Construction Days

© by The Lavender Quill, 2003

Warning: the following story contains graphic descriptions of male/male sex between consenting adults. If that sort of thing bothers you, or you are a minor, or it is illegal for you to read this type of content under the laws of your area, don’t read any further.

This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual people or events is purely coincidental.

Setting: Sacramento, California, 2002.

Chapter 22.

Robby and I led a small convoy of trucks to Brian’s house. I was driving my uncle’s truck, which was much larger, nicer, and newer than my old beater. James was behind me, and a third truck behind him. I’d never been to Brian’s house before, so my uncle had written down the address for me.

We pulled over to the curb in front of a modest house in a working class neighborhood. As we were getting out of the truck, a guy in a suit stepped out the front door.

“Hey, look at that!” Robby said.

James burst out laughing.

The guy in the suit was Brian. So complete was the transformation that I hadn’t even recognized him at first. He had shaved and showered, and his hair was neatly combed. He wore a plain dark grey suit and a conservative striped burgundy tie. He carried an old leather briefcase and my uncle’s cellular phone. A pair of half-moon reading glasses perched on the end of his nose.

“Hey, man,” I said, imitating Brian’s speech. “What’s with the suit?”

“Don’t knock it. It’s the only one I own. It’s probably as old as you are. I only wear it once every couple years for weddings and funerals.” He sucked in his stomach. “It’s getting a little tight, but I can still get in to it.”

He walked to a blue Cadillac parked in his driveway. It looked fairly new. He pulled a key fob out of his pocket and pushed a button. There was a discrete chirp from the car as the locks popped open, and the engine started on it’s own.

“Hey, man,” said James, imitating me imitating Brian. “What’s with the car?”

Brian laughed. “It ain’t mine.” He pointed, and we turned. I could see his car parked across the street a couple houses away. “I traded it with the lady that lives there. I used to help her take care of her husband when he had cancer. Now she bakes me cookies… and loans me her car when I need it. Her husband bought it for her just before he died, and she hardly ever drives it.”

Brian put the briefcase in the back seat. Then he pulled out a pen and a small pad of paper, and turned to Robby. “What’s your parent’s address?”

Robby recited his address, and then asked the question that was probably on all our minds, “So what are we doing?”

“We’re gonna get your stuff back, man. Kevin’s idea of driving his truck through the front window would probably work, but it’s a little messy. I’m gonna convince your mom that it’s in her best interest to let you have it.”

“How’re you going to do that?” I asked.

“I’m gonna pretend I’m Robby’s lawyer. I’ll tell her all the legal shit I’ll pile on her if she don’t give it to us.”

James laughed again. “Shit. You’re crazy.”

“No I ain’t. What do you think I got my degree in?”

“You have a law degree?” I asked. “What the fuck are you doing working construction?” I remember him telling me he’d gone to Berkley in the early 1970s, but he never mentioned what his degree was.

“Couldn’t handle being a lawyer, man” said Brian. “The courtroom scared the crap out of me; I’d freeze up. Too much stress. And corporate law totally sucks. No way I could work as a legal hack for Enron or some shitbag company like that.” He shivered melodramatically. “Construction is more my speed. I go to work. I build some shit. I go home. No worries.” He smiled.

“So what are we doing?” Robby asked.

“You guys all follow me over to Robby’s. Everyone stay in your trucks until I give you a signal. If I can convince her to let us in, I’ll wave at you. But if we all walk up to the door like a street gang, she won’t even open the door. Robby, you especially need to stay out of site until we’re in.”

Brian turned to me. “If we’re clear to go in, I want you to hang back. When everyone else is inside, and his mom is out of sight, you cut the phone line. The first thing she’s probably gonna do is try to call Robby’s dad.” He turned to Robby. “You’re job is to direct traffic once we’re inside. While we’re driving over, prioritize what you want most; the most expensive or most critical shit first. I’ll try to keep talking to her, keep her calm, keep her away from you. But if she really starts to object or freak out, we might have to leave quick. If we have time, we’ll get all of it. Once we have all your work stuff, we’ll start on your personal stuff. Don’t try to take anything they might consider theirs. Just your computer, your clothes, your own personal stuff. No furniture or anything like that, unless you bought it yourself with your own money.”

He turned to the rest of the guys. “Be careful not to break anything, and don’t intimidate her. None of you guys say a word to her, okay? Let me do all the talking. I don’t want any confrontations. Kevin, you especially. Just pretend like you hardly know Robby. If she finds out you’re his boyfriend, that’s just likely to set her off. Everybody just haul stuff to the trucks as quick as you can. Except for the electronic equipment, don’t worry about packing stuff or being neat. Just dump drawers into the back of the truck. We’ll worry about what to do with it once we’re out of there. Got it?”

Everybody nodded. Brian sounded confident, and most of the guys were grinning. They looked excited.

* * * * *

Robby rode with me in my uncle’s truck as we followed right behind the borrowed Cadillac. He hunched down in the seat when we pulled up in front of his parent’s house. In the mirror, I watched the other trucks pull up right behind me.

Brian got out of the car, retrieved his briefcase, and walked to the front door. I pushed the button to lower the electric windows. I wanted to be able to hear.

“Hello,” said Brian in a friendly voice when Robby’s mother opened the door. He introduced himself. “I represent your son, Robert. He came to see me this morning with a rather disturbing story. I came here to see if we can resolve this without any legal troubles.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Well I’m afraid there are a number of legal issues.” He set down his briefcase. “You locked him out of his home—”

“This is not his home,” she said crossly. “He’s no longer welcome here.”

“Yes, ma’am,” said Brian, his voice calm and placating. “I understand there were some disagreements. And since he is an adult, you have no obligation to provide housing for him. However, you can’t simply throw him out without notice. That’s called an illegal eviction. If you no longer want him to live here, you have to serve him proper notice. He has the same rights as any renter. I can provide you with a copy of the Landlord-Tenant Act, if you’d like.”

She shook her head, looking a little uncertain. From his hunched down position, Robby turned to me with his eyebrows raised.

“Then there is the matter of his work equipment,” Brian continued.

“It isn’t his. My husband paid for all of it.”

“Well, I can understand how you might get that idea, ma’am. But legally, you provided a loan. Robert purchased the equipment. He has all the receipts. The title to the van has his name on it, as do all the warranty cards for the equipment. He’s claimed them on his taxes. He has been making regular payments on the loan. In fact, has nearly paid the loan off, isn’t that true?”


“So if you deny him access to his equipment, that’s called theft. That’s a criminal offense”


“Furthermore, he can’t work without that equipment, as I’m sure you know. So, you are willfully preventing him from doing his job. You are therefore responsible for any financial losses he incurs. If you continue to deny him access to the equipment, those losses could be extensive, and quite costly for you. His business reputation could be harmed. He could loose future contracts. He would have to purchase replacement equipment, which would also be quite costly for you.”


“And then, of course, there is the assault and hospitalization. Your husband could do jail time for that, ma’am.”

She stood there with her mouth open, unable to say anything.

“Now Robert told me he would really rather not press criminal charges, and he really doesn’t want to sue you. But you really are not leaving many options.” Brian held up his fingers and counted off. “Just so you understand. Your husband could be arrested for assault, and you could both be arrested for theft. You could be fined for violation of the Landlord-Tenant Act. You could be sued for damages for lost current employment and future employment opportunities, the cost of replacement equipment, the cost of a hotel until such time as he has adequate opportunity to secure new housing, plus punitive damages for pain and suffering.”

“What?” she said again.

Robby and I looked at each other. Holy shit, I mouthed silently to him.

“He’s very distraught, ma’am.”

“Well, so is my husband. What about that other young man? The one that attacked him at the construction site yesterday?”

“I’m not aware of any attack. I’m sorry. Was your husband hurt at all? Did he have to go to the hospital?”

“Well, no…”

“So you have no evidence that this attack took place?”

“I have his shirt. It’s full of nail holes.”

“Ah. Is that the same shirt he wore when he beat his son? The one with Robert’s blood on it? You didn’t wash it by any chance, did you?”

“I… um…”

Brian noticed her backpedaling, and jumped on it. He pulled out my uncle’s cellular phone. “I’d be happy to call an Officer of the Court to come collect it as evidence if you’d like.” He paused. “Of course, if you washed it, unfortunately that would also prove you tampered with evidence, which is also a criminal offense. And DNA testing would still pick up his blood, even if it has been washed. Did you want me to make that call?”

“Um… no.”

Brian put the cellular phone back in his pocket. “Ma’am, I know you’re upset with Robert right now, but being gay isn’t against the law. You and your husband have committed a wide variety of illegal acts. If you don’t allow him to retrieve what is rightfully his, you could expose yourself to a lot of expensive litigation, and possibly prison time. If you don’t have personal liability insurance or significant assets, you could potentially lose your house. Is that really what you want?”

“Why can’t he just be normal?”

“Ma’am, I’m not here to discuss what is and isn’t normal. I’m here to try to help you avoid a costly legal battle. Do you want to avoid that?”

She sighed. “What do you want?”

Brian waved a hand toward the three trucks, and Robby scrunched down even farther. “I have some men here in these trucks. If you’ll allow it, they will collect Robert’s equipment. They won’t touch anything else. They’ll be gone in fifteen minutes. If you allow them to do that, I think I can persuade Robert to forego taking legal action against you.”

“I don’t know… I should really talk to my husband first.”

“Gee, ma’am, I’m not really sure that’s a good idea. After he assaulted Robert yesterday, I have to say I’m concerned for Robert’s safety. If he threatens Robert again, a restraining order might be necessary. I’m trying to help you avoid legal problems, not add more.”

“Fine, fine. Go ahead then. Take his stuff.” She sounded exasperated.

Brian immediately turned toward the street and waved for us to come. Then he turned back to Robby’s mother. “Thank you ma’am. I think this will be easier for everybody.”

I could see in my mirror that James and the other guys jumped out of the trucks and start to walk swiftly up the walkway.

Brian cleared his throat and coughed. “I’m sorry, ma’am. Could I trouble you for a glass of water? Perhaps it would be easier if we wait in the kitchen.” He gently guided her into the house by the elbow, leaving the front door open.

As soon as she was out of sight, I tapped Robby on the elbow. “Brian’s taken her inside. You better go show the guys what to grab. I’ll be in in a minute.”

“I’m nervous,” he said.

“No shit,” I said. “Me too.” I squeezed his hand. “Let’s just do this quick and get out of here.”

“I don’t want to get in another argument with her.”

“Probably best to let Brian handle her. He seems pretty good at it. Once your stuff is all out and you’re safe, you can try to patch things up later.”

“I hope so.” He squeezed my hand back and got out. “God, I hope my sister’s not home.”

I reached under the seat and pulled out a long screwdriver. Then I got out too. I looked up to see where the telephone line ran from the utility pole to the house. I walked quickly around the right side of the house. I looked up and saw where the lead wire was attached to the siding, and traced the cable down to a junction box that was conveniently at knee level. I looked around quickly, and then tried to position my body to block the view of nosey neighbors and anyone driving by. I slipped the end of the screwdriver between the cable and the siding, right next to the junction box. Using it as a lever, I pulled. The wires parted easily. Nobody was making any calls from Robby’s house for a while.

I felt a momentary twinge of guilt as I slipped the screwdriver into my back pocket and walked swiftly to the front door. They’d probably have to make a service call to the phone company—I guessed that Robby’s dad wouldn’t know how to re-wire it himself. Then my resolve hardened. If Robby’s dad hadn’t smacked him and then changed the locks, we wouldn’t have to resort to this.

Once inside, everything went fairly quickly. Robby led us all out to the garage. He opened the garage door, and pointed to some shelves. “Everything on these shelves go,” he said. “And these spools of cable.”

Three guys started carefully grabbing stuff, and I followed Robby back inside with James. We went to his room. Robby angrily stripped the linens off his bed. He tossed the sheets on the floor in the corner. “Theirs,” he said. “The blanket is mine though.”

I remembered the image he’d emailed me of him laying naked on the green blanket. “I think we need to keep this,” I grinned, taking it from him. My attempt at humor was lost on him. He was anxious and not in the mood.

Robby pointed at a bookshelf. “James, if you don’t mind, could you take those out? Most of them are textbooks I need for reference, or instructions for my equipment.”

“No problem.” James started pulling books off the shelf, and stacking them on the end of Robby’s desk.

“Kevin, maybe you can grab my clothes. We might not have time to get all of it, but I want to take as much as I can.”

“Sure,” I said.

Robby started unhooking all the cables from his desktop computer. I opened his closet. Not knowing what to keep and what not to, I just grabbed everything I could carry, not even bothering to take them off the hangers. I tossed a pile of clothes on the blanket on the bed and went for another load. It only took me a few minutes to empty the closet. I pulled the corners of the blanket up and made a huge bundle out of all of it. It was awkward, but I could carry it.

I followed James out. He was carrying a huge load of books. Not as big as my bundle of clothes, but I’m sure much heavier. His massive arms strained under the load. We quickly carried it all out to my uncle’s truck and shoved it all in. I could see the other guys making trips to and from the garage and the other two trucks. James and I hurried back in for another load. I could hear Brian talking calmly to Robby’s mother as I walked past the kitchen, but I kept going, deciding it was probably best to avoid her.

Robby had made two stacks of computer equipment on his desk, so James and I took that next. When we got out to the truck, I untied the corners of the blanket, and used the clothes as padding for the computer stuff.

Next was the heaviest load. A metal filing cabinet with all his business records in it. It took both James and I to carry it out to the truck. Then we took the drawers out of the bedroom chest and carried them out. James took three and I took two. We paid little attention to the contents; just dumped them in the truck and carried them back in the house. Using the now-empty drawers as boxes, Robby filled them with shoes, stuff from his desk drawers, stacks of CDs, DVDs, and computer disks, a couple of photo albums, chargers for his phone and other electronic equipment. We took those all out and carefully dumped them in the truck too.

When we got back to Robby’s room, he was just standing there holding a framed picture.

“Anything else in here?” James asked. “T.V., boom-box? Furniture?”

“Um, no,” said Robby quietly. “The rest stays.” He turned to us. I could see his eyes were red. “Uh, if there’s room, maybe we can take my bike. It’s a red mountain bike in the garage. Tell the guys I’ll be down in a minute, okay?”

“Sure. No problem.”

James left us alone. I looked around the room. It had taken a little longer than the promised fifteen minutes. Nevertheless, in a very short time, we had managed to nearly strip the room bare. Empty drawers were piled on the mattress. A few stray science fiction books remained on the shelves, left like abandoned children. A crucifix hung, crooked, on the wall, which Robby had pointedly not taken.

“I can’t believe it ends like this,” Robby sniffed. The tears brimmed over then. “I’ve lived here since I was seven years old.”

I looked down at the picture he was holding. It was he and his sister playing in the back yard, probably not long after they’d moved here.

I pulled Robby to me and hugged him.

“We should go,” I said. I hated to do it. This was going to be an awful memory. “The longer we stay, the more likely your mom will pitch a fit. Or one of the neighbors could call the cops or something.”

Robby sniffed and tried to pull himself together. “Yeah, I know.”

“This might not be the end, Robby. Who knows? Maybe you’ll work things out later.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

But he said it with no conviction whatsoever. He didn’t believe it, and frankly, neither did I. Yet we both clung to the fiction, desperate for any hope. We walked out and saw James heading for the kitchen. He looked in.

“We’re all done here, Brian,” said James. Then he walked out the front door.

I tried to get Robby out, but he was moving slow, like he had lead weights in his shoes. I could hear Brian and Robby’s mother coming out of the kitchen.

“I don’t understand why the phone isn’t working…”

She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw Robby. He stopped too. The rest of the guys were all gone except for Brian and me.

I hesitated. I worried about a confrontation, and I felt what I was coming to recognize as a protective urge. On one hand, I didn’t want to interfere, and possibly cause a scene, especially after what I’d gone through with his father. On the other hand, Robby was an emotional wreck right now, and there was no way I was going to let her trash him some more. I compromised and hovered near the door, staying out of the way, but ready to intervene if I needed to.

I tried to read her face, but I couldn’t tell what she was thinking. Was she horrified by Robby’s bruises and swollen nose and eye? Was she repulsed because of his sexual orientation? Was she as sad as Robby that he was leaving under these circumstances? Or was she glad to have him out of the house?

“Rob,” she said, “this is wrong…”

“Ma’am,” Brian interrupted, softly but firmly. “I must strongly urge you to be careful what you say right now. Especially in front of witnesses.” He set his briefcase down on a phone table.

She glanced at Brian and then turned back to Robby. She looked down. “Go, then. You have what you want. I… I just don’t understand this life of sin you’re choosing.”

Robby stood like he was planted there. He said nothing. He was facing her with his back to me, so I couldn’t read his expression. The room was silent for a few of the longest seconds I’ve ever experienced.

I jerked when I heard a metallic snap. It was Brian popping open the clasps of the briefcase. Robby and his mother turned toward him too. He withdrew a folder.

“I’m no theologian, ma’am,” said Brian. “But you might want to ask yourself: which is the greater sin? Loving someone you don’t approve of, or beating your own son?”

He opened the folder and handed it to her. Inside was a sheaf of pictures. Big, color, eight by ten blowups of Robby, cut swollen, and covered in blood. Brian must have taken the film in to a quick-lab during the two hours he’d been preparing.

Robby’s mother glanced at them only briefly. She blanched and dropped the folder. Pictures scattered across the floor, and she fled to the kitchen without another word.

Robby still hadn’t moved. I went to him and pulled at his shoulder. “Come on, Robby. Let’s go.”

Brian quickly closed his briefcase, and we each took one elbow, all but dragging Robby out the front door. We walked swiftly to my uncle’s truck and piled in. Brian got in the Cadillac and our little caravan drove off.

“Well, that was perfectly horrible,” said Robby, trying to sound nonchalant.

“I know,” I said, trying to be sympathetic. “At least we got all your stuff, and we didn’t have to resort to driving my truck through the front window.”

I reached over and took his hand. I held it for the rest of the drive back to Brian’s house.

Brian stepped out of the borrowed Cadillac. Already his tie was off and hanging out of his pocket. He took the suit jacket off immediately. The other guys piled out of the trucks and gathered around.

“Jesus Christ, I need a drink,” said Brian.

There were large, damp stains at his armpits, and he looked a nervous wreck. He’d seemed so cool and in control at Robby’s parents house, but I could see now that it had all been an act.

“That was fan-fucking-tastic,” said James, slapping Brian on the back. “I can’t believe how you talked her into letting us in. You almost got me believing all that bullshit.”

“It wasn’t bullshit,” said Brian. “I was being a little dramatic, but basically, everything I said to her was true. If Robby hired a real attorney, he could sue the shit out of them.”

“Can’t you get in trouble for pretending to be a lawyer or something?” I asked.

“Maybe, but I doubt it. I was very careful about what I said. I never actually claimed to be an attorney.” He grinned slyly. “She might have assumed that I was, but I can’t read minds, man. I can’t help what she thought.”

“You are one devious motherfucker,” James laughed. “Remind me never to piss you off. How did you know it would work?”

“Well, I didn’t know for sure.” He turned to Robby. “That was why I was asking you all those questions at the trailer earlier this morning. If your mother were more independent or more educated, she might not have bought it. And it would never have worked if your dad was home. He saw me and Kevin, and probably the rest of you guys yesterday. He’d probably have called the cops as soon as we pulled up in front of the house.”

James looked at the trucks parked on the street. “Now that we got all his shit, what do we do with it?”

“Good question,” said Brian. “Can we fit it all in your apartment, Kevin?”

“Not a chance,” I said.

“That’s why we were waiting until I could pay off my dad,” said Robby. “Then we could afford a bigger apartment together.”

“I guess you can start looking for a bigger place now,” said James. “But I don’t think you’re gonna find a place by this afternoon.”

“Robby still has to pay off the loan,” said Brian.

“Fuck that,” said James. “They just tossed him out! You said he could sue the crap outa them.”

“True. But none of that changes his obligation to pay off the loan. If he doesn’t, then they could take him to court for the balance, or try to repossess the equipment for failure to make payment.”

“That sucks.”

“Don’t worry, man,” said Brian. “You might not be able to get a new apartment by this afternoon, but we should be able to rent a self-storage unit. We’ll just have to look up the closest mini-storage place near where you live. Everything but the clothes should be able to go into a storage unit until you can get a bigger apartment, right? You can get what you need for work each day, just like you did from your parent’s garage.”

“Yeah, mostly,” said Robby, thinking. “I’ll need to set up my computer at the apartment. Maybe a couple more things. But the rest can go to a mini-storage place, I guess.”

“Shit,” I said. Brian gave me a baffled look. “Now it’ll take us longer to save up enough to move,” I explained.

Robby and I looked at each other. I couldn’t believe that just a few short days ago, I thought we had everything worked out. We had a plan. Our relationship seemed perfect. How could everything get fucked up so fast? Brian had been great in helping us get Robby’s stuff back, but now we faced yet another roadblock.

Brian scratched his head. Robby looked so down.

We walked into Brian’s house, which was a first for me. Most of his furniture looked old. Not ratty and beat up, just outdated. Golds and greens and oranges and browns; earth colors. 1970s colors.

Brian threw his suit coat over the arm of the sofa, and headed for the kitchen. He pulled a phone book out of a drawer, and opened it on the kitchen table. He paged through to the section he wanted.

“Here, Kevin,” he said. “See if you can figure out which one’s closest to your place.”

I read down the list. I found two that were not far, and roughly the same distance away. I marked them with a pencil. “Either of these would probably work.”

Brian carried the phone book over to the counter next to the phone. It was an old one that was actually attached to the wall. Brian was clearly not in a hurry to join the twenty-first century. He pulled his reading glasses out of his pocket and put them on, and then called the first number. After chatting for only a minute, he hung up.

“They’re full up,” he said, peering over the glasses. Then he dialed the second one. He talked for a minute and smiled to us. He put his hand over the mouthpiece. “They just opened up last year. They got lots of open units.” In a very efficient manner, Brian arranged for a storage unit, and gave them a deposit and two months rent by credit card.

“All set,” said Brian when he got off the phone.

“How much do we owe you?” I asked.

“Hmmm… How about nothing,” he said. “I’ll take care of it.”

“You don’t have to do that,” said Robby. “You’ve helped a lot already. I don’t want to be a bother.”

“Consider it an early housewarming present. I’ll get the deposit back eventually, man. I paid for two months, which should be long enough. If you keep it longer, you can pay on your own after that.”

“Thanks, Brian,” I said. “You’re alright. I don’t care what my uncle says about you,” I joked.

“You little dirtbag,” he laughed, punching my arm. “Now get out of here. All of you. Go unload those trucks so you can get back to work. You’re supposed to be building a condo, ya know? I’m gonna change outa this suit, and give Mrs. Granzio’s Caddy back. I’ll meet you down there in bit, okay.”

I walked out with Robby, smiling to myself. It looked like another hurdle had been overcome, with some help from friends.

I noticed Robby wasn’t smiling, though. Yes, we’d managed to recover his equipment so he could work, and figured out what to do with all his stuff until we could get a bigger place, but we had done nothing to resolve the larger problem: his parents. In fact, if anything, we might have made it worse. Eventually, his mother would probably figure out we’d conned her, and she’d be angry with Robby for deceiving her.

I sighed. As I drove to the mini-storage place, I tried to think of what I could do to put a smile back on his face. Nothing I thought of could be considered more than superficial. His face and scalp would heal fairly quickly. I feared the damage to his soul would take much longer.

(To be continued.)

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