I'd never been fishing in my life and said so to Evan as I scrubbed my face, washed my hands, brushed my teeth, added a t-shirt to my shorts, and tugged on old sneakers.
"Nothin' to it," he said, as he did the same. "You stick a worm on the hook, toss it into the river, wait till you're bored to death, and then go home."
"Jesus," I laughed, "Why the hell are we goin' then?"
"Cause it's out at the river and we got nothin' else goin'. Fishing's a good time to nap," he added helpfully.
When I grinned and said, "No wonder you like it," he wrestled me backwards until the bed hit the back of my knees. I went down, and he turned and jogged down the hall as I rolled onto my feet and followed him.
As we clattered down the porch steps, Chewy whined to get in the truck with the other dogs, so after I boosted him in, Evan and I climbed in the Jeep and followed Sonny down the drive. Evan thought he knew where we were going, but apparently Sonny had a secret fishing hole, cause we passed the dirt lane that Evan said led to a place where his dad used to take him fishing as a kid, and where him, Luke, Raf, and Kenny had spent many a summer day skinny dipping in the cool river. Evan gazed down his lane of memories a few extra moments and I figured him and Luke had probably spent some quality time there together.
A few more miles out of town, Sonny turned onto a road that soon petered out to just two rutted tracks, like some old wagon train trail, making me happy I was driving a Jeep and not something lower and less utilitarian. We bumped along behind the bouncing dog heads; every now and then, Chewy's brown fur and floppy ears would come into view, then disappear as the dogs shifted to the other side of the truck bed. The forest had thickened around us and when we came to a chain across the trail, I thought we'd have to back all the way out, but Sonny hopped out and unlocked it, drove forward enough to leave us room, then hooked it back around the tree behind us and stopped by the Jeep on his way back to the truck.
"Not much further now." He dropped the tailgate on the truck and the dogs flowed out like water over a cliff -- brown, tan, white -- and then dashed on ahead. At least they seemed to know the way.
"You know where we are?" I asked as we got moving again.
"Sorta. I thought this was all private land, but maybe not. The river gets real wide somewhere along here."
After another couple hundred feet of teeth-jarring ruts, Sonny eased left and came to a stop. I coasted in beside him, looking around the clearing in the woods. Sun-dappled, deeply green with splashes of yellow dandelions and purple something-or-other, the clearing had a fire ring and a picnic table on the bank of the river. We climbed out of the Jeep and unloaded the stuff from Sonny's truck -- fishing poles, a ratty old tackle box, a basket which I hoped contained something to eat, a small cooler which I was even more hopeful contained some beer, and a coffee can with the plastic lid on it.
"What's in here?" I asked as we hauled it all down to the picnic table.
"What the hell's a night crawler?"
Sonny looked at me and shook his head. "Don't you know nothin'?" he said in disgust. "Worms. Night crawlers is worms. You go out and water the grass at night and they come crawlin' out. Night crawlers. Best trout bait there is."
We piled everything on the table and waited while Sonny sorted out a pole for each of us. I examined mine, whipping it through the air as Sonny rooted through the tackle box for hooks. As he tied one to the line of each pole with a fancy little knot that I'd never seen, he nodded toward the cooler. It did indeed contain cold beer, which Evan passed around after Sonny said, "Fishin's thirsty work."
I took that to mean it was ok to look in the basket. Big thick meatloaf sandwiches were stacked on one side, a large covered plastic bowl sat on the other, and a big bag of Fritos topped it all off. Mmm, Fritos.
"Can we eat?"
"Sure, sure. Dig in."
We finally got the three of us, the cooler and the lunch basket lined up on the bank of the river, which was slow and wide with a shallow spot downstream from us where the dogs were splashing around, lapping at the water. When I ripped the Fritos bag open, Chewy's head snapped up and he began wading rapidly in our direction, followed by a couple others who knew what a snack bag sounded like. They hopped out of the river right next to Evan, who just had time to yell, "No! No!" before they shook chilly, doggy river water all over us.
After we were done swearing and wiping our faces off with our t-shirts, Sonny said, "Might as well give `em a Frito now."
So I amused myself for a few minutes by tossing Fritos into the air as the dogs jumped around like popcorn in a hot pan, but when Sonny handed me a sandwich and a fork, I gave it up for lunch -- all that sex in the kitchen had given me an appetite. The sandwich was great, thick slabs of meatloaf with lots of catsup on some sort of grainy, nutty bread, and the fork turned out to be for the bowl full of tomatoes, cucumbers and onions, all sliced thin, with vinegar and oil on them. We ate our sandwiches and passed the bowl back and forth until we were full, and then got down to the serious business of fishing.
"Hand me that coffee can." He pulled off the lid and began rooting around with one finger. "Know how to make a hormone?" Sonny said, as he pulled a huge worm out of the can.
Evan frowned in thought, but when I snapped out, "Don't pay her!" he snorted a chuckle and smiled.
Sonny handed the worm to Evan, stuck his finger back in the can, and asked, "Know the difference `tween a skunk dead on the road and a lawyer dead on the road?"
"There's skid marks in front of the skunk." Evan smirked as he added, "You can't get a lawyer joke past me -- I know `em all. Self defense."
After ramming our hooks through the defenseless night crawlers, we spread out a little and Sonny showed us how to swing our lines out and into the most likely trout holes, deeper places along the edge of the river where they apparently liked to hide.
"Now what?" I asked after several minutes had passed with the three of us standing there holding our poles -- our fishing poles -- out over the river.
"Now you wait for `em to bite," Sonny explained. I looked over to Evan, who just raised his eyebrows at me before sitting down with his back against a tree. "Jiggle your line a little, now and then. You gotta tempt them."
Yeah, right. I sat down in the grass. Chew came over and flopped next to me with a groan, then wiggled around until his chin was on my foot.
"Jeff's nephew is coming to visit," Evan said after ten minutes of dead silence, probably in an effort to keep me awake. Fishing was everything Evan had said it would be and I was laying back in the grass, barely conscious, the pole tucked into the crook of my arm. Chewy had stretched out next to me and was growling softly in his sleep.
"Yeah?" Sonny replied. "He old enough to fish?"
"He's fourteen. Haven't seen him since he was a baby."
"Huh... Mind if I ask why?"
"Why is he coming to visit or why haven't I seen him?"
"Well, both, but mostly why haven't you seen him. They live far?"
"Couple hours." I sat back up, trying to decide if I wanted to spill my family secrets to Sonny, but figured if he was dating Callie, he'd hear most of it eventually anyway. "I lived with my sister for a while around the time Brendan was born. We didn't get along too good back then, but she sent me a Christmas card last year and I've been emailing the kid now and then. He asked if he could come visit and I told him yeah."
I might have said more, but just then Sonny said, "Hot damn," and gave his pole a sharp yank. "Got one," he chortled as he swung his line in. At the end of it dangled a slender fish about a foot long, thrashing wildly as it tried to get free. He grabbed it when it got close and then whacked it quickly against a nearby tree trunk, killing it instantly. With a grin, he held it up to show me and then tossed it into the cooler with the ice and the rest of the beer. A few minutes later Evan caught one and by the time we packed up to go an hour later, the cooler held several fish and no beer. I caught only one, which Sonny blamed on my lack of effort in keeping the worm moving.
"They ain't gonna catch theirselves," he informed me as he removed the hook from my line and packed up the tackle box.
"Guess I'm just not cut out to be a fisherman," I yawned.
"Huh. Mebbe not, but there's an old sayin'. `Most men have one lifelong wish -- to outsmart women, racehorses, and fish.' `Cept that don't all exactly apply to you boys, now does it?" he added with a wheezy chuckle.
Sonny offered us half the fish and when we declined, he insisted that next time we had to come over to taste how good a pan-fried trout could be.
"Next time?" I asked Evan, as we bumped back down the rutted trail. "I'm only going if he brings more meatloaf sandwiches. Those were great."
He slid me a look and a smile. "Is there any place you wouldn't go if they were gonna feed you when you got there?"
I gave it barely a moment's thought. "Prolly not."
Sunday was a blast. We went over after breakfast to help clean the pool, set up the badminton net, go pick up some ice, and set up a bunch of borrowed tables and chairs. People started rolling in around one, and by three we had quite a crowd. Don and Maggie, Raf's parents, a few guys from Rafael's softball team, and another guy in a chair that Kenny played basketball with. Tracy arrived with Kathryn, looking so much better than the first time I'd seen her with the black eye and battered face. Evan said she was starting to talk about going back to school.
Sharon showed up with Norm, and when I introduced him to the group around the beer cooler, there was a spontaneous "Norm!" from everyone within earshot. Norm, who looked even better in board shorts and a tank top than he had in his snug fireman t-shirt, grinned and rolled his eyes good-naturedly, but Sharon whacked me in the gut with the back of her hand.
"You said you weren't gonna do that!"
"I didn't do it!" I swore as I grabbed her wrist and held her at arm's length. "I think it's one of those cultural phenomenon things that people can't help."
As Sharon chatted with Maggie, I took a good long look at Norm as he turned toward the pool and stripped off his tank. Built lean like Evan, he was about my height, but probably 25 pounds lighter. Not sayin' I'm fat, but I'm built a lot more solid than Evan or Norm. The dirty blond hair I remembered from the Fourth of July was real short now, and he had a good tan, which made his body hair gleam golden in the sun; a little on his chest, forearms and lower legs, plus a faint trail down his belly that became more defined as it neared the waist of the shorts which hung low on his hips. Damn, Sharon, I thought, as I watched him dive into the pool, shoulder and leg muscles working with the effort.
"So what do you think?" she asked me a second later, jostling me with her arm as she took a swig of her beer. "Nice, huh?"
"Damn, Sharon," I replied, and she laughed.
"I know. I can hardly believe it myself."
"So, what's the deal, why's he unattached? He's got eight kids and three ex-wives? He's dumb as a bag of hammers? He's gay?"
"He's definitely not gay..." she said through a slow smile. "No kids or ex-wives, so he says. Seems bright enough. He moved here from Detroit a couple months ago and just hadn't met anyone yet. Lucky me."
"No shit," I agreed, as Norm pulled himself out of the pool with his belly all tight and the board shorts clinging to his crotch and legs. I watched a water droplet drizzle its way down the washboard of his abs.
"You just wanna lick it off, don't ya?" Sharon murmured.
Yeah, pretty much.
"What are you doin'?" Evan asked as he came up alongside Sharon.
"Pervin' on Norm," Sharon and I said, practically in unison as Norm did a back flip into the pool and then swam over to the edge nearest us and raised an eyebrow at Sharon.
"You lose that five pounds?" I whispered as she put down her beer.
"Nine!" she grinned as she pulled her sundress over her head, tossed it on a chair and walked to the pool. Unlike my taste in men -- slender and hard-bodied - the women who caught my eye always had plenty of curves, and Sharon was right there with big tits, a small waist and nice hips. Her belly was flat and her legs were long in the bright pink high-cut suit as she pivoted once for our inspection and waggled her butt at us before jumping into the pool.
"You goin' over to the other side on me?" Evan asked as he watched me watch Sharon.
"Nope," I said, bumping the front of my suit into the back of his hand as I turned to the bowl of chips. "Just admiring the view."
It was a good party. We swam and swatted badminton birdies all over the backyard when we weren't chasing the dogs around for them and drank a lot of beer and pigged out on ribs. There was a core group of about twenty people who stayed all day, and a bunch more who came and went during the afternoon.
Rafael's folks showed up around three and stayed for a couple hours. I'd met his mom Elena at Raf's softball game last summer, but I'd never even seen his dad until this afternoon. Gazing at Javier Santiago, I could see Rafael with no trouble; the same rock hard body, the black hair - this time in a crew cut - the dark brown eyes. Raf had a masculine version of Elena's facial features and her alluring smile. Watching Raf wrestle his dad into the pool, Elena smiling from a lawn chair, I wondered how difficult it had been for them to see their beautiful son disfigured for life.
Evan plopped down next to me and plucked a few chips from my plate. "Good party."
"Yeah," I replied, still watching Raf and his dad. "Did Raf's folks freak when he told them he liked boys?"
From the corner of my eye, I saw Evan turn to look at me, then his gaze swung to Rafael. "His mom was ok with it, after she got used to the idea, but his dad... they didn't speak for, like, a year." He was quiet for a second, then added, "Everyone talks about hard it is to tell your parents, but it's a tough thing for them to deal with, too."
Never having had to tell my parents, I hadn't given it much thought. "Yeah?"
"Well, sure. I mean, think about it. You've raised this little boy for, what...15, 20 years, and then he suddenly tells you that all the things you dreamed about for him.... a family, sons of his own, your grandchildren, are never gonna happen. That instead, he's going to live a life that's, at best, on the barely acceptable edge of how things are usually done. He'll probably never have a wife, and in most states, he can't have a husband either. It's a huge... if not a let-down, it certainly requires a major shift in the way you think. You've gotta develop new expectations while you're still dealing with the fact that the old ones are out the window."
I pondered that for a bit, wondering what my absent father and dead mother might have made of me being gay. No telling now. "Raf and his dad look ok now."
"Yeah, they've worked on it, though. Even once they were talking again, it was a long time... almost all through high school... before Javier was comfortable touching Raf. Wouldn't hug him or anything. It was pretty tough on Raf cause he really admires his dad. It was the accident that finally got them back together. I guess thinking that he was gonna die was worse than thinking about him sucking cock."
I sighed, thinking about it, and opened my mouth to ask Evan how Don had handled the news, but just then Kenny rolled up and said, "'Bout time for some diving, huh?"
I shaded my eyes as I looked at Evan. "You can dive?"
He just shrugged, but Kenny said, "Yeah, he's good. They wanted him on the dive squad, but he was too fast in the pool and the swim coach snagged him." He grabbed Evan's leg and gave it a shake. "Come on."
"All right, all right..."
He upended his beer, handed the empty to me, and walked around to the diving board. This was another bit of Evan I hadn't known about, and I wondered how many more things I'd learn over the years. He bounced on the end of the board a couple times, then walked back and rolled the adjustment wheel forward slightly. As he put his feet together, his hands by his sides, his eyes focused out over the board, people near us turned to watch. After a moment of concentration, Evan took three long strides, bounded off the end of the board, and then rose into the air, arching backward with his arms straight out from his sides, toes pointed, head thrown back. As he neared the water, his hands came together, and he sliced into the pool with barely a splash.
"Back layout," Kenny said, his voice full of satisfaction. "Nice."
"Jesus," I said, when Evan surfaced in front of us. "That was beautiful. Do another one."
He squirted a mouthful of water at me, then swam away and climbed up the steps at the end of the pool. For the next several minutes, Evan ran through his repertoire of dives - an inward pike, a beautiful floating swan dive, a somersault, a back pike. They were all graceful, and to my untrained eye, looked like the stuff I'd seen the Olympic divers do. He finished off with one where he somersaulted once and twisted a time or two. It happened so fast I couldn't really tell, and he didn't enter the water as cleanly as he had on the others. He came up shaking his head and laughing.
"God, that was terrible. I'm rusty." He hauled himself onto the edge of the pool next to me, slicking his hair back and blinking water from his eyelashes.
"You're really good."
"Nah, I don't get much time to practice anymore. Haven't been to my folks' pool in weeks." He turned and smiled at me. "I still love it, though."
We had to make another run for ice around six, and as we pulled back into the drive, Bill's truck slowed down out in the road.
"Hey," I said as I walked over and stuck my head in the passenger window. His face was red and sweaty and flecked with bits of hay; he looked exhausted. "Look like you need a beer."
"Nah, I'm too dirty. Got hay in places I don't even wanna think about."
"One beer. Come on." I could tell he was thinking about it. "Cold. Wet."
He swallowed once, licked his dry lips, and then nodded his head. "Ok. Just one."
He hosed off his face and neck out front, and we came out onto the back patio just as Sharon walked up the steps out of the pool, water sheeting off her skin, her face tilted up as she smoothed her hair back, looking like something out of a 007 film. With her arms raised, her tits were the first thing you noticed, and Bill stopped dead in his tracks and stared.
"Jesus," he breathed. He looked like he'd been hit in the head with a two by four. "Who's that?"
I raised an eyebrow. "That's Sharon. You lived next door to her for I don't know how many years."
"Sharon? Sharon McGregor?" he repeated, like he'd never heard the name. "My God. I've just never seen her... wet."
Bill managed to get his mouth shut by the time Sharon came over to say hi to him, but he blushed even redder than he was already and looked everywhere but at her chest. I shook my head at him and wandered off to see if there were any ribs left. When I glanced back, she was introducing him to Norm and Maggie.
By nine, we'd eaten every last chip, drank all the beer, and played in the pool until our fingers were prune-y. Elvis and Chewy had eaten or buried all the badminton birdies and were passed out under the beer table, exhausted by all the ball chasing and Frisbee catching. The crowd had thinned out until just the four of us, plus Sharon, Norm and a couple of guys from the softball team were left. Sharon, Kenny, and Evan were inside getting the kitchen back to some sort of order while the rest of us wandered around cleaning up the yard, crawling under bushes for paper plates, throwing all the bottles into the recycle bin, carrying the trash around to the side of the house. Evan and I were the last to drive away, a little before ten, and I was thinking shower and bed, but then Evan got a bowl of ice cream, so I plopped down on the couch next to him and opened my mouth for a bite. Instead of feeding me, he just looked at me for a moment.
"You always do this," he complained. "I ask if you want some and you say no, and then you eat all of mine."
"You didn't ask me tonight," I pointed out. "And all of yours, my ass. I eat a bite or two."
"Or ten," he grumbled, but he shoveled a big scoop of chocolate almond into my mouth.
I lay my head against the back of the couch and squished the ice cream around with my tongue, finding the almonds, chewing them slowly. We were quiet for a while, just the sounds of Chewy getting a drink of water and us crunching almonds breaking the stillness of the room. When I'd swallowed my almonds, I said, "Let's get one."
Evan raised his eyebrows. "Un ut?" he mumbled around a mouthful of ice cream.
"A pool. Let's get a pool. We got the space and the money. Then you could dive and swim whenever you wanted."
Evan stared at me like I'd just spoken Greek, then he blinked a couple times. "Yeah, I guess we could..." He thought about it for a minute. "Would you use it much? I mean, it's a lot of money just so I can paddle around when I get home from work."
I shrugged. "Sure. I'll swim instead of run sometimes. And you can teach me to dive."
He turned back to his ice cream, but I could see he was thinking about it. Eventually he said, "I'd want a long one, with a good board."
"I got a long one for ya," I offered, and got an elbow in the ribs for my trouble.
"So I can do regulation laps," he clarified. "I hate doing a bunch of short little laps. All those turns..."
"Fine. We'll get a long one. With a hot tub."
As we ate Evan's ice cream, I started thinking about our earlier conversation, and I remembered something.
"You know this afternoon, when we were talking about Raf's parents, about having to change your expectations?" He nodded. "Last Thanksgiving, your mom said something to me about having to deal with the fact that there wouldn't be any little Evans running around."
He turned fully toward me, the empty spoon poised in mid-air. "She did?"
"Yeah, but not angry or anything. More like... resigned to it." Evan's gaze dropped to his ice cream and he poked at it as I watched him. "Is that... is that why you want me to think about adopting?"
"I don't know." He shrugged, lifting and holding one shoulder up for a moment, before dropping it with a sigh. "It's kinda the whole father/son thing, I guess." He paused, still poking at the ice cream. "I love my dad," he said slowly, "and he's always been there for me, through all sorts of shit. I feel... kind of an obligation to pass it along." He shook his head in frustration at trying to explain it to me. "It's like everything he taught me, the ideals he gave me... it's like it'll all go to waste if I don't have a kid." He looked at me. "Maybe it's difficult for you to understand, but..."
"No, I get it..."
I let it go then, needing some time to sort out how I felt about all this. Hearing him say that he loved his father made me feel funny. Funny weird, not funny ha-ha. Don almost always hugged Evan goodbye, and today when Don and Maggie had left the party, he'd slung an arm over my shoulders and pulled me to him for a second. It had been quick and I'd been so surprised that I hadn't had time to hug him back. But, as brief as it had been, it had felt really good. I put my head back and closed my eyes. I don't know if it was the sun or the beer or the conversation, but suddenly I was tired, and scooted away until I could lay down with my head in Evan's lap. He rested one hand on my chest and ate his ice cream with the other one as he balanced the bowl on the arm of the sofa. I fell asleep to the soft `clink-clink' of his spoon as he scooped up his next bite. Next thing I knew I was suffocating, and came up off the couch in a panic. I whipped my head around, trying to figure out what the hell was going on and saw Evan looking at me, his eyes all wide and innocent before he burst into laughter.
"What? What?" I yelled. Chewy leaped to his feet and barked.
"I just -- hahaha - held your nose shut -- hahaha - for a couple seconds." He took a few deep breaths and got himself under control. "Sorry, I didn't think you'd freak so bad."
I sat back down, waited until he relaxed a little, and then jumped on him, pinning him to the couch with my weight, one leg pressed firmly up into his nuts. He squirmed and bucked, but I held onto him and he finally quit thrashing around and just lay there panting, his chest heaving beneath me.
"Say you're sorry and you'll never do it again," I instructed him.
"ImsorryandIllneverdoitagain," he rushed out, too fast to even understand, much less be sincere.
I put my knee into him until he tensed up and tried to pull away from it, and then I growled, "Like you mean it."
"I'm sorry and I'll never do it again," he wavered in a high falsetto. "Now move your fucking knee before you cripple me."
I rolled to my feet and offered him a hand up as he rubbed his balls and gave me a reproachful frown. "That hurt."
"Yeah? And I thought I was dyin'."
We stared at each other for a few seconds before he took my hand. When I brought him to his feet, I kept pulling until we were chest to chest. "Truce?"
He gave it about three seconds before nuzzling his face into mine. "Yeah," he whispered against my mouth, his lips just touching mine. "Truce."
Totally forgot to post this to Nifty. It's been done for a month, at least...