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' and to Zeta reader, Rock.
I love to receive feedback at email@example.com. My other stories are listed in Nifty's Prolific Authors section.
Chapter 5, PART TIME OPPORTUNITIES
Sunday morning turned out to be a repeat performance of seven hours earlier for the two guys. Robert and Jeremy talked a little about their intimate actions in bed after Ty and Manny left. Neither felt remorse or guilt; it was as if a shroud of denial had been lifted. But denial of what? They decided to have further discussions the following weekend; the elder Steins would again be out of town. Both young men knew they had taken a big step toward defining themselves as adults.
It was the final school week before Christmas break and Jeremy moved the self-analysis into a holding pattern until he could seek advice. The admission that he had thoroughly enjoyed the physical contact with his old friend - retracing forgotten familiarities between two hormone-charged, pleasure-seeking young males - was a major revelation. However, Jeremy knew that it was more than just 'getting his rocks off'.
The emotional implications triggered a conscious realization of how he really observed other men in everyday life: those images - however lustful - had fueled a subconscious fantasy. A backside view of firm buns as a guy walked in front of him; tight denim jeans molded to an ample crotch - if commando, all the better; sleeveless-tees that accented muscular biceps and revealed a wisp of underarm hair; taut six-packs and treasure trails at the beach. These subtle turn-ons became more pronounced at the gym. The jackpot, he now realized, was the locker room or shower area. An attractive mix of guys in varying degrees of undress was very stimulating.
On the other hand, Jeremy really enjoyed girls in his life. 'Well, maybe I should think of them as women,' he considered. 'I'm officially an adult in five weeks.' He had experienced the joys and frustrations of having a steady relationship - none ever more than a couple of months - with several female classmates over the past few years. Except for a couple of them, Jeremy had been sexually active with all. 'And only one virgin in the bunch.' He wasn't ready to dismiss them as just a piece of ass - that would be impolite. But, he decided, it was probably a way of exerting his male 'hunter instinct' role in a form of coupling that was socially acceptable to his peers.
Then there was the issue with the mystery man now identified as Garin McManus. 'What the hell is Big Smiles, Ltd.?' Jeremy wondered as he pulled the uniform shirt over his freshly showered torso. 'Guess that's sumpin I'll find out at our dinner meeting tonight.' The clock indicated that he still had 15 minutes before check-in time. As Jeremy made his way back into the gym he hoped that Zach would have time for a quick chat.
Monday was a little busier than usual. Gio was on the floor with a client but Zach was absent. Jeremy's disappointment faded when he found the blond trainer at a side desk reading some sort of manual. "Zach, gotta minute?" Jeremy said loudly as he walked over to the trainer. 'Wonder if those guys got their problems settled?'
"Actually, no. I've got to renew my A.C.E. certification on-line. I was just about ready to go to the site. Whazzup? You look like you're carrying the burden of the universe on your shoulders."
"Just some personal stuff that I need some advice on. I hope you don't mind if I suck you into my earth-shaking problems?" Jeremy said with a grin. "Maybe bend your ear for about an hour some day this week? I'd really appreciate some big brother advice."
"I'm honored...little bro. How about tonight?"
"Naw...got plans that I can't skip out on. Could we meet before my shift tomorrow?"
"Let me check the appointment log." Zach opened the dog-eared binder and looked at the schedule. "Hmmm, how about four? I've got a session that'll end about that time and don't have anything else going until 5:30."
"Cool. How about downstairs at EatZi's?"
"I'll block out the time right now and see ya then." Zach stood and extended his hand.
Jeremy shook hands and proceeded to the front desk. He went through the sign-in procedures and shared a few jokes with Pete when not taking care of members, telephones or walk-ins. His working partner's blatant flirting and gay overtones took on a new meaning. Whenever Pete would lob a wisecrack with a double entendre, Jeremy turned it around and slammed it right back with new spins. 'Wow, this is kinda fun,' he thought. 'Just wicked enough to be dangerous.'
"Dahlin', you're just a laugh-riot a minute tonight. Where is this new, liberated personality coming from?" Pete said after he checked in a member. "And where has it been hiding?"
"I decided it works both ways. You can't have all the fun." Jeremy almost added 'girlfriend' as he had heard his uncles 'camp' on occasion but decided that was just too much. He was content to only poke his toe into the gay waters at this point. 'And exaggerated camp is not who I am.'
"Whatever has happened...I'm enjoying the new Jeremy Sloan. A likeable stud who has a terrific sense of humor. I think..." Pete stopped when he noticed Jeremy was looking at someone who had walked up to the desk.
"Good evening, Garin," Jeremy said as he took the card to swipe. 'This guy is hot,' he thought, not sure if this was being gay or just reacting to the facts of life - Gavin was very handsome.
"Hi, Jeremy." Garin grinned and nodded to Pete.
"Pete, do you know Garin...McManus?" Jeremy smiled and handed back the membership card. 'Naw, hot is not the proper description. Awesome, maybe.'
"Ah...sure. Hi, Garin. Have a good workout." The greeting was right out of the front desk manual along with a smile and eye contact.
"You still up for some dinner?"
"Sure. I've got an appetite that's ready for some chow," Jeremy replied with a grin.
"Great. I'll meet you in front at 9:00 p.m. and we can go from there."
"Pete, do you mind if I bug out fifteen minutes early so I can change clothes?" Jeremy looked at his watch and noticed it was only seven.
"It'll be pretty slow tonight later on. Have a blast." Pete shrugged and rolled his eyes so only Jeremy could see.
"Then nine is fine. I'll be there."
"Look for a black Navigator in the loading zone. See ya then." Garin waved at the two men and walked into the gym towards the locker room.
"Well, isn't that interesting?" Pete said with his hands gesturing with exaggeration. "What's that all about?"
"A guy I know who wants to buy a poor, starving student some dinner. That's all."
"And is absolutely gorgeous. Man, what a waste...two fabulous straight men going out. Where do I stand in line and get a number?" Pete asked with a snicker.
"Sorry to disappoint you, sir. We're...friends. End of story. Sorry for no juicy stuff to tantalize your bones."
"There's only one bone that needs..."
"TMI. Don't even go there...that's your problem," Jeremy said with a chuckle. "But I have it on good authority that if you're horny, wrap a hand around your..."
"Yeah, yeah. Got the picture. Looks like I work the streets...again." Pete looked at the computer screen and added, "But if Mr. Garin J. McManus wants a little action, give him my name." Pete puckered his lips and blew Jeremy a kiss.
"Get your dick cut off and add some tits...then he might be interested." Jeremy slapped Pete on the back before he grabbed the ringing telephone.
The next hour and a half moved by fairly smoothly. There was just enough traffic to keep the two guys active without being pushed. By 8:45 p.m., Jeremy was more than ready to get back to the locker room and change for dinner. He had dressed in khakis and a sweater that morning rather than jeans in anticipation of his evening meeting. It was just a matter of getting out of the uniform, brushing his teeth, putting on clean briefs and changing back into his street clothes. Ten minutes later, with backpack in hand, he closed his locker and dashed through the gym to the entrance. He waved to Pete and beat a hasty retreat down to the Clark Street entrance. As promised, a shiny, black SUV with flashing lights was waiting at the curb. Once Jeremy verified that it was Garin - difficult due to the dark, tinted windows - he opened the passenger door, slid onto the black leather seats and engaged the safety belts.
"A man of his word," Garin said. "Right on time."
"A man who is very curious about this part-time job opportunity. Whazzup?"
"All in good time. Let's get to the restaurant, first." Garin turned off the flashing emergency lights, made sure traffic was clear and turned into the street. "Are you up for fondue?"
"Fondue? Um, I don't think I know what it is."
"A pot with hot oil is brought to your table and various things can be cooked in it. I was thinking of cheese fondue. In moderation, it's not too filling. The restaurant - Geja's - is not too far from where you live or here. It's just off Clark on Armitage."
"Geja's? Jeez, I've walked by that place since I was a kid. Never been there, though."
"Wanna try it? At this hour I don't want too much...unless you're really starved."
"I'm game. And I had a pretty big lunch. Let's do it." Jeremy thought that even with the illumination from the dashboard and the streetlights, Gavin was really something in the eye candy department. 'He's really pulled together for an older guy. This dude must be at least 26 or so.'
In less than five minutes, they turned onto Armitage and found street parking about a block away. They walked back to the small restaurant and entered the foyer. Gavin took off his coat, motioned for Jeremy to do the same and gave the two coats to the coat check lady.
"Hi. My name's McManus and I called for a reservation...although it looks pretty quiet tonight," he said to the host. "Could we have a table somewhere so we can talk?"
"Yes, Sir, Mr. McManus. Follow me. I've got a great corner where you won't be disturbed."
"If you would, just bring over a glass of house merlot and a coke, please. I already know we'll have the cheese fondue for two."
"A man of decision. I'll give the order to your server and tell him not to bother you." The host walked away as the two young men sat down.
"Next time, when we're not rushed, I'll take you to Morton's or Gibson's for a thick strip steak."
"Rain check, then?" Jeremy asked as he shifted slightly in the chair. 'Next time? Wow.'
"Yeah, sometime when neither of us have to work. First, let me tell you a little about myself. You know the name...came up here ten years ago from Indianapolis and have a BA degree from DePaul. Got involved in a small business while I was in school and became a partner five years ago. Turned 28 a couple of months ago and still single...although I've got one gal that might be good for the long haul. I don't know...we'll see. But I don't mind checking out a different lady once in a while if something tasty comes along, if you get my drift."
"The drift sounds like you've got the best of both worlds." Jeremy said. 'This guy must be a real player.'
"Maybe for right now. But by 30 I'd like to be settled down. Now give me the 30 second thumbnail brief on Jeremy Sloan."
"Mom and an older sister...my dad I never knew. My mother is disabled because of an injury and my sister and I look after her. She's not bed-ridden or anything but needs assistance...Sis and I help with the expenses. Naomi, my sister, is in nursing school at Loyola. Uncle Win - Mom's brother - really was my guiding light. I get good grades and plan on going to DePaul on a scholarship. No steady girlfriends right now. And...well, that's about it."
"That's good. Now, what questions do you have that you're dying to ask?" Garin smiled and looked intently into Jeremy's eyes.
"Big Smiles? That's the name of your business? I did a Google search but didn't come up with anything," Jeremy said.
The server brought the drinks, fondue pot, metal skewers and a platter of all the ingredients. He lit the flame under the pot and asked if he needed to explain the process.
"Not at all. I'll make sure that the fondue is heated properly," Garin replied. "Just keep an eye on the table so if we need you, I can flag you down. We need some privacy."
"I understand," the server replied with a grin as he walked away.
"We sent him a mixed message. From his expression, I suspect he thinks I'm giving you an engagement ring, or something...whatever guys do." Garin said with a laugh. "Not that I would object if I was wired that way."
"Yeah, different strokes." Jeremy just smiled and thought about wiring. "Just for the record, my uncle and his partner - um, they're both gone - kinda raised me. So I'm pretty cool with a person's sexuality."
"It's good to have an open mind. This company I'm involved with is almost exclusively staffed with men and more than a few are gay. End of discussion on that topic." Garin lifted the cheese and carefully put the contents into the fondue pot. "Big Smiles is not in the public's knowledge because our operating name is well known and I don't like to flag it around."
"Well known? I don't understand." Jeremy looked at Garin with a raised eyebrow.
"The company is an entertainment enterprise that goes by the name of the Studz Barecats. We're a group of male dancers who perform primarily for audiences of women. Are you familiar with the name?"
"Sort of a Chippendale's type group?" Jeremy replied. He had seen a documentary about the Chippendale's on PBS a couple of years ago and had heard the Studz Barecats name mentioned...usually with a snicker and a smirk. "Some of the girls at school have mentioned your group. I think maybe their moms or older sisters had seen your, ah...show. You're a..."
"Dancer? Yep...Mac the Knife." Garin adjusted the flame, added the carafe of wine to the cheese and took a skewer to stir the ingredients. "That's my stage name and I do a light 'leather' routine. The other guys play a cop, construction worker, fireman, football player...you get the idea. It's all fun fantasy. We perform primarily on Friday through Sunday and do private parties during the week. There's some heavy-duty money with the private parties."
"You strip down to...nothing?" Jeremy looked at the fondue pot and saw the cheese change from a simmer to the point of bubbling.
"Not nothing. That's against the law...and we are law-abiding and tax-paying gentlemen." Garin adjusted the flame a little lower and said, "Watch me with the bread and do the same thing. Just remember that the cheese is awfully hot so be careful. He speared a French bread cube with his skewer and swirled the bread around in the cheese. Garin smiled as he took the saturated bread out of the pot, allowed the excess to drip and slowly brought the morsel to his lips. "Yeah, this smells great." He took the slightly cooled cheese-dipped bread into his mouth and chewed away. "Your turn. And have some fruit with it."
Jeremy mimicked all of Gavin's moves and enjoyed the first bite of cheese fondue. "This is delicious." He picked up a slice of apple and chewed the combination of hot cheese and chilled fruit. "Really beats a Big Mac."
"I thought you'd like it." Gavin took a few more bites and continued, "Let me give you a rundown of how we operate. We play characters, have costumes and use stage names...I told you mine. On the weekend shows, we start out with everyone in the same tear-away shirt and pants."
"To the audience's eye, we look like guys in conventional clothing. However, as the music and dancing heat up, the shirt...and, later, the pants are easily pulled off because they're held together just by small Velcro connections."
"I see. Then you're dancing in your underwear?"
"Well, sort of. After the pants come off...and the shoes...we're on the stage for the next song in boxers. Velcro also holds them together. At the final moment of the music, we pull off the tear-away underwear and end the dance in very brief flesh-colored thongs. Before the audience knows what happened, the lights go down and we get off the stage."
"Um, the thongs. They don't show your...dick or anything?"
"Jeremy, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that the pouch of the thong is pretty form-fitting and the fabric is thin. But that's all it is...just a tease. One thing that makes you an ideal candidate for the Studz Barecats is your endowment," Garin said with a grin before dunking another cube of bread into the cheese. "I know you're aware that I was checking you out in the shower...but it was just business. In our business, size matters."
"Aw, shucks, Mr. McManus. I thought you were looking for a boyfriend." Jeremy laughed and speared another piece of bread. 'Maybe Uncle Win was right about the family genes,' he thought while he imagined Garin stripping down to a tight thong. 'But is this something I want to do?'
"I'd say, Mr. Sloan, that not only are you good looking and hung, but you're smart with a sense of humor. The trick is to parlay all the assets to entertain the audience."
"I've never danced much. Well, I've goofed around in the bedroom like Tom Cruise did in that movie."
"I think every red-blooded American boy has tried that routine in front of a mirror with a hairbrush or something like that as a pretend microphone. I know I did. But..." Garin said with a long pause and a smile.
"My big brother walked in on me while I was lip-synching a song by Prince, dressed in a jock strap and wearing white socks. I love him but he wouldn't let me forget that for a long time." Garin laughed and added, "I guess that was the first time I realized that I was a little bit of an exhibitionist."
"So you think I'm an exhibitionist and could be a good dancer?"
"To both questions...yes. Dancing you can learn and it'll be hard work if we make a deal. The other part is simple. I hope you don't mind me getting personal and frank?"
"Ah, no...fire away."
"Your body is really prime and well-developed; it's pretty obvious taking care of yourself is important to you. That's why I thought you were a few years older when we first talked. And take no offense when I say that dick of yours makes quite an impression."
"That is something I didn't work on...well, except for..."
"I understand," Garin said with a chuckle. "I've noticed the grace in your movements when you walk around the gym. The bottom line is your smile and sense of humor. It's quite a package, if I could use the term loosely. You have the potential to be a popular dancer and entertainer."
"You're always looking for talent?"
"Off and on. One of our favorites is leaving Chicago. He graduated last summer and the bank he works for is transferring him to London in a few months. I need a preppy college-type to replace him."
Banker? College-type? Wow, my head is spinning."
"Most of the guys have full-time day jobs or are in school. For instance, I sell real estate in addition to overseeing the night business. There's a full-time office manager at Studz Barecats who handles all the bookings and accounting. Age-wise, we range from 19 to the old man - me," Garin punched Jeremy's arm lightly and grinned. "By old, I mean that the shelf life of a dancer is limited. I've got maybe two years left before I hang up the thong. Let's face it; we are really just a piece of meat in the eyes of the ladies...and sometimes the guys."
"Guys? I thought..."
"We do gay gigs occasionally. Believe me, the gay audiences are much looser with tips and a lot of fun." Garin paused and looked at Jeremy. "I guess I need to back up a minute. Here's the deal. On weekends we always perform at the Studz Club downtown - one show on Friday and two shows on Saturday. It's an old warehouse that we re-designed with a long runway running off the stage. We've got a cast of eight dancers and the base pay per show is a hundred bucks per dancer. Private parties pay even better. And even with travel time, make-up and everything before and after...it's only four hours of your time on Friday and maybe seven hours on Saturday." Garin stabbed another piece of bread and said, "Jump in and help me finish the fondue."
"So we're talking about twenty-five bucks an hour?" The initial money being bantered about blew Jeremy away. 'Christ, I could rack up a nice savings account in addition to handling the expenses,' he figured. He dragged bread around the cheese and pondered what had been said.
"It is good money. But I'm very demanding and not many guys have the looks, build and talent to do what we do."
"Beats seven bucks an hour at Bally's."
"The base pay is just for openers. Here's the way the show operates. Except for the opening and closing dance with the ensemble, each guy comes out in a different costume - in his character - twice during the performance. It's the tips that really rack up."
"Tips? I've seen pictures of the audience stuffing dollar bills into the dancer's, um, thong. Is that what happens?"
"Very good, Mr. Sloan. That's exactly what happens. I'm not going to paint a picture of everything being all roses. Some of the audiences are really cheap and ya gotta look out for a woman's fingernails...they can get nasty in the frenzy of grabbing at a guy," Garin said with a laugh. "Copping a feel is part of the deal and most of the gals just play along with the fun. You know, she's not expecting much more than a smile if there's just a buck she wants to tuck into your thong. However, a five spot is usually a ticket to linger a little. Ten bucks...well, things can get interesting. If a twenty-dollar bill comes out, the tipper expects to slip it in the front of the thong and let their fingers travel down a little. You need to study the women while you're dancing because there is the potential of getting a little rough when you come out for encores and tips."
"Rough? You mean they might attack you?"
"Some gals just get carried away and become too aggressive. You've got to watch out for long nails,' Garin said with a chuckle. "But I've got two security men - buffed out dudes that are built like brick shit houses that are there for crowd control. The whole idea is for everyone to have a lot of fun. Interestingly enough, when we do the show for men, there are generally no problems and the tips are much better. The guys have a better respect for the plumbing and several are more interested in a dancer's backside."
"Guess I'd have a lot to learn to fit in to the group," Jeremy replied.
"It's all about training. If you join us, you'll be up to your eyeballs in working out with our choreographer - the dance coach - to learn all the routines and perfect your own act. This will require a commitment from you a couple of nights a week and Saturday mornings. During this period you'll be paid ten dollars an hour."
"Would I have to leave my Bally's job? Having a free membership is a great deal."
"Just cut down your schedule to three days. Those workouts are a requirement for a job with us.'
"I can do that. As long as the training doesn't interfere with my school and jobs around the house."
That's cool. And there is a great payoff after you're ready. Once you get the hang of the moves and how to work the crowd, you should be able to at least double the money. It's like going to a restaurant; a guest tips for good service. The better the show, the better the tips. And the private parties are even better. But I don't want to discuss that part of the deal...if you join us you won't be working parties for a while. You'll find out soon enough that life's a grind...on the stage. But that isn't so bad. The challenge is to come on the stage each night with the enthusiasm like it's your first night."
"Why not private parties?"
"You need a little seasoning for those bookings. Entertaining in a private home is completely different where the law is concerned. Let's just say that as long as no sex is involved, the book is pretty open, the dancing can get pretty wild and thongs sometimes have been known to come off if the tips are big enough."
"Sex is considered what?" Jeremy asked with a raised eyebrow and grin. "I mean, I know what sex is...but..."
"Relax. You're a little old for a 'birds and bees' lecture," Garin laughed and continued, "In this case it's anything that involves penetration of the client...or being penetrated by the client if you're working a stag party. If you were to be part of our group, I wouldn't send you out on a private gig for the first six months. By the way, on private gigs we always work in pairs. It's a better show, offers crowd control and assures personal security. Plus, we always check references before we accept a party." Garin finished his glass of wine and sat back in his chair. "I think I've had my fill. How about you."
"This was just enough and I really appreciate getting educated about fondue. Man, I'm getting pretty sophisticated for someone my age," Jeremy said. "So if I'm interested, where do we go from here?"
"First, is there interest?"
"I'd want to think it over and maybe discuss it with a good friend. But as long as I'm not breaking any laws and it's not harmful...it might be a good way to pay for my college years, give Mom the money she needs to get along and let me have some cushion for a separate life."
"Just so you know, I need a decision in a couple of days or the offer's off the table. I need to have a trained, groomed dancer by the end of March."
"Yeah, there are some things we need to take care of. You may not have noticed, but I've got my hair down there trimmed...and balls shaved," Garin said with a shrug. "Your image will be developed to your character. That includes all hair kept off your chest, legs, butt and a few other areas in the crotch."
"Christ, I don't even shave my face very often. But I get the idea." Jeremy sipped the remainder of his drink and reflected on what was involved with this job. 'As a matter of fact, I remember noticing that Garin had done something to himself down there,' he thought. 'Wow, I wouldn't have acknowledged that last week.'
"We have a buddy system on shaving. It helps to have someone you trust take care of those areas you can't reach very well. And if you're living at home without a lot of privacy, it's great to do it someplace else."
"Garin, if I say yes I'll need someone to take me under his wing. I can take care of myself but this would be a whole new thing. I'm certainly not a prude...it's just something I never expected to be discussing. If you're going to be at the gym on Wednesday, can I tell you then?"
"Yeah, Wednesday will be fine. As far as someone covering your backside and being your official buddy, I've got just the guy in mind. He's not that much older than you, has his own apartment and is one of our rising stars. In fact, I think he went to your high school a couple of years ago."
"Would I know him?"
"Possibly...but let's not discuss this any further until you've made a decision. Oh, just so you know, there's no drugs - pot included - or taking money as sex-for-hire at any time. Tattoos are out unless I approve them. But being our 'Joe College' character means having a clean body without tats."
"No problem. Um, Joe College...that'd be my stage name?" Jeremy asked.
"Yeah...I think that works. I see you coming out in private school clothes, frame glasses, a pencil behind your ear...that 'boy next door' sort of thing. Gives the audience a great contrast to when you dance your routine and show them what you've got. You want any dessert?"
"No, the fondue was just enough. Thanks, Garin...this has been a real eye-opener of a meeting and you'll have an answer from me on Wednesday. Off hand, I think that I like the opportunity."
"Great. Let me get the check and we'll get outta here." Garin flagged the waiter and gave him a credit card. Within moments the check arrived and it was settled with a nice tip.
Jeremy gave directions to his home and mulled over the conversation. 'This would really be a major change in my life...along with the other thing.'
TO BE CONTINUED