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 all the characters in this story are fictitious.
Special thanks to Mickey and Drew, who have provided inspiration, advice, and encouragement throughout the writing of this series.
I thought a lot about Stuart after that evening at his house. Checking the gallery schedule, I found that our smallest gallery, which would be perfect for a display of his miniatures, would be available in late May. I had a talk with the chair of the gallery committee and suggested what I would like to do. It wouldn't be politic just to tell her we were going to show Stuart's pieces, so I suggested that she ask to see some of them. Then if she had any problems about having a show of them at Sunrise, I asked her to see me.
Several days later she dropped by my office (members of the Board and committee chairs always seemed to assume that they never needed to make appointments) and was wildly enthusiastic about Stuart's miniatures.
"Whitney," she gushed, "I've seen Stuart Blount around Sunrise for several years, but I never had any idea he was so talented. Who ever would have thought that such a gorgeous man could do such exquisite work?"
We agreed to go forward with the exhibit of Stuart's pieces, and I had the pleasure of calling to tell him so. He was, of course, excited by the prospect.
I kept thinking back to that evening when we'd had dinner and gone to his house afterward. He was an open, straightforward, charming man. He was also, as Sylvia said, gorgeous in a completely masculine sort of way. I knew he'd been married and I could tell that he'd really loved Maggie, his deceased wife. Two things kept nagging at me, however. One was the signals I sensed he was sending me. He was very friendly. Little looks and vocal nuances suggested that perhaps his attitude toward me went beyond friendliness.
The other thing was that portrait of Jack, his brother-in-law and college roommate. The portrait was painted from memory, he'd said, not life. And in the portrait the young man looked blazingly seductive. Would a straight man have painted him that way? I resolved to see Stuart whenever possible and keep my eyes peeled for other signs that the hot Scot, as I was thinking of him, was gay.
But it was December, and my life was hectic. I don't know what I would have done without Jean, but even with her help, things at Sunrise were borderline frantic. With volunteers going away for the holidays or begging off work because they had family coming in, we were short-staffed. We also had two concerts in December.
Besides all that we had to decorate both buildings for the holidays. Jerome and LaKeesha, his assistant, did the lion's share of the work, but everyone pitched in. Jon, bless his heart, made himself available whenever he was needed. Louis and Judd showed up, along with Allen and Bo, two of the high school students who'd helped with the younger kids at the previous summer's art camp. We managed to get it done, but, as I said, it was pretty wild.
I hadn't managed to get back to the book group at Holy Trinity after that evening when we discussed Native Son. It's not that I wasn't interested, just that I was harried and needed some time to unwind. I decided the Thursday evening of the second discussion of Baldwin's book to stay home and catch up on laundry.
The next day I got a phone call from Fr. Gary. He wanted to have lunch with me. We set up a day, and I met him at a small downtown place called Carolina Cookin'. We both had brown beans, collards, and corn bread. We talked about books, about parish matters, about Sunrise, and toward the end of our meal I was beginning to wonder why he had asked me to meet with him.
I should explain that I found Gary a very attractive guy, even if he wasn't good looking in the usual sense of the term. He was intelligent, empathetic, and funny. Besides that, as I think I've said before, he exuded a sort of sexual vitality that I found appealing. So I enjoyed the meal, happy just to spend some time with him. Still, he seemed to have something on his mind.
"Whitney, I suppose you're wondering why I asked you to have lunch with me."
"Well, yes. But I've enjoyed it and hope we can do it again after the holiday madness is over." I had a qualm about describing the holy season that way to a priest, but I'd done it, and there was no taking it back.
He grinned, and said, "I know what you mean about the holidays. It gets pretty busy at my place of business, too. And I'd like us to do this again after the first of the year, shall we say. But I have a question for you, and I know I shouldn't ask it."
"You'd know best about that, Gary. But it seems to me there's no harm in asking. I just may not want to answer."
"Okay. Let me put it this way. Do you think I have a chance with Jerome?"
Whoa! I had to think about how to respond. I knew Fr. Gary was gay. He was out to the world. Even so I didn't think I should be talking about Jerome with him.
"Gary, I'm not sure we ought to be talking about that. It's Jerome's private business, isn't it?"
He looked embarrassed. "Yes, of course it is." He sipped his coffee. "And, believe me, I wrestled with my conscience over whether to ask you or not." He looked me straight in the eye, took a deep breath, and said, "But I find Jerome very attractive. I was just wondering whether there's any point in trying to get to know him better."
Oh. Oh! Gary was interested in Jerome. Wow!
"I think that's something I can't ethically talk about. But Jerome's a very intelligent, kind, sweet, man. And he's undoubtedly one hunky dude. If you like him, why not find some reason to get together with him and see what happens?"
As I gave Fr. Gary that advice, I was of two minds. I liked Gary and would have been glad to help him find a partner. I thought I knew he would be interested in something more than casual sex with anyone he became close to. On the other hand, I had a pang of jealousy. I liked Jerome a lot, and I wasn't sure how I felt about somebody else going after him.
The cute priest grinned and said, "Well, thanks a lot, Whitney. You've been a real help."
"Sorry, Father. That's the best I can do."
We split the check, saying we would have lunch again after the New Year. He was walking back to Holy Trinity, and I jumped in the car to hurry back to Sunrise.
Judd was really upset when he got Tom's email and the picture of Jamie and Phil Albright. He couldn't understand why they had kept warning him away from first Tom and then me, why they would have persuaded the rest of the soccer team to keep the ball away from him so he couldn't have a chance to score in the final match of the season.
"What the fuck have I ever done to them, Louis?" he asked. My gorgeous soccer stud lover had tears in his beautiful blue eyes. I never got tired of looking at him. His honey-blond hair was getting longer and curlier since he'd quit getting his buzz cut. He looked like the total jock, very masculine, yet that evening he looked really vulnerable. (I was about to write "so vulnerable," but my English teacher, Mr.Cummings , used to tell us that "so" is not an intensifier.)
It was the day after he'd shown me Tom's email and the picture. We were in my room. I got off the bed and went to the computer chair he'd been sitting in. I pulled him up, took him to the bed. We sat on the edge of the bed. I put my arms around him and nuzzled his ear.
"I don't suppose you've ever done anything to them, babe. They're the ones with the problem, not you."
"I think I'm gonna send copies of that picture to all the guys on the team and to the coaches. Those bastards! They're gay, and they pull all that shit because they suspect that I am? When Tommy left and again this fall they said something like `People like us aren't that way.' What bullshit! Who the fuck do they think they are?"
I put one arm around him and held him close while I rubbed his chest with the other, hoping to calm him down.
"Dammit, I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna send out that picture. It will fuckin' serve them right!"
"Shhh! Babe, calm down. You need to think about this."
He stiffened and then took a deep breath. After that I could feel him relax in my arms.
"Okay, Louis. What do you think I should do?"
"First of all, I think I'd like to know how they'd answer your question about why they did what they did."
He thought about that for a minute. I could feel his nipples getting hard as I continued to rub them, so I quit. It wasn't the moment for getting him aroused sexually.
"Yeah, babe. You're right. I want some answers from those jerks."
"Uh huh. And if you send out the picture, your chances of getting those answers aren't very good, are they?"
"No, I guess not." He leaned over and nuzzled the side of my neck. I wanted to push him down and fall on top of him and kiss him, but I thought we need to continue with our discussion.
It took some effort, but I asked, "So what do you think you should do?"
He chuckled. "Louis, I love you, babe. But right now you sound like Dr. Ruth."
"Bite your tongue, bitch!"
That made him laugh harder. When he had finished, he said, "I guess I should talk with them."
"You're pretty sly, you know. You got me to calm down and see what I should really do without ever telling me what you thought I oughta do. How'd you manage that?"
"Judd, baby, I love you. I don't want you getting into trouble over those guys. They aren't worth it. But I understand why you're so pissed with them, and I understand why you need answers from them. So like you said, why not talk with them?"
He took a deep breath. Then he began to suck on my neck. I didn't have to worry about a hickey, so I just pulled us both back on the bed and let him do it. My pecker was leaking pretty badly into my boxers, but I didn't care. I was with my guy, and he needed me. Besides, it felt fantastic!
Eventually I wound up naked. He'd opened my shirt, pulled my tee up over my pecs, and sucked on my nips. Then he worked his way down my stomach to my navel. When He started to unbutton my jeans, I sat up.
"Here, let me help you get undressed."
"No, lover, let me do this tonight, please."
"Okay, if that's the way you want it, but I don't feel right being naked if you aren't."
He gave me a sweet smiled and took off his clothes. Then he said, "I want you to feel good. Just lie back and let me."
I lay back, and man, did he make me feel good!
I recently heard a standup comic on Comedy Central say she didn't like 69. "It's as if someone said, `Let's have sex, but let's go dutch.'" I've always been inclined to agree.
It was a Saturday night in mid-December. Things had been crazy at Sunrise, with concerts, special holiday exhibits, getting both buildings decorated for the holidays, and doing it all with many of our volunteers out of town. A number of our retirees went to Florida for the winter, and more were away just because of the holidays.
Frank and I had gone out for dinner, taken in a movie, and then gone back to his condo. We'd had a brandy and turned in early. We'd just finished consecutive, not simultaneous fellatio and were cuddling.
"Jon," he mumbled into my chest hair."
I stroked his head. "Yeah, babe?"
"We said we were going to make a decision by Christmas, didn't we?"
"Well, don't you think it's getting pretty close?"
"Uh huh. But close isn't Christmas."
He pulled back. "Jonny, are you going to make me wait until December 25 before you tell me what you've decided?"
I stroked his face. "Isn't it what we agreed on?"
"And how are we going to announce our decisions to each other?"
"I guess I hadn't thought about that."
He seemed a bit perturbed. "Well, look, what if one of us says yes and the other says no? How can we plan for Christmas if we don't know whether we've decided to be a couple or not?"
"I'm sorry. I realize I've never come out and told you. I assumed you understood. So far as I'm concerned we're a couple, and I'm looking forward to Christmas to consummate our union."
"Well, you might have told me. I've been worried sick and afraid to say anything."
I kissed him with what I hoped was enough conviction to allay any fears he had about my feelings toward him.
"As I said, I'm truly sorry I haven't actually said it."
"Said what?" he asked, grinning at me.
"That I love you, silly."
He rolled me over, climbed on top, and began to kiss me enthusiastically. When we'd paused, he asked, "Then why do we have to wait until Christmas to fuck?"
"Fuck? I don't plan on fucking you or being fucked by you, Mr.Howard. I want you to make love to me. But not until Christmas."
"Would you consider Christmas Eve?"
I kissed him a while and then said, "Well, yes, I suppose so."
I tried to work out two or three days a week. I made a point of getting to the gym at 7:00 AM so I'd have plenty of time to do my routines, shower, and get to work. I went early on Saturdays, too, just to beat the crowd.
One Saturday morning I noticed Chave MacPherson as I moved from one piece of equipment to another, but he was in the middle of a set of crunches, so all I did was smile and nod. I didn't see him again until I went into the shower room. He was already there.
The previous times I'd seen him he'd been in a suit. Naked and wet he looked fantastic. His hair, normally a sort of strawberry blond, looked darker because it was wet, almost auburn. He had a light coating of hair on his chest, the usual treasure trail which led down to a bush that looked as if he kept it trimmed. I wondered about that. Do straight guys trim their pubes? Below the pubes hung a nice circumcised cock and rather large balls.
Chave's body was perfect. He wasn't overdeveloped. Rather, he was perfectly proportioned and beautifully defined. Lithe, graceful, and particularly sensuous because he was glisteningly wet.
His blue eyes sparkling, he grinned and nodded when I stepped under a shower several heads away from his. As I soaped myself, I became aware that he was looking me over at least as thoroughly as I'd looked at him. I was wondering what to say to him when he spoke.
"I didn't know you used this gym. I come here regularly, but I've never seen you here before."
"I'm here every Saturday morning about this time."
"Oh, well, this isn't my usual time to be here. I missed a workout earlier in the week and thought I'd make it up this morning."
I nodded and continued to soap myself. I was self-conscious as I washed my genitals and ass. I'd done that in showers with other men all my life, but Chave was watching me, and I found that made a difference.
"Whit," he began.
I thought I'd told him I didn't like to be called "Whit." I decided that wasn't the time to raise the question.
"Can I take you up on your offer to see your studio sometime? I'd like to see more of your work, and I'm really interested in how you do it."
I'd had ambivalent feelings about MacPherson from the time Gary introduced us at that reception at Sunrise. He'd looked so polished, so smugly successful that day that I disliked him immediately. I was sure he had to be one of those people who, in the guise of being friendly and sincere, managed to manipulate others to get what they want. And he was probably a snob. As I said, he reminded me of my older brothers, both of them successful lawyers and both of them oily, insincere, snobbish jerks. I would have called them bastards or sons of bitches, but they were my brothers. Whatever else she was or wasn't, Mother was never unfaithful to my dad, and though witch sometimes comes to mind, I'd never characterize her as a bitch. Well, not often anyway.
Chave was a member of the vestry at my church, and he'd recently engineered a very generous contribution to Sunrise from his firm, adding a generous contribution of his own. Besides that, he'd been very pleasant during our recent lunch, and I told myself I should give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he really was a nice guy, as he seemed, and I should get to know him better. Besides, there was no way I could refuse to invite him to my place to see how I made my glass pieces. So, I decided to strike while the kiln was hot, so to speak.
"Chave, do you have plans for lunch?"
He grinned. "Oh, yeah! This is Saturday. I was going to go home and heat up a can of chili. Why? Got something else in mind?"
"If you'll eat quiche and a salad, why don't you come over for lunch about 12:30, and I'll show you the studio afterward?"
"Could we make it 1:00?"
By this time he was drying himself. I turned toward the shower head to rinse my front. Just after I did so, he snapped my butt with his towel.
"Great, stud. I'll see you at your place later."
"Ow! I'll get you for that. Do you know how to get to my house?"
"Yep. Looked it up on Mapquest."
Rubbing my stinging cheek, I said, "Okay, Chave. Later."
As I dried myself and dressed, I couldn't help wondering about MacPherson. Was he gay, or just the type who was comfortable with gays and extremely comfortable with who he was? Despite my reservations about him, he had always been pleasant with me, friendly, good-natured, fun even. And he was, I decided, pretty sexy. Otherwise, why would I have gotten an erection sitting there on the bench thinking of him as I put on my socks?
After lunch, which was actually quite pleasant, I took Chave across the parking area to my studio.
He was enthusiastic about the pieces I had sitting around.
"Whitney, these are gorgeous! I'm amazed by the depth. How in the world do you get these flowers to look as if they're down inside the glass instead of on the surface? Oh, and these platters with the fish in them. That's amazing."
"Okay, I'll give you the lecture if you're sure you want to hear it."
"Look here. What do you see?"
"It looks like sheets of the kind of glass one sees in church windows."
"That's exactly what it is. I get them from a place in West Virginia. They're mouth-blown."
"How do they blow flat sheets of glass?"
I grinned. "They don't. They blow cylinders, cut them, and then reheat them just enough that the cylinders will flatten into sheets."
I moved to another table. "Look here." I showed him some pieces I'd cut from the colored glass. I arranged the pieces into a pattern and put them between two round pieces of blue glass, the one on the bottom being darker than the one on top.
"This looks a little like a sandwich, doesn't it?"
Apparently fascinated, he said, "Uh huh."
"Okay, to make a plate or platter, which are called `slumped pieces,' I put the glass sandwich over a form. Then I put them in this kiln at about 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. During that process the glass fuses into one piece."
"So that's how you get the flowers or fish or whatever to look as if it's inside the plate. It really is inside."
"Yeah, but I can also apply—or appliqué—decorative pieces on the surface, too, or texture the surface, but that's done at a lower temperature."
"How come I don't see any mugs or cups?"
"Unfortunately it's a property of the glass that when it's bent at a sharp angle, the point of the bend is extremely fragile. So I can do slumped forms but can't make vases or cups or anything like that. Here are some things that are popular with some of my customers, though."
I showed him a shelf with a dozen or so picture frames.
"Oh, those are great. I remember seeing some of those in the Charlotte show, too. I like the black one that looks like it's got piano keys along on side. And the one with the sail boat's clever, too. The boat's appliqué rather than fused, isn't it?"
"Thanks for the compliment. And yes, the boat's applied. You're a quick learner."
"Thank you. Man, you gotta have a show of this stuff. The folks in Stafford need to see it."
"Well, it would hardly look right for me to use my position as director of Sunrise to tout my own wares."
"I disagree. You often let other local artists display their things there, don't you?"
"Yes, especially some of the people who teach art classes for us. Oh, and Stuart Blount's going to have a show with us, probably in May."
"He's an art teacher at Stafford High, and he does really fine miniatures."
"I'll look forward to that. Now, is there any limit to the size of the round pieces you can make.?"
"Only the size of the kiln. Why?"
"I've got a space in my dining area where I'd love to put one of your round or oval pieces, the bigger the better. Could you do something in clear glass with brightly colored spring flowers in it?"
"Good. Do something like that for me when you can, okay?"
"You don't want to give me more guidance than that?"
He smiled. "Nope. I trust your taste."
He looked at his watch. "Now, Whit, I've gotta run. Got a vestry committee meeting this afternoon. Thanks for lunch, man. And thanks for showing me all of this. You're a real talent."
He gave me a hug. A long hug. Long enough to grab my left buttock in his right hand and give it a squeeze. Then he let go and went out to his Beemer.
I just stood there, bemused. At least Chave's visit had answered one question. That squeeze on the butt had to mean he was gay.
I just wished he wouldn't call me "Whit."
A few days after Judd had shown me the email and picture from his old buddy Tom, he told me he'd made arrangements to see Jamie and Phil at Phil's house after school.
"Are you sure it's a good idea to go to their turf, babe? You want me to come?"
He hugged me and chuckled. "For what? Somehow I don't think you'd be much good in a fight."
"Well, I . . . "
"Besides," he continued, "I have the picture on my hard drive. They won't be in any position to do anything to me."
"What are you gonna do when you get there?"
"All I want is some answers. Why they did it. Ya know?"
"Yeah." I kissed him. "Good luck. And call me as soon as you get home from their house, okay?"
I was nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs all evening. When 9:00 came, I was ready to go find Judd. Of course, I didn't know whether he would be at Phil's house or at home or somewhere in between, so I had to admit to myself there was nothing I could do.
While I was waiting I'd put together a bunch of pictures and put them in an envelope.
By 10:00 when he hadn't called, I was really worried. I didn't want to disturb his folks, so I tried his cell. It was turned off.
He never called.
I didn't get much sleep that night. It just wasn't like Judd to leave me hanging like that.
The next day at school I didn't see him. He didn't show up for lunch, either. By then I was really scared something had happened. I asked a friend of mine who was also in Ms. Burleigh's art class if Judd had been there, and she said that he had. So Judd had come to school but was obviously avoiding me.
I tried to do my homework after school, but I wasn't able to concentrate on it. At dinner my mother asked why I was picking at my food. I mumbled some excuse and went up to my room. I brushed my teeth, grabbed the envelope of pictures, and drove to the Thomas's.
His mother answered the door.
"Oh, Louis, I'm so glad you're here. Judd's been acting very strangely, and we don't know why. He's downstairs in his room. He didn't eat any supper. Please go see if you can find out what's wrong with him."
"Yes, ma'am, I'll do that."
When I got there Judd was lying on his bed, his face in a pillow. He had obviously heard me coming down the stairs, but he didn't roll over or even look at me.
I put the envelope of photos on his desk, sat on the edge of the bed, and put my hand on his back.
He turned his head enough to be able to speak. "Louis, please just go away. I can't talk to you."
To be continued.