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.
What was left of the alfalfa Mike was mowing had shrunk to a long narrow rectangle in the center of the field, and Mike had taken the last rounds slowly, letting any last rabbits and pheasants still hiding there to run for their lives before being struck down by the mower bar, their legs cut out from under them.
Ready to brake if he had to, his attention on the few feet of hay in front of the advancing blades, Mike scarcely noticed the car coming along the road, a thin plume of dust rising behind it. And he didn't see it again until he looked up after the last strip of alfalfa had fallen and the cutting was done. His gaze had swung across the field he'd been working in all day to where the sun was dropping down toward the horizon in the west.
Then he saw the car parked on the road and a figure walking from it into the ditch and climbing through the fence. The car was a Nash Ramblerthe boxy shape of it unmistakableand the guy coming toward him now had to be Ty.
He had not seen Ty in a long time. This was after having tried without success last winter to get Mike to come to the church in town where he was some kind of junior minister. Failing that, he had then made an effort to befriend Mike and took to spending an evening with him now and then, having supper and talking.
He seemed lonely and to enjoy Mike's company, and during the long late winter weeknights with Danny at the college in Kearney, Mike had appreciated the company himself.
A tender soul, Ty told him of his life, the son of a grocer with three older brothers and a mother who was a music teacher. He'd known from grade school that he wanted to be a minister, admiring the pastor of a church where his mother had been organist and choir director.
Unlike his brothers, who grew up to be high school coaches, farm implement dealers, and the like, Ty had taken after his mother, learning from her how to play the piano. He'd taken seriously what he got from his catechism lessons and set out from an early age to be not only good, but perfect if he could.
"That's a tall order," Mike had said.
"I know," Ty had said, sighing heavily. And Mike sensed that though he was no longer a boy who might in all innocence entertain such an idea, he still felt it was somehow possible.
Ty had never met Danny. It had taken him a while to even realize that Mike didn't live aloneat least not on the weekends when Danny drove from the college in Kearney to spend Saturday and Sunday with him.
Ty noticed the books on some shelves Danny had built for the TV room.
"Have you read all these?" he said.
"Naw," Mike said. He was sitting on the couch with his stocking feet on a worn, sloping hassock. He had offered his La-Z-Boy to Ty. "Those belong to the other guy who lives here."
And he'd explained about Danny, how they'd metyears ago nowand about his teaching job, which kept him away except in the summers.
Ty, of course, had been a little puzzled, because Mike didn't tell him they were more than just good friendsjust let him figure that out on his own if he wanted to. And after a couple more questions, trying to clear it up for himself, Ty had let the matter drop.
Danny, when he learned of Ty's visits to the house, was furious. He'd grown up with a heavy dose of church and had been sent to Sunday school, pretty much against his will and under threat of his father's hand raised against his backside.
When his mother died after a long illness, and he heard more than he cared to from god-fearing relatives about eternal rewards, deliverance from this vale of tears, and being taken to a far, far better place, he could see it was all just a bunch of words people said because they couldn't understand, explain, or accept the plain, simple truth.
"People live and die for no reason," Danny had said one night when he'd finally talked to Mike about it. "If there is a Godand I'm not saying there isn'the's got a lot to answer for. But in church they feed you all this other crap."
And Mike had held him as they lay together in the moonlit darkness after they'd gone to bed, wondering at the depth of Danny's bitterness. Mike's family had never been church-goers, and while he'd been a little curious as a boy, he'd never stepped inside one, not until he was best man at his friend Don's wedding. He tried hard that day to pay attention to what the minister had to say, but it all seemed to go over his head, and he couldn't begin to grasp the appeal of it for others.
"I think you're wrong about one thing, bud," he'd finally said to Danny that night, holding him a little tighter. "I think people do live for a reasonto be together, and look after each other, like you and me." It was something he often thought about, usually long days working alone on the farm, whenever they were apart. And he told Danny how much he loved him.
Danny had been silent for a while, letting that sink in, and finally admitted that maybe Mike was right, then kissed him. Mike kissed him back and they fell asleep in each other's arms.
Danny didn't have to tell him that there was probably not a church anywhere that didn't frown on two men sharing a bed like this, let alone what they did in that bed besides sleep. But that wasn't the reason he hadn't let on anything to Ty when the subject came up. If he'd had a female for a housemate instead of Danny, it would have been the same thing. When, how, and whetherfor that matterthey had sex was not another man's business. He could think whatever he liked.
Anyway, whatever difference Mike's words might have made to Danny that night, they didn't keep him from getting worked up all over again when he heard about Ty. And so it wasn't a big surprise for Mike. He knew it was Danny still pissed off about all the other things he'd been taught as a boy. He was glad he'd been spared all that.
As spring rolled around, Mike began to see the day coming when Danny would move back to the farm for the summer, and he and Ty would finally meet. But things came to a head before that, and Ty had stopped coming by.
It happened in a way that maybe anyone could have predicted. Ty asked him point blank one night if he was queerhe didn't use the word but another one that sounded like it came from the bible, and Mike had asked him what he meant before he answered. Someone, it seemed, had seen them together at the café that day, and thought it wise to give Ty a warning about spending time with someone like him.
"Because I don't go to the church?" Mike asked quietly.
"No," Ty said. "Because of the other guy who lives here with you."
It all came out thennot all, but enough anyway. And when it did, Ty was stricken.
His food mostly uneaten on the plate before him, he explained that what Mike was doing was forbidden, and unless he stopped and begged God for forgiveness, he would surely have to endure the eternal consequences.
Mike listened, sadly, watching the little world Ty had built around him crumble. He saw the loneliness of his young life sweep up around him again. And he could begin to see signs of the looming fears that had disturbed Danny's boyhood and made him so angry still today. Ty, with his yearning to be perfect, was still in the grip of them.
"Doesn't it say somewhere in your bible that we should love one another?" Mike asked, fairly sure he was right about this.
"Yes, but not like that," Ty said. "Friends, like David and Jonathan, but any closer than they were is wrong."
Mike didn't know this David and Jonathan, so he wasn't sure how to respond.
He put down his fork finally and said, "I like you, Ty. You are a fine young man. With a heart as big as anything I can think of. But I can't go along with what you're saying."
Ty's eyes were fixed on his. He sat without moving.
"If God helps us find the one person he wants us to love for the rest of our lifeand I don't know if he does stuff like thatthen I have no doubt that person for me is Danny. And there's nothing anybody's gonna say can change my mind."
Ty ate then in silence for a while. It was Mike's spaghetti, with slices of white bread to wipe up the sauce when they'd had their last helpings. And there were mugs of black coffee to wash it all down. Then Mike had cut them pieces of the apple pie Ty had brought as a treat from the café.
"You want some ice cream with that?" he asked. "I got some."
Ty shook his head, still silent and staring at his plate, like he was trying for all he was worth to think of what to saywrestling with something in him that would not come out in words.
"I'm going," he finally said and pushed his chair back from the table, reaching for his coat.
"I hope you'll come back again," Mike said getting up.
"I don't know," Ty said, and when he looked at Mike, there was an expression of sorrow that came from some unspeakable depths in him.
Mike didn't hesitate. Just reached out to him and took him in his arms, holding him firmly, his body small against him, his hands finally pressing softly against the back of Mike's shirt. Then he pulled away and was going out to his car, without saying goodbye.
And Mike hadn't seen or heard from him since.
Now, out of the blue, here he was again, walking across the field, stepping through the cut alfalfa, wearing a white shirt and tie. Mike got off the tractor and raised the mower bar, then drove over to meet him.
Ty stopped and stood waiting when he saw him coming, and when Mike got to him, he saw that Ty looked like someone shell shocked.
"What happened?" he said getting off the tractor, thinking someone had died or that there'd been some horrible and tragic accident. But Ty seemed unable to answer. He stepped to Mike and put his arms around him, shaking as he began to sob, his cheek pressed to Mike's shoulder.
"Are you OK?" Mike asked, knowing full well the answer to his own question. There was surely something very wrong.
And as Ty caught his breath again, he said, "Mike, I'm in trouble."
And as the sun sank toward the horizon in the west, Ty explained that he'd done what he didn't think was possible. He'd been driving around town late at night, like he did when he couldn't sleep, and he'd found himself in one of the town parks, where he'd pulled over and stopped, away from the street lights, and sat listening to the crickets. After a while he became aware that there was someone else there in the shadows, who came over to him and leaned in the window.
By the time a police cruiser pulled up, the other man had got in the front seat with him. He'd unbuttoned Ty's shirt and opened his pants and had his head down, ready to take his cock in his mouth. The flash of headlights from behind them made the man sit bolt upright, and he had flung himself from the car and away into the bushes.
Ty was left to talk to the policeman, who came walking around to his car as Ty was zipping up his pants and fumbling with the buttons of his shirt. The officer took his license and car registration and spent a long time studying them with a flashlight and walking around to write down his license plate, then asked Ty a lot of questions about what he was doing here and who'd been with him.
"I don't know who it was," Ty had told the man.
"You don't know?" the policeman said. "It wasn't a friend of yours?"
"No, it was just somebody. We were talking."
The cop had finally let him go, warning him to stay out of the park after dark or he wouldn't get off so easy next time. Ty had driven back home, shaken to the core.
By the clear light of the next day, it was easier to see that he'd escaped unscathed, able now with renewed dedication to devote his life to the strait and narrow. It had been a good lesson, he told himself.
But by late afternoon, his spirits lifting, the head pastor had called him into his office and let it be known that the whole story had made its way to himprobably from the church secretary, whose husband had been a city cop and would hear of anything out of the ordinary in town from his former associates on the force. You could see them all the time hanging out together at the café.
The pastor, as it happened, wasn't as forgiving as the police. Ty's behavior was to be reported to the seminary, and he could either pack his bags and return early to face whatever was in store for him there, or he could make a formal apology to the church board and then plead his case with them. They would decide what was to be done with him.
Listening to it all, Mike wasn't sure what he was going to say. But when Ty was done, the words came pouring out of him.
He told Ty that these people were out of line. He was, after all, hardly more than a boy, with few defenses. They had no right to treat him like thisto threaten him, hurt him and terrify himand he was the one that was owed an apology.
He told him he was being good for the wrong people. To a man, he said, he'd bet anything there was no one on the church board who hadn't done things worseand probably got away with it. The minister, he added, was surely no better.
And he told him there was nothing wrong with him. As for being perfect, he could stop trying, because he was perfect already. Men young or old didn't come any finer than him.
When he ran out of words, he just kept holding him, until Ty was ready to let go.
"I don't know what to do," Ty said, still looking stunned, like he wasn't ready to accept what Mike had told him.
"What do you want to do?" Mike asked.
"I just want to go. Pack my stuff and leave." He stood there now, wiping the tears from his face. "But I don't have any place to go."
"You got a home," Mike said. "Long as you want. At my house. Get your things and move in."
"I can't do that," Ty said.
"Of course, you can," Mike said, trying to get him to smile a little. "Of course, you can."
Continued . . .
© 2006 Rock Lane Cooper