away from death. Both of the boys found in the woods reeked of
alcohol. Mark introduced himself with a chatter and said nothing further than "Oh,
and he's Henry."
Jared had to back the Volvo down the road quite a way before he found a
clearing he'd dare turn the car around in. He did so successfully, and they
headed off to the house. When they got to the house, Jared, Jamie and now Jeff
hustled the three freezing, naked young men into the foyer.
Curfew? What Curfew?
Tim and Benjamin had had plenty of time to discuss the potential legal
ramifications of housing a group of naked minors, some of whom were perhaps
frostbitten and by now (2:00 a.m.) must all have been out well past their
curfew. When the boys got settled, each of Jared's three friends was instructed
to call home and have their parents identify themselves to Benjamin. The older
men were rather amazed at the responses from the parents Benjamin was receiving.
When they were all as young as Jared and his friends, their parents
imposed strict curfews, rarely later than midnight. But that was, for some of
them, not too long after World War II had concluded.
All of the boys were given pajamas to wear. Then the interrogation started. Tim and Jeff's guests couldn't get enough
information out of these boys. On top of the list of questions were where they
attended college, what their studies were, and what on earth had
possessed such intelligent young men to take a dare so potentially life
threatening. It was six in the morning and the sun was about to go up by the
time everyone found a place to bed down, despite the capacity of the house for
guests. All went to sleep and remained sleeping until after noon.
The following day, the boys' cars were retrieved and, at the encouragement of
Warren and Bobby, they were invited to brunch. The older guests sipped proper
Bloody Marys, while the young men opted for beer, except for Jared, who very
humbly and politely asked to sample some of the Cognac he'd partaken of the
night before. Jeff fixed a fine brunch, nothing fancy but all very good. The
entire gang managed to eat over two dozen of Jeff's ham biscuits, as well as
eggs, bacon, fruit, and fried potatoes.
The last bits of brunch were being nibbled when Steven astonished the living
room full of men by quickly swallowing an entire can of beer (his fourth),
wiping his mouth with his sleeve, and asking in a rather nonchalant fashion,
"Hey, all you old guys are, like, gay, aren't you?"
The silence was such that one could hear a pin drop, in fact, one could hear
a pin drop onto a down pillow. The pause lasted about a minute and then there
was a vigorous clearing of throats and such from almost everyone. Vince spoke up
first. "You mean, happy? Carefree? Gay?" His stare was like a laser aimed right
at Steven's glazed eyes.
Jared tried to interfere, starting with "Steve, these are very kind gentlemen
and I think it's rude of you to pry like that..."
Vincent lifted a hand and silenced Jared. Vincent then took about twenty
minutes to explain that, yes, they did prefer the company of men but that they
in fact only preferred the company of gay men, and that although they found the
lads interesting and, indeed attractive, he and Benjamin were a committed
couple. He went on to offer to speak on behalf of the rest of his friends, and
did so eloquently, delving into such topics as stereotypes, homophobia and what
leading a dual life; one public, one extremely private; was like. He finished on
a note of levity: "and, unlike your friend Steven here, we have manners. And
manners dictate that you never ask a new acquaintance to be physically intimate
on the first date!" That relieved the tension in the room, and the serious
conversation ended at that moment.
The rest of the day was spent in conversation, drinking a bit, swimming in
the pool (the young men naked again, and apparently quite comfortable with it)
and eating some more. Soon it was time to go home, and the boys were given
telephone numbers and told to visit New York any time they'd care to.
You Just Ain't Gonna Believe This
About a week later, Tim and Jeff, Vince and Benjamin, Jamie, Warren and Bobby
were seated at a dinner held by a mutual friend, who happened to be a very
well-known entertainer who was also known for his voracious appetite for the
pleasures of the flesh. Same-sex flesh.
"Well, I hear you all spent a nice weekend in the country and didn't think to
invite moi, did you? What did you do all weekend, play Bridge?
Jamie held the actor's hand and with an Oscar-winning deadpan face on said, "my friend, you really didn't miss a
lot. And if I told you what we did, you'd never believe me in a million
Based on a true story. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. Submitted for ushdfgakjasgh's little homage to hatred.