by Tim Mead
Different crews left the shop at different times. Grass doesn't cut nicely when it's wet, so the lawn mowing guys left to get to their first job of the day no earlier than 9:00, by which time the dew was beginning to dry. Besides, some people didn't like to hear the mowers running earlier than that. Crews that were doing digging and planting, though, could start earlier, especially if it was a commercial rather than a residential job. Some of them left at 8:00 or even before that if the job was a distance away.
So Joe made a point of opening the shop at 7:30 weekday mornings. He was surprised on that Monday to find the shop open when he got there. Dave Cromer was sitting on Joe's desk. Joe remembered when Dave wore a green company tee shirt like all the other guys. These days, when he spent most of his time doing design work, submitting bids, negotiating with prospective clients, and supervising a growing business, he dressed for the part. This morning he looked great in his blue dress shirt, green and blue striped tie, khakis, and highly-polished loafers.
"Hey, Dave, good morning!"
"Good morning to you, Joe." Dave stood up to shake hands with Joe.
Dave smiled. "Nope. I just want to see each of the guys as they come in this morning. And I'll start with you."
He'd said nothing was wrong, but Joe was still a bit nervous.
"Brody and I are having a cookout on the 4th, this Wednesday. We're inviting all the guys on the crews. And you, too, of course."
Joe relaxed. "That's nice of you, boss. What time should I come? And can I do anything to help?"
"Anytime late in the afternoon you want to come is fine. We'll have beer for those old enough and pop for the ones who aren't. You could contribute to that if you want. We'll probably eat around seven."
"You got tables and chairs for all of us?"
"Yeah, Joe. Don't sweat it. Just come and have a good time."
"I will, thanks."
* * *
That evening he'd finished washing the dishes when his mother called.
"Hi, Mom! What's up?"
"Hello, Joey, I'm fine thank you. And how are you?"
"Woops! Sorry. Yeah, I'm good. And you're okay?"
"Yes, dear." He could hear the smile in her voice. "You act as if I never call you."
"Well, you gotta admit I'm usually the one that calls you."
"And you're very good about it. This time I'm calling because I have news."
He waited for her to go on.
"Sue called this afternoon." Sue was her sister, Bill's mother.
"Oh, how's she? How's Uncle Will?"
"They're both fine, dear. She was calling to invite us to drive over to Mansfield for the 4th. Billy's going to be home and she thought you boys would like to see each other."
"Damn! Oops, sorry, Mom. I'd love to see Bill. And Aunt Sue and Uncle Will, too, of course. But I can't come."
"Oh!" She loaded a lot of disappointment into that one word. "Why not?"
"My boss is having a backyard party for the guys in the crews Wednesday afternoon. I have to show up, especially with the new job and all." Besides, he was looking forward to it, but he didn't want to tell his mother that.
"I'm sorry, sweetie. But I understand. With you being in charge of the crews, you have to be there."
"That's it. But why don't you go anyway? The visit would do you good."
"You know, I think I will."
"Be careful on the road. And give my love to all of them."
"I'll do that."
"I'll call this weekend some time and see how it went, okay?"
"Good. Have fun at Dave's party. Love you, Joey."
"Yeah. Love you, too, Mom."
As eager as he was to go to Dave and Brody's party, he was disappointed that he wasn't going to see Bill Kendall. They hadn't laid eyes on each other since Joe's senior year in high school. Now Bill was out of law school and practicing somewhere in the East. He didn't get home often, according to Joe's mother, who got it from Aunt Sue.
Bill had been a hunk. Joe wondered what he looked like now that he was, what? He'd be about 27 now. Not exactly over the hill if he'd kept himself in shape. Joe felt a stirring in his groin as he thought of some of the things the two of them had done all those years ago. Shit! Damn shame he wouldn't get to see his cousin.
He picked up the phone and called his mother. She was surprised to hear from him so soon but pleased when he asked for her sister's number.
"Hey, Uncle Will, this is Joe. How are you?"
"Good, Joe. How are you? I hear you got a promotion. Congratulations."
"Thanks. I haven't exactly got the world by the tail, but it's a definite improvement. How's Aunt Sue?"
"She's fine. All excited that Bill's coming home."
"Yeah, I'll bet. That's why I'm callin'. I'd really like to come over with Mom, but I've got something I've got to do on the 4th, something work related. I was wonderin' how long Bill's going to be in Mansfield. I'd like to see him."
"I'm sure he'd love to see you, too, Joe. But he's flying into the Akron-Canton Airport Tuesday afternoon and flies out Thursday morning. It's just a quick trip, I'm afraid."
"Oh." Joe couldn't keep the disappointment from his voice. "Well, tell him I said `hi.' Maybe next time he's home we can get together. And give my love to Aunt Sue, okay?"
"Sure, Joe. I'll pass on both messages. It was good talking with you."
As he watched TV that evening, Joe found himself often ignoring what was on the screen, his mind going back to Bill and the things they had done together. These memories gave him a hardon, so he turned off the TV and went to the bedroom.
* * *
Joe had never been to Dave's house. Dave had been married until the previous summer and he and his wife didn't entertain the "troops." Brody had moved in with him soon after the first of the year. Joe saw Dave often enough at work, for the boss stopped by the shop two or three times a week to see how things were going.
He thought the rambling, ranch-style house was impressive. It stood on a big lot with lots of tall trees. There were a couple of cars in the long driveway, so Joe parked on the street, not wanting to block anyone in.
Carrying a twelve-pack of beer under one arm and a similarly sized carton of cola under the other, he was met at the door by Brody, who relieved him of his burden. Behind Brody was a big, gray dog with gray eyes.
"Great to see you, Joe. This is Tom."
Joe knelt and held his hand out to the dog, who sniffed it and wagged his tail. He hugged the dog, got his face licked, and knew he'd made a friend.
A smiling Brody said, "We're going to be out back, but would you like a tour of the house first?"
"Hang on just a sec." Brody took the beer and pop into what Joe assumed was the kitchen. Tom followed him.
True to his word, his host, or one of them, was back quickly.
It seemed rather "gay" for Brody to offer to show him around their home. In his experience, that was something women did. But he had to admit he was curious to see what the home of two gay men looked like. Except for the living room, which seemed awfully formal for Joe's taste, he was impressed. Not with the expense of the furnishings, but that it looked comfortable, the sort of thing Joe thought two men who could afford it would like. He especially admired the family room, with its window wall, tweed and leather furniture, and big stone fireplace.
When they got to the back yard Dave surprised Joe by giving him a hug. Then he handed him a beer.
"You know Hank and Chuck, of course, and Justin and Bailey. The others should be along pretty soon," Dave said. "And there are snacks on the tables. Help yourself."
The tables Dave mentioned were traditional picnic tables with attached benches. But they didn't look like the ones often found in parks. They looked brand new and exemplified much more meticulous workmanship than usual. They had been stained to match the gray shakes on the house and then covered with several layers of polyurethane, to judge from the shine. Joe guessed each would seat eight comfortably, which would be about right if Brody and Joe had invited only the crews.
The four guys who were there took time to say hello to him, and then they returned to an argument over the Tigers' performance that season.
The discussion was interrupted first by the arrival of Dave's father, Bart Cromer, and right after that by more crew members. Soon young men were flopped in loungers, sitting in chairs, on the ground or on the benches, or standing by the drinks table, carrying on a number of separate conversations, all lively. Joe was pleased that "his guys" seemed to be getting along so well. He knew they didn't have much chance to socialize at work.
At the edge of the large patio was the biggest gas grill Joe had ever seen. `But then Dave'll need it to cook for this crowd,' he thought.
And Dave did indeed cook up a prodigious number of brats and burgers. Brody, with help from Justin, carried out huge bowls of potato salad, macaroni salad, baked beans, cole slaw, two enormous trays of cut veggies, and piles of buns, plus the usual condiments. `Great,' Joe thought. `Nothing fancy, just lots of good food.'
It looked as if they all gorged themselves. Yet they managed to find room for the chocolate cake and ice cream that ended the meal.
The back yard had too many trees for anything like touch football, but some of the guys threw Frisbees around. For a while Tom chased them, but then he gave up and collapsed, cooling his belly in the grass.
As he sat in one of the loungers feeling full and happy, Joe paid more attention to the landscaping. There were flower borders around the three sides of the yard, which was surrounded by a chain link fence, probably to keep Tom at home. But the flowers masked the fence. Tall phlox, rudbeckia, and day lilies provided height and color in the back. In front of them were marigolds and zinnias of various colors, white alyssum, and blue ageratum. Joe could see what people meant when they used the words, "a riot of color." Around the bases of some of the tall pin oaks Dave had created irregularly shaped beds with shade plants like coral bells, ferns, and hosta.
As Joe sat there admiring the effect, Bart Cromer asked, "Mind if I sit with you?"
"Not at all, sir. I was just enjoying Dave's garden. I might have known he'd have something really nice. But how'd he get so much done in such a short time?"
Bart chuckled. "First of all, the borders with the perennials were already there. That's one of the reasons he bought this house, I think. But the shade beds around the trees were his idea. He and Brody made those this spring."
"Cool! They look as if some pros did `em. I hear Brody's interested in landscaping, too."
"Well, you know he comes from a family of florists. But, yes, he's interested enough that he's decided to major in it at CSU."
Joe wondered how much loving Dave had to do with Brody's decision, but he didn't feel he should say anything about that to Dave's father.
"So, Joseph, how are things going with your new job?"
Joe took a deep breath. "So far, so good. I like it, and I'm really grateful Dave trusts me to do it, but I'm still afraid I'm gonna screw something up."
"Son, we've all screwed something up on the job. It's going to happen. Just do the best you can and ask Dave for help if you need to."
"Thanks for the advice, sir. And the vote of confidence."
"Dave passed on to me something you did that pleased him. Had to do with a couple of kids putting diesel fuel in a tractor, as I recall." He chuckled.
"Oh, yeah. I guess I didn't explain to them about the color coding on the cans."
"All the others seem to know. Maybe those kids just weren't listening. But the point is, one of them told Dave about how well you handled it. He said they were new on the job and were afraid you'd chew them out. Instead you were patient and allowed the possibility that it might have been your fault. So you see, you handled that little problem just fine."
"Thanks, Mr. Cromer."
"Just a word of advice. Your predecessor was a pretty stern guy. Ed had the proverbial heart of gold, though he didn't often let on. But then, he was twenty years older than the young men on the crews. You, on the other hand, were a crew member yourself until this spring. The guys who've worked for us before think of you as one of them. And that's okay. They all know you and like you. But don't be afraid to assert your authority if you need to. You handled the diesel fuel incident with tact. And that's good. Just don't take too much shit from any of them, okay?"
Joe grinned. "Got ya, sir."
Bart grinned back. "And I suspect you may eventually have to deal with the Quinn boy. He and Brody are close friends. And he played on the Hammers last season with Brody and Dave. He comes from a great family. He's basically a good kid. But if his mouth gets on your nerves, yank a knot in his tail."
"I think his boyfriend may manage to civilize him some," Joe said, laughing, "but I'll deal with him if he needs it." Joe felt good. He was fed not quite to the point of discomfort and relaxed by the beer he'd consumed. And around him were his workmates, some of whom he thought of as friends. He was glad Dave had had this party. Glad he'd been invited.
"Mr. Cromer, can I ask a question?"
"Joe, I'm Bart. And yes, ask away."
"I thought you'd moved to Florida."
Bart chuckled. "That's not a question son. But you're right. I have a condo in Florida. But this time of the year Florida's hell. So I'm visiting the boys for the month of July."
Joe was amused to hear Dave and Brody referred to as boys. After all, Brody was about his age and Dave was three years older.
He was about to ask Bart something about where he lived in Florida when Dave interrupted by saying loud enough to be heard by all, "Guys, those of you who are going to the fireworks in Colby had better get started. The rest of you are welcome to stay here as long as you like."
Four of the high schoolers left because they had plans to take their girlfriends to the fireworks, but everyone else stayed. Dave and Brody surprised everyone by bringing out wire coat hangers that had been straightened out, big bags of marshmallows, Hershey bars, and graham crackers. So they could make s'mores over the gas grill.
Joe hadn't had those since he was a kid. Nor, apparently, had the others. They all seemed to like it, and soon they were eating s'mores and licking sticky fingers as they told stories of boy scouts and family get-togethers.
* * *
While the weather on the 4th had been perfect, summer at its best in northern Ohio, a front moved through overnight and it rained all day Thursday and most of Friday. Joe's crews were unable to work either day. Joe spent both days in the shop. By Friday afternoon every blade was sharpened, the spark plugs had all been cleaned, re-gapped, and replaced, the computer work was caught up, and Joe was bored.
It cleared up by mid-Friday afternoon, and Joe got a call saying that the Hammers' game that night was on. They were going to play the Sylvania Shockers, wet field or not.
As it turned out, the field was in good shape. The base paths were a little muddy, but the infield grass and the outfields hadn't become too soggy. Balls tended to die when they landed, but the fielders of both teams soon adjusted for that.
As they were leaving, after losing a close one to the team from suburban Toledo, Dave draped an arm around Joe's shoulder.
"We're two days behind, and the grass is going to be really growing after this rain. Are you free tomorrow?"
"Why don't you get on the phone and see how many guys you can round up for tomorrow? Make sure they don't get the idea they have to work for getting off on the 4th. We'll see that they get paid. But if they've got plans, don't give them a hard time. We'll catch up when we catch up."
"Okay, Dave. I'll go home and get a shower. Then I'll go to the office. Don't have the guys' phone numbers at home."
"Thanks, Joe. If you get in a real bind, call me. Brody and I can help out if necessary."
As it turned out, Joe was able to get all the crew guys but three, and they had commitments for the weekend. The others all seemed happy to work. Joe thought their willingness probably had a lot to do with their respect for Dave.
Since an odd number of guys were available, Joe went out with Kevin Murphy so there'd be two on each crew. He enjoyed the work, even if it meant he didn't get his laundry and grocery shopping done that day. Kevin was a quiet guy, a hard worker with a nice smile. And, Joe couldn't help noticing, strong legs and a great ass.
* * *
When he got home that evening, he showered and pulled on a clean tee and a pair of khaki shorts. He put a frozen Big Man dinner in the microwave. While it was nuking, he checked his mail. In addition to the usual fliers, there was an envelope that had a handwritten address. He didn't recognize the hand, but the return address was that of William Kendall, Esq. in Morristown, New Jersey. Bill had obviously used one of those cheap bill-paying envelopes you can buy in the supermarket. It had been postmarked in Mansfield on Thursday morning.
`Esq? What the fuck is that? So Billy lives in New Jersey, huh? Wonder why he's writing me?'
He opened the envelope to find a piece of paper torn from a legal pad. In what looked to be a hasty scrawl in blue ink his cousin had written,
I'm sorry I didn't get to see you on the 4th. It was good to see your mom, though. You should have been here. The food was fantastic! The only bad part was that Mom hauled out her scrap books and we all had to look at pictures.
Some of them were pretty embarrassing. Looking at pictures of you, though, reminded me of the good times we used to have. The last time I saw you, you were all arms and legs with big hands and feet. But your mom showed us a pic of you she keeps in her wallet. You've grown into your body very well. You're a hunk, in fact!
Look, I'm going to be home for a few days at Labor Day time. Let's make a point of getting together, huh? For old times' sake? We have a lot of catching up to do.
Why don't you have an email address? How can you live without a computer? Write me. Or call: 973 555 8759.
`Wow!' Joe thought. `He wants to see me. That'd be cool. Wonder what he looks like now. Suppose he wants to fool around? That'd be cool, too. Guess I'd better write him.'
As he ate his supper, he was thinking maybe he should start putting some money away for a computer. Even though Bryant wasn't that far away, he'd at least save some long distance charges if he could email his mother instead of calling her all the time. Then he realized that it would take a lifetime of fifty cent calls to pay for the computer. Still . . .
He remembered he'd promised to call his mother that weekend, so he did. She wanted to know all about the cook-out at Dave's and he told her. Then he asked her about the visit with her sister and family in Mansfield. She talked mostly about Bill and how well he was doing. He was working in a big law firm, making lots of money, apparently, even though he was a junior member. Oh, and he'd had a "boyfriend" as she called it when he was in law school, but they'd broken up after getting their degrees and Bill was alone now.
"How does he look?"
He regretted asking the question. So far as he knew neither his mother nor Bill's parents knew about what he and Bill had gotten up to when they were teens. But she seemed oblivious.
"Oh, he's looking well. He's gotten rid of that awful mustache he had in college and that's an improvement. But of course he's not as handsome as you, Joey."
* * *
The room had no furniture, but the floor was covered with what looked like wall-to-wall wrestling mats.
Brody had a hand on the back of Dave's head. Dave's hands were busy kneading Brody's ass cheeks. They were kissing, jaws working, tongues obviously busy. They pulled apart, looked at each other, and then kissed again -- this time more tenderly.
Both were wearing jeans and tees, both barefoot. Brody's jeans rode so low on his hips that the tip of his cock showed above the waistband. He began to hump his hardness against Dave's.
Dave pushed him away, looked at him through half-closed eyes, and shook his head. He grabbed the bottom hem of Brody's tee and began to lift. Brody raised his arms so his partner could take off the shirt. Then, after doing the same to Dave, he began to tweak the nipples on Dave's perfect pecs.
Dave grasped the front of Brody's jeans, unfastening the button and lowering the zip. Brody caught on and did the same to Dave. Both had to wiggle a little and push their partner's jeans to get them to fall, but in a moment they'd stepped out of them and were facing each other once more, now naked, dicks bobbing.
They kicked their clothing aside. Dave took Brody's hand and led him away from the center of the room toward the left, where they lay down on their sides and began to 69.
From the right came Bailey and Justin. They wore tees and baggy shorts. Like the first pair, they were barefoot. And hard. Justin seemed to be walking on the balls of his feet. When they arrived at the center of the room it was obvious that Bailey had his hand down Justin's shorts with a finger up Justin's ass and was lifting him.
Reaching the center of the room, they turned to face each other. Bailey's hand remained down the back of Justin's shorts, trapping Justin's left arm against his side. Justin, still on the balls of his feet, used his right hand to rub the back of his partner's neck. They kissed, tenderly at first but with growing passion.
The pair on the floor over on the left were so caught up in their mutual fellatio they had seemed to ignore what was going on in the center of the room, where the younger men were grinding their crotches together.
Bailey and Justin separated long enough to pull off their tees and drop their shorts. Neither was wearing underwear. Justin's light brown hair was bleached from working in the summer sun, the hair in his pits and his pubes a bit darker. Bailey's hair was dark brown, nearly black, everywhere, his pubes particularly lush.
They embraced, hard cocks trapped against bellies.
A moment or so later, Dave and Brody uncoupled and sat, knees drawn up against their chests, watching Justin and Brody.
Then, as if it were choreographed, Justin got on his hands and knees. Brody came over and took a similar position, facing Justin. Both were in profile to the viewer. Then the two dark-haired men got into position, each behind his partner, and began to rim. Justin and Brody smiled at each other as they received the ministrations of their lovers.
It was like watching a movie with no soundtrack. No one spoke. If there were groans they went unheard.
The final tableau occurred when Bailey and Dave shoved their cocks into their mates. Brody and Justin continued to smile at each other insofar as their passion allowed. Eventually, the dark-haired men shot their seed into their blond lovers and then leaned forward, allowing the men underneath to bear most of their weight.
As the vision faded, Justin and Brody were kissing each other as Bailey and Dave watched, smiling.
Christ! Joe awoke to find his hand pressed against his cock, which was covered by now very messy boxer shorts. He looked at the clock. It was only 9:30. The Tigers' game was still on the TV.
He'd spent the evening at home. Jeff had gone with some work buddies to see the Mud Hens play, and Roger hadn't called for a while. So after supper he'd stripped to his shorts and turned on the game.
Obviously he'd dozed off. Man, what a dream! He could remember every detail. Every hot detail. But what had brought it on? And how about that bit at the end? He'd always suspected there was a special relationship between the Quinn kid and the boss's boyfriend. Not that he thought they'd ever fooled around. But still, Quinn pushed buttons nobody else would dare to. And Cox didn't seem to mind.
Joe didn't dream much, so he wondered if there was anything significant about this one. He'd have to think about that. And he sure as fuck wouldn't have any trouble remembering it.
Right now, he needed to get out of his gooey boxers.
Just as he stood, the phone rang.
"Joe, it's Roger. How's it going?"
"I, um, I'm okay, Rog. How are you?"
"Good. But you don't sound right. What's up?"
Joe wasn't about to tell him. "I'm fine, seriously. I must've dozed off and I just woke up."
"Well, sorry I interrupted your beauty sleep. But I'm wondering about getting together tomorrow evening. Marcus is here. Came back to pick up some stuff he stored at my house. He's leaving Monday morning, and we thought maybe the three of us could have supper together and then go back to his motel room for a while."
"Um, Rog, why do you guys want to include me? I'd feel sort of in the way."
"Not at all. Marcus says he wants to apologize for giving you a hard time in the bar that night. He says dinner will be his shout."
"He doesn't need to do that. I mean, he doesn't really have to apologize or pay for dinner."
"Dude! Will you just show up?" Roger sounded somewhere between amused and exasperated.
"Sure. Just tell me where and when."
To Be Continued
Big hugs to Drew, Tinn, and Mickey for all kinds of editorial advice and encouragement.
Emails encouraged at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you email me, please put the story title in the subject line so I'll know it isn't spam. Thanks. --Tim