It looked to me like three quarters of Patterson was lined up along the curbs while the other quarter marched past in the Fourth of July parade. The parade had started at the east end of Main Street and would end at the high school football stadium, where there were bake sales and game booths, lots of food stands, and pie eating contest. When Evan first told me about the parade, I'd raised an eyebrow.
"Patterson has a parade?" I asked doubtfully. It was a pretty small town and didn't fit with my idea of parades, which was mostly based on watching them on TV when I was a kid. Images of the Macy's Thanksgiving parade in New York City flashed through my head.
Patterson? Not so much.
"Yeah," Evan smiled. "Fourth of July is a big deal in small towns. Everyone goes. You sit on the curb and watch the parade, and then you follow the fire truck, which is always at the end of the parade, to the stadium and hang out until the fireworks are over around ten. There'll be lots of good food," he added as a further enticement, when I must not have looked convinced.
So around four in the afternoon, we picked up Raf and Kenny, parked in Evan's reserved space behind his office and walked over to Main. We weren't the earliest people there by any means, and I was about to plop down in the first bare spot I came to, but Kenny grabbed the leg of my shorts and jerked his head at me to keep going. After walking another few minutes, weaving our way through more and more people, we staked out a piece of curb about a block from the edge of town.
"We always sit in the same spot," Kenny explained after we got settled. "People can find us that way."
I was wondering who the hell would need to find us in the middle of a parade when Don showed up just as the mayor's car idled past.
"Hey, Dad," Evan greeted him, scooching toward me a bit so that Don could sit down next to him.
"Hi, boys," he said, patting Kenny on the arm and leaning past Evan to smile at me and Raf.
"Mom get settled ok?" Evan asked.
"Yes. They're just after the cheerleaders."
"Maggie's on the library float," Don said to me. "She's been volunteering there since Evan was about two."
Vendors worked the crowd, selling corn dogs and cotton candy, people stopped and visited with each other, and the whole thing felt like a big party, with an occasional burst of firecrackers as kids got impatient for dark. We sat on the curb eating popcorn and slurping sno-cones as the high school band marched around the steaming piles of horse shit left behind by the local 4-H chapter. I remembered poop wagons following behind every horse group in the Macy's parade, but apparently Patterson hadn't zeroed in on that bit of parade technology yet. After the band came several restored vintage cars carrying the chief of police and assorted other officials, none of whom I recognized. Next was a troupe of little girls in sparkly blue outfits throwing batons all over the place as they tried to twirl and walk at the same time. A few floats went by, sponsored by the Garden Club and the Patterson Ladies Guild, and then we saw a familiar face - Bill driving a 4-horse hitch, pulling a big fancy wagon that held the Strawberry Queen and her court. With his hands full of reins, he just gave us a nod and a big grin. I recognized the wide blaze down Rose's face and thought maybe another one was Gracie, but wouldn't have bet money on it.
Finally the cheerleaders came cartwheeling along, doing handsprings and yelling out cheers as they waved their pom-poms around. Right behind them was the library float drawn by an antique tractor. At the back of the float were bookshelves, with Maggie arranging books, while the rest of the float held several people on benches or sitting on the fake grass, reading. On a banner along the bottom ran the slogan `GetCarded@PattersonLibrary.org.' Maggie spotted us in the crowd and gave us a smile and a somewhat loud "Yoohoo!" The folks sitting on the float all stood up immediately and in unison shouted, "Quiet, we're trying to read!". Apparently this was an every-year event because half the crowd shouted it as well. Maggie covered her face in fake embarrassment. Who'd have thought a library had a sense of humor?
Many of the local businesses had entered the parade, lounging in Cadillac convertibles borrowed from the dealer on the edge of town or riding in horse- or tractor-drawn carts. A florist was represented by a car decked out like a basket full of flowers, only the flowers were children tossing daisies into the crowd. The rib place came by in a pink truck with a curly tail on the back and a horn that squealed, much to the shrieking delight of the kids sitting next to us. I was looking around for the cotton candy vendor when Evan elbowed me.
"Look," he pointed.
Riding along on antique bicycles, Sharon and Tom looked like characters from the 1900s. Sharon was wearing a long pink dress, white gloves, black button-up boots and a wide-brimmed hat with a big pink bow, while Tom was dressed in an old-fashioned black suit with a string tie and a black derby hat. Both bicycles had a basket on the front, painted up with Patterson Homes and the phone number, which held candy that they tossed into the crowd as they rode along. Rafael wolf-whistled loud enough to hurt my ears and we all waved when Sharon whipped her head toward us.
"See you later," she called as she went past. She flung a handful of candy at us, which turned out to be little mesh bags with a handful of jellybeans, tied shut with her business card on a pink ribbon.
A few more floats went by, another group of horses – the county park mounted patrol this time – and then the town's newest fire truck brought up the rear, lights flashing, siren whooping every thirty seconds or so. All the firemen were perched on the truck, waving to the crowd, and as we got to our feet to follow along the final block and a half to the stadium, we admired them in their snug blue t-shirts.
As skeptical as I'd been at first, figuring it would be a hokey small-town event, I had to admit it was a fun day. Don left us for Maggie as soon as we got to the stadium, which was pretty much just your standard red cinder running track with a football field in the middle and bleachers down both sides. The track was full of booths of all sorts, there was a band stand near the center of the field, and tables and chairs filled in the rest of the space. It would have been pretty hot in the middle of the day, but now, with the sun dropping behind the bleachers, the field was cooling off nicely.
We wandered completely around the track one time, looking at all the choices before deciding on gyros for Kenny and me, a half pound sirloin burger for Raf, and a big old bratwurst for Evan. I offered him my bratwurst instead, but he just laughed. The first time around, we ran into Sharon talking to one of the better-looking firemen. About my height with dark blonde hair, he was one of those slender wiry guys who're a lot stronger than they look. Sharon had changed from her bicycling clothes into shorts and a tank top, and looked more like the Sharon we knew. I waggled my eyebrows at her from behind him, but she just gave me a little wave of her fingers and turned back to gaze into the fireman's face. Tomas from the gym gave me a friendly nod when we met up with him at the lemonade stand, and when we ran into Bill, I realized that Evan was right – everybody in town did come to this thing. Bill was with a plump smiling woman that he introduced as his wife, and a younger couple who turned out to be our mailman George and his wife Ellen, she of the wonderful mailbox muffins.
We snagged a table at the 30-yard line, near the beer garden, and just hung out eating and drinking as dusk settled over the stadium. It was a perfect place for a big event, with plenty of extra seating in the stands and lots of bathrooms. As I was getting another round of beer, I spotted Sonny moseying along, and much to my surprise, Callie was with him. Sooo, all that flirting back at our place a couple weeks ago had snagged Callie a Fourth of July date. Kinda hard to think about 60-something year old people dating, but as I watched them walk away, hand in hand, I thought about me and Evan at sixty and suddenly it didn't seem so weird.
Around nine, people started settling down in preparation for the fireworks, which were launched from a soccer field out beyond the far side of the track. We oohed and ahhed with the rest of Patterson as the colors burst in the sky, feeling each boom in our chests, and when Evan hitched his chair close enough to put a hand on the back of my neck, I felt a sudden rush of affection for Patterson. It was a small town, yes, but it was my home now. I had good friends here, the Farm, and - Evan.
After the last twinkle of the grand finale had burnt itself out over the soccer field, we walked back down Main Street with most of the citizens of Patterson for company. The crowd got smaller the further we went and by the time we turned into the alley alongside Evan's building, we were pretty much by ourselves. As Evan drove slowly out of town, I gazed out the side window and somehow wasn't surprised to see the old homeless guy sitting on a bench, his brown dog asleep on the sidewalk next to him. Our eyes met for a split second, and then we turned the corner and he was gone.
The following Saturday I fired up my email to find one from Brendan.
So what are you doin? I havent seen you on COD in a while. I'm still working. I like the paycheck but I'm getting kinda sick of lookin at dirt every day but next week I get to do the koi ponds. That's japanese fish that people put in their gardens. One fish is like $25! And I thought a fish sandwich at Micky Ds cost a lot lol. My job will be over on August 26 and I was wondering if maybe I could maybe visit you before school starts. I know you don't really know me or anything but Mom tells me stories about you sometimes so I kinda feel like I know you a little. If your too busy that's cool, don't worry about it. It was just a stupid idea I had. See you on COD - Bren
I read it, chuckling at the $25 fish and then sobering up as I came to his request to visit me. I read it again more slowly, then leaned back and stared at the wall for a few minutes, trying to decide what I felt about actually meeting him. Barbara had caused me a fair amount of heartache when I was a kid and I'd gone years without giving her a thought until that damn Christmas card had come in the mail. I figured the smart move was to keep them at arm's length. After all, I'd been doing fine without any family of my own and didn't much feel the need to start now. But on the other hand, I had to admit I was curious about Brendan. The fact that he looked so much like me played into it, and the insecurity in his email touched that same emotion in me, that feeling of being not quite sure you're wanted. I drummed my fingers on the desk for a moment, wondering if saying yes to his visit would help him get over some of that.
I pushed back from the desk and went out to the porch where Evan sat reading the current issue of Child and Family Law Quarterly. His bare feet were propped on the rail, so I leaned back next to them and tugged on his toes until he came to the end of the paragraph and glanced up at me.
"Could you come read something, please?" I asked, tipping my head toward the far end of the house. "Brendan sent me an email."
Evan's eyebrows went up, then he stood and lay the magazine face-down on his chair. "Sure. What is it, does he wanna borrow money or something?"
"Something," I agreed as I led the way to my office. Evan plopped down in my chair and leaned forward on his elbows as he read. I stood behind him with my hands resting on his shoulders, reading along with him. He took his time, finally leaning back to look upside down into my face.
"So. What do you think? You wanna meet him, right?"
I wasn't real sure if I did or not. "I don't know. You don't mind if he visits?"
I stepped back as Evan turned the chair around so he could face me. "Of course not. I think it'd be great. For him and you. And I'll get to meet some of your family." He looked into my unconvinced face and reached out a bare toe to give my nuts a gentle poke. "It'll just be a couple days, right? Sounds like the kid wants to get outta Dodge and you're probably the only person he knows who lives somewhere else. Tell him yeah."
So I sat back down at the computer after Evan left the room and typed out an email to Brendan.
There's not much to do here. I mean, I like it but it might seem kinda dull to a kid your age, but yeah, I guess you could come for a couple days. The guy I work with has a pool so you could go swimming.
I wracked my brain for something else he might enjoy doing, but since I didn't know him hardly at all, it was tough.
I don't know if you're into motorcycles, but I have a Harley if you wanted to go for a ride. I could get another computer set up so we can both play COD. And Chewy'll probably let you throw sticks for him and you can feed carrots to the horses and the three-legged donkey.
Would your Mom drive you? Or I can pick you up at the bus station. I guess it's only a couple hours. Anyway let me know what you're thinking.
I read it at least five times, trying to tell if it sounded welcoming enough or if I came off as not really wanting him to come. Eventually I decided it sounded ok and poised the cursor over the `send' icon. God, did I really wanna do this? I took my hand off the mouse and tried to think of the worst that could happen. He could be a total little asshole, I supposed, in which case I could stick him right back on the next bus home. Or talk Evan into driving him back. Or something. I whacked the mouse button and watched the email disappear into the ether before getting up to go roust Evan into talking a walk or weeding the garden or giving me a blow job or something worthwhile.
Middle of July already. God, the summer was flying by. Last weekend, while the four of us were shooting pool at the bar, we'd discovered that all of our birthdays fell between July 24th (Kenny) and August 12th (Rafael).
Evan had been talking about buying himself a car for his birthday when Kenny asked me when mine was. I'd been watching Raf's butt as he leaned over the table and replied without turning around. When I told him July 27th, he said, "Jesus, that's weird, don't you think? All four of us in a two week span?" I could see him working it out in his head. "So our parents all did it in late November or early December."
Raf sank the five ball, rolled his eyes and elbowed Evan out of the way so that he could line up for his next shot. "I think it calls for a party," he said. "A pool party."
And that's how we decided to throw ourselves a birthday party at their place on the first Sunday in August. That was tomorrow, so Evan and I were in the kitchen doing our part of the food which was a huge pasta salad with all sorts of veggies from the garden – tomatoes, onions, peppers, zucchini - and wondering how many people would show up. We'd debated keeping it to friends around our age, but decided to invite just about everyone.
Sharon was coming with the fireman, whose name turned out to be Norm. "Like Cheers?" I asked when I stopped by her office last week to invite her.
"Yes," she replied with a dreamy smile before it faded into a scowl. "But don't do that Norm! thing when you meet him, ok?"
I held up my hands. "Not me. I just came to invite you to our birthday party. Week from Sunday at Kenny's."
She said sure, she'd love to come, but when I told her to bring her bathing suit, she said, "Oh my God, a pool party?" and scrambled for her calendar, counting down the days with a red fingernail. "Ten days. Ok. If I stop eating now, I can lose at least four pounds." She drummed her nails on the desk. "Maybe five." Then she smiled. "And now I have an excuse to buy that suit at Delilah's."
I almost told her she didn't need to lose five pounds, but figured that was a total waste of breath and just said, "Great, see you there. Don't forget Norm."
"Not a chance," she said as she turned back to her computer.
Callie was bringing pies and Sonny. Don and Maggie were springing for a few hundred dollars worth of ribs from the squealing-pink-truck rib place. Katherine, Tracy, Rafael's folks, and Evan's cousin Ben all said they'd be able to make it. Bill scratched his head and said he'd be haying over in the next county that day, but maybe could stop by for a quick beer on the way home, if we were still going at it when he drove by. I assured him we would be. Raf and Kenny had invited people, too, so we might end up with quite a crowd.
Evan snapped the lid onto the second bowl of pasta salad and put them both into the fridge. "Anything else we need to do?" he asked, as he washed the knives and cutting board.
He was standing at the sink, wearing only baggy shorts that hung on his hip bones, his weight on one bare foot, the other hooked around the back of his ankle. I was at the table, behind him and a little to the side, thinking that I'd never had much of a foot thing going on, but looking at the smooth pink curve of Evan's right arch had me wanting to run my tongue along it, see how ticklish he was. But then my eyes wandered up, past the taut muscles of his hairy calves to the smooth backs of his knees, up past the sagging butt of his shorts to his lower back. The two small dimples on either side of his spine deepened for a moment as he shifted his weight to his other foot, and my dick twitched in my shorts. Last night we'd gone to bed late, then slept in until we were starving, so we hadn't messed around in more than twenty-four hours and I was obviously feeling the effects as I studied his body.
"Yeah," I answered him. "There is."
He heard it in my voice cause I saw his cheek lift as he smiled out the window. I got up from the table and walked up behind him, resting a hand on the edge of the counter on either side of him and nudging my crotch into the seat of his shorts. His back was warm under my chest, and the thump thump of his heart against my cheek reminded me of the fireworks booming in my chest on the fourth. The long muscles of his back worked as he reached forward to shut off the water and dry his hands. Then he gripped my wrists and wrapped my arms around his body, tipped his head back until it met mine, and just stood there, holding me snug around him.
After a bit, I turned my face into him and began working my mouth along one side of his backbone, licking and sucking and nibbling on him, eyes closed, breathing in the smell of him as I tasted his skin. It wasn't long before he was sighing out a little mmm every few breaths, and his foot had curled itself around the back of my calf and was sliding slowly up and down. I eased my arms off him and brought his back around to my ass, planting his hands there as I reached back around in front of him and flipped the button on his shorts. By the time I had the zipper halfway down, the shorts dropped off his hips to catch on his bent knee. He uncurled his foot from my leg, let the shorts hit the floor, and spread his feet a little as he pulled me tight to him, grinding his butt back into my tenting shorts.
His cock was free now but I left it alone and slid my hands up his chest instead, skimming my fingers over his nipples until they tightened up. He was breathing hard through his nose by now, slow, deep breaths that I could hear as well as feel under my hands, trying to keep a rein on his arousal as he popped the buttons on my shorts and hauled them down. When my dick dropped into the crack of his ass like a homing pigeon sighting the roost, he groaned deep in his throat in anticipation, making me smile as I ran my tongue up the groove of his spine, feeling him arch into it as he braced his hands on the counter.
I'd never mastered my high school clarinet, but playing Evan's body just came naturally to me, and as I sank to my knees behind him, dragging my hands down his sides and then gripping his ass, I chuckled as I realized that I'd been playing the wrong instrument all those years ago. The skin flute was my instrument of choice.
"Are you laughing?" Evan muttered, peering at me from under his arm.
"Mm-mm," I assured him as I buried my face in his ass. He was only a couple hours out of the shower and still smelled faintly of soap, but underneath the 99% pure scent of Ivory was Evan's own unique aroma and I breathed it deep as I put my tongue to work. When I creaked to my feet several minutes later, Evan was flat out on the counter with his head pillowed on his crossed arms. I leaned over him as I worked my cock slowly into his totally relaxed asshole. Between all the spit I'd left behind and the drizzle of pre-cum from my cock, I eased in with only a shifting of Evan's feet as he squatted slightly to ease my initial penetration.
Fucking standing up is a whole different dynamic. I suppose an engineer could calculate the power-to-thrust ratio or something, but I just know it felt amazing to drive up into Evan with my feet planted firmly on the floor instead of scrabbling for traction on the bed sheets. I'd thought about wearing sneakers to bed but hadn't actually tried it yet. I took my time with Evan, savoring the sight of his back stretched out before me, the feel of him tight and hot around me, but finally said through gritted teeth, "You close?"
"Uh-uh, go ahead," he mumbled, so I did, rising to my toes as my balls tightened, and dropping to my feet and then quickly pulling out as they let go. I held him by the hips as I arched back, thrusting against him to get what felt like every last drop from my nuts. I was still getting my breath back when he tore off a paper towel and handed it back to me.
After I cleaned him off, he turned in my arms and hopped up to sit on the counter, knees spread wide around his semi-hard dick. I dove in as he leaned back against the cupboards, watching me as I got him hard and then got him off. He was pretty wound up from getting fucked, and soon after I added a finger, he was gripping the edge of the counter with white knuckles and pumping down my throat.
I had just straightened up and wiped my chin when the front doorbell rang. Thank Christ we hadn't left the door wide open like we often do. Somebody would've gotten the kind of show you'd have to pay good money for in the city. Not that I'd know anything about that sort of thing. When I didn't make a move, Evan nudged me with a knee.
"You gonna see who that is?"
"My face smells like your ass and my breath smells like your cum. What if it's your Mom?"
Evan leaned forward to give me a big sniff. I helpfully breathed in his face and I could practically see that scenario running through his mind as he stared at me. "You're right," he grinned as he slid off the counter, stepped into his shorts and headed for the living room. I stayed out of sight around the corner, massaging my aching balls and wondering who it was when I heard Sonny's voice.
"Got a hankerin' for fish fried up crispy and thought I'd go see if the trout're bitin'. You boys wanna go fishin'? Only be a couple hours cause I got things to do this evenin'."
"Um..." Evan began, looking around at me as I stepped out from the kitchen. Beyond Evan and Sonny, I could see furry dog heads milling around in the bed of Sonny's truck. "Wanna go fishin'?"
"I got gear enough for all of us, and some food. And some beer," Sonny added, peering around Evan at me.
I shrugged. "Sure, I guess. We're not doing anything."
Evan turned back to Sonny. "Give us five minutes to get changed and, uh, brush our teeth."
"Yeah, yeah, take your time. I'll be out here..."
We were going fishing with Sonny. Stranger things had happened since I'd met Evan, but not many.
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