Mike and Danny Go to College
Chapter 4, Part 1
OK, we're heading out of town. Bobby is sitting with the full blast of the heater blowing on him and looking shell shocked, just staring out the windshield through the streaks of winter road grime left by the wipers.
"We're going to Ted's for a while," I say.
His mouth falls open like he's going to say something, but nothing comes out. I take that for an OK. And I'm already half wondering if there's a chance Ted would take charge of this boy, keep him occupied till he gets over this. Give him some shelter in the storm. Maybe even some TLC.
The winter sun is sagging down already in the western sky, like it's shot its wad when nobody was looking.
As we get out toward Ted's place, I see his station wagon, muddy-blue and gray with road salt, coming toward us. Someone has taken a broom and swept off most of the snow. Inside, as we get closer, I can see Ted driving and Mike riding shotgun. I slow to a stop, roll down the window, and wait for them to pull up alongside.
"Going to Sears to get a new battery for this boat," Ted explains, both hands with a firm grip on the steering wheel. And it's funny seeing Mike with someone else besides one of his friendssomeone I know from before him. He's there at the other end of the front seat in his cap and new barn coat, smiling back at me, comfortable as he always is with himself on a day off.
I tell them we'll hang out at the house till they get back.
"Give the pot on the stove a stir or two," Ted says, and then looks past me. "Hi, Bobby," he says.
"Hi," Bobby manages to croak out.
And with a little wave, Ted and Mike are off again.
"You know each other?" I ask, yanking on the window crank to roll up the window.
"I was in a class with him," Bobby says. "Didn't know he knew my name."
I take this as a good sign. Don't ask me to take that hunch apart and analyze it. It just feels promising.
There are now three sets of tracks in and out of Ted's long driveway, and they mostly correspond to each other, so once the wheels are settled into them I can kind of let the truck steer itself all the way. There's a naked spot of frozen dirt on the ground where the station wagon was parked, and around it a lot of boot prints. The snow is blue in the long shadows from a stand of old cedars in what's left of a shelterbelt.
We go inside the house, and the kitchen is warm, the air thick with the smell of garlic and spaghetti sauce cooking. My glasses fog over, and after I wipe them off, I can see the room again, the pot of sauce simmering on the stove, the table where the three of us sat talking, the tomcat still in its box, curled up and opening one eye halfway.
The sauce is quietly bubbling, and I give it a stir with a long wooden spoon. A bay leaf floats to the top. I sneak a taste of it, and the stuff is damn good. I didn't know Ted could cook.
Then I pour us some coffee and hand a cup of it to Bobby. "Sit," I tell him, like he needs to be told to. He's still kind of blank-faced and wordless. But instead of sitting, he puts down the cup and wraps his arms around me, pressing against me, his cheek turned to my shoulder, and as I put my own arms around him, I can feel him shaking.
And I let him have a good cry.
When Mike and Ted return, I'm standing at the kitchen table looking through Ted's sketchbook. There are his drawings of Mike, his work-hardened hands, his face with that soulful look he can get when he's just listening to you, and then some quick sketches of him with his clothes off. Anyway, I figure it's him. The shape of his body is unmistakable, and the way his cock curves down over his balls.
You're probably thinking alarms should be going off, flags down on the field, but this is not a cheap soap opera. I've been with both of these guys. If they care to appreciate each other, let 'em. Knowing Mike, I'm pretty sure he'd draw the line somewhere between that and getting laid. But even if they fucked right here on the kitchen floor, I could deal with that.
At least I think I could.
Bobby has pulled himself together as they're coming onto the porch, stamping the snow off their boots. The door swings open, and there's Ted, with a bag of groceries from Piggly Wiggly, breathing in deep and apparently satisfied with the smell of the sauce. He gets a big smile on his face.
They're shucking off their coats and I'm introducing Bobby. Ted welcomes him with a hearty clap on the shoulder and moves right to the stove. Mike shakes hands and gives Bobby his melt-your-heart grin. Then his eyes shift to me. "Hi, bud," he says. "You OK?"
I nod, glad to see him.
Turns out the two of them have a surprise for us. The old farmer who used to live here was from Finland, and there's a sauna out back that he built. A bit of the old country out here on the prairie. Ted and Mike have shoveled a path out to it, and they've fired up the stove inside. It should be getting warm already and by dark hot enough for all comers.
I have only heard of saunas and never been in one. Bobby is looking wide-eyed like this may be too much novelty for him. Mike, of course, has done this before and is all eager and ready to initiate us both to the rigors of what I take to be a real he-man experience.
He and Ted have clearly talked each other into going the full route, getting the place hotter than blazes and then when the heat gets too much running out naked to roll in the snowdrifts. I figure I'll pass on that part, but Mike keeps telling me I'll love it. And anyway, I don't have any choice. Meanwhile, Bobby keeps looking like we might all be nuts.
Ted pulls out a bottle of vodka. "For courage," he says, and we pass the bottle around to take eye-watering slugs. I watch Mike curl his lips around the mouth of the bottle as he plants it under his moustache. He's looking back at me, winking, then passes the bottle to me.
I know better than to get shit-faced this early in the evening and kind of fake a big gulp. But Mike is watching the bubbles rising in the bottle and says, "Be brave, bud," and has me take another hit.
Ted is at the stove turning on the heat under a pot of water and announcing that the spaghetti will be ready in half an hour. Now he's reaching into the bag of groceries and pulls out a long loaf of Italian bread. "There's a bread knife in the drawer there," he says, handing the loaf to Bobby. "You know how to make garlic bread?" Bobby says no, and Ted starts to show him.
The room already feels a few degrees warmer, and Mike sidles up to me, whispering in my ear, "I want to sleep with you tonight."
"Isn't that what we usually do?" I say, watching Ted and Bobby together at the kitchen counter, their backs to us and shoulders touching.
"In case you had any doubt," Mike says, and I feel his hand behind me, slipping a few of his fingers down the back of my levi's.
"Mike," Ted says turning to us. "You know where the beer is on the back porch. Your job is to keep it coming."
"Sir, yes, sir," Mike says smartly, and leaves the room.
"Your job, my friend," Ted says, looking at me now, "your job is to set the table." And besides what he calls the best china, which turns out to be a mismatched set of plastic plates, he says he wants candles. There's a supply of them in a drawer by the sink. Then he looks at me tenderly, pointing over his shoulder with one thumb toward Bobby, who is busy slicing bread. And he mouths the words, "Thank you."
Funny thing about spaghetti. It can be ordinary as cornflakes, but put on some music, turn down the lights, bring out the wine glasses and a jug of chianti, and you've got yourself a meal fit for princes. And princes we are tonight, no doubt about it.
The sun lingers in the bare tree branches west of the house for a while as dusk gathers in the corners of the rooms. And the next time I check out the window, it has slipped from sight, and the panes are filling instead with reflections of our faces in the flickering candlelight.
Ted has brought in a portable stereo with detachable speakers on long wires that he pulls out as far as they'll go, and he puts on a stack of LPs. I remember only the Delta blues we start with, and then there's just a blend of different kinds of jazzstuff I'd never heard before except maybe late at night on a clear channel from Chicago.
Mike sits on the side of the table next to me. His knee has been long pressed against mine. I notice the way he eats spaghetti, cutting it with knife and fork and then scooping it up to his mouth, wiping his moustache every two-three mouthfuls, then putting down his fork to bite into a piece of buttery bread. One hand is placed palm down on his thigh, the elbow in his flannel shirt angled out away from him. Every now and then, he reaches under the table to stroke and pat my leg. I want him so bad I can hardly sit with the boner in my shorts.
Bobby's eyes shine in the light from the candles, and he's lost his bewildered look. He's had enough alcohol to start playing at being the grown-up man he wants to be. He's across the table from me, and I can see him sneak a glance at Ted now and again. Then Ted draws him out, getting him finally to talk about a county spelling bee he once won in eighth grade.
"That must have made you feel good," Ted says.
Bobby gets that look I know is embarrassment, and he says softly, "Yeah, it did."
And I know in a small-town world where a crew-cut quarterback can win all the worship there is to go around, no one has ever made Bobby feel proud of what he's done. I feel Mike's hand squeezing my knee again.
We fall silent and just sit for a while, our plates clean, the candles burning down. "What's this?" Mike says. And I realize he's listening to the music, a bluesy, slow, mournful trumpet.
Ted listens for a moment. "Miles Davis," he says.
Mike has a faraway look on his face. "I've never heard anything like it before," he says.
It's a soundtrack from a French movie, Ted says. And I'm reminded how little about him I've ever really known, just the impressions this place made on me that cold afternoon in spring the one time I came here, got undressed, and made the paintings with him. And, yeah, got a blowjob in the shower.
"They make movies in France?" Bobby says, like the idea of it surprises him.
Ted is still talking to Mike. "It's called Elevator to the Gallows."
"You mean the people talk in French?" Bobby says.
Ted turns to him now. "Yeah," he says.
"How can you understand what they're saying?" Bobby says.
Ted is explaining to him about subtitles, and since I've never seen any movie that came from anywhere but Hollywood, I have no idea if he's making this all up or telling the truth.
"They've got them in Lincoln," he says to Bobby. "I'll take you to one sometime."
Bobby is now speechless. I think if you could take a picture of awe, this would be it.
The time comes at last to head out to the sauna. Ted goes to check it first, and comes back, promising us that it's hot as the lobby of hell and couldn't be better. For reasons he doesn't bother to go into, we have to leave our clothes in the house and then just run like hell out there. But we won't be stark naked; we'll each have a towel. And he goes for some.
We start taking off our clothes and hang them by the wood stove in the kitchen. I've almost totally lost any interest in doing this, and Bobby is looking dubious again. But Mike keeps saying, don't lose your nerve now. We're men. Men don't lose their nerve.
"Do we have to do something totally lunatic to prove that?" I say, taking off my shirt and getting down to my underwear.
He scoffs and says I must be some kind of pansy. He's already pulling down his boxers.
"Not pansy," I tell him. "Lily-livered, I think that's the word."
Bobby says nothing and stands in his stocking feet, shaking his pants out straight, the change in the pockets jingling. Then he folds them neatly onto a chair and starts unbuttoning his shirt.
"Bobby's no pansy. Look at him," Mike says, like he's trying to shame me.
Bobby even gets a yeah-look-at-me look on his face. And he glances down at Mike's cock.
Ted now appears at the door. He's already out of his clothes and has a towel wrapped around his waist, with three more over his arm. He tosses one to each of us, letting us catch it against our chests.
"Full moon out tonight, men," he says. "A-1 conditions for maneuvers."
He looks at Bobby, who has stopped in the middle of pulling off his tee shirt. He grabs the bottom of it and says, "Up, up, up," as he pulls it over Bobby's head. Then he grabs Bobby's jockeys and says, "Down, down, down." And there's Bobby bare-assed and stepping out of his briefs, letting Ted pull off each of his socks until he's naked as the rest of us. His dick is kind of swinging at half mast, and I'm guessing that it's been this way for a whileif not more than half. If he doesn't end up in bed with Ted tonight, it will be one of those unsolved mysteries.
Ted blows out the candles and clicks on a flashlight. "Follow me, men," he says, and he leads the way through darkened rooms to the back porch, where the air is already cooler and I'm steeling myself for the jolt that I'm going to feel as soon as he throws open the door. Huddled together as Ted counts down from ten, I can feel Mike behind me, his hand sliding up under my towel.
"Three-two-one," Ted calls out. Then the door flies open and we're running out into the night, moonlight glimmering on the snow.
After the first flush of outside air, I feel nothing but the pounding of my bare feet on the hard snow. I'd probably not feel anything more, but there's a pile-up as we jam together at the door of the sauna. And in the moments as Ted fumbles with the latch in the beam of the flashlight, I feel the cold strike me across the shoulders and roll down my back. My balls are shrinking up between my legs with a shiver.
Then he's got the door open, but keeps us standing several long seconds longer to say, "No pushing, men. There's a red-hot stove in there."
And now it's a toss-up between being frozen or burned. Freezer burned, I'm thinking. That's what I'll call this. If I live to tell this story.
In a moment we're inside, and Ted is reaching between us to pull shut the door and latch it again. The heat in the room takes a moment to register. A stove stands in one corner, and there's a wooden bench along one wall. As we sit down, I can feel the sharp heat of the wood against my ass, right through the towel. Then there's the full pressure of the heated air and the waves of it rolling off the stove.
"Who-o-o-o," someone says, getting the full effect of it about the same time I do.
Ted flicks off the flashlight, and as my eyes adjust, I can see the glow of the fire in the stove, dancing softly against the walls. From inside there's a quiet rumbling sound.
"Whoa," Mike says beside me. "Feel that." This is apparently just what he's been expecting.
What I'm feeling is his muscular leg pressed against mine and his shoulder nudging me as he eases his back against the hot wall behind us. On the other side of me is Bobby, not making a move, stunned maybe into complete shock.
There's a body passing between me and the stove, and I figure out that it's Ted moving round to sit next to Bobby. We shift on the bench to make room for him, and then I'm aware that he's put his arm across Bobby's shoulders. His hand for a moment touches me and then pulls away, and I feel Bobby lean toward him. In whatever subtext there was exchanged in that lesson about French subtitles, there seemed to be an understanding that Ted would be looking after more than Bobby's education in foreign movies.
And I'm more than OK with this.
The heat presses into me, and my skin is tingling. Gradually the feeling returns to my snow-chilled feet, and I pass through a phase where my muscles start letting go, the deep freeze of winter months leaking away from me, and I'm not sure whether or not I'm just floating. I understand now why Mike was so gung-ho about this. My body is turning to jello, my balls unclenching and gradually stretching down between my legs to take a rest on the bench.
Jello for the most part, that is. My dick is having a good stretch like some creature waking from a long winter's nap. In the dim light, I look down at the towel across my lap, where a low mound rises and creeps along one leg. Beside me, Mike's towel has taken on the shape of a little pup tent. I glance up to his face, and his head is rolled back against the wall, eyes closed.
On the other side of me, Bobby is curled up against Ted's chest, Ted's hand stroking his long thigh. His other hand is on his chest, then dropping down to pull aside the towel and cover Bobby's balls with his palm.
I press against Mike, his skin warm and damp, and he puts one arm around me, hugging me to him.
"You know where I am?" he says in my ear. "I'm in heaven."
And if you're interested in other Danny stories, you can find two in the nifty.org Gay/College section: "Blue Paint Special" (posted 8/19/03) and "Friday Night Football" (posted 8/21/03).
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