Odd name for a story but you’ll see why. This is all about how I came to know my personal savior Bob. His real name is Robert, but he goes by Bob.
As the title implies this is a story about a man who had no obligation to me to look after my welfare. His only concern was doing the right thing and I had never really encountered that before. Almost everyone I knew in my old home town was self-serving and self-absorbed to the point where I wasn’t on anyone’s radar, not even my mother’s.
For the record I’m gay and when this all started I had just turned fourteen, that was five years ago.
My mother married a man that was a religious fanatic. He was homophobic to the max and by that, I mean foaming at the mouth batshit looney. I was thirteen when that happened, I had figured out I was gay around age eleven watching other boys at the public pool and in the locker room. I would look at the other boys and admire their bodies and spaz out at the range of development in boys separated by just a couple years of age. Then I would go to the quietest corner I could find and get my trunks off and slide my briefs on as fast as possible so that nobody would see the state of my arousal.
Junior high wasn’t that easy, it was a long walk from the showers to my assigned locker. Fortunately for me I had made friends with a neighbor that was in high school and he gave me a simple solution if I did get an erection in the locker room. If anybody said anything; I just had to ask loudly "Why are you so interested in my dick Billy" or whoever.
There was a kid who thought it was funny to yank the shorts down on any kid who was standing in front of him when we lined up for roll call. When he did it to me I didn’t get mad like the other guys I just said, "Hey guys I think David likes my butt. How about it David, you wanna give my butt a big old kiss?" We all wore jock straps, so my cheeks were on public display. "I could bend over and spread it if you need better access." As far as I know David never pulled anybody else’s shorts down again; at least in gym class, what he did on his own time didn’t concern me. So, I got a rep for being quick with a jab and I was pretty tough on idiots like Dave.
Bob call’s that "Repartee’" or "Banter".
The counselor called it damaging to the self-esteem of guys like David.
So, I asked "what about my self-esteem, it suffers when I’m demeaned by guys like that."
I had her, she had nowhere to go. It was like that old Star Trek where Spock tells an android "Everything I say is a lie." And the android’s head explodes. The counselor told me we would discuss it later because she had an appointment. I never heard from her again on the subject.
I once asked Bob what he thought on the subject of stupid people and their self-esteem. I suggested that maybe there should be safe zone where only they could hang out. Bob said that there already was such a place and it was called Government.
As I mentioned my world changed when I was thirteen. My Mom started seeing Albert and I instantly disliked him. He was one of those bible thumping, scripture spouting, Ideologs that my grandfather had warned me about. Albert was anti everything, he hated science, math and of course gay people. He said history was corrupted by godless heathens. I mean for shit’s sake the guy wore a string tie. He always had a bible with him and he had no qualms about whipping it out and blathering about sin and degradation and all the negative aspects of humanity as he saw it. Albert was also a conspiracy theorist. He was one bad wardrobe choice away from a foil hat.
I told my Mom she should get rid of this guy quick, but she didn’t listen and eventually she married him. I warned her to keep him away from me because he was already trying to impose his will.
During all this I had managed to meet a boy named Evan in my History class, he was also in Art and Science, but we sat together in history. Our first kiss was behind the maintenance building at the school and our last was in my bedroom.
It was a couple days after my fourteenth birthday. We were just standing there kissing, we had no other plans; we hadn’t progressed beyond kissing yet, and then the door slammed open and Albert slapped Evan hard enough to knock him to the floor. He drew back his fist to hit me, but I had grabbed my bat and caught him between the legs. I called 911 and he was arrested for assaulting Evan.
Albert was his own worst enemy, he told the cops he was just going to beat the gay out of me. Evan’s Mom and Dad showed up and took Evan to the hospital. I told him I would check on him later. Unfortunately, Evan’s parents disapproved of Evan kissing other boys, so he was grounded and forbidden from communicating with me.
In the process of all this crap we discovered that Albert had a warrant from Texas for defrauding a congregational church.
I urged Mom to get rid of this clown while she could, but she had already drunk so much of the Kool-ade I couldn’t budge her. I told her I would go and live with my Uncle Jack and started packing. She went off to the ATM and brought me a hundred bucks and handed it to me.
It wasn’t enough for a ticket to Reno, so I called Jack and asked if he could meet me part way. He said come on ahead and call him when I was close to wherever the end of the line was, and he’d come get me. There were affordable rides to Reno, but you had to be sixteen to travel alone and I could barely pass for my own age.
I called from the bus station in Sacramento to tell Jack how far I could get, and a woman answered.
She said Jack was back in care and he had been having delusional episodes. She said he didn’t own a car and was living in a men’s hotel. In any case he wouldn’t have been able to have me live with him because he was a registered sex offender.
I don’t remember seeing that tidbit in the last Christmas card from Gramma. I don’t know what he actually did but it didn’t matter. I was over a hundred miles from Milpitas and I had no Idea what to do. I decided by way of a thought process I can’t recall, that I would head south and see what L.A. was like. If I had to I would go into foster care. I still laugh at myself for thinking stuff like that. I took the city bus to a truck stop off the 99 and caught a ride with a family going to Stockton. I offered to put in for gas but they declined. They were Spanish speakers, so I said Gracias and they dropped me at another truck stop. The lady put a hand on my shoulder and said, "Vaya con Dios mijo" and I thanked her again and said, "Y tu."
I couldn’t get a ride south and at seven o’clock everything but the café and the fuel islands shut down, so I decided to get something to eat.
It was cold in Stockton and my hoodie and light jacket weren’t doing the job. The hoodie nearly got me run over.
Things have to be pretty bad if that’s the luckiest thing that happens to you all day.
With no peripheral vision I stepped out in front of a pick-up truck. The driver jammed on his brakes and stopped short. He wasn’t going very fast unlike everybody else I’d seen move through that lot during the day.
I fell backwards on my pack but I struck my head on a curb. I heard the truck’s door open and close and then heard footsteps and I figured, "here it comes, I may as well get ready to be yelled at." But the guy knelt down and asked if I was okay.
"Can you speak son, are you hurt?"
I felt the back of my head and said, "I’m fine I just banged my head."
He put his hand on the back of my skull and said, "Looks like you’ll have quite a goose egg there in a while."
"Goose egg?" Who talks like that?
He stood up and asked if I needed help getting up and I was to slow in saying no so he reached down and just lifted me up and put me on my feet. "Note to self, don’t piss this guy off I thought." It was like I weighed ten pounds instead of seventy-five.
He opened the door on his truck and invited me in, I was freezing my ass off and I took him up on it.
"I’m trying to work my way through this maze so I can get to the coffee shop, do you know where the entrance is?"
I told him to turn right at the yellow light posts and he would see the parking for the café.
There were two Highway patrol cars parked in front of the café. He parked his truck and turned to me. "Are you okay to go in and get something to eat?"
"Yes sir, I was headed here when…well you know."
"Okay then, my name is Bob Reynolds. You can call me Grampa or Grampa Bob, what should I call you?"
"Oh yeah, my name’s um…I was going to give him a fake name but he seemed like a real person so I told the truth. My name is Forrest Tolliver?"
"Shall I call you Forrest or do you have something you prefer?"
"Porter is my middle name; most people call me that."
"Are your Folks movie buffs?"
"Well my mom is, I don’t know my Dad, I don’t think my mom knows who he was, but she liked that stupid movie. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve heard some idiot yell "Run Forrest, run?"
"At least Porter was a bad ass; I see why you might prefer It." he said.
I couldn’t help it, I actually laughed, just for a moment I felt good.
"So how long have you been living rough?" Bob asked.
"How could you tell?"
"I’m pretty good at assessing people; I’m guessing that you’re either a runaway or a throwaway, which is it?"
"I don’t know I’m fleeing religious persecution," I said trying to be funny but it wasn’t that far from the truth."
"For a religious belief or by one?"
"I was stunned, he got it in one. Who the hell was this guy?"
He was a pretty big guy too, six three, two hundred and forty pounds and I already mentioned the upper body strength. He had huge hands and feet, and his hands were really warm. I had noticed when he felt my head with his palm. His hands were so big he could have easily squeezed my head like a cantaloupe.
"Um…by one. My step-dad is a wack-job bible freak and he tried to slug me after he slapped my friend." I told him everything except why Albert had hit Evan and tried to hit me. It didn’t work.
"So why did he feel the need to strike either of you?"
I couldn’t lie to this guy, it was just impossible and I tried but nothing I came up with sounded remotely plausible. "We were kissing."
"I see, well, hop out."
"Oh, okay," I said and reached for my pack."
"That will still be here when we come back; we have to go inside to get fed though."
I had thought he was telling me to hit the road, but he was just ready to go in and he had also noticed the cops were at the register.
"Are you feeling a little better temperature wise, now you don’t look quite like you’ve been out in the cold for hours?
"You could have told me that you were just killing time until I looked warmer, I mean I understand but I thought you were telling me to get lost."
"I’m very sorry for the confusion, let’s go in and eat and we’ll chat a bit more about your situation. I may use a couple non-sequiturs so just go with it okay? Um, you know what those are right?"
I nodded and we went in.
As we entered the front door he said, "That woman sure can talk eh?"
"That’s for sure Grampa." I agreed, and we walked right past the cops.
It was weird but I understood what he was doing, he didn’t want the cops to think we were stalling until they left. There was a reason why he knew what they were thinking but at the time I didn’t know.
"Pick a table guys, I’ll be right with you." The server said.
"I think we’ll visit the restroom first, but we’ll be right out," Bob answered.
When we came out Bob picked a table by the gap in the counter instead of making the server walk all the way to the end.
"Hey guys, what can I get you to drink?" Shannon our server asked.
Bob ordered hot tea and a diet coke. He said there was more caffeine in the diet coke and that’s what he needed. I ordered a Mountain Dew which has massive caffeine, I figured I would need to stay awake for a while so….
"Scoot over cutie so I can take your order," Shannon said.
She slid in next to me and I saw an LGBT beaded ring on her finger.
I tried to order a grilled cheese which was the cheapest thing on the menu but Bob saw right through me and told me to try again, he said, "Once more with feeling." So, I ordered a bacon cheeseburger to his chicken fried steak.
"That’s better; you’ll need more than a grilled cheese in you to last until breakfast."
"He’s right you know, and the cheese isn’t that good here."
"So, Shannon what are you studying at the university?"
"Um geophysics, how did you know?"
"That pile of text books by the condiment bottles."
"Okay Monsieur Poirot I’m impressed. I presume you’re not trying to hit on me."
"I think we both know that would be a waste of time for both of us, I did notice your ring."
"Is he always like this?" she asked looking at me and grinning.
"As long as I’ve known him." I answered truthfully.
"Well let me get your order in and we can chat some more."
"So, Porter, where are you trying to go?"
"L.A. if I can catch enough rides."
"Do you have people in L.A.?"
"Um no, I thought I could get some work and ….."
"No, I’m sorry son but that won’t fly. You’d get nailed as a truant but more likely than not you’d be forced into prostitution; you need to think what you’d be exposing yourself to; disease, poverty, malnutrition and of course the constant rape."
"Rape?" I asked.
"That’s how they break new boys into that trade son, sexual servitude is no joke."
"How do you know about that?"
"We fostered a boy who lived on the street in Hollywood. He nicked someone with a broken tooth and got the crap beat out of him. He was a throwaway just like you. Now he’s a Doctor, well a psychologist. But you still have to call him Doctor."
"Oh wow, I didn’t know it was like that."
I told him about Uncle Jack and what I had heard from the woman who answered his phone."
"Did she identify herself or her Agency; it’s just unusual for a mental health worker to reveal information about a patient."
"Are you saying I got played?"
"I’m saying it’s possible."
"I propose you come to my home and meet my wife and we’ll see if we can get the truth about your uncle. Then you can decide which way to turn."
"Where do you live?"
"Just outside of Carson City in a town called Gardnerville."
"How far is that from Reno?"
"A little more than eighty miles."
"Why are you out here?"
"I had some work to do and I also found some parts and an engine right here in Stockton. I had to repair the man’s tractor before we could get it loaded."
"What kind of work do you do?"
"I used to repair construction equipment and I still do when there’s a difficult issue to be dealt with. But mostly I teach people how to service certain components for a manufacturer."
"Cool," I said.
"I’m back; Hector is getting started on your food so it will be ready soon," Shannon announced.
"Geophysics, is that like plate tectonics and volcanoes and stuff?" I asked.
"Hey, you’re pretty sharp, yeah it covers that and seismology and a lot more." Shannon answered.
"That’s cool, you must be really smart."
Shannon waited and said, "I thought you were gonna say "For a Girl" but you didn’t so I won’t spit on your burger. Besides your Grampa was kind enough to spare my feet and sit close to my station."
"Yeah, he’s kinda cool isn’t he?"
"Hey, did I hear you talking about Carson City?"
"Yes, you did, what’s on your mind?"
"I have to move to Reno for my next round of courses or wait a whole year for a spot to open up. So, I got in at U-Nev Reno but I need to work. Night work like this if I can find it."
"I might know a place; do you mind working in a bar?"
"No, as long as the pay is good I can work anywhere."
"Well I own part of a couple bars and a restaurant. Have you ever heard of Le Mistral?"
"The wind; or is that the name of the place? I’m kidding; yes, it’s a really nice Lesbian bar. But I thought all the staff was straight."
"Not anymore, the place was in decline when I bought in and the first thing I insisted on was to lose the straight only hiring policy. For one thing it was illegal and for another some of the servers were being downright hostile to the patrons. I decided we’d have a more congenial atmosphere with women and men who were sensitive to the client’s orientation rather than in direct opposition to it. It seems to be working."
"Is the pay good?"
"Well it’s certainly better than here, let me give you a card and when you’re ready give me a call. I’ll remember you and we’ll see what my partner thinks. Most of our servers are college students and they work fewer hours than you have to here to make the same money."
"It would be nice to work somewhere with class. Thank you."
There was a bell ringing which I guessed was our food and I was right. For truck stop fare it was pretty good.
Eventually we had to get on the road and after a lot of thought I decided to take Bob up on his offer. If he was a serial killer, then I didn’t have a chance. Something told me to trust him. He had given a card to the last person that might see me alive otherwise and that didn’t make sense.
"We said our goodbyes to Shannon and Bob pulled around and fueled up. Then we went in to get some snacks and soda for the road."
When we got back in the truck he asked me if I was still nervous, I told him I was a little.
He told me to open the center console and get the small wallet out and open it up. It was a seven-pointed star from the Douglas county Sheriff’s department with his name and picture on the I.D. card.
"Why didn’t you just tell me?"
"I thought it best to wait. Do you think you would have opened up to me the way you did if you knew I was a Cop."?
"Probably not, I guess you were right to wait. Thanks."
It says you’re a reserve Sergeant and what does class A mean?
"Well I used to be a full-time deputy but I retired and now I only work a few days a month, more if they really need me. The class A part refers to having full police powers. Some reserve officers can’t write citations and a few other functions."
"Okay, I get it. So, you also do the other thing teaching mechanics to work on stuff?"
"Okay then, settle in and get comfortable. If you need to pee let me know and we’ll find you a tree. If you require a toilet it will be Cisco Grove unless you see a sign. I have T.P. and wipes if it gets critical."
"I’m good; I went while you fueled the truck."
"I better call the hotel in Truckee or they’ll give away our room if they’re busy. We’ve got a good two hours before Sacramento and another two at least to reach Truckee; more if it snows again."
He stopped at the edge of the highway and dialed. He waited as the phone rang and a voice said, "Best Western Truckee." Bob explained that he was running late, and he would appreciate it if they would hold his room. That was no problem, but when he asked about a room with two beds he was told those were all booked. "Well I guess my grandson and I can share, I hope he can sleep through my snoring." The reservation clerk laughed and they both disconnected.
"Do you really snore?"
"Probably, my Wife says I do occasionally. I’ve never heard my own snore."
For some reason that made me laugh really hard.
By the time we reached Cisco Grove, we both needed a rest room. Bob had me go first and then wait in the truck with the engine running while he took a little longer.
We arrived at the hotel around midnight and checked in; I had my pack and Bob had his over-nighter.
The room was nice, and Bob said he had stayed there before. With his truck parked just outside he wasn’t worried about losing anything out of it.
I showered while he unwound from driving.
Bob showered and returned in thin shorts and a tee.
I was wearing sweat pants and my hoodie, and I was still cold.
Bob on the other hand appeared to be sweating.
The heating in the room wasn’t great but there were extra blankets on a stand at the foot of the bed. We never even bothered with the TV. We plugged in our phones and shut off the lights. The moon shone through the widow, so it wasn’t too dark. We both went to sleep quickly. Somehow during that time, I got really close to Bob. He was on his side and I had backed up to him and he was so warm. I was actually sweating. I got up and stripped off the hoodie and the sweat pants. Big mistake; the temperature in the room had dropped to around forty-five and the sweat caused me to chill suddenly and I got uncontrollable shivers; I slid back into bed and woke Bob in the process.
"Are you okay?" he asked. But I couldn’t answer, I was shivering so badly.
He just folded those huge arms around me and pulled me up to him and when his warmth hit my back I started to feel better. I had never in all my life been held like that. It was so unbelievably comforting I cried.
I know that sounds weird but earlier that day I had a home and Mother and a boyfriend maybe. Now I was a long way from there with a man I hardly knew, and he was being kinder to me than anyone who was supposed to be had ever been.