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Meet Josh Stein

October 9, 1976

“One more wedding,” Ben Stein said.  “The last of four daughters.  I’ll have to take a second job and rob your piggy bank.”  Ben and his son, Josh, were sailing off Sydney’s Bondi Beach on a clear spring day.  There was very little breeze and the water was calm.  At fifty-one, Ben still had the wiry frame of his youth.  His hair had thinned and grayed so he had taken to wearing a Greek fisherman’s cap to protect his scalp.  Dressed in cut offs and a T-shirt, he looked barely forty.  Josh was wearing a pair of lime green board shorts and sunglasses.  He’d trimmed his curls back for football earlier that year and decided he liked the shorter look.

“Good luck.  I’m tapped out,” Josh responded.  “I spent my last dime at the record store.”

“I should have opened a record store.  You kids spend all your money there.  What did you buy?”

Bohemian Rhapsody.  It’s a single by Queen.”

“What’s Queen?”

“It’s a British rock band.  But this song is like rock opera.  I’ll play it for you when we get back.”

“Why do they call themselves Queen?”

“I don’t know.”  Josh smiled.  “What about your music?  The Modernaires, the Pied Pipers, the Four Aces?  How did they choose those names?”

“Hey, those were great groups.  They really knew how to sing.”

“But they had goofy names.  I bet you never asked why the Modernaires called themselves the Modernaires.”

“Still, what’s Queen?  Why not the Queens or the Four Queens?”

Josh smiled again.  “Talk to me before you buy a record store, okay?  I think you should stick to real estate.”

Ben waved off his son.  “Don’t worry.  Sarah’s reception will put me in the poor house.  You want some lunch?  I made tongue sandwiches.”

“Sure.”  Josh lowered the sails while his father unpacked the cooler.

The conversation drifted on to Josh’s sisters and their respective husbands and Sarah’s fiancé, Cliff, the only gentile in the lot, and the hope that he’d feel welcome in the family.  Ben quizzed Josh about the utility of studying English literature at the University of Sydney the following year, and Josh defended his choice in the manner typical of children of successful entrepreneurs.  “I don’t really care how much money I make.”

Then, Ben asked, “It’s just a couple months ‘til the senior dance.  Have you thought about who you’d like to ask?”

“Yes, I have, but it’s not going to happen.”

“What do you mean?”

“I want to take Jeremy Logan.”

There was a long silence.  The wind had started to pick up.  “What, you’re not good enough for Jeremy’s parents?” Ben asked.

Josh studied his father.  He hadn’t intended to come out to his father that particular day, but he had decided that he would have the conversation before graduation.  His father sometimes used humor to hide discomfort, and Josh wondered if Ben were making a joke because he was too hurt to say how he really felt.  “Jeremy’s parents don’t know about us,” Josh said.  “They don’t know about Jeremy.  He’s afraid they’ll kick him out.”

Ben lifted his cap and looked at his son.  “How long have you been with Jeremy?”

“Since the beginning of high school.”

Ben sat up.  “How long have you known?”

“Since I can remember.”

“Does your mother know?”

“Yes.”

Ben nodded.  “How long has she known?”

Josh hesitated.  “Since I was eleven.  She caught me with Stu Rosen.”

“And she told you not to tell me because I would be upset.”

“Pretty much.”

Ben leaned over and patted Josh’s hand.  “You’re a good son, Josh, but you underestimate me.  I love you no matter what.”

“I know that, Dad.  I wanted to tell you first thing.  But, Mom wanted me to wait.”

“Poor woman.  I’m afraid she’s the one who’s upset.  And all these years, she’s kept it to herself.”

“That’s what I figured.”

“You know you never have to keep a secret from me.  I will always love you.  I loved you the minute I held you in my arms in that airport.”

“I know, Dad.  I’m sorry.  I’m glad I finally told you.”