Warning! This is a tale about men loving men. If you find this disturbing - click off. If it's unlawful for you to read this - click off. If you under age - good luck if you can get away with it.
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Chapter 5 Breakfast and dinner
Breakfast at Sally's café is a lumberjack's dream come true. The only question she asked was how I wanted my eggs. A platter with bacon, sausage, three eggs and a stack of flapjacks was placed before me. I looked at Charley's platter, he'd been served the same. And as I looked around I saw that every man who came through the door got the same.
Little was said until our plates were empty. If anyone had asked if I thought I could eat everything on that plate, I would have told them they were insane. I didn't realize I had worked up such an appetite.
Sal topped off our cups. We just smiled at each other wrapped in our own thoughts until Charley looked at his watch. We hadn't spoken for the last ten minutes.
"It's ten thirty. I've got to go."
I walked out with him, telling Sal I would be back in a moment to pay for us both. We stood on each side of his Harley, eyes locked, until he nodded, mounted and started it up. I stepped back and watched him disappear down the street.
I grabbed my book out of the saddlebag and sauntered back in. The table had been cleared. As I sat, Sal had a
fresh cup of coffee waiting for me. I opened my book and stared out the window. I wondered about the comfort
we felt with each other not having to speak to know what each other was feeling.
"I don't think you've read one word in that book since you opened it over an hour ago."
I looked up at Sal and then at my watch. She was right.
"May I sit down?" Sal asked.
"Are you okay, Jake?"
"Sure, I'm fine."
"Why don't I believe you? Last night you came in here looking like a kicked dog. Today you look like a confused kicked dog."
I smiled wryly. "So, do you want me to sit up and bark, or just roll over and play dead?"
"Jake," she admonished. "I want to be your friend. You can talk to me. I'm a good listener."
"I walk in off the street and you want to be my buddy and confidant. Why, Sal?"
"Because, Charley has decided you are someone special, Jake. I could see it in the way he looks at you. And I can see that you are mixed up, and at odds with his decision."
I studied her for a moment. "Tell me about Charley. Maybe you can clear up some of my confusion."
It was her turn to study me. "If Charley finds out I told you any of this he'll probably string me up by my thumbs."
"It's between you and me, Sal."
"Alright." She took a sip of her coffee. "Like I told you, Charley and I go way back. Grade school. I still live next door to his parents. Charley and I have always been close friends. In high school he dated a lot. Seemed like it was a different girl every week. He was a football jock. Most popular guy in school. Always ebullient. The girls all worshiped him."
She paused and stared out the window a moment. "The day after graduation he disappeared for four years. He'd joined the marines and told only his parents the morning he left.
"When he came back he was different. Subdued. He joined the police. In the last three years I have never seen him with a woman, or a man for that matter. He'll come in with some of the other cops sometime. He laughs and jokes with them, but... I get the feeling that his mind is somewhere else.
"When he's here by himself, he sits at the end of the counter." She nodded with her head toward the restroom alcove. "I've watched him time after time. He checks out each person who comes through the door. No expression in his face, like he's just doing his cop thing. Once in a while his eyes linger a moment longer on a man. Like maybe he's searching for more than what the eye can see.
"I was watching him last night when he came out of the restroom and saw you, Jake. It was like a light turned on in his eyes. His expression came alive as the two of you talked. Not since grade school have I seen him as happy as he looked last night when he came back in and saw you waiting for him."
I listened with a contrite grimace. I'd seen the look that she described. I just didn't want to recognize it. "I don't want Charley falling for me. He's got too much to offer to settle for the likes of me." I muttered.
"And what is wrong with the likes of you, Jake? I see a big handsome man with the most soulful big brown eyes. You told me you're on the rebound. It's obvious to me that some jerk has really hurt you, but..."
"Yeah, I don't want to go through that again."
Sal changed directions on me. She caught me open and bleeding and yanked the thorn from the wound. She pulled the story out of me of what I'd gone through with Jim and how his callous shunning hurt me.
"So you left him feeling that your love, the love you offered him, was worthless. Therefore, you're not worthy of anyone else's love." Her tone was a little scornful. I frowned at her. How could she know that was what I was feeling.
"Jake, what color are Jim's eyes?"
"Blue? No, brown. Hell, I don't know."
"Can you tell me what color eyes Charley has?"
"Sure. They're kind of blue and green at the same time. Like looking into a deep clear pool of water."
At that moment her first customers for lunch came in. Sal slid out of the booth. She laid a hand over mine. "Just some food for thought, Jake," she said as she left to wait on them.
Soon the café started filling up. I closed my book and went to the cash register.
"You're not staying for lunch?" Sal asked as she took my money.
I grinned and shook my head. "After that huge breakfast I may not eat again until tomorrow."
"Maybe, I'm hurting my own business," she conjectured.
"Nah, a working man can work that off in a matter of hours. If Charley comes in tell him I'm following his orders."
She raised her eyebrows in inquiry.
"Just tell him." I laughed and strode out the door.
I went to the hotel packed up my duffle and stopped at the desk to turn in my key. The wizen little man behind the desk looked askance at me.
"Expensive storage just for a duffle." He commented.
I smirked at him. "Yeah, but worth every penny."
I went back to Charley's. Without thinking about the other bedroom, I walked into his with my stuff. His scent filled my nostrils. Dropping my bags on a chair, I sprawled on the unmade bed. It smelled of our coupling.
I relived the few hours we had spent together. Had I only known Charley since yesterday? I considered what I was doing. Did I really want to get into a relationship with him? Would it be just an affair? I knew that with Charley it would be for a life time. Was I ready to commit my life to him? Was I insane to even think these thoughts? Twenty- four hours ago I was flying low on my Indian, fleeing from rejection.
As I thought about those last moments with Jim I could see the steely glint of his hard expression and I wondered again what color his eyes were. I consciously superimposed Charley's face. His beautiful deep liquid eyes filled me with warmth. No, I decided, I'm not insane, not where Charley is concerned anyway.
With that decision I glanced at the bedside alarm clock and saw that I still had nearly four hours before Charley would get home. I pulled the messed sheets off the bed and stuck them in the washer. There were a few dirty dishes in the sink. Rather than just stick them in the dishwasher, I hand washed and dried them. And then, in cleaning mode, I wiped the whole kitchen down, mopped the floor and started on the living room.
It was clearly a man's room. Bare of all the little knickknacks that women seem to take pleasure in. Real landscape oil paintings and water colors hung on the walls. I was impressed. In college I had taken a couple of art appreciation courses, and from what little I knew I figured these was mostly California Plein Aire landscapes from the '20s or '30s.
The furniture was all wood and leather. One big area rug made up of rectangles in shades of green covered the hardwood floor in front of the fireplace. On the mantel there were several framed pictures. As I cleaned the glass on each I studied each person in them. Most of them were of his family. There were some obviously taken in his high school days with friends. But there was one that stood out.
The guy in the photo was obviously a marine. His hair was cut high and tight. He was barefoot, wearing jeans, no shirt and had a body to die for. Charley, dress the same, and grinning into the camera, stood next to the guy who was looking at him when the picture was taken.
I picked up a magnifying glass from the coffee table and studied the fellow. The expression on his face told how he felt towards Charley. I felt a twinge of jealousy, no, not jealousy, it was more just envy that I wasn't the fellow in the picture sharing that moment in Charley's life. I wiped the glass and set it back in its place, wondering where the fellow was now, wondering if he'd gotten over and forgotten Charley. I couldn't imagine anyone being able to do that.
After dusting the whole room I stood in the kitchen doorway and looked it over. Yes, it was definitely a man's room.
I'm not a great cook, but I can fix a mean Beef or Lamb Stew. I searched the kitchen cabinets and found a Crock pot. I headed out to the grocery that I had seen earlier. After gathering the meat and vegetables, I picked up salad fixings. A pint of French vanilla ice cream, a bag of frozen strawberries and a jar of chocolate fudge sauce would make a fine frozen bombe for dessert.
Back at Charley's I got the meat browned, the veggies cut up and all of it simmering in the pot. I'd made a point of browning a bit of onion just to fill the house with the aroma. The salad was made and being refrigerated. The softened ice cream and strawberries had been stirred together, molded into a dome and put into the freezer. I set the table for two.
All was ready for Charley. It was after seven thirty. He should be coming through the door any moment. I was getting nervous.
Since the television set was in the bedroom and I wanted to be in the living room to greet Charley as he came through the door, I dug out the book I was reading and sat down in one of the comfortable chairs by the fireplace. It looked like it was a place Charley spent time. The side table had a pair of reading glasses and a couple of books. The bridge lamp was perfect for reading. I opened my book and stared at the door.
By eight-thirty I was getting aggravated . I turned off the crock pot, grabbed a beer out of the fridge and sat glowering at the door. The anger didn't last long. I began to imagine all the things that could keep him from at least calling.
At nine I turned out the lights, locked up and headed for the café, praying that Sal would still be there. The closed sign was in the window, but she was inside. The moment she saw me she knew something had happened to Charley. She picked up the phone and called the police station.
I watched her blanch and she listened. I knew it. I knew with my rotten luck I should've stayed away from him. Then he'd still be alive. When she hung up she looked at me with the tenderness of a mother. I didn't want to interpret the look. I tried to ask. "He's... He's....." I bit my lip to keep the emotion bottled.
"He's been shot. He's in intensive care."
"He's alive? The son of a bitch is alive?" I grabbed her around the waist and swung her into the air. "Oh God, I'm going to kill him when he gets better."
Sal laughed. After I set her back on her feet, she became solemn.
"Now you know why I'm not married to one of them," she muttered and walked to the cash register stand.
" What do you mean?"
She shook her head, grabbed her sweater and handbag and turned out the lights. She grabbed my arm pulling me out the door so she could lock it.
"You want to ride with me?"
"Where are we going?"
"Jake, I'm going to get you into see Charley."
"You can do that? Wait a minute. Is he awake? He can have visitors? Why didn't he call me? But... but you said he's in intensive care."
"Slow down and back up. I'm sorry, I should have told you. He's under sedation right now."
"I'd still like to see him."
"So do you want to ride with me?"
"I'd better follow. I don't want to leave my bike here."
I followed her for about fifteen blocks and parked beside her in the hospital parking lot.
"He stopped by during lunch. He told me he had found his soul mate in you. I'd never seen him so happy," she told me as we hurried inside. We went directly to the elevators. When the doors closed she said, "Let me do the talking. You just follow my lead."
A pert little redhead looked up as we approached the Nurse's station.
"Sally! What brings you up here?" she asked and shifted her gaze to me. "And who is this handsome man with you?"
"Hi Judy, This is Jake Shipman. He is a close friend of Charley Hill's. He needs to see him."
"Sal, you know hospital rules. Family only up here."
"Judy, what I'm trying to tell you is that Jake is closer than family."
Judy looked at me and then back at Sal. She looked back at me and nodded her head speaking directly to me.
"Alright, you can go in to see him, if the police officer outside his door permits it."
"They told me at headquarters that it was a lone sniper that shot him and that they had arrested him. Why the guard?" Sal said.
Judy looked back at Sal. "Why don't you ask him. It's Bubby."
Judy nodded. Knowing looks were exchanged between the two women. I figured Nursie had the hots for the Cop.
Moments later Sal was introducing me to a big Irish bear of a man. For a moment I envied Judy. The guy was a live huggy bear.
"Bill this is Jake Shipman. Jake, Bill Collins."
As big as I am I felt dwarfed. My hand disappeared into is huge paw. I was sure I'd draw back a nub, but he was as gentle as he was huge.
"Charley and I have been buddies since grade school. If you're a friend of his, then you're a friend of mine. Call me Bub."
I smiled and nodded.
"So what happened, Bub?" Sal asked.
"Fortunately, there was an eyewitness that called 911 as the sniper was aiming. He was on an overcrossing, aiming into the street below. The witness said he shot three fast rounds. One hit Charley at the base of his neck, went through the muscles. One blew his front tire. The motorcycle flipped and landed on his leg. He lost a lot of blood."
"So can we go in and see him?" Sal asked.
"Hey, if Nurse Judy says you can, who am I to object?" The way he said 'Nurse Judy' made her sound as scary as Nurse Ratchett, but he grinned as he said it. "Sure go on in. He's sedated though."
I noted first off that he did have his left arm bound to his torso so he couldn't move the shoulder muscles, his neck was in a padded metal brace and his left leg was in an open cast from his foot to just above his knee. The tube going into his arm was dark. I glanced up at the bag. He was still being fed blood. He also had an aspirator in his mouth and an oxygen tube in his nose. He was pale.
I took his chart hanging on the end of the bed and glanced through it.
Sal was looking around my arm at the chart.
"Can you decipher that mumbo jumbo?" she asked.
"Yeah, I can, see this is his blood pressure reading. It's still a little below normal as is his temperature. He was in surgery two and a half hours. Both his tibia and fibula were broken, those are the two bones in the lower leg." I pointed at the cast. "They put spikes and pins in both." I said, pointing to the nearly indecipherable scrawl and then briefly I told her about my Army days. I shuddered, recalling my days during Desert Storm. I'd been a field medic and had to prep many badly injured men for surgery. I wondered briefly if Charley had been over there, too.
I moved up to the side of the bed and took Charley's hand and gently squeezed it. His eyes opened, but didn't seem to focus.
"Hey, Charley," I said.
"Jake, you came to see me?" he murmured.
"Of course, I did."
"That's so good." His eyes had closed and he fazed out again. I leaned down and touch my lips to his forehead.
"What the hell!!" someone behind me yelled.
'Uh oh,' I thought as I straightened up and turned to see who had let out the explicative, and looked into the face of a shorter, little older version of Charley. He was a a bit overweight and dressed like country club, light blue Polo shirt, grey slacks, shiny narrow leather belt and matching shoes. 'Versace' I thought. I smiled at him. He ignored it and turned to Sal.
"Who is this guy, Sal, and why did you finagle him in here?"
"Robert this is Jake Shipman. As to who he is you'll have to ask your brother when he wakes up. I brought him here because that's what Charley wanted."
"You both need to leave. Charles needs his rest to recuperate." He still ignored me as he held the door open for us to exit. As soon as we were out of the door, Robert started haranguing Bub for letting us go in.
"Robert, stop being a stick. It's what Charley wants."
"Charley is under sedation. How could you people know what he wants."
"If you don't believe me," Bub yelled, "ask Charley when he wakes up."
"I will!" Robert yelled back as he strode to the Nurse's desk.
"And you, Judy, I'll have your job come tomorrow," he yelled, pointing a finger at her.
"Robert calm down before I have to call a guard to remove you."
"You wouldn't dare."
"Don't bet on it, Brother-in-law of mine." Judy smiled sweetly with malice in her eyes. I figured her sister must be the one who actually wore the pants in Robert's house, at least she controlled the sex. Sal took my arm and we headed for the elevator. Robert quieted down.
"Thanks a million, Judy," I said, as we passed her desk. I couldn't help myself, I just had to say something to Charley's brother. "And it was so nice meeting you, Bobby."
"Oh, fuck off, you damned cocksucker." He muttered.
Three things happened at once. Judy stood up sending her chair ricocheting into the metal cabinets behind her as she yelled, "Robert!" Sal who was close to him turned and slapped him, saying, "Shame on you!" And I stepped up to him and grabbed him by his shirt front. "You may be Charley's brother, you greasy little fat man, but you have never seen me before and you have never seen me suck cock." I said through clinched teeth. "So you don't know what I am. Don't go jumping to conclusions that could get your head staved." I thrust him away. He looked contritely at each of us.
"I'm sorry. I apologize. It just upsets me when Charley gets hurt." He turned to me. "And it surprised me to see you kiss him."
"I kissed him on the forehead. He's a friend."
"I can see that. I'll make sure the rest of the family will be okay with you coming to visit. Again, I'm sorry."
"And I apologize, too. Let's start over." I held out my hand. "I'm Jake Shipman, a friend of your brother."
His smile was sheepish. He took my hand in a firm grip. "It's good to meet you. I'm Robert, Charley's brother."
A closed mind is such a sad waste of space.
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