Mike and Danny: Big Hopes
Note that these stories, including this one, are not an endorsement of unsafe sex. They take place many years before the appearance of AIDS and before it was standard practice to use condoms to reduce the risk of infection from sexually transmitted diseases. Remember always: that was then, this is now. Sex is precious, and so are life and health.
A sheet metal roof for a shed would have made better sense, Randy thought when he saw the job, but Don had decided on shingles. It gave the ranch some class when a buyer came around to look at his herd. It was supposed to be a top-notch operation, and by god, it would look like it.
So he went to work, with some help from George, who showed him the tool shed and where to find the extension ladders. George was another man of few words, an Indian, even more determined than Slim to keep his opinions to himself. Randy's efforts to get a smile out of him produced not a flicker of a response.
Seeing his broad features had given Randy a little start, for they made him think of Wallace. It was an odd twist of fate to be looking into the eyes of a man who reminded him so much of another man he'd held in his heart for so long.
George's expressionless face, giving away nothing as he probably took in everything, was familiar to him. And he knew from knowing Wallace that behind that mask there could well be enough depth of character to get lost inmore intelligence sometimes than any white man he'd ever known.
And the memories that surfaced in him as they worked in silence together were of the feelings he'd missed for so long of being embraced in the love of that mantheir nights of lovemaking, naked bodies wrestling together, until wet with sweat and breathing hard one of them finally yielded to the other and surrendered his butt to be fucked.
There had been deep, knowing laughter when each of them came, held in each other's arms, safe in believing that neither of them would ever be alone. That they would spend their lives together and have each other as long as there were breaths to be breathed.
And his heart ached at the loss of all that.
Don came by later, inspecting the job, and saw that Randy seemed to know what he was doing.
"What do you think, George?" he asked the Indian, who'd brought packs of shingles up to the roof, carrying them one at a time on his shoulder and setting them down in neat rows.
They both stood on the ground, hands on their hips, looking up at Randy. George may have nodded and said something so quietly that Randy couldn't hear him.
"Good," Don said and called out to Randy, "You need anything else, just give a holler." And the two men walked off. From his view, up on the roof, Randy could see them going over to where Slim was loading fencing equipment and rolls of wire into the back of a pickup.
Don, he noticed, was a head taller than George. He walked with a loose gait in his long-legged jeans and boots. You'd take him for the boss of the outfit without knowing anything else. He wore an authority that seemed to come easy to him and made you respect him.
Randy thought of all the men on the ranch now and how he fit in with them. He liked each of them, not an easy accomplishment in a world where working men could just as easily rub one another the wrong way. And he considered for a while the young cowboy whose job he now had, who with a misstep and a bad fall off this same roof had been the reason Randy was here at all.
As he'd sat at the kitchen table with a big bowl of beef stew Slim had dished up for him, he'd talked with Chad, who said with some modesty that he was a bullrider and had managed to make the eight-second timer a couple times.
He was so unlike most bullriders Randy had ever known. One of them, an earnest Mormon, would go down on one knee and take off his hat to bow his head in prayer before every ride, but the rest were mostly hard-drinking, cocky, foul-mouthed cussers who had women chasing them everywhere they went and didn't let themselves get chased far. Compared to them, Chad was almost sweetly tempered and a bit shy.
Unlike the other hands on the ranch, Chad seemed eager to talk. Being cooped up by himself in the house all day probably made him hard up for company. And Randy noticed that he kept turning the conversation around to the boss, Don, and how much he admired him.
It was a little more than just admiration, Randy sensed, and he smiled to himself, wondering if Chad realized how much it sounded like a schoolboy crush. A young man, he knew, could have those kinds of feelings for someone older, but all the same it amused him coming from a bullrider. The two things didn't go together.
His feelings for Don weren't ever going to be that strong, but he did hope the guy would see fit to keeping him on at the ranch. He already felt that he was going to like it here.
Having Randy in the bunkhouse was going to change things for George and Slim. The two men had grown closer in the weeks since their weekend in Scottsbluff. During the days, there had been no difference. They worked either separately or together as they had always done.
But the nights were something else. They sat up together, not speaking, just knowing each other was there in the same room. It was a silence George had known only on ground he knew as holy, where he felt the presence of his grandfather and of others long dead he knew hardly at all.
He had friends on the rez who scoffed at this when he tried to speak of it. But a few of the older ones knew what he was talking about. The badlands were full of these places, and maybe what connected his people to the past would be stronger if the whites had let the Indians keep the badlands instead of finding gold there and taking it for themselves.
Deadwood. What a well-earned name for a place of broken promises and a denial of all that respects the living growth of the human family tree. While he lived and worked in the white man's world, what kept him alive and not dead, like so many, was his honoring of those who had spent brave lives on the earth before him.
The bunkhouse was far from being holy ground, but what he shared there with Slim was so like what he'd experienced on his returns to the badlands, he knew they both must be touched by the living spirit of those whose presence he felt when he went there.
And unlike the Sunday churchgoers who believed in sin and shrank in fear from recognizing the hand of a higher power in everything human, he knew that what he felt for Slim pleased even the Christian god. The only wrong would have been to never act on those feelings and to deprive both men of life's richest giftstouch, embracing, sex.
So silencethis deep silencewas the beginning of what would lead before the night was over to lovemaking that stirred their souls. And after the first time, that time in the hotel room bed, the night of Slim's birthday, there had never been reason to speak again of what they both understood was now truethey had been meant to find and love each other just like this.
Now, though it would have happened sooner or later, there was this intruder into their silence. Don had hired another man to work on the ranch. There would be three of them in the bunkhouse. He was going to have to have a talk with his grandfather about that.
He studied Randy as they worked together, and he tried to see something in him that wasn't apparent on the surface, something that would explain why he'd been brought herefor he surely didn't come of his own accord. There had to be a reason.
There was nothing wrong with Randy that he could tell. He seemed to be an honest man and hiding nothing, though there was still something unsettled in him, and the longer they spent together, the surer George was of it.
There was that moment when they first looked at each other, and George sensed a flash of recognition in Randy's eyes, like they'd met somewhere before. But he was sure they hadn't. Randy said he'd lived all his life in Nevada, and George had never been out west. He'd never even ventured far from the rez in South Dakota.
But Randy had been shaken for a momentalmost like he'd seen a ghostand what kind of ghost could he have seen when he first saw George? One thing for sure, their eyes had never really met again. Whatever Randy saw, he seemed determined not to see it again.
When Don left him alone with Slim, who was loading up the pickup for the fencing job, he said nothing of what he was thinking until they had got into the truck and Slim had driven them out to the pasture. When they found a place where a strand of barb wire was hanging slack on the posts, Slim stopped the truck and turned off the engine, but he didn't get out right away.
"I gave the new guy the bunk in the back corner," he said.
"The one where there's always the spider webs?"
"I swept them all down with a broom. Don't want him gettin' bit."
"Them spiders don't bite."
"Maybe so, but he's a good man, and you treat a good man right."
George waited a moment before he said, "It ain't gonna be the same with him there."
"Don't think I don't know that."
"I been wonderin' maybe he's here for a reason."
"You know I don't think that way."
"Could be we need to wait and see."
"I'm only good at seein' what's plain as day," Slim said. "And what's plain to me is I'm not gettin' any of your sweet ass as long as he's here."
George just sat there, wondering what his grandfather would say. Then they stepped out of the pickup into the cold wind and went to work.
Don had got a big calf into a squeeze chute. It had seemed lame in a back leg, he said, and he was trying to find out if it was from an injury or foot rot, or something else.
"You get your bullers sometimes in a feed pen," Don explained to Chad, who had come from the house to see what he was doing. "They got no balls, but they're horny as hell anyway, and they're jumpin' on one of the herd like he's a heifer. First thing you know, one of 'em gets hurt."
Chad leaned his crutches on the fence and put both arms up on the top rail, watching as Don grappled with the calf's leg.
"Slim thinks that's what's goin' on here," Don said. "Or could be what we got is an infection. We'll find out soon enough."
He was bent over, brushing away the mud and manure to get a look at the hoof. The seat of his jeans was dirty. It looked like the calf had put up a fight getting into the chute and knocked him down.
Chad felt helpless, wanting to give Don a helping hand and only being able to hobble around on one leg himself.
"To bad we can't just put him on crutches," Don laughed.
He finally decided that the tissue around the hoof looked healthy. It was probably an injury that would heal if the calf went into the barn by himself for a while. He released the chute and, waving his arms and hollering, got the calf headed through a gate into another pen.
"I got myself a Thanksgiving to go to," Don said, wiping his hands and flecks of mud from his face with a big bandana. "Family always gets together in Grand Island. Slim runs the place whenever I'm gone and does the cooking. Maybe you'd like to bunk with the rest of the boys so you don't get lonesome up there in the house all by yourself."
Chad knew he'd be lonesome either way without Don there.
"Course with the new guy, it's gonna start gettin' crowded in there," Don said. "Tell you what, I'll see if Slim has another idea."
He took off his hat now, and brushed at it now, too.
"Slim'll do the turkey and the trimmings. That's his job every year. Helluva cook, that man. I keep offering him more money to do all the cookin' here, but he'd rather cowboy."
He shoved the bandana into his back pocket and bent to pick up the tools he'd been using from the ground. Splattered with mud, his boots thick with the dirt and dried cowshit from the feed pens, he was still a handsome man, Chad thought. Good to look at.
It was going to be hard knowing that for maybe no more than a couple nights he would not be there with Chad in the house, quietly working at his desk with a glass of whiskey at his elbow, then turning in early and sleeping soundly in a room only a few steps away, his snoring a constant reminder of his presence throughout the night.
Kenneth took Deacon out to his favorite Saturday night bar, and they drank a pitcher of beer between them as they listened to the North Forty Surfers from a table near the bandstand, the speakers blaring so loud they made Kenneth's ears ring. It was a big night at the bar with a noisy crowd that seemed to be getting into the holiday spirit. There had been cheers as the band segued into a raucous version of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."
Deacon grinned as he watched the band and nodded to the music. He was having a good time, dressed in a black shirt he'd borrowed from Kenneth.
"You care if I wear this?" he'd asked Kenneth as they got dressed to go out.
"Go ahead. A girlfriend gave me that years ago and I never liked it."
"Did you learn to fuck from your girlfriends?"
"Girlfriend. There was just one."
"She did a good job."
Deacon was putting on the shirt and admiring himself in the closet mirror. With his dark hair and dark looks, the shirt snug around his narrow waist, it suited him.
Before Kenneth had taken a showerDeacon getting in with himthey had gone to the bedroom, Deacon laying him out flat on the bed and sucking his cock until he was ready to come and then, after kicking off his jeans, trading places to get under him.
"I don't have any K-Y," Kenneth said, and without a word Deacon had turned on his side to squeeze more precum from Kenneth's cock, then rubbed it with some spit into his pucker as he flopped again onto his belly, legs spread wide apart.
The sex had been over in a hurry, and Kenneth had lain there on top of Deacon after he came, aware of little besides the dizzying waves of feeling that spread through his body. There had been no time to think about what he was doing as it happened, and now that it was done, his mind remained a blank. This thing he didn't want to happen had happened anyway, and while he might have felt regret, he felt nothing.
It seemed only a matter of course that Deacon would then flip him over onto his back, and do the same for Kenneth, his ankles pushed almost to his ears as Deacon thrust as easily as he could into him, the discomfort never really yielding to pleasure.
But lying there afterwards, numb, their bodies spent and flung together, he felt that he had crossed over into some new country. Deacon, he realized, was a native here and already teaching Kenneth all he knew. And looking back, Kenneth could see that what he'd clung to as home was just an imaginary place he would have had to give up one way or another.
The band had swung into a medley of Beatles covers, and the two of them had joined the dancers on the small dance floor as the lead singer began belting out "Twist and Shout." There were some couples there, but most simply melted into a single gyrating mass of human bodies.
Deacon, still wearing his cowboy hat, swung his ass and rocked from side to side, catching Kenneth's eye every now and then and giving him a sly grin. What they had done was wrongEllis had trusted them together, and they'd let him downbut here they were anyway, dancing like there was no tomorrow.
Being the new guy, Randy was well aware that he was disrupting a routine in the bunkhouse that may as well have been set in stone somewhere. He would have to find a way of fitting in with Slim and George so he wouldn't be in the way. That meant watching how everything was done and figuring things out without having to be told or asking too many questions.
There was a closeness between Slim and George that always meant Randy would be an outsider. He could tell that they already shared a long history that had knit them together as partners. And he could expect them to protect that.
A washroom had been built into the bunkhouse, not long ago by the looks of it, with a toilet and a shower. It was enough for two men, but with a third there'd be some jockeying, and Randy knew he'd have to be sure the other men always came first.
He put his carry bag under his bed and unpacked only what would fit into a little cabinet Slim had told him was his if he wanted. His coat and hat hung on the wall beside the other men's. He made sure there was no other sign of him around the room.
After years of living on his ownand for a time with Wallacethis was going to take some getting used to. But it was only temporary, he kept telling himself, maybe through the winter if Don would keep him on. He'd make a little money to put in the bank and then head back to Nevada.
There was his uncle's ranch to still think of, even though there'd be no Wallace to ranch with him. Maybe he'd find somebody else. Or maybe he'd just be a bachelor rancher like his uncle and live out his days there, with some horses and a couple dogs for company.
At supper in the house, Don had mentioned that he'd be gone a couple days for Thanksgiving, and he told Slim there was a turkey in the freezer and to help himself to anything else he found there.
Then he asked Slim if he thought there'd be room for a fourth man in the bunkhouse, so Chad wouldn't be by himself for the holiday.
"Sure, there's a extra bed out there," Slim said. "Won't take long to fix it up real nice."
Randy noticed that George had kept his attention on the plate in front of him, eating his steak and potatoes and only putting his fork down to take a mouthful of coffee.
"Sir, I've been thinkin'," Chad said, his voice pitched about an octave above Slim's. "There's no need to go to any trouble for me. I'll be OK right here where I am."
"We can't leave you all by yourself," Don said. "Long as you're on them crutches, and you ain't healed up yet, we'd all be sorry as hell if you needed some help in the middle of the night and there was nobody here."
Randy kept glancing back and forth at Slim and George, looking for some sign of what they were thinking, but it was impossible to tell.
Finally he raised his hand and said, "I know I'm just new here, but it wouldn't be any trouble for me to stay with Chad until you get back."
Slim looked over at him and then to Don, waiting before he said anything.
"What do you think, Slim?" Don said.
"You can trust this man," Slim said.
Don just nodded and then looked at Randy. "Then that's what we'll do."
Randy marveled at what just happened. On the strength of Slim's word, Don was letting him, almost a complete stranger, stay in his house while he was gone.
He looked around the table at the men who sat there. There was an unspoken bond among them that he sensed each would honor, no matter what. And he knew he wanted to be with themto be one of them.
"I think we oughtta go out and at least say hello," Ty said.
He and Rich had spent hours together in bed, making love, having a nap, making love again, napping some more. Rich lay now beside him, sleepy-eyed, arms behind his head on the pillow. His hair fell in every direction, and Ty reached to push it from his forehead.
"You think so?" Rich said smiling. "I think they know the two of us are doing just fine."
Ty slipped his hand now under the covers and stroked Rich's chest, feeling the hair under his fingers and finding a nipple.
"Do anything. I'm yours," Rich had said once when there was still daylight filtering in through the window. Now, with the bed lamp glowing softly over their heads, he had that same look on his face.
Ty's hand stroked down over Rich's belly, dried cum matted into the hair over his cock. They'd been fierce lovers, their hunger for each other scarcely satisfied before reaching to one another again.
"I love you," Rich said so often there was no way of counting the times. "You don't have to love me back. Just be here and never go away again."
"I do love you," Ty said, and he knew with all his heart that he did.
He held Rich's cock in his hand now, feeling it stiffen and fill with desire.
"You're quite the little fucker," Rich said with a laugh. "Have you been getting practice while you were gone?"
"It's OK, you can lie to me."
"I'd never do that either."
Rich reached with his hand and cradled the side of Ty's face, his thumb stroking his cheek. Then, cupping his hand behind Ty's head, he pulled Ty to him and kissed him, gently at first and then more deeply.
"Promise you won't leave me again," he said.
Ty thought for a moment and then said, "It was you who left me, remember?"
"Was it?" Rich said, giving him an odd look. "Shit, it was." His hand fell away from Ty's face and he dropped back onto the pillow.
"I am so, so sorry," he said.
"No, no, no," Ty said, leaning over him now to stay close. "I shouldn't have said that."
"Fuck, a man needs to say the truth, and that was the truth."
"I'm the one who gave up on you. I should have waited for you."
Rich shook his head. "You had every right to give up on me. I fucked up good."
"I'll let you say that once. But not again."
Rich looked at him and smiled. "OK, and maybe some day I'll stop thinking it."
"You are a fine man. When are you going to realize that?"
Rich shrugged. "I dunno," he said. "Maybe if you let me fuck you again."
"All you want. But I wanna go out and say hello to Mike and Danny." He could hear them down the hall watching TV. "This is their place, after all."
"OK, stop bustin' my balls."
Rich threw off the covers and swung his legs out of bed. Ty didn't move for a moment, gazing at Rich's naked back and his broad shoulders, just as he'd remembered them night after night back at home in Iowa, wishing for dreams of this man as he waited for sleep to come.
Then Rich was on his feet, bending down to pick up his jeans from the floor. And Ty got up, too.
"How'd your clothes get on this side of the bed?" Rich said, tossing Ty's pants and shirt over to him.
"It was you who took them off me. You should know."
"Floor's cold. You'll need your socks," Rich said and tossed them, too. "First thing when I get some money, I'm going to have wall-to-wall put down in here. Not just for mefor both of us."
Ty was stuffing in his shirt and zipping up his pants. For both of us, he thought. He liked the sound of that.
There was a late movie on TV, and Mike and Danny were sitting together in Mike's La-Z-Boy, with a bowl of popcorn. They each had a beer. Mike swatted Danny on the butt to get him off his lap, and he jumped up to get the two men some of their own. He was half-way to the kitchen before either of them could say yes or no.
But Ty was hungry, and having a beer with Mike was always at the heart of his memories of being in this house. Sitting down on the couch with Rich, who put his arm across his shoulders, he let himself feel the pleasure of just being here.
"You wanna know something?" Rich said, when Mike came back with more popcorn and beers. "I love this guy. I really love him."
And Ty felt that the worldfor all its faults and failurescould never offer him more than just this.
Continued . . .
© 2008 Rock Lane Cooper