LIFE'S A GRIND
The usual disclaimers apply. If for some legal reason you shouldn't read this...don't.
A special acknowledgement to Drew for encouraging me to tell a better story through his edits and suggestions. And a big thanks to Brad for his patient proofreading and editing. Finally, a shout-out to Trab for the final tweaks to get the story 'just right.'
I love to receive feedback at email@example.com. My other stories are listed in Nifty's Prolific Authors section.
Chapter 4, EXPANDING HORIZONS
"Did you ace the test?" Robert asked Jeremy as they walked downstairs to the first floor corridors and their lockers. Both seniors had opted for an open period at the end of the day for their final year of high school; Robert used it for studies and Jeremy took the time for travel to Bally's. Advanced Spanish was a senior elective that each had chosen with an agreed upon support group of two.
"Um...all right, I guess. You?" Jeremy nodded and smiled at some nameless sophomore and junior girls they passed along the way. It was Friday afternoon and most students were ready for partying. 'Gawd, I must be getting old,' he thought. 'They all look so young.'
"No problemo. We've almost gotten through this pathetic excuse for academic excellence with fantastic GPAs but Spanish will probably be one of the most valuable courses once we're out there on the streets." Robert stopped at his locker, stowed the books and grabbed his jacket. Jeremy was two lockers away and did the same.
"I agree even if you're so full of shit."
"Endearing words from my articulate pal," Robert replied with a laugh.
"Bobby, those GPAs and the scores we got on the SATs are going to be very helpful getting into our first-choice schools. And for me, winning a scholarship is a necessity." Both had applied to the Early Decision programs at their prospective schools: Jeremy to neighboring DePaul, Robert to Northwestern. Acceptance notifications would be announced in early January.
"You got it in the bag. I wouldn't be surprised if you get one of those 'full-board' scholarships. I'm goin' to miss seeing your sorry ass next fall," Robert said as they exited the school building.
"Sorry ass? You're just jealous." He loved joking with Robert. The two had been pulling each other's chain for over ten years. They were both determined to keep up the verbal jousting for a long time.
"Jealous that your buns can only attract the younger girls at school? That's a good thing cuz you've gone through most the women in the senior class," Robert said as he playfully swatted Jeremy's backside.
"A little variety is a good thing." Jeremy momentarily thought back to when he'd lost his cherry...and the girl's...two years ago. Since then, he had bedded most of the "A" material in their class.
"A little variety? Kee-rist, from what I hear, you've nailed every hot piece in school."
"You didn't hear that from me." Jeremy had followed the advice of Uncle Win and never bragged about his sexual successes. He was always safe and treated the girl with respect. "If you don't mind me asking, what were the results of your talk with Rachael?" He remembered that Robert was going to speak with Rachel about no longer going together.
"Kaput...over. It was a joint decision that I told you I saw coming. The deal is we're going to make appearances at a few of the holiday parties for her sake and image. She's met someone from another school who she's interested in...so I guess this works out well for everyone. You're looking at an almost single man," Robert said with a shrug.
"Whatever the case it's time for both of us to move on to college and check out all the possibilities there. Just for the record...I'll miss you, too."
"We'll still see each other in the 'hood and I suspect Chicago's going to be our home for a long time. Look at those old farts shuffling around the park; I think that's probably goin' to be us in 60 years."
"For sure...after I'm done chasing ambulances and you've delivered your last baby," Jeremy replied with a grin.
"Let's get through pre-law and pre-med first." Robert was as intent on becoming a doctor as Jeremy was a lawyer. "In case we don't touch base later, I'll see you at the movies tomorrow around six. Ty and Manny will join us at the theater." Tyrone Brown and Manuel Sanchez were Robert's neighborhood friends who attended Quigley Catholic Preparatory Seminary.
"I picked up an extra shift tomorrow afternoon so I'll come right from work. We're meeting at the Village Art Theater?"
"Yep. The new Matthew McConaughey football flick looks pretty good. Ty's got his car so we can grab some pizza at Piece in Wicker Park afterwards. And, with the folks out of town, I'll break out some smokes back at the house. You planning on staying over?"
"Yeah, I'm cool with that. I dunno about weed, though. I get all goofy when I smoke then fall to sleep," Jeremy said with a shrug. "Ty and Manny are okay with it?" The two guys were more of acquaintances than friends to him. He knew they were honor roll students and wrestled on Quigley's team. He judged that they probably competed in the 140 to 145 pound class. 'Wiry, compact little guys who weren't afraid of anyone.'
"Even if they become priests someday, they ain't yet. We all just chalk off weed as a life experience and tension reliever. I figure smoking is pretty safe at my place. And since they live down the street from my house, there's no driving involved." Robert stopped at the corner and added, "I've got some Christmas shopping to do so I'm catching the bus down to Michigan Avenue."
"Okay, Doc. I'm off to the gym. See ya tomorrow." Jeremy waved goodbye and started his journey to Bally's.
It was a sunny early December afternoon and the short walk down to Lincoln Park was pleasant. Jeremy hated January and February when he had to head east into the wind as it whipped off the lake. But today was a breeze - literally and figuratively. 'One more week before Christmas break,' he thought while he waited for the Clark 22 or 36 bus. 'Got just enough saved up to get Mom and Sis new sweaters.' In Chicago, one never had enough warm layers of clothing for the long winter.
Friday was always Jeremy's day of workout dread. After using his favorite upper-body machines, he always spent the last half-hour on an inclined treadmill at a 7 mph pace. To pass the time, he either watched one of the television channels - reading the dialogue - or listened to FM music on his old Walkman. He was sure that he was the only guy in Chicago without an iPod...but that wasn't part of his tight budget. 'Maybe down the road,' he considered while he pounded out miles on the moving tread.
By the time he checked in at the front desk, Jeremy still felt the burn in his legs - a good indicator of physical accomplishment - and a general tightness throughout his body. He had pushed himself and considered the various rewards that might be available after work. 'Might stop off at the Baskin Robbins for a sundae,' he considered. Tonight was a solo night for him at the desk. Friday and Saturday evenings were usually the slowest: class schedules at minimum attendance and trainers who didn't have many appointments. Worst of all, for the company, was the lack of walk-in potential members.
He casually waved when Zach walked by with a client and busied himself with paperwork and housecleaning to make the evening pass by faster. Jeremy was re-arranging the logs when he sensed someone walk towards the counter. He looked up, automatically smiled and reached for the member's card to swipe in the computer. In a delayed moment, he realized that this was his mystery man from the showers the other day - the stud who had been checking him out.
Jeremy froze his smile and waited for the computer screen to give the member access to the club. 'Gotta save this screen after he goes inside,' he decided. "Hey, Garin, have a good workout," he said when the access was approved. "It's pretty quiet tonight so all the machines will be available without much of a wait." He handed the card back to Garin J. McManus and studied him. 'Yeah, he must be some sort of model.'
"Thanks, Jeremy. I'm just in for a fast workout. Gotta pump up for the ladies, ya know?" Garin smiled and winked.
"S'pose so." Jeremy nodded and realized he had been identified by his nametag. But the guy was so smooth that he never broke eye contact. "This is a work night for me."
"Buddy, from what I've seen, you probably have no problems with ladies...or guys." Garin raised an eyebrow and chuckled.
"Um, just for the record, it's ladies." Jeremy didn't quite know where this impromptu conversation was heading but his degree of comfort was rapidly diminishing. 'Christ, I wish someone else would come up to the desk,' he thought while shifting his weight from one leg to another.
"You know, I really should apologize. I was joking and I think it came out wrong. Just for the record, it's ladies for me, too. But several of my friends are gay. No hard feelings?"
"No, I appreciate that you clarified where you're coming from."
"Here, let's shake and start all over again. Okay?" Garin replied as he offered his hand.
"Deal." Jeremy took the extended hand and shook it. He had an immediate positive impression about Garin, the mystery man and filed away the recent cruising encounter in the showers as a misunderstanding.
"Cool." Garin shook hands and said, "Listen, I've got a business situation that you might be interested in discussing and I'm not coming on or trying to hit on you. You're here in the evenings during the week...right?"
"Monday through Friday - five to nine." Jeremy was very curious and intrigued. 'Business situation? Hmmm, where is this guy was coming from?' He wondered as he slowly lowered his guard.
"I'd like to talk about something confidential but away from here. I've got a part-time job available that might be of interest to you."
"Job? What kind of..."
"Nothing illegal or dangerous. And it pays good money. Correction...make that great money. You're around, ah, 19 and in college?"
"No. I turn 18 the end of next month and I'm a senior over at Lincoln Park High. Planning on going to DePaul this coming fall."
"That works. Would it be possible to buy you some dinner on Monday night so we can run over what I have in mind?"
"I could manage that. Most of my tests were over this week. But I gotta be home by ten or so. Family obligations." Jeremy's curiosity had been aroused but he decided to set up some limitations on any meeting. 'The guy seems okay and I don't feel threatened,' he concluded. 'If it's a job that pays more than the eight bucks an hour, I'll be able to help out with Mom and get a little extra for school. Maybe a few other things for me.'
"We'll eat around here someplace and I can drive you home. If not before, I'll see you on Monday. Oh, here's my card."
"Thanks, Garin," Jeremy replied. He watched the handsome man disappear into the gym before looking at the card. The printed information matched the name and telephone number on the computer screen. The business was something called Big Smiles, Ltd. and listed only a post office box address in the same 60057 zip code neighborhood. 'Looks legit,' he thought while feeling the engraved, raised lettering on the card. 'Is this guy a dentist or something like that?'
"Hey, buddy, you look a little perplexed," Zach said as he approached the counter.
"Naw. Just caught up in some paperwork." Jeremy put the card in his pocket and added, "I see you've got one more appointment that should be arriving soon."
"Typical for a Friday. I'll be able to get outta here early."
"Where's Gio? You guys are usually like bookends."
"He decided to take the evening off cuz it's slow. We're meeting for dinner at Mia Francesca at eight."
"Did you two get everything worked out the other night?" Jeremy had sensed tension between the men the past couple of days. They were business-friendly but guarded with each other.
"We both learned things about each other. It wasn't exactly the way I had wanted it, but then sometimes it's best when there's spontaneity." Zach looked at the reservation sheet for the next couple of days and added, "We'll both be here tomorrow all day...it looks busy."
"I'll see you guys, then. I'm picking up an afternoon shift." Jeremy studied the good-looking trainer and picked up that Zach didn't want to discuss anything more about Gio. 'I think I'd better let them bring up this subject,' he sensed. 'This is a potential minefield.'
"Great. See ya then. By the way, your expression is giving you away. Don't worry about Gio and me. We're working out some shit together. Tonight's dinner is...to sort things out."
"Good luck on settling it...whatever the deal was."
"The 'deal' was pretty big. But, like your uncles, I think that Gio and I have a good chance to be together a long time."
"That's cool," Jeremy replied. A slight shiver went through his body at the mention of his uncles. "Take care and good luck." He signaled a 'thumbs up' before turning to greet an arriving member.
Saturday was definitely boys' night at the movies. As planned, Jeremy met Robert, Ty and Manny at the theater for the testosterone-laced movie, "We Are Marshall". He noticed that a majority of the viewers were young males in for their macho fix. His gaydar also picked up on several men who were obviously past school age. Jeremy observed that Manny got just a little too bubbly and excited with his enthusiasm about some of the young male actors. 'Bingo,' he thought, when he saw Manny's hand rest on Ty's thigh for a few moments in the theater during one of the more emotional scenes. Ty just smiled and placed his hand on top of Manny's before they disengaged. 'Maybe the priesthood wouldn't be a good vocation for either guy.'
After a feast of pizza, the crew returned to Robert's house where the two seminary prep students not only enjoyed more than their fair share of hits on the bong; they shared a volley of silly, semi-clean jokes. Jeremy purposely paced himself smoking and Robert followed his friend's lead. When the humor seemed to run its course, Robert plugged his iPod into the living room stereo system. A steady stream of Incubus, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nine Inch Nails and other alternative rock groups - new and old - helped to further loosen the atmosphere. So loose that after an hour of pop and pot, the two Quigley guys were keeping beat - in disjointed slow time - to the music while they stared at the glowing, glob-rolling, vintage lava lamp on the bookshelf in the corner.
"Bobbie, let's go down and shoot a few. I think Ty and Manny are in orbit somewhere," Jeremy said. He felt a little light-headed and needed some activity. The basement was typical of those in many midwestern houses: furnace, washer/dryer equipment, storage and a rec area. In the case of the Stein family, the rec room included a pool table in mint-condition.
"Yeah, I don't think we'll be missed. But let me put the stuff away and you crack a few windows," Robert said with a giggle. He gathered the bong equipment and grass before disappearing up to his room.
Jeremy walked over to Ty and Manny and watched as they mumbled the words to the old Nirvana song, Turnaround:
"...Take a step outside the planet
Turn around and around
Take a look at where you are
It's pretty scary."
"Bobbie and I are going downstairs and play some 8-Ball. You guys okay?"
Manny turned to Jeremy with a shit-eating grin and said, "Um, cool...dude...just...veg out...here...have...fun."
"We'll just be in the basement." Jeremy thought the two bantam-sized, stoned athletes were cute together...and completely wasted. Manny with his dark eyes and seductive eyelashes; Ty with a light mocha skin coloring that was almost lickable. 'Hope they can figure out how to handle the friggin' church.' He recalled how pissed his uncles were at the Catholic Church's stand on homosexuals. Worse, the denial and cover-up - especially in the Boston and Los Angeles archdioceses - of pedophile priests. He went to the windows and opened each only an inch.
"Ready to whip your ass," Robert said with a slight slur as he playfully goosed Jeremy.
"Whipping's one thing; grabbing's another." Jeremy turned around, wetted his finger and swiftly lodged it in Robert's ear. "That's the only thing wet you're getting tonight," he said playfully as he led the way out to the kitchen and to the basement door. 'I think my buddy is horny...and has a definite buzz.' He flipped on the light and carefully walked down the stairs. "Whoa, I'm glad I'm staying here. I'm in no shape to go home." He was happy to be standing on the floor of the basement.
"Join the club. But then I am home." Robert snickered as he walked over to a cabinet and reached for two cue sticks. "Rack 'em up."
"You wanna see who goes first?" Jeremy asked as he grabbed the triangle and racked the balls.
"Naw, you can break them. I don't think either of us will be playing in championship form." Robert handed Jeremy a stick and added, "Just be careful with the table. Dad would really be pissed if sumpin' happened."
"Understand, buddy." Jeremy positioned the stick on his hand and missed the cue ball on the first stroke. "Ah, give me one more chance." He chuckled and managed to send the white ball into the cluster of balls with a minimum of force. "Jeez, I think that pot is stronger than I imagined...good shit."
"Acapulco Gold is what they call it. You're doing fine," Robert said as he lined up the 14 ball for the corner pocket. "Better than the guys upstairs." He hit the cue ball and watched as it slightly nudged the target.
"They're real fun tonight, but I got a question about 'em...if you don't mind." Jeremy lined up on the same striped ball and tapped it into the pocket.
"Damn, I made that too easy for you. Question about what?"
"Ty and Manny. I couldn't help but notice that they're very friendly with each other...like maybe they're boyfriends. Whaduya think?" Jeremy walked around to identify the next shot.
"Guess their little secret isn't so secret."
"Well, if they are as affectionate with each other in front of others as they are tonight, the secret isn't being very well-kept." He spotted the red 3 ball and said, "Side pocket." Jeremy watched the red ball bounce off the bumper and roll close to the corner. "Fuck. I'm making this too easy for you."
"Turn about is fair in...well whatever the saying is." Robert looked at the red ball and tapped it in with no difficulty. "We're even." He analyzed the table and continued, "Ty and Manny came out to me a couple of years ago and really make it a point to fly under the radar. When I called them about getting together, I told them that you were cool about gays...that's all. So they let down their guard. You don't mind what I said about you being gay friendly?"
"Hell, no. Have been...always will be friendly. And your word about me must have worked; they're really relaxed. Jeez, and studying to be priests, too." Jeremy put down his cue stick, rested his butt against the table rail and let out a big yawn.
"Relaxed? That's an understatement. We've talked about that. They're both going into pre-law at DePaul. You'll be classmates," Robert replied with an even louder audible yawn.
"And their commitment to the church?"
"Once DePaul admits them, they'll send an official letter declining further consideration joining the priesthood. What say we give up this game and get some sleep? I'm really getting tired and you're having a hard time keeping your eyes open."
"Works for me." Jeremy retrieved both cue sticks and placed them back in the cabinet. "Go on upstairs. I'm right behind you." Neither was completely steady as they ascended step by step very cautiously.
The two slightly wasted guys returned to the living room. Robert walked over to the stereo to turn off the music while Jeremy checked out Ty and Manny. They were snuggled into each other in deep sleep. Manny's hand was again resting on Ty's thigh. It was close enough to the crotch to leave no doubt about either's sexual orientation. Both had expressions of contentment.
"I might as well put a pillow behind their heads and cover them with a blanket. They're in place for the night." Robert went over to the coat closet and retrieved the bedding. After he arranged the pillow and blanket, he added, "There goes your bed. Any objection to sharing mine?"
"Hell, Can, it's nothing I haven't done before...although it's been a while," Jeremy said with a laugh as he pulled out the old name he had for his friend. For the past two years, he had used the sleeper couch when he stayed over for the evening.
"And I haven't heard that nickname for a while...Shroom. Although, I must say, judging from what I've seen in the locker room, that mushroom of yours has definitely grown." Robert smiled and shrugged.
"And that can of yours has gone from 12 ounces to 16 ounces."
"Fuck you. Let's hit the bed. Go on upstairs while I turn off the lights and make sure everything's locked up."
"See ya in a few." Jeremy walked up to the second floor and into Robert's room; a familiar route that he hadn't traveled recently. 'Christ, Can and Shroom...does that bring back memories from a couple of years ago,' he thought while he undressed. He neatly placed his clothing on the desk chair and stowed the shoes underneath before going to the bathroom. After relieving himself, Jeremy brushed his teeth with the old red toothbrush. This was his toothbrush that was kept for emergencies when he stayed over. The only difference was that tonight he would be sharing Bobbie's king-sized bed. 'Those were fun times,' he thought as he remembered those hot evenings when they explored their sexual urges. 'A little kinky...but fun.' He was finishing rinsing when his buff and bare host came in.
"Jeez, I gotta whiz bad," Robert said as he immodestly stood in front of the toilet, aimed and let loose with a forceful, steady stream.
"You planning on sleeping like that?" Jeremy asked as he walked to the door.
"Well, duh. This is like I always go to bed. It's not like we haven't been this way before. That's okay, isn't it?"
"Yeah, no biggie." See ya under the covers." Jeremy went into the bedroom, pulled down his briefs and kicked them over to the chair by his shoes. 'No biggie...right. Bobbie - or Can - is definitely filling out there.' He was sure that his friend was showing a little excitement a few moments ago and that image created a little tingling in Jeremy's crotch. 'I can't believe these high school years are almost over,' he thought as he got into the large bed and pulled the covers up to his chest.
"You remembered which side I like," Robert said with a laugh as he turned off the light and crawled into his side of the bed."
"I remember a lot of things. Friendship forever...and that's not the weed talking. G'night, Can." Jeremy couldn't help but snicker.
"Shroom, you're too much. Night, babe." Robert sighed and moved his leg over to the other half of the bed until it touched Jeremy.
Jeremy felt the contact and started breathing a little heavier. His bedmate's leg started rubbing where the two had made contact. As Robert's movement became more aggressive, Jeremy reached down and gave his awakening cock a few strokes. 'Oh, yeah,' he thought. 'Little Jer is definitely getting up and ready for a little stroking.' Within moments, his erection was full mast and ready to sail. Suddenly, he felt Robert's fingers rubbing his balls with a tender grip. 'What the..."
"I figure you need a little hand," Robert said with a sigh. "And that's not the weed talking, either. Stop me if I'm overstepping the boundaries." He slowly scooted over to Jeremy's side and firmly gripped his buddy's steel-like dick.
"For old time's sake?" Jeremy hoarsely whispered. He lay in place and reveled in the touch of his old buddy. 'Man, this is really a trip,' he thought as he felt an emission of pre-cum. There was no way he was going to turn down his best friend's overtures.
"Yeah, that and more. You've fucked about every hot chick in school...and I haven't done too badly, either." Robert moved his thumb up to Jeremy's piss slit and tenderly rubbed the pre-cum around the mushroom head. "But, I still get a charge by being with you. That make any sense?"
"Perfectly." Jeremy put his arm around Robert and slightly adjusted his body so that the pleasurable handling of his cock wasn't interrupted. He pressed his forehead against Robert's and continued, "I love you, Bobby, like a brother. And I guess that I still like to share...this... with you." He leaned in until their lips connected. He pressed further until Robert slightly opened his mouth to receive Jeremy's tongue. They swapped spit while their tongues were reacquainted with each other. Each allowed the other to be invaded and probed.
Robert pulled back and said, "Oh, fuck, Jer. I've really missed this. I love you, too. Maybe a little more than a brother; I'm sorry but that's my problem to deal with." Without missing a step, he rotated around so that they once again, after two years, assumed a position where both could orally pleasure each other.
"I guess I've always known that down deep, Bobbie. But 'brother' is the best I can do for you." Jeremy moved his head closer to his best friend's crotch and tentatively kissed the willing, leaking cock fixed at attention in front of him. He knew that he was opening doors to his sexuality that had been closed for a long time. Part of Jeremy knew that the family genes Uncle Win had had in spades were taking little baby steps in his life. 'What does this mean?' he wondered as he gripped the massive girth of Bobby's veined, meaty manhood.
"Then brothers it is...well, brothers who mess around with each other. This is something special that I hope is part of our lives for a long time." Robert licked his buddy's balls before taking the large, flared mushroom head into his mouth.
"Oh, yeah...for a long time to come," Jeremy said with a groan. His sexual desires were on high alert as the wet lips and warm mouth engulfed his cock. While Robert went through the repertoire of oral stimulations, Jeremy was thinking about the times when other males whetted his curiosity - in the locker rooms, or around the school corridors, or on the streets. 'What the fuck does this mean?' he wondered as he opened wide to accept his friend's mammoth penis. 'I need someone who can give me advice. Pete at the front desk? Naw. Gio? He'd probably jump my bones. Maybe Zach?' Jeremy, along with everything else from his past, wished his uncles were still there to offer counsel. However, it wasn't long before he gave up thinking anything coherently and just lived the pleasures shared with his best friend.
TO BE CONTINUED