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, and on www.gayauthors.org.
Chapter 8, STARTING AT THE BEGINNING
Jeremy anticipated he would be able to earn extra money during the two weeks over the Christmas holidays. He had happily signed up to cover shifts at the gym for college students who had gone home. It had also become a tradition for him to show off his baking skills at home; for the last several years he had been recruited to make the holiday cookies and treats for friends who his mother wanted to thank. A combination of family recipes, sisterly assistance and maternal supervision produced results that had improved each year since he was 13.
An additional, unplanned meeting took place at the Studz Club on a side street near the famed Merchandise Mart. Garin McManus had stopped by the gym Tuesday evening to arrange a meeting for Thursday at 10:00 a.m. He gave Jeremy the required W-4 and I-9 forms to fill out and a club promotional brochure with the address so he could find his way. Garin said to go around to the stage door at the side and buzz for entry.
A cold front had moved into the city and the weather forecasters predicted a possible three inches of snow for the Southside and the communities that dotted an area close to the lake as far as Indiana. Near North and the Northside were only expecting light flurries. Jeremy was always amazed that metro Chicago - Chicagoland to the dramatically charged journalists - could have such a variance of weather. A blast of wind hit him while he waited for the train on the El platform. Jeremy was a veteran of the CTA and happily realized that the commute between his neighborhood and the heavily trafficked Mart exit would be fast and safe, regardless of the time of night.
Happier still was his discovery of the club's location as he arrived at his new place of employment on West Kensie. It was only two blocks from the train stop. He stood in front of the old brick building - home to the Studz Barecats - and looked at the billboards displayed in the glass-protected cases mounted on either side of the canopied entrance. Each dancer, in a different character costume, wore a stylized eye mask. Without much imagination, a person on the street could figure out that the costumes would eventually be discarded during the show. One dancer wore a blazer with a crest on the pocket, shirt with loose tie, gray pants, horn-rimmed glasses and had a pencil behind his ear. 'This must be the Joe College character,' he decided. Jeremy thought the photo was generic enough so it probably didn't need to be replaced. An image of a masked Garin in leather was in the last case he studied before he turned the corner to find the stage door.
Jeremy pushed a button next to the heavy, metal door and looked up at the dark plastic shield that protected a camera. A buzz sounded and a crackling voice came over a speaker. "Come on in and take the stairs. I'll meet you up in the office."
"Thanks, Garin. I'll be right up," Jeremy said into the box as he opened the door. Once inside, he found the stairway. He noticed a cramped stage layout ahead that was lit by only one bare, glaring light bulb on a floor stand. 'Probably there isn't a need for much scenery,' he thought with a silent laugh as he climbed up one flight to the office. Once past the doorway, the office appeared to be not much more than a large room with a couple of desks, a computer workstation, several file cabinets, a fax machine, copier and several telephones. In the corner, he noticed a separate computer with a screen divided into several separate pictures showing various locations inside and outside of the building.
"Welcome to your new home away from home," Garin said. "Nothing plush up here but it works. We save the decorating money for the club spaces." He stood up from his desk seat and continued, "Please sit down. You have the forms filled out?"
"In my hot, sweaty hand. Plus some I.D. if ya wanna copy them." Jeremy grinned and handed him an envelope containing payroll and immigration forms. He took off his coat and placed it on a side chair.
"Great...you've been through this drill before. I'll copy your social security card and driver's license. That'll make everything complete. The office manager just left for the bank and will be gone about a half an hour." Garin took the two cards and photocopied them. "As soon as I get the copying finished, I'll give you a fast tour. Charlie will be here in about a half-hour and I thought we'd all go out for an early lunch after we finish. You free to do that?"
"Yep. Don't have to be at work until later this afternoon." Jeremy looked over at one wall and studied a group of framed headshot portraits of 20 or so men under a sign that stated, Our Family. Most of the faces were A & F model quality and represented a limited racial mix: most were Caucasian.
"I see you noticed the family photos. I've set up a photo shoot for you next week after you and Charlie take care of a few cosmetic details," Garin said with a wink. "By the way, the family includes the office manager, box office, security, lighting, sound guys...it's an expensive operation."
"Yes, with your costume and various shots of you in a thong. The face is always protected with a small mask for confidentiality and there are no nude shots. The costumed photos will be part of our website. The others will only be available to potential private party clients with a special code. Just business marketing...that's all."
"What if they want to see more?"
"Not going to happen. Well, unless they want to pay some major bucks for a private interview...and then only to see your face. As I told you last week, nudity on the net or at the club is not part of the program. And if a dancer decides to moonlight by modeling on a porn site, we part company." Garin returned the I.D. cards and placed all the forms and photocopies on a desk. "Come on. I'll show you around."
They walked back to the ground floor and Garin explained the uncomplicated setup. The dressing room consisted of a long counter with a mirror, several seats and a cluster of small lockers. The opposite wall opened up to several racks that stored the costumes. An adjoining room contained a plain but clean lounge with a television set and an adjoining restroom.
"The timing isn't too difficult. The only rush is starting the first act after the chorus line opening and from the last act to the finale. There's a stage manager who keeps the pace of the show flowing and depends on all the dancers to take care of their own costume changes. The format is very organized, like a train schedule. The lighting and music are all very rehearsed. It's up to us to create spontaneity on the stage and make sure the $25.00 has been worth it for the audience."
"Wow, that's an expensive ticket. I didn't realize it was that much," Jeremy said.
"This is a first class production and we have a great reputation for quality. Our show runs an hour forty-five and we mingle in the lobby afterwards to autograph programs for half an hour, tops. On Saturday, the two shows are timed so that we can move the crowds out and in pretty smoothly." Garin walked back out to the backstage and turned on the house lights.
"What kind of crowds?" Jeremy was intrigued with this insider view of this business. He looked around at the 'theater' and followed Garin out onto the runway that ran almost the full length of the large room.
"300 seats on the first floor. Look up and you'll see that we have six small party room boxes. They're ideal for bachelorette parties of 16 or less. Or, stag parties for the gay guys. Here's where it gets a little complicated. Each box is guaranteed a ten-minute visit by a dancer twice during the evening. But we get primo rental and the tips are fantastic. There's a security guy to make sure no one, and I mean no one, gets out of control. As long as everyone has fun and the laws are obeyed, it's great for all parties concerned."
"Whoa, this is really something else." Jeremy looked out into the empty seats and tried to imagine the frenzy that resulted from the guys' performances. "And they're all crowding around the stage to tip the dancers?"
"No. Probably 40% of the crowd gets into it during the evening. You'll notice that the spaces between the rows are wider than a movie theater. That's because I want an easy access to the runway. I hope you've been doing squats in your workouts cuz you'll be doing that a lot for the ladies tips," Garin said with a laugh.
"Probably should add more squats to my..."
"Hey, Garin. Sorry I'm a little late. I had some research at the library that ran a little longer than I thought."
Jeremy turned and saw the young, preppy guy in a parka walk towards them. 'This must be Charlie,' he thought. 'He looks familiar...I can't quite place him.'
"Come over here and meet Jeremy Sloan. Our new Joe College."
"Should I call you Joe or Jeremy?" Charlie asked with a smile, as he took off the heavy coat and tossed it on a chair.
"Jeremy's just fine." He shook Charlie's extended hand and added, "I really...wait, I do know you...but not by Charlie. You're Chuck Barnett and were in my sister's class."
"Hey...aw, shit...you're Naomi Sloan's little brother, aren't you? I dated her...jeez, when we were 16. You're a couple of years younger? Yeah. Jeremy Sloan...I remember you...cool kid. You're not so little any more and definitely not a kid. Welcome to the family." Charlie walked closer and gave Jeremy a close, friendly hug. "I dropped Chuck in favor of Charlie when I first joined Garin. There was another 'Chuck' at the time and it was simpler to have a different name. I just kinda changed over to Charlie. All of my classmates at Northwestern know me as Charlie."
"Then Charlie Barnett, it is. I understand that you're going to show me the ropes and get me squared away?" Jeremy asked. He remembered really liking the guy when he had dated his sister almost four years earlier. The icing was that Charlie had thought he was cool as a kid.
"That's the deal. I hope you're not a modest guy? We're going to get to know each other very well."
"He understands everything and is agreeable. I know this is a busy period for everyone with the holidays but I need Joe College ready for a photo shoot a week from today. Can we get this accomplished? I've got reserved time with the studio for 10:00 a.m. next Thursday. Jeremy, you need to block two hours for the photographer."
"That means he and I need a little personal grooming time the day after Christmas. I'm primarily studying and working a few private night gigs next week," Charlie said. "If we have enough time, we can accomplish everything and do a little touch up the next day...before the shoot."
"I'm available in the mornings or after my shift at 9:00 p.m." Jeremy wished that he hadn't obligated himself for the extra shifts at Bally's but that had been scheduled before this became a reality.
"Then why don't we meet the morning after Christmas at my apartment to do what Garin wants done and meet for a follow-up late on Wednesday night? I don't have to work that night and we can get any of the places we missed the first go around. And since we're going to be buddies, you can help me out so I look sharp for the weekend."
Charlie's reassuring, confident smile silently communicated trust all the way to his eyes, Jeremy thought. Whatever concerns he had as a 'newbie' in this new adventure were calmed. With only two years in age separating the guys, Jeremy felt they could become friends.
"It's settled. Why don't you give Jeremy a more thorough tour down here while I go upstairs and sign the payroll? Find me at 11:15 and we'll go someplace around here for an early lunch."
The two younger men watched Garin walk back to the rear of the stage and disappear behind the dark, velvet curtains. For the next half-hour, Charlie gave his charge a complete inspection of the Studz Club. Before finding Garin for lunch, they exchanged telephone numbers and addresses. Charlie's apartment was in Wrigleyville and easily accessible by bus.
Jeremy was very jumpy early in the morning the day after Christmas. He was through his third cup of coffee when he realized it was time to go meet Charlie. Naomi was able to stay with their mother so that he could get away. When she asked about his early schedule, he just mumbled something about work. 'How do I tell my sister I'm going over to the apartment of a former boyfriend of hers so I can have my ass crack shaved?' Jeremy wondered.
The ride over to Charlie's place was quick and Jeremy found the address three blocks north of Wrigley Field with no difficulty. It was a typical Chicago garden apartment building. He breathed deeply and pressed the security buzzer.
"Come on up to the second floor and turn right. I'll meet ya outside my door," came Charlie's voice. A click unlatched the door.
"Got it." Jeremy walked inside the tiled entry and up the newly carpeted stairs. He told himself not to get so worked up. 'It's just some hair removal and only two buddies helping out each other. If I get wood, I'm sure it's not going to be anything that hasn't happened before,' he thought as he arrived on the second floor. He unzipped his coat and looked to the right.
"Down here," Charlie said with a wave from the third doorway. He wore a baggy pair of gym shorts and a Wildcats sweatshirt. His unshaven face did not detract - it only emphasized his masculinity.
"Hey, Charlie," Jeremy replied. As he approached the man standing shoeless in stockings, Jeremy noticed his legs were muscular but smooth. He judged they were both about the same Anglo-American coloring in skin and hair: typical, wispy light brown hair, fair skin and a ruddy complexion.
"I figured that I didn't have to get dressed up." Charlie closed the apartment door behind them and added, "Celebrated a late Christmas dinner with the family last night and decided to sleep in this morning. 'Bout the only thing I've accomplished so far is to brush my teeth and make coffee. Wanna cup?" He yawned and scratched his stomach as he walked into the kitchen. "Toss your coat on a chair."
"I'm pretty wired right now. Maybe just some water?" Jeremy noticed the compact space was spartan but well coordinated in black, gray and grayish-beige colors. Rather than having a table in the dining area, Charlie had set up an L-shaped desk/computer workstation, filing cabinet and bookshelves.
"Grab a bottle in the fridge, would ya? I need one more shot of coffee and I'm good for the day. Then we can talk a little."
The two guys silently went about getting their beverages. Jeremy followed Charlie and joined him in the living room sitting area. Charlie sat on a black leather couch and Jeremy eased into a large, matching easy chair. The seating was arranged around a massive, glass-topped coffee table.
"This is my combination entertainment center, living space and dining room," Charlie said. "It works fine if I eat in." He gestured to the coffee table before leaning back and propping up his feet on the edge of the thick glass.
"You got a great place." Jeremy was a little envious of someone not that much older than he having an apartment. "Your computer and study area is neat."
"Just moved in last summer before school. I spent my freshman year living at home...but that sucks after a while. So when the folks sold our house and moved out to the 'burbs, I took the opportunity to get this place. I didn't want to live in the Phi Delt house or the dorms."
"Phi Delt?" Jeremy wasn't sure what he'd heard.
"Phi Delta Theta. It's the fraternity I pledged. Neat guys. But I figured that with this part-time job, it would be best if I lived off-campus. The hours are goofy and I'd always be explaining why I couldn't go out with them on weekend nights. As you know, weekends will be very busy." Charlie took a sip of coffee and added, "You wanna talk about this new job before we, um, you know...? I can give you the perspective of someone who was in your shoes about a year ago."
"Yeah, I'd like that. Just so long as I'm outta here all spruced up by noon," Jeremy said with a bashful grin.
"Cool. I've got a friend coming over to do some studying 'bout that time."
By 10:30 a.m., Charlie had shown Jeremy basic dance steps and performed a capsule version of one of his solo numbers. He reviewed good moves by each of the other and discussed the characters they portrayed. He also talked about the Joe College character and fun things Jeremy could do with the character. Finally, he offered pointers concerning working the audience for tips.
"Garin may have mentioned it, but always be aware of who's on both sides of the runway. The gals who are experienced fold the bills in half, length-wise, cuz it's easier for them to slip them into your thong. If ya excuse the expression, you'll be going down mostly for one-dollar bills,' Charlie said with a chuckle.
"I've gone down for free up to now," Jeremy replied as he joined the laughter.
"Touché. Here's what was suggested to me and it seems to work. For a buck, they get to tuck it on the side. A fiver gets close to the groin. Ten dollars can go right down the front and everyone's cool with that. For a twenty, I don't mind if they get a feel. Are you okay with that? I'm being as up front and honest as I can be...you're joining a form of adult fantasy entertainment that some don't approve of."
"I got the speech about no penetrations and what can be shown on stage. Fantasy is the key in what you're doing...make that 'we' in a couple of months. I don't plan on putting this on a job application down the road. I'll try my darnedest to be a good dancer and have the ladies...and men...wanting more." Jeremy thought he'd just touch the issue of entertaining guys as a throwaway line and see what happened. He was beginning to feel comfortable with his official buddy.
"That's the spirit. If anyone's going to be judgmental...fuck 'em. You probably won't be assigned a gay night for a while but I can guarantee that you'll probably make twice the amount in tips. The boys really appreciate a dancer who knows how to work the room. Ah, why don't we get down to business? I think that I've covered all the basics and we don't need to get into the private party pointers, yet. That's a whole other deal" Charlie rolled his eyes, stood up and said, "Come on back to the bathroom."
"I can't get over what a really nice place you have," Jeremy said as they walked into a small hallway. He noticed the bathroom was on one side, the bedroom on the other. 'Maybe this is something I can get in a couple of years if I save some dough,' he considered.
"Thanks. It's basic Ikea furniture and stock art but does the job for right now. By the time I graduate, I'm sure my tastes will change. But that's a few years away. Why don't you go in the bedroom and take off your clothes. Just think of this as simply a private locker room."
"Do I need a lock and combination, coach?" Jeremy asked as he walked into the bedroom.
"You'll get your lock and combination when you learn the plays, boy," Charlie said in mock gruffness. "Come over to the coach's office when you're ready. I'll get the razor, clipper and other stuff together."
"That's new...a crapper in an office." Jeremy loved Charlie's sense of humor.
"You ain't seen nothing yet, kid." Charlie turned his back and entered the bathroom.
"I'm waiting, Sir." Jeremy saw that the bed had not been made. But even in its unkempt state, the appearance had an orderly, masculine image. He stripped down to locker room bareness, took a deep breath as he ran his fingers through his sparse chest hair and walked over to the bathroom.
"Well, I see why Garin hired you." Charlie grinned and added, "Sorry...I don't mean to say anything to embarrass you. It's just that we all have a few things in common. Being well-endowed is one of them."
Jeremy paused and thought about this defining moment in their first day together. Charlie had taken off his sweatshirt and socks, and Jeremy thought the male image in front of him wearing only gym shorts looked pretty hot. He stopped, did an impromptu bump and grind and said, "I only have your word that we have that in common." Jeremy couldn't keep a straight face and started laughing until he was shaking.
"You asshole...I love it. Just don't flog yourself to death," Charlie replied. "We're going to get along great. What's another dick, anyway?" He pulled off his shorts and tossed them out into the hallway. "Ta, ta ta...Charlie Barnett at your service. Might as well check me out as a sample of the finished product." He stood with his legs slightly spread apart and put his fists on his waist.
"Um, this is really new for me. I mean, one minute we're having a conversation and the next minute we've got our cocks hanging out for inspection." Jeremy took the opportunity to study Charlie's appendage, trimmed and shaved. He smiled when he realized that Charlie was not exaggerating; it was almost like looking in the mirror - kind of a 'before and after' in grooming. They were very similarly endowed and had almost the same color of hair.
"Understand, completely. In high school, you'd be called a perv for checking out some guy. I moved on from that a long time ago." Charlie slowly turned until his backside was showing. He bent down a little and spread his cheeks. "You might as well get a preview of what happens there."
"Got the picture. Although 'it' doesn't wink back." Jeremy was thoroughly relaxed - mentally, at least - and was enjoying the friendly, slightly-risqué, banter. "Seriously, it looks like our hair growth is pretty similar." He could feel his cock was receiving some serious messages from his brain.
"That's another thing Garin does in selecting a guy. We all don't have a lot of hair to begin with. That way, the grooming doesn't look too contrived or fake." Charlie turned around and pointed to the shower/bathtub. "Hop in there and we'll get started with your chest."
Jeremy eased pass Charlie and stepped into the tub. 'Oh, fuck. I'm getting hard,' he realized.
"By the way, you just reminded me of one more thing," Charlie said with a raised eyebrow and shrug. "It's pretty natural for one or both of the buddies to throw wood once in a while. Just happens." He grabbed a razor and shaving gel before joining Jeremy.
"So what do you do about...wood?"
"Ignore it. At some point it'll get bored and fall asleep," Charlie said. "Now, watch what I'm doing cuz a lot of this stuff you can do on your own." After spreading the gel, he expertly shaved the light patch of hair growing between Jeremy's pecs and carefully removed a few loose hairs around the aureoles.
Nothing was said while Charlie expertly worked the blade on his body. Next came the navel and trail leading downward. He felt the cool sensation of freshly shaved skin down to a point where his primary pubic area began. Jeremy also felt his erection becoming harder. He looked down and confirmed his worst suspicions: he was definitely leaking.
"The legs are the easy part. Why don't you apply some shaving gel to one leg while I get a bottle of water for both of us? Maybe that dick will get soft in the meantime. Be right back."
The endurance of his hardon was somewhat embarrassing. Jeremy took the can of Edge and squirted some into his hand. He evenly applied gel to the left leg and picked up the razor as he thought about some of the chores he would have to do around the house tomorrow. 'Maybe it'll help to distract me?' he hoped.
"Here ya go," Charlie said as he offered Jeremy a bottle of water. "On the legs, take long, slow strokes down. It works best for the usual growth pattern. Go ahead but don't get too close to your crotch...we'll handle that separately."
After he took a sip of water and set the bottle on the sink, Jeremy did as instructed. He took a wet cloth that Charlie offered and wiped down the leg. "Whatdaya think?"
"Not bad. Now, you do the other."
The process was repeated until both legs were bare of most hair. Charlie pointed out a few spots that needed to be redone, including the hairs on the toes. "Okay, here's where it gets tricky. Move your dick out of the way and we'll work on your balls. This is where it's good to trust your buddy," Charlie said with a smile. "The idea is to make everything look natural. We both have about the same growth pattern down there." He pulled his penis aside and nodded for Jeremy to look. "Check me out."
"Got it." Jeremy was going into overdrive as he closely observed the weighty, low-hangers.
"Hold your breath...here we go."
Jeremy watched the process and understood what Charlie meant about their similarities and the natural look. He was thankful Charlie hadn't said anything more about his erection that wouldn't go away. Jeremy almost shot a load when Charlie grabbed onto his dick and shaved around the underside base of it.
"Sorry to be so forward but this needed to be done. You'll notice that it's only the extra hair that we're getting rid of in that area?"
"Yeah, I understand." Jeremy was afraid to say anything more.
"Look how I'm working around where the thong will come and I'm going to do a little extra shaving around the topside of your dick. Nothing the audience will see...just something that creates a little illusion of more size. Like you need it." Charlie winked and continued to shave with precision. "Okay, turn around. Grab that hand mirror so you can see what I'm doing."
It felt very strange for shaving gel and a blade to be cleaning the hairs around his asscrack, butt cheeks and pucker. Jeremy knew he had some explaining if and when he allowed Robert or Tommy close inspection down there. The warm cloth wiping down his butt alerted Jeremy that the shaving process was probably complete. 'Christ,' he thought, 'this pole of mine is still hard as a rock.'
"Turn around and we'll start with the clippers."
"We're finished with the blade?" Jeremy said as he rotated back to face Charlie.
"Yep. And it looks good if I say...whoa, that puppy of yours is still at attention. Doesn't that fucker ever go down?"
"This is all so new to me. I guess, I, ah...it definitely has a mind of its own." Jeremy could feel his face getting red. "I'm sorry, Charlie...I didn't plan on..."
"I can't really do a good detail job trimming the pubes with that staring at me in the face," Charlie said with a giggle. "Only one thing I can think of. Close your eyes."
Even with his eyes closed, Jeremy couldn't get the image of his buddy out of his mind. He smiled a little when he thought how similar they looked in size and shape. 'Jeez. Is that a little strange or sumpin?' he wondered. What wasn't strange but very unexpected was a warm hand on his hard penis. It slowly stroked back and forth and a thumb massaged the tip of his dick very gently.
"Relax, Jeremy, and just go with it," Charlie said in a soft, low voice.
"I'm going to cum if you go too far." Jeremy replied with a moan.
"That's the idea. Whatdaya think buddies are for?"
He still couldn't believe how nonchalant Charlie had been while he took care of the 'erection from hell.' Charlie's calming tone and commentary slowly changed to enthusiastic vocal participation. Encouragement was mixed with jokes and flattery as Jeremy was rapidly moved from euphoria to a jolting climax. After the 'tension' was handled, Charlie silently winked, gave Jeremy a damp cloth and left the bathroom. The host returned a few minutes later and, without saying anything about the release, used the electric clippers for the final trimming. In addition to the manicuring of his pubic bush, excessive underarm hair was cut back.
It was just after noon when Jeremy left Charlie's apartment to go to his Bally's job. Without some of the usual hair covering on his legs and elsewhere, he felt the chilly air creep up his pants more readily when he exited the building. He walked across the street on his way to the bus stop when he noticed a guy he recognized approach Charlie's building. 'Shit,' Jeremy thought, 'What is Gio doing in this neighborhood? And specifically, why is he going to Charlie's building?'
Gio, with his head looking down a bit, did not see Jeremy. He strolled up to the security panel and pressed a button. Jeremy was positive that it was Charlie's door buzzer. A few seconds later, Gio grabbed the handle and opened the door. As Gio walked into the building, Jeremy felt a tightening in his stomach. It appeared that Zach's lover and partner was still on the prowl.
TO BE CONTINUED