This Magic Place

by Harlequin
 November, 2001
NOTE:  For those of you who are searching for some left-handed 'reading' material (assuming you are right-handed), certain parts of your anatomy may tire and droop or you may develop eye strain or muscle strain before finding what you are looking for. Not that it isn't here. It is. Just not in the first sentence or paragraph. So, be aware.

Nevertheless, this is a story for all of you, even the impatient. So if you derive some enjoyment from it, be it in small amounts or large, then I have succeeded.

This is a story about two men who fall in love with each other. So if romantic love between two men is offensive to you, I would assume you can locate the 'back button' or whatever it takes and then go elsewhere. And for those of you who want to be here but shouldn't be because of your age and a host of laws and various restrictions, then you, also, should leave. But human nature notwithstanding, well, you know, just don't get caught.

This is a story about a mountain home, a secret and magic place, two lonely and somewhat bitter people, a friendship. It is the story of music, laughter, joy, caring, loyalty, and many things. It also is a story about bigotry, discovery, and strife. Ultimately it is the story about a search and you must figure that out.

This originally started out as a short story and somewhere along the way, the characters kinda sorta took over and started writing it themselves. I don't know whether that's a reflection on my writing ability or what, but I do know this is turning into something more than a short story.

It takes time to develop the necessary framework for this kind of story to hang on; and I hope it doesn't get too tedious. Bear with me. The story will get moving and I think and hope you will have found it worth your time.

I am only posting two or three chapters at this time to see what the response is going to be before posting additional chapters. Obviously, the only way I will know is by your response. If you do decide to respond, please use 'TMP' in the subject line of your email. Unfortunately, I get a lot of inane advertisements from a variety of fools and usually hit the delete button without looking at any of it -- my daily amount of glee!

Harlequin, November 2001

This Magic Place -- Chapter 1

    My name is David Rinehardt, I am in my late 20s, 5'11", slim build, brown hair, hazel eyes and I have a good body, mostly from the years of growing up on a farm and then working out on a regular basis after I left. Oh, yeah I have a nice smile, at least I think I do.  I'm not the most handsome guy around but I clean up well.  My sisters tell me I'm plain but nice.  Oh, well, there are other compensations.

    My father had a farm, inherited from my great grand parents, who immigrated here from Germany and settled in a small farming community in Kansas.  He raised a large wheat crop plus a milk herd and my mom raised chickens.  Needless to say, I learned to work at an early age, gathering eggs for my mom, graduating to cleaning stalls in the barn, feeding the livestock, milking duty and finally, when I was old enough and strong enough, the harvest itself. I was putting in full days on the farm during summer.  Full days on our farm meant from sunup until sundown and oftentimes beyond, especially during harvest.

    During the summer, the harvest was the hardest, rising at sunup and sometimes before and working until 10 or 11 at night getting it in before Mother Nature decided that a lesson in humility was called for and a rain storm or tornado swept through and destroyed everything.  My father hired extra help during the harvest and my brothers and I rotated among ourselves so that there would be at least two of us on the farm itself for the milking morning and night plus all the other chores.

    I did everything from the usual chores to driving the combine in the fields and driving the trucks behind, catching the grain as it poured out and into the truck bed, then driving the full truck to the granaries in town. During that time, it seemed I had a permanent coating of ground-in dust and chaff. We came home at night and my brothers and I took a quick shower, usually together, as we had a large shower room in one corner of the basement which is where we slept, also. We ate supper and fell into bed only to be rousted out before the sun came up, eat breakfast and head for the fields.  My mom and sisters fixed all the meals. One of my sisters usually brought lunch to the fields and we broke for a few minutes to eat and then back to work.

    It was not all work as my folks always saw to it that we had the extra money to take in a movie or other entertainment when things were slower on the farm. As a family, we went to the circus when it came through and to the State Fair in Hutchinson.

    I was close to my brothers and sisters. My sisters were the oldest in the family, Theresa and Maria, and then my brothers, Frank, Robert, and Jerry and then, you guessed it, me. Of my brothers, I was closest to Jerry, next oldest to me, being only a year-and-a-half older than I. We shared most everything and talked about most everything else. I learned all about sex from him, laughingly annotated by whatever older brother happened to be around at the time. One day when Dad took pity on us he let us go swimming for a couple of hours in the local creek about a mile from the house -- our swimming hole -- and Jerry showed me how to jack off.

    I had been getting erections all the time and things kept growing down there and it was getting harder to hide and my sisters kept teasing me about it and it was embarrassing as all get out. And I guess Jerry took pity on me. Anyway, he showed me how to go up and down on it and not hold it too tight and I kept watching him and when he came and the cum shot out all over him and me too, I thought there was something really wrong with him and he had busted something 'cause he sort of leaned back and had this 'expression' on his face. I started pulling my clothes on, ready to go get Dad for help and he grabbed me, "No, you stupid, it just feels so damned good. Try it, just like I showed you a minute ago." So I did and it just kept getting more intense and more intense and then suddenly, everything just sort of exploded, like my whole brain just shorted out, and this white stuff came squirting out the end of my dick and I thought I was going to pass out. Wow. I was busy taking care of my problem every chance I got. Boy, thanks, Jerry.

    While Jerry and I talked about everything and he showed me all about sex, and explained what was happening, we never fooled around with each other. Why, I don't exactly know, but we didn't. Jerry and I are still very close, we write back and forth and he has come to visit me any number of times in the various places I've lived.

    While life on the farm was hard and demanding, it certainly was not dull.  Needless to say, I looked forward to school when the pressure let up somewhat.  I did well in school, working as hard on my homework as I was expected to work on the farm. It paid off in the long run, as I got a scholarship to the local college some twenty miles away and was determined to go.  I wasn't about to spend any more time on the farm than I had to.

    During my freshman year, my Mom passed away and a year later, my Dad had a heart attack and died in the fields, partly from a lifetime of hard work but mainly, I think, from loneliness and wanting to be with our Mom. We were devastated. While my family was not overly demonstrative, we loved our parents very much.  And now suddenly, they were gone and the grief at their passing and the farm with all its demands was suddenly overwhelming.

    As much loyalty as we all felt towards our parents, none of us really wanted to stay with farming and it would have been pointless to pretend otherwise.  And after several family meetings with much soul searching, we decided to sell the farm with its surrounding land and the dairy herd.  So, after a short time we had a massive auction and sold everything including the house and contents and split the proceeds equally. We had each taken our personal belongings and one or two things that belonged to our folks. I took one of my Mom's cookbooks and a pocket watch and chain that belonged to Dad. I still have both.

    Jerry, Robert and Frank rented a house in town and went to work in one of the local manufacturing businesses. Theresa and Maria rented an apartment and went to work, one in a cafe and the other as a secretary for one of the insurance agencies.

    Frank took me aside after everything was over and told me that with my proceeds of the auction I had damned well better get an education or he'd beat the snot out of me. I definitely believed him. So, I found myself at college once again.  I had originally chosen accounting as my major and decided to stay with it.

    I finished up my freshman year and three years on down the road I graduated with honors and a degree in accounting. I passed my CPA exam shortly afterwards.  I worked in a very junior position for a local firm in the town where I had attended college.  My future with that firm looked bleak, so with itchy feet, I decided on leaving and started sending out-of-state resumes.  I got offers from firms in several different states but the one in Seattle, Washington looked the best, offering more in the way of opportunities than the rest.  So, Seattle it was.

    I had come to the conclusion while in high school that I wasn't interested in girls after a couple of rather disastrous dates and that the guys really caught my eye and seeing them in various states of undress in the locker room and showers really turned me on and in particular, the guys who were really hung. I had nothing to be ashamed of as I was quite large myself as were my brothers and I got more than my fair share of ribbing. At first I was embarrassed until I eventually got it figured out that the comments and glances were envy. It didn't bother me after that.

    I managed to keep my secret desires a secret from everybody including my family all the way through school and college. I eventually told Jerry when he came to visit in Seattle.  He said he already suspected and it didn't bother him at all. Jerry was too long for the divan that I had and I only had a double bed which Jerry and I decided to share. I had been sleeping naked for some time and as I started to get into bed, Jerry noticed what I had up front.

    "Sonofabitch, Davy, you been putting fertilizer on that thing?" He looked at me with kind of a funny expression, "You're not planning on nailing me with that monster, are you?"

    "No, Jer, I love you but you just don't turn me on. You got a nice butt, though." He laughed and wiggled it at me as we climbed into bed.

    "See you in the morning, Davy," and kissed me goodnight." I said goodnight, and did the same and we were asleep in minutes. Jerry eventually told the rest of the family and no one seemed to get that excited about it and seemed to accept the whole thing with equanimity.  I had had a couple of sexual encounters in college -- sort of on and off, as it were, but nothing ever came of it -- no long-term relationships.  But then, I wasn't looking for one.

    I had one or two encounters in Seattle, also, but no one that I wanted to spend any time with, or wake up with or share the beauty of a sunset or have significant conversations complete with candlelight and music. Half the time, after the sex was over with, I had to stop and think what the guy's name was. I had hoped that things would be different and I would find someone but it never happened.  I eventually accepted it -- well, no, I never accepted it, I just learned to live with that particular kind of loneliness on a daily basis and tried to fill my life with hobbies and various interests and I still kept hoping. But as I grew older, that hope, too, began to die.  I suppose I was aware of what was happening, I guess, but there wasn't really anything I could do about it except continue as I had with work, hobbies and interests.

    I wasn't about to hit the bar scene as most of the guys there, while many were really good looking, were more concerned with designer clothes, just-so underwear, the latest hair styles, aftershave, fashionable terminology, gestures and on and on. Some of them were so damned phony and stupid, I swear you could hear a rattle when they walked. I developed a certain amount of bitterness wondering if there was a place for me.

    I was fixing supper one night and reached for the milk in the frij and discovered that it had gone sour.  I said something in German for which my mom would have blistered my butt when I was younger. I jumped in the car and drove a couple of blocks to the all night grocery for another bottle along with some other things that I had remembered along the way.  As I got in line at the check-out, I heard the clerk tell the customer ahead of me that it was up to eighty-nine million.  The lady made some comment, gathered her bags and left.  I put my purchases on the counter and while the clerk was checking them, I asked him, "What's up to eighty-nine million?"

    "Oh, the State lottery," he said, "The highest it's ever been here.  You want a ticket?"

    I had never purchased one in the past, but for some reason, this time, I did. I made some smart comment about the clerk being sure to give me the winning ticket.

    "Oh, definitely," he said, with a grin.  "Guarantee it," as he handed the ticket to me.

    "Yeah, right," as I stuffed it in my pocket.  I paid for everything and left.  And while I didn't know it at the time, I had just set in motion a chain of events that would forever change my life and that of another.

    Later that night, I sat down to catch the news and weather.  Toward the end of the broadcast, they flashed the winning lottery numbers on the screen.  Being a CPA, I remember numbers and the ones on the screen looked like the same ones I had on the lottery ticket.  I frantically started searching through my pockets and wallet for the ticket.  I finally found it wadded up beneath the ring of keys in my pocket.  By that time, the numbers had gone off the screen and I wasn't sure, but I thought . . .  I turned the ticket over and found the hotline number I could call for the winning numbers.  This time, I got out a pad and pencil and picked up the phone.

    Well, you know where I'm going with this. I won the lottery.  I was the only winner.  I must have sat in that chair after I hung up for a good hour or so, gazing out the window into the back yard.  I was totally in shock.  My mind was having a really difficult time grasping all this. I kept thinking routine, lay out clothes for tomorrow, pack lunch, errands after work. I couldn't accept that my entire life and style of living were about to drastically change. In exactly what way, I didn't know. Yet. But the life I had led up to this point would shortly be over -- hell, it already was.

    I finally went to bed and just lay there, my mind going a mile a minute.  I wasn't sleepy but this was my usual bedtime.  Finally, after tossing and turning and tearing the bed apart, I turned on the bedside lamp and grabbed a pad and pencil and just started writing down the multitude of thoughts that were running through my mind, not even trying to be orderly about it but just getting the thoughts on paper. I'd sort it out later. After a dozen or so pages, I was finally running out of steam and growing sleepy. I got up and remade the bed, climbed in and finally got to sleep around three in the morning. I woke up an hour late for work with the phone ringing. I padded into the living room and personnel was on the other end wanting to know if I was coming to work today. I told them no, nor in the foreseeable future, because I quit. I hung up the phone and smiled. And smiled. And smiled.

    I spent the better part of the day taking care of the necessary business transactions of transferring the money into my account, and made a couple of appointments for late in the morning the next day.

    The first thing I did when I got up the next morning after I got cleaned up and breakfast out of the way was to get the title to my car and head for the nearest Toyota dealership.  I liked my car well enough and it was paid off but I had something else in mind for the plan I had been thinking about since all this happened. Anyway, I drove away about an hour later with a bottle green Land Cruiser with just about everything imaginable on it.  I halfway expected some kind of miniature domestic staff to emerge from the glove box or under the seat or somewhere.  Oh my, there is something about the smell of a brand new car that, to me, is almost sexual. I mean, I didn't get all swelled up down below, but . . . well, you know what I mean.

    Fortunately, I made it home without wrecking it and grabbed the phone and called a small mountain town in the northeast part of New Mexico and got the names and numbers of several real estate agencies. I made arrangements with one of the agency reps, telling him I would be arriving sometime mid-afternoon and leave yourself open for the rest of the day and evening. He readily agreed.  Probably wasn't doing too much anyway, I thought.

    I went to my two appointments and got that bit of business taken care of and headed back home, this time to pack some sandwiches, a thermos of coffee and stuff some clothes and toiletries in a bag for a couple of nights.

    I got in the car, heading toward the interstate, when I happened to drive by a music store, went around the block and pulled in the parking lot and went inside.  Half hour later I came back out with a sack full of CDS.  Man, I thought, not only would I immensely enjoy driving the Cruiser to my destination but I would do it with music of my choosing:  Bach, Beethoven, Prokofieff, Rachmaninoff, Scarlatti, Bizet, and a bunch of others.

    And away I went, amidst interstate fools and their idiot relatives, listening to the opera Carmen and singing along (badly).  I was so totally high I think I must have been running on autopilot most of the way up there as I don't remember much of the trip. Hope I didn't run over anybody.

    I pulled into town around four and found the realtor's office pretty much in the middle of town on the main drag.  I pulled into a parking slot and went inside.

    The receptionist looked up, smiled, batted her eyes and wiggled various parts of her anatomy and asked if she could help me.  I wasn't sure if the eyes and wiggles were for my benefit or she simply had to go to the bathroom. "Yes, I've an appointment with Kevin Tartaglia, is he in?"

    "That's me," as a fairly young, very good looking guy got up from a desk in the back of the store front.  Slim, medium build, and hair black enough to intimidate midnight along with intense blue eyes, set off with arching black eyebrows and a medium light complexion.  Oh, man, I thought, I'm going to have a hell of a time concentrating with his cute little butt parked in the front seat with me.  He smiled and held out his hand, "You would be David Rinehardt?"

    "Uh, yeah, that's me," and I couldn't help gazing at the blueness of his eyes.

    "Glad to meet you.  I assumed, from your call, that you're looking for a place to live and are hoping to find something fairly quick as you mentioned something about blocking out time for afternoon and evening both."

    "Yes, I am," and managed to get my mind on track.

    "Okay, I thought that was what we were talking about.  It was sort of a short conversation.  You didn't mention a price, so I kinda used my best judgment and picked a number of places at different prices.  At any rate, I've got a number of places lined up for you to look at after I have a better idea of what you're wanting.  A couple of places here close that I can show you right off.

    "Actually, I think a better idea would be to go across the street and get a cup of coffee -- they have fantastic pies, by the way  -- and talk for a while so I can get a better idea of what you're looking for so we don't waste time on something you wouldn't be interested in.  Whatever you want to do."

    "Coffee sounds good and I'd never turn down a piece of pie. Besides, I might need it later.  I can give you an idea of what I have in mind and you can let me know whether it's in the realm of possibles.  Sorry, I didn't give you more details when I called but I was in a bit of a hurry."

    "Sounds good," as he headed out the door, which gave me the opportunity of observing things from the rear -- his.  I wasn't disappointed.  A round, compact bottom, slim waist, long legs, wide shoulders completed the picture from the rear quarters.  You know, the stuff that fantasies are made of.  And I filed it all away for retrieval and enjoyment later.

    "Well, I've lived in apartments most of my adult life, so what I'm hunting for," as we ordered, "is a fairly large house -- a log house would be okay but it's not something that I'm particularly hunting for -- an older home in which the rooms are large, and absolutely, a very large kitchen, an upstairs with three or four bedrooms, master bedroom, sun deck, some acreage around the house, and quiet and secluded.  The usual rooms downstairs, dining, front room, whatever.  That basically is what I'm hunting for.  I am willing to compromise on some things but certainly not the important ones.  And regardless of what I end up buying, I would expect to be doing some extensive reconstruction/remodeling."

    "Well," as Kevin stirred his coffee, shaking his head, "that eliminates what I lined up for you."

    "There's nothing available along the lines of what I am hunting for?"

    "Well," and then continued, "tell me, are you on a strict budget as to what you can spend on a place?"

    "No, not really.  Well, not within reason, I guess.  You got something in mind?"

    "Well, yes, there is one place and it does come pretty close to what you're looking for.  But you said when you talked to me on the phone that you were by yourself and I figured this would be larger than what you were looking for -- at least, I think it is -- and the asking price is pretty high.  Anyway, it's been vacant for a couple of years and it's going to need repair and upgrading in order to get it livable."

    "Major upgrades?"

    "No.  No, the bathrooms will need to be gutted and replaced and probably enlarged.  You are looking at completely rewiring and plumbing the place. The grounds around the place will need to be re-landscaped, yards resodded, that sort of thing and not that big a deal. The wiring and plumbing will be the biggest cost, of course plus whatever else you might want to add yourself.

    "On the plus side, it's secluded, it's in the mountains with a two-mile gated access road off the county highway.  It has in excess of twenty acres in grounds around and beyond the house.  And unusual for houses in the mountains is that it has a full basement.  It also has a large finished attic.  You won't have to replace the roof, but a lot of tile will need to be replaced.  And most of the glass will need to be replaced.

    "The house is really attractive if you look beyond the immediate cosmetic needs.  And that isn't a sales pitch, either.  It needs care and attention.  I'm not interested in selling the place to someone who is just going to live there and not do anything for the place, just for the sake of making a few bucks. That's why I asked you if you were on a strict budget as far as funds were concerned. I would really like to see someone living in that place that could give it the care it needs."

    "Sounds almost too good to be true, and that worries me.  What's wrong with it?"

    "Well, for one thing, it doesn't have a deck on it.  The bathrooms and closets are small -- at least by today's standards. The kitchen is monstrous, I think you will be pleased with that.  There's a walled-in herb garden just outside the kitchen door.  Oh, and there are servants' quarters and a storage shed behind the main structure.  And, of course, that could be made into an office or a guest cottage.  And, well, that's about all I can tell you, short of showing it to you."

    "When would we be able to see it?"

    "Right now -- it's only ten miles from town. We can have a quick look at the place in general.  It'll be dusk by the time we get there and you won't be able to see the inside that well, so we can go out again tomorrow morning, early and really go over the place on the inside and get an idea of what all you're going to need done.  And this evening, in your motel room, sit down and write out a list of things that you'd want changed and/or any questions you have.  How does that idea sound?"

    "Sounds good.  Let me go to my car.  I've got some sandwiches and a thermos of coffee.  We can eat in the car on the way out."

    "Oh, that sounds good, I'm always hungry.  Let me get my car and I'll meet you."

    As we headed out of town, I looked and saw that the town had to offer pretty much what I expected: gas stations, cleaners, laundromat, drug store and grocery and so forth.  There was a small jail next to the city limits sign and two feet beyond that, you were in the country, with the mountains to the east. 

    I sat talking with Kevin as he drove, surreptitiously stealing glances at his crotch every time he glanced out the window and  taking in the beauty of the countryside and the lush stands of pine, aspen and his crotch.  The meadows were a riot of wildflowers, with reds, orange, purples with cows and horses right in the middle of it.  There were fields with various crops growing.  And all this against the backdrop of an impressive mountain range. There was aspen, birch, willows, pine, with a variety of bushes, some ornamental and some in bloom with a stream meandering through it all. It would be photography rich in all seasons, I thought.

    We wound around in the mountains, steadily gaining altitude, eventually turning off the main road onto a paved access flanked on both sides by a dense growth of pine as we wound our way up and down and around various small hills and seeming to hit every pothole in the road, and there were many to choose from. After many turns, twists and bumps, we eventually topped a low rise and dropped down into a small valley where the house stood, ending in a circle in front of the house as we pulled up and got out of the car.     

    It was uncanny. Like another world. It was utterly still. There was such a sense of peace and quiet here that it was distracting. There was hardly a breeze at all. This would be an ideal place for being at peace with oneself, a place of silence and prayer, of spiritual healing, where love could strengthen. Perhaps even, a magic place.

    The house rounded out the picture, lending grace and beauty with its balanced structure, everything seeming to fit, in its right place. The house was two stories in height, with a pitched tile roof, the house itself was constructed of buff brick that had a slightly golden cast.  It had slender, graceful chimneys at either end of the house.  The windows were large and appeared oversized.  There were bay windows in what I assumed to be the front rooms of the house.  I could see what was once a large lawn with various groupings of trees all around the house, now choked with weeds.  There were a couple of small buildings in back of the house that apparently were the servants' quarters along with a garage and storage sheds that Kevin had mentioned.  A variety of trees stood in rows further on back from the servant's quarters and I wondered, as I looked, if it was an orchard.

    Kevin spoke up, noticing where I was looking, "That's an orchard out back and a spring.  Can't remember all the various types of fruit trees but I know there's apple and cherry and I think apricot.  Seems like there are some peach and plum trees, also, but again, I'm not sure."

    Kevin started pointing out various things about the house as we walked around.

    "As you can see, the tile work will need to be repaired and most, if not all the glass in the windows will need replacing.  I imagine some of the brick work will need repair as well.  And as I said earlier, the plumbing and electrical will have to be redone.  I noticed as we drove in that the phone and power lines are still up but I doubt that they are hooked up or there may be shorts but that won't be that big of a problem to fix.  Overall, the outside is mainly cosmetic and won't take that long to remedy. The inside, of course, will be the greater expense."

    We stopped in our walk and Kevin stopped to light a cigarette and turned to face me, "So what do you think?"

    "So far I'm impressed.  The house is beautiful from the outside and the trees and the orchard really set the whole property off.  It's so private and quiet here.  I've never experienced such a sense of peacefulness."

    "Yeah, I know what you mean.  I've been up here several times showing the place and it's one of the things I have always noticed and liked about it."

    "Where does this property begin and end?"

    "Well, the land extends to the beginning of the access road, includes all the land that the house is on, the servants quarters, the orchard, which extends back all the way to that high ridge that you can see from here, then it extends both north and south of the house to access roads which is the property's borders. There are no buildings on either piece of property adjoining yours. Quite a sizable piece of land actually."

    "Okay, Kevin, I think I have seen enough today.  Let's head back to town.  I need to find a motel and get something for supper and then spend the rest of the evening writing out that list you mentioned.  And then come up here tomorrow morning and go through the house in detail and hopefully by then I will be able to make a decision.  That sound okay to you?"

    "You bet.  Why don't we meet at eight o'clock at the office and we'll drive back out and do an in-depth inspection of the house itself."

    We left and headed back to town, arriving shortly after seven.  He dropped me off at my car, and in answer to my question, recommended a motel.  I drove over and checked in and took my things to my room.  The room was simple, nice and clean, none of the nailed down phony plastic features that are commonly found in the national chains.

    The next thing on my mind was some place to eat.  I had noticed a restaurant as we drove in and decided to ask the motel clerk about it.

    "Oh, yes, that's Swilars and it's quite good.  They have the best hamburgers I have ever eaten along with a complete line of sandwiches plus a really good dinner menu.  It's not a fast food place, nothing is made up ahead of time, so anything you order will be freshly made.  I think you'll be pleased."

    Swilars it was.  I made my way across the street and stepped inside.  I must admit that I expected the interior to be some sort of western touristy decor complete with ranch implements nailed to the walls, a covered wagon or parts thereof hanging from the ceiling and was pleasantly surprised to find the walls painted a sort of sea foam green with framed photographs of mountain views, pastoral scenes, fall/winter shots, wildlife and the like.  The overall effect was at once interesting and relaxing.  The tables were comfortably spaced so that you didn't accidentally elbow a fork down someone's throat sitting at the next table.  A row of booths ran the length of one wall and opposite was a bar with several hundred bottles of liquor on the counter and a variety of skiing photos on the wall of what I gathered to be the local townsfolk. A jukebox quietly minding its own business sat at the back of the restaurant and completed the picture.

    The bartender was dressed out in white shirt, bow tie and black pants. He came up with a smile and a menu and asked me what I would like.  I looked through the proffered menu and decided on something to go and opted for the hamburgers that the clerk had recommended along with fries and a beer.

    "Good enough," came the reply.  "Would you like the beer here while you are waiting?"

    "Yes, now that you mention it, I think I will."

    The beer arrived shortly in a chilled mug and the half-full bottle at its side and I sat enjoying it while waiting and looking around and thinking about the house.

    The bartender came over and sat a bowl of peanuts in front of me.  "I understand that you're looking at the Jensen property."

    The surprise must shown on my face.

    He kind of laughed, "No offense but you need to understand this is a small town.  Word gets around quickly.  I'm not trying to pry, it's just that it's a beautiful piece of land and the house is unique.  It'd be great if someone bought it and restored it to what it once was.  And I know a number of people feel that way."

    "Why is that?," I asked.

    "Well, when the Jensen's had the place, they usually had a large, oh, sort of an apple-fest, I guess you'd call it, every summer after all the fruit was in. Mrs. Jensen would sell the fruit as it came in from a road side stand at very reasonable prices. And some of the other farm wives around here would bring in their vegetables and berries and other fruit and man the stand with her and sell their produce, also. And she set the price on everything so nobody got bent out of shape. It was sort of a joint effort. Then a week or so after the growing season was over, she shut it down and anything that was left over was donated to the apple-fest and they would have a big open house that started in the afternoon and went until late in the evening. Mrs. Jensen would donate a side of beef and the cooks would barbecue it and make all kinds of pies and desserts and jellies and jams from the fruit left over and the people in town would each bring a covered dish, I guess that was sort of the price of admission. Although nobody was ever turned away to my knowledge. There would be dancing and singing until late at night. A lot of the people miss that, not just for the party, but well, mainly they were just good people."

    "I'd like to have met them," thinking that I was being told, very politely, of course, what was expected of me should I end up buying the place. "Well, I haven't made a decision yet but I do agree with you it is a beautiful piece of land."

    "Well, I wish you luck in making your decision.  Here is your order.  Have another beer, on the house. Call it a 'decision' beer."

    I thanked him for the beers, paid for the order and left.

    Back in my room I ate supper, which really was excellent, took a shower then curled up on the bed in my skivvies sipping the 'decision' beer and worked on the list that Kevin wanted.  Surprisingly, I discovered that there were quite a few items piling up on the list that I needed questions for.

    I finished off the beer, smoking a couple of cigarettes while watching TV.  I finally looked at the clock and realized that it was almost midnight and decided to go to bed.  I had called the front desk earlier and left a wake-up call for seven a.m., so I turned off the light and went to sleep almost immediately.

    The next thing I knew, the phone was ringing and the clerk at the desk was cheerfully saying "Good morning, time to get up."  I managed to mutter a civil thank you, thinking he must be one of those 'morning people.'  I hung up and followed my piss hard to the bathroom.

    Forty-five minutes later found me at Swilars, shaved, dressed, detumescent, finishing breakfast and feeling human.  I left a tip, paid the bill and headed toward the real estate office fantasizing a dripping wet Kevin stepping out of the shower in nothing but skin and . . .  Oh, quit, I told myself.

    Kevin apparently saw me coming and met me at the door.  In tight jeans no less.  He had a thermos in hand, and, of course, was full of cheerfulness -- he must be one too, I thought.

    "Hi, how you doing?" as he gripped my shoulder.  "Did you get your list made out?"

    "Yes, it turned out to be quite long, more than I thought it would."

    "I figured it might.  Where did you eat last night?"

    "Swilars.  Good food.  Had breakfast there this morning."

    "I was going to recommend it last night and then I forgot.  I almost called but figured you'd make out one way or another."

    "That's okay, the motel clerk recommended it."

    "Good.  I'm glad he did, he's a cousin of mine."

    "Well, let's get going," as he headed for the car.

    "Swing by the motel, would you, I want to grab my camera."

    "Okay.  That sounds as though you've made a decision."

    "Well, a decision to make a decision depending. If that makes any sense."

    "It does." We started off and he handed me the thermos, "Here, pour us some coffee."  His hand lingered on my knee as he handed me the thermos.  "Let's get started on your questions."

    "Well, first off," as I handed Kevin his coffee, and thinking about his warm hand, "Who owns this place and why is he wanting to sell?"

    "Well, the current owner is a man named Jensen.  He's elderly and as I understand it, has arthritis pretty bad and I guess, for whatever reason, he decided to move to Albuquerque into a retirement complex.  He doesn't have any family here -- his wife died a number of years ago.  I understand there are two children, but they are living on the west coast somewhere and apparently aren't interested in the house.  So he put it up for sale and moved out."

    "Okay, why brick?  I would have expected a log home up in the mountains rather than brick."

    "Oh, that's easy.  He owned one of the brick works in Albuquerque.  That and the fact that he and his wife wanted a permanent home rather than a summer place.  His wife hired an architect from the city and he came out and went all around the grounds and designed the place and the buildings in back."

    "That answers my next question.  What about the taxes on the property, are they high, low, equivalent to Albuquerque?"

    "I will check when we get back to the office.  Don't hold me to it, but I think they are about the same as in Albuquerque."

    "All right.  Now the obvious question, what's the asking price?"

    Kevin glanced at me, "Well, he's asking," and he named a price, and my eyebrows must have shot up because he continued with, "Which I think is rather much, but of course, you can make an offer and see what he has to say."

    "Well, he's certainly optimistic, I'll give him that. I won't pay that much for it, considering the amount of work the place is going to need."

    "Well, we can work that out at the office when we get back if you decide to go ahead with it."

    "The other thing I was wanting to know about is if there is a good building contractor in the area that does good work, and can follow orders and meet deadlines and not charge an arm and a leg."

    "Yes, you want Dac to do the work for you.  He does excellent work, and will do the work exactly as you want it done.  And as far as I know, he's never missed a deadline."


    "Yes, Dac.  I know, it's an unusual name.  There's a bit of a story about it, but you'll have to ask him.  And before you find out from somebody else -- and you will -- he's a cousin of mine.  And don't go jumping to conclusions.  I'm not recommending him because I'm related to him.  I'm not that thick with my relatives -- I got too many as it is and most of them nosy -- I wouldn't recommend him to anybody if he wasn't the best.  You can certainly check around with the other contractors and their prices will vary up and down the scale but as most people will tell you, Dac is the best there is.  His prices are higher but the quality of his work is that much better.  And what he quotes will be the final price, there won't be any cost overruns or surprises further on down the road."

    "Good, I'll keep him in mind but I'll check out the other contractors as well."

    "I agree, I think you should.  I'll take you around the town so you can take a look at some of their work and Dac's also and you can get an idea of what kind of quality they do."

    We continued to chat, and I indulged in a fantasy or two along with surreptitious glances as we finished the trip and pulled up in front of the house.  Of course, in broad daylight, the necessary repair work to the outside of the house was more obvious than the previous evening.  But even so, the house still held the quiet charm and beauty that was so evident yesterday.

    We got out of the car and Kevin pulled a bunch of keys from his pocket and unlocked the front door and we stepped inside. 

Let me know what you think.