Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Act Your Age Ch 01: New Neighbor

Shane, a directionless 20 year old living with his parents and attending community college, is sitting on his porch one lazy day when he spots Grant a new next door neighbor.  Grant is handsome, older, and successful.  Shane is attracted to the older man, wants to start a relationship but Grant has just gotten out of a long-term relationship with a man and isn’t ready for commitment. 

Worse, he sees Shane as too young, too impulsive, and misbehaved, but when Shane won’t give up Grant challenges him to a little discipline.

With my parents away at work and not feeling like studying or doing my homework from my classes at the community college I decided to take one of my father’s cigars from his office and one of his beers from the fridge and sit out on our porch.  I had my own pack of cigarettes but there was something nice about a cigar every once in a while, especially when I stole them from my father.
It was after eleven, I had just gotten up and had breakfast but I couldn’t go anywhere because my car was wrecked and in our garage taking up the only space.  My mom didn’t want it to be seen by the neighbors. 

The accident was bad enough that I had to walk with a cane and my parents felt it was punishment enough that they barely said anything.  They didn’t want to inhibit my creativity and my own internal agency.  My father was a therapist with his own problems and my mother, well my mother worked in pharmaceuticals.

I had few plans for after high school.  My father had something else in mind when he told me months before I graduated that he wanted me to go to the local community college.  He said I needed more of an education and that education was something that became more difficult later in life.  I thought I would take a few classes and if they didn’t go well I could move on to something else.  What I didn’t expect was to start that summer right after graduating.  When my friends were partying, sleeping late, and goofing off I had to study.  It was almost worth it because I was about to get my Associate’s degree and thinking about where to finish my Bachelor’s degree.

I had been sipping at my beer and smoking my cigar for some time when I saw the two moving vans arrive for the next door neighbor’s house.  The first truck had a hard idle and I could hear the suspension creak when it rounded corners and pulled into the driveway.  The second truck parked on the street.  I thought anyone who used it was at risk of it breaking down, or worse, possibly dying which is probably why I stared to see who would get out of the driver’s seat.

At first I thought there were four movers until I determined one of them was directing the others and dressed more formally, the way adults dress when not at work.  I could tell by the way he moved and talked that he was a rugged type.  I watched him as he moved and talked.  I could tell the other men were movers, used to being ordered around, and that he didn’t fit in with them yet they respected him somehow.  He was the first to open the truck and grab a box.  He worked with the men as they carried everything inside, often grabbing the second half of the heaviest objects.  I watched him as he worked, always lifting with his legs.

He had to be pretty rich to move into a house in our neighborhood but I was surprised when no one else showed.  No wife, no kids, just him and the movers.  I had noticed the ‘For Sale’ sign had been taken down weeks prior and asked my mother but she didn’t know who had bought the place.  She had been spying on the realtors whenever she could, even introducing herself to people who were looking, but I didn’t really expect her to know.  I thought it would be another couple like my parents.
At one point he stopped to catch his breath as I was staring at him, wanting him to do something where I would see some part of his body, the skin of his arm, the cleft of a butt cheek when he looked directly at me and waved.  I thought for a moment that I had been caught and was being signaled in some way but then I thought about the distance between us and I knew he didn’t really know, couldn’t be sure about what I was looking at so I just waved back as simply and insincerely as I could.

They made a second and third trip while I watched.  It was the most interesting thing.  I had already watched a marathon of television the night before.  The cigar went out several times before I gave up on it and I finished off two beers, even had a sandwich. 
After they unloaded the last moving truck he drove away with the movers and I thought it was over until he returned about an hour later in a truck with a bag of fast food and some beers.  I was feeling curious plus I thought him being a single guy who still looked young he might feel some pity for me at the age of 20 and stuck without a car.  I got to my feet and trying to look extra pitiful with my cane I headed over.

The front glass door was closed but the wooden front door was open.  I could see him right away on the couch with an open laptop on the coffee table.  He was shirtless but I couldn’t make out much detail through the glare.  I watched him eat some fries before I knocked.  He was even more handsome than I had thought.  He was older, at least ten years.  He smiled and waved me inside but when I tried the handle I found it was locked.

He got up and moved to the door, unlocked it, and pushed it open for me.  I could see his muscled, hairy chest clearly now.  He had broad, flat pectoral muscles and a washboard stomach but I didn’t dare try to count the abs, though I could see almost everything because he wasn’t wearing a belt so his jeans were loose about his hips.  I couldn’t see the waistband for his underwear.  I felt my face was hot and I was feeling dizzy from the stimulation so I faked a cough and instead I looked up into his eyes.  He looked professional but casual, a five o’clock shadow.  I could still see the whole upper body of him, the way his chest muscles stretched, his biceps flexed, muscles that rippled naturally. 

“Hello there,” he said.

“Hi,” I replied.

There was a smell of cologne and sweat in the air as well as grease and ketchup.   He motioned for me to enter so I did.  He let the door close behind me before going back to the couch.  He was comfortable but maybe a little annoyed by my presence.  I worked my way close to him.  The closer I got the more I felt some kind of energy, an attraction like I had only felt for few other men in my life.  It felt like a tingling sensation on my skin and grabbed at my stomach making me realize I was holding my breath. 

He watched me as I moved and I stared back at him.  A few feet away and by the recliner, I thought to sit but felt it was too presumptuous so I leaned against my cane. 

“How’s it going?” I asked.

“Not bad,” he said.  “Have a seat.  I was just about to get a shower but I thought I would check my email first.”

I moved in front of the recliner, still keeping my eyes on him, and sat.  I could tell it was high quality just from sitting but when I touched it with my fingers it felt great.  I looked around at the walls but they were bare so I looked back to him and his computer. 

“I’m Shane,” I said.

“Mr. Grant,” he said.  “Sorry, I’m being rude, I just am trying to do everything at once.” 

Who introduces themselves like that?  He wanted me to call him Mr. Grant?  What was next, sir?

“Moving in today,” I said.  It was rhetorical, or else he didn’t take the bait.  “I would’ve helped but I got this thing.”

“I saw you on the porch.  Laid up with that cane huh?”

“Car accident,” I said, “nothing big just got a little hurt.  I would have helped but I’m not sure what I could have done.”

“At least you get a day off from high school though right?”

“Community college,” I said.  “And I don’t have class today.”

I was feeling a little irritated by him assuming I was in high school so I decided to show a little courage.  I pulled my pack of cigarettes from my pocket and held them out to offer him one.

“Do you smoke?”

“Sometimes,” he said.  “Cigars mostly.  Do you know a good place?”

“No, I get mine from my father’s office,” I said.

“And he’s okay with you taking his cigars?”

I nodded.

He shook his head before he looked back to his computer.  He moved the mouse a little, clicked on something but he looked frustrated.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Sorry,” he said.  “It’s just with moving and not having any internet service yet it’s kind of annoying.  There’s an open network but I barely get a signal and I’m trying to download some paperwork.”

I immediately thought to offer him the password to my home wi-fi but then I thought about my parents and worried about whether I could trust him.  I grimaced at the predicament and nodded to show sympathy.  I wanted to help him.  I wanted to impress him.  I wanted to be resourceful.  And yet all of those feelings worked against me telling him because I was afraid to look weak.

It’s no big deal, I told myself.  Just let life happen and it will all sort itself out.  I played with my cane a little between my hands waiting for him to say something else but he didn’t.  I knew I would have to keep the conversation going.

“So what brings you here?” I asked.

“I’m starting a business,” he said.  “That’s why I need these documents.”

He leaned forward, squinted, and something inside of me snapped.

“You could use my parents’ network,” I said.

He looked up to me.

“Really, it’s fine.  I mean you’re getting your own soon.  It would just be temporary.”

He smiled.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

“Yeah, it’s easier if I just type it in,” I said before getting to my feet.  I hobbled around the coffee table and he moved down the couch.  I sat beside him and looked to the screen.  I wasn’t sure what I would find there, maybe a picture of a half-naked man for the wallpaper or something to tell me he was gay but there wasn’t anything there.

Instead there was an empty email inbox and a meter showing how slow the data was being transferred.  I found the network selector, found my parents’ network, and typed in the password, a phrase I had made up myself.  The connection was made and the data rate jumped.

“Hey, that’s great,” he said.

I smiled and looked to him.  He was older than me.  He was more muscled than me.  And sitting this close to him I could tell he radiated masculinity.  I thought for a moment he was straight and that I was being foolish.  I had fallen for straight guys before in high school and my first year of college, befriended them but ultimately the relationships didn’t go anywhere.  How could they? 

“I think I can handle it from here,” he said.

“Right,” I said. 

I looked to his email and saw lots of new messages from lots of different people.  There was a Wendy, a Michael, and a Tom.  I got to my feet and made my way back to the recliner where I sat and looked back to him.  I was feeling he buzz from the two beers wearing off and there was the reminder of sobriety.  I didn’t want it to end and I felt bold enough to ask him.

“So how about a celebration beer?  I saw you bring them inside.”

He looked up to me but he didn’t smile.  He looked angry.  Either because I had been spying or the stupidity to ask. 

“How old are you?” he asked.

“Twenty-one,” I said.

“When were you born?”

I thought about it for a moment before I realized I just had to subtract one year from my actual birth year which I told him.

“You had to think about it,” he said.

“Really,” I said, “okay, I’m actually twenty but I drink all of the time."

“You drink all of the time?”

“I have a tolerance for it.”

He looked to my cane, then up to me.

“I wasn’t drinking and driving,” I said.  “This was sober.”

He looked back to his computer.

“No beer?” I asked.

“No beer,” he said.  “I just don’t think it’s a good idea if you’re not legal drinking age and this is my first day in town.  What would your parents say?”

I let out a sigh and looked to his walls again.  I looked at the windows that didn’t have curtains.  I looked to the boxes.  I could hear cars on the street and children screaming at each other.  Our little moment was over, I had pissed him off, and there was nothing else for me to do.  Gay or straight it didn’t matter.  He didn’t like me.

“Well,” I said.  “I have to get going.”

He looked to me.  I got to my feet and he stood as well.  He crossed the distance between us and extended his hand which I shook.  He smiled and I smiled back.  We had made up but I was still leaving, he was still escorting me out.  He walked with me to the door where he opened it and ushered me out, then closed it behind me.  I turned to him and waved before turning away and heading back home.

Chapter 2 , Chapter 3 , Chapter 4 , Chapter 5 , Chapter 6 , Chapter 7

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Shadow's Night: Chapter 12 - Saturday Helper

After shooting a man while on a bender of drugs he was supposed to sell Conrad flees the city and goes to a place where he believes no one will find him, the home of Simon Winters, an old cellmate from his years in juvenile detention.  But he knows he can’t stay for long and Conrad’s greed inadvertently causes Simon to confront his past and his life in a small town where memories run deep.  How will Simon survive Conrad’s path to darkness?

Saturday morning, Kevin walked to Thad’s photography studio located on Main Street.  He was dressed in a pair of slacks, button down shirt with tie, and sweater, but he wore sneakers.  Thad hadn’t told him what he needed help with but he wanted to look professional.  He imagined it would be a lot of getting babies to look in specific directions, maybe a couple family portraits.  He pulled open the front door and stepped inside to find a teenage boy, obviously younger than himself, sitting patiently in the waiting area but there was no one at reception.  There never was, Thad said he couldn’t afford to hire someone, and that’s when he made the obvious connection.  He looked to the door that led into the photography area, held up his finger to the young man, and walked to the counter where he saw a sheet with a list of names and times.

“Are you Bryan?” Kevin asked.

“Yes, I’m early.”

“No problem, I think I’m late.  Just let me check with the photographer.”

The photographer?  God, he was overdoing it to sound professional, especially in this town, he thought.  Kevin put the list back on the counter and opened the door, looked back to Bryan who winced with anxiety, and left him there.  There was a small hallway, a door for the printing room, another for supplies, which he passed until he was in the actual studio area, a large space that had been converted from a general store.  In the middle of the room there was all of the equipment needed for portraits and Thad in the middle of it, slightly panicked.

“Oh good you’re here,” Thad said.

“Yeah,” Kevin said before stepping closer.

“There’s someone out in the waiting area, they’re early.  Could you deal with it?”

“No problem, I’ll tell them ten minutes.”

“Perfect,” Thad said.

Kevin watched for a moment as the normally calm man double checked everything before turning away and walking back to the waiting area but this time through the door to the receptionist area where he turned on a light.  The small area was suddenly illuminated but it only made it look sadder as there was little there, shelves and surfaces were empty.  He grimaced at the sight before looking out to Bryan who looked back at him expectantly. 

A year or two younger, with glasses and acne, Bryan could have been his friend in high school.  If Bryan had been in the theater department, he thought, even then he probably would have worked on the set.  He probably wouldn’t have believed in himself enough to try for a part.  Even now, as he sat there staring back there was an air or desperation about him, an uncomfortable presence.  Gay or straight?  Kevin thought he would be straight and slightly homophobic because everyone, even relatives, assumes he’s gay because he talks more about computers than girls.  Kevin suppressed a laugh at his own joke and cleared his throat.

“The photographer will be ten more minutes.  I guess you’re early after all.  He has to let the lights warm up.”  Was that a thing?  He shrugged his shoulders, it had to be something he overheard Thad say sometime.  “I might be able to find something for you to read if you’re bored.”

“No, that’s okay,” Bryan said before pulling his phone from his pocket.

Kevin looked away to the chair and the desk.  He could tell easily that the chair would need to be adjusted if he wanted to use the desk.  He shook his head.  There were intentions.  And disappointments.  He turned the chair, dusted it with his hand, and sat.  He looked up at the backside of the counter and he could barely see Bryan’s eyes on the other side.  He groaned and stood, looked down to the chair, to Bryan who was preoccupied with his phone, to the list, the phone, and back to the chair. 

“This is going to be a long day,” he said.


“So how was it?  Senior class pictures can be a bit of a drag but it’s good money.  I bet you’re feeling like I owe you more than a piece of pizza and twenty bucks.”

The sweater in his lap, Kevin looked back to Thad who was putting away the equipment and sighed.  His instinct was to say something sarcastic but he stopped himself.  It had been a long day but strangely rewarding.  For once he looked at the people younger than himself, the high school students, as something outside of himself, something he could no longer identify with because he didn’t worry about the same things, have the same desires or expectations.  They worried about how they looked and that this image would be so meaningful, a measure of their life.

He didn’t have those worries, not exactly.  He had been through a year of college, had an internship, was saving money, and there was Thad.  He was working with these high school students as a photographer’s assistant, maybe if he did it a few more times, asked some questions it could be something he put on his resume.  But there was something else, their secret.  They were lovers of a sort, a couple.  Were they a couple, he asked himself.  No, there was no commitment there, just limited options. 

“It’s not like I had anything better to do,” Kevin said.

Thad looked to him.

“No that’s not how I meant it.  I’m sorry, it’s just kind of weird being your assistant.  You know, working for you.  And they’re all from my high school.  Some of them probably know who I am even if I don’t know who they are.”

“You’re that famous?”

“Well, when you beat the hell out of three football players in a locker room... but, I’m not one to brag.”


“It’s a long story,” Kevin said.

“You’ll have to tell me someday,” Thad said.  “Sorry if it was boring but thanks for helping me.  I had quite the night and I was running late this morning.”

“No problem,” Kevin said.  “I was guessing who was gay and straight all day.”

“I used to play that game.”

“So why were you late anyway?”

“Oh, uh, no big deal, just my ex-boyfriend called me last night.  His father died and it was kind of a surprise.  No one really expected it.  We just got to talking.”

Kevin felt his stomach sinking as Thad talked.  He wasn’t sure if he regretted asking Thad the question or if he should dismiss somehow, forget about it.

“It’s kind of crazy when you get to talking with someone and you realize it’s been years.  I hadn’t really thought about it for some time.  I mean it’s like I enjoyed everything about getting older but then someone dies, an ex calls, and it’s like bam, this is life.  But, anyway, it’s not something to really talk about right now.  Where do you want to eat?  Or do you want to go back to my place?”

“Let’s go back to your place,” Kevin said.


“Yeah sure,” Kevin said.

Together they closed the studio and walked out the side exit, down the alley to the parking lot where they got into Thad’s car.  Kevin looked around but there was no one to see him, to see them.  He had been known as the town queer since high school and his very public outing but for Thad a reputation could be ruined.  Would those high school guys feel comfortable with a gay photographer?  Would their parents?  It’s not like he was in the closet but there were no rainbow flags, no visibility.
They drove to Thad’s home, a Victorian style house that looked too big for one man, too expensive.  Anywhere else, Kevin told himself, but this town is going down the tubes and property value with it.  He probably got it for a steal, he thought every time he saw it.  He pushed open his car door and looked back to Thad who seemed to have everything he needed in his hands.  He followed the man up the stairs and to the front door.  Thad stopped to check the mail.  Kevin looked back at the other houses, up and down the street.  He saw some children in the distance riding bicycles, trying to live out the last hours of the summer break when the sun always seemed to linger just on the horizon.  He heard Thad put the key in the door and it snapped him back to the moment, to Thad who smiled back.

“Come on inside,” Thad said.

Kevin followed after him into the house where he instantly felt at ease.  He half expected a dog to be there but Thad told him before that he had too many dogs in his life already and he wasn’t going to get another one until he was an old man.  The home was comfortable, lived in.  He smelled vanilla and something else.  Thad walked around the house and turned on the lights to the living room, the hallway, and the kitchen.  He looked through his mail, set it on the counter, and opened the refrigerator door. 

“I think we should order in.”

“There’s only one place that delivers,” Kevin said.  He walked to the kitchen and stopped on the other side of the refrigerator door.

“You don’t like their food?”

“It’s fine.  It just sucks that there’s only one place.”

“God, I used to order from like five different places when I lived in the city.  Thai, Japanese, and real Italian food, my favorite was Japanese.”

“Well here we’re going to have to settle for pizza,” Kevin said.

They looked each other in the eye, both of them were tired but they wanted something else.  They didn’t want to eat.  Thad closed the refrigerator door.  He moved to Kevin and took hold of his belt with one hand, the other went to Kevin’s face.  They kissed, deeply and passionately.  They pulled at each others clothing and dropped it to the floor.  Kevin began to step back and pull Thad with him.  They broke from their kiss.

“What about the food?”

“Forget the food,” Kevin said.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Per Pound of Flesh: Chapter 13 - Getting Fired Is Never Easy (Excerpt)

    Two weeks had gone by without John hearing from his mother and he told Brandi  that he was feeling nervous about the whole thing as she readied herself for the day in the room that had been his mother’s.  Brandi had thrown lots of stuff out, packed lots of stuff away or moved it into his bedroom, flipped the mattress and changed the sheets but it was all too familiar for him.  It was still his mother’s bed. 
He looked in the mirror as he flipped a cigarette end over end against the wood surface where his mother had once done the exact same thing with her own cigarette.
“So what are you worried about?  Are you worried he’s some kind of killer or something?”  She stepped behind him and placed her hands on his shoulders just over the straps of his undershirt.  She gripped at them as he looked at himself in the mirror with his head reflected back at him between her breasts covered in a black bra. 
“Your mother is a smart woman,” she said.
“I know.  But I called her three different times now and I guess before I didn’t really worry about it because she was just working and everything but with the money she gave us--”
“--hey don’t worry about it.  In part that money was ours and she just gave it back.  You can’t worry about that stuff.  She’s an adult.”
“I just worry about her,” he said.  “She gets so excited about things.”
He thought back to Clark, the man who was supposed to be their knight in shining armor, a man who was a liar and a cheat. 
“People have to live their own lives.  If it’s as good as she said then we all have it made.  I mean I really don’t want to inherit this dump but it’s something.  When we get our own house we can rent this one.”
He flipped open the lighter and sparked the wheel to create a flame.  He held it for a long moment to see the reflection in the mirror until Brandi took hold of his wrist and guided the him up to her mouth where she had placed her own cigarette.
“The baby,” he said.
“Is fine,” she said.  “It’s my only one.”
She used the fire and inhaled deeply before he lit his own cigarette.  He reached for her backside and she let him take it.  He gripped at her slightly enjoying the feel of flesh.  She reached back to him and grabbed the back of his head.
“You want to have sex tonight?” he asked.
“Let’s see how it goes,” she answered.
She stepped out of his grasp and walked from the room.  He had become excited by touching her and he wanted something more but she was teasing him.
He looked to the clock and saw it was quarter after eight.  He hated mornings when there was little to do.  He thought about playing video games or else watching television, maybe look for a job.  He hated the idea of looking for another job, another boss, another day trying to get by while he sunk deeper in debt.
He got up from the chair and walked from the room, through the trailer and exited through the front door where he found a familiar sight of the trailer park he had known for a little more than four years when Clark had made the down payment on it for him and his mother.  At least then, he thought, she was smart enough to put it in her name so that when his wife found out it couldn’t be taken back. 
That was the part that was news to them, his wife, the man had been married and had two children but lied to them both.  He thought of his mother out there with a stranger and he worried about her safety.  He had never met the man so he didn’t know what he looked like but he could imagine the empty hotel rooms and the long roads between them.  He flicked the butt of his cigarette out into the lawn then lit another one.
She had received many gifts over the years from men but they had trailed off in her later years when her age, no her spirit, had finally begun to drain.  All of his life she had been fierce, fueled by nicotine and liquor, prescription pills.  When she wanted to rearrange the furniture in the middle of the night he had learned to go along with it.  When she was having a good day it was great.  She had a will and vitality that he knew took a blow from Clark but he didn’t expect it had been terminal.  No, she was the type to get a second wind.
His phone rang and he pulled it from his pocket.  It was Dennis.  For a moment he was suspicious of the call, troubled somehow by why he would call so early.  Maybe Dennis had to call off and they could switch like before, he thought.  He answered it.
“What’s going on man?” John asked.
Dennis sounded about ready to cry.  John could hear the commotion of traffic, the wind.  He was walking.
“Are you there?”
“Yeah,” Dennis said.
“Can you talk?”
John looked to make sure no one was around feeling it was confidential.
“I just got fired,” Dennis said.
“What?  Why?”
“I don’t know.  I mean, I can’t talk about it.”
“What’s going on?” John asked.
“I have to get out of here,” he said.  “I took the bus to work today and now I’m stuck so I just started walking.  Can you pick me up?”
John knew he had hours before his shift at the grocery store and said that he could meet Dennis then asked for him to pick a spot and stay there.  Dennis told him the name of a chain breakfast food restaurant.
“I’ll be right there,” John said.  He hung up then headed back to the bedroom and began to search for his shoes, his socks, and a belt.  He picked them up and began to walk with them in his hands.  When he passed Brandi she asked him where he was going.
“Out,” he said.
“What about Josie?  I thought we could go to the mall.”
He stopped at the door and looked back to her.
“I can’t,” he said, “a friend needs me.  Go with Rachel if you want.”
“Rachel is working today.  You know that.  I thought we could spend some time together.”
John hated the mall.  He had a friend in need.  He wanted to make the conversation short.  He wanted to sink any thoughts about it.
“You’re always just looking at stuff and walking around.  There’s nothing there we need.”
“We can still look,” she said.
“Brandi we need to hold on to that money and pay some bills,” he said.  He slid on his socks and shoes then pulled open the door and exited.
Twenty minutes later he passed the coffee shop then thirty seconds after that he pulled into the parking lot of a strip mall and made it to the place where Dennis said he would be.  He made his way inside and to the table where Dennis sat staring at a cup of coffee.  He took a seat opposite of him.
“What’s going on?  I was speeding all of the way over here.”
“Did you get a ticket?”
“No, luckily no cops were out.  So what’s going on?”
“I got fired.”
“You got fired or you thought you got fired so you quit.”
“I got fired.  That,” Dennis lowered his voice, “fucking old queen fired me.  And it was all Mitsy’s fault.  I didn’t even make it to the lunch rush.”
“What happened?”
“He found out,” Dennis looked to John who turned his head quizzically.  “You know, about me.”
“Oh,” John said.  “How?”
“Mitsy, she saw me with this guy.”
“This morning,” Dennis said, “I didn’t really take the bus.  I didn’t mean to lie to you.  It’s just that--” he began to cry slow long tears that ran down his cheeks.  John reached for napkins in the holder and handed them over. 
“He dropped me off this morning and she saw him kissing me in the parking lot.  The bitch couldn’t even wait until after lunch.  She told him almost right away.  I just knew something was up when she was cleaning up with me this morning.  It was just awkward the whole time and she kept staring at me. 
“Then work started and things seemed okay.  I was in the middle of getting someone coffee when she asked to meet with him and then right afterwards he calls me in to his office.  I just knew something was wrong. 
“So he asks me right away if I’m gay.  And I’m thinking you know like ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ but goes, you know, like, it’s already been told to him that I was and that he didn’t think it reflects well on the business because it’s a Christian business and he’s a Christian businessman.  So he says I had to leave.  Just like that.  He’s such a hypocrite.”
“So he just fired you?”
“Yeah,” Dennis said.
“Isn’t that discrimination?”
Dennis shook his head and blew his nose then gripped the napkin tight in his hand as he said, “not in this state.  There’s no protection for homosexuals in anything.  I mean I never expected to be married here but fired.  He’s a fucking miserable sack of shit.”
John looked around to the other tables which were mostly empty as the place was between breakfast and lunch.  No one was looking to them, not even a waitress or waiter was in sight.
“I don’t even know why I’m crying.  I hated the job.  I mean it sucked.  Michael was such a douche bag.  I bet he dreams about sucking cock.”
John smirked at the outburst then looked around again before focusing back on Dennis who dabbed at his cheeks.
“What am I going to do for a job?” he asked.  “I needed that money.”
“Hey, it’ll be fine.  I mean it’s not like you have to pay rent right?”
Dennis let out a deep sigh.  “My parents,” he said, “you don’t think he called them?  I mean I had to put their information on my application in case of emergencies.  If my parents found out.  I mean it was already bad enough when my mom figured out I hadn’t been in my room all night.  By the way I told them I was with you.”
“Just take it one step at a time,” John said.
“I’m in so much shit if they find out,” he said.  “All of my life I’ve had to hide who I was and now this and I can’t even keep a fucking job.”
Dennis looked John in the eye.  He had a look of fear John hadn’t seen before in his life.  He was exposed and vulnerable.  Some part of John wanted to cry with him but he couldn’t.  He felt like doing the opposite, to show some resilience instead.
“I haven’t seen a waiter since I sat down,” John said.  “What kind of service do they have here?  You might be able to work here,” John said.
“I hate these places,” Dennis said before he laughed then leaned close and asked with a sarcastic tone, “Do you think they are hiring?”


They were stopped in front of Dennis’s house like they had been when John had asked him if he was still gay after Dennis had come out to him on John’s birthday.  It was all there in John’s mind as he stared at Dennis in the seat next to him.
“Well, I wish I could take you out for a drink but my wife really wants to go to the mall and I have work later tonight.”
“It’s okay,” Dennis said.
“No really, I’m sorry,” John said.
“I know,” Dennis said.  “You’ve been really nice to me.”
“But if you need me then give me a call.”
Dennis opened the car door and began to stand.
“No really, call me,” John said.  “If your parents, you know, if they know and you can’t deal with it.”
Dennis turned and looked back to him.
“I wish I could kiss you,” he said.
“I know,” John replied. 
“Well, it’s just a dumb fucking job I didn’t like anyway.”
“Maybe it’s for the better.”
“Maybe,” Dennis said.  He moved the door slightly with his hand to close it then stopped.  It was a moment.  It was an ending.  He pulled it open to steady himself the readied to close the car door.
“Hey, take care,” John added.
“Thanks I’ll see you later.”
Dennis closed the door and turned away from the car as John watched him walk back to his home.  It was a mundane sight that he had seen before but it meant so much more to him in that moment.  He shifted to drive and pulled away from the curb.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Shadow's Night: Chapter 20 - Proof of Having Been (excerpt)

After shooting a man while on a bender of drugs he was supposed to sell Conrad flees the city and goes to a place where he believes no one will find him, the home of Simon Winters, an old cellmate from his years in juvenile detention.  But he knows he can’t stay for long and Conrad’s greed inadvertently causes Simon to confront his past and his life in a small town where memories run deep.  How will Simon survive Conrad’s path to darkness?

Everything has been put away and cleaned, Simon thought, there was no more evidence, no proof of what happened, and yet there was a pain in his stomach and his chest that had he been older he would have thought it was a heart attack.  It felt almost as intense as the pain in his thighs and buttocks from the whipping she had given him upon his return.  In that same place as it had been years before until the sin was beaten from him, his brain was rendered useless, and his body, his skin throbbed with each heartbeat.  He had almost refused her.  He had thought about fighting her, but then he thought about Heather and that he wanted to see her again.  By giving in he thought he could guarantee something... if not her permission, then at least her good grace.

Why did his mother have to ruin things?  Why did she have to be the way she was?  No, more importantly why did she have to be his mother?  We don’t choose family, he answered.  We are born into it.  We are a product of it.  We are a part of it.  And we cannot easily leave it.  Her illness had gotten worse.  It was one thing to take out her violence on him with beatings and spankings but this, attacking his girlfriend with a knife, was something else.  Oh god, would she even still be his girlfriend?  Was there a relationship after this?  Could she still trust him?  What about his mother?  She had said to put her somewhere.  Like prison?  Like an asylum?  She had been to a mental hospital before several times, a few when he was young and once he had her committed himself after he returned but she didn’t stay long.  She could be convincing, intelligent, and aware when she needed to be.  She could get out of those places. 

No, the next thing was prison, but he hated the very feeling of that idea.  Prisons did not change a person.  Prisons were there for punishment.  How much punishment did she need?  One month or six months, three years or five years, and it wouldn’t be easy to slide her past the mental hospital.  No, if she said the right thing his mother might not even make it to prison. 

What was left?  A therapist who she would visit once a week, once a month, and maybe he’d prescribe something else that her family doctor wouldn’t but he hated the idea of drugs, of doping her up so she would be more compliant.  No, she hated drugs, and he hated them too.  That was why she turned to the church.  She went at least every Sunday, sometimes more if she felt the need, but it didn’t actually do anything for her.  What god could she pray to that would leave her this way?  What god would keep him beholden to her?  What god that could not, did not, punish her or stop her?

No, there was no satisfaction there and he felt the compulsion again to take the knife up.  Maybe he’d have to stab her or maybe he could get her to stab herself but it wouldn’t make any difference because he would be supplying the knife.  Murder or suicide but there was no justice to her death.  Besides the knife would be too bloody, and even if she killed herself there would still be suspicions.  The town would think he did it.  That would be the end of him and any hope of a relationship with Heather. 

It had to be something else, like maybe falling down the stairs.  He could drag her there or else wait for some opportunity.  But when would be the right time?  How would she fall?  Would she be guaranteed to die?  If she didn’t, if she was still alive, then he’d have to finish her.  But how could he do that without leaving any evidence?  A pillow left fibers, fingers left choke marks.  And worse she could be seriously injured and completely dependent on him for everything including all of her personal care.  He shuttered at the idea of bathing her, dressing her, and putting her to bed.  At the very least if she died he’d still be a suspect.

No, he told himself, he had to wait it out, see what Heather said and take it from there.  In some way the best thing would be for her to be locked up and then maybe he could leave her, leave town.  He had his escape plan, his life raft, of nearly twenty-five thousand dollars in cash and funds in a savings account.  That would be enough to start somewhere else, start over.  Heather could go with him.  She would have to leave her father but maybe she would do it. 

They could go anywhere, maybe drive across the country until they found a place.  Maybe they could start a business or she could go to college and he’d get a job somewhere even though there wasn’t much need for someone with a G.E.D. and no work experience.  He’d work anywhere, he told himself, any menial job just to be away from here, and yet it was a fantasy because he didn’t even know if Heather really liked him, if she still liked him.  It was a familiar pain from when his father had left him. 

Eight years old at the time, and his father had moved out of the house for work.  That was one thing, something he barely noticed because his father returned almost every weekend and for holidays but it didn’t feel right.  It went on for a year and it felt like his father was always lying to him, especially as he gave him a number to call to talk, to ask for help.  He had called only once and got a woman.  There were children in the background.  Was she a girlfriend?  Was his father living with another woman and with children.  Did he have a new family?  It was only made worse as his father tried to explain away everything, tried to make him unsure of what he had heard until there was no point in arguing.  He never called back. 

But that was only one incident.  He still came that weekend and successive weekends until there was the big argument between his parents.  They were threatening each other with divorce.  They were threatening each other.  His father didn’t come back for a few weeks but they talked on the phone a couple of times.  His father promised to stay in touch, promised to take him on vacation, and take him on trips, but they felt like more lies.  And then suddenly it was over.  He stopped calling.  There were no more visits, no more promises and no more lies.  Simon didn’t think much of it at first.  After about nine months he remembered thinking about his father, trying to wish him into existence on some night he was arguing with his mother but he wasn’t there and he didn’t call that phone number.  He didn’t want to speak to that other woman.  Eventually he forgot about the man in his daily life, in his need for some other parent and it was just him and his mother. 

His thoughts were broken by the sound of Conrad coming into the house.  Simon was flat on his back on his own bed by then and he didn’t move even though he had an impulse to do so.  He had an impulse to go to Conrad right then and tell him about his mother, Heather, and what happened, to try and work out some plan.  But there was no plan to work out.  Conrad was terrible with plans.  Conrad didn’t make plans.  He would only think the worst.  He would worry about his own safety, maybe he’d leave or maybe he’d threaten to do something himself.  He could call the police.  No, Conrad wouldn’t have a solution, he told himself. 

And yet the pain in his stomach felt worse, because wasn’t that what people were for, to help you in times of need.  Simon closed his eyes as he felt himself about to cry.  His eyes watered so he opened them again to let the tears be contained there as little pools of water until they dried out.  He wouldn’t give the satisfaction of crying over something like this.  He had been through worse.  And yet it still hurt, he could still feel, and the worst sensation was the emptiness and the loneliness.  He balled his fist and opened his mouth to cry out but there was no noise, no sense in making any.  He knew he had to keep it all inside but when he closed his eyes to keep the feeling he felt the tears roll down his cheeks and he began to sob, little, almost controlled spasms that moved from his gut up into his face. 

It all had been something.  This life it had to mean something.  His suffering had to have a reason.  And yet there was nothing, no one there to witness it so it felt like it had no meaning at all.

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Per Pound of Flesh: Chapter 05 - Handsome Guy (Excerpt)

The following day was one of the ones that John hated because he only had to go in to the grocery store for three hours in the evening which meant he had nearly twelve hours to kill from the moment he woke up in the recliner.  He snuck back to their room and was in the middle of retrieving his pants, keys, and wallet when his phone buzzed on the floor waking Brandi.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Nothing, just go back to bed.”
“I’m hungry.  And I can’t get out of bed right now.” 
He looked at his phone.  It was Dennis. 
“Would you make some toast?”
“Uh, yeah sure,” he said.  “What kinds of jellies do you want?”
She stretched and yawned then told him to surprise her.
“The last time I did that you didn’t like it.”
“I have to make all the decisions.  Just use some strawberry and some grape, no wait use the apple butter your aunt made.”
“See,” he said.
“I don’t want to hear it.  I just woke up.”
“Sorry, I’ll get the toast.”  He headed out to the kitchen where he opened his phone and called Dennis as he set about making toast.  They had decided to exchange numbers after their shift together.  Dennis was a likable guy, middle-class, but likable.  On the fifth ring Dennis answered.
“Oh hey,” John said.
“Hey, I figured since we both have some time off I thought you might want to do something else besides party and shoot guns.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.  Just thought, you know, after yesterday.”
“Yeah, that sounds fine.  What did you have in mind?”
“I didn’t know exactly,” Dennis said.  “Do you want to come over and just see what happens?  I’m actually planning on working out this morning.  Maybe go for a run.”
“I haven’t exercised since I was on the junior high wrestling team and running track.” 
“We could do something else,” Dennis said.
“No, that sounds like fun.  Let me make some breakfast for my wife and make sure she is situated before I leave.  It could be an hour or so.  Is that cool?”
“See you then,” Dennis said.
John hung up the phone then waited for the toast against the counter with his hands on either side, a butter knife in his right hand.  He felt a familiar pain so he went to the bathroom cupboard where he took out a pill for his headache and another for caffeine and swallowed them dry as he heard the toaster pop up.  As he went back to the kitchen and lit a cigarette before he smeared jelly on the toast.  He was almost satisfied when he heard her call for an additional two pieces so he set about making them.  Once he had four pieces of toast covered in two different types of spread he headed back to the room where he offered her the plate.
“Hey listen, someone called and they want me to go out for a little bit this morning.  Someone from work.”
“A woman?”
“No, not a woman, his name is Dennis.  He works at Subway with me.”
“Well, I don’t know.  I am not feeling very good today.”
John sighed.
“You always want to be out but what do I get?”
“You get to spend all of our money from the comfort of bed.”
“It’s not a life of luxury.  It’s your bedroom.  There are holes in the wall.”
“They’re not very big,” he said.
“My feet are sore, massage them.”
John moved to the foot of the bed where he took her left foot in hand and began to massage it with his thumbs.
“You get a foot massage whenever you want,” he said.
“No, just when you’re around.”
“I’m working,” he said.
“And now your boss wants to cut your hours.  You need to quit that job and get a new one.”
“I can’t just quit.  We finally have money in the savings account,” he said.   
She picked up a piece of toast and touched it to her lips then pulled it away and set it on the plate and let out a moan of disgust. 
“I haven’t even had breakfast yet and I need to go pee again.  Help me up.”  John took the plate and set it aside before taking her arm and helping her from the bed.  He walked with her to the bathroom where he helped her maneuver to the toilet.  As soon as she sat there was a stream of urine.  John looked away.
“Does this bother you?” she asked.
“No, not really, I mean you’re my wife.”
“Wives pee,” she said.
“I know they do.”
“Alright help me back up,” she said and he took her arm.  She wiped herself quickly then walked with him back to the bed.  “I’m not going to be in a good mood most of the day and as long as your mother is around to help me then you can go.  But don’t be out all day and have your phone with you.  Be back by 12:30 at the latest.”
John looked at the clock.  His life measured out in hours.  But he could accept the deal so he nodded then followed all of her orders to get her comfortable including dragging a dresser to the foot of the bed and setting up the old black and white television on it.  Finally on her word he was free to go. 
He arrived twenty-minutes later at Dennis’s house.  It wasn’t small.  It was big and on the proper side of town.  He parked in the empty driveway then made his way to the front door by way of a cement footpath.  He rang the doorbell and Dennis answered and invited him inside.  He was shirtless and wore a pair of workout pants with white stripes down the sides.  John noticed a slight sheen of sweat and light, barely visible body hair.  He was lean but defined.  He could smell Dennis’s sweat but it wasn’t an unpleasant odor.  It was musky.
“I was just working out,” Dennis said holding up his hands to show his gloves.  “You look like you are ready to work out.  Come down and spot me.”  He hopped down the steps into the basement easily.  John followed after him into what he was surprised to find was a finished basement.  “I just started working out last year and I’m not able to get very big but it really helps to be strong you know.  I mean you look in shape.”
“I used to be on the wrestling team,” John said.  “I do pushups or jog when I feel flabby but that doesn’t happen much anymore.”
“How much do you bench?” Dennis asked laying out on the flat bench.  “I can’t do much myself.”
John assumed the position behind the rack to spot.  He had never taken lifting seriously, at least not the way other guys did.  He didn’t keep track of weight but he didn’t want to sound like a loser so he decided to change the subject.
“You do this alone?”
“Just light weights, nothing I can’t handle.”
“Huh,” John said placing his hands in his pockets. 
“Don’t put your hands in your pockets,” Dennis said between reps.  “You need to be able to catch it.  That’s the point of spotting.”
“Yeah of course,” John said.  He took his hands from his pockets.
“It’s more difficult for skinny guys like us,” Dennis said.
“I never really thought about it,” John said.  “I guess I got busy.”
Dennis set the weight on the rack. 
“Do you want to give it a try?”
“No, I’m good,” John said.
Dennis sat up and turned back to John.
“Did you really want to do this?”
“Not really,” John said.
“Let’s get some breakfast then,” Dennis said.
Dennis turned away from the bench and walked back to the stairs.  John followed.  In the kitchen everything was clean and put away.  That was true for every part of the house John could see.  He suspected they had a maid who came in once or twice a week to help clean.
“This is nice,” John said.
“Yeah, my mom is kind of OCD about this stuff.  I can make you a really good omelette.”
“Uh, yeah, I guess,” John said.
“Take a seat there,” Dennis said pointing to some stools under the kitchen island.
“You work out a lot then?”
“Yeah, I have to stay fit.  I was a chubby kid.”
“Yeah, I guess I don’t really think about it.”
“It’s different for you,” Dennis said.  “You’re a handsome guy.  I mean you not only have a girlfriend but you have a wife.”
John laughed.
“It’s no great reward.  Trust me.”

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Per Pound of Flesh Ch 01 - The Motel

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Faced with supporting a wife and baby daughter a young man decides to go into gay porn.

01- The Motel

The swimming pool of a low-end motel just outside Baltimore, MD.  It was close to midnight and the air had cooled significantly, John worked his arms and legs to stay afloat in the deep end.  He was fine to just float, to kick his legs and move his arms in a way that he had once learned from a pamphlet left somewhere by the YMCA.

Swimming lessons were supposed to be last year’s birthday gift but his mother couldn’t get him there on the weekends because she had to work ‘extra-hours’ and now he was fourteen and going to high school next year.  He dreaded the thought of swimming in gym class if he ever had to do it.

His chin just above the surface he stared across the water to the boy he had just met that day, Kevin, who swam away with an easy stroke to the side of the pool.  Kevin was a year younger but he could swim like a fish and John suspected he was smarter too.

“Come here,” Kevin said.

John winced at the invitation because no matter how he tried he knew he would look foolish trying to swim there.  He sighed then began to cross to the side of the pool in his best doggy-paddle.  When he reached the side he grabbed onto it like a life preserver and felt relief when he was able to anchor his body to the stone.

“Are you tired yet?” Kevin asked.

“No, you?”

“No,” Kevin laughed.

“So what else do you want to do?”

“I don’t know.”

They both looked to John’s mother, Kelly, who lay on a deck chair keeping a supervisory watch over them from behind a pair of sunglasses she had been wearing since before the sun went down.

“What else is there to do mom?” John asked.

“Sleep,” she said.  “You guys have been busy playing for the last six hours or so.  Why don’t you guys go to bed?”

“I’m not tired,” John said.

“Me either,” Kevin said.  “I wish you could come back to my room I have an Xbox.”

“Do you have any good games?”

“Lots,” Kevin said.

John bit at his lip as he thought about asking to go to Kevin’s room to play video games because he suspected she wouldn’t let him but they were on vacation so it was worth asking.

“Hey mom can we go to Kevin’s room and play video games?”

“Well, I don’t know.  I’m sure they are going to kick us out any moment but I’m not sure about video games.  Your mom must be worried about you though.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Kevin said.

“John is going to be headed to bed soon.  I’m sure your mom doesn’t want you up all night.  Why don’t you go make sure she doesn’t think you’re lost?”

Kevin looked to John who shrugged his shoulders.

“Can he stay out a little longer?”

She reached for her martini glass and took a sip then held it out in front of her face, swirled the remaining liquid.  She raised the glass in an imagined toast then brought it back to her lips and drank the rest of it.

“No, I think it would be best if he headed back to his room now,” she said.

They looked at each other as they were trumped by her authority.

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“Well, okay, but we should go swimming tomorrow morning before we have to leave,” Kevin said.

“Yeah, that would be great.”

Kevin turned and pulled himself from the water.  He walked to the chair where he picked up his towel and began to dry himself.  He looked to John and said goodnight before he wrapped the towel around his shoulders and walked from the pool area, making sure to close the gate behind him.

“Why don’t you get out of the water?  You have to be a prune by now.  Everyone else has gone inside.”  She placed the glass back on the table then reclined back into the most comfortable position.

“Okay,” he replied before he gripped the side of the pool firmly then pulled himself from the water.  He adjusted his trunks and a shiver ran out from his spine.  He looked at his finger tips but he couldn’t make out any detail in the darkness.

The area was dimly lit by the glow of a few lights placed inconveniently around the deck.  The lights were low and weak, the minimum needed for night safety or less.

“It’s cold out here,” he said before crossing his arms and moving to the end of his mother’s chair.  He picked up a towel and began to dry himself.

His mother looked up at him through her sunglasses.  She could only make out his form but she knew what was there.  He had a strong chin, broad shoulders, and naturally athletic build and he was going to be short.  He had put on a little weight over winter but she knew it would be gone in the spring when he got back into sports.  He was going to be a heartbreaker, she thought, just like his father.  He was smart, athletic, and not too cocky.  He was honest and could be very sincere but sometimes, rarely, he had a fit of anger.

“This is the life,” she said.

“It’s nice.”  He wrapped the towel around his waist and picked up the second one which he wrapped around his shoulders before he stepped to the stand beside his mother and picked up her silver, cigarette case.  He took out a cigarette and put it between his lips.

“You’re lucky I’m drunk,” she said.

“Good to know,” John said.  He picked up the matching lighter and lit the cigarette quickly before returning them both within her reach.

He had inhaled cigarette smoke a few times but was wary of lung cancer so he didn’t do it all of the time.  He took a seat in the chair on the other side of the stand.

“Clark is a nice guy,” she said.

“Yeah,” he said.  Clark was the third boyfriend he knew about since his father had left them when he was five years old.  He liked Clark.

“It was nice of him to take us on vacation for a few days.  I don’t get to take you all the places I’d like to.”

It was a thought of regret, regret for something John knew his mother had no control over.  It was a pointless thought to him.  It wasn’t meaningless because it meant she felt bad, no it was just sad.  He didn’t like sad thoughts about things you couldn’t control.

“I can’t believe everyone else had to go inside.  What time is it?”

“I think it’s after eleven.  I’m surprised that one boy stayed out with you as long as he did.”

John nodded.  Most other parents had strict bed times for their children, strict curfews and rules.  If his mother was having a good time then he knew he could have stayed all night at the pool.  He kind of wanted to.  It was nice to swim in the pool after dark because the sun wasn’t out and there was no glare.

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In the darkness the world shrank, didn’t seem so large and so impossible.  He closed his eyelids, checked with his thumb to make sure the cigarette was secure in his hand, and let himself relax.  He wasn’t like that long before he heard the sound of a car pulling into the parking lot, shutting off, and the door opening.

If it were Clark, he thought, it would be easy to see them from where he would have to park in front of the motel room door.  He heard the sound of dress shoes on gravel and knew the man was headed their way.

“How are you guys doing?” Clark asked from the other side of the gate.  John and his mother looked to the familiar voice and smiled.

Clark was just over six foot tall with a dark Italian complexion.  He wore a white shirt and canary yellow tie, dark slacks and black dress shoes.  He opened the gate and walked to them easily with a calm, determined gate.  He was a salesman.  She always said her boyfriends were.

“I’m sorry I had to be out all day and we couldn’t do anything.  I promise I’ll make it up to you.”  He stopped at Kelly’s side, leaned in to give her a welcome kiss and took the cigarette from her hand.  He stood and took a puff before handing it back and giving her another second kiss briefly on the lips.

“Have you guys been swimming?”

“John’s been in all day,” she said.

“Probably a prune then,” Clark said.

John winced at the remark because it was what his mother had said.

“I’m fine,” he said.

“Then you probably don’t want to go back in,” Clark replied as he loosened his tie.  He pulled it off and dropped it on the chair, unbuttoned the collar of his shirt.  “Maybe we should throw your mother in.”  He took back the cigarette.

“Oh no you don’t, I’ve just had my nails done today.”

“Okay,” Clark said kicking off his shoes.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“What’s it look like,” Clark replied as he unbuttoned the sleeves of his shirt.  “I’m going to go for a swim.”

“Now?  You don’t have any trunks.”

He pulled off his dress shirt then maneuvered his undershirt around the cigarette and dropped them in her lap, stuck the cigarette between his lips and unfastened his belt.

“Clark,” Kelly said.

He turned away, from where John sat and had been watching them, towards the pool and dropped his pants.  “Nothing no one doesn’t see at home.”  He handed back the cigarette and pulled off his socks before he walked to the pool’s edge.  There John could make out the man’s form in silhouette.  He could see the man’s shoulders, the shape of his back, even his buttocks and maybe, there in the darkness was the man’s penis still covered by thin, white briefs.   Should he be seeing the man’s penis, he asked himself.  Was he supposed to look away?  What was he supposed to do?

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The man had made no action to cover himself.  And it was true, Clark had often walked around the house in his underwear or a towel.

Clark jumped into the water in a cannonball type dive.  He popped up and let out a loud yell of relief then a sound of irritated pain before he complained about it not being heated.

“I guess I got used to it,” John said.

Clark swam to the edge and placed his hands there.

“Why don’t you join me?”

John looked to his mother who motioned for him to get into the pool.  He stood and stretched for a moment before he dropped the towels on the chair, took a few steps, and jumped.  Clark laughed at the sight before he quickly swam to the young man.

When John surfaced he was surprised to feel Clark’s hands around his sides to hook under his arm pits and he knew what was coming so he let out a playful yell then closed his mouth before he hit the water as Clark had dunked him sideways into it.  He pulled the boy up and did it to him again on the opposite side.  John let out wild laughter as he popped back up from the water.

For a moment he could feel Clark’s chest against his back, so much larger than his own body, hairy too.   Clark lifted him from the water and pushed him away then swam back some distance, stopped, and began to splash water.  John turned on the man and splashed water back in his direction.  It had been a long time since someone had done something like that and if it had been anyone else John might have been angry about it but Clark, well Clark could get away with those things.

“If we had more people we could play Marco Polo,” Clark said.

“Yeah, we were playing that earlier.  It’s a fun game.”

“Are you a good swimmer?  We could race.”

“No, that’s okay,” John said.

“Come on it will be fun.  I’ll give you a lead.”

John shook his head.

“I don’t know,” he said.  “I’m not really that good.”

“Do you know how?”

John shook his head.

“No sweat maybe we can do it later.  I can show you how.”

John looked to his mother.  It was the type of promise he had heard before but it felt more sincere.  He nodded.

“But let’s just enjoy the quiet huh?”

John nodded then watched as the man swam to the far end of the pool with an easy back stroke.  That was the lesson he should have learned, to do the back stroke.  Clark then pushed off from the wall and swam the length of the pool as John bobbed in the water.  Another lesson to be learned.  John looked to his mother who seemed to be equally entertained as if they were sharing a moment.

They swam for some time with very little contact between them, each mostly sticking to their own area of the pool.  Clark liked to swim from end to end while John clung to the wall or else did a few deep dives which he had taught himself to do.  John had forgotten he was swimming in the same pool as a nearly naked man until it was time to get out.  Very little was said.  It was more an unconscious agreement that all the joy had been drained from the event.  His mother retrieved a towel and carried it to the pool side next to the steps.

By then John was hanging onto the pool side where Clark was exiting.  It wasn’t on purpose, he thought, but as the man exited he couldn’t help but look to him, at him.  There in the light he could make out his buttocks more clearly than before and the way the cloth clung at his crotch.  His mother wrapped the towel around the man attempting to conceal him in yet another form fitting fabric.

They returned to their rooms shortly afterwards.  His mother and Clark together in one room and John in his own room, “to do things that fourteen year old boys do and to let parents do the things they want to do,” Clark had said.  John knew it meant that he had privacy to masturbate and they needed privacy to have sex.

John showered, put on a pair of underwear then lay face down on his bed.  His body felt surprisingly light, his muscles felt loosely attached to his body with a slight burn.  He thought he would be capable of swimming more but his brain was tired.

There in the darkness of his room he heard the slow grunts of his mother and Clark as they had sex.  There was a connecting door between the rooms, a thin one.  He appreciated that they were trying to be quiet, it even made him smile, but it also made him feel unlucky, even miserable to hear them and know the sounds for the rest of his life.

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