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.
Ed and Jake get reacquainted; Danny makes an agreement with Brian; Baxter gets a visitor.
When they were in the elevator going up to Jake's room, there was a young guy in a black cowboy hat standing next to a girl with Dolly Parton hair and his arm around her neck. It looked like young love, and the way they held onto each other it almost had to be a honeymoon.
After the couple got off on the second floor, Jake waited until the doors closed, and he reached for Ed to plant a big kiss on his mouth.
By the time they got to the third floor, Ed was already thinking he'd never hold out. He would have to grant himself a one-night furlough from staying faithful to LeRoy. Jake's big, strong hug and the thrust of his tongue into his mouth were enough to rattle his constitution. The pressure of Jake's belly against his and the way their hips shoved together did the rest. He was getting a definite hard-on in his shorts.
But that changed as soon as the doors opened again on the third floor, and waiting there for the elevator was a little blue-haired lady who gave them a sly grin and said, "If you got extra kisses, boys, I'll take 'em."
And while Ed stumbled back, almost bumping into the wall, Jake was saying, "Yes, ma'am."
He spun around and stepped out to where she stood, sweeping her into his arms and bending down to bury his face against her cheek, their faces disappearing behind the brim of his big Stetson. She laughed with a dusty voice that sounded like a lifetime lived on the plains, and when Jake set her on her feet again, she looked at Ed, expecting another.
By now he'd recovered enough to get off the elevatorthis was Jake's floorand she reached over to him, giving his arm an encouraging squeeze.
"Go on," Jake said. "The lady's waitin'."
And Ed gave her a peck on the cheek, surprised by the strength in her fingers as she briefly clung to him with both hands.
"Thanks, boys," she said, stepping onto the elevator. "You made this old woman's day." And she stood there beaming at them as the doors slowly closed again.
Jake slapped him on the back, and headed him down the hall to the room. When they found it, at the end of the corridor, Ed stood behind him as he unlocked the door.
"You kiss old ladies often?" he said.
"Happens all the time," Jake laughed. "They can't resist me."
The door opened into a big, softly lighted room. While the two of them had sat in the bar downstairs, talking and drinking beer, someone from the front desk had brought their bags up and left them neatly in one corner, switching on the lamps over the two big beds. The radio had even been turned on lowto a country stationso a salesman or anyone else traveling alone might feel a little less like they were miles from home. They were greeted with someone singing a love song.
Your love is so sweet I can't
refuse it; heaven help me if I lose it
Cause my whole world's just knowing you're my man . . .
Jake was already bent over inspecting the contents of the mini-bar. He brought out two little bottles of whiskey and was taking the cellophane off glasses that had been set on top of it. He quickly emptied a bottle into each glass and handed one to Ed.
"I know you're partial to Kentucky bourbon," Jake said.
"You got that right."
"Some things a man don't forget about another man." Jake gave him a warm smile and held out his glass to touch Ed's. Then they both drankto each other and to good times.
They had talked in the bar about the years that had passed since they'd last seen each other. And Ed noticed that Jake had changed some. For one thing, there'd never been much talk between them before. Jake had always had only two things on his mindrunning his ranch and having sex with Ed. There'd been little time for conversation.
Jake had his own plane, a noisy Cessna that he'd fly, whenever he got the mood, to where Ed was at some rodeo or stock show, and they'd meet up at a motel like this. Jake would be in his underwear already by the time Ed showed up at the dooror with a big towel around him because he'd taken a showerno time to waste.
And within a minute they'd be on the bed, falling together into an energetic sixty-nineEd, flat on his back with his pants pulled down, looking up and seeing Jake's legs already straddling him, his hard cock and loose-hanging balls suspended overhead, like a toy version of his Cessna coming in for a landing.
In two hours, Jake would wordlessly pump out about a quart of semen and then be dressed and leaving again, pulling on his boots and reaching for his hat. His only words then would be, "Come stay at the ranch. We could fuck like this a helluva lot more often."
Tonight they'd already talked more than they ever had beforein all the ten or twenty times put together. Ed learned that Jake had just turned thirty-five"more'n half way to old age," as he put ithis brother had drowned two years before on a fishing trip in Alaska, and he'd nearly died himself when his pickup went off the road in a blizzard and rolled into some trees along a frozen creek bank, where it was more than a day before anyone found him.
"Doc told me I was gonna lose my leg," he'd said, "but I told him to go fuck himself."
The old Jake was still there, sure of himself as ever, but maybe less certain about some other things, like just how long a man could count on being around no matter how tough he was. If anything, he wanted more from life than ever.
"Never took you for a romantic kind of guy," he said now, throwing his jacket on one of the beds. He sat down on a chair, setting his drink on the table beside him and stretching out his legs, crossing one boot over the other.
Back in the bar, before they'd come up to the room, Ed had told him that he and a buddy had arrived at an understanding that was already looking like it could be a life-time arrangementthey just hadn't worked out the details yet.
He hadn't named any names, because as he explained why this meeting with Jake wasn't going to be just like old times, he realized he was kind of confused about who he was talking about. LeRoy for sure had touched him deeplythe man was all man and so full of affection that Ed couldn't resist the urge to be the mate LeRoy wanted him to be.one
Yet, as he talked about himself and LeRoy, some of what he said was also true of Ted. After drinking several beers, the two men had somehow joined together in his mind, so that sometimes he was talking about one and sometimes the other.
"If I'd made an effort to get better acquainted, I'd've maybe done better by you," Jake said. "I been thinkin' it would've done me good all these years to take a chance on someoneplay the old Russian roo-let of the heart."
The bourbon was now adding a layer of confusion all its own, and looking at Jake in his levi's and his handsome hat, Ed was thinking he'd never got to know him like thiswith all his clothes on. There was a difference.
Jake was all man, too, Ed might have said, but he'd always been all man. Now there was this other part of him, a depth that seemed to have come from his brushes with death. Not only had it made him more thoughtful. It also had him kissing old ladies.
Ed began to feel a little light-headed and tossed back the rest of his bourbon, as if it would help him think more clearly. Then he sat down on the edge of the bed, next to Jake's jacket.
"I look at my brother's wife," Jake was saying, "and she's just as busted up now about him dying as she was when it happened." He shook his head and folded his hands across his shirt front. "I gotta wonder what it must be like havin' somebody who'd miss me that much when I kick the bucket."
Ed couldn't remember ever having a thought like this. He considered Ted and LeRoy and wondered which would grieve more if he was gone. Thenjust for comparisonhe considered Jake, and with that he shook himself free of the whole idea. It was too much like planning your own funeralbuying your own burial plot and making a downpayment on a tombstone.
He put his hand down next to him on the bedspread, and the sleeve of Jake's suede jacketlike something alivetouched his fingers. His gaze, which had dropped to the floor as he was thinking, shifted to the soles of Jake's boots and then followed the length of his legs to the bulge in the crotch of his jeans.
When he glanced up to Jake's face, he saw that Jake was looking back at him. And, for no reason at all, he felt again the urge that had come over him when they'd kissed on the elevator.
"What's got you thinking?" Jake said.
"I dunno. I ain't ready to die yet, I guess."
"I sure as hell ain't either."
More than anything, Ed just wanted to feel alive right now. And it was either pour himself another drink out of the mini-bar orand he wondered at the old familiarity of this desireto have sex with Jake. In the silence, the radio was playing another song.
Come and lay down by my side
till the early morning light
All I'm takin' is your time; help me make it through the night . . .
He got up from the bed and went to the mini-bar. He reached for Jake's glass, now empty, and opened another two little bottles. He concentrated hard as he poured the drinks, the warmth from the last one still rising in him and blurring any thought as it tried to take shape in his head.
He handed Ed's drink to him, and they touched glasses once more, saying nothing this time. He went back to the bed and picked up Jake's jacket, walking to the closet to put it carefully on a wooden hanger. It was soft and heavy in his hands, and he held it against his chest for a moment before hanging it up.
Then he returned to the bed, threw back the spread with one sweep of his arm, and the blanket with another. Under them were smooth white sheets. When he turned to look at Jake, their eyes met and held for a moment.
Jake leaned forward, pulling his feet under him, but he didn't get up. "Remember, this was your idea," he said.
"It can be your idea, too."
"You can bet your life it is."
Jake stood, leaving his whiskey on the table, and walked to where Ed stood by the bed. He put his arms around him and this time kissed him softly and gentlylike a man in love.
Brian was not happy. He'd told Danny far more than he'd ever intended. And now Danny was looking at him like he was a jerkor worse than that, some kind of pervert.
He was tired, and the mess he'd made of things seemed even bigger than ever. It was one thing blaming everyone else when he was talking to Virgil, but he knew he couldn't fool Danny. And Danny was the one teacher at the college he still wanted to pleasethe one he'd ever really admired.
Coach Stern had been at the top of the list for a while, but he was always such a hard ass. He had ideas about coaching baseball that were all fucked up, and if you didn't see eye to eye with him, you were in deep shit.
He'd learned that the hard way, and he was done trying to live up to what the man wanted. One night, after a hard practice, Brian had hung out with three other boys on the team who broke training whenever they could get away with it.
Stern had caught the four of them at a bar in town, where the others were pretty much regulars, getting pitchers of beer with fake IDsdraft cards that one of the graphic arts majors printed and sold at a reasonable price, so much like the real thing you couldn't tell the difference. Brian had got one, for the excitement of just having itlike carrying rubbers in his billfoldand this was only the second or third time he'd used it.
The owner of the bar must have had a friend on the police force, his teammates told him, because he seemed to know they were under-age and served them anyway, except now and then when they'd show up and he'd laugh them right out the door. It meant, they figured, that he'd got a tip the cops were coming by that night, and he didn't want to lose his liquor license.
This cozy arrangement blew up when a student manager had seen the first-baseman's car outside in the parking lot, and Stern walked in, nailing them as they were starting into another pitcher. They'd all got suspended, which pissed off the other players, who lost the next three games without them.
Not that he was wrong to do that. He'd just done his damnedest to make Brian feel like some kind of mental defectand mainly, it seemed, because he was the one with the best grades.
"You dumb shit," Stern had said. "You think you're so goddam smart."
If anything, Brian believed, he was less guilty than the rest, but even when Stern got over being furious with the others, he kept after Brian, sniping at him on and off the field, and always so everyone else could hear.
The other players steered a path around Brian, waiting for Stern to let up on him, but it just went on and on. It was Stern's way, he realized, of punishing him even moreturning the whole team against him. Maybe he was supposed to quit, but if that was what Stern wanted, he wouldn't give in. He wouldn't give the man the satisfaction of seeing him knuckle under. Anyway, he needed the baseball scholarship that was keeping him in college.
To Danny, on the other hand, he was a studentand he knew how to make an impression as a good one. Something he'd learned from his mom, a teacher herself, who had encouraged him through high school and praised him for doing wellgetting on the honor roll every time. She'd been there on the stage at graduation, smiling and applauding proudly when he gave his speech as the class salutatorianthe graduating senior with the second highest grade average.
Now, for the first time, his grades were starting to slip. Living out of his car and missing classes were taking a toll. So was this nonsense with Roxanne, who he wished now he'd never met. She was punishing him, too. And so was Virgil, who was taking a kind of revenge on him, instead of forgive-and-forget and getting back to the way they once were. It was just no good letting people into your life if they could turn around and do this to you.
He'd trusted Danny as well, and now he saw he'd trusted him too much. He'd gone and told him about those nights at the warehouse with the electrician. How had he got so desperate for a little sympathy? And what was he thinking to pull that trick with the button on his jeans? Now Danny was backing off from him, too, when what he needed more than anything was a helping hand. It was all so unfair. He didn't deserve any of this.
Here they were in Danny's apartment. He'd poured out his heart and soul to the man, and he was standing there with that look on his facenot of disgust like Coach Stern, and it wasn't Roxanne's fury or Virgil's anger either. It was more a look of sad disappointment.
"You want me to go, sir," he said to Danny. "I'll go."
"No, no. I didn't say that."
"You did, sir. You even said you'd give me money to get out of here." He pointed to the twenty-dollar bill Danny still held in his hand. "And if it's still OK with you, I'll take it." His car needed gas.
"I changed my mind." Danny shoved the money into his pocket. "You can sleep on my couch tonight."
Brian said nothing, studying Danny's face and trying to tell if he meant what he was saying.
"If you need the money," Danny said, "I'll let you have it in the morning. Not before then."
"I dunno, sir."
"No, forget whatever you're thinking. You're staying right here."
He seemed concerned that Brian would be spending the night alonelike there was some risk. Hell, he wasn't half-cracked like Virgil, swallowing a bottle of damn pills to put himself out of his misery.
He allowed himself to feel a small wave of relief. "Thank you, sir."
"You gotta promise me one thing, though. You'll go over to the counseling center tomorrow and make an appointment to talk to somebody."
"I dunno about that, sir."
"No, that's gotta be the deal."
His feeling of relief began to waver.
"I know someone over there who'd be good for you to talk to," Danny was explaining, but Brian felt himself yielding now to a sense of defeat. This was not what he wanted.
"Promise me," Danny said.
Brian finally nodded. He would allow himself to believe for now that he'd do what Danny said. In the morning he could always reconsider.
Baxter lay in his bed, Lonnie tucked naked into his arms and fast asleep. The young man always fell into such a deep sleep after they'd made love, like he'd burned up every last ounce of energy. Baxter could pick him up if he wanted and carry him to the other bed, and Lonnie would hang like a feed sack or a big rag doll from his arms, never opening his eyes and hardly stirring.
But most nights Baxter would let him lie like this against him, under the same covers, the touch of his smooth back against Baxter's chest, his butt nestled into Baxter's crotch. Baxter would reach across him and take his hand, pressing it gently into his shoulder, orlike tonighthe'd slide his hand down to his belly, eventually slipping his fingers around his young man's cock to hold it wet and warm in his thick fist, while Lonnie's breaths came in soft sighs, his ribs rising lightly under Baxter's cradling arm, then falling again.
Remembering their lovemaking, Baxter would marvel at the wonder of Lonnie's simple honesty and his uncomplicated ideas about how one man might show his affection for another. He seemed never to question anything about either of them. He simply loved Baxter no matter what and said just what he was thinkingno more, no less. You never doubted him. He seemed incapable even of half-truths.
It worried Baxter to have been chosen by such a trusting soul. He was only a man, and sooner or later one man lets another man down. In the meantime, he would do everything in his power to keep that from happening. He owed that to Lonnie, for he'd never felt loved so much by anyone in his life.
The night had been still, the wind dying down until it was only a whisper in the trees that grew outside the window where he and Lonnie lay together. Coyotes had put up a chorus of singing far off in the hills, but they had stopped, and Baxter still lay awake, knowing he'd fall asleep once he put Lonnie in his own bed, but not wanting to let him go.
Then there was a new sound in the night, the distant, low purring rumble of an engine, like a small plane in the moonlit sky overhead. But it was not a plane, for the sound was unsteady. It rose and fell, stopping for a while and then revving up again. It was someone coming on the ranch road, and maybe someone who didn't know the road too well.
By the time whoever it was had got to the ranch itself, Baxter had climbed over Lonnie to get out of bed and was putting on his jeans. The sound, he'd decided, was a motorcycle engine, and when he walked to the front of the trailer, its headlamp was already flashing dimly across the window blinds.
He switched on some lights and looked out, where he saw it was indeed a motorcycle, circling round from the barns and the corrals and coming toward him. As soon as it came to a stop in the pool of brightness from his porch light, the rider hopped off and came to the door, knocking sharply on it as Baxter pulled it open.
It was a man in a leather jacket, leather riding chaps over his jeans, and thick-soled boots.
"I'm looking for somebody," he said, lifting a helmet from his head.
The night air coming through the open door felt like ice on Baxter's bare chest. He reached for his canvas barn coat that hung from the wall beside the door and slipped into it.
"Wouldn't be a young man name of Ty, would it?" he said.
"Yes. Is he here?"
"Sorry to say he ain't. We put him on a bus this morning."
"A bus?" the man said. "Where was he going?"
"It was the eastbound. That's all I can tell you for sure."
The guy looked a little confused and, to Baxter's eye as he sized him up, a bit worse for wear. There were dark circles under his eyes, like he hadn't been sleeping, and a layer of dust and at least three day's growth of beard on his face.
"Maybe you wanna come in out of the cold," Baxter said.
The guy didn't seem to hear him. "Do you think he could've gone back to Grand Island?"
"Only one who might know that is the boss, but he'd be asleep at this hour, and I wouldn't want to wake him." Baxter was thinking of Kirk, who had come to the door that morning and asked him to take Ty to the bus station in North Platte. "You come in and stay for a while, we can call him in the morning. He'll be up in a few hours."
"I'm going to Grand Island," the guy said and turned away, walking toward his bike, its headlamp still burning bright and the engine idling.
Baxter wondered how he could keep from freezing, the cold air a sharp, stinging wind in his face as he rode down the highway. Was he even aware of how cold the night was? Or how far he had to go? It was 200 miles or more.
When he got to the bike he stopped and looked back toward Baxter. "Did I throw a punch at somebody when I was here the other day?" he asked.
Now Baxter was sure the guy shouldn't be out on the road. "Yes, you sure did."
The guy shook his head and looked away for a moment, like he was trying to remember. "Is he OK?" he asked.
"Take more'n a sock in the nose to knock that man down."
"Tell him I'll be back when I can to say I'm sorry."
"Like I say, come in and warm up and you can tell him yourself in a few hours."
"No, just tell him what I said." He turned back to the bike and threw one leg over it. He revved the engine twice as put his helmet on again. Then he was rolling off into the night, and he was gone.
Continued . . .
© 2008 Rock Lane Cooper