“That was so fucking cool,” I exclaimed as Greg and I exited the Lincoln Library as they literally locked the doors behind us. They’d actually started shutting things down at 4:30, which I thought was cheap of them, but I guess the idea was to move people toward the exits so they could close up at 5:00. Even so, we’d had a fantastic time together. There was so much cool stuff, the interactive exhibits were unlike anything I’d ever seen before and the live performances were really sick. You could even ask Lincoln questions! I’d never been to a presidential library before, but apparently this was the largest one by far.
“Have you been to any other presidential libraries?” I asked Greg.
“I’ve been to three,” he answered, “the Truman library in Kansas City, the Clinton Library in Little Rock and the Carter Library in Atlanta. I’d like to see the LBJ library in Austin. No president ever did more for civil rights than he did. It’s too bad he got saddled with Vietnam. Imagine what he coulda done with another four years. Instead, we got four more years of war, and Watergate.”
“Is there an Obama Library?” I asked.
“There will be, right in Chicago,” Greg answered. “I can’t wait to see it. Unfortunately, construction hasn’t even started, and it’ll be a while before it opens. I’ll undoubtedly have my license by then and be able to drive there myself.”
We approached a very tall building, which appeared to be one of the tallest in Springfield if not the tallest. It was the Wyndham Hotel and a young man dressed in a fancy uniform held the door open for us. Greg led us inside and we found ourselves in a very elegant lobby with fancy furniture, art on the walls and a long desk, behind which there were impeccably dressed staff. Of course, I knew such places existed and I’d been by similar hotels in Indy, but I’d never been inside one before.
That morning, when Greg suggested we wear button-up dress shirts with our jeans, it seemed kind of ridiculous, just to go to a museum and out to dinner. Now, if anything, I felt underdressed. I was a country hick in the city. I felt so out of place.
“Let’s go sit and wait for Dad,” Greg suggested as he led us to a seat that was wide enough for two. I guess you’d call it a love seat, but it was so large and plush that we seemed to sink down into it, all the way to China.
“You look uncomfortable,” Greg noted.
“Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz comes to mind,” I agreed. Greg laughed with a snort.
“You might be from a small town,” Greg interjected, “but your only lack is with experience. You’re smarter than anyone I’ve ever met and probably smarter than anyone else in Springfield.”
“I doubt that,” I countered with a laugh.
“I saw you looking at the posters on my walls,” Greg responded. “Tell me what you saw.”
“John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis, Shirley Horn, Bill Evans, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and I’m sure there were other Jazz greats, but those are the ones I remember,” I replied.
“How many symphonies did Beethoven write,” he asked.
“Nine of course,” I responded, “The ninth is one of the most famous choral symphonies with the ‘Ode to Joy’. The opening notes of the fifth symphony are among the best-known tunes of any. The second movement of the seventh symphony is among the most beautiful, and it was written after he’d gone completely deaf.”
“How about Tchaikovsky?” Greg asked.
“He wrote six symphonies of course, the final one being the famous Pathétique, written shortly before his death,” I answered. “It’s widely accepted that he actually committed suicide by deliberately drinking tainted water rather than face being publicly outed. His music is timeless.”
“In the category of famous gay artists for $100,” Greg began, mimicking the cadence of Alex Trebek, “Best known for his painting of a young woman and his depiction of Christ’s last supper, he is credited with the first design for a submarine, although the actual craft was never built.”
Scoffing, I replied, “C’mon, you can do better than that. Who was Leonardo DaVinci? He may well have been a pedophile, by the way, or more correctly a pederast. He certainly was interested in boys, but we’ll never know if the interest was sexual. For what it was worth, he was left-handed. Beyond a doubt, he was one of the greatest scientists since the fall of the Roman Empire and one of the most brilliant men that ever lived.”
“I rest my case,” Greg concluded. “You may have grown up in a small town, but you don’t belong in a small town. You don’t even belong here really. You should live in a place like Boston, New York, San Francisco, London or Paris,”
“Oh, Paris,” I replied. “Sure, that’ll work. After all, I purr-less vouz French real good. Actually, I can read it pretty well. I just can’t speak it.”
Greg responded, “Seriously, wouldn’t you at least like to go there?”
Did I want to see Paris? It was a major city with so many people, but it’d be a chance to see the Mona Lisa in person, not to mention the other art of the Louvre, to see the Eiffel Tower and the Panthéon, where Victor Hugo and Madame Curie were buried. And the Impressionist collection at Musée d’Orsay was said to be second to none. “Fuck yeah, I want to go to Paris,” I agreed, “but maybe first I should go to New York.” Then I said something outta the blue that took me completely by surprise. “Maybe someday I’ll live there.” The thought of actually living in New York was terrifying to my small-town psyche, but there was something about the idea that somehow seemed to fit with me. How weird.
“You should at least go to Chicago,” Greg suggested. “It’s only about four hours by car and there’s a lot to see and do there.”
Laughing, I responded, “Big cities aren’t a place for a young boy to blend in. Older teens could get away with it, maybe even you, but a boy my age, who looks more like he’s eleven or twelve, would stand out, and there’s a lot of bad characters who zero in on runaways like lightening. In the country, no one thinks twice about seeing a boy alone on a bike, but in the city, people wonder why they’re not with their parents or friends. It’s just not safe.”
“Yeah, that pretty much sums it up,” Greg agreed, apparently thinking about his own experience running away.
At that moment, Larry walked into the lobby and motioned for us to follow him. He went right up to a stand – I guess what you’d call a podium where a man was standing dressed in a tux. I’d seen kids in tuxes for prom, but those were various colors and, frankly, looked ridiculous. The host here looked very elegant, with a black coat, black pants, a black bow tie, a white shirt, a really wide belt made of cloth, and black shoes polished to a brilliant shine. Larry gave his name to the gentleman, who checked it off on a list and then pushed a button to open the elevator for us and led us inside. He pushed the button for the top floor, the thirtieth floor, and then exited before the doors could close.
The elevator took us straight to the top and opened directly into the restaurant, where a woman dressed in an elegant black dress that went all the way to the floor, was waiting for us. She took us straight ahead to a table set for three, right by the window, waited for us to seat ourselves, and then handed each of us a menu. I was shocked by how small the restaurant actually was, with only about twenty tables. Perhaps a quarter of the place was taken up by a large open bar, and I wondered how it was legal for kids to eat there – I’d never be allowed in such a place back home – but then reasoned that the bar was in a room by itself, and although it was completely open to the restaurant, there was probably a loophole in the law that let them get away with it.
The view out of the window was spectacular, with the entire city visible below, and a river could be seen meandering in the distance. I opened the menu to find that everything was listed separately, and half the items or maybe more than half were things I’d never even heard of before. Then I realized there were no prices listed. I knew the food wasn’t free, so I asked, “Why aren’t there any prices shown?”
“It’s common in fancy restaurants to put the prices only in the menu given to the one paying for the meal. That’s so his or her guests won’t feel obligated to choose the cheapest item on the menu. Seriously, I’d like you boys to order something you’ve never had before. I know you’re probably starving, but don’t worry about ordering too much. We can always get the dessert to go. There was a reason I told you not to eat anything at the museum. I’ll order some appetizers for the table. You should order either a large salad or a bowl of soup and a small house salad. The lobster bisque is beyond heavenly.
“This is a steakhouse and they’re known for their steaks, particularly the filet mignon. The lobster is also outstanding. If I can make a suggestion, you might want to get a petit filet with a single lobster tail, so you can enjoy a taste of both. They call it Surf and Turf. If you’d like something a bit more elegant, the sea bass is exceptional, but a bit spicy. The seared ahi tuna is incredible, but keep in mind that it’s mostly raw. Not raw like sushi, but very rare on the inside and grilled on the outside. The sea scallops are also quite good. There’s also a vegetarian pasta if you’re not into eating meat.
“You can order your steaks with a variety of sauces, or just have them plain and let the meat speak for itself, so to speak. Béarnaise is a kind of butter sauce. Truffles are a kind of fungus with a more delicate, mustier flavor than mushrooms. I think you can figure the others out. Do order some side dishes, though, or you won’t get any vegetables. The seasonal vegetables are a must. They’re always excellent, no matter the selection or time of year. If you get a potato, don’t just settle for an ordinary baked potato. The garlic mashed potatoes are homemade and incredible. The parmesan truffle fries have to be tasted to be believed.”
A woman in an elegant black dress that didn’t go all the way to the floor approached our table and asked, “Can I get you gentlemen something to drink?”
“Do you have Heineken on tap?” Larry asked.
“We do,” our server confirmed.
“I’ll have a rum and coke, please,” Greg announced, the stinker.
“Non-alcoholic rum and coke,” the server said aloud as she nodded at him.
“It was worth a try,” he replied.
“And how about you, young man,” she asked me.
I really didn’t know anything about fancy drinks other than what I’d encountered in the many books I’d read, but that was probably a hell of a lot more than most people knew, so taking a literal page from James Bond, I think it was, I answered, “I’d like a Schweppes Bitter Lemon with an ounce of lime juice, lightly stirred, and a twist of lime.”
“A man of discerning taste,” the server said, and then she departed.
Looking back at the menu, I decided I’d try the Surf and Turf as Larry had suggested. I certainly didn’t want raw tuna! I’d never had lobster before, and I’d rarely had steak, and even then, it was a char-burned rib-eye at someone’s backyard barbecue birthday party. Hell, about the only meats we ate back home were hotdogs, meatballs or pepperoni on a pizza. The few times we went out to eat, usually at the Steak ’n Shake in Seymour, I’d had hamburgers, and those were always a treat. The lobster bisque I guess was a kind of soup and the way Larry described it, I had to try it. I’d get the house salad and the seasonal vegetables, and the Parmesan truffle fries.
The server returned with the drinks and asked, “Have you gentlemen decided what to order?”
“Are you boys ready?” Larry asked and both Greg and I nodded our heads in the affirmative.
“We’ll have an order of the pan seared crab bites and an order of the New Zealand Lamb Lollipops for the table,” Larry began. “I’ll have the lobster bisque and a house salad, the pan seared ahi tuna, the seasonal vegetables and the sautéed wild mushrooms.” Larry closed his menu and handed it back to the server.
“How about you, young man,” she asked Greg.
“The sea bass comes with spinach and sweet potato fries?” he asked.
“They’re more of a garnish than a side dish, but the bass is an incredibly heavy fish. You’ll wonder if it’ll be enough when it’s first served, but you’ll have trouble finishing it. It’s that filling. If I could make a suggestion, order it with a side of the asparagus. They go very well together.”
“Okay, I’ll have that,” Greg replied, “along with the lobster bisque and a house salad,” and then he handed the menu back to her. Finally, it was my turn.
“I’ll start with the lobster bisque and a house salad, and I’ll have the Surf and Turf,” I began.
“What can I bring you for the surf?” she asked.
“The surf?” I asked.
“You have a choice of the lobster tail or the shrimp,” she explained.
“Oh, I’ll have the lobster,” I replied.
“Excellent, and what would you like for the turf?” she asked.
“The turf?” I asked.
“What kind of steak would you like with that?” she asked.
“Oh,” I responded, “I’ll have a petite filet.”
“And how would you like that done?” she asked. Done?
“What are my choices?” I asked.
I guess she took pity on me, ’cause she explained it in more detail than I suspected she did most. “Rare is grilled on the outside, dark red on the inside and very, very juicy. Medium-rare is pink on the inside, grilled on the outside and moderately juicy. Medium is pink only in the very center, and otherwise grilled throughout with juicy meat but no juice outside the steak. Medium-well is completely grilled throughout with very little juice, and well-done is like shoe leather, but some people like their meat ruined that way.” I couldn’t help but laugh at her descriptions.
I couldn’t believe I was actually considering asking for it rare, which sounded almost like it was raw inside, but I figured I could always send it back to have it cooked longer if I didn’t like it, but I couldn’t send it back to have it uncooked. So, I said, “As long as I can send it back to have it cooked longer, I’d like to try mine rare.”
“I’ll be sure to tell the chef to make sure it’s not still mooing,” she replied. I really liked our server! “Did you want any sauces or crusts with that? If I could make a couple of suggestions, the garlic crust is perfect with the lobster and the brandy peppercorn sauce is amazing on the filet.”
“Okay, that sounds good,” I agreed, “and since your next question’s probably gonna be about sides, I’ll have the Parmesan truffle fries and seasonal vegetables.”
“Excellent choices,” she replied, as I imagine she would’ve replied no matter what I ordered.
“Did you boys have a good time today,” Larry asked.
“We had a fantastic time,” I answered. “I thought I knew most everything about Lincoln, but that isn’t the same as actually seeing things first-hand.”
“If you’d like, after going to church tomorrow, you could go to some other historic sites around town,” Larry suggested. I guess going to church was not optional. “There’s the old state capitol, Lincoln’s home, and his law office. We can also take a trip to New Salem historic site, about 25 miles north of here. It’s a restored log village where Lincoln lived when he was a young man.”
“It’s kinda lame,” Greg chimed in. “They have actors pretending to be people that lived back when Lincoln lived there. It’s a bit contrived. Maybe worth a visit once, especially when you’re young and like things like that, but it’s more for entertainment than realistic.”
“Maybe if there’s time,” I responded.
“Fair enough,” Larry agreed.
Just then the server brought the appetizers to the table and set small plates and forks in front of each of us. There were three lambchops, which was perfect for a table of three, but there were four small crab cakes and so Larry took the knife from his place and cut one of them in half and placed a half-cake on each of Greg’s and my plates. I’d never had crab anything before and couldn’t relate the cake in front of me to the sea critters that scurried around on six legs. I saw Greg stab his half-cake with his fork and pop it into his mouth, so I did the same with mine. I couldn’t believe the explosion of tastes that resulted in my mouth. There was some kind of spicy sauce on it – calypso sauce, as I recalled, and it was incredible. I hadn’t had lamb before either and was amazed at how succulent my lambchop lollipop tasted. I finished up with my other crab-cake bite, this time with mango salsa. Wow!
The server returned with our soups and took away the plates from the appetizers. The lobster bisque smelled wonderful, but the taste was unbelievable. It was a good thing it was a small portion, ’cause otherwise I’d have never had room for the rest of the meal. Just as we were finishing the soup, the server brought our salads. It was a very simple plate of greens, but the lemon champagne vinaigrette, the fresh blueberries and the blue cheese crumbles made it special. The server took the salad plates away, and then we had a little time, I guess, to digest what we’d eaten so far before starting on the main course.
I was just about to open my mouth, when our server arrived with a large tray that she put down on a stand and then proceeded to set our dinners down in front of us. The plate with my filet and lobster tail was huge, and it also included my sautéed seasonal vegetables. My fries came on a separate plate by themselves. Our server asked, “Would you like some ketchup for your fries? However, I can also offer barbecue sauce, lemon mayo or calypso sauce.”
“Oh, the calypso sauce for sure,” I replied.
Greg’s dinner certainly looked interesting. As our server warned us, it looked like a very small portion, but I could see that the piece of fish was very thick and dense. I wasn’t sure what to think of the asparagus – I’d never had asparagus before. Larry’s tuna was completely different than what I was expecting. I mean, I’d been eating tuna from a can forever, but this didn’t look anything like that. There were slices of what I guess was tuna that were dark red on the inside and crusty grey on the outside. I guess they seared the whole piece of fish on the outside first, and then sliced it up into thin slices. Never in a million years did I guess that tuna could be red when it’s raw. The other stuff on the plate looked good too – eggplant, pomegranate and bacon.
Holding up a slice of the tuna on his fork, Larry asked, “Would you be interested in trying the tuna, Adam?” I wasn’t sure I could get past the fact that it was raw, but it sure looked good, so I said, “Why not?” Larry passed the slice over and onto my plate. He did the same with a second slice to Greg’s plate.
“Could I return the favor, Larry and Greg?” I asked.
“I’d love to try the steak with the brandy sauce,” Larry responded. “I’ve never had it before.” I wasn’t sure what the best way was to cut into the filet, but if I cut into it from the end, Larry would end up with only the outer edge of the steak. Therefore, I cut the fillet in half, right down the middle, then cut off a thin slice and passed it onto Larry’s plate. I cut off another slice and offered it to Greg, who grinned and nodded his head. I couldn’t help but notice that the filet was just as red inside as the tuna.
“Would you guys like some of the lobster too?” I asked, and then similarly cut off a slice for each of them. It was a lot harder to cut than the filet, though. I then proceeded to eat some of the lobster myself and, wow, it was one of the best things I’d ever had. When I took a bite of the filet, however, I think I might have had an orgasm. It was so good. I never knew something could taste like that. I ate the slice of the tuna and it was every bit as incredible as the filet. Greg slipped a small slice of the sea bass onto my plate, and that one tiny piece put even the filet to shame. I actually moaned when I tasted it. “You’ve got the best thing on the menu, Greg,” I exclaimed. The only fish or seafood I’d ever had before that didn’t come out of a can was deep-fried and rectangular or the fried shrimp at school served with ketchup.
The meal was incredible. I did swap some of my fries for some of Larry’s mushrooms and one of Greg’s asparagus spears. I was surprised at how much I liked the asparagus, and the sautéed seasonal vegetables were much more flavorful than any vegetables I’d ever had before. When the server came to take our plates, she rattled off the dessert selections and Larry insisted we order dessert, even if we had to take it home, but I put my foot down. I was stuffed beyond reason and didn’t even want to think about food. Greg said he felt the same way. Larry just laughed and claimed he’d never encountered a teenager before who refused dessert, but I could tell he was teasing us.
How did this happen? How could it be that I was here this night enjoying food fit for a god. I’d fallen hard for Greg, and even for Larry in spite of his feelings about religion. There was a part of me that desperately wanted to stay here with them. Hadn’t Larry even suggested he’d like to take me in? The problem was that couldn’t be done legally. For him to even foster me, CPS would have to contact my father and when they found his body, all hell would break loose. Illinois wasn’t safe for me. It’d be too easy to send me back. Not even Missouri or Kansas would be safe. No, I needed to go far away from here and then forge a new identity for myself, one that showed me to be at least sixteen years old.
When Larry paid the check using his phone with the machine the server brought to the table, he tried to keep the display hidden from my view, but he put his phone down on the table afterwards and a notification appeared confirming the amount charged to his credit card, and it was hundreds of dollars. When Larry saw that I saw the amount, he said, “Don’t worry about it, Adam. I’ve got a big job on Monday that’ll pay a good part of the bill,” he added with a wink.
Later, even though I was snuggled up, naked with Greg that night, I didn’t even think about sex. I was just too damn full to think about doin’ anything that’d put pressure on my stomach. I drifted off to sleep with pleasant thoughts in my head, and this time, I slept through the night.
Disclaimer: This story is purely fictional and any resemblance of characters to real individuals is unintentional. Although it takes place in actual locations, in no way are any official policies, opinions or events inferred. Some characters may be underage and at times engage in homosexual acts. Anyone uncomfortable with this should not be reading the story, and the reader assumes responsibility for the legality of reading this type of material where they live. The author retains full copyright and permission must be obtained prior to duplication in any form.