Mike and Danny: The Snowstorm
It's almost noon when Mike, Kirk and Rich leave Don's house in town, climbing into the cab of the pickup so Don can drive them all out to the farm.
Coming back home from Omaha in the blizzard took most of the night, as Don and Mike followed snow plows and sand trucks and the snow kept falling, slicing on the wind through the headlight beams. Don's shiny new pickup is now caked with frozen slurry and, except for the arced paths of the windshield wipers, the windows are thick with highway grime.
The seat is cold on Mike's butt as he slides in next to Kirk, who's taken the middle between Mike and Don. Rich has to sit on Mike's lap.
Discovering Kirk and Rich at the all-night truck stop on the interstate had been a surprise. Don had taken the Grand Island exit and then pulled off the highway before heading into town. He wanted a couple candy bars to tide him over till breakfast, and while he was inside the station, Rich had found him.
Kirk appeared a minute later, red-faced and sullen. In the short time they'd been there, the two of them had managed to get themselves into some kind of trouble they weren't talking about.
They're all tired now and not saying much. Don is grim, even for Don. Kirk, who usually has a motor mouth, is silent. Only Rich leans to look out the windows and make a comment now and then, like he feels somebody should say something.
They take the two-lane highway east out of town, and after a few miles turn onto the country road that goes out to Mike's place. The plow hasn't been along here yet, but from a set of car tracks in the snow, Mike can see that someone has already gotten through, either coming or going.
Then, where a little bridge crosses a slough bend full of willows and the snow has drifted deep, he sees where the car went off the road in the storm and had to be pulled out by someone on a tractor.
From there, the tractor tracks lead back to the farm and turn in, heading over to the barn, where the Farmall is parked, its faded paint a dull, dark red against the white snow. Danny, good man that he is, has been out pulling some unfortunate driver from the ditch, doing his good deed for the day.
A snow-covered station wagon is pulled up to the front gate, next to Mike's pickup.
"Did Danny get a car?" Kirk says. Mike hears a hint of hope in Kirk's voice, like he wouldn't have any trouble persuading Danny to let him borrow iteven after losing the last one.
"I think that belongs to his friend Ted. From the college," Mike says.
"Oh," Kirk says, sounding disappointed.
Don pulls up beside the station wagon, and they pile out. "Thanks for the ride, sir," Rich says.
Don nods. "You bet," he says.
Tired and grouchy, Don seems least irritated with Rich, who has the benefit of being neither Mike nor related to him. The trip to Omaha has not done much for Don's estimation of Mike, but in some awkward way they are still friends.
Rich swings out of the truck cab, shoes landing with a crunch in the frozen snow. Mike and Kirk follow him. As the two boys go to the gate and walk to the house, Rusty starts barking from inside, all excited, like he knows they've all come home. For a moment, Mike stands holding the door of the truck, taking a last look at Don.
Don slowly turns to him. There is something like sadness or anger in his eyes, or it may only be from not having slept for more than twenty-four hours. He can't tell if Don will finally just let the past golet Mike be who and what he is. Or whether he'll go on trying to make Mike back into the boyhood friend he once knew.
"Another adventure," Mike says. Over the years, they have had many of them.
"I reckon you're right about that," Don says, like Mike could still be wrong about some other things.
They say so long, and Mike pushes the door shut. He watches as Don backs up and then goes out the driveway to the road. Mike's got his hand up to wave, but he can't tell if Don sees him as he goes. He just keeps driving and doesn't wave back.
Kirk and Rich have disappeared into the house, and Mike starts to follow them. Then he hears a voice calling from across the place. It's Danny, who's rolled open one of the barn doors and is standing there, holding a pitchfork they use to clean up after the horse.
"Hey, bud," Mike says.
It feels like days since they last saw each other, and he breaks into a quick stride, taking the path Danny has made through the snow out to the barn. The snow is sun-bright under the clear sky.
Danny steps back inside as he gets there, a big smile on his face. It's a few degrees warmer in the barn, and Mike rolls shut the door behind them. From a rear stall, Ranger raises his head, ears up, and gives out a whinny, then goes back to his feed bucket.
Without a word, Mike puts his arms around Danny and hugs him hard. They kiss, their bodies pressed together. They're almost lost in their heavy winter coats, but the feel of Danny's open mouth and his warm tongue sends waves through him, spilling in a rush down to his gut, his dick going hard in his shorts, and he presses the front of his jeans against Danny.
"Holy smoke, bud, I missed you," Mike says.
And they kiss againdeeper this timetongues pressed together, arms locked around each other.
Mike pulls off his gloves and shoves them into his back pocket. Then he unzips Danny's coat to put his hands inside, stroking the flannel shirt he's wearing, along his ribs first, up into the warmth of his armpits, then around to his back, pulling him tight in another bear hug.
"For a while there," Danny says, "I was gettin' a little worried about you."
Mike's hands drop down to Danny's levis. He's not wearing a belt, and Mike's finger's slide inside, reaching for his butt cheeks, smooth under the folds of his shirttail.
"If I had a worry," Mike laughs. "It was thinking I wouldn't last till I got back here again."
Then he pulls their crotches together again, and he can feel the lump of Danny's cock getting hard against his.
"If you're thinkin' what I'm thinkin'," Danny says, "there's not much privacy in the house."
"I saw the car," Mike says. "Ted's here."
"Ted and Bobby," Danny says. "And you brought Kirk and Rich?"
"Yup. Looks like we got ourselves a full house."
"Up to doin' it right here in the barn?" Danny says, with a grin.
Mike doesn't need persuading. The quilt they used that rainy day last summer in the hayloft is still up there, and with a horse blanket, too, they decide they won't freeze their nuts off if they make it a quick one.
In the next minute, they're climbing up the steps to the loft, Danny first and Mike after, reaching up along Danny's leg to grab the muscles of one thigh, feeling them firm and moving under the denim.
The steps are just one-by-fours nailed to the studs of the wall and leading straight up to a square hole in the loft floor. When he gets to the top, Danny has to stop and push open a plywood trap door, and Mike's hand reaches up farther between his legs to the soft, warm bulge of his balls between his legs.
Bits of hay and straw fall over them as the door lifts, and then Danny climbs up through the opening, laughing as he kicks more of it down onto Mike.
The air in the loft is colder, more like outside. Daylight shines through pinprick holes between the shingles overhead. And while the big loft door is closed for the winter, there's a window under the eaves near the roofline, and all its panes are long gone. So any warmth in the barn is below, under the hay-covered flooring.
Mike lowers the door after him, and Danny is already stepping behind a stack of last summer's alfalfa bales to a pile of loose prairie hay in one corner. He's shaking out the quilt when Mike gets there, and Mike lays out the blanket for them to lie on.
They tumble down together, grabbing for the front of each other's jeans. Mike is quicker or maybe, as he likes to think, just more practicedbut he's got Danny's levis open and slipped down off his hips while Danny is still struggling with Mike's zipper.
Mike can see Danny's cock stretched out hard in his jockeys, his pale winter skin almost white as his underwear.
"What'd you do, Mike, weld your fly shut?" Danny says, still yanking on the zipper.
Mike wants for a second to just bury his face between Danny's legs, pressing him down into the blanket, pinning him, grabbing both his wrists and letting him try to squirm his way out from under.
But he rocks back onto the heels of his boots, pushing Danny's hands away from his wranglers.
"OK, bud, I'll show you one more time," he says, like he's mustering up the patience for this. And he demonstrates how to unzip his zipper, pulling back the denim flap with one hand and holding the little metal grip with two fingers of his other hand.
"Get a good grip on this little thingamajig," he says.
"That's the technical term for it?" Danny says, falling back onto his elbows.
"If you didn't wear those fool levis with the buttons, you'd know all this."
"That again," Danny groans.
While Mike is talking, he's watching Danny's dick shift position in his shorts, pushing up against the elastic waistband now. Again he fights the urge to dive mouth open onto it.
"Are you watching?" Mike says. "You can't learn if you're not watching."
"Hurry up, will ya? My ass is getting cold."
"You take hold of this, and you give it a firm tug to get it started," he says and slowly pulls down the zipper, the teeth separating with their little metallic sound. They come to a stop where the zipper rides up and over his hard-on.
"Any obstacle in the zipper's patheven a big obstacle like this oneand you just give a little extra tug," he says, somehow keeping a straight face as he does it.
He pulls the zipper down to the bottom of the fly, which spreads open over his erection, enough to show a glimpse of his boxers.
"OK, I think I got it," Danny says, and is reaching out to the top button of Mike's wranglers to finish the job.
"Not so fast," Mike says, zipping himself up. "Now you do it, just the way I showed you, so you don't forget."
Danny groans again. And Mike makes him do it three or four more times, just to make sure, enjoying each time the feel of Danny working the zipper over his cock, his fly falling open a little farther because he's gotten harder and bigger.
Finally he pops open the top button himself and drops down onto Danny, growling and twisting his body like he's trying to burrow into him, wanting in the rush of excitement pouring through him, like a dam busting, to sweep him up and carry him away.
Their open jeans grind together, cocks finding each other. They are kissing hard again, and Mike can smell the hay under them, crushed beneath their weight, a fragrance of summer on the cold air and a memory of the afternoon they spent right here in each other's arms, damp with lovemaking, sweat and the rain falling outside.
In the surge of his heart that afternoon, there was the sensation that he had never felt more like a man could feel. And some of that feeling comes back to him as he lies here with Danny.
Mike returns now to what he wanted to do from the start, still kneeling, his butt loose in his jeans, and pressing his face down into Danny's jockeys. He breathes in the smell of him. There's the hint of laundry soap in the cotton, the scent of two-three days without a shower, and the sure smell of cum against his belly from jerking off while Mike was gone.
He puts his cheek down flat onto Danny's cock, rolling against it, unyielding and urgent, and he can feel Danny's belly muscles contracting in little spasms, his legs lifting apart against the jeans that are halfway to his knees.
Danny sighs and says something like, "M-M-M-Mike."
"I'm here, bud," Mike says, whispering softly, like the rustle of the hay under them.
He pulls down the front of Danny's jockeys now and watches as his cock springs free, bouncing up and throbbing with his heartbeat.
In the dim light of their bedroom, he seldom sees what is so obvious in the light of day. Danny's cock at full length is a handsome thing, strong and full and straight. "Noble," Mike had once called it, not sure he'd ever used the word before and not sure where it came from.
In the bright winter snow-light filtering into the hayloft, he can see it again clearly, the skin pale and taut and the mushroom head neatly shaped. If a hard-on had personality, this one was Danny all overdetermined, yearning and smart.
Yeah, even smart. Danny has a pair of clip-on Ray-Bans for his glasses, and one Sunday morning in bed together, Mike put them on Danny's dick, so it looked like a face with sunglasses and a nose.
He wanted to say, "Hey, look, bud. Hollywood." But damned if it didn't look more like a college professor with a beard. Or some famous author. Like Ernest Hemingway.
With the smile this memory brings him, he opens his mouth over Danny's dick and lets it glide over his tongue, filling him. The end of it is already slick and salty with Danny's precum.
Danny sighs again, his hips lifting and falling, then rolling from side to side on the blanket.
"What are you laughing at?" Danny had said that day from behind a section of the Sunday World-Herald he was reading.
"Just admiring your dick," Mike had said and showed him. "Doesn't that look like a college professor to you?"
"You're nuts, you know that?" Danny said and wouldn't get out of bed to see himself in the mirror. Just went back to whatever he was reading in the paper.
Mike feels the cold air of the hayloft now slipping in between his wranglers and his underwear, and his dick is poking out through the opening in his boxers. There's a sharp wintry grip along the length of it.
He leans back to take off Danny's shoes. Danny is wearing barn boots, and a pair of Mike's thermal socks on his feet. The boots slip right off, and he next goes to work tugging Danny's levis and jockeys down to his ankles.
Danny lifts his stocking feet in the air and lets Mike take off his jeans and underwear, then toss them to the side as he quickly jerks down his boxers, backing his butt into them for a second to get his cock, stiff as a hammer handle, out of the opening in front.
Then he rubs a handful of spit into his dick and leans over Danny, feeling with his wet fingers for home. Danny takes a deep breath and relaxes, and after two-three tries, Mike is sinking slowly into him. The aching he has felt in his crotch all the long way back from Omaha is now being swallowed up in the welcoming warmth of Danny's body.
It takes only a few thrusts, with Danny's knees pressed against his sides, squeezing him tight, and he feels himself already in close range of coming. His whole feeling of being alive is in the handful of inches of himself between his legs and the weight of his balls swinging and bobbing against naked skin.
He stops for a moment to let the surge of desire ebb some, and he presses his lips against the side of Danny's neck. He feels his moustache and the roughness of his unshaven chin against Danny's skin. Under his belly, he can feel Danny's cock, hard and pushing up against him.
And then, with his lips as close as he can get them to Danny's ear, the words start comingin a flow like the orgasm that's waiting to happen between his legs. "I love you, Danny," he says over and over. "I'd be lost without you."
Danny hugs him, both arms like they're trying to crush him. Mike doesn't need to hear the usual response, but Danny says it anyway: "I know it's not saying much," he says quietly, "but I love you more than I ever loved anyone."
Holding each other, they gently rock in this blissful sea, until Mike begins to feel again the cold hayloft air on his butt. And he starts up once more and, real easy, the pressure of his hips and the slow thrust of his waiting dick.
The little moment of calm in his groin quickly passes, and he's rolling back toward the edge again, picking up speed. He braces himself for the coming free-fall, wanting and not wanting it, until there's no resisting anymore, and there's a last look at Danny and the smile on his face as Mike closes his eyes, tight, and lets himself go, sailing out in one burst after another into weightless space, feeling like he could black out.
Finally, when he's done, and slowly coming around, he finds himself again, lying face down and flat out, his dick warm and at ease, giving out last little random spasms, still full and held firmly inside Danny.
After a while, he's slowly pulling out, his dick thick and rubbery, and he's getting his butt back into his boxers and his wranglers. He wraps Danny's bare legs in the quilt and then holds his penis, half-hard now, while he bends down to kiss him on the mouth once more.
"Man's gotta do what a man's gotta do," Mike says. "Gotta finish the job I started."
"You won't hear me complain," Danny says with a lop-sided grin.
Now putting one hand over Danny's heart, Mike slowly bends down between Danny's legs and sucks his cock into his mouth, swallowing the length of him. Then he slips his other hand under the quilt to stroke the inside of Danny's thighs, while with his tongue he works Danny back to his stiff, throbbing erection.
He feels one of Danny's hands settle over histhe one on Danny's heart. The other hand finds the back of his head, and he can feel Danny stroking the hair on his neck with his thumb.
Danny swells in Mike's mouth and gets first firm and then quickly hard. He begins breathing faster, his heart racing under the flannel shirt, his fingers gripping Mike, letting go, and gripping him again. Mike takes Danny's balls in the palm of his hand and gets into the same rhythm, squeezing and relaxing, squeezing and relaxing, like a game they've discovered.
Danny arches up off the blanket, one knee rising and the quilt falling free. Then he comes, and there's the familiar taste of something a lot like cooked oatmeal filling Mike's mouth. All it needs is milk and maple syrup, he once told Danny. And swallowing he takes all of it until Danny is done and sinks back with a deep sigh.
When Danny's hand falls from the back of his neck, Mike lies down close beside him and pulls the quilt over both of them. Danny is absolutely still, his eyes closed, breathing softly.
From below, there is the sound of Ranger knocking over his feed bucket. Outside, a crow caws. In the distance he can hear the engine of a big truck out on the highway.
Mike is turned to Danny and puts an arm across his chest, touching his face.
"You all right, bud?" he says.
Danny nods, blinking his eyes and staring up into the rafters. Then he slowly sits up.
"Where you goin'?" Mike asks.
"I gotta put my pants on. I'm freezin'." And he gets dressed again, the end of his dick sticking out from under his flannel shirt, with one last glistening drip of cum oozing down in a long clear thread.
His legs are pale and sleek. As he bends over to put one stocking foot into his shorts, his shirttail rides up over his butt, and in the backlight from the open window under the eaves, Mike can see how it's covered with downy hair.
"We should do this in daylight more often," Mike says.
"There's more of you to see."
Danny glances over to him as he picks up his jeans from the hay. "Like what?"
"I dunno. Like the hair on your ass. I never noticed that before."
Danny is sliding one leg into his jeans. "You crack me up sometimes," he says, shaking his head, and quickly puts in his other leg.
Then they are lying together again under the blanket, hugging each other against the cold, their warm breath in each other's faces, fogging up Danny's glasses.
"Who was that you pulled out of the ditch?" Mike asks. His brain functioning again in the real world, he remembers the tractor tracks on the road out to the bridge across the slough.
"That was Ed. He spent the night here, too."
Mike hasn't seen Ed for months. Wonders why he didn't stay for a while, at least until Mike got back.
"He was in a big hurry to get to Kansas City," Danny says. "I got the idea it was some trade show. Do they have trade shows in the middle of the winter?"
Kansas City, Mike thinks. And he knows what's therewho's there.
"Did he happen to mention somebody named LeeRoy?" he says.
"No, it was some other guy. From South Dakota."
"Well, he travels. He's got somebody just about everywhere." Mike laughs. "They're probably not all guys either."
Danny just closes his eyes. Mike knows he doesn't get it, how a man can go back and forth like that.
"Did he try to put the moves on you?" Mike asks.
Danny huddles closer to him. "Not too seriously." He thinks Ed doesn't go for guys in glasses, he says, and if he showed any interest it was so he wouldn't hurt Danny's feelings.
Mike laughs. "I think you got him pegged wrong. It's because he knows you belong to me."
Danny acts like he's not convinced. "Whatever you say," he says. "Who's LeeRoy anyway?"
"You're gonna tell me, aren't you," Danny says. "And I'm gonna lie here turning blue because it's gonna take forever, right?"
Mike presses closer to him and tucks the blanket in around them tighter. "No reason that has to happen," he says. And he tells Danny about Ed and LeeRoy, who go way back to when they were boys growing up in some small town in Kansas.
"And you gotta understand something," Mike says. "The two of them were like salt and pepper."
"One's white and one's black," Mike says.
Danny thinks about this. "There are Negroes in Kansas?"
Mike gives him a look. "You know, bud, it would do you good to get out and see a little more of the world."
"OK, OK, let's say you're right," Danny says. "Just get to the story."
"Well, it's like this," Mike goes on. It turns out that Ed and LeeRoy never really noticed much about color. Ed's folks were both gentle souls, church-going people, who believed the Lord loved everyone the same.
In the New Jerusalem, there would not be male or female, small or great, or people with different colors. Love one another, the two boys were taught. That commandment was bigger than all the rest. And love each other they did.
The town being too small for more than one school, they had sat together in the same classes with the same teachers from first grade on. In the summers, they were never apart, fishing, swimming, wrestling, playing cowboys, peeing their initials in the dust behind the grain elevator.
They couldn't remember a time when they hadn't also played with each other. Curious about each other's penisesone curved up, one curved downand curious about each other's erections, and discovering at the same age how touching themselves felt good, and touching each other was even better, the two of them shared a freedom that few boys and fewer men ever really know. There was no serpent in the garden to introduce them to shame.
"That kind of explains Ed," Danny says. "What about LeeRoy, did you ever meet him?"
"I'm getting to that," Mike says.
Along about the end of grade school, when most boys are noticing girls and starting to grow hair between their legs, Ed and LeeRoy were close as ever. There was talk of girlfriends, but there'd always been talk like that, small-town boys and girls noticing that most adults pair up sooner or later.
But growing up never far from the open pages of the Bible, Ed knew that it pleased the Lord to treat all girls like you would your sister. With three sisters, he knew pretty much what there was to know about that. He would some day find his soul mate among the opposite sex and have his own small brood of babies to raise and provide for. He didn't give much more thought to it.
This understanding didn't interfere with the times he spent with LeeRoy, comparing the changes happening to their bodies, and lying together naked on a creek bank or in each other's beds at night, talking and stroking each other's hard penises. They were buddies, they'd always been buddies, and buddies they would stay forever.
And talk had turned to something new. They had heard about semen and ejaculating, read it in a book about sex they'd found hidden in a closet. The book, which had diagrams, also answered some old questions they had about where babies came from. But what puzzled them was this stuff that would come out of their penises to make the babies.
They considered their pee, which was the only thing that had ever emerged from down there, and they rubbed it between their fingers, to see if it was sticky and gooey, like the book said. But no, they decided, it had to be something else. Something that would come squirting out of them when the good Lord intended it to. And they left it at that.
"Hard to believe Ed was ever that innocent," Danny says.
Then two things happened. LeeRoy's dad, who was a house painter, fell from the scaffold while painting the steeple of the Methodist church, and the fall killed him. Which left LeeRoy's mother with him and four little brothers and sisters to raise all by herself.
Some time passed after the funeral, a sad affair that brought all the black folks and many of the white folks together on a hot day in Augusthe was known and liked by most everybody in townto sit in the pews of the same Methodist church, fanning themselves with fans from a funeral parlor in Wichita and paying their last respects.
LeeRoy, at thirteen, suddenly the man of the house, clung even more tightly to his buddy Ed, missing his dad and wondering what was to become of his family now without their sole provider. There had never been anything like this to concern him before.
He lay there with Ed in Ed's tiny bedroom, the last night of summer, for they were going to be freshman in the morning at their first day of high school. And Ed put his hand in LeeRoy's undershorts and stroked his penis to comfort him, not minding that LeeRoy was too lost in his own worries to stroke him back.
For a long time they were silentthe walls were paper-thin and they could only talk in whispers anyway, with his sisters in the big bedroom next to his and his parents in the room across the hall. LeeRoy just lay there, his dark skin disappearing in the darkness.
In a while, he began sighing softly, and Ed wondered if LeeRoy was maybe crying, and he stepped up the stroking a little faster. Then LeeRoy suddenly gasped, and kind of sucked in his gut, and before he knew what was happening Ed felt LeeRoy's penis jerking and getting all wet.
And, lo, it happened. They discovered the answer to the question that was even bigger than where babies came from. Ed, because it was already on his hands, tested the wet stuff with his fingers, and it was indeed sticky and gooey. And there seemed to be buckets of it.
He got a flashlight that he kept under the bed, and they studied it together, wide-eyed. Goopy globs of it puddled from LeeRoy's belly up to his chest, and it was milky-white against his coffee-colored skin.
What the book hadn't told them was the feeling that went with ejaculating. "I thought I was gonna die," LeeRoy said, looking astonished. "I thought I was gonna die."
The other thing that happened, and not two days later, was the sudden departure of LeeRoy's family. His mother took them all to live with her sister in California. And with an hour or so to say goodbye, the two boys stood together confused and unbelieving.
One of them had crossed over into manhood, in more ways than one. The other was being left behind.
For a moment, Ed had wanted LeeRoy to stay. "He can live at our house," he told LeeRoy's mother, pleading with her. But she'd only given him a sad smile and shaken her head. By late morning they were gone.
And even long after he was sure he'd never see LeeRoy again, he never stopped missing him. There was no one to take his place. And no one ever did.
As he discovered in later years, out on the road and far from his hometown, there were a few men who liked having their penis stroked. They liked other things, too, and so did he. But he never stopped wishing he could have done all that with LeeRoy.
He couldn't help thinking how they would have enjoyed all those different kinds of sex that weren't in that book they foundlike sucking cock. All those ways of doing things that make you ejaculate. And maybe most of all, what it would have been like to kiss him while doing them.
The kissing. That he missed doing the most.
"How do you know this story?" Danny says, interested in spite of himself, and thinking it's almost over.
"Ed told me once," Mike says.
"And they never met again?"
"Not for years. Not till they were grown men," Mike says, and continues the story.
By that time, Ed and Mike had met and had been together several times. Ed would drop by the farm if he was passing through, and besides Mike, there was always Ed's horse Ranger to visit. Ranger was sort of his stand-in with Mike. It was as close to living together as the two of them would ever get.
And Mike would meet up with him at rodeos, where Ed manned a stall for a vendor of tack and saddles. They'd get a couple cases of cold beer and stay up late in a motel, where Ed would entertain prospective customers, at company expense, or the cowboys he knew who went down the road, following the rodeo circuit.
Well past midnight Ed and Mike would end up alone, randy and drunk, and into each other's pants the moment the motel room door closed on the last visitor. And they'd go at it until morning (Mike saves Danny the details) and till they were too hungry to put off any longer getting something to eat.
Ed always liked to order the "rancher's breakfast" off the menu, wherever they were. It would be steak and fried potatoes and eggs.
"Worked myself up one man-size appetite last night," he'd tell the waitress and then wink at Mike as she wrote it down on her pad. "My pardner here's been hard at it, too. You can tell the cook he'll have the same."
It went on like this for a couple years, and then one July they met up at the big rodeo in Burwell.
"It was the same summer you measured the corn. And Ed was here that night."
"I remember it well," Danny says with a wry smile. "Most of it."
And Ed and Mike were standing together, looking over the draw for the bull riders posted on the side of a little house trailer.
"Damn," Ed said, pointing to a name. "I know this guy."
It turned out that LeeRoy had left home after high school and worked cattle on ranches from California to Texas, learning to rope and ride and feeling a pull he couldn't resist any longer to ride the big bulls in the rodeo.
They found out all this later, after watching LeeRoy ride, and a helluva good ride it was, too, though the judges didn't give him the points he deserved, and some young cowboy beside them scoffed, "They ain't never gonna let a black man win no prize money. Not if they can help it."
And they'd gone behind the chutes to find LeeRoy, who was standing beside his pack of gear already unbuckling his batwing chaps.
"Howdy, pardner. Remember me?" Ed said, holding out one of his big hands.
And the light of recognition began to dawn in LeeRoy's facea handsome face, Mike saw, breaking into a broad smile as he took Ed's hand, still not sure who he was talking to.
"It's Ed," Ed said, gripping the man's hand and not letting go.
And with that, the man's face softened, his smile even broader, and for a moment he was a thirteen-year-old boy again, on a broken sidewalk along a dirt street with no curbs, in a small town in Kansas, about 1950.
"Well, I'll be a sonofagun," LeeRoy said. "Look what the cat drug in." And he looked Ed up and down, shaking his head like he couldn't believe his eyes.
"Look at both of us," Ed said, clapping LeeRoy on his shoulders. And he marveled that the two of them, once skinny boys, had both turned into men.
Mike watched this exchange and watched as LeeRoy's dark eyes turned to him when Ed introduced them, then quickly turned back again. He was trying to tell how much LeeRoy remembered about his old pal, and he knew Ed was wondering the same and whether LeeRoy still had any of the old feelings.
If he did, there was no way of knowing for sure. He wasn't letting on. His smile was warm and his eyes shining. But it was in a way no different from any other man meeting a long ago friend from a place that used to be his hometown.
"Holy crow, if you ain't a sight for sore eyes," Ed said. He could barely contain himself.
And Mike stood there, aware that he'd never known Ed to be so excited. Never so glad to see someone. He and Ed had hit it off from the start, but it was always just fun and good times. While Mike may have wished Ed felt something for himand that was only when Mike got to feeling lonesome out on the farm by himselfthose motel room all-nighters were usually enough. And Mike knew not to expect more.
What LeeRoy couldn't know was that Ed's excitement was for real. Ed's dick may have been pushing for more room in his shorts, but his heart was probably also skipping beats. And he was most likely dying inside, wanting to just grab LeeRoy and never let go.
With that, another black man, tall and young, came walking around the corner of a pen where a horse had been eying them through the fence boards. He had a black Stetson and wore a black western shirt and a new pair of wranglers that rode high on his slim hips. His legs were long and ended in narrow-toed black boots.
He stepped right up beside LeeRoy, like they belonged together. He was half a head taller and looked at Ed and Mike with a steady gaze, his thumb shoved into one front pocket and his other hand holding a Dr. Pepper.
This all happened in a moment, and in that moment Ed had to be wondering, who is this guy? And his heart must have sunk a little. Maybe a lot.
Mike could see now the guy was maybe ten years younger than LeeRoy. "And he was standing there," Mike says, "like he was thinking, what the hell do these two white guys want anyway?" Were they fans or just giving LeeRoy a hard time?
Ed kind of took a step back, his shoulder bumping into Mike's.
LeeRoy looked up at the guy then and said, "Hey, say hello to my friends here." Then he turned to Ed and Mike. "This is my little brother, Ike."
Ike passed the bottle of pop to his other hand, wiped his wet fingers on the leg of his jeans and then held his hand out to them. It wrapped around Mike's hand when he shook it, his long fingers cool and damp.
He said nothing. Just nodded, while a little smile turned up one corner of his mouth.
"His real name's Isaiah," LeeRoy said. "Our daddy got religion after I was born and named the rest of his boys after Old Testament prophets."
Ike had been on the road with LeeRoy all summer, but was heading back to California soon. Had to get there for school. He was at UCLA. "His momma wants him to be a lawyer," LeeRoy said, grinning.
Ike's expression didn't change. Like he'd be whatever he damn well pleased. Though he'd probably end up pleasing his momma. Which LeeRoy probably hadn't done, by riding bulls instead.
"Can't say the boy is completely useless," LeeRoy said, grinning. "This riding roughstock can make a man darn sore some days, and he can give one helluva massage."
Now Ed was relaxing again. Breathing easier. Whatever sick feeling he may have felt subsiding. His dick gaining courage once more.
The four of them spent the rest of what was left of the day together. Ed closed down his stall and packed up the trailer that he pulled behind his Buick. And they went out for something to eat, sitting in the back booth at a diner talking long after they'd swabbed up the last of the gravy on their plates with a basket of fluffy white dinner rolls and then had pie and ice cream with as many cups of coffee as they could get the waitress to keep pouring.
Mike mostly watched the three of them, listening as Ed and LeeRoy remembered old times together, while Ike slumped in his seat, looking bored and chewing a toothpick. Finally he got up and left. Said he'd walk to the motel and meet LeeRoy there.
Then it was just Mike listening intently and watching for any sign that LeeRoy was readyor would ever be readyto pick up with Ed where they left off. Finally stroking him back.
He seemed in no hurry to leave. But Mike had known some rodeo cowboys, and they were untiring talkers. Could jaw on all day and all night.
Sitting beside Ed, Mike glanced down and could see his dick was hard in his pants. If Ed had ended up preferring women, Ed's heart was sure enough going to break into bitty pieces. On top of that, Mike smiled to himself, he was going to have one serious case of blue balls.
Before leaving the diner, the three of them squeezed into the men's room with bladders full of coffee. Ed slipped into the stall, probably shy about pulling out his hard-on in front of them. And Mike waited while LeeRoy took his turn at the urinal.
He stood where he could see whether LeeRoy might reveal some sign of expectation like Ed's, but in a couple of well timed glances he couldn't tell if Ed was a little hard or just a guy with a big dick. It emerged from his fly, a dark shade of creamy brown, and he held it with the fingers of one hand, unconcerned by Mike's presence.
Then in the car, they drove to Ed's motel, Mike in the back while the two others rode in the front, mostly done with talking and just passing a pint of Kentucky bourbon between them.
At the motel, LeeRoy took a quick shower and came out of the bathroom with a white towel wrapped around him. He was not a tall man, but his chest and arms were well muscled and his shoulders were big and broad. His skin, still damp from the shower, glistened.
The bourbon was running low, and Mike offered to go for more, thinking he'd give the two of them some time alone. And Ed could make his move if he was ever going to find out once and for all about LeeRoy's libido.
Once he was gone, Mike realized he couldn't go rushing back. If anything was going to happen, he'd have to let some time go by. So he slowly drove his pickup around town until he found a liquor store.
When he went inside, he could hear voices raised over the sound of a radio playing some old Tennessee Ernie Ford song. There at the counter, with his back turned to Mike, was Ike in his black outfit and wranglers. He had a six-pack of Budweiser.
"Two forms of I.D.," the cashier was saying. He was an older man, balding, wearing a big Hawaiian shirt.
"You're lookin' at 'em," Ike was saying, sounding like he was losing patience. "Draft card. Driver's license."
"This is an outta state license," the cashier said, studying it through his bifocals.
"I know that," Ike said. "It's from California. There's my birthday, right there." He was leaning over the counter, pointing at the card.
Mike stepped up to the counter beside him.
"Sorry, this is no good here," the cashier said, putting the license down, and then looked at Mike. "Can I help you with something?"
"Yeah, you can start by letting this man buy his beer," Mike said, trying to sound stern.
The cashier looked at him, blinking through his glasses. And he started explaining all over again about needing two forms of I.D. and the problem with out-of-state licenses. It was a broken record.
"Look," Mike said, holding his hand up to stop him. "I know him. He's with me."
"Is that right," the man said, disbelieving. "Tell me what's his name then."
"His name's Isaiah," Mike said, like that should settle the matter.
The man picked up Ike's license again and studied it. "And what's his last name?" he said.
"What, you think that was a lucky guess?" Mike said, aware now that this was getting them nowhere.
"There's only one reason you won't let me buy this beer," Ike said coldly. "I'm the wrong color." He grabbed his license from the man and it trembled for a moment in his fist.
Mike didn't pause to think. He grabbed Ike's fist and turned him away from the counter, pulling him toward the door. "We're gettin' the hell outta here," he said firmly.
The strength in Ike's arm was fierce. He was coiled inside like a steel spring. Beside his own fury, Mike's only thought was the gun the old man probably kept under the counter.
Outside, Ike pulled his arm free, protesting. "I was just trying to make a point," he said.
"I thought you were gonna pop the guy," Mike said.
"I sure as hell wanted to."
"So did I," Mike said. "But I wasn't taking any chances." Between the two of them they were about this far from a shitload of trouble, and Mike didn't want to have to explain that to LeeRoy.
They got into Mike's truck, and he drove down the street to a filling station, where there was a pop machine and he got out to buy them a couple of Royal Crowns, which they drank while they both cooled down.
They were sitting on some old tractor tires and watching the attendant, a high school kid in greasy jeans, talk with a buddy in a black Chevy Bel Air with orange flames painted on the hood. The kid leaned with both arms resting on the open window, one leg bent and his butt angling out, a bandana hanging from his back pocket.
"Sonofabitch," Mike finally said, summing up his opinion of the whole incident.
Ike nodded. "This sure ain't California."
The evening air was soft, and there were crickets in the grass. In the distance over the storefronts across the street, there was the flicker of distant lightning.
"Tell you one thing," Ike finally said. "People think someone like me has no business in a place like this. But they have no idea. In the old days there was black cowboys everywhere out here."
Mike looked at him, his eyes gleaming and intense under the brim of his hat. "Is that a fact," he said.
"No shit," Ike said. "Coupla professors did the research. You can read the book."
Mike thought about this. "You're the college man. I guess you should know."
"People believe what they see in western movies. But it wasn't like that."
And Mike listened, always interested when someone knew some real history. How so many of the Texas cowboys on cattle drives up to Kansas and Nebraska were Negroes, young men as good on a horse, good with a gun, roping and riding, and as fearless and dedicated as any white cowboy.
"And nobody knows that." Ike shook his head and got up to get another bottle of pop. "It's a damn shame."
Mike watched him, as he reached into his pocket for a dime, sucking in his gut, his slender frame loose and alive in his clothes. He was a good-looking young man, fearless and dedicated in his own right, full of energy and ready to be somebody in the world. Ready to amount to something.
And for a moment, Mike felt sorry that they would never see each other again. He could understand the affection he saw in LeeRoy's eyes for this young man. And Mike began to feel something he rarely allowed himself to feelenvy for the girl who'd win his heart and spend the rest of her life with him.
He let Ike buy him another Royal Crown, and then he dropped him off at the motel where he and LeeRoy were staying. He waited until Ike was inside and had turned on the light. Then he drove slowly away, hearing the gravel stones popping under the truck tires.
He figured he'd given Ed enough time with LeeRoy back at their place, and bingo, when he returned to the room and opened the door, he found the two of them lying together on the bed.
One of them had pulled off LeeRoy's towel. It was still in the chair where he'd been sitting when Mike left. And Ed was still half dressed. His shirt was unsnapped and pulled out of his pants, and his boots lay on their sides at the foot of the bed.
Ed had made his move. Or maybe it had been LeeRoy.
"I'll come back," Mike said.
"No, come on in," Ed said. "There's room on the bed here for three."
"You had sex with two guys," Danny says, like he realizes he'll never know everything there is to know about Mike.
"You've never done that?" Mike says. "Seems to me you have."
"If you're remembering that time in the pool with you and Ed, that doesn't count."
"OK," Mike laughs. "Let's say it doesn't." And he goes on.
After being kind of stopped in his tracks, he realized the idea of joining Ed and LeeRoy had a certain appeal. LeeRoy was definitely all man, and lying there naked, with his back to Mike, he wasin a wordbeautiful. The color of his skin was like a cup of rich, steaming Folgers. You wanted to get some part of him in your mouth just to taste it.
As he rolled away from Ed to smile at Mike, he let Mike see his cock, which was full and hard, and his balls lying against one thigh, as if to say, yes, the man is right, there's room here for three.
And Ed had got up, his big old rodeo belt buckle hanging open and his fly half unbuttoned, his hard-on like a banana inside his khaki twills. He'd taken a couple of steps toward Mike and took hold of the front of his shirt, pulling him toward the bed.
Mike began taking off his clothes, while Ed dropped his pants and his underwear and LeeRoy watched them from the bed, leaning back against a pillow, legs out and one ankle cocked over the other, one hand lying across a thick thigh and cupping his balls.
And before he knew it Mike was kneeling on the bed and looking to Ed to take the lead. Which he did, pulling the three of them together with his strong arms and kissing first one of them and then the other. And then LeeRoy kissed Mike.
The sensation of so much naked skin and muscle felt even more exciting than he expected. Two, three, and four hands were stroking him while lips and tongues found his nipples. And being sucked and kissed at the same time was so far beyond anything he imagined it would be, he felt like if he kept his eyes closed long enough he would surely see shooting stars.
One man making love to him was often beyond words. But twohe felt totally embraced and swallowed up by them. By their wish to make him feel the depth of their desire for him. He melted under the touch of their hands, the brush of an erection against his skin, soft breaths against his ear and the side of his face. It made him want to cry.
Then after a couple of minutes of this, as he opened his eyes and looked up at them, he saw they were kissing each other, and he knew the welcome he had felt was not nearly as strong as what they felt for each other.
This was not just some fun they were having, to be forgotten tomorrow. The yearning Ed had kept somewhere inside him all these years had lived on in his boyhood pal as well. And now they had found each other again, and for all the warm feelings they might have for Mike, it was clear to Mike he didn't belong here.
He slipped out from under them, one of Ed's hands letting go of Mike's dick and reaching over to touch LeeRoy's big shoulder. And Mike rolled off the bed, reaching for his clothes.
"Where you goin'?" Ed wanted to know.
"Headin' home," Mike said. "Gotta be at work tomorrow."
Ed said nothing. Just looked at Mike until he understood what Mike was really saying.
When Mike had everything but his boots on, he wondered if he should say something to LeeRoy before he went out the door. Then LeeRoy turned to him and said, almost sadly, "Sorry you have to go," holding out a big hand to shake.
It was the guy Ed really wanted caring about the feelings of the man whose place he had just taken.
"It's not like what you're thinking, LeeRoy," Mike said. "You two have a good night." He put on his boots, not looking back as he headed for the door.
"So long, amigo," he heard Ed say right behind him. He'd jumped out of bed and followed him across the room. Grabbing Mike's shoulder, he spun him around, all naked and hairy, and wrapped his arms around him, giving him a bear hug that would have broken the bones of a lesser man. And then he let him go.
Mike looked over Ed's shoulder to LeeRoy, lying on the bed. "Make sure he takes you out for the rancher's breakfast in the morning," he said and smiled. Glad for Ed. Glad for both of them.
Mike had seen little of Ed since then. For a while, after Ike went back to California, Ed and LeeRoy had traveled the circuit together. Off-season they hung out together in Kansas City, where LeeRoy had a little place in a trailer court.
What amazes Mike is that Ed would let this happen. He's never been one to settle for just one guy.
Danny has been more than interested in this story ever since Mike got to the part about Ed and LeeRoy meeting up again. "Did Ed ever mention to you a rancher in South Dakota, name of Jake?" Danny says.
"No, why?" Mike says.
"I'll tell you sometime," Danny says. "But it's safe to say there's at least two in the running for what Ed might think of as his heart. And neither of them is you or me."
"I don't even need to hear the story," Mike says. "I can guess."
They kick back the quilt and get up from the blanket, brushing dust from their jeans, while Danny puts on his barn boots. "I can't feel my feet," Danny says. "I probably have frostbite thanks to you."
"You got a fuck and a blowjob. What do you care?" Mike laughs and slaps him on the butt while he's bent over.
"You're too romantic for your own good," Danny says.
Mike opens the trap door, and a plume of warm horsy air rises from below. "You first," he says to Danny.
"No, you go," Danny says.
"Shit," Mike says. "If I go first, you'll just kick hay down on me."
"No, I won't."
And they argue for a while, until Danny finally goes first. And he's waiting at the bottom as Mike comes down after him, putting a galvanized bucket where he will step into it.
Danny is running out the barn door, laughing, by the time Mike gets his boot unwedged from the bucket. He goes to the doorway and looks out just as Danny, most of the way to the house, stumbles in the snow and falls down, rolling into a drift.
"Serves you right, bud," Mike says as he steps outside and pushes the door shut behind him.
End of chapter 6. More to come. . .
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