Raised garden beds with multi-colored flowers

Naked Gardener

by John S. Lloyd


I picked up my cell phone to read the headlines from the Ann Arbor News. The first page visual showed a crumpled bicycle with the rider lying sprawled on the ground. The traumatic event occurred during Seahorse Challenge Triathlon in Climax, Michigan. The observers told the reporter that the rider started down a steep hill near Battle Creek when his back wheel slid sideways. Apparently he couldn’t right himself, he jumped off, and was hit by one of the pace motor bikes. The article concluded by saying the victim was flown from the site of the accident to University of Michigan Hospitals in Ann Arbor. I closed the phone and took a deep breath thankful that it wasn’t me.

That was six months ago. I’m currently doing my practicum in physical therapy at a rehab facility affiliated with Western Michigan University located near Ann Arbor. At staff rounds one morning the head nurse informed us that we would have a new patient who had been injured in a bicycle accident. She went on to describe that the patient had a major spinal cord injury and suffered a major concussion. I asked the nurse if this rider had been injured about six months ago. She said that she didn’t know where or when the accident occurred but she did know the patient had been in a medically induced coma for a period of time to control the swelling in his brain.

She added that the doctors were optimistic that the patient would walk again but the process would be slow and exhausting. The director of physical therapy had a conference with me and my fellow trainees. He informed us that we would be working with the fellow. He said he had heard from our medical director that we should not hold back. He added that the patient’s therapy probably wouldn’t start for several days to give the patient time to adjust.

Several days later a nurse’s aide wheeled a cute, slim guy into the gym where the equipment was set up. He did not look happy but had deep brown eyes and a two day beard. Even though he was wearing a navy exercise suit he was very thin having lost muscle mass lying in a bed for six months. Before treatment started I established rapport with Bradford, the name at the top of his chart. I said “How you doing?

He surprised me, “Better. The care I received at U of M was extraordinary. I’m happy I don’t have to wear those hospital gowns anymore. I’m not a modest person but my butt was always hanging out.”

I laughed, “You’re right those gowns aren’t flattering. My name is Ty, which is short for Tyrone, something I tell only few people.”

Bradford said, “Hey man let’s get started. I want to be out of here as quickly as I can.” I rolled his wheel chair over to the massage bed. I introduced Bradford to the other student therapists who would be working with him. I stood in front of his locked wheelchair and lifted him onto the bed. He was so light. I supported his shoulders as I laid him prone on the bed. I slowly pushed one leg forward and then the other. The tears running down his face told me he was in pain. He didn’t complain. About halfway through the session Bradford said, “Ty, I’m sorry but I have to use the toilet. Are we finished?”

“Not really, let me get you into our ADA toilet.”

“I’m sorry to ask but I need your help getting onto and off the seat.”

“Sure, let me get you back in the chair.” I pushed him to the toilet and wheeled the chair through the wide doors. I closed the door and lifted him up as he pushed his pants and boxers down. I lowered him onto the toilet. “I’ll leave you to do your business. Pull the cord and I’ll be back.”

“You don’t have to leave. I’ve learned that when you’re crippled you can’t be modest or you’ll spend your life being frustrated as you wait.” I stayed and helped him. We returned to the universal gym and he began arm and shoulder exercises which he could execute competently. At the end of the session his eyes were drooping. As I pushed him back to his room I asked him where he was from. He said, “If you’ve got a couple of minutes I’ll bore you with my story. I assume you know how I was injured.”

I nodded affirmatively and said, “The Climax Triathlon, right?”

“Yep. I grew up in Battle Creek and graduated from high school there. Last year I graduated from Albion College and started my job in IT at Herman Miller Industries in Grand Rapids. That was shortly before the accident. Thank God I qualified for health insurance a week before the accident.” After helping him into bed he continued, “My mother and father moved to California a couple of years ago and encouraged me to come with them. I didn’t want to go because California was their home not mine.”

“Brad, sorry but I have to go. I have another patient. You can tell me more because we have two more sessions tomorrow.”

With his eyes almost closed he whispered, “Ty, see you tomorrow.”

Young man


After I got home from my workout at the LA Fitness gym I looked in the mirror and was thankful that the toned muscles on my six foot frame hadn’t wasted like Brad’s had. I smiled at myself in the mirror determined to help Brad return to what must have been a great body. His eyes sparkled and he had a sweet smile considering what he’d been through. I knew he and I were going to have more than just a patient and therapist relationship.

The next day was the first day of Brad’s forty-five twice-a-day therapy and exercise. Brad’s muscle tone slowly returned. He always got to the physical therapy gym on time. I was one of three regular therapists who worked with him. He made steady progress motivated by his desire to go home. One day when we were finishing I mentioned that I would be leaving. I didn’t realize that he didn’t know I was a University of Western Michigan student doing my required practicum. That afternoon when I finished my shift I brought a six pack of Sam Adams Pale Ale in a cooler bag to his room. He couldn’t stop thanking me for the refreshment. Ours was an emotional but professional farewell as I prepared to return to Kalamazoo for December graduation exercises.

Before I left I asked him where he thought he’d be going after he was discharged. He said, “My grandmother lives in Traverse City and she’s agreed to look after me.” I knew his discharge would happen soon because he was able to walk with a walker to the gym and walk unassisted along the bar rails. He had put on fifteen pounds of muscle mainly in his upper body. He proudly raised his tee shirt and showed me his increasingly defined six pack.

Brad’s information informed my job search. I knew he would continue outpatient physical therapy so I applied and was accepted as a therapist at the Munson Medical Center. In early January Brad was discharged. A couple of days later I sent him a text to see how things were going. He sent a text asking me to call him. When I reached him late in the evening he told me the transfer from Ann Arbor to Traverse City had gone smoothly. He said, “It was a fridge cold day when Grandmother drove to Ann Arbor to pick me up. Her house is a ranch style so I can roll my wheelchair to and from her car. With the snow around I don’t take a chance yet with the walker.” I agreed that was smart.

He said, “A neighbor moved a bed into her den for me. I have to share her bathroom which is the only one in the house. Thankfully the door was wide enough for my wheelchair.” He paused, “Where the hell are you, anyway?”

I laughed, “I thought you’d never ask. I’m in Traverse City. I got a job at Munson.”

“Shit, I start physical therapy at their outpatient center soon. Do you work there?”


I was really tired but Brad wanted to talk so I listened. “My grandmother is sweet but a controlling person who is smothering me. She insists that she drive me to physical therapy. I want to get my car fitted with hand controls.”

He paused and I said almost without thinking, “I’ve got to do something about my car. It’s a 95 Buick LaSabre and it’s falling apart. I had to put two new tires on last week and replace the carburetor. Cost me $300 which I didn’t have. Sorry, I am boring you with my problems.”

“Too bad. Where are you living?”

“That’s another story. When I took the job I planned to rent a small place until I paid off some school debt but not only have I had car problems I had to have $500 of dental work. I’ve been crashing on an old high school friend’s couch. He dropped out of school and started driving over-the-road trucks. I have his place pretty much to myself except on weekends when his girlfriend arrives. She has made it clear that she doesn’t want me around when she is there. Saturday nights I either couch surf someplace or drive home. Listen, Brad, I’m sorry to be unloading on you. You have enough to worry about.”

“Let me ask Grandmother if you could stay here on Saturday nights. There’s an unused bedroom upstairs.”

“That’s OK. I don’t want to be a bother.”

“I’ll let you know when I see you on Monday for treatment.”

“OK, Brad sorry to cut this short. I’ve got to get to bed. That’s one thing I do that doesn’t cost money.”

The following Saturday night I met Brad’s grandmother who was happy to have me over. She thought I could help Brad shower and shave which he didn’t really need. She was correct that he was still unsteady when he walked unassisted. Winter was finally letting go of its grip on Traverse City. Brad had the hand controls put in his car in late March so he could safely drive. The chief therapist knew about my earlier contact with Brad in Ann Arbor so she assigned him to me as a regular outpatient.

One Saturday evening he and I sat on his grandmother’s back stoop as the trees were budding and the fields were beginning to green. The apple blossoms were white and fragrant in his grandmother’s backyard. The cherry trees’ pink buds shimmered in the evening light. My shoulder touched his and I liked that. As far as I could tell Brad saw our relationship only as patient and therapist. He appreciated my friendship and support. I admired his stamina and persistence as he continued to recover. He no longer relied on the wheelchair and the walker which were put away. The first time he came to therapy walking with a cane we applauded. He had every reason to be proud of himself. His muscles were strong and he was steady but he still got tired easily. His need for therapy was less and less and finally the chief therapist suggested that he come in once a week.

Brad informed his boss that he would be able to come back to work soon. His boss assured him he could work from home after he came to Grand Rapids for a reorientation. He was apprehensive driving that far by himself and asked if I could get a day off during the week to go with him. I was able to get a Monday off so we decided to drive down Sunday and stay overnight with his boss paying for our expenses. On the drive back he told me he worked on his computer at home several days a week before the accident. He said he suspended work on his master’s degree in systems design until later. He insisted that he was going to finish his degree.

The Sunday night of our trip was the first night we slept together even though we slept in separate beds. Brad was not shy. He was comfortable being naked with me. That hadn’t happened since the first day he came to therapy and had to use the john. His body was firm; his upper body muscled and his legs were filling out. His dick was much bigger than I remembered it. My body was bigger than his but I couldn’t hold a candle to his penis.

In the morning after breakfast I drove him to the Herman Miller training center so I could have wheels. I was going to have to entertain myself while he was in training. We agreed I would pick him up at four to drive back to Traverse City. He asked me to drive while he slept. When we arrived he invited me to stay overnight which I happily accepted. After a quick bit to eat he went to his room. From my upstairs window I could look out onto the massive space that Brad’s grandmother insisted she was going to plant. A neighbor had tilled her large plot inside her large hedged backyard. With planting time approaching she shared with Brad and me her plan for the garden. After work I broke up the sod and aligned the strings so she was ready to plant. Brad was privately voiced to me that the garden was too big for her. I went over several evenings to help her when I didn’t have baseball practice.

A week later I was working when my cell phone buzzed. I usually let calls go to voice mail but for some reason I looked at the screen and saw it was Brad calling. I answered and heard, “Ty come home. Grandmother collapsed in the garden.”

“I will come as quickly as I can.” The chief therapist understood and took my next two patients. I raced to my car hoping it would start. When I pulled into the drive the ambulance and fire trucks were there with lights flashing. I ran into the house and found Brad sitting in the dining room. ”What happened?”

“I was sitting right at the window and noticed grandmother stagger as she got up from what she was planting. She fell forward. I grabbed my cell phone and called 911. I got to her as quickly as I could. She was smiling and I assured her help was on the way. She was unusually calm and squeezed my hand and said, ‘Bradford, take care of my garden I won’t be able to tend to things. I’ll get back as soon as I can.’ She closed her eyes and those were her last words. The paramedics tried valiantly to revive her but to no avail.” He got up and I hugged him.

I’m normally not much of a talker but knew I had to say something. “What are you going to do? The house and the garden are too much for you.”

His eyes were teary but quickly said, “I’m not going to California.”

I attended her funeral but really didn’t have contact with Brad while his family was around. One evening the following week after watching raving Rachel Maddow I called Brad to see how he was doing. He didn’t answer quickly but when I finally heard ‘Hello,’ I said, “Brad, this is Ty. How ya doing?”

He said, “Hi, what’s up?” Are you calling to change my appointment? Sorry, I was slow answering I was dozing.”

“Brad, I want you to know how sad I am that your grandmother passed away. She was a sweet lady and I enjoyed getting to know her. But that’s not the reason I’m calling. I was wondering if you would be interested in having me as a housemate. I know you’ve got a lot going on so I hope you don’t think my inquiry is inappropriate.”

“I hadn’t thought about it but you know there’s certainly plenty of room. Where are you right now?”

“Same place. I’m still sleeping on my friend’s couch. But my buddy’s girlfriend wants me out. If you agree I could help you with the garden.”

“Why don’t you come over so we can discuss it.”

“How about tomorrow after I get off at three?”

The next afternoon was warm and sunny. I gently knocked. He greeted me in a tee shirt and shorts with a welcoming handshake which was our normal greeting. He seemed nervous and he shouldn’t have been since he knew me well. “I hope you didn’t mind me calling you?

“No, I’m happy you did. I’ve been thinking about your request. You know there’s plenty of room. I’m planning on moving into grandmother’s room but haven’t gotten around to cleaning out her things. I suggest you stay in my room which used to be the study. We can make the living room a TV room. Let’s go sit on the back stoop and have a beer.”

With a long neck bottle in hand we looked out at the garden. I spoke the obvious, “Whoa, what are you going to do about the garden!”

“You can see that Grandmother hadn’t finished planting when she had her heart attack.” He paused and sighed.

“Is there something wrong?’

“Her last request was for me to keep her garden. I have thought often about her request and don’t know how I can do it myself. I have trouble being on my knees very long.”

“I can do that for you, perhaps, in lieu of some rent. I’m really short of money.”

“That’s fine but there’s more I need to tell you.” He took a long swig of his beer. “When her will was read she left me her house and her assets which amounted to several hundred thousand dollars. I was surprised and my mother and father were irritated. They tried to convince me to sell the house and move to California. I’m happy in my job and insisted that I was staying in Michigan. After the funeral with everyone gone the house and garden seem like a huge responsibility. My walking is getting better even though I get tired. I want to prove to my parents that I made the right decision.”

“I love to garden. That’s what I did all summer growing up on our farm in northern Indiana. You know we’re late getting the garden in.” That was all I said and got up to look more closely at what had been done. Brad and I walked out to the edge of the tilled soil. Brad recounted his grandmother’s plan but I knew we had to modify it. I decided that two-thirds of a smaller space would be planted in vegetables. We would have a herb patch and remainder we’d plant in dahlias, gladiolus and other annuals which could be cut. I started planting the remaining rows of the garden the next day.

Brad gathered his grandmother’s clothes and took them to Goodwill. He also boxed up her jewelry and knickknacks and took them to the basement. I moved in the following Friday evening. Most afternoons and all day Saturday I worked in the garden. Brad was always there with me but did the jobs he could do standing or bending at the waist. As it got warmer I wore less and less finally one day when Brad was inside working I got naked except for my boots. When he opened the back door and saw me he smiled and didn’t say anything so I kept weeding.

When I took a break to have a beer on the patio Brad said, “Do you garden naked often?”

I said, “I think I need sun screen. Will you apply some for me?” Brad blushed but didn’t refuse my request. He spread the cream on my shoulders, down my back and butt. I said, “I hope you’re not upset. Your backyard is pretty private. I was really sweaty.”

“No you’ve got a great body and I see no reason to hide it. I may join you.”

“I’m not naked outside as often as I would like because it’s not warm enough this far north. There are only few places you can be comfortably nude outside around here. Growing up on our farm in Indiana I would strip my clothes off if the house was empty. Unfortunately, my grandmother rarely left the house. Sometimes when I was working way down in the garden I would be naked. I know she knew but she never said anything. We had a lake which was really a pond fed by a spring. The water was cool and clear most of the time. My brother and I would skinny dip in the summer. He was four years older than me so wasn’t around much after he went to high school.

“When he was gone I swam alone. I never invited any of my friends to swim with me because I was concerned that they would think I was weird. Occasionally, my dad’s brother, Harry, would swim with me. We’d skinny dipped but he told me not to tell anyone. I never understood why until he got in trouble with the police for touching a younger kid. He never did anything to me other than toss me in the air and chase me.”

I sat listening as my dick decided to inflate. Brad said, “Aren’t you concerned the kid next door will see you?”

“Is that his room up on the second floor? I see him watching when I’m gardening. I didn’t care. Let’s get back to work.”

Brad stripped off his clothes and said, “Would you put some sun screen on my back and butt? The sun is really intense today.” I was happy to comply with his request. He started hoeing the green beans row. He could do that standing. What he couldn’t do yet was get up and down without assistance. I had knee pads on as he followed me down the row. I could feel my asshole wink at him as my butt cheeks spread.

An hour later we returned the tools to the new shed and greenhouse his grandmother built in the corner near the front hedge. We rinsed off at the outdoor shower we rigged up with a hose. The water was cold.

Summer vegetable garden

Summer Garden

As summer progressed the garden began producing tomatoes, bunches of lettuce and green beans. I learned to make bruschetta with our own tomatoes and basil but we didn’t grow garlic since it would be late in the fall before that would be ready. Brad bought garlic and other vegetables at the farmer’s market starting on Tuesday after the July 4th holiday. He frequented a young, French couple’s bread stand to buy their authentic baguettes. He infrequently bought local meat. He and I both refused to refer to the meat as organic since we concluded that term had more to do with marketing than authenticity.

Inside the house Brad and I casually dressed in tee shirts and boxers. Neither of us was shy when it came to sharing the bathroom. We rarely closed the door even when one of us was masturbating. Brad became more comfortable gardening naked. Neither of us had a problem being nude while we were cooking or watching television. He didn’t pull away when I put my arm around his shoulder on the couch but he didn’t seem to be interested beyond that. Our touches were brotherly rather than romantic which was disappointing. I wasn’t willing to make the first move.

We saw our neighbors to the north infrequently because their house was quite a distance away. However, our neighbors to the south were close in a rented Cape Cod style house. We shared the driveway. The renters were an Arab couple with one son that we were aware of. The father worked at the hospital in the lab and the mother was a teacher’s helper. The son, Khali, was a late high school student. The boy’s upstairs bedroom window allowed him to view into our backyard.

Man using outdoor shower

Outside Shower

Brad and I discussed what to do since I wasn’t inclined to put clothes on to garden. Our original plan included fencing the backyard with high privacy fence which allowed less view of the backyard. We installed a screened gazebo around a new hot tub that Brad bought with his inheritance money.

We rigged up an outdoor hot water shower which was attached to the wall near the basement door. By the time everything was completed and it was late July. The garden was bountiful to such an extent we offered produce to neighbors and friends. Khali’s parents were particularly appreciative of our gifts.

Brad and I decided to invite Khali to mow the front yard and small amount of backyard that wasn’t covered by the gazebo. We mischievously wanted to see what he did when he came directly on us naked in the garden. Was he gay or just curious? We were tired of having our privacy figuratively invaded. The second time Khali mowed Brad joined me naked in the garden before Khali finished in the front.

Young man mowing grass

Khali Mowing

When he finished he pulled the mower through side gate and didn’t immediately notice us in the back garden. I saw him stop at the hedge opening and look in. He turned away abruptly and kept mowing. I walked through the gate and Khali stopped. Brad followed me as I gingerly confronted Khali, “You can look at us. We don’t mind. What we don’t like is you spying on us.” Khali eyes teared up and he started to step away. I caught his arm. “Khali, I didn’t mean to scare you. Come into the gazebo so we can talk.” After turning off the mower he followed us inside while we wrapped ourselves in towels.

Once inside we sat on the hot tub cover and Khali said, “I apologize I spied on you. You’re both so beautiful. I’m gay. I’m concerned my father will find out.”

I said, “We appreciate your honesty. You can come over as often as you want to. I’m like you I like to look at Brad naked or clothed.” Brad looked surprised because he had never heard me say anything like that before.” He looked at me and smiled. “I fell for Brad when he came for physical therapy the first day.”

Brad stammered, “Thanks, Ty. I fell for you, too.”

Khali became a regular visitor. With his parent’s agreement we hired him to clean the house and cook occasionally. He didn’t tell his parents we wanted him to clean the house in his underpants or less. He was shy at first but after a couple of visits he was mostly naked when he cleaned.

In early August Khali came over with his big brown eyes red like he had been crying. Brad and I were sitting in the gazebo having a beer. He burst in and said, “My father accepted a new position as lab manager in Kalamazoo so we’ve going to move. I don’t want to leave.” Brad told him to calm down.

A couple of days later with Khali’s encouragement we approached Khali’s father with a bag of produce. As we stood in the driveway we told him what a responsible, pleasant young man Khali was. Brad suggested he live with us so he could finish high school in Traverse City. Khali’s father admitted he was concerned about uprooting Khali before his senior year. We thought his parents might react negatively to their son living with two young, single men. His father said he and his wife would discuss the situation with Khali and let us know. I saw Khali’s father at the hospital in the cafeteria the next day. He waved me over and told me he and his wife agreed to let Khali stay if he would take the bus regularly to see them. I invited them over to see the small bedroom we had ready for Khali. They didn’t seem concerned that there was only one bathroom.

Moving day came in early September. We helped Khali’s parents finish packing their car. All three of them were crying as Khali’s parents got into the car. We stood close to Khali as his parents drove away. We pulled him into a hug after they were out of site. Khali was quiet during our first dinner. He left immediately after the dishes were washed to do his homework.

Young man carrying laundry basket

Brad Doing the Laundry

We saw each other in the bathroom every morning. Khali was up early to catch the bus and I was scheduled at the outpatient clinic at eight which was in a different direction. Brad did the laundry, did the shopping at the farmer’s market and planned our menus. Brad told me his boss was pleased with his work even though he hadn’t been to Grand Rapids since his orientation. There was a two day conference he was required to attend but he was confident he could drive himself down and back.

During a violent lightning and thunder storm one night after Khali had been with us for a month I heard the stairs squeak. I waited. Khali lightly touched my shoulder, “Ty, I’m frightened. Can I get in bed with you?” In the dim light I pulled back the covers exposing my naked body. Khali climbed right in and huddled close to me. I immediately got hard but he was asleep. Brad must have heard our voices and stood at the door. Without a word he climbed in and spooned Khali. From that night on we slept together but moved to Brad’s bed because it was wider. Brad decided a king size bed would be more comfortable so he bought not only the mattress and box springs but also a carved wooden headboard. He bought new pillows and sheets and a down comforter. That led to a decision to buy matching chests for our clothes. Brad and Khali were the same size but I was bigger and had a separate chest of drawers for my things.

Without prompting Khali began to prepare our evening meals. His menus included the last of the summer vegetables and lots of fall fruit and root vegetables. When he wasn’t in the kitchen or doing homework he was busy at school where he ran cross country. Brad was on the computer day and night. I was concerned that Brad wasn’t doing his exercises regularly. In an off-hand conversation at dinner he told us he had been promoted and got a raise. He deprecated himself claiming he didn’t deserve it.

I would have been happy with any raise but what I got was an invitation to become my gym workout buddy’s trainer. Our working together led to more men and women wanting me to coach them. I was literally working from morning until most nights at eight. I got a break when the Christmas holidays had arrived. The three of us went our separate ways. I went to visit my grandmother at her farm in northern Indiana; Brad flew to California and Khali went to his grandparent’s home in Detroit. The stream of relatives at my grandmothers never seemed to stop. I was happy to be on the road back to Traverse City. I was horny since I hadn’t had any sex except hand sex for a long time.

Young man standing in kitchen

Khali in the Kitchen

After the holidays I noticed something was different about Khali. It wasn’t bad or good just different. Early on our first Sunday to sleep in the grey light of morning was coming through the window. I felt a warm hand on my stomach moving toward my cock. I wasn’t fully awake and assumed I was dreaming. The feeling didn’t stop. I felt a hand wrap around my awakening cock. I opened my eyes to find Khali looking at me. I noticed his other hand was in the same position on Brad’s covered mid-section. I let out an audible sigh. “I like that?” I said nothing else as he slipped his hand up and down my shaft.

Brad interjected, “Wait a minute.” Khali pulled his hands away. “I didn’t mean for you to stop,” He didn’t mean to upset Khali but said, “We have to have some rules.”

“Why?” Khali protested.

“Because you’re young and we’re not.”

“That doesn’t matter I can love someone older than me.”

“Sex and love aren’t the same things.”

Khali answered sharply, “OK, I’ll have sex now and love you later.” We laughed as we threw off the covers. Khali proceeded to deep kiss Brad who hugged him tightly. I got to finger his cute young ass before he turned to me for a kiss. Our intense sexual activities started that morning. Quickly our sex became more adventuresome and intense. When the three of us were in bed together we didn’t mind if only two of us were actively engaged in sex. Watching can be as sensual as participating. Our liking grew into genuine love for each other.

Our challenge was Brad because he was most comfortable on all fours so was most often the bottom. Khali long slender dick and my beer can dick had a welcoming destination. Khali wanted me to do to him the same way but it was really painful for him the first couple of times I was the perpetrator. He became demanding. Brad never asked for anything in particular so I frequently straddled him as he impaled me and Khali would lay his head on Brad’s stomach and suck me off. I loved that all three of us were involved but I got the best part.

Work and school continued and at our infrequent dinners we discussed plans for the garden. With Khali’s high school graduation approaching we decided to invite Khali’s parents to stay with us. We would give them our bedroom and we would sleep upstairs or in the den. Khali was surprised when they accepted. We decided to have a party the day after graduation even though Khali had only a few people he wanted to invite. The guest list grew as Khali’s parents added names to the list. I had work and gym friends. Brad, being a loner, could only think of inviting his two best friends, me and Khali.

On the evening before Khali’s parents drove up from Kalamazoo Khali brought up the question of his career. He was sure his parents were going to ask. We had several discussions about college during the winter but he really didn’t seem that interested. We were well aware of his natural ability in the kitchen. His culinary skill became evident to his parents during their visit as Khali prepared food for the party. Our dining table was filled with Arabic and western hors d’oeuvres. A favorite was his crabmeat salad on top of a cherry tomato half on crispy, thin bread.

The morning after the party Khali’s father suggested that he consider the culinary program at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. We knew Khali didn’t want to move back into his parent’s home even though Western Michigan had a well regarded culinary program. We knew Khali was not ready to confront the gay issue with his parents. After lengthy conversation his father agreed to help him pay for the culinary program at our local community college but insisted that he get a job to help pay some of his expenses.

After Khali’s parents drove off the three of us put on work clothes and went out to the garden to ready it for planting. We had agreed wearing anything or nothing was up to the gardener. Khali looked up at the dormer and stopped. I said, “What’s up?”

“Someone is looking out of my window.” Brad and I looked and didn’t see anyone.

“No one has rented have they?”

“As far as I know they haven’t. We don’t’ have to worry because the fence and hedge hide us pretty well. With that we went back to work the rest of that afternoon and every evening after work. We sprayed the apple and cherry trees so the fruit would not be worm damaged. The first lettuce and scallions came in early June followed later by tomatoes, green beans and squash. The herbs were doing well. Corn didn’t get enough sun so we planted squash and melons under the under developed cornstalks. With three gardeners the garden was abundant with vegetables. Khali’s meals became more and more diverse. Brad helped in the kitchen more than he had before.

With our fresh vegetables or those Brad bought the farmer’s market Khali prepared not only spicy Arabic dishes but also delicious dishes with grass fed meat from the farmer’s market. Khali had no interest in alcohol but Ty and Brad enjoyed our nightly glasses of wine in the hot tub after Khali fixed dinner.

Our sexual activities continued regularly with increasing intensity but sex didn’t define our relationship. Khali at eighteen pushed both of us. Brad and I enjoyed Khali’s youthful energy. We had our preferences. Khali, needless to say, was for sex anyway and anytime. Brad complained that being a top was difficult for him and painful for him even though he appeared physically healed.

Our parting gesture when one of us was leaving the house for work or school was a genuine hug and kiss. I loved that gesture but so did my two best friends. By mid-July we could not eat all that we were growing. We discussed selling some of our produce at the local farmer’s market. That meant one of us, usually me, had to get up at 4am and get our stall set up. We, like the other vendors, saw brisk business not only from the locals but also the myriad of summer visitors.

Young man standing behind display of fruit and vegetables

Brad at the Farmer's Market

Brad would run the stand starting at eight when I had to go to work. Cooks from the big sailing and motor boats often loaded baskets with fresh vegetables and in late August with our fruit. When the market closed October 1 Khali announced that we had made over $2000. That was plenty to pay Khali’s tuition.

With the holidays approaching I invited Brad and Khali’s family for Thanksgiving at my grandparent’s farm. Grandmother was totally pleased and encouraged Khali to do as much of the cooking as he wanted to. We traveled on Tuesday evening after Khali got home. Early the next morning Khali was in the kitchen with Shirley, my grandmother, prepping the food. Grandmother was always observant and more than anyone recognized our relationship and was totally happy not only for me but also for Khali and Brad. She and Khali fixed a traditional Thanksgiving dinner of roasted turkey; walnut-apple dressing with a touch of cardamom; old fashioned sweet potatoes dripping with butter and brown sugar, pickled beets and peaches from our garden; green beans with onions and bacon and spicy cranberry sauce. Desserts were chocolate pecan pie, sour Shaker lemon pie with vanilla ice cream and not-so-traditional baklava made with honey and nuts which Khali had prepared at home. There was wine for the westerners and juice for everyone else. At the end of the dinner I proposed a toast to our chefs. They stood and took bows. Khali’s face was beaming and grandmother’s smile went from one ear to the other.

Soon after Thanksgiving Khali came home from school smiling and told us he had been asked by one of his instructors, the executive chef at the local country club, to assist during the holidays. Brad and I were so proud of him. I had more coaching clients than I could accept. That left Brad at home alone so he told me and Khali he was going to start renovating of our basement into a proper man cave and laundry room.

Not only did he design a cave with large flat screen television but also installed three theater-like recliners for watching together. For Brad the best part was getting a new, reliable washer and dryer something he had hadn’t since he had the job of washing and drying our clothes. A finished man cave with direct access to the outside would be a great selling point if Brad ever wanted to sell the house and get something bigger. I felt sure we would be there forever but didn’t tell him.

After the Christmas and New Year’s observance came and went. Brad’s IT project work picked up; I started a boot camp class at the gym and Khali continued at the country club on weekends. The only time we saw each other was in bed at night. Sunday mornings were still reserved for play time in the bedroom.

From the culinary magazines that Khali subscribed to I got the idea of showing not only at the farmer’s market but also starting a summer vegetarian restaurant. Khali and Brad both thought that was too much work. I continued to push the idea but I couldn’t get them to agree. Brad approached the farmer’s market committee and city health officials to see if we could sell prepared food. Getting them to agree wasn’t too hard because fresh bread, cookies and cakes were already available at the market. I announced that I wanted to rush the growing season by planting a big garden at my grandparent’s home in northern Indiana. Khali thought it was a good idea. As soon as spring came to Northern Indiana that meant Saturday and Sunday would be planting. We would begin three weeks earlier than we could plant in Traverse City. Our hope was that we would have asparagus and rhubarb from our perennial plants for the first time before we completely planted the Traverse City garden.

The basement project was finished in early March and we decided to have a few friends over. Khali fixed tasty hors d’oeuvres for the dozen or so people to celebrate with us. The first weekend in April the three of us loaded into my recently purchased pre-owned Rava and headed toward the farm. Grandmother was happy to see us and insisted that we sleep together in her room with the biggest bed. We agreed. She didn’t ask any questions but seemed totally happy we were there to plant a garden. The garden would be three times larger than ours in Traverse City. I got on the tractor with the tiller and plowed the soil which turned over easily. Khali and Brad watched as I broke up the clods and smoothed the soil. Khali and I were soon on our hands and knees planting onions, hoping to get some green onions around Memorial Day; broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, lettuce and spinach, which we would thin so the baby seedlings would be about 6″ apart. We started those in our tiny greenhouse at Brad’s. While Brad couldn’t kneel for long he built the trellises for the climbing plants - beans, cucumbers, and peas. We had to wait until later to put in the tomato plants.

I had to build a wire fence around the plants or the rabbits would eat them in one night. That required a trip to the hardware store. By mid-afternoon we had done all we could accomplish. Grandmother came to check on our work. She said she would water and make sure the fence stayed in place.

We went back to the house where she insisted that we undress on the back porch so she could put our clothes in the washing machine. We traipsed through the house in our underwear to shower and clean up for a wonderful dinner she had fixed for us. During dinner Grandmother said to me, “Ty are you going to garden like you used too?”

I looked at her in disbelief and smiled, “If you mean in the buff, I hope so.”

“Do as you wish because I don’t mind seeing shiny white butts in my garden.” There was nervous laughter around the table.

The three of us went to Indiana to work in the garden for the next three weekends. We weren’t naked because it was cool. The last Saturday which was quite warm Grandmother came out to the garden said, “You boys should get an all over tan but make sure you use plenty of sun screen.”

Khali smiled at her and said, “You mean naked.”

She smiled, “Khali, Ty used to be naked in my garden when he was younger. He thought I didn’t know. Be comfortable but be careful. Besides seeing three beautiful boy bodies is good for an old woman’s mental health.” We laughed with her and followed her suggestion on Sunday. When we left I confirmed that she would water. I suggested paying her but she refused and acted insulted.

Young man standing by garden bed

Brad in his Grandmother's Garden

After the Indiana garden was in we focused on our garden in Traverse City starting the second week of May. In addition to vegetables and herbs we planted flowers for cutting. Brad took responsibility for that garden. I would tend the garden in Indiana. Brad stayed in Traverse City as Khali and I started going back and forth to Indiana. When we finished our work we were not shy about having sex in Grandmother’s bed. I insisted that Khali not be as loud as he usually was when he was being penetrated. He really loved to be the bottom.

After a couple of trips he decided to stay back and help Brad. I assumed they had their private time together which was fine with me. Khali confided in me that Brad seemed to have lost interest sex or found it too uncomfortable.

When the Traverse City farmer’s market opened in mid-May we decided to wait until we had our own vegetables to sell. Since we didn’t have our fresh vegetables Khali prepared eight vegetarian casseroles which were sold by mid-morning. The next week the same thing happened to the twelve casseroles he prepared. I drove to Grand Rapids weekly to the large wholesale market for vegetables and herbs based on Khali’s grocery list. I took a leave of absence from the clinic to tend the rapidly growing garden in Indiana and to continue my boot camps which were producing good income.

The Indiana garden needed more tending than I could do Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. I posted a one page hand written notice in the local grocery store. I wrote that I wanted students who would be willing to tend the garden more regularly than I could. The notice couldn’t have been up more than an hour when I got a call on my cell from a fellow named Fred who said he and his roommate would like to do the work. I invited them out that afternoon to see if they knew anything about gardening. Fred seemed to understand and said they’d weed and water twice weekly.

Three young men working in garden

Ty, Fred and Jim in the Indiana Garden

They would work with me on the weekend. In early June the weather was extremely hot so to their surprise I completely undressed. Without another word both of them got naked with me and we weeded.

After we finished and were sweaty I invited them to join me in the pond to cool off. Fred jumped me and I felt his hand slid down my body and grab my dick. The three of us splashed around before quickly getting out because the water was cold. Before the water was dry on our backs we were giving each other blowjobs. This happened on a weekend when Grandmother was away at my parent’s home in South Bend. I invited Fred and Jim to join me in the house. They were both great kissers something I missed in my relationship with Brad and Khali. The sex was really physical and I really liked the physicality of the sex. Unfortunately, skinny dipping together happened only one more time before they had to return to college out of state. I realized that I really missed the rough and tumble sex I had with those guys.

After the farmer’s market closed in early October Khali and I winterized the Indiana garden. On the drive to Indiana I mentioned that I really liked offering the boot camps and was considering stopping physical therapy. I told him I had applied for several assistant physical trainer positions but asked him not to say anything to Brad. I told him about being with Fred and Jim. He asked me why I liked being with them so much. I told him about kissing them and my desire to have rough sex. That night at Grandmothers he relaxed, began kissing me with passion that I had not felt before. We had glorious fucking all night. When we got back to Traverse City we needed a rest not only from the activities of the hectic summer which were psychologically and financially successful but also from our sexual debauchery.

One night at dinner Khali suggested the possibility of living in Michigan in the summer and Florida in the winter. Khali hated the snowy cold weather and Brad, I felt, was too cautious regarding the ice. I was cool to the idea but agreed to go to Ft. Lauderdale in late February for a week.

Immediately before Thanksgiving Khali went to his parent’s home in Kalamazoo and told his parents he was gay and in a relationship with Brad and me. He told us his parents were not happy but they weren’t surprised. Even though they didn’t like the news they graciously invited the three of us to spend the Thanksgiving holiday in Kalamazoo. The reaction of Khali’s older relatives was obviously not approving but his grandparents were totally supportive. His parents were pleasant but subdued. Khali fixed the major portion of the dinner which was received to rave reviews from his relatives.

When we were back in Traverse City I continued doing physical therapy and personal training. I heard nothing from any of the colleges where I sent my resume. Khali was getting catering requests for the upcoming holidays. Khali loved cooking for his growing catering client list. Brad planned our trip to Florida. In my spare moments I was planning the gardens while sweating at my boot camps.

Shortly after Christmas letters arrived from two different colleges. Khali slipped the two letters to me without Brad noticing. I told Khali and Brad I had to go to Grandmother’s supposedly to finish winterizing the garden. Brad volunteered to go with me but I encouraged him to stay and help Khali who was catering an important local event. While Khali knew I was going for job interviews I felt bad not telling Brad the truth. I had job interviews for assistant athletic trainer positions at Norte Dame and St. Mary’s. Both interviews went well because the coaches who interviewed me were interested in my physical therapy background. When I got back home I had to tell Brad what I was doing.

While I was at Grandmother’s things got more complicated. I received a text from Fred that he was home for the Martin Luther King holiday. He had no idea I was at Grandmother’s. He invited me to come over to his house in Portage since his parents were out of town. I told Grandmother about the interviews and she was excited that I might be living close to her. I told her I was spending the night with Fred in Portage. She looked at me skeptically but didn’t say anything. My night with Fred became two nights. There was not an orifice on either of our bodies that wasn’t bright red on Monday morning when I drove to Traverse City. Without really thinking of the consequences I invited Fred to join us in Ft. Lauderdale in February. Fortunately the dates coincided with his winter break.

I arrived home and asked Brad to make reservations for two adjoining rooms at the Grand Resort in Ft. Lauderdale. I said, “One of the guys who helped me in the garden last summer wants to come with us. You don’t mind do you?”

Brad frowned and said, “I thought this was our trip.”

“It is our trip but, I think, you will like Fred. He’s a sweet guy.”

“I guess that means you don’t like Khali and me as much anymore.”

“That’s not true.” Even though it was true. I had to be honest that Brad’s increasing resistance to sex put me off. I didn’t tell him that my sex with Khali had improved. But Khali was always so busy. Brad agreed to make reservations for two rooms.

A month passed and I hadn’t heard anything back from either college. When we left the house thermometer set at 55 degrees We drove to the Detroit airport and six hours later we were taking off layers of clothes in warm, moist Florida. On the plane Khali was happy and unconcerned as he played games on his cell phone and listened to music on his headset. Fred and I sat across the aisle from Brad and chatted quietly when we weren’t dozing. I couldn’t help but wonder what Brad was thinking. Everything about the trip was fun. We went either to the beach or sat by the clothing optional pool everyday. At night we ate at one burger place or another except for the night we walked two miles to a Greek restaurant called the Parthenon. Khali insisted we each order something different so he could taste each one. Fred flew back to college when the three of us returned to Traverse City.

When we got home everything seemed to happen at once. The letterbox held offer letters from both colleges. Brad had a letter from his boss suggesting in a firm but nice way that he had to move to Grand Rapids. He had to be in the office more frequently which meant he wasn’t going to be able to tend the garden as closely. Two days later my mother called to tell me that Grandmother had decided to move to a senior citizen’s residence in South Bend. She wanted to know if I planned to plant the garden. I surprised her with my news about my job offerings. She was excited and knew Grandmother would be.

About the same time Khali announced that he was going to enter a cooking contest in Grand Rapids sponsored by the Alticor Company. It was going to be videotaped for a local cable television station. He said the contest was similar to those on cable TV where contestants are given a set of ingredients and a set time to do something creative. He told us there would be a studio audience so we could attend if we wanted to. Both Brad and I heartily encouraged him. He practiced over the next couple of weeks with either Brad or me suggesting the ingredients. Sometimes it was poultry; sometimes vegetables or spices and sometimes fruit and dairy. Needless to say the variety was interesting and for the most part tasty and appealing. He did his best with vegetables and spices. His poultry dishes were outstanding. He didn’t like cooking pork.

The contest was scheduled for April immediately after Easter. We drove with him to Grand Rapids and got a hotel near the venue which was an auditorium at Big Rapids University. Alticor had outfitted the main stage as a top flight kitchen the envy of any fancy restaurant. There were twelve contestants each nominated by their college or cooking school. There were to be four flights of three chefs each followed by a final round of the winners of their respective heats.

The audience could see close up the cooking process on big screen TV’s in the auditorium. The first heat took all morning because each flight was forty-five minutes with fifteen minutes for clean up and prep for the next round. The ingredients in Khali’s round were egg plant, cherry tomatoes, apricots and anchovies. Brad and I looked at each other and smiled because we knew what Khali would be making since he made something similar for us about two weeks ago. We were not surprised when his dish was chosen the winner of his heat.

The winner’s round was different because the four remaining contestants got chicken, pork, grapefruit, watermelon and cumin. I wondered what Khali would do. We could see on the screen the four chefs were working feverishly. The clock was ticking as Khali got the pork in the oven and started sautéing the chicken in a broth with some spices. We couldn’t tell which spices he used. When he seemed satisfied with the chicken he added the grapefruit and watermelon with what looked like thai basil and garlic. He added some cornstarch to thicken which I knew the judges would not like. When he presented his plate he had his pork chop nestled in a bed of the Thai-style chicken gravy accented with watermelon, grapefruit and parsley.

I watched nervously as the judges tasted each dish with the contestants standing before them. After the tasting the contestants were dismissed to a room off stage. The judges started their commentary for the benefit of the audience. About Khali’s dish they were generally complimentary except one judge who said it lacked sweetness because the grapefruit overpowered the watermelon. When the contestants returned the judges gave brief comments about each dish. Rather than name one winner they gave awards for first, second, third and fourth. Khali took second. We could see his disappointed face. I thought he should be happy. He was quiet driving home until he said, “I knew I should have added some honey and cayenne pepper. I knew it was too bland. I’m so stupid.”

“What do you mean you did great.”

“I should have won.”

“I’m sure there will be other contests.”

“I know I have already entered two more in the next two months. One is in South Bend, near Grandmother’s farm and one in Chicago sponsored by Nestle.” I was surprised since he had never spoken about these contests. Brad didn’t comment as he contemplated his move to Grand Rapids. While we were in Grand Rapids he checked out three houses advertising a room to rent. He reluctantly decided on the one closest to his office in an older home owned by an elderly gentlemen. The price was right but the house smelled of cigar smoke even though the man said he no longer smoked.

Khali and Brad knew of my job offers but I hadn’t said which one I was going to accept because the offers were different. St. Mary’s offered a smaller salary but said I could earn outside income which meant I could continue to organize my boot camps. Notre Dame offered more money but was much more specific about what extra time I would have to coach. My father called to see if I had made my decision. When I told him I had to do that soon he asked if I was planning to live at the farm and plant a garden.

I said, “Fred and I plan to sell vegetables for the Traverse City farmer’s market. Once the growing season gets going he or I will drive up twice a week with produce.” When this plan was discussed with Khali and Brad neither was able to commit to manning the farmer’s market booth so the plan to do the Traverse City farmer’s market was dropped. That didn’t change our plan for the Indiana garden.

In addition to information about the upcoming contests Khali announced he was buying a bigger car. His parents felt that he needed an SUV to take food to his catering clients. He had been using Brad’s SUV but that wouldn’t be available to him since it would be in Grand Rapids. I understood his desire to have a better vehicle. Khali came home one evening from the country club and announced that he had received a call from the executive chef at one of the Let’s Me Entertainment restaurants in Chicago asking him to come audition for an internship. Unknown to the contestants the Grand Rapids cooking contest it was a preliminary audition to work at famous Chicago and Detroit restaurants. I was pleased for him and volunteered to go with him to Chicago for the audition and to look around for places from him to live.

When Brad also volunteered Khali said, “Brad, it’s such a long way to drive from Traverse City. I will stay with Ty and Fred and they will go with me.” I could tell Brad thought he was enduring the Chinese water torture. We were moving on and Brad was left behind in Traverse City. Khali sensed Brad’s disappointment and said, “Don’t worry Brad we’ll see each other at Ty’s place.” He did get the internship and learned that one of the managers had a room to rent near the restaurant. Khali had kitchen privileges.

Ty decided to accept the position at St. Marys but his contract didn’t begin until mid-August. That meant he and Fred could have a produce and food stand at the South Bend farmer’s market. Their big garden started producing in early June. In the meantime Khali agreed to fix twelve casseroles and drive them to Ty in Indiana. One Saturday in late June Khali didn’t arrive with the casseroles. Ty had customers waiting so he called Khali. Khali apologized and said he was stretched beyond the limit and couldn’t be counted to cook food on a regular basis. Ty thought there was more to it because Khali didn’t sound right. Deliveries returned the following week but were missed three weeks later as the farmer’s market season was in the final summer push. Ty and Fred didn’t know what was wrong because Khali was usually so reliable. Ty expressed his concern to Khali and told him he needed to get out of Chicago. Khali seemed relieved when he was at the farm the following Monday when his restaurant was closed.

Fred, who had been a volunteer drug counselor, suspected that Khali had started taking drugs which Fred said was prevalent in the restaurant business. Ty originally thought Khali had become a rent boy but there was really no reason to think that since Khali had plenty of money. At lunch Ty came right out and ask: “Khali, do you see your work mates taking drugs?”

Khali looked at the ground. “Yes, and me, too. The pills make work so much easier. You don’t understand the amount of stress that’s in the kitchen. I don’t take many.”

Fred said softly, “Khali, any is too many.”

“I know but I feel so much less stress when I’ve taken a couple of purple pills in the jar they keep in the closet.”

“They’re available for anyone to take.” We looked at each other.

Ty said, “Do you have to continue your internship?”

“That’s over already. Robert offered me an assistant sous chef position two weeks ago which I accepted.”

Ty spoke first, “Khali, I think you need to come live with Fred and me and get away from the temptation. We’ll figure something out.”

“I’ll never be able to get another job in Chicago. I’m sure Robert will black ball me.”

“We’ll think of something. You’re good, really good. Don’t worry you can get a job in Portage or South Bend. I suggest we reconsider opening a restaurant in South Bend not Traverse City.” My idea did not elicit a positive response from either of them.

Khali surprised us with, “Can my boyfriend come too?”

“We didn’t know you had a boyfriend.”

Two young men sitting on bed

Khali and his Boyfriend, Jason

“I met him a month ago. He’s really cool and he’s about your age.”

“Sure, does he work?”

“He’s the host at our restaurant.”

“You don’t think he’ll mind how casual we are about sex and being naked.”

“I will ask him but I bet he won’t mind. He doesn’t have much money so I suspect he will have to get a job.”

Fred and I were relieved when Khali and Jason arrived the following weekend. They found us naked in the garden cleaning up. We heard Khali say, “I told you so.” I was a beautiful fall day so the four of us headed for one last swim in the pond.

When the fall semester started Ty was immediately totally busy. Fred went back to college for his senior year. Khali was hired at South Bend’s finest restaurant as a sous chef and Jason worked part-time as a host. Both signed up for college hoping to get their associate of arts degree. One evening when we were having a late dinner I reported, “I heard from Brad today.”

Jason said, “Who’s Brad?”

Khali said, “He’s the first guy I had sex with. I’ll tell you more about that later, Ty what’s up with him?”

“Well, he told me how sad he was that we weren’t together anymore. He said he was really lonely in Grand Rapids and decided to quit his job and move back to Traverse City to his house. He said he was too far from his grandmother’s garden.”

I said, “Are you going to work? He said he didn’t know.” I was worried but he assured me he was alright and invited us to come up sometime.”

Khali said, “I’m worried because you know how depressed Brad can get.”

He said that he had decided that he wasn’t going to look for a partner. I said, “You’re young and healthy and have survived a tragedy. Don’t close your mind to another relationship but, in the meantime, I think you need a dog.”

Brad laughed and said, ‘He’s sitting here in your recliner next to me. You have to come meet him. He’s wonderful. See you Ty.’

Author’s note: The story is completely fictional and the author reserves all rights to it. I want to thank Don W for his proofreading of the story. If you have comments about the story please email them to rawlingbros@gmail.com. I am always happy to hear from readers.