By Greg Bowden
I went home and did something I never do in the afternoon: I poured myself a very stiff scotch. I sat in my chair and stared out the window at the trees across the street. What the hell was I doing? I didn't have an answer then and I still didn't have one two hours later when I was thoroughly plastered. I thought about hitting the bars, looking for someone, but I decided all I had to give anyone was a confused drunk so I went to bed and slept for eleven hours instead.
I felt like hell when I woke up. My mouth was dry and lined with sand paper and my head ached horribly. I took some aspirin with a glass of orange juice but I couldn't keep it down and that made me feel worse. I also hurt all over, as though I'd been in a train wreck which, thinking about it, maybe I had.
I finally called Richard, a masseur I go to fairly often and he said he was available for the next few hours and I could come right over if I wanted. I pulled on some clothes, found a cab and went to have my body beaten up some more.
"You look like hell, Dan," Richard said when he opened the door.
"Please. Don't. I feel ten times worse than I look."
"Not possible." He pointed at the guest room that he's fixed up as a little massage room. "In there. Get naked and lie on the table."
Richard is one of those masseurs who work naked but I felt so horrible that I didn't even try to fool around with him. At one point, just before he turned me over, he dropped his dick in my hand and when I didn't do more than close my hand around it he asked me if I'd died. When he turned me over and found me still flaccid all he said was, "Diagnosis confirmed."
He changed his mind a half hour later when he'd finally rubbed the tension out of me and gotten the kinks out of my muscles. Then he changed his style, his hands on me everywhere, touching, caressing, kneading, bringing me up until I thought I might explode and then pushing me over the edge and making me do just that. Then he left me alone, letting me pull myself together before I took a long, hot shower.
When I was dressed I found Richard in the living room, drinking a cup of coffee. "Help yourself," he said, waiving at a small tray of coffee and rolls beside one of the chairs. When I was settled in he looked pointedly at me and asked me what I'd been up to, "besides whatever it was you subjected yourself to last night."
I started to say "nothing much" but Chip got in the way again and I found myself telling Richard the whole story: meeting Chip, buying him clothes, paying him to spend time with me. Everything. Including the fact that I loved him and was scared shitless.
"Why?" he asked, getting up and going to the kitchen to make another pot of coffee. "Some of those young guys are really dynamite."
"You may be right," I said, following him and leaning against the kitchen door frame. "But never to me. I've never looked at a kid that way. And that's the funny part, if there is a funny part here. I tried—a couple of times—to picture myself making love with him and... nothing."
Richard took a carton of orange juice out of the refrigerator and waived it at me. I shook my head and he tipped the carton up and drank from it. "You mean as a jack off fantasy?"
"Yeah. But I couldn't focus on him. He just kept, I don't know, disappearing, I guess. Both times I ended up with someone else." I gave him my best leer. "As I remember, once it was you."
He put the orange juice away and came over to me. "You're the sweetest client I have, you know?" he said and kissed me squarely on the mouth. He didn't stop until he'd given me an erection. "Well," he said when he pulled away, breathing as hard as I was, "I think one of these days we may have to carry that to its logical conclusion."
When the coffee was brewed we went back to the living room and sat, looking at each other. "You know, Dan, your problem is that you look at things in too few dimensions. That last book of yours, for instance. If you'd only let..." He drank his coffee, his eyes focused somewhere outside the room. "Never mind that. The question at hand is this boy, what's his name?"
"Chip." I laughed. "Marvin."
"You're joking. Marvin? With a street name like Chip?"
"Worse. Chip is some sort of family nick name. His street name is Meat."
Richard choked on his coffee and had to find a napkin to clean himself up. "Okay." The "y" was drawn out about eight beats. "I know I shouldn't ask but is `Meat' an appropriate name? Does he, uh, resemble it, as it were?"
"I guess," I said. "I've never actually seen... I mean, I guess he must. That or he's constantly on his way to the Laundromat."
"See? That's what I mean by not enough dimensions. You love the boy but you've never arranged things so you could get him naked. Your possible intentions towards him frighten you but you make him go back to the store and pay for something he stole. You want to keep him around so you take him, for God's sake, to an art gallery. What's missing from this picture? Never mind. I'll tell you what's missing from this picture. The dirty old man is missing from this picture. And you know what's there that you don't see? Shut up. I'm on a roll. What's in the picture is a Daddy. A loving, worried, proud Daddy."
I think I was astonished. Or maybe stunned is the better word. In any case all I could do was stare at him dumbly.
"It's like Maryanne Goes Shopping," he said with an edge of exasperation in his voice. Larry sent the letter. Every character in the god damned book knew Larry sent the letter except for you—and you for God's sake were the author! Dimensions, Dan, dimensions." He sat back and sipped his coffee, thoroughly pleased with himself.
He was also right. About Chip and about the book. I don't know which shook me more. "I... I don't quite know what to say, Richard. I'm... I don't know what I am."
"You won't for a while, not until you've worked it all out. And I'm sorry about Maryanne Goes Shopping. I'd promised myself not to say anything but somehow it just slipped out. Now go on home and sort this all out on your own time. I think I have a client driving around out there, looking for a parking place."
I paid him double for the massage and kissed him for the insight. I wondered why he didn't go into the psychotherapy business but then decided it was probably the money. And the touching. Richard loves to touch.
When I got home I put off thinking about Chip and my relationship with him by re-reading Maryanne Goes Shopping and fuming that I hadn't seen what was now so obvious. After that I re-read everything I'd written for the sequel, threw it in the wastebasket and started over.
It took me until about on Friday before I couldn't put Chip off any longer. I sat in my chair again, this time with a cup of tea, and went over everything that had happened, from that first moment I'd seen him, sitting in front of the mirror in the coffee shop. The more I went over it the more obvious it became that Richard was exactly right: I wanted to be Chip's father. No, I had almost convinced myself I was Chip's father. The really difficult part of it, the part that had bothered me from the first was that I've never wanted—or even liked—kids. I guess I hadn't met Chip yet.
The phone brought me back to reality. My friends Jack and Angelo wanted to know if I wanted to go dancing at one of the new bars with them. Physical activity seemed an excellent idea and I jumped at the chance for a break from all this introspection.
We met for dinner at Barney's, a pseudo western place with the prettiest waiters that ever donned a Stetson. Besides that, the food's good.
Afterward we went to Buns and danced. It turned out to be a lot of fun and I danced my ass off. Around two I said goodnight to Jack and Angelo and went home with what turned out to be one of the cowboy waiters from Barney's. I hadn't recognized him without his Stetson. We rode the range—and each other—for a couple of hours before we ran out of steam and fell asleep. The cowboy was a restless sleeper though so I kissed him goodbye around six and headed for my own bunk house.
It was nearly light out so I decided the walk home would do me good. I didn't consciously set a course to take me past Chip's store front but that's the way I went. I didn't see him around anywhere and felt somehow relieved. I hoped he was safely home, in bed.
I slept until , worked on the book until seven, sent out for pizza and watched the three millionth rerun of The Day the Earth Stood Still on TV. Somewhere around the power failure scene I realized that, even as a kid, I'd always identified with Klatu, the Michael Renee character. You know, the guy who takes the kid under his wing and teaches him about life from the perspective of a higher civilization. Dense as I am, the implication was not lost on me.
Sunday morning I gathered the paper and went to the cafe for a leisurely breakfast. I had the papers spread out on the table and was starting the big crossword puzzle when Chip came in. "You mind?" he asked, assuming the answer and sitting down.
My impulse was to toss back his "it's a free country" remark but I didn't; I smiled and cleared away some of the papers. "No, I'll be glad of the company," I said.
He fiddled with the papers, finally pulling out the comics and pretending to read. When I went back to the puzzle he put the paper down and looked at me. "You still mad?"
"I never was mad, Chip. I needed to think, that's all. It was me, not you." He contemplated that while I ordered breakfast for both of us.
After he'd dumped most of the sugar dispenser into his coffee he looked up again. "So, you wanna do something today? Go see those flowers or something?" He made no mention of money.
It was a beautiful day, sunny and probably going to be hot. A perfect day for letting the book wait. "Yeah. I'd like that."
The rhododendrons were beautiful but an hour of flower viewing was about all Chip could take. We wandered over to the lake and watched the ducks, standing in silence for a long while. I was pretty sure Chip had something on his mind but when it came out it wasn't what I expected.
"You gay?" he said, not looking at me.
Oh boy. "Yeah, I'm gay. Why?"
The silence stretched out and by unspoken consent we started walking along the lake shore.
"So how come you never, you know. Tried to get in my pants?"
I laughed. "You mean because I'm gay? Well, for one thing, I'm not into kids. How old are you, anyway?"
The boy has a glass head and I could see him doing the calculations. "Nineteen."
"Sure you are. And I'm a hundred and sixty three. I thought we promised to be honest with each other, Chip. If you don't want to answer, just say so but don't lie. Please."
He broke away and walked slowly towards one of the ducks that was foraging on the grass. The duck quacked a couple of times and hurried over to meet him. Chip turned back, a look of surprise on his face. "Why'd he do that?" he asked. "I thought they were scared of people."
"He probably thought you were going to feed him. Ducks are always looking for a free lunch. We can buy some stuff to feed him if you want.
"Yeah," he said. Then he turned to the duck. "Okay, you wait here and we'll buy you lunch."
Walking over to the little snack bar Chip very quietly said, "Sixteen. Okay?"
"Okay. Thank you." We bought some over priced stale bread and went back to the water's edge.
"Look," Chip said with real delight in his voice. "He waited."
"I guess he trusted you to do what you said." I handed him the bag of stale bread. "Here, go show him his trust wasn't misplaced."
Chip scattered some of the bread and jumped back when the duck ran towards it.
"Here, I'll show you something." I took some of the bread in the palm of my hand and held it out. The duck waddled over and ate it. "See? If you're gentle he'll eat out of your hand."
"Doesn't he bite?"
"No. I don't think ducks have teeth. It feels funny though so don't let it surprise you."
Chip gingerly held out a handful of bread and flinched only a little when the duck ate it. Then things got a little out of hand because the other ducks saw what was happening and the whole flock came running. Chip jumped back and then scattered the rest of the bread on the lawn. "That was fun," he said as we started to walk again.
found a bench and sat in the shade, drinking the Cokes I'd bought along with
the duck food, and I asked him why he seemed to dislike that guy in the big
"Oh, him. Bastard."
"Why? He sure seemed ready to, uh, buy."
Chip snorted. "Yeah, but all he does is try to get you to take it up the ass. And I don't do that for nobody. And he's mean, too, when you won't do it."
"I take that to mean it isn't just him that you don't—do that with?"
The boy suddenly became very defensive. "Look, I'm straight, okay? I don't do that shit for nobody and nobody can make me."
I guess my expression gave me away because he turned on the bench and gave me a long look. "Okay, so I let guys suck my dick. That doesn't mean anything, lots of guys do that. The john's pay and get their jollies. Some of them are pretty good at it too, you know? It feels really good. But up the ass? Not me. Okay?"
I nodded. "It's okay by me. I was just wondering, that's all."
"Well, now you know so let's drop it, okay?" He got up and ostentatiously dropped his Coke can in a litter container. "You want to walk or what?"
We walked along the path in silence while I sorted out the messages he'd just sent me. When we came out of the park he said, "Do you?"
"Do I what?"
He gave me an exasperated look, as though I hadn't been following the conversation. "Take it up the ass."
"You mean because I'm gay?" Honesty works both ways. "Yes, I do that. With the right guy." There was a period of silence while he digested that.
"Why? Doesn't it hurt?"
"If it hurt I wouldn't do it. I don't do things that hurt—me or anyone else." Now it was my turn to think. Finally: "I guess that's not strictly true. It did hurt, the first couple of times I did it." Old memories came back, good ones, making me smile.
"Then why'd you do it? I mean, if it hurt... Did somebody make you?"
"No. Nobody made me." A sudden picture flashed into my mind, Jimmy and me... "I was very young then. Well, maybe a few years older than you are but still very young and I was in love with him. His name was Jimmy and... You don't want to hear all this."
He looked at me expectantly. "Yes I do."
"Well, his name was Jimmy and we were in love with each other. We'd done all the other stuff and we just decided to try that."
"What other stuff?"
I laughed. "The easy stuff, the things that come naturally like kissing and, uh, sucking on each other. The things guys do on impulse. But we wanted more. We wanted to get inside each other and that was a way to do that, to be part of each other. The first time he came into me it hurt like crazy—partly I guess because we didn't know much about getting each other ready. Anyway, it hurt but Jimmy seemed to like it so much I didn't mind the pain. It was just, I don't know, just something I did for him. Then, when I went into him, I knew why. It was wonderful and I'd never felt so much a part of him as I did when I was inside him. And it felt good. It was more pleasure than I'd ever felt in my life."
Chip seemed to be hanging on my every word and when I paused he prodded me for more. "So you let him do it to you again? Because you knew how good it felt and maybe he'd let you do it to him again?"
"I guess. We talked about it some and the next time was easier. We found ways of doing it that began to feel good to both of us. After a while it felt as good to have Jimmy in me as it did to be in him. Then we found ways to do it that made both of us come—sometimes at the same time and that was wonderful."
We walked in silence for a while. "What happened to him? Jimmy?"
Jimmy. What did happen to him? "Well, I guess like a lot of very young lovers we just drifted out of love. We both went away to school—different schools—and we experienced new people. I guess we found out we could live without each other, that's all."
"And then you started doing it with other guys?"
"Yeah. I found out that sex is a lot of fun even when you don't exactly love the other guy. It's sometimes fun just to play, even with a guy you know you'll never see again. But you know, Chip? It's always better with someone you love." I decided that was enough for one day—at least for me—so I broke up the conversation by suggesting ice cream.
Later, after chocolate ice cream cones (one scoop for me, three for Chip) he went back to it. "You ever, you know, pay for it? I mean with a guy like me?"
"Like you? No. I told you, kids aren't my thing. A guy has to be at least legal."
He was quick. "So you have paid for it."
Damn. The last thing I wanted was to be lumped in with his johns. On the other hand, honesty still worked both ways. Sill, I tried to hedge it. "Depends on how you look at it, I guess. Sometimes I go see a guy, a masseur. He works the kinks out of my muscles and yeah, mostly he gets me off at the end, too. And I pay him. I'd probably still go to him, even if he didn't get me off because the massage feels so good all by itself. Getting off is a little extra bonus. If that's paying for it..."
He thought for a moment. "He gets you off? I mean, you don't, you know, suck his dick or anything?"
"No. Like I said, I go to him when I'm tense from working too much or when I've worked out too hard. And to get off at the end, too. Maybe that's part of the relaxation." I figured a little guilt never hurt anyone so I left out the part about Richard being naked when he massaged me and encouraging me to touch him.
Chip shook his head. "Sounds weird to me. All they want with me is to get me off."
"You don't reciprocate? Get them off too?"
He grinned. "Hell no. Let them get themselves off if they want to."
I shook my head. "Now that sounds weird to me. Why would a guy pay just to get another guy off, especially when he doesn't do anything back. Or even appreciate it very much."
"Beats me. But they do. And some of them are real good at it, you know? Real good." A small smile flickered across his face. "But I don't care. Good or not, I just pop quick as I can, take their money and say good bye. I mean..."
He lost the thought, suddenly distracted by a display of western hats in a shop window. "Man, would I be cool in one of those." He ducked his head, trying to catch his reflection in the window with one of the hats superimposed on it.
I got the message. "You want to go in and see what they cost?"
"Yeah? Could we?" He grabbed for the door.
The kid had taste. He went directly to the heavy felt ones and tried on a couple. They weren't cheap but I had to admit—to myself only—that he did, indeed, look `cool' in them. He ended up with a gray one and I ended up paying for it. Once again the relationship was not lost on me.
Back on the street he watched his reflection in every window we passed, establishing just the right bored, I've-always-worn-one-of-these expressions on his face. He gave himself away though, by constantly touching it, taking it off and putting it on, trying it in different rakish angles on his head. He was also anxious to go show it off, I guess to his friends, so I mentioned that I had to get back home and do some work.
I actually did get productive and managed to knock out a couple of chapters of the new book over the next couple of days. I went down to his store front on Monday night but he wasn't around. A scruffy kid about Chip's age told me Chip was probably busy and offered himself instead. I turned him down as gently as I could.
I did find him Tuesday morning and we ended up spending the day together, most of it back at the art museum. We did it again on Thursday only this time we spent the day at the zoo, looking at the animals. The fact that all the animals were caged seemed to make Chip uncomfortable, even after I explained that it was more for their own protection than anything else. On both days I tried to get him to talk about himself but he rather neatly side stepped most of my questions. When I asked him about his family he blew up and walked away from me. When I caught up with him I was sure his eyes were wet. We agreed to drop the subject completely.
On both days I was struck by one thing: He made no mention of money—even when I didn't offer it when we parted. I couldn't decide if I was now running a tab or if he just liked spending the time with me.
The man was at the J.P. because he was supposed to be—and because he wanted to be. He looked over the young men—boys really—searching for just the right one. He knew he'd find him. God had told him so. "Pick the best one there," He'd said. "Take that dirty thing away from him," He'd said. "Do it tonight," He'd said.
And so the man would. Because he'd promised.
Looking across the crowd he saw the boy, the best one there. He smiled to himself and silently promised God that He'd be proud of him tonight. Very proud.
Friday turned out to be a very good day for me. All day—and well into the night—the Muses sat on my shoulder and whispered into my ear. The book was really beginning to take shape and I liked the shape it was taking. I thought even Richard was going to like it.
Around two in the morning I decided enough was enough. I brushed the Muses—who seemed to be getting tired too—off my shoulder and took myself to the living room with a microwaved pizza and a beer. I was on my second beer when the door bell began to ring.
There is little that is more annoying than someone leaning on the door bell. I stuck my head out the window and yelled for them to stop but the bell kept ringing. When I looked out the little peep hole I didn't see anyone. Damn kids, I thought, yanking open the door.
It wasn't kids. It was Chip, barely able to stand and covered with blood. My first impulse, of course, was to ask what happened but I stifled it as unproductive. Instead I helped him into the hall where I could look at him in the light. He passed out in my arms.
The paramedics got there in record time although it seemed hours to me. They loaded Chip onto a gurney and had an IV in him before they even got him in the ambulance.
In the ambulance, on the way to the hospital, I got another shock. Not only were Chip's head and chest covered with blood—there was a bloody slash in his jeans, from crotch to waistband.
I wasn't much help telling the medic what had happened and less so at the hospital. I gave them extra points though. Chip was in the operating room minutes after we arrived.
A nice but very harried woman helped me fill out the forms and I didn't hesitate anywhere. His name became Chip Williams and his relationship to me became that of son. There was some hassle over medical insurance until I produced my nearly paid off Visa card. I couldn't give them a Social Security number and said he'd been living with his mother for quite a while. I made up a birth date. After the forms were filled out I didn't have anything to do but pace. I did that very well.
An hour or so later a calm, good looking young doctor found me. His smile was the most reassuring thing I'd seen since we got there.
"Mr. Williams? Your boy is going to be fine. We put seventeen stitches in his head but fortunately the abdominal wound was pretty shallow and we were able to put it together with butterfly cleats. He was very lucky, you know. Two inches to the right and he very well might have lost his genitals." He looked down and busied himself making notes in a chart, giving me a chance to absorb what he'd said.
The doctor wanted to keep Chip in the hospital overnight but when he saw there was no insurance he decided I could take him home instead. He even got a couple of orderlies who were just going off duty to agree to drive us there. The butterflies and stitches, he said, could be removed by Chip's own doctor.
And so it was that Chip ended up in my bed after all, although I wasn't sure he even knew where he was. Between the pain pills and what anesthetics they'd given him, Chip was well out of it. I, on the other hand, was so keyed up that sleep was only a remote possibility. Not knowing what else to do—and being afraid he'd wake up and need something—I stretched out on top of the bed next to him and stared at the ceiling.
I did fall asleep though and woke a couple of hours later to find him looking at me. "Hi," he said with a thin smile. Somehow I felt enormous relief at that single word.
"Hi. How're you feeling?"
He grimaced. "I hurt all over. And I have to pee bad."
The doctor had said Chip wasn't going to be able to sit up for a day or two and he was right. Chip tried and almost passed out from the pain. I helped him roll out of the bed and then found that he was too weak to stand by himself so I had to support him with one arm around his chest.
I stood with him in front of the toilet and tried not to look as he pushed down the paper hospital pants they'd sent him home in but since the wall behind the toilet is mirrored I saw anyway. I think we were about equally shocked.
"Jesus!" What little strength he had left him and I had to tighten my grip on his chest to keep him upright. We both stared at the long red, oozing cut that ran from his navel to his crotch, the bright plastic butterflies only making it more bizarre.
"The doctor said you were lucky. Another inch or two to the right and you could have lost your... I think the word he used was genitals. What he meant was your dick and balls and he was right."
Shock gave way to need and Chip began to urinate—on the floor before he took hold of himself and managed to aim. I tried to catch his eye in the mirror but he couldn't get them up from his crotch. Then the dirty old man in me took over and I really looked at what he'd nearly lost. It was more impressive than I'd expected, long and thick as a boy's wrist, with a heavy look to it. And whatever else his parents had done to him, at least they'd left his penis alone—or at least left it intact.
When he finished he couldn't manage to pull the paper pants up and finally just kicked out of them altogether. Then he looked up and got another shock. The left side of his head had been shaved and the stitches stuck out like stray, wiry hairs.
"Shit!" His eyes caught mine in the mirror. "Is there anything else?"
"I don't think so. They didn't mention anything else. Except for the bruises on your arms. They're pretty bad but they'll heal pretty quick."
I got him back in the bed and managed to get him to swallow a couple of the antibiotic pills they'd sent home with him. I also gave him another of the pain pills. Just before he drifted back to sleep he said, "Sorry about the floor."
I cleaned up the bathroom and then made coffee and retrieved the paper from the doorstep. I was still afraid he'd need something so I sat in the uncomfortable chair in the bedroom and tried to read the paper. I mostly just watched Chip sleep and wondered what to do next.
Chip woke about every four hours which fit the antibiotic schedule perfectly. By late afternoon he was drinking a glass of juice with the pills and we went through the bathroom routine a couple of times, him peeing and me trying not to watch. When he realized what I was doing he grinned at me in the mirror and said it was okay, he didn't mind being watched.
I was embarrassed but I gave up the pretense.
To be continued...
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