(C)Tooluser October 2010
This story is fiction, and any resemblance to real people or places is entirely coincidental.
Hope you like it,
Bill leaned casually against the kitchen counter, watching Shayne as the boy knelt on one of the bar stools, his little face intent as he peeled the lettuce and tomato off a cold hamburger patty, and tried to sort out his feelings.
Number one feeling right now was relief. Neither Shayne’s mother nor his sister had commented on the boy’s new clothes. Judging by all the new furniture arriving, the Meachum family wasn’t hurting for money; it was just possible that the boy had enough clothes that Mrs. Meachum hadn’t noticed, but all the same it felt odd.
When he was Shayne’s age, Jay had practically lived in a single pair of jeans and a couple of gruesome Halloween t-shirts. On one occasion Mary actually had to threaten to hold back their son’s allowance until he surrendered his favorite pants for laundering. When Jay had grown out of that phase and started caring about his appearance – not to mention improving his personal hygiene – they’d both felt like declaring a national holiday. Bill had bought Mary a bottle of her favorite wine, and that night they’d both toasted their son’s discovery of girls. Too bad they’d been wrong about that.
Now Shayne was reassembling the burger, sans salad. He watched the boy’s nimble fingers return it to its box; put it in the microwave and tap in the combination for the special mixed-foods re-heating program.
“That’s right,” Bill said, and smiled: his little buddy was smart as a whip.
Shayne gave him a quick look out of the side of his eye and turned his attention to the next burger.
The sleek, black microwave had been top of the range when Mary bought it. There were different power settings and radiation patterns; an integral broiler and attachments for spit-roasting and barbecue, and probably making coffee and pressing your shirts too. The settings were so complex that, two years on, Bill still frequently had to refer to the manual. Although the little flimsy-covered book was open on the counter to the correct page, Bill had noticed Shayne hadn’t even glanced at it. He’d demonstrated the settings just once to Shayne and the boy had learned them.
The boy was so quick – and so funny too: making jokes about Mary’s precious family paintings. Wishing the artist could finish that sketch! Exactly what the art critics of the time had said, according to Mary. When Raylene had recognized the painter he’d been too surprised to claim it was just a print as they usually did. It served him out for assuming that someone who dressed and spoke the way she did must be stupid.
He should have realized that when he was first introduced: Raylene’s knowing gaze passing from her little brother to himself and back again should have told him that no matter how well the kid had his mother buffaloed, his big sister was no dummy and knew the score. Bill felt himself warming to the plain girl in the next room; how else could Shayne have stayed out of trouble without someone he trusted watching his back?
And that brought him to feeling number two. As well as thinking the boy was drop-dead gorgeous, he liked Shayne. Right now the palms of his hands ached from wanting to slip his fingers beneath the boy’s armpits and whirl him around in the air; he wanted to tell Shayne to forget the burgers so they could swim lengths of the pool and get into a splash-fight arguing about who’d won. He longed to grab the boy and carpet-wrestle until Shayne was pink-faced and squeaking with breathless laughter. If he could magic himself down to the boy’s age, he could think of nothing better than them being best buddies. Hell, he’d love that right now – ridiculous as it was in a man grown.
Still, Bill knew he already touched Shayne too much. Knew too, he had to break himself of the habit before it got them all into trouble. If Raylene knew the score, he bet there were plenty who didn’t, and would violently object. There never had been a time when there was a shortage of self-righteous fools.
So he needed to be strong in order to protect Shayne. That’s why right now he wasn’t touching the boy: just standing close behind. Close enough to feel that lovely electric joy: to imagine the boy’s body-heat. Shayne wasn’t clumsy, nor likely to fall off the stool, but at least he hadn’t complained of being crowded. Bill told himself his happiness was simply because if something did go wrong he’d be right there to catch his playmate and prevent him getting hurt.
Smiling, Bill resisted the urge to tickle the dirty soles of Shayne’s little bare feet, admiring his pretty toes. Surely the boy had been wearing sandals earlier? Hopefully they hadn’t been left behind in the pod.
The pod, yes. At the diner, his little buddy had seemed happy with everything that had happened, but in the pod – well, he wasn’t so sure. Shayne had led the way, right enough; not only wanting but demanding to be fucked. Bill still could feel the glow of pride at the boy’s determination; his stubborn insistence that it be “right” for Bill: that he take all of that big, hard cock inside his little butt.
Nevertheless, he evidently had hurt Shayne. Bill felt his chest tightening as he recalled how the boy had suddenly burst into tears afterward, unable to hide the pain any longer. Remembering the sight of the boy’s sore little ring made him feel almost as uncomfortable as the sight of Shayne in his new outfit. Guilt money; blood money; that what buying those clothes had been. Not so much a bribe as an apology: the thought that Shayne might consider his fuck with Bill as a “mistake” truly hurt.
He didn’t care if the boy was turning tricks with every other guy in town; anything that made Shayne cry that way was nothing he wanted a part of. He should make it clear: they would be neighbors. They could be friends, maybe, if Bill could learn to control himself, but that would be all. Perhaps he should talk to Raylene. If she did know – or at least suspect – what her brother was doing, then perhaps he could persuade her to tell her parents, before Shayne got hurt any more.
Bill found he’d lifted his hand, already half-way to caressing the boy, and guiltily changed the action to brushing an imaginary piece of lint of his shirt before lowering it again to the “safe zone” at his side.
Shayne twisted round and looked up at him. “What’s the matter, Bill? I been doin’ the burgers just like you said!”
“It’s not that – you’re doing fine, son,” Bill said. “It’s just I’ve been thinking -”
“Yeah?” Shayne looked bright and eager. “Me too!”
This was the wrong place, and the wrong time. Telling anyone you’d just had sex with that you didn’t enjoy it – because no matter what reasons you gave, that was always what they believed – was not casual conversation.
“Maybe,” Bill said, “If your parents agree, you could come over later and test your Speedos in the pool here, huh?” Seeing Shayne’s lovely little figure and not touching him would be a real test, but somehow, somewhere in the afternoon he’d find the right moment to straighten things out.
Shayne beamed. “Oh, yeah! Can I, Bill? For real?”
Mary would be pissed, no doubt of it, that he’d invited strangers over without discussing it first, but the thought of her arrival would just be a further incentive to keep his hands to himself and not letting things get out of control. He’d already had one lucky escape; he couldn’t count on a second.
Feeling his cellphone vibrate, Bill pulled it out of his pocket and flipped it open. “Hello? Oh, Tony – hi!”
Shayne was watching him eagerly, and Bill mouthed: “Business.”
“Sorry Tony, what was that?” Bill said. “Work? Oh, plastering, sure. Starting when? Sure, sure – no sweat. I need the money, anyway.” He saw Shayne’s worried look and patted the boy on his lean, warm little shoulder before recalling his resolution and pulling his hand back. “Sure,” he said into the phone, “I’ll be right along. And thanks, buddy.” He hung up.
“Friend of mine’s a guy short on the afternoon shift,” Bill said, slipping his phone back into his pocket. “So I’m afraid swimming’s off for a while. Sorry kid - I know you wanted to.”
“Hey,” Bill said as he saw Shayne’s face fall, “I’ll make it up to ya – promise, okay?”
“Guess we cain’t heat the burgers, neither,” Shayne said. “You gonna go away for a long time, Bill? Like abroad?”
“Oh no.” Bill hooked his thumb in the loop of his belt. It was so hard not to touch his little buddy, especially when he was looking upset, like now. “I’m not qualified to do that big construction project stuff: just ordinary work: woodwork, plastering, stuff like that. This is just a city project: re-furbing some offices downtown. Couple of days work, maybe a week, Tony thinks.” He straightened up and stepped back, putting Shayne safely out of arm’s reach. “We’ve got a little time. You just heat up those burgers while I go put my trowels and suchlike in the truck.”
Shayne’s lips folded into a sad little smile. “Okay Bill,” he said.
* * *
I seen that look on Raylene before, when she’s lookin’ round and sizin’ up the joint. Felt kinda good for a minute, like we was workin’ together again; ’til it come clear. The minute Bill’s truck went around the corner I knew I got to say.
“Raylene, you didn’t boost nothin’ from Bill’s didya?”
She looked at me like she was real surprised. “What’s it to you, you little fuck?” she said.
Raylene scares me plenty, and most times I got better sense than to mouth off at when I’m so close, but it was like I just gotta say, even though my legs was feelin’ so shaky, and I blurted out how she better just not be thinkin’ of it.
She grabbed my arm and kinda leaned, pushin’ me back off-balance against this big bush with her belly. “Don’t you go taking that tone with me,” she hissed and in the ordinary way I’d-a been off and runnin’ right then, but I just swallered and said she better not be thinkin’ about hurtin’ Bill.
She looked at me, and, well -
See, Mom’s real good. I know her real well. I seen her work on people; how she can make how black is white and turn your head all around, I know she can do that, but when she does a number on me it’s like I forget. She can smile so sweet, an’ say all that nice stuff, about how I’m a good boy and her number one little fella an’ I swaller all that horseshit down every time an’ believe her just like the rest of her marks.
Raylene she ain’t so good; I know when she’s shittin’ me. But just for a moment there was somethin’ in her face right then I couldn’t get ahold of. Most times when she looks at me her eyes are just kinda dead. An’ sometimes I get this bad feelin’ and I look around and she’s there. She ain’t carryin’ a knife or nothin’ but it looks like she should be, y’know? All I know is I stay the hell away ’til she’s likkered herself some more.
But this time she looked at me real close an’ said: “You really like him don’tcha?”
I didn’t say nothin’, but she just grunted. “Thought so. Listen, shit-for-brains. What does Pop say about messin’ on our own porch? Huh? How many trailers in our own park did we turn over? None, right?”
Now in the ordinary way Raylene’d gut punch me or whup me upside the head for disrespectin’ her, and with her big stinky body pressing me back into them leaves it was easily private enough she coulda hurt me – she knows a hundred sneaky ways of pinchin’ and twistin’ - but she didn’t.
She just said, “Hey Shaynie, it’d be pretty funny huh? The pigs’d take one look at their computers and our address’d light up like the fourth of July. Bill’d have his stuff back afore Pop’d made the first call.” And she moved back and didn’t hurt me or nothin’.
It was freaky. In the ordinary way if Raylene stepped back and talked sweet, I’d-a known to look sharp – she was just gonna wait ’til we gone inside and then knock me down the hallway while she yelled all that. But she called me “Shaynie” like when I was real little and it messed with my head, her talkin’ so soft and jokin’ with me.
I looked up at her and I could see how her smile was just like painted on her, but behind it she didn’t seem so pissed as usual. Then she patted me on the shoulder and I like to drop the burger sack, but she said, “I been kinda mad at ya, Shaynie, and I guess how the little fella -” she patted her belly, “he ain’t helped none, neither. Guess you been kinda left on your own, since I ain’t been workin’. Gotta fix that.”
Well, it had seemed like the perfectest day ever ’til she said that, and I just kinda gasped in and said, like a dumbass: “You mean I cain’t see Bill no more?”
But she just said: “Hell, no!” and I felt kinda funny and it took me a moment to figure. See, in the ordinary way I wouldn’t peach to Pop about Raylene sayin’ a wicked word on account of she’d belt the livin’ daylights outta me after Pop had done the same to her. But then it flashed on me as how right now I didn’t want to peach on her and some little part of me what had been silent and sad was now all warm and nice over havin’ my Big Sis back again.
I missed what she was sayin’, but it was all Mom B.S. anyhow. It was just how she was talkin’ what made me feel all happy inside.
Funny how as you can get people all wrong, ain’t it? Raylene’s been real nice an’ sweet to me since meetin’ Bill, kinda like old times, and I been so happy. I guess I been hurtin’ and missin’ my Big Sis more’n I thought.
After them burgers, we sat out on the back lot and shared a doobie like we ain’t done in ages. I told her all about Bill and she was real interested – only not like Mom, like she was gonna move in on him or nothin’. She was kinda pissed when I told her about blowing guys for burgers – dinged me a right one and said how I didn’t have a fuckin’ clue, but then she calmed down and said how she was sorry. For a while I was kinda thinkin’ she’d hit me harder’n I thought and I was hearin’ stuff, on account of she’s never said sorry before. Even fetched me a ice-pack for my cheek, and got me talkin’ about Bill some more like she wanted me to maybe forget or something.
She got over her mad faster than I ever seen – even gimme a load more of the Essentials, makin’ cracks about how leastways I ain’t got to worry about gettin’ in her condition. She said as how when Duke gets home she’s gonna fix it with him so I can start workin’ proper. She said how we could shade the truth some with Pop, so he don’t get a bug up his ass, just kinda mix it in with Duke’s dealing money and say as how I’m Duke’s associate now – that’s kind of like a gofer what gets paid. That way he’d fix it all so I don’t get ripped off no more, or get beat up or nothin’. I got real excited, thinkin’ on how I’m gonna be paying my share – money’s gonna be kinda tight on account we gotta pay the bank a while yet.
I was kinda worried that with workin’ I wouldn’t get to see Bill no more, and it seems like with the pot I just said that out loud. Raylene she laughed like a drain and said how she fix that with Duke. I could have time off to see Bill anytime just by askin’. And then she got out another joint and said as how she’d really like to hear some more about me an’ Bill, saying how it brought back how it had been when she felt just the same as me.
Now it was news to me Harley’d done any nice touchin’ and strokin’ while he was knockin’ her up, sounded just like business to me ’cept for no rubbers. Maybe they done it in private, like, only no matter how I turned it around in my mind I couldn’t fit no sweet talkin’ and Harley together. The Lord, he left the sweet outta Harley – guess that’s why he’s been turned down for parole again.
I get it now why Red kept wantin’ to just jaw my ear off about Vicky and her tits and ass, or maybe it was the weed, I don’t recall Raylene ever rollin’ one so strong. Anyhow Raylene, she didn’t have to look even half interested - I just kinda rattled on about it all.
It was kinda freaky: one time when I was just lyin’ there against the side of our new sun lounger I opened my eyes some and it was like I seen the old Raylene with this cold, hard smile on her face like a tiger but I guess it was just them tiger-stripes on the new cushions messin’ with my head, ’cos her voice still sounded real warm and gentle. So I shut my eyes again.
I got up in the night, just prayin’ there was somethin’ to eat in the place, but knowin’ I was probably gonna end up lickin’ candy-wrappers outta the garbage again. But when I come up outside of Raylene’s door I heard that muffled heavy cried-out sobbin’ like I ain’t heard in a while. I went real cold, because that was like the worsest time with me an’ Raylene; she couldn’t hardly see me before she’d just lash out; I swear she was quicker even than Mom.
So you can guess what I was thinkin’ when I cracked my eyes open next mornin’ - well, kinda mornin’ if you get what I mean – and there she was just sitting alongside my bed. The drapes were half-pulled and the stripe of daylight hit just her face. Her big body just kinda went back into the dark like it wasn’t there at all. Her face looked real weird: it was puffed up like a pumpkin with cryin’, but her voice was just like yesterday, real nice. She said: “Shayne I got to talk to you about Bill.”
I was so scairt my throat just shut up and that clammy-cold cotton sheet I was twisted in got so nasty so fast, for a moment I thought I’d started wettin’ again like I used to after Duke got beat up.
She talked on, and maaan that stuff yesterday musta been sweet; her voice just like to put me back in that nice warm time with her again. She said how I got to be careful with just lettin’ it all out like I done with her, on account of real guys don’t do that, an’ if I done it with Bill he’d be outta there so fast I’d hear the air slam shut behind him. I was just gonna ask so how come I wanted to, and then all of a sudden it was like I just wanted to hug her real real tight and shout out for joy like that preacher said. She knowed how Bill ain’t a fag! And then she slapped me and said was I listening, doofus?
And she said about that napkin, and how come I thought I was so special I got to keep Bill all to myself and how I better get my thinking fixed on how I wasn’t nothin’ but a hot, tight hole to a great guy like that and not to get smart. She leaned over me real close and whispered how I knew I was just a cheap whore faggot what’s not fit to lick his dirty footprint off of the floor, only somehow it wasn’t her sayin’ it, it was like me sayin’ it and I just felt those cold words slidin’ down inside of me and slicin’ into my heart.
I kinda sucked in a jagged breath and she heaved herself up and sat beside me on the bed, and said, real soft: “It’s okay, Momma’s here.”
Momma – Not Mom! One Mom’s enough, that’s fer sure. When I was real little and Raylene had the lookin’ after of me, she used to play how she was my real, um, woman what birthed me: Momma, we used to say. She was always bakin’ me pies just like on TV. Sounds crazy, but I kinda got to like the taste of dirt pie. And we’d pretend how her guy had, like a regular job with a suit and all and we weren’t scairt or nothin’ when he was around.
I really wanted to wrap my arms around her like I used to back then, only I was still so tangled up in that sheet I couldn’t. Didn’t matter: when she sat, her big weight pushed the mattress down so much I rolled into her anyhow. She stroked the hair back off my face and my heart nearly bust from figuring why it shook me up so when Bill done it. And right then I got kinda angry at him, how-as he was makin’ me hide it all so, but I just swallered it down as part of bein’ with guys. Like Raylene said, it ain’t their fault.
So after she sat and stroked me a while, she said what was I gonna do about that napkin? I said, do I gotta? And she turned her head away and jerked out a breath, hard, and whispered how yes, I gotta. She said how it was a hard lesson, but she was gonna learn me good. I done a sin of pride, she said, thinkin’ how I was special. We went over and over how each time it was just him pretendin’ or me thinkin’ wrong, and how I gotta focus. Otherwise when the dam does bust Bill’s gonna beat on me so bad it’ll make Duke look like he only needed a Bandaid. Guys are just like that, Raylene says.
She turned her back and the white light hit it across just like a movie screen, an’ I shut my eyes so I didn’t have to look no more. I couldn’t say it, but I squeezed out some kinda whimperin’ noise, so she knew I’d do it right, just like she’d told me to.
* * *
Well, perhaps “enjoyed” isn’t the word for this episode, but I hope you’re still with me.
As always, thoughts, wishes and encouragement warmly welcomed. Flames ignored.
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