Posted June 2, 2021

The Brilliant Boy Billionaire

The Amazing Journey of a Remarkable Kid, by Altimexis

PART TWO – El Medio Oeste

Chapter 2: Finding My Identity

The summer passed far too quickly, and before long, Steve was back in school, as I should’ve been. I’d managed to save more than five thousand dollars over the course of the summer, but that was hardly enough to live on. Papi offered to keep me on as he had more than enough work to keep us busy through at least the end of the year. Actually, he begged me to stay on, as he really needed my help and could only rely on Steve’s help on the weekends, when there was also church. That my situation was still precarious was driven home one fall day in which we were stopped by a police officer who wanted to know why I wasn’t in school. When I told him I was sixteen, he insisted on seeing proof of my age, which of course I didn’t have. It was only because Papi vouched for me that the officer let me go, but it was a close call. At least we were in Kansas then, but I couldn’t take that for granted given that some of our jobs were across the river. I had to get away from here, but where could I go with only six thousand dollars in a bank account under a name that wasn’t really mine?

My situation with the Rodriguez family had occurred by pure luck. Had it not been for them, I might well have ended up as one of thousands of homeless youths living on the streets, possibly addicted to drugs and working as a prostitute just to survive. That would’ve been a dead end, and it would’ve been better to have just let my father kill me. Thanks to the Rodriguez family, I had a roof over my head, delicious food in my belly and people who cared about me, but the situation was precarious as was driven home by the close call with a police officer. Deep down, I knew I could run away from Indiana, but Indiana would always be inside of me. I had nightmares every now and then in which I relived the moment I killed my father. The rational side of my brain acknowledged the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and that counseling would probably be a good idea, but there was no way I could talk about it with anyone. Running was the only option.

I had to go further away from the state of Missouri as well as Indiana, but I needed money to survive on until I could establish myself someplace else. Simply going wherever the road took me clearly wasn’t enough. I needed a plan with contingencies to keep me from getting picked up by the police for sleeping in a public park. I needed to keep a destination in mind and a plan for what to do when I got there. More than that, I needed an identity that wouldn’t result in my being taken into custody or arrested and sent back home. I needed proof of my identity and proof that I was at least sixteen and legally able to live on my own.

The trouble was, I sure as fuck didn’t look sixteen. My voice had yet to change, and I had almost no body hair beside what was on my head. It was pretty embarrassing for a thirteen-year-old boy, let alone a sixteen-year-old. At least, I’d known sixteen-year-olds who were no more developed than I was when I was in high school. I could get away with it for now, but there was no way I could get away with passing for seventeen if I hadn’t started puberty by then.

The most useful proof of ID would be a driver’s license, but even a good fake was easily spotted these days. The use of holograms and tamper-proof designs made it difficult for even the best forger to make a fake one or alter an existing one. Worse, the police had the ability to verify a driver’s license instantly online. They could bring up a picture, proving that an altered license wasn’t mine. The obvious solution was to apply for a legitimate driver’s license, but that would require proof of my identity, proof that I was sixteen, and there was that little thing about needing to pass a driving test. I could always apply instead for a government-issued photo-ID, but if I was sixteen, why wouldn’t I have a driver’s license?

What I needed first and foremost was a birth certificate. Most potential employers these days who would hire a sixteen-year-old would require a birth certificate before even considering an application. Some of them might accept a passport or a driver’s license, but I couldn’t get either of those without a birth certificate in the first place. Also, I’d need to apply for a Social Security number, and that again would require a birth certificate. Somehow, I was gonna need to get hold of a legitimate birth certificate – one that showed I was over sixteen. I wasn’t capable of forgery nor did I have the finances to obtain a realistic forgery of a birth certificate. Besides which, I couldn’t take a chance that someone wouldn’t actually attempt to verify a forged birth certificate. That alone would be enough to send me to prison for years.

The best overall option was to steal a birth certificate that couldn’t be traced back to the original owner. Proving I was someone I was not would have been hard enough, but without any other supporting identification, such as school records and the like, it was damn near impossible. I knew that in cities, they often used DNA testing to establish a match, so I couldn’t go anywhere that required that. Hell, I couldn’t go anyplace where they checked one’s footprints against those on file from birth. Knowing how lax things had been in the small town where I grew up, though, I reasoned that I might be able to get a birth certificate from a small town based only on my word and my blood type. I knew I was O-positive, the most common blood type, so at least that meant the odds were close to even.

Since I hoped to get a copy of an existing birth certificate and didn’t want to take a chance on being discovered by the real person to whom the identity belonged, I reasoned I needed to get the copy of the birth certificate of a dead kid, preferably an orphan without any relatives that could be tracked down. I had access to the Rodriguez family computer and although they were of very modest means, they did have broadband through their cable provider. I tried doing a simple Google search, hoping to find obituaries in small-town newspapers, but Google just wasn’t set up for that kind of thing. My search results were voluminous and contained everything but what I was looking for, or so it seemed.

I’d learned the basics of JavaScript in high school as part of a web-site design course, but then I’d gone on to teach myself advanced skills and use of the Java programming language. I therefore set about writing an extensive script that could make use of Google’s search engine but using much more specific search criteria than was possible from within Google’s website. Over the course of a couple of months, I tweaked the script to get better and better search results and to cull and combine the results from multiple searches. Even so, there were thousands upon thousands of possible cases.

I focused the search on kids who’d died within the last five years, who lived in a small town within a thousand miles from Kansas City, but not closer than a hundred miles away. I further limited the results to kids who would’ve been between fifteen and seventeen today. That actually proved tricky because of the way obituaries are worded, and so I ended up using different criteria depending on the year the kid died. I limited the search to kids with obituaries that didn’t list any surviving relatives. Of course, that didn’t guarantee that the kid was an orphan, let alone that there weren’t any relatives, but it was a start. Unfortunately, most obituaries don’t consistently include information on where someone was born, so I had to run a separate search of birth records on the tens of thousands of kids who otherwise met my criteria. I wanted to find a kid who was born hundreds of miles away from where they died so as to minimize the risk of being discovered.

I started making phone calls to county records departments to see if they even had the desired birth certificate. At first, I kept running into situations where I needed to provide information I simply didn’t have, and so I had to pass on those. The first time I found what appeared to be a viable prospect, when they mentioned the need to confirm my blood type, I responded, “That’s O-positive, right?”

“No, we have B-positive,” the clerk responded.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Absolutely,” she replied. “We’ve never had a case where it was recorded wrong. You’d need to provide additional proof before we could give you a copy.” Well, that was that.

Eventually, I did find a kid, Josiah , who would have been sixteen in January, which made him just a little over two years older than me. He’d been born in a small town in Wyoming but lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, when he died four years ago. He, his sister and his parents were all killed in an accident in which they were broadsided by a semitrailer truck while on the way to church. I looked up the story in the local newspaper and noted that the truck driver had fallen asleep at the wheel and ran a red light. He’d been charged with vehicular homicide but killed himself before he could be brought to trial. As far as I was concerned, the fewer loose ends, the better.

Neither the article nor the obituary mentioned any family or survivors, but just to be sure, I did a search under the parents’ names and found a grandmother who had Alzheimer’s and lived in a nursing home in Laramie. Apparently, there were no other living relatives.

That left two critical issues that needed to be checked, and I’d bombed out on them before. First of all was the blood type, so I called the department of records in the town where he was born. I asked what was needed to obtain a duplicate birth certificate and determined it was only a notarized affidavit and payment of a fee. In passing, I confirmed that the blood type was O-positive, and it was! So far so good. The one final thing I needed was to be sure his Social Security number was still active, as it would do me little good to have a valid birth certificate if the kid had a Social Security number but one that had been retired. It took some doing to find this out, but as is often the case, especially when there are no family members to follow up on it, no one had thought to notify the Social Security Administration that he’d passed away. It looked like I had my new identity.

Now, I needed a notary to certify that I was Josiah Joshua. Why the fuck would any parents name their kid that? I suppose he went by the nickname J.J., so I’d better get used to it. The trouble was that no notary was gonna certify my signature without some kind of legitimate ID to begin with. However, Papi probably would know someone who would do it if he vouched for me. That was a lot to ask of the man who’d been like a dad to me for the past several months. I’d already told him about what had happened to me in Missouri – I felt I had to when we were stopped by the police officer. Could I trust him with the knowledge of what had happened in Indiana? Would it destroy the relationship I had with him? Might he even turn me in? I’d already told Greg and Larry back in Springfield and hinted at it to Steve. The more people who knew, the more risk I’d be taking. Still, I felt I had no choice.

He’d be taking quite a risk, and he needed to know why. If anything happened to me in the future and they traced my birth certificate back to where it had been issued, they could then track my copy to the paperwork submitted to get it, and they could track that to the notary who certified it. If they tracked down the notary, they could potentially report Papi as the one who’d vouched for my identity, and then both he and the notary would be in major trouble. The risk would become less and less with time, but it would always be there.

And so it was on a November day that I made a request of the family that had been supporting me. As we were finishing supper, I asked, “I need to talk to all of you. Could we maybe meet in the living room?”

“It sounds pretty serious,” Papi responded.

“It is… I’ve decided I need to tell you about my past, because I will need your help to make a life for myself in the future,” I explained, “but there’s a risk it could be traced back to you and you could go to prison for helping me, for a number of reasons.”

“Simon, you know I’d never push you,” Papi responded. “You don’t have to tell us anything. We’ll help you in any way we can.”

“But I need you to lie for me, in order for me to get a legitimate birth certificate,” I went on. “I need a legitimate identity to be able to get a job, to get a driver’s license or even to get my GED. I can’t ask you to lie on my behalf unless you know why. If it’s too much to ask of you, just say so and I’ll not ask again.”

“No matter what happened, I know you’re not a bad person, Simon,” Papi countered. “If you did something wrong, you did it because you had to. You wouldn’t have done it unless you were in imminent danger.”

“Even murder?” I asked.

“Simon, I know you,” he replied. “You never murdered anyone in your life. If you killed someone, it was in self-defense.”

Nodding my head, I continued, “But helping me forge an identity could put you and your family at risk. I wouldn’t ask you this unless I could think of another way. Let’s go sit in the living room and I’ll explain.”

“Don’t you think it would be better if I don’t know of your past, Simon?” Papi asked. “I think the lawyers call it negación plausible, which I think translates as plausible deniability. If asked, I will swear on a thousand bibles that I knew you for years. Let them try to say otherwise.”

I couldn’t help myself. I cried like a baby as I hugged Papi for all he was worth.

“I need a notary who’s willing to certify my signature under my new name, but I need an adult who’s willing to vouch for me. Without any other documentation of my own, I won’t be able to find a notary who’ll do that unless it’s one who’s willing to do it for a bribe, and I don’t want that sort of thing hanging over my head the rest of my life. Not that I have anything close to the kind of money to offer a bribe.”

Sighing, Papi responded, “I don’t know, Simon. It’s not like being in Witness Protection, where you’d have the full power of the government behind you. There’s a lot that could go wrong. Tell me how you came by this new identity and everything you know about it.” So I did. Papi was surprised at the trouble I’d undergone to find a legitimate identity and was impressed with my skills on the computer. “It’s not perfect, but it’s probably the best you could do under the circumstances. It’s as foolproof as you could make it, which is good enough for me. Besides which, I could never turn my back on you.

“You need to go to college, Simon. It would be a crime for you to spend your life doing what I do. Steve isn’t interested in college, but you have a future. Promise me you will use your new identity to get an education and make something of yourself.”

“It could be a while before I can even think of getting an education,” I cautioned. “Maybe someday, but I have to survive first. I can’t predict when opportunities might arise.”

“Try, Simon,” Papi reiterated. “You must try. All I can ask is that you give it your best.”

Three days later, Papi went with me to a notary in the community that he knew and who trusted him at his word. She didn’t even charge a fee. I walked out of there with a signed, notarized affidavit that I was Josiah Joshua , born on January 6, 2003 in Elk Mountain, Wyoming. In place of my current address, I listed ‘No Fixed Address’, c/o Arturo Rodriguez and sons, Kansas City, Kansas. We then went to the nearest post office and sent the form with a money order for the fee and for extra copies to the county recorder in Wyoming.

It took three weeks for the birth certificates to arrive by mail, by which time a Christmas tree adorned a corner of the living room. One thing I hadn’t even thought to consider when searching for a new identity was race. I suppose I could have claimed to be an African American passing as white, had the certificate listed my race as Negro, but a DNA test would have proven otherwise. What a relief it was when the birth certificate listed my race as Caucasian.

There were three additional pieces of documentation I thought I should have before leaving Kansas and looking for work. Those were a Social Security card, a driver’s license and a GED certificate. The need for a Social Security card was obvious, and a driver’s license was necessary as I’d need a government-issued photo ID. Since I’d soon be passing for sixteen, I figured I might as well get a driver’s license, as it would remove any question of my age. Finally, a GED would make me a high school graduate and capable of getting jobs for which I otherwise wouldn’t qualify. Eventually I might even go to college. I knew I was perfectly capable of passing the exam.

Getting a Social Security card required a trip to the local office, where I needed to present my birth certificate and evidence of my current address. That was a bit tricky as I’d used Papi’s business address in certifying the birth certificate, and even though that address wasn’t on the certificate itself, it was best to stick to the same address for Social Security. However, Papi was paying me under the table, so we couldn’t tell Social Security that it was the address of my employer. What we came up with was that I was a friend of his son and that I’d been thrown out of my house for being gay, so I was staying with the Rodriguez family. They asked Papi if he had guardianship of me, and he indicated that he intended to apply but pointed out that I’d be sixteen in less than a month and could live on my own, anyway. Because I was only requesting a new card and already had an established SSN and had the birth certificate to prove my identity, the request for a new card and change of address were processed on the spot. That evening I was able to set up a login to my Social Security account and print out a copy of my Social Security Card. I received the original card just after New Year’s.

In the meantime, I looked into the requirements to get a driver’s license in Kansas. Ironically, the minimum age for a learner’s permit was fourteen, and I could get a license after having a learner’s permit for a year, so I could even get that at fifteen. It sure wasn’t that way in Indiana, where you couldn’t get a learner’s permit until you were fifteen and couldn’t get a license until you were sixteen-and-a-half. In Kansas, I’d be eligible to get a permit in February with my actual age. Unbelievable. However, the requirements to get a permit and then a license were absurd. I had to have a photo ID; how the fuck was I supposed to get that? I couldn’t even get a passport without a photo ID. Wasn’t that what a driver’s license was for? I also needed to have a parent or guardian go with me to the DMV and sign for me. If it was legal for me to live on my own at sixteen, why did I still need a parent or guardian’s signature?

I went online and looked up the requirements for a learner’s permit and driver’s license in the states nearby. Iowa wasn’t a possibility, because the real J.J. Jeffrey’s had lived and died there. Likewise for Wyoming, since he was born there and still had a grandmother living there. There were multiple states where I could have gone, but the closest was Nebraska. Omaha was only three hours away by car or bus, or a day away by bicycle. To get a learner’s permit and then a license in Nebraska, I only needed to submit a birth certificate, my Social Security card and two proofs of residence, such as a copy of a lease agreement, a bill or an employment form. Once I completed an approved driver’s education course, I could get a provisional driver’s license in six months. I wouldn’t even have to take an exam. It looked like I’d be moving to Nebraska – most likely Omaha, cause that’s where the jobs were.

I looked up the requirements to get my GED and found that the minimum age was eighteen; however, I could take the exam at sixteen if I got a waiver from the local school district. Papi arranged for that through the local high school that Steve attended, so I couldn’t leave Kansas City until I got my GED. I could take the test online with a proctor observing me via a webcam, but there was a sixty-day waiting period and a qualifying test that had to be completed first. Instead, I paid the fees and signed up to take the test at a local testing center, just after my new birthday, in January. I didn’t bother with any exam prep courses or practice exams. I knew I’d pass on the first attempt, even without studying for it.

Christmas was a festive affair in the Rodriguez household, and the whole house smelled of Mamá’s cooking for days in advance of the holiday. Because much of the holiday was spent at Church, we had a huge family feast on Christmas Eve, and then we gave each other presents. Because I had some money now, I was able to buy presents for the first time in my life. I got Papi a fancy bottle of the cologne I knew he wore for special occasions, and I got Mamá a bottle of nice perfume. Steve and I shared a bedroom and sometimes a bed together, and although we’d agreed not to do anything more than oral, we did stuff together just about every day. I didn’t love Steve the way I’d loved Greg, but he’d become my best friend and a brother to me, and so I felt he really deserved something special. The trouble was, I couldn’t afford much. He was a huge KC Royals fan and I’d have loved to have gotten him season tickets, but even the cost of a half-season was prohibitive. There was a holiday promotion of ten tickets for a hundred dollars, and that was something I could afford.

Papi and Mamá loved their presents, but the reaction from Steve was unexpected to say the least. Much as he loved the Royals, he rarely took the time to attend a game, especially since he spent the summer working. He was so excited by the tickets that he kissed me on the lips. He obviously liked his gift. The gift he got me was a hundred-dollar gift certificate to Target. Perhaps I could finally get some clothes that fit me, particularly since I was getting to be too tall for his brother’s old clothes.

When Steve opened his present from his parents, he was rendered speechless. It was a brand-new smartphone, his first ever, and even though it was the cheapest model, it was on the company plan that included unlimited talk, text and data. The total cost for two years was well over a thousand dollars, which was an extraordinary Christmas gift. Steve hugged his dad so tightly, I feared he’d squeeze the life out of him. Then it was time for my present from Mamá and Papi, and I couldn’t help but notice that the size and wrapping paper were the same as on Steve’s phone. My vision blurred as I opened the package to reveal the very same model of smartphone inside. As with Steve’s it was activated on the same company plan. For the second time in the last couple of months, I cried like a baby as I hugged the people who meant so much to me.

We went to midnight mass and then to Church services the next day. It was a small Catholic church that catered to the local Latino community, and services were entirely in Spanish. Papi didn’t like my accent, but it couldn’t be helped. I was mostly self-taught, from reading books rather than from classroom instruction or conversation. At least, I was able to understand the services and to participate. On Christmas Day, everyone brought food to the church, and there was a huge feast in the basement of the church. I’d had a fancy meal with Greg and Larry back in Springfield, but the food served at the Christmas potluck was some of the best I’d ever eaten. I was stuffed by the time we went home that evening.

It was interesting to compare Larry and Greg’s brand of religion with that of the Rodriguez family. As someone who was raised without religion at all, I had an outsider’s viewpoint and could look at both objectively. Both families were deeply religious, yet they couldn’t be more different in how they practiced their religion or in how they treated others.

Larry found comfort in his religion after his wife went to prison, but his religion was so suffocating that it drove Greg away. There was no room for doubt or other viewpoints, and it wasn’t until he nearly lost Greg that Larry realized he had to change or lose his son forever. Even so, although Larry went to a Unitarian Church for his son’s sake, he was unable to consider that religion had become a negative force in his life.

Mamá and Papi also had a gay son and believed in a religion that didn’t accept homosexuality, yet they didn’t let religion define them. Moreover, their church accepted Steve as he was and didn’t judge him, even though it didn’t condone his lifestyle. Their church was central to their lives, but it wasn’t suffocating, and it allowed them to see other people who had other faiths as their equals rather than as souls in need of salvation. Not that I was about to become Catholic, but I felt welcome in their church, even as a nonbeliever. Religion was a positive force in their lives.

That point was driven home when Papi introduced me to a friend of his, Señor Juan Gonzalez, whose brother, Geraldo, was a major general in the U.S. Air Force and one of the deputy directors in the U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, just south of Omaha. Geraldo eschewed on-base housing on Generals’ Row and lived with his wife, three sons and four daughters in a large house in Bellevue, right near the base.

Juan had already contacted his brother on Papi’s behalf, and his brother had agreed to let me live with his family at no cost, until I was on my feet. That would have been phenomenal by itself, but the oldest son, who worked at the nearby Applazon Delivery Station, was willing to help me get a job there. Applazon paid fifteen dollars an hour, plus benefits, which was way better than the minimum wage in Nebraska, which was only nine dollars an hour. The generosity of Papi, his family and his friends seemed to know no bounds.

I wondered how this proposal would interfere with my future, but more so, help in the distancing from my past.

Shortly after ringing in the new year, we celebrated my new birthday. I’d officially turned sixteen. Just after that I took the GED exam and was pretty certain I passed it. Actually, I was pretty certain I aced it, which was confirmed when I got the results and my certificate in the mail. I continued to work for Papi and built up my savings. I had over $15,000, but I had no illusions about how far that would go in the absence of an income. With a birth certificate, a valid SSN and Papi’s assistance, I was able to set up a savings account in my own name, as well as my first-ever checking account. For the time being, they could be traced back to Papi, but once I moved to Omaha, got a job, got my own place and became an adult, at least on paper I’d be able to sever my relationships with the Rodriguez family, further protecting them in the event of my discovery in the future. In the end, the only remaining link would be the application for a replacement birth certificate, found only in a small town in Wyoming, and my temporary address while in Kansas City, which would hopefully be lost to time.

In February I turned fourteen for real and, in the process, passed the one-year anniversary of the incident with my father and my flight from Indiana. I shared the date of my real birthday with no one. That was from another lifetime, one that no longer existed. My subconscious wouldn’t let me forget it, though, as I had yet another nightmare. It was a time of great anxiety for another reason, however, as my GED certificate was the last thing holding me to Kansas City. I knew I needed to leave for the sake not only of my own safety but the Rodriguez’s, but the love I felt for them was telling me I should stay. I wasn’t making a lot of money, but it was tax-free and included room and board. However, then I remembered the incident with the police officer some time back and realized that the next time, we might not be so lucky. I wasn’t the only one who’d be affected by my arrest. I had to think of that, so with trepidation I announced my intent to move to Omaha to accept the Gonzalez’s offer at the beginning of March.

At first, I thought I’d buy a bicycle before I left, as I’d need a means of transportation, and ride it up to Nebraska with all my worldly possessions on my back. Papi quickly nixed that idea, insisting that we would all drive up there together. How could he let me leave on a bicycle when they had a car? Besides, it was the coldest March on record, with temperatures in the single digits. I’d get frostbite if I rode up there on a bicycle.

The night before my departure, I made love to Steve as I’d only done before with Greg. It might have been a stupid thing to do, but I considered it a going away gift to him. In all my time with the Rodriguez family, we’d never done anything more than oral. This time I rode him until we were both depleted. Steve was definitely more of a top, but I doubt he ever considered that a bottom could be so dominant. We ended up sleeping the rest of the night together in his narrow bed. Morning came way to soon.

After a sumptuous breakfast that included all of my favorite Oaxacan dishes, we packed up my meager possessions into a suitcase they gave me because they no longer needed it – or so they told me. We packed up Mamá’s car and drove west on Interstate 70, north on 435, across the Missouri River and then north on Interstate 29. Even though Omaha isn’t that much north of Kansas City in latitude, the difference in climate was striking. Except for a patch of snow here and there in the shadow of trees, the snow was gone in Kansas City. However, as we drove further and further north, we saw increasing amounts of snow along the way. By the time we reached State Highway 370 and the turnoff to cross back over the Missouri River and into Nebraska, the ground was covered with several inches of snow. What a contrast!

The author gratefully acknowledges the invaluable assistance of David of Hope and vwl-rec in editing my stories, as well as Awesome Dude and Gay Authors for hosting them.

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.