My other first best friend besides Shane Hickey was Corey Wehner. His family went to my church too. There were only four people in his family, but they were part of a clan of fishermen who all lived in a compound near the edge of a high bluff overlooking the Cook Inlet where they all fished. There were always a dozen or so cousins and other kids running around, so it was great fun for me and my brother John to go over there and run around with them, playing in the woods, riding our bikes back and forth on the winding roads that ran between the houses, and running down the steep, zigzagging goat trail that connected the top of the bluff to the beach.

On the beach we clambered over piles of driftwood, splashed in the slimy, rusty water that trickled out from the base of the bluff, and played pirates on old rusted out tractors and derelict skiffs half submerged in the sand. There were almost never any adults around. It was a terrific place to be a little kid.

Even when we couldn’t go outside, Corey’s house was better than my house for three reasons: toys, food and TV. Corey and his little brother Chip always had the best, most current toys – awesome Legos, Stretch Armstrong, Micronauts, you name it. My brothers and I didn’t have many toys other than Hot Wheels cars because toys cost money and we never had any.

Corey’s mom gave us things to eat and drink that I never got at home too – Kool-Aid, snacks like Cheetos and Ritz, “fun size” candy bars, and for dinner she would make macaroni and cheese or lasagna that was just like the stuff you got at the restaurant in town, not that we ever got to go there of course.

TV was better at Corey’s house because they had a bigger TV and a better antenna than we did. They got all three channels with perfect clarity, so you could actually see the picture without somebody standing next to the TV hitting the side of it or fiddling with the V-hold knob or the rabbit ears. And whereas my parents only let us watch the news, Star Trek, and Saturday morning cartoons, the Wehners watched anything they wanted, any time of day. They would actually rush home from Sunday night church to watch The Love Boat and Fantasy Island, something which was unthinkable in my churchy household on the Lord’s day.

Going to movies was also verboten in my family, since it supported “the industry”. This was a term used by the Nazarene church to refer to the imagined cabal of businesses that peddled sin: makers and sellers of alcohol, tobacco products, fashion and other forms of pornography, dance halls, game rooms, etc. The vast network of movie theaters covering the land was supposed to be a cash conduit that kept all this bad stuff afloat, and by buying a movie ticket good Christian folks were directly feeding the mouth of the beast. As the pastor my dad had to set a shining example, so that meant no movies for us. Even Disney movies.

Neither the Wehners nor anybody else in our church besides my family cared less about “the industry” and they went to movies all the time. At least three times a year I would go over to my friend Corey’s house and he would regale me with how incredibly awesome this or that new movie had been, emphasizing again and again just how much I had missed by not seeing it. At no point was this more painful than when Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope came out. And just so I would not forget what a terrific thing I had not gotten to experience, he would be sure to have shiny new Star Wars action figures and spectacular Star Wars picture books to show off every time I went over.

Like my other best friend Shane, my best friend Corey was quite a pervy little fellow. He would often introduce me to some new thing he had discovered about his penis, and as I have mentioned before, I would go along with just about anything. We must have been only about six when we were playing on the beach with a bunch of kids and we started taking our pants off and running around semi-nude in the wet sand. Corey made a little hole in the sand and got down and put his peepee into it and said, Look you guys, I’m doing it with mother nature! We thought that was just hilarious and some of us tried it. Then we started pretending we were doing it with each other, trying to stick our ding-a-lings between each other’s butt cheeks, and since our conception of doing it was a man peeing on a woman’s crotch, that’s what we did. This orgy was interrupted by the shouts of Corey’s aunt Linda coming from up the beach.

Aunt Linda was different from all the other adults that we knew because she did not go to church. That made her a sinner of course, and I knew she was one also because she smoked, and probably did other things that sinners do, like eating poop. Such was my understanding of sinners back then. So part of me thought she might go easy on us because she was a sinner, and our behavior would probably be perfectly normal for her. But sinner or not, we were still very afraid because aunt Linda was first and foremost an adult, and everybody knows they are unpredictable and enjoy punishing you.

Aunt Linda sat us all down on a driftwood log and told us that we had been very naughty, and we must not do those things ever again. So far it was going as we expected. Then she said she would not tell our parents, it would be just between us if we promised to behave ourselves, which we did vigorously, and then she said, Good, because otherwise! and she crossed her eyes and made her front four teeth pop out of her mouth. False teeth! We were not ready for that, and lost it completely. Aunt Linda, sinner though she was, instantly attained godlike status with us.

By age eight or so I had already been introduced to the wonders of porn by my best friend Shane, and my other best friend Corey also had access to his neighbor DJ’s dad’s magazine stash. He would swipe one and then hide it in the woods under some moss someplace, and when I came over we would go find it and look at it. It would always be faded and water damaged, but still good enough to provide a raging boner. Sometimes he would smuggle it into his room, or over to my place when we had a sleepover in my treehouse, and we would look at it, get raging boners, and take turns being the girl, either with our hands or with our mouths. We were too young to get off – we knew from reading the sexy articles and comics in the porno mags that “cum” was a thing, but we had no idea what it might be. But we would go through the motions just the same.

This was always fun at first, and then afterwards we would be guilt-ridden. After all, this was clearly the sort of activity that got you into hell. Nevertheless, as we got a little older our horniness only increased, and in the absence of real girls we continued to practice on each other.

Sometime around age 10 I went through a pious phase. One night I was sitting on my bed with my Bible, and I did that thing people do where you flip the book open to a random page, close your eyes and stab your finger down randomly, then read the verse that your finger landed on and prepare to be transformed.

My finger landed on John 3:20, Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.

Holy smoldering sausages!

God had obviously spoken. I was overcome with remorse for the horrible deeds I had committed in the dark, fearing to be exposed. I wept profusely, from the bottom of my sinful heart. My mom came in the room to see what was going on. I said, Mom, I have done bad, bad things. She put her arm around me and we prayed. I felt better after that, for a while.

Although I had come clean to the Lord, I really had not let my mom in on the details of the matter. I still didn’t have a basic human-to-human answer to my underlying question. My upbringing to that point had not equipped me with the ability to go to my mom and say, Hey, just wondering. Is it bad for guys to suck each others’ dicks? Corey and me did that a few times, and I’m not sure how to feel about it. My mom’s upbringing had not prepared her for that question in any case, so… Lose-lose. I could have called my dad to get a male perspective on it (my parents were split up by this time), but as a fire-and-brimstone man of God his reaction was highly predictable. I could count on disgust and more Bible verses, but not personal wisdom or understanding.

So I carried my secrets around for the next few years, and aside from the occasional exploratory hanky-panky, Corey and I had a pretty normal friendship. We didn’t hang out at school because Corey was a year ahead of me and that would have been unthinkable, but we would goof around together in church on Sundays doing Silly Putty comic book transfers, drawing graffiti on the church bulletin, laughing our heads off, and generally disrupting the service. After church I would go to his house or he would go to mine and we would goof off all day until night church.

On the Resurrection Trail hike in ‘84 Corey blabbed about what we had done during a game of Truth or Dare with my other best friend, Charlie and two girls, Krystal and Monica. I wasn’t there, I heard about it from Charlie. He wanted to know if it was true. I was completely floored that the secret was out. I couldn’t believe Corey could be such an idiot as to answer truthfully a question that would be so easy to lie about, especially one that had such obvious negative repercussions. What a fucking moron! My life was ruined. Charlie would not want to be friends anymore, and I could forget all about making progress with Michelle Baker. I did not even want to think about what school would be like in the fall.

To my surprise though, not much changed. Charlie was pretty shocked and grossed out, but he also had a lot of questions. Michelle never said a word about it and her demeanor towards me did not change, so that was all good. And to my knowledge this juicy bit of gossip did not travel outside our little group.

Around this time I had begun spending more time with Charlie and not hanging out with Corey as much. I don’t think this incident had anything to do with that, though it really didn’t help. It’s just the sort of thing that happens with young friendships. Corey didn’t understand it, and didn’t like it of course. He never said anything but his mom would drop hints on Sunday, asking if I wanted to come over after church, saying, Corey sure would like to hang out with you, and so on. What could I say, though? I would just mumble something and excuse myself.

I didn’t really spend much time with Corey until I was 17 and I got a job working on his family’s fish site. Then we were together almost 24 hours a day for six weeks during fishing season. We had both matured a lot in three years. We rekindled our friendship around music and girls while we hung nets, buzzed around in the skiff, picked fish, and played hacky-sack during the lulls. It was good times again, and we repeated it the next two summers. We would not hang out all year, but when fishing season started we would pick up right where we left off like no time had passed.

When I was 20 I went off to art school in Oregon and he went off to beauty school in Idaho and we lost track of each other for a couple of decades. More recently we’ve gotten back in touch and keep our friendship going like millions of others, on Facebook.

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