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Chris James

The Times They are a Changing

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The Times They are a Changing

Two weeks…two damn weeks. If they didn’t release me soon I was going to go bonkers. Simple surgery, my ass. If it was so simple then why was I still here? I wanted to strangle the doctor who told me I would only be in the hospital for a few days. But he was an expensive specialist on back surgery and now I believed the only thing he specialized in was lies.

The nurses seemed to have such an extreme amount of patience…when I saw one. One twinge of pain from me and there were pills, IV drips and soothing words from each and every one of them. But after a week on medication I was getting loopy and didn’t feel responsible for the impatience I began to show.

Now it was four o’clock in the afternoon. The only difference between four in the afternoon and four in the morning was that I didn’t have some nurse come by and wake me from a sound, and certainly drug induced, sleep to take my vital signs before her shift ended.

Dinner was still two hours away, and no matter how interesting the book in my hands might be I dreaded the idea of food. By now my taste buds had given up any hope of receiving anything special. I figured hospital food was one step below what the Army ate in the trenches during a prolonged war, but at least it didn’t come in cans.

I was just contemplating how well the food service could disguise the taste of a hamburger when the door to my room opened and an apparition appeared beside my bed. The medications had not led me to hallucinate by this point but surely I was imagining things now.

The uniform looked a familiar khaki color. He wore a scarf around his neck and a sash with merit badges…was this really a Boy Scout?

“Hello…Mr. Briggs? My name is Sullivan, Barry Sullivan. I’m with Troop 214 and we’re visiting patients in the hospital today.”

“Do I know you?” I asked.

“No, sir…but the nurse said you could use some cheering up.”

“What’s in the box?” I asked.

The boy smiled. “Cookies…I baked them myself.”

“Now I know I’m dreaming. Boy Scouts don’t bake cookies.”

“I do. I even got a merit badge for meal planning after I attended a cooking school.”

“Cooking school? How old are you?

“Seventeen, but I was the first in my troop to get the badge. See, here it is,” He said, pointing to a small round patch with a frying pan embroidered on it.

Wow, scouting sure had changed since I was one…and then the badge above the one for cooking caught my attention.

“And that badge…the one with the rainbow colors on it. What’s that for?” I asked.

Barry looked me square in the eye as if to judge my reaction. “That one is for gay studies. I’m gay.”

I smiled…what a brave, brave boy. But I was also a wise ass. “I didn’t know you had to study to be gay.”

Barry must have heard that one before and he grinned. “I had to read some gay literature and make an oral report to the troop. Then I went to work at the Men’s Crisis Center in the afternoons after school. I think my troop leaders were impressed by the report I wrote on the latest treatments for HIV positive men.”

“They allowed you to do that?”

“My father and his partner suggested it. My dad is the Assistant Scout Master for the troop.”

“Your…your father is gay?” I asked.

“Yeah, funny how that worked out, isn’t it. He’s a chef and we bake in his kitchen. Would you like a cookie?”

“I would…I’ll take as many as you can spare,” I said.

“What are you reading?” Berry asked.

It was my turn to grin. “Tales of the City, something I haven’t read in years.”

“Armistead Maupin…I’ve read his work.”

“This was the first book I ever read that included gay people.”

“So you’re gay, too?”

“The best people I know are gay,” I said. “So tell me, when did the Boy Scouts start making all these positive changes to include gay boys?”

“It started back in 2013,” Barry said. “Are you sure you have time to hear the whole story?”

I laughed, and got that familiar twinge of pain in my back…but it was worth it. “Look at me lying here. I don’t seem to be going anywhere…”

The last two weeks of my month long stay in the hospital were bearable. Barry came by every other day and brought other boys along. And then the day came when the docs decided to release me and although my insurance had covered a good deal of the cost I still had to write a good sized check to cover the difference.

I write other kinds of checks these days, especially since I became a sponsor of Troop 214. The boys perform all kinds of community service and someone has to provide the seed money for some of their endeavors. I support everything they do…want to buy some Boy Scout cookies?

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When I was the boy scout's age (just at the moment I don't feel they deserve capitalisation yet) the conventional solution to my problem would have been imprisonment or chemical castration... so I find the extent of change implied in the story perfectly credible... there are just a whole lot of wasted evolution in the way. When they get back on all fours, and get out of the way, things can move on.

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The reason that nurses are impatient is because they have too many patients, but a patient being impatient is enough to try anyone's patience.

Great story and I love the implication that the boy scouts association will come to their senses.

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