I introduced my team to Charlie.
"Bob Dunhill, Larry Kerzinski, Donna Hurley, and Karl Ruidhome," I said. "Except for Karl they all go to U of T and Karl is only out because he's taking a year off. This, folks, is Charlie Reid, world famous wildlife artist. Be careful, he's an American, too."
The four nodded their heads and one, Karl I think, said, "I've seen your stuff. Man, you're good. You musta been born with tons of talent."
"Thanks," Charlie muttered. "Talent's overrated. It's sweat that gets you where you want to go."
Karl looked at me and I shrugged. Letting him know that understanding Charlie could be a major undertaking. There was definitely something going on with him. I wondered if finding out what that something was could be a good thing or a dangerous one.
The rest of the day passed in a blur of hard work and the constant chatter of the four college kids. They were a hard working bunch and this was their second summer with me, but sometimes their youthful vigor was taxing. This from an old man of thirty-one.
I noticed Donna trying to strike up a conversation with Charlie a couple of times and getting little more than monosyllabic responses. She was a willowy blond girl with a strong will and I wasn't surprised when she didn't give up. I doubt she was used to getting turned down by guys. At last living ones.
But her charms weren't working on Charlie. When I had time to think about it I found that very interesting. Finally Charlie said something to her that made her look disappointed for about ten seconds then she laughed and went back to digging up and labeling core samples.
Charlie moved back into the bush north of where we had parked our vehicles. Gathering up my cameras I followed him. I caught up with him in a clearing examining a rotten stump of some old downed giant that had been reduced to a damp mass of spongy wood covered in moss and mushrooms.
He saw me enter the clearing and nodded to me. "Look at this, will you."
I came to stand beside him and looked where he was pointing. Some weird kind of fungus or lichen had sprouted a brilliant red stalk into the air, a tiny little knot at the end looking like nothing so much as an eye at the end of an antenna.
"Like something from another planet, isn't it?" Charlie knelt to study it more closely. He propped his sketchpad on his bent leg and began to scribble.
While he did that I pulled out the digital camera and snapped off a couple of pictures. After a while I realized Charlie was watching me.
"Digital?" he asked. "I'll have to get you to email me some of those. I can use them as material when I start the actual pieces." He reached into his jacket and pulled out a billfold then paused. "If you don't mind, that is."
"Not at all."
He nodded and handed me a business card. Like Charlie himself it wasn't what you'd expect from an artist, rising or not. It was plain black text on a fine vellum stock listing his name, a phone number with a 865 area code and an email address. No home or work address.
"The phone is a business one, it'll take you straight to voice mail hell, but email is mine. Send me whatever you want, I'll sort through it."
"Sure, no problem." I stuffed the business card into my back pocket and swiped away the sweat on my forehead. The day had gotten hot and stifling. There was no breeze this far from the water to cool us.
Charlie swatted at a cloud of hovering gnats.
"There's a cooler in the van," I said. "Why don't we go grab a couple of juices and take a break."
"Sounds good." He grinned and shut his sketch pad with a snap. "Course a cold beer sounds better. But I notice a real shortage of bars out this way."
It seemed like a natural opening. Not one to waste an opportunity I jumped in. "If you can wait till we're done here I know a place back in town that might hit the spot."
"I can do that. Sure. It's a deal."
We walked back to the van together.
I didn't see him again until we wrapped up at 4:00. I helped the kids repack the equipment in the van. Karl climbed into the driver's seat.
"Okay, good job, guys. Same time tomorrow? You have no problem getting those sample boxed up and couriered to the lab?" I directed my question at Donna. "I need those results ASAP, so it's imperative they get off tonight."
"ASAP boss." Donna grinned. Her face was dirty, smudged with dirt and sweat. "Consider it done."
"Good." I slapped the door of the van and watched them drive away.
Charlie's Harley was still there but I saw no sign of him. Then I spotted movement down by the river, near the willow. I found him perched on a stump, doing a more detailed pencil sketch of the old willow. In subtle strokes of various shades of gray he had managed to capture the full essence of the tree. The rough bark, the twisted limbs and the gentle fall of the green weeping fronds that gave the tree its name. They were all there on paper. But there was more. He gave the damned tree character. Made it seem alive and vibrant.
"Jesus," I muttered.
He looked up with a start and I realized he had been focusing so deeply he hadn't been aware of my presence. I was sorry to break his concentration.
He glanced at his watch. "Is it that late?" He stood up and put his hands on the small of his back with a wince. "Damn old bones. Don't take sitting for long spells like they used to."
"Oh yeah, you're ancient." I laughed. "What, all of twenty-five?"
"Twenty-nine." He scowled. "And if you must know, thirty in October."
"Then I beat you by two years. Though I won't be thirty- two until next June."
"Ah, birthday boy."
"Last month." Michael had thrown a big bash at his favorite gay bar. The party had been a success until I'd caught him in the backroom with one of the bartenders and another customer that none of us knew. Not that I cared if Michael screwed around, but on my birthday? It had just seemed so tacky. So... Michael.
Of course I wasn't about to tell Charlie any of that. I wondered if his wife had screwed around on him.
"If you're done we can head back," I said. "Still want that drink?"
The ride back to Toronto was a typical bumper to bumper nightmare once we hit Spadina. I got us off the freeway as soon as I could and we traveled surface streets. Charlie stayed on my tail right up until we reached Queen West. We parked side by side in a lot less than a block and a half from the restaurant.
The Tangerine Dream was a pub with a very eclectic clientele. On any given night you might find a hirsute drag queen holding court in a bar stool next to a suited accountant and his girlfriend. I confess I suggested the place because I was curious to see how Charlie would react.
We found seats at a back table and Charlie hesitated until I ordered a Riccard's Red and asked for the same.
"Good stuff?" he asked, holding up the bottle to examine it in the light.
"You tell me." I sipped my beer straight out of the bottle.
Charlie did the same and nodded. We both fell to studying the menus the waiter had left in front of us.
"What's good here?"
"Their wraps are okay," I said. "Pastas are very good... I'm partial to the souvlaki myself..."
I watched Charlie's eyes follow a couple as they made their way to a nearby table. Two guys in business suits just off work; so wrapped up in each other they were oblivious to Charlie's stares or the menus in front of them. I watched the two trade kisses then come up for air long enough to order drinks from the patient waiter who had served us.
Charlie's eyes skated off them back to me. He had a strange look on his face.
"You trying to tell me something there, Tyler? Or is this some kind of joke you're pulling on the dumb old Yankee?"
"Joke? What do you mean, joke? I come here all the time --"
As though to validate my words Kat choose that exact moment to spot me from the other side of the room. He shrieked and charged towards our table as fast as his spiked heels would allow. He bent over the table and threw his arms around me.
Now Kat is six-two in stocking feet. And since he never wears anything less than three inch heels that's a lot of bending. Tonight he was conservatively dressed in a shimmering gold sheath that barely covered his crotch and set of thigh high boots with at least four inches on them. He bussed me on the cheek then turned to eye Charlie appreciatively.
Then he waggled his painted eyebrows at me and said, "Where's Michael tonight? Or have you finally come to your senses and dumped that bad boy? And who's your new friend."
"This is Charlie. He's just in town for some business," I said. "Michael is no doubt at home checking out eBay for the latest Versace."
"Oohh, that girl knows how to shop. I'll give her that much." Kat looked at Charlie. "In town long, sugar?"
"No, he's not, Kat. Now be a good girl and scoot, okay?"
Kat pouted but backed away from the table. "Well, if you decide to have some fun before you leave town, Charlie, come back and see me. I guarantee you'll remember this business trip."
They both watched her saunter away.
"This is your usual hang out?" Charlie's voice was acid. "With our without Michael?"
"Michael is not an issue in this."
"Why not? He's your lover isn't he? Or were you hoping I wouldn't find that out? Did you bring me here to make a pass at me?"
"If I wanted to make a pass at you I wouldn't need to bring you to a place like this."
"Then what? Testing my tolerance --"
"It's clear you don't have any. I guess I was crazy to think you might want to just have a drink and a bite to eat -- you know, have some fun."
"Why not. This is considered one of the hottest spots in town right now. Look around, everyone comes here. Gay, straight, indifferent. The only thing you need to bring with you is a sense of humor. My mistake, I thought you had one."
I threw a ten down on the table and stood up. People were starting to watch us. I didn't care. I was pissed. At myself for thinking an artist should have an open mind, at Charlie for being such a dick head. At me again for wanting him not to be.
"Wait." Charlie scrambled after me. He caught me before I could reach the exit. He grabbed my arm. "Hold on just one minute."
"Forget it, Mr. Reid. I think I'll go home to my male lover now if it's all the same to you."
"It isn't and you're not."
"It isn't all the same, and you're not leaving."
"What the hell makes you think that?"
"You invited me," he said in an infuriatingly reasonable voice. "You can act like a goddamn host and stop acting like a bitch."
I stared at him open mouthed. But I let him drag me back to our table.
"Let's finish our drinks and eat -- I'm dying to try some of this Canadian souvlaki. After that we can discuss leaving."
By the time our food had arrived I had mellowed out on three more beers. Charlie was keeping up with me and seemed equally relaxed. He even waved at Kat across the room and grinned when he curtsied at us.
Charlie told me about his family. His great grandfather had been full blooded Cherokee on his father's side. His mother, on the other hand had been a blond Welsh-Swedish mix from the Bay area.
"Got a sister, Trish, who's this tiny little blond thing. No one ever believes we're brother and sister. Funny how that works."
In turn I told him about my parents. Dad the legal eagle who had made a name for himself in the shady world of corporate law and Mom, the U of T professor who still lived in a dreamworld of sixties rebellion and Berkeley angst. It still amazed me how the two of them, from such disparate worlds could have formed a union that had lasted all these years. Or that they could have produced such relatively level-headed kids as they had in my two brothers and myself.
"'Cept you're not so normal, are you?"
"Define normal," I said.
He waved his arms around. "Like other people. You know, normal."
"Like that guy over there?" I indicated a guy at the end of the bar, three piece suit and tie, the whole nine yards.
"Yeah, like him."
"I happen to know he pays a couple of high priced hookers mucho dollars once a week to tie him up and punish him for his various transgressions. The hookers now, one of them's going to law school and the other one has two kids she's supporting. Are they normal enough for you? Or maybe that guy." This time I pointed out a man who looked like a recruiter for the Hell's Angels, right down to the chains on his belt.
"Well I can tell he's bad news."
"Actually he's married to a sweet lady who teaches kindergarten. They have three kids, all little girls and his idea of a wild time is taking them to the playground after supper."
"Okay, so nobody's normal. Does that mean you can break all the rules?"
"Who's rules? I have a set of rules that define my life. I never break them. Want to hear my rules?"
"Sure, why not."
"Don't lie, keep your word. Don't follow arbitrary rules laid down by the ignorant or cruel. When in doubt, fake it."
Charlie blinked at me several times. Then he grinned. "Ah, I get it. A joke."
"Not really," I said, sipping a glass of water. "It's kept me out of trouble over the years."
In retrospect I don't think Charlie was used to our Canadian beer. He matched me drink for drink and I was getting woozy by the time we decided we'd had enough of hot and trendy and decided to find another place. Fortunately we were smart enough to leave our vehicles and walk.
As we walked the grandiose edifice of the York Hotel came into view and Charlie eyed the massive structure blearily.
"Hey," he muttered. "I think that's my hotel. Why don't we fuck this shit and go there and drink?"
I was beginning to think that might not be a bad idea -- before Charlie lost it completely. No way I'd ever be able to carry him if he passed out.
We made our way through the lavish hotel lobby and he fumbled with the door to his room, finally throwing it open with an exaggerated 'hah!' and stumbled into the room.
He tottered into the bathroom and when he emerged his hair was damp and he looked slightly more alive.
"Sit down." He gestured toward a chair by the king-size bed. In true inebriate fashion he fell back on the bed and for one minute I thought he had passed out.
I found a Coke in the bar fridge and popping the tab off drank half of it down in one gulp. By this time Charlie was stirring again.
He opened one eye and stared at me. Suddenly he crooked a finger at me.
"You really gay?" he asked.
"Yeah," I said warily. "All my life."
"What's it like?" Charlie waved his hand around slurring his word. "I don't mean sex, but the other - jus' bein' that different? People pointing fingers and callin' you... things."
I shrugged. How do you explain a life time of hurt and anger and bewilderment to a man who has never experienced it? Then it occurred to me that maybe he had to a degree.
"It's like being an Indian in a world that views you as a second class citizen. Where even the religious people are telling you that their God hates you."
"Being gay is like being an Indian? Hah! What if you were a gay Indian?"
"Are you gay, Charlie?"
"Forget it, Tyler. Not gonna happen again. That was all a mistake in my past."
"You're not making any sense, Charlie," I said carefully. I pulled my chair up closer the bed. "What happened, Charlie?"
"Nothing," he said too quickly. "Never did it, got married didn't I? That proves I ain't... you know... Indian."
He suddenly started laughing. Alarmed I moved up beside him on the bed. He grabbed my hand.
"Oh no you don't. You stay right here. Not gonna run out on me."
"You need to go to bed, Charlie. You're too drunk for this conversation."
Charlie wasn't listening. He forced his eyes to focus on me, traveling up and down me.
"You don't look gay, you know that?"
"Not everybody does." I tried not to laugh. He was so damned serious. "Most of us don't in fact."
"You want to give me a blow job?"
"Jesus Christ, Charlie!" I scrambled off the bed and backed away across the room.
"Hey, what's wrong with being curious? I just want to know, is all."
"Know what? You can't be serious."
Charlie sat up in the bed. The gleam I saw in his eyes was no longer that of a vacant drunk. It had a feverish edge to it.
"Tell me what it's like, Tyler." He began to stroke his cock which I was alarmed to see was rapidly filling out the crotch of his Wranglers. "Or better yet, show me. You want to, don't you? I saw you earlier, looking. Don't tell me you don't want to."
"That's hardly the point --"
Why the hell did he seem less drunk now than a moment ago? Was he faking it? Pretending to be drunk so he had an excuse? An excuse to what? Proposition me?
What a bizarre idea. I licked my lips at the sight of his bulging crotch. He was right about one thing, I had been looking. Just like I was looking now.
"What is the point, Tyler? You want me, I just said I want you. You got an ethics issue here?"
"Are you drunk? Or are you just playing with me?"
"Both. Neither." Charlie's grin was wicked. He continued to play with his cock through the fabric of his jeans. "Come on, Tyler. Blow me."
I groaned. My own hard on was pressed into the zipper of my jeans. My balls pulsed in anticipation of what he was offering me.
"You need me to help you?"
Charlie fumbled with the zipper of his jeans. I held my breath as he pulled a gorgeous seven inches of rapidly hardening dick out. He stroked it leisurely a couple of times then met my eyes.
I didn't need more invitation than that. If the guy wanted this who was I to deny him? That I wanted it too was completely immaterial.
I knelt on the edge of the bed and reached out to slid my index finger around the swelling, blood-filled helmet. A drop of pre-cum oozed out of the piss slit and I scooped it up and carried it to my mouth. I saw his storm colored eyes darken and his hips twitched in rising lust.
I wanted to see all of him. I pushed his jeans down around his ankles then dumped them on the floor beside the bed. I did the same with his boxers. I shoved his T-shirt up and pressed my mouth to his belly. The muscles writhed under my hot mouth and I didn't need any more urging on his part to slide down toward that delectable target rising out of a thin patch of black pubic hair.
I buried my nose in his pubes and inhaled the pure essence of him. His hands clamped over my head and his fingers dug into my scalp. I scooped one of his balls into my mouth, rolling the tight mass between my tongue and lips. He tasted of sweat and salt and a flavor that was uniquely Charlie's. When I took the second ball inside his hips jerked up off the bed. He moaned.
I swirled my greedy tongue around the base of his cock, tracing the line of veins that climbed up toward the swollen head. The veins pulsed in time to the savage tattoo of his heart. I teased him. Touching the head of his cock with my lips, then withdrawing, blowing hot air over his wet slit. Backing off to stroke his shaft again then repeat.
He growled, pumping his hips into the air. "Suck it, cocksucker. Suck it!"
I rammed my mouth over his fat seven inches. He grabbed the thick comforter in his fists and shoved his hips up, burying his cock to the root. I had a brief sensation of gagging then I adjusted.
And eagerly got down to business.
Charlie might be drunk but it didn't slow down his reaction. Pre-cum flowed as I rocked my mouth up and down his rigid shaft. My tongue danced around his pole, sliding around the leaking helmet and covering every centimeter of satin wreathed steel with my hot wetness. In and out, I began steadily fucking him with my mouth, the tempo increasing as his breathing grew hoarser and shallower.
"Baby, oh baby that feels good."
Well at least I had graduated from cocksucker. Sliding my hand under his balls I worked it into the crack of his ass. He raised his legs, opening himself up to me completely. I took it as an invitation and slipped one finger into his puckered hole.
"Fuck yes!" he roared and his cock twitched in my mouth. His balls contracted and I felt the first spasm of release as hot cum exploded out of his pulsing cock. After four or five spasms his body shuddered and he collapsed back on the bed, his softening cock slipping out of my mouth.
When I sat up he reached for me. I let him pull me down until I lay beside him.
"Fuck, baby," he murmured against my damp throat. "That was incredible."
His arms tightened around me when I moved to get up.
"You aren't going anywhere are you?"
"I should --"
"Stay here. You're too drunk to go anywhere."
I think he had me mixed up with someone else, but I suddenly didn't want to leave. I managed to get my clothes off and got us both under the blankets before Charlie was completely asleep. He rolled over to press his solid length against my back and the last thing I remember was the feel of his semi-hard dick pressed between my ass cheeks.
Then I was out like a light switch had been clicked off. But not before I had time to wonder what kind of delicious treat was in store for me tomorrow.
[More to come]
If you like this story so far, let me know at Patrick I'm always happy to hear comments, suggestions, anything. You can also read all my stories at Archerland