The following fictional narrative involves sexually-explicit erotic events between men. If you shouldn't be reading this, please move on.
In the world of this story, the characters don't always use condoms. In the real world, you should care enough about yourself and others to always practice safe sex.
The author retains all rights. No reproductions or links to other sites are allowed without the author's consent.
The town of Stafford, the Sunrise Arts Center, and the characters in this story are fictitious.
Thanks Mickey and Drew, who have provided inspiration, advice, and encouragement throughout the writing of this series.
In the late fall things really got busy at Sunrise. We had new exhibits in the main and smaller galleries, and we had two concerts scheduled on Friday evenings between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Jerome and I saw each other every day at work, but, though we both went to the discussions of James Baldwin's book at the Holy Trinity gay book group, we didn't go together.
We did sit together, along with Jonathan. The parish hall had a stage at one end. Frank sat on the edge of the stage and "moderated" the discussion. At first Jerome seemed content just to sit back and let the others talk, but before it was over, he was contributing very insightful comments. And as one of only two black men there he had valuable things to say.
Fr. Gary Stoner had cake and coffee for us afterwards. Some of the guys left right after the discussion closed, but most stayed around to chat for a while, breaking into fluidly- changing smaller groups. Fr. Gary was alone at one point, so I went over to talk with him. I'd always liked him, but we'd never had a chance to talk much. About 30, he was maybe an inch taller than me, say, 5'10", with black hair, brown eyes, and a round face. He was thin and, I suspected, hairy. Though he was not handsome by any means, I found him very sexy. But I was finding lots of guys sexy those days.
"Whitney," he asked, "have you had any negative comments about the show by the gay couple, Brad and Chris?"
"None, Gary. Why do you ask?"
"Oh, some of our more conservative parishioners have complained to Fr. Glenn that `the gays are taking over Stafford.' They mentioned you and me and then talked about how shocking it was that you'd let two gay men exhibit there and have them as guests of honor at a reception, and so forth. Oh, and they're not too happy about this book group, either."
"Gary, do you think they speak for a majority of our parishioners?"
"Oh, no, I don't think so."
"Are there any book groups for people in the parish who aren't interested in this one?"
He grinned. "Yeah. There are two more. One for women only and one for anyone who's interested in modern fiction with a Christian orientation."
"Well, we gotta watch those women. Before you know it, they'll have taken over everything."
He laughed. "The problem isl, these folks are heavy contributors. They've been reading about what's going on in Canada and New Hampshire, and I think they feel a bit threatened."
"They think we're gonna rape them or something?"
He grinned. "No, you know what I mean."
The twinkle in his eye when he grinned was electric.
"Yeah, but I just get so sick of being treated by my fellow Christians as if I were a leper. Or worse. Lepers can't help it, whereas I'm supposed to have made some sort of sinful choice."
"We, too, shall overcome some day."
Just then Jerome came over. "You gay honkies takin' our song?" he asked, grinning.
That broke Gary and me up. "Well," Gary said, "it seems to have worked for you guys. By the way, welcome to the group, Jerome. Glad you decided to check us out. I hope you'll come back."
"Thanks, Father, I'd like to. This is a good group. Very friendly. Not nearly as standoffish as you Episcopalians are supposed to be."
Gary knew Jerome from the Downtown Youth Center and Sunrise and I wondered how well they knew each other.
"Let's see, Jerome, you attend First Methodist, don't you?"
"He sings in the choir there, Gary."
"Oh, you have a wonderful choir. I wish ours had half your spirit."
"Yeah, it's a great experience singing with that group, I'll tell you. Now, gentlemen, I gotta go. Nice to see you, Father Gary. See you tomorrow, Whitney." He shook hands with Gary, waved at me, and left.
"Whitney, I don't know whether Jerome is gay or not, and it's none of my business. But if word gets back to his congregation that he's attending this book group, some of them are going to assume immediately that he is."
Not wanting to break Jerome's confidence of Thanksgiving day, I merely said, "Jerome's pretty smart, Father. I'm sure he knows what he's doing."
He smiled. "Yes, I suppose he does."
Someone else came up to shake hands with Gary, so I said goodbye and left. As I drove home, I decided that Gary was someone I wanted to know better. He was funny and smart. And for some reason I couldn't quite put my finger on, very sexy. As was Jerome. And Stuart Blount. I decided maybe I was just desperately horny. Even Louis was better off than I was. At least I assumed from the nearly-constant smiles on their faces he and Judd were satisfying each other.
After that last soccer match, I emailed my old buddy Tom in Atlanta about what happened. Not long afterward I got an email back. I noticed there was an attachment, but I read the message first. Tom and I had outgrown using all that chatroom language. We thought it seemed pretty adolescent. Here's what he had to say.
* * *
I showed your email to Ned. He says I better come clean.
I shoulda warned you about the Albrights. I'm sorry I didn't. I guess I'd better explain. At the beginning of my last year in Stafford, I got more or less picked up by Phil and Jamie. What I mean is that they came up to me after school one day and invited me to come back to Phil's place. His folks weren't home, and they said they liked me and wanted to get to know me better. I was flattered that these two popular jocks wanted me to be their friend, so I called Mom on the cell and then went home with them.
They were real nice when I got there. We talked a while about shit, you know, and then they started coming on to me. Before I knew it one of them was sucking on my tit and the other one had his tongue in my ear. Well, bud, you remember how sensitive I am in both those places. I felt really guilty doing that with those guys, since I'd never done anything like that with anybody but you. I know we weren't exactly boyfriends, but we were friends, and I felt bad about messing around with them and not telling. They made me keep coming back. They said they'd spread rumors about me if I didn't.
I hope you understand. Those guys were hot, and they pulled out all the stops. Long story short, after that I was going to Phil's or Jamie's once a week. You remember I told you we could never get together on Thursday nights because I was expected to spend time with my family on Thursdays? Well, I'm sorry, but I lied. I was always with the Albrights on Thursday evening. And we had hot sex. I think I became their toy, for they loved fucking my mouth and my ass. You and I never did the anal part, but we should have. Man, it was incredible! And sometimes they let me fuck them, too.
The only thing was, they were so afraid someone would find out. I wanted to invite you to join us, but they totally refused. They said because of their families' position in the community, it would be really embarrassing if it got out that their sons were gay. Then they said some sort of shit about not being really gay anyway, we were just guys having fun. But they were practically paranoid about anybody finding out. So they insisted on taking pictures of me getting fucked and with a dick in my mouth. I refused unless they let me have some pics of them.
What they did to you was really hypocritical and mean. I can't understand why they'd do that. I'm pretty sure you never knew about them, so you couldn't have been any danger to their reputation.
Dude, I'm really sorry I never told you about Phil and Jamie and me. They said they'd show those pics of me all over school if I ever let on to anybody what we were doing. I hope you'll forgive me. Maybe the attached pic will be useful if they give you any more trouble.
Still your buddy?
PS Ned says hey and good luck with the Albrights!
* * *
Wow! I never guessed any of that was going on, so I sat there stunned for a few minutes, wondering how Tom could have been getting it on with Jamie and Phil for a whole school year without me finding out.
Then I remembered the attachment. When I clicked on it and it came up, despite what Tom had just told me, I was surprised. There was a picture of the two super-straight soccer jock Albright cousins. They were both naked, their stiff dicks crossed like swords as they were kissing each other. It was a hot picture. I could see why Tommy had hung onto it.
But since they were gay, why were they so shitty with me?
Needing some emotional support, I called Louis, who said he'd be right over.
While I was waiting for him, I printed out the picture and Tom's email. As I sat there, I got madder and madder thinking about what two-faced bastards they were to warn me away from Tom because he wasn't the "right kind of people" when they'd been having sex with him for nine months. And then warning me away from Louis, too. What the fuck did they care about Louis and me?
The door at the top of the stairs opened, and Louis said, "Hey Judd, what's up?"
After a hug and a kiss, I handed him Tom's email. His face was fascinating as he read it. He looked interested, then puzzled, and then angry. When he finished, I handed him the picture.
"Sons of bitches! What are you gonna do?"
"I wish I knew how to turn this picture into wallpaper on every computer at school."
He giggled. "Oh, that would be soo deliciously nasty. You don't have access to all those computers, unfortunately. But you could send it to all the guys on the soccer team, though. Did you think of that?"
"I'm too pissed to think clearly right now. Louis, would you just hold me?"
He sat on my bed and motioned me to join him. When I did, we lay back, and he had his arms around me. He smelled and felt wonderful, but I wasn't tempted to start anything. I just wanted to lie there and calm down. He gave me butterfly kisses all over the side of my face.
I don't think I've got a really big ego, but I was hoping that the last match of the season would be a way the seniors on our team could go out on a high note. Instead, we lost. And I looked so stupid. I'm sure any chance I had of a soccer scholarship disappeared with that game. I'd be able to go to one of the state universities anyway. My folks had already promised me that. But I'd hoped I could help out by landing a scholarship. Phil and Jamie didn't have to worry. Both their families had lots of money. But they were willing to sacrifice our team's record just to get back at me because they'd seen me with Louis. My guy was right. They were hypocritical sons of bitches.
Frank and I didn't get together after the book group meeting because he had school the next morning. We had quit having our Friday evening dinners after soccer season ended. Instead he used Friday night and Saturday morning to grade papers and do lesson plans. Then he would come over to my place after lunch. Sometimes we'd go to the mall together if he had shopping to do, or we'd go to Sunrise if he hadn't seen the current exhibits, or perhaps take in a movie. On Friday nights when there were concerts, of course, we both went to them, though we didn't have seats together. We usually fixed dinner together at my place on Saturday night, watched TV or a video, and cuddled. (There are worse things than having a nice-looking, nice-smelling warm guy next to you on the sofa.)
Anyway, the weekend after Whitney and Jerome came to the book group, we were having dinner. Frank finished his stew, took a final sip of cabernet, put down his napkin and asked, "Is Jerome Huggins gay?"
"I don't know. None of our business, is it?"
"Come on! You mean you don't wonder about guys? Especially hunky ones who show up at our book group? And you must have had a chance to watch him at Sunrise."
"Oh, I watch him. Who wouldn't? He's hunky. But is he gay? As I said, I don't know. But if he keeps coming to the book group, people are going to assume he is."
"You know," I continued, "Jerome and Whitney have lunch together about twice a month, and Whitney went there for Thanksgiving dinner."
"Which may or not mean anything."
"True. But you know, Frank, I wish Whitney could find himself a man. He's such a cute little stud, and such a nice guy. He deserves to have someone."
I got up and brought in two dishes of apple crisp. Frank poured coffee while I was doing that.
When we were settled back at the table, Frank leaned forward and asked, "How's he doing as director up there?"
"Oh, he's stirred things up a little. His predecessor was pretty staid in some ways. And Whitney's ruffled a few feathers in the process. But the forty-something crowd, which is what we need to get involved in the Alliance, are really pleased with the changes he's made. And the staff loves him. Jean has practically adopted him, and the old lady volunteers think he's cute."
"As does one old gentleman volunteer, apparently."
I grinned. "Yep. I hope he finds somebody. Some guy who'll get him to let his hair down once in a while."
"Oh, yeah," Frank said. "I'd love to see him without the ponytail."
One late afternoon in December Stu Blount and I had a meeting in my office. By the time we'd finished our business, it was time for Sunrise to close.
"Stu, if you don't mind waiting while I close up, why don't we stop someplace for a drink?"
He smiled as if that was the greatest idea he'd ever heard. "I'd like that. In fact, I was just about to ask whether you'd like to go somewhere for supper with me."
"Deal. Would you hang on for a few minutes? Or, since we've got both cars, maybe you could go somewhere and get us a table, and I'll be there as soon as I'm finished here. Where shall we meet?" I thought I'd let him choose, since I didn't suppose as a high school teacher he made all that much money.
"Ever been to Dino's?"
"Can't say I have. Sounds like a pizza joint."
"Then you're in for a surprise."
He told me how to it. Jerome had closed up the Music Hall before he left, so it didn't take me long to close up Sunrise and set the alarms. Stuart's directions were clear and concise, and it didn't take me long to get there. It was a small, family-style restaurant in a primarily residential area. When I went in, I was greeted by a friendly guy who looked to be about ten years older than me, say 45.
I admitted that I was.
"Stuart told me you were coming. He's already in a booth back there. Welcome to my place. I'll let you and Stu say hello, and then I'll be over to take your drink order."
I thanked him and went back to the booth where I could see Stu's hair flaming in the lamplight. He started to get up, but knowing how difficult it is to slide out of a booth, I motioned for him to stay where he was.
He gave me a big grin as I slid in across from him. "I see you made it. And you've met the proprietor."
"Yeah, is that Dino?"
"No, Dino was his grandfather. This place has been in the family for three generations at least. That's Carl. I think his name's Carlo, actually, but he says he was born in Stafford and he prefers Carl."
About that time Carl came over to ask what we'd like to drink. I looked to Stu for guidance.
"It would be sacrilege to have anything but good Italian red with the food here. Carl, why don't you bring us a bottle of something you think we'd like."
After Carl had left, I said, "You must trust him. Some guys would bring you a fifty buck bottle."
"Hey, the Migliores are good folks. And this place is the best-kept secret in Stafford."
"Then I'm glad you suggested it."
All he said was "So am I." If I hadn't been sure he was straight, I'd have thought there was a message in his smile.
It took a little longer to bring the wine than I would have expected. When it came, a waiter brought it. He also had a basket of warm ciabatta bread that smelled heavenly.
"Hello, Mr. Blount. I'm going to be taking care of you gentlemen this evening. Would you like to order now, or do you need more time?"
"Hi, Josh. This is Dr. Pell. We've been so busy talking we haven't even looked at the menus yet."
"Hello, Dr. Pell. Welcome to Dino's. I didn't mean to rush you. Take your time. I'll be back to check on you after a while."
"Nice to meet you, Josh," I said. He gave me a dazzling smile, nodded, and left.
"Josh is Carl's son. He's a senior at Stafford this year. He'll go away to college somewhere next year. I don't think he wants to follow in the family tradition and run the restaurant."
"Pity, if it's been in the family for three generations."
We ate the delicious bread. There was olive oil on the table to dip it in, but Josh had also brought butter in case we preferred that. Stu and I both used the olive oil. The wine was in a decanter, and I was suspicious until I tasted it. It was superb. Chianti, I guessed (well there are other Italian reds!), but really fine chianti.
"Mmm. This is great, Stu. I'm glad you suggested this place."
He gave me another one of those smiles. "I'm glad you could come with me. Otherwise, I'd probably have gone home and nuked something. I hate cooking for myself, so I usually don't bother to fix anything good."
I realized that he'd been widowed only a couple of years ago and wondered what I should say.
"Maybe we should take a look at the menus. Then we can munch bread and drink wine until our salads come."
After some study and discussion, we made our selections. Josh was right there when we'd finished. We both ordered veal. I chose the picatta, and Stuart ordered veal al bacio, which was cutlets rolled around a stuffing of crab meat and asparagus.
Josh brought our salads, and we continued to eat and talk.
"How are you adapting to living alone?" I asked.
"I was lost at first. I mean, not only did I miss Maggie, but I just felt at loose ends. We always did everything together. I'm getting used to it now, more or less. I don't mind being alone some of the time. But the house still seems awfully empty when I get home at nights, and, like I said, meals are a very lonely time. That's one of the reasons why I'm glad we're here this evening."
"One of the reasons?"
He blushed as only a redhead can blush. "Ohmygod, did I say that?"
"Well, it seems like you and I are always talking business, you know, our art program, Sunrise, that kind of thing. I've been looking forward to getting to know Whitney Pell better. Seems to me he's an interesting guy."
Blonds have been known to blush, too, and I think I did. I was spared having to come up with an appropriate response by the appearance of Josh with our entrees.
I told myself to beware of misreading the signals. The hunk sitting across from me, smiling at me, was amazing. Although he looked a bit like the guy in the commercials for Brawny paper towels, he had the delicacy and sensitivity to paint miniatures. I really wanted to see those miniatures and promised myself I'd take him up on his offer to see them. Soon!
"Whitney, have you always been alone, or has there been someone . . . ?"
I told him about my years with Kyle, explaining that I was just coming out of that relationship when I moved here.
"So you know what it's like to be part of a couple and then suddenly find yourself single again."
"Oh, yes." I took a sip of wine and wondered if a white or a lighter red would have been better with the veal, but then I decided wine that good would go with almost anything. "How long were you and Maggie together?"
"Seven years. We were married just out of college."
"No kids, I assume."
He looked almost embarrassed when he said, "No."
I thought it was a good idea to change the subject, so I asked him if I could see his work sometime.
He beamed. "Of course it would be better to see them in the daylight, but you could come over this evening if you wanted to."
How could I say no? Spending a little extra time with this very friendly hunk was not a bad thing. And I really did want to see his miniatures.
The veal was fabulous. Stu insisted that I take a taste of his, so I asked him to try some of mine. That's something you'd normally do only with a good friend. The act of doing it made me feel closer to Stuart.
We talked comfortably about this and that as we ate.
When Josh asked if we wanted dessert, Stu said, "The tiramisu here is the best! A real pick-me-up."
Nodding to him to show I caught his word play, I said, "Gee, I pigged out on the bread. I really don't think I could manage another bite right now."
"How about we take some back to my place for later, after I've shown you my etchings, er, paintings?" He chuckled.
"Yeah, that sounds good."
Josh came back with the tiramisu and the bill. I insisted that we split the bill, and Stuart, after some initial resistance, agreed. Then I followed him back to his place.
Stuart's home was a one-story ranch in an established neighborhood. I was glad I was following him, or I might never have found it. The streets wound around hillsides and there appeared to be many cul de sacs, as was true of many Stafford neighborhoods.
Inside, he put the tiramisu in the fridge and took my coat.
"You wanna see my things first or would you like to have dessert first?"
I would have loved to see his "things," but I said "Oh, I'm eager to see your work. Let's do that."
He took me down what was obviously the bedroom hallway to a large room.
"This was the master bedroom. After Maggie died, I put in the skylight and made this my studio. I sleep in the middle-sized bedroom and have my computer in the smallest one."
I wondered what he did when he had guests but didn't ask.
"Stuart, I know that in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, before photography, miniature portraits were rather like wallet sized photos are today, easily portable pictures of people one cared about. But I also understand that these days there's been a great renewal of interest in miniature paintings."
He nodded, smiling. "Yeah, and people today are using all sorts of media on all sorts of surfaces. We paint with watercolors, gouaches, alkyds, acrylics, oils, and pastels. I even know a woman who does enameling on copper. The important thing is that they have to be small, usually no larger than five by seven inches."
"What sorts of surfaces other than copper are used?"
"In the seventeenth century ivory was most often used. Then vellum became popular. Some artists still use vellum. Today wood is sometimes used. And there are several kinds of things that have some of the qualities of ivory. I like to use fine hot-pressed paper or else tagua."
"It's a palm ivory made from the tagua nut. It has many of the characteristics of real ivory."
"Well, yeah. Some folks like to use velvet or silk or other fabrics."
"So just about any medium on any surface?"
He nodded. "That's about it. The most important thing is the size – and the detail. You know we have to use extremely fine brushes, usually sable, and we do our work with a magnifier. Here, let me show you."
He steered me to shelves along one wall which were full of his work. As he said, nothing larger than five by seven, and most of his were more like three by four inches. Stuart seemed to enjoy a variety of subjects. There were still lifes, landscapes, wild life studies, water and cityscapes, and portraits of people.
"Here, let me turn up the light."
He adjusted a rheostat and the room brightened considerably. Then he handed me a Sherlock Holmes type magnifying glass. I soon became absorbed in studying his pieces.
"I'll just go put on some coffee. Feel free to look as much as you like."
I'd known about miniatures, and I'd seen examples from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries in various museums, but I had never seen much contemporary miniature work. Stuart's work was marvelous. What first impressed me was the breadth of subject matter. As I put down a street scene of downtown Stafford done in incredible detail, I picked up a painting of a great blue heron standing in the edge of a lake. There were cypress trees along the opposite shore, and with the aid of the lens I could see the roughness of the bark.
There were several portraits, as well, three of the same young woman. She was wearing different outfits, but she wasn't dressed up in any of them. In one she was wearing a plain green tee shirt. In another she had on a denim shirt. In the third she had on a pale blue sweater. Her hair was black, her eyes blue, and her skin a flawless white. She looked at the artist or the viewer with a slight smile in each painting as if she were somehow amused, or as if they were sharing a joke.
Another of the portraits was of a young man, probably of college age, wearing a white tennis sweater. His black hair was cut close on the sides but full on top. A sexy curl dangled over his forehead. He had the same blue eyes and facial features as the woman, so I was sure they were been brother and sister. The resemblance was very close. Whereas the woman was looking playful, however, the boy, for that's what he seemed to be, was looking out of the frame with a smoldering gaze. He looked a little like a Tom Cruise at 19. I felt a warmth spread through my genitals.
Surprised to be so turned on by a portrait, I jumped when Stuart said, looking over my shoulder, "That's Jack, my brother in law."
"Then this must be your wife."
"Yes, that's Maggie. Those are all painted from life. The portrait of Jack is painted from memory."
"I'll tell you about that if you want, but why don't you look around some more first? The coffee and tiramisu will be ready whenever you are."
"Thanks. I'd like to look at the rest of these." I lost myself for perhaps another half an hour inspecting and marveling at the eye and talent of Stuart Blount.
"You don't often have people here to see your work, do you?"
"Not really. I'm not set up to have this open to the public, and I'm never here except evenings and weekends."
"Have you ever had a local show?"
"Does anyone locally carry your work?"
"Yes, Frobishers downtown keep a few of my pieces."
"Well, you need better exposure than that. Our smallest gallery would be perfect for a display of your work. I'm going to check to see how soon it will be available. Would you let us show these?"
"You sure you want to?"
"Absolutely. When the gallery committee see your things, they'll be as excited as I am."
"Splendid! You know, Whitney, I didn't bring you back here expecting anything like that. You had expressed an interest in my pieces, that's all. But, hey, if you want to display my stuff, that's great!"
"Then that's decided. Now, let's go have that tiramisu and you can tell me about Maggie and Jack."
He put his hand on my shoulder and gently steered me toward the door of the studio. "There's not all that much to tell, actually, but come on. You're gonna love the tiramisu."
As we sat at the kitchen table facing each other, I was once again taken by what a stud Stuart was. Now, however, I saw him in a new light. This strapping guy did exquisitely detailed miniature paintings. He might look like a lumberjack, but he was a highly accomplished artist. I suspected the people at Stafford High didn't know what a talent they had, and I was eager to know more about him.
"Uh, Stu, you were going to tell me about your wife and brother-in-law."
"As I said, there's not much of a story. Jack was my room mate my first two years at the university, and we became close friends. Maggie was his twin, and she was going there, too. I saw her fairly often because she and Jack were close, as twins usually are. When Jack was killed in a car accident spring of sophomore year, Maggie and I became close. Like we were sort of mourning him together, you know?"
"The next year we began dating. After graduation we got married. She was a wonderful person, Whitney, and as you can see, she was a beautiful woman. I miss her a lot, even after two years."
"How did she die?"
"She had lymphoma, and it took her pretty quickly."
"I'm very sorry."
"Look, Stu, no one can replace your wife, but if you're ever feeling lonely and just want somebody to talk to or just hang with, I'm alone, too. Give me a call."
He smiled as if I'd just given him very good news. "Thanks, my friend. I'll remember that."
We talked about several things after that. I pointed out that we'd probably need glass cases in which to display his miniatures since otherwise there'd be too much danger of their being stolen. He said he understood that, but that without being able to see them up close, people couldn't really appreciate them properly. We decided to think more about that problem.
As I was leaving, he helped me put on my coat. Then he pulled me into a hug.
"Thanks for coming over, Whitney. I'm really excited you want to show my stuff at Sunrise. And I'm glad we're friends. You're a good guy."
My answer was muffled in his shoulder when he pulled my head against it and then kissed me on the top of the head.
I had trouble getting to sleep that night. I wondered about the almost blatant sexiness in the portrait of Jack, Stu's brother-in-law. He said he'd painted that from memory. Could there have been more than just friendship between those two?
I also kept wondering what that kiss meant.
To be continued.