Mike and Danny: Restless Hearts
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.
Mike returns to the farm; Ed is back on the road; Brian wants something from Danny.
It was late afternoon when Mike said goodbye to Danny and got headed back to the farm. The sky was clearing, and the rainy weather was over. Maybe the next time there would be sleet and snow instead of rain, but before then he had about a hundred acres of corn to get picked.
Driving down the interstate, however, he wasn't thinking much about corn. His thoughts were busy with the memory of lying together naked in Danny's bed. After Danny had come, and lay there over him sweaty and spent, talking of how much he loved Mike, the room had filled with a burst of afternoon light, and he'd been taken by a feeling of guilty blissa hard-working farmer in bed while the sun was shining bright outside.
After a while, he felt Danny's cock, still full, easing from him, and he had this twinge of regret that the pitch of passion was overas always, too quickly. For those few minutes, he'd let himself be taken up and swept along in another man's desires, while his own cares disappeared. There was no worry, no loneliness, no responsibilitiesjust this warm blanket of someone he loved wrapped around him, entering him over and overhis very own Danny.
"Sorry," Danny had said, when he'd caught his breath again. They were on the same pillow now, face to face.
"What for, bud?"
"I was gonna give you the rest of that blowjob I started, but we kinda got sidetracked."
"There's still time," Mike laughed.
He felt the urge deep in his groin for release, and his cock sprang to life as Danny touched him, kissing his face, his chestfinding each of his hard nipples with his tongueand then disappearing under the sheet to nuzzle him between his legs.
In the next moment, lying there on his back, autumn sunlight brightening the room again, Mike had felt his erection gliding into what was almost surely like a jar of warm honey, and he was overtaken by a second wave of bliss, this one even guiltier than the first.
Later, they'd taken a hot shower together in Danny's bathroom and then sat at the kitchen table in their underwear hungrily eating the submarines Mike had bought at the sandwich shop. Danny had loaned him a pair of his clean jockeys, which gave him a friendly hug in the crotch as he drove along the highway now on his way homehis penis lazy and fat in them as he remembered it all.
"Where'd the cookies come from?" Danny had wondered when he saw them on the kitchen counter.
"Your friend Lucille was here," Mike said. "We had a talk."
"What was on her mind?"
Mike thought for a moment. "Well, she had things to say about you and me."
Danny frowned like he didn't understand.
"She said she thinks you and me are like equals." And Mike had said how she thought it must be different for them, being two guys, than it was for her and her husband.
"Ah, women's lib."
"Women who want equal rights."
"Don't they have that already?"
"Maybe on paper, but not for real." And Danny had tried to explain it to him. But Mike got the feeling he'd have to think about it for a while and have it explained some more before he understood it the way Danny did.
"I never thought of us that way, I guess," Mike said.
"Well, when it comes to smarts, we're not equal. You're way ahead of me and you always have been."
"That's not true, bud."
"You're also way better at being a real man than I am. I'm always wishing I was more like you." And he went on for a while like this, saying things that would have embarrassed Mike if they'd come from anyone else. "Hell, you're a hero to me," Danny said, as if in some way he was ashamed of himself. "I'm in awe."
All Mike could do was protest. He'd always thought that if Danny had a fault it was how he didn't have enough respect for himself. He could sell himself short and never give himself credit for all he'd done with his lifeor for the fine, loving man that he was.
Danny shook his head. "I try to be like you, and half the time I just fuck up." He told Mike then about agreeing to let a student sleep over at his place because the boy was broke and living out of his car.
"What's wrong with that?"
"He has no business here. I'm his teacher and this isn't a rooming house."
Mike couldn't see it. He thought Danny's heart was in exactly the right place, and he said so. He would have done the same thing.
"If it ever comes out that I'm queer, letting a male student stay here with me is not going to look good to some people. It could get me into a whole lot of trouble."
Mike had heard him out, and when he was done he'd said, "It's not wrong to help someone who needs it. You gotta do the right thing, no matter what other people think."
"You make it sound so simple."
"It doesn't have to be complicated, bud, and you know that," Mike said. "If you didn't, you wouldn't be the Danny I know."
Danny sighed and just looked at him across the table. Then he got up and walked around to where he sat. He put his arms around his shoulders and pressed Mike's face to his chest. "Will I ever be the Danny you know?" he said.
There was no answer for that question because it made no sense to Mike, so he let it go. He just hugged Danny back and inhaled the smell of him, his freshly laundered shirt, his aftershave, and the Ivory soap they had both showered with.
Ed had got a late start in the morning. It was difficult saying goodbye and leaving LeRoy. He hadn't even made Wichita by noon, and he was only a few miles from Oklahoma City when he figured he may as well put off getting to Dallas for another day.
The fact that he'd got very little sleep the night beforerolling long and easy in LeRoy's armsmade him wish more than anything for some shut-eye. He was already half-asleep at the wheel, and getting off the road seemed a welcome prospect. Any of the big new motels along the interstate here would have one of those hot tubs to soak in, and then he'd go early to bed.
The parking lot at the Ramada Inn was already full of cars and trucks with out-of-state plates. He parked and went inside, where he waited at the front desk for a room.
Ahead of him, there were a couple guys who looked like truckers, a family with three little kids, a gray-haired couple who could have been retired school teachers, and a guy with broad shoulders wearing a big, gray Stetson hatprobably cost him $300 at leastdressed in a suede jacket and new levi's. He stood with his back to Ed, motionless and still, with all the patience of a statue.
With just one person working the deska tall young guy in glasses who was new on the job from the looks of itthe line was moving slowly. After what seemed like several minutes, it hadn't moved at all, and as Ed listened he could tell there was some problem with the credit card of one of the truckers. A manager had come from a back office and was asking him questions with a look of suspicion on her face.
Ed looked around and saw an entrance to a restaurant and beyond it the neon lights of a Budweiser sign. He decided a beer would pass the time better than standing in line, so he walked across the lobby to the bar. A tall guy in glasses who could have been the twin brother of the one at the front desk was tending the bar, watching a baseball game on a color TV that was mounted on the wall.
Fascinated, Ed settled himself onto a bar stool and asked for a beer, hardly taking his eyes from the screen, amazed by the bright green of the field and the flash of other colors during the commercials. "I gotta get me one of those," he said after a while, to no one in particular.
"The car?" a voice came from beside him. He'd been watching a commercial for a Mustang. A good looking man in a sweater and khaki pants had stepped from the car and was walking around it with a big grin, talking to the camera.
"The color TV," Ed said without turning. "I never seen one of them before."
"And the driver?" the voice came again, a little quieter this time. "What about him?"
It was an odd question, coming from a stranger in a bar at a Ramada Inn. Ed glanced for a moment to see who was talking to him, and sitting beside him was the guy with the $300 Stetson, who'd been in front of him in line. He was giving Ed a little smile, like they knew each other, and then Ed realized he was no stranger.
It was Jake, a rancher from South Dakota he'd known a half dozen years ago. They'd met at a dance in Rapid City, and there'd been a while when they'd seen a lot of each othera kind of wild romance, if you had to call it something. Ed had been completely taken with the guy until he finally got his wits about him and put the brakes on somewhere short of giving up nearly everything he knew, including his life on the road, and moving in with him.
"Jake," he said, and they shook hands.
"Ed, you sonofabitch. How's your ass?"
"Same, I guess."
"I could see that when you was walking away," Jake said. "Always admired the hell outta that wrangler butt of yours." Under the edge of the bar, he wedged his knee against Ed's.
Ed looked at the bartender, who kept his gaze held steady on the ballgame. If he could overhear their conversation, he wasn't letting on.
"What are you doing in Oklahoma City?" Ed asked.
"Lookin' for a cutting horse."
"You missing one?"
"I see you haven't lost your sense of humor."
"Don't do to lose that."
"No shit." Jake looked up at the bartender. "Bring us two more brews," he said.
At one time, Ed would have been tickled to run into Jake like this, but now there was LeRoy to think of. He looked across the lobby toward the front desk. "I should go back over there and get me a room for the night," he said, drinking down the last of his bottle and starting to get down from his stool.
"Don't bother yourself. They just gave the last one to that old married couple."
Ed didn't believe him. "Then you must not have a room either. They was in line ahead of you."
"Some folks, like me, have reservations," Jake said.
"I'd better go see for myself."
Jake grabbed him by the belt. "Forget it. You're bunkin' with me tonight."
"No offence, but I was thinkin' of having a room of my own."
"I didn't say we had to fuck, if that's what's got you worried," Jake said under his breath. "My room's got two beds in it. You may as well have one of 'em."
The bartender, satisfied that Jake was paying for another round, set two more bottles on the bar in front of them.
"Drink your beer, and let's catch up on old times," Jake said. "You got the rest of your life to watch color TV."
When Danny got done with his last class for the day, he worked in his office for a while, typing up a mimeo to run off for his Shakespeare students. When he got home, it was already getting dark, and flipping on the light switch as he walked in the door, he was greeted with the usual emptiness. Mike was gone, leaving hardly a trace of himselfonly an extra plate and a coffee cup set there with Danny's in the kitchen sink.
These nights alone were possible to bear when he worked long days and turned on the TV for company. But the memory of Mike, here in these rooms only a few hours before, and beside him all night in his bed, made him feel lonely this timeand a little abandoned.
He set down his briefcase and hung his sport coat in the closet, then opened the refrigerator in the kitchen to see what there was to eat. At which point, the phone rang, and when he picked it up to answer, it was Mike.
"Have you heard anything from Ty or Rich?" he wanted to know.
"Ty's been here. He got his car and he's gone." There was just a note from him that said he was going back to Iowa. "Do you know where he lives?"
"No. I never heard him say," Danny said. "What about Rich?"
"There's nothing here about him," Mike said, like he was holding the note in his hand while he was talking. "I don't like the sound of this, bud."
Danny didn't know what to say at first. He'd never got to know Rich and Ty very well, but they'd always seemed something of a mismatch. After a tour of duty in Vietnam, Rich had seen almost too much of the world, and Ty had not seen much of it at all.
"Could be something simple." They would need a car in Phoenix, he said, and maybe Ty had stuff at home he'd need or like to have out there.
"He just says, `Plans changed. Came back for my car. Going home to Iowa.'"
"Well, there you have it."
"Wish I'd been here. Then we'd know for sure. "
"Mike, you can't be looking after everybody." Danny started to tell him that sometimes he needed to just let people be and they'd figure out things for themselves.
But there was a knock at his door, and when he went to open it, he found Brian standing there with a gym bag in one hand and a big box of pizza balanced on the other.
"I hope you like pepperoni and double cheese," he said. "A buddy of mine works at Luigi's,"an Italian place in town where college kids went for pizza and plates piled with spaghetti"and they made one too many for some guy with a big take-out order." The words came tumbling out in a rush like he'd been rehearsing them all the way there.
Danny had decided to give Brian money for a motel room, but here he was in the middle of a conversation with Mikewho'd already told him to let the boy stay for the nightand Brian was standing there looking hopeful. Danny felt himself giving in to the urge not to disappoint either of them.
"I'm on the phone," he said, and he waved Brian inside and closed the door behind him.
There was really not much more to say to Mike with Brian opening the pizza box and parking himself at the kitchen table a few feet away.
"Give it some time," he finally said to Mike. "We'll hear from both of them as soon as they get settled."
"Maybe you're right," Mike said, but he didn't sound convinced. "Anyway, thanks for making this overworked farmer feel like new again. I'd be happy to come right back there and do it all over again."
"Me, too, but I got company. That student I told you about? He's here."
"Hey, bud, you're a good man." He had brightened. Sometimes it took so little to please him.
After Danny hung up, he joined Brian, who had started into the pizza like someone who hadn't eaten all day. He was eating it straight out of the box with his fingers. Danny helped himself to a piece and stood without talking until he remembered he had cokes in the refrigerator, and he got one for each of them.
Brian had pulled off his letter jacket but still had his ball cap on his head. He was wearing a wrinkled flannel shirt and a pair of worn jeans. His athlete's body seemed alive with nervous energy, his knees spread wide apart as he sat, one foot wobbling under the table.
"I got a question for you, Brian," Danny finally said.
"Don't you have some other place you could go tonight?"
"You don't want me to stay here?"
"I didn't say that. I'm just wondering if there aren't buddies of yours who'd let you sleep on their couch."
Brian shrugged. "I'm kinda on the outs with 'em all, I guess."
Maybe like he was with Virgil, Danny thought, but decided to steer away from that subject.
"You always seemed to me like a popular guy. What happened?"
"Little of this. Little of that." He reached for another piece of pizza.
"That's too bad. A guy needs his friends."
Brian just looked at him, like there was nothing more to be said.
"Didn't you used to have a girlfriend?" Danny asked.
Brian's mood darkened. "Yeah, but you probably know how that goes." He glanced around the room like the absence of a female proved his point.
"You got a shower I can use?" he suddenly said. "I haven't had a bath in days."
"Sure, help yourself," Danny said, aware that the subject had been swiftly changed.
Brian polished off another two pieces of pizza, finally leaning back in the chair with a hand on his stomach, looking satisfied. Then he opened the top button of his jeans, like he'd eaten too much.
"Anything I can do to pay you back for lettin' me stay here tonight?" he asked.
"The pizza was plenty, thanks."
"I'm just saying," he said and held open his hands in front of him, like a vague invitation.
Danny was suddenly suspicious. "What are you saying?"
"Nothin'. I just thought there might be, you know, something." He absently buttoned and then unbuttoned his jeans again.
Now the invitation was clear. Danny didn't know what Brian was up to, but it was more than likely no good. He felt his heartbeat suddenly quicken.
There was a time when he would have been excited and flattered by what Brian was offeringthe chance to give him a blowjob, by the looks of itbut that was when he was half charmed by the boy's personality and hardly able to keep his eyes off his ass. Now it just pissed him off. He was playing Danny for some other kind of sucker.
"I think you better go," Danny said.
"You heard me. Go."
"Sir?" He sat up in the chair, like he was surprised and couldn't understand.
Danny pulled out his wallet and looked for a twenty-dollar bill. "Here," he said. "Go find yourself a motel room."
Brian looked at the money but didn't take it.
"I changed my mind about tonight," Danny said. "I want you to leave."
Brian still didn't take the money. A stricken look had crossed his face. "Sir?" he said, a tone of pleading now in his voice. "I can't do that."
"I got places I could maybe stay, you're right. But I was hopin'really hopin'I could stay here. Just for one night. Just so."
Danny let his hand with the money drop and waited for him to finish the sentence.
Brian swallowed hard. "Sir, I want you to like me."
Danny was at a loss for words now himself. If he was being taken for a ride by this young man, the guy was doing a first-class job.
"If that's what you want," Danny said, pointing to the front of Brian's jeans, "don't ever do that again."
Brian leaned back in the chair and looked away, like he'd just been caught in a lie.
Danny was struggling to figure out what to do or say. "What makes you think I'd take advantage of you like that?"
Brian covered his eyes now.
"You gotta tell me. Is that something you've done before? With another man? A teacher? A coach?"
Brian shook his head, but didn't look up at Danny.
"To get them to like you?"
It went on a while like this, Danny trying to make sense of Brian and Brian saying almost nothing, just making weak denials, until he stopped doing even that.
For Danny, a picture began to come together of this young man he'd known as confident and sure of himself, an athlete who was also a good student, more mature and thoughtful than his classmates. Now all those things began looking like a big actan act to protect himself.
Bent forward in his chair now, face in his hands, he seemed broken and forlorn. And Danny remembered that Brian had lost his father when he was still a boy. In fact, not having fathers was something that had drawn him and Virgil together. Dazzled, as others were, by the young man's easy grace, Danny could not see the lonely figure behind the appearancethat boy left to face the world on his own.
Yet, Danny was thinkingand doubting himselfmaybe this wasn't exactly right either. From past experience, he knew he couldn't always trust his judgment. Things never were what they seemedone way or the otherwhich remained a lesson of life he kept learning. And when it came to life's lessons, he was never good at the pop quizzes.
"OK, look," he finally said. "It's none of my business what happened. But I'm guessing it did, and whatever it was, it probably shouldn't have."
"It's all right, sir," Brian said suddenly, his head lifting from his hands to look up at Danny. He seemed to be pulling himself together. "I know I can trust you."
And he told a story of going to a baseball camp when he was in seventh grade where someone on the staffa boy himself, still in high schoolhad taken a shine to him and found ways to get them alone together. Sometimes in the equipment room, sometimes the laundry.
Darrell made him feel safe and cared fora feeling he hadn't known since his father left. When camp was over, Darrell went back where he came from, some suburb of Omaha. And he left Brian to his little small-town world, which seemed lonelier and emptier now than ever.
Over the years since then, he'd tried to find someone like Darrell, someone older, stronger, and full of affection for a boysomeone he could trust. It had happened for a while with a man on his newspaper route, who took to spending time with him when he came by doing Saturday morning collections. And there was the man with a young family who rented the house next door for a year, who would play catch with him after school in the back yard. But each time, he would end up alone and forgotten. It was like being left by his father all over again.
Finally, when he started high school, he told himself it was time to grow up and be his own manstop looking for someone else to do the job for him. He'd be strong and rely only on himself.
And for the most part, that had worked. He'd met Virgil and had a real friend his own age. He got good enough grades to get on the honor rollsomething that pleased his motherand he focused on doing well in sports, aiming for a scholarship to college. He was on top of the world. And he stayed there.
But somehow, the summer after he'd graduated from high schoolwhen he'd turned eighteen and should have felt like some kind of prince with the future in his pocketit had all begun falling apart. And as it did, he found himself missing his father again.
This time, pumping gas at a filling station, he'd met a man who was an electrician during the day and had a weekend job as a night watchman at a warehouse in towna friendly divorced guy who liked to talk about his two sons in the Marines.
They'd get together after hours at the warehouse as the guy made his rounds, and Brian got to telling him everything that was on his mind, eventually trusting him with his hopes and fears and young man's sorrows. Here was another Darrell in his life, older and wiser, and he felt his spirits lifting again. Then came the night when the man took him to a back room, touched him, and when he didn't resist, opened his shirt and his pants and caressed his bare skin, admiring him, then finally kneeling to take him in his mouth.
The shock of this had stunned him for a moment, and though part of him felt alarmed, he couldn't bring himself to pull away from the man, whose arms were now around him and holding him in an embrace of fierce affection, that felt like it could have been love. When he camewhich surprised him for happening so quicklyhe was swept up in a kind of rapture he didn't know was possible. And he'd returned to the warehouse again and again that summer, trying each time to feel once more the ecstasy of that moment.
When he started college that fall, he started having second thoughts, and when he considered the nights in the warehouse, he felt confused and ashamed. And he'd decided to get himself a girlfriend. Since he'd never had onenot one to have sex with, at leastthis effort had taken a while to produce results.
But after several months and putting some distance between himself and Virgilwho seemed to want to take up all his time and attention now that they were roommatesRoxanne had come along. And for a while that had been spectacular. He was getting laid and discovering that there was nothing like regular intercourse to get him feeling on top of the world again.
But that had not lasted either.
Nowand he seemed to save this last part until there was no longer a way to put off revealing it to Dannyshe was telling him that she was pregnant. In need of a father to show him a way out of his own predicament, he was on the road to becoming a father himself. It was too much.
Danny stood there, feeling like shit as he listened to Brian tell his story, and wondering what Mike would do, the motel money still in his hand.
Continued . . .
© 2008 Rock Lane Cooper