Jared the Paramedic

Chapter 8: The Sweat

Click here for updated Character ListClick here for updated Character List ("<\/p>\r\n<h4>Jared<\/h4>\r\n<ul>\r\n<li>Age: 29<\/li>\r\n<li>Description: 6'3\", 230 lbs of solid muscle, trimmed dark black hair and deep chocolate brown eyes<\/li>\r\n<li>Job: Paramedic (Partner: Liam) \/ Shift Supervisor<\/li>\r\n<li>Boyfriend: Liam<\/li>\r\n<li>Spirit Guide: Bear<\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<p>&#160;<\/p>\r\n<h4>Liam<\/h4>\r\n<ul>\r\n<li>Age: 22<\/li>\r\n<li>Description: 6'0\", blue eyes, curly blond hair, nicely toned and tanned<\/li>\r\n<li>Job: Paramedic (Partner: Jared)<\/li>\r\n<li>Boyfriend: Jared<\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<p>&#160;<\/p>\r\n<h4>Troy<\/h4>\r\n<ul>\r\n<li>Age: 25<\/li>\r\n<li>Description: 5&#8217;11&#8221;, brown eyes, blonde hair, solid but not overly muscular.<\/li>\r\n<li>Job: Paramedic<\/li>\r\n<li>Boyfriend: Tyler<\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<p>&#160;<\/p>\r\n<h4>Tyler<\/h4>\r\n<ul>\r\n<li>Age: 25<\/li>\r\n<li>Description: 5'11\", brown eyes, dark brown hair, slim<\/li>\r\n<li>Job: Police Officer (Partner: Josh)<\/li>\r\n<li>Boyfriend: Troy<\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<p>&#160;<\/p>\r\n<h4>Josh<\/h4>\r\n<ul>\r\n<li>Age: 25<\/li>\r\n<li>Description: 5'8\", blue eyes, light brown hair, solid. He and Darrin could pass for cousins or even brothers,<\/li>\r\n<li>Job: Police Officer (Partner: Tyler)<\/li>\r\n<li>Boyfriend: Darren<\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<p>&#160;<\/p>\r\n<h4>Darren<\/h4>\r\n<ul>\r\n<li>Age: 26<\/li>\r\n<li>Description: 6'0\", green eyes, light brown hair, solid. He and Josh could pass for cousins or even brothers.<\/li>\r\n<li>Job: Fire Fighter<\/li>\r\n<li>Boyfriend: Josh<\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<p>&#160;<\/p>\r\n<h4><span style=\"text-decoration: underline; color: #999999;\">Minor \/ Recurring Characters<\/span><\/h4>\r\n<h4>Rob<\/h4>\r\n<ul>\r\n<li>Job: Ambulance Base Manager")

Jared looked up at the sun, it was about 5pm and while the air was still very warm the sun was beginning to set. 

"It is time," he said to the others. 

Jared went into the cabin with everyone else and straight to the kitchen.  Everyone started completing tasks they knew well to prepare for the sweat. Troy grabbed the cooler and Tyler helped them fill it full of both ice and water bottles.  Josh was getting a large cedar bucket out of the living room cupboard with its hand carved ladle while Jared was grabbing a hide wrapped bundle with leather laces. It was obvious to both Darren and Liam they had all done this many times previously and they knew exactly what needed to be done without even speaking to each other. Jared opened the bundle he had retrieved and carefully inspected each of the objects it contained.  Liam saw a long stem carved pipe with a stone piece on the end.  There were also several birch bark wrapped bundles with a leather lace tying each of them.  There was a large smudging bundle of sweet grass, white sage, cedar and tobacco leaves all lashed together as well as a fan made of three large eagle's feathers.  The feathers had leather laces and beads connected to the hollow shaft, or calamus, up to the downy barbs.  The final item on the leather was a box of Red Bird strike anywhere wooden matches.  Jared seemed happy everything was in order as he rolled it up and tied it closed.

The men left the cabin and walked quietly to the fire pit.  They found the wood had burnt down leaving coals mixed with the brightly glowing rocks.  A couple had shattered but that wasn't too bad of a loss for this type of heating.  The rocks which blew up had moisture in them, and when they are heated to that level and manner, the moisture changes to steam.  This blows them apart with a tremendous amount of energy or force.  Close by, it sounds like a civil war cannon firing when they blow apart.  No one wanted to be anywhere near the fire pit when one of those rocks blew due to the potential for flying embers or sharp rock shrapnel.

Just outside the lodge's entrance was a small table to be used during the ceremony.  Jared placed his leather bag onto it carefully, and then went into the lodge for a last-minute check before they started.  As usual, his brothers had done a good job and everything was ready the way it should be. 

Jared pointed at the wooden bucket they had brought with them from the cabin.  "Darren, would you please fill this and place it just inside the door of the lodge on the right," he asked indicating the wooden bucket. "Please make sure the wooden ladle is in it when you put it into the lodge."

Darren ran to the dock to get clear water and filled the bucket, returning quickly.  Carefully, he placed it as instructed with the ladle in it.

The men were all standing in a group near the lodge, the air alive with an electrical charge of anticipation from each of them at what they were about to do.

Jared was standing with his eyes closed, focusing his thoughts and senses on the ceremony he was about to lead.  When he finally opened his eyes, he asked, "Gentlemen are we ready?"

They all looked like kids inside a candy store as they answered a resounding, "Yes!"

"Darren, you and Liam must understand, if you feel you need to leave, feel free to do so at any time.  Before you get up, for convenience and assistance, we will use an English phrase so we know what is happening. 'Exit please' will work this time.  Does everyone understand?" Jared asked. They all nodded their heads in reply.

Jared continued. "If anyone feels ill or needs help, please speak out immediately and say 'illness.' We will immediately do anything we can to help.  The sanctity of human life is the first priority over continuing the sweat ceremony."

Jared looked at every one of the men individually before continuing.  "The order in which we will enter the lodge is Liam, Tyler, Troy, Darren, Josh and then me.  I will smudge each one of you before you go in for purity.  At the entrance of the lodge, before we go in, each of us must bow as a sign of respect for the Creator and Mother Earth.  Then move inside in a clockwise ring around the rock pit inside and sit down as you find your spot.

"Although there is much tradition surrounding the sweat lodge, there are things we do which are unique to our family.  We have two new brothers here tonight so I ask for patience from everyone while they learn the ways we use here with our family and tribe.

"This the last call for a drink of water or taking a piss before we go in!  Liam, Darren, I would suggest the two of you guzzle a bottle of water before you go in.  We can't take the bottle in with us."

The men all grabbed a bottle of water and guzzled it down as Troy and Josh ran over to piss into the bushes. Jared walked to the altar in front of the sweat lodge, spreading the contents of his smudging bundle out for use.

"Ready?"

"Ready!" they all replied.  Jared motioned them forward.  None of the men were wearing their loin cloths and it was obvious the excitement of the ceremony was causing all of them to be in a semi-hard condition. 

Jared lit the herb bundle and smudged each one of them as they approached.  As they were completed, he nodded to them and after bowing to the lodge, they went in.  Jared smudged himself and then placed the bundle into the bowl after snubbing it out.  He bowed before entering and took his place.  He had brought the pipe from his bundle with him, placing it on his leg.  Jared opened one of the birch bark bundles which contained tobacco and packed the pipe with expertise. He lit the pipe and puffed on it several times allowing the smoke to rise to the top of the lodge.  Jared chanted for a moment and stopped, handing the pipe to Liam.

"The tobacco is sacred.  Liam, you may have to light it again but take a couple of puffs into you and then say a prayer out loud or just tell us why you are here this evening."

Liam took the pipe, his hands shaking.  He lit a match, put the pipe in his mouth and puffed on it a couple of times.  Holding the pipe in both hands, he suddenly raised it up towards the roof of the lodge.  After bringing it down, he did it two more times. 

Jared noted this with interest and thought to himself, 'That's something an ancient or an experienced elder would do to draw upon the sacred number three.  His memories are coming closer and closer to the surface.'

Liam spoke, "Creator, I am new to this.  I'm here with Jared, the first person who I've truly loved as a part of me and four other men who I'm learning to love as brothers.  I ask for your blessings to be placed upon them in their lives. You have already healed me and I am learning to be your servant.  I wish to learn your ways to serve you effectively." He handed the pipe and matches to Tyler.

Tyler smoked the pipe and did the same as Liam had done with raising it towards the roof and back down.  "Creator, I am here with my brother's new and old, and my true love Troy.  I am your servant but I ask you grant me the vision to become a better man while doing your work, doing my job, loving my brothers, loving Troy and loving myself."  He handed the pipe to Troy.

After smoking the pipe, Troy spoke.  "Creator, I too ask for granting me the wisdom to be a better man in my daily life and how to serve you better.  I wish to thank you for your gift of love to mankind which I share with my brothers, my boyfriend Tyler, as well as those who I come into contact with in my life and while doing your work."  He handed the pipe to Darren.

Darren's hands were shaking so much he couldn't light the pipe.  Both Josh and Troy leaned in to help him by steadying his hands and touching his shoulder to reassure him.  Darren settled down and smoked it.  "Creator, I must be honest with you.  I am very new to this and feel very nervous to make a mistake to get you mad at me.  You saved my life and I thank you for that.  What I thank you for even more is the way you saved my boyfriend Josh's life when he hit his head.  I am praying that I am good enough to do your work."  Darren breathed out a sigh and relaxed.  He handed the pipe to Josh.

Josh smoked it and then said, "Creator, I thank you for your blessings on our family sitting here under you this evening.  I know every one of them, including me, have been blessed with your interventions so we may continue life.  You have spared me twice and I pledge to you once again to be your servant.  I ask you to bless my boyfriend and our family.  Allow us as a group to act as a conduit for your knowledge and gifts in your service."  Josh handed the pipe back to Jared.

Jared smoked the last of the tobacco, raised the pipe upwards and then down.  "Creator, I am here as the conduit for your love and knowledge to be shared not only with my brothers but the people I interact with in life.  I thank you with my obedience for bringing Liam and I together as soulmates.  The love we share between the two of us is unconditional, the way your gift to mankind was meant to be.  I thank you for the friendship, mutual support and love we have and share as a family."  He placed the pipe in front of him on a special holder. 

Jared looked at each man individually and nodded his head to acknowledge their 'good job' during the pipe ceremony.  He turned to Liam and said, "Come with me, and I'll show you how to get the rocks."

They both crawled out and went to the fire. Many tribes have traditions where a person tends the fire, another one may carry the rocks and even another person who is the door keeper.  There are reasons for each of the roles, but not having them does not interfere with the effectiveness or the traditions of the sweat lodge. Jared would have people in each of those roles at a large sweat where many people are available to assist, but with a group this small half the men would not be inside.    Jared showed Liam how to use the shovel to get a rock, and carry it to the lodge to be placed it into the ring. 

"If you drop one, move it to the side of the fire and get another one.  The one which is dropped cannot be used by us until it is purified again by the fire.  We need five rocks each round we sweat."  Jared watched him retrieve and place the rest of the rocks in the lodge.  He indicated to Liam where to put the shovel and to throw a few more pieces of wood onto the fire.  They both returned to the lodge.  Jared pulled the flaps closed.

Jared lifted the talking stick and shook the wild rice inside.  "This is a talking stick and we may use it tonight during our sweat.  Whoever has it in their hand speaks, and no one else does unless you are feeling ill or need to leave."

The inside of the lodge glowed brightly from the light of the red-hot stones. The light was enough for Jared to see the face of every participant in the lodge, and the anticipation of the event on them.   "The element of fire has heated the rocks, the rocks being the element of the earth.  The element of water is poured onto the rocks causing the release of energy into the element of air. All life on this planet needs these four elements in balance to exist.  No element may replace another in their role to create or sustain life and this ceremony celebrates these essential gifts.  The energy being released as the water turns to steam is a gift from mother earth to cleanse us of shadows which may accumulate or attach themselves onto us during life. The cedar and sage we are sitting on not only protect us as sacred plants but they also force any shadows to be drawn into Mother Earth for their destruction. The sweat which drips off of us contains the impure elements we are being cleansed of and it falls to the ground to be absorbed into Mother Earth for destruction. The five rocks represent the four sacred directions and the grandfather himself.  The grandfather is the purest, wisest and oldest rock of all from mother earth. His purity and knowledge is shared with us in the steam from his body."  

Jared reached and pulled the ladle out of the bucket full of water, pouring it on the rock representing the west, repeating the procedure for the rocks representing the north, east and south.  He poured 2 more ladles full on the rock in the centre representing the grandfather.  The lodge filled with steam rapidly and completely blocking everyone's vision.  

With the gift of spiritual sight, Jared could see through the steam to see each of his brothers clearly.  He spoke aloud, "I will chant prayers to celebrate the first round of the four sweats we will complete tonight.  Each session of sweating represents each of the four directions and focuses on the different spiritual strengths and qualities brought by each to mankind. The first round is for the west."

As if Liam was in a trance, he spoke out clearly, "The west or season of fall is represented by the colour black.  We are to look into ourselves deeply for the things we need to change as the sun is setting after the day has completed.  There are two totems for the west; the beaver which works as a team to achieve their common goals and the snake which sheds its skin to remind us we must do the same as we change to new ways.  The message of these spirit animals is we must shed our skins of the past to change and to work as a group to achieve our goals in life."

Although the men were getting used to Liam and his almost prophetic outbursts of information, it continued to surprise them when he spoke up and shared the ancient knowledge.  Jared just smiled and nodded at Liam as he wondered what other knowledge was going to surface during the ceremony.

Jared began to chant and pray.  The men in the lodge began to feel the combination of heat of the steam as well as the dry heat from the rocks.  The combined heat was causing them all to sweat profusely and the reason Jared had encouraged the consumption of so much pure water became obvious to the first timers.  It felt good to them as the streams of sweat poured down their bodies, and onto the cedar covered ground.  Jared poured more water onto the rocks and the steam returned, filling the lodge like it had the first time.  He continued to chant and pray aloud.  He noticed everyone's body was now swaying with the beats of his chant. 

The lodge around the men began to shake violently, startling them.  The sides and top of the lodge were moving back and forth or up and down in no discernible pattern. If it had been someone outside trying to scare the men, it would have been a repeated pattern.  This was not.   The men looked around at the walls of the lodge, and each other for answers.  A deep growl from outside was heard, and all the men had a vision of a large timber wolf jumping through the wall.  He took a place in front of Darren, and looked into the eyes of his human.  Being unable to comprehend the line between reality and his vision, Darren was startled and started to move backwards from his spot.  Josh and Troy felt him jump and gently put their hands on each of his knees to give him reassurance.  With that gesture, Darren settled down quickly.  Jared poured more water on the rocks to once again increase the steam.

The entire group heard the scream of a bald eagle from somewhere above the lodge.  It screamed a couple more times and then swooped right through the lodge wall, landing on Liam's shoulder.  Liam screamed out in shock and moved toward Jared for protection.  Jared's hands touched Liam's knee providing him with reassurance.

Jared once again began to chant.  As the chant was beginning to become familiar to the men, and they all joined in with him.

After a few moments, Jared stopped the chant.  He raised his hands up into the air, palms up and said "Creator, you honour us by sending spirit guides for the men of our family who had yet received them. You brought a powerful guide to both of them, and I thank you for giving me the honour to introduce them to their guides."

Jared looked to Darren, "Darren, your guide is the wolf because of your intelligence and your ability to act upon your instincts in a variety of situations.  It explains why you are good as a firefighter… you have the ability to think fast, and on your feet.  You are not afraid to act or express on those instincts in the service of your brothers, your family, your community or the Creator.  Troy, Tyler and Josh also have wolf spirit guides and there is strength in a pack, especially when you lack trust in yourself. In a pack, you all stand together and unconditionally aid a weaker member during a period of self-doubt. You have a very powerful totem Darren.  You are now part of a very strong wolf pack, and that pack exists with a brotherhood which creates a strong family. All of these qualities we share as a group of brothers, and we welcome you to our family."

The steam was dissipating enough to see Darren's face.  There were tears sliding down his face as his eyes were locked onto the eyes of the wolf in front of him.  The wolf leaned forward and licked Darren's face with his long, wet tongue. Darren reached up slowly, using one hand to touch the fur.  When he first felt the fur, he pulled his hand back quickly.  Darren smiled as he reached out again except this time he rubbed the side of the big animal's head like he would a dog.  The animal leaned towards the rubbing hand in appreciation. The animal settled down with his head in Darren's lap – his eyes locked onto his human's eyes. This was not a challenge from the big animal, it was respect and love for his human.  Darren continued to smile as he rubbed his spirit guide's head.  

Jared then spoke to Liam. "You have been chosen by the eagle, also a very powerful totem in different ways than the wolf.  This totem will assist you as you learn your role to work in both the spiritual realm and our world.  Your clear vision of life and objectives complements your abilities to be successful in whatever you try to do.  Your abilities complement those of the bear, the healer.  Our relationship will allow those two totems to work together, blending our strengths and become stronger together."

The eagle turned his head and screamed at Liam.  He then dug his talons into Liam's right shoulder.  Liam jumped and automatically reached for his shoulder.  By the time his hand grabbed his shoulder, the eagle had jumped over to Jared's shoulder.  Once again he dug his talons into Jared's shoulder except Jared didn't move. 

The eagle screamed and flew out through the wall.  A moment later, the wolf stood and jumped through the wall between Josh and Darren, causing them to reflexively move out of the way.

Jared chanted a new prayer for a moment, and then said to everyone, "The first round has ended.  We may go outside and jump into the lake to rinse the sweat off and drink some water." 

He opened the door and led everyone outside.  The six men ran for the lake and they dove in.  The chatter between them was very animated, talking about their vision.  They were so full of energy in the water from what had happened in the lodge.  It was then Liam noticed red marks like a minor skin abrasion from the eagle's talon on his right shoulder.

"Jared, look at my shoulder.  I saw his talons pierce both of our shoulders but there are no injuries other than a slight redness."

Jared looked at Liam's shoulder and his own while the rest of the guys gathered around them.  "You felt the pain of the eagle as it bonded with you, and then I felt it when it bonded with me."

"It was a vision, not real.  But I know what I felt." 

"Liam, you have a very strong totem.  It marked your right shoulder and my left shoulder in our visions.  Have you ever noticed how we stand together; it's usually with your right side and my left side together.  He approves of us and marked us so no one else will get between us.  He has marked his people to show all who our guide is.  We will see the scars from his marks only when we are in the spiritual world."

Darren spoke up, "I know when that wolf licked my face it felt as real as if it had been done by a regular dog.  I felt the wetness and roughness of his tongue as he dragged it up my face."

"It's pretty cool isn't it," said Josh.

"How long were we in there?" asked Josh. "It didn't seem to be very long."

"Looking at the position of the sun, the width of the clouds, the shadows from the trees, the frequency and pitch of the waves on the lake as well as my watch hanging on the tree outside the lodge, 45 minutes," Jared replied. 

The boys all started laughing when Darren said, "Dammit! You had me going until you said watch."

Jared then spoke, "Get some water into you; we will be doing the second round in a few minutes."

They all drank 2 bottles of water each and then looked at Jared for direction.  Jared motioned for them to resume their ceremony. 

The second round was completed and it had an emphasis on courage, endurance and honesty calling upon the north power.  The third round calling upon the power of the east for wisdom was completed as well.

The men consumed more water after the third round, and Jared called them together.  "This is the final round of the ceremony.  I will be honest with you and after the unexpected visitors in the first round, I am not sure what to expect in this round. Remember where you are and we are family, here to support each other."  Jared held his hand out and every one placed their hand on top.

The men were all in position and the last set of hot rocks were glowing in front of them.  Jared poured water on them and they sizzled loudly in response.  Jared started to chant and the rest joined in. 

"This is the round for the south.  The power of the south is in spiritualism and healing.  We need to use all the qualities we have gained from the west, the north and the east for us to grow as a person and to mature in the way we see and deal with things.  This leads into the healing of the heart and spirit."

Jared poured more water onto the rocks and started chanting.  The men joined in, repeating the verses over and over.  Jared poured more water onto the rocks.  The heat in the lodge was the highest it had been so far.  No one could see each other this time through the steam but they could hear the chanting.  Soon, Jared was chanting alone.  The steam had dissipated enough now to see each of the men in the lodge as they were staring into the rocks.  Jared also looked into the rocks and concentrated to increase the strength of his spiritual vision. 

Immediately he saw Liam talking with his parents.  Tyler was talking with his grandparents while Troy was talking with his dad. Josh was speaking with a couple Jared thought to be the age of his grandparents. Darren was talking with a man about the same age but possibly a little older and dressed in combat fatigues.  Jared then sensed it was his brother and he made a note to himself to talk with Darren about this.

Jared poured more water onto the rocks and the steam rose once again.  In his mind, Jared heard the conversations going on in the lodge and how they were coming to an end.  Jared could feel the physiological and emotional relief in every one of the other men in the lodge as they released their deepest fears and secrets which had been bottled up and pushed down inside each one of them.  The feeling of purity in their heart and spirit was filling the lodge. Finally, all the conversations had finished.

Jared was going to end the session but he was forced by an invisible hand to reach out, adding more water on the rocks.  The lodge shook violently and he could see the others looking around the inside.  Suddenly, Jared's grandfather was standing in front of him.

"Grandfather, you honour me by your presence."

"Jared, I am at home in meditation and smudging when I had a vision of your ceremony.  I have entered my vision to visit with you.  Jared, you have learned well Grandson, and I need to tell you the Great Buffalo came to me with a message for you," Grandfather said.

Jared looked quickly around the lodge and realized everyone was seeing the vision as well and they were all staring at him.

"I thank you Grandfather for your praise but my actions were the result of your teaching, and you did that well," replied Jared.

"Jared, the Great Buffalo has bestowed an honour upon you.  He is allowing you to be called Sacred Medicine Man of the people.  With that responsibility and honour, you will receive more gifts from him to use on his behalf in your work.  They'll be given to you as the needs arise and when they can be used," Grandfather said.

"I am humbled by these gifts, but I do not believe myself worthy of the honour," stated Jared.

Grandfather turned and asked all of the men present, "Is he worthy?"

All of the men replied 'yes' in a chant.

"It's settled, Jared.  The Creator has spoken as have your friends," said Grandfather.

Jared had tears in his eyes looking at the vision of his grandfather in front of him.  Everyone in the lodge could feel the love flowing between Jared and his Grandfather.

"Jared.  Come home soon for a visit, and bring the new boyfriend.  I want to meet the man who has the ancient knowledge and who you have exchanged hearts with.  Jared, you and Liam will become very powerful together as you grow with your knowledge.  I also wish you would bring the men of your tribe for a visit.  It is time they did their spiritual quest on our sacred lands with their spirit guides.  We can feast and sweat together as a family."

"Thank you Grandfather.  May the peace of the Creator be with you in your life and journeys" said Jared.

As the vision of his Grandfather faded, the old man said, "I love you Jared, my grandson," before disappearing entirely.

Jared then looked around the lodge and said, "Let us give thanks in silence for what we have gained during this ceremony." 

There wasn't a sound in the tent for two minutes.  Jared then declared the door open and last one in the lake is a rotten egg.

The men had rinsed themselves off and drank the last of the bottled water.  They had consumed 48 bottles of water between them since the sweat started.

Jared was standing alone, deep in thought standing near the fire and staring into it.  The rest of the men came to him and hugged him.  The six men stood together in a hug, as one.

The six men, arms wrapped around each other as a group became one.  No words were needed to be spoken as they stood together as they joined Jared in looking into the fire.  Six men, from different families, different communities, different life experiences all came together as one group.  It was times like this, the men were all very aware of not only belonging, but being a family. 

They had all stood together for a moment when Josh asked, "Is anyone beside me hungry?"

"Josh, you're always hungry," said Darren.  A loud smack of an ass cheek was heard and Darren yelping.  "Josh, you are going to get such a spanking…" he yelled.

"That one wasn't me," Josh pleaded.  Troy broke from the group and ran for the cabin.  As Darren was watching him, his ass was slapped three more times by people running by him and up to the cabin.  Jared suddenly stopped running and turned around, heading back to the sweat lodge to gather his sacred objects. With them in hand, he ran to the cabin.

"Hey guys, get the BBQ lit, I have more steaks in the fridge and there is lots of salads and bread.  There's also potato's in the oven and they should be ready.  I did it this afternoon after my meditation was completed," said Jared.

"Jared, you weren't kidding when you said your Grandfather contacted you in visions.  Is your plan cheaper than my damn cell phone?" asked Liam

Jared smiled and pulled Liam into a hug, then smacked the back of his head playfully.  "I can't believe you asked that," laughed Jared.

The men got the steaks cooked, the food spread out and they attacked it with appetites only equated to hyenas attacking a wounded zebra.  They made short order of all the food, leaving only a pile of debris on the table.  They were all sitting around the table on the deck silent, but very content. 

Darren let out a belch which was of such quality it resonated through the table.  Josh leaned over and slapped the back of his head. 

There was another belch heard, this time from Tyler.

"Amateurs," said Troy and proceeded to let out a belch of such volume and duration one would have thought it was not humanly possible.  The men applauded.

Jared looked at them all and then let go a sound which sounded like trumpet, except it wasn't a belch.  He sat there with a very satisfied smirk on his face. 

Liam put his hand over his mouth, "Oh my god Jared, that's terrible."  He promptly let go his own fart.

Josh stood up and looked at his friends, "Is this a re-enactment of the campfire scene from Blazing Saddles?"  He then stuck his ass out a bit and joined in with his own contribution.

"Good god.  No more beans for you guys," Tyler said waving his hands in front of his face. They all started laughing uncontrollably.

Liam stood and gathered up some debris. "I don't know about you guys, but I'm going to clean up and its bedtime for me."  Everyone stood and joined in the cleaning.  It didn't take long, and soon they realized they were all worn out from the activities throughout the day, but especially after the sweat.  The men all soon headed off for bed with their boyfriends.

Josh and Darren were lying in bed together, Darren spooning his boyfriend from behind.

"Josh, I thought I had lost you this afternoon," Darren said quietly.

Josh turned his head towards Darren and spoke, "It wasn't my time, and Jared won't let it happen before my time, Darren."

"I'm beginning to understand what people mean when they say that.  I've learned so much about life tonight.  I'm beginning to realize there's a higher entity and he does care about us. I don't know how to describe it except I didn't think something like guardian angels existed until today. Is Jared an angel and Liam learning to be one?" said Darren.

Josh rolled over and faced Darren.  "No.  Although it's easy to understand why you'd think they were.  They are as they say, just men who are the conduits for the Creator's will and powers.  You've begun to learn, but there's so much more to this and it'll take time.  Open your mind and heart, and it'll help you to comprehend."

"I will."  Darren looked into Josh's eyes and smiled.  "Falling asleep with you being the last l thing I see before I close my eyes is perfect."

Josh tenderly kissed Darren, and they both fell asleep, holding each other.

End of Chapter Eight

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