Mike and Danny: Dog Days
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.
The car, baking in the mid-day sun, was hotter than hell when he got in it. So were the plastic seat covers and the steering wheel. He got out again and pulled off his jacket, tossing it and his straw hat into the back.
Across the way, he could see Mike rounding a sharp corner of the alfalfa and dropping the mower bar down for another long swath. There was just the silhouette of his head and shoulders visible inside the tractor cab.
As Ted stood in the open door of the car, the sun now full on his shoulders, he raised his arm to wave, and there was Mike's hand raised to wave back.
He liked Mikeas much as he had once liked Danny. He was so steady, rock-solid, easy going, and he had a heart so generous you couldn't help but want to love him. Danny had been lucky to find him, and then had the good sense to keep him and not go wandering off in search of greener pastures, thinking he'd find someone better.
He got back in the car and drove on down the gravel road toward Mike's place. He had no intention but to spend the rest of the day in this river bottom land, planning out a dozen or so paintings of farms and fields, seeing it all in what he'd come to think of as his particular way, saturating his memory with colors and shapes, light and shadow, that he hoped would materialize on canvas when he got back to the house he'd rented for the summer.
It was the same farmhouse outside of Hastings where he'd gone to college and got the ideathis ideaof what he wanted to do with his life. Not teach art in some school where the kids were all temporarily insane with raging hormones, the principal was an asshole, and the school board thought art was for fairies. But actually being a painter, doing the one thing he lovedand maybe well enough to keep from starving.
The dozen paintings were for a gallery owner in Omaha, which was not exactly the epicenter of the art world, but it was a startand the guy said he had friends who were dealers in Tucson and Palm Springs. Places Ted had never been, though a Marine who'd humped across the sand and cactus at Twenty-nine Palms told him onceafter they'd met and fucked in a Motel 6 somewherethat the desert was full of rich people.
The guy lay there on his back, spread-eagled in the twisted sheets, all hoo-ra and semper fi, smoking his way through a pack of Camels, his dick shrinking into an after-sex nub that almost disappeared in a thick black nest of pubic hair between his legs.
He'd been in some wealthy guy's house, he said, a huge rambling place with a three-car garage, a vast pool, floor to ceiling views of the mountains, and enough wall space for paintings the size of barn doors.
"Fucker had money to burn," he said, stubbing out the cigarette and picking dried cum from the hair on his belly.
Driving slowly now, watching the passing fields go by, a configuration of Holsteins catching his eye for a moment, Ted drove till he could stop under a cluster of cottonwoods growing along the road. Turning off the engine, he reached for his sketchbook and began drawing again, the rushing sound of the leaves stirring in the big trees overhead as the breeze caught them.
With a little luck and god knows how much blood, sweat, and tears, he'd make a few sales before much longer that would lift him out of his never-ending poverty. Maybe just maybe he'd amount to something. It was getting too late to find another career.
And maybe, moving in that glow of finally becoming somebody, another somebody would notice himsomebody with good looks, above-average intelligence, and some characterand offer him something more than a quick, sweaty fuck in Motel 6.
Which was the one thing too bad about Mike. Ted had looked him up on purpose, wanting to know the answer to that one question. Were he and Danny still together? Hoping Mike was available, he'd been able to imagine himself driving over from Hastings from time to time, while he was living out here, and enjoying his company.
As he discovered him sleeping beside his tractor, under the tree, Ted had felt a surge in his chest that had surprised him. And as he quietly opened the sketchbook, taking in the image of him, there was the unmistakable electric twinge in his shorts, a sudden yearning response of desire for what he was seeing. His fingers almost trembled as he drew.
He'd been amused at first at the sight of Mike's hand shoved into his jeans, the bulge under his fly showing where he had been stroking himself. Then the simple innocence of itlike a boy's and not a man's at all had moved him, and he had this funny impulse he hadn't felt with another guy in a long timeto hear himself say the words, "I love you more than anything."
They were words he'd never imagine himself saying to a guy like the Marine in Motel 6. Once he'd shot his wadeven two, three times what was there left to love?
He remembered looking at the guy's backside as he stood naked, admiring himself in the bathroom mirror. His butt and his back were like sculpted muscle on a Greek statue. But he had a high and tight haircut, which on his head tilted forward a few degrees, and with the creases in his forehead while he gave himself a buck-toothed grin, his hair looked like it wanted to crawl down to his eyebrows.
Sex with Mike had the promise of being something more like hearts and minds meeting. Now he knew that probably wouldn't happen. Not unless Mike was horny as he was. In his shorts, when he'd been talking with Mike for a while, there was an oozing wet spot that his ever-hopeful dick had produced. He thought of the evening ahead. Maybe there was still a chance.
It was late afternoon when he finally headed for Mike's place. Adding more to his sketchbook became less critical than the thought of a couple cold beers and a dip in the pool. His brain was now swimming with ideas anyway. It was time to call it a day.
When he pulled off the road onto Mike's place, he saw a mud-spattered Cadillac convertible parked at the front gate. The back bumper looked a bit askew, like it had been rear-ended at one time, the other driver's check cashed, and the body work never done. The plates were out of stateTexas. So Mike had company.
Ted parked next to the Caddy. Alongside it, even in its sorry state, his beat-up station wagon with the odometer rolled over at least once, looked like salvage.
Mike's dog barked sharply as he came round from the side yard, nosed open the gate, and stood his ground there, eyeing Ted as he got out of the car. Then he started wagging his tail, remembering him.
The house, he saw, hadn't changed. The tree branches leaned heavy over the roof. There were hollyhocks in one corner of the yard, a bed of irises along the foundation, and morning glories hanging so thick on the wire fence it sagged under the weight of them. Bees hummed in a big overgrown honeysuckle bush by the porch door.
The lawn was patchy and needed mowing. A footpath had been worn through it, branching off the front walk and angling around the corner of the house. He could hear the sound of a voice calling from the back, and he followed the path into the side yard.
He saw no one at first. Just Mike's above ground pool against the far fence and the rows of cedars and Russian olive grown thick on the other side of ita shelter belt planted by some early homesteader. Then a hand shot up from the pool, waving to him, and the voice called out again.
"Howdy," Ted said, and as he walked to the pool, he found a guy in the water, a big guy with broad shoulders and a thick handlebar mustache. With his wet hair slicked back, he looked familiar, some friend of Mike and Danny's, but he couldn't remember who.
"Hey," the guy said, standing now in the pool, his big chest emerging from the water, "You're - ."He was snapping the fingers of his outstretched hand, trying to remember Ted's name. "You're the guy who paints pictures. BernieErnieFrankie "
"Ted," Ted said, leaning across the deck to take the guy's wet hand.
"Yeah, I knew it was something like that," he said. "I'm Ed. Ted and Ed," he laughed. "How about that?"
Then Ted remembered him, a blustery guy who showed up at the house one time in a blizzard, when Ted had spent the night herehim and Bobby. Ed's car had gone off the road, and he'd walked the rest of the way. The next morning, by the time they got up, he was gone again.
"Get them duds off and jump in," Ed said, sinking back into the water. "The beer's right there by you in the cooler. Get yourself a cold one." He back paddled to where a can of Budweiser sat on the edge of the deck. "Gotta keep your ass under water though," he said, reaching for the beer. "Flies are bitin'."
"What brings you out to the homestead?" he wanted to know, as Ted peeled off his tee shirt and bent to untie his boots.
Came out on the remote chance that Mike was good for a fuck tonight, he thought, but that's looking even less likely now. "Work, I guess you'd call it," he said. "What do you do?" he asked, unable to remember if he'd ever heard Ed say.
"Sales," Ed told him. "But you could say I'm between jobs now."
Sales, yeah, it figured. Ed had that way about him, disarming, a kind of con guy by nature.
"What do you sell?"
"You name it, I've probably done it."
"Ever sell any paintings?"
"Never sold 'em, but I know people who would buy 'em. Ranchers, you know, like pictures of their wife and kids, horseshell, even their dogs," Ed laughed.
"Well, I'm not much for family portraits," Ted said. He was down to his underwear now and stepped out of it, the grass cool under his bare feet. "People don't tend to see themselves the way I see them."
"You sure as hell don't have to explain that," Ed said, like he was an expert on human nature.
Ted climbed the steps to the deck. He felt Ed's eyes taking him in.
"How'd that happen?" Ed said, pointing, unable to contain his curiosity. And Ted knew he wanted to know about the scar tissue on his upper thigh.
"Hunting accident," he said flatly. Sooner or later a guy would get around to asking him about it. Usually, though, it was after a while.
"No shit," Ed said. "Close call."
That was the usual response.
"Horse bit me in the ass once," Ed said. "Bastard was damn near vicious as a rattlesnake. The doc had me on antibiotics for more'n a week. Lost a good pair of new pants, too."
Ted reached into the cooler for a beer and then stepped into the water, letting himself sink to his chin. He popped the top on the beer and took a long drink.
"Mike's out in the field cuttin' hay," Ed said. "I just made myself at home like I usually do. Don't see any sign of Danny."
"Danny's not around," Ted said and explained what he knew from talking to Mike.
"Ah," Ed said, with a sly grin. He was across the pool from Ted, leaning his head back against the edge. "Maybe the mice will get to play while the cat's away."
"You really think that's a possibility?" Ted said, sounding doubtful, but not surprised that the two of them were having the same thought.
"Mike and I go way back," Ed said. "Long before Danny."
He laughed, draining his beer and pitching the empty over the side rail. He pulled himself onto the deck, his cock heavy over his balls, the wet pubic hair flattened around them for a moment and then the thick coils of it starting to spring free again. He bent to the cooler, revealing a broad but firm ass, curly wet hair emerging from between his butt cheeks.
"In fact," he was saying. "I was here the first night Danny showed up. It was right in this pool. Just a college boy with barely the sense god gave him."
Ed stood on the deck, the water dripping from the end of his cock. He brought the beer up to his face, curling his lips around the edge to suck up the foam spilling from it.
"I'd been able to count on Mike for a roll in the hay, at the drop of a hat," he went on. "His or mine." He sucked up more foam. "But after Danny moved in here, those days were over." He shook his head and absently scratched around one of his nipples. "Now he thinks he's a one-man guy."
"There aren't many of those," Ted said, letting his voice take on a note of wonder.
"Yeah, shame it had to happen to Mike." Ed squatted for a moment, his big cock falling free between his legs, and then he eased himself back into the water with a splash.
"You ever fucked Mike?" Ed said, like there was nothing personal about the question.
"No, it was Danny I knew first."
"You ever fuck him?"
Ted laughed now. Apparently Ed was a guy who said whatever crossed his mind. "No, but I wanted to."
"What the hell stopped you?"
"Wasn't for not trying," Ted said. "He was just more than a little skittish."
"We just ganged up on him, me and Mike. Got him drunk and stoned, right here in the pool. He didn't have a chance."
Ted tried to picture the scene. And he thought of the time in the shower at the farmhouse, when he helped Danny wash off the blue tempera and then sucked his cock.
"What happened then?" he wanted to know.
"Nothin' happened. Somebody grabbed his crotch and in two seconds flat he was shootin' condensed cream of mushroom. Talk about your hair triggers." Ed shook his head. "Took both of us to get him out of the pool so he wouldn't drown. I tell you, he musta passed out from all the excitement." He shook his head a second time. "Ah, to be that young again."
They fell silent for a while, and Ed seemed to be lost in thought, like he was remembering his youth. Reliving it.
Then their eyes met. They were no more than three feet apart, and Ed was drifting closer to him.
"You wanna fuck?" Ed said.
"You don't beat around the bush."
"Life is short. Opportunities are few."
Ed took a long drink from his beer, and then set the can in the water, where it floated, bobbing and rocking in the waves beside them. Then he took a step closer to Ted, reaching out to him and pulling their bodies together. He closed his eyes and put his mouth against Ted's, his thick mustache wet and bristly, kissing him hard and holding him in a strong embrace. His tongue warm and beery, the kiss seemed to go on forever.
Continued . . .
© 2006 Rock Lane Cooper