by Greg Bowden
The next day Chip seemed restless, wandering around the house, reading a little, flipping through the TV channels but never seeming to settle at anything. At first I thought it was his way of wrestling with the school problem but then decided that wasn't it. It finally occurred to me that sixteen year old boys probably don't do well cooped up in the house all the time. What he--we--needed was to get out and get some exercise. I took him to the gym.
On the way we stopped at a place I know called The Gym Bag and bought him some gym clothes. His choices were surprisingly conservative--gray shorts, white tank top, sturdy shoes--until it came to picking out a jock strap. The Gym Bag has them in every color of the rainbow and Chip selected a bright, royal blue number with silver threads running through the pouch. They were going to love him at the gym!
At the gym I introduced Chip to Bernie, who runs the front desk. I told him Chip was staying with me and I wanted him to check the place out. Bernie had Chip sign the register and told us that sons of members are always welcome on weekdays up to . Evenings and weekends, though, are generally reserved for adults. "If you like it," Bernie said to Chip, "we'll just change your dad's membership to the family plan." A small smile formed on Chip's face but he didn't say anything.
Inside, we changed and then went out to the gym to find Bob, the trainer.
"Well, well, we haven't seen you in a while, Dan," Bob said, looking at his clip board. "You better start slow and give yourself a good warm up after all this time. In the meanwhile, I'll take uh," he looked at the clip board again, "Chip here and show him around. We'll start him on a couple of the machines so we can get a feel for the kind of shape he's in and what he might want to work on."
They abandoned me to the easy stuff and went over to the heavy machines. Chip was back an hour later, his clothes soaked with sweat. "Okay, dad," he grinned, emphasizing the `dad', "time to cool down with a mile or two on the track. Come on."
He dragged me up to the running track on the roof where I did a mile and he did two. When we finally hit the showers I noted that a number of guys had cut their routines short so they could join us. Chip wasn't self conscious in the least at all the guarded attention he drew but he didn't show off, either. He simply showered, as though he was alone in the shower at home. For some unknown reason this made me very proud of him.
While we dressed I asked him how he liked the place.
"Great! Bob says I need to work on my ass and my gut and stop drinking so much Coke. He said if I come back he'll make up a special program for me. So I can really get in shape." He suddenly lost his grin. "Can I? Come back?"
"Yes, you may come back. It'll be good for both of us."
The man sat at his desk, smoking and savoring last night. It had gone well, so well he even had time to tell the boy why it was happening. God was pleased too. He'd showered praise and given the man the feeling, that wonderful glow and then the sudden explosion of pleasure. Yes, God had been pleased.
Not like a couple of weeks ago when the boy got away, rolled right out of the car. The man hoped he was dead. Or in terrible pain. He shuddered when he thought of the wrath God had brought down on him. He'd prayed and prayed, asking God to forgive his failure. Finally God did forgive him, after he had beaten himself almost senseless with the chains. He still couldn't let his back touch the back of the chair.
"Hey," one of the men called out, "chief wants us in his office. Look at some pictures or something."
They trouped into the chief's office, grumbling about the interruption. When all were assembled the chief passed around photocopies of a drawing.
"This is the man," he said. "This is the man who's killing those kids out there, the hustlers. Evidentially one of them managed to escape. Lucky for us, one of them who can draw."
The man looked at the picture and thought he was going to be sick.
"Chief," the man called. "I think I've seen this guy before. Hanging around. But on the streets where the girls work, I think."
"He doesn't do girls," the chief said sarcastically. "He kills hustlers, male hustlers." He looked away, studying his men. "Now this picture is going to be given to every cop in town. They'll find him but I wanted you to see what we're after, in case you see him somewhere."
He had to make his move quickly. "No Chief, no. You can't do that. This picture gets out and the guy just...well... just changes. Dyes his hair or something. Gets contacts. Look, let me work this by myself for a couple of days. I know I can find him, I just know it. This is just the break I've been waiting for."
The chief fixed him with a cold eye. "You can work on it," he said, "but this picture is still going to every cop on the street. And it's a detectives' case. Vice has nothing to do with it. Go ahead and do what you can and I'll pass your objections up the chain but it's not your case. That's all men. Get to your assignments."
was a message from
"That's good news, I guess. Did he mean it?"
He's convinced now that someone has to push someone. That's the bad news, too.
There's been another one." Another boy had been found by the lake, killed and his
genitals cut off in the same way the others had been. By the time I got off the
phone I was sick to my stomach thinking it could just as easily have been Chip
I debated with myself about telling Chip but in the end I had to. Honesty is honesty and we had an agreement. He reacted by going to sleep for the afternoon. When he woke around four and came into the study he looked the way a deer might, knowing the hunters are in the forest. I hugged him and said it would be okay. Nobody knew where he was--or that he even existed.
"Except the Crazy. He knows." I couldn't argue with that.
Chip quit shaving for a couple of days until I convinced him that he'd stand out much more with a beard. Especially a boy's beard that was still a bit sparse and uneven--although I didn't say that last part. He settled for attempting a mustache which I had to admit took away some of the boyish look about his face.
The day he was to see Carlos for his physical I wasn't sure I could get him to go out but he didn't argue when I said I thought it was important that he go. He dressed in his cowboy clothes, including the hat, pulled low on his face. I was pretty sure no one would recognize him and I told him so.
Carlos' waiting room was empty and the good looking nurse type said we were the last appointment for the day. On the way over I'd told Chip that whatever passed between him and Carlos was just between them. If there was anything he wanted me to know--or anything I should know--he would have to tell me himself. I guess he listened because he didn't seem surprised when I wasn't invited into the examining room with him.
I made myself comfortable with the new issue of Health and Fitness and read until Tony, the nurse, came through and began closing up. "It won't be too long now," he said. Thirty minutes later Carlos and Chip emerged, smiling and looking like friends.
"Sorry we took so long," Carlos said. "You ready?"
"How'd it go?" I said to Chip.
"Okay. He says I'm in pretty good shape."
Carlos nodded. "All indications are that he's a healthy, normal teenager. We'll know more, of course, after the tests come back but I don't expect anything startling.
In the car Carlos concentrated on the traffic, alternately cursing the other drivers--mainly in Spanish--and throwing comments on their skills to Chip. Chip, for his part, seemed fascinated with the traffic and the way Carlos wove his way through it.
Once we were in the suburbs and the traffic thinned out Carlos said, "Did I mention that Deloris will be joining us for dinner tonight?"
Chip looked at him sharply. "Who's Deloris?"
"Jack's mother," Carlos said. "You'll love her."
"His mother?" There was a note of astonishment in his voice. "Why would... I mean, doesn't she..." His voice trailed off raggedly.
He tried again. "Doesn't she know? I mean that you and Jack..."
Carlos laughed. "You mean that Jack and I are lovers? Of course she knows. It'd be pretty hard to miss, don't you think?"
Chip just looked at him, seeming unable to think of anything to say.
"Not that we talk much about it although once, years ago, she told me she thought I was the best thing that ever happened to Jack." He laughed again. "Jack will never live that down."
Chip stared silently out at the traffic for a long time, something significant going on in his head. After a while he gave that unconscious little shrug of his and turned to look over the seat at me. "Do you know her?"
I smiled. "Oh, yes. She's one of my favorite people. You'll like her too. Everyone does, right Carlos?"
Carlos nodded, busy with maneuvering into the exit lane. When we were off the expressway he turned onto a tree shaded, winding road and suddenly it was like we were in the country. Chip seemed to forget about Jack's mother and watched the road with great intent. At the top of the hill Carlos turned into a long gravel drive and when he first caught sight of the house Chip said, amazement in his voice, "You live here? Wow!"
It is an impressive house, all steel and glass set in what seems to be a small forest. The house wraps itself around a big pool which itself is surrounded by lawns and bright flower beds. The view across the valley is incredible and, even though it is less than a mile from the expressway, it is very quiet. All those trees absorb the sound.
Jack met us at the door with a hug--which brought an odd look to Chip's face but which he accepted--and sent us into the family room. When I kissed Deloris on the cheek she took my arm and said, "Oh, Dan, I'm so glad you're here. You're the only one of the boy's friends who can make a decent martini." She started to lead me towards the bar but stopped when she saw Chip. "And who's this?" she asked, more of Chip than me.
"Oh, this is Chip. He's come to stay with me for a while. Chip, this is Mrs. Peters, Jack's mother."
Chip removed his hat and took her offered hand. "Howdy, ma'am. I'm pleased to meet you." Howdy? Ma'am? Where the hell did that come from? Deloris, however, was charmed from the first.
"What a polite young man," she said to me as though Chip weren't there. "You should thank your lucky stars to have a son like that. They don't all turn out that well you know."
Chip tossed me a conspirational wink before turning his attention back to Deloris. "That's a mighty pretty dress you're wearing, ma'am."
At that point Jack stuck his head in. "Carlos will be out in a minute. He felt the need of a quick shower. Has mother pressed you into bartending yet, Dan?"
"Yes, I have." Deloris diverted her attention from Chip for a moment. "And I want you to watch closely how he does it, Jack. It's terrible," she said, turning to Chip, "to raise a son who cannot make a decent martini."
"My major failing," Jack laughed. "That and being unable to execute a proper waltz step."
"It has to do with culture, Jack. A cultured man--well, never mind. Chip, you be sure your father teaches you to make a proper cocktail and to dance a proper waltz. That, along with your lovely manners will take you far."
I served the cocktails hoping it would take some of the spotlight off Chip but it didn't and when I saw that he was holding his own I gave up and let nature take its course.
"Now tell me," Deloris was saying to Chip, "where have you come from? I think perhaps I detect something of the South in your voice?"
have a fine ear, ma'am. Yes, I came out from, uh..." It looked to me like he was
desperately trying to think of the name of a southern state. He got it right. "
"Well, you do very well, I'm sure. But as you say, I have a good ear for that sort of thing."
came into the room, his thick hair still damp from the shower. He kissed
Deloris on the cheek and accepted a martini. "The young man was just telling us
Chip was thinking fast. "Oh, no ma'am. It was a little town way out in the country. No place you've ever heard of."
"Perhaps I have. My late husband had oil interests in Okalahoma. Perhaps in your town. It was...?"
it was... Hustledick.
Carlos choked on his drink and Jack had to leave the room. Deloris looked thoughtful for a moment and then said, "No, I don't think I've heard of that town. Is it a farming community?"
"Yes, ma'am. Farming. You say your husband was in oil?" It was a very neat turn of the conversation and Deloris spent the next thirty minutes telling him about Jack's father--a man she obviously adored and still missed.
The rest of the evening went smoothly and was very enjoyable. Over desert Deloris asked me about my new book and made some gentle comments about Maryanne Goes Shopping, basically the same ones Richard had made although not quite so bluntly. When dinner was over Jack and I took Deloris home while Chip helped Carlos with the dishes.
"He's a lovely boy," Deloris said in the car. "And it's good you have him now. A boy needs his mother when he's young but at Chip's age it's his father he really wants. Someone to help him understand about being a man."
After we'd dropped Deloris at her home Jack asked me how it was going with Chip. I didn't actually know how to answer the question so I made some non-committal noises.
"Not good enough, Dan. Come on, what's happening with you two?"
I had to say I didn't know. I enjoyed having the boy around but I had no idea how long it would last. I was basically taking it day by day. As to his unasked question, I assured him that while we slept together there was nothing physical between us. Not a hint. That wasn't quite true, of course, since Chip did sleep with a hand touching my shoulder or arm. It also wasn't true because I liked Chip's hand on my arm or shoulder but I didn't want to confuse the issue with what I thought were irrelevancies. By the time we got back to the house Jack seemed convinced that I knew what I was doing. He was wrong of course, but that was beside the point.
Back at the house Carlos and Chip had finished with the dishes and we all decided to call it a night. Chip and I were put in the guest room and I wondered how we were going to find it, sleeping in a regular double bed when we were used to sleeping in a king sized one. As it turned out, it was fine.
First thing in the morning Chip asked if I thought it would be okay for him to go out to the pool and swim. I thought it would be so long as he was quiet until the others came out. "Take your new shorts and a shirt to wear around the pool, Chip," I said, "but don't bother wearing them in the water. I don't think there's been a suit in that pool since Carlos and Jack built it.
I thought about getting up and going for a swim myself but sloth overtook me and I stretched out across the bed instead, enjoying a kind of drowsy half sleep. I ran my hand down my belly and found that my cock had known what I was going to do even before I did. It had grown thick and hard in anticipation. I gave myself up to it, building the tension slowly but steadily until the pleasure was too much to bear and the bubble inside me burst and let the pleasure wash over me.
After a long, hot shower I went outside to find Jack sitting at the patio table, drinking coffee and watching Chip in the pool. I helped myself to coffee from the thermos.
"He's quite a lad, isn't he?" Jack said, not looking at me.
"Pretty and smart. A hard combination to beat," I replied. "Talented, too. Mickey thinks I should send him to art school."
Jack tore his eyes away from Chip in the pool and looked at me. "You going to?"
"Depends on Chip. But yeah, if he wants to go I'll take care of it."
"The kid's really becoming a part of your life, isn't he?"
I was saved from thinking about that by Carlos coming out of the house carrying a large tray of food. Chip saw him too and immediately climbed out of the pool. He slicked the water off himself with his hands the way I'd seen guys in the locker room do and came around the pool to retrieve his shirt and shorts. Jack tried to look disinterested but failed miserably.
"You hungry?" Carlos asked, setting out melon and sweet rolls. He looked up at Chip and grinned. "Don't worry. There's also bacon and eggs coming up in just a minute."
We spent the morning in and out of the pool--with Chip mostly in--and in the afternoon the man who lived up at the end of the road threw an informal barbeque for us. David, our host, was divorced and had a boy and a girl around Chip's age. While we sat in the shade and admired David's rose garden his kids taught Chip to play croquet. It was a very pleasant afternoon and I thought it nice that Chip had some kids his own age to be with for a change.
The next day Carlos and Jack took us back to the city early so they could make the Sunday afternoon matinee at the ballet. Once home I asked Chip what he thought about the weekend.
"It was fun," he said. "They have a neat pool."
"What'd you think of David's kids?"
"Dave and Marilyn? They were okay I guess. Kind of boring, though."
He shrugged. "Yeah. I mean, they've never done anything. They just go to school and watch TV and play that dumb game and..." He shrugged again, dismissing the subject. I could see that they would not be life long friends. "Who called?" He walked over to the answering machine and pushed the message button.
Dan, Brian Thomas here. I thought you'd like to know that those pictures created some stir with the police. For some reason most especially with the vice squad although they don't have anything to do with it. Anyway, Chief Dichter called my editor and told him to hold off publication. They may be on to something and need a bit more time. I'll keep you posted. Call me and let's get together, okay?
There was a click and the disembodied voice that lives inside the machine announced the time--Saturday-six-nineteen-p-m--and beeped, indicating there was another message.
Hi guys. It's, let's see, it's about on Saturday so I guess you're probably out to dinner or something. Listen, the reason I called was I talked to my friend at Judson, you know, that school I talked to Chip about, and he said they have an opening if you want to go see what you think of the place. Maybe even a little scholarship money too. I could take him Wednesday if you want and introduce him around. Let me know.
The disembodied voice said Mickey had the right day, was pretty close with the time, and was the last person to call. Before I could say anything Chip wandered off to the kitchen. After putting our stuff away in the bedroom I found him there, sitting at the kitchen table looking at his drawings and drinking a Coke.
"You want one?" he asked, holding up his drink.
"No, thanks. What do you think about the school? You want to go see it?"
He shuffled his drawings around and pretended to study the one of the living room with the Christmas tree. "I don't know. I guess."
"It can't hurt to look and if you don't like it... Well, then at least you'll know. And if you do like it, we'll see that you get there somehow. Don't worry about that."
In the end Chip returned Mickey's call and said he'd like to go and see the place. They agreed on Wednesday night. After he did that I returned Brian's call and suggested we get together for a drink somewhere on Wednesday night. Brian seemed pleased and said we'd do it at his place. .
When I hung up Chip gave me that raised eyebrow look. "You're going out with that reporter guy? How come you're not coming to see the school?"
"Well, it seems to me that your opinion is the only one that matters as far as the school is concerned. I'd just confuse the issue."
Chip seemed to think about that for a moment. "You going to fuck with him?"
Uh oh. Now how do we handle this? "I don't know. Would it bother you if I did?"
He shrugged and looked at the floor. "No." There was a long pause. Then: "I mean it's your dick and I guess you can do pretty much what you want to with it, right? His too."
Of the several possible responses that occurred to me I picked, for once, what seemed to be the right one. I put my arms around him and hugged him. Some small part of my brain pointed out that I'd never before hugged him--unless you count holding him up while he peed. "Yeah, it is and I guess I can only say that it has to be right for me to do it." I pulled back and looked him in the eye. "The same goes for you. As long as it's right. And doesn't hurt anyone, including you and me."
He looked at me very strangely for a moment and then broke into a smile. "Whatever. Just don't be too late coming home."
I was so glad to have gotten through what I saw as a crisis that I completely missed the implications in his last statement.
Monday we went to the gym. Chip told Bernie he still hadn't made up his mind about the place and wanted another session. Bernie looked over at me and I said, "Hey, I'm not changing the membership until the man makes his mind up." Bernie nodded and signed us in.
Bob saw us on our way into the locker room and called to Chip, telling him he had a preliminary fitness plan all worked out. When we'd changed they abandoned me to my out-of-shape-older-guy routines and headed for the big boy's machines. The next time I saw either one of them was a couple of hours later and they were both drenched with sweat.
"Man, this guy's a slave driver," Chip said, wiping down his chest.
Bob smiled. "That was just the beginning, Chip. Wait until we get into the really hard stuff. Now go on and hit the showers. We'll be along as soon as I write up your dad's workout." When Chip was out of earshot Bob said, "That kid of yours is something else again. He wouldn't do anything that I didn't do right beside him." He toweled his face again. "I haven't had a workout like that in a long time. Now, how'd yours go?"
When he'd checked off all the boxes on his form we went into the locker room and he surprised me by peeling out of his clothes. "I hope you don't mind," he said, grabbing a towel, "but the staff shower is full of plumbers right now and there's no way I can go back out there on the floor the way I am."
I shook my head. "I didn't even know there were staff showers. We always thought you guys were just shy about showering with the members."
He laughed. "Not on your life. Hell, I like to look as much as the next man, maybe more, but they have this stupid rule that we have to use the staff locker room and shower. It's supposed to give us an air of mystery or some dumb thing."
In the shower he made no pretense about looking at everyone and displayed himself with the same careless air. We all made our comparisons, decided we were all about the same--well, with the possible exception of Chip--and let it go at that. In the locker room Bob asked Chip about the long scar on his abdomen.
Chip hesitated for a moment and I could see he was a little shaken by the question. I thought maybe I should try to head off the question when Chip said, "It looks worse than it is." Bob understood immediately that Chip didn't want to talk about it.
"You know what'll make it look better?" Bob asked.
Chip looked down at himself and then nodded at Bob. "What?"
"Rub it with vitamin E. At least twice a day. It'll take the redness out after a while and you'll hardly be able to see it. You should also stay out of the sun for a while. The sun tends to make it redder."
"Hey, thanks Bob." He looked over at me and I could see he was relieved that Bob wasn't going to press him for details. I also knew we were going to stop at the drug store on the way home.
That evening Mickey called and told Chip the school would want to see some of his work so Tuesday and much of Wednesday was spent with our various muses on our shoulders, Chip bent over the coffee table in the living room and me over my keyboard in the den. Both of us were productive, at least as measured by the amount of paper we used.
We all left the house at the same time. As Chip got into Mickey's car he called out to me, "Don't be late." And then, as if an after thought, as they were driving away, "Have a good time."
I did have a good time. That erotic spark I'd felt at the cafe was magnified a hundred fold--for both of us--and we went directly from Brian's front door to his bed. It was one of those magnificent experiences that happen once in a great while, two men at exactly the same sexual pitch and looking for exactly the same sexual thing. "Oh, God," Brian said at one point, opening himself to me, "I just love doin' this with a guy like you, Dan, a guy who's having as much fun at it as I am." It wasn't love and it wasn't quite lust either but whatever it was gave us great pleasure for nearly four hours. And the promise of more to come.
When I got home the house was dark and it occurred to me that Chip and Mickey might well be out somewhere doing pretty much what Brian and I had just done. It seemed unlikely, though, since I had the distinct impression that they'd known each other before. That, added to the fact that Mickey rarely had sex with a man more than once or twice before he lost interest, decided me that they were more likely in some late night place indulging themselves in a mutual passion for hamburgers.
I took a long, hot shower and when I came out I found Chip standing in the bedroom looking through a thick packet of paper.
"How'd it go?" I asked, feeling odd being the one who was naked while he was clothed.
"Okay I guess. How `bout you?"
"I had fun. Brian's a great guy. What's all that?"
He held out a thick manila envelope. "Stuff from the school. This part's for you. You want a Coke?"
I took the envelope. "No thanks. But I'll have a small glass of grapefruit juice if you're going that way." He went to the kitchen while I looked at the stuff in the envelope. It was mostly school indemnity and parental consent forms along with an informational brochure and list of the faculty and their qualifications for teaching what they taught.
Chip came back in with two glasses of juice. "Where's your Coke?" I asked.
"I had one with Mickey and Bob said I shouldn't drink it so much."
Bob? Oh, yeah, the trainer at the gym. "So what'd you think of the school? You want to go there?"
He shrugged and began undressing. "I don't know. I mean, what's a guy like me going to do in some art school? I can draw good enough and who needs the rest of that stuff?" He went into the bathroom and turned on the shower, effectively ending the conversation.
I got into bed and settled back against the pillows wondering when the rest of it would come out. There had to be something more or he wouldn't be acting so casual about it. I wondered if the problem was money and if it was how I was going to handle it.
"You going to watch TV?" he asked, looking at me propped up against the pillows.
"No. I thought you might want to talk."
"Nothing to talk about," he said, turning out the light and getting into bed. I resigned myself to a wait for the other shoe to drop. It didn't take long. "You know they make you take stuff like English and math there?" he said, stretching into his accustomed position and putting his hand on my arm. "Why would they do that? I mean, all I want is to learn to draw better." With that he dropped off to sleep leaving me to wonder how I was going to convince him that things like English and Math were valuable in their own right.
For the next few days Chip was in a very distant mood. He sat at the coffee table making drawings and then crumpling them up until there was a small mountain of them by his side. I asked a couple of times if he wanted to go to the gym or maybe the art museum but he just shook his head. Then I asked him if there was something I could do and he shrugged his shoulders and said no, he was fine. I finally left him to his brooding, figuring he'd come out of it sooner or later.
It took until Saturday.
To be continued...
Comments, criticism and notes gratefully received and always answered.