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 firstname.lastname@example.org. My other stories are listed in Nifty's Prolific Authors section.
Chapter 6, MORE THAN A TOE
"Hey, Ma, I'm home." Jeremy closed the front door, engaged the two locks and turned to his mother. Mary Sloan was in the final stretch of her weeknight viewing schedule: Channel 5 news, followed by The Tonight Show.
"Hello, dear. Did you have a good time with your friend?" Mary always watched her evening television shows in pajamas and a robe in her favorite blue chair. A walker and oxygen tank were parked within her reach.
"Yeah, super. We went to that place on Armitage called Geja's." Jeremy had told his mother that he was meeting a friend from the gym for a late dinner after work...nothing more. He hung up his coat and stowed the backpack in the hall closet.
"Goodness, is that place still open? It's probably been there for over 30 years. How was the food?" Mary had a practice of carrying on a conversation while her eyes maintained contact with the TV screen.
"Terrific and very different. They serve fondue. I'm going to do a little research on that type of cooking. Maybe I'll go on-line at the school computer lab and find out more about it. How are you doing?" Jeremy walked closer to his mother and stood next to her.
"Your sister did the cooking tonight but she had to run so the kitchen is still a mess."
"No problem. I'll take care of it before I go to my room for the night. Anything else you need?"
"Just a goodnight kiss." Mary sat up and leaned her head over in Jeremy's direction. She finally broke contact with the program and looked at her son. "Is everything alright? You appear a little distant...like your mind is somewhere else."
"Thinking about things. College, money, job; stuff like that. Don't worry, though. My scholarship is on track and I was offered another part-time job that might be good for some extra cash. I also was remembering the good times we used to have with Uncle Win and Uncle Karl. Guess I still miss them...probably always will. That's all." Jeremy was always honest with his mother. However, he usually edited the details to avoid maternal probing.
"Win and Karl were good men for your growing up years. They were always around to offer advice to a young boy. And now look at you...a handsome young man about ready for a new adventure."
"DePaul will be an adventure for sure. Night, Ma." Jeremy gave her a tender kiss on the cheek and went to the kitchen. 'If she only knew about my other new adventures,' he thought as he got the dish soap and ran the tap water until it was hot. He was thankful that his sister always did a great job of scraping and rinsing the dishes if she left early.
Naomi sometimes cooked dinner for his mother if she didn't have to work at the hospital. His sister worked at Children's Memorial Hospital three or four nights a week as a nurse's aide to bring in money for the household expenses and help pay for her nursing school education. Brother and sister played tag-team to handle the chores around the house and their mother's needs. Jeremy thought about the pending changes in his life while he washed and rinsed the dishes, flatware and glasses. He surveyed the kitchen after wiping down the counter top to make sure everything was in order...the way his mother demanded it...before turning out the light and going to his room.
After he toed off his shoes, Jeremy took off his shirt and khakis and neatly hung them in the closet. 'I can get one more day out of the shirt,' he decided as he pulled off his socks and tossed them into the hamper. 'The briefs are good, too. Just put them on clean a few hours ago.' He stood nude in front of the full-length mirror on the closet door and surveyed himself. Jeremy ran his hands down from his chest to his pubes and wondered how much growth would need to be trimmed or removed if he took the dancing job. 'I'll have to check out Garin a little closer in the showers and see what he does.' He pulled on the sparse, long hairs growing on his ball sac and decided that they probably should be shaved. "What about this other stuff?' he wondered when his hand moved beyond his balls and towards his butt hole. 'Garin did say that I'd get help around difficult areas.'
All of a sudden it dawned on him exactly what Garin meant by the expression 'being a buddy in grooming'. 'Yikes, that is really getting to know someone.' But someone getting that personal with him or the other way around didn't gross him out. The thought of someone applying shaving cream to his balls and ass crack turned him on. And the reverse was just as hot. 'Well, as long as we both were clean down there.' Jeremy smiled as he considered that you really had to trust someone who took a blade to your 'nads. He laughed when he imagined some poor guy running around with band-aids on his balls because someone didn't know how to wield a razor.
In the bottom drawer of his chest where he stowed gym clothes, Jeremy found an old jock that was a little tattered but still serviceable. 'Hmmm, also a little small after all these years,' he thought while he stepped into it and pulled up the elastic support. 'I must have last used this in 8th grade.' He took the back straps, tucked them into his ass crack and walked back to the mirror. "Whoa, that looks a little more than just suggestive.' Even in the bedroom lighting, the thin mesh of the jock pouch revealed what he was packing. He turned on the radio that was perpetually tuned to KISS FM and started an impromptu sway to Fall Out Boy's "This Ain't a Scene." As the beat of the music increased, Jeremy picked up the pace of his movements. He added a few steps and ground his hips as the guitarist went through a riff. The drums led him to start a few thrusts of his front and shake the tightly filled jock pouch. He playfully pinched his nipple and turned to expose his backside to the mirror. In his mind, Jeremy heard yells and applause of an appreciative audience as he collapsed onto the bed when the song ended.
'Fuckin' A,' he thought, slightly nodding his head as he wiggled out of the jock. 'I'm going to take the job and trust Garin. There's no way I can pass up the money...as long as it's just harmless entertaining. Well, adult-rated harmless.' However, he also resolved not to tell his mother, sister or friends - except for Bobbie - about his decision. He got up and put the jock back into the drawer before slipping on the over-sized tee/boxer shorts combo that were worn for sleeping in the wintertime. Jeremy flipped off the light, crawled under the covers and set the radio alarm. The bedside clock registered it wasn't even 10:45 but he was too keyed up to study or read. A reflective frown crept across his face as he reviewed the recent events. Although he had made the decision concerning the dancing job, another challenge lay before him: one that was very personal and defining. A decision that would modify - for better or worse - his planned life course.
For better, he realized, because he was being honest and had acknowledged his emotional and sexual feelings for men. 'Well...men who turned him on,' he thought. Jeremy almost added the old saying, 'being able to look at yourself in the mirror,' until he considered that this now had a new meaning. The 'worse' part of the equation was more blatant. This ranged from the Christian fundamental whack jobs who spread hate in the name of religion to ignorant cruelties inflicted by kids towards others who were considered different.
If there was ever a moment when Jeremy needed his uncles' advice, this was it. 'Maybe I'm bi-sexual?' he considered. 'I certainly don't have any problem getting it up for a gal.' But then, it didn't take much to send the healthy almost 18 year old into libidinal overdrive...whomever he found sexy. He could no longer deny the stronger, emotional stirrings he had for other males...once he began to understand and accept it. At school, earlier today, he put his feelings to a test in the crowded corridors between classes when he saw male and female classmates approach him. Without exception, he emotionally gravitated to the guy. Even with winter clothing, the girls managed to show off their tits and legs to their best advantage. However, his line of vision honed in on male classmates who he considered to be sexy. 'Jeez, I'd better be careful about where I look,' he decided. 'It wouldn't be cool to be caught checking out another guy.' Jeremy knew he was not ready to make any sort of announcement to the world...least of all to his fellow students...no matter how gutless that seemed.
He closed his eyes and mentally formed the bullet-points of questions for tomorrow's meeting with Zach. In the process, Jeremy also thought about that coming weekend's 'discussion' with Bobby. He wondered what Robert Stein's reaction would be to taking their physical exploration to the next step. Who would be the aggressive one? His uncle had identified that person as 'the top.' He knew about protection and lube. What about limbering up the guy's butt? 'The bottom' was the other half of the equation. Remembering Bobby's girth caused Jeremy to cringe at the thought of being on the receiving end. On the other hand, Bobby might really prefer to..."
The sudden blare of KISS FM's morning programming awoke Jeremy with a jolt. He knew it was 6:00 a.m. and he needed to be in and out of the bathroom before Naomi's 6:30 arrival. Sharing one bathroom with his mother and sister was a nuisance that had become more grating when he became a curious, pubescent male almost five years ago. As he approached adulthood, Jeremy looked forward to the day when he could live in his own place or have male roommates. He got out of bed, grabbed his slightly worn briefs and made a fast path to the bathroom. Along the way, he turned up the thermostat to 72 degrees. To save money, the furnace was lowered to 65 at night by his mom.
He turned on the shower faucet and adjusted the temperature of the water. The one benefit of living on the first floor was being nearest the building's hot water heater. He peeled off his sleeping clothes and got into the tub shower. A habit that he had picked up from Uncle Win - and never shared with Mom or Sis - was the time one could save by taking the morning pee in the shower while shampooing. It also saved a lot of problems when Jeremy still had full-blown wood. Two things in bathroom etiquette had been learned at a young age living with two women: always leave the seat down and clean up any miss-aims. Trying to pee into the toilet with a hardon usually resulted in messy conclusions.
By seven, Jeremy had finished his cereal and left enough brewed coffee for his mother and sister. After breakfast was always prime study time. When he left for school an hour later, he yelled his "goodbyes" and left the apartment for the ten-minute walk to school. The weather was still relatively mild for approaching mid-December and Jeremy wore sunglasses to protect himself from the morning sun's glare. However, for a Chicagoan, this was always false security. Every native knew that some wintry deep doo-doo was just around the corner. The remainder of the day was fairly routine...except for the anticipation of Christmas break at week's end. Most teachers spent the day - and would the rest of the week - trying to maintain the students' concentration. Homework assignments primarily related to subjects to be studied after the New Year.
He arrived at Bally's at 3:15 p.m. and realized he didn't have enough time for a workout because of his meeting with Zach. Jeremy thought the best solution was to change into his uniform and go down to EatZi's with a book. He could get in some study time and take advantage of their limitless coffee refill policy. On his way back through the gym, he caught Zach's eye. He waved and made a 'down' pointing signal with his finger. Zach nodded and gave a thumb up while working with his client.
Jeremy told the day receptionist that he was a little early and would be at EatZi's for a while. Then he took the stairs down to the main floor. He figured that a little real stair activity must count for some workout time. After he bought a tall cup of the daily blend, Jeremy found a table away from the traffic and opened his book.
"You're deeply into a whole other zone," Zach said as he sat down at the table with a frothy-topped coffee cup in hand. "Pushing for an exam?"
"Naw. Just getting a head start for stuff we'll be studying after the break. Whatchu drinking?" Jeremy asked as he closed the book and looked at his watch. The digital face read 3:55. 'A man of his word,' he thought. 'I like that.'
"Cappuccino. The cream on top is made with low-fat milk so it's not too bad for ya."
"I'm learning all kinds of new things. Last night it was cheese fondue. Looks like I'm on a roll exploring different stuff. I'm going to order one next time I'm down here."
"Fondue? At Geja's?"
"Yeah. I met a guy last night to talk about taking another part-time job that'll bring in some extra money. Even with a scholarship at DePaul, I'll need more cash for odds and ends." Jeremy wanted to share the real story about the new job with Zach but knew this was not the time.
"You're not leaving Bally's, are you? We need ya, buddy." Zach winked and took a sip of his cappuccino.
"Just cut back a few shifts. The benefit of a free membership is too good. Plus, I like working with guys like you, Gio and even good old Pete."
"Good old horny Pete. Has he tried to come on to you?"
"Oh, yeah. When I explained that I was jailbait but flattered he got the picture. Since then we've just had a good time pulling each other's chain and consider each other buddies. I'll probably see more of him on campus in the fall."
"Pretty levelheaded way of handling an older guy hitting on you. But, then, you mentioned your uncles and their influence. I figure this must be one of those times when you wish they were still around?"
"Ah, yeah. And why I need some brotherly advice. From someone who is not only an older, good friend but is...also gay." Jeremy took a deep breath and looked into Zach's eyes. 'Here it goes,' he thought. 'Hope my instincts about trusting this guy are correct.'
"I think that I know where this is going. Would I be pretty close on the mark if I guessed that our meeting has to do with questions you have about yourself and men?"
"Big questions. Some I've already answered...but others..." Jeremy paused and took another drink of his cooling coffee. "I know I like guys in a...personal way. You know the expression, 'been there; done that.' That's kinda where I am. Just not sure how this plays with everything else."
"Everything else being girls?"
"Yep. I mean I like girls, if ya know what I mean. I mean...oh, Christ, I can't even make a sentence."
"Hey, that's fine. We've got a while and I'm a good listener. Just for the record, I dated my share of gals when I was your age. You wanna give me the details concerning what has brought this other thing to the surface? And forget about shocking me, or vice versa."
"Okay, here goes." For the next few minutes, Jeremy gave Zach an accounting of his messing around with his childhood chum after they both discovered what curious teen boys could do with each other. Then he got to the most recently reawakened, sexual activity and the conclusions drawn from that encounter. He knew that Zach had probably done everything and wouldn't be shocked or embarrassed at this summary of events...past and current...so he was very specific about the experience. What started in a very quiet, monotone voice ended with excited punctuations and enthusiasm. When the story was finished he slumped back in the chair and shrugged with a slight grin.
"I guess you would have been 14 or so the first time you touched another guy? Ditto with me and a boy next door. When your uncles were alive, did you discuss what you had done with this friend?"
"Never. Didn't seem like it was something I wanted to share...even with them. Oh, we had all these talks about sex - mostly between guys and gals. They were pretty up front about questions I had concerning gay sex. But I never thought of exploring with Bobby what it could mean to be gay."
"Understand completely. It was the same way with me. And face it, if a kid getting off with another kid makes you gay, practically the whole country would be queer," Zach said with a chuckle. "By the way, I don't use the 'Q' word except with close friends."
"Point taken. Anyway, they always emphasized that I practice safe sex if I ever became active with anyone, period...no exceptions. What's ironic is that one of them...I never knew who...was HIV positive and didn't realize it. By the time they found out, it was too late for both of them." Jeremy still felt a small stirring in his stomach when he talked about his uncles and their passing.
"That's the shits. You really never know everything about your partner." Zach shook his head slightly and looked down at the table before continuing, "So I assume that you are or have been active with women?"
"Most of the girls...um, women I've gone out with have...yeah, there's been no problem in that category," Jeremy said with a smile.
"So, you're wondering what it's all about in the other category."
"Let me give you a little perspective about me. It wasn't until my first year of college when I questioned my sexuality. With me it was a few too many beers with a guy in my dorm. We were in his room on a Friday night and one thing led to another. His roommate was gone for the weekend so it was just the two of us. Well, it was us, a couple of six-packs of Bud and some video porn that he brought out. I won't bore you with the details but one thing led to another...pretty much the same way. I played the 'I was so drunk I don't remember' routine the next morning until he called me on it. That was the start of a nice friendship and some great sex. He's in a relationship with an older guy back in New York and we email all the time. I'll probably see them next summer."
"You knew that you were gay at that point?" Jeremy's eyes were a little wide as he asked the question.
"No. Just that the door was open and I wanted to understand more about myself in this environment. I kept dating girls and getting together with my fuck buddy...well, not exactly fucking at that point. Then, one night I went over to study with one of my teammates - I was a gymnast at Penn State. By this time I was pretty good at picking up vibes from other guys who were gay...something that's called gaydar."
"That's what Pete calls it when someone comes up to the front desk who he thinks plays for his team." 'Or maybe our team?' he considered.
"Oh, yeah. Pete has a good system. Anyway, we finish studying and my teammate wants to swap massages. Kinda innocent-like, I agree and we go to his bedroom. He was a senior and had his own apartment. Now ya gotta understand that gymnasts will give their left nut for a good rubdown. Our muscles were always tight. However, I figured he wanted to get it on and I wasn't opposed to doing something...the guy was H.O.T."
"Wow, I'm getting turned on just listening to this," Jeremy replied with a grin.
"It gets even better. By that time we're both in the buff, I'm on my stomach and he's straddling my thighs while he works my lats and deltoids. All the time his hard dick is rubbing against my ass. He plays it fairly straight...well, maybe straight's not the right word...and gives me a great massage. We change places and it's obvious that we're both turned on. I do the same thing to him when he suddenly asks if I would mind slicking up a finger and massaging his prostate."
"Exactly. This was completely new territory for me. I mean, by that time I had pretty well mastered oral stuff," Zach said with a wink. "But I knew that I was about to get an advanced degree in sex. I told the guy that I didn't mind and used the massage oil to prep him. I must have been successful because he asked me to add fingers - twice - and then begged me to fuck him. Well, my young soldier standing at attention had never been to anyplace like that. But the combination of my eagerness and his instruction paid off...by the third visit to his apartment I eagerly reciprocated with my butt. That, buddy, is what's called being versatile - enjoying sex either way. So, there you are."
"At what point did you know that you were gay?"
"I'm not sure there was a defining moment. It's funny. I look back at my adolescent years and now pick out very definite things that were definitely gay. I had a crush on my 6th grade homeroom teacher. Checking out other guys in the swimming pool changing room at camp was pretty cool. Circle jerks...they were all parts of the puzzle. I think when I made the decision to let another guy do me - with a condom, of course - I had pretty well decided that men were my primary interest."
"So you think that maybe I should try..."
"You said that you're getting together with your friend again this weekend?" Zach raised his eyebrows with the question as if to prompt an answer.
"His folks will be out of town all weekend."
"Then I'd make sure that you go to the store and buy some condoms - probably magnums - and some Astroglide to bring with you." Zach took the next few minutes to give Jeremy a primer course on the finer points of prepping and performing.
"Well, professor. I've got ten minutes to get to work," Jeremy said as he stood up. "Seriously, this really helps me figure things out."
"Let's do this." Zach got up and continued in a low voice, "Why don't we meet a week from today for a progress report...if this doesn't embarrass you."
"Embarrass me? Telling my honorary brother certain stuff? I know I can trust you and really hope that you don't mind me coming to you with problems?"
"You're a cool guy, Jeremy. I hope you realize that many fellows don't handle this shit as well as you do." They both dropped their empty cups into the trash and walked out to the mall and the elevator. "Just promise me that someday you'll help out someone else. What do they call it; pay it forward?"
"Deal. And I will definitely meet you next week...say 4:30 p.m.?" Jeremy got in the elevator and Zach followed.
"I'll block it out immediately."
"Ah, by the way, how's everything with you and Gio?" Jeremy asked with a concerned expression.
"We had a nice dinner and I think things will get back on even keel. In a relationship, it takes an effort on both sides every friggin' day of the year. In our case, there are certain things that each of us are working on. If you get to a point where you find someone special in your life...man or woman...let's discuss it. Speaking of dinner, how about coming over some weekend evening for some chow at our place? Gio makes some great Italian food." The elevator landed on the top floor and the two men walked towards Bally's.
"That would be super," Jeremy said as they walked into the foyer. "I'll see ya later. Thanks again." He felt that the connection he had made with Zach was amazing...really like a brother...someone you could turn to for the unvarnished truth.
"Take care." Zach patted Jeremy on the back and walked up to the front desk. "Hi, Pete. I'm here for the 5:30 appointment. Until then, I'll be doing some freebie P.R. stuff on the floor." He waved and walked into the gym.
"Okay, buddy. I'll find you." Pete turned to Jeremy and winked, "Hands off the married men."
"Why? They're so easy and you don't have to buy them gifts," Jeremy shot back. "Give me a few minutes to stow my book in the locker and brush my teeth. Okay?"
"Cool. Not a problem...well, hello, Garin," Pete said when he saw the handsome man approach the desk.
"Good evening, guys." Garin gave his membership card to Pete and turned to Jeremy. "How ya doing?"
"Couldn't be better. Listen, I need to ask you something if ya got a minute." Out of Pete's sightline, Jeremy indicated that he wanted to go into the locker room.
"Sure, no problem." Garin got his card back and nodded to Pete before walking away.
"Whoa...two hot men in a space of two minutes. Girl, this has to be a record."
"Don't get all dramatic on me, Dorothy," Jeremy said with a laugh. "See ya in five." He walked back to the locker room, stored the book back in his locker and walked over to the bay in the corner that Garin favored because of its privacy away from the mirrors and corridor. His future boss had just hung up his jacket and was taking off his shoes.
"Hey, buddy. I decided to do a fast workout to burn off the fondue from last night. Did you enjoy yourself?" Garin popped his knuckles after putting the shoes in the locker.
"It was really great. I didn't want to say anything in front of Pete. He's really a blabber mouth."
"Kind of a yenta?"
"Yeah. A Jewish word that roughly means a woman who talks too much and never shuts up."
"Fits Pete to a tee. Gotta remember that one. I also wanted to tell you that I'm ready to sign on with you. I did some really hard thinking last night and felt good about our conversation."
"That's great, Jeremy...or should I say Joe. As in Joe College?" Garin said with a snicker. "Seriously, this calls for a meeting as soon as possible to work out a plan." He took off his sweater and started to unbuckle his belt.
"A lot of my decision is based on trusting you...and having a buddy to help get me squared away. You mentioned a guy you had in mind."
"Yes, his name is Charlie and I think I should ask him to join us for the last part of our meeting some time next week. You are both out of school for the holidays and I'm pretty flexible during the day." He stepped out of his jeans and hung them up by a back belt loop.
"Do you mind me asking a dumb question?" Jeremy knew he was getting a little red in the face. 'Charlie?' he thought. 'I wonder if I know him. Garin said he had graduated from Lincoln Park a couple years ago.' He decided to check out his sister's yearbook. 'Maybe they were in the same class?'
"Fire away. The most I can do is tell you to fuck off." Garin turned on a huge smile and proceeded to take off his socks.
"You mentioned some grooming that needed to happen. If this doesn't sound too gay, would you, ah, show me what you do?"
"Wanna check me out? No, I don't mind. Turn about is fair play...and...hell, this is business. But just casually watch the corridor. I don't want to be busted for lewd conduct."
"Understand, boss." Jeremy watched Garin take off the rest of his clothes and noticed what the obvious grooming was all about. He couldn't help but admire the package that hung freely.
"No one's coming?"
"We're clear," Jeremy said with a nod.
"Okay, take note of the chest and legs. Just pay attention and we can talk about this in detail at the meeting." Garin turned around and spread his cheeks...only for a moment. Then he rotated back to his original position and propped foot up on the bench.
Jeremy's eyes followed Garin's hand as he brushed his well-trimmed bush and shaved scrotum. He could tell that the way Garin had his pubes clipped around the base of his equipment created an illusion of more size to an already-ample penis.
Garin casually grabbed a tank top from his bag and pulled it over his head, showing the trimmed under-arms. "That's the show. Did you get the picture?"
"Thanks. It answers many questions. But I think I'll wait for my buddy to help me out. Some of these areas are really hard to reach."
"I'll let you know when we can get together. Welcome to Studz Barecats, Joe." Garin, still nude except for the top, extended his hand and added, "You'll have to work hard but I have confidence you can do it."
"I'm ready to learn so I can earn," Jeremy said with a quiet, determined voice.
TO BE CONTINUED