The California Zephyr
by Joe Butterman


Chapter 1: On The Train

I had waited on the platform with everyone until the last possible moment. I stepped aboard just in front of the porter who brought the portable steps with him as he followed me onto the train.  He latched a little chain across the door way, and then relinquished the doorway to me.  As the train eased into motion, I resisted the temptation to wave to everyone like a young boy and attempted, instead, to wave with what I thought was suitably adult nonchalance.  Certainly, the Carlos (as I now liked to be called) Scott, was a very different person from the Charlie Scott who had arrived at the same station only three months ago.  As the platform curved out of sight behind us, I went to my compartment where I stared absently out the window and found that I had to blink away some tears.  I was very glad of the privacy of the compartment.

I decided to be busy.  I fussed with my luggage until I had it properly stowed away so that I had access to the few things that I would need on the trip; I smiled to myself as I thought that I’d just used the word ‘stowed’ and I thought of a naked Gary on the diving board preparing to dive; I arranged the four books that I had selected as possible reading on the trip so that they were readily at hand.  I wondered which of the four I should start with.  There was Kitchener’s Mob, which I had found in my favorite junk store in Anaheim when I was letting Johnny and Roberto do most of the final painting of the Astimendi house. I was busying myself mailing a letter to Gary who had just arrived in Japan.  I smiled as I recalled the incident and remembered that neither of them seemed in the least put out by my absence.  The only reason I had bought this book was because someone had penciled “is a queer” under the picture of the author who was in a military uniform; I was very interested in that, but the rest of the title page read, The Adventures of an American in the British Army and I wasn’t so sure I was interested in that.  Then there was Last of the Mohicans.  I had grabbed this because it was about Indians, at least so I assumed, and this reminded me of the game of ‘Indian’ that Johnny and I had played: how he had fashioned loin cloths out of scrap rags, daubed us with cold cream ‘war paint’; how our loin cloths had been pushed imperiously aside by our boners; how we had wondered if that ever happened to real Indians and decided that it must have; and how our loin cloths had come apart as we struggled to end the rain dance, and then made peace by turning one another into a kind of peace pipe.

Then there was Partners of the Tide.  Again, I had no idea what this was about, but the book in question had gone to one “Reginald Dayball Xmas 1917.”  I would look at his name and wonder what he was like and what might have happened to him through the years, and of course, if he, like me, was queer.

I also had Education of a Princess by Marie, Grand Duchess of Russia.  This volume was actually signed by the author.  I thought this was kinda neat.  Plus, her husband was handsome, and I thought that the Tsarevitch was just as cute as he could be, all dressed-up in his Cossack outfit, standing beside his Dad who was identically uniformed.  Then there was the Grand Duke Dmitri, who was almost as handsome as my Tonio.  I would start with this one I decided.  But then the Porter was at the open door of my compartment announcing “lunch, Mister Scott.”  I beamed at him, relishing the “mister”; it had been “Master Scott” just three months ago.  “Thank you, sir; I’ll be on the way.”  Never talk down to people.  Both my Grandfather and my Father had always stressed this, so there was nothing wrong with calling the Porter “Sir” even if he was a Negro.

My lunch was undistinguished, everything was overcooked, or slightly stale, but what can you expect when you’re roughing it on the train?  The service, at least, was very good.

I returned to my compartment and settled down with the Grand Duchess, but I started staring out the window and watched the landscape trundle by, without really seeing it.  My thoughts turned to Roberto.  I visualized his foot, slender and perfectly formed, in its beat-up sandal, beneath the Catalina Cherries.  He had followed Johnny and I back into our jungle, had watched us, as we lay there naked, studying Johnny’s new book; we were discussing “erections”, the flow of blood to the penis because of sexual stimulation, and the mystery of our missing foreskins.  I remembered his wistful smile, as he joined us when I called him over; our hesitant conversation as we maneuvered around the obstacles of race, religion, and class; and most of all, the passionate embraces that the three of us exchanged, before we left our jungle.  I closed my eyes and recalled one particularly loving event, several weeks after our first time together, when after sex, as we were dozing off, he had whispered, “Carlito, eres la luz de mis ojos.”  I could hear him whisper in my minds ear.  I smiled as I remembered that I was too tired to ask him what it meant until the next day: Carlito, you are the light of my eyes.  Roberto, I thought, seeing his rich brown eyes sparkling at me, were you only here, mi querido, we would put this compartment to proper use tonight.

This was better than the Grand Duchess Marie.

I conjured-up Tonio in my mind’s eye.  Anthony St Clair, Esquire: successful attorney and longtime lover of Walter Smith, an investment banker; spare and elegant, Tonio’s hair was always in a state of tousled rebellion, but I thought this was a statement by Tonio, rather than an inability to subdue the rebellion; he had flung wide the doors of history for me, and taught me that men had loved other men since the dawn of time; now he loved Roberto and I, as well as Walter, and was mentoring us, in the tradition of Classical Greece.  I had worked hard to seduce him.  We had been skinny-dipping in his pool, so we were all naked except for Walter, we were eating lunch and talking about Ancient Greece, Tonio agreed to show me some books and one of them had all these pictures of vase paintings done by ancient artists.  I had stopped him at this one picture: a man was tickling a boy’s balls.  I insisted that he do this to me; he was reluctant, but I won out.  I, of course, told Roberto all about it.

Tonio arranged for Roberto and me to have one last lunch by his pool before I left on the train.  Walter was off banking and Joshua, the houseboy, was in one of his college classes.  Roberto and I had stripped almost immediately and dove into the pool.  Since we had been naked the very first time that we had met Tonio, there was nothing in the least unusual about this; but what poor Tonio didn’t know, was that Roberto and I had kinda conspired against him, poor dear, we were both going to seduce him, and he was going to come to love and mentor us both; he may have suspected this, but then again, he may not – it was in any event, something outside his control.  So when he came down from the house with the lunch tray, we erupted out of the pool and as soon as had had put the tray down, we began to undress him.  “Tonio…sweet Tonio – tickle us both,” I demanded.  He laughed, and hugged us to him, we all dove into the pool and stood in the shallow end, he tickled us both and we took turns kissing him.  When we were all rampantly aroused, we went up to his bedroom.  There, we laid him on his back, I straddled his upper chest, and he took me into his mouth, Roberto lubed him-up, then slowly sat on his manhood, taking him completely in and gently moving up and down.  Roberto massaged the back of my neck, and pulled me back a little, so that he could lick and kiss my neck.

We were solicitous of Tonio, he was lots older, after all, and we didn’t know how many times he could come in one session, so after a few minutes of great sex, Roberto and I switched positions, and carried on.  Soon, Tonio came in me and Roberto came in Tonio.  This left me.  But as soon as Tonio came down from that high mountain, he shrugged out from under Roberto, and went back to work on me, quickly bringing me to a shuddering climax.

We lay sprawled together across his bed.  We had Tonio between us.  “Are you not jealous at all,” Tonio asked us.  I snuggled against him and looked a smile at Roberto over his chest.  “No,” I replied, “and yes.”  I began to fondle and tickle him like I’d asked him to do to us.  My answer, though, was perhaps a little unclear.  So I began to explain our sexual awakening this Summer. It had begun with Johnny, then Gary had come along, and then Roberto; how there had always been more than just two of us; how we had all liked each other, and from that liking, love had developed among the four of us.  Then he had taught me about Ancient Greece, and I had told everyone else about it, and we considered it okay to love more than just one person at the same time.  I slid up and kissed him, then leaned over him and kissed Roberto, and then Roberto kissed him too.  Roberto took up the explanation, “we would think it neat if you had sex with Johnny and Gary.  It would be good for you, and it would be good for them, but it’s all up to you and them.  We know about Joshua and Walt, and we like them too, but we would feel jealous if it were some boy that was bad for you.”  I took over and told him about our adventure on the beach with the sailor from San Diego and what he had done to Johnny.  After that, we’d all sworn to each other that we would be very careful and think about each other before we let anyone else into our tribe.  Tonio told us we were great and that he loved us; we returned the compliment.

Somewhat surprisingly, considering his age – or so I thought, perhaps a little pompously – Tonio was ready to go again before either Roberto or I.  We had more great sex.

I put the Grand Duchess down and went up to the observation car.  There were only a few people there.  None seemed very interesting.  I watched California slide by until it was time for dinner.  I opted for the fish entrée; it was rubbery.  The dessert, however, was very good.  A warm blueberry cobbler to which I added an abundance of cream, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

When I returned to my compartment, the berth had been made up; it was early, but I was tired, so I again ignored the Grand Duchess, and prepared to sleep.  I stripped and slid into the berth and was lulled by the gentle rocking of the train.  I wished that I were not alone.  I had to do for myself.  Then I slept.

Breakfast, the next morning, achieved the level of adequate.  It takes real skill, after all, to foul-up bacon and eggs.  The hashed brown potatoes were garbage, but then hashed brown potatoes are highly over-rated anyway, I hardly touched them, so they didn’t really count.  I felt I had scored a considerable coup by ordering, and receiving, coffee; this would not have happened had I been escorted by any of the adults in my world, except perhaps Tonio, or Roberto’s parents, Papa y Mama.  They would have enjoyed spoiling me, as I so richly deserve to be.

I changed trains in San Francisco.  We were right on time.  There was a one hour layover in San Francisco and I began to enjoy the Grand Duchess’s reminisces; I could visualize myself in her surroundings.  My American sensitivities were somewhat outraged as she casually described the “hovels” in which the “peasants” lived.  Naughtily, I daydreamed; I found a handsome peasant boy and rescued him from his hovel, bringing him into my palace and my bed: then I felt guilty because I’d not been in the least concerned about the peasant girls, so I rescued a half dozen of them and let them be maids in the palace.  My peasant boy was loyal and sensual, but my royal duties occupied a lot of my time; so I rescued a bunch more peasant boys from their hovels, so that he would have company, or perhaps more accurately, we would have company.  My bed became quite crowded.  Then they called my train.

I would not be over-nighting on this leg of the trip, so I was in a coach seat.  I had carefully insured that my luggage was properly cared for; then I enjoyed the view as we left San Francisco.  The blue waters of the bay reminded me of Gary’s eyes.

After we first had sex, I remembered that I’d thought that if diamonds could be blue, then they would surely match the sparkle of Gary’s eyes.  A few weeks later, in an issue of The National Geographic, there’d been an article about the “Hope Diamond” and it was blue.  Enchanted, I’d immediately taken the magazine down to show Gary.  He was in his usual state – lying naked beside his pool.  I dragged him into the dressing room, showed him a picture of the diamond, told him it looked just like his glorious eyes; I had no choice but to kiss him on his eyelids, and then all the rest of him.  He kissed me back.  Now I incorporated him into my naughty daydream.  He was, of course, a prince.  Together we went out and rescued a number of beautiful peasant boys for him.  Equitably, we rescued some maids for him too.  He had to help me with all of my royal duties, though, and sometimes we had to take a break from these, so we’d go into this imperial bedroom that my imagination quickly conjured, and do each other.  I was on a roll.  As we pulled into Sacramento, Gary and I were arranging all of our peasant boys together to play games of some kind.  Everyone was naked, of course, except for Gary and I, and all we were wearing were capes like when we’d played “ephebes” for Joshua on the beach.

It was just a short stop in Sacramento to pick-up passengers.  This was the California Zephyr and it was going all the way to Chicago.  Sometime I would ride it all the way.  On this future trip, I resolved that I would not be alone.

As we started to climb into the Sierras, I thought of Johnny.  Johnny had been first.  I’d thought, when first we did it, that he knew a lot more about it than I did; but one night, when we were sleeping together at his house, after passion, I quizzed him pretty thoroughly.  I was first for him too.  He’d been jacking-off longer than me, and he’d first thought about me sexually well before last summer, but he’d never touched another boy until the old goat at the miniature golf course, to whom I was now quite grateful, had refused us admission because of our “naked torsos”.  But I’d been terribly unfair to Johnny; quickly I brought him into my imperial palace.  We recruited some beautiful peasant boys for him, and lounged around the palace eating grapes surrounded by naked boys.  It occurred to me, as I daydreamed, that all of the peasant boys, as well as the four of us – because Roberto had now appeared in the palace too, with a suitable retinue – were naked; but all of the maids were wearing black dresses and white aprons as they flitted about in the background filling bowls with grapes.  I considered this for a moment, and then decided that it was quite proper, who wanted to see a naked girl anyway?

My ears popped again, and the train picked-up speed.  We were over Donner Summit and I was an hour or so from Reno.  I left my palace and my entourage and began to consider the future. In a week I would be starting high school.  I had attempted to convey a sense of nonchalant superiority to my boy friends because in Nevada we had a four year high school, there were no “junior” high schools; hence I would be in high school while they were all in junior high.  Actually, I was a little worried.  I was fourteen soon to be fifteen, there would be boys in high school that were seventeen going on eighteen and I was wholly unsure how to deal with this.  Johnny and Gary maintained that junior highs were better; but Roberto saw through my little charade, he smiled at me with sympathy as I held forth, and said “si, Carlito mi querido, si.”  It was not unheard of for older boys to bully younger boys; I’d seen it even in grade school and thought it likely to be worse in high school.  Well, I considered my readings in Kipling.  I’d not pay any “Dane geld” and I’d fight if I had to.  Then, being who I was, I wondered if I’d meet anyone in Reno that I could introduce to my other men and boys.  Were there even any queers in Reno?  I was from Reno, certainly, but I’d been born in California?  Did that make a difference?  All of my pleasant daydreams receded before a dark cloud of worries.  We rumbled through Truckee and I was deep in speculation.

Now the train was slowing, the whistle sounding for the numerous road crossings in Reno.  The railroad had been here first, back when it had been the Central Pacific; Reno, first known as Lake’s Crossing, had grown-up all around the tracks and simply crossed, then re-crossed the tracks, as it grew westward.  The passage of any train through Reno was a much-heralded event.  My gloom disappeared as I saw my Mother, Father, and Grandmother Gramercy on the station platform waiting for me; I dropped my luggage on the platform and dashed to Gramercy, who I hugged and kissed, then to my Mommy for the same treatment, and then for a moment, I stood before my Dad.  He had his right hand partially raised preparing for a formal handshake.  I don’t think so, I thought, and embraced him for a hug; he was momentarily startled, and then returned my hug.  I hadn’t hugged him for a couple of years.  I guess I thought I knew more, then.

My Father is a wonderful man, but a mass of contradictions.  A third generation cattleman, we lived on a ranch that each generation had enlarged, yet he never wore the traditional hat of a cattleman, unless he was actually working on the ranch, he was wearing a suit and a Homburg to meet me; a native Nevadan, he had for reasons that I’d never explored, attended Washington and Lee University back east, his diction was elegant, his language correct, his deportment impeccable, if he was colloquial, he was very angry; he played the violin, not the fiddle, favoring Vivaldi and disdaining music of the “barn raising sort”; he admired Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, President Eisenhower, and General Robert E. Lee; he abominated Joe McCarthy, and when he was compelled to say the name, his tone was such that it was clear the name contained no capital letters; he was warm and loving and I was his only son. He had joined our army in 1938, as a Second Lieutenant of Cavalry in the Regular Army, and emerged from World War II as a Colonel of Cavalry, though that cavalry was now mechanical and armored, and somehow the lesser for it.  He was Douglas Ranald Scott and he considered himself a Christian gentleman.

My Mommy I adored, if there were any contradictions in her world, I was ignorant of them: fresh flowers were displayed in cut crystal, or they remained in the garden; “suitable” china came from England, and from nowhere else; pianos were “grand” or they did not exist; San Francisco was the “best dressed city on the Western Coast”, anywhere else was roughing-it; jewelry was to be worn with restraint; God was in “His Heaven” so there was nothing to worry about.  Charles David Bachman, her father, whom I had re-named “Bobbin”, had seen to it that she received a college education despite the Great Depression; she had met my Father at a social event before we actually entered the war, they had fallen deeply in love, and I was born when he was in North Africa.  She had embraced the Episcopal Church without looking back.  This infuriated Bobbin, bothered her mother, my Grand Belle, not one whit, but was nevertheless the source of considerable discord.  My arrival signaled the restoration of, if not peace, at least civil, theological disagreement.  My Mother loved me without condition.  She was Charlene Agnes Scott nee Bachman and her status as a Christian lady was a verity.

And there was Gramercy.  When, in the first months of my life, I’d been introduced to her, so the story went, she was “Gram”; but to the best of my recollection, I had always called her “Gramercy” and she had made it quite clear that she was to be so addressed on all informal situations.  Gramercy was a MacKenzie from the wilds of Scotland.  Ostensibly she was Presbyterian; but this was only a thin veneer over something far older and more elemental that ran within her soul.  The story was told that in 1912, an obsequious travel agent had attempted to book her passage on the R.M.S. Titanic from New York to Southampton; she had dismissed the name “Titanic” as presumptuous, dismissed the White Star Line as parvenu, and booked passage on a Cunarder instead.  It was an eerie story.  She was, of course, never in the slightest danger, as the Titanic never docked in New York.  I believed it absolutely.  When I was seven, Mommy and Gramercy and I were having lunch in the kitchen.  She fell silent in the middle of a sentence, then got up from the table and marched through the house, out the front door to the barn, and then retraced her steps through the kitchen with a shovel in her hand.  She went out the back door and slaughtered a rattlesnake that was relaxing on the stone path from the back door.  Mommy and I had watched this.  She set the shovel carefully against the porch rail, looked at us evenly, “have you finished your lunch?”  The three of us returned to the kitchen and did so.  Mommy and I disposed of the remains after lunch.  We never spoke of the incident.

She was a great and formidable lady.  Her husband, the grandfather I never knew, had died young.  No one knew quite how.  His horse had returned to the barn lamed and alone.  He was found nearby on a steep slope and it appeared that his horse had fallen and rolled over him, crushing one leg and rupturing an artery.  He was a superb horseman, though, and it was impossible not to wonder what had caused the horse to fall.  His name, Christopher, I bore as my middle name, though for some reason, I seldom used it.  Gramercy, though mourning, took over the management of the ranch and the raising of my Father.

My love for Gramercy was complete and total.

Greetings completed, we climbed into our Buick Roadmaster, and started the sixty-mile journey home to the ranch.


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