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.
These summer days were long for Mike, up and dressed in his work clothes in the darkness before dawn, making breakfast for himself in his kitcheneggs, bacon, a stack of toast, a big bowl of corn flakes, and two or three cups of black coffeewith the farm report on the radio, listening to prices for corn and the long range weather forecast. Then he'd pack two lunches for himself, several sandwiches and more coffee, for noon and again at four, plus a full water jug with a tray full of ice cubes emptied into it.
He'd find his straw hat and an extra shirt to wear against any morning chill and step out onto the porch to put on his irrigation bootsheavy old rubber Wellingtons that let him step into mud and water half way up to his knees if he had to. Then he'd walk or drive his truck to one or more of his cornfields to pick up armloads of siphon tubes and move them from one set of corn rows to the next. There they'd suck the ice cold water from the well that filled the irrigation ditch, until nightfall when he'd move them all again.
Another man with a job might still be in bed at this hour, but for Mike this was the best part of the day. Back from the cornfields, he'd change into his work bootssitting with his butt on the damp, night-chilled porch step. The air would be cool and fresh, the grass wet with dew, and he'd pause to take it all in as morning light filled the eastern sky.
Next, he'd gas up the tractor by the fuel shed, listening to the chorus of birds singing in his trees and from out in the fields, and observing the play of bright colors on any clouds that happened to be hanging above the flat horizon and the rising sun. Then he was off to the field, the sudden sound of the tractor engine bringing a ringing end to the morning quiet. And if all went wellno breakdowns, no trips to town for parts or repairshe wouldn't be back to the place again until evening.
With Danny away at his summer course in Lincoln, Mike would let himself miss him for a while, counting the days when he'd be home again. They'd sometimes talk to each other on the phone at night, but it hardly made Mike feel less lonely. He needed Danny in his arms for that, and the words they exchanged with a phone call mostly just made him miss Danny more. After a lingering memory of last night's conversation, he'd focus on the day ahead and try to keep his mind on his work
If a neighbor didn't drop by and ask to borrow a tool or something else that would save him a trip into town, only a rainy day would bring a break in Mike's routineor as it happened today, a visitor dropping by out of the blue. Or in this caseand it must have been some kind of recordthree of them.
Ted was a good guy, and Mike had hoped he'd come by for the evening and stay the night. You could have a thoughtful talk with him. He had what it took for thatsome common sense, curiosity, and his own take on things. And after lights out, the old house wouldn't feel so empty with him there in the back bedroom.
In the old days, before Danny, Ed would have been a welcome sight, a promise of bed-creaking sex to end the day and invite a night of deep, dreamless sleep. But while Ed was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, he respected Mike's staying true to Danny, and after making his intentions known anywaya hand in Mike's crotch when he had his first chance, that was the usual first movehe'd groan as Mike declined the offer, and then they'd laugh and joke together over several cold beers, while Ed carried on with a report of his ongoing adventures with guys all over the map.
Ty was the one Mike wasn't so sure about. He'd never had to deal with someone wrestling with all that guilt before. In his life, he'd mostly met guys like Ed, who never seemed to feel a lick of embarrassment for anything they did with their pants offeven when they maybe should have.
Ty was something else. Mike hardly knew what to say to him to help him out of his misery. And because what he said and did apparently mattered so much to Ty, it was not easy to step away and let Ty justwell, twist in the wind. He owed him something better than that.
Putting him for an hour in the care of Ted and Ed as they went into town was maybe a mistakeEd was unpredictablebut Mike was afraid that if he left Ty on his own, he might decide to leave again. While Mike knew he wouldn't go out looking for him, he didn't want to spend the night worrying about him either.
So here he was, shifting muddy, wet siphon tubes in the near dark, slipping in the water-soaked earth, the leaves of corn stroking his face and arms with their rough edges. And he was trying to remember his own struggles when he was Ty's age. Years later now, it seemed he'd simply come to know that he wanted to be with guys, not girlsand more important, that no matter what anybody else thought, it was OK.
How did you explain something like that to Ty? He'd had all this religionthis wish to be not only good but perfectwhich was not like anything Mike had ever expected of himself. He straightened up for a moment, looking at the light that still held in the western sky and reflected in the slow current of the water in the irrigation ditch, and he thanked whatever powers there were that he'd never had any of that stuff drummed into his head.
When he got back to the house and found all three of their cars still parked by the front gate, he breathed a sigh of relief and said another thanks, then laughed at himself, wondering who exactly he was talking to.
Ty was still subdued, sitting at the kitchen table as Mike came in the door, but at least he hadn't cut and run, and the longer he stayed maybe the better things would turn out.
But when Ed tore the page out of his bible, it happened too fast for anyone to stop him, and from the look of shock on Ty's face, he gave every sign of wanting to flee, like he'd suddenly found himself in the lion's cage at the zoo.
Then he seemed to brace himself, and he stayed anyway, not moving in his chair until Ted and Ed finally got up from the table and made an effort to clean up the kitchen before going out to the pool for a skinny dip in the dark.
"Don't turn on the light out there," Mike told them. "And most of the bugs will leave you alone."
"You need a bug zapper, Mike," Ed said, unbuttoning his shirt.
"I'd worry that you'd stand too close to it," Mike said.
Ed guffawed as he went out the door, stepping behind Ted to grab his ass.
"You gotta forgive Ed," Mike said to Ty when they were gone. "He doesn't always use the sense he was born with."
"I already forgave him," Ty sighed. "That was a good lesson."
"Don't tell him that. You won't hear the end of it."
Ty, who'd declined to drink beer with them, was turning a can of coke on the table top with one hand, watching it go around in a little film of water. Absently, he put his other hand to his shoulder, where Ted had put his arms around him.
"Ted's an artist?" he said.
When Mike said yes, Ty wanted to see the painting of Danny he'd told him about. So Mike took him to the bedroom, where it hung on the wall beside their bed. And as he switched on the light, Ty stopped where he stood, silent, taking it all in.
He gazed at the blue impression of Danny's naked bodythe dancing manhis cock seeming to fly there between his legs. Then his eyes glanced around the room, resting finally on the unmade bed, pillows and sheets pushed together, the way Mike had left them that morning. It looked like two people had slept there, not just one.
"Here's a picture of him," Mike said, taking a little frame from the top of a chest of drawers. It had been taken at the college, a half smile on his face, his hair cut short, and behind him a brick wall.
Ty took the picture and held it.
"Put that together with the body in the painting, and you have the whole man," Mike laughed.
"Ted said you love each other," Ty said, still looking at the picture in its little frame.
"We do," Mike said.
"I loved you, too," Ty said in a voice so quiet Mike hardly heard him. "Not like this," he said reaching his hand out to touch a rumpled sheet on the bed. "But I wanted to be your friend."
And he told Mike how he had yearned all his life for someone to be close to, to have long talks with, to do things together, to maybe share the same place to livesomeone he could hug who would hug him back and even say I love you.
"There was a boy like that at seminary," Ty said, but he'd been told it was wrong to have such strong feelings for a friend. He'd made himself forget about all that, but when he'd met Mike, it had all come back, stronger than ever.
"I didn't realize," he said, touching the bed again, "I didn't realize about this." And when he'd finally found out, he felt that he'd been fooled somehow, his hopes dashed and betrayed. So he tried once again to throw himself into his work and to forget about trying to find that kind of friendship.
But this time, try as he might to give the love in his heart to the people in his church, he kept thinking about Mikeand the rush of feeling that had swept through him that last night when Mike had held him in his arms. And when he wasn't thinking about that, he'd think about the verses in his bible and how they were warning him away from such thoughts.
There was no end to the confusion he felt. Worse yet, there was no one he could talk to about itno one he trusted as much as he'd trusted Mike.
"I owe you an apology," Ty said, not looking up.
"I hardly think so."
Then Ty's eyes lifted to his. "The last night I was here I left without saying thank you or goodbye."
"I figured I knew why you were upset," Mike said, putting his hand on Ty's shoulder. "But you gotta understand I'd never do anything to hurt you."
The troubled look in Ty's eyes softened a little. "I know that now," he said.
There was a moment as neither of them spoke, and then Mike heard the telephone ringing in the kitchen. When he went to answer, it was Danny.
"Did I get you up?" Danny said. "It's late."
"No, bud," Mike said, the familiar warm feelings filling his chest at the sound of Danny's voice and the soft ache of desire rising between his legs.
He told Danny about his visitorshe could hear Ed and Ted's voices coming softly from the pool. And Danny talked about staying up all night to work at an editing table, splicing together the little movie he was making about a flea market.
"I wish you were here," Danny said, after they'd talked a while.
"People pair up at these things," Danny said. "I got a room all to myself and no one to share my bed with at night."
"I got the same problem heremost nights anyway," he laughed, trying to make a little joke of it.
"Well, you're gonna have one horny guy on your hands when I get home. Better plan on losing some sleep."
Mike thought of Ty, who'd walked into the TV room and turned on a light there, sitting on the couch and just staring at his hands in his lap.
"I want you to talk to somebody," he said to Danny. "Remember that boy Ty, from the church in town?"
"What's he doing there?" Danny said, and Mike could hear an edge in his voice.
"He's kinda hurtin'. I think it might help if you talked to him."
"Me? You know how I feel about him."
"You've been through what he's going through. You'd know more what to say."
"Mike, I'm not like you," Danny said, sounding like he was trying to be firm. "You're always ready to give away the shirt off your back. I'm telling you, some people you just gotta let be."
"Danny, you know I wouldn't ask if I didn't believe that myself."
"Yes, you would," Danny said, already giving in. "Put him on."
And Mike called out to Ty from the kitchen, handing him the phone when he got there, a puzzled look on his face.
"It's Danny," he said to Ty. "You two talk." And as Ty hesitated, he said, "Go on. Just say hello."
And as they talked, Mike went to the bathroom and took a hot shower, washing away the dust and sweat and the tiredness and then going to the bedroom to put on a clean pair of boxers.
Glancing into the kitchen, he could see Ty standing by the phone, his back turned, head down. The conversation, as he listened to it, was mostly one-sided, Danny doing most of the talking. This was a good sign. If anybody knew what to do with all that religion and guilt, Danny had to be the one for the job, and Ty seemed to be taking it all in.
He got out some sheets and a pillow and made up a bed for Ty on the couch in the TV room, and then he sat in his La-Z-Boy watching the 10:00 news.
A while later, he woke up to the sound of music from the TV and Johnny Carson stepping through the curtains to start his monologue. Then he realized Ty was standing in the doorway, looking at him.
"So," Mike said, sitting up. "How'd it go?"
"OK," Ty said, thoughtfully. Then he added, "I like Danny. He's a lot like you."
"He'd laugh to hear you say that."
Ty looked very tired now, and his mouth opened in a big yawn.
"I made a bed for you," Mike said, getting up and gesturing toward the couch. He went to switch off the TV, and when he turned Ty still stood in the same place, looking like he was thinking hard about something.
Then his face broke into a smile. "Danny told me to tell you goodnight," Ty said, then laughed.
"What's so funny?"
"Actually he said to kiss you goodnight."
"He did, did he," Mike said. This he hadn't expected. Danny, for all his tough talk, had apparently warmed to Ty.
He opened his arms, inviting Ty to a hug, and after a moment as Ty considered this, he came to Mike and met his embrace, finally turning his face to Mike's cheek to brushed his lips lightly there and then turn away again. His hands pressed against Mike's bare back for a while, and then he let him go.
He had the same thoughtful expression again when Mike looked at him. "What did Danny tell you?" he asked.
"He said, no matter what anyone else says, there's nothing unnatural about the feelings I've been having." And he explained that a man's deepest desires come from his heart and soul, where God put them, and what's unnatural is to try to deny them.
"He said that?"
"Not in those words, but that's the way I understood him."
Whatever it all meant, it seemed to put the boy's mind a little more at ease. And that was good enough for Mike.
His body swimming with fatigue, Mike left him then with a goodnight and a quick kiss of his own on Ty's cheek, and after setting the alarm for 4:00 a.m., he went to bed.
The next morning, as he walked to the kitchen to start the coffee, he discovered that the couch was empty. There was light coming from around the bathroom door, and he figured Ty was inside, but when the door opened, it was Ed who came out.
"You getting up or going to bed?" Mike asked.
"Going to bed," Ed said. "Are you kidding?"
"Ty's gone. Did you see him go?"
"He didn't go anywhere. He's with us." He nodded down the hall to the back bedroom.
"Keep your shorts on," Ed said. "I don't know how you expect a man to sleep on that lumpy old couch of yours. We took pity on him and carried him to our bed."
Ed disappeared down the dark hallway, and Mike followed. There, when Ed pushed open the door, a lamp burned dimly and he saw two sleeping figures in the bedTed on the far side, and Ty next to him. The sheet thrown back on this side showed where Ed had been lying, and he got back in. Pressed together, there was hardly room for the three of them.
"Go sleep in my bed," Mike said. "I'm getting up."
"No, Mike," Ed said, reaching for the lamp to switch it off. "You keep your bed all to yourself." Then he added, "Besides, when he wakes up it'll be a nice surprise for him."
Continued . . .
© 2006 Rock Lane Cooper