Posted September 18, 2021

The Brilliant Boy Billionaire

The Amazing Journey of a Remarkable Kid, by Altimexis

PART SEVEN – Midwestern Medley

The Old St. Louis Courthouse and the Gateway Arch

Chapter 1: Kansas City Blues

With nothing else on my schedule, I asked Jitendra if he wanted me to return to Seattle or maybe help out in the data centers in Omaha while waiting for a decision on the position in New York. Jitendra didn’t mince words. “J.J.,” he began, “I love it that you feel responsible and are willing to go back into the trenches to do your duty to the organization, but your skills are far too valuable to waste on mundane tasks. We have more than enough data-center technicians now, thanks to your pioneering designs that have cut the need dramatically where we’ve installed the new servers. Our problem, now, is one of finding work for the ones we have so that we don’t have to let them go.

“Look, there are still a number of candidates to interview for the directorship, and then it could be weeks after that before they make an offer.”

“I didn’t realize I was being considered for the directorship until I got there,” I responded.

“But you want it, don’t you?” he asked.

“When I went there, I was definitely opposed to the idea,” I replied. “The last thing I wanted was to have to deal with corporate politics. I just wanted to focus on my research. But when I got there and met the assistant director and the others who are working in New York, I realized that Applazon is doing something special there. It’s strange, but, yeah, I really want to be the director. I may be young and in many ways I’m naïve. People will try to take advantage of me, for sure, but I’m not so innocent that I can’t recognize bullshit when I see it. I think the position would be an outstanding fit for me.”

“I do, too,” Jitendra agreed, much to my surprise. “Your appearance is actually a distinct advantage. People don’t expect a young kid to actually know what he’s doing, nor do they expect to get as good as they give. You’ve proven the ability to stand up to those more powerful than you and, remarkably, to call them on their bluffs. You should hear how Jeff talks about you. He values, tremendously, the way you tell him what he needs to hear – not what you think he wants to hear. He trusts you like he trusts only a handful of people, and so do I, but it would do little good to impose Corporate will on the formation of the new A.I. division in New York. It’s up to New York to assemble a working team – one that will gel. The best Corporate can do is to get out of the way lest we gum up the works, which is why it’s up to them to make the decision on whom to hire.

“The decision on additional hires will have to wait until after the new director has accepted the position; then they will need to decide on new hires based on the resumés on hand and decide if they want to conduct their own interviews, most likely by video conference. Don’t expect to hear anything at all before the middle of May at the earliest. Chances are very strong that you’ll get, at the least, a position on the team in New York, but regardless, we need you to be a world-class expert on A.I. You’ve always been adept at online learning, so this would be a great time to work on the equivalent of a Bachelor’s in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence,” Jitendra suggested.

“I’m a step ahead of you there,” I said. “I’ve been studying the world’s body of literature, and I expect to be able to sit for a degree-equivalence exam within a few months.”

“That’s excellent, but I hope you’ll take some time off for yourself, J.J., maybe do some traveling, go hiking with friends,” Jitendra suggested. “You’ve accumulated plenty of PTO that you never used, so you’ve nothing to feel guilty about in using some of it now.”

With a snort, I responded, “What friends? It’s ironic that I made friends with colleagues all over the world, yet there isn’t one of them I’d consider asking to go along on a trip. When I mentioned the possibility of going on a hiking trip this summer at the dinner table the other evening, Henry expressed an interest in going with me. Of course, it would have to be after he graduates high school and then finishes up the online coursework for his degree in mathematics.”

“Henry’s both a brother and a friend,” Jitendra chimed in. “It’ll be good to spend some time together before you move away.”

“And before he starts his graduate studies at M.I.T.,” I added.

“Take your time on our dime. We’ll continue to pay you for as long as it takes for you to finish your studies and to get situated in your new position, wherever it is. If for some reason we don’t hire you in New York, we’ll set you up with a research team in Cupertino. You can count on it. But do let HR know when you’re using PTO days,” he added. “You should take a spring trip, too, I think. You have friends all over the Midwest from what I hear.”

“Just in K.C. and Springfield,” I clarified, “but I do consider them family, and I intend to see them.”

“Make a trip of it,” Jitendra suggested. “See the St. Louis Arch and Memphis, Nashville, Cincinnati and Chicago. If you’re up to it, return to Southern Indiana.”

“That thought’s a bit scary, particularly as someone might still recognize me, and that could open a real can of worms,” I countered. “Still, it might be worth a drive-by, and I would like to see more of the area. Perhaps I’ll do just what you’re suggesting.”

I had a lot of PTO, and there was much I hoped to accomplish during what was left of the spring and summer of 2022, particularly if I was going to move to New York. More than anything else, I wanted to visit the people who’d saved me during my hours of darkest need. I even thought about visiting North Vernon, Indiana, and the area where I grew up, but I wasn’t sure I was ready for that, even if there was very little risk of being recognized. Perhaps I’d drive through the area on my way back home, but that was something I could decide later. I decided to start with a simple trip that included some of the Midwestern and Southern cities I’d never been to before. I plotted a route that took me from Omaha to Kansas City, St. Louis, Springfield, Memphis, Nashville, Mammoth Cave National Park, Louisville, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Toledo, Detroit, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, South Bend, Chicago, Des Moines and back to Omaha.

Depending on how that went, I might take a swing at a hiking trip as a final fling before possibly moving to New York. I had it in mind to try to see all the major national parks from Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, but that might be a bit too ambitious an itinerary for only a few weeks. The Grand Canyon and most of the Utah parks could be better reached by flying to Vegas and renting a car, which was something I could do anytime in the future. A better plan would be to drive to Denver and drive around and hike in the Rockies. Provided I could find charging stations, that was something I could do in my Tesla, and it’d be perfect for a two-week trip.

Henry said he might be interested in going with me, which would be challenging. I could use a companion on a trip like that, and I loved Henry. The problem was I loved him a bit too much. However, what could happen in just two weeks?

<> <> <>

¡Mamá, te ves mucho más joven que la última vez que te vi!” I exclaimed.

“Simon, you speak good Spanish now. I’m impressed!” Mamá said as she engulfed me in her arms. “And younger? I think you need glasses.”

“I’m going by J.J. now,” I reminded her, “but there’s no longer a need for me to run. I’m safe now, and I’ve got a good job.”

“It must be to drive a car like that,” she exclaimed.

“It’s electric,” I explained. “You plug it into a 220-volt outlet, and it charges overnight. Enough to drive 300 miles.”

“No gas? That’s really something, but your electric bills must be high.”

“They let me charge it for free at work, so I wouldn’t know,” I related. “So Papi and Steve are still out on a job, I take it?” I asked.

“They’re always working late these days,” Mamá replied. “Even on Good Friday this year. They have some help now. A lot of people were out of work during the worst of the pandemic, so Papi hired a crew, but there’s so much turnover, and he can’t trust just anyone. Even now he says you did the work of three people.

“So come, help me get dinner ready,” she added. It made me feel fantastic that she asked ’cause it meant she still thought of me as family.

“Everything smells wonderful,” I commented, “but you made so much. Isn’t the dinner on Good Friday supposed to be a simple meal – or even a fast?”

“We may be traditional Catholics,” Mamá answered, “but when a special guest is in town, we need to be flexible. Usually, the men will take Good Friday off and work on Saturday, but this year we reversed it so you and Steve can have tomorrow to spend some time together.”

“You shouldn’t have changed your routine for me,” I admonished Mamá.

“Of course, we should’ve,” she replied. “It’s been nearly three years since you left us, and we haven’t seen you since. This year we have a very special Easter to celebrate. We must feast while you’re here.”

“Well, what can I do to help without getting in the way?” I asked.

“I’m making Caldo de Piedra, so you can get started with that. The soup is already on the stove, but you need to add the stones.”

“The stones?” I asked.

“I guess I never served it while you lived here, but it’s a traditional Oaxacan dish made with tomato, onions and peppers as well as fresh fish,” she explained. “It’s traditionally prepared by the men of the family, which is why we never made it while you were here. I was too busy at work to make it myself, and you were always off with the men during the day. We call it stone soup, but it’s really more of a stew, and what makes it unique is that it’s heated from within using hot stones. I’ve hurried it along by putting it on the stove, but it wouldn’t taste like it’s supposed to without the stones.

“If you open the oven, you’ll see I have some stones heating. Don’t worry about getting diseases from them. They’ve been used for many years and they’re clean and sterile. Just take them out of the oven and carefully add them to the soup. Don’t add them all at once, or it’ll boil over. Add them one stone at a time with the large tongs and wait until the soup stops bubbling before you add the next stone.”

I opened the oven as instructed and use a pair of oven mitts to remove a Dutch oven that was filled with large, highly polished stones that were almost glowing from the heat. When I dropped the first one into the soup, it made a sizzling sound as the soup started to bubble and boil around the stone. Once the bubbling stopped, I added the next stone and then the next stone and so on. The aroma from the soup was incredible. The soup just reached the very top of the pot when I added the last stone. She’d planned it very well, obviously from experience.

“I smell mole negro,” I exclaimed as I finished my task.

“Of course,” Mamá replied. “Authentic tamales Oaxaqueños relleno de mole negro. It’s a very typical Oaxacan dish, banana peel tamales stuffed with black chocolate sauce. I’ve also made entomatadas, that’s Oaxacan cheese-stuffed tortillas, enchiladas de pollo con mole verde and enchiladas de mole rojo y tasajo de ternera.

“Chicken enchiladas with green sauce and enchiladas with red sauce and tasajo beef” I echoed. “It sounds fantastic and smells even better. You’ve prepared a feast.”

“It’s not every day a son returns for a visit,” she replied. I couldn’t help but tear up a bit at that, but those were ‘happy tears’.

I heard the sound of voices outside and then the back door opened and Papi and Steve walked in. Both men engulfed me in their arms and hugged me tightly; Steve even kissed me on the lips. Steve and I, in particular, had kept in touch since I left Kansas, but much less so during the past two years of my gallivanting all over the world. We’d shared a room and sometimes a bed, and although we were never more than friends with benefits, we remained close. More like brothers than boyfriends. He was aware of what had happened with Shaun and was sympathetic to the effect the breakup had had on me at the time.

“How are you holding up, Simon,” he began, but then corrected himself and added, “or rather, J.J.? I know there wasn’t much time after the accident before you started your traveling. I’m worried you might not have had time to grieve. Are you okay?”

With a shrug, I replied, “If anything, I had too much time to grieve. I was busy but had no family to come home to at the end of the day. I came home to an empty hotel room every night, and the breakup is practically all I could think about. I worked through it and came to realize that the accident had poisoned the relationship. I could never recapture what we had, so gradually I let go. I even had some hookups along the way.”

“Good for you,” Steve responded as he punched me gently in the shoulder.

“Why don’t you boys get washed up so we can eat?” Mamá suggested. I liked the way she referred to all of us as ‘boys’, even Papi.

Dinner was outstanding, and the food was amazing, too. Seriously, we ate some of the best food I’d ever had while we caught each other up on what we’d been up to. Papi and Steve had been very busy and had some rather amusing stories of their experiences on some of the jobs they tackled, particularly with respect to the people they hired to assist them. I told about my travels all around the world, the different cultures I encountered and some of the more amusing anecdotes from along the way.

Just when I thought I couldn’t eat another bite, Mamá brought out a large tray of colorful pastries, the likes of which I’d never seen before, not even when I lived with the family.

“Ah, nicualte,” Steve said. “It’s been so long since I’ve had any.”

“That’s because it takes all day to make it,” Mamá responded. “I only make it for the most special of occasions,” she added as she brought out coffee for all of us.

“Now, if only we could get chapulines,” Papi said with a sigh.

“Be happy for what you have,” Mamá replied. “Americans won’t let us sell anything that crawls in the dirt.”

“Chapulines?” I asked, my curiosity peaked.

“Grasshoppers,” Mamá explained. “Insects are a big part of the diet in Oaxaca. Eating them is no different than eating shrimp or lobster, but because those come from the sea, you treat them as a delicacy.”

“But grasshoppers?” I asked.

“They’re crunchy,” Steve related. “Deep fried or grilled with chiles and spices, they’re delicious.”

Scrunching up my face, I responded, “I’ll take your word for it.” Then popping one of the bite-sized confections into my mouth, I was astounded by the explosion of flavor in my mouth. “This is incredible. I’ve never tasted anything like it. It’s corn-based, right?”

“Like most of our breads and pastries,” Mamá confirmed. “Maize came from the Americas. It was Europeans that introduced wheat, barley, rye and rice to our diet. We also gave you the potato. Can you imagine food around the world without the potato?”

“Or coffee,” Steve chimed in as he raised his cup.

“Actually, coffee originated on the Ethiopian plateau,” I said. “It was first cultivated in Yemen. It was cocoa that originated in the Americas. We just won’t mention tobacco.”

“Quitting that was one of the hardest things I ever did,” Papi admitted, “but Mamá wouldn’t let me come to bed at night until I did. She saw what cancer and emphysema did to her clients.”

As we continued to make room for the wonderful pastries and sipped our coffee, I began to tell my Kansas City family the rest of my story. “I have something to tell you,” I began. “Steve knows a bit of what happened to me back in Indiana, and now I can tell the rest of my story to all of you.” I then told them the whole story, from the way I’d been molested all my life to the final discovery of my so-called father’s charred remains.

When I’d finally finished telling my tale, Steve asked, “So now that you know you aren’t in danger of being tracked down for murder, do you think you’ll go back to bein’ Adam again?”

“For one thing, I don’t even know that Adam’s my real name,” I explained. “Actually, it probably isn’t, and I’d just as soon not go back to anything related to the falsified existence with the man I thought was my dad. I don’t even know when my real birthday was. The fact is still that I stole another kid’s identity, and that’s a Federal crime and a felony, and it’s still on me. If I’m ever discovered for it, I could go into juvenile detention, but I doubt anyone will pursue the case, given that my original identity is unknown. The safest and simplest thing is to maintain my current identity, and so J.J. I will remain.”

“Is it possible to track down your birth parents?” Steve asked.

“I don’t know that I want to,” I admitted. “I realize it could bring them closure after all of these years, but it opens a host of issues I’m not ready to face just yet. Maybe someday, but not now.”

“You should do it, J.J.,” Mamá countered. “Maybe not now, but someday. A mother shouldn’t have to go through life always wondering what became of her child.” It was something to think about.

<> <> <>

That night I spent in Steve’s bedroom and much of it in his bed. It had been more than three years since the last time we’d had sex, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. As we undressed and got ready for bed, Steve asked, “So J.J., I got the impression that you’ve gotten over your relationship with Shaun?”

“I’ll probably never truly get over it,” I answered. “I really loved him, and I still do. I’ve wondered if he’d be willing to listen now, but the accident will always be between us, and I don’t know that he’ll ever forgive me for it, even if he eventually comes to accept it wasn’t my fault. I’m sure he’s moved on by now, and so have I.”

“You’ve traveled the world,” Steve asked, “did your experiences include any guys?”

“I had a few hookups,” I answered earnestly. “Some of them were quite memorable, but they were just hookups. I didn’t experience anything that could’ve led to love.”

“So, there’s no boyfriend in the picture?” Steve asked.

“No, and how about you?” I asked a bit nervously.

“Sadly, no,” he replied, “but I’m always looking. Would you be interested in having some fun with me tonight?”

“I’d love nothing more, Steve,” I replied. I stripped out of my boxers and walked over to his bed, my erection leading the way. Steve didn’t hesitate. He grabbed me and took me into his mouth. It was familiar territory, and I moaned as he used his tongue so skillfully to engage the sensitive underside of my member. When I was painfully close, he pulled off of me, stood up and removed his own boxers. I dropped down and did for him what he’d just done for me, bringing him painfully close as well, but it was far too soon. We had hours ahead of us, and when we finally came and came again and maybe again, it would be only at the peak of our arousal.

It was a wild night, but then I awoke during the night, gasping for breath.

“You’re still having nightmares?” Steve asked from the other side of the room.

“Sorry about that,” I replied.

“Please don’t apologize. You ought to get some help, man,” he responded. “Without help, they’ll only get worse.”

“Eventually I’ll have to, but until I’m eighteen for real, there’s too much of a risk of going to jail,” I replied.

Morning came way too soon. Mamá made memales for breakfast as she’d often done in preparation for the start of the workday. I’d forgotten how wonderful her memales were and how much I’d missed them since leaving Kansas City. Afterwards, I took Steve to the Truman Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri. Although he’d lived in Kansas City all his life, he’d never been. The museum had been closed for renovations during the worst of the pandemic and had since reopened. It was really cool seeing history unfold before my eyes like that. We had a fantastic time at the museum.

After the museum, I took Steve out to lunch at Steak ’n Shake for burgers, fries and milkshakes. It had been years since I’d been to one – not since I left Indiana. Steak ’n Shake was a prominent burger chain in the Midwest. There wasn’t one in North Vernon, but the creep I thought was my father liked to eat there whenever we went shopping in Seymour, and I had to admit that I loved eating there, too. It was one of the few normal father-son things we ever did together. During the months I lived and worked with the Rodriguez family, we never ate out even once ’cause Mamá was such a great cook.

There were no Steak ’n Shakes in Omaha, so this was my first time eating in one in years. Steve ordered the Jalapeño Crunch Steakburger 'n Fries, which was a double burger with pepper jack cheese, chipotle mayo, salsa and jalapeños. It sounded incredible, but I had my heart set on my usual Double Butter Steakburger, which was a double cheeseburger with grilled onions and melted butter, and I upgraded to cheese fries. I let Steve have a bite of my burger and he let me have a bite of his, and I had to admit, his was outstanding, but fuck, it was spicy! Their shakes are the best, and I had a Reese’s chocolate-peanut-butter shake, naturally, and Steve had a chocolate-chip-cookie-dough shake.

For Saturday afternoon I took Steve to see sights of Kansas City that I’d dared not visit when I lived there and was at risk of being sent back to detention in Missouri. We saw the Liberty Memorial and World War I Museum for real this time and Union Station, the Airline History Museum and the Arabia Steamboat Museum. That night I took the Rodriguez family out to dinner ’cause I wanted to give Momá a break from cooking. The Rodriguez clan would’ve never gone out to eat unless I took them myself. I could’ve taken them to the finest five-star restaurant in KC, but that would have taken them out of their comfort zone. I knew that wasn’t what they’d have wanted, so I treated them to dinner at one of the better Italian restaurants nearby where they lived. We all ate way too much food and had a wonderful time.

After another night of fun with Steve, we got up on Sunday morning, dressed nicely and went to church for Easter Sunday services. At the reception afterwards, I had a chance to reconnect with Jerry’s brother’s family, whom I hadn’t seen in more than two years. Everyone was dressed in their finest, and the potluck feast at the church was beyond anything I’d ever experienced before. That afternoon, I went back into town and saw the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art and the American Jazz Museum, which was really cool.

The alarm went off very early on Monday morning, but Papi and Steve had a job site to get to, and Mamá had a client to take care of in her job as a nursing assistant. It was just as well, as I had a four-hour drive ahead of me to St. Louis, and at 250 miles, it was just within safe driving range if there were no detours or delays. I’d rigged a temporary level 2 charging station by plugging an adapter into the 220-volt power outlet for the clothes dryer via one of the tiny basement windows. Therefore, the first thing I did, before I took a shower or even emptied my bladder was to go outside in only my briefs to check on the charging status of my Tesla. Fortunately, it was fully charged.

After taking my shower and getting dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, I joined the family for breakfast. Mamá again made memelas for breakfast, which was a most excellent sendoff. After tears and hugs, I was on my way.

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.